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1. IMMEDIATE EMOTIONS, NOT INVOLVING NECESSARILY ANY
MORAL FEELING—3. BEAUTY AND ITS REVERSE, CONCLUD-
Fon several Lectures, Gentlemen, we have been engaged in considering one of the most interesting of our emotions—an emotion connected with so many sources of delight, material, intellectual, and moral; that it is not wonderful that it should have at. tracted, in a very high degree, the attention of metaphysical inquirers, and should even have become a subject of slight study, with those lovers of easy reading, to whom the word metaphysical is a word of alarm, and who never think that they are studying metaphysics, when they are reading only of delicate forms, and smiles, and graces. What they feel, in admiring beauty, is an emotion so very pleasing, that they connect some degree of pleasure with the very works that treat of it, and would perhaps be astonished to learn, that the inquiry into the nature of this emotion, which it would seem to them so strange not to feel, is one of the most difficult inquiries in the whole philosophy of mind.
It may be of advantage, then, after an analytical investigation, which is in itself not very simple, and which has been so much confused by a multitude of opinions, to review once more, slightly, our progress and the results which we have obtained.
In whatever manner, the pleasing emotion itself may arise, and however simple or complex it may be, we term beautiful, the object by which it is excited. But though, philosophically, a beautiful object be considered by us merely as that which excites a certain delightful feeling in our mind, it is only philosophically that we thus separate completely the object from the delight which
it affords. It is impossible for us to gaze on it, without reflecting on it this very delight, or even to think of it, without conceiving some spirit of delight diffused in it,-a neverfading pleasure, that, as if in independence of our perception, exists in it or Boats around it, as much when no eye beholds it, as when it is the gaze and hap. piness of a thousand eyes.
Such in its reflection from our mind, on the object that seems to embody it, is the beauty which we truly feel; and if the objects that excite it, were uniformly the same in all mankind, little more would have remained for inquiry. But, far from being uniform in its causes, in all mankind, the emotion is not uniform in a single individual, for a single year, or even, in the rapid
a changes of fashion, for a few months of a single year. These rapid changes, at once so universal and so capricious in their influence, led us naturally to inquire, whether fashion, in all its arbitrary power, and other circumstances of casual association, peculiar to individual minds, be not the modifiers only, but perhaps the very sources of all those emotions which seem to vary with their slightest varieties.
In this inquiry, which, from the peculiar circumstance in which alone it is in our power to enter on it, cannot afford absolute certainty of result, but only such a result as a comparison of greater and less probabilities affords, we were led, on such a comparison, to a conclusion favourable to the supposition, that the mind has some original tendencies to receive impressions of beauty, from certain objects, rather than from others, though it has, without all question, at the same time, other tendencies, which may produce feelings inconsistent with the pleasing emotion, that otberwise would have attended the contemplation of those objects, or sufficient of themselves to constitute the pleasing emotion, in cases in which there was no original tendency to feel it, that what is beauty, therefore, at one period of life, or, in one age or country, even in cases in which there may have been an original tendency to feel it, may not be beauty, at another period of life, or in another age or country, from the mere difference of the arbitrary circumstances, which have variously modified the original tendency, in the same manner as we find circumstances capable of modifying, or even reversing other species of emotions,—this difference of result being, not of itself, a proof of the unreality of all
original distinctions of this sort, more than the prejudices and delusions of mankind, and their varying desires, are a proof, that truth and error are themselves indifferent, and all things originally equally desirable. It is like the descent of one of the scales of a balance, from which alone it would be absurd to conclude, that the whole weight is in that single scale. The descent may
have arisen only from the preponderance of a greater weight over a less, when, but for the addition of some new substance thrown into it, the sinking scale would have arisen, and the other scale have obeyed that natural tendency, which, of itself, would have directed its motion to the earth.
The error of those who ascribe to the suggestion of mental qualities, the whole emotion of beauty, in every case, corporeal as well as mental, we found to be, very probably, occasioned, in part at least, by the very nature of the laws on which suggestion depends,-analogous objects suggesting analogous objects,—and corporeal qualities thus suggesting the very striking analogies of mind, in the same way as these mutually suggest each other,-analogies which are pleasing in themselves, and may, when suggested, mingle their own pleasure with the delightful emotion previously excited by the corporeal object. But it is very evident, that the suggestion of the mental quality may, in this case, be the effect, or the mere concomitant, not the cause, of that delightful emotion, which was itself, perhaps, the very circumstance that led us to dwell on the external object, till the analogy was suggested ; and, though no suggestion of this kind had taken place, the object might still have been felt by us as beautiful. The same remark may be applied to all the other forms of association, as much as to the suggestions of mere analogy. These may coexist with the emotion, and may add to it their own mingled delight; but they are not, therefore, proved to be essential to it, in all its degrees. On the contrary, in many cases, it may be only because we have previously felt an object to be beautiful, that it suggests to us va. rious objects of former similar delights,-the delightful effect itself, when produced, being the very principle of analogy which alone may have connected the one object with the other.
Association, however, whether as primarily giving rise to the emotion of beauty, in certain cases, or as modifying it in others, is, without all doubt, the source of the most important pleasure of VOL. II.
this kind which we feel. But how does this association act? ho it, as is commonly supposed, by the suggestion of a number of images related to the object, that transfer to it, as it were, the emotions which originally belonged to them?
This opinion, though supported and illustrated by genius of a very high order, we found, notwithstanding, by reflection on all which we feel during our admiration of beauty, to be little war. ranted by the phenomena. Such a train of images passing through the mind,--and images accompanied with lively emotion, could scarcely fail to be remembered by us; or, at least, if they are not remembered by us, there is no reason, a priori, to suppose the existence of them. Yet we surely feel the charm of external loveliness, without any consciousness of such trains. The very moment in which we have fixed our eye on a beautiful countenance, or at least with an interval after our first perception, so short, as to be absolutely undistinguished by us; we feel, with instant de light, that the countenance is beautiful,--and the more beautiful the object, the inore, not the less, does it fix the mind, as if absorb. ed, in the direct contemplation and enjoyment of it; and the less, therefore, in such a case, do we wander over the trains of images, on which the very feeling of beauty, is, in this theory, said to depend,
It is not a number of images, then, which necessarily arise is the mind,—though these may arise, and when they arise, may increase the pleasure that was felt before. What is suggested in the instant feeling of loveliness, must itself be an instant feeling of delight; and the source of such instant delight, we found accordingly in the common laws of suggestion, that have been already so fully considered by us. The perception of an object has
. originally coexisted with a certain pleasure,-a pleasure, which may perhaps have frequently recurred together with the perception,--and which thus forms with it in the mind one complex feeling, that is instantly recalled by the mere perception of the object in its subsequent recurrences. With this complex state, so recalled, other accidental pleasures may afterwards coexist in like manner, and form a more complex delight; but a delight, which is still, when felt, one momentary state of mind, and, state of mind, capable of being instantly recalled by the perception of the object, as much as the simpler delight in the earlier
stage. The embellishing influence of association may thus be progressive in various stages; because new accessions of pleasure are continually rendering more complex the delight, that is afterwards to be suggested; but that which is suggested in the later stages, though the result of a progress, is itself, in each subsequent perception of the object which it embellishes, immediate. spread the charm over the object, with the same rapidity, with which we spread over it the colours, which it seems to beam on us.
Such is the great source of all the embellishments of beauty, when association operates, by the direct suggestion of an amount of delight associated with the particular object. But though our estimate of degrees of beauty, if wholly dependent on associations peculiar to the object, might seem scarcely capable of any precision, we yet form our estimate with a precision and uniformity, which almost resemble the exactness of our measurements of qualities, that do not depend on any arbitrary and capricious principle. There must, therefore, be in the mind some scale, in whatever way it may be acquired, by which we correct, in part at least, these accidental irregularities. This intellectual scale we found to be the result of the comparisons, which a cultivated mind is continually making; or of those general notions of resemblance which rise to us, when there has been no intentional comparison of object with object. We observe, not merely what gives delight to ourselves, but what gives delight also to the greater number of the cultivated minds around us; and what might be capricious in one mind, is thus tempered by the result of more general associations in the many. As we form various notions of brightness from many varieties of light,—various notions of magnitude from many forms and proportions,—various notions of pleasure from many agreeable feelings,—so do we form, from the contemplation of many objects, that have excited certain pleasing emotions in ourselves and others, various notions of beauty, which in their various degrees, are suggested by the new objects that are similar to those, which originally induced them; and many comparisons, in various circumstances, thus gradually rectifying what might have seemed capricious, if the comparisons had been fewer, we learn at last to attach certain notions of beauty to certain objects, with a precision which otherwise we should have been in