Images de page

intellectual and moral progress, of which it is the noblest excellence of our being, even in this life, to be susceptible, and which may be regarded as a pledge of that far nobler progression which is to be our splendid destiny in the unceasing ages that await us, when the richest acquisitions of the sublimest genius, to which we have looked almost with the homage of adoration, on this mortal scene, may seem to us like the very rudiments of infant thought. Even then, however, the truths which we have been capable of attaining here, may still, by that condensation and diffusion of which I have spoken, form an element of the transcendent knowledge which is to comprehend all the relations of all the worlds in infinity, as we are now capable of tracing the relations of the few planets that circle our sun; and, by a similar diffusion, those generous affections, which it has been our delight to cultivate in our social communion on earth, may not only prepare us for a purer and more glorious communion, but be themselves constituent elements of that ever increasing happiness, which, still prolonging, and still augmenting the joys of virtue, is to reward, through immortality the sufferings, and the toils, and the struggles of its brief mortal career.




THE latter part of my Lecture of yesterday, Gentlemen, was employed, in illustrating a distinction, which seems to me of great consequence, in its applications to the whole theory of the intellectual phenomena, the distinction of the trains of our thought from other trains of which we are accustomed to speak, in this most important circumstance, that, in our mental sequences, the one feeling, which precedes and induces another feeling, does not, necessarily, on that account, give place to it; but may continue, in that virtual sense of combination, as applied to the phenomena of the mind, of which I have often spoken,-to coexist, with the new feeling which it excites, outlasting it, perhaps, and many other feelings, to which, during its permanence, it may have given rise. I pointed out to you, how important this circumstance in our mental constitution is to us, in various ways;-to our intellectual acquirements, since, without it, there could be no continued meditation, but only a hurrying confusion of image after image, in wilder irregularity than in the wildest of our dreams,—and to our virtue and happiness, since, by allowing the coexistence and condensation of various feelings in one complex emotion, it furnishes the chief source of the delight of those moral affections, which it is at once our happiness to feel, and our virtue to obey.

After these remarks, on a distinction, which it appears to me of essential importance to make, I proceed to the consideration of a question of still more importance in the theory of our trains of thought, at least, in the light in which these have been commonly regarded by philosophers. Its importance in this respect, is, however, I must confess, its principal attraction; and it will require

from you a little more attention and patience, than the greater number of the discussions which have recently engaged us.

Before entering on this particular part of my Course, which treats of the phenomena commonly classed together under the general term association of ideas, I remarked the error of this seeming limitation to our ideas, of a tendency, which is common to them with all our other feelings; and at the same time mentioned, that there were other reasons afterwards to be stated, which led me to prefer to this phrase a term more strictly indicative of the simple fact of the rise of certain states or affections of the mind, after certain other states or affections of mind; unwilling as I was, to alter, without some urgent motives, a phrase, which the universal language of philosophers, and even the popular language on this most popular part of intellectual philosophy, might be considered almost as having fully and finally established. The term which I preferred, as most strictly expressive of the simple fact of the mere antecedence of one feeling, and sequence of another feeling, was suggestion; and instead, therefore, of inquiring into the laws of association, I inquired into the general circumstance, on which suggestion depends. In the course of our discussions, indeed, I have continued sometimes to avail myself, as you must have remarked, of the more familiar phrase association. But I have done this only in cases in which the use of it appeared without danger, or, at least, when any misconception that might arise from it, was sufficiently obviated, by the use of the corresponding term suggestion, as explaining and restricting its meaning. The examination of the question, on, which we are about to enter, will shew the reason which chiefly led me to the preference of the one of these terms to the other; and though, as I have already said, the discussion is not of a kind that admits of pleasing illustration, I trust that you are sufficiently impressed with the paramount importance in science of the useful to the agreeable, or rather, that the useful is itself agreeable to you, by the mere circumstance of its utility.

That, when two objects have been perceived by us in immediate succession, the presence of the one will often suggest the other, though this second object, or a similar external cause, be not present, is that great fact, of association, or suggestion, which we must admit, whatever opinion we may form with respect to its

nature, or whatever name we may give to it. But when the former of these two objects first suggests the conception of the latter, in the absence of this latter, and at a considerable interval of time, after the first coexistence of the two perceptions, or their first proximity to each other, we may inquire, whether the suggestion be the consequence of a law, or general tendency of the mind, first operating at that moment of the suggestion itself;-or the consequence of another earlier law of mind, distinct from that of the mere perception itself, but operating, at the time, when both objects were originally perceived together, whether, during the original perception of the two objects, at the period long preceding the first suggestion of one by the other, there was, beside the simple perception of each, some other intellectual process, or operation, by which a union might be supposed to be formed of the two conceptions, in all their future recurrences, or, simply, whether such be not the natural constitution of the mind, that one affection of it succeeds another affection of it, and that the successions occur in a certain order; in short, whether the laws that regulate recurrence be laws of association, in the strictest sense of that word, as expressive of some former connecting process,―or merely laws of suggestion, as expressive of the simple tendency of the mind, in the very moment in which it is affected in a certain manner, to exist immediately afterwards in a certain different


At first sight, the question, which this distinction implies, may seem to be a question only as to the use of a term, and to involve little actual difference; or, if the actual difference which it involves be admitted, it may seem a question which it is not in our power to solve; since, on either supposition, whether the suggestions arise from some earlier process of mysterious association, at the time of the first coexistence or proximity of the perceptions, or from some equally mysterious limitation of the subsequent spontaneous suggestions to a certain series, the suggestions themselves must be the same, and must follow in the same order.

It will appear, however, on a more attentive consideration, that the distinction, far from being verbal merely, is, in truth, a most important one, and has had a powerful, and, as I conceive, a most injurious influence on all the arrangements which have been made of them by philosophers,-and that the discovery of the pe

riod of the primary influence of the laws that regulate suggestion is not beyond the reach of observation,-on that view of the phenomena which supposes them to result from tendencies to suggestion of various kinds, such as the resemblances, contrasts, and contiguities, of which writers on this branch of intellectual physiology are accustomed to speak.

It is, indeed, chiefly with a view to this belief, that I think it necessary to enter into the discussion, since the assertors of a connecting process of association, as that on which suggestion in every case depends, have been also strenuous assertors of various forms of association itself; and have, in consequence of the perplexities, in which this double belief has involved them, been led into those cumbrous arrangements of the intellectual phenomena, from the error of which I am desirous of freeing you.

I have already, in treating of the primary laws of suggestion, stated to you my belief, that, by a more refined analysis than writers on this subject have been accustomed to make, the varieties of suggestion might all be found to be reducible to one general tendency of succession, according to the mere order of former proximity or coexistence; and I cannot but think that this reduction has appeared more difficult than it truly is, in consequence of the unfortunate phrase association of ideas,—which seeming to confine the tendency of suggestion to our ideas alone, made it impossible, in many cases, to discover the necessary proximity—when the proximity had never really existed, with respect to the ideas in the train, but was to be found only in some emotion, or internal sentiment or judgment, that was common to the two.

In treating of the suggestions of resemblance, accordingly, I ventured to give you an example of this very nice analysis, in which similar objects were supposed to be suggested by similar objects, in consequence merely of some part which was the same in both, and which excited, by the influence of former proximity, the other parts, which coexisted with it, as one great whole.

In cases of the more shadowy resemblance of analogy, in like manner, as in those comparisons of objects with objects which constitute the similes and metaphors of poetry,-though there may never have been in the mind any proximity of the very images compared, there may have been a proximity of each to an emotion of some sort, which, as common to both, might render each

[blocks in formation]
« PrécédentContinuer »