Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAP. IV.

OF THE ANALOGY BETWEEN MENTAL PRINCIPLES AND SEEDS, AND BETWEEN EDUCATION AND CULTURE.

SECT. I,

Of the Analogy between mental Principles and Seeds.

We have now taken a review of several important testimonies, in favour of some universal law or light of truth, existing in the mind antecedently to outward observation, and leading mankind-the wise and unwise to certain general opinions-with regard to the existence of a supreme Being, the obligation and excellence of virtue in its various forms, and the sacred rights and supremacy of conscience. For we cannot conceive any human society to subsist, without some impressions more or less distinct, of these primary and essential truths.

We have also taken notice of the opinion very generally entertained by philosophers, that even speculative truth itself, of every description, is founded upon some first principles or intuitive axioms, incapable of proof, and yet, by the constitution of our

nature, commanding implicit assent. And it seemed to follow, as a necessary consequence, that moral truth, likewise, should be built upon some original principle in the mind. From such small beginnings, therefore, it was to be presumed, the greatest stretch of intellect, and the highest degree of moral excellence, took their rise.

A question therefore naturally presents itself, whether these Elements of Reason and of Moral Feeling -if they may be so denominated-constitute part of the original fabric of the mind, or only bear such a relation to it, as a cargo of merchandize does to a ship, or an assortment of jewels to a cabinet.

We have partially reviewed the leading principles of Locke's system, and, if we may judge from his comparisons, the latter must have been his opinion. We have seen, notwithstanding, that very grave authorities are opposed to this eminent writer; and it will be proper to enter into a brief discussion, on the developement of the mental faculties; without which developement, it is to be presumed, the understanding can neither be cultivated, nor embued with knowledge. For, the developement is one thing, and the cultivation another. A limb may grow, and a branch may shoot out; the former without being properly exercised, and the latter without being properly trained.

It seems, therefore, to be of importance that we should inquire whether the mind has any analogy to the other works of divine Providence, or stands alone

and distinct, in its affinities, propensities and deve, lopement, from every other object of the Lord's Creation. I believe, we shall find, although we cannot pretend to know any thing of its real essence, that, in its constitution, faculties and endowments, whether these be natural or acquired, it still holds a near and beautiful relation to the objects with which we are surrounded.

I conclude, therefore, that a suitable object of comparison, will help us to form as clear a notion of the matter as the nature of things will admit. But as to the question whether the mind be purely immaterial, or be absolutely depending on material organs to execute its functions, the analogy I allude to, will be equally applicable.

It seems, therefore, to be perfectly consistent with the phenomena, to consider the mind in its original state, as a living principle possessed of inherent powers, or germs of thought and feeling, each of them capable of astonishing enlargement. And these are precisely the properties we ascribe to a germ or seed. The mode in which the mind is at first enabled to apprehend the most simple truths, or elements of knowledge, and afterwards by slow degrees to en, large its comprehension, so as to take in systems; as well as the order in which its powers are gradually unfolded; afford the clearest illustration of this analogy, as well as substantial evidence that it is not, in its nature, whatever that may be, of the same capacity or dimensions, (if the term may be allowed,) origin.

ally, as it is when brought to maturity. But what applies to the mind as a whole, applies to its several faculties, in particular. The brain is an organ, of whose functions we know little more than this, that it is subservient to the operations of mind. How far its different parts belong to different mental capacities and propensities, is a theory yet in its infancy. That there is some natural connexion is highly probable; and illustrations from Comparative Anatomy may be fairly brought forward in support of such a theory. But, our business on the present occasion is with it as a whole and so far as its developement is connected with the production of thought, it is a structure unique in the creation. Yet we cannot doubt that it follows the analogy observable in nature. The brain, however, is only part of a system, not the whole. This is not the case with a seed.

But of the internal organized structure-the original vital energies of a living seed, we know nothing. Or, if we rise from a vegetable to an animal similitude, we may compare the mind to the ovum. The rudiments of life and the lineaments of organized structure, observable in the embryo, are analogous to the undeveloped characters of the mind; and the members of the body are analogous to the various faculties. But as the body is one and distinct, united in every part by common sympathies, though there are many functions; so also is the mind. The faculties are only different modifications of mental power; as the outward limbs and organs, some voluntary in

their action, some involuntary, are instruments of physical use, appertaining to the body.*

Something of the same analogy may be traced in a seed; and it might be more correct, and, certainly is more appropriate to the common usage of language, to consider the mind as a receptacle of various seeds, corresponding to the different tendencies, affections, and principles, with which it is naturally endowed.

It may not, indeed, be philosophically correct to speak of seeds in the mind, as the principles from which its actions spring; but if we must compare it with any thing external, the better to understand its operations ;-an alternative to which we are compelled to have recourse, in the present limited state of our knowledge,—we should compare it with something that the Creator himself has formed, and not with some mechanical contrivance or composition of human art, such as a cabinet or room, or a sheet of paper. These similes-all of them without life-it must be confessed, are chosen with singular infelicity; as if there was nothing in the whole works of Providence, nothing in the wide circle of organized

* Dr. Good justly observes that " the faculties are to the mind, what organs are to the body. We, sometimes, however, are apt to speak of them as distinct and separate existences from the mind. The faculties of the mind are so many powers; and as powers, are mere attributes of a being or substance, and not the being or substance itself."-" We accustom ourselves to describe the will as being overpowered by the judgment; or the judgment as being overpowered by the imagination; or the mind itself as being carried headlong by the violence of its own passions. By all which, however, we only mean, or should only mean, that the mind does not on such occasions, exert its own faculties in a fitting or sober manner."-Good's Study of Medicine, vol. 3, p. 52.

« PreviousContinue »