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Art: I. An Examination of Dr. Reid's Inquiry into the Human
Mind, on the Principles of Common Sense ; Dr. Beattie's Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth, and Dr. Oswald's Appeal to Common Sense in behalf of Religion. By Joseph Priestley, LL. D. F. R. S. 8vo. 6 s. bound. Johnson. THIS examination is dedicated to Dr. Reid, Dr. Beattie, T and Dr. Oswald.
• Gentlemen, says Dr. Priestley, I take the liberty to present each of you with a copy of my Remarks on your witings, requeiting that you would give them that attention which, according to your own ideas, the subject deserves.
You cannot be justly offended at me for treating you with the fame freedom with which you have treated others. If the public voice, which has hitherto seemed to incline to your side, should, notwithstanding, finally determine in my favour, you will be confidered as bold and infolent innovators in what has hitherto been the received doctrine concerning human nature, and in the funda: mental principles of truth and reason. But if your tenets be admitted, and my objections to them be deemed frivolous, I must be content to cover my head with infamy, and fall under the indelible disgrace of a weak or wicked opposer of new and important truth.'
We are sorry to see such language from the pen of Dr. Priestley, of whom it is altogether unworthy. In the name of comnion sense, are Dr. Reid, Dr. Beattie, &c. to be ftigmatized with the opprobrious title of INSOLENT INNOVATORS only for departing from received doctrines and opinions ? and, on the other hand, Why should Dr. Priestley 'cover his head with infamy, merely for being mistaken? Has not Dr. Reid, or any other person, a right, or rather is it not his duty, to investigate truth, and examine commonly received opinions; and if he fees, or thinks he sees, sufficient reafons for not admitting them, muft he be charged with insolence for rejecting them? Besides, if innovating in philosophical, theological, or political subjects,
be fo very criminal a thing, Dr. Priestley, surely, is not without his share of the guilt, and consequently, ought to have some compassion on his brethren in iniquity.-- But enough of the Dedication; we now proceed to the Preface, which the Doctor introduces with telling his readers what those who are acquainted with him or his multifarious writings will very readily believe,--that nothing could be more unexpeEled by him, but a very few months ago, than this publication. After mentioning the reafons which induced him to publish, he proceeds:
• Thinking farther upon this subject, it occurred to me, that the most effectual method to divert the attention of the more sensible part of the public from such an incoherent scheme as that of Dr. Reid, and to cftablish the true science of human nature, would be to facilitate the study of Dr. Hartley's Theory. I therefore communicated my defign to the son of that extraordinary man, who was pleased to approve of my undertaking. Accordingly I have now in the press an edition of so much of the Observations on Man as relate to the doctrine of association of ideas, leaving out the doctrine of vibrations, and some other things which might discourage many readers ; and introducing it with some dissertations of my own.
• Also, to how the great importance and extensive use of this excellent theory of the mind, I thought it might be of service to give some specimens of the application of Dr. Hartley's doctrine to fuch subjects of inquiry as it had a near relation to, and to which I had had occasion to give particular attention. And as I had, on other accounts, been frequently requested to publish the Lectures or Philosophical Criticism, which I composed when I was tutor in the Belles Lettres at the academy at Warrington, this was allothes inducement to the publication. For it appears to me that the subject of criticism admits of the happiest illustration from Dr. Hartley's principles ; and accordingly, in the composition of those lectures, I kept ihcm continually in view.
But the most important application of Dr. Hariley's doctrineof the association of ideas is to the conduct of human life, and espe. cially the business of education. I therefore propose to publish some observations on this subject, perhaps pretty foon; and I shall reserve for a time of more leisure, and more advanced age, the throwing together and systematizing the observations that I am from time to time making on the general conduct of human life and happiness, and on the natural progress and perfection of intellectual beings.
• This work, if I be able, in any tolerable measure, to accomplish my design, will contain not merely illustrations, and the most im. portant applications of Hartley's Theory, but may contribute in fome measure to the improvement and extenfion of it. Speculations of this kind contribute to my own entertainment and happiness almost every day of my life ; and were philosophers in general to attend to them, they would find in them an inexhaufible fund of disquisition, abounding with the most excellent practical uses; more especially inspiring the greatest elevation of thought, continually leading the mind to views beyond the narrow limits of the present
fate, and filling it with the purest sentiments of benevolence and devotion.
I am fully aware how exceedingly unpopular some of the opi. pions advanced in this work will be, not with the vulgar only, but also with many ingenious and excellent perfons, for whom I have the highest elteem, and who are disposed to think favourably of my other publications. But as they have not disapproved of my usual freedom in avowing and defending opinions in which they concur with me; I hope they will bear with the same uniform freedom, and love of truth, though it Mould lead me to adopt and allert opinions in which they cannot give me their concurrence
• As to the doctrine of Necessity, to which I now principally refer, it may possibly save some persons, who will think that I would not speak at random, not a little trouble, if I here give it as my opinion, that unless they apply themselves to the study of this question pretty early in life, and in a regular study of Pneumatology and Ethics, they will never truly understand the subject; but will always be liable to be imposed upon, staggered, confounded, and terrified, by the representations of the generality of writers, who, how speciously soever they declaim, in reality know no more about it than themselves.
Those who are not fond of much close thinking, which is necessarily the case with the generality of readers, and some writers, will not thank me for endeavouring to introduce into more public notice such a theory of the human mind as that of Dr. Hartley. His is not a book that a man can read over in a few evenings, so as to be ready to give a satisfactory account of it to any of his friends who may happen to ak him what there is in it, and expect an answer in a few sentences. In fact, it contains a new and moit extensive science, and requires a vast fund of preparatory knowledge to enter upon the study of it wich any prospect of success.
• But, in return, I will promise any person who thall apply to this work, with proper furniture, that the study of it will abundantly reward his labour. It will be like entering upon a nezu world, afford inexhaustible matter for curious and useful speculation, and be of unspeakable advantage in almost every pursuit, and even in things to which it seems, at first fight, to bear no sort of relation. For my own part, I can almost fay, that I think myself more indebted to this one treatise, than to all the books I ever read beside ; the scriptures excepted.'
It must naturally occur to every attentive reader of the above Extracts, that Dr. Priestley, as he intended to facilitate the study of Dr. Hartley's Theory, by publishing part of his Obfervations on Man, introducing it with dissertations of his own, &c. might have saved himself the trouble of the present publication. But the examination now before us was not perhaps intended for the more sensible but the less sensible part of the public; if so, the Doctor might have thrown it into a more commodious and less expensive form, as he has done some other of his pieces, of equal if not superior importance. Be this, how
ever, as it may, the more sensible part of the public muft neces. sarily be impatient to see the true science of human nature established, the study of Dr. Hartley's Theory facilitated, and, yet more, the Theory itself improved and extended; especially when we are told, (see Remarks on Dr. Reid's Theory, p. 2.) that Dr. Hartley has thrown more useful light upon the theory of the mind, than Newton did upon the theory of the natural world,
Towards the close of his preface, Dr. Priestley thinks proper to apologize for the freedom wherewith he treats the Scotch Doctors : hear what he says.
. I have a night apology to make to those persons who have not read the writings on which I have animadverted, for the freedom with which I have sometimes treated them. Those who have read them, and have observed the airs of self-sufficiency, arrogance, and contempt of all others who have treated, or touched upon, these subjects before them, and the frightful consequences which they perpetually ascribe to the opinions they controvert (and which are generally my own favourite opinions) will think me to have been very temperate in the use that I have made of such a mode of writing, as tends to render metaphysical speculation not quite tedious, in. fipid, and disgusting. At most I have treated them as they have treated others, far superior to themselves.
As to Dr. Oswald, whom I have treated with the least ceremony, the disguft his writings gave me was so great, that I could not possibly few him more respect. Indeed I think him in general not intitled to a grave answer; and accordingly have for the most part contented myself with exhibiting his sentiments, without replying to them at all.
This is a Night apology indeed, and far from being satisfactory. If Dr. Reid, Dr. Beattie, &c. have given themselves airs of self-sufficiency and arrogance, there was no reafon, surely, why Dr. Priestley should imitate them; nay, there was an obvious reason why he fould not imitate them. He has strongly condemned their manner of treating their adversaries, and those who differ from them; he should certainly, therefore, not have practised himself what he disapproved and condemned in others; and it must seem strange to every impartial reader, that he should look upon their example as any justification of his own conduct. Those, however, who have read the works of the Scotch Doctors, will, he fupposes, think him very temperate in the use he has made of such a mode of writing as tends to render metaphysical speculation not quite tedious, insipid, and disgusting. In this we can assure him he is much mistaken; some of his warmest friends and admirers, persons, of whose abilities and virtues he is known to entertain the highest opinion, instead of thinking him very temperate, we know with certainty, think him very intemperate, and have expressed their dissatisfaction with his manner of writing, in the strongest terms. As for us, we have a sincere respect for Dr. Priestley's abilities, we admire his genius, but cannot help saying upon the present occasion, and hope he will impute it to no other motives but those of friendship, that the petulant, illiberal, and contemptuous manner, in which he treats his adversaries in the work now bea fore us, is disgraceful to him as a gentleman, as a philosopher, and as a christian.
Those who read his Examination will clearly perceive that he Aatters himself he has obtained a complete victory over the Scotch philosophers ; if so, what pity he should make, what occasion for making, so dishonourable an use of it, by treating the vanquished in so ungenerous and insulting a manner! If what he tells us, indeed, be true, there was little merit, and, consequently, very little glory in a victory over such adversaries. Dr. Reid's 'ignorance, he says, is fo gross, that it is disgraceful to himself, and to the university of Glasgow.
• That our Author, says Dr. Priestley, is extremely ignorant of what has been written by others on the subject of the human mind, is evident, not only from his total silence concerning Dr. Hartley, (whose name, however, appears to have reached Scotland ; for his work is quoted with some degree of respect by Dr. Beactie) but from his gross mistake concerning the hints that Newton and others have dropped on the subject.'
« About the time of Dr. Briggs,” he says, p. 278, “ the system of the nerves was thought to be a stringed instrument, composed of vibrating chords, each of which had its proper tension and tone." I shall not explain to our Author what kind of vibration was supposed to affect the nerves, that I may give him an opportunity of getting a little more knowledge of his subject by looking into Newton or Hartley himself. But this I will venture to say, that such gross ignorance in a professor of this very subject, in so considerable an university, which has hitherto been distinguished for the real emi. nence of its professors in that department, is disgraceful to himself and to the university. I will even venture to call upon Dr. Reid to name any writer (that has ever had the least shadow of reputation) who seriously maintained that the system of the nerves does resemble a stringed inftrument, composed of vibrating chords. If any such hypothesis was ever advanced, I own, it has escaped my notice.
• To treat with contempt, as Dr. Reid does, every hypothesis that has been proposed, and to offer another ftill more absurd, merely to laugh at it, and to turn the whole subject into ridicule, certainly does not become a philosopher, who means to promote an inquiry into the powers of nature. I can compare Dr. Reid's conduct in this case to nothing but that of the dog in the manger; for he manifestly has no knowledge of the subject himself, and does U 3