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Title: Sound Mind - or, Contributions to the natural history and physiology - of the human intellect
Author: Haslam, John, 1764-1844
Language: English
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Printed by Strahan and Spottiswoode,
Printers-Street, London.




The privilege of long acquaintance, and a sufficient experience of the
kindness of your disposition, might be an adequate inducement to
dedicate the following pages to your notice. To this offering, I am
however impelled by motives, which boast a higher descent, and more
enlightened character:--an admiration of your superior talents, and the
adaptation of those excellent endowments, to the advancement and
happiness of the human race,--and by which you have been enabled

     "The applause of listening senates to command."

The subjects to which I now solicit the permission of prefixing your
name, were once your favourite study; and I am induced to consider your
profound researches into the nature and constitution of the human
intellect, as the basis of that high reputation, you now so deservedly
maintain among the wise and dignified of your contemporaries.

     I am, Dear Sir,
       with respect, esteem,
         and the kindest feelings,
           Your very obedient servant,
                     JOHN HASLAM.


The indulgence of the public has been already extended to several works
which I have submitted to its decision on the subject of INSANITY; and
the same favourable interpretation is now solicited for the present
performance,--which attempts the more difficult investigation of SOUND
MIND. In treating of Mental Derangement, I became very early sensible,
that a competent knowledge of the faculties and operations of the
Intellect in its healthy state, was indispensably necessary to him, who
professed to describe its disorders:--that in order to define the
aberrations, the standard should be fixed. There was indeed no lack of
theories and systems of Metaphysic; and although they essentially
differed, many possessed the highest reputation. Amidst this distraction
of conflicting opinions, which no mediator could adequately
reconcile,--without daring to contend with a host of discrepancies, or
presuming to demolish the lofty edifices which scholastic Pneumatology
had reared,--I determined to throw off the shackles of authority, and
think for myself. For it was evident, on the freehold ground of
literature, that there is "ample room and verge enough" for every man to
build his own tenement;--and the present construction is too lowly to
intercept another's prospect, and without those ornaments that might
provoke the jealousy, or challenge the rivalship of surrounding

The mind of every rational person may be considered as an elaboratory,
wherein he may conduct psychological experiments:--he is enabled to
analyze his own acquirement,--and if he be sufficiently attentive, he
may note its formation and progress in his children:--and thus trace the
accumulation of knowledge, from the dawn of infancy to the meridian of
manhood. The prosecution of these means, according to my own views, will
qualify the diligent observer, to become the Natural Historian and
Physiologist of the Human Mind.

In the comparative survey of the capacities of Man, and the intelligence
of animals, the contrast has appeared so striking, that it was
impossible wholly to abstain from the inference of his future
destination:--notwithstanding very different conclusions had been
extorted by some modern physiologists. It has been often remarked, that
the practitioners of the healing art, have been very moderately
impressed with a solicitude for the future. This observation, in some
late instances, has been unhappily confirmed:--but it would be unjust to
visit the whole tribe with a sweeping and acrimonious censure, for the
transgressions of a few. The reproach has, however, long existed. The
venerable father of English poetry, in his description of the Doctor,
has passed a high and merited compliment to his learning; which at that
period was a heterogeneous compound of Greek, Latin, and Arabian lore,
mysteriously engrafted on Galenicals and Astrology:--yet with this
courteous concession to his professional science he could not refrain
from a dry and sarcastic memorandum, that

     "His study was but little in the Bible."

Throughout this inquiry, the province of the Theologian has never been
invaded:--it has been my humble toil to collect and concentrate the
scattered rays which emanate from natural reason,--a pale phosphoric
light, and "uneffectual" glow, compared with the splendid and animating
beams, which issue from the source of divine communication.

As the object of these contributions, has been principally to convey my
opinions, concerning the formation of the human mind, from the superior
capacities that man possesses, many subjects have been left untouched,
which, in similar works, urge an important claim to the attention of the
reader. Among these neglected articles, the IMAGINATION is the chief
omission:--of which many authors have treated so copiously, and so well.
According to my own views, the consideration of this faculty was not
essential to the outline that has been traced;--and it has been rather
deemed a graceful embellishment, than a constituent pillar of the
edifice of mind. This gay attirer of thought, that decks passion and
sentiment, is also the prolific parent of fiction;--and justly banished
from the retreats of sober demonstration.--To the science of
numbers,--to mathematical precision, and to the whole range of
experimental philosophy,--Imagination does not lend her glowing and
gaudy tints. No vestiges of her colouring can be discovered in Divine
ordinances, or in the systems of human jurisprudence:--neither in the
Ten Commandments nor in the Statutes at Large. Imagination may indeed
enliven the cold pages of historical narrative, and blend the "Utile
Dulci"--but even here she is a profane intruder: and a vigilant eye must
be directed, lest, in some unguarded moment, her seductive
blandishments should decoy the nakedness of truth. A sedate and
unambitious recorder of facts, does not presume to describe her regions,
or to enumerate her attributes. That delightful task must be performed
by her votaries,

     "The poet, the lunatic, and the lover;"

nor should the Orator be excluded from his fair participation and
kindred alliance with this airy and fascinating group.

If the present essay should conform to nature, and be founded in
truth,--should it assist the young inquirer, and more especially the
medical student,--for whom no compendium of the science of mind has been
hitherto prepared; my own expectations will be fully answered; and this
scantling may probably lead some more capable person to an extensive
investigation, enlarged comprehension, and luminous arrangement of the
phenomena of the human intellect.


57. Frith-Street, Soho-Square,
1st November, 1819.



Perception                                                   1

Memory                                                      16

On the intellectual superiority which man has
acquired by speech, and the possession of the
hand                                                        28

On the nature and composition of language, as
applied to the investigation of the phenomena
of mind                                                     59

On will or volition                                         74

On thought or reflection                                   110

On reason                                                  135

Instinct                                                   160

Conclusion                                                 182

_Works by the same Author._

  I. Observations on Madness and Melancholy.

 II. Illustrations of Madness.

III. On the Moral Management of the Insane.

 IV. Medical Jurisprudence, as it relates to Insanity.

  V. A Letter to the Governors of Bethlem Hospital.



The faculty of perceiving the objects which surround us, is an important
feature in the history of mind; but by what means or contrivance this is
effected, can only be known to the Supreme Being, who has thus been
pleased to endow us; and our utmost endeavours to detect the _modus
operandi_ will be puerile and unavailing.

The first operations of the infant are to educate its senses, in order
to become acquainted, through these organs, with surrounding objects.
This, in the human species, is a process of very slow attainment; and
our information concerning this subject, must be derived from
attentively watching the progress of the infant itself; as of these
early perceptions, for a reason which will be afterwards assigned, we
retain no distinct recollection.

For the manner in which we become acquainted with the objects in nature,
we have appropriated a term, which was probably supposed to be
explanatory of the process, by which we received our intelligence of
these phenomena, and have accordingly termed it _Perception_. The
intrinsic meaning of this word is the taking, seizing, or grasping, of
an object, from the Latin _Cum_ and _Capio_, and the same figure
pervades most of the European languages. This term may sufficiently
apply to the information we derive from the organ of touch; but it
affords no solution of that which we obtain through the medium of the
other senses, as sight, smell, and hearing. It has been the bane of
philosophy, and the great obstacle to its advancement, that we have
endeavoured to penetrate that which is inscrutable; and in this vain
pursuit, we have neglected to detect and cultivate that which is
obvious, and the legitimate province of our research.

These organs of sense are the instruments by which we obtain our
different perceptions; they are the tests by which we become acquainted
with the objects of nature.

When we view the newly-born infant, and consider its state for many
weeks after it has become a member of our community, we are then
enabled to form some opinion of the almost insensible gradations, by
which it acquires its perceptions. An enumeration of the progressive
steps of this tardy process is within the power of any patient and
accurate observer; but this detail does not constitute a part of the
plan which has been adopted.

It has been endeavoured by writers on this subject, to establish a
distinction between perception and sensation, and the reader for his
information may consult their works: they do not however appear to have
founded this distinction on any obvious difference, nor to have adduced
sufficient reasons for their separate establishment, as independent
properties of the nerves. To feel, to experience a sensation, or to
perceive, implies consciousness; it is that which is transmitted by the
nerves to the sensorium, either by the organs of sense, or by the
internal nerves; as pain, or feelings of which we are conscious.
Consciousness is the test, the evidence, the proof of sensation or
perception. This point has been adverted to, in order that terms should
not be multiplied without a distinct and essential difference of

The five senses, together with some auxiliaries, which will be the
subjects of future notice, may be considered as the instruments or
agents, by which the edifice of mind is constructed. In the act of
perceiving by the different senses, there are some circumstances, which
are particularly deserving of attention. In order that perception may
fully and certainly take place, it is necessary that the person should
be undisturbed; he ought to be exempt from external intrusions, and
internal perturbation. During this process the respiration is in general
more slowly drawn, the body endeavours to maintain a perfect quietude,
and its position becomes fixed. When we perceive objects by the eye,
this organ becomes fixed and the lips are usually closed. During our
examinations by the touch, the eye is also fixed, the breathing is
suspended, and the lips brought into contact: the fingers are separated,
and their more delicately tangent surfaces applied to the object with
their utmost expansion. In the exercise of audible perception, the neck
is stretched forth, and the ear applied to the quarter from whence the
sound appears to issue; the mouth is partly open to conduct the
vibrations to the Eustachian tube. When we acquire intelligence by the
smell, the lips are very firmly closed, the nostrils become dilated, and
the inspiration of air through them is conducted by short and successive
inhalations. From the connection between the smell and organs of taste,
(and this association is more remarkable in some animals than in man,)
it is difficult to describe the process, which, however, principally
consists, when minutely tasting, in moving the tongue (the principal
discriminator) on the palate:--but when urged by strong appetite as in
the act of feeding, and when divested of the restraints which refined
society imposes; the nostrils are widely expanded, the eye is keenly
directed to the portion, and the hands are busily employed.

Experience has sufficiently informed us that the organs of sense must be
in a healthy state, in order to the due conveyance of perception. When
the function of any organ is altogether defective, as when a person is
born blind, he is cut off from all perception of light and of visible
objects. If by nature deaf, from the intonation of sounds; and many
unhappy instances of such connate defects abound among our species. In
one particular subject, both these defects existed from birth; so that
the sum of his intelligence was conveyed by the touch, smell, and
taste, or in other words, his mind was exclusively composed of the
perceptions he derived from these senses. This case will be more
particularly noticed in a subsequent chapter. The alterations which take
place in the state of our perceptions from a morbid cause, are generally
known. Thus a person labouring under a catarrh, will be unable to detect
the odours which certain substances communicate in a healthy condition
of his olfactory organ. In fever excited by a disordered stomach, the
taste will become vitiated, and the partial obstruction of the ear by
accumulated wax, will impress him with the bubbling of a pot, the
singing of birds, or the ringing of bells.

The same law that produces fatigue in a muscle from exertion, appears
to obtain in the organs of sense. If they be excited by their
appropriate stimuli too violently, or for a too long continuance,
fatigue or languor is produced, their percipience is diminished, or
confusedly conveyed; and they require a period of rest for their

As we advance in our enquiries into the nature of perception, it will be
evident that we cannot long continue to treat of it as a simple act, or
as a distinct faculty. The organs by which we obtain our different
perceptions are not insulated parts, but communicate with a substance,
termed the brain, and which is continued through the vertebral column.
The ultimate expansion of a nerve of sense, has been termed its sentient
or percipient extremity; and where it is united to the brain, its
sensorial insertion. If we were to divide the optic nerve where it
passes into the foramen, taking care to leave the apparatus of the eye
uninjured, the visual organ would be deprived of its function, and the
person or animal would be completely blind of that eye; so that a
communication with the brain is necessary for the purpose or act of
perception. As therefore the union of the nerve with the brain is
indispensably necessary for the purpose or act of perception, we are
naturally led to inquire into the properties of this substance, termed
the brain. Before we proceed to this part of the subject, it will be
proper to notice a fact which is of frequent occurrence. In amputations
of the thigh, at the moment the femoral nerve is divided, it often
occurs that a pain is distinctly felt in the toes; and after the limb
has been removed, even for many months, the same painful feeling of
these lost extremities is occasionally experienced. This circumstance
would render it probable that the larger branch of the nerve becomes
itself impregnated with the sensation it transmits: indeed it is a
continuation of the same substance, from its sentient extremity to its
sensorial insertion. This intimate union of nerve and brain may be
further illustrated: it has been already noticed, that a morbid state of
the organs of sense will convey inaccurate perceptions; and it is
equally certain, that disease of the brain, will excite phantasms, which
appear as realities to the sensitive organs.

As consciousness is implied, in order to constitute the act of
perception, it is of some importance to investigate the nature and
meaning of this term. The consciousness of _having experienced_ a
perception by any of the senses would be an act of memory:
consciousness, therefore, applies to the past; and it also accompanies
our prediction of the future. When a person is writing a letter, he is
at the time, conscious that his own hand is forming the characters; if
this letter be afterwards submitted to his inspection, he is conscious
that he wrote it; and if he be desired to write it over again, he is
conscious that it will bear, both to himself and others, the character
of his hand-writing. Consciousness, therefore, accompanies human action
through all its tenses: it is equivalent to the knowledge we possess of
our own personal identity, the evidence of mind, and therefore must
accompany every act of intelligence. Thus we are equally conscious that
we perceive, remember, think or reflect, and reason. As consciousness
must accompany every act of perception, it follows that we cannot be
impressed with more than one at the same instant; for it can never be
contended that we are able to experience two acts of consciousness at
the same moment. The very term two, implies repetition or succession,
and we could as well conceive the possibility of being, at the same
time, in two different places.

As far as we are warranted to infer from the evidences it affords, an
infant appears to possess no consciousness; but it may be considered of
early acquirement, and coeval with distinctness of perception.

These few preliminary remarks concerning perception have been submitted
to the notice of the reader, in order to advance to another subject. The
faculties which constitute mind are so blended, and dependant on each
other, that it would only hazard confusion to proceed. But this subject
will be resumed.[1]


[1] There exists already furnished, a considerable mass of facts,
dispersed in various works, which might be advantageously collected into
a volume in order to illustrate the phenomena and laws of perception,
and more especially to display the mutual assistance they afford to each
other, and the superior knowledge which we have derived from their
united co-operation.


Allow a human being to be gifted with his five senses, exquisitely
attuned for the conveyance of those perceptions, which the separate
organs and common sensory are destined to receive: let him during fifty,
or as many thousand years, scent the most delicious perfumes,--convey to
his palate the flavour of the choicest viands,--to his eyes, present the
fairest prospects in nature,--impart to his ear the sweetest music, and
regale his touch with smoothness and warmth; moreover let him be
conscious of each individual perception he receives:--what would he be
at the expiration of this period, without recollection? He would be no
more than a sheet of white paper, that had been carried round the world
to receive, through the camera obscura, its most delightful views; or
the bare walls of Westminster Abbey, after the commemoration of Handel.
Perception and consciousness, therefore, although indispensable to the
building up of mind, are by themselves inefficient and useless without
the adjunct of memory.

The writers who have treated of the human faculties, have usually and
properly bestowed an elaborate investigation to the developement of this
interesting subject: indeed, when men first began to describe the
operations of their own minds, it might be expected that they would
treat copiously of its most important function; but the nature of this
endowment has received no elucidation from the aggregate of their

The term memory has been Anglicised from the Latin Memoria; yet we
possess two other words of similar meaning, and from their derivation,
in a certain degree, explanatory of this process; namely, to REMEMBER
and RECOLLECT. Thus if an individual have seen any particular animal,
and given sufficient attention to perceive accurately its construction,
so as to possess a complete perception of the different parts or
_members_ of which it is composed; he would, in the absence of the
animal, be enabled to remember it. If his hand had been duly educated he
might form its model, or chisel it from a block of marble; or on a
plain surface, according to the rules of art, might make a drawing of
the animal, and with such exactitude of its different _members_, that it
would appear to those who compared it with the original, that he
perfectly _re-membered_ it. To recollect is only a different figure for
the same process, and implies to re-gather or collect, those parts which
have been scattered in different directions.

The perceptions we obtain by our different senses are all capable of
being remembered, but in different ways. Those which we derive from
sight, may be communicated by the pictures of the objects, which become
the means of assisting our recollection, and thus form a durable record
of our visible perceptions; of course excepting motion, which pictures
cannot represent; but motion, or change of place, implies a succession
of perceptions. Yet this manner of record does not directly apply to the
other senses: we can exhibit no pictures of odours, tastes, the lowing
of a cow, the roaring of a lion, or the warbling of birds; much less do
hardness and softness admit of any picturesque representations as their
record. The memory of animals seems to be in the simple state: they
have, through their organs, different perceptions; and in many instances
these organs are more susceptible than those of the human subject. The
ear of some timid species is enabled to collect the feeblest vibrations
of sound, and which are inaudible to us. The eye of some birds can
tolerate an effulgence of light, that would dazzle and confuse our
vision; and others "do their errands," in a gloom where we could not
distinguish. In certain animals the smell is so acute, that it becomes a
sense of the highest importance for the purposes of their destination.
But animals are incapable of recording their perceptions by any signs or
tokens: they therefore possess no means of recalling them, and their
recollection can only be awaked from the recurrence of the object, by
which the perception was originally excited: whereas man, by the
possession of speech, and of the characters in which it is recorded, can
at all times revive his recollection of the past.

It is generally acknowledged that our memory is in proportion to the
distinctness of the perception, and also to the frequency of its

The simple acts of perception and memory appear to be the same in man
and animals; and there are many facts which would induce us to suppose,
if these faculties be identical in their nature, that the endowment of
the latter is more excellent. This conjecture is hazarded from the
greater susceptibility of the organs of some animals, and from their
wonderful recollection of tracks which they have traversed. Among the
phenomena of memory there are two very curious occurrences, and for
which no adequate explanation has been hitherto afforded. Many of the
transactions of our early years appear to be wholly obliterated from our
recollection; they have never been presented as the subject of our
thoughts, but after the lapse of many years, have been accidentally
revived, by our being placed in the situation which originally gave them
birth. Although there are numerous instances on record, and some perhaps
familiar to every reader, I shall prefer the relation of one which came
under my immediate observation. About sixteen years ago, I attended a
lady at some distance from town, who was in the last stage of an
incurable disorder. A short time before her death, she requested that
her youngest child, a girl about four years of age, might be brought to
visit her, and which was accordingly complied with. The child remained
with her about three days. During the last summer some circumstances
led me to accompany this young lady to the same house. Of her visit when
a child she retained no trace of recollection, nor was the name of the
village even known to her. When arrived at the house, she had no memory
of its exterior; but on entering the room where her mother had been
confined, her eye anxiously traversed the apartment, and she said, "I
have been here before, the prospect from the window is quite familiar to
me, and I remember that in this part of the room there was a bed and a
sick lady, who kissed me and wept." On minute inquiry none of these
circumstances had ever occurred to her recollection during this long
interval, and in all probability they would never have recurred but for
the locality which revived them. In a work professedly the fabric of
fancy, but which is evidently a portrait from nature, and most highly
finished,--in the third volume of Guy Mannering, the reader may peruse a
similar but more interesting relation, where the return of Bertram to
the scenes of his childhood, awakens a train of reminiscences which
conduce to the developement of his history and legitimate claims.
According to my own interpretation, however wonderful these phenomena of
memory may appear, they merely afford examples of the simplest acts of
recollection, excited by the recurrence of the original objects, at a
period when language was little familiar: in the same manner as an
animal, at a distant time brought into its former haunts, would
remember the paths it had heretofore trodden.

But there are some facts in the history of recollection which do not
admit of any satisfactory solution. From these it appears, that persons
in their childhood have learned a language which, from the acquirement
and usage of another during many years, they have entirely forgotten; so
that when spoken by others, they have been wholly unable to understand
it: yet during the delirium of fever, or from inflammation of the brain
and its membranes, in consequence of external injury, the former and
forgotten language has been revived, and spoken with fluency: but after
a restoration to health no traces of its recollection have remained. A
remarkable case of this kind has been published by Mr. Abernethy; and a
similar instance is recorded of the lady of an ambassador. These few
preliminary observations have been submitted to the reader, in order to
introduce a principal part of the subject to his notice, to prevent
repetitions, and from the impossibility of considering the more curious
and important phenomena of perception and memory as simple and
unconnected endowments.


In our investigations of the nature and offices of the human mind, we
are immediately and forcibly struck with two important circumstances,
which appear to have contributed in an especial manner to the
superiority of man over all other animals. Let it be admitted, without
at present discussing the question, or adducing any arguments; that the
constitution of the human intellect is of a higher quality, or of a
finer staple, than the intelligent principle of other creatures.[2]
These two endowments with which man may be considered as exclusively
gifted, and which, on a deliberate survey, appear principally to have
conduced to his pre-eminence in the range of intellectual creation, are
speech and the possession of his hands. One of the chief characteristics
by which man is distinguished from the other animals, is the capability
he possesses of transmitting his acquirements to posterity. The
acquirements of other animals perish with them: they are incapable of
recording their achievements, and, as a community, they are stationary.
If the reason be sought, it will be immediately found, that they do not
enjoy the appropriate organs; and this defect will be detected to arise
from their want of speech and hands.

There may perhaps arise some of the difficulties already experienced, in
the separate consideration of these human attributes,--speech and the
hand; as much of the superiority which man possesses has resulted from
their combined assistance. It is, however, important to treat of each
individually, as far as their separate influence and effects can be
distinctly traced. The consideration of speech or significant sound,
would naturally introduce an enquiry into its structure and philosophy:
but as this knowledge can be collected from the works of many
enlightened writers on these subjects, it is unnecessary to obtrude on
the reader that which he may find already prepared.

Speech is _ordinarily_ acquired by the ear[3], and the sound conveyed
through that organ is imitated by the voice. When any object in nature
is named by its appropriate articulate sound, as a tree, a fish, a
horse, if the object be duly noted and the term remembered, it will
mutually, on the presentation of the object, recall the term; or if the
term be mentioned, the recollection of the object will arise. Without
reverting to the formation of words by letters, or proceeding to the
structure of sentences by words, which is the province of the
grammarian, it will be seen that these significant sounds, enable human
beings to convey to each other the perceptions they have experienced, or
are impressed with, at the moment of communication. This endowment of
speech to man would, alone, have constituted him vastly superior to the
other animals. But whatever might have been his attainments, either from
his own discoveries or from the experience of his contemporaries, his
departure from life would have consigned the products of his genius and
wisdom to the treachery and mutilation of another's recollection. Even
in the enlightened and polished period of our present existence, we are
fully acquainted with the loss or addition which a fact experiences,
from being transmitted through a succession of narrators.

Had man been merely furnished with speech, without the means of
recording his acts and reflections, we might indeed have preserved by
tradition, the names of Homer, Virgil, Cicero, Shakspeare, and Milton;
but their works,--those majestic columns which now support the temple of
fame, would have perished, had there not been a contrivance to record
the productions of their genius. This art, of conferring permanence on
the significant sounds of the human voice, has taught us to appreciate
and revere the taste and wisdom of our predecessors; and to feel, that
although their bodies are buried in peace, yet their names live for
evermore:--but more especially this contrivance has preserved the laws
of nations, and above all other blessings, has transmitted, in the
Sacred Volume, the commandments of the living God.

From the brief notice which has been bestowed on this subject, it will
be seen, that man could have made but inconsiderable advances in the
scale of intellectual progression, by speech alone;--that how much
soever this faculty might have elevated him above animals, by endowing
his perceptions with intelligence, and rendering his thoughts the
circulating medium of his community; yet had he remained without the
power of registering the edicts of his mind, language would have expired
in its cradle; and as the body mingles with its mother-earth,
intelligent sound would have been blended and lost in the medium that
produced it.

The next subject to be considered, (and its importance will justify an
ample review, and minute consideration,) is the hand; a member which may
be considered, with some trifling exceptions, as exclusively bestowed on
man. The wonderful construction of this part of the human body might be
sufficiently exemplified by its achievements. Its anatomy has not,
hitherto, been so minutely investigated, as to demonstrate the almost
infinite variety of motions to which it is adapted; nor has it been
sufficiently compared with the somewhat analogous structure and function
in certain of the simiæ, in the claw of the parrot, or with the
proboscis of the elephant.

At the extremity of the fingers, in the human hand, and on their inner
surface, resides the organ of Touch; a sense, of which animals are
comparatively deficient. Touch, is distinguished from feeling, which it
is the general property of all the nerves to convey, and this feeling is
likewise accompanied with consciousness. Thus pain may be felt in the
different organs of sense, without any corresponding perception, which
it is their separate office to import. Although the acute organ of touch
has its seat at the extremity of the fingers, yet the whole surface of
the skin (of the human subject) is susceptible, but in an inferior
degree, of tangible perceptions. It is sensible of heat and cold, of
hard and soft, rough and smooth. The tongue enjoys also a considerable
capability of tangible discrimination; but let any person attempt to
ascertain the state of his pulse, by applying the tongue to the wrist,
he will find it a very unsatisfactory test.[4]

It has been already observed, that the perception of objects conveyed
through the organ of vision, may be represented by drawings, so as
sufficiently and accurately to convey the same perception to the eye of
another: thus we recognise the likeness of a person by his portrait; the
view of a known country from the landscape; the quadruped, bird, or
insect, by its picture: but the perceptions of the organ of touch, can
only be communicated through the medium of language; and the same may be
observed concerning those derived from the smell and taste. We may
indeed submit the same objects of touch, smell, and taste, to a number
of persons, who, in all probability, (their organs being similar,) would
be impressed with the same perceptions: but these perceptions,
recollected, and the objects which excited them absent, can only be
communicated through the medium of significant sound.

It may be a subject of curious investigation, although foreign to our
present enquiry, whether man, in possession of articulate organs,
discovered speech, and imposed names on his perceptions; or whether he
was originally gifted with this endowment. Without attempting to discuss
this question, it is sufficient to remark, that the structure and
composition of our own language, and of its northern kindred, afford
sufficient evidence of a very rude and necessitous origin.

After man had acquired the means of communicating his perceptions by
significant sounds, the next important discovery was the art of
recording them, so that they might serve as the vehicle of intelligence
to his distant contemporaries, or be transmitted to posterity as the
sources of improvement. The human hand is the immediate agent by which
this contrivance is displayed. It is not intended to trace the history
of this wonderful and precious discovery, but to remark, that human
ingenuity, has likewise established the record of sounds which are not
significant, and which are termed the notations of music.

The science of accurate admeasurements has been exclusively discovered
by man; and for the attainment of this important acquisition, it will be
seen that the hand has been chiefly and progressively instrumental. When
we contemplate the present state of man, in our own nation, surrounded
by the conveniences which gratify his wants, and behold him practised in
their enjoyment, we are little disposed to revert to that period of his
history, when he struggled to continue his existence, and trace his
tardy progression from rudeness to refinement.

     Pleas'd with himself, the coxcomb rears his head,
     And scorns the dunghill where he first was bred.

Although we now measure space and time, bodies solid and fluid, heat and
its absence with the facility of a single glance; yet if we consider the
slow, and painful steps, by which such acquirements have been attained,
we shall be forcibly impressed, how much we are the creatures of patient
experiment, and also how mainly the hand has contributed to our
advancement. If we investigate the standards of admeasurement, we find
that many have been derived from the human body, and more especially
from its operative instrument, the hand. That the members and dimensions
of our own body should have been the original standards of measurement
is most natural, and the terms in which they are conveyed afford a
sufficient illustration of the fact. Thus, we have a nail; _pollex_,
_pouce_, _pulgada_, Swedish _tum_, for an inch; which word has been
misapplied by our Saxon predecessors, and corrupted from the Latin
_uncia_, which related only to weight. We still measure by digits, by
fingers' breadth, by hands high. Cubit from _cubitus_, was formerly
employed. We now retain ell, _aune_, _ulna_. Foot, pace, _pas_, _pes_.
Yard, not as Mr. Tooke supposed from the Saxon gyrwan, to prepare, but
from gyrdan, _cingere_, and is employed to represent the girth of the
body. Fathom, the distance of the arms when extended to embrace, from
which the meaning is implied in most languages.[5] But it will be
immediately perceived, that measurement could not proceed to any
considerable extent, could neither be compounded by addition, nor
subdivided, without the employment and comprehension of numbers.

In our childhood we are taught the knowledge of numbers; and those who
have superintended the work of education, must have witnessed the
difficulty of impressing on the mind of the child, this kind of
information. Alphabetic characters, compared with numbers, are readily
acquired: whether it be from the imperfect manner, in which the science
of numbers is usually taught, or from the actual difficulty in
comprehending the subject, it is not pretended to determine; although,
from some considerations, the latter is most probable. The names of
different objects are easily acquired, and children examine such objects
by their different senses, more especially by the eye and touch; they
become desirous of learning their properties, or of becoming acquainted
with their construction: and this investigation affords them delight,
and excites or gratifies their curiosity. But numbers possess no such
attraction; numbers, do not involve any of the obvious properties of
these objects, neither their colour, shape, sound, smell, or taste; it
therefore becomes perplexing for them to comprehend, if five similar
substances, as so many apples, or nuts, be arranged before them, why
each, should bear a name, different from the thing itself, and different
from each other: why this nut should be termed one, another two, and the
next three.

In acquiring a knowledge of numbers, as far as the senses are concerned,
the eye and the touch are especially exercised; but it appears that the
touch is the corrector of the sight: if fifty pieces of money be laid on
a table, they will sooner and more accurately be numbered by the touch,
than the eye; and we know in other instances, that the motion of the
hand is quicker than the discernment of the sight. There are many
circumstances, although they do not amount to a proof, which might
induce us to consider, that the human hand has much contributed to our
knowledge of numbers.[6]

As far as we possess any direct evidence, none of the animals are
capable of numerating; and this constitutes an essential difference
between them and man in their intellectual capacities. In states of
weakness of mind, this defect in the power of numerating, is very
observable, and forms a just and admitted criterion of idiotcy; and it
is well known that such persons exercise the organ of touch in a very
limited degree, compared with those of vigorous capacity: their fingers
are likewise more taper, and their sentient extremities less pulpy and
expanded. The same state of the organ of touch may be remarked in some
lunatics who have become idiotic, or where the hands have been confined
for a considerable time.

Although in our own language, we have not been able to discover any
rational etymology of the units, that is, what was originally the
meaning of one, two, three, &c., or of what these units were the
representatives, we have, however, by the ingenuity of Mr. Tooke, a very
probable account of the origin of ten, which means, that which includes,
or comprehends all numeration; and that it does so include it, may be
learned from the composition of eleven[7]; and if it should amount to
no more than a curious coincidence, ten is the number of the manual
extremities. Notwithstanding neither our own, nor any of the European
tongues, afford us any probable solution of the actual meaning or import
of the units, yet this contrivance is satisfactorily developed in the
language of some of the African tribes, (vide Park's Travels, p. 337.)
where it will be found, that when they had arrived at six, they
proceeded by composition; not by the composition of six and one, to
form seven, but by five and two.







Seven--_Soolo ma Fidding_--Five and Two.

Eight--_Soolo ma Sarra_--Five and Three.

Nine--_Soolo ma Nani_--Five and Four.


As numbers must have been acquired in progression,--first one, then two,
&c. there appears to be considerable difficulty in conceiving, of what
the increase or addition would be the representative, except by adding
the already designated numbers together: but our own units do not bear
any ostensible marks of such composition, nor do the northern numerals,
from whence our own have been imported. If we were now called on to
construct a new language, and invent terms for the units, there are no
objects familiar to me, which would suggest appropriate terms, as the
types of the different units; and it is presumed, as far as we have
extended our researches, that the names of things are not arbitrary, but
have been imposed for some real or supposed reason.

When we consider the importance of numbers to man, as an intellectual
being, and compare the advancement he has made by this knowledge, beyond
the animals who have wanted the means of acquiring such information,
the importance of investigating this curious subject will be fully
acknowledged. Without numbers, by which the divisions of time, space,
and value are characterised, man could have possessed no knowledge of
the order and succession of events; he would, by wanting precise
standards, have remained ignorant of admeasurements; and without the
definite proportions which numbers confer, property would be a vague and
uncertain name.

From these remarks an opportunity is now presented, to enumerate the
important achievements of the human hand; but as a powerful objection
may be urged, against the views which have been sketched out concerning
this subject, it will be proper to notice them, in order to refer their
discussion to another and more appropriate chapter. It will naturally be
stated that the hand is the mere auxiliary, in fact, the servant, of the
mind; and in a healthy state of intellect is regulated by its
directions, in the performances it executes. The truth of this, it is
not intended to deny; but the examination of the objection must be
referred to that part of the work, which treats of the influence, which
does so regulate and direct, namely, the will, or, as it has been more
scholastically termed, volition.

We readily acknowledge that he who is born blind can have no perception
of visible objects, and that the same negation may be extended to the
other senses when defective: thus, if man had been created without
hands, and, consequently, without the acute organ of touch, which
resides in the extremities of these members, we must at least have been
strangers to the "cloud-capt towers, the gorgeous palaces, and the
solemn temples" which he has reared. Had the upper extremities of the
human body terminated at the wrist, such a man as Phidias might have
existed, but his occupation would have been unknown. Thus truncated, how
would the fleet have been constructed which reaped the laurel at the
Nile, at Copenhagen, and Trafalgar? The eternal city could not have
existed, nor would our own metropolis have had a being. If we reflect
for an instant, we shall perceive that all the conveniences we enjoy,
all the arts we practise, and the sciences which elevate and dignify our
nature, could never have been realised in a handless community. Speech
might indeed have prevailed, but its record could not have been
established, and intelligent sounds would only have served to breathe
forth the lamentations of misery and despair, or the accents of
discontent. We must have remained naked, and perished from the
inclemency of weather: man would have owed "the worm no silk, the beast
no hide, the sheep no wool." It would be superfluous to pursue this
subject further, as the reader has only to consider the superior
enjoyments, and accumulated monuments, of art and of wisdom, which the
mind of man has produced by the agency of his hand.

     "Molto opró egli col senno ed con la mano."

However it may gratify the pride of man, to find himself gifted with
intellectual endowments of a higher order, and distinguished as the lord
of creation; yet he must, on reflection, regard this superiority as a
"painful pre-eminence." The possession of speech, and hands, the prompt
executors of his will, have enabled him to become the perpetrator of
crimes to which the tribes of animals are strangers. Language has
exclusively furnished man with the means of promulgating the result of
his perceptions and thoughts: he thereby becomes capable of
communicating to others, that which he has observed, or the opinions he
has formed; and so highly has this accuracy of relation been estimated,
in all periods of civilised society, that it has been proudly
denominated the truth. But the possession of the same faculty of speech,
has often induced him to relate that which never occurred, or to disown
that which actually took place; and this assertion or denial has been
severely reprobated and stigmatised by the appellation of a lie. It is
unnecessary to enumerate the catalogue of the articulate vices which the
tongue can commit, or sully the dignity of human nature, by the
recollection that its lord has been convicted of perjury, slander,
blasphemy, and libel. Thus, the hand, this admirable instrument, the
elaborations of which excite our wonder and delight, whether we
contemplate the chiselled monuments of Grecian art, or the curious
manufactures of modern days,--all that is tasteful in art, or auxiliary
to science,--even this plastic and creative member, the faithful notary
of thought,--becomes the prostituted engine of the vilest fraud, or
foulest atrocity. The same hand that fashioned the Minerva of the
Parthenon might have picked a lock, or directed a dagger. It will be
found, on an accurate investigation, that all laws, which are the VOICE
of those whom we have delegated, or who may have assumed such power, and
which are recorded by the hand, are principally directed to the lesions
against individuals or society, which proceed from speech, or are
perpetrated by the hand.


[2] It must be felt by the reader that all the epithets, which can be
applied to designate this superiority, must be of material character and
signification:--whether we say superior structure, texture, purity, &c.
In fact, we possess no appropriate expressions, to characterise that
which is not material: but this poverty of language, affords no ground
for the materiality of mind; on the contrary, it is a strong argument
against such doctrine, that we are obliged to clothe the phenomena of
mind in the garb of metaphor; for material objects can be well defined
according to their obvious properties.

[3] Those who are born deaf are taught to imitate articulate sounds
independently of the ear.

[4] The reader may refer to works on comparative anatomy, for
information concerning this sense in animals. They all agree that no
animal possesses a complete hand, and that the thumb is especially
defective in size, and in the strength which enables it to act in
opposition to the combined force of the fingers. The sense of touch in
many animals appears to reside in the large and fleshy nostrils, which
appear highly sensible; and it is also evident, that in these the touch
has an intimate alliance with their sense of smell.

[5] It is equally curious to observe that geographical positions, and
the principal features of sea and land, have derived their origin from
the rude anatomy of the human body. Thus, in a short enumeration we have
cape or _head_-land, ness, noss, or _nose_; the _brow_ of a mountain;
_tongue_ of land; _mouth_ of a river; _chaps_ of the channel; _neck_ of
land; _arm_ of the sea; coast, _costæ_, the ribs. We are said to
penetrate into the _heart_ of the country, or to remove to the _back_
settlements. We descend into the _bowels_ of the earth, in order to
discover a _vein_ of ore. We ascend from the _foot_ of the mountain; and
from its _ridge_ (back) survey the prospect surrounding. Numerous
additions might be contributed by further recollection.

[6] On many occasions we observe the hands to be the natural refuge for
the destitute in arithmetic, and therefore are not surprised at finding
many persons counting by their fingers. Some rude nations are said not
to have advanced in their numeration beyond five: this may perhaps be
uncertain and difficult to prove; but it will be shewn that when others
have advanced to ten, that seven has been the compound of five and two,
eight of five and three, &c.

[7] It is not uninteresting to examine the contrivances that have been
resorted to, in order to express the number eleven. The Greeks had
[Greek: _endeka_], one (and subaudit) ten; the Romans _undecem_; and a
similar adoption has been employed by the southern nations of Europe.
The northern people expressed eleven, by _one left_ (after ten,
subaudit.) thus Caxton states his Recuyels of Troy to have been "ended
and fynished in the holy cyte of Colen, the 19th day of Septembre, in
the yere of our sayd Lord God, a thousand four hundred sixty and
_enleven_." _En_, in old English, means one, and _leven_ is the past
participle of, to leave, formerly written leve.


Mind, is an abstract term for all the phenomena of intelligence; and in
order to describe them, they have usually been denominated powers, or
faculties of the mind: we therefore commonly speak concerning the mind,
as of an existence endowed with these properties.[8] It has been
already confessed, that we are at present uninformed, and in all
probability shall remain ignorant of the nature and operation of our
intellectual powers: at least, we shall never be able to comprehend the
manner in which we perceive the objects that surround us, nor to explain
how we recollect them when they are absent; yet under this acknowledged
inability we have framed a language expressive of these powers and
operations. This language therefore cannot be the type of such
processes, as their nature and operation are unknown. The different
terms that have been employed, have originated from the numerous
hypotheses, which have prevailed on this subject: but so long as a
perfect agreement subsists, concerning the meaning of these terms, it is
of little importance; for as we have no knowledge of the actual
processes, whereby we perceive, remember, or exert our will, the
expressions we employ cannot be explanatory. The language of mind,
therefore, is not peculiar, not derived as the nomenclature of modern
chemistry, in which names are impregnated with the elements of their
composition; but figurative or metaphorical, the vehicle of conjecture,
and the ornament of hypothesis.

The truth of these remarks, would be best illustrated by an enumeration
and analysis of the terms, which have been applied, to designate the
powers and operations of the human intellect.

Were we now to occupy ourselves, in the construction of a more
appropriate language, to designate and explain the phenomena of mind; we
should, from our ignorance, be equally incompetent with those who have
preceded us. Let the terms therefore remain, but endeavour to afford
them a fixed and definite meaning, and suffer them to be so far
analysed, as to detect their composition, and discover the reasons which
imposed them. In this endeavour there will, however, be found
considerable difficulty; especially as the minds of men are not yet
agreed respecting the process, by which it is to be performed.

There are, however, only two modes, to which we can resort, for the
definite meaning of words; namely, etymology and authority. Considering
the history of our own language, and the nature of its composition, we
are enabled satisfactorily to investigate, not only the primitive sense
of our terms, but likewise their exact signification, in the languages
from whence we imported them: for there still remain, sufficient
authentic materials, in our Saxon and Norman records, to verify their
original meaning. If we enquire into the causes, which have operated to
deflect these terms from their primitive sense, we shall find authority
to be the principal source of such corruption; and this infirmity
appears to have pervaded most of the languages of those nations which
have produced poets, orators, and metaphysicians.[9] When we examine the
nature of authority in language, as it now exists, we find it to be the
arbitrary employment of words, by particular writers of acknowledged
celebrity. Many have become authorities in our language, from having
improved its construction; others, by the perspicuous arrangement of
subject, by the force of their reasoning, or the light of their
philosophy. Although we may allow the highest merit to these eminent
writers, a praise, far beyond the dulness and drudgery of verbal
criticism; yet it is by no means to be inferred, that they consequently
become authorities, for the real and intrinsic meaning of words. It can
never be expected, that the great mass of mankind should be
etymologists: the generality must be regulated by the "jus et norma
loquendi;" but if this jus, be the jus vagum, and the norma capricious,
confusion must ensue, and they will scarcely be speaking the same
language. Those who are dignified with the title of authorities, ought
to agree; for the sound interpreters of the law should never differ.

Language is the circulating medium of our thoughts; and the meaning of
words much resembles the value of money. But great diversity of opinion
prevails. In the minds of some philosophers, money means only metallic
currency, which may be assayed, and its real value ascertained; and this
seems to relate to etymology. Others less solid in their views, and
gifted with a finer fabric of fancy, are disposed to consider the
abstractions of paper to be equivalent to the concrete of bullion, and
have accordingly constituted it the jus and norma by authority. To
insist on the meaning of a word, because its interpretation has been
previously assumed, carries no conviction of its truth. The "jus et
norma loquendi," must ever prevail as the currency between human
beings; but this acknowledgment should not, in the course of
circulation, diminish, the undoubted right we possess, to detect and
refuse such as are base or counterfeit.

It will not be disputed, that some words bear a much higher importance
than others. The names of familiar objects are of little consequence,
because we can examine them by our senses, and thereby obtain just
perceptions of their character and properties: but general or abstract
terms, which are not the objects of sense, but the abbreviations of
subjects of reflection, are of the highest interest to our advancement
in knowledge and moral conduct. To exemplify the views that have been
taken on this subject, three words have been selected:--_to feel_, _to
ransack_, and the adjective, _naked_. Of the first, Dr. Johnson, the
best authority we now possess, has given six different senses or
acceptations as a verb active, and four, as a verb neuter, and has cited
the different authorities. He says it is derived from the Anglo-Saxon,
_felan_, without explaining what _felan_ means; it however means to
feel: but the adduction of a word in another language, of similar sound
and identical signification, does not impart meaning. Yet when we find
that in the Anglo-Saxon _fell_ means _skin_, which is the seat of
feeling, we directly understand the word and all its dependencies; as
_fell_ of hair, _felt_ hat, _fell_-monger, _film_, which is a thin fine
skin or pellicle. Thus we become enabled to understand and reconcile
variety and extension of meaning, from the preservation of integrity of

The verb _to ransack_, is another example. Of this word Dr. Johnson has
given three senses. According to him, it is derived from _ran_,
Anglo-Saxon, and _saka_, Swedish, to search or seize; but we are not
informed what _ran_ in Anglo-Saxon signifies, and it so happens that
there is no such Swedish word as _saka_, to search. The word _ransack_,
for which the Anglo-Saxons had _ransaka_, is derived to us from the
Gothic, in which _razn_ (pronounced _ran_) signifies a house, and
_sokjan_ to search; so that, _to ransack_, implies to search the house.

To the adjective _naked_ Dr. Johnson has given four different meanings.
Its etymology, he says, is from the Anglo-Saxon, _nacod_, which in that
language was of similar signification: but this imparts no meaning. It
is a compound word: _na_, in Anglo-Saxon, signifies _new_, and _cenned_,
_born_, so that the condition of the _new-born_ child affords an
appropriate interpretation of the term _naked_.

To ordinary minds, that which is said to be authority is decisive[10]; a
particular author of celebrity is cited, and thus the business
concludes. The reasons, which induced him to employ the word in such
particular sense, it is in most cases fruitless to enquire; as during
their lives, authors have seldom been appreciated: so that the silence
of death seems indispensable to procure the consent of authority.

As language is the instrument of thought, the vehicle of intelligible
communication among human beings, it is impossible to attach too high
importance to its precise signification: the difficulties of effecting
this concordance have been pointed out, but the remedy has not yet been
applied. After all the investigation that has been given to this
interesting subject, one leading fact seems indisputable, that all the
terms which designate the faculties and operations of our minds, are of
physical origin, as well as those which characterise the thinking or
immaterial principle itself: and for this, there is sufficient reason;
as all language, in order to be adapted for our use, in this state of
existence, can only be the representative of the objects of our
perceptions and reflections,--an instrument calculated for the meridian
of this transitory life: for, when the holy light of happiness to come
was revealed to the human race, it was found expedient, for their
comprehension, to transmit its rays through a material prism.[11]


[8] Mr. Locke, as he advances in his essay, expresses considerable
distrust of the existence of these powers and faculties of the mind.
"Yet I suspect, I say, that this way of speaking of faculties has misled
many into a confused notion of so many distinct agents in us, which had
their several provinces and authorities, and did command, obey, and
perform several actions, as so many distinct beings; which has been no
small occasion of wrangling, obscurity, and uncertainty in questions
relating to them."--Vol. i. p. 192. 10th edition.

[9] To afford a single illustration of this fact, let the verb to
_bewray_ be selected, which, although a word of very different meaning,
has been confounded with to _betray_. The meaning of the former is to
discover, expose, and is derived from a Saxon verb bearing that sense;
the latter, Dr. Johnson has derived from the French _trahir_, and has
cited some instances, as authorities for its perverted sense. It is but
justice to observe, that these words preserve their distinct and
separate sense in all the instances where they have been employed, both
in Shakspeare and the Bible. It may therefore be inferred, to have been
a recent corruption.

[10] Of this, Mr. Locke appears to have been fully sensible:--"When men
are established in any kind of dignity, 'tis thought a breach of modesty
for others to derogate any way from it, and question the authority of
men who are in possession of it. This is apt to be censured, as carrying
with it too much of pride, when a man does not readily yield to the
determination of approved authors, which is wont to be received with
respect and submission by others; and 'tis looked upon as insolence for
a man to set up, and adhere to his own opinion, against the current
stream of antiquity, or to put in the balance against that of some
learned doctor, or otherwise approved writer. Whoever backs his tenets
with such authorities, thinks he ought thereby to carry the cause; and
is ready to stile it impudence in any one who shall stand out against
them."--Locke's Works, vol. ii. p. 306.

[11] This material prism is to be understood to apply to language; and
in this view Newton himself surveyed the question. "For all language as
applied to God, is taken from the affairs of men, by some resemblance,
not indeed a perfect one, but yet existing to a certain
degree."--Newton's Works, edit. Horsley, vol. iv. p. 430.


In the consideration of the nature and offices of the human mind, there
is no subject of higher importance than the will, or volition. Every
person must have observed, that he is capable of performing certain
motions, which he is able to commence, to continue, and to arrest; and
the same faculty is possessed by many animals. A slight degree of
information will also instruct him, that there are certain motions of
his animal frame, over which he has no immediate control. The motions
which he is able to direct and regulate, have been termed voluntary; and
those over which he possesses no influence or command, have been
denominated involuntary motions. The most perfect instances of the
latter are the pulsations of the heart, and the movements of the
intestines, usually called peristaltic. The curiosity which is natural
to man as an intelligent being, would of course prompt him to enquire
into the cause of these phenomena, although the result of his
investigations might be inadequate to the toil of his research: for, he
would be as much puzzled to account for the influence by which certain
muscles are moved at will, as he would at others which possess a
determinate motion, and are not subject to this direction. While man
continues in a healthy state, he is enabled to move at pleasure those
muscles or instruments of motion which are subject to his will; and the
involuntary muscles continue duly to perform their appropriate office;
but in certain morbid states it sometimes occurs, that the exertion of
the will to move a leg or arm is ineffectually directed, and however
much we desire, wish, or will such motion, these limbs are
disobedient.[12] This condition of the members has been termed
paralytic: the will to move remains perfect; but the organs to be acted
on are insensible to that influence which, in a sound state, excited
them to motion. As in the healthy state the will has the power to
produce motion, so it is also competent to prevent it; therefore to
move or to abstain from motion, are equally the dictates of the will.
But it not unfrequently happens, when we intend to thread a needle, to
write our name, or to perform some surgical operation, that the will
exerts all its influence to keep the hand steady for the due performance
of these necessary acts; yet, notwithstanding these implicit commands,
the hand continues to move in all directions, but those which could
accomplish the object. So, that these muscles, ordinarily voluntary,
become, in a certain degree, converted into involuntary muscles. A
higher degree of this state prevails in the affection called St. Vitus'
Dance, and likewise in some convulsive symptoms attendant on locked
jaw, where the body is drawn with incredible violence. It may be
noticed, that these states are attended with consciousness.

Concerning the nature of this influence, termed the _will_, a great
variety of discordant opinions prevail. To enumerate or refute these
would be unprofitable labour, more especially as the majority are the
mere assumptions of their particular authors. They all, however, seem to
be agreed that the will is an inherent faculty, or component part of the
mind; and some are induced to consider it as holding the highest office
in the department of intellect. The only mode of investigating this
subject satisfactorily, according to my own views, is to trace the
progress of volition from its feeble commencement, to the full exercise
of its important function,--from the dawn to the meridian.

As a general observation, it may be remarked that the same influence of
the will, which directs the movements of the body, is likewise exerted
over the faculties of the mind; although generally in an inferior
degree, both from the greater difficulty and less importance of the
latter, for the ordinary purposes of life. When we observe the
newly-born infant,--that helpless mass of animation,--we perceive no
indications to induce us to conclude, that it possesses a voluntary
power of directing its movements.[13] It is furnished with the organs
of motion, but is unable to exert that influence which manifests
direction; yet its involuntary motions continue perfect, and these, as
will be subsequently explained, may be considered in their nature and
effects as very similar to that, which, in animals, is termed instinct.
In the progress of this enquiry, it will be seen that some degree of
mental advancement must have been made, before the infant can _direct_
any of the motions of its body; because direction implies knowledge to
an extent sufficient for the purposes of command, and also a
consciousness of the effort. In the infant, all the organs of sense by
degrees become awaked by their appropriate stimuli or objects, and
perception is the result. Although we have no memory of our earliest
perceptions, which are solely produced by the excitation of external
objects, without any direction of the will; yet from the mental
indications of the infant, these perceptions would seem to be confused
and indistinct. It is some time before the eye appears to notice, and
longer before the hand can grasp and manipulate the substances within
its reach: in this state, volition would be superfluous if it were
possessed. By slow gradations, we find the child capable of directing
its eye, of listening to sounds, and of examining by the touch; and
these imply the efforts of the will, which appear to be subsequent to
perception. As we advance in knowledge, our perceptions, which are the
sources of intelligence, are principally acquired by the agency of
volition, which directs the organ to the object, but we still continue
to be acted on involuntarily by forcible impressions, or striking

Previously to the acquirement of language, perception, memory, and
volition are in their simplest state, such as we observe in animals, and
as in them, we are only able to estimate the amount of their mental
possessions, from the intellectual phenomena they display. In the
infant, the separate and combined examination of objects by the eye and
touch are the circumstances most deserving of notice.

It may here be proper to explain why these earliest of our perceptions
are never remembered in after-life. The long period of human infancy, is
a powerful argument for the superiority of our species: the mind of man
is built up by his own exertions, and his progress is in the ratio of
his experience to his capacity: his mission is more important, and
consequently requires a longer period to fulfil: he has few instincts;
and the sum of his knowledge is the elaboration of his extended
endowments. To have remembered the confused dawnings of his perceptions,
the imperfect and obscure transmissions of his unpractised organs would
have been superfluous, and the sources of error. In this early state,
there is no medium by which his perceptions can be artificially
connected; nor do they admit of communication or record. When language
is acquired, our perceptions become "doubly armed," and impress the
memory with additional effect: the employment of the term as the
representative of the object, recalls the original perception, and thus
invests the mental phantasm with "a local habitation and a name." Thus
our earliest recollections are never anterior to a certain progress in
the art of speech.

As we possess the instruments of motion in our muscles, they would have
been useless without the performance of their function, and our bodies
would have been stationary. It is also equally evident that this office
must be performed by ourselves, or fulfilled by others. It has been
already pointed out that there are certain motions, essential to the
preservation of our animal system, termed _involuntary_, which do not
originate from ourselves, but are the directions of a superior power,
and are effected independently of our experience and control: the other
motions, that have been termed voluntary, are the result of acquirement
or practice, and have been gradually formed by our exertions. The reader
will now be prepared to understand the wisdom of this arrangement,
which, in a future chapter, will be more copiously treated; and to feel
that the superiority of man, as an intellectual being, and a
responsible agent, consists in the formation of his own mind, and in
the direction of his thoughts and actions.

That we should exert our utmost endeavours to become acquainted with the
nature of this influence, which we term the will, is most natural; but
hitherto our researches have been wholly unavailing; and it should be
recollected that the appearances of life cannot be accounted for by that
which is inanimate, nor can the phenomena of intelligence be solved by
material analogies. As we are possessed of the implements of motion, it
is evident that they were constructed to accomplish their destined
purpose; but of the intimate nature of the stimulus which goads them to
action, we have no conception: it seems, however, certain that there
exists a mutual consent,--a reciprocal subaudition,--a compact, the
result of exercise and experience,--between the implements of motion and
the will or influence which excites them.

As far as we are able to discover, by the most attentive and deliberate
examination of our own minds, we do not appear conscious of any
intermediate perception, between the motive and the performance of the
action, or the execution of the will. If it were allowable to indulge in
analogical reasoning, which usually diverts us from the consideration of
the subject, we might endeavour to illustrate this process by the firing
of a pistol. When we have taken due aim, we have only to draw the
trigger, which produces the explosion: in doing this, however, we
perceive the emission of light from the combustion of the powder; but to
this there is nothing analogous in the operation of the will:--the
dictate of the will, and the motion excited, when watched with the
utmost attention, appear instantaneous, and become synchronous by habit.
Considering the celerity of our voluntary movements, there appears a
good reason why no perceptible intervention should exist, to divert the
mind from the immediate performance of the will. The correspondence of
the motion to the intimation of the will, is the business of education
and the performance of habit.

The exertion of the will on the bodily organs having been generally
described, it now remains to demonstrate its influence on the mind; and
so far as we are enabled to discover, it appears to be performed by the
same process. The direction of the several organs of sense to the
examination of objects, is an act of the will, and has been named
Attention; which, by some writers, has been deemed a peculiar and
constituent faculty of the mind; but in the present view it is
considered only as the practical result of the operation of volition on
the organs of sense, on memory, and on reflection. The soundest mind (as
far as it has been hitherto considered) may be attributed to him who
possesses the most enduring control over the organs of sense, in order
to examine objects accurately, and thereby to acquire a full and
complete perception. That memory is the best, which can voluntarily and
immediately produce that which has been committed to its custody; and
that reflection is the most perfect, which is exclusively occupied with
the subject of consideration. There seems also to be a considerable
similarity between the morbid states of the instruments of voluntary
motion, and certain affections of the mental powers: thus, paralysis has
its counterpart in the defects of recollection, where the utmost
endeavour to remember is ineffectually exerted; tremor may be compared
with incapability of fixing the attention, and this involuntary state of
muscles ordinarily subjected to the will, also finds a parallel, where
the mind loses its influence on the train of thought, and becomes
subject to spontaneous intrusions; as may be exemplified in reverie,
dreaming, and some species of madness.

As attention is considered an exertion of the will on the organs of
sense and faculties of the mind, it may be allowable to remark on the
nature and meaning of the term. It was evidently imposed under a
prevailing hypothesis, that the mind possessed a power of stretching or
extending itself to the objects of its perception, or to the subjects of
reflection; it is therefore a figurative term. Indeed something of this
nature actually takes place in the organ:--in minute examinations by the
eye, we actually strain and stretch its muscles, and feel the fatigue
which results from over-exertion:--when we listen, the neck is
stretched forward, and such position enables us to collect those
vibrations of sound, that would be otherwise inaudible. We are not
unaccustomed to describe the higher and more felicitous productions of
intellect, as a vigorous grasp of the mental powers, or as a noble
stretch of thought: but to infer that the mind itself was capable of
being extended, would be to invest it directly with the properties of
substance, and at once plunge us into the grossest materialism. The
perfection of this voluntary direction, or, as it has been termed,
faculty of attention, consists in intensity and duration. Of the former
there can be no admeasurement, excepting by its effect, which is
recollection: its duration can be well ascertained. The faculty of
attention in the human mind may be exerted in two ways; first, by the
organs of sense to the objects of perception; and, secondly, by the mind
to the subjects of its recollection; and this latter exercise of
attention, as will be hereafter explained, seems to be in a very great
degree peculiar to man, and to be nearly wanting in animals.

According to the nature and constitution of the human mind, the
effective duration of the attention seems to be very limited: if the eye
be steadily directed to any particular object, after a few seconds, it
will be found to wander; and if the mind be exerted on the subjects of
its recollection, there is very soon perceived an interruption, from the
intrusion of irrelevant thoughts. The effective duration of the
attention will much depend on the superior capacity, nature, or
constitution of the intellect itself; but still more on the manner in
which these habits of attention are exercised; for, by proper
cultivation, its duration may be considerably protracted. As a proof of
the limited endurance of the faculty of attention in ordinary minds,
allow the following experiment to be made.

Let two ordinary persons, A. and B., take a map of a district with which
they are unacquainted, and let each be allowed half an hour to study the
map. Desire A. to fix his attention undeviatingly to the map for this
time; and at its expiration, the map being withdrawn, request him to put
on paper the relative situations and names of the different places; and
for the performance of his task, allow him another half hour. As the
experiment has been repeatedly made, it may be confidently predicted,
that A. would exhibit a very incorrect copy of the original map. Let B.
take the same map to study for the same time; but instead of keeping his
eyes undeviatingly fixed to the object, desire him to view it only for a
few seconds; and then, shutting his eyes, let him endeavour to bring the
picture of the map before his mind: his first efforts will convey a very
confused notion of the actual and relative positions; but he will become
sensible of his defects, and reinspect the map for their correction. If
this successive ocular examination and review by the mind, be continued
during the half hour, or even for a less time, B. will be competent to
make a drawing of the map with superior accuracy to A., who endeavoured
to fix his attention for the whole of the time allotted. In conducting
this experiment some very curious phenomena may be observed. If A. had
directed his eyes to the object intensely and undeviatingly, especially
in a strong light, and had then covered or shut his eyes, in order to
recollect the relative situations in the map, the straining of the organ
to the object would defeat his endeavours; and instead of being able to
bring the picture before his mind, he would be annoyed and interrupted
by the intrusion of ocular spectra, undergoing the succession of changes
described by Dr. Darwin.[14] Thus there are limits to the duration of
our effective attention: if the organ of vision be too long directed to
the object of perception, ocular spectra arise, fatigue and confusion
ensue in the other senses; and if the subjects of recollection be too
long and intensely contemplated, delirium will supervene.

In page 52, after enumerating the wonderful productions of the hand, an
objection was foreseen, which may be conveniently examined in the
present chapter. That all the performances of the human hand, and of the
other members of the body, which are not the result of involuntary
movements, must have been the consequence of the direction of the will,
is indisputable: it is, in fact, the common relation of cause and
effect: but the creation of this distinction, would assign separate
offices to the mind and to the organ;--or to the power directing, and to
the instrument by which the command is executed. Sufficient has been
already adduced, to render it obvious, that mind or organ _alone_ would
be inadequate for the purposes of intelligence. Perception, without its
record or memory, would be a useless endowment; muscles or organs of
motion, without a power to direct their actions, could have answered no
purpose: to be effective, volition must have an object on which its
influence can be exerted. In the case of a paralytic arm or leg, the
exercise of the will is a fruitless endeavour; and the command to render
fixed a tremulous hand is equally unavailing. The power or capacity of
moving the muscles,--of directing the organs of sense to the examination
of objects,--of recollecting,--and of regulating our thoughts or
reflections, constitutes the will; but this acquirement is of very
gradual formation, and the result of mutual and progressive exercise,
both of mind and organ. Ordinary persons have no information of the
structure by which they perform their motions; and it may be also
doubted if an able anatomist would be competent to describe the action
of the different muscles, in complicated movements. The most dexterous
artificer, is wholly ignorant of the intimate construction of the organs
by which he performs his wonderful elaborations,--he has acquired the
happy facility by repeated exercise. There is a tacit and practical
convention between his mind and the powers which produce the
performance; tacit, as he is unable to describe them, and practical, as,
if naturally left-handed, he is unable by any mental directions or
influence of volition, to exhibit the same performance with the right.
The apparent facility and astonishing rapidity with which, by practice,
we perform many of our voluntary motions, has induced an opinion, that
such motions might be considered as automatical, which implies that they
were performed by the organ independently of the will; but this would be
to maintain, that the most difficult and felicitous of our voluntary
motions were themselves involuntary. This supposition is so absurd that
it refutes itself; its admission would be a libel on the perfection of
human attainment, and tend to subvert the best portion of our existing

That voluntary muscles may be converted into involuntary, has been
already observed; but this conversion is to be considered a morbid
state, and must be regarded as a degradation of our nature, instead of
its perfection. Excess in the use of fermented liquors, will generally
produce it; and the habitual practice of intemperance will destroy the
influence of volition over the intellectual powers; so that the control
over the succession of our thoughts can be no longer exerted, and when
we give them utterance they are without connection, and we talk at

It is not to be expected, in a work which professes to be merely
contributions to the Natural History and Physiology of Intelligent
Beings, that a particular discussion of moral subjects should be
instituted; and such is the question concerning the freedom of the human
will: the reader is therefore referred to those writers who have fully,
and with considerable acuteness, discussed this intricate and important
topic. The nature of this attribute is however so interwoven with the
philosophy of mind, so connected with the view which has been taken of
its history and constitution, that it is impossible wholly to abstain
from the consideration of its influence on the excellence and demerit of
human actions. It has been endeavoured, throughout this chapter, to
establish, that the power which goads or stimulates the muscles to
action, and the mind to exertion, is not inherent, but acquired by
practice; and this is exemplified by the state of the new-born infant,
which, at that period, manifests no more of volition, than of
perception, reflection, or reason. It has also been conjectured, that
the possession of this influence must be subsequent to perception, for
reasons which have been assigned. With its intimate nature we are
unacquainted; but we see, as far as muscular motion is concerned, that
the same effect is produced by the stimulus of galvanism after the head
is removed, and when, according to our existing philosophy,
consciousness is destroyed, and the power of willing is abolished. It is
by no means intended to suppose that the stimulus of the will has any
affinity with the galvanic fluid, because we are unable to prove it;
although such opinion has been entertained. According to my own
interpretation, Will is to be considered as the mere spur, the simple
stimulus to action: it possesses no intelligence to direct; but in the
healthy state, excites motion in consequence of being itself directed to
such excitement. To invest Will with intelligence sufficient for its
purposes, would render reason, the highest of our attainments,
superfluous. Those who have most strenuously contended for the freedom
of the will, have insisted that it possesses the liberty of choosing or
preferring: allow this, and then enquire what must be the nature of that
choice or preference, which is selected by an arbitrary decision,
without the previous estimate or calculation of reason. Man, beyond all
other beings, is endowed with superior means of accumulating knowledge,
and of preserving experience; by these, therefore, his actions should be
directed. If, independently of these, his will possessed a power of
directing his actions, it would be equivalent to the instinct of
animals: he would, like them, be stationary, and his conduct liable to
no responsibility. The long period of infancy in man has been frequently
adverted to; and it is a considerable time before he acquires sufficient
experience to direct his conduct; and during which, many of the species
of animals have completed several generations. For this reason, the
wisest legislators, of all ages, have exempted children under a certain
age, from the punishment of death for their actions; and although many
of them have entertained erroneous notions concerning the nature of the
will, yet they tacitly admit, in the instances of infants, idiots, and
madmen,--that is, where the understanding is not sufficiently formed by
experience, or where it is perverted by disease, that the acts of the
will ought not to be visited by the severity of the law. This is perhaps
the best practical illustration, that the will to act, is governed and
directed by reason. Had the mind of man, like animals, been furnished
with instinct, which, in them, implies a wise, preconcerted, and
unvarying performance of important functions, for their individual
preservation, and for the continuance of their race,--as may be
exemplified in the construction of the habitations of the bee and
beaver, together with their wonderful economy,--the fabrication of the
spider's web, and many others,--he would, like them, have been
stationary, having received from Infinite Bounty and Wisdom sufficient
for his destination: his will would have been directed by unerring
motives; and thus his conduct would have been absolved from all
responsibility. But man is gifted with few instincts, which appear to
decline as his reason advances: his intellect is more capacious, and of
a finer staple; he possesses additional organs for the accumulation of
knowledge; and, by the peculiarity of his construction, is enabled to
preserve his acquirements, to avail himself of the treasures of those
who have preceded him, and to transmit his collections to posterity.
Man, in possession of ampler materials and superior capacity, becomes
the architect of his own mind; and to him it is alone permitted, by the
aid of experience, and the estimate of reason, to direct his actions:
but this generous and exalted faculty involves him in awful
responsibility. The same light which discovers to him that which is good
and lawful, also exposes its opposite, which is evil and forbidden; and
the nature of good and evil, as it forms the foundation of human
institutions, has been derived from our experience of their effects, or
a calculation of their tendencies. The will of man, therefore, is as
free as his experience dictates, and his reason urges to action: yet,
that he should often act in opposition to both, is as lamentable as
certain: in the transport of immediate gratification, or in the hopes of
enjoyment, precept ceases to influence, and example loses its warning.

     Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor.


[12] In some of these instances, where the will has ceased to influence
the muscles, the due sensibility of the nerves has
remained.--Medico-Chirurgical Transactions, vol. ix. p. 8.

[13] So little does the infant appear to possess any control over those
organs which afterwards become subject to voluntary influence, that it
may be sufficient to remark the flow of saliva, of urine, and the more
solid evacuations, are subject to no restraint, and for some time are
passed with little or no consciousness: even the motions which are
excited in the limbs, appear to be spasmodic, rather than the effect of

[14] Vide Darwin's Thesis de Spectris Ocularibus.


Those recollected objects, which have been transmitted by the senses, or
which we have perceived by their means, are the subjects of our thoughts
or reflections; for these terms will be indifferently employed, as
designating the same faculty or process. The obvious meaning of the word
_reflection_, is the representation of any object in a mirror. This
term, so well understood in that department of natural philosophy named
optics, has been transferred to mind, in order to explain a process,
supposed to be similar. If, however, we examine the analogy, it will not
accord:--to produce reflection in the mirror, the object must be
present; in the mind, the reflection takes place when the object is
absent. Although the simile, strictly speaking, is imperfect, yet the
figure is beautiful, and, considering the metaphorical nature of
language, as applied to mental operations, the most natural and
appropriate that could have been selected; for, speaking in a general
way, our thoughts, in themselves appear very much as the shadows or
reflection of our perceptions. As we are but little capable of
communicating the nature of our perceptions, independently of language,
we must have recourse to inference and conjecture. It is fully
understood that our visual perceptions, through the medium of
recollection, may be represented by the skilful execution of the hand;
and that those of smell, taste, and touch do not directly admit of such
delineation. We might next inquire, if the odours we perceive are as
strongly impressed on the olfactory organ, as the subjects of visual
perception on the eye? Are they as fully and distinctly recollected? and
are they capable by themselves of affording the materials for thought or
reflection? Animals possess certain senses in common with ourselves;
and, in many, the organs are more susceptible than our own; but there
are no circumstances which have yet transpired, to induce us to suppose
that the perceptions they have acquired are reviewed by their minds,
when the objects which excited them are absent. The memory they possess
of the perceptions they have experienced, is perhaps superior to that
of human beings; still it does not appear, from any manifestations they
afford, that it is actively exercised, as with ourselves, but
occasionally excited by the recurrence of the object which originally
produced it. Language is the pencil which marks the bold outline, and
lends a colouring to our different perceptions; and with this boon man
is exclusively gifted. A rational curiosity will prompt the reader to
inquire, in what our perceptions consist independently of the language
in which we ordinarily clothe them. In the instance of optical
perception, we know that it is _something_ which is retained by the
memory, and may be traced by the hand, so as to convince others that it
is truly remembered or recollected[15]; but let the same enquiry be
made concerning the perceptions we receive by the touch, the smell, and
the taste: in this investigation we shall experience much greater
difficulty, as it is an endeavour to conceive the nakedness of a figure
which is always clothed. That these perceptions must also be _something_
abstracted from the terms which represent them, is proved, by the
circumstance, that they are recollected when they occur again. As we are
educated by language, and acquire a facility of employing it as the
vehicle of our thoughts, we are little accustomed to contemplate the
subject in this manner, and this also enhances the difficulty. When,
however, the importance of speech is adequately considered, it will, I
think, be detected, that the terms which we employ as the
representatives of the perceptions of touch, smell, and taste, are the
only media by which they can be voluntarily recollected or communicated
to others; and, as signs of such perceptions, are equivalent to the
representations by the hand of those which have been perceived by the
organ of vision. To attempt the analysis of these silent deposits, to
endeavour to describe these bare perceptions, would be altogether
unavailing, because description implies language. In fact, it would be
an effort to detect the symmetry of the human frame, by loading it with
modern finery. The wonderful capacity which man exclusively enjoys,
both for the communication of his thoughts, and for the improvement of
his memory, in being enabled to acquire and transmit knowledge by
impregnating sound with intelligence, and more especially in exhibiting
its character embodied to the eye, leaves the rest of animated creation
at a prodigious distance. This endowment of language to man, whereby he
can, by an articulate sound, recall the perception of objects, (not
indeed equal to the sensorial impression, but sufficient for their
recollection, and also for the proof of their identity)--whereby he can
with equal intelligence exhibit their character to the eye, is
sufficient to explain of what the materials of his thoughts
consist:--and to prove that animals being unable to substitute a term
for their perceptions, are incapable of the process which we denominate
thought or reflection. To fathom this mystery, is perhaps impossible;
but, from attentively watching that which passeth within us,--from
considering the state of animals which want this endowment altogether,
it seems to be a law of our intellectual constitution, that our thoughts
or reflections can only consist of the terms which represent our
perceptions; and this is more evidently true, when we reflect on those
subjects which are of a general or abstract nature.

Whoever will attentively watch the operation of his own mind,--for this
subject admits of direct experiment,--will find that he employs terms
when he conducts the process of reflection. In order to afford a fair
trial, it is necessary that he should be alone, and subject to no
interruptions. It will also add to the facility of the experiment, that
he select a subject with which he is but little acquainted, as the
process will be more deliberate. On topics with which we are familiar,
we have acquired a rapidity of exercise which renders the detection of
the process more difficult and perplexing. In this trial, he will be
aware that he is repeating words as the materials of his thoughts. If
the subject on which he should think involves persons with whom he is
acquainted, or scenes he has viewed, he will, in addition to the terms
he employs, have the pictures, or visible phantasmata, of these
presented to his mind, conjunctively with such words. That we actually
employ terms in this process is evident in many, who, when exercising
their thoughts on any subject, are found, as we term it, talking to
themselves; so that we are enabled to observe the motion of their lips:
and this circumstance is to be noticed in most persons when they are

The contrivances of language enable us to connect our thoughts; for our
perceptions are distinct and individual, and of themselves can possess
no elective attraction to _associate_ and combine: they may however, by
repetition or habit, become so allied, that the occurrence of one will
excite the sequence of the other. We ordinarily recollect them very much
in the order and succession of their occurrence; but we are also able
to arrange and class them, and by such means, of recollecting them
according to the artificial order of their distribution. This may be
exemplified in the various expedients that have been devised for the
acquirement and retention of knowledge: thus, chronology records events
according to the order of their occurrence; an encyclopædia arranges
according to alphabet or subject; and the most perfect of this kind,
like the index to a book, consists in their mutual reference.

This wonderful faculty of thought or reflection, so far as we possess
the means of detecting, appears to be peculiar to man; and if it be
admitted to consist of our recollected perceptions, by the contrivances
of language, we shall find that animals are not in possession of the
necessary materials.

The ear transmits sounds to animals possessing this sense; and in some
species it is so exquisitely susceptible, as to surpass, by many
degrees, the acuteness of the same organ in the human subject. It is
also recorded, that in some of the wilder tribes of man, the hearing
possesses a delicacy of percipience unknown to the inhabitants of a
polished community. Superadded to the conveyance of ordinary sound, the
ear of man is the great inlet of communication, and the vehicle of
articulate intelligence. Through the medium of this sense his knowledge
becomes extended, and his memory improved; for every conversation is
either a review of his stores, or an addition to his stock. As our
thoughts or reflections are conducted by language, great caution is
required that the terms we employ should possess a fixed and determinate
meaning; and this is more especially important, when we employ words
which are not the representatives of the objects of our perceptions, but
of a complex nature, or, as they have been denominated, general terms;
such as those which are used to designate the faculties and operations
of the mind, and such as convey our moral attributes. The perfection of
the process of thought, consists in the attention which the will can
exert on the subjects of[16] consideration. The nature and endurance of
the attention, which the organs of sense can bestow on the objects of
perception, have been already discussed; and it will be found, that the
same influence is directed when we exercise reflection: so that that
mind is to be considered as most efficient, (in proportion to its
natural capacity,) which can dwell on the subjects of its thoughts
without interruption from irrelevant intrusions. The exertion of
voluntary control over our thoughts has been denied; but if we were to
subscribe to such doctrine, it would follow that this noble faculty of
reflection would be merely a spontaneous concurrence of images and terms
accidentally revived,--on rare occasions fortuitously blundering on wit,
and ordinarily revelling in the absurdities of distraction. In
proportion as we have been duly educated, we become enabled to direct
and fix the organs of sense to the objects of perception, to be able at
will to revive our memoranda, or to call on the memory to exhibit the
deposits which have been confided to its custody, and to dwell
pertinaciously on the materials of reflection. It is, however, certain,
that in ordinary minds, the attention is little capable of being fixed
to objects, and still less to the subjects of reflection; but this
incapacity, in both instances, is principally to be attributed to the
defects of education, and to a want of proper discipline of the
intellectual powers. The endurance of attention in minds of the highest
order, by a wise law of our constitution, is limited; and if it be
attempted to continue the exertion beyond the natural power, the effort
is infructuous. As straining the muscles produces fatigue, stiffness,
and tremor;--as ocula spectra intrude on the forced and protracted
attention of the visual organs,--so confusion ensues, when thought is
racked and goaded to exhaustion.

As the staple of the human intellect is vastly superior to that of
animals, so we find among our own species a considerable range of
capacity; but however we may estimate mental excellence, it should be
recollected, that its possession has seldom contributed to the happiness
of the individual; so that experience would lead us to prefer the sober
medium, which is included by a parenthesis, between the extremes of
genius and dulness, and which appears to be the unenvied lot of the mass
of society. The two great distinctions which mark the intellects of our
species, seem to consist in the difference of character, which is
established by those who excel in the exercise of their perceptions and
consequent recollection, and those who cultivate and discipline the
energies of thought. The former are distinguished by a vigorous
activity, a penetrating and unwearied observation; their curiosity
seems rather to be attracted by the object itself than directed by the
mind. This incessant occupation and restless inquiry furnishes the
memory with an abundant vocabulary: they recollect each object they have
seen, and can retrace every path they have trodden; the ear greedily
imbibes the conversations to which they are anxiously disposed to
listen; that which they read, they verbally retain; they excel in
quickness of perception and promptitude of memory, and appear to have
every thing by heart; they are "the gay motes that people the sun-beams"
of the intellectual world:--thus we find them, as inclination may sway,
accurate chronologists, biographers pregnant with anecdote, expert
nomenclators, botanists, topographers, practical linguists, and
bibliographers; in short, the opulent possessors of whatever perception
can detect, and memory preserve. The other order of men, (and they are
comparatively few,) are the creatures of reflection:--with them the
senses are little on the alert; they do not fatigue the wing by
excursions through the field of nature; but that which the recollection
retains becomes the subject of mental examination. An event is not
registered from having merely occurred; but the causes which produced it
are investigated, and a calculation is instituted concerning its
probable tendency. Words are not simply regarded as the floating
currency or medium of exchange, but they are severely subjected to
analysis to establish their standard, or to detect the excess of their
alloy; their senses are little awake to external impressions; the
objects which a change of scene presents are slightly noticed, and
feebly remembered; their curiosity is not attracted from without, but
excited from within; they are strangers to the haunts of gay and
mirthful intercourse, and are rather consulted as oracles, than selected
as companions. This constant occupation of thought produces the
philosophical historian, profound critic, physiologist, mathematician,
general grammarian, etymologist, and metaphysician. After long exertion
they become disposed to melancholic disquietude, and often turn in
disgust from a world, the beauties of which they want an incentive to
examine, and taste to admire. Both of these intellectual orders of our
species contribute, but in different manners, to the stores of
knowledge. The sound, efficient, and useful mind consists in a due
balance and regular exercise of its different faculties.

How great soever the pains which an individual may bestow, to fix his
thoughts to the examination of a particular subject, he will find that
the effective duration of his attention is very limited, and that other
thoughts, often wholly unconnected with the subject, will intrude and
occupy his mind; on some occasions they are so prevailing and
importunate, that he loses the original subject altogether. It is
acknowledged, that the soundest and most efficient mind, is
distinguished by the control it is capable of exerting on its immediate
thoughts; which consist, as has before been observed, of terms, and the
phantasmata of visible recollection:--this wandering of the thoughts to
other subjects, or this intrusion of irrelevant words and pictures,
whichever may be the case, appears to bear a very strong resemblance to
a morbid state. It is usually the attendant on indolence, and has
probably its source in a want of the proper occupation of mind, and, by
indulgence, may become an incurable habit. Yet this rumination of mind
has its votaries: by some it is courted as a delightful amusement, and
eulogies are bestowed on the incoherent tissue of these reveries and
day-dreams. Although these illegitimate offsprings of "retired leisure"
may be considered as a perversion of the noblest attribute of man; yet
they serve, in some degree, to recruit our recollection of past
transactions, which might otherwise have faded in obscurity, or perished
from natural decay. In the soundest and most refreshing sleep we seldom
dream; so, in those wholesome exercises of the intellect where the mind
is fully occupied, and, more especially, when such pursuit is combined
with bodily exertion, these masterless associates do not intrude. By
continuance, this habit may be so formidably increased, more especially
under the guidance of malignant or depressing passions, that these
shadows become embodied, and assume a form so potent and terrible, that
the will is unable to bind them down, and the understanding attempts to
exorcise them in vain.

The act of thought or reflection, therefore, appears to consist, not in
the operation of an exclusive and particular faculty, but in the
voluntary recollection of pictures, as far as visible perception is
involved, and of terms or words which are the types or representatives
of our perceptions, together with those general terms, which are to be
considered as abbreviations of meaning or intelligence. All this would,
however, only amount to an act of memory, of such pictures and terms,
particular and general; and would not comprehend or include their
analysis, estimate, admeasurement, or _ratio_, with inquiries into their
source and tendency, which is denominated _reason_, and which will
compose the materials of the following chapter. Suffice it to observe
that our thoughts on any subject can only be according to the extent of
our knowledge of things and opinions; and, therefore, that our thoughts
or reflections necessarily involve our reasonings, as they are only
recollections without them.


[15] In this capability animals will never rival us, as they are
deficient of the _hand_, the operative instrument by which it is

[16] It may be proper to explain the origin and meaning of this word,
and of another usually employed in a similar sense, namely,
contemplation. The former is compounded of _cum_ and _sidus_, and
presumes a fixity of mind adequate to the survey of the heavenly bodies;
the latter is derived from _cum_ and _templum_, and imports the same
gravity and concentration of thought which we carry to the fane of


The opinions of the thinking part of mankind have been much divided
concerning the signification of the term Reason. Every person, conceives
himself privileged to reason upon all the subjects of human
intelligence; and whatever he may chuse to offer on any side of a
question, he denominates his reasons for or against it. By some, this
power is held to be the exclusive possession of man; and such persons
naturally conclude that an offence is offered to his intellectual
dignity, if the smallest portion be conceded to the most docile animals.
This is, however, a question for future examination, and will be
discussed when their faculties are more particularly investigated. Those
who have affirmed that our own species is exclusively gifted with
reason, have not in any manner defined the nature of this faculty, or
enumerated the steps of the process by which reasoning is performed:
indeed, so ambiguous has been the signification annexed to this term,
that it is not uncommon to meet, in the best authors, with the
expressions of right reason, false or inconclusive reasonings, absurd
reasons, &c. These epithets are, however, perfectly correct, as will be
demonstrated in the course of this enquiry.

If this capacity of reasoning be peculiar to man, it would not appear
difficult to trace the gradations of the process when he employs it:
every act of intellectual exertion, deliberately performed, is attended
with consciousness; he must therefore be aware of the successive steps
of his march: but as this effort might be perplexing to minds
unaccustomed to such deliberate and minute investigation, a readier
method presents itself in order to attain the object. There are writers
in all the departments of human knowledge, who are deservedly held in
the highest estimation, and who have reasoned on the subjects they have
treated, with the utmost correctness and ability:--let the best
specimens of that, which, in these authors, is allowed to be reasoning,
be selected and analysed, which will readily demonstrate the means they
have pursued to arrive at their conclusion. The whole of this process
being conducted by significant sounds conveyed to the ear, or in the
signs of these sounds presented to the eye, the inquirer would be
immediately impressed, that intelligent sound, or its character, that
is, language, must be the vehicle by which this process is performed. In
the next place, he would be sensible that these sounds, or their signs,
were the substitutes or intended representatives of the objects in
nature, either individually or collectively; for he would find that men,
by the instrument of speech, had contrived, by a term, equally to
express collections as well as individuals; as a man, or an army, which
latter might consist of many thousands of the same beings. When he had
arrived at this knowledge, he would be persuaded of the importance of
these terms, and feel the necessity of their precise and uniform
signification, as the representatives of the particular objects or
collections they professed to describe:--because, if different
significations were affixed to the same term, those who employed it
could not mean the same thing. These prefatory observations appear to be
proper, and it is important that the reader should bear them in mind;
but it will be evident that the most correct description of objects does
not constitute the process of reasoning, however indispensable it may be
as its foundation.

Reason, as the term itself shows, implies _ratio_, estimate, proportion,
or admeasurement; and in all the instances of reasoning that can be
adduced, this interpretation will apply in the strictest sense. But
_ratio_, estimate, &c. involve numbers, by which they can alone be
characterised or defined. Thus, by way of illustration, the estimate for
a building implies the number of the different materials, with their
_cost_, which is the number of pounds, shillings, and pence; also the
number of requisite workmen to be employed for such time, or number of
weeks, days, &c. at a certain stipend: admeasurement also consists of
numbers, whether it be employed on solids, fluids, or designate the
succession of our perceptions, called time[17]: and ratio or proportion
is equally the creature of numbers. In a preceding part of these
contributions, the importance of numbers has been considered, and a
confident belief expressed that no animal is capable of numeration; and
that the comprehension of addition and subtraction, the basis of all
calculation is exclusively the province of the human intellect. This
subject, however, requires a more extended investigation; and the
research would doubtless reward the toil of the inquirer.

It is generally acknowledged, that arithmetic, or the combination and
separation of numbers, is the purest and most certain system of
reasoning, and liable, when properly conducted, to no difference of
opinion; because the meaning of number is definite and universally
agreed on, there being no nation that affixes a different value to the
units, which are the elements of all ulterior numerative progression;
and although, in different languages, they are called by different
names, as [Greek: Deka], _decem_, _dieci_, _dix_,--_taihun_, _tÿn_,
_zehn_, _tien_, _ten_, yet they have an identical meaning, and
denominate the same thing; and notwithstanding the Roman and Arabic
symbols are of different character, they represent the same number,
whether we employ X or 10. It is owing to this identity of meaning, that
the reasoning in numbers is subject to no diversity of opinion.

The names of those things which have an actual existence, and can be
submitted to the inquisition of our senses, or are capable of being
analysed, are subject to comparatively little error, when we reason
concerning them, because their character is defined by observation and
experiment: but we have terms to designate that which cannot immediately
be submitted to the analytic operations of our senses, and which has no
palpable existence; and from the undefined nature of these, the greatest
discord and confusion have prevailed when we reason concerning them; as
the terms, humanity, charity, benevolence, living principle,
organisation, materialism, political expediency, taste, liberty,
legitimacy, and a thousand besides.

In order to proceed regularly with this subject, it appears that our
reasonings may be employed concerning things, or the objects in nature,
and on terms which are not the immediate representatives of natural
phenomena, but as they have been denominated general or abstract; and
which are intended to be the verbal representatives of multitudes of
objects arbitrarily classed, or of opinions comprised under such term.

That reason is not an inherent, peculiar, and independent faculty of the
human mind, receives a strong confirmation from considering, that it
cannot be voluntarily exerted on subjects of discussion, but requires,
as the indispensable condition of its operation, the basis of knowledge,
which is to be understood to mean, the result of observation and
experiment: for the mere employment of language, on a subject with which
we are unacquainted, is but idle prating and a lavishment of words. To
reason, is to adapt our means, that is, our knowledge, for the
attainment of the end or object proposed: it is the estimate or
admeasurement of these means. If, for example, a military commander
intended effectually to bombard a city;--such being the object proposed,
he would immediately proceed to estimate, admeasure, or calculate his
means to produce the effect, and his success would depend on the
knowledge he possessed of the nature and properties of the materials
employed: he must calculate the distance, elevation, proportionate
quantity of powder, and the time the fuzee should burn previously to the
explosion of the shell; with various other necessary circumstances. This
is an example of a very pure process of reasoning as applied to things,
and accords with the definition that has been attempted. If it were
necessary to multiply instances of the reasoning on things, perhaps the
construction of a thermometer would be a well-adapted illustration; and
it would likewise exhibit that which I am very anxious to impress,
namely, the very gradual manner in which knowledge, by the operation of
reasoning has been applied to the purposes of utility. That many
substances, and particularly metallic bodies, augmented in magnitude by
being heated, or, as we now term it, expanded by heat, was known many
centuries ago, and was a fact of hourly occurrence to the artificers in
metals. A similar increment of bulk was also observed in fluids; and it
was likewise known, that their dimensions contracted as they cooled.
This fact appeared to obtain so generally, that it became an aphorism,
that bodies expanded by heat and contracted by cold. Of the precise
gradations of heat they were, however, ignorant. Most of the senses
became tests, although they were inaccurate criteria. The sight conveyed
some distinctive marks; so that when some metallic bodies were heated
to a high degree, they were observed to become red, and as the heat was
increased, they were rendered white. By the touch, a variety of
discriminations of temperature was obtained, to which appropriate terms
were annexed, explanatory of its effects, or according with the
feelings; as burning, scorching, scalding, blistering hot;--descending
to blood, loo, gently, or agreeably warm. The ear was not exempted from
its share of information, by detecting the boiling of water, or by
discovering when a heated metal was immersed in that fluid, that it was
hissing-hot: even the smell detected some obscure traces, sufficient to
discourage or invite an approach. These tests, although they might serve
for ordinary purposes, were still wholly inadequate for philosophical
accuracy. To ascertain quantity, it was necessary to associate number as
the index of precision. Notwithstanding the construction of this
instrument now appears so simple and easy of contrivance, it is only
within a few years that it occurred to fill a tube, having a bulb, with
a fluid; and to note the points at which snow dissolved, and water
boiled: when these were fixed, the intermediate space might form a scale
according to any subdivisions, so as to endow it with precision by the
adjunct of numbers. On many occasions, our sensations deceive us,
especially in a morbid state of the body: a person in the cold stage of
an ague shivers at the temperature that oppresses his attendant with
heat; but the instrument described is subject to no variations, by
marking the gradations of warmth with the definite character of number.
It will now be seen, that man possesses materials for conducting his
reasonings, which animals do not enjoy;--by language, and from his
capacity of numerating. Speech, of course, involves its record, whereby
he can recall the transactions of former ages, and preserve the fruit of
experience for his intellectual nurture, when the tree that produced it
has perished. This record is the elaboration of the hand,--that
wonderful instrument, the register of thought,--that active and and
skilful agent that "turns to shape" the contrivances of the mind.

It is perhaps impossible, in a few words, to describe precisely the
nature of the operation termed reasoning. In general terms it may be
defined, _the means we employ for the attainment of the end proposed;
the employment of knowledge for the discovery of truth_; or _the process
of demonstration_; whether the object be an arithmetical sum, a
geometrical problem, or a discourse on taste. A part of the process of
reasoning, according to received opinion, consists in comparison, either
of things, or of general terms; and this comparison implies not merely
their exterior similitude, but likewise their internal structure and
composition: because two mineral substances may resemble each other in
external appearance, and may wholly differ in their intrinsic
properties. The process of ascertaining wherein they agree, and the
circumstances which discriminate them, is an instance of reasoning, or
the means we employ for the proposed end, and which means necessarily
imply the previous possession of knowledge. It will also be seen that in
the instance adduced, and indeed in most others, where we reason on
things, that precision can only be attained through the medium of
number; for these mineral substances, although similar in external
character, may contain very different proportions of the precious
metals, and their actual value can only be estimated by comparison; that
is, by an analysis, founded in knowledge, to ascertain the per centage
of gold or silver, which must be expressed in numbers: and the
comparison that is instituted concerning general or abstract terms,
must have for its basis the establishment of their legitimate force and

When we consult authorities on this subject, and particularly Dr.
Johnson's dictionary, we find that he has given eleven different
significations of the term _reason_, which he defines to be "the power
by which man _deduces_ one proposition from another, or proceeds from
premises to consequences." There is, however, much ambiguity in this
statement; and it would perhaps be impossible, in reasoning concerning
things, (which is to be considered as the most perfect example of this
process,) to adduce an instance, in which one proposition is strictly
_deduced_ from another.

Every proposition is distinct, and independent: numbers, which are
definite, may be added together, and the sum-total exhibited, or a
lesser number subtracted from a greater, and the remainder shown. It is
difficult to say what is really meant by the words "deduces one
proposition from another." On examination, it will be found that every
simple proposition contains some fact or dictum, something set up or
laid down, _aliquid propositum_; and that nothing can be _deduced_ from
it, more than the meaning which the words constituting such proposition
legitimately convey: indeed, it must be evident, that any deduction from
a simple proposition would destroy its force. The sum of our knowledge
consists of individual facts, which are in themselves distinct, as much
as a flock of sheep is the aggregate of the different animals that
compose it; and it is only a misapplication of language, to affirm that
we are able to deduce one proposition from another. One proposition may
tend to explain or illustrate another; but every proposition, correctly
so termed, relates only to itself.

The other mode by which we reason, is on abstract or general terms,
which are not the representatives of individual substances, or the
objects of our perceptions; but the names of classes or collections, or
of various hypotheses included or designated by a single name. The
difficulties which environ this latter mode of reasoning become
immediately evident, and satisfactorily account for the hostility and
confusion it has engendered, and for the tardy advancement of real
knowledge by this medium. The individual objects in nature can be
investigated by observation and experiment, and may be sufficiently
estimated; but multitudes of objects arbitrarily classed, or imaginary
qualities comprehended by a single name, do not admit of the same
analysis by the senses, and we are only enabled to ascertain their real
meaning in the two ways that have been pointed out,--by authority,
which, to be strictly such, ought to be invariable,--or by etymology,
which will demonstrate their original signification, and the reasons
which imposed them. Thus when we reason concerning charity, benevolence,
humanity, and liberty, terms certainly of the highest importance, but
each of which involves a variety of circumstances, and the real
signification of which, is to this moment differently interpreted, we
are impeded in the process, and fail in our estimate, because the
dimensions are uncertain. That which one man considers a charitable
donation, another views as the means which encourage idleness, and vice,
and a third person is perhaps induced to question the motive, by
attributing the gift to pride and ostentation. These general terms
seldom admit the precision of numbers, but are characterised as to their
proportions by expressions equally general and indefinite: as, much,
more, and most, to denote their augmentation; and, little, less, least,
to define their diminution. These general but indefinite degrees of
comparison, as they are termed, once defined the temperature of our
atmosphere, until a scale was discovered to mark its increment and
diminution by the accuracy of numbers. Great as may be the convenience
of general terms, both for abbreviation and dispatch, they are
notwithstanding liable to considerable suspicion, and are the frequent
sources of error and misapprehension. It has been principally for this
reason, that in proportion to the advancement of the physical sciences,
the study of scholastic metaphysic has been deservedly neglected.


[17] Time, or the admeasurement of the successive order of our
perceptions, embraces a wide area of definition; and it is perhaps
impossible, in a few words, to circumscribe the range of its meaning.
The sagacity of the human intellect, although by very slow gradations,
has accumulated the wonderful mass of knowledge we now possess on this
subject: and the investigations which have been made into the faculties
of animals, justify the conclusion that its comprehension is limited to
man. It would be highly interesting to trace the origin and progress of
our information, concerning the nature of time; but a short note to a
compressed essay, does not admit of such examination. However, it
appears evident, that the striking and regular phenomena of nature have
constituted some of our most important distinctions. Thus, the ebbing
and flowing of the tide have formed a very early notation; and we still
retain in our language the traces of its application in Whitsun_tide_,
Shrove_tide_, Allhallow_tide_, &c. The great divisions of time are well
understood; as day, from dawn; month, from moon; year, Anglo-Saxon gear,
from gyrdan, the girth (of the zodiac). A moderate knowledge of the
cognate languages of the north, would readily unravel the origin of all
the terms that have been employed by us and kindred nations, for the
purpose of characterising the succession of our perceptions. All these
subdivisions necessarily imply a comprehension of numbers.

From the experience of the past, man has inferred the _probability_ of
the future; for by natural knowledge, the probability, great as it is,
can only be deduced. The certainty has descended from a higher
authority. Although the grammar of our language has endeavoured to mark
our predictions of the future by certain signs; yet these do not convey
any definite intelligence of that which _is_ to come. In this state of
being, man may receive assurances of ulterior existence, but he cannot
invest his predictions with the certainty of numbers. The signs of Will
and Shall, the utmost boundaries of his future glance, are both verbs in
the present tense, and only signify his immediate intention of
performance, at a time which may _probably_ arrive.


It has been endeavoured, in the foregoing pages, to describe the
intellectual capacities of the human being, and to account for his
superiority, from the peculiarity of his structure, and the extended
faculties it has conferred. It has also been attempted to maintain, that
man, thus gifted, is the architect of his own mind; with the hopeful
expectation, that it may tend to the improvement of his culture, but
more especially, to exhibit him as the creature of responsibility, in
consequence of his ampler endowments: "for unto whomsoever much is
given, of him shall be much required."

The mental phenomena which animals display is a subject of equal
curiosity and interest; but it is to be lamented that they have not yet
been sufficiently observed, or faithfully collected. Their anatomy has
been minutely and diligently investigated, and the functions which have
resulted from the peculiarity of their structure, in many instances,
have been industriously developed; but an enumeration of their
intellectual bounties, and faculties of improvement, are still wanting
to complete their history. As we are able to trace the progress of mind,
in the infant, from its feeble glimmerings to its bright effulgence in
the maturity of man; so we can contemplate the inherent wisdom that
directs the animal tribe:--a liberal portion, sufficient for their
individual protection, and for the continuance of their race. This
definite allotment of mental craft to animals has rendered them
stationary, while man has no barriers opposed to his improvement; but,
under the fostering auxiliaries of a free soil, wholesome instruction,
and intellectual labour, continually advances. However vast his present
treasure may appear, its accumulation may be safely predicted; and it is
to be expected, or at least, it may be hoped, that his career in moral
practice will be commensurate with his progress in science.

The human intellect, or the capacity of man for the accumulation of
knowledge, has enabled him, in a great degree, to render himself the
master of the animal creation; and more especially over those which
dwell on the soil he inhabits or range in the atmosphere he respires:
his authority or conciliation has little extended to the tenants of the
deep. Many of the larger quadrupeds he has subdued, and thereby has
become enabled to substitute the exertion of their muscles to relieve
the toil and fatigue of his own: of the swifter, he has coerced the
speed, for the anticipation of his wishes: the breed of many he has
extensively multiplied, to prey on their flesh, or to become nourished
by their secretions: his knowledge has been directed to the physical
improvements of their race, and he has also relieved them from many
infirmities and diseases, consequent on their domestication and labour.

The wonderful construction of animals is a fit subject for the serious
contemplation of man: but the most striking and important lesson which
it impresses, is the adaptation of their organs to the purposes of their
destination, or the means they possess for the discharge of the offices
they perform. This construction is throughout an exemplification of that
which has been defined reason; and that it is perfect, may be concluded
from its being the work of the Creator. It has been already observed,
that the perceptive organs of many animals, especially the eye, the ear,
and the smell, are more acute and vigorous, than those in the human
subject: with us, the olfactory organ is considered as the lowest sense,
but in some animals it appears to be the most important; and even in
man, under certain privations[18], the smell has become a test of the
nicest discriminations: indeed, so far as the senses are concerned as
the importers of knowledge, animals appear to be gifted beyond our own
species. Their memory is also more perfect, as might be expected, from
the exquisite sensibility of their perceptive organs. The accuracy with
which they recognise persons and places is in many instances really
astonishing; and the certainty with which they retrace the most
intricate paths, is a proof of the excellence of their local
recollection, and of the attention they are capable of bestowing on the
objects of their perceptions. This enduring attention is perhaps to be
accounted for from their want of reflection, which so frequently diverts
man from dwelling on the objects of his senses. Thus, a cat will
undeviatingly watch the hole through which a mouse is known to pass, far
beyond the time which man can exclusively devote to a subject of
expectation. But here their superiority terminates. Their recollection
is not refreshed, as in man, by the substitution of a name for the
object of perception; much less have they any contrivance to record such
intelligent sound, whereby man can preserve and transmit his
perceptions. Thus whatever individual excellence animals may attain,
they want the means of communicating, and of transmitting to their
successors, and this sufficiently accounts for their stationary
condition, and for the progression of man.

That animals are _incapable of the power_ which has been termed thought
or reflection is most probable. According to the interpretation that has
been given of this faculty, they are deficient of the materials, or of
terms, the representatives of perceptions; consequently of their
abbreviations, and of the contrivances by which a proposition or
sentence is constructed. That they understand some words, is evident;
they know their own names, and, by certain sounds, can be made to stop
or advance, to seize or let go, to rise up or lie down; but the extent
of this intelligence is very limited, and altogether different from the
comprehension of a sentence.

It is not improbable that they dream; and, at such times, the
recollection of objects and scenes may be presented to them in visible
phantasmata; and in the delirium of canine madness, they are observed to
snap at imaginary existences; but this is far below the process that
constitutes reflection, which consists in the capacity of reviewing the
whole of our perceptions; and it has been endeavoured to point out that
this can only be effected through the medium of intelligent sound, or
its visible representative. If we were to contend for their capacity of
reflection, we must, at the same time, acknowledge, that they do not
appear to derive any improvement from the process; and to suppose them
endowed with that which was nugatory, and contributed in no degree to
their advancement, would be an idle and useless hypothesis. When not
employed and directed by man, their lives are principally occupied in
procuring food, and in the propagation of their species; and when their
appetites are satisfied, they repose or sleep: when not guided by
instinct, they seem to act from established habits, or the dictates of
immediate impression. They are capable of considerable acquirements
under the coercive tuition of man, and may be taught a variety of tricks
for his amusement or profit; but they do not appear to comprehend their
utility, or to hold these instructions in any estimation, as they never
practise them when alone. The most accomplished bear would not dance for
his own entertainment; and the learned pig never attempted to become a
school-master to the hogs of his acquaintance.

It has been previously noticed, that in man, and most animals, there
were movements of the highest importance to life, which were directed
by the Author of the universe, and over which they had no immediate
control, termed involuntary motions; so we find, in the tribe of
animals, various mental endowments, especially tending to the
preservation of the individual, and to the succession of the race, which
are not the results of their experience. These have been comprehended
under a general term, and denominated instinct. By instinct, is meant
the display of contrivance and wisdom by animals, which tends to
preserve them as individuals, and to maintain their succession; an
intellectual exercise so perfect, that human philosophy has not
pretended to improve; so unvaried, that the excellence of its
performance cannot be exceeded, and is never diminished; a clearness of
execution, that "leaves no rubs and botches in the work," but which, it
may be presumed, is not even comprehended by the animal itself, as it
does not possess the organs or capacity to acquire the rudiments of the
science on which its operations proceed. As man, in his healthy state,
is little conscious of his involuntary motions, so I should presume that
animals possess but a feeble consciousness of their instinctive
achievements. This may be a subject for subtle disputants to decide; but
it appears certain, during the exercise of instinct, that their volition
must be suspended. When sufficient observation has collected the
intuitive wisdom displayed by animals, we shall then be able to _define_
what is precisely meant by instinct; and, which is of much greater
importance, to furnish their intellectual history, of which the
definition is an abbreviation. One of the most useful contrivances of
language, is its abbreviation for the purposes of dispatch; and a
definition implies the fewest words into which its history can be
compressed, for perfect discrimination and identity of character.
Without disputing about a term, it may be noticed, that young ducks
hatched by a hen, immediately on their developement, and often with a
part of the shell still attached to them, make directly for the water;
while the hen, who has performed the office of a mother, screams with
alarm for the consequences. A she-cat, the first time she brings forth
her young, proceeds to secure the umbilical cord of each kitten, with
the caution of an experienced midwife. In both these instances,
experience cannot be adduced to account for the performance. When the
admirable texture of a spider's web is contemplated; will it be
contended that this elaboration is the result of mathematical knowledge
_acquired_ by the spider? Have the dwellings of the beaver, and the
construction of the honey-comb, their solution in the geometrical
attainments of the fabricators? The examples which have been enumerated,
(and they are only a few, among multitudes,) can only be accounted for,
by maintaining, that these wonderful phenomena proceed from a degree of
knowledge acquired by these animals, and are the result of such
attainment; or that they are independently furnished with such
propensities by the Creator. If it can be demonstrated that the animals
displaying the greatest acts of intelligence, are unable to acquire the
rudiments of the arts they practise, and cannot comprehend the wisdom
they execute, there will remain but one conclusion--that they are the
immediate endowments of God. Man has his instincts, although they are
few, and these appear to fade as his reason advances; woman enjoys a
more bountiful supply. The intellectual difference of the sexes is
strongly pronounced: the female is more the creature of perception: man,
of reflection:--the duties imposed on her, require less of thought and
volition; and when she resembles man by their possession and exercise,
she becomes less amiable and attractive. But this is abundantly
compensated by the intenseness and constancy of her affections.

The gift of instinct to animals, does not exclude them from acquiring
knowledge by experience; for their minds are capable of improvement,
according to the extent of their capacities, and the intellectual organs
with which they are furnished. The instinct which is allotted to them is
mental possession which they could not have acquired, from the limited
nature of their faculties. All their instincts are processes of the
purest reasoning, but they do not originate from themselves; they are
not, as in man, the elaboration of thought, the contrivance founded on
the estimate of knowledge; but a boon,--an endowment, by which
experience is anticipated, and wisdom matured without its progress and
accumulation. Animals form an estimate of that which they can
accomplish: a horse will not voluntarily attempt a leap he cannot clear;
but his admeasurement is instituted solely by his eye: he is deficient
of the organ which man possesses;--nor can he measure by steps or paces,
as he is unable to numerate. An old hound will spare himself much
fatigue in the chace, by knowing, from experience, the doubles of the
hare. As man cannot reason independently of knowledge, nor beyond the
extent of his acquirements, neither can animals display this faculty
further than they possess the means.

The instinctive bounty of intellect to animals, of course, renders them
stationary as a community; as instinct implies a definite portion of
intuitive sagacity, wisdom, or reason, commensurate to their wants and
destination. The early manifestation of instinctive wisdom, is the best
reply to those philosophers who have argued against its existence; for
in a multitude of instances it is exhibited, anterior to the possibility
of experience. Man, although gifted with superior capacities, and
susceptible of higher attainments, does not, from the paucity of his
instincts, arrive during many years at the same maturity both of mind
and body, which most animals display within the space of a few weeks; so
necessary and important is the protracted period of infancy to the
edifice and destination of the human mind.


[18] Notwithstanding we cannot sufficiently estimate the perfection of
the senses in animals, yet in some instances we are enabled to observe,
in our own species, the importance which a lower sense acquires, in
consequence of the privation of those which are deservedly considered
the more noble. A singular case of this nature occurred in Scotland, the
particulars of which have been published by Mr. James Wardrop an eminent
surgeon and oculist, 4to. London, 1813. This person, James Mitchel, was
born, very nearly blind and deaf. Although he was not deprived of every
glimmering and vibration, yet he was incapable of discerning an object,
or hearing an articulate sound; consequently to him the visible world
was annihilated. A ray of light might serve to delight him as a toy, but
it did not enable him to have the visible perception of any
substance:--his nerves, indeed, appeared to be agitated by the
concussion of sound, yet it was wholly impossible to lodge in his ear
the missile of a word. Being thus deprived of the two nobler senses, his
_mind_ was constituted of the perceptions he acquired by the organs of
touch, smell, and taste. His attention was enduring, and his curiosity
eager, far beyond those of any animal. Mr. Wardrop observes that "his
organs of touch, of smell, and of taste, had all acquired a
preternatural degree of acuteness, and appeared to have supplied, in an
astonishing manner, the deficiencies in the senses of seeing and
hearing. By those of touch and smell, in particular, he was in the habit
of examining every thing within his reach. Large objects, such as the
furniture of the room, he felt over with his fingers, whilst those which
were more minute, and which excited more of his interest, he applied to
his teeth, or touched with the point of his tongue. In exercising the
sense of touch, it was interesting to notice the delicate and precise
manner by which he applied the extremities of his fingers, and with what
ease and flexibility he would insinuate the point of his tongue into all
the inequalities of the body under his examination.

"But there were many substances which he not only touched, but smelled
during his examination.

"To the sense of smell he seemed chiefly indebted for his knowledge of
different persons. He appeared to know his relations and intimate
friends, by smelling them very slightly, and he at once detected
strangers." From the whole of this interesting relation, it seems fair
to conclude that this youth, even under the privation of sight and
hearing, possessed, in the staple of his intellect, capacities beyond
the most docile animals; and these consisted in the ardent curiosity
which he displayed, and in his desire for the improvement of his limited
faculties. Had this boy been confided to my management, I should have
endeavoured to educate him through the medium of his touch, so as to
communicate his wants, and afford an occupation to his mind. Thus, if
milk had uniformly been served to him in a bowl, beer in a mug, water in
a decanter with a glass stopper, and wine in a decanter with a cork: if
these had been arranged in his apartment, he might have indicated his
wish for any of these liquids, by producing the vessel that contained
them: the two latter might have been subsequently abbreviated, by
producing the glass stopper for water and the cork for wine. As he
examined every object by the touch, it would have contributed both to
his improvement and occupation, if he had been furnished with a quantity
of ductile clay, which he might have modelled to represent the objects
he examined, and which he might have preserved as a species of tangible
vocabulary. According to my own suppositions, he might have been taught
to numerate. It may be a subject of considerable curiosity to enquire,
of what the reflections of James Mitchel could have consisted. He had no
visible impressions which his hand could record. Being deaf, he could
not have acquired the instrument of thought--language; therefore, for
the objects of the senses he possessed,--smell, taste, and touch,--he
could have no terms, as their substitutes, for the purpose of
recollection. The next important question is, in what manner (wanting
names whereby they might be represented) would the perceptions of smell,
taste, and touch be represented to his mind in order to constitute
reflection or thought on these experienced perceptions? If musk, rose,
or garlic had been smelled, these perceptions, in a being constructed
like Mitchel, would remain dormant, until the same odour were again
presented to his olfactory organ; when it would be recollected, or he
would be conscious, that it had been previously presented. In such a
being, there would be a necessity for a fresh excitation of the organ of
sense by the object, to produce recollection; whereas, in those who
possess language, the name produces the recollection of the thing


The subjects that have been discussed in these contributions, fully
establish the pre-eminence of man, over all other created beings; and it
has also been endeavoured to demonstrate the circumstances which have
principally contributed to this superiority. The conclusions that may be
drawn are equally important and consoling.

When the capacities of the intellect are fully ascertained, we shall be
enabled to supply it with the proper materials of instruction; so that
the protracted period of infancy may conduce to the formation of
virtuous and enlightened members of civil society. The healing art will
be abundantly promoted by a knowledge of mind;--for the remedy of its
infirmities and perversions ought to be founded on a thorough knowledge
of its faculties and operations;--nor should it be forgotten that the
prevention of crimes, and the reformation of delinquents, equally
involve an intimate acquaintance with the temperaments of human

In the contemplation of mind, from the highest order to the lowest
rank,--from man, to the maggot that consumes him; we are imprest with
the evidence of appropriate contrivance and infinite wisdom. Although we
are unable to penetrate the dense veil, that conceals the arcana of
vitality and intellect; yet sufficient is exhibited to us, in the ample
volume of nature, to satisfy our curiosity, and stimulate the exercise
of reason. Observation and experience have disclosed to us, in a great
degree, the structure and functions of our own bodily frame; and the
same persevering industry has unfolded the variations which obtain in
animals. The conclusions that have been formed from the study of anatomy
and physiology, amount to a conviction, that the contrivance is
admirably adapted to produce the effects we behold;--that the means are
competent to the end. The same reasoning applies to the phenomena of
intellect, and may be illustrated by the comparative difference which
appears in animals and man.

The mental endowments and capacities which animals possess, have
rendered them stationary; whatever the more docile and intelligent may
have been compelled to learn, they do not appear to comprehend, and want
the means to communicate: so that their contemporaries and descendants
are unbenefited by the acquirement, and the attainment perishes with the
individual. When brought into existence, the world is to them a recent
creation, and bears no evidence of a former race, from archives or
monuments which they can understand. The record of their ancestors has
been discovered by man, in fossile preservation; but its characters are
unintelligible to them. As they have not been endowed with the capacity
to numerate, they can experience no solicitude for the past, nor
apprehension for the future. Their recollection is not an act of the
will, but an excitation by the object that originally produced it. In
the grammar of animals, the present is the only tense, and to punish
them for the faults they had formerly committed, would be equally absurd
and tyrannical. They are not the creatures of compact, and being unable
to comprehend the nature of institutions, and the obligation of laws,
they cannot be responsible agents. It has also been remarked, that they
are destitute of sympathy for the sufferings of their fellows; but
sympathy would be superfluous, where they cannot understand the nature
of the affliction, and do not possess the power of administering relief.

The features of the human mind are very differently shaped, and
strongly indicate an ulterior destination. Man possesses language, the
instrument of thought, the vehicle of intelligible communication;--and
he is gifted with the hand, to record the subjects of his experience, to
fabricate his contrivances, and to rear the durable monuments of his
piety and splendour. Thus, he is rapidly progressive, his mind becomes
opulent from the intellectual treasures of his ancestors, and, in his
turn, he bequeaths to posterity the legacy of wisdom. His comprehension
of numbers, on which the nature of time is founded, enable him to revert
to the transactions of distant ages, and to invest faded events with the
freshness of immediate perception. He alone can embalm the past, and
welcome the tidings of the future. Man alone is fitted to covenant,
although he may occasionally waver in the performance. His exalted
capacities, his comprehension of the law, constitute his responsibility:
for where the conditions of the compact are not understood, there can be
no disobedience or delinquency.

The helpless condition of the human infant, and the paucity of its
instincts, apparently render it less favoured than animals;--but it was
necessary, in order to constitute man a moral agent and a responsible
being, that he should be the architect of his own mind. When born, he
has every thing to learn; and a large portion of his existence is
consumed to qualify him for his station in society. Had he, like
animals, been gifted with intuitive wisdom, the donation would have
been so perfect, as to render instruction superfluous;--and such
endowment would have diminished the measure of his responsibility. The
freedom of his will, by which is to be understood the impulse of reason,
not the blind dictates of appetite, nor the sallies of tumultuous
passions, renders him amenable. Such is the force of the human mind,
that it can surmount the difficulties which situation and circumstances
oppose to its improvement: so powerful is reason, that it can correct
the prejudices of early tuition, and atone for crime, by the pursuit of
honourable practice. Man alone can repent; he only can retrace the acts
of former commission, and resolve on amelioration for the future. Thus
we find that moral responsibility has its basis in the comprehension of
Time. In proportion to our love and estimation of justice, we must be
satisfied that, under the purest forms of human government, it is but
imperfectly administered: the rewards and punishments in this life will
ever be blended with the hopes and fears, the interests and passions, of
our species; and there is much of evil, which human sagacity cannot
detect. When we consider the attributes of the Deity and the nature of
man, we can never be induced to conclude that the tribunals of this
world are the courts of final retribution. Man bears in his intellectual
construction the badge of moral responsibility, and, consequently, the
germ of future existence: and the only incentive that can urge him to
the advancement of science, and the practice of virtue, is the reward
that Revelation has unfolded.


Printed by Strahan and Spottiswoode, Printers-Street, London.

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