« 上一頁繼續 »
“death of Charles the Fifth. Had Harry the Fourth, “Cardinal Richlieu, and Louis the Fourteenth, been Span“iards; and Philip the Second, Third, and Fourth, and “Charles the Second, been Frenchmen; the history of “ these nations had been entirely reversed.” From these principles, it would seem to be a necessary consequence, that, in proportion as the circumstances shall operate which I have been endeavouring to illustrate, the whole system of human affairs, including both the domestic order of society in particular states, and the relations which exist among different communities, in consequence of war and negociation, will be subjected to the influence of causes which are “ known and determinate.” Those domestic affairs, which, according to Mr. Hume, are already proper subjects of reasoning and observation, in consequence of their dependence on general interests and passions, will become so, more and more, daily, as prejudices shall decline, and knowledge shall be diffused among the lower orders: while the relations among the different states, which have depended hitherto, in a great measure, on the “whim, folly “ and caprice” of single persons, will be gradually more and more regulated by the general interests of the individuals who compose them, and by the popular opinions of more enlightened times. Already, during the very short interval which has elapsed since the publication of Mr. Hume's writings, an astonishing change has taken place in Europe. The mysteries of courts have been laid open ; the influence of secret negociation on the relative situation of states has declined ; and the studies of those men whose public spirit or ambition devotes them to the service of their country, have been diverted from the intrigues of cabinets, and the details of the diplomatic code, to the liberal and manly pursuits of political philosophy.
of THE Associ Ation of IDEAs.
The subject on which I am now to enter, naturally divides itself into two Parts. The first relates to the influence of Association, in regulating the succession of our thoughts; the second, to its influence on the intellectual powers, and on the moral character, by the more intimate and indissoluble combinations which it leads us to form in infancy and in early youth. The two inquiries, indeed, run into each other; but it will contribute much to the order of our speculations, to keep the foregoing arrangement in view.
of rue influence of Association IN REGULATING the Succession of our Thoughts.
General Observations on this Part of our Constitution, and on the Language of Philosophers with respect to it.
THAT one thought is often suggested to the mind by another, and that the sight of an external object often recalls former occurrences, and revives former feelings, are facts which are perfectly familiar, even to those who are the least disposed to speculate concerning the principles of their nature. In passing along a road which we have formerly travelled in the company of a friend, the particulars of the conversation in which we were then engaged, are frequently suggested to us by the objects we meet with.
tant I. 1.] ELEMENTS OF THE PHILOSOPHY, &c. 233
In such a scene, we recollect that a particular subject was started; and, in passing the different houses, and plantations, and rivers, the arguments we were discussing when we last saw them, recur spontaneously to the memory. The connection which is formed in the mind between the words of a language and the ideas they denote; the connection which is formed between the different words of a discourse we have committed to memory; the connection between the different notes of a piece of music in the mind of the musician, are all obvious instances of the same general law of Our nature. The influence of perceptible objects in reviving former thoughts and former feelings, is more particularly remarkable. After time has, in some degree, reconciled us to the death of a friend, how wonderfully are we affected the first time we enter the house where he lived Every thing we see, the apartment where he studied, the chair upon which he sat, recal to us the happiness we have enjoyed together; and we should feel it a sort of violation of that respect we owe to his memory, to engage in any light or indifferent discourse when such objects are before us. In the case, too, of those remarkable scenes which interest the curiosity, from the memorable persons or transactions which we have been accustomed to connect with them in the course of our studies, the fancy is more awakened by the actual perception of the scene itself, than by the mere conception or imagination of it. Hence the pleasure we enjoy in visiting classical ground, in beholding the retreats which inspired the genius of our favourite authors, or the fields which have been dignified by exertions of heroic virtue. How feeble are the emotions produced by the liveliest conception of modern Italy, to what the poet felt, when, amidst the ruins of Rome,
The well-known effect of a particular tune on Swiss regiments when at a distance from home, furnishes a very striking illustration of the peculiar power of a perception, or of an impression on the senses, to awaken associated thoughts and feelings; and numberless facts of a similar nature must haye occurred to every person of moderate sensibility, in the course of his own experience. “Whilst we were at dinner,” (says Captain King,) “in “this miserable hut, on the banks of the river Awatska; “the guests of a people with whose existence we had before “been scarce acquainted, and at the extremity of the hab“itable globe; a solitary, half-worn pewter spoon, whose “shape was familiar to us, attracted our attention, and, on “examination, we found it stamped on the back with the “word London. I cannot pass over this circumstance in “silence, out of gratitude for the many pleasant thoughts, “the anxious hopes, and tender remembrances, it excited “in us. Those who have experienced the effects that long “absence, and extreme distance from their native country, “produce on the mind, will readily conceive the pleasure “such a trifling incident can give.” . The difference between the effect of a perception and an idea, in awakening associated thoughts and feelings, is finely described in the introduction to the fifth book De finibus. “We agreed,” (says Cicero,) “ that we should take our “afternoon’s walk in the academy, as at that time of the “day it was a place where there was no resort of company. “Accordingly, at the hour appointed, we went to Piso's.
* “Quacunque ingredimur,” (says Cicero, speaking of Athens,) “in aliquam historiam vastigium ponimus.”
“We passed the time in conversing on different matters “during our short walk from the double gate, till we came “to the academy, that justly celebrated spot; which, as we “wished, we found a perfect solitude.” “I know not,” (said Piso,) “whether it be a natural feeling, or an illusion of “the imagination founded on habit, that we are more power“fully affected by the sight of those places which have been “much frequented by illustrious men, than when we either “listen to the recital, or read the detail, of their great actions. “At this moment, I feel strongly that emotion which I “speak of. I see before me the perfect form of Plato, “who was wont to dispute in this very place: these gar“dens not only recal him to my memory, but present his “very person to my senses. I fancy to myself, that here “stood Speusippus; there Xenocrates, and here, on this “bench, sat his disciple Polemo. To me, our ancient sen“ate-house seems peopled with the like visionary forms; “for, often, when I enter it, the shades of Scipio, of Cato, “and of Laelius, and, in particular, of Iny venerable grand“father, rise to my imagination. In short, such is the ef“fect of local situation in recalling associated ideas to the “mind, that it is not without reason, some philosophers “have founded on this principle a species of artificial “memory.” This influence of perceptible objects, in awakening associated thoughts and associated feelings, seems to arise, in a great measure, from their permanent operation as exciting or suggesting causes. When a train of thought takes its rise from an idea or conception, the first idea soon disappears, and a series of others succeeds, which are gradually less and less related to that with which the train commenced ; but, in the case of perception, the exciting cause remains steadily before us, and all the thoughts and feelings which have any relation to it, crowd into the mind in rapid suc