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letters of which they are composed; deriving their meaning solely from the connection, or relation, in which they stand to others. Of this a very obvious example occurs, in the case of terms which have a variety of acceptations, and of which the import, in every particular application, must be collected from the whole sentence of which they form a part. When I consult Johnson's Dictionary, I find many words of which he has enumerated forty, fifty, or even sixty different significations; and, after all the pains he has taken to distinguish these from each other, I am frequently at a loss how to avail myself of his definitions. Yet, when a word of this kind occurs to me in a book, or even when I hear it pronounced in the rapidity of discourse, I at once select, without the slightest effort of conscious thought, the precise meaning which it was intended to convey. How is this to be explained but by the light thrown upon the problematical term by the general import of the sentence?—a species of interpretation easily conceivable, where I have leisure to study the context deliberately; but which, in the circumstances I have now supposed, implies a quickness in the exercise of the intellectual powers, which, the more it is examined, will appear the more astonishing. It is constant habit alone that keeps these intellectual processes out of view ;-giving to the mind such a celerity in its operations, as eludes the utmost vigilance of our attention; and exhibiting, to the eyes of common observers, the use of speech, as a much simpler, and less curious phenomenon, than it is in
A still more palpable illustration of the same remark presents itself, when the language we listen to admits of such transpositions in the arrangement of words as are familiar to us in the Latin. In such cases, the artificial structure of the discourse suspends, in a great measure, our conjectures about the sense, till, at the close of the period, the verb, in the very instant of its utterance, unriddles the anigma. Previous to this, the former words and phrases resemble those detached and unmeaning patches of different colours, which compose what opticians call an anamorphosis ; while the effect of the verb, at the end, may be compared to that of the mirror by which the anamorphosis is reformed, and which combines these apparently fortuitous materials into a beautiful portrait or landscape.
In instances of this sort, it will be generally found, upon an accurate examination, that the intellectual act, as far as we are able to trace it, is altogether simple, and incapable of analysis; and that the elements into which we flatter ourselves we have resolved it, are nothing more than the grammatical elements of speech ;—the logical doctrine about the comparison of ideas bearing a much closer affinity to the task of a school-boy in parsing his lesson, than to the researches of philosophers, able to form a just conception of the mystery to be explained.
These observations are general, and apply to every case in which language is employed. When the subject, however, to which it relates, involves notions which are abstract and complex, the process of interpretation becomes much more complicated and curious; involving, at every step, that species of mental induction which I have already endeavoured to describe. In reading, accordingly, the most perspicuous discussions, in which such notions form the subject of the argument, little instruction is received, till we have made the reasonings our own, by revolving the steps again and again in our thoughts. The fact is, that, in cases of this sort, the function of language is not so much to convey knowledge (according to the common phrase) from one mind to another, as to bring two minds into the same train of thinking ; and to confine them, as nearly as possible, to the same track.-Many authors have spoken of the wonderful mechanism of speech ; but none has hitherto attended to the far more wonderful mechanism which it puts into action behind the scene. The speculations of Mr Horne Tooke (whatever the conclusions were to which he meant them to be subservient) afford, in every page, illustrations of these hints, by shewing how imperfect and disjointed a thing speech must have been in its infant state, prior to the developement of those various component parts, which now appear to be essential to its existence. But on this particular view of the subject I do not mean to enlarge at present.
If the different considerations, stated in the preceding chapter, be carefully combined together, it will not appear surprising, that, in the judgment of a great majority of individuals, the common analogical phraseology concerning the mind should be mistaken for its genuine philosophical theory. It is only by the patient and persevering exercise of Reflection on the subjects of Consciousness, that this popular prejudice can be gradually surmounted. In proportion as the thing typified grows familiar to the thoughts, the metaphor will lose its influence on the fancy; and while the signs we employ continue to discover, by their etymology, their historical origin, they will be rendered, by long and accurate use, virtually equivalent to literal and specific appellations. A thousand instances, perfectly analogous to this, might be easily produced from the figurative words and phrases which occur every moment in ordinary conversation. They who are acquainted with Warburton's account of the natural progress of writing, from hieroglyphics to apparently arbitrary characters, cannot fail to be struck with the similarity between the history of this art, as traced by him, and the gradual process by which metaphorical terms come to be stripped of that literal import, which, at first, pointed them out to the selection of our rude progenitors. Till this process be completed, with respect to the words denoting the powers and operations of the understanding, it is vain to expect any success in our inductive researches concerning the principles of the human frame. . In thus objecting to metaphorical expressions, as solid data for our conclusions in the science of Mind, I would not be understood to represent them as of no use to the speculative inquirer. To those who delight to trace the history of language, it may, undoubtedly, form an interesting, and not unprofitable employment, to examine the circumstances by which they were originally suggested, and the causes which may have diversified them in the case of different nations. To the philologer it may also afford an amusing and harmless gratification (by tracing, to their unknown roots, in some obscure and remote dialects, those words which, in his mother tongue, generally pass for primitives), to shew, that even the terms which denote our most refined and abstracted thoughts, were borrowed originally from some ob-' ject of external perception. This, indeed, is nothing more than what the considerations, already stated, would have inclined us to expect a priori ; and which, how much soever it may astonish those who have been accustomed to confine their studies to grammar alone, must strike cvery philosopher, as the natural and necessary consequence of that progressive order in which the mind becomes acquainted with the different objects of its knowledge, and