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DRS. HARTLEY AND PRIESTLEY.
VIBRATIONS AND ASSOCIATION OF IDEAS.
Doctor David HARTLEY was born on the 26th August 1705. He was the son of a very worthy and respectable clergyman, at Armsley, in the county of York. He received the first rudiments of his education at a private school, and his academical instruction at Cambridge. He was admitted to Jesus' College at the age of fifteen years, and was afterwards elected a fellow of that Society. He was originally intended for the church, and
proceeded for some time in his thoughts and studies towards that object; but upon a closer consideration of the conditions attached to the clerical
fession, he was restrained by some scruples which made him reluctant to subscribe the thirty-nine articles. In consequence of these scruples he became disqualified for the pursuit of his first plan of devoting himself to the personal functions and service of the church. However, he still continued to the end of his life a well-affected member of the Church of England, approving of its practical doctrines, and conforming to its public worship.
He went through a regular course of instruction for the
purpose of qualifying himself for a medical profession, and he afterwards practised with considerable success in Northamptonshire, London, and Bath, at which latter place he continued to the day of his death, which took place in the year 1757.
Dr. Hartley's first publication was in 1737, and entitled “A View of the Present Evidence for and against Mrs. Stephen's Medicines as a Solvent for the Stone ;" and it is said, that not long after, he wrote a treatise in defence of inoculation for the small-pox. But his greatest work, “ Observations on Man, his Frame, his Duty, and his Expectations,” was not published until 1747, though it had been written for more than three
before. Dr. Hartley is uniformly represented by his biographers as a person of great piety and personal worth. He lived upon the most intimate terms of friendship with Drs. Low, Butler, Warburton, and Jortin, and many other eminent authors of his day,
Dr. Joseph PRIESTLEY, a celebrated philosopher and divine, was born on the 24th March 1733, of parents who belonged to a body of dissenters of the Calvinistic persuasion, at Field-head, near Leeds. He early adopted the Unitarian principles, of which he became an eminent and zealous supporter. He has distinguished himself principally by his philosophical labours.
In 1767, he published his history of electricity, and dedicated it to the Earl of Morton, President of the Royal Society; and this publication, with some other chemical tracts, gained him so much reputation, that proposals were made to him by the Earl of Shelburne, to go and reside in his family, which were too advantageous to be refused. During his residence with the noble earl, he published his examination of the Doctrine of Common Sense, as held by Drs. Beattie, Reid, and Oswald ; and, in 1777, his Disquisitions on Matter and Spirit made their appearance, in which he openly supported the material system, which subjected him to a greater degree of odium than any of his other opinions. This publication was afterwards followed by a defence of Unitarianism, or the simple humanity of Christ, and of the doctrine of philosophical necessity. After continuing in this family for several years, he displeased his Lordship by some of his theological opinions, and he retired on a pension of L.150 per annum.
It cannot be expected, in a short essay like the present, that a complete analysis can be given of all the works of the above-named authors, or of several other writers, who have distinguished themselves by advocating the doctrines of vibrations, and the association of ideas. The only practicable plan, without spinning our observations to too great a length, and thereby exhausting the attention of the reader, is to treat the subjects, mentioned at the head of this chapter, generally, to look at the most prominent features of the entire system, and to examine its leading principles.
The doctrines in question, those of vibrations, and the association of ideas, though noticed before Dr. Hartley's time, were not embodied into any regular system, but consisted in loose hints and casual observations. But, after the publication of that phi
losopher's treatise “ On Man,” these questions assumed a more imposing attitude; they formed one of the public theories of the day; philosophical curiosity was roused; and every one appeared desirous of seeing how beautifully the Doctor, “ by an admirable example of synthetic reasoning,” would show to the world that man was only a species of living harpsichord; and that all the faculties of his body and soul might be traced to a single principle or two-the doctrine of vibrations, and the association of ideas. Some hailed the doctrine with a becoming degree of rapture and admiration, and solemnly vowed, that every thing of an intellectual and moral nature, which had puzzled them before, was now clearly and satisfactorily explained. On the other hand, many considered the new doctrine as ominous of a relapse into scholastic barbarism and ignorance; besides taking into account the very suspicious operation it might have on morals and religion. But, after many years have elapsed, and many keen and bitter controversies have passed away, leaving but very faint traces of their exist. ence, we still find the doctrine of the association of ideas taught, either generally or partially, in the schools of moral and metaphysical philosophy; still possessing, in the eyes of many persons of learning