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Bven though we were not to require any proof of this kind however,-making all the admissions which in candour we are bound to make, and more than candour requires of us,-to the hypothesis which ventures, in the case of suggestion, to go beyond the tendency of the mind at the moment of the suggestion itself, and to ascribe it to some prior mental state or process, -of which we are unconscious, but which the hypothesis supposes to be necessary for the subsequent suggestion, and to which unknown state or process it gives the name of associaton,
; -we are not, because we make these admissions, to make any further concession,—such, at least, as would imply in itself an absolute contradiction. If suggestion, in every case, depend on association,—that is to say, if, before objects or feelings can suggest each other, they must have been, at some former period, associated together in the mind, it is evident, that, at some former period, at whatever distance of time it may have been before suggestion, both ideas or feelings must have existed together; for it would surely be absurd to speak of associations actually formed between feelings which either had not begun, or had already ceased, before the supposed association. But this supposition of prior coexistence, though it might explain the mutual suggestion of objects that have been contiguous, as Hume expresses it, in place or time, cannot explain the case at present under consideration, if contrast be considered as different from contiguity ; for it is the very first perception of the giant which is supposed by us to induce the conception of the dwarf. It, therefore, cannot admit of being associated with the idea of the dwarf till it have actually suggested it, for, till the moment of the actual suggestion, the two ideas never have existed together ; and if it have already suggested it without any former association, it is surely absurd to have recourse to a subsequent association to account for the prior suggestion, and to say, that that which is first in a series of changes, owes its existence to that which is second, and is produced by that which itself produces.
The particular case of suggestion which we have supposed, then, if contrast be truly a simple principle of suggestion, seems absolutely decisive of the question, because it excludes every association of the two ideas prior to the suggestion itself. In suggestions of objects formerly contiguous, it might have been supposed by those, who in explaining the phenomena of our conscious. ness, trust more to a gratuitous hypothesis, than to the evidence of consciousness itself, that, as the perceptions originally coexisted, or were immediately successive, some mysterious connexion of those states of mind might be formed at the time of this coexistence, or immediate proximity, that might deserve to be expressed by the particular name of association,-in consequence of which connexion, the one state afterwards was to induce the other. But when there has been no such coexistence or succession,—as in the case of the first suggestions of contrast,-what association can there have been on which the suggestions may be supposed to have depended? The association, in such a case, is manifestly nothing more than the momentary influence of the tendency of the suggestion itself; and to say that the suggestion depends on association, is the same thing as it would be to say, that suggestion depends upon suggestion. It depends, indeed, on the relation of the suggesting object to the object sucgested, -as similar, opposite, contiguous in time or place, or in some other way related,—the tendency to suggest relative feelings after relative feelings being one of the original susceptibilities of the mind, essential to its very nature,-but it depends on nothing more; and an object, therefore, the very moment of our first perception of it, may suggest some object that is related to it in one or other of these ways as readily, as after we have perceived it a thousand times; though it surely would be a very strange use of a very common term to speak of any previous association in this case, and to say, that objects were associated before they had existence, as they must have been, if this first suggestion had depended on any prior union, or process of any kind.
I need not repeat, that my argument, in this discussion, proceeds on that universal opinion of philosophers, in which our suggestions are considered as of various classes, and not on that more subtile analysis, by which I have endeavoured to show, that there may possibly be only a finer species of proximity in all, -though in this case, too, it is equally evident, that the process of association, if it were gratuitously supposed as something different from the original feelings themselves, would be at once equally hypothetical and equally inefficacious for explaining the subsequent suggestions. That an object seen for the first time does suggest many relative conceptions, no one surely will deny; and this single consideration, I cannot but think,-if the distinction universally made, of various principles of suggestion, be admitted,-should, of itself, have led to juster notions of our trains of thought. It appears to me, indeed, as I have said on that view of our suggestions, to be absolutely decisive of the question ; since, whatever might be supposed in other cases, in this case, at least, there cannot have been any previous connexion of that which suggests with that which is suggested. It proves, that the tendency of the mind, in suggestion, is not to exist successively in states which have been previously associated, but simply to exist in successive, states, wbich have to each other certain relations, permanent or accidental,—those relations which, in former Lectures, were considered by us, as reducible to certain primary laws of suggestion.
I am aware that this long argument, on a single point, and that, in itself, not a very interesting one, must have appeared to you rather a heavy tax upon your patience. But, though it is a point not very interesting in itself, or in the sort of discussion and illustration which it admits, it is one which is very interesting, in the applications that may be made of it; particularly as a clear view of the distinction which I wish to impress on your minds, will free you from much misconception, which has clouded the language and opinion of philosophers on this subject, and will prepare you, I flatter myself, for admitting, more readily, that simple arrangement of the intellectual phenomena, which I have ventured to submit to you.
In some former severe discussions like the present, I endeavoured to extract for you some little consolation, from that very fortitude of attention which the discussion required,--pointing out to you the advantage of questions of this kind, in training the mind to those habits of serious thought and patient investigation, which, considered in their primary relation to the intellectual character, are of infinitely greater importance than the instruction which the question itself may afford. “Generosos animos labor nutrit.” In the discipline of reason, as in the training of the athlete, it is not for a single victory, which it may give to the youthful champion, that the combat is to be valued, but for that knitting of the joints, and hardening of the muscles,--that quickness of eyes and collectedness of effort, which it is forming for the struggles of more illustrious fields. VOL. II.
That the perception of a giant, which never before had coexisted with the idea of a dwarf, should yet be sufficient, without some prior association, to induce that idea, may seem very wonderful; but, wonderful as it is, it is really not more mysterious, than if the two ideas bad coexisted, or succeeded each other, innumerable times. The great mystery is in the simple fact of the recurrence or spontaneous rise of any idea, without the recurrence of the external cause which produced it, and when that external cause has ceased, perhaps, to have any existence. This fact, however, we must admit, whatever be our theory; and it is all which is necessary to the one theory : while the other, by supposing, or vaguely implying some actual union or association, prior to the suggestion, introduces a new mystery, and, in consequence of the very mystery which it introduces, renders the phenomena, which it professes to explain, still more difficult to be conceived; since the association, which it supposes to be necessary to the suggestion, must, on that supposition, in many cases, be the effect of that very suggestion, to which it is supposed to give rise. You will now then, I hope, perceive,-or, I Hatter myself, may
I already have perceived, without the necessity of so much repetition of the argument, the reasons which led me to prefer the term suggestion to association, as a more accurate general term, for all the spontaneous successions of our thought; since, by making the suggestion itself to depend on an association or combination of ideas prior to it, we should not merely have assumed the reality of a process, of which we have no consciousness whatever, but should have excluded, by the impossibility of such previous com'bination, many of the most important classes of suggestions, every suggestion that arises from the relations of objects which we perceive for the first time, and, indeed, every suggestion that does not belong, in the strictest sense, to Mr Hume's single class of contiguity in time.
That our suggestions do not follow each other loosely and confusedly, is no proof of prior associations in the mind, but merely of the general constitutional tendency of the mind, to exist, successively, in states that have certain relations to each other. There is nothing in the nature of our original perceptions, which could enable us to infer this regularity and limitation of our subsequent trains of thought. We learn these from experience alone; and experience does not teach us, that there is any such intervening process of mysterious union, as is supposed, but only, that when the mind has been affected in a certain manner, so as to have one perception or conception, it is, successively, and of itself, affected in certain other manners, so as to have other relative conceptions. If the association of ideas be understood to mean nothing more than this succession of ideas arising without an external cause, and involving no prior union of the ideas suggesting and suggested,-nor, in short, any influence previous to that which operates at the moment of the suggestion itself, though it would certainly, with this limited meaning, (which excludes what is commonly meant by the term association,) be a very awkward phrase, -still, if it were always understood in this limited sense alone, it might be used with safety. But in this sense, the only sense in which it can be used without error,-it must always bé remember. ed, that the association of ideas denotes as much the successions of ideas of objects which never have existed together before, as the successions of ideas of objects which have been perceived together,—that there are not two separate mental processes, therefore, following perception, and necessary to the succession,-one by which ideas are primarily associated, and another by which they are subsequently suggested, but that the association is, in truth, only another word for the fact of the suggestion itself. All this however, being admitted, it may perhaps be said, --what advantage is to be gained from the use of a simpler term, or even from the more accurate distinction which such a term denotes ?
The principal advantage that is to be derived from it, is the great simplification which it allows of the phenomena by the removal of much of that mystery, which a more complicated theory had made to hang over some of the processes of thought. When suggestion was supposed to depend on former associations of ideas, and when, in many cases, it must have been felt to be difficult, or rather impossible, to discover any coexistence or immediate succession of the primary perceptions, by which such association could be supposed to be formed; it could scarcely fail to happen, -as, indeed, truly took place,—that many cumbrous distinctions and still more cumbrous hypotheses, would be formed, to account for the apparent anomalies.
It is the use of this unfortunate phrase, indeed, rather than of