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"I shall inquire into the original of those ideas, notions, or whatever else you please to call them, which a man observes and is conscious to himself he has in his mind; and the ways whereby the understanding comes to be furnished with them."
Locke, i. 1.3.
PHILOSOPHICAL inquiries into the human mind have for their main, and ultimate object, the exposition of its more complex phenomena.
It is necessary, however, that the simple should be premised; because they are the elements of which the complex are formed; and because a distinct knowledge of the elements is indispensable to an accurate conception of that which is compounded of them.
The feelings which we have through the external senses are the most simple, at least the most familiar, of the mental phenomena. Hence the propriety of commencing with this class of our feelings.
"I shall not at present meddle with the physical consideration of the mind, or trouble myself to examine wherein its essence consists; or by what motions of our spirits, or alterations of our bodies, we come to have any Sensation by our organs, or any Ideas in our understandings; and whether those ideas do in their formation, any or all of them, depend on matter or no. These are speculations which, however curious and entertaining, I shall decline, as lying out of my way in the design I am now upon."-Locke, i. 1, 2.
My object, in what I shall say respecting the phenomena classed under the head of SENSATION, is, to lead such of my readers as are new to this species of inquiry to conceive the feelings distinctly. All men are familiar with them; but this very familiarity, as the mind runs easily from one well known object to another, is a reason why the boundary between them and other feelings is not always observed. It is necessary, therefore, that the learner should by practice acquire
the habit of reflecting upon his Sensations, as a distinct class of feelings; and should be hence prepared to mark well the distinction between them and other states of mind, when he advances to the analysis of the more mysterious pheno
What we commonly mean, when we use the terms Sensation or phenomena of Sensation, are the feelings which we have by the five senses,SMELL, TASTE, HEARING, TOUCH, and SIGHT. These are the feelings from which we derive our notions of what we denominate the external world ;-the things by which we are surrounded that is, the antecedents of the most interesting consequents, in the whole series of feelings, which constitute our mental train, or existence.
The feelings, however, which belong to the five external Senses are not a full enumeration of the feelings which it seems proper to rank under the head of Sensations, and which must be considered as bearing an important part in those complicated phenomena, which it is our principal business, in this inquiry, to separate into their principal elements, and explain. Of these unnamed, and generally unregarded, Sensations, two principal classes may be distinguished :-first, Those which accompany the action of the several muscles of the body; and, secondly, Those which have their place in the Alimentary Canal.
It is not material to the present purpose in what order we survey the subdivisions of this elementary class of the mental phenomena. It will be convenient to take those first, which can be most easily thought of by themselves; that is, of which a conception, free from the mixture of any extraneous ingredient, can be most certainly formed. For this reason we begin with SMELL.
In the Smell three things are commonly distinguished. There is the ORGAN, there is the SENSATION, and there is the antecedent of the Sensation, the external OBJECT, as it is commonly denominated,* to which the Sensation is referred as an effect to its cause.
These three distinguishable particulars are common to all the five Senses. With regard to the ORGAN, which is a physical rather than a
* It is necessary here to observe, that I use, throughout this Inquiry, the language most commonly in use. This is attended with its disadvantages; for on the subject of mind the ordinary language almost always involves more or less of theory, which may or may not appear to me to correspond with the true exposition of the phenomena. The advantages, however, of not departing from familiar terms still appeared to me to preponderate; and I am willing to hope, that such erroneous suggestions, as are sometimes inseparable from the language I have thought it best upon the whole to employ, will be corrected, without any particular notice, by the analysis which I shall present.