« AnteriorContinuar »
the simpler term suggestion, which appears to me to have filled our intellectual systems with the names of so many superfluous powers. The supposed necessity in our trains of thought, of some previous association, of course rendered it necessary, that the conceptions ascribed to this cause, should be such as before existed in a similar form, since, without this previous existence, they could not be supposed to admit of previous connexion ; and, therefore, when the suggestions were very different, so as to have the semblance almost of a new creation, it became necessary to invent some new power distinct from that of association, to which they might be ascribed. What was in truth a mere simple suggestion, flowing from the same laws with other suggestions, became in this manner something more, and was ranked as a product of fancy, or imagination,-nothing being so easy as the invention of a new name. A similar illusion gave rise to the supposition of various other intellectual powers,—or, at least, favoured greatly the admission of such powers, by the difficulty of accounting for suggestions which could not have arisen from previous associations; and one simple power or susceptibility of the mind was thus metamorphosed into various powers, all distinct from each other, and distinct from that power of which they were only modifications.
The chief circumstance which probably led to the belief of some actual union or association of ideas, previous to suggestion, I conceive to have been the peculiar importance of that order of suggestions, of which proximity, and therefore former coexistence, or immediate succession of the direct objects of thought, are the distinguishing characteristic. If there had been no such order of suggestions as this, but conception had followed conception merely according to the other relations, such as those of analog: contrast, we never should have thought of any association, or other prior influence, distinct from the suggestion itself. But, when objects perceived together, or in immediate succession, arise again together, or in immediate succession, as if linked by some invisible bonds, it is a very natural illusion, that the suggestion itself should seem to depend on a mysterious union of this kind. The illusion is greatly strengthened by these circumstances, that it is to the relation of direct proximity of objects, we have recourse, in all those processes of thought, which have commonly been termed. recollections, or voluntary reminiscences. We think of all the va
riety of events that happened at the time at which we know, that the same event, now forgotten by us, occurred, and we pursue this whole series, through its details, as if expecting to discover some tie that may give into our hand the fugitive feeling, which we wish to detect. The suggestion which we desire, does probably at length occur, in consequence of this process; and we are hence very naturally accustomed to look back to a period preceding the suggestion, as to the real source of the suggestion itself.
It must be remembered too, that although the mind were truly susceptible of the influence in its trains of thought, of various relations of a different kind, as well as those of contiguity, even these suggestions, though originally different, would seem, at length, reducible to this one paramount order; because, after the first suggestion which might have arisen from mere analogy or contrast, a real contiguity, in point of time, would be formed of the suggesting and suggested conception, which had become proximate in succession ; and the same suggestion, therefore, when it recurred, might seem to have arisen as much from this contiguity, in a prior train of thought, as from the contrast or analogy, which of themselves might have been sufficient to produce it, without any such proximity of the direct images themselves.
In all these ways, it is very easy to perceive how, in considering every simple suggestion, our thought should be continually turned to the past, and the suggestion itself, therefore, be converted into association; the exceptions being forgotten, or receiving a different name, that we might satisfy ourselves with a general law, though exceptions so important, and so inpumerable, might themselves have served for a proof that the general law was inaccurate.
After these remarks, then, I trust that you will not merely have seen the reasons which led me to prefer to the use of the ambiguous phrase association, the substitution of the simpler term suggestión, but that you will be disposed also to admit the justness of that distinction, on which the substitution was founded. The importance of the distinction, however, you will perceive more fully, in the applications that are afterwards to be made, of it, in reducing under simple suggestion, phenomena ascribed by philosophers to many different intellectual powers.
To this I shall proceed in my next Lecture.
REDUCTION OF CERTAIN SUPPOSED FACULTIES TO SIMPLE SUG
GESTION, I. CONCEPTION,—II. MEMORY.
Gentlemen, my last Lecture was employed in considering the nature of that tendency of the mind, by which it exists, successively in the states which constitute the variety of our conceptions, in our trains of thought; my object being to ascertain whether this tendency depend on any previous intellectual process, constituting what has been termed a union or association of ideas, or, simply on the relations of the conceptions themselves, at the moment of suggestion, without any previous union or association whatever of the idea or other feeling which suggests, with the idea or other feeling which is suggested. I explained to you the reasors which seem to lead us, in every case, in which conception follows conception, in trains that have a sort of wild regularity, to look back to the past, for some mysterious associations of our ideas, by which this regular confusion of their successions may be explained; though, in the phenomena themselves, there is no evidence of any such association, or earlier connecting process of any kind, all of which we are conscious being merely the original perception and the subsequent suggestion,
It is, in a great measure, I remarked, in consequence of obscure notions, entertained with respect to this supposed ASSOCIATION of ideas, as something prior and necessary to the actual operation of the simple principle of spontaneous suggestion, that the phenomena of this simple principle of the mind have been referred to various intellectual powers, from the impossibility of finding, in many cases, any source of prior association, and the consequent necessity of inventing some new power for the producing of phe
REDUCTION OF CERTAIN SUPPOSED FACULTIES.
pomena, which seemed not to be reducible to suggestion, or to differ from its common forms, merely because we had encumbered the simple process of suggestion, with unnecessary and false conditions.
My next object, then, will be to show, how truly that variety of powers, thus unnecessarily, and, therefore, unphilosophically devised, are reducible to the principle of simple suggestion ; or, at least, to this simple principle, in combination with some of those other principles, which I pointed out, as parts of our mental constitution, in my arrangement of the phenomena of the mind.
It will be of advantage, however, previously to take a slight retrospect of the principal points, which may be considered as established, with respect to simple suggestion ; that we may see more clearly what it is, from which the other supposed powers are said to be different.
In the first place, we can have no doubt of the general fact of suggestion, that conception follows conception, in our trains of thought, without any recurrence of the external objects, which as perceived, originally gave occasion to them.
As little can we doubt that these conceptions, as internal states of the mind, independent of any immediate influence of external things, do not follow each other loosely, but according to a certain general relation, or number of relations, which constitute what I have termed the primary laws of suggestion, and which exercise their influence variously, in different persons, and at different times, according to circumstances, which, as modifying the former, I have denominated secondary laws of suggestion.
lo the third place, we have seen, that they do not follow each other merely, the suggesting idea giving immediate place to the suggested; but that various conceptions, which arise at different moments, may coexist, and form one compound feeling, in the same manner as various perceptions, that arise together, or at different moments may coexist, and form one compound feeling of another species,-all that complexity of forms and colours, for example, which gives a whole world of wonders at once to our vision, or those choral sounds which flow mingled from innumerable vibrations that exist together, without confusion, in the small aperture of the ear, and in a single moment, fill the soul with a thousand harmonies, as if, in the perception of so many coexisting sounds, it had a separate sense for every separate voice, and could exist with a strange diffusive consciousness, in a simultaneous variety of states.
Lastly, we have seen that no previous association, or former connecting process, of any kind, is necessary for suggestion,—that we have no consciousness of any intermediate process between the primary perception and the subsequent suggestion, and that we are not merely without the slightest consciousness of a process, which is thus gratuitously supposed, but that there are innumerable phenomena which it is not very easy to reconcile with the supposition, on any view of it, and which certainly, at least, cannot be reconciled with it, on that view of the primary laws of suggestion, which the assertors of a distinct specific Faculty of Association have been accustomed to take.
Let us now, then, apply the knowledge which we have thus acquired, and proceed to consider some of those forms of suggestion, which have been ranked as distinct intellectual powers.
That which its greater simplicity leads me to consider first, is what has been termed by philosophers the Power of Conception, which has been defined, the power that enables us to form a notion of an absent object of perception, or of some previous feeling of the mind. The definition of the supposed power is sufficiently intelligible ; but is there reason to add the power thus defined, to our other mental functions, as a distinct and peculiar faculty?
That we have a certain mental power, or susceptibility, hy which, in accordance with this definition, the perception of one object may excite the notion of some absent object, is unquestionably true. But this is the very function which is meant by the power of suggestion itself, when stripped of the illusion as to prior association ; and if the conception be separated from the suggestion, nothing will remain to constitute the power of suggestion, . which is only another name for the same power. I enter for esample, an apartment in my friend's house during his long absence from home; I see his flute, or the work of some favourite author, lying on his table. The mere sight of either of these, awakes instantly my conception of my friend, though, at the moment, he might have been absent from my thought. I see him again pres