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mory contributing to the perfection of our perceptive powers: but when it is asserted, that it is impossible to contemplate any two events or changes, that take place in nature, however closely conjoined, so as to arrive at an idea of power, without the aid of memory, it is evidently a far-fetched refinement, and not supplied with sufficient arguments to sustain it.
The next part of the objection to Mr. Locke's account of the manner in which we obtain our idea of power, is, that he asserts, "from the changes observed we collect a cause of those changes and a power to produce them. Here one might ask Mr. Locke," continues the Dr., "whether it is by our senses that we draw this conclusion, or is it by consciousness? Is reasoning the province of the senses, or is it the province of consciousness? If the senses can draw one conclusion from premises, they may draw five hundred, and demonstrate the whole Elements of Euclid."
This objection also exhibits a specious exterior, but when closely examined, is found infected with a fatal fallacy.
Take the example I have before stated. Applying a taper to the powder, an explosion is produced. Is the slow and operose effort of reason necessary in this case, to inform us that the fire has power to produce that change in the powder? Does not a conviction of the existence of such a power necessarily accompany a perception of the effect? As when we look at the taper and the powder, a belief of their existence in nature, necessarily and immediately results from a perception of their qualities, so, as soon as we discern by the application of one body to the other, that certain alterations in the latter are effected, we, as immediately, are convinced that there must inhere in the one some force, power, or energy, thus to operate upon the other. When we perceive the qualities of bodies, we have an irresistible and instantaneous conviction of their existence; and when we see them act upon and produce changes in the state and appearance of each
other, we have as instantaneous and irresistible a conviction, that they must possess powers to produce these effects. We can assign no reasons for these convictions, but that such is the law of our constitution. It is the same law afterwards which leads us, when upon a uniform experience, we have discovered that no effects are produced or alterations effected throughout the system of nature, without the operation of some cause adequate to produce them, to arrive at the general conclusion, for every effect in nature there must be an adequate cause. Dr. Reid seems to have been betrayed into his objections to Mr. Locke's doctrine in this matter, from his misconceptions of his system. Supposing that Mr. Locke maintained the opinion that all our ideas are images or representatives of external things, in the mind; a difficulty would be presented (and it would undoubtedly, upon this scheme, be a real and insuperable one) to find any archetype in nature for our idea or image of power. An image or representative of power in the human mind, would undoubtedly be a singular entity or non-descript kind of being, which would puzzle learned Sorbonnists to ascertain its nature and properties. Upon this ground it is, that Mr. Hume, very consistently with his system, denies, that we have any idea of power, since there is no correspondent impression to which its origin can be traced. But here the Dr. will permit me to remark, that it would be a much more fair and natural inference, to conclude, that since Mr. Locke admits that we have ideas of power, duration, identity and others, which cannot possibly be images of any objects of human thought, whatever may be his occasional language on the subject, he never could have inculcated the principles of what has been denominated the ideal theory. Nothing appears to us more preposterously absurd, than that reason or any power of our minds should produce any simple idea, which has not gained admittance either through sensation or reflection. We might as well imagine that reason should give ideas of co
lour to the blind, or those of sound to the deaf. The province of our understandings in such cases is evidently to arrange, combine and model into an endless variety of forms those simple ideas it has received by the inlets beforementioned, but can no more fabricate those ideas for its use, than the workman can fabricate new matter out of which to erect his building, and dispense with the materials with which God has furnished him. "It is not in the power," says Mr. Locke, "of the most exalted wit or enlarged understanding, by any quickness or variety of thoughts to invent or frame one new simple idea in the mind, not taken in by the ways before mentioned; nor can any force of the understanding destroy those that are there. The dominion of man in this little world of his own understanding, being much-what the same as it is in the great world of visible things; wherein his power, however managed by art and skill, reaches no farther than to compound and divide the materials that are made to his hand; but can do nothing towards the making the least particle of new matter, or destroying one atom of what is already in being. The same inability will every one find in himself, who should go about to fashion in his understanding any simple idea not received in by his senses, from external objects: or by reflection, from the operations of his own mind about them. I would have any one try to fancy any taste, which had never affected his palate, or frame the idea of a scent, he had never smelt; and when he can do this, I will conclude, that a blind man hath ideas of colours, and a deaf man true, distinct notions of sound."*
*The work of Mr. Locke abounds with passages of this kind, which are, undoubtedly among the finest specimens of fine writing. But Mr. Stewart, it seems, is entirely insensible of beauties of this nature. In a small tract which has just come to this country, I find him asserting "that with respect to Mr. Locke's style, it may further be observed, that it resembles that of a well educated and well informed man, rather than of a recluse student, who had made an object of the art of composition. It every
Thus it appears that Mr. Locke's doctrine, that our idea of power is derived from sensation and reflection, is not justly liable to exception. It may be proper to add that he thinks our clearest ideas of active power, are derived from reflection, or that attention, which we pay to our own voluntary exertions in producing effects.
where abounds with colloquial expressions, which he had probably caught by the ear from those whom he considered as models of good conversation; and hence it now seems somewhat antiquated, and not altogether suited to the dignity of the subject." Such is the opinion of the Professor about Mr. Locke's style. Let us contrast with this, the sentiments of that judicious critic and excellent writer, Dr. Blair. After many encomiums of Mr. Locke, scattered through his lectures, he says, "In English, Mr. Locke's celebrated Treatise concerning Human Understanding, may be pointed out as a model of the greatest clearness and distinctness of the philosophical style." The truth is, that it is that kind of style, which is precisely suited to philosophical subjects. Such subjects do not admit of that pomp of diction and decoration of imagery, which might be allowed in orations and popular addresses of any kind. But we should augur ill of the taste of any people, who should consider his style as "too colloquial," or "antiquated," or "unsuited to the dignity of the subject." When a style like that of Mr. Locke, characterised by such genuine simplicity and unaffected graces, shall be generally underrated by a people, it would require no uncommon penetration or extraordinary pretensions to the prophetic spirit, to predict that their taste and letters were declining. When instead of the neatness and perspicuity of Mr. Locke's phraseology, I see a writer glittering with such expressions as these; "Elements of the philosophy of the Human Mind," "Fundamental Laws of Human Belief," Primary Elements of Human Reason," "Analysis of Imagination," "Generalization of a Fact," &c. &c. I involuntarily turn away my eyes, as from objects too dazzling bright for my feeble vision. Others may annex distinct ideas to all such terms, and may find a pleasure in this kind of writing; but I must confess, that my mind is so singularly formed, and so dull of comprehension, as to be unable either distinctly to understand it, or to relish its beauty. Let those who can, derive gratification and instruction too, provided this be possible, from the perusal of such writers, but I must be allowed to avow, without subjecting myself to the imputation of undervaluing the judgments of others, that they do not suit my taste or strike my fancy.