Images de page

things in their various circumstances of combination, as every art is the employment of them, in conformity with this knowledge, with a view to those future changes which they tend to produce in all the different circumstances in which objects can be placed. To know how to add any enjoyment to life, or how to lessen any of its evils, is nothing more, in any case, than to know the relation which objects bear to each other, as antecedent and consequent, some form of that particular relation which we are considering. In the conclusion of my last Lecture, I treated of it, in regard to the physical sciences and arts,-those intellectual energies, which have given to the savage man, and consequently to all mankind,-since, in every state of society, refined or rude, in the palace, as much as in the hut, or in the cave, man must be born a savage,-another life, a life almost as different from that with which he roams in the woods, as if he had been suddenly transported, from the barren waste of earth, to those Elysian groves of which poetry speaks, and that godlike company of bards, and heroes, and sages, with which they have peopled the delightful scene.

Of the importance of the feeling of this relation to the physical sciences, which is abundantly evident of itself, it would be vain to attempt to give any fuller illustration. But it must be remembered, that the mind is a subject of this relation, as much as the body,—that there are aptitudes of producing certain feelings, as much as of producing certain material changes,--and that the power which discerns or feels the mere aptitude, in the one case, is not essentially distinct from the power which discerns or feels, the mere aptitude, in the other case. The particular relations that are felt, are, indeed, different, as the relative objects are different, but not that general susceptibility of the mind, by which it is capable of feeling the relation of fitness or unfitness. To foreknow, in mechanics, what combination of wheels and pullies will be able to elevate a certain weight, is to feel one sort of fitness or relation of antecedence. To foreknow, in chemistry, what more powerful attraction will overcome an affinity that is weaker, and precipitate a substance, which we wish to obtain, from the liquid that holds it in solution, is to feel another sort of fitness. The particular feelings of relation, in these cases, imply acquirements that are very different; but no one, on account of this mere dif

terence of the objects of which the relation of antecedence and consequence is felt, thinks of classing the chemical foresight as indicative of an intellectual power essentially different from that, which, in the applications of mechanic foresight, feels the relation of the weights and pullies in a machine, and foresees, by a knowledge of this relation, the equilibrium or preponderance which is to result. The experience which gives the foresight, is, indeed, different, but the power which reasons from that different experience is the same. The susceptibility of the same feeling of the relation of productive aptitude, however, has, in certain mental cases, been supposed to be different, merely because its objects are different; and discriminations of mere fitness or unfitness, which are truly referable to the same simple capacity of relative suggestion, that foresees the future by knowing the present, have been formed into a class apart, as if not the discriminations only were different, but the power itself which has formed them.

When we feel any of the mechanical or chemical relations of succession, and predict, accordingly, events which are to take place, we are commonly said to do this by the power of reasoning. Even in many of the mental phenomena, when we venture, in like manner, to predict the future, from our knowledge of the relation of feelings to each other, as uniformly successive, we are said to make the prediction by the power of reasoning. When a statesman, for example, meditates on the probable effects of a particular law which is about to be enacted, and, from his knowledge of the interests, and passions, and prejudices,--the wisdom and the very ignorance of man,-calculates the relative amount of good and evil, which it may possibly produce to those frail, halfstubborn, half-yielding multitudes, whom he must often benefit against their will, and save from the long evil, of which they see only the momentary good, there is no one who hesitates in ascribing this political foresight to the sagacity of his power of reasoning, or of drawing accurate conclusions, as to future sequences of events, from his observations of the past. In the calculation of the motives which may operate in the general mind, however, nothing more is implied than a knowledge of the relation of certain feelings to other feelings, reciprocally antecedent and consequent. But, if the states of mind, the relation of which, as successive to other states of mind, is felt by us, be of a different order,-if, instead of a legislator, feeling accurately the relation of certain feelings to certain attendant emotions in the mind of the people, we imagine a critic feeling, with equal precision, the relation of certain perceptions of form, or colour, or sound, to certain emotions of admiration or disgust that are to arise in the mind of him who has those perceptions, though all which is felt, in both cases, is a certain relation of customary antecedence, we are instantly said to speak of a different power of the mind. The power which we consider, is said to be the power of Taste.

This distinction, of the power of taste,-in appreciating the excellence of the fine arts, and the beauties of nature, from that general capacity of feeling the aptitudes of certain feelings to be followed by certain other feelings, of which it is only a modification, has arisen, there can be very little doubt, from the complexity of the term taste, in our common phraseology, -as involving two classes of feelings, that admit of being separated in our thought by a very easy analysis,einotions and judgments of the objects that are fit or unfit to excite those emotions. Certain objects are not merely perceived by us, as forms, or colours, or sounds; the perception of these forms, and colours, and sounds, is followed by an emotion which is of various nature, according to the nature of the object. What we call beauty, is, in our mind, an emotion, as, in external things, it is the aptitude to produce this emotion. To feel this emotion is one state of mind ;-to know the relation which other previous feelings bear to it-what forms, or sounds, or colours, separately or together, have a fitness of producing the emotion, is another state of mind, as distinct from it, as the political sagacity of the statesman, in anticipating the violence of popular feeling, on any particular occasion, is distinct from those passions and prejudices of the vulgar, which he foresees, as the certain effects of certain necessary measures, and which he strives accordingly, by some of the expedients of his mighty art, to disarm or to dissipate. If the judgments of taste had been as clearly distinguished from the emotions which it measures in their relation to the objects that are likely or unlikely to produce them, as the wisdom of the politician, from the passions which that wisdom contemplates, in their relation to the circumstance which may tend to inflame them, we should as little have thought of ranking it as a peculiar power, as we think, at present, of inventing new names


of faculties corresponding with all the variety of events corporeal or mental, in which we are capable of inferring the future from the past, by our knowledge of the reciprocal tendencies of objects, -of ranking, for example, as a peculiar intellectual power, distinct from the general power of reason, the skill with which the legislator adapts his regulations to the varying circumstances of society,-or, as in the physics of matter, we think of ascribing to different intellectual powers, the reasonings of the chemist and of the mechanician. Chemistry, mechanics, politics, taste,-that is to say, the critical part of taste,-of course imply previous observation of the successions of those different phenomena, material and mental, which are the subject of these respective sciences,-an experience of the past that is different in each particular case; but when the successions of the different phenomena have been observed, it is the same faculty, which, in all these sciences alike, predicting the future from the past, feels the relation of antecedence of each phenomenon to its successive phenomena, distinguishing the particular antecedents that are more or less likely to be followed by particular consequents. To call taste a science, like chemistry, or mechanics, or even politics, may seem at first a bold, and perhaps even an unwarrantable use of the term ; but I have no hesitation in calling it a science, because it is truly a science, as much as any other knowledge of the successions of phenomena to which we give that name,—the science of certain effects which may be anticipated as the consequents of certain antecedents. It is a science, indeed, which is not capable of the universality of some other sciences, because it is a science of emotions, that must, in some measure, at least, have been felt by him who judges of the fitness of certain objects to produce these emotions; and all have not this sensibility. But the sensibility relates to the existence of the emotions only, which, as I have already stated, are mental phenomena of a different class, from the subsequent judgments, which estimate the fitness of objects, to excite the emotions. The feeling of these emotions is unquestionably not a science, more than the feelings of security and patriotism, or discontent and selfish ambition, which the statesman must have in view, are sciences. But the knowledge of those objects which will excite the most gen. eral emotions of beauty and admiration, is a science, as the political knowledge of the means that will have most general influence





in producing the emotions of civil happiness, and contentment, or the fury of popular indignation, is a science. Both are nothing

. more than the experience of the feelings which follow certain other feelings, and the consequent feeling of the relation of their future aptitudes. We may deny the name of a science to both, but, if we allow it to the one, I cannot see any reason which should lead us to deny it to the other.

Of the emotions,--of the aptitudes of producing which taste is the science,-it is not at present my intention to speak. As emotions, they come under our consideration afterwards ; and even the few remarks, which I may have to offer on taste itself, as the knowledge of the fitness of certain objects to excite the emotion of beauty, and other kindred emotions, I shall defer, till I have treated of the emotions, which are its subjects. My only object at present, is to point out to you, the proper systematic place, in our arrangement, of those mere feelings of the aptitudes of cer. tain objects for exciting certain emotions,—which constitute the judgments distinguished by the name of taste. It is peculiarly important for me to point this out to you at present; since, but for the analysis, which I have made of the emotion itself, as one state of mind, and the knowledge of what is fitted to excite it, as a very different state of mind, you might conceive, that my classification of our intellectual phenomena, as referable to the two mental susceptibilities, under which I have arranged them, was defective, from the omission of one very important faculty. You now, I trust, see my reason, for dividing what is commonly denominated taste, into its two distinct elements,-ope of which is as much an emotion, as any of our other emotions,-the other, which is only the knowledge of the particular forms, colours, sounds, or conceptions, that are most likely to be followed by this emotion,-is as much a feeling of the relation of fitness, as any of the other suggestions of fitness on which every science, that has regard to the mere successions of phenomena, as reciprocally antecedent and consequent is founded.

I am aware that many authors have concurred, in not regarding taste as a simple faculty of the mind; but the taste, of which they speak, is chiefly the very emotion of pleasure, to the production of which they conceive various circumstances to be essential, The two great elements, as it appears to me, which it is of most

[ocr errors]
« PrécédentContinuer »