Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

the influence of motives, three doctrines, of which he rejects two, and accepts one :

Fatalism pure and simple,-Asiatic fatalism, or that of Edipus,maintains that our actions do not depend on our desires. A sovereign power, an inexorable destiny, governs all our actions. Our love of good, and our hatred of evil, are of use to us as regards our conduct. Fatalism which may be called modified, maintains that our actions are determined by our will, our will by our desires, and our desires by the joint influence of the motives which present themselves to us, and of our individual character; but that, this character having been made for us, and not by us, we are not responsible for it, or for the actions to which it leads us, and that we should in vain attempt to modify it.

In short, the true doctrine of the causality of human actions maintains, against the two preceding doctrines, that not only our conduct, but also our character, depends in fact upon our will ; that we can ameliorate it, by the use of proper means, and that, if it be such that by its nature it constrains us to do evil, it will be right to employ motives which constrain us to make an effort to improve this bad character. In other words, we are subject to the moral obligation to seek the amelioration of our moral character.

The latter solution, which is Mr. Mill's, supposes in us not only spontaneity but the possibility of regulating its development. But this directing power, this faculty of placing ourselves in circumstances favourable to our perfection, what is it at bottom ? This is a capital question, it seems to us, and the school which we are considering is very vague upon the point.

CHAPTER III.

PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORY OF MATTER AND OF MIND.

Psychological Theory of Matter and Mind.--1. Matter-2. Mind—3. The

phenomenism of Hume and Mill.

We do not enter, in this place, as might be supposed, into metaphysics ; at least there will be no question of matter or of

H

mind, considered as substances. The 'psychological theory of mind and of matter,' which is the summary and the result of the preceding, is opposed to the introspective theory of Reid, Stewart, and the majority of the philosophers, inasmuch as the latter consider the subject and the object to be two fundamental terms, irreducible, revealed to us by consciousness from the beginning of life, while the experimental school hold that the notions of matter and mind are complex, and formed at a later period; and that, in consequence, by applying analysis to them, we may discover and trace their genesis. The experimental school sees a question of origin and embryological research where the rival school sees only two facts to be stated, which are inexplicable by any process. It proposes to establish that matter is nothing but the permanent possibility of our sensations, and that mind is nothing but the permanent possibility of our states of consciousness; thus approaching Berkeley on the first, and Hume on the second point.

We begin with matter. 1

The psychological theory of the belief in an exterior world requires, in order to constitute it, some postulates, which are all proved by experience.

The first postulate is, that the human mind is capable of expectation ; in other words, that after having had actual sensations, we are capable of forming the conception of possible sensations.

The second postulate is, that our ideas associate themselves according to certain laws. Among the laws of the association of ideas, those with which we are concerned at present are :

1. There exists a tendency to think of similar phenomena together.

2. There is a tendency to think together of phenomena which have been experienced or conceived of as contiguous in time or space.

3. The associations produced by contiguity become more certain and more rapid by repetition; and thus inseparable or indissoluble association is produced.

4. When association has acquired this character of insepara

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

bility, not only do the two ideas become inseparable in consciousness, but the facts or phenomena which correspond to those ideas finally arrive at appearing to be inseparable in existence. We find numerous examples of this in the acquired perceptions of sight. Thus, we see artificially that a body is hot or cold, hard or soft, etc. These postulates stated :

Perhaps it may be objected, that the very possibility of forming such a notion of matter as Sir William Hamilton's—the capacity in the human mind of imagining an external world which is anything more than what the psychological theory makes itamounts to a disproof of the theory. If, it may be said, we had no revelation in consciousness of a world which is not in some way or other identified with sensation, we should be unable to have the notion of such a world. If the only idea we had of external objects were ideas of our sensations supplemented by an acquired notion of permanent possibilities of sensation, we must, it is thought, be incapable of conceiving, and still more incapable of fancying that we perceive, things which are not sensations at all.' 1

And first, what do we mean by those words : an exterior world, an external substance? We mean that our perceptions have relation to something which exists, even when we are not thinking of it, which has existed before we have thought of it, which should exist even if we should be annihilated; we mean that things exist, which neither we nor any man have ever seen, touched, or perceived. The idea of this something fixed, which is distinguished from our floating impressions by that character which Kant calls permanence, is our belief in matter. Now, according to the psychological theory, all that is only the form imposed by the known laws of association upon our notions of contingent sensations, obtained by experience.

I see a piece of white paper upon a table. I pass into another room and I no longer see it, nevertheless I am persuaded that the paper is still there, and that should I go back into that room, I should see it again. I believe that Calcutta exists, although

i Mill's Hamilton's Philosophy, p. 199.

I do not see it, and that it would still exist even though all its inhabitants should be suddenly stricken with death. Analyse my belief, and you will see that it reduces itself to this : if I were suddenly transported to the shores of the Hooghly, I should experience sensations which would lead me to believe that Calcutta exists. In these two cases (and they include the whole), my idea of the exterior world is the idea of actual or possible sensations. These different possibilities are the most important thing in the world for me. My present sensations are generally fugitive and of little importance; the possibilities, on the contrary, are permanent; which is precisely the characteristic which distinguishes our idea of substance or matter from our idea of sensation.

There is another important characteristic which adds to the certitude or guarantee of these possibilities of sensation ; it is, that the sensations are not isolated but united in clusters. When we think of any body or material object, we think not of one single sensation, but of a varied and indefinite series of sensations ordinarily belonging to different senses, but so united that the presence of one generally announces the possible and simultaneous presence of all the rest. Consequently, the cluster, considered as a whole, presents itself to the mind as permanent,—the principal characteristic which distinguishes our idea of substance or matter from our idea of sensation.

In short, we do not only recognise fixed groups, but also a fixed order in our sensations, an order of succession which, when confirmed by experience, gives rise to the ideas of cause and effect. But this invariable succession of antecedent and consequent takes place most frequently, not between an actual antecedent and an actual consequent, but between the groups of which only one portion is actually present to us. Therefore, our ideas of cause, power, and activity unite themselves not to sensations, but to groups of possibilities of sensations. The whole of these sensations, considered as possible, form a permanent basis for actual sensations; the relation of the possible sensations is considered as the relation of a cause to its effects, of a canvas to the figures painted upon it, of a root to its trunk, its leaves, and its flowers, of a substratum to that which covers it.

[ocr errors]

6

Nor is this all. Having reached this point, we consider these permanent possibilities as different from sensation. We forget that they are founded in sensation, and we suppose that they are intrinsically distinct from it. Now we discover that other human or feeling beings formed their expectation or their conduct, as we do, upon the possibilities of sensations. We see that they have not exactly the same sensations as we have, but that they have their possibilities of sensations like us ; that everything indicates that there is in them a possibility of sensations similar to ours, if indeed their organs do not differ from the type of ours. This agreement between ourselves and our fellows finishes and completes our idea,—that groups of possibilities are the fundamental reality of nature.

In a word, possible sensations, groups of sensations, order in these groups, and agreement between our belief and that of our fellows: in these consists our whole idea of matter.

‘Matter, then, may be defined a Permanent Possibility of Sensation. If I am asked whether I believe in matter, I ask whether the questioner accepts this definition of it. If he does, I believe in matter : and so do all Berkeleians. In any other sense than this, I do not. But I affirm with confidence, that this conception of matter includes the whole meaning attached to it by the common world, apart from philosophical and sometimes from theological theories.' 1

It may perhaps be said, that the preceding theory gives, indeed, some account of the idea of permanent existence, which forms part of our conception of matter, but gives no explanation of our believing these permanent objects to be external, or out of ourselves. I apprehend, on the contrary, that the very idea of anything out of ourselves is derived solely from the knowledge experience gives us of the Permanent Possibilities. Our sensations we carry with us wherever we go, and they never exist where we are not; but when we change our place we do not carry away with us the Permanent Possibilities of sensation ; they remain until we return, or arise and cease under conditions with which our presence has in general nothing to do. And more

1 Mill's Hamilton's Philosophy, p. 227.

« НазадПродовжити »