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These seemingly instantaneous judginents have always appeared to me as entitled to a greater share of our confidence than many of

more deliberate conclusions; inasmuch as they have been forced, as it were, on the mind by the lessons of long experience; and are as little liable to be biased by temper or passion, as the estimates we form of the distances of visible objects. They constitute, indeed, to those who are habitually engaged in the busy scenes of life, a sort of peculiar faculty, analogous, both in its origin and in its use, to the coup d'æil of the military engineer, or to the quick and sure tact of the medical practitioner, in marking the diagnostics of disease.

For this reason, I look upon the distinction between our intuitive and deductive judgments as, in many cases, merely an object of theoretical curiosity. In those simple conclusions which all men are impelled to form by the necessities of their nature, and in which we find an uniformity not less constant than in the acquired perceptions of sight, it is of as little consequence to the logician to spend his time in efforts to retrace the first steps of the infant understanding, as it would be to the sailor or the sportsman to study with the view to the improvement of his eye, the Berkeleian theory of vision. In both instances, the original faculty and the acquired judgment are equally entitled to be considered as the work of nature; and in both instances we find it equally impossible to shake off her authority. It is no wonder, therefore, that, in popular language, such words as common sense and reason should be used with a considerable degree of latitude ; nor is it of much importance to the philosopher to aim at extreme nicety in defining their province, where all mankind, whether wise or ignorant, think and speak alike.

In some rare and anomalous cases, a rapidity of judgment in the more complicated concerns of life, appears in individuals who have had so few opportunities of profiting by experience, that it seems, on a superficial view, to be the immediate gift of heaven. But, in all such instances (although a great deal must undoubtedly be ascribed to an inexplicable aptitude or predisposition of the intellectual powers,) we may be perfectly assured that every judgment of the understanding is preceded by a process of reasoning or deduction, whether the individual himself be able to recollect it or not. Of this I can no more doubt, than I could bring myself to believe that the arithmetical prodigy, who has, of late, so justly attracted the attention of the curious, is able to extract square and cube roots by an instinctive and instantaneous perception, because, the process of mental calculation, by which he is led to the result, eludes all his efforts to recover it.*

* The arithmetical prodigy, alluded to in the text, is an American boy, still, I believe, in London, of whose astonishing powers in performing, by a mental process, hitherto unexplained, the most difficult numerical operations, some accounts have lately appeared in various literary Journals. When the sheet containing the reference to this Note was thrown off, I entertained the hope of having an opTrust,” he said, " to your own good sense in forming your opinions; but beware of attempting to state the grounds of your judgments. The judgment will probably be right—the argument will infallibly be wrong." portunity, before reaching the end of the volume, to ascertain, by personal observation, some particulars with respect to him, which I thought might throw light on my conclusions concerning the faculty of attention, in the former Part of this work. In this expectation, however, I have been disappointed ; and have, therefore, only to apologize for having inadvertently excited a curiosity which I am at present unable to gratify.


It is remarked by Mr. Hume, with respect to the elocution of Oliver Cromwell, that "it was always confused, embarrassed, and unintelligible." “ The great defect, however," he adds, “in Oliver's speeches consisted, not in his want of elocution, but in his want of ideas; the sagacity of his actions, and the absurdity of his discourse, forming the most prodigious contrast that ever known.” “In the great variety of human geniuses,” says the same historian, upon a different occasion, “there are some which, though they see their object clearly and distinctly in general; yet, when they come to unfold its parts by discourse or writing, lose that luminous conception which they have before attained. All accounts agree in ascribing to Cromwell, a tiresome, dark, unintelligible elocution, even when he had no intention to disguise bis meaning: yet, no man's actions were ever, in such a variety of difficult incidents, more decisive and judicious.”

The case here described may be considered as an extreme one; but every person of common observation must recollect facts somewhat analogous, which have fallen under his own notice. Indeed, it is no more than we should expect, à priori, to meet with in every individual whose early habits have trained him more to the active business of the world, than to those pursuits which prepare the mind for communicating to others its ideas and feelings with clearness and effect.

An anecdote which I heard, many years ago, of a late very eminent Judge (Lord Mansfield) has often recurred to my memory, while reflecting on these apparent inconsistencies of intellectual character. A friend of his, who possessed excellent natural talents, but who had been prevented, by his professional duties as a naval officer, from bestowing on them all the cultivation of which they were susceptible, having been recently appointed to the government of Jamaica, happened to express some doubts of his competency to preside in the Court of Chancery. Lord Mansfield assured him that he would find the difficulty not so great as he apprehended. From what has been said, it seems to follow, that although a man should happen to reason ill in support of a sound conclusion, we are by no means entitled to infer with confidence, that he judged right merely by accident. It is far from being impossible that he may have committed some mistake in stating to others (perhaps in retracing to himself) the grounds upon which his judgment was really founded. Indeed this must be the case, wherever a shrewd understanding in business is united with an incapacity for clear and luminous reasonings; and something of the same sort is incident, more or less, to all men (more particularly to men of quick parts) when they make an attempt, in discussions concerning human affairs, to remount to first principles. It may be added, that in the old, this correctness of judgment often remains, in a surprising degree,long after the discursive or argumentative power would seem, from some decay of attention, or confusion in the succession of ideas, to have been sensibly impaired by age or by disease.

* Since this sheet was cast off, I have been informed, from the best authority, that the conversation here alluded to, which I had understood to have taken place between Lord Chief Justice Mansfield and the late Sir Basil Keith, really passed between his Lordship and another very distinguished officer, the late gal. lant and accomplished Sir Archibald Campbell. I have not, however, thought it worth while, in consequence of a mistake which does not affect the substance of the anecdote, to cancel the leaf-more especially, as there is at least a possibility that the same advice may have been given on more than one oc


In consequence of these views, as well as of various others foreign to the present subject, I am led to entertain great doubts about the solidity of a very specious doctrine laid down by Condorcet, in his

Essay on the Application of mathematical Analysis to the Probabilities of Decisions resting upon the Votes of a Majority.” “It is extremely possible," he observes, “ that the decision which unites in its favor the greatest number of suffrages, may comprehend a variety of propositions, some of which, if stated apart, would have had a plurality of voices against them; and, as the truth of a system of propositions supposes that each of the propositions composing it is true, the probability of the system can be rigorously deduced only from an examination of the probability of each proposition, separately considered."*

When this theory is applied to a court of a law, it is well known to involve one of the nicest questions in practical jurisprudence; and, in that light, I do not presume to have formed any opinion with respect to it. It may be doubted, perhaps, if it be not one of those problems, the solution of which, in particular instances, is more safely entrusted to discretionary judgment than to the rigorous application of any technical rule founded on abstract principles. I have introduced the quotation here, merely on account of the proof which it has been supposed to afford, that the seeming diversities of human belief fall, in general

, greatly short of the reality. On this point, the considerations already stated, strongly incline me to entertain an idea directly contrary. My reasons for thinking so may be easily collected from the tenor of the preceding remarks.

It is time, however, to proceed to the examination of those dis

* Essai sur l'Application de l'Analyse à la probabilité des Décisions rendues à la pluralité des Voix.-Disc. Prel. pp. 46, 47.

Some of the expressions in the above quotation are not agreeable to the idiom of our language ; but I did not think myself entitled to depart from the phraseology of the original. The meaning is sufficiently obvious.

cursive processes, the different steps of which admit of being distinctly stated and enunciated in the form of logical arguments, and which, in consequence of this circumstance, furnish more certain and palpable data for our speculations. I begin with some remarks on the Power of General Reasoning, for the exercise of which (as I formerly endeavored to show the use of language, as an instrument of thought, is indispensably requisite.



1.- Illustrations of some Remarks formerly stated in treating of


I SHOULD scarcely have thought it necessary to resume the consideration of Abstraction here, if I had not neglected, in my First Part, to examine the force of an objection to Berkeley's doctrine concerning abstract general ideas, on which great stress is laid by Dr. Reid, in his Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man; and which some late writers seein to have considered as not less conclusive against the view of the question which I have taken. Of this objection I was aware from the first, but was unwilling, by replying to it in form, to lengthen a discussion which savoured so much of the schools, more especially as I conceived that I had guarded my own argument from any such attack, by the cautious terms in which I had expressed it. Having since had reason to believe that I was precipitate in forming this judgment, and that Reid's strictures on Berkeley's theory of General Signs have produced a deeper impression than I had expected,* I shall endeavor to obviate them, at least as far as they apply to myself, before entering on any new speculations concerning our reasoning powers, and shall, at the same time, introduce some occasional illustrations of the principles which I formerly endeavored to establish.

To prevent the possibility of misrepresentation, I state Dr. Reid's objection in his own words.

Berkeley, in his reasoning against abstract general ideas, seems unwillingly or unwaringly to grant all that is necessary to support abstract and general conceptions.

A man,” says Berkeley,“ may consider a figure merely as tri

“See a book entitled, Elements of Intellectual Philosophy, by the late learned and justly regretted Mr. Scott, of King's College, Aberdeen, p. 118, et seq. (Edinburgh, 1805.) I have not thought it necessary to reply to Mr. Scott's own reasonings, which do not appear to me to throw much new light on the question ; but I thought it right to refer to them here, that the reader may, if he pleases, have an opportunity of judging for himself.

angular, without attending to the particular qualities of the angles, or relations of the sides. So far he may abstract. But this will never prove that he can frame an abstract general inconsistent idea of a triangle."

Upon this passage Dr. Reid makes the following remark: “Ifa man may consider a figure merely as triangular, he must have some conception of this object of his consideration ; for no man can consider a thing which he does not conceive. He has a conception therefore, of a triangular figure, merely as such. I know no more that is meant by an abstract general conception of a triangle.

“He that considers a figure merely as triangular (continues the same author) must understand what is meant by the word triangular. If to the conception he joins to this word, he adds any particular quantity of angles or relation of sides, he misunderstands it, and does not consider the figure merely as triangular. Whence I think it is evident, that he who considers a figure merely as triangular, must have the conception of a triangle, abstracting from any quality of angles or relations of sides.”

(Reid's Intellectual Powers, p. 483, 4to edit.)

For what appears to myself to be a satisfactory answer to this reasoning, I have only to refer to the First Part of these Elements. The remarks to which I allude are to be found in the third section of chapter fourth ; and I must beg leave to recommend them to the attention of my readers, as a necessary preparation for the following discussion.

In the farther prosecution of the same argument, Dr. Reid lays hold of an acknowledgment which Berkeley has made, “ That we may consider Peter so far forth as man, or so far forth as animal, inasmuch as all that is perceived is not considered.”—“It may here,” says Reid, “ be observed, that he who considers Peter so far forth as man, or so far forth as animal, must conceive the meaning of those abstract general words man and animal ; and he who conceives the meaning of them, has an abstract general conception."

According to the definition of the word conception, which I have given in treating of that faculty of the mind, a general conception is an obvious impossibility. But, as Dr. Reid has chosen to annex a more extensive meaning to the term than seems to me consistent with precision, I would be far from being understood to object to his conclusion, merely because it is inconsistent with an arbitrary definition of my own.

Let us consider, therefore, how far this doctrine is consistent with itself; or rather, since both parties are evidently so nearly agreed about the principal fact, which of the two have adopted the more perspicuous and philosophical mode of stating it.

In the first place, then, let it be remembered as a thing admitted on both sides, “ that we have a power of reasoning concerning a figure considered merely as triangular, without attending to the particular qualities of the angles, or relations of the sides ; and also,

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