Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

commit the converse fallacy of reasoning à dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid.

Hamilton's general syllogism here, in fact, seems pretty much this :—Consciousness is inviolable; but perception is consciousness; therefore, perception is inviolable. Now here the middle term is consciousness; but, in the major proposition, it is universal consciousness, consciousness simpliciter; while, in the minor, it is a particular consciousness, consciousness secundum quid, or only some consciousness. In this way, then, the syllogism contains a quaternion of terms; or there are two middle terms, and thus, the extremes not being compared with the same thing, the conclusion is false. Special consciousness is, in short, not universal consciousness, and, contrary to the dictum of Hamilton, both must be accurately discriminated. We may legitimately express some surprise, then, at the simple manner in which a professed logician has technically committed himself. Remembering, indeed, that Hamilton was not only prince of philosophers but high priest of the Quantification of the Predicate, we might, by pointing out that this his own operation was the single necessity in the case before us, have brought home to him his error through neglect of the same, in a manner much more keen and cruel. This will appear at once if the true proposition, perception is consciousness, be converted not per accidens, not through quantification of the predicate, but simpliciter, into the false proposition, consciousness is perception. All perception is only

some consciousness, only some consciousness is all perception.

Hamilton's presto trick is not, then, so glorious for him after all. Fancy such reasoning as this :—Consciousness is perception ; but memory

is consciousness; therefore memory

is perception! Yet to such reasoning we have a perfect warrant in the procedure of Sir William Hamilton. And by such reasoning is there any difference whatever that could not be identified with its opposite—so far, at least, as consciousness and consciousnesses are concerned ?

It is not to escape notice either, that the identification of consciousness with perception does not remove the difficulty of how perception, constituted and conditioned as it is, can possibly be conceived capable of a direct cognition of external things. Call it consciousness if you will, it is still a process consisting of sundry stages and steps which afford us a variety of occasions for instituting experiments to try it and test it. Perception is consciousness, and sight is perception; but there is nothing in this statement to preclude us from the examination of the process of vision, both physiologically and psychologically; and if the results of this examination tend to show the impossibility of any immediate knowledge, through sight, of

any outward object, and, moreover, should this result repeat itself in the case of all the other senses, it will be quite in vain for Sir William Hamilton to call out, even with his most peremptory pretentiousness, Consciousness, consciousness; for it is quite competent to us to call out, equally peremptorily,

equally authoritatively, Sight, sight,-hearing, hearing,-touch, touch; for each of these is consciousness, and each of these is at the same time capable of a formal investigation.

It is possible that Hamilton might reply here, But you fail to see that I speak of an ultimate fact of consciousness. By no means, we may rejoin; we know very well that you name the general fact in perception an ultimate fact of consciousness; but consciousness here is not consciousness simpliciter, but consciousness secundum quid ; it is still perception, and we admit, if you will, that the ultimate, and universal, and, pro tanto, necessary fact of perception is the cognition of something different from self; but it is still competent to consciousness qua consciousness, to transcend perception qua perception,-to begin where perception left off, and carry up or out the ultimate fact of perception into a higher and very different fact of its own. Nay, we may say that the special business of consciousness is to carry the outer fact of perception up or in to its own inner truth. Were we to stay by perception, we were but brutes : our business is to think, and to think is--in so many words—just to transcend perception. In more intelligible language, it is the business of consciousness to examine all special consciousnesses that

may

be submitted to it; and among these perception finds itself, and finds itself, too, in its own nature so peculiarly constituted, that there is no other special consciousness so well adapted for the inquisition of general consciousness as it is. By the very phrase,

ultimate fact, Hamilton, indeed, just refutes his own case; for it implies a foregone process that has pronounced it ultimate; and, implying process, it implies also a possibility of examining the same, even beyond the arbitrary term of his own ipse dixit.

We may remark, too, that the nature of this assumed ultimate fact of Hamilton's does not at all lessen the difficulty of how such substances as mind and matter can come into relation at all. Nor is it to any other motive than a desire to lessen this difficulty, that we can attribute the identification of consciousness with perception on the part of Hamilton, as well as his general attempt to reduce all the senses to that of direct contact-touch. In this

way, too, we see that, despite his clamour of an ultimate fact, Hamilton is really obliged tacitly to admit the claims of reason and reasoning, and the demands of explanation.

It is possible, then, almost directly to negative every single statement of Hamilton's in the extracts with which we set out, and to which the reader will, perhaps, kindly consent to turn back a moment. As regards Aristotle, for example, we can see that his doctrine is simply that of universal mankind, and that the doctrine of Reid and Stewart by no means differs. Reid is not guilty of an error of commission' in discriminating consciousness as a special faculty. Consciousness is to Reid, as it is to Aristotle, and everybody else unless Hamilton, the

genus, while perception and the rest are but the species. It is but a very unfair accentuation of certain words,

which extends but a plausible pretext to Hamilton to speak differently. The truth of the matter is, that of all philosophers, and of all mankind, Hamilton is the only one who has converted consciousness into a special faculty-perception. Against which conversion, we again assert that it is possible to discriminate consciousness from the special faculties, as these from it.

Then we do perceive, and it is perfectly natural for us to inquire how we perceive, let us betray so, as Aristotle has truly said, an imbecility of the reasoning principle itself,' — let us betray this for thinking so if we must, but we will console ourselves that this spicula of Aristotle, however ornamental to Hamilton, has been probably wrested from its true connexion, and if not, that, as it stands, it is sufficiently valueless. Again, the so-called fact of perception is not ultimate: there are steps to it, there are steps from it. Perception is not inviolable; and, in a certain sense, consciousness itself is not inviolable. Lastly, the representationist does not postulate the falsehood of consciousness. These statements pretty well exhaust the burthen of our extracts, though it would be quite possible to carry the negative into the particular more

deeply still.

Consciousness is veracious; consciousness is not mendacious; the facts of consciousness must be accepted; consciousness is our ultimate standard; in order to try consciousness another consciousness were demanded; the facts of consciousness are mutually congruent and coherent, else consciousness is itself

« AnteriorContinuar »