Billeder på siden
[ocr errors]

he never doubted of a material world, or of other human bodies besides his own, so he never doubted of other human spirits like his own; he never shared in Descartes' experimental scepticism in such matters.

It is clear that in the passage in question he is referring to finite spirits not human, and invisible and inaccessible to us: we have a knowledge of God, he says, independently of revelation; but of any such spirits we have none except from that source. Of this we presume that few except those ancient conjurers who could smell spirits,' will have any doubt.*

Having thus defended Locke from what we deem M. Cousin's misconceptions- though we have by no means exhausted the catalogue candour requires us equally to admit that, on many points on which he has insisted in his exceedingly acute prelections, we should at once agree with him. We have said, indeed, that we admire most those parts of the lec

* We are sorry to see that M. Cousin's criticism is virtually repeated by Mr. Morell in his 'History of Modern Philosophy,' and the same passage of Locke is referred to for its justification. It can surely only have been from not examining the context. We may also remark that this author, in endeavouring to ascertain the sense which Locke attaches to the word 'ideas,' leaves one point doubtful which Locke has decided. 'That Locke,' says

[ocr errors]

he, believed all the apparatus of sensible species, intelligible species, and phantoms, as given by Aristotle, we think very improbable.' It is quite certain he did not, for he expressly disclaims it in his brief examination of Father Malebranche's theory. Though the peripatetic doctrine of the species does not at all satisfy me, yet I think it were not hard to show, that it is as easy to account for the difficulties Malebranche charges on it as for those his own hypothesis is laden with. But it being not my business to defend what I do not understand, nor to prefer the learned gibberish of the schools to what is yet unintelligible to me in P. M., I shall only take notice of so much of his objections, as concerns what I guess to be the truth.'

tures on Locke, in which our author forgets Locke altogether. Still, in our judgment, many of his strictures are just, and admirably expressed.

We must agree with M. Cousin, for example, that it would have been better, in point of method, if Locke, instead of plunging at once into the obscure question of the origin and genesis of human knowledge, had, like most metaphysicians since his time, first taken an exact survey of the phenomena and products of the mind after its development,-of its contents as they actually exist in its mature condition. Further, we must concede that the sharp line which Locke often seems to draw between the passive state of mere sensation and the development of the ideas of reflection as if there were an appreciable interval -is not philosophically correct: it would be more exact to say that, contemporaneously with sensation, the mind begins, in its turn, and according to its fundamental laws, to react on the materials of thought derived from sensation. It is really as impossible to imagine that the mind begins distinctly to feel without having the germs of thought stirred, as it would be to imagine that the dawning light falls on objects before they begin to reflect that light in different colours according to the properties of their material structure. If it be said that it is difficult to suppose any reflex knowledge of its own operations in the mind of infancy, we certainly agree to it; and it is equally impossible to suppose any distinct knowledge of its own sensations. To a distinct reflex consciousness of the former, many never come, and very imperfectly to the latter; but the mind may be essentially active notwithstanding. There will always, indeed, be a difficulty in imagining the commencement of any which is marked by the law of continuity, and


begins with movement infinitely little, whether the paradox present itself in the motion of matter or the motion of mind, in the outward or the intellectual world. Locke, however, cannot avoid the difficulty, nor pretends to do so; he himself says, 'If it be demanded, when man begins to have any ideas, I think the true answer is, when he first has any sensation.' He conceives, that ideas in the understanding are coeval with sensation.' They come pretty early then.


We must also agree with M. Cousin, that the earliest are far from being always, as Locke's historic analysis would often lead a reader to suppose, the simplest phenomena of mind: that, on the contrary, they are often of the most complex character-deeply convoluted, and requiring the subtlest analysis to disentangle them.

Neither can it, we think, be denied that Locke too habitually expresses himself in a way to justify the suspicion that he lays a disproportionate stress on the sensational elements of human knowledge. Now in the exposition of any theory which embraces complex phenomena, it is of immense importance that each of them be insisted on with a due regard to its relative significance. By a neglect of this caution, a very false impression may be produced, even though the views presented may be substantially correct; nay, it may even give to representations, in themselves true, all the effect of falsehood. Though error be not taught, the exaggeration of some one truth or the distortion of another, may produce on the reader much the same result as error; just as in morals or theology, it is observed, that those who too constantly treat their pupils only to one set of doctrines, true though they be, will often lead them to hold these doctrines so completely to the exclusion of others,-in fact, in

a way so subversive of important antagonistic truths, that they may produce nearly all the effects of pernicious falsehood.

A still more serious fault in Locke is what we may venture to call a tang, if not of materialism, of something that displays a latent tendency towards it. Some one says, 'His philosophy smells of the earth, earthy.' The expression is too strong, but has its excuse, if not its vindication. This tendency is not often seen, indeed, in his confounding the phenomena of mind, sensational or otherwise, with the mere material organisation or material conditions with which they are connected; for few metaphysicians have been more free from this gross physiological bias than himself. He in general vindicates to mind the things that are mind's,' with sufficient clearness and precision. An instance to the contrary, however, may be given in his ludicrously curt resolution of the phenomena of association by the aid of nervous mechanism, and the 'animal spirits;' which mysterious 'spirits,' in virtue of the smooth tramway they have worn in the course of their frequent peregrinations up and down the nervous filaments, move with ever increasing facility! This is an account of the matter, which, if we are not to regard the whole of his language on this subject as grossly metaphorical, must be called grossly material. But, be this as it may, can we wonder that folks attributed to some materialistic bias his pertinacious defence of the gratuitous thesis, that, for aught we know, thought may be among the possible endowments of matter?-the more provoking, inasmuch as he freely allows that all we know of our own or of any minds, implies, with the highest degree of moral certainty, that they are immaterial.

This hypothesis, equally useless and groundless, of a possible thinking matter leaves him without an adequate answer to the question of Stillingfleet, who, in that point, at least, has the better of his antagonist; 'How shall we know that our minds or that any minds are immaterial?' For since it is only by the entire difference of all the properties and phenomena which characterise matter and mind respectively that we infer them to be different substances, how shall we any longer distinguish them if one may be endowed with the properties of the other? If there may be a mind of a given number of cubic inches and of given density, how shall we be sure that our minds are not of the number? And (what is perhaps quite as important) how shall we know that every particle of matter has not thought and feeling attached to it as well as extension and impenetrability? for if there be thinking substances, say of a millionth of a millionth of an inch square, and of the specific gravity, say '000786 of hydrogen, we see no reason why there may not be also in any particle of dust some glimmering of sensation, abstraction, memory, and feeling! The utter absurdity of any such hypothesis as applied to the Supreme Intellect Locke freely acknowledges; but his reasoning is not very conclusive against an obstinate anthropomorphist, who should insist on the rashly assumed abstract possibilities of matter's being endowed with all the properties of thought! All the conditions of the argument ought to have led Locke, especially since he acknowledged the immensely preponderant probability of our own minds not being ma. terial, to renounce an hypothesis so gratuitous.

Locke takes refuge in the obscurity of our idea of substance. He seems to have supposed that one and the same substance might underlie the properties o

« ForrigeFortsæt »