« VorigeDoorgaan »
acts are made known, in a good degree at least, by conciousness, and that we may justly and confidently rely on its testimony, we naturally inquire, What does it teach in the present case? And, in answering this question, we may safely appeal to any person's recollections, and ask, Whether he has ever been in danger of confounding a mere perception, a mere thought, either with desires and emotions on the one hand, or with volitions on the other? Does not his consciousness assure him that the mental states, which we thus distinguish by these different terms are not identical; that the one class is not the other; that they as actually differ from each oth r as association does from belief, or imagination from memory ?-It may be objected, however, that we find ourselves perplexed and at a loss to explain, by any statement in words, the precise difference in this case, whatever that difference may actually be. We readily admit the fact implied in this objection, but without admitting that it has any weight as proof against the distinction in question. No simple notion or feeling whatever is susceptible of a definition, of an explanation by mere words alone. And it cannot be expected of anything, whose own nature we cannot explain by words, that we can fully explain by a mere verbal statement its difference from other things.
It would seem, therefore, that we may rest in this inquiry upon men’s consciousness; not of one merely, but of any and all men. The understanding stands apart from the rest. The will also has its separate and appropriate position. We may, at least, assert with full confidence, that no one is in danger of confeunding volitions with intellections; that is to say, with the mere notions of the understanding. On this point there is certainly a general agreement. And yet our consciousness, if we will but attend to its intimations with proper care, will probably teach us, that the nature of a volition more nearly approaches that of a purely intellectual act than it does the distinctive nature of emotions and desires. It is undoubtedly true, that volitions may have aroused and excited antecedents, and may thus be very closely connected with the various affections; but in themselves they are cold and unimpassioned; they are purely executive or manda
tory, and are as obviously free from any actual impregna tion of appetite, sentiment, or desire, as the most abstract and callous exercises of the intellect.
932. Evidence of the same from terms found in different languages.
We are enabled further to throw some light on this subject from a consideration of the terms which are found in various languages. Every language is, in some important sense, a mirror of the mind. Something may be learned of the tendency of the mental operations, not only from the form or structure of language in general, but even from the import of particular terms. There can be no hesitation in saying that every language has its distinct terms, expressive of the threefold view of the mind under consideration, and which are constantly used with a distinct and appropriate meaning, and without being interchanged with each other, as if they were synony
In other words, there are terms in all languages (meaning those, of course, which are spoken by nations somewhat advanced in mental culture) which correspond to the English terms INTELLECT, SENSIBILITIES, WILL.
If such terms are generally found in languages differing from each other in form and in meaning, it is certainly a strong circumstance in proof that the distinction which we propose to establish actually exists.
On the supposition of its having no existence, it seems impossible to explain the fact that men should so universally agree in making it. If, on the other hand, it does exist, it is reasonable to suppose that it exists for some purpose; and, existing for some purpose, it must, of course, become known; and, being known, it is naturally expressed in language, the same as any other object of knowledge. And this is what we find to be the case. So that we may consider the expression to be an evidence of the fact; the sign, an intimation and evidence of the reality of the thing signified.
$ 33. Evidence from incidental remarks in writers. We now pass to other sources of evidence on this subject. No small amount of knowledge, bearing upon the Capabilities and the character of the human mind, may be
gathered from the incidental remarks of writers of careful observation and good sense.
And accordingly, if we find remarks expressive of mental distinctions repeatedly made by such men, when they are not formally and professedly treating of the mind, it furnishes a strong presumption that such distinctions actually exist. Their testimony is given under circumstances the most favourable to an unbiased opinion; and ought to be received into the vast amount of evidence, drawn from a great variety of sources,
to illustrate the true nature of the soul. The popular author of Literary Hours has given, in one of his Works, an interesting biographical sketch of Sir Richard Steele. After remarking upon the inconsistencies of his life, his excellent resolutions, and his feeble performances, his successive seasons of riot and of repentance, he refers the cause of these inconsistencies to the feebleness of the will; and, in doing it, he incidentally, but very clearly, makes the distinction under consideration. “ His misfortune, the cause of all his errors, was not to have clearly seen where his deficiencies lay; they were neither of the head nor of the heart, but of the volition. He possessed the wish, but not the power of volition, to carry his purposes into execution.”* As we
" are not at liberty to suppose that so respectable a writer employs words without meaning, he must be regarded as intending to make the distinction which has been asserted to exist.
In Dr. Currie's well-written Life of Burns, it is asserted that the force of that remarkable poet lay in the powers of his understanding and the sensibilities of his heart And the writer not only thus clearly indicates the distinction between the understanding or intellect and the heart, but in another passage, which undoubtedly discloses the key to the poet's character and conduct, he distinguishes both of them from the voluntary powers. The passage referred to is this : “ He knew his own failings; he predicted their consequences; the melancholy foreboding was not long absent from his mind; yet his passions carried him down the stream of error, and swept him over
* Drake's Essays illustrative of the Tattler, Spectator and Guardian, vol. i, p. 50.
the precipice he saw directly in his course. The fatal defect in his character lay in the comparative weakness of his volition, which, governing the conduct according to the dictates of the understanding, alone entitles it to be denominated rational."*
A recently-published Inquiry concerning the Indications of Insanity, in which are various sketches of personal history and character that illustrate certain traits of the mind, has the following statement: “Delinquents of this description are, perhaps, not unable to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong; but their will is not governed by their understanding, and they want the power of restraining themselves from that which, when committed, they are afraid to reflect upon. Their will remains; but it springs from depraved sensations and enlotions, or from passions inordinate and unrestrained.”+
A celebrated writer, in giving directions to his son as to the manner of conducting negotiations with foreign ministers, makes use of the following language: “If you engage his heart, you have a fair chance for imposing upon his understanding and determining his will.”I' This writer, as well as many others, employs the more common term heart to express the sensibilities; and he evidently uses language as if there were a known and admitted distinction between the intellectual, sentient, and voluntary parts of our nature; since he speaks of the control or regulation of the understanding as being, in the case under consideration, subsequent to the possession of the heart, and the determination of the will as subsequent to both, or, at least, as not identical with them.
We might multiply passages of this kind to almost any extent, if our limits would permit it. And these passages,
if the distinction for which we contend does not exist, must obviously convey erroneous ideas. This we cannot well suppose. On the contrary, we have not the least doubt that they express a great and important fact in our mental constitution; a fact which is at the basis of all
* Currie's Life of Burns, Philadelphia ed., p. 62.
+ Conolly's Inquiries concerning the Indications of Insanity, &c Lond. ed., p. 454.
Chesterfield, Lond. ed., vol. iii., p. 137.
true philosophy of the mind. A single extract more from Shakspeare (Hamlet, Act i., Sc. ii.) will close this topic.
“ It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
An understanding simple and unschool'd.” yüb. r'urther proof from various writers on the mind. The distinction in question has also been fully recognised by various distinguished writers on the mind. The following passage is to be found in Mr. Locke : “ Thus, by a due consideration, and examining any good proposed, it is in our power to raise our desires in a due proportion to the value of that good, whereby, in its turn and place, it may come to work upon the will, and be pursued. For good, though appearing, and allowed ever so great, yet, till it has raised desires in our minds, and thereby made us uneasy
in its want, it reaches not our wills.”* Here the threefold division in question is distinctly recognised. The due consideration and examining which are spoken of, imply an act of the intellect; the desires, which are subsequently raised, are appropriately ascribed to the sensibilities; and these last are followed by an act of the other part of our nature, viz., the will.
Mr. Hume, in his Dissertation on the Passions, has the following passage, which is clear enough in its import without comment : It seems evident that reason, in a strict sense, as meaning the judgment of truth and falsehood, can never, of itself, be any motive to the will, ana can have no influence but so far as it touches some pasrion or affection.” In the
Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion, ascribed to Lord Kames, is a passage as follows: "He hath appetites and passions which prompt him to their respective gratifications; but he is under no necessity of blindly submitting to their impulse. For reason hath a power of restraint. It suggests motives from the cool views of good and evil. He deliberates upon these. In consequence of his deliberation, he chooseth ; and here, if anywhere, lies our liberty.” Among writers more recent, who have insisted on this * Essay on the Understanding, bk. ii., ch. xxi., 0 46.