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1. IMMEDIATE EMOTIONS NOT INVOLVING NECESSARILY ANY MORAL FEELING.- -III. BEAUTY, AND ITS REVERSE, CONTINUED. -THE EMOTION OF BEAUTY SEEMS TO BE AN ORIGINAL FEELING OF THE MIND.-MR ALISON'S THEORY.
GENTLEMEN, the inquiries which engaged us in the Lecture of yesterday, related to the influence of accidental circumstances, on our emotion of beauty,—an influence which we found to be capable of producing the most striking diversities, in our susceptibility of these emotions, of every species, whether arising from the contemplation of objects material, intellectual, or moral. So very striking, indeed, did these diversities appear, on our review, as naturally to give occasion to the inquiry, whether feelings, that vary so much, with all the variety of the circumstances that have preceded them, may not wholly depend on that influence, on which they have manifestly depended, to so great an extent. stated to you, that, in such an inquiry, it is not possible to attain confidence in the result, since all the circumstances which it would be necessary to know, cannot be known to us. It is long before the intellectual processes of the infant mind are capable of being distinctly revealed to another, directly or indirectly; and, in this most important of all periods, when thought is slowly evolved from the rude elements of sensation, the very circumstance, the influence of which we wish to trace, must have been exerting an influence that is wholly unperceived by us. The question, therefore, as to any susceptibility in the mind, of being affected with impressions of original beauty, is a question of probabilities, and nothing more.
Proceeding, then, with this limited confidence, in the results of our inquiry, we endeavoured to consider the phenomena of this order of our emotions,-not, indeed, in perfect freedom from the influence of preceding accidental circumstances, since this distinct analysis is beyond our power, but with as near an approach to it as it was possible for us to attain; and, after a comparison of the probabilities, we found, I think, reason, I will not say to believe, but at least to incline to the opinion, that we are truly endowed with some original susceptibilities of this class,-susceptibilities, however, that are not so independent of arbitrary circumstances of association as to be incapable of being modified, or even wholly overcome by other tendencies that may be superinduced, but which, at the same time, are not so dependent on such circumstances, as, when these circumstances have not occurred to favour them, nor any other circumstance more. powerful to counteract them, to be, of themselves, incapable of affecting us, in the slightest degree with any of those delightful emotions, of which we have been endeavouring to trace the origin.
In examining this point, it was of great importance to make you sufficiently acquainted with one radical distinction; and, I trust, that now, after the remarks which I made, you are in no danger of confounding that view of beauty, which regards it as an emotion, dependent on the existence of certain previous perceptions, or conceptions which may induce it, but may also, by the operation of the common laws of suggestion, induce, at other times, in like manner, other states of mind, exclusive of the emotion,-with the very different doctrine, that regards beauty as the object of a peculiar internal sense, which might, therefore, from the analogy conveyed in that name, be supposed to be as uniform in its feelings, as our other senses, on the presence of their particular objects, are uniform, or nearly uniform, in the intimations afforded by them. Such a sense of beauty, as a fixed regular object, we assuredly have not; but it does not follow, that we are without such an original susceptibility of a mere emotion, that is not, like sensation, the direct and uniform effect of the presence of its objects, but may vary in the occasions on which it rises, like our other emotions; love, for example, or hate, or astonishment, which various circumstances may produce, or various other circumstances may prevent from arising.
In conformity, then, with this view, though, from the comparison of all the circumstances of the case, as far as they can be known to us, I am led to regard the mind, as having originally certain tendencies to emotions of beauty, in consequence of which it may be impressed with them, on the contemplation of certain objects, without the necessary previous influence of any contingent circumstances, I yet allow the power of such circumstances, not merely to produce analogous emotions, when otherwise these would not have arisen, but also to modify, and even, in some cases, to overcome our original tendencies themselves, in the same manner, as we found that our original tendencies to other emotions might be modified and overcome, in particular cases of a different kind. I allow this influence of circumstances on our emotions of beauty, in the same manner, as I allow the very general empire of prejudice, and the power of all the accidental circumstances, which may prepare the mind, less or more, for the reception, or for the denial of truth, though I do not regard truth itself as arbitrary in its own nature;-that is to say, since truth is only a general name of a feeling common to many propositions, I do not regard all propositions, and the propositions opposite to them, as equally fitted to excite this feeling of truth in the mind. The analogy of truth, indeed, as that which there is a greater original tendency to feel, in certain propositions, than in others, though a tendency, which circumstances may, in certain minds, weaken and even reverse, seems to me a very important one, in this discussion, since precisely the same arguments which are urged by those who contend for the exclusive influence of association in the production of beauty, might be urged, as I showed you, with equal force, against those distinctions of truth and falsehood, which the assertors of the creative influence of association, in the less important department of taste, would surely be unwilling to abandon. If it be in the power of circumstances, to make us regard objects as beautiful, which, but for those circumstances, would not have excited any emotion whatever, and in many cases, even to reverse our emotions, which is all that the deniers of original beauty can maintain; it is not less in the power of circumstances, as the history of the different superstitions of the world, and of the very schools of wisdom, in all the various departments of philosophy, sufficiently shows, to make us regard as true, what we otherwise
should have regarded as false, and false what we otherwise should have regarded as true. The mind is formed, indeed, to feel truth, and to feel beauty; but it is formed also to be affected by circumstances, the influence of which may, in any particular case, be inconsistent with either of those feelings; and the resulting belief, or the resulting emotion, may naturally be supposed to vary with the strength of these accidental circumstances.
When I say, then, of the mind, that there seems greater reason, on the whole, to suppose it endowed with some original susceptibility of this pleasing emotion, I speak of these original susceptibilities, as developed in circumstances, in which the feelings which certain objects would naturally tend to excite, are not opposed by more powerful feelings; by views of utility for example, which are promoted, in many cases, by deviations from forms, that of themselves would be the most pleasing-or, by the influence of habitual or even accidental associations. These unquestionably may, as we have already seen, suspend and even reverse our emotions of beauty, as they suspend or reverse our other emotions, even our most powerful emotions of desire; but, though they do this, it may be only in the same way, as every greater force overcomes a less, which still implies the existence of that less, though, if we saw only the one simple emotion, that results from the conflict of the unequal forces, we may be led to think that the impelling cause also was simple, and wholly in the direction of the emotions which we perceive. The writers, therefore, who would reduce our emotions of beauty entirely to the influence of association, and who endeavour to justify their theory, by instances of the power of particular associations, seem to make far too great an assumption. They do not prove the influence of original beauty to be nothing, by proving the influence of other principles to be something more. What eye is there, however little exercised it may be in discriminating forms, which does not, at least in the mature state of the mind, whatever it may have done originally, feel the beauty of the circle or of the ellipse, considered simply as figures, without regard to any particular end? and though it may be easy to collect instances, in which we prefer to these forms, some one of the angular figures, on account of some useful purpose, to which the angular figure, though less pleasing in itself, may be subservient,-this does not prove that the curve is
not felt as more beautiful in itself, but only that it is not felt to be beautiful, where the pleasing emotion, which of itself it would excite, is overcome, by the painful feeling that arises from obvious unfitness, in comparison with some other figure more suitable. Though a circle, for example, may, in itself, be more pleasing, than an oblong, we may yet prefer an oblong for our doors and windows; the feelings of comparative convenience and inconvenience being more powerful than the feelings which they overcome, of beauty in the mere form, considered without reference to an end; or rather the fitness of one form for the use intended, involving in itself a species of beauty which may be termed natural beauty as much as the other. In the mere bodily sense of taste, we never think of contending, that all the original affections of the sense are indifferent, and become agreeable or disagreeable, by mere association; yet we know well, that it is in the power of habit to modify and reverse these feelings, so as to render a luxury to one, what is absolutely nauseous to another. Different nations have, indeed, an admiration of very different works of genius; but the mere cookery of different nations, is, perhaps, still more strikingly various, than their prevalent intellectual tastes. There is unquestionably, however, an original tendency to delight in sweetness, though certain circumstances may induce a preference of what is bitter, and there may, too, easily be an original tendency to feel the emotion of beauty, from certain objects, though, by the similar influence of circumstances, we may be led to prefer to them, colours or propositions of a different kind. Upon the whole, the probable inference, which, as I have already said, seems to me the most legitimate that can be drawn, from the phenomena of beauty, with respect to its existence as an original emotion, is, that certain objects, various, perhaps, in different individuals, do tend, originally, and without any views of indirect utility, or any previous associations, to excite emotions that are agreeable in themselves, and capable of being reflected back, and combined with the agreeable object; but that these may be variously modified, by views of utility, or by permanent or even accidental associations; since there is nothing in any of our original tendencies which implies, that they must be omnipotent, and the same in all times and circumstances. To the child, at least as soon as he is capable of making known to us in any way, his de