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Now, why did the conception of Satan, thus smitten down, suggest to the mind of Milton that of a mountain pushed from his seat ? The only answer that can be given is, that the contemplation of each induces similar feeling or states of mind. So of all the phenomena of association, falling under the relation of analogy. Suppose, further, that an individual relates to a number of men some incident of a sublime, beautiful, heroic, horrid, or ludicrous character. How happens it that each hearer instantly recollects almost every incident of a similar character, which he has ever met with ? These incidents resemble each other in one particular only, and sustain no other relation to each other than this : they have, as objects of perception or contemplation, existed in the mind as causes of similar feelings to those awakened by the incident under consideration. The hypothesis before us is the only one conceivable, which accounts for such phenomena.
2. Phenomena of Dreaming.—The phenomena of dreaming can readily be accounted for on this hypothesis, and, as I conceive, upon no other. In consequence of peculiar attitudes of the body, or states of the physical or mental system, certain feelings are awakened in the mind. Those objects of thought or perception, which have formerly co-existed with similar feelings, are consequently suggested ; and these are judged to be the causes of existing feelings. A sick man, for example, with a bottle of hot water at his feet, dreamed that he was walking upon the crater of Ætna, and that this was the cause of the burning sensation which he felt. He had formerly felt similar sensations when walking upon the crater of Vesuvius, and had just been reading of a traveller's walking upon the crater of Ætna. These facts fully account for his dream. In a similar manner, all the phenomena of dreaming may be accounted for. But can they be accounted for by the common laws of Association ? I answer, no.
3. Phenomena of Somnambulism.—Some of the phenomena of somnambulism here deserve an attentive consideration. It is well known that somnambulists frequently pass from a state of wakefulness to that of sleep, and vice versa, very suddenly; and that in each change, there is an entire oblivion of what passed in the preceding state; while the train of thought, or the employment left, when passing from the present state, is, on returning to that state, instantly resumed, at the very point where it was left. Sentences left half finished, when passing out of one state, are completed as soon as the individual enters upon the same state again. How manifest, from such phenomena, is the fact, that the universal law of suggestion is based upon similarity of states or feelings.
Facts connected with particular Diseases. There are many facts connected with particular diseases, which more fully confirm and illustrate the principle which I am endeavoring to establish. Take, as a specimen, the two following cases stated by Dr. Abercrombie, in his Intellectual Philosophy. I give them in the words of the author.
" Another very remarkable modification of this affection is referred to by Mr. Combe, as described by Major Elliot, professor of Mathematics in the United States' Military Academy at West Point. The patient was a young lady of cultivated mind, and the affection began with an attack of somnolency, which was protracted several hours beyond the usual time. When she came out of it, she was found to have lost every kind of acquired knowledge. She immediately began to apply herself to the first elements of education, and was making considerable progress, when, after several months, she was seized with a second fit of somnolency. She was now at once restored to all the knowledge which she possessed before the first attack, but without the least recollection of anything that had taken place during the interval. After another interval she had a third attack of somnolency, which left her in the same state as after the first. In this manner she suffered these alternate conditions for a period of four years, with the very remarkable circumstance that during the one state she retained all her original knowledge ; but during the other, that only which she had acquired since the first attack. During the healthy interval, for example, she was remarkable for the beauty of her penmanship, but during the paroxysm wrote a poor, awkward hand. Persons introduced to her during the paroxysm she recognized only in a subsequent paroxysm, but not in the interval ; and persons whom she had seen for the first time during the healthy interval, she did not recognize during the
“ Dr. Prichard mentions a lady who was liable to sudden attacks of delirium, which, after continuing for various
periods, went off suddenly, leaving her at once perfectly rational. The attack was often so sudden that it commenced while she was engaged in interesting conversation, and on such occasions it happened, that on her recovery from the state of delirium she instantly recurred to the conversation she had been engaged in at the time of the attack, though she had never referred to it during the continuance of the affection. To such a degree was this carried, that she would even complete an unfinished sentence. During the subsequent paroxysm, again, she would pursue the train of ideas which had occupied her mind in the former. Mr. Combe also mentions a porter, who in a state of intoxication left a parcel at a wrong house, and when sober could not recollect what he had done with it. But the next time he got drunk, he recollected where he left it, and went and recovered it.”
Here are manifest and striking facts of Association. On the commonly received laws of the associating principle, they cannot be explained at all. On the hypothesis under consideration, however, they admit of a most ready explanation. How can they be explained on any other hypothesis ?
I will adduce another fact taken from the same author.
"A case has been related to me of a boy, who at the age of four received a fracture of the skull, for which he underwent the operation of trepan. He was at the time in a state of perfect stupor, and after his recovery retained no recollection either of the accident or the operation. At the age of fifteen, during the delirium of a fever, he gave his mother a correct description of the operation, and the persons who were present at it, with their dress, and other minute particulars. He had never been observed to allude to it before, and no means were known by which he could have acquired the circumstances which he mentioned.”
But one explanation can be given of such a remarkable fact. During the interval between the surgical operation and the sickness referred to, the feelings existing in connection with operation had never been revived, and from the peculiarity of the feelings could not have been. During this sickness, in consequence of the action of the fever upon the brain and skull, these feelings were revived. The consequence was, that the circumstances attending their existence were recalled. No other hypothesis can explain such facts.
This Hypothesis established and illustrated, by reflecting upon
the facts of Association. Every true explanation of the facts of Consciousness, will, as soon as it is understood, be confirmed in the conviction of every one who understands it, as he subsequently reflects on what passes in the interior of his own mind. This is, in a special manner true of the hypothesis under consideration. Every person who understands it, subsequently finds its truth confirmed and illustrated by his own reflections upon the facts of Association,as they fall under the eye of his Consciousness.
Argument summarily stated. The argument in support of the principle of Association under consideration may be summarily stated, in the following propositions.
1. It is known to exist as a law of Association, in certain cases—in all instances of Association founded on the relations of analogy. No other reason can be assigned why the conception of a hero, for example, suggests that of the lion, but the fact that they have each co-existed with similar feelings, and as causes of such feelings.
2. All the phenomena, explicableby the commonly received laws of Association, admit of an equally ready and consistent explanation, upon the hypothesis before us.
3. All other phenomena, which cannot be explained by the commonly received laws, admit also of a ready explanation, when referred to the above hypothesis.
4. No other hypothesis yet known, explains all the phenomena of Association.
We are at liberty then to assume, that the hypothesis with which we started, ceases to be a hypothesis. It may be regarded as the law of Association.
Explanatory Remarks. To understand fully the operation of the associating principle, two circumstances pertaining to it demand special attention.
The first is the fact, that when a deep impression has been made upon the mind by any thought or perception, the
feeling excited may not only be revived by some subsequent thought or perception, but those feelings may afterwards recur spontaneously, without any other apparent cause, than the well-known mental tendency to return to states in which our minds have previously existed. When we have listened to an enchanting musical performance, for example, who has not months subsequent to the event, felt, in the depths of the inner being, the spontaneous movements of the cords of melody, which were so powerfully swept on the occasion referred to, and which, at once, bring the whole past scene into distinct remembrance ? The law of Association is this. When any feeling which has co-existed with any past intellectual state is revived, whether that revival is spontaneous, or is occasioned by some present thought or perception, that state will recur again, as a consequence of the revival of this feeling.
The second remark is this. The feeling which has coexisted with any former intellectual state, need not be wholly, but only partially revived, in order to occasion the recurrence of that state. Let some present occurrence, produce feelings of joy, wonder, surprise, or regret, for example. Should any subsequent event excite these feelings in only a very slight degree, the former occurrence would thereby, be suggested. This is a universal characteristic of the action of the principle of Association. Reasons why different Objects excite similar Feelings in our
Minds. The law of associations has been stated and illustrated. We are now prepared for another important inquiry, to wit, On what principle is it that different objects, or rather thoughts and perceptions, excite similar feelings in our minds, and thus mutually suggest each other? The following may be specified as the most important reasons why different objects excite such feelings.
1. In consequence of natural resemblance between the objects themselves. That objects naturally alike should excite similar feelings, is a necessary consequence of personal identity. Such objects do not suggest one another, because they are alike, but because, that being alike, they excite similar feelings. The principle of association in such instances, is the same as in all others. .