« PrécédentContinuer »
separately from the others with which it is combined. The most skilful anatomist, therefore, if he were to venture to make his appearance upon a tight-rope, would be in as great danger of falling as any of the mob, (who might gather around him, perhaps, in sufficient time at least to see him fall) would be in his situation ; because, though he knows the various muscles of his frame, and even might be capable of foretelling what motions of certain muscles would secure him in his perilous elevation, he yet is unacquainted with the separate states of mind that might instantly produce the desired limited motions of the desired muscles ; since these precise states of mind never have been a part of his former conscious
But though our command over our separate muscles is not a command which we can exercise with instant skill, and though it is, and must be at all times, exercised by us blindly, without any accurate perception of the nice parts of the process that are going on within at our bidding, we do certainly acquire this gradual skill. In the long series of trials, we find what volitions have produced an effect, that resembles most the model which we have in view. At almost every repetition, either some muscle is left at rest, which was uselessly exerted before, or the degree of contraction of the same muscles is brought nearer and nearer to the desired point; till, at length, having found the particular volitions which produce the desired effect, we repeat these frequently together, so that, on the general principles of suggestion, they arise together afterwards with little risk of the interference of any awkward incongruous volition which might disturb them, and destroy the beauty of the graceful movements,—that seem now scarcely to require any effort in the performer, but to be to him what the muscular motions necessary for simple walking or running, are to us, -motions that, easy as they now seem to us all, were once learned by us as slowly, and with as many painful failures, as the more difficult species of motions which constitute their wonderful art, were learned in maturer life by the rope-dancer and the juggler.
The painfulness and labour of our first efforts, in such attempts, it must be remembered, do not arise merely from our bringing too many muscles into play, with the view of producing a certain definite effect; but also, in a great measure, from the absolute necessity of bringing more into play than we intended, for the purVOL. IL.
pose of counteracting and remedying the evil occasioned by former excess of motion. We lose our balance, and merely in consequence of this loss of exact equilibrium, we are obliged to perform certain other actions, not directly to execute the particular movement originally intended by us, but simply to restore that equilibrium, without which it would be vain for us to attempt to execute it. All this unnecessary labour,—which is a mere waste of strength, and a painful waste of it,-is of course saved to us, when we have made sufficient progress to be able at least to keep our balance; and the desired motion thus becomes easier in two ways, both positively, by our nearer approximation to that exact point of contraction which constitutes the perfect attitude, and, negatively, by the exclusion of those motions which our own awkwardness had rendered unavoidable.
We have seen, then, in what manner, in conformity with that great principle of the mind considered by us, the phenomena of our habitual actions may be explained, both in the increased tendency to such actions, and the increased facility of performing them.
cannot quit the subject of our suggestions, without remarking the advantage which we derive from the accurate reference of these to laws of mind, that operate at the time of the suggestion only, and not to any previous mysterious union of the parts of the train,-in refuting the mechanical theories of association, and of thought and passion in general, which, in some degree in all ages, but especially since the publication of the work of Dr Hartley, have so unfortunately seduced philosophers, from the proper province of intellectual analysis, to employ themselves in fanciful comparisons of the affections of matter and mind, and at length to conceive that they had reduced all the phenomena of mind to corpuscular motions. The very use of the term association, has, unquestionably, in this respect, been of material disadvantage; and the opinion, which it seems to involve, of the necessity of some connecting process, prior to suggestion, some co-existence of perceptions, linked, as it were, together, by a common tie, has presented so many material analogies, that the mind which adopted it would very naturally become more ready to adopt that general materialism, which converts perception and passion, and
the remembrances of these, into states of sensorial particles, more easily produced, as more frequently produced before, in the same manner as a tree bends most readily in the direction in which it has most frequently yielded to the storm. Had the attention been fixed less on the suggestions of grosser contiguity, than on the more refined suggestions of analogy or contrast, or on those which arise from the perception of objects seen for the first time,—the analogy of all the increased flexibilities of matter would have been less apt to occur, or, at least, its influence would have been greatly lessened; and the, readers of many of those romances, which call themselves systems of intellectual philosophy, would have viewed, with astonishment, the hypotheses of sensorial motions, and currents of animal spirits, and furrows in the brain, and vibrations, and miniature vibrations, which false views of the mere time of association, in a connecting process of some sort prior to suggestion, have made them, in many cases, too ready to embrace.
It is chiefly in the southern part of the island, that the hypothesis of Dr Hartley has met with followers; and his followers have generally been extravagant admirers of his philosophical genius, which, I own, seems to me to be very opposite to the genius of sound philosophy. That there is considerable acuteness, however, displayed in his work, and that it contains some successful analyses of complex feelings, I am far from denying; and, as intellectual science consists so much in the analysis of the complex phenomena of thought, its influence, in this respect, has unquestionably been of service, in promoting that spirit of inquiry, which, in a science that presents no attraction to the senses, is so easily laid asleep, or, at least, so readily acquiesces, as if to retify its indolence, in the authority of great names, and of all that is ancient in error, and venerable in absurdity. But though the influence of his philosophy may have been of service in this respect, the advantage, which has perhaps, flowed from it in this way, must have been inconsiderable, compared with the great evil, which has unquestionably flowed from it in another way, by leading the inquirer to acquiesce in remote analogies, and to adopt explanations and arrangements of the phenomena of mind, -not as they agree with the actual phenomena,-but as they chance to agree
with some supposed phenomena of our material part. Dr Hartley, indeed, does not consider materialism, as a necessary consequence of his theory. He does not say, that the vibrations and vibratiuncles of the medullary parts of the sensorium constitute the very sensations and passions, but merely that they are changes, necessary to every mental affection. Yet by adopting a supposed analogy of a particular species of motion, as common to all the intellectual functions, -and thus imposing the necessity of finding, or attempting to find, in every case, some exact correspondence of the mental phenomena, with the varieties and combinations of this particular species of motion, he has done as much to distract the attention of the intellectual inquirer, as if he had made all the phenomena to consist of this particular notion,—and without contending for materialism, or even believing in materalism, has produced this belief in the minds of those who have adopted his general system, as effectually as if he had himself believed and contended that the soul is a cube, or a cone, or some irregular solid of many sides.
If we admit—as in sound philosophy it is impossible not to admit--the existence of mind, as a substance not cubical, conical, nor of many sides, regular or irregular, but one and simple, different from matter, and capable, by the affections of which it is susceptible, of existing in all those various states which constitute the whole history of our life, as sentient, and intelligent, and moral beings,—though we must allow, that its sense of external things, and, perhaps, some of its other susceptibilities, require certain previous sensorial changes or affections, not for constituting its feelings, but merely for giving occasion to them, as any other cause gives occasion to any other effect;—there is no reason for believing, thrissuch changes of the material organs are necessary for every feeling or affection of the mind, even as the mere occasions on which the feelings arise. Though we were to admit this necessity, however, without any reason for admitting it, and were to think ourselves obliged, therefore, to have recourse to some analogy of matter,—we must still reject the hypothesis of vibrations ; since, of all the corporeal changes, that could be imagined, in the soft medullary matter of the brain and nerves, vibrations seem the least likely,-certainly, at least, the worst fitted for marking accurately the nice distinctions of things. Indeed, it has always seemed to me peculiarly wonderful, that such an hypothesis should have been formed by a physiciun, to whom the structure of the brain and its appendages must have been familiar. If we wished to have a substance, that should damp and deaden every species of vibration, so as to prevent a single vibration from being accurately transmitted, it would not be very easy to find one better suited for this purpose, than that soft pulpy matter which is supposed by Dr Hartley to transmit with most exact fidelity, all the nicest divisions of infinitesimal vibratiuncles.
Of the system of vibrations and vibratiuncles, which has now fallen into merited disrepute, even with those who are inclined, in other respects, to hold in very high estimation the merits of Hartley, as an intellectual analyst, it is scarcely necessary to offer any serious confutation. The very primary facts of association or suggestion on which the whole of his metaphysical system is founded, have always appeared to me a sufficient confutation of that very hypothesis which is adduced to explain them; and as these are his favourite phenomena, on which he constantly insists, they may fairly be taken as the most suitable instances in which to examine the force of the analogy which he wishes to establish. Though the sensorium, then, were allowed to be, in almost every circumstance, the very opposite of what it is to be finely elastic, and composed of chords, adapted in the best possible manner, for the nicest differences of vibrations; and though varieties, in the mere times of vibration of the same strings, were allowed to be sufficient for explaining all the infinite diversities of sensation ; still the influence of that very association on which Hartley founds so much, would remain wholly unexplained. We may suppose, indeed, any two of these chords, from accidental simultaneous impulse, to have vibrated together; but this can be no reason, even though the accidental concurrence of vibrations should have taken place one thousand times at the same moment—that there should be any greater tendency in the second chord than there was originally, to vibrate, without a repetition of the primary impulse, in consequence of the mere vibration of the first. If the chords, or series of vibratory particles, still retain the same length and tension, the motion of the second may indeed be allowed to be producible indirectly, by an impulse given only to the first, if the strings truly harmonize; but, in this case, the motion of the second