« VorigeDoorgaan »
20. Stuart's Hints on the Interpretation of Prophecy.
THE CHRISTIAN REVIEW.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A CORRECT MENTAL PHILOSOPHY TO THE MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL.
BY N. W. FISKE, PROFESSOR IN AMHERST COLLEGE.
By Mental Philosophy is understood a scientific classification of the almost infinitely diversified phenomena of the human mind, reducing them by the Baconian method to their general laws. Some have denied to such classification the name of philosophy. In the last century the author of the work entitled Ancient Metaphysics pronounced such philosophy to be no philosophy at all, but mere natural history; and more recently it has been affirmed, that a Baconian classification results in nothing but a "shallow empiricism," a "superficial phenomenology," a mere putting together of like appearances in artificial parcels, which "no better merits the name of philosophy or metaphysics, than the work of a gardener, when he folds his carrot seeds in a brown paper, and his cucumber seeds in a yellow one." This, however, is a grossly false representation; all the real science that now exists, respecting actual matter or actual mind, consists wholly of just such generalization and classification, and in no other way will any real science ever be formed, unless the very powers of the human mind are themselves altered.
The laws of mind, as those of matter, must be ascertained by induction from observed facts. The student must carefully notice his own thoughts and feelings; he must observe
VOL. VII.-NO. XXVIII.
also the operations of other minds; he may likewise admit, as in the various physical sciences. And here the testimony of the Bible must be received as the highest and best testimony. There never can be any real discrepancy between the evidence of the Bible respecting the powers and capacities of the soul, and the evidence of consciousness. But a man's supposed consciousness is not always his actual consciousness; the real processes in his mind may be quite different from what he honestly affirms them to be. The power of accurate self-inspection is a rare attainment. Writers perpetually appeal to their own consciousness as proving the doctrines they advance, or disproving the doctrines they oppose; and yet in so doing they often do nothing but proclaim to the world their imperfect skill in the much vaunted work of inspecting consciousness. While most persons overlook what certainly is there, some profess to have seen what certainly is not there, and so remind us of the optic powers of Squire McFingal.
"No block in old Dodona's grove
Could ever more orac'lar prove.
But much that never came to pass;
For any man with half an eye
But optics sharp it needs, I ween,
By what name the study shall be designated is of minor consequence. Things are best called by their right names. Yet, if a man will only hold fast to correct notions of the object and method, he may term this philosophy what he chooses; anthropology, or psychology, or pneumatology, or phrenology, or ontology, mental science, or metaphysics, or spiritualism, or transcendentalism. Under some of these names men have, indeed, propounded the wildest fancies and grossest absurdities, losing sight both of the object and the method of all true philosophy. Yet in the midst of what is most ridiculous and even pernicious, some useful truths may be embraced; and the genuine philosopher is a universal observer and free eclectic; not that a wise man would choose to hunt among rubbish, or plunge into bogs and fens, as being the way to get at truth; but he would not reject a truth because first found in a mass of error and nonsense, any more
than a miser would throw away a diamond or a pearl, because first seen in a heap of trash or filth. The bee may extract honey from other substances, besides beautiful and fragrant flowers. Nevertheless, it is matter of regret, when any student mistakes the proper object and method of this pursuit. Some there are who seem to believe that the way of true philosophy lies wholly or chiefly in such business as making magnetic passes upon nervous hypochondriacs, sticking pins in the flesh of somnambulists, and sending clairvoyants to explore the inside of a sick man. Others imagine it to lie in measuring the hard and empty skulls of the dead, or manipulating blindfolded upon "living receptacles for brains,” which, if not softer, are yet sometimes scarcely less empty. The efforts of the phrenologist and mesmeriser, however, may be expected to contribute something to the advancement of science, because they professedly notice and record actual phenomena. It is a skepticism as irrational as the most vulgar credulity, to assume that nature may not, under new observations and experiments, disclose secrets hitherto locked fast in her own bosom. Every phenomenon that actually occurs, pertaining to the mind, by whatever means produced, or in whatever presented to observation, will find its place in a true and complete philosophy. Hence of all mistakes, the greatest and worst is made by those, who scout the "servile work of observing phenomena," and expect to solve the highest problems of philosophy by mere Platonic meditations. The disciple of this school, although he pompously boasts of elevating the reason above the senses and the imagination, is from necessity a mere dreamer of dreams, which he himself must not deign to interpret or even notice, because these very dreams are, after all, nothing but bare phenomena; not ineptly therefore has he been compared to a sea-bird called the loon, "that will sit all day long by the edge of a fog-bank, gazing tranquilly and transcendentally at nothing." His fundamental principle, if really followed out, would substitute in the place of all science a mass of shadowy fictions or most profound nonsense. To be consistent with such a principle, a man must literally comply with the advice of the Arabian mystic, Tophaeil; who "recommends to the philosopher that wishes to rise to the intuition of the truth, to imitate the circular motion of the stars, in order to bring on a giddiness, that may efface from his mind every recollection of the world of phe
nomena,"-for, says he, "in this state of isolation, the intelligence of man, freed from all material obstacles, finds itself in direct communication with God." We have seen, we think, now and then, a fledging of philosophy entering upon these gyrations in the clouds, with "deep-felt hopes" of attaining unto the lofty intuitions. How many of the circuitous movements are requisite to carry a poor sensuous mortal up to "the absolute being," to "the primary principle of all things," is not told us; but it has been made too manifest that a few sweeps are sufficient to bring both the understanding and the reason very near to what Hegel declares that absolute being or principle to be, viz., "almost the nihility of existence."
In speaking of the value of mental philosophy to the minister of the gospel, it would be pertinent to notice the discipline it affords. Much might justly be said of its utility, considered merely as a study holding a place among other studies in a system of liberal education, and furnishing a discipline specially needful to the minister. Easy would it be to show its happy influence in invigorating the powers of reflection and analysis; in checking dogmatism on the one hand, and preserving from skepticism on the other; in fostering an earnest reverence for truth and a salutary fear of error; in promoting a knowledge of one's self, and imparting, beyond all other, the principles of practical wisdom. All this must now be omitted; but there is one point of view we must not here pass by; one the more important to notice, because, while it illustrates the value, it also partially exhibits the delightful and thrilling interest of the study; and it is but ill treatment towards the science, a virtual injustice, if we overlook its sweets and pleasures, in our haste to count and measure its utilities; although doing so might be said to accord with the spirit of our age, by many condemned as a mere mechanical and gaincomputing age, so miserly and selfish throughout, that men now seek and "love the truth herself, for her dowry rather than her beauty."
Mental philosophy affords the minister a fitting discipline, as it peculiarly elevates and ennobles the thoughts. In the humblest departments of physical science, while considering the lowest forms of animal life and smallest atoms of inorganic matter, the mind may be elevated, and the philosopher may look "through nature up to nature's God." But this study peculiarly fosters a tone of lofty contemplation. After follow