Imágenes de página

considerations to be stated in the next chapter; in following which, however, I must request my readers to remember, that the distinction becomes important merely from the palpable refutation it affords of the prevailing theory concerning the origin of our knowledge; and not from any difference between the two classes of truths, in point of evidence.



It was already observed, that it is from Consciousness, or rather from Reflection, that we derive all our notions of the faculties and operations of the Mind; and that, in analyzing these, we must lay our account with arriving, sooner or later, at certain simple notions or ideas, which we have no means of conveying to others, but by teaching those to whom our reasonings are addressed, how to direct their attention with accuracy to what passes within them. These mental phenomena form the direct and appropriate subjects of Consciousness; and, indeed,

the only direct and appropriate subjects of Con

sciousness, in the strict acceptation of that word. It must not, however, be concluded from this, that the proper subjects of Consciousness (when the phrase is thus understood) comprehend all the simple notions or ideas about which the science of Mind is conversant; far less (as some philosophers have imagined) that they comprehend all the elements

into which human knowledge may, in the last result,

be analyzed. Not to mention such notions as those of extension and figure (both of which are inseparable concomitants of some of our external perceptions, and which certainly bear no resemblance to anything of which we are conscious within ourselves), there is a great variety, of others so connected with our different intellectual faculties, that the exercise of the faculty may be justly regarded as a condition indispensably necessary to account for the first origin of the notion. Thus, by a mind destitute of the faculty of memory, neither the ideas of time, nor of motion, nor of personal identity, could possibly have been formed; ideas which are confessedly among the most familiar of all those we possess, and which cannot be traced immediately to consciousness, by any effort of logical subtilty. In like manner, without the faculty of abstraction, we never could have formed the idea of number, nor of lines, surfaces, and solids, as they are considered by the mathematician; nor would it have been possible for us to comprehend the meaning of such words as classes or assortments, or, indeed, of any one of the grammatical parts of speech, but proper names. Without the power of reason or understanding, it is no less evident, that no comment could have helped us to unriddle the import of the words, truth, cerlainty, probability, theorem, premises, conclusion ; nor of any one of those which express the various sorts of relation which fall under our knowledge. In such cases, all that can be said is, that the exercise of a particular faculty furnishes the occasion on which certain simple notions are, by the laws of F


our constitution, presented to our thoughts; nor
does it seem possible for us to trace the origin of a
particular motion any farther, than to ascertain what
the nature of the occasion was, which, in the first
instance, introduced it to our acquaintance.
The conclusions we thus form concerning the
origin of our Knowledge, constitute what may be
properly called the First Chapter of the Natural His-
tory of the Human Mind. They constitute, at the
same time, the only solid basis of a rational Logic;
of that part of logic, more especially, which relates
to the theory of Evidence. In the order of in-
vestigation, however, they necessarily presuppose
such analysis of the faculties of the mind as I have
attempted in another work;-a consideration of
which I do not know that any logical writer has
been hitherto aware; and to which I must request
my readers carefully to attend, before they pass a
judgment on the plan I have followed in the ar-
rangement of my philosophical speculations.
If the foregoing remarks be well-founded, they
are fatal to a fundamental principle of Locke's
philosophy, which has been assumed by most of his
successors as a demonstrated truth ; and which,
under a form somewhat disguised, has served to
Hume as the basis of all his sceptical theories.
It appears to me, that the doctrines of both these
eminent authors, with respect to the Origin of our
Ideas, resolve into the supposition, that consciousness
is exclusively the source of all our knowledge.
Their language, indeed, particularly that of Locke,
seems to imply the contrary; but that this was

--------_ - - —-i

really their opinion, may, with certainty, be inferred from their own comments. My reason for saying so, I shall endeavour to explain as clearly and concisely as I eam. “Let us suppose,” says Locke, “the mind to be, “ as we say, white paper, void of all characters, “without any ideas: How comes it to be furnish“ed ? Whence comes it by that vast store which “the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted “on it, with an almost endless variety 2 Whence “has it all the materials of reason and knowledge 2 “To this I answer in a word, from caperience. In that all our knowledge is founded, and from that “it ultimately derives itself. Our observation, em“ployed either about external sensible objects, or “about the internal operations of our minds, per“ ceived and reflected on by ourselves, is that which “supplies our understanding with all the materials “for thinking. These two are the fountains of “knowledge from whence all the ideas we have, “ or can naturally have, do spring.” “First, our senses, conversant about particular “sensible objects, do convey into the mind several “distinct perceptions of things, according to those “various ways wherein those objects do affect them : “And thus we come by those ideas we have of “yellow, white, heat, cold, soft, hard, bitter, sweet, “ and all those which we call sensible qualities; “which, when I say the senses convey into the “mind, I mean, they, from external objects, convey “into the mind what produces there those percep“tions. This great source of most of the ideas we

« AnteriorContinuar »