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The Method in conformity to which Psychological Researches should be conducted.
Having shown that Mental Philosophy, as a science, is possible, we will now contemplate the question in respect to the Method which should be adopted in conducting our investigations. Every philosopher commences his inquiries in conformity to a certain ideal of which he has conceived, and which he has assumed as involving the most perfect method in conformity to which such investigations can be conducted. A remark of Cousin on this point demands special attention. "As is the method of a philosopher, so will be his system; and the adoption of a method, decides the destiny of a philosophy." It becomes us, therefore, at the threshold of our inquiries, to stop, and with great care, determine the Method in conformity to which we are to investigate the powers, susceptibilities, and laws of the mysterious substance before us. The following Principles I would propose as involving and announcing the true Method to be adopted.
1. We should present to our own minds, with great distinctness, the question, what are the facts which lie at the basis of all our conclusions in respect to this science; facts upon which all legitimate conclusions do and must rest? They are, as all must admit, the facts which lie under the eye of Consciousness. But what are these facts? In other words, what are the sole and exclusive objects of Consciousness? Not, surely, as Cousin observes, the "external world, or its Creator-not the substance, nature, essence, or Faculties of the soul itself." They are the soul in its manifestations—in the exercise of its various Faculties. Upon these all our conclusions in regard to the nature of these Faculties, as well as upon the nature of the soul itself, and of all other objects are based. As the sole basis of physical science, we have the phenomena of perception. As the basis of Psychology, we have the phenomena of Consciousness, and these only. As we know the mind only through its phenomena, or manifestations, so all legitimate conclusions in respect to it must be revealed and affirmed by these manifestations. Hence I remark,
2. That in pursuing our investigations according to the true Psychological Method, we shall commence with no questions in respect to the nature or essence of mind, whether
it is material or immaterial, or in respect to its various powers, or functions, nor in respect to the origin of mental phenomena. All such questions are to be adjourned until we have observed and marked the characteristics, and classified the phenomena, or operations which now, in our present state of mental development, lie under the eye of Consciousness. The question, in regard to the origin of mental phenomena, involves, as its foundation and starting point, a knowledge of such phenomena as they now exist. Otherwise we are inquiring after the origin of that of the nature of which we are profoundly ignorant. So also, if, before we have attained this knowledge, we study and attempt the resolution of questions pertaining to the nature or essence of the mind, or in respect to its Faculties, we violate the fundamental law of all correct philosophizing, to wit: that substances are known and are to be studied only through their phenomena. The true Psychological Method does not neglect any legitimate questions in respect to ontology, or the origin of mental phenomena. It simply adjourns these, till another preliminary department of inquiry has been completed.
In pursuing our inquiries in respect to mental phenomena, and in respect to the characteristics of particular phenomena, two rules of fundamental importance present themselves,to wit: Suppose or assume, as real, nothing which does not exist—and omit, or disregard, nothing which does exist.
3. The phenomena which lie under the eye of Consciousness clearly indicate a diversity of mental powers, or functions. In conformity to the true Psychological Method, a fundamental aim of the Mental Philosopher will be, to adopt those principles of classification by which these different powers or functions shall be distinctly revealed to the Mind. Two self-evident principles will guide him in determining the different powers or functions of the Mind. Phenomena, in their fundamental characteristics alike, are to be attributed to one and the same Faculty. Phenomena, in their fundamental characteristics unlike, suppose a diversity of powers or functions. Hence the vast importance of classification with exclusive reference to fundamental characteristics.
4. Amid the endlessly diversified phenomena of Consciousness, there are, in the depths of the Mind, particular phenomena, which reveal the Laws which govern the action of the different mental powers. One of the principal aims
of the Mental Philosopher, in conformity to a correct Psychological Method, will be, to fix upon, and develope those facts, or phenomena, by which the Laws of thought, feeling, and action, are revealed. No department of inquiry in the wide field of Mental science is of greater importance than this.
5. Having by careful reflection, and in conformity to correct principles, ascertained, classified, and arranged the phenomena of the Mind, as they now lie under the eye of Consciousness, a correct Psychological Method would then lead us to move the important questions pertaining to the origin of these phenomena, to Ontology, and to the nature, extent, limits, and grounds of Moral Obligation. This completes the circle of investigations in the wide domain of Mental Science. Much will be done for Philosophy, if this circle is completed according to the method above developed.
The above the only correct Psychological Method.
A moment's reflection will convince us, that this is the philosophical, and I may add, the only philosophical Method. The powers of nature, external and internal, are known to us only in their manifestations, or through their respective phenomena. These manifestations must, of course, be known, or we must remain in total ignorance of the powers themselves.
This is the universal Method, the Method which lies at the basis of all real science pertaining to Matter or Mind. In pursuing our investigations in strict conformity to the principles of this Method, we shall be conducted to no conjectural conclusions, but to certain knowledge; provided we have marked with correctness existing phenomena, and have proceeded logically from facts thus given, to our conclusions. It puts us, to say the least, upon the right road to knowledge. If we "fall out by the way," the fault will be our own, and not that of the Method adopted.
If we arrive at correct conclusions, we shall, also, in the light of the Method pursued, understand and be able to assign the reasons for those conclusions, a most important attainment in the progress of mental development. If, on the other hand, we adopt any false conclusions, our Method itself presents the best means for their correction. No individual will long remain in the embrace of any important
error, who has adopted a correct method of investigation, and who rigidly adheres to the principles of that method.
Utility of this Science.
But little need be said to impress the inquirer with a conviction of the importance of our present investigations.
Mental Philosophy is the science of self-reflection. It teaches us to know ourselves, in our relations to God, and to the universe around us.
The importance of this science may likewise be seen, in the light of its relations to all other departments of human investigation. "Whatever be the object of inquiry," says Cousin, "God or the world, beings the most near or remote, you neither know or can know them, but upon one condition, namely, that you have the faculty of knowledge in general; and you neither possess nor can attain a knowledge of them except in proportion to your general faculty of knowledge. Whatever you attain a knowledge of, the highest or the lowest thing, your knowledge in the last result rests, both in respect to its extent and its legitimacy, upon the reach and validity of that faculty, by whatever name you call it, Spirit, Reason, Mind, Intelligence, Understanding." One of the first and great inquiries of man, then, is the nature, extent, and validity of this faculty. This is Intellectual Philosophy. This is Psychology, a science, which indeed is not the whole of Philosophy, but "must be allowed to be its foundation and starting point."
By developing the laws of human belief, and by habituating the mind to contemplate and investigate CAUSES through their respective phenomena, this science also furnishes a light, to guide our investigations in every other science, and presents the strongest possible motives to lead us onward.
Nor is its connection with morality and religion less important and influential. Indeed, here lies its chief importance. The development of the laws of evidence, will place in a clear light, the ground of our assent to the Divine authority of Christianity, so far as external evidence is concerned. A development of the powers and susceptibilities of the mind itself, will lead us to a correct understanding of the bearing of the internal evidence of Christianity. A development of the grounds of moral obligation will lead us to perceive distinctly, and to feel deeply, our obligation to obey the moral precepts of Christianity. Every truth, every
principle and precept of Christianity, supposes some one or more faculties or susceptibilities of the mind, to which they are addressed. A distinct knowledge of these faculties and susceptibilities, places those truths and principles in the clearest possible light before the mind.
One other consideration will show clearly the important bearing which our present inquiries have upon religion. The study of Mind, according to the Method above announced, implies, as its foundation and starting point, a careful investigation of mental phenomena. Among these phenomena ideas occupy a very important place, and among the most fundamental and important of all our ideas are the conceptions of the infinite and perfect, that is, of God, of eternity, of immortality, of moral obligation, and of future retributions. In developing the characteristics, origin and grounds of these ideas, we are determining our convictions in regard to many of the most important and fundamental truths of religion. We are moulding and forming convictions which will, and must determine the meaning, which we shall attach to the most important portions of the sacred volume itself.
If we should appeal to facts, we should find the fullest verification of all that is said above. All the forms of corrupt Christianity which have appeared for the last eighteen centuries, all the false religions which have ever cursed the earth, all the forms of infidelity and scepticism, which the seathings of human depravity have, in any age, thrown upon the surface of society, have had their foundation in systems of false Philosophy. No maxim is more fully verified, by universal observation than this. As is a man's Philosophy so is his Theology. The changeless laws of our being render us, in all departments of research and action, philosophic beings. In religion, we can no more be exempt from the influence of Philosophy, than in all other departments of investigation. Suppose we professedly, as some have done, repudiate all Philosophy, and approach the Sacred Volume, to be taught of God, irrespective of any philosophic speculations. What is this but the enunciation of a peculiar system of Philosophy-a system which, after all, will determine, in many essential respects, the meaning which we shall attach to the most important responses of the Sacred Oracles. God hath joined Philosophy and Religion together. We do violence to the nature which he has given us, when we attempt to put them asunder. False Philosophy is the