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phrase-impression on the mind; but surely no philosopher has ever adopted such language, while professedly endeavouring to develop the mode in which mind converses with matter; and it is obvious, indeed, upon a moment's consideration, that all external objects can only be impressed upon the material organs of our bodies. It is quite indisputable, we apprehend, that the dominion of consciousness is merely coextensive with the boundaries of the human mind, and that the only way in which it can be said to have any sort of connexion with outward existences, is by its cognizance of that intellectual faculty, which the impression of those existences upon our corporeal organs is calculated to bring into action. In few words, we are sensible of impressions, and conscious of sensation.*
But consciousness, in Mr. Ogilvie's system of mental philosophy, is even something more than the faculty by which we acquire all our knowledge both of physical and of intellectual phenomena:—it is, under various shapes, the very sum and essence of that knowledge. He almost uniformly takes the pains to use the phrase "modifications of consciousness' as synonymous with the subjects of consciousness;' evidently implying, according to the received signification of the words, that all the knowledge we have of the phenomena which come within our cognizance, is merely a peculiar state or condition of that feeling which the presence of those phenomena are the occasions of producing:—and as he had before told us, that the feeling in question was produced by external, as well as by internal, phenomena, it follows that, agreeably to his own doctrine, whatever we know either about mind, or about matter is—not a knowledge of actual existences—but simply a modification of the faculty which is conversant with those existences. To state the proposition in fewer words,—there is no such thing as a subject of consciousness, independently of consciousness itself. Under a little mutation, this doctrine is nothing less than the scepticism of Hume;—the word consciousness being used by the author before us in so enlarged a signification as to embrace, not only all the terms by which philosophers distinguish the feeling excited by our intellectual operations,--but those also which have been customarily used to denominate the effects of material impression. Whether Mr. Ogilvie was aware that his language involved this conclusion, we are hardly able to determine. We should be very sorry to extort a meaning from the language
* We suppose our author has been led astray by following too implicitly the example of Hume's 'freedom' in the employment of language. See the Inquiry concerning Human Understanding, Sec. II. See also Reid's Essay I. on the Intellectual Powers, chap. V.; Essay VI. chap. v.; et passim.
of any writer; and we readily acknowledge, that the forms of expression in the Essay under consideration, are not absolutely uniform. We shall have occasion to show, however, that in other instances our author has adopted more extensively than perhaps any other philosophical essayist, the metaphysical doctrines of what he calls the arch-sceptic;' and we have often been inclined to believe that, in this case also, he has retained the principles, while he has discarded the language, of those speculations concerning independent existences, which have so much contributed to the celebrity of Hume. The phraseology of our author is in general so vague and indeterminate, that we are obliged to collate all the parts of his Essay, before we can be assured of having understood him aright. The fact is to be attributed, in a great measure, we suppose, to the extreme haste and consequent inattention with which Mr. Ogilvie has chosen to put his observations together. The composition of philosophical essays should never be considered as a transient business; and the writer who thinks of acquiring extensive and permanent celebrity' must do something more than merely to suspend, for a short time, an itinerant' occupation,—throw together the crude materials of a book,—send them to press as he goes along, and then resume his wonted orbit as if he had suffered no retardation. A book is not to be dropped in this way.
But there are propositions, of which the occurrence is so frequent as to render misapprehension almost impossible. Of this sort is the principle laid down in our author's definition of human knowledge. It “is (says he, and we are assured that it is said neither lightly, nor rashly') the arrangement of the various subjects or modifications of consciousness, in the order of cause and effect: Or a coincidence betwixt the order, in which the various subjects and modifications of consciousness, is (are) concatenated in the mind, and that in which the corresponding phenomena, are connected according to the relation of cause and effect. He has subjoined another definition of the same import,—but differing a little in the forms of expression. He was anxious to prevent misconception; for the principle here inculcated lies at the very foundation, and is ramified through the whole superstructure, of the Essay. We think, however, that the language we have already quoted is sufficiently explicit;—and we may repeat in a few words that, according to Mr. Ogilvie, our knowledge is nothing more than the right arrangement of ideas according to the order of cause and effect. We dissent from the definition altogether. It does not, in our opinion, comprehend at all the notion which is commonly affixed to the term; and it would be difficult, at first sight, to conceive how our author should define knowledge itself, to consist merely in a certain arrangement of what we know. Surely it is a very common persuasion, that,-rerum cognoscere causas,-to have cognisance of causes, is the true definition of the word under consideration; and that the arrangement of our cognisance is, if not a matter of course,-at least a very subordinate
of the mental operation. The great object of science is to discover the true causes of phenomena; and when we have once a clear perception of the thing which produces, and of the thing produced, we are in no more danger of arranging the effect before the cause, than of tackling the vehicle antecedent to the team.
These strictures will be corroborated by examining our author's definition of error. It implies (says he) the presence or existence of certain impressions or ideas in the mind, but essentially consists in their arrangement or combination, in a manner that varies from the order of cause and effect. The whole of this hypothesis proceeds upon the obviously false supposition, that all the true causes of things are known,--and that error essentially consists in mistaking effects for causes, or in believing that to be antecedent which is only collateral. Now we must repeat, that when the real causes of phenomena have been once ascertained, no person in a state of sanity is liable to arrange them consecutively, or even collaterally, to their appropriate effects:—and we apprehend that error, if faithfully defined, will be found to consist essentially in attempting to account for phenomena by the supposition of false and theoretical causes. Nothing is more gratifying than to be enabled to give a reason for whatever we see taking place; and when we are prevented either by indolence or by a want of means, from investigating phenomena in the way of experiment and of observation, we put our curiosity at rest by the substitution of some plausible hypothesis. It is to this propensity of knowing the reason of things that we must trace all the erroneous and extravagant theories, which have successively amused the votaries of physical, and of intellectual science. Descartes entertained us for a time with his aerial whirlpools, to account for planetary revolutions:-Plato was sure, that, in the reception of its ideas, the mind resembles a dark cave, into which, by means of certain chinks, the images of external objects are admitted; and Locke had little doubt that it was analogous to a dark closet, into which the resemblances of outward existences were admitted through loop-holes;— would the pictures coming into such a dark room but stay there, and lie so orderly as to be found upon occasion.'* The construction of such theories as these, is the
* On Human Understanding, B. II. c. 11. & 17.
legitimate business of error:--and the obstinacy with which we persist in having our own way with phenomena, and in rejecting the true explication of whatever we are attempting to develop, (pp. 40, 41,) is only the result of that general principle of our constitution, which leads us to form an indissoluble attachment to the offspring we have been at the pains of generating and of cherishing. Mr. Ogilvie's digressive allegory on this subject is sufficiently discriminating; but it has no connexion at all with his preceding definitions.
We shall now proceed to detail our reasons for the belief which we have once or twice hinted, that the author before us has mistaken the scope and aim of Hume's Essay concerning Human Understanding.' His mistake is the common of supposing, that the reasonings of that philosopher were intended to have application in the concerns and pursuits of real life;-a supposition which Hume himself endeavoured to prevent in the Section on the different Species of Philosophy, and which is, moreover, at direct variance with the uniform and explicit language of his subsequent speculations.* In the Section alluded to he enters into a formal division of moral philosophy into two kinds,—the active and the speculative; the former of which considers man as an agent, influenced in his conduct by taste and sentiment, while the latter views him rather in the light of a reasonable, than of an active, being, and endeavours, by a narrow scrutiny of human nature, to develop those laws - which regulate our understanding, excite our sentiments, and make us approve or blame any particular object, action, or behaviour.' The active philosophy is carried
* Even Reid seems to have fallen into the error here alluded to. See particularly Essay II. chap. xx. on the Intellectual Powers. The statesman continues to plod,' &c. See also Essay VI. chap. iv.; where, in our opinion, there is an argument against Hume's philosophy, which proves somewhat too much. Dr. Reid first quotes the passage of the sceptic, in which he acknowledges, that · Nature cures him of his philosophical delirium,' and then subjoins, a little satirically, 'what pity is it, that nature, (whatever is meant by that personage), so kind in curing this delirium, should be so cruel as to cause it. Doth the same fountain send forth sweet water and bitter? Is it not more probable, that if the cure was the work of nature, the disease came from another hand, and was the work of the philosopher?' Now, we have, on every hand, a great many instances in which nature both causes and cures diseases. To adduce an obvious one-water is so deleterious when suffered to stagnate, that the absolute quiescence of the whole ocean, for any length of time, would probably depopulate the globe; and accordingly it is prevented from becoming stagnant both by saline impregnation and by constant agitation. Here the poison and the antidote are both administered by the hand of the same personage;' and yet we suspect that Dr. Reid would hardly venture to be ironical on the subject.
along with us at every step of life; while the speculative is never meddled with, except in the anticipated death of academic seclusion. It is the latter alone which Hume professedly considers in his Inquiry concerning the human mind:and the pains which he has taken to impress the reader with the assurance, that all his philosophy is merely speculative, might, one would think, have secured him against those prejudicial imputations with which his memory has been so much overloaded. This philosophy (says he) being founded on a turn of mind, which cannot enter into business and action, vanishes when the philosopher leaves the shade, and comes into open day; nor can its principles easily retain any influence over our conduct and behaviour.' Farther on in the Inquiry he tells us again,-after some sceptical arguments on the subject of cause and effect that though none but a fool or a madman will ever pretend to dispute the authority of experience, or to reject that great guide of human life; it may surely be allowed a philosopher to have so much curiosity at least, as to examine the principle of human nature which gives this mighty authority to experience.' A similar caution occurs in the very next Section.* •Nor need we fear (says he) that our endeavours to limit our inquiries to common life, should ever undermine the reasonings of common life, and carry doubts so far as to destroy all action, as well as speculation. Nature will always maintain her rights, and prevail in the end over any abstract reasoning whatsoever.' We have often heard it urged as a triumphant refutation of this philosophy,—that Hume himself, its great author and professor, conducted in ordinary life exactly as the veriest plebeian, who never dreamed of philosophical speculation. My practice, you say, (anticipates the 'Sceptical Doubter') refutes my doubts. But you mistake the purport of my question. As an agent, I am quite satisfied in the point; but as a philosopher, who has some share of curiosity, I will not say scepticism, I want to learn the foundation of this inference. Again he assures us that the feelings of our sentiments (we do not answer for the accuracy of this expression), the agitations of our passions, the vehemence of our affections, dissipate all the conclusions of speculative philosophy, and reduce the profound philosopher to a mere plebeian. And he has summed up the whole in the energetic sentence, Be a philosopher; but, with all your philosophy, be still a man.'
Sceptical Solution of Sceptical Doubts.