Obrazy na stronie

as we apprehend it, is the mere creature of his own mind.

Let us next consider how this question stands as to the conceptions he entertains respecting the minds of other men. That which gives him the sensation of colour, is not any thing coloured out of himself; and that which gives him the sensation of length, breadth and thickness, is not any thing long, broad and thick in a manner corresponding with the impression he receives. There is nothing in the nature of a parallel, a type and its archetype, between that which is without him and that which is within, the impresser and the impression. This is the point supposed to be established by Locke and Newton, and by those who have followed the reasonings of these philosophers into their remotest consequences.

But the case is far otherwise in the impressions we receive respecting the minds of other men. In colour it has been proved by these authors that there is no express correspondence and analogy between the cause of the sensation and the sensation. They are not part and counterpart.' But in mind there is a precise resemblance and analogy between the conceptions we are led to entertain respecting other men, and what we know of ourselves. I and my associate, or fellow-man, are like two instruments of music constructed upon the same model. .. We have each of us, so to speak, the

divisions of sound, base, tenor and treble.

three great

We have each the same number of keys, capable of being struck, consecutively or with alternations, at the will of the master. We can utter the same sound or series of sounds, or sounds of a different character, but which respond to each other. My neighbour therefore being of the same nature as myself, what passes within me may be regarded as amounting to a commanding evidence that he is a real being, having a proper and independent existence.

There is further something still more impressive and irresistible in the notices I receive respecting the minds of other men. The sceptics whose reasonings I am here taking into consideration, admit, each man for himself, the reality of bis own existence. There is such a thing therefore as human nature; for he is a specimen of it. Now the idea of human nature, or of man, is a very complex thing. He is in the first place the subject of sensible impressions, however these impressions are communicated to him. He has the faculties of thinking and feeling. He is subject to the law of the association of ideas, or, in other words, any one idea existing in his mind has a tendency to call up the ideas of other things which have been connected with it in his first experience. He has, be it delusive or otherwise, the sense of liberty of action.

But we will go still further into detail as to the nature of man. Our lives are carried forward by the intervention of what we call meat, drink and sleep. We are liable to the accidents of health

and sickness. We are alternately the recipients of joy and sorrow, of cheerfulness and melancholy. Our passions are excited by similar means, whether of love or hatred, complacency or indignation, sympathy or resentment. I could fill many pages with a description of the properties or accidents, which belong to man as such, or to which he is liable.

Now with all these each man is acquainted in the sphere of his inward experience, whether he is a single being standing by himself, or is an individual belonging to a numerous species.

Observe then the difference between my acquaintance with the phenomena of the material universe, and with the individuals of my own species. The former say nothing to me; they are a series of events and no more ; I cannot penetrate into their causes; that which gives rise to my sensations, may or may not be similar to the sensations themselves. The follower of Berkeley or Newton has satisfied himself in the negative.

But the case is very different in my intercourse with my fellow-men, Agreeably to the statement already made I know the reality of human nature ; for I feel the particulars that constitute it within myself. The impressions I receive from that intercourse say something to me ; for they talk to me of beings like myself. My own existence becomes multiplied in infinitum. Of the possibility of matter I know nothing; but with the possibility of mind I am acquainted; for I am myself an example.

I am amazed at the consistency and systematic succession of the phenomena of the material universe; though I cannot penetrate the veil which presents itself to my grosser sense, nor see effects in their causes. But I can see, in other words, I have the most cogent reasons to believe in, the causes of the phenomena that occur in my apparent intercourse with my fellow-men. What solution so natural, as that they are produced by beings like myself

, the duplicates, with certain variations, of what I feel within me?

The belief in the reality of matter explains nothing. Supposing it to exist, if Newton is right, no particle of extraneous matter ever touched the matter of my body; and therefore it is not just to regard it as the cause of my sensations. It would amount to no more than two systems going on at the same time by a preestablished harmony, but totally independent of and disjointed from each other

. But the belief in the existence of our fellow-men explains much. It makes level before us the wonder of the method of their proceedings, and affords an obvious reason why they should be in so many respects like our own. If I dismiss from

my the existence of inert matter, I lose nothing. The phenomena, the train of antecedents and consequents, remain as before; and this is all that I am truly concerned with. But take away the existence of my fellow-men ; and you reduce all that is, and all that I experience, to a senseless mummery.


“You take my life, taking the thing whereon I live."

Human nature, and the nature of mind, are to us a theme of endless investigation. “The proper study of mankind is man.” All the subtlety of metaphysics, or (if there be men captious and prejudiced enough to dislike that term) the science of ourselves, depends upon it. The science of morals hangs upon the actions of men, and the effects they produce upon our brother-men, in a narrower or a wider circle. The endless, and inexpressibly interesting, roll of history relies for its meaning and its spirit upon the reality and substance of the sub. jects of which it treats. Poetry, and all the wonders and endless varieties that imagination creates, have this for their solution and their soul. Sympathy is the only reality of which we are susceptible ; it is our heart of hearts : and, if the world had been “one entire and perfect chrysolite," without this it would have been no more than one heap of rubbish.

Observe the difference between what we know of the material world, and what of the intellectual. The material goes on for ever according to certain laws that admit of no discrimination. They proceed upon a first principle, an impulse given them from the beginning of things. Their effects are regulated by something that we call their nature : fire burns ; water suffocates ; the substances around us that we call solid, depend for their effects, when put in motion, upon momentum and gravity. The principle

« PoprzedniaDalej »