« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
essential property. Essence and activity admit not of explanation: Essence, because no explanation can carry us beyond the simple conception that it is that which acts; Activity, because no explanation can make clearer a simple act of which we are conscious. We begin our knowledge with the consciousness of an activity, and in that consciousness recognize by a law of thought somewhat that is the subject of such activity. But not only does the soul first reveal itself to us in its activity, it continues to live in our knowledge only so far forth as we are conscious that it acts; but not only does it thus continue in activity, as far as we know it never ceases to act. It would seem, therefore, that action especially characterizes the soul; that it is an essential property. The mind was made for action, and its life is in its activity. This doctrine, besides its practical bearings, gives us a high idea of the soul itself. For with the conception of activity, pure, incessant, and unchecked, we identify the most distinct conception we form of the Divine Mind, and just in proportion as we conceive of the soul as incessantly active, and this activity as emancipated from checks and hindrances, do we distinguish it from and elevate it above the material creation.
We said that as far as we know, the soul is incessantly active. We may state this with more precision. This unbroken consciousness of activity does not exclude the fact that there are states of passivity of which we are unconscious. We are conscious only as we act; we act only as we put forth exertion in some definite way; we put forth action in determinate ways only as we pass from one state to another. In this change from state to state, we may be conscious of diminishing activity till consciousness ceases, or we may be conscious of commencing activity, but we are not conscious of that state of passivity into which it sinks, or that from which it arises. We are never conscious of non-action or passivity, though passivity may be implied in what we are conscious of. Indeed, as Hamilton says, "there is no operation of the mind that is purely active; no affection which is purely passive. In every mental modification, action and passion are the two necessary elements or factors of which it is composed." But passivity is only known
as the concomitant of that activity which is made known through consciousness, and the question is whether under this condition of concomitant passivity, the mind is consciously active without interruption. Beginning the life of the soul with its conscious activity, finding this quality to be an essential property of its being, we have a right to assume that this activity is ever unbroken, unless we find causes adequate to interrupt the action. The only states which may furnish these causes are sleep and somnambulism. We now turn to our author for some remarks upon this topic.
"The general problem in regard to the ceaseless activity of the mind has been one agitated from very ancient times, but it has also been one on which philosophers have pronounced less on grounds of experience than of theory. Plato and the Platonists were unanimous in maintaining the continual energy of intellect. The opinion of Aristotle appears doubtful, and passages may be quoted from his works in favor of either alternative. The Aristotelians, in general, were opposed, but a considerable number were favorable, to the Platonic doctrine. This doctrine was adopted by Cicero and St. Augustin. 'Nunquam animus,' says the former, 'cogitatione et motu vacuus esse potest.' 'Ad quid menti,' says the latter, 'præceptum est, ut se ipsam cognoscat, nisi ut semper vivat, et semper sit in actu.' The question, however, obtained its principal importance in the philosophy of Descartes. That philosopher made the essence, the very existence of the soul to consist in actual thought, under which he included even the desires and feelings; and thought he defined all of which we are conscious. The assertion, therefore, of Descartes, that the mind always thinks, is, in his employment of language, tantamonnt to the assertion that the mind is always conscious." p. 218.
Hamilton also quotes a long passage from M. Jouffroy, on the same side, of which, however, we can give only a part of the conclusion; viz, that "in sleep the senses are torpid, but that the mind wakes;" that "the mind possesses the power of awakening the senses, its own activity overcoming their torpor." To this we cannot forbear to add the two remarkable cases of the postman of Halle, and of Oporinus, mentioned in the discussion. The postman was in the habit of going daily to a post town about eight miles distant from Halle.
"A considerable part of his way lay across a district of unenclosed champaign meadow-land, and in walking over this smooth surface the postman was generally asleep. But at the termination of this part of his road, there was a narrow foot bridge over a stream, and to reach this bridge it was necessary to ascend some broken steps. Now, it was ascertained as completely as any fact of the kind could be, the observers were shrewd, and the object of observation was a man
of undoubted probity,-I say it was completely ascertained: 1st, That the postman was asleep in passing over this level course; 2d, That he held on his way in this state without deflection towards the bridge; and 3d, That before arriving at the bridge, he awoke. But this case is not only deserving of all credit from the positive testimony by which it is vouched; it is also credible as only one of a class of analogous cases which it may be adduced as representing. This case, besides showing that the mind must be active though the body is asleep, shows also that certain bodily functions may be dormant, while others are alert. The locomotive faculty was here in exercise, while the senses were in slumber. This suggests to me another example of the same phenomenon. It is found in a story told by Erasmus in one of his letters, concerning his learned friend Oporinus, the celebrated professor and printer of Basle. Oporinus was on a journey with a bookseller; and, on their road, they had fallen in with a manuscript. Tired with their day's traveling,-traveling was then almost exclusively performed on horseback, -they came at nightfall to their inn. They were, however, curious to ascertain the contents of their manuscript, and Oporinus undertook the task of reading it aloud. This he continued for some time, when the bookseller found it necessary to put a question concerning a word which he had not rightly understood. It was now discovered that Oporinus was asleep, and being awakened by his companion, he found that he had no recollection of what for a considerable time he had been reading. Most of you, I daresay, have known or heard of similar occurrences, and I do not quote the anecdote as anything remarkable. But, still, it is a case concurring with a thousand others to prove, 1st, That one bodily sense or function may be asleep while another is awake; and, 2d, That the mind may be in a certain state of activity during sleep, and no memory of that activity remain after the sleep has ceased. The first is evident; for Oporinus, while reading, must have had his eyes and the muscles of his tongue and fauces awake, though his ears and other senses were asleep; and the second is no less so, for the act of reading supposed a very complex series of mental energies. I may notice, by the way, that physiologists have observed, that our bodily senses and powers do not fall asleep simultaneously, but in a certain succession. We all know that the first symptom of slumber is the relaxation of the eyelids; whereas, hearing continues alert for a season after the power of vision has been dormant. In the case last alluded to, this order was, however, violated; and the sight was forcibly kept awake while the hearing had lapsed into torpidity.
"In the case of sleep, therefore, so far is it from being proved that the mind is at any moment unconscious, that the result of observation would incline us to the opposite conclusion.” pp. 233, 234.
The mind, in this view of it, is something different in kind from the instruments it uses. The senses need rest-recruit from labor. They cannot be used without the alternation of rest and activity. But it does not appear that the mind itself. has need of sleep. It is true, the mind often acts laboriously, often grows weary, often is unable to act, yet it labors and grows weary, and ceases to act, only because the organs of
sense through which it acts are weary, and need recruiting; in itself it is unwearied and awake. Its activity is only checked and hampered, not destroyed, by its connection with the body; it even shows its independent existence by its partial emancipation from the slavery of sense. Matter nowhere so nearly identifies itself with mind as in the bodily organism; but even here we see the two distinguished by all the difference there is between incessant activity and a necessary alternation of action and rest.
With this view of the activity of mind should be conjoined Hamilton's view of pleasure as the concomitant of activity. This view is the same as that of Aristotle, and Aristotle's doctrine is thus stated by Hamilton: "Pleasure is maintained by Aristotle to be the concomitant of energy,-of perfect energy, whether of the functions of Sense or Intellect; and perfect energy he describes as that which proceeds from a power in health and vigor, and exercised upon an object relatively excellent, that is, suited to call forth the power into unimpeded activity. Pleasure, though the result, the concomitant of perfect action, he distinguishes from the perfect action itself. It is not the action, it is not the perfection, though it be corsequent on action, and a necessary efflorescence of its perfection. Pleasure is thus defined by Aristotle to be the concomitant of the unimpeded energy of a natural power, faculty, or acquired habit." Activity is pleasure. This doctrine our author states at the very opening of his lectures, and we can do no better than to give his summary of it. "Human perfection and human happiness coincide, and thus constitute, in reality, but a single end. For as, on the one hand, the perfection of full development of a power is in proportion to its capacity of free, vigorous, and continued action, so, on the other, all pleasure is the concomitant of activity; its degree being in proportion as that activity is spontaneously intense, its prolongation in proportion as that activity is spontaneously continued; whereas, pain arises either from a faculty being restrained in its spontaneous tendency to action, or from being urged to a degree, or to a continuance, of energy beyond the limit to which it of itself freely tends.
"To promote our perfection is thus to promote our happiness; for to cultivate fully and harmoniously our various faculties, is simply to enable them by exercise, to energize longer and stronger without painful effort; that is, to afford us a larger amount of a higher quality of enjoyment."
This view of the incessant and pleasurable activity of mind, meeting us at the beginning of our inquiries, awakens expectation, and spreads a charm over the whole of philosophy. Let us conceive of the mind, endowed as it is by the act of creation with the attribute of unfailing activity, putting forth its energies in all directions, intellectual, moral, religious, of which it is capable; let us conceive of it, though checked and hindered by sense, yet maintaining the mastery, and by its energies controlling the body and converting its organs into obedient instruments of service; let us follow these activities as they ripen into habits, and pursue them in their now steady and pleasurable courses through all the objects of knowledge; let us represent to ourselves the enjoyment which accompanies the mind through its higher and now easier flights, in the consciousness of new and growing power; and, moreover, add to all this that the perfection of the mind in activity and happiness lies in the ultimate emancipation of the soul from sense, and thence pass, in imagination, to its unimpeded life and action in its state of immortal vigor ;—we shall then have some proper idea, though still inadequate, of the exalted sphere of the human mind, and of the worth of that science which has this mind for the object of its investigations.
We turn now to the objects proposed for consideration in the Science of Mind. These objects are threefold: 1, PHENOMENA; 2, LAWS; and, 3, INFERENCES, or RESULTS. Hamilton remarks that "the whole of philosophy is the answer to these three questions: What are the facts or phenomena to be observed? What are the laws which regulate these facts, or under which these phenomena appear? What are the real results, not immediately manifested, which these facts or phenomena warrant us in drawing?" We subjoin a tabular view of the distribution of philosophy proposed by Hamilton: