Imágenes de páginas

their respective order, the other three operations. This impreffion, confidered as giving us notice of its presence or exiftence, is what I call confcioufnefs. If the notice we

take of it is fuch, that it feems to be the only perception of which we are confcious, it is properly attention. In fine, when it makes itself known as having affected the mind before, it is reminifcence. Confcioufnefs fays, as it were, to the foul, You have a perception. Attention fays, You have now only one fingle perception. Reminifcence fays, You have now a perception which you had before.

Experience fhews us, that the firft effect of attention is, to make the perceptions occafioned by objects continue ftill in the mind, even when the objects themselves are removed. Thefe perceptions are preferved in the fame order, generally fpeaking, in which the objects prefented them. By this means a chain, or connection, is formed amongst them, from whence feveral operations, as well as reminifcence, derive their origin. The first is imagination, which takes place when a perception, in virtue of the connection eftablished between it and its object by attention, is revived at the fight of the object.

And yet it is not always in our power to revive the perceptions we have felt. On fome occafions, the most we can do is, by recalling to mind their names, to recollect some of the circumftances attending them, along with their abstract idea. The operation which produces this effect, I call memory.

There is ftill another operation, which arifes from the connection established by the attention betwixt our ideas; this is contemplation. It confifts in uninterruptedly preferving in view the perception, name, or circumftances, of an object vanished out of fight. By means of this operation, we are capable of continuing to think of a thing, when it ceases to be prefent. This operation we may reduce as we pleafe, either to the imagination, or to memory to the former, if it preferves the perception itself: to the latter, if it preferves only the name, or circumftances of it.

It is of great importance carefully to diftinguish the point, which feparates the imagination from the memory.

Between imagination, memory, and reminifcence, there is a certain progrefs, by which alone they are diftinguished. The firft renews the perceptions themfelves; the fecond brings to our mind only their figns or circumftances; the third makes us difcern them as perceptions which we have had before.

The connection of ideas can arife from no other cause than from the attention given to them, when they prefented themfelves conjunctly to the mind. Hence, as things attract our

attention only by the relation they bear to our constitution, paffions, ftate, or, to fum up all in one word, to our wants; it follows, that attention embraces at once the ideas of wants, and of fuch things as are relative to these wants, and connects them together.

Our wants are all allied among themselves, and in some refpects united one to another, by belonging, as they all of them do, to the fame individual perfon; and the perceptions we have of them may be confidered as a series of fundamental ideas, to which all others, within the compass of our knowlege, are linked, fome more clofely, others more remotely. Want is connected with the idea of the thing proper for relieving it; this is connected with the ideas of the place where it is to be had; this with the idea of the perfons we have seen there; this, in fine, with the idea of fuch pleasures or pains as we have felt there, and with many others. A first fundamental idea is connected with two or three others; each of these with an equal, or even with a greater, number; and fo on. Thefe fuppofitions admitted, in order to recollect ideas familiar to us, all that is needful on our part is, only to turn our attention upon some of those fundamental ideas with which they are connected. Now, this is always practicable; because, so long as we are awake, there is not an inftant in which.our conftitution, paffions, and fituation, do not excite fome one or other of thofe perceptions, which I call fundamental. We must therefore fucceed in this with more or lefs ease, as the idea we are willing to revive has a nearer or more distant connection with many, or a few, of our wants. Take away this connection, and you destroy the Imagination and Memory.

All men cannot connect their ideas with equal force, norin equal number; and this is the reason why all are not equally happy in their Imagination and Memory. This incapacity proceeds from the different conformation of the organs, or perhaps from the very nature of the foul.

In order to develop the real caufe of the progrefs and perfection of these several faculties, Imagination, Contemplation, and Memory, we muft investigate what affiftance these mental operations derive from the ufe of figns.

ft. Accidental

I obferve that there are three forts of figns. figns, or fuch objects as particular circumftantes have connected with fome of our ideas, fo as to render the one proper to revive the other. 2dly. Natural figns, or thofe founds of voice, and gestures of body, by which nature, in every creature, expreffes the paffions of joy, fear, grief, &c. 3dly. In


ftituted figns, or those which we have chosen ourselves, and which bear only an arbitrary relation to our ideas.

Thefe figns are not neceffary for acquiring the habit of those mental operations, which precede Reminifcence: for Perception and Confcioufnefs cannot but take place, fo long as we are awake, and Attention being no other than that Confciousness, which informs us more immediately of the present perception, nothing more is wanting to occafion it, than that one object act upon the fenfes with greater force than another.

Tho' a man were entirely divested of the use of arbitrary figns, he might, however, even by the fole aid of accidental figns, make fome advances towards acquiring the habit of Imagination,or Reminiscence; that is, at the fight of an object, the perception with which that object was connected, might be revived, and he might know it to be the very fame with what he had before. Yet we muft obferve here, that this would not happen, except when some extrinfic caufe, or occafion, replaced the object before his eyes: for when it was abfent, he would have no poffible means of reviving it of himfelf, having no command over any thing connected with it; and confequently could not retrieve the idea to which it was united. And hence it appears, that his imagination would not be as yet in his power.

With regard to natural figns, thofe founds and geftures expreffive of the paffions, this man would form them, fo foon as he felt the paffions to which they belonged. They would not, however, with respect to him, be figns at firft; because, inftead of reviving his perceptions, they would as yet be no more than confequences of thofe perceptions. But when he had often felt the fame paffion, and as often broke out into the found accompanying it, both would be fo ftrongly connected in his imagination, that he could not hear the one, without, in fome measure, experiencing the other. Then would this found become a fign: but he himself would not acquire any habit of imagination, till he had heard it by chance; confequently this habit would be no more in his power than in the cafe preceding.

Memory, as we have feen, confifts entirely in the power of reviving the figns of our ideas, or the circumstances attending them; a power which never can take place, till by the analogy of chofen figns, and an established order among our ideas, the objects which we would revive, are connected with fome of our prefent wants. In fhort, we cannot recall a thing to mind, till it be connected with fomething else in our power. Now a man who has only accidental and natural



figns, has nothing at his command. His wants therefore can only occafion repeated acts of imagination; confequently he hath no memory.

Hence also we may conclude, that brutes have no memory, but are only supplied with an imagination, which they cannot command as they please.

By following the explications here given, we may frame a clear idea of what is commonly called Inftinct. It is imagination re-exciting upon, the prefence of an object, fuch perceptions as are connected with it, and thereby directing every species of animals, without the affiftance of reflection.

What we have been faying in regard to imagination and memory, may be applied to contemplation, as it refpects either. If it be confidered as retaining perceptions in view, then it is plain, that the exercise of it cannot depend upon ourselves, until we have acquired the use of inftituted figns; but if it be made to confist in preferving the figns themselves in view, we can, in this case, have no exercife at all of it, fo as to establish a habit.

So long as we remain without the habit, or voluntary exercise and exertion of imagination, contemplation, and memory; or whilft the habit of the two firft is not fubordinate to our command, we cannot difpofe of our attention as we please. For how indeed should we difpofe of it, when the foul as yet has no operation in her power, but paffes from one object to another, only as he is dragged by their different impreffions?

But fo foon as a man comes to connect his ideas with figns of his own chufing, his memory is formed. He begins of himself to difpofe of his imagination, and to give it a new habit. For by means of the figns, which he is able to recal at pleasure, he revives, or at leaft is capable of reviving, the ideas connected with them. He obtains afterwards a greater command over his imagination, in proportion as he invents more figns, because thereby he procures more means of employing it. These particulars thew in what manner the use of figns contributes to the progress of imagination, contemplation, and memory,

No fooner is memory formed, and the habit or exercise of imagination in our own power, than the figns recollected by the former, and ideas revived by the latter, free the foul from all dependence on furrounding objects. Having it now in her power to recal whatever fhe has feen, fhe can direct her whole attention where he pleases, and transfer it from all present objects, Our ability to difpofe thus of our attention is enREVIEW, July 1756.



tirely owing to the affiftance afforded us by the vivacity of the imagination, which is the effect of great memory; otherwife we could not regulate ourselves, but would be entirely subject to the action of external objects.

The power of fuccefsfully applying our attention to different objects at pleasure, or to the different parts of one object only, is what we call, to reflect. Thus we diftinctly perceive in what manner reflection arifes from imagination and memory. But the degrees, by which this is effected ought not to efcape our obfervation.

The very dawn of memory is fufficient to render us mafters of the habit of imagination. A fingle arbitrary fign is enough to enable a perfon to revive an idea by himself. This is certainly the first and smallest degree of memory, and of that command which we may acquire over imagination. The power it gives us of difpofing of our attention, is the weakest that can be. But fuch as it is, it begins to make us sensible of the advantage of figns, and,incites us to embrace every opportunity on which it may be either useful or neceffary for us to invent new ones; by this means the habits of memory and imagination are ftrengthened in us, and that of reflection improved, which re-acting upon imagination and memory, by which itself was produced, improves them in its turn. Thus thefe operations, by the mutual affiftance they lend, contribute to each others progrefs. It is by reflection we begin to have a glimpse of the capacity of the mind. So long as we do not direct our attention ourfelves, the foul is fubject to whatever environs it, and poffeffes nothing but by extrinfic impulfe. But when we become mafters of our own attention, and direct it agreeably to our wishes, then it is that the mind affumes the difpofal of itself, calls or difmifles ideas by itself, and is enriched from its own fund.

The effect of this operation is fo very great, that thereby we controul our perceptions, raifing fome and depreffing others, in the fame manner almoft as if we had a power of producing and annihilating them. Suppofe I chufe one from among thofe which I actually experience; my consciousness of it will immediately become fo lively, and that of the reft fo weak, that it will appear to be the only one of which I am at all confcious. Suppose again, that next moment I have a mind to lay it afide, in order to amufe myself entirely with one of thofe which made the flighteft impreffion on me; it will feem to be annihilated, whilft another emerges from nothing.

Thus have we at length developed whatever was most abfrufe and difficult to conception in the progress of the mind's


« AnteriorContinuar »