« PreviousContinue »
any particular forms of substances, either here or elsewhere; but all particular forms of substances, together with our ideas of them, were derived from the general ideas of the intellectual world; so that a triangle was not a triangle, a square not a square, nor a circle a circle, because it had a particular material form, or relative dimensions; but because it partook, in a certain degree, of the qualities of the immutable idea of triangularity, squareness, or rotundity eternally existing in the divine mind *.
10. When men once renounce the evidence of their senses, either in believing or doubting, there is nothing which they may not believe or doubt with perfect consistency. If we can once persuade ourselves that, because ideas have no resemblance to their material objects, they may have arisen in the mind without them, we may certainly believe or disbelieve the existence of those material objects, as we please; for our feelings and perceptions are certainly internal; nor can we at all tell how they are connected with any thing external; the mode of conveyance, between the organs of sense and those of perception, being beyond the reach of human discovery. That there is some mode of conveyance the constant recurrence
See Phædon, et de Republicâ, lib, x,
of particular associations proves to the satisfaction of ordinary men: but if learned philosophers choose to doubt it, because it is not demonstrable, they must doubt on. Scepti
cism has never attempted to make proselytes by fire or sword, and is therefore at least an innocent absurdity compared with its antagonist bigotry.
11. All its wandering clouds of confusion. and perplexity seem to have arisen from employing the Greek word idea, sometimes in its proper sense to signify a mental image or vision, and sometimes in others the most adverse and remote, to signify perception, remembrance, notion, knowledge, and almost every other operation, or result of operation, of which mind is capable. Of motion, for instance, in a particular object, we have a perception when we see or feel it move, and a remembrance afterwards: but of the motion of the earth, either on its axis or in its orbit, we have neither perception nor remembrance, but only a notion, acquired by comparative deductions from other perceptions: while of motion in general we have no particular perception, remembrance or notion; but only general knowledge collected and abstracted from all. Of neither, however, have we any idea, if by idea be meant mental image or resemblance: but, nevertheless, to infer from
thence that we have no adequate perception, remembrance, notion, or knowledge either of motion or body, seems as adverse to sound philosophy as to common sense; there being no more reason why a notion should resemble a perception; a perception, a sensation, or a sensation its object, than that an exertion should resemble an arm; an arm, a lever; or a lever, a weight; nor is it less absurd to make the want of resemblance between the cause, the means, and the end, a ground for doubting the reality of either, in the one case, than in the other *. I could therefore wish to drop or modify the use of the word idea: but it has become too general and established for an individual to attempt it; and I have only to intreat the reader to keep these distinctions in his mind, and apply them occasionally.
12. Among the pleasures of sense, more particularly among those belonging to touch, there is a certain class, which, though arising from negative causes, are nevertheless real and positive pleasures: as when we gradually sink from any violent or excessive degree of action or irritation into a state of tranquillity and re
Since the above was written, a very able and eloquent advocate of the ideal system has appeared in the Right Hon. W. Drummond, whose "Academical Questions" I have read with much delight and instruction, if not with conviction.
pose: I say gradually; for if the transition be sudden and abrupt, it will not be pleasant; the pleasure arising from the inverted action. of the nerves, and not from the utter cessation of action.
13. From this inverted action arises the gratification which we receive from a cool breeze, when the body has been excessively heated; or from the rocking of a cradle, or the gentle motion of a boat, or easy carriage, after having been fatigued with violent exercise. Such, too, is that which twilight, or the gloomy shade of a thicket, affords to the eye, after it has been dazzled with the blaze of the mid-day sun; and such, likewise, is that, which the ear receives, from the gradual diminution of loudness of tone in music; and it is by alternately ascending and descending this scale, that what is called (by a metaphor taken from painting) the chromatic in that art, is produced: but why the sensation caused by the ascent of the scale should be called pleasure, and that caused by its descent, delight, as distinguished by an eminent writer*, I cannot discover.
* Sublime and Beautiful, P. I. f. iv.
1. SOUND is produced by the vibrations of elastic air or some other fluid contained in it, and communicated to the interior organs of perception by means of the drum of the ear and auditory nerves; which are formed by nature with a peculiar kind of irritability suited to such vibrations, which have no effect on any other part of the body, how exquisite soever its sensibility may be. They have, nevertheless, a very strong and marked effect upon the hardest substances in nature, provided they are such as are capable of receiving vibrations in unison: whence sound will break a glass, at the same time, that it cannot move a feather or the flame of a candle; nor make any perceptible impression upon the ball of the eye.
2. Its vibrations, indeed, seem to be communicable to every hard and elastic substance; as appears from the ticking of a watch, or any other minute sound being conveyed to almost any distance by a pole or wire extending from the sonorous object to the ear. Where the drum of that organ, too, is diseased; and the sense of hearing consequently lost or impaired, the lowest whisper will, nevertheless, be dis