Can Change the World Again.
A SYSTEM OF MENTAL PHILOSOPHY. 1882.
REV. ASA MAHAN, D. D. LL.D.
Through the faculty of sense, and a consciousness of sensations, we have, as we have seen, intuitions of the qualities of external material substances; phenomena, such as are expressed by the terms extension, form, resistance, color, taste, smell, and sound. By consciousness, we have similar intuitions of the operations of our minds; such as thinking, feeling, and willing. Through reason, on condition of the perceptions of sense and consciousness, we have intuitions such as those of time, space, personal identity, substance, and cause. These intuitions being given, another and secondary intellectual process occurs, a process in which said intuitions, necessary and contingent, are united into notions, or conceptions of particular things. Thus, our notion of body, for example, is complex, and when analyzed into its distinct elements, is found to be constituted exclusively of intuitions given by the faculties above referred to. We conceive of it as a substance, in which the qualities named inhere,a substance existing in time and space, and sustaining certain relations to other substances, of which we have notions similarly compounded. The same holds true of our notions of all substances whatever. They are all complex, and constituted exclusively of intuitions given by the primary faculties. A notion, then, is a complex intellectual phenomenon, composed of intuitions.
The faculties, or functions of the intelligence, which give us the latter, we have already considered. What shall we call that which gives us the former? In other words, what shall we call the notion-forming power of the mind? In conformity to a usage which has, since the time of Coleridge, extensively obtained, we denominate this faculty of the intelligence, the understanding. In strict conformity to this specific application, will the term understanding, when special notice to the contrary is not given, be employed throughout this treatise. It will be employed, not as Locke uses it, as designating the general intelligence, but as a function in which intuitions, contingent and necessary, given by the primary faculties, are combined, into notions or conceptions of particular objects, or classes of objects.
SOURCE OF ERROR.
As intuition, in all instances, pertains directly, immediately and singly, to its object, intuitive perception must be held as always valid for the reality and character of its object. All forms of scientific procedure have their basis in the assumed truth of this one principle, the validity of intuition for the reality and character of its object. Error, on the other hand, commences with conceptions, or notions. How often do we hear one individual say to another: your "conception of such and such object, is right or wrong, true or false." How often are grave conclusions, and trains of reasoning, based upon misapprehensions of the subject to which such conclusions and reasoning pertain. The disciple of truth will be exceeding careful in the formation of conceptions in respect to all important objects of thought.
NOTIONS, OR CONCEPTIONS, CLASSIFIED.
We are now prepared for a distinct classification of these intellectual apprehensions, phenomena which take rank under different, and varied classes, according to the point of light in which they are, from time to time, contemplated.
VALID AND INVALID CONCEPTIONS.
One of the most obvious divisions is that of valid and invalid, or true and false. A conception or notion is valid for the reality and character of its object, that is, is true, when it embraces the perceived and implied elements of thought actually given by intuition in respect to its object. It is invalid or false, when it excludes any elements thus given, or includes any not thus given. This is the universal criterion of valid and invalid, true and false, conceptions.
COMPLETE AND INCOMPLETE CONCEPTIONS.
A conception or notion is complete when it embraces fully all the attributes of its object. A conception is incomplete, when it embraces but a part of such attributes. A conception, though incomplete, is true or valid, when it embraces none but real attributes. It is false, though complete, when it includes attributes not real, or excludes those which are real.
SPONTANEOUS AND REFLECTIVE CONCEPTIONS.
There are two distinct and opposite states in which a given conception may be contemplated, to wit, as it first appears in consciousness through the spontaneous and primitive action of the understanding; and as it appears when each element embraced in it has been the object of distinct reflection, and the entire conception, with all its constituent elements, is presented in consciousness in a distinct and reflective form. The former may be classed as spontaneous, and the latter as reflective conceptions; the former being indistinct and undefined, and the latter always appearing in the consciousness in forms distinct and well defined. The importance of habitually forming full, and distinct, or reflective, apprehensions of all important objects of thought, cannot be overestimated. It is worse than useless, for example, to read books, or listen to discourses, unless we habituate ourselves to the formation of distinct, and reflective, apprehensions of what we read or hear.
INDIVIDUAL, GENERIC OR GENERICAL, AND SPECIFIC OR SPECIFICAL CONCEPTIONS.
Conceptions which pertain to single objects, or to individuals, are denominated individual conceptions. Those which pertain to kinds, which embrace, not individuals, but classes (species) under them, are denominated generic or generical conceptions. Those, on the other hand, which pertain to the classes (species) referred to, are denominated specific, or specifical conceptions. The species ranks under the genus, and the individual ranks under the species. The individual conception embraces all the elements given by intuition in regard to the object of the conception. Specifical conceptions embrace only those elements common to all individuals which rank under them. The generical conception embraces only those elements common to all the specifical conceptions which rank under it.
CONCRETE AND ABSOLUTE CONCEPTIONS.
Concrete conceptions pertain to their objects as they actually exist, and embrace all the elements given by intuition, relatively to their objectsconceptions represented by such terms as John, man, animal, etc. Abstract conceptions, on the other hand pertain only to some single quality given by intuition irrespective of the object to which the quality belongs,conceptions represented by such terms as goodness, whiteness, hardness, etc.
POSITIVE, PRIVATIVE AND NEGATIVE CONCEPTIONS.
Conceptions which embrace those elements only which are actually given by intuition in respect to their objects, are called positive conceptions, such, for example, as are represented by such terms as sound, speech, knowledge, wisdom, etc. Conceptions which pertain to their objects as void of certain qualities which might, but do not, belong to said objects, are denominated privative conceptions, such, for example, as are represented by such terms as dumbness, deafness, ignorance, etc. When, on the other hand a conception pertains to its object as merely, or necessarily, void of certain qualities, it is called a negative conception,conceptions, for example, represented by such terms as a dumb statue, a lifeless corpse, etc.
CONCRETE AND CHARACTERISTIC CONCEPTIONS.
We commonly have two classes of conceptions in regard to the same class of objects, the one embracing all the elements given by intuition in respect to said objects, and the other comprehending those only which peculiarize and distinguish such objects from all individuals resembling said objects, but belonging to other classes. The former class of conceptions, the concrete, we have already defined. The latter may be denominated characteristic conceptions.
INFERIOR AND SUPERIOR CONCEPTIONS.
When our conception takes rank, as an individual, under another as its specifical, or as a specifical under another as its generical conception, the former is denominated the inferior, and the latter the superior, conception.
MISTAKE IN REGARD TO NOTIONS OR CONCEPTIONS.
Conceptions have been sometimes defined as perceptions recalled. This is a mistake. Perception may be reproduced, the object being present, but cannot be recalled, the object being absent. Whenever we perceive an object, the understanding forms a notion, or conception, of said object, the perceptive, and notion-forming power often acting instantaneously. In memory, or association, the conception, or notion, formed of the object when perceived is recalled, and not the perception of it.
A FACT OFTEN ATTENDING PERCEPTION.
It is a fact with which all are familiar, that when we unexpectedly meet an object before unknown to us, but which, in certain particulars, resembles one well known, we seem for a time to see the latter with perfect distinctness. The reason of this phenomenon we suppose to be this: under such circumstances, the notion we have of the known object is recalled with such vividness, that it almost exclusively occupies the attention of the mind.
MISTAKE OF MR. STEWART.
According to this philosopher, in all conceptions, the absent object is, in the first instance, always believed to be present, as an object of direct perception. Universal consciousness affirms the error of such a dogma. The mistake of Mr. S. arose, as we suppose, from his definition of conception, that is, that it is a past perception recalled. If this were true, we do not see but that we must, not only at first, but at all times, regard the object of our conception, as directly present.
MISTAKE OF COLERIDGE IN RESPECT TO THE UNDERSTANDING.
Coleridge defines the understanding, as the "faculty of judging according to sense," a definition which he copied from Kant and other German philosophers. According to such philosophers, the understanding pertains only to external material substances. It has nothing to do with the subjective, with mind. Now this is a great error in philosophy. As a matter of fact, we form notions and conceptions of mind as really as we do of anything not ourselves. Notions subjective as really exist, in consciousness, as those which are objective. Nor can any reasons be assigned, why we should attribute the formation of the latter to one faculty of the intelligence, and that of the former to another. The appropriate sphere of the understanding is evidently limited only by the finite. Reason alone pertains to the infinite, the absolute, and the universal. All other realities fall within the range of the understanding.