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That the "organon" was so concisely expressed as to require illustration, Aristotle himself informs his pupil Alexander, and therefore we cannot wonder that Dr. Reid should complain of the study as dry; but when he adds that a great labour of demonstration is used to prove general propositions, which when applied to particular instances, appear self-evident, he admits the intelligibility of the work, and unintentionally pays the highest compliment to the inventor of the syllogism, whose object it was to render what at first appears doubtful, by a short and conclusive train of reasoning self-evident. In no age of the world did the knowledge of Aristotle's organon intitle a man to the highest rank in philosophy; that knowledge merely qualified him to enter upon the study of philosophy, when he might with the greatest pleasure prosecute the studies, that to the author of the Analysis appeared so dry and painful. Doubtless the study of Homer and Demosthenes must prove dry and painful to those who are but imperfectly acquainted with the Greek language; for the accuracy and beauty of the composition only become apparent to those who by patient study have surmounted the difficulties of the language, and made themselves acquainted with the style of the authors. But no Greek scholar who will take the trouble of studying the "organon" with the assistance of Porphyry, Ammonius, and Philoponus, will complain of it as unintelligible; and a farther acquaintance with the writings of the author, will convince the most sceptical reader that his terms are express, and well chosen. If it be true that in order to understand the writings of Euclid and Archimedes there is need of illustrations and diagrams to enable the learner to discover the sense-if in the study of the ancient poets, rhetoricians, and historians, much attention be necessary in order to discover their excellence and beauty-how shall any man, confessing that he has never studied attentively the works of Aristotle, pretend to decide upon their merits, or give an analysis of that which he confesses he does not understand?
In common with his countrymen who have written on the subject of modern metaphysics, Dr. Reid thinks but lightly of definitions ; and says that Aristotle's have exposed him to much censure and ridicule; "yet," he adds, "it must be allowed that in things which need definition, and admit of it, his definitions are commonly judicious and accurate; and had he attempted to define such things only, his enemies had wanted great matter of triumph. I believe it may likewise be said in his favor, that until Locke's essay was written, there
was nothing of importance delivered by philosophers, with regard to definition, beyond what Aristotle has said upon the subject." From this passage it would appear that Dr. Reid believed Aristotle to have attempted express definitions of the infinite, the ȧreīpa; but this he did not do, because he tells us that however far we extend our inquiries in subjects infinite, there must ever be something ulterior, and of such subjects we can have no perfect science. "Aristotle," says Dr. Reid, "considers definition as a speech declaring what a thing is. Every thing essential to the thing defined, and nothing more, must be contained in the definition. Now the essence of a thing consists of these two parts: first, what is common to it with other things of the same kind; and secondly, what distinguishes it from other things of the same kind."... According to this definition of the essence of a thing, we know that essence, when we know its genus and species; and this Dr. Reid says "he takes to be the substance of Aristotle's system, and probably the system of the Pythagorean school before Aristotle, concerning definition." Let us suppose a trial made of the Doctor's definition of the essence of a thing-let Linnæus furnish the generic and specific characters of a plant, and see whether from these we arrive at a knowledge of what the essence of that plant is; or even gain a competent knowledge of its properties. Let us bear in mind that in this case the genus and species of a tree, for example, merely refer to its external form and character. Before we can give an accurate definition of the sensible qualities of this tree, we have to put many questions. Is it tall or short, young or old, hard or soft, gross or slender, crooked or straight, with many branches or few? &c. But an answer to each and all of these questions, will not inform us of the real essence of the tree; nor did the antients ever assert that the mind of man in his present state can comprehend it. Indeed Dr. Reid says, but two pages after he has given this definition of the essence of a thing, "what the logicians have said about the definition of a thing, if it have any meaning, is above my comprehension. All the rules of definition agree to the definition of a word: and if they mean by the definition of a thing, the giving an adequate conception of the nature and essence of any thing that exists, this is impossible, and is the vain boast of man unconscious of the weakness of human understanding." It is scarcely necessary to say that such a boast was never made.
What then are the rising generation to believe? Are they to reject the philosophy and learning of the antients as worthless and unmeaning, upon the testimony of those who avow that they have never read
their writings, and regard all those as visionaries, who study and admire the more, the more fully they comprehend? Is it fair, is it consistent with the common principles of justice, that gentlemen habited in gowns, and presiding over the education of youth in our universities, should dare to represent that as unintelligible which they have never studied, and to represent that as exploded, of which they know not the merits? The subject, however, deserves the close attention of all those who are interested in the investigation of truth, for in that consists the only real pleasure to be enjoyed in this life; and it is proposed to resume the consideration of the comparative merits of antient and modern learning hereafter.
THE sensations and reflections formed in our own minds, we com municate by means of oral sounds; to represent these to the eye, and enable others to imitate them, is the object of writing.
Can means be devised to abridge the middle step in this process ? Is it possible to invent signs, characterising not sounds, but the very ideas themselves of which sounds are the representations?
If such an art can be perfected, it will possess important advantages over alphabetical writing. By its aid, all the sons of men, whatever may be their maternal tongue, may communicate among one another: their thoughts will be conveyed more vividly, more faithfully, and more precisely; but above all, the judgment of each individual will be formed with less liability to error, than when guided by information derived through the present inedium.
That the Chinese mode of writing proceeds on this plan of representing ideas, not words, is well known. On the arrival of Lord Macartney's embassy at Pulo Condore, the chief of that island received his visitors in a room, which was observed to be covered with columns of Chinese writing; but the Chinese interpreter on board did not understand one word of the spoken language of the islanders. On their writing it down in Chinese characters, it became instantly intelligible to him, "and the fact was clearly ascertained,” as Sir George Staunton expresses it," that these characters have an equal
advantage with Arabic numerals, of which the figures convey the same meaning wherever known, whereas t e letters of other languages denote not things, but elementary sounds, which form words, or more complicated sounds, conveying different ideas in different languages, though the form of their alphabet be the same." In almost all the countries bordering on the Chinese seas, we are indeed told that this written character is understood, though not their oral language.
Some benefit, no doubt, might arise from a careful examination of the Chinese process, and on some occasions, perhaps, in borrowing from it; but we have already sufficient information to conclude that the whole system cannot be copied with advantage by another nation. It is, we find, the study of a life to become well acquainted with all their written characters. Though the tongue itself is monosyllabic, and possesses but about fifteen hundred distinct sounds, yet when written, it requires at least sixty thousand characters; some say, eighty thousand. On the formation, changes and allusions of these, thousands of volumes have been written: not above half a dozen characters are formed of a single line, but most of them of many; a few, of so many as seventy different strokes. Some of these charaeters of which we happen to be informed, seem whimsical; others, perfectly arbitrary; and hardly any deserving of imitation. For instance, the verb "to run," is composed of two characters, that of " wrapping," and that of "feet." When this compound character was adopted, its inventors probably went barefoot, and when running, to prevent accidents to the feet, were in the habit of folding them in hide, felt, cloth, or some other rude succedaneum for a shoe." Night" is typified by three characters; 1. that of darkness; 2. the action of covering; 3. man. But surely this definition is not sufficiently accurate. All nights are not dark: night covers not man alone, but all nature: a man may be in the dark by day, as well as night.—This definition depicts the night, no more than it does blind-man's-buff: one more simple, and more true, might have been formed, it would seem, by subjoining to the generical sign for time, their type for the sun, with a negation.-Again; to express "narriage," a character is employed, compounded of two, representing "wine," and "a seal;" because the wine presented on that occasion by the bridegroom to the bride, is considered as the seal of their union. Many seem perfectly capricious. "To laugh," is expressed by two characters signifying a bamboo and heaven. "A prison," by three, signifying a dog, a word, and again, a dog. In order to comprehend the meaning of a compound Chinese character, that of its several component parts.
must of course be first sought; but after this knowledge is acquired, the sense is sometimes so hid in metaphor, and in allusions to particular customs, or ways of thinking, that the meaning may yet remain in obscurity. In the study of Chinese writings, the judgment must be guided by attention to the manners, customs, laws, and opinions of the Chinese, and to the events and local circumstances of their country. By the most competent judge of the subject now living, we are indeed expressly told that in the Chinese writing, "the practice is no less inconvenient and perplexing, than the theory is beautiful and ingenious. " To deserve the appellation of universal, a language should steer clear of all allusion to customs, local or temporary, and each term should present to all men a meaning definite, and of itself intelligible.
To revert to our European notions of Pasigraphy, among the first, if not the very first writer to whom the utility of such an art has occurred, is the great Chancellor Bacon. In his "Instrument of Discourse," he says, "it is possible to invent such signs for the communication of our thoughts, that people of different languages may by this means understand each other; and that each may read immediately in his own language, a book which shall be written in another. As money may be struck of other materials as well as of gold and silver, it is possible likewise to discover other signs of things as well as letters and words." The advantages likely to result from such a discovery, the means of attaining it, and the difficulties impeding its execution, also struck the inquiring and sagacious mind of Descartes. In his printed correspondence he speaks of the necessary primitives to be employed in such a language, and on their signs. If by meditating on the subject of our thoughts, the order in which they arise, and produce others, could be distinguished, the due succession of these could be arranged with the same simplicity as the notation of numbers. In a single day, a man may acquire all the terms of numeration in a foreign tongue, however remote in sound from his own. If the same order were discoverable in the arrangement of all other subjects of thinking, it is evident that the terms in which they are expressed might be learned with equal facility. The philosophy which may thus decompound, simplify, and filiate our ideas, and which is indispensable for the formation of this universal language, he is disposed to
Barrow's Travels in China, ch. vi. p. 254.
2 Staunton's Chinese Embassy, III. 5.
3 Laws of China, translated by Sir G. T. Staunton, Pref. p. 14.