Can Change the World Again.
A SYSTEM OF MENTAL PHILOSOPHY. 1882.
REV. ASA MAHAN, D. D. LL.D.
The general faculties of the mind we have comprehended under a threefold division. The intellect, the sensibilities and the will; the first comprehending all the phenomena of thinking and knowing, the second those of feeling, and the third those of willing. The first main division we have already considered.
THEIR DIVERSITIES AND RELATIONS.
Thought, feeling, and willing, how distinct and diverse are they, one from each of the others! Nothing but a fundamentally false philosophy can fail to discriminate between them. Though perfectly diverse in their nature and essential characteristics, however, they sustains the most obvious and important relations to each other. Neither class exists in the mind for any considerable time, without the presence of the others. Feeling awakens thought and impels to acts of willing. Thought, on the other hand, originates and intensifies feeling, and regulates the voluntary activities; while willing is governed by, or controls feeling, and conforms, or refuses to conform, to thought. As our analysis proceeds, these varied relations will be brought out distinctly before the mind. When feeling is strong and fixed by some engrossing object, then thought moves in the sublimity of power, and the will acts with corresponding steadiness and energy. When feeling is dull and sluggish, thought is indistinct and feeble, and the will seems to be smitten with a kind of paralysis. Clear and distinct thought, on the other hand, gives birth to strong and vivid emotions and desires, and steadies and energizes the action of the will, while both the other faculties may be aroused to the most vigorous exercise by self-originated acts of the faculty last named.
ORDER OF INVESTIGATION.
In pursuing our specific inquiries into this department of the mind, the following order will be observed. We shall first of all inquire into those complex states in which we find the action of sensibility associated with that of the other faculties.
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THESE PHENOMENA.
In concluding this introductory chapter, I would invite special attention to the following general characteristics of the phenomena of the sensibility:
1. The first characteristic that I notice is possessed by these phenomena in common with those of the intelligence; to wit, necessity. Certain conditions are necessary to the existence of the phenomena of sensibility; but when these conditions are fulfilled, the phenomena cannot but exist, with all the peculiar elements which characterize each peculiar feeling.
2. They are in their nature transitory. When certain conditions are fulfilled, they exist,immediately pass through certain modifications, and then cease to be. Thus it is that a perpetual current of ever varying phenomena of this kind, is continually passing under the eye of consciousness. It may be questioned whether one identical feeling, unmodified, ever re-appears upon the theatre of consciousness. The only apparent exception to the above remark is found in certain feelings, to be designated hereafter, such as remorse, etc.
3. No two feelings can exist together in the mind without one entirely annihilating the other, or each so modifying the other that an entire new state of feeling is induced, with characteristics essentially different from either. Often, for example, the most deadly hate is totally annihilated by the overpowering influence of pain, fear, or personal interest. Often the abhorrence of crime is greatly modified, if not annihilated, by the strong action of parental, filial, or conjugal affection.
4. All the phenomena of the sensibility, with one exception, to be mentioned hereafter, sustains to the will the relation of a principle of action, impelling the will to seek or avoid the object of that feeling. Hunger, thirst, pity, love, fear, etc., each impels the will to seek or avoid its own object. Two or more of these feelings often co-exist, sometimes impelling in the same, but often in different directions. Hence, the will is frequently necessitated to gratify one feeling in opposition to the impulse of another. This leads us to notice another important characteristic of these phenomena, which is,
5. The fact that every susceptibility, or rather the action of every susceptibility, impels the mind to seek unlimited gratification: and that in opposition to every other impulse. The feeling of hunger, thirst, fear, love, or hatred,as long as it exists at all,impels the will towards its own exclusive object, irrespective of every other impulse. Hence the will, by an unlimited obedience to some one impulse, often wrecks the entire system of the individual.
6. The phenomena of the sensibility are in themselves destitute of the moral qualities. They impel the will to choices which do possess a moral character. For the moral quality is to be found in the choice and not in the impulse. We might with the same propriety be called to an account for the peculiar sensations produced by the action of heat upon the human system, as for any other phenomena resulting from the direct and immediate action of the original susceptibilities of our nature. The acts of the will, associated with the phenomena of the sensibility, constitute a complex state of mind, which the conscience characterizes as right and wrong. Nothing can be more destructive of the entire system of moral obligation, than the theory of Dr. Brown, Payne, and others, which presents to our contemplation certain phenomena of the sensibility as "involving no moral feelings," and others as involving such feelings; while each is represented as the direct and necessary result of the action of the original susceptibilities of our nature. We might with the same propriety search for virtue in the sunshine or vernal showers, or for vice in the whirlwind, as in the immediate and necessary phenomena of the Sensibility. In all these phenomena, aside from the controlling influence of the will, man is a mere passive recipient of an extraneous influence, exerted without his choice, and totally independent of his control.
IMPORTANCE OF THIS SUBJECT.
The following extract from the writings of Dr. Thomas Brown will set distinctly before the mind the importance of our present inquiries. "We might perhaps," he says, "have been so constituted, with respect to our intellectual states, as to have had all the varieties of these, our remembrances, judgments, and creations of fancy, without our emotions. But without emotions which accompany them, of how little value would the mere intellectual functions have been! It is to our vivid feelings of this class we must look for those tender regards which make our remembrances sacred, for that love of truth, of glory, and of mankind, without which to animate and reward us, in our discovery and diffusion of knowledge, the continued exercise of judgment would be a fatigue rather than a satisfaction, amid all that delightful wonder which we feel when we contemplate the admirable creations of fancy, or the more admirable beauties of the unfading model,that model which is ever before us, and the imitation of which as has been truly said, is the only imitation that is itself originality. By our other mental functions we are mere spectators of the machinery of the universe; living in and animated by our emotions we are admirers of nature, lovers of men, adorers of God."
Nor is the importance of our present inquiries set forth with less vividness, by the less attractive aspects of the subject, as presented by our author. "In this picture of our emotions, however," he adds, "I have presented them" in their fairest aspects; there are aspects which they assume, as terrible as these are attractive; but even terrible as they are, they are not the less interesting objects of our contemplation. They are the enemies with which our mortal combat, in the warfare of life is to be carried on; and of those enemies that are to assail us, it is good for us to know all the misery which would await our defeat, as well as all the happiness which would crown our success, that our conflict may be the stronger, and our victory therefore the more sure. In the list of our emotions of this formidable class, is to be found every passion which can render life guilty and miserable; a single hour of which, if that hour be an hour of uncontrolled dominion may destroy happiness forever and leave little more of virtue than is necessary for giving all its horror to remorse. There are feelings as blasting to every desire of good that may still linger in the heart of the frail victim who is not yet wholly corrupted, as those pernicious gales of the desert, which not merely lift in whirlwinds the sands that have often been tossed before, but wither even the few fresh leaves which, on some spot of scanty verdure, have still been flourishing amid the general sterility."