"The rasa tabula will not allow us to have mental ideas."

— Sullivan, Richard Joseph, Sir (1752-1806)

Place of Publication
Printed for T. Becket
"The rasa tabula will not allow us to have mental ideas."
Metaphor in Context
[...] And in the same manner, it is to be presumed, they were gifted with the primeval use of language. For id the frame of the human body cannot give the soul the power of moving itself, without the immediate help of God, much less can it endue the soul with the power of reasoning. The artifices of the bee, and the ant, are ascribed to the wisdom of nature; those of the human intellect, to an incomprehensible growth. The rasa tabula will not allow us to have mental ideas. The fashionable modern philosophy will not allow us the faculty of speech. Thus, man, who prides himself in being the lord of the creation, comes into the world in a worse state than the hedge-hog, without either ideas or language. The individual in every age, it is said, has the same race to run from infancy to manhood; and every infant, or every ignorant person, now, is a model of what man was in his original state. He enters on his career with the advantages indeed peculiar to his age; but, his natural talent is precisely the same. This may be admitted: but, hear Buffon. "The beavers," says he, "afford perhaps the only subsisting monument of the [illegible: ---nt] intelligence of brutes; for as man has [end page 193] risen above a state of nature, so the other animals have sunk below that standard. To break a branch, and to make a staff of it; to build a hut, and to cover it with leaves for shelter; to collect hay or moss, and to make a bed of these materials, are operations common to the animal and the savage. The beavers build huts, the monkies carry staves, and several other animals make commodious and neat houses, which are impenetrable to water. To sharpen a stone by friction to make a hatchet of it, to use this hatchet for cutting or peeling bark off trees, for pointing arrows for hollowing a vessel, or for slaying an animal in order to cloth themselves with its skin, to make bow-strings of its sinews, to fix the sinews to a hard thorn or bone, and to use them for needles and thread,--these are not [in?]comparable to what is observed in the beaver. The operations of these animals are the fruits of wisdom and society. [...]
(III, Letter LVI, pp. 193-4)
Searching "tabula rasa" in ECCO
Sulivan, Richard Joseph, Sie. A View of Nature, in Letters to a Traveller Among the Alps. With Reflections on Atheistical Philosophy, Now Exemplified in France. By Richard Joseph Sulivan. 6 vols. (London: Printed for T. Becket, 1794).
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Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.