Page images
PDF
EPUB

66

"principles,” each of which is used not merely in a precise, but in a technical signification, in a sense which to the mind of the author is definite and clear, but which is not made so to the learner. We shall be told in reply, that this explanation is given farther on. This may be true, but even then, it is not given in such a way, as to leave a clear and permanent impression. If it were, the fact that these words are used in a technical sense, shall be intimated from the first, and their precise meaning in the author's mind should be clearly stated, and should be emphasized, and again and again repeated, in order that a lodgment in the mind might be effected.

But we find no attempts to do this at the outset; nor when such definitions are absolutely necessary, are they given in such a way as to convey a definite and precise conception to the mind, unless the mind has been initiated" into distinctions of this kind by other reading. The method of this work, whether viewed as an elementary treatise, or a synopsis of one more expanded, is essentially defective. The matter or doctrines of this book we shall not discuss, for the simple reason that it would require more space than we have at command. The nomenclature is in the main Kantian; and in so far as Kant has determined the nomenclature of the German writers since his time, it is that which is still retained in Germany. But the book would scarcely be owned in Germany as an empirical psychology as given in consciousness, forasmuch as so few of the facts given in consciousness are noticed at all, and the object of the author seems to be to use the few facts which he does adduce, to set off his distinctions, rather than his distinctions to set off his facts. We venture to question the distinction, made by the author, between Observation and Attention, (pp. 115, 117.) To the first he assigns the office or function of distinguishing the object given in sensation as quality; to the second, that of distinguishing it as quantity. It may be doubted whether attention has any more to do with quantity than quality; whether they are not equally given to observation, as the author defines observation; and it attention discriminates or defines quantity from quality, whether it does not also distinguish quality from quantity, and so is equally active in apprehending quality as quantity. We are at a loss also to know what the author intends when he says, that consciousness is best considered “under the analogy of an inner illumination." "The conception" of consciousness is not of

• a faculty, but of a light; not of an action, but of an illumination; not of a maker of phenomena, but of a revealer of them as already made by the appropriate intellectual operation; and

66

66

[ocr errors]

as thus constructed in the illuminated mental sphere, they at once appear to the mind, and the fact of perception is consummated.” According to this view, the external sense furnishes its content through the affection of the senses, by objects from without, which, by attention, is defined as quantity and degree; the inner sense being “a faculty for knowing the inner

; mental exercises," also furnishes its content to itself'; and yet both of these powers do not enable the mind to discriminate the self from the not self, except the light of consciousness be superadded. But does this explain anything? What is the relation of this light to "attention," to "reflection," both of which powers the author accepts! What its relation to anything else in the mind, or out of the mind, in heaven or the earth, or the waters under the earth, except to the inner light itself? Such a use of metaphorical language, in such a connection, if it were not dignified with the name of philosophy, would deserve an appellation much less respectable.

The style of this book is open to very grave exceptions, the proof of which is furnished on every page. We do not desire to be hypercritical, and we think much liberty should be allowed to metaphysicians to make themselves intelligible, and, if possible, interesting. But Dr. Hickock seems to have overstepped the limits of the largest liberty, and to be often inexact as well as inelegant, and un-English as well as unphilosophical.

President Mahan's Intellectual Philosophy is a work which it is difficult to characterize justly. The second edition is a great improvement upon the first, being far less crude and illdigested, and containing valuable and extended additions upon important subjects. But there is still not a little unassimilated matter, which another edition, if it waits nine years more, may be expected to bring into harmony and order, or to reject as unworthy. The book is written in a bold and enterprisingwe do not like to say—self-confident spirit, for, in philosophy, the man who does not dare to think for himself, had better not think at all. The author grapples earnestly with the speculations of Coleridge, Cousin, and Kant, as he understands them, and though he occasionally confounds the views of the one with those held by the other, he shows an energy of thinking and acuteness in his discriminations, which deserve great praise. He does not always represent these authors aright. He says that “ Coleridge defines the understanding as the faculty of judging according to sense;' a definition which he copied from Kant and other German philosophers. According to such philosophers, the understanding pertains only to external material substances. It has nothing to do with the subjec

tive, with mind.” This is incorrect in two particulars. Coleridge's view of the understanding is not literally copied from Kant; nor if it were, would it be open to the objection which the author urges. The sense, as used by Kant, includes the inner as well as the outer sense; time being the form of the one, and space being that of the other. He understands at least in one place, the Reason as defined by Cousin, to be the same with the Reason as defined by Kant. IIe says that all the German philosophers hold the same view as Kant in respect to Time and Space. He is satisfied too often with giving a condensed extract from his favorite author Cousin;" when he should re-think his thoughts, and make them more thoroughly his own. He drops the singular suggestion," whether posterity will not regard itself as almost as much indebted to Victor Cousin for the annunciation of the true method in mental science, as to Bacon, &c.” This would be, doubtless, very gratifying to the acute and eloquent Cousin, who it may be supposed is not insensible to flattery; but we fancy when the incense had been duly offered and accepted, the idol would shrug his shoulders, as a Frenchman knows how, and ask how nearly related is this American to the reverend biographer of the uncle of Napoleon III.

The method of this book is not good. The student is plunged at once into a chaos of metaphysical distinctions, concerning the abstrusest matters, before he is introduced to the simplest elements of psychology. It may indeed be necessary at the outset to state that certain principles must be assumed à priori and applied, in order that psychological facts may be scientifically arranged, and be brought into a system at all. If these principles are stated, they should of course be explained and their importance and application should be illustrated. But an extended discussion of such principles can only involve the student in a tangled maze of subtleties from which he is incompetent to extricate himself, and a dangerous example is furnished of the wrong method of settling such controversies, by an appeal to speculation, rather than to the consciousness. The ground must be gone over a second time, with the certainty of repetition. In the work before us, the matter which is introduced as preliminary, is again presented under the Reason. There is great lack of simplicity in this book. The charm of a natural and easy development, from the simple to the complex, is not present. The work shows little progress by natural transitions, but there is much repetition, and often long and ill-managed discussions. The book is more metaphysical than psychological. The author could not restrain himself from extended criticisms upon authors with whom he is manifestly not fully acquainted, and from discussions too extended and too minute for a text-book. He violates good taste in his illustrations, quotations and in colloquial writing. We cannot criticise him at length. If we should, we should expect to differ from the author in many scores of instances. Notwithstanding all this, the book is able, convenient, and well worthy the attention of the philosophical student. It is creditable to the author and to the country. But if it could again emerge in a more symmetrical and well studied form, the author and his country would both be the gainers.

We regret that neither our limits nor our time will allow us to give these works a more extended notice. No fact is more obvious than that psychology and philosophy are subjects which are likely to interest the students of our country. The fact is also clear, that we shall not confine ourselves to the hitherto acknowledged guides of the English and Scotch schools. A new day has been breaking upon us since the publication of Coleridge's Aids to Reflection, in 1829. The French and German authors will be read by many. They will be studied by few. The terminology of the Gerinan systems cannot be lightly acquired. It is rooted in the Ante-Kantian writers who are scarcely known out of Germany, and has been the growth of more than a half century of vigorous thinking and excited controversy, since the days of Kant. The philosophical dialect of the Germans is very unlike that of the Eng. lish and the French. To master it the student must read much and think more. It is comparatively easy to gain a superficial view of the leading systems, and superficially to expound them, but to use them for any end which is worthy of a thinking man, to apply them to the great purposes of scientific truth in morals and religion, requires patience in a slow but certain progress. Philosophy is not learned in a day, and those who attempt to expound it, before they have thoroughly mastered its principles, will only expose their own folly. "Much is said and more imagined about “German Philosophy,” that is little better than moonshine, and which is only fitted to bring the name of philosophy into contempt. “Truth is the cry of all, but the game of a few. Certainly where it is the chief passion, it doth not give way to vulgar cares and views; nor is it contented with a little ardor in the early time of life; active, perhaps, to pursue, but not so fit to weigh and revise. Ile that would make a real progress in knowledge, must dedicate his age as well as youth, the later growth as well as first fruits, at the altar of Truth."

Art. IX:-AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF THE REV. WILLIAM JAY.

The Autobiography of the Rev. William Jay; with Reminiscences of some distinguished Contemporaries, Selections from his Correspondence, and Literary Remains. Edited by GEORGE REDFORD, D.D., LL.D., and Join ANGELL JAMES. In two volumes. New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, No. 285 Broadway. 1855.

Tus book opens with a Preface by the American editor, written at Pelliam Priory, in which we were sorry to see it stated that " with the remarks of the [English] editors alone, some alterations have been considered necessary, to render it suitable to readers in this country,” without informing the American reader of the character of those alterations. We are always suspicious when such announcements are made, that more is meant than meets the eye. In our opinion, they never should be made without mentioning the character of them. Then follows the preface of the English editors in which they avouch the fact, that the manuscripts of Mr. Jay have been printed precisely as he left them. Their task has been to make such additions to Mr. Jay's autobiography, as to complete the narrative, but the additions are carefully distinguished from the original work. This preface is followed by a General Introduction to the Autobiography, Reminiscences, &c., in which there is much common-place remark on the subject of biography,

,-a subject which in this age of biographies might have been supposed to be already pretty well understood. The work is divided into five parts. Part first is the Autobiography; part second, Supplement to the Biography by the editors; part third, Reminiscences of distinguished Contemporaries; part fourth, Correspondence; part fifth, Literary Remains.

Mr. Jay congratulates himself that he was relieved from the tronble of tracing a long and proud lineage, for, as far as he could learn, no great or illustrious individual had been discovered among his ancestors. His father was a stone-cutter and mason, nor was there any thing remarkable in him as to talent, nor as he says, in his dear mother. But they were respectable persons; poor and pious, of solid understanding and much good common sense. Mr. Jay's early education was limited to the ordinary branches of reading, writing, and vulgar arithmetic. The only farther education which Mr. Jay received was at the VOL. XIII.

10

« PreviousContinue »