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being of course mortgaged to the Society, put them completely in the Society's power.
NOTE.—Having attended the preliminary meeting of this Society, our opinion has been completely confirmed. In our next number we shall publish further particulars.
Enquiries and Correspondence.
UNDER this head we purpose inserting answers to inquiries upon interesting points of religion and philosophy, and remarks upon disputed topics that may be engaging the attention of scientific men. Our readers are invited to correspond with us on these matters, and to offer subjects that may with propriety and profit be discussed in our pages. Their letters will always receive our best consideration, and it will afford us no slight satisfaction, if, through the medium of the “ Student,” any young man may be instrumental in casting light upon intricate questions, and so rendering service to the cause of truth. We need It remind those young men who may favour us with communications, bor requisite an ingredient is modesty. We are sure that their views Fill ever be stated as learners, and not as instructors—rather as the suggestions of inquiring minds, than the dogmas of matured philosophers.
THE SCEPTICISM OF HUME.
It must be a matter of sincere rejoicing to every one who appreciates the importance of Christian truth, to observe what little influence the doctrines of Mr. Hume appear to exert on the English mind. Their power is much more acknowledged in Germany, where speculations of an abstract character are looked upon as the very basis of philosophy. The result of such an opinion is sufficiently evident. A complete barrier is at the very outset thrown upon all experimental researches : that which cannot be demonstrated by the rules of logic is looked upon as chimerical, and the powers of the human intellect, as well as the affections of the soul, are either stunted in their growth, or irretrievably destroyed. Thus it is that the warm feelings of some have caused them to acquire a kind of horror for these metaphysical subtilties, Which, to a certain extent, I am inclined to think, operates beneficially. But still, to minds strongly impressed with the truth and harmony of all God's works, and feeling assured that their deepest inquiries will but more clearly develope his attributes of wisdom and love, to such it is a source of grief that there should be said to exist paths of knowledge
which they dare not explore. Such bugbears, too, are the cause of that latent feeling of insecurity and doubt which many young Christians are acquainted with by bitter experience. The mind that our Creator has given to us, and so wonderfully constituted, must be satisfied. It must know the grounds of its belief, or scepticism will intrude in spite of every effort. The goodness of him who has implanted in our minds desires only that they may meet with proper objects to satisfy them, is the rock on which the Christian takes his stand, and in full reliance on this foundation, he does not fear to encounter the blasts of unbelief.
The speculation of Mr. Hume, on which I would offer a few remarks, is that on the source of human knowledge. You are, doubtless, acquainted with the theory of Bishop Berkeley, put forward by him for the purpose of overturning the pretensions of the Materialists. It isthat matter does not really exist, or that at least we are unable to demonstrate such existence. That we are in possession of perceptions of things, which perceptions may be phenomena of mind, and cannot, at all events, be proved to rest on a substratum independent of mind. That so far from mind being dependent on matter, matter itself, with its endless variety of variations and modes, is but a phenomenon of mind. That in fact there is no external world existing per se, perception, being the only realities. It will be perceived that this theory, while it confounded those logical heads that had arrived at the sage conclusion, that mind was but a peculiar mode or state of matter, at the same time led the way to a species of scepticism exactly the reverse. It was not in itself a sceptical theory, inasmuch as the perceptions of Berkley will be found on examination to be nothing less than matter under another name. Dr. Brown, indeed, considers that this theory rather materialises intellect, than intellectualises matter. It is not, at all events, a complete and consistent scepticism, This remained for Hume to bring about, and he accordingly contends, that we are unable to prove, not merely the existence of matter, but also of mind. Ideas, he says, are the only certainties, these being the immediate subjects of consciousness.
Dr. Reid thinks a sufficient reply to Mr. Hume may be furnished from thenow generally admitted fact, that ideas are not abstractexistences, but mere states of mind, and that accordingly not ideas, but matter itself, is the immediate subject of consciousness. It is, however, alleged that this view of the question does not alter the force of Mr. Hume's reasoning. For, admitting that ideas are states of mind, we can in such case be certain of nothing but that we are in possession of such states. Thus it is impossible to know the existence of an external world. By extending Mr. Hume's argument a little further, I apprehend, we shall be furnished with a solution to this paradox. We may inquire of him, upon what grounds he is a believer in his own consciousness, a fact which no sceptic has yet called into question, because to do so would in effect be irresistibly to prove it. Consciousness is a state of mind, and we believe it on that account ; the existence of matter per se, is assured to us upon the same ground, and we believe that also. We may call upon the sceptic to prove that his ideas regarding the non-existence of a material world have any reality in fact, just as readily as he challenges us to shew that our impressions are a proof
of the existence of matter. Does he involve us in a logical dilemma, we clearly are enabled to retort his argument. He may tell us that we cannot be certain of an independent world, but we may also call upon him to show why we should reject it. We cannot logically prove it, but can he logically disprove it? To what result, then, are we reduced? What, after all, does this vaunted discovery amount to? Absolutely nothing; The logic that can disprove can also prove ; that is to say, we can as much prove as disprove. In either case we can do nothing. And because we cannot prove the matter, are we to doubt ? To doubt implies knowledge, and we really are quite as much justified in believing as doubting. But we do believe, and cannot help believing, and this Mr. Hume himself acknowledges. Our constitution requires it. We might as well dispute our consciousness, and if to be consistent we did dispute this, we might, then, as reasonably question the propriety of this disputation. So that, after all, things are left in their old position.
And who ever affirmed that logic is the ground on which the existence of matter is to be received ? The sceptic here seems to act a Fery artful part. He first assumes that upon a certain ground we believe a certain truth, and then labours to show that this is no warrant for it. Instead of acting the part of a true philosopher, and inquring why we receive and acquiesce in this truth, he pronounces a terson which he afterwards shows to be a fallacious one. He is like the unbeliever in Christianity who, admitting, as he must, the existence of such a faith, says you are not authorised in accepting it, because certain reasons which à priori, he pronounces necessary, he does not md complied with. Nature will not be tampered with by logic. She will not be bound down by the formulas of man's reasoning faculty. He may, with the followers of Aristotle, prove that there can be only teren planets, but for all that, more than seven planets will, on investigation, be discovered. He may demonstrate, by strict mathematical Teasoning, that a certain mile of ground will take an eternity to walk Ofer, inasmuch as it occupies an infinite number of portions of space, each of which requires a portion of time, so that an eternity is necessary for the purpose. All this he may strictly prove, but shall we accept his proof as constituting a fact ? Shall we not rather view such seasoning as an amusing puzzle, and accept it only in this light. With Jour permission, sir, and if agreeable to your readers, I shall, in your bext number, inquire into the true source of human knowledge. With respect, I remain, yours very truly,
[Remarks upon the foregoing letter are invited. -Ed. St.]
ness. Copal, a resinous pitchy gum, was burning on the altar in the upper building. It emitted a pale blue flame, a dense volume of smoke, and a powerful odour of a stupefying nature. Thus the apartment was but badly lighted, but this partial darkness served to enhance the effect of its mysterious decorations. The cornices were twisted serpents, whose open-mouthed heads projected at intervals from the wall. These heads were hollow, and communicated with apertures in the wall, which caused the air to circulate and draw off the smoke. Thus, if a wind stirred outside the temple, these hideous reptiles appeared to be alternately swallowing and vomiting forth the perfumed vapour. The walls were covered with bas-reliefs, highly coloured, and representing the devout actions of divers pious worshippers. In one compartment was a lover, who had deserted his mistress because she wore yellow ties to her mocassins, contrary to the Mexican custom, which held red to be the orthodox colour. In a second was a man who had vowed to feed himself throughout his life with his left hand only, and had kept his vow. In a third was a sage, of such exemplary piety, that he never once had spoken to those who had committed sins, whether great or small, without curling up his nose to express his abhorrence of their conduct. In a fourth was a philosopher, who had publicly supported the following propositions : that men should not make prisoners in war, because the keep of a prisoner exceeded the value of his services,—that men should not drink too much fermented liquor, because it affected their bodily health, that men should not steal from their neighbours, because their neighbours would certainly, sooner or later, discover both the theft and the thief. It was related of this worthy man, as an additional proof of his virtue, that he had been born blind, and had never endeavoured to recover his sight. Besides these four paintings, there were some representing several devout men, who belonged to the middle class of society, and had passed their lives in reciting eloquent poems and orations upon the wickedness of the upper and lower classes; a task for which they conceived themselves to be peculiarly fitted. The priests of more ancient times had ordered that, at certain seasons, every father should whip his own children ;-but the more modern philosophers, heretofore mentioned, had demonstrated the unnatural and unpleasant character of this law, and had ordered instead that every man should incontinently and at all seasons whip his neighbour's children to the utmost extent of his ability-an order which was readily obeyed. These representations were clumsily carved, and coloured without any great knowledge of the rules or beauties of art. The limbs were stiff and ill-proportioned; the figures were mostly in profile, yet both arms were visible, as if the bodies had been transparent; the perspective was faulty, and the general design was unnatural : but the dense smoke which always proceeded from the altar rendered these defects imperceptible, and only afforded the spectator a vague and general idea of the artist's meaning. The whole temple had been built and decorated at the expense of the victims who had been sacrificed on its altars. Whatever had been their offences, their whole property had always been confiscated to the use of their judges, who had never hesitated to avail themselves of the confiscation, if the property were of the slightest value. Nay, in many instances, they had appropriated to themselves that very property for the possession of which they had inflicted death as a punishment. It was thought, indeed, and often acknowledged, that the temple owed its principal decorations to the Fealth of those victims whom its priests had treated with the greatest cruelty.
On this night, the only inmate of the temple was a female, in whose face and figure the keenest observer could have discerned nothing remarkable—nothing that could distinguish her from her countrywomen. Regular and pleasing features, short curling hair, and a clear but copper-coloured complexion were common to her and to them ; whilst her small hands and feet, and her round plump limbs, were not Sinaller or better proportioned than those which met the eye of the beholder in every quarter of the city. Her duties in the temple were extremely simple. She had only to sweep the dust from the sacred precincts, trim the fire upon the altar, and see that there was always an ample supply of copal, ready to replace the waning embers. On this night she performed these offices with scrupulous exactness, and, having concluded them, stepped through the low doorway and stood upon the terrace. This sudden transition, from the dark, shadowy, quaintly-decorated chamber, to that lofty position beneath the blue vault of heaven, was powerfully startling. It was like the sudden plunge into cold water, which for a few brief seconds robs the swimmer of consciousness, and then gives back to him his faculties braced and strengthened for renewed exertion. There are times when the mind, weakened by long inaction, or long familiarity with one phase of existence, receives a shock not less startling, sometimes not less invigorating than this. Then the dense but bodiless clouds, which interest and passion have raised around it, have no more power to obscure its vision, as it stands between the heavens and the earth, and tremblingly perceives its connexion with both. Happy is it for that man whose mind, in such a crisis, perceives that the only remedy for giddiness is to look always upwards.
The Mexican woman stood upon the terrace, and gazed alternately upon the heaven and the earth. In the one she saw only the bright stars which seemed all careless of her existence; on the other she beheld the homes of friends and relatives, the scenes of childish happiDess, the witnesses of maturer joys. Yet her eyes and her thoughts turned often from the known to the unknown, from the proved realities of life to the scenes whereof nought could be learnt save by inspiration only. It is even thus with us also; the enjoyment of the present moment is never so engrossing as to hinder us from hoping for some further joy; mostly amidst the actions of to-day we speculate upon the doings of to-morrow. And why? Because the expectation of pleasure is greater than the pleasure itself. Expectation, dealing with the dark uncertain future, is like the sailor's night-glass, and inverts the objects which it brings within our sphere of vision. Or rather, perhaps, our powers of imagination are greater than our faculty of en. joyment. It is the mind alone which anticipates, but the body shares the enjoyment; the spirit, born of immortality and infinity, sets no bounds to the size and duration of its expected pleasures, but, when