Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

7

people, and yield the most scrupulous attention to the education of the young. They must promote the cultivation, and continual practice of oratory, gymnastics, vocal and instrumental music, dancing, and all other accomplishments of a pleasing and healthy character. They must see to the general cleanliness, ventilation, and the regulation of the temperature of the buildings, and perform all the business, which their office might demand.

The above conception of a beau ideal of a correct social system designed for the annihilation of vice and misery, may easily be carried into practice. No revolution, no bloodshed, or violence of any kind is needed; but, on the contrary, peaceful union or “ Co-operation" among the people, is the essential preliminary. Not only is a Rational System equal to the removal of moral, but also in a great measure of physical evil. Under proper medical inspection and jurisdiction the scrofulous or consumptive habit might be done away with in a few generations, together with nearly all predisposition to disease. The moral states which produce disease would never have any existence; as for instance, in ordinary society, the variety of unnatural restraints, have a most powerful influence in the production of disease, and if we go to a bedlam and enquire into the causes which have excited its inmates, we generally find that some circumstances connected with private property, or theology, or ruptures of the affections, or other violent excitements resulting from the state of society produced the evil.

Thus a “Science of Consciousness” is adequate to the exposure of the errors and fallacies of evil systems; their immoralities are made palpable, their grossness and absurdities become naked and exposed, and the first principles of a social philosophy, capable of suggesting the whole of the details, may be understood by the perusal of a few pages, on which a social state redundant with wisdom, virtue and happiness, will exhibit itself in the conceptions, and a vista be gained of a new land, a blissful glittering paradise, which though it has been long hidden, in the dark beclouded ocean of popular ignorance, and guarded from us by the lightnings of the

[ocr errors]

bigots wrath, is now fairly in sight, easily attainable, and must and will ere long be attained.

CHAP. IX. Explanation of the errors of the Metaphysicians.-Exposition of the errors of the Phrenologists.- Religion, true and false.—Morality, Politics, &c.

Those who have hitherto endeavoured to illustrate the nature of the consciousness, have generally commenced their efforts with a gratuitous and unphilosophical assumption, or in a few instances, as in those of Des Cartes, and Hume, have at first been devoted to the nature of their own consciousness, but ultimately seem to have given way to the same gross assumption that others have adopted. This assumption is, that the powers which I have shewn to belong to the consciousness, belong to a something else, as different from knowledge and feeling, as a vessel is from the water it contains, as distinct as the container is from the contained. Now the common experience of all shews that the four powers I have enumerated, the which include the various faculties described by the metaphysicians, belong not to any supposed being, but to the consciousness itself; consequently, I am of opinion and I may make bold to aver, that the metaphysicians, or as they have latterly denominated themselves,“Mental Philosophers," have grossly erred in attributing those powers to a supposititious being. To this imaginary existence they have given the name “mind,” and this word having besides that given to it by the metaphysicians, two other meanings, namely, the brain, and the consciousness, a term significant of three distinct notions, has been used, and these three have been confounded together in the thoughts of writers in such a manner that their writings, are in general confused and unintelligible, for the reason, that when we meet with the term mind, it is often difficult to say what is meant thereby : thus in the following sentence Mr. Locke may either mean the brain or the supposititious being, but not the consciousness. “Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas, how comes it to be furnished, whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it, with an almost endless variety'? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge?” This description of Mr. Locke is metaphorical and inaccurate, it is in a sort of language that is never adopted in details of matters of fact by men of anything like scientific precision and accuracy, though it may be incidentally used in illustration; such a course shows plainly that the person who adopts it generally, is more of a poet than a philosopher, yet this mode of expression has been invariably adopted by the metaphysicians. They do not merely talk of the mind being “painted” with “ideas,” that is images, but also of it being " printed on” and “ impressed.” It is often de. scribed as a receptacleorstorehouse, in which the “ideas," "images," pictures,"impressions,"or“ prints,” are storedup, and then strange to say, the mind is transformed into a little being, who wanders about this storehouse examining the “pictures,” &c. “To say a notion is imprinted on the mind, and yet at the same time to say, that the mind is ignorant of it, and never yet took notice of it, is to make this impression nothing," says Mr. Locke. Another piece of extravagance into which this and other author's fancies misguide them, is, that these pictures actually come from objects through the senses, into the storehouse, so that, one might suppose from this mode of expression, that ideas, pictures, impressions, prints or images are floating about in the atmosphere like thistledown; in illustration of this fancy I again quote Mr. Locke, and I refer to him more particularly, because he is acknowledged to be the best writer on mind” and no weak advocate of the views he inculcates, and is spoken of with reverence in all circles, his name being associated with that of Newton, both these philosophers, being frequently referred to with an awe, wbich at once shows a complete want of acquaintanceship with their writings. “ Though the qualities that affect our senses are, in the things themselves so united and blended that

[ocr errors]

there is no separation, no distance between them; yet it is plain, the ideas they produce in the mind enter by the senses simple and unmixed.”

The majority of people are so excessively ignorant of causation, that if one cause be assigned, they are satisfied, and no notion of the cause of that cause suggested; in this way the ancient priests, knowing that the earth must be supported in its position, and considering that it could not float in air, concluded gravely to tell the people that it was supported on the back of a tortoise, but what the tortoise was supported by few people asked, and these were doubtless told with an expression of great awe, that it was a profound mystery, into which they ought not to dare to pry. This theory of the globe is refuted by its own absurdity, but still it was part of the ancient theology. The metaphysicians express

notions equally absurd with respect to their “ mind.” The ancients wondered how the earth was supported, and the suggestion of the theory of the tortoise was adopted to explain the wonderful phenomenon; the enquirers into the nature of knowledge and feelings, were in like manner filled with wonder at the very ordinary fact that animals think and feel, and they set about accounting for this by suppositions. They supposed that thoughts were ideas, pictures, images, prints, or impressions, that came from the things they referred to, and located themselves in the head; but then there must be something which sees and examines these pictures, and hence the notion of a little spiritous gentleman, who, according to the statement of some learned personages, sits enthroned in the cerebral regions, reasoning, judging, and choosing, and the motives and pictures present themselves to him like courtiers at a levee, bowing and scraping, and each endeavouring to catch his attention; and some he bows to, and some he nods to, and some he beckons over to him and confers with; but, he is not caused by any of them to do any thing, but reigns supreme and independent of all causation.

But this little personage who, wonderful to relate, has, according to the theorists who invented it, no existence in space, and is possessed of no parts, must still be ens abled to examine the pictures, and to do this, he must have a kind of sense like sight; and supposing that this mental sight was not like the other produced by the susceptibility of the eye to be acted on by the light, coming from objects, this mental being they considered altogether active, and not at all passive, and hence they endowed it with a power of perception, it was not acted on by the pictures, but acted on them in perceiving them; that is to say, when they excited perceptions of themselves in the little gentleman, he did it, and not they. On this supposititious being, to which is assigned the name of “mind,” were endowed all the faculties which I have shewn to belong to the consciousness. When they invented this little being, and gave to him a power of perceiving the ideas and sensations, they thought all was explained, like the ancients, they conceived that the difficulty was overcome; the one asks what the earth rests on, and is satisfied by the supposition that it rests on a tortoise, though the same query that applies to the former applies to the latter; the other asks how is it that man knows and feels, and is satisfied by the supposition that there is a something called mind which knows and feels for him, though the same question is applicable to it, namely, how does it feel and know; the answer that it is able to do so, can be given in the first instance, and thus the frivolity of the supposition is shewn.

These absurd notions of “mind” and “ideas” involved the most out-of-the-way conclusions. It being laid down as fact that the mind perceives ideas and sensations, and not external things, the acute Berkeley declared that it was downright nonsense to say that ideas and sensations could really resemble any thing else but ideas, and sensations; but the little being, the mind, knew nothing but these ideas and sensations, and never had any knowledge of any thing else in existence, and had no right to assume the existence of anything else. The Bishop's argument is very simple and conclusive; the little gentlemau sees a number of pictures or images in

« AnteriorContinuar »