Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/39
upon meeting his class broke down in giving a lecture (No. 36 in the collected edition), which always affected him. He never lectured again. His health was injured by worry about providing a substitute, and afterwards by severe weather. His physicians recommended a voyage to London. He died at Brompton on 2 April 1820. He had left to his friend and biographer. Dr. Welsh, the superintendence of the last sheets of his text-book, called the 'Physiology of the Human Mind,' which was already in the press; and his lectures were published under the care of John Stewart (who had undertaken to supply his place on his final breakdown), and on Stewart's death of the Rev. E. Milroy.
Brown was a man of simple habits and strong domestic affections. He read all his works before publication to his mother and sisters. He was specially fond of animals; he held that some of them had a moral sense and immortal souls, and meant to write a treatise on our duties to them. He was a patriotic Scotchman, and a strong liberal, and credited, though not accurately, with republicanism. Except in the period of first preparing his lectures, he confined his hours of composition to the morning, after breakfast, and the evening from seven till ten or eleven. His knowledge of modern languages was considerable, and his memory extraordinary; he could remember twenty or thirty lines of French or Italian after a single reading. Brown's poetry, modelled chiefly upon Pope and Akenside, never made much impression. His lectures excited the utmost enthusiasm amongst the students; and his fame lasted till the rise of a new school, culminating about 1830 to 1836. A 19th edition of his lectures appeared in 1851. The inquiry into the relation of cause and effect is one of the most vigorous statements of the doctrine first made prominent by Hume, and since maintained by the Mills. Like them. Brown reduces causation to invariable sequence, and especially labours the point that 'power' is a word expressive of nothing else. He denies the distinction between ' physical ' and ' efficient ' causes. He differs, however, from Hume (upon whose writings he makes some interesting criticisms) in inferring that we have an intuitive conception, underlying all experience, that the same antecedents will produce the same consequences. This takes the place of Hume's 'custom,' and enables Brown to avoid Hume's theological scepticism. He infers God as the cause of an orderly universe. The lectures, hurriedly written, are injured by the sentimental rhetoric and frequent quotations from Akenside, by which they are overlaid and expanded. This is due probably to haste and to the desire to catch a youthful audience. They show, however, remarkable powers of psychological analysis. The most valuable teaching is considered to be the exposition (lectures 22 to 27) of the part played by touch and the muscular sense in revealing an external world. Professor Bain's writings upon the same topic partly embody Brown s theories. Hamilton (Reid's Works, p. 868) accuses Brown of borrowing in this direction from Condillac and De Tracy. His philosophy, as Dr. M'Cosh says, is a combination of Reid and Stewart with the French sensationalists. A peculiarity of Brown is, that he suppresses the will, as Reid had suppressed the feelings in the more generally accepted classification of intellect, will, and feeling. By the subordination of the will to desire, Hamilton (ib. p. 531) says that he virtually abolished all freedom, responsibility, and morality. Hamilton everywhere shows a strong dislike to Brown, whose influence was supplanted by his own. In an article in the 'Edinburgh Review' (October 1830), reprinted in his 'Dissertations,' he accuses Brown of totally misunderstanding the history of previous theories of perception, and of grossly misrepresenting Reid. Brown speaks with some severity of Reid, and Stewart had protested against this, and condemned the general hastiness of Brown's work in a note to the third volume of his 'Elements' (published in 1826) (Stewart's Works, iv. 377). He had been unconscious of his colleague's sentiments till the publication of the lectures in Welsh's 'Life.' Hamilton's dislike is obvious, and his charges of plagiarism seem to be unfair as against lectures intended for learners, and published after the author's death, and without his explanations. Whatever Brown's originality, he was the last and a very vigorous representative of the Scotch school, modified by French influence, but not affected by the German philosophy, which, under the influence of Hamilton and his followers, has since so deeply affected philosophical speculation in Scotland.
[Welsh's Account of the Life and Writings, &c., 1825 (an abridgment is prefixed to the later editions of the lectures); M'Cosh's Scottish Philosophy, pp. 317-37.]