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which cannot be possessed without a laborious acquaintance with the purest writers and the ablest reasoners in a language, together with a systematic and philosophic study of its origin, idioms, and general forms. And while it may be employed to the most beneficial purposes, it is far too formidable to be intrusted in the management of any one who is not under the influence of that moral rectitude and that love of the truth which have been so repeatedly insisted on.
03. On the sophism of estimating actions and character from the circumstance of success merely.
(VI.) The foregoing are some of the fallacies in reasoning which have found a place in writers on Logic. To these might be added the fallacy or sophism to which men are obviously so prone, of judging favourably of the characters and the deeds of others from the mere circum-stance of success. Those actions which have a decidedly successful termination, are almost always applauded, and are looked upon as the result of great intellectual forecast; while, not less frequently, actions that have an unsuccessful issue are not only stigmatized as evil in themselves, but as indicating in their projector a flighty and ill-balanced mind.-The fallacy, however, does not consist in taking the issues or results into consideration, which are undoubtedly entitled to their due place in estimating the actions and characters of men, but in too much limiting our view of things, and forming a favourable or unfavourable judgment from the mere circumstance of good or ill success alone.
While there is no SOPHISM more calculated to lead astray and perplex, there is none more common than this; so much so, that it has almost passed into a proverb, that a hero must not only be brave, but fortunate. Hence it is that Alexander is called Great, because he gained victories and overran kingdoms; while Charles XII. of Sweden, who the most nearly resembles him in the characteristics of bravery, perseverance, and chimerical ambition, but had his projects cut short at the fatal battle of Pultowa, is called a madman.
"Machiavel has justly animadverted," says Dr. John.
son, "on the different notice taken by all succeeding times of the two great projectors, Catiline and Cæsar. Both formed the same project, and intended to raise themselves to power by subverting the commonwealth. They pursued their design, perhaps, with equal abilities and equal virtue; but Catiline perished in the field, and Cæsar returned from Pharsalia with unlimited authority; and from that time, every monarch of the earth has thought himself honoured by a comparison with Cæsar; and Catiline has never been mentioned, but that his name might be applied to traitors and incendiaries."
In the same Essay* he happily illustrates this subject by a reference to the discovery of America, in the following terms." When Columbus had engaged King Ferdinand in the discovery of the other hemisphere, the sailors with whom he embarked in the expedition had so little confidence in their commander, that, after having been long at sea looking for coasts which they never expected to find, they raised a general mutiny and demanded to return. He found means to sooth them into a permission to continue in the same course three days longer, and on the evening of the third day descried land. Had the impatience of his crew denied him a few hours of the time requested, what had been his fate but to have come back with the infamy of a vain projector, who had betrayed the king's credulity to useless expenses, and risked his life in seeking countries that had no existence? How would those that had rejected his proposals have triumphed in their acuteness? and when would his name have been mentioned but with the makers of potable gold and malleable glass?"
304. Of adherence to our opinions.
Whenever the rules laid down have been followed, and conclusions have been formed with a careful and candlid regard to the evidence presented, those opinions arc to be asserted and maintained with a due degree of confidence. It would evince an unjustifiable weakness to be driven from our honest convictions by the effrontery, or even by the upright, though misguided zeal of an
* See the Adventurer, No. 99.
opponent. Not that a person is to set himself up for infallible, and to suppose that new accessions of evidence are impossible, or that it is an impossibility for him to have new views of the evidence already examined. But a suitable degree of stability is necessary in order to be respected and useful; and, in the case supposed, such stability can be exhibited without incurring the charge which is sometimes thrown out, of doggedness and intol
It is further to be observed, that we are not always to relinquish judgments which have been formed in the way pointed out, when objections are afterward raised which we cannot immediately answer. The person thus attacked can, with good reason, argue in this way: I have once examined the subject carefully and candidly; the evidence, both in its particulars and in its multitude of bearings, has had its weight; many minute and evanescent circumstances were taken into view by the mind, which have now vanished from my recollection; I therefore do not feel at liberty to alter an opinion thus formed, in consequence of an objection now brought up, which I am unable to answer, but choose to adhere to my present judgment until the whole subject, including this objection, can be re-examined. This reasoning would in most cases be correct, and would be entirely consistent with that love of truth and openness to conviction which ought ever to be maintained.
305. Effects on the mind of debating for victory instead of truth.
By way of supporting the remarks under the first rule, we here introduce the subject of contending for victory merely. He who contends with this object takes every advantage of his opponent which can subserve his own purpose. For instance, he will demand a species of proof or a degree of proof which the subject in dispute does not admit; he gives, if possible, a false sense to the words and statements employed by the other side; he questions facts, which he himself fully believes and everybody else, in the expectation that the opposite party is not furnished with direct and positive evidence of them. In a word, wherever an opening presents, he takes the
utmost advantage of his opponent, however much against his own internal convictions of right and justice.
Such a course, to say nothing of its moral turpitude, effectually unsettles that part of our mental economy which concerns the grounds and laws of belief. The practice of inventing cunningly-devised objections against arguments known to be sound, necessarily impairs the influence which such arguments ought ever to exert over us. Hence the remark has been made with justice, that persons who addict themselves to this practice frequently end in becoming skeptics. They have so often perplexed, and apparently overthrown what they felt to be true, they at last question the existence of any fixed grounds of belief in the human constitution, and begin to doubt of everything.
This effect, even when there is an undoubted regard for the truth, will be found to follow from habits of ardent disputation, unless there be a frequent recurrence to the original principles of the mind which relate to the nature and laws of belief. The learned Chillingworth is an instance. The consequences to which the training up of his vast powers to the sole art of disputation finally led, are stated by Clarendon." Mr. Chillingworth had spent all his younger time in disputations, and had arrived at so great a mastery, that he was inferior to no inan in those skirmishes; but he had, with his notable perfection in this exercise, contracted such an irresolution and habit of doubting, that, by degrees, he grew confident of nothing. Neither the books of his adversaries nor any of their persons, though he was acquainted with the best of both, had ever made great impression on him. All his doubts grew out of himself, wher he assisted his scruples with all the strength of his own reason, and was then too hard for himself."
206. Imagination an intellectual process, closely related to reasoning. LEAVING the subject of reasoning, we next proceed to the consideration of the Imagination; which, as well as the reasoning power, obviously comes under the general head of the Intellect rather than of the Sensibilities. It is true, we are apt to associate the exercises of the heart with those of the imagination, and undoubtedly we have some reason for doing so; but in doing this we are liable not merely to associate, but to identify and confound them. But they are, in fact, essentially different. An exercise of the Imagination, in itself considered, is purely an intellectual process. The process may, indeed, be stimulated and accelerated by a movement of the sensi bilities; there may be various extraneous influences operating either to increase or to diminish its vivacity and energy; but the process itself, considered separately from contingent circumstances, is wholly intellectual. So that he who possesses a creative and well-sustained imagination, may be said, with no small degree of truth, to possess a powerful intellect, whatever torpidity may characterize the region of the affections.
The imagination is not only entitled to be ranked under the general head of the Intellect, in distinction from the Sensibilities, but it is to be remarked further, which may, perhaps, have escaped the notice of some, that it possesses, especially in the process or mode of its action, a close affinity with the reasoning power. It is a remark ascribed to D'Alembert, whose great skill in mathematics would seem to justify his giving an opinion on such a subject, that the imagination is brought into exercise in geometrical processes; which is probably true, so far as some of the mental acts involved in imagination, such as association and the perception of relations, are concerned. And, in illustration of his views, he intimates, in