Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

and render it impossible for us to go any great way in the progress of numbering. For this reason it is so contrived, that the change of names is restrained to a few of the first combinations, all the rest that follow being marked by a repetition of the same terms, variously compounded and linked together. Thus thirteen is ten and three; fo irteen, ten and four; and so on to twenty or two tens, when we begin again with one, two, &c., until we advance to thirty, or three tens. In this manner the progression continues; and when we arrive at ten tens, to prevent confusion by a too frequent repetition of the same word, that sum is distinguished by the name of a hundred. Again, ten hundred is called a thousand, at which period the computation begins anew, running through all the former combinations, as ten thousand, a hundred thousand, ten hundred thousand; which last collection, for the reasons mentioned above, has the name of million appropriated to it. With this million we can begin as before, until it is repeated a million of times; when, if we change the denomination to billions, and advance in the same manner through trillions, quartillions, &c., the series may be carried on without confusion to any length we please.

“This artful combination of names to mark the gradual increase of numbers, is perhaps one of the greatest refinements of the human understanding, and particularly deserves our admiration for the manner of the composition; the several denominations being so contrived as to distinguish exactly the stages of the progression, and point out the distance from the beginning of the series. By this means it happens that our ideas of numbers are of all others the most accurate and distinct; nor does the multitude of units assembled together in the least puzzle or confound the understanding "* ở 325. Instances of complex notions made up of different simple ideas.

The instances which have been given will perhaps be sufficient in illustration of those complex notions where

* Duncan's Elements of Logic, bk. i., chap. 4.—The same subject is examined also and illustrated by Mr. Locke in that part of his Essay which treats of Mixed Modes.

ers.

the combination is limited to one original element. And we shall now proceed to the consideration of those cases where the act of combining is of a more complicated kind; and these are much more numerous than the oth

Men are necessarily led, according to their manner of life, their situation and wants, to frame such permanent collections of simple ideas as experience has ascertained to be useful and necessary. They even frame such complex notions, in many cases, without waiting to be guided by experience, but in anticipation of what may possibly take place at some future time; or frame them, not unfrequently, as the mere exercise of invention. And as they advance in knowledge, and make improvements in the arts and sciences, they are necessarily led into complicated views of things, which would otherwise not offer themselves to their notice.

A few instances will help to illustrate what has been said.—The word THEFT is the name of a complex notion. It may perhaps be defined a change of property without the consent of the owner, and with fraudulent intentions on the part of the person who removes it. Consequently, it embraces, among other ideas differing from each other, those of ownership, evil design, transference, and the withholding of consent. If, however, we fully and minutely resolve it into its parts, we shall undoubtedly find elements not purely of an internal kind. And it is proper to make the general remark here, which has already been in part anticipated, that very many complex notions embrace elements, a part of which are addressed to the senses, and are, consequently, of an external origin, while others have their origin wholly in the mind. But while the elements, in many cases of internal complex notions, are partly of external origin, the selection and arrangement of them is wholly a mental work. Accordingly, while the complex terms GOLD, LOADSTONE, IRON, and others like them, embrace just what nature has allotted to the objects themselves, without the liability of increase or diminution from the mere arbitrary choice of men, the complex term THEFT, and all others like it, includes (whether it be more or less) what the human mind has agreed upon and assigned to it, and is liable to be mod

ified from the same cause.—The word LEGISLATION also is the name of a complex idea of internal origin, implying the existence of a number of elements of thought, which are arbitrarily brought together and united by the mind, such as the existence of civil society, the formation of government, the delegation of power to certain individuals, and the exercise of that power in the making of laws. The word TREASON implies the notions of country, government, law, obligation, agent, and violation of law; while PATRIOTISM, on the other hand, includes, in connexion with the ideas of country, government, and law, the notions of obedience, respect, and love, and the disposition to make great sacrifices in consequence of such love

It is needless further to multiply instances in this place, since they make a great portion of every language, and will readily occur to the recollection. Notions thus formed, as they are the creations of the mind, are undoubtedly liable to be altered by it; and are, in fact, not unfrequently so, although there is in general a good degree of permanency. The combination, it will be recollected, is not formed in the first instance without a good reason; and while the circumstances which at first required its formation remain, the complex notion will be likely to remain also. And not only this; there is a great security of the permanency of the complex notion in the mere name itself. The name is fixed upon the thought, as the seal upon the wax; every time we see it, or have it brought to our notice in any other way, the precise combination of ideas which makes up the complex notion is suggested to the mind. Every repetition of this suggestion strengthens the bond of complexity, and diminishes the liability of its being rent asunder, or altered in any way whatever.

$ 326. Not the same internal complex ideas in all languages. It is proper to repeat the remark here, that the origin of complex notions will depend in a great measure on the situation and the exigences of men; and that, consequently, the words employed in different languages will often fail of precisely corresponding to each other. This is the natural and unavoidable result of the differences

which, in different countries, exist in customs, nabits, scenery, occupations, modes of thinking, and political institutions. Every language, therefore, as a matter of necessity, has not only its own terms and idioros expressive of the ordinary mass of ideas common to all men, but has some which are peculiar to itself, and to which there is nothing precisely corresponding in other languages Thus the words CORBAN in the Hebrew, OSTRAKISMOS in the Greek, PROSCRIPTio in the Latin, and ROTURER in the French,* express ideas to which most other nations find nothing precisely answering, and, consequently, have no corresponding words.

This diversity will be manifest, not only in a few scattering terms, but will more or less be characteristic of whole departments of science. If, for instance, we make the laws of a country the subject of our examination, we shall readily see how inental perceptions and their combinations have been modified by circumstances; and that terms are used, expressive of such peculiarities in the people's views, principles, and practices, which cannot be understood without a particular study of their origin and their applications. It is certainly not too much to say that there are many languages in which an English book of law could not be written; and many of those who speak them would be unable to understand and appreciate it, if it could be. Their minds have not been cast in the mould of Englishmen; they have not been trained, from the moment they were capable of any mental discrimination whatever, to the recognition of personal rights, and the distinctions and rights of property.

This suggests a remark on the changes which take place in languages. It is well known that there are frequent alterations in the customs of a people, and also in their feelings and opinions, and hence there necessarily arise corresponding changes in the combinations of thought or ideas, and these must, in many cases, be expressed by new names. If people should be found unwilling or unable to invent new names for the expression * “We have no English word,” says Hallam, " that expresses the of new complex ideas, they would evidently be subjected to great inconvenience. This may be seen if we deprive ourselves of the benefit of any complex te.ms, for instance, reprieve, appeal, inherit, adjudicate, legislate, and the like, and then attempt to converse on the subjects where they naturally occur.

How glorious is this deficiency in our political language, and how different are the ideas suggested by commoner!"

sense of roturier.

Ø 327. Origin of the complex notion of a Supreme Being. In connexion with the views of this chapter, it is proper to add, that we find here, more properly than anywhere else, the origin of the notion of a God. We have already had occasion to assert (8 45) that there is no ground for the position that this idea is INNATE ; and it will not be deemed necessary to repeat here the considerations on that subject which were then advanced. There is, in some important respects, a foundation for this idea in the mind, but it is introduced by degrees, and was not originally created there.

The propriety of considering the formation of this complex notion in this place will at once be obvious. If there were any outward likeness of the Supreme Being; if he were addressed to our senses in the shape of the sun, moon, or stars, or anything else which the eyes of men have seen or the hands of men have fashioned, this would not be the place to resume the consideration of this topic, but it should have been treated of under the head of notions of an External origin. But it is far otherwise; God is a spirit, and his representative, or that which corresponds to him in others, is not in outward nature, but in the inward contemplation. His image arises and shines in the intellects he has created, and the emotions of the heart bow down and worship it.

The idea of the Supreme Being is a complex one, made up of many subordinate parts, such as the ideas of wisdom, truth, justice, power, benevolence, and causation; and all these enlarged and expanded to correspond with the notions of infinity. The mind gathers these subordinate conceptions from within and without; from the works of nature and from its own structure; from the world of intellect and feeling, and the world of matter. Ranging abroad in the great creation both of the spirit

« VorigeDoorgaan »