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As the doctrine of the origin of ideas is the foundation on which the fuperstructure of every metaphysical system is reared, it is necessary to bestow longer confideration on that part of our au. thor's work, than can be devoted to the rest. To give a complete review of his opinions would be, in fact, to present a complete refutation of them, and compose a volume on the philofophy of the human mind.
Mr. Hume, in his Treatise, again divides our perceptions into simple and complex, that is, into single perceptions and combinations of them, as they may be considered separately or in union. To this divifion he has recourse, in order to limit the general decision, which he had formed, that our ideas and impressions “are resembling,” or resemble each other. “ I observe,” says he, “ that many of our complex ideas never had impressions that corresponded to rhem, and that many of our complex impressions never are exactly copied in ideas. I can imagine to myself such a city as the New Jerusalem, whose pavement is gold and rubies, though I never faw any such. I have seen Paris, but shall I affirm I can form such an idea of that city, as will perfectly represent all its streets and houses in their real and just proportions?"
This manner of stating the proposition is ex. tremely vague; for it implies, that Mr. Hume might have ideas without impreslions, the faint images of which he formerly represepted to give
rise exclusively to ideas, or rather to be themselves ideas. According to custom, our author, in this passage, confounds imagination and memory, two very different powers of the mind. The human faculties, although wisely adapted to all the possible purposes of man, are limited in their extent and powers, and each has its peculiar province.
When a man lays his hand on a piece of marble, he becomes sensible of its quality of hardness. Let this marble cease to be present to his sense of touch; let it no longer be an immediate object of perception, he can still form a notion of its hardness, still retain an idea of it, or, as some philosophers would express it, still form a just conception of it. In like manner we acquire a knowledge of the various qualities of external objects by our senses; and in preserving or recalling that know. ledge, a process takes place similar to that mentioned in the case of the sense of touch. The mind has also a power of modifying its ideas. It can se. parate the ideas of the different qualities of subdances. It can divide them into parts. It can combine these with others in endless variety, and thus form new wholes. This power of creation, if the expression may be allowed, is styled the imagination. But however fantastic these combinations may be, such as elephants with wings, and the like creatures of a prolific and extravagant fancy, it cannot be faid that “ many of our complex ideas never had impressions corresponding to them ;": for all the single perceptions or idcas, which are the
component parts of such complex ideas, must have been originally excited by external objects, and have continued familiar to the mind. Though Mr. Hume, therefore, could form accurate ideas of the external objects present to his fenfes, it does not follow that he ought to have been able to form with precision so complex and vas an idea as that of an immense city. In fact, the powers of his imagination as to comprizing at once and correctly the streets and pavements of the New Jerufalem were as much limited, as the powers of his conception or those of his memory respecting Paris. It is, therefore, equally erroneous, that many of our complex impressions are never exactly copied in ideas.
After observing that our complex impressions and ideas, though greatly resembling, a e not exact copies of each other, Mr. Hume proceeds to inquire how the case stands with our simple perceptions in this respect, and finishes with a very unexpected conclusion. “ Thus," says he, “ we find, , that all simple ideas and impressions resemble each other, and as the complex are formed from them, we may affirm, in general, that these two species of perception are exactly correspondent:" an inference in open hostility with the doctrine which he had just delivered.
As we have endeavoured to point out the very unphilosophical distinction he has introduced between impressions and ideas, and, it is hoped, shewn the fallacy of his ideal theory by faint images of im.
pressions, it does not appear necessary to pursue the inquiry, by investigating the principles of causation which he advances, and his opinions respecting the infinite divifibility of space and time, and the infinite divisibility of our ideas of space and time: discordant inferences are the inevitable result of an hypothesis elientially erroneous.
Without prosecuting farther, therefore, the review of his Treatise, the tenets in which have been publicly disclaimed by the author, in so far as they differ from those in his Enquiry, we shall confine our subsequent obfervations to this last performance. It does not profess to be, like the Treatise, a complete fyftem, but is rather a collection of essays on metaphysical subjects, poflefling a connection with each other. The topics, however, on which it treats, are nearly the same with those in the Treatise, but it is cleared from the false reasonings and contradictions of the latter; and while it displays the vigour of his understanding, it also affords honoura. ble evidence of his industry, and the progress of his mental improvement, during the time which elapfed between the appearance of these two publications.
The subjects discufied in the Enquiry are the fol. lowing:
Seat. I. Of the different Species of Philosophy.
II. Of the Origin of Ideas.
IV. Sceptical Doubts concerning the Opera
tions of the Understanding.
These essays are but little susceptible of analysis: we hall, however, endeavour to give a rapid sketch of them, interspersed with a few remarks on peculiar or exceptionable opinions.
In his brief notice of the different species of philosophy, Mr. Hume considers man, first, as born for action, and as influenced in his measures by taste and sentiment, pursuing one object, and avoiding another, according to the value which these pbjects seem to possess, or the light in which they present themselves ; and, secondly, as a reasonable rather than an active being. The first species may be referred to ethics, and the last to pure metaphyfics. In the second Section, he adopts his former theory of the origin of ideas, which we have already condemned ; and in the third, he discusses, with the astonishing brevity of a few lines, the im. portant subject of the association of ideas.