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"Horse-bogey Bites Little Boys"; or Reid's Oeconomicks of the Family CHARLES STEWART-ROBERTSON The unborn child, it was said, is little more than an "oyster." There­ after, of course, it might emerge into the graduated spheres of "Na­ ture," "Society," and "Education" until, foris familiate, it would be prepared itself to practise the "Art" of parenting.1 Along the way, it had seemingly run up the entire gamut of rights, from the testy issue of a delayed succession in the face of a real or only probable "being, in the womb"2 to that of redress against unnaturally harsh or cruel pun­ ishment meted out by its own parents or guardians.3 At the end, it stood to inherit rights and obligations commensurate with those under which it had only just survived, been nurtured, and found it­ self trained up to civic virtue. Such is the life of this child-oyster in a shell. By a different, and for Thomas Reid favoured analogy, life for this or any other creature of nature is a veritable parade of "wombs" and "im­ perceptible beginnings," of "coats of Mail" and "strait Boddices," all of which confine, determine, but ultimately release their charges. Here the infant is a "caterpillar," and the "tender Charities" governing the relations among the succeeding parts or phases, as indeed among husbands and wives, children and brethren, are "as so many ada­ mantine Chains."4 The butterfly, the caterpillar, and the chrysalis are each, in turn, the nourishing abode for the other; each is likewise a 69 70 / STEWART-ROBERTSON "covering" or "narrow case" which, notably in respect of the second, threatens to become its successor's "grave"; each must "exhaust" itself to the "last agony" in order to "burst" those bonds which would deny life to the next. Caterpillar-man is truly a unity in diversity: "An embrio in the Womb, a child of two or three years old and a Man adorned with all the Accomplishments of knowlede0 Wisdom and Virtue which men in their present state attain differ one from the other as the egg, the caterpillar and the butterfly. Yet all are one and the same ani­ mal in the different Stages of its progressive state."5 Freed at last from the exigencies of struggle and imprisonment, metamorphosed from butterfly to man and back again, this creature is not "fitted to take its pastime in the Air." It, or he, is now fitted, moreover, to speak for himself and through speech to bind himself into the larger, and higher, circle of civilization wherein is gathered, "out of its brutish existence in the wilderness," what Cicero aptly called our "scattered humanity" (dispersos homines).6 In part, the implied rite of passage conveys the child out of the pre­ carious latency of tacit consent, through the articulation of explicit contract, into the more reflective climes of reasoned discourse and communication among his fellows. In part also, it sets the passions on a path of education, from a state of unbridled to one of well-governed and refined expression; in doing so, it fosters the growth not only of moral action but, more critically, of civil order. The latter path was at root Baconian, a simple yet apparently neglected matter of cultura or georgica animi. Widely adopting Bacon's methods of husbandry, eighteenth-century Scottish prelectors were themselves transformed, from early metaphysicians and ontologists to late pneumatologists and "Georgicians."7 In large measure, theirs was truly a transforma­ tion of and by "Speech"; for they found themselves increasingly fasci­ nated, even as they were shaped, by the powers of language both general (or theoretical) and specific (or practical). Without speech, as Reid remarks in a long digression under the heading of "Contracts and Covenants,"8 "human Life would be a most dismal state of being." Naturalistic, jurisprudential, and linguistic concerns are thus mani­ festly interwoven into the fabric of Reid's lectures on Oeconomicks, or Private or Domestic Jurisprudence, at Glasgow after 1764. As initially conceived, these issues were all to have positioned themselves under the spreading canopy of the term "Pneumatology." Within a year, his bold scheme having failed of time as much as of vision...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1938-6133
Print ISSN
0360-2370
Pages
pp. 69-89
Launched on MUSE
2021-05-20
Open Access
No
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