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arts in neither can we safely rely on a local or transitory taste; but on what is the most general and the most lasting among polite
In this very manner, a standard for morals has been ascertained with a good deal of accuracy, and is daily applied by able judges with general satisfaction. The standard of taste in the fine arts is not yet brought to such perfection; and we can account for its slower progress: the sense of right and wrong in actions is vivid and distinct, because its objects are clearly distinguishable from each other; whereas the sense of right and wrong in the fine arts is faint and wavering, because its objects are commonly not so clearly distinguishable from each other; and there appears to me a striking final cause in thus distinguishing the moral sense from the sense of right and wrong in the fine arts. The former, as a rule of conduct, and as a law we ought to obey, must be clear and authoritative. The latter is not entitled to the same privilege, because it contributes to our pleasure and amusement only; were it strong and lively, it would usurp upon our duty, and call off the attention from matters of greater moment: were it clear and authoritative, it would banish all difference of taste, leaving no distinction between a refined taste and one that is not so; which would put an end to rival. ship, and consequently to all improvement.
But to return to our subject. However languid and cloudy the common sense of mankind may be as to the fine arts, it is notwithstanding the only standard in these as well as in morals. True it is indeed, that in gathering the common sense of mankind, more circumspection is requisite with repect to the fine arts than with respect to morals: upon the latter any person may be consulted; but in the former a wary choice is necessary, for to collect votes indifferently would certainly mislead us. Those who depend for food on bodily labour, are totally void of taste; of such a taste at least as can be of use in the fine arts. This consideration bars the greater part of mankind; and of the remaining part, many by a corrupted taste are unqualified for voting. The common sense of mankind must then be confined to the few that fall not under these exceptions. But as such selection seems to throw matters again into uncertainty, we must be more explicit upon this branch of our subject.
Nothing tends more than voluptuousness to corrupt the whole internal frame, and to vitiate our taste, not only in the fine arts, but even in morals. Voluptuousness never fails, in course of time, to extinguish all the sympathetic affections, and to bring on a beastly selfishness, which leaves nothing of man but the shape: about excluding such persons there will be no dispute. Let us next bring under trial the opulent who delight in expense. The appetite for superiority and respect, inflamed by riches, is vented upon costly furniture, numerous attendants, a princely dwelling, sumptuous feasts, every thing superb and gorgeous, to amaze and humble all beholders: simplicity, elegance, propriety, and things natural, sweet, or amiable, are despised or neglected; for these are not appropriated to the rich, nor make a figure in the public eye: in a
word, nothing is relished but what serves to gratify pride, by an imaginary exaltation of the possessor above those who surround him. Such sentiments contract the heart, and make every principle give way to self-love; benevolence and public spirit, with all their refined emotions, are little felt, and less regarded; and if these be excluded, there can be no place for the faint and delicate emotions of the fine
The exclusion of classes so many and numerous, reduces within a narrow compass those who are qualified to be judges in the fine arts. Many circumstances are necessary to form such a judge : there must be a good natural taste; that is, a taste approaching, at least in some degree, to the delicacy of taste above described ;* that taste must be improved by education, reflection, and experience; † it must be preserved in vigour by living regularly, by using the goods of fortune with moderation, and by following the dictates of improved nature, which give welcome to every rational pleasure, without indulging any excess. This is the tenor of life which of all contributes the most to refinement of taste; and the same tenor of life contributes the most to happiness in general.
If there appear much uncertainty in a standard that requires so painful and intricate a selection, we may possibly be reconciled to it by the following consideration, That, with respect to the fine arts, there is less difference of taste than is commonly imagined. Nature hath marked all her works with indelible characters of high or low, plain or elegant, strong or weak: these, if at all perceived, are seldom misapprehended; and the same marks are equally perceptible in works of art. A defective taste is incurable; and it hurts none but the possessor, because it carries no authority to impose upon others. I know not if there be such a thing as a taste naturally bad or wrong: a taste, for example, that prefers a grovelling pleasure before one that is high and elegant: grovelling pleasures are never preferred; they are only made welcome by those who
Chap. 2. part 2.
That these particulars are useful, it may be said necessary, for acquiring a discerning taste in the fine arts, will appear from the following facts, which shew the influence of experience singly. Those who live in the world, and in good company, are quick-sighted, with respect to every defect or irregularity in behaviour: the very slightest singularity in motion, in speech, or in dress, which to a peasant would be invisible, escapes not their observation. The most minute differences in the human countenance, so minute as to be far beyond the reach of words, are distinctly perceived by the plainest person; while at the same time, the generality have very little discernment in the faces of other animals to which they are less accustomed. Sheep, for example, appear to have all the same face, except to the shepherd, who knows every individual in his flock as he does his relations and neighbours. The very populace in Athens were critics in language, in pronunciation, and even in eloquence, harangues being their daily entertainment. In Rome, at present, the most illiterate shopkeeper is a better judge of statues and of pictures than persons of refined education in London. These facts afford convincing evidence, that a discerning taste depends still more on experience than on nature. But these facts merit peculiar regard for another reason, that they open to us a sure method of improving our taste in the fine arts; which, with those who have leisure for improvements, ought to be a powerful incitement to cultivate a taste in these arts: an occupation that cannot fail to embellish their manners and to sweeten society.
know no better. Differences about objects of taste, it is true, are endless; but they generally concern trifles, or possibly matters of equal rank, where preference may be given either way with impunity. If, on any occasion, persons differ where they ought not, a depraved taste will readily be discovered on one or other side, occasioned by imitation, custom, or corrupted manners, such as are described above. And considering that every individual partakes of a common nature, what is there that should occasion any wide difference in taste or sentiment? By the principles that constitute the sensitive part of our nature, a wonderful uniformity is preserved in the emotions and feelings of the different races of men; the same object making upon every person the same impression, the same in kind, if not in degree. There have been, as above observed, aberrations from these principles; but soon or late they prevail, and restore the wanderer to the right tract.
I know but of one other mean for ascertaining the common sense of mankind; which I mention, not in despair, but in great confidence of success. As the taste of every individual ought to be governed by the principles above-mentioned, an appeal to these principles must necessarily be decisive of every controversy that can arise upon matters of taste. In general, every doubt with relation to the common sense of man, or standard of taste, may be cleared by the same appeal; and to unfold these principles is the declared purpose of the present undertaking.
TERMS DEFINED OR EXPLAINED.
1. EVERY thing we perceive, or are conscious of, whether a being or a quality, a passion or an action, is with respect to the percipient, termed an object. Some objects appear to be internal, or within the mind; passion, for example, thinking, volition: some external, such as every object of sight, of hearing, of smell, of touch, of taste.
2. That act of the mind which makes known to me an external object is termed perception. That act of the mind which makes known to me an internal object is termed consciousness. The power or faculty from which consciousness proceeds is termed an internal sense. The power or faculty from which perception proceeds is termed an external sense. This distinction refers to the objects of our knowledge; for the senses, whether external or internal, are all of them powers or faculties of the mind.*
3. But as self is an object that cannot be termed either external or internal, the faculty by which I have knowledge of myself, is a sense that cannot properly be termed either internal or external.
4. By the eye we perceive figure, colour, motion, &c.: by the ear we perceive the different qualities of sound, high, low, loud, soft: by touch we perceive rough, smooth, hot, cold, &c. : by taste we perceive sweet, sour, bitter, &c.: by smell we perceive fragrant, fœtid, &c. These qualities partake the common nature of all qua lities, that they are not capable of an independent existence, but must belong to some being of which they are properties or attributes, A being with respect to its properties or attributes is termed a subject, or substratum. Every substratum of visible qualities, is termed substance; and of tangible qualities, body.
* I have complied with all who have gone before me in describing the senses internal and external to be powers or faculties; and yet, after much attention, I have not discovered any thing active in their operations to entitle them to that character. The following chain of thought has led me to hesitate. One being operates on another: the first is active, the other passive. If the first act, it must have a power to act: if an effect be produced on the other, it must have a capacity to have that effect produced upon it. Fire melts wax, ergo fire has a power to produce that effect: and wax must be capable to have the effect produced in it. Now as to the senses. A tree in flourish makes an impression on me, and by that means I see the tree but in this operation I do not find that the mind is active: seeing the tree is only an effect produced on it by intervention of the rays of light. What seems to have led us into an error is the word seeing, which, under the form of an active verb has a passive signification. I feel is a similar example; for to feel is certainly not to act, but the effect of being acted upon: the feeling pleasure is the effect produced in my mind when a beautiful object is presented. Perception accordingly is not an action, but an effect produced in the mind Sensation is another effect: it is the pleasure I feel upon perceiving what is agreeable.
5. Substance and sound are perceived as existing at a distance from the organ; often at a considerable distance. But smell, touch, and taste, are perceived as existing at the organ of sense.
6. The objects of external sense are various. Substances are perceived by the eye; bodies by the touch. Sounds, tastes, and smells, passing commonly under the name of secondary qualities, require more explanation than there is room for here. All the objects of internal sense are attributes; witness deliberation, reason. ing, resolution, willing, consenting, which are internal actions. Passions and emotions, which are internal agitations, are also attributes. With regard to the former, I am conscious of being active; with regard to the latter, I am conscious of being passive.
7. Again, we are conscious of internal action as in the head; of passions and emotions, as in the heart.
8. Many actions may be exerted internally, and many effects produced, of which we are unconscious: when we investigate the ultimate cause of the motion of the blood, and of other internal motions upon which life depends, it is the most probable opinion that some internal power is the cause; and if so, we are unconscious of the operations of that power. But consciousness being implied in the very meaning of deliberating, reasoning, resolving, willing, consenting, such operations cannot escape our knowledge. The same is the case of passions and emotions; for no internal agitation is denominated a passion or emotion, but what we are conscious of.
9. The mind is not always the same by turns it is cheerful, melancholy, calm, peevish, &c. These differences may not improperly be denominated tones.
10. Perception and sensation are commonly reckoned synonymous terms, signifying that internal act by which external objects are made known to us. But they ought to be distinguished. Perceiv ing is a general term for hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, smell. ing and therefore perception signifies every internal act by which we are made acquainted with external objects; thus we are said to perceive a certain animal, a certain colour, sound, taste, smell, &c. Sensation properly signifies that internal act by which we are made conscious of pleasure or pain felt at the organ of sense: thus we have a sensation of the pleasure arising from warmth, from a fragrant smell, from a sweet taste; and of. the pain arising from a wound, from a foetid smell, from a disagreeable taste. In percep tion, my attention is directed to the external object in sensation it is directed to the pleasure or pain I feel.
The terms perception and sensation are sometimes employed to signify the objects of perception and sensation. Perception in that sense is a general term for every external thing we perceive; and sensation a general term for every pleasure and pain felt at the organ of sense.
11. Conception is different from perception. The latter includes a conviction of the reality of its object: the former does not; for I can conceive the most extravagant stories told in a romance, without having any conviction of their reality. Conception differs also from imagination. By the power of fancy I can imagine a golden