« ПредишнаНапред »
it is intimated to us from some other quarter: in which cale, when called upon by a person capable of comprchending us, and receiving satisfaction on the subjeét in question, we shall be ready to give it in as ample a manner as is confiftent with our work, or can be reasonably required by our rendere
Dur antagonist will doubtless call this, in his usual file, a jesuitical way of thitting off the argument, intolerable arrogance, &c. we must take the liberty to tell him, however, it is not the argument, but the writer, we should be pleated to get rid of: if we must engage in a controversy, we are indeed to far ambitious, as to wish it may be with a writer capable of understanding, and replying to an argument.
ACCOUNT of FOREIGN BOOKS. Ellai Arolytique fur les Facultés de 1.Ime. Par Charles Bonnet, de la Societe Royale d'Angleterre, de l'Academie Royale des Sciences de Suede, de l'Academie de l'Institut de Bologne,
&c. An Analytical Elizy on the Faculties of the Mind, &c. Copenhagen, 1760. 4to. Philibert. *Etaphysics, which, in this island, hath long given place
to oiher branches of philofophy, hath itiilits numerous admirers, and is cultivated with no little appearance of fuccefs, on th: continent. Among the many ingenious productions of this kind, which have been lately published abroad, this of Mr. Bonnet has met with distinguished approbation. It is indeed with great satisfaction that we perceive a number of adepts in this science agreed, as to many eflential points, which have been to long and so warmly contested, as to have given the world a very disadvantageous idea of metaphysical enquiries in general. Vague and uncertain, however, as they may be generally efcemed, there is reason to think the inperfection of this science rather owing to the want of application, or abilities, in the student, than to any defect or impracticabili y of arriving at truth, in the nature of the study. The objects of such enquiry are too gènerally conceived to he such only as are removed beyond the reach of our faculties, while our means of pursuit fall equally ihort of their end. But neither that object, nor those means, when scientifically pointed out and pursued, are beyond the limits of human
reason ; nor are they found to be inadequate to the purposes
preface, is to discover the nature of man, as far as it can be known. Not that the author pretends to inform us of the real essence of those two distinct substances of which he conceives man to be composed ; to penetrate the mystery of their reciprocal influence on each other, or to discloie the secret of their union. He is contented to study man in the manner he would contemplate a plant or an infect. Convinced that all our ideas are originally founded on our perceptions, he has
• The completion and publication of this work are indeed princi. pally owing to the proiection and patronage of the King of Den. mark, to whom Mr. Bonnet has gratefully dedi.ated his performance.
considered the latter with peculiar attention. To this end, he examines what passes in the organs of fense, in transmitting to the mind the impressions made on them by external objects. He considers the action of those fibres on which depend our ideas ; reasoning from the result of their various movements and relations to each other. From a particular examination into all these it is, that he endeavours to explain the operations of the human mind, and the manner in which ideas are generated and stored up therein. Again, being persuaded, on the other hand, of the action of the foul on the body, as evinced by the effects of volition, he considers it as a force or power applied to the fibres composing the sensible organs; from the effects of which he deduces the knowledge of the actual exercise of the mental faculties.
Our author sets out with a detail of those principles, on which he proceeds in the course of his treatise : but these, as we have already intimated, being neither new nor uncommon, we should be thought unnecessarily tedious to follow him step by step through his work. Having hinted his general mea thod and design therefore, we shall only take notice of a passage or two, that occur in the prosecution of his subject, which
may serve as a specimen of Mr. Bonnet's manner of thinking, and of his abilities for metaphysical speculation.
“ Our sense of pleasure and pain, says he, depends more or less on the mobility of the sensible fibres; pleasure confifting in all the degrees between their too great or too little agitation. A fufcep:ible Being cannot be a moment indifferent to pain and pleasure ; nor is it possible for it to distinguish one sensation from another, without giving, at the same time, the preference to one of them. The immediate effect of this preference is that attention which such being gives to that fentation which is the most agreeable, which attention confifts in a certain exertion of the activity of the foul on the fibres of the brain ; whence the momentum of the motion, first impresed on those fibres by the object, is increased, and such object engages the power of volition to exert itself, in consequence thereof, by a method conformable to its pleasure or preservation. Hence, says he, the will is that act of a fentible, or intelligent Being, by which it prefers, of several circumstances, that which promises it most good or least evil: and its liberty, or the freedom of the will, consists in that faculty by which the soul executes its desires. Every Being, therefore is a free agent that has the power of doing what it wills. To be a free agent, it is not necessary to have the power of deliberation, or of acting, on any occasion, in this, that, or the other, manner. It is sufficient that we are ca. pable of voluntary action, or of acting agreeable to the determination of the will. The infinite Being faw, and willed, what is right, from all eternity ; but never deliberated about it. By an act of his liberty, he executed his fovereign will, and gave the possible world an actual existence. The philosopher, therefore, continues our author, who has represented the Almighty Buing as having made a deliberate choice of the best of all posible worlds, has expressed himself, in my opinion, much more like a poet than a metaphysician."
With respect to the immortality of the soul, and a future state, our author's sentiments are not incurious; they may, however, be thought perhaps more ingenious than folid. There are a numerous class of animal beings, says he, which undergo very furprizing metamorphoses. The individual is, in its first state, a crawling worm, or creeping caterpillar, which devours the verdure of the earth. In its next, it becomes, to all appearance, an insensible mafs, without parts or motion ; such is the chrysalis, which takes no nourishment, and betrays hardly any signs of life. At length, in its third State, it appears as a papilio, or butterfly, is ornamented with the most beautiful colours, and, provided with wings, roves from place to place, sporting in the sun-fhine, tasting the sweetest flowers, or indulging itself in the pleasures of love. Still the same animal, the butterfly, existed under the form of the caterpillar, and the folds of the chrysalis ; nor doth it pass through those successive changes, but because they are necessary to its acquisition of new faculties. Thus it is, that nature, by a progress, more or less flow, conducts every species of beings to perfection: and thus man, in the eyes of superior beings capable of knowing him truly, may be in the same situation as the caterpillar in the eye of a naturalist. Death perhaps rcduces him into the state of a chrysalis, and is only preparatory to that metamorphosis he will assume in another state *.
This allusion, ingenious as it is, is far from being new: the author of Epistles to Lorenzo has made use of it, though we think less philofophically chan Mr Bonnet, as the former supposes the present state of man to resemble that of the chrysalis.
Is man a worm ? 'tis here his fate
But our philosopher doth not content himself with advancing the plausibility of a future existence; he goes so far, as to endeavour to fhew not only the immortality of the foul, but also the possibility and neceflity of its future union with an incorruptible and spiritual body, agreeable to what is taught us by revelation.
As it is admitted, that the foul cannot act but through the interpofition of the senses, he conceives that the Deity has formed an organical machine, of a fubftance similar to that of fire, æther, or light; that this machine is infinitely sub:le, and is inclosed within a callous body, which is properly the seat of the soul, and is the organ of reciprocal communication between the soul and body in the present state. This organ, or refined body, he conceives also to be the only effential body of man; that, during the life of the groffer material body, the fibres of this feat of the foul, which correspond with those of the sensible organs, receive those impulses or determinations which constitute the physical economy or mechanism of the memory.
In death, the communication between the gross, adventitious body, and the refinid, essential one, is broken; as is also that between the organs of fenfe and the percep:ible universe. The nature, however, of this receptacle of the fou! is such, as enables it to dive't itself of all connection with those caules that operates to the diffolution of the grofler body. Hence, in this new state, the man still retains his conscious nefs and personality, because the mind remains uniad to that little organised machine, which has the faculty of remembering the occurrences of its first state.
In this manner he conceives this seat or receptacle of the foul to comprehend the germ of that incorruptible body, with which, according to the scriptures, we shall be cloathed at the general resurrection.
To the Authors of the MONTHLY REVIEW.