« PreviousContinue »
difficulty will be found with some particular parts; but on no account should the learner be allowed to fall into the habit of producing an exercise deficient in any of them. He must be made to understand that in every piece of writing there should be the same proportion of parts as in any other piece of art, and that the absence of any one of these will give an imperfect and distorted effect to his composition. Each of the numbered divisions (see Part IV. p. 121) is intended to furnish matter for a distinct paragraph, so that the paragraphs in every theme may equal in number those given in the sketch. The double subject is intended still further to exercise the learner's powers both of reasoning and expression.
The other chapters in this work, on style, sentences, figurative language, &c., are to be read attentively by the pupil, and commented on by the teacher, the questions referring to each division being made use of for this purpose.
IDEAS, WORDS, AND PROPOSITIONS,
EVERY one knows that when he sees an object for the first time (suppose a horse or a stone), a certain impression is made on his mind by the sight of it. The eye is the organ or instrument by which this communication is made between the object (here, the horse or the stone) and the mind.
A similar effect takes place in the case of sound. An impression, different from the one above mentioned, b
is here also made, but through another medium, - viz., the ear.
The barking of a dog, the notes of a melody, the moaning of the wind, the creaking of a door, &c., are among the means by which impressions of this kind are received.
Just in the same way, and by similar means, impressions are conveyed to the mind through the organ of smelling.
By bringing a sweet-scented flower within a certain distance of the nerves of the nose,
scientifically called the olfactory, the mind is agreeably affected.
The organ of taste, placed in the tongue and palate, enables us to distinguish between what is agreeable or disagreeable as an article of food; and its functions are chiefly confined to such objects as are fit for our bodily nourishment.
Different impressions, again, are conveyed by the sense of touching, which is not confined to any particular organ, but is diffused over the whole body. The qualities heat, cold, roughness, smoothness, hardness, softness, &c., are conveyed to the mind through this channel.
Of these various impressions, some are agreeable, and others the reverse ; but they are all made respectively, by the means above mentioned. It should also be observed, that in all of these cases, although the person affected must be in some communication with the object which causes the impression, the distance differs in the operation of the different senses. the cases of touching and tasting, the objects must be in actual contact with the organs. In smelling, the effect may be produced by not quite so close a proximity of the object. In hearing, it may be produced at a still greater distance; whilst in seeing, we are brought into communication with objects many miles off.
Now, the impressions thus made on the mind by means of the senses are called “ideas;"1 so that by
| The English word “idea” comes from the Greek idéa, the form or external appearance of anything. The Greek word itself is a derivative from ideîv, “to see ;” and in a philosophical sense signifies a mental representation of an object.
the “idea” of an object, or action, we understand simply the impression made by that object or action upon the mind.
We must also remember that these impressions are not confined to the time in which they are making ; but that we have the power of recalling them at pleasure: thus, when we see a tree, hear a tune, or smell a flower, the ideas conveyed are not only impressed at the time, but can be brought back to our minds when the causes of them are no longer present.
Words have been called “the signs of our ideas.” By this is meant that a certain combination of letters, when pronounced or written, represents a certain idea for which it has been agreed that it shall stand. But this agreement is only conventional
not necessary: any other combination of letters, when once determined on, and universally accepted, would equally well answer the purpose. Indeed, this is obviously true, when we consider that the same combination of letters does not with all men represent the same idea. Thus it has been agreed upon in England, that a certain idea shall be represented by the word house. In France, however, the combination which represents the same idea is maison ; in Italy, it is casa; in Germany, Haus ; thus differing in different languages.
But though words are signs, they are very imperfect and incomplete signs of our ideas; for they by no means describe extensively or accurately all the objects, actions, or qualities for which they stand. For example, the word tree will, when written or pronounced, recall a certain idea generally ; but neither particularly nor individually : it will bring to mind a
substance growing up out of the earth, and having a trunk, branches, and leaves; but the word will, of itself, give us no information as to its height, size, colour, age, species, and many other particulars.
Again, the term "good" conveys, generally, a favourable impression, but leaves us quite uninformed as to whether it refers to manners, skill, intellectual power, morality, or religion ; for the expression, “a good man," may mean a good (skilful) workman, a good (acute) logician, a good (kind) father, or a good (pious) Christian, &c.
Lastly, the word strike gives us a general idea of a very common action ; but leaves us wholly in the dark as to the agent, degree, time, &c., of that action. All this information we m gather from other sources.
Hence it will appear that words require analysing and explaining, and this from the very imperfection of their nature. Our ideas are, in fact, in a great majority of cases, complex ; that is, in the contemplation of any object, action, or quality, the whole idea is made up of various parts, all of which cannot be described by the one word.
CONCRETE AND ABSTRACT TERMS.
The most comprehensive classification of words is into concretel and abstract.2
“ Concrete," derived from the Latin concretus, literally signifies “ united in growth.” The word is applied to all those ideas which represent material substances, the particles of which are united so as to form a solid mass.
2 “ Abstract” is from the Latin abstractus, the participle of the verb abstrahere, and literally means “ drawn from."