Billeder på siden

to that alone it must look for all the improvement of which it is capable.


[ocr errors]


'A great deal of unpopularity has been incurred by this science from the extravagances or absurdities of those who have been engaged in it. When the mass of mankind hear that all thought is explained by vibrations and vibratiuncles of the brain, that there is no such thing as a material world, that what mankind consider as their arms and legs are not arms and legs, but ideas, accompanied with the notion of outness; that we have not only no bodies, but no minds,that we are nothing, in short, but currents of reflection and sensation; all this, I admit, is well calculated to approximate in the public mind the ideas of lunacy and intellectual philosophy. But if it be fair to argue against a science from the bad method in which it is prosecuted, such a mode of reasoning ought to have influenced mankind centuries ago to have abandoned all the branches of physics as utterly hopeless. I have surely an equal right to rake up the mouldy errors of all the other sciences, to reproach astronomy with its vortices, - chemistry with its philosopher's stone,-history with its fables,-law with its cruelty and ignorance, and if I were to open this battery against medicine, I do not know where I should stop. Zinzis Khan, when he was most crimsoned with blood, never slaughtered the human race as they have been slaughtered by rash and erroneous theories of medicine.

'If there be a real foundation for this science, if observation can do anything, and has not done all, there is room for hope, and reason for exertion. The extravagances by which it has been disgraced ought to warn us of the difficulty, without leading us to despair. To say there is no path, because we have often got into the wrong path, puts an end to all other knowledge as well as to this.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The truth is, it fares worse with this science than with many others, because its errors and extravagances are comprehended by so many. Every man is not necessarily an astronomer, but every man has some acquaintance with the operations of his own mind; and you cannot deviate grossly from the truth on these subjects without incurring his ridicule

and reprehension. This perhaps is one cause why errors of this nature have been somewhat unduly magnified.'

Nor less characteristic are the observations in confutation of the asserted tendency of the science to foster scepticism:

'Scepticism, which is commonly laid to the charge of this philosophy, may, in the first place, be fairly said to have done its worst. Bishop Berkeley destroyed this world in one volume octavo; and nothing remained after his time, but mind-which experienced a similar fate from the hand of Mr. Hume, in 1737; so that, with all the tendency to destroy, there remains nothing left for destruction: but I would fain ask if there be any one human being, from the days of Protagoras the Abderite to this present hour, who was ever for a single instant a convert to these subtle and ingenious follies? Is there any one out of Bedlam who doubts of the existence of matter? who doubts of his own personal identity? or of his consciousness, or of the general credibility of memory? Men talk on such subjects from ostentation, or because such wiredrawn speculations are an agreeable exercise to them; but they are perpetually recalled by the necessary business, and the inevitable feelings of life, to sound and sober opinions on these subjects. Errors, to be dangerous, must have a great deal of truth mingled with them; it is only from this alliance that they can ever obtain an extensive circulation; from pure extravagance, and genuine, unmingled falsehood, the world never has, and never can, sustain any mischief. It is not in our power to believe all that we please; our belief is modified and restrained by the nature of our faculties, and by the constitution of the objects by which we are surrounded. We may believe anything for a moment, but we shall soon be lashed out of our impertinence by hard and stubborn realities. A great philosopher may sit in his study, and deny the existence of matter; but if he goes to take a walk in the streets he must take care to leave his theory behind him. Pyrrho said there was no such thing as pain; and he saw no proof that there were such things as carts and waggons; and he refused

to get out of their way: but Pyrrho had, fortunately for him, three or four stout slaves, who followed their master, without following his doctrine, and whenever they saw one of these ideal machines approaching, took him by the arms and legs, and, without attempting to controvert his arguments, put him down in a place of safety.' (p. 7.)

The next extract is in a higher mood:

'But what are we to do? If the enemies of religion derive subtlety and acuteness from this pursuit, ought not their own weapons to be turned against them? And ought not some to study for defence if others do for the purposes of aggression? When the old anarch Hobbes came out to destroy the foundations of morals, who entered the lists against him? Not a man afraid of metaphysics, not a man who had become sceptical as he had become learned, but Ralph Cudworth, Doctor of Divinity; a man who had learned much from reading the errors of the human mind, and from deep meditation, its nature;-who made use of those errors to avoid them, and derived from that meditation principles too broad and too deep to be shaken; such a man was gained to the cause of morality and religion by these sciences. These sciences certainly made no infidel of Bishop Warburton, as Chubb, Morgan, Tindal, and half a dozen others found to their cost. Locke was no sceptic, nor was Lord Verulam. Malebranche and Arnauld were both of them exceedingly pious men. We none of us can believe that Dr. Paley has exercised his mind upon intellectual philosophy in vain. The fruits of it in him are sound sense, delivered so perspicuously, that a man may profit by it, and a child may comprehend it.

'I have already quoted too many names, but I must not omit one which would alone have been sufficient to have shown that there is no necessary connection between scepticism and the philosophy of the human mind: I mean Bishop Butler. To his sermons we are indebted for the complete overthrow of the selfish system, and to his "Analogy" for the most noble and surprising defence of revealed religion, perhaps, which has ever yet been made of any system what


In a yet finer style are the remarks on the proofs which the mind itself affords of a Divine Creatora subject not yet fully worked out, either by Dr. Chalmers or by any of the writers whom Dr. Turton has enumerated in his Natural Theology.' It requires, to do it full justice, the deliberate labours of a mind if ever there shall be such a prodigy uniting the metaphysical depth of Butler with Paley's felicity of representation :


'But there is no occasion to prop this argument up by great names. The school of natural religion is the contemplation of nature; the ancient anatomist, who was an Atheist, was converted by the study of the human body; he thought it impossible that so many admirable contrivances should exist, without an Intelligent Cause: and if men can become religious from looking at an entrail, or a nerve, can they be taught Atheism from analysing the structure of the human mind? Are not the affections and passions, which shake the very entrails of man, and the thoughts and feelings which dart along those nerves, more indicative of a God than the vile perishing instruments themselves? Can you remember the nourishment which springs up in the breast of a mother, and forget the feelings which spring up in her heart? If God made the blood of man, did he not make that feeling, which summons the blood to his face, and makes it the sign of guilt and of shame? You may show me a human hand, expatiate upon the singular contrivance of its sinews and bones-how admirable, how useful for all the purposes of grasp and flexure! I will show you, in return, the mind, receiving her tribute from the senses;-comparing, reflecting, compounding, dividing, abstracting;-the passions, soothing, aspiring, exciting, till the whole world falls under the dominion of man; evincing that in his mind the Creator has reared up the noblest emblem of his wisdom and his power. The philosophy of the human mind is no school for infidelity, but it excites the warmest feelings of piety, and defends them with the soundest reason.' (p. 11.)

The observations on the utility of mental science,

are distinguished by a judicious moderation, - the more admirable when it is considered that it is a nearly uniform tendency of the juvenile metaphysician to form exaggerated estimates of the practical value of his favourite pursuits. The distinguished man, at whose feet Sydney Smith had so reverently sat as pupil, had prophesied all sorts of splendid results from the more vigorous prosecution of the inductive science of Mind,—in relation particularly to education, legislation, and political economy. Such prospects, it need hardly be said, have not been realised; nor in our view are they likely to be. This branch of science will be always worthy of the profound study of an intelligent nature; for what, in truth, can be worthy of it, if the very structure and mechanism of that nature itself be not? These subjects challenge investigation on grounds quite apart from any presumed utility; just as there are many other things which we all study, and many study deeply, from the direct use of which not one in a million anticipates the actual making of two-pence. And as to the immediately practical bearings of Mental Philosophy on Education' in particular, we believe with Sydney Smith, that all the more important facts have been pretty patent to mankind for thousands of years. It may be added, that the application of these somewhat obvious facts depends much more on practical tact, skill, habit, patience, and not least, a conscience, than on any profound knowledge of their theory. The best schoolmasters, we suspect, have not been, nor are likely to be, the most refined mental analysts.

The real utility of mental science consists in its being a peculiar discipline, a valuable system of intellectual gymnastics, -in its immediate influence on

« ForrigeFortsæt »