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SOCIAL AND POLITICAL
MAN. HIS MENTAL AND MORAL NATURE.
WHAT IS MAN? and WHAT ARE HIS DUTIES TO HIS BROTHER MAN? are questions that seem to lie at the root of all morality.
What he is; is necessary to be known, in order to ascertain his capabilities for improvement; although it must be briefly stated in this place, as more pertaining to other sciences.
What are his social and political duties? we will endeavor to trace in the following pages; however imperfect may be the result of our labors.
Man physically seems endowed with every quality fitting an inhabitant of this world. He has strength to level before him the densest forest-to cut his pathway through the hardest rock-to break down hills-upraise valleysturn rivers from their course; and erect barriers to obstruct the progress of the ocean. He has physical strength and courage to oppose and master the fiercest animals, and to make them contribute to his enjoyments. His unwearied labors have converted bog, marsh, wood, and wilderness
into fruitful fields teeming with plenty. And with materials raised from the depths of earth, he has erected wonderous structures of durability and convenience, and stupendous monuments of his greatness and folly.
The proofs of his mental powers are numerous in every civilized community. They are seen in his various appliances of all the materials and powers of nature-in his ingenious and multifarious constructions for economizing time and saving labor-in his wondrous modes of conveyance by sea and land—in his social and political arrangements-his laws, science, art and literature; all afford proofs innumerable of his ability, his genius, and mental application.
But while these afford abundant proofs of man's collective power, he is often seen to be individually weak, ignorant, and demoralized; hence the necessity for investigating those causes which tend to his individual improvement.
The physical strength with which he is individually endowed, is found to be dependant on the size of his muscles, the power of his nerves, the exercise he may have taken to develope and strengthen them, and the means he may have used for the preservation of his health.
His mental qualifications, however, would seem to depend more on the causes which conspire to develope his mental faculties, than in their original power and capacity. For we often meet with examples of comparatively small developments highly enriched with knowledge and strong in virtue; and others of superior mental powers highly vicious and almost void of understanding.
But while such facts show the importance and necessity of education, and form the groundwork of our hopes of man's social and political progress, other facts as clearly prove that were all men subject to the same educational influences, the size, strength and activity of the mental
organs, and peculiarity of temperament, will always give their possessor mental advantages.
By those mental powers are meant the brain and nervous system, the senses, the life, blood, and nervous. power that stimulate the whole to action.
The brain is the organ on which seems to be impressed (more or less durably) the sensations conveyed to it through the senses; which are the great inlets by which all knowledge of things, and of the qualities of things, are conveyed to it.
If sufficient mental exertion is made to retain the sensations conveyed to the brain, the retained impressions are called ideas; and on the number and arrangement of such ideas, stored up in the memory, will man be able to think, to reason, and to judge correctly, on the various subjects that may be brought before him.
But though, in this way, man gathers up his knowledge, he will form but very imperfect notions of most things he perceives, if he has to depend solely on his own observations and experience. He must, in fact, be informed of the character and properties of most of the existences around him, by those who know something of their nature; not from their own experience merely, but from the remembered or recorded experience of those who have made the subject their study, and have treasured their observations and experience in their works.
But man has not only the power of storing up ideas, or knowledge of various kinds which have been impressed upon his brain, but he has also the mental power of recalling them from the recesses of his memory, and of examining, comparing and contrasting them with one another; or with objects or ideas at present before him. He likewise possesses the power of combining them into an infinitude of ideal forms; harmonious or discordant, beautiful or incongruous.
Thus possessed of these mental powers, and having the knowledge of the past to aid him in his investigations, man goes on observing, experimenting, and discovering new facts, and arriving at fresh conclusions; and thus does knowledge accumulate from age to age.
In addition to those intellectual powers, man is endowed with moral capacities. In other words, he has portions of his brain which prompt him from time to time to acts of kindness-which cause him to venerate goodness and excellence to entertain a respect for truth-and to feel a desire in favor of justice.
But though most men possess these moral powers, larger or smaller in size or activity, they are not of themselves sufficient guides for man; being for the most part weak and impulsive, and needing the cultivation and control of the intellect to direct them aright. In fact they need proper training and guidance, in like manner as the intellectual faculties need instruction and exercise. They need to be individually and separately appealed to, whenever passion or interest would turn them from the path of duty; and to be constantly exercised and strengthened, till discipline and habit have given them a strong controling and guiding power.
Man has likewise a variety of propensities in common with other animals; all of which are highly essential to his welfare and happiness, if properly guided and controlled by his intellectual and moral powers. But if these are not properly taught, trained, and disciplined, so as to guide his passions and feelings to their legitimate ends, his animal nature will be too apt to assume the mastery, and to render him contentious, selfish, cruel and ferocious.
Man, therefore, has within him the capacities of the philosopher, and the propensities of the savage; and whether he shall be one or the other will depend on the
position he is placed in, and the means taken to develope the good and control the evil.
If he is allowed to grow up, uncared for, in the midst of ignorant and vicious companions, his mental powers will be impressed with their imperfect notions, superstitions, prejudices and vices; and difficult then will be the task of eradicating them, and of implanting instead thereof correct knowledge and just principles. Not that his reformation is ever hopeless, but only rendered more difficult; as the weeds of vice and error have to be uprooted, ere the seeds of truth and goodness can be planted.
If, therefore, man would have his brother man a being qualified to unite with him, in forming and supporting wise laws, and just institutions-to co-operate with him, physically and intellectually, for the welfare of society—and to labor earnestly with him to remove the numerous social and moral evils that now retard his progress, and mar his happiness; he must begin his labors by promoting the intellectual and moral improvement of the young.
He must seek to impress their youthful minds with a knowledge of the various means of comfort and happiness they are surrounded with-of the mental and moral qualities they must endeavor to possess, in order to turn these great blessings to the advantage of themselves and their brethren—and of the various moral duties that will be required of them, socially and politically, in order that peace, abundance and happiness may bless their native land.