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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 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 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 this branch of study, in the introduction to the Philosophy of the Human Mind.
The influence of Bacon's genius on the subsequent progress of physical discovery, has been seldom fairly appreciated; by some writers almost entirely overlooked; and by others considered as the sole cause of the reformation in science which has since taken place. Of these two extremes, the latter certainly is the least wide of the truth; for in the whole history of letters, no other individual can be mentioned, whose exertions have had so indisputable an effect in forwarding the intellectual progress of mankind. On the other hand, it must be acknowledged, that before the era when Bacon appeared, various philosophers in different parts of Europe had struck into the right path; and it may perhaps be doubted, whether any one important rule with respect to the true method of investigation be contained in his works, of which no hint can be traced in those of his prede
His great merit lay in concentrating their feeble and scattered lights ; fixing the attention of philosophers on the distinguishing characteristics of true and of false science, by a felicity of illustration peculiar to himself, seconded by the commanding powers of a bold and figurative eloquence. The method of investigation which he recommended had been previously followed in every instance in which any solid discovery had been made with respect to the laws of nature; bụt it had been followed accidentally, and without any regular, preconceived design; and it was reserved for him to reduce to rule and method what others had effected, either fortuitously, or from some momentary glimpse of the truth. It is justly observed by Dr. Reid, that “the man who first discovered that cold freezes water, and that heat turns it into vapor, proceeded on the same general principle by which Newton discovered the law of gravitation and the properties of light. His Regulæ Philosophandi are maxims of common sense, and are practised every day in common life ; and he who philosophizes by other rules, either concerning the material system or concerning the mind, mistakes his aim.”
These remarks are not intended to detract from the
just glory of Bacon; for they apply to all those, without exception, who have systematized the principles of any of the arts. Indeed, they apply less forcibly to him, than to any other philosopher whose studies have been directed to objects analogous to his; inasmuch as we know of no art, of which the rules have been reduced successfully into a didactic form, when the art itself was as much in infancy as experimental philosophy was when Bacon wrote. Nor must it be supposed, that the utility was small of thus attempting to systematize the accidental processes of unenlightened ingenuity, and to give to the noblest exertions of human reason, the same advantages of scientific method, which have contributed so much to ensure the success of genius in pursuits of inferior importance. The very philosophical motto which Reynolds has so happily prefixed to his Academical Discourses, admits on this occasion, of a still more appropriate application : “Omnia fere quæ præceptis continentur ab ingeniosis hominibus fiunt; sed casu quodam magis quam scientiâ. Ideoque doctrina et animadversio adhibenda est, ut ea quæ interdum sine ratione nobis occurrunt semper in nostrâ potestate sint; et quoties res postulaverit, a nobis ex præparato adhibeantur.”
But although a few superior minds seem to have been in some measure predisposed for that revolution in science which Bacon contributed so powerfully to accomplish, the case was very different with the great majority of those who were then most distinguished for learning and talents. His views were plainly too advanced for the age in which he lived; and, that he was sensible of this himself, appears from those remarkable passages, in which he styles himself “ the servant of posterity,” and “ bequeaths his fame to future times.” Hobbes, who in his early youth, had enjoyed his friendship, speaks, a considerable time after Bacon's death, of experimental philosophy, in terms of contempt; influenced probably, not a little, by the tendency he perceived in the inductive method of inquiry, to undermine the foundations of that fabric of scepticism which it was the great object of his labors to rear. Nay, even during the course of the last century, it has been less from Bacon's own