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consists: and the energies of the human frame are divided into two kinds, voluntary and involuntary. The involuntary are engaged in performing the animal functions of our frame; the voluntary in moving our bodies, in judging, in resisting pain and pleasure. Intellectual excellence consists in a capacity to think or to judge clearly, and in a capacity to act vigorously: the former quality is known by the name of wisdom, the latter by that of fortitude. Hence virtue, on which authors so much differ, is confined in this work to intellectual excellence; and an action is virtuous when it is productive of this excellence. In the division of moral duties, that which is generally and with great propriety used by christians is adopted; namely, the duties to ourselves, to God, and to society.
In treating of man's private duties, the nature of the human understanding and its subordinate faculties is first examined; and the hypothesis of various faculties, such as judgment, imagination, taste, moral perception and abstraction, all being rejected, three powers are said to exist in it,―sensation, memory and understanding. These are treated nearly in the same manner as by Mr. Locke: but sensation and memory are considered as subordinate faculties, because perfection of mind does not consist in their boundless improvement, and because the possession of them in their most perfect state is by no means necessary to the possession of an excellent intellectual character.'
The imagination is considered as an exertion of the understanding, but not a creative faculty; being merely a power of arrangement producing nothing new,and altogether dependant upon memory for the simple ideas or materials upon which it works.' The duty of regulating this exertion, and also of cultivating such a talent, is very forcibly and properly impressed; and the precept on the former topic deserves attention:
"To regulate well the wanderings of imagination is also an impor tant part of our duty. To build what are called castles in the air, or visionary fabrics of felicity, is often a favorite amusement of the young and the happy. But much time is thus uselessly consumed, and a disgust is often acquired for the serious and humble occupations of real life. The best security against these evils, as well as against the melancholy images of calamity and care which sometimes take possession of the memory, and unhinge the voluntary power or self-command of the mind, consists of cultivating the understanding in a high degree, and of earning to act upon the maxims of sound wisdom. He who is fully satisfied that there is nothing truly valuable but a discerning and vigorous mind, and that there is nothing truly unfortunate but error and weakness, will not be apt to lose his self-command, by indulging in dreams either of pleasure or of inisery. If at any time, however, a man of sense shall per ceive that his understanding is in any degree led captive, it be
comes instantly his duty to seek the obvious remedy for so serious an evil. This remedy consists of diversified and active occupation, by which the attention is turned to new objects, and the memory is enabled to present various images to the mind.' P. 100.
In discussing the nature of arrangement, the formation of language is introduced, with many judicious remarks on its structure: after which follows the investigation of taste; in which is examined the nature of the sublime and beautiful, the novel, and the ridiculous.
New and unexpected appearances are observed with pleasure, because they rouse the mind, or excite attention in a high degree, and all activity is pleasing. In the pursuit of truth, what is new must please; for this additional reason, that it brings along with it a consciousness of increasing intelligence.
An object is ridiculous when it exhibits an unexpected and obviously absurd combination of things or ideas. Such combinations please by their unexpectedness, and by the self-applause which the spectator feels when he perceives something to which he accounts himself superior. Hence in polite society nobody laughs, nor is laughed at, on account of the assumption of superiority which is always implied on the part of those who laugh.' P. 152.
Polite society loses much in the improvement of intellect by thus depriving itself of the use of the risible faculties. In China all polite company of the female sex have their feet cramped in their infancy, that they may not seem to stand in need; like their inferiors, of these limbs; and the reservedness of high life in Europe may arise from the almost equal ab surdity of cramping the faculties. The greatest pleasure we ever saw a human being enjoy was in a young child, who after considerable efforts had learned to spell a word not as a task, but merely from its own desire to do it. The consciousness of its victory was expressed by bursts of laughter; and where a combination of ideas is made calculated to affect the risible faculties, there seems to be no merit in suppressing the emotions of nature.
The lovers of the fine arts will not be inclined to agree with the author on the place, which he assigns to them; yet, as the cultivation of them depends very little upon intellect, they cannot deserve a high rank in improved society. The use of the fine arts, according to our author, is this:
"When men are altogether barbarous and ignorant, it is of much importance to prevail with them to exert their faculties with regard even to the most trifling objects. A marvellous tale told them in asong produces this effect. All the efforts of the fine arts are addressed to the passions. It is necessary they should be so, to excite the attention of barbarians. They have only an indirect tendency, therefore, to render mankind rational. They foster and sooth the pas
sions of love, ambition, and vanity; but they also teach men to admire skill and ability, and to take delight in something else than war, gaming, gluttony, and idleness, which are the vices of all savages. As succeeding artists improve upon each other, their countrymen become more discerning and skilful, till at last a great proportion of mankind learn to take delight in the exertion of thought, and in the pursuits of literature and of knowledge. When this ob ject is accomplished, the fine arts have done their duty; and an im portant duty it is, secing they are the means of alluring the human race to the pursuit of intellectual improvement. In themselves, however, and without regard to this object, they are of little real value; for a man is not a more excellent being when his ears are tickled by music than when he hears it not; and we derive no greater improvement from an important truth, when it is conveyed to us in rhyme, than when it is conveyed in prose. To be a good judge of painting or of music, a man must no doubt possess a certain degree of intellect; but this degree is so moderate, and is capable of being acquired in so many other ways in a literary age, that the production of it, by means of these arts, affords no adequate reward for their laborious cultivation.
I cannot help observing that, in the history of mankind, superstition and the fine arts go hand in hand, and mutually sup port each other. The poetry, painting, music, and architecture, of the Greeks and Romans were chiefly employed in the service of the popular mythology or idolatrous religion of these nations; and it was by the liberality of superstitious devotees that these arts were supported. In the same manner, the superstition of the church of Rome was the chief support of the fine arts in Europe. But it is the nature of these arts to undermine, like the ivy, the fabric to which they cling. By gradually instructing the human race to exercise their powers of reflection, they taught men to despise a degrading superstition; and at the same time to engage in the investigation of truth and of nature, which supersedes the desire of the exhibition of human art. The church of Rome has fallen, or is falling, because the very arts which it supported, and by which it was for a time upheld, taught men to exert their reason, and to press forward to that science which is more valuable than it or them. These arts will decline in Europe along with the superstitious establishment, whose patronage supported their splendour. But the example of Scotland, and of other protestant countries, shews that, if literature is generally cultivated, the intellectual interests of mankind will suffer nothing by the loss.' P. 160.
If there are dangers attending the cultivation of taste, the path of science is made by prejudices intricate and rugged; and the causes of error are investigated with great judgment and precision. A very common error is properly noticed in this part of the work, against which it becomes us particularly in this country to be on our guard; for, according to the party to which an individual belongs, whether in religion or politics, it is too much the prescribed mode to adhere only to one
set of books or writings, and to pursue only one train of reasoning.
It is not an uncommon practice both among political and religious sectaries, to avoid reading any book, or even listening to any conversation favourable to the wrong side of the question; that is to say, the side that opposes their own party. When books are read, it is for the purpose of what is called being improved by them, or to treasure up in the memory the sentiments contained in them, and to acquire the habit of thinking as the author thinks. This, when done under the notion that it improves the human mind, is abundantly absurd. It is acting as if we came into the world, not to improve our faculties by the discernment of truth, but to become sectaries of one kind or other. It ought to be remembered that no man can become wise merely by the wisdom of another. He who believes a principle only because he is told that it is true, cannot justly be said to know it, or to have become any wiser. If a man is told that the whole of a thing is always greater than any of its parts, he has no doubt been informed of what is very true; but if he impli citly believe this assertion as a matter of fact, and do not, by an act of his own understanding, perceive its reality, and how and why every possible objection to it must necessarily be false-he is not advanced one step towards the perfection of an intelligent being. That perfection consists in every individual, not in having the memory stored with propositions, but in the capacity of discerning truth by the proper energy of his own mind.
It is indeed said, that weak minds may be misled by the indiscriminate perusal of whatever has been thought or written by ingenious men: but all minds are originally formed weak, that is, ignorant; and the object of their creation is, that they may one day become vigorous, which can never be accomplished without the full exercise of their faculties. Providence trains up the minds of men to penetration and vigour, not by placing them amidst enlightened beings, who might at once introduce them to much knowledge, but amidst their equals, that is to say, among erring beings, whose various opinions afford full employment to our faculties to discover truth amidst the obscurity in which they usually involve it. If we would improve successfully our intellectual powers, we must do for ourselves what nature has already, in some degree, done for us. For the sake of going right, we must encounter the hazard of going wrong. We ought to attend to what others have thought as an intellectual exercise which nature has provided for us, but at the same time to receive what is said in books, or by men, not as truths, but as thoughts concerning truth, which we are not to believe, but to weigh and consider. Even if our own conclusions should often prove false, we shall still gain much; we shall, at least, acquire application, accuteness, and energy of mind, qualities which bring us near to the description of excellent beings; which will at the long run enable us to rectify every error, and carry us forward in that improving career which our nature is formed to run.' P. 176.
In stating the relative importance of the sciences, morals are placed in the first, practical philosophy in the second, and mathematics in the last rank; an arrangement which we are by no means unwilling to receive, provided the inverse order be adopted in the mode of teaching them. Mathematics, in the present state of the world, seem particularly adapted to open, and to give steadiness and attention to, the mind; which might be led very much astray by the want of demonstration in moral science, and the prejudice with which it is by dif ferent parties inculcated. But men cannot be always studying, and a wearisomeness will spring up in the most diligent minds. How are they to be amused? and is it lawful to seek for amusement, in a world where the cultivation of intellect is of so much importance? The question is well discussed in a chapter upon this subject.
The exertion of attention, or of a considerable effort of activity and skill, is as necessary to render amusements pleasing, as it is to the improvement of our intellectual powers. But if the human mind must be occupied, its employment ought surely to be rational rather than frivolous; the more especially as the one is not less consistent with pleasure than the other. Amusements, that is to say, Occupations intended for no valuable purpose, are seldom sought after, and are never found necessary, by those who seriously wish to make progress in intellectual improvement, or even by those who are under the influence of any powerful or steady passion. Such men have no occasion for them, as their minds are already sufficiently' occupied, and they feel nothing of the uneasiness that attends absolute idleness. Every amusement, therefore, or whatever has nothing further for its object than to prevent the necessity of thinking, and to render idleness agreeable, may justly be regarded as a contrivance hostile to the end of our existence. It wastes in fruitless trifling the time allotted in this world for the amelioration of our nature; and it has not even the excuse of affording an adequate return of pleasure in exchange. The activity of amusement is no doubt pleasing; but the activity of business is more pleasing upon the whole, as it is more permanent and more vigorous. Hence it is well known that men of business are happier than men who have no einployment, excepting that of seeking after amusement.
This general censure does not apply to that bodily exercise which the situation of some persons renders necessary to the enjoyment of health, and which is not a pastime, but a duty : It is only directed against those who struggle hard to waste their existence, by exerting all their wits in contriving how to get out of this world without performing any part of the business for which they were sent into
And surely the human constitution must be well fitted for pressing onward to excellence, since a man often suffers almost as much labour, fatigue, and hardship, in getting quit of time by idleness and amusement, as he would do by filling up the moments of it with the efforts of a mind advancing progressively in wisdom.