Images de page

operate in their turn with a reflex influence, and rekindle in the mind the feelings that have given birth to them. And hence the origin and soulsubduing power of tender or impassioned poetry, or of manly and forcible eloquence; as also the cause why we feel equally hurried away by the classical debates of the senate, and the fictitious distresses of the draina.

We behold, moreover, in different persons, these energetic principles differently modified or associated in every variety of combination : sometimes one of them, and sometimes another, and sometimes several leagued together, peculiarly active, and obtaining a mastery over the rest. And we behold these effects in different instances, from different causes; as peculiarity of temperament, peculiarity of climate, custom, habit, or education. And hence the origin of moral and intellectual character; the particular dispositions and propensities of individuals or of whole nations. Hence one man is naturally violent, and another gentle; one a prey to perpetual gloom, and another full of hope and confidence; one irascible and revengeful, and another all benevolence and philanthropy; one shrewd and witty, and another heavy and inert. Hence the refinement and patriotism of ancient Greece; the rough hardihood of the Romans; and the commercial spirit of Carthage; and

ence, in modern times, the silent and plodding industry of the Dutch; the chivalrous honour of the Spaniards of the last century, unpoisoned by the deadly fever of Corsican morality; the restless loquacity and intriguing ambition of the French; and, may I be permitted to add, the high heroic courage, and love of freedom, the generosity and promptitude to forgive injuries, the unswerviny honesty and losty spirit of adventure, that peculiarly sig. nalize the inhabitants of the British isles: all which are subjects that yet remain to be treated of and elucidated, and which seem to promise us an ample harvest of entertainment and instruction.

Let us begin with the mental faculties themselves. These, as we have already seen, are numerous and complicated; so much so indeed, that it is difficult to arrange and analyze them; and hence I do not, at the present moment, recollect a single treatise upon the subject, which gives us a clear and methodical classification of them. I shall take leave, therefore, to offer a new distribution; and shall divide them into the three general heads, of powers or faculties of the UNDERSTANDING ; powers or faculties of ELECTION ; and powers or faculties of EMOTION. To the first belong the principles of perception, thought, reason, judgment, memory, and imagination; to the second, those of choosing and refusing, or of willing and NILLING, to adopt an old and very expressive metaphysical term, that ought never to have grown obsolete; to the third belong those of hope, fear, grief, and joy, love, hatred, anger, and revenge, or whatever else is capable of moving the mind from a state of tranquillity and rest.

All these are, properly speaking, acts or actions of the mind; yet, as, during the operation of the last set, the mind becomes at times irregularly and invo. luntarily agitated and affected, though, by the force of its own attributes, as the voluntary muscles of the body are often thrown into trepidation and spasms by the contraction of their own fibres, metaphysicians, and especially those of Germany, have seemed inclined to restrict the name of mental actions to the operations of the understanding and the will, and to give the name of affections or passions to those productive of mental emotion: to those transitions of feeling into which the mind is involuntarily hurried by the stimulus of this class of its own powers, and under the stress of which it may thus far be said to be passive; and hence, if I mistake not, the application of the term passions (which has so much puzzled the metaphysicians) to certain conditions or powers of the mind, which import activity and exertion. It is upon the same ground, that where the mind is completely subdued, and suffers extreme violence, we employ the term with peculiar emphasis; thus, when a man is raging either with anger or love, he is said pre-eminently to be in a passion, or to entertain a passion; and thus again, but in a far more serious and solemn sense, the Christian world applies the same term in its highest force of signification to the agony of our blessed Saviour.

Now, it is the peculiar feature of physiology, and especially as studied upon the principles of induction, that, as far as it has proceeded, it has discovered a general adaptation of means to a proposed end; and has hence placed the doctrine of final causes, as it has been incorrectly, and not without some degree of confusion, denominated, -of causes, however, operating to a final intention, -- upon a basis too strong to be shaken by the ridicule of many modern philosophers, sheltering themselves under an erroneous construction of Lord Bacon's views upon the subject.* What, then, are the uses or proposed ends of this extensive and complicated machinery of the mind of man! What are the respective parts which its various faculties, in the order in which we have now arranged them, are intended to fulfil, and the means by which they are to operate ?

Their object is threesold, and in every respect most important, and admirably calculated to prove the wisdom and benevolence of the almighty Architect: they are the grand sources by which man becomes endowed with knowledge, moral freedom, and happiness; and is hence fitted to run the elevated race of a rational and accountable being. From the powers of the understanding he derives the first; from those of volition or election the second; and from the passions or motive powers the third. Yet never let it be forgotten, that he can in no respect, or at least to no considerable extent or good purpose, possess either the one or the other, unless the mind, as an individual agent, maintain its self-dominion, and exercise a due degree of government over its own forces. This, I think, must be obvious to every one; and it is in this harmonious balance, this equable guidance and control, that the perfection of the human character can alone consist and exhibit itself. Unless the faculties of the understanding be called forth, there can be no knowledge ; and unless they be properly directed, though there may indeed be knowledge, it will be of a worse nature than utter ignorance; we shall pluck, not of the mixed tree of the knowledge of good and evil, as it stood before the fall, but from the tree of the knowledge of evil alone, without any union or participation of good. In like manner, unless the will and the passions be under an equal degree of guidance, the mind can be neither independent nor happy; a mental chaos must usurp the place of order, and the whole be misrule and confusion.

We are too much in the habit, both in common life and in philosophy, of regarding the faculties of the mind as distinct agents from the mind itself, as though the latter were nothing more than a house or repository for their reception. This is particularly true in respect to the faculty of the Will; for we are perpetually told that the will operates upon the understanding or the mind; and that unless the will be free, the man himself can have no freedom.

Now, the will, like the memory or the judgment, is a mere power or ability, and freedom is another power or ability ; but powers or abilities of one kind cannot belong to or be the property of powers or abilities of another kind: they can only belong to or be the property of some agent, and in this case the mind is the only agent. The question, therefore, whether the will be free, can only mean, if it mean any thing, whether the mind be free, of which the will is a power or attribute; and to the question thus modified, I have no hesitation in stating, that the mind is perfectly free to do whatever it wills. I do not say whatever it desires; for the DESIRE is a different faculty from the WILL; and ihough too generally consounded with each other, for the want of clear ideas upon the subject, the two are frequently in a state of direct opposition. Thus, a man may desire to fly, but he never wills it; and for this plain reason, that though the action may be a matter of desire, it can never be a matter of volition; for to suppose the will or power of choosing to be exerted upon a subject in which there is no power of choosing, is to suppose an ab

• Causarum finalium inquisitio sterilis est, et, tanquam Virgo Deo consecrata, nihil parit. Such is his celebrated aphorism: but the term inquisitio does not relate to the subject or doctrine itself, but merely to ils being made a branch of plıysical instead of metaphysical philosophy. The discoveries of modern times have sufficiently shown that Bacon was deceived upon this last point. But it is perfeculy clear from other passages in his writings that he did not mean to controvert the doctrine itself. See Stewart's Elements, vol. ii. p. 454.

surdity. In like manner, on the contrary, the schoolboy may will to get his task, though sorely against his desire or inclination, and the timid female, for the benefit of her health, may will to be plunged into the cold bath, though with as great a reluctance. So, when a kind and indulgent father chastises his son for disobedience, the mind, urged by proper motives, consents, and consequently wills it; it prefers inficting the chastisement to abstaining from it: but while it wills or prefers the punishment, it is so far from desiring it, that it probably hates it more than the child itself does.

It has been said that, in this case, the feeling of desire is still exercised; that the father, though he does not desire the punishment, desires the ultimate good of his child; that the same power of the mind is therefore still in activity, though directed to a different object; and, consequently, that willing is nothing more than desire in a higher range of the scale, or a state of predominant exertion. But this is to confound rather than to simplify the feelings of the mind. Desire is always accompanied with pleasure, and can never be altogether separated from it; for no man can desire that which is wholly and essentially painful. Now, though the father takes a pleasure in the good of his child, he takes no pleasure, but, on the contrary, great and unmixed pain, in his chastisement; and unless pleasure and pain be one and the same feeling, we cannot apply the simple idea of desire to both, though that of the will is equally applicable. And hence the will and the desire must necessarily be regarded as different faculties of the mind. In like manner, a person labouring under a severe fit of toothache may say that he desires to have the tooth taken out; but in saying this he does not desire the pain of its extraction, but only the ease which he hopes will follow upon its removal: for he hates the pain, and would avoid it, and have the tooth removed without it, if possible ; but he consents to, or wills it, for the sake of that prospective advantage which alone is the object of his desire, as it is also of his will. So that here again, while the desire is limited to the one state of body, the will applies to both, and affords another proof that they are two distinct mental powers. In like manner, Revelation tells us repeatedly, and as strictly as it does emphatically, that God " hath no pleasure or desire in the death of the wicked;" but it tells us also, that God is, nevertheless, effecting, and, consequently, willing, their death or punishment every day.

Freedom of mind, then, or an exercise of the will, is a distinct power or attribute from that of desire, and can only respect actions in which there is a condition of choice. A man standing on a cliff, has a power of leaping twenty yards downward into the sea, or of continuing where he is; and, having this option, he is free, and exercises his will accordingly. But he has no power of leaping twenty yards upwards into the air, and it can never become a question with him-a subject of deliberation or option—whether he shall leap upwards or not; and, consequently, as this can never become a question with him, the mind can never will it, and its freedom remains undisturbed.

Here, then, we rest : the mind is free to do whatever it wills. But the in genuity of man has not been content with letting the subject remain at this point: it has pushed it still farther, and inquired whether the mind is free to will as well as to act after it has willed ? and this, after all, is the real drift of the inquiry with which the world has been so long harassed, whether the will itself be free?

This question is a complex one; and its complexity has not always been sufficiently traced out and explained. The mind of every intelligent being can only will, or, in other words, be determined to do or forbear an act by a motive or moving power, and in this respect it is subject to a necessity issu. ing from the nature of things; but is, as I shall endeavour to show, the mind, by a voluntary operation of some one or more of its other faculties, of itself constitutes the motive, annuls it, or changes it for another, it must necessarily follow, that it has all the freedom of willing, as well as of acting, that an intelligent being is capable of possessing. Now, the grand aim of every living, and especially of every intelligent


being, is good, pleasure, or happiness: for they all, as in the words of the poet, imply the same thing :

O Happiness ! our being's end and aim,
Good, Picasure, Ease, Content, whale'er thy name.

But good, pleasure, or happiness are generic names for a thousand different objects, each of which is pursued as many different ways, not only by different individuals, but sometimes at different periods by the very same person. In all these cases we perceive so many different motives or moving powers. Yet whence comes it, not only that different persons but that the same individual should have a different motive or moving power to-day from what he had yesterday, or perhaps only half an hour before?

The cause may, indeed, be some sudden and impetuous gust of passion by which the mind may be stormed and led captive, as by a coup-de-main; but it may also be a deliberate determination of the mind itself. And, in truth, this last is the general cause, to which a sudden and impetuous ebullition of the passions forms but a few occasional exceptions. It is this exercise of deliberation that alone renders man a rational and accountable being. All human laws act upon the same principle: they suppose him (saving the few extreme cases just alluded to) to be under the influence of a controlling judgment, and they reward or punish him accordingly. And such is the force of habit and long association, that we not unfrequently behold the judgment exercising this control, in a mind evidently unsound and wandering ; and the cunning maniac concealing a skilful design or a deep-rooted passion till the due moment arrives for executing the one, or gratifying the other.

Now, in all these cases, the determination of the judgment, which forms the motive or moving power, is as much a voluntary act of the mind, whether right or wrong, as the change of one or more ciphers in the common arithmetical sum, in consequence of our discovering an error upon working it a second time. This determination, or motive, how er, may be changed every hour, or even every minute; for the mind may take a new view of the subject: it may obtain clearer ideas from fresh sources; or other affections may be called into play than those which have hitherto produced an influence; and what before was decided to be a certain path to pleasure, may next be decided to be as certain a road to misery and ruin.

And so active is the judgment in asserting its control, that even where the mind is borne down by the most violent passions, it still strives, at times, to recover its authority, and is seldom quiet till has succeeded. Let me offer a single example in elucidation of this assertion.

Behold the enamoured youth, who, after having struggled for years with an unebbing current of obstacles, finds himself, at length, in possession of the fair object of his heart's affection. Here, the reigning power must necessarily be the passion of love, and it would be somewhat cynical to look for any thing else. Ask him in what his happiness consists, and what are the motives that stimulate every action of his life, and he will at once point to his beloved bride, without whom, he will tell you, that all nature would be a blank: and with whom, that a wilderness would be a paradise. Behold her next, by the stealthy and startling hand of death, snatched away from his embraces. What now is the condition of the mind ? the new motives that distract it? and the conduct to which they give rise ? Is it possible that an ember of happiness can remain to him now ?-Yes, even here, in the rack of anguish, he has still his delight--a lonely and melancholy one, I am compelled to grant, but he has his delight notwithstanding; and the mind is as much hurried away, and as violently by the present impulse, which is to weep over her remains, as by the past, which was to devote himself to her wishes;

He haunts the deep cathedral shade,
The green sward where his love is laid,
And hugs her urn, and o'er the tomb
Hangs, and enjoys the spectred glovin.

And on to thee he lins his eye,
Mild empress of the spangled sky!
And thanks thy dewy beams that guide
His footsteps to his clay-cold bride.
And oft he asks the starry train
That circle round thy silver reign,
By which her parting spirit pass'd,
And where she stay'd her ilight at last.
He asks and thither would he go
For what has nature now below ?

Thus far the mind has unquestionably evinced little or no control; and I bring forward these descriptions as instances of its subjugation. But even here, in one of the severest trials with which mankind. can be visited, the mind gradually finds the means of recovering its ascendency; the passions by degrees become tranquillized, and in their turn subdued; the heart softened, the judgment corrected and fortified, and the reason set at liberty for reflection. The pale sufferer perceives, at length, that happiness, to be genuine, must be neither violent nor transitory; that its foundation must be permanent, and its nature unalloyed. He yields himself to this train of contemplation; and the mind, now fully reinstated in its government, indulges a sober and rational gries, and arrives at a sober and rational conclusion. It determines that earth has no such happiness to offer him; it may perhaps lead him farther, and prompt him to seek it in a sublimer source.

This description I have drawn from the natural passions of the human heart -passions that, in a greater or less degree, are common to all countries and ages; but there are passions of which uncultivated nature knows nothing, which are the baneful offspring of a morbid civilization and immoral habits, and which possess, if possible, a still more tyrannical control over the judge ment than any that nature herself has implanted within it. Such is the passion for GAMBLING, which has often, even in the sobriety of our own climate, maddened the brain of men who, but for this, had been worthy members of society, and plunged them into the foulest vices, and at length, into the deadly gulf of suicide. One of the best pictures of the heart-rending despair of such a wretch, just before the perpetration of this horrible crime, is to be found in the description of Beverly in “ The Gamester," who is thus painted to the life, in the inevitable ruin into which he was thrown after having staked the last resource and final hope of his wife and family on one unfortunate and fatal hazard :

“When all was lost, he fixed his eyes upon the ground, and stood some time with folded arms, stupid and motionless; then, snatching his sword that hung against the wainscot, he sat him down, and with a look of fixed attention drew figures on the floor. At last, he started up; looked wild, and trembled; and, like a woman seized with her sex's fits, laughed out aloud, while the tears trickled down his face. So he left the room.”

Yet, even here, under the sell sway of this accursed incantation, we are not without examples of its being occasionally broken through, and its deadly fetters shaken off by the virtuous resolution of a mind determined to prove its independence, and to act according to the dictates of its better judgment. As an example of which, among many others, I may refer to the conduct of one of the first statesmen of our own country and our own age ;-a statesman, whose name will ever be dear to Britain, on various accounts, but chiefly, perhaps, since under his administration, she set the glorious example to the world of abolishing the slave-trade. In early life it is well known that Mr. Fox was irresistibly addicted to this intoxicating passion; and it is also equally known, that in his maturer life, he tore himself from the farther prosecution of it, by a courageous determination from which he never de

It appears obvious, then, that the mind both can and ought to maintain a general mastery over all its faculties; and is able, at all times, except in extreme cases, to furnish itself with motives.. And hence, though it is perfectly true that it cannot will, or, in other words, cannot choose or refuse without a motive, and to this extent is under a necessity, yet the origination or change


« PrécédentContinuer »