« AnteriorContinuar »
CHAPTER I X.
Term defined. “That one thought is often suggested to the mind by another, and that the sight of one external object often recalls former occurrences, and revives former feelings, are facts,” says Mr. Dugald Stewart, " which are perfectly familiar, even to those who are least disposed to speculate concerning the principles of our nature. This is what is meant by the term Association. It is that principle of our minds by which past thoughts and states are recalled, and revived, through the influence of present perceptions, thoughts and feelings. This law of the human mind was denominated by the old philosophers, “ Association of ideas." By Dr. Brown it was denominated - Suggestion.” By • others, it is designated by the simple term, Association.
Term Association, why preferred. I prefer the latter term to either of the former, because it alone expresses all the phenomena which require consideration, when treating of the subject before us. We find by experience, that not only thoughts and events are associated, but thoughts, events, and feelings also. The term Association of ideas, can be propərly applied to ideas only. The same is true of Suggestion. An idea or event cannot properly be said to suggest feelings. Thoughts and events may be said to revive feelings ; and feelings may be said to suggest thoughts and events. Association is the term, and the only term, which can properly be applied to all these different classes of phenomena.
The Associating Principle not without law. Although the Mind is so constituted, that certain states
follow certain other states, these phenomena, as philosophers have long since observed, not only do not follow each other at random, but are known to follow some one or more fixed law or laws. To ascertain and illustrate the operation of these laws, has been considered one of the great problems in Intellectual Philosophy; and has accordingly occupied a conspicuous place in almost every treatise upon the science. Mr. Hume, I believe, was the first philosopher who attempted to settle definitely the number of these laws. According to this philosopher, they are all reduced to three : Resemblance, Cause and Effect, and Contiguity in time and place. Others have since added that of Contrast.
Law of Association stated and defined. Dr. Brown is the first, and the only philosopher that I have met with, who has suggested the inquiry, whether all the laws of Association may not be reduced to one common principle, or law. The question, however, he barely suggests, without attempting to illustrate, or confirm it. I will give the passage to which I refer, as it will afford an opportunity to develop the principle which I shall endeavor to illustrate, and establish, as the great and only law of Association: “ All Suggestions,” [Associations,] - as I conceive, may, if our analysis be sufficiently minute, be found to depend on prior co-existence, or at least on such immediate proximity as is itself, very probably, a modification of coexistence. For this very nice reduction, however, we must take in the influence of the emotions, and other feelings, that are different from ideas; as when one object suggests an analogous object, by the influence of an emotion or sentiment, which each may have separately produced before, and which is therefore common to both.” The author appears, as you will readily perceive, to use the term co-existence, in two senses, to wit: when two ideas have existed in the mind, or two objects have been perceived by it at the same time,—and when they have existed in connection with similar states of mind, which states are consequently common to them both. Now, the proposition which I shall endeavor to illustrate and establish, is this, that all the phenomena of Association may be reduced to this last-mentioned principle, co-EXISTENCE with the same, or similar feelings, or states of mind. If any perception, or thought, induces feelings similar to those which have co-existed with other thoughts, or perceptions, these last will be suggested in consequence of such association. This is the exclusive and universal law of Association.
Existence of Law, when established. Law, as we have seen, is an idea of Reason. Like all such ideas, it sustains to phenomena the relation of logical antecedent. The phenomena being given, the law is necessarily affirmed, as the condition of their explanation. Each particular law also sustains this same relation to the particular facts explained by it. In the light of such law, it will be seen, that all such facts can be accounted for, on the supposition of its existence and operation, and that they can be accounted for on no other supposition conceivable by us. It thus bears the characteristic of all other ideas of Reason, to wit, universality and necessity. The present Hypothesis, when established as the Law of Asso
ciation. To establish the hypothesis under consideration, as the law of Association, two conditions must be fulfilled :
It must be shown, in the first place, that all phenomena referred to the commonly admitted laws, can be accounted for on this hypothesis.
It must be shown with equal clearness, in the second place, that there are facts of Association which cannot be accounted for by these laws, but which admit of a ready explanation on this hypothesis, and upon none other conceivable by us. These positions being established, the Judgment affirms the hypothesis, as the exclusive and universal law of Association.
We are now prepared to take up the question, whether there are many, or but one law of Association, and whether the hypothesis under consideration is that law ?
A priori Argument. It will be admitted, on a moment's reflection, that there is a very strong a priori probability in favor of the supposition, that the facts of Association are controlled by one law, instead of many. The opposite position supposes a departure, in this single instance, from what we find true of all other classes of facts which lie within and around us in the uni
verse. The phenomena of attraction, in the material universe, for example, are many, and endlessly diversified. Yet they are all controlled by one law. · Why should we suppose the phenomena of Association to be an exception ? Should we not expect, in the ultimate analysis of facts, to find unity amidst diversity here, as well as everywhere else? This argument is adduced as of weight, simply in favor of the supposition of one instead of many laws, and not at all in favor of any one hypothesis, in distinction from another. Any one principle, which would lay claim to the prerogative of universal law, must fulfill the conditions above presented. We are now prepared for a direct investigation of the question, whether the hypothesis under consideration fulfills these conditions.
All the Phenomena referred to the commonly received Laws,
can be explained on this Hypothesis. That many of the phenomena of Association can be accounted for, in consistency with the commonly admitted laws, will be denied by no person of reflection. That objects which resemble each other, that those which have been perceived at the same time or place, that sustain to each other the relation of contrast, or cause and effect, do mutually suggest each other, is undeniable. But do such phenomena necessarily suppose the existence of a plurality of laws ? May they not all be referred to one, and that the one under consideration ? Those of resemblance, obviously may. The same is true of those which sustain to each other the relations of contiguity of time and place, and of cause and effect. For they undeniably have existed with the same feeling or states of mind. The only phenomena which present the appearance of difficulty, are those of Contrast. That a giant and a dwarf resemble each other in but few particulars, and that they stand in striking contrast to each other, is readily admitted ; but that, as objects of perception, or recollection, they may have co-existed with the same feelings, or states of mind, and as causes also of the same, I as fully believe, as I do that the conception of a hero and a lion have co-existed in a similar manner. A giant and a dwarf are strongly contrasted, but each, as striking departures, though in different directions, from the common stature, may have co-existed with similar feelings of wonder or surprise, and as common
causes of the same; and this may be the only reason why one suggests the other. In conversing upon this subject on a particular occasion, an individual present remarked, that he recollected having, at a particular time, seen a dwarf. A giant, which he had previously seen, was not suggested at all, but another dwarf whom he had before met with. I at once asked the speaker, if the giant referred to was not a familiar acquaintance of his. He replied that he was. This fact readily accounted for the phenomena of Association, presented by him. Familiarity had destroyed the feeling of strangeness, which had formerly co-existed with the preception or recollection of the giant. The same feeling, howeve, co-existing with the perception of the two dwarfs, the perception of one would of course suggest the other. In the same manner, all the phenomena of Contrast may be reduced to the hypothesis before us.
Phenomena exist which can be accounted for on this, and on
no other Hypothesis. 1. Those falling under the relation of Analogy.-But how can we account for those associations which fall under the relation of analogy? A hero and a lion sustain no relation of external resemblance, by which one would suggest the other. Equally removed are they from the relations of contiguity, cause and effect, or contrast. But as causes of similar feelings, or states of mind, the conceptions of them have co-existed in the mind, in connection with such states ; and this, I believe, is the only reason that can be assigned, why the contemplation of one suggests the other.
Milton's account of the fight of Abdiel and Satan, may present a striking illustration of the principle under consideration :
“ So saying, a noble stroke he lifted high,