« AnteriorContinuar »
the more numerous they are, the more necessary does some arrangement of them become. The first great division which Brown makes, is into those relations which co-exist in the mind, and those which are successive. For example, when we feel that one-half of four is to twelve, what twelve is to seventy-two, we feel this, merely by considering the numbers together, without any regard to time. When we think of the warmth and verdure of summer, and the cold and desolation of the winter which is to succeed, we feel a relation of antecedence and consequence, to which the notion of time is so essential, that, without it, the relation could not be felt. Were it not for that susceptibility of mind by which it has the feeling of relation, we could have no science. We could not know the existence of our Creator, for it is by reasoning from effects to causes, that we discover His existence.
On the relation of resemblance, is founded the pleasure we receive from the imitative arts. But the most important advantage we derive from this relation, is the power of classification, and consequently every thing that is valuable in language. It is the use of general terms, that is, of terms founded on the feeling of resemblance, which alone gives to language its power of enabling us to condense in a single term, innumerable objects, which it would be impossible for the mind to grasp individually. The invention of general terms, is as simple as any other operation of the mind, (as the invention of individual terms for instance, though it has been so much clouded by philosophers, in their attempts to explain it. What, says Brown, can be more conceivable than this process ; the perception of objects, the feeling of their resemblance, and the invention of a name, to express these circumstances of felt resemblance. And yet on this process, apparently so simple, has been founded all those disputes between the Realists and Nominalists, which so long agitated the learned.
Under the head of the relations of comprehension, comes the process of reasoning; the most important of all our mental processes. The explanation of this process, given by Brown, is simple and beautiful; and it appears so obvious, now it is stated, that we can hardly account for the mystery with which it has been invested by logicians. According to him, we conceive of objects as composed of parts, either such as may be mechanically separated, or such as may be mentally separated. But, in stating that one of these parts is comprehended in the whole, there is in either case no difference in the kind of proposition. We merely state, that these parts are comprehended in the whole complex notion. We decompose our thoughts in a manner as different from that of the chemist, as matter is different from mind, but with the same feeling of agreement or identity. Reasoning is a continued series of analytical propositions, develop
ing the elements of thought. When we say man is fallible, we state one of the many imperfections included in our complex notion of man. If we add, therefore he may err, we state a quality included in the notion of fallibility. If we go on and say, therefore he must not expect others to think like himself, even when he believes himself to be right, we state that which is involved in the notion that he and others can err. In this reasoning, though composed of several propositions, there is only a progressive analysis, with a feeling at every step, of relation of the parts to the whole. In every such case of reasoning, it is impossible for us not to feel, when we have arrived at the conclusion, that the last proposition is as truly contained in the first, as any of the intermediate ones. The truths thus presented to us by reasoning, are not so much new truths added, as evolved from some primary truth.
The second order comprises the relations of succession. These are either casual or invariable. The casual are chiefly useful as helps to memory; but the relations of invariable antecedence and sequence, embrace all that we denominate cause and effect; and, from the power of discerning these, all science is derived. Many different names have been given to this power, according to the objects on which it is exercised. But Brown reduces all these supposed faculties to the power of discerning the relations of succession. What has been called the faculty of abstraction, is simply relative suggestion. Judgment is the same as the power of reasoning, for all reasoning is but a series of judgments, or feelings of relation. Thus taste,-that is, critical taste, is nothing more than the power of discerning the relations of cause and effect, (or of invariable succession, as Brown calls it,) between certain objects, and the emotions of beauty and sublimity; that is, their aptness to produce these emotions. The confusion which has arisen on the subject of taste, is owing to the complex meaning of the term, as involving two classes of feelings,-viz, judgments and emotions. What we call beauty, is, in the mind, an emotion; in external things, the aptitude to produce this emotion.
Thus all the phenomena of thought may be reduced to two faculties, simple and relative suggestion, or the power of conceiving of objects, and the power of feeling their relations.
The next class of feelings is not less important than the preceding, as they comprehend all the higher delights which attend the exercise of the sensitive and intellectual functions.
“By our mental functions, we are mere spectators of the machinery of the universe ; by our emotions, we are admirers of nature, lovers of man, adorers of God.” Lect. 52.
In arranging our emotions, Brown does not class them according to the simple elementary feelings, but considers them
in their complex state, as they are usually found, co-existing with conceptions and other emotions, in which they have obtained names familiar to us. He arranges them according to their relation to time,-as present, or involving no notion of time whatever; as past; and as future. For example, we admire what is before us, we feel remorse for some past crime, we hope some future good. The immediate emotions, or those belonging to the present, are subdivided into such as do, and such as do not, involve any moral feeling.
Those lectures which treat of our emotions, contain some of the most interesting views of human nature to be found in the whole series; a philosophical spirit of discriminating delineation, together with that disposition to view every thing as the production of infinite wisdom and benevolence, which is no less philosophical than it is amiable, is here fully displayed. We must pass over this whole division of the subject, with the exception of a brief abstract of the lectures on beauty, and sublimity, and one or two extracts; earnestly recommending, however, (even to those who may have no relish for the more metaphysical parts of the work,) a perusal of these and the succeeding lectures.
There is perhaps no class of feelings, (says Brown,) in treating which so little precision has been employed, and so little certainty obtained, as those of beauty. In the first place, beauty is a pleasing emotion. It is one of the forms of joyous delight, to be ranked among those elementary feelings, to which all our emotions may be reduced. In the second place, we transfer this feeling to the object which excites it, in the same manner as we do colour, (which can only be a sensation of the eye,) to the objects around us. Beauty is therefore a pleasing emotion, which we diffuse and combine with the objects which produce it. This diffusion of the emotions of beauty is only one instance of a general law, by which the mind is led to that condensation of feeling, which gives the principal value to the objects familiar to us : the home of our infancy, the walks of our youth, the most triAling gift of friendship, which are all invested to our imaginations with the emotions they have excited. Of moral beauty, all acknowledge the charm, and it is the analogy of this beauty which lends the greatest attraction to the inanimate universe. Brown is of opinion that the emotion of beauty is an original feeling, and that certain objects are better fitted to excite it than others; but he allows that this original feeling is so much modified by association, that objects wholly unfit originally to produce it, may, by association, become beautiful to us. This modification is no argument against the originality of the principle; the same may be said of our conception of truth, which is sometimes so modified by prejudice, that it seems to be wholly lost; yet no one infers from this that truth is not something dif ferent from error. The remark is also applicable to our moral feelings ; yet even in the worst of times the distinctions of right and wrong have never been wholly obliterated.
“In the very triumph of usurpation, when a single hour at Pharsalia had decided the destiny of ages, and Utica had heard the last voice of freedom, like the fading echo of some divine step, retiring from the earth ;-still slavery itself could not over. come the silent reverence of the heart for him, who had scorned to be a slave." Lect. 55.
“Her last good man dejected Rome adored,
“ And honoured Cæsar's less than Cato's sword." The emotion of beauty is not owing to a succession of harmonious images, as Allison supposes, but consists of one instantane. ous absorbing feeling; and although some objects are originally fitted to excite it rather than others, yet by association almost any object may become the occasion of this emotion. The more the mind is enriched with pleasing images, and the more of these are associated with our conceptions of beautiful objects, the more vivid and rich will be the emotions these objects will excite. From the diversity of individual association, we might expect that each one would differ in his notions of beauty ; yet we are governed by general laws in this, as in other judgments
. We correct our own notions by those of others, and come to regard that only as beautiful, which not merely pleases ourselves, but which we know will generally please. Thus beauty is not any essence, which exists in every object that excites the emotion, but a general term, which we apply, as we do other general terms, to those objects which resemble each other in the power of exciting the emotion of beauty in our minds, though perhaps they agree in nothing else.
The same remarks apply to sublimity. This is a general term, expressive of the resemblance which certain objects have to each other in the power of exciting the emotion of sublimity.
We think that this account of beauty and sublimity will satisfy every one and for ever put the subject at rest. It is very elaborately stated, and beautifully illustrated in the 530, 54th, 55th, 56th, 57th, and 58th lectures, and we recommend a perusal of them to those who are curious in this matter. Stewart, in his philosophical essays, was the first who showed that the terms beauty and sublimity are general terms, including a number of objects which agree in certain respects, or rather, according to him, they are terms which though originally applied to objects fitted to excite the emotion, had become generalized, that is, transferred to other objects, which had, by the aid of association, acquired the power to excite these emotions. The notion that beauty and sublimity express an essence, is merely another universal, a parte rei, like the idea of an universal man, and although it has held its place among philosophers somewhat longer than the universals, it is doomed at last to retire with them like phantoms of the night, before the advancing splendour of true science.
Of all our emotions, the prospective are the most important, from their direct influence on action. This order includes all our desires and all our fears. Desire is a vivid feeling, of a peculiar kind, and cannot be classed with mere approbation or love. It is a prospective emotion, and one of the most delightful of which the mind is susceptible. To enumerate all our desires, would be to enumerate almost every thing that exists; they are, in this work, all arranged under a few heads.
Hope, which is so important to our happiness, is not to be considered as a distinct emotion, but merely as one of the forms in which all our desires are capable of existing. It is not the less valuable on that account. “What hour of our existence is there, to which it has not given happiness and consolation ? We need not speak of the credulous alacrity of our wishes in our early years. The influence of hope is felt through all the years of our existence. As soon as we have learnt what is agreeable, it delights us with the prospect of attaining it. It is our flatterer and comforter in boyhood, it is our flatterer and comforter in years that need still more to be comforted. This power which attends us, with more than consolation, through the anxieties and labours of life, does not desert us at the close of that life, which it has blessed and consoled.” Lect. 65.
Speaking of our desire of knowledge, (Brown says,) when we compare the vast acquisitions and admirable faculties of a highly cultivated intellect, with the human being on his first entrance into life, it is difficult for us to regard this knowledge and absolute ignorance as states of the same mind. “ The mind which is enriched with as many sciences as there are classes of existing things in the universe, which our organs are able to discern, and which, not content with the immensity of existence, forms to itself sciences, even of abstraction, that do not exist as objects in nature ; the mind which is skilled in all the languages of all the civilized nations of the globe, and which has fixed and treasured in its own remembrance, the beauties of every work of transcendent genius which age after age has added to the stores of antiquity, this mind, we know well, was once as ignorant as the dullest and feeblest of those minds which hardly know enough to wonder at his superiority. And how vast are the acquirements of a mind even of the humblest rank ! acquirements which a few years, that may be said to be almost years of infancy, must have formed. If we knew nothing more of the mind of man, than his capacity of becoming acquainted