Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

ceive them but by means of ideas.” While Mallebranche rejected the doctrine of the Peripateticks about sensible species, he here broaches one having a natural conjunction, and close affinity to it, as far as it is made to extend. Had he spoken in this manner of all our ideas of external objects, and had other philosophers joined in with him, then the charge of Dr. Reid against them, would have been easily sustained. So far, however, is this from being the case, that we find Mr. Locke expressly animadverting upon his sentiments in this particular, and telling him that his doctrine of seeing all things in God, was not only unintelligible, but was unsatisfactory as well as unnecessary, as a solution of the phenomenon of seeing. It was as unnecessary he declares, to have recourse to the agency of God in vision, as it would be in the other perceptions of sense; since he has as distinct a conception, how rays of light coming from a body, and striking upon the eye, and thus occasioning an action in the brain, may give us the perception of visible objects, as of the manner in which taste is produced by sapid bodies, acting upon the palate, or sound, by the undulations of air striking upon the ear. The idea of Mallebranche undoubtedly was, that when we look at the sun, moon, and stars, and other things visible in nature, we do not perceive those objects themselves, they being not immediately present to the soul, but we perceive the ideas or images of them, which are immediately present to it. If the question be asked, where do these ideas exist? the answer is in God. If the question be renewed, in what way do we perceive them, thus subsisting in the divine mind, the answer again is, upon occasion of the presence of the sun, moon, &c. God enables us by his action upon our minds, to perceive these images or representatives of things, that exist in him. It is easy to perceive that a system of this kind, utterly excludes, as far as the argument extends, an exterior world, as the Creator could give us these ideas, without calling the objects into

existence at all; and since he does nothing in vain, and accomplishes every end by the most compendious means, there would be the best reason to conclude, that no such objects exist. In order, however, that we properly determine, how far the doctrine of Mallebranche is liable to the objections of Dr. Reid, let us endeavour exactly to ascertain it, in its whole extent. We have seen that he maintains, that the intervention of ideas, which are immediately and intimately present to the mind, is necessary to our perception of visible objects, through the organ of the eye. This doctrine, however, it is to be remarked, absurd as it is, extends only to those objects, that cannot come under the cognizance of any of our other senses, as for instance, those which are so remote, that we can neither taste, smell, hear, or touch them, but which can be revealed to us only by the sight. Let us hear him speak for himself, as he certainly must be the best interpreter of his own opinions—Il est certain que l'ame voit dans elle-meme, et sans idèes, toutes les sensations et toutes les passions dont elle est actuellement touchée, le plaisir, la douleur, le froid, la chaleur, les couleurs, les sons, les odeurs, les saveurs, son amours, sa haine, sa joye, sa tristesse et les autres; parceque toutes les sensations et toutes les passions de l'ame ne representent rien qui soit hors d'elle, qui leur ressemble, et qui ce ne sont que des modifications dont un esprit est capable; mais la difficulte est de sçavoir, si les idees qui representent quelque chose qui est hors de l'ame, et qui leur ressemble en quelque façon, comme les idees du soleil, d'une maison, d'un cheval, d'une riviere &c. ne sont que des modifications de l'ame; de sorte que l'esprit n'ait besoin que de l'uimeme, pour se represente toutes les choses qui sont hors de lui.

Here we see that Mallebranche, unfounded as his theory is, admits, that without the intervention of ideas or images, we may have perceptions of all the secondary qualities of bodies, as well as the properties and operations of our own minds. Of all that endless store of thoughts, therefore, with which the capacious mind of man is replenished, the only cases in which he supposes the interposition of ideas necessary as immediate objects of perception, are those of the extension and figures of bodies, as revealed to us by sight. So easily does that system vanish, which ascribes to philosophers the doctrine, that all our ideas of outward objects are the images or representatives of them, and the only immediate objects of perception! Even the opinions of Mallebranche, who does not appear to have been able, entirely, to disentangle himself from the subtilties and absurdities of the schools, are but in a slight degree tinctured with it.

I pass over the treatise of Norris, as unworthy of a moment's consideration, as he has only taken hold of the weakest, and most indefensible part of Father Mallebranche's system, whose opinions he embraced, and endeavoured to recommend it to attention by a long dissertation, which can only serve to expose it to contempt and ridicule. In his hands the theory of seeing all things in God, which in its original author, is made to rest upon the foundation of a specious and ingenious philosophy, degenerates into a fantastic and vapoury enthusiasm. Hartley's attempt to explain all the phenomena of the human mind, upon the plan of vibrations and vibratiancles, or minor vibrations in the medullary substance of the brain, is unworthy of the philosophy of modern times, or the Baconian age of science. He commences with an hypothesis, unsupported by a single fact or experiment; and as the whole superstructure rests upon this basis, so sandy a foundation cannot long support its edifice.

Dr. Priestley remarks, that the work of Dr. Hartley opened a new world to him. My feelings upon reading it have been very different, as I have always found it a large demand upon my patience to toil through its pages. What a delight to turn from the perusal of such a writer, where un

[merged small][ocr errors]

real objects and visionary scenes, are made to float before the fancy, like those which are presented in a dream, or amidst the delirium of a fever, to the pure and clear light of Mr. Locke's treatise! Here, indeed, we find the moral world, unfolded to us in all the beauty and magnificence, in which it rose under the hands of its Creator! Here we follow the author as our guide, with increasing admiration; while as the true interpreter of nature, he conducts us through the dark and shady walks of metaphysical science, and discloses to us the wonders, which are exhibited in this department of nature.

Des Cartes made the pineal gland the seat of the soul, and Sir Isaac Newton, expresses himself in a query to this effect. “ Is not the sensorium of animals, the place where the sentient substance is present, and to which the sensible species of things, are brought through the nerves and brain, that there they may be perceived by the mind present in that place! And is there not an incorporeal, living, intelligent, and omnipresent being, who, in infinite space, as if it were in his sensorium, intimately perceives things themselves, and comprehends them perfectly, as being present to them; of which things, that principle in us which perceives and thinks, discerns only in its little sensorium, the images brought to it by the organs of the senses.” These expressions have been brought to favour the doctrine, that all the philosophers received the ideal theory; but it is evident that Sir Isaac Newton, in this case is merely using the language of the schools, without probably having studied or weighed well the technical import of the expressions, and that he intends nothing more, than to propose it as a question, according to his usual modesty, when he did not think the proposition he was enunciating, susceptible of demonstration from any principles of science known at the time; whether the sensorium of animals may not be the seat, or as Mr. Locke calls it, the presence chamber of the soul, in which through the intermediation of the senses, it receives its notices of external objects. Without probably having ever taken the pains to render himself master of the subject, he merely couches his ideas in the prevalent phraseology of the schools. At this there is no cause of wonder, since the language even of Mr. Locke himself, who had so thoroughly studied and investigated the subject, is occasionally tinctured with the same modes of expression, and even when his doctrine is substantially correct. Similar observations will apply to what Dr. Clarke has written, in reference to perception. Neither he nor Newton, had devoted sufficient attention to that subject, thoroughly to understand it, and therefore in speaking about it, merely indulged themselves in the current style of the day. Does not this show, that if Mr. Locke had not obtained more just conceptions on these points, he would have left his opinion equally unambiguous?

“ Dr. Clarke,” says Dr. Reid in his letters to Leibnitz, has the following passages“ Without being present to the images of the things perceived, it (the soul) could not possibly perceive them. A living substance can only there perceive where it is present, either to the things themselves, (as the omnipresent God is to the whole universe,) or to the images of things, as the soul of man is in its proper sensory.”

Nothing can any more act or be acted upon, where it is not present, than it can be where it is not. We are sure the soul cannot perceive what it is not present to, because nothing can act or be acted upon where it is not.” This is unequivocally maintaining the ideal theory, in its full extent, as was done by the schoolmen; and if Mr. Locke and the philosophers had spoken in this way, there could have been no controversy as to their opinion. If Dr. Reid were not in the habit, in order to save himself the trouble of discriminating the opinions of philosophers from each other, of consounding them all together, and rendering the whole order responsible for the errors and fallacies of each one, he need

« ForrigeFortsett »