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my admirer will, doubtless, find me bien interressante as I am. What a pity it is that the fatigues of pleasure should disfigure the bloom of youth! But n'importe, I hear my admirer taking up my guitar, and playing a romance,--I must away; once more farewell—My dear girl, believe me, with all my lightheadedness, as you are pleased to call it, still
Your unalterable friend,
FLIRTILLA. P.S. I send you the Almanac des Modes. We have here an almanack for every thing: one for the Muses, one for gluttons, &c. &c. &c. so that one runs after a new fashion, and another after a new dish or a new sauce. You will, perhaps, say that I am saucy enough without. « Comme vous le voulez, ma bonne amie.”
Impossibility of forming an obscure Conception of a primary Cause until it be perfectly discovered.
Obscure Ideas have no existence.
WHEN I first reflected on the difficulty of explaining how the same sensation should be at once pleasant and painful, I consulted several works on the subject before I discovered that Hume devoted one of his Essays to the resolution of this curious phenomenon. Du Bos, Lord Kaimes, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Blair, Knight, Lessing, Schlegel, Fontenelle, and almost all the writers who have attempted to explain it, may be more properrly considered critics than philosophers; or, if this distinction should appear obscure, as criticism and philosophy sometimes glide into each other, they were better qualified to distinguish between impressions, and to point out the “ rainbow hues” which connect them together, than to trace these impressions, and their voluble, impalpable connectives to their original source. The common observer perceives effects and impressions in the gross, but cannot ascertain their momentum, or the precise point to which they do, and beyond which they cannot, extend. This is the business of the critic: his duty is to point out where propriety ends, and where absurdity begins; and, therefore, the true critic never outsteps the modesty of nature. But the philosopher, not satisfied with marking the proper boundaries that distinguish impressions, and their immediate causes from each other, seeks to trace each of them distinctly to its primary source.
As the resolution of the present problem belongs to philosophy, and not to criticism, I was not much surprised to find tie writers whom I have now mentioned, in their attempts to trace the pleasures resulting from Tragic Representation to its original cause, not only contradicting each other, but contradicting those first truths or principles of reasoning, which are admitted by themselves, and by all mankind. He who contradicts first truths, however, will frequently be found to contradict himself, because he is continually admitting these truths where they serve to support his collateral or incidental arguments. That this has been the case with the writers who have treated on the present subject, will manifestly appear from the following pages,
In detecting their inconsistencies and self-contradictions, I observed, that they invariably arose from not sufficiently generalizing the cause of the pleasure of which they were in pursuit ; for nothing can be more easily demonstrated, than that many proximate causes co-operate in producing the pleasing emotions resulting from Tragic Representations, which no stretch or torture of reasoning can refer to any one of the causes to which these writers trace the agreeable effect. As critics, they have certainly displayed great ingenuity, penetration, and good sense ; but not one of them has viewed his object from a sufficiently elevated situation to grasp it entirely, and examine it in all its parts. From not having sufficiently generalized, therefore, the cause of Tragic Pleasure, all they have written eventually amounts to nothing. Some of them, it is true, travelled farther than others, and consequently advanced nearer to their object; but he who is within a few paces of the place of his destination, is, with regard to his object, in the same situation with him who is a thousand miles off, if he can proceed no farther. A man of seven feet high cannot, without leaping, seize, with all his efforts, a ball placed half an inch above bis reach ; whereas, if he were half an inch taller, he could lay his hand upon it with ease. However trifling, therefore, half an inch may appear, the want of it baffles all the efforts of this tall man to seize the ball : it is as safe from his attempts as from those of a dwarf. It is so in science: the philosopher, in tracing effects to causes, and consequences to premises, should pursue his chain of reasoning until he discovers the original cause of which he is in pursuit ; and he frequently fails from not adding another link to the chain, which might have led him to its discovery. Of this cause, therefore, nearly as he approached it, he knows as little as the clown who cannot comprehend the second link in the chain. However mysterious this cause may seem, it would appear simple and obvious to the philosopher the moment he discovered it, for all truths are obvious to those who perceive them; but, not having discovered it, he does not form the remotest idea of its existence. A logical reasoner frequently arrives at conclusions, from which many incontrovertible truths might be deduced, of which he is totally ignorant, because, having his mind constantly fixed on one object, he overlooks every conclusion to which his arguments lead, except those which serve to prove the position which he seeks to demonstrate. Of these truths he is, consequently, as ignorant as he who could never discover the conclusions from which they result. Hence it follows, that however nearly we may approach the discovery of truth, we can form no conception of it, if we can approach it no nearer. We may discover, indeed, some of its appendages, but the appendages of a thing form no part of its essence. In fact, until a truth be perfectly discovered, it is not discovered at all. If it should be said, that even he who cannot perceive the object, or the truth of which he is in search, clearly and distinctly, may still have an obscure idea of it, and consequently be better acquainted with it than he who forms no idea of it at all, I reply, that it is impossible to form an obscure idea of any thing : we either see the thing clearly, or we have no perception
of it. We may, indeed, see part of an object clearly, while the rest of it is concealed in impenetrable darkness; but here there is no obscurity. Of the part which is concealed from us, we form no idea at all; for, as an idea is a mental perception of some thing, how can we perceive what is concealed from us? to say that we can, is to say that it is not concealed. We may, indeed, figure to ourselves a mental image, and call it an image of that part of the object which lies concealed ; but is it not obvious, that the idea which then exists in our mind, is an idea of the image, and not of the concealed object? neither is there any thing obscure in our idea of the image, as we cannot create an image without perceiving it'; for the act of creation is only known to us by the act of perception. We cannot pretend, however, that this image is an image of the object concealed, because this is to maintain, that we know what the object is; in which case, it cannot be concealed. If, then, we do not know what the object is, neither do we know whether the image present to our mind be an image of it or not. It may, for aught that we know, be as different from it as day is from night. There can be no obscurity, then, in our idea of that part of an object which is concealed from us, because we can form no idea of it at all : neither can there be any obscurity in our idea of that part of the object which we perceive, because perception removes all obscurity. All, then, that we perceive of the object we perceive clearly, and the part which we do not perceive clearly, we do not perceive at all; for, with regard to our perceptions, it has no existence. Besides, the part of the object which we perceive forms