On the Cognizance which the Understanding takes of its own Processes.
1. IT has often been said of man that he is the greatest of
all mysteries to himself. What hath led to this saying is his profound
ignorance of that which is so immediately about him as his own sentient and
moral and intellectual economy. It is strange that to him the most deep and
difficult secrets are those which lie nearest to mm. Yet so it is - and however
inscrutable he may find Nature to be in all her departments, yet never does he
find her more so than among the recesses of his own internal system, and amid
the hidden workings of his own nature.
2. But it is of the utmost practical importance to remark that though man knows not the proesess of that complex economy by which it is that he moves and feels and thinks, it is not necessary that he should, in order either to move aright, or to feel aright, or even to think aright. In as far as the merely animal constitution is concerned, this is quite palpable. That the processes of this constitution should go rightly forward it is not necessary that he should understand them. He does not need to study anatomy that he might find his way to the appropriate muscles by which to move and turn himself. It is not by any intelligent guidance of his that the processes of digestion and secretion and circulation are regulated. The creature may be upheld in living play and in the healthful enjoyment of life, although he should never have taken lessons on Physiology, or speculated till he had lost his way among the arcana of vitality and the vital principle. That the machinery of his own internal system may be kept prosperously a-going it is no more required that he should look inwardly, than that he should look outwardly or upwardly to the Heavens lest the mechanism of the Planetary system should go into unhingement. The systems both of Astronomy and Anatomy are independent of him - and though both lay hid in unrevealed mystery for ages, yet did the one proceed as invariably and the other almost so, as now that they have been somewhat opened to the gaze of his curiosity. A thing may operate rightly though he kuows nothing of the nlodns operandi. To have the full use of his animal system he is nearly as independent of the science of it, as any inferior creature who is incapable of science_ - and who nevertheless in the freshness and buoyancy of its own spontaneous powers can expatiate at large in the element that is suited to it; and either revel in fields of air, or sport itself in the waters of the sea, or luxuriate on the pastures of earth and all by the adaptations of a self-mechanism, of the workings of which, nay even of the existence of which it is wholly unconscious.
3. All this is abundantly obvious - but it has not been sufficiently attended to, that the remark is nearly as applicable to mans moral as to his animal constitution. That this constitution be in a wholesome state, or that its various faculties and functions should be in right adjustment, it is not necessary for man the owner of this constitution to take a reflex view of it, or become theoretically acquainted with the nature and the workings of this inner mechanism. What has been said of physical may be as emphatically said of moral and spiritual health. The vigorous clown may have all the use or enjoyment of it - while all the science of it belongs to the sickly valetudinarian. And in like manner the first may never have heard of a moral sense, and yet both promptly discern and powerfully feel the obligations of morality - while the second can subtly analyze that conscience, whose authority he bids away from him. The truth is, that often when man is most alive to the sense of what is duteous and incumbent, it is not to himself that he looks - but to a fellow man whether an applicant for justice or charity who at the time is present to his sight, or to God the sovereign claimant of piety and of all righteousness, who at the time is present to his thoughts. So that all the while he may have been looking outwardly to an object, and never once have east an introverted view upon himself the subject. He may have been looking objectively or forth of himself, and never subjectively or towards himself. He may have taken in a right sensibility from the object that is without him, and have been practically urged thereby in a right direction. There has been a real inward process in consequence - but the process has only been described or undergone; it has not been attended to. The organ whether of feeling or of perception may be justly impressed with the object that is addressed to it - while the man is wholly taken up with the object; and meanwhile all consciousness of the organ is suspended. It is precisely like the man who can see rightly that which is before him, although he should never think of the eyes retina nor be aware of its existence. Notwithstanding his well-conditioned moral state he may be as ignorant of the moral, as many a peasant in a well-conditioned physical state is ignorant of the physical anatomy. In the construction of our ethical systems, this distinction has not been enough adverted to - between a knowledge of the objects of the science, and a knowledge of the faculty by which these objects are perceived or judged of. Certain it is, that without the latter knowledge there may, practically, he a most correct intelligence and feeling in regard to the question of right and wrong - nay the principles of this question may be philosophically arranged, and a complete moral philosophy be framed without that peculiar analysis which is resorted to by those who blend the moral with the mental philosophy.
4. But the same is also true of our intellectual constitution. It may be in a sound state and may operate. soundly - though we should never have bestowed one thought upon it. That the understanding may proceed aright on the many thousand objects of human thought, it is not necessary that it should take any cognizance of its own processes. We admit that the procedure of the human understanding forms one, and that too a most interesting. topic of inquiry. But it is not necessary to have mastered this topic, ere we are qualified to enter on other topics of inquiry. The truth is, that a man may have put forth his understanding with wisdom and with a warrantable confidence on every other department of human knowledge - and yet be a stranger to that one department, the knowledge of his own intellectual processes. In a word the understanding may understand every thing but itself - we mean every thing that is within the circle of our mental acquisitions. We may work well with an instrument, though we do not attend to the workings of the instrument. We do not first look to the instrument of thought, and then to the objects of thought - or first to that which understands, and then to that which is to be understood. We investigate without one thought of the investigating mind - just as to ascertain the visible properties of that which is before it, the eye, instead of looking to itself, looks openly and directly forth of itself, and on the outer field of contemplation.
5. There are many who exercise their intellectual powers vigorously and soundly, without ever once casting an introverted eye on their mode of operation who, in contact only with the objects of reasoning, never once bestow a formal or express thought on the act of reasoning, yet reason conclusively and well - who, busied with nothing else for example but lines and angles and surfaces, can prosecute a most logical and unexceptionable train of argumentation, yet have never made of logic a science or a study - who can travel the whole round of our existing mathematics, without one thought of that mind which performs every footstep, or the working of that machinery within to which they are indebted for every inch of their progress. It is all the while with something apart from the understanding that the thinking principle is engaged, and not with the understanding itself - and while there are many who, to magnify their own office, will tell of the science of mind that it is the parent of all other sciences; and which therefore occupy a place that is posterior and subordinate - we feel it to be certain that Newton might have done all that he has achieved in geometry, that he might have made the same skilful applications of it to the physics and philosophy of the material universe, that he might have unravelled the mazy heavens and moved with gigantic footstep from one wondrous discovery to another, without one reflex thought on the operations of that faculty within his breast, which yet was the instrument of all his triumphs. He did not first medicate his understanding by the prescriptions of logic, and then go forth with it on the theatre of its exercise. But he went forth with it in all the vigour of its immediate and original health, and fastened it at once on the objects of physical investigation. Even the three Laws of Nature by which he introduces the Principia to his reader, he gathered, not from the field of his internal, but from or that of his external contemplations. They are not laws of mind, but laws which have their jurisdiction in surrounding space and it is by looking intelligently there, and not by looking to itself that the mind is enabled to recognise them.
6. On this subject we hold Dr. Brown to have overrated the importance of the mental philosophy - both when he says that a right view of the science of mind is essential to every other science - and when he says that to the philosophy of mind, every speculation in every science may be said to have relation as a common centre. A certain given effect may be found to depend on a particular thing, and yet may not at all depend on our knowledge of the thing. He seems to have confounded these two - and to have ascribed that to our knowledge of a thing which was only due to the thing itself. It is true that the actual results in every science depend not merely on the nature of the objects investigated, but on the nature of the investigating mind - and that with minds differently constituted, or having other powers and perceptions than those which do in fact belong to us, all our sciences would be affected with a corresponding difference. A differently constituted mental system in our species, would have made all our sciences different from those which make up our existing philosophy_but that is not to say, that we must first study the actual construction of our minds, ere we can enter on the study of the actual sciences. Science as it is, may be regarded as the compound effects of two ingredients of mind as it is, and of that which the mind investigates even the subject-matter of the science. Change one of these ingredients even the mind-and this will give rise to the new compound of a science different and differently modified. But it does not follow that because all science thus depends on the nature of that ingredient, it therefore depends on our knowledge of that ingredient. It is most true that as the mind is, so effectively the science is. But we bring about the effect simply by using the mind, although we should not have studied it. The philosopher goes forth upon nature with such a mind, as he finds himself to have - and the result is a science in the state we now actually behold it. Had he found himself with a different mind, he would still have gone forth upon nature; and the result would have been a science different from the present one. But in neither case does he look reflexly upon the mind, nor is it necessary that he should. It is no doubt the instrument of all his discoveries - but mental though it be, it is iio more essential to his sound and effective working of it that he should become acquainted with the laws of mind, than it is essential for an artisan in order that he might work his instrument rightly to become acquainted with the laws of matter. Had our minds been constituted otherwise than they are, we should have had a different mental physiology and corresponding to this, a different set of the sciences. The working of our mental physiology is indispensable to our acquisition of all the sciences; but the knowledge of our mental physiology is not indispensable to the acquisition of any of the sciences, save of the science of mind alone.
7. The mind, in the work of investigating any object beside itself, employs the laws of thought - just as the mechanic in working with his tools employs the laws of matter. But it is not necessary in either case that the laws, whether of matter or of mind, should have been previously investigated by the operator himself. The resulting view or the resulting feeling of the minds attention to any object, apart from itself, is the composed effect of what the mind is and of what the object is - so that if the constitution of the mind were , altered, the view or the feeling would also be altered. What the mind is, is therefore indispensable to the result, but not our knowledge of what the mind is; and therefore though in direct contradiction to Dr. Brown we hold that every branch of the physics of mere matter could be cultivated to its highest degree of accuracy and perfection, without our ever having reflected on the nature of that intellectual medium through which alone the phenomena of matter become visible to us."
8. The analogy which he institutes between the mind and a telescope, viewed as instruments of observation, will not make good his argument. He tells us that to expect an acquaintance with external things without acquaintance with the natural medium of the intellect - were as vain as to expect that we should form an accurate judgment as to the figure and distance and colour of an object at which we look through the artificial medium of an optical glass, without paying any regard to the colour and refractory power of the medium itself - and that, to the astronomer the faculty by which he calculates the disturbing forces that operate on a satellite of Jupiter, in its revolutions round its primary planet, is as much an instrument of his art as the telescope by which he distinguishes that almost invisible orb; and it is as important and surely as interesting to know the real power of the intellectual instrument which he uses, not for calculations of this kind only, but for all the speculative and moral purposes of life, as it can be to know the exact power of that subordinate instrument, which he uses only for his occasional survey of the heavens.
Now our design in the examination of an optical glass previous to the use of it, is to compare its intimations with those of the eye, that we might reduce both to the same standard, But a like scientific exantination of the eye is not at all called for - we having already arrived at the confident use of it by the education of the senses, or that busy interchange and comparison of notices between the sight and the mouth, during which, from early infancy, the mind has all along felt that it was holding converse not with itself but with the external world. The confidence wherewith we use the natural instruments, whether of the eye or of the mind, is the fruit of a gross and general experience; and no reflex or introverted view which the mind can now take of its own operation will add to that confidence. And after that either by our own science or the report of scientific men, we have obtained confidence in the use of an optical glass, we look no longer to it - but through it, and to the object on which object it is that our attention terminates and rests. And after that by the tuition of nature under which the homeliest peasant has risen to as great a proficiency as ourselves, we have acquired the confident use of our senses, we look neither to them nor to the mind, but from the mind and on the object of contemplation.
9. Although to the physiology of the mind belong all those powers and processes, by which it is that it acquires the knowledge of things which are separate from itself, and therefore the working of this physiology is anterior to the acquirement of all knowledge - yet the knowledge of this physiology is not so anterior. The physiology may be at work, soundly and successfully at work, without being at all understood or even adverted to just as a man may operate rightly and fulfil the whole practical object of some piece of machinery that has been put into his hands, although he understands not the construction of it. The mental physiology in regard to its being must have the historical precedency over all science - but the science of this physiology has no such historical precedency over all other science. Suppose, that, instead of access by consciousness to the mechanism of my own intellect, I had access by some new channel of observation to the mechanism of the intellect of another man, and that I saw him busily and prosperously engaged in the study or contemplation of some one department of external nature - it is by looking to him certainly, that I should extend my knowledge of the world of spirit-but it would be by looking to the very same place on which his regards are fastened, that I should extend my knowledge of the world of sense. For this latter purpose, I would just as little look towards him, as he is doing himself, at the moment when his attention is intently fastened on some outer field of contemplation. To obtain the accurate perception of a tree, I should not look to the faint and perhaps muddy reflection of it, from the waters of that lake on whose margin it is standing - and neither should I look to the mind of another, nor yet to my own mind, that from the mental reflection which is exhibited there, I might learn of that material world which stands in its own direct revelation before me.
10. It has been affirmed in plea for the priority of the study of mind, over all other studies, that it is only by means of just conceptions in regard to the powers and the province of the human intellect, that certain illusions have been dissipated which were not merely unphilosophical in themselves, but which, so long as they lasted and had currency in the world, did effectually baffle the progress of all philosophy. But we, I contend, who now are in a state of freedom from these illusions, have no call upon us for attending to the process by which they were destroyed. The ingenious sophistries of Hume led to the conclusion that the material world had no existence but in our own shadowy imaginations. But is that a reason why, ere I enter on the Natural Philosophy by which the laws of matter are investigated, I who have no doubt upon the subject, must first be satisfied of the superior force of that reasoning by which the sophistries of Hume have been overthrown? I am not at all troubled with those sensible species which schoolmen chose to interpose between the human mind and those external realities by which it is encompassed - and am I therefore to be troubled ere I can clear my way to an immediate converse with these realities, with those masterly demonstrations of a sounder and better intellectual Philosophy, by which all the species and spectres of the middle ages have at length been put to flight? Because there are men in all ages, who have wandered from the direct path of simplicity and common sense in pursuit of some laborious follies of their own, can I who do not share in these follies only find access to that path across the still more laborious Philosophy which has now extinguished them for ever? The elaborate perversities of the human mind may require the elaboration equally severe of some great master-spirit to overturn them. But now that these perversities have gone into oblivion, and the temporary purpose of their utter destruction has been accomplished - is it for us to leave the obvious and rectilineal path which Nature has marked out, in pursuit of every wild deviation, or even of the retracing path by which the wanderers have been called back again. We utterly refuse the right of human folly in past generations to lay such a tax upon posterity and though aware that a whole millennium of thickest intellectual darkness passed over the world, and that it was only dispersed by the philosophy of Bacon - yet now that he has set us on the right path of investigation, in that path we may go, alike unconscious of those false lights by which our ancestors were bewildered, or of that greater light which put out them all. The confidence of Nature was disturbed by the reveries of the schoolmen. But now that these reveries are dissipated the confidence is restored. - And. without once having looked on the Novum Organum of Bacon, there is not a human creature in the maturity of his ordinary understanding, who does not know his great and simple lesson, and only great because of the monstrous absurdities by which for ages it was wholly overborne - even that to ascertain the visible qualities of an object we must look, or its sonorous qualities we must listen, or its tangible qualities we must handle, or its dunensions we must measure.
11. There is no doubt that the view which we are le to take on every one subject of human knowledge is dependent on the physiology of the mind. But that is not to say that we must therefore become first acquainted with this physiology, ere we set ourseives to the acquirement of all other kaowJedg~. There can be no doubt that because such is the constitution of the mind, such therefore are its modes of reasoning and of judging on all the objects of possible contemplation. But it does not on that account follow, that we must first study this constitution ere we proceed to the study of any thing else. The powers of the mind are antecedent to the acquirements of the mind. But the knowledge of those powers by which the acquirements are gotten is not antecedent to that krl,owledge in which the acquirements consist. The mind is the instrument of all its own acquisitions but the instrument has been long tried and used and has also accomplished a great deal of work, before its properties have become the objects of our separate investigation. It is true that without a retina and without a picture of that which is external being spread out there, there could have been no science of optics. But it is just as true that it would have been as clear and demonstrative a science as it is at this moment, though anatomists had never found their way to this phenomenon, and the very first touch of their dissecting instrument had so injured the whole of the visual apparatus as to have made the exhibition impossible. And in like manner, there is a certainty and an evidence in many of the sciences that is altogether unaffected either by the success or the failure of our speculations on the mental physiology. When I look to the lines and the angles of Geometry, it is not to the diagram upon my retina, but to the diagram upon the paper or upon the board - and in like manner when I prosecute the train of its clear and resistless argumentatioris, I look only to the evidence that beams upon me from the subject itself,and not to the mind which has been so constructed as to be the recipient of that evidence. It is thus that physical science may, up to its proudest altitudes, have become the mental acquirement of him who has never once cast a regard on the mental physiology - and we should be doing what is preposterous, we should be inverting the experimental order of things, did we insist that the scholar should have a clear insight into the machinery of his intellectual powers, ere we asked him to set that machinery a-going, or by a busy forth-putting of these powers to attain a clear insight upon the other departments of human contemplation.
12. Men judged well and reasoned well on a thousand objects of contemplation, long before the mental acts of judging and reasoning became the objects of contemplation themselves. When these in their turn became the distinct objects of thought, they underwent the same treatment as all the other objects of thought do when treated philosophically - that is, they were grouped and classified according to their resemblances into the various modes of ratiocination. Still the soundness of all the dif ferent reasonings was felt, long before that Logic had pronounced upon it. It was not logic that first authorized the reasonings - but logic went forth, as it were, on the previous confident reasonings of men, just as the philosophic inquirer goes forth among those phenomena which constitute the materials of a science, and groupes or arranges them according to their common observed qualities. We dispute not the use of logic - for the study of it implies, first attention to the actual specimens or examples of valid argumentation - and then a recognition by the mind of what that is which constitutes its validity - and we cannot well be so engaged without becoming more expert both in the practice of reasoning and in the detection of any flaw or infirmity in the process. All we affirm is, that good and bad reasoning were felt to be such, before that any reflex cognizance was taken of them. It is not by an anbecedent prescription of logic that men defer to the authority of proofs but it is out of antecedently felt and recognised proofs that the prescriptions of logic are framed. It was not necessary first to devise a right system of logic, that from it men might learn to reason conclusively and well - but this system is constructed upon an after survey of those good and conclusive reasonings, which, anterior to its guidance, had come forth on the field of human observation. The completion of a right system of logic is therefore not indispensable to the practice of sound reasoning, either in the business of life or in the sciences - neither does it follow that an erroneous system would materially hinder the work of prosperous investigation, in any quarter to which the intellect of man might betake itself. The class of the logicians might differ among themselves; or collectively they might fail in adjusting and building up a sound theory out of those existing materials, which, in the shape of sound judgments and sound reasonings, have been produced or are being produced every day by every other class of inquirers. So that apart from logic, and even in the midst of confusion and contrariety amongst the masters in the science, the general mind of society might be proceeding rightly onward, and multiplying the known truths of all the other sciences; and that whether they are truths which lie at a great depth and are fetched upward as it were by an act of shrewd intuition, or lie at a great distance and are reached forward by a consecutive train of argument. Each process may be most correctly done by the immediate agent, whether or not it be correctly described by the logician who is looking over him.
13. It should be remarked however that even in the study of universal Logic, the mind is not at all times studying itself. It is not necessarily looking inwards, when attending either to the modes or to the prmciples of reasoning. It, for example, lays confident hold on the truth of the axiom that every event must have a cause; or, proceeding on the constancy of nature, that a like result is always to be anticipated in like circumstances and in so doing it may be looking objectively and not subjectvely. We are not to confound the act of the mind in judging with the thing that the mind judges of. It is a mistake that the science of mental physiology envelopes, as it were, the sciences of Logic and Ethics. The science of the mental physiology takes cognizance of the various states of the mind as phenomena, and groups them into laws or classes according to their observed resemblances. But this is a different employment from that of estimating either what is sound in morals or sound in reasoning. The question, what are the states of emotion or the intellectual states whereof the mind is susceptible, is another question altogether from what that is which constitutes the right and wrong in character, or what that is which constitutes the right and wrong in argument. Mental physiology has been too much blended with the sciences of Ethics and Logic, so as to be regarded in some degree as identical studies. They are not so. It is only when the first principles whether of Logic or of Ethics are controverted, that we are thrown back as it were on our own minds, to take a view there, of what the laws are, whether of human feeling or of human thought. When there is a denial of first principles, this is the only way left to us, of meeting either the moral or the intellectual scepticism. We have no other resource than simply to state the minds original and instinctive and withal resistless tendencies, whether in matters of belief or in matters of sentiment. It is at this part only of a logical or ethical discussion, that the constitution of the mind comes into notice as a direct object of contemplation. There is a certain obstinate scepticism which cannot be reasoned against, and which can be contravened in no other way, than by an affirmation of the minds instinctive confidence in those principles which constitute both the basis and the cement of all reasoning.
14. It is of importance to remark how confidently, and withal how correctly these first principles of belief were proceeded on, ere they were adverted to as parts of the minds constitution. The phenomena of belief are antecedent to any notice or knowledge on our part of the laws or the principles of belief. Men achieved the intellectual process legitimately, ere the legitimacy of the process was traced or recognised. From the beginning of the world mans faith in the constancy of nature was as vigorously in operation as now - and, for many ages before that it was announced as one of the instincts of the human understanding, did it serve for mans practical guidance both in the business of life, and in the prosecution of all the sciences. And what is true of the infancy of the - species is also true of the infancy of each individual. It is with his rational as with his animal economy. Each goeth on prosperously and well, without any reflex view of the operations of, either. It would appear that from the very outset of the education of the senses, there are certain original principles of belief which are in most efficient play; and the practical result of it is the infants sound education. The following are the admirable observations of Dr. Thomas Brown on the habitudes and powers of the little reasoner - and we bring them forward that we may discriminate more clearly between a mental process as done by one individual, and the same process, as described by another individual who is looking over him. After having analyzed the process of an infants mind, he says I am aware that the application to an infant, of a process of reasoning expressed in terms of such grave and formal philosophic nomenclature, has some chance of appearing ridiculous. But the reasoning itself is very different from the terms employed to express it, and is truly as simple and natural as the terms, which our language obliges us to employ in expressing it, are abstract and artificial. The infant however, in his feeling of the similarity of antecedents and consequents, and of the necessity therefore of a new antecedent, where the consequent is different has the reasoning but not the terms. He does not form the proposition as universal and applicable to cases that have not yet existed; but he feels it in every particular case as it occurs. That he does truly reason with at least as much subtilty as is involved in the process now supposed, cannot be doubted by those who attend to the manifest results of his little inductions, in those acquisitions of knowledge which show themselves in the actions, and I may say almost in the very looks of the little reasoner - at a period long before that to which his own remembrance is afterwards to extend, when, in the maturer progress of his intellectual powers, the darkness of eternity will meet his eye alike, whether he attempts to gaze on the past or on the future; and the wish to know the events with which he is afterwards to be occupied and interested, will not be more unavailing than the wish to retrace events that were the occupation and interest of the most important years of his existence. - Even then many a process of ratiocination is going on, which might have served as an example of Strict logic to Aristotle himself; and which affords results far more valuable to the individual reasoner, than all the contents of all the folios of the crowd of that gleat logicians scholastic commentators.
15. Whatever then may be involved in the formation of a right system of logic - whether the logician for this purpose should have to classify the processes of reasoning, or to be studiously observant of the mental phenomena, that is to say, whether he should have to look objectively or subjectively, it is conceivable of his peculiar work that it may be done either well or ill, and the work of all other inquirers in all the other departments of human thought may go on vigorously and prosperously, notwithstanding. One man may work a machine well, though another should altogether fail in the description of it - and this just holds as true of a reasoning piece of mechanism as of any other. The phenomena of belief, and of sound belief, as existing in the mind of one man, may have been incorrectly surveyed and stated by another acting in the capacity of his inspector. - but that does not hinder, either the belief from being legitimate in itself, or from its having been arrived at legitimately. We should not insist at such length on a matter that seems so very obvious, did we not foresee the importance of a certain apphcation to topics of Christian evidence that we shall have occasion to make of it. The direct work of the understanding both in Christianity and in the other branches of human investigation may be going on rightly, while that work may be very far from being either discerned rightly or described rightly. The understanding may understand other things, and yet not understand itself. Its business may be well done, yet ill described. And while wholesome processes of inference, leading to wholesome and most valuable conclusions, are actually going on in every other department; it is conceivable that the logician, baffled in the work of his department, may have found it impracticable to make a thorough exposition of them.
16. And there are many respects, in which a direct process of the understanding admits not of being closely or completely followed up, by any reflex cognizance that might afterwards be taken of it. We know, for example, that there are degrees of evidence, and degrees of weaker or stronger belief corresponding thereunto. There is a sort of general proportion between the evidence for a thing and the impression of its credibility. Yet who can take account of these impressions? Who can take an accurate measure of their intensity? Who can construct a relative scale, by which the degrees of proof and the degrees of conviction shall be placed in right correspondence together - and then tell in every instance, whether the inquirers confidence is in just proportion to the evidence that has been presented to him? Yet practically and really the confidence will grow with the evidence, and may be in right proportion thereunto, though any statement of the degree or the proportion be utterly impossible. A man of rightly constituted understanding may judge rightly in every, instance; while, in no one instance, might any man, though endowed with the most subtle or powerful understanding upon earth, be able to assign numerically how strong the judgment ought to be, in the given proofs or likelihoods of that particular question which the mind may happen to entertain. A peasant for example, of sound intellect, may give to a certain story the very degree of credit which rightfully belongs to it. The appearances of its truth, the seeming honesty of the witness, the whole turn and style of his relation, the internal and circumstantial evidence which it possesses - all these may have made their impression and, their just impression upon him. Other witnesses may be conceived to superadd their testimony - and the conviction may be strengthened, and strengthened in the fair and right proportion too, with every accession to the evidence. He, sitting in the direct capacity ,of a judge in the narrative, may be rightly impressed with all that is brought into the field of his notice - and in the rate of his conviction, he may be keeping an equal pace with the evidence as it grows and multiplies around him. But another acting in the capacity of an inspector over him, whether as a logician or a mental physiologist, may be utterly unable to estimate what the intensity of his belief is, or whether it accurately corresponds to the degree of probability that lies in the existing evidence. In other words the direct process may be going on rightly, while a full reflex cognizance thereof may be utterly impossible. It goes on rightly with the child at the outset of his natural education - although it be impossible to trace it metaphysically. It goes on rightly with the unlettered workman - and the results of it. are neither less true and important in themselves, nor less valuable to him; although in this case both a metaphysical description of the process, and a logical estimate of the proof had been alike impossible.
17. Were these principles rightly appreciated, it would serve to qualify and we indeed think to do away the contempt which is often felt and expressed for the popular understanding. When it is said of the common people that they are not logicians, this may be true if it be meant, that they seldom take a reflex view of the processes of intellect, and are strangers to the terms of that nomenclature by which these processes are described. But that is not to hinder their going most correctly and intelligently through the processes themselves. Though incapable of the reflex, they may be abundantly capable of the direct process - and on a thousand subjects calling forth the exercise of mind, but which are apart from the subject of mind itself, they do evince a shrewdness and penetration for which too little credit is given to them. Generally speaking, an unlettered workman knows nothing of the philosophy of testimony yet without this knowledge he may be accurately impressed by the importance of any actual or specific testimony which is brought within his reach. On the strength of those instinctive principles of belief which are in busy operation within him, though he himself hath never taken account of them; and on the strength of his general and accumulated experience - he may have a very correct sense of the verisimilitudes that belong to many a question. The whole of the judging process may have been accurately gone through by him, though the metaphysique of the process should be wholly inaccessible to himself, or even though it should be equally inaccessible to the most subtle and philosophical of discerners. This does not hinder the process from going on rightly. The mechanism of the inner man works, though he never looks at the working of it. The judgment which is part of that mechanism may do its part and do it soundly and well - so as that evidence shall have its just impression upon him, though the philosophy of that evidence was never once the subject of any reflex investigation.
18. The testimony of the early Christians to the miracles of the evangelical record, has from time to time been addressed to the public by a series of writers who have very ably urged and expounded it. And in many thousands of instances it has had its proper effect on those who attended to it. The consistency and sincerity by which the whole narrative is so obviously pervaded the number and opportunities of the original witnesses, and the manner in which their testimony has been sustained by the close and continuous succession of others who came after them - the rapid propagation of Christianity in the face of opposition, each of its friends having in the very fact of his conversion left his own distinct confirmation behind him, and each of its enemies having done the same thing in the fact of his silence - these topics have undergone repeated elucidation in the hands of the defenders of Christianity; and the felt force of them on the minds of the readers was not countervailed by any thing like another force felt to be equal or superior, in the merely miraculous character of the events which were related. It had doubtless been all along the feeling that a miracle required a greater weight and amount of testimony to make it credible than an ordinary event. But it never, we believe, was imagined till about the middle of the last century, that such in the very nature of a miracle was its unconquerable resistance to proof, as to place it beyond the reach and possibility of being established by any testimony, whatever may be its character and whatever its abundance. This discovery was not made in the act of attending to the specific miracles of the New Testament, or of weighing the specific testimonies by which they are supported. It is a discovery grounded on the considerations of a general logic which takes cognizance either of the principles of reasoning, or of the properties of the reasoning mind. It never, we believe, was suggested to any mind, when immediately engaged in the direct process of viewing or of estimating the actual evidence for the miracles of the gospel. It is altogether the fruit of a reflex process, which terminate as it might, leaves the direct process to go on very much as before. We believe it of any candid and intelligent man that, after the study of Mr. Humes Essay on Miracles, he, on betaking himself again to the study of the evangelical narratives and of all its vouchers, cannot help being impressed just .as he wont to be. The speculation may stagger him; and he labour and be at a loss when trying to adjust the metaphysics of the general question. But in reading Paley or Littleton or Butler, he does not feel that countervailing force in the mere idea of a miracle which the Scottish metaphysician has ascribed to it. It is on the general question only that he is bewildered - for when engaged with the particular question of the christian miracles - when in contrast with the ipsa corpora of this latter question, his old convictions return to him. In the act of reasoning on the immediate subject-matter of the New Testament history, his invincible tendency is to think and feel as before. It is when he reasons upon the reasoning that he gets involved again in helpless obscurity. This new principle of human belief he may find it exceedingly difficult satisfactorily to dispose of; but from what himself feels he may gather the strong and general apprehension, that with the phenomena of human belief it is not certainly in accordance.
19. The treatment which Mr. Hurnes argument has met with in the two countries of England and Scotland is strikingly in unison with the genius of the respective people. The savans of our nation have certainly a greater taste and inclination for the reflex process, while it is more the property of our southern neighbours to enter, vigorously and immediately and with all that instinctive confidence wherewith nature has endowed us, on the business of the direct one. Our general tendency is to date our argument from a higher point than the English does - to reason for example about reasoning, before we proceed to reason about the matter on hand. Nay, we are apt to be so far misled as to think that we should thoroughly comprehend the nature and properties of the instrument of ratiocination, before we, proceed to the use of it. We must do this, it is thought, else we do not begin at the beginning - though in fact this were just such a beginning as that of the labourer who should imagine that ere he enters with the spade in his hand on the work of digging, he must first have computed the powers of its wedge, or ascertained the specific weight and cohesion of its materials. There is upon an infinity of subjects, much intellectual labour that may be most prosperously gone through, without any anterior examination on our part of the intellectual faculty. Our disposition in many a question is to move a previous question which must be first settled, ere we hold ourselves in a condition for starting fair with the one immediately before us. The English again, to borrow another phrase from their own parliamentary language, are for proceeding to the order of the day. And they are not deceived in the result - just because nature has not deceived them, nor has she given original principles to her children for the purpose of leading them astray. They are like men set forth on the survey of a landscape, and who proceed immediately to the business of seeing whereas the others, ere they shall have any dealing with the objects of vision, must have settled their account with the instrument of vision - so that while the former are looking. broadly and confidently outwards on the scene of observation, the latter are speculating on the organ and its retina, or have their thoughts intently fastened on that point whence the optic nerve issues from its primitive obscurity among the convolutions of the brain. Now this is what our friends in the south seem to have no patience for. Their characteristic is not subtlety of discrimination on the powers and principles of the mind - but often admirable soundness and sagacity in the direct application of their powers to the practical object of coming to a right judgment on all important questions. Dr. Paley stands forth in full dimensions as an exemplar of this class. Strong and healthful in his faculties, he turns them to the immediate business before him, without one reflex look at the faculties themselves. He bestows on the argument of Hume a few touches of his sagacity but soon flings it as if. in distaste or intolerance away from him. We hold this to have been the general reception of it in our sister kingdom and while taken upin grave and philosophic style by Campbell and Brown and Murray and Cook and Somerville and the Edinburgh Reviewers, it seems to have made comparatively little impression on the best authors of England on Penrose for example, who bestows on it but slight and cursory notice, and Le Bas who almost thinks it enough to have barely characterized it as a wretched fallacy.
20. Paley concludes his preparatory considera tions to his book on the Evidences with the following short practical answer to Humes essay .. - But the short consideration which, independently of every other, convinces me that there is no solid foundation in Mr. Humes conclusion is the following. When a theorem is proposed to a mathematician, the first thing he does with it is to try it upon a simple case; and if it produce a false result, he is sure that there must be some mistake in the demonstration. Now to proceed in this way with what may be called Mr. Humes theorem: If twelve men whose probity and good sense I had long known, should seriously and circumstantially relate to me an account of a miracle wrought before their eyes, and in which it was impossible that they should be deceived; if the governor of the country, hearing a rumour of this account, should call these men into his presence, and offer them a short proposal, either to confess the imposture, or submit to be tied up to a gibbet; if they should refuse with one voice to acknowledge that there existed any falsehood or imposture in the case; if this threat were communicated to them separately, yet with no different effect; if it was at last executed; if I myself saw them, one after another, consenting to be racked, burnt or strangled rather than give up, the truth of their account; still, if Mr. Humes rule be my guide, I am not to believe them. Now I undertake to say that there is not a sceptic in the world who would not believe them; or who would defend such incredulity. - There is something nationally characteristic, in their respective treatments of the same subject, by the Scottish Hume and the English Paley. It exhibits a contest between sound sense and subtle metaphysics. Paley, is quite right in his concluding deliverance. The falsehood of the twelve men, in the circumstances and with the characteristics which he ascribes to them, would be more improbable than all the miracles put together of the New Testament. It is a correct judgment that he gives; but he declines to state the principles of the judgment. Nor is it necessary in ten thousand instances that a man should be able to assign the principles of his judgment, in order to make that judgment a sound and unexceptionable one. There is many a right intellectual process undergone by those, who never once reflect upon the process nor attempt the description of it. The direct process is one thing; the reflex view of it is another. Paley sees most instantly and vividly the falsehood of Humes theorem in a particular case; and this satisfies him of a mistake in the demonstration. But this is a different thing from undertaking to show the fallacy of the demonstration on. its own general principles - as different as were the refutation of a mathematical proposition by the measurement of a figure constructed in the terms of that proposition, from the general and logical refutation of it grounded on the import of the terms themselves. This is certainly a desirable thing to be done; and all we have to say at present is, that this is what Paley has failed to accomplish.
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