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If this he indeed the question , it never was really a subject of question . No one ever denied or doubted it . The original constitution of man , and the circumstances in which he is afterwards placed , are doubtless such as in * evitably to lead to certain notions and feelings ; and in the same way the original formation of the eyes , and the external impressions to which they are afterwards subjected , are such as inevitably to produce the notions of
light and colour ; but it would be an abuse of terms to call either of them innate * But if this be the true state of the question respecting innate ideas and instinctive principles , it is difficult to see what practical difference can exist between the parties . It appears , however , more philosophical and satisfactory if we are able to reduce the various phenomena of our intellectual nature to a single principle , simple and luminous in itself ; the reality and wonderful extent of whose operations is admitted on all hands , and which is found on a careful examination to be capable of explaining all the
appearances . " It is not to < be understood , " says Mr . Stewart , " that all tke benevolent . affections particularly specified are stated as original princi p les , or ultimate facts in our constitution . On the contrary , there can be little doubt that several of them may be analyzed into the same general principle differently modified , according to the circumstances in which it operates . This , however , ( notwithstanding the stress which has been sometimes laid upon it , ) is chiefly a question of arrangement . Whether we suppose these principles to be all ultimate facts , or some of them to be resolvable into other facts more
general , tlusy are equally to be regarded as constituent parts of human nature , and , upon either supposition , we have , equal reason to admire the wisdom with which that nature is adapted to the situation ia which it is placed . The laws which regulate the acquired perceptions of sight are surely as much a part of our frame as those which regulate any of our original perceptions ; and although they require for their development a certain degree of experience and observation in the individual , the uniformity of the result shews that there is nothing arbitrary or accidental in their origin . "—Vol . I . p . 76 . In the second book the author treats at great length on the moral faculty , with
the view of shewing that it is " an original principle of our nature , and not resolvable into any other principle or principles more general . " Here also it will be found , if we mistake not , that the dispute , as the questioh is occasionally stated by Mr . Stewart , is in a great measure of a verbal nature . It might therefore be supposed to be altogether insignificant ; but the misfortune is , that the language employed by the advocates of instinctive principles is extremely liable to be misunderstood . It is not always used by themselves in the same sense ; and not unfrequently misleads the writers , as well as their readers , into opinions and statements which are not only verbally
incorrect , but substantially erroneous . It is from the blending together of two very distinct questions that the argument of Mr . Stewart , and other writers who contend for the existence of innate moral principles , derives the whole of its plausibility . One inquiry is , whether there is not such a uniformity in the constitution of the human frame and of human society , that amidst great and important diversities there will be a considerable resemblance in the moral sentiments and feelings prevalent in all ages and nations ; the other is , do these principles exist originally in the mind as a part of its
constitution independently of experience ? Our author ' s reasoning , for the most part , goes to establish an affirmative answer to the former of these questions ; but then it is a question to which no one ever thought of returning any other answer . But the other is the point really in dispute ; and it appears to us that a sound philosophy , aided by correct observation , not
VOL . III . D
Dug aid Stewart . S 3
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Jan. 2, 1829, page 33, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2568/page/33/