Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

ed, disappeared by degrees; and when, after their long captivity, they returned to Calcutta, they found many, whom they had left well, dead of the very disorder of which they had been cured by the terrible prescription of Tippoo Saib. This medical anecdote is possibly very well known, but it was new to me, and to a great number of students, who evidently listened to it with great interest, as well as to some others, which Dr G. introduced very naturally, and with great effect. He has certainly the art of commanding the attention of his pupils. They manifested their interest from time to time, by a little murmur of applause, which the professor checked by a motion of the hand, and went on. He observed, that the disorders of the liver are always more rapid in their progress at the pay time of the troops, in the East and West Indies, The weight of the liver, which, in healthy subjects is about three pounds and a half, increases to eighteen or twenty-four pounds, and becomes so hard, that the sharpest instruments penetrate it with difficulty.

Mr Leslie, known in the scientific world by many ingenious researches on the subjects of light and heat, and by his late discovery of congelation in vacuo, was so obliging as to repeat several times, in our presence, this brilliant ex

periment. In seven minutes, a cup of pure water, under the recipient of the pneumatic machine, became a mass of ice. Had it been warm weather, the process would not have taken more than five minutes, by the greater rapidity of evaporation. This circumstance renders his discovery the more valuable in tropical climates ; and Mr Leslie has contrived a simple apparatus, for practical use, which costs, I think, twenty guineas.

It was the fortune of this philosopher à la glace to kindle, some years ago, a metaphysical flame between the men of letters and the churchmen of this learned town. He chose, I do not know exactly why, to allude, in a work of phy. sical science, to the doctrine of Hume concerning the relation of cause and effect. This was supposed to be an indirect attack on the

great First Cause,-and I would not answer for it that it was not, for the Scotch philosophers have been grievously suspected of a leaning towards infide lity. The clergy of the kirk thought it their duty to oppose the election of an infidel to the professorship ;--the men of letters drew the

pen

in defence of their brother philosopher, and thus a war à toute outrance was waged. Professor D. S. wrote with great severity ;-Professor P. with keen irony ;-Dr T. B. logically. The doctrine of causation, as it is called, shows, to the great

satisfaction of the learned, that the constant re. turn of light with the rising sun, is no proof that the light proceeds from that body. It teaches you to say, that one event has invariably followed the other, but warns you against the rash as. sertion that it is the cause of it, as, in fact, we know nothing about causes,—the old vulgar apophthegm of no effect without a cause, being, for any thing we know to the contrary, wholly erroneous. Hume did not doubt of the existence of causes alone, but of effects likewise ;-that is to say, of the existence of the whole external world, as it appears to our senses. He substituted to external realities certain ideas existing in the mind, which, at the same time, does not itself exist, or is only a simple modification of matter; “most ingeniously reasoning us out of eve. ry ground of certainty, and every criterion of truth ; involving self-evident questions in obscurity and confusion, and entangling our understanding in metaphysical abstractions ;'* or, as Hume himself said of Berkley, “ His arguments admit of no answer, and produce no conviction, but only momentary amazement and irresolu. tion.”

* Dr Porteous.

Metaphysical researches lead you back at last to some self-evident proposition, for the truth of which consciousness is the only evidence; as, in the system of the world, attraction is admitted as a cause, although this occult property of matter can only be proved by its effects.

With minds so keenly alive to abstruse enqui. ries as these northern philosophers possess, they could not possibly pass by that most inextricable of all metaphysical puzzles, free-will and neces

We find them accordingly to have been most warmly engaged in debates on the subject, reasoning always victorious on one side, and con. viction on the other. * One of the inevitable

sity.

* Adam Smith, so well known on the Continent of Europe, by his great work on the Wealth of Nations, treated, in another work much less known, (Theory of Moral Sentiments) certainly very prolix and heavy, this thorny question of free-will and necessity, and proved, of course, necessity.

The above note has been greatly censured, and the author suspected of deciding on the merits of a work he had not even read. The truth is, he had not read it for many years when he gave this rash opinion, and trusted to his memory, which, as it appears, was not to be trusted. If he now ventures again on an opinion, he begs to be understood as giving it with all proper doubt and diffidence, and he would not have given it at all, if the recantation he feels himself bound to make did not in some measure require it.

Adam Smith's theory of moral sentiments is founded on the supposed sympathy we feel, by bringing any case of suffering

consequences of the doctrine of necessity, and explicitly admitted by its advocates, is, that re

or pleasure, any passion felt by others, home to ourselves; it is a lively association, a recollection of what we have felt, or conception of what we might feel, in a similar situation. Yet this sympathy is not simply one of bodily feelings, it implies an approbation of motives, requiring the agency of reason, and might perhaps as well be called simply approbation. Adam Smith does not, however, admit mere approbation to be a motive, till certain pleasurable feelings have grown out of it, and have been matured into moral faculties ; what is agreeable, he says, to these moral faculties, is fit, and right, and proper to be done; the contrary, wrong, unfit, improper. The sentiments which they approve of, are graceful and becoming; the contrary, ungraceful and unbecoming The very words, right, wrong, fit, proper, improper, graceful, unbecoming, mean only what pleases or displeases those faculties, (p. 282). In short, Adam Smith's sense of duty is simply sense of pleasure. A moral sense, analogous to our physical senses, is thus formed: Resentments for injuries done to ourselves, in the first instance, creates, by association, an abhorrence of injuries inflicted on others; and we should be for ever deprived of this moral sense if we had never experienced or been artificially taught to feel something of sufferings inflicted and wrongs committed.

Such being the governing principles of human nature, the rules which they prescribe are to be regarded as the commandments and laws of the Deity, promulgated by its vicegerents within us (agreeable or disagreeable). They constitute rules to direct the free actions of men, and are attended by rewards and punishments, inward shame, and self-condemnation-or tranquillity of mind, conteniment, and self-satisfaction. How men can ever bring themselves to perform such duties as are the reverse of pleasurable, in any posssible sense

« AnteriorContinuar »