Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

8 106. Instances of notions which have an internal origin. Among other notions which are to be ascribed to the second great source, are those expressed by the terms THINKING, DOUBTING, BELIEVING, and CERTAINTY.-It is a matter of internal observation, (that is, of consciousness or of reflection, which are synonymous with internal observation,) that the mind does not, and cannot, for any length of time, remain inactive. Hence there is occasion given for the origin of that idea which we denominate

The notion which we thus denominate is framed by the mind under these circumstances; the name is given, and nobody is ignorant as to what is meant. But then it is to be remarked that its origin is wholly internal; it is not an object of touch, or taste, or sight; it is to be ascribed to the mind itself alone, and to its inherent activity, unaided by the senses, or by anything operating

THINKING.

upon them.

senses.

Again, in the examination of some topic which is proposed for discussion, a proposition is stated with little or no evidence attending it, and the mind, in reference to that proposition, is brought into a position to which we give the name of doubting. It is by no means easy, or rather it is impossible, to trace this idea directly to the

All we can say of it is, that it has its origin within, and necessarily exists immediately subsequent to certain other mer states of which we are conscious.

But then, in this very instance, if the evidence be considerably increased, the mental estimation which we form is altered in regard to it, and to this new state of the mind we give the name of belief or believing. And in case the evidence of the proposition is of a higher and more decided character, there then arises another state of the mind, which we denominate certainty.

$ 107. Other instances of ideas which have an internal origin. The ideas of right and wrong, of unity and number, of time and space, order, proportion, similitude, truth, wisdom, power, obligation, succession, cause, effect, and many others, have a like origin; at least there are none of them to be ascribed directly and exclusively to the senses. It is cheerfully granted, that, in determining this point, it is proper to refer to the common experience of mankind, and to rely upon it. But it is believed in all these instances, (certainly in the most of them,) such a reference will be amply decisive.

Let it then be left to the candid internal examination of each individual to determine, Whether a distinction be not rightly drawn between the origin of these ideas and that of those which we attribute to the senses, such as red, blue, sweet, fragrant, bitter, hard, smooth, loud, soft, extended, &c. ? On this question it is thought that, in general, there can be but one answer, although some writers, through the love of excessive simplification, have been betrayed into error in regard to it.

Hence it is distinctly to be kept in mind, that there are two sources of thought and knowledge. An affection of the senses by means of external objects is the immediate occasion of one portion; the constitution of the mind and its operations are the occasions or source of the other. Those notions which can be ascribed directly to any one of the senses as their specific source, and not merely as an indirect and general occasion of their origin, are External, while all others seem to be entitled to be called Internal.

CHAPTER II.

ORIGINAL SUGGESTION.

0 108. Import of suggestion, and its application in Reid and Stewart.

SOME of the cases of thought and knowledge which the mind becomes possessed of in itself, without the direct aid of the senses, are to be ascribed to Suggestion. This word, in its application here, is used merely to express a simple but important fact, viz., that the mind, by its own activity and vigour, gives rise to certain thoughts. Without any mixture of hypothesis, or any qualifying intimation whatever, it gives the fact, and that is all. The use of this word, as applicable to the origin of a portion of human knowledge, is distinctly proposed by Dr. Reid. In his Inquiry into the Human Mind, (ch. ii., § vii.,) he speaks of certain notions (for instance, those of existence, mind, person, &c.) as the “judgments of nature, judgments not got by comparing ideas, and perceiving agreements and disagreements, but immediately inspired by our constitution." Pursuing this train of thought, he ascribes those notions which cannot be attributed directly to the senses on the one hand, nor to the reasoning power on the other, to an internal or mental Suggestion, as follows.—“I beg leave to make use of the word SUGGESTION, because I know not one more proper, to express a power of the mind which seems entirely to have escaped the notice of philosophers, and to which we owe many of our simple notions."

Mr. Stewart also, in his Philosophical Essays, speaks of certain mental phenomena as attendant upon the objects of our consciousness, and as SUGGESTED by them. The notions of time, number, motion, memory, sameness, personal identity, present existence, &c., he ascribes neither to the external world on the one hand, nor the internal mental operations, of which we are conscious, on the other; except so far as they are the occasions on which the mind brings them out, or SUGGESTS them from its own inherent energy. Of the notion of DURATION, for instance, he would say, I do not see it, nor hear it, nor feel it, nor become acquainted with it by means of any other of the senses; nor am I conscious of it, as I am of believing, reasoning, imagining, &c., but it is SUGGESTED by the mind itself; it is an intimation absolutely essential to the mind's nature and action.

[ocr errors]

9 109. Ideas of existence, mind, self-existence, and personal identity.

We shall now mention a few ideas which have this origin, without undertaking to give a complete enumeration of them. (I.) EXISTENCE. Among the various notions, the origin of which naturally requires to be considered under the head of Suggestion, is that of Existence. What existence is in itself, (that is to say, independently of any existent being,) it would be useless to inquire. Using the word as expressive of a mental state, it is the name of a purely simple idea, and cannot be defined. The history of its rise is briefly this. Such is our nature that we cannot exist, without having the notion of existence. So that the origin of the idea of existence is inseparable from the mere fact, that we have a percipient and sentient nature. An insentient being may exist without having any such idea. But man, being constituted with powers of perception, cannot help perceiving that he is what he is. If we think, then there is something which has this capability of thought; if we feel, then there is not only the mere act of feeling, but something also which puts forth the act.

(II.) MIND. The origin of the notion of Mind is similar to that of existence. Neither of them can be strictly and properly referred to the senses. We do not see the mind, nor is it an object of touch, or of taste, or of any other sense. Nor, on the other hand, is the notion of mind a direct object of the memory, or of reasoning, or of imagination. The notion arises naturally, or is SUGGESTED from the mere fact that the mind actually exists, and is susceptible of various feelings and operations. -The same may be said of all the distinct powers of the mind, such as the power of perception, of memory, of association, of imagination, of the will; not of the acts or exercises of these powers, it will be noticed, but of the powers themselves. That is to say, they are made known to us, considered abstractly and as distinct subjects of thought, not by direct perception, either inward or outward, but by spontaneity or suggestion. We say, not by direct perception, because there is something intermediate between the power and the knowledge of it, viz., the act or exercise of the power, which is the occasion of the knowledge of the power itself. The principle of Original Suggestion, availing itself of this occasion, gives us a knowledge of the distinct susceptibilities of the mind, just as it does of the mind as a whole.

(III.) Similar remarks, as far as spontaneity is concerned, will apply to the notions (whether we consider them as simple or complex) of SELF-EXISTENCE and PERSONAL IDENTITY. At the very earliest period they flow out, as it were, from the mind itself; not resulting from any prolonged and laborious process, but freely and spon.

[ocr errors]

taneously suggested by it. This is so true, that no one is able to designate either the precise time or the precise circumstances under which they originate; for they spring into being under all circumstances. We cannot look, or touch, or breathe, or move, or think without them. These are products of our mental nature too essential and important to be withheld, or to be given only on care and doubtful occasions; but are brought into existence in all times and places, and under all the varieties of action and feeling

$ 110. Of the nature of unity, and the origin of that notion. Another important notion, properly entitled to a consideration here, is that of UNITY. We shall decline attempting to explain the nature of unity, for the simple reason that nothing is more easy to be understood; every child knows what is meant by One. And how can we explain it, if we would? We can explain a hundred by resolving it into parts; we can explain fifty or a score by making a like separation of the whole number intothe subordinate portions of which it is made up; but when we arrive at unity, we must stop, and can go no further.

It is true, attempts have been made to define it; but, like many other such attempts, they have proved futile. Unity has been called a thing indivisible in itself, and divided from everything else. But this makes us no wiser. Is it anything more than to say that the unity of an object is its indivisibility ? Or, in other words, that its unity is its unity?

As the idea of unity is one of the simplest, so it is one of the earliest notions which men have. It originates in the same way,

and

very nearly at the same time, with the notions of existence, self-existence, personal identity, and the like. When a man has a notion of himself, he evidently does not think of himself as two, three, or a dozen men, but as one.

As soon as he is able to think of himself as distinct from his neighbour, as soon as he is in no danger of mingling and confounding his own identity with that of the multitude around him, so soon does he form the notion of unity. It exists as distinct in his

« ForrigeFortsett »