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operate on language; as when a word is transferred from one object or event to another, merely because they happened both to engross public attention at the same period. The names applied to different colours, and to different articles of female dress, from the characters most prominent at the moment in the circles of fashion, afford sufficient instances of this species of association.
But, even where the transference cannot be censured as at all capricious, the application of the maxim in question will be found equally impracticable. This, I apprehend, happens in all the uses of language suggested by analogy; as when we speak of the morning of our days; of the chequered condition of human life; of the lights of science; or of the rise and the fall of empires. In all these instances, the metaphors are happy and impressive; but whatever advantages the poet or the orator may derive from them, the most accurate analysis of the different subjects thus brought into contact, will never enable the philosopher to form one new conclusion concerning the nature either of the one or of the other. I mention this particularly, because it has been too little attended to by those who have speculated concerning the powers of the Mind. The words which denote these powers are all borrowed (as I have already observed repeatedly) from material objects, or from physical operations; and it seems to have been very generally supposed, that this implied something common in the nature or attributes of Mind and of Matter. Hence the real origin of those analogical theories concerning the former,
Essay I. which, instead of advancing our knowledge with respect to it, have operated more powerfully than any other circumstances whatever, to retard the progress of that branch of science.
There are, however, no cases in which the transferences of words are more remarkable, than when the mind is strongly influenced, either by pleasurable or by painful sensations. The disposition we have to combine the causes of these, even when they arise from the accidental state of our own imagination or temper, with external objects presented simultaneously to our organs of perception; and the extreme difficulty, wherever our perceptions are complex, of connecting the effect with the particular circumstances on which it really depends, must necessarily produce a wide difference in the epithets which are employed by different individuals, to characterize the supposed sources of the pleasures and pains which they experience. These epithets, too, will naturally be borrowed from other more familiar feelings, to which they bear, or are conceived to bear some resemblance; and hence a peculiar vagueness and looseness in the language used on all such subjects, and a variety in the established modes of expression, of which it is seldom possible to give a satisfactory explanation.
2. But although by far the greater part of the transitive or derivative applications of words depend on casual and unaccountable caprices of the feelings or of the fancy, there are certain cases in which they open a very interesting field of philosophical speculation. Such are those, in which an analogous trans
ference of the corresponding term may be remarked universally, or very generally, in other languages; and in which, of course, the uniformity of the result must be ascribed to the essential principles of the human frame. Even in such cases, however, it will by no means be always found, on examination, that the various applications of the same term have arisen from any common quality, or qualities, in the objects to which they relate. In the greater number of instances, they may be traced to some natural and universal associations of ideas, founded in the common faculties, the common organs, and the common condition of the human race; and an attempt to investigate by what particular process this uniform result has been brought about, on so great a variety of occasions, while it has no tendency to involve us in the unintelligible abstractions of the schools, can scarcely fail to throw some new lights on the history of the human Mind.
I shall only add, at present, upon this preliminary topic, that, according to the different degrees of intimacy and of strength in the associations on which the transitions of language are founded, very different effects may be expected to arise. Where the association is slight and casual, the several meanings will remain distinct from each other, and will often, in process of time, assume the appearance of capricious varieties in the use of the same arbitrary sign. Where the association is so natural and habitual, as to become virtually indissoluble, the transitive meanings will coalesce into one complex conception; and every new transition will become a more
comprehensive generalization of the term in ques
With these views, I now proceed to offer a few observations on the successive generalizations of that word of which it is the chief object of this Essay to illustrate the import. In doing so, I would by no means be understood to aim at any new theory on the subject; but only to point out what seems to me to be the true plan on which it ought to be studied. If, in the course of this attempt, I shall be allowed to have struck into the right path, and to have suggested some useful hints to my successors, I shall feel but little solicitude about the criticisms to which I may expose myself, by the opinions I am to hazard on incidental or collateral questions, not essentially connected with my general design.
PROGRESSIVE GENERALIZATIONS OF THE WORD BEAUTY, RESULTING FROM THE NATURAL PROGRESS OF THE MIND.-BEAUTY OF COLOURS
OF MOTION.-COMBINATIONS OF THESE.-UNIFORMITY IN WORKS OF ART.-BEAUTY OF NATURE.
NOTWITHSTANDING the great variety of qualities, physical, intellectual, and moral, to which the word beauty is applicable, I believe it will be admitted, that, in its primitive and most general acceptation, it refers to objects of Sight. As the epithets sweet and delicious literally denote what is pleasing to the palate, and harmonious what is pleasing to the ear; as the epithets soft and warm denote certain qualities that are pleasing in objects of touch or of feeling;-so the epithet beautiful literally denotes what is pleasing to the eye. All these epithets, too, it is worthy of remark, are applied transitively to the perceptions of the other senses. We speak of sweet and of soft sounds; of warm, of delicious, and of harmonious colouring, with as little impropriety as of a beautiful voice, or of a beautiful piece of music.