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THINKING or perception is that operation of the mind, by which it becomes acquainted with every idea or image impressed upon it by external objects, or arising from its own reflections. All our ideas are at firft received through the medium of the senses, the sight, the hearing, the touch, the taste, the smell; and in their original state simple representations of the qualities of objects, as they happen to be big or little, round or square, black or white, loud or low, hard or foft, sweet or bitter, fetid or fragrant, &c. But these representations foon become blended, and from what are called complex ideas, made out of two or more simple ones, and attached to the objects of which they form the mental picture or image. Thus the child's rattle strikes his eye by its figure, and his ear by its sound, and makes upon the mind a complicated impression, embracing those two different ideas; to which are afterwards added ideas of its color, of the smoothness of its surface, and of the pleasure it affords, accompanied with a desire of enjoying that gratification. Here we perceive how soon our primary ideas not only mix with one another, but are associated also with a new set of ideas produced by the feelings and operations of the mind and will, which are as distinct and impressive as those that we receive through the medium of the external senses.
As the ideas thus derived from various sources constitute the materials of all reasoning, it is of the utmost consequence to acquire very early the habit of increasing
our stock, but at the same time taking care that our ideas be as clear as possible, free from obscurity or confusion, duly prepared for the exercise of our rational faculties, and of course for the discovery of truth and knowledge.
An attentive survey of Nature, and a careful perufal of the writings of those who have given us the best descriptions of her works, are the surest and most agreeable means of enriching the stores of the mind. In these first attempts, Logic does nothing more than enjoin a strict attention to perspicuity, precision, and methodical arrangement. The most essential quality of every thought or idea is that it should be clear: otherwise it cannot afford a striking image of the object which it is designed to represent. The picture must also be exact, neither more nor less than the original; and distinct, so as to mark its peculiarities, and keep it separate from other objects that surround it. Frequent and careful comparison can alone determine the accuracy of the resemblance.
With regard to the arrangement of ideas, they must be reduced to different classes, and have different names assigned them, in order to prevent the confusion that would otherwise arise from their number and variety. We should also attend to the like exactness in the choice of proper words to express each idea with the same clearness, precision, and force that it is conceived in the mind. Most of the controversies that take place in the world are owing to ignorance or negligence in this respect: they are more frequently disputes about words than about things; and a simple definition would often fettle the difference.
All the points here lightly touched upon will be found discussed at full length in LOCKE'S Essay on the human Understanding, to which inestimable work the attention of the
student must be directed as soon as his age, capacity, and some little previous instruction qualify him for the attempt.
But as many of my readers may smile at my recommending so much pains and labor in an Introduction to the art of thinking, I shall avail myself of the authority of an ingenious writer, Mr. MELMOTH, who has placed in a very just light the uncommonness of such an accomplishment, and the evils arising from the neglect of it. "There is not a more singular character in the world,” he says, "than that of a thinking man. It is not merely having a succession of ideas, which lightly skim over the mind, that can with any propriety be styled by that denomination. It is observing them separately and distinct
ly; and ranging them under their respective classes: it is calmly and steadily viewing our opinions on every side, and resolutely tracing them through all their consequences and connections, that constitutes the man of reflection, and distinguishes reason from fancy. Providence, indeed, does not seem to have formed any very considerable number of our species for an extensive exercise of this higher faculty; as the thoughts of the far greater part of mankind are necessarily restrained within the ordinary purposes of animal life but even if we look up to those who move in much superior orbits, and who have opportunities to improve, as well as leisure to exercise their understandings, we shall find that thinking is one of the last exerted privileges of cultivated humanity. It is, indeed, an operation of the mind which meets with many obstructions to check its just and free direction ; but there are two principles, which prevail more or less in the constitutions of most men, that particularly contribute to keep this faculty of the soul unemployed; I mean pride and indolence. To descend to truth through the tedious progression of well-examined deductions, is con
sidered as a reproach to the quickness of understanding; as it is by much too laborious a method for any but those who are possessed of a vigorous and resolute activity of mind. For this reason, the greater part of our species generally choose either to seize upon their conclusions at once, or to take them by rebound from others, as best suiting with their vanity or their laziness. Accordingly, Mr. LOCKE observes, that there are not so many errors and wrong opinions in the world as is generally imagined. Not that he thinks mankind are by any means uniform in embracing truth; but because the majority of them, he maintains, have no thought or opinion at all about those doctrines concerning which they raise the greatest clamor. Like the common soldiers in an army, they foliow where their leaders direct, without knowing, or even inquiring into the cause for which they so warmly contend.
"This will account for the slow steps by which truth has advanced in the world on one side, and for those absurd systems which, at different periods, have had an universal currency on the other. For there is a strange disposition in human nature, either blindly to tread the same paths that have been traversed by others, or to strike out into the most devious extravagances: the greater part of the world will either totally renounce their reason, or reason only from the wild suggestions of an heated imaginagination.
"From the same source may be derived those divisions and animosities which break the union both of public and private societies, and turn the peace and harmony of human intercourse into dissonance and contention; for while men judge and act by such measures as have not been proved by the standard of dispassionate reason, they must equally be mistaken in their estimates both of their own conduct and that of others."
THE second operation of the mind is judging, by which it discovers the agreement or disagreement of any two ideas which it may have occasion to compare. Thus, for instance, having in my mind an image of the sun, and an idea of roundness, I compare, or bring both together, and discover their fitness. I then affirm, or say to myself, the sun is round; and the words, in which I express that affirmation, form a sentence, called by logicians, a proposition. If, upon comparing two ideas, I perceive their disagreement, as that the sun is not a square, nor a dark, nor a cold body, the sentence, which I then make use of, is called a negative proposition.
Every proposition, whether affirmative or negative, contains at least two ideas, besides the assertion of their agreement or disagreement. The first idea, be it simple or complex, is that of which something is affirmed or denied, and is called the subject of the proposition: the second idea is the property, or quality, or attribute, which is either affirmed or denied to belong to, or to agree with, the first idea, and is called the predicate of the proposition: the word expressive of the affirmation or denial is called the copula, or connective of the propo
When the two ideas, thus linked together, are immediately derived from the external senses, or from our bodily feelings, and are clearly conceived, we can entertain no doubt of the accuracy of our judgment, or of the truth of the proposition, if correctly expressed. We also rely with full confidence on the report of our mental feelings, or consciousness, as well as on our intuitive per