Powers of the Mind

Powers of the Mind are those faculties by which we think, reason, judge, etc. SEE GOD; SEE SOUL. "They are so various," says Dr. Reid, "so many, so connected and complicated in most of their operations, that there never has been any division of them proposed which is not liable to considerable objections. The most common division is that of understanding and will. Under the will we comprehend our active powers, and all that lead to action, or influence the mind to act-such as appetites, passions, affections. The understanding comprehends our contemplative powers, by which we perceive objects; by which we conceive or remember them; by which we analyze or compound them; and by which we judge and reason concerning them. Or, the intellectual powers are commonly divided into simple apprehension, judgment, and reasoning." Locke divides powers into those "able to make, or able to receive, ally change; the one may be called active, and the other passive power" (Essay on Human Understanding, bk. 2, ch. 21). But Reid takes exception to this division, and passes the following stricture upon it: "Whereas he (Locke) distinguishes power into active and passive, I conceive passive power to be no power at all. He means by it the possibility of being changed. To call this power seems to be a misapplication of the word. I do not remember to have met with the phrase passive power in any other good author. Mr. Locke seems to have been unlucky in inventing it; and it deserves not to be retained in our language." "This paragraph," says Sir W. Hamilton (Reid's Works, p. 519, note), "is erroneous in almost all its statements." 'The distinction between power as active and passive is clearly taken by Aristotle. But he says that in one point of view they are but one power (Metaphys. lib. 5, c. 12), while in another they are two (ibid. lib. 9:c. 1). He also distinguishes powers into rational and irrational-into those which we have by nature, and those which we acquire by repetition of acts. These distinctions have been generally admitted by subsequent philosophers. Dr. Reid, however, only used the word power to signify active power. That we have the idea of power, and how we come by it, he shows in opposition to Hume (Act. Pow. ess. 1, ch. 2, 4).

According to Hume, we have no proper notion of power. It is a mere relation which the mind conceives to exist between one thing going before and another thing coming after. All that we observe is merely antecedent and consequent. Neither sensation nor reflection furnishes us with any idea of power or efficacy in the antecedent to produce the consequent. The views of Dr. Brown are somewhat similar. It is when the succession is constant-when the antecedent is uniformly followed by the consequent — that we call the one cause and the other effect; but we have no ground for believing that there is any other relation between them or any virtue in the one to originate or produce the other— that is, that we have no proper idea of power. Now, that our idea of power cannot be explained by the philosophy which derives all our ideas from sensation and reflection is true. Power is not an object of sense. All that we observe is succession. But when we see one thing invariably succeeded by another, we not only connect the one as effect and the other as cause, and view them under that relation, but we frame the idea of power, and conclude that there is a virtue, an efficacy, a force in the one thing to originate or produce the other; and that the connection between them is not only uniform and unvaried, but universal and necessary. This is the common idea of power, and that there is such an idea framed and entertained by the human mind cannot be denied. The legitimacy and validity of the idea can be fully vindicated.

"In the strict sense, power and agency are attributes of mind only; and I think that mind only can be a cause in the strict sense. This power, indeed, may be where it is not exerted, and so may be without agency or causation; but there can be no agency or causation without power to act and to produce the effect. As far as I can judge, to everything we call a cause we ascribe power to produce the effect. In intelligent causes, the power may be without being exerted; so I have power to run while I sit still or walk. But in inanimate causes we conceive no power but what is exerted, and, therefore, measure the power of the cause by the effect which it actually produces. The power of an acid to dissolve iron is measured by what it actually dissolves. We get the notion of active power, as well as of cause and effect, as I think, from what we feel in ourselves. We feel in ourselves a power to move our limbs, and to produce certain effects when we choose. Hence we get the notion of power, agency, and causation in the strict and philosophical sense; and this I take to be our first notion of these three things" (Reid, Correspondence, p. 77, 78).

"The liability of a thing to be influenced by a cause is called passive power, or more properly susceptibility; while the efficacy of the cause is called active power. Heat has the power of melting wax; and, in the language of some, ice has the power of being melted" (Day, On the Will, p. 33). SEE CAUSE.

It is usual to speak of a power of resistance in matter, and of a power of endurance in mind. Both these are passive power. Active power is the principle of action, whether immanent or transient. Passive power is the principle of bearing or receiving. See Reid, On the Active Powers; Id. On the Human Mind, and the Intellectual Powers; Locke, On the Understanding; Stewart, Brown, and Abercrombie. SEE MIND.

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.