CHAPTER VIII. CLASSIFICATION.
“Dans l’ordre historique, la philosophic transcendante a devancé la philosophie élémentaire. II ne faut point s’en étonner; les grands problèmes de la métaphysique et de la morale se présentent à l’homme, dans l’enfance même de son intelligence, avec une grandeur et une obscurité qui le séduisent et qui l’attirent. L’homme, qui se sent fait pour connoître. court d’abord à la vérité avec plus d’ardeur que de sagesse; il cherche à deviner ce qu’il ne peut comprendre, et se perd dans des conjectures absurdes ou téméraires. Les théogonies et les cosmogonies sont antérieures à la saine physique, et l’esprit humain a passé à travers toutes les agitations et les délires de la métaphysique transcendante avant d’arriver à la psychologie.” Cousin, Frag. Philos. p. 75.
THE process by which we connect what we call the objects of our senses, and also our ideas, into certain aggregates called classes, is of too much importance not to have attracted the attention of those who have engaged in the study of mind. Yet it is doubtful, whether metaphysicians have regarded CLASSIFICATION as an original power of the mind, or have allowed that what is included under that name might be resolved into simpler elements. The term Abstraction, I think, they have generally taken as the name of a distinct, and original, power, not susceptible of further analysis. But, in doing so, it seems (for the language of writers is too loose on this subject, to allow us the use of more affirmative terms), they have restricted the name to the power of forming such ideas as are represented by the terms, hardness, softness, length, breadth, space, and so on. And this operation they rather consider as subservient to classification, than as that operation itself. The process, however, of grouping individuals into classes, has been regarded as sufficiently mysterious. The nature of it has been the object of deep curiosity; and the erroneous opinions which were entertained of it bewildered, for many ages, the most eminent philosophers; and enfeebled the human mind.
What (it was inquired) is that which is really done by the mind, when it forms individuals into classes; separates such and such things from others, and regards them, under a certain idea of unity, as some thing by themselves? Why is the segregation thought of? And for what end is it made? These questions all received answers; but it was many ages before they received an answer approaching the truth; and it is only necessary to read with care the writings of Plato and of Aristotle, and of all philosophers, with very few exceptions, from theirs to the present time, to see, that a misunderstanding of the nature of General Terms is that which chiefly perplexed them in their inquiries, and involved them in a confusion, which was inextricable, so long as those terms were unexplained.
The process in forming those classes was said to be this. The Mind leaves out of its view this, and that, and the other thing, in which individuals differ from one another; and retaining only those in which they all agree, it forms them into a class. But what is this forming of a class? What does it mean? When I form a material aggregate; when I collect a library; when I build a house; when I even raise a heap of stones; I move the things, whatever they may be, and place them, either regularly or irregularly, in a mass together. But when I form a class, I perform no operation of this sort. I touch not, nor do I in any way whatsoever act upon the individuals which I class. The proceeding is all mental. Forming a class of individuals, is a mode of regarding them. But what is meant by a mode of regarding things? This is mysterious; and is as mysteriously explained, when it is said to be the taking into view the particulars in which individuals agree. For what is there, which it is possible for the mind to take into view, in that in which individuals agree? Every colour is an individual colour, every size is an individual size, every shape is an individual shape. But things have no individual colour in common, no individual shape in common, no individual size in common; that is to say, they have neither shape, colour, nor size in com mon. What, then, is it which they have in common, which the mind can take into view? Those who affirmed that it was something, could by no means tell. They substituted words for things; using vague and mystical phrases, which, when examined, meant nothing. Plato called it ίδέα, Aristotle, ειδος, both, words taken from the verb to see; intimating, some thing as it were seen, or viewed, as we call it. At bottom, Aristotle’s ειδος, is the same with Plato’s ίδέα, though Aristotle makes a great affair of some very trifling differences, which he creates and sets up be tween them. The Latins, translated both ίδέα, and ειδος, by the same words, and were very much at a loss for one to answer the purpose; they used species, derived in like manner from a verb to see, but which, having other meanings, was ill adapted for a scientific word; they brought, therefore, another word in aid, forma, the same with οραμα derived equally from a verb signifying to see, which suited the purpose just as imperfectly as species; and as writers used both terms, according as the one or the other appeared best to correspond with their meaning, they thickened by this means the confusion.
After a time, unfortunately a long time, it began to be perceived, that what was thus represented as the object of the mind in the formation of classes, was chimerical and absurd; when a set of inquirers appeared, who denied the existence of all such objects, affirmed that ideas were all individual, and that no thing was general but names. The question rose to the dignity of a controversy; and to the hateful violence of a religious controversy. They who affirmed the existence of general ideas were called Realists, they who denied their existence Nominalists. There can be no doubt, that of the two the Nominalists approached, by far, the nearest to the truth; and their speculations tended strongly to remove from mental science the confusion in which the total misapprehension of abstract terms had involved it. But the clergy brought religion into the quarrel, and as usual on the wrong side. Realism was preached as the doctrine which alone was consistent with orthodoxy; the Nominalists were hunted down; and persecution, well knowing her object, clung to the books as well as the men; so that the books of the Nominalists, though the art of printing tended strongly to preserve them, were suppressed and destroyed, to such a degree, that it is now exceedingly difficult to collect them; and not easy to obtain copies even of the most remarkable.
The opinion, that the particulars in which the individuals of a class agree were distinct Objects of the Mind, soon made them distinct EXISTENCES; they were the Essence of things; the Eternal Exemplars, ac cording to which individual things were made; they were called UNIVERSALS, and regarded as alone the Objects of the Intellect. They were invariable, always the same; individuals, not the objects of intellect but only the low objects of sense, were in perpetual flux, and never, for any considerable period, the same. Universals alone have Unity; they alone were the subject of science; Individuals were innumerable, every one different from another; and cognoscible only by the lower, the sensitive part of our nature.
Endless were the subtleties into which ingenious men were misled, in the contemplation of those Fictions; and wonderful were the attributes which they bestowed upon them. “It is, then, on these permanent Phantasms,” says Mr. Harris, copying the ancient Philosophers, that the human mind first works, and by an energy as spontaneous and familiar to its nature, as the seeing of colour is familiar to the eye, it discerns at once what in MANY is ONE; what in things DISSIMILAR and DIFFERENT is SIMILAR and the SAME. By this it comes to behold a kind of superior Objects; a new Race of Perceptions, more comprehensive than those of sense; a Race of Perceptions, each one of which, may be found entire and whole in the separate individuals of an infinite and fleeting multitude, without departing from the unity and permanence of its own nature.” * Here we have something sufficiently mystical; a thing which is, at once, ONE, and MANY; which is ONE, it seems, by its very nature, and yet may exist, entire and whole, in the separate individuals of an infinite MULTITUDE. This is a specimen of their Doctrine; a specimen of what they call THE SUBLIME in Intellection.
But this is not all. For as, when we form a minor class, as man, there is a certain ONE, the object of intellect, complete in every individual; MANY, there fore, and at the same time, ONE; so when we form a larger class, animal, there is a certain ONE, the object of intellect, complete in every one of those individuals. And when we go still higher, as to the grand class, BODY, there is always a ONE, the object of intellect, complete in every one of those more numerous individuals. When we mount up to the very summit, and embrace all things in one class, BEING, there is in like manner a ONE, the object of intellect, complete in every individual that exists. This is the grand ONE; the ONE pre-eminently. This is the ONE; το έν; ONENESS; ONE in the abstract. This was a conception deemed truly SUBLIME. The loftiest epithets were be stowed upon το έν, the ONE. It was DIVINE; it was more than that; for being not concrete, but abstract, it was DIVINITY. All things were contained in the ONE; and the ONE was in all things. The ONE was the source and principle of Being. It was immutable, eternal.
[* Hermes, b. iii. ch. 4.]
These ONES they also called by the names of Internal Forms, and Intelligible Forms. Thus Harris: “Let us suppose any man to look for the first time upon some Work of Art; as, for example, upon a Clock; and, having sufficiently viewed it, at length to depart. Would he not retain, when absent, an Idea of what he had seen? And what is it, to retain such Idea? It is to have A FORM INTERNAL correspondent to THE EXTERNAL; only with this difference, that the Internal Form is devoid of the Matter; the External is united with it, being seen in the metal, the wood, and the like. Now, if we suppose this Spectator to view many such Machines, and not simply to view, but to consider every part of them, so as to comprehend how those parts all operate to one End, he might be then said to possess a kind of INTELLIGIBLE FORM, by which he would not only understand and know the clocks, which he had seen already, but every Work, also, of like Sort, which he might see hereafter.”
We might here remark upon the mystical jargon, which is thus employed to obscure the simple fact, that after a man has seen an individual of a particular kind he has the idea of that individual; and after he has seen various individuals of the same kind, he has ideas of the various individuals, and has them combined by association. But we must hear Mr. Harris a little further.
After telling us that there are two orders of these immutable INTELLIGIBLE FORMS; one belonging to the Contemplator of objects, and subsequent to their existence; another belonging to the Maker of them, being the archetype, according to which they were formed; he thus proceeds: “The WHOLE VISIBLE WORLD, exhibits nothing more than so many passing pictures of these IMMUTABLE ARCHETYPES. Nay, through these it attains even a Semblance of Immortality, and continues throughout ages to be SPECIFICALLY ONE, amid those infinite particular changes, that befall it every moment. May we be allowed then to credit those speculative men, who tell us, it is in these permanent and comprehensive FORMS that the DEITY views at once, without looking abroad, all possible productions both present, past, and future; that this great and stupendous view is but a view of himself, where all things lie enveloped in their Principles and Exemplars, as being essential to the fulness of this universal Intellection?”
I shall exhibit but one other specimen of the mode of speculating about these imaginary Beings, from another great master of the ancient philosophy, Cudworth. Both Aristotle and Plato, he says, “acknowledged two sorts of Entities, the one mutable, or subject to flux and motion, such as are especially individual corporeal things; the other immutable, that always rest or stand still, which are the proper objects of certain, constant, and immutable knowledge, that therefore cannot be mere nothings, non-entities.
“Which latter kind of being, that is, the immutable essence, as a distinct thing from individual sensibles, Aristotle plainly asserts against Heraclitus, and those other flowing philosophers in these words: ‘We would have these philosophers to know, that besides sensible things that are always mutable, there is another kind of being or entity of such things as are neither subject to motion, corruption, nor generation.’ And elsewhere he tells us, that this immovable essence is the object of theoretical knowledge, of the first philosophy, and of the pure mathematics.
“Now these immutable entities are the universal rationes, or intelligible natures and essences of all things, which some compare to unities, but Aristotle to numbers; which formally considered, are indivisible: saith he, ‘The essences of things are like to numbers;’ because if but the least thing be added to any number, or subtracted from it, the number is destroyed.
“And these are the objects of all certain knowledge. As for example, the objects of geometry are not any individual material triangles, squares, circles, pyramids, cubes, spheres, and the like; which because they are always mutable, nothing can be immutably affirmed of them; but they are those indivisible and unchangeable rationes of a triangle, square, circle; which are ever the same to all geometricians, in all ages and places, of which such immutable theorems as these are demonstrated, as that a triangle has necessarily three angles equal to two right angles.
“But if any one demand here, where this ακίητος ουσια, these immutable entities do exist? I answer, first, that as they are considered formally, they do not properly exist in the individuals without us, as if they were from them imprinted upon the understanding, which some have taken to be Aristotle’s opinion; be cause no individual material thing is either universal or immutable. And if these things were only lodged in the individual sensibles, then they would be un avoidably obnoxious to the fluctuating waves of the same reciprocating Euripus, in which all individual material things are perpetually whirled. But because they perish not together with them, it is a certain argument that they exist independently upon them. Neither in the next place, do they exist somewhere else apart from the individual sensibles, and without the mind, which is that opinion that Aristotle justly condemns, but either unjustly or unskilfully attributes to Plato. For if the mind looked abroad for its objects wholly without itself, then all its knowledge would be nothing but sense and passion. For to know a thing is nothing else but to comprehend it by some inward ideas that are domestic to the mind, and actively exerted from it. Wherefore these intelligible ideas or essences of things, those forms by which we under stand all things, exist no where but in the mind itself; for it was very well determined long ago by Socrates, in Plato’s Parmenides, that these things are nothing but noëmata: ‘these species or ideas are all of them nothing but noëmata, or notions that exist no where but in the soul itself.’ Wherefore, to say that there are immutable natures and essences, and rationes of things, distinct from the individuals that exist without us, is all one as if one should say, that there is in the universe above the orb of matter and body, another superior orb of intellectual being, that comprehends its own immediate objects, that is, the immutable rationes and ideas of things within itself, by which it understands and knows all things without itself.
“And yet notwithstanding though these things exist only in the mind, they are not therefore mere figments of the understanding: for if the subjects of all scientifical theorems were nothing but figments, then all truth and knowledge that is built upon them would be a mere fictitious thing; and if truth itself, and the intellectual nature be fictitious things, then what can be real or solid in the world? But it is evident, that though the mind thinks of these things at pleasure, yet they are not arbitrarily framed by the mind, but have certain, determinate, and immutable natures of their own, which are independent upon the mind, and which are not blown away into nothing at the pleasure of the same being that arbitrarily made them.
“But we all naturally conceive that those things have not only an eternal, but also a necessary existence, so that they could not ever but be, such and so many as they are, and can never possibly perish or cease to be, but are absolutely undestroyable.
“Which is a thing frequently acknowledged in the writings of both those famous philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. The former of them calling those things, ‘things that were never made, but always are,’ and ‘things that were never made, nor can be destroyed.’ ‘Things ingenerable and unperishable;’ Quæ Plato negat gigni sed semper esse (as Tully expresseth it) et ratione et intelligentia contineri. And Philo the Platonical Jew, calls the τα Νοητα, which are the same things we speak of, αναγκαιοται ουσίι, the most necessary essences, that is, such things as could not but be, and cannot possibly not be. And Aristotle himself calls the rationes of things in his metaphysics, not only Χωριστα and ακίνητα, things separate from matter and immutable, but also αίδια, or eternal; and in his ethics likewise, he calls geometrical truths αίδια, eternal things, 1. 3, c. 5; ‘where he makes the geometrical truth concerning the incommensurability betwixt the diameter and the side of a square, to be an eternal thing.’ Elsewhere he tells us, that ‘Science, properly so called, is not of things corruptible and contingent,’ but of things necessary, incorruptible and eternal. Which immutable and eternal objects of science, in the place before quoted, he described thus: ‘Such a kind of entity of things has neither motion nor generation, nor corruption,’ that is, such things as were never made, and can never be destroyed. To which, he saith, the mind is necessarily determined. For science or knowledge has nothing either of fiction or of arbitrariness in it, but is ‘the comprehension of that which immutably is.’
“Moreover, these things have a constant being, when our particular created minds do not actually think of them, and therefore they are immutable in another sense likewise, not only because they are indivisibly the same when we think of them, but also because they have a constant and never-failing entity; and always are, whether our particular minds think of them or not. For the intelligible natures and essences of a triangle, square, circle, pyramid, cube, sphere, &c., and all the necessary geometrical verities belonging to these several figures, were not the creatures of Archimedes, Euclid, or Pythagoras, or any other inventors of Geometry; nor did then first begin to be; but all these rationes and verities had a real and actual entity before, and would continue still, though all the geometricians in the world were quite extinct, and no man knew them or thought of them. Nay, though all the material world were quite swept away, and also all particular created minds annihilated together with it; yet there is no doubt but the intelligible natures or essences of all geometrical figures, and the necessary verities belonging to them, would notwithstanding remain safe and sound. Where fore these things had a being also before the material world and all particular intellects were created. For it is not at all conceivable, that ever there was a time when there was no intelligible nature of a triangle, nor any such thing cogitable at all, and when it was not yet actually true that a triangle has three angles equal to two right angles, but that these things were afterward arbitrarily made and brought into being out of an antecedent nothing or non-entity; so that the being of them bore some certain date, and had a youngness in them, and so by the same reason might wax old, and decay again; which notion he often harps upon, when he speaks of the Ειδη, or forms of things, as when he says, ‘there is no generation of the essence of a sphere,’ that is, it is a thing that is not made; but always is: and elsewhere he pronounces universally of the Ειδη, ‘The forms of material things are without generation and corruption,’ and ‘that none makes the form of any thing, for it is never generated.’ Divers have censured Aristotle in some of such passages too much to confound physics and metaphysics together; for indeed these things are not true in a physical, but only in a metaphysical sense. That is, the immediate objects of intellection and science, are eternal, necessarily existent, and incorruptible.”*
[* “A Treatise concerning Eternal and Immutable Morality. By Ralph Cudworth, D.D.” pp. 241-250.]
Under the influence of such notions as these, men were led away from the real object of Classification; which remained, till a late period in metaphysical inquiry, not at all understood. Yet the truth appears by no means difficult to find, if we only observe the steps, by which the mind acquires its knowledge, and the exigencies which give occasion to the contrivances to which it resorts.
Man first becomes acquainted with individuals. He first names individuals. But individuals are in numerable, and he cannot have innumerable names. He must make one name serve for many individuals. It is thus obvious, and certain, that men were led to class solely for the purpose of economizing in the use of names. Could the processes of naming and discourse have been as conveniently managed by a name for every individual, the names of classes, and the idea of classification, would never have existed. But as the limits of the human memory did not enable men to retain beyond a very limited number of names; and even if it had, as it would have required a most inconvenient portion of time, to run over in discourse, as many names of individuals, and of individual qualities, as there is occasion to refer to in discourse, it was necessary to have contrivances of abridgment; that is, to employ names which marked equally a number of individuals, with all their separate properties; and enabled us to speak of multitudes at once. (78)
[78 The doctrine that “men were led to class solely for the purpose of economizing in the use of names,” is here reasserted in the most unqualified terms. The author plainly says that if our memory had been sufficiently vast to contain a name for every individual, the names of classes and the idea of classification would never have existed. Yet how (I am obliged to ask) could we have done without them? We could not -, have dispensed with names to mark the points in which different individuals resemble one another: and these arc class-names. The fact that we require names for the purpose of making affirmations of predicating qualities is in some measure recognised by the author, when he says “it would have required a most inconvenient portion of time to run over in discourse as many names of individuals and of individual qualities as there is occasion to refer to in discourse.” But what is meant by an individual quality? It is not individual qualities that we ever have occasion to predicate. It is true that the qualities of an object are only the various ways in which we or other minds are affected by it, and these affections are not the same in different objects, except in the sense in which the word same stands for exact similarity. But we never have occasion to predicate of an object the individual and instantaneous impressions which it produces in us. The only meaning of predicating a quality at all, is to affirm a resemblance. When we ascribe a quality to an object, we intend to assert that the object affects us in a manner similar to that in which we are affected by a known class of objects. A quality, indeed, in the custom of language, does not admit of individuality: it is supposed to be one thing common to many; which, being explained, means that it is the name of a resemblance among our sensations, and not a name of the individual sensations which resemble. Qualities, therefore, cannot be predicated without general names; nor, consequently, without classification. Wherever there is a general name there is a class: classification, and general names, are things exactly coextensive. It thus appears that, without classification, language would not fulfil its most important function. Had we no names but those of individuals, the names might serve as marks to bring those individuals to mind, but would not enable us to make a single assertion respecting them, except that one individual is not another. Not a particle of the knowledge we have of them could be ex pressed in words. Ed.]
It was impossible that this process should not be involved in obscurity, and liable to great misapprehension, so long as the manner, in which words become significant, was unexplained. After this knowledge was imparted, and pretty generally diffused, the value of it seemed for a long time to be little understood.
Words become significant purely by association. A word is pronounced in conjunction with an idea; it is pronounced again and again; and, by degrees, the idea and the word become so associated, that the one can never occur without the other. To take first the example of an individual object. The word, St. Paul’s, has been so often named in conjunction with the idea of a particular building, that the word, St. Paul’s, never occurs without calling up the idea of the building, nor the idea of the building without calling up the name, St. Paul’s. The effect of association is similarly exemplified in connecting the visible mark with the audible. Children learn first to speak. They learn next to read. In learning to speak, they associate the audible mark with their sensations and ideas; the sound tree is associated with the sight of the tree, or the idea of the tree. In learning to read, a new association has to be formed. The written word is a visible sign of the audible sign. What reading accomplishes, by degrees, is, to associate the visible sign so closely with the audible, that at the same instant with the sight of the word the sound of it, and with the sound of it the sense, occurs.
After the explanations which have been already given, no difficulty can remain about the manner in which names come to signify the individuals of which they are appointed to be the marks.
Let us now, proceeding to the simplest cases first, and by them expounding such as are more complicated, suppose that our name of one individual is applied to another individual. Let us suppose that the word, foot, has been first associated in the mind of the child with one foot only; it will in that case call up the idea of that one, and not of the other. Here is one name, and one thing named. Suppose next, that the same name, foot, begins to be applied to the child s other foot. The sound is now associated not constantly with one thing, but sometimes with one thing, and sometimes with another. The consequence is, that it calls up sometimes the one, and sometimes the other. Here two things, the two feet, are both of them associated with one thing, the name. The one thing, the name, has the power of calling up both, and in rapid succession. The word foot suggests the idea of one of the feet; this foot with its name, is a complex idea; and this complex idea suggests its like, the other foot with its name.
This is a peculiar and a highly important case of association; but not the less simple and indisputable. We have already sufficiently exemplified the two grand cases of the formation of complex ideas by association; that in which the ideas of synchronous sensations are so concreted by constant conjunction as to appear, though numerous, only one; of which the ideas of sensible objects, a rose, a plough, a house, a ship, are examples; and that in which the ideas of successive sensations are so concreted; of which, the idea of a tune in music, the idea of the revolution of a wheel, of a walk, a hunt, a horse-race, are instances.
It is easy to see wherein the present case agrees with, and wherein it differs from, those familiar cases. The word, man, we shall say, is first applied to an individual; it is first associated with the idea of that individual, and acquires the power of calling up the idea of him; it is next applied to another individual, and acquires the power of calling up the idea of him; so of another, and another, till it has become associated with an indefinite number, and has acquired the power of calling up an indefinite number of those ideas indifferently. What happens? It does call up an indefinite number of the ideas of individuals, as often as it occurs; and calling them up in close connexion, it forms them into a species of complex idea.
There can be no difficulty in admitting that association does form the ideas of an indefinite number of individuals into one complex idea; because it is an acknowledged fact. Have we not the idea of an army? And is not that precisely the ideas of an indefinite number of men formed into one idea? Have we not the idea of a wood, or a forest; and is not that the idea of an indefinite number of trees formed into one idea? These are instances of the concretion of synchronous ideas. Of the concretion of successive ideas indefinite in number, the idea of a concert is one instance, the idea of a discourse is another, the idea of the life of a man is another, the idea of a year, or of a century, is another, and so on. The idea, which is marked by the term “race of man,” is complex in both ways, for it is not only the idea of the present generation, but of all successive generations.
It is also a fact, that when an idea becomes to a certain degree complex, from the multiplicity of the ideas it comprehends, it is of necessity indistinct. Thus the idea of a figure of one thousand sides is in curably indistinct; the idea of an army is also indistinct; the idea of a forest, or the idea of a mob. And one of the uses of language, is, to enable us, by distinct marks, to speak with distinctness of those combinations of ideas, which, in themselves, are too numerous for distinctness. Thus, by our marks of numbers, we can speak, with the most perfect precision, of a figure not only of a thousand, but of ten thousand sides, and deduce its peculiar properties; though it is as impossible, by the idea, as by the sensations, to distinguish one of a thousand, from one of a thousand and one, sides.
Thus, when the word man calls up the ideas of an indefinite number of individuals, not only of all those to whom I have individually given the name, but of all those to whom I have in imagination given it or imagine it will ever be given, and forms all those ideas into one, it is evidently a very complex idea, and, therefore, indistinct; and this indistinctness has, doubtless, been the main cause of the mystery, which has appeared to belong to it. That this, however, is the process, is an inevitable result of the laws of association.
It thus appears, that the word, man, is not a word having a very simple idea, as was the opinion of the Realists; nor a word having no idea at all, as was that of the Nominalists; but a word calling up an indefinite number of ideas, by the irresistible laws of association, and forming them into one very complex, and indistinct, but not therefore unintelligible, idea.
It is thus to be seen, that appellatives, or general names, are significant, in two modes. We have frequently had occasion to recur to the mode in which the simple ideas of sensation are associated or concreted, so as to form what we call the complex ideas of objects. Thus, I have the complex ideas of this pen, this desk, this room, this man, this handwriting. The simple ideas, so concreted into a complex idea in the case of each individual, are one thing signified by each appellative; and this complex idea of the individual, concreted with another, arid another of the same kind, and so on without end, is the other of the things which are signified by it. Thus, the word rose, signifies, first of all, a certain odour, a certain colour, a certain shape, a certain consistence, so associated as to form one idea, that of the individual; next, it signifies this individual associated with another, and another, and another, and so on; in other words, it signifies the class.
The complexity of the idea, in the latter of the two cases, is distinguished by a peculiarity from that of the former. In applying the name to the odour, and colour, and so on, of the rose, concreted into one idea, the name is not the name of each of the sensations taken singly, only of all taken together. In applying the name to rose, and rose, and rose, without end, the name is at once a name of each of the individuals, and also the name of the complex association which is formed of them. This too, is itself a peculiar association. It is not the association of a name with a number of particulars clustered together as one; but the association of a name with each of an indefinite number of particulars, and all those particulars associated back again with the name.
This peculiarity may require a little further explanation. It is well known, that between an idea, and the name which stands for it, there is a double association. The name calls up the idea in close association, and the idea calls up the name in equally close association; and this they have a tendency to do in a series of repetitions; the name bringing up the idea, the idea the name, and then the name the idea again, and so on, for any number of times. This is, in great part, the way in which language is learned, as we observe by the repetitions to which children are prone. And this, indeed, is what, in many cases, we mean when we speak of dwelling upon an idea. It is a familiar observation, that no idea dwells in the mind, or can; for it has innumerable associations, and whatever association occurs, of course, displaces that by which it is introduced. But if the idea which thus displaces it, again calls it up, and these two go on calling up one another, that which is the more interesting of the two appears to be that which alone is occupying the attention. This alternation is frequent between the name and the idea.
Now, then, let the word, man, be supposed, first of all, the name of an individual; it becomes associated with the idea of the individual, and acquires the power of calling up that idea. Let us next suppose it applied to one other individual, and no more: it becomes associated with this other idea; and it now has the power of calling up either. The following is, then, a very natural train: 1, The name occurs; 2, the name suggests the idea of one of the individuals; 3, that idea suggests the name back again; 4, the name suggests the idea of the second individual. All this may pass, and, after sufficient repetition, does pass, with the rapidity of lightning. Suppose, now, that the name is associated, with the ideas not of two individuals, but of many; the same train may go on; the name exciting the idea of one individual, that idea the name, the name another individual, and so on, to an indefinite extent; all in that small portion of time of which the mind takes no account. The combination thus formed stands in need of a name. And the name, man, while it is the name of every individual included in the process, is also the name of the whole combination; that is, of a very complex idea.
One other question, respecting classification, may still seem to require solution; namely, what it is by which we are determined in placing such and such things together in a class in preference to others; what, in other words, is the principle of Classification? I answer, that, as it is for the purpose of naming, of naming with greater facility, that we form classes at all; so it is in furtherance of that same facility that such and such things only are included in one class, such and such in another. Experience teaches what sort of grouping answers the purposes of naming best; under the suggestions of that experience, the application of a general word is tacitly and without much of reflection regulated; and by this process, and no other, it is, that Classification is performed. It is the aggregation of an indefinite number of individuals, by their association with a particular name.
It may seem that this answer is still very general, and that to make the explanation sufficient, the suggestions by which experience recommends this or that classification should be particularized. For the purpose of the present chapter, however, namely, to shew that the business of Classification is merely a process of naming, and is all resolvable into association, the observation, though general, is full and satisfactory. The detail of the purposes to be answered by general terms belongs more properly to the next head of Dis course, and as far as the development of the mental phenomena seems to require it, will there be presented.
It may still be useful to advert to the three principal cases into which Classification may be resolved; 1, that of objects considered as synchronical; 2, that of objects considered as successive; 3, that of feelings. The first is exemplified in the common classes of sensible objects, as men, horses, trees, and so on; and requires no further explanation. The second is exemplified in the classes of events, denoted by such words, as Birth, Death, Snowing, Thundering, Freezing, Flying, Creeping. By these words there is always denoted one antecedent and one consequent, generally more, sometimes a long train of them. And it is obvious that each of them is, at once, the name of each instance individually, and of all taken generally together. Thus, Freezing, is not the name of an individual instance of freezing only, but of that and of all other instances of Freezing. The same is the case with other words of a still more general, and thence more obscure signification, as Gravitation, Attraction, Motion, Force, &c.; which words have this additional source of confusion, that they are ambiguous, being both abstract and concrete. When we say that there is a third case of classification, relating to Feelings, it does not mean that the two former do not relate to feelings: for when we say, that we classify objects, as men, horses, &c.; or events, as the sequences named births, deaths, and so on; it is obvious that our operation is about our own feelings, and nothing else; as the objects, and their successions, are, to us, the feelings merely which we thus designate. But as there are feelings which we do thus designate; and feelings which we do not; it is convenient, for the purpose of teaching, to treat of them apart. The Feelings, of this latter kind, which we classify, are either single feelings, or trains. Thus, Pain is the name of a single feeling, and the name both of an individual instance, and of indefinite instances, forming a most extensive class. Memory is the name not of a single feeling or idea, but of a train; and it is the name not only of a single instance, but of all instances of such a train, that is, of a class. The same is the case with Belief. It is the name of a train consisting of a certain number of links; and it is the name not only of an individual instance of such trains, but of all instances, forming an extensive class. Imagination is another instance of the same sort of classification. So also is Judgment, and Reasoning, and Doubting, and we might name many more.
It is easy to see, among the principles of Association, what particular principle it is, which is mainly concerned in Classification, and by which we are rendered capable of that mighty operation; on which, as its basis, the whole of our intellectual structure is reared. That principle is Resemblance. It seems to be similarity or resemblance which, when we have applied a name to one individual, leads us to apply it to another, and another, till the whole forms an aggregate, connected together by the common relation of every part of the aggregate to one and the same name. Similarity, or Resemblance, we must regard as an Idea familiar and sufficiently understood for the illustration at present required. It will itself be strictly analysed, at a subsequent part of this Inquiry.
So deeply was the sagacious mind of Plato, far more philosophical than that of any who succeeded him, during many ages, struck with the importance of Classification, that he seems to have regarded it as the sum of all philosophy; which he described, as being the faculty of seeing “the ONE in the MANY, and the MANY in the ONE;” a phrase which, when stripped from the subtleties of the sophists whom he exposed, and- from the mystical visions of his successors, of which he never dreamed, is really a, striking expression of what in classification is the matter of fact. His error lay, in misconceiving the ONE; which he took, not for the aggregate, but something pervading the aggregate. (79) (80)
[79 The two chapters (VII. and VIII.) of Mr. James Mill’s Analysis are highly instructive, and exhibit all his customary force and perspicuity. But in respect to Classification and Abstraction, I think that the ancient philosophers of the Sokratic school generally, are entitled to more credit than he allows them; and moreover that in respect to the difference of opinion between Plato and Aristotle, he has assigned an undue superiority to the former at the expense of the latter.
The reader would take very inadequate measure of these ancient philosophers, if he judged them from the two citations out of Harris and Cudworth, produced by Mr. James Mill as setting forth the most successful speculations of the ancient world. Both these passages are brought to illustrate “the mystical jargon” (p. 253) with which the ancients are said to have obscured a clear and simple subject. The mysticism in both citations is to a certain extent real; but it depends also in part on the use of a terminology now obsolete, rather than, on confusion of ideas. In regard to the citation from Harris, it is a passage in which that author passes into theology, and includes God and Immortality: topics upon which mystical language can seldom be avoided: moreover, if we compare the remarks on Harris (p. 251) with p. 271, we shall find Mr. James Mill ridiculing as mystical, when used by Harris, the same language (about “the One in the Many “) which, when employed by Plato, he eulogises as follows “a phrase which, when stripped from the subtleties of the sophists whom he (Plato) exposed, and from the mystical visions of his successors, of which he never dreamed, is really a striking expression of what in classification is the matter of fact.”
I wish I could concur with Mr. James Mill in exonerating Plato from these mystical visions, and imputing them exclusively to his successors. But I find them too manifestly pro claimed in the Timæus, Phædon, Phædrus, Symposion, Republic, and other dialogues, to admit of such an acquittal: I also find subtleties quite as perplexing as those of any sophist whom he exposed. Along with these elements, the dialogues undoubtedly present others entirely disparate, much sounder and nobler. I have in another work endeavoured to render a faithful account of the multifarious Platonic aggregate, stamped in all its parts, whether of negative dialectic, poetical fancy, or ethical dogmatism, with the unrivalled genius of expression belonging to the author. The misfortune is that his Neo-Platonic successors selected by preference his dreams and visions for their amplifying comment and eulogy, leaving comparatively unnoticed the instructive lessons of philosophy accompanying them. To this extent the Neo-Platonists fully deserve the criticism here bestowed on them.
The long passage, extracted in the Analysis from Cudworth, contains two grave mis-statements, respecting both Plato and Aristotle; which deserve the more attention because they seem to have misled Mr. James Mill himself. Respecting Universals, Cudworth, after saying that they do not exist in the individual sensibles, proceeds as follows (p. 255-256)
1. “Neither, in the next place, do they exist somewhere else apart from the individual sensibles, and without the mind: which is that opinion that Aristotle justly condemns, but either unjustly or unskilfully attributes to Plato.
2. “Wherefore these intelligible ideas or essences of things, those forms by which we understand all things, exist no-where but in the mind itself: for it was very well determined long ago by Socrates, in Plato’s Parmenides, that these things are nothing but noëmata: these species or ideas are all of them nothing but noëmata, or notions that exist no- where but in the soul itself.”
Now, neither of these assertions of Cudworth will be found accurate: neither the “determination” which he ascribes to the Platonic Sokrates – nor the censure of “unjust or unskilful” which he attaches to Aristotle. It is indeed true that the opinion here mentioned is enunciated by Sokrates in Plato’s Parmenides. But far from being given as a “determination,” it is enunciated only to be refuted and dropt. (a) In that dialogue, Sokrates is introduced as a youthful and ardent aspirant in philosophy, maintaining the genuine Platonic theory of self-existent and separate Ideas. He finds himself unable to repel several acute objections tendered against the theory by the veteran Parmenides: he is driven from position to position: and one among them, not more tenable than the rest, is the suggestion cited by Cudworth. Yet Parmenides, though his objections remain unanswered and though he alludes to others not specified, concludes by declaring (a) that nevertheless the Platonic theory of Ideas cannot be abandoned: it must be upheld as a postulate essential to the possibility of general reasoning and philosophy.
[a Plato Parmenid. p. 132, C, D.]
[a Plato Parmenid. p. 135, B, C.
I have given an account of this acute but perplexing dialogue, in the twenty-fifth chapter of ray work on Plato and the other Companions of Sokrates.]
Even in the Parmenides itself, therefore, where Plato accumulates objections against the theory of separate and selfexistent Ideas, we still find him reiterating his adherence to it. And when we turn to his other dialogues, Phædrus, Phædon, Symposion, Republic, Kratylus, &c., we see that theory so emphatically proclaimed and so largely illustrated, that I wonder how Cudworth can blame Aristotle for imputing it to him.
It is by Cudworth, probably, that Mr. James Mill has been misled, when he says – p. 249 – “At bottom, Aristotle’s είδος is the same as with Plato’s ίδεα, though Aristotle makes a great affair of some very trifling differences, which he creates and sets up between them.” I have pointed out Cudworth’s mistake, and I maintain that the difference between Plato and Aristotle on this subject was grave and material. The latter denied, what the former affirmed, self-existence and substantiality of the Universal Ideas, apart from and independent of particulars.
Having cited with some comments the extracts from Cudworth and Harris, Mr. James Mill observes, “Under the influence of such notions as these, men were led away from the real object of Classification, which remained, till a late period of metaphysical enquiry, not at all understood. Yet the truth appears by no means difficult to find, if we only observe the steps by which the mind acquires its knowledge, and the exigencies which give occasion to the contrivances to which it resorts” (p. 259). He then proceeds, clearly and forcibly, to announce his own theory of classification, in tended to dispel the mystery with which others have surrounded it (p. 264). “The word man is first applied to an individual: it is first associated with the idea of that individual, and acquires the power of calling up the idea of him: it is next applied to another individual, and acquires the power of calling up the idea of him: so of another and another, till it has acquired the power of calling up an indefinite number of those ideas indifferently. What happens? It does call up an indefinite number of the ideas of individuals, as often as it occurs: and calling them up in close combination, it forms them into a species of complex idea.” “It thus appears that the word man is not a word having a very simple idea, as was the opinion of the Realists: nor a word having no idea at all, as was that of the Nominalists: but a word calling up an indefinite number of ideas, by the irresistible laws of association, and forming them into one very complex and indistinct, but not therefore unintelligible, idea” (p. 265). “As it is for the purpose of naming, and of naming with greater facility, that we form classes at all; so it is in furtherance of that same facility that such and such things only are included in one class, such and such things in another. Experience teaches us what sort of grouping answers this purpose best: under the suggestions of that experience, the application of a general word is tacitly and without much of reflection regulated: and by this process and no other, it is, that Classification is per- formed. It is the aggregation of an indefinite number of individuals, by their association with a particular name” (p. 268). “It is Similarity or Resemblance, which, when we have applied a name to one individual, leads us to apply it to another and another till the whole forms an aggregate, connected together by the common relation of the aggregate “to one and the same name” (p. 271).
Such is the theory of Mr. James Mill. Its great peculiarity is that it neither includes nor alludes to Abstraction. It admits in Classification nothing more than the one common name associated with an aggregate indefinite and indistinct, of similar concrete individuals. I shall now consider the manner in which the Greek philosophers of the fourth century B.C. dealt with the same subject, and how far they merit the censure of having imported unnecessary mystery into it.
It is impossible to understand Plato unless we take our departure from his master Sokrates. Now it is precisely in regard to Classification, and the meaning and comprehension of general terms, that the originality and dialectical acuteness of Sokrates were most conspicuously manifested. He was the first philosopher (as Aristotle (a) tells us) who set before himself the Universal as an express object of investigation, and who applied himself to find out and test the definition of universal terms. He wrote nothing; but he passed most part of his long life in public, and in talking indiscriminately with every one. Oral colloquy, and cross-examining interrogation, were carried by him to a pitch of excellence never equalled. Not only did he disclaim all power of teaching, but he explicitly avowed his own ignorance; professing to be a mere seeker of truth from others who knew better, and to be anxious only for answers such as would stand an accurate scrutiny. To this peculiar scheme the topics on which he talked were adapted: for he avoided all recondite themes, and discussed only matters relating to man and society: such as What is the Holy? What is the Unholy? What are the Beautiful and the Mean the Just and Unjust? Temperance? Madness? Courage? Cowardice? A City? A man fit for citizenship? Command of Men? A man fit for commanding men? Such is the specimen-list given by Xenophon (b) of the themes chosen by Sokrates. We see that they are all general, and embodied in universal terms. But the terms as well as the themes were familiar to all: every man believed himself thoroughly to understand the meaning of the former every one had convictions ready-made and decided on the latter. When Sokrates first opened the colloquy, respondents were surprised to be questioned about such subjects, upon which they presumed that every one must know as well as themselves. But this confidence speedily vanished when they came to be tested by inductive (a) interrogatories: citation of appropriate particulars, included or not included in the generalities which they laid down. The result proved that they could not answer the questions without speedily contradicting themselves: that they did not understand the comprehension of their own universal terms: and that upon all these matters, on which they talked so confidently, they had never applied themselves deliberately to learn, nor could they say how their judgments had been acquired or certified. (b)
[a Aristot. Metaphys. A. p. 987, b. 1, M. p. 1078, b. 30.]
[b Xenophon, Memorab. I., 1 16.]
[a So Aristotle calls them – λόγους έπακτικούς– Metaph. M. p. 1078, b. 28.]
[b Xenophon, Memorab. IV. 2-13-30-36.]
The conviction formed in the mind of Sokrates, after long persistence in such colloquial cross-examination, is consigned in his defence before the Athenian judicature, pronounced a month before his death. He declared that what he found every where was real ignorance, combined with false persuasion of knowledge: that this was the chronic malady of the human mind, which it had been his mission to expose: that no man was willing to learn, because no man believed that he stood in need of learning: that, accordingly, the first step in dispensable to all effective teaching, was to make the pupil a willing learner, by disabusing his mind of the false persuasion of knowledge, and by imparting to him the stimulus arising from a painful consciousness of ignorance.
Such was the remarkable psychological scrutiny instituted by Sokrates on his countrymen, and the verdict which it suggested to him. I have already observed that his great intellectual bent was to ascertain the definition of general terms, and to follow these out to a comprehensive and consistent classification. (c) It must be added that no man was ever less inclined to mysticism than Sokrates: and that he was thus exempt from those misleading influences which (according to Mr. James Mill, p. 260) “have led men away from the real object of Classification, and prevented them from understanding it till a late period in metaphysical enquiry.” Sokrates did not come before his countrymen with classifications of his own, originated or improved nor did he teach them how the process ought to be conducted. His purpose was, to test and appreciate that Classification which he found ready-made and current among them. He pronounced it to be worthless and illusory.
[c Xenophon. Memor. IV. 5, 12; IV. b. 1-7-10-15. ων ένεκα σκοπων συν τοις συνουσιν, τι εκαςον έιη των οντων, ουδέποε έληγε.]
Now I wish to point out that what Sokrates thus depreciated, is exactly that which this Chapter of the Analysis lays before us as Classification generally. I agree with the Analysis that Classification, up to a certain point, grows out of the principle of Association and the exigencies of the human mind, by steps instructively set forth in that work. But such natural growth reaches no higher standard than that which Sokrates tested and found so lamentably deficient, even among a public of unusual intelligence. It does not deserve the name of a “mighty operation” (bestowed upon it by Mr. James Mill, p. 270). It is a rudimentary procedure, indispensable as a basis on which to build, and sufficing in the main for social communication, when no science or reasoned truth is required: but failing altogether to realise what has been understood by philosophers, from Sokrates downward, as the true and full purpose of Classification. So long as the Class is conceived to be only what the Analysis describes, an indistinct aggregate of resembling individuals denoted by the same name, without clearly under standing wherein the resemblance consists, or what facts and attributes are connoted by the name (a) (I use the word connote, not in the sense of the Analysis, but in the sense of Mr. John Stuart Mill) so long will Classification continue to be, as Sokrates entitled it, a large persuasion of knowledge with little reality to sustain it.
[a The necessity of determining the connotation of the Classterm is distinctly put forward by Sokrates – Xenophon, Memorab. III. 14, 2. λόγω όντος περί ονομάτων, εφ ομς έργω έκςον έιη – Εχοιμεν άν (εφη) ειπείν, επί ποιω ποτε έργω άνθρωπος όψόφαγος καλιται; &c., also the remarkable passage IV., 6. 13 15, Plato, Sophistes, p. 218 B. τοΰνομα μόνον έχομεν κοινη το δέ έργον, εφ ω καλουμεν, &c.)
I pass now from Sokrates to Plato. It is true, as we read in the Analysis, (p. 271) that Plato “was so deeply struck with the importance of Classification, that he seems to have regarded it as the sum of all philosophy.” But what Plato thus admired was not the Classification that he found prevalent around him, such as this chapter of the Analysis depicts. Here Plato perfectly agreed with Sokrates. Among his immortal dialogues, several of the very best are devoted to the illustration of the Sokratic point of view: to the cross-examination and exposure of the minds around him, instructed as well as vulgar, in respect to the general terms familiarly used in speech. The Platonic questions and answers are framed to shew how little the respondents understand beneath those current generalities on which every one talks with confidence and fluency and how little they can avoid contradiction or in consistency, when their class-terms are confronted with particulars. In fact, Plato goes so far as to intimate that these uncertified classifications, generated in each man s mind by merely learning the application of words, and imbibed unconsciously, without special teaching, through the contagion of ordinary society are rather worse than ignorance: inasmuch as they are accompanied by a false persuasion of knowledge. It would be (in the opinion of Plato) a comparative improvement, if this state of mental confusion, creating a false persuasion of knowledge, were broken up; and if there were substituted in place thereof positive ignorance, together with the naked and painful consciousness of being really ignorant. Only in this way could the mind of the learner be stimulated to active effort in the acquisition of genuine knowledge. (a)
[a Plato, Sophistes, p. 230-231. Symposion, p. 204 A, Menon p. 84, A. D.]
Accordingly, when it is said that Plato was “deeply struck with the importance of Classification,” we must understand the phrase as applying to Classification, not as he found it prevalent, but as he idealized it. And the scheme that he imagined was not merely different from that which he found, but in direct repugnance to it. He denounced altogether the aggregate of individuals; he declared the class-constituent to reside in a reality apart from them, separate and self-existent the Idea or Form. He enjoined the student of philosophy to fix his contemplation on these Class-Ideas, the real Realities, in their own luminous region: and for that purpose, to turn his back upon the phenomenal particulars, which were mere transitory, shadowy, incoherent projections of these Ideas (a) and from the study of which no true knowledge could be obtained. Of the two statements in the Analysis (p. 271) that “Plato never dreamed of the mystical visions of his successors,” and that “his error (respecting Classification) lay in misconceiving the One; which he took, not for the aggregate, but something pervading the aggregate” neither one nor the other appears to me accurate. In regard to the second of the two, indeed, you may find various passages of Plato which, if construed separately, would countenance it: for Plato does not always talk Realism – nor always consistently with him self. But still his capital and peculiar theory was, Realism. The Platonic One was not something pervading the aggregate of particulars, but an independent and immutable reality, apart from the aggregate: and Plato, when he thus conceived the One, illustrating it by the vast hypotheses embodied in the Republic, Phædon, Phædrus, Symposion, Menon, &c., is the true originator of those “mystical visions” against which the Analysis justly protests. Such visions were doubtless suggested to Plato by “his deep sense of the importance of Classification:” but they are his own, though continued and amplified, without his decorative genius, by Neo-Platonic successors. His theory of classification was the first ever propounded; and that theory was Realism. The doctrine here ascribed to him by Mr. James Mill is much more Aristotelian than Platonic. The main issue raised by Aristotle against Plato was, upon the essential separation, and separate objective existence, of the Abstract and Universal: Plato affirmed it, Aristotle denied it. (a) Aristotle recognised no reality apart from the Particular, to which the Universal was attached as a predicate, either essential or accidental to its subject. The Aristotelian Universal may thus be called, in relation to a body of similar particulars, not the aggregate but something pervading the aggregate. But this is not Plato’s view: it is the negation of the Platonic Realism.
[a This is what we read in the memorable simile of the Cave, in Plato, Republic, VII., p. 514-519. The language used throughout this simile is περιάγειν, περιακτέον, περιαγωγή, &c. He supposes that the natural state of man is to have his face and vision towards the particular phenomena, and his back to wards the universal realities: the great problem is, how to make the man face about, turn his back towards phenomena, and his eyes towards Universals – τά όντα – τά νοητά. Nothing can be learnt from observation however accute, of the phenomena. The same point is enforced with all the charm of Platonic expression in Republ. V. 478, 479, VI., 493, 494. Symposion, p. 210-211, Phædon, p. 74-75.
[a According to Plato, it is τό έν πα οάτάπολλά. According to Aristotle, it is έν κατα πολλων – έν και το αυτο έπι πλειόνων μή όμωνυμον έν έπι πολλων. Aualyt. Poster. I. 11, p. 77, a. 6. Metaphys. I. 9, p. 990, b. 7-13.
Whoever reads the portions of Plato’s dialogues indicated in my last preceding foot note, will see how material this difference is between the two philosophers.
In the remarkable passage of the Analyt. Post. I. 24, p. 85, a. 3C, b. 20, Aristotle notices the Platonic hypothesis that the Universal has real objective, separate, existence apart from its particulars (τό καθόλυ εζί τι παρα τα καθ έκαζα) as an illusion, mischievous and misleading frequent, but not unavoidable.
See the antithesis between Plato and Aristotle, on the subject of Universals, more copiously explained in the recent work of Professor Bain. Mental and Moral Science, Appendix, pp. 6-20.]
When we read in the Analysis (p. 265) that “the word man is not a word having a very simple idea, as was the opinion of the Realists; nor a word having no idea at all, as was that of the Nominalists” – this language seems to me not well-chosen. As to the Realists the Platonic Ideas are conceived as eternal, immutable, grand, dignified, &c., but Aristotle (a) contends that they cannot all be simple: for the Idea of Man (e.g.) can hardly be simple, when there exists distinct Ideas of Animal and of Biped. As to the Nominalists we cannot surely say that they conceived the universal term as “having no idea at all.” A doctrine something like this is ascribed (on no certain testimony) to Stilpon, in the generation succeeding Aristotle: the word Man (Stilpon is said to have affirmed (b)) did not mean John more than William or Thomas or Richard, &c., therefore it did not mean either one of them: therefore it had no meaning at all. So also William of Ockham is said to have declared that Universal Terms were mere “flatus vocis:” but this (as Prantl has shewn (c)) was a phrase fastened upon him by his opponents, not employed by himself. Still less can it be admitted that Hobbes and Berkeley conceived the Universal Term as “having no idea at all.” They denied indeed Universal Ideas in the Realistic sense: they also denied what Berkeley calls “determinate abstract Ideas:” but both of them explained (Berkeley especially) that the Universal term meant, any particular idea, considered as representing or standing for all other particular ideas of the same sort. (d) Whether this be the best and most complete explanation or not, it can hardly have been present to Mr. James Mill’s mind, when he said that the Universal term had no idea at all in the opinion of the Nominalists.
[a Aristot. Metaphys. Z. 1039, a. 27, 1040, a. 23.]
[b See Grote, Plato and the other Companions of Sokrates, Vol. III., ch. 38, p. 523.]
[c Prantl, Geschichte der Logik, Vol. III., Sect. 19, p. 327.]
[d Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge, Introduction, Sect. 12, 15, 16.]
There is one other remark to be made, respecting the view of Classification presented in the eighth Chapter of the Analysis. We read in the beginning of that Chapter – p. 249 – “Forming a class of things is a mode of regarding them. But what is meant by a mode of regarding things? This is mysterious: and is as mysteriously explained, when it is said to be the taking into view the particulars in which individuals agree. For what is there which it is possible for the mind to take into view, in that in which individuals agree? Every colour is an individual colour, every size is an individual size, every shape is an individual shape. But things have no individual colour in common, no individual shape in common, no individual size in common: that is to say, they have neither shape, colour, nor size in common. What then is it which they have in common which the mind can take into view? Those who affirmed that it was something, could by no means tell. They substituted words for things: using vague and mystical phrases, which when examined meant nothing.”
Here we find certain phrases, often used both in common speech and in philosophy, condemned us mystical and obscure. In the next or ninth Chapter (on Abstraction, p. 295 seq.), we shall see the language substituted for them, and the theory by which the mystery is supposed to be removed. I cannot but think that the theory of Mr. James Mill himself is open to quite as many objections as that which he impugns. He finds fault with those who affirm that the word cube or sphere is applied to a great many different objects by reason of the shape which they have in common; and that they may be regarded so far forth as cube or sphere. But surely this would not have been considered as either incorrect or mysterious by any philosopher, from Aristotle downward. When I am told that it is incorrect, because the shape of each object is an individual shape, I dissent from the reason given. In my judgment, the term individual is a term applicable, properly and specially, to a concrete object – to that which Aristotle would have called a Hoc Aliquid. The term is not applicable to a quality or attribute. The same quality that belongs to one object, may also belong to an indefinite number of others. It is this common quality that is connoted (in the sense of that word employed by Mr. John Stuart Mill) by the class-term: and if there were no common quality, the class-term would have no connotation. In other words, there would be no class: nor would it be correct to apply to any two objects the same concrete appellative name.
But when we come to the following Chapter of the Analysis (ch. ix. on Abstraction, p. 296), we read as follows “Let us suppose that we apply the adjective black first to the word Man. We say ‘black man.’ But we speedily see that for the same reason for which we say black man, we may say black horse, black cow, black coat, and so on. The word black is thus associated with innumerable modifications of the sensation black. By frequent repetition, and the gradual strengthening of the association, these modifications are at last called up in such rapid succession that they appear commingled, and no longer many ideas, but one. Black is therefore no longer an individual, but a general name. It marks not the particular black of a particular individual, but the black of every individual and of all individuals.”
To say that we apply the word black to the horse for the same reason as we applied it to the man, is surely equivalent to saying that the colour of the horse is the same as that of the man: that blackness is the colour which they have in. common. It is quite true that we begin by applying the name to one individual object, then apply it to another, and another, &c.; but always for the same reason to designate (or connote, in the phraseology of Mr. John Stuart Mill) the same colour in them all, and to denote the objects considered under one and the same point of view. It may be that in fact there are differences in shade of colour: but the class-name leaves these out of sight. When we desire to call attention to them, we employ other words in addition to it. Every attribute is considered and named as One, which is or may be common to many individual objects: the objects only are individual.
It is to be regretted, I think, that Mr. James Mill disconnected Classification so pointedly from Abstraction, and insisted on explaining the former without taking account of the latter. Such disconnection is a novelty, as he himself states (p. 294): previous expositors thought that “abstraction was included in classification” and, in my judgment, they were right in thinking so, if (with Mr. James Mill) we are to consider Classification as a “great operation.” An aggregate of concretes is not sufficient to constitute a Class, in any scientific sense, or as available in the march of reasoned truth. You must have, besides, the peculiar mode of regarding the aggregate: (a phrase which Mr. James Mill deprecates as mysterious, but which it is difficult to exchange for any other words more intelligible) you must have “that separating one or more of the ingredients of a complex idea from the rest, which has received the name of Abstraction” – to repeat the very just ex planation given by him, p. 295 – though that too, if we look at p. 249, he seems to consider as tainted with mystery.
We proceed afterwards to some clear and good additional remarks – p. 298. A class-term, as black, “is associated with two distinguishable things, but with the one much more than with the other: – the clusters, with which it is associated, are variable: the peculiar sensation with which it is associated, is invariable. It is constantly, and therefore much more strongly, associated with the sensation, than with any of the clusters. It is at once a name of the clusters and a name of the sensation: but it is more peculiarly a name of the sensation.” Again shortly afterwards, the abstract term is justly described as “marking exclusively one part (of the cluster), upon which such and such effects depend, no alteration being supposed in any other part of it.” (a)
[a The abstract term is coined for the express purpose of marking one part of a cluster simultaneously present to the mind, and fixing attention upon it without the other parts but the concrete term is often made to serve the same purpose, by means of the adverb quatenus, κάθοσον, ζ; &c. These phrases are frequent both in Plato and Aristotle: the stock of abstract terms was in their day comparatively small. It is needless to multiply illustrations of that which pervades the compositions of both: a very good one appears in Plato, Republ. I., p. 340 D, 341 C, 342.]
This process of marking exclusively, and attending to, one constant portion of a complex state of consciousness, amidst a great variety of variable adjuncts – is doubtless one fundamental characteristic in Abstraction and Classification. A mystery was spread around it by Plato – first through his ascribing to the Constant a separate self-existence, apart from the Variables still more by his hyperbolical predicates respecting these self-existent transcendental Entia. Plato (a) however in other passages gives many just opinions, respecting Classification, which are no way founded on Realism, and are equally admissible by Nominalists: and portions of Aristotle may be indicated, which describe the process of abstraction as clearly as any thing in Hobbes or Berkeley. (b)
[a The two Platonic dialogues, Sophïstes and Politikus, (in which processes of Classification are worked out.) give precepts, for correct and pertinent classification, not necessarily involving the theory of Realism, but rather putting it out of sight; though in one special part of the Sophistes, the debate is made to turn upon it. The main purpose of Plato is to fix upon some fact or phenomenon, clear and appropriate, as the groundwork for distinguishing each class or sub-class and to define thereby each class-term (i.e., to determine its connotation, in the sense of Mr. John Stuart Mill). Plato deprecates the mere following out of resemblances as a most slippery proceeding (ολισθηοότατον γένος– Sophist. 231 A). The commonly received classes carry with them in his opinion, no real knowledge, but only the false per suasion of knowledge: he wants to break them up and remodel them.]
[b See especially Aristot. De Memoriâ et Reminiscentiâ, c. 1, p. 449, b. 13. De Sensu et Sensili, c. 6, p. 445, b. 17. De Animâ III. 8, p. 432, a. 9.]
One farther remark may be made upon these two Chapters of the Analysis. Mr. James Mill seems to take little or no thought of Classification and Abstraction, except as performed by Adjectives. But the adjective presupposes a substantive, which is alike an appellative; and which has already performed its duty in the way of abstracting and classifying. This fact seems to be overlooked in the language of some sentences in the present Chapter: for example – “Some successions are found to depend upon the clusters called objects, all taken together. Thus a tree, a man, a stone, are the antecedents of certain consequents, as such: and not on account of any particular part of the cluster. Other consequents depend not upon the whole cluster, but upon some particular part: thus a tall tree produces certain effects which a tree not tall cannot produce,” &c.
I think that the phraseology of this passage is not quite clear. “The whole cluster all taken together is not a tree as such – a man as such – a stone as such – but this particular man, tree, or stone, as it stands: John, Thomas, Caius or Titius, clothed with all his predicates, acting or suffering in some given manner. When we speak of a man as such or quatenus man we do not include the whole cluster, but only those attributes connoted (in Mr. John Stuart Mill’s sense of the word) by the name man: we speak of him as a member of the class Man. What I wish to point out is – That Man is a class-term, just as much as tall or short: only it is the name of a larger class, while tall man is a smaller class under it. The school-logicians did not consider substantives as connotative, but only adjectives: Mr. James Mill has followed them as to this extent of the word, though he has inverted their meaning of it (see p. 299). Mr. John Stuart Mill, while declining to adopt the same inversion, has enlarged the meaning of the word connotative, so as to include appellative substantives as well as adjectives. G.]
[80 Rejecting the notion that classes and classification would not have existed but for the necessity of economizing names, we may say that objects are formed into classes on account of their resemblance. It is natural to think of like objects together; which is, indeed, one of the two fundamental laws of association. But the resembling objects which are spontaneously thought of together, are those which resemble each other obviously, in their superficial aspect. These are the only classes which we should form unpremeditatedly, and without the use of expedients. But there are other resemblances which are not superficially obvious; and many are not brought to light except by long experience, or observation carefully directed to the purpose; being mostly resemblances in the manner in which the objects act on, or are acted on by, other things. These more recondite resemblances are often those which are of greatest importance to our interests. It is important to us that we should think of those things together, which agree in any particular that materially concerns us. For this purpose, besides the classes which form themselves in our minds spontaneously by the general law of association, we form other classes artificially, that is, we take pains to associate mentally together things which we wish to think of together, but which are not sufficiently associated by the spontaneous action of association by resemblance. The grand instrument we employ in forming these artificial associations, is general names. We give a common name to all the objects, we associate each of the objects with the name, and by their common association with the name they are knit together in close association with one another.
But in what manner does the name effect this purpose, of uniting into one complex class-idea all the objects which agree with one another in certain definite particulars? We effect this by associating the name in a peculiarly strong and close manner with those particulars. It is, of course, associated with the objects also; and the name seldom or never calls up the ideas of the class-characteristics unaccompanied by any other qualities of the objects. All our ideas are of individuals, or of numbers of individuals, and are clothed with more or fewer of the attributes which are peculiar to the individuals thought of. Still, a class-name stands in a very different relation to the definite resemblances which it is intended to mark, from that in which it stands to the various accessory circumstances which may form part of the image it calls up. There are certain attributes common to the entire class, which the class-name was either deliberately selected as a mark of, or, at all events, which guide us in the application of it. These attributes are the real meaning of the class-name – are what we intend to ascribe to an object when we call it by that name. With these the association of the name is close and strong: and the employment of the same name by different persons, provided they employ it with a precise adherence to the meaning, ensures that they shall all include these attributes in the complex idea which they associate with the name. This is not the case with any of the other qualities of the individual objects, even if they happen to be common to all the objects, still less if they belong only to some of them. The class-name calls up, in every mind that hears or uses it, the idea of one or more individual objects, clothed more or less copiously with other qualities than those marked by the name; but these other qualities may, consistently with the purposes for which the class is formed and the name given, be different with different persons, and with the same person at different times. What images of individual horses the word horse shall call up, depends on such accidents as the person s taste in horses, the particular horses he may happen to possess, the descriptions he last read, or the casual peculiarities of the horses he recently saw. In general, therefore, no very strong or permanent association, and especially no association com mon to all who use the language, will be formed between the word horse and any of the qualities of horses but those expressly or tacitly recognised as the foundations of the class. The complex ideas thus formed consisting of an inner nucleus of definite elements always the same, imbedded in a generally much greater number of elements indefinitely variable, are our ideas of classes; the ideas connected with general names; what are called General Notions: which are neither real objective entities, as the Realists held, nor mere names, as supposed to be maintained by the Nominalists, nor abstract ideas excluding all properties not common to the class, such as Locke s famous Idea of a triangle that is neither equilateral nor isosceles nor scalene. We cannot represent to ourselves a triangle with no properties but those common to all triangles: but we may re present it to ourselves sometimes in one of those three forms, sometimes in another, being aware all the while that all of them are equally consistent with its being a triangle.
One important consequence of these considerations is, that the meaning of a class-name is not the same thing with the complex idea associated with it. The complex idea associated with the name man, includes, in the mind of every one, innumerable simple ideas besides those which the name is intended to mark, and in the absence of which it would not be predicated. But this multitude of simple ideas which help to swell the complex idea are infinitely variable, and never exactly the same in any two persons, depending in each upon the amount of his knowledge, and the nature, variety, and recent date of his experience. They are therefore no part of the meaning of the name. They are not the association common to all, which it was intended to form, and which enables the name to be used by all in the same manner, to be understood in a common sense by all, and to serve, therefore, as a vehicle for the communication, between one and another, of the same thoughts. What does this, is the nucleus of more closely associated ideas, which is the constant element in the complex idea of the class, both in the same mind at different times, and in different minds.
It is proper to add, that the class-name is not solely a mark of the distinguishing class-attributes, it is a mark also of the objects. The name man does not merely signify the qualities of animal life, rationality, and the human form, it signifies all individual men. It even signifies these in a more direct way than it signifies the attributes, for it is predicated of the men, but not predicated of the attributes; just as the proper name of an individual man is predicated of him. We say, This is a man, just as we say, This is John Thompson: and if John Thompson is the name of one man, Man is, in the same manner, a name of all men. A class name, being thus a name of the various objects composing the class, signifies two distinct things, in two different modes of signification. It signifies the individual objects which are the class, and it signifies the common attributes which constitute the class. It is predicated only of the objects; but when predicated, it conveys the information that these objects possess those attributes. Every concrete class-name is thus a connotative name. It marks both the objects and their common attributes, or rather, that portion of their com moo attributes in virtue of which they have been made into a class. It denotes the objects, and, in a mode of speech lately revived from the old logicians, it connotes the attributes. The author of the Analysis employs the word connote in a different manner; we shall presently examine which of the two is best.
We are now ready to consider whether the author’s account of the ideas connected with General Names is a true and sufficient one. It is best expressed in his own words. “The word Man, we shall say, is first applied to an individual; it is first associated with the idea of that individual, and acquires the power of calling up the idea of him; it is next applied to another individual, and acquires the power of calling up the idea of him; so of another, and another, till it has become associated with an indefinite number, and has acquired the power of calling up an indefinite number of those ideas indifferently. What happens? It does call up an indefinite number of the ideas of individuals, as often as it occurs, and calling them up in close connexion, it forms them into a species of complex idea.... When the word man calls up the ideas of an indefinite number of individuals, not only of all those to whom I have individually given the name, but of all those to whom I have in imagination given it, or imagine it will ever be given, and forms all those ideas into one, it is evidently a very complex idea, and therefore indistinct; and this indistinctness has doubtless been the main cause of the mystery which has appeared to belong to it That this however is the process, is an inevitable result of the laws of association.”
In brief, my idea of a Man is a complex idea compounded of the ideas of all the men I have ever known and of all those I have ever imagined, knit together into a kind of unit by a close association.
The author’s description of the manner in which the class-association begins to be formed, is true and instructive; but does any one s idea of a man actually include all that the author finds in it? By an inevitable result of the laws of association, it is impossible to form an idea of a man in the abstract; the class-attributes are always represented in the mind as part of an image of an individual, either remembered or imagined; this individual may vary from time to time, and several images of individuals may present themselves either alternatively or in succession: but is it necessary that the name should recall images of all the men I ever knew or imagined, or even all of whom I retain a remembrance? In no person who has seen or known many men, can this be the case. Apart from the ideas of the common attributes, the other ideas whether of attributes or of individual men, which enter into the complex idea, are indefinitely variable not only in kind but in quantity. Some people s complex idea of the class is extremely meagre, that of others very ample. Sometimes we know a class only from its definition, i.e. from an enumeration of its class-attributes, as in the case of an object which we have only read of in scientific books: in such a case the idea raised by the class-name will not be limited to the class-attributes, for we are unable to conceive any object otherwise than clothed with miscellaneous attributes: but these, not being derived from experience of the objects, may be such as the objects never had, nor could have; while nevertheless the class, and the class-name, answer their proper purpose; they cause us to group together all the things possessing the class-attributes, and they inform us that we may expect those attributes in anything of which that name is predicated.
The defect, as it seems to me, of the view taken of General Names in the text, is that it ignores this distinction between the meaning of a general name, and the remainder of the idea which the general name calls up. That remainder is uncertain, variable, scanty in some cases, copious in others, and connected with the name by a very slight tie of association, continually overcome by counter-associations. The only part of the complex idea that is permanent in the same mind, or common to several minds, consists of the distinctive attributes marked by the class-name. Nothing else is universally present, though something else is always present: but whatever else be present, it is through these only that the class-name does its work, and effects the end of its existence. We need not therefore be surprised that these attributes, being all that is of importance in the complex idea, should for a long time have been supposed to be all that is contained in it. The truest doctrine which can be laid down on the subject seems to be this that the idea corresponding to a class-name is the idea of a certain constant combination of class attributes, accompanied by a miscellaneous and indefinitely variable collection of ideas of individual objects belonging to the class. Ed.]