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A PHILOSOPHICAL ENQUIRY
INTO THE ORIGIN OF OUR IDEAS
THE SUBLIME AND BEAUTIFU L.
AN INTRODUCTORY DISCOURSE CONCERNING TASTE,
AND SEVERAL OTHER ADDITIONS.
I have endeavoured to make this edition some- scheme of things, some particular parts must be thing more full and satisfactory than the first. I neglected ; that we must often submit the style to have sought with the utmost care, and read with the matter, and frequently give up the praise of equal attention, every thing which has appeared elegance, satisfied with being clear. in publick against my opinions; I have taken The characters of nature are legible, it is true; advantage of the candid liberty of my friends; but they are not plain enough to enable those who and if by these means I have been better enabled run, to read them. We must make use of a to discover the imperfections of the work, the cautious, I had almost said, a timorous method of indulgence it has received, imperfect as it was, proceeding. We must not attempt to fly, when furnished me with a new motive to spare no reason- we can scarcely pretend to creep. In considerin: able pains for its improvement. Though I have any complex matter, we ought to examine every not found sufficient reason, or what appeared to distinct ingredient in the composition, one by one; me sufficient, for making any material change in and reduce every thing to the utmost simplicity; my theory, I have found it necessary in many since the condition of our nature binds us to a places to explain, illustrate, and enforce it. I strict law and very narrow limits. We ought afterhave prefixed an introductory discourse concern- wards to re-examine the principles by the effect ing Taste: it is a matter curious in itself; and it of the composition, as well as the composition by leads naturally enough to the principal enquiry. that of the principles. We ought to compare our This, with the other explanations, has made the subject with things of a similar nature, and even work considerably larger; and by increasing its with things of a contrary nature; for discoveries bulk, has, I am afraid, added to its faults ; so that, may be and often are made by the contrast, which notwithstanding all my attention, it may stand in would escape us on the single view. The greater need of a yet greater share of indulgence than it number of the comparisons we make, the more required at its first appearance.
general and the more certain our knowledge is They who are accustomed to studies of this likely to prove, as built upon a more extensive nature will expect, and they will allow too for and perfect induction.
They know that many of the ob- If any enquiry thus carefully conducted should jects of our enquiry are in themselves obscure fail at last of discovering the truth, it may answer and intricate ; and that many others have been an end perhaps as useful, in discovering to us the rendered so by affected refinements, or false weakness of our own understanding. If it does learning; they know that there are many im- not make us knowing, it may make us modest. pediments in the subject, in the prejudices of If it does not preserve us from errour, it may at others, and even in our own, that render it a least from the spirit of errour; and may make us matter of no small difficulty to shew in a clear cautious of pronouncing with positiveness or wih light the genuine face of nature. They know haste, when so much labour may end in so much that whilst the mind is intent on the generall uncertainty.
I could wish that in examining this theory, the the Beautiful have the same consistency with themsume method were pursued which I endeavoured selves, and the same opposition to those which are to observe in forming it. The objections, in my classed under the denomination of Sublime, I am opinion, ought to be proposed, either to the several in little pain whether any body chooses to follow principles as they are distinctly considered, or the name I give them or not, provided he allows to the justness of the conclusion which is drawn that what I dispose under different heads are in from them. But it is common to pass over both reality different things in nature. The use I make the premises and conclusion in silence, and to of the words may be blamed, as too confined or produce, as an objection, some poetical passage too extended ; my meaning cannot well be miswhich does not seem easily accounted for upon
the understood. principles I endeavour to establish. This manner To conclude : whatever progress may be made of proceeding I should think very improper. The towards the discovery of truth in this matter, I do task would be infinite, if we could establish no not repent the pains I have taken in it. principle until we had previously unravelled the of such enquiries may be very considerable. Whatcomplex texture of every image or description to ever turns the soul inward on itself, tends to conbe found in poets and orators. And though we center its forces, and to fit it for greater and should never be able to reconcile the effect of such stronger flights of science. By looking into phyimages to our principles, this can never overturn sical causes our minds are opened and enlarged; the theory itself, whilst it is founded on certain and in this pursuit, whether we take or whether and indisputable facts. A theory founded on we lose our game, the chace is certainly of service. experiment, and not assumed, is always good for Cicero, true as he was to the academick philoso much as it explains. Our inability to push it sophy, and consequently led to reject the certainty indefinitely is no argument at all against it. This of physical, as of every other kind of knowledge, inability may be owing to our ignorance of some yet freely confesses its great importance to the necessary mediums ; to a want of proper applica- human understanding ; « Est animorum ingeniotion; to many other causes besides a defect in the rumque nostrorum naturale quoddam quasi principles we employ. In reality, the subject “ pabulum consideratio contemplatioque narequires a much closer attention, than we dare “ ture." If we can direct the lights we derive claim from our manner of treating it.
from such exalted speculations, upon the humbler If it should not appear on the face of the work, field of the imagination, whilst we investigate the I must caution the reader against imagining that springs and trace the courses of our passions, we I intended a full dissertation on the Sublime and may not only communicate to the taste a sort of Beautiful. My enquiry went no farther than to philosophical solidity, but we may reflect back on the origin of these ideas. If the qualities which the severer sciences some of the graces and eleI have ranged under the head of the Sublime be gancies of taste, without which the greatest proall found consistent with each other, and all differ- ficiency in those sciences will always have the ent from those which I place under the head of appearance of something illiberal. Beauty; and if those which compose the class of|
On a superficial view, we may seem to differ invariable and certain laws, our labour is likely to very widely from each other in our reasonings, be employed to very little purpose; as it must be and no less in our pleasures : but notwithstand- judged an useless, if not an absurd undertaking, ing this difference, which I think to be rather ap- to lay down rules for caprice, and to set up for a parent than real, it is probable that the standard legislator of whims and fancies. both of reason and taste is the same in all human The term taste, like all other figurative terms, creatures. For if there were not some principles is not extremely accurate; the thing which we of judgment as well as of sentiment common to understand by it is far from a simple and deterall mankind, no hold could possibly be taken minate idea in the minds of most men, and it is either on their reason or their passions, sufficient therefore liable to uncertainty and confusion. I to maintain the ordinary correspondence of life. have no great opinion of a definition, the celeIt appears indeed to be generally acknowledged, brated remedy for the cure of this-disorder. For, that with regard to truth and falsehood there is when we define, we seem in danger of circumsomething fixed. We find people in their dis- scribing nature within the bounds of our own putes continually appealing to certain tests and notions, which we often take up by hazard, or standards, which are allowed on all sides, and embrace on trust, or form out of a limited and are supposed to be established in our common partial consideration of the object before us; innature. But there is not the same obvious con- stead of extending our ideas to take in all that currence in any uniform or settled principles which nature comprehends, according to her manner of relate to taste. It is even commonly supposed combining. We are limited in our enquiry by that this delicate and aërial faculty, which seems the strict laws to which we have submitted at our too volatile to endure even the chains of a defini-setting out. tion, cannot be properly tried by any test, nor regulated by any standard. There is so continual
Circa vilem patulumque morabimur orbem, a call for the exercise of the reasoning faculty,
Unde pudor proferre pedem retat aut operis ler. and it is so much strengthened by perpetual con- A definition may be very exact, and yet go
but tention, that certain maxims of right reason seem a very little way towards informing us of the nato be tacitly settled amongst the most ignorant. ture of the thing defined; but let the virtue of a The learned have improved on this rude science, definition be what it will, in the order of things, and reduced those maxims into a system. If taste it seems rather to follow than to precede our has not been so happily cultivated, it was not that enquiry, of which it ought to be considered as the the subject was barren, but that the labourers result. It must be acknowledged, that the mewere few or negligent; for, to say the truth, there thods of disquisition and teaching may be someare not the same interesting motives to impel us times different, and on very good reason undoubtto fix the one, which urge us to ascertain the other. edly; but, for my part, I am convinced that the And, after all, if men differ in their opinion con- method of teaching which approaches most nearly cerning such matters, their difference is not at- to the method of investigation is incomparably tended with the same important consequences; the best ; since, not content with serving up a else I make no doubt but that the logick of taste, few barren and lifeless truths, it leads to the stock if I may be allowed the expression, might very on which they grew; it tends to set the reader possibly be as well digested, and we might come himself in the track of invention, and to direct to discuss matters of this nature with as much him into these paths in which the author has made certainty, as those which seem more immediately his own discoveries, if he should be so happy as within the province of mere reason. And indeed, to have made any that are valuable. it is very necessary, at the entrance into such an
But to cut off all pretence for cavilling, I mean enquiry as our present, to make this point as clear by the word Taste no more than that faculty or as possible ; for if taste has no fixed principles, if those faculties of the mind, which are affected the imagination is not affected according to some with, or which form a judgment of, the works of
imagination and the elegant arts. This is, I think, | pains which belong to these several tastes; but then the most general idea of that word, and what is the power of distinguishing between the natural the least connected with any particular theory and the acquired relish remains to the very last. And my point in this enquiry is, to find whether A man frequently comes to prefer the taste of there are any principles, on which the imagination tobacco to that of sugar, and the flavour of vinegar is affected, so common to all, so grounded and to that of milk; but this makes no confusion in certain, as to supply the means of reasoning satis- tastes, whilst he is sensible that the tobacco and factorily about them. And such principles of taste vinegar are not sweet, and whilst he knows that I fancy there are; however paradoxical it may habit alone has reconciled his palate to these alien seem to those, who on a superficial view imagine, pleasures. Even with such a person we may speak, that there is so great a diversity of tastes, both and with sufficient precision, concerning tastes. in kind and degree, that nothing can be more But should any man be found who declares, that indeterminate.
to him tobacco has a taste like sugar, and that he All the natural powers in man, which I know, cannot distinguish between milk and vinegar; or that are conversant about external objects, are the that tobacco and vinegar are sweet, milk bitter, senses ; the imagination; and the judgment. And and sugar sour; we immediately conclude that the first with regard to the senses. We do and we organs of this man are out of order, and that his must suppose, that as the conformation of their palate is utterly vitiated. We are as far from conorgans are nearly or altogether the same in all ferring with such a person upon tastes, as from men, so the manner of perceiving external objects reasoning concerning the relations of quantity with is in all men the same, or with little difference. one who should deny that all the parts together We are satisfied that what appears to be light to were equal to the whole. We do not call a man one eye, appears light to another; that what seems of this kind wrong in his notions, but absolutely sweet to one palate, is sweet to another ; that what mad. Exceptions of this sort, in either way, do is dark and bitter to this man, is likewise dark and not at all impeach our general rule, nor make us bitter to that; and we conclude in the same man- conclude that men have various principles conner of great and little, hard and soft, hot and cold, cerning the relations of quantity or the taste of rough and smooth ; and indeed of all the natural things. So that when it is said, taste cannot be qualities and affections of bodies. If we suffer disputed, it can only mean, that no one can strictly ourselves to imagine, that their senses present to answer what pleasure or pain some particular man dit'erent men different images of things, this scepti- may find from the taste of some particular thing. cal proceeding will make every sort of reasoning on This indeed cannot be disputed; but we may disevery subject vain and frivolous, even that sceptical pute, and with sufficient clearness too, concerning reasoning itself which had persuaded us to enter the things which are naturally pleasing or dislain a doubt concerning the agreement of our agreeable to the sense. But when we talk of any perceptions. But as there will be little doubt that peculiar or acquired relish, then we must know budies present similar images to the whole species, the habits, the prejudices, or the distempers of it must necessarily be allowed, that the pleasures this particular man, and we must draw our conand the pains which every object excites in one clusion from those. man, it must raise in all mankind, whilst it operates This agreement of mankind is not confined to baturally, simply, and by its proper powers only: the taste solely. The principle of pleasure derived tor if we deny this, we must imagine that the from sight is the same in all. Light is more pleasing saftie cause, operating in the same manner, and than darkness. Summer, when the earth is clad in subjects of the same kind, will produce different in green, when the heavens are serene and bright, Effects; which would be highly absurd. Let us first is more agreeable than winter, when every consider this point in the sense of taste, and the thing makes a different appearance. I never rerather, as the faculty in question has taken its name member that any thing beautiful
, whether a man, frim that sense. Åll men are agreed to call vine- a beast, a bird, or a plant, was ever shewn, though
1 sour, honey sweet, and aloes bitter; and as it were to an hundred people, that they did not sve v are all agreed in finding these qualities in those all immediately agree that it was beautiful, though
bects, they do not in the least differ concerning some might have thought that it fell short of their jur effects with regard to pleasure and pain. expectation, or that other things were still finer. They all concur in calling sweetness pleasant, and I believe nó man thinks a goose to be more beaumumess and bitterness unpleasant. Here there is tiful than a swan, or imagines that what they call an diversity in their sentiments; and that there is a Friezland hen excels a peacock. It must be bot, appears fully from the consent of all men in the observed too, that the pleasures of the sight are Dietaphors which are taken from the sense of taste. not near so complicated, and confused, and alterA solir temper, bitter expressions, bitter curses, a ed by unnatural habits and associations, as the "itter fate, are terms well and strongly understood pleasures of the taste are; because the pleasures wall
. And we are altogether as well understood of the sight more commonly acquiesce in themo bien we say, a sweet disposition, a sweet person, selves; and are not so often altered by consideraa sweet condition, and the like. It is confessed, tions which are independent of the sight itself. sat custom and some other causes have made But things do not spontaneously present themfr'any deviations from the natural pleasures or selves to the palate as they do to the sight; they
are generally applied to it, either as food or as imagination is the most extensive province of medicine; and, from the qualities which they pos- pleasure and pain, as it is the region of our fears sess for nutritive or medicinal purposes, they often and our hopes, and of all our passions that are form the palate by degrees, and by force of these connected with them; and whatever is calculated associations. Thus opium is pleasing to Turks, to affect the imagination with these commanding on account of the agreeable delirium it produces ideas, by force of any original natural impression
, Tobacco is the delight of Dutchmen, as it diffuses must have the same power pretty equally over all a torpor and pleasing stupefaction. Fermented men. For since the imagination is only the respirits please our common people, because they presentation of the senses, it can only be pleased banish care, and all consideration of future or or displeased with the images, from the same present evils. All of these would lie absolutely principle on which the sense is pleased or disneglected if their properties had originally gone pleased with the realities; and consequently there no further than the taste; but all these, together must be just as close an agreement in the imagiwith tea and coffee, and some other things, have nations as in the senses of men. A little attention passed from the apothecary's shop to our tables, will convince us that this must of necessity be and were taken for health long before they were thought of for pleasure. The effect of the drug But in the imagination, besides the pain or has made us use it frequently; and frequent use, pleasure arising from the properties of the natural combined with the agreeable effect, has made the object, a pleasure is perceived from the resemtaste itself at last agreeable. But this does not blance which the imitation has to the original: the in the least perplex our reasoning ; because we imagination, I conceive, can have no pleasure but distinguish to the last the acquired from the natu- what results from one or other of these causes. ral relish. In describing the taste of an unknown And these causes operate pretty uniformly upon all fruit, you would scarcely say that it had a sweet men, because they operate by principles in nature, and pleasant flavour like tobacco, opium, or and which are not derived from any particular garlick, although you spoke to those who were in habits or advantages. Mr. Locke very justly and the constant use of these drugs, and had great finely observes of wit, that it is chiefly conversant pleasure in them. There is in all men a sufficient in tracing resemblances : he remarks, at the same remembrance of the original natural causes of time, that the business of judgment is rather in pleasure, to enable them to bring all things offered finding differences. It may perhaps appear, on to their senses to that standard, and to regulate this supposition, that there is no material distinction their feelings and opinions by it. Suppose one between the wit and the judgment, as they both who had so vitiated his palate as to take more seem to result from different operations of the same pleasure in the taste of opium than in that of faculty of comparing. But in reality, whether they butter or honey, to be presented with a bolus of are or are not dependent on the same power of squills; there is hardly any doubt but that he the mind, they differ so very materially in many would prefer the butter or honey to this nauseous respects, that a perfect union of wit and judgment morsel, or to any other bitter drug to which he is one of the rarest things in the world. When had not been accristomed; which proves that his two distinct objects are unlike to each other, it is palate was naturally like that of other men in all only what we expect; things are in their common things, that it is still like the palate of other men way; and therefore they make no impression on in many things, and only vitiated in some par- the imagination : but when two distinct objects ticular points. For in judging of any new thing, have a resemblance, we are struck, we attend to even of a taste similar to that which he has been
them, and we are pleased. The mind of man hak formed by habit to like, he finds his palate affected naturally a far greater alacrity and satisfaction in in the natural manner, and on the common prin- tracing resemblances than in searching for differciples. Thus the pleasure of all the senses, of the ences : because by making resemblances we prosight, and even of the taste, that most ambiguous duce new images; we unite, we create, we enlarr? of the senses, is the same in all, high and low, our stock; but in making distinctions we offer no learned and unlearned.
food at all to the imagination ; the task itself is Besides the ideas, with their annexed pains and more severe and irksome, and what pleasure wil pleasures, which are presented by the sense; the derive from it is something of a negative and mind of man possesses a sort of creative power of indirect nature. A piece of news is told me in the its own; either in representing at pleasure the morning ; this, merely as a piece of news, as a fact images of things in the order and manner in which added to my stock, gives me some pleasure. La they were received by the senses, or in combining the evening I find there was nothing in it. What those images in a new manner, and according to do I gain by this, but the dissatisfaction to tinul a different order. This power is called imagina- that I had been imposed upon ? Hence it is that tion; and to this belongs whatever is called wit, men are much more naturally inclined to beliei fancy, invention, and the like. But it must be than to incredulity. And it is upon this principle, observed, that this power of the imagination is that the most ignorant and barbarous nations base incapable of producing any thing absolutely new; frequently excelled in similitudes, comparisons, it can only vary the disposition of those ideas metaphors, and allegories, who have been weak which it has received from the senses. Now the and backward in distinguishing and sorting their