$ 82. Early classifications sometimes incorrect. It has been intimated, that, in making these classifications, men are governed by definite and uniform mental tendencies; still it must be acknowledged that mistakes are sometimes committed, especially in the early periods of society, and in all cases where the opportunities of examination and comparison are imperfect. When man first opens his eyes on nature, (and in the infancy of our race he finds himself a novice wherever he goes,) objects so numerous, so various in kind, so novel and interesting, crowd upon his attention, that, attempting to direct himself to all at the same time, he loses sight of their specifical differences, and blends them together more than a calm and accurate examination would justify. And hence it is not to be wondered at that our earliest classifications, the primitive genera and species, are sometimes incorrectly made.

Subsequently, when knowledge has been in some measure amassed, and reasoning and observation have been brought to a greater maturity, these errors are attended to; individuals are rejected from species where they do not properly belong, and species from genera. The most savage and ignorant tribes will in due season correct their mistakes and be led into the truth.

Ø 83. Illustrations of our earliest classifications. We are naturally led to introduce one or two incidents here which throw light on this part of our subject. What we wish to illustrate is the simple fact that men readily perceive the resemblances of objects, and exhibit a disposition to classify them in reference to such resemblance. The first case which we shall mention in illustration of this, is that of Caspar Hauser. The principal objects which Caspar had to amuse himself with in his prison were two little wooden horses, which, in his entire ignorance, he believed to be possessed of life and sensibility. After the termination of his imprisonment, his biographer informs us, that to “ every animal he met with, whether quadruped or biped, dog, cat, goose, or fowl, he gave the name of horse." In the year 1814, Pitcairn's Island, a solitary spot in


the Pacific Ocean, was visited by two English cruisers. Two of the young men that belonged on the island, and whose knowledge was, of course, extremely limited, came on board one of the vessels. “The youths,” says the Narrative, “were greatly surprised at the sight of so many novel objects; the size of the ship, the guns, and everything around them. Observing a cow, they were at first somewhat alarmed, and expressed a doubt whether it was a huge goat or a horned hog, these being the only two species of quadrupeds they had ever seen.” -Travellers mention other instances where there is the same tendency to classify, which we have not room to repeat.

Ø 84. Of the nature of general abstract ideas. The notions which are thus formed in all cases of classification, are commonly known, in the Treatises having relation to these subjects, as General Abstract ideas. And they are no less numerous than the multiplied varieties of objects which are found to exist everywhere around

It is thus that we form the general notions of animal and of all the subordinate species of animals; of tree and its numerous varieties; of earths, and minerals, and whatever else is capable of being arranged into classes.

But it is to be noticed that the general idea, whatever objects it may be founded upon, does not embrace every particular which makes a part of such objects. When we look at a number of men, we find them all differing in some respects, in height, size, colour, tone of the voice, and in other particulars. The mind fixes only upon those traits or properties with which it can combine the notion of resemblance; that is to say, those traits, qualities, or properties in which the individuals are perceived to be like, or to resemble each other. The complex mental state, which embraces these qualities and properties, and nothing more, (with the exception of the superadded notion of other bodies having resembling qualities,) is a General Abstract idea.

And hence the name. Such notions are called ABSTRACT, because, while embracing many individuals in certain respects, they detach and leave out altogether a variety of particulars in which those individuals disagree.

If there were not this discrimination and leaving out of certain parts, we never could consider these notions, regarded as wholes, as otherwise than individual or particular.—They are called GENERAL, because, in consequence of the discrimination and selection which has just been mentioned, they embrace such qualities and properties as exist not in one merely, but in many. 0 85. The power of general abstraction in connexion with numbers, &c.

The ability which the mind possesses of forming general abstract ideas, is of much practical importance. It is not easy to estimate the increase of power which is thus given to the action of the human mind, particularly in reasoning. By means of general abstract propositions, we are able to state volumes in a few sentences; that is to say, the truths, stated and illustrated in a few general propositions, would fill volumes in their particular applications.

Without the ability of forming general notions, we should not be able to number, even in the smallest degree. Before we can consider objects as forming a multitude, or are able to number them, it seems necessary to be able to apply to them a common name. This we cannot do until we have reduced them to a genus; and the formation of a genus implies the power (or process, rather) of abstraction. Consequently, we should be unable, without such power, to number.—How great, then, is the practical importance of that intellectual process by which general abstractions are formed Without the ability to number, we should be at a loss in our investigations where this ability is required; without the power to classify, all our speculations must be limited to particulars, and we should be capable of no general reasoning.

986. Of general abstract truths or principles. There are not only general abstract ideas, but abstract truths or principles also of a general nature, which are deserving of some attention, especially in a practical point of view. Although enough has already been said to show the importance of abstraction, it may yet be desirable to have a more full view of its applications.

The process, in forming general truths or principles of an abstract nature, seems to be this. We must begin undoubtedly with the examination and study of particulars; with individual objects and characters, and with insulated events. We subsequently confirm the truth of whatever has been ascertained in such inquiry, by an observation of other like objects and events. We proceed from one individual to another, till no doubt remains.Having in this way arrived at some general fact or principle, we thenceforward throw aside the consideration of the particular objects on which it is founded, and make it alone, exclusively and abstractly, the subject of our mental contemplations. We repeat this process again and again, till the mind, instead of being wholly taken up with a multitude of particulars, is stored with truths of a general kind. These truths it subsequently combines in trains of reasoning, compares together, and deduces from them others of still wider application.

987. Of the speculations of philosophers and others. What has been said leads us to observe, that there is a characteristical difference between the speculations of men of philosophic minds and those of the common mass of people, which is worthy of some notice. The difference between the two is not so much, that philosophers are accustomed to carry on processes of reasoning to a greater extent, as this, that they are more in the habit of employing general abstract ideas and general terms, and that, consequently, the conclusions which they form are more comprehensive. Nor are their general reasonings, although the conclusions at which they arrive seem, in their particular applications, to indicate wonderful fertility of invention, so difficult in the performance as is apt to be supposed. They have so often and so long looked at general ideas and general propositions ; have been so accustomed, as one may say, to contemplate the general nature of things, divested of all superfluous and all specific circumstances, that they have formed a habit ; and the operation is performed without difficulty. It requires in such persons no greater intellectual effort than would be necessary in skilfully managing the details of ordinary business.

The speculations of the great bulk of mankind differ from those of philosophers in being, both in the subjects of them and in their results, particular. They discover an inability to enlarge their view to universal propositions, which embrace a great number of individuals. They may possess the power of mere argument, of comparing propositions together which concern particulars, and deducing inferences from them to a great degree; but when they attempt to contemplate general propositions, their minds are perplexed, and the conclusions which are drawn from them appear obscure, however clearly the previous process of reasoning may have been expressed.


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$ 88. Of the general nature of attention. WITHOUT considering it necessary to speak of attention as a separate intellectual power or faculty, as some may be inclined to do, it seems to be sufficient to say,

that ATTENTION expresses the state of the mind, when it is steadily directed, for a length of time, to some object of sense or intellect, exclusive of other objects. When we say that any external object, or any subject of thought which is purely internal, receives attention, it seems to be the fact, as far as we are able to determine, that the intellect is occupied with the subject of its attention, whatever it is, for a certain period, and that all other things are, for the time being, shut out. In other words, the the perceptive power fixes upon the object of its contemplations is an undivided, an unbroken one. But this does not

appear to be all. There is not only a distinct and exclusive mental perception; but also an act of the will, directing, condensing, and confining the perception. So that, in all cases of attention, the act of the mind may be regarded as a complex one, involving not only the mere perception or series of perceptions, but also an act

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