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A Bacon-Facing Generation: Scottish Philosophy in the Early Nineteenth Century J. CHARLES ROBERTSON IN Ins Autobiography, R. G. Collingwood expresses dismay over that turn-of-events in the early nineteenth century which saw the encroachment by "sense and appetite" on the territory of "reason and will. ''1 The "problems of logic and ethics," he argues, were thrown wholesale into the lap of psychology for resolution and eventual dismissal. This science, moreover, aspired to no less than the complete reduction of the mental to the psychical. Yet whatever sweeping effects one might, in retrospect, judge to have occurred , the movement itself had an uneasy birth. It was marked by severe traumatic shocks to the persons involved, shocks which reverberated throughout the intellectual world. The labor pains of this new science were perhaps most loudly heard in Scotland, where the firm assurances of common sense and intuition were suddenly beset with nag~ng doubts about inductive procedure and the need for analysis. Dr. Thomas Brown (1778- ! 820), who succeeded Dugald Stewart in the Chair of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, found himself at the center of this confrontation. Indeed he endured , where he did not foster, many of its stresses and strains. Nicknamed "Darwinian Brown" by his contemporaries,2 Brown was to wear proudly and without embarrassment the title of "mental physiologist.''s His obvious indebtedness (not "plagiarism" of as Haldvy, parroting Sir William Hamilton, alleges),4 however, to the analyses of Condillac, Destutt de Tracy, Cabanis and Laromigui~re somewhat belies the independent spirit in which he proposed that the new analysis should be a process of "intellectual physics,''s 1 An Autobiography (London and N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1970), pp. 94, 116. 2 The name alludes to Brown's early critical study of Erasmus Darwin's Zoonomia, or, the Laws of Organic Life (Dublin, 1794--1796). Alexander Bain adopts this popular label on the basis of his researches into the youthful enterprises and associations of James Mill. See lames Mill, A Biography (London, 1882), p. 48. It should be noted that Bain also refers to Brown as a "metaphysician." 8 See his Lectures on the Philosophy o] the Human Mind (Edinburgh, 1820), I. I have made use throughout of an early three volume edition published in Andover, 1822, which should perhaps be termed the 2nd edition, in place of the one published in Edinburgh, 1824. (The lecture number, in any event, is the significant reference guide.) Hereafter cited as, for example, Lectures, I, 13. 4 E. I-Ial~vy, The Growth o! Philosophic Radicalism, tr. Mary Morris (London: Faber and Faber, 1934), p. 435. The notion of an "intellectual physics" was undoubtedly a legacy of the Academy of Physics, established in Edinburgh on January 7, 1797. The Academy viewed its work as a dual enterprise, [37] 38 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY according to which "we reduce to simpler elements, some complex feeling that seems to us virtually to involve them.''6 The complex interaction of memory and attention, for example, might be brought under a finer scrutiny and, after careful "dissection," be shown to operate in certain determinate ways. The mechanics of their respective structures are, Brown argues, basically quite simple: in both cases we discover a conception drawn into the foreground of consciousness by a specific and compelling desire.7 Nowhere, and this indicates Brown's (heretical) departure from the faculty psychologies of Reid and Stewart, do we find a peculiar "Faculty of the mind. ''s Yet even on the threshold of a purely experimental inquiry into the human mind, as tempting as the prospects seemed, Brown proceeded with what was for him an unusual caution. It is this note of caution which I wish to pursue , for it accounts in large measure for the uneasy birth and particular course of development of mental science in the nineteenth century. 1. Brown's hesitancy was certainly not a reflection of any misgivings on his part concerning the possibilities of making the mind, like any other aspect of nature, an object of empirical investigation. He was, however, distressed at the readiness of certain of his contemporaries to embark on a program of inquiry with the only methodology available...


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