Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 62, No. 382, October 1847
Author: Various
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These observations exhibit, in their loftiest generalisation, the two counter doctrines on the subject of perception. We now propose to follow them into their details, for the purpose both of eliciting the truth and of arriving at a correct judgment in regard to the reformation which Dr Reid is supposed to have effected in this department of philosophy.

The psychological or analytic doctrine is the first which we shall discuss, on account of its connexion with the investigations of Dr Reid,—in regard to whom we may state, beforehand, our conclusion and its grounds, which are these:—that Reid broke down in his philosophy, both polemical and positive, because he assumed the psychological and not the metaphysical doctrine of perception as the basis of his arguments. He did not regard the perception of matter as absolutely primary and simple; but in common with all psychologists, he conceived that it admitted of being resolved into a mental condition, and a material reality; and the consequence was, that he fell into the very errors which it was the professed business of his life to denounce and exterminate. How this catastrophe came about we shall endeavour shortly to explain.

Reid's leading design was to overthrow scepticism and idealism. In furtherance of this intention, he proposed to himself the accomplishment of two subsidiary ends,—the refutation of what is called the ideal or representative theory of perception, and the substitution of a doctrine of intuitive perception in its room. He takes, and he usually gets, credit for having accomplished both of these objects. But if it be true that the representative theory is but the inevitable development of the doctrine which treats the perception of matter analytically, and if it be true that Reid adopts this latter doctrine, it is obvious that his claims cannot be admitted without a very considerable deduction. That both of these things are true may be established, we think, beyond the possibility of a doubt.

In the first place, then, we have to show that the theory of a representative perception (which Reid is supposed to have overthrown) is identical with the doctrine which treats the perception of matter analytically;—and, in the second, we have to show that Reid himself followed the analytic or psychological procedure in his treatment of this fact, and founded upon the analysis his own doctrine of perception.

First, The representative theory is that doctrine of perception which teaches that, in our intercourse with the external universe, we are not immediately cognisant of real objects themselves, but only of certain mental transcripts or images of them, which, in the language of the different philosophical schools, were termed ideas, representations, phantasms, or species. According to this doctrine we are cognisant of real things, not in and through themselves, but in and through these species or representations. The representations are the immediate or proximate, the real things are the mediate or remote, objects of the mind. The existence of the former is a matter of knowledge, the existence of the latter is merely a matter of belief.

To understand this theory, we must construe its nomenclature into, the language of the present day. What, then, is the modern synonym for the "ideas," "representations," "phantasms," and "species," which the theory in question declares to be vicarious of real objects? There cannot be a doubt that the word perception is that synonym. So that the representative theory, when fairly interpreted, amounts simply to this;—that the mind is immediately cognisant, not of real objects themselves, but only of its own perceptions of real objects. To accuse the representationist of maintaining a doctrine more repugnant to common sense than this, or in any way different from it, would be both erroneous and unjust. The golden rule of philosophical criticism is, to give every system the benefit of the most favourable interpretation which it admits of.

This, then, is the true version of representationism,—namely, that our perceptions of material things, and not material things per se, are the proximate objects of our consciousness when we hold intercourse with the external universe.

Now, this is a doctrine which inevitably emerges the instant that the analysis of the perception of matter is set on foot and admitted. When a philosopher divides, or imagines that he divides, the perception of matter into two things, perception and matter, holding the former to be a state of his own mind, and the latter to be no such state; he does, in that analysis, and without saying one other word, avow himself to be a thoroughgoing representationist. For his analysis declares that, in perception, the mind has an immediate or proximate, and a mediate or remote object. Its perception of matter is the proximate object—the object of its consciousness; matter itself, the material existence, is the remote object—the object of its belief. But such a doctrine is representationism, in the strictest sense of the word. It is the very essence and definition of the representative theory to recognise, in perception, a remote as well as a proximate object of the mind. Every system which does this, is necessarily a representative system. The doctrine which treats the perception of matter analytically does this; therefore the analytic or psychological doctrine is identical with the representative theory. Both hold that the perceptive process involves two objects—an immediate and a mediate; and nothing more is required to establish their perfect identity. The analysis of the fact which we call the perception of matter, is unquestionably the groundwork and pervading principle of the theory of a representative perception, whatever form of expression this scheme may at any time have assumed.

Secondly, Did Dr Reid go to work analytically in his treatment of the perception of matter? Undoubtedly he did. He followed the ordinary psychological practice. He regarded the datum as divisible into perception and matter. The perception he held to be an act, if not a modification, of our minds; the matter, he regarded as something which existed out of the mind and irrespective of all perception. Right or wrong, he resolved, or conceived that he had resolved, the perception of matter into its constituent elements—these being a mental operation on the one hand, and a material existence on the other. In short, however ambiguous many of Dr Reid's principles may be, there can be no doubt that he founded his doctrine of perception on an analysis of the given fact with which he had to deal. He says, indeed, but little about this analysis, so completely does he take it for granted. He accepted, as a thing of course, the notorious distinction between the perception of matter and matter itself: and, in doing so, he merely followed the example of all preceding psychologists.

These two points being established,—first, that the theory of representationism necessarily arises out of an analysis of the perception of matter; and secondly, that Reid analysed or accepted the analysis of this fact,—it follows as a necessary consequence, that Reid, so far from having overthrown the representative theory, was himself a representationist. His analysis gave him more than he bargained for. He wished to obtain only one, that is, only a proximate object in perception; but his analysis necessarily gave him two: it gave him a remote as well as a proximate object. The mental mode or operation which he calls the perception of matter, and which he distinguishes from matter itself, this, in his philosophy, is the proximate object of consciousness, and is precisely equivalent to the species, phantasms, representations of the older psychology; the real existence, matter itself, which he distinguishes from the perception of it, this is the remote object of the mind, and is precisely equivalent to the mediate or represented object of the older psychology. He and therepresentationists, moreover, agree in hold ing that the latter is the object of belief rather than of knowledge.

The merits of Dr Reid, then, as a reformer of philosophy, amount in our opinion to this:—he was among the first[23] to say and to write that the representative theory of perception was false and erroneous, and was the fountainhead of scepticism and idealism. But this admission of his merits must be accompanied by the qualification that he adopted, as the basis of his philosophy, a principle which rendered nugatory all his protestations. It is of no use to disclaim a conclusion if we accept the premises which inevitably lead to it. Dr Reid disclaimed the representative theory, but he embraced its premises, and thus he virtually ratified the conclusions of the very system which he clamourously denounced. In his language, he is opposed to representationism, but in his doctrine, he lends it the strongest support, by accepting as the foundation of his philosophy an analysis of the perception of matter.

In regard to the second end which Dr Reid is supposed to have overtaken,—the establishment of a doctrine of intuitive as opposed to a doctrine of representative perception, it is unnecessary to say much. If we have proved him to be a representationist, he cannot be held to be an intuitionist. Indeed, a doctrine of intuitive perception is a sheer impossibility upon his principles. A doctrine of intuition implies that the mind in perceiving matter has only one, namely, a proximate object. But the analysis of the perception of matter yields as its result, a remote as well as a proximate object. The proximate object is the perception—the remote object is the reality. And thus the analysis of the given fact necessarily renders abortive every endeavour to construct a doctrine of intuitive perception. The attempt must end in representationism. The only basis for a doctrine of intuitive perception which will never give way, is a resolute forbearance from all analysis of the fact. Do not tamper with it, and you are safe.

Such is the judgment which we are reluctantly compelled to pronounce on the philosophy of Dr Reid in reference to its two cardinal claims—the refutation of the ideal theory, and the establishment of a truer doctrine—a doctrine of intuitive perception. In neither of these undertakings do we think that he has succeeded, and we have exhibited the grounds of our opinion. We do not blame him for this: he simply missed his way at the outset. Representationism could not possibly be avoided, neither could intuitionism be possibly fallen in with, on the analytic road which he took.

But we have not yet done with the consideration of the psychological or analytic doctrine of perception. We proceed to examine the entanglements in which reason gets involved when she accepts the perception of matter not in its natural and indissoluble unity, but as analysed by philosophers into a mental and a material factor. We have still an eye to Dr Reid. He came to the rescue of reason—how did it fare with him in the struggle?

The analysis so often referred to affords a starting point, as has been shown, to representationism: it is also the tap-root of scepticism and idealism. These four things hang together in an inevitable sequence. Scepticism and idealism dog representationism, and representationism dogs the analysis of the perception of matter, just as obstinately as substance is dogged by shadow. More explicitly stated, the order in which they move is this:—The analysis divides the perception of matter into perception and matter—two separate things. Upon this, representationism declares, that the perception is the proximate and that the matter is the remote object of the mind. Then scepticism declares, that the existence of the matter which has been separated from the perception is problematical, because it is not the direct object of consciousness, and is consequently hypothetical. And, last of all, idealism takes up the ball and declares, that this hypothetical matter is not only problematical, but that it is non-existent. These are the perplexities which rise up to embarrass reason whenever she is weak enough to accept from philosophers their analysis of the perception of matter. They are only the just punishment of her infatuated facility. But what has Reid done to extricate reason from her embarrassments?

We must remember that Reid commenced with analysis, and that consequently he embraced representationism,—in its spirit, if not positively in its letter. But how did he evade the fangs of scepticism and idealism—to say nothing of destroying—these sleuth-hounds which on this road were sure to be down upon his track the moment they got wind of him? We put the question in a less figurative form,—When scepticism and idealism doubted or denied the independent existence of matter, how did Reid vindicate it? He faced about and appealed boldly to our instinctive and irresistible belief in its independent existence.

The crisis of the strife centres in this appeal. In itself, the appeal is perfectly competent and legitimate. But it may be met, on the part of the sceptic and idealist, by two modes of tactic. The one tactic is weak, and gives an easy triumph to Dr Reid: the other is more formidable, and, in our opinion, lays him prostrate.

The first Sceptical Tactic. In answer to Dr Reid's appeal, the sceptic or idealist may say, "Doubtless we have a belief in the independent existence of matter; but this belief is not to be trusted. It is an insufficient guarantee for that which it avouches. It does not follow that a thing is true because we instinctively believe it to be true. It does not follow that matter exists because we cannot but believe it to exist. You must prove its existence by a better argument than mere belief."—This mode of meeting the appeal we hold to be pure trifling. We join issue with Dr Reid in maintaining that our nature is not rooted in delusion, and that the primitive convictions of common sense, must be accepted as infallible. If the sceptic admits that we have a natural belief in the independent existence of matter, there is an end to him: Dr Reid's victory is secure. This first tactic is a feeble and mistaken manoeuvre.

The Second Sceptical Tactic. This position is not so easily turned. The stronghold of the sceptic and idealist is this: they deny the primitive belief to which Dr Reid appeals to be the fact. It is not true, they say, that any man believes in the independent existence of matter. And this is perfectly obvious the moment that it is explained. Matter in its independent existence, matter per se, is matter disengaged in thought from all perception of it present or remembered. Now, does any man believe in the existence of such matter? Unquestionably not. No man by any possibility can. What the matter is which man really believes in shall be explained when we come to speak of the metaphysical solution of the problem—perhaps sooner. Meanwhile we remark that Dr Reid's appeal to the conviction of common sense in favour of the existence of matter per se, is rebutted, and in our opinion triumphantly, by the denial on the part of scepticism and idealism that any such belief exists. Scepticism and idealism not only deny the independent existence of matter, but they deny that any man believes in the independent existence of matter. And in this denial they are most indubitably right. For observe what such a belief requires as its condition. A man must disengage in thought, a tree, for instance, from the thought of all perception of it, and then he must believe in its existence thus disengaged. If he has not disengaged, in his mind, the tree from its perception, (from its present perception, if the tree be before him—from its remembered perception, if it be not before him,) he cannot believe in the existence of the tree disengaged from its perception; for the tree is not disengaged from its perception. But unless he believes in the existence of the tree disengaged from its perception, he does not believe in the independent existence of the tree,—in the existence of the tree per se. Now, can the mind by any effort effect this disengagement? The thing is an absolute impossibility. The condition on which the belief hinges cannot be purified, and consequently the belief itself cannot be entertained.

People have, then, no belief in the independent existence of matter—that is, in the existence of matter entirely denuded of perception. This point being proved, what becomes of Dr Reid's appeal to this belief in support of matter's independent existence? It has not only no force; it has no meaning. This second tactic is invincible. Scepticism and idealism are perfectly in the right when they refuse to accept as the guarantee of independent matter a belief which itself has no manner of existence. How can they be vanquished by an appeal to a nonentity?

A question may here be raised. If the belief in question be not the fact, what has hitherto prevented scepticism from putting a final extinguisher on Reid's appeal by proving that no such belief exists? A very sufficient reason has prevented scepticism, from doing this—from explicitly extinguishing the appeal. There is a division of labour in speculation as well as in other pursuits. It is the sceptic's business simply to deny the existence of the belief: it is no part of his business to exhibit the grounds of his denial. We have explained these grounds; but were the sceptic to do this, he would be travelling out of his vocation. Observe how the case stands. The reason why matter per se is not and cannot be believed in, is because it is impossible for thought to disengage matter from perception, and consequently it is impossible for thought to believe in the disengaged existence of matter. The matter to be, believed in is not disengaged from the perception, consequently it cannot be believed to be disengaged from the perception. But unless it be believed to be disengaged from the perception, it cannot be believed to exist per se. In short, as we have already said, the impossibility of complying with the condition of the belief is the ground on which the sceptic denies the existence of the belief. But the sceptic is himself debarred from producing these grounds. Why? Because their exhibition would be tantamount to a rejection of the principle which he has accepted at the hands of the orthodox and dogmatic psychologist. That principle is the analysis so often spoken of—the separation, namely, of the perception of matter into perception and matter per se. The sceptic accepts this analysis. His business is simply to accept, not to discover or scrutinise principles. Having accepted the analysis, he then denies that any belief attaches to the existence of matter per se. In this he is quite right. But he cannot, consistently with his calling, exhibit the ground of his denial; for this ground is, as we have shown, the impossibility of performing the analysis,—of effecting the requisite disengagement. But the sceptic has accepted the analysis, has admitted the disengagement. He therefore cannot now retract: and he has no wish to retract. His special mission—his only object is to confound the principle which he has accepted by means of the reaction of its consequence. The inevitable consequence which ensues when the analysis of the perception of matter is admitted is the extinction of all belief in the existence of matter. The analysis gives us a kind of matter to believe in to which no belief corresponds. The sceptic is content with pronouncing this to be the fact without going into its reason. It is not his business to correct, by a direct exposure, the error of the principle which the dogmatist lays down, and which he accepts. The analysis is the psychologist's affair; let him look to it. Were the sceptic to make it his, he would emerge, from the sceptical crisis, and pass into a new stage of speculation. He, indeed, subverts it indirectly by a reductio ad absurdum. But he does not say that he subverts it—he leaves the orthodox proposer of the principle to find that out.

Reid totally misconceived the nature of scepticism and idealism in their bearings on this problem. He regarded them as habits of thought—as dispositions of mind peculiar to certain individuals of vexatious character and unsound principles, instead of viewing them as catholic eras in the development of all genuine speculative thinking. In his eyes they were subjective crotchets limited to some, and not objective crises common to all, who think. He made personal matters of them—a thing not to be endured. For instance, in dealing with Hume, he conceived that the scepticism which confronted him in the pages of that great genius, was Hume's scepticism, and was not the scepticism of human nature at large,—was not his own scepticism just as much as it was Hume's. His soul, so he thought, was free from the obnoxious flaw, merely because his anatomy, shallower than Hume's, refused to lay it bare. With such views it was impossible for Reid to eliminate scepticism and idealism from philosophy. These foes are the foes of each man's own house and heart, and nothing can be made of them if we attack them in the person of another. Ultimately and fairly to get rid of them, a man must first of all thoroughly digest them, and take them up into the vital circulation of his own reason. The only way of putting them back is by carrying them forward.

From having never properly secreted scepticism and idealism in his own mind, Reid fell into the commission of one of the gravest errors of which a philosopher can be guilty. He falsified the fact in regard to our primitive beliefs—a thing which the obnoxious systems against which he was fighting never did. He conceived that scepticism and idealism called in question a fact which was countenanced by a natural belief; accordingly, he confronted their denial with the allegation that the disputed fact—the existence of matter per se—was guaranteed by a primitive conviction of our nature. But this fact receives no support from any such source. There is no belief in the whole repository of the mind which can be fitted on to the existence of matter denuded of all perception. Therefore, in maintaining the contrary, Reid falsified the fact in regard to our primitive convictions—in regard to those principles of common sense which he professed to follow as his guide. This was a serious slip. The rash step which he here took plunged him into a much deeper error than that of the sceptic or idealist. They err[24] in common with him in accepting as their starting-point the analysis of the perception of matter. He errs, by himself, in maintaining that there is a belief where no belief exists.

But do not scepticism and idealism doubt matter's existence altogether, or deny to it any kind of existence? Certainly they do; and in harmony with the principle from which they start they must do this. The only kind of matter which the analysis of the perception of matter yields, is matter per se. The existence of such matter is, as we have shown, altogether uncountenanced either by consciousness or belief. But there is no other kind of matter in the field. We must therefore either believe in the existence of matter per se, or we must believe in the existence of no matter whatever. We do not, and we cannot believe in the existence of matter per se; therefore, we cannot believe in the existence of matter at all. This is not satisfactory, but it is closely consequential.

But why not, it may be said—why not cut the knot, and set the question at rest, by admitting at once that every man does, popularly speaking, believe in the existence of matter, and that he practically walks in the light of that belief during every moment of his life? This observation tempts us into a digression, and we shall yield to the temptation. The problem of perception admits of being treated in three several ways: first, we may ignore it altogether,—we may refuse to entertain it at all; or, secondly, we may discuss it in the manner just proposed—we may lay it down as gospel that everyman does believe in the existence of matter, and acts at all times upon this conviction, and we may expatiate diffusely over these smooth truths; or, thirdly, we may follow and contemplate the subtle and often perplexed windings which reason takes in working her way through the problem—a problem which, though apparently clearer than the noonday sun, is really darker than the mysteries of Erebus. In short, we may speculate the problem. In grappling with it, we may trust ourselves to the mighty current of thinking, with all its whirling eddies,—certain that if our thinking be genuine objective thinking, which deals with nothing but ascertained facts—it will bring us at last into the haven of truth. We now propose to consider which of these modes of treating the problem is the best; we shall begin by making a few remarks upon the second, for it was this which brought us to a stand, and seduced us into the present digression.

It is, no doubt, perfectly true, that we all believe in the existence of matter, and that we all act up to this belief. But surely that statement is not a thing, to be put into a book and sold. It is not even a thing which one man is entitled to tell gratuitously to another man who knows it just as well as he does. It must be admitted upon a moment's reflection, that to communicate such information is to trifle with people's patience in an intolerable degree, is to trespass most abominably upon public or upon private indulgence. What, then, shall we say, when we find this kind of truth not only gravely imparted, but vehemently reiterated and enforced by scientific men, as it is in the pages of Dr Reid and other celebrated expounders of the philosophy of the human mind? We shall only say, that the economy of science is less understood than that of commerce; and that while material articles, such as air and sunshine, which are accessible to all, are for that reason excluded from the market of trade, many intellectual wares, which are at least equally accessible, are most preposterously permitted to have a place in the market of science. Such wares are the instinctive principles of Dr Reid. To inform a man that the material universe exists, and that he believes in its existence, is to take for granted that he is an idiot.

The circumstance which led the philosophers of Common Sense to traffic in this kind of article, was perhaps the notion that truths had a value in communication in proportion to their importance to mankind. But that is a most mistaken idea. The most important truths have absolutely no value in communication. The truth that "each of us exists"—the truth "that each of us is the same person to-day that he was yesterday," the truth that "a material universe exists, and that we believe in its existence,"—all these are most important truths—most important things to know. It is difficult to see how we could get on without this knowledge. Yet they are not worth one straw in communication. And why not? Just for the same reason that atmospheric air, though absolutely indispensable to our existence, has no value whatever in exchange—this reason being that we can get, and have already got, both the air and the truths, in unlimited abundance for nothing,—and thanks to no man. Why give a man what he has already got to his heart's content—why teach him what he already knows even to repletion?

It is not its importance, then, which confers upon truth its value in communication. In other words, it is a most superfluous civility for one man to impart truth to another, solely because it happens to be important. If the important truth be already perfectly well known to the recipient, and if the imparter of it is aware that the recipient knows it just as well as he does,—"thank you for nothing" is, we think, the mildest reply that could be made in the circumstances. The fact is, that the value of truth is measured by precisely the same standard which determines the value of wealth. This standard is in neither case the importance of the article,—it is always its difficulty of attainment,—its cost of production. Has labour been expended on its formation or acquisition; then the article, if a material commodity, has a value in exchange—if a truth, it has a value in communication. Has no labour been bestowed upon it, and has Nature herself furnished it to every human being in overflowing abundance, then the thing is altogether destitute of exchange-value—whether it be an article of matter or of mind. No man can, without impertinence, transmit or convey such a commodity to his neighbour.

If this be the law on the subject, (and we conceive that it must be so ruled) it settles the question as to the second mode of dealing with the problem of perception. It establishes the point that this method of treating the problem is not to be permitted. It is tabooed by the very nature of things. Air and sunshine are excellent and most important articles, but they are not things to carry to market in bottles,—because no labour is required to produce them, and because they are the gratuitous and abundant property of every living soul. In the same way, the existence of a material universe—and the fact that we believe in its existence—these are most important truths; but they are not things to take to market in books, and for a like reason. They are important things to know, but they are not important things to tell. We conceive, in short, that Nature, by rendering these and similar truths unreservedly patent to the whole human race, has affixed to them her own contraband,—interdicting their communication; and that Dr Reid, in making them the staple of his publications, was fighting against an eternal law. He undertook to teach the world certain truths connected with perception, which by his own admission the world already knew just as well as he did—and which required no labour for their production. This way of going to work with any problem, is certainly not the best. These remarks settle, we think, the general pretensions of the philosophy of Common Sense. In justice, however, to this philosophy, we must not omit to mention, that Sir William Hamilton has adduced the evidence of no less than one hundred and six witnesses, whose testimony goes to establish that it is a [Greek: ktema es aei]—a perpetual possession, "a joy for ever."

The first and third modes of dealing with our problem remain to be considered. The first mode ignores the problem altogether, it refuses to have any thing to do with it. Perhaps this mode is the best of the three. We will not say that it is not: it is at any rate preferable to the second. But once admit that philosophy is a legitimate occupation, and this mode must be set aside, for it is a negation of all philosophy. Every thing depends upon this admission. But the admission is, we conceive, a point which has been already, and long ago decided. Men must and will philosophise. That being the case, the only alternative left is, that we should discuss the highest problem of philosophy in the terms of the third mode proposed. We have called this the speculative method—which means nothing more than that we should expend upon the investigation the uttermost toil and application of thought; and that we should estimate the truths which we arrive at, not by the scale of their importance, but by the scale of their difficulty of attainment,—of their cost of production. Labour, we repeat it, is the standard which measures the value of truth, as well as the value of wealth.

A still more cogent argument in favour of the strictly speculative treatment of the problem is this. The problem of perception may be said to be a reversed problem. What are the means in every other problem, are in this problem the end—and what is the end in every other problem, is in this problem the means. In every other problem the solution of the problem is the end desiderated: the means are the thinking requisite for its solution. But here the case is inverted. In our problem the desiderated solution is the means, the end is the development, or, we should rather say, the creation of speculative thought—a kind of thought different altogether from ordinary popular thinking. "Oh! then," some one will perhaps exclaim, "after all, the whole question about perception resolves it into a mere gymnastic of the mind." Good sir—do you know what you are saying? Do you think that the mind itself is any thing except a mere gymnastic of the mind. If you do—you are most deplorably mistaken. Most assuredly the mind only is what the mind does. The existence of thought is the exercise of thought. Now if this be true, there is the strongest possible reason for treating the problem after a purely speculative fashion. The problem and its desired solution—these are only the means which enable a new species of thinking, (and that the very highest) viz. speculative thinking, to deploy into existence. This deployment is the end. But how can this end be attained if we check the speculative evolution in its first movements, by throwing ourselves into the arms of the apparently Common Sense convictions of Dr Reid? We use the word "apparently," because, in reference to this problem, the apparently Common Sense convictions of Dr Reid, are not the really Common Sense convictions of mankind. These latter can only be got at through the severest discipline of speculation.

Our final answer, then, to the question which led us into this digression is this:—It is quite true that the material world exists: it is quite true that we believe in this existence, and always act in conformity with our faith. Whole books may be written in confirmation of these truths. They may be published and paraded in a manner which apparently settles the entire problem of perception. And yet this is not the right way to go to work. It settles nothing but what all men, women, and children have already settled. The truths thus formally substantiated were produced without an effort—every one has already got from Nature at least as much of them as he cares to have; and therefore, whatever their importance may be, they cannot, with any sort of propriety, be made the subjects of conveyance from man to man. We must either leave the problem altogether alone, (a thing, however, which we should have thought of sooner,) or we must adopt the speculative treatment. The argument, moreover, contained in the preceding paragraph, appears to render this treatment imperative; and accordingly we now return to it, after our somewhat lengthened digression.

We must take up the thread of our discourse at the point where we dropped it. The crisis to which the discussion had conducted us was this; that the existence of matter could not be believed in at all. The psychological analysis necessarily lands us in this conclusion: for the psychological analysis gives us, for matter, nothing but matter per se. But matter per se is what no man does or can believe in. We are reluctant to reiterate the proof; but it is this: to believe in the existence of matter per se is to believe in the existence of matter liberated from perception; but we, cannot believe in the existence of matter liberated from perception, for no power of thinking will liberate matter from perception; therefore, we cannot believe in the existence of matter per se. This argument admits of being exhibited in a still more forcible form. We commence with an illustration. If a man believes that a thing exists as one thing, he cannot believe that this same thing exists as another thing. For instance, if a man believes that a tree exists as a tree, he cannot believe that it exists as a house. Apply this to the subject in hand. If a man believes that matter exists as a thing not disengaged from perception, he cannot believe that it exists as a thing disengaged from perception. Now, there cannot be a doubt that the only kind of matter in which man believes is matter not disengaged from perception. He therefore cannot believe in matter disengaged from perception. His mind is already preoccupied by the belief that matter is this one thing, and, therefore, he cannot believe that it is that other thing. His faith is, in this instance, forestalled, just as much as his faith is forestalled from believing that a tree is a house, when he already believes that it is a tree.

There are two very good reasons, then, why we cannot believe in the existence of matter at all, if we accept as our starting point the psychological analysis. This analysis gives us, for matter, matter per se. But matter per se cannot be believed in; 1st, because the condition on which the belief depends cannot be complied with; and, 2dly, because the matter which we already believe in is something quite different from matter per se. In trying to believe in the existence of matter per se, we always find that we are believing in the existence of something else, namely, in the existence of matter cum perceptione. But it is not to the psychological analysis that we are indebted for this matter, which is something else than matter per se. The psychological analysis does its best to annihilate it. It gives us nothing but matter per se,—a thing which neither is nor can be believed in. We are thus prevented from believing in the existence of any kind of matter. In a word, the psychological analysis of the perception of matter necessarily converts who embrace it into sceptics or idealists.

In this predicament what shall we do? Shall we abandon the analysis as a treacherous principle, or shall we, with Dr Reid, make one more stand in its defence? In order that the analysis may have fair play we shall give it another chance, by quoting Mr Stewart's exposition of Reid's doctrine, which must be regarded as a perfectly faithful representation:—"Dr Reid," says Mr Stewart, "was the first person who had courage to lay completely aside all the common hypothetical language concerning perception, and to exhibit the difficulty, in all its magnitude, by a plain statement of the fact. To what, then, it may be asked, does this statement amount? Merely to this; that the mind is so formed that certain impressions produced on our organs of sense, by external objects, are followed by corresponding sensations, and that these sensations, (which have no more resemblance to the qualities of matter, than the words of a language have to the things they denote,) are followed by a perception of the existence and qualities of the bodies by which the impressions are made;—that all the steps of this process are equally incomprehensible."[25] There are at least two points which are well worthy of being attended to in this quotation. First, Mr Stewart says that Reid "exhibited the difficulty of the problem of perception, in all its magnitude, by a plain statement of fact." What does that mean? It means this; that Reid stated, indeed, the fact correctly—namely, that external objects give rise to sensations and perceptions, but that still his statement did not penetrate to the heart of the business, but by his own admission, left the difficulty undiminished. What difficulty? The difficulty as to how external objects give rise to sensations and perceptions. Reid did not undertake to settle that point—a wise declinature, in the estimation of Mr Stewart. Now Mr Stewart, understanding, as he did, the philosophy of causation, ought to have known that every difficulty as to how one thing gives rise to another, is purely a difficulty of the mind's creation, and not of nature's making, and is, therefore, no difficulty at all. Let us explain this,—a man says he knows that fire explodes gunpowder; but he does not know how or by what means it does this. Suppose, then, he finds out the means, he is still just where he was; he must again ask how or by what means these discovered means explode the gunpowder; and so on ad infinitum. Now the mind may quibble with itself for ever, and make what difficulties it pleases in this way; but there is no real difficulty in the case. In considering any sequence, we always know the how or the means as soon as we know the that or the fact. These means may be more proximate or more remote means, but they are invariably given either proximately or remotely along with and in the fact. As soon as we know that fire explodes gunpowder, we know how fire explodes gunpowder,—for fire is itself the means which explodes gunpowder,—the how by which it is ignited. In the same way, if we knew that matter gave rise to perception, there would be no difficulty as to how it did so. Matter would be itself the means which gave rise to perception. We conceive, therefore, that Mr Stewart did not consider what he was saying when he affirmed that Reid's plain statement of facts exhibited the difficulty in all its magnitude. If Reid's statement be a statement of fact, all difficulty vanishes,—the question of perception is relieved from every species of perplexity. If it be the fact that perception is consequent on the presence of matter, Reid must be admitted to have explained, to the satisfaction of all mankind, how perception is brought about. Matter is itself the means by which it is brought about.

Secondly, then—Is it the fact that matter gives rise to perception? That is the question. Is it the fact that these two things stand to each other in the relation of antecedent and consequent? Reid's "plain statement of fact," as reported by Mr Stewart, maintains that they do. Reid lays it down as a fact, that perceptions follow sensations, that sensations follow certain impressions made on our organs of sense by external objects, which stand first in the series. The sequence, then, is this—1st, Real external objects; 2d, Impressions made on our organs of sense; 3d, Sensations; 4th, Perceptions. It will simplify the discussion if we leave out of account Nos. 2 and 3, limiting ourselves to the statement that real objects precede perceptions. This is declared to be a fact—of course an observed fact; for a fact can with no sort of propriety be called a fact, unless some person or other has observed it. Reid "laid completely aside all the common hypothetical language concerning perception." His plain statement (so says Mr Stewart) contains nothing but facts—facts established, of course, by observation. It is a fact of observation then, according to Reid, that real objects precede perceptions; that perceptions follow when real objects are present. Now, when a man proclaims as fact such a sequence as this, what must he first of all have done? He must have observed the antecedent before it was followed by the consequent; he must have observed the cause out of combination with the effect; otherwise his statement is a pure hypothesis or fiction. For instance, when a man says that a shower of rain (No. 1), is followed by a refreshed vegetation (No. 2), he must have observed both No. 1 and No. 2, and he must have observed them as two separate things. Had he never observed any thing but No. 2 (the refreshed vegetation), he might form what conjectures he pleased in regard to its antecedent, but he never could lay it down as an observed fact, that this antecedent was a shower of rain. In the same way, when a man affirms it to be a fact of observation (as Dr Reid does, according to Stewart) that material objects are followed by perceptions, it is absolutely necessary for the credit of his statement that he should have observed this to be the case; that he should have observed material objects before they were followed by perceptions; that he should have observed the antecedent separate from the consequent: otherwise his statement, instead of being complimented as a plain statement of fact, must be condemned as a tortuous statement of hypothesis. Unless he has observed No. 1 and No. 2 in sequence, he is not entitled to declare that this is an observed sequence. Now, did Reid, or did any man ever observe matter anterior to his perception of it? Had Reid a faculty which enabled him to catch matter before it had passed in to perception? Did he ever observe it, as Hudibras says, "undressed?" Mr Stewart implies that he had such a faculty. But the notion is preposterous. No man can observe matter prior to his perception of it; for his observation of it presupposes his perception of it. Our observation of matter begins absolutely with the perception of it. Observation always gives the perception of matter as the first term in the series, and not matter itself. To pretend (as Reid and Stewart do) that observation can go behind perception, and lay hold of matter before it has given rise to perception—this is too ludicrous a doctrine to be even mentioned; and we should not have alluded to it, but for the countenance which it has received from the two great apostles of common sense.

This last bold attempt, then, on the part of Reid and Stewart (for Stewart adopts the doctrine which he reports) to prop their tottering analysis on direct observation and experience, must be pronounced a failure. Reid's "plain statement of fact" is not a true statement of observed fact; it is a vicious statement of conjectured fact. Observation depones to the existence of the perception of matter as the first datum with which it has to deal, but it depones to the existence of nothing anterior to this.

But will not abstract thinking bear out the analysis by yielding to us matter per se as a legitimate inference of reason? No; it will do nothing of the kind. To make good this inference, observe what abstract thinking must do. It must bring under the notice of the mind matter per se (No. 1) as something which is not the perception of it (No. 2): but whenever thought tries to bring No. 1 under the notice of the mind, it is No. 2 (or the perception of matter) which invariably comes. We may ring for No. 1, but No. 2 always answers the bell. We may labour to construe a tree per se to the mind, but what we always do construe to the mind is the perception of a tree. What we want is No. 1, but what we always get is No. 2. To unravel the thing explicitly—the manner in which we impose upon ourselves is this:—As explanatory of the perceptive process, we construe to our minds two number twos, and one of these we call No. 1. For example, we have the perception of a tree (No. 2); we wish to think the tree itself (No. 1) as that which gives rise to the perception. But this No. 1 is merely No. 2 over again. It is thought of as the perception of a tree, i. e. as No. 2. We call it the tree itself, or No. 1; but we think it as the perception of the tree, or as No. 2. The first or explanatory term (the matter per se) is merely a repetition in thought (though called by a different name) of the second term—the term to be explained—viz. the perception of matter. Abstract thinking, then, equally with direct observation, refuses to lend any support to the analysis; for a thing cannot be said to be analysed when it is merely multiplied or repeated, which is all that abstract thinking does in regard to the perception of matter. The matter per se, which abstract thinking supposes that it separates from the perception of matter, is merely an iteration of the perception of matter.

Our conclusion therefore is, that the analysis of the perception of matter into the two things, perception and matter (the ordinary psychological principle), must, on all accounts, be abandoned. It is both treacherous and impracticable.

Before proceeding to consider the metaphysical solution of the problem, we shall gather up into a few sentences the reasonings which in the preceding discussion are diffused over a considerable surface. The ordinary, or psychological doctrine of perception, reposes upon an analysis of the perception of matter into two separate things,—a modification of our minds (the one thing) consequent on the presence of matter per se, which is the other thing. This analysis inevitably leads to a theory of representative perception, because it yields as its result a proximate and a remote object. It is the essence of representationism to recognise both of these as instrumental in perception. But representationism leads to scepticism—for it is possible that the remote or real object (matter per se), not being an object of consciousness, may not be instrumental in the process. Scepticism doubts its instrumentality, and, doubting its instrumentality, it, of course, doubts its existence; for not being an object of consciousness, its existence is only postulated in order to account for something which is an object of consciousness, viz. perception. If, therefore, we doubt that matter has any hand in bringing about perception, we, of course, doubt the existence of matter. This scepticism does. Idealism denies its instrumentality and existence. In these circumstances what does Dr Reid do? He admits that matter per se is not an object of consciousness; but he endeavours to save its existence by an appeal to our natural and irresistible belief in its existence. But scepticism and idealism doubt and deny the existence of matter per se, not merely because it is no object of consciousness, but, moreover, because it is no object of belief. And in this they are perfectly right. It is no object of belief. Dr Reid's appeal, therefore, goes for nothing. He has put into the witness-box a nonentity. And scepticism and idealism are at any rate for the present reprieved. But do not scepticism and idealism go still further in their denial—do they not extend it from a denial in the existence of matter per se, to a denial in the existence of matter altogether? Yes, and they must do this. They can only deal with the matter which the psychological analysis affords. The only kind of matter which the psychological analysis affords is matter per se, and it affords this as all matter whatsoever. Therefore, in denying the existence of matter per se, scepticism and idealism must deny the existence of matter out and out. This, then, is the legitimate terminus to which the accepted analysis conducts us. We are all, as we at present stand, either sceptics or idealists, every man of us. Shall the analysis, then, be given up? Not if it can be substantiated by any good plea: for truth must be accepted, be the consequences what they may. Can the analysis, then, be made good either by observation or by reasoning,—the only competent authorities, now that belief has been declared hors de combat? Stewart says that Reid made it good by means of direct observation; but the claim is too ridiculous to be listened to for a single instant. We have also shown that reasoning is incompetent to make out and support the analysis; and therefore our conclusion is, that it falls to the ground as a thing altogether impracticable as well as false, and that the attempt to re-establish it ought never, on any account, to be renewed.

* * * * *

We have dwelt so long on the exposition of the psychological or analytic solution of the problem of perception, that we have but little space to spare for the discussion of the metaphysical doctrine. We shall unfold it as briefly as we can.

The principle of the metaphysical doctrine is precisely the opposite of the principle of the psychological doctrine. The one attempts all analysis; the other forbears from all analysis of the given fact—the perception of matter. And why does metaphysic make no attempt to dissect this fact? Simply because the thing cannot be done. The fact yields not to the solvent of thought: it yields not to the solvent of observation: it yields not to the solvent of belief, for man has no belief in the existence of matter from which perception (present and remembered) has been withdrawn. An impotence of the mind does indeed apparently resolve the supposed synthesis: but essential thinking exposes the imposition, restores the divided elements to their pristine integrity, and extinguishes the theory which would explain the datum by means of the concurrence of a subjective or mental, and an objective or material factor. The convicted weakness of psychology is thus the root which gives strength to metaphysic. The failure of psychology affords to metaphysic a foundation of adamant. And perhaps no better or more comprehensive description of the object of metaphysical or speculative philosophy could be given than this,—that it is a science which exists, and has at all times existed, chiefly for the purpose of exposing the vanity and confounding the pretensions of what is called the "science of the human mind." The turning-round of thought from psychology to metaphysic is the true interpretation of the Platonic conversion of the soul from ignorance to knowledge—from mere opinion to certainty and satisfaction: in other words, from a discipline in which the thinking is only apparent, to a discipline in which the thinking is real. Ordinary observation does not reveal to us the real, but only the apparent revolutions of the celestial orbs. We must call astronomy to our aid if we would reach the truth. In the same way, ordinary or psychological thinking may show us the apparent movements of thought—but it is powerless to decipher the real figures described in that mightier than planetary scheme. Metaphysic alone can teach us to read aright the intellectual skies. Psychology regards the universe of thought from the Ptolemaic point of view, making man, as this system made the earth, the centre of the whole: metaphysic regards it from the Copernican point of view, making God, as this scheme makes the sun, the regulating principle of all. The difference is as great between "the science of the human mind" and metaphysic, as it is between the Ptolemaic and the Copernican astronomy, and it is very much of the same kind.

But the opposition between psychology and metaphysic, which we would at present confine ourselves to the consideration of, is this:—the psychological blindness consists in supposing that the analysis so often referred to is practicable, and has been made out: the metaphysical insight consists in seeing that the analysis is null and impracticable. The superiority of metaphysic, then, does not consist in doing, or in attempting more than psychology. It consists in seeing that psychology proposes to execute, the impossible, (a thing which psychology does not herself see, but persists in attempting;) and it consists, moreover, in refraining from this audacious attempt, and in adopting a humbler, a less adventurous, and a more circumspect method. Metaphysic (viewed in its ideal character) aims at nothing but what it can fully overtake. It is quite a mistake to imagine that this science proposes to carry a man beyond the length of his tether. The psychologist, indeed, launches the mind into imaginary spheres; but metaphysic binds it down to the fact, and there sternly bids it to abide. That is the profession of the metaphysican, considered in his beau-ideal. That, too, is the practice (making allowance for the infirmities incident to humanity, and which prevent the ideal from ever being perfectly realised)—the practice of all the true astronomers of thought, from Plato down to Schelling and Hegel. If these philosophers accomplish more than the psychologist, it is only because they attempt much less.

In taking up the problem of perception all that metaphysic demands is the whole given fact. That is her only postulate. And it is undoubtedly a stipulation which she is justly entitled to make. Now, what is, in this case, the whole given fact? When we perceive an object, what is the whole given fact before us? In stating it, we must not consult elegance of expression: the whole given fact is this,—"We apprehend the perception of an object." The fact before us is comprehended wholly in that statement, but in nothing short of it. Now, does metaphysic give no countenance to an analysis of this fact? That is a new question—a question on which we have not yet touched. Observe,—the fact which metaphysic declares to be absolutely unsusceptible of analysis is "the perception of matter." But the fact which we are now considering is a totally different fact: it is our apprehension of the perception of matter—and it does not follow that metaphysic will also declare this fact to be ultimate and indecompoundable. Were metaphysic to do this, it would reduce us to the condition of subjective or egoistic idealism. But metaphysic is not so absurd. It denies the divisibility of the one fact; but it does itself divide the other. And it is perfectly competent for metaphysic to do this, inasmuch as "our apprehension of the perception of matter" is a different fact from "the perception of matter itself." The former is, in the estimation of metaphysic, susceptible of analysis—the latter is not. Metaphysic thus escapes the imputation of leading us into subjective idealism. This will become more apparent as we proceed.

"Our apprehension of the perception of matter,"—this, then, is the whole given fact with which metaphysic has to deal. And this fact metaphysic proceeds to analyse into a subjective and an objective factor—giving to the human mind that part of the datum which belongs to the human mind, and withholding from the human mind that part of the datum to which it has no proper or exclusive claim. But at what point in the datum does metaphysic insert the dissecting knife, or introduce the solvent which is to effect the proposed dualisation? At a very different point from that at which psychology insinuates her "ineffectual fire." Psychology cuts down between perception and matter, making the former subjective and the latter objective. Metaphysic cuts down between "our apprehension"—and "the perception of matter;" making the latter, "the perception of matter," totally objective, and the former, "our apprehension," alone subjective. Admitting, then, that the total fact we have to deal with is this, "our apprehension of the perception of matter"—the difference of treatment which this fact experiences at the hand of psychology and metaphysic is this:—they both divide the fact; but psychology divides it as follows;—"Our apprehension of the perception of"—that is the subjective part of the datum—the part that belongs to the human mind;—"Matter per se" is the objective part of the datum, the part of the datum which exists independently of the human mind. Metaphysic divides it at a different point, "our apprehension of:" this, according to metaphysic, is the subjective part of the process—it is all which can with any propriety be attributed to the human mind:—"the perception of matter," this is the objective part of the datum—the part of it which exists independently of the human mind—and to the possession of which the human mind has no proper claim—no title at all.

Before explaining what the grounds are which authorise metaphysic in making a division so different from the psychological division of the fact which they both discuss, we shall make a few remarks for the purpose of extirpating, if possible, any lingering prejudice which may still lurk in the reader's mind in favour of the psychological partition.

According to metaphysic, the perception of matter is not the whole given fact with which we have to deal in working out this problem—(it is not the whole given fact; for, as we have said, our apprehension of, or participation in, the perception of matter—this is the whole given fact);—but the perception of matter is the whole objective part of the given fact. But it will, perhaps, be asked—Are there not here two given facts? Does not the perception of matter imply two data? Is not the perception one given fact, and is not the matter itself another given fact—and are not these two facts perfectly distinct from one another? No: it is the false analysis of psychologists which we have already exposed that deceives us. But there is another circumstance which, perhaps, contributes more than any thing else to assist and perpetuate our delusion. This is the construction of language. We shall take this opportunity to put the student of philosophy upon his guard against its misleading tendency.

People imagine that because two (or rather three) words are employed to denote the fact, (the perception of matter,) that therefore there are two separate facts and thoughts corresponding to these separate words. But it is a great mistake to suppose that the analysis of facts and thoughts necessarily runs parallel with the analysis of sounds. Man, as Homer says, is [Greek: merops], or a word-divider; and he often carries this propensity so far as to divide words where there is no corresponding division of thoughts or of things. This is a very convenient practice, in so far as the ordinary business of life is concerned: for it saves much circumlocution, much expenditure of sound. But it runs the risk of making great havoc with scientific thinking; and there cannot be a doubt that it has helped to confirm psychology in its worst errors, by leading the unwary thinker to suppose that he has got before him a complete fact or thought, when he has merely got before him a complete word. There are whole words which, taken by themselves, have no thoughts or things corresponding to them, any more than there are thoughts and things corresponding to each of the separate syllables of which these words are composed. The words "perception" and "matter" are cases in point. These words have no meaning,—they have neither facts nor thoughts corresponding to them, when taken out of correlation to each other. The word "perception" must be supplemented (mentally at least) by the words "of matter," before it has any kind of sense—before it denotes any thing that exists; and in like manner the word "matter" must be mentally supplemented by the words "perception of," before it has any kind of sense, or denotes any real existence. The psychologist would think it absurd if any one were to maintain that there is one separate existence in nature corresponding to the syllable mat-, and another separate existence corresponding to the syllable ter—the component syllables of the word "matter." In the estimation of the metaphysician, it is just as ridiculous to suppose that there is an existing fact or modification in us corresponding to the three syllables perception, and a fact or existence in nature corresponding to the two syllables matter. The word "perception" is merely part of a word which, for convenience' sake, is allowed to represent the whole word; and so is the word "matter." The word "perception-of-matter" is always the one total word—the word to the mind,—and the existence which this word denotes is a totally objective existence.

But in these remarks we are reiterating (we hope, however, that we are also enforcing) our previous arguments. No power of the mind can divide into two facts, or two existences, or two thoughts, that one prominent fact which stands forth in its integrity as the perception-of-matter. Despite, then, the misleading construction of language—despite the plausible artifices of psychology, we must just accept this fact as we find it,—that is, we must accept it indissoluble and entire, and we must keep it indissoluble and entire. We have seen what psychology brought us to by tampering with it, under the pretence of a spurious, because impracticable analysis.

We proceed to exhibit the grounds upon which the metaphysician claims for the perception of matter a totally objective existence. The question may be stated thus: Where are we to place this datum? in our minds or out of our minds? We cannot place part of it in our own minds, and part of it out of our minds, for it has been proved to be not subject to partition. Whereever we place it, then, there must we place it whole and undivided. Has the perception of matter, then, its proper location in the human mind, or has it not? Does its existence depend upon our existence, or has it a being altogether independent of us?

Now that, and that alone, is the point to decide which our natural belief should be appealed to; but Dr Reid did not see this. His appeal to the conviction of common sense was premature. He appealed to this belief without allowing scepticism and idealism to run their full course; without allowing them to confound the psychological analysis, and thus bring, us back to a better condition by compelling us to accept the fact, not as given in the spurious analysis of man, but as given in the eternal synthesis of God. The consequence was, that Reid's appeal came to naught. Instead of interrogating our belief as to the objective existence of the perception of matter, (the proper question,) the question which he brought under its notice was the objective existence of matter per se—matter minus perception. Now, matter per se, or minus perception, is a thing which no belief will countenance. Reid, however, could not admit this. Having appealed to the belief, he was compelled to distort its evidence in his own favour, and to force it, in spite of itself, to bear testimony to the fact which he wished it to establish. Thus Dr Reid's appeal not only came to naught, but being premature, it drove him, as has been said and shown, to falsify the primitive convictions of our nature. Scepticism must indeed be terrible, when it could thus hurry an honest man into a philosophical falsehood.

The question, then, which we have to refer to our natural belief, and abide the answer whatever it may be, is this:—Is the perception of matter (taken in its integrity, as it must be taken,) is it a modification of the human mind, or is it not? We answer unhesitatingly for ourselves, that our belief is, that it is not. This "confession of faith" saves us from the imputation of subjective idealism, and we care not what other kind of idealism we are charged with. We can think of no sort of evidence to prove that the perception of matter is a modification of the human mind, or that the human mind is its proper and exclusive abode: and all our belief sets in towards the opposite conclusion. Our primitive conviction, when we do nothing to pervert it, is that the perception of matter is not, either wholly, or in part, a condition of the human soul; is not bounded in any direction by the narrow limits of our intellectual span, but that it "dwells apart," a mighty and independent system, a city fitted up and upheld by the everlasting God. Who told us that we were placed in a world composed of matter, which gives rise to our subsequent internal perceptions of it, and not that we were let down at once into a universe composed of external perceptions of matter, that were there beforehand and from all eternity—and in which we, the creatures of a day, are merely allowed to participate by the gracious Power to whom they really appertain? We, perversely philosophising, told ourselves the former of these alternatives; but our better nature, the convictions that we have received from God himself, assure us that the latter of them is the truth. The latter is by far the simpler, as well as by far the sublimer doctrine. But it is not on the authority either of its simplicity or its sublimity, that we venture to propound it—it is on account of its perfect consonance, both with the primitive convictions of our unsophisticated common sense, and with the more delicate and complex evidence of our speculative reason.

When a man consults his own nature, in an impartial spirit, he inevitably finds that his genuine belief in the existence of matter is not a belief in the independent existence of matter per se—but is a belief in the independent existence of the perception of matter which he is for the time participating in. The very last thing which he naturally believes in, is, that the perception is a state of his own mind, and that the matter is something different from it, and exists apart in natura rerum. He they say that he believes this, but he never does really believe it. At any rate, he believes in the first place that they exist together, wherever they exist. The perception which a man has of a sheet of paper, does not come before him as something distinct from the sheet of paper itself. The two are identical: they are indivisible: they are not two, but one. The only question then is, whether the perception of a sheet of paper (taken as it must be in its indissoluble totality) is a state of the man's own mind—or is no such state. And, in settlement of this question, there cannot be a doubt that he believes in the second place, that the perception of a sheet of paper is not a modification of his own mind, but is an objective thing which exists altogether independent of him, and one which would still exist, although he, and all other created beings were annihilated. All that he believes to be his (or subjective) is his participation in the perception of this object. In a word, it is the perception of matter, and not matter per se, which is the kind of matter, in the independent and permanent existence of which man rests and reposes his belief. There is no truth or satisfaction to be found in any other doctrine.

This metaphysical theory of perception is a doctrine of pure intuitionism: it steers clear of all the perplexities of representationism; for it gives us in perception only one—that is, only a proximate object: this object is the perception of matter,—and this is one indivisible object. It is not, and cannot be, split into a proximate and a remote object. The doctrine, therefore, is proof against all the cavils of scepticism. We may add, that the entire objectivity of this datum (which the metaphysical doctrine proclaims) makes it proof against the imputation of idealism,—at least of every species of absurd or objectionable idealism.

But what are these objective perceptions of matter, and to whom do they belong? This question leads us to speak of the circumstance which renders the metaphysical doctrine of perception so truly valuable. This doctrine is valuable chiefly on account of the indestructible foundation which it affords to the a priori argument in favour of the existence of God. The substance of the argument is this,—matter is the perception of matter. The perception of matter does not belong to man; it is no state of the human mind,—man merely participates in it. But it must belong to some mind,—for perceptions without an intelligence in which they inhere are, inconceivable and contradictory. They must therefore be the property of the Divine mind; states of the everlasting intellect; ideas of the Lord and Ruler of all things, and which come before us as realities,—so forcibly do they contrast themselves with the evanescent and irregular ideas of our feeble understandings. We must, however, beware, above all things, of regarding these Divine ideas as mere ideas. An idea, as usually understood, is that from which all reality has been abstracted; but the perception of matter is a Divine idea, from which the reality has not been abstracted, and from which it cannot be abstracted.

But what, it will be asked—what becomes of the senses if this doctrine be admitted? What is their use and office? Just the same as before,—only with this difference, that whereas the psychological doctrine teaches that the exercise of the senses is the condition upon which we are permitted to apprehend objective material things—the metaphysical doctrine teaches that the exercise of the senses is the condition upon which we are permitted to apprehend or participate in the objective perception of material things. There is no real difficulty in the question just raised; and therefore, with this explanatory hint, we leave it, our space being exhausted.

Anticipations of this doctrine are to be found in the writings of every great metaphysician—of every man that ever speculated. It is announced in the speculations of Malebranche—still more explicitly in those of Berkeley; but though it forms the substance of their systems, from foundation-stone to pinnacle, it is not proclaimed with sufficiently unequivocal distinctness by either of these two great philosophers. Malebranche made the perception of matter totally objective, and vested the perception in the Divine mind, as we do. But he erred in this respect: having made the perception of matter altogether objective, he analysed it in its objectivity into perception (idee) and matter per se. We should rather say that he attempted to do this: and of course he failed, for the thing, as we have shown, is absolutely impossible. Berkeley made no such attempt. He regarded the perception of matter as not only totally objective, but as absolutely indivisible; and therefore we are disposed to regard him as the greatest metaphysician of his own country—(we do not mean Ireland; but England, Scotland, and Ireland)—at the very least.

When this elaborate edition of Reid's works shall be completed—shall have received its last consummate polish from the hand of its accomplished editor—we promise to review the many important topics (partly philosophical and partly physiological) which Sir William Hamilton has discussed in a manner which is worthy of his own great reputation, and which renders all compliment superfluous. We are assured that the philosophical public is waiting with anxious impatience for the completion of these discussions. In the mean time, we heartily recommend the volume to the student of philosophy as one of the most important works which our higher literature contains, and as one from which he will derive equal gratification and instruction, whether he agrees with its contents or not.


[22] The Works of Thomas Reid, D.D. Edited by SIR WILLIAM HAMILTON, Bart., Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in the University of Edinburgh; with Copious Notes and Supplementary Dissertations by the Editor. Edinburgh: Maclachlan, Stewart, & Co. 1846.

[23] Among the first. He was not the first. Berkeley had preceded him in denouncing most unequivocally the whole theory of representationism. The reason why Berkeley does not get the credit of this is, because his performance is even more explicit and cogent than his promise. He made no phrase about refuting the theory—he simply refuted it. Reid said the business—but Berkeley did it. The two greatest and most unaccountable blunders in the whole history of philosophy are, probably Reid's allegations that Berkeley was a representationist, and that he was an idealist; understanding by the word idealist, one who denies the existence of a real external universe. From every page of his writings, it is obvious that Berkeley was neither the one of these nor the other, even in the remotest degree.

[24] They err.—This, however, can scarcely be called an error. It is the business of the sceptic at least to accept the principles generally recognised, and to develop their conclusions, however absurd or revolting. If the principles are false to begin with, that is no fault of his, but of those at whose hands he received them.

[25] Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind. Part I. ch. i.

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NOTE in reference to an Article in our last Number, and to PROFESSOR WILSON'S Letter to the Editor of the Edinburgh Evening Courant, dated 30th June.

MESSRS BLACKWOOD regret to find that some observations regarding the University of Edinburgh, contained in an article in their last Number, should have occasioned feelings of pain and disapprobation in one of their earliest and best supporters, Professor Wilson, of whose connexion with the Magazine they are justly proud, and whose friendship they hope ever to retain undiminished.

These observations did not at the time appear to them in the aspect in which they now see that they may be regarded. They were fully assured of the meaning and motives of the writer of the article in question, and conscious themselves of the deepest respect and admiration for the University of Edinburgh.

They are now, however, sensible that the passage referred to was liable to objections which they know had not occurred to the writer of the article, but which they, as the parties who have all along been responsible for the management of the Magazine, ought to have seen and obviated.

They deeply regret that through this error upon their part Professor Wilson should have felt it necessary to disclaim what had thus inadvertently been allowed to appear in their pages.

* * * * *

Printed by William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh.


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