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certain periodical laws, so as for ever to secure the stability and order of the system. Of this sublime conclusion, it has been justly and beautifully observed, that "after Newton's theory of the ellip"tic orbits of the planets, La Grange's discovery of their periodical "inequalities is, without doubt, the noblest truth in physical astro"nomy; while, in respect of the doctrine of final causes, it may 66 truly be regarded as the greatest of all."* The theorists, however, to whom I at present allude, seem disposed to consider it in a very different light, and to employ it for purposes of a very different tendency. "Similar periods (it has been said) but of an extent "that affright the imagination, probably regulate the modifications "of the atmosphere; in as much as the same series of appearances "must inevitably recur, whenever a coincidence of circumstances "takes place. The aggregate labours of men, indeed, may be 66 supposed, at first sight, to alter the operation of natural causes, "by continually transforming the face of our globe; but it must be "recollected that, as the agency of animals is itself stimulated and "determined solely by the influence of external objects, the re"actions of living beings are comprehended in the same necessary "system; and, consequently, that all the events within the immea"surable circuit of the universe, are the successive evolution of an "extended series, which, at the returns of some vast period, repeats "its eternal round during the endless flux of time."t
On this very bold argument, considered in its connexion with the scheme of necessity, I have nothing to observe here. I have mentioned it merely as an additional proof of that irresistible propensity to believe in the permanent order of physical events, which seems to form an original principle of the human constitution;—a belief essential to our existence in the world which we inhabit, as
Belief in y established well as the foundation of all physical science; but which we order of phy. obviously extend far beyond the bounds authorized by sound philo-ial events sophy, when we apply it, without any limitation to that moral system, which is distinguished by peculiar characteristics, so numerous and important, and for the accommodation of which, so many reasons entitle us to presume, that the material universe, with all not appliits constant and harmonious laws, was purposely arranged.
7 basis of not
To a hasty and injudicious application of the same belief, in moval sysanticipating the future course of human affairs, might be traced a te. variety of popular superstitions, which have prevailed, in a greater or less degree, in all nations and ages; those superstitions, for example, which have given rise to the study of charms, of omens, of astrology, and of the different arts of divination. But the argu- has b ment has been already as far as its connexion with
part of the subject requires. For a fuller illustration of it, I refer foundation to some remarks in my former volume, on the superstitious obser- of popular
* Edinburgh Review, Vol. XI. p. 264.
The foregoing passage is transcribed from an article in the Monthly Review. I have neglected to mark the volume; but I think it is one of those published since 1800. See Note (1.)
vances which, among rude nations, are constantly found blended with the practice of physic; and which, contemptible and ludicrous as they seem, have an obvious foundation, during the infancy of human reason, in those important principles of our nature, which, when duly disciplined by a more enlarged experience, lead to the sublime discoveries of inductive science.*
Nor is it to the earlier stages of society, or to the lower classes of the people, that these superstitions are confined. Even in the most enlightened and refined periods they occasionally appear; exercising, not unfrequently, over men of the highest genius and talents, an ascendant, which is at once consolatory and humiliating to the species.
"Ecce fulgurum monitus, oraculorum praescita, aruspicum "praedicta, atque etiam parva dictu in auguriis sternutamenta et "offensiones pedum. Divus Augustus laevum prodidit sibi calceum "praepostere inductum, quo die seditione militari prope afflictus "est."
"Dr. Johnson (says his affectionate and very communicative "biographer) had another particularity, of which none of his friends ever ventured to ask an explanation. It appeared to me some "superstitious habit, which he had contracted early, and from "which he had never called upon his reason to disentangle him. "This was, his anxious care to go out or in at a door or passage, "by a certain number of steps from a certain point, or at least so as that either his right or his left foot (I am not certain which) "should constantly make the first actual movement when he came "close to the door or passage. Thus I conjecture: for I have, "upon innumerable occasions, observed him suddenly stop, and "then seem to count his steps with a deep earnestness; and when "he had neglected or gone wrong in this sort of magical movement, "I have seen him go back again, put himself in a proper posture "to begin the ceremony, and, having gone through it, break from "his abstraction, walk briskly on, and join his companion."
The remark may appear somewhat out of place, but, after the last quotation, I may be permitted to say, that the person to whom it relates, great as his powers, and splendid as his accomplishments undoubtedly were, was scarcely entitled to assert, that "Education "is as well known, and has long been as well known, as ever it can be." What a limited estimate of the objects of education must this great man have formed! They who know the value of a well regulated and unclouded mind, would not incur the weakness and wretchedness exhibited in the foregoing description, for all his literary acquirements and literary fame.
Vol. I. pp. 191, 192, 193, 3d Boston edit.
+ Plin. Nat. Hist. Lib. ii.
[So the warnings of lightning, the forebodings of oracles, the predictions of soothsayers, and also the lesser matters of sneezing and stumbling during the consultation of auguries. Augustus declared that his slipper had been put on wrong on a certain day, when he had nearly lost his life in a military mutiny.]
Boswell's Johnson, Vol. I. p. 264, 4to edit.
Ibid. Vol. I. P. 514.
Continuation of the Subject.-General Remarks on the Difference between the Evidence of Experience, and that of Analogy.
term ex perience
ACCORDING to the account of experience which has been hitherto given, its evidence reaches no farther than to an anticipation of the future from the past, in cases where the same physical cause continues to operate in exactly the same circumstances. That this statement is agreeable to the strict philosophical notion of experi-given to the ence, will not be disputed. Wherever a change takes place, either in the cause itself, or in the circumstances combined with it in our former trials, the anticipations which we form of the future cannot with propriety be referred to experience alone, but to experience co-operating with some other principles of our nature. In common discourse, however, precision in the use of language is not to be expected, where logical or metaphysical ideas are at all concerned; and, therefore, it is not to be wondered at, that the word experience should often be employed with a latitude greatly beyond what the former definition authorizes. When I transfer, for example, my conclusions concerning the descent of heavy bodies from one stone to another stone, or even from a stone to a leaden bullet, my inference might he said, with sufficient accuracy for the ordinary purposes of speech, to have the evidence of experience in its favour; if indeed it would not savour of scholastic affectation to aim at a more rigorous enunciation of the proposition. Nothing, at the same time, can be more evident than this, that the slightest shade of difference which tends to weaken the resemblance, or rather to destroy the identity of two cases, invalidates the inference from the one to the other, as far as it rests on experience solely, no less than the most prominent dissimilitudes which characterize the different kingdoms and departments of nature.
Upon what ground do I conclude that the thrust of a sword through my body, in a particular direction, would be followed by instant death? According to the popular use of language, the obvious answer would be,-upon experience, and experience alone. But surely this account of the matter is extremely loose and incorrect; for where is the evidence that the internal structure of my body bears any resemblance to that of any of the other bodies which have been hitherto examined by anatomists? It is no answer to this question to tell me, that the experience of these anatomists has ascertained a uniformity of structure in every human subject which has as yet been dissected; and that therefore I am justified in concluding, that my body forms no exception to the general rule. My question does not relate to the soundness of this inference, but to the principle of my nature, which leads me thus not only to reason from the past to the future, but to reason from one thing to another which, in its external marks, bears a certain degree of resemblance/rom analogy
not less natural
than from experi.
to it. Something more than experience, in the strictest sense of that word, is surely necessary to explain the transition from what is identically the same, to what is only similar; and yet my inference in this instance is made with the most assured and unqualified confidence in the infallibility of the result. No inference, founded on the most direct and long continued experience, nor indeed any proposition established by mathematical demonstration, could more imperiously command my assent.
Experience, Carged by alogy, of little
In whatever manner the province of experience, strictly so called, comes to be thus enlarged, it is perfectly manifest, that without unten en- some provision for this purpose, the principles of our constitution an-would not have been duly adjusted to the scene in which we have Were we not so formed as eagerly to seize the resembling we be to act. features of different things and different events, and to extend our conclusions from the individual to the species, life would elapse before we had acquired the first rudiments of that knowledge which is essential to the preservation of our animal existence.
This step in the history of the human mind has been little, if at all, attended to by philosophers; and it is certainly not easy to explain, in a manner completely satisfactory, how it is made. The following hints seem to me to go a considerable way towards a solution of the difficulty.
It is remarked by Mr. Smith, in his Considerations on the Formamith's the-ation of Languages, that the origin of genera and species, which is ry of gene commonly represented in the schools as the effect of an intellectual process peculiarly mysterious and unintelligible, is a natural consequence of our disposition to transfer to a new object the name of any other familiar object, which possesses such a degree of resemblance to it, as to serve the memory for an associating tie between them. It is in this manner, he has shewn, and not by any formal or scientific exercise of abstraction, that, in the infancy of language, proper names are gradually transformed into appellatives; or, in other words, that individual things come to be referred to classes or assortments.*
This remark becomes, in my opinion, much more luminous and important, by being combined with another very original one, which is ascribed to Turgot by Condorcet, and which I do not recollect to have seen taken notice of by any later writer on the human mind. According to the common doctrine of logicians, we are led to suppose that our knowledge begins in an accurate and minute acquaintance with the characteristical properties of individual objects; and that it is only by the slow exercise of comparison and abstraction, that we attain to the notion of classes or genera. In opposition to
* A writer of great learning and ability (Dr. Magee of Dublin) who has done me the honour to animadvert on a few passages of my works, and who has softened his criticisms by some expressions of regard, by which I feel myself highly flattered, has started a very acute objection to this theory of Mr. Smith, which I think it incumbent on me to submit to my readers, in his own words. As the quotation, however, with the remarks which I have to offer upon it, would extend to too great a length to be introduced here, I must de lay entering on the subject till the end of this volume. See note (K.)
this idea, it was a maxim of Turgot's, that some of our most abstract Thiom, of and general notions are among the earliest which we form.* What meaning he annexed to this maxim, we are not informed; but if he Turgot understood it in the same sense in which I am disposed to interpret it, he appears to me entitled to the credit of a very valuable suggestion with respect to the natural progress of human knowledge.he truth is, that our first perceptions lead us invariably to confound together things which have very little in common; and that the specifical differences of individuals do not begin to be marked with precision till the powers of observation and reasoning have attained to a certain degree of maturity. To a similar indistinctness of perception are to be ascribed the mistakes about the most familiar appearances which we daily see committed by those domesticated animals. with whose instincts and habits we have an opportunity of becoming intimately acquainted. As an instance of this, it is sufficient to mention the terrour which a horse sometimes discovers in a or the waterfall of a mili. Notwithstanding, however, the justness of this maxim, it is never-entifi theless true, that every scientific classification must be founded on classification an examination and comparison of individuals. These individuals made. by. must, in the first instance, have been observed with accuracy, be-compaving. fore their specific characteristics could be rejected from the generic individuals. description, so as to limit the attention to the common qualities which it comprehends. What are usually called general ideas or Two kind. general notions, are therefore of two kinds essentially different from each other; those which are general, merely from the vagueness and of general imperfection of our information; and those which have been metho-otions dically generalized, in the way explained by logicians, in consequence of an abstraction founded on a careful study of particulars. Philosophical precision requires, that two sets of notions, so totally dissimilar, should not be confounded together; and an attention to the distinction between them will be found to throw much light on various important steps in the natural history of the mind.†
"M. Turgot croyoit qu'on s'étoit trompé en imaginant qu'en général l'esprit n'acquiert des idées généralés ou abstraites que par la comparaison d'idées plus particulières. Au contraire, nos premières idées sont très générales puisque ne voyant d'abord qu'un petit nombre de qualités, notre idée renferme tous les êtres auxquels res qualités sont communes. En nous éclairant, en examinant davantage, nos idées deviennent plus particu lières sans jamais atteindre le dernier terme ; et ce qui a pu tromper les métaphysiciens, c'est qu'alors précisément nous apprenons que ces idées sont plus générales que nous ne l'avions d'abord supposé." Vie de Turgot, p. 189. Berne, 1787.
[M. Turgot thought that we are mistaken in supposing that in general the mind acquires general or abstract ideas only by the comparison of particular ideas. On the contrary, our earliest ideas are very general; for perceiving at first but few properties, our idea includes all the beings to whom these qualities are common. As we become better informed upon farther examination, our ideas become more particular without ever reaching the last term; and what has deceived Metaphysicians is, that precisely at this time we find that these ideas are more general than we had at first supposed.]
I have searched in vain for some additional light on this interesting hint, in the complete edition of Turgot's works, published at Paris in 1808.
+ The distinction above stated, furnishes what seems to me the true answer to an argument which Charron, and many other writers since, his time, have drawn in proof of the