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PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN MIND.
ON MR. HUME'S CLASSIFICATION OF THE CAUSES OF ASSOCI.
ATE FEELINGS, CONCLUDED-PRIMARY LAWS OF SUGGESTION-1. RESEMBLANCE.
In the conclusion of my last Lecture, Gentlemen, I offered some remarks on Mr. Hume's classification of the circumstances on which he supposes our associate trains of thought to depend, and, particularly, on the strange attempt which he made, in conformity with this arrangement, to reduce contrast, as a connecting principle of our ideas, into causation and resemblance,-an attempt which, as we have seen, explains nothing, -and explains nothing with most laborious incongruity. Of such mistakes of such a mind, it should, as I have already remarked, be the natural tendency to inspire us with more diffidence in our own judgment, and more indulgent toleration for the want of discernment in others, which, in the intercourse of life, we must often have to discover and lament. Above all, as the most instructive lesson which can be derived from them, they should teach us the folly of attaching ourselves implicitly to great names; since, in adopting the whole system of opinions, even of the most acute philosophers, we may be in danger of embracing tenets, the absurdity of which, though altogether unobserved by their illustrious authors, minds of a much humbler class might, perhaps, have been swifter to per
ceive, and which, if they had first occurred to ourselves, in our own speculations, unsanctioned by authority, we should probably not have hesitated a single moment in rejecting.
To the threefold division which Mr. Hume has made, of the principles of association in the trains of our ideas, as consisting in resemblance, contiguity, and causation, there is an obvious objection of very different kind, not founded on excessive simplicity, the love of which might more naturally be supposed to have misled him, but on its redundancy, according to the very principles of his own theory. Causation, far from being opposed to contiguity, so as to form a separate class, is, in truth, the most exquisite species of proximity in time,and in most cases of contiguity in place also,--which could be adduced ; because it is not a proximity depending on casual circumstances, and consequently liable to be broken, as these circumstances may exist apart,—but one which depends only on the mere existence of the two objects that are related to each other as cause and effect,—and therefore fixed and never failing. Other objects may sometimes be proximate ; but a cause and effect,--are always proximate, and must be proximate, and are, indeed, classed in that relation, merely from this constant proximity. On his own principles, therefore, the three connexions of our ideas should indisputably be reduced to two. To speak of resemblance, contiguity, and causation, as three distinct classes, is, with Mr. Hume's view of causation, and, indeed, with every view of it, as if a mathematician should divide lines into straight, curved, and circular. The inhabitants of China are said to have made a proverbial division of the human race, into men, women, and Chinese. With their view of their own importance, we understand the proud superiority of the distinction which they have made. But this sarcastic insolence would surely have been absurdity itself, if they had not intended it to express some characteristic and exclusive excellence, but had considered themselves as such ordinary men and women, as are to be found in all the other regions of the earth.
Resemblance and contiguity in place and time,-to which, on his own principles, Mr. Hume's arrangement must be reduced—may be allowed indeed to hold a permanent rank, in whatever classification there may be formed, if any be to be formed, of the principles that regulate our trains of thought. But are there, in this case, truly distinct classes of suggestions, that are not reducible to any more common principle? or are they not all reducible to a single influence? I have already remarked the error, into which the common phrase, Association of ideas, has led us, by restricting, in our conception, the influence of the suggesting principle to those particular states of mind, which are exclusively denominated ideas; and it is this false restriction, which seems to me to have led to this supposition of different principles of association, to be classed in the manner proposed by Mr. Hume and others, under distinct heads. All suggestion, as I conceive, may, if our analysis be sufficiently minute, be found to depend on prior coexistence, or, at least, on such immediate proximity as is itself, very probably, a modification of coexistence. For this very nice reduction, however, we must take in the influence of emotions, and other feelings, that are very different from ideas; as when an analogous object, suggests an analogous object, by the influence of an emotion or sentiment, which each separately may have produced before, and which is therefore common to both. But, though a very nice analysis may lead to this reference of all our suggestions to one common influence of former proximity or coexistence of feelings, it is very convenient, in illustration of the principle, to avail ourselves of the most striking subdivisions, in which the particular instances of that proximity may be arranged ; and I shall
, therefore, adopt, for this purpose, the arrangment which Mr. Hume has made, -if resemblance be allowed to comprehend every species of analogy, and if contrast, as a peculiar subdivision, be substituted for the superfluous one of causation. The illustrations which I shall use, will be chiefly rhetorical, because these are, in truth, the most striking and beautiful illustrations, and because it may be of use to lead your attention more particularly to the great principles of human nature, as in their relation to human emotions and human judgments, the standard of all just criticism.
To begin then, with resemblance, no one can be ignorant of the effect of strong similarity, in recalling objects, as when a pictured landscape recalls a familiar scene, or a portrait a familiar countenance. There are many cases of this kind, indeed, which, strictly speaking, cannot be said to be instances of suggestion, from resemblance, but to be reducible to the simple laws of perception, or at least, to associations, which may be considered almost as involved in every repeated perception of the same object; for if a portrait be faithfully painted, the effect which it produces on the eye that perceives it, is the same, or very nearly the same, as the effect produced on the eye by similar light reflected from the living object; and we might, therefore, almost as justly say, that, when any individual is seen by us repeatedly, he suggests himself by resemblance, as that he is thus suggested by his portrait.
In many other cases, in which the resemblance is less com
contiguity, that they may, without any inconvenience, be considered apart,- I have thought it, as I have said, upon the whole, more advantageous for our present purpose of illustration, to consider them thus separately. By the application of a similar refined analysis, however, to other tribes of associations, even to those of contrast, we may, perhaps, find that it would be possible to reduce these also to the same comprehensive influence of mere proximity, as the single principle on which all suggestion is founded.
As yet we have taken into view only those more obvious resemblances of actual things, which produce similar impressions on our organs of sense. There is another species of resemblance, founded on more shadowy analogies, which gives rise to an innumerable series of suggestions, most important in value to our intellectual luxury, since it is to them we are, in a great measure, indebted for the most sublime of arts. To these analogies of objects, that agree in exciting similar emotions, we owe the simile, the metaphor, and, in general, all that figurative phraseology, which has almost made a separate language of poetry, as distinct from the abstract language of prose.
“Poetas omnino, quasi aliena lingua locutos, non cogar attingere,” says Cicero. Yet the difference of the languages of poetry and prose, is much less in Latin, than in our own tongue, in which the restriction of genders, in common discourse, to animated beings, gives, for the production of high rhetorical effect, such happy facilities of distinct personification. In poetry, we perceive every where what Akenside calls
“ The charm,
Of thought and passion."* The zephyrs laugh,--the sky smiles,—the forest frowns,the storm and the surge contend together,—the solitary place not merely blossoms like the rose, but it is glad.
“ Mark the sable woods,
Move to your pausing eye.”+
* Pleasures of Imagination, Book III. v. 282–286.