Can Change the World Again.
A SYSTEM OF MENTAL PHILOSOPHY. 1882.
REV. ASA MAHAN, D. D. LL.D.
ANIMAL PHENOMENA AND PROPENSITIES.
Sensations, as we have defined them, are those states of the sensibility which directly and immediately succeed any impressions made by any cause or causes, upon the physical organization. Sensation and external perception are states of mind which commonly accompany each other, but, for that reason, are none the less distinct and separate, the one from the other, and pertain to entirely different departments of the mind. Sensation is exclusively a state of the sensibility. Perception is, as exclusively, a state of the intelligence.
Nor is sensation, in its nature, more distinct and separate from external perception than it is from all acts of internal perception, or consciousness, which always accompany this and all other states of the sensibility. In no case, do we, as some suppose, feel because we are conscious of the feeling. We are, on the other hand, conscious of feelings, because we do experience them. Perception, external, and internal, implies the prior existence of its object. No object, or mental state, exists because we perceive it. We perceive it, on the other hand, because it does exist.
Sensations of a certain class are induced by the action of appropriate causes upon any department of the physical organization. Others are experienced exclusively through the action of special organs. The sensations, for example, induced by mere tactual impressions, are nearly or quite identical, whatever department of the physical organization is affected. Those, on the other hand, which are induced by the action of the organs of taste, smell, and hearing, are special and peculiar; and those received through any one organ are wholly unlike those received through any other. The varied sensations of taste, we experience exclusively through one and the same organ, and how unlike are all these, to those received through the organs of smell, or hearing. Yet the ultimate states of mind induced by one class of sensations may be so much like those induced by another, that the objects of one may suggest those of the other. Hence the figurative impressions, sweet sounds, beautiful music, etc.
Sensations of all classes take rank as pleasurable, painful, or indifferent. Some have a positive character, and as such, occasion desires for the presence or absence of their respective causes. Others which are void of such characteristics, occasion no desires whatever.
When the physical organization is, throughout, in a healthy state, and each organ performs its proper functions, the mind has its continual dwelling place in the midst of forms of pleasurable sensations which impart sunlight to the countenance, sweetness to the temper, hopeful visions of the future, and cheerfulness to all states of being. In the opposite state of the physical organization and functions, in the absence of positive pain, there may be the perpetual presence of sensations which sour the temper, sadden the countenance, and impart the aspect of gloom to all objects of thought. Persons of the purest piety not unfrequently write bitter things against themselves, for no other reasons than the conscious presence of sensations thus induced, their real causes being misapprehended.
Through sensation exclusively, we attain to a knowledge of the secondary qualities of matter. The primary qualities, as we have seen, are to the mind, the objects of direct and immediate, or presentative, knowledge, and are, therefore, to be regarded as the known objects of conscious states of the intelligence. The secondary qualities, on the other hand, are recognized as the unknown, causes of conscious states of the sensibility. The great fundamental error in philosophy,the exclusive cause of all forms of skepticism in science and religion, is the dogma, that all our knowledge of matter is through the exclusive medium of sensation, and, therefore, not valid for realities as they are in themselves.
The following prominent characteristics of this class of our active principles, given by Mr. Dugald Stewart, present the subject in a very clear and definite manner to our minds.
"1. They take their rise from the body, and are common to us with the brutes.
"2. They are not constant, but occasional.
"3. They are accompanied with an uneasy sensation, which is strong or weak in proportion to the strength or weakness of the appetite." "Our appetites," he further observes, "are three in number: hunger, thirst, and the appetite of sex. Of these, two were intended for the preservation of the individual; the third, for the continuation of the species; and without them reason would have been insufficient for these important purposes. Suppose, for example, that the appetite of hunger had been no part of our constitution. Reason and experience might have satisfied us of the necessity of the use of food for our preservation; but how should we have been able, without an implanted principle, to ascertain according to the varying states of our animal economy, the proper seasons for eating, or the quantity of food that is salutary to the body."
These observations are in general so just that but few additional remarks are deemed requisite.
1. The number of our appetites as given by the author is evidently too limited. The propensity for sleep, and for muscular action, may as properly, and for the reasons stated above, be called appetites, as those already mentioned. The same general observations apply to the latter as to the former.
2. The law of our appetites, when they are directed to their appropriate ends, presents a very striking indication and illustration of the benevolence of our Creator. The law to which we refer is the pleasure which accompanies their indulgence,a pleasure so great that the chief incentive to proper indulgence, is the pleasure, and not the end for which the appetite was given as a part of our nature. The child grows and increases in strength from food and exercise, in seeking which, these ends constitute no part of his motives.
3. The highest physical enjoyment through the indulgence of the appetites, is when indulgence is strictly subordinated to the laws of life and health; a fact which presents another and most striking illustration of the divine beneficence.
4. When the appetites have been properly controlled and directed to their proper objects, their demands present the proper limits to indulgence. A man, for example, whose appetite for food is in a healthy and unperverted state, and when feeding upon nature's simple elements, will find his appetite the best possible guide in regard to the quantity of food proper to be eaten.
5. A special law of our nature in regard to the indulgence of all the appetites in common, here demands particular attention. Properly regulated indulgence, while it does not increase, but rather diminishes perhaps, the power of the appetite, and the intensity of its action, tends to increase, rather than diminish, the gratification attending such indulgence. Excessive indulgence, on the other hand, perpetually increases the power of the appetites and the painful intensity of its action, while the degree of enjoyment attending indulgence perpetually diminishes, and is ultimately, almost or quite entirely lost. Hunger, for example, is by no means so painful to the temperate man as it is to the glutton, while the former finds forms and degrees of enjoyment in partaking of food to which the latter is a stranger. Enslavement under the power of appetite, also, is attended with a perpetual consciousness of criminal self-degradation not only utterly incompatible with any form or degree of mental blessedness, but which must issue in the deepest forms of mental wretchedness. Byron, for example, had sounded the depths of sensual indulgence in all its forms. What was the result, as evinced in his dark experience? Let him speak for himself.
To that hell every living drunkard, glutton, and debauches is rapidly descending, if he is not already there. The individual on the other hand, who has wisely disciplined all his appetites and other propensities to a wholesome subjection to the laws and principles of health and purity, not only participates in the highest forms of physical enjoyment, but has perpetual mental blessedness in the consciousness that he really ranks among nature's noblemen.
Besides those appetites which necessarily arise from the constitution of our physical system, there are others which are induced by custom and use, and which consequently, may properly be denominated acquired, or artificial. Of this character are the appetites for the various narcotic and stimulating drugs and intoxicating drinks. The strength of such appetites is, in general, in proportion to their destructive tendencies. In reference to such propensities total abstinence is the only principle demanded by morality and prudence; for by indulgence the will power is constantly diminished, while the desire becomes more and more imperious, until voluntary power is overwhelmed in the unequal struggle and the deluded victim becomes a fettered slave to appetite and passion.