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but the source of them is supposed to be further off in the horizon than in the zenith, such have been our mental habits, that the object in the horizon will probably appear the largest.—(2.) Another reason of the enlarged appearance of the sun and moon in the horizon is, that the rays from them fall on the body of the atmosphere obliquely, and, of course, are reflected downward towards the beholder, and subtend a larger angle at his eye. Hence, as we always see objects in the direction of the ray just before it enters the eye, if we follow the rays back in the precise direction of their approach, they will present to the eye the outlines of a larger object as their source than they would if they had not been refracted.Also, when the atmosphere is not clear, but masses of vapour exist in it, the refraction is increased and the object proportionally enlarged.-(3.) The sun and moon appear enlarged when other objects of considerable dimensions, but so distant as to subtend a very small angle at the eye, are seen in the same direction or in the moment of passing their disk, such as distant trees in the horizon, or ships far off at sea. These objects, though small in the eye or in their visual appearance, are yet, in consequence of our previous knowledge, enlarged in our conceptions of them. And this conceptive enlargement communicates itself, by a sort of mental illusion, to other objects with which they seem to come in contact.
$ 42. Of the estimation of distances by sight. We are next led to the consideration of distances as made known and ascertained by the sight. By the distance of objects, when we use the term in reference to ourselves, we mean the space which is interposed between those objects and our own position. It might be object ed, that space interposed is only a synonymous expression for the thing to be defined. Nevertheless, no one can be supposed to be ignorant of what is meant. Even blind men have a notion of distance, and can measure it by the touch, or by walking forward until they meet the distant object.
The perception of distance by the sight is an acquired and not an original perception ; although the latter was universally supposed to be the fact until comparatively a recent period
Ali objects in the first instance appear to touch the eye; but our experience has corrected so many of the representations of the senses, before the period which we are yet able to retrace by the memory, that we cannot prove this by a reference to our own childhood and infancy.
It appears, however, from the statement of the can
persons born blind on the sudden restoration of their sight.—“ When he first saw,” says Cheselden, the anatomist, when giving an account of a young man whom he had restored to sight by couching for the cataract,“ he was so far from making any judgment about distance, that he thought all objects touched his eye, as he expressed it, as what he felt did his skin ; and thought no objects so agreeable as those which were smooth and regular, although he could form no judgment of their shape, or guess what it was in any object that was pleasing to
This anatomist has further informed us, that he has brought to sight several others who had no remembrance of ever having seen; and that they all gave the same account of their learning to see, as they called it, as the young man already mentioned, although not in so many particulars; and that they all had this in common, that, having never had occasion to move their eyes, they knew not how to do it, and, at first, could not at all direct them to a particular object; but in time they acquired that fac. ulty, though by slow degrees.
43. Signs by means of which we estimate distance by sight. Blind persons, when at first restored to sight, are unable to estimate the distance of objects by that sense, but soon observing that certain changes in the visible appearance of bodies always accompany a change of distance, they fall upon a method of estimating distance by the visible appearance. And it would no doubt be found, if it could be particularly examined into, that all mankind come to possess the power of estimating the distances of objects by sight in the same way. When a body is removed from us and placed at a considerable distance, it becomes smaller in its visible appearance, its colours are less lively, and its outlines less distinct; and we may ex:
pect to find various intermediate objects, more or fewer in number, corresponding with the increase of the distance, showing themselves between the receding object and the spectator. And hence it is, that a certain visible appearance comes to be the sign of a certain distance.
Historical and landscape painters are enabled to tur? these facts to great account in their delineations. By means of dimness of colour, indistinctness of outline, and the partial interposition of other objects, they are enabled apparently to throw back to a very considerable distance from the eye those objects which they wish to appear remote. While other objects, that are intended to appear near, are painted vivid in colour, large in size, distinct in outline, and are separated from the eye of the spectator by few or no intermediate objects. § 44. Estimation of distance when unaided by intermediate objects.
(1.) As we depend, in no small degree, upon intermediate objects in forming our notions of distance, it results, that we are often much perplexed by the absence of such objects. Accordingly, we find that people frequently mistake, when they attempt to estimate by the eye the length or width of unoccupied plains and marshes, generally making the extent less than it really is. For the same reason they misjudge of the width of a river, estimating its width at half or three quarters of a mile at the most, when it is perhaps not less than double that distance. The same holds true of other bodies of water; and of all other things which are seen by us in a horizontal position and under similar circumstances.
(2.) We mistake in the same way also in estimating the height of steeples, and of other bodies that are perpendicular, and not on a level with the eye, provided The height be considerable. As the upper parts of the steeple out-top the surrounding buildings, and there are no contiguous objects with which to compare it, any measurement taken by the eye must be inaccurate, but is generally less than the truth.
(3) The fixed stars, when viewed by the eye, all appear to be alike indefinitely and equally distant. Being scattered over the whole sky, they make every part of it seem, like themselves, at an indefinite and equal distance, and therefore contribute to give the whole sky the appearance of the inside of a sphere. Moreover, the horizon seems to the eye to be further off than the zenith; because between us and the former there lie many things, as fields, hills, and waters, which we know to occupy a great space; whereas between us and the zenith there are no considerable things of known dimensions. And, therefore, the heavens appear like the segment of a sphere, and less than a hemisphere, in the centre of which we seem to stand.–And the wider our prospect is, the greater will the sphere appear to be, and the less the segment.
$ 45. Of objects seen on the ocean, &c. A vessel seen at sea by a person who is not accustomed to the ocean, appears much nearer than it actually is; and on the same principles as already illustrated. In his previous observations of the objects at a distance, he has commonly noticed a number of intermediate objects, interposed between the distant body and himself. It is prob.. ably the absence of such objects that chiefly causes the deception under which he labours in the present instance
In connexion with what has been said, we are led to make this further remark, that a change in the purity of the air will perplex in some measure those ideas of dis. tance which we receive from sight. Bishop Berkeley re marks, while travelling in Italy and Sicily, he noticed that cities and palaces seen at a great distance appeared nearer to him by several miles than they actually were, The cause of this he very correctly supposed to be the purity of the Italian and Sicilian air, which gave to objects at a distance a degree of brightness and distinctness which, in the less clear and pure atmosphere of his native country, could be observed only in those towns and separate edifices which were near. At home he had learned to estimate the distances of objects by their appearance; but his conclusions failed him when they came to be applied to objects in countries where the air was so much clearer.—And the same thing has been noticed by other travellers, who have been placed in the like circumstances.
HABITS OF SENSATION AND PERCEPTION.
946. General view of the law of habit and of its applications. THERE is an important law of the mental constitution known as the law of Habit, which may be described in general terms as follows: That the mental action acquires facility and strength from repetition or practice. The fact that the facility and the increase of strength, implied in HABIT, is owing to mere repetition, or what is more frequently termed practice, we learn, as we do other facts and principles in relation to the mind, from the observation of men around us, and from our own personal experience. And as it has hitherto been found impracticable to resolve it into any general fact or principle more elementary, it may justly be regarded as something ultimate and essential in our nature.
The term Habit, by the use of language, indicates the facility and strength acquired in the way which has beer mentioned, including both the result and the manner of it. As the law of habit has reference to the whole mind of man, the application of the term which expresses it is, of course, very extensive. We apply it to the dexterity of workmen in the different manual arts, to the rapidity of the accountant, to the coup d'oeil or eye-glance of the military engineer, to the tact and fluency of the extemporaneous speaker, and in other like instances.—We apply it also in cases where the mere exercise of emotion and desire is concerned; to the avaricious man's love of wealth, the ambitious man's passion for distinction, the wakeful suspicions of the jealous, and the confirmed and substantial benevolence of the philanthropist.
47. The law of habit applicable to the mind as well as the body.
It is remarkable, that the law under consideration holds .good in respect to the body as well as the mind. In the mechanical arts, and in all cases where there is a corpo