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resemblance which we feel by any word, is to have invented already a general term, significant of the felt relation. The process is in itself sufficiently simple; and, if we had never heard of any controversies with respect to it, we probably could not have suspected, that the mere giving of a name to resemblances which all perceive, and the subsequent application of the name only where the resemblance is felt, should have been thought to have any thing in it more mysterious, than the mere giving of a name to the separate objects which all perceive, and the repetition of that name when the separate objects are again perceived. It assumes, however, immediately an air of mystery when we are told, that it relates to the predicables of the schools, and to all that long controversy with respect to the essence of universals, which divided not merely schoolman against schoolman, but nation against nation,—when kings and emperors, who had so many other frivolous causes of warfare, without the addition of this, were eager to take
up arms, and besiege towns, and cover fields with wounded and dead, for the honour of the universal a parte rei. It is difficult for us to think, that that could be simple which could produce so much fierce contention ; and we strive to explain in our own mind, and, therefore, begin to see many wonderful, and perhaps unintelligible, or at least doubtful things, in phenomena, which we never should have conceived to require explanation, if others had not lahoured to explain them, by clouding them with words. It is with many intellectual controversies as with the gymnastic exercises of
the dust, which the conflict itself raises, soon darkens that air, which was clear before,-and the longer the conflict lasts, the
greater the dimness which arises from it. When the combatants are very many, and the combat very long and active, we may still, indeed, be able to see the mimicry of fight, and distinguish the victors from the vanquished; but even them we scarcely see distinctly; and all which remains, when the victory at last is won, or when both parties are sufficiently choaked with dust and weary, is the cloud of sand which they have raised, and perhaps some traces of the spots where each has fallen.
It surely cannot be denied, that the mind, with its other susceptibilities of feeling, has a susceptibility also of the feeling of the relation of similarity; or, in other words, that certain objects, when we perceive or think of them together, appear to us to re
semble each other in certain respects,-that, for example, in looking at a horse, a crow, a sparrow, a sheep, we perceive, that the horse and sheep agree in having four legs, which the crow and sparrow have not; and that, perceiving the horse and sheep to agree in this respect, and not the birds, we should distinguish them accordingly, and call the one set quadrupeds, the other bipeds, is as little wonderful, as that we should have given to each of these animals its individual designation. If there be that relative suggestion which constitutes the feeling of resemblance,-and what sceptic, if he analyze the process fairly, will deny this as a mere feeling, or state of mind !--the general term may almost be said to follow of course. Yet for how many ages did this simple process perplex and agitate the schools,—which, agreeing in almost every thing that was complicated and absurd, could not agree in what was simple and just; and could not agree in it precisely because it was too simple and just to accord with the other parts of that strange system, which, by a most absurd misnomer, was honoured with the name of philosophy. That during the prevalence of the scholastic opinions as to perception,—which were certainly far better fitted to harmonize with errors and mysteries than with simple truths,--the subject of generalization should have appeared mysterious, is not, indeed, very surprising. But I must confess, that there is nothing in the history of our science which appears to me so wonderful, as that any difficulty,—at least, any difficulty greater than every phenomenon of every kind involves,-should now be conceived to be attached to this very simple process; and, especially, that philosophers should be so nearly unanimous in an opinion on the subject, which, though directly opposed to the prevalent error in the ancient schools, is not the less itself an error.
The process, as I have already described it to you, is the following :-In the first place, the perception of two or more objects ; in the second place, the feeling or notion of their resemblance, immediately subsequent to the perception; and, lastly, the expression of this common relative feeling by a name, which is used afterwards, as a general denomination, for all those objects, the perception of which is followed by the same common feeling of resemblance. The general term, you will remark, as expressing uniformly some felt relation of objects, is in this case significant of a state of mind, essentially distinct from those previous states of
mind, which constituted the perception of the separate objects, as
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In the view which is taken of this process of generalization, as of every other process, there may be error in two ways,-either by adding to the process, what forms no part of it, or by omitting what does truly form a part of it. Thus, if we were to say, that, between the perception of a horse and sheep, and the feeling of their resemblance in a certain respect, there intervenes the presence of some external independent substance,-some universal form or species of a quadruped, distinct from our conceiving mind, which, acting on the mind, or being present with it, produces the notion of a quadruped, in the same way as the presence of the external horse or sheep produced the perception of these individually,—we should err, in the former of these ways, by introducing into the process, something of which we have no reason
suppose the existence, and which is not merely unnecessary, but would involve the process in innumerable perplexities and apparent inconsistencies, if it did exist. This redundance would be one species
error; but it would not less be an error, though an error of an
tervening mental state whatever, the general names under which whole multitudes are classed.
I have instanced these errors of supposed excess and deficiency, in the statement of the process, without alluding to any sects which have maintained them. I may now, however, remark, that the two opposite errors, which I have merely supposed, are the very errors involved in the opinions of the Realists and Nonninalists, the great combatants in that most disputatious of controversies, to which I have before alluded,-a controversy, which in the strong language of John of Salisbury, even at that early period of which alone he could speak, had already employed fruitlessly more time and thought, than the whole race of the Cæsars had found necessary for acquiring and exercising the sovereignty of the world: " Quæstionem,” he calls it, “ in qua laborans mundus jam senuit, in qua plus temporis consumptum est, quam in acquirendo et regendo orbis imperio consumpserit Cæsarea domus; plus effusum pecuniæ, quam in omnibus divitiis suis possederit Creesus. Hæc enim tamdiu multos tenuit, ut cum hoc unum tota vita quærerent, tandem nec istud, nec aliud, invenerent.”
However absurd, and almost inconceivable the belief of the substantial reality of genera and species, as separate and independent essences, may appear, on first consideration, we must not forget that it is to be viewed as a part of a great system, with which it readily harmonizes, and with which a juster view of the generalizing process would have been absolutely discordant.
While the doctrine of perception, by species, prevailed, it is not wonderful, as I have already said, that those who conceived ideas, in perception, to be things distinct from the mind,- the idea of a particular horse, for example, to be something different, both from the horse itsell, and from the mind which perceived it,should have conceived also, that, in forming the notion of the comparative nature of horses, in general, or quadrupeds, or animals, there must have been present, in like manner, some species distinct from the mind, which of course, could not be particular, like the sensible species, but universal, so as to correspond with the universality of the notion, and the generic term, Such, accordingly, in its great outline, was the ancient doctrine as to universals. I need not attempt to detail to you, if, indeed, it be possible now to detail them, with any approach to accuracy, the vari
ous refinements, and modifications of this general doctrine, in its transmission from the Pythagorean school, to Plato and Aristotle, and, in the later ages, to the schoolmen, his followers; all of whom, for many centuries, and by far the greater number, during the whole long reign of entities and quiddities, professed this belief of the existence of universal forms, as real, and independent of the conceptions, or other feelings of the mind itself,—the doctrine of universality, a parte rei, as it was termed.
The sect of the Nominalists, the great opponents of the Realists, in this too memorable controversy, though some hints of a similar opinion may be traced, in some of the ancient philosophers, particularly of the Stoical school, owes its origin, as a sect, to Roscelinus, a native of Brittanny, who, in the eleventh century, had the boldness to attack the doctrine of the universal, a parte rei. Roscelinus was himself eminently distinguished for his acuteness in the theology and dialectics of that age, in which theology itself was little more than a species of dialectics; and, most fortunately for the furtherance of his opinions, he had the honour of ranking among his disciples, the celebrated Abelard; who, though probably known to you chiefly from the circumstances which attended his ill-fated passion for Eloise, was not less distinguished for his wonderful talents and acquirements of every sort. “ To him alone,” it was said in the epitaph inscribed on his tomb,“ to him alone, of all mankind, lay revealed, whatever can be known to man. soli patuit scibile quicquid erat.” These two eminent logicians, Roscelinus and Abelard, though differing in some slight respects, in their own Nominalism, coincided in rejecting wholly the Realisin
, which, till then had been the unquestioned doctrine of the schools. According to them, there was no universality a parte rei, nor any thing that could be called universal, but the mere general terins
, under which particular objects were ranked. The denial of the reality of universals
, however, which was an attack on the general faith, was of course regarded as a heresy, and was probably regarded the more as an unwarrantable innovation, on account of the heresies, in opinions more strictly theological, of which both Roscelinus
, and his illustrious pupil, had been convicted. Though their talents, therefore, were able to excite a powerful division in the schools, their doctrine gradually sunk beneath the orthodoxy of their opponents ; till in the fourteenth century, the authority of