Laws of Connections

belief, word, french, truth, english, mind, connected, means, feeling and instance

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40. We need not go far for instances which will explain the law of transfer ence. Suppose a person acquiring ano ther language, the French, for instance ; he learns the meaning of a French word by means of the corresponding English word; by degrees, as the French word becomes familiar to him, it is understood without the English word being thought of ilere the signification, that is, the idea connected with the word, may be called A, the English word B, and the French word C; by frequent connection between A and C, by means of B, A is transferred to C, the signification is trans ferred to the French word, so that B the English word is no longer wanting to form the link of union.—When a young person has acquired some facility in con struing French, he reads his French work in English ; but when he has acquired a pretty complete know ledge of the language, he reads it in French; that is, he understands it without the intervention of the corresponding English words.—Those who are conver sant with short-hand, can read it without thinking of the long-hand; yet they learnt this through the medium of the long-hand words.—Those who have long learnt to read, and who have read much to themselves, seldom think of the sound of the words when they are reading to themselves. When we are pretty fa miliar with a subject, a single glance of the eye over a page of a clear printed book, will convey to us the idea of its contents, when perhaps not a single word has particularly attracted our attention, when certainly there has not been time for the mind to think of the sound of the words We do not recommend this habit of reading to young persons; but simply state a fact which is very con venient and useful to the mind, which has gone through sufficient discipline of accuracy, &c. Now it is obvious that in almost all cases, persons learn to under stand written words through the medium of spoken words.—One more instance and we have done with mere illustration. Those who are familiar with writing never think of the printed word, unless any particular circumstance call it to the mind. Yet there are very few instances in which the written word is not connect ed with the spoken word by means of the before learnt printed word.

41. I now proceed to show the appli cation of this law, in explaining certain phenomena of belief, and the origin of disinterested affections. I am not now to attempt the explanation of the formation of the complex feeling which we call belief, nor of those complex states of mind which we call affections; but sup posing them formed, to explain some facts respecting them, that is, to show how these facts accord with the general law of association which I have been stating.—Belief is transferable from the reasoning to the result of that reasoning. Suppose a proposition de. pends for its truth upon a great number of other propositions; if, as we go along, every step is believed to be true, and every connection of one step with ano ther appears to be a just one, the feeling of belief is successively transferred from one step to another, till at last we come to the result, the proposition which we wish to prove, and the feeling will be connected with this, and will remain with it, when all the steps by which its truth was shewn are entirely lost from the view of the mind. Every one admits this; and every one who has gone through the process knows it to be so.—There are almost innumerable instances in which we find the feeling of belief connected with ideas, without our being able at once to say, or even to say at all, how we acquired the connection. In this in

stance some philosophers refer to certain instinctive principles, by which we are necessarily led to believe, without any further reason than that our mental con stitution compels it. But we need not resort to such hypotheses ; they do great injury, by checking the researches of the intellect, and in some cases, by lea ding people to suppose opinions well founded, which have no further ground than an almost accidental, or, at any rate, unjust transfer of belief; by means of what was itself, perhaps, intitled to no belief.---There are certain results of re flection and observation, which we call experience ; and it is generally wise to trust to them. But before a man yields to his experience, in opposition to the clear evidence of others, or to well founded and well-connected reasonings, he should consider what experience is, and on what ground he has connected belief with it. He will find that belief is not a necessary attendant upon his expe rience, but that it has been connected, with it by means of intermediate links, which might themselves have no satis factory claim to belief. For instance, if a man has not observed accurately, or has not a correct judgment, his experi ence may not be worth any thing, nor intitled to any belief. Now, in many cases, it is almost impossible to recal the intermediate links, in order to prove to ourselves the correctness of our experi ence, and yet we must act upon it ; this shows the importance of cultivating in early life those habits of cool judgment and accurate observation, which shall give us a full right to believe, and to act upon our belief, in the results of reflection and observation; but some truths, it may be thought, have a necessary connection with belief We admit that there are truths which are so accordant with all the grounds of belief, that they instantane ously excite the belief of those who have had the opportunity of knowing those grounds, but no further. You immedi ately believe, that 2 X 2=4; and you would think that man destitute of com mon sense who denied it, or who did not immediately admit it. Yet we are well convinced, that the belief is formed in consequence of a number of external im pressions ; or, to state it more familiarly, by frequently counting, in the early part of childhood. We perhaps have not the power of discovering the exact steps by which we have ourselves proceeded to the belief of this truth ; but we can ob serve them in some good measure in others; and we can trace them in our selves, in similar circumstances. Often belief in such truths is formed through the medium of arental authority, or that of instructors, nd it is probable, that in many instance children know no more why 12x12=144, than that they find it so in their multiplication tables ; but where it has been formed by trials of the truth, those trials are forgotten, and the truth alone is remembered—We should gladly enlarge more on these points, but what has been already said will probably answer the two purposes which we have in view ; to show the ope ration of association in transferring belief and in leading to the inference, that belief ought not to be regarded as a proof of truth ; and yet, that the being unable to point out all the grounds of belief, is not any reason why that belief should be given up.

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