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ment, that with respect to the process of nature in percep. tion, they are no less ignorant than the vulgar.” With regard to the encomium bestowed by the professor upon his friend, in the last part of this paragraph, we have only to remark, that if it be considered as exclusive and peculiar, it is altogether unmerited, for we trust it will appear from what we have before stated, that no man better understood the limits of human knowledge, and more strictly confined himself within them in all his investigations, than Mr. Locke, or appears less inclined to indulge his curiosity in unprofitas ble speculations; and moreover, no one in “his inquiries concerning our perceptive powers, has more closely confined himself to a precise state of the fact, and more explicitly avows his ignorance of the manner of perception, or to use the splendid diction of the Professor, of the process of nature in perception.” In reference to the assertion in the first part of the paragraph, that although Dr. Reid has been at great pains to overturn the old ideal system, he has not ventured to substitute any hypothesis of his own in its place, it is totally unfounded. He has given his solution of the phenomenon of perception, or that operation of the mind, by which we become acquainted with the existence and qualities of outward objects, as distinctly as Mr. Locke, or any other writer. Mr. Locke, for instance, maintains that in smelling a rose, we have a sensation or perception, (for he considers the terms in this case synonymous,) of an agreeable odour, and at the same time an immediate conviction, arising out of the testimony of the senses, of the existence of some object in nature, which causes that perception. Dr. Reid informs us, that in smelling a rose, we have both a sensation of an agreeable odour and also perception, by which he means an act of the mind different from sensation. This will lead, however, to a statement of his system, in which I think, we shall perceive that as much as he complains of Mr. Locke, and the other philosophers, on account of their indistinct and ambiguous use of terms, he is by no means free from the charge of a want of perspicuity and precision.
First. We are told in essay 2, ch. 5, of the intellectual system; “If, therefore, we attend to that act of the mind which we call the perception of an external object of sense, we shall find in it these three things. First, some conception or notion of the object perceived; secondly, a strong and irresistible conviction and belief of its present existence; and thirdly, that this conviction and belief are immediate, and not the effect of reasoning.
Secondly. We have seen before in a passage quoted from him, that he says, when I smell a rose there is in this operation, both sensation and perception. The agreeable odour I feel, is a sensation. Let us see now by putting these two passages together, how complex an operation of the mind, is supposed by the Dr. to be produced by merely smelling a
When I smell a rose there is in that act of the mind, both sensation and perception; that is according to his own account, there are four distinct acts of the mind in that single operation; first, an agreeable sensation or odour; next, some conception or notion of the object perceived; then, a strong and irresistible conviction and belief of its present existence; and lastly, that this conviction and belief are immediate, and not the effect of reasoning. We can readily admit, that when we come philosophically to analyze the operations of our minds, there is greater complexity in them than the vulgar, who are prone to confound things that are distinct, are apt to imagine; but we cannot think that in the simple act of smelling a rose, there can be so great a variety of perceptions, as is here represented. As to the second act of the mind here supposed to be excited, what other conception or notion can we have of the smell of a rose, but that it is an agreeable odour of a distinct and peculiar kind, which we obtain from sensation? And as to the last act, that this belief and conviction are iminediate and not the effect of reasoning, this so far from entering into our primitive notices of things, is rather an inference deduced by philoso. phers, from examining the phenomena of the human mind. The lessons of philosophy teach us that before reason can come in to our aid, we have a firm conviction of the existence and order of an exterior world. All the complexity, therefore, which we see any solid ground to admit in that operation of the mind, by which we have our notices of external bodies, is that which is recognized in the system of Mr. Locke; that by sensation or perception, we are rendered sensible of their qualities, and this perception of the quality, is accompanied at the same time, with an irresistible conviction, from the testimony of sense, of its real existence in rerum natura. If Dr. Reid had maintained, that in the converse we hold with an exterior world, besides sensation, by which we become acquainted with the qualities of bodies, by perception also, we are informed of their actual existence in rerum natura, the distinction would have been intelligible, and have corresponded to what Mr. Locke denominates the testimony of the senses.
But let us examine a little more narrowly the sentiments of the Dr. “ When I smell a rose, there is in this operation both sensation and perception. The agreeable odour I feel, considered by itself without relation to an external object, is merely a sensation. 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.” Here we see, that it is assumed as a principle without any proof, that while perception has an external object, sensation has none? Is this a self evident truth? When I apply my nostril to a rose, and imbibe an agreeable odour, is not the object of my sensation, in that case, the effluvium emitted from that flower? Could I ever obtain
that sensation unless that quality in the rose, acted upon the olfactory organs? Has not sensation, therefore, in all cases an external object? But it is said, this sensation merely 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.” It is true it may be conceived without a thought of the rose, or any other object, except the effluvia emitted from the rose itself. Originally it is certain, we could have no conception or notion of the odour of a rose, unless we had experienced that sensation; but the rose itself gives us many more perceptions besides that of its agreeable odour. It is true, as the Dr. asserts, that our sensation can be nothing else than it is felt to be, and its very essence consists in being felt, and when it is not felt it is not. But does not the very term sensation imply that something is felt? Now let me ask what it is that is felt? Not the sensation itself surely, for that would be to maintain that we have a sensation of a sensation, and the first sensation would remain to be accounted for. Wherever we have a sensation, the very term implies that there is something felt, or that there is an object of that sensation. Nothing can be more clear than this simple proposition. “Perception, however, we are told, has 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.” That is to say by sensation or our sense of smell alone, do we become acquainted with the fact that there is such a quality in the rose, as can excite in us an agreeable odour; and yet by perception alone we become apprised of the existence of that quality. Sensation is here, indeed, made as blind as a bat; while perception is as sharp sighted as an eagle. He proceeds.
6. 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.” But certainly when I smell a rose, the object smelt or which communicates a sensation to me, is some quality in it; and the object of my sensation is that quality. It is an acknow. ledged rule of philosophising that no more causes of things are to be admitted than are both true and sufficient to explain the phenomena. Now by admitting that we have sensations or perceptions of the qualities of objects around us, and that these sensations and perceptions are always accompanied by an immediate and irresistible conviction or belief of the real existence of those objects, all the phenomena are explained without having recourse to a refined and unintelligible distinction between sensation and perception; or multiplying, beyond the necessity of the case, those acts of the mind by which we are made acquainted with an external world.
To make the case more clear by an example. I enter a room in which there is a magnolia, whose odour I have never before smelt. Now certainly all that I can be sensible of in this case is an agreeable odour, attended by an immediate conviction that there is something in the room which causes that sensation. Nothing seems to be more evident, than that the only communication I can hold with that flower, and the only intimation I have of that agreeable odour in it is through the organs of smelling; and to talk of perception, in this instance, as a distinct act of the mind from sensation or smelling, whose object is that quality of the magnolia, while smelling has no object, or in other words we smell nothing, is at once to pervert the meaning of words as well as to misinterpret the voice of nature. I am afraid, therefore, that although the Dr. had promised himself, and the literary world so much advantage from the discovery of these distinct acts of the mind in perception, and thus analyzing its complex operations, when critically examined, it will not bear the test; but will be found to be a distinction without a difference. He seems to have imagined that in discovering this distinction between sensation, and