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perfectly true, the theory in question never appeared after the jargon of scholasticism died away; but it is equally true, that the representationalist hypothesis, which in every essential element is the same, lived on in all its vigour down to the period in which it met with Reid as an antagonist. Locke's theory of the understanding, for example, is built entirely upon it. In his system, inward ideas, as representatives of objective truth, cover the whole ground of the human consciousness; and his great effort is to shew, that they correspond accurately with their archetypes. It is evident,' he says, that the mind knows not things immediately, but by the intervention of the ideas which it has of them: our knowledge, therefore, is real only so far as there is a conformity between our ideas and the reality of things.' The idealism of Berkeley, it is well known, and the scepticism of Hume, were equally built upon the arguments which this representationalist hypothesis afforded: and if so, it must be granted that it was no shadow of a departed reality, against which Reid directed the brunt of his life's controversy.
The chief point of the matter, however, still remains; namely, that Brown himself, while he was denying the existence of the monster, which had roused the polemic ire of his predecessor, was really himself within its grasp. Like the harmless domestic creature to which common report assigns the possession of nine lives, this metaphysical hydra had crept again slily into being, and revenged itself upon its adversary by gaining over the representative of his own philosophical school. Brown himself, despite all his assertions that the ideal system was buried and forgotten, was virtually one of its most uncompromising advocates. True, he did not advocate films,' and 'phantasms,' and 'sensible species;' but in no work, either of ancient or modern times, is the representationalist hypothesis of human knowledge more fully asserted, and consistently maintained, than in his. While Reid asserted that our knowledge of the objective, in every act of perception, is immediate or intuitive, Brown asserted that we know nothing immediately, but the states and modifications of our own minds; while the former rested the validity of our knowledge upon the firm basis of consciousness itself, the latter rested it upon a mere inference drawn from those inward phenomena to which alone, he affirms, we have any immediate
The origin of all the misunderstandings into which our author fell upon this subject, may be traced to that same theory of causation on which we have already animadverted. Accustomed to view mind, not as a power, but as a succession of different states of consciousness, he had no conception of the possibility of our having any direct knowledge, beyond these inward modi
fications, which the soul undergoes. So intent was he upon this view of the case, that he did not even perceive the fundamental difference between Reid's theory of perception and his own; much less did he imagine that the latter really involved all the principles against which Reid directed his argumentation. A more patient investigation of the subject would have shewn him that, instead of convicting Reid of a useless struggle, he must himself either give up his fundamental stand-point, or gird himself to the task of meeting the very arguments, whose significancy he had called in question.
Let it be here remarked, how marvellously different extremes of opinion on any question meet together in their results. The empiric, who starts with the principle that every sensation and idea is the copy of some external reality, soon gets involved in the inevitable consequence, that these representations form the whole limit of our mind's activity. This being the case, there is a subjective circle described, beyond which no effort of philosophy can bring us. The idealist can here step in, and, dissipating with all imaginable ease the blind trust which is reposed in the objective validity of our sense-perceptions, will force us, one by one, into the admission of all his conclusions. And thus the philosophy which takes its start from the purely sensational, ends in a course of reasoning which binds us down to the purely ideal. Meantime, truth marches on in her course, and gathers strength from the very illustrations which error itself casts around her.
But we are forgetting that it is Brown's ethical opinions to which our remarks ought to be peculiarly directed. We regret, however, the length of illustration which we have devoted to his psychological principles so much the less, because his ethical theory was necessarily influenced-nay, even created by them. Brown's moral system is acknowledged, even by the most ardent admirers of his mental philosophy, to be a failure. How could it be otherwise? He failed to bring to the subject the funda mental idea upon which all true moral reasoning rests; I mean the great idea of human freedom.
It is not a little remarkable, at first sight, that in a course of a hundred lectures, purporting to go over the whole ground of our mental and moral phenomena, not one single page should be devoted to the direct analysis of the will. The consciousness of voluntary effort, one would have thought, was a thing so clear and so universal, that a far less analytic mind than that of Brown must have given it a prominent place in his enunciation. In addition to this, the Scottish school, to which he belonged, had gone so far as to make the powers of the will one great division of our mental phenomena; so that his very historical position
would seem to have forced the subject fully upon his attention. A little consideration, however, shews us that, according to Brown's method of viewing the human consciousness, no place could be left for what is properly designated volition. Listen to
the following account of our mental constitution:
All the feelings and thoughts of the mind, I have already frequently repeated, are only the mind itself existing in certain states. To these successive states, our knowledge of the mind, and consequently our arrangements, which can comprehend only what we know, are necessarily limited. With this simple word state, I use the phrase affection of mind as synonymous, to express the momentary feeling whatever it be; with this difference only, that the word affection seems to me better suited to express that momentary feeling when considered as an effect.'
And again :
Our states of mind, or our affections of mind, are the simplest terms which I can use, for expressing the whole series of phenomena of the mind in all their diversity, as existing phenomena, without any mixture of hypothesis as to the particular mode in which the successive changes may be supposed to arise.'
Now here is a view of mind which conceives of it as an existence subjected merely to a series of affections, and ever passing through a succession of states, which are each absolutely determined by certain antecedents. In this theory, what place is there for the will-the power of spontaneous actionthat one ever abiding fact of mind which is incapable of being reduced to the ordinary laws of causation? There can be really no self-action in the question-the will becomes here absolutely synonymous with desire, and the whole controversy respecting its liberty or its bondage is blotted out of the page of metaphysical discussion. That there is something at first sight plausible and apparently simple in Brown's view of our mental phenomena may be readily granted; but nothing can be really more false and deceptive. It makes our consciousness to resemble a chain consisting of separate links, the one springing out of the other. Instead of this, it is like one continuous thread, without any division into parts, throughout the whole of which the intellect, the emotions, and the will are indissolubly woven together. The notion of transition-states is purely imaginary. There is no such transition in the soul: there are no fixed points in our being in which we can say, now I exist in one state of consciousness, and now I am passing over into another. Consciousness is a unity; the elements of which it is composed run through the whole of its being; every instant is a state and every instant is also a change; to it being and progressing are the same things, and you can no more say that this moment's state of mind is determinative of the next
than you can divide off a stream into certain lengths and say, this piece of the current is determined by that other piece, which went before it. Strictly speaking, the mind never does exist in certain states which are called now thought, now memory, now desire, &c., it is conscious rather of an eternal unbroken state of thinking, willing, desiring,-only that sometimes one element of its being is more predominant, and sometimes another.
Brown was too acute a reasoner not to deduce his moral theory by a valid logical process, from the views he had laid down upon psychology. He looked upon the moral phenomena as states of mind, which must have their proper antecedents in the chain of our consciousness. A little observation sufficed to determine what the antecedents and consequents really were. Here is an action performed in our presence,-what is the consequence? A feeling of approbation. Here is another perpetrated before our eyes, and the result is a feeling of disapprobation. In the actions we see certain antecedents, in the feelings we see certain consequents. In these successive phenomena, according to Brown, the whole nature of morals, as far as we can ever comprehend them, is included. What else is there to discover? We observe the facts of the case, and we mark the laws by which those facts recur. By this we see that the very principle, which had led our philosopher, in all physical research, to interdict the inquiry,-why is it that one event is succeeded by another, or what adaptation has the antecedent to bring about the consequent-that very principle resisted every effort he might otherwise have made to dive deeper into the nature of moral distinctions. The consequence is, that his whole theory is not only laid open to the charge of incompetency, but involves certain inferences, which are, to say the least, very startling to our moral sensibility. According to these inferences, moral distinctions, i. e., good and evil, must depend solely upon the character of our emotions. A thing which produces moral approbation is good,-a thing which duces moral disapprobation is evil. The standard of moral excellence, then, must lie simply in our own feelings; were these feelings to vary, the grounds of right and wrong must vary also; nay, if there were a being or a race so different from ourselves as to feel disapprobation where we approve, and vice versá, then good would be to them evil, and evil would become good.
Another result of this method of reasoning is, that we must regard virtue as being, per se, a nonentity. A stone dropped from the house-top descends to the earth, and we say that it descends by the law of gravitation. A good action is committed
and it produces moral approbation in our minds: the cause of which approbation we say is the virtue of the action. Here, according to Brown's method of philosophising, are parallel cases. In the former case, he would say, that what we term gravitation is a mere abstraction, that the tendency of bodies to fall is a simple fact, which all may observe, but that no power or adaptation, nothing beyond the fact itself, can be said to appear in the whole phenomenon. In like manner, experience tells us that certain actions produce certain moral feelings in our minds; but to assert that they do so in consequence of the virtue they possess, is to turn a mere abstraction into a reality. Virtuous agents there are, but virtue there is none,- it merely expresses the relation supposed to exist between the deed we admire, and the approbation which succeeds it.
Imperfect as we regard this account of moral distinctions, yet we place it in a higher rank than those utilitarian systems, which Brown so ably and eloquently exposed. It has, at least, the merit of appealing to a species of moral sense, which of itself would guard the shrine of virtue from the abuses, to which it has so often been exposed from the hands of those, who calculate good and evil by the pains and pleasures they involve. The misfortune is, that the spirit of Brown's philosophy, did not allow him to go one step deeper, and enquire after that eternal law of right, of which our moral sensibilities are a faint reflection. Just as external phenomena not only suffice to create a sensation in the mind, but lead us to the conception of an absolute substance, by which all the fleeting appearances of things are upheld; so the contemplation of a right action, in addition to the personal emotion it excites, leads us to a region of moral distinctions absolute in its nature, and unchangeable in its laws. As the pure reason conducts us through the world of changing phenomena, to one of fixed and eternal existence; so the practical reason hurries us through the storm of our moral sensibilities, into that serene atmosphere of absolute truth, where the moral order and harmony of the universe is seen to spring from the unchangeable nature of God himself.
The evils of Brown's ethical theory, we should say, arise from its defectiveness, rather than its actual errors. There are two great problems, of which moral philosophy ought to seek the solution, namely, what is conscience and what is virtue? in other words, what are the moral elements in man, and what the law of right in the universe at large. To solve the first, we must shew, that there is a basis laid for responsibility in our free agency, that our free agency is directed by intelligence, and our intelligence stimulated by moral sensibility. Brown has pointed out the operations of the intelligence and the forms of our sen