Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

istence of an instinct. We cannot suppose that the infant at its birth has learnt the importance of this act by reasoning upon it ; and he is as ignorant of the internal machinery, which is put in operation, as he is of its important uses. And yet he puts the whole machinery into action at the very moment of coming into existence, and with such regularity and success, that we cannot well account for it, except on the ground of an instinctive impulse.

II,_"By the same kind of principle, (says Dr. Reid, Essays on the Active Powers, III, chap. 2,) a new-born child when the stomach is emptied, and nature has brought milk into the mother's breast, sucks and swallows its food as perfectly as if it knew the principles of that operation, and had got the habit of working according to them.

“ Sucking and swallowing are very complex operations. Anatomists describe about thirty pair of muscles, that must be employed in every draught. Of those muscles, every one must be served by its proper nerve, and can make no exertion but by some influence communicated by the nerve. The exertion of all those muscles and nerves is not simultaneous. They must succeed each other in a certain order, and their order is no less necessary than the exertion itself. -This regular train of operations is carried on, according to the nicest rules of art, by the infant, who has neither art, nor science, nor experience, nor habit.

“That the infant feels the uneasy sensation of hunger, I admit; and that it sucks no longer than till this sensation be removed. But who informed it, that this uneasy sensation might be removed, or by what means ? That it knows nothing of this is evident, for it will as readily suck a finger, or a bit of stick, as the nipple.”

III,—The efforts, which men make for self-preservation, appear to be in part of an instinctive kind. If a man is in danger of falling from unexpectedly losing his balance, we say with much propriety, that the instantaneous effort he makes to recover his position is instinctive. If a person is unexpectedly and suddenly plunged into a river, the first convulsive struggle, which he makes for his safety, seems to be of the same kind. His reasoning powers may soon come to his aid, and direct his further measures for his preservation ; but his

first efforts are evidently made on another principle. When a violent blow is aimed at one, he instinctively shrinks back, although he knew beforehand, it would be aimed in sport, and although his reason told him, there was no danger. We always instinctively close the eyelids, when any thing suddenly approaches them. Dr. Reid asserts, that he has seen this tried upon a wager, which a man was to gain if he could keep his eyes open, while another aimed a stroke at them in jest. When we are placed on the summit of a high tower, or on the edge of a precipice, although we are perfectly assured of our safety by the reasoning power, the instinct of self preservation is constantly suggesting other precautions.

§. 104. Further instances of instincts in men. IV,—There is also a species of resentment, which may properly be called instinctive. Deliberate resentment implies the exercise of reason, and is excited only by intentional injury. Instinctive resentment, on the other hand, operates, whether the injury be intentional or not; and precisely as it does in the lower animals.

Whenever we experience pain, which is caused by some external object, this feeling arises in the mind with a greater or less degree of power, and prompts us to retaliate on the cause of it.- A child, for instance, stumbles over a stone or stick of wood, and hurts himself, and under the impulse of instinctive resentment violently beats the unconscious cause of its suffering. Savages, when they have been struck by an arrow in battle, have been known to tear it from the wound, break, and bite it with their teeth, and dash it on the ground, as if the original design and impetus of destruction were in the arrow itself. All persons of strong passions in particular show the existence and workings of this instinct, when they wreak their vengeance, as they often do, on inanimate objects, by beating or dashing them to pieces.

V,—There is undoubtedly danger of carrying the doctrine of the instinctive tendencies of the human mind too far, but we may consider ourselves sase in adding to those, which have been mentioned, the power of interpreting natural signs. Whenever we see the outward signs of rage, pity, grief, joy, or hatred, we are able immediately to interpret them. It is abundantly evident, that children, at a very early period, read and decypher, in the looks and gestures of their parents the emotions and passions, whether of a good or evil kind, with which they are agitated.

It must be admitted, that the power of interpreting natural signs depends in part on experience and on deductions drawn from that experience; but the power is evidently in some degree instinctive. Often when we see, both in children and in older persons, the strong outward manifestations of grief, when we are at the same time assured, that there is but little of suffering in fact, we find ourselves very sensibly affected. So when we see an actor on the stage, with distorted countenance and accents of deep grief, the outward signs carry a momentary conviction and a momentary pang to our own hearts, in spite of the admonitions of reason; a circumstance which cannot well be accounted for, except on the ground, that these signs speak to us with a natural power; that is to say, are instinctively interpreted.

§. 105. Of the final cause or use of instincts. Although the instincts, as a general statement, commend themselves less decisively to our regard and admiration than some other portions of the mind, they still have their important uses. It seems, in particular, to be the design of the instinctive part of our nature to aid and protect us in those cases, where reason cannot come seasonably to our aid. According as the reasoning powers acquire strength, and prepare themselves more and more for the various emergencies, to which we are exposed, the necessity of instinctive aids is proportionally diminished. But there are some cases, which the reasoning power never can reach ; and consequently our whole protection is in instinct.

It is evident, therefore, that they are a necessary part of our constitution ; that they help to complete the mental system ; and although of subordinate power and value in man, compared with the inferior animals, they still have their worth. As the reasoning power predominates in man, so instincts predominate in the lower animals ; and, as we do not expect to find the glory of reasoning in brutes, so we should not expect to discover the full excellence of instinctive

powers in men; but should rather look for them in the insect and the worm, in the beasts of the field, and the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, dwelling in them as a part of their nature, and blessing, while they control and guide them.

CHAPTER THIRD.

APPETITES.

§. 106. Of the general nature and characteristics of the appetites.

UNDER the general head of Desires, the subject of apPETITES seems next to propose itself for consideration. But as it is one of limited extent, and of subordinate importance in a metaphysical point of view, only a few remarks will be necessary. The arrangement, which brings the subject forward for discussion under the head of Desires, will recommend itself on a very little attention. The prominent appetites are those of HUNGER and thirst; but the appetite of hunger is nothing more than the desire for food; the appetite of thirst is a desire for drink.

Nevertheless they appear to be sufficiently distinguished from the other desires. They are not like the instincts, always gratified in a certain fixed and particular manner; nor are they like them, in being wholly independent of the reasoning power. On the contrary, they may be restrained and regulated in some degree ; and when it is otherwise, their demands may be quieted in various ways.

But withont dwelling upon such considerations, the statement has been made with much appearance of reason, that they are characterized by these three things ;—(1) They take their rise froin the body, and are common to men with the brutes.-(2) They are not constant in their operation, but occasional.-(3) They are accompanied with an uneasy

sensation.

It may be remarked here, that the feeling of uneasiness now referred to appears always to precede the desire or appetite, and to be essential to it.

§. 107. The appetites necessary to our preservation, and not originally

of a seltish character. Although our appetites do not present much of interest, considered as parts of our mental economy, they have their important uses, in connection with the laws and requirements of our physical nature.-" The appetites of hunger and thirst, (says Stewart,) were intended for the preservation of the individual ; and without them reason would have been insufficient for this important purpose. Suppose, for example, that the appetite of hunger had been no part of our constitution, reason and experience might have satisfied us of the necessity of food to our preservation ; but how should we have been able, without an implanted principle, to ascertain, according to the varying state of our animal economy, the proper seasons for eating, or the quantity of food that is salutary to the body? The lower animals not only receive this information from nature, but are, moreover, directed by instinct to the particular sort of food that it is proper for them to use in health and in sickness. The senses of taste and smell, in the savage state of our species, are subservient, at least in some degree, to the same purpose.

“Our appetites can, with no propriety, be called selfish, for they are directed to their respective objects as ultimate ends, and they must all have operated, in the first instance, prior to any experience of the pleasure arising from their gratification. After this experience indeed, the desire of enjoyment will naturally come to be combined with the appetite; and it may sometimes lead us to stimulate or provoke the appetite with a view to the pleasure which is to result from indulging it. Imagination, too, and the association of ideas, together with the social affections, and sometimes the moral faculty, lend their aid, and all conspire together in forming a complex passion, in which the animal appetite is only one ingredient. In proportion as this passion is gratified, its influence over the conduct becomes the more irresistible, (for all the active determinations of our nature are strengthened by habit) till at last we struggle in vain against its tyranny. A man so en

« PoprzedniaDalej »