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and perceptions, and also from remembrances, with which last some may imagine them to be essentially the same.
(I.) Conceptions differ from the ordinary sensations and perceptions in this respect, that both their causes and their objects are absent. When the rose, the honeysuckle, or other odoriferous body is presented to us, the effect which follows in the mind is termed a sensation. When we afterward think of that sensation, (as we sometimes express it,) when the sensation is recalled, even though very imperfectly, without the object which originally caused it being present, it then becomes, by the use of language, a CONCEPTION. And it is the same in
instance of perception. When, in strictness of speech, we are said to perceive anything, as a tree, a building, or a mountain, the objects of our perceptions are in all cases before us.
But we may form conceptions of them; they may be recalled and exist in the mind's eye, however remote they may be in fact, both in time and place.
(II.) They differ also from remembrances or ideas of memory. We take no account of the period when those objects which laid the foundation of them were present; whereas, in every act of the memory, there is combined with the conception a notion of the past. Hence, as those states of mind, which we call conceptions, possess these distinctive marks, they are well entitled to a separate name.
CONCEPTIONS are regulated in their appearance and disappearance by the principles of Association, which will be explained hereafter.—Whenever at any time we may use the phrase “power of conception” or “ faculty of conception,” nothing more is to be understood by such expressions than this, that there is in the mind a susceptibility of feelings or ideas possessing the marks which we. have ascribed to this class.
960. Of conceptions of objects of sight. One of the striking facts in regard to our conceptions 3, that we can far more easily conceive of the objects of some senses than of others. He who has visited the Pyramids of Egypt and the imposing remains of Grecian teinples, or has beheld, among nature's still greater works, the towering heights of the Alps and the m ghty cataract of Niagara, will never afterward be at a loss in forming a vivid conception of those interesting objects. The visual perceptions are so easily and so distinctly recalled, that it is hardly too much to say of them, that they seem to exist as permanent pictures in the mind. It is related of Carsten Niebuhr, a well-known traveller in the East, that, in extreme old age, after he had become blind, he entertained his visiters with interesting details of what he had seen many years before at Persepolis; describing the walls on which the inscriptions and bas-reliefs of which he spoke were found, just as one would describe a building which he had recently visited. His son, who has given an account of his life, remarks, in connexion with this fact : “ We could not conceal our astonishment. He said to us, that, as he lay blind upon his bed, the images of all that he had seen in the East were ever present to his soul; and it was therefore no wonder that he should speak of them as of yesterday. In like manner,
there was vividly reflected to him, in the hours of stillness, the nocturnal view of the deep Asiatic heavens, with their brilliant host of stars, which he had so often contemplated ; or else their blue and lofty vault by day; and this was his greatest enjoyment."
There seems to be less vividness in the conceptions of sound, touch, taste, and smell; particularly the last three. Every one knows that it is difficult in ordinary cases to recall with much distinctness a particular pain which we have formerly experienced, or a particular taste, or smell The fact that the perceptions of sight are more easily and distinctly recalled than others, may be thus partially ex plained.-Visible objects, or, rather, the outlines of them, are complex; that is, they are made up of a great number of points or very small portions. Hence the conception which we form of such an object as a whole, is aided by the principles of association. The reason is obvious. As every original perception of a visible object is a compound made up of many parts, whenever we subsequently have a conception of it, the process is the same; we have a conception of a part of the object, and the principles of association help us in conceiving of the
other parts. Assuciation connects the parts together, it presents them to the mind in their proper arrangement, and helps to sustain them there.
We are not equally aided by the laws of association in forming our conceptions of the objects of the other
When we think of some sound, taste, touch, or smell, the object of our conception is either a single detached sensation or a series of sensations. In every
such detached sensation of sound, taste, touch, or smell, whether .we consider it at its first origin, or when it is subsequently recalled, there is not necessarily that fixed and intimate association of the parts which we suppose to exist in every visual perception, and which must exist also in every conception of objects of sight which subsequently takes place. Accordingly, our conceptions of the latter objects arise more readily, and are more distinct, than of the others. There is a greater readiness and distinctness also, when there is a series of sensations and perceptions of sight, for the subsequent visual conceptions are aided by associations both in time and place; but the recurrence of other sensations and perceptions is aided only by associations in time.
$61. Of the influence of habit on our conceptions. It is another circumstance worthy of notice in regard to conceptions, that the power of forming them depends in some measure on HABIT. -A few instances will help to illustrate the statement, that what is termed Habit may extend to the susceptibility of conceptions; and the first to be given will be of conceptions of sound. Our conceptions of sound are not, in general, remarkably distinct, as was intimated in the last section. It is nevertheless true, that a person may by practice acquire the power of amusing himself with merely reading written music. Having frequently associated the sounds with the notes, he has at last such a strong conception of the sounds, that he experiences, by merely reading the notes, a very sensible pleasure. It is for the same reason, viz., because our conceptions are strengthened by repetition or practice, that readers may enjoy the harmony of poetical numbers without at all articulating the words. In both "ses they
truly hear nothing; there is no actual sensation of sound; and yet there is a virtual enunciation and melody in the mind. It seems to be on this principle we are enabled to explain the fact, that Beethoven composed some of his most valued musical pieces after he had become entirely deaf; originating harmonic combinations so profound and exquisite as to require the nicest ear as a test, at the very time he was unable to hear anything himself.
8 62. Influence of habit on conceptions of sight. That our power of forming conceptions is strengthened by habit, is capable of being further illustrated from the sight. A person who has been accustomed to drawing, retains a much more perfect notion of a building landscape, or other visible object, than one who has not A portrait painter, or any person who has been in the practice of drawing such sketches, can trace the outlines of the human form with very great ease; it requires hardly more effort from them than to write their names. -This point may also be illustrated by the difference which we sometimes notice in people in their conceptions of colours. Some are fully sensible of the difference between two colours when they are presented to them, but cannot with confidence give names to these colours when they see them apart, and may even confound the one with the other. Their original sensations and perceptions are supposed to be equally distinct with those of other
persons; but their subsequent conception of the colours is far from being so. This defect arises partly, at least, from want of practice; that is to say, from the not having formed a habit. The persons who exhibit this weakness of conception have not been compelled, by their situation nor by mere inclination, to distinguish and to name colours so much as is common.
Ø 63. Of the subserviency of our conceptions to description. It is highly favourable to the talent for lively description, when a person's conceptions are readily suggested and are distinct. Even such a one's common conversation differs from that of those whose conceptions arise more slowly and are more faint. One man, whether in conversation or in written description, seems to place the object which he wishes to describe directly before us; it is represented distinctly and to the life. Another, although not wanting in a command of language, is confused and embarrassed amid a multitude of particulars, which, in consequence of the feebleness of his conceptions, he finds himself but half acquainted with; and he therefore gives us but a very imperfect and confused no tion of the thing which he desires to make known.
It has been by some supposed, that a person might give a happier description of an edifice, of a landscape, or other object, from the conception than from the actual perception of it. The perfection of a description does not always consist in a minute specification of circumstances; in general, the description is better when there is a judicious selection of them. The best rule for making the selection is to attend to the particulars that make the deepest impression on our own minds, or, what is the same thing, that most readily and distinctly take a place in our conceptions.—When the object is actually before us, it is extremely difficult to compare the impressions which different circumstances produce. When we afterward conceive of the object, we possess merely the outline of it; but it is an outline made up of the most striking circumstances. The circumstances, it is true, will not impress all persons alike, but will somewhat vary with the degree of their taste. But when, with a correct and delicate taste, any one combines lively conceptions, and gives a description from those conceptions, he can hardly fail to succeed in it. And, accordingly, we find here one great element of poetic power. It is the ability of forming vivid conceptions which bodies forth
“ The forms of things unknown ; the poet's pen
Turns them to shape, and gives to airy nothing
Ø 64. Of conceptions attended with a momentary belief. Our conceptions are sometimes attended with belief; when they are very lively, we are apt to ascribe to them a real outward existence, or believe in them. We do not undertake to assert that the belief is permanent; but