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our power of uniting together the letters of the alphabet in the formation of syllables and words. 072. Supposed complexness without the antecedence of simple feelings.
It is possible that some persons may object to the doctrine proposed in the last section, that complex mental states are subsequent in point of time to those which are simple; and may be inclined to adopt the opinion, that some, at least, of our complex notions are framed at once and immediately, whenever an occasion presents itself
, and are not necessarily dependent on the prior existence of any other feelings. When the eye, for instance, opens on a wide and diversified landscape, they suppose the whole to be embraced in one complex mental state, the formation of which is not gradual and susceptible of measurement by time, but is truly instantaneous. When we direct our attention to objects of less extent, as a portrait, a landscape, or historical painting, they imagine it to be still more evident, that the complexity of mind, corresponding to the complexity of the object, is a result without any antecedent process. Without doubt, what has now been said is, in some instances, apparently the case; but this appearance (for we cannot speak of it as anything more than such) is susceptible of an obvious explanation, without an abandonment of the general principle which has been laid down. No one is ignorant that the mind often passes with exceeding rapidity along the successive objects of its contemplation. This rapidity may, in some cases, be so great, that no foundation will be laid for remembrance; and of course, in such cases, the complex feeling has the appearance of being formed without the antecedence of other simple feelings. Often the eye glances so rapidly over the distinct parts of the portrait, the historical painting, or even the wide landscape, that we are utterly unable in our recollection to detect the successive steps of its progress. There naturally seems, therefore, to be but one view, instead of distinct and successive glances of the mind from hill to hill, from forest to forest, and from one verdant spot to another, prior to the supposed one and instantaneous comprehension of the whole. But there is much reason for saying that this oneness of comprehension is in seeming and appearance only, and not in fact. (See $ 57, 58.) $ 73. The precise sense in which complexness is to be understood.
But while we distinctly assert the frequent complexness of the mental affections, it should be particularly kept in mind, that they are not to be regarded in the light of a material compound, where the parts, although it may sometimes appear to be otherwise, necessarily possess no higher unity than that of juxtaposition, and, of course, can be literally separated from each other, and then put together again. There is nothing of this kind; neither putting together nor taking asunder, in this literal and material sense.
But if our thoughts and feelings are not made up of others, and are not complex in the material sense of the expressions, what then constitutes their complexness? This inquiry gives occasion for the important remark, that complexness in relation to the mind is not literal, but virtual only. What we term a complex feeling is in itself truly simple, but at the same time it is equal to many others, and is complex only in that sense. Thought after thought, and emotion following emotion, passes through the mind; and as they are called forth by the operation of the laws of association, many of them necessarily have relation to the same object. Then there follows a new state of mind, which is the result of those previous feelings, and is complex in the sense already explained. That is to say, it is felt by us to possess a virtual equality to those separate antecedent thoughts and emotions. Our simple feelings are like streams coming from different mountains, but meeting and mingling together at last in the common centre of some intermediate lake; the tributary fountains are no longer separable ; but have disappeared, and become merged and confounded in the bosom of their common resting-place. Or they may
be likened to the cents and dimes of the American coinage, tens and hundreds of which are represented by a single EAGLE ; and yet the eagle is not divided into a hundred or thousand parts, but has as much unity as the numerous pieces for which it stands.
The language which expresses the composition and complexity of thought is, therefore, to be regarded as wholly metaphorical when applied to the mind, and is not to be taken in its literal meaning. We are under the necessity of employing in this case, as in others, language which has a material origin, but we shall not be led astray by it if we carefully attend to what has been said, and endeavour to aid our conception of it by a reference to our internal experience.
$ 74. Illustrations of analysis as applied to the mind. The subject of the preceding section will be the better understood by the consideration of Analysis as applicable to the mind. As we do not combine literally, so we do not untie or separate literally; as there is no literal complexness, so there is no literal resolution or analysis of it. Nevertheless, we have a meaning when we speak of analyzing our thoughts and feelings. And what is it? What are we to understand by the term analysis ?
Although this subject is not without difficulty, both in the conception and in the expression of it, it is susceptible of some degree of illustration.—It will be remembered that there may be an analysis of material bodies. The chemist analyzes when he takes a piece of glass, which appears to be one substance, and finds that it is not one, but is separable into silicious and alkaline matter. He takes other bodies, and separates them in like manner; and whenever he does this, the process is rightly called analysis.
Now we apply the same term to the mind; but the thing expressed by it, the process gone through, is not the same.
All we can say is, there is something like this. We do not resolve and separate a complex thought, as we do a piece of glass or other material body, into its parts; we are utterly unable to do it, if we should seriously make the attempt; every mental state is, in itself and in fact, simple and indivisible, and is complex only virtually. Complex notions are the results rather than the compounds of former feelings; and though not literally made up of parts, have the relation to them which any material whole has to the elements composing it; and in that particular sense may be said to comprehend or embrace the subordinate notions. Mental analysis accordingly concerns merely this relation. We perform such an analysis when, by the aid of our reflection and consciousness, we are able to indicate those separate and subordinate feelings to which, in our conception of it, the complex mental state is virtually equal.
The term GOVERNMENT, for instance, when used in reference to the mental perception of the thing thus named, expresses a complex state of the mind; we may make this mental state, which is in fact only one, although it is virtually more than one, a subject of contemplation; and we are said to analyze it when we are able to indicate those separate and more elementary notions, without the existence and antecedence of which it could not have been formed by the mind. We do not literally take the complex state in pieces, but we designate other states of mind which, every one's knowledge of the origin of thought convinces him, must have preceded it, such
as the ideas of power, right, obligation, command, and the relative notions of superior and inferior.
075. Complex notions of external origin. The doctrine of simplicity and complexness of mental states is applicable, in both its forms, to the Intellective and Sensitive parts of our nature ; in other words, there may be a complex affection or passion, as well as a complex perception. The acts of the Will, the other great Division of the mental nature, are always simple. When we consider the subject in reference to the intellect alone, we may add further, that there is complexity of the Intellect both in its internal and external action ; and it seems proper, in this connexion, to say something in particular of COMPLEX NOTIONS OF EXTERNAL ORIGIN.
What we term our simple ideas are representative of the parts of objects only. The sensations of colour, such as red, white, yellow; the original intimations from the touch, such as resistance, extension, hardness, and softness, do not, in themselves considered, give us a knowledge of substances, but only of the parts, attributes, or elements of substances. Accordingly, the ideas which we have of the various objects of the external world are, for the most part, complex. We speak of a house, a tree, a flower, a plant, a mineral, an animal; and in none of these cases are the ideas which we have simple; but, on the contrary, embrace a considerable number of elements.
$ 76. Of objects contemplated as wholes. In point of fact, the various external objects which come under our notice are presented to us as wholes ; and, as such, (whatever may have been the original process leading to that result,) we very early contemplate them.—Take, for instance, a LOADSTONE. In their ordinary and common thoughts upon it, (the result probably of some antecedent and very early training), men undoubtedly contemplate it as a whole; the state of mind which has reference to it embraces it as such. This complex notion, like all others which are complex, is virtually equal to a number of others of a more elementary character. Hence, when we are called upon to give an account of the loadstone, we can return no other answer than by an enumeration of its elements. It is something which has weight, colour, hardness, power to draw iron, and whatever else we discover in it.
We use the term GOLD. This is a complex term, and implies a complexity in the corresponding mental state. But if we use the word gold, or any other synonymous word, in the hearing of a man who has neither seen that substance nor had it explained to him, he will not understand what is meant to be conveyed. We must enter into an analysis; and show that it is a combination of the qualities of yellowness, great weight, fusibility, ductility, &c. We look upward to the sun in the heavens. But what should we know of that great aggregate, if we could not contemplate it in the elements of form and extension, of brightness and heat, of roundness and regularity of motion ?-All the ideas, therefore, which we form of external objects considered as wholes, are complex; and all such complex notions are composed of those which are simple.