LONDON: Printed for A. MILLAR, opposite Katharine-Street, in the Strand. MDCCXLVIII.


  • ESSAY I. Of the different SPECIES of PHILOSO­PHY. p. 1.
  • ESSAY II. Of the ORIGIN of IDEAS. p. 21.
  • ESSAY III. Of the CONNEXIONS of IDEAS. p. 31.
  • ESSAY V. Sceptical SOLUTION of these DOUBTS. p. 69.
  • [Page 4] ESSAY VIII. Of LIBERTY and NECESSITY. p. 129.
  • ESSAY IX. Of the REASON of ANIMALS. p. 165.
  • ESSAY X. Of MIRACLES. p. 173.

ESSAY I. Of the different Species of PHILOSOPHY.

MORAL Philosophy, or the Science of hu­man Nature, may be treated after two different Manners; each of which has its peculiar Merit, and may contribute to the Entertainment, Instruction, and Reformation of Man­kind. The one considers Man chiefly as born for Action; and as influenc'd in his Actions by Taste and Sentiment; pursuing one Object and avoiding an­other, according to the Value, which these Objects seem to possess, and according to the Light, in which they present themselves. Virtue, of all Objects, is the most valuable and lovely; and accordingly this Species of Philosophers paint her in the most amiable Colours, borrowing all Helps from Poetry and Elo­quence, and treating their Subject in an easy and ob­vious Manner, such as is best fitted to please the Ima­gination, and engage the Affections. They select the [Page 2] most striking Observations and Instances from com­mon Life; place opposite Characters in a proper Con­trast; and alluring us into the Paths of Virtue, by the Views of Glory and of Happiness, direct our Steps into these Paths, by the soundest Precepts and most illustrious Examples. They make us feel the Diffe­rence betwixt Vice and Virtue; they excite and regu­late our Sentiments; and so they can but bend our Hearts to the Love of Probity and true Honour, they think, that they have fully attain'd the End of all their Labours.

THE other Species of Philosophers treat Man ra­ther as a reasonable than an active Being, and endea­vour to form his Understanding more than cultivate his Manners. They regard Mankind as a Subject of Speculation; and with a narrow Scrutiny examine human Nature, in order to find those Principles, which regulate our Understandings, excite our Senti­ments, and make us approve or blame any particular Object, Action, or Behaviour. They think it a Re­proach to all Literature, that Philosophy should not yet have fixt, beyond Controversy, the Foundation of Morals, Reasoning, and Criticism; and should for ever talk of Truth and Falshood, Vice and Virtue, Beauty and Deformity, without being able to deter­mine the Source of these Distinctions. While they attempt this arduous Task, they are deter'd by no [Page 3] Difficulties; but proceeding from particular Instances to general Principles, they still push on their Enqui­ries to Principles more general, and rest not satisfy'd till they arrive at those original Principles, by which, in every Science, all human Curiosity must be bound­ed. Tho' their Speculations seem abstract and even unintelligible to common Readers, they please them­selves with the Approbation of the Learned and the Wise; and think they are sufficiently compensated for the Labours of their whole Lives, if they can dis­cover some hidden Truths which may contribute to the Instruction of Posterity.

'TIS certain, that the easy and obvious Philosophy will always, with the Generality of Mankind, have the Preference to the accurate and abstruse; and by many will be recommended, not only as more agree­able, but more useful than the other. It enters more into common Life; moulds the Heart and Affec­tions; and by touching those Principles, which actu­ate Men, reforms their Conduct, and brings them nearer that Model of Perfection, which it describes. On the contrary, the abstruse Philosophy, being founded on a Turn of Mind that cannot enter into Business and Action, vanishes when the Philosopher leaves the Shade and comes into open Day; nor can its Precepts and Principles easily retain any Influence over our Con­duct and Behaviour. The Feelings of our Sentiments, [Page 4] the Agitation of our Passions, the Vehemence of our Affections, dissipate all its Conclusions, and reduce the profound Philosopher to a mere Plebeian.

THIS also must be confest, that the most durable, as well as justest Fame has been acquired by the easy Philosophy, and that abstract Reasoners seem hitherto to have enjoy'd only a momentary Reputation, from the Caprice or Ignorance of their own Age, but have not been able to support their Renown with more equitable Posterity. 'Tis easy for a profound Philo­sopher to commit a Mistake in his subtile Reasonings; and one Mistake is the necessary Parent of another, while he pushes on his Consequences, and is not de­ter'd from embracing any Conclusion, by its unusual Appearance, or its Contradiction to popular Opinion: But a Philosopher, who proposes only to represent the common Sense of Mankind in more beautiful and more engaging Colours, if by Accident he commits a Mistake, goes no farther; but renewing his Appeal to common Sense, and the natural Sentiments of the Mind, returns into the right Path, and secures him­self from any dangerous Illusions. The Fame of Ci­cero flourishes at present; but that of Aristotle is ut­terly decay'd. La Bruyere passes the Seas, and still encreases in Renown: But the Glory of Malebranche is confin'd to his own Nation and to his own Age. [Page 5] And Addison, perhaps, will be read with Pleasure, when Locke shall be entirely forgotten*.

THE mere Philosopher is a Character, which is commonly but little acceptable in the World, as be­ing suppos'd to contribute nothing either to the Ad­vantage or Pleasure of Society; while he lives re­mote from Communication with Mankind, and is wrapt up in Principles and Notions equally remote from their Comprehension. On the other hand, the mere Ignorant is still more despis'd; nor is any thing esteem'd a surer Sign of an illiberal Genius, in an Age and Nation where the Sciences flourish, than to be en­tirely void of all Taste and Relish for those noble En­tertainments. The most perfect Character is suppos'd to lie betwixt those Extremes; retaining an equal A­bility and Taste for Books, Company, and Business; preserving in Conversation that Discernment and De­licacy, which arise from polite Letters, and in Busi­ness, that Probity and Accuracy, which are the natu­ral Result of a just Philosophy. In order to diffuse and cultivate so accomplisht a Character, nothing can be more useful than Compositions of the easy Style and Manner, which draw not too much from Life, re­quire [Page 6] no deep Application or Recess to be compre­hended, and send back the Student among Mankind fall of noble Sentiments and wise Precepts, applicable to every Emergence of human Life. By means of such Compositions, Virtue becomes amiable, Science agreeable, Company instructive, and Retirement en­tertaining.

MAN is a reasonable Being; and as such, receives from Science his proper Food and Nourishment: But so narrow are the Bounds of human Understanding, that little Satisfaction can be hop'd for, in this Par­ticular, either from the Extent or Security of his Ac­quisitions. Man is a sociable, no less than a reasona­nable Being: But neither can he always enjoy Com­pany agreeable and amusing, or preserve the proper Relish of them. Man is also an active Being; and from that Disposition, as well as from the various Necessities of human Life, must submit to Business and Occupation: But the Mind requires some Relaxation, and cannot always support its Bent to Care and Indus­try. It seems, then, that Nature has pointed out a mixt kind of Life as most suitable to human Race, and secretly admonish'd them to allow none of these By­asses to draw too much, so as to incapacitate them for other Occupations and Entertainments. Indulge your Passion for Science, says she; but let your Science be human, and such as may have a direct Reference to [Page 7] Action and Society. Abstruse Thought and profound Researches I prohibit, and will severely punish, by the pensive Melancholy, which they introduce, by the endless Uncertainty, in which they involve you, and by the cold Reception, which your pretended Discoveries will meet with, when communicated. Be a Philosopher; but amidst all your Philosophy, be still a Man.

WERE the Generality of Mankind contented to prefer the easy Philosophy to the abstract and profound, without throwing any Blame or Contempt on the lat­ter, it might not be improper, perhaps, to comply with this general Opinion, and allow every Man to enjoy, without Opposition, his own Taste and Senti­ment. But as the Matter is often carry'd farther, even to the absolute rejecting all profound Reasonings or what is commonly call'd Metaphysics, we shall now proceed to consider what can reasonably be pleaded in their Behalf.

WE may begin with observing, that one conside­rable Advantage, which results from the accurate and abstract Philosophy, is, its Subserviency to the easy and humane, which, without the former, can never attain a sufficient Degree of Exactness, in its Senti­ments, Precepts, or Reasonings. All polite Letters are nothing but Pictures of human Life in various At­titades [Page 8] and Situations; and inspire us with different Sentiments of Praise or Blame, Admiration or Ridi­cale, according to the Qualities of the Object, which they set before us. An Artist must be better qualify'd to sacceed in this Undertaking, who, besides a deli­cate Taste and a quick Apprehension, possesses an accu­rate Knowledge of the internal Fabric, the Opera­tions of the Understanding, the Workings of the Pas­sions, and the various Species of Sentiments, which discriminate Vice and Virtue. However painful this inward Search or Enquiry may appear, it becomes, in some measure, requisite to those, who would de­scribe with Success the obvious and outward Appear­ances of Life and Manners. The Anatomist presents to the Eye the most hideous and disagreeable Objects; but his Science is highly useful to the Painter in de­lineating even a Venus or an Helen. While the latter employs all the richest Colours of his Art, and gives his Figures the most graceful and engaging Airs; he must still carry his Attention to the inward Structure of the human Body, the Position of the Muscles, the Fa­bric of the Bones, and the Use and Figure of every Part or Organ. Accuracy is, in every Case, advan­tageous to Beauty, and just Reasoning to delicate Sen­timents. In vain would we exalt the one, by depre­ciating the other.

[Page 9] BESIDES, we may observe, in every Art or Pro­fession, even those which most concern Life or Action, that a Spirit of Accuracy, however acquir'd, carries all of them nearer their Perfection, and renders them more subservient to the Interests of Society. And tho' a Philosopher may live remote from Business and Employment, the Genius of Philosophy, if carefully cultivated by several, must gradually diffuse itself thro' the whole Society, and bestow a similar Accuracy on every Art and Calling. The Politician will acquire greater Foresight and Subtilty, in the subdividing and ballancing of Power; the Lawyer more Method and finer Principles in his Reasonings; and the General more Regularity in his Discipline, and more Caution in his Plans and Operations. The Stability of mo­dern Governments above the antient, and the Accu­racy of modern Philosophy, have improv'd and pro­bably will still improve, by similar Gradations.

WERE there no Advantage to be reap'd from these Studies beyond the Gratification of an innocent Cu­riosity, yet ought not even this to be despis'd; as being one Accession to those few safe and harmless Plea­sures, which are bestow'd on human Race. The sweet­est and most inoffensive Path of Life leads thro' the Avenues of Science and Learning; and whoever can either remove any Obstructions in this Way, or open up any new Prospect, ought so far to be [Page 10] esteem'd a Benefactor to Mankind. And tho' these Researches may appear painful and fatiguing; 'tis with some Minds as with some Bodies, which, being endow'd with vigorous and florid Health, require se­vere Exercise, and reap a Pleasure from what, to the Generality of Mankind, may seem burthensome and laborious. Obscurity, indeed, is painful to the Mind as well as to the Eye; but to bring Light from Ob­scurity, by whatever Labour, must needs be delight­ful and rejoicing.

BUT this Obscurity, in the profound and abstract Philosophy, is objected to, not only as painful and disagreeable, but as the inevitable Source of Uncer­tainty and Error. Here indeed lie the justest and most plaufible Objection against a considerable Part of Metaphysics, that they are not properly a Science, but arise either from the fruitless Efforts of human Va­nity, which would penetrate into Subjects utterly in­accessible to the Understanding, or from the Craft of popular Superstitions, which, being unable to de­fend themselves on fair Ground, raise these entangling Brambles to cover and protect their Weakness. Chac'd from the open Country, these Robbers fly into the Forest, and lie in wait to break in upon every un­guarded Avenue of the Mind, and over-whelm it with religious Fears and Prejudices. The sloutest Antago­nist, if he remits his Watch a Moment, is opprest: [Page 11] And many, thro' Cowardice and Folly, open the Gates to the Enemies, and willingly receive them with Reverence and Submission, as their legal Sove­reigns.

BUT is this a just Cause why Philosophers should desist from such Researches, and leave Superstition still in Possession of her Retreat? Is it not reasonable to draw a direct contrary Conclusion, and perceive the Necessity of carrying the War into the most secret Recesses of the Enemy? In vain do we hope, that Men, from frequent Disappointments, will at last a­bandon such airy Sciences, and discover the proper Province of human Reason. For besides, that many Persons find too sensible an Interest in perpetually re­calling such Topics; besides this, I say, the Motive of blind Despair can never reasonably have place in the Sciences; since, however unsuccessful former At­tempts may have prov'd, there is still room to hope, that the Industry, Good-fortune, or improv'd Saga­city of succeeding Generations may reach Discoveries unknown to former Ages. Each adventurous Genius will still leap at the arduous Prize, and find himself stimulated, rather than discourag'd, by the Failures of his Predecessors; while he hopes, that the Glory of atchieving so hard an Adventure is reserv'd for him alone. The only Method of freeing Learning, at­once, from these abstruse Questions, is to enquire se­riously [Page 12] into the Nature of human Understanding, and shew, from an exact Analysis of its Powers and Ca­pacity, that it is, by no means, fitted for such remote and abstruse Subjects. We must submit to this Fa­tigue, in order to live at Ease ever after: And must cultivate true Metaphysics with some Care, in order to destroy the false and adulterate. Indolence, which, to some Persons, affords a Safeguard against this de­ceitful Philosophy, is, with others, over-ballanc'd by Curiosity; and Despair, which, at some Moments, prevails, may give place afterwards to sanguine Hopes and Expectations. Accurate and just Reasoning is the only catholic Remedy, fitted for all Persons and all Dispositions, and is alone able to subvert that abstruse Philosophy and metaphysical Jargon, which, being mixt up with popular Superstition, renders it, in a manner, impenetrable to careless Reasoners, and gives it the Air of Science and Wisdom.

BESIDE this Advantage of rejecting, after deliberate Enquiry, the most uncertain and disagreeable Part of Learning, there are many positive Advantages, which result from an accurate Scrutiny into the Powers and Fa­culties of human Nature. 'Tis remarkable concerning the Operations of the Mind, that tho' most intimately present to us, yet whenever they become the Object of Reflection, they seem involv'd in Obscurity, nor can the Eye readily find those Lines and Boundaries, which discriminate and distinguish them. The Objects are [Page 13] too fine to remain long in the same Aspect or Situa­tion; and must be apprehended, in an Instant, by a superior Subtilty and Penetration, deriv'd from Nature, and improv'd by Habit and Reflection. It becomes, therefore, no inconsiderable Part of Science barely to know the different Operations of the Mind, to sepa­rate them from each other, to class them under their proper Divisions, and to correct all that seeming Dis­order, in which they lie involv'd, when made the Ob­ject of Reflection and Enquiry. This Task of order­ing and distinguishing, which has no Merit, when per­form'd with regard to external Bodies, the Objects of our Senses, rises in its Value, when directed towards the Operations of the Mind, in proportion to the Dif­ficulty and Labour, which we meet with in perform­ing it. And if we can go no farther than this mental Geography or Delineation of the distinct Parts and Powers of the Mind, 'tis at least a Satisfaction to go so far; and the more contemptible this Science may ap­pear (and it is by no means contemptible) the more contemptible still must the Ignorance of it appear, in all Pretenders to Learning and Philosophy.

NOR can there remain any Suspicion, that this Sci­ence is uncertain and chimerical; unless we should en­tertain such a Scepticism, as is entirely subversive of all Speculation, and even Action. It cannot be doubt­ed, that the Mind is endow'd with several Powers and [Page 14] Faculties, that these Powers are totally distinct from each other, that what is really distinct to the imme­diate Perception may be distinguish'd by Reflection; and consequently, that there is a Truth and Falshood in all Propositions on this Subject, and a Truth and Falshood, which lies not beyond the Compass of hu­man Understanding. There are many obvious Di­stinctions of this kind, such as those betwixt the Will and Understanding, the Imagination and Passions, which fall within the Comprehension of every human Creature; and the finer and more philosophical Di­stinctions are no less real and certain, tho' more diffi­cult to be comprehended. Some Instances, especially late ones, of Success in these Enquiries, may give us a juster Notion of the Certainty and Solidity of this Branch of Learning. And shall we esteem it worthy the Labour of a Philosopher to give us a true System of the Planets, and adjust the Position and Order of those remote Bodies; while we affect to overlook those, who, with so much Success, delineate and describe the Parts of the Mind, in which we are so intimately concern'd*?

[Page 15] BUT may we not hope, that Philosophy, if culti­vated with Care, and encourag'd by the Attention of the Public, may carry its Researches still farther, and discover, at least in some degree, the secret Springs and Principles, by which the human Mind is actu­ated in its Operations? Astronomers had long con­tented themselves with proving, from the Phaeno­mena, [Page 16] the true Motions, Order, and Magnitude of the heavenly Bodies: Till a Philosopher, at last, arose, who seems, from the happiest Reasoning, to have also determin'd the Laws and Forces, by which their Re­volutions are govern'd and directed. The like has been perform'd with regard to other Parts of Nature. And there is no Reason to despair of equal Success in our Enquiries concerning the mental Powers and Oe­conomy, if prosecuted with equal Capacity and Cau­tion. 'Tis probable, that one Operation and Prin­ciple of the Mind depends on another; which, again, may be resolv'd into one more general and universal: And how far these Researches may possibly be carry'd, 'twill be difficult for us, before, or even after, a care­ful [Page 17] Tryal, exactly to determine. This is certain, that Attempts of this Kind are every day made even by those, who philosophize the most negligently; and nothing can be more requisite than to enter upon the Enterprize with thorough Care and Attention; that, if it lie within the Compass of human Under­standing, it may at last be happily atchiev'd; if not, it may, however, be rejected with some Confidence and Security. This last Conclusion, surely, is not desirable, nor ought it to be embrac'd too rashly. For how much must we diminish from the Beauty and Va­lue of this Species of Philosophy, upon such a Suppo­sition? Moralists have hitherto been accustom'd, when they consider'd the vast Multitude and Diversity of Actions, that excite our Approbation or Dislike, to search for some common Principle, on which this Va­riety of Sentiments might depend. And tho' they have sometimes carry'd the Matter too far, by their Passion for some one general Principle; it must, how­ever, be confest, that they are excusable, in expect­ing to find some general Principles, into which all the Vices and Virtues were justly to be resolv'd. The like has been the Endeavour of Critics, Logicians, and even Politicians: Nor have their Attempts been alto­gether unsuccessful; tho' perhaps longer Time, greater Accuracy, and more ardent Application may bring these Sciences still nearer their Perfection. To throw up at once all Pretensions of this Kind may be justly [Page 18] esteem'd more rash, precipitate, and dogmatical, than even the boldest and most affirmative Philosophy, which has ever attempted to impose its crude Dictates and Principles on Mankind.

WHAT tho' those Reasonings concerning human Nature seem abstract, and of difficult Comprehension? This affords no Presumption of their Falshood. On the contrary, it seems impossible, that what has hi­therto escap'd so many wise and profound Philoso­phers can be very obvious and easy. And whatever Pains these Researches may cost us, we may think ourselves sufficiently rewarded, not only in point of Profit but of Pleasure, if, by that means, we can make any Addition to our Stock of Knowledge, in Subjects of such unspeakable Importance.

BUT as, after all, the Abstractedness of these Spe­culations is no Recommendation, but rather a Disad­vantage to them, and as this Difficulty may perhaps be surmounted by Care and Art, and the avoiding all unnecessary Detail, we have, in the following Essays, attempted to throw some Light upon Subjects, from which Uncertainty has hitherto deter'd the Wise, and Obscurity the Ignorant. Happy, if we can unite the Boundaries of the different Species of Philosophy, by reconciling profound Enquiry, with Clearness, and [Page 19] Truth with Novelty! And still more happy, if, rea­soning in this easy Manner, we can undermine the Foundations of an abstruse Philosophy, which seems to have serv'd hitherto only as a Shelter to Supersti­tion and a Cover to Absurdity and Error!


EVERY one will readily allow, that there is a considerable Difference betwixt the Perceptions of the Mind, when a Man feels the Pain of excessive Heat or the Pleasure of moderate Warmth, and when he afterwards recalls to his Memory this Sensation, or anticipates it by his Imagination. These Faculties may mimick or copy the Perceptions of the Senses; but they never can reach entirely the Force and Vi­vacity of the original Sentiment. The utmost we say of them, even when they operate with greatest Vigour, is, that they represent their Object in so lively a Man­ner, that we could almost say we feel or see it: But, except the Mind be disorder'd by Disease or Madness, they never can arrive at such a pitch of Vivacity as to render these Perceptions altogether undistinguishable. All the Colours of Poetry, however splendid, can ne­ver paint natural Objects in such a manner as to make the Description be taken for a real Landskip. The [Page 22] most lively Thought is still inferior to the dullest Sen­sation.

WE may observe a like Distinction to run thro' all the other Perceptions of the Mind. A Man, in a Fit of Anger, is actuated in a very different Manner from one, who only thinks of that Emotion. If you tell me, that any Person is in Love, I easily understand your Meaning, and form a just Conception of his Si­tuation; but never can mistake that Conception for the real Disorders and Agitations of the Passion. When we reflect on all our past Sentiments and Affec­tions, our Thought is a faithful Mirror, and copies its Objects truly; but the Colours it employs are faded and dead, in comparison of those, in which our origi­nal Perceptions were cloth'd. It requires no nice Discernment nor metaphysical Head to mark the Di­stinction betwixt them.

HERE therefore we may divide all the Perceptions of the Mind into two Classes or Species, which are distinguish'd by their different Degrees of Force and Vivacity. The less forcible and lively are commonly denominated THOUGHTS or IDEAS. The other Spe­cies want a Name in our Language, and in most o­thers; I suppose, because it was not requisite for any, but philosophical Purposes, to rank them under a ge­neral Term or Appellation. Let us, therefore, use a little Freedom, and call them IMPRESSIONS, employ­ing [Page 23] that Word in a Sense somewhat different from the usual. By the Term, Impressions, then, we mean all our more lively Perceptions, when we hear, or see, or feel, or love, or hate, or desire, or will. And Im­pressions are contradistinguish'd from Ideas, which are the less lively Perceptions we are conscious of, when we reflect on any of these Sensations or Movements above mention'd.

NOTHING, at first View, may seem more un­bounded than the Thought of Man, which not only escapes all human Power and Authority, but is not even restrain'd within the Limits of Nature and Re­ality. To form Monsters, and join incongruous Shapes and Appearances costs it no more Trouble than to con­ceive the most natural and familiar Objects. And while the Body is confin'd to one Planet, along which it creeps with Pain and Difficulty; the Thought can in an Instant transport us into the most distant Regions of the Universe; or even beyond the Universe, into the unbounded Chaos, where Nature is suppos'd to lie in total Confusion. What never was seen, nor heard of may yet be conceiv'd; nor is any thing beyond the Power of Thought, except what implies an abso­late Contradiction.

BUT tho' Thought seems to possess this unbounded Liberty, we shall find, upon a nearer Examination, that it is really confin'd within very narrow Limits, [Page 24] and that all this creative Power of the Mind amounts to no more than the compounding, transposing, aug­menting, or diminishing the Materials afforded us by the Senses and Experience. When we think of a gol­den Mountain, we only join two consistent Ideas, Gold, and Mountain, with which we were formerly acquainted. A virtuous Horse we can conceive; be­cause, from our own Feeling, we can conceive Vir­tue, and this we may unite to the Figure and Shape of a Horse, which is an Animal familiar to us. In short all the Materials of thinking are deriv'd either from our outward or inward Sentiment: The Mixture and Composition of these belongs alone to the Mind and Will. Or to express myself in more philosophical Language, all our Ideas or more feeble Perceptions are Copies of our Impressions or more lively ones.

TO prove this, the two following Arguments will, I hope, be sufficient. First, When we analyse our Thoughts or Ideas, however compounded or sublime, we always find, that they resolve themselves into such simple Ideas as were copy'd from a precedent Feeling or Sentiment. Even those Ideas, which, at first View, seem the most wide of this Origin, are found, upon a narrower Scratiny, to be deriv'd from it. The Idea of God, as meaning an infinitely intelligent, wise, and good Being, arises from reflecting on the Opera­tions of our own Mind, and augmenting those Quali­ties [Page 25] of Goodness and Wisdom, without Bound or Li­mit. We may prosecute this Enquiry to what Length we please; where we shall always find, that every Idea we examine is copy'd from a similar Impression. Those, who would assert, that this Position is not ab­solutely universal and without Exception, have only one, and that an easy Method of resuting it, by pro­ducing that Idea, which, in their Opinion, is not de­riv'd from this Source. It will then be incumbent on us, if we would maintain our Doctrine, to produce the Impression or lively Perception, that corresponds to it.

SECONDLY. If it happen, from a Defect of the Organ, that a Man is not susceptible of any Species of Sensations, we always find, that he is as little suscep­tible of the correspondent Ideas. A blind Man can form no Notion of Colours; a deaf Man of Sounds. Restore either of them that Sense, in which he is de­ficient; by opening this new Inlet for his Sensations, you also open an Inlet for the Ideas, and he finds no Difficulty of conceiving these Objects. The Case is the same if the Object, proper for exciting any Sensa­tion, has never been apply'd to the Organ. A Lap­lander or Negro has no Notion of the Relish of Wine. And tho' there are few or no Instances of a like Defi­ciency in the Mind, where a Person has never felt or is altogether incapable of a Sentiment or Passion, that belongs to his Species; yet we find the same Observa­tion [Page 26] to take place in a lesser Degree. A Man of mild Manners can form no Notion of inveterate Revenge or Cruelty; nor can a selfish Heart easily conceive the Heights of Friendship and Generosity. 'Tis readily allow'd, that other Beings may possess many Senses, of which we can have no Conception; because the Ideas of them have never been introduc'd to us in the only Manner, by which an Idea can have access to the Mind, viz. by the actual Feeling and Sensation.

THERE is, however, one contradictory Phaenome­non, which may prove, that 'tis not absolutely im­possible for Ideas to go before their correspondent Im­pressions. I believe it will readily be allow'd, that the several distinct Ideas of Colours, which enter by the Eyes, or those of Sounds, which are convey'd by the Hearing, are really different from each other; tho', at the same time, resembling. Now if this be true of different Colours, it must be no less so, of the different Shades of the same Colour; and each Shade produces a distinct Idea, independent of the rest. For if this should be deny'd, 'tis possible, by the continual Gradation of Shades, to run a Colour insensibly into what is most remote from it; and if you will not al­low any of the Means to be different, you cannot, without Absurdity, deny the Extremes to be the same. Suppose, therefore, a Person to have enjoy'd his Sight for thirty Years, and to have become perfectly well [Page 27] acquainted with Colours of all kinds, excepting one particular Shade of Blue, for Instance, which it never has been his fortune to meet with. Let all the diffe­rent Shades of that Colour, except that single one, be plac'd before him, descending gradually from the deepest to the lightest; 'tis plain, that he will perceive a Blank, where that Shade is wanting, and will be sen­sible, that there is a greater Distance in that Place be­twixt the contiguous Colours than in any other. Now I ask, whether 'tis possible for him, from his own Imagination, to supply this Deficiency, and raise up to himself the Idea of that particular Shade, tho' it had never been convey'd to him by his Senses? I believe there are few but will be of Opinion that he can; and this may serve as a Proof, that the simple Ideas are not always, in every Instance, deriv'd from the correspondent Impressions; tho' this Instance is so particular and singular, that 'tis scarce worth our ob­serving, and does not merit, that for it alone we should alter our general Maxim.

HERE, therefore, is a Proposition, which not only seems, in itself, simple and intelligible; but, if pro­perly employ'd, might render every Dispute equally intelligible, and banish all that Jargon, which has so long taken possession of metaphysical Reasonings, and drawn such Disgrace upon them: All Ideas, especially abstract ones, are naturally faint and obscure: The Mind has but a slender Hold of them: They are apt [Page 28] to be confounded with other resembling Ideas: And when we have often employ'd any Term, tho' without a distinct Meaning, we are apt to imagine it has a de­terminate Idea, annex'd to it. On the contrary, all Impressions, that is, all Sensations, either outward or inward, are strong and sensible: The Limits betwixt them are more exactly determin'd: Nor is it easy to fall into any Error or Mistake with regard to them. When therefore we entertain any Suspicion, that a philosophical Term is employ'd without any Meaning or Idea (as is but too frequent) we need but enquire, from what Impression is that suppos'd Idea deriv'd? And if it be impossible to assign any, this will serve to confirm our Suspicion. By bringing Ideas into so clear a Light, we may reasonably hope to remove all Dispute, that may arise, concerning their Nature and Reality*.


'TIS evident, that there is a Principle of Con­nexion betwixt the different Thoughts or I­deas of the Mind, and that in their Appearance to the Memory or Imagination, they introduce each other with a certain Degree of Method and Regularity. In our more serious Thinking or Discourse, this is so ob­servable, that any particular Thought, which breaks in upon this regular Tract or Chain of Ideas, is im­mediately remark'd and rejected. And even in our wildest and most wandering Reveries, nay in our very Dreams, we shall find, if we reflect, that the Imagi­nation run not altogether at Adventures, but that there was still a Connexion upheld among the different Ideas, which succeeded each other. Were the loosest and freest Conversation to be transcrib'd, there would immediately be observ'd something, which connected it in all its Transitions. Or where this is wanting, the Person, who broke the Thread of Discourse, might [Page 32] still inform you, that there had secretly revolv'd in his Mind a Succession of Thought, which had gradually led him away from the Subject of Conversation. A­mongst the Languages of different Nations, even where we cannot suspect the least Connexion or Communi­cation, 'tis found, that the Words, expressive of the most compound Ideas, do yet nearly correspond to each other: A certain Proof, that the simple Ideas, which they express, were bound together by some universal Principle, which had an equal Influence on all Mankind.

THO' it be too obvious to escape our Observation, that different Ideas are connected together; I do not find, that any Philosopher has attempted to enumerate or class all the Principles of Connexion; a Subject, however, that seems very worthy of our Curiosity. To me, there appears to be only three Principles of Connexion among Ideas, viz. Resemblance, Contiguity in Time or Place, and Cause or Effect.

THAT these Principles serve to connect Ideas will not, I believe, be much doubted. A Picture naturally leads our Thoughts to the Original*: The Mention of one Apartment in a Building naturally introduces an Enquiry or Discourse concerning the others: And if [Page 33] we think of an Wound, we can scarce forbear reflecting on the Pain, which follows it§. But that this Enu­meration is compleat, and that there are no other Prin­ciples of Connexion, except these, may be difficult to prove to the Satisfaction of the Reader, or even to a Man's own Satisfaction. All we can do, in such Cases, is to run over several Instances, and examine carefully the Principle, that binds the different Thoughts to each other, never stoping till we ren­der the Principle as general as possible. The more instances we examine, and the more Care we employ, the more Assurance shall we acquire, that the Enu­meration which we form from the Whole, is com­pleat and entire. Instead of entering into a Detail of this kind, which would lead us into many useless Sub­tilities, we shall consider some of the Effects of this Connexion upon the Passions and Imagination; where we may open up a Field of Speculation more en­tertaining, and perhaps more instructive, than the other.

AS Man is a reasonable Being, and is continually in Pursuit of Happiness, which he hopes to find in the Gratification of some Passion or Affection, he sel­dom acts or speaks or thinks without a Purpose and Intention. He has still some Object in View; and however improper the Means may sometimes be, [Page 34] which he chuses for the Attainment of his End, he ne­ver loses View of an End, nor will he so much as throw away his Thoughts or Reflections, where he hopes not to reap any Satisfaction from them.

IN all Compositions of Genius, therefore, 'tis re­quisite that the Writer have some Plan or Object; and tho he may be hurry'd from this Plan by the Ve­hemence of Thought, as in an Ode, or drop it care­lesly, as in an Epistle or Essay, there must appear some Aim or Intention, in his first setting out, if not in the Composition of the whole Work. A Produc­tion without a Design would resemble more the Rav­ings of a Madman, than the sober Efforts of Genius and Learning.

As this Rule admits of no Exception, it follows, that in narrative Compositions, the Events or Actions, which the Writer relates, must be connected together, by some Bond or Tye: They must be related to each other in the Imagination, and sorm a kind of Unity, which may bring them under one Plan or View, and which may be the Object or End of the Writer in his first Undertaking.

THIS connecting Principle among the several E­vents, which form the Subject of a Poem or History [Page 35] may be very different, according to the different De­signs of the Poet or Historian. Ovid has sorm'd his Plan upon the connecting Principle of Resemblance. Every fabulous Transformation, produc'd by the mi­raculous Power of the Gods, falls within the Compass of his Work. There needs but this one Circumstance in any Event to bring it under his original Plan or In­tention.

AN Annalist or Historian, who should undertake to write the History of Europe during any Century, would be influenc'd by the Connexion of Contiguity in Time or Place. All Events, which happen in that Portion of Space, and Period of Time, are compre­hended in his Design, tho' in other respects different and unconnected. They have still a Species of Unity, amidst all their Diversity.

BUT the most usual Species of Connexion among the different Events, which enter into any narrative Com­position, is that of Cause and Effect; while the Hi­storian traces the Series of Actions according to their natural Order, remounts to their secret Springs and Principles, and delineates their most remote Conse­quences. He chuses for his Subject a certain Portion of that great Chain of Events, which compose the History of Mankind: Each Link in this Chain he en­deavours to touch in his Narration: Sometimes, un­avoidable [Page 36] Ignorance renders all his Attempts fruitless: Sometimes, he supplies by Conjecture what is want­ing in Knowledge: And always, he is sensible, that the more unbroken the Chain is, which he presents to his Readers, the more perfect is his Production. He fees, that the Knowledge of Causes is not only the most satisfactory; this Relation or Connexion being the strongest of all others; but also the most instruc­tive; since it is by this Knowledge alone, we are en­abled to controul Events, and govern Futurity.

HERE therefore we may attain some Notion of that Unity of Action, about which all Critics, after Aristotle, have talk'd so much: Perhaps, to little Purpose, while they directed not their Taste or Sentiment by the Accuracy of Philosophy. It appears, that in all Productions, as well as in the Epic and Tragic, the [...]e is a certain Unity requir'd, and that, on no Occasion, our Thoughts can be allow'd to run at Adventures, if we would produce a Work, that will give any lasting Entertainment to Mankind. It appears also, that even a Biographer, who should write the Life of Achilles, would connect the Events, by shewing their mutual Dependance and Relation, as much as a Poet, who should make the Anger of that Hero, the Subject of his Narration*. Nor only in any limited Portion [Page 37] of Life, a Man's Actions have a Dependance on each other, but also during the whole Period of his Dura­tion, from the Cradle to the Grave; nor is it possible to strike off one Link, however minute, in this regu­lar Chain, without affecting the whole Series of E­vents, which follow. The Unity of Action, there­fore, which is to be found in Biography or History, differs from that of Epic Poetry, not in Kind, but in Degree. In Epic Poetry, the Connexion among the Events is more close and sensible: The Narration is not carry'd on thro' such a Length of Time: And the Actors hasten to some remarkable Period, which satisfies the Curiosity of the Reader. This Conduct of the Epic Poet depends on that particular Situation of the Imagination and of the Passions, which is suppos'd in that Production. The Imagination, both of Writer and Reader, is more enliven'd, and the Passions more enflam'd than in History, Biography, or any Species of Narration, that confine themselves to strict Truth and Reality. Let us consider the Effect of these two Circumstances, of an enliven'd Imagination and en­flam'd Passions, which belong to Poetry, especially the Epic Kind, above any other Species of Compo­sition; and let us see for what Reason they require a stricter and closer Unity in the Fable.

FIRST. All Poetry, being a Species of Painting, approches us nearer to the Objects than any other Species of Narration, throws a stronger Light upon [Page 38] them, and delineates more distinctly those minute Cir­cumstances, which, tho' to the Historian they seem superfluous, serve mightily to enliven the Imagery, and gratify the Fancy. If it be not necessary, as in the Iliad, to inform us each time the Hero buckles his Shoes, and ties his Garters, 'twill be requisite, per­haps, to enter into a greater Detail than in the Hen­riade; where the Events are run over with such Ra­pidity, that we scarce have Leizure to become ac­quainted with the Scene or Action. Were a Poet, therefore, to comprehend in his Subject any great Compass of Time or Series of Events, and trace up the Death of Hector to its remote Causes, in the Rape of Helen, or the Judgment of Paris; he must draw out his Poem to an immeasurable Length, in order to fill this large Canvas with just Painting and Imagery. The Reader's Imagination, enflam'd with such a Se­ries of poetical Descriptions, and his Passions, agitated by a continual Sympathy with the Actors, must flag long before the Period of the Narration, and must sink into Lassitude and Disgust, from the repeated Violence of the same Movements.

SECONDLY. That an Epic Poet must not trace the Causes to any great Distance, will farther appear, if we consider another Reason, which is drawn from a Property of the Passions still more remarkable and sin­gular. 'Tis evident, that, in a just Composition, all the Affections, excited by the different Events, de­scrib'd [Page 39] and represented, add mutual Force to each­other; and that, while the Heroes are all engag'd in one common Scene, and each Action is strongly con­nected with the whole, the Concern is continually awake, and the Passions make an easy Transition from one Object to another. The strong Connexion of the Events, as it sacilitates the Passage of the Thought or Imagination from one to another, facilitates also the Transfusion of the Passions, and preserves the Af­fection still in the same Channel and Direction. Our Sympathy and Concern for Eve prepares the Way for a like Sympathy with Adam: The Affection is pre­serv'd almost entire in the Transition; and the Mind seizes immediately the new Object as strongly related to that which formerly engag'd its Attention. But were the Poet to make a total Digression from his Sub­ject, and introduce a new Actor, no way connected with the Personages, the Imagination, feeling a Breach in the Transition, would enter coldly into the new Scene; would kindle by slow Degrees; and in return­ing to the main Subject of the Poem, would pass, as it were, upon foreign Ground, and have its Concern to excite anew, in order to take Party with the prin­cipal Actors. The same Inconvenience follows in a lesser Degree, where the Poet traces his Events to too great a Distance, and binds together Actions, which, tho' not altogether disjoin'd, have not so strong a Connexion as is requisite to forward the Transition of the Passions. Hence arises the Artifice of oblique [Page 40] Narration, employ'd in the Odyssey and Aeneid; where the Hero is introduc'd, at first, near the Period of his Designs, and afterwards shows us, as it were in Per­spective, the more distant Events and Causes. By this means, the Reader's Curiosity is immediately excited: The Events follow with Rapidity, and in a very close Connexion: And the Concern is preserv'd alive, and continually encreases, by means of the near Relation of the Objects, from the Beginning to the End of the Narration.

THE same Rule takes place in dramatic Poetry; nor is it ever permitted, in a regular Composition, to introduce an Actor, who has no Connexion, or but a small one, with the principal Personages of the Fable. The Spectator's Concern must not be diverted by any Scenes, disjoin'd and separate from the rest. This breaks the Course of the Passions, and prevents that Communication of the several Emotions, by which one Scene adds Force to another, and transfuses the Pity and Terror it excites upon each succeeding Scene, 'till the whole produces that Rapidity of Move­ment, which is peculiar to the Theatre. How must it extinguish this Warmth of Affection to be enter­tain'd, on a sudden, with a new Action and new Personages, no way related to the former; to find so sensible a Breach or Vacuity in the Course of the Pas­sions, by means of this Breach in the Connexion of Ideas; and instead of carrying the Sympathy of one [Page 41] Scene into the following, to be oblig'd, every Mo­ment, to excite a new Concern, and take Party in a new Scene of Action?

BUT tho' this Rule of Unity of Action be common to dramatic and epic Poetry; we may still observe a Difference betwixt them, which may, perhaps, de­serve our Attention. In both these Species of Com­position, tis requisite the Action be one and simple, in order to preserve the Concern or Sympathy en­tire and undiverted: But in epic or narrative Poetry, this Rule is also establish'd upon another Foundation, viz. the Necessity, that is incumbent on every Writ­er, to form some Plan or Design, before he enter on any Discourse or Narration, and to comprehend his Subject in some general Aspect or united View, which may be the constant Object of his Attention. As the Author is entirely lost in dramatic Compositions, and the Spectator supposes himself to be really present at the Actions represented; this Reason has no Place with regard to the Stage; but any Dialogue or Con­versation may be introduc'd, which, without Impro­bability, might have pass'd in that determinate Portion of Space, represented by the Theatre. Hence in all our English Comedies, even those of Congreve, the Unity of Action is never strictly observ'd; but the Poet thinks it sufficient, if his Personages be any way related to each other, by Blood, or by living in the same Family; and he afterwards introduces them in [Page 42] particular Scenes, where they display their Humours and Characters, without much forwarding the main Action. The double Plots of Terence are Licences of the same Kind; but in a lesser Degree. And tho' this Conduct be not perfectly regular, it is not wholly unsuitable to the Nature of Comedy, where the Movements and Passions are not rais'd to such a height as in Tragedy; at the same time, that the Fiction or Representation palliates, in some Degree, such Li­cences. In a narrative Poem, the first Proposition or Design confines the Author to one Subject; and any Digressions of this Nature would, at first View, be rejected, as absurd and monstrous. Neither Boccace, la Fontaine, nor any Author of that Kind, tho' Plea­santry be their chief Object, have ever indulg'd them.

TO return to the Comparison of History and epic Poetry, we may conclude, from the foregoing Rea­sonings, that as a certain Unity is requisite in all Productions, it cannot be wanting to History more than to any other; that in History, the Connexion among the several Events, which unites them into one Body, is the Relation of Cause and Effect, the same which takes place in epic Poetry; and that in the latter Composition, this Connexion is only re­quir'd to be closer and more sensible, on account of the lively Imagination and strong Passions, which [Page 43] must be touch'd by the Poet in his Narration. The Peloponnesian War is a proper Subject for History, the Siege of Athens for an epic Poem, and the Death of Alcibiades for a Tragedy.

AS the Difference, therefore, betwixt History and epic Poetry consists only in the Degrees of Connexion, which bind together those several Events, of which their Subject is compos'd, 'twill be difficult, if not impossible, by Words, to determine exactly the Bounds, which separate them from each other. That is a Matter of Taste more than of Reasoning; and perhaps, this Unity may often be discovered in a Sub­ject, where, at first View, and from an abstract Con­sideration, we should least expect to find it.

'TIS evident, that Homer, in the Course of his Narration, exceeds the first Proposition of his Subject; and that the Anger of Achilles, which caus'd the Death of Hector, is not the same with that which pro­duc'd so many Ills to the Greeks. But the strong Connexion betwixt these two Movements, the quick Transition from one to the other, the Contraste* be­twixt the Effects of Concord and Discord amongst the [Page 44] Princes, and the natural Curiosity we have to see Achilles in Action, after so long Repose; all these Causes carry on the Reader, and produce a sufficient Unity in the Subject.

IT may be objected to Milton, that he has trac'd up his Causes to too great a Distance, and that the Rebellion of the Angels produces the Fall of Man by a Train of Events, which is both very long and very casual. Not to mention that the Creation of the World, which he has related at Length, is no more the Cause of that Catastrophe, than of the Battle of Pharsalia, or any other Event, that has ever hap­pen'd. But if we consider, on the other hand, that all these Events, the Rebellion of the Angels, the Creation of the World, and the Fall of Man, resemble each other, in being miraculous and out of the com­mon Course of Nature; that they are suppos'd to be contiguous in Time; and that being detach'd from all other Events, and being the only original Facts, which Revelation discovers, they strike the Eye at once, and naturally recall each other to the Thought or Imagi­nation: If we consider all these Circumstances, I say, we shall find, that these Parts of the Action have a sufficient Unity to make them be comprehended in one Fable or Narration. To which we may add, that the Rebellion of the Angels and the Fall of Man have a peculiar Resemblance as being Counterparts to each other, and presenting to the Reader, the same Moral, of Obedience to our Creator.

[Page 45] THESE loose Hints I have thrown together, in or­der to excite the Curiosity of Philosophers, and beget a Suspicion at least, if not a full Persuasion, that this Subject is very copious, and that many Operations of the human Mind depend on the Connexion or Asso­ciation of Ideas, which is here explain'd. Particularly, the Sympathy betwixt the Passions and Imagination will, perhaps, appear remarkable; while we observe that the Affections, excited by one Object, pass easily to another connected with it; but transfuse themselves with Difficulty, or not at all, along different Objects, which have no manner of Connexion together. By introducing, into any Composition, Personages and Actions, foreign to each other, an injudicious Author loses that Communication of Emotions, by which alone he can interest the Heart, and raise the Passions to their proper Height and Period. The full Expli­cation of this Principle and all its Consequences would lead us into Reasonings too profound and too copious for these Essays. 'Tis sufficient for us, at present, to have establish'd this Conclusion, that the three con­necting Principles of all Ideas are the Relations of Re­semblance, Contiguity, and Causation.



ALL the Objects of human Reason or Enquiry may naturally be divided into two Kinds, viz. Relations of Ideas and Matters of Fact. Of the first Kind are the Propositions in Geometry, Algebra, and Arithmetic; and in short, every Proposition, that is either intuitively or demonstratively certain. That the Square of the Hypothenuse is equal to the Squares of the two Sides, is a Proposition, that expresses a Rela­tion betwixt these Figures. That three times five is equal to the half of thirty, expresses a Relation betwixt these Numbers. Propositions of this Kind are disco­verable by the mere Operation of Thought, without Dependance on what is any where existent in the Uni­verse. Tho' there never were a true Circle or Tri­angle in Nature, the Propositions, demonstrated by [Page 48] Euclid, would for ever retain all their Truth and Evidence.

MATTERS of Fact, which are the second Objects of human Reason, are not ascertain'd to us in the same Manner; nor is our Evidence of their Truth, how­ever great, of a like Nature with the foregoing. The contrary of every Matter of Fact is still possible; be­cause it can never imply a Contradiction, and is con­ceiv'd by the Mind with equal Distinctness and Fa­cility, as if ever so conformable to Truth and Reality. That the Sun will not rise To-morrow is no less intelli­gible a Proposition, and implies no more Contradic­tion, than the Affirmation, that it will rise. We should in vain, therefore, attempt to demonstrate its Falshood. Were it demonstratively false, it would imply a Contradiction, and could never be distinctly conceiv'd by the Mind.

IT may, therefore, be a Subject, worthy Curiosity, to enquire what is the Nature of that Evidence, which assures us of any real Existence and Matter of Fact, beyond the present Testimony of our Senses, or the Records of our Memory. This Part of Philosophy, 'tis observable, has been little cultivated, either by the Antients or Moderns; and therefore our Doubts and Errors, in the Prosecution of so important an En­quiry, may be the more excusable, while we mare [Page 49] thro' such difficult Paths, without any Guide or Di­rection. They may even prove useful, by exciting Curiosity, and destroying that implicite Faith and Se­curity, which is the Bane of all Reasoning and free Enquiry. The Discovery of Defects in the common Philosophy, if any such there be, will not, I presume, be a Discouragement, but rather an Incitement, as is usual, to attempt something more full and satisfactory, than has yet been propos'd to the Public.

ALL Reasonings concerning Matter of Fact seem to be founded on the Relation of Cause and Effect. By Means of that Relation alone can we go beyond the Evidence of our Memory and Senses. If you were to ask a Man, why he believes any Matter of Fact, which is absent; for Instance, that his Friend is in the Country, or in France; he would give you a Rea­son; and this Reason would be some other Fact; as a Letter receiv'd from him, or the Knowledge of his former Resolutions and Promises. A Man, finding a Watch or any other Machine in a desert Island, would conclude, that there had once been Men in that Island. All our Reasonings concerning Fact are of the same Nature. And here 'tis constantly suppos'd, that there is a Connexion betwixt the present Fact and that in­fer'd from it. Were there nothing to bind them to­gether, the Inference would be altogether precarious. The hearing of an articulate Voice and rational Dis­course [Page 50] in the Dark assures us of the Presence of some Person: Why? Because these are the Effects of the human Make and Fabric, and closely connected with it. If we anatomize all the other Reasonings of this Nature, we shall find, that they are founded on the Relation of Cause and Effect, and that this Relation is either near or remote, direct or collateral. Heat and Light are collateral Effects of Fire, and the one Effect may justly be infer'd from the other.

IF we would satisfy ourselves, therefore, concern­ing the Nature of that Evidence, which assures us of all Matters of Fact, we must enquire how we arrive at the Knowledge of Causes and Effects.

I SHALL venture to affirm, as a general Proposi­tion, which admits of no Exception, that the Know­ledge of this Relation of Cause and Effect is not, in any Instance, attain'd by Reasonings a priori; but arises entirely from Experience, when we find, that particular Objects are constantly conjoin'd with each other. Let any Object be presented to a Man of ever so strong natural Reason and Abilities; if that Object be entirely new to him, he will never be able, by the most accurate Examination of its sensible Quali­ties, to discover any of its Causes or Effects. Adam, tho' his rational Faculties be suppos'd, at the very first, ever so perfect, could not have infer'd from the [Page 51] Fluidity and Transparency of Water, that it would suffocate him, or from the Light and Warmth of Fire, that it would consume him. No Object ever discovers, by the Qualities, which appear to the Senses, either the Causes, which produc'd it, or the Effects, which will arise from it; nor can our Reason, unassisted by Experience, ever draw any Inferences concerning real Existence and Matter of Fact.

THIS Proposition, that Causes and Effects are dis­coverable, not by Reason, but by Experience, will rea­dily be admitted with regard to such Objects, as we remember, to have been once altogether unknown to us; since we must be conscious of the utter Inability we then lay under of foretelling what would arise from them. Present two smooth Pieces of Marble to a Man, who has no Tincture of natural Philosophy; and whatever Degree of Sense or Reason he may be endow'd with, he will never discover, that they will adhere together in such a Manner as to require great Force to separate them in a direct Line, while they make so small Resistance to a lateral Pressure. Such Events, as bear little Analogy to the common Course of Nature, are also readily acknowledged to be known only by Experience; nor does any Man imagine that the Explosion of Gunpowder, or the Attraction of a Loadstone could ever be discover'd by Arguments a priori. In like manner, when an Effect is suppos'd [Page 52] to depend upon an intricate Machinery or secret Struc­ture, of Parts, we make no Difficulty to attribute all our Knowledge of it to Experience. Who will assert, that he can give the ultimate Reason, why Milk or Bread is proper Nourishment for a Man, not for a Lyon or a Tyger?

BUT the same Truth may not appear, at first View, to have the same Evidence with regard to Events, which have become familiar to us from our first Ap­pearance in the World, which bear a close Analogy to the whole Course of Nature, and which are sup­pos'd to depend on the simple Qualities of Objects, without any secret Structure of Parts. We are apt to imagine, that we could discover these Effects, by the mere Operations of our Reason, without Experience. We fancy, that, were we brought, of a sudden, into this World, we could at first have infer'd, that one Billiard-ball would communicate Motion to another upon Impulse; and that we needed not to have waited for the Event, in order to pronounce with Cer­tainty concerning it. Such is the Influence of Cus­tom, that, where it is strongest, it not only covers our natural Ignorance, but even conceals itself, and seems not to take place, merely because it is found in the highest Degree.

[Page 53] BUT to convince us, that all the Laws of Nature and all the Operations of Bodies, without Exception, are known only by Experience, the following Reflec­tions may, perhaps, suffice. Were any Object pre­sented to us, and were we requir'd to pronounce con­cerning the Effect, that will result from it, without consulting past Observation; after what Manner, I beseech you, must the Mind proceed in this Opera­tion? It must invent or imagine some Event, which it ascribes to the Object as its Effect; and 'tis plain this Invention must be entirely arbitrary. It can ne­ver possibly find the Effect in the suppos'd Cause, by the most accurate Scrutiny and Examination. For the Effect is totally different from the Cause, and conse­quently can never be discover'd in it. Motion in the second Billiard-ball is a quite distinct Event from Mo­tion in the first; nor is there any thing in the one to suggest the smallest Hint of the other. A Stone or Piece of Metal rais'd into the Air, and left without any Support, immediately falls: But to consider the Matter a priori; is there any thing we discover in this Situation, which can beget the Idea of a down­ward, rather than an upward, or any other Motion, in the Stone or Metal?

AND as the first Imagination or Invention of a par­ticular Effect, in all natural Operations, is arbitrary, [Page 54] where we consult not Experience; so must we also esteem the suppos'd Tye or Connexion betwixt the Cause and Effect, which binds them together, and renders it impossible, that any other Effect could re­sult from the Operation of that Cause. When I see, for Instance, a Billiard-ball moving in a strait Line towards another; even suppose Motion in the second Ball should by Accident be suggested to me, as the Result of their Contact or Impulse; might I not con­ceive, that a hundred other different Events might as well follow from that Cause? May not both these Balls remain at absolute Rest? May not the first Ball return in a strait Line, or leap off from the second in any Line or Direction? All these Suppositions are consistent and conceivable. Why then should we give the Preference to one, which is no more consistent nor conceivable than the rest? All our Reasonings a priori will never be able to shew us any Foundation for this Preserence.

IN a word, then, every Effect is a distinct Event from its Cause. It could not, therefore, be disco­ver'd in the Cause, and the first Invention or Concep­tion of it, a priori, must be entirely arbitrary. And even after it is suggested, the Conjunction of it with the Cause must appear equally arbitrary; since there are always many other Effects, which, to Reason, must seem fully as consistent and natural. 'Twould, [Page 55] therefore, be in vain for us to pretend to determine any single Event, or infer any Cause or Effect, with­out the Assistance of Observation and Experience.

HENCE we may discover the Reason, why no Phi­losopher, that has been rational and modest, has ever pretended to assign the ultimate Causes of any of the Operations of Nature, or to show distinctly the Actions of that Power, which produces any single Ef­fect in the Universe. 'Tis confess'd, that the utmost Effort of human Reason is, to reduce the Principles, productive of natural Phaenomena, to a greater Sim­plicity, and to resolve the many particular Effects into a few general Causes, by Means of Reasonings from Analogy, Experience, and Observation. But as to the Causes of these general Causes, we should in vain attempt their Discovery; nor shall we ever be able to satisfy ourselves, by any particular Explication of them. These ultimate Springs and Principles are to­tally shut up from human Curiosity and Enquiry. E­lasticity, Gravity, Cohesion of Parts, Communica­tion of Motion by Impulse; these are probably the ul­timate Causes and Principles we shall ever discover in Nature; and we may esteem ourselves sufficiently happy, if, by accurate Enquiry and Reasoning, we can trace up the particular Phaenomena to, or near to, these general Principles. The most perfect Philoso­phy of the natural Kind does only stave off our Igno­rance [Page 56] a little longer: As perhaps the most perfect Phi­losophy of the moral or metaphysical Kind serves only to discover larger Portions of our Ignorance. Thus the Observation of human Ignorance and Weakness is the Result of all our Philosophy, and meets us, at every Turn, in spite of our Endeavours to conquer, or avoid it.

NOR is Geometry, when taken into the Assistance of natural Philosophy, ever able to remedy this De­fect, or lead us into the Knowledge of ultimate Causes, by all that Accuracy of Reasoning, for which it is so justly celebrated. Every Part of mix'd Mathema­tics still upon the Supposition, that certain Laws are establish'd by Nature in her Operations; and abstract Reasonings are employ'd, either to assist Experience in the Discovery of these Laws, or to de­termine their Influence in particular Instances, where it depends upon any precise Degrees of Distance and Quantity. Thus 'tis a Law of Motion, discover'd by Experience, that the Moment or Force of any Body in Motion is in the compound Ratio or Proportion of its solid Contents and its Velocity; and consequently, that a small Force may remove the greatest Obstacle or raise the greatest Weight, if by any Contrivance or Machinery we can encrease the Velocity of that Force, so as to make it an Overmatch for its Antagonist. Geometry assists us in the Application of this Law, by [Page 57] giving us the just Dimensions of all the Parts and Fi­gures, which can enter into any Species of Machine; but still the Discovery of the Law itself is owing merely to Experience, and all the abstract Reasonings in the World could never lead us one Step towards the Knowledge of it. When we reason a priori, and con­sider merely any Object or Cause, as it appears to the Mind, independent of all Observation, it never could suggest to us the Notion of any distinct Object, such as its Effect; much less, show us the inseparable and inviolable Connexion betwixt them. A Man must be very sagacious, who could discover by Rea­soning, that Crystal is the Effect of Heat and Ice of Cold, without being previously acquainted with the Operations of these Qualities.


BUT we have not, as yet, attain'd any tolerable Satisfaction with regard to the Question first propos'd. Each Solution still gives rise to a new Question as diffi­cult as the foregoing, and leads us on to farther En­quiries. When it is ask'd, What is the Nature of all our Reasonings concerning Matter of Fact? the proper Answer seems to be, that they are founded on the Relation of Cause and Effect. When again it is ask'd, What is the Foundation of all our Reasonings and Con­clusions concerning that Relation? it may be reply'd in one Word, EXPERIENCE. But if we still carry on [Page 58] our sifting and examining Humour, and ask, What is the Foundation of all our Conclusions from Experience? this produces a new Question, which may be of more difficult Solution and Explication. Philosophers, that give themselves Airs of superior Wisdom and Suffi­ciency, have a hard Task, when they encounter Per­sons of inquisitive Dispositions, who push them from every Corner, to which they retreat, and who are sure at last to bring them to some dangerous Dilemma. The best Expedient to prevent this Confusion is to be modest in our Pretensions; and even to discover the Difficulty ourselves before it is objected to us. By this Means, we may make a kind of Merit of our very Ignorance.

I SHALL content myself, in this Essay, with an easy Task, and shall pretend only to give a negative Answer to the Question here propos'd. I say then, that even after we have Experience of the Operations of Cause and Effect, our Conclusions from that Ex­perience are not founded on Reasoning or any Process of the Understanding. This Answer we must endea­vour, both to explain, and to defend.

IT must certainly be allow'd, that Nature has kept us at a great Distance from all her Secrets, and has afforded us only the Knowledge of a few superficial Qualities of Objects, while she conceals from us those [Page 59] Powers and Principles, on which the Influence of these Objects entirely depends. Our Senses inform us of the Colour, Weight, and Consistence of Bread; but neither Senses nor Reason ever can inform us of those Qualities, which fit it for the Nourishment and Support of a human Body. Sight or Feeling convey an Idea of the actual Motion of Bodies; but as to that wonderful Force or Power, which would carry on a moving Body for ever in a continu'd Change of Place, and which Bodies never lose but by communicating it to others; of this we cannot from the most distant Conception. But notwithstanding this Ignorance of natural Powers and Principles, we always presume, where we see like sensible Qualities, that they have like secret Powers, and lay our Account, that Effects, similar to those, which we have experienc'd, will fol­low from them. If a Body of like Colour and Con­sistence with that Bread, which we have formerly eat, be presented to us, we make no Scruple of repeating the Experiment, and expect, with Certainty, like Nourishment and Support. Now this is a Process of the Mind or Thought, of which I would willingly know the Foundation. 'Tis allow'd on all hands, that there is no known Connexion betwixt the sensible Qualities and the secret Powers; and consequently, that the Mind is not led to form such a Conclusion con­cerning their constant and regular Conjunction, by any thing it knows of their Nature. As to past Ex­perience, [Page 60] it can be allow'd to give direct and certain Information only of those precise Objects, and that precise Period of Time, which fell under its Cogni­zance: But why this Experience should be extended to future Times, and to other Objects, which, for aught we know, may be only in Appearance similar; this is the main Question I would insist on. The Bread I formerly eat nourish'd me; that is, a Body, of such sensible Qualities, was, at that Time, endow'd with such secret Powers: But does it follow, that other Bread must also nourish me at another Time, and that like sensible Qualities must always be at­tended with like secret Powers? The Consequence seems no way necessary. At least, it must be acknow­leg'd, that there is here a Consequence drawn by the Mind; that there is a certain Step taken; a Process of Thought, and an Inference, which wants to be ex­plain'd. These two Propositions are far from being the same, I have found that such an Object has always been attended with such an Effect, and I foresee, that other Objects, which are, to Appearance, similar, will be attended with similar Effects. I shall allow, if you please, that the one Proposition may justly be infer'd from the other: I know in fact, that it always is in­fer'd. But if you insist, that the Inference is made by a Chain of Reasoning, I desire you may produce that Reasoning. The Connexion betwixt these Proposi­tions is not intuitive. There is requir'd a Medium, which may enable the Mind to draw such an Inference [Page 61] if indeed it be drawn by Reasoning and Argument. What that Medium is, I must confess, passes my Com­prehension; and 'tis incumbent on those to produce it, who assert, that it really exists, and is the Origin of all our Conclusions concerning Matter of Fact.

THIS negative Argument must certainly, in Process of Time, become altogether convincing, if many pe­netrating and able Philosophers shall turn their En­quiries this Way; and no one be ever able to discover any connecting Proposition or intermediate Step, which supports the Understanding in this Conclusion. But as the Question is yet new, every Reader may not trust so far to his own Penetration, as to conclude, be­cause an Argument escapes his Research and Enquiry, that therefore it does not really exist. For this Rea­son it may be requisite to venture upon a more difficult Task; and enumerating all the Branches of human Knowledge, endeavour to show, that none of them can afford such an Argument.

ALL Reasonings may be divided into two Kinds, viz. demonstrative Reasonings, or those concerning Relations of Ideas, and moral or probable Reasonings, or those concerning Matter of Fact and Existence. That there are no demonstrative Arguments in the Case, seems evident; since it implies no Contradic­tion, that the Course of Nature may change, and [Page 62] that Objects seemingly like those we have experienc'd may be attended with different or contrary Effects. May I not clearly and distinctly conceive, that a Body falling from the Clouds, and which, in all other re­spects, resembles Snow, has yet the Taste of Salt or Feeling of Fire? Is there any more intelligible Pro­position than to affirm, that all the Trees flourish in December and January, and decay in May and June? Now whatever is intelligible, and can be distinctly conceiv'd, implies no Contradiction, and can never be prov'd false by any demonstrative Arguments or ab­stract Reasonings a priori.

IF we be, therefore, engag'd by Arguments to put trust in past Experience, and make it the Standard of our future Judgment, these Arguments must be pro­bable only, or such as regard Matter of Fact and real Existence, according to the Division above mention'd. But that there are no Arguments of this Kind, must appear, if our Explication of that Species of Reason­ing be admitted as solid and satisfactory. We have said, that all Arguments concerning Existence are founded on the Relation of Cause and Effect; that our Knowledge of that Relation is deriv'd entirely from Experience; and that all our experimental Conclu­sions proceed upon the Supposition, that the future will be conformable to the past. To endeavour, therefore, the Proof of this last Supposition by pro­bable [Page 63] Arguments, or Arguments regarding Existence, must be evidently going in a Circle, and taking that for granted, which is the very Point in Question.

IN Reality, all Arguments from Experience are founded on the Similarity, which we discover among natural Objects, and by which we are induc'd to ex­pect Effects similar to those, which we have found to follow from such Objects. And tho' none but a Fool or Madman will ever pretend to dispute the Autho­rity of Experience, or to reject that great Guide of human Life; it may surely be allow'd a Philosopher to have so much Curiosity, at least, as to examine the Principle of human Nature, which gives this mighty Authority to Experience, and makes us draw Advantage from that Similarity, which Nature has plac'd among different Objects. From Causes, which appear similar, we expect similar Effects. This is the Sum of all our experimental Conclusions. Now it seems evident, that if this Conclusion were form'd by Reason, it would be as perfect at first, and upon one Instance, as after ever so long a Course of Experience. But the Case is far otherwise. Nothing so like as Eggs; yet no one, on account of this apparent Simi­larity, expects the same Taste and Relish in all of them. 'Tis only after a long Course of uniform Ex­periments in any Kind, that we attain a firm Reliance and Security with regard to a particular Event. Now [Page 64] where is that Process of Reasoning, which from one Instance draws a Conclusion, so different from that which it infers from a hundred Instances, that are no way different from that single Instance? This Question I propose as much for the Sake of Information, as with an Intention of raising Difficulties. I cannot find, I cannot imagine any such Reasoning. But I keep my Mind still open to Instruction, if any one will vouchsafe to bestow it on me.

SHOULD it be said, that from a Number of uni­form Experiments, we infer a Connexion betwixt the sensible Qualities and the secret Powers; this, I must confess, seems the same Difficulty, couch'd in diffe­rent Terms. The Question still recurs, On what Process of Argument this Inference is founded? Where is the Medium, the interposing Ideas, which join Pro­positions so very wide of each other? 'Tis confess'd, that the Colour, Consistence, and other sensible Qua­lities of Bread appear not, of themselves, to have any Connexion with the secret Powers of Nourishment and Support. For otherwise we could infer these secret Powers from the first Appearance of these sensible Qualities, without the Aid of Experience, contrary to the Sentiment of all Philosophers; and contrary to plain Matter of Fact. Here then is our natural State of Ignorance with regard to the Powers and Influence of all Objects. How is this remedy'd by Experience? [Page 65] It only shews us a Number of uniform Effects, result­ing from certain Objects, and teaches us, that those particular Objects, at that particular Time, were en­dow'd with such Powers and Forces. When a new Object of similar sensible Qualities is produc'd, we ex­pect similar Powers and Forces, and lay our Account with a like Effect. From a Body of a like Colour and Consistence with Bread, we look for like Nourishment and Support. But this surely is a Step or Progress of the Mind, which wants to be explain'd. When a Man says, I have found, in all past Instances, such sen­sible Qualities, conjoin'd with such secret Powers: And when he says, similar sensible Qualities will always be conjoin'd with similar secret Powers; he is not guilty of a Tautology, nor are these Propositions in any re­spect the same. You say the one Proposition is an In­ference from the other. But you must confess, that the Inference is not intuitive; neither is it demonstra­tive: Of what Nature is it then? To say it is experi­mental is begging the Question. For all Inferences from Experience suppose, as their Foundation, that the future will resemble the past, and that similar Pow­ers will be conjoin'd with similar sensible Qualities. If there be any Suspicion, that the Course of Nature may change, and that the past may be no Rule for the future, all Experience becomes useless, and can give rise to no Inferences or Conclusions. 'Tis impossible, therefore, that any Arguments from Experience can [Page 66] prove this Resemblance of the past to the future; since all these Arguments are founded on the Suppo­sition of that Resemblance. Let the Course of Things be allow'd hitherto never so regular; that alone, with­out some new Argument or Inference, proves not, that, for the future, it will continue so. In vain do you pretend to have learnt the Nature of Bodies from your past Experience. Their secret Nature, and con­sequently, all their Effects and Influence may change, without any Change in their sensible Qualities. This happens sometimes, and with regard to some Objects: Why may it not happen always, and with regard to all Objects? What Logic, what Process of Argument secures you against this Supposition? My Practice, you say, refutes my Doubts. But you mistake the Purport of my Question. As an Agent, I am quite satisfy'd in the Point: But as a Philosopher, who has some Share of Curiosity, I will not say Scepticism, I want to learn the Foundation of this Inference. No Reading, no Enquiry has yet been able to remove my Difficulty, or give me Satisfaction in a Matter of such vast Importance. Can I do better than propose the Difficulty to the Public, even tho', perhaps, I have small Hopes of obtaining a Solution? We shall at least, by this Means, be sensible of our Ignorance, if we do not augment our Knowledge.

I MUST confess, that a Man is guilty of unpardo­nable Arrogance, who concludes, because an Argu­ment [Page 67] has escap'd his own Investigation and Enquiry, that therefore it does not really exist. I must also confess, that tho' all the Learned, for several Ages, should have employ'd their Time in fruitless Search upon any Subject, it may still perhaps, be rash to conclude positively, that the Subject must, therefore, pass all human Comprehension. Even tho' we ex­amine all the Sources of our Knowledge, and conclude them unfit for such a Subject, there may still remain a Suspicion, that the Enumeration is not compleat, or the Examination not accurate. But with regard to the present Subject, there are some Considerations, which seem to remove all this Accusation of Arro­gance or Suspicion of Mistake.

'TIS certain, that the most ignorant and stupid Pea­sants, nay Infants, nay even brute Beasts improve by Experience, and learn the Qualities of natural Ob­jects, by observing the Effects, which result from them. When a Child has felt the Sensation of Pain from touching the Flame of a Candle, he will be care­ful not to put his Hand near any Candle; but will expect a similar Effect from a Cause, which is similar to its sensible Qualities and Appearance. If you as­sert, therefore, that the Understanding of the Child is led into this Conclusion by any Process of Argument or Ratiocination, I may justly require you to produce that Argument; nor have you any Pretext to refuse so [Page 68] equitable a Demand. You cannot say, that the Ar­gument is abstruse, and may possibly escape your Search and Enquiry; since you confess, that it is ob­vious to the Capacity of a mere Infant. If you hesi­tate, therefore, a Moment, or if, after Reflection, you produce any intricate and profound Argument, you, in a Manner, give up the Question, and confess, that it is not Reasoning, which engages us to suppose the past resembling the future, and to expect similar Ef­fects from Causes, which are, to Appearance, similar. This is the Proposition, which I intended to enforce by the present Essay. If I be right, I pretend to have made no mighty Discovery. And if I be wrong, I must acknowledge myself to be indeed a very backward Scholar; since I cannot now discover an Argument, which, it seems, was perfectly familiar to me, long before I was out of my Cradle.



THE Passion for Philosophy, like that for Re­ligion, seems liable to this Inconvenience, that, tho' it aims at the Correction of our Manners and Ex­tirpation of our Vices, it may only serve, by impru­dent Management, to foster a predominant Inclina­tion, and push the Mind, with more determin'd Re­solution, towards that Side, which already draws too much, by the Byass and Propensity of the natural Tem­per. 'Tis certain, that, while we aspire to the mag­nanimous Firmness of the philosophic Sage, and en­deavour to confine our Pleasures altogether within our own Minds, we may, at last, render our Philosophy, like that of Epictetus and other Stoics, only a more re­fin'd System of Selfishness, and reason ourselves out of all Virtue, as well as social Enjoyment. While we study with Attention the Vanity of human Life, and [Page 70] turn all our Thoughts on the empty and transitory Nature of Riches and Honours, we are, perhaps, all the while flattering our natural Indolence, which, hating the Bustle of the World and Drudgery of Bu­siness, seeks a Pretext of Reason, to give itself a full and uncontroul'd Indulgence. There is, however, one Species of Philosophy, which seems little liable to this Inconvenience, and that because it strikes in with no disorderly Passion of the human Mind, nor can mingle itself with any natural Affection or Propensity; and that is the ACADEMIC or SCEPTICAL Philoso­phy. The Academics talk always of Doubts and Suspense of Judgment, of Danger in hasty Determi­nations, of confining to very narrow Bounds the En­quiries of the Understanding, and of renouncing all Speculations that lie not within the Limits of common Life and Practice. Nothing, therefore, can be more contrary than such a Philosophy to the supine Indo­lence of the Mind, its rash Arrogance, its lofty Pre­tensions, and its superstitious Credulity. Every Pas­sion is mortify'd by it, except the Love of Truth; and that Passion never is, nor can be carry'd to too high a Degree. 'Tis surprising, therefore, that this Philosophy, which, in almost every Instance, must be harmless and innocent, should be the Subject of so much groundless Reproach and Obloquy. But, per­haps, the very Circumstance, which renders it so in­nocent, is what chiefly exposes it to the public Hatred [Page 71] and Resentment. By flattering no irregular Passion, it gains few Partizans: By opposing so many Vices and Follies, it raises to itself abundance of Enemies, who stigmatize it as libertine, prophane, and irre­ligious.

NOR need we fear, that this Philosophy, while it endeavours to limit our Enquiries to common Life, should ever undermine the Reasonings of common Life, and carry its Doubts so far as to destroy all Ac­tion, as well as Speculation. Nature will always maintain her Rights, and prevail in the End over any abstract Reasoning whatsoever. Tho' we should con­clude, for Instance, as in the foregoing Essay, that, in all Reasonings from Experience, there is a Step taken by the Mind, which is not supported by any Argument or Process of the Understanding; there is no Danger, that these Reasonings, on which almost all Knowledge depends, will ever be affected by such a Discovery. If the Mind be not engag'd by Argu­ment to make this Step, it must be induc'd by some other Principle of equal Weight and Authority; and that Principle will preserve its Influence as long as hu­man Nature remains the same. What that Principle is, may well be worth the Pains of Enquiry.

SUPPOSE a Person, tho' endow'd with the strongest Faculties of Reason and Reflection, to be brought of [Page 72] a sudden into this World; he would, indeed, imme­diately observe a continual Succession of Objects, and one Event following another; but he would not be able to discover any thing farther. He would not, at first, by any Reasoning, be able to reach the Idea of Cause and Effect; since the particular Powers, by which all natural Operations are perform'd, never ap­pear to the Senses; nor is it reasonable to conclude, merely because one Event, in one Instance, precede [...] another, that therefore the one is the Cause, and the other the Effect. Their Conjunction may be arbi­trary and casual. There may be no Reason to infer the Existence of the one from the Appearance of the other. And in a word, such a Person, without more Experience, could never employ his Conjecture or Reasoning concerning any Matter of Fact, or be as­sur'd of any thing beyond what was immediately pre­sent to his Memory and Senses.

SUPPOSE again, that he has acquir'd more Expe­rience, and has liv'd so long in the World as to have observ'd similar Objects or Events to be constantly conjoin'd together; What is the Consequence of this Experience? He immediately infers the Existence or the one Object from the Appearance of the other. Yet he has not, by all his Experience, acquir'd any Idea or Knowledge of the secret Power, by which the one Object produces the other; nor is it, by any Pro­cess [Page 73] of Reasoning, he is engag'd to draw this Infe­rence. But still he finds himself determin'd to draw it: And tho' he should be convinc'd, that his Under­standing has no Part in the Operation, he would ne­vertheless continue in the same Course of Thinking. There is some other Principle, which determines him to form such a Conclusion.

THIS Principle is CUSTOM or HABIT. For where­ever the Repetition of any particular Act or Operation produces a Propensity to renew the same Act or Ope­ration, without being impell'd by any Reasoning or Process of the Understanding; we always say, that this Propensity is the Effect of Custom. By employing that Word, we pretend not to have given the ulti­mate Reason of such a Propensity. We only point out a Principle of human Nature, which is univer­sally acknowledg'd, and which is well known by its Effects. Perhaps, we can push our Enquiries no far­ther, or pretend to give the Cause of this Cause; but must rest contented with it as the ultimate Principle, which we can assign, of all our Conclusions from Ex­perience. 'Tis sufficient Satisfaction, that we can go so far; without repining at the Narrowness of our Fa­culties, because they will carry us no farther. And 'tis certain we here advance a very intelligible Propo­sition, at least, if not a true one, when we assert, that, after the constant Conjunction of two Objects, Heat and Flame, for Instance, Weight and Solidity, we [Page 74] are determin'd by Custom alone to expect the one from the Appearance of the other. This Hypothesis seems even the only one, which explains the Diffi­culty, why we draw an Inference from a thousand In­stances, which we are not able to draw from one In­stance, that is, in no respect, different from them. Reason is incapable of any such Variation. The Con­clusions it draws from considering one Circle are the same, which it would form upon surveying all the Circles in the Universe. But no Man, having seen only one Body move after being impell'd by another, could infer, that every other Body will move after a like Impulse. All Inferences from Experience, there­fore, are Effects of Custom, not of Reasoning*.

[Page 75]CUSTOM, then, is the great Guide of human Life. 'Tis that Principle alone, which renders our Expe­rience [Page 76] useful to us, and makes us expect for the fu­ture a similar Train of Events with those which have [Page 77] appear'd in the past. Without the Influence of Cus­tom, we should be entirely ignorant of every Matter of Fact, beyond what is immediately present to the Memory and Senses. We should never know how to adjust Means to Ends, or to employ our natural Powers in the Production of any Effect. There would be an End at once of all Action, as well as of the chief Part of Speculation.

BUT here it may be proper to remark, that tho' our Conclusions from Experience carry us beyond our Memory and Senses, and assure us of Matters of Fact, which happen'd in the most distant Places and most remote Ages; yet some Fact must always be present to the Senses or Memory, from which we may first proceed in drawing these Conclusions. A Man, who should find in a desert Country the Remains of pomp­ous Buildings, would conclude, that the Country had, in antient Times, been cultivated by civiliz'd Inha­bitants; but did nothing of this Nature occur to him, he could never be able to form such an Inference. We learn the Events of former Ages from History; but then we must peruse the Volumes, in which this Instruction is contain'd, and thence carry up our Infe­rences from one Testimony to another, till we arrive at the Eye-witnesses and Spectators of these distant Events. In a word, if we proceed not upon some Fact, present to our Memory or Senses, our Reason­ings would be merely hypothetical; and however the [Page 78] particular Links might be connected with each other, the whole Chain of Inferences would have nothing to support it, nor could we ever, by its Means, arrive at the Knowledge of any real Existence. If I ask, why you believe any particular Matter of Fact, which you re­late, you must tell me some Reason; and this Reason will be some other Fact, connected with it: But as you cannot proceed after this Manner, in infinitum, you must at last terminate in some Fact, which is present to your Memory or Senses; or must allow, that your Belief is entirely without Foundation.

WHAT then is the Conclusion of the whole Matter? A simple one; tho' it must be confess'd, pretty remote from the common Theories of Philosophy. All Be­lief of Matter of Fact or real Existence is deriv'd merely from some Object, present to the Memory or Senses, and a customary Conjunction betwixt that and any other Object. Or in other Words; having found, in many Instances, that any two Kinds of Objects, Flame and Heat, Snow and Cold, have always been conjoin'd together; if Flame or Snow be presented anew to our Senses; the Mind is carry'd by Custom to expect Heat or Cold, and to believe, that such a Qua­lity does exist, and will discover itself upon a nearer Approach. This Belief is the necessary Result of placing the Mind in such Circumstances. 'Tis an Operation of the Soul, when we are so situated, as [Page 79] unavoidable as to feel the Passion of Love, when we receive Benefits, or Hatred, when we meet with In­juries. All these Operations are a Species of natural Instincts, which no Reason or Process of the Thought and Understanding is able, either to produce, or to prevent.

AT this Point, 'twould be very allowable for us to stop our philosophical Researches. In most Questions, we can never make a single Step farther; and in all Questions, we must terminate here at last, after our most restless and curious Enquiries. But still our Cu­riosity will be pardonable, perhaps commendable, if it carry us on to still farther Researches, and make us examine more accurately the Nature of this Belief, and of the customary Conjunction, whence it is deriv'd. By this Means, we may meet with some Explications and Analogies, that will give Satisfaction; at least to such as love the abstract Sciences, and can be enter­tain'd with Speculations, which, however accurate, may still retain a Degree of Doubt and Uncertainty. As to Readers of a different Taste; the remaining Part of this Essay is not calculated for them, and the following Essays may well be understood, tho' it be neglected.


THERE is nothing more free than the Imagination of Man; and tho' it cannot exceed that original Stock of Ideas, which is furnish'd by our internal and exter­nal Senses, it has unlimited Power of mixing, com­pounding, separating and dividing these Ideas, to all the Varieties of Fiction and Vision. It can feign a Train of Events, with all the Appearance of Reality, ascribe to them a particular Time and Place, conceive them as existent, and paint them out to itself with every Circumstance, that belongs to any historical Fact, which it believes with the greatest Certainty. Wherein, therefore, consists the Difference betwixt such a Fiction and Belief? It lies not merely in any peculiar Idea, which is annex'd to a Conception, that commands our assent, and which is wanting to every known Fiction. For as the Mind has Authority over all its Ideas, it could voluntarily annex this par­ticular Idea to any Fiction, and consequently be able to believe whatever it pleases; contrary to what we find by daily Experience. We can, in our Conception, join the Head of a Man to the Body of a Horse; but it is not in our Power to believe, that such an Animal has ever really existed.

IT follows, therefore, that the Difference betwixt Fiction and Belief lies in some Sentiment or Feeling, [Page 81] which is annex'd to the latter, not to the former, and which depends not on the Will, nor can be com­manded at Pleasure. It must be excited by Nature, like all other Sentiments; and must arise from the particular Situation, in which the Mind is plac'd at any particular Juncture. Whenever any Object is presented to the Memory or Senses, it immediately, by the Force of Custom, carries the Imagination to conceive that Object, which is usually conjoin'd to it; and this Conception is attended with a Feeling or Sen­timent, different from the loose Reveries of the Fancy. Herein consists the whole Nature of Belief. For as there is no Matter of Fact we believe so firmly, that we cannot conceive the contrary, there would be no Difference betwixt the Conception assented to, and that which is rejected, were it not for some Sentiment, that distinguishes the one from the other. If I see a Billiard-Ball moving towards another, on a smooth Table, I can easily conceive it to stop upon Contact. This Conception implies no Contradiction; but still it feels very differently from that Conception, by which I represent to myself the Impulse, and the Com­munication of Motion from one Ball to another.

WERE we to attempt a Definition or Description of this Sentiment, we should, perhaps, find it a very difficult, if not impossible Task; in the same Manner as if we should endeavour to define the Feeling of [Page 82] Cold or Passion of Anger, to such as never had an Ex­perience of these Sentiments. BELIEF is the true and proper Name of this Feeling; and no one is ever at a loss to know the Meaning of that Term; because every Man is every Moment conscious of the Senti­timent, represented by it. It may not, however, be improper to attempt a Description of this Sentiment; in hopes we may, by that means, arrive at some Ana­logies, that may afford a more perfect Explication of it. I say then, that Belief is nothing but a more vivid, lively, forcible, firm, steady Conception of an Object, than what the Imagination alone is ever able to attain. This Variety of Terms, which may seem so unphilosophical, is intended only to express that Act of the Mind, which renders Realities, or what is taken for such, more present to us than Fictions, causes them to weigh more in the Thought, and gives them a superior Influence on the Passions and Imagi­nation. Provided we agree about the Thing, 'tis needless to dispute about the Terms. The Imagina­tion has the Command over all its Ideas, and can join and mix and vary them, in all the Ways possible. [...] may conceive fictitious Objects with all the Circumstances of Place and Time. It may set them, in a Manner, before our Eyes, in their true Colours, [...] as they might have existed. But as it is impossible that that Faculty of Imagination can ever, of itsel [...] teach Belief; 'tis evident, that Belief consists not [...] the peculiar Nature or Order of Ideas, but in [...] [Page 83] Manner of their Conception, and in their Feeling to the Mind. I confess, that 'tis impossible perfectly to explain this Feeling or Manner of Conception. We may make use of Words, that express something near it. But its true and proper Name, as we observ'd be­fore, is Belief; which is a Term, that every one suf­ficiently understands in common Life. And in Phi­losophy, we can go no farther than assert, that Belief is something felt by the Mind, which distinguishes the Ideas of the Judgment from the Fictions of the Imagination. It gives them more Force and Influ­ence; makes them appear of greater Importance; inforces them in the Mind, and renders them the go­verning Principle of all our Actions. I hear at pre­sent, for Instance, a Person's Voice, whom I am ac­quainted with; and this Sound comes as from the next Room. This Impression of my Senses imme­diately conveys my Thoughts to the Person, along with all the surrounding Objects. I paint them out to myself as existing at present, with the same Qua­lities and Relations, that I formerly knew them pos­sest of. These Ideas take saster hold of my Mind, than Ideas of an inchanted Castle. They are very different to the Feeling, and have a much greater In­fluence of every Kind, either to give Pleasure or Pain, Joy or Sorrow.

[Page 84] LET us, then, take in the whole Compass of this Doctrine, and allow, that the Sentiment of Belief is nothing but a Conception of an Object more intense and steady than what attends the mere Fictions of the Imagination, and that this Manner of Conception arises from a customary Conjunction of the Object with something present to the Memory or Senses: I believe it will not be difficult, upon these Suppositions, to find other Operations of the Mind analogous to it, and to trace up these Phaenomena to Principles still more general.

WE have already observ'd, that Nature has esta­blish'd Connexions among particular Ideas, and that no sooner one occurs to our Thoughts than it intro­duces its correlative, and carries our Attention towards it, by a gentle and insensible Movement. These Principles of Connexion or Association we have re­duc'd to three, viz. Resemblance, Contiguity, and Causation; which are the only Bonds, that unite our Thoughts together, and beget that regular. Train of Reflection or Discourse, which, in a greater or lesser Degree, takes place amongst all Mankind. Now here arises a Question, on which the Solution of the present Difficulty will depend. Does it happen, in all these Relations, that when one of the Objects is pre­sented to the Senses or Memory, the Mind is not only carry'd to the Conception of the Correlative, but reaches a steadier and stronger Conception of it than [Page 85] what otherwise it would have been able to attain? This seems to be the Case with that Belief, which a­rises from the Relation of Cause and Effect. And if the Case be the same with the other Relations or Principles of Association, we may establish this as a general Law, that takes place in all the Operations of the Mind.

WE may, therefore, observe, as the first Experi­ment to our present Purpose, that upon the Appear­ance of the Picture of an absent Friend, our Idea of him is evidently enliven'd by the Resemblance, and that every Passion, which that Idea occasions, whether of Joy or Sorrow, acquires new Force and Vigour­sn producing this Effect, there concur both a Relation and a present Impression. Where the Picture bears him no Resemblance, or at least was not intended for him, it never so much as conveys our Thought to him: And where it is absent, as well as the Person; tho' the Mind may pass from the Thought of the one to that of the other; it feels its Idea to be rather weaken'd than enliven'd by that Transition. We take a Pleasure in viewing the Picture of a Friend, when 'tis set before us; but when 'tis remov'd, rather chuse to consider him directly, than by Reflexion in an image, which is equally distant and obscure.

THE Ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Religion may be consider'd as Experiments of the same Nature. [Page 86] The Devotees of that strange Superstition usually plead in Excuse of the Mummeries, with which they are upbraided, that they feel the good Effect of those ex­ternal Motions, and Postures, and Actions, in en­livening their Devotion and quickning their Fervour, which otherwise would decay away, if directed en­tirely to distant and immaterial Objects. We shadow out the Objects of our Faith, say they, in sensible Types and Images, and render them more present to us by the immediate Presence of these Types, than 'tis possible for us to do, merely by an intellectual View and Contemplation. Sensible Objects have al­ways a greater Insluence on the Fancy than any other; and this Influence they readily convey to those Ideas, to which they are related, and which they resemble. I shall only infer from these Practices, and this Rea­soning, that the Effect of Resemblance in enlivening the Idea is very common; and as in every Case a Re­semblance and a present Impression must concur, we are abundantly supply'd with Experiments to prove the Reality of the foregoing Principle.

WE may add Force to these Experiments by others of a different Kind, in considering the Effects of Con­tiguity as well as of Resemblance. 'Tis certain that Distance diminishes the Force of every Idea, and that upon our Approach to any Object; tho' it does not discover itself to our Senses; it operates upon the Mind with an Influence, that imitates an immediate [Page 87] Impression. The thinking on any Object readily transports the Mind to what is contiguous; but 'tis only the actual Presence of an Object, that transports it with a superior Vivacity. When I am a few Miles from home, whatever relates to it touches me more nearly than when I am two hundred Leagues distant; tho' even at that Distance the reflecting on any thing in the Neighbourhood of my Friends or Family natu­rally produces an Idea of them. But as in this latter Case, both the Objects of the Mind are Ideas; not­withstanding there is an easy Transition betwixt them; that Transition alone is not able to give a superior Vi­vacity to any of the Ideas, for want of some imme­diate Impression*.

[Page 88] NO one can doubt but Causation has the same In­fluence as the other two Relations of Resemblance and Contiguity. Superstitious People are fond of the Re­licts of Saints and holy Men, for the same Reason, that they seek after Types or Images, in order to en­liven their Devotion, and give them a more intimate and strong Conception of those exemplary Lives, which they desire to imitate. Now 'tis evident one of the best Relicts a Devotee could procure would be the Handywork of a Saint; and if his Cloaths and Fur­niture are ever to be consider'd in this Light, 'tis be­cause they were once at his Disposal, and were mov'd and affected by him; in which Respect they are to be consider'd as imperfect Effects, and as connected with him by a shorter Chain of Consequences than any of those, by which we learn the Reality of his Existence.

SUPPOSE the Son of a Friend, who had been long dead or absent, were presented to us; 'tis evident, that this Object would instantly revive its correlative Idea, and recall to our Thoughts all our past Inti­macies and Familiarities in more lively Colours than they would otherwise have appear'd to us. This is another Phaenomenon, which seems to prove the Prin­ciple above mentioned.

[Page 89] WE may observe, that in these Phaenomena the Belief of the correlative Object is always pre-suppos'd; without which the Relation could have no Effect in inlivening the Idea. The Influence of the Picture supposes, that we believe our Friend to have once ex­isted. Contiguity to Home can never excite our Ideas of Home, unless we believe that it really exists. Now I assert, that this Belief, where it reaches beyond the Memory or Senses, is of a similar Nature, and arises from similar Causes, with the Transition of Thought and Vivacity of Conception here explain'd. When I throw a Piece of dry Wood into a Fire, my Mind is immediately carry'd to conceive, that its augments, not extinguishes the Flame. This Transition of Thought from the Cause to the Effect proceeds not from Rea­son. It derives its Origin altogether from Custom and Experience. And as it first begins from an Object, present to the Senses, it renders the Idea or Concep­tion of Flame more strong and lively than any loose, floating Reverie of the Imagination. That Idea arises immediately. The Thought passes instantly to it, and conveys to it all that Force of Conception, which is deriv'd from the Impression present to the Senses. When a Sword is level'd at my Breast, does not the Idea of Wound and Pain strike me more strongly, than when a Glass of Wine is presented to me, even tho' by Accident this Idea should be pre­sented [Page 90] after the Appearance of the latter Object? But what is there in this whole Matter to cause such a strong Conception, but only a present Object and a customary Transition to the Idea of another Object, which we have been accustom'd to conjoin with the former? This is the whole Operation of the Mind in all our Conclusions concerning Matter of Fact and Existence; and 'tis a Satisfaction to find some Analo­gies, by which it may be explain'd. The Transition from a present Object does in all Cases give Strength and Solidity to the related Idea.

HERE is a kind of pre-establish'd Harmony betwixt the Course of Nature and the Successions of our Ideas; and tho' the Powers and Forces, by which the former is govern'd, be wholly unknown to us, yet our Thoughts and Conceptions have still, we find, gone on in the same Train with the other Works of Nature. Custom is that admirable Principle, by which this Correspon­dence has been effected; so necessary to the Subsist­ence of our Species, and the Regulation of our Con­duct, in every Circumstance and Occurrence of hu­man Life. Had not the Presence of an Object in­stantly excited the Idea of those Objects, commonly conjoin'd with it, all our Knowledge must have been limited to the narrow Sphere of our Memory and Senses; and we should never have been able to adjust Means to Ends, nor employ our natural Powers, ei­ther to the producing of Good, or avoiding of Evil. [Page 91] Those, who delight in the Discovery and Contempla­tion of final Causes, have here ample Subject to em­ploy their Wonder and Admiration.

I SHALL add, as a farther Confirmation of the foregoing Theory, that as this Operation of the Mind, by which we infer like Effects from like Causes, and vice versa, is so essential to the Subsistence of all hu­man Creatures, it is not probable it could be trusted to the fallacious Deductions of our Reason, which is slow in its Operations, appears not, in any Degree, during the first Years of Infancy, and at best is, in every Age and Period of human Life, extremely liable to Error and Mistake. 'Tis more like the ordinary Prudence of Nature to secure so necessary an Act of the Mind, by some Instinct or mechanical Tendency, which may be infallible in its Operations, may dis­cover itself at the first Appearance of Life and Thought, and may be independent of all the labour'd Deductions of the Understanding. As Nature has taught us the Use of our Limbs, without giving us the Knowledge of the Muscles and Nerves, by which they are actuated; so has she implanted in us an In­stinct, that carries forward the Thought in a corres­pondent Course to that which she has establish'd a­mong external Objects; tho' we are ignorant of those Powers and Forces, on which this regular Course and Succession of Objects totally depends.


THO there be no such Thing as Chance in the World; our Ignorance of the real Cause of any Event has the same Influence on the Understand­ing, and begets a like Species of Belief or Opinion.

THERE is certainly a Probability, which arises from a Superiority of Chances on any Side; and according as this Superiority encreases, and surpasses the oppo­site Chances, the Probability receives a proportionable Encrease, and begets still a higher Degree of Belief or Assent to that Side, in which we discover the Superi­ority. [Page 94] If a Dye were mark'd with one Figure or Number of Spots on four Sides, and with another Fi­gure or Number of Spots on the two remaining Sides, 'twould be more probable, that the former should turn up than the latter; tho' if it had a thousand Sides mark'd in the same Manner, and only one opposite Side, the Probability would be much higher, and our Belief or Expectation of the Event more steady and secure. This Process of the Thought or Reasoning may seem trivial and obvious; but to those, who con­sider it more narrowly, it may, perhaps, afford Mat­ter for very curious Speculation.

IT seems evident, that when the Mind looks for­ward to discover the Event, which may result from the Throw of such a Dye, it considers the turning up of each particular Side as alike probable; and this is the very Nature of Chance to render all the particular Events, comprehended in it, entirely equal. But finding a greater Number of Sides concur in the one Event than in the other, the View is carry'd more frequently to that Event, and meets it oftner, in re­volving the various Possibilities or Chances, on which the ultimate Result depends. This Concurrence of the several Views in one particular Event begets im­mediately, by an inexplicable Contrivance of Nature, the Sentiment of Belief, and gives that Event the Ad­vantage over its Antagonist, which is supported by a lesser Number of Views, and recurs less frequently [Page 95] to the Mind. If we allow, that Belief is nothing but a firmer and stronger Conception of an Object than what attends the mere Fictions of the Imagination, this Operation may, perhaps, in some measure, be ac­counted for. The Concurrence of these several Views or Glimpses imprints its Idea more strongly on the Imagination; gives it superior Force and Vigour; renders its Influence on the Passions and Affections more sensible; and in a word, begets that Reliance or Security, which constitutes the Nature of Belief and Opinion.

THE Case is the same with the Probability of Causes as with that of Chance. There are some Causes, which are entirely uniform and constant in producing a particular Effect; and no Instance has ever yet been found of any Failure or Irregularity in their Opera­tion. Fire has always burnt, and Water suffocated every human Creature: The Production of Motion by Impulse and Gravity is an universal Law, that has hi­therto admitted of no Exception. But there are other Causes which have been found more irregular and un­certain; nor has Rhubarb prov'd always a Purge, or Opium a Soporific to every one, who has taken these Medicines. 'Tis true; when any Cause fails of pro­ducing its usual Effect, Philosophers ascribe not this to any Irregularity in Nature; but suppose, that some secret Causes, in the particular Structure of Parts, [Page 96] have prevented the Operation. Our Reasonings, however, and Conclusions concerning the Event are the same as if this Principle had no Place. Being de­termin'd by Custom to transfer the past to the future, in all our Inferences; where the past has been entirely regular and uniform, we expect the Event with the greatest Assurance, and leave no room for any con­trary Supposition. But where different Effects have been sound to follow from Causes, which are to Ap­pearance exactly similar, all these various Effects must occur to the Mind in transferring the past to the fu­ture, and enter into our Consideration, when we de­termine the Probability of the Event. Tho' we give the Preference to that which has been found most u­sual, and believe that this Effect will exist, we must not overlook the other Effects, but must give each of them a particular Weight and Authority, in Propor­tion as we have found it to be more or less frequent. 'Tis more probable, in every Place of Europe, that there will be Frost sometime in January, than that the Weather will continue fresh throughout that whole Month; tho' this Probability varies according to the different Climates, and approaches to a Certainty in the more northern Kingdoms. Here then it seems evident that when we transfer the past to the future, in order to determine the Effect that will result from any Cause, we transfer all the different Events, in the same Proportion as they have appear'd in the past, and conceive one to have existed a hundred Times, [Page 97] for Instance, another ten Times, and another once. As a great Number of Views do here concur in one Event, they fortify and confirm it to the Imagination, beget that Sentiment we call Belief, and give it the Preference above its Antagonist, which is not sup­ported by an equal Number of Experiments, and oc­curs not so frequently to the Thought in transferring the past to the future. Let any one try to account for this Operation of the Mind upon any of the receiv'd Systems of Philosophy, and he will be sensible of the Difficulty. For my part, I shall think it sufficient, if the present Hints excite the Curiosity of Philoso­phers, and make them sensible how extremely defec­tive all receiv'd Theories are, in treating of such cu­rious and such sublime Subjects.

ESSAY VII. Of the IDEA of POWER or necessary CONNEXION.


THE great Advantage of the mathematical Sci­ences above the moral consists in this, that the Ideas of the former, being sensible, are always clear and determinate, the smallest Distinction betwixt them is immediately perceptible, and the same Terms are still expressive of the same Ideas, without Ambiguity or Variation. An Oval is never mistaken for a Cir­cle, nor an Hyperbola for an Ellipsis. The Isoceles and Scalenum are distinguish'd by Boundaries more exact than Vice and Virtue, Right and Wrong. If any Term be defin'd in Geometry, the Mind readily, of itself, substitutes, on all Occasions, the Definition for the Term defin'd: Or even when no Definition is [Page 100] employ'd, the Object itself may be presented to the Senses, and by that Means be steadily and clearly ap­prehended. But the finer Sentiments of the Mind, the Operations of the Understanding, the various Agi­tations of the Passions, tho' really in themselves distinct, easily escape us, when survey'd by Reflection; nor is it in our Power to recall the original Object, as often as we have occasion to contemplate it. Ambiguity, by this Means, is gradually introduc'd into our Rea­sonings: Similar Objects are readily taken to be the same: And the Conclusion becomes, at last, very wide of the Premises.

ONE may safely, however, affirm, that if we con­sider these Sciences in a proper Light, their Advantages and Disadvantages do very nearly compensate each o­ther, and reduce both of them to a State of Equality. If the Mind with greater Facility retains the Ideas of Ge­ometry clear and determinate, it must carry on a much longer and more intricate Chain of Reasoning, and com­pare Ideas much wider of each other, in order to reach the abstruser Truths of that Science. And if more Ideas are apt, without extreme Care, to fall into Ob­scurity and Confusion, the Inferences are always much shorter in these Disquisitions, and the intermediate Steps, that lead to the Conclusion, much fewer th [...] in the Sciences, which treat of Quantity and Number. In reality, there is scarce a Proposition of Euclid [...] [Page 101] simple as not to consist of more Parts, than are to be found in any moral Reasoning, which runs not into Chimera and Conceit. If we can trace the Principles of the human Mind thro' a few Steps, we may be very well satisfy'd with our Progress; considering how soon Nature throws a Bar to all our Enquiries concerning Causes, and reduces us to an Acknowledgment of our Ignorance. The chief Obstacle, therefore, to our Improvement in the moral or metaphysical Sciences is the Obscurity of the Ideas, and Ambiguity of the Terms. The principal Difficulty in the Mathematics in the Length of Inferences and Compass of Thought, requisite to the forming any Conclusion. And perhaps, our Progress in natural Philosophy is mostly re­tarded by the Want of proper Experiments and Phe­nomena, which often are discover'd by Chance, and cannot always be found, when requisite, even by the most diligent and prudent Enquiry. A moral Philo­sophy seems hitherto to have received less Improve­ments than either Geometry or Physics, we may con­clude, that, if there be any Difference in this Respect amongst these Sciences, the Difficulties, which ob­struct the Progress of the former, require the greatest Care and Capacity to be surmounted.

THERE are no Ideas, that occur in Metaphysics, more obscure and uncertain, than those of Power, Force, E­nergy, or necessary Connexion, which it is every Mo­ment [Page 102] necessary for us to treat of in all our Disquisitions. We shall, therefore, endeavour, in this Essay, to fix, if possible, the precise Meaning of these Terms, and thereby remove some Part of that Obscurity, which is so much complain'd of in this Species of Philoso­phy.

IT seems a Proposition, which will not admit of much Dispute, that all our Ideas are nothing but Co­pies of our Impressions, or in other Words, that 'tis impossible for us to think of any Thing, which we have not antecedently felt, either by our external or internal Senses. I have endeavour'd in a former Es­say* to explain and prove this Proposition, and have express'd my Hopes, that, by a proper Application of it, Men may be able to reach a greater Clearness and Precision in philosophical Reasonings, than what they have hitherto been ever able to attain. Complex Ideas may, perhaps, be well known by Definition, which is nothing but an Enumeration of those Parts or simple Ideas, that compose them. But when we have push'd up Definitions to the most simple Ideas, and find still some Ambiguity and Obscurity; what Re­source are we then possess'd of? By what Invention can we throw Light upon these Ideas, and render them altogether precise and determinate to our intel­lectual [Page 103] View? Produce the Impressions or original Sentiments, from which the Ideas are copy'd. These Impressions are all strong and sensible. They admit not of Ambiguity and Obscurity. They are not only plac'd in a full Light themselves, but may throw Light on their correspondent Ideas, which lie in Ob­scurity. And by this Means, we may, perhaps, at­tain a new Microscope or Species of Optics, by which, in the moral Sciences, the most minute and most sim­ple Ideas, may be so enlarg'd as to fall readily under our Apprehension, and be equally known with the grossest and most sensible Objects, that can be the Subjects of our Disquisition and Enquiry.

To be fully acquainted, therefore, with the Idea of Power or necessary Connexion, let us examine its Im­pression; and in order to find that with greater Certain­ty, let us search for all the Sources, from which it may possibly be deriv'd.

WHEN we look about us towards external Objects, and consider the Operation of Causes, we are never able, in any single Instance, to discover any Power or necessary Connexion; any Quality, which binds the Effect to the Cause, and renders the one an insallible Consequence of the other. We only find, that the one does actually, in fact, follow the other. The Impulse of one Billiard-Ball is attended with Motion [Page 104] in the second. This is the whole, that appears to the outward Senses. The Mind feels no Sentiment or inward Impression from this Succession of Objects: Consequently, there is nothing in any single, particu­lar Instance of Cause and Effect, which can suggest the Idea of Power or necessary Connexion.

FROM the first Appearance of an Object, we never can conjecture what Effect will result from it. But [...] the Power or Energy of any Cause discoverable by the Mind, we could foresee the Effect, even with­out Experience, and might, at first, pronounce with Certainty concerning it, by the mere Dint of Thought and Reasoning.

IN Reality, there is no Part of Matter, that does ever, by its sensible Qualities, discover any Power or Energy, or give us ground to imagine, that it could produce any thing, or be follow'd by any other Ob­ject, which we could denominate its Effect. Solidity, Extension, Motion; these Qualities are all compleat in themselves, and never point out any other Event, which may result from them. The Scenes of the Uni­verse are continually shifting, and one Object follows another in an uninterrupted Succession; but the Power or Force, which actuates the whole Machine, is en­tirely conceal'd from us, and never discovers itself in any of the sensible Qualities of Body. We know, [Page 105] that, in fact, Heat is a constant Attendant of Flame; but what is the Connexion betwixt them, we have no room so much as to conjecture or imagine. 'Tis im­possible, therefore, that the Idea of Power can be de­riv'd from the Contemplation of Bodies, in single In­stances of their Operation; because no Bodies ever dis­cover any Power, which can be the Original of this Idea*.

SINCE, therefore, external Objects, as they ap­pear to the Senses, give us no Idea of Power or ne­cessary Connexion, by their Operations in particular Instances; let us see, if this Idea be deriv'd from Re­flection on the Operations of our own Minds, and be copy'd from any internal Impression. It may be said, that we are every Moment conscious of Power in our own Minds, while we feel, that, by the simple Com­mand of our Will, we can move the Organs of our Body, or direct the Faculties of our Minds, in their Operation. An Act of Volition produces Motion in our Limbs, or raises a new Idea in our Imagination. [Page 106] This Influence of the Will we know by Consciousness. Hence we acquire the Idea of Power or Energy; and are certain, that we ourselves and all other intelligent Beings are possess'd of Power. The Operations and mutual Influence of Bodies are, perhaps, sufficient to prove, that they also are possess'd of it. However this may be, the Idea of Power must certainly be al­low'd to be an Idea of Reflection, since it arises from reflecting on the Operations of our own Minds, and on the Command, which is exercis'd by Will over the Organs of the Body and Faculties of the Mind.

WE shall proceed to examine this Pretension, and shall endeavour to avoid, as far as we are able, all Jargon and Confusion, in treating of such subtile and such profound Subjects.

I ASSERT, then, in the first Place, that the Influ­ence of Volition over the Organs of the Body, is a Fact, which, like all other natural Operations, could be known only by Experience, and could never be foreseen from any apparent Energy or Power in the Cause, which connects it with the Effect, and renders the one a necessary Consequence of the other. The Motions of our Body follow upon the Command of our Will. This we are every Moment conscious of: But the Means, by which this is effected; the Ener­gy, by which the Will performs so extraordinary an [Page 107] Operation; this we are so far from being immediately conscious of, that it must for ever escape our most di­ligent Search and Enquiry.

FOR first; Is there any Principle in all Nature more mysterious than the Union of the Soul with the Body; by which a suppos'd spiritual Substance acquires such an Influence over a material one, that the most refin'd Thought is able to actuate the grossest Body? Were we empower'd, by a secret Wish, to remove Moun­tains, or controul the Planets in their Orbits; this extensive Authority over Matter would not be more extraordinary, nor more beyond the Bounds of our Comprehension. But if by Consciousness we per­ceiv'd any Power or Energy in the Will, we must know this Power; we must know its Connexion with the Effect; we must know the secret Union of Soul and Body, and the Nature of both these Substances; by which the one is able to operate, in so many In­stances, upon the other.

Secondly, We are not able to move all the Organs of the Body with a like Authority; tho' we cannot as­sign any other Reason, besides Experience, for so re­markable a Difference betwixt the one and the other. Why has the Will an Influence over the Tongue and Fingers, and not over the Heart or Liver? This Que­stion would never embarrass us, were we conscious [Page 108] of a Power in the former Case, and not in the latter. We should, then, perceive, independent of Expe­rience, why the Authority of Will over the Organs of the Body is circumscrib'd within such particular Li­mits. Being in that Case fully acquainted with the Power or Force, by which it operates, we should also know, why its Influence reaches precisely to such Boundaries, and no farther.

A MAN, struck suddenly with a Palsy in the Leg or Arm, or who had newly lost those Members, fre­quently endeavours, at first, to move them, and em­ploy them to their usual Offices. Here he is as much conscious of Power to command such Limbs, as a Man in perfect Health is to actuate any Member, which remains in its natural State and Condition. But Consciousness never deceives. Consequently, neither in the one Case nor the other, are we ever conscious of any Power. We only learn the Influence of our Will from Experience. And Experience only teaches us, how one Event constantly follows another, with­out instructing us in the secret Connexion, which binds them together, and renders them inseparable.

Thirdly, We learn from Anatomy, that the imme­diate Object of Power in voluntary Motion, is not the Member itself, which is mov'd, but certain Muscles, and Nerves, and animal Spirits, and perhaps, some­thing [Page 109] still more minute and more unknown, thro' which the Motion is successively propagated, 'ere it reach the Member itself, whose Motion is the imme­diate Object of Volition. Can there be a more certain Proof, that the Power, by which this whole Opera­tion is perform'd, so far from being directly and fully known by an inward Sentiment or Consciousness, is, to the last degree, mysterious and unintelligible? Here the Mind wills a certain Event: Immediately, another Event, unknown to ourselves, and totally different from that intended, is produc'd: This Event pro­duces another, equally unknown: Till at last, thro' a long Succession, the desir'd Event is produc'd. But if the original Power were felt, it must be known: Were it known, its Effect must also be known; since all Power is relative to its Effect. And vice versa, if the Effect be not known, the Power cannot be known or felt. How indeed can we be conscious of a Power to move our Limbs, when we have no such Power; but only that to move certain animal Spirits, which, tho' they produce at last the Motion of our Limbs, yet operate in a Manner, that is altogether beyond our Comprehension?

WE may, therefore, conclude from the whole, I hope, without any Temerity, tho' with Assurance; that our Idea of Power is not copy'd from any Senti­ment [Page 110] or Consciousness of Power within ourselves, when we give rise to animal Motion, or apply our Limbs to their proper Use and Office. That their Motion follows the Command of the Will is a Matter of common Experience, like other natural Events: But the Power or Energy, by which this is effected, like that in other natural Events, is unknown and in­conceivable*.

SHALL we then assert, that we are conscious of a Power or Energy in our own Minds, when, by an Act or Command of our Will, we raise up a new Idea, fix the Mind to a Contemplation of it, turn it on all [Page 111] Sides, and at last dismiss it for some other Idea, when we think, that we have survey'd it with sufficient Ac­curacy? I believe the same Arguments will prove, that even this Command of the Will gives us no real I­dea of Force or Energy.

First, It must be allow'd, that when we know a Power, we know that very Circumstance in the Cause, by which it is enabled to produce the Effect: For these are suppos'd to be synonimous. We must, there­fore, know both the Cause and Effect, and the Re­lation betwixt the one and the other. But do we pre­tend to be acquainted with the Nature of the human Soul and the Nature of an Idea, or the Aptitude of the one to produce the other? This is a real Creation; a Production of something out of nothing: Which implies a Power so great, that it may seem, at first Sight, beyond the Reach of any Being, less than infi­nite. At least, it must be own'd, that such a Power is not felt, nor known, nor even conceivable by the Mind. We only feel the Event, viz. the Existence of an Idea, consequent to a Command of the Will: But the Manner, by which this Operation is per­sorm'd; the Power, by which it is produc'd; is en­tirely beyond our Comprehension.

Secondly, The Command of the Mind over itself is limited, as well as its Command over the Body; and [Page 112] these Limitations are not known by Reason, or any Contemplation of the Nature of the Cause and the Effect; but only by Experience and Observation, as in all other natural Events and in the Operation of external Objects. Our Authority over our Sentiments and Passions is much weaker than that over our I­deas; and even the latter Authority is circumscrib'd within very narrow Limits. Will any one pretend to assign the ultimate Reason of these Limits, or snow why the Power is deficient in one Case and not in an­other?

Thirdly, This Self-command is very different at different Times. A Man in Health posseffes more of it, than one languishing with Sickness. We are more Masters of our Thoughts in the Morning than in the Evening: Fasting, than after a full Meal. Can we give any Reason for these Variations, except Expe­rience? Where then is the Power, of which we pre­tend to be conscious? Is there not here some secret Mechanism or Structure of Parts, either in a spiritual or material Substance or both, upon which the Effect depends, and which being altogether unknown to us, renders the Power or Energy of the Will equally un­known and incomprehensible?

VOLITION is surely an Act of the Mind, with which we are sufficiently acquainted. Reflect upon it. [Page 113] Consider it on all Sides. Do you find any thing in it like this creative Power, by which it raises from no­thing a new Idea, and by a kind of FIAT, imitates the Omnipotence of its Maker, if I may be allow'd so to speak, who call'd forth into Existence all the various Scenes of Nature? So far from being conscious of this Energy in the Will, it requires as certain Expe­rience, as that which we are possess'd of in the Case, to convince us, that such extraordinary Effects do ever result from a simple Act of Volition.

THE Generality of Mankind never find any Diffi­culty in accounting for the more common and fa­miliar Operations of Nature; such as the Descent of heavy Bodies, the Growth of Plants, the Generation of Animals, or the Nourishment of Bodies by Food; but suppose, that, in all these Cases, they perceive the very Force and Energy of the Cause, by which it is connected with its Effect, and is for ever infallible in its Operation. They acquire, by long Habit, such a Turn of Mind, that, upon the Appearance of the Cause, they immediately expect with Assurance its u­sual Attendant, and hardly conceive it possible, that any other Event could result from it. 'Tis only on the Discovery of extraordinary Phaenomena, such as Earthquakes, Pestilences, and Prodigies of any Kind, that they find themselves at a Loss to assign a proper Cause, and to explain the Manner, in which the Ef­fect [Page 114] is produc'd by it. 'Tis usual for Men, in such Difficulties, to have recourse to some invisible, intel­ligent Principle, (quasi Deus ex machina) as the im­mediate Cause of that Event, which surprises them, and which, they think, cannot be accounted for from the common Powers of Nature. But Philosophers, who carry their Scrutiny a little farther, immediately perceive, that, even in the most familiar Events, the Energy of the Cause is as unintelligible as in the most extraordinary and unusual, and that we only learn by Experience the frequent CONJUNCTION of one Object with another, without being ever able to comprehend any thing like CONNEXION betwixt them. Here then many Philosophers think themselves oblig'd by Reason to have recourse, on all Occasions, to the same Prin­ciple, which the Vulgar never appeal to but in Cases, that appear miraculous and supernatural. They ac­knowledge Mind and Intelligence to be, not only the ultimate and original Cause of all Things, but the im­mediate and sole Cause of every Event, that appears in Nature. They pretend, that those Objects, which are commonly denominated Causes, are in Reality no­thing but Occasions; and that the true and direct Prin­ciple of every Effect is not any Power or Force in Na­ture, but a Volition of the supreme Being, who wills, that such particular Objects should be for ever conjoin'd with each other. Instead of saying, that one Billiard-Ball moves another, by a Force, which it has deriv'd [Page 115] from the Author of Nature; 'tis the Deity himself, they say, who, by a particular Volition, moves the second Ball, being determin'd to this Operation by the Impulse of the first Ball; in Consequence of those general Laws, which he has laid down to himself in the Government of the Universe. But Philosophers, advancing still in their Enquiries, discover, that, as we are totally ignorant of the Power, on which de­pends the mutual Operation of Bodies, we are no less ignorant of that Power, on which depends the Operation of Mind on Body, or of Body on Mind; nor are we able, either from our Senses or Consciousness, to assign the ultimate Principle, in the one Case more than in the other. The same Igno­rance, therefore, reduces them to the same Conclu­sion. They assert, that the Deity is the immediate Cause of the Union betwixt Soul and Body, and that they are not the Organs of Sense, which, being agi­tated by external Objects, produce Sensations in the Mind; but that 'tis a particular Volition of our om­nipotent Maker, which excites such a Sensation, in Consequence of such a Motion in the Organ. In like manner, it is not any Energy in the Will, that pro­duces local Motion in our Members: 'Tis God him­self, who is pleas'd to second our Will, in itself impo­tent, and to command that Motion, which we erro­neously attribute to our own Power and Efficacy. Nor do Philosophers stop at this Conclusion. They some­times [Page 116] apply the same Inferences to the Mind itself, in its internal Operations. Our mental Vision or Con­ception of Ideas is nothing but a Revelation made to us by our Maker. When we voluntarily turn our Thoughts to any Object, and raise up its Image in the Fancy; it is not the Will, which creates that Idea: 'Tis the universal Creator of all Things, who disco­vers it to the Mind, and renders it present to us.

THUS, according to these Philosophers, every Thing is full of God. Not contented with the Principle, that nothing exists but by his Will, that nothing pos­sesses any Power but by his Concession: They [...] Nature, and all created Beings of every Power, in or­der to render their Dependance on the Deity still more sensible and immediate. They consider not, that by this Theory they diminish, instead of magnifying, the Grandeur of those Attributes, which they affect so much to celebrate. It argues surely more Power in the Deity to delegate a certain Degree of Power to his inferior Creatures than to operate every Thing by his immediate Volition. It argues more Wisdom to con­trive at first the Fabric of the World with such perfect Foresight, that, of itself, and by its own proper Ope­ration, it may serve all the Purposes of Providence, than if the great Creator were oblig'd every Moment to adjust its Parts, and animate by his Breath all the Wheels of that stupendous Machine.

[Page 117] BUT if we would have a more philosophical Con­futation of this Theory, perhaps the two following Reflections may suffice.

First, It seems to me, that this Theory, of the u­niversal Energy and Operation of the supreme Being, is too bold ever to carry Conviction with it to a Man, who is sufficiently appriz'd of the Weakness of human Reason, and the narrow Limits, to which it is con­fin'd in all its Operations. Tho' the Chain of Argu­ments, that lead to it, were ever so conclusive and lo­gical, there must arise a strong Supicion, if not an ab­solute Assurance, that it has led us quite beyond the Reach of our Faculties, when it establishes Conclu­sions so extraordinary, and so remote from common Life and Experience. We are got into Fairy-land, long ere we have reach'd the last Steps of our Theory; and there we have no Reason to trust our common Methods of Argument, or think that our usual Analo­gies and Probabilities have any Weight or Authority. Our Line is too short to fathom such immense Abysses. And however we may flatter ourselves, that we are guided in every Step we take by a kind of Verisimili­tude and Experience; we may be assur'd, that this fancy'd Experience has no Authority, when we thus apply it to Subjects, that lie entirely out of the Sphere [Page 118] of Experience. But on this we shall have Occasion to touch afterwards*.

Secondly, I cannot perceive any Force in the Ar­guments, on which this Theory is founded. We are ignorant, 'tis true, of the Manner, in which Bodies operate on each other: Their Force or Energy is en­tirely incomprehensible. But are we not equally ig­norant of the Manner or Force, by which a Mind, even the supreme Mind, operates either on itself or on Body? Whence, I beseech you, do we acquire any Idea of it? We have no Sentiment or Con­sciousness of this Power in ourselves: We have no Idea of the supreme Being, but what we learn from Reflection on our own Faculties. Were our Igno­rance, therefore, a good Reason for our rejecting any Thing, we should be led into that Principle of refusing all Energy to the supreme Being as much as to the grossest Matter. We surely comprehend as little the Operations of the one as of the other. Is it more diffi­cult to conceive, that Motion may arise from Impulse, than that it may arise from Volition? All we know is our profound Ignorance in both Cases.


BUT to hasten to a Conclusion of this Argument, which is already drawn out to too great a Length: We have sought, in vain, for an Idea of Power or ne­cessary Connexion in all the Sources, from which we could suppose it to be deriv'd. It appears, that, in [Page 120] single Instances of the Operation of Bodies, we never can, by our outmost Scrutiny, discover any Thing but one Event following another, without being able to comprehend any Force or Power, by which the Cause operates, or any Connexion betwixt it and its suppos'd Effect. The same Difficulty occurs in con­templating the Operations of Mind on Body; where we observe the Motion of the latter to follow upon the Volition of the former; but are not able to observe or conceive the Tye, which binds them together, or the Energy, by which the Mind produces this Effect. The Authority of the Will over our own Faculties and Ideas is not a whit more comprehensible: So that upon the whole, there appears not, thro' all Nature, any one Instance of Connexion, that is conceivable by us: All Events seem entirely loose and separate. One Event follows another; but we never can observe any Tye betwixt them: They seem conjoin'd, but never connected. And as we can have no Idea of any Thing, that never appear'd to our outward Sense or inward Sentiment, the necessary Conclusion seems to be, that we have no Idea of Connexion or Power at all, and that these Words are absolutely without any Meaning, when employ'd either in philosophical Reasonings, or common Life.

BUT we have still one Method of avoiding this Conclusion, and one Source, which we have not yet [Page 121] examin'd. When any natural Object or Event is pre­sented, 'tis impossible for us, by any Sagacity or Pe­netration, to discover, or even conjecture, without Experience, what Event will result from it, or to carry our Foresight beyond those Objects, which are immediately present to the Memory and Senses. Even after one Instance or Experiment, where we have observ'd a particular Event to follow upon an­other, we are not entitled to form a general Rule, or foretel what will happen in like Cases; it being justly esteem'd an unpardonable Rashness and Temerity to judge of the whole Course of Nature from one single Experiment, however accurate or certain. But when one particular Species of Events has always, in all In­stances, been conjoin'd with another, we make no longer any Scruple to foretell the one upon the Ap­pearance of the other, and to employ that Reasoning, which can alone assure us of any Matter of Fact or Existence. We then call the one Object, Cause; and the other, Effect: We suppose, that there is some Connexion betwixt them; some Power in the one, by which it infallibly produces the other, and operates with the greatest Certainty and strongest Ne­cessity.

[Page 122] IT appears, then, that this Idea of a necessary Con­nexion amongst Objects or Events arises from a Num­ber of similar Instances of the constant Conjunction of these Events, and can never be suggested by any one of these Instances, survey'd in all possible Lights and Positions. But what is there in a Number of Instances, different from every single Instance, which is suppos'd to be exactly similar? Nothing but this, that after a Repetition of similar Instances, the Mind is carry'd by Habit, upon the Appearance of one Event, to expect its usual Attendant, and to believe, that it will exist. This Connexion, therefore, which we feel in the Mind, or customary Transition of the Imagination from one Object to its usual Attendant, is the only Sentiment or Impression, from which we form the Idea of Power or necessary Connexion. Nothing farther is in the Case. Contemplate the Subject on all Sides, you will never find any other Origin of this Idea. There is no other Difference betwixt one In­stance, from which we never can receive the Idea of Connexion, and a Number of similar Instances, by which it is suggested. The first Time a Man saw the Communication of Motion by Impulse, as by the Shock of two Billiard-balls, he could not pronounce that the one Effect was connected; but only that it was conjoin'd, with the other. After he has observ'd se­veral [Page 123] Instances of this Nature, he then pronounces them to be connected. What Alteration has happen'd to give rise to this new Idea of Connexion? Nothing but this, that he now feels these Events to be connected in his Imagination, and can readily foretell the Ex­istence of the one from the Appearance of the other. When, therefore, we say, that one Object is connected with another, we mean only, that they have acquir'd a Connexion in our Thoughts, and give rise to this Inference, by which they become Proofs of each o­ther's Existence. A Conclusion, which is somewhat extraordinary; but which seems founded on sufficient Evidence. Nor will its Evidence be weakned by any general Diffidence of the Understanding, or sceptical Suspicion concerning every Conclusion, that is new and extraordinary. No Conclusion can be more agreeable to Scepticism than such as make Discoveries concern­ing the Weakness and narrow Limitations of human Reason and Capacity.

AND what stronger Instance can be produc'd of the surprizing Ignorance and Weakness of the Understand­ing, than the present? For surely, if there be any Relation among Objects, which it imports us to know perfectly, 'tis that of Cause and Effect. On this are founded all our Reasonings concerning Matter of Fact [Page 124] or Existence. By Means of it alone we attain any Assurance concerning Objects, that are remov'd from the present Testimony of our Memory and Senses. The only immediate Utility of all Science is to teach us, how to controul and regulate future Events by their Causes. Our Thoughts and Enquiries are, there­fore, every Moment employ'd concerning this Re­lation. And yet so imperfect are the Ideas we form concerning it, that 'tis impossible to give any just De­finition of Cause, except what is drawn from some­thing extraneous and foreign to it. Similar Objects are always conjoin'd with similar. Of this we have Experience. Suitable to this Experience, therefore, we may define a Cause to be an Object, follow'd by another, and where all the Objects, similar to the first, are follow'd by Objects, similar to the second. The Ap­pearance of a Cause does always convey the Mind, by a customary Transition, to the Idea of the Effect. Of this also we have Experience. We may, there­fore, suitable to this Experience, form another Defi­nition of Cause, and call it, an Object, follow'd by an­other, and whose Appearance always conveys the Thought to that other. But tho' both these Definitions be drawn from Circumstances, foreign to the Cause, we cannot remedy this Inconvenience, or attain any more perfect Definition, which may point out that Circumstance in the Cause, which gives it a Connexion with its Effect. [Page 125] We have no Idea of this Connexion; nor even any Notion what it is we desire to know, when we endea­vour at a Conception of it. We say, for Instance, that the Vibration of this String is the Cause of this particular Sound. But what do we mean by that Af­firmation? We either mean, that this Vibration is fol­low'd by this Sound, and that all similar Vibrations have been follow'd by similar Sounds: Or, that this Vibra­tion is follow'd by this Sound, and that upon the Ap­pearance of the one, the Mind anticipates the Senses, and forms immediately an Idea of the other. We may con­sider the Relation of Cause and Effect in either of these two Lights; but beyond these, we have no Idea of it.

To recapitulate, therefore, the Reasonings of this Essay: Every Idea is copy'd from some preceding Im­pression or Sentiment; and where we cannot find any Impression, we may be certain there is no Idea. In all single Instances of the Operation of Bodies or Minds, there is nothing that produces any Impression, nor consequently can suggest any Idea of Power or necessary Connexion. But when many uniform In­stances appear, and the same Object is always follow'd by the same Event; we then begin to entertain the Notion of Cause and Connexion. We then feel a [Page 126] new Sentiment or Impression, viz. a customary Con­nexion in the Thought or Imagination betwixt one Object and its usual Attendant; and this Sentiment is the Original of that Idea we seek for. For as this Idea arises from a Number of similar Instances, and not from any single Instance; it must arise from that Circumstance, in which the Number of Instances dif­fer from every individual Instance. But this custo­mary Connexion or Transition of the Imagination is the only Circumstance, in which they differ. In every other particular, they are alike. The first In­stance we saw of Motion, communicated by the Shock of two Billiard-balls (to return to this obvious Instance) is exactly similar to any one, that may, at present, occur to us; except only, that we could not, at first, infer the one Event from the other; which we are enabled to do at present, after so long a Course of uniform Experience. I know not, if the Reader will readily apprehend this Reasoning. I am afraid, that, should I multiply Words about it, or throw it into a greater Variety of Lights, it would only become more obscure and intricate. In all abstract Rea­sonings, there is one Point of View, which, if we can happily hit, we shall go farther towards il­lustrating the Subject, than by all the Eloquence and copious Expression of the World. This we [Page 127] should endeavour to attain, and reserve the Flowers of Rhetoric for Subjects, that are more adapted to them.



IT might reasonably be expected, that, in Que­stions, which have been canvass'd and disputed with great Eagerness since the first Origin of Science and Philosophy, the Meaning of all the Terms, at least, should have been agreed upon among the Dis­putants; and our Enquiries, in the Course of two thousand Years, been able to pass from Words to the true and real Subject of the Controversy. For how easy may it seem to give exact Definitions of the Terms employ'd in Reasoning, and make these Defi­nitions, not the mere Sound of Words, the Object of future Scrutiny and Examination! But if we consider the Matter more narrowly, we shall be apt to draw a quite opposite Conclusion. From that Circumstance alone, that a Controversy has been long kept afoot, [Page 130] and remains still undecided, we may presume, that there is some Ambiguity in the Expression, and that the Disputants affix different Ideas to the Terms em­ploy'd in the Controversy. For as the Faculties of the Soul are suppos'd to be naturally alike in all Men; otherwise nothing could be more fruitless than to reason or dispute together; 'twere impossible, if they affix'd the same Ideas to their Terms, they could so long form different Opinions of the same Subject; especially when they communicate their Views, and each Party turn themselves on all Sides, in Search of Arguments, which may give them the Victory over their Antagonists. 'Tis true; if they attempt the Discussion of Questions, that lie entirely beyond the Reach of human Capacity, such as those concerning the Origin of Worlds, or the Oeconomy of the in­tellectual System or Region of Spirits, they may long beat the Air in their fruitless Contests, and never ar­rive at any determinate Conclusion. But if the Que­stion regard any Subject of common Life and Expe­rience; nothing, one would think, could preserve the Dispute so long undecided, but some ambiguous Ex­pressions, which keep the Antagonists still at a Di­stance, and hinder them from grappling with each other.

THIS has been the Case in the long-disputed Que­stion concerning Liberty and Necessity; and to so re­markable [Page 131] a Degree, that, If I be not much mistaken, we shall find all Mankind, both learned and ignorant, to have been always of the same Opinion with regard to that Subject, and that a few intelligible Definitions would immediately have put an end to the whole Con­troversy. I own, that this Dispute has been so much canvass'd on all hands, and has led Philosophers into such a Labyrinth of obscure Sophystry, that 'tis no Wonder, if a sensible and polite Reader indulge his Ease so far as to turn a deaf Ear to the Proposal of such a Question, from which he can expect neither Instruction nor Entertainment. But the State of the Argument here proposed may, perhaps, serve to re­new his Attention, as it has more Novelty, promises, at least, some Decision of the Controversy, and will not much disturb his Ease, by any intricate or obscure Reasoning.

I HOPE, therefore, to make appear, that all Men have ever agreed in the Doctrines both of Necessity, and of Liberty, according to any reasonable Sense, that can be put on these Expressions; and that the whole Controversy has hitherto turn'd merely upon Words. We shall begin with examining the Doctrine of Necessity.

'Tis universally allow'd, that Matter, in all its Operations, is actuated by a necessary Force, and that [Page 132] every Effect is so precisely determin'd by the Nature and Energy of its Cause, that no other Effect, in such particular Circumstances, could possibly have resulted from the Operation of that Cause. The Degree and Direction of every Motion is, by the Laws of Nature, prescrib'd with such Exactness, that a living Creature may as soon arise from the Shock of two Bodies, as Motion in any other Degree or Direction, than what is actually produc'd by it. Would we, therefore, form a just and precise Idea of Necessity, we must con­sider, whence that Idea arises, when we apply it to the Operation of Bodies.

IT seems evident, that, if all the Scenes of Nature were shifted continually in such a Manner, that no two Events bore any Resemblance to each other, but every Object was entirely new, without any Similitude to whatever had been seen before, we should never, in that Case, have attain'd the least Idea of Necessity, or of a Connexion amongst these Objects. We might say, upon such a Supposition, that one Object or E­vent has follow'd another; not that one was produc'd by the other. The Relation of Cause and Effect must be utterly unknown to Mankind. Inference and Rea­soning concerning the Operations of Nature would, from that Moment, be at an End; and the Memory and Senses remain the only Canals, by which the Knowledge of any real Existence could possibly have access to the Mind. Our Idea, therefore, of Neces­sity [Page 133] and Causation arises entirely from that Unifor­mity, observable in the Operations of Nature; where similar Objects are constantly conjoin'd together, and the Mind is determin'd by Custom to infer the one from the Appearance of the other. These two Cir­cumstances form the whole of that Necessity, which we ascribe to Matter. Beyond the constant Conjunc­tion of similar Objects, and the consequent Inference from one to the other, we have no Notion of any Ne­cessity or Connexion.

IF it appear, therefore, that all Mankind have ever allow'd, without any Doubt or Hesitation, that these two Circumstances, take place in the voluntary Actions of Men, and in the Operations of the Mind; it must follow, that all Mankind have ever agreed in the Doctrine of Necessity, and that they have hitherto disputed, merely for Want of understanding each other.

As to the first Circumstance, the constant and regu­lar Conjunction of similar Events; we may possibly satisfy ourselves by the following Considerations. It is universally acknowledg'd, that there is a great Uniformity amongst the Actions of Men, in all Na­tions and Ages, and that human Nature remains still the same, in its Principles and Operations. The same Motives produce always the same Actions: The same [Page 134] Events follow from the same Causes. Ambition, Avarice, Self-love, Vanity, Friendship, Generosity, public Spirit; these Passions, mix'd in various De­grees, and distributed thro' Society, have been, from the Beginning of the World, and still are, the Sources of all the Actions and Enterprizes, that have ever been observ'd amongst Mankind. Would you know the Sentiments, Inclinations, and Course of Life of the Greeks and Romans? Study well the Temper and Actions of the French and English. You cannot be much mistaken in transferring to the former most of the Observations you have made with regard to the latter. Mankind are so much the same, in all Times and Places, that History informs us of nothing new or strange in this particular. Its chief Use is only to dis­cover the constant and universal Principles of human Nature, by shewing Men in all Varieties of Circum­stances and Situations, and furnishing us with Mate­rials, from which we may form our Observations, and become acquainted with the regular Springs of human Action and Behaviour. These Records of Wars, In­trigues, Factions, and Revolutions are so many Col­lections of Experiments, by which the Politician or moral Philosopher fixes the Principles of his Science; in the same Manner as the Physician or natural Phi­losopher becomes acquainted with the Nature of Plants, Minerals, and other external Objects, by the Experiments, which he forms concerning them. Nor are the Earth, Water, and other Elements, examin'd [Page 135] by Aristctle, and Hypocrates, more like those, which at present lie under our Observation, than the Men, describ'd by Polybius and Tacitus, are to those who now govern the World.

SHOULD a Traveller, returning from a far Coun­try, bring us an Account of Men, entirely different from any we were ever acquainted with; Men, who were entirely divested of Avarice, Ambition, or Re­venge; who knew no Pleasure but Friendship, Gene­rosity, and public Spirit; we should immediately, from these Circumstances, detect the Falshood, and prove him a Liar, with the same Certainty as if he had stuff'd his Narration with Stories of Centaurs and Dragons, Miracles and Prodigies. And if we would explode any Forgery in History, we cannot make use of a more convincing Argument, than to prove, that the Actions, ascrib'd to any Person, are directly con­trary to the Course of Nature, and that no human Motives, in such Circumstances, could ever induce him to such a Conduct. The Veracity of Quintus Curtius is as suspicious, when he describes the super­natural Courage of Alexander, by which he was hur­ry'd on singly to attack Multitudes, as when he de­scribes his supernatural Force and Activity, by which he was able to resist them. So readily and universally do we acknowledge a Uniformity in human Motives and Actions as well as in the Operations of Body.

[Page 136] HENCE likewise the Benefit of that Experience, acquir'd by a long Life and a Variety of Business and Company, in order to instruct us in the Principles of human Nature, and regulate our future Conduct, as well as Speculation. By Means of this Guide, we mount up to the Knowledge of Mens Inclinations and Motives, from their Actions, Expressions, and even Gestures; and again, descend to the Interpreta­tion of their Actions from the Knowledge of their Motives and Inclinations. The general Observations, treasur'd up by a Course of Practice and Experience, give us the Clue of human Nature, and teach us to unravel all its Labyrinths and Intricacies. Pretexts and Appearances no longer deceive us. Public De­clarations pass for the specious Colouring of a Cause: And tho' Virtue and Honour be allow'd their proper Weight and Authority, that perfect Disinterestedness, so often pretended, is never expected in Multitudes and Parties; seldom in their Leaders; and scarcely even in Individuals of any Rank or Station. But were there no Uniformity in human Actions, and were every Experiment we could form of this Kind irregular and anomolous, 'twere impossible to collect any general Observations concerning Mankind; and no Experience, however accurately digested by Re­flection, would ever serve to any Purpose. Why is the antient Husbandman more skilful in his Calling than the young Beginner, but because there is a cer­tain [Page 137] Uniformity in the Operation of the Sun, Rain, and Earth, towards the Production of Vegetables; and Experience teaches the old Practitioner the Rules, by which this Operation is govern'd and directed?

WE must not, however, expect, that this Unifor­mity of human Actions should be carry'd such a Length, as that all Men, in the same Circumstances, should always act precisely in the same Manner, with­out any Allowance for the Diversity of Characters, Prejudices, and Opinions. Such a Uniformity, in every Particular, is found in no Part of Nature. On the contrary, from observing the Variety of Conduct and Behaviour in different Men, we are enabled to form a greater Variety of Rules and Maxims, which still suppose a Degree of Uniformity and Regula­rity.

ARE the Manners of Men different in different Ages and Countries? We learn thence the great Force of Custom and Education, which mold the human Mind from its Infancy, and form it into a fix'd and establish'd Character. Is the Behaviour and Conduct of the one Sex very unlike that of the other? 'Tis from thence we become acquainted with the different Characters, which Nature has impress'd upon the Sexes, and which she preserves with Constancy and Regularity. Are the Actions of the same Person much diversify'd in the different Periods of his Life, from Infancy to old [Page 138] Age? This affords Room for many general Observa­tions concerning the gradual Change of our Senti­ments and Inclinations, and the different Maxims, which prevail in the different Ages of human Crea­tures. Even the Characters which are peculiar to each Individual, have a Constancy and Uniformity in their Influence, otherwise our Acquaintance with the Persons, and our Observations of their Conduct could never teach us their Dispositions, nor serve to direct our Behaviour with regard to them.

I GRANT it possible to find some Actions, which seem to have no regular or uniform Connexion with any known Motives, and are Exceptions to all the Measures of Conduct, which have ever been establish'd for the Government of Men. But if we would wil­lingly know, what Judgment should be form'd of such irregular and extraordinary Actions; we may consider the Sentiments that are commonly enter­tain'd with regard to those irregular Events, which appear in the Course of Nature, and the Operations of external Objects. All Causes are not conjoin'd to their usual Effects, with like Constancy and Unifor­mity. An Artificer, who handles only dead Matter, may be disappointed of his Scope and Aim as well as the Politician, who directs the Conduct of sensible and intelligent Agents.

[Page 139] THE Vulgar, who take Things according to their first Appearance, attribute the Uncertainty of Events to such an Uncertainty in the Causes as makes them often fail of their usual Influence; tho' they meet with no Obstacle nor Impediment in their Operation. But Philosophers, observing, that almost in every Part of Nature there is contain'd a vast Variety of Springs and Principles, which are hid, by reason of their Mi­nuteness or Remoteness, find, that 'tis at least possible the Contrariety of Events may not proceed from any Contingency in the Cause, but from the secret Ope­ration of contrary Causes. This Possibility is con­verted into Certainty by farther Observation, when they remark, that, upon an exact Scrutiny, a Con­trariety of Effects always betrays a Contrariety of Causes, and proceeds from their mutual Hindrance and Opposition. A Peasant can give no better Rea­son for the stopping of any Clock or Watch than to say it commonly does not go right: But an Artizan easily perceives, that the same Force in the Spring or Pendulum has always the same Influence on the Wheels; but fails of its usual Effect, perhaps by Rea­son of a Grain of Dust, which puts a stop to the whole Movement. From the Observation of several parallel Instances, Philosophers form a Maxim, that the Con­nexion betwixt all Causes and Effects is equally neces­sary, and that its seeming Uncertainty in some In­stances [Page 140] proceeds from the secret Opposition of con­trary Causes.

THUS for Instance, in the human Body, when the usual Symptoms of Health or Sickness disappoint our Expectations; when Medicines operate not with their wonted Powers; when irregular Events follow from any particular Causes; the Philosopher and Physician are not surpriz'd at the Matter, nor are ever tempted to deny, in general, the Necessity and Uniformity of those Principles, by which the animal Ceconomy is conducted. They know, that a human Body is a mighty complicated Machine: That many secret Powers lurk in it, which are altogether beyond our Comprehension: That to us it must often appear very uncertain in its Operations: And that therefore the irregular Events, which outwardly discover them­selves, can be no Proof, that the Laws of Nature are not observ'd with the greatest Strictness and Regula­rity in its internal Operations and Government.

THE Philosopher, if he be consistent, must apply the same Reasonings to the Actions and Volitions of intelligent Agents. The most irregular and unex­pected Resolutions of Men may frequently be ac­counted for by those who know every particular Cir­cumstance of their Character and Situation. A Person of an obliging Disposition gives a peevish Answer: [Page 141] But he has the Tooth-ake, or has not din'd. A stu­pid Fellow discovers an uncommon Alacrity in his Carriage: But he has met with a sudden Piece of Good-fortune. Or even when an Action, as some­times happens, cannot be particularly accounted for, either by the Person himself or by others; we know, in general, that the Characters of Men are, to a cer­tain Degree, inconstant and irregular. This is, in a Manner, the constant Character of human Nature; tho' it be applicable, in a more particular Manner, to some Persons, who have no fix'd Rule for their Con­duct, but proceed in a continu'd Course of Caprice and Inconstancy. The internal Principles and Mo­tives may operate in a uniform Manner, notwithstand­ing these seeming Irregularities; in the same Manner as the Winds, Rain, Clouds, and other Variations of the Weather are suppos'd to be govern'd by steady Principles; tho' not easily discoverable by human Sa­gacity and Enquiry.

THUS it appears, not only that the Conjunction betwixt Motives and voluntary Actions is as regular and uniform, as that betwixt the Cause and Effect in any Part of Nature; but also that this regular Con­junction has been universally acknowledg'd amongst Mankind, and has never been the Subject of Dispute, either in Philosophy or common Life. Now as it is from past Experience, that we draw all Inferences [Page 142] concerning the future, and as we conclude, that Ob­jects will always be conjoin'd together, which we find always to have been conjoin'd; it may seem super­fluous to prove, that this experienc'd Uniformity in human Actions is the Source of all the Inserences we form concerning them. But in order to throw the Argument into a greater Variety of Lights, we shall also insist, tho' briefly, on this latter Topic.

THE mutual Dependance of Men is so great, in all Societies, that scarce any human Action is en­tirely compleat in itself, or is perform'd without some Reference to the Actions of others, which are requi­site to make it answer fully the Intention of the Actor. The poorest Artificer, who labours alone, expects at least the Protection of the Magistrate, to ensure the Enjoyment of the Fruits of his Labour. He also ex­pects, that, when he carries his Goods to Market, and offers them at a reasonable Price, he shall find Buyers; and shall be able, by the Money he acquires, to en­gage others to supply him with those Commodities, which are requisite for his Subsistence. In Propor­tion as Mens Dealings are more extensive, and their Intercourse with others more complicated, they al­ways comprehend, in their Schemes of Life, a greater Variety of voluntary Actions, which they expect, from their proper Motives, to co-operate with their own. In all these Conclusions, they take their Mea­sures [Page 143] from past Experience, in the same Manner as in their Reasonings concerning external Objects; and firmly believe, that Men, as well as all the Elements, are to continue, in their Operations, the same, which they have ever found them. A Manufacturere reckons upon the Labour of his Servants, for the Execution of any Work, as much as upon the Tools he employs, and would be equally surpriz'd, in the one Case, were his Expectations disappointed, as in the other. In short, this experimental Inference and Reasoning con­cerning the Actions of others enters so much into hu­man Life, that no Man, while awake, is ever a Mo­ment without employing it. Have we not Reason, therefore, to affirm, that all Mankind have always agreed in the Doctrine of Necessity, according to the foregoing Definition and Explication of it?

NOR have Philosophers ever entertain'd a different Opinion from the People in this Particular. For not to mention, that almost every Action of their Life supposes it; there are even few of the speculative Parts of Learning, to which it is not essential. What would become of History, had we not a Dependance on the Veracity of the Historian, according to the Ex­perience we have had of Mankind? How could Poli­tics be a Science, if Laws and Forms of Government had not a uniform and regular Influence upon Society? Where would be the Foundation of Morals, if par­ticular [Page 144] Characters had no certain nor determinate Power to produce particular Sentiments, and if these Sentiments had no constant Operation on Actions? And with what Pretext could we employ our Criticism upon any Poet or polite Author, if we could not pro­nounce the Conduct and Sentiments of his Actors, ei­ther natural or unnatural, to such Characters, and in such Circumstances? It seems almost impossible, there­fore, to engage, either in Science or Action of any Kind, without acknowledging the Doctrine of Ne­cessity, and this Inference from Motives to voluntary Actions; from Characters to Conduct.

AND indeed, when we consider how aptly natural and moral Evidence link together, and form only one Chain of Argument betwixt them, we shall make no Scruple to allow, that they are of the same Nature, and deriv'd from the same Principles. A Prisoner, who has neither Money nor Interest, discovers the Impossibility of his Escape, as well from the Obsti­nacy of the Goaler, as from the Walls and Bars, with which he is surrounded; and in all Attempts for his Freedom, chuses rather to work upon the Stone and Iron of the one, than upon the inflexible Nature of the other. The same Prisoner, when conducted to the Scaffold, foresees his Death as certainly from the Constancy and Fidelity of his Guards as from the Ope­ration [Page 145] of the Ax or Wheel. His Mind runs along a certain Train of Ideas: The Refusal of the Soldiers to consent to his Escape; the Action of the Execu­tioner; the Separation of the Head and Body; Bleed­ing, convulsive Motions, and Death. Here is a con­nected Chain of natural Causes and voluntary Actions; but the Mind feels no Difference betwixt them, in passing from one Link to another: nor is less certain of the future Event than if it were connected with the Objects present to the Memory or Senses, by a Train of Causes, cemented together by what we are pleas'd to call a physical Necessity. The same experienc'd Union has the fame Effect on the Mind, whether the united Objects be Motives, Volitions, and Actions; or Figure and Motion. We may change the Names of Things; but their Nature and their Operation on the Understanding never change.

I HAVE frequently consider'd, what could possibly be the Reason, why all Mankind, tho' they have ever, without Hesitation, acknowledged the Doctrine of Necessity, in their whole Practice and Reasoning, have yet discover'd such a Reluctance to acknowledge it in Words, and have rather shewn a Propensity, in all Ages, to profess the contrary Opinion. The Matter, I think, may be accounted for, after the following Manner. If we examine the Operations of Bodies and the Production of Effects from their Causes, [Page 146] we shall find, that all our Faculties can never carry us farther in our Knowledge of this Relation, than barely to observe, that particular Objects are constantly conjoin'd together, and that the Mind is carry'd, by a customary Transition, from the Appearance of the one to the Belief of the other. But tho' this Conclusion concerning human Ignorance be the Result of the strictest Scrutiny and Examination of this Subject, Men still entertain a strong Propensity to believe, that they penetrate farther into the Powers of Nature, and perceive something like a necessary Connexion betwixt the Cause and the Effect. When again they turn their Reflections towards the Operations of their own Minds, and feel no such Connexion of the Mo­tive and the Action; they are apt, from thence, to suppose, that there is a Difference betwixt the Effects, resulting from material and brute Force, and those which arise from Thought and Intelligence. But be­ing once convinc'd, that we know nothing farther of Causation of any Kind, than merely the constant Con­junction of Objects, and the consequent Inference of the Mind from one to another, and finding, that these two Circumstances are universally acknowledged to have place in voluntary Actions; we may thence be more easily led to own the same Necessity, common to all Causes. And tho' this Reasoning may contradict the Systems of many Philosophers, in ascribing Necessity to the Determinations of the Will, we shall find, upon Reflection, that they dissent from it in Words only, [Page 147] not in their real Sentiments. Necessity, according to the Sense in which it is here taken, has never yet been rejected, nor can ever, I think, be rejected, by any Philosopher. It may only, perhaps, be pretend­ed, that the Mind can perceive, in the Operations of Matter, some farther Connexion betwixt the Cause and Effect; and a Connexion, which has not Place in the voluntary Actions of intelligent Beings. Now whether it be so or not, can only appear upon Exami­nation, and it is incumbent on these Philosophers to make good their Assertion, by defining or describing that Necessity, and pointing it out to us, in the Ope­rations of material Causes.

IT would seem, indeed, that Men begin at the wrong End of this Question concerning Liberty and Necessity, when they enter upon it by examining the Faculties of the Soul, the Influence of the Under­standing, and the Operations of the Will. Let them first discuss a more simple Question, viz. the Opera­tions of Body and of brute unintelligent Matter; and try if they can there form any Idea of Causation and Necessity, except that of a constant Conjunction of Objects, and subsequent Inference of the Mind from one to another. If these Circumstances form, in re­ality, the whole of that Necessity, which we can con­ceive in Matter, and if these Circumstances be also universally acknowledg'd to take place in the Opera­tions of the Mind, the Dispute is at an End; or, at least, [Page 148] must be own'd to be thenceforward merely verbal. But as long as we will rashly suppose, that we have some farther Idea of Necessity and Causation in the Operations of external Objects; at the same time, that we can find nothing farther, in the volun­tary Actions of the Mind; there is no Possibility of bringing the Dispute to any determinate Issue, while we proceed upon so erroneous a Supposition. The only Method of undeceiving us, is, to mount up higher; to examine the narrow Extent of our Know­ledge, when apply'd to material Causes; and to con­vince ourselves, that all we know of them, is, the constant Conjunction and Inference above-mention'd. We may, perhaps, find, that 'tis with Difficulty we are induc'd to fix such narrow Limits to human Un­derstanding: But we can afterwards find no Difficulty, when we come to apply this Doctrine to the Actions of the Will. For as 'tis evident, that these have a regu­lar and constant Conjunction with Motives and Cir­cumstances and Characters, and as we always draw Inferences from the one to the other, we must be oblig'd to acknowledge, in Words, that Necessity, which we have already avow'd, in every Deliberation and Reflection of our Lives, and in every Step of our Conduct and Behaviour*.

[Page 149] BUT to proceed in this reconciling Project with re­gard to the Doctrine of Liberty and Necessity, the most contentious Question, of Metaphysics, the most contentious Science; it will not require many Words to prove, that all Mankind have ever agreed in the [Page 150] Doctrine of Liberty as well as in that of Necessity, and that the whole Dispute, in this respect also, has been hi­therto merely verbal. For what is meant by Liberty, when apply'd to voluntary Actions? We cannot surely mean, that Actions have so little Connexion with Mo­tives, Inclinations, and Circumstances, that the one does not follow, with a certain Degree of Uniformity, from the other, and that the one affords no Inference, from which we can conclude the Existence of the other. For these are plain and acknowledged Matters of Fact. By Liberty, then, we can only mean, a Power of acting or not acting, according to the Deter­minations of the Will; that is, if we chuse to remain at rest, we may; if we chuse to move, we also may. Now this hypothetical Liberty is universally allow'd to belong to every Body, who is not a Prisoner, and in Chains. Here then is no Subject of Dispute.

[Page 151] WHATEVER Definition we may give of Liberty, we should be careful to observe two requisite Circum­stances; first, that it be consistent with plain Matter of Fact; secondly, that it be consistent with itself. If we observe these Circumstances, and render our De­finition intelligible, I am persuaded that all Mankind will be found of one Opinion with regard to it.

'TIS universally allow'd, that nothing exists with­out a Cause of its Existence, and that Chance, when strictly examin'd, is a mere negative Word, and means not any real Power, which has, any where, a Being in Nature. But 'tis pretended that some Causes are necessary, and some are not necessary. Here then is the admirable Advantage of Definitions. Let any one define a Cause, without comprehending, as a Part of the Definition, a necessary Connexion with its Effect; and let him shew distinctly the Origin of the Idea, ex­press'd by the Definition; and I shall frankly give up the whole Controversy. But if the foregoing Expli­cation of the Matter be receiv'd, this must be abso­lutely impracticable. Had not Objects a regular and constant Conjunction with each other, we should never have entertain'd any Notion of Cause and Effect; and this constant Conjunction produces that Inference of the Understanding, which is the only Connexion, that we can have any Comprehension of. Whoever [Page 152] attempts a Definition of Cause, exclusive of these Cir­cumstances, will be oblig'd, either to employ unin­telligible Terms, or such as are synonimous to the Term which he endeavours to define*. And if the Definition above mentioned, be admitted; Liberty, when oppos'd to Necessity, not to Constraint, is the same Thing with Chance; which is universally al­low'd to have no Existence.


THERE is no Method of Reasoning more common, and yet none more blameable, than in philosophical De­bates, to endeavour the Refutation of any Hypothesis, by a Pretext of its dangerous Consequences to Reli­gion and Morality. When any Opinion leads into Absurdities, 'tis certainly false; but 'tis not certain an Opinion is false, because 'tis of dangerous Conse­quence. Such Topics, therefore, ought entirely to [Page 153] be forborn, as serving nothing to the Discovery of Truth, but only to make the Person of an Antagonist odious. This I observe in general, without pretend­ing to draw any Advantage from it. I submit frankly to an Examination of this Kind, and shall venture to affirm, that the Doctrines, both of Necessity and Li­berty, as above explain'd, are not only consistent with Morality and Religion, but are absolutely essential to them. And first, of Necessity.

NECESSITY may be defin'd two Ways, conform­able to the two Definitions of Cause, of which it makes an essential Part. It consists either in the con­stant Union and Conjunction of like Objects, or in the Inference of the Understanding from one Object to another. Now Necessity, in both these Senses, (which, indeed, are, at the Bottom, the same) has universally, tho' tacitly, in the Schools, in the Pulpit, and in common Life, been allow'd to belong to the Will of Man; and no one has ever pretended to deny, that we can draw Inferences concerning human Ac­tions, and that those Inferences are founded on the experienc'd Union of like Actions, with like Motives, Inclinations, and Circumstances. The only Particu­lar, in which any one can differ, is, that either, per­haps, he will refuse to give the Name of Necessity to this Property of human Actions: But as long as the Meaning is understood, I hope the Word can do no [Page 154] Harm: Or that he will maintain it possible to disco­ver something farther in the Operations of Matter. But this, it must be acknowledg'd, can be of no Con­sequence to Morality or Religion, whatever it may be to natural Philosophy or Metaphysics. We may be mistaken in asserting, that there is no Idea of any o­ther Necessity or Connexion in the Actions of Body: But surely we here ascribe nothing to the Actions of the Mind, but what every one does, and must readily allow of. We change no Circumstance in the re­ceiv'd orthodox System with regard to the Will, but only in that with regard to material Objects and Causes. Nothing therefore can be more innocent, at least, than this Doctrine. All Laws being founded on Rewards and Punishments, 'tis suppos'd as a funda­mental Principle, that these Motives have a regular and uniform Influence on the Mind, and both produce the good and prevent the evil Actions. We may give to this Influence, what Name we please; but as 'tis u­sually conjoin'd with the Action, it must be esteem'd a Cause, and be look'd upon as an Instance of that Necessity, which we would establish.

THE only proper Object of Hatred or Vengeance, is a Person, or Creature, endow'd with Thought and Consciousness; and when any criminal or injurious Actions excite that Passion, 'tis only by their Rela­tion to the Person, or Connexion with him. Actions [Page 155] are, by their very Nature, temporary and perishing; and where they proceed not from some Cause in the Characters and Disposition of the Person, who per­form'd them, they can neither redound to his Honour, if good, nor Infamy, if evil. The Actions them­selves may be blameable; they may be contrary to all the Rules of Morality and Religion: But the Per­son is not responsible for them; and as they proceeded from nothing in him, that is durable and constant, and leave nothing of that Nature behind them, 'tis impossible he can, upon their Account, become the Object of Punishment or Vengeance. According to the Principle therefore, which denies Necessity, and consequently Causes, a Man is as pure and untainted, after having committed the most horrid Crimes, as at the first Moment of his Birth, nor is his Character any way concern'd in his Actions; since they are not de­riv'd from it, and the Wickedness of the one can never be us'd as a Proof of the Depravity of the other.

MEN are not blam'd for such Actions as they per­form ignorantly and casually, whatever may be the Consequences. Why? but because the Principles of these Actions are only momentary, and terminate in them alone. Men are less blam'd for such evil Ac­tions as they perform hastily and unpremeditately, than from such as proceed from Thought and Deliberation. [Page 156] For what Reason? but because a hasty Temper, tho' a constant Cause or Principle in the Mind, operates only by Intervals, and infects not the whole Charac­ter. Again, Repentance wipes off every Crime, if attended with a Reformation of Life and Manners. How is this to be accounted for? but by asserting, that Actions render a Person criminal, merely as they are Proofs of criminal Passions or Principles in the Mind; and when, by any Alteration of these Prin­ciples, they cease to be just Proofs, they likewise ceaso to be criminal. But except upon the Doctrine of Necessity, they never were just Proofs, and conse­quently never were criminal.

IT will be equally easy to prove, and from the same Arguments, that Liberty, according to that Definition above-mentioned, in which all Men agree, is also es­sential to Morality, and that no human Actions, where it is wanting, is susceptible of any moral Qua­lities, or can be the Object either of Approbation or Dislike. For as Actions are the Objects of our moral Sentiments, so far only as they are Indications or Proofs of the internal Character, Passions, and Affec­tions; 'tis impossible they can give rise either to Praise or Blame, where they proceed not from these Prin­ciples, but are deriv'd altogether from external Force and Violence.

[Page 157] I PRETEND not to have obviated or remov'd all Objections to this Theory, with regard to Necessity and Liberty. I can foresee other Objections, deriv'd from Topics, which have not here been treated of. It may be said, for Instance, that if voluntary Actions be subjected to the same Laws of Necessity with the Operations of Matter, there is a continu'd Chain of necessary Causes, pre-ordain'd and pre-determin'd, reaching from the original Cause of all, to every sin­gle Volition of every human Creature. No Contin­gency any where in the Universe; no Indifference; no Liberty. While we act, we are, at the same time, acted upon. The ultimate Author of all our Voli­tions is the Creator of the World, who first bestow'd Motion on this immense Machine, and plac'd all Be­ings in that particular Position, whence every subse­quent Event, by an inevitable Necessity, must result. Human Actions, therefore, can either have no Turpi­tude at all, as proceeding from so good a Cause; or if they can have any moral Turpitude, they must in­volve our Creator in the same Guilt, while he is ac­knowledged to be their ultimate Cause and Author. For as a Man, who fired a Mine, is answerable for all the Consequences, whether the Train he employ'd be long or short; so wherever a continu'd Chain of ne­cessary Causes are fix'd, that Being, either finite or [Page 158] infinite, who produces the first, is likewise the Author of all the rest, and must both bear the Blame, and acquire the Praise, which belongs to them. Our clearest and most unalterable Ideas of Morality esta­blish this Rule, upon unquestionable Reasons, when we examine the Consequences of any human Action; and these Reasons must still have greater Force, when apply'd to the Volitions and Intentions of a Being, in­finitely wise and powerful. Ignorance or Impotence may be pleaded for so limited a Creature as Man; but those Imperfections have no Place in our Creator. He foresaw, he ordain'd, he intended all those Actions of Men, which we so rashly pronounce criminal. And we must conclude, therefore, either that they are not criminal, or that the Deity, not Man, is responsible for them. But as either of these Positions is absurd and impious, it follows, that the Doctrine, from which they are deduc'd, cannot possibly be true, as being liable to all the same Objections. An absurd Conse­quence, if necessary, proves the original Doctrine to be absurd; in the same Manner, that criminal Actions render criminal the original Cause, if the Connexion betwixt them be necessary and inevitable.

THIS Objection consists of two Parts, which we shall examine separately; First, that if human Actions [Page 159] can be trac'd up, by a necessary Chain, to the Deity, they can never be criminal; on account of the infinite Goodness and Perfection of that Being, from whom they are deriv'd, and who can intend nothing but what is altogether good and right. Or Secondly, if they be criminal, we must retract those Attributes of Good­ness and Perfection, which we ascribe to the Deity, and must acknowledge him to be the ultimate Author of Guilt and moral Turpitude in all his Creatures.

THE Answer to the first Objection seems obvious and convincing. There are many Philosophers, who, after an exact Scrutiny of all the Phaenomena of Na­ture, conclude, that the WHOLE, consider'd as one System, is, in every Period of its Existence, order'd with perfect Benevolence and Goodness; and that the utmost possible Happiness will, in the End, result to every created Being, without any Mixture of positive or absolute Ill and Misery. Every physical Ill, say they, makes an essential Part of this benevolent Sy­stem, and could not possibly be remov'd, even by the Deity himself, consider'd as a wise Agent, without giving Entrance to greater Ill, or excluding greater Good, which will result from it. From this Theory, some Philosophers, and the antient Stoics among the rest, deriv'd a Topic of Consolation, under all Afflic­tions, while they taught their Pupils, that those Ills, [Page 160] they labour'd under, were, in reality, Goods to the Universe; and that to an enlarg'd View, which could comprehend the whole System of Nature, every E­vent became an Object of Joy and Exultation. But tho' this Topic be specious and sublime, it was soon found in Practice weak and ineffectual. You would surely more irritate, than appease a Man, lying under the racking Pains of the Gout, by preaching up to him the Rectitude of those general Laws, which pro­duc'd the malignant Humours in his Body, and led them, thro' the proper Canals, to the Nerves and Si­news, where they now excite such acute Torments. These enlarg'd Views may, for a Moment, please the Imagination of a speculative Man, who is plac'd in Ease and Security; but neither can they dwell with Constancy on his Mind, even tho' undisturb'd by the Emotions of Pain or Passion; much less can they maintain their Ground, when attack'd by such pow­erful Antagonists. The Affections take a narrower and more natural Survey of their Object; and by an Oeconomy, more suitable to the Infirmity of human Minds, regard alone the Objects around us, and are actuated by such Events as appear good or ill to the private System. The Case is the same with moral as with physical Ill; nor can it reasonably be suppos'd, that those remote Considerations, which are found of so little Efficacy with regard to the one, will have a [Page 161] more powerful Influence with regard to the other. The Mind of Man is so form'd by Nature, that, upon the Appearance of certain Characters, Dispositions, and Actions, it immediately feels the Sentiment of Ap­probation or Blame; nor are there any Feelings or Emotions more essential to its Frame and Constitution. The Characters, which engage its Approbation, are chiefly such as contribute to the Peace and Security of human Society; as the Characters, which excite Blame, are chiefly such as tend to its Detriment and Disturbance: Whence we may reasonably presume, that the moral Sentiments arise, either mediately or immediately, from a Reflection on these opposite Interests. What tho' philosophical Meditations esta­blish a different Opinion or Conjecture, that every Thing is right with regard to the WHOLE, and that the Qualities, which disturb Society, are, in the main, as beneficial, and are as suitable to the primary Intention of Nature, as those which more directly promote its Happiness and Welfare? Are such re­mote and uncertain Speculations able to counter­balance the Sentiments, which arise from the natu­ral and immediate View of the Objects? A Man, who is robb'd of a considerable Sum; does he find his Vexation for the Loss a whit diminish'd by these sublime Reflections? Why then should his moral Resentment against the Crime be suppos'd [Page 162] incompatible with them? Or why should not the Acknowledgment of a real Distinction betwixt Vice and Virtue be reconcileable to all speculative Sy­stems of Philosophy, as well as that of a real Di­stinction betwixt personal Beauty and Deformity? Both these Distinctions are founded on the natural Sentiments of the human Mind: And these Senti­ments are not to be controul'd or alter'd by any philosophical Theory or Speculation whatsoever.

THE second Objection admits not of so easy and satisfactory an Answer; nor is it possible to explain distinctly, how the Deity can be the mediate Cause of all the Actions of Men, without being the Au­thor of Sin and moral Turpitude. These are My­steries, which mere natural and unassisted Reason is very unfit to handle; and whatever System it em­braces, it must find itself involv'd in inextricable Difficulties, and even Contradictions, at every Step it takes with regard to such Subjects. To reconcile the Indifference and Contingency of human Actions with Prescience; or to defend absolute Decrees, and yet free the Deity from being the Author of Sin, has been found hitherto to exceed all the Skill of Philosophy. Happy, if she be thence sensible of her Temerity when she pries into these sublime Mysteries; and leaving a Scene so full of Ob­scurities [Page 163] and Perplexities, return, with suitable Mo­desty, to her true and proper Province, the Exa­mination of common Life; where she will find Difficulties enow to employ her Enquiries, with­out launching into so boundless an Ocean of Doubts, Uncertainties and Contradictions!


ALL our Reasonings concerning Matter of Fact are founded on a Species of ANALOGY, which leads us to expect from any Cause the same Events, which we have observ'd to result from similar Causes. Where the Causes are entirely similar, the Analogy is perfect, and the Inference, drawn from it, is regarded as certain and conclusive; nor does any Man ever en­tertain a Doubt, where he sees a Piece of Iron, that it will have Weight and Cohesion of Parts; as in all other Instances, which have ever fallen under his Observation. But where the Objects have not so ex­act [Page 166] a Similarity, the Analogy is less perfect, and the Inference is less conclusive; tho' still it has some Force, in Proportion to the Degrees of Similarity and Resemblance. The Anatomical Observations, form'd upon one Animal, are, by this Species of Reasoning, extended to all Animals; and 'tis certain, that when the Circulation of the Blood, for Instance, is prov'd clearly to have place in one Creature, as a Frog or Fish, it forms a strong Presumption, that the same Principle has place in all of them. These analogical Observations may be carry'd farther, even to this Science, of which we are now treating; and any Theory, by which we explain the Operations of the Understanding or the Origin and Connexion of the Passions, in Man, will acquire additional Authority, if we find, that the same Theory is requisite to ex­plain the same Phaenomena, in all other Animals. We shall make Trial of this, with regard to the Hypothesis, by which, in the foregoing Essays, we have endeavour'd to account for all experimental Reasonings; and 'tis hop'd, that this new Point of View will serve to confirm all our former Obser­vations.

First. It seems evident, that Animals, as well as Men, learn many Things from Experience, and infer, [Page 167] that the same Events will always follow from the same Causes. By this Principle, they become ac­quainted with the more obvious Properties of exter­nal Objects, and gradually, from their Birth, treasure up a Knowledge of the Nature of Fire, Water, Earth, Stones, Heights, Depths, &c. and of the Effects that result from their Operation. The Ignorance and Inexperience of the Young, is here plainly di­stinguishable from the Cunning and Sagacity of the Old, who have learnt, by long Observation, to avoid what hurt them, and to pursue what gave Ease or Pleasure. A Horse, that has been accustom'd to the Field, becomes acquainted with the proper Height, which he can leap, and will never attempt what ex­ceeds his Force and Ability. An old Greyhound will trust the more fatiguing Part of the Chace to the younger, and will place himself so as to meet the Hare in her Doubles; nor are the Conjectures, which he forms on this Occasion founded on any Thing but his Observation and Experience.

THIS is still more evident from the Effects of Dis­cipline and Education on all Animals, who, by the proper Application of Rewards and Punishments, may be taught any Course of Action, the most contrary to their natural Instincts and Propensities. Is it not [Page 168] Experience, which renders a Dog apprehensive of Pain, when you menace him, or lift up the Whip to beat him? Is it not even Experience, which makes him answer to his Name, and infer, from such an arbitrary Sound, that you mean him, rather than any of his Fellows, and intend to call him, when you pronounce it in a certain Manner, and with a certain Tone and Accent?

IN all these Cases, we may observe, that the Ani­mal infers some Fact beyond what immediately strikes his Senses; and that this Inference is altogether founded on past Experience, while the Creature ex­pects from the present Object the same Events, which it has always found in its Observation to result from similar Objects.

Secondly. 'Tis impossible, that this Inference of the Animal can be founded on any Process of Argu­ment or Reasoning, by which he concludes, that like Events must follow like Objects, and that the Course of Nature will always be regular in its Operations. For if there be in reality any Arguments of this Na­ture, they surely lie too abstruse for the Observation of such imperfect Understandings; since it may well employ the utmost Care and Attention of a philo­sophic Genius to discover and observe them. Ani­mals, [Page 169] therefore, are not guided in these Inferences by Reasoning: Neither are Children: Neither are the Generality of Mankind, in their ordinary Actions and Conclusions: Neither are Philosophers themselves, who, in all the active Parts of Life, are, in the main, the same with the Vulgar, and are govern'd by the same Maxims. Nature must have provided some other Principle, of more ready, and more ge­neral Use and Application; nor can an Operation of such immense Consequence in Life, as that of in­ferring Effects from Causes, be trusted to the un­certain Process of Reasoning and Argumentation. Were this doubtful with regard to Men, it seems to admit of no Question with regard to the Brute-Creation; and the Conclusion being once firmly establish'd in one, we have a strong Presumption, from all the Rules of Analogy, that it ought to be universally admitted, without any Exception or Re­serve. 'Tis Custom alone, which engages Animals, from every Object, that strikes their Senses, to infer its usual Attendant, and carries their Imagination, from the Appearance of the one, to conceive the other, in that strong and lively Manner, which we denominate Belief. No other Explication can be [Page 170] given of this Operation, in all the higher, as well as lower Classes of sensitive Beings, that fall under our Notice and Observation.

BUT tho' Animals learn many Parts of their Knowledge from Observation, there are also many Parts of it, which they derive from the original Hand of Nature, which must exceed the Share of Capacity they possess on ordinary Occasions, and in which they improve, little or nothing, by the longest Practice and Experience. These we denominate INSTINCTS, and are so apt to admire, as something very extraordinary, and in­explicable by all the Disquisitions of human Un­derstanding. But our Wonder will, perhaps, cease or diminish; when we consider, that the experi­mental Reasoning itself, which we possess in com­mon with Beasts, and on which the whole Con­duct of Life depends, is nothing but a Species of Instinct or mechanical Power, that acts in us unknown to ourselves, and in its chief Opera­tions; is not directed by any such Relations or Comparisons of Ideas, as are the proper Ob­jects of our intellectual Faculties. Tho' the In­stinct be different, yet still 'tis an Instinct, which teaches a Man to avoid the Fire; as much as [Page 171] that, which teaches a Bird, with such Exactness, the Art of Incubation, and the whole Oeconomy and Order of its Nursery.



THERE is in Dr. Tillotson's Writings an Argu­ment against the real Presence, which is as concise and elegant, and strong as any Argument can possibly be suppos'd against a Doctrine, that is so little worthy of a serious Refutation. 'Tis acknow­ledg'd on all hands, says that learned Prelate, that the Authority, either of the Scripture or of Tradition, is founded merely on the Testimony of the Apostles, who were Eye-witnesses to those Miracles of our Sa­viour, by which he prov'd his divine Mission. Our Evidence, then, for the Truth of the Christian Re­ligion is less than the Evidence for the Truth of our Senses; because, even in the first Authors of our Re­ligion, it was no greater; and 'tis evident it must di­minish [Page 174] in passing from them to their Disciples; not can any one be so certain of the Truth of their Testi mony as of the immediate Objects of his Senses. But a weaker Evidence can never destroy a stronger; und therefore, were the Doctrine of the real Presence ever so clearly reveal'd in Scripture, 'twere directly con­trary to the Rules of just Reasoning to give our Assent to it. It contradicts Sense, tho' both the Scripture and Tradition, on which it is suppos'd to be built, carry not such Evidence with them as Sense; when they are consider'd merely as external Evidences, and are not brought home to every one's Breast, by the immediate Operation of the Holy Spirit.

NOTHING is so convenient as a decisive Argu­ment of this Kind, which must at least silence the most arrogant Bigotry and Superstition, and free one from their impertinent Sollicitations. I flatter myself, that I have discover'd an Argument of a like Nature, which, if just, will, with the Wise and Learned, be an everlasting Check to all Kinds of superstitious De­lusion, and consequently, will be useful as long as the World endures. For so long, I presume, will the Accounts of Miracles and Prodigies be found in all prophane History.

THO' Experience be our only Guide in reasoning concerning Matters of Fact; it must be acknowledg'd, [Page 175] that this Guide is not altogether infallible, but in some Cases is apt to lead us into Errors and Mistakes. One, who, in our Climate, should expect better Wea­ther in any Week of June than in one of December, would reason justly and conformable to Experience; but 'tis certain, that he may happen, in the Event, to find himself mistaken. However, we may observe, that, in such a Case, he would have no Cause to com­plain of Experience; because it commonly informs us beforehand of the Uncertainty, by that Contrariety of Events, which we may learn from a diligent Obser­vation. All Effects follow not with a like Certainty from their suppos'd Causes. Some Events are found, in all Countries and all Ages, to have been constantly conjoin'd together: Others are found to have been more variable, and sometimes to disappoint our Ex­pectations; so that in our Reasonings concerning Matter of Fact, there are all imaginable Degrees of Assurance, from the highest Certainty to the lowest Species of moral Evidence.

A WISE Man, therefore, proportions his Belief to the Evidence. In such Conclusions as are founded on an infallible Experience, he expects the Event with the last Degree of Assurance, and regards his past Ex­perience as a full Proof of the future Existence of that Event. In other Cases, he proceeds with more Cau­tion: He weighs the opposite Experiments: He con­siders [Page 176] which Side is supported by the greatest Number of Experiments: To that Side he inclines, with Doubt and Hesitation; and when at last he fixes his Judg­ment, the Evidence exceeds not what we properly call Probability. All Probability, then, supposes an Op­position of Experiments and Observations; where the one Side is found to over-balance the other, and to produce a Degree of Evidence, proportion'd to the Superiority. A hundred Instances or Experiments on one Side, and fifty on another, afford a very doubt­ful Expectation of any Event; tho' a hundred uni­form Experiments, with only one contradictory one, does reasonably beget a very strong Degree of Assu­rance. In all Cases, we must balance the opposite Experiments, where they are opposite, and deduct the lesser Number from the greater, in order to know the exact Force of the superior Evidence.

To apply these Principles to a particular Instance; we may observe, that there is no Species of Reasoning more common, more useful, and even necessary to human Life, than that deriv'd from the Testimony of Men, and the Reports of Eye-witnesses and Specta­tors. This Species of Reasoning, perhaps, one may deny to be founded on the Relation of Cause and Ef­fect. I shall not dispute about a Word. 'Twill be sufficient to observe, that our Assurance in any Argu­ment of this Kind is deriv'd from no other Principle [Page 177] than our Observation of the Veracity of human Testi­mony, and of the usual Conformity of Facts to the Reports of Witnesses. It being a general Maxim, that no Objects have any discoverable Connexion to­gether, and that all the Inferences we can draw from one to another are founded merely on our Experience of their constant and regular Conjunction; 'tis evident we ought not to make an Exception to this Maxim in Favour of human Testimony, whose Connexion with any Events seems, in itself, as little necessary as any other. Did not Mens Imagination naturally follow their Memory; had they not commonly an Inclina­tion to Truth and a Sentiment of Probity; were they not sensible to Shame, when detected in a Falshood: Were not these, I say, discover'd by Experience to be Qualities, inherent in human Nature, we should never repose the least Confidence in human Testimony. A Man delirious, or noted for Falshood and Villany, has no Manner of Weight or Authority with us.

AND as the Evidence, deriv'd from Witnesses and human Testimony, is founded on past Experience, so it varies with the Experience, and is regarded ei­ther as a Proof or a Probability, according as the Conjunction betwixt any particular Kind of Report and any Kind of Objects has been found to be con­stant or variable. There are a Number of Circum­stances to be taken into Consideration in all Judg­ments [Page 178] of this Kind; and our ultimate Standard, by which we determine all Disputes, that may arise con­cerning them, is always deriv'd from Experience and Observation. Where this Experience is not intirely uniform on any Side, 'tis attended with an unavoidable Contrariety in our Judgments, and with the same Op­position and mutual Destruction of Arguments as in every other Kind of Evidence. We frequently hesi­tate concerning the Reports of others. We balance the opposite Circumstances, that cause any Doubt or Uncertainty; and when we discover a Superiority on any Side, we incline to it; but still with a Diminu­tion of Assurance, in proportion to the Force of its Antagonist.

THIS Contrariety of Evidence, in the present Case, may be deriv'd from several different Causes; from the Opposition of contrary Testimony; from the Cha­racter or Number of the Witnesses; from the Manner of their delivering their Testimony; or from the U­nion of all these Circamstances. We entertain a Suspi­cion concerning any Matter of Fact, when the Witnesses contradict each other; when they are but few, or of a suspicious Character; when they have an Interest in what they affirm; when they deliver their Testimony with Doubt and Hesitation, or on the contrary, with too violent Asseverations. There are many other Par­iculars of the same Kind, which may diminish or de­stroy [Page 179] the Force of any Argument, deriv'd from hu­man Testimony.

SUPPOSE, for Instance, that the Fact, which the Testimony endeavours to establish, partakes of the Ex­traordinary and the Marvellous; in that Case, the Evidence, resulting from the Testimony, receives a Diminution, greater or less, in proportion as the Fact is more or less unusual. The Reason, why we place any Credit in Witnesses and Historians is not from any Connexion we perceive a priori betwixt Testimony and Reality, but because we are accustom'd to find a Con­formity betwixt them. But when the Fact attested is such a one as has seldom fallen under our Observation, here is a Contest of two opposite Experiences; of which the one destroys the other as far as its Force goes, and the Superior can only operate on the Mind by the Force, which remains. The very same Prin­ciple of Experience, which gives us a certain Degree of Assurance in the Testimony of Witnesses, gives us also, in this Case, another Degree of Assurance against the Fact, which they endeavour to establish; from which Contradiction there necessarily arises a Counter­poize, and mutual Destruction of Belief and Au­thority.

BUT in order to increase the Probability against the Testimony of Witnesses, let us suppose, that the Fact, [Page 180] which they affirm, instead of being only marvellous, is really miraculous; and suppose also, that the Te­stimony, consider'd apart, and in itself, amounts to an entire Proof; in that Case there is Proof against Proof, of which the strongest must prevail, but still with a Diminution of its Force, in proportion to that of its Antagonist.

A MIRACLE is a Violation of the Laws of Na­ture; and as a firm and inalterable Experience has establish'd these Laws, the Proof against a Miracle, from the very Nature of the Fact, is as entire as any Argument from Experience can possibly be imagin'd, Why is it more than probable, that all Men must die; that Lead cannot, of itself, remain suspended in the Air; that Fire consumes Wood, and is extinguish'd by Water; unless it be that these Events are found agreeable to the Laws of Nature, and there is re­quir'd a Violation of these Laws, or in other Words, a Miracle, to prevent them? Nothing is esteem'd a Miracle if it ever happen in the common Course of Nature. 'Tis no Miracle that a Man in seeming good Health should die of a sudden; because such a Kind of Death, tho' more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observ'd to happen. But 'tis a Mi­racle, that a dead Man should come to Life; because that has never been observ'd, in any Age or Country. There must, therefore, be an uniform Experience [Page 181] against every miraculous Event, otherwise the Event would not merit that Appellation. And as an uniform Experience amounts to a Proof, there is here a direct and full Proof, from the Nature of the Fact, against the Existence of any Miracle; nor can such a Proof be destroy'd, or the Miracle render'd credible, but by an opposite Proof, that is superior*.

[Page 182]THE plain Consequence is (and 'tis a general Max­im worthy of our Attention) ‘"That no Testimony is sufficient to establish a Miracle, unless the Testi­mony be of such a Kind, that its Falshood would be more miraculous, than the Fact, which it endea­vours to establish: And even in that Case, there is a mutual Destruction of Arguments, and the Supe­rior only gives us an Assurance suitable to that De­gree of Force, which remains, after deducting the Inferior."’ When any one tells me, that he saw a dead Man restor'd to Life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this Person should either deceive or be deceiv'd, or that the Fact he relates should really have happen'd. I weigh the one Miracle against the other, and according to the Superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my Decision, and always reject the greater Miracle. If the Flashood of his Testimony would be more miracu­lous, than the Event, which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my Belief or Opinion.


IN the foregoing Reasoning we have suppos'd, that the Testimony, upon which a Miracle is founded, may possibly amount to an entire Proof, and that the Falshood of that Testimony would be a kind of Pro­digy. But 'tis easy to shew, that we have been a great deal too liberal in our Concessions, and that there never was a miraculous Event, in any History, establish'd on so full an Evidence.

FOR first, there is not to be found, in all History, any Miracle attested by a sufficient Number of Men, of such unquestion'd Good-sense, Education, and Learn­ing as to secure us against all Delusion in themselves; of such undoubted Integrity, as to place them beyond all Suspicion of any Design to deceive others; of such Credit and Reputation in the Eyes of Mankind as to have a great deal to lose in case of being detected in any Falshood; and at the same time attesting Facts, perform'd in such a public Manner, and in so cele­brated a Part of the World, as to render the Detection unavoidable: All which Circumstances are requisite to give us a full Assurance in the Testimony of Men.

[Page 184] SECONDLY. We may observe in human Nature a Principle, which, if strictly examin'd, will be found to diminish extremely the Assurance we might have, from human Testimony, in any Kind of Prodigy. The Maxim, by which we commonly conduct ourselves in our Reasonings, is, that the Objects, of which we have no Experience, resemble those, of which we have; that what we have found to be most usual is always most probable; and that where there is any Opposition of Arguments we ought to give the Pre­ference to such of them as are founded on the greatest Number of past Observations. But tho' in proceed­ing by this Rule, we readily reject any Fact, that is unusual and incredible in an ordinary Degree; yet in advancing farther, the Mind observes not always the same Rule; but when any Thing is affirm'd utterly absurd and miraculous, it rather the more readily ad­mits such a Fact, upon account of that very Circum­stance, which ought to destroy all its Authority. The Passion of Surprize and Wonder, arising from Miracles, being an agreeable Emotion, gives a sensible Ten­dency towards the Belief of those Events, from which it is deriv'd. And this goes so far, that even those who cannot enjoy this Pleasure immediately, nor can believe those miraculous Events, of which they are inform'd, yet love to partake of the Satisfaction at Second-hand, or by Rebound, and place a Pride and Delight in exciting the Admiration of others.

[Page 185] WITH what Greediness are the miraculous Accounts of Travellers receiv'd, their Descriptions of Sea and Land-Monsters, their Relations of wonderful Adven­tures, strange Men, and uncouth Manners? But if the Spirit of Religion join itself to the Love of Wonder, there is an End of common Sense; and human Testi­mony, in these Circumstances, loses all Pretensions to Authority. A Religionist may be an Enthusiast, and imagine he sees what has no Reality: He may know his Narration to be false, and yet persevere in it, with the best Intentions in the World, for the sake of promot­ing so holy a Cause: Or even where this Delusion has no Place, Vanity, excited by so strong a Temptation, operates on him more powerfully than on the rest of Mankind in any other Circumstances; and Self-In­terest with equal Force. His Auditors may not have, and commonly have not sufficient Judgment to canvass his Evidence: What Judgment they have, they re­nounce by Principle, in these sublime and mysterious Subjects: Or if they were ever so willing to employ it, Passion and a heated Imagination disturb the Regu­larity of its Operations. Their Credulity increases his Impudence: And his Impudence over-powers their Credulity.

ELOQUENCE, when in its highest Pitch, leaves little room for Reason or Reflection; but addressing itself entirely to the Fancy or the Affections, capti­vates [Page 186] the willing Hearers, and subdues their Under­standing. Happily, this Pitch it seldom attains. But what a Cicero or a Demosthenes could scarcely operate over a Roman or Athenian Audience, every Capuchin, every itinerant or stationary Teacher can perform over the Generality of Mankind, and in a higher Degree, by touching such gross and vulgar Passions*.

THIRDLY. It forms a very strong Presumption a­gainst all supernatural and miraculous Relations, that [Page 187] they are always found chiefly to abound amongst ig­norant and barbarous Nations; or if a civiliz'd Peo­ple has ever given Admission to any of them, that People will be found to have receiv'd them from ig­norant and barbarous Ancestors, who transmitted them with that inviolable Sanction and Authority, which al­ways attends antient and receiv'd Opinions. When we peruse the first Histories of all Nations, we are apt to imagine ourselves transported into some new World, where the whole Frame of Nature is disjointed, and every Element performs its Operations in a different Manner, from what it does at present. Battles, Re­volutions, Pestilences, Famines, and Deaths are ne­ver the Effects of those natural Causes, which we ex­perience. Prodigies, Omens, Oracles, Judgments quite obscure and over-shadow the few natural Events, that are intermingled with them. But as these grow thinner every Page, in Proportion as we advance nearer the enlighten'd Ages of Science and Knowledge, we soon learn, that there is nothing mysterious or supernatural in the Case, but that all proceeds from the usual Pro­pensity of Mankind towards the Marvellous and Ex­traordinary, and that tho' this Inclination may at In­tervals receive a Check from Sense and Learning, it can never be thoroughly extirpated from human Na­ture.

[Page 188] 'Tis strange, a judicious Reader is apt to say, upon the Perusal of these wonderful Historians, that such prodigious Events never happen in our Days. But 'tis nothing strange, I hope, that Men should lye in all Ages. You must surely have seen Instances enow of that Frailty. You have yourself heard many such prodigious Relations started, which being treated with Scorn by all the Wise and Judicious, have at last been abandon'd, even by the Vulgar. Be assur'd, that those renown'd Lyes, which have spread and flourish'd to such a monstrous Height, arose from like Begin­nings; but being sown on a more proper Soil, shot up at last into Prodigies almost equal to those, which they relate.

'Twas a wise Policy in that cunning Impostor, Alex­ander, who, tho' now forgotten, was once so famous, to lay the first Scene of his Impostures in Paphlagonia, where, as Lucian tells us, the People were extremely ignorant and stupid, and ready to swallow even the grossest Delusion. People at a Distance, who are weak enough to think the Matter at all worth Enquiry, have no Opportunity of receiving better Information. The Stories come magnify'd to them by a hundred Circumstances. Fools are industrious to propagate the Delusion; while the Wise and Learned are contented, in general, to deride its Absurdity, without informing themselves of the particular Facts, by which it may be [Page 189] distinctly refuted. And thus the Impostor above-men­tioned was enabled to proceed, from his ignorant Paphlagonians, to the inlisting of Votaries, even a­mong the Grecian Philosophers, and Men of the most eminent Rank and Distinction in Rome. Nay could engage the Attention of that sage Emperor, Marcus Aurelius; so far as to make him trust the Success of a military Expedition to his delusive Prophecies.

THE Advantages are so great of starting an Im­posture amongst an ignorant People, that even tho, the Delusion should be too gross to impose on the Ge­nerality of them (which, tho' seldom, is sometimes the Case) it has a much better Chance of succeeding in re­mote Countries, than if the first Scene had been laid in a City renown'd for Arts and Knowledge. The most ignorant and barbarous of these Barbarians carry the Report abroad. None of their Countrymen have large enough Correspondence or sufficient Credit and Authority to contradict and beat down the Delusion. Men's Inclination to the Marvellous has full Opportu­nity to display itself. And thus a Story shall pass for certain at a thousand Miles Distance, which is univer­sally exploded in the Place where it was first started. But had Alexander fix'd his Residence at Athens, the Philosophers of that renown'd Mart of Learning, had [...]mmediately spread, thro' the whole Roman Empire, [...]heir Sense of the Matter, which, being supported by [Page 190] so great Authority, and display'd by all the Force of Reason and Eloquence, had entirely open'd the Eyes of Mankind. 'Tis true; Lucian passing by chance thro' Paphlagonia had an Opportunity of performing this good Office. But, tho' much to be wish'd, it does not always happen, that every Alexander meets with a Lucian, ready to expose and detect his Im­postures*.

I MAY add as a fourth Reason, which diminishes the Authority of Prodigies, that there is no Testi­mony for any, even those which have not been ex­pressly detected, that is not oppos'd by an infinite Number of Witnesses; so that not only the Miracle destroys the Credit of the Testimony, but even the Testimony destroys itself. To make this the better understood, let us consider, that, in Matters of Re­ligion, whatever is different is contrary, and that 'tis [Page 191] impossible the Religions of antient Rome, of Turkey, of Siam, and of China should all of them be establish'd on any solid Foundation. Every Miracle, therefore, pretended to have been wrought in any of these Re­ligions (and all of them abound in Miracles) as its di­rect Scope is to establish the particular System, to which it is attributed; so it has the same Force, tho' more indirectly, to overthrow every other System. In destroying a Rival-System, it likewise destroys the Credit of those Miracles, on which that System was establish'd; so that all the Prodigies of different Re­ligions are to be regarded as contrary Facts, and the Evidences of these Prodigies, whether weak or strong, as opposite to each other. According to this Method of Reasoning, when we believe any Miracle of Ma­homet or any of his Successors, we have for our War­rant the Testimony of a few barbarous Arabians: and on the other side, we are to regard the Authority of Titas Livius, Platarch, Tacitus, and in short of all the Authors and Witnesses, Grecian, Chinese, and Roman Catholic, who have related any Miracles in their par­ticular Religion; I say, we are to regard their Testi­mony in the same Light as if they had mention'd that Mahometan Miracle, and had in express Terms con­tradicted it, with the same Certainty as they have for the Miracles they relate. This Argument may ap­pear over-subtile and refin'd; but is not in Reality different from the Reasoning of a Judge, who sup­poses, [Page 192] that the Credit of two Witnesses, maintaining a Crime against any one, is destroy'd by the Testi­mony of two others, who affirm him to have been two hundred Leagues distant, at the same Instant when the Crime is said to have been committed.

ONE of the best attested Miracles in all prophane History is that which Tacitus reports of Vespasian, who cur'd a blind Man in Alexandria, by Means of his Spittle, and a lame Man by the mere Touch of his Foot; in Obedience to a Vision of the God, Serapis, who had enjoin'd them to have recourse to the Em­peror, for these miraculous and extraordinary Cures, The Story may be seen in that fine Historian*; where every Circumstance seems to add Weight to the Testi­mony, and might be display'd at large with all the Force of Argument and Eloquence, if any one were now concern'd to enforce the Evidence of that ex­ploded and idolatrous Superstition. The Gravity, So­lidity, Age, and Probity of so great an Emperor, who, thro' the whole Coarse of his Life, convers'd in a familiar Way with his Friends and Courtiers, and never affected those extraordinary Airs of Divinity, assum'd by Alexander and Demetrius. The Historian, a contemporary Writer, noted for Candour and Ve­racity, and withal, the greatest and most penetrating Genius, perhaps, of all Antiquity; and so free from [Page 193] eny Tendency to Superstition and Credulity, that he even lies under the contrary Imputation, of Atheism and Prophaneness: The Persons, from whose Testi­mony he related the Miracle, of establish'd Character for Judgment and Veracity, as we may well suppose; Eye-witnesses of the Fact, and confirming their Verdict, after the Flavian Family were despoil'd of the Em­pire, and could no longer give any Reward, as the Price of a Lye. Utrumque, qui interfuere, nunc quo­que memorant, postquam nullum mendacis pretium. To which if we add the public Nature of the Fact, as re­lated, it will appear, that no Evidence can well be suppos'd stronger for so gross and so palpable a Fals­hood.

THERE is also a very memorable Story related by Cardinal de Retz, and which may well deserve our Consideration. When that intriguing Politician fled into Spain, to avoid the Persecution of his Enemies, he pass'd thro' Saragossa, the Capital of Arragon, where he was shewn, in the Cathedral Church, a Man, who had serv'd twenty Years as a Door-keeper of the Church, and was well known to every Body in Town, that had ever paid their Devotions at that Cathedral. He had been seen, for so long a Time, wanting a Leg; but recover'd that Limb by the rubbing of holy Oil upon the Stump; and when the Cardinal examin'd it, he found it to be a true natural Leg, like the other. [Page 194] This Miracle was vouch'd by all the Canons of the Church; and the whole Company in Town was ap­pealed to for a Confirmation of the Fact; whom the Cardinal found, by their zealous Devotion, to be thorough Believers of the Miracle. Here the Re­later was also contemporary to the suppos'd Prodigy, of an incredulous and libertine Character as well as of great Genius, the Miracle of so singular a Nature as could scarce admit of a Counterfeit, and the Witnesses very numerous, and all of them, in a Manner, Spec­tators of the Fact, to which they gave their Testimony. And what adds mightily to the Force of the Evidence, and may double our Surprize on this Occasion, is, that the Cardinal himself, who relates the Story, seems not to give any Credit to it, and consequently cannot be suspected of any Concurrence in the holy Fraud. He consider'd justly, that it was not requisite, in order to reject a Fact of this Nature, to be able accurately to disprove the Testimony, and to trace its Falshood, thro' all the Circumstances of Knavery and Credulity, which produc'd it. He knew, that as this was com­monly altogether impossible, at any small Distance of Time and Place; so was it extremely difficult, even where one was immediately present, by Reason of the Bigotry, Ignorance, Cunning, and Roguery of a great Part of Mankind. He therefore concluded, like a just Reasoner, that such an Evidence carry'd Falshood upon the very Face of it, and that a Miracle, [Page 195] supported by any human Testimony, was more pro­perly a Subject of Derision than of Argument.

THERE surely never was so great a Number of Mi­racles ascrib'd to one Person, as those, which were lately said to have been wrought in France upon the Tomb of Abbé Paris, the famous Jansenist, with whose Sanctity the People were so long deluded. The curing of the Sick, giving Hearing to the Deaf, and Sight to the Blind were every where talk'd of, as the usual Effects of that holy Sepulchre. But what is more extraordinary; many of the Miracles were imme­diately prov'd, upon the Spot, before Judges of un­question'd Integrity, attested by Witnesses of Credit and Distinction, in a learned Age, and on the most eminent Theatre, that is now in the World. Nor is this all: A Relation of them was publish'd, and di­spers'd every where; nor were the Jesuits, tho' a learned Body, supported by the civil Magistrate, and determin'd Enemies to those Opinions, in whose Fa­vour the Miracles were said to have been wrought, ever able distinctly to refute or detect them. Where shall we find such a Number of Circumstances, agreeing to the Corroboration of one Fact? And what have we to oppose to such a Cloud of Witnesses, but the absolute Impossibility or miraculous Nature of the Events, which they relate? And this surely, in the Eyes of all reasonable People, will alone be regarded as a suf­ficient Refutation.

[Page 196] Is the Consequence just; because some human Te­stimony has the utmost Force and Authority in some Cases, when it relates the Battles of Philippi or Phar­salia, for Instance; that therefore all Kinds of Testi­mony must, in all Cases, have equal Force and Au­thority? Suppose the Caesarean and Pompeian Factions had, each of them, challeng'd the Victory in these Battles, and the Historians of each Party had uni­formly ascrib'd the Advantage to their own Side; how could Mankind, at this Distance, have been able to determine betwixt them? The Contrariety is equally strong betwixt the Miracles related by Herodotus or Plutarch, and those related by Mariana, Bede, or any monkish Historian.

THE Wise lend a very academic Faith to every Re­port, which favours the Passion of the Reporter, whe­ther it magnifies his Country, his Family, or himself, or in any other Way strikes in with his natural Incli­nations and Propensities. But what greater Temp­tation than to appear a Missionary, a Prophet, an Am­bassador from Heaven? Who would not encounter many Dangers and Difficulties, to attain so sublime a Character? Or if, by the Help of Vanity and a heated Imagination, a Man has first made a Convert of him­self, and enter'd seriously into the Delusion; who [Page 197] ever scruples to make use of pious Frauds, in support of so holy and meritorious a Cause?

THE smallest Spark may here kindle into the great­est Flame; because the Materials are always prepar'd for it. The avidum genus auricularum, swallow greedily, without Examination, whatever sooths Su­perstition, and promotes Wonder.

How many Stories of this Nature have, in all Ages, been detected and exploded in their Infancy? How many more have been celebrated for a Time, and have afterwards sunk into Neglect and Oblivion? Where such Reports, therefore, fly about, the Solu­tion of the Phaenomenon is obvious; and we judge in Conformity to regular Experience and Observation, when we account for it by the known and natural Principles of Credulity and Delusion. And shall we, rather than have Recourse to so natural a Solution, allow of a miraculous Violation of the most known and most establish'd Laws of Nature?

I NEED not mention the Difficulty of detecting a Falshood in any private or even public History, at the Time and Place, where it is said to happen; much more where the Scene is remov'd to ever so small a Distance. Even a Court of Judicature, with all the Authority, Accuracy, and Judgment, which they can [Page 198] employ, find themselves often at a loss to distinguish betwixt Truth and Falshood in the most recent Ac­tions. But the Matter never comes to any Issue, if trusted to the common Method of Altercation and De­bate and flying Rumours; especially when Men's Passions have taken party on either Side.

IN the Infancy of new Religions, the Wise and Learned commonly esteem the Matter too inconside­rable to deserve their Attention or Regard: And when afterwards they would willingly detect the Cheat, in order to undeceive the deluded Multitude, the Season is now gone, and the Records and Witnesses, who might clear up the Matter, have perish'd beyond Re­covery.

NO Means of Detection remain, but those which must be drawn from the very Testimony itself of the Reporters: And these, tho' always sufficient with the Judicious and Knowing, are commonly too fine to fall under the Comprehension of the Vulgar.

UPON the whole, then, it appears, that no Testi­mony for any Kind of Miracle can ever possibly a­mount to a Probability, much less to a Proof; and that even supposing it amounted to a Proof, 'twould be oppos'd by another Proof, deriv'd from the very Nature of the Fact, which it would endeavour to esta­blish. [Page 199] 'Tis Experience only, which gives Authority to human Testimony; and 'tis the same Experience, which assures us of the Laws of Nature. When, there­fore, these two Kinds of Experience are contrary, we have nothing to do but subtract the one from the other, and embrace an Opinion, either on the one Side or the other, with that Assurance, which arises from the Remainder. But according to the Principle here ex­plain'd, this Subtraction, with regard to all popular Religions, amounts to an entire Annihilation; and therefore we may establish it as a Maxim, that no hu­man Testimony can have such Force as to prove a Mi­racle, and make it a just Foundation for any such Sy­stem of Religion*.

[Page 200]I AM the better pleas'd with this Method of Rea­soning, as I think it may serve to confound those dan­gerous [Page 201] Friends or disguis'd Enemies to the Christian Religion, who have undertaken to defend it by the Principles of human Reason. Our most holy Religion is founded on Faith, not on Reason; and 'tis a sure Method of exposing it to put it to such a Trial as it is, by no Means, fitted to endure. To make this more evident, let us examine those Miracles, related in Scripture; and not to lose ourselves in too wide a Field, let us confine ourselves to such as we find in the Pentateuch, which we shall examine, as these pre­tended Christians would have us, not as the Word or Testimony of God himself, but as the Production of a mere human Writer and Historian. Here then we are first to consider a Book, presented to us by a barbarous and ignorant People, wrote in an Age when they were [Page 202] still more barbarous, and in all Probability long after the Facts it relates; corroborated by no concurring Testimony, and resembling those fabulous Accounts, which every Nation gives of its Origin. Upon read­ing this Book, we find it full of Prodigies and Mi­racles. It gives an Account of a State of the World and of human Nature entirely different from the pre­sent: Of our Fall from that State: Of the Age of Man, extended to near a thousand Years: Of the De­struction of the World by a Deluge: Of the arbitrary Choice of one People, as the Favourites of Heaven; and that People, the Countrymen of the Author: Of their Deliverance from Bondage by Prodigies the most astonishing imaginable: I desire any one to lay his Hand upon his Heart, and after serious Consideration declare, whether he thinks, that the Falshood of such a Book, supported by such a Testimony, would be more extraordinary and miraculous than all the Mi­racles it relates; which is, however, necessary to make it be receiv'd, according to the Measures of Probability above establish'd.

WHAT we have said of Miracles may be apply'd, without any Variation, to Prophecies; and indeed, all Prophecies are real Miracles, and as such only, can be admitted as Proofs of any Revelation. If it did not exceed the Capacity of human Nature to foretell future Events, 'twould be absurd to employ any Pro­phecy [Page 203] as a Proof of a divine Mission or Authority from Heaven. So that, upon the whole, we may con­clude, that the Christian Religion, not only was at first attended with Miracles, but even at this Day cannot be believ'd by any reasonable Person without one. Mere Reason is insufficient to convince us of its Veracity: And whoever is mov'd by Faith to assent to it, is conscious of a continued Miracle in his own Person, which subverts all the Principles of his Un­derstanding, and gives him a Determination to be­lieve what is most contrary to Custom and Ex­perience.


I WAS lately engag'd in Conversation with a Friend, who loves sceptical Paradoxes; where, tho' he advanc'd many Principles, which I can by no means approve of, yet as they seem to be curious, and bear some relation to the Chain of Reasoning carry'd on thro' these Essays, I shall here copy them from my Memory as accurately as I can, in order to submit them to the Judgment of the Reader.

OUR Conversation began with my admiring the singular good Fortune of Philosophy, which, as it re­quires entire Liberty, above all other Privileges, and flourishes chiefly from the free Opposition of Senti­ments and Argumentation, receiv'd its first Birth in an Age and Country of Freedom and Toleration, and [Page 206] was never cramp'd, even in its most extravagant Prin­ciples, by any Creeds, Confessions, or penal Statutes. For except the Banishment of Protagoras, and the Death of Socrates, which last Event proceeded partly from other Motives, there are scarce any Instances to be met with, in antient History, of this bigotted Jea­lousy and Persecution, with which the present Age is so much infested. Epicurus liv'd at Athens to an ad­vanc'd Age, in Peace and Tranquility: Epicureans * were even admitted to receive the sacerdotal Charac­ter, and to officiate at the Altar, in the most sacred Rites of their Religion: And the public Encourage­ment of Pensions and Salaries was afforded equally, by the wisest of all the Roman Emperors, to the Professors of every Sect of Philosophy. How requi­site such kind of Treatment was to Philosophy, in its first Origin, will easily be conceiv'd, if we reflect, that even at present, when it may be suppos'd more hardy and robust, it bears with much Difficulty the Inclemency of the Seasons, and those harsh Winds of Calumny and Persecution, which blow upon it.

YOU admire, says my Friend, as the singular Good-Fortune of Philosophy, what seems to result from the natural Course of things, and to be unavoidable in every Age and Nation. This pertinacious Bigotry, of which you complain, as so fatal to Philosophy, is [Page 207] really her Offspring, who after allying with Super­stition, separates himself intirely from the Interest of his Parent, and becomes her most inveterate Enemy and Persecutor. Speculative Dogmas and Principles of Religion, the present Occasions of such furious Dispute, could not possibly be conceiv'd or admitted in the early Ages of the World; when Mankind, be­ing wholly illiterate, form'd an Idea of Religion, more suitable to their weak Apprehension, and com­pos'd their sacred Tenets chiefly of such Tales and Stories as were the Objects of traditional Belief, more than of Argument or Disputation. After the first Alarm, therefore, was over, which arose from the new Paradoxes and Principles of the Philosophers; they seem, ever after, during the Ages of Antiquity, to have liv'd in great Harmony with the establish'd Su­perstitions, and to have made a fair Partition of Man­kind betwixt them; the former claiming all the Learned and the Wise, and latter possessing all the Vul­gar and Illiterate.

IT seems then, says I, that you leave Politics en­tirely out of the Question; and never suppose, that a wise Magistrate can justly be jealous of certain Tenets of Philosophy, such as those of Epicurus, which deny­ing a divine Existence, and consequently a Providence and a future State, seem to loosen, in a great Measure, [Page 208] the Ties of Morality, and may be suppos'd, for that Reason, pernicious to the Peace of civil Society.

I KNOW, reply'd he, that in Fact these Persecu­tions never, in any Age, proceeded from calm Rea­son, or any Experience of the pernicious Consequences of Philosophy; but arose entirely from Passion and Prejudice. But what if I should advance farther, and assert, that if Epicurus had been accus'd before the People, by any of the Sycophants or Informers of those Days, he could easily have defended his Cause, and prov'd his Principles of Philosophy to be as salutary as those of his Adversaries, who endeavour'd, with such Zeal, to subject him to the public Hatred and Jea­lousy?

I WISH, says I, you would try your Eloquence upon so extraordinary a Topic, and make a Speech for Epicu­rus, which might satisfy, not the Mob of Athens, if you will allow that antient and polite City to have contain'd any Mob, but the more philosophical Part of his Audience, such as might be suppos'd capable of comprehending his Arguments.

THE Matter would not be difficult, upon such Conditions, reply'd he: And if you please, I shall suppose myself Epicurus for a Moment, and make you stand for the Athenian People, and shall give you such [Page 209] an Harangue as will fill all the Urn with white Beans, and leave not a black one to gratify the Malice of my Adversaries.

VERY well: Pray proceed upon these Suppo­sitions.

I COME hither, O ye Athenians, to justify in your Assembly what I maintained in my School, and find myself impeach'd by furious Antagonists, instead of reasoning with calm and dispassionate Enquirers. Your Deliberations, which of right should be directed to Questions of public Good and the Interest of the Com­monwealth, are diverted to the Disquisitions of specu­lative Philosophy; and these magnificent, but, per­haps, fruitless Enquiries, take place of your more fa­miliar but more useful Occupations. But so far as in me lies, I will prevent this Abuse. We shall not here dispute concerning the Origin and Government of Worlds. We shall only enquire how far such Que­stions concern the public Interest. And if I can per­suade you, that they are entirely indifferent to the Peace of Society and Security of Government, I hope you will presently send us back to our Schools, there to examine at leisure the Question the most sublime, but, at the same time, the most speculative, of all Philosophy.

[Page 210] YOUR religious Philosophers, not satisfy'd with the Tradition of your Forefathers, and Doctrines of your Priests (in which I willingly acquiesce) indulge a rash Curiosity, in trying how far they can establish Re­ligion upon the Principles of Reason; and they there­by excite, instead of satisfying the Doubts, which na­turally arise from a diligent and scrutinous Enquiry. They paint, in the most magnificent Colours, the Order, Beauty, and wise Arrangement of the Universe; and then ask, if such a glorious Display of Intelligence and Wisdom could proceed from the fortuitous Concourse of Atoms, or if Chance could produce what the high­est Genius can never sufficiently admire. I shall not examine the Justness of this Argument. I shall allow it to be as solid as my Antagonists and Accusers can desire. 'Tis sufficient, if I can prove, from this very Reasoning, that the Question is entirely speculative, and that when, in my philosophical Disquisitions, I deny a Providence and a future State, I undermine not the Foundations of Society and Government, but advance Principles, which they themselves, upon their own Topics, if they argue consistently, must allow to be solid and satisfactory.

YOU then, who are my Accusers, have acknow­ledged, that the chief or sole Argument for a divine Existence (which I never question'd) is deriv'd from the Order of Nature; where there appears such Marks [Page 211] of Intelligence and Design, that you think it extrava­gant to assign for its Cause, either Chance, or the blind and unguided Force of Matter. You allow, that this is an Argument, drawn from Effects to Causes. You infer, from the Order of the Work, that there must have been Project and Forethought in the Workman. If you cannot make out this Point, you allow, that your Conclusion fails; and you pretend not to establish the Conclusion in a greater Latitude than the Phae­nomena of Nature will justify. These are your Con­cessions. I desire you to mark the Consequences.

WHEN we infer any particular Cause from an Ef­fect, we must proportion the one to the other, and can never be allow'd to ascribe to the Cause any Qua­lities, but what are exactly sufficient to produce the Effect. A Body of ten Ounces rais'd in any Scale may serve as a Proof, that the counter-ballancing Weight exceeds ten Ounces; but can never afford a Reason, that it exceeds a hundred. If the Cause, as­sign'd for any Effect, be not sufficient to produce it, we must either reject that Cause, or add to it such Qualities as will give it a just Proportion to the Effect. But if we ascribe to it farther Qualities, or affirm it capable of producing other Effects, we can only in­dulge the Licence of Conjecture, and arbitrarily sup­pose the Existence of Qualities and Energies, without Reason or Authority.

[Page 212] THE same Rule holds, whether the Cause assign'd be brute unconscious Matter or a rational intelligent Be­ing. If the Cause be known only by the Effect, we never ought to assign to it any Qualities, beyond what are precisely requisite to produce the Effect; nor can we, by any Rules of just Reasoning, return back from the Cause, and infer other Effects from it, beyond those by which alone it is known to us. No one, merely from the Sight of one of Zeuxis's Pictures, could know, whether he was also a Statuary or Archi­tect, and was an Artist no less skilful in Stone and Marble than in Colours. The Talents and Taste dis­play'd in the particular Work before us; these we may safely conclude the Workman was possess'd of. The Cause must be proportion'd to the Effect: And if we exactly and precisely proportion it, we shall never find in it any Qualities, that point farther, or afford an Inference concerning any other Design or Perform­ance. Such Qualities must be somewhat beyond what is merely requisite to produce the Effect, which we examine.

ALLOWING, therefore, the Gods to be the Au­thors of the Existence or Order of the Universe; it follows, that they possess that precise Degree of Power, Intelligence, and Benevolence, which appear in their Workmanship; but nothing farther can ever be prov'd, except we call in the Assistance of Exaggeration and [Page 213] Flattery to supply the Defects of Argument and Rea­soning. So far as the Traces of any Attributes, at present, appear, so far may we conclude these Attri­butes to exist. The Supposition of farther Attributes is mere Hypothesis; much more, the Supposition, that, in distant Periods of Place and Time, there has been, or will be a more magnificent Display of these Attributes, and a Scheme or Order of Administration more suitable to such imaginary Virtues. We can never be allow'd to mount up from the Universe, the Effect, to Jupiter, the Cause; and then descend downwards, to infer any new Effect from that Cause; as if the present Effects alone were not entirely worthy of the glorious Attributes we ascribe to that Deity. The Knowledge of the Cause being deriv'd solely from the Effect, they must be exactly adjusted to each other, and the one can never point towards any thing farther, or be the Foundation of any new Inference and Conclusion.

You find certain Phaenomena in Nature. You seek a Cause or Author. You imagine you have found him. You afterwards become so enamour'd of this Offspring of your Brain, that you imagine it impos­sible but he must produce something greater and more perfect than the present Scene of Things, which is so full of Ill and Disorder. You forget, that this su­perlative Intelligence and Benevolence is entirely ima­ginary, [Page 214] or at least, without any Foundation in Rea­son, and that you have no ground to ascribe to him any Qualities, but what you see he has actually ex­erted and display'd in his Productions. Let your Gods, therefore, O Philosophers, be suited to the pre­sent Appearances of Nature: And presume not to alter these Appearances by arbitrary Suppositions, in order to suit them to the Attributes, which you so fondly ascribe to your Deities.

WHEN Priests and Poets, supported by your Au­thority, O Athenians, talk of a Golden or a Silver Age, which preceded the present Scene of Vice and Misery, I hear them with Attention and with Reve­rence. But when Philosophers, who pretend to ne­glect Authority, and to cultivate Reason, hold the same Discourse, I own, I pay them not the same ob­sequious Submission and pious Deference. I ask; Who carry'd them into the celestial Regions, who admitted them into the Councils of the Gods, who open'd to them the Book of Fate, that they thus rashly affirm their Deities have executed, or will ex­ecute, any Purpose, beyond what has actually ap­pear'd? If they tell me, that they have mounted on the Steps or Scale of Reason, and by drawing Infe­rences from Effects to Causes, I still insist, that they have aided the Scale of Reason by the Wings of Ima­gination; otherwise they could not thus change their [Page 215] Manner of Inference, and argue from Causes to Ef­fects; presuming, that a more perfect Production than the present World would be more suitable to such perfect Beings as the Gods, and forgetting, that they have no Reason to ascribe to these celestial Beings any Perfection or any Attribute, but what can be found in the present World.

HENCE all the fruitless Industry to account for the ill Appearances of Nature, and save the Honour of the Gods; while we must acknowledge the Reality of that Evil and Disorder, with which the World so much abounds. The obstinate and intractable Qualities of Matter, we are told, or the Observance of general Laws, or some such Reason is the sole Cause, which controul'd the Power and Benevolence of Jupiter, and oblig'd him to create Mankind and every sensible Creature so imperfect and so unhappy. These At­tributes, then, are, it seems, beforehand, taken for granted, in their greatest Latitude. And upon that Supposition, I own, that such Conjectures may, per­haps, be admitted as plausible Solutions of the Phae­nomena. But still I ask; Why take these Attributes for granted, or why ascribe to the Cause any Qualities but what actually appear in the Effect? Why torture your Brain to justify the Course of Nature upon Sup­positions, which, for aught you know, may be en­tirely imaginary, and of which there are to be found no Traces in the Course of Nature?

[Page 216] THE religious Hypothesis, therefore, must be con­sider'd only as a particular Method of accounting for the visible Phaenomena of the Universe: But no just Reasoner will ever presume to infer from it any single Fact, and alter or add to these Phaenomena, in any single Particular. If you think, that the Appearances of Things prove such Causes, 'tis allowable for you to draw an Inference concerning their Existence. In such complicated and sublime Subjects, every one should be indulged in the Liberty of Conjecture and Argument. But here you ought to rest. If you come backward, and arguing from your infer'd Causes, con­clude, that any other Fact has existed, or will exist, in the Course of Nature, which may serve for a fuller Display of particular Attributes; I must admonish you, that you have departed from the Method of Reasoning, attach'd to the present Subject, and must certainly have added something to the Attributes of the Cause, beyond what appears in the Effect; otherwise you could never, with tolerable Sense or Propriety, add any thing to the Effect, which might render it more worthy of the Cause.

WHERE, then, is the Odiousness of that Doctrine, which I teach in my School, or rather, which I ex­amine in my Gardens? Or what do you find in this whole Question, wherrein the Security of good Mo­rals, [Page 217] or the Peace and Order of Society is in the least concern'd?

I DENY a Providence, you say, and supreme Go­vernor of the World, who guides the Course of E­vents, and punishes the Vicious with Infamy, and Disappointment, and rewards the Virtuous with Ho­nour and Success, in all their Undertakings. But surely, I deny not the Course itself of Events, which lies open to every one's Enquiry and Examination. I acknowledge, that, in the present Order of Things, Virtue is attended with more Peace of Mind than Vice; and meets with a more favourable Reception from the World. I am sensible, that, according to the past Experience of Mankind, Friendship is the chief Joy of human Life, and Moderation the only Source of Tranquillity and Happiness. I never ba­lance betwixt the virtuous and the vicious Course of Life; but am sensible, that, to a well-dispos'd Mind, every Advantage is on the Side of the former: And what can you say more, allowing all your Supposi­tions and Reasonings? You indeed tell me, that this Disposition of Things proceeds from Intelligence and Design. But whatever it proceeds from, the Dispo­sition itself, on which depends our Happiness or Mi­sery, and consequently our Conduct and Deportment in Life, is still the same. 'Tis still open for me, as well as you, to regulate my Behaviour, by my past [Page 218] Experience of Events. And if you affirm, that, while a divine Providence is allow'd, and a supreme distri­butive Justice in the Universe, I ought to expect some more particular Favour of the Good, and Pu­nishment of the Bad, beyond the ordinary Course of Events; I here find the same Fallacy, which I have before endeavour'd to detect. You persist in ima­gining, that, if we grant that divine Existence, for which you so earnestly contend, you may safely infer Consequences from it, and add something to the ex­perienc'd Order of Nature, by arguing from the Attri­butes, which you ascribe to your Gods. You seem not to remember, that all your Reasonings on this Subject can only be drawn from Effects to Causes; and that every Argument, deduc'd from Causes to Ef­fects, must of Necessity be a gross Sophysm; since it is impossible for you to know any thing of the Cause, but what you have antecedently, not infer'd, but disco­ver'd to the full, in the Effect.

BUT what must a Philosopher judge of those vain Reasoners, who, instead of regarding the present Life and the present Scene of Things, as the sole Object of their Contemplation, so far reverse the whole Course of Nature, as to render it merely a Passage to some­thing farther; a Porch, which leads to a greater, and vastly different Building; a Prologue, which serves merely to introduce the Piece, and give it more [Page 219] Grace and Propriety? Whence, do you think, can such Philosophers derive their Idea of the Gods? From their own Conceit and Imagination surely. For if they deriv'd it from the present Phaenomena, it would never point to any thing farther, but must be exactly adjusted to them. That the Divinity may possibly possess Attributes, which we have never seen exerted; may be govern'd by Principles of Action, which we cannot discover to be satisfy'd: All this will freely be allow'd. But still this is mere Possibility and Hypothesis. We never can have Reason to infer any Attributes, or any Principles of Action in him, but so far as we know them to have been exerted and satisfy'd.

Are there any Marks of a distributive Justice in the World? If you answer in the Affirmative, I conclude, that, since Justice here exerts itself, it is satisfy'd. If you reply in the Negative, I conclude, that you have then no Reason to ascribe Justice to the Gods. If you hold a Medium betwixt Affirmation and Negation, by saying, that the Justice of the Gods, at present, exerts itself in Part, but not in its full Extent; I answer, that you have no Reason to give it any particular Ex­tent, but only so far as you see it, at present, exert itself.

[Page 220] THUS I bring the Dispute, O Athenians, to a short Issue with my Antagonists. The Course of Nature lies open to my Contemplation as well as theirs. The experienc'd Train of Events is the great Standard, by which we all regulate our Conduct. Nothing else can be appeal'd to, in the Field, or in the Senate. Nothing else ought ever to be heard of, in the School, or in the Closet. In vain, would our limited Under­standings break thro' these Bounds, which are too narrow for our fond Imagination. While we argue from the Course of Nature, and infer a particular in­telligent Cause, which first bestow'd, and still pre­serves Order in the Universe, we embrace a Principle, which is both uncertain and useless. 'Tis uncertain; because the Subject lies entirely beyond the Reach of human Experience. 'Tis useless; because our Know­ledge of this Cause being deriv'd entirely from the Course of Nature, we can never, according to any Rules of just Reasoning, return back from the Cause with any new Inferences, or making Additions to the common and experienc'd Course of Nature, establish any new Principles of Conduct and Behaviour.

I OBSERVE, (says I, finding he had finish'd his Harangue) that you neglect not the Artifice of the Demagogues of old; and as you was pleas'd to make me stand for the People, you insinuate yourself into [Page 221] my Favour, by embracing those Principles, to which, you know, I have always express'd a particular At­tachment. But allowing you to make Experience (as indeed I think you ought) the only Standard of your Judgment concerning this, and all other Questions of Fact; I doubt not but it may be possible, from the very same Experience you appeal to, to refute this Reasoning, which you have put into the Mouth of Epicurus. If you saw, for Instance, a half-finish'd Building, surrounded with Heaps of Bricks and Stones and Mortar, and all the Instruments of Masonry; could you not infer from the Effect, that it was a Work of Design and Contrivance? And could you not return again, from this infer'd Cause, to infer new Additions to the Effect, and conclude, that the Build­ing would soon be finish'd, and receive all the farther Improvements, which Art could bestow upon it? If you saw, upon the Sea-shore, the Print of one human Foot, you would conclude, that a Man had pass'd that Way, and that he had also left the Traces of the other Foot, tho' effac'd by the rolling of the Sands or Inundation of the Waters. Why then do you refuse to admit the same Method of Reasoning with regard to the Order of Nature? Consider the World and the present Life only as an imperfect Building, from which you can infer a superior Intelligence; and arguing from that superior Intelligence, which can leave no­thing imperfect; why may you not infer a more fi­nish'd [Page 222] Scheme or Plan, which will receive its Com­pletion in some distant Period of Space or Time? Are not these Methods of Reasoning exactly parallel? And under what Pretext, can you embrace the one, while you reject the other?

THE infinite Difference of the Subjects, reply'd he, is a sufficient Foundation for this Difference in my Arguments and Conclusions. In Works of human Art and Contrivance, 'tis allowable to advance from the Effect, to the Cause, and returning back from the Cause, form new Inferences concerning the Effect, and examine the Alterations, which it has probably undergone, or may still undergo. But what is the Foundation of this Method of Reasoning? Plainly this; that Man is a Being, whom we know by Expe­rience, whose Motives and Designs we are acquainted with, and whose Projects and Inclinations have a cer­tain Connexion and Coherence, according to the Laws, which Nature has establish'd for the Government of such a Creature. When, therefore, we find, that any Work has proceeded from the Skill and Industry of Man; as we are otherwise acquainted with the Nature of the Animal; we can draw a hundred Infe­rences concerning what may be expected from him; and these Inferences will all be founded on Experience and Observation. But did we know Man only from the single Work or Production, which we examine, [Page 223] 'twere impossible for us to argue in this Manner; be­cause our Knowledge of all the Qualities, which we ascribe to him, being in that Case deriv'd from the Production, 'tis impossible they could point to any thing farther, or be the Foundation of any new Infe­rences. The Print of a Foot in the Sand can only prove, when consider'd alone, that there was some Pigure adapted to it, by which it was produc'd: But the Print of a human Foot proves likewise, from our other Experience, that there was probably another Foot, which also left its Impression, tho' essac'd by Time or other Accidents. Here we mount from the Effect to the Cause; and descending again from the Cause, infer Alterations in the Effect; but this is not a Continuation of the same simple Chain of Reasoning. We comprehend in this Case a hundred other Experiences and Observations, concerning the usual Figure and Members of that Species of Ani­mal, without which this Method of Argument must be consider'd as altogether fallacious and sophistical.

THE Case is not the same with our Reasonings from the Works of Nature. The Deity is known to us only by his Productions, and is a single Being in the Universe, not comprehended under any Species or Genus, from whose experienc'd Attributes or Qua­lities, we can by Analogy, infer any Attribute or Qua­lity in him. As the Universe shows Wisdom and Goodness, we infer Wisdom and Goodness: As it [Page 224] shows a particular Degree of these Perfections, we infer a particular Degree of them, precisely adapted to the Effect we examine. But farther Attributes or farther Degrees of the same Attributes, we can never be authoriz'd to infer or suppose, by any Rules of just Reasoning. Now without some such Licence of Sup­position, 'tis impossible for us to argue from the Cause, or infer any Alteration in the Effect, beyond what has immediately fallen under our Observation. Greater Good produc'd by this Being must still prove a greater Degree of Goodness: More impartial Distribution of Rewards and Punishments must proceed from a supe­rior Regard to Justice and Equity. Every suppos'd Addition to the Works of Nature makes an Addition to the Attributes of the Author of Nature; and con­sequently, being altogether unsupported by any Rea­son or Argument, can never be admitted but as mere Conjecture and Hypothesis.

IN general, it may, I think, be establish'd as a Maxim, that where any Cause is known only by its particular Effects, it must be impossible to infer any new Effects from that Cause; since the Qualities, which are requisite to produce these new Effects, along with the former, must either be different, or superior, or of more extensive Operation, than those which simply produc'd the Effect, whence alone the Cause [Page 225] is suppos'd to be known to us*. We can never, therefore, have any Reason to suppose the Existence of these Qualities.

THE great Source of our Mistake in this Subject, and of the unbounded Licence of Conjecture, which we indulge, is, that we tacitly consider ourselves, as in the Place of the supreme Being, and conclude, that he will, on every Occasion, observe the same Conduct, which we ourselves, in his Situation, would have em­brac'd as reasonable and eligible. But besides, that the ordinary Course of Nature may convince us, that almost every Thing is regulated by Principles and Maxims very different from ours; besides this, I say, it must evidently appear contrary to all Rules of Ana­logy to reason from the Intentions and Projects of [Page 226] Men to those of a Being so different, and so much su­perior. In human Nature, there is a certain expe­rienc'd Consistency and Coherence of Designs and In­clinations; so that when, from any Facts, we have discover'd one Aim or Intention of any Man, it may often be reasonable, from Experience, to infer an­other, and draw a long Chain of Conclusions concern­ing his past or future Conduct. But this Method of Reasoning never can take place with regard to a Being, so remote and incomprehensible, who bears less Ana­logy to any other Being in the Universe than the Sun to a waxen Taper, and who discovers himself only by some faint Traces or Outlines, beyond which we have no Authority to ascribe to him any Attribute or Per­fection. What we imagine to be a superior Perfec­tion may really be a Defect. Or were it ever so much a Perfection, the ascribing it to the supreme Being, where it appears not to have been really exerted, to the full, in his Works, savours more of Flattery and Panegyric, than of just Reasoning and sound Philoso­phy. All the Philosophy, therefore, in the World, and all the Religion, which is nothing but a Species of Philosophy, will never be able to carry us beyond the usual Course of Experience, or give us different Mea­sures of Conduct and Behaviour, from those which are furnish'd by Reflections on common Life. No new Fact can ever be infer'd from the religious Hypothesis; no Event foreseen or foretold; no Reward or Punish­ment [Page 227] expected or dreaded, beyond what is already known by Practice and Observation. So that my Apology for Epicurus will still appear solid and satis­factory; nor have the political Interests of Society any Connexion with the philosophical Disputes concerning Metaphysics and Religion.

THERE is still one Circumstance, reply'd I, which you seem to have overlook'd. Tho' I should allow your Premises, I must still deny your Conclusion. You conclude, that religious Doctrines and Reasonings can have no Influence on Life, because they ought to have no Influence; never considering, that Men reason not in the same Manner you do, but draw many Con­sequences from the Belief of a divine Existence, and suppose, that the Deity will inflict Punishments on Vice, and bestow Rewards on Virtue, beyond what appears in the ordinary Course of Nature. Whether this Reasoning of theirs be just or not, is no Matter. Its Influence on their Life and Conduct must still be the same. And those, who attempt to disabuse them of such Prejudices, may, for aught I know, be good Reasoners, but I cannot allow them to be good Citi­zens and Politicians; since they free Men from one Restraint upon their Passions, and make the Infringe­ment of the Laws of Equity and Society, in one Re­spect, more easy and secure.

[Page 228] AFTER all, I may, perhaps, agree to your gene­ral Conclusion in favour of Liberty, tho' upon diffe­rent Premises from those, on which you endeavour to found it. I think the State ought to tolerate every Principle of Philosophy; nor is there an Instance of any Government's suffering in its political Interests by such Indulgence. There is no Enthusiasm among Philosophers; their Doctrines are not very alluring to the People; and no Restraint can be put upon their Reasonings, but what must be of dangerous Conse­quence to the Sciences, and even to the State, by paving the Way for Persecution and Oppression in Points, wherein the Generality of Mankind are more deeply interested and concern'd.

BUT there occurs to me, (continu'd I) with regard to your main Topic a Difficulty, which I shall just propose to you, without insisting on it, lest it lead into Reasonings of too nice and delicate a Nature. In a Word, I much doubt, whether it be possible for a Cause to be known only by its Effect (as you have all along suppos'd) or to be of so singular and particular a Nature as to have no Parallel and no Similarity with any other Cause or Object, that has ever fallen under our Observation. 'Tis only when two Species of Ob­jects are found to be constantly conjoin'd, that we can infer the one from the other; and were an Effect presented, which was entirely singular, and could not [Page 229] be comprehended under any known Species; I do not see, that we could form any Conjecture or Inference at all concerning its Cause. If Experience and Ob­servation and Analogy be, indeed, the only Guides we can reasonably follow in Inferences of this Nature; both the Effect and Cause must bear a Similarity and Resemblance to other Effects and Causes, which we know, and which we have found, in many Instances, to be conjoin'd with each other. I leave it to your own Reflections to prosecute the Consequences of this Principle. I shall just observe, that as the Antago­nists of Epicurus always suppose the Universe, an Ef­fect quite singular and unparallel'd, to be the Proof of a Deity, a Cause no less singular and unparallel'd; your Reasonings, upon that Supposition, seem, at least, to merit our Attention. There is, I own, some Dif­ficulty, how we can ever return from the Cause to the Effect, and reasoning from our Ideas of the former, infer any Alteration on, or Addition to, the latter.



THERE is not a greater Number of philoso­phical Reasonings, display'd upon any Subject, than those to prove the Existence of a Deity, and re­fute the Fallacies of Atheists; and yet the most reli­gious Philosophers still dispute whether any Man can be so blinded as to be a speculative Atheist. How shall we reconcile these Contradictions? The Knight-Errants, who wander'd about to clear the World of Dragons and Giants, never entertain'd the least Doubt concerning the Existence of these Monsters.

THE Sceptic is another Enemy of Religion, who naturally provokes the Indignation of all Divines and [Page 232] graver Philosophers; tho' 'tis certain no one ever met with any such absurd Creature, or convers'd with a Man, who had no Opinion or Principle concerning any Subject, either of Action or Speculation. This begets a very natural Question; What is meant by a Sceptic? And how far it is possible to push these phi­losophical Principles of Doubt and Uncertainty?

THERE is a Species of Scepticism, antecedent to all Study and Philosophy, which is much inculcated by Des Cartes and others, as a sovereign Preservative a­gainst Error and precipitate Judgment. It recom­mends an universal Doubt, not only of all our former Opinions and Principles, but also of our very Facul­ties; of whose Veracity, say they, we must assure ourselves, by a Chain of Reasoning, deduc'd from some original Principle, which cannot possibly be fal­lacious or deceitful. But neither is there any such o­riginal Principle, which has a Prerogative above others, that are self-evident and convincing: Or if there were, could we advance a Step beyond it, but by the Use of those very Faculties, of which we are suppos'd to be already diffident. The Cartesian Doubt, therefore, were it ever possible, to be attain'd by any human Creature (as it plainly is not) would be altogether in­curable; and no Reasoning could ever bring us to a State of Assurance and Conviction upon any Subject.

[Page 233] IT must, however, be confess'd, that this Species of Scepticism, when more moderate, may be under­stood in a very reasonable Sense, and is a necessary Preparative to the Study of Philosophy, by preserving a proper Impartiality in our Judgments, and weaning our Minds from all those Prejudices, which we may have imbib'd from Education or rash Opinion. To begin with clear and self-evident Principles, to ad­vance by timorous and sure Steps, to review frequently our Conclusions, and examine accurately all their Consequences; tho' by this Means we shall make both a slow and a short Progress in our Systems; is the only Method, by which we can ever hope to reach Truth, and attain a proper Stability and Certainty in our Determinations.

THERE is another Species of Scepticism, consequent to Science and Enquiry; where Men are suppos'd to have discover'd, either the absolute Fallaciousness of their Mental Faculties, or their Unfitness to reach any fix'd Determination in all those curious Subjects of Speculation, about which they are commonly em­ploy'd. Even our very Senses are brought into Dis­pute by this Species of Philosophers; and the Maxims of common Life are subjected to the same Doubt as the most profound Principles or Conclusions of Meta­physics and Theology. As these paradoxical Tenets (if they may be call'd so) are to be met with in some [Page 234] Philosophers, and the Refutation of them in several, they naturally excite our Curiosity, and make us en­quire into the Arguments, on which they may be founded.

I NEED not insist upon the more trite Topics, em­ploy'd by the Sceptics in all Ages, against the Evi­dence of Sense; such as those deriv'd from the Im­perfection and Fallaciousness of our Organs, on num­berless Occasions; the crooked Appearance of an Oar in Water; the various Aspects of Objects, according to their different Distances; the double Images, that arise from the pressing one Eye with the Finger; with many other Appearances of a like Nature. These sceptical Topics, indeed, are only sufficient to prove, that the Senses alone are not implicitely to be de­pended on; but that we must correct their Evidence by Reason, and by Considerations, deriv'd from the Nature of the Medium, the Distance of the Object, and the Disposition of the Organ, in order to render them, within their Sphere, the proper Criteria of Truth and Falshood. There are other more pro­found Arguments against the Senses, which admit not of so easy a Solution.

IT seems evident, that Men are carry'd, by a na­tural Instinct or Prepossession, to repose Faith in their Senses; and that, without any Reasoning, or even al­most [Page 235] before the Use of Reason, we always suppose an external Universe, which depends not on our Percep­tion, but would exist, tho' we and every sensible Crea­ture were absent or annihilated. Even the Animal Creation are govern'd by a like Opinion, and preserve this Belief of external Objects, in all their Thoughts, Designs, and Actions.

IT seems also evident, that when Men follow this blind and powerful Instinct of Nature, they always sup­pose the very Images, presented by the Senses, to be the external Objects, and never entertain any Suspi­cion, that the one are nothing but Representations of the other. This very Table, which we see white, and which we feel hard, is believ'd to exist, indepen­dent of our Perception, and to be something external to our Mind, which perceives it. Our Presence be­stows not Being on it: Our Absence annihilates it not. It preserves its Existence, uniform and entire, inde­pendent of the Situation of intelligent Beings, who perceive or contemplate it.

BUT this universal and primary Opinion of all Men is soon destroy'd by the slightest Philosophy, which teaches us, that nothing can ever be present to the Mind but an Image or Perception, and that the Senses are only the Inlets, thro' which these Images are receiv'd, without being ever able to produce any immediate In­tercourse [Page 236] betwixt the Mind and the Object. The Table we see seems to diminish as we remove farther from it: But the real Table, which exists, indepen­dent of us, suffers no Alteration: It was, therefore, nothing but its Image, which was present to the Mind. These are the obvious Dictates of Reason; and no Man, who reflects, ever doubted, that the Existences, which we consider, when we say, this House and that Tree, are nothing but Perceptions in the Mind, and fleeting Copies or Representations of other Existences, which remain uniform and independent.

SO far, then, are we necessitated by Reasoning to depart from, or contradict the primary Instincts of Nature, and embrace a new System with regard to the Evidence of our Senses. But here Philosophy finds itself extremely embarrass'd, when it would justify this new System, and obviate the Cavils and Objec­tions of the Sceptics. It can no longer plead the in­fallible and irresistible Instinct of Nature: For that led us to a quite different System, which is acknow­ledg'd fallible and even erroneous. And to justify this pretended philosophical System, by a Chain of clear and convincing Argument, or even any Appear­ance of Argument, exceeds the Power of all human Capacity.

[Page 237] BY what Argument can it be prov'd, that the Per­ceptions of the Mind must be caus'd by external Ob­jects, entirely different from, tho' resembling them (if that be possible) and could not arise either from the Energy of the Mind itself, or from the Suggestion of some invisible and unknown Spirit, or from some other Cause still more unknown to us? 'Tis acknow­ledg'd, that, in fact, many of these Perceptions arise not from any thing external, as in Dreams, Madness, and other Diseases. And nothing can be more inex­plicable than the Manner, in which Body should so operate upon Mind as ever to convey an Image of it­self to a Substance suppos'd of so different, and even contrary a Nature.

'TIS a Question of Fact, whether the Perceptions of the Senses be produc'd by external Objects, re­sembling them: How shall this Question be deter­min'd? By Experience surely, as all other Questions of a like Nature. But here Experience is, and must be entirely silent. The Mind has never any thing present to it but the Perceptions, and cannot possibly reach any Experience of their Connexion with Objects. The Supposition of such a Connexion is, therefore, without any Foundation in Reasoning.

[Page 238] To have recourse to the Veracity of the supreme Being, in order to prove the Veracity of our Senses, is surely making a very unexpected Circuit. If his Veracity were at all concern'd in this Matter, our Senses would be entirely infallible; because it is not possible he can ever deceive. Not to mention, that if the external World be once call'd in doubt, we shall be at a loss to find Arguments, by which we may prove the Existence of that Being or any of his Attri­butes.

This therefore is a Topic, in which the profounder and more philosophical Sceptics will always triumph, when they endeavour to introduce an universal Doubt into all Subjects of human Knowledge and Enquiry. Do you follow the Instincts and Propensities of Nature, may they say, in assenting to the Veracity of Sense? But these lead you to believe, that the very Percep­tion or sensible Image is the external Object. Do you disclaim this, in order to embrace a more rational Principle, that the Perceptions are only Representa­tions of something external? You here depart from your natural Propensities and more obvious Senti­ments; and yet are not able to satisfy your Reason, which can never find any convincing Argument from Experience to prove, that the Perceptions are con­nected with any external Objects.

[Page 239] THERE is another Sceptical Topic of a like Na­ture, deriv'd from the most profound Philosophy; which might merit our Attention were it requisite to dive so deep, in order to discover Arguments and Reasonings, that can serve so little any serious Purpose or Intention. 'Tis universally allow'd by modern Enquirers, that all the sensible Qualities of Objects, such as hard, soft, hot, cold, white, black, &c. are merely secondary, and exist not in the Objects them­selves, but are Perceptions in the Mind, without any external Archetype or Model, which they represent. If this be allow'd, with regard to secondary Qualities, it must also follow with regard to the suppos'd pri­mary Qualities of Extension and Solidity; nor can the latter be any more entitled to that Denomination than the former. The Idea of Extension is entirely ac­quir'd from the Senses of Sight and Feeling; and if all the Qualities, perceiv'd by the Senses, be in the Mind, not in the Object, the same Conclusion must reach the Idea of Extension, which is wholly depen­dent on the sensible Ideas or the Ideas of secondary Qualities. Nothing can save us from this Conclusion, but the asserting, that the Ideas of those primary Qua­lities are attain'd by Abstraction; which, if we ex­amine accurately, we shall find to be unintelligible, and even absurd. An Extension, that is neither tan­gible nor visible, cannot possibly be conceiv'd: and a tangible or visible Extension, which is neither hard [Page 240] nor soft, black nor white, is equally beyond the Reach of human Conception. Let any Man try to conceive a Triangle in general, which is neither Iso­celes, nor Scalenum, nor has any particular Length nor Proportion of Sides; and he will soon perceive the Absurdity of all the scholastic Notions with regard to Abstraction and general Ideas*.

THUS the first philosophical Objection to the Evi­dence of Sense or to the Opinion of external Existence consists in this, that such an Opinion, if rested on na­tural Instinct, is contrary to Reason, and if refer'd to Reason, is contrary to natural Instinct, and at the same time, carries no rational Evidence with it, to convince an impartial Enquirer. The second Objec­tion goes farther, and represents this Opinion as con­trary [Page 241] to Reason; at least, if it be a Principle of Rea­son, that all sensible Qualities are in the Mind, not in the Object.


IT may seem a very extravagant Attempt of the Sceptics to destroy Reason by Argument and Ratioci­nation; yet this is the grand Scope of all their En­quiries and Disputes. They endeavour to find Ob­jections, both to our abstract Reasonings, and to those which regard Matter of Fact and Existence.

THE chief Objection against all abstract Reasonings is deriv'd from the Nature of Space and Time, which, in common Life and to a careless View, seem very clear and intelligible, but when they pass thro' the Scrutiny of the profound Sciences (and they are the chief Ob­ject of these Sciences) afford Principles and Notions full of Absurdity and Contradiction. No priestly Dogmas, invented on purpose to tame and subdue the rebellious Reason of Mankind, ever shock'd common Sense more than the Doctrine of the infinite Divisibi­lity of Extension, with all its Consequences; as they are pompously display'd by all Geometricians and Metaphysicians, with a kind of Triumph and Exul­tation. A real Quantity, infinitely less than any finite [Page 242] Quantity, containing Quantities, infinitely less than itself, and so on, in infinitum; this is an Edifice so bold and prodigious, that it is too weighty for any pretended Demonstration to support, because it shocks the clearest and most natural Principles of human Reason*. But what renders the Matter more extra­ordinary, is, that these absurd Opinions are supported by a Chain of Reason, the clearest and most natural; nor does it seem possible for us to allow the Premises, without admitting the Consequences. Nothing can be more convincing and satisfactory than all the Con­clusions concerning the Properties of Circles and Tri­angles; and yet, when these are once receiv'd, how can we deny, that the Angle of Contact betwixt a Circle and its Tangent is infinitely less than any recti­lineal Angle, that as you may encrease the Diameter of the Circle in infinitum, this Angle of Contact be­comes [Page 243] still less, even in infinitum, and that the Angle of Contact betwixt other Curves and their Tangents may be infinitely less than those betwixt any Circle and its Tangent, and so on, in infinitum? The Demonstra­tion of these Principles seems as unexceptionable as that which proves the three Angles of a Triangle to be equal to two right ones; tho' the latter Opinion be natural and easy, and the former big with Contra­diction and Absurdity. Reason here seems to be thrown into a kind of Amazement and Suspence, which, without the Suggestions of any Sceptic, gives her a Diffidence of herself, and of the Ground she treads on. She sees a full Light, which illuminates certain Places; but that Light borders upon the most profound Darkness. And betwixt these she is so dazzled and confounded, that she scarce can pronounce with Certainty and Assurance concerning any one Object.

THE Absurdity of these bold Determinations of the abstract Sciences becomes, if possible, still more pal­pable with regard to Time than Extension. An in­finite Number of real Parts of Time, passing in Suc­cession, and exhausted one after another, is so evident a Contradiction, that no Man, one should think, whose Judgment is not corrupted, instead of being improv'd, by the Sciences, would ever be able to ad­mit of it,

[Page 244] YET still Reason must remain restless and unquiet, even with regard to that Scepticism, to which she is led by these Absurdities and Contradictions. How any clear, distinct Idea can contain Circumstances, contradictory to itself, or to any other clear, distinct Idea, is absolutely incomprehensible; and is, per­haps, as absurd as any Proposition, which can be form'd. So that nothing can be more sceptical, or more full of Doubt and Hesitation, than this Scep­ticism itself, which arises from some of the absurd Conclusions of Geometry or the Science of Quan­tity*.

[Page 245] THE sceptical Objections to moral Evidence or to the Reasonings concerning Matter of Fact are either popular or philosophical. The popular Objections are deriv'd from the natural Weakness of human Under­standing; the contradictory Opinions, which have been entertain'd in different Ages and Nations; the Variations of our Judgment in Sickness and Health, Youth and Old-age, Prosperity and Adversity; the perpetual Contradiction of each particular Man's Opi­nions [Page 246] and Sentiments; with many other Topics of that Kind. 'Tis needless to insist farther on this Head. These Objections are but weak. For as in common Life, we reason every Moment concerning Fact and Existence, and cannot possibly subsist, with­out continually employing this Species of Argument, any popular Objections, deriv'd from thence, must be insufficient to destroy that Evidence. The great Subverter of Pyrrhonism or the excessive Principles of Scepticism, is Action, and Employment, and the Oc­cupations of common Life. They may flourish and triumph in the Schools; where it is, indeed, difficult, if not impossible to refute them. But as soon as they leave the Shade, and by the Presence of the real Ob­jects, which actuate our Passions and Sentiments, are put in Opposition to the more powerful Principles of our Nature, they vanish, like Smoak, and leave the most determin'd Sceptic in the same Condition as other Mortals.

THE Sceptic, therefore, had better keep in his proper Sphere, and display those philosophical Objec­tions, which arise from more profound Researches. Here he seems to have ample Matter of Triumph; while he justly insists, that all our Evidence for any Matter of Fact, which lies beyond the Testimony of Sense or Memory, is deriv'd entirely from the Rela­tion of Cause and Effect; that we have no other Idea [Page 247] of this Relation than that of two Objects, which have been frequently conjoin'd together; that we have no Arguments to convince us, that Objects, which have, in our Experience, been frequently conjoin'd, will likewise, in other Instances, be conjoin'd in the same Manner; and that nothing leads us to this Inference but Custom or a certain Instinct of our Nature, which 'tis indeed difficult to resist; but which, like other Instincts, may also be fallacious and deceitful. While the Sceptic insists upon these Topics, he shows his Force, or rather, indeed, his own and our Weakness; and seems, for the Time, at least, to destroy all Assur­ance and Conviction. These Arguments might be dis­play'd at a greater Length, if any durable Good or Benefit to Society could ever be expected to result from them.

FOR here is the chief and most confounding Ob­jection to excessive Scepticism, that no durable Good can ever result from it; while it remains in its full Force and Vigour. We need only ask such a Sceptic, What his Meaning is? And what he proposes by all these curious Researches? He is immediately at a stand, and knows not what to answer. A Copernican or Ptolemaic, who supports, each his different System of Astronomy, may hope to produce a Conviction, which will remain, constant and durable, with his Audience. [Page 248] A Stoic or Epicurean displays Principles, which may not only be durable, but which have a mighty Effect on Conduct and Behaviour. But a Pyrrhonian cannot propose, that his Philosophy will have any constant Influence on the Mind: Or if it had, that its Influ­ence would be beneficial to Society. On the contrary, he must acknowledge, if he will acknowledge any thing, that all human Life must immediately perish, were his Principles universally and steadily to prevail. All Discourse, all Action must immediately cease; and Men remain in a total Lethargy, till the Neces­sities of Nature, unsatisfy'd, put an end to their mi­serable Existence. 'Tis true; so fatal an Event is very little to be dreaded. Nature is always too strong for Principle. And tho' a Pyrrhonian may throw himself or others into a momentary Amazement and Confusion by his profound Reasonings; the first and most trivial Event in Life will immediately put to flight all his Doubts and Scruples, and leave him the same, in every Point of Action and Speculation, with the Philosophers of every other Sect, or with those who never concern'd themselves with any philosophical Researches. When he awakes from his Dream, he will be the first to join in the Laugh against himself, and to confess, that all his Objections are mere Amuse­ments, and can have no other Tendency than to show us the whimsical Condition of Mankind, who must [Page 249] act and reason and believe; tho' they are not able, by their most diligent Enquiry, to satisfy themselves concerning the Foundation of these Operations, or to remove the Objections that may be rais'd against them.


THERE is, indeed, a more mitigated Scepticism or academical Philosophy, which may be both durable and useful, and which may, in Part, be the Result of this Pyrrhonism, or excessive Scepticism, when its un­distinguish'd Doubts are, in some measure, corrected by common Sense and Reflection. The greatest Part of Mankind are naturally apt to be affirmative and dog­matical in their Opinions; and while they see Objects only on one Side, and have no Idea of any counter­balancing Arguments, they throw themselves precipi­tately into the Principles, which they are inclin'd to; nor have they any Indulgence for those who entertain opposite Sentiments. To hesitate or balance per­plexes their Understanding, checks their Passion, and suspends their Actions. They are, therefore, im­patient till they get out of a State of Mind, which to them is so uneasy; and they think they can never re­move themselves far enough from it, by the Violence [Page 250] of their Affirmations and Obstinacy of their Belief. But could such dogmatical Reasoners become sensible of the strange Infirmities of human Understanding, even in its most perfect State, and when most exact and cautious in its Determinations; such a Reflection would naturally inspire them with more Modesty and Reserve, and diminish their fond Opinion of them­selves, and their Prejudice against Antagonists. The Illiterate may reflect on the Disposition of the Learned, who, amidst all the Advantages of Study and Reflec­tion, are commonly still modest and reserv'd in their Determinations: And if any of the Learned are in­clin'd, from their natural Temper, to Haughtiness and Obstinacy, a small Tincture of Pyrrhonism may abate their Pride, by showing them, that the few Advantages, which they may have attain'd over their Fellows, are but inconsiderable, if compar'd with the universal Perplexity and Confusion, which is inherent in human Nature. In general, there is a Degree of Doubt, and Caution, and Modesty, which, in all kinds of Scrutiny and Decision, ought for ever to ac­company a just Reasoner.

ANOTHER Species of mitigated Scepticism, which may be of Advantage to Mankind, and which may be the natural Result of the Pyrrhonian Doubts and Scruples, is the Limitation of our Enquiries to such [Page 251] Subjects as are best adapted to the narrow Capacity of human Understanding. The Imagination of Man is naturally sublime, delighted with whatever is remote and extraordinary, and running, without Controul, into the most distant Parts of Space and Time, to avoid the Objects, which Custom has render'd too familiar to it. A correct Judgment observes a contrary Me­thod; and avoiding all distant and high Enquiries, confines itself to common Life, and to such Subjects as fall under daily Practice and Experience; leaving the more sublime Topics to the Embellishment of Poets and Orators, or the Arts of Priests and Politi­cians. To bring us to so salutary a Determination, nothing can be more serviceable, than to be once thoroughly convinc'd of the Force of the Pyrrhonian Doubt, and of the Impossibility of any Thing, but the strong Power of natural Instinct, to free us from it. Those, who have a Propensity to Philosophy, will still continue their Researches; because they re­flect, that, beside the immediate Pleasure, attending such an Occupation, philosophical Decisions are no­thing but the Reflections of common Life, metho­diz'd and corrected. But they will never be tempted to go beyond common Life, so long as they consider the Imperfection of those Faculties they employ, their narrow Reach, and their inaccurate Operations. While we cannot give a satisfactory Reason, why [Page 252] we believe, after a thousand Experiments, that a Stone will fall, or Fire burn; can we ever satisfy ourselves concerning any Determinations we may form with regard to the Origin of Worlds, and the Situation of Nature, from, and to Eternity?

THIS narrow Limitation, indeed, of our Enquiries, is, in every Respect, so reasonable, that it suffices to make the slightest Examination of the natural Powers of the human Mind, and compare them to their Ob­jects, in order to recommend it to us. We shall then find what are the proper Subjects of Science and En­quiry.

IT seems to me, that the only Object of the ab­stract Sciences or of Demonstration is Quantity and Number, and that all Attempts to extend this more perfect Species of Knowledge beyond these Bounds are mere Sophistry and Illusion. As the component Parts of Quantity and Number are entirely similar, their Relations become intricate and involv'd; and nothing can be more curious, as well as useful, than to trace, by a Variety of Mediums, their Equality or Inequality, thro' their different Appearances. But as all other Ideas are clearly distinct and different from each other, we can never advance farther, by all our Scrutiny, than to observe this Diversity, and, by an [Page 253] obvious Reflection, pronounce one Thing not to be another. Or if there be any Difficulty in these De­cisions, it proceeds entirely from the undetermin'd Meaning of Words, which is corrected by juster De­finitions. That the Square of the Hypotenuse is equal to the Squares of the other two Sides, cannot be known, let the Terms be ever so exactly defin'd, without a Train of Reasoning and Enquiry. But to convince us of the Truth of this Proposition, that where there is no Property, there can be no Injustice, 'tis only neces­sary to define the Terms, and explain Injustice to be a Violation of Property. This Proposition is, indeed, nothing but a more imperfect Definition. 'Tis the same Case with all those pretended syllogistical Rea­sonings, which may be found in every other Branch of Learning, except the Sciences of Quantity and Number; and these may safely, I think, be pro­nounc'd the only proper Objects of Knowledge and Demonstration.

ALL other Enquiries of Men regard only Matter of Fact and Existence; and these are evidently incapable of Demonstration. Whatever is may not be. No Negation of a Fact can involve a Contradiction. The Non-existence of any Being, without Exception, is as clear and distinct an Idea as its Existence. The Proposition, which affirms it not to be, is no less con­ceivable [Page 254] and intelligible, than that which affirms it to be. The Case is different with the Sciences, pro­perly so call'd. Every false Proposition is there con­fus'd and unintelligible. That the Cube Root of 64 is equal to the half of 10, is a false Proposition, and can never be distinctly conceiv'd. But that Caesar, or the Angel Gabriel, or any Being never existed, may be a false Proposition, but still is perfectly con­ceivable, and implies no Contradiction.

THE Existence, therefore, of any Being can only be prov'd by Arguments from its Cause or its Effect; and these Arguments are founded entirely on Expe­rience. If we reason a priori, any Thing may ap­pear able to produce any Thing. The Falling of a Peeble may, for aught we know, extinguish the Sun; or the Wish of a Man controul the Planets in their Orbits. 'Tis only Experience, that teaches us the Nature and Bounds of Cause and Effect, and enables us to infer the Existence of one Object from that of another*. Such is the Foundation of moral Reason­ing, which forms the greatest Part of human Know­ledge, [Page 255] and is the Source of all human Action and Behaviour.

MORAL Reasonings are either concerning particu­lar or general Facts. All Deliberations in Life regard the former; as also all Disquisitions in History, Chro­nology, Geography, and Astronomy.

THE Sciences, which treat of general Facts, are Politics, natural Philosophy, Physic, Chymistry, &c. where the Qualities, Causes, and Effects of a whole Species of Objects are enquired into.

DIVINITY or Theology, as it proves the Exist­ence of a Deity, and the Immortality of Souls, is compos'd partly of Reasonings concerning particular, and partly concerning general Facts. It has a Foun­dation in Reason, so far as it is supported by Expe­rience. But its best and most solid Foundation is Faith and divine Revelation.

MORALS and Criticism are not so properly Objects of the Understanding as of Taste and Sentiment. Beauty, whether moral or natural, is felt, more pro­perly than perceiv'd. Or if we reason concerning it, and endeavour to fix its Standard, we regard a new Fact, viz. the general Taste of Mankind, or some such Fact, which may be the Object of Reasoning and Enquiry.

[Page 256] WHEN we run over Libraries, persuaded of these Principles, what Havoc must we make? If we take in hand any Volume; of Divinity or School Meta­physics, for Instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract Reasonings concerning Quantity or Number? No. Does it contain any experimental Reasonings con­cerning Matters of Fact or Existence? No. Commit it then to the Flames: For it can contain nothing but Sophistry and Illusion.


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