網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

By means of this supposition of a partial sleep, any apparent exceptions which the history of dreams may afford to the general principles already stated, admit of an easy explanation. Upon reviewing the foregoing observations, it does not occur to me, that I have in any instance transgressed those rules of philosophizing, which, since the time of Newton, are commonly appealed to, as the tests of sound investigation. For, in the first place, I have not supposed any causes which are not known to exist; and secondly, I have shewn, that the phenomena under our consideration are necessary consequences of the causes to which I have referred them. I have not supposed, that the mind acquires in sleep any new faculty of which we are not conscious while awake; but only (what we know to be a fact) that it retains some of its powers, while the exercise of others is suspended : and I have deduced synthetically the known phenomena of dreaming, from the operation of a particular class of our faculties, unconnected by the operation of another. I flatter myself, therefore, that this inquiry will not only throw some light on the state of the mind in sleep, but that it will have a tendency to illustrate the mutual adaption and subserviency which exists among the different parts of our constitution, when we are in complete possession of all the faculties and principles which belong to our nature.*

* See Note (O.)

CHAPTER FIFTH.

PART SECOND.

or rhe INFLUENéz or Association on the INTELLECTUAL AND on this Acrows

powers.
*

SECTION I.

Of the Influence of casual Associations on our speculative Conclusions.

The Association of Ideas has a tendency to warp our speculative opinions chiefly in the three following ways: First, by blending together in our apprehensions things which are really distinct in their nature; so as to introduce perplexity and errour into every process of reasoning in which they are involved. Secondly, by misleading us in those anticipations of the future from the past, which our constitution disposes us to form, and which are the great foundation of our conduct in life. Thirdly, by connecting in the mind erroneous opinions with truths which irresistibly command our assent, and which we feel to be of importance to human happiness. A short illustration of these remarks will throw light on the origin of various prejudices; and may, perhaps, suggest some practical hints with respect to the conduct of the understanding. I. I formerly had occasion to mention several instances of very intimate associations formed between two ideas which have no necessary connection with each other. One of the most replarkable is that which exists in every per

gant 1, § 1.] ELEMENTS OF THE PHILOSOPHY, &es 293

son’s mind between the notions of colour and of extension. The former of these words expresses (at least in the sense in which we commonly employ it) a sensation in the mind; the latter denotes a quality of an external object; so that there is, in fact, no more connection between the two notions than between those of pain and of solidity;” and yet, in consequence of our always perceiving extension, at the same time at which the sensation of colour is excited in the mind, we find it impossible to think of that sensation, without conceiving extension along with it. Another intimate association is formed in every mind between the ideas of space and of time. When we think of an interval of duration, we always conceive it as something analogous to a line, and we apply the same language to both subjects. We speak of a long and short time, as well of a long and short distance, and we are not conscious of any metaphor in doing so. Nay, so very perfect does the analogy appear to us, that Boscovich mentions it as a curious circumstance, that extension should have three dimensions, and duration only one. This apprehended analogy seems to be founded wholly on an association between the ideas of space and of time, arising from our always measuring the one of these quantities by the other. We measure time by motion, and motion by extension. In an hour, the hand of the clock moves over a certain space; in two hours, over double the space; and so on. Hence the ideas of space and of time become very intimately united, and we apply to the latter the words long and short, before and after, in the same manner as to the former. The apprehended analogy between the relation which the different notes in the scale of music bear to each other, and the relation of superiority and inferiority, in respect of position, among material objects, arises also from an accidental association of ideas. What this association is founded upon, I shall not take upon me to determine; but that it is the effect of accident, appears clearly from this, that it has not only been confined to particular ages and nations, but is the very reverse of an association which was once equally prevalent. It is observed by Dr. Gregory, in the preface to his edition of Euclid's works, that the more ancient of the Greek writers looked upon grave sounds as high, and acute ones as low; and that the present mode of expression on that subject, was an innovation introduced at a later period.* In the instances which have now been mentioned, our habit of combining the notions of two things becomes so strong, that we find it impossible to think of the one, without thinking at the same time of the other. Various other examples of the same species of combination, although, perhaps, not altogether so striking in degree, might easily be collected from the subjects about which our metaphysical speculations are employed. The sensations, for instance, which are excited in the mind by external objects, and the perceptions of material qualities which follow these sensations, are to be distinguished from each other only by long habits of patient reflection. A clear conception of this distinction may be regarded as the key to all Dr. Reid’s reasonings concerning the process of nature in perception; and, till it has once been rendered familiar to the reader, a great part of his writings must appear unsatisfactory and obscure.—In truth, our progress in the philosophy of the human mind depends much more on that severe and discriminating judgment, which enables us to separate ideas

* See Note (P.)

* See Note (Q.)

which nature or habit have intimately combined, than on acuteness of reasoning or fertility of invention. And hence it is, that metaphysical studies are the best of all preparations for those philosophical pursuits which relate to the conduct of life. In none of these do we meet with casual combinations so intimate and indissoluble as those which occur in metaphysics; and he who has been accustomed to such discriminations as this science requires, will not easily be imposed on by that confusion of ideas, which warps the judgments of the multitude in moral, religious, and political inquiries. From the facts which have now been stated, it is easy to conceive the manner in which the association of ideas has a tendency to mislead the judgment, in the first of the three cases already enumerated. When two subjects of thought are so intimately connected together in the mind, that we find it scarcely possible to consider them apart, it must require no common efforts of attention, to conduct any proocess of reasoning which relates to either. I formerly took notice of the errours to which we are exposed in consequence of the ambiguity of words; and of the necessity of frequently checking and correcting our general reasonings by means of particular examples; but in the cases to which I allude at present, there is (if I may use the expression) an ambiguity of things ; so that even when the mind is occupied about particulars, it finds it difficult to separate the proper objects of its attention from others with which it has been long accustomed to blend them. The cases, indeed, in which such obstinate and invincible associations are formed among different subjects of thought, are not very numerous, and occur chiefly in our metaphysical researches; but in every mind, casual combinations, of an inferiour degree of strength, have an habitual effect in disturbing the intellectual powers, and are not to be conquered without persevering

« 上一頁繼續 »