Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

exact, because the author had no intention of producing a complete methodical treatise, but merely meant to indicate the questions upon which he has something to say. Wc shall limit ourselves to these two points,-exterior perception and will. On the first of these he writes almost like Reid ; on the second, he goes beyond his contemporaries.

Let us briefly recall the explanation of external perception given by the Scotch school. Properly speaking, that school does not explain it; it is plain to us that we perceive the external world, because we have the faculty of perceiving it. This is an irreducible fact; more than that, we perceive things as they are. I see a cat, I touch a glass. According to Reid and his disciples, the cat is in itself such as I see it, the glass such as I touch it.

Supposing that neither I nor my fellows were to see the cat or touch the glass, these objects would nevertheless remain such as I saw them, with their proper qualities of form, of resistance, etc. To maintain the contrary is, according to them, to introduce scepticisin. According to the contemporary school, perception is the common act of the subject and of the object; my perception

I put into the external world at least as much as I receive from it. There is some external thing which I call a cat or a glass, but nothing proves that they correspond with the idea which I form of them ; it is even probable that they differ very much from it. Perception being a relation, there is nothing astonishing in its varying with the two terms, and as they do ; this is a quite natural fact, there is no shadow of scepticism in maintaining it.

Mr. Bailey agrees with Reid, or differs from him only by a shade. “I differ,' he says, 'from the Scotch school, because it admits an irresistible belief in an external world, and I admit a knowledge.' The criticism which he makes of Berkeley does not appear to me to go to the root of the question ; that on Kant is inexact, if we are to believe that he reproaches him with having regarded perception as an analysable fact, in place of seeing in it a fact of indecomposable consciousness ;now it is precisely herein that we find progress.

is my

work ;

i Vol. ii. Letter 2.

The celebrated opinion of the author upon sight hangs upon his doctrine of passive and immediate perception. In England the name of the Berkeleyan theory of vision is given to that which distinguishes the natural perceptions of sight (light, colours, etc.) from the acquired perceptions (distance, movement, etc.), the latter being matter of induction, and not of direct perception. The eye gives us only the apparent figure, position, and size; touch alone gives us the real figure, position, and size. But as the differences in the reality are usually accompanied by differences in appearances, the mind infers the real from the apparent.

Mr. Bailey has strongly opposed this theory in order to expressly admit a direct and immediate vision. Although the entirety of his arguments does not appear naturally to produce conviction, we must acknowledge that he has brought forward facts very difficult to explain by an opinion contrary to his own. Among children, he says, sight is developed before touch. He maintains most positively that young animals see as soon as they are born. The duckling runs to the water on coming out of its egg, the little crocodile, hatched without being incubated by its parents, also runs to the water, or bites a stick if it be presented to it. In short, he denies that the famous blind man operated upon by Cheselden, who said that every object touched his eyes, furnishes an argument against this doctrine.

Mr. John Stuart Mill, who has discussed this theory,' comes to the conclusion that the arguments of Mr. Bailey have thrown no new light whatever upon the question, and have left the theory of Berkeley such as it was before. It seems difficult to be of any other opinion.

We have said that in his essay upon the Will, Mr. Bailey appears no longer as a dissenter from the Scotch school, but as a precursor of his contemporaries.

* If,' he says, ' psychology studied the affections and operations instead of the faculties, and regulated its language in consequence, it seems as if we should be rid of a number of embarrassing

* In an article in the Westminster Review, reprinted in the Dissertations and Discussions, vol. ii. p. 84.

questions, among which we must number the controversy upon the freedom of the will, which is literally the liberty of a nonexistence.' 1

The question, when closely examined, reduces itself, according to the author, to demanding, not if we are free to act in certain cases as we please—for nobody, I think, will dispute that we are—but if there are regular causes which place us in a condition to wish to act as we do act. Now this is a question of fact, and examples abound which show that, in many cases, the circumstances being determined, our acts may be predicted, and that there are regular causes which determine us to will, as there are physical causes which produce the different material facts.

Forty-three years ago (in 1826) Mr. Bailey published a dissertation upon the Uniformity of Causality, with the object of bringing voluntary phenomena under the common law. This is the subject of the curious essay which he has reproduced in his Letters upon the Philosophy of the Human Mind.

It is surprising that the connexion of motives and actions could have been theoretically regarded as doubtful. Practical life depends entirely upon this principle, which is speculatively rejected. The speeches of an orator, the treatises of an author, the prescriptions of the legislator, the manoeuvres of the general, and the decrees of the monarch, all equally resemble it. A general who commands an army and directs a battle counts on the obedience of his officers and of his soldiers ; is he less confident in the result of his orders, than when he accomplishes some material act, such as drawing his sword or sealing a despatch?

Commercial transactions of every kind attest the same sort of confidence. A merchant draws upon his banker a bill payable on such a day; the bill circulates, and the drawer does not doubt about the final volition which will cause the banker to pay it.

Political economy offers us still more numerous examples. It is in a great measure an inquiry into the action of motives, and it is founded upon this principle, that human volitions are under the influence of precise and determinable causes—the rise and

· Letters, etc., vol. ii. chap. xv.

* Ibid. p. 166.

[ocr errors]

the fall of stocks, the fluctuations in exchange, the variations between supply and demand, the return of paper to the banker after an excessive issue, the disappearance of specie,-all the facts of this nature result from definite causes which act with regularity.

Thus, when we lay aside vague language upon the liberty of the will—which, as we have said, is the liberty of something which does not exist—the true question presents itself under a form that no longer allows room for divergence of opinion.

But after all, it may be objected, when we thus predict or calculate the voluntary actions of our fellows, we only regard their production as probable; there is no necessity in this case, they may produce themselves or not produce themselves; there is a sort of latitude which prevails, and does not permit us to suppose that these actions depend upon regular and invariable causes.

To this Mr. Bailey replies, as may be expected, that it is our ignorance of all the causes in action which render voluntary events only probable to us; if we knew them all, there would be a perfect certainty—the variations in probability are entirely due to variations in the state of our own knowledge; and this is equally true as regards physical and moral phenomena.

In short, there are two incontestable facts, says Mr. Bailey, ist, That voluntary actions are not only constantly predicted, but purposely produced by the motives which human beings present to each other; and 2dly, That in performing such actions we nevertheless do as we please : we act with perfect freedom; an option is presented to us, and we choose to do the actions rather than not to do them. Mankind, however, seem not to understand the relation in which these two facts (both incontrovertibly true) stand to each other. It is generally apprehended that there is some discrepancy, or inconsistency, or incompatibility between them, but for my own part I see none; and if both are real facts, they cannot, I scarcely need say, be discordant or incompatible one with the other.

Why should there seem to be any incompatibility between your doing as you please, and my predicting what you will do, and even causing you to please to do it?

'My purposely producing in you the state of pleasing to do a

thing—which implies, of course, my foreseeing the action—is not compelling you to do it, but the reverse. ... The same human actions may be willed with perfect freedom by the performer, and predicted with perfect confidence by the looker-on.'

This theory of the Will agrees so perfectly with that of the contemporary school, that Mr. Bain has transcribed several pages of it in his great work on The Emotions and the Will. If we add that in his special treatise on The Theory of Reasoning (2d edition) Mr. Bailey approaches Mr. John Stuart Mill in several respects, we may conclude that his psychology bears the mark of an epoch of transition, being however nearer to the future than to the past.

1 Bailey's Philosophy of the Human Mind, vol. ii. p. 172.

[ocr errors]
« НазадПродовжити »