網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

is frequently apt to smile at the ardour with which the active part of mankind pursue what appear to him to be mere shadows. This view of human affairs, some writers have carried so far, as to represent life as a scene of mere illusions, where the mind refers to the objects around it, a colouring which exists only in itself; and where, as the Poet expresses it,

“Opinion gilds with varying rays,
“Those painted clouds which beautify our days.”

It may be questioned, if these representations of human life be useful or just. That the casual associations which the mind forms in childhood, and in early youth, are frequently a source of inconvenience and of misconduct, is sufficiently obvious; but that this tendency of our nature increases, on the whole, the sum of human enjoyment, appears to me to be indisputable; and the instances in which it misleads us from our duty and our happiness, only prove to what important ends it might be subservient, if it were kept under proper regulation.

Nor do these representations of life (admitting them in their full extent) justify the practical inferences which have been often deduced from them, with respect to the vanity of our pursuits. In every case, indeed, in which our enjoyment depends upon association, it may be said, in one sense, that it arises from the mind itself; but it does not therefore follow, that the external object which custom has rendered the cause or the occasion of agreeable emotions, is indifferent to our happiness. The effect which the beauties of nature produce on the mind of the poet, is wonderfully heightened by association, but his enjoyment is not, on that account, the less exquisite: nor are the objects of his admiration of the less value to his happiness, that they derive their principal charms from the embellishments of his fancy.

It is the business of education, not to counteract, in any instance, the established laws of our constitution, but to direct them to their proper purposes. That the influence of early associations on the mind might be employed, in the most effectual manner, to aid our moral principles, appears evidently from the effects which we daily see it produce, in reconciling men to a course of action which their reason forces them to condemn ; and it is no less obvious that, by means of it, the happiness of human life might be increased, and its pains diminished, if the agreeable ideas and feelings which children are so apt to connect with events and with situations which depend on the caprice of fortune, were firmly associated in their apprehensions with the duties of their stations, with the pursuits of science, and with those beauties of nature which are open to all.

These observations coincide nearly with the ancient stoical doctrine concerning the influence of imagination* on morals; a subject, on which many important remarks, (though expressed in a form different from that which modern philosophers have introduced, and, perhaps, not altogether so precise and accurate,) are to be found in the Discourses of Epictetus, and in the Meditations of Antoninus.f This doctrine of the Stoical school Dr. Akenside has in view in the following passage:

“Action treads the path
“In which Opinion says he follows good,
“Or flies from evil; and Opinion gives
“Report of good or evil, as the scene
“Was drawn by fancy, lovely or deform'd:

* According to the use which I make of the words Imagination and Association, in this work, their effects are obviously distinguishable. I have thought it proper, how ever, to illustrate the difference between them a little more fully in Note [R.]

* See what Epictetus has remarked on the xoris oia ou earraria. (Arrian, 1. i. c. 12.) Oie aw woxxaxis earragons, rotavro wa total 5 devoix' garrera, yag Uro tow partaria, h Juzo. &arts ow army, To avoxus ‘raw rolovray warraraw, &c. &c. Anton. l. v. c. 16

“Thus her report can never there be true,
“Where fancy cheats the intellectual eye
“With glaring colours and distorted lines.
“Is there a man, who at the sound of death
“Sees ghastly shapes of terrour conjur'd up,
“And black before him: nought but death-bed groans
“And fearful prayers, and plunging from the brink
“Of light and being, down the gloomy air,
“An unknown depth? Alas! in such a mind,
“If no bright forms of excellence attend
“The image of his country; nor the pomp
“Of sacred senates, nor the guardian voice
“Of justice on her throne, nor aught that wakes
“The conscious bosom with a patriot's flame:
“Will not Opinion tell him, that to die,
“Or stand the hazard, is a greater ill
“Than to betray his country? And in act
“Will he not choose to be a wretch and live?
“Here vice begins then.”

SECTION IV.

“General Remarks on the Subjects treated in the foregoing Sections of this Chapter.

In perusing the foregoing Sections of this Chapter, I am aware, that some of my readers may be apt to think that many of the observations which I have made, might easily be resolved into more general principles. I am also aware, that, to the followers of Dr. Hartley, a similar objection will occur against all the other parts of this work; and that it will appear to them the effect of inexcusable prejudice, that I should stop short so frequently in the explanation of phenomena; when he has accounted in so satisfactory a manner, by means of the association of ideas, for all the appearances which human nature exhibits.

To this objection, I shall not feel myself much interested to reply, provided it be granted that my observations are candidly and accurately stated, so far as they reach. Sup

+ Pleasures of Imagination, b. iii.

posing that in some cases I may have stopped short too soon, my speculations, although they may be censured as imperfect, cannot be considered as standing in opposition to the conclusions of more successful inquirers. May I be allowed farther to observe, that such views of the human mind as are contained in this work, (even supposing the objection to be well founded,) are, in my opinion, indispensably necessary, in order to prepare the way for those very general and comprehensive theories concerning it, which some eminent writers of the present age have been ambitious to form 2 Concerning the merit of these theories, I shall not presume to give any judgment. I shall only remark, that, in all the other sciences, the progress of discovery has been gradual, from the less general to the shore general laws of nature; and that it would be singular, indeed, if, in the Philosophy of the Human Mind, a science, which but a few years ago was confessedly in its infancy, and which certainly labours under many disadvantages peculiar to itself, a step should, all at once, be made to a single principle comprehending all the particular phenomena which we know. Supposing such a theory to be completely established, it would still be proper to lead the minds of students to it by gradual steps. One of the most important uses of theory, is to give the memory a permanent hold, and a prompt command of the particular facts which we were previously acquainted with ; and no theory can be completely understood, unless the mind be led to it nearly in the order of investigation. It is more particularly useful in conducting the studies of others, to familiarize their minds, as completely as possible, with those laws of nature for which we have the direct evidence of sense, or of consciousness, before directing their inquiries to the more abstruse and refined generalizations of speculative curiosity. In natural philosophy,

supposing the theory of Boscovich to be true, it would still be proper, or rather indeed absolutely necessary, to accustom students, in the first stage of their physical education to dwell on those general physical facts which fall under our actual observation, and about which all the practical arts of life are conversant. In like manner, in the philosophy of mind, there are many general facts for which we have the direct evidence of consciousness. The words Attention, Conception, Memory, Abstraction, Imagination, Curiosity, Ambition, Compassion, Resentment, express powers and principles of our nature, which every man may study by reflecting on his own internal operations. Words corresponding to these, are to be found in all languages, and may be considered as forming the first attempt towards a philosophical classification of intellectual and moral phenomena. Such a classification, however imperfect and indistinct, we may be assured, must have some foundation in nature; and it is at least prudent, for a philosopher to keep it in view as the ground-work of his own arrangement. It not only directs our attention to those facts in the human constitution, on which every solid theory in this branch of science must be founded ; but to the facts, which, in all ages, have appeared to the common sense of mankind, to be the most striking and important; and of which it ought to be the great object of theorists, not to supersede, but to facilitate the study. There is indeed good reason for believing, that many of the facts, which our consciousness would iead us to consider, upon as uperficial view, as ultimate facts, are resolvable into other principles still more general. “Long before we “are capable of reflection,” (says Dr. Reid) “the origi“nal perceptions and notions of the mind are so mixed, “compounded and decompounded, by habits, associations, “and abstractions, that it is extremely difficult for the mind

« 上一頁繼續 »