the Intellectual and Active powers, he says:

u The com mon theory of ideas, that is, of images in the brain, or in the mind, of all the objects of thought, has been very gen. erally applied to account for the faculties of memory and imagination, as well as that of perception by the senses. Mr. Locke, and those who have followed him, speaks with more reserve than the ancients, and only incidentally of impressions on the brain, as the cause of memory, and imputes it rather to our retaining in our minds, the ideas got either by sensation, or reflection.” Here we see that Mr. Locke, after having been before accused of the heresy of attempting to explain how we perceive, is made to undertake the task of accounting for the act of memory. Both these important operations of the mind, we are told, are ascribed by him to impressions on the brain, or the introduction of images into the mind, of all the objects of thought. Now, is there any one so simple as to imagine that this accusation is well founded? Has Mr. Locke been so devoid of a just conception of the narrow limits of the human understanding, as to make the bold attempt to explain in what manner we can remember any thing? Look at the account which he gives of memory, and see if there be contained in it any thing about images in the mind, or impressions upon the brain. “ 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 out of sight, and thus we do when we conceive heat or light, 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 is hat 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 anew on itself, though some with more, and some with less difficulty, some more lively, and others more obscurely." Could any one who was wri. ting with full intent to oppose what has been called the ideal theory, have expressed himself with more precision and accuracy on this subject? It is somewhat singular, that Dr. Reid never discovered in such passages as these, some reasons to doubt whether he had not misapprehended the doctrine of Mr. Locke. “Our ideas are nothing but actual perceptions in the mind, which cease to be any thing when there is no perception of them, (or what is the same thing, when we are not conscious of them); and in this sense it is, that our ideas are said to be in our memories, when, indeed, they are actually no where." Does this language look like the doctrine, that in perception, images of things are conveyed into the mind and there deposited, until by memory they are called out again to become the objects of contemplation? But when an author has once conceived in his head a new system, he listens to nothing that militates against it, while he seizes with avidity every shadow of evidence that gives it support. But a small share of philosophical candour, we think, would have led Dr. Reid to spare the criticisms upon the passage of Mr. Locke before quoted, which we shall now state, and endeavour to expose.

“ In this account of memory, (says Dr. Reid, in his essay upon memory, to which we have just referred,) the repeated use of the phrase, as it were, leads one to judge that it is partly figurative.” Could any one doubt that is metaphorical, when the author himself expressly tells us so, even if he had omitted that small expressive phrase, as it were? When he talks of our ideas being kept for some time actually in view, being imprinted on the mind and revived again, disappearing and being laid out of sight, deposited in a store-house, lest this figurative mode of expression should mislead his reader, he informs him distinctly that in perception thoughts enter the mind, and by the power of memory are again recalled, although they are themselves actually no where when not in the mind. Could any language be more intelligible?

Again. Dr. Reid proceeds. “But we are told, that this laying up of our ideas in the depository of the memory sigo nifies no more but this, that the mind has a power to revive perceptions which it once had, with this additional perception annexed to them, that it has had them before.” But it seems to me as difficult to revive things that have ceased to be any thing, as to lay them up in a repository, or to bring them out of it.” But Mr. Locke is not speaking of the difficulty in the case. He is only informing us of the operations of nature, all whose departments are under the control of that Being, by whose power all things which are not impossible, are effected with a like facility. The Dr. continues. “ When a thing is once annihilated, the same thing cannot be again produced, though another thing similar to it may.” No? Could not the Supreme Being annihilate that clod beneath our feet, and in one hour restore it again? And would it not, if thus composed of all its atoms be the same clod? We distinguish different tastes. We call one the taste of the orange, another that of the pine, and a third that of the lemon. Now, after eating an orange, if we do not see another for some months after, the taste of that fruit is to us for that time annihilated. But when we obtain posses. sion of another, should we not justly say that the same taste was again revived within us? “ But” says, Dr. Reid, “Mr. Locke, in another place, acknowledges that the same thing cannot have two beginnings of existence; and that things which have different beginnings are not the same but diverse." But Mr. Locke does not allege, that the beginning of the idea was when it was revived by memory.

On the contrary he maintains, that memory can give rise to no new idea; but that all the simple ideas which we have, must derive their origin from sensation or consciousness. The Dr. draws his conclusion. “ From this it follows, that an ability to revive our ideas or perceptions, after they have ceased to be, can signify no more but an ability to create new ideas or perceptions, similar to those we had before.” Accordingly Dr. Reid's doctrine is, that memory is what he calls an original power, and implies an ability to create new ideas and perceptions, similar to those we had before. To this representation Mr. Locke agrees, when it is rightly understood. For Dr. Reid allows that the memory can give us no idea which we never had before. All the difference, therefore, between them is this. The one asserts, that memory only revives those ideas and perceptions, which we had before; the other, that memory creates new ideas and perceptions, similar to those which we had before, Both these writers are evidently aiming at the truth, and the latter might well have spared his strictures upon the principles of the former. The one has given as just and accurate a definition of memory as the other.

Let us compare them together. Mr. Locke, says, ry is that power, by which we revive perceptions and ideas, which we had before.” Is not this definition just in many cases? I retrace in my memory all the proofs by which Euclid demonstrates that proposition, that the three angles of every triangle, are equal to two right angles. In this case, do I not by memory revive every idea which enters into the demonstration? But the definition does not apply universally. I recollect the taste I formerly had when eat. ing a pine-apple, or when drinking the Saratoga water. In this case, memory still gives me a distinct idea of these tastes, but cannot excite within me the very tastes or perceptions themselves. Perhaps it might be admitted that it excites perceptions, similar or analogous to those I once had. Here, therefore, Locke's definition does not strictly apply. Will Reid's, however, answer the purpose better? By no means. Would it do to say, when I remember the proofs of the proposition in Euclid before mentioned, the memory created ideas similar to those I once had, and did not revive the very thoughts themselves! Surely not.


Setting aside, then, all disposition to detect inaccuracies in the language of philosophers, we conceive that Mr. Locke upon this point is sufficiently clear, precise and satisfactory. Every one is sufficiently aware of what is meant by this power, and neeils none of the lessons of the schools, to render it intelligible to him. The observations, with which Dr. Reid concludes his strictures upon Mr. Locke's doctrine about memory, are not only unworthy of him, but of the tyro in metaphysicks. They are these. " But when Mr. Locke speaks of a power to revive in the mind those ideas, which, after imprinting, have disappeared, or have been, as it were, laid out of sight, one would hardly know this to be memory, if he had not told us. There are other things which it seems to resemble at least as much, I see before me the picture of a friend. I shut my eyes, or tum them another way, and the picture disappears, or is, as it were, laid out of sight. I have power to turn my eyes again towards the picture, and immediately the perception is re. vived. But is this memory; no surely? yet it answers the definition as well as memory itself can do.” By such a flimsy sophism as this, could we suppose that the understanding of any one could be imposed upon? I direct my eyes to the picture of my friend, and recognise his likeness. I shut them, or turn them away, and his likeness disappears.

« ForrigeFortsett »