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At the fame time, however, that we allow, that throughout the whole of this effay, our Author gives the moft ftriking proofs of fuperior genius, and displays a very extensive knowlege of the human mind, we cannot implicitly fubfcribe to the opinion of thofe, who pretend to think him preferable to every philofopher that has treated this fubject. As to an acquaintance with the world, indeed, and a penetration into the fecondary motives of human actions, few may compare with Helvetius.
Perhaps, in this refpect, Mr. Locke himfelf was much inferior; but as a metaphyfician, and philofopher, we appre hend the comparative merit of the Frenchman would be found greatly wanting. Our Author cannot, indeed, in many parts of his work, be accounted the most accurate reafoner. He does not always feem to have applied precife and diftinct ideas to his terms, nor is it very uncommon with him to forget the principles affumed, or to mistake them for others apparently fimilar, though with refpect to the argument extremely different. When he tells us, the minds of all men are equally capable of the fublimeft fentiments, and that they differ in their attainment of them from the different influence of the passions,—all which paffions take rife from our natural love of pleasure and hatred of pain; may it not be afked, what are love and hatred in themselves, but paffions? And can it be supposed, that any paffion doth itself arife merely from that which is its object? May it not alfo be very reasonably afked, whether a man, whofe paffions are naturally too weak to ftir him up to emulation, and excite in him a defire of knowlege, does not labour under a mental incapacity of acquiring fcientific and fublime idcas? For as to organization, we know not how far it extends, or where the limits of the body are united to those of the mind. Philofophers call fome kind of pleafures mental, (to diftinguish them perhaps from the gratification of our groffer appetites) but if we enjoy pleasures purely mental, a love of fuch pleasures must be natural to the mind itself, abftracted from all confideration of body, or its organization. In fact, body and mind are too intimately blended in our frame and conftitution for us to feparate them accurately, or trace the different properties or effects diftinctly.
But to come to the fourth effay, which treats of the different faculties, or rather of the different qualifications of the mind, and the effects of thofe operative faculties, variously
Our Author ftiles this difcourfe, Des différens noms donnés a l'efprit; and under this title defines, and examines into, those different
different properties of the mind called genius, imagination, wit, fenfe, and the feveral fubordinate fpecies, into which they are fubdivided. The nature of our work will not permit us to follow the Writer's plan regularly through the whole; we must therefore content ourfelves with giving our Readers a fhort extract or two, and with obferving, in general, that, in this part of his work, our Author appears no lefs profound as a philofopher, than pleafing as a man of taste and genius; having acquitted himself throughout in a manner at once ingenious, inftructive, and entertaining. The following remarks on the spirit of the age, and what is called good company, are lively, juft, and fatirical,
I have said, in the fecond difcourfe, that we can talk in company only on things, or perfons; that good company are commonly fuperficial; that they employ themfelves fcarcely about any thing but perfons; that praife is burdenfome to whoever is not the fubject of it, and that it makes the auditors yawn. Thus those who compofe the polite circles give a malignant interpretation to the actions of men, feize their • weak fide, turn into a jeft things the moft ferious, laugh at every thing, and throw a ridicule upon all ideas contrary to 'thofe agreeable to the company. The fpirit of conversation is then reduced to the talent of agreeable defamation, efpecially in this age, in which every body pretends to wit, and believes he has a great deal; in which no one can mention the fuperiority of another, without wounding the vanity of every one elfe; in which they distinguish the man of merit, from the man of mean abilities, only by the manner in which they defame him; in which they are in a manner agreed to ⚫ divide the nation into two claffes, the one that of brutes, 'who are the most numerous, the other that of fools, and C comprehend in this laft clafs all thofe whom they cannot help acknowleging to be poffeffed of abilities.
Befides, defamation is now the only refource they have left for praifing themselves and the company. Every one is defirous of doing this: whether he blames or approves, whether he speaks or is filent, he is always making his own apology; for every man is an orator, who, by his difcourfe, 6 or his actions, is perpetually making his own panegyric. There are two ways of praifing ourfelves; one, by faying things to our own advantage; the other, by speaking ill of our neighbours. Cicero, Horace, and in general, all the antients were more frank in their pretenfions, and openly gave themselves the praises they thought they deferved. Our age is become more delicate on this article. It is only by
the ill we fay of another, that we are now permitted to make C our own eulogium. It is by making a jeft of a fool, we inC directly boast our own wit. This manner of praifing ourfelves is doubtless the most directly oppofite to good manners, however it is the only one in ufe. Whoever fays of himself the good he thinks, is puffed up with pride, and every one fhuns him. Whoever, on the contrary, praises himself by the evil he fays of others, is a charming man; he is furrounded with grateful auditors; they fhare with him the praifes he indirectly gives himself, and inceflantly applaud the fine fpeeches which deliver them from the vexation of being obliged to offer incenfe to their own vanity. It appears, that, in general, the malignity of the world proceeds lefs from the defign of doing an injury, than from people's defire of raifing an opinion of their own merit. Thus this vice is eafily indulged and put in practice, not only by the polite, but by · men of narrow and contracted minds, whofe intentions are • ftill more odious. The man of merit knows, that the perfon of whom they fay no ill, is, in general, one of whom they can fay no good; that thofe who do not love to praife, have commonly been themfelves but little praised: he is, therefore, not defirous of their commendations: he confiders ftupidity as a misfortune, on which ftupidity always feeks to be revenged. "Let them prove no fact against "me," faid a man of great wit; "let them talk as ill of me "as they pleafe, I fhall not be forry for it; it is proper that
every one fhould amuse himself." But if philofophy pardons malice, it ought not, however, to applaud it. To these indiscreet applaufes we owe fuch a number of mifchievous perfons, who, in other refpects, are fometimes a very good fort of people. Flattered by the praises beftowed on malice, and by the reputation for wit which it procures, they do not know how to place a proper efteem on the goodness that is natural to them: they would render themselves formidable by the feverity of their fatire: they have unhappily fo much wit as to fucceed in it: they at first become wicked to give themfelves an air, and afterwards remain fo by habit.'
The distinctions which our Author makes between the feveral qualifications of genius, wit, understanding, &c. are alfo extremely judicious. In fpeaking of folid judgment, or a capacity of drawing just conclufions from principles understood, which he terms L'efprit jufte, he makes the following obferva
We cannot then confound genius and an extensive and profound knowlege with a true understanding, without ac• know
knowleging, that this laft is liable to miftake, when it relates to those complicated propofitions, where the discovery of * truth is the refult of many combinations; where, to fee dif tinctly it is necessary to see a great deal; and where justness of thought depends on its extent: thus, we commonly underftand by a true understanding, only that kind of knowlege • proper to draw juft, and sometimes new confequences, from ⚫ those opinions that are prefented to the mind, whether they are true or false.
In confequence of this definition, a folid understanding contributes little to the advancement of human knowlege; however, it merits fome efteem. He who, departing from principles or opinions admitted, draws from thence confequences that are always juft, and sometimes new, is an extraordinary man among the common people. He is even, in general, more efteemed by men of moderate abilities, than perfons of fuperior genius, who too often calling men to the examination of received principles, and tranfporting them into unknown regions, muft at one and the fame time offend their lazinefs, and wound their pride.
Befides, however juft the confequences may be, that are * drawn from a fentiment, or a principle: I fay, that far from • obtaining the name of a folid understanding, the person will always be mentioned as a fool, if that fentiment, or that principle, appears either ridiculous or foolish. A vapourish Indian imagined, that if he discharged his urine, he should ⚫ overflow all Bifnagar. In confequence of this opinion, this virtuous citizen, preferring the fafety of his country to his own health, continued to refrain from this neceffary dif charge; and was ready to perifh, when a physician, a man of wit, entered, feemingly in a great fright, into his chamber, "Narfinga, faid he, is in fames; it will foon be re"duced to ashes: make hafte and let the stream flow." At thefe words, the good Indian reasoned juftly, piffed, and paffed for a fool.
If fuch men are generally confidered as fools, it is not folely from the drawing their reasonings from false principles; but from principles that are reputed fuch. In fact, the Chinefe theologian, who proves the nine incarnations of Wifth¿ nou; and the muffulman, who, after the Koran, maintains that the earth is carried on the horns of a bull; certainly found their opinions on principles as ridiculous as those of my Indian; yet each of them, in his own country, is ⚫ efteemed a perfon of fenfe. What can be the reafon of this? It is because they maintain opinions generally received. In
<relation to religious truths, reafon lofes all her force against two grand miffionaries, example and fear. Befides, in all countries, the prejudices of the great are the laws of the little. This Chinese and this Muffulman pafs then for wife only because they are fools of the common folly. What I have faid of folly, I apply to ftupidity: he alone is mentioned as ftupid, who has not the stupidity in fashion.
Certain countrymen, it is faid, erected a bridge, and upon it carved this infcription, THE PRESENT BRIDGE IS BUILT HERE others refolved to draw a man out of a pit into which he had fallen, and letting down a cord with a flip-knot, pulled him out ftrangled. If ftupidity of this kind must always ⚫ excite laughter, how can we ferioufly hear the doctrines of the Bonzes, the Brachmans, and Tallapoins? Doctrines · as abfurd as the infcription on the bridge. How can we, ⚫ without laughter, fee the kings, the people, the ministers, and even the great men, proftrate themselves fometimes at the foot of idols, and fhew the moft profound veneration for ridiculous fables? How, in furveying voyages, can we avoid being aftonished at feeing the existence of forcerers and magicians, as generally believed as the exiftence of God, and pafs among moft nations for a truth equally certain? From what reafon, in fhort, do not different abfurdities, that are < equally ridiculous, make the fame impreffion upon us? It is becaufe people freely ridicule the ftupidity from which they think themselves exempt, because nobody repeats after the countrymen, "The prefent bridge is built here."
It is not, therefore, continues our Author, to abfurdity of reafoning in general, but to the abiurdities of a certain kind of reafoning, that we give the name of fupidity. Thus people give the name of ftupid to thofe whom they even allow to have a great genius. The knowlege of common things is the knowlege of common men; and fometimes the man of genius is, in this refpect, grofly ignorant.
Genius enlightens fome acres of that immenfe night, which furround little minds; but it does not enlighten all. I compare the man of genius to the pillar which marched before the Hebrews, and was fometimes dark and fometimes luminous. The great man, always fuperior in one kind of study, neceffarily wants abilities for many others; at least if we underftand here by abilities, an aptitude for inftruction, which perhaps may be confidered as knowlege begun. The great man, by the habit of application, the method of study, and • the diftinction he is led to make between an half-knowlege and oire that is entire, has certainly, in this refpect, a confiderable