An abstract of a book lately published; entituled, A treatise of human nature, &c. Wherein the chief argument of that book is farther illustrated and explained — Treatise of human nature.

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AN ABSTRACT OF A BOOK lately PUBLISHED; ENTITULED, A TREATISE OF Human Nature, &c. WHEREIN The CHIEF ARGUMENT of that BOOK is farther ILLUSTRATED and EXPLAINED.

LONDON: Printed for C. BORBET, at Addiſon's Head, over-againſt St. Dunſtan's Church, in Fleet-ſtreet. 1740. [Price ſix Pence.]

PREFACE.

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MY expectations in this ſmall performance may ſeem ſomewhat extraordinary, when I declare that my intentions are to render a larger work more intelligible to ordinary capacities, by abridging it. 'Tis however certain, that thoſe who are not accuſtomed to abſtract reaſoning, are apt to loſe the thread of argument, where it is drawn out to a great length, and each part fortified with all the arguments, guarded againſt all the objections, and illuſtrated with all the views, which occur to a writer in the diligent ſurvey of his ſubject. Such Readers will more readily apprehend a chain of reaſoning, that is more ſingle and conciſe, where the chief propoſitions only are linkt on to each other, illuſtrated by ſome ſimple examples, and confirmed by a few of the more forcible arguments. The parts lying nearer together can better be compared, and the connexion be more eaſily traced from the firſt principles to the laſt concluſion.

THE work, of which I here preſent the Reader with an abſtract, has been complained of as obſcure and difficult to be comprehended, and I am apt to think, that this proceeded as much from the length as from the abſtractedneſs of the argument. If I have remedy'd this inconvenience in any degree, I have attain'd my end. The book ſeem'd to me to have ſuch an air of ſingularity, and novelty as claim'd the [Page] attention of the public; eſpecially if it be found, as the Author ſeems to inſinuate, that were his philoſophy receiv'd, we muſt alter from the foundation the greateſt part of the ſciences. Such bold attempts are always advantageous in the republic of letters, becauſe they ſhake off the yoke of authority, accuſtom men to think for themſelves, give new hints, which men of genius may carry further, and by the very oppoſition, illuſtrate points, wherein no one before ſuſpected any difficulty.

THE Author muſt be contented to wait with patience for ſome time before the learned world can agree in their ſentiments of his performance. 'Tis his misfortune, that he cannot make an appeal to the people, who in all matters of common reaſon and eloquence are found ſo infallible a tribunal. He muſt be judg'd by the FEW, whoſe verdict is more apt to be corrupted by partiality and prejudice, eſpecially as no one is a proper judge in theſe ſubjects, who has not often thought of them; and ſuch are apt to form to themſelves ſyſtems of their own, which they reſolve not to relinquiſh. I hope the Author will excuſe me for intermeddling in this affair, ſince my aim is only to encreaſe his auditory, by removing ſome difficulties, which have kept many from apprehending his meaning.

I have choſen one ſimple argument, which I have carefully traced from the beginning to the end. This is the only point I have taken care to finiſh. The reſt is only hints of particular paſſages, which ſeem'd to me curious and remarkable.

1. AN ABSTRACT OF A BOOK lately PUBLISHED, ENTITULED, A Treatiſe of Human Nature, &c.

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THIS book ſeems to be wrote upon the ſame plan with ſeveral other works that have had a great vogue of late years in England. The philoſophical ſpirit, which has been ſo much improved all over Europe within theſe laſt fourſcore years, has been carried to as great a length in this kingdom as in any other. Our writers ſeem even to have ſtarted a new kind of philoſophy, which promiſes more both to the entertainment and advantage of mankind, than any other with which the world has been yet acquainted. Moſt of the philoſophers of antiquity, who treated of human nature, have ſhewn more [Page 6] of a delicacy of ſentiment, a juſt ſenſe of morals, or a greatneſs of ſoul, than a depth of reaſoning and reflection. They content themſelves with repreſenting the common ſenſe of mankind in the ſtrongeſt lights, and with the beſt turn of thought and expreſſion, without following out ſteadily a chain of propoſitions, or forming the ſeveral truths into a regular ſcience. But 'tis at leaſt worth while to try if the ſcience of man will not admit of the ſame accuracy which ſeveral parts of natural philoſophy are found ſuſceptible of. There ſeems to be all the reaſon in the world to imagine that it may be carried to the greateſt degree of exactneſs. If, in examining ſeveral phaenomena, we find that they reſolve themſelves into one common principle, and can trace this principle into another, we ſhall at laſt arrive at thoſe few ſimple principles, on which all the reſt depend. And tho' we can never arrive at the ultimate principles, 'tis a ſatisfaction to go as far as our faculties will allow us.

THIS ſeems to have been the aim of our late philoſophers, and, among the reſt, of this author. He propoſes to anatomize human nature in a regular manner, and promiſes to draw no concluſions but where he is authorized by experience. He talks with contempt of hypotheſes; and inſinuates, that [Page 7] ſuch of our countrymen as have baniſhed them from moral philoſophy, have done a more ſignal ſervice to the world, than my Lord Bacon, whom he conſiders as the father of experimental phyſicks. He mentions, on this occaſion, Mr. Locke, my Lord Shaftſbury, Dr. Mandeville, Mr. Hutchiſon, Dr. Butler, who, tho' they differ in many points among themſelves, ſeem all to agree in founding their accurate diſquiſitions of human nature intirely upon experience.

BESIDE the ſatisfaction of being acquainted with what moſt nearly concerns us, it may be ſafely affirmed, that almoſt all the ſciences are comprehended in the ſcience of human nature, and are dependent on it. The ſole end of logic is to explain the principles and Operations of our reaſoning faculty, and the nature of our ideas; morals and criticiſm regard our taſtes and ſentiments; and politics conſider men as united in ſociety, and dependent on each other. This treatiſe therefore of human nature ſeems intended for a ſyſtem of the ſciences. The author has finiſhed what regard logic, and has laid the foundation of the other parts in his account of the paſſions.

THE celebrated Monſieur Leibnitz has obſerved it to be a defect in the common ſyſtems of logic, that they are very copious [Page 8] when they explain the operations of the underſtanding in the forming of demonſtrations, but are too conciſe when they treat of probabilities, and thoſe other meaſures of evidence on which life and action intirely depend, and which are our guides even in moſt of our philoſophical ſpeculations. In this cenſure, he comprehends the eſſay on human underſtanding, le recherche de la verité, and l'art de penſer. The author of the treatiſe of human nature ſeems to have been ſenſible of this defect in theſe philoſophers, and has endeavoured, as much as he can, to ſupply it. As his book contains a great number of ſpeculations very new and remarkable, it will be impoſſible to give the reader a juſt notion of the whole. We ſhall therefore chiefly confine ourſelves to his explication of our reaſonings from cauſe and effect. If we can make this intelligible to the reader, it may ſerve as a ſpecimen of the whole.

OUR author begins with ſome definitions. He calls a perception whatever can be preſent to the mind, whether we employ our ſenſes, or are actuated with paſſion, or exerciſe our thought and reflection. He divides our perceptions into two kinds, viz. impreſſions and ideas. When we feel a paſſion or emotion of any kind, or have the images of external [Page 9] objects conveyed by our ſenſes; the perception of the mind is what he calls an impreſſion, which is a word that he employs in a new ſenſe. When we reflect on a paſſion or an object which is not preſent, this perception is an idea. Impreſſions, therefore, are our lively and ſtrong perceptions; ideas are the fainter and weaker. This diſtinction is evident; as evident as that betwixt feeling and thinking.

THE firſt propoſition he advances, is, that all our ideas, or weak perceptions, are derived from our impreſſions, or ſtrong perceptions, and that we can never think of any thing which we have not ſeen without us, or felt in our own minds. This propoſition ſeems to be equivalent to that which Mr. Locke has taken ſuch pains to eſtabliſh, viz. that no ideas are innate. Only it may be obſerved, as an inaccuracy of that famous philoſopher, that he comprehends all our perceptions under the term of idea, in which ſenſe it is falſe, that we have no innate ideas. For it is evident our ſtronger perceptions or impreſſions are innate, and that natural affection, love of virtue, reſentment, and all the other paſſions, ariſe immediately from nature. I am perſwaded, whoever would take the queſtion in this light, would be eaſily able [Page 10] to reconcile all parties. Father Malebranche would find himſelf at a loſs to point out any thought of the mind, which did not repreſent ſomething antecedently felt by it, either internally, or by means of the external ſenſes, and muſt allow, that however we may compound, and mix, and augment, and diminiſh our ideas, they are all derived from theſe ſources. Mr. Locke, on the other hand, would readily acknowledge, that all our paſſions are a kind of natural inſtincts, derived from nothing but the original conſtitution of the human mind.

OUR author thinks, ‘"that no diſcovery could have been made more happily for deciding all controverſies concerning ideas than this, that impreſſions always take the precedency of them, and that every idea with which the imagination is furniſhed, firſt makes its appearance in a correſpondent impreſſion. Theſe latter perceptions are all ſo clear and evident, that they admit of no controverſy; tho' many of our ideas are ſo obſcure, that 'tis almoſt impoſſible even for the mind, which forms them, to tell exactly their nature and compoſition."’ Accordingly, wherever any idea is ambiguous, he has always recourſe to the impreſſion, which muſt render it clear [Page 11] and preciſe. And when he ſuſpects that any philoſophical term has no idea annexed to it (as is too common) he always aſks from what impreſſion that idea is derived? And if no impreſſion can be produced, he concludes that the term is altogether inſignificant. 'Tis after this manner he examines our idea of ſubſtance and eſſence; and it were to be wiſhed, that this rigorous method were more practiſed in all philoſophical debates.

'TIS evident, that all reaſonings concerning matter of fact are founded on the relation of cauſe and effect, and that we can never infer the exiſtence of one object from another, unleſs they be connected together, either mediately or immediately. In order therefore to underſtand theſe reaſonings, we muſt be perfectly acquainted with the idea of a cauſe; and in order to that, muſt look about us to find ſomething that is the cauſe of another.

HERE is a billiard-ball lying on the table, and another ball moving towards it with rapidity. They ſtrike; and the ball, which was formerly at reſt, now acquires a motion. This is as perfect an inſtance of the relation of cauſe and effect as any which we know, either by ſenſation or reflection. Let us therefore examine it. 'Tis evident, that [Page 12] the two balls touched one another before the motion was communicated, and that there was no interval betwixt the ſhock and the motion. Contiguity in time and place is therefore a requiſite circumſtance to the operation of all cauſes. 'Tis evident likewiſe, that the motion, which was the cauſe, is prior to the motion, which was the effect. Priority in time, is therefore another requiſite circumſtance in every cauſe. But this is not all. Let us try any other balls of the ſame kind in a like ſituation, and we ſhall always find, that the impulſe of the one produces motion in the other. Here therefore is a third circumſtance, viz. that of a conſtant conjunction betwixt the cauſe and effect. Every object like the cauſe, produces always ſome object like the effect. Beyond theſe three circumſtances of contiguity, priority, and conſtant conjunction, I can diſcover nothing in this cauſe. The firſt ball is in motion; touches the ſecond; immediately the ſecond is in motion: and when I try the experiment with the ſame or like balls, in the ſame or like circumſtances, I find, that upon the motion and touch of the one ball, motion always follows in the other. In whatever ſhape I turn this matter, and however I examine it, I can find nothing farther.

[Page 13] THIS is the caſe when both the cauſe and effect are preſent to the ſenſes. Let us now ſee upon what our inference is founded, when we conclude from the one that the other has exiſted or will exiſt. Suppoſe I ſee a ball moving in a ſtreight line towards another, I immediately conclude, that they will ſhock, and that the ſecond will be in motion. This is the inference from cauſe to effect; and of this nature are all our reaſonings in the conduct of life: on his is founded all our belief in hiſtory: and from hence is derived all philoſophy, excepting only geometry and arithmetic. If we can explain the inference from the ſhock of two balls, we ſhall be able to account for this operation of the mind in all inſtances.

WERE a man, ſuch as Adam, created in the full vigour of underſtanding, without experience, he would never be able to infer motion in the ſecond ball from the motion and impulſe of the firſt. It is not any thing that reaſon ſees in the cauſe, which make us infer the effect. Such an inference, were it poſſible, would amount to a demonſtration, as being founded merely on the compariſon of ideas. But no inference from cauſe to effect amounts to a demonſtration. Of which there is this evident proof. The mind can always [Page 14] conceive any effect to follow from any cauſe, and indeed any event to follow upon another: whatever we conceive is poſſible, at leaſt in a metaphyſical ſenſe: but wherever a demonſtration takes place, the contrary is impoſſible, and implies a contradiction. There is no demonſtration, therefore, for any conjunction of cauſe and effect. And this is a principle, which is generally allowed by philoſophers.

IT would have been neceſſary, therefore, for Adam (if he was not inſpired) to have had experience of the effect, which followed upon the impulſe of theſe two balls. He muſt have ſeen, in ſeveral inſtances, that when the one ball ſtruck upon the other, the ſecond always acquired motion. If he had ſeen a ſufficient number of inſtances of this kind, whenever he ſaw the one ball moving towards the other, he would always conclude without heſitation, that the ſecond would acquire motion. His underſtanding would anticipate his ſight, and form a concluſion ſuitable to his paſt experience.

IT follows, then, that all reaſonings concerning cauſe and effect, are founded on experience, and that all reaſonings from experience are founded on the ſuppoſition, that the courſe of nature will continue uniformly [Page 15] the ſame. We conclude, that like cauſes, in like circumſtances, will always produce like effects. It may now be worth while to conſider, what determines us to form a concluſion of ſuch infinite conſequence.

'TIS evident, that Adam with all his ſcience, would never have been able to demonſtrate, that the courſe of nature muſt continue uniformly the ſame, and that the future muſt be conformable to the paſt. What is poſſible can never be demonſtrated to be falſe; and 'tis poſſible the courſe of nature may change, ſince we can conceive ſuch a change. Nay, I will go farther, and aſſert, that he could not ſo much as prove by any probable arguments, that the future muſt be conformable to the paſt. All probable arguments are built on the ſuppoſition, that there is this conformity betwixt the future and the paſt, and therefore can never prove it. This conformity is a matter of fact, and if it muſt be proved, will admit of no proof but from experience. But our experience in the paſt can be a proof of nothing for the future, but upon a ſuppoſition, that there is a reſemblance betwixt them. This therefore is a point, which can admit of no proof at all, and which we take for granted without any proof.

[Page 16] WE are determined by CUSTOM alone to ſuppoſe the future conformable to the paſt. When I ſee a billiard-ball moving towards another, my mind is immediately carry'd by habit to the uſual effect, and anticipates my ſight by conceiving the ſecond ball in motion. There is nothing in theſe objects, abſtractly conſidered, and independent of experience, which leads me to form any ſuch concluſion: and even after I have had experience of many repeated effects of this kind, there is no argument, which determines me to ſuppoſe, that the effect will be conformable to paſt experience. The powers, by which bodies operate, are entirely unknown. We perceive only their ſenſible qualities: and what reaſon have we to think, that the ſame powers will always be conjoined with the ſame ſenſible qualities?

'TIS not, therefore, reaſon, which is the guide of life, but cuſtom. That alone determines the mind, in all inſtances, to ſuppoſe the future conformable to the paſt. However eaſy this ſtep may ſeem, reaſon would never, to all eternity, be able to make it.

THIS is a very curious diſcovery, but leads us to others, that are ſtill more curious. When I ſee a billiard ball moving towards another, my mind is immediately carried by habit to the uſual [Page 17] and anticipate my ſight by conceiving the ſecond ball in motion. But is this all? Do I nothing but CONCEIVE the motion of the ſecond ball? No ſurely. I alſo BELIEVE that it will move. What then is this belief? And how does it differ from the ſimple conception of any thing? Here is a new queſtion unthought of by philoſophers.

When a demonſtration convinces me of any propoſition, it not only makes me conceive the propoſition, but alſo makes me ſenſible, that 'tis impoſſible to conceive any thing contrary. What is demonſtratively falſe implies a contradiction; and what implies a contradiction cannot be conceived. But with regard to any matter of fact, however ſtrong the proof may be from experience, I can always conceive the contrary, tho' I cannot always believe it. The belief, therefore, makes ſome difference betwixt the conception to which we aſſent, and that to which we do not aſſent.

To account for this, there are only two hypotheſes. It may be ſaid, that belief joins ſome new idea to thoſe which we may conceive without aſſenting to them. But this hypotheſis is falſe. For firſt, no ſuch idea can be produced. When we ſimply conceive an object, we conceive it in all its parts. We [Page 18] conceive it as it might exiſt, tho' we do not believe it to exiſt. Our belief of it would diſcover no new qualities. We may paint out the entire object in imagination without believing it. We may ſet it, in a manner, before our eyes, with every circumſtance of time and place. 'Tis the very object conceived as it might exiſt; and when we believe it, we can do no more.

Secondly, THE mind has a faculty of joining all ideas together, which involve not a contradiction; and therefore if belief conſiſted in ſome idea, which we add to the ſimple conception, it would be in a man's power, by adding this idea to it, to believe any thing, which he can conceive.

SINCE therefore belief implies a conception, and yet is ſomething more; and ſince it adds no new idea to the conception; it follows, that it is a different MANNER of conceiving an object; ſomething that is diſtinguiſhable to the feeling, and depends not upon our will, as all our ideas do. My mind runs by habit from the viſible object of one ball moving towards another, to the uſual effect of motion in the ſecond ball. It not only conceives that motion, but feels ſomething different in the conception of it from a mere reverie of the imagination. The preſence of this viſible [Page 19] object, and the conſtant conjunction of that particular effect, render the idea different to the feeling from thoſe looſe ideas, which come into the mind without any introduction. This concluſion ſeems a little ſurprizing; but we are led into it by a chain of propoſitions, which admit of no doubt. To eaſe the reader's memory I ſhall briefly reſume them. No matter of fact can be proved but from its cauſe or its effect. Nothing can be known to be the cauſe of another but by experience. We can give no reaſon for extending to the future our experience in the paſt; but are entirely determined by cuſtom, when we conceive an effect to follow from its uſual cauſe. But we alſo believe an effect to follow, as well as conceive it. This belief joins no new idea to the conception. It only varies the manner of conceiving, and makes a difference to the feeling or ſentiment. Belief, therefore, in all matters of fact ariſes only from cuſtom, and is an idea conceived in a peculiar manner.

OUR author proceeds to explain the manner or feeling, which renders belief different from a looſe conception. He ſeems ſenſible, that 'tis impoſſible by words to deſcribe this feeling, which every one muſt be conſcious of in his own breaſt. He calls it ſometimes [Page 20] a ſtronger conception, ſometimes a more lively, a more vivid, a firmer, or a more intenſe conception. And indeed, whatever name we may give to this feeling, which conſtitutes belief, our author thinks it evident, that it has a more forcible effect on the mind than fiction and mere conception. This he proves by its influence on the paſſions and on the imagination; which are only moved by truth or what is taken for ſuch. Poetry, with all its art, can never cauſe a paſſion, like one in real life. It fails in the original conception of its objects, which never feel in the ſame manner as thoſe which command our belief and opinion.

OUR author preſuming, that he had ſufficiently proved, that the ideas we aſſent to are different to the feeling from the other ideas, and that this feeling is more firm and lively than our common conception, endeavours in the next place to explain the cauſe of this lively feeling by an analogy with other acts of the mind. His reaſoning ſeems to be curious; but could ſcarce be rendered intelligible, or at leaſt probable to the reader, without a long detail, which would exceed the compaſs I have preſcribed to myſelf.

[Page 21] I have likewiſe omitted many arguments, which he adduces to prove that belief conſiſts merely in a peculiar feeling or ſentiment. I ſhall only mention one; our paſt experience is not always uniform. Sometimes one effect follows from a cauſe, ſometimes another: In which caſe we always believe, that that will exiſt which is moſt common. I ſee a billiard-ball moving towards another. I cannot diſtinguiſh whether it moves upon its axis, or was ſtruck ſo as to skim along the table. In the firſt caſe, I know it will not ſtop after the ſhock. In the ſecond it may ſtop. The firſt is moſt common, and therefore I lay my account with that effect. But I alſo conceive the other effect, and conceive it as poſſible, and as connected with the cauſe. Were not the one conception different in the feeling or ſentiment from the other, there would be no difference betwixt them.

WE have confin'd ourſelves in this whole reaſoning to the relation of cauſe and effect, as diſcovered in the motions and operations of matter. But the ſame reaſoning extends to the operations of the mind. Whether we conſider the influence of the will in moving our body, or in governing our thought, it may ſafely be affirmed, that we could never [Page 22] foretel the effect, merely from the conſideration of the cauſe, without experience. And even after we have experience of theſe effects, 'tis cuſtom alone, not reaſon, which determines us to make it the ſtandard of our future judgments. When the cauſe is preſented, the mind, from habit, immediately paſſes to the conception and belief of the uſual effect. This belief is ſomething different from the conception. It does not, however, join any new idea to it. It only makes it be felt differently, and renders it ſtronger and more lively.

HAVING diſpatcht this material point concerning the nature of the inference from cauſe and effect, our author returns upon his footſteps, and examines anew the idea of that relation. In the conſidering of motion communicated from one ball to another, we could find nothing but contiguity, priority in the cauſe, and conſtant conjunction. But, beſide theſe circumſtances, 'tis commonly ſuppos'd, that there is a neceſſary connexion betwixt the cauſe and effect, and that the cauſe poſſeſſes ſomething, which we call a power, or force, or energy. The queſtion is, what idea is annex'd to theſe terms? If all our ideas or thoughts be derived from our impreſſions, this power muſt either diſcover [Page 23] itſelf to our ſenſes, or to our internal feeling. But ſo little does any power diſcover itſelf to the ſenſes in the operations of matter, that the Carteſians have made no ſcruple to aſſert, that matter is utterly deprived of energy, and that all its operations are perform'd merely by the energy of the ſupreme Being. But the queſtion ſtill recurs, What idea have we of energy or power even in the ſupreme Being? All our idea of a Deity (according to thoſe who deny innate ideas) is nothing but a compoſition of thoſe ideas, which we acquire from reflecting on the operations of our own minds. Now our own minds afford us no more notion of energy than matter does. When we conſider our will or volition a priori, abſtracting from experience, we ſhould never be able to infer any effect from it. And when we take the aſſiſtance of experience, it only ſhows us objects contiguous, ſucceſſive, and conſtantly conjoined. Upon the whole, then, either we have no idea at all of force and energy, and theſe words are altogether inſignificant, or they can mean nothing but that determination of the thought, acquir'd by habit, to paſs from the cauſe to its uſual effect. But who-ever would thoroughly underſtand this muſt conſult the author himſelf. 'Tis ſufficient, if I can make the learned world apprehend, [Page 24] that there is ſome difficulty in the caſe, and that who-ever ſolves the difficulty muſt ſay ſome thing very new and extraordinary; as new as the difficulty itſelf.

BY all that has been ſaid the reader will eaſily perceive, that the philoſophy contain'd in this book is very ſceptical, and tends to give us a notion of the imperfections and narrow limits of human underſtanding. Almoſt all reaſoning is there reduced to experience; and the belief, which attends experience, is explained to be nothing but a peculiar ſentiment, or lively conception produced by habit. Nor is this all, when we believe any thing of external exiſtence, or ſuppoſe an object to exiſt a moment after it is no longer perceived, this belief is nothing but a ſentiment of the ſame kind. Our author inſiſts upon ſeveral other ſceptical topics; and upon the whole concludes, that we aſſent to our faculties, and employ our reaſon only becauſe we cannot help it. Philoſophy wou'd render us entirely Pyrrhonian, were not nature too ſtrong for it.

I ſhall conclude the logics of this author with an account of two opinions, which ſeem to be peculiar to himſelf, as indeed are moſt of his opinions. He aſſerts, that the ſoul, as far as we can conceive it, is nothing but a [Page 25] ſyſtem or train of different perceptions, thoſe of heat and cold, love and anger, thoughts and ſenſations; all united together, but without any perfect ſimplicity or identity. Des Cartes maintained that thought was the eſſence of the mind; not this thought or that thought, but thought in general. This ſeems to be abſolutely unintelligible, ſince every thing, that exiſts, is particular: And therefore it muſt be our ſeveral particular perceptions, that compoſe the mind. I ſay, compoſe the mind, not belong to it. The mind is not a ſubſtance, in which the perceptions inhere. That notion is as unintelligible as the Carteſian, that thought or perception in general is the eſſence of the mind. We have no idea of ſubſtance of any kind, ſince we have no idea but what is derived from ſome impreſſion, and we have no impreſſion of any ſubſtance either material or ſpiritual. We know nothing but particular qualities and perceptions. As our idea of any body, a peach, for inſtance, is only that of a particular taſte, colour, figure, ſize, conſiſtence, &c. So our idea of any mind is only that of particular perceptions, without the notion of any thing we call ſubſtance, either ſimple or compound.

THE ſecond principle, which I propoſed to take notice of, is with regard to Geometry. [Page 26] Having denied the infinite diviſibility of extenſion, our author finds himſelf obliged to refute thoſe mathematical arguments, which have been adduced for it; and theſe indeed are the only ones of any weight. This he does by denying Geometry to be a ſcience exact enough to admit of concluſions ſo ſubtile as thoſe which regard infinite diviſibility. His arguments may be thus explained. All Geometry is founded on the notions of equality and inequality, and therefore according as we have or have not an exact ſtandard of that relation, the ſcience itſelf will or will not admit of great exactneſs. Now there is an exact ſtandard of equality, if we ſuppoſe that quantity is compoſed of indiviſible points. Two lines are equal when the numbers of the points, that compoſe them, are equal, and when there is a point in one correſponding to a point in the other. But tho' this ſtandard be exact, 'tis uſeleſs; ſince we can never compute the number of points in any line. It is beſides founded on the ſuppoſition of finite diviſibility, and therefore can never afford any concluſion againſt it. If we reject this ſtandard of equality, we have none that has any pretenſions to exactneſs. I find two that are commonly made uſe of. Two lines above a yard, for inſtance, are [Page 27] ſaid to be equal, when they contain any inferior quantity, as an inch, an equal number of times. But this runs in a circle. For the quantity we call an inch in the one is ſuppoſed to be equal to what we call an inch in the other: And the queſtion ſtill is, by what ſtandard we proceed when we judge them to be equal; or, in other words, what we mean when we ſay they are equal. If we take ſtill inferior quantities, we go on in infinitum. This therefore is no ſtandard of equality. The greateſt part of philoſophers, when ask'd what they mean by equality, ſay, that the word admits of no definition, and that it is ſufficient to place before us two equal bodies, ſuch as two diameters of a circle, to make us underſtand that term. Now this is taking the general appearance of the objects for the ſtandard of that proportion, and renders our imagination and ſenſes the ultimate judges of it. But ſuch a ſtandard admits of no exactneſs, and can never afford any concluſion contrary to the imagination and ſenſes. Whether this queſtion be juſt or not, muſt be left to the learned world to judge. 'Twere certainly to be wiſh'd, that ſome expedient were fallen upon to reconcile philoſophy and common ſenſe, which with regard to the queſtion of infinite diviſibility [Page 28] have wag'd moſt cruel wars with each other.

WE muſt now proceed to give ſome account of the ſecond volume of this work, which treats of the PASSIONS. 'Tis of more eaſy comprehenſion than the firſt; but contains opinions, that are altogether as new and extraordinary. The author begins with Pride and humility. He obſerves, that the objects which excite theſe paſſions, are very numerous, and ſeemingly very different from each other. Pride or ſelf-eſteem may ariſe from the qualities of the mind; wit, good-ſenſe, learning, courage, integrity: from thoſe of the body; beauty, ſtrength, agility, good mein, addreſs in dancing, riding, fencing: from external advantages; country, family, children, relations, riches, houſes, gardens, horſes, dogs, cloaths. He afterwards proceeds to find out that common circumſtance, in which all theſe objects agree, and which cauſes them to operate on the paſſions. His theory likewiſe extends to love and hatred, and other affections. As theſe queſtions, tho' curious, could not be rendered intelligible without a long diſcourſe, we ſhall here omit them.

IT may perhaps be more acceptable to the reader to be informed of what our author [Page 29] ſays concerning free-will. He has laid the foundation of his doctrine in what he ſaid concerning cauſe and effect, as above explained. ‘" 'Tis univerſally acknowledged, that the operations of external bodies are neceſſary, and that in the communication of their motion, in their attraction and mutual coheſion, there are not the leaſt traces of indifference or liberty."’—‘"Whatever therefore is in this reſpect on the ſame footing with matter, muſt be acknowledged to be neceſſary. That we may know whether this be the caſe with the actions of the mind, we may examine matter, and conſider on what the idea of a neceſſity in its operations are founded, and why we conclude one body or action to be the infallible cauſe of another."’

‘"It has been obſerved already, that in no ſingle inſtance the ultimate connexion of any object is diſcoverable either by our ſenſes or reaſon, and that we can never penetrate ſo far into the eſſence and conſtruction of bodies, as to perceive the principle on which their mutual influence is founded. 'Tis their conſtant union alone, with which we are acquainted; and 'tis from the conſtant union the neceſſity ariſes, when the mind is determined to paſs from one [Page 30] object to its uſual attendant, and infer the exiſtence of one from that of the other. Here then are two particulars, which we are to regard as eſſential to neceſſity, viz. the conſtant union and the inference of the mind, and wherever we diſcover theſe we muſt acknowledge a neceſſity."’ Now nothing is more evident than the conſtant union of particular actions with particular motives. If all actions be not conſtantly united with their proper motives, this uncertainty is no more than what may be obſerved every day in the actions of matter, where by reaſon of the mixture and uncertainty of cauſes, the effect is often variable and uncertain. Thirty grains of opium will kill any man that is not accuſtomed to it; tho' thirty grains of rhubarb will not always purge him. In like manner the fear of death will always make a man go twenty paces out of his road; tho' it will not always make him do a bad action.

AND as there is often a conſtant conjunction of the actions of the will with their motives, ſo the inference from the one to the other is often as certain as any reaſoning concerning bodies: and there is always an inference proportioned to the conſtancy of the conjunction. On this is founded our belief in witneſſes, our credit in hiſtory, and indeed all kinds of moral [Page 31] evidence, and almoſt the whole conduct of life.

OUR author pretends, that this reaſoning puts the whole controverſy in a new light, by giving a new definition of neceſſity. And, indeed, the moſt zealous advocates for freewill muſt allow this union and inference with regard to human actions. They will only deny, that this makes the whole of neceſſity. But then they muſt ſhew, that we have an idea of ſomething elſe in the actions of matter; which, according to the foregoing reaſoning, is impoſſible.

THRO' this whole book, there are great pretenſions to new diſcoveries in philoſophy; but if any thing can intitle the author to ſo glorious a name as that of an inventor, 'tis the uſe he makes of the principle of the aſſociation of ideas, which enters into moſt of his philoſophy. Our imagination has a great authority over our ideas; and there are no ideas that are different from each other, which it cannot ſeparate, and join, and compoſe into all the varieties of fiction. But notwithſtanding the empire of the imagination, there is a ſecret tie or union among particular ideas, which cauſes the mind to conjoin them more frequently together, and makes the one, upon its appearance, introduce the other. Hence [Page 32] ariſes what we call the apropos of diſcourſe: hence the connection of writing: and hence that thread, or chain of thought, which a man naturally ſupports even in the looſeſt reverie. Theſe principles of aſſociation are reduced to three, viz. Reſemblance; a picture naturally makes us think of the man it was drawn for. Contiguity; when St. Dennis is mentioned, the idea of Paris naturally occurs. Cauſation; when we think of the ſon, we are apt to carry our attention to the father. 'Twill be eaſy to conceive of what vaſt conſequence theſe principles muſt be in the ſcience of human nature, if we conſider, that ſo far as regards the mind, theſe are the only links that bind the parts of the univerſe together, or connect us with any perſon or object exterior to ourſelves. For as it is by means of thought only that any thing operates upon our paſſions, and as theſe are the only ties of our thoughts, they are really to us the cement of the univerſe, and all the operations of the mind muſt, in a great meaſure, depend on them.

FINIS.