himself continually occupied during his waking hours, by the power of discernment or discrimination, he learns to distinguish his several perceptions from each other, by that of contemplation he fixes his mind upon a train of thoughts which he feels himself inclined to indulge for the time. To his surprise and astonishment he soon finds phenomena of his mind exhibited altogether incomprehensible. By an act of his will, he can fasten the view of his mind upon a single point which he wishes to consider, so as to investigate it on all sides, and this is called the act of attention, intension or study, according to the intensity with which he applies the mind to the matter in hand. If he becomes inattentive to every idea passing through his mind, and every object without, he falls into a reverie. He soon discovers in himself the unexpected power of renewing the information he had before obtained, or reviving ideas he had previously acquired, but which appeared to have been entirely obliterated and lost: and this is called memory; which power is exerted in two very distinct methods; in simply retracing those trains of past thought, that involuntarily upon our part spring up in the mind, which is simple remembrance; or voluntarily exerting the powers of the understanding, in bringing again to our view something that it is difficult to recall, and this is denominated recollection or reminiscense. Imagination is that faculty of the understanding by which we collect ideas which we have previously received, and join them together at our pleasure, so as to frame pictures or representations out of them. By composition, we enlarge and compound our ideas, by abstraction we obtain general notions, by the power of comparison our numerous ideas of relations, and by association we connect together perceptions, which we have been in the habit of receiving in conjunction. Judgment gives us a good insight into truth and nature; reason transports us from truths which are known to those which are unknown, and by the will we determine to act or not act according to

our choice; while motivity or the power of acting enables us to execute our determinations. Our instincts, propensities, affections and passions, our social powers and moral sentiments likewise propel us to action.

Of each of these powers of the mind we shall treat in due order, descanting upon the phenomena which are exhibited by them, and, at the same time, endeavouring to explain upon the principles of philosophy sume singular and anomalous facts.


The same Subject Continued.

The first act which the mind exercises is thinking in general, under which head are included, as modes of thinking, perception, imagination, memory, reason, &c. Two of the peculiar doctrines of Des Cartes appear to have been that the essence of matter is extension, and the essence of mind is thought. Neither of these doctrines is well-founded. We all perceive a difference between our idea of extension and of that thing or substance, which fills space and is extended; and between thought, which is an act of the soul, and that thing which thinks. “ If thought were the essence of the soul,” says Mr. Locke, " then, there could be none of that intension or remission in thought, of which we find ourselves capable; as when we apply our minds to any subjects with more or less close attention. Now, if thought were the essence and not the operation of the soul, no such variation in thinking could take place, since the essence of any thing remains always unvaried. This subject, however, is intimately connected with another of much more difficult solution to the philosopher, viz. does the soul or mind always think, or is it sometimes inactive and quiescent? It is impossible for the human mind, definitively to determine whether that which is extended, may not by omnipotence be made to think, or whether that which is unextended must always think. In solving the question, therefore, does the soul always and necessarily think, we must be guided solely by the phenomena. Now the appearances of nature are strangely calculated to mislead us, if the soul always thinks, or what is probably, a more accurate statement of the question, if the man always thinks.

If we trace man to his origin in the womb of his mother, we shall find strong reason to conclude that he does not always think. The doctrine of innate ideas, being contradict. ed by all the phenomena exhibited by our race in a state of infancy, is now considered as exploded from philosophy. Now we know not the precise time in which the soul is united to the body, while the fætus is in the womb of its mother, but we are sure that at some period between the time in which its formation commences, and that of its birth, the Almighty, besides breathing into it the breath of life, must also transfuse into it a living soul, a principle of intelligence. In what state, then, can we conceive this soul or principle of intelligence to be? Can it be thinking at the time of its union with the body? But about what can it be supposed to be thinking? Can it be thinking before it has acquired ideas? The only ideas we can conceive it to acquire even in the womb, are those of warmth, hunger and thirst, or perhaps, some dim perceptions of pain and pleasure, according to the condition in which it subsists there. Children which perish in the womb after they are completely formed, may, without any great stretch of fancy, be supposed to suffer pains, and perhaps severe ones, before their dissolution. These, then, are all the perceptions which the soul can be conceived to receive in the embryon state of man. We see that as yet there is no reason to conclude that he has more than a very few perceptions to occupy his mind. And the state in which the infant continues for some time after its birth, being sleepy, torpid, and inactive, affords no indication that its mind had been previously much excited by thinking. The first phenomena, therefore, exhibited by our race in a state of in

fancy, seem strongly to lead to the conclusion, that the mind at its conjunction with the body, is not a thinking substance, but a substance capable of thought, imagination, reasoning, &c. and has its powers first excited into action, after its infusion into our corporeal system. We are apt to impose upon our understandings on this subject by terms that convey no distinct ideas, and to imagine that an unextended substance, which does not think, must be nothing. But does not the difficulty here consist in conceiving of an unextended substance at all, or a substance that occupies no part of space? Is there any greater difficulty in conceiving of an unextended substance possessing only the power of thinking, than in conceiving of an unextended substance which thinks? I presume not.

The next consideration which should lead to the conclusion, that thought is in some cases suspended, is, that there are so many instances within our experience, in which all consciousness of thinking is lost. When we are in profound and un disturbed sleep, in cases of swooning, a deliquium, and in drowning, when life is not taken away, but only suspended for a time, as appears from the reports of those who have experienced these changes, we are totally unconscious of having performed a single act of thinking. There is a case mentioned by Dr. Beattie of a man, who fell into a deliquium while giving an order to a servant, and who after lying in that singular condition, in which all the functions of body and mind seem to be intermitted, for six weeks, suddenly recovered the use of his faculties, and asked the servant whether he had executed his order, as if it had but that moment been delivered. Those who are drowned, and afterwards resuscitated, have no recollection of any thing but of the pains which they sustained in this mode of death; and of the still more distressing pains of their revival. But to descend to facts within the reach of every one's experience and observation, does not the mo

« ForrigeFortsett »