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A second time I turn my eyes towards it, while open, and his likeness is revived. Is this memory, is the question asked? Now, could we imagine that this question was put by a philosopher? When I turn my eyes to the picture of my friend, is it a power of my mind alone which gives me a perception of his likeness, or is it by means of the rays of light passing from the picture, and forming an image upon the retina? The perception of the picture is an involuntary act, recollection a voluntary one. Perception, in both instances mentioned by Dr. Reid, is occasioned by rays of light; memory is an exertion of a power inherent in the mind.
“ I have a power,” says the Dr.“ to turn my eyes again towards the picture, and immediately the perception is revived. Is this memory?” But we may ask the Dr. if the power of turning our head towards the picture revives the perception? Could that power revive it, if the picture in the mean time had been removed? The fallacy of his argument is too glaring to escape the detection of the least discerning. The reader will perceive in this case a willingness to resort to any unfair expedient to bring Locke's doctrine into dis. repute.
The term conception, which implies one of the modes of thinking, has no peculiar philosophical import; and, of consequence, it is extremely difficult, nicely to mark the distinction between it and many other terms, which are nearly synonimous with it. It is nearly equivalent to the expres. sions, imagination, remembrance, simple apprehension, or forming an idea of a thing. Sometimes it expresses the same shade of thought with one of these terms, and, at other times, with another. It denotes the exercise of no new power of the mind, which could not be designated without the use of it; but still its use could not be advantageously dispensed with, as it serves to give copiousness, expressiveness, and harmony to our language.“ By conception,” says professor Stewart, “ I mean that power of the mind, which enables us to form a notion of an absent object of perception, or of a sensation which it has formerly felt.” Is not the office here attributed to conception, as a distinct power of the mind, always performed by memory? What, but memory, is that power of the mind, which enables us to form a notion of an absent object of perception, or of a sensation, which we have experienced before? Conception, and idea or thought, either simple or complex, are terms as nearly synonimous, perhaps, as any two which are to be found in our language. Like all other words, however, which are introduced into vulgar.use, it is made to express a great variety of meanings. When we say of the place of our nativity, which, perhaps, for many years we have not seen, that we have a distinct conception of it, what can we mean, but that by the power of recollection, we can retrace the scene which was there once presented to view, and, as it were, paint those objects anew, although with a degradation of colouring, to our mental eye? And what is this process, but forming a new complex idea of the place of our nativity, by the power of memory? When we assert, that we can form no adequate conceptions of the phenomena displayed at the poles of the earth, until navigators shall reach them, what do we mean, but that we cannot assemble together that train of ideas, which would be excited by the appearances of the earth and heavens in the polar regions, until actual experience has produced them in our minds? The conspirator is accused of conceiving a design to overturn the government, and here conception is made to include a determination of the will, as well as picturing in his mind a scheme of treason; but in all these cases, as well as numberless others, with which any dictionary of our language may supply us, it will be invariably perceived, that the term conception, iinplies the exercise of no new and distinct power of the mind. “ It may be observed,” says Dr. Reid,“ in his article upon simple apprehension, that conception enters as an ingredient in every operation of the mind. Our senses cannot give us the belief of any object, without giving some conception of it at the same time. No man can either remember or reason about things, of which he hath no conception. When we will to exert any of our active powers, there must be some conception of what we will to do. There can be no desire or aversion, love or hatred, without some conception of the object. We cannot feel pain without conceiving it, though we can conceive it without feeling it.” This is all strictly true, and what no one can hesitate to admit. But in all these cases, can there be discerned the slightest shade of distinction, between con
ception, and thought or idea, and conceiving, and forming a thought or idea of any thing? Thinking is that act of the mind, which enters as an indispensable ingredient into all its operations. Take the passage of the Dr's. work above referred to, and for the word conception, substitute thought or idea, and see whether the same sentiments are not most precisely expressed. “Our senses cannot give us the belief of any object, without giving us some idea of it at the same time. No man can either remember or reason about things, of which he hath no idea," And so of the remaining sentences. Now since it appears evident, that the term conception implies the exercise of no new power of the mind, and with some slight shades of difference, arising out of its ordinary and vulgar use, is exactly equivalent to the expressions forming a thought or idea of any object, why should Dr. Reid entertain his readers with a long and elaborate disquisition about it, treating it as a subject entirely distinct from others, and enter into a learned recital of the errors, into which all previous philosophers had fallen in their several accounts of conception? Have the philosophers broached any theory about conception, distinct from the theory of ideas, upon which he had before so largely descanted? Is not philosophy rather injured than profited, by such confused and cloudy dissertations?
But professor Stewart endeavours to relieve the Dr. from this charge, by discovering a peculiar meaning of the word. “ Conception,” says he, “is often confounded with other powers. When a painter makes a picture of a friend, who is absent or dead, he is commonly said to paint from memo. ry; and the expression is sufficiently correct for common conversation. But in an analysis of the mind there is ground for a distinction. The power of conception, enables him to make the features of his friend, an object of thought, so as to copy the resemblance; the power of memory recognises these features as a former object of perception. Every act