Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of sensations, pafons and affections; the sources either of pleasure or pain ; and we consider all these mental qualities as united and subfisting in one and the fame subject, though we do not comprehend the nature of it, but give it the general name of a spiritual substance. A late very subtile philosopher is pleased to affirm, that these mental qualities have no common principles of union and subfiftence ; but they are loose, and independent of one another. But this is contrary to our clearest perceptions ; for, when we have at one and the same time the different sensations of smell, sound, tafte, &c. and also feel the respective pleasures attending them, we are conscious that they are all united in one and the same subject. Further, when we pursuç a train of reasoning, we are conscious that it is one and the same priociple which discerns the evidence of the premises ; which compares them together, and discovers the force of the conclufion; and we are not capable of having any stronger evidence, than what arises from this intimate consciousness. The only principle upon which the fore-mentioned opinion can be founded is this, that what we cannot comprehend, cannot exist. But this is a principle which supposes man omniscient, and is therefore infinitely absurd. We may, no doubt, have certain means of knowing that something exists, though we are not able fully to discover its particular nature. But, it may be said, “ since we know not the essence either of mind or matter, how can we know their difference? For aught we know, this obscure thing called matter, may be capable of such modifications as may produce thought, and such qualities as are fupposed to be purely mental.” But in answer to this, however unknown the internal nature of these different substances may be, yet, from the incompatibility of their known external qualities, we may with certainty infer, that they cannot exist in the same common subject. We shall therefore proceed to thew, that the mind cannot be divisible, and therefore cannot be material. Let us suppose any sensation whatever ; a degree of pain for example; if this pain was felt by matter, then, as matter conffts of paris, every part must feel the pain, for pain is a real sensation, not a relative idea, like that order or harmony which may arise from a certain disposicion of the parts of matter. Instead of one fimple pain, therefore, which is felt, there must be as many distinct pains as there are different parts, exceeding all number, as matter is diviĝble in infinitum, than which nothing can be more absurd. Indeed, if we fuppose matter susceptible of thought the most real and interesting quality that we can imagine), then the different parts of matter muit ihink, and the thought of one part must be distinct from that of another ; for though the several parts are united in point of contact, yet they are different in nature, and separable from one anorber : thus, instead of one simple thinking being, we must have jonumerable such beings. The fimplicity of thought, therefore, is altogether incompatible with the compounded nature of matter, Further, it has been mewn in a former dissertation, that matter is incapable of active power; but we know the activity of the mind, by the consciousness of the power it has of arranging and comparing its ideas at pleasure. This active being, therefore, cannot be material. Indeed, the qualities of mind and matter are perfectly incompatible : matter can be divided, and one body become owo, or more, different bodies; but thought cannot be divided even in imagination, so that

one

one fimple idea shall become two diftin& ideas, or one process of reafoning become two different processes; and this we perceive by inward consciousness, the moft certain and most immediate source of evidence. The ancient Materialists represented the soul as a kind of harmony resulting from a certain organization of the body; and, confequently, that it was totally dependent upon the body, subject to all its variations, whether of increase or decay; and, at laft, annihilated upon the total dissolution of the body. It must be allowed, that there is a semarkable sympathy betwixt the soul and the body; and this fympathy is intended to serve very necessary purposes in their present fate of union. Yet, whatever the soul may suffer from its sympathy with the body, a little reflection upon the quality and powers of the mind will demontrare, in the clearest manner, the essential difference betwixt these two principles, and the superiority and command which the one has over the other. Mind is evidenily poffetled of a&tive power ; we feel its Atrong exertion in the whole process of our reasoning. It calls in ideas at pleasure ; it arranges and compares them ; it examines their agreement or disagreement. These operations are Bot the effe&ts of any other active being behind the curtain; it is mind, the conscious mind, wbich is the immediate cause of them. The active power of mind is also very conspicuous in the oppofition it makes to the passions. By a firm and continued exertion, it is able to fubdue the strongest paflions, and refifts the keenest apperites, even to the death and dissolution of the body; and such atchievements are the most convincing proof of its active power and high authority. Mind, therefore, and matter are in themselves very different principles. There is nothing in matter that can give the least suspicion of active power ; and what is called vis inertia, is a quality standing jn opposition to a power of moving itself. Macier, therefore, is but a paflive inftrument, of a minifterial nature, and entirely subject to the a&ive power of mind; whereas, mind is capable of high exertions: it chooses and changes its objects; and these are often subtile, spi. situal, and sublime, totally repugnant to any qualities of matter. I believe nobody was ever bold enough to affirm, that matter, totally quiescent, is susceptible of reason, will, and active power. If it is possible for matter to admit of such mental qualities, this must be the effect of some particular motion, collifion, and concourse of its parts; and the cause of such motion must either be mind or matter itself. If we suppose it miod, then this mind, upon the fuppofition, must be immaterial: this must be giving up the question, as it forces us upon the absurd distinction of innmaterial and material minds. But let us Suppose that matter can move itself (a thing formerly shewn to be im. poflible), yet surely the blind impulses of brute macier never can produce so beautiful and so noble an effect as an intelligent and active spirit. The Epicurean notion of the material universe being the effe& of the fortuicous concourse of atoms, is justly exploded as the grofseft absurdity; but it would be a much greater absurdity to suppose, that from such concourse of atoms a world of spirits could arise, capable to hold a correspondence with one another from the mof diftant parts of the globe -each of whom is in its nature of greater excellence and importance than all the material world put together. The boundless powers of imagination, which no extent of space or time cap limit; the regular **ncess of reasoning, these exquisitely fine senses, which open to us all the beauties of the natural and moral world ; those great exere tions of the soul whereby it rises above all created nature to che contemplation, love, and adoration of the infinite perfe&tions of an eternal Being, are qualities of such excellence, as to stamp upon the boman mind some characters of a divine nature, and which never can be the effect of any motions whatever of dull inanimated matter, Indeed, when we give a just attention to the noble powers of the soul, our admiration of the incomprehensible union of mind and matter cannot be greater than our full perception of their tocal dife ference.'

ART. III. Lælius and Hortensia ; or, Thoughts on the Nature and

Objects of Taste and Genius, in a Series of Letters to Two Friends. 55. Boards. Cadell. Edinburgh printed. 1782. CHOUGH the title of this performance evidently implies

[ocr errors]

tematical examination of the subjects which he bas discuffed in it, he has, nevertheless, not been inattentive to methodical arrangement; he treats the objects of his enquiry according to that regular progresfion, in which they might best be presented to the attention of his readers: and this he has done with perspicuity and effect.

His first general divifion is, of the faculties of the mind into active and paffive. Taste is next considered, as instinctive and acquired; and having defined it, he then traces its progress in the mind. He afterwards enquires into the nature of beauty. . The divifion of beauty is fourfold : simple, or superficial; that which depends in part, or wholly, on proportion; that which arises from utility; and that which is ornamental or accessory, but not essential to the object. He then fhews, that beauty, elegance, and the sublime, are the chief objects of taste. He next considers the operation of taste, as applied to the works of nature or of art; in its application to the works of art, he examines into its influence on Poetry, Painting, Music, History, and Architeđure. He then digreffes into collateral inquiries; such, however, as are intimately connected with his general suba ject. Returning more immediately to the point from which he had digreffed, he finally attempts to mark the distinction between genius and taste.

The Reader may perceive, from the night outline we have given of this performance, the variety which it is capable of comprehending; and which, to do justice to the Author's diligence, they will find it comprehends. As a specimen of this work, we 'Thall lay before our Readers Letter XXXIV. containing observations on architecture, and an answer to a stricture on Horace:

Gardening and architecture have been generally ranked among the arts. But I fhould think the former ought, with no less pro9

priety,

priety, to be claffed among the works of diature, since gardening is nothing else but Nature dressed and ornamented by art.

There are few, if any objects of tafte, more interesting than architecture; by which are not meant here the five well-known orders only, but edifices of all kinds, and more particularly those which we inbabit. Strength, conveniency, and elegance, are what chiefly conAtitute the propriety of buildings. What is the precise degree to which ornaments in architecture ought to be carried, is a problem, the solution of which hath teazed the most diftinguished artists. It hath been already observed, that Nature hath ornamented many ani. mals so highly, that we wantonly conclude these decorations to be. mere sports. But the instinctive affections of animals are so far removed beyond our powers of investigation, that decisions relating to the design and utility of such ornaments, ought not to be given without the utmost reserve. Be chat as it may, we are, in many cases, profuse in ornamenting, without regard to utility, believing ourselves to be authorised in this from the belt examples, those of Nature. "It is not an eafy matter to know where to flop, when we investie gate the laws and analogies of Nature, when we take lessons from her æconomy, or when we apply these to the arts. Some architects have entertained an opinion, that the principles and symmetry of their art are deducible from the proportions of the human body. In all the members of architecture, itrength or beauty are intended. As to the human body, besides the endowments of strength and beauty, Nature hath not only fitted it for much morion, but hath rendered exercise necessary for its preservation and well-being. This necessity of absolute reft in the one, and of motion in the other, renders it probable, that, if there be any analogy at all between the proportions of the human body and those of architecture, it must be so faint as co be unsatisfactory to a judicious artist. The arts, however, have been so much indebted to Nature, that the ought invariably to be confulted, when innovations in the arts are intended. In the present case, it is not from the animal kingdom, or from bodies possessing an internal power of spontaneous motion, that we can take directions. The tops of trees are frequently ponderous and bulky, and are always supported by trunks of a strength equal to their load. A stately oak, with a sufficient length of trunk, tapering gently from the ground to the loweit branchings, might well bave led mankind, at tirft, to support heavy piles of building by fimilar columns. This is, at least, as natural a supposition, as that the accidental growth of the Acanthus about a baker, should direct to the foliage of the Corinthian capital.

• Since many of the ornamental parts which belong to the differens orders of architecture, neither contribute to the ftrength of buildings, nor to conveniency, these decorations make part of the third branch, that is, of elegance; and we see in architecture, perhaps more than in any of the other arts, an application of ornament, which, though wholly unconnected with utility, is universally allowed to prove an ample source of beauty. In such cases, it doth not appear that we can frame any definition of elegance more satisfactory, than that certain proportions please the eye, as particular notes of music are me. lodious to the ear. Nor can we ever hope to investigate the nervous

fyftema

system fo scientifically as to lay open these mysteries. We know that harth founds, as scratching a place with a knife, or rubbing one rough stone against another, are remarkably irksome to some people; while others are in no ways affected with such founds. The cumultuous din or gobling of a turkey cock seems to us to be quite contrary to true melody; and yet the female of that bird may, from a particular organization of nerves, find these notes enchanting mufic. The male swallow, while the female fits on her eggs, flies about the building, filent every where till he come opposite to the neft, where he sets up a loud screaming, harsh to us, and perhaps to the female turkey, though, for aught we know, fo mofical and delightful to the female swallow, as to have a share in folacing her during her tedious and painful period of incubation.

• Another important question in architecture is, whether the mem. bers of any or all the orders, can admit of considerable changes in their proportions, without violating architectory laws? The inveftigation of this problem is the more difficult, that we have no other itandard for the proportions of these ornamental parts, which are in no respect conducive to the strength or convenience of the building, but that internal fenfe which we denominate Tafte. Though the Roc mans adopted the Grecian architecture, it appears, from the remains: of ancient edifices in Rome, that they did not adhere rigidly to particular proportions. We may judge of this from the great Amphitheatre, the loweft circle or ftory of which hath been described by fome of the most distinguished architects as Doric, and by others as Toscan. The fourth or highest circle, too, hash equivocal members, fo as to have passed with some as of the Compofire, and with others as of the Corinthian order. It is to be regretted, that so little of the archite&ure of the Augustan period hath escaped the wrecks of time; fipce Vitruvius lived till about the beginning of Auguftus's reign, and others who succeeded that architect, mult probably have acquired a refined taste in that art. The theatre of Marcellus, and the portica of the Rotunda, are fine fpecimens, the one of the Doric, the other of the Corinthian order. But these, with some other more mutilated fragments of the Augustan age, are not sufficient to let us know, what latitude the masters of that period affumed in varying their proportions. Be that as it may, the architects of the present times would perhaps do well to adhere religiously to the rules laid down by the more celebrated masters, who have appeared in Europe fince the restoration of the fine arts. Excess in reinement is known fometimes to have led to deformity, and seldom fails to presage a decline from true taste.

• Horace, in Ode xv. B. 2. complains, that the Romans, in his time, were more attentive to private buildings than to the temples of the Gods. The ingenious authors of a late publication on architectore have animadverted on the poet for making such a complaint, knce Aogodus himself had greatly ornamented the city with public edifices. I know it will not be disagreeable to you, if I conclude this letter with an attempt to vindicate your favourite author. In this I am so little at a loss, that I think the charge may be answered in three different ways. First, when we consider the good sense and polite manders of that poet, his extensive knowledge of mankind,

« AnteriorContinuar »