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At page 56 the author says, “ The consciousness of existence—the perpetual sense that we are thinking, and that we are performing the operation quite independently of all material objects, proves to us the existence of a being quite different from our bodies.” I have nothing to say of this passage, because by no possible effort can I understand it; for surely his lordship does not mean to say that there exists in him a perpetual sense that he is thinking, and that he is performing the operation quite independently of his own brain! And yet if he do not mean this, to me the whole passage is profoundly unintelligible.
At page 57 he says, “ But that the mind that the sentient principlethat the thing or the being which we call ‘I' and 'We, and which thinks, feels, reasons, should have no existence is a contradiction in terms. Now observe how exactly the same argument, stated in the same way, almost in the same words, will seem to prove, with the same truth, any thing else, however monstrous. Take, for instance, alphitomancy, that is, divination by barley meal. Now state Lord Brougham's argument over again, only for the word “mind,” substituting the word alphitomancy; and for what Lord Brougham assumes the mind to do, viz. think, remember, feel, &c., substituting what the ancients assumed alphitomancy to do, viz. reveal futurity, foretell coming events, pre-admonish against impending dangers, &c. The argument will then stand thus :-“ But that alphitomancy-that the art of divining—that the art or the science which we call alphitomancy, or divination by barley meal, and which reveals futurity, foretells coming events, and pre-admonishes against impending dangers—that this should be a mere vain pretence, a blind superstition, is a contradiction in terms.” Now it is perfectly manifestabsolutely self-evident—that the “contradiction in terms" arises as naturally and necessarily out of the argument when applied to alphitomancy as it does when applied to mind; for surely it is a glaring contradiction to admit that alphitomancy can really reveal futurity, and yet to call it a mere vain pretence. This “ contradiction in terms,” therefore, on which his lordship relies for proof of the existence of mind, is, if it can prove any thing, equally efficacious to prove that divination by barley-meal is by no means a mere pretence, but a faithful, veritable truth-telling revelation. But it is clear that in stating this argument the author begs the whole question, which is-Has the mind an existence apart from matter? Is it the mind which thinks, feels, reasons ? Is it the mind to which we refer when we say “I” and “We?” These two latter questions are necessarily included in the first, viz. Has the mind an existence? Because, if it have no existence, then it cannot be it which thinks, feels, and reasons; and if it, the mind, do indeed think, feel, and reason, then it must have an existence. But his lordship, in the very statement of his argument, begs the whole of these questions: for he assumes that the mind thinks, feels, and reasons (which assumption, as I have shown above, includes the other assumption, that mind exists)--he assumes that the mind is a "thing or being,” that is, an existence, that is, a something which exists :-he assumes that it is to this something, to which we refer when we say “I” and “We,” and then he says, that to deny the existence of this something which exists is a “contradiction in terms.” And so it is a contradiction in terms,” to say that alphitomancy which reveals futurity is a mere idle pretence ; because if it really does (as this manner of speaking assumes) reveal futurity, then it is impossible that it should be a mere pretence. But the question is, “Does alphitomancy reveal fu rity? And so of the mind. The question is not, whether the mind which thinks, feels, and reasons, has an existence: this would be a silly question. The matter in dispute is, whether the mind does think, feel, and reason. For it is manifest, as I must repeat, that, if we be allowed to assume that the mind is a something which performs this or that,-if it possess power to do this or that,—then that something must have ex, istence. For a nonentity, a negation of every thing, cannot posses8 ! Possession cannot reside in nothing! If this assumption, therefore, be allowed, there is no further question about the matter-there is an end of it-the thing is settled, decided, proved-all further argument is supererogatory—the thing to be proved is, at the very outset, assumed as proven -all reasoning, therefore, on the subject is but “idle breath,” -a mere brutum fulmen.
Before I proceed further, I must once more disclaim the possible imputation of doubting myself the existence of mind apart from matter. It is impossible to argue upon this subject without using expressions which would seem to sanction such an imputation, and this forms, I think, one strong objection against arguing about it at all. That mind exists is just as certain as that matter exists, and for the same reason, viz. that it is self-manifested: and if such writers as my Lord Brougham had never attempted to reduce it to any other proof (I mean, than its own manifestation) its existence would never have been questioned.
But the most extraordinary part of the whole book" is that portion wherein Lord Brougham asserts, that it is possible for a man to arrive at the idea of numbers entirely without the aid of his senses. What! can a man be destitute of the possibility of becoming acquainted with things, and yet acquire ideas of those things? Things of which a man is, in all respects, totally ignorant, for that man, have no existence-no more than if they really did not exist—and can a man form or conceive an idea of that which has no existence? Surely the author does not mean to deny the truth of that doctrine of Locke's—that, to which, indeed, he owes all his glory, viz. that we derive our ideas solely through the medium of our senses! If he do, then I can only say, that I believe him to be the only man of the present day, with any pretension to learning or talent, who does so.
But no. This assertion must have escaped him unwittingly.
In page 102 the author says, “We may first of all observe that if a particular combination of matter gives birth to what we call mind, this is an operation altogether peculiar and unexampled. When, by chiselling,
the marble softened into life grows warm,' we have the marble newmoulded and endowed with the power of agreeably affecting our senses, our memory, and our fancy; but it is all the while the marble; there is the beautiful and expressive marble instead of the amorphous mass, and we have not, besides the marble, a new existence created by the form which has been given to that stone.”. I beg your lordship’s pardon-did not your lordship just now say that the marble, by means of the sculptor's chisel, became endowed with the power of agreeably affecting our senses, our memory, and our fancy? A power which did not exist in the amorphous mass? How then can your lordship say, that in this case, we have no new existence created, when almost in the same breath, certainly in the same sentence, your lordship acknowledges that a new power does exist in the finished statue, which did not exist in the amorphous mass? You contradict yourself, my lord-you deny a new creation at the beginning of the sentence, and admit it at the end of it: for by the word “power, your lordship must mean either something or nothing ; if nothing, then I have nothing more to say, but if something, then that something, according to your lordship's own showing and admission, is a new creation. This new power—this newly-created“ something,” is what the world calls beauty-a “ something," my lord, which has often manifested a power greater than that of the human mind itself; for it has often proved itself capable of enchaining the strongest minds, of overcoming the firmest resolves, of bending the stubbornest, of humbling the haughtiest, and of driving the wisest stark staring mad.
In page 106, the author says, “ The existence and the operations of mind, supposing it to exist, will account for all the phenomena which matter is supposed to exhibit. But the existence and action of matter, vary it how we may, will never account for one of the phenomena of mind. We do not believe more firmly in the sensible objects around us when we are well and awake, than we do in the reality of those phantoms which the imagination conjures up in the hours of sleep, or the season of derangement. But no effect produced by material agency ever produced a spiritual existence, or engendered the belief of such an existence.” Here, my lord, you say, the existence and operations of mind will account for the phenomena of matter, supposing mind to exist--which supposition you make for argument's sake. But suppose mind, for argument's sake, not to exist! What then? Why then the solution of those phenomena must be sought for in matter. Again, you say, the existence and action of matter will never account for one of the phenomena of mind." This is your assertion ; but those who argue on the other side of the question assert that it will. Whether it will or not, therefore, is precisely the question in dispute the thing to be proved, --but assertions are not proofs, and without proof one man's assertion is as good as another's—their assertion that it will, as good as yours that it will not. It is proof, my lord, not assertion, that is required to settle this question. “Again, you say, that “no effect produced by material agency ever produced a spiritual existence.” If, by spiritual existence, you mean, as I suppose, an immaterial existence, then, my lord, I can tell you of a thousand spiritual or immaterial existences " produced by material agency;" for instance, beauty and power, as we have already seen in the illustration of the chiselled statue-motion, gravitation, affinity, and a thousand others. These are all produced by material agency - they are causes producing stupendous effects: and to say,
" these are causes,” is to say, “ these causes are,”—and to say, “these causes are,' is the same as saying, “these causes exist;" and surely if they exist, they must have existence, and it is equally certain they are not material substances, and equally clear that they are produced by materiał agency; as, without matter, there can be neither beauty, gravitation, nor affinity
Again. You say, “ that all around us should only be the creatures of our fancy, no one can affirm to be impossible. But that our mind-that which remembers, compares, imagines- in a word, that which thinks, —that this should have no existence is both impossible and indeed a contradiction in terms.". Here again your lordship is heinously guilty of the petitio principii, against which you so loudly complain in your remarks on the "Système de la Nature." The question to be argued is, whether there be such an existence as mind apart from matter. But your lordship, instead of attempting to argue or prove that there is such an existence, broadly and roundly asserts at once, that there is ; for you assert or assume that it is the mind which remembers, thinks, &c.; and to assume this is to assume that the mind exists, because if it be the mind which remembers and thinks, why then it is clear that the mind exists. Thus having assumed that the mind exists, you then tell us that this being the case) it is impossible that it should have no existence; and that to deny it is a “contradiction in terms." Why, certainly, it did not require your lordship’s acumen to discover that if the mind does exist, it does exist ! and that to admit its existence and deny its existence is a contradiction in terms !! But, my lord, is it the mind which remembers, compares, imagines, thinks? For that is the question—it is that which you have to prove ; for gratuitous assumptions go for nothing in argument, as your lordship knows infinitely better than I do.
In page 106 the author says, “If mind perishes it is the only example
of annihilation which we know." This is not true, my lord. When the clock stops, motion is annihilated; when the statue crumbles, beauty is annihilated; when the spring breaks, power is annihilated; when your lordship holds your tongue, sound is annihilated. In page 108 the author
“We can form no conception of any one particle that once is, ceasing to be. How then can we form any conception of the mind which we now know (how do we know it?) to exist ceasing to be?” But why may not those against whose opinion your lordship is reasoning, reply to you, that it is just as easy to conceive the cessation of mind as the cessation of motion ? Many of them say that mind is only the result of a certain condition of matter, as motion is the result of another condition; and before your lordship proceeds to found any argument upon the falsehood of this opinion, it is manifestly incumbent on your lordship to prove it false. But supposing it to be true that we can form no conception of the mind, any more than of matter, ceasing to be what then? because, for the same reason, so neither can we form any conception of the mind, any more than of matter, beginning to be. How then can we form any conception of the mind of a man not yet born beginning to be? which mind, of course, we now know, is not? And yet, my lord, you tell us in the next page but one, that we see mind called into existence every day. Besides, you tell us in other parts of your book, that our seeing and feeling the material objects around us is no proof of their existence. How then can seeing new mind called into existence every day, be considered as proof that it really is so. But I think your lordship will find few believers even in the possible truth of this crotchet of Berkeley's, viz., that seeing and feeling are no proof of the existence of matter. Because if that possibility were once admitted, there would be an end at once to all the mystery and mistiness of metaphysics; and mankind, I think, would be very glad to escape so easily from the study of a science so obscure and unsatisfactory.
But "retournons à nos moutons.” If the not being able to conceive how mind can cease to be, can be considered as a proof that it cannot cease to be, then manifestly the not being able to conceive how it can begin to be, is also a proof that it cannot begin; or, in other words, that it is eternal. And indeed, at page 270, your lordship
seems to assent to the doctrine of Lucretius, as expressed by Persius, “De nihilo nihil, in nihilum nil posse reverti.” For your lordship says, page 271, that there is “manifestly just as much difficulty (your lordship does not say more) and of the same kind, in comprehending how a being can cease to exist, as how it can come into existence.” The difficulty being the same in either case, the passage may therefore be reversed in its order, without any alteration in the sense, and may be read thus: “there is manifestly as much difficulty, and of the same kind, in comprehending how a being can come into existence, as how it can cease to exist,” &c. Thus your lordship acknowledges that it is as hard to conceive a beginning to be," as a ceasing to be.” And yet your lordship talks familiarly of " seeing new mind called into existence every day !” Thus one of your lordship's arguments destroys another. For first you argue, page 108, near the bottom, that it is impossible to conceive how the mind, which we know now is, can cease to be--from which you conclude that it does not cease to be." Then, (page 271,) you admit that it is just as impossible to conceive“ beginning to be," as “a ceasing to be.” And then again, (page 110,) you say that this “ beginning to be," which it is “impossible to conceive,” is seen, nevertheless, every day with our eyes. Your words are—" It (that is, mind) is called into existence perpetually, before our eyes." And what is “the being called into existence," but a “beginning to be?”
At page 241 it is said, that “the celebrated argument of Descartes-cogito, ergo sum-had a correct and a profound meaning.” Because Des
cartes (according to the author of the “ Discourse of Natural Theology”) did not mean, by the pronoun ego, understood in the words cogito and
any fraction of matter, but a reasoning, inferring, believing beingin other words, mind.” Now, my lord, observe to what this leads. In one part of your book you admit that beasts have “some portion of rea
Now it cannot be denied, that to exercise any portion of reason, however minute, is in some sort to think. But, according to your lordship’s interpretation of Descartes' logic, whatever has the power of thinking, must possess
a mind. Cogito,” said Descartes, “ ergo sum.” “Cogito,” says Lord Brougham-"Ergo, I possess a mind;" and mind, according to his lordship's book, is indestructible. Ergo, as beasts “cogitant” they possess minds—and as mind is indestructible they possess immortal minds.
Such are a few of the arguments used by Lord Brougham, to prove the separate existence of mind. I ask, are they such as can convince the infidel, or confirm the waverer? On the contrary, are they not well calculated to make him, who had never doubted before, exclaim, “Is it possible that the existence of the mind, which I have all along considered so certain, can be supported by no better arguments than these?” I fear something like this will be the ejaculation of many a reader, and whoever so ejaculates, from that moment becomes a doubter-a disturbed wanderer in the dark night of metaphysical mystification. Farewell to the quiet of that man's mind. The bright vision of eternal happiness which had ever been present to his imagination, beckoning him heavenward, has disappeared—a thick veil has fallen before it, and shut it from his view-a restless anxiety is gnawing at his heart-an indefinable dread sits heavily on his soul. Whither shall he turn for consolation ? On one side is the black gulf of annihilation, on the other the impenetrable mists of metaphysical subtleties. Hope, perhaps, who never entirely forsakes us, may still be seen flickering at intervals through the “dark obscure, but her sickly smile and perturbed eye give the lie to her own promises. What has this man lost? And what has he gained ? “Errare Meherculè malo cum Platone quàm cum istis vera sentire !"
I am, Sir,
We had repeatedly heard speak of this bi-titular work either with doubtful praise or undisguised condemnation. Knowing the constitution of his lordship’s mind, its mad ambition, its restlessness that too often trembles on the very verge of insanity, and his insatiate craving to be ever the theme of public conversation, we deemed it to be, probably, an eloquent, brilliant, and meretricious rhapsody, with sufficient reason in it to rescue it from the imputation of being a flight of imagination ; in fact, a peg upon which to hang a few antithetical figures of speech, an oratorical deluge to drown the reproaches attendant on political chicanery, or an embellished clap-trap for a little transient applause. Supposing this to be the case—and who will say that our