« PrécédentContinuer »
of matter itself: but it is probable that there is not a single espouser of this opinion in the present day. If, then, extension belong equally to matter and to space, it cannot be contemplated as the peculiar and exclusive property of the fornier: and if we allow it to immaterial space, there is no reason why we should not allow it to immaterial spirit. If extension appertain not to the mind, or thinking principle, the latter can have no PLACE of existence, it can exist NOWHERE, -for where, or Place, is an idea that cannot be separated from the idea of extension: and hence the metaphysical immaterialists of modern times freely admit that the mind has no Place of existence, that it does exist NOWHERE ; while at the same time they are compelled to allow that the immaterial Creator or universal spirit exists EVERY WHERE, substantially as well as virtually.
Let me not, however, be misunderstood upon this abstruse and difficult subject. That the mind has a distINCT NATURE, and is a DISTINCT REALITY from the body; that it is gifted with immortality, endowed with reasoning faculties, and capacified for a state of separate existence after the death of the corporeal frame to which it is attached, are, in my opinion, propositions most clearly deducible from Revelation, and, in one or two points, adumbrated by a few shadowy glimpses of nature. And that it may be a substance strictly IMMATERIAL and ESSENTIALLY DIFFERENT from matter, is both possible and probable; and will hereafter, perhaps, when faith is turned into vision, and conjecture into fact, be found to be the true and genuine doctrine upon the subject; but till this glorious era arrives, or till, antecedently to it, it be proved, which it does not hitherto seem to have been, that matter, itself of divine origin, gifted even at present, under certain modifications, with instinct and sensation, and destined to become immortal hereafter, is physically incapable, under some still more refined and exalted and spiritualized modification, of exhibiting the attributes of the soul: of being, under such a constitution, endowed with immortality from the first, and capacified for existing separately from the external and grosser forms of the body,—and that it is beyond the power of its own Creator to render it intelligent, or to give it even brutal perception-the argument must be loose and inconclusive; it may plunge us, as it has plunged thousands before us, into errors, but can never conduct us to demonstration : it may lead us, on the one hand, to the proud Brahminical, or Platonic belief, that the essence of the soul is the very essence of the Deity, hereby rendered capable of division, and consequently a part of the Deity himself; or, on the other, to the gloomy regions of modern materialism, and to the cheerless doctrine that it dies and dissolves in one common grave with the body.*
There seems a strange propensity among mankind, and it may be traced from a very early period of the world, to look upon matter with contempt. The source of this has never, that I know of, been pointed out; but it will, probably, be found to have originated in the old philosophical doctrine we had formerly occasion to advert to, that "nothing can spring from or be decomposed into nothing;"| and, consequently, that MATTER must have had a neces. sary and independent existence from all eternity; and have been an immutable PRINCIPLE OF EVIL running coeval with the immutable PRINCIPLE OF GOOD; who, in working upon it, had to contend with all its essential desects, and has made the best of it in his power. But the moment we admit that matter is a creature of the Deity himself; that he has produced it, in his essential bene. volence, out of nothing, as an express medium of life and happiness; that, in its origin, he pronounced it, under every modification, to be VERY GOOD; that the human body, though composed of it, was at that time perfect and incorruptible, and will hereafter recover the same attributes of perfection and incorruptibility when it shall again rise up fresh from the grave,-contempt and despisal must give way to reverence and gratitude. Nor less so when, with
See Locke, Hum. Underst. book iv. ch. ii. $ 6, as also the author's Study of Med. vol. ir. p. 37, 2d edit. 1825.
1 In the words of Democritus, Μηδέν εκ του μη όντος γίνεσθαι, μηδέ εις το μη όν φθείρεσθαι. Dion. Laert Ub. tx. p. 4.
an eye of devotional or even scientific feeling, we look abroad into the natural world under the present state of things; and behold in what an infinite multiplicity of shapes, and forms, and textures, and modifications, this same degraded substrate of matter is rendered the basis of beauty and energy, and vitality and enjoyment; equally striking in the little and in the great; in the blade of grass we trample under foot, and in the glorious sun that rouses it from its winter-sleep, and requickens it into verdure and fragrancy; from the peopled earth to the peopled heavens; to the spheres on spheres, and systems on systems, that above, below, and all around us fulfil their harmonious courses, and from age to age
In mystic dance, not without song, resound
Had the real order of nature been attended to, instead of the loose sug. gestions of fancy, we should have heard but little of this controversy; for it would have made us too modest to engage in it: it would have shown us completely our own ignorance, and the folly of persevering in so fruitless a chase. Let us then, in as few words as possible, and in order to excite this modesty, attempt that which has been too seldom attempted heretofore, and see how far the subject is unfolded to us in the book of the visible creation.
It has already appeared to us that matter in its simplest and rudest state is universally possessed of certain active properties, as those of gravitation and repulsion, which, in consequence of their universality, have been denominated essential :* but it has also appeared to us that there is an insuperable difficulty in determining whether these properties belong to common matter intrinsically, or are endowments resulting from the presence and operation of some foreign body, the ethereal medium of Sir Isaac Newton, and which, if it exist at all, is probably a something different from matter, or, if material, different from common, visible, and tangible matter.
It has appeared to us next, that common matter, in peculiar states of modi. fication, is also possessed of peculiar properties, independently of the general or essential properties which belong to the entire mass. Thus iron and iron ore give proofs of the possession of that substance or quality which we call magnetic; glass, amber, and the muscular fibres of animals give equal proofs of that substance or quality which we denominate electric or Voltaic; and all bodies in a state of activity, of that substance or quality which is intended by the term caloric. But what is magnetism? What is Voltaism? What is caloric? There is not a philosopher in the world who can answer these questions: we know almost as little of them as of gravitation, and can only trace them by their results. We can, indeed, collect and concentrate them, invisible and intangible as they are to our senses; and we have hence some reason for believing them to be distinct substances rather than mere qualities; and, consequently, denominate them auras. But are these auras material or immaterial? Examined by the common properties of matter, as weight, solidity, impenetrability, they appear to be the latter; for they are all equally destitute of these properties, so far as our experiments have extended; and hence they are either immaterial substances, or material substances void of the general qualities that belong to matter in its grosser forms.
Let us ascerd to the next step in this wonderful and mysterious scale. It appeared from the remarks offered in a former lecture, that, independently of that general influence and power of attraction which every particle of matter exerts over every other particle, there are some bodies which exert a peculiar power over other bodies, which separate them from their strongest and most stubborn connexions, and as completely run away with them as the fox runs away with the young chicken. And we here behold another power introduced, and of a still higher order; a power, too, of the most complex variety, and which in different substances exhibits every possible diversity of strength. • Ser. 1. Lect. iv. p. 53. 55. † Ser. 1. Lect. V. p. 57.
Ser. 1. Lect. V. p. 82
Let us take a single example of this curious phenomenon, and let us draw it from facts that are known to almost every one. The water of the sea, and of various land-springs, as that at Epsom, for example, is loaded with a certain portion of sulphuric acid, or oil of vitriol; thus impregnated, as it flows over a soil composed either wholly or in part of the earth called magnesia, it evinces a peculiar attraction for this substance, separates it from the bed on which it has been quietly reposing, and so minutely dissolves it, as still to retain its transparency. But the attraction of the sulphuric acid for the magnesia is much less than its attraction for the fixed alkalies, potash and soda: and hence, if to the water thus impregnated we add a certain quantity of either of the two latter substances, the connexion between the acid and the magnesia will immediately cease: the former will evince its preference for the alkali employed; and the magnesia, no longer laid hold of by the sulphuric acid, will be precipitated, or, in other words, fall by its own weight to the bottom of the water, in the form of a white powder, and may be easily collected and dried. And this, in reality, is the usual mode by which this valuable earth is obtained in its pure state.
But the sulphuric acid having thus shown a stronger attraction for an alkali than for an earth, is there no substance for which it discovers a stronger attraction than for an alkali? There are various: it may be sufficient to mention caloric or the matter of heat. And hence, exposed to the action of heat, it soon becomes volatile, unites itself to the heat, fies off with it in vapour, and now leaves the alkali behind as it before left the magnesian earth. Glass-manufacturers take advantage of this superior attraction of the mineral acids for heat compared with their attraction for alkalies, and employ, in their formation of glass, common sea-salt, which is a combination of an acid and an alkali; drive off the former from the latter by the aid of a very powerful fire, and then obtain a substance which is absolutely necessary for the production of this material.
These curious and altogether inexplicable properties and preferences we call chemical affinities and chemical elections: and there are numerous instances in which the substances, thus uniting themselves together, evince an order and regularity of the most wonderful precision, and which is nowhere exceeded in the developement of the most delicate organ of animated nature. And I now particularly allude to the phenomena of crystallization; the different kinds of which, produced by the consolidation of different substances, uniformly maintain so exact an arrangement in the peculiar shape of the minute and central nucleus, or the two or three elementary particles that first unite into a particular figure, and follow up with so much nicety the same precise and geometrical arrangement through every stage of their growth, that we are able, in all common cases, to distinguish one kind of crystal from another by its geometrical figure alone; and with the same ease and in the same manner as we distinguish one kind of animal from another by its general make or generic structure. The form of these elementary particles we can no more trace to a certainty than the bond of their union; but there is great reason for believing them to be spheres or spheroids, as first conjectured by that most acute and indefatigable philosopher Dr. Hooke, and since attempted to be explained by Dr. Wollaston in a late Bakerian lecture.
Such are the most striking powers that occur to us on a contemplation of the unorganized world. From unorganized let us ascend to organized nature. And here the first peculiar property that astonishes us is the principle of life itself;--that wonderful principle equally common to plants and animals, which maintains the individuality, connects organ with organ, resists the laws of chemical change or putrefaction, which instantly commence their operation as soon as this agent or endowment ceases; and which, with the nicest skill and harmony, perpetuates the lineaments of the different kinds and species through innumerable generations. It is an agency which exists as completely in the seed or the egg as in the mature plant or animal: for as long as it is present, the seed or the egg is capable of specific developement and growth; but the moment it quits its connexion, they can no more grow than a grain of gunpowder.
* Phil. Trans. 1813, p. 51.
What now is this wonderful principle that so strikingly separates organized from unorganized matter? that, as I have observed on a former occasion, from the first moment it begins to act infuses energy into the lifeless clod; draws forth form, and order, and individual being from unshapen matter, and stamps with organization and beauty the common dust we tread upon ?* I have called it an agent or endowment: is it nothing more than these? is it a distinct essence ? and, if so, is this essence refined, etherealized matter, freed from the more obvious properties of grosser matter, or is it strictly immaterial? It has been said by different physiologists to be oxygen, caloric, the electric, or the galvanic gas; but all this is mere conjecture; and even of several of these powers we know almost as little as we do of the vital principle itself, and are incapable of tracing them in the vegetable system.
The next curious energy we meet with in organized nature, and which also equally belongs to animals and vegetables, is instinct. This I have defined to be “the operation of the vital principle, or the principle of organized life by the exercise of certain natural powers directed to the present or future good of the individual, or of its progeny."| But what are these powers, with which the vital principle is thus marvellously gifted, and which enables it, under different circumstances, to avail itself of different means to produce the same end ?—that directs plants to sprout forth from the soil, and expand themselves to the reviving atmosphere; fishes to deposite their eggs in the sands; birds in nests of the nicest and most skilful contrivance; and the wilder quadrupeds to accomplish the same purpose in lairs or subterraneous caverns; that guides the young of every kind to its proper food, and, whenever necessary, teaches it how to suck ? Are these powers also material, or are they immaterial ? Are they simple properties issuing out of a peculiar modification of matter, or something superadded to the material frame?
In the confused language and confused ideas of various metaphysical hypotheses, and even of one or two that pretend to great exactness in these respects, instinct is made a part or faculty of the mind: and hence we hear of a moral instinct. But has the polype, then, or the hydatid a mind? Are we to look for a mind in the midst of sponges, corals, and funguses ?-in the spawn of frogs, or the seeds of mushrooms? Instinct, however, the operation of the principle of life, equally superintending the entire frame, and every separate part of it, guiding it to its perfect developement, exciting its peculiar energies, remedying its occasional evils, and providing for a future progeny, is equally to be traced in all of them? Are instinct, then, and mind the same thing? or is the vocabulary of the hypotheses I now advert to, and shall have occasion to examine more at large hereafter, so meagre and limited that it is necessary to employ the same term to express ideas that have no connexion with each other, and which cannot, therefore, be thus expressed without the grossest confusion? It is high time to be more accurate, and to have both determinate words and determinate ideas; and it has been one object of this course of instruction to define what ought to be the real distinction between instinct, sensation, and intelligence.
But let us ascend a step higher in the great scale of life; let us quit the vegetable for the animal kingdom. If I take the egg or grain of a mustardseed, and the egg of a silk-worm, where is the chemist or physiologist that will point out to me the diversity of their structure, or unfold the cause of those different faculties which they are to evince on future developement and growth? At present, so far as they appear to us, they are equally common matter, actuated by the same common living principle, directed to different ends. To give them developement mature form, we equally expose them to the operation of the sun and the atmosphere, and, in the case of the mustard-seed, of moisture: and we are not conscious of exposing them to any thing else; all which, again, so far as we are acquainted with them, are nothing but matter in different states of modification. Yet the animal egg produces a new and a much higher power, which we denominate sensation, while the vegetable egg produces nothing of the kind. What is sensation, and from what quarter has it been derived ? Is it a mere property, or a distinct essence ? Is it material, or is it immaterial ?
• Ser. I. Lect. ix. p. 101.
1 Ser. 11. Lect, iv.
This, also, has occasionally been called instinct, and been contemplated as of instinctive energy. With equal confusion it has also been called or contemplated as a property of mind. It is neither the one nor the other: it is equally different from both. We trace, indeed, its immediate seat of residence; for we behold in the silk-worm a peculiar organ which does not exist in the mustard-plant, and to which, and which alone, sensation always attaches itself; and to this organ we give the name of a nervous system. But to become acquainted with the organ in which sensation resides is no more to become acquainted with the essence of sensation itself, than to know the principal of life because we know the general figure of the individual animal or vegetable in which it inheres; or than to know what gravitation is because we see the matter which it actuates.
As simple nerves, or a nervous chord, such as that of the spinal marrow, is the proper organ of sensation or ling, the gland of a brain, from which the nervous chord usually, though not always, shoots, is the proper organ of intelligence; and as I had occasion to observe in a former study, when lecturing upon the subject of the senses, the degree of intelligence appears, in every instance we are acquainted with, to be proportioned, not, indeed, to the size of the brain as compared with that of the animal to which it belongs, as was conjectured by Aristotle, and has been the general belief almost to the present day, but as compared with the aggregate bulk of nerves that issue from it.* The larger the brain and the less the nerves, the higher and more comprehensive the intelligence: the smaller the brain and the larger the nerves, the duller and more contracted. In man, of all animals whatever, the brain is the largest, and the nerves, comparatively with its bulk, the smallest: in the monkey tribes it makes an approach to this proportion, but there is still a considerable difference; in birds a somewhat greater difference; in amphibials the brain is very small in proportion to the size of the nervous chord ; in fishes it is a bulb not much larger than the nervous chord itself; in insects there is no proper brain whatever; the nervous chord that runs down the back originating near the mouth; sometimes of a uniform diameter with the chord itself, and sometimes rather larger; and in infusory and zoophytic worms we have no trace either of nerves or brain.
In these last, therefore, it is possible, and indeed probable, as I have already observed, that there is no sensation: the vital principle, and the instinctive faculty, which is the operation of the vital principle, by the exercise of cer. tain natural powers constantly appertaining to such principle, alone producing all the phenomena of life, as in plants. In most insects, for the same reason, it is possible, and indeed probable, that though there is sensation, there is little or no intelligence: the brain, which is the sole seat or organ of intelligence, being totally destitute, in most of them, and of very minute compass in the rest. In fishes we have reason to apprehend different degrees of intelligence: in many amphibials somewhat more; more still in birds and quadrupeds, and most of all in man.
But what is intelligence, which is a distinct principle from sensation, and to which, as in the case of sensation, a distinct organ is appropriated ? An organ, moreover, which, like that of simple sensation, may be also produced out of an insentient egg by the mere application, so far as we are able to trace the different substances in nature, of a certain proportion of heat; for the egg of the hen, unquestionably insentient when first laid, becomes equally hatched and endowed with the organs and properties both of sensation and intelligence, by the application of a certain portion of warmth, whether that
• Ser. 1. Lect. xv.