Изображения страниц

It is with no common feelings of respect and of gratitude, that I now recall the names of those to whom I owe my first attachment to these studies, and the happiness of a liberal occupation superior to the more aspiring aims of a servile ambition.

From the university of Glasgow, Dr. Reid's Inquiry received a still more substantial testimony of approbation; the author having been invited, in 1764, by that learned body, to the professorship of Moral Philosophy, then vacant by the resignation of Mr. Smith. The preferment was in many respects advantageous; affording an income considerably greater than he enjoyed at Aberdeen; and enabling him to concentrate to his favorite objects, that attention which had been hitherto distracted by the miscellaneous nature of his academical engagements. It was not, however, without reluctance, that he consented to tear himself from a spot where he had so long been fastening his roots; and, much as he loved the society in which he passed the remainder of his days, I am doubtful if, in his mind, it compensated the sacrifice of earlier habits and connexions.

Abstracting from the charm of local attachment, the university of Glasgow, at the time when Dr. Reid was adopted as one of its members, presented strong attractions to reconcile him to his change of situation. Robert Simson, the great restorer of ancient geometry, was still alive ; and, although far advanced in years, pre

; served unimpaired his ardor in study, his relish for social relaxation, and his amusing singularities of humor. Dr. Moor combined with a gayety and a levity foreign to this climate, the profound attainments of a scholar and of a mathematician. In Dr. Black, to whose fortunate genius a new world of science had just opened, Reid acknowledged an instructor and a guide ; and met a simplicity of manners congenial to his own. The Wilsons, both father and son, were formed to attach his heart by the similarity of their scientific pursuits, and an entire sympathy with his views and sentiments. Nor was he less delighted with the good humored opposition which his opinions never failed to encounter in the acuteness of Millar, then in the vigor of youthful


[ocr errors]

genius, and warm from the lessons of a different school. Dr. Leechman, the friend and biographer of Hutcheson, was the official head of the college; and added the weight of a venerable name to the reputation of a community, which he had once adorned in a more active station.*

Animated by the zeal of such associates, and by the busy scenes which his new residence presented in every department of useful industry, Dr. Reid entered on his functions at Glasgow, with an ardor not common at the period of life, which he had now attained. His researches concerning the human mind, and the principles of morals, which had occupied but an inconsiderable space in the wide circle of science, allotted to him by his former office, were extended and methodized in a course which employed five hours every week, during six months of the year: the example of his illustrious predecessor, and the prevailing topics of conversation around him,, occasionally turned his thoughts to commercial politics, and produced some ingenious essays on different questions connected with trade, which were communicated to a private society of his academical friends his early passion for the mathematical sciences was revived by the conversation of Simson, Moor, and the Wilsons; and, at the age of fifty-five, he attended the lectures of Black, with a juvenile curiosity and enthusiasm.

As the substance of Dr. Reid's lectures at Glasgow, at least of that part of them which was most important and original, has been since given to the public in a more improved form, it is unnecessary for me to enlarge on the plan which he followed in the discharge of his official duties. I shall therefore only observe, that besides his Speculations on the Intellectual and Active Powers of Man, and a System of Practical Ethics, his course comprehended some general views with respect to Natural Jurisprudence, and the fundamental principles of Politics. A few lectures on Rhetoric, which were read, at a separate hour, to a more advanced class

[blocks in formation]



of students, formed a voluntary addition to the appropriate functions of his office, to which, it is probable, he was prompted rather by a wish to supply what was then a deficiency in the established course of education,

, than by any predilection for a branch of study so foreign to his ordinary pursuits.

The merits of Dr. Reid, as a public teacher, were derived chiefly from that rich fund of original and instructive philosophy which is to be found in his writings; and from his unwearied assiduity in inculcating principles which he conceived to be of essential importance to human happiness. In his elocution and mode of instruction, there was nothing peculiarly attractive. He seldom, if ever, indulged himself in the warmth of extempore discourse; nor was his manner of reading calculated to increase the effect of what he had committed to writing. Such, however, was the simplicity and perspicuity of his style ; such the gravity and authority of his character; and such the general interest of his young hearers in the doctrines which he taught, that by the numerous audiences to which his instructions were addressed, he was heard uniformly with the most silent and respectful attention. On this subject, I speak from

I personal knowledge; having had the good fortune, during a considerable part of the winter of 1772, to be one of his pupils.

It does not appear to me, from what I am now able to recollect of the order which he observed in treating the different parts of his subject, that he had laid much stress on systematical arrangement. It is probable, that

, he availed himself of whatever materials his private inquiries afforded, for his academical compositions; without aiming at the merit of combining them into a whole, by a comprehensive and regular design ; an undertaking, to which, if I am not mistaken, the established forms of his university, consecrated by long custom, would have presented some obstacles. One thing is certain, that neither he nor his immediate predecessor ever published any general prospectus of their respective plans; nor any heads or outlines to assist their students in tracing the trains of thought which suggested their various transitions.

The interest, however, excited by such details as these, even if it were in my power to render them more full and satisfactory, must necessarily be temporary and local; and I therefore hasten to observations of a more general nature, on the distinguishing characteristics of Dr. Reid's philosophical genius, and on the spirit and scope of those researches which he has bequeathed to posterity, concerning the phenomena and laws of the human mind. In mentioning his first performance on this subject, I have already anticipated a few remarks which are equally applicable to his subsequent publications : but the hints then suggested were too slight, to place in so strong a light as I could wish, the peculiarities of that mode of investigation, which it was the great object of his writings to recommend and to exemplify. His own anxiety, to neglect nothing that might contribute to its farther illustration, induced him, while his health and faculties were yet entire, to withdraw from his public labors; and to devote himself wholly to a task of more extensive and permanent utility. It was in the year 1780 that he carried this design into execution, at a period of life (for he was then seventy) when the infirmities of age might be supposed to account sufficiently for his retreat; but when, in fact, neither the vigor of his mind nor of his body seemed to have suffered any injury from time. The works which he published not many years afterward, afford a sufficient proof of the assiduity with which he had availed himself of his literary leisure; his Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man appearing in 1785; and those on the Active Powers in 1788.

As these two performances are, both of them, parts of one great work, to which his Inquiry into the Human Mind may be regarded as the Introduction, I have reserved for this place whatever critical reflections I have to offer on his merits as an author; conceiving that they would be more likely to produce their intended effect, when presented at once in a connected form, than if interspersed, according to a chronological order, with the details of a biographical narrative.


Observations on the Spirit and Scope of Dr. Reid's Philosophy.

I have already observed, that the distinguishing feature of Dr. Reid's philosophy, is the systematical steadiness with which he has adhered in his inquiries, to that plan of investigation which is delineated in the Novum Organon, and which has been so happily exemplified in physics by Sir Isaac Newton and his followers. To recommend this plan as the only effectual method of enlarging our knowledge of nature, was the favorite aim of all his studies, and a topic on which he thought he could not enlarge too much, in conversing or corresponding with his younger friends. In a letter to Dr. Gregory, which I have perused, he particularly congratulates him, upon his acquaintance with Lord Bacon's works ; adding, “I am very apt to measure a man's understanding, by the opinion he entertains of that author.”

It were perhaps to be wished, that he had taken a little more pains to illustrate the fundamental rules of that logic, the value of which he estimated so highly; more especially, to point out the modifications with which it is applicable to the science of mind. Many important hints, indeed, connected with this subject, may be collected from different parts of his writings; but I am inclined to think, that a more ample discussion of it in a preliminary dissertation, might have thrown light on the scope of many of his researches, and obviated some of the most plausible objections which have I been stated to his conclusions.

It is not, however, my intention at present, to attempt to supply a desideratum of so great a magnitude ; an undertaking which, I trust, will find a more convenient place, in the farther prosecution of those speculations with respect to the Intellectual Powers which I have already submitted to the public. The detached remarks which follow, are offered merely as a supplement to what I have stated concerning the nature and object of

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »