« AnkstesnisTęsti »
Popular Effayist, whofe compofitions are well calculated for the amufement and inftruction of a numerous class of readers, and whofe real merit I am far from wishing to depreciate, has thought fit thus to exprefs himself on the subject of Metaphyfics: "For Metaphyfics what can be "faid? If every book that has been written on "them, and thousands have been written, were "annihilated, not a single individual in the com"munity of all mankind would, in any one "refpect, have juft reafon to lament the lofs. "Mathematical and arithmetical ftudies are fpecu“lative, it is true; but they do not terminate in fpeculation. The builder, the navigator, almost "every mechanic art, is affifted by geometry; "and all men, without exception, benefited by " arithmetic ;—but Metaphyfics tend only to benight the understanding in a cloud of its own making to lose it in a labyrinth of its own "contrivance." If to deal in positive assertions, unfupported by even the fhadow of a proof, and without the flightest acquaintance with the subject refpect
On the STUDY of METAPHYSICS.
ing which the affertor venturès fo boldly to decide, be to write dogmatically, we have, in the paffage now quoted, as curious and complete an instance of the dogmatic style as I recollect ever to have met with. But this is not the only opportunity Mr. K-x has taken of expreffing his diflike and contempt of all metaphyfical difcuffions; to which, for my own part, I pay exactly the fame regard as I would to the opinion of a blind man, who should take it into his head to declaim upon the inutility of the ftudy of optics; or as Mr. K. himself would do to many a worthy citizen, who fhould declare his full conviction of the folly of wafting time upon the study of Latin and Greek. That branch of philofophy which is distinguished by the term " Metaphyfics," comprehends in it a variety of topics, fome of which are the most refined and curious, and others the most interesting and important, which the human mind is capable of investigating; and what degree of knowledge refpecting these points is really attainable, can no more be ascertained by a mere claffical fcholar, than the moft illiterate clown can pretend to form a conjecture concerning the truth or importance of the Newtonian Theory. Mr. K. expreffes his regret, that fo much stress is laid upon the ftudy of Metaphyfics in the general plan of academical education; and yet it is difficult to fay, if it is at all to enter into the general plan, how lefs ftrefs could well be laid upon it. I differ fo much from Mr. K. upon this fubject, that I do not fcruple to fay, I wish much
more stress was laid upon it. I firmly believe it would be productive of the happiest confequences. Those who have capacities at all adequate to the contemplation of fubjects of this nature, and apply themselves to the study of Metaphyfics early and methodically, I believe, almost invariably become deeply interested and engaged in the pursuit; and when a habit of attention to ftudies of this nature is once acquired, a point of the highest importance is gained. The magnitude and fublimity of thefe difquifitions have a manifeft tendency to elevate the mind, to leffen in our estimation the value and importance of temporal purfuits, to inspire a certain dignity and fuperiority of foul; and, by the intimate relation they bear to religion, both natural and revealed, to make the moft beneficial, as well as durable, impreffions upon the heart. How is it poffible to make that ftupendous Being, who called the univerfe into existence, the subject of our frequent philofophical meditations, without feeling emotions of awe, gratitude, and devotion? Who can reflect without fome degree of moral improvement upon that miracle of divine power and fkill, the human frame? "What a piece of work is man! how "noble in reafon! how excellent in faculty!—in "form and moving, how exprefs and admirable! "in action, how like an angel! in apprehenfion, "how like a God!--the beauty of the world!—the "paragon of animals!" Were it "to confider "too curioufly," to enquire whether that principle
ciple of intelligence and perception which raifes us fo high in the fcale of existence, be the result of an exquifite arrangement of material particles? or, whether it is capable of fubfifting independently of the corporeal frame to which it is at present united? Or is it poffible to employ our thoughts and imaginations upon a fubject of such infinite moment, without feeling our hearts glow with an animating hope that death may be nothing more than a change in the manner of our existence? Or, if the natural proofs of this grand fact be indeed deficient, how much importance does it add to that divine revelation, which, in the most unequivocal terms, afferts the doctrine of a future refurrection!
-To fay no more, who can contemplate the amazing extent and flexibility of the power of affociation, as explained and illuftrated by Locke and Hartley, or the mechanical operation of motives in producing all our volitions, without being fenfible of the unfpeakable importance of attending to the early cultivation of the mind, and of inculcating, with all poffible diligence, thofe laudable and virtuous principles which, fo far as they are not counteracted by oppofite influences, muft operate upon the mind in a regular and definite manner? If Mr. K. cannot fee the use or advantage of these fpeculations himself, I would advise him, at least, not to attempt to exercife his wit upon thofe that do; or affect to treat thefe topics as trifling or ridiculous. Why fhould any man, who happens to have no relish or capacity himfelf for thefe fublime refearches,
researches, wish to deter others from employing all the powers and faculties of their minds upon thefe, as well as other subjects equally mysterious to the vulgar, what is difficult to explain, what is dark to illumine? While thus engaged, the mind feels its own weaknefs, it is true; but it feels its own strength and dignity too.
"Sure, He that made us with fuch large difcourse,
I do not hesitate to affert, that a mere claffical scholar, however polished his language, or refined his tafte, in real elevation and comprehenfion of mind, is as much inferior to the man who has attained to an intimate knowledge of thewritings of Locke and Hartley, who has converted the fimple and admirable theory of those great philofophers to all those excellent practical purposes to which the latter, in particular, has fo ably fhewn they are capable of being applied; I fay, to fuch a man, the mere claffical scholar is as much inferior, as he is in his own eftimation fuperior to the most ignoble of the vulgar. Dr. Akenfide, I remember, remarks, that it is hardly poffible to conceive Philofophy and Tafte at a greater distance from each other, than at the period of the Revolution, when Locke ftood at the head of the one, and Dryden of the other. But if they must be considered as in a state of oppofition, and the characters of Dryden and Locke are to be placed in the balance together, furely the "bel effrit,"