William Hamilton, fully Sir William Hamilton, 9th Baronet

Hamilton, fully Sir William Hamilton, 9th Baronet

Scottish Metaphysician and Philosopher

Author Quotes

By a double blunder in philosophy and Greek, ideologic… has in France become the name peculiarly distinctive of that philosophy of mind which exclusively derives our knowledge from sensation.

Metaphysics, in whatever latitude the term be taken, is a science or complement of sciences exclusively occupied with mind.

The word perception is, in the language of philosophers previous to Reid, used in a very extensive signification. By Descartes, Malebranche, Locke, Leibnitz, and others, it is employed in a sense almost as unexclusive as consciousness, in its widest signification. By Reid this word was limited to our faculty acquisitive of knowledge, and to that branch of this faculty whereby, through the senses, we obtain a knowledge of the external world. But his limitation did not stop here. In the act of external perception he distinguished two elements, to which he gave the names of perception and sensation. He ought perhaps to have called these perception proper and sensation proper, when employed in his special meaning.

Consciousness is thus, on the one hand, the recognition by the mind or “ego” of its acts and affections:—in other words, the self-affirmation that certain modifications are known by me, and that these modifications are mine.

Modes or modifications of mind, in the Cartesian school, mean merely what some recent philosophers express by states of mind.

This [faculty], to which I give the name of the “elaborative faculty,”—the faculty of relations or comparisons,—constitutes what is properly denominated thought.

Ethics is the science of the laws which govern our actions as moral agents.

Nirvana is an experience of the Unconditioned which defies any description. Any description of Nirvana is not a description of Nirvana, and that is the most that can be said about Nirvana. There are no reference points in Nirvana on which to base a description.

This may enable us to understand how seductive is the influence of example.

Hardly is there a similarity detected between two or three facts, than men hasten to extend it to all others.

Now the science conversant about all such inferences of unknown being from its known manifestations, is called ontology, or metaphysics proper.

This word is employed by English writers in a very loose and improper sense. It is with them usually convertible into hypothesis, and hypothesis is commonly used as another term for conjecture. The terms theory and theoretical are properly used in opposition to the terms practice and practical. In this sense they were exclusively employed by the ancients; and in this sense they are almost exclusively employed by the continental philosophers.

I do not hesitate to maintain, that what we are conscious of is constructed out of what we are not conscious of,-that our whole knowledge, in fact, is made up of the unknown and the incognisable.

On earth there is nothing great but man; in man there is nothing great but mind.

To view attention as a special state of intelligence, and to distinguish it from consciousness, is utterly inept.

I use the term understanding not for the noetic faculty, intellect proper, or place of principles, but for the dianoetic or discursive faculty in its widest signification, for the faculty of relations or comparisons; and thus in the meaning in which “Verstand” is now employed by the Germans.

Paradoxically, as the mind becomes simpler, it can perceive greater complexity.

I would employ the word noetic to express all those cognitions which originate in the mind itself.

Philosophical doubt is not an end, but a mean.

Identity is a relation between our cognitions of a thing, not between things themselves.

Philosophy has been defined:—the science of things divine and human, and the causes in which they are contained;—the science of effects by their causes;—the science of sufficient reasons;—the science of things possible, inasmuch as they are possible;—the science of things evidently deduced from their first principles;—the science of truths sensible and abstract;—the application of reason to its legitimate objects;—the science of the relations of all knowledge to the necessary ends of human reason;—the science of the original form of the ego, or mental self;—the science of science;—the science of the absolute;—the science of the absolute indifference of the ideal and real.

If we consider the mind merely with a view of observing and generalizing the various phenomena it reveals, that is, of analyzing them into capacities or faculties, we have one mental science, or one department of mental science; and this we may call the phenomenology of mind.

Power is, therefore, a word which we may use both in an active and in a passive signification; and in psychology we may apply it both to the active faculty and to the passive capacity of the mind.

If, therefore, mediate knowledge be in propriety a knowledge, consciousness is not co-extensive with knowledge.

Practice is exercise of an art, or the application of a science in life, which application is itself an art.

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Scottish Metaphysician and Philosopher