« PrécédentContinuer »
capable indirectly of suggesting the other. When, for example, the whiteness of untrodden snow brings to our mind the innocence of an unpolluted heart,-or a fine morning of spring the cheerful freshness of youth,—they may do this only by the influence of a common emotion excited by them. The tendency to suggestions of analogy, which, in distinction from the tendency to suggestion of the grosser contiguity of objects themselves, or their direct images, I stated to be the great characteristic or constituent of inventive genius, may thus be only another form, or, at least, a very natural result of that susceptibility of vivid emotion, which, even by those who have not formed the same theory of genius, is usually conceived to be characteristic of the poetic temperament. The livelier the emotion may be, the longer must it continue to coexist with objects, and the quicker and surer, therefore, must it be to recal such objects as have at any time coexisted with it. There may, therefore, when there is no proximate association of ideas, be a proximity as real in the mixed suggestions of ideas and emotions.
In contrast, I might perhaps say, in like manner, that suggestion takes place, not indeed by the union of causation with resemblance, as Mr Hume strangely supposed, but by resemblance alone, and therefore, according to the view now given, by proximity, a resemblance, however, not in the contrasted object itself, but in some emotion, or other secondary feeling, to which that contrasted object gives rise, All objects that are strikingly contrasted must agree, at least, in this one respect, that they are very strange of their kind. When we see any one, for example, with a single feature of his face of very unusual dimensions, as a very large nose, the feeling that rises in our mind almost immediately after gazing on it, is the reflection how very singular a nose this is. This reflection is itself a certain state of the mind, which, if produced in any way, may afterwards excite, as in the ordinary cases of suggestion, the accompanying conception of the object which first produced it. When we happen afterwards to see an individual with a nose as remarkably short, the very same reflection will as instantly arise ; and this sameness of the proximate feeling, may be sufficient, by mere, proximity, to induce, on the perception of one of the objects, the conception of the contrasted object—that is contrasted in form, indeed, but still similar in the sentiment
which it excites. In the case of every other relation, too, it may be said, in like manner, that the relative suggests its correlative, because, whatever be the circumstance of agreement in which the relation consists, this circumstance is common to both, and may form a connecting link of mere proximity, as in any other case of resemblance, when the common circumstance is suggested by either of the two.
That some such fine and minute proximity as this, may be detected in every case of suggestion, seems to me in the highest degree probable at least. But still, as the process by which I evolve it, is a very subtile one, and there is, therefore, from its subtilty, a greater possibility of its being fallacious ;-as the suggestions of contrast and analogy seem, in the retrospects of our consciousness, equally immediate as those of proximity itself, and as, whether the feelings have been at any time truly proximate or not, the great mystery of the suggestion itself remains the same, I thought it safer, in our illustration of them, to consider them as distinct tribes.
In my own view of suggestion, however, in which I regard all our associate feelings as admitting of a possible reduction to a fine species of proximity, I do not consider any influence distinct from that of the mere existence of the original feelings themselves, in their state of proximity, to be indicated by our consciousness, or at all necessary to the subsequent suggestions; but as the agsertors of this necessity, with whom I contend, are all assertors of distinct species of suggestions, my argument with them will proceed on their own principles, and take for granted, that there are suggestions of resemblance, contrast, &c, which are not spe. cifically the same as those of mere proximity. You will remember, then, that my argument is a relative argument, and view it always in the relation which it is meant to bear to the opinions of others rather than my own.
Proceeding, accordingly, on the general belief of distinct tribes of suggestions, in our inquiry into the evidence which the phenomena afford of a previous influence of association, let us take for an example, then, a case of contrast, in which the perception or conception of one object, suggests immediately the conception of some other object, of which the qualities are so
dissimilar, as to be absolutely opposite to those qualities which we are perceiving or conceiving at the moment.
The first sight of a person, of stature remarkably beyond the common size, is sufficient, in many cases, to bring instantly before us, in conception, the form of some one, with whom we may happen to be acquainted, of stature as remarkably low. In consequence of what law of mind does this suggestion take place?
If we say merely, that such is the nature of the mind, that it is not affected by external objects alone, but that the state or affection of mind which we call a conception or idea of an object--in whatever manner excited,—may give immediate rise to other ideas, of which no external cause at the moment exists before us; that one idea, however, does not suggest indifferently any other idea, but only such as have some peculiar relation to itself; that there is a considerable variety of such relations, resemblance, contiguity, and others; and that of this variety of relations, according to which ideas may spontaneously suggest each other, contrast is one ;-we deliver an accurate statement of the facts, and of the whole facts; and whatever goes beyond this, to some earlier mysterious process of union,-even though it could, by a skilful effort of ingenuity, be reconciled with the phenomena,-must still be a supposition only; for, if we trust the evidence of our consciousness, which affords the only evidence, we have no knowledge of any intermediate process that can have the name of association, but simply of the original perceptions, and the subsequent suggestion. Of this the slightest retrospect will convince any one.
It is to our consciousness, then, at the time of the perception, and the time of the suggestion, that we must look. Now all of which we are conscious at the time of perception might be precisely the same, though there were no ‘memory whatever after perception ceases, or though in remembrance, there were no such order of suggestions afterwards, as is supposed to justify the supposition of some pre-existing association, but on the contrary, the utmost irregularity and confusion. Our consciousness, during perception, is thus far from indicating any process of association; and all of which we are conscious, at the time of the suggestion itself, is the mere succession of one feeling to another, not certainly of any prior process on which this suggestion has depended. The laws of suggestion, then, as opposed to what may
be called association,-or, in other words, the circumstances which seem to regulate the spontaneous successions of our ideas, without reference to any former intellectual process, except the simple primary perceptions, from which all our corresponding conceptions are derived, -form a legitimate theory, being a perfect generalization of the known facts, without a single circumstance assumed. To these laws,--wbich require no prior union of that which suggests with that which is suggested,--the particular case which we are considering is easily referable, being one of the very cases comprehended in the generalization. The sight of a gigantic stranger brings before us the image of our diminutive friend; because, such is the nature of the mind, that in whatever manner the primary ideas may have been induced,--and though there may never have been any coexisting or immediate succession of them before,-opposites, by the very circumstance of their opposition, suggest opposites. It is as much a law of mind, that one perception or conception shall introduce, as it were, spontaneously the conception of some similar object--or of one so dissimilar as to be contrasted with it,—or of one which formerly succeeded it, -or of one in some other way related to it,—and that it shall introduce such RELATIVE conceptions alone,-as it is a law of mind, that the influence of light on the retina, and thus indirectly on the sensorium, shall be followed by the sensation of vision and not of sound ; and, however mysterious and inexplicable the one process. may be, it is not more inexplicable than the other. It is as little necessary to the suggestion that there should be any prior union or association of ideas, as, to vision, that there should be any mysterious connexion of the organ with light, at some period prior to that in which light itself first acted on the organ, and the visual sensation was its consequence. As soon as the presence
of the rays of light at the retina has produced a certain affection of the sensorium, in that very moment the mind begins to exist in the state which constitutes the sensation of colour ;-as soon as a certain perception or conception has arisen, the mind begins to exist in the state, which constitutes what is said to be some associate conception. Any prior connexion or association is as little necessary in the one of these cases as in the other. All that is prior, is not any process connecting light with the organ, or the conception of a giant with the conception of a dwarf, but only certain original suscep
tibilities of the mind, by which it is formed, to have in the one case some one of the sensations of vision when light is at the retina,-in the other case, to have, in certain circumstances, the conception of a dwarf as immediately consecutive to that of a giant.
In tracing, accordingly, each separate suggestion in the trains of our thought to the nature of the mind,-its original energies or susceptibilities,—as operating at the time of the suggestion, and to the laws which then regulate its affections, we find a place for the instance of contrast which we are considering, and see how, when one external object alone is present, a giant may suggest a dwarf, or a dwarf a giant. The laws of mind, like the laws of matter, are only the brief expression of certain general circumstances, in which many phenomena agree ; and the laws of suggestion,-if we do not look back to any association or connexion previous to the suggestion itself,—do fairly comprehend the particular case considered by us.
Let us next consider, whether this suggestion can be account. ed for on the other supposition, which ascribes our trains of ideas to associations previous to the suggestion itself,—to laws of association, in short, in the sense in which that phrase is distinguishable from laws of suggestion.
To treat the question with all due candour, I shall make no objection to the term association, as if it implied too gross an analogy to corporeal things; for, unfortunately, it has this fault only in common with almost every current phrase in the Philosophy of Mind. If we are obliged to speak of mental analyses, of complex aflections, of groups of images, and trains of thought, we may well be allowed to speak of the images of these trains as associated, if no objection but that of its seeming materialism can be urged against the phrase. Nor could any objection be fairly made to the association of ideas, as implying a sort of connexion which it is impossible to explain,-if there truly were any consciousness of any thing more than the original perceptions at the time when the association is supposed; but, when there is no consciousness of any thing more, it may be allowed us, at least, to require some proof of the connecting process that is supposed, more than the mere fact of a subsequent suggestion, that may be explained with. out it.