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Title: Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind (Vol. 1 of 3)
Author: Brown, Thomas A., 1861-
Language: English
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  VOL. I.



  Introduction,                                                       9


  Relation of the Philosophy of Mind to the Sciences in general,     20


  Relation of the Philosophy of Mind to the Intellectual Sciences
  and Arts,                                                          35


  Relation of the Philosophy of Mind to the Cultivation of
  Moral Feeling,                                                     50


  On the Nature of Physical Inquiry in general,                      64


  On the Nature of Physical Inquiry in general,                      80


  On Power, Cause, and Effect,                                       98


  On Hypothesis and Theory,                                         113


  Recapitulation of the Four preceding Lectures,                    129

  Application of the Laws of Physical Inquiry to the Study of
  Mind,                                                             135


  Continuation of the same Subject,                                 144


  Continuation of the same Subject,                                 162

  On the Phenomena of Mind in General,                              167

  On Consciousness,                                                 169


  On Consciousness,                                                 178

  On Mental Identity,                                               180

  Identity irreconcilable with the Doctrine of Materialism,         180

  Distinction between Personal and Mental Identity,                 182

  Shaftesbury's Opinion of Identity,                                184

  Objections to the Doctrine of Mental Identity,                    185


  On the Direct Evidence of Mental Identity,                        192

  Objections answered,                                              204


  Continuation of the same Subject,                                 207


  Continuation of the same Subject,                                 224

  Opinion of Mr Locke respecting Identity,                          230

  Source of his Paradox respecting it,                              234

  Reflections suggested by his Paradox,                             235


  On the Classification of the Phenomena of Mind,                   239


  Continuation of the same Subject,                                 254

  On the External Affections of Mind, in general,                   262

  On the less Definite External Affections,                         264


  On the more Definite External Affections,                         269


  On the Corporeal Part of the Process, in Sensation,               283


  Particular Consideration of our Sensations,                       298

  On Smell,                                                         300

  On Taste,                                                         301

  On Hearing,                                                       305


  Continuation of the same Subject,                                 312

  On Touch,                                                         326


  On the Feelings ascribed to the Sense of Touch,                   328

  Analysis of these Feelings,                                       330


  Continuation of the same Subject,                                 345


  Continuation of the same Subject,                                 358


  On the Distinction between Sensation and Perception,              379

  On the Primary and Secondary Qualities of Matter,                 384


  On Dr. Reid's supposed Confutation of the Ideal System,           395

  Hypothesis of the Peripatetics regarding Perception,              396

  Opinion of Locke--Hobbes--Des Cartes--Arnauld--Le Clerc
  De Crousaz, regarding Perception,                                 399


  Examination of Dr Reid's supposed Confutation of Idealism         411


  Conclusion of the Subject,                                        427

  On Vision,--Analysis of the Feelings ascribed to it,              431


  Continuation of the same Subject,                                 442


  History of Opinions regarding Perception,                         459

  Opinion of the Peripatetics,                                      462

  ---- of Des Cartes,                                               464

  ---- of Malebranche,                                              469

  ---- of St Austin,                                                472


  ---- of Leibnitz,                                                 474

  On the External Affections combined with Desire,                  479

  Attention,                                                        482


  Continuation of the Same Subject,                                 490

  On the Internal Affections of Mind,                               497

  On the Classification of these Affections,                        500


  On Locke, Condillac, and Reid's Classification of the Mental
  Phenomena,                                                        505

  New Classification of the Internal Affections,                    518


  On Simple Suggestion,                                             523

  Advantages resulting from the Principle of Suggestion,            526

  On Mr Hume's Classification of the Associating or Suggesting
  Principles,                                                       532




The subject on which we are about to enter, and which is to engage,
I trust, a considerable portion of your attention for many months,
is _the Philosophy of the Human Mind_,--not that _speculative_ and
_passive_ philosophy only, which inquires into the nature of our
intellectual part, and the mysterious connexion of this with the body
which it animates, but that _practical_ science, which relates to the
duties, and the hopes, and the great destiny of man, and which, even in
analyzing the powers of his understanding, and tracing all the various
modifications of which it is individually susceptible, views it chiefly
as a general instrument of good--an instrument by which he may have the
dignity of co-operating with his beneficent Creator, by spreading to
others the knowledge, and virtue, and happiness, which he is qualified
at once to enjoy, and to diffuse.

“Philosophy,” says Seneca, “is not formed for artificial show or
delight. It has a higher office than to free idleness of its languor,
and wear away and amuse the long hours of a day. It is that which forms
and fashions the soul, which gives to life its disposition and order,
which points out what it is our duty to do, what it is our duty to
omit. It sits at the helm, and in a sea of peril, directs the course
of those who are wandering through the waves.” “Non est philosophia
populare artificium, nec ostentationi paratum; non in verbis sed in
rebus est. Nec in hoc adhibetur ut aliqua oblectatione consumatur dies,
ut dematur otio nausea. Animum format et fabricat, vitam disponit,
actiones regit, agenda et omittenda demonstrat, sedit ad gubernaculum,
et per ancipitia fluctuantium dirigit cursum.” Ep. 16.

Such, unquestionably, is the great practical object of all philosophy.
If it increase the happiness and virtue of human kind, it must be
allowed to have fulfilled, to human beings, the noblest of earthly
ends. The greatness of this primary object, however, perhaps fixed too
exclusively the attention of the moral inquirers of antiquity, who, in
considering man as capable of virtue and happiness, and in forming nice
and subtle distinctions as to his supreme good, and the means by which
he might attain it, seem almost to have neglected the consideration of
his intellectual nature, as an object of mere physical science. Hence
it happens, that, while the systems of ancient philosophy exhibit,
in many instances, a dignity of moral sentiment as high, or almost
as high, as the unassisted reason of man could be supposed to reach,
and the defects of which we perhaps discover only by the aid of that
purer light, which was not indulged to them, they can scarcely be said
to have left us a single analysis of complex phenomena of thought
and feeling. By some of them, indeed, especially by the Peripatetics
and Stoics, much dialectic subtilty was employed in distinctions,
that may seem at first to involve such an analysis; but even these
distinctions were verbal, or little more than verbal. The _analytical
investigation_ of the mind, in all its complexity of perceptions, and
thoughts, and emotions, was reserved to form almost a new science in
the comprehensive philosophy of far later years.

If, however, during the flourishing periods of Greek and Roman letters,
this intellectual analysis was little cultivated, the department of
the philosophy of the mind, which relates to practical ethics, was
enriched, as I have said, by moral speculations the most splendid and
sublime. In those ages, indeed, and in countries in which no revealed
will of heaven had pointed out and sanctioned one unerring rule of
right, it is not to be wondered at, that, to those who were occupied
in endeavouring to trace and ascertain such a rule in the moral nature
of man, all other mental inquiries should have seemed comparatively
insignificant. It is even pleasing thus to find the most important of
all inquiries regarded as truly the most important, and minds of the
highest genius, in reflecting on their own constitution, so richly
diversified and adorned with an almost infinite variety of forms of
thought, discovering nothing, in all this splendid variety, so worthy
of investigation, as the conduct which it is fitting for man to pursue.

But another period was soon to follow, a period in which ages of long
and dreary ignorance were to be followed by ages of futile labour,
as long and dreary. No beautiful moral speculations were then to
compensate the poverty of intellectual science. But morality, and even
religion itself, were to be degraded, as little more than technical
terms of a cold and unmeaning logic. The knowledge of our mental frame
was then, indeed, professedly cultivated with most assiduous zeal; and
if much technical phraseology, and much contention, were sufficient
to constitute an elaborate science, that assiduous zeal might well
deserve to have been rewarded with so honourable a name. But what
reasonable hope of a progress truly scientific could be formed, when
to treat of the philosophy of mind was to treat of every thing but of
the mind and its affections; when some of the most important questions,
with respect to it, were, Whether its essence were distinct from its
existence? whether its essence therefore might subsist, when it had no
actual existence? and what were all the qualities inherent in it as a
nonentity? In morals, whether ethics were an art or a science? whether,
if the mind had freedom of choice, this independent _will_ be an entity
or a quiddity? and whether we should say, with a dozen schoolmen, that
virtue is good, because it has intrinsic goodness, or, with a dozen
more, that it has this intrinsic goodness, because it is good?

In natural theology, questions of equal moment were contested with
equal keenness and subtilty; but they related less to the Deity,
of whose nature, transcendent as it is, the whole universe may be
considered as in some degree a faint revelation, than to those
spiritual ministers of his power, of whose very existence nature
affords no evidence, and of whom revelation itself may be said to
teach us little but the mere existence. Whether angels pass from one
point of space to another, without passing through the intermediate
points? whether they can visually discern objects in the dark? whether
more than one can exist at the same moment in the same physical point?
whether they can exist in a perfect vacuum, with any relation to the
absolute incorporeal void? and whether if an angel were in vacuo, the
void could still truly be termed _perfect_?--such, or similar to these
were the great inquiries in that department of Natural Theology, to
which, as to a separate science, was given the name of _Angelography_:
and of the same kind were the principal inquiries with respect to the
Deity himself, not so much an examination of the evidence which nature
affords of his self-existence, and power, and wisdom, and goodness,
those sublime qualities which even our weakness cannot contemplate
without deriving some additional dignity from the very greatness which
it adores, as a solution of more subtile points, whether he exist in
imaginary space as much as in the space that is real? whether he can
cause a mode to exist without a substance? whether, in knowing all
things, he know universals, or only things singular? and whether he
love a possible unexisting angel better than an actually existing

“Indignandum de isto, non disputandum est.”--“Sed non debuit hoc nobis
esse propositum arguta disserere,[1] et philosophiam in has augustias
ex sua majestate detrahere. Quanto satius est, ire aperta via et
recta, quam sibi ipsi flexus disponere, quos cum magna molestia debeas
relegere?”[2]--“Why waste ourselves,” says the same eloquent moralist;
“why torture and waste ourselves in questions, which there is more real
subtilty in despising than in solving?”--

“Quid te troques et maceras, in ea quæstione quam subtilius est
contempsisse quam solvere?”[3]

From the necessity of such inquiries we are now fortunately freed.
The frivolous solemnities of argument, which, in the disputations of
Scotists and Thomists, and the long controversy of the believers and
rejectors of the universal _a parti rei_, rendered human ignorance so
very proud of its temporary triumphs over human ignorance, at length
are hushed forever; and, so precarious is all that glory, of which
men are the dispensers, that the most subtile works, which for ages
conferred on their authors a reverence more than praise, and almost
worship, would now scarcely find a philosophic adventurer, so bold, as
to avow them for his own.

The progress of intellectual philosophy may indeed, as yet, have
been less considerable than was to be hoped under its present better
auspices. But it is not a little, to have escaped from a labyrinth,
so very intricate, and so very dark, even though we should have done
nothing more than advance into sunshine and an open path, with a long
journey of discovery still before us. We have at last arrived at the
important truth, which now seems so very obvious a one, that the mind
is to be known best by observation of the series of changes which it
presents, and of all the circumstances which precede and follow these;
that, in attempting to explain its phenomena, therefore, we should
know what those phenomena are; and that we might as well attempt to
discover, by logic, unaided by observation or experiment, the various
coloured rays that enter into the composition of a sunbeam, as to
discover, by dialectic subtilties, _a priori_, the various feelings
that enter into the composition of a single thought or passion.

The mind, it is evident, may, like the body to which it is united,
or the material objects which surround it, be considered simply as
a substance possessing certain qualities, susceptible of various
affections or modifications, which, existing successively as momentary
states of the mind, constitute all the phenomena of thought and
feeling. The general circumstances in which these changes of state
succeed each other, or, in other words, the laws of their succession,
may be pointed out, and the phenomena arranged in various classes,
according as they may resemble each other, in the circumstances that
precede or follow them, or in other circumstances of obvious analogy.
There is, in short, a science that may be termed _mental physiology_,
as there is another science relating to the structure and offices of
our corporeal frame, to which the term _physiology_ is more commonly
applied; and as, by observation and experiment, we endeavour to trace
those series of changes which are constantly taking place in our
material part, from the first moment of animation to the moment of
death; so, by observation, and in some measure also by experiment, we
endeavour to trace the series of changes that take place in the mind,
fugitive as these successions are, and rendered doubly perplexing by
the reciprocal combinations into which they flow. The innumerable
changes, corporeal and mental, we reduce, by generalizing, to a few
classes; and we speak, in reference to the mind, of its faculties or
functions of perception, memory, reason, as we speak, in reference to
the body, of its functions of respiration, circulation, nutrition.
This mental physiology, in which the mind is considered simply as a
substance endowed with certain susceptibilities, and variously affected
or modified in consequence, will demand of course our first inquiry;
and I trust that the intellectual analyses, into which we shall be led
by it, will afford results that will repay the labour of persevering
attention, which they may often require from you.

In one very important respect, however, the inquiries, relating to the
physiology of mind, differ from those which relate to the physiology
of our animal frame. If we could render ourselves acquainted with the
intimate structure of our bodily organs, and all the changes which
take place, in the exercise of their various functions, our labour,
with respect to them, might be said to terminate. But though our
intellectual analysis were perfect, so that we could distinguish,
in our most complex thought or emotion, its constituent elements,
and trace with exactness the series of simpler thoughts which have
progressively given rise to them, other inquiries, equally, or still
more important, would remain. We do not know all which is to be known
of the mind, when we know all its phenomena, as we know all which can
be known of matter, when we know the appearances which it presents, in
every situation in which it is possible to place it, and the manner in
which it then acts or is acted upon by other bodies. When we know that
man has certain affections and passions, there still remains the great
inquiry, as to the propriety or impropriety of those passions, and of
the conduct to which they lead. We have to consider, not merely how he
is capable of acting, but also, whether, acting in the manner supposed,
he would be fulfilling a duty or perpetrating a crime. Every enjoyment
which man can confer on man, and every evil, which he can reciprocally
inflict or suffer, thus become objects of two sciences--first of
that intellectual analysis which traces the happiness and misery, in
their various forms and sequence, as mere phenomena or states of the
substance _mind_;--and secondly, of that ethereal judgment, which
measures our approbation and disapprobation, estimating, with more
than judicial scrutiny, not merely what is done, but what is scarcely
thought in secrecy and silence, and discriminating some element of
moral good or evil, in all the physical good and evil, which it is in
our feeble power to execute, or in our still frailer heart, to conceive
and desire.

To this second department of inquiry belong the doctrines of general

But, though man were truly impressed with the great doctrine of moral
obligation, and truly desirous, in conformity with it, of increasing,
as far as his individual influence may extend, the sum of general
happiness, he may still err in the selection of the means which he
employs for this benevolent purpose. So essential is knowledge, if
not to virtue, at least to all the ends of virtue, that, without it,
benevolence itself, when accompanied with power, may be as destructive
and desolating as intentional tyranny; and notwithstanding the great
principles of progression in human affairs, the whole native vigour of
a state may be kept down for ages, and the comfort, and prosperity,
and active industry of unexisting millions be blasted by regulations,
which, in the intention of their generous projectors, were to stimulate
those very energies which they repressed, and to relieve that very
misery which they rendered irremediable. It therefore becomes an
inquiry of paramount importance, what are the means best calculated for
producing the greatest amount of social good? By what ordinances would
public prosperity, and all the virtues which not merely adorn that
prosperity, but produce it, be most powerfully excited and maintained?
This political department of our science, which is in truth only a
subdivision, though a very important one, of general practical ethics,
comprehends, of course, the inquiries as to the relative advantages
of different forms of government, and the expediency of the various
contrivances which legislative wisdom may have established, or may be
supposed to establish, for the happiness and defence of nations.

The inquiries, to which I have as yet alluded, relate to the mind,
considered simply as an object of physiological investigation; or to
man, considered in his moral relations to a community, capable of
deriving benefit from his virtues and knowledge, or of suffering by his
errors and his crimes. But there is another more important relation in
which the mind is still to be viewed,--that relation which connects
it with the Almighty Being to whom it owes its existence. Is man,
whose frail generations begin and pass away, but one of the links of
an infinite chain of beings like himself, uncaused, and co-eternal
with that self-existing world of which he is the feeble tenant? or,
Is he the offspring of an all creating Power, that adapted him to
nature, and nature to him, formed together with the magnificent scene
of things around him, to enjoy its blessings, and to adore, with the
gratitude of happiness, the wisdom and goodness from which they flow?
What attributes, of a Being so transcendent, may human reason presume
to explore? and, What homage will be most suitable to his immensity,
and our nothingness? Is it only for an existence of a few moments,
in this passing scene, that he has formed us? or, Is there something
within us, over which death has no power,--something, that prolongs
and identifies the consciousness of all which we have done on earth,
and that, after the mortality of the body, may yet be a subject of the
moral government of God? When compared with these questions, even the
sublimest physical inquiries are comparatively insignificant. They
seem to differ, as it has been said, in their relative importance and
dignity, almost as philosophy itself differs from the mechanical arts
that are subservient to it. “Quantum inter philosophiam interest,--et
cæteras artes; tantum interesse existimo in ipsa philosophia, inter
illam partem quæ ad homines et hanc quæ ad Deos spectat. Altior est hæc
et animosior: multum permisit sibi; non fuit oculis contenta. Majus
esse quiddam suspicata est, ac pulchrius, quod extra conspectum natura
posuisset.”[4] It is when ascending to these sublimer objects, that the
mind seems to expand, as if already shaking off its earthly fetters,
and returning to its source; and it is scarcely too much to say,
that the delight which it thus takes in things divine is an internal
evidence of its own divinity. “Cum illa tetigit, alitur, crescit: ac
velut vinculis liberatus, in originem redit. Et hoc habet argumentum
divinitatis suæ, quod illum divina delectant.”

I have thus briefly sketched the various important inquiries, which
the philosophy of mind, in its most extensive sense, may be said to
comprehend. The nature of our spiritual being, as displayed in all
the phenomena of feeling and thought--the ties which bind us to our
fellow-men, and to our Creator--and the prospect of that unfading
existence, of which life is but the first dawning gleam; such are the
great objects to which in the department of your studies committed
to my charge, it will be my office to guide your attention and
curiosity. The short period of the few months to which my course is
necessarily limited, will not, indeed, allow me to prosecute, with such
full investigation as I should wish, every subject that may present
itself in so various a range of inquiry. But even these few months,
I flatter myself, will be sufficient to introduce you to all which
is most important for you to know in the science, and to give such
lights as may enable you, in other hours, to explore, with success,
the prospects that here, perhaps, may only have opened on your view.
It is not, I trust, with the labours of a single season that such
inquiries, on your part, are to terminate. Amid the varied occupations
and varied pleasures of your future years,--in the privacy of domestic
enjoyment, as much as in the busier scenes of active exertion,--the
studies on which you are about to enter must often rise to you again
with something more than mere remembrance; because there is nothing
that can give you interest, in any period or situation of your life,
to which they are not related. The science of mind, is the science of
yourselves; of all who surround you; of every thing which you enjoy or
suffer, or hope or fear: so truly the science of your very being, that
it will be impossible for you to look back on the feelings of a single
hour, without constantly retracing phenomena that have been here, to
a certain extent, the subjects of your analysis and arrangement. The
thoughts and faculties of your own intellectual frame, and all which
you admire as wonderful in the genius of others,--the moral obligation,
which, as obeyed or violated, is ever felt by you with delight or with
remorse,--the virtues, of which you think as often as you think of
those whom you love; and the vices, which you view with abhorrence, or
with pity,--the traces of divine goodness, which never can be absent
from your view, because there is no object in nature which does not
exhibit them,--the feeling of your dependence on the gracious Power
that formed you,--and the anticipation of a state of existence more
lasting than that which is measured by the few beatings of a feeble
pulse,--these in their perpetual recurrence, must often recal to you
the inquiries that, in this place, engaged your early attention. It
will be almost as little possible for you to abandon wholly such
speculations, as to look on the familiar faces of your home with a
forgetfulness of every hour which they have made delightful, or to lose
all remembrance of the very language of your infancy, that is every
moment sounding in your ears.

Though I shall endeavour, therefore, to give as full a view as my
limits will permit of all the objects of inquiry which are to come
before us, it will be my chief wish to awake in you, or to cherish,
a love of these sublime inquiries themselves. There is a philosophic
spirit which is far more valuable than any limited acquirements of
philosophy; and the cultivation of which, therefore, is the most
precious advantage that can be derived from the lessons and studies
of many academic years:--a spirit, which is quick to pursue whatever
is within the reach of human intellect; but which is not less quick
to discern the bounds that limit every human inquiry, and which,
therefore, in seeking much, seeks only what man may learn:--which
knows how to distinguish what is just in itself from what is merely
accredited by illustrious names; adopting a truth which no one has
sanctioned, and rejecting an error of which all approve, with the same
calmness as if no judgment were opposed to its own:--but which, at
the same time, alive, with congenial feeling, to every intellectual
excellence, and candid to the weakness from which no excellence is
wholly privileged, can dissent and confute without triumph, as it
admires without envy; applauding gladly whatever is worthy of applause
in a rival system, and venerating the very genius which it demonstrates
to have erred.

Such is that philosophic temper to which, in the various discussions
that are to occupy us, it will be my principal ambition to form your
minds; with a view not so much to what you are at present, as to what
you are afterwards to become. You are now, indeed, only entering on
a science, of which, by many of you, perhaps, the very elements have
never once been regarded as subjects of speculative inquiry. You
have much, therefore, to learn, even in learning only what others
have thought. But I should be unwilling to regard you as the passive
receivers of a system of opinions, content merely to remember whatever
mixture of truths and errors may have obtained your easy assent.
I cannot but look to you in your maturer character, as yourselves
the philosophers of other years; as those who are, perhaps, to add
to science many of its richest truths, which as yet are latent to
every mind, and to free it from many errors, in which no one has yet
suspected even the possibility of illusion. The spirit which is itself
to become productive in you, is therefore, the spirit which I wish to
cultivate; and happy, as I shall always be, if I succeed in conveying
to you that instruction which it is my duty to communicate, I shall
have still more happiness if I can flatter myself, that, in this very
instruction, I have trained you to habits of thought, which may enable
you to enrich, with your own splendid discoveries, the age in which you
live, and to be yourselves the instructors of all the generations that
are to follow you.


[1] Argutias serere. Lect. var.

[2] Seneca, Ep. 102.

[3] Ibid, 49.

[4] Seneca Nat. Quæst. Lib. 1. Præf.



In my former Lecture, Gentlemen, I gave you a slight sketch of
the departments into which the Philosophy of Mind divides itself,
comprehending, in the _first_ place, The physiology of the mind,
considered as a substance capable of the various modifications, or
states, which constitute, as they succeed each other, the phenomena
of thought and feeling; _secondly_, The doctrines of general ethics,
as to the obligation, under which man lies, to increase and extend,
as widely as possible, the happiness of all that live; _thirdly_, The
political doctrines, as to the means which enable him, in society with
his fellow men, to furthermost successfully, and with the least risk
of future evil, that happiness of all, which it is the duty of each
individually to wish and to promote; and, _fourthly_, The doctrines of
natural theology, as to the existence and attributes of that greatest
of Beings, under whose moral government we live, and the foundations
of our confidence that death is only a change of scene, which, with
respect to our mortality indeed, may be said to be its close; but
which, with respect to the soul itself, is only one of the events of a
life that is everlasting.

Of these great divisions of our subject, the _Physiology of the
Mind_, or the consideration of the regular series of phenomena which
it presents, simply as states or affections of the mind, is that to
which we are first to turn our attention. But, before entering on
it, it may be useful to employ a few Lectures in illustrating the
_advantages_, which the study of the mind affords, and the _principles
of philosophizing_, in their peculiar application to it--subjects,
which, though of a general kind, will, I trust, leave an influence that
will be felt in all the particular inquiries in which we are to be
engaged; preparing you, both for appreciating better the importance of
those inquiries, and for prosecuting them with greater success.

One very obvious distinction of the physical investigations of mind
and matter, is, that, in intellectual science, the _materials_ on
which we operate, the _instruments_ with which we operate, and the
_operating agent_, are the same. It is the mind, endowed with the
faculties of perception and judgment, observing, comparing, and
classifying the phenomena of the mind. In the physics of matter, it
is, indeed, the mind which observes, compares, and arranges; but the
phenomena are those of a world, which, though connected with the
mind by many wonderful relations of reciprocal agency, still exists
independently of it--a world that presents its phenomena only in
circumstances, over most of which we have no controul, and over others
a controul that is partial and limited. The comparative facility,
as to all external circumstances, attending the study of the mental
phenomena, is unquestionably an advantage of no small moment. In every
situation in which man can be placed, as long as his intellectual
faculties are unimpaired, it is impossible that he should be deprived
of opportunities of carrying on this intellectual study; because, in
every situation in which he can be placed, he must still have with him
that universe of thought, which is the true home and empire of the
mind. No costly apparatus is requisite--no tedious waiting for seasons
of observation. He has but to look within himself to find the elements
which he has to put together, or the compounds which he has to analyze,
and the instruments that are to perform the analysis or composition.

It was not, however, to point out to you the advantage which arises
to the study of our mental frame, from the comparative facility as
to the circumstances attending it, that I have led your attention to
the difference, in this respect, of the physics of mind and matter.
It was to show,--what is of much more importance,--how essential a
right view of the science of mind is to every other science, even to
those sciences, which superficial thinkers might conceive to have no
connexion with it; and how vain it would be to expect, that any branch
of the physics of mere matter could be cultivated to its highest degree
of accuracy and perfection, without a due acquaintance with the nature
of that intellectual medium, through which alone the phenomena of
matter become visible to us, and of those intellectual instruments, by
which the objects of every science, and of every science alike, are
measured, and divided, and arranged. We might almost as well expect to
form an accurate judgment, as to the figure, and distance, and colour
of an object, at which we look through an optical glass, without paying
any regard to the colour and refractory power of the line itself. The
distinction of the sciences and arts, in the sense in which these words
are commonly understood, is as just as it is familiar; but it may be
truly said, that, in relation to our power of discovery, science is
itself an art, or the result of an art. Whether, in this most beautiful
of processes, we regard the mind as the instrument or the artist, it
is equally that by which all the wonders of speculative, or practical
knowledge, are evolved. It is an agent operating in the production of
new results, and employing for this purpose the known laws of thought,
in the same manner as, on other occasions, it employs the known laws of
matter. The objects, to which it may apply itself, are indeed various,
and, as such, give to the sciences their different names. But, though
the objects vary, the observer and the instrument are continually the
same. The limits of the powers of this mental instrument, are not the
limits of its powers alone; they are also the only real limits, within
which every science is comprehended. To the extent which it allows, all
those sciences, physical or mathematical, and all the arts which depend
on them, may be improved; but, beyond this point, it would be vain to
expect them to pass; or rather, to speak more accurately, the very
supposition of any progress beyond this point would imply the grossest
absurdity; since human science can be nothing more than the result
of the direction of human faculties to particular objects. To the
astronomer, the faculty by which he calculates the disturbing forces
that operate on a satellite of Jupiter, in its revolution round its
primary planet, is as much an instrument of his art, as the telescope
by which he distinguishes that almost invisible orb; and it is as
important, and surely as interesting, to know the real power of the
intellectual instrument, which he uses, not for calculations of this
kind only, but for all the speculative and moral purposes of life, as
it can be to know the exact power of that subordinate instrument, which
he uses only for his occasional survey of the heavens.

To the philosophy of mind, then, every speculation, in every science,
may be said to have relation as to a common centre. The knowledge
of the quality of matter, in the whole wide range of physics, is not
itself a phenomenon of matter, more than the knowledge of any of our
intellectual or moral affections; it is truly, in all its stages of
conjecture, comparison, doubt, belief, a phenomenon of mind; or,
in other words, it is only the mind itself existing in a certain
state. The inanimate bodies around us might, indeed, exhibit the same
changes as at present, though no mind had been created. But science
is not the existence of these inanimate bodies; it is the principle
of thought itself variously modified by them, which, as it exists in
certain states, constitutes that knowledge which we term _Astronomy_;
in certain other states, that knowledge which we term _Chemistry_;
in other states our Physiology, corporeal or mental, and all the
other divisions and subdivisions of science. It would surely be
absurd to suppose, that the mixture of acids and alkalies constitutes
_Chemistry_, or that Astronomy is formed by the revolution of planets
round a sun. Such phenomena, the mere objects of science, are only the
occasions on which Astronomy and Chemistry arise in the mind of the
inquirer, Man. It is the mind which perceives bodies, which reasons
on their apparent relations, which joins them in thought as similar,
however distant they may be in sphere, or separates them in thought
as dissimilar, though apparently contiguous. These perceptions,
reasonings, and classifications of the mind must, of course be
regulated by the laws of mind, which mingle in their joint result
with the laws of matter. It is the object indeed which affects the
mind when sentient; but it is the original susceptibility of the mind
itself, which determines and modifies the particular affection, very
nearly, if I may illustrate what is mental by so coarse an image, as
the impression which a seal leaves on melted wax depends, not on the
qualities of the wax alone, or of the seal alone, but on the softness
of the one, and the form of the other. Change the external object which
affects the mind in any case, and we all know, that the affection of
the mind will be different. It would not be less so, if, without any
change of object, there could be a change in the mere feeling, whatever
it might be, which would result from that different susceptibility
becoming instantly as different, as if not the mind had been altered,
but the object which it perceived. There is no physical science,
therefore, in which the laws of mind are not to be considered together
with the laws of matter; and a change in either set of laws would
equally produce a change in the nature of the science itself.

If, to take one of the simplest of examples, the mind had been formed
susceptible of all the modifications which it admits at present, with
the single exception of those which it receives on the presence of
light, of how many objects and powers in nature, which we are now
capable of distinguishing, must we have remained in absolute ignorance!
But would this comparative ignorance of many objects be the only effect
of such a change of the laws of mind, as I have supposed? Or rather,
is it not equally certain, that this simple change alone would be
sufficient to alter the very nature of the limited science of which the
mind would still be capable, as much as it narrowed its extent? Science
is the classification of relations; varying, too, in every case, as the
relations observed are different; and how very differently should we,
in such circumstances, have classed the few powers of the few objects,
which might still have become known to us, since we could no longer
have classed them according to any of those visual relations, which
are always the most obvious and prominent. It is even, perhaps, an
extravagant supposition, that a race of the blind, unless endowed with
some other sense to compensate the defect of sight, could have acquired
so much command of the common arts of life, or so much science of any
sort, as to preserve themselves in existence. But though all this, by
a very strong license of _supposition_, were taken for granted, it
must surely be admitted, that the knowledge which man could in those
circumstances acquire, would be not merely less in degree, but would be
as truly different from that which his powers at present have reached,
as if the objects of his science, or the laws which regulate them, had
themselves been changed to an extent, at least as great as the supposed
change in the laws of mind. The _astronomy_ of the blind, if the word
might still be used to express a science so very different from the
present, would, in truth, be a sort of _chemistry_. Day and night, the
magnificent and harmonious revolution of season after season, would
be nothing more than periodical changes of temperature in the objects
around; and that great Dispenser of the seasons, the Source of light,
and beauty, and almost of animation, at whose approach nature seems
not merely to awake, but to rise again, as it was at first, from the
darkness of its original chaos, if its separate existence could be at
all inferred, would probably be classed as something similar, though
inferior in power, to that unknown source of heat, which, by a perilous
and almost unknown process, was fearfully piled and kindled on the
household hearth.

So accustomed are we, however, to consider the nature and limits of the
different sciences, as depending on the objects themselves, and not on
the laws of the mind, which classes their relations, that it may be
difficult for you at first to admit the influence of these mere laws
of mind, as modifying general physics, at least to the extent which
I have now stated. But, that a change in the laws of human thought,
whatever influence it might have in altering the very nature and limits
of the physical sciences, would at least affect greatly the state of
their progress, must be immediately evident to those who consider for
a moment on what discovery depends; the progress of science being
obviously nothing more than a series of individual discoveries, and
the number of discoveries varying with the powers of the individual
intellect. The same phenomena which were present to the mind of Newton,
had been present, innumerable times before, not to the understandings
of philosophers only, but to the very senses of the vulgar. Every thing
was the same to him and to them, except the observing and reasoning
mind. To him alone, however, they suggested those striking analogies,
by which on a comparison of all the known circumstances in both, he
ventured to class the force which retains the planets in their orbits,
with that which occasions the fall of a pebble to the earth.

    “Have ye not listen'd, while he bound the suns
    And planets to their spheres! the unequal task
    Of human kind till then. Oft had they roll'd
    O'er erring man the year, and oft disgraced
    The pride of schools.
                      ----He took his ardent flight
    Through the blue infinite; and every star
    Which the clear concave of a winter's night
    Pours on the eye, or astronomic tube,
    Far-stretching, snatches from the dark abyss,
    Or such as farther in successive skies
    To fancy shine alone, at his approach
    Blazed into suns, the living centre each
    Of an harmonious system; all combined,
    And ruled unerring by that single power,
    Which draws the stone projected to the ground.”[5]

It is recorded of this almost superhuman Genius, whose powers and
attainments at once make us proud of our common nature, and humble us
with our disparity, that, in acquiring the Elements of Geometry, he
was able, in a very large proportion of cases, to pass immediately
from Theorem to Theorem, by reading the mere enunciation of each,
perceiving, as it were intuitively, that latent evidence, which others
are obliged slowly to trace through a long series of Propositions.
When the same Theorem was enunciated, or the same simple phenomenon
observed, the successions of thought, in his mind, were thus obviously
different from the successions of thought in other minds; but it is
easy to conceive the original susceptibilities of all minds such, as
exactly to have corresponded with those of the mind of Newton. And if
the minds of all men, from the creation of the world, had been similar
to the mind of Newton, is it possible to conceive, that the state of
any science would have been, at this moment, what it now is, or in any
respect similar to what it now is, though the laws which regulate the
physical changes in the material universe, had continued unaltered, and
no change occurred, but in the simple original susceptibilities of the
mind itself?

The laws of the observing and comparing mind, then, it must be
admitted, have modified, and must always continue to modify, every
science, as truly as the laws of that particular department of nature
of which the phenomena are observed and compared. But, it may be said,
we are Chemists, we are Astronomers, without studying the philosophy of
mind. And true it certainly is, that there are excellent Astronomers,
and excellent Chemists, who have never paid any particular attention
to intellectual philosophy. The general principles of philosophizing,
which a more accurate intellectual philosophy had introduced, have
become familiar to them, without study. But those general principles
are not less the effect of that improved philosophy of mind, any more
than astronomy and chemistry themselves have now a less title to
be considered as sciences,--because, from the general diffusion of
knowledge in society, those who have never professedly studied either
science, are acquainted with many of their most striking truths. It is
gradually, and almost insensibly, that truths diffuse themselves--at
first admired and adopted by a few, who are able to compare the
present with the past, and who gladly own them, as additions to former
knowledge,--from them communicated to a wider circle, who receive them,
without discussion, as if familiar and long known; and at length, in
this widening progress, becoming so nearly universal, as almost to seem
effects of a natural instinctive law of human thought:--like the light,
which we readily ascribe to the sun, as it first flows directly from
him, and forces his image on our sight; but which, when reflected from
object to object, soon ceases to remind us of its origin, and seems
almost to be a part of the very atmosphere which we breathe.

I am aware, that it is not to improvements in the mere philosophy of
mind, that the great reformation in our principles of physical inquiry
is commonly ascribed. Yet it is to this source--certainly at least to
this source chiefly, that I would refer the origin of those better
plans of philosophical investigation which have distinguished with
so many glorious discoveries the age in which we live, and the ages
immediately preceding. When we think of the great genius of Lord Bacon,
and of the influence of his admirable works, we are too apt to forget
the sort of difficulties which his genius must have had to overcome,
and to look back to his rules of philosophizing, as a sort of ultimate
truths, discoverable by the mere perspicacity of his superior mind,
without referring them to those simple views of nature in relation to
our faculties of discovery, from which they were derived. The rules
which he gives us, are rules of physical investigation; and it is very
natural for us, therefore, in estimating their value, to think of
the erroneous physical opinions which preceded them, without paying
sufficient attention to the false theories of intellect, which had
led to those very physical absurdities. Lord Bacon, if he was not the
first who discovered that we were in some degree idolaters, to use his
own metaphor, in our intellectual worship, was certainly the first who
discovered the extent of our idolatry. But we must not forget, that the
temple which he purified, was not the temple of external nature, but
the temple of the mind,--that in its inmost sanctuaries were all the
idols which he overthrew,--and that it was not till these were removed,
and the intellect prepared for the presence of a nobler divinity, that
Truth would deign to unveil herself to adoration;--as in the mysteries
of those Eastern religions, in which the first ceremony for admission
to the worship of the God is the purification of the worshipper.

In the course of our analysis of the intellectual phenomena, we shall
have frequent opportunities of remarking the influence, which errors
with respect to these mere phenomena of mind must have had, on the
contemporary systems of general physics, and on the spirit of the
prevailing plans of inquiry. It may be enough to remark at present
the influence of one fundamental error, which, as long as it retained
its hold of the understanding, must have rendered all its energies
ineffectual, by wasting them in the search of objects, which it
never could attain, because in truth they had no real existence,--to
the neglect of objects that would have produced the very advantage
which was sought. I allude to the belief of the schools, in the
separate existence, or entity as they technically termed it, of the
various orders of universals, and the mode in which they conceived
every acquisition of knowledge in reasoning, to take place, by the
intervention of certain intelligible forms or species, existing
separately in the intellect, as the direct objects of thought,--in
the same manner as they ascribed simple perception to the action of
species of another order, which they termed sensible species,--the
images of things derived indeed from objects without, but when thus
derived, existing independently of them. When we amuse ourselves with
inquiring into the history of human folly--that most comprehensive
of all histories--which includes, at least for many ages, the whole
history of philosophy; or rather, to use a word more appropriate than
amusement,--when we read with regret the melancholy annals of genius
aspiring to be pre-eminently frivolous, and industry labouring to be
ignorant, we often discover absurdities of the grossest kind, which
almost cease to be absurdities, on account of other absurdities,
probably as gross, which accompany them; and this is truly the case, in
the grave extravagance of the logic of the schools. The scholastic mode
of philosophizing, ridiculous as it now seems, was far from absurd,
when taken in connection with the scholastic philosophy. It was indeed
the only mode of procedure, which that philosophy could consistently
admit. To those who believed that singular objects could afford no real
knowledge, _singularium nullam dari scientiam_: and that this was to be
obtained only from what they termed _intelligible species_, existing
not in external things, but in the intellect itself, it must have
seemed as absurd to wander, in quest of knowledge, out of that region
in which alone they supposed it to exist, and to seek it among things
singular, as it would now, to us, seem hopeless and absurd, to found
a system of physical truths on the contemplation and comparison of
universals. While this false theory of the mental phenomena prevailed,
was it possible, that the phenomena of matter should have been studied
on sounder principles of investigation, when any better plan must have
been absolutely inconsistent with the very theory of thought? It was in
mind that the student of general nature was to seek his guiding light,
without which all then was darkness. The intellectual philosopher, if
any such had then arisen, to analyze simply the phenomena of thought,
without any reference to general physics, would in truth have done more
in that dark age, for the benefit of every physical science, than if he
had discovered a thousand properties of as many different substances.

Let us suppose, for a moment, that an accurate view of the intellectual
process of abstraction could have been communicated to a veteran sage
of the schools, at the very moment when he was intently contemplating
the tree of Porphyry, in all its branches of species and genera,
between the individual and the _summum genus_; and when he was
preparing perhaps, by this contemplation of a few universals, to unfold
all the philosophy of colours, or of the planetary movements, would the
benefit which he received from this clearer view of a single process
of thought have terminated in the mere science of mind--or would not
rather his new views of mind have extended with a most important
influence to his whole wide views of matter?--He must immediately have
learned, that, in the whole tree of genera and species, the individual
at the bottom of his scale was the only real independent existence, and
that all the rest, the result of certain comparisons of agreement or
disagreement, were simple modifications of his own mind, not produced
by any thing existing in his intellect but by the very constitution of
his intellect itself; the consideration of a number of individuals as
of one species being nothing more than the feeling of their agreement
in certain respects, and the feeling of this agreement being as simple
a result of the observation of them together, as the perception of
each, individually, was of its individual presence. It would surely
have been impossible for him, with this new and important light, to
return to his transcendental inquiries, into entities, and quiddities,
and substantial forms; and the simple discovery of a better theory of
abstraction, as a process of the mind, would thus have supplied the
place of many rules of philosophizing.

The philosophy of mind then, we must admit, did, in former ages at
least, exercise an important influence on general science:--and are we
to suppose that it has now no influence?

Even though no other advantage were to be obtained from our present
juster views of mind, than the protection which they give, from those
gross errors of inquiry to which the philosophers of so long a series
of ages were exposed, this alone would surely be no slight gain. But,
great as this advantage is, are we certain, that it is all which the
nicest mental analysis can afford,--or rather, is it not possible at
least, that we may still, in our plans of physical investigation, be
suffering under the influence of errors from which we should be saved,
by still juster views of the faculties employed in every physical

That we are not aware of any such influence, argues nothing; for to
suppose us aware of it, would be to suppose us acquainted with the very
errors which mislead us. Aquinas and Scotus, it is to be presumed, and
all their contentious followers, conceived themselves as truly in the
right path of physical investigation, as we do at this moment; and,
though we are free from their gross mistakes, there may yet be others
of which we are less likely to divest ourselves, from not having as
yet the slightest suspicion of their existence. The question is not,
Whether our method of inquiry be juster than theirs?--for, of our
superiority in this respect, if any evidence of fact were necessary,
the noble discoveries of these later years are too magnificent a proof
to allow us to have any doubt,--but, Whether our plan of inquiry may
not still be susceptible of improvements, of which we have now as
little foresight, as the Scotists and Aquinists of the advantages
which philosophy has received from the general prosecution of the
inductive method? There is, indeed, no reason now to fear, that the
observation of particular objects, with a view to general science,
will be despised as incapable of giving any direct knowledge, and
all real science be confined to universals. “Singularium _datur_
scientia.” But, though a sounder view of one intellectual process
may have banished from philosophy much idle contention, and directed
inquiry to fitter objects, it surely does not therefore follow, that
subsequent improvements in the philosophy of mind are to be absolutely
unavailing. On the contrary, the presumption unquestionably is, that
if by understanding better the simple process of abstraction, we have
freed ourselves from many errors in our plans of inquiry, a still
clearer view of the nature and limits of all the intellectual processes
concerned in the discovery of truth, may lead to still juster views of

Even at present, I cannot but think that we may trace, in no
inconsiderable degree, the influence of false notions, as to some of
the phenomena of the mind, in misdirecting the spirit of our general
philosophy. I allude in particular, to one very important intellectual
process,--that by which we acquire our knowledge of the relation on
which all physics may be said to be founded. He must have paid little
attention to the history of philosophy, and even to the philosophy of
his own time, who does not perceive, how much the vague and obscure
notions entertained of that intermediate tie, which is supposed to
connect phenomena with each other, have tended to favour the invention
and ready admission of physical hypotheses, which otherwise could not
have been entertained for a moment;--hypotheses, which attempt to
explain what is known by the introduction of what is unknown; as if
successions of phenomena were rendered easier to be understood merely
by being rendered more complicated. This very unphilosophic passion
for complexity, (which, unphilosophic as it is, is yet the passion of
many philosophers,) seems, to me, to arise, in a great measure, from a
mysterious and false view of causation; as involving always, in every
series of changes, the intervention of something unobserved, between
the observed antecedent and the observed effect;--a view which may very
naturally be supposed to lead the mind, when it has observed no actual
intervention, to imagine any thing which is not absolutely absurd, that
it may flatter itself with the pleasure of having discovered a cause.
It is unnecessary, however, to enlarge at present on this subject, as
it must again come before us; when you will perhaps see more clearly,
how much the general diffusion of juster views, as to the nature and
origin of our notion of the connection of events, would tend to the
simplification, not of our theories of mind only, but, in a still
higher degree, of our theories of matter.

The observations already made, I trust, have shown how important, to
the perfection of every science, is an accurate acquaintance with
that intellectual medium, through which alone the objects of every
science become known to us, and with those intellectual instruments,
by which, alike in every science, truth is to be detected and evolved.
On this influence, which the philosophy of mind must always exercise
on general philosophy, I have dwelt the longer, because, important as
the relation is, it is one which we are peculiarly apt to forget; and
the more apt to forget it, on account of that very excellence of the
physical sciences, to which it has itself essentially contributed. The
discoveries, which reward our inquiry into the properties of matter, as
now carried on, on principles better suited to the nature and limits of
our powers of investigation, are too splendid to allow us to look back
to the circumstances which prepared them at a distance; and we avail
ourselves of rules, that are the result of logical analysis, without
reflecting, and almost without knowing, that they are the result of
any analysis whatever. We are, in this respect, like navigators on the
great ocean, who perform their voyage successfully by the results of
observations, of which they are altogether ignorant; who look, with
perfect confidence, to their compass and chart, and think of the stars
as useful only in those early ages, when the pilot, if he ventured
from shore, had no other directors of his course. It is only some more
skilful mariner who is still aware of their guidance; and who knows,
how much he is indebted to the satellites of Jupiter for the accuracy
of that very chart, by which the crowds around him are mechanically
directing their course.

The chief reason, however, for my dwelling so long on this central
and governing relation, which the philosophy of intellect bears to
all other philosophy, is, that I am anxious to impress their relation
strongly on your minds; not so much with a view to the importance
which it may seem to give to the particular science that is to engage
us together, as with a view to those other sciences in which you may
already have been engaged, or which may yet await you in the course
of your studies. The consideration of mind, as universally present
and presiding,--at once the medium of all the knowledge which can be
acquired, and the subject of all the truths of which that knowledge
consists,--gives, by its own unity, a sort of unity and additional
dignity to the sciences, of which their scattered experiments and
observations would otherwise be unsusceptible. It is an unfortunate
effect of physical inquiry, when exclusively devoted to the properties
of external things, to render the mind, in our imagination, subordinate
to the objects on which it is directed; the faculties are nothing,
the objects every thing. The very nature of such inquiry leads us
perpetually without to observe and arrange, and nothing brings us back
to the observer and arranger within; or, if we do occasionally cast an
inquisitive glance on the phenomena of our thought, we bring back with
us what Bacon, in his strong language, calls “the smoke and tarnish
of the furnace;”--the mind seems, to us, to be broken down to the
littleness of the objects which it has, been habitually contemplating;
and we regard the faculties that measure earth and heaven, and that
add infinity to infinity, with a curiosity of no greater interest,
than that with which we inquire into the angles of a crystal, or
the fructification of a moss. “Ludit istis animus,” says one of the
most eloquent of the ancients,--“Ludit istis animus, non proficit;
et philosophiam a fastigio deducit in planum.” To rest in researches
of this minute kind, indeed, if we were absolutely to REST in them,
without any higher and profounder views, would truly be, as he says,
to drag down philosophy from that pure eminence on which she sits, to
the very dust of the plain on which we tread. To the inquirer, however,
whose mind has been previously embued with this first philosophy,
and who has learned to trace, in the wonders of every science, the
wonders of his own intellectual frame, there is no physical research,
however minute its object, which does not at once elevate the mind, and
derive elevation from it. Nothing is truly humble, which can exercise
faculties that are themselves sublime.

    ----Search, undismayed the dark profound,
    Where Nature works in secret; view the beds
    Of mineral treasure, and the eternal vault
    That bounds the hoary ocean; trace the forms
    Of atoms, moving with incessant change,
    Their elemental round; behold the seeds
    Of being, and the energy of life,
    Kindling the mass with ever active flame;
    Then to the secrets of the working mind
    Attentive turn; from dim oblivion call
    Her fleet ideal band; and bid them go
    Break through time's barrier, and o'ertake the hour
    That saw the heavens created; then declare,
    If ought were found in these external scenes
    To move thy wonder now.[6]

In the physics of the material universe, there is, it must be owned,
much that is truly worthy of our philosophic admiration, and of the
sublimest exertions of philosophic genius. But even that material world
will appear more admirable, to him who contemplates it, as it were,
from the height of his own mind, and who measures its infinity with the
range of his own limited but aspiring faculties. He is unquestionably
the philosopher most worthy of the name, who unites to the most
accurate knowledge of mind, the most accurate knowledge of all the
physical objects amid which he is placed; who makes each science, to
each, reciprocally a source of additional illumination; and who learns,
from both, the noblest of all the lessons which they can give,--the
knowledge and adoration of that divine Being, who has alike created,
and adapted to each other, with an order so harmonious, the universe of
matter, and the universe of thought.


[5] Thomson's Poem on the Death of Sir Isaac Newton.

[6] Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination, Book I. v. 512-526.



In my last Lecture, Gentlemen, I illustrated, at great length, the
relation which the Philosophy of Mind bears to all the other sciences,
as the common centre of each. These sciences I represented, as,
in their relation to the powers of discovery, that are exercised
in them, truly arts, in all the various intellectual processes of
which, the artist is the same, and the instruments the same; and as
to the perfection of any of the mechanical arts, it is essential,
that we know the powers of the instruments employed in it, so, in
the inventive processes of science of every kind, it seems essential
to the perfection of the process, that we should know, as exactly as
possible, the powers and the limits of these intellectual instruments,
which are exercised alike in all,--that we may not waste our industry,
in attempting to accomplish with them what is impossible to be
accomplished, and at the same time may not despair of achieving with
them any of the wonders to which they are truly adequate, if skilfully
and perseveringly exerted; though we should have to overcome many of
those difficulties which present themselves, as obstacles to every
great effort, but which are insurmountable, only to those who despair
of surmounting them.

It was to a consideration of this kind, as to the primary importance
of knowing the questions to which our faculties are competent, that we
are indebted for one of the most valuable works in our science, a work,
which none can read even now, without being impressed with reverence
for the great talents of its author; but of which it is impossible
to feel the whole value, without an acquaintance with the verbal
trifling, and barren controversies, that still perplexed and obscured
intellectual science at the period when it was written.

The work to which I allude is the _Essay on the Human Understanding_,
to the composition of which Mr Locke, in his preface, states himself
to have been led by an accidental conversation with some friends who
had met at his chamber. In the course of a discussion, which had no
immediate relation to the subject of the Essay, they found themselves
unexpectedly embarrassed by difficulties that appeared to rise on every
side, when after many vain attempts to extricate themselves from the
doubts which perplexed them, it occurred to Mr Locke, that they had
taken a wrong course,--that the inquiry in which they were engaged
was probably one which was beyond the reach of human faculties, and,
that their _first_ inquiry should have been, into the nature of the
understanding itself, to ascertain what subjects it was fit to explore
and comprehend.

“When we know our own strength,” he remarks, “we shall the better know
what to undertake with hopes of success: and when we have well surveyed
the powers of our own minds, and made some estimate what we may expect
from them, we shall not be inclined either to sit still, and not set
our thoughts on work at all, in despair of knowing anything; or, on
the other side, question every thing, and disclaim all knowledge,
because some things are not to be understood. It is of great use to
the sailor, to know the length of his line, though he cannot with it
fathom all the depths of the ocean. It is well he knows, that it is
long enough to reach the bottom, at such places as are necessary to
direct his voyage, and caution him against running upon shoals that
may ruin him.--This was that which gave the first rise to this essay
concerning the understanding. For I thought, that the first step
towards satisfying several inquiries, the mind of man was very apt
to run into, was to take a survey of our own understandings, examine
our own powers, and see to what things they were adapted. Till that
was done, I suspected we began at the wrong end, and in vain sought
for satisfaction in a quiet and sure possession of truths that most
concerned us, while we let loose our thoughts into the vast ocean of
being, as if all that boundless extent were the natural and undoubted
possession of our understandings.--Thus men, extending their inquiries
beyond their capacities, and letting their thoughts wander into those
depths, where they can find no sure footing, it is no wonder that they
raise questions and multiply disputes, which, never coming to any clear
resolution, are proper only to continue and increase their doubts, and
to confirm them, at last, in perfect scepticism; whereas, were the
capacities of our understanding well considered, the extent of our
knowledge once discovered, and the horizon found, which sets the bounds
between the enlightened and dark parts of things, between what is and
what is not comprehensible by us, men would perhaps, with less scruple,
acquiesce in the avowed ignorance of the one, and employ their thoughts
and discourse, with more advantage and satisfaction in the other.”[7]

These observations of Mr Locke illustrate, very happily, the importance
of a right view of the limits of our understanding, for directing our
inquiries to the objects that are truly within our reach. It is not the
waste of intellect, as it lies torpid in the great multitude of our
race, that is alone to be regretted in relation to science, which in
better circumstances, it might improve and adorn. It is in many cases,
the very industry of intellect, busily exerted, but exerted in labours
that must be profitless, because the objects, to which the labour is
directed, are beyond the reach of man. If half the zeal, and, I may
add, even half the genius, which, during so many ages, were employed
in attempting things impossible, had been given to investigations, on
which the transcendental inquirers of those times would certainly have
looked down with contempt, there are many names that are now mentioned
only with ridicule or pity, for which we should certainly have felt the
same deep veneration, which our hearts so readily offer to the names of
Bacon and Newton; or perhaps even the great names of Bacon and Newton
might, in comparison with them, have been only of secondary dignity. It
was not by idleness that this high rank of instructors and benefactors
of the world was lost, but by a blind activity more hurtful than
idleness itself. To those who never could have thought of numbering the
population of our own little globe, it seemed an easy matter to number,
with precise arithmetical accuracy, the tribes of angels, and to assign
to each order of spiritual beings its separate duties, and separate
dignities, with the exactness of some heraldic pomp; and, amid all
those visible demonstrations of the Divinity which surround us wherever
we turn our view, there were minds that could think in relation to
him, of every thing but his wisdom and goodness; as if He who created
us, and placed around us this magnificent system of things, were an
object scarcely worthy of our reverence, till we had fixed his precise
station in our logical categories, and had determined, not the majestic
relations which he bears to the universe, as created and sustained by
his bounty, but all the frivolous relations which he can be imagined to
bear to impossibilities and nonentities.

    O, son of earth! attempt ye still to rise,
    By mountains pil'd on mountains, to the skies!
    Heaven still, with laughter, the vain toil surveys,
    And buries madmen in the heaps they raise.[8]

It is, indeed, then, to borrow Mr Locke's metaphor, of no slight
importance to know the length of our line, though we cannot, with it,
fathom all the depths of the ocean. With the knowledge, that, to a
certain depth at least, we may safely confide in it, we shall not be
corrupted, by our fear, to coast along the shore, with such cautious
timidity as to lose all the treasures which might be obtained by a
more adventurous voyage; nor tempted in the rashness of ignorance or
despair, to trust ourselves wildly to every wind, though our course
should be amidst rocks and quicksands.

The study of the natural limits of the faculties of the mind, has,
indeed, sometimes been misrepresented, as favouring a tendency to vague
and unlimited doubt on all subjects, even on those most important to
individual and social happiness; as if the great names, to which we
have long given our admiration, for the light which they have thrown
on the powers and weaknesses of the human understanding, were not also
the very names which we have been accustomed, not to admire merely, but
to venerate, for excellence of a still nobler kind. Far from leading
to general scepticism, it is, on the contrary, a sound study of the
principles of our intellectual and moral nature, which alone can free
from the danger of it. If the sceptical philosophy be false, as the
assertors of this objection will allow that it most assuredly is, it
can be overcome and destroyed only by a philosophy that is true;
and the more deeply, and the more early, the mind is embued with the
principles of truth, the more confidently may we rely on its rejection
of the errors that are opposed to them. It is impossible for one,
who is not absolutely born to labour, to pass through life without
forming, in his own mind, occasionally, some imperfect reflections on
the faculties by which he perceives and reasons; or without catching,
from those with whom he may associate, some of those vague notions, of
a vague philosophy, which pass unexamined from mind to mind, and become
current in the very colloquial language of the day. The alternatives,
therefore, (if we can, indeed, think of any other alternative when
truth is one,) are not those of knowledge and absolute ignorance of
the mental phenomena, but of knowledge more or less accurate; because
absolute ignorance, even though it were a state to be wished, is
beyond our power to preserve, in one who enjoys, in any respects, the
benefit of education and liberal society. We might, with much greater
prospect of success, attempt, by merely keeping from his view all
professed treatises on Astronomy, to prevent him from acquiring that
slight and common acquaintance with the system of the heavenly bodies,
which is necessary for knowing that the sun does not go round the
earth, than we could hope to prevent him from forming, or receiving,
some notions, accurate or inaccurate, as to the nature of mind; and
we surely cannot suppose, that the juster those opinions are, as to
the nature and force of the principles of belief, the feebler must the
principles of belief appear. It is not so, that nature has abandoned
us, with principles which we must fear to examine, and with truths and
illusions which we must never dare to separate. In teaching us what our
powers are incapable of attaining, she has at the same time, taught
us what truths they may attain; and within this boundary, we have the
satisfaction of knowing, that she has placed all the truths that are
important for our virtue and happiness. He, whose eyes are the clearest
to distinguish the bounding circle, cannot surely, be the dullest to
perceive the truths that are within. To know only to doubt, is but the
first step in philosophy; and to rest at this first step, is either
imbecility or idleness. It is not there that Wisdom sees, and compares,
and pronounces; it is Ignorance, that, with dazzled eyes, just opening
from the darkness of the night, perceives that she has been dreaming,
without being able to distinguish, in the sunshine, what objects
really existing are around. He alone is the philosopher truly awake,
who knows both how to doubt, and how to believe; believing what is
evident on the very same principles, which lead him to doubt, with
various degrees of uncertainty, where the evidence is less sure. To
conceive, that inquiry must lead to scepticism, is itself a species of
scepticism, as to the power and evidence of the principles to which we
have given our assent, more degrading, because still more irrational,
than that open and consistent scepticism which it dreads. It would,
indeed, be an unworthy homage to truths, which we profess to venerate,
to suppose, that adoration can be paid to them only while we are
ignorant of their nature; and that to approach their altars would be to
discover, that the majestic forms, which seem animated at a distance,
are only lifeless idols, as insensible as the incense which we have
offered to them.

The study of the powers and limits of the understanding, and of the
sources of evidence in external nature and ourselves, instead of either
forming or favouring a tendency to scepticism, is then, it appears,
the surest, or rather the only mode, of removing the danger of such a
tendency. That mind may soon doubt even of the most important truths,
which has never learned to distinguish the doubtful from the true. But
to know well the irresistible evidence on which truth is founded, is to
believe in it, and to believe in it forever.

Nor is it from the danger of scepticism only, that a just view of the
principles of his intellectual constitution tends to preserve the
philosophic inquirer. It saves him, also, from that presumptuous and
haughty dogmatism, which, though free from doubt, is not, therefore,
necessarily free from error; and which is, indeed, much more likely
to be fixed in error than in truth, where the inquiry, that precedes
conviction, has been casual and incomplete. A just view of our nature
as intelligent beings, at the same time that it teaches us enough
of our strength to allow us to rest with confidence on the great
principles, physical, moral, and religious, in which alone it is of
importance for us to confide, teaches us also enough of our weakness,
to render us indulgent to the weakness of others. We cease to be
astonished that multitudes should differ from us; because we know well,
that while nature has made a provision for the universal assent of
mankind to those fundamental physical truths, which are essential to
their very existence, and those _fundamental truths_ of another kind,
which are equally essential to their existence as subjects of moral
government, she has left them, together with principles of improvement
that ensure their intellectual progress, a susceptibility of error,
without which there could be no progression; and while we almost
trace back the circumstances which have modified our own individual
belief, we cannot but be aware, at the same time, how many sources
there are of prejudice, and, consequently, of difference of opinion,
in the various situations in which the multitudes, that differ from
us, have been placed. To feel anger at human error, says an ancient
philosopher, is the same thing as if we were to be angry with those who
stumble in the dark,--with the deaf for not obeying our command,--with
the sick,--with the aged,--with the weary. That very dulness of
discernment, which excites at once our wonder and our wrath, is but a
part of the general frailty of mortality; and the love of our errors
is not less inherent in our constitution than error itself. It is this
general constitution which is to be studied by us, that we may know
with what mistakes and weaknesses we must have to deal, when we have to
deal with our fellow-men; and the true art, therefore, of learning to
forgive _individuals_, is to learn first how much we have to forgive
_to the whole human race_. “Illud potius cogitabis, non esse irascendum
erroribus. Quid enim, si quis irascatur in tenebris parum vestigia
certa ponentibus? Quid si quis surdis, imperia non exaudientibus? Quid
si pueris, quod neglecto dispectu officiorum, ad lusus et ineptos
æqualium jocos spectent? Quid si illis irasci velis, qui ægrotant,
senescunt, fatigantur? Inter cætera mortalitatis incommoda, et hæc
est, caligo mentium: nec tantum necessitas errandi, sed errorum amor.
Ne singulis irascaris, universis ignoscendum: generi humano venia
tribuenda est.”[9]

How much of the fury of the persecuting spirit of darker ages would
have been softened and turned into moderation, by juster views of the
nature of man, and of all the circumstances on which belief depends! It
appears to us so very easy to believe what we consider as true,--or,
rather, it appears to us so impossible to disbelieve it,--that, if we
judge from our own momentary feelings only, without any knowledge of
the general nature of belief, and of all the principles in our mental
constitution by which it is diversified, we very naturally look on
the dissent of others as a sort of wilful and obstinate contrariety,
and almost as an insulting denial of a right of approbation, which we
consider ourselves, in these circumstances, as very justly entitled to
claim. The transition from this supposed culpability to the associated
ideas of pains and penalties, is a very natural one; and there is,
therefore a sufficient fund of persecution in mere ignorance, though
the spirit of it were not, as it usually is, aggravated by degrading
notions of the divine Being, and false impressions of religious duty.
Very different are the sentiments which the science of mind produces
and cherishes. It makes us tolerant, not merely by showing the
absurdity of endeavouring to overcome, by punishment, a belief which
does not depend on suffering; but which may remain, and even gather
additional strength, in imprisonment, in exile, under the axe, and
at the stake. The absurdity of every attempt of this kind it shews
indeed; but it makes us feel, still more intimately, that injustice
of it, which is worse than absurdity,--by shewing our common nature,
in all the principles of truth and error, with those whom we would
oppress; all having faculties that may lead to truth, and tendencies of
various kinds which may mislead to error, and the mere accidental and
temporary difference of power being, if not the greatest, at least the
most obvious circumstance, which, in all ages, has distinguished the
_persecutor_ from the _persecuted_.

    Let not this weak, unknowing hand,
      Presume thy bolts to throw;
    Or deal damnation round the land,
      On all I judge thy foe!

    If I am right,--thy grace impart,
      Still in the right to stay;
    If I am wrong,--O, teach my heart,
      To find the better way.[10]

Such is the language of devout philosophy. No proud assertion of
individual infallibility,--no triumph over the consequences in others,
of a fallible nature, which ourselves partake in common,--but the
expression of feelings more suited to earthly weakness,--of a modest
joy of belief, which is not less delightful for the humility that
tempers it; and of a modest sorrow for the seeming errors of others, to
which the consciousness of our own nature gives a sympathy of warmer
interest. The more important the subject of difference, the _greater_,
not the _less_, will be the indulgence of him who has learned to trace
the sources of human error,--of error, that has its origin not in
our weakness and imperfection merely, but often in the most virtuous
affections of the heart,--in that respect for age, and admiration of
virtue, and gratitude for kindness received, which make the opinions
of those whom we love and honour seem to us, in our early years, as
little questionable, as the virtues which we love to contemplate, or
the very kindness which we feel at every moment beaming on our heart,
in the tender protection that surrounds us. That the subjects on which
we may differ from others, are _important to happiness_, of course
implies, that it is no slight misfortune _to have erred_; and that the
mere error, therefore, must be already too great an evil to require any
addition from our individual contempt or indignation, far less from the
vengeance of public authority,--that _may_ be right, in the opinions
which it conceives to be insulted by partial dissent; but which _must_
be wrong, in the means which it takes to avenge them. To be sincerely
thankful for truths received, is, by the very nature of the feeling, to
be sensible how great a blessing those have lost who are deprived of
the same enjoyment; and to look down, then, with insolent disdain, on
the unfortunate victim of error, is, indeed to render contemptible, (as
far as it is in our feeble power to render it contemptible,) not the
error which we despise, but the truth which allows us to despise it.

The remarks which I have as yet made, on the effects of acquaintance
with the Philosophy of Mind, relate to its influence on the general
spirit of philosophical inquiry; the advantages which must be derived,
in every science, from a knowledge of the extent of the power of the
intellectual instruments which we use for the discovery of truth; the
skill which we thence acquire in distinguishing the questions in which
we may justly hope to discover truth, from those questions of idle and
endless controversy, the decision of which is altogether beyond the
reach of our faculties; and the consequent moderation in the temper,
with which we look both to our own possible attainments, and to the
errors of others.

But beside these general advantages, which the Philosophy of Mind
extends to all the inquiries of which human genius is capable, there
are some advantages more peculiarly felt in certain departments of
science or art. It is not merely _with_ the mind that we operate;
the subject of our operations is also often the _mind itself_. In
education, in criticism, in poetry, in eloquence, the mind has to act
upon mind, to produce in it either emotions that are _temporary_, or
affections and opinions that are _permanent_. We have to instruct
it,--to convince it,--to persuade it,--to delight it,--to soften it
with pity,--to agitate it with terror or indignation;--and all these
effects, when other circumstances of genius are the same, we shall
surely be able to produce more readily, if we know the natural laws of
thought and emotion; the feelings which are followed by other feelings;
and the thoughts, which, expanding into other thoughts, almost of
themselves produce the very passion, or conviction, which we wish to

“One considerable advantage,” says Mr Hume, “which results from the
accurate and abstract philosophy, is its subserviency to the easy and
humane; which, without the former, can never attain a sufficient degree
of exactness in its sentiments, precepts, or reasonings. All polite
letters are nothing but pictures of human life in various attitudes
and situations; and inspire us with different sentiments of praise
or blame, admiration or ridicule, according to the qualities of the
object which they set before us. An artist must be better qualified to
succeed in this undertaking; who, besides a delicate taste and quick
apprehension, possesses an accurate knowledge of the internal fabric,
the operations of the understanding, the workings of the passions, and
the various species of sentiment which discriminate vice and virtue.
However painful this inward search or inquiry may appear, it becomes,
in some measure, requisite to those who would describe with success
the obvious and outward appearances of life and manners. The anatomist
presents to the eye the most hideous and disagreeable objects; but his
science is highly useful to the painter in delineating even a Venus
or an Helen. While the latter employs all the richest colours of his
art, and gives his figures the most graceful and engaging airs, he must
still carry his attention to the inward structure of the human body,
the position of the muscles, the fabric of the bones, and the use and
figure of every part or organ. Accuracy is, in every case, advantageous
to beauty, and just reasoning to delicacy of sentiment;--in vain would
we exalt the one by depreciating the other.”[11]

There is a most striking passage to the same purport, in that beautiful
dialogue on ancient oratory, which has been ascribed, without any
very satisfactory evidence, to various authors, particularly to
Quinctilian, the younger Pliny, and Tacitus, and which is not unworthy
of the most eminent of the names to which it has been ascribed. After
dwelling on the universal science and erudition of the great master
of Roman eloquence, the chief speaker in the dialogue proceeds to
show the peculiar advantage which oratory must derive from _moral and
intellectual science_, to the neglect of which fundamental study, as
superseded by the frivolous disputations of the rhetorical schools, he
ascribes the decay of eloquence in the age of which he speaks.

“Ita enim est, optimi viri, ita, ex multa eruditione, ex pluribus
artibus, et omnium rerum scientia, exundat et exuberat illa admirabilis
eloquentia. Neque oratoris vis et facultas, sicut ceterarum rerum,
angustis et brevibus terminis eluditur; sed is est orator, qui de
omni quæstione pulchre, et ornate, et ad persuadendum apte dicere,
pro dignitate rerum ad utilitatem temporum, cum voluptate audientium,
possit. Hæc sibi illi veteres persuadebant. Ad hæc efficienda
intelligebant opus esse, non ut Rhetorum scholis declamarent,--sed
ut his artibus pectus implerent, in quibus de bonis ac malis, de
honesto ac turpi, de justo et injusto disputatur;--de quibus copiose,
et varie, et ornate, nemo dicere potest, nisi qui cognovit naturam
humanam.--Ex his fontibus etiam illa profluunt, ut facilius iram
judicis vel instiget, vel leniat, qui scit quid ira, promptius ad
miserationem impellat qui scit quid sit misericordia, et quibus animi
motibus concitetur. In his artibus exercitationibusque versatus orator,
sive apud infestos, sive apud cupidos, sive apud invidentes, sive
apud tristes, sive apud timentes dicendum habuerit, tenebit habenas
animorum, et prout cujusque natura postulabit, adhibebit manum et
temperabit orationem, parato omni instrumento, et ad usum reposito.”[12]

What is the whole art of criticism, in its most important
applications, but the knowledge of the most natural successions of
thought and feeling in the mind? We judge of the perspicuity and order
of a discourse, by knowing the progress in which the mind, by the
developement of truth after truth, may be made at last to see the full
meaning of the most complex proposition. We judge of the beauty of
impassioned poetry or eloquence, by knowing whether the figures, the
images, the very feelings described, be such as, from our observation
of the laws that regulate the internal series of changes in the mind,
we know to be consistent with that state of emotion, in which a mind
must exist that has been placed in the situation supposed. If all other
circumstances be equal, he will undoubtedly be the best critic, who
knows best the phenomena of human thought and feeling; and, without
this knowledge, criticism can be nothing but a measurement of words,
or a repetition of the ever repeated and endless common places of
rhetoric. The knowledge of _nature_,--of the necessity of which critics
speak so much, and so justly, and which is as essential to the critic
himself, as to the writer on whom he sits in judgment,--is only another
name for the knowledge of the successive transitions of feeling of
the mind, in all the innumerable diversities in which it is capable
of being modified, by the variety of circumstances in which it maybe
placed. It is for this reason, that, with so great an abundance of
the mere art, or rather of the mere technical phrases of criticism,
we have so very little of the _science_ of it; because the science
of criticism implies an acquaintance with the philosophy of thought
and passion, which few can be expected to possess; and though nothing
can be easier than to deliver opinions, such as pass current in the
drawing-room, and even in the literary circle, which the frivolous may
admire as profound, and the ignorant as erudite, and which many voices
may be proud to repeat; though even the dull and pedantic are as able
as the wise to say, in fluent language, that one passage of a work of
genius is beautiful, and another the reverse,--because one of them is
in accordance with some technical rules, or because Homer and Milton
have passages similar to the one, and not to the other: it is far from
being equally easy to show, how the one passage is beautiful, from its
truth of character, and the other, though perhaps rich in harmony of
rhythm and rhetorical ornament, is yet faulty, by its violation of the
more important harmony of thought and emotion,--a harmony which nature
observes as faithfully, in the progress of those vehement passions
that appear most wild and irregular, as in the calmest successions of
feeling of the most tranquil hours. It would indeed, be too much to
say, as in the well known couplet of Pope,

    “Let such teach others who themselves excel,
    And censure freely, who have written well;”[13]

for the critic requires only _one_ of the two great talents, which in
the poet, ought to exist together, but which may yet exist separately.
In the poet, there must be, in the first place, an inventive fancy
to bring together thoughts and images which have never been combined
before; and with this inventive fancy, a discriminating judgment, which
is to measure, by the standard of nature, the products of invention;
and to retain them, only if they appear such, as though perhaps never
before combined, might yet, in conformity with the natural laws of
thought, have occurred to a mind, in the circumstances represented, as
truly, as the other thoughts or images, which the works of other poets
have rendered more familiar. This latter talent,--the judgment which
determines the intrinsic beauty and fidelity to general nature,--is all
which is absolutely requisite to the _critic_, who is not, therefore,
under the necessity of being himself “the great sublime” which he
draws. Yet, though all the elements of excellence in the artist are not
absolutely requisite for the judgment of the sage and discriminating
admirer of the noble works which that excellence may have produced,
some of these elements unquestionably are requisite,--elements, for
which the critic may search in vain in all the rules of rhetoricians,
and even in the perusal of all the masterpieces of ancient and modern
times, unless, to an acquaintance with these, he add an accurate
acquaintance with that _intellectual and moral nature of man_, the
beautiful conformity to which was the essential charm of all the
pathos, and all the eloquence, which he has admired.

There is another art, however, to which knowledge of the intellectual
and moral nature of man is still more important--that noble art, which
has the charge of training the ignorance and imbecility of infancy
into all the virtue, and power, and wisdom of maturer manhood--of
forming, of a creature, the frailest and feeblest perhaps which heaven
has made, the intelligent and fearless sovereign of the whole animated
creation, the interpreter, and adorer, and almost the representative
of the Divinity. The art, which performs a transformation so wondrous,
cannot but be admirable itself; and it is from observation of the laws
of mind, that all which is most admirable in it is derived. These
laws we must follow indeed, since they exist not by our contrivance,
but by the contrivance of that nobler wisdom, from which the very
existence of the mind has flowed; yet, if we know them well, we can
_lead_ them, in a great measure, even while we _follow_ them. And,
while the helpless subject of this great moral art is every moment
requiring our aid,--with an understanding that may rise, from truth
to truth, to the sublimest discoveries, or may remain sunk forever in
ignorance, and with susceptibilities of vice that may be repressed, and
of virtue that may be cherished,--can we know too well the means of
checking what is evil, and of fostering what is good? It is too late
to lie by, in indolent indulgence of affection, till vice be already
formed in the little being whom we love, and to labour then to remove
it, and to substitute the virtue that is opposite to it. Vice already
formed, is almost beyond our power. It is only in the state of latent
propensity, that we can with much reason expect to overcome it by the
moral motives which we are capable of presenting; and to distinguish
this propensity before it has expanded itself, and even before it is
known to the very mind in which it exists,--to tame those passions
which are never to rage, and to prepare, at a distance, the virtues of
other years,--implies a knowledge of the mental constitution, which
can be acquired only by a diligent study of the nature, and progress,
and successive transformations of feeling. It is easy to know, that
praise or censure, reward or punishment, may increase or lessen, the
tendency to the repetition of any particular action; and this, together
with the means of elementary instruction, is all which is commonly
termed _education_. But the true science of education is something far
more than this. It implies a skilful observation of the past, and that
long foresight of the future, which experience and judgment united
afford. It is the art of seeing, not the _immediate effect_ only,
but the _series of effects_ which may follow any particular thought
or feeling, in the infinite variety of possible combinations--the
art often of drawing virtue from apparent evil, and of averting evil
that may rise from apparent good. It is, in short, the philosophy
of the human mind applied practically to the human mind,--enriching
it, indeed, with all that is useful or ornamental in knowledge, but
at the same time giving its chief regard to objects of yet greater
moment--averting evil, which all the sciences together could not
compensate, or producing good, compared with which all the sciences
together are as nothing.


[7] Essay on the Human Understanding.--Introd. sect. 6, 7.

[8] Pope's Essay on Man, Ep. iv. v. 73-76.

[9] Seneca, de Ira, lib. ii. cap. 9.

[10] Pope's Universal Prayer, v. 25-32.

[11] Inquiry concerning the Human Understanding, sec. I.

[12] Tacitus, edit. Lipsii, p. 484, 5.

[13] Essay on Criticism, v. 15, 16.



We have already, Gentlemen, considered the relation which the
_Philosophy of Mind_ bears to the _Sciences in general_, and its
particular application to those sciences and arts, in which the mind
is not merely the instrument with which we carry on our intellectual
operations, but the very subject on which we operate, as in the great
arts of reasoning, and persuading, of delighting with all the charms
of poetry and eloquence, of judging of the degrees of excellence that
have been attained in these delightful arts; and, still more, its
application to the noblest, though, in proportion to its value, the
least studied of all the arts, the art of _education_. It remains
still, to point out some moral effects which the study of the Science
of Mind produces in the _inquirer himself_, effects which may not be
obvious at first sight, but which result from it, as truly as the
intellectual advantages already pointed out.

One very powerful and salutary influence of moral science arises
directly from the mere contemplation of the objects with which it is
conversant--the benevolent affections, the pleasure which attends
these, the sacrifices that are made by generous virtue, and all the
sublime admiration which they excite--the sordid and malevolent, and
joyless passions of the selfish--the fear and shame that attend the
guilty in society, and the horrors that, with a certainty of constant
return more dreadful than their very presence, await them in their
solitary hours. It is good to have these often before us, and to
trace and contrast all the immediate, and all the remote effects of
vice and virtue, even though we should form, at the time, no direct
reference to our own past or future conduct. Without any such reference
to ourselves, we must still be sensible of the pleasure and serene
confidence which attend the one, and of the insecurity and remorse
which forever hang over the other; and the remaining impressions
of love and disgust, will have an influence on our future conduct,
of which we may probably be altogether unconscious at the time. It
is, in truth, like the influence of the example of those with whom
we habitually associate, which no one perceives at any particular
moment, though all are every moment subject to it; and to meditate
often on virtue and happiness, is thus almost to dwell in a sort of
social communion with the virtuous and happy. The influence of moral
conceptions has, in this respect, been compared to that of _light_,
which it is impossible to approach, without deriving from it some faint
colouring, even though we should not sit in the very sunshine,--or
to that of _precious odours_, amid which we cannot long remain,
without bearing away with us some portion of the fragrance. “Ea enim
philosophiæ vis est, ut non solum studentes, sed etiam conversantes
juvet. Qui in solem venit, licet non in hoc venerit, colorabitur: qui
in unguentaria taberna resederunt, et paulo diutius commorati sunt,
odorem secum loci ferunt: et qui apud philosophiam fuerunt, traxerint
aliquid necesse est, quod prodesset etiam negligentibus.”[14]

The nature of the process, by which this moral benefit arises from the
mere contemplation of moral objects, frequently repeated, is far from
obscure, though it depends on a cause to which you may perhaps as yet
have paid little attention, but which, in an after part of the course,
I shall have an opportunity of illustrating at length,--the influence
of the associating principle in the mind,--of that principle, by which
ideas and other feelings, that have often co-existed, acquire, forever
after, an almost indissoluble union. It is not merely, therefore, by
having traced, more accurately than others, the consequences of vice
and virtue, as affecting the general character, that the lover of moral
science strengthens his admiration of virtue, and his abhorrence of
vice. But, by the frequent consideration of virtue, together with the
happiness which it affords, and of vice, together with its consequent
misery, the notions of these become so permanently, and so deeply
associated, that future virtue appears almost like happiness about
to be enjoyed, and future vice like approaching misery. The dread of
misery, and the love of happiness, which are essential principles of
our very physical existence, are thus transformed into principles of
_moral conduct_, that operate, before reflection, with the rapidity,
and almost with the energy of instincts,--and that, after reflection,
add to our virtuous resolutions a force and stability, which, as
results of mere reasoning, they could not possess.

It is, besides, no small advantage of the abstract consideration of
virtue, as opposed to the miseries of vice, that, in considering
these philosophically, we regard them as stripped of every thing that
can blind or seduce us; and we behold them, therefore, truly as they
are. It is not in the madness of intemperate enjoyment, that we see
drunkenness in the goblet, and disease in the feast. Under the actual
seduction of a passion, we see dimly, if we see at all, any of the
evils to which it leads; and if the feelings, of which we are then
conscious, were those which were forever after to be associated with
the remembrance of the passion, it would appear to us an object, not
of disgust or abhorrence, but of delight and choice, and almost of a
sort of moral approbation. It is of importance, then, that we should
consider the passion, at other moments than these, that the images
associated with it may be not of that brief and illusive pleasure,
which stupifies its unfortunate victim, but of its true inherent
character, of deformity, and of the contempt and hatred which it
excites in others. Such is the advantage of the point of view, in
which it is seen by the _moral inquirer_, to whom it presents itself,
not under its momentary character of pleasure, but under its lasting
character of pain and disgust. By habituating himself to consider the
_remote_, as well as the immediate results of all the affections and
passions, he learns to regard virtue, not merely as good in itself, at
the moment in which it is called into exercise, but as an inexhaustible
source of good which is continually increasing; and vice not merely
as a temporary evil in itself, but as a source of permanent and yet
deeper misery and degradation. Every generous principle, which nature
has given him, is thus continually deriving new strength, from the very
contemplation of the good which it affords; and if, in the frailty
of mortality, he should still be subject to the occasional influence
of those very passions, which, in cooler moments, he detests, he
yet does not fall, thoroughly and hopelessly. There are lingering
associations of moral beauty and happiness in his mind, which may save
him still,--associations that must render it, in some degree at least,
more difficult for him than for others, to yield to seductions, of
which he has long known the vanity, and which perhaps even may, in
some happier hour, lead him back to that virtue, of which he has never
wholly forgotten the charms.

The charms of virtue, indeed, it is scarcely possible, for him who has
felt them, wholly to forget. There may be eyes that can look unmoved
on the external beauty which once delighted them. But who is there
that has ever been alive to its better influence, who can think of
moral loveliness without a feeling of more than admiration,--without a
conscious enjoyment, in the possession of what is so truly admirable,
or a sigh at having lost the privilege of dwelling on it with delight,
and at being obliged to shrink from the very thought of what it once

                        “For what can strive
    With virtue? which of nature's regions vast
    Can in so many forms produce to sight
    Such powerful beauty?--Beauty, which the eye
    Of hatred cannot look upon secure;
    Which Envy's self contemplates, and is turn'd
    Ere long to tenderness, to infant smiles,
    Or tears of humblest love. Is ought so fair,
    In all the dewy landscapes of the Spring,
    The Summer's noontide groves, the purple eve
    At harvest-home, or in the frosty moon
    Glittering on some smooth sea, is aught so fair
    As virtuous friendship? As the honour'd roof,
    Whither, from highest heaven, immortal love,
    His torch etherial, and his golden bow,
    Propitious brings, and there a temple holds,
    To whose unspotted service gladly vow'd,
    The social bond of parent, brother, child,
    With smiles, and sweet discourse, and gentle deeds,
    Adore his power? What gift of richest clime
    E'er drew such eager eyes, or prompted such
    Deep wishes, as the zeal, that snatcheth back
    From Slander's poisonous tooth a _foe's_ renown,
    Or crosseth Danger in his lion-walk,
    A rival's life to rescue?”

The study of moral science, then, we have seen, has a direct tendency
to strengthen our attachment to the virtues which we habitually
contemplate. _Another_ most important advantage derived from it,
relates to us in our higher character of beings _capable of religion_,
increasing our devotion and gratitude to the Divinity, by the clearest
manifestation which it gives us of his provident goodness in the
constitution and government of the moral world.

The _external universe_, indeed, though our study were confined to the
laws which regulate its phenomena, would afford, in itself, abundant
proof of the power and wisdom by which it was created. But power and
wisdom _alone_ excite admiration only, not love; which, though it may
be feigned in the homage that is universally paid to power, is yet,
as an offering of the heart, paid to it only when it is combined with
benevolence. It is the splendid benevolence, therefore, of the Supreme
Being, which is the object of our grateful adoration; and, to discover
this benevolence, we must look to creatures that have not existence
_merely_, like inanimate things, but a capacity of enjoyment, and means
of enjoyment. It is in man,--or in beings capable of knowledge and
happiness, like man,--that we find the solution of the wonders of the
creation; which would otherwise, with all its regularity and beauty,
be but a solitary waste, like the barren magnificence of rocks and
deserts. God, says Epictetus, has introduced man into the world, to
be the spectator of his works, and of their divine Author; and not to
be the spectator only, but to be the announcer and interpreter of the
wonders which he sees and adores. Ὁ Θεὸς--τὸν ἄνθρωπον θεατὴν εἰσήγαγεν
αὐτοῦ τε καὶ τῶν ἔργων τῶν αὐτοῦ· καὶ οὖ μόνον θεατὴν ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐξηγητὴν
αὐτῶν.[15] “Hæc qui contemplatur,” says another ancient Stoic, with a
little of the bold extravagance of his school,--“Hæc qui contemplatur,
quid Deo præstat? Ne tanta ejus opera sine teste sint.”--“Curiosum
nobis natura ingenium dedit; et artis sibi ac pulchritudinis suae
conscia, spectatores nos tantis rerum spectaculis genuit, perditura
fructum sui, si tam magna, tam clara, tarn subtiliter ducta, tam
nitida, et non uno genere formosa solitudini ostenderet.”[16]

In the study of what might be considered as the very defects of our
moral nature, how pleasing is it, to the philosophic inquirer, to
discover that provident arrangement of a higher Power, which has
rendered many of the most striking of the apparent evils of life
subservient to the production of a general utility, that had never
entered into the contemplation of its remote authors. He who has never
studied the consequences of human actions, perceives, in the great
concourse of mankind, only a multitude of beings consulting each
his own peculiar interest, or the interest of the very small circle
immediately around him, with little, if any, apparent attention to the
interests of others. But he who has truly studied human actions and
their consequences, sees, in the prosecution of all these separate
interests, that universal interest which is their great result;
and the very principle of self-regard thus contributing to social
happiness,--unconsciously indeed, but almost as surely as the principle
of benevolence itself.

    Each individual seeks a several goal,
    But Heaven's great view is _one_, and that the whole.
    That counterworks each folly and caprice;
    That disappoints the effect of every vice;--
    All Virtue's ends from Vanity's can raise;
    Which seeks no interest, no reward but praise;
    And build on wants, and on defects of mind,
    The joy, the peace, the glory of mankind.[17]

I have already,[18]--when treating of the influence of just views
of the extent and limits of our faculties, in fixing the proper
tone of inquiry, and lessening equally the tendency to the opposite
extremes of dogmatism and scepticism,--stated some important moral
advantages that arise from this very moderation of the tone of inquiry,
particularly with respect to the temper with which it prepares us to
receive dissent from our opinions without anger, or insolent disdain,
or even astonishment. So much of the intercourse of human society
consists in the reciprocal communication of opinions which must often
be opposed to each other, that this preparation of the temper, whether
for amicable and equal discussion, or for mutual silent forbearance,
is not to be lightly appreciated as an element in the sum of human
happiness. On this point, however, and on its relation to the still
greater advantages, or still greater evils, of national or legislative
tolerance or intolerance, I before offered some remarks, and therefore
merely allude to it at present.

The tolerance with which we receive the opinions of others is a part,
and an indispensable part, of that general refinement of manners to
which we give the name of _politeness_. But politeness itself, in
all its most important respects,--indeed in every respect, in which
it is to be separated from the mere fluctuating and arbitrary forms
and ceremonies of the month or year,--is nothing more than _knowledge
of the human mind directing general benevolence_. It is the art
of producing the greatest happiness, which, in the mere external
courtesies of life, can be produced, by raising such ideas or other
feelings in the minds of those with whom we are conversant, as will
afford the most pleasure, and averting, as much as possible, every idea
which may lead to pain. It implies, therefore, when perfect, a fine
knowledge of the natural series of thoughts, so as to distinguish, not
merely the thought which will be the immediate or near effect of what
is said or done, but those which may arise still more remotely; and
he is the most successful in this art of giving happiness, who sees
the future at the greatest distance. It is this foresight acquired by
attentive observation of the various characters of mankind in a long
intercourse with society, which is the true knowledge of the world; for
the knowledge of the mere _forms_ and _ceremonies_ of the world, which
is of far easier acquisition, is scarcely worthy of being called a part
of it. The essential, and the only valuable part of politeness then,
is as truly the result of study of the human mind, as if its minutest
rules had formed a regular part of our systems of intellectual and
moral philosophy. It is the philosophy indeed of those, who scarcely
know that they are philosophizing; because _philosophy_, to them,
implies something which has no other ornaments than _diagrams_ and
frightful _algebraic characters_, laid down in systems, or taught in
schools and universities, with the methodical tediousness of rules of
grammar; and they are conscious, that all, or the greatest part of what
they know, has been the result of their own observation, and acquired
in the very midst of the amusements of life. But he, who knows the
world, must have studied the mind of man, or at least--for it is only
a partial view of the mind which is thus formed--must have studied it
in some of its most striking aspects. He is a _practical_ philosopher,
and, therefore, a _speculative_ one also, since he must have founded
his rules of action on certain principles, the results of his own
observation and reflection. These results are, indeed, usually lost
to all but to the individual: and the loss is not to be considered as
slight, merely because the knowledge, which thus perishes, has been
usually applied by its possessor to frivolous purposes, and sometimes
perhaps to purposes still more unworthy. When we read the maxims of
La Rochefoucauld, which, false as they would be, if they had been
intended to give us a faithful universal picture of the moral nature
of man, were unfortunately too faithful a delineation of the passions
and principles that immediately surrounded their author, and met his
daily view, in the splendid scenes of vanity and ambitious intrigue
to which his observation was confined,--it is impossible not to feel,
that, acute and subtle as they are, many of these maxims must have been
only the expression of principles, which were floating, without being
fixed in words, in the minds of many of his fellow courtiers; and the
instruction, which might be received from those who have been long
conversant with mankind, in situations favourable to observation, if,
by any possibility, it could be collected and arranged, would probably
furnish one of the most important additions which could be made to
moral science.

How much politeness consists in knowledge of the natural succession of
thoughts and feelings, and a consequent ready foresight of the series
of thoughts, which it is in our power indirectly to excite or avert,
must have presented itself in a very striking manner to every one,
whose professional duties, or other circumstances, have led him to pay
attention to the lower orders of society. The most benevolent of the
poor, in situations too in which their benevolence is most strongly
excited, as in the sickness of their relations or friends, and in which
they exert themselves to relieve obvious pain, with an assiduity of
watching and fatigue, after all the ordinary fatigues of the day, that
is truly honourable to their tenderness, have yet little foresight
of the mere pains of thought; and while in the same situation, the
rich and better educated, with equal, or perhaps even with less
benevolence of intention, carefully avoid the introduction of any
subject, which might suggest, indirectly to the sufferer the melancholy
images of parting life, the conversation of the poor, around the bed
of their sick friend, is such as can scarcely fail to present to him
every moment, not the probability merely, but almost the certainty
of approaching death. It is impossible to be present, in these two
situations, without remarking the benefit of a little knowledge of
the human mind, without which, far from fulfilling its real wishes,
benevolence itself may be the most cruel of torturers.

The same species of foresight which is essential to the refinements
of social intercourse, is equally essential in the active occupations
of life, to that knowledge of times and circumstances, which is so
important to success; and though this knowledge may be too often
abused, to unworthy purposes, by the sordid and the servile, it is
not the less necessary to those who pursue only honourable plans, and
who avail themselves only of honourable means. Such is the nature of
society, that the most generous and patriotic designs still require
some _conduct_ to procure for them authority; and, at least in the
public situations of life, without a knowledge of the nature both of
those who are to govern, and of those who are to be governed, though it
may be very easy to _wish well to society_, the hardest of all tasks
will be the task of _doing it good_.

May I not add, as another salutary moral effect of the Science of
Mind, the tendency which the study of the general properties of our
common nature has to lessen that undue veneration, which, in civilized
society, must always attend the adventitious circumstances of fortune,
and to bring this down, at least some degrees, nearer to that due
respect which is indispensable for the tranquillity and good order of
a state, and which no wise and patriotic moralist, therefore, would
wish to see diminished. It is only in the tumultuous phrenzy of a
revolution, however, or in periods of great and general discontent,
that the respect of the multitude for those who are elevated above
them, in rank and fortune, is likely to fall beneath this salutary
point. So many of the strongest principles of our nature, favour the
_excess_ of it, that, in the ordinary circumstances of society, it
must always pass far beyond the point of calm respect; so far beyond
it, indeed, that the lesson which the people require most frequently
to be taught, is, not to venerate the very guilt and folly of the rich
and powerful, because they are the guilt and folly of the rich and
powerful. It is to the objects of the idolatry themselves, however,
that the study of a science, which considers them as stripped of every
adventitious distinction, and possessing only the common virtues and
talents of mankind, must be especially salutary. In the ordinary
circumstances of a luxurious age, it is scarcely possible for the
great to consider themselves as what they truly are; and though, if
questioned as to their belief of their common origin with the rest of
mankind, they would no doubt think the question an absurd one, and
readily own their descent from the same original parentage; there can
be as little doubt, that in the silence of their own mind, and in
those hours of vanity and ambition, which, to many of them, are almost
the whole hours of life, this tie of common nature is rarely, if ever
felt. It is impossible indeed, that it should be often felt, because,
in the circumstances in which they are placed, there is every thing to
remind them of a _superiority_, of which their passions themselves are
sufficiently ready to remind them, and very little to remind them of an
_equality_, from the contemplation of which all their passions are as
ready to turn away. There are, however, some circumstances which are
too strong for all these passions to overcome, and which force in spite
of them, upon the mind that self-knowledge, which in other situations,
it is easy to avoid. In pain and sickness, notwithstanding all the vain
magnificence which the pride of grandeur spreads around the couch, and
the profusion of untasted delicacies, with which officious tenderness
strives to solicit an appetite that loathes them, he who lies upon the
couch within, begins to learn his own nature, and sees through the
splendour that seems to surround him, as it were, without touching him,
how truly foreign it is to that existence, of which before it seemed
to form a part. The feeling that he is but a _man_, in the true sense
of that word, as a frail and dependant being like those around him, is
one of the first feelings, and perhaps not one of the least painful,
which arise in such a situation. The impression, however, of this
common nature, is, while it lasts, a most salutary one; and it is to be
regretted only, that health cannot return without bringing back with it
all those flattering circumstances which offer the same seductions as
before to his haughty superiority.

The sight of death, or of the great home of the dead, in like manner,
seldom fails to bring before us our common and equal nature. In spite
of all the little distinctions which a churchyard exhibits, in mimic
imitation, and almost in mockery, of the great distinctions of life,
the turf, the stone with its petty sculptures, and all the columns and
images of the marble monument; as we read the inscription, or walk over
the sod, we think only _of what lies beneath in undistinguishable
equality_. There is scarcely any one on whom these two great equalizing
objects, sickness and the sight of death, have not produced, for a
short time, at least, some salutary moral impression. But these are
objects which cannot often occur, and which are accompanied with too
many distressing circumstances, to render it desirable that they should
be of very frequent occurrence. The study of the _mind_, of our common
moral and intellectual nature, and of those common hopes which await
us, as immortal beings, seems in some degree to afford the advantage,
without the mixture of evil: for, though in such speculative inquiries,
the impression may be less striking than when accompanied with painful
circumstances, it is more permanent, because, from the absence of those
powerful circumstances, it is more frequently and willingly renewed.
In the philosophy of mind, all those heraldic differences which have
converted mere human vanity into a science, are as nothing. It is _man_
that is the object of investigation, and man with no distinctions that
are adventitious. The feelings, the faculties, which we consider, are
endowments of the rich and powerful indeed; but they are endowments
also of the meanest of those on whom they look with disdain. It is
something, then, for those whose thoughts are continually directed
by external circumstances, to that perilous elevation on which they
are placed, to be led occasionally, as in such inquiries they must
be, to measure themselves and others without regard to the accidental
differences of the heights on which they stand, and to see what it
is in which they truly _differ_, and what it is in which they truly

In the remarks already made, on the study of the Science of Mind, we
have considered its effects on the progress of the other sciences,
and on the moral dispositions. But, though the study had no effects
of this kind, moral or intellectual, is not the mind itself a part of
nature, and _as a mere physical object_, deserving of our profoundest
and most intent investigation? or shall it be said, that while we
strive, not merely to measure the whole earth, and to follow in our
thought the revolutions of these great orbs, whose majesty may almost
be said to force from us this homage of admiration, but to arrange,
in distinct tribes, those animalcular atoms, whose very existence we
learn only from the glass through which we view them; the observing
and calculating mind itself is less an object of universal science,
than the antennae of an insect, or the filaments of a weed? Would it
be no reproach to man, even though he knew all things besides, that
he yet knew far less accurately than he might know, his own internal
nature,--like voyagers who delight in visiting every coast of the most
distant country, without the slightest acquaintance, perhaps, with the
interior of their own?

    Qui terræ pelagique vias, mundique per omnes
    Articulos spatiatur ovans, metasque suorum
    Herculeas audet supra posuisse laborum,
    Neglectus jacet usque sibi, dumque omnia quærit,
    Ipse sui quæsitor abest; incognita tellus
    Solus nauta latet, propiorque ignotior orbis.

Would the lines which follow these, if indeed there were any one to
whom they were applicable in their full extent, convey praise less high
than that which might be given to the observer of some small nerve or
membrane, that had never been observed before, or the discoverer of a
new species of earth, in some pebble before unanalyzed?

    Tu melior Tiphys, spreto jam Phasidis auro,
    In te vela paras, animatos detegis orbes,
    Humanasque aperis ausis ingentibus oras.
    Jamque novos laxari sinus, animæque latentis
    Arcanas reserare vias, cœlosque recessus
    Fas aperire tibi, totamque secludere mentem.

To the _mind_, considered as a mere object of physical inquiry, there
is one circumstance of interest, that is peculiar. It is the part of
our mixed nature which we have especially in view as often as we think
of _self_,--that by which we began to exist, and continue to exist, by
which in every moment of our being, we have rejoiced, and hoped, and
feared, and loved; or rather, it is that which has been itself, in all
our emotions, the rejoicer, the hoper, the fearer. To inquire into the
history of the mind, therefore, is in truth to look back, as far as it
is permitted to us to look back, on the whole history of our life. It
is to think of those many pleasing emotions which delighted us when
present, or of those sadder feelings, which when considered as past,
become delightful, almost like the feelings that were in themselves
originally pleasing, and in many cases, are reviewed with still greater
interest. We cannot attempt to think of the origin of our knowledge,
without bringing before us scenes and persons most tenderly familiar;
and though the effect of such remembrances is perhaps less powerful,
when the mind is prepared for philosophical investigation, than in
moments in which it is more passive, still the influence is not
wholly lost. He must be a very cold philosopher indeed, who, even in
intellectual analysis, can retrace the early impressions of his youth,
with as little interest as that with which he looks back on the common
occurrences of the past day.

But it is not any slight interest which it may receive from such
peculiar remembrances, that can be said to give value to the philosophy
of mind. It furnishes, in itself, the sublimest of all speculations,
because it is the philosophy of the sublimest of all created things.
“There is but one object,” says St. Augustine, “greater than the soul,
and that one is its Creator.” “Nihil est potentius illa creatura quæ
mens dicitur rationalis, nihil est sublimius. _Quicquid supra illam
est jam Creator est._” When we consider the powers of his mind, even
without reference to the wonders which he has produced on earth, what
room does man afford for astonishment and admiration! His senses,
his memory, his reason, the past, the present, the future, the whole
universe, and, if the universe have any limits, even more than the
whole universe, comprised in a single thought; and, amid all these
changes of feelings that succeed each other, in rapid and endless
variety, a permanent and unchangeable duration, compared with which,
the duration of external things is but the existence of a moment.

    “O what a patrimony this! a being
    Of such inherent strength and majesty,
    Not worlds possest can raise it; worlds destroy'd
    Not injure;[19] which holds on its glorious course,
    When thine, O Nature, ends!”[20]

Such, in dignity and grandeur, is the mind considered, even
abstractedly. But when, instead of considering the mind itself, we
look to the wonders which it has performed--the cities, the cultivated
plains, and all the varieties of that splendid scene to which the art
of man has transformed the deserts, and forests, and rocks of original
nature; when we behold him, not limiting the operations of his art
to that earth to which he seemed confined, but bursting through the
very elements, that appeared to encircle him as an insurmountable
barrier--traversing the waves--struggling with the winds, and making
their very opposition subservient to his course; when we look to
the still greater transformations which he has wrought in the
_moral scene_, and compare with the miseries of barbarous life, the
tranquillity and security of a well ordered state; when we see, under
the influence of legislative wisdom, insurmountable multitudes obeying,
in opposition to their strongest passions, the restraints of a power
which they scarcely perceive, and the crimes of a single individual
marked and punished, at the distance of half the earth; is it possible
for us to observe all these wonders, and yet not to feel some curiosity
to examine the faculties by which they have been wrought, some interest
in a being so noble, that leads us to speculate on the future wonders
which he may yet perform, and on the final destiny which awaits him?
This interest we should feel, though no common tie connected us with
the object of our admiration; and we cannot surely admit that the
object of our admiration is less interesting to us, or less sublime in
nature, because the faculties which we admire are those which ourselves
possess, and the wonders such as we are capable of achieving and


[14] Seneca, Ep. 108.

[15] Dissertat. ab Arrian, collect, lib. i. c. 6.--p. 35. Edit. Upton.

[16] Seneca de otio Sapent. c. 32.

[17] Pope's Essay on Man, Ep. ii. v. 237-240, and 245-248.

[18] Lect. III.

[19] Can't injure. _Orig._

[20] Young's Night Thoughts, VI. v. 535-539.



The preceding Lectures, Gentlemen, have, I trust, sufficiently
convinced you of the _importance_ of the science on which we are to
enter,--if, indeed, many of the advantages which we have considered
were not of themselves so obvious, as readily to have occurred to your
own reflection, or at least to require less illustration, than,--in
my desire to interest not your attention merely, but your zealous
ardour, in a science which appears to me so truly to deserve it,--I
have thought necessary to give them. We have seen, how interesting the
mind is, as an object of study, _from its own intrinsic excellence_,
even though it were to be considered in no other light, than as a
mere part of the universal system of things, necessary, therefore,
to be comprehended with every other existing substance, _in a system
of general physics_. We have seen, likewise, in how many important
respects, the study of the science of Mind is favourable to the growth
of virtuous sentiment, and to the refinement and happiness of society;
and, above all, how essential an acquaintance with it is, to the proper
conduct of our inquiries,--not merely in those sciences, the objects of
which are kindred or analogous, but in every other science, the various
objects of which, however independent, and even remote from it they may
seem, must always be considered, not as they exist in _themselves_, but
as they exist in _relation to it_; since they can be known to us only
through the medium of the mental affections, or feelings, excited by
them, which have laws peculiar to themselves, and analyzed and arranged
only by our mental faculties, which have their own peculiar limits of
extent and power.

The first great division of our course of inquiry is purely
physiological. It has for its object the mind, considered as
susceptible of various states or affections, and constituting, as
it is thus variously affected, the whole phenomena of thought and
feeling, which, though expressed by a variety of terms, of functions,
or faculties, are still but the _one_ mind itself existing in different
states. On retracing these states, which form the whole progress of
our sentient, intellectual, and moral life, we have to inquire into
the properties of the substance, mind, according to the same laws of
investigation, by which we inquire into the properties of external
substances,--not by assuming principles, from which the phenomena may
be supposed to flow, but by observing and generalizing, till we arrive
at those few simple principles or laws, which, however pompous the
term _laws_ may seem, as if it denoted something different from the
phenomena themselves, and paramount to them, are in truth, nothing
more than the expression of the most general circumstances, in which
the phenomena themselves have been felt by us to agree. As we say of
gold, that it is that which is of a certain specific weight, yellow,
ductile, fusible at a certain temperature, and capable of certain
combinations,--because all these properties have been observed by
ourselves or others,--so we say of the _mind_, that it is that which
perceives, remembers, compares, and is susceptible of various emotions
or other feelings; because of all these we have been conscious, or have
observed them indirectly in others. We are not entitled to state with
confidence any quality, as a property of gold, which we do not remember
to have observed ourselves, or to have received on the faith of the
observation of others, whose authority we have reason to consider as
indubitable; and as little are we entitled to assert any quality, or
general susceptibility, as belonging to the human _mind_, of which we
have not been conscious ourselves in the feelings resulting from it, or
for which we have not the authority of the indubitable consciousness of
others. The exact coincidence, in this respect, of the physics of mind
and of matter, it is important that you should have constantly before
you, that you may not be led to regard the comparative indistinctness
and vagueness of the mental phenomena as a warrant for greater
boldness of assertion, and looseness of reasoning with respect to
them. There is, on the contrary, in such a case, still greater reason
to adhere rigidly to the strict rules of philosophizing; because the
less definite the phenomena are, the greater danger is there of being
misled in discriminating and classing them. The laws of inquiry,
those general principles of the logic of physics, which regulate our
search of truth in all things, external and internal, do not vary with
the name of a science, or its objects or instruments. They are not
laws of _one_ science, but of _every_ science, whether the objects of
it be mental or material, clear or obscure, definite or indefinite;
and they are thus universal, because, in truth, though applicable
to _many sciences_, they are only laws of _the one inquiring mind_,
founded on the weakness of its powers of discernment, in relation to
the complicated phenomena on which those powers are exercised. The
sort of reasoning which would be false in chemistry, would be false
in astronomy, would be false in the physiology of our corporeal or
intellectual and moral nature, and in all, for the same reason; because
the mind is the inquirer in all alike, and is limited, by the very
constitution of its faculties, to a certain order of inquiry, which it
must, in this case of supposed erroneous reasoning, have transgressed.

On these general laws of inquiry, as relating alike to the
investigation of the properties of _matter_ and of _mind_, it is my
intention to dwell, for some time, with full discussion; for, though
the subject may be less pleasing, and may require more severe and
unremitting attention on your part, than the greater number of the
inquiries which await us, it is still more important than any of these,
because it is, in truth, _essential_ to them all. The season of your
life is not that which gathers the harvest; it is that which prepares
the soil, by diligent cultivation, for the fruits which are to adorn
and enrich it;--or, to speak without a metaphor, you do not come here,
that you may make yourselves acquainted, in a few months, with all the
phenomena of the universe,--as if it were only to look on the motions
of the planets in an orrery, or to learn a few names of substances and
qualities,--but that you may acquire those _philosophical principles_,
which in the course of a long and honourable life, are to enable you
to render yourselves more familiar every day with the works of nature,
and with the sublime plans of its beneficent Author:--and if without
the knowledge of a single word of fact, in matter or in mind, it were
possible for you to carry away from these walls a clear notion of the
objects of inquiry, and of the plan on which alone investigation can
be pursued with advantage, I should conceive, that you had profited
far more, than if, with confused notions of the objects and plan of
investigation, you carried with you the power of talking fluently,
of observations, and experiments, and hypotheses, and systems, and of
using, in their proper places, all the hardest words of science.

I must remark, however, that I should not have thought it necessary,
thus to direct so much of your attention to the principles of
scientific inquiry in general, if I could have taken for granted,
that you had already enjoyed the benefit of the instruction of my
illustrious colleague in another Chair, whose Lectures on Natural
Philosophy, exemplifying that soundness of inquiry, which I can only
recommend, would, in that case, have enlightened you more, as to the
principles of physical investigation, than any mere rules, of which it
is possible to point out to you the utility and the excellence.

All physical science, whatever may be the variety of objects, mental or
material, to which it is directed, is nothing more than the comparison
of phenomena, and the discovery of their agreement or disagreement,
or order of succession. It is on _observation_, therefore, or on
consciousness, which is only another name for _internal_ observation,
that the whole of science is founded; because there can be no
comparison, without observation of the phenomena compared, and no
discovery of agreement or disagreement, without comparison. So far,
then, as man has observed the phenomena of matter or of mind, so far,
and no farther, may he infer, with confidence, the properties of
matter and of mind; or, in the words of the great primary aphorism of
Lord Bacon, which has been so often quoted, and so often quoted in
vain, “Homo, naturæ minister et interpres, tantum facit et intelligit,
quantum de naturæ ordine re vel mente observaverit; nec amplius scit
aut potest.”[21]

What is it that we truly mean, however, when we say, that we are
about to inquire into the nature and properties of any substance? The
question is a most important one, and is far from being so simple as
it may at first appear. From the mere misunderstanding of the import
of this question, the brightest talents of a long succession of
ages,--talents, which, with clearer views of _this single point_, might
have anticipated all the discoveries of our own time, and introduced
us, perhaps, to discoveries still more brilliant and astonishing, were
wasted in inquiries as barren as the frivolous glory which attended
them,--that produced indeed much contention, and more pride, but
produced nothing more; and, without giving any additional knowledge,
took away from ignorance only its humility, and its power of being

What is it that we truly have in view, or should have in view, when we
inquire into the nature of a substance?

The material universe, and all the separate substances which compose
it, may be considered in _two_ lights,--either simply, as composed
of parts that co-exist, and are to our feelings continuous, so as to
form, of many separate and independent elements, one apparent whole;
or of parts that change their relative positions, constituting, by
this change of place, all the physical events of the material system
of the world; and inquiry may have reference to a substance in both,
or either of those points of view. What is this body? may be inquired
of us, when any particular body is pointed out; and the answer which
we give will be very different according to the _particular_ light in
which we may have viewed it, though it must always relate to it in
_one_ or _other_ of these two aspects. Let us suppose, for example, the
body, concerning which the question is put, to be a piece of glass;
I select intentionally a substance which is familiar to you all, and
of which many of you probably have sufficient chemical knowledge to
be acquainted with the composition. It may be asked of us, then, What
is the substance termed _glass_? and our answer will vary, as I have
said, with the view which we take of it. If we consider it merely as
a _continuous whole_, our answer will be, that it is a _compound of
alkaline and siliceous matter_--meaning that particles of alkali and
flint co-exist, and are apparently continuous, in that mass of which we

Such is _one_ of the answers which may be given to the question;
and this sort of answer is one which is very commonly given to such
questions. It is, you will perceive, nothing more than the enumeration
of the constituent parts of the substance, and considers the substance,
simply as it exists alone, without regard to any other bodies that may
exist around it, or near it, and without any allusion to change of _any

This sort of view, however, may be altogether reversed; and, instead
of thinking of the parts that exist together in the substance, without
reference to any changes, of which it is either the agent or the
subject, we may think only of such changes, without reference to its
constituent parts.

In this latter point of view, we may say, in answer to the question, as
to the nature of the substance termed glass, that it is a transparent
substance, which, according to the general laws of refraction, bends
the light that passes through it variously, according to the different
density of the medium through which the rays have immediately passed
before arriving at it, or of the medium, through which they are to
pass after penetrating it; that it is a substance fusible at a certain
temperature, not dissolved by the common powerful acids, but soluble
in a particular acid termed the _fluoric_ acid; that, when strongly
rubbed, by certain other substances, it communicates, for a time, to
various bodies, the power of attracting or repelling other bodies; and
we may add to our description, in like manner, as many other qualities
as there are various substances which produce in it any change, or
are in any way changed by it. In all answers of this kind, you will
perceive that regard is uniformly had, not to the _mere substance_,
concerning which the question is put, but also to some other substance
with which, in consequence of some motion of one or other of the
bodies, at the time of the phenomenon of which we speak, it has changed
its relative position; for, if all the objects in nature remained
constantly at rest, it is very evident that we could have no notion of
any property of matter whatever. In the enumeration of the qualities of
glass, for example, when we speak of its properties, we suppose it to
have changed, in every case, some relative position with the _light_
that passes through it, the _heat_ that melts it, the _fluoric acid_
that dissolves it, and the various bodies that excite in it, or conduct
from it, electricity; and all these bodies, therefore, we must have in
view, in our enumeration, as much as the glass itself.

As there are only these two different aspects in which matter can
be viewed, all physical inquiry, with respect to matter, _must_, as
I have said, have reference to one of them; and if we think that we
are inquiring further concerning it, our inquiry is truly without an
object, and we know not what we seek. We may consider it, simply as it
exists in space, or as it exists in time. Any substance, considered
as it exists in space, is the mere name which ourselves give to
the co-existence of a multitude of bodies, similar in nature, or
dissimilar, in apparent continuity; considered as it exists in time,
it is that which is affected by the prior changes of other bodies,
or which itself produces a change of some sort in other bodies. As
it exists in space, therefore, we inquire into its composition, or,
in other words, endeavour to discover what are the elementary bodies
that co-exist in the space which it occupies, and that are all which
we truly consider, when we think that we are considering the compound
as one distinct body. As it exists in time, we inquire into its
susceptibilities or its powers, or, in other words, endeavour to trace
all the series of prior and subsequent changes, of which its presence
forms an intermediate link.

_This_, then, is our meaning, when we speak of inquiring into the
nature of a substance. We have one, or both of _two_ objects in view,
the discovery of the separate bodies that co-exist in the substance,
or rather that constitute the substance, which is nothing more than
the separate bodies themselves, or the discovery of that series of
changes, of which the presence of this particular substance, in some
new relative position with respect to other bodies, forms a part; the
changes which other bodies, in consequence of this altered relative
position, occasion in _it_, with the changes which it occasions in
other bodies.

On these two different objects of physical investigation, the
co-existing elements of bodies, and their successions of changes, it
may be of advantage to dwell a little more fully in elucidation of
the method which we have to pursue in our own department of physical
research; for, though it may perhaps at first appear to you, that
to treat of the principles of inquiry, in the physics of _matter_,
is to wander from the intellectual and moral speculations which
peculiarly concern us; it is in truth only as they are illustrative
of inquiries which we are to pursue in the _physiology of the mind_,
that I am led to make these general remarks. The principles of
philosophic investigation are, as I have already said, common to all
the sciences. By acquiring more precise notions of the objects of any
one of them, we can scarcely fail to acquire, in some degree, more
precision in our notions of every other, and each science may thus be
said to profit indirectly by every additional light that is thrown
upon each. It is by this diffusive tendency of its spirit, almost as
much as by its own sublime truths, and the important applications
of these to general physics, that the study of geometry has been of
such inestimable advantage to science. Those _precise definitions_
which insure to every word the same exact signification, in the mind
of every one who hears it pronounced, and that lucid progress in
the developement of truth after truth, which gives, even to ordinary
powers, almost the same facility of comprehension with the highest
genius, are unquestionably of the utmost benefit to the mathematical
student, while he is prosecuting his particular study, without any
contemplation of other advantages to be reaped from them. But there can
be no doubt that they are, at the same time, preparing his mind for
excellence in other inquiries, of which he has then no conception; that
he will ever after be less ready to employ, and be more quicksighted
than he would otherwise have been in detecting vague and indefinite
phraseology, and loose and incoherent reasoning; and that a general
spirit of exactness and perspicuity may thus at length be diffused in
society, which will extend its influence, not to the sciences merely,
but, in some faint degree, also to works of elegant literature, and
even to the still lighter graces of conversation itself. “The spirit of
geometrical inquiry,” says Fontenelle, “is not so exclusively attached
to geometry, as to be incapable of being applied to other branches of
knowledge. A work of morals, of politics, of criticism, or even of
eloquence, will, if all other circumstances have been the same, be the
more beautiful, for having come from the hand of a geometrician. The
order, the clearness, the precision, which, for a considerable time,
have distinguished works of excellence on every subject, have most
probably had their origin in that mathematical turn of thought, which
is now more prevalent than ever, and which gradually communicates
itself even to those who are ignorant of mathematics. It often happens
that a single great man gives the tone to the whole age in which he
lives; and we must not forget, that the individual who has the most
legitimate claim to the glory of having introduced and established a
new art of reasoning, was an excellent geometer.”[22] The philosopher
to whom this improvement of the art of reasoning is ascribed, is
evidently Descartes, whose claim is certainly much less legitimate than
that of our own illustrious countryman; but the works of Bacon were
not very extensively studied on the continent, at the time at which
Fontenelle wrote; while especially in France, the splendid reputation
of the great geometer, who shook, as much with his own wild hypothesis,
as with the weight of his reasoning, the almost idolatrous worship of
the God of the Schools, seemed to sweep before it the glory of every
other reformer. The instance of Descartes, however, is a still more
happy one than his ingenious countryman, who was himself a Cartesian,
could have imagined it to be. It is, indeed, impossible to conceive
a more striking example of that diffusive influence of the _general
spirit of scientific inquiry_, which I wish to illustrate; since, in
this instance, it survived the very system by which it was diffused;
all that was sceptical in that mixed system of scepticism and dogmatism
which constituted the philosophy of Descartes, having long continued,
and even now continuing, to operate beneficially, when scarcely a
doctrine of his particular philosophy retains its hold.

You will not then, I trust, take for granted, that precise notions as
to the objects of inquiry, in any science, even in the department of
external physics, can be so absolutely without benefit to our plans of
inquiry into mind, which must be pursued on the same principles, if it
be pursued with any prospect of success; and I may, therefore, safely
solicit your attention to a little farther elucidation of the two
objects which we have in view, in general physical inquiry, whether it
be relative to _matter_ or to _mind_.

To inquire into the composition of a substance, is to consider as
_one_, many substances, which have not the less an independent
existence, because they are in immediate proximity to each other. What
we term a _body_, however minute, is a multitude of bodies, or to
speak more exactly, an infinite number of bodies, which appear limited
to us, indeed, but may perhaps appear, in their true character of
infinity, to beings of a higher order, who may be able to distinguish
as _infinite_, what our limited senses allow us to perceive only as
_finite_. They are _one_, not in nature, but in our thought; as one
thousand individuals, that in nature must always be one thousand,
receive a sort of unity that is relative merely to our conception,
when ranked by us as a single regiment, or as many regiments become
_one_ by forming together an army. In the energies of external matter,
the innumerable separate bodies are thus regarded by us as _one_,
when the space which divides them is not measurable by our imperfect
vision, and as distinct or separate, when the space can be measured by
us. The _unity_ of the aggregate is here no absolute quality of the
mass, but is truly relative to the observer's power of distinguishing
the component parts; the mass being one or many, as his senses are
less or better able to distinguish these. This whole globe of earth,
with its oceans, and rivers, and mountains, and woods, and with all
the separate multitudes of its animated inhabitants, may seem to some
being of another species, only one continuous and uniform mass; as the
masses, that seem to us uniform and continuous, may seem a whole world
of separate and varied parts, to the insect population that swarms
upon its surface. “A single leaf of a tree,” to borrow an obvious
illustration from a French writer, “is a little world inhabited by
invisible animals, to whose senses it appears of immense extent, who
see in it mountains and abysses that are almost immeasurable, and who,
from one side of the leaf to the other, hold as little communication
with the opposite animalcula, who have their dwellings there, as we do
with our Antipodes.”[23]

Nothing can appear to our eyes more uniform than a piece of glass;
yet we know, from its composition, as a product of art, that it is
a congeries of bodies, which have no similarity to each other, and
which truly exist separately from each other, in the compound, as
they existed separately before the composition, though the lines of
space which divide them have now ceased to be visible to our weak
organs; and though, instead of being composed of alkaline and siliceous
matter, which we know to be different in their qualities, the beautiful
transparent substance, considered by us, were, as far as we know,
_simple_, in the chemical sense of the term, it would still be as
truly an aggregate of many bodies, not dissimilar, indeed, as in the
former case, but each similar in qualities to the aggregate itself.
The aggregate, in short, is, in every case, but a name invented by
ourselves; and what we term the constituent elements, are all that
truly exists. To inquire into the composition of a body, is, therefore,
only to inquire what these separate bodies are which we have chosen to
consider as _one_, or rather which are ranked by us as one, from their
apparent continuity.

I have dwelt the longer on this point of the _unity_ of an aggregate
mass, as derived from the mind of the observer only, and not from its
constituent bodies, which are truly separate and independent of each
other, and must always be separate and independent, whatever changes
they may seem to undergo, in the various processes of composition
and decomposition, because this is one of the most simple, and, at
the same time, one of the most convincing examples of a tendency of
the mind, which we shall often have occasion to remark in the course
of our intellectual analysis,--the tendency to ascribe to substances
without, as if existing in them like permanent physical qualities,
the relations which ourselves have formed, by the mere comparison of
objects with objects, and which, in themselves, as relations, are
nothing more than modifications of our own mind. It is very difficult
for us to believe, that, when we speak of a rock, or a mountain, or,
perhaps, still more, when we speak of a single leaf or blade of grass
as _one_, we speak of a plurality of independent substances, which
may exist apart, as they now exist together, and which have no other
unity than in our conception. It is the same with every other species
of relation. The tallness of a tree, the lowness of a shrub or weed,
as these relative terms are used by _us_ in opposition, do not express
any real quality of the tree, or shrub, or weed, but only the fact
that our mind has considered them together; all which they express, is
the mere comparison that is in _us_, not any quality in the external
objects; and yet we can scarcely bring ourselves to think, but that
independently of this comparison, there is some quality, in the tree,
which corresponds with our notion of tallness, and some opposite
quality in the shrub or weed, which corresponds with our notion of
shortness or lowness; so that the tree would deserve the name of tall,
though it were the only object in existence, and the shrub or weed, in
like manner, the epithet of lowly, though it alone existed, without
a single object with which it could be compared. These instances, as
I have said, are simple, but they will not be the less useful, in
preparing your minds for considering the more important natures of
relation in general, that imply, indeed, always some actual qualities
in the objects themselves, the perception of which leads us afterwards
to consider them as related, but no actual quality in either of the
objects that primarily and directly corresponds with the notion of the
relation itself, as there are qualities of objects that correspond
directly with our sensations of warmth or colour, or any other of the
sensations excited immediately by external things. The relation is, in
every sense of the word _mental_, not merely as being a feeling of
the mind, for our knowledge of the qualities of external things is,
in this sense, equally mental; but, as having its cause and origin
directly in the very nature of the _mind itself_, which cannot regard a
number of objects, without forming some comparison, and investing them
consequently with a number of relations. I have already spoken of the
intellectual medium, through which external objects become known to us;
and the metaphor is a just one. The medium, in this case, as truly as
in the transmission of light, communicates something of its own to that
which it conveys; and it is as impossible for us to perceive objects
long or often together, without that comparison which instantly invests
them with certain relations, as it would be for us to perceive objects,
for a single moment, free from the tint of the coloured glass through
which we view them. “Omnes perceptiones,” says Lord Bacon, using a
similar figure, “omnes perceptiones, tam sensus quam mentis, sunt ex
analogia hominis, non ex analogia universi; estque intellectus humanus
instar speculi inæqualis ad radios rerum, qui suam naturam naturæ rerum
immiscet, eamque distorquet et inficit.”

But, whatever may be thought of relations in general, there can be no
question, at least, as to the nature of that unity which we ascribe to
bodies. We have seen, that the substance, which, in thought we regard
as _one_, is, in truth, not _one_, but _many_ substances, to which
our thought alone gives unity; and that all inquiry, therefore, with
respect to the nature of a substance, as it exists in space, is an
inquiry into the nature of those separate bodies, that occupy the space
which we assign to the imaginary aggregate.

To dissipate this imaginary aggregate of our own creation, and to show
us those separate bodies which occupy its space, and are all that
nature created, is the great office of the analytic art of _Chemistry_,
which does for us only what the microscope does, that enables us to
see the small objects which are before us at all times, without our
being able to distinguish them. When a chemist tells us, that glass,
which appears to us one uniform substance, is composed of different
substances, he tells us, what, with livelier perceptive organs, we
might have known, without a single experiment; since the siliceous
matter and the alkali were present to us in every piece of glass, as
much before he told us of their presence, as after it. The art of
analysis, therefore, has its origin in the mere imperfection of our
senses, and is truly the art of the blind, whose wants it is always
striving to remedy, and always discovering sufficient proof of its
inability to remedy them.

We boast, indeed, of the chemical discoveries which we have made of
late, with a rapidity of progress as brilliant, as it is unexampled
in the history of any other science; and we boast justly, because we
have found, what the generations of inquirers that have preceded us
on our globe,--far from detecting,--had not even ventured to guess.
Without alluding to the agency of the _Galvanic power_,--by which all
nature seems to be assuming before us a different aspect--we have seen
fixed in the products of our common fires, and in the drossy rust of
metals, the purest part of that ethereal fluid which we breathe, and
the air itself, which was so long considered as simple, ceasing to
be an element. Yet whatever unsuspected similarities and diversities
of composition we may have been able to trace in bodies, all our
discoveries have not created a single new particle of matter. They
have only shown these to exist, where they always existed, as much
before our analysis as after it,--unmarked indeed, but unmarked,
only because our senses alone were not capable of making the nice
discrimination. If man had been able to perceive, with his mere organs
of sense, the different particles that form together the atmospheric
air--if he had at all times seen the portion of these which unites
with the fuel that warms him, enter into this union, as distinctly as
he sees the mass of fuel itself, which he flings into his furnace, he
could not have thought it a very great intellectual achievement, to
state in words so common and familiar a fact,--the mere well-known
change of place of a few well-known particles; and yet this is what,
in the imperfect state of his perceptive organs, he so proudly terms
his _Theory of Combustion_, the developement of which was hailed by a
wondering world, and in these circumstances justly hailed by it, as a
_scientific era_. To beings, capable of perceiving and distinguishing
the different particles, that form by their aggregation, those small
masses, which, after the minutest mechanical division of which we are
capable, appear atoms to us, the pride which we feel, in our chemical
analyses, must seem as ludicrous, as to us would seem the pride of the
blind, if one, who had never enjoyed the opportunity of beholding the
sun, were to boast of having discovered, by a nice comparison of the
changing temperature of bodies, that, during certain hours of the day,
there passed over our earth some great source of heat. The addition
of one new sense to us, who have already the inestimable advantages
which vision affords, might probably, in a few hours, communicate more
instruction, with respect to matter, than all which is ever to repay
and consummate the physical labours of mankind,--giving, perhaps, to a
single glance, those slow revelations of nature, which, one by one, at
intervals of many centuries, are to immortalize the future sages of our

“All philosophy,” says an acute foreign writer, “is founded on these
two things,--that we have a great deal of curiosity, and very bad eyes.
In astronomy, for example, if our eyes were better, we should then see
distinctly, whether the stars really are, or are not, so many suns,
illuminating worlds of their own; and if, on the other hand, we had
less curiosity, we should then care a very little about this knowledge,
which would come pretty nearly to the same thing. But we wish to know
more than we see, and there lies the difficulty. Even if we saw _well_
the little which we do see, this would at least be some small knowledge
gained. But we observe it different from what it is; and thus it
happens, that a true philosopher passes his life, in not believing what
he sees, and in labouring to guess what is altogether beyond his sight.
I cannot help figuring to myself,” continues the same lively writer,
“that nature is a great public spectacle, which resembles that of the
opera. From the place at which we sit in the theatre, we do not see the
stage quite as it is. The scenes and machinery are arranged, so as to
produce a pleasing effect at a distance; and the weights and pullies,
on which the different movements depend, are hid from us. We therefore
do not trouble our heads with guessing, how this mechanical part of
the performance is carried on. It is perhaps only some mechanician,
concealed amid the crowd of the pit, who racks his brain about a
flight through the air, which appears to him extraordinary, and who
is seriously bent on discovering by what means it has been executed.
This mechanic, gazing, and wondering, and tormenting himself, in the
pit of the opera, is in a situation very like that of the philosopher
in the theatre of the world. But what augments the difficulty to the
philosopher, is, that, in the machinery which nature presents, the
cords are completely concealed from him,--so completely indeed, that
the constant puzzle has been to guess, what that secret contrivance is,
which produces the visible motions in the frame of the universe. Let us
imagine all the sages collected at an opera,--the Pythagorases, Platos,
Aristotles, and all those great names, which now-a-days make so much
noise in our ears. Let us suppose, that they see the flight of Phaeton,
as he is represented carried off by the winds; that they cannot
perceive the cords to which he is attached; and that they are quite
ignorant of every thing behind the scenes. It is a _secret virtue_,
says one of them, that carries off Phaeton. Phaeton, says another, is
composed of certain _numbers_, which cause him to ascend. A third says,
Phaeton has a certain _affection_ for the top of the stage. He does
not feel at his ease, when he is not there. Phaeton, says a fourth, is
not formed to fly; but he likes better to _fly_, than to leave the top
of the stage empty,--and a hundred other absurdities of the kind, that
might have ruined the reputation of antiquity, if the reputation of
antiquity, for wisdom could have been ruined. At last, come Descartes,
and some other moderns, who say, Phaeton ascends, because he is drawn
by cords, and because a weight, more heavy than he, is descending as
a counterpoise. Accordingly, we now no longer believe, that a body
will stir, unless it be drawn or impelled by some other body, or that
it will ascend, or descend, unless by the operation of some spring or
counterpoise; and thus to see nature, such as it really is, is to see
the back of the stage at the opera.”[24]

In this exposition of the phenomena of the universe, and of those
strange “follies of the wise,” which have been gravely propounded in
the systems of philosophers concerning them, there is much truth, as
well as happy pleasantry. As far, at least, as relates to matter,
considered merely as existing in space,--the first of the two lights
in which it may be physically viewed,--there can be no question,
that philosophy is nothing more than an endeavour to repair, by art,
the badness of our eyes, that we may be able to see what is actually
before us at every moment. To be fairly behind the scenes of the great
spectacle of nature, however, is something more than this. It is not
merely to know, at any one moment, that there are many objects existing
on the stage, which are invisible where the spectators sit, but to
know them as pieces of machinery, and to observe them operating in all
the wonders of the drama. It is, in short, to have that _second_ view
of nature, as existing in time as well as space, to the consideration
of which I am to proceed in my next Lecture.


[21] Nov. Org. Aph. 1.

[22] Preface aux Eloges--Œuvres, tom. v. p. 8.

[23] Fontenelle, Pluralité des Mondes, Conversat. 3.

[24] Fontenelle, Pluralité des Mondes, Conversat. 1.



In my last Lecture, Gentlemen, I considered, at some length, the nature
of _Physical Inquiry in general_, and stated to you, in particular, the
_two lights_, in which objects may be physically viewed, as existing
simply in _space_, or as existing in _time_,--the inquiries, with
respect to the one, having regard to the composition of bodies; the
inquiries, with respect to the other, having regard to the changes,
of which they are either the subjects or occasions, and consequently
to their susceptibilities or their powers--their susceptibilities of
being affected by other substances, their powers of affecting other
substances. I use the word _susceptibility_, you will perceive, as,
in this case, synonymous with what Mr Locke, and some other writers,
have denominated _passive power_, to avoid the apparent verbal
contradiction, or at least the ambiguity, which may arise from annexing
the term _passive_ to a word, which is generally employed to signify,
not the _subject_ of change, but the cause or occasion of change.

Of these two points of view, then, in which an object may be
regarded, when the question is put, What is it? we have seen, I hope,
sufficiently distinctly, the nature of one. If, in answering the
question, we regard the object merely as it exists in space, and say,
that it is a _compound_ of certain substances, we mean nothing more,
than that, in the portion of space, which we conceive to be occupied
by this one imaginary aggregate, there is truly a plurality of bodies,
which, though seemingly contiguous, have an existence, as separate and
independent of each other, as if they were at the most remote distance;
the one aggregate being nothing more than a name for these separate
bodies, to which ourselves give all the unity which they have, merely
by considering them as _one_.

The necessity of inquiring into the nature of these separate elementary
bodies,--which constitutes one of the two great departments of physical
investigation,--we found to arise from the imperfection of our senses,
that are not sufficiently acute to discover, of themselves, the
component parts of the masses, which nature everywhere presents to us.
We are thus obliged to form to ourselves an _art of analysis_, merely
that we may perceive what is constantly before our eyes, in the same
manner, as we are obliged to have recourse to the contrivances of the
optician, to perceive stars and planets, that are incessantly shedding
on us their light.

There is, indeed, something truly worthy of our astonishment, in
the sort of knowledge of the qualities of matter, which, with our
very imperfect senses, we are still able to attain. What we conceive
ourselves to know is an aggregate of many bodies, of each of which,
individually, we may be said, in the strictest sense of the term, to
be absolutely ignorant; and yet the aggregate, which we know, has no
real existence, but as that very multitude of bodies, of which we are
ignorant. When water was regarded as a _simple substance_, every one
who looked upon a lake or river, conceived that he knew as well what
the liquid was which flowed in it, as the chemist, who now considers it
as compound; and the chemist, who has learned to regard it as compound,
is perhaps as ignorant of the true nature of the separate bodies that
exist in it, as those who formerly regarded it as simple; since one
additional discovery may prove the very elements, which he now regards
as the ultimate constituents of water, to be truly compounded of other
elements, still more minute, and now altogether unknown to him.

That our only knowledge of matter should be of a multitude of
bodies, of the nature of each of which, individually, we are in
absolute ignorance, may seem, at first sight, to justify many of the
most extravagant doubts of the sceptic: and yet there is really no
ground for such scepticism, since, though the _coexisting_ bodies be
_separately_ unknown, the effect, which they produce when coexisting in
the circumstances observed by us, is not the less certain and definite;
and it is this joint effect of the whole, thus certain and definite,
which is the true object of our knowledge; not the uncertain effect,
which the minuter elements might produce, if they existed alone. The
same aggregates, whatever their elementary nature may be, operate on
our senses, as often as they recur, in the same manner; the unknown
elements which constitute an oak, or a tower, or the ivy that clings
around it, exciting in the mind those particular sensations, to the
external causes of which we continue to give the name of _oak_ or
_tower_ or _ivy_; and exciting these, as precisely and uniformly, as
if we were acquainted with each minute element of the objects without.
Our knowledge of nature must in this way, indeed, be confined to the
_mixed effects_ of the masses which it exhibits; but it is not on that
account less valuable, nor less sure; for to the certainty of this
limited knowledge all which is necessary is uniformity of the mixed
effects, whatever their unknown coexisting causes may be. It is with
_masses_ only, not with _elements_ that we are concerned, in all the
important purposes of life; and the provident wisdom of the Author of
Nature, therefore, has in this as in every other case, adapted our
powers to our necessities,--giving to all mankind the knowledge, that
is requisite for the purposes which all mankind must equally have in
view, and leaving to a few philosophic inquirers, the curiosity of
discovering what the substances around us truly are in their elementary
state, and the means of making continual progress, in this never-ending

Such then is the nature of _one_ of the views, in which physical
inquiry may be directed to the discovery of elements, that are existing
together, at the same moment. But is not this species of inquiry, it
may be asked, peculiar to _matter_, or may it also be extended to
_mind_? It is easy to conceive that, if matter always have extension,
and therefore necessarily be composed of parts, an inquiry into its
composition may form an important part of physical investigation;
but this sort of inquiry will seem to you altogether inadmissible in
the _philosophy of mind_, since the mind is not composed of parts
that coexist, but is simple and indivisible. If, indeed, the term
composition, in this application of it, be understood strictly in the
same sense as when applied to matter, it is very evident, that there
can be no inquiry into the composition of thoughts and feelings, since
every thought and feeling is as simple and indivisible as the mind
itself; being, in truth, nothing more than the mind itself existing at
a certain moment in a certain state; and yet, in consequence of some
very wonderful laws, which regulate the successions of our mental
phenomena, the science of mind is, in all its most important respects,
a science of analysis, or at least a science which exhibits to our
contemplation the same results as if it were strictly analytical; and
we inquire into the separate ideas or other feelings, involved in
one complex thought or emotion, very nearly as we inquire into the
corpuscular elements, that coexist in one seemingly continuous mass.
The nature of this very wonderful application of analysis, or at least
of a process which is virtually the same as analysis, to a substance,
that is necessarily at all times simple and indivisible, will, however,
be better understood by you, after we have turned our attention to
the other general division of physical inquiry, which is still to be
considered by us. I need not I hope, repeat, after the remarks which I
made in my last Lecture, that, in leading your thoughts, for so long
a time, to the subject of general science, I have had constantly in
view its application to the phenomena of our own department of it, and
that we are truly learning to study _mind_ with accuracy, when we are
learning what it is, which is to be studied in the great system of
things. There can be no question at least, that he who has erroneous
notions of the objects of physical investigation in the material
universe, will be very likely also to err, or rather cannot fail to
err, in his notions of the objects of physical investigation, as it
relates to mind.

I proceed, then, to consider, what it is which we truly have in
view, when we direct our inquiry, not to the mere composition of
objects existing continuously in _space_, but to the succession of
changes which they exhibit in _time_,--to their susceptibility of
being affected by other substances, or their power of affecting
other substances. The inquiry, as you must perceive, involves the
consideration of some words about which a peculiar mystery has been
very generally supposed to hang--_causation_, _power_, _connexion_ of
events. But we shall perhaps find that what is supposed so peculiarly
mysterious in them, is not in the very simple notions themselves, but
in the misconceptions of those who have treated of them.

It is not in this case, as in the former department of physical
investigation, the mere imperfection of our senses, that produces the
necessity of inquiry. Matter, as existing in space, is wholly before
us, and all which is necessary for perfect knowledge of it, in this
respect, is greater delicacy of our perceptive organs, that we may
distinguish every element of the seemingly continuous mass. To know the
mere _composition_ of a substance, is to know only what is actually
present at the very moment, which we may imagine senses of the highest
perfection to be capable of instantly perceiving; but to know all the
_susceptibilities_ and _powers_ of a substance, the various modes in
which it may affect or be affected by every other, is to know it, not
merely as it exists before us in the particular circumstances of any
one moment, but as it _might_ have existed, or _may_ exist, in all
possible circumstances of combination,--which our senses, that are
necessarily confined to the circumstances of the present moment, never
could teach us, even though they were able to distinguish every atom of
the minutest mass.

If, indeed, there were any thing, in the mere appearance of a body,
which could enable us to predict the changes that would take place
in it, when brought into every possible variety of situation, with
respect to other bodies, or the changes which it would then produce in
those other bodies, the two views, into which I have divided physical
inquiry, would coincide exactly; so that to know the _continuous
elements_ of any substance, would be to know, at the same time, its
_susceptibilities_ and _powers_. But there is nothing, in the mere
sensible qualities of bodies, considered separately, that can give
us even the slightest intimation of the changes, which, _in new
circumstances of union_, they might reciprocally suffer or produce.
Who could infer, from the _similar_ appearance of a lump of sugar and
a lump of calcareous spar, that the one would be soluble in water, and
the other remain unmelted; or, from the _different_ aspect of gunpowder
and snow, that a spark would be extinguished, if it fell upon the one,
and, if it fell upon the other, would excite an explosion that would
be almost irresistable? But for experience, we should be altogether
incapable of predicting any such effects, from either of the objects
compared; or, if we did know, that the peculiar susceptibility belonged
to one of the two, and not the other, we might as readily suppose, that
calcareous spar would melt in water as sugar, and as readily, that
_snow_ as that _gunpowder_ would detonate, by the contact of a spark.
It is _experience_ alone, which teaches us that these effects ever take
place, and that they take place, not in all substances, but only in
some particular substances.

It has, indeed, been supposed by many ingenious philosophers, that,
if we were acquainted with what they term the _intimate structure_
of bodies, we should then see, not merely _what_ corpuscular changes
take place in them, but _why_ these changes take place in them; and
should thus be able to predict, before experience, the effects which
they would reciprocally produce. “I doubt not,” says Locke, “but
if we could discover the figure, size, texture, and motion of the
minute constituent parts of any two bodies, we should know without
trial several of their operations one upon another, as we do now the
properties of a square or a triangle. Did we know the mechanical
affections of the particles of rhubarb, hemlock, opium, and a man; as a
watch-maker does those of a watch, whereby it performs its operations,
and of a file, which by rubbing on them will alter the figure of any
of the wheels; we should be able to tell before-hand, that rhubarb
will purge, hemlock kill, and opium make a man sleep; as well as a
watch-maker can, that a little piece of paper laid on the balance will
keep the watch from going, till it be removed; or that, some small part
of it being rubbed by a file, the machine would quite lose its motion,
and the watch go no more. The dissolving of silver in aquafortis, and
gold in aqua regia, and not _vice versa_, would be then perhaps no more
difficult to know, than it is to a smith to understand why the turning
of one key will open a lock, and not the turning of another. But
while we are destitute of senses acute enough to discover the minute
particles of bodies, and to give us ideas of the mechanical affections,
we must be content to be ignorant of their properties and ways of
operation; nor can we be assured about them any farther, than some few
trials we make are able to reach. But whether they will succeed again
another time, we cannot be certain. This hinders our certain knowledge
of universal truths concerning natural bodies: and our reason carries
us herein very little beyond particular matter of fact.

“And therefore I am apt to doubt, that how far soever human industry
may advance useful and experimental philosophy in physical things,
scientifical will still be out of our reach; because we want perfect
and adequate ideas of those very bodies which are nearest to us, and
most under our command. Those which we have ranked into classes under
names, and we think ourselves best acquainted with, we have but very
imperfect and incomplete ideas of. Distinct ideas of the several sorts
of bodies that fall under the examination of our senses perhaps we
may have; but adequate ideas, I suspect, we have not of any one among
them. And though the former of these will serve us for common use
and discourse, yet while we want the latter, we are not capable of
scientifical knowledge; nor shall ever be able to discover general,
instructive, unquestionable truths concerning them. Certainty and
demonstration are things we must not, in these matters, pretend to. By
the colour, figure, taste, and smell, and other sensible qualities, we
have as clear and distinct ideas of sage and hemlock, as we have of a
circle and a triangle; but having no ideas of the particular primary
qualities of the minute parts of either of these plants, nor of other
bodies which we would apply them to, we cannot tell what effects they
will produce; nor when we see those effects, can we so much as guess,
much less know, their manner of production. Thus having no ideas of the
particular mechanical affections of the minute parts of bodies that
are within our view and reach, we are ignorant of their constitutions,
powers, and operations: and of bodies more remote we are yet more
ignorant, not knowing so much as their very outward shapes, or the
sensible and grosser parts of their constitutions.”[25]

The fallacy of the reasoning of this very eminent philosopher consists
partly, in the present case, in a sort of _petitio principii_, or,
at least, a false assumption that is involved in the very phrase
_mechanical affections_, and in all the mechanical illustrations
adduced. If rhubarb purge, and hemlock kill, by qualities that can be
said to be mechanical, and if these qualities be PERMANENT, there can
be no question, that to know accurately the _mechanical qualities_ of
these substances, in relation to the human body, would be to know,
that rhubarb must purge, and hemlock kill, as much as to know the
mechanism of a watch would be to know, that the watch must stop, if
a small part of it were rubbed by a file. But the inquiry is still
left, whether it be thus, by the mere principles of mechanical action,
that rhubarb and hemlock produce their peculiar effects on the animal
system, and that silver is dissolved in aqua fortis, and gold in aqua
regia; and, if there be no reason whatever to suppose this, we must
then surely admit that the prophecy would still be beyond our power,
though we were acquainted with “the figure, size, texture, and motion,
of the minute constituent parts” of the different bodies. In the same
manner, as, in the mechanical division of a substance, we must still
come to other substances capable of further division, so, though we
could reduce all the changes that appear to be wrought in the great
masses around us, to the changes wrought in their minute parts, we must
still come to certain ultimate changes as inexplicable as those which
we see at present. It is as difficult to predict, without experience,
the motion of one atom to or from another atom, as the motion of one
mass of atoms to or from another mass of atoms. That the globe of the
earth should tend towards the sun, which is at so great a distance from
it, and should thus be every moment arrested within that orbit, from
which, if there were no such deflecting force, it would every moment
have a tendency to escape by flying off in a straight line, is, indeed,
most wonderful. But precisely the same laws which operate on the whole
globe of the earth, operate on every particle of which the earth is
composed,--since the earth itself is only these separate particles
under another name; and if it be wonderful that all of these should
have a tendency to approach the sun, it must be equally wonderful,
that each minute constituent particle should tend individually,
though, to use Mr Locke's words, we were accurately acquainted with
the “figure, size, texture, and motion of each.” The same original
mystery of gravitation, then, would remain, though our senses enabled
us to discover every gravitating particle in the intimate structure of
the gravitating mass. By knowing the intimate structure of bodies, we
should indeed, know _what_ were their elements mutually affected, but
not _why_ these elements were mutually affected, or were affected in
_one_ way rather than in _another_.

The chief error of Mr Locke, in this respect, evidently consisted,
as I have said, in his assumption of the very thing to be proved, by
taking for granted, that all the changes of bodies are the effects
of their immediate contact and impulse, and of a kind, therefore,
which may be termed strictly mechanical,--an assumption, indeed,
which harmonized with the mathematical chemistry and medicine of the
age in which he lived, but of the justness of which there is not the
slightest evidence in the general phenomena, chemical and nervous, of
which he speaks. If, instead of confining his attention to the action
of bodies in apparent contact, he had turned his thought to the great
distant agencies of nature in the motions of the planetary world, it is
scarcely possible to conceive that he should not have discovered his
mistake. In another of his works, his _Elements of Natural Philosophy_,
he has stated very justly, as a consequence of the law of gravitation,
that if the earth were the sole body in the universe, and at rest, and
the moon were suddenly created at the same distance from the earth
as at present, the earth and the moon would instantly begin to move
towards one another in a straight line. What knowledge of the “figure,
size, and texture,” of the particles of the earth could have enabled
its human inhabitants to predict this instant change? and if the
particles of gold and aqua regia, and of hemlock, rhubarb, and opium,
which, together with all the other particles of our globe, would in
the case supposed, instantly begin to move towards the moon,--can thus
attract and be attracted, in gravitation, with tendencies that are
independent of every mechanical affection, what authority can there
be for supposing, that the chemical and vital agencies of the same
particles must be mechanical, or that the one set of changes could have
been predicted _a priori_, if the other was confessedly beyond the
power of philosophic divination?

But even with regard to the mechanical affections of matter themselves,
though all the changes which take place in nature were truly reducible
to them, we should still have ultimately the same difficulty in
attempting to predict, without experience, the changes that would ensue
from them. The mechanical properties are indeed the most familiar to
our thought, because they are those which we are constantly witnessing
in the great displays of human power that are most striking to our
senses. The house, the bridge, the carriage, the vessel, every
implement which we use, and the whole wide surface of the cultivated
earth, present to us, as it were, one universal trophy of the victories
of the great mechanist, man. We cannot look back to the time when we
were ignorant of the mechanical properties of matter; but still there
was a time when they first became known to us, and became known by
experience of the motions that resulted from them. What can be simpler
than the phenomena of impulse? That a ball in motion, when it meets
another at rest, should force this to quit its place, appears now to be
something which it required no skill or experience to predict; and yet,
though our faculties were, in every respect, as vigorous as now,--if we
could imagine this most common of all phenomena to be wholly unknown
to us,--what reason should we be able to discover in the circumstances
that immediately precede the shock, for inferring the effect that
truly results, rather than any other effect whatever? Were the laws of
motion previously unknown, it would be in itself as presumable, that
the moving ball should simply stop when it reached the other, or that
it should merely rebound from it, as that the quiescent ball should
be forced by it to quit its state of rest, and move forward in the
same direction. We know, indeed, that the effect is different, but it
is because we have witnessed it that we know it; not because the laws
of motion, or any of the mechanical affections of matter whatever are
qualities that might be inferred independently of observation.

Experience, then, is necessary in every case, for discovering the
mutual tendencies of the _elements_ of bodies, as much as for
determining the reciprocal affections of the _masses_. But experience
teaches us the past only, not the future, and the object of physical
inquiry is, not the mere solitary fact of a change which has taken
place, but the similar changes which will continually take place as
often as the objects are again in the same circumstances,--not the
_phenomena_ only, but the _powers_ by which the phenomena are produced.

Why is it, then, we believe that continual similarity of the future
to the past, which constitutes, or at least is implied, in our notion
of power? A stone tends to the earth,--a stone will always tend to
the earth,--are not the same proposition; nor can the _first_ be said
to involve the _second_. It is not to experience, then, alone that we
must have recourse for the origin of the belief, but to some other
principle, which converts the simple facts of experience into a general
expectation, or confidence, that is afterwards to be physically the
guide of all our plans and actions.

This principle, since it cannot be derived from experience itself,
which relates only to the past, must be an original principle of our
nature. There is a tendency in the very constitution of the mind
from which the expectation arises,--a tendency that, in every thing
which it adds to the mere facts of experience, may truly be termed
_instinctive_; for though that term is commonly supposed to imply
something peculiarly mysterious, there is no more real mystery in it
than in any of the simplest successions of thought, which are all, in
like manner, the results of natural tendency of the mind to exist in
certain states, after existing in certain other states. The belief
is, a state or feeling of the mind as easily conceivable as any other
state of it,--a new feeling, arising in certain circumstances as
uniformly as in certain other circumstances. There arise other states
or feelings of the mind, which we never consider as mysterious; those,
for example, which we term the sensations of sweetness or of sound.
To have our nerves of taste or hearing affected in a certain manner,
is not, indeed, to taste or to hear, but it is immediately afterwards
to have those particular sensations; and this merely because the mind
was originally so constituted, as to exist directly in the one state
after existing in the other. To observe, in like manner, a series
of antecedents and consequents, is not, in the very feeling of the
moment, to believe in the future similarity, but, in consequence of a
similar original tendency, it is immediately afterwards to believe,
that the _same antecedents_ will invariably be followed by the _same
consequents_. That this belief of the future is a state of mind very
different from the mere perception or memory of the past, from which
it flows, is indeed true; but what resemblance has sweetness, as a
sensation of the mind, to the solution of a few particles of sugar on
the tongue,--or the harmonies of music, to the vibration of particles
of air? All which we know, in both cases, is, that these successions
regularly take place; and in the regular successions of nature,
which could not, in one instance more than in another, have been
predicted without experience, nothing is mysterious, or every thing is
mysterious. It is wonderful, indeed,--for what is not wonderful?--that
any belief should arise as to a _future_ which as yet has no existence;
and which, therefore, cannot, in the strict sense of the word, be an
object of our knowledge. But, when we consider Who it was who formed
us, it would, in truth, have been more wonderful, if the mind had been
so differently constituted that the belief had not arisen; because, in
that case, the phenomena of nature, however regularly arranged, would
have been arranged in vain, and that Almighty Being, who, by enabling
us to foresee the physical events that are to arise, has enabled us
to provide for them, would have left the creatures, for whom he has
been so bounteously provident, to perish, ignorant and irresolute, amid
elements that seemed waiting to obey them,--and victims of confusion,
in the very midst of all the harmonies of the universe.

Mr Hume, indeed, has attempted to show, that the belief of the
similarity of future sequences of events is reducible to the influence
of custom, without the necessity of any intuitive expectation; but he
has completely failed in the reasoning with which he has endeavoured
to support this opinion. Custom may account for the mere suggestion of
one object by another, as a part of a train of images, but not for that
belief of future realities, which is a very different state of mind,
and which, perhaps, does not follow every such suggestion, however
frequent and habitual. The phenomenon A, a stone has a thousand times
fallen to the earth; the phenomenon B, a stone will always, in the same
circumstances, fall to the earth; are propositions that differ as much
as the propositions, A, a stone has _once_ fallen to the earth; B, a
stone will always fall to the earth. At whatever link of the chain we
begin, we must still meet with the same difficulty--the conversion of
the past into the future. If it be absurd to make this conversion at
one stage of inquiry, it is just as absurd to make it at any other
stage; and, as far as our memory extends, there never was a time at
which we did not make the instant conversion,--no period, however
early, at which we were capable of knowing that a stone had fallen,
and yet believed that, in exactly the same circumstances, there was
no reason to suppose that it would fall again. But on this particular
error of Mr Hume, the very narrow outline, within which the present
sketch is necessarily bounded, will not permit me to enlarge. I have
examined it, at considerable length, in the third edition of the
Inquiry which I have published on the Relation of Cause and Effect.

It is more immediately our present purpose to consider, What it truly
is which is the object of inquiry, when we examine the physical
successions of events, in whatever manner the belief of their
similarity of sequence may have arisen? Is it the mere series of
regular antecedents and consequents themselves? or, Is it any thing
more mysterious, which must be supposed to intervene and connect them
by some invisible bondage?

We see, in nature, one event followed by another. The fall of a
spark on gunpowder, for example, followed by the deflagration of the
gunpowder; and, by a peculiar tendency of our constitution, which we
must take for granted, whatever be our theory of power, we believe,
that as long as all the circumstances continue the same, the sequence
of events will continue the same; that the deflagration of gunpowder,
for example, will be the invariable consequence of the fall of a spark
on it;--in other words, we believe the gunpowder to be susceptible of
deflagration on the application of a spark,--and a spark to have the
power of deflagrating gunpowder.

There is nothing more, then, understood in the trains of events,
however regular, than the regular order of antecedents and consequents
which compose the train; and between which, if any thing else existed,
it would itself be a part of the train. All that we mean, when we
ascribe to one substance a susceptibility of being affected by another
substance, is, that a certain change will uniformly take place in it
when that other is present;--all that we mean, in like manner when we
ascribe to one substance a power of affecting another substance, is,
that, when it is present a certain change will uniformly take place
in that other substance. Power, in short, is significant not of any
thing different from the invariable antecedent itself, but of the mere
invariableness of the order of its appearance in reference to some
invariable consequent,--the invariable antecedent being denominated
a _cause_, the invariable consequent an _effect_. To say, that water
has the power of dissolving salt, and to say, that salt will always
melt when water is poured upon it, are to say precisely the same
thing;--there is nothing in the one proposition, which is not exactly,
and to the same extent, enunciated in the other.

It would, indeed, be a very different theory of causation, if, without
taking into account the important circumstance of invariableness or
the uniform certainty of being at all times followed by a particular
event, we were to say, that power is mere antecedence; for there can
be no question, that phenomena precede other phenomena, which we never
consider as having any permanent relation to them. They are regarded
as antecedents, but not invariable antecedents, and the reason of this
is obvious. Innumerable events are constantly taking place together
in the immense system of the universe. There must, therefore, always
be innumerable co-existing series, the parts of each of which, though
permanently related to each other, may have no permanent relation
to the parts of the other series; and one event of one series, may
thus precede, not its own effect merely, which is to be its constant
and uniform attendant, in all similar circumstances, but the events
also of other co-existing series, which may never occur with it again
at the same moment. There is no superstition in believing that an
eclipse _may_ be followed by a pestilence, or an unpleasant dream
by some unforeseen calamity of the day, though there would be much
superstition in believing, that these antecedents and consequents
had any _permanent_ relation to each other. In ordinary and familiar
cases, at least, every one knows sufficiently the distinction of
what is thus _casual_ only, and what is _invariable_ in the order of
nature. Yet it is only by losing all sight of a distinction so very
obvious, and confounding invariable with casual consequences, that
Dr Reid, and other eminent philosophers, have been led into much
laborious argumentation, in the confidence of confuting one of the
simplest and justest of metaphysical opinions. To prove that power
is more than invariable antecedence, they prove that it is more than
casual antecedence, and that events do not follow each other, loosely
and confusedly, as if antecedents could be invariable, which had not
consequents as invariable, or, as if an uniform series were not merely
another name for a number of uniform antecedents and consequents. A
_cause_ is, perhaps, not that which has merely _once_ preceded an
event; but we give the name to that which _has_ always been followed
by a certain event, _is_ followed by a certain event, and according to
our belief, _will continue_ to be in future followed by that event, as
its immediate consequent; and causation, power, or any other synonymous
words which we may use, express nothing more than this permanent
relation of that which has preceded to that which has followed. If this
invariableness of succession, past, present, and future, be not that
which constitutes one event the _effect_ of another, Dr Reid, at least,
has not pointed out any additional circumstance which we must combine
with it, in our definition of an effect, though he has shown, indeed,
with most abundant evidence, if any evidence at all were necessary,
that the antecedents and consequents are not the same; that we use
active and passive verbs, in different senses, applying, as might well
be supposed, the one to the antecedent, the other to the consequent;
that we speak of effects and causes as if truly different, since it
is unquestionably not the same thing to _follow_ uniformly a certain
change, and to _precede_ uniformly a certain change, and that we never
think of giving those names where we do not conceive that there is some
permanent relation. But, though these distinctions might be allowed
to have irresistible weight, in opposition to the scepticism, if such
extravagant scepticism there ever were, which affirmed the sequences
of events to be altogether casual and irregular, they are surely of
no weight against that simple definition of power, which affirms it
to consist in the probability of the invariable _sequence_. of some
event as its immediate _consequent_; since this very regularity of the
sequences, which is supposed by the definition, must, of itself, have
given occasion to all those distinctions of thought and language which
Dr Reid has adduced.

That one event should invariably be followed by another event,
is indeed, it will be allowed, as every thing in nature is, most
wonderful, and can be ascribed only to the infinite source of every
thing wonderful and sublime; the will of that divine Being, who gave
the universe its laws, and who formed these with a most beneficent
arrangement for the happiness of his creatures, who, without a belief
in the uniformity of these laws, to direct their conduct, could not
have known how to preserve even their animal existence. But the
uniformity of succession is surely not rendered less wonderful, by a
mere change of name. It is the same unaltered wonder still, when we
ascribe the term _power_ to the prior of two events, as when we ascribe
to it the exactly synonymous phrase _invariableness of antecedence_;
each of these terms implying nothing more than that the one event
cannot take place without being immediately followed by the other.
The permanence and uniformity of the relation are the essential
circumstances. To be that which cannot exist, without being instantly
followed by a certain event, is to be the _cause_ of the _event_, as
a correlative _effect_. It is impossible for us to believe, that the
invariable antecedent is any thing but the cause, or the cause any
thing but the invariable antecedent; as it is impossible for us to
believe that _homo_ is the Latin synonime of _man_, and yet that _man_
is not the English synonime of _homo_.

To know the _powers_ of nature, is, then, nothing more than to know
what antecedents are and will be _invariable_, followed by what
consequents; for this invariableness, and not any distinct existence,
is all which the shorter term power, in any case, expresses; and this,
and this alone, is the true object of physical inquiry, in that second
point of view, in which we have considered it, as directed to the
successions of events.

Whenever, therefore, the question is put, as to any object, What is
it? there are two answers, and only two answers, that can be given
with meaning. We may regard it as it exists _in space_, and state the
elements that co-exist in it, or rather that constitute it; or we may
regard it, as it exists _in time_, and state, in all the series of
changes, of which it forms an invariable part, the objects to which it
is related as antecedent or consequent.

To combine these two views of nature, as it exists in space and time,
and to know, with perfect accuracy, every element of every aggregate,
and every series of changes, of which each forms, or can form, a
part, would be to know every thing which can be physically known of
the universe. To extend our mere physical inquiry still farther into
the phenomena of nature, after this perfect knowledge, would be to
suppose erroneously, that, in the compounds before us, of which we
know every element, there is some element, not yet discovered, or, in
the well-known successions of events, some antecedent or consequent
as yet unobserved; or it would be to inquire without any real object
of inquiry,--a sort of investigation, which, for two thousand years,
was almost the sole employment of the subtile and the studious, and
which is far from having perished, with those venerable follies of
the schools, at which we know so well how to smile, even while we are
imitating them, perhaps, with similar errors of our own. I cannot
but think, for example, that, on this very subject of the connexion
of events, the prevalent notions and doctrines, even of very eminent
philosophers, are not far advanced beyond the verbal complexity of the
four causes of which Aristotle treats, the _material_, the _formal_,
the _efficient_, and the _final_; or Plato's five causes, which Seneca,
in one of his Epistles, briefly defines the _id ex quo_, the _id a
quo_, the _id quo_, the _id ad quod_, and the _id propter quod_,[26]
and though there were no other evidence than this one subject affords,
it would still, I fear, prove sufficiently, that, with all our
manifest improvements in our plans of philosophical investigation, and
all the splendid discoveries to which these improvements have led,
we have not wholly lost that great art, which, for so long a time,
supplied the place of the whole art of philosophizing--the art of
inquiring assiduously, without knowing what we are inquiring about.

It is an art, indeed, which, there is too much reason to suppose,
will accompany philosophy, though always, it is to be hoped, in less
and less proportion, during the whole course of its progress. There
will forever be points, on which those will reason ill, who may yet
reason, with perfect accuracy, on other matters. With all those sublime
discoveries of modern times, which do us so much honour, and with
that improved art of discovery, which is still more valuable to us
than the discoveries produced by it, we must not flatter ourselves
with exemption from the errors of darker ages--of ages truly worthy
of the name of dark, but to which we perhaps give the name, with more
readiness, because it seems to imply, that our own is an age of light.
Our real comfort, in comparing ourselves with the irrefragable and
subtile doctors of other times, is not that we do not sometimes reason
as indefatigably ill as they, and without knowing what we are truly
reasoning about, but that we do this much _less_ frequently, and are
continually lessening the number of cases, in which we reason as ill,
and increasing, in proportion, the number of cases, in which we reason
better, and do truly know, what objects we are seeking.

Of all the cases, however, in which it is of importance, that the
mind should have precise notions of its objects of inquiry, the most
important are those which relate to the subject at present considered
by us; because the nature of power, in the relation which it is
impossible for us not to feel of events, as reciprocally effects and
causes, must enter, in a great measure, into every inquiry which we are
capable of making, as to the successive phenomena, either of matter
or of mind. It is of so much importance, therefore, to our future
inquiries, that you should know what this universal and paramount
relation is, that I have dwelt on it at a length, which I fear must
have already exhausted your patience; since it is a discussion, I
must confess, which requires considerable effort of attention; and
which has nothing, I must also confess, to recommend it, but its dry
utility. I trust, however, that you are too well acquainted with the
nature of science, not to know, that it is its utility which is its
primary recommendation; and that you are too desirous of advancing in
it, not to disregard the occasional ruggedness of a road, which is far
from being always rugged. It may be allowed to him, who walks only for
the pleasure of the moment, to turn away from every path, in which he
has not flowers and verdure beneath his feet, and beauty wherever he
looks around. But what should we have thought of the competitor of
the Olympic course, whose object was the glory of a prize, contested
by the proudest of his contemporary heroes, if, with that illustrious
reward before him,--with strength and agility that might ensure him
the possession of it,--and with all the assembled multitudes of Greece
to witness his triumph, he had turned away, from the contest, and the
victory, because he was not to tread on softness, and to be refreshed
with fragrance, as he moved along! In that knowledge which awaits your
studies, in the various sciences to which your attention may be turned,
you have a much nobler prize before you; and, therefore, I shall not
hesitate to call forth occasionally all the vigour of your attention,
at the risk of a little temporary fatigue, as often as it shall appear
to me, that, by exciting you to more than ordinary intellectual
activity, I can facilitate your acquisition of a reward, which the
listless exertions of the indolent never can obtain, and which is as
truly the prize of strenuous effort, as the Palms of the Circus or the


[25] Essay concerning Human Understanding, book iv. c. 3. sec. 25, 26.

[26] Epist. 65.



My last Lecture, Gentlemen, was chiefly employed in examining _what
it is_, which is the real object of inquiry, when we consider the
phenomena of nature as successive; and we found, that, by an original
principle of our constitution, we are led, from the mere observation
of change, to believe, that, when similar circumstances recur, the
changes, which we observed, will also recur in the same order,--that
there is hence conceived by us to be a permanent relation of one
event, as invariably antecedent, to another event, as invariably
consequent,--and that this _permanent relation_ is all which
constitutes _power_. It is a word, indeed, of much seeming mystery; but
all which is supposed to be mysterious and perplexing in it vanishes,
when it is regarded in its true light as only a short general term,
expressive of invariable antecedence, or, in other words, of that,
which cannot exist in certain circumstances, without being immediately
followed by a certain definite event, which we denominate an effect, in
reference to the antecedent, which we denominate a cause. To express,
shortly, what appears to me to be the only intelligible meaning of
the three most important words in physics, immediate invariable
_antecedence_, is _power_,--the immediate invariable _antecedent_, in
any sequence, is a _cause_,--the immediate invariable _consequent_ is
the correlative _effect_.

The object of philosophic inquiry, then, in that second department
of it, which we considered with respect to the phenomena of nature
as successive, we have found not to be any thing different from the
phenomena themselves, but to be those very phenomena, as preceding
or following, in certain regular series. Power is not any thing that
can exist separately from a substance, but is merely the substance
itself, considered in relation to another substance,--in the same
manner, as what we denominate _form_, is not any thing separate from
the elementary atoms of a mass, but is merely the relation of a number
of atoms, as co-existing in apparent contact. The sculptor at every
stroke of his chisel, alters the form of the block of marble on which
he works, not by communicating to it any new qualities, but merely by
separating from it a number of the corpuscles, which were formerly
included by us, in our conception of the continuous whole; and when
he has given the last delicate touches that finish the Jupiter, or
the Venus, or Apollo, the divine form which we admire, as if it had
assumed a new existence beneath the artist's hand, is still in itself
_unaltered_,--the same quiescent mass, that slumbered for ages in the
quarry of which it was a part.

    Quale fuscæ marmor in Africæ
    Solo recisum, sumere idoneum
      Quoscunque vultus, seu Diana
      Seu Cytheræa magis placebit;
    Informis, ater, sub pedibus jacet,
    Donec politus Phidiaca manu
      Formosa tandem destinatæ
      Induitur lapis ora divæ.
    Jam, jamque poni duritiem placens,
    Et nunc ocelli, et gratia mollium
      Spirat genarum, nunc labella et
      Per nivium coma sparsa collum.

The _form_ of bodies is the relation of their elements to each other
_in space_,--the _power_ of bodies is their relation to each other
_in time_; and both form and power, if considered separately from
the number of elementary corpuscles, and from the changes that arise
successively, are equally abstractions of the mind, and nothing
more. In a former Lecture, I alluded to the influence of errors with
respect to the nature of abstraction, as one of the principal causes
that retard the progress of philosophy. We give a name to some common
quality of many substances; and we then suppose, that there is in
it something real, because we have given it a name, and strive to
discover, what that is in itself, which, in itself, has no existence.
The example, which I used at that time, was the very striking one, of
the _genera_, and _species_, and the whole classes of ascending and
descending universals of the schools. I might have found an example,
as striking, in those abstractions of form and power, which we are
now considering,--abstractions, that have exercised an influence
on philosophy, as injurious as the whole series of universals in
Porphyry's memorable tree, and one of which, at least, still continues
to exercise the same injurious influence, when the tree of Porphyry has
been long disregarded, and almost forgotten.

In the philosophy of Aristotle, _form_, which all now readily allow
to be a mere abstraction of the mind, when considered separately from
the figured substance, was regarded as something equally real with
matter itself; and indeed, _matter_, which was supposed to derive from
_form_ all its qualities, was rather the less important of the two. Of
substantial forms, however, long so omnipotent, we now hear, only in
those works which record the errors of other ages, as a part of the
history of the fallible being, man, or in those higher works of playful
ridicule, which convert our very follies into a source of amusement,
and find abundant materials, therefore, in what was once the wisdom of
the past. Crambé, the young companion of Martinus Scribblerus, we are
told, “regretted extremely, that substantial forms, a race of harmless
beings, which had lasted for many years, and afforded a comfortable
subsistence to many poor philosophers, should be now hunted down like
so many wolves, without the possibility of a retreat. He considered
that it had gone much harder with them, than with _essences_, which
had retired from the schools, into the apothecaries' shops, where
some of them had been advanced into the degree of quintessences. He
thought there should be a retreat for poor substantial forms among
the Gentlemen Ushers at Court, and that there were indeed substantial
forms, such as _forms of Prayer_ and _forms of Government_, without
which the things themselves could never long subsist.”[27]

The subject of this pleasantry is, indeed, it must be owned, so
absurd in itself, as scarcely to require the aid of wit, to render it
ridiculous; and yet this more than poetic personification of the mere
figure of a body, as itself a separate unity, which appears to us too
absurd almost to be feigned as an object of philosophic belief, even
to such a mind as that of Crambé, was what, for age after age, seemed
to the most intelligent philosophers a complete explanation of all the
wonders of the universe; and _substantial forms_, far from needing a
retreat among Gentlemen Ushers at Court, had their place of highest
honours amid Doctors and Disputants, in every School and College,
where, though they certainly could not give science, they at least
served the temporary purpose of rendering the want of it unfelt, and of
giving all the dignity which science itself could have bestowed.

The vague and obscure notions, at present attached to the words
power, cause, effect, appear to me very analogous to the notions of
the Peripatetics, and, indeed, of the greater number of the ancient
philosophers, with respect to form; and, I trust that as we have now
universally learned to consider _form_, as nothing in itself, but only
as the relation of bodies co-existing immediately in space, so _power_
will at length be as universally considered as only the relation which
substances bear to each other _in time_, according as their phenomena
are immediately successive; the invariable antecedent being the
cause, the invariable consequent the effect; and the antecedent and
consequent being all that are present in any phenomenon. There are, in
nature, only substances; and all the substances in nature, are every
thing that truly exists in nature. There is, therefore, no additional
_power_, separate, or different from the antecedent itself, more than
there is _form_, separate or different from the figured mass, or any
other quality, without a substance. In the beautiful experiment of the
prismatic decomposition of light, for example, the refracting power
of the prism is not any thing separate or separable from it, more
than its weight or transparency of colour. There are not a prism and
transparency, but there is a prism giving passage to light. In like
manner, there are not a prism, and refracting power, and coloured
rays, but there are a prism and rays of various colours, which we
have perceived to be deflected variously from their original line of
direction, when they approach and quit the lens, and which we believe,
will, in the same circumstances, continually exhibit the same tendency.

It is the mere regularity of the successions of events, not any
additional and more mysterious circumstance, which power may be
supposed to denote, that gives the whole value to our physical
knowledge. It is of importance for us to know, _what_ antecedents
truly precede _what_ consequents; since we can thus provide for that
future, which we are hence enabled to foresee, and can, in a great
measure, modify, and almost create, the future to ourselves, by
arranging the objects over which we have command, in such a manner,
as to form with them the antecedents, which we know to be invariably
followed by the consequents desired by us. It is thus we are able to
exercise that command over nature, which _He_, who is its only real
Sovereign, has designed, in the magnificence of His bounty, to confer
on us, together with the still greater privilege of knowing that
Omnipotence to which all our delegated empire is so humbly subordinate.
It is a command which can be exercised by us, only as beings, who,
according to one of the definitions that have been given of man, look
both _before_ and _behind_; or, in the words of Cicero, who join and
connect the future with the present, seeing things, not in their
progress merely, but in the circumstances that precede them, and the
circumstances that follow them, and being thus enabled to provide and
arrange whatever is necessary for that life, of which the whole course
lies open before us. “Homo autem (quod rationis est particeps, per quam
consequentia cernit, causas rerum videt, earumque progressus et quasi
antecessiones non ignorat, similitudines comparat, et rebus præsentibus
adjungit atque annectit futuras) facile totius vitæ cursum videt, ad
eamque degendam præparat res necessarias.”[28]

That power is nothing more than the relation of one object or event
as antecedent to another object or event, though its immediate and
invariable consequent, may, perhaps, from the influence of former
habits of thought, or rather, of former abuse of language, at
first appear to you an unwarrantable simplification; for, though
you may never have clearly conceived, in power, any thing more
than the immediate sequence of a certain change or event, as its
uniform attendant, the mere habit of attaching to it many phrases of
mystery, may, very naturally, lead you to conceive, that, in itself,
independently of these phrases, there must be something peculiarly
mysterious. But the longer you attend to the notion, the more clearly
will you perceive, that all which you have ever understood in it,
is the immediate sequence of some change with the certainty of the
future recurrence of this effect, as often as the antecedent itself
may recur in similar circumstances. To take an example, which I have
already repeatedly employed, when a spark falls upon gunpowder, and
kindles it into explosion, every one ascribes to the spark the _power_
of kindling the inflammable mass. But let any one ask himself, what
it is which he means by the term, and, without contenting himself
with a few phrases that signify nothing, _reflect_, before he give
his answer, and he will find, that he means nothing more than that,
in all similar circumstances, the explosion of gunpowder will be the
immediate and uniform consequence of the application of a spark. To
take an example more immediately connected with our own science, we all
know, that as soon as any one, in the usual circumstances of health
and freedom, wills to move his arm, the motion of his arm follows; and
we all believe, that, in the same circumstance of health, and in the
same freedom from external restraint, the same _will_ to move the arm,
will be constantly followed by the same motion. If we knew and believed
nothing more, than that this motion of the arm would uniformly follow
the will to move it, would our knowledge of this particular phenomenon
be less perfect, than at present, and should we learn any thing new, by
being told, that the will would not merely be invariably followed by
the motion of the arm, but that the will would also have the power of
moving the arm; or would not the power of moving the arm be precisely
the same thing, as the invariable sequence of the motion of the arm,
when the will was immediately antecedent?

This test of identity, as I have said in my Essay on the subject,
appears to me to be a most accurate one. When a proposition is true,
and yet communicates no additional information, it must be of exactly
the same import, as some other proposition, formerly understood and
admitted. Let us suppose ourselves, then, to know all the antecedents
and consequents in nature, and to believe, not merely that they have
once or repeatedly existed in succession, but that they have uniformly
done so, and will continue forever to recur in similar series, so that,
but for the intervention of the Divine will, which would be itself,
in that case, a new antecedent, it will be absolutely impossible for
any one of the antecedents to exist again, in similar circumstances,
without being instantly followed by its original consequent. If an
effect be something more than what invariably follows a particular
antecedent, we might, on the present supposition, know every invariable
consequent of every antecedent, so as to be able to predict, in their
minutest circumstance, what events would forever follow every other
event, and yet have no conception of power or causation. We might know,
that the flame of a candle, if we hold our hand over it, would be
instantly followed by pain and burning of the hand,--that, if we ate
or drank a certain quantity, our hunger and thirst would cease:--we
might even build houses for shelter, sow and plant for sustenance, form
legislative enactments for the prevention or punishment of vice, and
bestow rewards for the encouragement of virtue;--in short, we might
do, as individuals and citizens, whatever we do at this moment, and
with exactly the same views, and yet, (on the supposition that power
is something different from that invariable antecedence which alone we
are supposed to know,) we might with all this unerring knowledge of
the future, and undoubting confidence in the results which it was to
present, have no knowledge of a single power in nature, or of a single
cause or effect. To him who had previously kindled a fire, and placed
on it a vessel full of water, with the certainty that the water, in
that situation, would speedily become hot, what additional information
would be given, by telling him that the fire had the _power_ of boiling
water, that it was the _cause_ of the boiling, and the boiling its
_effect_? And, if no additional information would in this case be
given, then, according to the test of this identity of propositions,
before stated, to know events as invariably antecedent and consequent,
is to know them as causes and effects; and to know all the powers of
every substance therefore, would be only to know what changes or events
would, in all possible circumstances, ensue, when preceded by certain
other changes or events. It is only by confounding _casual_ with
uniform and invariable antecedence, that power can be conceived, to be
something different from antecedence. It certainly is something very
different from the priority of a single moment; but it is impossible
to form any conception of it whatever, except merely as that which is
constantly followed by a certain effect.

Such is the _simple_, and, as it appears to me, the _only_ intelligible
view of _power_, as discoverable in the successive phenomena of
nature. And yet, how different from this simple view is the common,
or, I may almost say, the universal notion of the agencies, which are
supposed to be concerned in the phenomena that are the objects of
philosophic inquiry. It is the detection of the powers of nature, to
which such inquiry is supposed to lead,--but not of powers, in the
sense in which alone that phrase is intelligible, as signifying the
objects themselves which uniformly precede certain changes. The powers
which our investigation is to detect, or which, at least, in all the
phenomena that come under our observation, we are to consider as the
sole efficient, though invisible producers of them, are conceived
by us to be something far more mysterious,--something that is no
part of the antecedent, and yet is a part of it,--or that intervenes
between each antecedent and consequent, without being itself any thing
intermediate,--as if it were possible that any thing could intervene in
a series, without instantly becoming itself a part of the series,--a
new link in the lengthened chain,--the consequent of the former
antecedent, and the antecedent of the former consequent.

To me, indeed, it appears so very obvious a truth, that the substances
which exist in nature--the world, its living inhabitants, and the
adorable Being who created them,--are all the real existences in
nature, and that, in the various changes which occur, therefore, there
can as little be any powers or susceptibilities different from the
antecedents and consequents themselves, as there can be forms different
from the co-existing particles which constitute them,--that to labour
thus to impress this truth upon your minds, seems to me almost like
an attempt to demonstrate a self-evident proposition. An illusion,
however, so universal, as that which supposes the powers of nature,
to be something more, than the mere series of antecedents themselves,
is not rashly, or without very full inquiry, to be considered as an
illusion; and, at any rate, in the case of a mistake, so prevalent
and so important in its consequences, it cannot be uninteresting, to
inquire into the circumstances, that appear most probably to have led
to it. Indeed the more false, and the more obviously false the illusion
is, the more must it deserve our inquiry, _what_ those circumstances
have been which have so long obtained for it the assent, not of common
understanding merely, but of the quick-sighted and the subtile. For a
full view of my opinions on this subject, I must refer you to the work
which I have published on the Relation of Cause and Effect; and the
short abstract of them which I now offer, as it would be superfluous
for those who have read and understood that work, is chiefly for the
sake of those who may not have had an opportunity of perusing the
volume itself.

One source of the general fallacy unquestionably is that influence
of _abstraction_, to which I before alluded, as aided, and in a
great measure perpetuated, by the use of language, and the common
unavoidable modes of grammatical construction. We speak of the powers
of a substance, of substances that have certain power--of the figure
of a body, or of bodies that have a certain figure, in the same manner
as we speak of the students of a university, or of a house that has
a great number of lodgers; and we thus learn to consider the power,
which a substance possesses, as something different from the substance
itself, inherent in it indeed, but inherent, as something that may yet
subsist separately. In the ancient philosophy, this error extended to
the notions both of form and power. In the case of _form_, however, we
have seen, that the illusion, though it lasted for many ages, did at
length cease, and that no one now regards the _figure_ of a body, as
any thing but the body itself. It is probable that the illusion, with
respect to power, as something different from the substance that is
said to possess it, would, in like manner, have ceased, and given place
to juster views, if it had not been for the cause, which I am next to

This cause is the _imperfection of our senses_, the same cause which,
in the other department of physics before examined by us,--the
department, that relates to matter considered merely as existing
in space,--we find to give occasion to all our inquiries into the
compositions of bodies. In this department of physics, however, which
relates to the successions of phenomena in time, the imperfection of
our senses operates in a different way. It is not that which gives
occasion to the necessity of inquiry; for we have seen, that senses,
of the utmost accuracy and delicacy, could not, of themselves, and
without experience, have enabled us to predict any one event, in the
innumerable series of phenomena that are constantly taking place
around us. But, though senses of the nicest discrimination could not
have rendered inquiry into the successions of events superfluous, they
would have saved us from much idle inquiry, and have given far greater
precision, if not to our _rules_, at least to our uniform _practice_,
of philosophizing.

As our senses are at present constituted, they are too imperfect, to
enable us to distinguish all the elements, that co-exist in bodies,
and of elements, which are themselves unknown to us, the minute
changes which take place in them, must of course be unknown. We are
hence, from our incapacity of discovering these elements by our
imperfect senses, and imperfect analysis, incapable of distinguishing
the whole series of external changes that occur in them,--the whole
progressive series of antecedents and consequents in a phenomenon
that appears to our senses simple; and, since it is only between
immediate antecedents and consequents, that we suppose any permanent
and invariable relation, we are therefore constantly on the watch, to
detect, in the more obvious changes that appear to us in nature, some
of those minuter elementary changes, which we suspect to intervene.
These minute invisible changes, when actually intervening, are truly
what connect the obvious antecedents with the obvious consequents; and
the innumerable discoveries, which we are constantly making of these,
lead us habitually to suppose, that, amid all the visible changes
perceived by us, there is something latent which links them together.
He who for the first time listens to the delightful sounds of a violin,
if he be ignorant of the theory of sound, will very naturally suppose
that the touch of the strings by the bow is the cause of the melody
which he hears. He learns, however, that this primary impulse would be
of little effect, were it not for the vibrations excited by it in the
violin itself; and another discovery, still more important, shews him
that the vibration of the instrument would be of no effect, if it were
not for the elastic medium, interposed, between his ear and it. It is
no longer to the violin, therefore, that he looks, as the direct cause
of the sensation of sound, but to the vibrating air; nor will even this
be long considered by him as the _cause_, if he turns his attention
to the structure of the organ of hearing. He will then trace effect
after effect, through a long series of complex and very wonderful
parts, till he arrive at the auditory nerve, and the whole mass of the
brain,--in some unknown state of which he is at length forced to rest,
as the cause or immediate antecedent, of that affection of the mind,
which constitutes the particular sensation. To inquire into the latent
causes of events is thus to endeavour to observe changes which we
suppose to be actually taking place before us unobserved, very nearly
in the same manner, as to inquire into the composition of a substance
is to strive to discover the bodies that are constantly before us,
without our being able to distinguish them.

It is quite impossible, that this constant search, and frequent
detection of causes, before unknown, thus found to intervene between
all the phenomena observed by us, should not, by the influence of the
common principles of our mental constitution, at length associate,
almost indissolubly, with the very notion of changes as perceived by
us, the notion of something intermediate, that as yet lies hid from
our search, and connects the parts of the series which we at present
perceive. This latent something, supposed to intervene between the
observed antecedent and the observed consequent, being the more
immediate antecedent of the change which we observe, is of course
regarded by us as the _true cause_ of the change, while the antecedent
actually observed by us, and known, ceases, for the same reason, to
be regarded as the cause, and a cause is hence supposed by us, to be
something very mysterious; since we give the name, in our imagination,
to something of the nature of which we must be absolutely ignorant, as
we are, by supposition, ignorant of its very existence. The parts of a
series of changes, which we truly observe, are regarded by us as little
more than signs of other intervening changes as yet undetected; and our
thought is thus constantly turned from the known to the unknown, as
often as we think of discovering a cause.

The expectation of discovering something intermediate and unknown
between all known events, it thus appears, is very readily convertible
into the common notion of power, as a secret and invisible tie. Why
does it do this? or, How does it produce this effect? is the question
which we are constantly disposed to put, when we are told of any change
which one substance occasions in another; and the common answer, in
all such cases, is nothing more than the statement of some intervening
object, or event, supposed to be unknown to the asker, but as truly a
mere antecedent in the sequence, as the more obvious antecedent which
he is supposed to know. How is it that we see objects at a distance--a
tower, for example, on the summit of a hill, on the opposite side of
a river? Because rays of light are reflected from the tower to the
eye. The new antecedent appears to us a very intelligible reason. And
why do rays of light, that fall in confusion from every body, within
our sphere of vision, on every point of the surface of the eye,--from
the wood, the rock, the bridge, the river, as well as the tower,--give
distinct impressions of all these different objects? Because the eye
is formed of such refracting power, that the rays of light, which
fall confusedly on its surface, converge within it, and form distinct
images of the objects from which they come, on that part of the eye
which is an expansion of the nerve of sight. Again we are told only
of intervening events before unknown to us; and again we consider
the mere knowledge of these new antecedents as a very intelligible
explanation of the event which we knew before. This constant statement
of _something intermediate_, that is supposed to be unknown to us, as
the cause of the phenomena which we perceive, whenever we ask, how or
why they take place? continually strengthens the illusion, which leads
us to regard the powers of objects as something different from the
perceived objects themselves;--and yet it is evident, that to state
_intervening_ changes, is only to state _other_ antecedents,--not any
thing different from mere antecedence,--and that whatever number of
these intervening changes we may discover between the antecedent and
the consequent, which we at present know, we must at length come to
some ultimate change, which is truly and immediately antecedent to the
known effect. We may say, that an orator, when he declaims, excites
the sensation of sound, because the motion of his vocal organs excites
vibrations in the intervening air,--that these vibrations of air are
the cause of the sound, by communicating vibration to parts of the ear,
and that the vibrations of these parts of the ear are the cause of the
sound, by affecting in a particular manner the nerve of hearing, and
the brain in general;--but, when we come to the _ultimate_ affection of
the sensorial organ, which immediately precedes the sensation of the
mind, it is evident, that we cannot say of it, that it is the cause of
the sound, by exciting any thing intermediate, since it then could not
itself be that by which the sound was immediately preceded. It is the
cause, however; exactly in the same manner as all the other parts of
the sequence were causes, merely by being the immediate and invariable
antecedent of the particular effect. If, in our inability of assigning
any thing intermediate, we were to say, that this last affection of
the sensorial organ occasioned the sound, because it had the power of
occasioning sound, we should say nothing more than if we had said at
once, that it occasioned the sound, or, in other words, was that which
could not exist in the same circumstances without the sound as its
instant attendant.

“What is there,” says Malebranche, “which Aristotle cannot at once
propose and resolve, by his fine words of genus, species, act, power,
nature, form, faculties, qualities, causa per se, causa per accidens?
His followers find it very difficult to comprehend that these words
signify nothing; and that we are not more learned than we were before,
when we have heard them tell us, in their best manner, that fire melts
metals, because it has a solvent faculty; and that some unfortunate
epicure, or glutton digests ill, because he has a weak digestion, or
because the _vis concoctrix_ does not perform well its functions.”[29]

We see only parts of the great sequences that are taking place in
nature; and it is on this account we seek for the causes of what we
_know_ in the parts of the sequences that are _unknown_. If our senses
had originally enabled us to discriminate every element of bodies,
and consequently, all the minute changes which take place in these,
as clearly as the more obvious changes at present perceived by us;
in short, if, between two known events, we had never _discovered_
any thing intermediate and unknown, forming a new antecedent of the
consequent observed before, our notion of a cause would have been very
different from that mysterious unintelligible something which we now
conceive it to be; and we should then, perhaps, have found as little
difficulty in admitting it to be what it simply and truly is,--only
another name for the immediate invariable antecedent of any event,--as
we now find in admitting the _form_ of a body, to be only another name
for the _relative position_ of the parts that constitute it.

But,--I have said in my Essay,--though the powers of created things
be nothing more than their relation to certain events that invariably
attend them, is this definition consistent with the notion which
we form of the power of the Creator? or, Is not _his_ efficiency
altogether different in nature, as well as in degree? The omnipotence
of God, it must, indeed, be allowed, bears to every created power the
same relation of awful superiority, which his infinite wisdom and
goodness bear to the humble knowledge and virtue of his creatures. But
as we know his wisdom and goodness, only by knowing what that human
wisdom and goodness are, which, with all their imperfection, he has yet
permitted to know and adore him,--so, it is only by knowing created
power, weak and limited as it is, that we can rise to the contemplation
of his omnipotence. In contemplating it, we consider only his _will_,
as the direct _antecedent_ of those glorious effects which the universe
displays. The power of God is not any thing different from God; but
is the Almighty himself, willing whatever seems to him good, and
creating or altering all things by his very will to create or alter.
It is enough for our devotion to trace every where the characters of
the Divinity,--of provident arrangement _prior_ to this system of
things,--and to know, therefore, that, without that divine will as
_antecedent_, nothing could have been. Wherever we turn our eyes,--to
the earth--to the heavens--to the myriads of beings that live and
move around us--or to those more than myriads of worlds, which seem
themselves almost like animated inhabitants of the infinity through
which they range,--above us, beneath us, on every side, we discover,
with a certainty that admits not of doubt, intelligence and design,
that must have preceded the existence of every thing which exists. Yet,
when we analyse those great, but obscure, ideas which rise in our mind,
while we attempt to think of the creation of things, we feel, that it
is still only a sequence of events which we are considering,--though
of events, the magnitude of which allows us no comparison, because it
has nothing in common with those earthly changes which fall beneath our
view. We do not see any third circumstance existing intermediately,
and binding, as it were, the will of the Omnipotent Creator to the
things which are to be; we conceive only the _divine will itself_, as
if made visible to our imagination, and all nature at the very moment
rising around. It is evident, that in the case of the divine agency,
as well as in every other instance of causation, the introduction of
any circumstance, as a bond of closer connexion, would only furnish a
new phenomenon to be itself connected; but even though it were possible
to conceive the closer connexion of such a third circumstance, as is
supposed to constitute the inexplicable efficiency between the _will_
of the Creator and _the rise of the universe_, it would _diminish_,
indeed, but it certainly cannot be supposed to elevate, the majesty of
the person, and of the scene. Our feeling of his omnipotence is not
rendered stronger by the elevation of the complicated process; it is,
on the contrary, the immediate succession of the object to the desire,
which impresses the force of the omnipotence on our mind; and it is
to the divine agency, therefore, that the representation of _instant_
sequence seems peculiarly suited, as if it were more emphatically
powerful. Such is the great charm of the celebrated passage of Genesis,
descriptive of the creation of light. It is from stating nothing more
than the antecedent and consequent, that the majestic simplicity of
the description is derived. God _speaks_, and _it is done_. We imagine
nothing intermediate. In our highest contemplation of His power, we
believe only, that, when He _willed_ creation, a world arose; and that,
in all future time, His will to create cannot exist, without being
followed by the instant rise into being of whatever He may have willed;
that His will to destroy any thing, will be, in like manner, followed
by its non-existence; and His will to vary the course of things, by
miraculous appearances. The will is the only necessary previous change;
and that Being has almighty power, whose every will is immediately and
invariably _followed_ by the existence of its object.


[27] Mart. Scrib. c. 7.--Pope's Works, _Ed._ 1757, v. vii. p. 58, 59.

[28] Cicero de Officiis, lib. i. c. 4.

[29] Recherche de la veritè, liv iv. c. ii.--Vol. II. p. 322.



The observations which I have already made on _power_, Gentlemen, have,
I hope, shown you, both what it truly is, and the sources of that
illusion, which leads us to regard it as something more mysterious.

The principal source of this illusion, we found to be our incapacity
of distinguishing the minute elements of bodies,--that leads us, in
a manner, which it is unnecessary now to recapitulate, to suspect
constantly some intermediate and unobserved objects and events, between
the parts of sequences, which we truly observe, and, by the influence
of this habit, to transfer, at least, the notion of power, from the
antecedent which we observe, to the supposed more direct antecedent,
which we only imagine, and to consider the causes of events as some
unknown circumstances, that exist between all the antecedents which we
know, and the consequents which we know, and connect these together in
mysterious union.

The same imperfection of our senses, which, from our incapacity of
discovering all the minute elements, and consequently all the minute
elementary changes, in bodies, leads us to form erroneous notions of
power and causation, has tended, in like manner, to produce a fondness
for _hypotheses_, which, without rendering the observed phenomena, in
any respect, more intelligible, only render them more complicated, and
increase the very difficulty, which they are supposed to diminish.

Of this tendency of the mind, which is a very injurious one to the
progress of sound philosophy, I must request your attention to a
little fuller elucidation. To know well, what _hypotheses_ truly are
in themselves, and what it is which they contribute to the explanation
of phenomena, is, I am convinced, the surest of all preservatives
against that too ready assent, which you might otherwise be disposed
to give to them; and to guard you from the ready adoption of such loose
conclusions, in the reasonings of others, and from the tendency to
similar rashness of arrangement and inference, in your own speculative
inquiries, is to perform for you the most important office that can be
performed, for the regulation, both of your present studies, and of
those maturer investigations, to which, I trust, your present studies
are to lead.

I have also endeavoured to point out to you, in what manner we are led
to believe, that we explain the sequence of two events, by stating some
intermediate event. If asked, _How_ it is that we hear a voice at a
distance, or see a distant object? we immediately answer, Because the
primary vibration of the organs of speech is propagated in successive
vibrations through the intervening air, and because light is reflected
or emitted from the distant object to the eye; and he who hears this
answer, which is obviously nothing more than the statement of another
effect, or series of effects, that takes place before that particular
effect, concerning which the question is put, is perfectly satisfied,
for the time, with the acquisition which he has made, and thinks,
that he now knows, how it is, that we hear and see. To know _why_ a
succession of events takes place, is thus at length conceived by us,
to be the same thing, as to know some other changes, or series of
changes, which take place between them; and, with this opinion, as to
the necessary presence of some intervening and connecting link, it is
very natural, that, when we can no longer state or imagine any thing
which intervenes, we should feel as if the sequence itself were less
intelligible, though unquestionably, when we can state some intervening
circumstance, we have merely found a new antecedent in the train of
physical events, so as to have now _two_ antecedents and consequents,
instead of _one_ simple antecedent and consequent, and have thus only
doubled our supposed mystery, instead of removing it.

Since it does _appear_ to us, however, to remove the very mystery
which it doubles, it is the same thing, with respect to our general
practice of philosophizing, as if it _did_ remove it. If we suppose
the intervention of some unknown cause, in every phenomenon which we
perceive, we must be equally desirous of discovering that unknown
cause, which we suppose to be intermediate,--and, when this is not
easily discoverable, we must feel a strong tendency to divine what it
is, and to acquiesce, more readily than we should otherwise have done,
in the certainty of what we have only imagined,--always, of course,
imagining the cause, which seems to have most analogy to the observed

Such is the nature of that illusion, from which the love of hypotheses
flows,--as seeming, by the intervention of a new antecedent, to
render more intelligible the sequences of events that are obviously
before us,--though all which is truly done, is to double the number
of antecedents; and, therefore, to double, instead of removing the
difficulty, that is supposed to be involved in the consideration of a
simple sequence of events. A stone tends to the ground--that it should
have this _tendency_, in consequence of the mere presence of the earth,
appears to us most wonderful; and we think, that it would be much less
wonderful, if we could discover the presence, though it were the _mere
presence_, of something else. We therefore, in our mind, run over every
circumstance analogous, to discover something which we may consider
as present, that may represent to our imagination the cause which we
seek. The effect of _impulse_, in producing motion, we know by constant
experience; and, as the motion, which it produces, in a particular
direction, seems analogous to the motion of the stone in its particular
direction, we conceive, that the motion of a stone, in its fall to the
earth, is rendered more intelligible, by the imagined intervention of
some impelling body. The circumstances, which we observe, however,
are manifestly inconsistent with the supposition of the impulse of
any very gross matter. The analogies of gross matter are accordingly
excluded from our thoughts, and we suppose the impulse to proceed from
some very subtle fluid, to which we give the name of _ether_, or any
other name, which we may choose to invent for it. The hypothesis is
founded, you will observe, on the mere analogy of another species of
motion, and which would account for gravitation by the impulse of some
fine fluid. It is evident, that there may be, in this way, as many
hypotheses to explain a single fact, as there have been circumstances
analogous observed in all the various phenomena of nature. Accordingly,
another set of philosophers, instead of explaining gravitation by the
analogy of _impulse_, have had recourse to another analogy, still more
intimately familiar to us--that of the phenomena of life: We are able
to move our limbs by our mere volition. The mind, therefore, it is
evident, can produce motion in matter; and it is hence some interposed
spiritual agent, which produces all the phenomena of gravitation. Every
orb, in its revolution on its axis, or in its great journey through
the heavens, has, according to this system of philosophical mythology,
some peculiar _genius_, or directing spirit, that regulates its course,
in the same manner as, of old, the universe itself was considered as
one enormous animal, performing its various movements by its own vital
energies. It is the influence of this analogy of our own muscular
motions, as obedient to our volition,--together with the mistaken
belief of adding greater honour to the divine Omnipotent,--which has
led a very large class of philosophers to ascribe every change in the
universe, material or intellectual, not to the original _foresight_
and arrangement merely,--the irresistible evidence of which even the
impiety, that professes to question it, _must_ secretly admit,--but to
the direct operation of the Creator and Sovereign of the world,--

                      “The mighty Hand,
    That, ever busy, wheels the silent spheres,
    Works in the secret deep; shoots streaming thence
    The fair profusion that o'erspreads the spring;
    Flings from the sun direct the flaming day;
    Feeds every creature; hurls the tempest forth;
    And, as on earth this grateful change revolves,
    With transport touches all the springs of life.”

So prone is the mind to complicate every phenomenon, by the insertion
of imagined causes, in the simple sequences of physical events,
that one hypothesis may often be said to involve in it many other
hypotheses, invented for the explanation of that very phenomenon, which
is adduced in explanation of another phenomenon, as simple as itself.
The production of muscular motion by the will, which is the source
of the hypothesis of direct spiritual agency, in every production
of motion, or change, in the universe, has itself given occasion to
innumerable speculations of this kind. Indeed, on no subject has the
imagination been more fruitful of fancies, that have been strangely
given to the world under the name of philosophy. Though you cannot be
supposed to be acquainted with the minute nomenclature of anatomy, you
yet all know, that there are parts termed _muscles_, and other parts
termed _nerves_, and that it is by the contraction of our muscles
that our limbs are moved. The nerves, distributing to the different
muscles, are evidently instrumental to their contraction; since the
destruction of the nerve puts an end to the voluntary contraction
of the muscle, and consequently to the apparent motion of the limb.
But what is the influence that is propagated along the nerve, and in
what manner is it propagated? For explaining this most familiar of
all phenomena, there is scarcely any class of phenomena in nature, to
the _analogy_ of which recourse has not been had,--the vibration of
musical chords,--the coiling or uncoiling of springs,--the motion of
elastic fluids, electricity, magnetism, galvanism;--and the result of
so many hypotheses,--after all the labour of striving to adapt them to
the phenomena, and the still greater labour of striving to prove them
exactly adapted, when they were far from being so--has been the return
to the _simple fact_, that muscular motion follows a certain state
of the nerve;--in the same manner, as the result of all the similar
labour, that has been employed to account, as it has been termed, for
gravitation, has been a return to the simple fact, that, at all visible
distances observed, the bodies in nature tend toward each other.

The mere sequence of one event after another event, is, however, too
easily conceived, and has too little in it of that complication,
which at once busies and delights us, to allow the mind to rest in it
long. It must forever have something to disentangle, and, therefore,
something which is perplexed; for, such is the strange nature of man,
that the simplicity of truth, which might seem to be its essential
charm,--and which renders it doubly valuable, in relation to the
weakness of his faculties,--is the very circumstance that renders it
least attractive to him; and though, in his analysis of every thing
that is compound in matter, or involved in thought, he constantly
flatters himself, that it is this very simplicity, which he loves
and seeks, he yet, when he arrives at _absolute simplicity_, feels
an equal tendency to turn away from it, and gladly prefers to it any
thing that is _more_ mysterious, merely because it is mysterious.
“I am persuaded,” said one, who knew our nature well, “that, if the
majority of mankind could be made to see the order of the universe,
such as it is, as they would not remark in it any virtues attached to
certain numbers, nor any properties inherent in certain planets, nor
fatalities, in certain times and revolutions of these, they would
not be able to restrain themselves, on the sight of this admirable
regularity and beauty, from crying out with astonishment, What, is this

For the fidelity of this picture, in which Fontenelle has so justly
represented one of the common weaknesses of our intellectual nature,
we unfortunately need not refer to the majority of mankind alone,
to whom, it may be said, almost with equal truth, that every thing
is wonderful, and that nothing is wonderful. The feeling which it
describes exists even in the most philosophic mind, and had certainly
no increased influence even on that mind which described it so truly,
when it employed all its great powers, in still striving to support
the cumbrous system of the _Vortices_, against the simple theory of
_attraction_. Even Newton himself, whose transcendent intellect was so
well fitted to perceive the sublimity, which simplification adds to
every thing that is truly great in itself, yet, showed, by his query
with respect to the agency of ether, that he was not absolutely exempt
from that human infirmity of which I speak; and though philosophers may
now be considered as almost unanimous with respect to gravitation,--in
considering it as the mere tendency of bodies towards each other, we
yet, in admiring this tendency which we perceive, feel some reluctance
to admit a mere fact, that presents itself so simply to our conception,
and would be better pleased, if any other mode could be pointed out,
by which, with some decent appearance of reason on its side, the same
effect could seem to be brought about, by a natural apparatus, better
suited to gratify our passion for the _complicated_ and the wonderful.
Though the theory of _Vortices_ can scarcely be said now to have any
lingering defender left, there is a constant tendency, and a tendency
which requires all our philosophy to repress it,--to relapse into
the supposition of a great etherial fluid, by the immense ocean, or
immense streams, of which the phenomenon now asserted to gravitate, may
be explained, and we have no objection, to fill the whole boundless
void of the universe, with an infinite profusion of this invisible
matter, merely that we may think, with more comfort, that we know how
a _feather_ falls to the ground;--though the fall of the feather,
after this magnificent cast of contrivance, would still be as truly
inexplicable as at present; and though many other difficulties must,
in that case, be admitted in addition. It is only in _geometry_, that
we readily allow a straight line, to be the shortest that can be drawn
between any two points. In the physics of mind, or of matter, we are
far from allowing this. We prefer to it almost any _curve_ that is
presented to us by others,--and, without all doubt, any curve which we
have described ourselves; and we boldly maintain, and, which is yet
more fairly believe, that we have found out a _shorter road_, merely
because, in our philosophical peregrination, we have chosen to journey
many miles about, and in our delight of gazing on new objects, have
never thought of measuring the ground which we have trod.

I am aware, indeed, that, in the consideration of the simple
antecedents, and consequents which nature exhibits, it is not the
mere complication of these, by the introduction of new intervening
substances or events, which obtains from the mind so ready an adoption
of hypotheses. On the contrary, there is a sort of false simplification
in the introduction of hypotheses, which itself aids the illusion of
the mystery. I term the simplification _false_, because it is not
in the phenomena themselves, but in our mode of conceiving them. It
is certainly far more simple, _in nature_, that bodies should have
a tendency toward each other, than that there should be oceans of a
subtle fluid, circulating around them, in vortices,--or streams of
such a fluid, projected continually on them from some unknown source,
merely to produce the same exact motions, which would be the result of
the reciprocal tendency in the bodies themselves. But the interposition
of all this immensity of matter, to account for the fall of a feather
or rain-drop, cumbrous as the contrivance must be allowed to be, is
yet in one respect, more simple to our conception, because, instead
of two classes of phenomena, those of _gravitation_ and of _impulse_,
we have, in referring all to _impulse_, only one general class. Man
loves what is simple _much_, but he loves what is mysterious _more_;
and a mighty ocean of ether, operating invisibly in all the visible
phenomena of the universe, has thus a sort of double charm, by uniting
the false simplification, of which I have spoken, with abundance of
real mystery. This mixture of the simple and the mysterious, is, in
some measure, like the mixture of uniformity with diversity, that is
so delightful in works of art. However pleasing objects may separately
be, we are soon wearied with wandering over them, when, from their
extreme irregularity, we cannot group them in any distinct assemblage,
or discover some slight relation of parts to the whole; and we are
still sooner, and more painfully fatigued, when every object which we
see is in exact symmetry with some other object. In like manner, the
mind would be perplexed and oppressed, if it were to conceive a great
multitude of objects or circumstances, concurring in the production
of one observed event. But it feels a sort of dissatisfaction also,
when the sequences of events which it observes, are reduced to the
mere antecedents and consequents of which they consist, and must have
a little more _complication_ to flatter it with the belief, that it
has learned something which it is important to have learned. To know
that a withered leaf falls to the ground, is to know, what the very
vulgar know, as well as ourselves; but an ocean of _ether_, whirling
it downward, is something of which the vulgar have no conception, and
gives a kind of mysterious magnificence to a very simple event, which
makes us think, that our knowledge is greater, because we have given,
in our imagination, a sort of cumbrous magnitude to the phenomenon

That hypotheses, in that wide sense of the word which implies every
thing conjectural, are without use in philosophy, it would be absurd
to affirm, since every inquiry may, in that wide sense, be said to
pre-suppose them, and must always pre-suppose them if the inquiry have
any object. They are of use, however, not as superseding investigation,
but as directing investigation to certain objects,--not as telling
us, what we are to believe, but as pointing out to us what we are to
endeavour to ascertain. An hypothesis, in this view of it, is nothing
more than a reason for making one experiment or observation rather
than another; and it is evident, that, without some reason of this
kind, as experiment and observations are almost infinite, inquiry
would be altogether profitless. To make experiments, at random, is not
to _philosophize_; it becomes philosophy, only when the experiments
are made with a certain view; and to make them, with any particular
view, is to suppose the presence of something, the operation of which
they will tend either to prove or disprove. When Torricelli, for
example,--proceeding on the observation previously made, by Galileo,
with respect to the limited height to which water could be made to rise
in a pump,--that memorable observation, which demonstrated, at last,
after so many ages of errors, what ought not for a single moment to
have required to be demonstrated; the absurdity of the horror of a void
ascribed to nature--when, proceeding in this memorable observation,
Torricelli made his equally memorable experiment with respect to the
height of the column of mercury supported in an inverted tube, and
found, on comparison of their specific gravities, the columns of
mercury and water to be exactly equiponderant, it is evident that he
was led to the experiment with the mercury by the supposition, that
the rise of fluids _in vacuo_ was occasioned by some counterpressure,
exactly equal to the weight supported, and that the column of mercury,
therefore should be less in height than the column of water, in
the exact inverse ratio of their specific gravities, by which the
counterpressure was to be sustained. To conceive the air, which was
then universally regarded as essentially light, to be not light but
heavy, so as to press on the fluid beneath, was, at that time, to make
as bold a supposition as could be made. It was indeed, a temporary
hypothesis, even when it led to that experimental demonstration of the
fact, which proved it forever after not to be hypothetical.

An hypothesis, then, in the first stage of inquiry, far from being
inconsistent with sound philosophy, may be said to be essential to it.
But it is essential only in this first stage, as suggesting what is
afterwards to be verified or disproved; and, when the experiments or
observations to which it directs us do not verify it, it is no longer
to be entertained, even as an hypothesis. If we observe a phenomenon,
which we never have observed before, it is absolutely impossible for
us, not to think of the analogous cases which we may have seen; since
they are suggested by a principal of association, which is as truly
a part of our constitution, as the senses with which we perceived
the phenomenon itself; and, if any of these analogies strike us as
remarkably coincident, it is equally impossible for us not to imagine,
that the cause, which we knew in that former instance, may also be
present in this analogical instance, and that they _may_, therefore,
both be reduced to the same class. To stop here, and, from this mere
analogy, to infer positive identity of the causes, and to follow out
the possible consequences in innumerable applications, would be to do,
as many great artists in systematizing have done. What a philosopher,
of sounder views, however, would do in such a case, is very different.
He would assume, indeed, as _possible_ or perhaps as _probable_, the
existence of the supposed cause. But he would assume it, only to direct
his examination of its reality, by investigating, as far as he was
able, from past experience, what the circumstances would have been, in
every respect, if the cause supposed had been actually present; and,
even if these were all found to be exactly coincident, though he would
think the presence of the cause more probable, he would be very far
from considering it as certain, and would still endeavour to lessen the
chances of fallacy, by watching the circumstances, should they again
recur, and varying them, by experiment, in every possible way.

This patience and caution, however, essential as they are to just
philosophizing, require, it must be confessed, no slight efforts of
self-denial, but of a self-denial which is as necessary to intellectual
excellence as the various moral species of self-denial are to
excellence and virtue.

“Mr Locke, I think,” says Dr Reid, “mentions an eminent musician,
who believed that God created the world in six days, and rested the
seventh, because there are but seven notes in music. I myself,” he
continues, “knew one of that profession, who thought that there could
be only three parts in harmony, to wit, bass, tenor, and treble;
because there are but three persons in the Trinity.”[30]

The minds that could be satisfied with analogies so very slight, must,
indeed, have been little acquainted with the principles of philosophic
inquiry; and yet how many systems have been advanced in different ages,
admired by multitudes, who knew them only by name, and still more
revered by the philosophers, who gloried in adopting them, that have
been founded on analogies almost as slight.

“The philosophers who form hypothetical systems of the universe, and of
all its most secret laws,” says Voltaire, in one of his lively similes,
“are like our travellers that go to Constantinople, and think that they
must tell us a great deal about the seraglio. They pretend to know
every thing which passes within it--the whole secret history of the
Sultan and his favourites, and they have seen nothing but its outside

In one respect, however, philosophers, in their hypothetical systems,
far outdo the travellers to Constantinople. They not merely tell us
secrets of nature, which they have no opportunity of learning, but they
believe the very tales of their own fancy. To see any usual phenomenon,
is, indeed, to wonder at it, at first; but to explain it, is almost the
very next step, reason serving rather to defend the explanation, when
it is made, than to assist greatly in making it; and, in many cases,
each philosopher has his separate explanation, on which he is disposed
to put as much reliance, as on the certainty of the fact itself,
not abandoning the hypothesis, even though the fact should prove to
have been different, but making it bend, with a happy pliability, to
all the diversities discovered, so as at last, perhaps, to account
for circumstances the very reverse of those which it was originally
invented to explain. “I have heard,” says Condillac, “of a philosopher,
who had the happiness of thinking that he had discovered a principle,
which was to explain all the wonderful phenomena of chemistry; and who,
in the ardour of his self-congratulation, hastened to communicate his
discovery to a skilful chemist. The chemist had the kindness to listen
to him, and then calmly told him, that there was but one unfortunate
circumstance for his discovery, which was, that the chemical _facts_
were exactly the reverse of what he had supposed. Well then, said the
philosopher, have the goodness to tell me _what_ they are, that I may
explain them by my system.”[31] To those who know that fondness for
conjecture, which may almost be said to be a sort of intellectual
appetite, there is nothing in all the wonders which Swift tells us of
his fabled Houynhnhms, that marks them more strongly as a different
race from mankind, than the total absence of hypothesis from their
systems of knowledge.

“I remember,” says Gulliver, “it was with extreme difficulty that I
could bring my master to understand the meaning of the word _opinion_,
or how a point could be disputable; because reason taught us to
affirm or deny only when we are certain; and beyond our knowledge we
cannot do either. So that controversies, wranglings, disputes, and
positiveness, in false or dubious propositions, are evils unknown among
the Houynhnhms. In the like manner, when I used to explain to him our
several systems of Natural Philosophy, he would laugh, that a creature
pretending to reason, should value itself upon the knowledge of other
people's conjectures, and in things, where that knowledge, if it were
certain, could be of no use. Wherein he agreed entirely with the
sentiments of Socrates, as Plato delivers them, which I mention as the
highest honour I can do that Prince of philosophers. I have often since
reflected what destruction such a doctrine would make in the libraries
of Europe, and how many paths to fame would be then shut up in the
learned world.”[32]

While I wish to caution you against a fondness for hypotheses, by
shewing you, not merely that they are liable to error,--for inquiry,
of every kind, must be so in some degree,--but that, in truth, they
leave the real difficulty of the succession of the observed consequents
to the observed antecedents as great as before, and only add, to the
supposed difficulty of explaining one sequence, the necessity of
explaining a sequence additional,--I must remark, at the same time,
that what is commonly termed _theory_, in opposition to _hypothesis_,
is far from being so different from it as is commonly represented,--at
least, in the very wide application which is usually made of it. We
are told, by those who lay down rules of philosophizing, that the
object of philosophy is, to observe particulars, and, from these, to
frame general laws, which may, again, be applied to the explanation of
particulars; and the view which is thus given of the real province of
philosophy is undoubtedly a just one;--but there is an ambiguity in the
language which may deceive you, and with respect to which, therefore,
it is necessary for you to be on your guard. If, by the term _general
law_, be meant the agreement in some common circumstances of a number
of events observed, there can be no question that we proceed safely in
framing it, and that what we have already found in a number of events,
must be applicable to that number of events; in the same manner, as,
after combining in the term _animal_ the circumstances in which a dog,
a horse, a sheep agree, we cannot err in applying the term animal to a
dog, a horse, a sheep. But the only particular to which, in this case,
we can, with perfect confidence, apply a general law, are the very
particulars that have been before observed by us. If it be understood
as more general than the circumstances observed, and, therefore,
capable of being applied with perfect certainty to the explanation of
new phenomena, we evidently, to the extent in which the general law is
applied beyond the circumstances observed, proceed on mere supposition,
as truly, as in any hypothesis which we could have framed; and though
the supposition may be more and more certain, in proportion to the
number of cases thus generalized, and the absence of any circumstance
which can be supposed, in the new case, to be inconsistent with it,
it never can amount to actual certainty. Let us take, for example,
one of the most striking cases of this sort. That bodies tend to each
other, _in all circumstances_, with a force increasing directly as
their quantities, and inversely as the squares of their distances, may
seem in the highest degree probable indeed, from the innumerable facts
observed on our globe, and in the magnificent extent of the planetary
movements; but it cannot be said to be certain at all distances, in
which we have never had an opportunity of making observations,--as
it seems to be verified in the heights of our atmosphere, and in the
distances of the planets, in their orbits, from the sun, and from
each other. It is not necessary, however, to refer, for possible
exceptions, to spaces that are beyond our observation; since, on the
surface of our own earth, there is abundant evidence, that the law
does _not_ hold _universally_. Every quiescent mass that is capable of
greater compression, and of which the particles, therefore, before that
compression, are not in absolute contact, shews sufficiently, that the
principle of attraction, which, of itself, would have brought them into
actual contact, must have ceased to operate, while there was still a
space between the particles that would have allowed its free operation;
and, in the phenomena of _elasticity_, and impulse in general, it has
not merely ceased, but is actually reversed,--the bodies which, at all
visible distances, exhibited a reciprocal _attraction_, now exhibiting
a reciprocal _repulsion_, in consequence of which they mutually fly
off, as readily as they before approached,--that is to say, the
tendency of bodies to each other being converted into a tendency _from_
each other, by a mere change of distance, so slight as to be almost
inappreciable. When a ball rebounds from the earth, toward which it
moved rapidly before, and the gravitating tendency is thus evidently
reversed, without the intervention of any foreign force, what eye,
though it be aided by all the nicest apparatus of optical art, can
discover the lines which separate those infinitesimal differences
of proximity, at which the particles of the ball still continue to
gravitate toward the earth, and are afterwards driven from it in an
opposite direction;--yet the phenomenon itself is a sufficient proof,
that in these spaces, which seem, to our organs of sense, so completely
the same, that it is absolutely impossible for us to distinguish them,
the reciprocal tendencies of the particles of the ball and of the earth
are as truly opposite, as if the laws of gravitation had, at the moment
at which the rebound begins, been reversed through the whole system of
the universe.

It is, indeed, scarcely possible to imagine a more striking proof of
the danger of extending, with too great certainty, a general law, than
this instant conversion of _attraction_ into _repulsion_, without
the addition of any new bodies, without any change in the nature of
the bodies themselves, and a change of their circumstances so very
slight, as to be absolutely indistinguishable, but for the opposite
motions that result from it, with a change of their circumstances.
After observing the gravity of bodies, at all heights of our
atmosphere, and extending our survey through the wide spaces of our
solar system,--computing the tendency of the planets to the sun, and
their disturbing forces, as they operate on each other,--and finding
the resulting motions exactly to correspond with those which we had
predicted by theory;--in these circumstances, after an examination
so extensive, if we had affirmed, as an universal law of matter,
that, at all distances, bodies tend toward each other, we should
have considered the wideness of the induction, as justifying the
affirmation; and yet, even in this case, we find, on the surface of
our earth, in the mutual shocks of bodies, and in their very rest,
sufficient evidence, that, in making the universal affirmation, we
should have reasoned falsely. There is no theory, then, which, if
applied to the explanation of _new_ phenomena, is not, to a certain
degree, conjectural; because it must proceed on the supposition, that
what was true in certain circumstances, is true also in circumstances
that have not been observed. It admits of certainty, only when it is
applied to the very substances observed,--in the very circumstances
observed,--in which case, it may be strictly said to be nothing more
than the application of a general term to the particulars, which we
have before agreed to comprehend in it. Whatever is more than this is
truly hypothetical,--the difference being, that we commonly give the
name of _hypothesis_ to cases, in which we suppose the intervention
of some substance, of the existence of which, as present in the
phenomenon, we have no direct proof, or of some additional quality of a
substance before unobserved,--and the name of _theory_ to cases, which
do not suppose the existence of any substance, that is not actually
observed, or of any quality that has not been actually observed, but
merely the continuance, in certain _new_ circumstances, of tendencies
observed in other circumstances. Thus, if a planet were discovered
revolving in the space which separates the orbits of any two planets
at present known, were we to suppose of matter, in this new situation,
that it would be subject to the same exact law of gravitation, to which
the other planets were known to be subject, and to predict its place in
the heavens, at any time, according to this law, we should be said to
form a theory of its motions; as we should not take for granted, any
new quality of a substance, or the existence of any substance, which
was not evidently present, but only of _tendencies_ observed before in
other circumstances,--analogous indeed, but not absolutely the same.
We should be said to form an hypothesis on the subject, if, making
the same prediction, as to its motions, and place in the heavens, at
any given time, we were to ascribe the centripetal tendency, which
confines it within its orbit, to the impulse of ether, or to any other
mechanical cause. The terms, however, I must confess, though the
distinction which I have now stated would be, in all cases, a very
convenient one, are used very loosely, not in conversation merely, but
in the writings of philosophers,--an hypothesis often meaning nothing
more than a theory, to which we have not given our assent,--and a
theory, an hypothesis which we have adopted, or still more, one which
we have formed ourselves.

A _theory_, then, even in that best sense, to which I wish it
accurately confined, as often as it ventures a single hair-breadth
beyond the line of former observation, may be wrong, as an hypothesis
may be wrong. But, in a theory, in this sense of it, there are both
less risk of error, and less extensive evil from error, than in an
hypothesis. There is less risk of error, because we speak only of the
properties of bodies, that must be allowed actually to exist; and the
evil of error is, for the same reason, less extensive, since it must be
confined to this single point; whereas, if we were to imagine falsely
the presence of some third substance, our supposition might involve as
many errors, as that substance has qualities; since we should be led
to suppose, and expect, some or all of the other consequences, which
usually attend it, when really present.

The practical conclusion to be drawn from all this very long
discussion, is, that we should use hypotheses to suggest and direct
inquiry, not to terminate or supersede it; and that, in theorizing,--as
the chance of error, in the application of a general law, diminishes,
in proportion to the number of analogous cases, in which it is observed
to hold,--we should not form any general proposition, till after as
wide an induction, as it is possible for us to make; and, in the
subsequent application of it to particulars, should never content
ourselves, in any new circumstances, with the mere probability, however
high, which this application of it affords; while it is possible for us
to verify, or disprove it, by actual experiment.


[30] On the Powers of the Human Mind, Essay vi. Chap. viii. Vol. II. p.
334. 8vo. _edit._

[31] Traite des Systemes, chap. xii. Vol. II. p. 372.

[32] Travels, Part iv, chap. 8. Swift's Works, _edit._ Nichols, Vol.
ix. p. 300.



For several Lectures, Gentlemen, we have been employed in considering
the objects that are to be had in view, in Physical Inquiry in general,
a clear conception of which seems to me as essential to the Philosophy
of Mind, as to the Philosophy of Matter. I should now proceed to apply
these general remarks more particularly to our own science; but, before
doing this, it may be of advantage to retrace slightly our steps in the
progress already made.

All inquiry, with respect to the various substances in nature, we have
seen, must regard them as they exist in _space_, or as they exist in
_time_,--the inquiry, in the one case, being into their composition;
the inquiry, in the other case, into the changes which they exhibit.
The first of these views we found to be very simple, having, for
its object, only the discovery of what is actually before us at the
moment,--which, therefore, if we had been endowed with senses of
greater delicacy and acuteness, we might have known, without any
inquiry whatever. It is the investigation of the elements, or separate
bodies, that exist together, in the substances which we considered, or
rather that constitute the substances which we considered, by occupying
the space which we assign to the one imaginary aggregate, and are
regarded by us as one substance,--not from any absolute unity which
they have in nature, since the elementary atoms, however continuous or
near, have an existence as truly separate and independent, as if they
had been created at the distance of worlds,--but from a unity, that is
relative only to our incapacity of distinguishing them as separate. It
is to the imperfection of our senses, then, that this first division of
Physical Inquiry owes its origin; and its most complete results could
enable us to discover only, what has been before our eyes from the
moment of our birth.

The second division of inquiry,--that which relates to the successions
of phenomena in time,--we found, however, to have a different origin;
since the utmost perfection of our mere senses could show us only what
_is_, at the moment of perception, not what _has been_, nor what _will
be_; and there is nothing in any qualities of bodies perceived by us,
which, without experience, could enable us to predict the changes that
are to occur in them. The foundation of all inquiry, with respect to
phenomena as successive, we found to be that most important law, or
original tendency, of our nature, in consequence of which we not merely
perceive the changes exhibited to us at one particular moment, but
from this perception, are led irresistibly to believe, that similar
changes _have_ constantly taken place, in all similar circumstances,
and _will_ constantly take place, as often as the future circumstances
shall be exactly similar to the present. We hence consider events, not
as casually antecedent and consequent, but as invariably antecedent
and consequent,--or, in other words, as causes and effects; and we
give the name of _power_ to this permanent relation of the invariable
antecedent to its invariable consequent. The powers of substances,
then, concerning which so many vague, and confused, and mysterious
notions prevail, are only another name for the substances themselves,
in relation to other substances,--not any thing separate from them
and intermediate,--as the _form_ of a body, concerning which too,
for many ages, notions as vague and mysterious prevailed, is not any
thing different from the body, but is only the body itself, considered
according to the relative position of its elements. Form is the
relation of immediate proximity, which bodies bear to each other in
_space_;--power is the relation of immediate and uniform proximity,
which events bear to each other in _time_; and the relation, far from
being different, as is commonly supposed, when applied to matter and to
spirit, is precisely the same in kind, whether the events, of which we
think, be material or immaterial. It is of invariable antecedence that
we speak alike in both cases, and of invariable antecedence only. When
we say, that a magnet has the power of attracting iron, we mean only,
that a magnet cannot be brought near iron, without the instant motion
of the iron towards it. When we say, in treating of _mental_ influence,
that man, in the ordinary circumstances of health, and when free from
any foreign restraint, has the power of moving his hand, we mean only,
that, in these circumstances, he cannot will to move his hand, without
its consequent motion. When we speak of the omnipotence of the Supreme
of Beings,--who is the fountain of all power, as he is the fountain of
all existence,--we mean only, that the universe arose at his command,
as its instant consequence, and that whatever he _wills_ to exist or
perish, exists, or is no more.

This simple view of power, as the mere antecedent substance itself,
in its relation to its immediate and invariable consequences, without
the intervention of any mysterious tie,--since there surely can be
nothing in nature, but all the substances which exist in nature,--it
was necessary to illustrate, at great length, in consequence of the
very false notions, that are generally, or, I may say, universally
prevalent on the subject. The illustration, I am aware, must, to many
of you, have appeared very tedious, and a sufficient exemplification of
that license of exhausting occasionally your attention, and perhaps,
too, your patience, of which I claimed the right of exercise, whenever
it should appear to me necessary, to make any important, but abstract
truth familiar to your mind. I shall not regret, however, any temporary
feeling of weariness which I may have occasioned, by dwelling on this
great fundamental subject, if I have succeeded in making familiar to
your minds, the truths which I wished to impress on them, and have
freed you from those false notions of occult and unintelligible agency
in causes,--as something different from the mere causes or antecedents
themselves,--which appear to me to have retarded, in a very singular
degree, the progress of philosophy,--not merely, by habituating the
mind to acquiesce in the use of language, to which it truly affixes no
meaning, though even this evil is one of very serious injury in its
general effects,--but by misdirecting its inquiries, and leading it,
from the simplicity of nature,--in which every glance is truth, and
every step is progress,--to bewilder itself, with the verbal mysteries
of the schools, where there is no refreshment of truth to the eye, that
is wearied with wandering only from shadow to shadow,--and where there
is all the fatigue of continual progress, without the advance of a
single step.

Even those philosophers, who have had the wisdom to perceive, that
man can never discover any thing in the phenomena of nature, but a
succession of events, that follow each other in regular series,--and
who, accordingly, recommend the observation and arrangement of these
regular antecedents and consequents, as the only attainable objects
of philosophy, yet found this very advice, on the distinction of what
they have termed efficient causes, as different from the physical
causes, or simple antecedents, to which they advise us to devote
our whole attention. There are certain _secret causes_, they say,
continually operating in the production of every change which we
observe, and causes which alone deserve the name of efficient; but
they are, at the same time, careful to tell us, that, although these
causes are constantly operating before us, and are all which are
truly acting before us, we must not hope, that we shall ever be able
to detect one of them; and indeed, the prohibition of every attempt
to discover the efficient causes of phenomena,--repeated in endless
varieties of precept or reproof,--is the foundation of all their
rules of philosophizing; as if the very information,--that what we
are to consider exclusively, in the phenomena of nature, is far less
important, than what we are studiously to omit,--were not, of itself,
more powerful, in stimulating our curiosity to attempt the forbidden
search, than any prohibition could be in repressing it. “Felix qui
potuit rerum cognoscere causas.” This will forever be the feeling of
the inquirer, while he thinks that there are any causes, more than
those, which he has already investigated. Even Newton himself, that
sagest of observers and reasoners, who could say, with the simplicity
of pure philosophy, “_Hypotheses non fingo._” yet showed, as we have
seen, by one of the most hypothetical of his Queries, that he was not
exempt from the error which he wished to discourage--that inordinate
love of the unknown, which must always lead those, who believe that
there is something intermediate and undiscovered truly existing between
events, to feel the anxious dissatisfaction of incomplete inquiry, in
considering the mere antecedents and consequents which nature exhibits,
and to turn, therefore, as if for comfort, to any third circumstance,
which can be introduced, without obvious absurdity, as a sort of
connecting link, between the pairs of events. To suppose that the mind
should not have this disposition, would, indeed, be to suppose it void
of that principle of curiosity, without which there can be no inquiry
of any kind. He who could believe, that, between all the visible
phenomena, there are certain invisible agencies continually operating,
which have as real an existence as all that he perceives, and could
yet content himself with numbering the visible phenomena, and giving
them names, without any endeavour to discover the intervening powers,
by which he is constantly surrounded, or at least to form some slight
_guess_, as to that universal machinery, by which he conceived all the
wonders of nature to be wrought, must be a being as different from the
common intellectual beings of this earth, as the perfect sage of the
Stoics from the frail creatures, of mingled vice and virtue, that live
and err around us. That, in considering the phenomena of nature, we
should confine our attention to the mere antecedents and consequents,
which succeed each other in regular series, is unquestionably the
soundest advice that can be given. But it is sound advice, for this
reason more than any other, that the regular series is, in truth,
all that constitutes the phenomena, and that to search for any thing
more, is not to have an unattainable object in view, but to have no
conceivable object whatever. _Then only_ can the inquirer be expected
to content himself with observing and classing the sequences, which
nature presents to us spontaneously, or in obedience to our art,
when he is convinced, that all the substances which exist in the
universe--God and the things which he has created--are every thing
which truly exists in the universe, to which nothing can be added,
which is not itself a _new_ substance; that there can be nothing in the
events of nature, therefore, but the antecedents and consequents which
are present in them; and that these, accordingly, or nothing, are the
very causes and effects, which he is desirous of investigating.

After this examination of the notions connected with the uniform
successions of events, our attention was next turned to the nature and
origin of _hypothetical inquiry_, which we found reason to ascribe
to the imperfection of our senses, that renders it impossible for us
to know whether we have observed the whole train of sequences in any
phenomenon, from our inability to distinguish the various elements
that may be the subjects of minute changes unobserved.

We are hence eager to supply, by a little guess-work of fancy, the
parts unobserved, and suppose deficiencies in our observation where
there may truly have been none; till at length, by this habitual
process, every phenomenon becomes, to our imagination, the sign of
something _intermediate_ as its cause, the discovery of which is to
be an explanation of the phenomenon. The mere succession of one event
to another appears, to us, very difficult to be conceived, because it
wants that intervening something, which we have learned to consider
as a cause; but there seems to be no longer any _mystery_, if we can
only suppose something intervening between them, and can thus succeed
in doubling the difficulty, which we flatter ourselves with having
removed; since, by the insertion of another link, we must now have two
sequences of events instead of one simple sequence. This tendency of
the imagination to form and rest on hypotheses,--or, in other words, to
suppose substances present and operating, of the existence of which we
have no direct proof,--we found to be one great source of error in our
practice of philosophizing.

Another source of error, we found to be the _too great extension_ of
what are termed general laws; which though a less error in itself,
is yet, in one respect, more dangerous than the former; because it
is the error of better understandings,--of understandings that would
not readily fall into the extravagant follies of hypotheses, but
acknowledge the essential importance of induction, and think they
are proceeding on it without the slightest deviation, almost at the
very moment when they are abandoning it for conjecture. To observe
the regular series of antecedents and consequents, and to class these
as similar or dissimilar, are all which philosophers can do with
complete certainty. But there is a constant tendency in the mind, to
convert a _general_ law into an _universal_ law,--to suppose, after
a wide induction, that what is true of many substances that have
a very striking analogy, is as certainly true of _all_ that have
this striking analogy,--and that what is true of them in _certain_
circumstances, is true of them in _all_ circumstances,--or, at least,
in all circumstances which are not remarkably different. The widest
induction which we can make, however, is still limited in its nature;
and, though we may have observed substances in many situations, there
may be some new situations, in which the event may be different, or
even, perhaps, the very reverse of that which we should have predicted,
by reasoning from the mere analogy of other circumstances. It appeared
to me necessary, therefore, in consequence of the very ambiguous manner
in which writers on this higher branch of logic speak of reasoning
from general laws to particulars, to warn you, that the application to
particulars can be made with certainty, only to the very particulars
before observed and generalized,--and that, however analogous other
particulars may seem, the application of the general law to them
admits only of _probability_, which may, indeed, as the induction has
been wider, and the circumstances of observed analogy more numerous,
approach more or less to certainty, but must always be short of it,
even in its nearest approximation.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such, then, is _physical inquiry_, both as to its objects, and its
mode of procedure, particularly as it regards the universe without;
and the laws which regulate our inquiry in the internal world of
thought are, in every respect, similar. The same great objects are
to be had in view, and no other,--the analysis of what is complex,
and the observation and arrangement of the sequences of phenomena, as
respectively antecedent and consequent.

In this respect, also, I may remark, the philosophy of matter and
the philosophy of mind completely agree--that, in both equally, our
knowledge is confined to the phenomena which they exhibit. We give
the name of _matter_ to the unknown cause of various feelings, which,
by the constitution of our nature, it is impossible for us not to
refer to something external as their cause. What it is, independent
of our perception, we know not; but as the subject of our perception,
we regard it as that which is extended, and consequently divisible,
impenetrable, mobile; and these qualities, or whatever other qualities
we may think necessary to include for expressing the particular
substances that affect our senses variously, constitute our whole
definition of matter, because, in truth, they constitute our whole
knowledge of it. To suppose us to know what it is in itself, in
absolute independence of our perception, would be manifestly absurd:
since it is only by our perception,--that is to say, by the feelings of
our mind,--that it can be known to us at all; and these mere feelings
of the mind must depend, at least, as much on the laws of the mind
affected, as on the laws of the substance that affects it. Whatever
knowledge we may acquire of it, therefore, is relative only, and must
be relative in all circumstances; though, instead of the few senses
which connect us with it at present, we were endowed with as many
senses as there are, perhaps, qualities of matter, the nature of which
we are at present incapable of distinguishing;--the only effect of such
increased number of senses being, to render more qualities of matter
known to us, not to make matter known to us in its very essence, as it
exists without relation to mind.

“Tell me,” says Micromegas, an inhabitant of one of the planets of the
Dog Star, to the secretary of the Academy of Sciences in the planet
Saturn, at which he had recently arrived in a journey through the
heavens,--“Tell me, how many senses have the men on your globe?”--I
quote, as perhaps the name has already informed you from an ingenious
philosophic romance of Voltaire, who, from various allusions in the
work, has evidently had Fontenelle, the illustrious secretary of the
French Academy of Sciences, in view, in the picture which he gives
of the Saturnian secretary.--“We have seventy-two senses,” answered
the academician, “and we are, every day, complaining of the smallness
of the number. Our imagination goes far beyond our wants. What are
seventy-two senses! and how pitiful a boundary, even for beings with
such limited perceptions, to be cooped up within our ring, and our five
moons! In spite of our curiosity, and in spite of as many passions
as can result from six dozen of senses, we find our hours hang very
heavily on our hands, and can always find time enough for yawning.”--“I
can very well believe it,” says Micromegas, “for, in our globe, we
have very near _one thousand_ senses; and yet, with all these, we
feel continually a sort of listless inquietude and vague desire,
which are forever telling us that we are nothing, and that there are
beings infinitely nearer perfection. I have travelled a good deal in
the universe. I have seen many classes of mortals far beneath us, and
many as much superior; but I have never had the good fortune to find
any, who had not always more desires than real necessities to occupy
their life.--And, pray, how long may you Saturnians live with your few
senses?” continued the Sirian.--“Ah! but a very short time, indeed!”
said the little man of Saturn, with a sigh.--“It is the same with us,”
said the traveller; “we are forever complaining of the shortness
of life. It must be an universal law of nature.”--“Alas!” said the
Saturnian, “we live only five hundred great revolutions of the sun
(which is pretty much about fifteen thousand years of our counting.)
You see well, that this is to die almost the moment one is born. Our
existence is a point--our duration an instant--our globe an atom.
Scarcely have we begun to pick up a little knowledge, when death rushes
in upon us, before we can have acquired any thing like experience. As
for me, I cannot venture even to think of any project. I feel myself
but like a drop of water in the ocean; and, especially now, when I look
to you and to myself, I really feel quite ashamed of the ridiculous
appearance which I make in the universe.”

“If I did not know that you were a philosopher,” replied Micromegas,
“I should be afraid of distressing you, when I tell you, that our life
is seven hundred times longer than yours.--But what is even that? and,
when we come to the last moment, to have lived a _single day_, and to
have lived a _whole eternity_, amount to the very same thing. I have
been in countries where they live a thousand times longer than with us;
and I have always found them murmuring, just as we do ourselves.--But
you have seventy-two senses, and they must have told you something
about your globe. How many properties has matter with you?”--“If you
mean _essential_ properties,” said the Saturnian, “without which
our globe could not subsist, we count three hundred, extensive,
impenetrable, mobile, gravitation, divisibility, and so forth.”--“That
small number,” replied the gigantic traveller, “may be sufficient for
the views which the Creator must have had with respect to your narrow
habitation. Your globe is little; its inhabitants are so too. You have
few senses; your matter has few qualities. In all this, Providence has
suited you most happily to each other.”

“The academician was more and more astonished with every thing which
the traveller told him. At length, after communicating to each other
a little of what they knew, and a great deal of what they knew _not_,
and reasoning, as well and as ill, as philosophers usually do, they
resolved to set out together, on a little tour of the universe.”[33]

That, with the one thousand senses of the Sirian, or even the
seventy-two senses of the inhabitant of Saturn, our notions of
matter would be very different from what they are at present, cannot
be doubted; since we should assign to it qualities, corresponding
with all the varieties of our six dozen or one thousand classes of
sensations. But, even with all these sensations, it is evident, that we
should still know as little of _matter_, independent of the phenomena
which it exhibits in relation to us, as we know, at this moment. Our
definition of it would comprehend more phenomena; but it would still
be a definition of its phenomena only. We might perhaps be able to
fill up the Saturnian catalogue of three hundred essential properties,
but these would be still only the relations of matter to our own
perception. A change in the mere susceptibility of our organs of sense,
or of our sentient mind, would be relatively to us, like a change in
the whole system of things, communicating, as it were, new properties
to every object around us. A single sense additional, in man, might
thus be to external nature, like the creation of the sun, when he
first burst upon it in splendour, “like the god of the new world,” and
pouring every where his own effulgency, seemed to shed on it the very
beauties which he only revealed.

If our knowledge of matter be relative only, our knowledge of mind
is equally so. We know it only as susceptible of feelings that have
already existed, and its susceptibilities of feelings which have not
arisen, but which may, in other circumstances, arise, we know as
little, as the blind can be supposed to know of colours, or as we,
with all our senses, know of the qualities which matter might exhibit
to us, if our own organization were different. Of the _essence_
of mind, then, we know nothing, but in relation to the states or
feelings that form, or have formed, our momentary consciousness. Our
knowledge is not absolute but relative; though, I must confess, that
the term _relative_ is applied, in an unusual manner, when, as in
the present instance, the relative and correlative are the same. It
is unquestionably the same individual mind, which, in intellectual
investigation, is at once the object and the observer. But the noble
endowment of memory, with which our Creator has blessed us, solves
all the mystery of this singular paradox. In consequence of this one
faculty, our mind, simple and indivisible as it truly is, is, as it
were multiplied and extended, expanding itself over that long series
of sensations and emotions, in which it seems to live again, and to
live with many lives. But for memory, there can be no question that
the relation of thought to thought could not have been perceived; and
that hence there could have been no philosophy whatever, intellectual
or moral, physical or metaphysical. To this wonderful endowment, then,
which gives us the past to compare with the present, we owe that
most wonderful of relations, of which the same being is at once the
_object_ and the _subject_, contemplating itself, in the same manner,
as it casts its view on objects that are distant from it, comparing
thought with thought, emotion with emotion, approving its own moral
actions, with the complacency with which it looks on the virtues of
those whom it admires and loves, in the most remote nation or age, or
passing sentence on itself, as if on a wretch whom it loathed, that was
trembling with conscious delinquency, under the inquisition of a severe
and all-knowing judge.

The past feelings of the mind, then, are, as it were, objects present
to the mind itself, and acquire, thus truly, a sort of relative
existence, which enables us to class the phenomena of our own spiritual
being as we class the phenomena of the world without. The mind is that
which we know to have been susceptible of all the variety of feelings
which we remember; and it is only as it is susceptible of all these
varieties of feeling, that we can have any knowledge of it. We define
it therefore, by stating its various susceptibilities, including more
or fewer of these, in our definition, as we may either have observed
or remembered more or less, or generalized more or less what we have
observed and remembered; precisely as in our definition of matter,
we include more or fewer qualities, according to the extent of our
previous observation and arrangement.

That we know _matter_, only as relative to our own susceptibility of
being affected by it, does not lessen the value of the knowledge of
it, which we are able to acquire; and, indeed, it is only as it is
capable of affecting us, that the knowledge of it can be of any direct
and immediate utility. It would, indeed, be the very absurdity of
contradiction, to suppose ourselves acquainted with qualities which
cannot affect us. But, even though this were possible, how profitless
would the knowledge be, compared with the knowledge of the qualities
which are capable of affecting us; like the knowledge of the seasons of
the planet Saturn, or of the planets that have the Dog Star for their
sun, compared with the more important knowledge of the seasons of our
own globe, by which we have the comfort of anticipating, in the labours
of spring, the abundance of autumn, and gather in autumn the fruits,
which, as products of vernal labour, are truly fruits of the spring.

To know _matter_, even _relatively_, as our limited senses allow us to
know it, is to have knowledge which can scarcely be called limited.
Nothing, indeed, can seem more narrow in extent, if we think only of
the small number of our senses, by which alone the communication can
be carried on. But what infinity of objects has nature presented to
each! In the mere forms and colours that strike our eyes, what splendid
variety! the proportion of all things that bloom or live, the earth,
the ocean, the universe, and almost God himself appearing to our very
senses, in the excellence and beauty of the works which He has made!

It is the same, with respect to the _mind_, though we know it only
by its susceptibilities of affection, in the various feelings of
our momentary consciousness, and cannot hope to know it, but as the
permanent subject of all these separate consciousnesses; to know thus
relatively only, the affections even of one single substance, is to
have a field of the most boundless and inexhaustible wonders ever
present and open to our inquiry! It may be said to comprehend every
thing which we perceive, and remember, and imagine, and compare, and
admire, all those mysterious processes of thought, which, in the
happy efforts of the philosopher and the poet, are concerned in the
production of their noblest results, and which are not less deserving
of our regard, as they are every moment exercised by all, in the humble
intellectual functions of common life. In analyzing and arranging the
mental phenomena, then, we consider phenomena, that are diversified,
indeed, in individuals, but, as species, are still common to all; for
there is no power possessed by the most comprehensive intellect, which
it does not share, in some proportion, with the dullest and rudest of
mankind. All men perceive, remember, reason,--all, to a certain degree
at least, from their little theories, both physical and metaphysical,
of the conduct of their fellow men, and of the passing events of
nature; and all, occasionally, enliven their social intercourse, or
their solitary hours, with inventions of fancy, that last but for
a moment indeed, and are not worthy of lasting longer, but which
are products of the same species of intellectual energy, that gave
existence to those glorious works, to which ages have listened with
increasing reverence, and which, immortal as the spirits that produced
them, are yet to command the veneration of every future age. When we
see before us, in its finished magnificence, a temple, appropriated to
the worship of the Supreme Being, and almost worthy of being filled
with his presence, we scarcely think that it is erected according to
the same simple principles, and formed of the same stone and mortar,
as the plain dwellings around us, adapted to the hourly and humble
uses of domestic life; and by a similar illusion, when we consider the
splendid works of intellectual art, we can scarcely bring ourselves to
think, that genius is but a form of general tendencies of association,
of which all partake; and that its magnificent conceptions, therefore,
rise, according to the same simple laws which regulate the course of
thought of the vulgar. In this universality of diffusion as general
tendencies, that may be variously excited by varying circumstances,
our intellectual powers are similar to those other principles of
our nature,--our emotions, and whatever feelings more immediately
connected with moral action have been usually distinguished by the
name of our active powers. In the philosophy of both we consider,
not a few distinguished individuals, as possessed of principles
essentially distinct in kind, but the species _man_. They are to be
found, wherever there is a human being; and we do not infer with more
certainty, when we perceive the impression of a foot upon the sand,
that man has been there, than we expect to find in him, whatever may
be his state of barbarism or civilization, some form of the common
powers, and passions, which, though directed perhaps to different
objects, we have felt and witnessed in the society around us. “The
two-legged animal,” says Dr Reid, “that eats of nature's dainties what
his taste or appetite craves, and satisfies his thirst at the crystal
fountain; who propagates his kind as occasion and lust prompt; repels
injuries, and takes alternate labour and repose; is like a tree in the
forest, purely of nature's growth. But this same savage has within
him the seeds of the logician, the man of taste and breeding, the
orator, the statesman, the man of virtue, and the saint; which seeds,
though planted in his mind by nature, yet, through want of culture
and exercise, must lie forever buried, and be hardly perceivable, by
himself, or by others.”[34] Even of those passions of a prouder kind,
which attract our attention only when they are on a theatre that allows
their full display, some vestiges are to be traced universally; though
in different individuals, they may exist with very different degrees
of influence, and though their influence, according to the degree of
power possessed by the individual, may be attended with very different
consequences, to the few, or the many, comprehended within the wide or
narrow circle, to which his power extends.

         ----“Not kings alone,
    Each villager has his ambition to;
    No sultan prouder than his fetter'd slave.
    Slaves build their little Babylons of straw,
    Echo the proud Assyrian in their hearts,
    And cry, Behold the wonders of my might.”[35]

It is this universal diffusion of sympathies and emotions, indeed,
which gives its whole force to morality, as a universal obligation; and
renders _ethics_ truly a _science_.

Nature, in requiring the fruits of virtue from all, has not fixed the
seeds of it, only in a few breasts. “Nulli præclusa virtus est, omnibus
patet, omnes admittit, omnes invitat, ingenuos, libertinos, servos,
reges et exsules; non eligit domum, nec censum; nudo homine contenta
est.”[36] Virtue has no partial favours or exclusions. She is open to
all, she admits all, she invites all. She asks no wealth nor ancestry;
but she asks the man,--the master or the slave, the cottager and his
lord, the sovereign and the exile.

Though we know _mind_, then only _relatively_, in the series of
feelings, of which we are conscious, as we know matter relatively in
the series of phenomena, which it exhibits to our observation, we have,
in this relative knowledge, subjects worthy of the contemplation of
beings permitted, in these shadowings of a higher power, to trace some
faint image of the very majesty which formed them. Even of the humblest
mind, as we have seen, the various affections, sensitive, intellectual,
and moral, that arise in it as affections of our common nature, are
truly admirable; and what an increase of sublimity do they acquire,
in minds of higher powers! But still, it must be remembered, that even
in minds the most sublime, as much as in the most humble, all which
can be truly known is the successive phenomena which they exhibit, not
the essence of the spiritual substance itself; and that, even of these
successive phenomena, though we become gradually acquainted with more
and more, we probably never can arrive at any bound which is to limit
their number. The susceptibilities of the mind, by which, in different
circumstances, it may exist in different states, are certainly as truly
infinite as the space which surrounds us, or as that eternity which,
in its progress, measures the successions of our feelings, and all
the other changes in the universe. Every new thought, or combination
of thoughts, is in truth a new state or affection, or phenomenon of
the mind, and, therefore, a proof of the susceptibility of that new
affection, as an original quality of the mind; and every rise in
knowledge, from age to age, and from inquirer to inquirer, is thus
only the developement of susceptibilities, which the mind possessed
before, though the circumstances which at last called them forth, never
existed till the moment of the developement. What should we think of
the half-naked savage of some barbarous island, if, in the pride of his
ignorance, he were to conceive his own thoughts and feelings, to be the
noblest of which the human intellect is capable? and, perhaps, even the
mind of a Newton, is but the mind of such a savage, compared with what
man is hereafter to become.


[33] Voltaire Œuvres, tom. xiv. p. 99-101. 4_to_ _Edit._ of 1771.

[34] Inquiry into the Human Mind, Introd. p. 7. 8vo. _Edit._

[35] Young's Night Thoughts, vii. v. 392-397.

[36] Seneca de Beneficiis, lib. iii. c. 18.



Gentlemen, after laying down the general laws of physical inquiry, I
had begun, in the conclusion of my last Lecture, to consider them, more
particularly in their relation to the study of mind.

One very important circumstance of agreement in the physical
investigations of mind and matter, we found to be, that, of both
matter and mind, the successive phenomena are all which we truly
know, though by the very constitution of our nature, it is impossible
for us not to ascribe these to some _permanent subject_. _Matter_
is the permanent subject of certain qualities, extension, and its
consequent divisibility, attraction, repulsion; that is to say, it is
the permanent exhibiter to us of certain varying phenomena which we
observe. _Mind_ is the permanent subject of certain qualities or states
or affections of a different class--perception, memory, reason, joy,
grief, love, hate; that is to say, of certain varying phenomena of
which we are conscious. What _matter_ is independent of our perception;
what _mind_ is independent of its temporary variety of feeling, it
is impossible for us to discover; since whatever new knowledge of
matter we can suppose ourselves to acquire, must be acquired by our
perception, and must, therefore, be relative to it; and whatever new
knowledge we can suppose ourselves to acquire of mind, must be itself
a state or affection of the mind, and, therefore, only a new mental
phenomenon to be added to those with which we were before acquainted,
as one of the many states in which the permanent substance _mind_ is
capable of existing.

Since it is only by their relation to our own feelings, then, that
substances can be known to us, beyond these relations it would be vain
for us to think of penetrating; as vain, at least, as would be the
attempts of the deaf to discover, by a process of reasoning, the nature
of the sensations of sound, or of the blind to determine, not the
lines of direction merely, in which the various coloured rays of light
pass after refraction, for these they may optically determine, but the
various sensations, corresponding with all the varieties of tint into
which the sun-beams are broken by the drops of a falling shower. The
substance matter, the substance mind, are, in this respect, to the
whole race of metaphysical inquirers, what the rainbow, as a series of
colours, is to opticians, who have never seen.

The absurdity of such inquiries, into any thing more than the mere
phenomena, if it be not sufficiently evident of itself, may, perhaps,
be rendered more apparent, by a very easy supposition. Let us imagine
the permanent unknown substance _matter_, and the permanent unknown
substance _mind_, to be rendered, by the same divine power which made
them, altogether different in their own absolute essence, as they exist
independently, but to exhibit relatively, precisely the same phenomena
as at present,--that spring, and summer, and autumn, and winter, in
every appearance that can affect our organs of perception, succeed
each other as now, pouring out the same profusion of foliage, and
flowers, and fruits, and, after the last gladness of the vintage and
the harvest, sweeping the few lingering blossoms, with those desolating
blasts, which seem like the very destroyers of nature, while they are
only leading in, with great freshness, under the same benevolent eye
of Heaven, the same delightful circle of beauty and abundance,--that,
in mind, the same sensations are excited by the same objects, and
are followed by the same remembrances, and comparisons, and hopes,
and fears;--in these circumstances, while all the phenomena which we
observe, and all the phenomena of which we are conscious, continue
exactly the same, can we believe, that we should be able to discover
the essential change, which, according to this supposition, had taken
place, in the permanent subjects of these unvaried phenomena! And,
if, as long as the external and internal phenomena continued exactly
the same, we should be incapable of discovering, or even suspecting,
the slightest change, where, by supposition, there had been a change
so great, how absurd is it to conceive that the changed or unchanged
nature of the substance itself, as it exists independently of the
phenomenon, ever can become known to us.

He, indeed, it may always safely be presumed, knows least of the mind,
who thinks that he knows its substance best. “What is the soul?” was
a question once put to Marivaux. “I know nothing of it,” he answered,
“but that it is spiritual and immortal.” “Well,” said his friend, “let
us ask Fontenelle, and _he_ will tell us what it is.” “No,” cried
Marivaux, “ask any body but Fontenelle, for he has too much _good sense
to know any more about it than we do_.”

It is to the phenomena only, then, that our attention is to be
given, not to any vain inquiries into the absolute nature of the
substances which exhibit the phenomena. This alone is legitimate
philosophy,--philosophy which must forever retain its claim to our
assent, amid the rise and fall of all those spurious speculations,
to which our vanity is so fond of giving the names of _theory_ and
_system_. Whatever that may be, in itself, which feels, and thinks, and
wills,--if our feelings, and thoughts, and volitions be the same--all
which we can know, and compare, and arrange, must be the same; and,
while we confine our attention to these, the general laws of their
succession which we infer, and the various relations which they seem to
bear to each other, may be admitted equally by those whose opinions,
as to the absolute nature of the feeling and thinking principle,
differ fundamentally. It requires no peculiar supposition, or belief,
as to the nature of the mind, to know, that its trains of thought
are influenced, by former habits, or casual association; and every
fact, which the immaterialist has accurately observed and arranged,
with respect to the influence of habit or association, may thus, with
equal reason, form a part of the intellectual and moral creed of the
materialist also.

On these two systems it is not at present my intention to make any
remarks; all which I wish, now, is to explain to you, how independent
the real philosophy of the mind is, of any fanciful conjectures, which
may be formed, with respect to its essence. It differs from these, as
Mr. Stewart has well observed, in the same manner “as the inquiries of
Galileo, concerning the laws of moving bodies, differ from the disputes
of the ancient Sophists, concerning the existence and the nature of
motion,” or as the conclusions of Newton, with respect to the law of
gravitation, differ from his query concerning the mode in which he
supposed that gravity might possibly be produced. The hypothesis,
involved in the query, you may admit or reject; the conclusions, with
respect to the law of gravitation itself, as far as relates to our
planetary system, are, I may say, almost beyond your power of rejecting.

The philosophy of mind then, and the philosophy of matter, agree, in
this respect, that our knowledge is, in both, confined to the mere
phenomena. They agree also, in the two species of inquiry which they
admit. The phenomena of _mind_, in the same manner as we have seen in
the case of _matter_, may be considered as complex and susceptible of
analysis, or they may be considered as successive in a certain _order_,
and bearing, therefore, to each other the reciprocal relation of causes
and effects.

That we can know the phenomena, only as far as we have attended to
their sequences, and that, without experiment, therefore, it would have
been impossible for us to predict any of their successions, is equally
true, in mind as in matter. Many of the successions, indeed, are so
familiar to us, that it may appear to you, at first, very difficult
to conceive, that we should not have been able, at least with respect
to them, to predict, originally, _what_ antecedents would have been
followed by _what_ consequents. We may allow certainly, that we should
not have been able to foresee the pleasure which we receive from the
finer works of imitative art--from the successions, or co-existences,
in music, of sounds, that, considered separately, would scarcely be
counted among the sources of delight--from the charm of versification,
that depends on circumstances, so very slight, as to be altogether
destroyed, and even converted into pain, by the change of quantity
of a single syllable. But, that the remembrance of pleasure should
not be attended with desire of enjoying it again, seems to us almost
inconsistent with the very nature of the pleasing emotion. In like
manner, we may allow, that we could not have predicted the sympathy
which we feel with the distresses of others, when they arise from
causes that cannot affect us, and yet make, for the time, the agony,
which we merely behold, a part of our own existence. But we can
scarcely think, that we require _any_ experience, to know, that the
contemplation of pain, which we may ourselves have to endure, should be
the cause of that painful feeling, to which we give the name of _fear_,
or that the actual suffering should be accompanied with the desire of
relief. The truth is, however, that, in all these cases, and in all
of them equally,--it would have been impossible, but for experience,
to predict the consequent of any of the antecedents. The pleasure,
which we feel, in the contemplation of a work of art, the pain, which
we feel, at the sight of the misery of others, are as much the natural
effects of states of mind preceding them, as the fear of pain is the
effect of the consideration of pain as hanging over us. Our various
feelings, similar or dissimilar, kindred or discordant, are all mere
states of the mind; and there is nothing, in any one state of the mind,
considered in itself, which, necessarily, involves the succession of
any other state of mind. That particular state, for example, which
constitutes the mere feeling of pain, instead of being attended by that
different state which constitutes the desire of being freed from pain,
might have continued, as one uniform feeling, or might have ceased, and
been succeeded by some other state, though in the original adaptation
of our mental frames, by that Creator's wisdom which planned the
sequences of its phenomena, the particular affection, which constitutes
_desire_, had not been one of the innumerable varieties of affection,
of which the mind was forever to be susceptible.

What susceptibilities the mind has exhibited in the ordinary
circumstances in which it has been placed, we know, and they have been
limited to a certain number, corresponding with the feelings which
have arisen in these circumstances. But the Almighty Power, who fixed
this particular number, might have increased or lessened the number at
His pleasure, in the same manner, as He might, at His pleasure, have
multiplied or diminished the whole number of his animated creatures;
and, where there has been no limit, but the will of the _Limiter_,
it is experience only which can give us any knowledge of the actual
limitation. We are always too much inclined to believe, that we
know what must have been, because we know what is,--and to suppose
ourselves acquainted, not merely with the gracious ends which Supreme
Goodness had in view, in creating us, but with the very object, which
each separate modification of our intellectual and moral constitution
was intended to answer. I would not, indeed, go so far as Pope, in
that passage of the Essay on Man, in which he seems to imply, that
our ignorance of the wise and harmonious intentions of Providence,
in the constitution of our mind, is like the ignorance of the
inferior animals, as to the motives which influence the follies and
inconsistencies of their capricious master.

    “When the proud steed shall know, why man restrains
    His fiery course, or drives him o'er the plains,
    When the dull ox, why now he breaks the clod,
    Is now a victim, and now Egypt's God,--
    Then shall man's pride and dulness comprehend
    His action's, passion's, being's, use and end;
    Why doing, suffering, check'd, impell'd; and why
    This hour a slave, the next a deity.”[37]

Our Divine Author has not left us, even now, to darkness like this.
We know, in a great measure, the use and end of our actions and
passions, because we know _who_ it is who has formed us to do and
to bear,--and who, from His own moral excellence, cannot have given
us any susceptibility, even that of suffering, which does not tend,
upon the whole, to strengthen virtue, and to consecrate, as in some
purifying sacrifice, the sufferer of a moment to affections more holy,
and happiness more divine. Yet, though we know, in this general sense,
our action's, passion's, being's, use and end, as subservient to the
universal plan of Infinite Goodness, we are not so well acquainted
with the particular uses of each state of the mind, as to have been
able to predict it, merely as a part or consequence of the plan. The
knowledge of every successive modification of our thought, is still as
much the result of experience, as if the gracious plan, to which all
these successive modifications are instrumental, were wholly unknown
to us:--Yet, such is the influence of habit, in familiarizing us to
phenomena, that we think, that experience is nothing, only in those
cases, in which the power of experience has been most frequently and
familiarly felt; and while in the rarer successions of feelings, we
allow, that there are phenomena of the mind, which we could not have
foreknown, we find it difficult to imagine, in the recurrences of the
common mental phenomena, that, even originally, it could have required
any peculiar foresight to predict, what we are now conscious of
predicting with a readiness, that seems to us almost like the instant
glance of intuition.

In the philosophy of external matter, the greater or less familiarity
of events produces an illusion exactly similar. There are certain
phenomena, which, we readily admit, could not, of themselves,
and without experience, have indicated to us, either the changes
which preceded them, or the changes which were to follow; while
there are other phenomena, more familiar, which seem to us to
require no experience, for informing us, both of their antecedents
and consequents,--merely because they have been of such frequent
occurrence, that we do not remember the time, when we were ignorant
of them, or of the circumstances, by which they are usually preceded
and followed. That a magnetic needle should tend to the north,
rather than to any other point,--and that glass, or amber, rubbed
in a certain manner, should exhibit the very striking phenomena of
electricity, transmitting this power through certain substances, and
not transmitting it through others, which have nothing peculiar in
their sensible qualities, to mark them as less or better fitted for
this communication, appear to us to be facts, which we could not have
known, till we had actually witnessed them. But that a stone, rolled
from the hand, should continue to move in the same direction, after
quitting the hand, seems a fact, which it must have been easy for us to
foresee. We are not aware, that it is only the more familiar occurrence
of the one event, than of the others, which makes its sequence appear
more obvious; and that, but for this greater familiarity, we might as
readily have supposed, that a stone, after quitting the hand which
flung it, should have remained in the air, or fallen to the ground,
as that the needle, without any tendency to the north, would remain
stationary, to whatever point of the compass we might turn it.

Such is the influence of early acquaintance with the more frequent
and obvious events, whether in mind or in matter. We have become
familiar with them, and with their causes and consequences, long before
reflection; and it is not very wonderful, that we should conceive
ourselves to have _known always_, what we do not remember to have ever

That to know, in the series of mental phenomena, _what_ are the
antecedents, and _what_ their consequents, is one great branch of the
Philosophy of Mind, I surely need not attempt to demonstrate; and it
would be equally superfluous to demonstrate its importance, especially
after the remarks--if even these were necessary,--which I made in a
former Lecture; since it is not merely, as a very interesting branch
of speculative knowledge, that it is valuable, but, as I then showed,
still more valuable, as the foundation of every intellectual art,
especially of those noble and almost divine arts, which have, for their
immediate object, the illumination and amendment of mankind--the art
of training ignorance to wisdom, and even wisdom itself to knowledge
still more sublime,--of fixing youthful innocence in the voluntary
practice of virtue, that is as yet little more than an _instinct_ of
which it is scarcely conscious,--of breathing that moral inspiration,
which strengthens feeble goodness, when it is about to fall, tames even
the wildest excesses of the wildest passions, and leads back, as if by
the invisible power of some guardian spirit, even Guilt itself, to the
happiness which it had lost, and the holier wishes, which it rejoices
to feel once more.

Since the phenomena of the mind, however, are obviously _successive_,
like those of matter, the consideration of the sequences of the mental
phenomena, and the arrangement of them in certain classes, may appear
to you sufficiently analogous to the consideration and arrangement of
the sequences of the phenomena of the material world. But that there
should be any inquiries, in the philosophy of mind, corresponding
with the inquiries into the composition of bodies, may appear to you
improbable, or almost absurd; since the mind, and consequently its
affections--which I use as a short general term for expressing all the
variety of the modes in which it can be affected, and which, therefore,
are only the mind itself as it exists in different states,--must be
always _simple_ and _indivisible_. Yet, wonderful, or even absurd,
as it may seem, notwithstanding the absolute simplicity of the mind
itself, and consequently of all its feelings or momentary states,--the
Science of Mind is, in its most important respects, a source of
analysis, or of a process which I have said to be virtually the same as
analysis; and it is only, as it is in this virtual sense analytical,
that any discovery, at least that any important discovery, can be
expected to be made in it.

It is, indeed, scarcely possible to advance, even a step in
intellectual physics, without the necessity of performing some sort
of analysis, by which we reduce to simpler elements, some complex
feeling that seems to us virtually to involve them. In the mind of
man, all is in a state of constant and ever-varying complexity, and
a single sentiment may be the slow result of innumerable feelings.
There is not a single pleasure, or pain, or thought, or emotion, that
may not,--by the influence of that associating principle, which is
afterwards to come under our consideration,--be so connected with
_other_ pleasures, or pains, or thoughts, or emotions, as to form
with them, forever after, an union the most intimate. The complex,
or seemingly complex, phenomena of thought, which result from the
constant operation of this principle of the mind, it is the labour of
the _intellectual inquirer_ to _analyze_, as it is the labour of the
_chemist_ to reduce the compound bodies, on which he operates, however
close and intimate their combination may be, to their constituent
elements. The process, and the instruments by which the analyses are
carried on, are, indeed, as different as matter is from mind,--cumbrous
as matter, in the one case,--in the other, simple and spiritual as
mind itself. The aggregates of matter we analyze by the use of other
matter, adding substance after substance, and varying manipulation
after manipulation;--the complex mental phenomena we analyze virtually
by mere reflection; the same individual mind being the subject of
analysis, the instrument of analysis, and the analysing inquirer.

When I speak, however, of the union of separate thoughts and feelings
in one complex sentiment or emotion, and of the analytic power of
reflection or reason, it must not be conceived, that I use these
words in a sense precisely the same as when they are applied to
matter. A mass of matter, as we have seen, is, in truth, not _one_
body merely, but a _multitude_ of contiguous bodies; all of which, at
the time, may be considered as having a separate existence, and as
placed together more by accidental apposition, than by any essential
union;--and _analysis_ is nothing more than what its etymology denotes,
a _loosening_ of these from each other. In strictness of language,
this composition and analysis cannot take place in _mind_. Even the
most complex feeling is still only _one_ feeling; for we cannot divide
the states or affections of our mind into separate self-existing
fractions, as we can divide a compound mass of matter into masses,
which are separate and self-existing,--nor distinguish _half_ a joy or
sorrow from a _whole_ joy or sorrow. The conception of gold, and the
conception of a mountain, may separately arise, and may be followed
by the conception of a golden mountain; which may be said to be a
compound of the two, in the sense in which I use that word, to express
merely, that what is thus termed compound or complex is the result
of certain previous feelings, to which, as if existing together, it
is felt to have the virtual relation of equality, or the relation
which a whole bears to the parts that are comprehended in it. But
the conception of a _golden mountain_ is still as much _one_ state
or feeling of one simple mind, as either of the separate conceptions
of gold and of a mountain which preceded it. In cases of this kind,
indeed, it is the very nature of the resulting feeling to seem to us
thus complex; and we are led, by the very constitution of our mind
itself, to consider what we term a complex idea, as equivalent to the
separate ideas from which it results, or as comprehensive of them,--as
being truly to our conception--though to our conception only--and,
therefore, only virtually or relatively to us the inquirers--the same,
as if it were composed of the separate feelings _co-existing_, as the
elements of a body co-exist in space.

It is this feeling of the relation of certain states of mind to
certain other states of mind, which solves the whole mystery of
mental analysis, that seemed at first so inexplicable,--the virtual
_decomposition_, in our thought, of what is by its very nature,
_indivisible_. The mind, indeed, it must be allowed, is absolutely
simple in all its states; every separate state or affection of it must
therefore, be absolutely simple; but in certain cases, in which a
feeling is the result of other feelings preceding it, it is its very
nature to appear to involve the union of those preceding feelings;
and to distinguish the separate sensations, or thoughts, or emotions,
of which, on reflection, it thus seems to be comprehensive, is to
perform an intellectual process, which, though not a real analysis,
is an analysis at least relatively to our conception. It may still,
indeed, be said with truth, that the different feelings,--the states or
affections of mind which we term _complex_,--are absolutely _simple_
and _indivisible_, as much as the feelings or affections of mind which
we term simple. Of this there can be no doubt. But the complexity with
which alone we are concerned is not _absolute_ but _relative_,--a
seeming complexity, which is involved in the very feeling of relation
of every sort. That we are thus impressed with certain feelings
of relation of conceptions to conceptions, no one can doubt who
knows, that all science has its origin in these very feelings; and
equivalence, or equality, is one of those relations, which, from its
very constitution, it would be as impossible for the mind in certain
circumstances, not to feel, as it would be impossible for it, in
certain other circumstances, not to have those simple feelings which
it compares. With perfect organs of vision, and in the full light of
day, it is not possible for us to look on a tree, or a rock, without
perceiving it; but it is not more possible for us to form a conception
of two trees, without regarding this state of mind, simple though
it truly is, when absolutely considered as virtually involving, or
as equal to, two of those separate feelings, which constituted the
conception of a single tree.

On this mere feeling of virtual equivalence, is founded all the
demonstration of those sciences, which claim the glory of being
peculiarly demonstrative; our equations and proportions of abstract
number and quantity involving continually this analytic valuation of
notions, as reciprocally proportional. Our conception of an angle of
forty-five degrees is _one_ state or affection of mind,--one state
of one simple indivisible substance;--such, too, is our conception
of a right angle. Our notion of _four_ or _eight_ is as much _one_
affection of mind, as our notion of a simple unit. But, in reflecting
on the separate states of mind which constitute these notions, we are
impressed with certain relations which they seem, to us, reciprocally
to bear, and we consider the angle of forty-five degrees as equal to
half the angle of ninety degrees, and our notion of eight as involving
or equal to two of four. If one state of mind, which constitutes
the notion of a certain abstract number or quantity, had not been
considered in this sort of virtual comprehensiveness, as bearing the
relation of equality, or proportion, to other states of mind, which
constitute other abstract notions of the same species, mathematics
would not merely have lost their certainty, but there could not, in
truth, have been any such science as mathematics.

The _intellectual analysis_, which appears to me to constitute
so important a part of the science of mind, is nothing more than
the successive developement, in application to the various mental
phenomena, of this feeling of equivalence, or comprehensiveness, which
is not confined to the mathematical notions of number and quantity,
(though, from the greater simplicity of these, _their_ equality or
proportion may be more accurately distinguished,) but extends to every
thought and feeling which we regard as complex, that is to say, to
almost every thought and feeling of which the mind is susceptible. We
compare virtue with virtue, talent with talent, not, indeed, with the
same precision, but certainly in the same manner, and with the same
feeling of proportion, as we compare intellectually one angle with
another; and we ask what ideas are involved in our complex notions of
religion and government, with as strong a feeling that a number of
ideas are virtually involved or comprehended in them, as when we ask,
how often the square of two is repeated in the cube of six.

Analysis, then, in the Science of Mind, you will perceive, is founded
wholly on the feeling of relation which one state of mind seems to
us to bear to other states of mind, as comprehensive of them; but,
while this seeming complexity is felt, it is the same thing to our
analysis, as if the complexity, instead of being virtual and relative
only, were absolute and real. It may be objected to the application of
the term _analysis_ to the Science of Mind, that it is a term which,
its etymology shews, as I have already admitted, to be borrowed from
matter, and to convey, as applied to the mind, a notion in some degree
different from its etymological sense. But this is an objection which
may be urged, with at least equal force, against every term, or almost
every term, of our science. In our want of a peculiar metaphysical
language, we are obliged in this, as in every other case, to borrow
a metaphysical language from the material world; and we are very
naturally led to speak of mental composition and analysis, since to the
mind which feels the relation of equivalence or comprehensiveness, it
is precisely the same thing as if our ideas and emotions, that result
from former ideas and emotions, and are felt by us as if involving
these in one complex whole, could be actually divided into the separate
elements which appear to us thus virtually or relatively to be
comprehended in them.

It is from having neglected this branch of the physical investigation
of the mind,--by far the more important of the two,--and having fixed
their attention solely on the successions of its phenomena, that some
philosophers have been led to disparage the science as fruitless of
discovery, and even to deride the pretensions or the hopes of those who
do not consider it as absolutely exhausted;--I will not say now merely,
in the present improved state of the science, but as not exhausted
almost before philosophy began, in the rude consciousness of the
rudest savage, who saw, and remembered, and compared, and hoped, and
feared; and must, therefore, it is said, have known what it is to see,
and remember, and compare, and hope, and fear.

If the phenomena of the mind were to be regarded merely as
successive,--which is one only of the two lights in which they may
be physically viewed,--it might, indeed, be said, with a little
more appearance of truth, that this mere succession must be as
familiar to the unreflecting mind as to the mind of the philosopher;
though, even in this limited sense, the remark is far from being
accurate. But the phenomena have other relations, as well as those of
succession,--relations which are not involved in the mere consciousness
of the moment, but are discoverable by reflection only,--and to the
knowledge of which, therefore, addition after addition may be made by
every new generation of reflecting inquirers. From the very instant
of its first existence, the mind is constantly exhibiting phenomena
more and more complex,--sensations, thoughts, emotions, all mingling
together, and almost every feeling modifying, in some greater or less
degree, the feelings that succeed it;--and as, in chemistry, it often
happens, that the qualities of the separate ingredients of a compound
body are not recognizable by us, in the apparently different qualities
of the compound itself,--so, in this spontaneous _chemistry_ of the
_mind_, the compound sentiment, that results from the association of
former feelings, has, in many cases, on first consideration, so little
resemblance to these constituents of it, as formerly existing in their
elementary state, that it requires the most attentive reflection to
separate, and evolve distinctly to others, the assemblages which even
a few years may have produced. Indeed, so complex are the mental
phenomena, and so difficult of analysis,--even in those most common
cases, which may be said to be familiar to all,--that it is truly
wonderful that the difficulty of this analysis, and the field of
inquiry which this very difficulty opens, should not have occurred to
the disparagers of intellectual discovery, and made them feel, that
what _they_ were not able to explain could not be so well known to
all mankind as to be absolutely incapable of additional illustration.
The _savage_, they will tell us, is conscious of what he feels in
loving his country, as well as the sage; but, does he know as well, or
can even the sage himself inform us with precision, what the various
_elementary_ feelings have been, that have successively modified,
or rather, that have constituted this local attachment? The peasant,
indeed, may have the feeling of beauty, like the artist who produces
it, or the speculative inquirer, who analyses this very complex

                      “Ask the swain,
    Who journeys homeward, from a summer day's
    Long labour, why, forgetful of his toils
    And due repose, he loiters to behold
    The sunshine gleaming, as through amber clouds,
    O'er all the western sky? Full soon, I ween,
    His rude expression, and untutor'd airs,
    Beyond the power of language, will unfold
    The form of Beauty smiling at his heart,
    How lovely, how commanding!”[38]

But the mere emotion which beauty produces, is not the knowledge of
the simpler feelings that have composed or modified it; and though the
pleasure and admiration were to continue exactly the same, the peasant
would surely have learned something, if he could be made to understand,
that beauty was more than the form and colour which his eye perceived.
What is thus true of beauty as differently understood by the peasant
and the philosopher, is true, in like manner, of all the other complex
mental phenomena. It would, indeed, be as reasonable to affirm, that,
because we all move our limbs, we are all equally acquainted with the
physiology of muscular motion; or, to take a case still more exactly
appropriate, that we know all the sublimest truths of arithmetic
and geometry, because we know all the numbers and figures of the
mere relations of which these are the science,--as that we are all
acquainted with the physiology of the mind, and the number of elements
which enter into our various feelings, because we all perceive, and
remember, and love, and hate. It is, it will be allowed, chiefly, or
perhaps, wholly, as it is _analytical_, that the science of mind admits
of _discovery_; but, as a science of analysis, in which new relations
are continually felt on reflection, it presents us with a field of
discovery as rich, and, I may say, almost as inexhaustible in wonders,
as that of the universe without.

“It is thus,” I have elsewhere remarked, “even in phenomena, which
seem so simple as scarcely to have admitted combination, what wonders
have been developed by scientific inquiry! Perception itself, that
primary function of the mind, which was surely the same before Berkeley
examined the laws of vision as at present, is now regarded by us very
differently, in relation to the most important of its organs; and it
would not be easy to find, amid all the brilliant discoveries of modern
chemistry, and even in the whole range of the physics of matter, a
proposition more completely revolting to popular belief, than that,
which it is now the general faith of philosophers, that the sense of
sight, which seems to bring the farthest hills of the most extended
landscape, and the very boundlessness of space before our view, is,
of itself, incapable of shewing us a single line of longitudinal

If, as has been strongly affirmed, the science of mind be a science
that is, by its very nature, insusceptible of improvement by discovery,
it must have been so, before the time of Berkeley as now, and it might
have been a sufficient answer to all the arguments which he adduced in
support of his theory of vision, that the phenomena which he boasted to
have analysed, were only the common and familiar phenomena of a sense
that had been exercised by all mankind.

“The vulgar,” I have said, “would gaze with astonishment, were they
to perceive an electrician inflame gunpowder with an icicle; but they
would not be less confounded by those dazzling subtleties with which
metaphysicians would persuade them, that the very actions which they
feel to be benevolent and disinterested, had their source in the same
principle of selfishness, which makes man a knave or a tyrant. That
this particular doctrine is false, is of no consequence; the whole
theory of our moral sentiment presents results which are nearly as
wonderful; and, indeed, the falseness of any metaphysical doctrine,
if rightly considered, is itself one of the strongest proofs that the
science of mind is a science which admits of discovery; for, if all men
had equal knowledge of all the relations of all the phenomena of their
mind, no one could advance an opinion on the subject, with real belief
of it, which another could discover to be erroneous. In the different
stages of the growth of a passion, what a variety of appearances does
it assume; and how difficult is it often to trace, in the confusion
and complication of the paroxysm, those calm and simple emotions, in
which, in many cases, it originated!--The love of domestic praise, and
of the parental smile of approbation, which gave excellence to the
first efforts of the child, may expand, with little variation, into the
love of honest and honourable fame; or, in more unhappy circumstances,
may shoot out from its natural direction, into all the guilt and
madness of atrocious ambition;--and can it truly be maintained, or even
supposed, for a moment, that all this fine shadowing of feelings into
feelings, is known as much to the rudest and most ignorant of mankind,
as it is to the profoundest intellectual inquirer? How different is
the passion of the miser, as viewed by himself, by the vulgar, and
by philosophers! He is conscious, however, only of the accuracy of
his reasonings on the probabilities of future poverty, of a love
of economy, and of temperance, and certain too of strict and rigid
justice. To common observers, he is only a lover of money. They content
themselves with the passion, in its mature state; and it would not be
easy to convince them, that the most self-denying avarice involves as
its essence, or at least originally involved, the love of those very
pleasures and accommodations, which are now sacrificed to it without
the least apparent reluctance.”[40]

    “This light and darkness, in our chaos join'd,
    What shall divide? The God within the mind.”

There is, indeed, a chaos, in the mind. But there is a spirit of
inquiry, which is forever moving over it, slowly separating all its
mingled elements. It is only when these are separated, that the
philosophy of mind can be complete, and incapable of further discovery.
To say that it is now complete, because it has in it every thing
which can be the subject of analysis, is as absurd, as it would be to
suppose that the ancient chaos, when it contained merely the elements
of things, before the spirit of God moved upon the waters of the abyss,
was already that world of life, and order, and beauty, which it was
after to become.

The difficulty which arises in the physical investigation of the mind,
from the apparent simplification of those thoughts and feelings which,
on more attentive reflection, are felt to be as if compounded of many
other thoughts and feelings, that have previously existed together,
or in immediate succession, is similar to the difficulty which we
experience in the physics of matter, from the imperfection of our
senses, that allows us to perceive masses only, not their elemental
parts, and thus leads us to consider as _simple_ bodies, what a single
new experiment may prove to be composed of _various_ elements.

In the _intellectual_ world, the slow progress of discovery arises,
in like manner, from the obstacles which our feeble power of
discrimination presents to our mental analysis. But, in mind, as well
as in matter, it must be remembered, that it is to this very feebleness
of our discriminating powers, the whole analytic science owes its
origin. If we could distinguish instantly and clearly in our complex
phenomena of thought, their constituent elements--if, for example, in
that single and apparently simple emotion, which we feel, on the sight
of _beauty_, as it lives before us, or in the contemplation of that
ideal beauty, which is reflected from works of art, we could discover,
as it were, in a single glance, all the innumerable feelings, which,
perhaps, from the first moment of life, have been conspiring together,
and blending in the production of it--we should then feel as little
interest in our _theories of taste_, as in a case formerly supposed,
we should have done in our theories of combustion, if the most minute
changes that take place in combustion had been at all times distinctly
visible. The mysteries of our intellect, the “altæ penetralia mentis,”
would then lie for ever open to us; and what was said poetically of
Hobbes, in the beautiful verses addressed to him on his work _De Natura
Hominis_, would be applicable to all mankind, not poetically, but in
the strictness of philosophic truth.

      “Quæ magna cœli mœnia, et tractus maris,
    Terræque fines, siquid aut ultra est, capit,
    Mens ipsa tandem capitur; Omnia hactenus
    Quæ nosse potuit, nota jam primum est sibi.

    “Consultor audax, et Promethei potens
    Facinoris animi! quis tibi dedit deus
    Hæc intueri sæculis longe abdita,
    Oculosque luce tinxit ambrosia tuos?
    Tu mentis omnis, at tuæ nulla est capax.
    Hoc laude solus fruere: divinum est opus
    Animam creare; proximum huic, ostendere.

    “Hic cerno levia affectuum vestigia,
    Gracilesque Sensus lineas; video quibus
    Vehantur alis blanduli Cupidines,
    Quibusque stimulis urgeant Iræ graves,
    Hic et Dolores et Voluptates suos
    Produnt recessus; ipsi nec Timor latet.”


[37] Ep. i. v. 61-68. Works, vol. III. p. 5, 6.

[38] Pleasures of Imagination, Book III. v. 526-535.

[39] Inquiry into the Relation of Cause and Effect, 2d edition, p. 32,

[40] Inquiry into the Relation of Cause and Effect, 2d edition, p.
26-30. with some alterations and exclusions.



In my last Lecture, Gentlemen, I considered, very fully, the
two species of inquiry which the philosophy of _mind_ admits in
exact analogy to the two species of inquiry in the philosophy of
_matter_,--the consideration of the mental phenomena, as _successive_,
and therefore susceptible of arrangement in the order of their
succession, as causes and effects,--and the consideration of them as
_complex_, and therefore susceptible of analysis. I stated to you, that
it was chiefly, if not wholly, in this latter view, as analytical,
that I conceived the philosophy of mind to be a science of progressive
discovery; though, as a science of analogy, it has not merely produced
results, as astonishing, perhaps, in some cases, as any of those which
the analysis of matter has exhibited, but presents still a field of
inquiry, that may be considered as inexhaustible; since the mind cannot
exist, without forming continually new combinations, that modify its
subsequent affections, and vary, therefore, the products, which it is
the labour of our intellectual analysis to reduce to their original

What the _chemist_ does, in matter, the _intellectual_ analysis does in
mind; the one distinguishing by a purely mental process of reflection,
the elements of his complex feelings, as the other operates on his
material compounds, by processes that are themselves material. Though
the term analysis, however, may be used in reference to both processes,
the mental, as well as the material, since the result of the process
is virtually the same in both, it has been universally employed by
philosophers, in the laws of the mind, without any accurate definition
of the process; and I was careful, therefore, to explain to you the
peculiar meaning, in which it is strictly to be understood in our
science; that you might not extend to the mind and its affections, that
essential divisibility, which is inconsistent with its very nature;
and suppose that, when we speak of complex notions, and of thoughts
and feelings that are united by association with other thoughts and
feelings, we speak of a plurality of separable things. The complex
mental phenomena, as I explained to you, are complex only in relation
to our mode of conceiving them. They are, strictly and truly, as
simple and indivisible states of a substance, which is necessarily in
all its states simple and indivisible--the _results_, rather than the
compounds, of former feelings,--to which, however, they seem to us,
and from the very nature of the feelings themselves, cannot but seem
to us, to bear the same species of relation, which a _whole_ bears
to the parts that compose it. The office of intellectual analysis,
accordingly, in the mode in which I have explained it to you, has
regard to this relation only. It is to trace the various affections
or states of mind that have successively contributed, to form or to
modify any peculiar sentiment or emotion, and to develope the elements,
to which, after tracing this succession, the resulting sentiment or
emotion is felt by us to bear virtually that relation of seeming
comprehensiveness of which I spoke.

If, indeed, our perspicacity were so acute that we could distinguish
immediately _all_ the relations of our thoughts and passions, there
could evidently be no _discovery_ in the science of mind; but, in like
manner, what discovery could there be, in the analysis of matter, if
our senses were so quick and delicate, as to distinguish immediately
all the elements of every compound? It is only slowly that we discover
the composition of the masses without; and we have therefore a science
of chemistry:--It is only slowly that we discover the relations of
complex thought to thought; and we have therefore a science of mental

It is to the imperfection of our faculties, then, as forcing us
to guess and explore what is half concealed from us, that we owe
our laborious experiments and reasonings, and consequently all the
science which is the result of these; and the proudest discoveries
which we make may thus, in one point of view, whatever dignity they
may give to a few moments of our life, be considered as proofs and
memorials of our general weakness. If, in its relation to matter,
philosophy be founded, in a very great degree, on the mere badness of
our eyes, which prevents us from distinguishing accurately the minute
changes that are constantly taking place in the bodies around us; we
have seen, in like manner, that, in its relation to the mind, it is
founded chiefly, or perhaps wholly, on the imperfection of our power
of discriminating the _elementary_ feelings, which compose our great
complexities of thought and passion; the various relations of which
are felt by us only on attentive reflection, and are, therefore, in
progressive discovery, slowly added to relations that have before been
traced. In both cases, the analysis, necessary for this purpose, is an
operation of unquestionable difficulty. But it is surely not less so,
in mind, than in matter; nor, when nature exhibits all her wonders to
us, in one case, in objects that are separate from us, and foreign;
and, in the other, in the intimate phenomena of our own consciousness,
can we justly think, that it is of _ourselves_ we know the most.
On the contrary, strange as it may seem, it is of her _distant_
operations, that our knowledge is least imperfect; and we have far less
acquaintance with the sway which she exercises in our own mind, than
with that by which she guides the course of the most remote planet,
in spaces beyond us, which we rather _calculate_ than _conceive_. The
only science, which, by its simplicity and comprehensiveness, seems to
have attained a maturity that leaves little for future inquiry, is not
that which relates immediately to man himself, or to the properties of
the bodies on his own planet, that are ever acting on his perceptive
organs, and essential to his life and enjoyment; but that which relates
to the immense system of the universe, to which the very orb, that
supports all the multitudes of his race, is but an atom of dust, and to
which himself, as an individual, is as nothing.

    “Could he, whose rules the rapid comet bind,
    Describe or fix one movement of his mind?
    Who saw its fires here rise, and there descend,
    Explain his own beginning or his end?
      Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides,
    Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
    Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
    Correct old Time, and regulate the Sun;
    Go, soar with Plato to th' empyreal sphere,
    To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
    Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule--
    Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!”[41]

That man should know so much of the _universe_, and so very little of
_himself_, is, indeed, one of the circumstances, which, in the language
of the same poet, most strongly characterize him, as the “jest and
riddle” of that world, of which he is also no less truly “the glory.”

“That the intelligence of any being,” to use the words of D'Alembert,
“should not pass beyond certain limits--that, in one species of beings,
it should be more or less circumscribed, than in another--all this is
not surprising, more than that a blade of grass should be less tall
than a shrub; or a shrub than an oak. But that the _same_ being should
be at once arrested by the narrow circle which nature has traced around
him, and yet constantly reminded, that, beyond these limits, there
are objects which he is never to attain--that he should be able to
reason, till he loses himself, on the existence and nature of these
objects, though condemned to be eternally ignorant of them--that he
should have too little sagacity to _resolve_ an infinity of questions,
which he has yet sagacity enough to _make_--that the principle
within us, which thinks, should ask itself in vain, what it is which
constitutes its thought, and that this thought, which sees so many
things, so _distant_, should yet not be able to see itself, which is
so _near_,--_that self_, which it is notwithstanding always striving
to see and to know--these are contradictions, which, even in the very
pride of our reasoning, cannot fail to surprise and confound us.”

All that remains for us, in that impossibility which nature has imposed
on us of attaining a more intimate knowledge of the essence and
constitution either of mind or of matter, is to attend to the phenomena
which they present, analysing whatever is complex, and tracing the
order of every sequence. By attentive reflection on the phenomena
themselves, and on all the circumstances which precede or follow them,
we shall be able to discover the relations which they mutually bear,
and to distinguish their casual coincidence, or succession, from those
invariable relations which nature has established among them as causes
and effects. This, humble as it may seem, is, as I have said, the
true philosophy of man; because it is all of which man is capable. To
inquire, as may be thought, more deeply into the _essences_ of things,
or the nature of certain supposed bonds by which they are connected, is
to show, not that we have advanced far in the progress of science, but
that we have gone far astray; not that we know _more_ than philosophers
of humbler views and pretensions, but that we know _less_; since it
proves that we are unacquainted with the limits within which nature has
bounded our prospect, and have not attained that prime knowledge, which
consists in knowing how little can be known.

If the philosophy, not of mind only, but of the universe, is to be
found, as Hobbes has boldly said, _within ourselves_,--in the same
manner as the perfect statue is to be found in the rude block of the
quarry, when all the superfluous mass, that adheres to it, has been
removed,--in no respect can it more justly be said to be in our own
minds than in this, that it is only by knowing the true extent, and
consequently the limits, of our intellectual powers, that we can
form any rational system of philosophic investigation. Then, indeed,
Philosophy may be truly said, in his strong figurative language, to be
Human Reason herself, hovering over all created things, and proclaiming
their order, their causes, and effects. “Philosophiam noli credere eam
esse, per quam fiunt lapides philosophici, neque illam quam ostentant
codices metaphysici; sed Rationem Humanum naturalem per omnes res
creatas sedulo volitantem, et de earum ordine, causis, et effectibus,
ea quæ vera sunt renuntiantem. Mentis ergo tuæ, et totius mundi filia
philosophia in te ipso est; nondum fortasse figurata, sed genitori
mundo qualis erat in principio informi similes. Faciendum ergo tibi
est quod faciunt statuarii, qui materiam exculpentes supervacraeum,
imaginem non faciunt sed inveniunt.”[42]

After these remarks on physical inquiry in general, and its particular
application to our own science, I trust that we shall now proceed to
observe, and analyse, and arrange the mental phenomena, with clearer
views, both of the materials on which we have to operate, and of the
nature of the operations which we have to perform. We may consider the
mind as now lying open before us, presenting to us all its phenomena,
but presenting them in _assemblages_, which it is to be our labour to
separate and arrange. In this separation and arrangement, there are
difficulties, I confess, of no slight kind. But, I trust, that you
have the spirit, which delights in overcoming difficulties, and which,
even if its most strenuous exertions should fail, delights in the very
strenuousness of the endeavour. In what admits our analysis, and in
what transcends it, we shall always find much that is truly wonderful
in itself, and deserving of our profoundest admiration; and, even in
the obscurest parts of the great field of mind, though we may see only
dimly, and must, therefore, be cautious in inquiring, and fearful of
pronouncing, we may yet, perhaps, be opening paths that are to lead to
discovery, and, in the very darkness of our search, may perceive some
gleams of that light, which, though now only dawning upon _us_, is to
brighten on the inquirers of other ages.

In proceeding to examine and compare the mental phenomena, the first
circumstance that strikes us, prior to any attempt to arrange them
in classes, is, that the mind which exhibits these is susceptible
of a _variety of feelings_, every new feeling being a change of its
state; and, indeed, it is by such changes alone that it manifests
itself, either in our own consciousness, or in the actions of our
fellow men. If it could exist only in _one everlasting_ state,--such
as now constitutes the feeling of any particular moment,--it is quite
superfluous to say, that it could not _reason_ upon this state,--for
this very reasoning would itself imply the change, which is supposed to
be impossible; and as little could this one unchanged and unchangeable
feeling be an object of reasoning to others, even if there were any
mode of its becoming manifest to them, which there evidently could not
be. It is, perhaps, even not too extravagant an assertion of Hobbes,
who supposes a mind so constituted as to perceive only one colour, and
to perceive this constantly, and affirms, that, in that case, it would
be absurd to say that it had any perception at all, being rather, as
he expresses it, stupified than seeing. “Attonitum esse et fortasse
aspectare eum, sed stupentem dicerem, videre non dicerem; adeo sentire
semper idem, et non sentire ad idem recidunt.”

Mind, then, is capable of existing in _various states_; an enumeration
of the leading classes of which, as I before remarked, is all that
constitutes our definition of it. It is that, we say, which perceives,
remembers, compares, grieves, rejoices, loves, hates; and though
the terms, whatever they may be, that are used by us, in any such
enumeration, may be few, we must not forget that the terms are mere
inventions of our own for the purpose of classification, and, that each
of them comprehends a variety of feelings, that are as truly different
from each other, as the classes themselves are different. _Perception_
is but a single word; yet, when we consider the number of objects that
may act upon our organs of sense, and the number of ways in which
their action, may be combined, so as to produce one compound effect,
different from that which the same objects would produce separately,
or in other forms of combination, how many are the feelings which this
single word denotes!--so many, indeed, that no arithmetical computation
is sufficient to measure their infinity.

Amid all this variety of feelings, with whatever rapidity the changes
may succeed each other, and however opposite they may seem, we have
still the most undoubting belief, that it is the same individual mind,
which is thus affected in various ways. The pleasure, which is felt
at one moment, has indeed little apparent relation to the pain that
was perhaps felt a few moments before; and the knowledge of a subject,
which we possess, after having reflected on it fully, has equally
little resemblance to our state of doubt when we began to inquire, or
the total ignorance and indifference which preceded the first doubt
that we felt. It is the same individual mind, however, which, in all
these instances, is pleased and pained, is ignorant, doubts, reflects,
knows. There is something “changed in all, and yet in all the same,”
which at once constitutes the thoughts and emotions of the hour, and
yet _outlives_ them,--something, which, from the temporary agitations
of passion, rises, unaltered and everlasting, like the pyramid, that
lifts still the same point to heaven, amid the sands and whirlwinds of
the desert.

The consideration of the mind, as one substance, capable of existing
in a variety of states, according as it is variously affected, and
constituting, in these different states, all the complex phenomena
of thought and feeling, necessarily involves the consideration of
_consciousness_, and of _personal identity_. To the examination of
these, accordingly, I now proceed, as essential to all the inquiries
and speculations, in which we are afterwards to be engaged; since,
whatever powers or susceptibilities we may consider as attributes of
the mind, this consideration must always suppose the existence of
certain phenomena, of which we are conscious, and the identity of the
sentient or thinking principle, in which that consciousness resides,
and to which all the varieties of those ever-changing feelings, which
form the subjects of our inquiry, are collectively to be referred.

Our first inquiry, then, is into the nature of


In the systems of philosophy, which have been most generally prevalent,
especially in this part of the Island, consciousness has always been
classed as one of the intellectual powers of the mind, differing
from its other powers, as these mutually differ from each other. It
is accordingly ranked by Dr Reid, as separate and distinct, in his
Catalogue of the Intellectual Powers; and he says of it, that “it
is an operation of the understanding of its own kind, and cannot
be logically defined. The objects of it are our present pains, our
pleasures, our hopes, our fears, our desires, our doubts, our thoughts
of every kind,--in a word, all the passions, and all the actions and
operations of our own minds, while they are present.” And in various
parts of his works, which it would be needless to quote, he alludes
to its radical difference from the other powers of the mind, as if it
were a point on which there could be no question. To me, however, I
must confess, it appears that this attempt to double, as it were, our
various feelings, by making them not to constitute our consciousness,
but to be the objects of it, as of a distinct intellectual power, is
not a faithful statement of the phenomena of the mind, but is founded,
partly on a confusion of thought, and still more on a confusion of
language. Sensation is not the object of consciousness different from
itself, but a particular sensation is the consciousness of the moment;
as a particular hope, or fear, or grief, or resentment, or simple
remembrance, may be the actual consciousness of the next moment. In
short, if the mind of man, and all the changes which take place in
it, from the first feeling with which life commenced, to the last
with which it closes, could be made visible to any other thinking
being, a certain series of feelings alone, that is to say, a certain
number of successive states of the mind, would be distinguishable
in it, forming, indeed, a variety of sensations, and thoughts, and
passions, as momentary states of the mind, but all of them existing
individually, and successively to each other. To suppose the mind
to exist in two different states, in the same moment, is a manifest
absurdity. To the whole series of states of the mind, then, whatever
the individual momentary successive states may be, I give the name of
our _consciousness_,--using that term, not to express any new state
additional to the whole series, (for to that, which is already _the
whole_ nothing can be added, and the mind, as I have already said,
cannot be conceived to exist at once in two different states,) but
merely as a short mode of expressing the wide variety of our feelings;
in the same manner, as I use any other generic word, for expressing
briefly the individual varieties comprehended under it. There are not
sensations, thoughts, passions, and also consciousness, any more than
there is quadruped or animal, as a separate being, to be added to the
wolves, tigers, elephants, and other living creatures, which I include
under those terms.

The fallacy of conceiving consciousness to be something different
from the feeling, which is said to be its object, has arisen, in
a great measure, from the use of the personal pronoun _I_, which
the conviction of our _identity_, during the various feelings, or
temporary consciousnesses of different moments, has led us to employ,
as significant of our permanent _self_, of that being, which is
conscious, and variously conscious, and which continues, after these
feelings have ceased, to be the subject of other consciousness, as
transient as the former. I am conscious of a certain feeling, really
means, however, no more than this--I feel in a certain manner, or, in
other words, my mind exists in that state which constitutes a certain
feeling; the mere existence of that feeling, and not any additional and
distinguishable feeling that is to be termed _consciousness_, being all
which is essential to the state of my mind, at the particular moment
of sensation; for a pleasure, or pain, of which we are not conscious,
is a pleasure or pain, that, in reference to us at least, has no
existence. But when we say, I am conscious of a particular feeling, in
the usual paraphrastic phraseology of our language, which has no mode
of expressing, in a single word, the mere existence of a feeling, we
are apt, from a prejudice of grammar, to separate the sentient I and
the feeling as different,--not different, as they really are, merely
in this respect, that the _feeling_ is one momentary and changeable
state of the permanent substance _I_, that is, capable of existing
also, at other moments, in other states,--but so _radically_ different,
as to justify our classing the feeling, in the relation of an object,
to that sentient principle which we call _I_,--and an object to it,
not in retrospect only, as when the feeling is remembered, or when it
is viewed in relation to other remembered feelings,--but in the very
moment of the primary sensation itself; as if there could truly be two
distinct states of the same mind, at that same moment, one of which
states is to be termed _sensation_, and the other different state of
the same mind to be termed _consciousness_.

To estimate more accurately the effect, which this reference to self
produces, let us imagine a human being to be born with his faculties
perfect as in mature life, and let us suppose a sensation to arise
for the first time in his mind. For the sake of greater simplicity,
let us suppose the sensation to be of a kind as little complex as
possible; such for example, as that which the fragrance of a rose
excites. If, immediately after this first sensation, we imagine the
sentient principle to be extinguished, what are we to call that
feeling, which filled and constituted the brief moment of life? It
was a simple sensation, and nothing more; and if only we say, that
the sensation has existed,--whether we say, or do not say, that the
mind was conscious of the sensation,--we shall convey precisely the
same meaning; the consciousness of the sensation being, in that case,
only a tautological expression of the sensation itself. There will
be, in this first momentary state, no separation of _self_ and the
_sensation_,--no little proposition formed in the mind, I feel, or
I am conscious of a feeling; but the _feeling_ and the _sentient I_
will, for the moment, be the same. It is this simple feeling, and
this alone, which is the whole consciousness of the first moment; and
no reference can be made of this to a _self_, which is independent
of the temporary _consciousness_; because the knowledge of self, as
distinct from the particular feeling, implies the remembrance of
former feelings,--of feelings, which, together with the present, we
ascribe to _one_ thinking principle,--recognizing the _principle_, the
_self_, the _one_, as the _same_, amid all its transient diversities of

Let us now, then, instead of supposing life, as in the former case, to
be extinguished immediately after the first sensation, suppose another
sensation to be excited, as for instance that which is produced by the
sound of a flute. The mind either will be completely absorbed in this
new sensation, without any subsequent remembrance,--in which case the
consciousness of the sensation, as in the case of the fragrance that
preceded it, will be only another more paraphrastic expression of the
simple sensation--or the remembrance of the former feeling will arise.
If the remembrance of the former feeling arise, and the two different
feelings be considered by the mind at once, it will now, by that
irresistible law of our nature, which impresses us with the conviction
of our identity, conceive the two sensations, which it recognizes as
different in themselves, to have yet belonged to the same being,--that
being, to which, when it has the use of language, it gives the name
of _self_, and in relation to which it speaks, as often as it uses
the pronoun _I_.--The notion of _self_, as the lasting subject of
successive transient feelings, being now, and not till now, acquired,
through the remembrance of former sensations or temporary diversities
of consciousness, the mind will often again, when other new sensations
may have arisen, go through a similar process, being not merely
affected with the particular momentary sensation, but remembering
other prior feelings, and identifying it with them, in the general
designation of self. In these circumstances the memory of the past will
often mingle with and modify the present; and now indeed, to form the
verbal proposition, I am conscious of a particular sensation,--since
the very word _I_ implies that this remembrance and identification has
taken place,--may be allowed to express something more than the mere
existence of the momentary sensation: for it expresses also that the
mind, which now exists in the state of this particular sensation, has
formerly existed in a different state. There is a remembrance of former
feelings, and a belief that the present and the past have been states
of one substance. But this belief, or in other words, this remembrance
of former feelings, is so far from being essential to every thought or
sensation, that innumerable feelings every moment arise, without any
such identification with the past. They are _felt_, however, for this
is necessarily implied in their existence; but they exist, as transient
thoughts or sensations only, and the consciousness, which we have of
them, in these circumstances, is nothing more, than the thoughts or
sensations themselves, which could not be thoughts or sensations if
they were not felt.

In the greater number of our successions of momentary feelings,
then, when no reference is made to former states of the mind, the
consciousness is obviously nothing more than the simple momentary
feeling itself as it begins and ceases; and when there is a reference
to former states of the mind, we discover on analysis only a
remembrance, like all our other remembrances, and a feeling of common
relation of the past and the present affection of the mind to one
permanent subject. It is the belief of our continued identity which
involves this particular feeling of relation of past and present
feelings; and consciousness, in this sense of the term, is only a word
expressive of that belief.

That the fragrance of a rose, the sound of a flute, and in general
all the other objects of sense, might have excited precisely the
same immediate sensations as at present, Doctor Reid admits, though
the belief of our personal identity had not been impressed upon us;
for he ascribes this belief to an instinctive principle only, and
acknowledges, that there is nothing in our sensations themselves, from
which any such inference could be drawn by reason. If, then, this
instinctive belief of identity had not been, as at present, a natural
law of human thought,--operating irresistibly on the remembrance of
our different feelings, we should have had no notion of _self_, of
_me_, the sentient and thinking being, who exists at the present
moment, and who existed before the present moment:--and what, then,
would have been the consciousness, accompanying, and different from,
our sensations, when they merely flashed along the mind and vanished?
The most zealous defender of consciousness, as a separate intellectual
power, must surely admit, that, in such circumstances, it would have
been nothing more than _sensation_ itself. It is the belief of our
_identity_ only, which gives us the notion of _self_, as the subject
of various feelings, and it is the notion of self, as the subject of
various former feelings, which leads us to regard the consciousness of
the moment, as different from the sensation of the moment; because it
suggests to us those former feelings, which truly were different from
it, or at least that _subject mind_, which unquestionably existed
before the present sensation.

If it be said, that the faculty of consciousness is nothing more
than this reference to the past, and consequent belief of identity,
we may, in that case, very safely admit its existence; though the
classification of it, as a peculiar intellectual power, would in that
case be a most singular anomaly in arrangement, and would involve
a very absurd, or at least a very awkward use of a term. To assert
this signification of it, however, would be to admit everything for
which I have contended. But it certainly is not the sense, which has
been attached to it by philosophers; and indeed, in _this_ sense,
_consciousness_, instead of having for its objects, as Doctor Reid
says, _all_ “our present pains, our pleasures, our hopes, our fears,
our desires, our doubts, our thoughts of every kind; in a word, all the
passions, and all the actions and operations of our own mind, while
they are present,” would be limited to the comparatively few, of which
the consideration of our personal identity forms a part. In far the
greater number of our feelings, as I have already said, the sensation
dies away, almost in the moment,--not indeed, without being enjoyed or
suffered, but without any reference to self, as the subject of various
feelings, or remembrance of any prior state of mind, as distinct
from the present. The belief of our identity, is surely not the only
belief that arises from an instinctive principle; and if its existence
entitle us, in our systematic arrangements, to the possession of a new
intellectual power, every other belief that arises instinctively from a
principle of our constitution, must give us a similar title to enlarge
the catalogue of our faculties. The never-failing and instant faith,
by which we expect, without the slightest doubt of the similarity
of the future, that events will continue to follow each other, in
the same order as at present,--that bodies will fall to the ground,
fire burn, food satisfy the craving of our appetite--that immediate
intuitive principle of belief, on which all our foresight depends,
and according to which we regulate our whole conduct in providing
for the future,--should certainly, in that case, be ascribed by us
to some peculiar intellectual power, for which it would be easy to
invent a name. It is not, by any inference of our reason, we believe,
that the sound of a flute which preceded the fragrance of a rose, and
the fragrance of a rose which followed the sound of a flute, excited
sensations that were states of the same identical mind; for there is
nothing, in either of the separate sensations, or in both together,
from which such an inference can be drawn; and yet, notwithstanding the
impossibility of inferring it, we believe this, at least as strongly,
as we believe any of the conclusions of our reasoning. In like manner,
it is not by any inference of reason we believe, that fire will warm
us to-morrow, as it has warmed us to-day; for there is nothing, in the
fire of to-day, or in the sensation of warmth, considered as a mere
sequence of it, from which the succession of a similar sensation to
the fire of to-morrow can be inferred; yet we also rely on this future
sequence, at least as strongly, as we believe any of the conclusions
of our reasoning. In both cases the parallel is complete; and in both,
the evidence of a particular intellectual faculty, must consequently be
alike,--or in neither is there sufficient evidence of such a power.

There is, indeed, one other sense, in which we often talk of our
consciousness of a feeling, and a sense, in which, it must be allowed,
that the consciousness is not precisely the same as the feeling
itself. This is, when we speak of a feeling, not actually existing at
present, but _past_--as when we say, that we are conscious of having
seen, or heard, or done something. Such a use of the term, however,
is pardonable only in the privileged looseness and inaccuracy of
familiar conversation: the consciousness, in this case, being precisely
synonymous with remembrance or memory, and not a power, different
from the remembrance. The _remembrance_ of the feeling, and the vivid
_feeling_ itself, indeed, are different. But the remembrance, and the
consciousness of the remembrance, are the same--as the consciousness of
a sensation, and the sensation, are the same; and to be conscious that
we have seen or spoken to any one, is only to remember that we have
seen or spoken to him.

Much of this very confusion with respect to memory, however, I have no
doubt, has been always involved in the assertion of consciousness as
a peculiar and distinct power of the mind. When we think of feelings
long past, it is impossible for us not to be aware that our mind is
then truly retrospective; and memory seems to us sufficient to account
for the whole. But when the retrospect is of very recent feelings--of
feelings, perhaps, that existed as distinct states of the mind, the
very moment before our retrospect began, the short interval is
forgotten, and we think that the primary feeling, and our consideration
of the feeling, are strictly simultaneous. We have a sensation;--we
look instantly back on that sensation,--such is consciousness, as
distinguished from the feeling that is said to be its object. When it
is any thing more than the sensation, thought, or emotion, of which
we are said to be conscious, it is a brief and rapid retrospect. Its
object is not a present feeling, but a past feeling, as truly as when
we look back, not on the moment immediately preceding, but on some
distant event or emotion of our boyhood.

After thus distinguishing all that is truly _present_ in consciousness,
from common remembrance, I surely need not undertake, at any length, to
distinguish it from that peculiar species of remembrance, which goes
under the name of _conscience_; though their similar etymology may have
a slight tendency to mislead. _Conscience_ is our _moral memory_;--it
is the _memory of the heart_, if I may apply to it a phrase, which, in
its original application, was much more happily employed, by one of the
deaf and dumb pupils of the Abbe Sicard, who, on being asked what he
understood by the word _gratitude_, wrote down immediately, “_Gratitude
is the memory of the heart_.”

The power of conscience does, indeed, what consciousness does not. It
truly doubles all our feelings, when they have been such as virtue
inspired; “Hoc est vivere _bis_, vita posse priore frui;” and it
multiplies them in a much more fearful proportion, when they have
been of an opposite kind--arresting, as it were every moment of
guilt, which, of itself, would have passed away, as fugitive as our
other moments, and suspending them forever before our eyes, in fixed
and terrifying reality. “Prima et maxima peccantium est pæna,” says
Seneca, “_peccasse_; nec ullum scelus, illud fortuna exornet muneribus
suis, licet tueatur ac vindicet, impunitum est quoniam sceleris in
scelere supplicium est.”[43] “The first and the greatest punishment
of guilt, is to have been guilty; nor can any crime, though fortune
should adorn it with all her most lavish bounty, as if protecting and
vindicating it, pass truly unpunished; because the punishment of the
base or atrocious deed, is in the very baseness or atrocity of the deed
itself.” But this species of memory, which we denominate _conscience_,
and, indeed, every species of memory, which must necessarily have for
its object the past, is essentially different from the consciousness
which we have been considering, that, in its very definition, is
limited to _present_ feelings, and of which, if we really had such an
intellectual power, our moral conscience would, in Dr Reid's sense of
the term, be an _object_ rather than a part.

Consciousness, then, I conclude, in its simplest acceptation, when
it is understood as regarding the present only, is no distinct power
of the mind, or name of a distinct class of feelings, but is only
a general term for all our feelings, of whatever species these may
be, sensations, thoughts, desires;--in short, all those states or
affections of mind, in which the phenomena of mind consist; and when
it expresses more than this, it is only the remembrance of some
former state of the mind, and a feeling of the relation of the past
and the present as states of one sentient substance. The term is very
conveniently used for the purpose of abbreviation, when we speak of the
whole variety of our feelings, in the same manner as any other general
term is used, to express briefly the multitude of individuals that
agree in possessing some common property of which we speak; when the
enumeration of these, by description and name, would be as wearisome to
the patience, as it would be oppressive to the memory. But still, when
we speak of the evidence of consciousness, we mean nothing more, than
the evidence implied in the mere existence of our sensations, thoughts,
desires,--which is utterly impossible for us to believe to be and not
to be; or, in other words, impossible for us to feel and not to feel at
the same moment. This precise limitation of the term, I trust, you will
keep constantly in mind in the course of our future speculations.


[41] Pope's Essay on Man, Ep. ii. v. 35-39; 19-24; and 29, 30.

[42] Ad Lectorem.--A Note prefixed to the Elementa Philosophiæ. 4to.
Amstelod. 1668.

[43] Epist. 97.



In my last Lecture, Gentlemen, I brought to a conclusion my remarks
on the _nature_ and _objects_ of _Physical Inquiry_,--the clear
understanding of which seemed to me, essentially necessary before
we could enter with any prospect of success, on the physiological
investigation of the Mind.

We then opened our eyes, as it were on the great field of thought
and passion, and on all the infinite variety of feelings, which, in
assemblages more or less complex, and in colours more or less brilliant
or obscure, it is every moment presenting to our internal glance. The
very attempt to arrange these transient feelings as phenomena of the
mind, however, implies evidently some consideration of the nature of
that varied consciousness in which they consist, and of the identity
of the permanent substance, as _states_ of _which_ we arrange them. My
last Lecture, therefore, was devoted to this primary consideration of
_consciousness_,--which we found reason to regard, not as any separate
and peculiar faculty of the mind, of which our various feelings are,
to use Dr Reid's expression, _objects_, and which is, therefore,
to be added, in every instance, to the separate pleasures, pains,
perceptions, remembrances, passions, that constitute the momentary
states of the mind,--but merely as a short general term, expressive
of all these momentary states in reference to the permanent subject
_mind_. The sensation of fragrance, for example, is the consciousness
of one moment, as the remembrance of that sensation, or some
other sensation, is, perhaps, the consciousness of the succeeding
moment;--the mind, at every moment, existing in one precise state,
which, as one state can be accurately denoted only by one precise name,
or by names that are synonymous, not by names that are significant of
total diversity.

All which we know, or can be supposed to know, of the mind, indeed, is
a certain _series_ of these states or feelings that have succeeded each
other, more or less rapidly, since life began; the sensation, thought,
emotion, of the moment being one of those states, and the supposed
consciousness of the state being only the state itself, whatever it may
be, in which the mind exists at that particular moment; since it would
be manifestly absurd to suppose the same indivisible mind to exist at
the very same moment in two separate states, one of sensation, and one
of consciousness. It is not simply because we _feel_, but because we
remember some _prior_ feeling, and have formed a notion of the mind
as the permanent subject of different feeling, that we conceive the
proposition, “I am _conscious_ of a sensation,” to express more than
the simple existence of the sensation itself; since it expresses,
too, a reference of this to the same mind which had formerly been
recognised as the subject of other feelings. There is a remembrance
of some former feeling, and a reference of the present feeling to the
same subject; and this mere remembrance, and the intuitive belief of
identity which accompanies remembrance, are all that philosophers, by
defective analyses, and a little confusion of language and thought,
have asserted to be the result of a peculiar mental faculty, under the
name of consciousness;--though consciousness, in this sense, far from
embracing all the varieties of feeling,--that, in the greater number of
instances, begin and cease, without any accompanying thought of that
permanent substance to which the transient feeling is referable,--must
be limited to the comparatively few, in which such a reference to self
is made.

Consciousness, in short, whenever it is conceived to express more than
the present feeling, or present momentary state of the mind, whatever
that may be, which is said to be the _object_ of consciousness,--as if
it were at once something different at every moment from the present
state or feeling of the mind, and yet the very state in which the mind
is at every moment supposed to exist,--is a retrospect of some _past_
feeling, with that belief of a common relation of the past and present
feeling to one subject mind, which is involved in the very notion,
or rather constitutes the very notion, of personal identity,--and
all which distinguishes this rapid retrospect from any of the other
retrospects, which we class as remembrances, and ascribe to memory
as their source, is the mere briefness of the interval between the
feeling that is remembered, and the reflective glance which seems to
be immediately retrospective. A feeling of some kind has arisen, and
we look instantly back upon that feeling; but a remembrance is surely
still the same in nature, and arises from the same principle of the
mental constitution, whether the interval which precedes it be that of
a moment, or of many hours, or years.

I now then proceed, after these remarks on our consciousness as
momentary, to a most important inquiry, which arises necessarily from
the consideration of the successions of our momentary consciousness,
and must be considered as involved in all our attempts to arrange
them,--the inquiry into the _Identity_ of the Mind, as truly _one_ and
_permanent_, amid all the variety of its fugitive affections.

In our examination of this very wonderful coincidence of sameness and
diversity, I shall confine my remarks to the phenomena which are purely
mental, omitting the objections drawn from the daily waste and daily
aliment of our corporeal part, the whole force of which objection may
be admitted, without any scruple by those who contend for the identity
only of the thinking principle; since the individuality of _this_
would be as little destroyed, though every particle of the body were
completely changed, as the individuality of the body itself would be
destroyed, by a change of the mere garments that invest it. The manner
in which the mind is united to a system of particles, which are in a
perpetual state of flux, is, indeed, more than we can ever hope to
be able to explain; though it is really not more inexplicable, than
its union to such a system of particles would be, though they were to
continue forever unchanged.

I may remark, however, by the way, that though the constant state of
flux of the corporeal particles furnishes no argument against the
identity of the principle which feels and thinks, if feeling and
thought be states of a substance, that is essentially distinct from
these changing particles, the unity and identity of this principle,
amid all the corpuscular changes,--if it can truly be proved to be
identical,--furnish a very strong argument, in disproof of those
systems which consider thought and feeling as the result of material
organization. Indeed the attempts which have been seriously made by
materialists to obviate this difficulty, involve, in every respect,
as much absurdity, though certainly not so much pleasantry, at least
so much _intentional_ pleasantry, as the demonstrations, which the
Society of Freethinkers communicated to Martinus Scriblerus, in their
letter of greeting and invitation. The arguments, which they are
represented as urging in this admirable letter, ludicrous as they may
seem, are truly as strong, at least, as those of which they are a
parody; and indeed, in this case, where both are so like, a very little
occasional change of expression is all which is necessary, to convert
the grave ratiocination into the parody, and the parody into the grave

“The parts (say they) of an animal body,” stating the objection which
they profess to answer, “are perpetually changed, and the fluids
which seem to be the subject of consciousness, are in a perpetual
circulation; so that the same individual particles do not remain in
the brain; from whence it will follow, that the idea of individual
consciousness must be constantly translated from one particle of matter
to another, whereby the particle A, for example must not only be
conscious, but conscious that it is the same being with the particle B
that went before.

“We answer, this is only a fallacy of the imagination, and is to be
understood in no other sense than that maxim of the English law,
that the _king never dies_. This power of thinking, self-moving, and
governing the whole machine, is communicated from every particle to its
immediate successor, who, as soon as he is gone, immediately takes upon
him the government, which still preserves the unity of the whole system.

“They make a great noise about this individuality, how a man is
conscious to himself that he is the same individual he was twenty years
ago, notwithstanding the flux state of the particles of matter that
compose his body. We think this is capable of a very plain answer, and
may be easily illustrated by a familiar example.

“Sir John Cutler had a pair of black worsted stockings, which his maid
darned so often with silk, that they became at last a pair of silk
stockings. Now supposing those stockings of Sir John's endued with some
degree of consciousness at every particular darning, they would have
been sensible, that they were the same individual pair of stockings
both before and after the darning; and this sensation would have
continued in them through all the succession of darnings; and yet after
the last of all, there was not perhaps one thread left of the first
pair of stockings; but they were grown to be silk stockings, as was
said before.

“And whereas it is affirmed, that every animal is conscious of some
individual self-moving, self-determining principle; it is answered,
that, as in a House of Commons all things are determined by a
_majority_, so it is in every animal system. As that which determines
the house is said to be the reason of the whole assembly; it is no
otherwise with thinking beings, who are determined by the greater force
of several particles, which, like so many unthinking members, compose
one thinking system.”[44]

The _identity_, which we are to consider, is, as I have already said,
the identity only of the principle which feels and thinks, without
regard to the changeable state of the particles of the brain, or of
the body in general. This unity and permanence of the principle,
which thinks, if we had still to invent a phrase, I would rather
call _mental_ identity, than _personal_ identity, though the latter
phrase may now be considered as almost fixed by the general use of
philosophers. On no system can there be this absolute identity, unless
as strictly mental; for, if we adopt the system of materialism, we
must reject the absolute lasting identity of the thinking principle
altogether; and if we do not adopt that system, it is in the _mind_
alone that we must conceive the identity to subsist. The _person_, in
the common and familiar meaning of the term, though involving the mind,
is yet more than the mere mind; and, by those, at least, who are not
conversant with the writings of philosophers on the subject, sameness
of person would be understood as not _mental_ only, but as combining
with the absolute identity of the mind, some sort of identity of the
body also; though, it must be confessed, that, in its application to
the body, the term _identity_ is not used with the same strictness,
as in its application to the mind; the bodily identity being not
absolute, but admitting of considerable, and ultimately, perhaps,
even of total, change, provided only the change be so gradual, as
not to be inconsistent with apparent continuity of existence. Still,
however, identity of _person_, at least in the popular notion of it, is
something more than identity of mind.

“All mankind,” says Dr Reid, “place their personality in something,
that cannot be divided or consist of parts. A part of a person is a
manifest absurdity.

“When a man loses his estate, his health, his strength, he is still the
same person, and has lost nothing of his personality. If he has a leg
or an arm cut off, he is the same person he was before. The amputated
member is no part of his person, otherwise it would have a right to
a part of his estate, and be liable for a part of his engagements;
it would be entitled to a share of his merit and demerit, which is
manifestly absurd. A person is something indivisible, and is what
Leibnitz calls a monad.”[45]

That all mankind place their personality in something, which cannot
be divided into two persons, or into halves or quarters of a person,
is true; because the mind itself is indivisible, and the presence of
this one indivisible mind is essential to personality. But, though
essential to personality in man, mind is not all, in the popular sense
of the word at least, which this comprehends. Thus, if, according
to the system of metempsychosis, we were to suppose the mind, which
animates any of our friends, to be the same mind, which animated Homer
or Plato,--though we should have no scruple, in asserting the identity
of the mind itself, in this corporeal transmigration,--there is no one,
I conceive, who would think himself justifiable, in point of accuracy,
in saying of Plato and his friend, that they were as exactly, in every
respect, _the same person_, as if no _metempsychosis_ whatever had
intervened. It does not follow from this, as Dr Reid very strangely
supposes, that a leg or arm, if it had any relation to our personality,
would, after amputation, be liable to a part of our engagements, or
be entitled to a share of our merit or demerit; for the engagement,
and the moral merit or demerit, belong not to the _body_, but to the
_mind_, which we believe to continue precisely the same, after the
amputation, as before it. This, however, is a question merely as to
the comparative propriety of a term, and as such, therefore, it is
unnecessary to dwell upon it. It is of much more importance, to proceed
to the consideration of the actual identity of the mind, whether we
term it simply _mental_ or _personal_ identity.

“That there is something undoubtedly which _thinks_,” says Lord
Shaftesbury, “our very doubt itself and scrupulous thought evinces.
But in what subject that thought resides, and how _that_ subject
is continued _one and the same_, so as to answer constantly to the
supposed train of thoughts or reflections, which seem to run so
harmoniously through a long course of life, with the same relation
still to one single and self-same person, this is not a matter so
easily or hastily decided, by those who are nice self-examiners, or
searchers after truth and certainty.

“'Twill not, in this respect, be sufficient for us to use the seeming
logic of a famous[46] modern, and say, ‘_We think_; therefore _we
are_.’ Which is a notably invented saying, after the model of that like
philosophical proposition, that ‘_What is, is_.’ Miraculously argued!
If ‘_I am, I am_.’ Nothing more certain! For the _ego_ or I being
established in the first part of the proposition, the _ergo_, no doubt,
must hold it good in the latter. But the question is, ‘What constitutes
the _we_ or _I_?’ And, ‘Whether the I of this instant be the same with
that of any instant preceding, or to come.’ For we have nothing but
memory to warrant us, and memory may be false. We may believe we have
thought and reflected thus or thus; but we may be mistaken. We may be
conscious of that, as truth, which perhaps was no more than dream; and
we may be conscious of that as a past dream, which perhaps was never
before so much as dreamt of.

“This is what metaphysicians mean, when they say, ‘That _identity_ can
be proved only by _consciousness_; but that consciousness withal may be
as well false as real, in respect of what is past.’ So that the same
successional _we_ or _I_ must remain still, on this account, undecided.

“To the force of this reasoning I confess I must so far submit, as to
declare that for my own part, I take my being _upon trust_. Let others
philosophize as they are able; I shall admire their strength, when,
upon this topic, they have refuted what able metaphysicians object, and
Pyrrhonists plead in their own behalf.

“Meanwhile, there is no impediment, hinderance, or suspension of
action, on account of these wonderfully refined speculations. Argument
and debate go on still. Conduct is settled. Rules and measures are
given out, and received. Nor do we scruple to act as resolutely upon
the mere supposition that _we are_, as if we had effectually proved
it a thousand times, to the full satisfaction of our metaphysical or
Pyrrhonean antagonist.”[47]

In stating the objections, that may be urged against our mental
identity, by such metaphysical or Pyrrhonean antagonists, as those of
whom Lord Shaftesbury speaks, I shall endeavour to exhibit the argument
in as strong a light as possible, and in a manner that appears to me
in some measure, new. It is surely unnecessary for me to warn you,
that the argument, however specious, is a sophistical one; and the
nature of the peculiar sophistry which it involves shall be afterwards
pointed out to you. But I conceive it to be most important, in teaching
you to reflect for yourselves,--by far the most important lesson
which you can be taught,--that you should be accustomed to consider
the force of objections that may be urged, as clearly by the force
of that surer evidence which they oppose,--and that even sophistry
itself, when it is to be exhibited and confuted, should, therefore,
always be exhibited fairly. We pay truth a very easy homage, when we
content ourselves with despising her adversaries. The duty which we
owe to her is of a more manly kind. It is to gird ourselves for the
battle,--to fit us for overcoming those adversaries, whenever they
shall dare to present themselves in array; and this we cannot do, with
absolute confidence, unless we know well the sort of arms, which they
may use, strong or feeble as those arms may be. I can have no fear,
that any argument of this kind, in whatever manner it may be stated,
can have the slightest influence on your conviction; because it is
directly opposed by a principle of our nature, which is paramount to
all reasoning. We believe our identity, as one mind, in our feelings of
to-day and our feelings of yesterday, as indubitably as we believe that
the fire, which burned us yesterday, would, in the same circumstances,
burn us to-day,--not from reasoning, but from a principle of instant
and irresistible belief, such as gives to reasoning itself all its
validity. As Lord Shaftesbury justly says, “We act as resolutely, upon
the mere supposition that _we are_, as if we had effectually proved it
a thousand times.”

To identity, it may be said, it is necessary that the _qualities_ be
the same. That of which the qualities are different, cannot be the
same; and the only mode of discovering whether a substance have the
same or different qualities, is to observe, how it affects and is
affected by other substances. It is recognized by us as the same, or,
at least, as perfectly similar, when, in two corresponding series of
changes, the same substances affect _it_ in the same manner, and _it_
affects, in the same manner, the same substances; and when either the
same substances do not affect it in the same manner, or it does not
affect, in the same manner, the same substances, we have no hesitation
in considering it as _different_. Thus, if a white substance,
resembling exactly, in every external appearance, a lump of sugar,
do not _melt_ when exposed to the action of boiling water, we do not
regard it as _sugar_, because the water does not act on it as we have
uniformly known it to act on that substance; or if the same white lump,
in every other respect resembling sugar, affect our taste as _bitter_
or acrid rather than sweet, we immediately, in like manner, cease to
consider it as sugar, because it does not act upon our nerves of taste
in the same manner as sugar acts upon them. The complete similarity, in
other respects, is far from sufficient to make us alter our judgment;
a single circumstance of manifest difference, in its mode either of
acting upon other substances, or of being acted upon by them, being
sufficient to destroy the effect of a thousand manifest resemblances.

Let this test of identity, then, it may be said, be applied to the
_mind_, at different periods, if the test be allowed to be a just one;
and let it be seen, whether, in the series of changes in which it acts
or is acted upon, the phenomena precisely correspond in every case.
If the same objects do _not_ act upon it in the same manner, it must
then be _different_, according to the very definition to which we are
supposed to have assented.--You, of course, understand, that I am at
present only assuming the character of an objector, and that I state an
argument, the principle of which you will afterwards find to be false.

When we compare the listless inactivity of the infant, slumbering,
from the moment at which he takes his milky food, to the moment at
which he awakes to require it again, with the restless energies of
that mighty being which he is to become, in his maturer years,
pouring truth after truth in rapid and dazzling profusion, upon the
world, or grasping in his single hand the destiny of empires, how few
are the circumstances of resemblance which we can trace, of all that
intelligence which is afterwards to be displayed, how little _more_
is seen, than what serves to give feeble motion to the mere machinery
of life. What prophetic eye can venture to look beyond the period of
distinct utterance, and discern that variety of character by which
even boyhood is marked, far less are the intellectual and moral growth
of the years that follow--the genius, before whose quick glance the
errors and prejudices, which all the ages and nations of mankind have
received as truths, are to disappear--the political wisdom, with which,
in his calm and silent meditations, he is to afford more security
to his country than could be given to it by a thousand armies, and
which, with a single thought, is to spread protection and happiness
to the most distant lands--or that ferocious ambition, with which, in
unfortunate circumstances of power, he is perhaps to burst the whole
frame of civil society, and to stamp, through every age, the deep and
dark impression of his existence, in the same manner as he leaves
on the earth which he has desolated, the track of his sanguinary
footsteps. The cradle has its equality almost as the grave. Talents,
imbecilities, virtues, vices, slumber in it together, undistinguished;
and it is well that it is so, since, to those who are most interested
in the preservation of a life that would be helpless but for their
aid, it leaves those delightful illusions which more than repay their
anxiety and fatigue, and allows them to hope, for a single being, every
thing which it is possible for the race of man to become. If clearer
presages of the future mind were then discoverable, how large a portion
of human happiness would be destroyed by this single circumstance! What
pleasure could the mother feel, in her most delightful of offices, if
she knew that she was nursing into strength, powers, which were to be
exerted for the misery of that great or narrow circle, in which they
were destined to move, and which to her were to be a source, not of
blessing, but of grief, and shame, and despair!

    “These shall the fury passions tear,
    The vultures of the mind,”

says Gray, on thinking of a group of happy children;

    “For see, how all around them wait,
    The ministers of human fate,
      And black Misfortune's baleful train;
    Oh! shew them, where in ambush stand,
    To seize their prey, the murd'rous band!
      Oh! tell them, they are men!”

    ODE III.

To tell them they are men, though they were capable of understanding
it, even in this sense of the word, would not communicate information
so melancholy or so astonishing to themselves, as, by breaking too soon
that dream of expectation, which is not to last forever, but which
fulfils the benevolent purpose of nature while it lasts, it would
communicate to the parent who watches over them, and who sees in them
only those pure virtues, and that happiness as pure, which are perhaps
more than the nature of man admits, and which, at least in the case
before her, are never to be realized.

Is the mind, then, in infancy, and in mature life, precisely the same,
when in the one case, so many prominent diversities of character force
themselves upon the view, and, in the other case, so little appears to
distinguish the future ornament of mankind, from him who is afterwards

      “To eat his glutton meal with greedy haste,
    Nor know the hand which feeds him?”

If we apply the test of identity, do we find that the same objects, in
these different periods, act upon the mind in exactly the same manner;
and are its own feelings, in the successive trains, intellectual and
moral, of which they form a part, attended with consequents exactly the

_Every age_,--if we may speak of many ages, in the few years of human
life,--seems to be marked with a distinct character. Each has its
peculiar objects that excite lively affections; and in each, exertion
is excited by affections, which, in other periods, terminate, without
inducing active desire. The boy finds a world in less space than
that which bounds his visible horizon; he wanders over his range of
field, and exhausts his strength in pursuit of objects, which, in the
years that follow, are seen only to be neglected; while, _to him_,
the objects that are afterwards to absorb his whole soul, are as
indifferent as the objects of his present passions are destined then to

In the progress of life, though we are often gratified with the
prospect of benevolence increasing as its objects increase, and of
powers rising over the greatness of their past attainments, this
gratification is not always ours. Not slight changes of character
only appear, which require our attentive investigation to trace them,
but, in innumerable cases, complete and striking contrasts press, of
themselves, upon view. How many melancholy opportunities must every
one have had in witnessing the progress of intellectual decay, and
the coldness that steals upon the once benevolent heart! We quit our
country, perhaps at an early period of life, and, after an absence
of many years, we return with all the remembrances of past pleasure,
which grow more tender as we approach their objects. We eagerly seek
him, to whose paternal voice we have been accustomed to listen, with
the same reverence as if its predictions had possessed oracular
certainty,--who first led us into knowledge, and whose image has been
constantly joined in our mind, with all that veneration which does not
forbid love. We find him sunk, perhaps, in the imbecility of idiotism,
unable to recognize us--ignorant alike of the past and of the future,
and living only in the sensibility of animal gratification. We seek
the favourite companion of our childhood, whose gentleness of heart we
have often witnessed when we have wept together over the same ballad,
or in the thousand little incidents that called forth our mutual
compassion, in those years when compassion requires so little to call
it forth. We find him hardened into man, meeting us scarcely with the
cold hypocrisy of dissembled friendship--in his general relations to
the world, careless of the misery which _he_ is not to feel--and, if
he ever think of the happiness of others, seeking it as an instrument,
not as an end. When we thus observe all that made us _one_, and gave
an heroic interest even to our childish adventures, absorbed in the
chillness of selfish enjoyment, do we truly recognize in him the
same unaltered friend, from whom we were accustomed to regret our
separation, and do we use only a metaphor of little meaning, when we
say of him, that he is become a different person, and that his mind
and character are changed? In what does the identity consist? The same
objects no longer act upon him in the same manner; the same views of
things are no longer followed by similar approbation or disapprobation,
grief, joy, admiration, disgust; and if we affirm _that substance_ to
be, in the strictest sense of identity, the _same_ on which, in two
corresponding series of phenomena, the same objects act differently,
while itself also acts differently on the same objects; in short, in
which the antecedents being the same, the consequents are different,
and, the consequents being the same, the antecedents are different,
what definition of absolute diversity can we give, with which this
affirmation of absolute identity may not be equally consistent?

    “Behold the child, by nature's kindly law,
    Pleas'd with a rattle, tickled with a straw;
    Some livelier plaything gives his youth delight,
    A little louder, but as empty quite;
    Scarfs, garters, gold, amuse his riper stage;
    And beads and prayer-books are the toys of age.
    Pleas'd with this bauble still, as that before;
    Till, tir'd, he sleeps,--and life's poor play is o'er.”[48]

The supposed test of identity, when applied to the mind in these cases,
completely fails. It neither affects, nor is affected, in the same
manner, in the same circumstances. It, therefore, if the test be a just
one, is _not_ the same identical mind.

This argument against the identity of the mind, drawn from the
occasional striking contrasts of character in the same individual at
different periods of life, or when, by great changes of fortune, he may
have been placed suddenly in circumstances remarkably different, must,
in some degree, have forced itself upon every one who has been at all
accustomed to reflect; and yet, in no one instance, I may safely say,
can it have produced conviction even for a moment. I have stated it
to you, without attempting to lessen its force by any allusion to the
fallacy on which it is founded; because the nature of this fallacy is
afterwards to be fully considered by us.

There is another argument that may be urged against the identity of the
sentient and thinking principle, which has at least equal semblance of
force, though it does not occur so readily, because it does not proceed
on those general and lasting changes of character with which every one
must be struck, but on the passing phenomena of the moment, which are
not inconsistent with a continuance of the _same general character_,
and which, as common to all mankind, and forming, indeed, the whole
customary and familiar series of our thoughts and emotions, excite no
astonishment when we look back on them in the order of their succession.

The mere diversity of our feelings at different moments, it may be
said, is of itself incompatible with the strict and absolute _unity_
which is supposed to belong to the thinking principle. If joy and
sorrow, such as every one has felt, be different, that which is joyful,
and that which is sorrowful, cannot be precisely the same. On the
supposition of complete unity and permanence of the thinking principle,
nothing is added to it, nothing is taken away from it; and, as it
has no parts, no internal change of elementary composition can take
place in it. But _that_ to which nothing is added, from which nothing
is taken away, and which has no parts to vary their own relative
positions and affinities, is so strictly the same, it may be said, that
it would surely be absurd to predicate of it any diversity whatever.
Joy and sorrow imply an unquestionable diversity of some kind; and
if this diversity cannot be predicated of that substance which is
precisely the same, without addition, subtraction, or any internal
change of composition whatever, that which is joyful, and that which
is sorrowful, cannot have absolute identity; or if we affirm, that a
diversity, so striking as to form an absolute _contrast_, is yet not
inconsistent with complete and permanent unity and identity, we may,
in like manner, affirm, that a substance which is hard, heavy, blue,
transparent,--which unites with acids, not, with alkalies,--and which
is volatilizable at a low temperature,--is precisely the same substance
as that, which is soft, light, green, opaque,--which unites with
alkalies, not with acids,--and which is absolutely infusible and fixed
in the highest temperature to which we can expose it.

I have thus endeavoured to place, in the strongest possible light, the
most imposing arguments which I can conceive to be urged against the
_permanent identity_ of the sentient and thinking principle, that,
in combating even _Sophistry_ itself, you may learn, as I have said,
to combat with it on equal ground, and assume no advantage but that
irresistible advantage which Truth must always afford to him who is the
combatant of Error.

The positive evidence of the identity of the mind I shall proceed to
consider in my next Lecture.


[44] Mart. Scrib. chap. vii.--Pope's Works, _edit._ 1757, v. vii. p.

[45] Essays on the Intellectual Powers, Essay III. chap. iv.--v. 1. p.
341. _Edit. Ed._ 1808.

[46] Monsieur Des Cartes. _Shaftesb._

[47] Shaftesbury's Characteristics, vol. iii. p. 172-174. _Edit._ 1745.

[48] Pope's Essay on Man, Ep. II. v. 275-282.



My last Lecture, Gentlemen, was employed in considering the great
question of the Identity of the Mind, as one and permanent, amid all
the infinite variety of our feelings; and particularly, in stating the
two most forcible objections, which I can imagine to be urged against
this identity,--_one_ founded on the striking contrasts, intellectual
and moral, which the same mind exhibits in different periods of life,
and in different circumstances of fortune,--the _other_, more abstract,
and, therefore, less obvious, but not less forcible, founded on the
mere diversity of our temporary feelings, as itself inconsistent with
identity, at least with that strict and absolute identity, to which,
as in the case of the mind, nothing can have been added,--from which
nothing can have been taken away,--and which, by its very nature, as
simple and indivisible, must have been incapable of any elementary

Since the exposure of the fallacy, on which these objections are
founded, would, however, afford only a sort of _negative_ evidence of
that great truth which they oppose, it will be of advantage, before
entering on an examination of the objections themselves, to state, in
the first place, the nature of that _positive_ evidence, which does
not, indeed, lead us to the belief of the unity and permanence of our
spiritual being, by that slow process which is denominated reasoning,
but constitutes to us, primarily and directly, an impossibility of
disbelieving it. I do this the more readily, from the opportunity
which it gives of making you acquainted with the paramount importance
of those principles of _intuitive belief_, which are essential to
philosophy in all its forms, as they are physically essential, indeed,
to the very preservation of our animal existence; and which the rash
and unphilosophic extension of them by one class of philosophers, and
the equally unphilosophic misapprehension of them by other writers
who controverted them, have rendered more necessary, than it would
otherwise have been, to state to you with precision.

Of these _first truths_, as they have been termed, the subject, which
we are at present considering, affords one of the most striking
examples. The belief of our identity is not the result of any series of
propositions, but arises immediately, in certain circumstances, from
a principle of thought, as essential to the very nature of the mind,
as its powers of perception or memory, or as the power of reasoning
itself, on the essential validity of which, and consequently on the
intuitive belief of some first truth on which it is founded, every
objection to the force of these very truths themselves must ultimately
rest. To object is to argue; and to argue is to assert the validity
of argument, and, therefore, of the primary evidence, from which the
evidence of each succeeding proposition of the argument flows. To
object to the authority of such primary intuitive belief, would thus be
to reason against reason,--to affirm and deny at the same moment,--and
to own that the very arguments which we urge are unworthy of being
received and credited.

As the nature of the process of reasoning has not yet come under our
review, it may not at first appear to you, how essential the truths of
intuition are to those very truths which are usually opposed to them.
But that they are thus essential, a very little attention will be
sufficient to show you.

All belief, it is evident, must be either _direct_ or _indirect_. It is
direct, when a proposition, without regard to any former proposition
expressed or understood, is admitted as soon as it is expressed in
words, or as soon as it rises silently in the mind. Such are all the
order of truths, which have been denominated, on this account, first
truths. The belief is indirect, when the force of the proposition,
to which assent is given, is admitted only in consequence of the
previous admission of some former proposition, with which it is
felt to be intimately connected; and the statement in words, or the
internal developement of these relative propositions in the order
in which their relation to the primary proposition is felt, is all
that constitutes _reasoning_. The indirect belief which attends the
result of reasoning, even in the proudest demonstration, is thus
only another form of some first truth, which was believed directly
and independently of reasoning; and, without this primary intuitive
assent, the demonstration itself, in all its beautiful precision and
regularity, would be as powerless and futile as the most incoherent
verbal wrangling.

Without some principles of immediate belief, then, it is manifest,
that we could have no belief whatever; for we believe one proposition,
because we discover its relation to some other proposition, which is
itself, perhaps, related, in like manner, to some other proposition
formerly admitted, but which, carried back as far as it may, through
the longest series of ratiocination, must ultimately come to some
primary proposition, which we admit from the evidence contained in
itself, or, to speak more accurately, which we believe from the mere
impossibility of disbelieving it. All reasoning, then, the most
sceptical, be it remarked, as well as the most dogmatical, must
proceed on some principles, which are taken for granted, not because
we infer them by logical deduction, for this very inference must then
itself be founded on some other principle assumed without proof; but
because the admission of these first principles is a necessary part
of our intellectual constitution. The ridicule, therefore, with which
Dr Priestley and some other English metaphysicians, were disposed to
regard the decision of philosophical questions, on certain ultimate
principles of common sense, was surely, at least in its wide degree
of extension, misplaced; though the phrase _common sense_, it will
be admitted, was not the happiest that could have been chosen. The
controversy, indeed, was truly a verbal and insignificant one, unless
as far as it had reference to the unnecessary multiplication of these
principles, by the philosophers of this part of the island whom Dr
Priestley opposed; since, if traced to their ultimate evidence, it
could have been only from some one or more of the principles of common
sense, at least from those primary universal intuitions of direct
belief, which were all that Dr Reid and his friends meant to denote
by the term, that the very reasonings employed against them derived
even the slightest semblance of force. An argument that rejects not
the phrase common sense only, which is of little consequence, but
also what the phrase was intended, by its authors, to imply, is an
argument confessedly founded upon nothing; which, therefore, as wholly
unfounded, requires no answer, and which, at any rate, it would be
vain to attempt to answer, because the answer, if it proceed on any
ground whatever, must begin with assuming what the argument rejects, as

All reasoning, then, I repeat, whether sceptical or dogmatical, must
take for granted, as its primary evidence, the truth of certain
propositions, admitted _intuitively_, and independently of the
reasoning, which follows, but cannot precede, the perception of
their truth; and hence, as we cannot suppose that the subsequent
ratiocination, though it may afford room for errors in the process,
can at all add evidence to these primary truths; which, as directly
believed, are themselves the ultimate evidence of each successive
proposition, down to the last result of the longest argument; we must
admit that our identity, if it be felt by us intuitively, and felt
universally, immediately, irresistibly, is founded on the very same
authority as the most exact logical demonstration, with this additional
advantage, that it is not subject to those possibilities of error in
the steps of the demonstration, from which no long series of reasoning
can be exempt.

So little accustomed are we, however, to think of this primary
fundamental evidence of every reasoning, while we give our whole
attention to the consecutive propositions which derive from it their
force, that we learn, in this manner, to consider truth and reasoning
as necessarily connected, and to regard the assertion of truths that
do not flow from reasoning, as the assertion of something which it
would be equally unworthy of philosophy to assert or to admit; though
every assertion and every admission, which the profoundest reasoner can
make, must, as we have seen, involve the direct or indirect statement
of some truth of this kind. Nor is it wonderful that we should thus
think more of the reasoning itself, than of the foundation of the
reasoning; since the _first truths_, which give force to reasoning
but require no reasoning to establish them, must necessarily be of a
kind which all admit, and which, therefore, as always believed by us,
and undisputed by others, have excited no interest in discussion, and
have never seemed to add to our stock of knowledge, like the results
of reasoning, which have added to it truth after truth. Yet that they
are thus uninteresting to us, is the effect only of their primary,
and universal, and permanent force. They are the only truths, in
short, which every one admits; and they seem to us unworthy of being
maintained as truths, merely because they are the only truths which are
so irresistible in evidence, as to preclude the possibility of a denial.

It is not as the primary evidence of all our processes of reasoning,
however, that they are chiefly valuable. Every action of our lives is
an exemplification of some one or other of these truths, as practically
felt by us. Why do we believe, that what we remember truly took place,
and that the course of nature will be in future such as we have already
observed it? Without the belief of these physical truths, we could not
exist a day, and yet there is no _reasoning_ from which they can be

These principles of intuitive belief, so necessary for our very
existence, and too important, therefore, to be left to the casual
discovery of reason, are, as it were, an internal never-ceasing
voice from the Creator and Preserver of our being. The reasonings
of men, admitted by some, and denied by others, have over us but a
feeble power, which resembles the general frailty of man himself.
These internal revelations from on high, however, are omnipotent
like their Author. It is _impossible_ for us to doubt them, because
to _disbelieve_ them would be to deny what our very constitution was
formed to admit. Even the Atheist himself, therefore, if, indeed,
there be one who truly rejects a Creator and Ruler of the universe,
is thus every moment in which he adapts his conduct implicitly, and
without reasoning, to these directions of the Wisdom that formed him,
_obeying_, with most exact subserviency, that very _Voice_ which he is
professing to question or to deride.

That the assertion of principles of intuitive belief, independent of
reasoning, may be carried to an extravagant and ridiculous length,--as,
indeed, seems to me to have been the case in the works of Dr Reid, and
some other Scotch philosophers, his contemporaries and friends,--no one
can deny; nor that the unnecessary multiplication of these would be
in the highest degree injurious to sound philosophy,--both as leading
us to form false views of the nature of the mind, in ascribing to it
principles which are no part of its constitution, and, still more, as
checking the general vigour of our philosophic inquiry, by seducing us
into the habit of acquiescing too soon, in the easy and indolent faith,
that it is unnecessary for us to proceed farther, as if we had already
advanced as far as our faculties permit. It is the more unfortunate,
because our very avidity for knowledge, which is only another name
for that philosophic curiosity in which inquiry originates, is itself
favourable to this too easy acquiescence; tending, consequently, by
a sort of double influence, to repress the very speculation to which
it gave rise. This it does, by rendering the suspense of ungratified
curiosity so _painful_ to us, as to resemble, in a very great degree,
the uneasiness which we feel from the ungratified cravings of bodily
appetite. We more readily, therefore, yield to the illusion which seems
to remove this suspense: and are happy to think, however falsely, that
we have now completed our inquiry, and that, without attempting any
more elementary analysis, we may content ourselves with simply classing
the results which we have already obtained. Though there is no human
being who must not have felt doubts on some point or other, it is not
every one who knows how to doubt. To the perfection of a doubt, indeed,
it is essential,--if I may apply to it what rhetoricians say of an epic
or dramatic narrative,--that it should have a beginning, a middle,
and in many cases, too, though not in all, an end. The middle is a
very easy matter; the great difficulty relates to the beginning and
the end, and to the end not less than the beginning. We err equally,
when the doubt ceases too soon, and when it does not cease where it
ought to cease. There is a scepticism as different from the true
spirit of philosophy, as the most contented ignorance, that has never
questioned a single prejudice; a scepticism, which, instead of seeking
to distinguish truth from falsehood, _professes_ to deny altogether
the competency of our faculties as to making such a distinction in any
case, and to which any proposition, therefore, is as likely as its
opposite. With this wild half reasoning extravagance, which is ignorant
whether it affirms or denies, and which does not even know certainly
that it has any uncertainty at all, it would be manifestly absurd to
reason; and we may even truly say of it, notwithstanding the high
character of perfect doubting which it affects, that it does not know
how to doubt more than the all-credulous imbecility which it despises
and derides; because it does not know in what circumstances doubt is
legitimate, and in what circumstances it should cease. But, at the same
time, he also, it may be said, does not know how to doubt, who is
completely satisfied with the result of an inquiry which he is capable
of prosecuting still further,--even though it were only by the addition
of a single step to the thousand which he may already have made. Truth
is the last link of many long chains; the first links of all of which,
Nature has placed in our hands. When we have fairly arrived at the
last, and feel completely that there is no link beyond, it would be
manifestly absurd to suppose, that we can still proceed further;--but
if we stop before we have arrived at the last, maintaining, without
stretching out our hand to make the experiment, that there cannot be
yet another link after that which we have reached, it matters not how
far we may have advanced. Truth is still _beyond_ us--to be grasped
only by an arm more vigorous and persevering.

If, instead of maintaining boldly, that we have reached the last
link of the chain, we content ourselves with affirming, that we have
reached the last which human effort can reach, we must beware that we
do not measure the incapacity of the whole race of mankind by our own
individual inability, or, which is far from improbable, that we do not
mistake for inability, even in ourselves, what is only the irksomeness
of long continued exertion. Our power is often much greater than we are
willing to believe; and in many cases, as La Rochefoucault very justly
says, it is only to excuse to ourselves our own indolence that we talk
of things as impossible. “Non putant fieri,” says Seneca, speaking of
persons of this character, “quicquid facere non possunt. Ex infirmitate
sua ferunt sententiam.”--“Scis quare non possumus ista? Quia nos posse
non credimus.”--“Magno animo de rebus magnis judicandum est; alioqui
videbitur illarum vitium esse quod nostrum est.”

Much evil, then, it must be admitted, would arise in the Philosophy of
Mind from a disposition to acquiesce too soon in instinctive principles
of belief. But though these may be, and have been, multiplied
unnecessarily, and beyond the truth of nature, it is not less certain,
that of our mental nature such principles are truly a part. We should,
indeed, draw _monsters_, not _men_, if we were to represent the human
head and trunk with a double proportion of arms and legs; but we should
also give an unfaithful portraiture of the human figure, and should
draw monsters, not men, if we were to represent them with but one arm
and leg, or with no arm or leg at all. In like manner, to suppose the
mind endowed with more principles of intuition than belong to it, would
be to imagine a species of _mental_ monster. But it would not less be
a mental monster, if we were to attempt to strip it of the principles
which it truly possesses.

In contending, then, for the authority of certain _first principles_
of belief, such as that on which I conceive the conviction of
our identity to be founded, I am sufficiently aware, in how many
instances, reference to these has been rashly made by philosophers;
when a deeper and more minute analysis would have shewn, that the
supposed first principles were not elementary laws of thought, but
were resolvable into others more simple. It is not to be inferred,
however, from the rash attempts to establish principles of intuitive
belief which do not exist, that there are no such principles in our
mental constitution, any more than it is to be inferred, from the
general prevalence of bad reasoning, that it is impossible for a human
being to reason accurately. I trust, at any rate, that I have already
sufficiently warned you, against the danger of acquiescing too soon
in any proposition, as a law _of thought_, precluding all further
inquiry, from its own primary and independent evidence; and that I
have impressed you, not merely with the necessity of admitting some
principles of this sort, as essential to every reasoning, but with
the necessity also, of admitting them, only after the most cautious

The difficulty of ascertaining precisely, whether it be truth which we
have attained, is, in many cases, much greater, than the difficulty of
the actual attainment. Philosophy has in this respect been compared, by
a very happy illustration,--which, therefore, homely and familiar as it
is, I make no scruple to quote,--to “a game at which children play, in
which one of them, with his eyes bandaged, runs after the others. If he
catch any one, he is obliged to tell his name; and if he fail to name
him, he is obliged to let him go, and to begin his running once more.
It is the same,” says Fontenelle, the author from whom I borrow this
image, “in our seeking after truth. Though we have our eyes bandaged,
we do sometimes catch it.--But then we cannot maintain with certainty
that it _is_ truth, which we have caught;--and in that moment it
escapes from us.”

If there be, as it has been already shewn that there must be,
intuitive truths; and, if we are not to reject, but only to weigh
cautiously, the belief which seems to us intuitive, it will be
difficult to find any, which has a better claim to this distinction,
than the faith which we have, in our identity, as one continued
sentient and thinking being, or rather, to speak more accurately, as
one permanent being capable of many varieties of sensation and thought.

There is to be found in it, every circumstance which can be required
to substantiate it as a law of intuitive belief. It is universal,
irresistible, immediate. Indeed, so truly prior and paramount is it
to mere reasoning, that the very notion of reasoning necessarily
involves the belief of our identity as admitted. To reason, is to draw
a conclusion from some former proposition; and how can one truth be
inferred from another truth, unless the mind, which admits the one,
be the mind, which admitted the other? In its order, as much as in
its importance, it may be truly considered as the _first_ of those
truths which do not depend on reasoning, and as itself necessarily
implied, perhaps in all, certainly in the greater number, of our other
intuitions. I believe, for example, without being able to infer it,
or even to discover the greater probability of it, by any process of
reasoning, that the course of nature in future will resemble the past;
and, since all mankind have the same irresistible tendency, I have no
scruple in referring it to an original principle of our nature. In
taking for granted this similarity, however, in the order of succession
of two distinct sets of phenomena, I must previously have believed,
that _I_, the same sentient being, who expect a certain order in the
future phenomena of nature, have already observed a certain order in
the past.

Since, then, the belief of our identity is intuitive and irresistible,
the only inquiry which remains is as to the circumstances in which the
belief arises. Identity is a _relative_ term. It implies of course,
in every instance, a double observation of some sort. The identity of
our mind is its continuance, as the subject of various feelings, or at
least as that which is susceptible of various feelings. The belief of
it therefore, can arise only on the consideration of its successive
phenomena; and is indeed involved in the mere consideration of these as

The knowledge of our _mind_ as a _substance_, and the belief of
our _identity_ during successive feelings, may be considered as
the same notion, expressed in different words. Our identity is
the unity and sameness of that which thinks and feels,--itself
substantially unchanged amid the endless variety of its thoughts and
feelings,--capable of existing separately in all these different
states; not ceasing therefore when they cease, but independent of their
transient changes. The knowledge of _mind_, then, as a substance,
implying the belief of identity during changes of state cannot be
involved in any one of these separate states; and, if our feelings
merely succeeded each other, in the same manner as the moving bodies of
a long procession are reflected from a mirror, without any vestige of
them as _past_, or consequently, any remembrance of their successions,
we should be as incapable of forming a notion of the sentient substance
_mind_, abstracted from the momentary sensation, as the mirror itself;
though we should indeed differ from the mirror, in having what mind
only can have, the sensations themselves, thus rapidly existing and

But, if it be only on the consideration of some _past_ feeling,
that the belief of the permanent substance mind can arise, it is to
the principle which recals to us past feelings, that the belief is
ultimately to be traced. We _remember_;--and in that remembrance is
involved the belief, the source of which we seek. It is not merely a
past feeling that arises to us, in what is commonly termed memory, but
a feeling that is recognized by us as _ours_, in that past time of
which we think,--a feeling, therefore, of that mind which now remembers
what it before saw, perhaps, or heard, or enjoyed, or suffered. We
are told by writers on this subject, that it is from a _comparison_
of our present with our past consciousness, that the belief of our
identity in these states arises; and this use of the term comparison,
which is commonly applied to a process of a different kind, may perhaps
mislead you as to this simpler process. It is true, indeed, that the
belief arises from a feeling of the past, that is remembered, together
with the consciousness of our remembrance as a present feeling,--a
contemplation, as it were, of two successive states of the mind. But
the comparison is nothing more than this.--It is not to be supposed
that we discover in the two feelings some common quality or proportion,
as when, in arithmetic or geometry we compare two numbers, or two
regular figures; for the two feelings may have nothing common, except
that very belief of identity which is involved in the remembrance
itself. We remember the past,--we feel the present,--we believe, and
cannot but believe, that the rememberer of the past existed in that
past which he remembers. The _process_ itself is sufficiently simple,
however truly wonderful one of the feelings may be which forms the
most important part of the process;--for we are not to forget that the
remembrance itself, the revealer of the past, is not a past, but a
_present_ feeling. It is the mind existing for the present moment in a
particular state, as much as any primary and immediate sensation is the
mind existing in a particular state. That this state of remembrance,
itself a present feeling, should be representative to us of some former
feeling, so as to impress us irresistibly with the belief of that
former state of the mind, is indeed most wonderful; but that it does
impress us with this belief, is as undeniable as the belief itself is

Our faith in our identity, then, as being only another form of the
faith which we put in memory, can be questioned only by those who
deny all memory, and with memory all reasoning of every kind,--who
believe only the existence of the present moment, and who with respect
to every thing else, are as incapable of opposing or questioning as
they are of believing. If our memory be unworthy of the faith which we
_intuitively_ give to it, all that is founded on memory, and therefore
demonstration itself, must equally deceive us. We cannot admit the
most rigid demonstration, or expect it to be admitted, without having
already admitted, intuitively, that identity, which in words only we
profess to question, and to question which, even in words, is to assert
the reality of that which we deny.

The belief of the identity of self, then, as the one permanent subject
of the transient feelings remembered by us, arises from a _law of
thought_, which is essential to the very constitution of the mind. It
has accordingly all the qualities, which I can imagine to be required
by the most rigid scrutinizer of our principles of intuitive assent. It
is universal, and immediate, and irresistible. I do not believe, with
more confidence, that the half of thirty-two is equal to the square of
four, than I believe, that I, who computed the square of four, am the
same with that mind, which computes the half of thirty-two, and asserts
the equality of the two numbers.

This consideration is of itself decisive of the question of
_identity_; since, if it be manifest, that there is an universal,
immediate, and irresistible impression of our identity,--an impression,
which cannot be traced to any law of thought more simple,--its truth
is established by a species of evidence, which must be allowed to
be valid, before the very objections can be put, in which it is
professedly denied;--every objection, however sceptical, involving, as
we have seen, and necessarily involving, the assertion of some such
intuitive proposition, from which alone its authority, if it have any
authority, is derived. In endeavouring to move the whole world of truth
with his lever, there must still be some little spot at least, on which
the sceptic must be content to rest his foot as firmly as others. Δὸς
ποῦ στῶ, he must still be condemned to say with Archimedes; and if we
allow no resting-place to his foot,--or, even allowing him this, if
we allow no fulcrum for the instrument which he uses, he may contract
or lengthen his lever at pleasure; but all the efforts, which in such
circumstances, he can make, will exhibit nothing so striking to those
by whom the efforts are witnessed, as the laborious impotence of him
who employs them. To deny any first principles of intuitive belief,
that are not themselves to stand in need of a demonstration,--which, as
a demonstration, or series of consecutive propositions, can be founded,
in its primary evidence, only on some principle of the same kind,--is,
indeed, for such a sceptical mechanic, to set his foot upon air, rather
than on the ground, on which all around him are standing, and to throw
away the single fulcrum on which his lever rests, and from which alone
all its power is derived.

The belief of our mental identity, then, we may safely conclude,
is founded on an essential principle of our constitution,--in
consequence of which, it is _impossible_ for us to consider our
_successive_ feelings, without regarding them as truly _our_ successive
feelings--states, or affections of one thinking substance. But though
the belief of the identity of the substance which thinks, is thus
established on the firmest of all grounds, the very ground, as we
have seen, on which demonstration itself is founded,--even though no
particular fallacy could be traced in the objections brought against
it, which I detailed in my last Lecture,--it is still an interesting
inquiry, in what the fallacy of the objections consists; and the
inquiry is the more interesting, as it will lead us to some remarks and
distinctions, which, I flatter myself, will throw some light on the
philosophy of all the changes, material as well as mental, that are
every moment taking place in the universe.

The objections brought against the identity of the mind, from a
supposed incompatibility of its _diversities_ of state with _sameness_
of substance, appear to me to depend on the assumption of a test of
identity, transferred, without sufficient reason, from the obvious
appearances of matter to mind, and which, if _matter_ be accurately
considered, is equally false, too, as applied to _it_. The cause of
the transference, however, from the obvious material appearances, is
a very natural one,--the same, which has included so many analogies,
from external things, in the language, which we employ to express
the intellectual functions. It is with the changes of the material
substances around us, that all our operations, which leave any fixed
and permanent marks of our agency, are immediately concerned. It is
indeed only through them, that our communication with other minds
can be at all carried on; and it is not wonderful, therefore, that,
in considering the nature of _change_, of every kind, our philosophy
should be strongly tainted with prejudices, derived from the material
world, the _scene_ of all the immediate and lasting changes, which
it is in our power to produce. How much the mere materialism of our
language has itself operated, in darkening our conceptions of the
nature of the mind, and of its various phenomena, is a question,
which is obviously beyond our power to solve; since the solution of
it would imply, that the mind of the solver was itself free from the
influence which he traced and described. But of this, at least, we may
be sure, that it is almost impossible for us to estimate the influence
too highly; for we must not think, that its effect has been confined
to the works of philosophers. It has acted, much more powerfully, in
the familiar discourse, and silent reflections of multitudes, that
have never had the vanity to rank themselves as philosophers,--thus
incorporating itself, as it were, with the very essence of human
thought. In that rude state of social life, in which languages had
their origin, the inventor of a word probably thought of little more,
than the temporary facility, which it might give to himself and his
companions, in communicating their mutual wants, and concerting their
mutual schemes of co-operation. He was not aware, that, with this
faint and perishing sound, which a slight difference of breathing
produced, he was creating that which was afterwards to constitute
one of the most imperishable of things, and to form, in the minds
of millions, during every future age, a part of the complex lesson
of their intellectual existence,--giving rise to lasting systems of
opinions, which, perhaps, but for the invention of this single word,
never could have prevailed for a moment, and modifying sciences, the
very elements of which had not then begun to exist. The inventor of
the most barbarous term may thus have had an influence on mankind,
more important, than all which the most illustrious conqueror could
effect, by a long life of fatigue, and anxiety, and peril, and guilt.
Of the generalship of Alexander, and the valour of his armies,--of all
which he suffered, and planned, and executed, what permanent vestiges
remain, but in the writings of historians! In a very few years, after
the termination of his dazzling career, every thing on the earth was
almost as if he had never been. A few phrases of Aristotle achieved a
much more extensive and lasting conquest, and are, perhaps, even at
this moment, exercising no small sway on the very minds which smile at
them with scorn, and which, in tracing the extent of their melancholy
influence on the progress of science, in centuries that are past, are
unconscious that they are describing and lamenting prejudices, of which
they are themselves still, in a great measure, the slaves. How many
truths are there, of which we are ignorant, merely because one man

To return, however, to the objections, which we are to consider.

Diversity of any kind, it is said, is inconsistent with absolute
identity, in any case, and in the _mind_, which is by supposition
_indivisible_, nothing can be added to it or taken away, and no
internal change can take place, in the relative positions and
affinities of parts which it has not. Joy and sorrow are _different_
in themselves; that which is joyful, therefore, and that which is
sorrowful, cannot be _precisely_ the same, or diversity of any
kind might be consistent with absolute identity. That the joyful
and sorrowful mind are precisely the same, is not asserted, if the
sameness be meant to imply sameness of state; for it is admitted,
that the _state_ of the mind is different in joy and sorrow! and the
only question is, whether this difference, to which we give the name
of difference of state, be incompatible with complete and absolute
sameness of substance.

The true key to the sophistry is, as I have already said, that it
assumes a false test of identity, borrowed, indeed, from the obvious
appearances of the material world, but from these obvious appearances
only. Because diversity of any kind seems, in these familiar cases, to
be inconsistent with absolute identity, we draw hastily the _universal_
conclusion, that it is inconsistent with absolute identity in any case.
Paradoxical as the assertion may appear, however, we may yet safely
assert, that, not in mind only, but, as we shall find, in matter also;
some sort of diversity is so far from being inconsistent with absolute
identity, that there is scarcely a single moment, if, indeed, there be
a single moment, in which every atom in the universe is not constantly
changing the tendencies that form its physical character, without
the slightest alteration of its own absolute identity; so that the
variety of states or tendencies of the same identical mind, in joy and
sorrow, ignorance and knowledge, instead of being opposed, as you might
think, by the general analogy of nature, is in exact harmony with that
general analogy. It is from our view of _matter_, unquestionably, as
implying, in all its visible changes of state, some loss of identity,
some addition or subtraction of particles, or change of their form of
combination, that the objection, with respect to the identity of the
_mind_, during its momentary or lasting changes of state, is derived;
and yet we shall find, that it is only when we consider even matter
itself superficially and slightly, that we ascribe the changes which
take place in it, to circumstances that affect its identity. To view it
more profoundly and accurately, is to observe, even in matter, constant
changes of state, where the identity has continued entire, and changes
as opposite, as those of the mind itself, when, at different periods,
it presents itself in different aspects, as sad and cheerful, ignorant
and wise, cruel and benevolent.

The apparent mystery of the continued identity of one simple and
indivisible mind, in all the variety of states, of which it is
susceptible, is thus in a great measure, solved, when we find this
union of variety and sameness to be the result of a law that is not
limited to our spiritual being, but extends to the whole universe,
or at least to every thing which we know in the universe. It can no
longer appear to us peculiarly wonderful, that the mind should exist at
different moments in opposite states, and yet be the same in its own
absolute nature, when we shall find that this compatibility is true of
every atom around us, as much as of the mind itself.



My Lecture yesterday was, in a great measure, employed in illustrating
the primary evidence of those principles of _intuitive assent_, to
which we traced our belief of the identity of the mind as one and
permanent, in all the variety of its ever-changing affections. I
explained to you, particularly with a view to that vague and not very
luminous controversy, in which Dr Priestley was engaged with some
philosophers of this part of the Island, in what manner the truth of
these intuitive propositions must be assumed or admitted by all who
reason, even by the wildest sceptic who professes to question them;
pointing out to you, at the same time, the danger to which two of
the strongest principles of our constitution, our indolence and our
love of knowledge, alike expose us--the danger of believing too soon
that we have arrived at truths which are susceptible of any minuter
analysis. In conformity, therefore, with the caution which this danger
renders necessary, we examined the belief of our continued identity;
and we found it to possess the distinguishing marks, which I ventured
to lay down as the three great characters of intuition, that it is
_universal_, _immediate_, and _irresistible_;--so universal, that even
the very maniac, who conceives that he was yesterday emperor of the
Moon, believes that he is to-day the very person who had yesterday that
empire--so immediate, that we cannot consider any two feelings, of our
mind as successive, without instantly considering them as feelings of
our mind, that is to say, as states of one permanent substance, and so
irresistible that even to doubt of our identity, if it were possible
for us truly to doubt of it, would be to believe, that our mind, which
doubts, is that very mind which has reflected and reasoned on the

Having thus stated the _positive_ ground of belief, in our spiritual
identity, I proceeded to consider the _negative_ evidence which
might arise from the confutation of the objections urged against
it,--objections drawn from the supposed incompatibility of the changes
of our mental affections, with that strict absolute identity of
substance, to which nothing can have been added, and from which nothing
can have been taken away. The test of identity, which this supposed
incompatibility implies, I stated to be a very false one, transferred
from matter to mind, and borrowed, not from a philosophical, but from a
very superficial view even of matter itself. If it appear, on a closer
inquiry, that matter itself, without the slightest loss of identity,
exists at different moments, in states which are not merely different
but opposite, and exists in almost infinite variety of such states, it
cannot surely seem wonderful, that the mind also should, without the
slightest loss of its identity, exist at different moments, in states
that are different and opposite.

That a superficial view of matter, as it presents itself to our mere
organs of sense, should lead us to form a different opinion, is,
however, what might readily be supposed, because the analogies, which
that superficial view presents, are of a kind that seem to mark a loss
of identity whenever the state itself is altered.

In experimental philosophy, and in the obvious natural phenomena of
the material world, whenever a body changes its state, some addition
or separation has previously taken place. Thus, water becomes steam
by the addition, and it becomes ice by the loss, of a portion of that
matter of heat which is termed by chemists _caloric_; which loss and
addition are, of course, inconsistent with the notion of absolute
numerical identity of the corpuscles, in the three states of water as
a solid, a liquid, and a gaseous vapour. _Perception_, by which the
mind is metaphorically said to acquire knowledge, and _forgetfulness_,
by which it is metaphorically said to lose knowledge, have, it must be
confessed, a very striking analogy to these processes of corpuscular
loss and gain; and, since absolute identity _seems_ to be inconsistent
with a change of state in the one set of phenomena, with which we are
constantly familiar, we find difficulty in persuading ourselves, that
it is not inconsistent with a change of state in the other set also.
It is a difficulty of the same kind as that which every one must
have felt, when he learned, for the first time, the simple physical
law, that matter is indifferent as to the states of motion and rest,
and that it requires, therefore, as much force to destroy completely
the motion of a body, as to give it that motion when at rest. We have
not been accustomed to take into account the effects of _friction_,
and of atmospherical resistance, in gradually destroying, without the
interference of any visible force, the motion of a ball, which we are
conscious of effort in rolling from our hand; and we think, therefore,
that rest is the natural state of a body, and that it is the very
nature of motion to cease spontaneously. “Dediscet animus sero, quod
dedicit diu.” It is a very just saying of a French writer, that “it is
not easy to persuade men to put their _reason_ in the place of their
_eyes_; and that when, for example, after a thousand proofs, they are
reasonable enough to do their best to believe, that the planets are so
many opaque, solid, habitable orbs, like our earth, they do not believe
it in the same manner as they would have done if they had never looked
upon them in another light. There still comes back upon their belief
something of the first notion which they had, that clings to them with
an obstinacy, which it requires a continual effort to shake off.”[49]

It is, then, because some substantial loss or gain does truly take
place in the changing phenomena of the bodies immediately around us,
to which we are accustomed to pay our principal attention, that we
learn to regard a change of state in matter as significant of loss
of identity, and to feel, therefore, some hesitation in admitting
the mental changes of state to be consistent with absolute sameness
of substance. Had our observation of the _material_ phenomena been
different, there would have been a corresponding difference in our view
of the changes of the phenomena of the mind.

If, for example, instead of previously gaining or losing caloric,--as
in the constitution of things of which we have our present
experience,--the particles of the water had suddenly assumed the
state of _vapour_ on the sounding of a trumpet at a distance, and the
state of _ice_ immediately on the rising of the sun,---in short, if
the different changes of state in bodies, by which their physical
character for the time seems, in many cases, to be wholly altered, had
occurred without any apparent loss or gain of substance, we should
then no longer have found the same difficulty in admitting the changes
of state in mind as consistent with its identity; and the sentient
substance, which previously existed in a different state, might then,
on the sounding of a trumpet, have been conceived by us to begin to
exist, in the state which constitutes that particular sensation of
hearing, or, on the rising of the sun, to exist in that different
state which constitutes the sun's change of colour as readily as the
material substance, previously existing in the form of water, to begin
at the same moment, without any essential or numerical change, and
consequently with perfect identity, to exist in the new state of steam,
or in the state of a chrystalline mass, as solid as the rock from which
it hangs as an icicle, or that glitters with its gemmy covering.

But it may be said, that the very supposition which we now make is an
absurd one; that the mere presence of the sun in the firmament, at a
distance from the water, cannot be supposed to convert it into ice,
unless the water gain or lose something, and consequently cease to
have absolute identity; and that the case, therefore, is of no value,
as illustrating the compatibility of change of state in our various
sensations, with unaltered identity of the sentient mind. To this I
might answer, that although the presence of the sun certainly does not
operate in the manner supposed,--as the sequences of events are now
arranged in the great system of nature,--it is only by experience, and
not by intuition or reasoning, we know, that the presence of the sun
has not the very effect which the separation of caloric now produces,
and that there is nothing absolutely more wonderful in the one case
than in the other. If our experience had been the reverse of this,--if
the change of place of a few particles of caloric had not, as now,
converted the liquid water into that solid congeries of crystals
which we call ice,--we should then have found as little difficulty
in conceiving that it should not have this effect, as we now find in
adapting our belief to the particular series of events which constitute
our present experience.

It is not necessary, however, to have recourse to suppositions
of this kind; since the system of nature, even according to our
present experience of it, furnishes sufficient proof of changes as
wonderful in the state of bodies produced obviously at a distance,
and, therefore, without any loss or addition which can affect their
identity. For sufficient evidence of this, I need appeal only to the
agency of the celestial _gravitation_; that gigantic energy of nature
which fills the universe, like the immediate presence of the Deity
himself,--to which, in the immensity of its influence, the distances,
not from planets to planets merely, but from suns to suns, are like
those invisible spaces between the elements of the bodies around us,
that seem actual contact to our eyes,--and in comparison with which,
the powers, that play their feeble part in the physical changes on the
surface of our earth, are as inconsiderable as the atoms, on which they
exercise their little dominion, are to the massy orbs which _it_ wields
and directs at will,--

               “Those bright millions of the heavens,
    Of which the least full Godhead had proclaim'd,
    And thrown the gazer on his knee.”--“Admire
    The tumult untumultuous! All on wing,
    in motion all; yet what profound repose!
    What fervid action, yet no noise!--as aw'd
    To silence by the presence of their Lord.”

The action of these great planetary bodies on each other,--it surely
cannot be denied,--leaves them separate identities, precisely as
before; and it is a species of agency, so essential to the magnificent
harmony of the system, that we cannot conceive it to have been
interrupted, for a single moment, since the universe itself was formed.
An action, therefore, has been constantly taking place on all the
bodies in the universe,--and consequently a difference of some sort
produced,--which yet leaves their identities unaffected. But, though
the identity of the substance of the separate orbs is not affected
by their mutual attractions, the _state_, or temporary physical
character, of these orbs,--considered individually as one great
whole,--_must_ be affected,--or it would be absurd to speak of their
mutual agency at all; for action implies the sequence of a change of
some sort, and there can be no action, therefore, where the substances
continue precisely the same, and their state also precisely the same,
as before the action. Accordingly, we find, on our own globe, that
great changes of state, such as form the most striking of its regular
visible phenomena, are produced by this distant operation. The waters
of our ocean, for example, rise and fall,--and, therefore, must have
altered states, or physical tendencies, in consequence of which they
rise and fall, as there is no corresponding addition or subtraction of
matter,--at regular intervals,--which it is in our power to predict
with infallible accuracy,--not because we can divine any loss of
identity in the fluid mass,--any internal change in its elementary
composition, or the nature and varieties of the winds, which are to
sweep along its surface,--but because we know well, at what hours, and
in what relative situation, a certain great body, at the distance of
some hundreds of thousands of miles, is to be passing along the heavens.

If, then, the mere position of a distant heavenly body can cause
the particles of our ocean to arrange themselves in a different
configuration,--from that in which they would otherwise have existed,
and, therefore, must have produced in the particles that change of
state, which forces them, as it were, into this altered form,--without
addition to them of any thing, or subtraction of any thing,--in short,
leaving in them the same absolute numerical or corpuscular identity as
before,--there surely can be no greater difficulty, in supposing, as
in the case before imagined, that a certain position of the sun might
have immediately caused the particles of a distant liquid, to arrange
themselves in the particular configuration, that constitutes the solid
ice,--which, though perhaps a more striking change of state, would
not have been more truly a change of state, than that, which it now
unquestionably produces, in modifying the rise or fall of our tides.
And, if a distant body can produce in _matter_ a change of state,
without affecting its identity, by any addition or subtraction, we may
surely admit, that the presence of an external body, as in perception,
may, in _mind_ also, produce a change of state, without affecting its
identity; unless indeed, (which is not impossible, because nothing
is impossible to human folly,) we should be inclined to reverse our
prejudices, and maintain, that matter may be easily conceived to change
the affinities or tendencies that form its physical character, in the
particular circumstances observed, without any addition or subtraction
of substance, but that some positive addition or subtraction of
substance is, notwithstanding, essential to the simple changes or
affections of the mind.

If the _moon_ were suddenly annihilated, our earth would still be the
same identical planet, without the loss or gain of a single particle
of substance. But the state of this planet, as a whole, and of every
atom of this planet, would be instantly altered, in many most important
respects,--so completely altered, indeed, that not an atom of the
mass would tend to the other atoms of the mass, in the same manner
as before. In like manner, if the _light_,--which now, operating on
one of my organs of sense, causes my mind to exist in the state that
constitutes the sensation of a particular colour,--were suddenly to
vanish, the state of my mind would be instantly changed, though my mind
itself, considered as a substance, would still continue unaltered.
In both cases,--the spiritual, and the material,--and in both cases,
alike,--_absolute identity_, in the strictest sense of the term, is
_consistent_ with innumerable _diversities_.

In the discussion of this supposed difficulty, I have chosen,
for illustration, in the first place, to consider the _planetary
attractions_, in preference to those which occur, in the minuter
changes, that are simply terrestrial; because in the case of
operations at a distance, it is impossible for us, not to perceive,
that, even in matter, a change of state is not inconsistent with
complete permanence of absolute corpuscular identity; while, in the
compositions or decompositions, that occur spontaneously, or by
artificial experiment, in the physical changes on the surface of our
earth, the additions or subtractions of matter, that appear to us to
constitute these phenomena, truly destroy the corpuscular identity of
the substances, in which the change takes place; and the change of
state is thus considered by us, as implying a positive substantial
change. But when we examine even these phenomena a little more deeply,
we shall find, that, like the great operations of gravitation on the
masses of the universe,--the change, in these also, is not a positive
change of substance, but is simply a change of state in a congeries of
independent substances, which we term _one_ substance, merely because
the spaces, that are really between them, are imperceptible to our very
imperfect organs; the addition or subtraction of matter being not that
which constitutes the new states or tendencies of the particles which
continue present, but merely that which gives occasion to those changes
of state or tendency;--as the positions of the heavenly bodies do not
constitute the phenomena of our tides, but merely give occasion to
that difference of state in the particles of the ocean, in consequence
of which they assume of themselves a different configuration. Man
is placed, as it has been truly said, on a point, between two
infinities,--the infinitely _great_, and the infinitely _little_. It
may be an extravagant speculation, to which I have before alluded,--but
it is not absolutely absurd, to suppose, that in the unbounded system
of nature, there may be beings, to whose vision the whole planetary
attendants of each separate sun, which to us appear to revolve at
distances so immense, may yet seem but one small cohesive mass, in the
same manner, as to those animalculæ, whose existence and successive
generations had been altogether unknown to man, till the microscope
created them, as it were to his feeble sight,--and which, perhaps, are
mighty animals compared with races of beings still more minute, that
are constantly living in our very presence, and yet destined never to
be known to us,--those bodies, which to us seem one small cohesive
mass, may appear separated by distances, relatively as great, as to
us are those of the planets. That light, itself a _body_, should pass
freely through a mass of solid crystal, is regarded by us as a sort of
physical wonder; and yet it is far from impossible, that, between the
atoms which compose this apparently solid mass, whole nations of living
beings maybe dwelling, and exercising their mutual works of peace or
hostility; while perhaps, if philosophy can be exercised, in brains of
such infinitesimal dimensions, in the same manner as in our coarser
organs, the nature of the atoms, or distant worlds around them, may be
dividing with endless absurdities, the Ptolemies and Aristotles of the
little republics. We have all so much of the nature of the inhabitants
of Brobdignag, that a supposition of this kind,--which is perhaps
truly in itself not a very probable one,--yet appears to us much more
improbable, than it really is. We smile, as recognizing our own nature,
when the sovereign of that country of giants is represented by the most
unfortunate, or rather the most fortunate of all voyagers, as “turning
to his first minister, who waited behind him with a white staff, near
as tall as the mainmast of the Royal Sovereign, and observing how
contemptible a thing was human grandeur, which could be mimicked by
such diminutive insects.” “And yet,” said he, “I dare engage, those
creatures have their titles and distinctions of honour; they contrive
their nests and burrows, that they call houses and cities; they make
a figure in dress and equipage; they love, they fight, they dispute,
they cheat, they betray.” And we fully enter into the difficulty which
the _savans_ of the country, who had all agreed that the new-discovered
animal could not have been produced according to the regular laws of
nature, must have found, in giving him a name. “One of them seemed to
think that I might be an embryo, or abortive birth. But this opinion
was rejected by the other two, who observed my limbs to be perfect
and finished; and that I had lived several years, as it was manifest
from my beard, the stumps whereof they plainly discovered through
a magnifying-glass. They would not allow me to be a dwarf, because
my littleness was beyond all degrees of comparison; for the queen's
favourite dwarf, the smallest ever known in that kingdom, was near
thirty feet high. After much debate, they concluded unanimously, that
I was only _relplum scalcath_, which is interpreted literally _lusus
naturæ_; a determination exactly agreeable to the modern philosophy
of Europe, whose professors, disdaining the old evasion of occult
causes, whereby the followers of Aristotle endeavoured in vain to
disguise their ignorance, have invented this wonderful solution of all
difficulties, to the unspeakable advancement of human knowledge.”[50]

Whatever may be thought of speculations of this kind, however, with
respect to the relative distance of the atoms of bodies, it is not the
less certain, that these atoms are separate substances, independent
of the other similar or different substances that apparently adhere
to them in continuity,--that they are, in truth, the only material
substances which really exist, since the bodies which we term masses
are only those very atoms under another name,--that they remain,
and cannot but remain, identical, amid all the changes of chemical
composition or decomposition,--and that the change which they suffer,
therefore, however strikingly their physical character may be altered
for the time, is a change not of _substance_ but of _state_ only. In
the case of the formation of _ice_, for example, the elementary atoms
themselves, which are all that truly exist in nature, are not, and
cannot be, changed; but particles, which were formerly easily separable
from adjacent particles, now resist this separation by a considerable
force. There is a change in their _state_, therefore, since they now
exist with a different degree of tendency toward each other,--a change,
to which the separation of a quantity of caloric may, indeed, have
given occasion, but which is to be distinguished from that momentary
separation itself, since the solidity, which is only another name for
the corpuscular resistance, continues after the separation is complete,
and would continue forever, unless a change of temperature were again
to restore that former state or tendency of the particles, in which
they were easily separable. To him who has learned to consider bodies
as, what they truly are, a multitude of separate and independent
corpuscles, there is no change of identity, and cannot be any change of
identity, in all the phenomena or changes of the universe. The atoms,
which alone existed, continue as before; and all which constitutes the
phenomenon, or varieties of successive phenomena, is a change of their
place or tendency.

This _corpuscular_ view of the material universe,--which, of course,
admits an infinite variety of applications, corresponding with the
infinite variety of its phenomena,--has many most striking analogies
in that moral universe, with the phenomena of which we are chiefly
concerned. Indeed, when we consider any of the masses before us, as
deriving all its apparent magnitude from a number of separate bodies,
of which it is composed,--any one of which, _individually_, would be
too minute to be distinguishable by us,--it is scarcely possible not to
think of the similarity which it presents to the multitudes of human
beings that are as it were, massed together in the great nations of
the earth; and in which any single individual, if he could be supposed
to have exercised his powers separately, would have been truly as
insignificant as a single atom separated from the mass of which it is
a part. What we call the greatness of a nation, is nothing more than
the union of a number of little interests and little passions joined
in one common object; to which insignificant elements, so wonderful
when combined, if we could distinctly reduce, by analysis, the most
unrivalled power that has ever commanded the admiration and envy of
the world, it would, at first view, run some little risk of appearing
contemptible. The advantages of this social union of mankind, as
silently felt at every moment, are unquestionably so infinite in
comparison, as almost to sink into nothing the occasional evils to
which the aggregation and massing of so many powers, when ill directed,
may give rise,--though these terrific evils, when they occur, may dwell
more permanently in the mind;--like the visitations of storms and
earthquakes, which we remember forever, while, with a sort of thankless
forgetfulness, we scarcely think of the calm beauty and regularity
which, season after season, passes over us. The rock which, descending
from the top of a mountain, lays waste whatever it meets in its
progress,--and to attempt to stop which, while its short career lasts,
would be almost like instant annihilation,--derives this overwhelming
force from an infinite number of independent corpuscles, any one of
which, if it had fallen singly, would have been far less destructive
than the flutter of an insect's wing; and that tyrannical power of a
single man, before which, in unhappy ages of successful oppression, the
earth has so often trembled,--as before some power of darkness, endowed
with more than human sway,--has derived its irresistible might, not
from powers included in itself,--which, in reference to the objects
achieved by it, would have been feeble indeed,--but from the united
powers of beings still feebler, who were trembling while they executed
commands to which themselves alone gave omnipotence.

To this corpuscular view, however, though it is unquestionably the
sort of view to which, in our ultimate physical inquiries into
the phenomena of matter, we must come, you may, perhaps, not be
sufficiently accustomed, to enter fully into the reasoning on the
subject. It will probably be less difficult for you, if we take rather,
as an illustration, the simpler case of _impulse_; in which the bodies
affecting each other are not, as in chemistry, indistinguishable
corpuscles, but _masses_, clearly defined, and easily perceptible.

I need not, of course, repeat the arguments formerly stated, to prove
that _attraction_, however general it may be as a law of matter at all
visible distances, does not continue, but gives place to an opposite
tendency at those smaller distances, which we are unable to perceive
with our weak organs, and which we learn to estimate only by effects
that are inconsistent with absolute contact;--for example, by the
well-known fact of the compressibility of bodies, which could not
take place if their particles were already in contact, and which
by continually increasing resistance to the compressing force that
would bring the corpuscles nearer, shews, that there is, at different
degrees of nearness, a tendency continuing to operate, which is the
very reverse of attraction. There is, therefore, every reason to
believe,--since repulsion, as the fact of forcible compression shews,
takes place while the particles of bodies are still at a certain
distance,--that the motion produced in one body by another, and
ascribed to immediate impulse, is produced, without actual contact,
by this mutual repulsion, as it is called, of the bodies when brought
within a certain invisible degree of vicinity to each other; or,
in other words,--for repulsion means nothing more mysterious than
this simple fact,--the tendency which bodies, in certain relative
positions of apparent but not actual contact, have to fly off from
each other with certain degrees of velocity, as in certain other
relative positions, of distinguishable distance, they have a tendency
to approach each other. This repulsion, or tendency from each other
at one point of nearness, is of itself as easy to be conceived, as
that _attraction_, or tendency toward each other at other points of
distance, to which we give the name of _gravitation_; and it is only
from our greater familiarity with the one, as operating at distances
which are visible, while the other,--except in a few cases, such as
those of magnetism and electricity,--operates only at distances which
are imperceptible to us, that we feel a little more difficulty in
admitting the _repulsion_ than the _attraction_ of matter. There is
then,--however universal gravitation may seem, when we think only
of perceptible distances,--a certain point of near approach, before
actual contact, at which gravitation ceases; and, beyond this point,
the tendency of bodies toward each other is converted,--as the force
necessary to compress them evidently shews,--into a tendency from each
other; _both_ tendencies, indeed, being _inexplicable_, but the one in
no respect more so than the other.

For this apparent digression, on a point of general physics, I make no
apology, as it is absolutely necessary for illustrating the particular
case to which I am to proceed. The consideration of it requires, what
the whole of this discussion, indeed, has already required from you, no
small exercise of patient attention; but I trust that I sufficiently
prepared you for this, in a former Lecture, when I stated the
importance of such attention, not merely in relation to the subject
considered at the time, but as a part of your mental discipline,
and the advantage which might thus be derived to your intellectual
character, from the very difficulties which the subject presents. It
is in philosophy, as in many a fairy tale. The different obstacles
which the hero encounters, are not progressively greater and greater;
but his most difficult achievements are often at the very commencement
of his career. He begins, perhaps, with attacking the castle of some
enchanter, and has to force his way, unassisted, through the griffins
and dragons that oppose his entrance. He finishes the adventure, with
the death of the magician--and strips him of some ring, or other
talisman, which renders his subsequent adventures comparatively
easy and secure. I cannot venture to say, indeed, that a perfect
acquaintance with the difficulties of the present question, and of some
of the late questions which have engaged us, will be such a talisman to
you, in your future career of intellectual science. But I may safely
say, that the habit of attentive thought, which the consideration of
subjects, so abstract, necessarily produces, in those who are not too
indolent to give attention to them, or too indifferent to feel interest
in them, is more truly valuable than any talisman, of which accident or
force might deprive you. The _magic_ with which this endows you, is not
attached to a _ring_, or a gem, or any thing external; it lives, and
lives forever, in the very essence of your minds.

When a billiard ball, on being struck, approaches another, which is at
rest, it soon arrives at the point of seeming, but not actual contact,
at which their mutual attraction ceases, and the force which it has
acquired still carrying it on, it passes this bounding point, and
arrives at a point at which repulsion has already begun. Accordingly
the body, formerly at rest, now flies off, on a principle precisely
similar, (though the mere direction be opposite) to that by which the
same ball, if dropped from a hand that supported it, would, without the
actual impulse of any body, have quitted its state of rest, as in the
present case, and have gravitated, or, which is the same thing, have
moved of itself toward the earth.

Before the first ball, which you will, perhaps more easily remember
by the name, A, arrived so very near to the second ball B, as to
have come within the sphere of their mutual repulsion, this second
ball was at rest, that is to say, it had no tendency to move in any
direction. This state of rest, however, is only one of the many states,
in which a body may exist; and if, which must surely be allowed, a
body having a tendency to continued motion, be in a different state,
from one which has no such tendency, this change of state implying,
it must be remarked, not even the slightest loss of identity, has
been produced in the body B, by the mere vicinity of the body A. For
the sake of illustration, let us now suppose this body A to be hot or
luminous. It will still, as before, produce the new state of tendency
to motion, in B, when it arrives within the limits of their sphere of
repulsion. Is it less conceivable, then, that the mere presence of
this hot or luminous body should produce the new sensation of warmth,
or of colour, which are different states of the sentient mind, without
affecting in the slightest degree the identity of the mind itself,
than that it should produce, without any loss of absolute identity, in
the body B, an immediate tendency, in that body, to move along with a
certain velocity, a state as different from that in which it remains
at rest, as the sensation of warmth, which is one state of the mind,
is different from the sensation of colour, which is another state of
the mind? Nor does the parallel end here; for, since a body at rest,
acquiring a tendency to begin motion in one particular direction, as,
for example, to move _north_, must be in a different state from that
in which it would have been, if it had acquired an instant tendency
to move _east_, or in any other direction; and, the direction once
begun, being the same, since a body having a tendency to move with one
velocity, must, at every moment of its progress, be in a different
state from that in which it has a tendency to move with a different
velocity, it is evident, that the mere presence of a body may produce,
in a second body, according to the difference of their positions and
relative magnitudes, a variety of states, that, when all the varieties
of direction, and all the varieties of velocity are estimated together,
may be considered as infinite,--equal at least in number, to the
different states of which the mind is susceptible, in its almost
infinite variety of feelings; and all this without any essential
change, that can affect the identity of the quiescent or moving body,
or any essential change, that can affect the identity of the mind.

I am aware, that, when you consider, for the first time, this assertion
of an infinite variety of _states_, corresponding with all the
innumerable varieties of direction and velocity, in the tendencies of
a simple billiard-ball, which, in the various circumstances supposed,
appears to us precisely the same, in all its sensible qualities,
you may be apt to conceive, that the assertion must be founded on a
mistake, and, from the influence of former prejudice may be inclined
to think, that, when it exhibits a tendency to begin to move east,
at one time, and, at another time, a beginning tendency to move
north, this does not arise from any difference of state in itself,
but from its being merely carried along by the first ball, which
was itself previously moving in one or other of these particular
lines of direction. When the elastic billiard-ball, however, bounds
away from the ball which strikes it, this supposition is manifestly
inapplicable;--and, in all cases, it is the influence only of former
prejudice which can lead you to this opinion,--the influence of that
prejudice, by which you may have been accustomed to consider impulse,
not as inducing a tendency to motion at some little distance, but as
involving the necessity of actual contact. To destroy this prejudice,
a very little reflection on the phenomena of elastic bodies, in their
shocks and mutual retrocessions, is surely all that can be requisite;
and if the motion of B, and consequently its tendency to motion, have
begun, without contact of A, as it afterwards continues while A, the
elastic body which struck it, is moving back in an opposite direction,
it could not be by mechanical trusion, as carried along by A, which
is still at some points of distance from it when its motion begins,
and at still greater distance the longer the motion continues, that
B has assumed any one of its variety of states,--that, for example,
in which, in one case, it tends to move east, in another case to move
north, in one case to move rapidly, in another slowly. To say that the
body acquires this new tendency because it is impelled, is only to
say that it is impelled because it is impelled. It is an equally idle
use of language, to affirm, as if a word could obviate the difficulty
instead of merely stating it,--that A, in communicating a different
tendency to B, which was before at rest, does this by a principle, or
power of repulsion; for this, as I have said, is merely to state in
a single word, the regularity in certain circumstances of the very
fact asserted. The different tendencies of B, and consequently the
different states in which B exists,--are not the less different, in
whatever manner the difference may have been produced, or by whatever
word, or combination of words, the difference may be expressed. There
is no magic, in the phrase, _principle_ of repulsion, or _power_ of
repulsion, which can render the _same_, states or tendencies that are
in themselves opposite;--for, as far as we understand the phrase, it
expresses nothing more than the invariableness of the simple fact,
that in certain circumstances of relative position, bodies have a
tendency to fly off from each other, as in certain other circumstances
of relative position, which constitute the phenomena of gravitation,
they have a tendency to approach. Whatever term we may employ to denote
it, it is still a physical fact, that at a certain point of near and
seemingly close approach of another mass, a body which was before in a
state of rest, acquires immediately a tendency to fly off in different
directions, and with different velocities at different times, and
consequently, that, if the tendency to begin or to continue motion,
in one direction, and with one velocity, be a state different from
that which constitutes the tendency to begin or to continue motion in
another direction, and with another velocity, the ball B, in these
different circumstances, however identical it may be in substance,
exists in two different states;--or all states, however different, may
be said to be the same.

It may be admitted, then, that the _feeling of rapture_ is a state of
mind, completely different from that which constitutes the _feeling
of agony_,--that the sensation of the fragrance of a rose, has no
resemblance to our conception of a sphere or of an equilateral
triangle,--and that, in general, all those thoughts and emotions,
which,--more truly than the mere union of the immortal spirit within us
with the body which it animates,--may be said to constitute _life_,

    “Love, Hope, and Joy, fair Pleasure's smiling train,--
    Hate, Fear, and Grief, the family of Pain;”

these, as they prevail, in different hours, render the same individual
mind more unlike to itself, if its states or tendencies alone, and not
its substantial identity be considered, than the minds perhaps of any
two human beings, at the same moment. But still, as we have seen, even
from the analogy of the material world,--which was supposed to furnish
a powerful objection, it is no argument against the absolute identity
of the mind, that exists in different states, however opposite, any
more, than it is an argument against the absolute identity of a body,
that it, at one moment, has a tendency to one particular motion,--at
another moment a tendency to a different motion,--and at another
moment, no tendency whatever to motion of any kind; since, in all these
cases, as much as in the varying affections of the mind, there is a
_change of state_, with absolute _identity of substance_.


[49] Fontenelle, Pluralité des Mondes, Conversat. 6me.

[50] Gulliver's Travels, part ii. chap. 3.



My last Lecture, Gentlemen, was employed in considering the general
objection to the Identity of the Mind, drawn from the contrasts
of its momentary feelings,--an objection founded on the supposed
incompatibility of diversity of any kind, with strict and absolute
_identity_. After the very full examination which it received, it is
unnecessary to dwell at any length on the other objection, drawn from
changes of general character, in the same individual, at different
periods of life, or in different circumstances of fortune; since
precisely the same arguments, from the general analogy of nature, which
disprove the supposed incompatibility in the one case, disprove it
also in the other. Even _matter_ itself, we have seen, may, without
the slightest alteration of its identity, exist in an almost infinite
variety of states; having, in some of these states, qualities precisely
the reverse of those, which it exhibited in other states, attracting
what it repelled, repelling what it attracted;--and it surely is not
more wonderful, therefore, that the same identical mind, also, should,
in relation to the same objects, in different circumstances, be
susceptible of an almost infinite variety of affections,--approving,
disapproving, choosing, repenting. If we knew nothing more of the
relations of two billiard balls to each other, than the phenomena which
they exhibit, in the moment of their mutual percussion, when they
have been forced, within a certain degree of close vicinity, by the
impelling stroke, we should regard them, from their instant reciprocal
repulsion, as having a natural tendency to fly off from each other;
and, in the state in which they then exist, there is no question that
such is their tendency,--a tendency, which, in these circumstances,
may be regarded as their genuine physical character. Yet we have only
to imagine the two balls placed at a distance from each other, like
that of the remotest planet from the sun; and, in traversing the whole
wide void that intervenes, what a different physical character would
they exhibit, in their accelerating tendency toward each other, as if
their very nature were lastingly changed? If there are, then, such
opposite tendencies in the same bodies, without any loss of identity,
why may not the same minds also have _their_ opposite tendencies,
when, in like manner, removed, as it were, into circumstances that
are different, loving, perhaps, what they hated before, and hating
what they loved? If the change of state be not _temporary_, but
_permanent_, the resulting affections may well be supposed to be
permanently different; and, indeed, if they be different at all, cannot
but be permanently different, like the altered state. It is as little
wonderful, therefore, when any lasting change of circumstances is
taken into account, that the same individual should no longer exhibit
the same intellectual and moral appearances, as that matter, in its
different states, should no longer exhibit the same obvious phenomena,
_attracting_, perhaps, the very bodies which it before repelled, and
_repelling_ the very bodies which it before attracted, and attracting
and repelling with differences of force, and consequent differences of
velocity in the bodies moved, the varieties of which it would require
all the powers of our arithmetic to compute.

When we observe, then, in a mind, which we have long known and valued,
any marks of _altered character_,--when, for example, in one, who,
by the favour, or rather by the cruelty of Fortune, has been raised,
from a situation comparatively humble, to sudden distinctions of
power and opulence, we see the neglect of all those virtues, the
wider opportunity of exercising which seemed to him formerly the
chief, or even the only, advantage that rendered such distinctions
desirable,--the same frivolous vanity, which before appeared to him
ridiculous in others, and the same contemptuous insolence of pride,
which before appeared to him contemptible,--a craving and impatient
desire of greater wealth, merely because he has no longer any use to
make of it, unless, indeed that it has become more necessary to his
_avarice_, than it ever was before to his _want_,--and a gay and
scornful indifference to miseries, that are still sometimes able to
force themselves upon his view, the relief of which, that once seemed
to him so glorious a privilege, would now not require of him even the
scanty merit of sacrificing a single superfluity: When we perceive this
contrast, and almost say within ourselves, Is this the same being? we
should remember that the influence of fortune is not confined to the
mere trapping, which it gives or takes away,--that it operates _within_
as much as _without_,--and that, accordingly, in the case now imagined
by us, the new external circumstances have been gradually modifying the
mind, in the same manner, as new external circumstances of a different
kind modify the bodies, which happen to be placed in them,--not
affecting their _identity_, but altering their _state_; and that, if
we could distinguish, as accurately, the series of changes, which take
place in mind, as we can distinguish those which take place in matter,
we should not be more astonished, that, in circumstances of rare and
unhappy occurrence, a disposition once apparently generous is generous
no more, than we are to observe a body, attracted to another body, at
one distance, and afterwards repelled from it, in consequence merely of
a change of their mutual position,--a change so very slight as to be
altogether undistinguishable by our senses.

I have dwelt on this question at much greater length than I should
otherwise have done, however interesting it truly is as a question of
metaphysics, because I was anxious to obviate a prejudice which is
very closely connected with this point, and which, most unfortunately
for the progress of the Philosophy of Mind, has given a wrong bias to
the speculations of many very enlightened men. No one, I am aware,
can be so sincerely sceptical as to doubt, even for a moment, his
own identity, as _one continued sentient being_, whatever ingenious
sophistry he may urge in support of the paradox which he professes to
hold. But still, while the compatibility of diversity with absolute
identity, as now explained to you, was but obscurely felt,--a
compatibility which, to the best of my remembrance, no writer, with
whom I am acquainted, has attempted to illustrate,--the difficulty of
reconciling the growth or decay of knowledge, and all the successive
contrasts or changes of feeling, which our sensations, thoughts,
emotions, exhibit, with the permanent indivisible unity of the same
sentient principle, has been sufficient, in many cases, to produce a
vague and almost unconscious tendency to materialism, in minds that
would not otherwise have been easily led away by a system so illusive;
and, where it has not produced this full effect, it has at least
produced a tendency, in many cases, to encumber the simple theory
of the mental phenomena with false and unnecessary hypotheses, very
much akin to those of absolute materialism. Without this absolute
materialism, _mind_ must still be left, indeed, as the ultimate subject
of sensation, and the difficulty truly remains the same; but it is
contrived to complicate, as much as possible, the corporeal part of the
process, which precedes this ultimate mental part, by the introduction
of phantasms, or other shadowy films, animal spirits, vibratiuncles,
or other sensorial motions, that a wider room may thus be left for a
play of changes, and the difficulty of accounting for the diversity
of sensations be less felt, when it is to be divided among so many
substances in almost constant motion; while the attention is, at the
same time, led away from the immediate _mental_ change, in which alone
the supposed difficulty consists, to the mere _corpuscular_ changes, in
which there is no supposed difficulty.

It is a general law of our internal, as well as of our external
perceptions, that we distinguish most readily what is least
complicated. In a chorus of many voices, a single discordant voice may
escape even a nice discriminator of musical sounds, who would have
detected instantly the slightest deviation from the melody of a simple
air. A juggler, when he wishes to withdraw a single card, is careful to
present to us many; and, though the card which he withdraws is truly
before our eyes at the very moment at which he separates it from the
pack, we do not discover the quick motion which separates it, however
suspiciously watchful we may be, because our vigilance of attention is
distracted by the number of cards which he suffers to remain. It is not
because the card which he removes is not before us, then, that we do
not observe the removal of it, but because it is only one of many that
are before us. It is precisely the same in those complicated material
processes, with which some theorists encumber the simple phenomena of
the mind. The difficulty which seems, to them, to attend any diversity
whatever in a substance that is identical, simple, indivisible, and
incapable of addition or subtraction, remains, indeed, ultimately in
all its force, and would strike us equally, if this supposed difficulty
were to be considered alone. But many hypothetical vibrations, or other
motions, are given to our consideration at the same moment, that glance
upon our mental view like the rapid movements of the juggler's hand.
We, therefore, do not feel so painfully as before a difficulty which
occupies our attention only in part; and, in our feeble estimation of
things, to render a difficulty less visible to us, is almost like a
diminution of the difficulty itself.

For obviating this tendency to _materialism_, or to what may be
considered almost as a species of _semi-materialism_ in the physiology
of the mind, it is of no small consequence to have accurate views of
the nature of our mental identity. Above all, it is of importance, that
we should be sufficiently impressed with the conviction, that absolute
identity, far from excluding every sort of diversity, is perfectly
compatible, as we have seen, with diversities that are almost infinite.
When we have once obtained a clear view of this compatibility, as
independent of any additions or subtractions of substance, we shall
no longer be led to convert our simple mental operations into long
continued processes, of which the last links only are mental, and the
preceding imaginary links corporeal; as if the introduction of all
this play of hypotheses were necessary for saving that identity of
mind, which we are perhaps unwilling to abandon altogether; for it will
then appear to us not more wonderful, that the _mind_, without the
slightest loss of identity, should at one moment begin to exist in the
state which constitutes the sensation of the fragrance of a rose, and
at another moment should begin to exist in the state which constitutes
the sensation of the sound of a flute, or in the opposite states of
love and hate, rapture and agony--than that the same _body_, without
the slightest change of its identity, should exist, at one moment, in
the state which constitutes the tendency to approach another body, and
at another moment in the opposite state which constitutes the tendency
to fly from it, or that, with the same absolute identity, it should
exist, at different moments in the different states, which constitute
the tendencies to begin motion in directions that are at right angles
to each other, so as to begin to move in the one case north, in the
other east, and to continue this motion, at one time with one velocity,
at other times with other velocities, and consequently, with other
tendencies to motion that are infinite, or almost infinite.

With these remarks, I conclude what appears to me to be the most
accurate view of the question of our personal, or, as I have rather
chosen to term it, our mental identity. We have seen, that the belief
of this arises, not from any inference of reasoning, but from a
principle of intuitive assent, operating universally, immediately,
irresistibly, and therefore justly to be regarded, as essential to our
constitution,--a principle, exactly of the same kind, as those, to
which reasoning itself must ultimately be traced, and from which alone
its consecutive series of propositions can derive any authority. We
have seen, that this belief,--though intuitive,--is not involved in any
_one_ of our separate feelings, which, considered merely as present,
might succeed each other, in endless variety, without affording
any notion of a sentient being, more permanent than the sensation
itself; but that it arises, on the consideration of our feelings as
_successive_, in the same manner, as our belief of proportion, or
relation in general, arises, not from the conception of _one_ of the
related objects or ideas, but only after the previous conception of
_both_ the relative and the correlative; or rather, that the belief
of identity does not arise as subsequent, but is involved in the very
remembrance which allows us to consider our feelings as successive;
since it is impossible for us to regard them as successive, without
regarding them as feelings of our sentient self;--not flowing,
therefore, from experience or reasoning, but essential to these,
and necessarily implied in them,--since there can be no result in
experience, but to the mind which remembers that it has previously
observed, and no reasoning but to the mind which remembers that it
has felt the truth of some proposition, from which the truth of its
present conclusion is derived. In addition to this positive evidence
of our identity, we have seen, that the strongest objections which we
could imagine to be urged against it, are, as might have been expected,
sophistical, in the false test of identity which they assume,--that
the contrasts of momentary feeling, and even the more permanent
alterations of general character, in the same individual, afford no
valid argument against it; since, not in _mind_ only, but in _matter_
also,--(from a superficial and partial view of the phenomena of which
the supposed objections are derived,)--the most complete identity of
substance, without addition of any thing, or subtraction of any thing,
is compatible with an infinite _diversity of states_.

I cannot quit the subject of identity, however,--though from my belief
of its importance, I may already, perhaps, have dwelt upon it too
long,--without giving you some slight account of the very strange
opinions of Mr Locke on the subject. I do this, both because some
notice is due, to the paradoxes,--even though they be erroneous,--of
so illustrious a man, and because I conceive it to be of great
advantage, to point out to you occasionally the illusions, which have
been able to obscure the discernment of those _bright_ spirits, which
nature sometimes, though sparingly, grants, to adorn at least that
intellectual gloom, which even they cannot irradiate; that, in their
path of glory, seem to move along the heavens by their own independent
light, as if almost unconscious of the darkness below, but cannot
exist there for a moment, without shedding, on the feeble and doubtful
throngs beneath, some faint beams of their own incommunicable lustre.
It is chiefly, as connected with these eminent names, that fallacy
itself becomes instructive, when simply exhibited,--if this only be
done, not from any wish to disparage merits, that are far above the
impotence of such attempts, but with all the veneration which is due
to human excellence, united as it must ever be to human imperfection,
“Even the errors of great men,” it has been said, “are fruitful of
truths;” and, though they were to be attended with no other advantage,
this one at least they must always have, that they teach us how very
possible it is for man to err; thus lessening at once our tendency to
slavish acquiescence in the unexamined opinions of others, and--which
is much harder to be done--lessening also, as much as it is possible
for any thing to lessen, the strong conviction, which we feel, that we
are ourselves unerring.--The first and most instructive lesson, which
man can receive, when he is capable of reflection, is to _think for
himself_; the second, without which the first would be comparatively of
little value, is to reject, in _himself_, that infallibility, which he
rejects in _others_.

The opinion of Locke, with respect to personal identity, is, that it
consists in consciousness alone; by which term, in its reference to
the past, he can mean nothing more than perfect memory. As far back as
we are conscious, or remember; so far and no farther, he says, are we
the same persons. In short, what we do not remember, we, as persons,
strictly speaking, never did. The identity of that which remembers,
and which is surely independent of the remembrance itself, is thus
made to consist in the remembrance, that is confessedly fugitive; and,
as if that every possible inconsistency might be crowded together
in this simple doctrine, the same philosopher, who holds, that our
personal identity consists in _consciousness_, is one of the most
strenuous opponents of the doctrine, that the soul always thinks, or is
_conscious_; so that, in this interval of thought, from consciousness
to consciousness,--since that which is essential to identity is, by
supposition, suspended, the same identical soul, as far as individual
personality is concerned, is not the same identical soul, but exists
when it does not exist.

“There is another consequence of this doctrine,” says Dr Reid, “which
follows no less necessarily, though Mr Locke probably did not see it.
It is that a man be, and at the same time not be, the person that did a
particular action.

“Suppose a brave Officer to have been flogged when a boy at school,
for robbing an orchard, to have taken a standard from the enemy in
his first campaign, and to have been made a General in advanced life:
Suppose also, which must be admitted to be possible, that when he took
the standard, he was conscious of his having been flogged at school;
and that when made a General, he was conscious of his taking the
standard, but had absolutely lost the consciousness of his flogging.

“These things being supposed, it follows, from Mr Locke's doctrine,
that he who was flogged at school is the same person who took the
standard; and that he who took the standard is the same person who was
made a General. Whence it follows, if there be any truth in logic, that
the General is the same person with him who was flogged at school. But
the General's consciousness does not reach so far back as his flogging,
therefore, according to Mr Locke's doctrine, he is not the person who
was flogged, Therefore the General is, and at the same time is not, the
same person with him who was flogged at school.”[51]

But it is needless to deduce consequences, from this very strange
paradox; since its author himself has done this, most freely and
fully, and often with an air of pleasantry, that, but for the place
in which we find it, as forming a part of a grave methodical essay on
the understanding, would almost lead us to think, that he was himself
smiling, in secret, at his own doctrine, and propounding it with the
same mock solemnity with which the discoverer of Laputa has revealed to
us all the secrets of the philosophy of that island of philosophers.

He allows it to follow, from his doctrine, that, if we remembered _at
night_, and never but at night, one set of the events of our life; as,
for instance, those which happened five years ago; and never but in
the day time, that different set of events, which happened six years
ago; this, “day and night man,” to use his own phrase, would be two
as distinct persons, as Socrates and Plato; and, in short, that we
are truly as many persons as we have, or can be supposed to have, at
different times, separate and distinct remembrances of different series
of events. In this case, indeed, he makes a distinction of the visible
_man_, who is the same, and of the _person_ who is different.

“But yet possibly it will still be objected,” he says, “suppose I
wholly lose the memory of some parts of my life, beyond a possibility
of retrieving them, so that perhaps I shall never be conscious of
them again; yet am I not the same person that did those actions, had
those thoughts that I once was conscious of, though I have now forgot
them? To which I answer, that we must here take notice what the word
I is applied to; which, in this case, is the man only. And the same
man being presumed to be the same person, I is easily here supposed
to stand also for the same person. But if it be possible for the same
man to have distinct incommunicable consciousness at different times,
it is past doubt the same man would at different times make different
persons; which we see is the sense of mankind in the solemnest
declaration of their opinions; human laws not punishing the mad man for
the sober man's actions, nor the sober man for what the mad man did,
thereby making them two persons: which is somewhat explained by our
way of speaking in English, when we say such an one is not himself, or
is beside himself; in which phrases it is insinuated, as if those who
now, or at least first used them, thought that self was changed, the
self-same person was no longer in that man.”[52]

Such is the doctrine of a philosopher, whose intellectual excellence
was unquestionably of the highest rank, and whose powers might be
considered as entitling him to exemption, at least, from those _gross_
errors which far weaker understandings are capable of discovering, if
even this humble relative privilege had not been too great for man.
He contends, that our remembrance of having done a certain action, is
not merely to us, the rememberers, the _evidence_ by which we believe
that we were the persons who did it, but is the very circumstance that
makes us _personally_ to have done it,--a doctrine, which, if the word
_person_ were to be understood in the slightest degree in its common
acceptation, would involve, as has been justly said, an absurdity as
great as if it had been affirmed, that our belief of the creation of
the world actually made it to have been created.

If we could suppose Mr Locke to have never thought on the subject of
personal identity, till this strange doctrine, and its consequences,
were stated to him by another, it may almost be taken for granted, that
he would not have failed instantly to discover its absurdity, as a mere
verbal paradox; and, yet, after much reflection on the subject, he
does not perceive that very absurdity, which he would have discovered,
but _for reflection_. Such is the strange nature of our intellectual
constitution. The very functions, that, in their daily and hourly
exercise, save us from innumerable errors, sometimes lead us into
errors, which, but for them, we might have avoided. The philosopher is
like a well armed and practised warrior, who, in his helmet and coat
of mail, goes to the combat with surer means of victory, than the ill
disciplined and defenceless mob around him, but who may yet sometimes
fall where others would have stood, unable to rise and extricate
himself, from the incumbrance of that very armour, to which he has owed
the conquests of many other fields.

What, then, may we conceive to have been the nature of the illusion,
which could lead a mind like that of Mr Locke, to admit, _after_
reflection, an absurd paradox, and all its absurd consequences, which,
_before_ reflection, he would have rejected?

It is to be traced chiefly, I conceive, to a source which is certainly
the most abundant source of error in the writings and silent
reflections of philosophers, especially of those who are gifted with
originality of thought,--the ambiguity of the language they use, when
they retain a word with one meaning, which is generally understood
in a different sense; the common meaning, in the course of their
speculations, often mingling insensibly with their own, and thus
producing a sort of confusion, which incapacitates them from perceiving
the precise consequences of either. Mr Locke gives his own definition
of the word person, as comprised in the very consciousness which he
supposes to be all that is essential to personal identity; or at least
he speaks of consciousness so vaguely and indefinitely, as to allow
this meaning of his definition to be present to his own mind, as often
as he thought of personality. “To find,” he says, “wherein personal
identity consists, we must consider what _person_ stands for; which, I
think, is a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection,
and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing, in
different times and places, which it does only by that consciousness,
which is inseparable from thinking.”[53]

Having once given this definition of a person, there can be no
question, that personal identity, in _his_ sense, is wherever
_consciousness_ is, and only where consciousness is. But this is true
of a person, only as defined by him; and, if strictly analysed, means
nothing more, than that consciousness is wherever consciousness is,--a
doctrine, on which, certainly, he could not have thought it worth his
while to give any very long commentary. It appears more important
however, even to himself, and worthy of the long commentary which he
has given it, because, in truth, he cannot refrain from still keeping,
in his own mind, some obscure impression of the more common meaning of
the term, and extending to a _person_, as thus commonly understood,
what is true only of a person, as defined by him. It is as if some
whimsical naturalist should give a definition of the word _animal_,
exclusive of every winged creature, and should then think that he was
propounding a very notable and subtile paradox, in affirming that no
animal is capable of rising for a few minutes above the surface of the
earth. It would be a paradox, only inasmuch as it might suggest to
those who heard it, a meaning _different_ from that of the definition;
and, but for this misconception, which the author of it himself might
share, would be so insignificant a truism, as not to deserve even the
humblest of all praise, that of amusing absurdity.

When, in such cases as this, we discover that singular inconsistency,
which is to be found even in the very _excellence_ of every thing that
is _human_,--the perspicacity which sees, at an immeasurable distance,
in the field of inquiry, what no other eye has seen, and which yet, in
the very objects which it has grasped, is unable to distinguish what is
visible to common eyes, are we to lament the imperfection of our mental
constitution, which leaves us liable to such error? Or, as in other
instances, in which, from our incapacity of judging rightly, we are
tempted at first to regret the present arrangement of things, are we
not rather to rejoice that we are so constituted by nature? if man had
not been formed to _err_, in the same manner as he is formed to reason,
and to know, that perfect system of faculties, which excluded error,
must have rendered his discernment too quick, not to seize instantly
innumerable truths, the gradual discovery of which, by the exercise of
his present more limited faculties, has been sufficient to give glory
and happiness to whole ages of philosophical inquiry. If, indeed, the
field had been absolutely boundless, he might still have continued
to advance, as at present, though with more gigantic step, and more
searching vision, and found no termination to his unlimited career.
But the truths which relate to us physically, on this bounded scene of
things in which we are placed, numerous as they are, are still in some
measure finite, like that scene itself; and the too rapid discoveries,
therefore, of a few generations, as to the most important properties of
things, would have left little more for the generations which were to
follow, than the dull and spiritless task of learning what others had
previously learned, or of teaching what themselves had been taught.

Philosophy is not the mere _passive possession_ of knowledge; it is,
in a much more important respect, the active exercise of acquiring it.
We may truly apply to it what Pascal says of the conduct of life in
general. “We think,” says he, “that we are seeking _repose_, and all
which we are seeking is _agitation_.” In like manner, we think that
it is _truth_ itself which we seek, when the happiness which we are
to feel most strongly, is in the mere search; and all that would be
necessary, in many cases, to make the object of it appear indifferent,
would be to put it fairly within our grasp.

    “Our hopes, like towering falcons, aim
      At objects in an airy height;
    But all the pleasure of the game,
      Is afar off to view the flight.”

What little value do we set on discoveries that have been long familiar
to us, though their own essential value must still continue the same.
Even on the whole mass of knowledge, that has been gradually and
slowly transmitted to us, we reflect with little interest, unless
as it may lead to something yet unknown; and the result of a single
new experiment, which bears no proportion to the mass to which it is
added, will yet be sufficient to rouse and delight every philosopher in
Europe. It is a very shrewd remark of a French writer, in reference to
the torpor, which the most zealous inquirer feels, as to every thing
which he _knows_, and his insatiable avidity for every thing which he
does _not_ know, that “if Truth were fairly to show herself as she is,
all would be ruined; but it is plain, that she knows very well, of how
great importance it is, that she should keep herself out of sight.”

If we were to acquire, by an unhappy foresight, the knowledge which
is not yet ours, it is very evident, that we must soon regard it, in
the same manner, as the knowledge which we have already acquired. The
charm of novelty, the delights of gratified curiosity, would not be for
us. The prey would be at our feet; and it would be vain, therefore, to
expect that ardour of soul, which is kindled, amid the hopes and the
fears, the tumult and the competition of the chase.

“If man were _omnipotent_, without being _God_,” says Rousseau, “he
would be a miserable creature: he would be deprived of the pleasure of
_desiring_; and what privation would be so difficult to be borne!” It
may be said, at least with equal truth, that, if man were _omniscient_,
without the other perfections of the Divinity, he would be far less
happy than at present. To infinite benevolence, indeed, accompanied
with infinite power, a corresponding infinity of knowledge must afford
the highest of all imaginable gratifications, by its subservience to
those gracious plans of good, which are manifested in the universe, and
which, in making known to us the existence of the Supreme Being, have
made him known to us, as the object of grateful love and admiration.
But if, in other respects, we were to continue as at present,--with
our erring passions, and moral weaknesses of every sort,--to be doomed
to have nothing _to learn_, would be a punishment, not a blessing. In
such circumstances, if they were to continue forever, the annihilation
of our intellectual being would not be an evil so great, as the mere
extinction of our curiosity, and of all the delights and consolations
which it affords, not merely when we gratify it, but when we are merely
seeking to gratify it.

                        “Else wherefore burns,
    In mortal bosoms, this unquenched hope
    That breathes from day to day sublimer things,
    And mocks possession! Wherefore darts the mind,
    With such resistless ardour, to embrace
    Majestic forms, impatient to be free,
    Proud of the strong contention of her toils,
    Proud to be daring?”[54]--

                        “Why departs she wide[55]
    From the dull track and journey of her times,
    To grasp the good she knows not? In the field
    Of things which may be, in the spacious field
    Of science, potent arts, or dreadful arms,
    To raise up scenes, in which her own desires
    Contented may repose,--when things which are
    Pall on her temper like a twice told tale.”[56]

It is sufficient, that we are endowed with powers of discovery. Our
gratitude is due to Heaven for the gift; and the more due for that
gracious wisdom, which has known how to _limit_ the powers which it
gave, so as to produce a greater result of good by the very limitation.
Our prejudices, which sometimes forbid reasoning, and the errors, to
which our imperfect reasoning often leads us, we should consider, when
all their remote relations are taken into account, as indirect sources
of happiness; and though we may wish, and justly wish, to analyse them,
and to rise above their influence,--for, without this exertion, and
consequent feeling of progress, on our part, they would be evil rather
than good,--we must not forget, that it is to them we owe the luxury,
which the immediate analysis affords, and the acquisition of the
innumerable truths, which the prevalence of these errors, in past ages,
has left to be discovered by the ages which succeed.

In this, and in every thing which relates to man, Nature has had
in view, not the individual or the single generation only, but the
_permanent race_. She has therefore, not exhausted her bounty on any
one period of the long succession; but, by a provision, which makes
our very weakness instrumental to her goodness, she has given to all,
that distant and ever-brightening hope, which, till we arrive at our
glorious destination,

          “Leads from goal to goal,
    And opens still, and opens on the soul.”

With enough of _mental vigour_ to advance still farther in the tracks,
of science that are already formed, and to point out new tracks to
those who are to follow, we have enough of _weakness_ to prevent us
from exploring and exhausting, what is to occupy, in the same happy
search, the millions of millions that are to succeed us. Truth itself,
indeed, will always be progressive; but there will still, at every
stage of the progress, be something to _discover_, and abundance to
_confute_. “In 24,000 years,” to borrow the prediction of a very
skilful prophet,--“In 24,000 years, there will arise philosophers,
who will boast, that they are destroying the errors which have been
reigning in the world for 30,000 years past; and there will be people
who will believe, that they are then only just beginning to open their

In these remarks, on the nature of our varied consciousness, and on
the unity and identity of the mind in all its varieties,--we have
considered the mental phenomena in their _general_ aspect. We have now
to consider them as arranged in kindred classes,--or rather to attempt
the difficult task of the classification itself.

To this I shall proceed in my next Lecture.


[51] Reid's Essays on the Intellectual Powers, Essay III. Chap. vi.

[52] Essay concerning Human Understanding, B. ii. c. xxvii. sect. 20.

[53] Essay concerning Human Understanding, B. ii. c. xxvii. sect. 9.

[54] Pleasures of Imagination, (first form of the poem,) B. i. v.
166-171. 173-5.

[55] ----Why departs the soul
     Wide from the track.--ORIG.

[56] Pleasures of Imagination, (second form of the Poem,) B. i. v.



After considering the Phenomena of the Mind _in general_, we are
now to proceed to consider them, in the _separate classes_ in which
they may be arranged. The phenomena themselves, indeed, are almost
infinite, and it might seem, on first reflection a very hopeless task,
to attempt to reduce, under a few heads, the innumerable feelings,
which diversify almost every moment of our life. But to those, who
are acquainted with the wonders, which classification has performed,
in the other sciences, the task, difficult as it is, will still seem
not absolutely hopeless; though in one respect, its difficulty will
be more highly estimated by them, than by others;--since _they_ only,
who know the advantage of the fixed and definite nature of the objects
of classification, in other _sciences_, can feel, how much greater
the obstacles must be, to any accurate arrangement, in a science, of
which the objects are indefinite, and complex, incapable of being fixed
for a moment in the same state, and destroyed by the very effort to
grasp them. But, in this, as in other instances, in which nature has
given us difficulties with which to cope, she has not left us to be
wholly overcome; or, if we must yield, she has at least armed us for
so vigorous a struggle, that we gain additional intellectual strength,
even in being vanquished. “Studiorum salutarium, etiam citra effectum,
salutaris tractatio est.” If she has placed us in a labyrinth, she has
at the same time furnished us with a clue, which may guide us, not
indeed through all its dark and intricate windings, but through those
broad paths, which conduct us into day. The single power, by which we
discover resemblance or relation in general, is a sufficient aid to us,
in the perplexity and confusion of our first attempts at arrangement.
It begins, by converting thousands, and more than thousands, into one,
and, reducing, in the same manner, the numbers thus formed, it arrives
at last at the few distinctive characters of those great comprehensive
tribes, on which it ceases to operate, because there is nothing left
to oppress the memory, or the understanding. If there had been no
such science as chemistry, who could have ventured to suppose, that
the innumerable bodies, animate and inanimate, on the surface of our
globe, and all, which we have been able to explore in the very depths
of the earth itself, are reducible, and even in the imperfect state
of the science, have been already reduced, to a few simple elements?
The science of mind, as it is a science of analysis, I have more than
once compared to _chemistry_, and pointed out to you, and illustrated,
its various circumstances of resemblance. In this too, we may hope the
analogy will hold,--that, as the innumerable aggregates, in the one
science, have been reduced and simplified, the innumerable complex
feelings in the other will admit of a corresponding reduction and

The classes which we form, in the mental as well as in the material
universe, depend, as you cannot but know, on certain relations which
we discover in the phenomena; and the relations according to which
objects may be arranged, are of course various, as they are considered
by different individuals in different points of view. Some of these
relations present themselves immediately, as if to our very glance;
others are discoverable only after attentive reflection;--and though
the former, merely as presenting themselves more readily, may seem on
that account, better suited for the general purpose of arrangement,
it is not the less true that the classification, which approaches
nearest to perfection, is far from being always that which is founded
on relations, that seem at first sight the most obvious. The rudest
wanderer in the fields may imagine, that the profusion of blossoms
around him,--in the greater number of which he is able, himself, to
discover many striking resemblances,--may be reduced into some order of
arrangement. But he would be little aware, that the principle according
to which they are now universally classed, has relation, not to the
parts which appear to him to constitute the whole flower, but to some
small part of the blossom, which he does not perceive, at the distance
at which he passes it, and which scarcely attracts his eye, when he
plucks it from the stem.

To our _mental_ classifications the remark is equally applicable. In
these too, the most obvious distinctions are not always those which
answer best the purposes of systematic arrangement. The phenomena of
the mind, are only the mind itself existing in certain states; and,
as many of these states are in their nature agreeable, and others
disagreeable, this difference, which is to the sentient being himself
the most important of all differences, may be supposed, to afford the
most obvious principle of classification. What is pleasant, what is
painful, are perhaps the first classes, which the infant has formed
long before he is capable of distinguishing them by a name; and the
very imbecility of idiotism itself, to which nothing is true or false,
or right or wrong,--and to which there is no future, beyond the
succeeding moment,--is yet capable of making this primary distinction,
and of regulating, according to it, its momentary desires.

    “The love of pleasure is man's eldest-born,
    Born in his cradle, living to his tomb.
    Wisdom,--her younger sister, though more grave,
    Was meant to minister, not to dethrone[57]
    Imperial Pleasure, queen of human hearts.”[58]

The distribution, which we should be inclined to make, of our mental
phenomena, according to this obvious principle, would be into
those which are pleasing, those which are painful, and those which
are neither painful nor pleasing. But, however obvious this first
distinction may seem, as a principle of arrangement, the circumstances,
on which the differences depend, are so very indefinite, that the
distinction,--though it may be useful to have it in view, in its most
striking and permanent cases,--cannot be adopted, as the basis of
any regular system. To take the mere pleasures and pains of _sense_,
for example,--to what intelligible division could we reduce these,
which are not merely fugitive in themselves, but vary, from pain to
pleasure, and from pleasure to pain, with a change of their external
objects, so slight often, as to be scarcely appreciable, and, in many
cases, even when the external objects have continued exactly the same?
How small, and how variable a boundary separates the warmth which is
pleasing from the heat which pains! A certain quantity of light is
grateful to the eye. Increase it;--it becomes, not indifferent,--though
that would be a less change,--but absolutely painful; and, if the eye
be inflamed, even the small quantity of light,--which was agreeable
before, and which seemed, therefore, to admit of being very safely
classed among the sources of pleasure,--is now converted into a source
of agony. Since it is impossible, therefore, to fix the limits of
pain and pleasure, and every affection or state of mind, agreeable,
disagreeable, or indifferent, may, by a very trifling change of
circumstance, be converted into an opposite state, it is evident, that
any division, founded on this vague and transient distinction, must
perplex, and mislead us, in our attempts to systematize the almost
infinite diversities of thought and feeling, rather than give us any
aid in the arrangement.

The great leading division of the mental phenomena which has met with
most general adoption by philosophers, is into those which belong to
the _understanding_, and those which belong to the _will_;--a division
which is very ancient, but though sanctioned by the approbation of
many ages, very illogical; since the will, which, in this division,
is nominally opposed to the intellect, is so far from being opposed
to it in reality, that, even by the asserters of its diversity, it is
considered as exercising, in the intellectual department, an empire
almost as wide, as in the department allotted to itself. We reason, and
plan, and invent, at least as _voluntarily_,--as we esteem, or hate, or
hope, or fear. How many emotions are there too, which cannot, without
absolute torture, be forced into _either_ division! To take only a few
instances, out of many,--to what class are we to reduce grief, joy,
admiration, astonishment, which perhaps are not phenomena of the mere
understanding, and which,--though they may lead indirectly to desires
or volitions,--have nothing, in themselves, that is voluntary, or
that can be considered as in any peculiar degree connected with the
_will_? The division of the mental phenomena into those which belong
to the _understanding_, and those which belong to the _will_, seems,
therefore, to be as faulty, as would be the division of animals, into
those which have legs and those which have wings; since the same
animals might have both legs and wings, and since whole tribes of
animals have neither one nor the other.

Another division of the phenomena of mind, similar to the former, and
of equal antiquity, since it corresponds with the very ancient division
of philosophy into the contemplative and the active, is into those
which belong to the _intellectual_ powers, and those which belong to
the _active_ powers. “Philosophia et contemplativa est et activa;
spectat simulque agit.” I must confess, however, that this division of
the mental phenomena, as referable to the intellectual and the active
powers of the mind,--though it has the sanction of very eminent names,
appears to me to be faulty, exactly in the same manner as the former,
which, indeed, it may be considered almost as representing, under a
change of name. Its parts are not opposed to each other, and it does
not include all the phenomena which it should include. Is mere grief,
for example, or mere astonishment, to be referred to our intellectual
or to our active powers? I do not speak of the faculties which they
may or may not call into action; but of the feelings themselves, as
present phenomena or states of the mind. And, in whatsoever manner we
may define the term _active_, is the mind more active, when it merely
desires good and fears evil, when it looks with esteem on virtue,
and with indignation, or disgust, and contempt on vice, than when
it pursues a continued train of reasoning, or fancy, or historical
investigation? when, with Newton, it lays down the laws of planetary
motion, and calculates, in what exact point of the heavens, any one
of the orbs, which move within the immense range of our solar system,
will be found to have its place at any particular moment, one thousand
years hereafter; when, with Shakespeare, it wanders beyond the universe
itself, calling races of beings into existence, which nature never
_knew_, but which nature might almost _own_--or when, with Tacitus, it
enrols slowly, year after year, that dreadful reality of crimes and
sufferings, which even dramatic horror, in all its license of wild
imagination, can scarcely reach--the long unvarying catalogue, of
tyrants,--and executioners,--and victims, that return thanks to the
gods and die,--and accusers rich with their blood, and more mighty,
as more widely hated, amid the multitudes of prostrate slaves, still
looking whether there may not yet have escaped some lingering virtue,
which it may be a merit to destroy, and having scarcely leisure to
feel even the agonies of remorse, in the continued sense of the
precariousness of their own gloomy existence? When it thus records
the warning lessons of the past, or expatiates in fields, which itself
creates, of fairy beauty or sublimity, or comprehends whole moving
worlds within its glance, and calculates and measures infinitude--the
mind is surely active, or there are no moments in which it is so. So
little, indeed, are the intellectual powers opposed to the active,
that it is only when some intellectual energy co-exists with desire,
that the mind is said to be active, even by those who are unaccustomed
to analytical inquiries, or to metaphysical nomenclature. The love
of power, or the love of glory, when there is no opportunity of
intellectual exertion, may, in the common acceptation of the word, be
as passive as tranquillity itself. The passion is active only when,
with intellectual action, it compares means with ends, and different
means with each other, and deliberates, and resolves, and executes.
Chain some revolutionary usurper to the floor of a dungeon, his
ambition may be active still, because he may still be intellectually
busy in planning means of deliverance and vengeance; and, on his bed of
straw, may conquer half the world. But, if we could fetter his reason
and fancy, as we can fetter his limbs, what activity would remain,
though he were still to feel that mere desire of power or glory, which,
though usually followed by intellectual exertion, is itself as prior
to these exertions, all that constitutes ambition, as a passion? There
would, indeed, still be in his mind the awful elements of that force,
which bursts upon the world with conflagration and destruction; but,
though there would be the _thunder_, it would be the thunder sleeping
in its cloud. To _will_, is to act with desire; and, unless in the
production of mere muscular motion, it is only _intellectually_ that we
can act. To class the active powers, therefore, as distinct from the
intellectual, is to class them, as opposed to that, without which, as
active powers, they cannot even exist.

It may, certainly, be contended, that, though the mental phenomena,
usually ranked under this head, are not immediately connected with
action, they may yet deserve this generic distinction, as leading to
action indirectly,--and if they led, in any peculiar sense, to action,
however indirectly, the claim might be allowed. But, even with this
limited meaning, it is impossible to admit the distinction asserted
for them. In what sense, for example, can it be said, that _grief_
and _joy_, which surely are not to be classed under the intellectual
powers of the mind, lead to action even indirectly, more than any other
feelings, or states, in which the mind is capable of existing? We may,
indeed, _act_ when we are joyful or sorrowful, as we may act when we
perceive a present object, or remember the past; but we may also remain
at rest, and remain equally at rest, in the one case, as in the other.
Our intellectual energies, indeed, even in this sense, as indirectly
leading to action, are, in most cases, far more active, than sorrow,
even in its very excess of agony and despair; and, in those cases in
which sorrow _does_ truly lead to action, as when we strive to remedy
the past, the mere regret which constitutes the sorrow, is not so
closely connected with the conduct which we pursue, as the intellectual
states of mind that intervened--the successive judgments, by which we
have compared projects with projects, and chosen at last the plan,
which, in relation to the object in view, has seemed to us, upon the
whole, the most expedient.

If, then, as I cannot but think, the arrangement of the mental
phenomena, as belonging to two classes of powers, the intellectual
and the active, be at once incomplete, and not accurate, even to the
extent to which it reaches, it may be worth while to try at least some
other division, even though there should not be any very great hope of
success. Though we should fail in our endeavour to obtain some more
precise and comprehensive principle of arrangement, there is also some
advantage gained, by viewing objects, according to new circumstances
of agreement or analogy. We see, in this case, what had long-passed
before us unobserved, while we were accustomed only to the order and
nomenclature of a former method; for, when the mind has been habituated
to certain classifications, it is apt, in considering objects, to
give its attention only to those properties which are essential to
the classification, and to overlook, or at least comparatively to
neglect, other properties equally important and essential to the very
nature of the separate substances that are classed, but not included
in the system as characters of generic resemblance. The individual
object, indeed, when its place in any system has been long fixed and
familiar to us, is probably conceived by us less, as an _individual_,
than as one of a class of individuals, that agree in certain respects,
and the frequent consideration of it, as one of a class, must fix
the peculiar relations of the class, more strongly in the mind, and
weaken proportionally the impression of every other quality that is
not so included. A _new_ classification, therefore, which includes,
in its generic character, those neglected qualities, will of course
draw to them attention, which they could not otherwise have obtained;
and, the more various the views are, which we take of the objects of
any science, the juster consequently, because the more equal, will be
the estimate which we form of them. So truly is this the case, that I
am convinced, that no one has ever read over the mere terms of a new
division, in a science, however familiar the science may have been to
him, without learning more than this new division itself, without being
struck with some property or relation, the importance of which he _now_
perceives most clearly, and which he is quite astonished that he should
have overlooked so long before.

I surely need not warn you, after the observations which I made in my
Introductory Lectures, on the Laws and Objects of Physical Inquiry in
General, that every _classification_ has reference only to our mode of
considering objects; and that, amid all the varieties of systems which
our love of novelty, and our love of distinction, or our pure love
of truth and order may introduce, the phenomena themselves, whether
accurately, or inaccurately classed, continue unaltered. The mind is
formed susceptible of certain affections. These states or affections
we may generalize more or less; and, according to our generalization,
may give them more or fewer names. But whatever may be the extent of
our vocabulary, the mind itself,--as independent of these transient
designations, as He who fixed its constitution,--still continues to
exhibit the same unaltered susceptibilities, which it originally
received; as the flowers, which the same divine Author formed, spring
up, in the same manner, observing the same seasons, and spreading to
the sun the same foliage and blossoms, whatever be the system and the
corresponding nomenclature according to which botanists may have agreed
to rank and name their tribes. The great Preserver of nature has not
trusted us, with the dangerous power of altering a single physical law
which He has established, though He has given us unlimited power over
the _language_ which is of our own creation. It is still with us, as it
was with our common sire in the original birthplace of our race. The
Almighty presents to us all the objects that surround us, wherever we
turn our view; but He presents them to us, only that we may give them
names. Their powers and susceptibilities they already possess, and we
cannot alter these, even as they exist in a single atom.

It may, perhaps, seem absurd, even to suppose, that we should think
ourselves able to change, by a few generic words, the properties of
the substances which we have classed; and if the question were put
to us, as to this effect of our language, in any particular case,
there can be no doubt, that we should answer in the negative, and
express astonishment that such a question should have been put. But
the illusion is not the less certain, because we are not aware of
its influence; and, indeed, it could no longer be an illusion, if
we were completely aware of it. It requires, however, only a very
little reflection on what has passed in our own minds, to discover,
that, when we have given a _name_ to any quality, that quality
acquires immediately, in our imagination, a comparative importance,
very different from what it had before; and though nature in itself
be truly unchanged, it is ever after, relatively to our conception,
different. A difference of words is, in this case, more than a mere
verbal difference. Though it be not the expression of a difference
of doctrine, it very speedily becomes so. Hence it is, that the same
warfare, which the rivalries of individual ambition, or the opposite
interests, or supposed opposite interests, of nations have produced, in
the great theatre of civil history, have been produced, in the small
but tumultuous field of science, by the supposed incompatibility of
a few abstract terms; and, indeed, as has been truly said, the sects
of philosophers have combated, with more persevering violence, to
settle what they mean by the constitution of the world, than all the
conquerors of the world have done to render themselves its masters.

Still less, I trust, is it necessary to repeat the warning, already so
often repeated, that you are not to conceive, that any classification
of the states or affections of the mind, as referable to certain
powers or susceptibilities, makes these powers any thing different
and separate from the mind itself, as originally and essentially
susceptible of the various modifications of which these powers are
only a shorter name. And yet what innumerable controversies in
philosophy have arisen, and are still frequently arising, from this
very mistake, strange and absurd as the mistake may seem. No sooner,
for example, were certain affections of the mind classed together,
as belonging to the _will_, and certain others, as belonging to the
_understanding_,--that is to say, no sooner was the mind, existing
in certain _states_, denominated the understanding, and in certain
other states denominated the will,--than the understanding and the
will ceased to be considered as the same individual substance, and
became immediately, as it were, two opposite and contending powers,
in the empire of mind, as distinct, as any two sovereigns, with their
separate nations under their controul; and it became an object of as
fierce contention to determine, whether certain affections of the
mind belonged to the _understanding_, or to the _will_, as, in the
management of political affairs, to determine, whether a disputed
province belonged to one potentate, or to another. Every new diversity
of the faculties of the mind, indeed, converted each faculty into a
_little independent mind_,--as if the original mind were like that
wonderful animal, of which naturalists tell us, that may be cut into an
almost infinite number of parts, each of which becomes a polypus, as
perfect as that from which it was separated. The only difference is,
that those who make us acquainted with this wonderful property of the
_polypus_, acknowledge the divisibility of the parent animal; while
those, who assert the spiritual multiplicity, are at the same time
assertors of the absolute indivisibility of that which they divide.

After these warnings, then, which, I trust, have been almost
superfluous, let us now endeavour to form some classification of the
mental phenomena without considering, whether our arrangement be
similar or dissimilar to that of others. In short, let us forget, as
much as possible, that any prior arrangements have been made, and
think of the phenomena only. It would, indeed, require more than human
vision, to comprehend all these phenomena of the mind, in our gaze at

                              “To survey,
    Stretch'd out beneath us, all the mazy tracts
    Of passion and opinion,--like a waste
    Of sands, and flowery lawns, and tangling woods,
    Where mortals roam bewilder'd.”

But there is a mode of bringing all this multitude of objects, within
the sphere of our narrow sight, in the same manner, as the expanse of
landscape, over which the eye would be long in wandering,--the plains,
and hills, and woods, and waterfalls,--may be brought, by human art,
within the compass of a mirror, far less than the smallest of the
innumerable objects which it represents.

The process of _gradual generalizing_, by which this reduction is
performed, I have already explained to you. Let us now proceed to avail
ourselves of it.

All the feelings and thoughts of the mind, I have already frequently
repeated, are only the mind itself existing in certain states. To these
successive states our knowledge of the mind, and consequently our
arrangements, which can comprehend only what we know, are necessarily
limited. With this simple word _state_, I use the phrase _affection_ of
mind as synonymous, to express the momentary feeling, whatever it may
be,--with this difference only, that the word _affection_ seems to me
better suited for expressing that momentary feeling, when considered
as an _effect_,--the feeling itself as a state of the mind, and the
relation which any particular state of mind, may bear to the preceding
circumstances, whatever they may be that have induced it. Our _states_
of mind, however, or our _affections_ of mind, are the simplest terms,
which I can use for expressing the whole series of phenomena of the
mind in all their diversity, as existing phenomena, without any mixture
of hypothesis, as to the particular mode in which the successive
changes may be supposed to arise.

When we consider, then, the various states or affections of the mind,
which form this series, one circumstance of difference must strike us,
that some of them arise immediately, in consequence of the presence of
external objects,--and some, as immediately, in consequence of certain
preceding affections of the mind itself. The one set, therefore, are
obviously the result of the laws both of matter and of mind,--implying,
in external objects, a power of affecting the mind, as well as, in the
mind, a susceptibility of being affected by them. The other set result
from the susceptibilities of the mind itself, which has been formed by
its divine Author to exist in certain states, and to exist in these in
a certain relative order of succession. The affections of the one class
arise, because some external object is present;--the affections of the
other class arise, because some previous change in the states of the
mind has taken place.

To illustrate this distinction by example, let us suppose ourselves,
in walking across a lawn, to turn our eyes to a particular _point_, and
to perceive there _an oak_. That is to say, the presence of the oak, or
rather of the light reflected from it, occasions a certain new state of
the mind, which we call a sensation of _vision_, an affection, which
belongs to the mind alone, indeed, but of which we have every reason
to suppose, that the mind, _of itself_, without the presence of light,
would not have been the subject. The peculiar sensation, therefore, is
the result of the presence of the light reflected from the oak; and we
perceive it, because the mind is capable of being affected by external
things. But this affection of the mind, which has an external object
for its immediate cause, is not the only mental change which takes
place. Other changes succeed it, without any other external impression.
We compare the oak with some other tree which we have seen before, and
we are struck with its superior magnificence and beauty;--we imagine
how some scene more familiar to us would appear, if it were adorned
with this tree, and how the scene before us would appear, if it were
stripped of it;--we think of the number of years, which must have
passed, since the _oak_ was an _acorn_;--and we moralize, perhaps, on
the changes, which have taken place, in the little history of ourselves
and our friends, and, still more, on the revolutions of kingdoms,--and
the birth and decay of a whole generation of mankind,--while it has
been silently and regularly advancing to maturity, through the sunshine
and the storm. Of all the variety of states of the mind, which these
processes of thought involve, the only one, which can be ascribed to
an external object as its direct cause, is the primary perception of
the oak; the rest have been the result not immediately of any thing
external, but of preceding states of the mind;--that particular mental
state, which constituted the perception of the oak, being followed
immediately by that different state, which constituted the remembrance
of some tree observed before, and this by that different state which
constituted the comparison of the two; and so successively, through
all the different processes of thought enumerated. The mind, indeed,
could not without the presence of the oak,--that is to say, without
the presence of the light which the oak reflects,--have existed in
the state which constituted the perception of the oak. But as little
could any external object, without this primary mental affection, have
produced immediately, any of those other states of the mind, which
followed the perception. There is, thus, one obvious distinction of the
mental phenomena; as in relation to their causes, external or internal;
and, whatever other terms of subdivision it may be necessary to employ,
we have, at least, _one_ boundary, and know what it is we mean, when we
speak of the external and internal affections of the mind.

The first stage of our generalization, then, has been the reduction
of all the mental phenomena to two definite classes, according as the
causes, or immediate antecedents, of our feelings are themselves mental
or material. Our next stage must be the still further reduction of
these, by some new generalizations of the phenomena of each class.

The former of these classes,--that of our _external_ affections of
the mind,--is, indeed, so very simple, as to require but little
subdivision. The other class, however, that of the internal affections
or states of the mind,--comprehends so large a proportion of the mental
phenomena, and these so various, that, without many subdivisions, it
would be itself of little aid to us in our arrangement.

The first great subdivision, then, which I would form, of the internal
class, is into our _intellectual states of mind_, and our _emotions_.
The latter of these classes comprehends all, or nearly all the mental
states, which have been classed, by others, under the head of active
powers. I prefer, however, the term _emotions_, partly, because I
wish to avoid the phrase _active powers_,--which, I own, appears to
me awkward and ambiguous, as opposed to other powers, which are not
said to be passive; and partly, for reasons before mentioned, because
our intellectual states or energies,--far from being opposed to our
active powers,--are, as we have seen, essential elements of their
activity,--so essential, that, without them, _these_ never could have
had the name of _active_; and because I wish to comprehend, under the
term, various states of the mind, which cannot, with propriety, in
any case, be termed _active_,--such as grief, joy, astonishment,--and
others which have been commonly, though, I think, inaccurately,
ascribed to the intellectual faculties,--such as the feelings of
beauty and sublimity,--feelings, which are certainly much more
analogous to our other emotions,--to our feelings of love or awe,--for
example,--than to our mere remembrances or reasonings, or to any other
states of mind, which can strictly be called intellectual. I speak at
present, it must be remembered, of the mere feelings produced by the
contemplation of beautiful or sublime objects,--not of the judgment,
which we form, of objects, as more or less fit to excite these
feelings; the judgment being truly _intellectual_, like all our other
judgments; but being, at the same time, as distinct from the _feelings_
which it measures, as any other judgment from the external or internal
objects which it compares.

The exact meaning of the term _emotion_, it is difficult to state in
any form of words,--for the same reason which makes it difficult, or
rather impossible, to explain, what we mean by the term thought, or
the terms sweetness or bitterness. What can be more opposite than
pleasure and pain! the real distinction of which is evidently familiar,
not to man only, but to every thing that lives; and yet if we were to
attempt to show, in what their difference consists, or to give a verbal
definition of either, we should find the task to be no easy one. Every
person understands, what is meant by an _emotion_, at least as well,
as he understands what is meant by any intellectual power; or, if he
do not, it can be explained to him, only by stating the number of
feelings to which we give the name, or the circumstances which induce
them. All of them, indeed, agree in _this_ respect, that they imply
peculiar vividness of feeling, with _this_ important circumstance, to
distinguish them from the vivid pleasures and pains of sense,--that
they do not arise immediately from the presence of external objects,
but subsequently to the primary feelings, which we term sensations
or perceptions. Perhaps if any definition of them be possible, they
may be defined to be _vivid feelings_, arising immediately from the
consideration of objects, perceived, or remembered, or imagined, or
from other prior emotions. In some cases,--as in that of the emotion
which beauty excites,--they may succeed so rapidly to the primary
perception, as almost to form a part of it. Yet we find no great
difficulty of analysis, in separating the _pleasing effect_ of beauty,
from the perception of the mere form and colour, and can very readily
imagine the same accurate perception of _these_, without the feeling of
beauty, as we can imagine the same feeling of beauty to accompany the
perception of forms and colours very different.

                        “Sure the rising sun,
    O'er the cerulean convex of the sea,
    With equal brightness, and with equal warmth,
    Might roll his fiery orb; nor yet the soul
    Thus feel her frame expanded, and her powers
    Exulting in the splendour she beholds,
    Like a young conqueror moving through the pomp
    Of some triumphal day. When join'd at eve,
    Soft murmuring streams, and gales of gentlest breath,
    Melodious Philomela's wakeful strain
    Attemper, could not man's discerning ear,
    Through all its tones, the sympathy pursue;
    Nor yet this breath divine of nameless joy
    Steal through his veins, and fan the awaken'd heart,
    Mild as the breeze, yet rapturous as the song.”[59]

Our emotions, then, even in the cases in which they seem most directly
to _co-exist_ with perception, are still easily distinguishable from
it; and, in like manner, when they arise from the _intellectual states_
of memory, imagination, comparison, they are equally distinguishable
from what we _remember_, or _imagine_, or _compare_. They form truly
a separate order of the internal affections of the mind,--as distinct
from the intellectual phenomena, as the class, to which they both
belong, is distinguishable from the class of external affections, that
arise immediately from the presence of objects without.


[57] Instead of “not to dethrone,” the original has “and not to mar.”

[58] Night Thoughts, viii. 595-599.

[59] Pleasures of Imagination, Book III. v. 464-478.



In my last Lecture, Gentlemen, I endeavoured to prepare the way,
for arranging, in certain classes, that almost infinite variety of
phenomena, which the mind exhibits,--pointing out to you the peculiar
difficulty of such a classification, in the case of phenomena so
indefinite and fugitive, as those of the mind, and the nature of that
generalizing principle of analogy or resemblance, on which every
classification, whether of the material or mental phenomena, must
alike proceed. I then took a slight view of the primary, leading,
divisions of the phenomena of the mind, which have met with most
general adoption,--the very ancient division of them, as of two great
departments, belonging to the _understanding_ and the _will_,--and
the similar division of them, as referable to two classes of powers,
termed the _intellectual_ and _active powers_ of the mind. I explained
to you the reasons, which led me to reject both these divisions, as
at once incomplete, from not comprehending all the phenomena, and
inaccurate, from confounding even those phenomena, which they may truly
be considered as comprehending.

After rejecting these, it became necessary to attempt some new
arrangement, especially as we found reason to believe that some
advantage could scarcely fail to arise from the attempt itself, even
though it should fail as to its great object; and we, therefore,
proceeded to consider and arrange the phenomena, as nearly as possible,
in the same manner as we should have done, if no arrangement of them
had ever been made before.

In thus considering them, the first important distinction which
occurred to us, related to their _causes_, or immediate antecedents,
as foreign to the mind, or as belonging to the mind itself; a
distinction too striking to be neglected as a ground of primary
division. Whatever that may be, which feels and thinks, it has been
formed to be susceptible of certain changes of state, in consequence of
the mere presence of external objects, or at least of changes produced
in our mere bodily organs, which, themselves, may be considered as
external to the mind; and it is susceptible of certain other changes of
state, without any cause external to itself, one state of mind being
the immediate result of a former state of mind, in consequence of those
laws of succession of thoughts and feelings, which He, who created the
immortal soul of man, as a faint shadow of His own eternal spirit, has
established in the constitution of our mental frame. In conformity
with this distinction, we made our first division of the phenomena
of the mind, into its _external_ and _internal_ affections; the word
_affection_ being used, by me, as the simplest term for expressing a
mere change of state induced, in relation to the affecting cause, or
the circumstances, whatever they may have been, by which the change was
immediately preceded.

The class of _internal affections_,--by far the more copious
and various of the two,--we divided into two great orders, our
_intellectual_ states of mind, and our _emotions_, words which are,
perhaps, better understood, before any definition is attempted of
them, than after it, but which are sufficiently intelligible without
definition, and appear to exhaust completely the whole internal
affections of the mind. We have sensations or perceptions of the
objects that affect our bodily organs; these I term the sensitive or
external affections of the mind; we remember objects--we imagine them
in new situations--we compare their relations; these mere conceptions
or notions of objects and their qualities, as elements of our general
knowledge, are what I have termed the intellectual states of the mind;
we are moved with certain lively feelings, on the consideration of what
we thus perceive, or remember, or imagine, or compare, with feelings,
for example, of beauty, or sublimity, or astonishment, or love, or
hate, or hope, or fear; these, and various other vivid feelings,
analogous to them, are our _emotions_.

There is no portion of our consciousness, which does not appear to me
to be included in one or other of these three divisions. To know all
our sensitive states or affections,--all our intellectual states,--and
all our emotions, is to know all the states or phenomena of the mind;

    “Unde animus scire incipiat, quibus inchoet orsa
    Principiis seriem rerum tenuemque catenam
    Mnemosyne; Ratio unde, rudi sub pectore tardum
    Augeat imperium, et primum mortalibus ægris
    _Ira, dolor, metus, et curæ_ nascantur inanes.”[60]

It must not be conceived, however, that, in dividing the class of
internal affections of the mind, into the two distinct orders of
intellectual states, and emotions; and, in speaking of our emotions as
subsequent in their origin, I wish to be understood, that these never
are combined, at the same moment, in that sense of combination, as
applied to the mind, which I have already explained too frequently,
to need again to define and illustrate it. On the contrary, they
very frequently concur; but, in all cases in which they do concur,
it is easy for us to distinguish them by reflective analysis. The
emotion of _pity_, for example, may continue in the mind, while we
are _intellectually_ planning means of relief, for the sufferers who
occasioned it; but, though the pity and the reasoning _co-exist_, we
have little difficulty in separating them in our reflection. It is the
same with all our vivid desires, which not merely lead to action, but
accompany it. The sage, who in the silence of midnight, continues still
those labours which the morning began, watching, with sleepless eye,
the fate of some experiment, that almost promises to place within his
hand the invisible thread, which leads into the labyrinths of nature,
or exploring those secrets of the mind itself, by the aid of which
he is afterwards to lay down rules of more accurate philosophizing,
and to become the legislator of all who think, is not cheered, in his
toils, merely by occasional anticipations of the truths that await his
search. The pleasure of future discovery is, as it were, a constant
light, that shines upon him and warms him; and, in the very moments
in which he watches, and calculates, and arranges, there are other
principles of his nature, in as lively exercise as his powers of
observation and reasoning. The warrior, at the head of an army, which
he has often led from victory to victory, and which he is leading
again to new fields of conflict, does not think of glory only in the
intervals of meditation or action. The passion which he obeys, is
not a mere inspiring genius, that occasionally descends to rouse or
invigorate. It is the _soul_ of his continued existence,--it marches
with him, from station to station,--it deliberates with him in his
tent,--it conquers with him in the field,--it thinks of new successes,
in the very moment of vanquishing; and, even at night, when his body
has yielded at last to the influence of that fatigue, of which it was
scarcely conscious, while there was room for any new exertion by which
fatigue could be increased, and when all the anxieties of military
command are slumbering with it, the passion that animates him, more
active still, does not quit him as he rests, but is wakeful in his very
sleep, bringing before him dreams, that almost renew the tumults and
the toils of the day. Our emotions, then, may _co-exist_ with various
sensations, remembrances, reasonings,--in the same manner as these
feelings, sensitive or intellectual, may variously co-exist with each
other. But we do not think it less necessary to class our sensations of
vision as different from our sensations of smell, and our comparison,
as itself different from the separate sensations compared, because we
may, at the same moment, both see and smell a rose, and may endeavour
to appreciate the relative amount of pleasure which that beautiful
flower thus doubly affords. In like manner, our intellectual states of
mind, and our emotions, are not the less to be considered as distinct
classes, because any vivid passion may continue to exist together with
those intellectual processes of thought, which it originally prompted,
and which, after prompting, it prolongs.

In all these cases, however, in which an emotion _co-exists_ with the
results of other external or internal influences, it is still easy to
distinguish its subsequence to the feelings that preceded it. Pity, for
example, as in the case to which I have before alluded, may co-exist
with a long train of thoughts, that are busily occupied in endeavouring
to relieve most effectually the misery which is pitied; but the misery
must have been itself an object of our thought, before the state of
mind which constitutes pity, could have been induced. The emotion which
we feel, on the contemplation of beauty, may continue to co-exist with
our mere perception of the forms and colours of bodies; but these forms
and colours must have been perceived by us, before the delightful
emotion could have been originally felt. In short, our emotions,
though like the warmth and radiance, which seem to accompany the very
presence of the sun, rather than to flow from it--they may seem in many
cases to be a part of the very feelings which excite them, are yet,
in every instance, as truly secondary to these feelings, as the light
which beams on us, on the surface of our earth, is subsequent to the
rising of the great orb of day.

As yet, we have advanced but a short way, in our generalization of the
mental phenomena: though, as far as we have advanced, our division
seems sufficiently distinct and comprehensive. The mind is susceptible
of certain existing affections, of certain intellectual modifications
which arise from these, and of certain emotions which arise from both;
that is to say, it is capable of existing in certain states, the
varieties of which correspond with these particular designations. We
see, we remember, or compare, what we have seen, regard what we see, or
remember, or compare, with desire or with aversion; and of these, or of
states analogous to these, the whole of life, sensitive, intellectual,
or moral, is composed. Every minute, therefore, of every hour, in
all its variety of occupation, is but a portion of this complicated
tissue. Let us suppose ourselves, for example, looking down from an
eminence, on the prospect beneath.--On one side all is desolation,--and
we see perhaps, at a little distance, some half-roofless hovel, as
miserable, as the waste immediately around it, which has scarcely
the appearance of a dwelling for any living thing, but seems rather,
as if Nature herself had originally placed it there, as a part of
the general sterility and ruggedness. On the other side, all is
plenty and magnificence;--and we see, amid lawns and wooded banks, a
mansion as different in aspect, as if the beings that inhabited it
were of a different race,--which, as a part of the scene, where it is
placed, accords so harmoniously with the whole, that, without it, the
scene itself would appear incomplete, and almost incongruous, as if
stripped of some essential charm. To view these separate dwellings,
and all the objects around them--if no other feeling arose--would be
to have a series of external or sensitive affections only. But it is
scarcely possible for us to view them, without the instant rise of
those intellectual states of mind which constitute comparison, and of
those affections of another order, which constitute the emotions of
admiration and desire in the one case, and in the other the emotions
that are opposite to admiration and desire, together perhaps with some
of those bitter emotions which the sight of misery makes in every
breast that is not unworthy of so sacred an influence.

In this example, our intellectual states of mind, and our emotions,
have for their objects things really existing without; but the external
affections of our senses, though the most permanent, and usually the
most vivid, and therefore the best remembered, of all the sources of
our internal feelings are far from being necessary, in every instance,
to the production of these. There is a constant, or almost constant
succession of internal affections of mind, of thoughts, and emotions,
following thoughts and emotions, which even though we were to be
rendered incapable of a single new sensation,--if our animal life
could in these circumstances be long protracted,--would still preserve
to us also that _intellectual_ and _moral_ existence, which is the
only life, that is worthy of the name. The knowledge which we acquire
from _without_, lives in us _within_; and, in such a case as that
which I have now imagined, our memory would be to us in some measure
every sense, which we had lost, creating to us again that very world
which had vanished before us. If we could compare and love or hate
only things actually present, we should be far from the maturity and
perfection of an infant's mind, and should scarcely be advanced to the
rank of idiocy, which limited as it is in its range, still comprehends
in its little sphere of foresight and memory, some few moments at
least of the past, and even a moment or two of the future. It is with
the future and with the past, that, intellectually and morally, we
are chiefly conversant. To these high capacities of our being, the
subjects, which can exercise our powers and feelings, however distant
in time or place, are as it were _everlastingly present_,--like that
mysterious eternal _now_, of which theologians speak,--in which past,
present, and future are considered, as, in every moment of every age,
alike visible to the omniscient glance of the Divinity. We love the
virtues, of which we read, with the same sort of emotion, with which
we love the virtues that are mingling with us in the present hour.
The patriot of the most remote age,--of whom we know nothing, but
the historical tale, of his voluntary perils or sufferings, in some
generous cause,--is like the friend of our familiar intercourse; and
the sacrifices, that wrought the happiness of millions of beings, who
are now not merely _unknown_ to us, but of whom not a single name is
remembered on the earth, awake a sort of veneration, that is almost
combined with gratitude, as if we were in the presence of a personal
deliverer. It is the same with absolute _unreality_, nor merely with
that which no longer exists, but with that which never had existence.
We are struck with the beauty of what we only imagine, in the same
manner, though perhaps not with the same liveliness of feeling, as
we are struck with the beauty of external things. Our emotions then,
however dependent they may have been originally, are _now_ no longer
dependent, on these external things. They may arise, from memory or
imagination, as readily as from perception; but when they arise from
memory or imagination, they are as truly distinguishable from what we
remember and imagine, as they are distinguishable from our perceptions
of mere forms and colours and other sensible qualities, when they arise
from what we perceive.

To have arranged all the varieties of feelings of which the mind is
susceptible, in the three great divisions to which our arrangement
as yet has extended,--though it is unquestionably to have made some
advance in our generalization,--is yet to have made only a small part
of the necessary progress; since each of these three orders comprehends
almost innumerable phenomena, which require the aid of more minute
division. In the class of our external affections, indeed, this
subdivision is very simple and easy; since our separate organs of sense
furnish, of themselves, a very evident ground of distinction. But the
two orders of our internal affections have no such obvious and tangible
distinction, to serve as the basis of their subdivisions. They admit,
however,--as I trust we shall find,--of distinctions, which, though
not equally _obvious_, are almost equally definite, and require only
a very little reflection, to be understood as clearly, as the organic
relations, according to which we distinguish our sensations of sound,
or smell, or sight. It is not my intention, however, to proceed, at
present, to the consideration of these subdivisions; since the nature
of the more minute arrangement will, I conceive, be better understood,
when we come to treat of each separate order fully, than they could be
now, by the mere enumeration of a few names, of the propriety of which,
as mere names, and, still more of the propriety of the arrangement
which they involve, you could not be expected to form any accurate
judgment, without a fuller elucidation.

All which I must request you, then, at present, to keep in remembrance,
is the _primary_ division, which we have made, of the different states
of the mind into two great classes, and the _secondary_ division which
we have made of _one_ of these classes, into its two very comprehensive
orders.--You will remember, then, that the various affections, of which
the mind is susceptible, are either _external_, as they arise from
causes without the mind, or _internal_, as they arise from previous
states, of the mind itself;--that of these internal affections, some
are mere conceptions or notions of former feelings, or of objects and
of the qualities or relations of objects, as remembered or variously
combined or compared,--results of different susceptibilities of
our intellectual constitution, to which different names have been
given, conception, memory, imagination, abstraction, reason, and
other synonymous terms;--that these internal affections or states
of the mind, which I have denominated its intellectual states, are
distinctly separable, in our reflective analysis, from certain vivid
feelings, that may arise instantly in the mind, on the consideration
of these mere intellectual results, or on the perception of objects
without,--feelings of admiration, love, desire, and various other
analogous, or opposite states of the mind;--but that there is such
an order of vivid feelings, which arise, in many cases, on the mere
consideration of what we perceive or remember, or imagine, or compare,
and that this order is what I wish to be distinguished by the name of

According to this division, therefore, of the mental phenomena, into
those which are of external and those which are of internal origin,
and the subdivision which we have made of this latter class, I shall
proceed to consider, first, The external powers or susceptibilities
of the mind; 2dly, The intellectual powers or susceptibilities of the
mind; and, 3dly, Its susceptibilities of emotion,--beginning with that
class, which we have every reason to suppose to be first, in the actual
order of developement,--the powers or susceptibilities of the mind, in
its immediate relation to its own bodily organs.

Certain states of our bodily organs are directly followed by certain
states or affections of our mind;--certain states or affections of
our mind are directly followed by certain states of our bodily organs.
The nerve of sight, for example, is affected in a certain manner;
vision, which is an affection or state of the mind, is its consequence.
I will to move my hand; the hand obeys my will, so rapidly, that the
motion, though truly subsequent, seems almost to accompany my volition,
rather than to follow it. In conformity with the definitions before
given of power and susceptibility, the one as implying a reference to
something consequent, the other a reference to something antecedent,
I should be inclined to consider the sensation which follows the
presence of an external object as indicating a mental susceptibility
of being so affected;--the production of muscular motion by the will,
as indicating a mental power. But the terms are of less consequence,
if you understand fully the distinction that is implied in them; and
you may be allowed still, in compliance with the general language, to
speak of the power or faculty of sensation or perception, if you mean
nothing more, as often as you use these terms, than that the mind is
affected in a certain manner, and, therefore, must have had a previous
susceptibility of being thus affected whenever certain changes have
previously taken place, in that nervous system, with which it is

In considering the susceptibilities of the mind, I comprehend, under
its _external_ affections, all those phenomena or states of the
mind, which are commonly termed _sensations_; together with all our
internal organic feelings of pleasure or pain, that arise from states
of the nervous system, as much as our other sensations. Many of these
are commonly ranked under another head, that of _appetites_,--such
as hunger, thirst, the desire of repose, or of change of muscular
position, which arises from long-continued exertion; the oppressive
anxiety, which arises from impeded respiration, and various other
diseases, arising from bodily uneasiness. But these appetites evidently
admit of being analysed into two distinct elements,--a pain of a
peculiar species, and a subsequent desire of that which is to relieve
the pain,--states of mind, of which one may immediately succeed the
other; but which are, unquestionably, as different in themselves, as
if no such succession took place,--as different as the pleasure of
music is from the mere desire of enjoying it again, or as the pain of
excessive heat, in burning, from the subsequent desire of coolness.
The pain, which is _one_ element of the appetite, is an _external_
affection of the mind, to be classed with our other sensations,--the
succeeding desire, which is another element of it, is an _internal_
affection of the mind, to be classed with our other emotions of desire.
We might have felt the same pain of hunger, though we had not been
aware, that it arose from want of food, and consequently could not
have felt any desire of food, but merely the general desire of relief
which attends every disagreeable sensation. We might have felt the
same uneasiness, which we term thirst, though we had not been aware,
that it would be relieved by a draught of any beverage,--and the same
pain of impeded respiration or fatigue, though nature had not led
us instinctively, in the one case to perform the muscular actions
necessary for expiration and inspiration; in the other, to change
our posture, and thus give repose to the wearied limbs. Whatever be
the organic states, which occasion these painful feelings, that are
elementary in our appetites, there can be no doubt, that some organic
affections precede them, as truly as some affection of an external
organ precedes the pain of a burn, or the painful temporary blindness,
when we are dazzled with excessive light. And though, in the case of
the appetite, we may give the same name to the pain, and to the desire
of that which is to relieve the pain; or rather, may give one name
to the combination of the two feelings,--which is not to be wondered
at, where the two feelings are so universally and so immediately
successive,--this error, or rather this mere abbreviation of language,
is no reason that we should consider the elementary pain itself, as
different, in kind, from our other pains, that have not merely half
a term to express them, but a whole undivided word of their own. The
pain, of which the appetite desires the relief, is a _sensation_, as
much as any other internal bodily pain which we feel,--a state or
affection of the mind, arising, immediately and solely, from a state or
affection of the body,--which is the only definition that can be given
of a _sensation_.

The pain of hunger and thirst, then, and, in general, every internal
pain arising from a state of the bodily organs,--and distinct from the
subsequent desires which they occasion,--are as truly _sensations_,
as any other sensations; and the desires that follow these particular
sensations, are as truly _desires_, as any other desires of which we
have the consciousness. We may, indeed, if we resolve to invent a
new name, for those particular desires, that terminate immediately
in the relief of bodily pain, or the production of bodily pleasure,
give to such desires the name of _appetites_; but it is surely a very
simple analysis only, that is necessary to separate, from the desire of
relief, the feeling of the pain which we wish to be relieved; since it
is very evident, that the pain _must_ have existed primarily _before_
any such desire could be felt.

That the various species of _uneasiness_, which are elementary parts
of our appetites, recur, at intervals, in which there is some degree
of regularity, does not alter their nature, when they _do_ recur, so
as to render a peculiar arrangement necessary for including them. The
mental states, which constitute the uneasiness that is felt, recur
thus at intervals, not from any thing peculiar in the mind itself,
the phenomena of which alone we are considering, but because the
body is only at intervals in the state, which precedes or induces
those peculiar mental affections. If, instead of the _two_ or _three_
periods, at which the appetite of hunger recurs, the nervous system
were, one hundred times in the day, at intervals the most irregular,
in that state, which is immediately followed by the feeling of hunger,
the painful feeling,--and the consequent desire of food, which has
been found to relieve it,--would of course, be felt one hundred times
in the day. The regularity, therefore, of the recurrence of this state
of the nerves, is a phenomenon, which belongs to the consideration of
the physiologist of the _body_, not of the physiologist of the _mind_,
whose immediate office is finished, when he can trace any particular
feeling of the mind to some affection of our organic frame, as its
invariable antecedent; and who knowing, therefore, that the feeling
of pain in any of our appetites, is the effect or result of some
organic affection, is not surprised that it should not recur, when that
organic affection has not previously taken place,--any more than he
is surprised that we do not enjoy the fragrance of roses or violets,
when there are no particles of odour to be inhaled by us; or do not
listen to songs and choral harmonies, when there is no vibration to be
transmitted to the auditory nerve. It is at certain regular periods,
that the full light of day, and the twilight of morning and evening,
are perceived by us. But we do not think it necessary, on this account,
to give any peculiar name to these visual perceptions, to distinguish
them from others less regular, because we know, that the reason of the
_periodic_ recurrence of these perceptions, is that the various degrees
of sunshine, which produce them, exist only at such intervals. We are
_hungry_, when the nerves of the stomach are in a certain state; we
perceive the sun, when the organ of vision is in a certain state. It is
as little wonderful, that we should _not_ have the feeling of hunger,
except when the nerves of the stomach are in this state, as that we
should _not_ have the perception of the meridian sun, when the sun
itself is beneath our horizon.

Since the mere pains of appetite, however, most important as they truly
are, for the ends which they immediately answer, are yet of little
importance in relation to our general knowledge, it is unnecessary
to dwell on them at length. But I cannot quit the consideration of
them, without remarking that admirable provision which the gracious
Author of Nature has made by them, for the preservation not of our
_being_ merely, but of our _well-being_--of that health and vigour,
without which, a frail and feverish existence, at least in its
relation to this earthly scene, would be of little value. The daily
waste of the body requires daily supply to compensate it; and if this
supply be neglected, or be inadequate--or, on the other hand, if it
be inordinately great, _disease_ is the necessary consequence. To
preserve the _medium_, therefore, or at least to prevent any very great
deviation from it, _He_, who planned our feelings and faculties as well
as our bodily frame, has made it painful for us to omit what is so
important to life; and painful also to prolong the supply in any great
proportion, after the demands of nature have been adequately satisfied.
If food had afforded gratification only as relieving the pain of
hunger, these natural boundaries of appetite would have required no aid
from _moral_ or _physical_ lessons of temperance. But the indulgence
of nature, in conferring on us the sense of taste, and making food a
luxury as well as a relief, we abuse, as we abuse her other kindnesses.
The pleasures of this most intemperate of senses, may lead, in
some degree, beyond the due point of supply, the greater number of
mankind; and may drive, to excesses more injurious, all those herds of
unthinking sensualists who prefer the sickly enjoyment of an hour, to
the health and virtue, and intellectual as well as physical comfort, of
more frugal repasts. Yet even to them, nature points out in the feeling
of satiety, where intemperance begins, or where it has already begun;
and if they persist, notwithstanding this feeling, how much more would
they be in danger of over-loading the powers of life, if there had
been no such feeling of growing uneasiness, to suppress the avidity of
insatiable indulgence.

“Though a man knew,” says Dr Reid, “that his life must be supported
by _eating_, reason could not direct him when to eat, or what; how
much, or how often. In all these things, appetite is a much better
guide than reason. Were reason only to direct us in this matter, its
calm voice would often be drowned in the hurry of business, or the
charms of amusement. But the voice of appetite rises gradually, and,
at last, becomes loud enough to call off our attention from any other

If indeed, the necessary supply were long neglected, the morbid state
of the body which would ensue, though no pain of actual hunger were to
be felt, would convince, at last, the sufferer of his folly. But the
providence of our gracious Creator, has not trusted the existence of
man to the dangerous admonition of so rough a monitor, which might,
perhaps, bring his folly before him only when it was too late to be
wise. The pain of hunger--that short disease, if it may be so termed,
which it is in our power so speedily to cure, prevents diseases that
more truly deserve the name. Between _satiety_ on one side, and _want_
on the other, the stream of health flows tranquilly along, which, but
for these boundaries, would speedily waste itself and disappear; as the
most magnificent river, which, if dispersed over a boundless plain,
would flow almost into nothing, owes its abundance and majestic beauty
to the very _banks_ that seem to confine its waters within too narrow a

Besides those particular feelings of bodily uneasiness, which, as
attended with desire, constitute our appetites, there are other
affections of the same class, which, though not usually ranked
with our external sensations or perceptions, because we find it
difficult to ascribe them to any local organ, are unquestionably to
be arranged under the same head; since they are feelings which arise,
as immediately and directly from a certain state of a part of the
nervous system, as any of the feelings which we more commonly ascribe
to external sense. Of this kind is that muscular pleasure of _alacrity_
and action, which forms so great a part of the delight of the _young_
of every species of living beings, and which is felt, though in a less
degree, at every period of life, even the most advanced; or which,
when it ceases in age, only gives place to another species of muscular
pleasure--that which constitutes the pleasure of ease--the same species
of feeling, which doubles, to ever one, the delight of exercise, by
sweetening the repose to which it leads, and thus making it indirectly,
as well as directly, a source of enjoyment.

In treating of what have been termed the _acquired perceptions of
vision_, which are truly what give to vision its range of power, and
without which the mere perception of colour would be of little more
value than any other of the simplest of our sensations, I shall have
an opportunity of pointing out to you some most important purposes, to
which our muscular feelings are instrumental; and in the nicer analysis
which I am inclined to make of the perceptions commonly ascribed to
touch,--if my analysis be accurate--we shall find them operating at
least as powerfully. At present, however, I speak of them merely
as sources of animal pleasure or pain, of pleasure during moderate
exercise and repose, and of pain during morbid lassitude, or the
fatigue of oppression and unremitted labour.

The pleasure which attends good health, and which is certainly more
than mere freedom from pain, is a pleasure of the same kind. It is
a pleasure, however, which, like every other long continued bodily
pleasure, we may suppose, to be diminished by habitual enjoyment; and
it is therefore, chiefly, on recovery from sickness, when the habit has
been long broken by feelings of an opposite kind, that we recognize
what it must originally have been; if, indeed it be in our power to
separate, completely, the mere animal pleasure from those mingling
reflecting pleasures which arise from the consideration of past pain,
and the expectation of future delight. To those among you, who know
what it is to have risen from the long captivity of a bed of sickness,
I need not say, that every function is, in this case, more than mere
vigour; it is a happiness, but to breathe and to move; and not every
limb merely, but almost every fibre of every limb, has its separate
sense of enjoyment. “What a blessed thing it is to breathe the fresh
air!” said Count Struensee, on quitting his dungeon, though he was
quitting it only to be led to the place of execution, and cannot,
therefore, be supposed to have felt much more than the mere animal

    “He does not scorn it, who, imprisoned long
    In some unwholesome dungeon, and a prey
    To sallow sickness, which the vapours, dank
    And clammy of his dark abode have bred,
    Escapes at last to liberty and light;
    His cheek recovers soon its healthful hue;
    His eye relumines its extinguish'd fires;
    He walks, he leaps, he runs--is wing'd with joy,
    And riots in the sweets of every breeze.”[62]

On these mere animal gratifications, however, I need not dwell any
longer. There is much more to interest our curiosity, in the sensations
and perceptions which more frequently go under those names; to the
consideration of which I shall proceed in my next Lecture.


[60] Gray de Principiis Cogitandi, Lib. I. v. 1-5.

[61] On the Active Powers, Essay III. c. 1.

[62] Cowper's Task, book i.



In my Lecture yesterday, after some further elucidation of the _triple
division_ which we formed of the mental phenomena, as external
or sensitive affections of the mind, intellectual states of the
mind,--emotions,--I proceeded to consider the first of these divisions,
of which the characteristic distinction is, that the phenomena included
in it have their causes or immediate antecedents _external_ to the
mind itself. In this division, I comprehended, together with the
feelings which are universally ascribed to certain organs of sense,
many feelings, which, though unquestionably originating in states of
our bodily organs, as much as our other sensations, are yet commonly
ranked as a different order--such as our various appetites, or
rather that elementary uneasiness which is only a part, but still an
essential part of our appetites, and which is easily distinguishable
from the mere desire, which is the other element; since, however
rapid the succession of them may be, we are yet conscious of them as
successive. The particular uneasiness, it is evident, must have been
felt as a sensation before the desire of that which is to relieve the
uneasiness could have arisen. To the same class, too, I referred the
various organic feelings, which constitute the animal pleasure of good
health, when every corporeal function is exercised in just degree;
and in a particular manner, our _muscular_ feelings, whether of mere
general lassitude or alacrity; or those fainter differences of feelings
which arise in our various motions and attitudes, from the different
muscles that are exercised, or from the greater or less contraction
of the same muscles. These muscular feelings, though they may be
almost unnoticed by us, during the influence of stronger sensations,
are yet sufficiently powerful, when we attend to them, to render us,
independently of sight and touch, in a great measure sensible of
the position of our body in general, and of its various parts; and
comparatively indistinct as they are, they become,--in many cases, as
in the acquired perceptions of vision, for example, and equally too, as
I conceive, in various other instances, in which little attention has
been paid to them by philosophers,--_elements_ of some of the nicest
and most accurate judgments which we form.

It is, however, to that widest and most important order of our external
affections, which comprehends the feelings more commonly termed
_sensations_, and universally ascribed to particular organs of sense,
that we have now to proceed. In these, we find the rude elements of
all our knowledge, the materials on which the mind is ever operating,
and without which, it seems to us almost impossible to conceive that
it could ever have operated at all, or could, even in its absolute
inactivity, have been conscious of its own inert existence.

This order of our external feelings comprehends all those _states_
of mind, however various they may be, which immediately succeed
the changes of state, produced, in any of our organs of sense, by
the presence of certain external bodies. The mental affections are
themselves,--as I have said,--commonly termed _sensations_; but we
have no verb, in our language, which exactly denotes what is expressed
in the substantive noun. To _feel_ is, in its two senses, either much
more limited or much more general, being confined, in its restricted
meaning, to the sensations of one organ, that of touch,--and as a
more general word, being applicable to all the varieties of our
consciousness, as much as to those particular varieties, which are
immediately successive to the affections of our organs of sense. We
are said, in this wider use of the term, to feel indignation, love,
surprise, as readily as we are said to feel the warmth of a fire, or
the coldness of snow.

In defining our sensations, to be those mental affections, which are
immediately successive to certain organic affections, produced by
the action of external things, it is very evident, that I have made
two assumptions,--first of the existence of external things, that
affect our organs of sense; and, secondly of organs of sense, that
are affected by external things;--unless, indeed, the assumption of
the existence of organs of sense be considered,--as in philosophic
truth it unquestionably is--only another form of the assumption of the
existence of external things, since, in relation to the sentient mind,
the organs thus supposed to exist, are, in strictness of language,
_external_, as much as the objects supposed to act upon them. All of
which we are truly conscious, in sensation, is the mental affection,
the last link of the series, in the supposed process; what we term our
perceptions of organs of sense, or of other external things that act
upon these--our ideas, for example, of a brain or an eye, a house or a
mountain, being as truly states of our own percipient mind, and nothing
but states of our own mind, as our feeling of joy or sorrow, hope or
fear, love or hate,--to which we never think of giving an _existence_,
nor a direct and immediate _cause_ of existence, _out_ of ourselves.
By the very constitution of our nature, however, or by the influence
of associations as irresistible as intuition itself,--it is impossible
for us not to feel this essential reality in the causes of one set of
our mental affections, in the same manner as it is impossible for us to
ascribe it to another set. The brain, the eye, the house, the mountain,
we believe, and cannot but believe, to have external existence,
independent of our own; the joy and sorrow, hope and fear, love and
hate, we believe, and cannot but believe, to be merely states of our
own mind, occasioned by other former states of mind, and dependent,
therefore, for their continuance, on our own continued existence only.
Even in our wildest dreams,--in which we imagine all things that are
possible, and almost all things which are impossible; we never consider
our joy or sorrow, as directly indicative of any thing separate from
ourselves, and independent of us,

    “While o'er our limbs sleep's soft dominion spread,
    What tho' our soul fantastic measures trod,
    O'er fairy fields; or mourn'd along the gloom
    Of pathless woods; or down the craggy steep
    Hurl'd headlong, swam with pain the mantled pool;
    Or scaled the cliff,--or danced on hollow winds,
    With antic shapes, wild natives of the brain;”

it was still only the cliff, the wood, the pool, which we considered
as _external_: the _sorrow_ with which we mourned along our gloomy
track, the _pain_ with which we swam the turbid water, the _horror_
which we felt at the antic shapes, with which we mingled in the
ghostly dance, were felt to be wholly _in ourselves_, and constituted,
while they lasted, the very feeling of our own existence.--The belief
of an external world is, however, to come afterwards under our full
examination:--It is sufficient, for the present, to know, that in
the period after infancy, to which alone our memory extends, we are
led, irresistibly, to believe in it; and that the belief of it,
therefore, in whatever manner it may have originated in the imperfect
perceptions of our infancy, is now, when those perceptions are mature,
so completely beyond the power of argument to overcome, that it exists,
as strongly, in those who reason against it, as in those who reason
for it;--that the reference to a direct external cause, however,
does not accompany _every_ feeling of our mind, but is confined to a
certain number of that long succession of feelings, which forms the
varied consciousness of our life,--and that the feelings, with respect
to which this reference is made, are the class of sensations, which,
when combined with this reference, have commonly been distinguished
by the name of perceptions. That we have no perfect evidence of the
external existence thus ascribed by us,--independently of our own
irresistible belief of it, may be allowed to the sceptic; and the
reasoning of Doctor Reid on the subject, as far as he proceeds beyond
the assertion of this irresistible belief, and attempts, what has been
commonly regarded as a confutation of the scepticism on this point,--by
representing it as proceeding on a mistake, with respect to the nature
of our ideas,--is _itself_, as we shall afterwards find, nugatory and
fallacious. But still, notwithstanding the errors of philosophers with
respect to it, the belief itself is, in the circumstances in which we
now exist, so truly a part of our constitution, that to contend against
it in argument would be to admit its validity, since it would be to
suppose the existence of some one whom we are fairly undertaking to
instruct or to confute.

In what circumstance the intuitive belief,--if, as I have said, the
belief be in any case intuitive,--arises; or rather, in how large
a proportion of cases, in which the reference seems primary and
immediate, it is, more probably, the effect of secondary associations
transferred from sense to sense, will appear better after the minute
analysis on which we are to enter, of the different tribes of our

In referring to the particular class of sensations, and consequently
to an _external cause_, a certain number only of the affections of our
mind, there can be no doubt, that we proceed _now_, in the mature state
of our knowledge, with more accuracy, than we could have attained, in
that early period of life, when our original feelings were more recent.
We have now a clearer and more definite belief of an external world,
and of objects of sensations separate from our sensations themselves;
without which general belief, previously obtained, we should as little
have ascribed to an external organic cause many of our feelings,
which we now ascribe to one--our sensations of sound and fragrance,
for example,--as we now ascribe to such an immediate external cause,
our emotions of joy or sorrow. A still more important acquisition, is
our knowledge of our own organic frame, by which we are enabled, in a
great measure, to verify our sensations,--to produce them, as it were
at pleasure, when their external objects are before us, and in this
way to correct the feelings, which have risen spontaneously, by those,
which we ourselves produce. Thus, when, _in reverie_, our conceptions
become peculiarly vivid, and the objects of our thought seem almost to
exist in our presence; if only we stretch out our hand, or fix our eyes
on the forms that are permanently before us, the illusion vanishes.
Our organ of touch or of sight, is not affected in the same manner,
as if the object that charms us in our musing dream, were really
present; and we class the feeling, therefore, as a conception,--not as
a sensation,--which, but for the opportunity of this correction, we
should unquestionably, in many instances, have done.

But though, in forming the class of our sensations, we derive many
advantages from that full knowledge which the experience of many years
has given, we purchase these by disadvantages which are perhaps as
great, and which are greater, from the very circumstance, that it is
absolutely out of our power to estimate their amount. What we consider
as the _immediate_ sensation, is not the simple mental state, as it
originally followed that corporeal change, which now precedes it; but,
at least in the most striking of all the tribes of our sensations, is
a very different one. We have the authority of reason, _a priori_, as
shewing no peculiar connexion of the points of the retina with one
place of bodies more than with another; and we have the authority
also of observation, in the celebrated case of the young man who was
couched by Cheselden, and in other cases of the same peculiar species
of blindness, in which the eyes, by a surgical operation, have been
rendered for the first time capable of distinct vision, that if we had
had no organ of sense but that of sight, and no instinctive judgment
had been superadded to mere vision, we should not have had the power
of distinguishing the magnitude and distant place of objects;--a mere
expanse of colour being all which we should have perceived, if even
colour itself could in these circumstances, have been perceived by us
as expanded. Yet it is sufficient now, that rays of light, precisely
the same in number, and in precisely the same direction, as those
which at one period of our life, exhibited to us colour, and colour
alone, should fall once more on the same small expanse of nerve, to
give us instantly that boundlessness of vision, which, almost as if the
fetters of our mortal frame were shaken off, lifts us from our dungeon,
and makes us truly citizens, not of the _earth_ only, but of the
_universe_. Simple as the principle may now seem, which distinguishes
our secondary or acquired perceptions of vision from those which were
primary and immediate, it was long before the distinction was made; and
till a period which--if we consider it in relation to those long ages
of philosophic inquiry, or, rather, most unphilosophic argumentation,
which had gone before--may be considered almost as in our own time,
longitudinal distance was conceived to be as completely an original
object of sight as the varieties of mere colour and brilliancy. There
may, therefore--though we have not yet been able, and may never be
able, to discover it,--be a corresponding difference in our other
sensations, which now seem to us simple and immediate. In the case of
sound, indeed, there is a very evident analogy to these visual acquired
perceptions; since a constant reference to _place_ mingles with our
sensations of this class, in the same manner, though not so distinctly,
as in our perceptions of sight. We perceive the sound, as it were near
or at a distance, in one direction rather than in another; as, in
the case of longitudinal distance in vision, we perceive _colour_ at
one distance rather than at another. Yet there is as little reason,
from the nature of the organic changes themselves, to suppose, that
different affections of our auditory nerves should _originally_ give us
different notions of distance, as that such notions should originally
be produced by different affections of the retina: and, as in sight
and hearing, so it is far from improbable, that, in all our senses,
there may, by the reciprocal influence of these upon each other, or by
the repeated lessons of individual experience in each, be a similar
modification of the original simple feelings, which, in that first
stage of existence that opened to us the world and its phenomena,
each individual organ separately afforded. Our reasoning with respect
to them, therefore, as original organs of sense, may, perhaps, be as
false, as our chemical reasoning would be, were we to attempt to infer
the properties of an uncombined acid, or alkali, from our observation
of the very different properties of a neutral salt, into the
composition of which we know that the acid or the alkali has entered.

If, indeed, it were in our power to be introduced to a society, like
that of which Diderot speaks, in his Letter on the Deaf and Dumb, and
to hold communication with them, all our doubts on this subject would
be removed. “What a strange society,” says he, “would five persons
make, each of them endowed with one only of our five different senses;
and no two of the party with the same sense! There can be no doubt,
that, differing, as they must differ, in all their views of nature,
they would treat each other as madmen, and that each would look upon
the others with all due contempt. It is, indeed, only an image of what
is happening every moment in the world; we have but one sense, and we
judge of every thing.”[63]--“There is, however,” he justly remarks,
“_one_ science, though but one science, in which the whole society of
the different senses might agree,--the science which has relation to
the _properties of number_. They might each arrive, by their separate
abstractions, at the sublimest speculations of arithmetic and algebra;
they might fathom the depths of analysis, and propose and resolve
problems of the most complicated equations, as if they were all so many
Diophantuses. It is perhaps,” he adds, “what the oyster is doing in its

From such a society,--if, indeed, we could hold any communication
with these profound algebraists, except in their common science of
numbers,--we might undoubtedly learn, what are the direct immediate
affections of mind, to which our senses individually give rise, and
consequently, how much, while feeling has blended with feeling,
they have reciprocally operated on each other. But, in our present
circumstances, unaided by intercourse with such living abstractions,
it is impossible for us to remove wholly this uncertainty, as to
the kind and degree of influence, which experience may have had, in
modifying our primary sensations. We may wish, indeed, to be able
to distinguish our _present_ feelings, from those which the same
objects _originally_ excited; but, since no memory can go back to
the period, at which we did not perceive longitudinal distance, as
it were, immediately by the eye, as little, we may suppose, can any
memory go back to the period, when other sensations, less interesting
than those of vision, were first excited. Could we trace the series of
feelings, in a single mind,--as variously modified, in the progress
from infancy to maturity,--we should know more of the intellectual
and moral nature of man, than is probably ever to be revealed to his
inquiry,--when in ages, as remote from that in which we live, and
perhaps as much more enlightened, as our own age may be said to be
in relation to the period of original darkness and barbarism, he is
still to be searching into his own nature, with the same avidity as
now, He must, indeed be a very dull observer, who has not felt, on
looking at an infant, some desire to know the little processes of
thought, that are going on in his curious and active mind; and who, on
reflecting on the value, as an attainment in science, which the sagest
philosopher would set on the consciousness of those acquisitions which
infancy has already made, is not struck with that nearness, in which,
in some points, extreme knowledge and extreme ignorance may almost
be said to meet. What metaphysician is there, however subtile and
profound in his analytical inquiries, and however successful in the
analyses which he has made, who would not give all his past discovery,
and all his hopes of future discovery, for the certainty of knowing
with exactness what every infant feels? The full instruction, which
such a view of our progressive feelings, from their very origin, in
the first sensations of life, would afford, Nature, in her wisdom,
however, has not communicated to us,--more than she has communicated
to us the nature of that state of being, which awaits the soul after
it has finished its career of mortality. Our existence seems, in our
conception of it, never to have had a beginning. As far back as we can
remember any event, there is always a period, that appears to us still
farther back, the events of which we cannot distinguish; as, when we
look toward the distant horizon, we see, less and less distinctly, in
the long line which the sunshine of evening still illuminates, plains,
and woods, and streams, and hills, more distant, half melting into air,
beyond which our eye can find nothing,--though we are still certain,
that other woods, and streams, and plains are there, and that it is
only the imperfection of our sight, which seems to bound them as in
another world. It is to man, when he thinks upon his own beginning,
as if he felt himself in a world of enchantment, amid the shades and
flowers of which he had been wandering, unconscious of the time at
which he entered it, or of the objects that are awaiting him, when he
shall have arrived at the close of that path, whose windings still lead
him forward,--and knowing little more, than that he is himself happy,
and that the unknown Being, who has raised this magnificent scene
around him, must be the Friend of the mortal, whom he has deigned to
admit into it.

                        “Well pleased he scans
    The goodly prospect,--and, with inward smiles,
    Treads the gay verdure of the painted plain,--
    Beholds the azure canopy of heaven,
    And living lamps, that over-arch his head,
    With more than regal splendour,--bends his ear
    To the full choir of water, air, and earth;
    Nor heeds the pleasing error of his thought,
    Nor doubts the painted green or azure arch,
    Nor questions more the music's mingling sounds,
    Than space, or motion, or eternal time;
    So sweet he feels their influence to attract
    His fixed soul, to brighten the dull glooms
    Of care, and make the destined road of life
    Delightful to his feet. So, fables tell,
    The adventurous hero, bound on hard exploit,
    Beholds with glad surprise, by secret spell
    Of some kind sage, the patron of his toils,
    A visionary paradise disclosed,
    Amid the dubious wild;--With streams, and shades,
    And airy songs, the enchanted landscape smiles,
    Cheers his long labours, and renews his frame.”[65]

The philosophic use of the term _sensation_ does not necessarily
imply, what, in its popular use, is considered almost as involved
in it; and perhaps, therefore, it may not be superfluous to warn
you, that it is not confined to feelings, which are pleasurable or
painful, but extends to every mental affection, that is the immediate
consequence of impression on our organs of sense,--of which mental
states or affections, many, and, as I am inclined to think, by far the
greater number, are of a kind, that cannot be termed either agreeable
or disagreeable. Of the objects of sight, for example, which are
of such very frequent occurrence, how _few_ are there, at which we
look, either with pleasure or with pain,--if we except that indirect
pleasure, which, in particular cases, they may afford, as communicating
to us information, that is valuable in itself, or as gratifying even
our idlest curiosity. To take one of the most striking cases of this
sort,--though we may derive, from the perusal of a work that interests
us, the purest delight, it is a delight, resulting only from the
conceptions, which the author, in consequence of the happy contrivance
of symbolic characters, has been able to transfuse, as it were, from
his own mind into ours; but, during all the time of the perusal,
sensations, almost innumerable, have been excited in us, by the
separate characters, with which the pages are covered, that have never
mingled even the faintest direct pleasure, with the general emotion,
which they, and they alone, have indirectly produced.

“I apprehend,” says Dr Reid, “that, besides the sensations, that are
either agreeable or disagreeable, there is still a greater number that
are indifferent. To these we give so little attention, that they have
no name, and are immediately forgot, as if they had never been; and it
requires attention to the operations of our minds, to be convinced of
their existence. For this end, we may observe, that, to a good ear,
every human voice is distinguishable from all others. Some voices are
pleasant, some disagreeable; but the far greater part can neither
be said to be one or the other. The same thing may be said of other
sounds, and no less of tastes, smells, and colours; and if we consider,
that our senses are in continual exercise while we are awake, that some
sensation attends every object they present to us, and that familiar
objects seldom raise any emotion, pleasant or painful,--we shall see
reason, besides the agreeable and disagreeable, to admit a third class
of sensations, that may be called indifferent. The sensations that
are indifferent, are far from being useless. They serve as signs, to
distinguish things that differ; and the information we have concerning
things external, comes by their means. Thus, if a man had no ear to
receive pleasure from the harmony or melody of sounds, he would still
find the sense of hearing of great utility; though sounds gave him
neither pleasure nor pain, of themselves, they would give him much
useful information; and the like may be said of the sensations we have
by all the other senses.”[66]

It is as _signs_, indeed, far more than as mere pleasures in
themselves, that our sensations are to us of such inestimable value.
Even in the case to which I before alluded, of the symbolic or
arbitrary characters of a language, when we consider all the important
purposes to which these are subservient, as raising us originally from
absolute barbarism, and saving us from relapsing into it, there might
be an appearance of paradox, indeed, but there would be perfect truth
in asserting, that the sensations which are themselves indifferent,
are more precious, even in relation to happiness itself, than the
sensations which are themselves accompanied with lively delight, or
rather, of which it is the very essence to be delightful. Happiness,
though necessarily involving present pleasure, is the direct or
indirect, and often the very distant result of feelings of every
kind, pleasurable, painful, and indifferent. It is like the beautiful
profusion of flowers, which adorn our summer fields. In our admiration
of the foliage, and the blossoms, and the pure airs and sunshine, in
which they seem to live, we almost forget the darkness of the soil in
which their roots are spread. Yet how much should we err, if we were
to consider them as deriving their chief nutriment from the beams that
shine around them, in the warmth and light of which we have wandered
with joy. That delightful radiance alone would have been of little
efficacy, without the showers, from which, in those very wanderings, we
have often sought shelter at noon; or at least without the dews, which
were unheeded by us, as they fell silently and almost insensibly on our
evening walk.

With the common division of our sensations into five classes,--those
of smell, taste, hearing, sight, touch, we have been familiar, almost
from our childhood; and though the classification may be far from
perfect, in reference to our sensations themselves, considered simply
as affections of the mind, it is sufficiently accurate, in reference
to the mere organs of sense; for, though our sensations of _heat_
and _cold_, in one very important respect, which is afterwards to be
considered by us, have much less resemblance to the other sensations
which we acquire by our organs of touch, or at least to sensations,
which we are generally supposed to derive from that organ, than to
sensations, which we receive by the medium of other organs, our
sensations of smell and sound for example--still, as they arise from an
affection of the same organ, they may be more conveniently referred to
the same, than to any other class; since, if we quit that obvious line
of distinction, which the difference of organs affords, we shall not
find it easy to define them by other lines as precise.

But whatever may be the arbitrary division or arrangement which we
may form either of our sensations themselves, or of the organs that
are previously affected, the susceptibility of the mind, by which
it is capable of being affected by the changes of state in our mere
bodily organs, must be regarded as, in every sense of the word, of
primary value in our mental constitution. To the individual, indeed,
it may be said to be in itself all the things which are around him,
however near or afar; because it is truly that, by which alone all
things near or afar become known to him. It constitutes by this mutual
relation, which it establishes, a power of more than magic agency,
before which the great gulf, that appeared to separate forever the
worlds of matter and of spirit, disappears,--which thus links together
substances, that seemed, in their nature, incapable of any common bond
of union,--and which, bringing the whole infinity of things, within the
sphere of our own mind, communicates to it some faint semblance of the
omnipresence of its Author. “What is that organ,”--says an eloquent
French writer, speaking of the eye,--“what is that astonishing organ,
in which all objects acquire, by turns, a successive existence,--where
the spaces, the figures, and the motions, that surround me, are as
it were _created_,--where the stars, that exist at the distance of a
hundred millions of leagues, become a part of myself,--and where in a
single half inch of diameter, is contained the universe?” This power
of external sense, which first awakes us into life, continues, ever
after, to watch, as it were, round the life which it awoke, lavishing
on us perpetual varieties of instruction and delight; and if, from the
simple pleasures, and simple elementary knowledge which it immediately
affords, we trace its influence, through all the successive feelings
to which it indirectly gives rise, it may be said to exist, by a sort
of intellectual and moral transmutation, in the most refined and
etherial of all our thoughts and emotions. What Grey says of it,--in
the commencement of his beautiful fragment De Principiis Cogitandi,
addressed to his friend West, is not too high a panegyric,--that every
thing delightful and amiable, friendship and fancy, and wisdom itself,
have their primary source in it.

                “Non illa leves primordia motus
    Quanquam parva, dabunt. Lætum vel amabile quicquid
    Usquam oritur, trahit hinc ortum; nec surgit ad auras,
    Quin ea conspirent simul, eventusque secundent.
    Hinc variæ vitai artes, ac mollior usus,
    Dulce et amicitiæ vinclum: Sapientia dia
    Hinc roseum accendit lumen, vultuque sereno,
    Humanas aperit mentes, nova gaudia monstrans.
    Illa etiam, quæ te (mirum) noctesque diesque
    Assidue fovit inspirans, linguamque sequentem
    Temperat in numeros, atque horas mulcet inertes,
    Aurea non alia si jactat origine Musa.”[67]

So much, indeed, of human knowledge, and of all that is valuable and
delightful in human feeling, involves these elementary sensations, as
it were in the very essence of the thoughts and feelings themselves,
that one of the most acute of modern French metaphysicians, and, with
scarcely an exception, all the philosophers of the French metaphysical
school, who are his followers, have considered the whole variety of
human consciousness, as mere sensation variously transformed; though,
in stating the nature of this transformation, and the difference of
the sensations as transformed from the primary forms of mere external
feeling, they have not been so explicit, as the assertors of a system
so paradoxical ought assuredly to have been. On the fallacies of this
very prevalent theory of mind, however, which is afterwards to be
examined by us fully, I need not at present make any remarks.

Though this excessive simplification of the phenomena of human thought
and feeling is, however, far more than the phenomena truly allow, it
is not the less certain, that all the varieties of our consciousness,
though not mere _transformations_ of external sense, are, when traced
to their source, the _results_ of sensation, in its various original
forms. In inquiring into the phenomena of our senses, then, we begin
our inquiry, where knowledge itself begins, and though the twilight,
which hangs over this first opening of intellectual life, is perhaps
only a presage, or a part of that obscurity which is to attend the
whole track of human investigation, it still is twilight only, not
absolute darkness. We can discover _much_, though we cannot discover
_all_; and where absolute _discovery_ is _not_ allowed, there is still
left to us a probability of conjecture, of which, in such limited
circumstances, even philosophy may justly avail herself, without
departing from her legitimate province.


[63] Œuvres, tom. ii. p. 12.

[64] P. 131.

[65] Pleasures of Imagination, Book III. v. 493--514. The fixed soul,
v. 505. Exploits, v. 508; and Spells, v. 509. _Orig._

[66] On the Intellectual powers, Essay II. c. 16.

[67] Lib. I. v. 18-25. and 28-31.



The mental phenomena, of the class which is at present under our
consideration, being those, which arise, in consequence of certain
previous affections of our organs of sense, it is necessary, that we
should take some notice of the corporeal part of the process; though
it must always be remembered, that it is the last part of the process,
_the mental affection only_, which truly belongs to our science,--and
that, if this, in all its varieties, had been the result of any other
species of affections of organs constituted in any other manner,--as
long as there was the regular correspondence of certain mental
affections with certain organic affections,--the philosophy of mind
would have continued precisely the same as now. Our systems of anatomy,
and of the physiology of our mere bodily frame, would indeed have been
different,--but not that more intimate physiology, which relates to the
functions of the animating spirit, whose presence is life, and without
which our bodily frame, in all its beautiful adaptation of parts to
parts, is a machine, as inert and powerless, as the separate atoms that
compose it.

The great essential organ of all sensation is the _brain_, with its
appendages, particularly the _nerves_ that issue from it to certain
organs, which are more strictly termed the organs of sense; as it
is there the immediate objects, or external causes of sensation,
the particles of light, for example, in vision, or of odour in
smell, arrive, and come, as it were, into contact with the sensorial
substance. Each organ, as you well know, has objects peculiar to
itself, which it would be superfluous to enumerate; and since the
blind are still sensible of sound, the deaf of colour, and both of
smell, and taste, and touch, there must evidently be some difference,
either in the sensorial substance itself which is diffused over the
different organs, or in the mode of its diffusion and exposure in
the different organs, from which this striking diversity of their
relative sensibilities proceeds. The nervous matter however, considered
separately from the coats in which it is enveloped, is of the same
half-fibrous, but soft and pulpy texture, as the substance of the brain
itself, and is in perfect continuity with that substance, forming,
therefore, with it, what may be considered as one mass, as much as the
whole brain itself may be considered as one mass; which has, indeed,
for its chief seat the great cavity of the head; the

    “Superas hominis sedes, arcemque cerebri;
    Namque illic posuit solium, et sua templa sacravit,
    Mens animi;--”[68]

but which extends, by innumerable ramifications, over the whole
surface, and through the internal parts of the body. The mind, in that
central brain in which it is supposed to reside, communicating with
all these extreme branches, has been compared, by a very obvious,
but a very beautiful similitude, to the parent Ocean, receiving from
innumerable distances the waters of its filial streams:

    “Ac uti longinquis descendunt montibus amnes,
    Velivolus Tamisis, flaventisque Indus arenæ,
    Euphratesque, Tagusque, et opimo flumine Ganges,
    Undas quisque suas volvens,--cursuque sonoro
    In mare prorumpunt; hos magno acclinis in antro
    Excipit Oceanus, natorumque ordine longo
    Dona recognoscit venientum, ultroque serenat
    Coeruleam faciem, et diffuso marmore ridet.
    Haud aliter species properant se inferre novellæ
    Certatim menti.”[69]

In the brain itself, the anatomist is able to shew us, with perfect
clearness, many complicated parts, which we must believe to be
adapted for answering particular purposes in the economy of life;
but when we have gazed with admiration on all the wonders which his
dissecting hand has revealed to us, and have listened to the names
with which he most accurately distinguishes the little cavities or
protuberances which his knife has thus laid open to our view, we are
still as ignorant as before of the particular purposes to which such
varieties of form are subservient; and our only consolation is,--for
there is surely some comfort in being only as ignorant as the _most
learned_,--that we know as much of the distinct uses of the parts as
the anatomist himself, who exhibits them to us, and teaches us how to
name them. A structure, in every respect different, though assuredly
less fit than the present which has been chosen by infinite wisdom,
might, as far as we know, have answered exactly the same end; which
is as much as to say, that our ignorance on the subject is complete.
The only physiological facts of importance, in reference to sensation,
are, that if the nerves, which terminate in particular organs, be
greatly diseased, the sensations which we ascribe to those particular
organs cease; and cease, in like manner, if the continuity of the
nerves be destroyed, by cutting them in any part of their course, or
if, without loss of absolute continuity, their structure, in any part
of their course be impaired by pressure, whether from tight ligatures
drawn around them for the purpose of experiment, or from natural
morbid causes. In short, if the brain and nerves be in a sound state,
and certain substances be applied to certain parts of the nervous
system,--as, for instance, sapid bodies to the extremities of the
nerves of taste, or light to that expansion of the optic nerve, which
forms what is termed the retina,--there is then instant sensation; and
when the brain itself is not in a sound state to a certain extent, or
when the nerve which is diffused on a particular organ is, either at
this extremity of it, or in any part of its course, to a certain degree
impaired, then there is no sensation, though the same external causes
be applied. This very slight general knowledge of the circumstances
in which sensation takes place, and of the circumstances in which it
does NOT take place, is all the knowledge which physiology affords us
of the corporeal part of the process;--and it is likely to continue
so forever,--at least in all the more important respects of our
ignorance,--since any changes which occur in the corpuscular motion,
and consequent new arrangement of the particles of the substance of the
brain and nerves, corresponding with the diversities of feeling during
those particular states,--if such corpuscular motions or changes do
really take place,--are probably far too minute to be observable by our
organs; even though we could lay open all the internal parts of the
brain to complete observation, without destroying, or at all affecting,
the usual phenomena of life:--

    In “following life through creatures we dissect,
    We loose it, in the moment we detect.”

Indeed, we are not able to do even so much as this; for life has
already vanished, long before we have come upon the verge of its secret
precincts. It is like a Magician, that operates at a distance on every
side, but still keeps himself apart, within a narrow circle. If we
remain _without_ the circle, we may gaze with never-ceasing admiration,
on the wonders that play in rapid succession before our eyes. But, if
we rush within, to force an avowal, of the secret energy that produces
them, the enchanter and the enchantments alike are fled.

The brain, then, and the various nerves of sense in continuity with
it, may, when taken together, be considered as forming one great
organ, which I would term briefly the _sensorial_ organ, essential
to life, and to the immediate production of those mental phenomena
which constitute our sensations, and, perhaps, too, modifying in some
measure, directly or indirectly, all the other phenomena of the mind.

    “Dum mens alma caput cerebrique palatia celsa
    Occupat, et famulos sublimis dirigit artus,
    Et facili imperio nervorum flectit habenas,
    Illius ad nutum sensus extranea rerum
    Explorant signa, et studio exemplaria fido
    Ad dominam adducunt; vel qui statione locantur
    Vicina, capitisque tuentur limina, ocelli,
    Naresque, auriculæque, et vis arguta palati;
    Vel qui per totam currit sparso agmine molem
    Tactus, ad extremas speculator corporis aras.
    His sensim auxiliis instructa fidelibus, olim
    Mens humilis nulloque jacens ingloria cultu
    Carceris in tenebris mox sese attolit in auras
    Dives opum variarum, et sidera scandit Olympi.”

Of the nature of the connexion of this great sensorial organ with the
sentient mind, we never shall be able to understand more than is
involved in the simple fact, that a certain affection of the nervous
system precedes immediately a certain affection of the mind. But,
though we are accustomed to regard this species of mutual succession of
bodily and mental changes, as peculiarly inexplicable, from the very
different nature of the substances which are reciprocally affected,
it is truly not more so than any other case of succession of events,
where the phenomena occur in substances that are not different in their
properties, but analogous, or even absolutely similar; since, in no
one instance of this kind, can we perceive more than the uniform order
of the succession itself; and of changes, the successions of which are
all absolutely inexplicable, or, in other words, absolutely simple, and
unsusceptible, therefore, of further analysis, none can be justly said
to be more or less so than another. That a peculiar state of the mere
particles of the brain, should be followed by a change of state of the
sentient mind, is truly wonderful; but if we consider it strictly, we
shall find it to be by no means more wonderful, than that the arrival
of the moon, at a certain point of the heavens, should render the
state of a body on the surface of our earth, different from what it
otherwise would naturally be or that the state of every particle of our
globe, in its relative tendencies of gravitation, should be instantly
changed, as it unquestionably would be, by the destruction of the most
distant satellite of the most distant planet of our system, or probably
too, by the destruction even of one of those remotest of stars, which
are illuminating their own system of planets, so far in the depth of
infinity, that their light,--to borrow a well-known illustration of
sidereal distance,--may never yet have reached our earth, since the
moment at which they darted forth their first beams, in the creation
of the universe. We believe, indeed, with as much confidence, that one
event will uniformly have for its consequent another event, which we
have observed to follow it, as we believe the simple fact that it _has_
preceded it, in the particular case observed. But the knowledge of the
present sequence, as a mere fact, to be remembered, and the expectation
of future similar sequences, as the result of an original law of our
belief, are precisely of the same kind, whether the sequence of changes
be in mind, or in matter singly, or reciprocally in both.

_What_ the nature of the change is, that is produced at the extremity
of the nerve, it is beyond our power to state, or even to guess; and
we are equally ignorant of the manner in which this affection of the
nerve is communicated, or is supposed to be communicated, to the brain.
But that some affection is gradually propagated, from the one to the
other, so as to render the change in the state of the brain subsequent,
by a certain interval, to the change in the state of the nerve, is
universally believed. In applying to this change the term _impression_,
a term indeed which had been in common use before, Dr Reid is careful
to point out the reason for which this term appears to him preferable
to others; and though I confess that the word seems to me to convey too
much the notion of a peculiar well known species of action; that which
consists in producing a certain configuration of the object impressed,
corresponding with the figure of the impressing object, the very notion
that has had so pernicious an effect in the theory of perception; and
though I conceive the simple term _change_ or _affection_ to be all
which is safely admissible, as long as the nature of the particular
change is absolutely unknown; still it must be confessed that
_impression_ is a term a little more general than the other names of
action, to which Dr Reid alludes, and therefore preferable to them, in
the present case.

“There is sufficient reason,” he says, “to conclude, that, in
perception, the object produces some change in the organ; that the
organ produces some change upon the nerve; and that the nerve produces
some change in the brain. And we give the name of an _impression_ to
those changes, because we have not a name more proper to express, in a
general manner, any change produced in a body, by an external cause,
without specifying the nature of that change. Whether it be pressure,
or attraction, or repulsion, or vibration, or something unknown, for
which we have no name, still it may be called an impression. But
with regard to the particular kind of this change or impression,
philosophers have never been able to discover any thing at all.”[70]

That the word _impression_ is not so free, as Dr Reid supposes, from
that hypothetical meaning which he wished to avoid, I have already
remarked. But the reason assigned by him for his preference of it, is
unquestionably a just one; since a phrase which expresses the least
possible knowledge, must be allowed to be the best suited to human
ignorance,--that ignorance, which, not in the philosophy of intellect
only, but in whatever track of science we may proceed, and whatever
truths we may proudly discover in our way, still meets us at the end
of every path, as if to mock at once our weakness and our pride,--and
which seems to us to be every where, because it is, wherever we are
ourselves. The splendour of nature, as it exists in itself, is, if I
may speak figuratively, like sunshine on a boundless plain, on the
flowers and herbage of which, though there be innumerable varieties of
colour, there is brilliancy in all. But the misfortune is, that, as
soon as we have approached near enough to distinguish the diversity of
tints, their brilliancy is so obscured by our very approach to them,
that their nice diversities are no longer distinguishable; as if man
could not move along, without throwing his own shadow on every thing
before him.

When I say, that we are ignorant of the nature of that change, which
is propagated along the nerve to the brain, I speak in reference to
an opinion that is universal. But, though it may be _improbable_,
it is certainly far from _impossible_, that there is really no such
progressive communication, as this which is supposed. The brain and
nerves, though, from the difference of names, you might be led,
perhaps, to consider them as distinct, I have already said, are not
separate organs, but are in continuity with each other, at least as
much as various parts of the brain itself, which are comprehended under
that single term, can be said to be continuous. When taken together,
they form what is truly one complicated sensorial organ,--the organ
of all our sensations, according to the different states in which the
organ exists, or the different parts of it which are chiefly affected.
In _hearing_, for example, a certain state of that part of the
sensorial organ, which constitutes the auditory nerves,--in vision, a
certain state of that part of it, which constitutes the optic nerves,
is necessary to sensation,--and, in both cases, according to the
universal supposition on the subject, all or part of the brain likewise
must exist in a certain state, of which we know nothing more, than that
it is followed, in the one case, by the sensation of sound, in the
other case by that of sight. The connexion of the mind with the bodily
frame,--which must be equally inexplicable on every supposition that
can be formed,--is not supposed, by any philosopher, to depend on the
state of a single physical point of the brain alone; and, if it extend
to more than _one_ such point, there is nothing,--in the nature of
the connexion itself, independently of experience,--which necessarily
limits it to one portion of the complex sensorial organ, more than to
_another_,--to the particles of the central mass of the brain, for
example, more than to those of the nerve itself. It is experience,
then, to which we are referred; and experience, though it shows that
certain nerves are not essential to _life_, since life continues
equally, after they may have been impaired, or even destroyed, is far
from showing that an affection of them is not essential to _sensation_,
at the very moment of the particular sensation; nor does it afford
even the slightest evidence, to justify the belief, that the _only_
use of the nerve is to communicate a certain affection to the brain,
which affection of the mere central part of the sensorial organ,
would, of itself, immediately induce sensation, though the nerves
were annihilated in the preceding instant. The sensation may be the
immediate effect, not of the state of the brain only, but of the state
of the brain, and of any particular nerve, considered as existing
together at the moment; in the same manner, as, by those who ascribe
the immediate origin of sensation to the mere brain, exclusive of its
nervous appendages, it is supposed to depend on the state, not of
_one_ physical point of the central brain, but on the state of many
such co-existing points. We know not, to what extent, in the great
sensorial organ, this change is necessary; but we believe, that, to
_some extent_, it is necessary; and the question is, whether, in the
whole portion so affected, the affection be produced by a succession of
changes, propagated from part to part? This may, perhaps, be the more
probable supposition:--but, whatever may be the comparative probability
or improbability, it certainly has not been demonstrated by observation
or experiment; nor can there be said to be, _a priori_, any absurdity
in the opposite supposition, that the sensorial affection, to whatever
extent it may be necessary, is not progressive, but immediate,--that,
as long as the sensorial organ, (under which term I comprehend, as
I have already frequently repeated, not the brain merely, but also
its nervous appendages, that exist in apparent continuity with the
brain,) is unimpaired, by accident or disease, the presence of the
immediate object of sense, at the external organ, which on every
supposition, must be followed by some sensorial change of state, is
instantly followed by that general change of state of the internal
organ, whatever it may be, which is necessary to sensation, in the
particular case; in the same manner, as the presence of a celestial
body, at a certain point in the heavens, is immediately followed by
a change of state, in the whole gravitating particles of our globe;
the change in any long line of these gravitating particles being not
communicated from each to each, but depending only on the presence of
the distant sun or planet; and beginning in the most remote particles
of the line, at the very same instant, as in that which is nearest,
on the surface of the earth. An instant change, in the long line
of sensorial particles,--if the affection of a long line of these
particles be necessary,--on the presence of a particular object, is not
more improbable in itself, than this instant and universal influence of
gravitation, that varies with all the varying positions of a distant

But is it, indeed, certain, that, in sensation, there is an affection
of the central brain, whether immediate or progressive? Is it not
possible, at least, or more than possible, that the state of the mind,
when we perceive colours and sounds, may be the immediate consequent
of the altered state of that part of the sensorial organ, which forms
the expansion of the nerve in the eye or ear? The sensations must be
supposed, in every theory, to be the consequents of states induced in
some sensorial particles, and there is nothing but the mere names of
brain and nerve, invented by ourselves, and the notions which we have
chosen, without evidence, to attach to these mere names, which would
mark the sensorial particles in the nervous expanse itself, as less
fitted to be the immediate antecedents of sight and hearing, than the
similar sensorial particles in any portion of the central mass of the
brain. There is no reason, in short _a priori_, for supposing that a
state of the sensorial particles of the nerves cannot be the cause
of sensation, and that the sensation must be the effect of a state
equally unknown, of apparently similar particles, in that other part
of the general sensorial organ, which we have denominated the brain.
Sensation, indeed, is prevented by decay, or general disease of the
brain, or by separation of the nerve, or pressure on it, in any part of
its course. But it is far from improbable, that these causes, which
must evidently be injurious to the organ, may act, merely by preventing
that sound state of the nerve, which is necessary for sensation, and
which, in an organ so very delicate, may be affected by the slightest
influences,--by influences far slighter, than may naturally be expected
to result from such an injury of such a part. The nerves and brain,
together, form one great organ; and a sound state of the whole organ,
even from the analogy of other grosser organs, may well be supposed
to be necessary for the healthy state and perfect function of each
separate part.

If, indeed, the appearance of the brain and nerves were such, as marked
them to be peculiarly fitted for the communication of motion of any
sort, there might be some presumption, from this very circumstance,
in favour of the opinion, that sensation takes place, only after a
progressive series of affections of some sort, propagated along the
nerve to the interior brain. But it must be remembered, that the
nature, both of the substance of the nerves themselves, and of the
soft and lax substance, in which they are loosely embedded, renders
them very ill adapted for the communication of nice varieties of
motion, and gives some additional likelihood, therefore, to the
supposition, that affections of the sensorial organ, so distinct as
our sensations are from each other, and so exactly corresponding
with the slightest changes of external objects, do _not_ depend on
the progressive communication of faint and imperceptible motion, in
circumstances so unfavourable to the uninterrupted progress even of
that more powerful motion, which can be measured by the eye. In a
case so doubtful as this, however, in which the intervening changes
supposed by philosophers,--if such a progressive series of motions do
really take place,--are confessed to be beyond our observation, it
is impossible for any one, who has a just sense of the limits, which
nature has opposed to our search, to pronounce with certainty, or
even perhaps with that faint species of belief, which we give to mere
probability. My conjectures on the subject, therefore, I state simply
as conjectures, and nothing more.

If, indeed, what is but a mere conjecture could be shown to be well
founded, it would add another case to the innumerable instances, in
which philosophers have laboured, for ages, to explain what did not
exist,--contenting themselves, after their long toil, with the skill
and industry which they have exhibited, in removing difficulties,
which they had before, with great skill and industry, placed in their
own way. “I am not so much convinced of our radical ignorance,” says an
ingenious writer, “by the things that _are_, of which the nature is hid
from us, as by the things that _are_ not, of which notwithstanding we
contrive to give a very tolerable account; for this shews that we are
not merely without the principles which lead to truth, but that there
are other principles in our nature, which can accommodate themselves
very well, and form a close connexion, with what is positively false.”

But whatever reason there may be for removing this supposed link of
the corporeal part of the process of sensation, there is another prior
link, which it appears to me of great importance to separate from the
chain. I allude to the distinction, which is commonly made, of the
objects of sense, as acting themselves on our organs, or as acting
through what is termed a _medium_.

“A second law of our nature,” says Dr Reid, “regarding perception is,
that we perceive no object, unless some impression is made upon the
organ of sense, either by the immediate application of the object, or
by some medium which passes between the object and the organ. In two
of our senses, to wit, _touch_ and _taste_, there must be an immediate
application of the object to the organ. In the other three, the object
is perceived at a distance, but still by means of a medium, by which
some impression is made upon the organ. The effluvia of bodies drawn
into the nostrils, with the breath, are the medium of smell; the
undulations of the air, are the medium of hearing; and the rays of
light passing from visible objects to the eye, are the medium of sight.
We see no object, unless rays of light come from it to the eye. We
hear not the sound of any body, unless the vibrations of some elastic
medium, occasioned by the tremulous motion of the sounding body, reach
our ear. We perceive no smell, unless the effluvia of the smelling body
enter into the nostrils. We perceive no taste, unless the sapid body be
applied to the tongue, or some part of the organ of taste. Nor do we
perceive any tangible quality of a body, unless it touch the hands, or
some part of our body.”[71]

It is evident, that, in these cases of a supposed medium, which Dr Reid
considers as forming so important a distinction of our sensations,
the real object of _sense_ is not the _distant_ object, but that
which acts immediately upon the organs,--the _light_ itself, not the
_sun_ which beams it on us,--the odorous particles, which the wind has
wafted to us from the rose, not the rose itself upon its stem,--the
vibrations of the air, within our ear, not the cannon that is fired
at the distance of miles. The light, the odour, the vibrating air,
by which alone our senses are affected, act on our nerves of sight,
of smell, and hearing, with an influence as direct, and as little
limited in the kind of action, as that with which the fruit, which we
eat or handle, acts on our nerves of taste or touch. This influence
of the objects immediately external is all, in which our organs of
sense, and consequently the mind as the principle of mere sensation,
is concerned. The reference to the distant sun, or rose, or cannon,
which alone leads us to speak of a medium in any of these cases, is
the effect of _another_ principle of our intellectual nature,--the
principle of association, or suggestion,--that is afterwards to be
considered by us, without which, indeed, our mere transient sensations
would be comparatively of little value; but which, as a quality or
susceptibility of the mind, is not to be confounded with that, by which
the mind becomes, instantly sentient, in consequence of a certain
change produced in the state of its sensorial organ.

Since, however, precisely the same series of changes must take place
in nature, whether we class the sun, the flower, the cannon, as the
objects of sense, or merely the light, the odorous particles, and the
vibrating air, it may perhaps be thought, that the distinction now
made is only a _verbal_ one, of no real importance. But it will not
appear such to those who are conversant with the different theories
of perception which we are afterwards to review; many of which, that
have had the greatest sway, and a sway the most fatal to the progress
of intellectual philosophy, appear, to me, to have arisen entirely, or
at least chiefly, from this very misconception as to the real external
object of sense. It is sufficient at present to allude to the effect,
which the mere _distance_ of the supposed object must have had, in
giving room to all the follies of imagination to fill up the interval.

It may be necessary, however, to remark by the way, that though I do
not conceive the bodies which act through a medium, as it is said to
be the real objects of the particular sense;--the immense orb of the
sun, for example, in all its magnitude, to be the object of that
small organ by which we are sensible of light; or the cannon, which
exists we know not where, to be the object of that organ by which we
are sensible of sound;--I am still far from objecting to the popular
and very convenient phraseology, by which we speak of seeing the
sun, and hearing the cannon--a phraseology that expresses briefly a
reference, which could not otherwise be expressed but by a very awkward
circumlocution, and to make any innovation in which would be as absurd,
as to reject the popular phrases of the sun's rising and setting merely
because they are inconsistent with our astronomical belief. The most
rigid philosophy can require no more, than that, when we talk of the
sun's actual setting, we should mean by it, only a certain position
relative to that great luminary at which the earth arrives in its
diurnal revolution,--and that, when we talk of seeing it descend,
we should mean nothing more, than that we see light of a certain
brilliancy, from which we infer the existence and relative position of
the orb that has projected it.

I have been led into these observations, on the various parts of the
corporeal process which precedes sensation, by the desire of removing,
as much as possible, any obscurity in which your notions on the subject
might be involved,--as I know well the influence which even a slight
confusion in our notion of any _part_ of a complicated process has,
in spreading, as it were, its own darkness and perplexity over parts
of the process, which otherwise we should have found no difficulty
in comprehending. You might think, that you knew less distinctly the
mental sensation itself, because you knew only obscurely the series of
bodily changes that precede sensation; but still it must be remembered,
that it is only the _last_ link of the corporeal chain,--the ultimate
affection of the sensorial organ, in whatever manner and to whatever
extent it may be affected,--immediately antecedent to the affection
of the mind, which is to be considered as that with which nature has
united the corresponding change in our mental frame. This mysterious
influence of our _bodily_ on our _mental_ part has been poetically
compared to that which the sun was supposed to exercise on a lyre,
that formed part of a celebrated Egyptian statue of Memnon, which was
said to become musical when struck with its beams; and though the poet
has extended the similitude, beyond our mere elementary sensations,
to the complex perception of beauty, it is still a very happy
illustration--as far as a mere poetic image can be an illustration--of
the power which matter exercises over the harmonies of mind:--

    “For as old Memnon's image, long renown
    By fabling Nilus, to the quivering touch
    Of Titan's ray with each repulsive string
    Consenting, sounded through the warbling air
    Unbidden strains,--even so did Nature's hand,
    To certain species of external things
    Attune the finer organs of the mind.
    So the glad impulse of congenial powers,
    Or of sweet sound, or fair proportion'd form,
    The grace of motion, or the bloom of light,
    Thrills through Imagination's tender frame,
    From nerve to nerve. All naked and alive,
    They catch the spreading rays; till now the soul
    At length discloses every tuneful spring,
    To that harmonious movement from without.
    Responsive. Then the charm, by Fate prepar'd
    Diffuses its enchantment.[72] Fancy dreams
    Of sacred fountains, and Elysian groves,
    And vales of bliss! the Intellectual Power
    Bends from his awful throne a wondering ear,
    And smiles; the Passions, gently soothed away,
    Sink to divine repose; and Love and Joy
    Alone are waking.”[73]

When we consider the variety of our feelings thus wonderfully
produced,--the _pleasures_, and, still more, the inexhaustible
_knowledge_, which arise, by this mysterious harmony, from the
imperceptible affection of a few particles of nervous matter, it is
impossible for us not to be impressed with more than admiration of that
Power, which even our ignorance, that is scarcely capable of seeing
any thing, is yet, by the greatest of all the bounties of heaven,
able to perceive and admire. In the creation of this internal world
of thought, the Divine Author of our being has known how to combine
_infinity itself_ with that which may almost be considered as the most
finite of things; and has repeated, as it were, in every mind, by the
almost creative sensibilities with which He has endowed it, that simple
but majestic act of omnipotence, by which, originally, He called from
the rude elements of chaos, or rather from nothing, all the splendid
glories of the universe.


[68] Gray de Princip, Cogit. lib. i. v. 48-50.

[69] Gray de Princip. Cogit. lib. i. v. 54-63.

[70] On the Intellectual Powers, Essay II. chap. ii.

[71] On the Intellectual Powers, Essay II. chap. ii.

[72] “Then the charm,” &c. to “enchantment,” from the second form of
the Poem. The corresponding clause, in the first form, from which all
the rest of the quotation is taken, is this,

                “Then the inexpressive strain
        Diffuses its enchantment.”

[73] Pleasures of Imagination, Book I. v. 109--131.



A considerable portion of my last Lecture, Gentlemen, was employed in
illustrating the _corporeal_ part of the process of perception, which,
though less immediately connected with our Science than the _mental_
part of the process, is still, from its intimate connexion with this
mental part, not to be altogether neglected by the intellectual
inquirer. The importance of clear notions of the mere _organic changes_
is, indeed, most strikingly exemplified in the very false theories of
perception which have prevailed, and in some measure still prevail; and
which evidently, in part at least, owe their origin to those confused
notions, to which I alluded in my last Lecture, of the objects of
perception, as supposed to operate at a distance through a medium, and
of complicated series of changes supposed to take place in the nerves
and brain.

In considering the Phenomena of our Mind, as they exist when we are
capable of making them subjects of reflection, I mentioned to you, in
a former Lecture, that although we have to encounter many additional
difficulties, in consequence of early associations, that modify forever
after our original elementary feelings, with an influence that is
inappreciable by us, because it is truly unperceived, there are yet
some advantages, which though they do not fully compensate this evil,
at least enable us to make some deduction from its amount. The benefit
to which I allude, is found chiefly in the class of phenomena which we
are now considering,--a class, indeed, which otherwise we should not
have regarded as half so comprehensive as it truly is, since, but for
our previous belief of the existence of a permanent and independent
system of external things acquired from other sources, we should have
classed by far the greater number of the feelings, which we now refer
to _sense_, among those which arise spontaneously in the mind, without
any cause external to the mind itself.

Though the sensations, which arise from affections of the same
organ--as those of warmth and extension for example, or at least the
feeling of warmth and a tactual feeling, that is commonly supposed to
involve extension, from affections of the same nerves of touch,--are
not, in every case, more analogous to each other, than the sensations
which arise from affections of different organs,--and though, if we
were to consider the sensations alone, therefore, without reference to
their organs, we might not form precisely the same classification as at
present,--the division, according to the organs affected, in most cases
corresponds, so exactly, with that which we should make, in considering
the mere sensations as affections of the mind, and affords in itself a
principle of classification, so obvious and definite, that we cannot
hesitate, in preferring it to any other which we might attempt to form.
In the arrangements of every science, it is of essential consequence,
that the lines of difference, which distinguish one class from another,
should be well marked; and this advantage is peculiarly important in
the science of mind, the objects of which do not, as in the other great
department of nature outlast inquiry, but are, in every case, so very
shadowy and fugitive, as to flit from us, in the very glance, that
endeavours to catch their almost imperceptible outline.

In examining, then, according to their organs, our classes of
sensation; and considering what feelings the organic affections
excite _at present_, and what we may suppose them to have excited
_originally_,--I shall begin with those which are most simple, taking
them in the order of smell, taste, hearing,--not so much, from any
hope, that the information, which these afford will throw any great
light on the more complex phenomena of sight and touch, as because the
consideration of them is easier, and may prepare you gradually for this
difficult analysis, which awaits us afterwards, in the examination of
those more perplexing phenomena.

I begin, then, with the consideration of that very simple order of our
sensations which we ascribe to our organ of


The organ of smell, as you well know, is principally in the
nostrils,--and partly also in some continuous cavities on which a
portion of the olfactory nerves is diffused.

    Naribus interea consedit odora hominum vis
    Docta leves captare auras, Panchaia quales
    Vere novo exhalat, Floræve quod oscula fragrant
    Roscida, cum Zephyri furtim sub vesperis hora
    Respondet votis, mollemque aspirat amorem.[74]

When the particles of odour affect our nerves of smell, a certain state
of mind is produced, varying with the nature of the odoriferous body.
The mere existence of this state, is all the information which we could
originally have received from it, if it had been excited previously to
our sensations of a different class. But, with our present knowledge,
it seems immediately to communicate to us much more important
information. We are not merely sensible of the particular feeling, but
we refer it, in the instant,--almost in the same manner, as if the
reference itself were involved in the sensation,--to a rose, hemlock,
honeysuckle, or any other substance, agreeable or disagreeable; the
immediate presence, or vicinity of which we have formerly found to
be attended with this particular sensation. The power of making the
reference, however, is unquestionably derived from a source different
from that, from which the mere sensation is immediately derived. We
must previously have seen, or handled, the rose, the hemlock, the
honeysuckle; or if, without making this particular reference, we
merely consider our sensation of smell as caused by some unknown
object external to our mind, we must at least have previously seen or
handled some other bodies, which excited, at the same time, sensations
analogous to the present. If we had been endowed with the sense of
smell, and with no other sense whatever, the sensations of this class
would have been simple feelings of pleasure or pain, which we should as
little have ascribed to an external cause, as any of our spontaneous
feelings of joy or sorrow, that are equally lasting or equally
transient. Even at present, after the connexion of our sensations of a
fragrance with the bodies which we term fragrant, has been, in a great
measure, fixed in our mind, by innumerable reflections, we still, if
we attend to the process of the reference itself, are conscious of a
suggestion of remembrance, and can separate the sensation, as a mere
feeling of the mind, from the knowledge of the object or external
cause of the sensation, which seems to us a subsequent state of the
mind, however close the succession may be. Indeed, what is there which
we can discover, in the mere sensation of fragrance, that is itself
significant of solidity, extension, or what ever we may regard as
essential to the existence of things without? As a mere change in the
form of our being, it may suggest to us the necessity of some cause or
antecedent of the change. But it is far from implying the necessity
of a corporeal cause;--any more than such a direct corporeal cause
is implied in any other modification of our being, intellectual or
moral,--in our belief, for example, of the most abstract truth, at
which we may have arrived by a slow developement of proposition after
proposition, in a process of internal reflective analysis,--or in the
most refined and sublime of our emotions, when, without thinking of any
one of the objects around, we have been meditating on the Divinity who
formed them--himself the purest of spiritual existences. Our belief of
a system of external things, then, does not, as far as we can judge
from the nature of the feelings, arise from our sensations of smell,
more than from any of our internal pleasures or pains; but we class our
sensations of smell as sensations, because we have previously believed
in a system of external things, and have found, by uniform experience,
that the introduction of some new external body, either felt or seen
by us, was the antecedent, of those states of mind which we denominate
sensations of smell, and not of those internal pains or pleasures,
which we therefore distinguish from them, as the spontaneous affections
of our own independent mind.


With the organ of _taste_ you are all sufficiently acquainted.
In considering the phenomena, which it presents, in the peculiar
sensations that directly flow from it, it is necessary to make some
little abstraction from the sensation of _touch_, which accompanies
them, in consequence of the immediate application of the tangible
sapid body to the organ; but the sensations, thus co-existing, are so
very different in themselves, as to be easily distinguishable. When
the organ of taste is in a sound state, the application of certain
substances produces, immediately, that change or affection of the
sensorial organs, which is attended with a corresponding change or
affection of the sentient mind. In our present state of knowledge,
we immediately refer this simple sensation, to something, which is
bitter, or sweet, or acrid, or of some other denomination of sapid
quality; and we have no hesitation, in classing the sensations _as
sensations_,--effects of laws of action that belong jointly to matter
and mind,--not as feelings that arise in the mind, from its own
independent constitution. But, if we attend sufficiently to the feeling
that arises in the case of taste, we shall find, however immediate the
reference to a sapid body may seem to be, that it is truly successive
to the simple sensation, and is the mere suggestion of former
experience, when a body previously recognized by us as an external
substance, was applied to our organ of taste;--in the same manner, as,
when we see ashes and dying embers, we immediately infer some previous
combustion, which we could not have inferred, if combustion itself had
been a phenomenon altogether unknown to us. In the simple sensation
which precedes the reference,--the mere pleasure of sweetness or the
mere pain of bitterness--there is nothing which seems to mark more
distinctly the presence of honey or wormwood, or any similar external
substance, than in any of our joys or sorrows, to which we have not
given a name; and there can be no doubt, that, if the particular
feeling which we now term _joy_, and the particular feeling which we
now term _sorrow_, had been excited, whenever we knew, from other
sources, that certain bodies were applied to the tongue, we should
have considered these internal feelings as sensations, in the strict
sense of the word, precisely in the same manner, as we now regard, as
sensations, the feeling which we term sweetness, and the feeling which
we term bitterness, because, like these sensations, they could not
have failed to suggest to us, by the common influence of association,
the presence and direct coincidence of the object without. In the case
of _taste_, therefore, as in the case of smell, we could not, from
the simple sensations,--if these alone had been given to us,--have
derived any knowledge of an external world, of substances extended
and resisting; but we consider them as sensations, in the strict
philosophic meaning of the term, because we have previously acquired
our belief of an external world.

It may be remarked of these two classes of sensations, now considered,
that they have a greater mutual resemblance, than our sensations of any
other kind. It is only a _blind_ man who thinks, that what is called
_scarlet_ is like the sound of a trumpet; but there are _tastes_ which
we consider as like _smells_, in the same manner as we consider them to
be like other tastes; and, if we had not acquired a distinct knowledge
of the seats of our different organs, and had yet known that smells
and tastes arose from external causes acting upon some one or other of
these, we should probably have been greatly puzzled, in many cases, in
our attempt to refer the particular sensation to its particular organ.

In considering the advantages which we derive from our organs of
_smell_ and _taste_, the mere pleasures which they directly afford, as
a part of the general happiness of life, are to be regarded, from their
frequent occurrence, as of no considerable amount. The fragrance of the
fields enters largely into that obscure but delightful group of images,
which rise in our minds on the mere names of _spring_, _summer_, the
_country_, and seems to represent the very form of ethereal purity, as
if it were the breath of heaven itself.

If we imagine all the innumerable flowers which nature pours out,
like a tribute of incense to the God who is adorning her, again to
be stripped, in a single moment, of their odour, though they were to
retain all their bright diversities of colouring, it would seem as
if they were deprived of a spirit which animates them,--how cold and
dead would they instantly become,--and how much should we lose of that
vernal joy, which renders the season of blossoms almost a new life to

    “In vain the golden Morn aloft
      Waves her dew-bespangled wing;
    With vermeil cheek and whisper soft
      She woos the tardy Spring;
    Till April starts, and calls around
    The sleeping fragrance from the ground,”[75]

It is by this delightful quality that the tribes of vegetable life seem
to hold a sort of social and spiritual communion with us. It is, as it
were, the voice with which they address us, and a voice which speaks
only of happiness. To him who walks among the flowers which he has

            “Each odoriferous leaf,
    Each opening blossom, freely breathes abroad
    Its gratitude, and thanks him with its sweets.”

The pleasures of the sense of _taste_, in the moderate enjoyment of
which there is nothing reprehensible, are, in a peculiar manner,
associated with family happiness. To have met frequently at the same
board, is no small part of many of the delightful remembrances of
friendship; and to meet _again_ at the same board, after years of
absence, is a pleasure that almost makes atonement for the long and
dreary interval between. In some half-civilized countries, in which the
influence of simple feelings of this kind is at once more forcible in
itself, and less obscured in the confusion of ever varying frivolities
and passions, this hospitable bond forms, as you well know, one of the
strongest ties of mutual obligation, sufficient often to check the
impetuosity of vindictive passions which no other remembrance could, in
the moment of fury, restrain. Had there been no _pleasure_ attached to
a repast, independent of the mere relief from the pain of hunger, the
coarse and equal food would probably have been taken by each individual
_apart_, and might even, like our other animal necessities, have been
associated with feelings which would have rendered solitude a duty of
external decorum. It would not be easy, even for those who have been
accustomed to trace a simple cause through all its remotest operations,
to say, how much of happiness, and how much even of the warm tenderness
of virtue, would be destroyed, by the change of manners, which should
simply put an end to the _social meal_; that meal which now calls all
the members of a family to suspend their cares for a while, and to
enjoy that cheerfulness, which is best reflected from others, and which
can be permanent only when it is so reflected, from _soul_ to _soul_,
and from _eye_ to _eye_.

One very important advantage, more directly obvious than this, and
of a kind which every one may be disposed more readily to admit, is
afforded by our senses of smell and taste, in guiding our _selection_
of the substances which we take as alimentary. To the other animals,
whose senses of this order are so much quicker, and whose instincts,
in accommodation to their want of general language, and consequent
difficulty of acquiring knowledge by mutual communication, are
providentially allotted to them, in a degree, and of a kind, far
surpassing the instincts of the slow but noble reflector _man_, these
senses seem to furnish _immediate_ instruction as, to the substances
proper for nourishment, to the exclusion of those which would be
noxious. To _man_, however, who is under the guardianship of affections
more beneficial to him than any instinct of his own could be, there is
no reason to believe, that they do this _primarily_, and of themselves,
though, in the state in which he is brought up, instructed with respect
to every thing noxious or salutary, by those who watch constantly
over him in the early period of his life, and having, therefore, no
necessity to appeal to the mere discrimination of his own independent
organs, and, still more, as in the artificial state of things, in which
he lives, his senses are at once perplexed and palled, by the variety
and confusion of luxurious preparation, it is not easy to say, how far
his primary instincts,--if it had not been the high and inevitable
dignity of his nature to rise above these,--might, of themselves, have
operated as directors. But, whatever their _primary_ influence may be,
the _secondary_ influence of his organs of taste and smell is not the
less important. When we have once completely learned what substances
are noxious, and what are salutary, we then, however similar they may
be in their other sensible qualities, discriminate these as often as
they are again presented to us, by that _taste_ or _smell_, which they
affect with different sensations; and our acquired knowledge has thus
ultimately, in guiding our choice, the force and the vivacity of an
original instinct.


In considering the phenomena of the sense of hearing, to which I now
proceed, I may apply to them the same remark, which has been already
applied to the phenomena of the senses before considered. They are
classed by us, as sensations, merely in consequence of our previous
belief in the existence of those external bodies, the motion of which
we have known to be followed by similar feelings. Our mind begins
suddenly to exist in a certain state; and we call this state joy or
sorrow, without supposing that it depends on the immediate presence of
any external object. It begins again to exist, in a different state,
and we say, that we _hear a flute_, referring the feeling immediately
to an external cause. But there can be no doubt, that, in making this
reference, in the one case, and not in the other, we are influenced by
experience, and by experience alone. If we suppose ourselves endowed
with the single sense of hearing, and incapable therefore of having
previously seen or felt the flute, which is breathed before us, or
any other extended and resisting object whatever, we may imagine the
mere sound to recur, innumerable times, without discovering any mode
by which it can give us _more_ knowledge, than we should receive from
a similar recurrence of any internal joy or sorrow. That we should
be able to refer it to a body, such as we now mean, when we speak of
a flute, is manifestly impossible; since this implies knowledge of
_solidity_, and _form_, and _colour_, which could not be acquired
without touch and sight. But there seems even no reason to think, that
we should refer it to any external cause whatever, unless, indeed, such
a reference necessarily accompanied every feeling, which we know is far
from being the case, since we have many internal pleasures, not more
like to each other, than they are to the sound of a flute, which we do
not refer to any thing, separate or separable, from the constitution
of our own mind. In _hearing_, therefore, as in taste and smell, we do
not derive from its sensations our knowledge of things external, but,
in consequence of our knowledge of things external, we regard these
feelings, as sensations, in the common philosophic meaning of that term.

Simple as our sense of hearing may seem, it affords a striking
specimen of that almost infinite variety, which is not inconsistent
with the closest resemblance; and the notion which we may form of the
innumerable varieties of sound, is perhaps not more vast, when we
attempt to wander over its boundless discrepancies, than when we limit
ourselves to its greatest similarities, in a single word of a language,
or, in that which we might be inclined at first to regard as simplicity
itself, a single _musical tone_.

“A flute, a violin, a hautboy, and a French horn,” it has been truly
remarked, “may all sound the same tone, and be easily distinguishable.
Nay, if twenty _human voices_ sound the same note, and with equal
strength, there will still be some difference. The _same_ voice,
while it retains its proper distinctions, may be varied many ways,
by sickness or health, youth or age, leanness or fatness, good or
bad humour. The _same words_, spoken by foreigners and natives,
nay, by different provinces of the same nation, may be very easily

When we speak of the value of this sense as a part of our mental
constitution, it is enough to say, that it is to it we are indirectly
indebted for the use of verbal language,--that power so peculiarly
_distinctive of man_, that, in the poetical phraseology of one
celebrated country, it gave him his name as a _divider of the voice_,
or, in other words, an utterer of articulate sounds. If we consider
speech simply as a medium of the reciprocal expression of present
feelings to the little society of citizens and friends of which we
are a part, even in this limited view, of what inestimable value does
it appear! To communicate to every one around us, in a single moment,
the happiness which we feel ourselves,--to express the want, which we
have full confidence, will be relieved as soon as it is known,--or to
have the still greater privilege of being ourselves the ministers of
comfort to wants, which otherwise could not have been relieved by us,
because they could not have been discovered,--when the heart which we
love is weighed down with imaginary grief, to have it in our power, by
a few simple sounds, to convert anguish itself into rapture,--these
are surely no slight advantages; and yet compared with the benefit
which it affords to man as an _intellectual_ being, even these are in
considerable. To be without language, spoken or written, is almost to
be without thought; and if, not an individual only, living among his
fellows whose light may be reflected upon him, but our whole race had
been so constituted, it is scarcely possible to conceive that beings,
whose instincts are so much less various and powerful than those of
the other animals, could have held over them that dominion, which they
now so easily exercise. Wherever two human beings, therefore, are
to be found, there language is. We must not think, in a speculative
comparison of this sort, of mere savage life; for the rudest savages
would be as much superior to a race of beings without speech, as
the most civilized nations at this moment are, compared with the
half-brutal wanderers of forests and deserts, whose ferocious ignorance
seems to know little more than how to destroy and be destroyed. Even
these are still associated in tribes, that concert together verbally
their schemes of havoc and defence; and employ, in deliberating on the
massacre of beings as little human as themselves, or the plunder of a
few huts, that seem to contain nothing but misery and the miserable,
the same glorious instrument with which Socrates brought wisdom down
from heaven to earth, and Newton made the heavens themselves, and all
the wonders which they contain, descend, as it were to be grasped and
measured by the feeble arm of man.

Such are the benefits of language, even in its fugitive state; but the
noblest of all the benefits which it confers, is in that permanent
transmission of thought, which gives to each individual the powers
and the wisdom of his species; or, rather,--for the united powers and
wisdom of his species, as they exist in myriads, at the same moment
with himself, upon the globe, would be comparatively a trifling
endowment,--it gives him the rich inheritance of the accumulated
acquisitions of all the multitudes, who, like himself, in every
preceding age, have inquired, and meditated, and patiently discovered,
or by the happy inspiration of genius, have found truths which they
scarcely sought, and penetrated, with the rapidity of a single glance,
those depths of nature, which the weak steps and dim torch-light of
generations after generations had vainly laboured to explore. By that
happy invention, which we owe indirectly to the ear, the boundaries of
time seem to be at once removed. Nothing is _past_; for every thing
lives, as it were, before us. The thoughts of beings who had trod the
most distant soil, in the most distant period, arise again in our mind,
with the same warmth and freshness as when they first awoke to life in
the bosom of their author. That system of perpetual transmigration,
which was but a fable, as believed by Pythagoras,--becomes reality when
it is applied, not to the _soul_ itself, but to its feelings. There
is then a _true metempsychosis_, by which the poet and the sage, in
spreading their conceptions and emotions from breast to breast, may be
said to extend their existence through an ever-changing immortality.
Who does not feel the justness of what Lucan says, when he speaks
of the events of Pharsalia, and predicts the lively feelings with
which they are afterwards to be regarded, not as past, and therefore
indifferent, but as present, and almost future:

    “Hæc et apud seras gentes, populosque nepotum,
    Sive sua tantum venient in secula fama,--
    Sive aliquid magnis nostri quoque cura laboris
    Nominibus prodesse potest,--cum bella legentur,
    Spesque metusque simul, perituraque vota movebunt;
    Attonitique omnes, veluti _venientia_ fata
    Non _transmissa_ legent, et _adhuc_ tibi magni favebunt.”[77]

“There is without all doubt,” as has been justly observed, “a chain of
the thoughts of human kind, from the origin of the world down to the
moment at which we exist,--a chain not less universal than that of the
generation of every being that lives. Ages have exerted their influence
on ages; nations on nations; truths on errors; errors on truths.” In
conformity with this idea of the generation of thought, I may remark,
that we are in possession of opinions,--which, perhaps, regulate our
life in its most important moral concerns, or in all its intellectual
pursuits,--with respect to which, we are as ignorant of the original
authors, by whom they have been silently and imperceptibly transmitted
to us from mind to mind, as we are ignorant of those ancestors, on
whose existence in the thousands of years which preceded our entrance
into the world, our life itself has depended, and without whom,
therefore, _we_ should not have been.

The unlimited transmission of thought, which the invention of language
allows, brings the universe of _mind_ into that point of view, in
which an eloquent living French author has considered the _physical_
universe,--as exhibiting, at once, all its splendid varieties of
events, and uniting, as it were, in a single moment the wonders of
eternity. “Combine,” says he, “by your imagination, all the fairest
appearances of things. Suppose that you see, at once, all the hours
of the day, and all the seasons of the year,--a morning of spring
and of autumn,--a night brilliant with stars, and a night obscure
with clouds,--meadows, enamelled with flowers,--fields, waving with
harvest,--woods, heavy with the frosts of winter,--you will then have a
just notion of the spectacle of the universe. Is it not wondrous, that
while _you_ are admiring the sun, who is plunging beneath the vault of
the west, _another_ observer is beholding him as he quits the regions
of the east,--in the same instant reposing, weary, from the dust of the
evening, and awaking, fresh and youthful, in the dews of morn! there is
not a moment of the day, in which the same sun is not rising, shining
in his zenith, and setting on the world! or, rather, our senses abuse
us, and there is no rising, nor setting, nor zenith, nor east, nor
west; but all is one fixed point, at which every species of light is
beaming at once from the unalterable orb of day.”

In like manner,--If I may venture to consider the phenomena of the
mind in the same fanciful point of view,--every moment may be said
to be exhibiting the birth, and progress, and decay of thought.
Infancy, maturity, old age, death, are mingled, as it were, in one
universal scene. The opinions which are perishing in one mind, are
rising in another; and often, perhaps, at the last fading ray of the
flame of genius, that may have almost dazzled the world with excess
of brilliancy, some star may be kindling, which is to shine upon the
intellectual universe with equal light and glory:--[78]

    “Flowers of the sky! ye, too, to age must yield,
    Frail, as your silken sisters of the field!
    Star after star from Heaven's high arch shall rush;
    Suns sink on suns, and systems systems crush;
    Headlong, extinct, to one dark centre fall,
    And Death, and Night, and Chaos, mingle all!
    ----Till, o'er the wreck, emerging from the storm,
    Immortal Nature lifts her changeful form;
    Mounts from her funeral pyre on wings of flame,
    And soars, and shines,--another, and the same.”

Such are the benefits resulting from that happiest of all inventions,
which we may be said to owe to our sense of Hearing,--if, indeed, it be
an _invention_ of man, and not rather, as many have thought, a _coeval
power_, bestowed on him by his provident Creator at the very moment
which gave him life. But still, whether original or invented, the ear
must equally have been its primary recipient. We have seen, in the
view which we have taken of it, that of our more social intercourse
it constitutes the chief delight,--giving happiness to hours, the
wearying heaviness of which must otherwise have rendered existence
an insupportable burthen; and that, in its more important character,
as fixed, in the imperishable records which are transmitted, in
uninterrupted progression, from the generation which passes away to
the generation that succeeds, it gives to the individual _man_, the
product of all the creative energies of _mankind_; extending, even to
the humblest intellect, which can still mix itself with the illustrious
dead, that privilege, which has been poetically allotted to the
immortality of genius, of being “the citizen of every country, and the
contemporary of every age.”


[74] Gray de Principiis Cogitandi, Lib. I. v. 130-134.

[75] Gray on the Pleasure arising from Vicissitude, Stanza I.--In v. i.
the original has, instead of “in vain,” “now.”

[76] Reid's Inquiry into the Human Mind, c. iv. sect. 1.

[77] Pharsalia, lib. vii. v. 207--213.

[78] Darwin's Botanic Garden, Canto IV. v. 371--380.



Gentlemen, after considering, in a former Lecture, some states of mind,
which arise immediately from affections of our nerves, and which,
therefore, I can see no reason for classing apart from our other
sensations, I proceeded, in my last Lecture, to consider the feelings,
which are more commonly termed sensations, beginning with the most
simple of these, in the order of _smell_, _taste_, and _hearing_.

In the elucidation of these, my great object was to show, that there is
nothing, in the mere states of mind, that constitutes the sensations of
fragrance, sweetness, sound, which could have led us to ascribe them to
corporeal objects as their causes,--more than in any of our internal
joys or sorrows,--if we had had no other means of acquiring knowledge
of those causes, than are afforded by the sensations themselves,--that,
in short, we consider them as sensations, or external affections of the
mind, because we have previously believed in an external world,--not
that we believe in an external world, merely because we have had those
particular sensations.

The various advantages, which these three senses afford, I endeavoured
to point out to you; and, in particular occupied a great part of my
Lecture, in illustrating the advantages for which we are indebted to
our organ of _hearing_, as the medium of _language_, and by it, more or
less directly, not of the high acquisitions of science and civilization
only, but of the rudest forms of social communication, and almost of
social existence.

After the remarks on this advantage received from _language_, which
is unquestionably, and beyond all comparison, the most inestimable
benefit which the sense of hearing affords,--it would be improper to
omit wholly the mention of the pleasure, which we receive from it, as
a source of _musical_ delight,--of that expression of feeling, which
itself, almost like verbal discourse, may be said to be a language,
since it is the utterance of thought and emotion from heart to
heart,--but which has a voice, as independent of the mere arbitrary
_forms of speech_, as the tears of gratitude, or the smiles of love,
that may indeed, give eloquence to _words_, but require no _words_ to
render _them_ eloquent. Though, when very strictly considered, even the
pure, and almost spiritual delight of music, may perhaps be counted
only a pleasure of sense, it yet approaches, by so many striking
analogies, to the nature of our intellectual enjoyments, that it may
almost be said to belong to that class; and though,--relatively to
minds that are capable of enjoyments more truly intellectual,--it is to
be considered as a mere pastime or relaxation, it assumes a far higher
character, in its relation to the general pleasures of common minds,
and may be said, at least, to be the _intellectual luxury_ of those,
who are incapable of any other luxury, that deserves so honourable a
name. And it is well, that there should be some intermediate pleasure
of this sort, to withdraw for a while the dull and the sensual, from
the grosser existence in which they may be sunk, and to give them some
glimpses, at least, of a state of purer enjoyment, than that which is
to be derived from the sordid gains, and sordid luxuries, of common

Of the influence,--whether salutary or injurious,--which music has
upon the general character,--when cultivated, to great refinement,
and so universally as almost to become a part of the habit of daily
social life,--it is not, at present, the place to speak. But of its
_temporary_ influence, as a source of tranquillizing delight, there
can be no doubt,--nor, perhaps too, of its occasional efficacy, in
exciting emotions of a stronger kind, when peculiar circumstances may
have predisposed to them in a very high degree. But there can be as
little doubt, that by far the greater number of anecdotes of this kind,
which have been handed down in ancient history, are as fabulous, as the
existence of that _god of music_, to whose miraculous influence alone,
they could, with any decent appearance of epic or dramatic truth, have
been ascribed.

    “Hear, how Timotheus' varied lays surprise,
    And bid alternate passions fall and rise;
    While at each change, the son of Lybian Jove
    Now burns with glory, and then melts with love,--
    Now his fierce eyes with sparkling fury glow,
    Now, sighs steal out, and tears begin to flow;
    Persians and Greeks like turns of nature found,
    And the world's victor stood subdued--by sound!”[79]

On these lines, which allude to the celebrated ode of Dryden,--who
adapted, with most happy application, to the burning of the Persian
palace, an anecdote recorded of the power of Timotheus over the
same great warrior, on another occasion,--I may remark, by the way,
what influence the accidental composition of this ode has had, in
giving almost a sort of dignity to the very madness of the act which
it records. It is impossible for us,--even though we knew well how
fictitious is the circumstance attached to it,--not to look upon the
action, in a different light, from that in which we should have viewed
it, if we had read only the historical account of it, as originating in
a drunken debauch, at the instigation of a drunken prostitute.

Such is the influence of genius. Its power extends not over the present
and the future merely, but, in some measure, also over the past, which
might have seemed fixed forever. In spite of our conviction, we look
upon an action of Alexander differently, because an individual existed,
many centuries after him, and in a country which would then have been
justly counted barbarous, by the very barbarians whom he overcame.

“Ebrio scorto de tanta re ferente sententiam, unus et alter, et ipsi
mero onerati, assentiunt: Rex quoque fuit avidior quam patientior.
‘Quin igitur ulcisimur Græciam, et urbi faces subdimus?’ Omnes
incaluerant mero; itaque surgunt temulenti ad incendendam urbem, cui
armati, pepercerant.”[80]

Of the wonders, which were said, in ancient times, to have been
performed, on the mind and body, by a judicious adaptation of musical
sounds, to the nature of the particular case, intellectual, moral,
or corporeal, I might read many histories to you, from the original
authors, which would perhaps not be less truly ludicrous in the serious
gravity of their narration, than in the affected solemnity of the
fictitious personage whose speech I am about to quote. The experiment
with which the quotation closes is, it must be allowed, a very powerful
one, and certainly could not have been more successful, in the hands of
Timotheus himself.

“The bare mention of _music_ threw Cornelius into a passion. ‘How can
you dignify,’ quoth he, ‘this modern fiddling with the name of music?
Will any of your best hautboys encounter a wolf now-a-days with no
other arms but their instruments, as did that ancient piper Pythocaris?
Have ever wild boars, elephants, deer, dolphins, whales, or turbots,
shewed the least emotion at the most elaborate strains of your modern
scrapers, all which have been, as it were tamed and humanized by
ancient musicians? Whence proceeds the degenerancy of our morals? Is
it not from the loss of ancient music, by which (says Aristotle) they
taught all the virtues? Else might we turn Newgate into a college of
Dorian musicians, who should teach moral virtues to those people.
Whence comes it that our present diseases are so stubborn? whence is
it that I daily deplore my sciatical pains? Alas! because we have lost
their true cure, by the melody of the pipe. All this was well known
to the ancients, as Theophrastus assures us, (whence Cælius calls it
_loca dolentia decantare_) only indeed some small remains of this skill
are preserved in the cure of the Tarantula. Did not Pythagoras stop a
company of drunken bullies from storming a civil house, by changing
the strain of the pipe to the sober spondaeus? and yet your modern
musicians want art to defend their windows from common nickers. It is
well known that when the Lacedaemonian mob were up, they commonly sent
for a Lesbian musician to appease them, and they immediately grew calm
as soon as they heard Terpander sing: Yet I don't believe that the
Pope's whole band of music, though the best of this age, could keep his
holiness's image from being burnt on a fifth of November.’ ‘Nor would
Terpander himself,’ replied Albertus, ‘at Billingsgate, nor Timotheus
at Hockley in the Hole, have any manner of effect, nor both of them
together bring Horneck to common civility.’ ‘That's a gross mistake,’
said Cornelius, very warmly, ‘and to prove it so, I have here a small
lyra of my own, framed, strung, and tuned after the ancient manner.
I can play some fragments of Lesbian tunes, and I wish I were to try
them upon the most passionate creatures alive.’--‘You never had a
better opportunity,’ says Albertus, ‘for yonder are two apple-women
scolding, and just ready to uncoif one another.’ With that Cornelius,
undressed as he was, jumps out into his balcony, his lyra in hand,
in his slippers,--with a stocking upon his head, and waist-coat of
murrey-coloured satin upon his body: He touched his lyra with a very
unusual sort of an harpegiatura, nor were his hopes frustrated. The odd
equipage, the uncouth instrument, the strangeness of the man and of the
music, drew the ears and eyes of the whole mob that were got about the
two female champions, and at last of the combatants themselves. They
all approached the balcony, in as close attention as Orpheus's first
audience of cattle, or that of an Italian opera, when some favourite
air is just awakened. This sudden effect of his music encouraged him
mightily, and it was observed he never touched his lyre in such a truly
chromatic and enharmonic manner as upon that occasion. The mob laughed,
sung, jumped, danced, and used many odd gestures, all which he judged
to be caused by the various strains and modulations. ‘Mark,’ quoth he,
‘in this, the power of the Ionian, in that, you see the effect of the
Æolian.’ But in a little time they began to grow riotous, and threw
stones; Cornelius then withdrew. ‘Brother,’ said he, ‘do you observe I
have mixed unawares too much of the Phrygian? I might change it to the
Lydian, and soften their riotous tempers: But it is enough: learn from
this sample to speak with veneration of ancient music. If this lyre in
my unskilful hands can perform such wonders, what must it not have done
in those of a Timotheus or a Terpander?’ Having said this he retired
with the utmost exultation in himself, and contempt of his brother;
and, it is said, behaved that night with such unusual haughtiness to
his family, that they all had reason to wish for some ancient Tibicen
to calm his temper.”[81]

That, in enlightened countries, so many wonders should have been
related and credited,--if no phenomena that could justify them
were truly observed,--may perhaps on first reflection, appear so
unaccountable, as almost to induce belief of the wonders themselves,
as less inexplicable than the very credit which was given to them.
But it must be remembered, that, in all ages, and even in countries
of philosophers, there is a very large fund of credulity in
man,--which yields, very readily, to every thing that is not absolutely
impossible, and which is even not very nice, in estimating what is
impossible,--leaning always, whenever there is the slightest doubt
on this point, with a very favourable inclination to the side of the
_possibility_;--and, in the second place, that the phenomena of music
are precisely of a kind, which gives this credulity the widest scope.
They are pleasing in themselves, and of a kind therefore, on which it
is gratifying to the imagination to dwell--their influence on the mind
is felt in a very high and wonderful degree, even without any fabulous
addition;--they are produced by instruments, which seem, in their
sensible appearance, so little adequate to the production of them, that
the result is almost like the effect of supernatural agency, to which
we know not how to give any limits;--and, when a little mystery is once
admitted, the imagination, which has fairly got over the difficulty of
this first admission, is not very scrupulous afterwards as to degrees,
but is sufficiently ready of itself to admit a great deal more, without
pausing to consider its exact amount.

The phenomena of music, in addition to their general interest, are
truly worthy, in another respect, of our astonishment, from that
striking diversity of organic power in the perception of _melody_ and
still more of _harmony_ which they exhibit in different individuals,
in whom all other circumstances are apparently the same,--a diversity
which has often attracted the attention of philosophers, and has led
even those who have no great tendency to speculation of any kind, to
wonder at least, which is the first step of all philosophizing. In the
present instance, however, unfortunately, this first step is the only
step which philosophers have been able to take. They have been obliged
to desist, after all their efforts to proceed farther, and to submit
to share, and even to acknowledge that they share, the ignorance of
the vulgar. If, indeed, the want of musical ear had involved either
a general defect of hearing, or a general slowness of discrimination
in other cases of nice diversity, the wonder would not have been
great. But those, who are without ear for music, perceive as readily
as others, the faintest whisper;--they distinguish like them, the
faintest shades of difference in the mere articulations of sound which
constitute the varieties of language, nor the articulations only, but
the differences also of the mere tones of affection or displeasure,
grief or gaiety, which are so strikingly analogous to the varied
expression of musical feeling;--and their power of discrimination
in every other case, in which the judgment can be exercised, is not
less perfect. Nay,--to increase still more the difficulty,--they are
often as sensible, as others, of the beauty of series of tones of a
different kind; and some of our best poets and declaimers,--who of
course must have had a quick discernment of metrical rhythm, and of
the melody of elocution,--have yet been incapable of distinguishing
the _musical_ relations of sounds, as reciprocally high or low,--the
melody that results from them in certain successions, and the harmony
or the discord of their union. That it depends, chiefly, or perhaps
entirely, on the structure or state of the mere corporeal organ of
hearing,--which is of a kind, it must be remembered, peculiarly
complicated, and therefore susceptible of great original diversity in
the parts, and relations of the parts that form it, is very probable;
though the difference of the separate parts themselves, or of their
relations to each other, may, to the mere eye, be so minute, as never
to be discovered by dissection,--thus leaving, to every future race
of inquirers, the same difficulty which has perplexed ourselves, and
the same impossibility of overcoming it. In the sense of vision, I may
remark, there is a species of defect, very analogous to the want of
musical ear,--a defect, which consists in the difficulty, or rather the
incapacity, of distinguishing some colours from each other--and colours
which, to general observers, seem of a very opposite kind. As the want
of musical ear implies no general defect of mere quickness of hearing,
this visual defect, in like manner, is to be found in persons, who are
yet capable of distinguishing, with perfect accuracy, the form, and the
greater or less brilliancy of the coloured object;--and I may remark
too, in confirmation of the opinion, that the want of musical ear
depends on causes not _mental_ but _organic_; that, in this analogous
case, some attempts, not absolutely unsuccessful, have been made, to
explain the apparent confusion of colours, by certain peculiarities
of the external organ of sight. Though the one case, however, were to
throw no light upon the other, it is still gratifying to philosophers,
to have a case at all analogous, to which, when they are weary of
considering what has baffled all their endeavours to explain it,
they may have the comfort of turning away their attention, without
the mortification of seeming absolutely to fly from the subject.
Such is the strange constitution of our nature, that merely to have
another difficulty presented to us, though it may yet be absolutely
unsurmountable in itself,--if only it have some slight resemblance
to a former difficulty,--seems to us almost as if we had succeeded
in explaining the first;--and each difficulty, by a very convenient
transposition, which our pride knows well how to make, supplies,
according as we may have been considering the one rather than the
other, the place of explanation to that which is afterwards to explain
it, no less clearly, in its turn.

In considering sound relatively to its external cause, we give the name
of vibration to the successive pulses, or alternate approaches and
recessions of the particles of the elastic sounding body; and the word
is a very convenient one for expressing this series. But still it may
be necessary to warn you, that the word, though single, is not the less
expressive of a plurality of states, which have no other unity, than
as they are comprehended in this single word,--a word, like many other
single words, by which we express the combination of various objects,
or invented by us, merely to aid our weakness, that is incapable,
without such helps, of conceiving or remembering even a small part of
that wide series of physical changes, which we are able to discover
in the universe, if each event of the series were to be distinguished
by a peculiar name. This mere aid of our weakness, however, we are
apt, by a very absurd, but a very general fallacy, to consider as
something, much more dignified in its nature than a mere arbitrary
verbal abbreviation,--as truly an explanation of the very phenomena, or
series of phenomena, which it simply designates. You must not flatter
yourselves, however, that you have advanced the slightest step, in
explaining the connexion of sound with the pulses of air, when you have
merely invented a brief term for those successive pulses, and ascribed
the sound to vibration; you have, indeed, given a name to a series of
corpuscular phenomena, but you have not discovered any thing additional
to the phenomena themselves, which can be considered as explanatory to
the changes produced.

_What_, then, is truly meant, when it is said, that, for producing the
mental affection, which constitutes hearing, some previous vibration
is necessary? It certainly cannot mean, as I have already remarked,
that the vibration is any thing in itself different from the series
of physical events which it expresses, however few or numerous these
may be, since it is only the name which we give to them, when we
consider them together; nor can it mean that the direct cause of the
sensation is any thing different from the one organic state immediately
preceding the sensation,--a state which may, indeed, have resulted from
a long sequence of prior organic states, produced during the continued
vibratory motion of the air, but which is itself, in its relation to
the phenomenon which succeeds it,--that affection of the sentient
mind which constitutes _hearing_,--to be considered independently of
these prior states, that have no other relation to the mind, than as
gradually inducing that ultimate organic state, which is the state that
is followed by sensation. There is a part, less or greater, of the
sensorial organ, which must be affected, in a certain manner, before
the sensation of hearing can take place; and, in _vibration_, there
is nothing but a repeated approach and secession of the vibrating
particles. If _vibration_, then, or a series of pulses, be necessary,
it is evident that a corresponding series of changes in the organ
is necessary; that is to say, there is no one instant, at which the
vibrating particles are in such a state relatively to the sensorial
organ, that if no previous change had been excited in the organ itself,
they could have produced in it immediately, the precise state, which
is instantly followed by the mental affection of hearing. There must,
therefore, be a _series_ of changes, in the sensorial organ itself,
the last of which only is followed by sensation. The particles of the
air, or any other elastic medium, for example, must, in their _first_
appulse, produce a certain state of the sensorial organ; in their
_second_ appulse, a different state, by acting on an organ, already
affected in a certain manner; in their _third_ appulse, a still
different state; and thus successively, till, _at last_, they produce
that particular definite state of the sensorial organ, in consequence
of which, the _mind_ becomes instantly _sentient_,--a state which could
not have been produced by any single impulse of the particles on the
unaffected organ, because then vibration, or a series of pulses, would
not have been necessary.

To this successive modification of states of an organ, terminating
in a particular result, different from each of the prior states,
there are abundant analogies in the history of the mind, and many
in the phenomena of sensation itself. One of the most remarkable of
these is the production of the sensation of _whiteness_, by the rapid
revolution of a cylinder, on which the separate prismatic colours, and
the separate colours only, are painted, in certain proportions; _each
colour_, in this case, acting on the organ already affected by a former
colour, till a sensation altogether different from the result of each
of them when separate, is their joint ultimate result, the sensation of
_whiteness_, without any external object that is white.

In this way only, by a series of progressive organic affections, and
not by any single affection, can the vibration of an elastic medium,
as different from one simple unrepeated impulse, terminate in the
production of sound. It is, in short, a name for this series of
changes, and nothing more.

If, in a case so very obscure as that of _musical ear_, in which all
that is truly evident, is, that in different individuals, there is
a diversity of some kind or other--I could permit myself to indulge
any conjecture with respect to this diversity,--I might perhaps,
be inclined to look to the view now given of the real nature of
_vibration_, and its progressive effects on the auditory part of our
nervous system, as furnishing some slight ground, not, indeed, for any
theory, which is far too presumptuous a word, but for the preference of
one mere possibility, to other mere possibilities, which is all that
can be hoped in any conjecture, on so very dim and impalpable a subject.

We have seen that the series of pulses of the vibrating air,--if
vibration, or a series of pulses be necessary to sound,--must
produce a series of changes in the sensorial organ, which produce
no corresponding affection of the mind, till, at last, a state of
the organ is produced, which _is_ attended with sensation. This, and
this only, can be meant, when we speak of vibration as the antecedent
of sound,--a series of organic changes, and, after this series, an
affection of the mind. In such circumstances, it is certainly more
probable, that the organ thus affected with a series of progressive
changes, does not pass instantly from the greatest change to the state
in which it was originally, before the first pulse, but that it retains
this state, for a time, however, short, or, at least, passes through
some series of states, in its gradual return, so that, if a _new_
vibration be excited by the pulse of any sounding body, before the
organ of hearing have returned to its original state, the effect may
be supposed to be different from that which it would have been, if the
same vibration had been primarily communicated to the organ, in its
state of rest, or in that state, which, from our want of a better word,
may be termed its state of rest.

The phenomena most analogous to these vibratory affections of the ear,
as depending on successive impulses, are unquestionably the phenomena
of _titillation_, or rather, to express what is so familiar and simple,
by a more homely and appropriate word, the phenomena of _tickling_.
In this, the great circumstance distinguishing musical feeling, is to
be found, that the feeling arises not from the separate impressions,
but from their successions or co-existence. When the palm of the hand
is gently tickled, as the finger passes rapidly and repeatedly over
the palm, the parts first affected are again affected with various
degrees of pressure, as the ear, in melody, is successively affected
by repeated varieties of vibration; and various parts of the organ of
touch exist, at the same moment, in various states, forming one joint
result of sensation, as, in harmony, various vibrations of the organ
of hearing _co-exist_, and blend together in one mingled delight. To
produce tickling, a certain rapidity of succession is necessary; for,
if the parts, first affected, have returned to their original state,
before other parts begin to be affected, or themselves to be affected
again, the slow motion, it is evident, may be continued, for any length
of time, without any effect, different from that of simple pressure.
The quicker, then, the return of the parts may be to their original
state, the less will be the titillation; and, it is very probably,
a difference in this quickness of return, which constitutes the
difference of ticklishness, so remarkable in different individuals, who
feel, equally, the light pressure of each separate touch. That there is
a difference of ticklishness, in different persons, you all know; some
being easily excited even to convulsive laughter, by slight motions,
that scarcely produce any effect in others, beyond that of the simple
primary sensation of touch. A person who is ticklish, and a person who
is not ticklish, agree in receiving this first tactual sensation; but
they differ afterwards, in this respect, that when the same slight
impulse is rapidly repeated, on the same surface, it produces a
livelier effect than before, in the _one_, but not in the _other_. The
organ of the one who is not ticklish is in the same state, or nearly
in the same state, when it receives the second, third, and fourth
impression, as when it received the first, and no peculiar excitement,
therefore, is produced. The organ of the other, more susceptible,
or more tenacious of the affection produced, has not returned to
its original state, when the rapid impression is repeated, and is,
therefore, at every new impression, affected in a different manner.

Proceeding on the analogy of these phenomena,--of mere _tickling_,
with which I may suppose you to be all acquainted,--an analogy
which, striking as it is in many circumstances, I readily own, does
not justify more than conjecture in the case to which I would apply
it,--I conceive it to be, at least, not absolutely impossible, since
a diversity of some kind, there must be, that in those who receive
no pleasure from music, as in those who are not ticklish, there is
a rapid return of the nervous organ, after each separate affection,
to its original state; that each separate touch or pressure in the
one case, and each separate tone in the other case, produces its
particular effect,--that effect which it would have produced in all,
if unaccompanied by any other tone in music, or slight pressure in
tickling,--but that a succession of these produces no effect different
from that which each would have produced singly. A certain interval is
necessary for distinct hearing in every case; and, before this interval
has passed, the auditory nerves, in this case, may be imagined to be
again quiescent, or nearly quiescent.

I need not add, that, in an inquiry of this sort, all which is
necessary, is to account for the mere original defect of pleasure;
since, if the relations of notes, as reciprocally high or low, never
gave any delight, the ear, having no object of interest in these
successions, would soon habitually neglect them, and at length
cease altogether to distinguish them, attending only to the verbal
meaning of sounds, and not to their tone; in the same manner, as we
pay little attention to another relative difference of voices as
more or less loud, unless when the difference is very considerable,
and not in those common differences of intensity which distinguish
every voice in conversation from every other voice,--or as, after
living long in a province, the dialect of which is distinguished by
any accentual peculiarities, we at last become unconscious of these,
and hear the words, as it were, stripped of their peculiarity of
tone. In what is termed the cultivation of a musical ear, however,
we have not an analogy merely, but a direct proof of this influence
of habit. That the ear may be improved by cultivation, or, in other
words, by nice attention to the differences of musical sound, every
one knows; and if this attention can enable us, even in mature life,
to distinguish sounds as different in themselves, which, but for the
habitual attention, we should have regarded as the same, it may well
be supposed, that continued inattention, from earliest infancy, may
render us insensible of musical relations still more obvious and
precise, than those which we have thus only learned to distinguish;
or, which is the same thing, that continued attention from infancy
to slight musical differences of sound,--an attention which may be
regarded as the natural effect of pleasure received,--may render us
capable of distinguishing tones as very dissimilar, the differences of
which, however obvious at present, we should scarcely, but for such
original attentive discrimination, have been able to detect. What, in
comparison, the refined musical ear of a performer,--almost every hour,
and every moment, of whose life has been spent amid sounds,

    “Untwisting all the chains, that tie
    The hidden soul of harmony,”--

is to a common musical ear, that common musical ear may be to those
in whom this discriminating skill seems to be wholly or nearly
defective. The refined musician,--who, but for the long practice of
his art, would have shared that incapacity which now excites his
wonder,--is astonished, that persons of common ear do not distinguish
the nice differences which appear to him almost as remarkable as those
differences which they are capable of perceiving; and the person of
common musical ear only does the same thing, when he is astonished that
the less refined differences, remarked by himself, are not obviously
distinguishable by all mankind, or, at least, by all who have no
deafness to incapacitate them from hearing the separate sounds. The
discrimination in both has depended on previous attention, which has
necessarily been greater in one case than in the other; and what
attention can we suppose to have been originally given, if from the
cause which I have ventured to state as a possible one in persons
without musical ear, no pleasure had originally been felt by them in
any sequence of notes as successive, and the whole value of sound
been to them the meaning of which it was symbolically representative,
which, accordingly, they have learned to discriminate in every case, as
accurately as others.

I might follow out this speculation at much greater length; but I have
already dwelt too long on what is at best a conjecture, and what,
perhaps, even as a mere conjecture, is founded only on a slight analogy.

After the examination of the phenomena of _Smell_, _Taste_, and
_Hearing_, which are peculiarly simple, I proceed to the consideration
of Senses, which afford phenomena that are more complicated, or, at
least, which seem more complicated, as considered in the mature state
of the mind; when the sensations that arise from one set of organs,
by frequent co-existence with sensations that arise from affections
of other sets of organs, are, as it were, blended with them in one
compound perception, and so permanently modified forever after, that
it is difficult in all cases, and in many cases perhaps impossible, to
form any accurate notion of the sensations as they existed in their
original elementary state.

Since, of the two senses of _Sight_ and _Touch_, that of _Sight_,--as
far, at least, as we are able, by intellectual analysis at present to
discover its original sensations,--is more simple, and more analogous
to the senses before considered, I should be inclined, on these
accounts, to proceed to the consideration of it, previously to any
inquiry into the sense of Touch. But this order, though unquestionably
the more regular, if we had to consider only the original sensations of
each organ, would be attended with great inconvenience in considering
their subsequent modified sensations; since those of Vision depend, in
a very great degree, on the _prior_ affections of _Touch_, with the
nature of which, therefore, it is necessary for you to be acquainted in
the first place. I am aware, indeed, that, in considering even _Touch_,
I may sometimes find it necessary to refer, for illustration to the
phenomena of _Vision_, though these have not been considered by us, and
must, therefore, for the time, be taken upon trust. But when phenomena
are at all complicated, such occasional anticipations are absolutely
unavoidable. Sensation, indeed, says Aristotle, is a _straight line_,
while intellect is a _circle_,--Αἴσθησις γραμμὴ, νοῦς κύκλος,--or
to use the paraphrastic translation of Cudworth, in his treatise on
Immutable Morality, “Sense is of that which is without. Sense wholly
gazes and gads abroad; and, therefore, doth not know and comprehend
its object, because it is different from it. Sense is a line, the
mind is a circle. Sense is like a line, which is the flux of a point
running out from itself; but intellect like a circle, that keeps within
itself.”[82] That sense is not a circle is, indeed, true, since it
terminates in a point; but far from being a _straight_ line, it is
one of the most perplexing of _curves_, and is crossed and cut by so
many other curves,--into many of which it flows, and unites with them
completely,--that when we arrive at the extremity of the line, it is
almost impossible for us to determine with accuracy what _curve_ it is,
which, in the strange confusion of our diagram, we have been attempting
to trace from its initial point.

I proceed, then, to the consideration of the phenomena of the sense of


If priority of sensation alone were to be regarded, the sense of
_touch_ might deserve to be considered in the first place; as it must
have been exercised long before birth, and is probably the very feeling
with which sentient life commences. The act of _birth_, in relation to
the mind of the little stranger, who is thus painfully ushered into the
wide scene of the world, is a series of feelings, of this class; and
the first feeling which awaits him, on his entrance,--in the change of
temperature to which he is exposed,--is still to be referred to the
same organ. It is at this most important moment of existence, when one
dark and solitary life of _months_, of which no vestige is afterwards
to remain in the memory, is finished, and a new life of _many
years_,--a life of sunshine and society,--is just beginning, that, in
the figurative language of the author, whom I am about to quote to you,
_Pain_, the companion of human life, receives him on the first step of
his journey, and embraces him in his iron arms.

    “Primas tactus agit partes, primusque minutæ
    Laxat iter cæcum turbæ, recipitque ruentem.
    Non idem huic modus est qui fratribus; amplius ille
    Imperium affectat senior, penitusque medullis,
    Viceribusque habitat totis, pellisque recentem
    Funditur in telam, et late per stamina vivit.
    Necdum etiam matris puer eluctatus ab alvo
    Multiplices solvit tunicas, et vincula rupit;
    Sopitus molli somno, tepidoque liquore
    Circumfusus adhuc; tactus tamen aura lacessit
    Jamdudum levior sensus, animamque reclusit.
    Idque magis, simul ac solitum blandamque calorem
    Frigore mutavit cœli, quod verberat acri
    Impete inassuetos artus; tum sævior adstat,
    Humanæque comes vitæ Dolor excipit; ille
    Cunctantem frustra et tremulo multa ore querentem
    Corripit invadens, ferreisque amplectitur ulnis.”[83]

It is at this moment, so painful to himself, that he is affording to
_another_ bosom, perhaps the purest delight of which our nature is
capable, and has already kindled, in a heart, of the existence of which
he is as ignorant, as of the love which he excites in it, that warmth
of affection, which is never, but in the grave, to be cold to _him_,
and to which, in the many miseries that may await him,--in sorrow,
in sickness, in poverty,--and perhaps too in the penitence of guilt
itself,--when there is no other eye, to whose kindness he can venture
to look, he is still to turn with the confidence, that he has yet, even
on earth, _one friend_, who will not abandon him,--and who will still
think of that innocent being, whose eye, before it was conscious of
light, seemed to look to her for the love and protection, which were
ready to receive him.


[79] Pope's Essay on Criticism, v. 374--381.

[80] Quintus Curtius, lib. v. cap. 7.

[81] Mart. Scrib. Book I. c. 7. with some exclusions.

[82] Page 98, 99.

[83] Gray de Princip. Cogit. lib. i. v. 64-80.



In my Last Lecture, Gentlemen, I finished the remarks which I had to
offer, on our sense of _hearing_; and in the conclusion of it, had
begun the consideration of a very important order of our feelings,
those which belong to the sense of _touch_.

Of these, I may mention, in the first place, the sensations of _heat_
and _cold_,--sensations that arise from affections of our nerves
of touch, or at least from affections of nerves, which, as equally
diffused and intermingled with them, it is impossible to distinguish
from those which constitute our organ of touch, the same wide surface
rendering us sensible, as it were, at every point of warmth as of

I have also remarked to you, how little analogy there is of our
sensations of warmth, to the other sensations commonly ascribed to
this organ; and the great difference of the feelings, has led some
physiologists to believe, that the organs of sensations so different,
must themselves be different. But even though the sensations were
as dissimilar as is supposed, there is no reason _a priori_ to
believe,--and to experience, it is evident, that, in this case, we
cannot appeal, so as to derive from it any ground for believing,--that
sensations, which are very different, must arise from affections
of different organs. As far, indeed, as we can safely appeal to
experience, in this very case, there are sensations which we never
hesitate in referring to our tactual nerves, as different from the more
common sensations ascribed to touch, as the sensation of warmth itself.
I allude to the pain of puncture or laceration of the skin. Indeed, if
the brain be ultimately the great organ of all our sensations, it is
evident that we must refer to affections of _one_ sensorial organ, not
the various feelings of touch only, but, with them the still greater
variety of feelings, that constitute our sensations of smell, taste,
sound, and colour.

But are we indeed sure, that there truly is that great dissimilarity
supposed, or may not our belief of it arise from our reference to touch
of sensations that truly do not belong to it? Such, at least, is the
opinion, to which, I think, a nicer analysis will lead us. The primary
original feelings, which we owe to our mere organ of touch, I consider
as of a kind, all of which are far more analogous to the sensations of
warmth, or of pain on puncture, than to the perceptions of form and
hardness, which are generally regarded as tangible. Before entering on
the analysis, however, it will be necessary to consider, what are the
sensations which we are supposed to owe to this organ.

The sensations of _heat_ and _cold_,--as received from our organ of
touch,--we may almost lay out of account in our analytical inquiry.
It is unnecessary to dwell on them, or even to repeat, in application
to them, the argument, which has been already applied more than once
to the sensations before considered. It is quite evident, that, in
classing our warmth or chillness, as a sensation,--and not as a feeling
that has arisen spontaneously in the mind,--we are influenced by
that experience, which has previously given us the belief of objects
external,--at least, of our own corporeal frame,--and that, if we
had been unsusceptible of any other sensations, than those of heat
and cold, we should as little have believed these to arise directly
from a corporeal cause, as any of our feelings of joy or sorrow. The
same remark may be applied to the painful sensations of puncture and

It is only to the other more important information ascribed to the
sense of touch, therefore, that our attention is to be directed.

By _touch_, we are commonly said to be made acquainted with extension,
magnitude, divisibility, figure, motion, solidity, liquidity,
viscidity, hardness, softness, roughness, smoothness. These terms, I
readily allow, are very convenient for expressing notions of certain
forms or states of bodies, that are easily distinguishable. But,
though specifically distinguishable, they admit generically of very
considerable reduction and simplification. Hardness and softness, for
example, are expressive only of greater or less resistance,--roughness
is irregularity of resistance, when there are intervals between the
points that resist, or when some of these points project beyond
others,--smoothness is complete uniformity of resistance,--liquidity,
viscidity, are expressive of certain degrees of yieldingness to our
effort, which solidity excludes, unless when the effort employed
is violent. All, in short, I repeat, are only different species or
degrees of that which we term _resistance_, whatever it may be,
which impedes our continued effort, and impedes it variously as the
substances without are themselves various. Such is one order, then, of
the feelings commonly ascribed to the sense which we are at present

To proceed to the other supposed tangible qualities, before included in
our enumeration,--_figure_ is the boundary of extension, as _magnitude_
is that which it comprehends; and _divisibility_, if we consider the
apparent continuity of the parts which we divide, is only extension
under another name. If we except motion, therefore, which is not
permanent, but accidental,--and the knowledge of which is evidently
secondary to the knowledge which we acquire of our organs of sense,
before which the objects are said to move, and secondary in a much more
important sense, as resulting not from any direct immediate organic
state of one particular moment, but from a comparison of sensations
past and present,--all the information, which we are supposed to
receive primarily and directly from touch, relates to modifications of
_resistance_ and _extension_.

Though it is to the sense of _touch_, however, that the origin of the
knowledge of these is generally ascribed, I am inclined to think,
in opposition to this opinion, that in both cases, the reference is
wrongly made,--that if we had the sense of touch only, we should not
be sensible of resistance, nor, I conceive, even of extension,--and
that we seem to perceive the varieties of extension and resistance
immediately by touch only, because the simple original tactual feeling
has become representative of these, in the same manner, and for
the same reason, as we seem to perceive the varieties of distance
immediately by the eye. The sense of touch has unquestionably, like all
our other senses, its own peculiar feelings, though, for the simple
original feelings, attached to the affections of this most extensive
of organs, we have unfortunately no name, but that which is applied in
popular, and even in philosophic language, to all the affections of the
mind. Our joy or grief, hope or fear, love or hate, I before remarked,
we term _feelings_, as readily and frequently, as we use this term to
express our sensations of _touch_; and that, which, however restricted
in its original meaning, is now the common name of our mental
affections of every class, has, by this extension, unfortunately,
become a very unfit one, for distinguishing a limited order of those

Whatever be the term, which we may use, however, there _is_, and _must_
be, a sensation peculiar to touch, without regard to the extent or
quantity of the surface impressed,--as there is, in colour, a sensation
peculiar to vision, without regard to the extent of the portion of the
_retina_ on which the light may have fallen. Every physical point of
our organ of touch, when existing in a certain state, is capable of
inducing in the mind a peculiar feeling, though no other physical point
of the organ were affected,--as every physical point of the _retina_,
though but a single ray of light were admitted to the eye, is capable
of inducing in the mind a peculiar affection of vision; and when many
such physical points are affected together, by some impressing surface,
the form of which we think that we discover immediately by touch, it
is from experience only that we can learn the vicinity of the physical
points of our own tactual surface thus impressed, and consequently the
continued extension of the object which impresses them. Before we have
so much knowledge of external things, as to know even that we have any
bodily organs whatever,--and it is of this state of absolute ignorance
alone that we must think, as often as we speculate on the information
which our senses separately afford,--when we know as little of our
bodily frame, as of that material universe, of which we know nothing,
we cannot, by the very terms of this supposition, know that different
points of our organ of touch are affected in a certain manner,--that
these points are contiguous to each other--and that the mass affecting
these contiguous points must consequently itself be composed of points,
that are, in like manner, contiguous. We know nothing of our organs--we
know nothing of any external masses--but a certain feeling is excited
in our mind; and it is this simple feeling alone, whatever it may be,
which constitutes the direct elementary sensation of touch, though this
simple elementary sensation, like many other sensations, may afterwards
be so blended with other feelings, as to become significant of them,
and even to seem to involve them, as if originally and necessarily

It is impossible for us at present, indeed, to have a body impressed
on us, without the immediate notion of something external and
extended,--as it is impossible for one, whose sight is perfect, to
open his eyes, in the light of day, without perceiving, as it were
immediately, the long line of variegated landscape, in the scenery
before him:--the one impossibility is exactly equal to the other; yet
we know, in the case of vision, that all which we immediately perceive,
at the very moment, when our eyes seem to comprehend the worlds of half
infinity, in the hemisphere on Which we gaze, is a small expanse of
light,--if even, which I greatly doubt, there truly be, in our original
perceptions of this sense, so much of extension, as is implied in the
smallest possible expanse. In _touch_, in like manner, I conceive,
that the immediate sensation, though, like colour, it may now seem
inseparable from _extension_ and _outness_,--if, on the authority
of Berkeley, I may venture to use that barbarous but expressive
term,--was, like colour, originally distinct from them,--that, by the
mere original sensations of this organ, in short, we could as little
know the existence of an impressing body, as, by the mere original
sensations of vision, we could learn that such a body existed at the
extremity of the room in which we sit.

In defining sensation, when we began our inquiry into its nature,
I stated it to be that affection of the mind, which is immediately
subsequent to the affection of certain organs, induced by the action
of external bodies; and I admitted, that, in this definition two
assumptions were made,--the existence of foreign changeable external
bodies, as separate from the mind,--and the existence of organs, also
separate from the mind, and in relation to it truly external, like
other bodies, but forming a permanent part of our corporeal frame, and
capable of being affected, in a certain manner, by the other bodies,
of which the existence was assumed. As far as our analytical inquiry
has yet proceeded, these assumptions are assumptions still. We have not
been able to detect, in the sensations considered by us, more than in
any of our internal pleasures or pains, any circumstances that seem to
be indicative of a material world without.

Our analytical inquiry itself, however, even in attempting to trace
the circumstances, in which the belief originates, must proceed on
that very belief. Accordingly, in examining our senses of smell,
taste, and hearing, I uniformly took for granted the existence of
odoriferous, sapid, and vibrating bodies, and considered merely,
whether the sensations, excited by these, were, of themselves, capable
of communicating to us any knowledge of the external and independent
existence of the bodies which excited them.

In the present stage of our inquiry, I must, in like manner, take
for granted the existence of bodies, which act, by their contiguity
or pressure, on our organ of _touch_, as the odoriferous or sapid
particles, act on our nerves of smell and taste--not that I assume
this belief, as existing in the mind whose intellectual acquisitions
are the subject of inquiry,--for, in that case, the inquiry itself
would be superfluous. I assume it, merely as existing in the mind
of us the inquirers,--and only, because it is impossible, without
such an assumption to make the suppositions that are necessary for
the inquiry. All our language is at present adapted to a system of
external things. There is no direct vocabulary of scepticism; and even
the most cautious and philosophic inquirer, therefore, must often be
obliged to express his doubt, or his dissent, in language that implies
affirmation. In the present case, when we attempt to analyse our
sensations, it is impossible to speak of the circumstances in which the
infant is placed, or, I may say even, to speak of the infant himself,
without that assumption which we have been obliged to make. The real
existence of an external universe, and the belief of that existence,
are, however, in themselves, perfectly separate and distinct; and it is
not the existence of an external world, which we are now endeavouring
to establish as an object of belief. We are only endeavouring, in
our analysis of the sensations afforded by our different organs, to
ascertain in what circumstance the belief arises. There might be a
world of suns and planets, though there were no human being, whose
mind could be affected with belief of it; and even the most zealous
defenders of the reality of external nature must admit, that, though
no created thing but ourselves were in existence, our mind might still
have been so constituted, as to have the very series of feelings, which
form at present its successive phenomena, and which are ascribed in no
small number to the action of external things.

Are the _primary_ sensations derived from the organ of touch, then, of
such a kind as to afford us that knowledge, which they are supposed to
give of things without?

Let us imagine a being, endowed with the sense of _touch_, and with
every other sense and faculty of our mind, but _not_ with any previous
knowledge of his own corporeal frame, or of other things external,--and
let us suppose a small body, of any shape, to be pressed, for the first
time, on his open hand. Whatever feelings mere touch can give, directly
of itself, would of course be the same in this case, as _now_, when our
knowledge is increased, and complicated, from many other sources.

Let the body, thus impressed, be supposed to be a small _cube_, of
the same temperature with the hand itself, that all consideration of
heat or cold may be excluded, and the feeling produced be as simple as

What, then, may we suppose the consequent feeling to be?

It will, I conceive, be a simple feeling of the kind of which I have
already spoken, as capable of arising from the affection of a single
point of our organ of touch,--a feeling that varies indeed with the
quantity of pressure, as the sensation of fragrance varies with the
number of the odorous particles, but involves as little the notion of
extension, as that notion is involved in the mere fragrance of a violet
or a rose. The connection of this original tactual feeling, however,
with that of extension, is, _now_, so indissoluble, as, indeed, it
could not fail to become, in the circumstance in which it has uniformly
arisen, that it is almost impossible to conceive it as separate. We
may perhaps, however, make a near approach to the conception of it,
by using the gentle gradual pressure of a small pointed body, which,
in the various slight feelings, excited by it,--before it penetrate
the cuticle, or cause any considerable pain,--may represent, in some
measure, the simple and immediate effect, which pressure in any case
produces,--exclusively of the associate feelings which it indirectly

Such of you, as have the curiosity to try the experiment, with any
small bodies, not absolutely pointed,--such as the head of a pin,
or any body of similar dimensions,--will be astonished to feel, how
very slightly, if at all, the notion of _extension_ or _figure_ is
involved in the feeling, even after all the intimate associations of
our experience;--certainly far less than the notion of longitudinal
distance seems to us to be involved in the immediate affections of our
sense of sight. It is an experiment, therefore, which I must request
you not to neglect to make.

But the pressure of such a large body, as the cube, which we have
supposed to be pressed against our organ of touch, _now_ awakens very
different feelings. We perceive, as it were immediately, _form_ and
_hardness_. May not, then, the knowledge of resistance and extension,
and consequently the belief of the essential qualities of matter,--be
originally communicated by the affections of this organ?

The feeling of _resistance_,--to begin with this,--is, I conceive, to
be ascribed, not to our organ of touch, but to our muscular frame,
to which I have already more than once directed your attention,
as forming a distinct organ of sense; the affections of which,
particularly as existing in combination with other feelings, and
modifying our judgments concerning these, (as in the case of distant
vision, for example,) are not less important than those of our other
sensitive organs. The sensations of this class, are, indeed, in common
circumstances, so obscure, as to be scarcely heeded or remembered by
us; but there is probably no contraction, even of a single muscle,
which is not attended with some faint degree of sensation, that
distinguishes it from the contractions of other muscles, or from other
degrees of contraction of the same muscle. I must not be understood,
however, as meaning that we are able, in this manner, by a sort of
instinctive anatomy, to perceive and number our own muscles, and when
many of them are acting together, as they usually do, to distinguish
_each_ from _each_; for, till we study the internal structure of our
frame, we scarcely know more, than that we have limbs which move at
our will, and we are altogether ignorant of the complicated machinery
which is subservient to the volition. But each motion of the visible
limb, whether produced by one or more of the invisible muscles, is
accompanied with a certain feeling, that may be _complex_, indeed, as
arising from various muscles, but which is considered by the mind as
_one_; and it is this particular feeling, accompanying the particular
visible motion,--whether the feeling and the invisible parts contracted
be truly simple or compound,--which we distinguish from every other
feeling accompanying every other quantity of contraction. It is as if a
man, born blind, were to walk, for the first time, in a flower garden.
He would distinguish the fragrance of one parterre from the fragrance
of another, though he might be altogether ignorant of the separate
odours united in each; and might even consider as one simple perfume,
what was, in truth, the mingled product of a thousand.

Obscure as our muscular sensations are in common circumstances, there
are other circumstances,--which I pointed out to you in treating before
of this subject,--in which they make themselves abundantly manifest.
I need not refer to the diseased state of the muscles, in which they
become painfully sensible; and I will admit, that the reference to such
a morbid state, in which the structure may be supposed to be altered
by the disease, would perhaps scarcely be a fair one. It is sufficient
to refer to phenomena of which every one must have been conscious
innumerable times, and which imply no disease nor lasting difference
of state. What is the feeling of fatigue, for example, but a muscular
feeling? that is to say, a feeling of which our muscles are as truly
the organ, as our eye or ear is the organ of sight or hearing. When a
limb has been long exercised, without sufficient intervals of rest,
the repetition of the contraction of its muscles is accompanied, not
with a slight and obscure sensation, but with one which amounts, if it
be gradually increased, to severe pain, and which before it arrives at
this, has passed progressively through various stages of uneasiness.
Even when there has been no previous fatigue, we cannot make a single
powerful effort at any time, without being sensible of the muscular
feeling connected with this effort. Of the pleasure which attends more
moderate exercise, every one must have been conscious in himself, even
in his years of maturity, when he seldom has recourse to it for the
pleasure alone; and must remember, still more the happiness which it
afforded him in other years, when happiness was of less costly and
laborious production than at present. By that admirable provision,
with which nature accommodates the blessings which she gives, to the
wants that stand in need of them, she has, in that early period,--when
the pleasure of mental freedom, and the ambitions of busy life, are
necessarily excluded,--made ample amends to the little slave of
affection, in that disposition to spontaneous pleasure, which renders
it almost an effort to be sad, as if existence itself were delight;
giving him a fund of independent happiness in the very air which
she has poured around him, and the ready limbs which move through
it, almost without his bidding. In that beautiful passage, in which
Goldsmith describes the sounds that come in one mingled murmur from
the village, who does not feel the force of the happiness which is
comprised in the single line, that speaks of

    “The playful children, just let loose from school?”[84]

It is not the mere freedom from the intellectual task of which we
think; it is much more, that burst of animal pleasure, which is felt in
every limb, when the long constraint that has repressed it is removed,
and the whole frame is given once more to all the freedom of nature.
It is by the pleasure of exertion, and the pain of inexertion, that
we are roused from that indolence, into which, with great injury to
society, that requires our contribution of active aid, we otherwise
might sink;--as we are roused, in like manner, by the pleasure of food,
and the pain of hunger, to take the aliment that is necessary for our
individual sustenance; and though the mere aliment is, indeed, more
important for life, it is not more important for happiness than that
pleasure of activity which calls and forces us from our slothful repose.

    “Thee, too, My Paridel,--I saw thee there,
    Stretch'd on the rack of a too easy chair.”

With the same happy provision with which she has considered the young
of our own species, Nature has, in the other animals, whose sources of
general pleasure are still more limited than in the child, converted
their muscular frame into an organ of delight. It is not in search of
richer pasture that the horse gallops over his field, or the goat leaps
from rock to rock; it is for the luxury of the exercise itself. “If the
shell-fish on the shore,” says Dr Ferguson, “perform no visible action
but that of opening and closing his shell, to receive the brine that
accommodates, or to exclude the foul matter that annoys him, there are
other animals that, in the opposite extreme, are _active_; and for whom
Nature seems to administer the means of supply, merely as a restorative
of that strength which they are so freely to waste in the seemingly
sportive or violent exercises to which they are disposed.”[85]

    “The bounding fawn, that darts across the glade,
    When none pursues, through mere delight of heart,
    And spirits buoyant, with excess of glee;
    The horse as wanton, and almost as fleet,
    That skims the spacious meadow at full speed,
    Then stops, and snorts, and, throwing high his heels,
    Starts to the voluntary race again;
    The very kine, that gambol at high noon,--
    The total herd,--receiving first from one,
    That leads the dance, a summons to be gay;
    Though wild their strange vagaries, and uncouth
    Their efforts, yet resolved, with one consent,
    To give such act and utterance as they may
    To ecstacy, too big to be suppress'd.”[86]

It is this appearance of _happy life_ which spreads a charm over every
little group, with which Nature animates her scenery; and he who can
look without interest on the young lamb, as it frolics around the bush,
may gaze, indeed, on the magnificent landscape as it opens before
him,--but it will be with an eye which looks languidly, and in vain,
for pleasure which it cannot find.

These observations, on our muscular pains and pleasures, in conformity
with that view of them which I endeavoured to give you, in a former
lecture, are not digressive now, nor uselessly repeated. It is of great
importance for the applications which we have to make, that you should
be fully aware that our muscular frame, is not merely a part of the
living machinery of motion, but is also truly an organ of sense. When I
move my arm, without resistance, I am conscious of a certain feeling;
when the motion is impeded, by the presence of an external body, I am
conscious of a different feeling, arising partly, indeed, from the
mere sense of touch, in the moving limb compressed, but not consisting
merely in this compression, since, when the same pressure is made by
a foreign force, without any muscular effort on my part, my general
feeling is very different. It is the feeling of this resistance to our
progressive effort, (combined, perhaps, with the mere tactual feeling)
which forms what we term, our feeling of solidity or hardness; and,
without it, the tactual feeling would be nothing more, than a sensation
indifferent or agreeable, or disagreeable or severely painful,
according to the force of the pressure, in the particular case; in
the same way, as the matter of heat, acting, in different degrees, on
this very organ of touch, and on different portions of its surface, at
different times, produces all the intermediate sensations, agreeable,
disagreeable, or indifferent, from the pain of excessive cold, to the
pain of burning; and produces them in like manner, without suggesting
the presence of any solid body, external to ourselves.

Were the _cube_, therefore, in the case supposed, pressed, for the
first time, on the hand, it would excite a certain sensation, indeed,
but not that of resistance, which always implies a muscular effort
that is resisted, and consequently not that of hardness, which is a
mode of resistance. It would be very different, however, if we fairly
made the attempt to press against it; for, then, our effort would be
impeded, and the consequent feeling of resistance would arise; which,
as co-existing in this case, and in every case of effort, with the
particular sensation of touch, might afterwards be suggested by it, on
the simple recurrence of the same sensation of touch, so as to excite
the notion of hardness, in the body touched, without the renewal of any
muscular effort on our part, in the same manner as the angular surfaces
of the cube, if we chance to turn our eye on it, are suggested by the
mere _plane_ of _colour_, which it presents to our immediate vision,
and which is all that our immediate vision would, of itself, have
made known to us. The feeling of resistance, then, I trust, it will
be admitted, and consequently of hardness, and all the other modes of
resistance, is a muscular, not a tactual feeling.

But though the resistance or hardness of the cube, as implying some
counter effort, may not be immediately sensible to our superficial
organ of touch, are not its dimensions so perceived? Its cubical form,
it will be allowed, cannot be felt, as only one of its surfaces is
supposed to be pressed upon the hand; but, is not at least this square
surface perceived immediately? In short, does not touch, originally and
immediately, convey to us the knowledge of extension?

With our present complete belief of external things, indeed, and
especially of our organs of sense, the most important of these,
the origin of our knowledge of extension, seems to us a matter of
very easy explanation. The square surface presses on our organ of
touch,--it affects not a single physical point merely, but a portion
of the organ, corresponding exactly, in surface with itself; and the
perception of the similar square, it will be said, thus immediately
arises. But, in all this easy explanation, it is very strangely
forgotten, that the _feeling_, whatever it may be, which the impression
of the square surface produces, is not itself the square configuration
of our tactual organ, corresponding with that surface, but the state
of a very different substance, which is as little square, as it
is round or elliptical,--which is, indeed, from its own absolute
simplicity, incapable of resemblance in shape to any thing; and the
resemblance of which, therefore, to the shape of the mere organ, is
as little to be expected in the sensations of touch,--as that other
state of mind, which constitutes the sensation of the fragrance of a
rose, can be expected to resemble the shape of the odorous particles
themselves, or of the organ of smell, which is affected by them. The
very knowledge which touch is supposed to give, is, in this case, most
inconsistently, assumed, as existing in the mind, before the very touch
which is supposed to give it. If, indeed, the mind could know, that a
part of its external corporeal organ is compressed into the form of a
square, or that another square surface is compressing that organ, the
difficulty would be at an end; for it would, then, most undoubtedly,
have that very knowledge of extension, the origin of which we seek. But
it is not explained, _how_ the mind, which alone can have sensation
or knowledge, and which certainly is not square itself, is to be made
acquainted with the squareness of its own corporeal organ, or of the
foreign body; nor, indeed, how the squareness of the mere external
organ should produce this particular affection of the mind, more
than if the organ were compressed into the shape of a polygon of one
thousand sides.

Let it be supposed, that, when a small cube is pressed on the hand,
one hundred physical points of the organ of touch are affected in a
certain manner. We have, it is said, an immediate perception of a
square surface. Let it next be supposed, that, instead of one hundred
of these continuous points of the organ, an equal number of points,
at various distances in the surface of the body, are affected in the
same manner. On this supposition it will scarcely be said, that the
perception of a square would arise, when there is no square, more
than any other imaginable form, in the space comprehended in the
pressure. Yet what difference is there, in these two cases, to a
mind that is, by supposition, absolutely ignorant of every bodily
organ, and consequently alike ignorant of the nearness or distance of
the points of the organ of touch? In both cases, one hundred points,
equally sensible, are affected, and are affected precisely in the same
manner;--and there is truly no difference, unless we tacitly suppose
the mind to be conscious of the bodily frame, and, therefore, of the
continuity of certain points of the organ of touch, with the other
points that are proximate to them,--a sort of knowledge, for which it
would not be easy to account, and which it is impossible to conceive,
without conceding the very point in question. A little attentive
reflection on the circumstances of these two cases, will, perhaps, aid
you in freeing your minds from the illusive belief, of which it may not
be easy for you at first to divest yourselves,--that the continuity and
similarity of shape, which are known to _us_ the inquirers, are known
also to that little sentient being, whose first elements of knowledge
we are endeavouring to trace.

We are too apt to forget, in inquiries of this sort, that it is not
in our organ of touch merely, that a certain extent of the nervous
extremity of our sensorial organ is affected. This occurs, equally,
in every other organ. In the superficial expansion of the nerves of
hearing, smell, taste, for example, it is not a point merely that is
affected, but a number of continuous points, precisely, as in the
superficial organ of touch; and if, therefore, the notion of extension
in general, or of figure, which is limited extension, arose whenever a
part of the nervous expansion was affected in any way, we should derive
these notions as much from a taste, or a smell, or a sound, as from any
of the configurations or affections of our organ of touch.

It is not, therefore, merely because a certain limited part of the
sensorial organ is affected, that we have the notion of the square
surface, in the case supposed by us: for, if this alone were necessary,
we should have square inches, and half inches, and various other forms,
rectilinear or curvilinear, of _fragrance_ and _sound_.

But, it may perhaps be urged, though all our organs must, indeed, exist
equally with our organ of touch of a certain shape when affected,--and
though the sensorial figure of our other organs, is not accompanied
with any of those mental affections, which constitute the perception
of angular or curvilinear figure, there is something, in the nature
of that part of the sensorial organ, which terminates on the general
surface of the body, that impresses the mind, immediately, with a
sensation, corresponding with the exact figure, in which the organ may
itself exist. When the _square_, therefore, in the case imagined by us,
is impressed upon the organ, the mental affection which constitutes our
notion of a square may immediately arise, though it would not arise
from the similar squareness of our organs of smell or hearing.

In answer to this mere supposition, I may remark, that the sensorial
organ of touch exists, at every moment, of a certain shape, and that
we yet have no perception of this shape, so as to be able to delineate
the whole extent of our _tactual_ organ, in the same manner as we could
delineate the impressing square, in the case supposed: or, if it be
said, that the configuration of the organ does not excite this mental
affection, in the quiescent state of the part, but only when it is
itself affected, I may remark, that we are as little able to delineate
its figure, when we are exposed to the action of heat, which yet acts
most powerfully upon this very organ, inducing sensations, at least as
vivid as those of hardness or figure.

It may still, however, be contended, for in a question of this sort
I wish fairly to imagine every possible argument--it may still be
contended, that, though the organ of touch has no effect, in this way
merely as configured, and might, in any other configuration operate,
precisely in the same manner, on the sentient mind,--still the harmony
of the bodily and mental changes is so arranged by nature, that the
organic state in touch, whatever it may be, is immediately followed
by the knowledge of the extension of the impressing body,--in the
same manner as a certain state of the organ of _smell_, whatever that
state may be, is immediately followed by that affection of the mind,
which constitutes our sensation of the fragrance of a rose. Though
this argument, in truth, rather begs the question, than attempts to
meet it, let us give to it all the force which it may claim. The
accurate determination of the point may, indeed, seem, at first almost
impossible; since in whatever manner the seeming perception may arise,
it must be admitted, that we now seem to perceive extension, as it were
immediately, by touch; though not more immediately than in vision we
seem to perceive the positions of objects in different distances before
our eyes.--But there is, fortunately, at least one test, which the
point in question still admits. If the apparent perception of extension
by touch, be truly and originally immediate, and not acquired, like the
apparent perception of distance in vision, so as to involve a sort of
intellectual measurement or suggestion of some sort, after the primary
sensation,--the perception must be constant and universal, not confined
to a few simple and familiar forms, which, if we can distinguish
these alone, we may be supposed to have learned from experience,
but extending to forms of every kind; for it would certainly be a
very strange abuse of the license of supposition, to imagine that we
perceive a square immediately, but not a circle, or a circle but not a
square, or indeed any other figure. Even at present, then--though the
circumstances of the trial,--when the experience of many years must
have exhausted so many varieties of form, associating the notion of
these with the particular tactual feeling whatever that may be--are
surely very unfavourable to the opinion which I maintain,--even at
present, I may safely trust to experiment, the determination of
the question. When a body which we do not see, is pressed on any
part of our tactual organ, do we immediately discover its form,--as
immediately, as we are sensible of fragrance, when our organ of smell
is in a healthy state, and an odoriferous body is presented to it, or
of sound, when a cannon is fired beside us? This we certainly should
do, if figure were as direct an object of the sense of touch, as
fragrance and sound are of the senses of smell and hearing. Even though
it be a form of the simplest kind, square, round, triangular, that is
thus pressed upon our palm, we scarcely distinguish the precise species
of figure for a moment, and are long before we can convince ourselves,
that we have perceived its exact magnitude, in the determination of
which, after all, we shall very probably be mistaken, if we confine
ourselves to the mere intellectual measurement; though we should even
add to the immediate sensation of touch, all the discriminating skill
of our judgment and reflection. But, if the body be irregular in
form,--however slight the irregularity may be, and of a species that
would not perplex in the slightest degree our sense of sight, and which
certainly, therefore, should perplex as little our sense of touch,
which is supposed to be still more immediately perceptive of form,--we
are incapable for some time, and I may even say are incapable
altogether, of fixing, with precision, its magnitude and figure--that
very magnitude and figure which are yet said to be the direct objects
of touch. Of this a single trial may convince any one; it is a trial
which as it seems to me decisive, I must request you to make. Are we
then entitled to say, in the case of the square surface of the cube
pressed upon our hand, that though we cannot discover other forms and
magnitudes, we yet discover its extension, and consequently its figure,
by the immediate sense of touch?--or may we not rather conclude with
confidence, that what is true of other forms is true of this also,
that it is only in consequence of more frequent experience we have
learned as it were to distinguish, with some degree of certainty, the
simpler forms, which, as mere forms, are not more direct objects of
the sense of touch than forms the most irregular, and that without
such experience, therefore, our mere sense of touch is incapable of
informing us of the figure of bodies, immediately and originally.

If then the knowledge of extension be not derived from our immediate
sense of touch, it must be derived from some other source, which
allows it to be associated with the feelings of touch, and afterwards
suggested by these, in the same manner as distant extent, in the case
of vision, is suggested by a few slight varieties of colour. Let us
endeavour, then, since some such source there must be, to discover what
the source is.


[84] Deserted Village, v. 120.

[85] Principles of Moral and Political Science, Part I. c. i. sect. i.

[86] Cowper's Task, Book IV.



My last Lecture, Gentlemen, was employed in considering the information
which we receive from the sense of _touch_, or rather the information
which we are commonly supposed to receive from that sense,--but which,
in a great part at least, I am inclined to ascribe to another source.

The qualities of bodies, supposed to be made known to us by touch, I
reduced to _two_, of which all--whatever be the variety of names that
express them,--are mere varieties, RESISTANCE and EXTENSION:--solidity,
liquidity, viscidity, hardness, softness, roughness, smoothness,
being modes of RESISTANCE, and nothing more;--figure, magnitude,
divisibility, as evidently nothing more than modes of EXTENSION: and I
stated reasons, which induce me to believe, that neither our feeling of
resistance nor that of extension, has its direct origin in the sense of
touch; though the original simple feeling, which this organ affords, is
_now_, from constant association, almost indiscriminately combined with
both, in some one or other of their varieties.

The first of these classes,--that which includes the various
modifications of _resistance_,--I examined at great length, and
showed, I trust, that it is not to our organ of touch we are indebted
for these, but that they are feelings of another sense, of which our
muscular frame is the organ,--the feelings, in short, of which every
one must have been conscious, who has attempted to grasp any body, or
to press against it, when the full contraction of the muscles must,
of course, have been impeded. According as the body is hard or soft,
rough or smooth,--that is to say, according as it resists, in various
degrees, the progress of our effort of contraction,--the muscular
feeling, which arises from the variously impeded effort, will vary
in proportion; and we call hard, soft, rough, smooth, that which
produces one or other of the varieties of these muscular feelings of
resistance,--as we term sweet or bitter, blue or yellow, that which
produces either of these sensations of taste or vision. With the
feeling of resistance, there is, indeed, in every case, combined, a
certain tactual feeling, because we must touch whatever we attempt to
grasp; but it is not of this mere tactual feeling we think, when we
term bodies hard or soft,--it is of the greater or less resistance
which they afford to our muscular contraction.

I next proceeded to consider the other class of supposed tangible
qualities, which includes the various modifications of _extension_,
and urged many arguments to show, in like manner, that,--however
indissolubly these may seem at present to be connected with the simple
feelings of our organ of touch,--it is not to our simple original
feelings of this sense, that we owe our knowledge of them, as qualities
of things without.

Though the notion of _extension_, however, may arise in the manner
which I have supposed, this, it may be said, is not the notion of
external existence. To what, then, are we to ascribe the belief of
external reality, which now accompanies our sensations of touch? It
appears to me to depend on the feeling of resistance,--the organ
of which, as a muscular feeling, I before explained to you, which
breaking in, without any known cause of difference, on an accustomed
series, and combining with the notion of extension, and consequently
of divisibility, previously acquired, furnishes the elements of that
compound notion, which we term the notion of _matter_. _Extension_,
_resistance_;--to combine these simple notions in something which is
not ourselves, and to have the notion of matter, are precisely the
same thing; as it is the same thing to have combined the head and neck
of a man with the body and legs of a horse, and to have the notion of
that fabulous being, which the ancients denominated a _centaur_. It
certainly, at least, would not be easy for any one to define matter
more simply, than as that which has parts, and that which resists our
effort to grasp it; and, in our analysis of the feelings of infancy,
we have been able to discover how both these notions may have arisen
in the mind, and arisen too, in circumstances, which must lead to the
combination of them in one complex notion.

The infant stretches out his arm for the first time, by that volition
without a known object, which is either a mere instinct, or very near
akin to one,--this motion is accompanied with a certain feeling,--he
repeats the volition which moves his arm fifty or one thousand times,
and the same progress of feeling takes place during the muscular
action. In this repeated progress, he feels the truth of that intuitive
proposition, which, in the whole course of the life that awaits him,
is to be the source of all his expectations, and the guide of all
his actions,--the simple proposition, that _what has been_ as an
antecedent, will be followed by what has been as a consequent. At
length he stretches out his arm again, and instead of the accustomed
progression, there arises, in the resistance of some object opposed
to him, a feeling of a very different kind which, if he persevere
in his voluntary effort, increases gradually to severe pain, before
he has half completed the usual progress. There is a difference,
therefore, which we may, without any absurdity, suppose to astonish
the little reasoner; for the expectation of similar consequents, from
similar antecedents, is observable even in his earliest actions, and
is probably the result of an original law of mind, as universal, as
that which renders certain sensations of sight and sound the immediate
result of certain affections of our eye or ear. To any being, who is
thus impressed with belief of similarities of sequence, a different
consequent necessarily implies a difference of the antecedent. In the
case at present supposed, however, the infant, who as yet knows nothing
but himself, is conscious of no previous difference; and the feeling of
resistance seems to him, therefore, something unknown, which has its
cause in something that is not himself.

I am aware, that the application to an infant, of a process of
reasoning expressed in terms of such grave and formal philosophic
nomenclature, has some chance of appearing ridiculous. But the
_reasoning_ itself is very different from the _terms_ employed to
express it, and is truly as simple and natural, as the terms, which
our language obliges us to employ in expressing it, are abstract and
artificial. The infant, however, in his feeling of similarity of
antecedents and consequents, and of the necessity, therefore, of a new
antecedent, where the consequent is difficult, has the _reasoning_,
but not the _terms_. He does not form the proposition as universal, and
applicable to cases that have not yet existed; but he _feels_ it in
every particular case, as it occurs. That he does truly reason, with at
least as much subtility, as is involved in the process now supposed,
cannot be doubted by those who attend to the manifest results of his
little inductions, in those acquisitions of knowledge, which show
themselves in the actions, and, I may say, almost in the very looks of
the little reasoner,--at a period long before that to which his own
remembrance is afterwards to extend, when, in the maturer progress of
his intellectual powers, the darkness of eternity will meet his eye
alike, whether he attempt to gaze on the past, or on the future; and
the wish to know the events, with which he is afterwards to be occupied
and interested, will not be more unavailing, than the wish to retrace
events, that were the occupation and interest of the most important
years of his existence.


    “So--when the mother, bending o'er his charms,
    Clasps her fair nurseling in delighted arms;--
    With sparkling eye the blameless plunderer owns
    Her soft embraces and endearing tones,
    Seeks the salubrious fount with opening lips,
    Spreads his inquiring hands, and smiles and sips.”[87]

Even then, many a process of ratiocination is going on, which might
have served as an example of _strict logic_ to Aristotle himself, and
which affords results, far more valuable to the individual reasoner,
than all the contents of all the folios of the crowd of that great
logician's scholastic commentators.

That the notions of extension and external resistance, which are thus
supposed to be acquired from the progressive contraction of muscles,
and the difficulty opposed to their accustomed contraction, which
introduces suddenly a new feeling, when all the antecedent feelings had
been the same, should be directly combined, only with the sensations
of touch, cannot appear wonderful, when we reflect, that it is only in
the case of touch, there is that frequent _coexistence_ or immediate
succession, which is necessary to the subsequent union. In the case
of the acquired perceptions of vision, it might, in like manner, be
asked, why is it that we do not smell the exact distance of a rose,
as we see its exact distance, as soon as we have turned our eye on
the bush on which the rose is growing? And the only answer which can
be given, is that there has not been in smell that exact and frequent
coexistence of feelings which has occurred in vision. It surely is
not more wonderful, therefore, that the same argument should hold in
the acquired perceptions of touch, in which the coexistence is still
more frequent and exact. When we listen to a flute, our muscles may
be contracted as before, or quiescent as before; when the odour of a
rose is wafted to us, not a single muscle may be more or less affected.
But, without the action of muscles, we cannot grasp a ball, nor press
against a resisting body, nor move our hand along its surface. Whatever
feelings, therefore, are involved in muscular contraction, may be,
or rather I may say, if the common laws of association operate, must
be associated with the simple feelings thus constantly coexisting,
whatever they may be, which the organ of touch originally affords. To
suppose, that, in a case of such frequent coexistence or succession, no
association takes place, and that our feelings of touch, are, at this
moment, as simple as they were originally, would surely be to suppose
the universal influence of the associating principle to be suspended in
this particular case.

I have already explained the manner, in which, I suppose, the infant,
to obtain the notion of something external and separate from himself,
by the interruption of the usual train of antecedents and consequents,
when the painful feeling of resistance has arisen, without any change
of circumstances, of which the mind is conscious in itself; and the
process by which he acquires this notion, is only another form of the
very process, which, during the whole course of his life, is involved
in all his reasonings, and regulates, therefore, all his conclusions,
with respect to every physical truth. In the view which I take of the
subject, accordingly, I do not conceive that it is by any peculiar
intuition, we are led to believe in the existence of things without. I
consider this belief as the effect of that more general intuition, by
which we consider a new consequent, in any series of accustomed events,
as the sign of a new antecedent, and of that equally general principle
of association, by which feelings that have frequently coexisted,
flow together, and constitute afterwards one complex whole. There is
something which is not ourself, something which is representative
of length--something which excites the feeling of resistance to our
effort; and these elements combined, are _matter_. But, whether the
notion arise in the manner I have supposed, or differently, there
can be no doubt that it has arisen, long before the period to which
our memory reaches; and the belief of an external world, therefore,
whether founded directly on an intuitive principle of belief, or,
as I rather think, on associations as powerful as intuition in the
period which alone we know, may be said to be an essential part of our
mental constitution, at least as far back as that constitution can be
made the subject of philosophic inquiry. Whatever it may have been
originally, it is now as impossible for us to disbelieve the reality of
some external cause of our sensations, as it is impossible for us to
disbelieve the existence of the sensations themselves. On this subject,
scepticism may be ingenious in vain; and equally vain, I may say, would
be the attempted confutation of scepticism; since it cannot affect the
serious internal belief of the sceptic, which is the same before as
after argument; unshaken by the ingenuity of his own reasonings, or
rather, as I have before remarked, tacitly assumed and affirmed in that
very combat of argument, which professes to deny it.

It is in vain, that Berkeley asserts his system, with a zeal and
acuteness, which might, perhaps, have succeeded in convincing others,
if they could only have previously succeeded in convincing himself, not
as a speculative philosopher merely, but as a human being, conversant
with his kind, acting, and suffering, and remembering, and hoping,
and fearing. This, however, was more than mere ingenuity of argument
could perform. Even in publishing his work with the sincere desire of
instructing and converting others, the great and primary convert was
yet to be made, in the converter himself.

In the Life of Berkeley, prefixed to the edition of his collected
works, an account is given of a visit which he paid, at Paris, to
Malebranche, the celebrated author of a system, in many respects
similar to his own. He found him in a weak state of health, but
abundantly eager to enter into disputation, on a science which he
loved, and especially on his own doctrines, which he loved still more;
but the discussion was at last carried on with more vehemence than
the feeble bodily frame of Malebranche could bear; and his death
was said to be occasioned, or at least hastened, by this unfortunate
intellectual combat. When we consider this interview of two illustrious
men, each of whom, in accordance with his own system, must have been
incapable of any direct knowledge of the existence of the other, the
violent reciprocal action of these mutual nonentities, might seem
ludicrous, if there were not, in the death of any one, and especially
of a philosopher so estimable in every respect as the author of The
Search of Truth, something too serious to be consistent with any
feeling of levity. It is more suitable, both to the occasion itself,
and to our own intellectual weakness, to regard this accidental
interview of two philosophers, contending so strenuously against each
other, for the truth of doctrines, which rendered the real existence of
each, at best, very problematical, as only a striking instance of the
readiness with which all the pride of human reason yields itself, as
it were, spontaneously and humbly, to the sway of those more powerful
principles, which He, who has arranged our mutual constitution, has so
graciously accommodated to the circumstances in which He has placed us.
The gift of reason itself, that most inestimable of our intellectual
gifts, would have been truly, if nothing more had been added to it,
a perilous acquisition, to beings not absolutely incapable of error;
since these are points on which a single mistake, if there had been
no opportunity of repairing it, might have been fatal, not to our
happiness merely, but to our very existence. On these points, however,
Nature has not left us to a power so fallible, and to indolence, which
might forget to exercise even this feeble power. She has given us
principles which do not err, and which operate without the necessity
of any effort on our part. In the wildest speculative errors, into
which we may be led, there is a voice within, which speaks, indeed,
only in a whisper, but in a whisper of omnipotence, at which the loud
voice that led us astray, is still,--thus operating on our _mind_,
as the secret irresistible influence of gravitation operates on our
_body_, preserving it, amid all the disorder and irregularity of its
spontaneous motions, still attached to that earthly home which has been
prepared with every bountiful provision for our temporary residence.

If there were, indeed, any sceptic as to the existence of an external
world, who could seriously profess that his practical conduct was
in accordance with his speculative disbelief, we might very justly
exercise, with respect to his own profession, that philosophic doubt
or disbelief, which he recommends. Pyrrho, the great founder of this
philosophy, is, indeed, said to have acted so truly on his principles,
that if a cart ran against him, or a dog attacked him, or if he came
upon a precipice he would not stir a foot to avoid the danger. “But
his attendants,” says Dr Reid, “who happily for him, were not so
great sceptics, took care to keep him out of harm's way, so that he
lived till he was ninety years of age.”[88] In all these cases, we
may safely take for granted, that this venerable sceptic, when he
exhibited himself with his domestics knew, at least as well as the
spectator, the nature of the comedy which he was acting, for their
entertainment, and his own imagined glory;--that he could discriminate,
with perfect accuracy, the times when it would be _safe_, and the
times when it would be _unsafe_, for him to be consistent;--and that
he would never feel, in so strong and lively a manner, the force of
his own principles, as when he was either absolutely alone, or with
attendants within a very few inches of the ground on which he was
philosophizing. We are told, accordingly, that when his passions were
too strongly roused, to allow him to remember the part which he was
acting, he entered with sufficient readiness into his native character
of a mere human being. Of this, one ludicrous instance is recorded,
in which his anger against his cook so completely got the better,
both of his moral and physical philosophy, that, with the spit in his
hand, and the meat on it, which had been roasting, he pursued him to
the very market-place. Many stories of this sort, however, we may well
suppose, would be invented against philosophers, of a class, that
at once challenged the opposition of the whole mob of mankind, and
afforded subjects of that obvious and easy ridicule, which the mob of
mankind, even without the provocation of such a challenge, are always
sufficiently ready to seize.

Into a detail of the sceptical system of Berkeley, it is unnecessary
to enter at any length; since, notwithstanding the general acuteness
which its truly illustrious author has displayed in this, and in all
his works, I cannot but consider his _ideal system_, as presenting a
very imperfect and inaccurate view, not merely of the real phenomena
of the mind, but even of the sceptical argument against the existence
of matter. It was not as a sceptic, however, that this most devout
and amiable of philosophers, to whom Pope scarcely paid a higher
compliment than was strictly due, in ascribing to him “every virtue
under heaven,”[89]--it was not as a sceptic that he was desirous of
being ranked. On the contrary, I have no doubt that his system seemed
to him valuable, chiefly for being, as he conceived, an antidote to
scepticism, and that he was far less anxious to display acuteness, than
to expose the sophistry of materialism, and to present as he thought,
an additional argument for the existence of a divine omnipresent mind,
which unquestionably it would have afforded, and an argument too, it
must be owned, completely irresistible, if our mere ideas were what he
conceived them to be. These, he evidently considered, not as _states_
of the individual mind, but as _separate things_ existing in it, and
capable of existing in other minds, but in them alone; and it is in
consequence of these assumptions, that his system, if it were to be
considered as a system of scepticism, is chiefly defective. But having,
as he supposed, these ideas, and conceiving that they did not perish,
when they ceased to exist in his mind, since the same ideas recurred at
intervals, he deduced from the necessity which there seemed for some
_omnipresent mind_, in which they might exist during the intervals of
recurrence, the necessary existence of the Deity; and if, indeed, as he
supposed, ideas be something different from the mind itself, recurring
only at intervals to created minds, and incapable of existing but in
mind, the demonstration of some infinite omnipresent mind, in which
they exist during these intervals of recurrence to finite minds, must
be allowed to be perfect. The precise nature of the argument, and its
demonstrative force, if the hypothetical circumstances which Berkeley
himself was far from considering as hypothetical, be admitted, have not
been sufficiently regarded by philosophers, when they express their
astonishment, that a system, which, if not scepticism, is at least so
much akin to it, or so favourable, at least, to the general sceptical
spirit, should yet have been brought forward, as its truly pious author
informs us, for the express purpose of combating scepticism. He is not,
indeed, always a very perspicuous unfolder of his own opinions, but
in a passage of his third Dialogue, the series of propositions which
I have now stated as constituting his demonstration, are delivered
by himself, with great distinctness and brevity. “When I deny,” says
Philonous to Hylas, “when I deny sensible things, an existence out of
the mind, I do not mean _my_ mind in particular, but all minds. Now, it
is plain, they have an existence exterior to _my_ mind, since I find
them, by experience, to be independent of it. There is, therefore, some
other mind wherein they exist during the intervals between the times
of my perceiving them, as likewise they did before my birth, and would
do after my supposed annihilation. And as the same is true with regard
to all other finite created spirits, it necessarily follows, there is
an _Omnipresent Eternal Mind_, which knows and comprehends all things,
and exhibits them to our view, in such a manner, and according to such
rules, as he himself hath ordained, and are by us all termed the laws
of Nature.”[90]

The existence of ideas as separate from the mind, and the permanent
existence of these, when they have ceased to exist in the individual
mind, are evidently assumptions as gratuitous as the assumption of the
external existence of matter itself could have been; or rather, the
permanent and independent ideas, are truly _matter_, under another
name; and to believe that these foreign independent substances, which
pass from mind to mind, exist in the mind, is not to _intellectualize_
matter, but to _materialize_ intellect. A mind containing, or capable
of containing something foreign within itself, and not merely one
foreign substance, but a multitude of foreign substances, at the same
moment, is no longer that simple indivisible existence, which we
termed spirit. Any of the elementary atoms of matter is, indeed, more
truly spiritual; the very notion of _recipiency_ of any kind, being as
little consistent with our notion of mind, as the notion of hardness or

The whole force of the pious demonstration, therefore, which Berkeley
flattered himself with having urged irresistibly, is completely
obviated, by the simple denial, that ideas are any thing more than the
mind itself affected in a certain manner; since, in this case, our
ideas exist no longer than our mind is affected, in that particular
manner, which constitutes each particular idea; and, to say that our
ideas exist in the divine mind, would thus be to say, only, that our
mind itself exists in the divine mind. There is not the sensation of
colour, in _addition_ to the mind, nor the sensation of fragrance
in _addition_ to the mind; but, according to that juster view of the
mental phenomena, which I have repeatedly endeavoured to impress on
you, the sensation of colour is the _mind_ existing in a _certain
state_, and the sensation of fragrance, is the mind existing in a
different state.

The most philosophic scepticism, as to the existence of external
things, is unquestionably _that_, which is founded on this very view
of the phenomena of the mind. All the terms, which we use to express
our knowledge, sensations, perceptions, ideas, notions, propositions,
judgments, intuitions, conclusions,--or whatever other terms we may
employ to express particular varieties of thought, are significant, it
may be said, and truly said, of _states_ or affections of the mind, and
of nothing more. What I term my perception of the colour, or softness,
or shape, or fragrance, or taste of a peach, is a certain state of my
own mind, for my mind surely can be conscious only of its own feelings;
or rather, as the consciousness of present feelings is a redundancy of
language, my mind, affected in a certain manner, whether it be with
what is termed sensation or knowledge, or belief, can still be nothing
more than my mind itself affected in a certain manner,--my mind,
itself existing in a certain state. Against this argument, I confess
that I know no mere argument which can be adduced in opposition,--any
more, than I know any mere argument which can be adduced, against the
strange conclusions that are most legitimately drawn from the doctrine
of the infinite divisibility of matter, and various other physical
and mathematical applications of the notion of infinity. In no one of
these cases, however, do we feel our belief shaken;--because it is
founded either on associations so early, and strong, and indissoluble,
as those which we have been endeavouring to trace, or is not in those,
or in principles of direct intuition, in that species of internal
revolution which gives to reason itself, in the primary truths on which
every argument proceeds, its divine authority; and we only smile at
conclusions, in which it is impossible for us to find a single logical
error, but which from the constitution of our nature, it is physically
impossible for us to admit, or to admit at least, without an instant
dissent, which renders our momentary logical admission as nugatory, as
if the direct existence of an external world had been established by
the clearest logical demonstration.

In one of the Anniversary Orations of Sir William Jones, of which the
subject is the philosophy of the Asiatics, he informs us that a system
of idolism, very similar to that of Berkeley, is to be found in the
metaphysics of Hindostan. The fundamental tenet of one great school of
the philosophers of that ancient land of philosophy, is the disbelief
of the existence of matter--the phenomena of the seeming material
universe, being conceived by them to be only an illusive representation
which the Deity presents to the mind, (and which they distinguish
by the name of Maja:)--while the opposite species of scepticism is
to be found in another sect of the philosophers, who disbelieve the
existence of mind, and reduce all the phenomena of thought to material
organization. The same subtilty and refinement of scepticism, which
have led to the systems of materialism and idolism in our Western
World, are to be found, we are told, in the corresponding systems of
the East.[91]

Why is it that we are struck with no common emotion on finding, in the
metaphysics of that distant country, systems of opinions so similar to
our own? Is it that the notion of the immense space, which separates
us, unites with our conception, and impresses us, as it were, with the
omnipresence of our own intellectual nature,--when we recognize on
scenes so remote and in circumstances of society so different, the same
thoughts, and doubts, and errors, which have perplexed, and occupied,
and delighted ourselves? This recognition, in whatever circumstances
it may occur, gives to us a feeling of more than kindred,--a sort of
identity with the universal nature of man, in all its times and places.
The belief which others share with us seems to be our own belief
which has passed from each to each, or is present to all, like those
permanent ideas of which Berkeley speaks, that quit one intellect to
exist in another. We cannot separate the thought which we remember from
the notion of the mind which we remember to have conceived it;--and
it seems to us, therefore, not as if _similar_ doubts and errors, but
almost as if the _very_ doubts and errors of our own mind, and its
ardour of inquiry, and frequent disappointments, and occasional, but
rare felicities of discovery, had spread and renewed themselves in a
remote existence. It is this recognition of our common nature, which
gives the chief interest to scenes that have been occupied with the
passions of beings like ourselves. The mountains, which the Titans
were fabled to have heaped up in their war against Jupiter, must
have excited even in the most devout believers of Grecian mythology,
emotions far less ardent and immediate, than the sight of the humbler
cliffs, at which the small Spartan host, and their gallant leader,
devoted themselves in the defensive war against the Persian invader.
The races of men may perish, but the remembrance of them still lives
imperishable, and seems to claim kindred with us, as often as we tread
the same soil, or merely think of those who have trod it.

    “Turn thy sight eastward, o'er the time-hush'd plains,
    Now graves of vanish'd empire, once gleam'd o'er
    From flames on hallow'd altars, hail'd by hymns
    Of seers, awakeners of the worshipp'd Sun!
    Ask silent Tigris--Bid Euphrates tell
    Where is the grove-crown'd Baal, to whose stern frown
    Bow'd haughty Babylon?--Chaldea, famed
    For star-taught sages,--hard Phenicia's sons.
    Fierce fear-surmounting curbers of the deep,
    Who stretch'd a floating sceptre o'er the seas,
    And made mankind one empire?--Where is now
    Egypt's wide-homag'd _Isis_?--where the _Thors_,
    That shook the shakers of the Roman world?”

The very gods of all these countries have perished, but the mortals
who bent the knee before them still survive in the immortality of our
common nature,--in that universal interest which gives to us a sort
of intellectual existence in scenes and times the most remote, and
makes the thoughts and emotions of others as it were a part of our own
being,--uniting the past, the present, and the future, and blending man
with man wherever he is to be found.


[87] _Darwin's Botanic Garden, Canto III. v. 353-4, and 357-360._

[88] Reid's Inquiry into the Human Mind, chap. i. sect. 5.

[89] Epilogue to the Satires, Dial. II. v. 73.

[90] Three Dialogues, &c. p. 109-110.

[91] The substance of this reference occurs in the Eleventh Anniversary
Discourse,--_Works_, v. i. p. 165-6. 4to. _Edit._



Gentlemen, having stated, in a former Lecture, the reasons which
seem to show, that the origin of our notion of extension, and of the
notions, which it involves, of figure, magnitude, divisibility, is not
to be found in our sense of _touch_, I endeavoured, in my last Lecture,
to trace these to their real source,--cautioning you at the same time,
with respect to the great difficulty of the inquiry, and the very
humble reliance, therefore, which we can have any title to put, on the
results of our investigation of a subject so very obscure.

In our present circumstances, when we attempt such an investigation,
it is impossible for us to derive even the slightest aid, from
remembrance of our original feelings; since _memory_,--which afterwards
can look back through so many long and busy years, and comprehend
all of life, but the very commencement of it,--sees yet, in this
dawn of being, a darkness which it cannot penetrate. We have already
formed,--spontaneously, and without the aid of any one,--our little
system of physical science, and have, in truth, enriched ourselves with
acquisitions, far more important than any which we are afterwards to
form, with all the mature vigour of our faculties, and all the splendid
aids of traditionary philosophy,--at a time, when we seem scarcely
capable of more than of breathing and moving, and taking our aliment,
and when the faculties, that leave us so much invaluable knowledge, are
to leave us no knowledge of the means, by which we have acquired it.

To the period of our first sensations, therefore, we cannot look back;
and, hence, all which remains for us, in an inquiry of this kind, is to
consider the circumstances in which the infant is placed, and to guess,
as nearly as general analogy will allow us, the nature and the order
of the feelings, which, in such circumstances, would arise, in a being
possessing the powers and susceptibilities of man, but destitute of all
the knowledge which man possesses.

In these first circumstances of life, the infant, of course, cannot
know that he has a bodily frame, or a single organ of that frame, more
than he can know, that there are other bodies in nature, that act upon
his own; and we are not entitled to suppose,--however difficult it may
be for us to accommodate our supposition to the true circumstances of
the case,--that because _we_, the inquirers, know, that external bodies
are pressing on his organ of touch, the little sensitive being is to
have any knowledge, but of the mental affections, which these external
bodies excite. How the knowledge of any thing more than his own mind is
acquired, is, in truth, the very difficulty, which it is our labour to

In conformity with this view, then,--when we look on the infant,--one
of the most remarkable circumstances, which strike us, is its tendency
to use its muscles, with almost incessant exercise, particularly the
muscles of those parts, which are afterwards its principal organs
of measurement. Its little fingers are continually closing and
opening, and its little arms extending and contracting. The feelings,
therefore,--whatever these may be,--which attend the progressive
contraction of those parts,--and some feeling unquestionably attends
the contraction in all its stages,--must be continually arising in its
mind, beginning and finishing, in regular series, and varying exactly,
with the quantity of the contraction.

A _succession_ of feelings, however, when remembered by the mind, which
looks back upon them, we found to involve, necessarily, the notion of
divisibility into separate parts, and, therefore, of length, which is
only another name for continued divisibility. Time, in short, is to
our conception, a series in constant onward progress, and cannot be
conceived by us, but as a progressive series, of which our separate
feelings are parts; the remembrance of the events of our life, whenever
we take any distant retrospect of them, being like the remembrance
of the space, which we have traversed in a journey,--an indistinct
continuity of length, as truly divisible, in our conception, into the
separate events which we remember, as the space, which we remember to
have traversed, into its separate variety of scenes.

_Time_, then, or remembered succession, we found to involve, not
metaphorically, as is commonly said, but truly and strictly, in its
very essence, the notions of length and divisibility,--the great
elements of extension; and whatever other feelings may be habitually
and uniformly associated with these, will involve, of course, these
elementary notions.

The series of muscular feelings, of which the infant is conscious,--in
incessantly closing and opening his little hand,--must, on these
principles, be accompanied with the notion,--not, indeed, of the
existence of his hand, or of any thing external,--but of a certain
length of succession; and each stage of the contraction, by frequent
renewal, gradually becomes significant of a particular length,
corresponding with the portion of the series. When any hard body,
therefore, is placed in the infant's hand,--though he cannot, indeed,
have any knowledge of the object, or of the hand,--he yet feels, that
he can no longer perform the accustomed contraction,--or, to speak
more accurately,--since he is unacquainted with any parts that are
contracted, he feels, that he can no longer produce his accustomed
series of feelings; and he knows the quantity of contraction, which
remained to be performed, or rather the length of the series, which
remained to be felt. The place of this remaining length is now supplied
by a new feeling, partly muscular, and partly the result of the
affection of the compressed organ of touch,--and is supplied by the
same feeling, at the same point of the series, as often, as he attempts
to renew the contraction, while the body remains within his hand. The
_tactual feeling_, therefore,--whatever it may be,--becomes, by this
frequent repetition, associated with the notion of that particular
progressive series, or length, of which it thus uniformly supplies the
place; and at last becomes representative of this particular length,
precisely in the same manner, as, in the acquired perceptions of
vision, certain shades of colour become representative of distance, to
which they have, of themselves, no resemblance or analogy, whatever;
and we thus learn to feel length, as we learn to see length,--not
directly by the mere affections of our tactual or visual organs, but by
the associated notions which they suggest.

If _time_,--as perceived by us in the continued series of our
feelings,--do involve conceptual length and divisibility, it seems,
indeed, scarcely possible, that, in the circumstances supposed, the
notions supposed should not arise,--that the infant should be conscious
of a regular series of feelings, in the contraction of its fingers
and arms, and yet that portions of this series should not become
significant of various proportional lengths;--and, if the notion of
certain proportional lengths do truly accompany certain degrees of
progressive contraction, it seems equally impossible, according to
the general principles of our mental constitution, that the compound
tactual and muscular feeling, which must arise in every case, in which
any one of these degrees of contraction is impeded, should not become
associated with the notion of that particular length, of which it
supplies the place, so as at last to become truly representative of it.

In this manner, I endeavoured to explain to you, how our knowledge
of the mere length of bodies may have been acquired, from varieties
of length that are recognized as coexisting and proximate, and
are felt to unite, as it were, and terminate in our sensation of
resistance, which interrupts them equally, and interrupts always a
greater number of the coexisting truths, in proportion to the size
of the body compressed; and, in a similar manner, our notions of the
other dimensions of bodies, which are only these varieties of length
in different directions. I cannot conclude this summary, however,
without recalling to your attention, a very simple experiment, which
I requested you to make for yourselves,--an experiment, that, even in
the unfavourable circumstances in which it must now be tried, is yet,
I conceive, demonstrative of the influence of mere time, as an element
of that complex notion, which we have been examining, when the more
rapid measurements of vision,--which are confessedly not original but
acquired,--are excluded. If, in passing our finger, with different
degrees of slowness or rapidity, along the same surface, with our eyes
shut,--even though we should previously know the exact boundaries
of the extent of surface,--we feel it almost impossible not to
believe,--and but for the contrary evidence of vision, could not have
hesitated a single moment in believing,--that this extent is greater
or less, according as the time employed in performing exactly the same
quantity of motion, with exactly the same force of pressure, on the
same quantity of our organ of touch, may have been greater or less,--it
must surely be admitted, that the notion of the length, which thus
uniformly varies with the time, when all other circumstances are the
same, is not absolutely independent of the time,--or it must, in like
manner, be believed, that our notion of visual distance, which varies
with the distribution of a few rays of light on the small expanse of
the optic nerve, is yet independent of those faint shades of colouring,
according to the mere varieties of which, it seems at one time to lay
open to our view a landscape of many miles, and at another time to
present to us, as it were before our very eyes, an object of scarcely
an inch in diameter. The greater dimness, and diminished size of a
few objects in the back ground of a picture, which is in itself one
coloured plane of light, does not more truly seem to increase the line
of distance of those objects, than, in the other case, the increased
slowness of the motion of our hand along any surface, seems to lengthen
the line which separates one of its boundaries from the other.

That we now seem to perceive extension, immediately by _touch_, cannot
be denied; and, in a case so obscure as this,--with our very limited
knowledge, and our very limited power of adding to this knowledge,--it
may seem the most prudent, and perhaps even the most suitable,--as
it is, without all question, by far the easiest part,--to acquiesce
in the opinion, that the perception, which now seems immediate,
was so originally,--that the belief of the presence of an external
figured body, is, by the very constitution of our nature, attached
to a certain affection of the mere organ of touch. But, since there
are circumstances,--as we have seen,--which show this opinion, when
very nicely examined, to be inadmissible, we may, at least, attempt
to proceed a little farther, if we do this with a sufficient sense of
the very great difficulty of the attempt, in relation to our power
and knowledge, and consequently with a very humble assurance, as to
the certainty of any opinion which we may be led to form. To know the
mind _well_, is to know its _weaknesses_ as well as its _powers_;
and it is precisely in a case of this sort, that he, whose knowledge
is least imperfect, will be the best judge of its imperfection, and,
therefore, the least disposed to put complete reliance on it in his
own speculations,--or to assert it dogmatically, when he offers it, as
all opinions, on so very obscure a subject, should be offered, to the
inquiry, rather than to the undoubting assent.

The analysis, I own, is one which must require a considerable effort of
attention on your part, because it is truly one of the most subtile
on which I could call you to enter. But you must be aware, that this
subtlety is in the nature of the very inquiry itself; since it is
an inquiry into the elements and progressive growth of feelings,
which seem to us, at present, simple and immediate, and that the
alternatives, therefore, are not those of greater or less subtlety and
refinement of analysis, but of attempting the analysis, or abandoning
it altogether.

Before proceeding farther, in our inquiry with respect to the origin of
the notion of extension, it may, however, be of advantage, to take a
short retrospect of the progress which we have already made; for, if we
have found nothing more, we have, at least, as I conceive, found reason
to reject a considerable part of our former belief on the subject,
which, though a negative acquisition, is yet a very important one.
Though we should not be able to discover the true source of the notion
which we seek, it is something, at least, to know, that we have little
reason to expect to find it, where we have uniformly been accustomed to
seek it.

In the first place, then, we have seen the fallacy of the supposition,
that our knowledge of extension may be easily accounted for, by the
similarity in figure of the compressed part of the organ of touch to
the compressing body, since the notion of extension is not a state of
the material organ, compressed and figured, which, as mere matter,
however exquisitely organized, is as little capable of this notion,
as of smell, or taste, love or aversion, but, a state of the _mind
itself_, which is susceptible of shape or pressure, being as little
square, when it perceives a square, as when it perceives a circle; and
any affection of which, therefore, may be supposed as much to follow
any one shape, as any other shape of the mere external organ. If,
indeed, as this explanation most strangely seems to assume, we could
be supposed to have any previous knowledge of the shape of our organ
of touch, nothing more would be necessary, for we should then have
a perfect knowledge of extension, though no other extended body but
our own organ of touch were in existence. To refer us to the organ
is, however, only to bring the very same difficulty one step nearer,
since previously to the application of an external body, the mind has
as little knowledge of the shape of its organ of touch, as it has of
the body compressing it; and it is manifestly most absurd, to ascribe
the origin of our knowledge of extension, to our knowledge of the
resemblance in figure of an external body to our organ; since this
very knowledge of the resemblance must imply the previous knowledge of
the figure of both, and consequently of _that very extension_, which,
according to this supposition, must be known to us BEFORE it is known.

In the second place, we have seen, that, if the configuration of the
sensorial organ were the only circumstance necessary, to induce,
immediately, in mind, the notion of figure, this notion should
accompany every sensation of every kind; the smell of a rose, for
example, as much as the pressure of a cube or a sphere: for the nervous
expansion, in the organ of smell, and in every other organ, is of a
certain figure, _before_ sensation, _during_ sensation, and _after_
sensation, as much as the nervous expansion of the organ of touch. And,
though we were to confine ourselves wholly to this organ, the nervous
matter in it is, at all times, of a certain shape, as much when there
is no pressure on it, as when it is exposed to such pressure; yet the
mere figure of the organ of touch, is not then accompanied with the
mental notion of its figure; nor is this the case, merely when the
sense is quiescent, but, in many cases, in which it is affected in the
most lively manner; as, for example, when we are exposed to great cold
or heat, in which cases, the shape of this very tactual organ, thus
strongly affected, is as much unperceived by us, as when there is no
affection of it whatever.

Lastly, which is a point of much more importance, because it has
relation to the only philosophic view of touch, as the immediate
organ of extension; the view, in which the mere configuration of
the compressed organ, as similar to that of the compressing body,
is laid out of account, and the immediate belief of extension is
supposed to depend on the original constitution of the mind, by which
its affections have been arranged, so as to correspond with certain
affections of the bodily organs; the mental state which constitutes
the perception of a _square_, arising immediately when the organ of
touch is affected, in a certain manner, as that mental state which
constitutes the sensation of the fragrance of a _rose_, arises
immediately, when the organ of smell is affected, in a certain manner;
this opinion too, philosophic as it is, compared with those which we
before considered, though, in truth, it only assumes the point in
question, without attempting to solve any difficulty, supposed to be
connected with it, we have yet found to be as little tenable, as the
opinions that suppose the mental notion of figure to depend on the
peculiar figure of the compressed material organ. The consideration
which, as I stated in my last Lecture, seems to me decisive on this
point, is, that, if touch inform us of extension immediately, as
smell informs us of fragrance, sight of colour, and hearing of sound;
it must do this in every instance, without relation to particular
figure, as smell, sight, and hearing, extend to all odours, hues, and
sounds; for it would certainly be, as I said, a very strange abuse
of the license of supposition, to imagine that we perceive a square
immediately by touch, but not a circle; or a circle, but not a square;
or any one figure, but not any other figure. In short, if figure be the
direct primary object of touch, as sight is of vision, we should feel
immediately every form impressed, as we see immediately every colour.
It is only when the figures are very simple and regular, however, such
as we might be supposed to have easily learned, in the same manner
as we learn, visually, to judge of distances, that we are able to
discover them, as it were, immediately, by touch; and, even when we
are able, in this manner, to determine the _species of figure_, that
is to say, the mere outline of a body, we are rarely able to determine
the exact magnitude which that outline comprehends; yet, as our organ
must be affected by each part of the compressing surface, by the
central parts, as much as by the exterior parts which form its outline,
and by these, as much as by the central parts; and as every feeling
which the organ directly affords, must be immediate, when there is no
change of the position, or other circumstances of the object, that
might vary the sensation, we should, if mere touch communicated to us
the knowledge supposed, be able to determine, exactly and instantly,
the magnitude and figure; or, it is evident, that the determination
of magnitude and figure must depend wholly, or in part, on something
that is different from touch. The magnitude we are far from being able
to discover exactly, even of simple figures; and when the form is
very irregular, and we know nothing more, than that a certain body is
pressed against our hand,--the magnitude and figure are alike difficult
to be discovered; so difficult, that I may safely say, that no one, who
makes the experiment, will find, on opening his eyes, that his tactual
or intellectual measurement has, in any one case, been exact, or his
notion of the figure half so distinct as it now is, after a single
glance. Can we then think that it is by mere touch we discover figure,
as exactly as by the glance of our mature vision,--that we discover
it, in all its varieties, originally by touch, and as accurately at
first, as after innumerable trials,--when we discover it, only in a
few cases, that are previously familiar to us, and even in these very
imperfectly? The _determination_ of the form impressed, in which we are
almost conscious of a sort of intellectual measurement, has surely a
much greater resemblance to the perceptions, which we term _acquired_,
than to those which are _immediate_. In vision, for example, when the
original power of that sense has been strengthened and enriched, by the
acquisitions which it is capable of receiving from other sources, we
see a long line of distance before us; and the _small_ distances with
which we are familiar, we distinguish with sufficient accuracy; but, in
our visual measurement of _greater_ distances, we are almost certain
to err, taking often the less for the greater, and the greater for the
less. It is precisely the same in touch. When a small body, which we
have never seen, is pressed upon our hand, we are able, if its surface
be square, or circular, or of any other form, with which we are well
acquainted, to determine its figure, without much hesitation; because
we have learned, tactually, to distinguish these regular figures.
But, in endeavouring to determine, in this manner, by touch alone,
the figure of any irregular body, less familiar to us, though, as a
direct object of sense, if touch be the sense of figure, it should
be equally and as immediately tangible as the most regular form, we
feel a hesitation of the same sort, as when we attempt to ascertain by
our eye, the exact distance of a remote object. To know extension or
figure, is to know, not one point merely in the surface of a body, but
many continuous points; and if, when the surface, is circular, we know
these continuous points, and their relation to each other, immediately
on pressure, we must know, as immediately, the same points and their
relations, though the surface comprehending them, instead of being
circular, should be of an outline more irregular. We certainly cannot
know this irregular surface to have any extension at all, unless we
know some parts of it; and, when the pressure is uniform from every
point, and the organ of touch uniform, on which the pressure is made,
it would be absurd to suppose, that we know fifty, or eighty, of the
hundred points which form the impressing surface, but cannot determine
its figure, because we are ignorant of the twenty of fifty remaining
points; when these remaining points are acting on our organ of touch,
in exactly the same manner as the fifty or eighty which we know, and
when, if the surface containing merely the same number of points, had
been circular, or of any other single form, as familiar to us, the
whole hundred points would have been known to us equally and at once.

When our perceptions of form, then, are so various and irregular, and
are more or less quick and precise, exactly as the shape which we
endeavour to determine, has more or less resemblance to shapes that are
familiar to us, it does not seem too bold an inference to conclude,
that the knowledge of figure, which, as all extension that is capable
of being perceived by us, must have some boundary, is nothing more
than the knowledge of extension, is not the state of mind originally
and immediately subsequent to affections of our organs of touch, any
more than the perception of distance is the state of mind originally
and immediately subsequent to affections of our organ of sight; and
the very striking analogy of these two cases, it will be of great
importance for you to have constantly in view; as it will render it
less difficult for you to admit many circumstances, with respect to
touch, which you might otherwise have been slower to conceive. That we
should seem to perceive _extension_ immediately by touch, though touch
originally, and of itself, could not have afforded this perception,
will not then appear more wonderful, than the apparently immediate
perception of _distance_ by the eye, which, of itself, originally
afforded us no perception of that sort; nor the impossibility of
feeling a body, without the notion of it, as extended, be more
wonderful than the similar impossibility of separating colour from
extension, in the case of distant vision. Above all, the analogy is
valuable, as shewing the closeness and indissolubleness of the union,
which may be formed of feelings that have in themselves no resemblance.
What common properties, could we have conceived in vision, and that
absolute blindness, which has never had a single sensation from light!
and, yet, it is worthy of remark, that the perceptions of the blind,
in consequence of this singular power of association, form truly the
most important part of those very perceptions of vision, of which, as
a whole, they are unfortunately deprived. We do not merely see with our
eyes, what we may have felt with our hands; but our eyes, in the act of
vision, have borrowed, as it were, those very sensations.

The proof, that our perception of extension by touch, is not an
original and immediate perception of that sense, is altogether
independent of the success of any endeavour which may be made, to
discover the elements of the compound perception. It would not be less
true, that touch does not afford it, though we should be incapable of
pointing out any other source, from which it can be supposed to be
derived. Of the difficulty of the attempt, and the caution with which
we should venture to form any conclusion on the subject, I have already
spoken. But the analysis, difficult as it is, is too interesting not to
be attempted, even at the risk, or perhaps I should rather say, with
the very great probability, of failure.

In such an analysis, however, though we are to proceed with the
greatest caution, it may be necessary to warn you, that it is a part
of this very caution, not to be easily terrified, by the appearance of
paradox, which the result of our analysis may present. This appearance
we may be certain, that any analysis which is at all accurate must
present, because the very object of the analysis is to shew, that
sensations, which appear simple and direct, are not simple,--that
our senses, in short, are not fitted, of themselves, to convey that
information, which they now appear, and through the whole course of
our memory have appeared to us instantly to convey. It is very far,
indeed from following, as a necessary consequence, that every analysis
of our sensations which affords a paradoxical result, is, therefore, a
just one--for error may be extravagant in _appearance_ as well as in
_reality_. But it may truly be regarded as a necessary consequence,
that every accurate and original analysis of our sensations must afford
a result, that, as first stated, will appear paradoxical.

To those who are wholly unacquainted with the theory of vision, nothing
certainly can seem, as first stated, more absurd than the assertion,
that we see, not with our eyes merely, but chiefly by the medium
of another organ, which the blind possess in as great perfection
as ourselves, and which, at the moment of vision, may perhaps be
absolutely at rest. It must not surprise you, therefore, though the
element which seems to me to form the most important constituent of our
notion of extension should in like manner, as first stated to you, seem
a very unlikely one.

This element is our feeling of _succession_, or time--a feeling, which
necessarily, involves the notion of divisibility or series of parts,
that is so essential a constituent of our more complex notion of
matter,--and to which notion of continuous divisibility, if the notion
of resistance be added, it is scarcely possible for us to imagine, that
we should not have acquired, by this union, the very notion of physical
extension,--that which has parts, and that which resists our effort to
grasp it.

That _memory_ is a part of our mental constitution, and that we are
thus capable of thinking of a series of feelings, as successive to
each other, the experience of every moment teaches us sufficiently.
This succession frequently repeated, suggests immediately, or implies
the notion of length, not metaphorically, as is commonly said, but
as absolutely as extension itself: and, the greater the number of
the successive feelings may have been, the greater does this length
appear. It is not possible for us to look back on the years of our
life, since they form truly a progressive series, without regarding
them as a sort of length, which is more distinct indeed, the nearer
the succession of feelings may be to the moment at which we consider
them, but which, however remote, is still felt by us as _one continued
length_, in the same manner, as when, after a journey of many hundred
miles, we look back, in our memory, on the distance over which we
have passed, we see, as it were, a long track of which some parts,
particularly the nearer parts, are sufficiently distinct, but of which
the rest seems lost in a sort of distant obscurity. The line of our
long journeying--or, in other words, that almost immeasurable line of
plains, hills, declivities, marshes, bridges, woods,--to endeavour to
comprehend which in our thought, seems an effort as fatiguing as the
very journey itself--we know well, can be divided into those various
parts:--and, in like manner, the progressive line of time--or, in
other words, the continued succession, of which the joy, the hope, the
fragrance, the regret, the melody, the fear, and innumerable other
affections of the mind, were parts, we feel that we can mentally
divide into those separate portions of the train. Continuous length
and divisibility, those great elementary notions of space, and of
all that space contains, are thus found in every succession of our
feelings. There is no language in which time is not described as long
or short,--not from any metaphor--for no mere arbitrary metaphor can be
thus universal, and inevitable, as a form of human thought--but because
it is truly impossible for us to consider succession, without this
notion of progressive divisibility attached to it: and it appears to us
as absurd to suppose, that by adding, to our retrospect of a week, the
events of the month preceding, we do not truly lengthen the succession,
as it would be to suppose, that we do not lengthen the line of actual
distance, by adding, to the few last stages of a long journey, the many
stages that preceded it.

It is this spreading out of life into a long expanse, which allows
man to create, as it were, his own world. He cannot change, indeed,
the scene of external things. But this may be said, in one sense, to
be the residence only of his corporeal part. It is the moral scene in
which the spirit truly dwells; and this adapts itself, with harmonious
loveliness, or with horror as suitable, to the character of its pure or
guilty inhabitant. If but a single moment of life,--a physical _point_,
as it were, of the long line--could be reviewed at once, conscience
would have little power of retribution. But he who has lived, as man
should live, is permitted to enjoy that best happiness which man can
enjoy,--to behold, in one continued series, those years of benevolent
wishes or of heroic suffering, which are at once his merit and his
reward. He is surrounded by his own pure thoughts and actions, which,
from the most remote distance, seem to shine upon him wherever his
glance can reach; as in some climate of perpetual summer, in which
the inhabitant sees nothing but fruits and blossoms, and inhales only
fragrance, and sunshine, and delight. It is in a moral climate as
serene and cloudless, that the destined inhabitant of a still nobler
world moves on, in that glorious track, which has heaven before, and
virtue and tranquillity behind;--and in which it is scarcely possible
to distinguish, in the immortal career, when the earthly part has
ceased, and the heavenly begins.

Is it in _metaphor_ only, that a youth and maturity, and old age of
guilt, seem to stretch themselves out in almost endless extent, to
that eye which, with all its shuddering reluctance, is still condemned
to gaze on them,--when, after the long retrospect seems finished,
some fraud, or excess, or oppression, still rises and adds to the
dreadful line--and when eternity itself, in all the horrors which it
presents, seems only a still longer line of the same dreadful species,
that admits of no other measure, than the continued sufferings, and
remembrance, and terrors that compose it!

It is a just and beautiful observation of an ancient Stoic, that _time_
which is _past_ is like something consecrated to the gods, over which
fortune and mortality have no longer any power, and that, dreadful
as it must be to the wicked, to whom their own memory is an object
of terror, it still, to the virtuous, offers itself as a consolation
or joy--not in single moments like the present hour, but in all that
long series of years which rises before us, and remains with us at
our bidding. “Ille qui multa ambitiosè cupiit, superbè contempsit,
insidiosè decepit, avarè rapuit, prodigè effudit,--necesse est memoriam
suam timeat. Atqui hæc est pars temporis nostri sacra ac dedicata,
omnes humanos casus supergressa, extra regnum fortunæ subducta; quam
non inopia, non metus, non morborum incursus exagitat. Hæc nec turbari
nec eripi potest; perpetua ejus et intrepida possessio est. Singuli
tantùm dies, et hi per momenta, præsentis sunt: at præteriti temporis
omnes, cum jusseris aderunt, ad arbitrium tuum se inspici ac detineri

By those, who can look back on years that are long past, and yet
say, that the continued progress, or the length and the shortness
of time, are only _metaphorical_ expressions, it might be said with
equal justness, that the roundness of a sphere, is a metaphor, or the
angularity of a cube. We do not more truly consider the one as angular
and the other as round, than we consider the time to be continuously
progressive, in which we considered, first the one figure, and then
the other, and inquired into the properties of each. That which is
progressive must have _parts_. Time, or succession, then involves
the very notions of longitudinal extension and divisibility, and
involves these, without the notion of any thing external to the mind
itself;--for though the mind of man had been susceptible only of
joy, grief, fear, hope, and the other varieties of internal feeling,
_without_ the possibility of being affected by external things, he
would still have been capable of considering these feelings, as
successive to each other, in a long continued progression, divisible
into separate parts. The notions of length, then, and of divisibility,
are not confined to external things, but are involved, in that very
memory, by which we consider the series of the past,--not in the memory
of distant events only, but in those first successions of feeling, by
which the mind originally became conscious of its own permanence and
identity. The notion of time, then, is precisely coeval with that of
the mind itself; since it is implied in the knowledge of succession, by
which alone, in the manner formerly explained to you, the mind acquires
the knowledge of its own reality, as something more than the mere
sensation of the present moment.

Conceiving the notion of time, therefore, that is to say of feelings
past and present, to be thus one of the earliest notions which the
infant mind can form, so as to precede its notions of external things,
and to involve the notions of length and divisibility, I am inclined
to reverse exactly the process commonly supposed; and, instead of
deriving the measure of time from extension, to derive the knowledge
and original measure of extension from time. That one notion or feeling
of the mind may be united indissolubly with other feelings, with which
it has frequently coexisted, and to which, but for this coexistence, it
would seem to have no common relation, is sufficiently shown by those
phenomena of vision to which I have already so frequently alluded.

In what manner, however, is the notion of time peculiarly associated
with the simple sensation of touch, so as to form, with it, the
perception of extension? We are able, in the theory of vision, to
point out the coexistence of sensations which produce the subsequent
union; that renders the perception of distance apparently immediate.
If a similar coexistence of the original sensations of touch, with the
notion of continued and divisible succession, cannot be pointed out
in the present case, the opinion which asserts it, must be considered
merely as a wild and extravagant conjecture.

The source of such a coexistence is not merely to be found, but is at
least as obvious, as that which is universally admitted in the case of

Before I proceed, however, to state to you, in what way I conceive
the notion to be acquired, I must again warn you of the necessity of
banishing, as much as possible, from your view of the mind of the
infant in this early process, all those notions of external things,
which we are so apt to regard as almost original in the mind, because
we do not remember the time, when they arose in our own. As we know
well, that there are external things, of a certain form, acting on
our organs, which are also of a certain form, it seems so very simple
a process, to perceive extension--that is to say, to know that there
exist without us those external forms, which really exist--that to
endeavour to discover the mode, in which extension, that now appears so
obvious a quality of external things, is perceived by us, seems to be
a needless search, at a distance, for what is already before our very
eyes. And it will be allowed, that all this would, indeed, be very easy
to a mind like ours, after the acquisitions of knowledge which it has
made; but the difficulty of the very question is, how the mind of the
infant makes these acquisitions, so as to become like ours. You must
not think of a mind, that has any knowledge of things external, even
of its own bodily organs, but of a mind simply affected with certain
feelings, and having nothing but these feelings to lead it to the
knowledge of things without.

To proceed, then,--The hand is the great organ of touch. It is composed
of various articulations, that are easily moveable, so as to adapt
it readily to changes of shape, in accommodation to the shape of the
bodies which it grasps. If we shut our hand gradually, or open it
gradually, we find a certain series of feelings, varying with each
degree of the opening or closing, and giving the notion of succession
of a certain length. In like manner, if we gradually extend our arms,
in various directions, or bring them nearer to us again, we find
that each degree of the motion is accompanied with a feeling that is
distinct, so as to render us completely conscious of the progression.
The gradual closing of the hand, therefore, must necessarily give a
succession of feelings,--a succession, which, of itself, might, or
rather must, furnish the notion of length, in the manner before stated,
the length being different, according to the degree of the closing; and
the gradual stretching out of the arm gives a succession of feelings,
which, in like manner, must furnish the notion of length,--the length
being different according to the degree of the stretching of the arm.
To those who have had opportunities of observing infants, I need not
say, how much use, or rather what constant use, the future inquirer
makes of his little fingers and arms; by the frequent contraction
of which, and the consequent renewal of the series of feelings
involved in each gradual contraction, he cannot fail to become so
well acquainted with the progress, as to distinguish each degree of
contraction, and, at last, after innumerable repetitions, to associate
with each degree the notion of a certain length of succession. The
particular contraction, therefore, when thus often repeated, becomes
the representative of a certain length, in the same manner as shades of
colour, in vision become ultimately representative of distance,--the
same principle of association, which forms the combination in the one
case, operating equally in the other.

In these circumstances of acquired knowledge,--after the series of
muscular feelings, in the voluntary closing of the hand, has become
so familiar, that the whole series is anticipated and expected, as
soon as the motion has begun,--when a ball, or any other substance, is
placed for the first time in the infant's hand, he feels that he can
no longer perform the usual contraction,--or, in other words, since
he does not fancy that he has muscles which are contracted, he feels
that the usual series of sensations does not follow his will to renew
it,--he knows how much of the accustomed succession is still remaining;
and the notion of this particular length, which was expected, and
interrupted by a new sensation, is thus associated with the particular
tactual feeling excited by the pressure of the ball,--the greater or
less magnitude of the ball preventing a greater or less portion of
the series of feelings in the accustomed contraction. By the frequent
repetition of this tactual feeling, as associated with that feeling,
which attends a certain progress of contraction, the two feelings at
last flow together, as in the acquired perceptions of vision; and when
the process has been repeated with various bodies innumerable times, it
becomes, at last, as impossible to separate the mere tactual feeling,
from the feeling of length, as to separate the whiteness of a sphere,
in vision, from that convexity of the sphere, which the eye, of itself,
would have been forever incapable of perceiving.

As yet, however, the only dimension of the knowledge, of which we have
traced the origin, is mere length; and it must still be explained,
how we acquire the knowledge of the other dimensions. If we had had
but one muscle, it seems to me very doubtful, whether it would have
been possible for us, to have associated with touch any other notion
than that of mere length. But nature has made provision, for giving us
a wider knowledge, in the various muscles, which she has distributed
over different parts, so as to enable us to perform motions in various
directions at the same instant, and thus to have coexisting series
of feelings, each of which series was before considered as involving
the notion of length. The infant bends one finger gradually on the
palm of his hand; the finger, thus brought down, touches one part of
the surface of the palm, producing a certain affection of the organ
of touch, and a consequent sensation; and he acquires the notion
of a certain length, in the remembered succession of the muscular
feelings during the contraction:--he bends another finger; it, too,
touches a certain part of the surface of the palm, producing a certain
feeling of touch, that coexists and combines, in like manner, with the
remembrance of a certain succession of muscular feelings. When both
fingers move together, the coexistence of the two series of successive
feelings, with each of which the mind is familiar, gives the notion of
coexisting lengths, which receive a sort of unity, from the proximity
in succession of the tactual feelings in the contiguous parts of the
palm which they touch,--feelings, which have before been found to be
proximate, when the palm has been repeatedly pressed along a surface,
and the tactual feelings of these parts, which the closing fingers
touch at the same moment, were always immediately successive,--as
immediately successive, as any of the muscular feelings in the series
of contraction. When a body is placed in the infant's hand, and its
little fingers are bent by it as before, sometimes one finger only is
impeded in its progress, sometimes two, sometimes three,--and he thus
adds to the notion of mere length, which would have been the same,
whatever number of fingers had been impeded, the notion of a certain
number of proximate and coexisting lengths, which is the very notion of
breadth; and with these, according as the body is larger or smaller,
is combined always the tactual affection produced by the pressure of
the body, on more, or fewer, of the interior parts of the palm, and
fingers, which had before become, of themselves, representative of
certain lengths, in the manner described; and the concurrence of these
three varieties of length, in the single feeling of resistance, in
which they all seem to meet, when an incompressible body is placed
within the sphere of the closing fingers,--however rude the notions
of concurring dimensions may be, or rather must be, as at first
formed,--seems at least to afford the rude elements, from which, by
the frequent repetition of the feeling of resistance, together with
the proximate lengths, of which it has become representative, clearer
notions of the kind may gradually arise.

The progressive contractions of the various muscles which move the
arms, as affording similar successions of feelings, may be considered
in precisely the same light, as sources of the knowledge of extension;
and, by their motion in various directions, at the same time with
the motion of the fingers, they concur powerfully, in modifying, and
correcting, the information received from these. The whole hand is
brought, by the motion of the arm, to touch one part of the face or
body; it is then moved, so as to touch another part, and, with the
frequent succession of the simple feelings of touch, in these parts, is
associated the feeling of the intervening _length_, derived from the
sensations that accompanied the progressive contraction of the arm.
But the motion is not always the same; and, as the same feeling of
touch, in one part, is thus followed by various feelings of touch in
different parts, with various series of muscular feelings between, the
notion of length in various _directions_, that is to say, of length in
various series commencing from one power, is obtained in another way.
That the knowledge of extension, or in other words, the association
of the notion of succession with the simple feelings of touch, will
be rude and indistinct at first, I have already admitted; but it will
gradually become more and more distinct and precise: as we can have no
doubt, that the perception of distance by the eye, is, in the first
stages of visual association, very indistinct, and becomes clearer
after each repeated trial. For many weeks or months, all is confusion
in the visual perceptions, as much as in the tactual and muscular.
Indeed, we have abundant evidence of this continued progress of vision,
even in mature life, when, in certain professions that require nice
perceptions of distance, the power of perception itself, by the gradual
acquisitions which it obtains from experience, seems to unfold itself
more and more, in proportion to the wants that require it.

The theory of the notion of extension, of which I have now given you
but a slight outline, might, if the short space of these Lectures
allowed sufficient room, be developed with many illustrations, which it
is now impossible to give to it. I must leave you, in some measure, to
supply these for yourselves.

It may be thought, indeed, that the notion of _time_, or _succession_,
is, in this instance, a superfluous incumbrance of the theory, and
that the same advantage might be obtained, by supposing the muscular
feelings themselves, independently of the notion of their succession,
to be connected with the notion of particular lengths. But this
opinion, it must be remarked, would leave the difficulty precisely as
before; and sufficient evidence in confutation of it, may be found
in a very simple experiment, which it is in the power of any one to
make. The experiment I cannot but consider as of the more value,
since it seems to me,--I will not say _decisive_, for that is too
presumptuous a word,--but strongly _corroborative_ of the theory,
which I have ventured to propose; for it shows, that, even after
all the acquisitions, which our sense of touch has made, the notion
of extension is still modified, in a manner the most striking and
irresistible, by the mere change of accustomed _time_. Let any one,
with his eyes shut, move his hand, with moderate velocity, along a part
of a table, or any other hard smooth surface, the portion, over which
he presses, will appear of a certain length; let him move his hand more
rapidly, the portion of the surface pressed will appear _less_; let him
move his hand _very slowly_, and the length, according to the degree of
the slowness, will appear increased, in a most wonderful proportion.
In this case, there is precisely the same quantity of muscular
contraction, and the same quantity of the organ of touch compressed,
whether the motion be rapid, moderate, or slow. The only circumstance
of difference is the time, occupied in the succession of the feelings;
and this difference is sufficient to give complete diversity to the
notion of length.

If any one, with his eyes shut, suffer his hand to be guided by
another, very slowly along any surface unknown to him, he will find it
impossible to form any accurate guess as to its length. But it is not
necessary, that we should be previously unacquainted with the extent
of surface, along which the motion is performed; for the illusion
will be nearly the same, and the experiment, of course, be still
more striking, when the motion is along a surface with which we are
perfectly familiar, as a book which we hold in our hand, or a desk at
which we are accustomed to sit.

I must request you, not to take for granted the result which I have
now stated, but to repeat for yourselves an experiment, which it
is so very easy to make, and which, I cannot but think is so very
important, as to the influence of _mere difference of time_, in our
estimation of _longitudinal extent_. It is an experiment, tried,
unquestionably, in most unfavourable circumstances, when our tactual
feelings, representative of extension, are so strongly fixed, by the
long experience of our life; and yet, even now, you will find, on
moving your hand, slowly and rapidly, along the same extent of surface,
though with precisely the same degree of pressure in both cases, that
it is as difficult to conceive the extent, thus slowly and rapidly
traversed, to be the same, as it is difficult to conceive the extent
of visual distance to be exactly the same, when you look alternately
through the different ends of an inverted telescope. If when all other
circumstances are the same, the different visual feelings, arising from
difference of the mere direction of light, be representative of length,
in the one case,--the longer or shorter succession of time, when all
other circumstances are the same, has surely as much reason to be
considered as representative of it, in the other case.

Are we, then, to believe, that the _feeling_ of extension, or, in other
words, of the definite figure of bodies, is a _simple feeling_ of
touch, _immediate_, _original_, and _independent of time_; or is there
not rather reason to think, as I have endeavoured to show, that it is
a _compound_ feeling, of which _time_, that is to say, our notion of
succession, is an _original element_?



My last Lecture, Gentlemen, was chiefly employed in considering the
nature of that complex process which takes place in the mind, when
we ascribe the various classes of our sensations to their various
external objects,--to the analysis of which process we were led, by the
importance which Dr Reid has attached to the distinction of _sensation_
and _perception_;--a sensation, as understood by him, being the simple
feeling that immediately follows the action of an external body on any
of our organs of sense, considered merely as a feeling of the mind;
the corresponding perception being a reference of this feeling to the
external body as its cause.

The distinction I allowed to be a convenient one, if the nature of the
complex process which it expresses be rightly understood. The only
question that seemed, philosophically, of importance, with respect
to it, was, whether the _perception_ in this sense,--the reference
of the sensation to its external corporeal cause,--imply, as Dr Reid
contends, a peculiar mental power, coextensive with sensation, to be
distinguished by a peculiar name in the catalogue of our faculties,
or be not merely one of the results of a more general power, which is
afterwards to be considered by us,--the _power of association_,--by
which one feeling suggests, or induces, other feelings that have
formerly coexisted with it.

It would be needless to recapitulate the argument minutely, in its
relation to _all_ the senses. That of smell, which Dr Reid has himself
chosen as an example, will be sufficient for our retrospect.

Certain particles of odorous matter act on my nostrils,--a peculiar
_sensation_ of fragrance arises,--I refer this sensation to a rose.
This reference, which is unquestionably something superadded to the
original sensation itself, is what Dr Reid terms the perception of the
fragrant body. But what is the reference itself, and to what source
is it to be ascribed? That we should have supposed our sensations
to have had a cause of some sort, as we suppose a cause of all our
feelings internal as well as external, may indeed be admitted. But if
I had had no other sense than that of smell,--if I had never _seen_ a
rose,--or, rather, since the knowledge which vision affords is chiefly
of a secondary kind, if I had no mode of becoming acquainted with the
compound of extension and resistance, which the mere sensations of
smell, it is evident, are incapable of affording,--could I have made
this reference of my sensation to a quality of a fragrant body? Could
I, in short, have had more than the mere sensation itself, with that
general belief of a cause of some sort, which is not confined to our
sensations, but is common to them with all our other feelings?

By _mere smell_, as it appears to me, I could not have become
acquainted with the existence of corporeal substances,--in the sense
in which we now understand the term _corporeal_,--nor, consequently,
with the _qualities_ of corporeal substances; and, if so, how could
I have had that perception of which Dr Reid speaks,--that reference
to a fragrant body, of which, as a body, I was before in absolute
ignorance? I should, indeed, have ascribed the sensation to some
cause or antecedent, like every other feeling; but I could as little
have ascribed it to a bodily cause, as any feeling of joy or sorrow.
I refer it now to a _rose_; because, being endowed with _other_
sensitive capacities, I have previously learned, from another source,
the existence of causes without, extended and resisting,--because
I have previously touched or seen a rose, when the sensation of
fragrance coexisted with my visual or tactual sensation; and all
which distinguishes the _perception_ from the mere _sensation_, is
this suggestion of former experience, which reminds me now of other
feelings, with the continuance or cessation of which, in innumerable
former instances, the fragrance itself also continued or ceased.
The perception in short, in smell, taste, hearing, is a sensation
suggesting, by _association_, the notion of some extended and resisting
substance, fragrant, vapid, vibratory,--a notion which smell alone,
taste alone, hearing alone, never could have afforded; but which, when
once received from any other source, may be suggested by these as
readily as any other associate feeling that has frequently coexisted
with them. To the simple primary sensations of _vision_ the same remark
may be applied. A mere sensation of colour could not have made me
acquainted with the existence of bodies, that would resist my effort to
grasp them. It is only in one sense, therefore,--that which affords us
the knowledge of _resistance_,--that any thing like original perception
can be found; and even in this, the process of perception, as I
formerly explained to you, implies no peculiar power, but only common
sensations, with associations and inferences of precisely the same
kind, as those which are continually taking place in all our reasonings
and trains of thought.

_Extension_ and _resistance_, I need scarcely repeat, are the
complex elements of what we term matter; and nothing is matter to
our conception, or a body, to use the simpler synonymous term, which
does not involve these elements. If we had no other sense than that
of smell, and, therefore, could not have referred the sensations to
any fragrant body, what, in Dr Reid's meaning of this term, would the
supposed power of perception, in these circumstances, have been? What
would it have been, in like manner, if we had had only the sense of
taste in sweetness and bitterness,--or of hearing in melody,--or of
vision in colour,--without the capacity of knowing light as a material
substance, or the bodies that vibrated, or the bodies of another
kind that were sweet or bitter? It is only by the sense of touch,
or, at least, by that class of perceptions which Dr Reid ascribes to
touch,--and which, therefore, though traced by us, in part, to another
source, I, for brevity's sake, comprehend under that term in our
present discussion,--it is only by _touch_ that we become acquainted
with those elements which are essential to our very notion of a _body_;
and to touch, therefore, in his own view of it, we must be indebted,
directly or indirectly, as often as we refer the sensations of any
other class to a _corporeal_ cause. Even in the supposed perceptions of
touch itself, however, as we have seen, the reference of our feelings
to an external cause is not demonstrative of any peculiar power of
the mind, to be classed separately from its other faculties. But
when a body is first grasped, in infancy, by fingers that have been
accustomed to contract without being impeded, we learn to consider the
sensation as the result of a cause that is different from our own mind,
because it breaks an accustomed series of feelings, in which all the
antecedents, felt by us at the time, were such as were before uniformly
followed by a different consequent, and were expected, therefore, to
have again their usual consequent. The _cause_ of the new sensation,
which is thus believed to be something different from our sentient
self, is regarded by us as something which has parts, and which resists
our effort, that is to say, as an external body;--because the muscular
feeling, excited by the object grasped is, in the _first_ place,
the very feeling of that which we term resistance; and, _secondly_,
because, by uniformly supplying the place of a definite portion of a
progressive series of feelings, it becomes ultimately representative
of that particular length of series, or number of parts, of which it
thus uniformly supplies the place. Perception, then, even in that class
of feelings by which we learn to consider ourselves as surrounded by
substances extended and resisting, is only another name, as I have
said, for the result of certain associations and inferences that flow
from other more general principles of the mind; and with respect to all
our other sensations, it is only another name for the suggestion of
these very perceptions of touch, or at least of the feelings, tactual
and muscular, which are, by Dr Reid, ascribed to that single sense. If
we had been unsusceptible of these tactual and muscular feelings, and,
consequently, had never conceived the existence of any thing extended
and resisting till the sensation of fragrance, colour, sweetness, or
sound had arisen, we should, after any one or all of these sensations,
have still known as little of bodies without, as if no sensation
whatever had been excited.

The distinction, then, on which Dr Reid has founded so much, involves,
in his view of it, and in the view that is generally taken of it, a
false conception of the nature of the process which he describes.
The two words _sensation_ and _perception_, are, indeed, as I have
already remarked, very convenient for expressing, in one case, the mere
existence of an external feeling,--in the other case, the reference
which the percipient mind has made of this feeling to an external
cause. But this reference is all, which the perception superadds to
the sensation;--and the source of the reference itself we are still
left to seek, in the other principles of our intellectual nature. We
have no need, however, to invent a peculiar power of the mind for
producing it; since there are other principles of our nature, from
which it may readily be supposed to flow,--the principle by which we
are led to believe, that every new consequent, in a train of changes,
must have had a new antecedent of some sort in the train,--and the
principle of association, by which feelings, that have usually
coexisted, suggest or become representative of each other. With these
principles, it certainly is not wonderful, that when the fragrance
of a rose has uniformly affected our sense of smell, as often as the
flower itself was presented to us, we should ascribe the fragrance to
the flower which we have seen and handled;--but though it would not be
wonderful, that we should make it, it would indeed be wonderful, if,
with these principles, we did not make that very reference, for which
Dr Reid thinks it necessary to have recourse to a peculiar faculty of

Such, then, is the view, which I would take of that distinction of
_sensation_ and _perception_, which Dr Reid, and the philosophers
who have followed him, and many of philosophers, too, that preceded
him,--for the distinction, as I have said, is far from being an
original one,--have understood in a different sense; in consequence,
as I cannot but think, of a defective analysis of the mental process,
which constitutes the reference of our feelings of this class to
_causes_ that are _without_.

There is another distinction, which he has adopted from the
philosophers that preceded him, and which forms an important part of
his system of perception,--a distinction, that is just to a certain
extent,--though not to the full extent, and in the precise manner, in
which he and other writers have maintained;--and with respect to which,
therefore, it will be necessary to point out to you, how far I conceive
it to be safely admissible. I allude to the division, which has been
formed of the _primary_ and _secondary_ qualities of matter.

“Every one knows that extension, divisibility, figure, motion,
solidity, hardness, softness, and fluidity, were by Mr Locke called
primary qualities of body; and that sound, colour, taste, smell,
and heat or cold, were called secondary qualities. Is there a just
foundation for this distinction? Is there any thing common to the
primary, which belongs not to the secondary? And what is it?

“I answer, that there appears to me to be a real foundation for the
distinction; and it is this: That our senses give us a direct and a
distinct notion of the primary qualities, and inform us what they are
in themselves; but of the secondary qualities, our senses give us only
a relative and obscure notion. They inform us only, that they are
qualities that affect us in a certain manner, that is, produce in us a
certain sensation; but as to what they are in themselves, our senses
leave us in the dark.

“The notion we have of primary qualities is direct, and not relative
only. A relative notion of the thing, is, strictly speaking, no notion
of the thing at all, but only of some relation which it bears to
something else.

“Thus gravity sometimes signifies the tendency of bodies towards the
earth; sometimes it signifies the cause of that tendency: When it means
the first, I have a direct and distinct notion of gravity: I see it,
and feel it, and know perfectly what it is; but this tendency must have
a cause: We give the same name to the cause; and that cause has been an
object of thought and of speculation. Now what notion have we of this
cause, when we think and reason about it? It is evident, we think of it
as an unknown cause, of a known effect. This is a relative notion, and
it must be obscure; because it gives us no conception of what the thing
is, but of what relation it bears to something else. Every relation
which a thing unknown bears to something that is known, may give a
relative notion of it; and there are many objects of thought, and of
discourse, of which our faculties can give no better than a relative

“Having premised these things to explain what is meant by a relative
notion, it is evident, that our notion of primary qualities is not of
this kind; we know what they are, and not barely what relation they
bear to something else.

“It is otherwise with secondary qualities. If you ask me, what is that
quality or modification in a rose which I call its smell, I am at a
loss to answer directly. Upon reflection I find, that I have a distinct
notion of the sensation which it produces in my mind. But there can be
nothing like to this sensation in the rose, because it is insentient.
The quality in the rose is something which occasions the sensations
in me; but what that something is, I know not. My senses give me no
information upon this point. The only notion, therefore, my senses give
is this, That smell in the rose is an unknown quality or modification,
which is the cause or occasion of a sensation which I know well. The
relation which this unknown quality bears to the sensation with which
nature hath connected it, is all I learn from the sense of smelling;
but this is evidently a relative notion. The same reasoning will apply
to every secondary quality.

“Thus I think it appears, that there is a real foundation for the
distinction of primary from secondary qualities; and that they are
distinguished by this, that of the primary we have by our senses a
direct and distinct notion; but of the secondary only a relative
notion, which must, because it is only relative, be obscure; they are
conceived only as the unknown causes or occasions of certain sensations
with which we are well acquainted.”[92]

Though, as I have explained to you fully, in my former Lectures,
we should not,--at least in far the greater number of our
sensations,--have considered them, originally, as proceeding from
external causes, we yet, after the acquisitions of knowledge, with
which the first years of our life enrich us, believe, that there is
an external cause of all our sensations,--of smells and tastes, as
much as of those feelings of the mind, which constitute our notions
of extension and resistance. But the difference, in these cases,
is, that though we _learn_, by experience of certain successions
or co-existences of feelings, to refer to a _corporeal_ cause our
sensations of fragrance, and various other species of sensations,
there is nothing in the sensation of fragrance itself, or in the other
analogous sensations, of which I speak, that might not indicate as much
a cause directly spiritual, as a cause like that to which we at present
give the name of _body_,--while the very notion of extension and
resistance combined, seems necessarily to indicate a material cause, or
rather is truly that which constitutes our very notion of matter.

We believe, indeed, that our sensations of fragrance, sweetness, sound,
have causes of some sort, as truly as we believe, that our feelings
of extension and resistance have a cause, or causes of some sort; but
if we have previously given the name of matter, with direct reference
to the one set of effects, and not with direct reference to the other,
it necessarily follows, that, in relation to matter, as often as we
speak or think of it, the qualities which correspond with the one set
of effects, that have led us to use that name, must be regarded by us
as primary, and the others, which may, or may not coexist with these,
only as secondary. An external body may, or may not be fragrant,
because fragrance is not one of the qualities previously included by us
in our definition of a body; but it _must_ be _extended_, and present
an obstacle to our compressing force, because these are the very
qualities, which we have included in our definition, and without which,
therefore, the definition must cease to be applicable to the thing

If, originally, we had invented the word _matter_ to denote the cause,
whatever it might be, of our sensations of smell, it is very evident,
that _fragrance_ would then have been to us the primary quality of
_matter_, as being that which was essential to our definition of
matter,--and all other qualities, by which the cause of smell might,
or might not at the same time affect our other senses, would then have
been _secondary_ qualities only,--as being qualities compatible with
our definition of matter, but not essential to it.

What we now term matter, however, I have repeatedly observed,--is that
which we consider as _occupying space_, and _resisting our effort to
compress it_; and those qualities of matter may well be said to be
primary, by which matter itself, as thus defined, becomes known to
us,--or by the union of which, in our conception, we form the complex
notion of matter, and give or withhold that name according as these
qualities are present or absent. Extension and resistance are the
distinguishing qualities that direct us in all our applications of
the word which comprehends them. They are truly _primary_ qualities,
therefore; since, without our consideration of them, we never could
have formed the complex notion of the substance itself, to which we
afterwards, in our analysis of that complex notion, ascribe them
separately as qualities;--and all the other qualities, which we may
afterwards find occasion to refer to an extended resisting substance,
must evidently be secondary, in reference to those qualities, without
which as previously combined in our thought, we could not have had
the primary notion of the substance to which we thus secondarily refer
them. If, in the case which we have already frequently imagined, of the
single sense of smell, we had been absolutely unsusceptible of every
other external feeling, we might, indeed, have considered our sensation
as the effect of _some_ cause,--and even of a cause that was different
from our mind itself; but it is very evident that we could not have
considered it as the effect of the presence of _matter_, at least as
that term is now understood by us. If, in these circumstances,--after
frequent repetition of the fragrance, as the only quality of bodies
with which we could be acquainted,--we were to acquire in an instant
all the other senses which we now possess,--so as to become capable
of forming that complex notion of things extended and resisting,
which is our present notion of matter, we should then, indeed, have a
fuller notion of the rose, of the mere fragrance of which we before
were sensible, without knowing of what it was the fragrance, and might
learn to refer the fragrance to the rose, by the same coexistences of
sensations which have led us, in our present circumstances, to combine
the fragrance with other qualities, in the complex conception of the
flower. Even then, however, though the fragrance, which was our first
sensation, had truly been known to us before the other qualities, and
though the sensation, therefore, would deserve the name of primary,
the _reference_ of this earlier feeling to the external rose as its
cause, would still truly be _secondary_ to the earlier reference, or
rather to the earlier combination of other qualities, in one complex
whole, by which we had formed to ourselves the notion of the extended
and resisting rose, as a body, that admitted the subsequent reference
of the delightful sensation of fragrance to be made to it, as the equal
cause of these different effects.

In this sense, then, the distinction of the primary and secondary
qualities of matter is just,--that, whatever qualities we refer to a
_material_ cause must be, in reference, secondary to those qualities
that are essential to our very notion of the body, to which the
subsequent reference of the other qualities is made. We have formed our
definition of matter; and, as in every other definition of every sort,
the qualities included in the definition, must always, in comparison
of other qualities, be primary and essential, relatively to the thing

Nor is this all.--It will be admitted likewise, that the qualities
termed _primary_,--which alone are included in our general definitions
of matter, and which are all, as we have seen, modifications of mere
extension and resistance, are, even after we have learned to consider
the causes of all our sensations as substances external to the mind,
still felt by us to be external, with more clearness and vividness,
than the other qualities, which we term _secondary_. The difference
is partly, and chiefly, in the nature of the sensations themselves,
as already explained to you, but depends also, I conceive, in no
inconsiderable degree, on the permanence and universality of the
objects which possess the primary qualities, and the readiness with
which we can renew our feeling of them at will, from the constant
presence of our own bodily frame, itself extended and resisting, and of
the other causes of these feelings of extension and resistance, that
seem to be every where surrounding us. Tastes, smells, sounds,--even
colours though more lasting than these--are not always before us;--but
there is not a moment at which we cannot, by the mere stretching of
our hand, produce at pleasure, the feeling of something extended and
resisting. It is a very natural effect of this difference, that the one
set of causes which are always before us, should seem to us, therefore,
peculiarly permanent, and the other set, that are only occasionally
present, should seem almost as fugitive as our sensations themselves.

In these most important respects, there is, then, a just ground
for the distinction of the primary from the secondary qualities of
bodies. They are primary in the order of our definition of matter;
and they are felt by us as peculiarly permanent, independently of our
feelings, which they seem at every moment ready to awake. The power
of affecting us with smell, taste, sight, or hearing, may or may not
be present; but the power of exciting the feelings of extension and
resistance is constantly present, and is regarded by us as essential
to our very notion of matter,--or, in other words, we give the name
of _matter_, only where this complex perception is excited in us. We
seem, therefore, to be constantly surrounded with a material world
of substances extended and resisting, that is to say, a world of
substances capable of exciting in us the feelings which are ascribed
to the primary quality of matter;--but still the feeling of these
primary qualities, which we regard as permanent, is not less than the
feeling of the secondary qualities, a state or affection of the mind,
and nothing more;--and in the one case, as much as in the other, in
the perception of the qualities termed secondary, as much as of the
qualities termed primary, the feeling, when it occurs, is the direct or
immediate result of the presence of the external body with the quality
of which it corresponds;--or, if there be any difference in this
respect, I conceive that our feeling of fragrance, or sweetness, was,
originally at least, a more immediate result of the presence of odorous
or sapid particles,--than any feeling of extension, without the mind,
was the effect of the first body which we touched.

To the extent which I have now stated, then, the difference of these
classes of qualities may be admitted. But as to the other differences
asserted, they seem to be founded on a false view of the nature of
perception. I cannot discover any thing in the sensations themselves,
corresponding with the primary and secondary qualities, which is
direct, as Dr Reid says, in the one case, and only relative in the
other. All are _relative_, in his sense of the term, and equally
relative,--our perception of extension and resistance, as much as our
perception of fragrance or bitterness. Our feeling of extension is not
itself matter, but a feeling excited by matter. We ascribe, indeed, our
sensations as effects to external objects that excite them; but it is
only by the medium of our sensations that these, in any case, become
known to us as objects. To say that our perception of extension is
not relative, to a certain external cause of this perception, direct
or indirect, as our perception of fragrance is relative to a certain
external cause, would be to say that our perception of extension,
induced by the presence of an external cause, is not a _mental_
phenomenon, as much as the perception of fragrance, but is something
more than a state of the mind; for, if the perception of extension be,
as all our perceptions and other feelings must surely be, a _mental_
phenomenon, a state of _mind_, not of _matter_, the reference made
of this to an external cause, must be only to something which is
conceived relatively as the cause of this feeling. What matter is
independently of our perception, we know not, and cannot know, for it
is only by our sensations that we can have any connexion with it; and
even though we were supposed to have our connexion with it enlarged,
by various senses additional to those which we possess at present,
and our acquaintance with it, therefore, to be far more minute, this
very knowledge, however widely augmented, must itself be a _mental
phenomenon_, in like manner, the reference of which, to matter, as
an external cause, would still be _relative_ only like our present
knowledge. That the connexion of the feeling of extension, with a
corporeal substance really existing without, depends on the arbitrary
arrangement made by the Deity; and that all of which we are conscious
might, therefore, have existed, as at present, though no external cause
had been, Dr Reid, who ascribes to an intuitive principle, our belief
of an external universe, virtually allows; and this very admission
surely implies, that the notion does not, directly and necessarily,
involve the existence of any particular cause, whatever it may be
in itself, by which the Deity has thought proper to produce the
corresponding feeling of our mind. It is quite evident, that we cannot,
in this case, appeal to experience, to inform us what sensations
or perceptions are more or less direct; for experience, strictly
understood, does not extend beyond the feelings of our own mind, unless
in this very relative belief itself, that there are certain external
causes of our feelings,--causes which it is impossible for us not to
conceive as really existing, but of which we know nothing more than
that our feelings, in all that wide variety of states of mind, which
we express briefly by the terms sensation or perception, are made to
depend on them. In the series of states in which the mind has existed,
from the first moment of our life, to the present hour, the feelings
of extension, resistance, joy, sorrow, fragrance, colour, hope, fear,
heat, cold, admiration, resentment, have often had place; and some
of these feelings, it has been impossible for us not to ascribe to a
direct external cause; but there have not been in the mental series,
which is all of which we can be conscious, both that feeling of the
mind which we term the perception of extension, and also body itself,
as the cause of this feeling; for body, as an actual substance, cannot
be a part of the consciousness of the mind, which is a different
substance. It is sufficient for us to believe, that there are external
causes of this feeling of the mind, permanent and independent of it,
which produce in regular series, all those phenomena that are found by
us in the physical events of the universe, and with the continuance of
which, therefore, our perceptions also will continue; we cannot truly
suppose more, without conceiving our very notion of extension, a mental
state, to be itself a body extended, which we have as little reason to
suppose, as that our sensation of fragrance, another mental state, is
itself a fragrant body. It is needless to prolong this discussion, by
endeavouring to place the argument in new points of view. The simple
answer to the question, “Is our notion of extension, or of the other
primary qualities of matter, a phenomenon or affection of matter or
of mind?” would be of itself sufficient; for if it be a state of the
_mind_, as much as our feeling of heat or of fragrance, and a state
produced by the presence of an external cause, as our sensations of
heat or fragrance are produced, then there is no reason to suppose,
that the knowledge is, in one case, more direct than in the other. In
both, it is the effect of the presence of an external cause, and in
both it must be _relative_ only,--to adopt Dr Reid's phrase,--to that
particular cause which produced it; the knowledge of which cause, in
the case of extension, as much as in the case of fragrance, is nothing
more than the knowledge, that there is _without_ us, something which
is not our mind itself, but which exists, as we cannot but believe,
permanently and independently of our mind, and produces according to
its own varieties, in relation to our corporeal frame at one time, that
affection of the mind which we denominate the perception of extension;
at another time, that different affection of the mind, which we
denominate the perception of fragrance. _What it is_, as it exists in
absolute independence of our perceptions, we who become acquainted with
it, only by those very perceptions, know not, in either case; but we
know it at least,--which is the only knowledge important for us,--as it
exists _relatively_ to _us_; that is to say, it is impossible for us,
from the very constitution of our nature, not to regard the variety of
our perceptions, as occasioned by a corresponding variety of causes,
external to our mind; though, even in making this reference, we must
still believe our perceptions themselves, to be altogether different
and distinct from the external causes, whatever they may be, which have
produced them; to be, in short, phenomena purely mental, and to be this
equally, whether they relate to the primary or the secondary qualities
of matter; our notion of extension, in whatever way the Deity may have
connected it with the presence of external things, being as much a
state of the mind itself, as our notion of sweetness or sound.

These observations, on the process of suggestion, which, in the
reference to an external cause, distinguishes our _perceptions_ from
our _simpler sensations_,--and on the real and supposed differences
of the primary and secondary qualities of matter,--will have prepared
you, I trust, for understanding better the claim which Dr Reid has made
to the honour of overthrowing what he has termed the ideal system of
perception. It is a claim, as I have said, which appears to me truly
wonderful, both as made by him and admitted by others; the mighty
achievement which appeared to him to be the overthrow of a great
system, being nothing more, than the proof that certain phrases are
metaphorical, which were intended by their authors to be understood
only as metaphors.

In perception there is, as I have already frequently repeated, a
certain _series_--the presence of an external object--the affection of
the sensorial organ--the affection of the sentient mind. As the two
last, however, belong to one being--the being called _self_--which
continues the same, while the external objects around are incessantly
changing;--it is not wonderful, that, in speaking of perception, we
should often think merely of the object as one, and of _ourself_, (this
compound of mind and matter,) as also one,--uniting the organic and
mental changes, in the single word which expresses our perception. To
see and to hear, for example, are single words, expressive of this
whole process--the bodily as well as the mental part--for we do not
consider the terms as applicable, in strict philosophic propriety,
to cases, in which the mere mental affection is the same, but the
corporeal part is believed by us to be different,--as in sleep, or
reverie, when the castle, the forest, the stream, rise before us as in
reality, and we feel as if we were truly listening to voices which we
love. That we feel, as if we were listening, and feel as if we saw, is
our language, when, in our waking hours, we speak of this phenomena of
our dreams,--not that we actually _saw_ and _heard_--thus evidently
shewing, that we comprehend, in these terms,--when used without the
qualifying words _as if_--not the mental changes of state only, but
the whole process of perception, corporeal as well as mental. The mere
organic part of the process, however, being of importance, only as
it is followed by the mental part,--and being always followed by the
mental part,--scarcely enters into our conception, unless in cases
of this sort, when we distinguish perception from vivid imagination,
or when the whole compound process of perception is a subject of
our philosophic inquiry. As sight, hearing, perception, involve, in
a single word,--process both mental and corporeal,--so, I have no
doubt, that idea, though now confined more strictly to the feelings
of the mind, was long employed with a more vague signification, so
as sometimes to mean the mental affection, sometimes the organic
affection, sometimes both;--in the same manner, as at present we speak
of sight, sometimes as mental, sometimes as organic, sometimes as
_both_. It comprehends both, when we distinguish the mountain or forest
which we _see_, from the mountain or forest of which we _dream_. It is
_mental_ only, when we speak of the pleasure of sight. It is organic
only, when we say of an eye, in which the passage of the rays of light
has become obstructed, that its _sight_ is lost, or has been injured by

The consideration of this double sense of the term _idea_, in some of
the older metaphysical writers, corresponding with our present double
sense of the word perception, as involving both the corporeal and
mental part of the process, removes, I think, much of that apparent
confusion, which is sometimes to be found in their language on the
subject; when they combine with the term expressions, which can be
understood only in a _material_ sense, after combining with it, at
other times, expressions, which can be understood only of the _mind_;
as it is not impossible that a period may arrive, when much of our
reasoning, that involves no obscurity at present, may seem obscure
and confused, to our successors, in that career of inquiry, which,
perhaps, is yet scarcely begun; merely because they may have limited,
with stricter propriety, to one part of a process, terms, which we
now use as significant of a whole process. In the same manner, as we
now exclude wholly from the term _idea_ every thing _organic_, so may
every thing organic hereafter be excluded from the term _sight_; and
from the simple phrase, so familiar at present, that an eye has lost
its sight, some future philosopher may be inclined to assert, that we,
who now use that phrase, consider the perception of vision, as in the
_material organ_; and, if he have the talents of Dr Reid, he may even
form a series of admirable ratiocinations, in disproof of an opinion
which nobody holds, and may consider himself, and perhaps, too, if he
be as fortunate as the author of the Inquiry into the Human Mind, may
be considered, by others, as the overthrower of a mighty system of
metaphysical illusion.

How truly this has been the case, in the supposed overthrow of the
ideal system, I shall proceed to shew in my next Lecture.


[92] On the Intellectual Powers, Essay II. c. 17.



The remarks which I offered, in my last Lecture, in illustration of
what have been termed the _primary_ and _secondary_ qualities of
matter, were intended chiefly to obviate that false view of them, in
which the one set of these qualities is distinguished, as affording
us a knowledge that is direct, and the other set, a knowledge that is
relative only;--as if any qualities of matter could become known to
the mind, but as they are capable of affecting the mind with certain
feelings, and as _relative_, therefore, to the feelings which they
excite. What matter is, but as the cause of those various states of
mind, which we denominate our sensations or perceptions, it is surely
impossible for us, by perception, to discover. The physical universe,
amid which we are placed, may have innumerable qualities that have no
relation to our percipient mind,--and qualities, which, if our mind
were endowed with other capacities of sensation, we might discover as
readily as those which we know at present; but the qualities that have
_no relation_ to the present state of the mind, cannot to the mind,
in its present state, be elements of its knowledge. From the very
constitution of our nature, indeed, it is impossible for us not to
believe, that our sensations have _external_ causes, which correspond
with them, and which have a permanence, that is independent of our
transient feelings,--a permanence, that enables us to predict in
certain circumstances, the feelings which they are again to excite in
our percipient mind; and to the union of all these permanent external
causes, in one great system, we give the name of the material world.
But the material world, in the sense in which alone we are entitled to
speak of it, is still only a name for a multitude of external causes
of our feelings,--of causes which are, recognized by us as permanent
and uniform in their nature; but are so recognized by us, only because,
in similar circumstances, they excite uniformly in the mind the same
perceptions, or, at least, are supposed by us to be uniform in their
own nature, when the perceptions which they excite in us are uniform.
It is according to their mode of affecting the mind, then, with various
sensations, that we know them,--and not according to their own absolute
nature, which it is impossible for us to know,--whether we give the
name of primary or secondary to the qualities which affect us. If
our sensations were different, our perceptions of the qualities of
things, which induce these sensations in us, would instantly have a
corresponding difference. All the external existences, which we term
matter,--and all the phenomena of their motion or their rest,--if known
to us at all, are known to us only by exciting in _us_, the percipients
of them, certain feelings:--and qualities, which are not more or less
directly _relative_ to our feelings, as sentient or percipient beings,
are, therefore, qualities which _we_ must be forever incapable even of

This, and some other discussions which have of late engaged us, were
in part intended as preparatory to the inquiry on which we entered in
the close of my Lecture,--the inquiry into the justness of the praise
which has been claimed and received by Dr Reid, as the confuter of a
very absurd theory of perception, till then universally prevalent:--and
if, indeed, the theory, which he is said to have confuted, had been the
general belief of philosophers till confuted by him, there can be no
question, that he would have had a just claim to be considered as one
of the chief benefactors of the Philosophy of Mind. At any rate, since
this glory has been ascribed to him, and his supposed confutation of
the theory of perception, by little images of objects conveyed to the
mind, has been considered as forming one of the most important eras
in intellectual science, it has acquired, from this universality of
mistake with respect to it, an interest which, from its own merits, it
would certainly be far from possessing.

In the Philosophy of the Peripatetics, and in all the dark ages of the
scholastic followers of that system, _ideas_ were truly considered as
little images derived from objects without; and, as the word _idea_
still continued to be used after this original meaning had been
abandoned, (as it continues still, in all the works that treat of
perception,) it is not wonderful that many of the accustomed forms of
expression, which were retained together with it, should have been of
a kind that, in their strict etymological meaning, might have seemed
to harmonize more with the theory of ideas as images, which prevailed
when these particular forms of expression originally became habitual,
than with that of _ideas_ as mere _states of the mind itself_; since
this is only what has happened with respect to innumerable other words,
in the transmutations of meaning which they have received during the
long progress of scientific inquiry. The idea, in the old philosophy,
had been that, of which the presence immediately preceded the mental
perception,--the direct external cause of perception; and accordingly,
it may well be supposed, that when the direct cause of perception was
believed to be, not a foreign phantasm, but a peculiar affection of
the sensorial organ, that word, which had formerly been applied to
the supposed object, would still imply some reference to the organic
state, which was believed to supply the place of the shadowy film, or
phantasm, in being, what it had been supposed to be, the immediate
antecedent of perception. Idea, in short, in the old writers, like the
synonymous word perception at present, was expressive, not of one part
of a process, but of two parts of it. It included, with a certain vague
comprehensiveness, the _organic_ change as well as the _mental_,--in
the same way as perception now implies a certain change produced in
our organs of sense, and a consequent change in the state of the
mind; and hence it is surely not very astonishing, that while many
expressions are found in the works of these older writers, which, in
treating of ideas, have a reference to the mental part of the process
of perception, other expressions are occasionally employed which relate
only to the material part of the process,--since both parts of the
process, as I have said, were, to a certain degree, denoted by that
single word. All this might very naturally take place, though nothing
more was meant to be expressed by it than these two parts of the
process,--the organic change, whatever it might be, and the subsequent
mental change, without the necessary intervention of something distinct
from both, such as Dr Reid supposes to have been meant by the term

It is this application, to the bodily part of the process, of
expressions, which he considered as intended to be applied to the
mental part of perception, that has sometimes misled him in the views
which he has given of the opinions of former philosophers. But still
more frequently has he been misled, by understanding in a literal
sense phrases which were intended in a metaphorical sense, and which
seem so obviously metaphorical, that it is truly difficult to account
for the misapprehension. Indeed, the same metaphors, on the mere
use of which Dr Reid founds so much, continue still to be used in
the same manner as before he wrote. We speak of impressions on the
mind,--of ideas bright or obscure, permanent or fading,--of senses,
that are the inlets to our knowledge of external things,--and of
memory, in which this knowledge is stored,--precisely as the writers
and speakers before us used these phrases; without meaning any thing
more, than that certain organic changes, necessary to perception, are
produced by external objects,--and that certain feelings, similar to
those originally excited in this manner, are afterwards renewed, with
more or less permanence and vivacity, without the recurrence of the
objects that originally produced them;--and to arrange all the moods
and figures of logic in confutation of mere metaphors, such as I
cannot but think the images in the mind to have been, which Dr Reid so
powerfully assailed, seems an undertaking not very different from that
of exposing, syllogistically and seriously, all the follies of Grecian
Paganism as a system of theological belief, in the hope of converting
some unfortunate poetaster or poet, who still talks, in his rhymings to
his mistress, of _Cupid_ and the _Graces_.

There is, however, one very important practical inference to be drawn
from this misapprehension,--the necessity of avoiding, as much as
possible, in philosophic disquisition, the language of _metaphor_,
especially when the precise meaning has not before been pointed out, so
as to render any misconception of the intended meaning, when a metaphor
is used, as nearly impossible as the condition of our intellectual
nature will allow. In calculating the possibility of this future
misconception, we should never estimate our own perspicuity very
highly; for there is always in man a redundant facility of mistake,
beyond our most liberal allowance. As Pope truly says,--

    “The difference is as great between
    The optics seeing, as the objects seen;”

and, unfortunately, it is the object only which is in our power. The
fallible optics, that are to view it, are beyond our controul; and
whatever opinion, therefore, the most cautious philosopher may assert,
he ought never to flatter himself with the absolute certainty, that, in
the course of a few years, he may not be exhibited, and confuted, as
the assertor of a doctrine, not merely different from that which he has
professed, but exactly opposite to it.

The true nature of the opinions really held by philosophers is,
however, to be determined by reference to their works. To this then let
us proceed.

The language of Mr Locke,--to begin with one of the most eminent of
these,--is unfortunately, so very figurative, when he speaks of the
intellectual phenomena,(though I have no doubt that he would have
avoided these figures, if he could have foreseen the possibility of
their being interpreted literally,) that it is not easy to show, by
any single quotation, how very different his opinions as to perception
were, from those which Dr Reid has represented them to be. The great
question is, whether he believed the existence of ideas, as things
in the mind, separate from perception, and intermediate between, the
organic affection, whatever it might be, and the mental affection;
or whether the _idea_ and the _perception_ were considered by him as
the same. “In the perception of external objects,” says Dr Reid, “all
languages distinguish three things,--the mind that perceives,--the
operation of that mind, which is called perception,--and the object
perceived. Philosophers have introduced a fourth thing, in this
process, which they call the idea of the object.”[93] It is the merit
of shewing the nullity of this supposed fourth thing, which Dr Reid
claims, and which has been granted to him, without examination. The
perception itself, as a state of the mind, or, as he chooses to call
it, an operation of the mind, he admits, and he admits also the organic
change which precedes it. Did Mr Locke then contend for any thing more,
for that fourth thing, the idea, distinct from the perception,--over
which Dr Reid supposes himself to have triumphed? That he did not
contend for any thing more, nor conceive the idea to be any thing
different from the perception itself, is sufficiently apparent from
innumerable passages both of his Essay itself, and of his admirable
defence of the great doctrines of his Essay, in his controversy with
Bishop Stillingfleet. He repeatedly states, that he uses the word
_idea_, as synonymous with _conception_ or _notion_, in the common use
of those terms; his only reason for preferring it to notion, (which
assuredly Dr Reid could not suppose to mean any thing, distinct from
the mind) being, that the term notion seems to him better limited to
a particular class of ideas, those which he technically terms _mixed
modes_. That ideas are not different from perceptions is clearly
expressed by him. “To ask at what time a man has first any _ideas_,”
he says, “is to ask when he begins to _perceive_; having ideas and
perception being the same thing.”[94] If he speaks of our senses, as
the _inlets_ to our ideas, the metaphor is surely a very obvious one;
or, if any one will still contend, that what is said metaphorically
must have been intended really, it must be remembered, that he uses
precisely the same metaphor, in cases in which the _real_ application
of it is absolutely impossible, as, for example, with respect to our
perceptions or sensations, and that, if we are to understand, from his
use of such metaphors, that he believed the ideas, thus introduced, to
be distinct from the mind, we must understand, in like manner, that he
believed our sensations and perceptions, introduced, in like manner, to
be also things self-existing, and capable of being admitted, at certain
inlets, into the mind as their recipient. “Our senses, conversant about
particular sensible objects, do convey,” he says, “into the mind,
several distinct perceptions of things, according to those various ways
wherein those objects do affect them.”[95] “The senses are avenues
provided by nature for the reception of sensations.”[96] I cannot but
think, that these, and the similar passages that occur in the Essay,
ought, of themselves, to have convinced Dr Reid, that he who thus spoke
of PERCEPTIONS, conveyed into the mind, and of avenues provided for the
reception of SENSATIONS, might also, when he spoke of the conveyance of
ideas into the mind, and of avenues for the reception of ideas, have
meant nothing more than the simple external origin of those notions,
or conceptions, or feelings, or affections of mind, to which he gave
the name of _ideas_; especially when there is not a single argument in
his Essay, or in any of his works, that is founded on the substantial
reality of our ideas, as separate and distinct things in the mind. I
shall refer only to one additional passage, which I purposely select,
because it is, at the same time, very full of the particular figures,
that have misled Dr Reid, and shews, therefore, what the true meaning
of the author was at the time at which he used these figures.

“The other way of retention, is the power to revive again in our minds
those ideas, which after imprinting have disappeared, or have been as
it were laid aside out of sight; and thus we do, when we conceive heat
or light, yellow or sweet, the object being removed. This is memory,
which is, as it were the storehouse of our ideas. For the narrow
mind of man not being capable of having many ideas under view and
consideration at once, it was necessary to have a repository to lay up
those ideas, which at another time it might have use of. But our ideas
being nothing but actual perceptions in the mind, which cease to be any
thing, when there is no perception of them, this laying up of our ideas
in the repository of the memory, signifies no more but this, that the
mind has a power in many cases to revive perceptions, which it has once
had, with this additional perception annexed to them, that it has had
them before. And in this sense it is, that our ideas are said to be in
our memories, when indeed they are actually no where, but only there
is an ability in the mind when it will to revive them again, and as it
were paint them a-new on itself, though some with more, some with less
difficulty; some more lively, and others more obscurely.”[97]

The doctrine of this truly eminent philosopher, therefore, is, that the
presence of the external object, and the consequent organic change,
are followed by an idea, “which is nothing but the actual perception;”
and that the laying up of these ideas in the memory, signifies nothing
more, than that the mind has, in many cases, a power to revive
perceptions which it has once had. All this, I conceive, is the very
doctrine of Dr Reid on the subject; and to have confuted Mr Locke,
therefore, if it had been possible for him, must have been a very
unfortunate confutation, as it would have been also to have confuted
as completely the very opinions on the subject, which he was disposed
himself to maintain.

I may now proceed further back, to another philosopher of great
eminence, whose name, unfortunately for its reputation, is associated
more with his political and religious errors, than with his analytical
investigations of the nature of the phenomena of thought. The author
to whom I allude is Hobbes, without all question one of the most acute
intellectual inquirers of the country and age in which he lived. As
the physiology of the mind, in Britain at least seemed at that time
to be almost a new science, he was very generally complimented by
his contemporary poets, as the discoverer of a _new land_. Some very
beautiful Latin verses, addressed to him, I quoted to you, in a former
Lecture, in which it was said, on occasion of his work on Human Nature,
that the mind, which had before known all things, was now for the first
time made known to itself.

                      “Omnia hactenus
    Quæ nosse potuit, nota jam primum est sibi.”

And in which he was said, _in revealing_ the mind, to have performed a
work, next in divinity to that of creating it.

                      “Divinum est opus
    Animum creare, proximum huic ostendere.”

By Cowley, who styles him “the discoverer of the golden lands of new
philosophy,” he is compared to Columbus, with this difference, that
the world, which that great navigator found, was left by him, rude and
neglected, to the culture of future industry; while that which Hobbes
discovered might be said to have been at once explored by him and
civilized. The eloquence of his strong and perspicuous style, I may
remark by the way, seems to have met with equal commendation, from his
poetical panegyrists, with whom, certainly not from the excellence of
his own verses, he appears to have been in singular favour. His style
is thus described, in some verses of Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham:

    “Clear as a beautiful transparent skin,
    Which never hides the blood, yet holds it in;
    Like a delicious stream it ever ran
    As smooth as woman, and as strong as man.”[98]

The opinions of Hobbes, on the subject which we are considering, are
stated at length, in that part of his Elements of Philosophy, which he
has entitled _Physica_; and, far from justifying Dr Reid's assertion,
with respect to the general ideal system of philosophers, may be
considered, in this important respect, as far, at least, as relates to
the unity of the idea, and the perception itself, as similar to his
own. _Sensation_ or _perception_, he traces to the impulse of external
objects, producing a motion along the nerves towards the brain, and a
consequent reaction outwards, which he seems to think, very falsely
indeed, may account for the reference to the object as external. This
hypothesis, however, is of no consequence. The only important point
in reference to the supposed universality of the system of ideas, is
whether this philosopher of another age, asserted the existence of
ideas, as intermediate things, distinct from the mere perception;
and, on this subject, he is as explicit as Dr Reid himself could be.
The idea or _phantasma_, as he terms it, is the very perception or
_actus sentiendi_. “Phantasma enim est sentiendi actus; neque differt
a sensione, aliter quam _fieri_ differt a _factum esse_.”[99] The same
doctrine, and I may add also, the same expression of the unity of the
actus sentiendi and the phantasma, are to be found in various other
parts of his works.

I may, however, proceed still further back, to an author of yet wider
and more varied genius, one of those extraordinary men whom nature
gives to the world, for her mightiest purposes, when she wishes to
change the aspect, not of a single science merely, but of all that
can be known by man; that illustrious _rebel_, who, in overthrowing
the authority of Aristotle, seemed to have acquired, as it were by
right of conquest, a sway in philosophy, as absolute, though not so
lasting, as that of the Grecian despot. “Time,” says one of the most
eloquent of his countrymen, “has destroyed the opinions of Des Cartes.
But his glory subsists still. He appears like one of those dethroned
monarchs, who, on the very ruins of their empire, still seem born for
the sovereignty of mankind.”

On the opinions of Des Cartes, with respect to perception, Dr Reid has
dwelt at great length, and has not merely represented him as joining
in that belief of ideas, distinct from perception, which he represents
as the universal belief of philosophers, but has even expressed
astonishment, that Des Cartes, whose general opinions might have led
him to a different conclusion, should yet have joined in the common
one. “The system of Des Cartes,” he says, “is with great perspicuity
and acuteness explained by himself, in his writings, which ought to be
consulted by those who would understand it.”[100] He probably was not
aware, when he wrote these few lines, how important was the reference
which he made, especially to those whom he was addressing; since, the
more they studied the view which he has given of the opinions of Des
Cartes, the more necessary would it become for them to consult the
original author.

“It is to be observed,” he says, “that Des Cartes rejected a part only
of the ancient theory, concerning the perception of external objects
by the senses, and that he adopted the other part. That theory may be
divided into two parts,--the _first_, that images, species, or forms
of external objects, come from the object, and enter by the avenues
of the senses to the mind; the _second_ part is, that the external
object itself is not perceived, but only the species or image of it in
the mind. The first part Des Cartes and his followers rejected, and
refuted by solid arguments; but the second part, neither he nor his
followers have thought of calling in question; being persuaded that it
is only a representative image, in the mind, of the external object
that we perceive, and not the object itself. And this image, which
the Peripatetics called a _species_, he calls an _idea_, changing the
name only, while he admits the thing.”[101]--“Des Cartes, according
to the spirit of his own philosophy, ought to have doubted of both
parts of the Peripatetic hypothesis, or to have given his reasons,
why he adopted one part, as well as why he rejected the other part;
especially since the unlearned, who have the faculty of perceiving
objects by their senses, in no less perfection than philosophers, and
should therefore know, as well as they, what it is they perceive, have
been unanimous in this, that the objects they perceive are not ideas in
their own minds, but things external. It might have been expected, that
a philosopher, who was so cautious as not to take his own existence for
granted, without proof, would not have taken it for granted, without
proof, that every thing he perceived was only _ideas_ in his own

All this might certainly have been expected, as Dr Reid says, if the
truth had not been, that the opinions of Des Cartes are precisely
opposite to the representation which he has given of them,--that,
far from believing in the existence of images of external objects,
as the immediate causes or antecedents of perception, he strenuously
contends against them. The presence of the external body,--the organic
change, which he conceives to be a sort of motion of the small febrils
of the nerves and brain,--and the affection of the mind, which he
expressly asserts to have no resemblance whatever to the motion that
gave occasion to it,--these are all which he conceives to constitute
the process of perception, without any _idea_, as a thing distinct,--a
fourth thing intervening between the organic and the mental change. And
this process is exactly the process which Dr Reid himself supposes,
with this only difference,--an unimportant one for the present
argument,--that Dr Reid, though he admits some intervening organic
change, does not state, positively, what he conceives to be its nature,
while the French philosopher supposes it to consist in a motion of the
nervous fibrils. The doctrine of Des Cartes is to be found, very fully
stated, in his _Principia Philosophiæ_, in his _Dioptrics_, and in
many passages of his small controversial works. He not merely rejects
the Peripatetic notion, of images or shadowy films, the resemblance of
external things, received by the senses,--contending, that the mere
organic affection--the motion of the nervous fibril--is sufficient,
without any such images, “diversos motus tenuium uniuscujusque nervi
capillamentorum sufficere ad diversos sensus producendum;” and proving
this by a very apposite case, to which he frequently recurs, of a
blind man determining the dimensions of bodies by comprehending them
within two crossed sticks,--in which case, he says, it cannot be
supposed, that the sticks _transmit_, through themselves, any _images_
of the body; but he even proceeds to account for the common prejudice,
with respect to the use of images of perception, ascribing it to the
well-known effect of pictures in exciting notions of the objects
pictured. “Such is the nature of the mind,” he says, “that, by its very
constitution, when certain bodily motions take place, certain thoughts
immediately arise, that have no resemblance whatever, as images, to the
motions in consequence of which they arise. The thoughts which words,
written or spoken, excite, have surely no resemblance to the words
themselves. A slight change in the motion of a pen may produce, in the
reader, affections of mind the most opposite; nor is it any reply to
this to say, that the characters traced by the pen are only occasions,
that excite the mind itself to form opposite images,--for the case is
equally striking, when no such image can be formed, and the feeling
is the immediate result of the application of the external body. When
a sword has pierced any part, is not the feeling excited as different
altogether from the mere motion of the sword, as colour, or sound, or
smell, or taste; and since we are sure, in the case of the mere pain
from the sword, that no image of the sword is necessary, ought we not
to extend the same inference, by analogy, to all the other affections
of our senses, and to believe these also to depend, not on any images,
or things transmitted to the brain, but on the mere constitution of our
nature, by which certain thoughts are made to arise, in consequence
of certain corporeal motions?” The passage is long, indeed, but it is
so clear, and so decisive, as to the misrepresentation by Dr Reid of
the opinion which he strangely considered himself as confuting, that
I cannot refrain from quoting the original, that you may judge for
yourselves, of the real meaning, which a translation might be supposed
to have erred in conveying.

“Probatur deinde, talem esse nostræ mentis naturam, ut ex eo solo quod
quidam motus in corpore fiant ad quaslibet cogitationes, nullam istorum
motuum imaginem referentes, possit impelli; et speciatim ad illas
confusas, quæ sensus, sive sensationes dicuntur. Nam videmus, verba,
sive ore prolata, sive tantum scripta, quaslibet in animis nostris
cogitationes et commotiones excitare. In eadem charta, cum eodem calamo
et atramento, si tantum calami extremitas certo modo supra chartam
ducatur, literas exarabit, quæ cogitationes præliorum, tempestatum,
furiarum, affectusque indignationis et tristitiæ in lectorum animis
concitabunt; si vero alio modo fere simili calamus moveatur,
cogitationes valde diversas, tranquillitatis, pacis, amœnitatis,
affectusque plane contrarios amoris et lætitiæ efficiet. Respondebitur
fortasse, scripturam vel loquelam nullos affectus, nullasque rerum a se
diversarum imaginationes immediate in mente excitare, sed tantummodo,
diversas intellectiones; quarum deinde occasione anima ipsa variarum
rerum imagines in se efformat. Quid autem dicetur de sensu doloris et
titillationis? Gladius corpori nostro admovetur; illud scindit; ex
hoc solo sequitur dolor; qui sane non minus diversus est a gladii,
vel corporis quod scinditur locali motu, quam color, vel sonus,
vel odor, vel sapor. Atque ideo cum clare videamus, doloris sensum
in nobis excitari ab eo solo, quod aliquae corporis nostri partes
contactu alicujus alterius corporis localiter moveantur, concludere
licet, mentem nostram esse talis naturæ, ut ab aliquibus etiam motibus
localibus omnium aliorum sensuum affectiones pati possit.

“Præterea non deprehendimus ullam differentiam inter nervos, ex qua
liceat judicare, aliud quid per unos, quam alios, ab organis sensuum
externorum ad cerebrum pervenire, vel omnino quidquam eo pervenire
præter ipsorum nervorum motum localem.”[103]

It is scarcely possible to express more strongly, or illustrate
more clearly, an opinion so exactly the reverse of that doctrine of
perception, by the medium of representative ideas or images, ascribed
by Dr Reid to its illustrious author. It would not be more unjust, even
after all his laborious writings on the subject, to rank the supposed
confuter of the ideal system, as himself one of its most strenuous
champions, than to make this charge against Des Cartes, and to say of
him, in Dr Reid's words, that “the image which the Peripatetics called
a species, he calls an idea, changing the name only, while he admits
the thing.”[104]

To these authors, whose opinions, on the subject of perception, Dr
Reid has misconceived, I may add one, whom even he himself allows, to
have shaken off the ideal system, and to have considered the idea and
the perception, as not distinct, but the same, a modification of the
mind, and nothing more. I allude to the celebrated Jansenist writer,
Arnauld, who maintains this doctrine as expressly as Dr Reid himself,
and makes it the foundation of his argument in his controversy with
Malebranche. But, if I were to quote to you every less important
writer, who disbelieved the reality of ideas or images, as things
existing separately and independently, I might quote to you almost
every writer, British and foreign, who, for the last century, and for
many years preceding it, has treated of the mind. The narrow limits of
a Lecture have forced me to confine my notice to the most illustrious.

Of all evidence, however, with respect to the prevalence of opinions,
the most decisive is that which is found, not in treatises read only
by a few, but in the popular elementary works of science of the time,
the general text-books of schools and colleges. I shall conclude this
long discussion, therefore, with short quotations from two of the most
distinguished and popular authors, of this very useful class.

The first is from the logic or rather the pneumatology, of Le Clerc,
the Friend of Locke. In his chapter, on the nature of ideas, he gives
the history of the opinions of philosophers on this subject, and states
among them the very doctrine which is most forcibly and accurately
opposed to the ideal system of perception. “Others,” he says, “held
that ideas and the perception of ideas are absolutely the same in
themselves, and differ merely in our relative application of them; that
same feeling of the mind, which is termed an idea, in reference to
the object which the mind considers, is termed a perception, when we
speak of it relatively to the percipient mind; but it is only of one
modification of the mind that we speak in both cases.” According to
these philosophers, therefore, there are, in strictness of language, no
ideas distinct from the mind itself. “Alii putant ideas et perceptiones
idearum easdem esse, licet relationibus differant. Idea, uti censent,
proprie ad objectum refertur, quod mens considerat;--perceptio,
vero, ad mentem ipsam quæ percipit; sed duplex illa relatio ad unam
modificationem mentis pertinet. Itaque secundum hosce philosophos,
nullæ sunt proprie loquendo ideæ a mente nostra distinctæ.”[105] What
is it, I may ask, which Dr Reid considers himself as having added to
this very philosophic view of perception? and, if he added nothing, it
is surely too much to ascribe to him the merit of detecting errors, the
counter statement to which had long formed a part of the elementary
works of the schools.

In addition to these quotations,--the number of which may perhaps
already have produced at least as much weariness as conviction,--I
shall content myself with a single paragraph, from a work of De
Crousaz, the author, not of _one_ merely, but of many very popular
elementary works of logic, and unquestionably one of the most acute
thinkers of his time. His works abound with many sagacious remarks,
on the sources of the prejudice involved in that ideal system, which
Dr Reid conceived himself the first to have overthrown; and he states,
in the strongest language, that our ideas are nothing more than states
or affections of our mind itself. “Cogitandi modi--quibus cogitatio
nostra modificatur, quos induit alios post alios, sufficiunt, ut per
eos ad rerum cognitionem veniat; nec sunt fingendæ ideæ, ab illis
modificationibus diversæ.”[106] I may remark by the way, that precisely
the same distinction of sensations and perceptions, on which Dr Reid
founds so much, is stated and enforced in the different works of this
ingenious writer. Indeed so very similar are his opinions, that if he
had lived after Dr Reid, and had intended to give a view of that very
system of perception which we have been examining, I do not think that
he could have varied in the slightest respect, from that view of the
process which he has given in his own original writings.

It appears then, that, so far is Dr Reid from having the merit of
confuting the universal, or even general illusion of philosophers,
with respect to ideas in the mind, as images or separate things,
distinct from the perception itself; that his own opinions as to
perception on this point at least, are precisely the same, as those
which generally prevailed before. From the time of the decay of the
Peripatetic Philosophy, the process of perception was generally
considered, as involving nothing more, than the presence of an external
object--an organic change or series of changes--and an affection of
the mind immediately subsequent,--without the intervention of any
idea as a fourth separate thing between the organic and the mental
affection. I have no doubt, that,--with the exception of Berkeley
and Malebranche,--who had peculiar and very erroneous notions on the
subject, all the philosophers whom Dr Reid considered himself as
opposing, would, if they had been questioned by him, have admitted,
before they heard a single argument on his part, that their opinions,
with respect to ideas were precisely the same as his own;--and what
then would have remained for him to confute? He might, indeed, still
have said, that it was absurd, in those who considered perception as
a mere state or modification of the mind, to speak of ideas in their
mind: but the very language, used by him for this purpose, would
probably have contained some metaphor as little philosophic. We must
still allow men to speak of ideas in their mind, if they will only
consent to believe that the ideas are truly the mind itself variously
affected;--as we must still allow men to talk of the rising and setting
of the sun, if they will only admit that the motion which produces
those appearances is not in that majestic and tranquil orb, but in our
little globe of earth, which, carrying along with it, in its daily
revolution, all our busy wisdom and still busier folly, is itself as
restless as its restless inhabitants.

That a mind, so vigorous as that of Dr Reid, should have been
capable of the series of misconceptions which we have traced, may
seem wonderful, and truly is so; and equally, or rather, still more
wonderful, is the general admission of his merit in this respect. I
trust it will impress you with _one_ important lesson,--which could
not be taught more forcibly than by errors of so great a mind,--that
it will always be necessary for you to consult the opinions of
authors,--when their opinions are of sufficient importance to deserve
to be accurately studied--in their _own works_ and not in the works
of those who profess to give a faithful account of them. From my own
experience, I can most truly assure you, that there is scarcely an
instance, in which, on examining the works of those authors whom it
is the custom more to cite than to read, I have found the view which
I had received of them to be faithful. There is usually something
more or something less, which modifies the general result,--some mere
conjecture represented as an absolute affirmation, or some limited
affirmation extended to analogous cases, which it was not meant to
comprehend. And, by the various additions or subtractions, thus made,
in passing from mind to mind, so much of the spirit of the original
doctrine is lost, that it may, in some cases, be considered as having
made a fortunate escape, if it be not at last represented, as directly
opposite to what it is. It is like those engraved portraits of the
eminent men of former ages,--the copies of mere copies,--from which
every new artist, in the succession, has _taken_ something, or to which
he has _added_ something, till not a lineament remains the same. If we
are truly desirous of a faithful likeness, we must have recourse once
more to the original painting.


[93] On the Intellectual Powers, Essay II. chap. xii.

[94] Essay concerning Human Understanding, B. ii. chap. i. sect. 9.

[95] Sect. 3.

[96] Sect. 12.

[97] Essay concerning Human Understanding, B. ii. chap. x. sect, 2.

[98] On Hobbes and his Writings, v. 37-40.--Works, p. 180. 4to Edit.

[99] Elementa Philosophiæ, Pars IV. c. xxv. sect. 3.

[100] On the Intellectual Powers, Essay II. c. 8.

[101] Ibid.

[102] Ibid.

[103] Principia Philosophiæ, Pars IV. Sect. 196.--p. 190, 191. Amst.

[104] On the Intellectual Powers, Essay II. c. 8.

[105] Clerici Pneumatologia, Sect. i. cap. v. subsect. 10.

[106] Tentamen Novum Metaphysicum, Sect. xxxvii.--_Groningæ_, 1725.



My last Lecture, Gentlemen, brought to a conclusion the remarks which I
had to offer on the Sense of Touch, and particularly on the manner in
which I supposed the mind to acquire its knowledge of external things.

With this very important question of the existence of matter, the name
of Dr Reid is intimately connected, to whom the highest praise is
usually given, for his supposed confutation of all scepticism on the
subject; as if he had truly established, _by argument_, the existence
of a material world. And yet, I confess, that with all my respect for
that excellent philosopher, I do not discover, in his reasonings on the
subject, any ground for the praise which has been given. The evidence
for a system of external things,--at least, the sort of evidence for
which he contends,--was not merely the same, but was felt also to be
precisely the same, before he wrote as afterwards. Nay, I may add, that
the force of the evidence,--if that term can be justly applied to this
species of belief,--was admitted, in its fullest extent, by the very
sceptic, against whom chiefly his arguments were directed.

That Dr Reid was a philosopher of no common rank, every one, who has
read his works with attention, and with candour, must admit. It is
impossible to deny, that, to great power of patient investigation,
in whatever inquiries he undertook, he united great caution, in
discriminating the objects of legitimate inquiry, together with
considerable acuteness, of the same sage and temperate kind, in
the prosecution of such inquiries as appeared to him legitimate.
And,--which is a praise, that, unfortunately for mankind, and still
more unfortunately for the individual, does not always attend mere
intellectual renown,--it is impossible to deny to him the more
covetable glory, that his efforts, even when he erred speculatively,
had always in view those great interests, to which, and to which alone,
philosophy itself is but a secondary consideration,--the primary and
essential interests of religion and morality.

These praises are certainly not higher than his merits. But, at the
same time, while by philosophers in one part of the island, his merits
seem to have been unjustly undervalued, I cannot but think also,
that, in his own country, there has been an equal or rather a far
greater tendency to over-rate them,--a tendency arising in part from
the influence of his academic situation, and his amiable personal
character--partly, and in a very high degree, from the general regard
for the moral and religious objects which he uniformly had in view, as
contrasted with the consequences that are supposed to flow from some
of the principles of the philosopher, whose opinions he particularly
combated--and partly also, I may add, from the eloquence of his
Illustrious Pupil, and Friend, and Biographer, whose understanding,
so little liable to be biassed by any prejudices but those of virtue
and affectionate friendship, has yet, perhaps, been influenced in some
degree by those happy and noble prejudices of the heart, and who, by
the persuasive charms both of his Lectures and of his Writings, could
not fail to cast, on any system of opinions which he might adopt and
exhibit, some splendour of reflection from the brilliancy of his own

The genius of Dr Reid does not appear to me to have been very
inventive, nor to have possessed much of that refined and subtile
acuteness, which,--capable as it is of being abused,--is yet absolutely
necessary to the perfection of metaphysical analysis.

It is chiefly on his opinions, in relation to the subject at present
under our view, that his reputation as an _original thinker_ rests.
Indeed, it is on these that he has inclined himself to rest it. In
a part of a letter to Dr Gregory, preserved in Mr Stewart's Memoir,
he considers his confutation of the ideal system of perception, as
involving almost every thing which is truly his. “I think there is
hardly any thing that can be called mine,” he says, “in the philosophy
of mind, which does not follow with ease from the detection of this
prejudice.”[107] Yet there are few circumstances, connected with the
fortune of modern philosophy, that appear to me more wonderful, than
that a mind, like Dr Reid's, so learned in the history of metaphysical
science,--and far too honourable to lay claim to praise to which he did
not think himself fairly entitled,--should have conceived, that, on
the point of which he speaks, any great merit--at least any merit of
originality--was justly referable to him particularly. Indeed, the only
circumstance, which appears to me more wonderful, is, that the claim
thus made by him, should have been so readily and generally admitted.

His supposed confutation of the ideal system is resolvable into two
parts--_first_, his attempt to overthrow what he terms “the common
theory” of _ideas_ or images of things in the mind, as the immediate
objects of thought--and _secondly_, the evidence which the simpler
theory of perception may be supposed to yield, of the _reality_ of an
external world. The latter of these inquiries would, in order, be more
appropriate to our late train of speculation; but we cannot understand
it fully, without some previous attention to the former.

That Dr Reid _did_ question the theory of ideas or images, as separate
existences in the mind, I readily admit; but I cannot allow, that,
in doing this, he questioned the _common_ theory. On the contrary, I
conceive, that, at the time at which he wrote, the theory had been
universally, or at least almost universally, abandoned; and that,
though philosophers might have been in the habit of speaking of ideas
or images in the mind,--as we continue to speak of them at this
moment,--they meant them to denote nothing more _then_, than we use
them to denote _now_. The phraseology of any system of opinions, which
has spread widely, and for a length of time, does not perish with the
system itself. It is transmitted from the system which expires, to
the system which begins to reign,--very nearly as the same crown and
sceptre pass, through a long succession, from monarch to monarch. To
tear away our very language, as well as our belief, is more than the
boldest introducer of new doctrines can hope to be permitted, for it
would be to force our ignorance or errors too glaringly on our view.
He finds it easier, to seduce our vanity, by leaving us something which
we can still call _our own_, and which it is not very difficult for
him to accommodate to his own views; so that, while he allows us to
pronounce the same words, with the same confidence, we are sensible
only of what we have gained, and are not painfully reminded of what
we have been forced to discard. By this, too, he has the advantage of
adding, in some measure, to his own novelties the weight and importance
of ancient authority; since the feelings, associated with the name
as formerly used, are transferred, secretly and imperceptibly, with
the name itself. There is scarcely a term in popular science, which
has not gone through various transmutations of this sort. It is not
wonderful, therefore, that the phrase _image in the mind_, which was no
metaphor as used by the Peripatetics, should have been retained, in a
figurative sense, in metaphysical discussions, long after the authority
of Aristotle had ceased, and when one who could maintain, with a square
cap on his head, “a thesis on the universal _a parti rei_,” was no
longer, as Voltaire says, “considered as a prodigy.” At the time of
Dr Reid's publication, the _image in the mind_ was as truly a mere
relic of an obsolete theory of perception, as the rising and setting
of the sun were relics of that obsolete astronomy, in which this great
luminary was supposed to make his daily journey, round the atom which
he enlightened.

Before proceeding to the proof of this assertion, however, with respect
to the originality and importance of Dr Reid's remarks on this subject,
some previous observations will be necessary.

In the discussions, which, as yet, have engaged our attention, you may,
perhaps, have remarked that I have made little, if any, use of the
word _idea_,--a word of very frequent occurrence, in the speculations
of philosophers, with respect to the phenomena of perception, and
the intellectual phenomena in general. I have avoided it, partly on
account of its general ambiguity, but, more especially, with a view to
the question at present before us, that, on examining it, you might
be as free as possible, from any prejudice, arising from our former
applications of the term.

The term, I conceive, though convenient for its brief expression of a
variety of phenomena, which might otherwise require a more paraphrastic
expression, might yet be omitted altogether, in the metaphysical
vocabulary, without any great inconvenience,--certainly without
inconvenience, equal to that which arises from the ambiguous use of it,
with different senses, by different authors. But, whatever ambiguity
it may have had, the notion of it, as an image in the mind separate
and distinct from the mind itself, had certainly been given up, long
before Dr Reid had published a single remark on the subject. In its
present general use, it is applied to many species of the mental
phenomena, to our particular sensations or perceptions, simple or
complex, to the remembrances of these, either as simple or complex, and
to the various compositions or decompositions of these, which result
from certain intellectual processes of the mind itself. The presence
of certain rays of light, for example, at the retina, is followed
by a certain affection of the sensorial organ, which is immediately
followed by a certain affection of the sentient mind. This particular
affection, which is more strictly and definitely termed the sensation
or perception of redness, is likewise sometimes termed, when we speak
more in reference to the external light, which causes the sensation,
than to ourselves, as sentient of it, an idea of redness; and when, in
some train of internal thought, without the renewed presence of the
rays, a certain state of the mind arises, different, indeed, from the
former, but having a considerable resemblance to it, we term this state
the conception or remembrance of redness, or the idea of redness; or,
combining this particular idea with others, which have not co-existed
with it as a sensation, we form, what we term the complex idea, of a
red tree, or a red mountain, or some other of those shadowy forms, over
which Fancy, in the moment of creating them, flings, at pleasure, her
changeful colouring. An _idea_, however, in all these applications of
the term, whether it be a perception, a remembrance, or one of those
complex or abstract varieties of conception, is still nothing more than
the mind affected in a certain manner, or, which is the same theory,
the mind existing in a certain state. The idea is not distinct from the
mind, or separable from it, in any sense, but is truly the mind itself,
which in its very belief of external things, is still recognizing one
of the many forms of its own existence.

    “Qualis Hamadryadum, quondam, si forte sororum
    Una novos peragrans saltus et devia rura,
    (Atque illam in viridi suadet procumbere ripa
    Fontis pura quies et opaci frigoris umbra)
    Dum prona in latices speculi de margine pendet,
    Mirata est subitam venienti occurrere Nympham;
    Mox eosdem quos ipsa artus, eadem ora gerentem
    Una inferre gradus, una succedere sylvæ,
    Aspicit alludens, seseque agnoscit in undis.
    Sic sensu interno rerum simulacra suarum
    Mens ciet, et proprios observat conscia vultus.”[108]

In sensation, there is, as we have seen, a certain series,--the
presence of the external body, whatever this may be in itself,
independently of our perception,--the organic affection, whatever it
may be, which attends the presence of this body,--and the affection of
mind that is immediately subsequent to the organic affection. I speak
only of _one_ organic affection; because, with respect to the mind, it
is of no consequence whether there be one only, or a series of these,
prior to the new mental state induced. It is enough, that, whenever
the immediate sensorial organ has begun to exist in a certain state,
whether the change which produces this state be single, or second,
third, fourth, or fifth, of a succession of changes, the mind is
instantly affected in a certain manner. This new mental state induced
is sensation.

But, says Dr Reid, the _sensation_ is accompanied with a _perception_,
which is very different from it; and on this difference of sensation
and perception is founded the chief part of his system. The distinction
thus made by him, has been commonly, though very falsely, considered
as original; the radical difference itself, whether accurate or
inaccurate, and the minor distinctions founded upon this, being laid
down with precision in some of the common elementary works of logic, of
a much earlier period.

“When I smell a rose,” he says, “there is in this operation both
sensation and perception. The agreeable odour I feel, considered by
itself, without relation to any external object, is merely a sensation.
It affects the mind in a certain way; and this affection of the mind
may be conceived, without a thought of the rose, or any other object.
This sensation can be nothing else than it is felt to be. Its very
essence consists in being felt; and when it is not felt, it is not.
There is no difference between the sensation and the feeling of it;
they are one and the same thing. It is for this reason, that we before
observed, that, in sensation, there is no object distinct from that
act of the mind by which it is felt; and this holds true with regard to
all sensations.

“Let us next attend to the perception which we have in smelling a
rose. Perception has always an external object; and the object of my
perception, in this case, is that quality in the rose which I discern
by the sense of smell. Observing that the agreeable sensation is raised
when the rose is near, and ceases when it is removed, I am led, by my
nature, to conclude some quality to be in the rose, which is the cause
of this sensation. This quality in the rose is the object perceived;
and that act of my mind, by which I have the conviction and belief of
this quality, is what in this case I call perception.”[109]

That the reference to an external object is, in this case, something
more than the mere sensation itself, is very evident; the only question
is, whether it be necessary to ascribe the reference to a peculiar
power termed perception, or whether it be not rather the result of a
common and more general principle of the mind.

When I smell a rose, that is to say, when certain odorous particles
act on my organ of smell, a certain state of mind is produced, which
constitutes the sensation of that particular fragrance; and this is
all which can justly be ascribed to the mind as simply _sentient_.
But the mind is not sensitive merely, in the strict sense of that
term, for there are many states of it, which do not depend on the
immediate presence of external objects. Those feelings, of any kind,
which have before existed, together, or in trains of succession, arise
afterwards, as it were spontaneously, in consequence merely of the
existence of some other part of the train. When the fragrance of a
rose, therefore, has been frequently accompanied with the sensations
of vision, that arise, when a rose is before us, with the muscular and
tactual sensations, that arise on handling it, the mere fragrance, of
itself, will afterwards suggest these sensations, and this suggestion
is all, which, in the case of smell, instanced by Dr Reid, is termed
the perception, as distinguished from the mere sensation. We ascribe
the fragrance to the unseen external rose, precisely in the same manner
as we ascribe smoke and ashes to previous combustion; or, from a
portrait, or a pictured landscape, infer the existence of some artist
who painted it. Yet, in inferring the artist from the picture, it is
surely not to any mere power of sense, that we ascribe the inference,
and as little should we trace to any such simple power, what is in
this instance termed perception. The perception is a suggestion of
memory, combined with the simple sensation. There are not, in ascribing
the smell to odorous particles of a rose, as its cause, sensation,
perception, and association or suggestion, as three powers or general
principles of the mind. But there are sensation and the associate
suggestion; and, when these coexist, perception coexists, because
perception is the name which we give to the union of the former two.
There is, indeed, the belief of some cause of the sensation, as there
is a belief of some cause of every feeling of the mind, internal as
well as external; but the cause, in the case of smell, is supposed to
be external, and corporeal, merely because the presence of an external
rose has been previously learned from another source, and is suggested
when the sensation of fragrance recurs, in intimate association.

In the case of _taste_, to proceed to our other senses--the perception,
as it is termed by Dr Reid, is precisely of the same kind--a mere
reference of association. We have previously learned, from other
sources, to believe in things without, and these, as sapid bodies
acting on our tongue, are suggested by the mere sensation, which, but
for the means of this suggestion, would have been a sensation alone, of
which the cause would have been as little conceived to be corporeal as
the causes of any of the internal affections of the mind. The melody
of a flute, if we had had no sense but that of hearing--the redness of
a rose, if we had had no sense but that of vision, would as little,
as the sensation of smell when considered as a transient state of the
mind, have involved, or given occasion to, the notion of corporeal
substance. We refer the melody to the external flute, and redness to
the external rose, because we have previously acquired the notions
of extension and resistance--of a flute and of a rose as external
substances--and this reference of mere suggestion is all, which, in
these cases, distinguishes the perception from the sensation. Without
the suggestions of memory, in short, we could not in these cases have
had, in Dr Reid's sense of the term, any perceptions whatever, to
distinguish the causes of our sensations as external, more than the
causes of any of our other feelings. The great perception, then, in the
sense, in which he understands the term, is that by which we primarily
form the complex notion of extension and resistance--that which has
parts, and that which resists our attempt to grasp it--since all the
other perceptions, of which he speaks, in contradistinction from
mere sensations, are only these complex notions, _suggested_ by the
particular sensations, and combined with them, in consequence of former
association, and the general reference to a cause of some sort, which
may be supposed to attend our feelings of every kind, internal as well
as external, when considered as changes or new phenomena. It is not,
however, from any peculiar power, to be distinguished by the name of
perception, that this complex notion of extended resistance appears to
me to arise, but from the union of our notion of _extension_, acquired
by the mere remembrance of various progressive series of feelings,
with the notion of _resistance_, when an accustomed series of muscular
feelings without any change of circumstances, in the mind itself, is
interrupted by that peculiar and very different muscular feeling which
arises from impeded effort. Perception, in short, in all our senses, is
nothing more than the association of this complex notion with our other
sensations--the notion of something extended and resisting, suggested
by these sensations, when the sensations themselves have previously
arisen; and suggested in the same manner, and on the same principle, as
any other associate feeling suggests any other associate feeling.

It is very evident that perception, in Dr Reid's sense, is not the
mere reference to a cause of some sort, for it would then be as
comprehensive as all the feelings or changes of the mind,--our hope,
fear, anger, pity,--which we ascribe to some cause or antecedent,
as much as our tastes and smells; it is the reference of certain
feelings to a _corporeal_ cause, that is say, to a cause _extended_
and _resisting_. If, for example, without any previous knowledge of
external things, on the first sensation of fragrance, or sweetness,
or sound, or colour, we could be supposed to be capable of believing
that there was some cause of this new state of our being, this would
not be _perception_, in the sense in which he uses that term; and yet
but for our organ of touch, or at least but for feelings which are
commonly ascribed to that organ, it would be manifestly impossible
for us to make more than this vague and general inference. When a
rose is present, we find, and have uniformly found, that a certain
sensation of fragrance arises, which ceases when the rose is removed.
The influence of association, therefore, operates in this, as in every
other case of ordinary co-existence. We do not merely suppose that
the sensation has some cause, as we believe that our joys and sorrows
have a cause, but we ascribe the fragrance to the external substance,
the presence of which we have found to be so essential to the
production of it. Perception in every case, as I have said, in which
it is to be distinguished from the prior sensation, is a reference
of this prior sensation to a _material cause_;--and this complex
notion of a material cause,--that is to say, of something extended
and resisting,--mere smell, mere taste, mere hearing, mere vision,
never could have afforded. I have already explained how this notion
of matter, as it appears to me, is produced, or may be imagined to be
produced. A train of muscular feelings has been frequently repeated,
so that the series has become familiar to the infant, constituting in
its remembrance the notion of a certain progressive length.--When all
the known antecedent circumstances have been the same, the well-known
series is suddenly broken, so as to excite in the mind of the infant
the notion of a cause which is not in itself;--this cause, which is
something foreign to itself, is that which excites the particular
muscular feeling of resistance,--and it is combined with the notion
of a certain length, because it uniformly supplies the place of what
has been felt as a certain length, so as at last, by the operation of
the common laws of association, to become truly representative of it,
or rather to involve it in one complex feeling, in the same manner as
colour, in vision, seems to involve whole miles of distance. Such is
all that seems to me to constitute what Dr Reid would term perception,
even with respect to the feelings commonly termed tactual;--and in all
the other classes of sensations it is obviously nothing more than the
suggestion of these associate feelings, in the same way as any other
feelings, in our trains of thought and emotions, are suggested by
those conceptions or other feelings which have frequently accompanied
them.--It is sufficient to think of a mind, possessing all the
other susceptibilities of sensation, _but those_ which give us the
perceptions commonly ascribed to touch, to be sensible how truly what
we term perception in the other senses, is the mere suggestion of
these. If we were capable only of smelling,--or had no other sensations
than those of mere taste, mere sound, mere colour,--what perception
could we have had of a material cause of these sensations?--and if
it be to the mere suggestion of the object of another sense that
we owe what is termed perception in all these sensations,--in what
circumstance does the reference of these to a resisting and extended
substance, differ from any other of the common references which the
principle of association enables us to make?

“Sensation,” says Dr Reid, “can be nothing else than it is felt to be.
Its very essence consists in being felt; and when it is not felt, it is
not. There is no difference between the sensation and the feeling of
it; they are one and the same thing.”[110] But this is surely equally
true, of what he terms _perception_, which, as a state of mind, it must
be remembered, is, according to his own account of it, as different
from the object perceived, as the sensation is. We may say of the
mental state of perception too, in his own language, as indeed we
must say of all our states of mind, whatever they may be, that it can
be nothing else than it is felt to be. Its very essence consists in
being felt; and when it is not felt, it is not. There is no difference
between the perception and the feeling of it; they are one and the same
thing. The sensation, indeed, which is mental, is different from the
object exciting it, which we term material; but so also is the state of
mind which constitutes perception; for Dr Reid was surely too zealous
an opponent of the systems, which ascribe every thing to mind alone,
or to matter alone, to consider the perception as itself the object
perceived. That in sensation, as contradistinguished from perception,
there is no reference made to an external object, is true; because,
when the reference is made, we then use the new term of perception;
but that in sensation there is no object distinct from that act of the
mind by which it is felt; no object independent of the mental feeling,
is surely a very strange opinion of this philosopher; since what he
terms perception, is nothing but the reference of this very sensation
to its external object. The sensation itself he certainly supposes to
depend on the presence of an external object, which is all that can be
understood, in the case of perception, when we speak of its objects,
or, in other words, of those external causes, to which we refer
our sensations; for the material object itself, he surely could not
consider as forming a part of the perception which is a state of the
mind alone. To be the object of perception, is nothing more than to be
the foreign cause or occasion, on which this state of the mind directly
or indirectly arises; and an object, in this only intelligible sense,
as an occasion, or cause of a certain subsequent effect, must on his
own principles, be equally allowed to sensation. Though he does not
inform us, what he means by the term _object_, as peculiarly applied
to perception--(and indeed, if he had explained it, I cannot but think
that a great part of his system, which is founded on the confusion of
this single word, as something different from a mere external cause
of an internal feeling must have fallen to the ground,)--he yet tells
us, very explicitly, that to be the object of perception, is something
more than to be the external occasion, on which that state of the mind
arises which he terms perception; for, in arguing against the opinion
of a philosopher, who contends for the existence of certain images
or traces in the brain, and yet says, “that we are not to conceive
the images or traces in the brain to be perceived, as if there were
eyes in the brain; these traces are only occasions, on which, by the
laws of the union of soul and body, ideas are excited in the mind;
and, therefore, it is not necessary, that there should be an exact
resemblance between the traces and the things represented by them,
any more than that words or signs should be exactly like the things
signified by them:”[111]--He adds, “These two opinions, I think cannot
be reconciled. For if the images or traces in the brain are perceived,
they must be the _objects_ of perception, and not the occasions of
it only. On the other hand, if they are only the _occasions_ of our
perceiving, they are not perceived at all.”[112]--Did Dr Reid, then,
suppose that the feeling, whatever it may be, which constitutes
perception as a state of the mind, or, in short, all of which we are
conscious in perception, is not strictly and exclusively mental, as
much as all of which we are conscious in remembrance, or in love, or
hate;--or did he wish us to believe that matter itself, in any of its
forms, is, or can be, a part of the phenomena or states of the mind;--a
part therefore of that mental state or feeling which we term a
perception? Our sensations like our remembrances or emotions, we refer
to some cause or antecedent. The difference is, that in the one case we
consider the feeling as having for its cause some previous feeling or
state of the mind itself; in the other case we consider it as having
for its cause something which is external to ourselves, and independent
of our transient feelings,--something which, in consequence of former
feelings suggested at the moment, it is impossible for us not to regard
as extended and resisting.--But still what we thus regard as extended
and resisting, is known to us only by the feelings which it occasions
in our mind. What matter, in its relation to the percipient mind,
can be, but the cause or occasion, direct or indirect, of that class
of feelings which I term sensations or perceptions, it is absolutely
impossible for me to conceive.

The percipient mind, in no one of its affections, can be said to be
the mass of matter which it perceives, unless the separate existence,
either of matter or of mind, be abandoned by us, the existence of
which, Dr Reid would have been the last of philosophers to yield. He
acknowledges that our perceptions are consequent on the presence of
external bodies, not from any necessary connexion subsisting between
them, but merely from the arrangement which the Deity, in his wisdom,
has chosen to make of their mutual phenomena; which is surely to say,
that the Deity has rendered the presence of the external object the
occasion of that affection of the mind, which is termed perception; or,
if it be not to say this, it is to say nothing. Whatever state of mind
perception may be; whether a primary result of a peculiar power, or a
mere secondary reference of association that follows the particular
sensation, of which the reference is made, it is itself, in either view
of it, but a state of the mind; and to be the external occasion or
antecedent of this state of mind, since it is to produce, directly or
indirectly, all which constitutes perception, is surely, therefore, to
be perceived, or there must be something in the mere word _perceived_,
different from the physical reality which it expresses.

The confusion of Dr Reid's notions on this subject, seems to have
arisen from a cause, which has been the chief source of the general
confusion that prevails in intellectual science; and, indeed, it was
principally with the view of exhibiting this confusion, and its
source, to you _strongly_, that I have dwelt so long on a criticism,
which, to those among you who are not acquainted with the extensive
and important applications that have been made of this doctrine,
may, perhaps, have appeared of very little interest. Dr Reid, it
is evident, was not sufficiently in the habit of considering the
phenomena of the mind,--its perceptions, as well as its remembrances,
judgments, passions, and all its other affections, whatever these may
be,--in the light in which I have represented them to you, merely as
the mind affected, in a certain manner, according to certain regular
laws of succession, but as something more mysterious than the subject
of this sequence of feelings; for, but for this notion of something
more mysterious, the object of perception, and the external occasion
of that state of mind which we term perception, must have conveyed
precisely the same notion. To have a clear view of the phenomena of
the mind, as mere affections or states of it, existing successively,
and in a certain series, which we are able, therefore, to predict,
in consequence of our knowledge of the past, is, I conceive, to have
made the most important acquisition which the intellectual inquirer
can make. To say, merely, that it is to have learned to distinguish
that which may be known, from that which never can be known, and
which it therefore would be an idle waste of labour to attempt to
discover,--would be to say far too little. It is to see the mind, in
a great measure, as it is in nature, divested of every thing foreign,
passing instantly from thought to thought, from sensation to sensation,
in almost endless variety of states, and differing as completely from
that cumbrous representation of it, which philosophers are fond of
representing to us, as the planets revolving freely in the immense
space of our solar system, differ from those mimic orbs, which, without
any principle of motion in themselves, are, as it were, dragged along,
in the complex mechanism of our orreries.

In objecting, however, to Dr Reid's notion of perception, I am far from
wishing to erase the word from our metaphysical vocabulary. On the
contrary, I conceive it to be a very convenient one, if the meaning
attached to it be sufficiently explained, by an analysis of the complex
state of mind, which it denotes, and the use of it confined rigidly to
cases in which it has this meaning. Sensation may exist, _without_ any
reference to an external cause, in the same manner as we may look at
a picture, without thinking of the painter; or read a poem, without
thinking of the poet,--or it may exist _with_ reference to an external
cause; and it is convenient, therefore, to confine the term _sensation_
to the former of these cases, and _perception_ to the latter. But,
then, it must be understood, that the perception is nothing but the
suggestion of ideas associated with the simple _sensation_, as it
originally took place,--or is only another name for the original simple
sensation itself, in the cases, if any there be, in which sensation
involves immediately in itself, the belief of some existence external
to the sentient mind,--or is only a mere inference, like all our other
inferences, if it arise, in the manner in which I have endeavoured
to explain to you, how the notions of extension and resistance in
an external cause of our feelings, might arise, and be afterwards
suggested in association with other feelings that had frequently
accompanied it.

To give a brief summary, however, of the argument which I have
urged;--in that state of acquired knowledge, long after the first
elementary feelings of infancy, in which modified state alone, the
phenomena of the mind can become to us objects of reflective analysis,
certain feelings are referred by us to an external material cause. The
feelings themselves, as primarily excited, are termed _sensations_,
and, when followed by the reference to an external cause, receive the
name of _perceptions_, which marks nothing more in addition to the
primary sensations, than this very reference. But what is the reference
itself, in consequence of which the new name is given? It is the
suggestion of some extended resisting object, the presence of which
had before been found to be attended with that particular sensation,
which is now again referred to it. If we had had no sense but that
of smell; no sense but that of taste; no sense but that of sound; no
sense but that of sight; we could not have known the existence of
extended resisting substances, and, therefore, could not have referred
the pleasant or painful sensations of those classes to such external
causes, more than we refer directly to an external cause, any painful
or pleasing emotion, or other internal affection of the mind. In all
but _one_ class of our sensations, then, it is evident that what
Dr Reid calls _perception_, as the operation of a peculiar mental
faculty, is nothing more than a suggestion of memory or association,
which differs in no respect from other suggestions arising from other
coexistences or successions of feelings, equally uniform or frequent.
It is only in a single class of sensations, therefore,--that which
Dr Reid ascribes to touch,--that perception, which he regards as a
peculiar faculty, extending to all our sensations, can be said to
have any primary operation, even though we should agree with him in
supposing, that our belief of extended resistance is not reducible by
analysis, to any more general principles. If, however, my analysis
of the complex notion of matter be just, perception, in its relation
to our original sensations of touch, as much as in relation to the
immediate feelings which we derive from smell, taste, sight, and
hearing, is only one of the many operations of the suggesting or
associating principle. But, even on his own principles, I repeat, it
must be confined to the single class of feeling, which he considers as
tactual, and is not an original principle, coextensive with all the
original varieties of sensation. Even in the single class, to which it
is thus, on his own principles, to be confined, it is not so much what
he would term a faculty, as an intuitive belief, by which we are led
irresistibly, on the existence of certain sensations, to ascribe these
to causes that are external and corporeal; or, if we give the name of
faculty to this peculiar form of intuition, we should give it equally
to all our intuitions, and rank among our faculties, the belief of the
continued order of Nature, or the belief of our own identity, as much
as our belief of external things, if our senses themselves are unable
to give us any information of them.


[107] Account of the Life, &c. p. xci. prefixed to Reid's Works. Edin.

[108] Gray, de Princip. Cogit. Lib. I. v. 143--153.

[109] On the Intellectual Powers, Essay II. c. 16.

[110] See before, p. 416.

[111] On the Intellectual Powers, Essay II. c. 8.

[112] Ibid.



In my Lecture of yesterday, Gentlemen, we were engaged in considering
the grounds of Dr Reid's claim to the honour of detecting and exposing
the fallacy of the hypothesis of _ideas_ as _images_, or things, in the
mind, distinct from the mind itself,--a claim which, though made by one
who has many other indubitable titles to our respect and gratitude, we
found, in this particular instance, to be inadmissible.

It appeared, on an examination of the original works of the eminent
philosophers who preceded him for more than a century, and even of the
common elementary treatises of the schools, that, though after the
Peripatetic hypothesis of species had been universally or generally
abandoned, the language of that hypothesis continued to subsist
metaphorically,--as it continues with equal force at this moment,--it
was only metaphorically that it did thus continue; and that when Dr
Reid, therefore, conceived,--in proving ideas not to be self-existing
things, separate and distinct from the percipient mind itself,--that
he was confuting what every body believed, he merely assumed as _real_
what was intended as _metaphorical_, and overthrew opinions which the
authors, to whom he ascribes them, would themselves have been equally
eager to overthrow. But there is yet another point, connected with the
theory of perception, on which he is believed to have made an important
addition to our metaphysical knowledge. I allude to his supposed proof
of the existence of a material world. In this, too, we shall find, that
he has truly added nothing to our former knowledge; that he has left
us, in short, our belief as originally felt by us, but has not supplied
us with the slightest evidence in addition to the force of that
original belief itself, nor given any additional strength to that very
belief, which before was confessedly irresistible.

The confutation of the scepticism on this subject, it is evident, may
be attempted in _two ways_,--by shewing the arguments urged by the
sceptic to be _logically false_; or by opposing to them the belief
itself, as of evidence either directly intuitive, or the result, at
least, of other intuitions, and early and universal associations and
inferences, so irresistible after the first acquisitions of infancy,
as to have then all the force of intuition itself. As long as Dr
Reid confines himself to the latter of these pleas, he proceeds on
safe ground; but his footing is not so firm when he assails the mere
logic of the sceptic,--for the sceptical argument, as a mere play
of reasoning, admits of no reply. It is vain for him to say, that
the scepticism proceeding, as he thinks, on the belief of ideas in
the mind, as the direct objects of perception, must fall with these
ideas; for, though the scepticism may be consistent with the belief of
ideas as separate existences in the mind, it does not depend, in the
slightest degree, on their existence or non-existence. We have only
to change the term _ideas_ into the synonymous phrase _affections or
states of the mind_, and the scepticism, if not stronger, is at least
in strength exactly what it was before. In the one case the sceptic
will say, that we are sensible of ideas only, not of external objects,
which may have no resemblance to our ideas; in the other case, that
perception is but a state of the mind as much as any of our other
feelings, and that we are conscious only of this, and other states or
affections of our mind, which have variously succeeded each other,
and not of external objects, which themselves can be no parts of
that train of mental consciousness. Whatever weight there may be in
the former of these sceptical theories, exists, I may say, even with
greater force, because with greater simplicity, in the second; and the
task, therefore, of proving by logic,--if logical proof were requisite
for our belief,--the existence of a material world, would remain as
laborious as before, after the fullest confutation of the system, which
might suppose perception to be carried on by the medium of little
images of bodies in the mind.

So far, indeed, would the confutation of this hypothesis as to
perception,--even if Dr Reid had truly overthrown it,--be from
lessening the force of the scepticism as to the existence of matter,
that, of two sceptics, one believing every thing with respect to
ideas which Dr Reid supposed himself to have confuted, and the other
believing ideas to be mere states of his mind, there can be no
question, that the former would be the more easy to be overcome, since
his belief would already involve the existence of SOMETHING separate
from the mind; while the other might maintain, that all of which he was
conscious, was the mere series of affections of his own mind, and that
beyond this consciousness he could know nothing.

Against the argument of one, who founds his very argument on his
consciousness merely, and professes to have no knowledge either of
little images, or of any thing else beyond his consciousness, it would
be as idle to urge, that ideas are not little images in the mind, as
it would have been for a Cartesian to attempt to confute the Newtonian
system of attraction, by a denial of the Ptolemaic spheres.

All that remains, then, to supply the place of logical demonstration,
which would be needless where the belief is as strong as that of
demonstration itself, is the paramount force of this universal and
irresistible belief; and there is no fear that this can be weakened by
any argument, or be less felt by him who denies it, than by him who
asserts it. We are conscious, indeed, only of the feelings that are the
momentary states of our own mind; but some of these it is absolutely
impossible for us not to ascribe to causes that are external, and
independent of us; and the belief of a system of external things, is
one of these very states of the mind, which itself forms, and will ever
form, a part of the train of our consciousness. This Mr Hume himself,
the great sceptic whom Dr Reid opposes, admits as readily as Dr Reid
himself:--“A Copernican or Ptolemaic, who supports each his different
system of astronomy, may hope to produce a conviction, which will
remain constant and durable, with his audience. A Stoic or Epicurean
displays principles, which may not only be durable, but which have
an effect on conduct and behaviour. But a Pyrrhonian cannot expect,
that his philosophy will have any constant influence on the mind:
or, if it had, that its influence would be beneficial to society. On
the contrary, he must acknowledge, if he will acknowledge any thing,
that all human life must perish, were his principles universally and
steadily to prevail. All discourse, all action, would immediately
cease; and men remain in a total lethargy, till the necessities of
nature, unsatisfied, put an end to their miserable existence. It is
true, so fatal an event is very little to be dreaded. Nature is always
too strong for principle; and, though a Pyrrhonian may throw himself,
or others, into a momentary amazement and confusion by his profound
reasonings, the first and most trivial event in life will put to flight
all his doubts and scruples, and leave him the same, in every point
of action and speculation, with the philosophers of every other sect,
or with those who never concerned themselves in any philosophical
researches. When he awakes from his dream, he will be the first to join
in the laugh against himself.”[113] In what respect does this differ
from the language of Dr Reid himself, when he says, that “the belief of
a material world is older, and of more authority, than any principles
of philosophy. It declines the tribunal of reason, and laughs at all
the artillery of the logician.”[114] Surely, if it decline the tribunal
of reason, it is not by reasoning that it is to be supported,--even
though the reasoner should have the great talents which Dr Reid
unquestionably possessed.

The sceptic, and the orthodox philosopher of Dr Reid's school,
thus come precisely to the same conclusion. The creed of each, on
this point, is composed of two propositions, and of the same two
propositions; the first of which is, that the existence of a system
of things, such as we understand when we speak of an external world,
cannot be proved by argument; and the second, that the belief of it
is of a force, which is paramount to that of argument, and absolutely
irresistible. The difference, and the only difference is, that, in
asserting the same two propositions, the sceptic pronounces the first
in a loud tone of voice, and the second in a whisper,--while his
supposed antagonist passes rapidly over the first, and dwells on the
second, with a tone of confidence. The negation in the one case, and
the affirmation in the other case, are, however, precisely the same.
To him, indeed, who considers the _tone_ only, and not the _meaning_,
there may seem to be a real strife of sentiment; but, if we neglect the
tone, which is of no consequence, and attend to the meaning only of
what is affirmed and denied by both, we shall not be able to discover
even the slightest discrepancy. There is no argument of mere reasoning
that can prove the existence of an external world; it is absolutely
impossible for us not to believe in the existence of an external world.
We may call these two propositions, then, a summary of the doctrine of
Reid, or of the doctrine of Hume, as we please; for it is truly the
common and equal doctrine of the two.

Though we have thus seen reason to deny to Dr Reid the merit commonly
ascribed to him, on the points which we have been considering, relative
to the theory of perception, I trust you will not on that account,
be insensible to the merits which he truly possessed. _He_ knows
little, indeed, of the human mind, who does not know, how compatible
many errors and misconceptions are with the brightest and most active
energies of intellect. On this “Isthmus of a middle State,” of which
Pope speaks, man, though not “reasoning but to err,” is yet subject to
occasional error, even in his proudest reasonings. With all his wisdom,
he is still but “darkly wise;” and with all the grandeur of his being,
but “rudely great.”


Our inquiry into the nature of the sensations of _touch_,--or at
least of those sensations, which are truly, and of others which are
commonly, though, I think, falsely, ascribed to this organ, has led
us into speculations, in the course of which I have been obliged to
anticipate many remarks, that more peculiarly belong to the sense which
still remains to be considered by us,--the sense of sight, that to
which we owe so much of our most valuable information, with respect to
nature, and so many of those pleasures, which the bounty of Him, who,
has formed us to be happy, as well as to be wise, has so graciously
intermingled, with all the primary means of our instruction.

The anticipations, into which I have been led, were necessary for
throwing light on the subjects before considered, particularly on the
complex feelings ascribed to touch,--the knowledge of which feelings,
however, was still more necessary, for understanding fully the complex
perceptions of this sense. It is thus scarcely possible, in science,
to treat of _one_ subject, without considering it in relation to some
other subject, and often to subjects between which, on first view, it
would be difficult to trace any relation. Every thing throws light
upon every thing,--though the reflection,--which is, in many cases, so
bright, as to force itself upon common eyes--may, in other cases, be
so faint, as to be perceptible only to eyes of the nicest discernment.
It may almost be said, that there is an universal _affinity_ in
_truths_,--like that universal attraction, which unites to each other,
as one common system, the whole masses which are scattered through
the infinity of space, and by which, as I have before remarked, the
annihilation of a single particle of matter, in any one of these
orbs,--however inconceivably slight its elementary modification might
be of the general sum of attraction,--would in that very instant be
productive of change throughout the universe. It is not easy to say,
what any _one_ science would have been, if any other science had not
existed. How different did Astronomy become, in consequence of the
accidental burning of a few sea-weeds upon the sand, to which the
origin of glass has been ascribed; and, when we think of the universal
accessions, which navigation has made to every department of knowledge,
what an infinity of truths may be considered as almost starting into
existence, at the moment, when the polarity of the magnet was first

    “True to the pole, by thee the pilot guides
    His steady helm, amid the struggling tides,
    Braves with broad sail the unmeasurable sea,
    Cleaves the dark air, and asks no star but thee.”[115]

The anticipations, which have been made, in the present instance, will
be of advantage, in abridging much of the labour, which would have been
necessary in treating of vision simply. I may now safely leave you, to
make, for yourselves, the application of many arguments, on which I
have dwelt at length, in treating of the other senses.

The organ of sight, as you well know, is the eye,--a machine of such
exquisite and obvious adaptation to the effects produced by it, as to
be, of itself, in demonstrating the existence of the Divine Being who
contrived it, equal in force to many volumes of theology. The atheist,
who has seen, and studied, its internal structure, and yet _continues
an atheist_, may be fairly considered as beyond the power of mere
argument to reclaim. The minute details of its structure, however,
belong to the anatomist. It is enough for our purpose to know, that,
by an apparatus of great simplicity, all the light, which, from every
quarter strikes on the pellucid part of the ball of the eye,--and which
if it continued to pass in the same direction, would thus produce one
mingled and indistinct expanse of colour,--is so _refracted_, as it is
termed, or bent from its former direction to certain focal points, as
to be distributed again on the retina, in distinct portions, agreeing
with the portions which come from each separate object, so exactly, as
to form on it a miniature landscape of the scenery without. Nor is this
all. That we may vary, at our pleasure, the field of this landscape,
the ball of the eye is furnished with certain muscles, which enable
us to direct it more particularly toward the objects which we wish to
view; and according as the light which falls from these may be more
or less intense, there are parts which minister to the sensibility of
the eye, by increasing or diminishing in proportion the transparent
aperture at which the light is admitted. There are, then, in this truly
wonderful and beautiful process, in the first place, as determining
what objects, in the wide scene around us, are to be visible at the
moment, _the contraction of certain muscles_, on which the particular
field of our vision depends, and which may almost be said to enable us
to increase the extent of our field of vision, by enabling us to vary
it at will;--in the second place, the _external light_, emitted from
all the objects within this radiant field, which, on its arrival at
the retina, is itself the direct object of vision; in the third place,
the provision for increasing or diminishing the diameter of the pupil,
in proportion to the quantity of that incident light;--in the fourth
place, the _apparatus_, by which the dispersed rays of light are made
to assume within the eye, the focal convergence necessary for distinct
vision;--and lastly, the expansion of the optic nerve, as a part of
the great sensorial organ, essential to sensation. The difference
of the phenomena, produced by the varieties of the external light
itself, is exhibited in almost every moment of our waking existence;
and the diversities, arising from other parts of the process, are
not less striking. There are peculiar diseases which affect the optic
nerve, or other parts of the sensorial organ immediately connected
with it,--there are other diseases which affect the refracting
apparatus,--others which affect the iris, so as to prevent the
enlargement or diminution of the pupil, when different quantities of
light are poured on it,--others, which affect the muscles that vary the
position of the ball,--and, in all these cases, we find, as might be
expected, a corresponding difference of the phenomena.

To open our eyes at present, is not to have a single simple feeling;
it is, as it were, to have innumerable feelings. The colour, the
magnitude, the figure, the relative position of bodies, are seen by us
at once. It is not a small expanse of light, which we perceive, equal
merely to the surface of the narrow expansion of the optic nerve. It
is the universe itself. We are present with stars, which beam upon
us, at a distance that converts to nothing the whole wide diameter of
our planetary system. It is as if the tie, which binds us down to the
globe on which we dwell, belonged only to our other senses, and had no
influence over _this_, which, even in its union with the body, seems
still to retain all the power, and unbounded freedom, of its celestial

It is of importance, however, to remember, that, even in the perception
of the most distant body, the true object of vision is not the distant
body itself, but the light that has reached the expansive termination
of the optic nerve; and the sense of vision, therefore, which seems so
independent of the tie that binds us to our small spot of earth, is as
truly limited to it, as any of our other senses. If the light could
exist in the same manner, moving in the same varieties of direction,
as at present,--though no other bodies were in existence, than the
light itself, and our sensorial organ,--all the sensations belonging
to mere sight would be exactly the same as now; and accordingly we
find, as light is, in a great measure, manageable by us, that we have
it in our power to vary at pleasure, the visual notions, which any one
would otherwise have formed of bodies,--without altering the bodies
themselves, or even their position with respect to the eye,--by merely
interposing substances, to modify the light reflected or emitted from
them. The same paper, which we term white, when we observe it with our
naked eye, seems blue or red, when we look at it through glass, of
such a kind, as absorbs all the light which enters it, but the rays
of those particular colours; and it seems larger or smaller, as we
look at it through a concave or convex lens, which leaves the object
precisely as it was, and affects only the direction of the rays that
come from it:--the reason of all which diversities of perception is,
that, though what we are accustomed to term the _object_ continues
the same,--whatever substance may be interposed between it and the
eye,--that, which is really the object of vision, is _different_; and
our perceptions, therefore, correspond with the diversity of their real

In treating of the distinction which has been made, of those objects
of sense which act _directly_ on our organs, and of those which act
through a _medium_, as it has been termed, I before remarked to you
the confusion, into which we might be led, by this distinction, which
forgets that the supposed _medium_ is itself the real _object_, as
truly, as any of the objects, which in their relations to other
senses, are termed _direct_. In no instance, however, has it led to so
much confusion, as in the case of vision. It is the more important,
therefore, for you, to have precise notions on this subject, and to
have constantly in mind, that, though indirectly, we may be said to
perceive by sight distant objects, as truly as we perceive colour,
still the _direct_ object of _vision_ is not the object, existing
permanently at a distance, but those rays of light, whose existence is
independent of the object, and which have received, from the object
that reflects them, nothing more than a change of their direction,
in consequence of which they have come within the boundary of that
small pellucid circle of the eye, which, insignificant as it may seem,
comprehends in itself what is truly the whole sphere of our vision.

_Sight_, then, which comprehends all the varieties of colour, is the
object, and the only object, of the sense which we are considering.
But, simple as it is, of what instruction, and joy, and beauty, and
ever-varying magnificence, is it the source!

    “Carmine quo Dea te dicam, gratissima coeli
    Progenies, ortumque tuum; gemmantia rore
    Ut per prata levi lustras, et floribus halans
    Purpureum Veris gremium, scenamque virentem
    Pingis, et umbriferos colles, et cærula regna?
    Gratia te Venerisque lepos, et mille colorum,
    Formarumque chorus sequitur, motusque decentes.
    At caput invisum Stygiis Nox atra tenebris.
    Abdidit, horrendæque simul Formidinis ora
    Pervigilesque æstus Curarum, atque anxius Angor;
    Undique Lætitiâ florent mortalia corda,
    Purus et arridet largis fulgoribus Æther.”[116]

    “Hail, holy light, offspring of heaven first born!
    Or of the Eternal, coeternal beam,
    May I express thee unblam'd? since God is light,
    And never but in unapproached light
    Dwelt from eternity; dwelt then in Thee,
    Bright Effluence of bright Essence increate!
    --Or hear'st thou rather, pure ethereal Stream!
    Whose fountain who shall tell? Before the Sun,
    Before the heavens, _Thou_ wert, and at the voice
    Of God, as with a mantle didst invest
    The rising world of waters dark and deep,
    Won from the void and formless infinite.”[117]

How pathetic is the very beauty of this invocation, when we consider
the feelings with which it must have been written by him, who,

    “Like the wakeful bird,
    Sung _darkling_,”[118]

and who seems to have looked back on that loveliness of nature, from
which he was separated, with the melancholy readiness, with which the
thoughts of the unfortunate and the sorrowful still revert to past
enjoyments; as the prisoner, even when fettered to his dungeon-floor,
still turns his eye, almost involuntarily, to that single gleam of
light, which reminds him only of scenes that exist no longer to him.

    “Thus with the year
    Seasons return; but _not_ to _me_ returns
    Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
    Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose,
    Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
    But cloud instead, and ever-during dark
    Surround me.”[119]

How often must he have felt,--and how deeply must such a mind have
felt,--the force of that complaint, which he puts into the mouth of
Samson,--a complaint, which may surely be forgiven, or almost forgiven,
to the blind:--

                    “O why was sight
    To such a tender ball as the eye confined,
    So obvious, and so easy to be quench'd;
    And not, as feeling, through all parts diffused,
    That she might look at will through every pore?”[120]

The immediate object of vision, we have seen, then, is _light_, which
gives rise to all the various sensations of colour; and, since the days
of Berkeley, philosophers have, with scarcely any exception, admitted,
that the knowledge of the distance, magnitude, and real figure of
objects, which seems at present to be immediately received by sight,
is the result of knowledge acquired by the other senses:--though they
have,--I think without sufficient reason,--as universally supposed,
that the superficial extension, of length and breadth, becomes known to
us by sight originally;--that there is, in short, a _visible figure_ of
objects, corresponding with the picture which they form on the retina,
and changing, therefore, with their change of position relatively to
the eye,--and a _tangible figure_ of objects, permanent and independent
of their change of place; the latter being the real figure suggested by
the former, nearly in the same manner as the conception of objects is
suggested, by the arbitrary sounds, or written character, which denote
them. The inquiry, with respect to the truth of this visible figure,
as a sensation, may, however, be omitted, till we have considered the
former opinion, which respects the visual perception of distance, and
of the figure and magnitude which are termed _tangible_.

If it had been duly considered, that it is _light_ which is the true
object of vision, and not the luminous body, the question, as far as
it depends on reasoning _a priori_, exclusively of any instinctive
connexions that might be supposed, could not have admitted of very
long discussion. From whatever distance light may come, it is but the
_point_ of the long line which terminates at the retina, of which we
are sensible; and this terminating point must be the same, whether the
ray has come from a few feet of distance, or from many miles. The rays,
that beam from the adjacent meadow, or the grove, are not nearer to my
eye, at the instant of vision, than those which have been reflected
from the mountain, on the very verge of the horizon, or from the cloud
that hangs at an immeasurable distance above my head. The light, that
converges on our eye, from all the stars of heaven, within what we
term the field of our vision, is collected, in a space, that cannot
be larger than the retina on which it falls. A _cube_ or a _sphere_
is represented to us, by the two dimensions of a coloured _plane_,
variously shaded, as truly, as by the object itself with its triple
dimensions; and, in the determination of the exact correspondence
of these double and triple dimensions, in all their varieties of
relation to the eye, the whole art of perspective consists. A coin of
a single inch in diameter, when placed before the eye, and, of course,
intercepting only an extent of light equal to the extent of its own
surface, is sufficient to hide from us, by actual eclipse, the fields,
and villages, and woods, that seemed stretched in almost endless
continuity before us.

Unless, therefore, there be some instinctive and immediate suggestion,
of certain distances, magnitudes, and figures, by certain varieties of
the sensation of colour, there is nothing in the mere light itself, or
in its relation to the eye at the moment of vision, which seems fit to
communicate the knowledge of these. Not of _distance_; for the rays
from distant objects, when they produce vision, are as near to the
retina, as the rays from objects that are contiguous to the eye. Not of
_real magnitude_; for an object, with which we are familiar, appears to
us of the same size, at distances, at which every thing merely visual
is so completely changed, that its magnitude, as far as it depends on
mere radiation, may be demonstrated, from the laws of optics, to be
equal only to a half, or a tenth part of its apparent magnitude, when
nearer. Not of _figure_; for, without the knowledge of longitudinal
distance, we could not distinguish a sphere or a cube from a plane
surface of two dimensions; and an object, with the shape of which we
are familiar, appears to us of the same form, in all directions; though
it may be demonstrated optically, that the visual figure, as far as it
depends on mere radiation, must vary with every variety of position.

I have said, that the knowledge of the real magnitude, figure, and
position of bodies, could not be obtained immediately from the
diversities of the mere surfaces of light at the retina; unless it
were the suggestion of some instinctive principle, by which the one
feeling was, originally and inseparably, connected with the other: and
I have made this exception, to prevent you from being misled, by the
works on this subject, so as to think, that the original perception of
distance implies, in the very notion of it, a physical impossibility.
Some diversity there evidently must be of the immediate sensation of
sight, or of other feelings coexisting with it, when a difference
of magnitude or figure is suggested: the visual affection, which is
followed by the notion of a mile, cannot be the same as that which is
attended with the notion of half a foot; nor that which is attended
with the perception of a sphere, be the same as that which suggests a
plane circular surface. Whatever the number of the varied suggestions
of this kind may be, there must be, at least, an equal variety of the
immediate sensations that give rise to them; and these corresponding
series of sensations and suggestions, may originally be associated
together by an instinctive principle, as much as any other pairs of
phenomena, the connexion of which we ascribe to instinct; or, in other
words, suppose an adaptation of them to each other, by the gracious
provision of the Power which formed us, for a purpose unforeseen by
us, and unwilled at the moment. It is not more wonderful, _a priori_,
that a sensation of colour should be immediately followed by the notion
of a mile of distance, than that the irritation of the nostril, by
any very stimulant odour, should be immediately and involuntarily,
followed by the sudden contraction of a distant muscular organ, like
the diaphragm, which produces, in sneezing, the violent expiration
necessary for expelling the acrid matter;--or that an increase of the
quantity of light poured on the eye, should be instantly, and without
our consciousness, followed by a contraction of the transparent
aperture. I am far from saying, that there truly is such an instinctive
association of our original visual feelings, with corresponding notions
of distance and magnitude, in the present case; for, at least in
_man_, I believe the contrary. I mean only, that the question has, _a
priori_, only greater probability on one side, not absolute certainty;
and that experience is necessary, before we can decide it with perfect

In the case of the other animals, there seems to be little reason
to doubt, that the tedious process, by which man may be truly said
to learn to see, is not necessary for their visual perceptions. The
calf, and the lamb, newly dropt into the world, seem to measure forms
and distances with their eyes, as distinctly, or at least almost
as distinctly, as the human reasoner measures them, after all the
acquisitions of his long and helpless infancy. Of these races of
our fellow animals, Nature is as once the _Teacher_ and the great
_Protectress_,--supplying to them, immediately, the powers which are
necessary for their preservation,--as, in the long continued affection
of the human parent, she far more than compensates to man, the early
instincts which she has denied to him. If the other animals had to
learn to see, in the same manner with ourselves, it would be scarcely
possible, that their existence should be preserved to the period,
at which the acquisitions necessary for accurate perception could
be made; even though the hoof had been an instrument of touch and
measurement, as convenient as the hand. For this difference in the
relative circumstances of their situation, the Almighty Being,--to
whose universal benevolence, nothing which he has created is too humble
for his care,--has made sufficient provision, in giving them that early
maturity, which makes them, for many months, the _superiors_ of him,
who is afterwards to rule them with a sway, that is scarcely conscious
of effort.

    “Hale are their young, from human frailties freed,
    Walk unsustained, and, unsupported, feed.
    They live _at once_,--forsake the dam's warm side,--
    Take the wide world, with nature for their guide,--
    Bound o'er the lawn, or seek the distant glade,
    And find a home in each delightful shade.”[121]

This instinctive suggestion, which, however subsequent it may be to the
primary visual sensation, seems like immediate perception in the young
of other races of animals, is a very strong additional proof, if any
such were necessary, that there is no physical impossibility, in the
supposition that a similar original suggestion may take place in man.
The question, as I before said, becomes truly a question of observation
and experiment.

But, in man, there is not that necessity for the instinct, which
exists in the peculiar situation of the other animals; and we find
accordingly, that there is no trace of the instinct in _him_. It is
long before the little nurseling shews, that his eye has distinguished
objects from each other, so as to fix their place. We are able
almost to trace in his efforts the progress which he is gradually
making;--and, in those striking cases, which are sometimes presented to
us, of the acquisition of sight, in mature life, in consequence of a
surgical operation,--after vision had been obstructed from infancy,--it
has been found, that the actual magnitude and figure, and position,
of bodies, were to be learned like a new language,--that all objects
seemed equally close to the eye,--and that a sphere and a cube, of
each of which the tangible figure was previously known, were not so
distinguishable in the mere sensation of vision, that the one could
be said, with certainty, to be the cube, and the other the sphere. In
short, what had been _supposed_, with every appearance of probability,
was _demonstrated_ by experiment,--that we _learn_ to _see_,--and that
vision is truly, what Swift has paradoxically defined it to be, _the
art of seeing things that are invisible_.


[113] Essays--Inquiry concerning Human Understanding, Sect. xii. Part 2.

[114] Inquiry into the Human Mind,