ALCIPHRON: OR, THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER. IN SEVEN DIALOGUES. Containing an APOLOGY for the Christian Religion, against those who are called Free-thinkers.


The Balances of Deceit are in his Hand.
Hosea xii. 7.

DUBLIN: Printed for G. Risk, G. Ewing, and W. Smith, Booksellers in Dame-Street, MDCCXXXII.


  • SECT 1. Points agreed.
  • 2. Sundry Pretences to Revelation.
  • 3. Uncertainty of Tradition.
  • 4. Object and Ground of Faith.
  • 5. Some Books disputed, others evidently spurious.
  • [Page] 6. Stile and Composition of Holy Scripture.
  • 7. Difficulties occurring therein.
  • 8. Obscurity not always a Defect.
  • 9. Inspiration neither impossible nor absurd.
  • 10. Objections from the Form and Matter of Divine Revelation, considered.
  • 11. Infidelity an Effect of Narrowness and Prejudice.
  • 12. Articles of Christian Faith not unreasonable.
  • 13. Guilt the natural Parent of Fear.
  • 14. Things unknown, reduced to the Standard of what Men know.
  • 15. Prejudices against the Incarnation of the Son of God.
  • 16. Ignorance of the Divine Oeconomy, a Source of Dif­ficulties.
  • 17. Wisdom of God, foolishness to Man.
  • 18. Reason, no blind Guide.
  • 19. Usefulness of Divine Revelation.
  • 20. Prophecies, whence Obscure.
  • 21. Eastern Accounts of Time older than the Mosaic.
  • 22. The Humour of Aegyptians, Assyrians, Chalde­ans, and other Nations extending their Antiquity be­yond Truth, accounted for.
  • 23. Reasons confirming the Mosaic Account.
  • 24. Profane Historians inconsistent.
  • 25. Celsus, Prophyry, and Julian.
  • 26. The Testimony of Josephus considered.
  • 27. Attestation of Jews and Gentiles to Christianity.
  • 28. Forgeries and Heresies.
  • 29. Judgment and Attention of Minute Philoso­phers.
  • 30. Faith and Miracles.
  • 31. Probable Arguments a sufficient Ground of Faith.
  • 32. The Christian Religion able to stand the Test of rati­onal Inqairy.
  • [Page]Sect. 1. Christian Faith impossible.
  • 2. Words stand for Ideas.
  • 3. No Knowledge or Faith without Ideas.
  • 4. Grace, no Idea of it.
  • 5. Abstract Ideas what and how made.
  • 6. Abstract general Ideas impossible.
  • 7. In what Sense there may be general Ideas.
  • 8. Suggesting Ideas not the only use of Words.
  • 9. Force as difficult to form an Idea of as Grace.
  • 10. Notwithstanding which useful Propositions may be formed concerning it.
  • 11. Belief of the Trinity and other Mysteries not ab­surd.
  • 12. Mistakes about Faith on occasion of profane Rail­lery.
  • 13. Faith its true Nature and Effects.
  • 14. Illustrated by Science.
  • 15. By Arithmetic in particular.
  • 16. Sciences conversant about Signs.
  • 17. The true End of Speech, Reason, Science and Faith.
  • 18. Metaphysical Objections as strong against Human Sciences as Articles of Faith.
  • 19. No Religion, because no Human Liberty.
  • 20. Farther Proof against Human Liberty.
  • 21. Fatalism a Consequence of erroneous Suppositions.
  • 22. Man an accountable Agent.
  • 23. Inconsistency, Singularity, and Credulity of Minute Philosophers.
  • 24. Untrodden Paths and new Light of the Minute Phi­losophers.
  • 25. Sophistry of the Minute Philosophers.
  • 26. Minute Philosophers ambiguous, aenigmatical, un­fathomable.
  • 27. Scepticism of the Minute Philosophers.
  • 28. How a Sceptic ought to behave.
  • 29. Minute Philosophers why difficult to convince.
  • [Page] 30. Thinking not the epidemical Evil of these times.
  • 31. Infidelity not an Effect of Reason or Thought, its true Motives assigned.
  • 32. Variety of Opinions about Religion, Effects thereof.
  • 33. Method for proceeding with Minute Philosophers.
  • 34. Want of Thought and want of Education Defects of the present Age.



I. Points agreed. II. Sundry pretences to Revelati­on. III. Uncertainty of Tradition. IV. Object and Ground of Faith. V. Some Books disputed, others evidently spurious. VI. Stile and composition of Holy Scripture. VII. Difficulties occurring there­in. VIII. Obscurity not always a defect. IX. Inspiration neither impossible nor absurd. X. Ob­jections from the form and matter of divine Reve­lation, considered. XI. Infidelity an effect of nar­rowness and prejudice. XII. Articles of Christian Faith not unreasonable. XIII. Guilt the Natural Parent of Fear. XIV. Things unknown, redu­ced to the standard of what Men know. XV. Prejudices against the Incarnation of the Son of God. XVI. Ignorance of the divine Oeconomy, a source of difficulties. XVII. Wisdom of God, fool­ishness to Man. XVIII. Reason, no blind guide. XIX. Usefulness of Divine Revelation. XX. Pro­phesies, whence obscure. XXI. Eastern accounts of Time older than the Mosaic. XXII. The hu­mour of Aegyptians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and other Nations extending their Antiquity beyond Truth, accounted for. XXIII. Reasons confirm­ing [Page 2] the Mosaic account. XXIV. Profane Histo­rians inconsistent. XXV. Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian. XXVI. The Testimony of Josephus con­sidered. XXVII. Attestation of Jews and Gen­tiles to Christianity. XXVIII. Forgeries and Heresies. XXIX. Judgment and attention of Minute Philosophers. XXX. Faith and Miracles. XXXI. Probable arguments a sufficient ground of Faith. XXXII. The Christian Religion able to stand the test of rational Inquiry.


THE following day being Sunday, our Philosophers lay long in bed, while the rest of us went to Church in the Neighbouring Town, where we dined at Euphranor's, and after evening Service returned to the two Philosophers, whom we found in the Library. They told us, That, if there was a God, he was present every where, as well as at Church; and that if we had been serving him one way, they did not neglect to do as much another; inasmuch as a free exercise of Reason must be allowed the most acceptable ser­vice and Worship, that a rational creature can of­fer to its Creator. However, said Alciphron, if you, Gentlemen, can but solve the difficulties which I shall propose to-morrow morning, I pro­mise to go to Church next Sunday. After some general conversation of this kind, we sate down to a light Supper, and the next morning assembled at the same place as the day before, where being all seated, I observed, that the foregoing Week our Conferences had been carried on for a longer time, and with less interruption than I had ever known, or well cou'd be, in town, where Mens hours are so broken by visits, business, and amuse­ments, that whoever is content to form his noti­ons from conversation only, must needs have them [Page 3] very shatter'd and imperfect. And what have we got, replied Alciphron, by all these continued Conferences? For my part, I think my self just where I was, with respect to the main point that divides us, the Truth of the Christian Religion. I answered, That so many points had been exa­mined, discussed, and agreed between him and his adversaries, that I hoped to see them come to an intire agreement in the end. For in the first place, said I, the principles and opinions of those who are called Free-thinkers, or Minute Philo­sophers, have been pretty clearly explained. It hath been also agreed, that Vice is not of that benefit to the Nation, which some Men imagine: That Virtue is highly useful to Mankind: But that the beauty of Virtue is not alone sufficient to engage them in the practice of it: That therefore the belief of a God and Providence ought to be encouraged in the State, and tolerated in good Company, as a useful notion. Further, it hath been proved that there is a God: That it is reason­able to worship him: And that the Worship, Faith, and Principles prescribed by the Christian Religion have a useful tendency. Admit, replied Alciphron, addressing himself to Crito, all that Dion saith to be true: Yet this doth not hinder my be­ing just where I was, with respect to the main point. Since there is nothing in all this that proves the Truth of the Christian Religion: Though each of those particulars enumerated may, perhaps, prejudice in its favour. I am therefore to suspect my self at present for a prejudiced person; prejudiced, I say, in favour of Christi­anity. This, as I am a lover of Truth, puts me upon my guard against deception. I must there­fore look sharp, and well consider every step I take.


CRI. You may remember, Alciphron, you proposed for the subject of our present conference the consideration of certain Difficulties and Ob­jections, which you had to offer against the Christi­an Religion. We are now ready to hear and con­sider whatever you shall think fit to produce of that kind. Atheism, and a wrong notion of Chri­stianity, as of something hurtful to Mankind, are great Prejudices; the removal of which may dis­pose a Man to argue with candor and submit to reasonable proof: But the removing Prejudices a­gainst an opinion, is not to be reckoned prejudi­cing in its favour. It may be hoped therefore, that you will be able to do justice to your cause, with­out being fond of it. ALC. O Crito! that Man may thank his stars to whom Nature hath given a sub­lime Soul, who can raise himself above popular opinions, and, looking down on the herd of Man­kind, behold them scattered over the surface of the whole earth, divided and subdivided into num­berless Nations and Tribes, differing in Notions and Tenets, as in Language, Manners, and Dress. The Man who takes a general view of the World and its Inhabitants, from this lofty stand, above the reach of Prejudice, seems to breathe a purer air, and to see by a clearer light: But how to im­part this clear and extensive view to those who are wandering beneath in the narrow dark paths of Error! This indeed is a hard task; but, hard as it is, I shall try if by any means,

Clara tuae possim praepandere lumina menti.

Know then, that all the various Casts or Sects of the sons of Men have each their Faith, and their [Page 5] religious System, germinating and sprouting forth from that common grain of Enthusiasm, which is an original ingredient in the composition of Humane Nature, they shall each tell of in­tercourse with the invisible World, Revelati­ons from Heaven, divine Oracles, and the like. All which pretensions, when I regard with an impartial eye, it is impossible I shou'd assent to all, and I find within my self something that with­holds me from assenting to any of them. For al­though I may be willing to follow, so far as com­mon Sense, and the light of Nature lead; yet the same reason that bids me yield to rational proof, forbids me to admit opinions without proof. This holds in general against all Revelations whatso­ever. And be this my first Objection against the Christian in particular. CRI. As this Objection supposes there is no proof or reason for believing the Christian, if good reason can be assigned for such belief, it comes to nothing. Now I presume you will grant, the authority of the reporter is a true and proper reason for believing reports: And the better this authority, the juster claim it hath to our assent: But the authority of God is on all accounts the best: Whatever therefore comes from God, it is most reasonable to believe.


ALC. This I grant, but then it must be proved to come from God. CRI. And are not Miracles, and the accomplishments of Prophecies, joined with the excellency of its Doctrine, a suffi­cient proof that the Christian Religion came from God? ALC. Miracles, indeed, wou'd prove some­thing: But what proof have we of these Miracles? CRI. Proof of the same kind that we have or can have of any facts done a great way off, and a long time ago. We have authentic accounts transmit­ted down to us from eye-witnesses, whom we can­not [Page 6] conceive tempted to impose upon us by any humane Motive whatsoever; inasmuch as they act­ed therein contrary to their Interests, their Preju­dices, and the very Principles in which they had been nursed and educated. These accounts were confirmed by the unparallel'd subversion of the City of Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the Jewish Nation, which is a standing testimony to the Truth of the Gospel, particularly of the Predicti­ons of our blessed Saviour. These accounts, with­in less than a Century, were spread throughout the World, and believed by great numbers of People. These same accounts were committed to writing, translated into several languages, and handed down with the same respect and consent of Christians in the most distant Churches. Do you not see, said Alciphron, staring full at Crito, that all this hangs by Tradition? And Tradition, take my word for it, gives but a weak hold: It is a chain, whereof the first links may be stronger than steel, and yet the last weak as wax, and brittle as glass. Imagine a picture copied successively by an hundred Painters, one from another; how like must the last copy be to the original! How lively and distinct will an image be, after an hundred reflections between two parallel Mirrours! Thus like, and thus lively do I think a faint vanishing Tradition, at the end of sixteen or seventeen hundred years. Some Men have a false heart, others a wrong head; and where both are true, the memory may be treacherous. Hence there is still something added, something omitted, and something varied from the Truth: And the sum of many such additions, deductions, and alterations, accumulated for several ages, do, at the foot of the account, make quite another thing. CRI. Ancient facts we may know by Tradition, oral or written: And this latter we may divide into two kinds, private and public, as [Page 7] Writings are kept in the hands of particular Men, or recorded in public Archives. Now all these three sorts of Tradition, for ought I can see, con­cur to attest the genuine antiquity of the Gospels. And they are strengthened by collateral evidence from Rites instituted, Festivals observed, and Mo­numents erected by ancient Christians, such as Churches, Baptisteries, and Sepulchres. Now allowing your objection holds against oral Tradi­tion, singly taken, yet I can think it no such diffi­cult thing to transcribe faithfully. And things once committed to writing, are secure from slips of memory, and may with common care be pre­served intire so long as the Manuscript lasts: And this, experience shews may be above a thousand years. The Alexandrine Manuscript is allowed to be above twelve hundred years old; and it is high­ly probable there were then extant copies four hundred years old. A Tradition therefore of a­bove sixteen hundred years, need have only two or three links in its chain. And these links, not­withstanding that great length of time, may be very sound and intire. Since no reasonable Man will deny, that an ancient Manuscript may be of much the same credit now, as when it was first written. We have it on good authority, and it seems probable, that the primitive Christians were careful to transcribe copies of the Gospels and E­pistles for their private use, and that other copies were preserved as public records, in the several Churches throughout the World, and that porti­ons thereof were constantly read in their assemblies. Can more be said to prove the writings of Classic Authors, or ancient Records of any kind authen­tic? Alciphron, addressing his discourse to Euphra­nor, said, It is one thing to silence an adversary, and another to convince him. What do you think, Euphranor? EUPH. Doubtless it is. ALC. [Page 6] [...] [Page 7] [...] [Page 8] But what I want, is to be convinced. EUPH. That point is not so clear. ALC. But if a Man had ever so much mind, he cannot be convinced by probable arguments against Demonstration. EUPH. I grant he cannot.


ALC. Now it is as evident as demonstra­tion can make it, that no divine Faith can possibly be built upon Tradition. Suppose an honest credu­lous Countryman catechised and lectured every Sun­day by his Parish-Priest: It is plain he believes in the Parson, and not in God. He knows nothing of Revelations, and Doctrines, and Miracles, but what the Priest tells him. This he believes, and this Faith is purely humane. If you say he has the Li­turgy and the Bible for the foundation of his Faith, the difficulty still recurs. For as to the Liturgy, he pins his faith upon the civil Magistrate, as well as the Ecclesiastic: neither of which can pretend divine Inspiration. Then for the Bible, he takes both that and his Prayer-Book on trust from the Printer, who, he believes, made true Editions from true Copies. You see then faith, but what faith? Faith in the Priest, in the Magistrate, in the Printer, Editor, Transcriber, none of which can with any pretence be called Divine. I had the hint from Cratylus; it is a shaft out of his quiver, and believe me, a keen one. EUPH. Let me take and make trial of this same shaft in my hands. Suppose then your Countryman hears a Magistrate declare the Law from the Bench, or suppose he reads it in a Statute Book. What think you, is the Printer or the Jus­tice the true and proper object of his Faith and Submission? Or do you acknowledge a higher autho­rity whereon to found those loyal acts, and in which they do really terminate? Again suppose you read a passage in Tacitus that you believe true; wou'd you say you assented to it on the authority of the [Page 9] Printer or Transcriber rather than the Historian? ALC. Perhaps I wou'd, and perhaps I wou'd not. I do not think my self obliged to answer these points. What is this but transferring the question from one subject to another? That which we considered was neither Law nor prophane History, but religious Tradition, and Divine Faith. I see plainly what you aim at, but shall never take fro an answer to one dif­ficulty, the starting of another. CRI. O Al­ciphron, there is no taking hold of you who expect that others shou'd (as you were pleased to express it) hold fair and stand firm, while you plucked out their prejudices: How shall he argue with you but from your concessions, and how can he know what you grant except you will be pleased to tell him? EUPH. But to save you the trouble, for once I will suppose an answer. My question admits but of two answers; take your Choice. From the one it will follow, that by a parity of reason we can easily conceive, how a Man may have Divine Faith, though he never felt Inspiration or saw a Miracle: inasmuch as it is equally possible for the mind, through whatever conduit, oral or scriptural, di­vine Revelation be derived, to carry its thought and submission up to the source and terminate its faith, not in Humane but Divine authority: not in the instrument or vessel of conveyance, but in the great origine it self as its proper and true object. From the other answer itwill follow, that you introduce a general scepticism into Humane Knowledge, and break down the hinges on which civil Government, and all the affairs of the World turn and depend: in a word that you wou'd destroy Humane Faith to get rid of Divine. And how this agrees with your professing that you want to be convinced I leave you to consider.


ALC. I shou'd in earnest be glad to be con­vinced one way or other, and come to some conclu­clusion. [Page 10] But I have so many objections in store, you are not to count much upon getting over one. Depend on it you shall find me behave like a Gen­tleman and lover of Truth. I will propose my objections briefly and plainly, and accept of rea­sonable answers as fast as you can give them. Come, Euphranor, make the most of your Tradition; you can never make that a constant and universal one, which is acknowledged to have been unknown, or at best disputed in the Church for several Ages: And this is the Case of the Canon of the new Tes­tament. For though we have now a Canon as they call it settled; yet every one must see and own that Tradition cannot grow stronger by Age; and that what was uncertain in the primitive times cannot be undoubted in the subsequent. What say you to this, Euphranor? EUPH. I shou'd be glad to conceive your meaning clearly before I return an answer. It seems to me this objection of yours sup­poseth, that where a Tradition hath been constant and undisputed, such Tradition may be admitted as a proof, but that where the Tradition is defec­tive, the proof must be so too. Is this your mean­ing? ALC. It is. EUPH. Consequently the Gos­pels and Epistles of St. Paul, which were univer­sally received in the beginning, and never since doubted of by the Church, must, notwithstanding this objection, be in reason admitted for genuine. And if these Books contain, as they really do, all those points that come into controversy between you and me; what need I dispute with you about the authority of some other Books of the new Tes­tament, which came later to be generally known and received in the Church? If a Man assents to the undisputed Books he is no longer an Infidel; though he shou'd not hold the Revelations, or the Epistle of S. James or Jude, or the latter of S. Peter, or the two last of S. John to be Canonical. [Page 11] The additional authority of these portions of Holy Scripture may have its weight, in particular con­troversies between Christians, but can add nothing to arguments against an Infidel as such. Wherefore though I believe good reasons may be assigned for receiving these Books, yet these reasons seem now beside our purpose. When you are a Christian it will be then time enough to argue this point. And you will be the nearer being so, if the way be shorten'd by omitting it for the present. ALC. Not so near neither as you perhaps imagine: For, notwithstanding all the fair and plausible things you may say about Tradition, when I consider the Spirit of Forgery which reigned in the primitive times, and reflect on the several Gospels, Acts, and Epistles attributed to the Apostles, which yet are acknowledged to be spurious, I confess, I cannot help suspecting the whole. EUPH. Tell me, Alciphron, do you suspect all Plato's Writings for spurious, because the Dialogue upon Death, for instance, is allowed to be so? Or will you admit none of Tully's Writings to be genuine, because Sigonius imposed a Book of his own writing for Tully's Treatise de Consolatione, and the imposture passed for some time on the World? ALC. Sup­pose I admit for the Works of Tully and Plato those that commonly pass for such. What then? EUPH. Why then I wou'd fain know, whether it be equal and impartial in a Free-thinker, to measure the credibility of profane and sacred Books by a different rule. Let us know upon what foot we Christians are to argue with Minute Philoso­phers; whether we may be allowed the benefit of common maxims in Logic and Criticism? If we may, be pleased to assign a reason why suppositi­tious Writings, which in the style and manner and matter bear visible marks of imposture, and have accordingly been rejected by the Church, can be [Page 12] made an argument against those which have been universally received, and handed down by an unani­mous constant Tradition. There have been in all Ages and in all great Societies of Men, many capricious, vain or wicked Impostors, who for different ends have abused the World by spurious Writings, and created work for Critics both in profane and sacred Learning. And it would seem as silly to reject the true Writings of profane Authors for the sake of the spurious, as it wou'd seem unreasonable to sup­pose, that among the Hereticks and several Sects of Christians, there shou'd be none capable of the like Imposture.


ALC. But, be the Tradition ever so well attested, and the Books ever so genuine, yet I can­not suppose them wrote by persons divinely inspir­ed, so long as I see in them certain Characters in­consistent with such a supposition. Surely the purest language, the most perfect style, the ex­actest method, and in a word all the excellencies of good writing, might be expected in a piece com­posed or dictated by the Spirit of God: But Books, wherein we find the reverse of all this, it were im­pious, not, to reject, but, to attribute to the Di­vinity. EUPH. Say, Alciphron, are the Lakes, the Rivers, or the Ocean bounded by straight Lines? Are the Hills and Mountains exact Cones or Pyramids? or the Stars cast into regular figures? ALC. They are not. EUPH. But in the works of Insects, we may observe figures as exact as if they were drawn by the rule and compass. ALC. We may. EUPH. Shou'd it not seem therefore that a regular exactness, or scrupulous attention to what Men call the rules of art, is not observed in the great productions of the Author of Nature? ALC. It shou'd. EUPH. And when a great Prince declareth his Will in Laws and Edicts to [Page 13] his Subjects, is he careful about a pure style or elegant composition? Does he not leave his Secre­taries and Clerks to express his sense in their own words? Is not the phrase on such occasions thought proper if it conveys as much as was intended? And wou'd not the divine strain of certain modern Cri­tics be judged affected and improper for such uses? ALC. It must be owned, Laws and Edicts and Grants, for Soloecism and Tautology, are very of­fensive to the harmonious ears of a fine Writer. EUPH. Why then shou'd we expect in the Ora­cles of God an exactness, that wou'd be misbecom­ing and beneath the dignity of an earthly Monarch, and which bears no proportion or resemblance to the magnificent works of the Creation? ALC. But granting that a nice regard to particles and critical rules is a thing too little and mean to be expected in Divine Revelations; and that there is more force and spirit and true greatness in a negli­gent, unequal style, than in the well-turned periods of a polite writer; Yet what is all this to the bald and flat compositions of those you call the Divine Penmen? I can never be persuaded, the supreme Being wou'd pick out the poorest and meanest of scriblers for his Secretaries. EUPH. O Alciphron, if I durst follow my own judgment, I shou'd be apt to think there are noble beauties in the style of the Holy Scripture: in the narrative parts a strain so simple and unaffected; in the devotional and prophetic, so animated and sublime: and in the doctrinal parts such an air of dignity and authority as seems to speak their original divine. But I shall not enter into a dispute about Taste; much less set up my judgment on so nice a point against that of the wits, and Men of genius, with which your Sect abounds. And I have no temptation to it, inas­much as it seems to me, the Oracles of God are not the less so for being delivered in a plain dress [Page 14] rather than in the enticing words of Man's wisdom. ALC. This may perhaps be an apology for some simplicity and negligence in writing.


But what apology can be made for Non­sense, crude Nonsense? Of which I cou'd easily assign many instances, having once in my Life read the Scripture through with that very view. Look here, said he, opening a Bible, in the forty ninth Psalm, the Author begins very magnificently, call­ing upon all the inhabitants of the Earth to give ear, and assuring them his mouth shall speak of wis­dom, and the meditation of his heart shall be of understanding.

Quid dignum tanto seret hic promissor hiatu?

He hath no sooner done with his Preface, but he puts this senleless question. ‘Wherefore shou'd I fear in the days of evil; when the wickedness of my heels shall compass me about?’ The iniquity of my heels! What Nonsense after such a solemn introduction! EUPH. For my own part, I have naturally weak eyes, and know there are many things that I cannot see, which are nevertheless distinctly seen by others. I do not therefore con­clude a thing to be absolutely invisible; because it is so to me: And since it is possible it may be with my understanding, as it is with my eyes, I dare not pronounce a thing to be Nonsense, be­cause I do not understand it. Of this passage many interpretations are given. The word render'd heels may signify fraud or supplantation: By some it is translated past wickedness, the heel being the hin­der part of the foot; by others iniquity in the end of my days, the heel being one extremity of the body; by some the iniquity of my Enemies that may supplant me; by others my own faults [Page 15] or iniquities which I have passed over as light mat­ters, and trampled under my feet. Some render it the iniquity of my ways; others my transgres­sions which are like slips and slidings of the heel: And after all might not this expression so harsh and odd to English ears have been very natural and ob­vious in the Hebrew Tongue, which, as every other Language, had its idioms? the force and propriety whereof may as easily be conceived lost in a long tract of time, as the signification of some Hebrew words, which are not now intelligible, though no body doubts but they had once a meaning as well as the other words of that Language. Granting therefore that certain passages in the Holy Scrip­ture may not be understood, it will not thence fol­low that its Penmen wrote Nonsense: For I con­ceive Nonsense to be one thing and unintelligible another. CRI. An English Gentleman of my ac­quaintance one day entertaining some Foreigners at his House, sent a Servant to know the occasion of a sudden tumult in the yard, who brought him word, the Horses were fallen together by the ears: his Guests inquiring what the matter was, he tran­slates it literally; Les Chevaux sont tombez ensemble par les oreilles. Which made them stare; what ex­pressed a very plain sense in the original English, being incomprehensible when rendered word for word into French: And I remember to have heard a Man excuse the bulls of his Countrymen, by suppo­sing them so many literal translations. EUPH. But not to grow tedious, I refer to the Critics and and Commentators where you will find the use of this remark, which clearing up several obscure pas­sages you took for Nonsense, may possibly incline you to suspect your own judgment of the rest. In this very Psalm you have pitched on, the good sense and moral contained in what follows, shou'd, methinks, make a candid reader judge favourably [Page 16] of the original sense of the Author, in that part which he cou'd not understand. Say, Alciphron, in reading the Classics, do you forthwith conclude every passage to be Nonsense, that you cannot make sense of? ALC. By no means; difficulties must be supposed to rise from different idioms, old customs, hints and allusions, clear in one time or place, and obscure in another. EUPH. And why will you not judge of Scripture by the same rule. Those sources of obscurity you mention are all common both to sacred and profane Writings: And there is no doubt, but an exacter knowledge in Language and Circumstances wou'd in both, cause difficulties to vanish like shades before the light of the Sun. Jeremiah to describe a furious invader saith; Behold, he shall come up as a Lion from the swelling of Jordan against the habitation of the strong. One wou'd be apt to think this passage odd and improper, and that it had been more reasonable to have said, a Lion from the mountain or the desart. But travellers, as an ingenious Man observes, who have seen the River Jordan bounded by low Lands with many reeds or thickets affording shelter to wild Beasts, (which being suddenly dislodged by a rapid overflowing of the River, rush into the up­land Country) perceive the force and propriety of the Comparison; and that the difficulty proceeds, not from Nonsense in the Writer, but from Igno­rance in the Reader. It is needless to amass to­gether instances which may be found in every Com­mentator: I only beg leave to observe, that some­times Men, looking higher or deeper than they need for a profound or remote sense, overlook the natural obvious sense, lying, if I may so say, at their feet, and so make difficulties instead of finding them. This seems to be the case of that celebrated passage, which hath created so much work in St. Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians. ‘What [Page 17] shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then bap­tized for the dead?’ I remember to have heard this text explained by Laches the Vicar of our Parish to my Neighbour Lycon, who was much perplexed about its meaning. If it had been tran­slated as it might very justly, baptized for the sake of the dead, I do not see, said Laches, why people shou'd be puzzled about the sense of this passage; for tell me, I beseech you, for whose sake do you think those Christians were baptized? For whose sake, answered Lycon, but their own? How do you mean, for their own sake in this life, or the next? Doubtless in the next, for it was plain they could get nothing by it in this. They were then, replied Laches, baptized not for the sake of them­selves while living, but for the sake of themselves when dead; not for the living, but the dead. I grant it. Baptism therefore must have been to them a fruitless thing, if the dead rise not at all. It must. Whence Laches inferred, That St. Paul's argument was clear and pertinent for the Resur­rection: And Lycon allowed it to be argumentum ad hominem to those who had sought Baptism. There is then, concluded Laches, no necessity for supposing, that living Men were in those days bap­tized instead of those who died without Baptism, or of running into any other odd Suppositions, or strained and far-fetched Interpretations to make sense of this passage. ALC. Here and there a difficult passage may be cleared: But there are many which no art or wit of Man can account for. What say you to those discoveries, made by some of our learned Writers, of false citations from the Old Testament found in the Gospel? EUPH. That some few passages are cited by the Writers of the New Testament, out of the Old, and by the Fathers out of the New, which are not in so [Page 18] many words to be found in them, is no new dis­covery of Minute Philosophers, but known and observed long before by Christian Writers; who have made no scruple to grant, that some things might have been inserted by careless or mistaken Transcribers into the Text, from the Margin, o­thers left out, and others altered; whence so many various readings. But these are things of small moment, and that all other ancient Authors have been subject to; and upon which no point of Doc­trine depends, which may not be proved without them. Nay further, if it be any advantage to your cause, it hath been observed, that the eighteenth Psalm, as recited in the twenty second chapter of the second book of Samuel, varies in above forty places, if you regard every little verbal or literal difference: And that a Critic may now and then discover small variations, is what no body can de­ny. But to make the most of these concessions, what can you infer from them, more than that the design of the Holy Scripture was not to make us exactly knowing in Circumstantials? and that the Spirit did not dictate every Particle and Syllable, or preserve them from every minute alteration by Miracle? which to believe, wou'd look like Rabi­nical Superstition. ALC. But what marks of Divi­nity can possibly be in writings which do not reach the exactness even of Humane Art? EUPH. I never thought nor expected that the Holy Scrip­ture shou'd shew it self divine, by a circumstantial accuracy of Narration, by exactness of Method, by strictly observing the rules of Rhetoric, Grammar, and Criticism, in harmonious Periods, in elegant and choice Expressions, or in technical Definitions and Partitions. These things wou'd look too like a Humane Composition. Methinks there is in that simple, unaffected, artless, unequal, bold, figura­tive Style of the Holy Scripture, a character sin­gularly [Page 19] great and majestic, and that looks more like divine Inspiration, than any other Compositi­on that I know. But, as I said before, I shall not dispute a point of Criticism with the gentlemen of your Sect, who, it seems, are the modern standard for Wit and Taste. ALC. Well, I shall not insist on small slips, or the inaccuracy of citing or tran­scribing: And I freely own, that Repetitions, want of Method, or want of Exactness in circum­stances, are not the things that chiefly stick with me; no more than the plain patriarchal Manners, or the peculiar Usages and Customs of the Jews and first Christians so different from ours; and that to reject the Scripture on such accounts wou'd be to act like those French Wits, who censure Homer be­cause they do not find in him the Style, Notions and Manners of their own Age and Country. Was there nothing else to divide us, I shou'd make no great difficulty of owning, That a popular uncor­rect Style might answer the general ends of Reve­lation, as well, perhaps, as a more critical and exact one: But the Obscurity still sticks with me. Methinks if the supreme Being had spoke to Man, he wou'd have spoke clearly to him, and that the Word of God shou'd not need a comment.


EUPH. You seem, Alciphron, to think Obscurity a defect; but if it shou'd prove to be no defect, there wou'd then be no force in this Objection. ALC. I grant there wou'd not. EUPH. Pray tell me, are not Speech and Style instrumen­tal to convey Thoughts and Notions, to beget Knowledge, Opinion, and Assent? ALC. This is true. EUPH. And is not the perfection of an instrument to be measured by the use to which it is subservient? ALC. It is. EUPH. What there­fore is a defect in one instrument, may be none in another. For instance, edged tools are in general [Page 20] designed to cut; but the uses of an Ax and a Ra­zor being different, it is no defect in an Ax, that it hath not the keen edge of a Razor; nor in a Razor, that it hath not the weight or strength of an Ax. ALC. I acknowledge this to be true. EUPH. And may we not say in general, that every instrument is perfect, which answers the purpose or intention of him who useth it? ALC. We may. EUPH. Hence it seems to follow, that no Man's Speech is defective in point of Clearness, though it shou'd not be intelligible to all Men, if it be sufficiently so to those who, he intended, shou'd understand it; or though it shou'd not in all parts be equally clear, or convey a perfect knowledge, where he intended only an imperfect hint. ALC. It seems so. EUPH. Ought we not therefore to know the intention of the Speaker, to be able to know whether his style be obscure through defect or design? ALC. We ought. EUPH. But is it possible for Man to know all the ends and purpo­ses of God's Revelations? ALC. It is not. EUPH. How then can you tell, but the obscurity of some parts of Scripture may well consist with the pur­pose which you know not, and consequently be no argument against its coming from God? The books of Holy Scripture were written in ancient langua­ges, at distant times, on sundry occasions, and very different subjects: Is it not therefore reasonable to imagine, that some parts or passages might have been clearly enough understood by those, for whose proper use they were principally designed, and yet seem obscure to us, who speak another language, and live in other times? Is it at all ab­surd or unsuitable to the notion we have of God or Man, to suppose that God may reveal, and yet reveal with a reserve, upon certain remote and sublime subjects, content to give us hints and glimpses, rather than views? May we not also sup­pose [Page 21] from the reason of things, and the analogy of Nature, that some points, which might otherwise have been more clearly explained, were left obscure meerly to encourage our diligence and modesty? Two virtues, which, if it might not seem disres­pectful to such great Men, I wou'd recommend to the Minute Philosophers. Lysicles replied, This indeed is excellent: You expect that Men of sense and spirit shou'd in great humility put out their eyes, and blindly swallow all the absurdities and nonsense that shall be offered to them for divine Re­velation. EUPH. On the contrary, I wou'd have them open their eyes, look sharply, and try the Spirit, whether it is of God; and not supinely and ignorantly condemn in the gross, all Religions to­gether, Piety with Superstition, Truth for the sake of Error, matters of Fact for the sake of Fictions; a conduct, which at first sight wou'd seem absurd in History, Physick, or any other branch of Humane Inquiry: But to compare the Christian System, or Holy Scriptures, with other pretences to divine Revelation, to consider impartially the Doctrines, Precepts, and Events therein contained; weigh them in the balance with any other religious, na­tural, moral, or historical accounts; and diligently to examine all those proofs internal and external, that for so many ages have been able to influence and persuade so many wise, learned and inquisitive Men: Perhaps they might find in it certain pecu­liar characters, which sufficiently distinguish it from all other Religions and pretended Revelati­ons, whereon to ground a reasonable Faith. In which case I leave them to consider, whether it wou'd be right to reject with peremptory scorn a Revelation so distinguished and attested, upon ac­count of Obscurity in some parts of it? and whe­ther it wou'd seem beneath Men of their Sense and Spirit to acknowledge, that, for ought they know, [Page 22] a light inadaequate to things, may yet be adaequate to the purpose of Providence? and whether it might be unbecoming their sagacity and critical skill to own, that literal Translations from Books in an ancient Oriental tongue, wherein there are so many peculiarities, as to the manner of writing, the figures of Speech, and structure of the Phrase, so remote from all our modern Idioms, and in which we have no other coaeval writings extant, might well be obscure in many places, especially such as treat of subjects sublime and difficult in their own nature, or allude to things, customs or events, very distant from our knowledge? And lastly, whether it might not become their character, as impartial and unprejudiced Men, to consider the Bible in the same light they wou'd profane Au­thors? They are apt to make great allowance for Transpositions, Omissions, and literal Errors of Transcribers in other ancient Books, and very great for the difference of Style and Manner, especially in eastern Writings, such as the remains of Zoroaster and Confucius, and why not in the Prophets? In reading Horace or Persius to make out the sense, they will be at the pains to discover a hidden Dra­ma, and why not in Solomon or St. Paul? I hear there are certain ingenious Men who despise King David's Poetry, and yet profess to admire Homer and Pindar. If there be no prejudice or affectati­on in this, let them but make a literal version from those Authors into English Prose, and they will then be better able to judge of the Psalms. ALC. You may discourse and exspatiate; but notwith­standing all you have said or shall say, it is a clear point that a Revelation, which doth not reveal, can be no better than a contradiction in terms. EUPH. Tell me, Alciphron, do you not acknow­ledge the light of the Sun to be the most glorious production of Providence in this natural World? [Page 23] ALC. Suppose I do. EUPH. This light, never­theless, which you cannot deny to be of God's making, shines only on the surface of things, shines not at all in the Night, shines imperfectly in the twilight, is often interrupted, refracted, and ob­scured, represents distant things, and small things dubiously, imperfectly, or not at all. Is this true or no? ALC. It is. EUPH. Shou'd it not fol­low therefore, that to expect in this World a light from God without any mixture of shade or mystery, wou'd be departing from the rule and a­nalogy of the Creation? and that consequently it is no argument the light of Revelation is not Di­vine, because it may not be so clear and full as you expect. ALC. As I profess my self candid and indifferent throughout this debate, I must needs own you say some plausible things, as a Man of argument will never fail to do in vindication of his prejudices.


But, to deal plainly, I must tell you once for all, that you may question and answer, illustrate and enlarge for ever, without being able to con­vince me that the Christian Religion is of Divine Revelation. I have said several things, and have many more to say, which, believe me, have weight not only with my self, but with many great Men my very good friends, and will have weight what­ever Euphranor can say to the contrary. EUPH. O Alciphron, I envy you the happiness of such ac­quaintance. But, as my lot fallen in this remote corner deprives me of that advantage, I am ob­liged to make the most of this opportunity, which you and Lysicles have put into my hands. I con­sider you as two able Chirurgeons, and you were pleased to consider me as a Patient, whose cure you have generously undertaken. Now a Patient must have full liberty to explain his case, and tell [Page 24] all his Symptoms, the concealing or palliating of which might prevent a perfect cure. You will be pleased therefore to understand me, not as object­ing to, or arguing against, either your Skill or Medicines, but only as setting forth my own case and the effects they have upon me. Say, Alci­phron, did you not give me to understand that you wou'd extirpate my prejudices? ALC. It is true: a good Physician eradicates every fibre of the dis­ease. Come, you shall have a patient hearing. EUPH. Pray, was it not the opinion of Plato, that God inspired particular Men, as Organs or Trumpets, to proclaim and sound forth his Oracles to the World? * And was not the same opinion also embraced by others the greatest Writers of Antiquity? CRI. Socrates seems to have thought that all true Poets spoke by Inspiration; and Tul­ly, that there was no extraordinary Genius with­out it. This hath made some of our affected Free-thinkers attempt to pass themselves upon the World for Enthusiasts. ALC. What wou'd you infer from all this? EUPH. I wou'd infer that inspi­ration shou'd seem nothing impossible or absurd, but rather agreeable to the light of reason and the no­tions of Mankind. And this, I suppose, you will acknowledge, having made it an Objection against a particular Revelation, that there are so many pretences to it throughout the World. ALC. O Euphranor, he, who looks into the bottom of things, and resolves them into their first principles, is not easily amused with words. The word In­spiration sounds indeed big, but let us, if you please, take an original view of the thing signified by it. To inspire is a word borrowed from the Latin, and strictly taken means no more than to breathe or blow in: nothing therefore can be in­spired but what can be blown or breathed, and nothing can be so but wind or vapour, which in­deed [Page 25] may fill or puff up Men with fanatical and hypochondriacal ravings. This sort of Inspiration I very readily admit. EUPH. What you say is subtle, and I know not what effect it might have upon me, if your profound discourse did not hin­der its own operation. ALC. How so? EUPH. Tell me, Alciphron, do you discourse or do you not? To me it seems that you discourse admirably. ALC. Be that as it will, it is certain I discourse. EUPH. But when I endeavour to look into the bottom of things, behold! A scruple riseth in my mind how this can be; for to discourse is a word of Latin derivation, which originally signifies to run about; and a Man cannot run about, but he must change place and move his Legs; so long there­fore as you sit on this Bench, you cannot be said to discourse. Solve me this difficulty, and then perhaps I may be able to solve yours. ALC. You are to know, that discourse is a word bor­rowed from sensible things, to express an invisible action of the mind, reasoning or inferring one thing from another; and in this translated sense, we may be said to discourse, though we sit still. EUPH. And may we not as well conceive, that the term Inspiration might be borrowed from sen­sible things to denote an action of God, in an ex­traordinary manner, influencing, exciting, and en­lightening the mind of a Prophet or an Apostle? who, in this secondary, figurative, and translated sense, may truly be said to be inspired, though there shou'd be nothing in the case of that wind or vapour implied in the original sense of the word? It seems to me, that we may by looking into our own minds plainly perceive certain instincts, im­pulses, and tendencies, which at proper periods and occasions spring up unaccountably in the Soul of Man. We observe very visible signs of the same in all other Animals. And these things being or­dinary [Page 26] and natural, what hinders but we may con­ceive it possible for the humane Mind, upon an extraordinary account, to be moved in an extra­ordinary manner, and its faculties stirred up and actuated by a supernatural Power? That there are and have been, and are likely to be wild visions and hypochondriacal ravings, no body can deny; but to infer from thence, that there are no true Inspi­rations wou'd be too like concluding, that some Men are not in their senses, because other Men are fools. And though I am no Prophet, and consequently cannot pretend to a clear notion of this matter; yet I shall not therefore take upon me to deny, but a true Prophet or inspired Person, might have had as certain means, of discerning be­tween divine Inspiration and hypochondriacal fan­cy, as you can between sleeping and waking, till you have proved the contrary. You may meet in the Book of Jeremiah with this passage: ‘The Prophet that hath a dream let him tell a dream: And he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully: what is the chaff to the Wheat, saith the Lord? Is not my word like as a fire, saith the Lord, and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?’ *You see here a distinction made between Wheat and Chaff, true and spurious, with the mighty force and power of the former. But I beg pardon for quoting Scrip­ture to you, I make my appeal to the general sense of Mankind, and the Opinion of the wisest Hea­thens, which seems sufficient to conclude Divine Inspiration possible, if not probable, at least till you prove the contrary.


ALC. The possibility of Inspirations and Revelations I do not think it necessary to deny. Make the best you can of this concession. EUPH. 2 [Page 27] Now what is allowed possible we may suppose in fact. ALC. We may. EUPH. Let us then sup­pose, that God had been pleased to make a Reve­lation to Men; and that he inspired some as a means to instruct others. Having supposed this, can you deny, that their inspired Discourses and Revelations might have been committed to Wri­ting, or that being written, after a long tract of time they might become in several places obscure; that some of them might even originally have been less clear than others, or that they might suf­fer some alteration by frequent transcribing, as o­ther Writings are known to have done? Is it not even very probable that all these things wou'd hap­pen? ALC. I grant it. EUPH. And granting this, with what pretence can you reject the Holy Scriptures as not being divine, upon the account of such signs or marks, as you acknowledge wou'd probably attend a Divine Revelation transmitted down to us through so many Ages? ALC. But allowing all that in reason you can desire, and granting that this may account for some obscurity, may reconcile some small differences, or satisfy us how some difficulties might arise by inserting, o­mitting or changing here and there a letter, a word, or perhaps a sentence: Yet these are but small matters, in respect of the much more consi­derable and weighty objections I cou'd produce, against the confessed doctrines, or subject matter of those Writings. Let us see what is contained in these sacred Books, and then judge whether it is probable or possible, such Revelations shou'd ever have been made by God? Now I defy the wit of Man to contrive any thing more extraya­gant, than the accounts we there find of Appari­tions, Devils, Miracles, God manifest in the flesh, Regeneration, Grace, Self-denial, Resurrection of the dead, and such like aegri somnia: things so odd, [Page 28] unaccountable, and remote from the apprehensi­on of Mankind, you may as soon wash a Blacka­more white, as clear them of absurdity. No critical skill can justify them, no tradition recommend them, I will not say for Divine Revelations, but even for the inventions of Men of Sense. EUPH. I had always a great opinion of your sagacity, but now, Alciphron, I consider you as something more than Man; else how shou'd it be possible for you to know, what or how far it may be proper for God to reveal? Methinks it may consist with all due deference to the greatest of Humane Un­derstandings, to suppose them ignorant of many things, which are not suited to their faculties, or lie out of their reach. Even the Counsels of Prin­ces lie often beyond the ken of their Subjects, who can only know so much as is revealed by those at the helm; and are often unqualified to judge of the usefulness and tendency even of that, till in due time the scheme unfolds, and is account­ed for by succeeding events. That many points contained in holy Scripture are remote from the common apprehensions of Mankind, cannot be de­nied. But I do not see, that it follows from thence they are not of Divine Revelation. On the con­trary, shou'd it not seem reasonable to suppose, that a Revelation from God shou'd contain some­thing different in kind, or more excellent in de­gree, than what lay open to the common sense of Men, or cou'd even be discovered by the most sa­gacious Philosopher? Accounts of separate Spi­rits, good or bad, Prophesies, Miracles and such things are undoubtedly strange; but I wou'd fain see how you can prove them impossible or absurd. ALC. Some things there are so evidently absurd, that it wou'd be almost as silly to disprove them as to believe them: and I take these to be of that class.


EUPH. But is it not possible, some Men may shew as much prejudice and narrowness in rejecting all such accounts, as others might easiness and credulity in admitting them? I never durst make my own observation or experience, the rule and measure of things spiritual, supernatural, or relating to another World, because I shou'd think it a very bad one, even for the visible and natural things of this; It wou'd be judging like the Si­amese, who was positive it did not freeze in Hol­land, because he had never known such a thing as hard water or ice in his own Country. I cannot comprehend why any one, who admits the union of the Soul and Body, shou'd pronounce it impos­sible for the Humane Nature to be united to the Divine, in a manner ineffable and incomprehensi­ble by Reason. Neither can I see any absurdity in admitting, that sinful Man may become regene­rate or a new Creature, by the grace of God re­claiming him from a carnal Life to a spiritual Life of Virtue and Holiness. And since, the being go­verned by Sense and Appetite is contrary to the happiness and perfection of a rational Creature, I do not at all wonder that we are prescribed Self­denial. As for the Resurrection of the dead, I do not conceive it so very contrary to the Analogy of Nature, when I behold Vegetables left to rot in the earth, rise up again with new Life and Vigour, or a Worm to all appearance dead change its Na­ture, and that, which in its first being crawled on the Earth, become a new species, and fly abroad with Wings. And indeed when I consider, that the Soul and Body are things so very different and heterogeneous, I can see no reason to be positive, that the one must necessarily be extinguished upon the dissolution of the other; especially since I find in my self a strong natural desire of Immorta­lity, [Page 30] and I have not observed that natural Appe­tites are wont to be given in vain, or meerly to be frustrated. Upon the whole those points, which you account extravagant and absurd, I dare not pro­nounce to be so till I see good reason for it.


CRI. No, Alciphron, your positive airs must not pass for proofs; nor will it suffice to say, things are contrary to common sense, to make us think they are so: By common Sense, I suppose shou'd be meant either the general sense of Man­kind, or the improved reason of thinking Men. Now I believe that all those Articles, you have with so much capacity and fire at once summed up and exploded, may be shewn to be not disagreeable, much less contrary to common sense in one or other of these acceptations. That the Gods might ap­pear and converse among Men, and that the Di­vinity might inhabit Humane Nature, were points allowed by the Heathens; and for this I appeal to their Poets and Philosophers, whose Testimonies are so numerous and clear, that it wou'd be an af­front to repeat them to a Man of any Education. And though the notion of a Devil may not be so obvious, or so fully described, yet there appear plain traces of it, either from Reason or Tradition. The latter Platonists, as Porphyry and Iamblichus, are very clear in the point, allowing that evil Dae­mons delude and tempt, hurt and possess Mankind. That the ancient Greeks, Chaldaeans, and Aegypti­ans, believed both good and bad Angels, may be plainly collected from Plato, Plutarch, and the Chaldaean Oracles. Origen observes, That almost all the Gentiles, who held the being of Daemons, allowed there were bad ones *. There is even something as early as Homer, that is thought by the [Page 31] learned Cardinal Bessarion to allude to the fall of Satan, in the acount of Ate, whom the Poet repre­sents as cast down from Heaven by Jove, and then wandring about the Earth, doing mischief to Mankind. This same Ate is said by Hesiod, to be the Daughter of Discord; and by Euripides, in his Hippolitus, is mentioned as a tempter to evil, And it is very remarkable, that Plutarch, in his Book, De vitando aere alieno, speaks after Empedocles, of certain Daemons that fell from Heaven, and were banished by God, [...]. Nor is that less remarkable which is observed by Ficinus from Pherecydes Syrus, That there had been a downfal of Daemons who revolted from God; and that Ophioneus (the old Serpent) was head of that rebellious Crew *. Then as to other articles, let any one consider what the Pytha­goreans taught of the Purgation and [...], or Deliverance of the Soul: What most Philosophers, but especially the Stoics, of subduing our Passions: What Plato and Hierocles have said of forgiving In­juries: What the acute and sagacious Aristotle writes, in his Ethics to Nicomachus, of the spiritual and divine Life, that Life, which, according to him, is too excellent to be thought Humane; insomuch as Man, so far forth as Man, cannot attain to it, but only so far forth as he hath something divine in him: And particularly, let him reflect on what Socrates taught, to wit, That Virtue is not to be learned from Men, that it is the Gift of God, and that good Men are not good by virtue of Humane Care or Diligence, [...] . Let any Man, who really thinks, but consider what other thinking Men have thought, who cannot be supposed prejudiced in [Page 32] favour of Revealed Religion; and he will see cause, if not to think with reverence of the Christian Doc­trines of Grace, Self-denial, Regeneration, Sanc­tification, and the rest, even the most mysterious, at least to judge more modestly and warily, than those who shall, with a confident air, pronounce them absurd, and repugnant to the Reason of Man­kind. And in regard to a future State, the com­mon sense of the Gentile World, modern or ancient, and the opinions of the wisest Men of Antiquity, are things so well known, that I need say nothing about them. To me it seems, the Minute Philoso­phers, when they appeal to Reason and common Sense, mean only the Sense of their own Party: A coin, how current soever among themselves, that other Men will bring to the touchstone, and pass for no more than it is worth. LYS. Be those notions agreeable to what or whose Sense they may, they are not agreeable to mine. And if I am thought ignorant for this, I pity those who think me so.


I enjoy my self, and follow my own courses, without remorse or fear; which I should not do, if my Head were filled with Enthusiasm; whether Gentile or Christian, Philosophical or Re­vealed, it is all one to me. Let others know or believe what they can, and make the best on't, I, for my part, am happy and safe in my Ignorance. CRI. Perhaps not so safe neither. LYS. Why, surely you won't pretend that Ignorance is crimi­nal? CRI. Ignorance alone is not a crime. But that wilful Ignorance, affected Ignorance, Ignorance from Sloth, or conceited Ignorance, is a fault, might easily be proved by the testimony of Heathen Writers; and it needs no proof to shew, that if Ignorance be our fault, we cannot be secure in it as an excuse. LYS. Honest Crito seems to hint, [Page 33] that a Man shou'd take care to inform himself, while alive, lest his neglect be punished when he is dead. Nothing is so pusillanimous and unbecom­ing a Gentleman, as Fear: Nor cou'd you take a likelier course to fix and rivet a Man of honour in Guilt, than by attempting to frighten him out of it. This is the stale, absurd Stratagem of Priests, and that which makes them, and their Religion, more odious and contemptible to me than all the other Articles put together. CRI. I wou'd fain know why it may not be reasonable for a Man of honour, or any Man who has done amiss to fear? Guilt is the natural Parent of fear; and nature is not used to make men fear where there is no occa­sion. That impious and profane Men shou'd expect divine punishment, doth not seem so absurd to con­ceive: And that under this expectation they shou'd be uneasy and even afraid, how consistent soever it may or may not be with honour, I am sure consists with reason. LYS. That thing of Hell and eter­nal Punishment is the most absurd, as well as the most disagreeable thought that ever entered into the head of mortal Man. CRI. But you must own that it is not an absurdity peculiar to Chris­tians, since Socrates, that great Free-thinker of Athens, thought it probable there may be such a thing as impious Men for ever punished in Hell *. It is recorded of this same Socrates, that he has been often known to think for four and twenty hours together, fixed in the same posture, and wrapt up in meditation. LYS. Our modern Free-thinkers are a more lively sort of Men. Those old Philoso­phers were most of them whimsical. They had in my judgment a dry, narrow, timorous way of think­ing, which by no means came up to the frank hu­mour of our times. CRI. But I appeal to your own judgment, if a Man, who knows not the na­ture [Page 34] of the Soul, can be assured by the light of reason, whether it is mortal or immortal?

An simul intereat nobiscum morte perempta,
An tenebras orci visat vastasque lacunas?

LYS. But what if I know the nature of the Soul? What if I have been taught that whole secret by a modern Free-thinker? a Man of science who dis­covered it not by a tiresome introversion of his fa­culties, not by amusing himself in a labyrinth of no­tions, or stupidly thinking for whole days and nights together, but by looking into things and ob­serving the analogy of nature.


This great Man is a Philosopher by fire, who has made many processes upon vegetables. It is his opinion that Men and Vegetables are really of the same species; that Animals are moving Vege­tables, and Vegetables fixed Animals; that the mouths of the one and the roots of the other serve to the same use, differing only in position; that blossoms and flowers answer to the most indecent and concealed parts in the humane body; that ve­getable and animal bodies are both alike organized, and that in both there is Life or a certain motion and circulation of juices through proper Tubes or Vessels. I shall never forget this able Man's unfold­ing the nature of the Soul in the following manner. The Soul, said he, is that specific form or prin­ciple from whence proceed the distinct qualities or properties of things. Now, as Vegetables are a more simple and less perfect compound, and con­sequently more easily analysed than Animals, we will begin with the contemplation of the Souls of Vegetables. Know then, that the Soul of any Plant, Rosemary for instance, is neither more nor less than its essential Oil. Upon this depends its pe­culiar [Page 35] fragrance, taste, and medicinal virtues, or in other words its life and operations. Separate or extract this essential Oil by Chymic art, and you get the Soul of the Plant: what remains being a dead Carcase, without any one property or virtue of the Plant, which is preserved entire in the Oil, a Drachm whereof goes further than several pounds of the Plant. Now this same essential Oil is it self a composition of Sulphur and Salt, or of a gross unctuous substance, and a fine subtile prin­ciple or volatile Salt imprisoned therein. This volatile Salt is properly the essence of the Soul of the Plant, containing all its virtue, and the Oil is the vehicle of this most subtile part of the Soul, or that which fixes and individuates it. And as, upon separation of this Oil from the Plant, the Plant died, so a second death or death of the Soul ensues upon the resolution of this essential Oil into its prin­ciples; as appears by leaving it exposed for some time to the open air, so that the volatile Salt or Spirit may fly off; after which the Oil remains dead and insipid, but without any sensible diminu­tion of its weight, by the loss of that volatile es­sence of the Soul, that aethereal aura, that spark of entity, which returns and mixes with the Solar light, the universal Soul of the World, and only source of Life, whether Vegetable, Animal, or Intellectual; which differ only according to the grossness or fineness of the vehicles, and the different textures of the natural Alembics, or in other words, the organized Bodies, where the abovementioned volatile essence inhabits and is elaborated, where it acts and is acted upon. This Chymical System lets you at once into the nature of the Soul, and accounts for all it's phaenomena. In that compound which is called Man, the Soul or essential Oil is what commonly goes by the name of Animal Spirit: for you must know, it is a point agreed by Chymists, that [Page 36] Spirits are nothing but the more subtile Oils. Now in proportion, as the essential Oil of Man is more subtile than that of other Creatures, the volatile Salt that impregnates it is more at liberty to act, which accounts for those spe­cifick properties and actions of Humane Kind, which distinguish them above other Creatures. Hence you may learn why among the wise ancients, Salt was another name for wit, and in our times a dull Man is said to be insipid or insulse. Aromatic Oils maturated by great length of time turn to Salts: this shews why Humane Kind, grow wiser by age. And what I have said of the twofold death or dissolution, first of the compound, by se­parating the Soul from the organical Body, and se­condly of the Soul it self, by dividing the volatile Salt from the Oil, illustrates and explains that no­tion of certain ancient Philosophers: that as the Man was a compound of soul and body, so the Soul was compounded of the mind or intellect, and its aethereal vehicle; and that the separation of Soul and Body or death of the Man is, after a long tract of time, succeeded by a second death of the Soul it self, to wit the separation or delive­rance of the intellect from its vehicle, and reunion with the Sun. EUPH. O Lysicles your ingeni­ous friend has opened a new Scene, and explained the most obscure and difficult points in the clearest and easiest manner. LYS. I must own this account of things struck my fancy. I am no great lover of Creeds or Systems; but when a notion is reasonable and grounded on experience I know how to value it. CRI. In good earnest, Lysicles, do you believe this account to be true? LYS. Why then in good earnest I don't know whether I do or no. But I can assure you the ingenious Artist himself has not the least doubt about it. And to believe an Artist in his art is a just maxim and short way [Page 37] to Science. CRI. But what relation hath the Soul of Man to Chymic art? The same reason, that bids me trust a skilful Artist in his art, inclines me to suspect him out of his art. Men are too apt to reduce unknown things to the standard of what they know, and bring a prejudice or tincture from things they have been conversant in, to judge there­by of things in which they have not been conver­sant. I have known a Fidler gravely teach that the Soul was Harmony; a Geometrician very po­sitive that the Soul must be extended; and a Phy­sician, who having pickled half a doozen embryos and dissected as many Rats and Frogs, grew con­ceited and affirmed there was no Soul at all, and that it was a vulgar error. LYS. My notions sit easy. I shall not engage in pedantic disputes about them. They who don't like them may leave them. EUPH. This, I suppose, is said much like a Gentelman.


But pray, Lysicles, tell me whether the Clergy come within that general rule of yours; that an Artist may be trusted in his art? LYS. By no means. EUPH. Why so? LYS. Because I take my self to know as much of those matters as they do. EUPH. But you allow, that in any other profession, one who hath spent much time and pains may attain more knowledge, than a Man of equal or better parts, who never made it his particular business. LYS. I do. EUPH. And nevertheless in things religious and divine you think all Men equally knowing. LYS. I do not say all Men. But I think all Men of sense competent judges. EUPH. What! are the divine attributes and dispensations to Mankind, the true end and happiness of rational Creatures, with the means of improving and perfecting their Beings, more easy and obvious points than those which make the sub­ject [Page 38] of every common profession? LYS. Perhaps not: but one thing I know, some things are so manifestly absurd, that no authority shall make me give into them. For instance, if all Mankind shou'd pretend to persuade me that the Son of God was born upon earth in a poor Family, was spit upon, buffeted and crucified, lived like a Beggar and died like a Thief, I shou'd never believe one syllable of it. Common sense shews every one, what figure it wou'd be decent for an earthly Prince or Ambassa­dor to make; and the Son of God, upon an am­bassy from Heaven, must needs have made an ap­pearance beyond all others of great eclat, and in all respects the very reverse of that which Jesus Christ is reported to have made, even by his own Historians. EUPH. O Lysicles, though I had ever so much mind to approve and applaud your inge­nious reasoning, yet I dare not assent to this for fear of Crito. LYS. Why so? EUPH. Because he observed just now, that Men judge of things they do not know, by prejudices from things they do know. And I fear he wou'd object that you, who have been conversant in the grand Monde, having your head filled with a notion of Atten­dants and Equipage and Liveries, the familiar bad­ges of Humane Grandeur, are less able to judge of that which is truly divine; and that one who had seen less, and thought more, wou'd be apt to ima­gine a pompous parade of worldly greatness, not the most becoming the Author of a spiritual Reli­gion, that was designed to wean Men from the world, and raise them above it. CRI. Do you think, Lysicles, if a Man shou'd make his en­trance into London in a rich suit of Clothes, with a hundred gilt Coaches, and a thousand laced Foot­men; that this wou'd be a more divine appearance, and have more of true grandeur in it, than if he had power with a word to heal all manner of diseases, [Page 39] to raise the dead to life, and still the raging of the Winds and Sea? LYS. Without all doubt it must be very agreeable to common sense to suppose, that he cou'd restore others to life who cou'd not save his own. You tell us, indeed, that he rose again from the dead: but what occasion was there for him to die, the just for the unjust, the Son of God for wicked Men? and why in that individual place? Why at that very time above all others? Why did he not make his appearance earlier, and preach in all parts of the World, that the benefit might have been more extensive? Account for all these points and reconcile them, if you can, to the common notions and plain sense of Mankind. CRI. And what if those, as well as many other points, shou'd lie out of the road that we are acquainted with; must we therefore explode them, and make it a rule to condemn every proceeding as senseless, that doth not square with the vulgar sense of Man; If the precepts and certain primary tenets of Religi­on appear in the eye of Reason good and useful; and if they are also found to be so by their effects; we may, for the sake of them, admit certain other points or doctrines recommended with them, to have a good tendency, to be right and true; al­though we cannot discern their goodness or truth by the meer light of Humane Reason, which may well be supposed an insufficient judge of the pro­ceedings, counsels, and designs of Providence, and this sufficeth to make our conviction reasonable.


It is an allowed point that no Man can judge of this or that part of a machine taken by it self, without knowing the whole, the mutual relation or dependence of its parts, and the end for which it was made. And, as this is a point acknowledged in corporeal and natural things, ought we not by a parity of reason to suspend our [Page 40] judgment of a single unaccountable part of the Di­vine Oeconomy, till we are more fully acquainted with the moral System, or world of Spirits, and are let into the designs of God's Providence, and have an extensive view of his dispensations past, present, and future? Alas! Lysicles, what do you know even of your self, whence you come, what you are, or whither you are going? To me it seems, that a Minute Philosopher is like a conceit­ed Spectator, who never looked behind the Scenes, and yet wou'd judge of the machinery; who from a transient glimpse of a part only of some one scene, wou'd take upon him to censure the plot of a Play. LYS. As to the plot I won't say; but in half a Scene a Man may judge of an absurd Ac­tor. With what colour or pretext can you justify the vindictive, froward, whimsical behaviour of some inspired Teachers or Prophets? Particulars that serve neither for profit nor pleasure I make a shift to forget; but in general the truth of this charge I do very well remember. CRI. You need be at no pains to prove a point I shall neither jus­tify nor deny. That there have been humane pas­sions, infirmities, and defects in persons inspired by God, I freely own; nay, that very wicked Men have been inspired, as Balaam for instance and Caia­phas, cannot denied. But what will you infer from thence? Can you prove it impossible, that a weak or sinful Man shou'd become an instrument to the Spirit of God, for conveying his purpose to other Sinners? Or that Divine Light may not, as well as the light of the Sun, shine on a foul vessel with­out polluting its rays? LYS. To make short work, the right way wou'd be to put out our eyes, and not judge at all. CRI. I do not say so, but I think it wou'd be right, if some sanguine persons upon certain points suspected their own judgment. ALC. But the very things said to be inspired, [Page 41] taken by themselves and in their own nature, are sometimes so wrong, to say no worse, that a Man may pronounce them not to be divine at first sight; without troubling his head about the System of Providence or Connexion of Events: As one may say that Grass is green, without knowing or consi­dering how it grows, what uses it is subservient to, or how it is connected with the mundane System. Thus for instance, the spoiling of the Aegyptians, and the extirpation of the Canaanites, every one at first glance sees to be cruel and unjust, and may therefore without deliberating pronounce them unworthy of God. CRI. But, Alciphron, to judge rightly of these things, may it not be proper to consider how long the Israelites had wrought under those severe Task-masters of Egypt, what injuries and hardships they had sustained from them, what crimes and abominations the Canaanites had been guilty of, what right God hath to dispose of the things of this World, to punish Delinquents, and to appoint both the manner and the instruments of his Justice? Man, who has not such right over his fellow-creatures, who is himself a fellow-sinner with them, who is liable to error as well as passion, whose views are imperfect, who is governed more by Prejudice, than the Truth of things, may not improbably deceive himself, when he sets up for a judge of the proceedings of the holy, omniscient, impassive Creator and Governor of all things.


ALC. Believe me, Crito, Men are never so industrious to deceive themselves, as when they engage to defend their Prejudices. You wou'd fain reason us out of all use of our Reason: Can any thing be more irrational? To forbid us to rea­son on the Divine Dispensations, is to suppose, they will not bear the test of reason; or, in other words, that God acts without reason, which ought [Page 42] not to be admitted, no, not in any single instance: For if in one, why not in another? Whoever there­fore allows a God, must allow that he always acts reasonably. I will not therefore attribute to him Actions and Proceedings that are unreasonable. He hath given me Reason to judge withal; and I will judge by that unerring Light, lighted from the universal lamp of Nature. CRI. O Alciphron! as I frankly own the common remark to be true, That when a Man is against Reason, it is a shrewd sign Reason is against him; so I shou'd never go about to dissuade any one, much less one who so well knew the value of it, from using that noble talent. On the contrary, upon all subjects of moment, in my opinion, a Man ought to use his Reason; but then, whether it may not be reasonable to use it with some deference to superior Reason, it will not, perhaps, be amiss to consider. ALC. It must surely derogate from the Wisdom of God, to sup­pose his conduct cannot bear being inspected, not even by the twilight of Humane Reason. EUPH. You allow, then, God to be wise? ALC. I do. EUPH. What! infinitely wise? ALC. Even in­finitely. EUPH. His Wisdom, then, far exceeds that of Man. ALC. Vastly. EUPH. Probably more than the Wisdom of Man, that of a Child. ALC. Without all question. EUPH. What think you, Alciphron, must not the conduct of a Parent seem very unaccountable to a Child, when its in­clinations are thwarted, when it is put to learn the Letters, when it is obliged to swallow bitter Phy­sick, to part with what it likes, and to suffer, and do, and see many things done contrary to its own judgment, however reasonable or agreeable to that of others? ALC. This I grant. EUPH. Will it not therefore follow from hence by a parity of rea­son, that the little child, Man, when it takes up­on [Page 43] it to judge of the Schemes of Parental Providence, and a thing of yesterday, to criticise the Oeconomy of the Ancient of days? will it not follow, I say, that such a judge, of such matters, must be apt to make very erroneous judgments? esteeming those things in themselves unaccountable, which he can­not account for; and concluding of some certain points, from an appearance of arbitrary carriage towards him, which is suited to his infancy and ignorance, that they are in themselves capricious or absurd, and cannot proceed from a wise, just, and benevolent God. This single consideration, if duly attended to, wou'd, I verily think, put an end to many conceited reasonings against Revealed Religion. ALC. You wou'd have us then con­clude, that things, to our wisdom unaccountable, may nevertheless proceed from an abyss of Wisdom which our line cannot fathom; and that prospects viewed but in part, and by the broken tinged light of our Intellects, though to us they may seem dis­proportionate and monstrous, may nevertheless ap­pear quite otherwise to another eye, and in a dif­ferent situation: In a word, that as Humane Wis­dom is but childish Folly, in respect of the divine, so the Wisdom of God may sometimes seem Foo­lishness to Men.


EUPH. I wou'd not have you make these conclusions, unless in reason you ought to make them: But if they are reasonable, why shou'd you not make them? ALC. Some things may seem reasonable at one time, and not at another: And I take this very apology you make, for Cre­dulity and Superstition, to be one of those things. When I view it in its Principles, it seems naturally to follow from just concessions; but when I consi­der its consequences, I cannot agree to it. A Man had as good abdicate his Nature, as disclaim the [Page 44] use of Reason. A Doctrine is unaccountable, therefore it must be Divine! EUPH. Credulity and Superstition are qualities so disagreeable and degrading to Humane Nature, so surely an effect of weakness, and so frequently a cause of wicked­ness, that I shou'd be very much surprised to find a just course of reasoning lead to them. I can never think that Reason is a blind guide to folly, or that there is any connexion between Truth and Fals­hood, no more than I can think a thing's being unaccountable a proof that it is Divine: Though at the same time I cannot help acknowledging, it follows from your own avow'd principles, that a thing's being unaccountable, or incomprehensible to our Reason, is no sure argument to conclude it is not Divine; especially when there are collateral proofs of its being so. A Child is influenced by the many sensible effects it hath felt, of paternal love and care and superior wisdom, to believe and do several things with an implicit faith and obe­dience: And if we in the same manner, from the truth and reasonableness which we plainly see in so many points within our cognisance, and the advantages which we experience from the seed of the Gospel sown in good ground, were disposed to an implicit Belief of certain other points, re­lating to schemes we do not know, or subjects to which our Talents are perhaps disproportionate, I am tempted to think it might become our duty without dishonouring our Reason; which is never so much dishonoured as when it is foiled, and never in more danger of being foiled, than by judging where it hath neither means nor right to judge. LYS. I wou'd give a good deal, to see that ingenious Gamester Glaucus have the handling of Euphranor one night at our Club. I own he is a peg too high for me in some of his notions: But [Page 45] then he is admirable at vindicating Humane Rea­son against the impositions of Priestcraft.


ALC. He wou'd undertake to make it as clear as day light, that there was nothing worth a straw in Christianity, but what every one knew, or might know, as well without as with it, before as since Jesus Christ. CRI. That great Man, it seems, teacheth, that common sense alone is the Pole-Star; by which Mankind ought to steer; and that what is called Revelation must be ridiculous, because it is unnecessary and useless, the natural talents of every Man being sufficient, to make him happy, good, and wise, without any further cor­respondence with Heaven either for light or aid. EUPH. I have already acknowledged how sen­sible I am, that my situation in this obscure cor­ner of the Country deprives me of many advanta­ges, to be had from the conversation of ingenious Men in Town. To make my self some amends, I am obliged to converse with the dead and my own Thoughts, which last I know are of little weight against the authority of Glaucus, or such like great Men in the Minute Philosophy. But what shall we say to Socrates, for he too was of an opi­nion very different from that ascribed to Glaucus? ALC. For the present we need not insist on autho­rities, ancient or modern, or inquire which was the greater Man Socrates or Glaucus. Though, me­thinks, for so much as authority can signify, the present times, gray and hoary with age and ex­perience, have a manifest advantage over those that are falsly called ancient. But not to dwell on au­thorities, I tell you in plain English, Euphranor, we do not want your Revelations; and that for this plain reason, those that are clear every body knew before, and those that are obscure no body is the better for. EUPH. Whether it was pos­sible [Page 46] for Mankind to have known all parts of the Christian Religion, besides mysteries and positive institutions, is not the question between us; and that they actually did not know them, is too plain to be denied. This, perhaps, was for want of making a due use of Reason. But, as to the use­fulness of Revelation, it seems much the samething whether they cou'd not know, or wou'd not be at the pains to know, the Doctrines revealed. And as for those Doctrines which were too obscure to penetrate, or too sublime to reach, by natural Reason; how far Mankind may be the better for them is more, I had almost said, than even you or Glaucus can tell.


ALC. But whatever may be pretended as to obscure Doctrines and Dispensations, all this hath nothing to do with Prophecies, which, being altogether relative to Mankind, and the events of this World, to which our faculties are surely well enough proportioned, one might expect shou'd be very clear, and such as might inform instead of puzzling us. EUPH. And yet it must be al­lowed that as some Prophecies are clear, there are others very obscure; but left to my self, I doubt I shou'd never have inferred from thence that they were not Divine. In my own way of thinking I shou'd have been apt to conclude, that the Prophe­cies we understand are a proof for Inspiration; but that those we do not understand are no proof against it. Inasmuch as for the latter our ignorance or the reserve of the Holy Spirit may account, but for the other nothing, for ought that I see, can account but Inspiration. ALC. Now I know several sa­gacious Men, who conclude very differently from you, to wit, that the one sort of Prophecies are nonsense, and the other contrived after the events. Behold the difference between a Man of free thought [Page 47] and one of narrow principles! EUPH. It seems then they reject the Revelations because they are obscure, and Daniel's Prophecies because they are clear. ALC. Either way a Man of sense sees cause to suspect there has been foul play. EUPH. Your Men of sense are, it seems, hard to please. ALC. Our Philosophers are Men of piercing eyes. EUPH. I suppose such Men never make transient judgments from transient views; but always establish fixed conclusions upon a thorough inspection of things. For my own part, I dare not engage with a Man, who has examined those points so nicely, as it may be presumed you have done: But I cou'd name some eminent writers of our own, now living, whose Books on the subject of Prophecy have giv­en great satisfaction to Gentlemen, who pass for Men of sense and learning, here in the Country. ALC. You must know. Euphranor, I am not at leisure to peruse the learned Writings of Divines, on a subject which a Man may see through with half an eye. To me it is sufficient, that the point it self is odd and out of the road of nature. For the rest, I leave them to dispute and settle among themselves, where to fix the precise time when the Scepter departed from Judah; or whether in Daniel's Prophecy of the Messiah we shou'd com­pute by the Chaldaean or the Julian year. My only conclusion concerning all such matters is, that I will never trouble my self about them. EUPH. To an extraordinary genius, who sees things with half an eye, I know not what to say: But for the rest of Mankind, one wou'd think it shou'd be very rash in them to conclude, without much and ex­act inquiry, on the unsafe side of a question which concerns their chief interest. ALC. Mark it well: a true Genius in pursuit of Truth makes swift advances on the wings of General maxims, while little minds creep and grovel amidst mean [Page 48] particularities. I lay it down for a certain Truth; that by the fallacious arts of Logic and Criticism, straining and forcing, palliating, patching and dis­tinguishing, a Man may justify or make out any thing; and this remark, with one or two about prejudice, saves me a world of trouble. EUPH. You, Alciphron, who soar sublime on strong and free pinions, vouchsafe to lend a helping hand to those whom you behold entangled in the birdlime of prejudice. For my part, I find it very possible to suppose Prophecy may be Divine, although there shou'd be some obscurity at this distance, with respect to dates of time or kinds of years. you your self own Revelation possible; and allow­ing this I can very easily conceive it may be odd, and out of the road of nature. I can without a­mazement meet in Holy Scripture divers Prophe­cies, whereof I do not see the completion, divers texts I do not understand, divers mysteries above my comprehension, and ways of God to me unac­countable. Why may not some Prophecies relate to parts of History I am not well enough acquainted with, or to events not yet come to pass? It seems to me that Prophecies unfathomed by the hearer, or even the speaker himself, have been afterward verified and understood in the event; and it is one of my maxims, That, what hath been may be. Though I rub my Eyes, and do my utmost to ex­tricate my self from prejudice, yet it still seems very possible to me, that, what I do not, a more acute, more attentive, or more learned Man may understand: At least thus much is plain; the dif­ficulty of some points or passages doth not hinder the clearness of others, and those parts of Scripture, which we cannot interpret, we are not bound to know the sense of. What evil or what inconveni­ence, if we cannot comprehend what we are not obliged to comprehend, or if we cannot account [Page 49] for those things which it doth not belong to us to account for? Scriptures not understood, at one time, or by one person, may be understood at ano­ther time, or by other persons. May we not per­ceive, by retrospect on what is past, a certain pro­gress from darker to lighter, in the series of the Divine Oeconomy towards Man? And may not fu­ture events clear up such points as at present ex­ercise the faith of Believers? Now I cannot help thinking (such is the force either of truth or pre­judice) that in all this, there is nothing strained or forced, or which is not reasonable and natural to suppose.


ALC. Well, Euphranor, I will lend you a helping hand, since you desire it, but think fit to alter my method: For you must know, the main points of Christian Belief have been infused so early, and inculcated so often, by nurses, paeda­gogues, and priests, that, be the proofs ever so plain, it is a hard matter to convince a mind, thus tinctured and stained, by arguing against revealed Religion from its internal characters. I shall there­fore set my self to consider things in another light, and examine your Religion by certain external characters or circumstantials, comparing the system of Revelation with collateral accounts of ancient Heathen writers, and shewing how ill it consists with them. Know then, that the Christian Reve­lation supposing the Jewish, it follows, that if the Jewish be destroyed the Christian must of course fall to the Ground. Now, to make short work, I shall attack this Jewish Revelation in its head. Tell me, are we not obliged, if we believe the Mosaic account of things, to hold the world was created not quite six thousand years ago? EUPH. I grant we are. ALC. What will you say now, if other ancient records carry up the History of the world [Page 50] many thousand years beyond this period? What if the Aegyptians and Chinese have accounts extending to thirty or forty thousand years? What if the former of these nations have observed twelve hundred eclip­ses, during the space of forty eight thousand years, before the time of Alexander the great? What if the Chinese have also many observations antecedent to the Jewish account of the Creation? What if the Chaldaeans had been observing the Stars for above four hundred thousand years? And what shall we say if we have Successions of Kings and their Reigns, marked for several thousand years before the begin­ning of the world, assigned by Moses? Shall we reject the accounts and records of all other nations, the most famous, ancient, and learned in the world, and preserve a blind reverence for the Legislator of the Jews? EUPH. And pray if they de­serve to be rejected, why shou'd we not reject them? What if those monstrous Chronologies contain no­thing but names without Actions and manifest fa­bles? What if those pretended observations of Aegyptians and Chaldaeans were unknown or unre­garded by ancient Astronomers? What if the Jesuits have shewn the inconsistency of the like Chinese pretentions with the Truth of the E­phemerides? What if the most ancient Chi­nese observations allow'd to be authentic, are those of two fixed Stars, one in the winter Solstice, the other in the Vernal Equinox, in the reign of their King Yao, which was since the Flood? * ALC. You must give me leave to observe, the Romish Missionaries are of small credit in this point. EUPH. But what knowledge have we, or can we have, of those Chinese affairs, but by their means? The same persons that tell us of these accounts refute them; if we reject their authority in one case, what right have we to build upon it in another? ALC. When I consider that the [Page 51] Chinese have annals of more than forty thousand years, and that they are a learned ingenious and ac­cute People, very curious, and adicted to Arts and Sciences, I profess I cannot help paying some re­gard to their accounts of time. EUPH. What­ever advantage their situation and political maxims may have given them, it doth not appear they are so learned or so acute in point of Science as the Europeans. The general character of the Chinese, if we may believe Trigaltius and other writers, is that they are men of a trifling and credulous curio­sity, addicted to search after the Philosopher's Stone, and a Medicine to make Men immortal, to Astrology, Fortune-telling, and Presages of all kinds. Their ignorance in Nature and Mathe­matics is evident, from the great hand the Jesuits make of that kind of knowledge among them. But what shall we think of those extraordinary an­nals, if the very Chinese themselves give no credit to them for more than three thousand years before Jesus Christ? If they do not pretend to have be­gun to write history above four thousand years ago? And if the oldest books they have now extant in an in­telligible character, are not above two thousand years old? One wou'd think a Man of your Sagacity, so apt to suspect every thing out of the common road of nature, shou'd not without the clearest proof ad­mit those annals for authentic, which record such strange things as the Sun's not setting for ten days, and Gold raining three days together. Tell me, Alciphron, can you really believe these things with­out inquiring by what means the tradition was pre­served, through what hands it passed, or what re­ception it met with, or who first committed it to writing? ALC. To omit the Chinese and their Story, it will serve my purpose as well to build on the authority of Manetho that learned Egyptian Priest, who had such opportunities of searching [Page 52] into the most ancient accounts of time, and copy­ing into his Dynasties the most venerable and au­thentic records inscribed on the pillars of Hermes. EUPH. Pray, Alciphron, where were those chro­nological pillars to be seen? ALC. In the Sc­riadical land. EUPH. And where is that coun­try? ALC. I don't know. EUPH. How were those records preserved for so many ages down to the time of this Hermes, who is said to have been the first inventor of letters? ALC. I do not know. EUPH. Did any other writers, before or since Manetho, pretend to have seen, or transcribed, or known any thing about these pil­lars? ALC. Not that I know. EUPH. Or about the place where they are said to have been. ALC. If they did, it is more than I know. EUPH. Do the Greek Authors that went into Aegypt, and consulted the Aegyptian priests, agree with these accounts of Manetho? ALC. Sup­pose they do not. EUPH. Doth Diodorus, who lived since Manetho, follow, cite, or so much as mention this same Manetho? ALC. What will you infer from all this? EUPH. If I did not know you and your principles, and how vigi­lantly you guard against imposture, I shou'd infer that you were a very credulous Man. For what can we call it but credulity to believe most incre­dible things on most slender authority, such as frag­ments of an obscure writer, disagreeing with all other Historians, supported by an obscure autho­rity of Hermes's pillars, for which you must take his word, and which contain things so improbable as Successions of Gods and Demi-gods, for many thousand years, Vulcan alone having reigned nine thousand? There is little in these venerable Dy­nasties of Manetho, besides names and numbers; and yet in that little we meet with very strange things, that wou'd be thought Romantic in another [Page 53] writer: For instance, the Nile overflowing with honey, the Moon grown bigger, a speaking Lamb, seventy Kings who reigned as many days one after another, a King a day *. If you are known Al­ciphron, to give credit to these things, I fear you will lose the honour of being thought incredulous. ALC. And yet these ridiculous fragments, as you wou'd represent them, have been thought worth the pains and lucubrations of very learned Men. How can you account for the work that the great Joseph Scaliger and Sir John Marsham make about them? EUPH. I do not pretend to account for it. To see Scaliger add another Julian period to make room for such things as Manetho's Dynas­ties, and Sir John Marsham take so much learned pains to piece, patch, and mend those obscure frag­ments, to range them in Synchronisms, and try to adjust them with sacred Chronology, or make them consistent with themselves and other accounts, is to me very strange and unaccountable. Why they, or Eu­sebius, or yourself, or any other learned Man shou'd i­magine those things deserve any regard I leave you to explain.


ALC. After all it is not easy to con­ceive what shou'd move, not only Manetho, but al­so other Aegyptian Priests, long before his time, to set up such great pretences to antiquity, all which however differing from one another, agree in this, that they overthrow the Mosaic History? How can this be accounted for without some real foun­dation? What point of pleasure or profit, or pow­er, cou'd set Men on forging Successions of anci­ent names, and periods of time for ages before the world began? EUPH. Pray, Alciphron, is there any thing so strange or singular in this vain humour of extending the antiquity of nations beyond the Truth? Hath it not been observed in most parts [Page 54] of the world? Doth it not even in our own times shew it self, especially among those dependent and subdued people, who have little else to boast of. To pass over others of our Fellow-subjects, who, in proportion as they are below their neigh­bours in wealth and power, lay claim to a more remote antiquity; are not the pretensions of Irish men in this way known to be very great? If I may trust my Memory O Flaherty, in his Ogygia, men­tions some transactions in Ireland before the Flood. The same humour, and from the same cause, ap­pears to have prevailed in Sicily, a Country for some Centuries past, subject to the Dominion of Foreigners: During which time, the Sicilians have published divers fabulous accounts, concerning the original and antiquity of their cities, wherein they vye with each other. It is pretended to be prov­ed by ancient Inscriptions, whose existence or au­thority seems on a level with that of Hermes's Pil­lars, that Palermo was founded in the days of the Patriarch Isaac by a colony of Hebrews, Phoenicians and Syrians, and that a Grandson of Esau had been Governor of a tower subsisting within these two hundred years in that city *. The antiquity of Messina hath been carried still higher, by some who wou'd have us think it was enlarged by Nim­rod . The like pretensions are made by Catania, and other Towns of that Island, who have found Authors of as good credit as Manetho to support them. Now I shou'd be glad to know why the Aegyptians, a subdued people, may not probably be supposed to have invented fabulous accounts from the same motive, and like others valued them­selves on extravagant pretensions to Antiquity, when in all other respects they were so much infe­rior to their Masters? That people had been suc­cessively [Page 55] conquered by Ethiopians, Assyrians, Ba­bylonians, Persians, and Grecians, before it ap­pears that those wonderful Dynastics of Manetho and the Pillars of Hermes were ever heard of; as they had been by the two first of those Nations before the time of Solon himself, the earliest Greek that is known to have consulted the Priests of Ae­gypt: Whose accounts were so extravagant that e­ven the Greek Historians, though unacquainted with Holy Scripture, were far from given an in­tire credit to them. Herodotus making a report upon their authority, saith, Those to whom such things seem credible may make the best of them, for himself declaring that it was his purpose to write what he heard *. And both he and Diodorus do, on divers occasions, shew the same Diffidence in the narratives of those Aegyptian Priests. And as we observed of the Aegyptians, it is no less cer­tain that the Phoenicians, Assyrians and Chaldaeans were each a conquered and reduced People, be­fore the rest of the world appear to have heard any thing of their pretensions to so remote Antiquity. CRI. But what occasion is there to be at any pains to account for the humour of fabulous Writers? Is it not sufficient to see that they relate Absurdi­ties; that they are unsupported by any foreign E­vidence; that they do not appear to have been in Credit, even among their own Countrymen, and that they are inconsistent one with another? That Men shou'd have the Vanity to impose on the World by false accounts, is nothing strange; it is much more so, that after what hath been done to­wards undeceiving the world by so many learned Crities, there shou'd be Men found capable of be­ing abused by those paltry scraps of Manetho, Be­rosus, Ctesias, or the like fabulous or Counterfeit [Page 56] Writers. ALC. Give me leave to observe, those learned Critics may prove to be Ecclesiastics, perhaps some of them Papists. CRI. what do you think of Sir Isaac Newton, was he either Papist or Ecclesiastic? Perhaps you may not allow him to have been in Sagacity, or Force of mind, equal to the great Men of the Minute Philosophy: But it cannot be denied that he had read and thought much upon the subject, and that the result of his inquiry was a perfect contempt of all those cele­brated Rivals to Moses. ALC. It hath been observ­ed by Ingenious Men, that Sir Isaac Newton, though a Layman, was deeply prejudiced, witness his great regard to the Bible. CRI. And the same may be said of Mr. Locke, Mr. Boyle, Lord Bacon, and other famous Laymen, who, however know­ing in some points, must nevertheless be allowed not to have attained that keen Discernment, which is the peculiar distinction of your Sect.


But perhaps there may be other rea­sons beside prejudice, to incline a Man to give Moses the preference, on the Truth of whose Hi­story the Government, Manners, and Religion of his Countrymen were founded and framed; of whose History there are manifest traces in the most ancient books and traditions of the Gentiles, parti­cularly of the Brachmans and Persees; whose histo­ry is confirmed by the late Invention of arts and sciences, the gradual Peopling of the world, the very Names of antient nations, and even by the Authority and Arguments of that renowned Phi­losopher Lucretius, who, on other points, is so much admired and followed by those of your Sect. Not to mention that the continual Decrease of flu­ids, the Sinking of hills, and the Diminution of Planetary motions afford so many Natural Proofs, which shew this world had a beginning; as the [Page 57] Civil or Historical proofs abovementioned do plainly point out, this beginning to have been a­bout the time assigned in Holy Scripture. After all which I beg leave to add one Observation more. To any one who considers that, on digging into the earth, such quantities of shells, and, in some places, bones and horns of animals are found, sound and intire after having lain there in all pro­bability some thousands of years; it shou'd seem probable, that Gems, Medals, and Implements in metal or stone, might have lasted intire, buried un­der ground forty or fifty thousand years, if the world had been so old. How comes it then to pass that no remains are found, no antiquities of those numerous ages preceding the Scripture ac­counts of time; no fragments of buildings, no publick monuments, no intaglias, cammeos, sta­tues, basso relievos, medals, inscriptions, utensils, or artificial works of any kind are ever discover'd, which may bear testimony to the existence of those mighty Empires, those Successions of Monarchs, Heroes, and Demi-gods, for so many thousand years? Let us look forward and suppose ten or twenty thousand years to come, during which time we will suppose, that plagues, famines, wars, and earthquakes shall have made great havock in the world, is it not highly probable that at the end of such a period, Pillars, Vases, and Statues now in being of Granite, or Porphyry, or Jasper, (Stones of such hardness, as we know them to have lasted two thousand years above ground, without any considerable alteration) wou'd bear record of these and past ages? or that some of our current Coins might then be dug up, or old Walls and the foun­dations of Buildings shew themselves, as well as the shells and stones of the Primaeval World are preserved down to our times. To me it seems to follow from these considerations, which common [Page 58] sense and experience make all men judges of, that we may see good reason to conclude, the world was created about the time recorded in Holy Scripture. And if we admit a thing so extraordinary as the Creation of this World, it shou'd seem that we ad­mit something strange, and odd, and new to Hu­mane Apprehension, beyond any other miracle whatsoever.


Alciphron sate musing and made no an­swer, whereupon Lysicles expressed himself in the following manner. I must own I shou'd rather suppose with Lucretius, that the world was made by chance, and that Men grew out of the earth, like Pompions, than pin my faith on those wretch­ed fabulous fragments of Oriental History. And as for the learned Men, who have taken pains to illustrate and piece them together, they appear to me no better than so many musty Pedants. An ingenious Free-thinker may perhaps now and then make some use of their Lucubrations, and play one absurdity against another. But you are not there­fore to think, he pays any real regard to the au­thority of such apocryphal Writers, or believes one syllable of the Chinese, Babylonian, or Egyptian Traditions. If we seem to give them a prefe­rence before the Bible, it is only because they are not established by Law. This is my plain sense of the matter, and I dare say it is the general sense of our Sect; who are too rational to be in earnest on such trifles, though they sometime give hints of deep Erudition, and put on a grave face to divert themselves with Bigots. ALC. Since Lysicles will have it so, I am content not to build on accounts of time preceding the Mosaic. I must nevertheless beg leave to observe, there is another point of a different nature, against which there do not lie the same exceptions, that deserves to be consider­ed, [Page 59] and may serve our purpose as well. I pre­sume it will be allowed that Historians, treating of times within the Mosaic account, ought by impar­tial Men to be placed on the same foot with Moses. It may therfore be expected, that those, who pre­tend to vindicate his Writings, shou'd reconcile them with parallel accounts of other Authors, treat­ing of the same times, things, and persons. And, if we are not attached singly to Moses, but take our notions from other Writers, and the probability of things, we shall see good cause to believe, the Jews were only a crew of leprous Aegyptians, driven from their Country on account of that loathsome Di­stemper; and that their Religion, pretended to have been delivered from Heaven at mount Sinai, was in truth learned in Egypt, and brought from thence. CRI. Not to insist, on what cannot be denied, that an Historian writing of his own times is to be believed, before others who treat of the same subject several ages after, it seems to me that it is absurd to expect we shou'd reconcile Moses with profane Historians, till you have first recon­ciled them one with another. In answer therefore to what you observe, I desire you wou'd consider in the first place, that Manetho, Chaeremon, and Lysimachus had published inconsistent accounts of the Jews, and there going forth from Aegypt *: In the second place, that their Language is a plain proof they were not of Aegyptian, but either of Phoenician, of Syrian, or of Chaldaean, original: and in the third place, that it doth not seem very probable to suppose, their Religion, the Basis or Fundamental principle of which was the Worship of one only Supreme God, and the principal De­sign of which was to abolish Idolatry, cou'd be de­rived from Aegypt, the most Idolatrous of all nati­ons. It must be owned, the separate situation and [Page 60] institutions of the Jews occasioned, their being treated by some Foreigners, with great ignorance and contempt of them and their original. But Stra­bo, who is allowed to have been a judicious and in­quisitive Writer, though he was not acquainted with their true History, makes more honourable mention of them. He relates that Moses, with many other Worshippers of one Infinite God, not approving the Image worship of the Egyptians and other nations, went out from Aegypt and settled in Jerusalem, where they built a Temple to one only God without Images *.


ALC. We who assert the cause of Li­berty against Religion, in these later ages of the world, lie under great disadvantages, from the loss of ancient Books, which cleared up many points to the eyes of those great Men, Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian, which at a greater distance and with less help cannot so easily be made out by us: but, had we those Records, I doubt not we might demo­molish the whole System at once. CRI. And yet I make some doubt of this; because those great Men, as you call them, with all those advantages cou'd not do it. ALC. That must needs have been owing to the Dulness and Stupidity of the world in those days, when the art of reasoning was not so much known and cultivated as of late: But those Men of true genius saw through the deceit themselves, and were very clear in their opinion, which con­vinces me they had good reason on their side. CRI. And yet that great Man Celsus seems to have had very slight and inconstant notions: One while, he talks like a thorough Epicurean; another, he ad­mits Miracles, Prophesies, and a future state of rewards and punishments. What think you, Al­ciphron, is it not something capricious in so great a Man, among other advantages which he ascribes [Page 61] to Brutes above Humane Kind, to suppose they are Magicians and Prophets; that they have a nearer commerce and union with the Divinity; that they know more than Men; and that Ele­phants, in particular, are of all others most religi­ous animals and strict observers of an Oath *. ALC. A great genius will be sometimes whim­sical. But what do you say to the Emperor Juli­an, was not he an extraordinary Man? CRI. He seems by his writings to have been lively and saty­rical. Further, I make no difficulty of owning that he was a generous, temperate, gallant, and facetious Emperor: But at the same time it must be allow'd, because his own Heathen Panegyrist Ammianus Marcellinus allows it, that he was a prating, light, vain, superstitious sort of Man. And therefore his Judgment or Authority can be but of small weight with those, who are not prejudi­ced in his favour. ALC. But of all the great Men who wrote against Revealed Religion, the great­est without question was that truly great Man Porphyry, the loss of whose invaluable work can never be sufficiently lamented. This profound Philosopher went to the bottom and original of things. He most learnedly confuted the Scrip­tures, shew'd the Absurdity of the Mosaic accounts, undermined and exposed the Prophesies, and ridi­culed allegorical Interpretations *. The moderns, it must be owned, have done great things and shewn themselves able Men; yet I cannot but regret the loss of what was done by a person of such vast a­bilities, and who lived so much nearer the Foun­tain-head; though his authority survives his writ­ings, and must still have its weight with impartial Men, in spight of the enemies of Truth. CRI. [Page 62] Porphyry, I grant was a thorough Infidel, though he appears by no means to have been incredulous. It seems he had a great opinion of Wizards and Necromancers, and believed the Mysteries, Mira­cles, and Prophesies of Theurgists and Egyptian priests. He was far from being an enemy to ob­scure Jargon; and pretended to extraordinary Ex­tasies. In a word this great Man appears to have been as unintelligible as a Schoolman, as supersti­tious as a Monk, and as fanatical as any Quietist or Quaker; and, to compleat his character as a Minute Philosopher, he was under strong tempta­tions to lay violent hands on himself. We may frame a notion of this Patriarch of Infidelity, by his judicious way of thinking upon other points as well as the Christian Religion. So sagacious was he as to find out, that the Souls of insects, when sepa­rated from their bodies, become rational: That Dae­mons of a thousand shapes assist in making Phil­trums and Charms, whose spiritual bodies are nou­rished and fattened by the Steams of libations and sacrifices: that the Ghosts of those, who died vio­lent deaths, use to haunt and appear about their Sepulchres. This same egregious Philosopher ad­viseth a wise Man not to eat flesh, lest the impure Soul of the Brute that was put to violent death shou'd enter, along with the flesh, into those who eat it. He adds, as a matter of fact confirmed by many experiments, that those who wou'd insinuate into themselves the Souls of such animals, as have the gift of foretelling things to come, need only eat a principal part, the heart for instance of a Stag or a Mole, and so receive the Soul of the a­nimal, which will prophesy in them like a God *. No wonder if Men whose minds were preoccupi­ed by Faith and Tenets of such a peculiar kind shou'd be averse from the reception of the Gospel. [Page 63] Upon the whole, we desire to be excused if we do not pay the same deference to the judgment of men, that appear to us whimsical, superstitious, weak and visionary, which those impartial Gentle­men do, who admire their Talents, and are proud to tread in their Footsteps. ALC. Men see things. in different views: what one admires another con­temns; it is even possible for a prejudiced mind, whose attention is turned towards the Faults and Blemishes of things, to fansy some shadow of de­fect in those great Lights which in our own days have enlightened, and still continue to enlighten the world.


But pray tell me, Crito, what you think of Josephus? He is allowed to have been a Man of learning and judgment. He was himself an asser­ter of revealed Religion. And Christians, when his authority serves their turn, are used to cite him with respect. CRI. All this I acknowledge. ALC. Must it not then seem very strange, and very suspi­cious to every impartial Inquirer, that this learned Jew writing the History of his own Country, of that very place, and those very times, where and when Jesus Christ made his appearance, shou'd yet say nothing of the character, miracles, and doctrine of that Extraordinary Person? Some ancient Chri­stians were so sensible of this, that, to make a­mends, they inserted a famous Passage in that His­torian; which imposture hath been sufficiently detected by able Critics in the last age. CRI. Though there are not wanting able Critics on the other side of the question, yet, not to enter upon the discussion of that celebrated passage, I am con­tent to give you all you can desire, and suppose it not genuine, but the pious fraud of some wrong-headed Christian, who cou'd not brook the omissi­on in Josephus: But this will never make such [Page 64] omission a real objection against Christianity. Nor is there, for ought I can see, any thing in it where­on to ground either admiration or suspicion; inas­much as it shou'd seem very natural, supposing the Gospel account exactly true, for Josephus to have said nothing of it; considering that the view of that writer was to give his country some figure in the eye of the World, which had been greatly prejudiced against the Jews, and knew little of their history, to which end the Life and Death of our Saviour wou'd not in any wise have conduced; considering that Josephus cou'd not have been an eye-witness of our Saviour or his Miracles; con­sidering that he was a Pharisee of Quality and Learning, foreign as well as Jewish, one of great Employment in the State, and that the Gospel was preached to the poor; that the first Instru­ments of spreading it, and the first Converts to it were mean and illiterate, that it might not seem the work of Man, or beholding to Humane interest or power; considering the general prejudice of the Jews, who expected in the Messiah a temporal and conquering Prince, which prejudice was so strong, that they chose rather to attribute our Saviour's miracles to the Devil, than acknowledge him to be the Christ: Considering also the hellish Disorder and Confusion of the Jewish State in the Days of Josephus, when Mens minds were filled and aston­ished with unparallel'd wars, dissensions, massacres, and seditions of that devoted people. Laying all these things together, I do not think it strange, that such a man, writing with such a view, at such a time, and in such circumstances, shou'd omit to describe our Blessed Saviour's life and death, or to mention his miracles, or to take notice of the State of the Christian Church, which was then as a grain of Mustard seed beginning to take Root and germinate. And this will seem still less strange, [Page 65] if it be considered, that the Apostles in a few years after our Saviour's death departed from Jerusalem, setting themselves to convert the Gentiles, and were dispersed throughout the world; that the Converts in Jerusalem were, not only of the meanest of the people, but also few; the three thousand, added to the Church in one day upon Peter's preaching in that city, appearing to have been not Inhabi­tants but Strangers from all parts assembled to celebrate the feast of Pentecost; and that all the time of Josephus and for several years after, during a Succession of fifteen Bishops, the Christians at Jerusalem observed the Mosaic Law *, and were consequently, in outward appearance, one people with the rest of the Jews, which must have made them less observable. I wou'd fain know what reason we have to suppose, that the Gospel, which in its first Propagation seemed to overlook the great or considerable men of this world, might not also have been overlooked by them, as a thing not suited to their apprehensions and way of thinking? Besides, in those early times might not other learn­ed Jews, as well as Gamaliel, suspend their judg­ment of this new way, as not knowing what to make or say of it, being on one hand unable to quit the Notions and Traditions in which they were brought up, and, on the other, not daring to resist or speak against the Gospel, lest they shou'd be found to fight against God? Surely at all events, it cou'd never be expected, that an unconverted Jew shou'd give the same account of the Life, Mi­racles, and Doctrine of Jesus Christ, as might be­come a Christian to have given; nor on the other hand was it at all improbable, that a Man of sense shou'd beware to lessen or traduce what, for ought [Page 66] he knew, might have been a heavenly Dispensati­on, between which two courses the middle was to say nothing, but pass it over in a doubtful or a respectful silence. And it is observable, that where this Historian occasionally mentions Jesus Christ in his account of St. James's death, he doth it with­out any reflection, or saying either good or bad, though at the same time he shews a regard for the Apostle. It is observable, I say, that speaking of Jesus his expression is, who was called the Christ, not who pretended to be the Christ, or who was falsly called the Christ, but simply [...] *. It is evident Josephus knew there was such a Man as Jesus, and that he was said to be the Christ, and yet he condemns neither him nor his followers; which to me seems an Argument in their favour. Certainly if we suppose Josephus to have known or been persuaded that he was an Impostor, it will be difficult to account for his not saying so in plain terms. But if we suppose him in Gamaliel's way of thinking, who suspended his judgment, and was afraid of being found to fight against God, it shou'd seem natural for him to behave in that very man­ner, which according to you makes against our Faith, but I verily think makes for it. But what if Josephus had been a Bigot, or even a Sadducee, an Infidel, an Atheist? What then! we readily grant there might have been Persons of Rank, Po­liticians, Generals, and Men of Letters, then as well as now, Jews as well as Englishmen, who be­lieved no revealed Religion: And that some such persons might possibly have heard of a man in low life, who performed miracles by Magic, without informing themselves, or perhaps ever inquiring, about his Mission and Doctrine. Upon the whole, I cannot comprehend, why any Man shou'd con­clude [Page 67] against the Truth of the Gospel, from Jose­phus's omitting to speak of it, any more than from his omitting to embrace it. Had the first Christi­ans been Chief Priests and Rulers, or Men of sci­ence and learning, like Philo and Josephus, it might perhaps with better colour have been objected, that their Religion was of Humane Contrivance, than now that it hath pleased God by weak things to confound the Strong. This I think sufficiently accounts, why in the beginning the Gospel might overlook or be overlooked by Men of a certain rank and character.


ALC. And yet it seems an odd argu­ment in proof of any Doctrine, that it was preach­ed by simple people to simple people. CRI. In­deed if there was no other attestation to the Truth of the Christian Religion, this must be owned a very weak one. But if a Doctrine begun by instru­ments, mean as to all Humane Advantages, and making its first progress among those, who had neither wealth nor Art nor power to grace or en­courage it, shou'd in a short time by it's own in­nate Excellency, the mighty force of Miracles, and the demonstration of the Spirit, not only with­out, but against, all worldly Motives spread through the world, and subdue Men of all ranks and condi­tions of life, wou'd it not be very unreasonable to reject or suspect it, for the want of humane means? And might not this with much better reason be thought an Argument of its coming from God? ALC. But still an inquisitive Man will want the Testimony of Men of learning and knowledge. CRI. But from the first Century onwards, there was never wanting the testimony of such Men, who wrote learnedly in defence of the Christian Reli­gion, who lived, many of them, when the memory of things was fresh, who had abilities to judge and [Page 68] means to know, and who gave the clearest proofs of their conviction and sincerity. ALC. But all the while these Men were Christians, prejudiced Christians, and therefore their Testimony is to be suspected. CRI. It seems then you wou'd have Jews or Heathens attest the Truths of Christianity. ALC. That is the very thing I want. CRI. But how can this be? or if it cou'd, wou'd not any rational Man be apt to suspect such Evidence, and ask, how it was possible for a Man really to believe such things himself and not become a Chris­tian? the Apostles and first Converts were them­selves Jews, and brought up in a veneration for the Law of Moses, and in all the prejudices of that people: many Fathers, Christian Philosophers, and learned Apologists for the Faith, who had been bred Gentiles, were without doubt imbued with prejudices of Education: and if the finger of God and force of Truth converted both the one and the other from Judaism or Gentilism, in spight of their prejudices to Christianity, is not their Testimony so much the stronger? You have then the suffrages of both Jews and Gentiles, attesting to the Truth of our Religion in the earliest ages. But to expect or desire the attestation of Jews remaining Jews, or of Gentiles remaining Gentiles, seems un­reasonable: nor can it be imagined that the Testi­mony of Men, who were not converted themselves, shou'd be the likeliest to convert others. We have indeed the Testimony of Heathen Writers to prove, That about the time of our Saviour's birth, there was a general expectation in the east of a Messiah or Prince, who shou'd found a new Dominion: That there were such people as Christians: That they were cruelly persecuted and put to death: That they were innocent and holy in life and wor­ship: And that there did really exist in that time, certain persons and facts mentioned in the New [Page 69] Testament: And for other points, we have learned Fathers, several of whom had been, as I already observed, bred Heathens, to attest their Truth. ALC. For my part I have no great opinion of the capacity or learning of the Fathers, and many learned Men, especially of the reformed Churches abroad, are of the same mind, which saves me the trouble of looking my self into their voluminous Writings. CRI. I shall not take upon me to say, with the Minute Philosopher Pomponatius *, that Origen, Basil, Augustin, and divers other Fa­thers, were equal to Plato, Aristotle, and the greatest of the Gentiles in Humane Knowledge. But, if I may be allowed to make a judgment from what I have seen of their writings, I shou'd think several of them Men of great parts, eloquence, and learn­ing, and much superior to these who seem to un­dervalue them. Without any affront to certain modern Critics or Translators, Erasmus may be al­lowed a man of fine taste, and a fit judge of sense and good writing, though his judgment in this point was very different from theirs. Some of our reformed Brethern, because the Romanists attribute too much, seem to have attributed too little to them, from a very usual, though no very judicious op­position; which is apt to lead men to remark de­fects, without making proper allowances, and to say things which neither piety, candour, nor good sense require them to say.


ALC. But though I shou'd acknow­ledge, that a concurring Testimony of many learn­ed and able Men throughout the first ages of Chris­tianity may have its weight, yet when I consider the great number of Forgeries and Heresies that sprung up in those times, it very much weakens [Page 70] their credit. CRI. Pray, Alciphron, wou'd it be allowed a good Argument in the mouth of a Papist against the Reformation, that many absurd Sects sprung up at the same time with it? Are we to wonder, that when good seed is sowing, the enemy shou'd sow tares? But at once to cut off several Objections, let us suppose in fact, what you do not deny possible, that there is a God, a Devil, and a Revelation from Heaven committed to writing many Centuries ago. Do but take a view of Humane Nature, and consider, what wou'd probably follow upon such a supposition; and whe­ther it is not very likely there shou'd be Half­believers, mistaken Bigots, holy Frauds, ambitious, interested, disputing, conceited, schismatical, hae­retical, absurd Men among the Professors of such revealed Religion, as well as after a course of ages, various readings, omissions, transpositions, and ob­scurities in the text of the sacred Oracles? And if so, I leave you to judge, whether it be reasonable to make those events an Objection against the being of a thing, which wou'd probably and naturally fol­low upon the Supposal of its Being. ALC. Af­ter all, say what you will, this variety of Opinions must needs shake the faith of a reasonable Man. Where there are so many different Opinions on the same point, it is very certain they cannot all be true, but it is certain they may all be false. And the means to find out the Truth! when a Man of sense sets about this Inquiry, he finds himself on a sudden startled and amused with hard words and knotty questions. This makes him abandon the pursuit, thinking the game not worth the chase. CRI. But wou'd not this Man of sense do well to consider, it must argue want of discernment, to reject divine Truths for the sake of Humane Fol­lies? Use but the same candour and impartiality in treating of Religion, that you wou'd think pro­per [Page 71] on other subjects. We desire no more, and ex­pect no less. In Law, in Physic, in Politics, where­ever men have refined, is it not evident they have been always apt to run into disputes and chicane? But will that hinder you from admitting, there are many good rules and just notions, and useful truths in all those professions. Physicians may dis­pute, perhaps vainly and unintelligibly, about the Animal System: they may assign different causes of Distempers, some explaining them by the ele­mentary qualities, hot and cold, moist and dry, yet this doth not hinder, but the Bark may be good for an Ague, and Rhubarb for a Flux. Nor can it others by chymical, others by mechanical principles, be inferred from the different sects, which from time to time have sprung up in that profession, the Dogmatic, for instance, Empiric, Methodic, Galenic, Paracelsian, or the hard words and knot­ty questions and idle theories which have grown from them, or been engrafted on them, that, there­fore, we shou'd deny the Circulation of the Blood, or reject their excellent rules about Exercise, Air, and Diet. ALC. It seems you wou'd screen Re­ligion by the example of other professions, all which have produced Sects and Disputes as well as Chris­tianity, which may in itself be true and useful, not­withstanding many false and fruitless Notions en­grafted on it by the wit of Man. Certainly if this had been observed or believed by many acute Rea­soners, they wou'd never have made the multipli­city of Religious Opinions and Controversies an Argument against Religion in general. CRI. How such an obvious Truth shou'd escape Men of sense and inquiry I leave you to account: But I can very easily account for gross mistakes in those, who pass for Free-thinkers without ever thinking; or, if if they do think, whose meditations are employ'd [Page 72] on other points of a very different nature, from a serious and impartial Inquiry about Religion.


But to return: what or where is the profession of Men, who never split into schisms, or never talk nonsense? Is it not evident, that out of all the kinds of knowledge, on which the Humane mind is employ'd, there grow certain ex­crescences, which may be pared off, like the clip­pings of hair or nails in the body, and with no worse consequence. Whatever Bigots or Enthu­siasts, whatever notional or scholastic Divines may say or think, it is certain the Faith derived from Christ and his Apostles, was not a piece of empty Sophistry; they did not deliver and transmit down to us [...] but [...], to use the ex­pression of a holy Confessor *. And, to pretend to demolish their foundation for the sake of Hu­mane Superstructure, be it hay or stubble or what it will, is no Argument of just thought or reason; any more than it is of fairness, to suppose a doubt­ful sense fixed, and argue from one side of the ques­tion in disputed points. Whether, for instance, the beginning of Genesis is to be understood in a literal or allegorical sense? Whether the Book of Job be an History or a Parable? Being points dis­puted between Christians, an Infidel can have no right to argue from one side of the Question, in those or the like cases. This or that Tenet of a Sect, this or that contraverted Notion is not what we contend for at present, but the general Faith taught by Christ and his Apostles, and preserved by universal and perpetual Tradition in all the Churches down to our own times. To tax or strike at this Divine Doctrine, on account of things foreign and adventitious, the speculations and disputes of curious Men, is in my mind an absurdity of the same kind, as it wou'd be to cut down a fine tree yielding Fruit and Shade, because its leaves afforded [Page 73] nourishment to Caterpillars, or because Spiders may now and then weave cobwebs among the bran­ches. ALC. To divide and distinguish wou'd take time. We have several Gentlemen very capa­ble of judging in the gross, but that want of attention for irksome and dry Studies or minute Inquiries. To which as it would be very hard to oblige Men against their will, so it must be a great wrong to the world, as well as themselves, to debar them from the Right of deciding according to their na­tural sense of things. CRI. It were to be wished those capable Men wou'd employ their judgment and attention on the same objects. If theolo­gical Inquiries are unpalatable, the field of na­ture is wide. How many Discoveries to be made! how many Errors to be corrected in arts and scien­ces! how many Vices to be reformed in life and manners! Why do men single out such points as are innocent and useful, when there are so many pernicious mistakes to be amended? Why set themselves to destroy the hopes of Humane Kind and encouragements to Virtue? Why delight to judge where they disdain to inquire? Why not employ their noble Talents on the Longitude or Perpetual Motion? ALC. I wonder you shou'd not see the difference between points of Curiosity and Religion. Those employ only Men of a ge­nius or humour suited to them; but all Mankind have a right to censure, and are concerned to judge of these, except they will blindly submit to be governed, by the stale wisdom of their Ancestors and the established Laws of their Country. CRI. It shou'd seem, if they are concerned to judge, they are not less concerned to examine before they judge. ALC. But after all the examination and inquiry that mortal Man can make about Revealed Religion, it is impossible to come at any rational sure footing.


There is, indeed, a deal of specious talk about Faith founded upon Miracles; but when I examine this matter throughly, and trace Chris­tian Faith up to its original, I find it rests upon much darkness and scruple and uncertainty. Instead of points evident or agreeable to Humane Reason, I find a wonderful narrative of the Son of God tempted in the wilderness by the Devil, a thing utterly unaccountable, without any end, or use or reason whatsoever. I meet with strange Histories of Apparitions of Angels and Voices from Heaven, with surprising accounts of Daemoniacs, things quite out of the road of common Sense or Observation, with several incredible feats said to have been done by Divine Power, but more probably the Inventions of Men; nor the less likely to be so, because I cannot pretend to say with what view they were invented. Disigns deeply laid are dark, and the less we know the more we suspect: But, admit­ting them for true, I shall not allow them to be miraculous, until I thoroughly know the power of what are called second causes and the force of Ma­gic. CRI. You seem, Alciphron, to analyse, not Faith, but Infidelity, and trace it to its Principles; which, from your own account, I collect to be dark and doubtful scruples and surmises, hastiness in judging, and narrowness in thinking, grounded on a fanciful notion which over-rates the little scant­ling of your own Experience, and on real ignorance of the views of Providence, and of the qualities, operations, and mutual respects of the several kinds of beings, which are, or may be, for ought you know, in the Universe. Thus obscure, uncertain, conceited, and conjectural are the Principles of In­fidelity. Whereas on the other hand, the Principles of Faith seem to be points plain and clear. It is a clear point, that this Faith in Christ was spread [Page 75] abroad throughout the world soon after his death. It is a clear point, that this was not effected by humane Learning, Politics, or Power. It is a clear point, that in the early times of the Church there were several men of Knowledge and Integrity, who embraced this Faith not from any, but against all, temporal motives. It is a clear point, that, the nearer they were to the fountain-head, the more opportunity they had to satisfy themselves, as to the Truth of these facts which they believed. It is a clear point, that the less interest there was to persuade, the more need there was of Evidence to convince them. It is a clear point, that they relied on the Authority of those who declared themselves Eye-witnesses of the Miracles and Resurrection of Christ. It is a clear point, that those professed Eye-witnesses suffered much for this their Attesta­tion, and finally sealed it with their Blood. It is a clear point, that these Witnesses, weak and con­temptible as they were, overcame the world, spread more light, preached purer morals, and did more benefit to Mankind, than all the Philosophers and Sages put together. These points appear to me clear and sure, and, being allow'd such, they are plain, just, and reasonable motives of assent; they stand upon no fallacious ground, they contain no­thing beyond our sphere, neither supposing more knowledge nor other faculties than we are really masters of; and if they shou'd not be admitted for morally certain, as I believe they will by fair and unprejudiced Inquirers, yet the allowing them to be only probable is sufficient to stop the mouth of an Infidel. These plain points, I say, are the Pillars of our Faith, and not those obscure ones by you supposed, which are in truth the unsound, uncer­tain Principles of Infidelity, to a rash, prejudiced, and assuming Spirit. To raise an Argument, or answer an objection, from hidden powers of Nature [Page 76] or Magic is groping in the dark; but by the evident light of sense men might be sufficiently certified of sensible Effects, and matters of Fact, such as the Miracles and Resurrection of Christ: and the Testimony of such Men may be transmitted to After-ages, with the same moral certainty as other Histo­rical Narrations: and those same miraculous Facts, compared by Reason with the Doctrines they were brought to prove, do afford to an unbiassed mind strong Indications of their coming from God, or a superior Principle, whose Goodness retrieved the Moral World, whose Power commanded the Na­tural, and whose Providence extended over both. Give me leave to say, that nothing dark, nothing incomprehensible, or mysterious, or unaccountable, is the ground or motive, the principle or founda­tion, the proof or reason of our Faith, although it may be the object of it. For it must be owned, that, if by clear and sure principles we are ratio­nally led to believe a point less clear, we do not therefore reject such point, because it is mysterious to conceive, or difficult to account for, nor wou'd it be right so to do. As for Jews and Gentiles, an­ciently attributing our Saviour's Miracles to Magic, this is so far from being a proof against them, that to me it seems rather a Proof of the Facts, with­out disproving the Cause to which we ascribe them, As we do not pretend to know the Nature and Operations of Daemons, the History, Laws, and System of rational Beings, and the Schemes or Views of Providence, so far as to account for every action and appearance recorded in the Gospel; so neither do you know enough of those things, to be able from that Knowledge of yours to object a­gainst Accounts so well attested. It is an easy matter to raise Scruples upon many authentic parts of Civil History, which, requiring a more perfect knowledge of Facts, Circumstances, and Councils, [Page 77] than we can come at to explain them, must be to us inexplicable. And this is still more easy with respect to the History of Nature, in which, if Surmises were admitted for Proofs against things odd, strange, and unaccountable, if our scanty Ex­perience were made the rule and measure of Truth, and all those Phaenomena rejected, that we, through ignorance of the Principles, and Laws, and System of Nature, cou'd not explain, we shou'd indeed make Discoveries, but it wou'd be only of our own Blindness and Presumption. And why Men that are so easily and so often gravell'd in common Points, in things natural and visible, shou'd yet be so sharp­sighted and dogmatical about the invisible World, and its Mysteries, is to me a point utterly unac­countable by all the Rules of Logic and good Sense. Upon the whole, therefore, I cannot help thinking there are Points sufficiently plain, and clear, and full, whereon a Man may ground a reasonable Faith in Christ: but that the attacks of Minute Philosophers against this faith are grounded upon Darkness, Ignorance, and Presumption. ALC. I doubt I shall still remain in the dark as to the Proofs of the Christian Religion, and always pre­sume there is nothing in them.


For how is it possible, at this remote distance, to arrive at any Knowledge, or frame a­ny Demonstration about it? CRI. What then? Knowledge, I grant, in a strict sense cannot be had without Evidence or Demonstration; but proba­ble Arguments are a sufficient ground of Faith. Who ever supposed that scientifical Proofs were necessary to make a Christian? Faith alone is re­quired; and provided that, in the main and upon the whole, Men are persuaded, this saving Faith may consist with some degrees of Obscurity, Scru­ple, and Error. For although the Light of Truth [Page 78] be unchangeable, and the same in its eternal Source, the Father of Lights: Yet, with respect to us, it is variously weakened and obscured, by passing through a long Distance or gross Medium, where it is intercepted, distorted, or tinctured by the Prejudices and Passions of Men. But all this not­withstanding, he that will use his Eyes may see enough for the purposes either of Nature, or of Grace; though by a light, dimmer indeed, or clear­er, according to the Place, or the Distance, or the Hour, or the Medium. And it will be sufficient, if such Analogy appears between the Dispensations of Grace and Nature, as may make it probable (al­though much shou'd be unaccountable in both) to suppose them derived from the same Author, and the workmanship of one and the same Hand. ALC. Those who saw and touched and handled Jesus Christ after his Resurrection, if there were any such, may be said to have seen by a clear Light: But to us the Light is very dim, and yet it is expected we shou'd believe this Point as well as they. For my part, I believe, with Spinosa, that Christ's Death was Literal, but his Resurrection Allegori­cal *. CRI. And for my part, I can see nothing in this celebrated Infidel, that shou'd make me de­sert matters of Fact, and moral Evidence, to a­dopt his Notions. Though I must needs own I admit an allegorical Resurrection that proves the real, to wit, a Resurrection of Christ's Disciples from Weakness to Resolution, from Fear to Cou­rage, from Despair to Hope, of which, for ought I can see, no rational Account can be given, but the sensible Evidence that our Lord was truly, re­ally, and literally risen from the dead: But as it cannot be denied that his Disciples, who were Eye-witnesses of his Miracles and Resurrection, had stronger Evidence than we can have of those Points: [Page 79] So it cannot be denied, that such Evidence was then more necessary, to induce Men to embrace a new Institution, contrary to the whole System of their Education, their Prejudices, their Passions, their Interests, and every Humane Motive. Though to me it seems, the moral Evidence and probable Arguments within our reach, are abundantly sufficient to make prudent thinking Men adhere to the Faith, handed down to us from our Ancestors, establish­ed by the Laws of our Country, requiring Sub­mission in Points above our Knowledge, and for the rest recommending Doctrines the most agreea­ble to our Interest and our Reason. And, how­ever strong the Light might have been at the Foun­tain-head, yet its long Continuance and Propaga­tion, by such unpromising Instruments throughout the World, have been very wonderful. We may now take a more comprehensive View of the Con­nexion, Order, and Progress of the divine Dispen­sations, and, by a retrospect on a long Series of past Ages, perceive a Unity of Design running throughout the whole, a gradual disclosing and fulfilling the purposes of Providence, a regular Progress from Types to Antitypes, from things Carnal to things Spiritual, from Earth to Heaven. We may behold Christ crucified, that stumbling-block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks, putting a final Period to the Temple Worship of the one, and the Idolatry of the other, and that Stone, which was cut out of the Mountain with­out Hands, and brake in Pieces all other King­doms, become it self a great Mountain.


If a due Reflection on these things be not sufficient to beget a Reverence for the Christian Faith in the Minds of Men, I shou'd rather impute it to any other Cause, than a wise and cautious In­credulity: When I see their easiness of Faith in the [Page 80] common concerns of Life, where there is no Pre­judice or Appetite to bias or disturb their natural Judgment: When I see those very Men that in Religion will not stir a step without Evidence, and at every turn exspect Demonstration, trust their Health to a Physician, and their Lives to a Sailor with an implicit Faith, I cannot think they de­serve the honour of being thought more incredu­lous than other Men, or that they are more ac­custom'd to know, and for this reason less inclined to believe. On the contrary, one is tempted to suspect, that Ignorance hath a greater share than Science in our modern Infidelity, and that it pro­ceeds more from a wrong Head, or an irregular Will, than from deep Researches. LYS. We do not, it must be owned, think that Learning or deep Researches are necessary to pass right Judg­ments upon things. I sometimes suspect that Learn­ing is apt to produce and justify Whims, and sin­cerely believe we shou'd do better without it. Our Sect are divided on this Point, but much the greater part think with me. I have heard more than once very observing Men remark, that Learn­ing was the true humane Means which preserved Religion in the World, and that, if we had it in our power to prefer Blockheads in the Church, all wou'd soon be right. CRI. Men must be strange­ly in love with their Opinions, to put out their Eyes rather than part with them. But it has been often remarked, by observing Men that there are no greater Bigots than Infidels. LYS. What a Free-thinker and a Bigot, impossible! CRI. Not so impossible neither, that an Infidel shou'd be bi­goted to his Infidelity. Methinks I see a Bigot, wherever I see a Man over-bearing and positive without knowing why, laying the greatest stress on Points of smallest moment, hasty to judge of the Conscience, Thoughts, and inward Views of other [Page 81] Men, impatient of reasoning against his own Opi­nions, and choosing them with Inclination rather than Judgment, an Enemy to Learning, and at­tached to mean Authorities. How far our Mo­dern Infidels agree with this Description, I leave to be considered by those who really consider and think for themselves. LYS. We are no Bigots, we are Men that discover Difficulties in Religion, that tie Knots and raise Scruples, which disturb the Repose and interrupt the golden Dreams of Bigots, who therefore cannot endure us. CRI. They who cast about for Difficulties, will be sure to find or make them upon every subject: But he that wou'd, upon the foot of Reason, erect himself in­to a Judge, in order to make a wise Judgment on a Subject of that nature, will not only consider the doubtful and difficult Parts of it, but take a comprehensive View of the whole, consider it in all its Parts and Relations, trace it to its Original, examine its Principles, Effects, and Tendencies, its Proofs internal and external; he will distinguish between the clear Points and the obscure, the cer­tain and the uncertain, the essential and circum­stantial, between what is genuine and what foreign: he will consider the different sorts of Proof, that belong to different things, where Evidence is to be expected, where Probability may suffice, and where it is reasonable to suppose there shou'd be Doubts and Scruples: He will proportion his Pains and Exactness to the Importance of the Inquiry, and check that Disposition of his Mind to conclude all those Notions, groundless Prejudices, with which it was imbued before it knew the Reason of them. He will silence his Passions, and listen to Truth: He will endeavour to untie Knots as well as to tie them, and dwell rather on the light parts of things than the obscure: He will balance the force of his Understanding with the difficulty of the [Page 82] Subject, and to render his Judgment impartial, hear Evidence on all sides, and, so far as he is led by Authority, choose to follow that of the honest­est and wisest Men. Now it is my sincere Opinion, the Christian Religion may well stand the Test of such an Inquiry. LYS. But such an Inquiry wou'd cost too much Pains and Time. We have thought of another Method, the bringing Religion to the Test of Wit and Humour: This we find a much shorter, easier, and more effectual Way. And as all Enemies are at liberty to choose their Weapons, we make choice of those we are most expert at: And we are the better pleased with this Choice, having observed that of all things a solid Divine hates a Jest. To consider the whole of the Subject, to read and think on all sides, to object plainly, and answer directly, upon the foot of dry Reason and Argument, wou'd be a very tedious and trouble­some Affair. Besides it is attacking Pedants at their own Weapons. How much more delicate and artful is it, to give a hint, to cover one's self with an Aenigma, to drop a double Entendre, to keep it in one's Power to recover, and slip aside, and leave his Antagonist beating the Air? This hath been practised with great Success, and I be­lieve it the top Method to gain Proselytes, and con­found Pedants. CRI. I have seen several things written in this way, which, I suppose, were copi­ed from the Behaviour of a sly sort of Scorners one may sometimes meet with. Suppose a con­ceited Man that wou'd pass for witty, tipping the Wink upon one, thrusting out his Tongue at ano­ther; one while waggishly smiling, another with a grave Mouth and ludicrous Eyes; often affecting the Countenance of one who smother'd a Jest, and sometimes bursting out in a Horse-laugh: What a Figure wou'd this be, I will not say in the Senate or Council, but in a private Visit among [Page 83] well-bred Men? And yet this is the Figure that certain great Authors, who in this Age wou'd pass for Models, and do pass for Models, make in their polite and elaborate Writings on the most weighty Points. ALC. I who profess my self an Admirer, an Adorer of Reason, am obliged to own, that in some Cases the Sharpness of Ridicule can do more than the Strength of Argument. But if we exert our selves in the use of Mirth and Hu­mour, it is not for want of other Weapons. It shall never be said that a Free-thinker was afraid of Reasoning. No, Crito, we have Reasons in store, the best are yet to come; and if we can find an Hour for another Conference before we set out to morrow morning, I'll undertake you shall be pli­ed with Reasons, as clear, and home, and close to the Point as you cou'd wish.


I. Christian Faith impossible. II. Words stand for Ideas. III. No Knowledge or Faith without Ideas, IV. Grace, no Idea of it. V. Abstract Ideas what and how made. VI. Abstract general Ideas im­possible. VII. In what Sense there may be general Ideas. VIII. Suggesting Ideas not the only use of Words. IX. Force as difficult to form an Idea of as Grace. X. Notwithstanding which useful Pro­positions may be formed concerning it. XI. Belief of the Trinity and other Mysteries not absurd. XII. Mistakes about Faith an occasion of profane Raillery. XIII. Faith its true Nature and Effects. XIV. Illustrated by Science. XV. By Arith­metic in particular. XVI. Sciences conversant a­bout Signs. XVII. The true End of Speech, Rea­son, Science, and Faith. XVIII. Metaphysical Objections as strong against Humane Sciences as Articles of Faith. XIX. No Religion, because no Humane Liberty. XX. Farther Proof a­gainst Humane Liberty. XXI. Fatalism a Conse­quence of erroneous Suppositions. XXII. Man an accountable Agent. XXIII. Inconsistency, Singu­larity, and Credulity of Minute Philosopher. XXIV. Untroden Paths and new Light of the Minute Philosophers. XXV. Sophistry of the Minute Philosophers. XXVI. Minute Philoso­phers ambiguous, aenigmatical, unfathomable. [Page 85] XXVII. Scepticism of the Minute Philosophers. XXVIII. How a Sceptic ought to behave. XXIX. Minute Philosophers why difficult to convince. XXX. Thinking not the epidemical Evil of these times. XXXI. Infidelity not an Effect of Reason or Thought, its true Motives assigned. XXXII. Variety of Opinions about Religion, Effects there­of. XXXIII. Method for proceeding with Mi­nute Philosophers. XXXIV. Want of Thought and want of Education Defects of the present Age.


THE Philosophers having resolved to set out for London next Morning, we assembled at break of day in the Li­brary. Alciphron began with a De­claration of his Sincerity, assuring us he had very maturely and with a most unbiassed Mind considered all that had been said the day be­fore. He added that upon the whole he cou'd not deny several probable Reasons were produced for embracing the Christian Faith. But, said he, those Reasons being only probable can never pre­vail against absolute Certainty and Demonstration. If therefore I can demonstrate your Religion to be a thing altogether absurd and inconsistent, your probable Arguments in its defence do from that Moment lose their Force, and with it all Right to be answer'd or considered. The concurring Testimony of sincere and able Witnesses hath with­out question great weight in humane Affairs. I will even grant that things odd and unaccountable to Humane Judgment or Experience, may sometimes claim our Assent on that sole Motive. And I will also grant it possible, for a Tradition to be con­vey'd with moral Evidence through many Centu­ries. But at the same time you will grant to me, that a thing demonstrably and palpably false is not to be admitted on any Testimony whatever, which [Page 86] at best can never amount to Demonstration. To be plain, no Testimony can make Nonsense Sense; no moral Evidence can make Contradictions consi­stent. Know then, that as the Strength of our Cause doth not depend upon, so neither is it to be decided by any critical Points of History, Chro­nology, or Languages. You are not to wonder, if the same sort of Tradition and moral Proof, which governs our Assent with respect to Facts in civil or natural History, is not admitted as a sufficient Voucher for metaphysical Absurdities and absolute Impossibilities. Things obscure and unaccounta­ble in humane Affairs, or the Operations of Na­ture, may yet be possible, and, if well attested, may be assented unto: But religious Assent or Faith can be evidently shewn in its own nature to be impracticable, impossible, and absurd. This is the primary Motive to Infidelity. This is our Citadel and Fortress, which may, indeed, be gra­ced with outworks of various Erudition, but, if those are demolished, remains in it self and of its own proper Strength impregnable. EUPH. This, it must be owned, reduceth our Inquiry within a narrow Compass: Do but make out this, and I shall have nothing more to say. ALC. Know then, that the shallow Mind of the Vulgar, as it dwells only on the outward Surface of things, and considers them in the gross, may be easily imposed on. Hence a blind Reverence for Religious Faith and Mystery. But when an acute Philosopher comes to dissect and analyse these Points, the Im­posture plainly appears: And as he has no Blind­ness, so he has no Reverence for empty Notions, or, to speak more properly, for meer Forms of Speech, which mean nothing, and are of no use to Mankind.


Words are Signs: They do or shou'd stand for Ideas; which so far as they suggest they are sig­nificant. But words that suggest no Ideas are insig­nificant. He who annexeth a clear Idea to every Word he makes use of speaks Sense; but where such Ideas are wanting, the Speaker utters Non­sense. In order therefore to know whether any Man's Speech be senseless and insignificant, we have nothing to do but lay aside the Words and consider the Ideas suggested by them. Men, not being able immediately to communicate their Ideas one to another, are obliged to make use of sensible Signs or Words; the use of which is to raise those Ideas in the Hearer, which are in the Mind of the Speaker: And if they fail of this End they serve to no Purpose. He who really thinks hath a train of Ideas succeeding each other and connected in his Mind: And when he expresseth himself by Dis­course, each Word suggests a distinct Idea to the Hearer or Reader; who by that means hath the same train of Ideas in his, which was in the Mind of the Speaker or Writer. As far as this Effect is produced, so far the Discourse is intelligible, hath sense and meaning. Hence it follows, that whoe­ver can be supposed to understand what he reads or hears must have a train of Ideas raised in his Mind, correspondent to the train of Words read or heard. These plain Truths, to which Men rea­dily assent in Theory, are but little attended to in Practice, and therefore deserve to be enlarged on and inculcated however obvious and undeniable. Mankind are generally averse from thinking though apt enought to entertain Discourse either in them­selves or others: the Effect whereof is, that their Minds are rather stored with Names than Ideas, the husk of Science rather than the thing. And yet these Words without meaning do often make Distinctions of Parties, the Subject matter of their [Page 88] Disputes, and the Object of their Zeal. This is the most general Cause of Error, which doth not influence ordinary Minds alone, but even those who pass for acute and learned Philosophers are often employ'd about Names instead of Things or Ideas, and are supposed to know when they only pronounce hard Words without a meaning.


Though it is evident that as Knowledge is the Perception of the Connexion or Disagreement between Ideas, he who doth not distinctly perceive the Ideas marked by the terms, so as to form a mental Proposition answering to the verbal, can­not possibly have Knowledge: No more can he be said to have Opinion or Faith which imply a weak­er Assent, but still it must be to a Proposition, the Terms of which are understood as clearly, al­though the Agreement or Disagreement of the I­deas may not be so evident, as in the case of Know­ledge. I say, all degrees of Assent whether found­ed on Reason or Authority, more or less cogent, are internal Acts of the Mind which alike terminate in Ideas as their proper Object: Without which there can be really no such thing as Knowledge, Faith, or Opinion. We may perhaps raise a Dust and Dispute about Tenets purely verbal; but what is this at bottom more than meer trifling? All which will be easily admitted with respect to Humane Learning and Science; wherein it is an allowed Method to expose any Doctrine or Tenet by stripping them of the Words, and examining what Ideas are underneath, or whether any Ideas at all? This is often found the shortest way to end Disputes, which might otherwise grow and multi­ply without end, the Litigants neither understanding one another nor themselves. It were needless to illustrate what shines by its own Light, and is ad­mitted by all thinking Men. My endeavour shall [Page 89] be only to apply it in the present Case. I suppose I need not be at any pains to prove, that the same Rules of Reason and good Sense which obtain in all other Subjects ought to take place in Religion. As for those who consider Faith and Reason as two distinct Provinces, and wou'd have us think good Sense has nothing to do where it is most con­cerned, I am resolved never to argue with such Men, but leave them in quiet Possession of their Prejudices. And now, for the particular Appli­cation of what I have said, I shall not single out a­ny nice disputed Points of School Divinity, or those that relate to the Nature and Essence of God, which being allow'd infinite you might pretend to screen them, under the general Notion of Difficul­ties attending the Nature of Infinity.


Grace is the main Point in the Christian Dispensation, nothing is oftener mentioned or more considered throughout the New Testament; where­in it is represented as somewhat of a very particu­lar kind, distinct from any thing revealed to the Jews, or known by the light of Nature. This same Grace is spoken of as the Gift of God, as coming by Jesus Christ, as reigning, as abounding, as o­perating. Men are said to speak through Grace, to believe through Grace. Mention is made of the Glory of Grace, the Riches of Grace, the Stew­ards of Grace. Christians are said to be Heirs of Grace, to receive Grace, grow in Grace, be strong in Grace, to stand in Grace, and to fall from Grace. And lastly, Grace is said to justify and to save them. Hence Christianity is styled the Covenant of Dispensation of Grace. And it is well known that no Point hath created more Controversy in the Church than this Doctrine of Grace. What Di­sputes about its Nature, Extent, and Effects, a­bout universal, efficacious, sufficient, preventing, [Page 90] Irrisistible Grace have employ'd the Pens of Pro­testant as well as Popish Divines, of Jansenists and Molinists, of Lutherans, Calvinists, and Armi­nians, as I have not the least curiosity to know, so I need not say. It sufficeth to observe, that there have been and are still subsisting great contests up­on these Points. Only one thing I shou'd desire to be informed of, to wit, what is the clear and dis­tinct Idea marked by the Word Grace? I presume a Man may know the bare meaning of a Term, without going into the depth of all those learned In­quiries. This surely is an easy Matter, provided there is an Idea annexed to such Term. And if there is not, it can be neither the subject of a rati­onal Dispute, nor the Object of real Faith. Men may indeed impose upon themselves or others, and pretend to argue and believe, when at bottom there is no Argument or Belief, farther than meer verbal trifling. Grace taken in the vulgar Sense, either for Beauty, or Favour, I can easily under­stand. But when it denotes an active, vital, ruling Principle, influencing and operating on the Mind of Man, distinct from every natural Power or Mo­tive, I profess my self altogether unable to under­stand it, or frame any distinct Idea of it; and there­fore I cannot assent to any Proposition concerning it, nor consequently have any Faith about it: And it is a self evident Truth, that God obligeth no Man to Impossibilities. At the request of a Philo­sophical Friend, I did cast an Eye on the Writings he shew'd me of some Divines, and talked with o­thers on this Subject, but after all I had read or heard cou'd make nothing of it, having always found whenever I laid aside the Word Grace, and looked into my own Mind, a perfect vacuity or privation of all Ideas. And, as I am apt to think Mens Minds and Faculties are made much alike, I suspect that other Men, if they examined what [Page 91] they call Grace with the same exactness and indif­ference, wou'd agree with me that there was no­thing in it but an empty Name. This is not the only Instance, where a Word often heard and pro­nounced is believed intelligible, for no other rea­son but because it is familiar. Of the same kind are many other Points reputed necessary Articles of Faith. That which in the present case imposeth upon Mankind I take to be partly this. Men speak of this holy Principle as of something that acts, moves, and determines, taking their Ideas from corporeal things, from Motion and the Force or Momentum of Bodies, which being of an obvi­ous and sensible Nature they substitute in place of a thing spiritual and incomprehensible, which is a manifest Delusion. For though the Idea of cor­poreal Force be never so clear and intelligible, it will not therefore follow that the Idea of Grace, a thing perfectly incorporeal, must be so too. And though we may reason distinctly, perceive, assent, and form Opinions about the one, it will by no means follow that we can do so of the other. Thus it comes to pass, that a clear sensible Idea of what is real produceth, or rather is made a pre­tence for, an imaginary spiritual Faith that termi­nates in no Object; a thing impossible! For there can be no Assent where there are no Ideas: And where there is no Assent there can be no Faith: And what cannot be, that no Man is obliged to. This is as clear as any thing in Euclid.


The same Method of Reasoning may be ap­plied by any Man of Sense, to consute all other the most essential Articles of the Christian Faith. You are not therefore to wonder that a Man who proceeds on such solid Grounds, such clear and evi­dent Principles, shou'd be deaf to all you can say from moral Evidence, or probable Arguments, [Page 92] which are nothing in the balance against Demonstra­tion. EUPH. The more Light and Force there is in this Discourse, the more you are to blame for not having produced it sooner. For my part, I shou'd never have said one Word against Evidence. But let me see whether I understand you rightly. You say, every Word in an intelligible Discourse must stand for an Idea; which Ideas as far as they are clearly and distinctly apprehended, so far the Discourse hath meaning, without which it is useless, and insignificant. ALC. I do. EUPH. For instance, when I hear the Words Man, Triangle, Colour, pronounced; they must excite in my Mind distinct Ideas of those things whereof they are Signs, otherwise I cannot be said to understand them. ALC. Right. EUPH. And this is the only true use of Language. ALC. That is what I affirm. EUPH. But every time the Word Man occurs in Reading or Conversation, I am not conscious that the particular distinct Idea of a Man is excited in my mind. For instance, when I read in St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians these Words: If a Man thinketh himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. Methinks I com­prehend the Force and Meaning of this Proposition, although I do not frame to my self the particular distinst Idea of a Man. ALC. It is very true, you do not form in your Mind the particular Idea of Peter, James, or John, of a fair or a black, a tall or a low, a fat or a lean, a straight or a crooked, a wise or a foolish, a sleeping or waking Man, but the abstract general Idea of Man, prescinding from, and exclusive of all particular Shape, Size, Com­plexion, Passions, Faculties, and every individual Circumstance. To explain this Matter more fully, you are to understand there is in the Humane Mind, a Faculty of contemplating the general Na­ture of things, separate from all those Particulari­ties [Page 93] which distinguish the Individuals one from a­nother. For Example, in Peter, James, and John, you may observe in each a certain Collection of Stature, Figure, Colour, and other peculiar Properties by which they are known asunder, dis­tinguished from all other Men, and, if I may so say, individuated. Now leaving out of the Idea of a Man, that which is peculiar to the Individual, and retaining only that which is common to all Men, you form an abstract universal Idea of Man or Humane Nature, which includes no particular Stature, Shape, Colour, or other quality whether of Mind or Body. After the same manner you may observe particular Triangles to differ one from another, as their sides are equal or unequal, and their Angles greater or lesser; whence they are denominated aequilateral, aequicrural, or scalenum, obtusangular, acutangular, or rectangular. But the Mind excluding out of its Idea, all these pe­culiar Properties and Distinctions frameth the ge­neral abstract Idea of a Triangle; which is nei­ther aequilateral, aequicrural, nor scalenum, nei­ther obtusangular, acutangular, nor rectangular, but all and none of these at once *. The same may be said of the general abstract Idea of Colour, which is something distinct from and exclusive of Blue, Red, Green, Yellow, and every other par­ticular Colour, including only that general Essence in which they all agree. And what has been said of these three general Names, and the abstract ge­neral Ideas they stand for may be applied to all o­thers. For you must know, that particular Things or Ideas being infinite, if each were marked or signified by a distinct proper Name, Words must have been innumerable, and Language an endless impossible thing. Hence it comes to pass, that [Page 94] appellative or general Names stand, immediately and properly, not for particular but for abstract general Ideas, which they never fail to excite in the mind, as oft as they are used to any significant Purpose. And without this, there cou'd be no Communication or Enlargement of Knowledge, no such thing as universal Science or Theorems of any kind. Now for understanding any Proposition or Discourse, it is sufficient that distinct Ideas are thereby raised in your mind, correspondent to those in the Speaker's, whether the Ideas so raised are particular or only abstract and general Ideas. Forasmuch, nevertheless, as these are not so obvi­ous and familiar to vulgar minds, it happens that some Men may think they have no Idea at all, when they have not a particular Idea; but the truth is, you had the abstract general Idea of Man, in the instance assigned, wherein you thought you had none. After the same manner, when it is said, that the three Angles of a Triangle are equal to two right ones; or that Colour is the Object of Sight, it is evident the Words do not stand for this or that Triangle or Colour, but for abstract general Ideas, excluding every thing peculiar to the Individuals, and including only the universal Nature common to the whole kind of Triangles or of Colours.


EUPH. Tell me, Alciphron, are those abstract general Ideas clear and distinct? ALC. They are above all others clear and distinct, being the only proper Object of Science, which is alto­gether conversant about Universals. EUPH. And do you not think it very possible for any Man to know, whether he has this or that clear and di­stinct Idea or no? ALC. Doubtless. To know this he needs only examine his own Thoughts and look into his own mind. EUPH. But upon look­ing [Page 95] into my own mind, I do not find that I have or can have these general abstract Ideas of a Man or a Triangle abovementioned, or of Colour prescin­ded from all particular Colours *. Though I shut mine Eyes, and use mine utmost Efforts, and reflect on all that passeth in my own mind, I find it utterly impossible to form such Ideas. ALC. To reflect with due Attention and turn the mind inward up­on it self, is a difficult Task and not every one's Ta­lent. EUPH. Not to insist on what you allowed, that every one might easily know for himself whether he has this or that Idea or no: I am tempted to think no body else can form those Ideas any more than I can. Pray, Alciphron, which are those things you wou'd call absolutely impossible? ALC. Such as include a Contradiction. EUPH. Can you frame an Idea of what includes a Contradiction? ALC. I cannot. EUPH. Consequently whatever is ab­solutely impossible you cannot form an Idea of. ALC. This I grant. EUPH. But can a Colour or Triangle, such as you describe their abstract ge­neral Ideas, really exist? ALC. It is absolutely impossible such things shou'd exist in Nature. EUPH. Shou'd it not follow then that they can­not exist in your mind, or in other words that you cannot conceive or frame an Idea of them? ALC. You seem Euphranor not to distinguish between pure Intellect and Imagination. Abstract general Ideas I take to be the Object of pure Intellect, which may conceive them although they cannot per­haps be imagined. EUPH. I do not perceive that I can by any Faculty, whether of Intellect or Ima­gination, conceive or frame an Idea of that which is impossible and includes a Contradiction. And I [Page 96] am very much at a loss to account for your admit­ting that in common Instances, which you wou'd make an Argument against Divine Faith and Myste­ries.


ALC. There must be some mistake in this. How is it possible there shou'd be general Know­ledge without general Propositions, or these without general Names, which cannot be without general Ideas by standing for which they become general? EUPH. But may not words become general, by being made to stand indiscriminately for all parti­cular Ideas, which from a mutual Resemblance be­long to the same kind, without the Intervention of any abstract general Idea? ALC. Is there then no such thing as a general Idea? EUPH. May we not admit general Ideas, though we shou'd not admit them to be made by abstraction, or though we shou'd not allow of general abstract Ideas? To me it seems, a particular Idea may become general by being used to stand for or represent other Ideas; and that, general Knowledge is conversant about Signs or general Ideas made such by their signifi­cation; and which are considered rather in their relative Capacity, and as substituted for others, than in their own Nature, or for their own sake. A Black Line, for Instance, an Inch long, though in it self particular, may yet become Universal, being used as a Sign to stand for any Line whatso­ever. ALC. It is your Opinion then, that words become general by representing an indefinite Num­ber of particular Ideas. EUPH. It seems so to me. ALC. Whenever therefore I hear a general Name, it must be supposed to excite some one or other particular Idea of that Species in my mind. EUPH. I cannot say so neither. Pray, Alciphron, doth it seem to you necessary, that as often as the word Man occurs in Reading or Discourse, you [Page 97] must form in your Mind the Idea of a particular Man? ALC. I own, it doth not: And not find­ing particular Ideas always suggested by the Words, I was led to think I had abstract general Ideas suggested by them. And this is the Opini­on of all Thinking Men who are agreed, the only use of Words is to suggest Ideas. And indeed what other use can we assign them?


EUPH. Be the use of Words or Names what it will, I can never think it is to do things impossible. Let us then inquire what it is? and see if we can make Sense of our daily Practice. Words it is agreed are Signs: It may not there­fore be amiss to examine the use of other Signs in order to know that of Words. Counters, for in­stance, at a Card-Table are used, not for their own sake, but only as Signs substituted for Money as Words are for Ideas. Say now Alciphron, is it necessary every time these Counters are used throughout the whole Progress of a Game, to frame an Idea of the distinct Sum or Value that each represents? ALC. by no means: It is suffi­cient the Players at first agree on their respective Values, and at last substitute those Values in their stead. EUPH. And in casting up a Sum, where the Figures stand for Pounds, Shillings, and Pence, do you think it necessary, throughout the whole Pro­gress of the Operation, in each Step to form Ideas of Pounds, Shillings, and Pence? ALC. I do not, it will suffice if in the Conclusion those Figures direct our Actions with respect to Things. EUPH. From hence it seems to follow that Words may not be in­significant, although they shou'd not, every time they are used, excite the Ideas they signify in our Minds, it being sufficient, that we have it in our power to substitute Things or Ideas for their Signs when there is occasion. It seems also to follow, that [Page 98] there may be another use of Words, besides that of marking and suggesting distinct Ideas, to wit, the influencing our Conduct and Actions; which may be done either by forming Rules for us to act by, or by raising certain Passions, Dispositions, and Emotions in our Minds. A Discourse, there­fore, that directs how to act or excites to the do­ing or forbearance of an Action may, it seems, be useful and significant, although the Words where­of it is composed shou'd not bring each a distinct Idea into our Minds. ALC. It seems so EUPH. Pray tell me, Alciphron, is not an Idea altogether inactive? ALC. It is. EUPH. An Agent there­fore, an active Mind, or Spirit cannot be an Idea or like an Idea. Whence it shou'd seem to follow, that those Words which denote an active Principle, Soul, or Spirit do not, in a strict and proper Sense, stand for Ideas: And yet they are not insignificant neither: since I understand what is signified by the term I, or my self, or know what it means although it be no Idea, nor like an Idea, but that which thinks and wills and apprehends Ideas and operates about them. ALC. What wou'd you infer from this? EUPH. What hath been inferred already, that Words may be significant although they do not stand for Ideas *. The contrary whereof hav­ing been presumed seems to have produced the Doctrine of abstract Ideas. ALC. Will you not allow then that the Mind can abstract? EUPH. I do not deny it may abstract in a certain sense, inasmuch as those things that can really exist, or be really perceived asunder, may be conceived a­sunder, or abstracted one from the other; for in­stance a Man's Head from his Body, Colour from Motion, Figure from Weight. But it will not [Page 99] thence follow, that the Mind can frame abstract general Ideas, which appear to be impossible. ALC. And yet it is a current Opinion, that every substantive Name marks out and exhibits to the Mind one distinct Idea separate from all others. EUPH. Pray, Alciphron, is not the Word Num­ber such a substantive Name? ALC. It is. EUPH. Do but try now whether you can frame an Idea of Number in abstract exclusive of all Signs, Words and Things number'd. I profess, for my own part I cannot. ALC. Can it be so hard a matter to form a simple Idea of Number, the Object of a most evident demonstrable Science? Hold, let me see, if I can't abstract the Idea of Number, from the numeral Names and Characters, and all parti­cular numerable things. Upon which Alciphron paused a while and then said; to confess the Truth I do not find that I can. EUPH. But though, it seems, neither you nor I can form distinct simple Ideas of Number, we can nevertheless make a very proper and significant use of numeral Names. They direct us in the disposition and management of our Affairs, and are of such necessary use, that we shou'd not know how to do without them. And yet, if other Mens Faculties may be judged of by mine, to attain a precise simple abstract Idea of Number, is as difficult as to comprehend any Mystery in Religion.


But to come to your own Instance, let us examine what Idea we can frame of Force abstract­ed from Body, Motion, and outward sensible Ef­fects. For my self, I do not find that I have or can have any such Idea. ALC. Surely every one knows what is meant by Force. EUPH. And yet I question whether every one can form a distinct Idea of Force. Let me intreat you, Alciphron, be not amused by Terms, lay aside the word Force, [Page 100] and exclude every other thing from your Thoughts, and then see what precise Idea you have of Force. ALC. Force is that in Bodies which produceth Motion and other sensible Effects. EUPH. It is then something distinct from those Effects. ALC. It is. EUPH. Be pleased now to exclude the consideration of its Subject and Effects, and con­template Force it self in its own precise Idea. ALC. I profess I find it no such easy matter. EUPH. Take your own Advice, and shut your eyes to assist your Meditation. Upon this Alci­phron having closed his eyes, and mused a few Mi­nutes, declared he cou'd make nothing of it. And that, replied Euphranor, which it seems neither you nor I can frame an Idea of, by your own Re­mark of Mens Minds and Faculties being made much alike, we may suppose others have no more an Idea of than we. ALC. We may. EUPH. But, notwithstanding all this, it is certain there are many Speculations, Reasonings, and Disputes, refined Subtilties and nice Distinctions about this same Force. And to explain its Nature, and di­stinguish the several notions or kinds of it, the Terms Gravity, Reaction, vis inertiae, vis insita, vis impressa, vis mortua, vis viva, impetus, momen­tum, solicitatio, conatus, and divers other such like Expressions have been used by learned Men: And no small Controversies have arisen about the Noti­ons or Definitions of these terms. It had puzzled Men to know whether Force is spiritual or corpo­real, whether it remains after Action, how it is transferred from one Body to another. Strange Paradoxes have been framed about its Nature, Properties, and Proportions: For instance, that contrary Forces may at once subsist in the same quiescent Body: That the Force of Percussion in a small particle is Infinite: For which and other Curiosities of the same sort, you may consult Be­rellus [Page 101] de vi percussionis, the Lezioni Academiche of Toricelli, the Exercitations of Hermanus, and other Writers. It is well known to the learned World, what a Controversy hath been carried on between Mathematicians, particularly Monsieur Leibnitz and Monsieur Papin in the Leipsic Acta Eruditorum a­bout the Proportion of Forces, whether they be each to other in a Proportion compounded of the simple Proportions of the Bodies and the Celeri­ties, or in one compounded of the simple Propor­tion of the Bodies and the duplicate Proportion of the Celerities? A Point, it seems, not yet agreed; As indeed the reality of the thing it self is made a Question. Leibnitz distinguisheth between the nisus elementaris, and the impetus, which is formed by a repetition of the nisus elementaris, and seems to think they do not exist in Nature, but are made only by an abstraction of the Mind. The same Author treating of original, active Force, to il­lustrate his Subject hath recourse to the substantial Forms and Entelecheia of Aristotle. And the inge­nious Toricelli saith of Force and Impetus, that they are subtile Abstracts and spiritual Quintessen­ces; and concerning the momentum and the velocity of heavy Bodies falling, he saith they are un certo che, and un non so che, that is in plain English he knows not what to make of them. Upon the whole therefore, may we not pronounce, that excluding Body, Time, Space, Motion and all its sensible Measures and Effects, we shall find it as difficult to form an Idea of Force as of Grace? ALC. I do not know what to think of it.


EUPH. And yet, I presume, you allow there are very evident Propositions or Theorems relating to Force, which contain useful Truths▪ for instance, that a Body with conjunct Forces de­scribes the Diagonal of a Parallelogram, in the [Page 102] same time that it wou'd the Sides with separate. Is not this a Principle of very extensive use? Doth not the Doctrine of the Composition and Resolu­tion of Forces depend upon it, and, in conse­quence thereof, numberless Rules and Theorems directing Men how to act, and explaining Phaeno­mena throughout the Mechanics and mathematical Philosophy? And if, by considering this Doctrine of Force, Men arrive at the Knowledge of many Inventions in Mechanics, and are taught to frame Engines, by means of which things difficult and o­therwise impossible may be performed, and if the same Doctrine which is so beneficial here below, serveth also as a Key to discover the Nature of the Celestial Motions, shall we deny that it is of use, either in Practice or Speculation, because we have no distinct Idea of Force? Or that which we ad­mit with regard to Force, upon what pretence can we deny concerning Grace? If there are Queries, Disputes, Perplexities, diversity of Notions and Opinions about the one, so there are about the o­ther also: If we can form no precise distinct Idea of the one, so neither can we of the other. Ought we not therefore by a parity of Reason to conclude, there may be divers true and useful Propositions concerning the one as well as the other? And that Grace may be an Object of our Faith, and influence our Life and Actions, as a Principle destructive of evil habits and productive of good ones, although we cannot attain a distinct Idea of it, separate or abstracted from God the Author, from Man the Subject, and from Virtue and Piety its Effects?


Shall we not admit the same Method of arguing, the same Rules of Logic, Reason, and good Sense to obtain in things Spiritual, and things Corporeal, in Faith and Science, and shall we not use the same Candour, and make the same Allow­ances, [Page 103] in examining the Revelations of God and the Inventions of Men? For ought I see, that Phi­losopher cannot be free from Bias and Prejudice, or be said to weigh things in an equal Ballance who shall maintain the Doctrine of Force and reject that of Grace, who shall admit the abstract Idea of a Triangle, and at the same time ridicule the Ho­ly Trinity. But, however partial or prejudiced other Minute Philosophers might be, you have laid it down for a Maxim, that the same Logic which obtains in other Matters must be admitted in Religion. LYS. I think, Alciphron, it wou'd be more prudent to abide by the way of Wit and Humour, than thus to try Religion by the dry Test of Reason and Logic. ALC. Fear not: By all the Rules of right Reason, it is absolutely impossible that any Mystery, and least of all the Trinity shou'd really be the Object of Man's Faith. EUPH. I do not wonder you thought so, as long as you maintained that no Man cou'd assent to a Proposition, without perceiving or framing in his Mind distinct Ideas marked by the Terms of it. But although Terms are Signs, yet having granted that those Signs may be significant, though they shou'd not suggest Ideas represented by them, provided they serve to regulate and influence our Wills, Passions, or Conduct, you have consequently granted, that the Mind of Man may assent to Pro­positions containing such Terms, when it is so di­rected or affected by them, notwithstanding it shou'd not perceive distinct Ideas marked by those Terms. Whence it seems to follow, that a Man may be­lieve the Doctrine of the Trinity, if he finds it re­vealed in Holy Scripture, That the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are God, and that there is but one God? Although he doth not frame in his Mind, any abstract or distinct Ideas of Trinity, Substance, or Personality, provided, that this [Page 104] Doctrine of a Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier makes proper Impressions on his Mind, producing therein, Love, Hope, Gratitude, and Obedience, and thereby becomes a lively operative Principle influencing his Life and Actions, agreeably to that Notion of saving Faith which is required in a Chri­stian. This I say, whether right or wrong, seems to follow from your own Principles and Concessi­ons. But for further satisfaction, it may not be amiss to inquire, whether there be any thing pa­rallel to this Christian Faith in the Minute Philo­sophy. Suppose, a fine Gentleman or Lady of Fashion, who are too much employ'd to think for themselves, and are only Free-thinkers at second hand, have the advantage of being betimes initiated in the Principles of your Sect, by conversing with Men of Depth and Genius, who have often declar­ed it to be their Opinion, the World is governed either by Fate or by Chance, it matters not which; will you deny it possible for such Persons to yield their Assent to either of these Propositions? ALC. I will not. EUPH. And may not such their As­sent be properly called Faith? ALC. It may. EUPH. And yet it is possible, those Disciples of the Minute Philosophy may not dive so deep, as to be able to frame any abstract, or precise, or any determinate Idea whatsoever, either of Fate or of Chance. ALC. This too I grant. EUPH. So that according to you, this same Gentleman or La­dy may be said to believe or have Faith where they have not Ideas. ALC. They may. EUPH. And may not this Faith or Persuasion produce real Effects, and shew it self in the Conduct and Tenor of their Lives, freeing them from the Fears of Su­perstition, and giving them a true Relish of the World, with a noble Indolence or Indifference a­bout what comes after. ALC. It may. EUPH. And may not Christians, with equal Reason, be [Page 105] allowed to believe the Divinity of our Saviour, or that in him God and Man make one Person, and be verily persuaded thereof, so far as for such Faith or Belief to become a real Principle of Life and Conduct, inasmuch as by Virtue of such Persuasion they submit to his Government, believe his Doc­trine, and practise his Precepts, although they frame no abstract Idea of the Union between the Divine and Humane Nature; nor may be able to clear up the Notion of Person to the Contentment of a Minute Philosopher. To me it seems evident, that if none but those who had nicely examined, and cou'd themselves explain, the Principle of In­dividuation in Man, or untie the Knots and answer the Objections, which may be raised even about Humane Personal Identity, wou'd require of us to explain the Divine Mysteries, we shou'd not be of­ten called upon for a clear and distinct Idea of Person in relation to the Trinity, nor wou'd the Difficul­ties on that Head be often objected to our Faith. ALC. Methinks, there is no such Mystery in Per­sonal Identity. EUPH. Pray in what do you take it to consist? ALC. In Consciousness. EUPH. Whatever is possible may be supposed. ALC. It may. EUPH. We will suppose now (which is possible in the Nature of Things, and reported to be fact) that a Person, through some violent Acci­dent or Distemper, shou'd fall into such a total Ob­livion, as to lose all Consciousness of his past Life, and former Ideas. I ask, is he not still the same Person? ALC. He is the same Man, but not the same Person. Indeed you ought not to suppose that a Person loseth its former Consciousness; for this is impossible, though a Man perhaps may; but then he becomes another Person. In the same Person, it must be owned, some old Ideas may be lost, and some new ones got; but a total Change is inconsistent with Identity of Person. EUPH. Let [Page 106] us then suppose that a Person hath Ideas, and is conscious during a certain space of Time, which we will divide into three equal Parts, whereof the later Terms are marked by the Letters A, B, C. In the first Part of Time, the Person gets a certain Number of Ideas, which are retained in A: Dur­ing the second Part of Time, he retains one half of his old Ideas, and loseth the other half, in place of which he acquires as many new ones: So that in B his Ideas are half old and half new. And in the third Part, we suppose him to lose the Re­mainder of the Ideas acquired in the First, and to get new ones in their stead, which are retained in C, together with those acquired in the second Part of Time. Is this a possible fair Supposition? ALC. It is. EUPH. Upon these Premises I am tempt­ed to think, one may demonstrate, that Personal Identity doth not consist in Consciousness. ALC. As how? EUPH. You shall judge; but thus it seems to me. The Persons in A and B are the same, being conscious of common Ideas by supposi­tion. The Person in B is (for the same Reason) one and the same with the Person in C. There­fore the Person in A, is the same with the Person in C, by that undoubted Axiom, Quae conveniunt uni tertio conveniunt inter se. But the Person in C hath no Idea in common with the Person in A. Therefore Personal Indentity doth not consist in Consciousness. What do you think, Alciphron, is not this a plain Inference? ALC. I tell you what I think: You will never assist my Faith, by puz­zling my Knowledge.


There is, if I mistake not, a practical Faith, or Assent, which sheweth it self in the Will and Actions of a Man, although his Understand­ing may not be furnished with those abstract, pre­cise, distinct Ideas, which, whatever a Philosopher [Page 107] may pretend, are acknowledged to be above the Talents of common Men; among whom, neverthe­less, may be sound, even according to your own Concession, many Instances of such practical Faith, in other matters which do not concern Religion. What shou'd hinder therefore, but that Doctrines relating to Heavenly Mysteries, might be taught in this saving Sense to vulgar Minds, which you may well think incapable of all Teaching and Faith in the Sense you suppose. Which mistaken Sense, said Crito, has given occasion to much pro­fane and misapplied Raillery. But all this may very justly be retorted on the Minute Philosophers themselves, who confound Scholasticism with Chri­stianity, and impute to other Men those Perplexi­ties, Chimaeras, and inconsistent Ideas, which are often the Workmanship of their own Brains, and proceed from their own wrong way of Thinking. Who doth not see that such an ideal abstracted Faith is never thought of by the Bulk of Christi­ans, Husbandmen, for Instance, Artisans or Ser­vants? Or what Footsteps are there in the Holy Scripture to make us think, that the wiredrawing of abstract Ideas was a Task injoined either Jews or Christians? Is there any thing in the Law or the Prophets, the Evangelists or Apostles that looks like it? Every one whose Understanding is not perverted by Science falsly so called, may see, the saving Faith of Christians is quite of another kind, a vital operative Principle, productive of Charity and Obedience. ALC. What are we to think then of the Disputes and Decisions of the famous Coun­cil of Nice, and so many subsequent Councils? What was the Intention of those venerable Fathers the Homoousians and the Homoiousians? Why did they disturb themselves and the World with hard Words, and subtile Controversies? CRI. Whate­ver their Intention was, it cou'd not be to beget [Page 108] nice abstracted Ideas of Mysteries in the Minds of common Christians, this being evidently impossi­ble: Nor doth it appear that the Bulk of Christi­an Men did in those Days think it any Part of their Duty, to lay aside the Words, shut their Eyes, and frame those abstract Ideas; any more than Men now do of Force, Time, Number, or several other things, about which they nevertheless believe, know, argue and dispute. To me it seems, that, whatever was the Source of these Controversies, and howsoever they were managed, wherein Hu­mane Infirmity must be supposed to have had its Share, the main End was not, on either side, to convey precise positive Ideas to the Minds of Men, by the use of those contested Terms, but rather a negative Sense, tending to exclude Polytheism on the one hand, and Sabellianism on the other *. ALC. But what shall we say of so many learned and ingenious Divines, who from time to time have obliged the World with new Explications of Mysteries, who, having themselves professedly la­boured to acquire accurate Ideas, wou'd recom­mend their Discoveries and Speculations to others for Articles of Faith? CRI. To all such Innovators in Religion I wou'd say with Jerome, ‘Why af­ter so many Centuries do you pretend to teach us what was untaught before? Why explain what neither Peter nor Paul thought necessary to be explained? And it must be owned, that the Explication of Mysteries in Divinity, al­lowing the Attempt as fruitless as the Pursuit of the Philosopher's Stone in Chymistry, or the Perpe­tual Motion in Mechanics, is no more than they, chargeable on the Profession it self, but only on the wrongheaded Professors of it.


It seems, that what hath been now said may be applied to other Mysteries of our Religion. Original Sin, for Instance, a Man may find it im­possible to form an Idea of in abstract, or of the man­ner of its Transmission, and yet the Belief thereof may produce in his Mind a salutary Sense of his own Unworthiness, and the Goodness of his Re­deemer: from whence may follow good Habits, and from them good Actions, the genuine Effects of Faith, which considered in its true Light, is a thing neither repugnant nor incomprehensible, as some Men wou'd persuade us, but suited even to vulgar Capacities, placed in the Will and Affecti­ons rather than in the Understanding, and produ­cing holy Lives, rather than subtile Theories. Faith, I say, is not an indolent Perception but an operative Persuasion of Mind, which ever worketh some suitable Action, Disposition or Emotion in those who have it; as it were easy to prove and illustrate by innumerable Instances, taken from Humane Affairs. And, indeed, while the Christi­an Religion is considered as an Institution fitted to ordinary Minds, rather than to the nicer Talents, whether improved or puzzled, of speculative Men; and our Notions about Faith are accordingly taken from the Commerce of the World, and Practice of Mankind, rather than from the peculiar Systems of Refiners; it will, I think, be no difficult Mat­ter to conceive and justify the Meaning and Use of our Belief of Mysteries, against the most confident Assertions and Objections of the Minute Philoso­phers, who are easily to be caught in those very Snares, which they have spun and spread for others. And that Humour of Controversy, the Mother and Nurse of Heresies, wou'd doubtless very much abate, if it was considered that things are to be ra­ted, not by the Colour, Shape, or Stamp, so tru­ly [Page 110] as by the Weight. If the Moment of Opinions had been by some litigious Divines made the Mea­sure of their Zeal, it might have spared much Trouble both to themselves and others. Certain­ly one that takes his Notions of Faith, Opinion, and Assent from Common Sense, and Common Use, and has maturely weighed the Nature of Signs and Language, will not be so apt to contro­vert the Wording of a Mystery, or to break the Peace of the Church, for the sake of retaining or rejecting a Term.


ALC. It seems, Euphranor, and you wou'd persuade me into an Opinion, that there is nothing so singularly absurd as we are apt to think, in the Belief of Mysteries; and that a Man need not re­nounce his Reason to maintain his Religion. But if this were true, how comes it to pass, that, in proportion as Men abound in Knowledge, they dwindle in Faith? EUPH. O Alciphron, I have learned from you, that there is nothing like going to the Bottom of things, and analysing them into their first Principles. I shall therefore make an Essay of this Method, for clearing up the Nature of Faith: with what Success, I shall leave you to determine; for I dare not pronounce my self on my own Judgment, whether it be right or wrong: But thus it seems to me. The Objections made to Faith are by no means an Effect of Knowledge, but proceed rather from an Ignorance of what Knowledge is; which Ignorance may possibly be sound even in those who pass for Masters of this or that particular Branch of Knowledge. Science and Faith agree in this, that they both imply an Assent of the Mind: And, as the Nature of the First is most clear and evident, it shou'd be first considered in order to cast a Light on the other. To trace things from their Original, it seems that [Page 111] the Humane Mind, naturally furnished with the Ideas of things particular and concrete, and being design'd, not for the bare Intuition of Ideas, but for Action or Operation about them, and pursuing her own Happiness therein, stands in need of cer­tain general Rules or Theorems to direct her Ope­rations in this pursuit; the supplying which Want is the true, original, reasonable End of studying the Arts and Sciences. Now these Rules being general, it follows, that they are not to be ob­tained by the meer Consideration of the original Ideas, or particular Things, but by the means of Marks or Signs, which, being so far forth univer­sal, become the immediate Instruments and Mate­rials of Science. It is not therefore by meer Con­templation of particular Things, and much less of their abstract general Ideas, that the Mind makes her Progress, but by an apposite Choice and skil­ful Management of Signs: For Instance, Force and Number, taken in concrete with there Adjuncts, Subjects, and Signs, are what every one knows; and considered in abstract, so as making precise I­deas of themselves, they are what no Body can comprehend. That their abstract Nature, there­fore, is not the Foundation of Science, is plain: And that barely considering their Ideas in concrete, is not the Method to advance in the respective Sciences, is what every one that reflects may see; nothing being more evident, than that one who can neither write nor read, in common Use under­stands the meaning of Numeral Words, as well as the best Philosopher or Mathematician.


But here lies the Difference: the one, who understands the Notation of Numbers, by means thereof is able to express briefly and distinctly all the Variety and Degrees of Number, and to per­form with ease and dispatch several arithmetical O­perations, [Page 112] by the help of general Rules. Of all which Operations as the Use in Humane Life is very evident, so it is no less evident, that the per­forming them depends on the aptness of the Nota­tion. If we suppose rude Mankind without the Use of Language, it may be presumed, they wou'd be ignorant of Arithmetic: But the Use of Names, by the Repetition whereof in a certain Order they might express endless Degrees of Number, wou'd be the first Step towards that Science. The next Step wou'd be, to devise proper Marks of a per­manent Nature, and visible to the Eye, the Kind and Order whereof must be chose with Judgment, and accommodated to the Names. Which Mark­ing, or Notation, wou'd, in Proportion as it was apt and regular, facilitate the Invention and Ap­plication of general Rules, to assist the Mind in reasoning, and judging, in extending, recording, and communicating its Knowledge about Numbers: in which Theory and Operations, the Mind is im­mediately occupied about the Signs or Notes, by Mediation of which it is directed to act about Things, or Number in concrete (as the Logicians call it) without ever considering the simple, ab­stract, intellectual, general Idea of Number. I imagine one need not think much to be convinced, that the Science of Arithmetic, in its Rise, Ope­rations, Rules, and Theorems, is altogether con­versant about the artificial Use of Signs, Names, and Characters. These Names and Characters are universal, inasmuch as they are Signs. The Names are referred to Things, and the Characters to Names, and both to Operation. The Names be­ing few, and proceeding by a certain Analogy, the Characters will be more useful, the simpler they are, and the more aptly they express this Analo­gy. Hence the old Notation by Letters was more useful than Words written at length: And the [Page 113] modern Notation by Figures, expressing the Pro­gression or Analogy of the Names by their simple Places, is much preferable to that for Ease and Expedition, as the Invention of Algebraical Sym­bols is to this for extensive and general Use. As Arithmetic and Algebra are Sciences of great Clear­ness, Certainty, and Extent, which are immedi­ately conversant about Signs, upon the skilful Use and Management whereof they intirely depend, so a little Attention to them may possibly help us to judge of the Progress of the Mind in other Sci­ences, which, though differing in Nature, Design, and Object, may yet agree in the general Methods of Proof and Inquiry.


If I mistake not, all Sciences, so far as they are universal and demonstrable by Humane Reason, will be found conversant about Signs as their immediate Object, though these in the Ap­plication are referred to Things: the Reason whereof is not difficult to comprehend. For as the Mind is better acquainted with some sort of Objects, which are earlier suggested to it, strike it more sensibly, or are more easily comprehended than others, it is naturally led to subtitute, those Objects for such as are more subtile, fleeting, or difficult to conceive. Nothing, I say, is more na­tural, than to make the Things we know, a Step towards those we do not know; and to explain and represent Things less familiar by others which are more so. Now, it is certain we imagine before we reflect, and we perceive by Sense before we i­magine; and of all our Senses the Sight is the most clear, distinct, various, agreeable, and comprehen­sive. Hence it is natural to assist the Intellect by the Imagination, the Imagination by Sense, and the other Senses by Sight. Hence, Figures, Me­taphors, and Types. We illustrate spiritual [Page 114] Things by corporeal; we substitute Sounds for Thoughts, and written Letters for Sounds; Emb­lems, Symbols, and Hieroglyphics for Things too obscure to strike, and too various or too fleeting to be retained. We substitute Things imaginable, for Things intelligible, sensible Things for imagi­nable, smaller Things for those that are too great to comprehend easily, and greater Things for such as are too small to be discerned distinctly, present Things for absent, permanent for perishing, and visible for invisible. Hence the Use of Models and Diagrams. Hence right Lines are substituted for Time, Velocity, and other things of very different Natures. Hence we speak of Spirits in a figurative Style, expressing the Operations of the Mind by Allusions and Terms, borrowed from sensible Things, such as apprehend, conceive, reflect, discourse, and such like: And hence those Allego­ries which illustrate Things intellectual by Visions exhibited to the Fancy. Plato, for Instance, re­presents the Mind presiding in her Vehicle by the Driver of a winged Chariot, which sometimes moults and droops: this Chariot is drawn by two Horses, the one good and of a good Race, the o­ther of a contrary kind, symbolically expressing the Tendency of the Mind towards the Divinity, as she soars or is born aloft by two Instincts like Wings, the one in the Intellect towards Truth, the other in the Will towards Excellence, which Instincts moult or are weakened by sensual Inclina­tions, expressing also her alternate Elevations and Depressions, the Struggles between Reason and Ap­petite, like Horses that go an unequal Pace, or draw different Ways, embarrassing the Soul in her Progress to Perfection. I am inclined to think the Doctrine of Signs a Point of great Importance, and general Extent, which, if duly considered, wou'd [Page 115] cast no small light upon Things, and afford a just and genuine Solution of many Difficulties.


Thus much, upon the whole, may be said of all Signs: That they do not always suggest Ideas signified to the Mind, That when they sug­gest Ideas, they are not general abstract Ideas: That they have other Uses besides barely standing for and exhibiting Ideas, such as raising proper E­motions, producing certain Dispositions or Ha­bits of Mind, and directing our Actions in pursuit of that Happiness, which is the ultimate End and Design, the Primary Spring and Motive, that sets rational Agents at work: That the true End of Speech, Reason, Science, Faith, Assent in all its different Degrees, is not meerly, or principally, or always the imparting or acquiring of Ideas, but ra­ther something of an active, operative Nature, tending to a conceived Good, which may some­times be obtained, not only although the Ideas marked are not offered to the Mind, but even al­though there shou'd be no possibility of offering or exhibiting any such Idea to the Mind: For In­stance, the Algebraic Mark, which denotes the Root of a negative Square, hath its Use in Logistic Operations, although it be impossible to form an Idea of any such Quantity. And what is true of Algebraic Signs, is also true of Words or Lan­guage, modern Algebra being in fact a more short, apposite, and artificial Sort of Language, and it being possible to express by Words at length, though less conveniently, all the Steps of an Al­gebraical Process. And it must be confessed, that even the Mathematical Sciences themselves, which above all others are reckoned the most clear and certain, if they are considered, not as Instruments to direct our Practice, but as Speculations to em­ploy our Curiosity, will be found to fall short in [Page 116] many Instances of those clear and distinct Ideas, which, it seems, the Minute Philosophers of this Age, whether knowingly or ignorantly, expect and insist upon in the Mysteries of Religion.


Be the Science or Subject what it will, whensoever Men quit Particulars for Generalities, things Concrete for Abstractions, when they for­sake practical Views, and the useful Purposes of Knowledge for barren Speculation, considering Means and Instruments as ultimate Ends, and la­bouring to attain precise Ideas which they suppose indiscriminately annexed to all Terms, they will be sure to embarrass themselves with Difficulties and Disputes. Such are those which have sprung up in Geometry about the Nature of the Angle of Contact, the Doctrine of Proportions, of Indivisi­bles Infinitesimals, and divers other Points; notwith­standing all which, that Science is very rightly es­teemed an excellent and useful one, and is really sound to be so in many Occasions of Humane Life, wherein it governs and directs the Actions of Men, so that by the Aid or Influence thereof those Ope­rations become just and accurate, which wou'd o­therwise be faulty and uncertain. And from a pa­rity of Reason, we shou'd not conclude any other Doctrines which govern, influence or direct the Mind of Man to be, any more than that, the less true or excellent, because they afford matter of Controversy and useless Speculation to curious and licentious Wits: Particularly those Articles of our Christian Faith, which, in proportion as they are believed, persuade, and, as they persuade, influ­ence the Lives and Actions of Men. As to the perplexity of Contradictions and abstracted Noti­ons, in all parts whether of Humane Science or Divine Faith, Cavillers may equally object, and un­wary Persons incur, while the judicious avoid it. [Page 117] There is no need to depart from the received Rules of Reasoning to justify the Belief of Christians. And if any pious Men think otherwise, it may be supposed an Effect, not of Religion, or of Reason, but only of Humane Weakness. If this Age be singularly productive of Infidels, I shall not there­fore conclude it to be more knowing, but only more presuming, than former Ages: And their Conceit, I doubt, is not the Effect of Considerati­on. To me it seems, that the more thoroughly and extensively any Man shall consider and scan the Principles, Objects, and Methods of proceed­ing in Arts and Sciences, the more he will be con­vinced, there is no weight in those plausible Ob­jections that are made against the Mysteries of Faith, which it will be no difficult matter for him to main­tain or justify in the received Method of arguing, on the common Principles of Logic, and by num­berless avow'd parallel Cases, throughout the se­veral Branches of Humane Knowledge, in all which the Supposition of abstract Ideas creates the same Difficulties.


ALC. I will allow, Euphranor, this Reasoning of yours to have all the Force you meant it shou'd have. I freely own there may be Mysteries: That we may believe, where we do not understand: And that Faith may be of use al­though its Object is not distinctly apprehended. In a word, I grant their may be Faith and Myste­ries in other Things but not in Religion: And that for this plain Reason: Because it is absurd to suppose, there shou'd be any such thing as Religi­on; and if there be no Religion it follows there cannot be Religious Faith or Mysteries. Religion, it is evident, implies the Worship of a God; which Worship supposeth Rewards and Punishments, which suppose Merits and Demerits, Actions good [Page 118] and evil, and these suppose Humane Liberty, a thing impossible; and consequently Religion a thing built thereon must be an unreasonable absurd thing. There can be no rational Hopes or Fears where there is no Guilt, nor any Guilt where there is no­thing done, but what unavoidably follows from the Structure of the World and the Laws of Motion. Corporeal Objects strike on the Organs of Sense, whence ensues a Vibration in the Nerves, which, being communicated to the Soul or Animal Spirit in the Brain or Root of the Nerves, produceth therein that Motion called Volition: And this pro­duceth a new Determination in the Spirits, causing them to flow into such Nerves as must necessarily by the Laws of Mechanism produce such certain Actions. This being the Case, it follows that those things which vulgarly pass for Humane Ac­tions are to be esteemed Mechanical, and that they are falsely ascribed to a free Principle. There is therefore no Foundation for Praise or Blame, Fear or Hope, Reward or Punishment, nor consequently for Religion, which, as I observed before, is built upon and supposeth those things. EUPH. You imagine, Alciphron, if I rightly understand you, that Man is a sort of Organ played on by outward Objects, which according to the different shape and texture of the Nerves produce different Motions and Effects therein. ALC. Man may, indeed, be fitly compared to an Organ; but a Puppet is the very Thing. You must know, that certain Parti­cles issuing forth in right Lines from all sensible Objects compose so many Rays, or Filaments, which drive, draw, and actuate every part of the Soul and Body of Man, just as Threads or Wires do the joints of that little wooden Machine vulgar­ly called a Puppet: With this only difference that the latter are gross and visible to common eyes, whereas the former are too fine and subtile to be [Page 119] discerned by any but a sagacious Free-thinker. This admirably accounts for all those Operations, which we have been taught to ascribe to a think­ing Principle within us. EUPH. This is an inge­nious Thought, and must be of great use in freeing Men from all Anxiety about Moral Notions, as it transfers the Principle of Action from the Humane Soul to things outward and foreign. But I have my Scruples about it. For you suppose the Mind in a literal sense to be moved and its Volitions to be meer Motions. Now if another shou'd affirm, as it is not impossible some or other may, that the Soul is incorporeal, and that Motion is one thing and Volition another, I wou'd fain know how you cou'd make your Point clear to such a one. It must be owned very clear to those who admit the Soul to be corporeal, and all her Acts to be but so many Motions. Upon this Supposition, indeed, the Light wherein you place Humane Nature is no less true, than it is fine and new. But let any one deny this Supposition, which is easily done, and the whole Superstructure falls to the ground. If we grant the abovementiond Points, I will not deny a fatal Necessity must ensue. But I see no reason for granting them. On the contrary it seems plain, that Motion and Thought are two Things as really and as manifestly distinct as a Triangle and a Sound. It seems therefore, that in order to prove the necessity of Humane Actions, you sup­pose what wants Proof as much as the very Point to be proved.


ALC. But supposing the Mind incorpo­real, I shall, nevertheless, be able to prove my Point. Not to amuse you with far fetched Argu­ments, I shall only desire you to look into your own Breast and observe how things pass there, when an Object offers it self to the Mind. First the Un­derstanding [Page 120] considers it: In the next Place the Judgment decrees about it, as a thing to be chosen or rejected, to be omitted or done, in this or that manner: And this Decree of the Judgment doth necessarily determine the Will, whose Office is meerly to execute what is ordained by another Fa­culty: Consequently there is no such thing as Free­dom of the Will: For that which is necessary cannot be free. In Freedom there shou'd be an Indiffe­rence to either side of the Question, a Power to act or not to act, without perscription or con­troul: And without this Indifference and this Pow­er, it is evident the Will cannot be free. But it is no less evident, that the Will is not indifferent in its Actions, being absolutely determined and governed by the Judgment. Now whatever moves the Judgment, whether the greatest present Un­easiness, or the greatest apparent Good, or what­ever else it be, it is all one to the Point in hand. The Will being ever concluded and controlled by the Judgment is in all Cases alike under Necessity. There is, indeed, throughout the whole of Hu­mane Nature, nothing like a Principle of Free­dom, every Faculty being determined in all its Acts by something foreign to it. The Understand­ing, for Instance, cannot alter its Idea, but must necessarily see it such as it presents it self. The Appetites by a natural Necessity are carried to­wards their respective Objects. Reason cannot infer indifferently any thing from any thing, but is limited by the Nature and Connexion of things, and the eternal Rules of Reasoning. And as this is confessedly the Case of all other Faculties, so it equally holds with respect to the Will it self, as hath been already shewn. And if we may credit the Divine Characterizer of our Times, this above all others must be allowed the most slavish Faculty. ‘Appetite (saith that noble Writer) which is el­der [Page 121] Brother to Reason, being the Lad of strong­er growth, is sure on every contest to take the Advantage of drawing all to his own side: And Will, so highly boasted, is but at best a Foot­ball or Top between those Youngsters who prove very unfortunately matched, till the youngest, instead of now and then a kick or lash bestow'd to little purpose, forsakes the Ball or Top it self, and begins to lay about his elder Brother.’ CRI. This beautiful Parable for Style and Manner might equal those of a known English Writer, in low Life renowned for Allego­ry, were it not a little incorrect, making the weak­er Lad find his account in laying about the strong­er. ALC. This is helped by supposing the stronger Lad the greater Coward: But, be that as it will, so far as it relates to the Point in hand, this is a clear state of the Case. The same Point may be also proved from the Prescience of God. That which is certainly foreknown will certainly be. And what is certain is necessary. And necessa­ry Actions cannot be the Effect of Free-will. Thus you have this fundamental Point of our Free-thinking Philosophy demonstrated different ways. EUPH. Tell me, Alciphron, do you think it im­plies a Contradiction, that God shou'd make a Man Free? ALC. I do not. EUPH. It is then possible there may be such a thing. ALC. This I do not deny. EUPH. You can therefore con­ceive and suppose such a Free Agent. ALC. Ad­mitting that I can; what then? EUPH. Wou'd not such an one think that he acted? ALC. He wou'd. EUPH. And condemn himself for some Actions and approve himself for others? ALC. This too I grant. EUPH. Wou'd he not think he deserved Reward or Punishment? ALC. He wou'd. EUPH. And are not all these Characters actually found in Man? ALC. They are. EUPH. [Page 122] Tell me now, what other Character of your sup­posed Free Agent may not actually be found in Man? For if there is none such, we must conclude that Man hath all the marks of a Free Agent. ALC. Let me see! I was certainly overseen in granting it possible, even for Almighty Power, to make such a thing as a Free Humane Agent. I wonder how I came to make such an absurd Concession, after what had been, as I observed before, demonstrated so many different ways. EUPH. O Alciphron, it is vulgarly observed that Men judge of others by themselves. But in judging of me by this Rule, you may be mistaken. Many things are plain to one of your Sagacity, which are not so to me, who am often bewildered rather than enlightened by those very Proofs, that with you pass for clear and evi­dent. And, indeed, be the Inference never so just, yet so long as the Premises are not clear, I cannot be thoroughly convinced. You must give me leave therefore to propose some Questions, the Solution of which may perhaps shew what at present I am not able to discern. ALC. I shall leave what hath been said with you, to consider and ruminate up­on. It is now time to set out on our Journey; there is, therefore, no room for a long String of Question and Answer.


EUPH. I shall then only beg leave in a summary Manner, to make a Remark or two on what you have advanced. In the first place I ob­serve, you take that for granted which I cannot grant, when you assert whatever is certain the same to be necessary. To me, Certain and Necessary seem very different; there being nothing in the former notion that implies Constraint, nor conse­quently which may not consist with a Man's being accountable for his Actions. If it is foreseen that such an Action shall be done: May it not also be [Page 123] foreseen that it shall be an Effect of Humane Choice and Liberty? In the next place I observe, that you very nicely abstract and distinguish the Actions of the Mind, Judgment, and Will: That you make use of such Terms as Power, Faculty, Act, Deter­mination, Indifference, Freedom, Necessity, and the like, as if they stood for distinct abstract Ideas: And that this Supposition seems to ensnare the Mind into the same Perplexities and Errors, which, in all other Instances, are observed to attend the Doctrine of Abstraction. It is self evident, that there is such a thing as Motion; and yet there have been found Philosophers, who, by refined Reasoning, wou'd undertake to prove there was no such thing. Walking before them was thought the proper Way to confute those ingenious Men. It is no less evident, that Man is a free Agent: and though by abstracted Reasonings you shou'd puzzle me, and seem to prove the contrary, yet so long as I am conscious of my own Actions, this in­ward Evidence of plain Fact will bear me up a­gainst all your Reasonings, however subtile and re­fined. The confuting plain Points by obscure ones, may perhaps convince me of the Ability of your Philosophers, but never of their Tenets. I cannot conceive why the acute Cratylus shou'd suppose a Power of Acting in the Appetite and Reason, and none at all in the Will? Allowing, I say, the Distinction of three such Beings in the Mind, I do not see how this cou'd be true. But if I cannot ab­stract and distinguish so many Beings in the Soul of Man so accurately as you do, I do not find it ne­cessary, since it is evident to me in the gross and concrete that I am a free Agent. Nor will it avail to say, the Will is governed by the Judgment, or determined by the Object, while, in every sudden common Case, I cannot discern nor abstract the Decree of the Judgment from the Command of the [Page 124] Will; while I know the sensible Object to be ab­solutely inert: And lastly, while I am conscious that I am an active Being, who can and do deter­mine my self. If I shou'd suppose things spiritual to be corporeal, or refine things actual and real in­to general abstracted Notions, or by metaphysical Skill split things simple and individual into mani­fold Parts, I do not know what may follow: But if I take things as they are, and ask any plain un­tutored Man, whether he acts or is free in this or that particular Action, he readily assents, and I as readily believe him from what I find within. And thus, by an Induction of Particulars, I may conclude Man to be a free Agent, although I may be puzzled to define or conceive a Notion of Free­dom in general and abstract. And if Man be free he is plainly accountable. But if you shall define, abstract, suppose, and it shall follow that accord­ing to your Definitions, Abstractions, and Suppo­sitions, there can be no Freedom in Man, and you shall thence infer that he is not accountable, I shall make bold to depart from your metaphysical ab­stracted Sense, and appeal to the common Sense of Mankind.


If we consider the Notions that obtain in the World of Guilt and Merit, Praise and Blame, Accountable and Unaccountable, we shall find the common Question in order to applaud or censure, acquit or condemn a Man, is, whether he did such an Action? and whether he was himself when he did it? which comes to the same thing. It shou'd seem therefore that in the ordinary Commerce of Mankind, any Person is esteemed accountable simp­ly as he is an Agent. And though you shou'd tell me that Man is inactive, and that the sensible Ob­jects act upon him, yet my own Experience assures me of the contrary. I know I act, and what I [Page 125] act I am accountable for. And if this be true, the Foundation of Religion and Morality remains un­shaken. Religion, I say is concerned no farther than that Man shou'd be Accountable: And this he is ac­cording to my Sense, and the common Sense of the World, if he acts; and that he doth act is self evident. The Grounds, therefore, and Ends of Religion are secured; whether your philosophic Notion of Liberty agrees with Man's Actions or no, and whether his Actions are certain or contin­gent, the Question being not whether he did it with a Free Will, or what determined his Will? not, whether it was certain or foreknown that he wou'd do it? but only whether he did it wilfully? as what must entitle him to the Guilt or Merit of it. ALC. But still, the Question recurs, whether Man bee Free? EUPH. To determine this Ques­tion, ought we not first to determine what is meant by the word Free? ALC. We ought. EUPH. In my Opinion, a Man is said to be Free, so far forth as he can do what he will. Is this so or is it not? ALC. It seems so. EUPH. Man there­fore acting according to his Will, is to be account­ed Free. ALC. This I admit to be true in the Vulgar Sense. But a Philosopher goes higher, and inquires whether Man be free to will? EUPH. That is, whether he can will as he wills? I know not how Philosophical it may be to ask this Questi­on, but it seems very unintelligible. The Noti­ons of Guilt and Merit, Justice and Reward are in the Minds of Men, antecedent to all Metaphy­sical Disquisitions: And according to those receiv­ed natural Notions, it is not doubted that Man is accountable, that he acts, and is self-determin­ed.


But a Minute Philosopher shall, in vir­tue of wrong Suppositions, confound things most evidently distinct; Body, for Instance, with Spirit, Motion with Volition, Certainty with Necessity; and an Abstracter or Refiner shall so analyse the most simple instantaneous Act of the Mind, as to distinguish therein divers Faculties and Tendencies, Principles and Operations, Causes and Effects; and having abstracted, supposed, and reasoned upon Principles gratuitous and obscure, such a one he will conclude it is no Act at all, and Man no Agent but a Puppet, or an Organ play'd on by outward Objects, and his Will a Top or a Foot-ball. And this passeth for Philosophy and Free-thinking. Perhaps this may be what it passeth for, but it by no means seems a natural or just way of Thinking. To me it seems, that if we begin from things particular and concrete, and thence proceed to general Notions and Conclusions, there will be no Difficulty in this Matter. But if we begin with Generalities, and lay our Foundation in abstract Ideas, we shall find our selves entangled and lost in a Labyrinth of our own making. I need not ob­serve, what every one must see, the ridicule of proving Man no Agent, and yet pleading for free Thought and Action, of setting up at once for Ad­vocates of Liberty and Necessity. I have hastily thrown together these Hints or Remarks, on what you call a fundamental Article of the Minute Phi­losophy, and your Method of proving it, which seems to furnish an admirable Specimen of the So­phistry of abstract Ideas. If in this summary way I have been more dogmatical than became me, you must excuse what you occasioned, by declining a joint and leisurely Examination of the Truth. ALC. I think we have examined Matters suffici­ently. CRI. To all you have said against Humane [Page 127] Liberty, it is a sufficient Answer to observe that your Arguments proceed upon an erroneous Sup­position, either of the Soul's being corporeal, or of abstract Ideas. And on the other hand, there is not need of much Inquiry to be convinced of two Points, than which none are more evident, more obvious, and more universally admitted by Men of all sorts, learned or unlearned, in all Times and Places, to wit, that Man acts and is accountable for his Actions. Whatever Abstracters, Refiners, or Men prejudiced to a false Hypothesis may pre­tend, it is, if I mistake not, evident to every think­ing Man of common Sense, that Humane Minds are so far from being Engines or Foot-balls, acted upon and bandied about by corporeal Objects, without any inward Principle of Freedom or Acti­on, that the only original true Notions that we have of Freedom, Agent, or Action, are obtained by reflecting on our selves, and the Operations of our own Minds. The Singularity and Credulity of Minute Philosophers, who suffer themselves to be abused by the Paralogisms of three or four eminent Patriarchs of Infidelity in the last Age, is, I think, not to be matched; there being no Instance of bigotted Superstition, the Ringleaders whereof have been able to seduce their Followers more openly and more widely from the plain Dictates of Nature and common Sense.


ALC. It has been always an Objection against the Discoverers of Truth, that they depart from received Opinions. The Character of Singu­larity is a Tax on Free-thinking: And as such we most willingly bear it, and glory in it. A Genuine Philosopher is never modest in a false Sense, to the preferring Authority before Reason, or an old and common Opinion before a true one. Which false Modesty, as it discourages Men from treading in [Page 128] untrodden Paths, or striking out new Light, is a­bove all other Qualities the greatest Enemy to Free-thinking. CRI. Authority in disputable Points will have its Weight with a judicious Mind, which yet will follow Evidence wherever it leads. Without preferring we may allow it a good Second to Reason. Your Gentlemen, therefore, of the Minute Philosophy, may spare a World of Com­mon Place upon Reason, and Light, and Discove­ries. We are not attached to Authority against Reason, nor afraid of untrodden Paths that lead to Truth, and are ready to follow a new Light when we are sure it is no ignis fatuus. Reason may ob­lige a Man to believe against his Inclinations; but why shou'd a Man quit salutary Notions for others not less unreasonable than pernicious? Your Schemes and Principles, and boasted Demonstrati­ons have been at large proposed and examined. You have shifted your Notions, successively retreat­ed from one Scheme to another, and in the End renounced them all. Your Objections have been treated in the same Manner, and with the same Event. If we except all that relates to the parti­cular Errors and Faults of private Persons, and Difficulties which, from the Nature of Things, we are not obliged to explain, it is surprising to see, after such magnificent Threats, how little remains, that can amount to a pertinent Objection against the Christian Religion. What you have produced has been tried by the fair Test of Reason; and though you shou'd hope to prevail by Ridicule when you cannot by Reason, yet in the upshot, I apprehend you will find it impracticable to destroy all Sense of Religion. Make your Countrymen ever so vicious, ignorant, and profane, Men will still be disposed to look up to a supreme Being. Re­ligion, right or wrong, will subsist in some Shape or other, and some worship there will surely be [Page 129] either of God or the Creature. As for your Ri­dicule, can any thing be more ridiculous, than to see the most unmeaning Men of the Age set up for Free-thinkers, Men so strong in Assertion, and yet so weak in Argument, Advocates for Freedom introducing a Fatality, Patriots trampling on the Laws of their Country, and Pretenders to Virtue, destroying the Motives of it? Let any impartial Man but cast an eye on the Opinions of the Minute Philosophers, and then say if any thing can be more ridiculous, than to believe such things, and at the same time laugh at Credulity.


LYS. Say what you will, we have the Laughers on our side: And as for your Reasoning I take it to be another Name for Sophistry. CRI. And I suppose by the same Rule you take your own Sophisms for Arguments. To speak plainly, I know no sort of Sophism that is not employ'd by Minute Philosophers against Religion. They are guilty of a Petitio Principii, in taking for grant­ed that we believe Contradictions; of non Causa pro Causa, in affirming that uncharitable Feuds and Discords are the Effects of Christianity; of Ignora­tio elenchi, in expecting Demonstration where we pretend only to Faith. If I was not afraid to of­fend the Delicacy of polite Ears, nothing were easier than to assign Instances of every kind of So­phism, which wou'd shew how skilful your own Philosophers are in the practice of that Sophistry you impute to others. EUPH. For my own part, if Sophistry be the Art or Faculty of deceiv­ing other Men, I must acquit these Gentlemen of it. They seem to have led me a progress through Atheism, Libertinism, Enthusiasm, Fatalism, not to convince me of the Truth of any of them, so much as to confirm me in my own way of Think­ing. They have exposed their fairy Ware not to [Page 130] cheat but divert us. As I know them to be pro­fessed Masters of Ridicule, so in a serious sense I know not what to make of them. ALC. You do not know what to make of us! I shou'd be sorry you did. He must be a superficial Philosopher that is soon fathomed.


CRI. The ambiguous Character is, it seems, the sure way to Fame and Esteem in the learned World, as it stands constituted at present. When the ingenious Reader is at a loss to deter­mine whether his Author be Atheist or Deist or Polytheist, Stoic or Epicurean, Sceptic or Dog­matist, Infidel or Enthusiast, in jest or in earnest, he concludes him without hesitation to be aenigma­tical and profound. In fact, it is true of the most admired Writers of the Age, That no Man alive can tell what to make of them, or what they would be at. ALC. We have among us Moles that dig deep under ground, and Eagles that soar out of sight. We can act all Parts and become all Opinions, putting them on or off with great free­dom of Wit and Humour. EUPH. It seems then you are a pair of inscrutable, unfathomable, fashi­onable Philosophers. ALC. It cannot be denied. EUPH. But, I remember, you set out with an open dogmatical Air, and talked of plain Princi­ples and evident Reasoning, promised to make things as clear as Noon-day, to extirpate wrong Notions and plant right in their stead. Soon af­ter, you began to recede from you first Notions and adopt others: you advanced one while and retreated another, yielded and retracted, said and unsaid: And after having followed you through so many untrodden Paths and intricate Mazes I find my self never the nearer. ALC. Did we not tell you the Gentlemen of our Sect are great Profi­cients in Raillery? EUPH. But, methinks, it is a [Page 131] vain Attempt, for a plain Man of any settled Be­lief or Principles to engage with such slippery, fugitive, changeable Philosophers. If seems as it a Man shou'd stand still in the same place, while his Adversary chooses and changes his Situation, has full range and liberty to traverse the Field, and attack him on all sides and in all shapes, from a nearer or farther distance, on Horse-back or on Foot, in light or heavy Armour, in close Fight or with missive Weapons. ALC. It must be owned, a Gentleman hath great Advantage over a strait­laced Pedant or Bigot. EUPH. But after all, what am I the better for the Conversation of two such knowing Gentlemen; I hoped to have un­learned my Errors, and to have learned Truths from you, but, to my great disappointment, I do not find that I am either untaught or taught. ALC. To unteach Men their Prejudices is a diffi­cult task: And this must first be done, before we can pretend to teach them the Truth. Besides, we have at present no time to prove and argue. EUPH. But suppose my Mind white Paper, and without being at any pains to extirpate my Opinions, or prove your own, only say what you wou'd write thereon, or what you wou'd teach me in case I were teacheable. Be for once in earnest, and let me know some one Conclusion of yours before we part; or I shall intreat Crito to violate the Laws of Hospitality towards those who have violated the Laws of Philosophy, by hanging out false Lights to one benighted in Ignorance and Error. I appeal to you (said he turning to Crito) whether these Philosophical Knight-errants shou'd not be confined in this Castle of yours, till they make Reparation. Euphranor has Reason, said Crito, and my Sentence is that you remain here in du­rance, till you have done something towards satis­fying the Engagement I am under, having promised, [Page 132] he shou'd know your Opinions from your selves, which you also agreed to.


ALC. Since it must be so, I will now reveal what I take to be the Sum and Substance, the grand Arcanum and ultimate Conclusion of our Sect, and that in two Words, [...]. CRI. You are then a downright Sceptic. But, Sceptic as you are, you own it, probable there is a God, certain that the Christian Religion is use­ful, possible it may be true, certain that if it be the Minute Philosophers are in a bad way. This being the Case, how can it be questioned what course a wise Man shou'd take? Whether the Prin­ciples of Christians or Infidels are truest may be made a Question, but which are safest can be none. Certainly if you doubt of all Opinions you must doubt of your own; and then, for ought you know, the Christian may be true. The more doubt, the more room there is for Faith, a Sceptic of all Men having the least Right to demand Evidence. But, whatever uncertainty there may be in other Points, thus much is certain: either there is or is not a God: there is or is not a Revelation: Man either is or is not an Agent: The Soul is or is not Immortal. If the Negatives are not sure, the Af­firmatives are possible. If the Negatives are im­probable, the Affirmatives are probable. In Pro­portion, as any of your ingenious Men finds him­self unable to prove any one of these Negatives, he hath grounds to suspect he may be mistaken. A Minute Philosopher, therefore, that wou'd act a consistent part, shou'd have the Diffidence, the Modesty, and the Timidity, as well as the Doubts, of a Sceptic; not pretend to an Ocean of Light, and then lead us to an Abyss of Darkness. If I have any Notion of Ridicule, this is most ridicu­lous. But your ridiculing what, for ought you [Page 133] know, may be true, I can make no sense of. It is neither acting as a wise Man with regard to your own Interest, nor as a good Man with regard to that of your Country.


Tully saith somewhere, aut undique re­ligionem tolle aut usquequaque conserva: Either let us have no Religion at all or let it be respected. If any single Instance can be shewn of a People that ever prospered without some Religion, or if there be any Religion better than the Christian, propose it in the grand Assembly of the Nation to change our Constitution, and either live without Religion, or introduce that new Religion. A Sceptic, as well as other Men, is Member of a Community, and can distinguish between God and Evil, Na­tural or Political. Be this then his Guide as a Pa­triot, though he be no Christian. Or, if he doth not pretend even to this discernment, let him not pretend to correct or alter what he knows nothing of: Neither let him that only doubts behave as if he cou'd demonstrate. Timagoras is wont to say, I find my Country in possession of certain Tenets: they appear to have an useful Tendency, and, as such, are encouraged by the Legislature; they make a main part of our Constitution: I do not find these Innovators can disprove them, or substitute things more useful and certain in their stead: out of regard therefore to the Good of Mankind, and the Laws of my Country, I shall acquiesce in them. I do not say Timagoras is a Christian, but I reckon him a Patriot. Not to inquire in a Point of so great concern is folly, but it is still a higher de­gree of folly to condemn without inquiring. Ly­sicles seemed heartily tired of this Conversation. It is now late, said he to Alciphron, and all things are ready for our departure. Every one hath his own [Page 134] way of Thinking; and it is as impossible for me to adopt another Man's, as to make his Complexion and Features mine. Alciphron pleaded that, hav­ing complied with Euphranor's Conditions, they were now at Liberty: And Euphranor answered that, all he desired having been to know their Te­nets, he had nothing further to pretend.


The Philosophers being gone, I observ­ed to Crito how unaccountable it was, that Men so easy to confute shou'd yet be so difficult to con­vince. This, said Crito, is accounted for by Ari­stotle, who tells us that Arguments have not an Effect on all Men, but only on them whose Minds are prepared by Education and Custom, as Land is for Seed *. Make a Point never so clear, it is great odds, that a Man, whose Habits and the Bent of whose Mind lie a contrary way, shall be unable to comprehend it. So weak a thing is Reason in Competition with Inclination. I replied, this an­swer might hold with respect to other Persons and other Times: but when the question was of inqui­sitive Men, in an Age wherein Reason was so much cultivated, and Thinking so much in vogue, it did not seem satisfactory. I have known it remarked, said Crito, by a Man of much Observation, that in the present Age Thinking is more talk'd of but less practised than in ancient times; and that since the Revival of Learning Men have read much and wrote much but thought little: insomuch that with us to think closely and justly is the least part of a learned Man, and none at all of a polite Man. The Free-thinkers, it must be owned, make great Pretensions to Thinking, and yet they shew but little Exactness in it. A lively Man, said he, and what the World calls a Man of sense are often des­titute [Page 135] of this Talent, which is not a meer gift of Nature, but must be improved and perfected, by much Attention and Exercise on very different Sub­jects, a thing of more pains and time than the hasty Men of parts in our Age care to take. Such were the Sentiments of a judicious Friend of mine: And, if you are not already sufficiently convinced of these Truths, you need only cast an eye on the dark and confused, but nevertheless admired, Writers of this famous Sect: And then you will be able to judge, whether those who are led by Men of such wrong Heads can have very good ones of their own. Such, for instance, was Spinosa the great Leader of our modern Infidels, in whom are to be found ma­ny Schemes and Notions much admired and fol­lowed of late years: such as undermining Religi­on under the pretence of vindicating and explain­ing it: The maintaining it not necessary to believe in Christ according to the Flesh: The persuading Men that Miracles are to be understood only in a spiritual and allegorical sense: That Vice is not so bad a thing as we are apt to think: That Men are meer Machines impelled by fatal Necessity. I have heard, said I, Spinosa represented as a Man of close Argument and Demonstration. He did, replied Crito, demonstrate; but it was after such a manner, as any one may demonstrate any thing. Allow a Man the privilege to make his own Definitions of common Words, and it will be no hard matter for him to infer Conclusions, which in one sense shall be true and in another false, at once seeming Para­doxes and manifest Truisms. For example, let but Spinosa define natural Right to be natural Power, and he will easily demonstrate, that whatever a Man can do he hath a right to do *. Nothing can be plainer than the folly of this Proceeding: but [Page 136] our Pretenders to the lumen siccum are often so pas­sionately prejudiced against Religion, as to swal­low the grossest Nonsense and Sophistry of weak and wicked Writers for Demonstration.


And so great a Noise do these Men make, with their thinking, reasoning, and demon­strating, as to prejudice some well-meaning Persons against all Use and improvement of Reason. Ho­nest Demea, having seen a Neighbour of his ruined by the Vices of a Free-thinking Son, contracted such a Prejudice against Thinking, that he wou'd not suffer his own to read Euclid, being told it might teach him to think; till a Friend convinced him the epidemical Distemper was not Thinking, but only the want and affectation of it. I know an eminent Free-thinker, who never goes to bed, without a Gallon of Wine in his Belly, and is sure to replenish before the Fumes are off his Brain, by which means he has not had one sober Thought these seven Years; another, that wou'd not for the World lose the Privilege and Reputation of Free-thinking, who games all Night, and lies in bed all Day: And as for the Outside or Appearance of Thought in that meagre Minute Philosopher Ibycus, it is an Effect, not of thinking, but of carking, cheating, and writing in an Office. Strange, said he, that such Men shou'd set up for Free-thinkers! But it is yet more strange that other Men shou'd be out of Conceit with Thinking and Reasoning, for the sake of such Pretenders. I answered, that some good Men conceived an Opposition between Reason and Religion, Faith and Knowledge, Na­ture and Grace; and that, consequently, the way to promote Religion was, to quench the light of Nature, and discourage all rational Inquiry.


How right the Intentions of these Men may be, replied Crito, I shall not say; but surely their Notions are very wrong. Can any thing be more dishonourable to Religion, than the repre­senting it as an unreasonable, unnatural, ignorant Institution? God is the Father of all Lights whe­ther natural or revealed. Natural Concupiscence is one thing, and the Light of Nature another. You cannot therefore argue from the Former against the Latter: Neither can you from Science falsly so called, against real Knowledge. Whatever there­fore is said of the one in Holy Scripture is not to be interpreted of the other. I insisted, that Humane Learning in the hands of Divines, had from time to time, created great Disputes and Divisions in the Church. As abstracted Metaphysics, replied Crito, have always had a Tendency to produce Dis­putes among Christians, as well as other Men, so it shou'd seem that genuine Truth and Knowledge wou'd allay this Humour, which makes Men sacri­fice the undisputed Duties of Peace and Charity to disputable Notions. After all, said I, whatever may be said for Reason, it is plain, the Sceptics and Infidels of the Age are not to be cured by it. I will not dispute this Point, said Crito; in order to cure a Distemper, you shou'd consider what pro­duced it. Had Men reasoned themselves into a wrong Opinion, one might hope to reason them out of it. But this is not the Case; the Infidelity of most Minute Philosophers seeming an Effect of very different Motives from Thought and Reason, little Incidents, Vanity, Disgust, Humour, Incli­nation, without the least assistance from Reason, are often known to make Infidels. Where the general Tendency of a Doctrine is disagreeable, the Mind is prepared to relish and improve every thing that with the least Pretence seems to make against it. [Page 138] Hence the coarse Manners of a Country Curate, the polite ones of a Chaplain, the Wit of a Minute Philosopher, a Jest, a Song, a Tale can serve in­stead of a Reason for Infidelity. Bupalus preferred a Rake in the Church, and then made use of him as an Argument against it. Vice, Indolence, Fac­tion, and Fashion produce Minute Philosophers, and meer Petulancy not a few. Who then can ex­pect a thing so irrational and capricious shou'd yield to Reason? It may, nevertheless, be worth while to argue against such Men, and expose their Fallacies, if not for their own sake, yet for the sake of others; as it may lessen their Credit, and prevent the growth of their Sect, by removing a Prejudice in their Favour, which sometimes inclines others as well as themselves to think they have made a Monopoly of Humane Reason.


The most general Pretext which looks like Reason, is taken from the Variety of Opinions about Religion. This is a resting Stone to a lazy and superficial mind: But one of more Spirit and a juster way of Thinking, makes it a Step whence he looks about, and proceeds to examine, and com­pare the differing Institutions of Religion. He will observe, which of these is the most sublime and rational in its Doctrines, most venerable in its Mysteries, most useful in its Precepts, most decent in its Worship? Which createth the noblest Hopes, and most worthy Views? He will consider their Rise and Progress; which oweth least to Hu­mane Arts or Arms? Which flatters the Senses and gross Inclinations of Men? Which adorns and improves the most excellent Part of our Nature? Which hath been propagated in the most wonder­ful Manner? Which hath surmounted the greatest Difficulties, or shew'd the most disinterested Zeal and Sincerity in its Professors? He will inquire, [Page 139] which best accords with Nature and History? He will consider, what savours of the World, and what looks like Wisdom from above? He will be careful to separate Humane Allay from that which is Divine; and upon the whole, form his Judg­ment like a reasonable Free-thinker. But instead of taking such a rational Course, one of these hasty Sceptics shall conclude without demurring, there is no Wisdom in Politics, no Honesty in Dealings, no Knowledge in Philosophy, no Truth in Reli­gion: And all by one and the same sort of Infe­rence, from the numerous Examples of Folly, Knavery, Ignorance, and Error, which are to be met with in the World. But, as those who are unknowing in every thing else, imagine them­selves sharpsighted in Religion, this learned So­phism is oftenest levelled against Christianity.


In my Opinion, he, that wou'd con­vince an Infidel who can be brought to Reason, ought in the first place clearly to convince him of the Being of a God, it seeming to me, that any Man who is really a Theist, cannot be an Enemy to the Christian Religion: And that the Ignorance or Disbelief of this fundamental Point, is that which at bottom constitutes the Minute Philosopher. I imagine they, who are acquainted with the great Authors in the Minute Philosophy, need not be told of this. The being of a God is capable of clear Proof, and a proper Object of Humane Rea­son; whereas the Mysteries of his Nature, and in­deed whatever there is of Mystery in Religion, to endeavour to explain, and prove by Reason, is a vain Attempt. It is sufficient if we can shew there is nothing absurd or repugnant in our Belief of those Points, and, instead of framing Hypotheses to explain them, we use our Reason only for an­swering the Objections brought against them. But [Page 140] on all Occasions, we ought to distinguish the seri­ous, modest, ingenuous Man of Sense, who hath Scruples about Religion, and behaves like a pru­dent Man in doubt, from the Minute Philosophers, those profane and conceited Men, who must needs proselyte others to their own Doubts. When one of this Stamp presents himself, we shou'd consider what Species he is of: Whether a first or a second-hand Philosopher, a Libertine, Scorner, or Scep­tic? Each Character requiring a peculiar Treat­ment. Some Men are too ignorant to be humble, without which there can be no Docility: But though a Man must in some degree have thought and considered to be capable of being convinced, yet it is possible the most ignorant may be laugh'd out of his Opinions. I knew a Woman of Sense re­duce two Minute Philosophers, who had long been a Nusance to the Neighbourhood, by taking her Cue from their predominant Affectations. The one set up for being the most incredulous Man upon Earth, the other for the most unbounded Freedom. She observed to the first, that he who had Credu­lity sufficient to trust the most valuable Things, his Life and Fortune, to his Apothecary and Law­yer, ridiculously affected the Character of Incredu­lous, by refusing to trust his Soul, a Thing in his own account but a meer Trifle, to his Parish-Priest. The other, being what you call a Beau, she made sensible how absolute a Slave he was in point of Dress, to him the most important thing in the World, while he was earnestly contending for a Liberty of Thinking, with which he never troub­led his Head; and how much more it concerned and became him to assert an Independency on Fashi­on, and obtain Scope for his Genius, where it was best qualified to exert it self. The Minute Philo­sophers at first hand are very few, and considered in themselves, of small consequence: But their [Page 141] Followers, who pin their Faith upon them, are numerous, and not less confident than credulous; there being something in the Air and Manner of these second-hand Philosophers, very apt to dis­concert a Man of Gravity and Argument, and much more difficult to be born than the Weight of their Objections.


Crito having made an end, Euphranor declared it to be his Opinion, that it wou'd much conduce to the public Benefit, if, instead of dis­couraging Free-thinking, there was erected in the midst of this Free Country a Dianoetic Academy, or Seminary for Free-thinkers, provided with re­tired Chambers, and Galleries, and shady Walks and Groves, where, after seven Years spent in Si­lence and Meditation, a Man might commence a genuine Free-thinker, and from that time forward, have Licence to think what he pleased, and a Badge to distinguish him from Counterfeits. In good earnest, said Crito, I imagine that Thinking is the great Desideratum of the present Age; and that the real Cause of whatever is amiss, may just­ly be reckoned the general Neglect of Education, in those who need it most, the People of Fashion. What can be expected where those who have the most Influence, have the least Sense, and those who are sure to be followed, set the worst Example? Where Youth so uneducated are yet so forward? Where Modesty is esteemed Pufillanimity, and a De­ference to Years, Knowledge, Religion, Laws, want of Sense and Spirit? Such untimely Growth of Geni­us wou'd not have been valued or encouraged by the wise Men of Antiquity; whose Sentiments on this Point are so ill suited to the Genius of our Times, that it is to be feared modern Ears cou'd not bear them. But however ridiculous such Maxims might seem to our British Youth, who are so capable and so for­ward [Page 142] to try Experiments, and mend the Consti­tution of their Country, I believe it will be admit­ted by Men of Sense, that if the Governing part of Mankind wou'd in these Days, for Experiment's sake, consider themselves in that old Homerical Light as Pastors of the People, whose Duty it was to improve their Flock, they wou'd soon find that this is to be done by an Education very diffe­rent from the Modern, and otherguess Maxims than those of the Minute Philosophy. If our Youth were really inur'd to Thought and Reflexion, and an Acquaintance with the excellent Writers of Antiquity, we shou'd soon see that licentious Humour, vulgarly called Free-thinking, banished from the Presence of Gentlemen, together with Ig­norance and ill Taste; which as they are insepara­ble from Vice, so Men follow Vice for the fake of Pleasure, and fly from Virtue through an abhor­rence of Pain. Their Minds therefore betimes shou'd be formed and accustomed to receive Plea­sure and Pain from proper Objects, or, which is the same thing, to have their Inclinations and A­versions rightly placed. [...]. This according to Plato and Aristotle, was the [...], the right Education *. And those who, in their own Minds, their Health, or their Fortunes, feel the cursed Effects of a wrong one, wou'd do well to consider, they cannot better make amends for what was amiss in themselves, than by preventing the same in their Posterity. While Crito was say­ing this, Company came in, which put an end to our Conversation.


First Published in the Year, MDCCIX.

DUBLIN: Printed for G. Risk, at the Shakespear's Head, G. Ewing, at the Angel and Bible, and W. Smith, at the Hercules, Booksellers in Dame-Street, MDCC XXXII.


  • SECT. 1. Design.
  • 2. Distance of it self Invisible.
  • 3. Remote Distance perceiv'd rather by Experience, than by Sense.
  • 4. Near Distance thought to be perceiv'd by the Angle of the Optic Axes.
  • 5. Difference between this and the former manner of perceiving Distance.
  • 6. Also by Diverging Rays.
  • 7. This depends not on Experience.
  • 8. These the common Accounts, but not satisfactory.
  • 9. Some Ideas perceiv'd by mediation of others.
  • 10. No Idea which is not it self perceived, can be the means of perceiving another.
  • 11. Distance perceived by means of some other Idea.
  • 12. Those Lines and Angles mentioned in Optics, are not themselves perceived.
  • 13. Hence the Mind doth not perceive Distance by Lines and Angles.
  • 14. Also because they have no real Existence.
  • 15. And because they are insufficient to explain the Phaenomena.
  • 16. The Ideas that suggest Distance are 1st the Sen­sation arising from the turn of the Eyes.
  • 17. Betwixt which and Distance there is no necessary Connexion.
  • 18. Scarce room for mistake in this matter.
  • 19. No regard had to the Angle of the Optic Axes.
  • [Page] 20 Judgment of Distance made with both Eyes, the Result of Experience.
  • 21. 2dly. Confusedness of Appearance.
  • 22. This the Occasion of those Judgments attributed to Diverging Rays.
  • 23. Objection answered.
  • 24. What deceives the Writers of Optics in this mat­ter.
  • 25. The Cause why one Idea may suggest another.
  • 26. This applyed to Confusion and Distance.
  • 27. 3dly, The straining of the Eye.
  • 28. The Occasions which suggest Distance, have in their own Nature no Relation to it.
  • 29. A difficult Case proposed by Dr. Barrow as repug­nant to all the known Theories.
  • 30. This Case contradicts a received Principle in Ca­toptrics.
  • 31. It is shewn to agree with the Principles we have laid down.
  • 32. This Phaenomenon Illustrated.
  • 33. It confirms the Truth of the Principle whereby it is explained.
  • 34. Vision when Distinct, and when Confused.
  • 35. The different Effects of Parallel, Diverging, and Converging Rays.
  • 36. How Converging and Diverging Rays come to sug­gest the same Distance.
  • 37. A Person extreme Purblind would judge aright in the forementioned Case.
  • 38. Lines and Angles why useful in Optics.
  • 39. The not understanding this, a Cause of Mistake.
  • 40. A Query propos'd by Mr. Molyneux in his Di­optrics, considered.
  • 41. One born Blind wou'd not at first have any Idea of Distance by Sight.
  • 42. This not agreeable to the common Principles.
  • 43. The proper Objects of Sight, not without the Mind, nor the Images of any thing without the Mind.
  • [Page] 44. This more fully explain'd.
  • 45. In what Sense we must be understood to see Di­stance and external Things.
  • 46. Distance and Things placed at a Distance, not otherwise perceiv'd by the Eye than by the Ear.
  • 47. The Ideas of Sight more apt to be confounded with the Ideas of Touch, than those of Hearing are.
  • 48. How this comes to pass.
  • 49. Strictly speaking, we never see and feel the same thing
  • 50. Objects of Sight twofold, mediate and immediate.
  • 51. These hard to separate in our Thoughts.
  • 52. The received Accounts of our perceiving Magni­tude by Sight, false.
  • 53. Magnitude perceiv'd as immediately, as Di­stance.
  • 54. Two kinds of sensible Extension, neither of which is infinitely Divisible.
  • 55. The Tangible Magnitude of an Object Steddy, the Visible not.
  • 56. By what means Tangible Magnitude is perceiv'd by Sight.
  • 57. This farther enlarged on.
  • 58. No necessary Connexion between Confusion or Faint­ness of Appearance, and small or great Magnitude.
  • 59. The Tangible Magnitude of an Object, more heed­ed than the Visible, and why.
  • 60. An Instance of this.
  • 61. Men do not measure by Visible Feet or Inches.
  • 62. No necessary Connexion between Visible and Tangi­ble Extension.
  • 63. Greater Visible Magnitude might signify Lesser Tangible Magnitude.
  • 64. The Judgments we make of Magnitude depend al­together on Experience.
  • [Page] 65. Distance and Magnitude seen as Shame or An­ger.
  • 66 But we are prone to think otherwise, and why.
  • 67. The Moon seems greater in the Horizon, than in the Meridian.
  • 68. The Cause of this Phaenomenon, assigned.
  • 69. The Horizontal Moon, why greater at one time than another.
  • 70. The Account we have given, proved to be true.
  • 71. And confirmed, by the Moon's appearing greater in a Mist.
  • 72. Objection answerd.
  • 73. The way wherein Faintness suggests greater Mag­nitude, illustrated.
  • 74. Appearance of the Horizontal Moon, why thought difficult to explain.
  • 75. Attempts towards the Solution of it made by seve­ral, but in vain.
  • 76. The Opinion of Dr. Wallis.
  • 77. It is shewn to be unsatisfactory.
  • 78. How Lines and Angles may be of use in comput­ing apparent Magnitudes.
  • 79. One born Blind, being made to see, what Judg­ment he'd make of Magnitude.
  • 80. The Minimum Visible the same to all Creatures.
  • 81. Objection answered.
  • 82. The Eye at all times perceives the same number of visible Points.
  • 83. Two Imperfections in the Visive Faculty.
  • 84. Answering to which, we may conceive two Per­fections.
  • 85. In neither of these two Ways do Microscopes im­prove the Sight.
  • 86. The Case of Microscopical Eyes, consider'd.
  • 87. The Sight admirably adapted to the ends of Seeing.
  • 88. Difficulty concerning Erect Vision.
  • 89. The common way of Explaining it.
  • [Page] 90. The same shewn to be False.
  • 91. Not distinguishing between Ideas of Sight and Touch, Cause of Mistake, in this matter.
  • 92. The Case of one born Blind, proper to be con­sider'd.
  • 93. Such a one might by Touch attain to have Ideas of Upper and Lower.
  • 94. Which Modes of Situation he'd attribute only to things Tangible.
  • 95. He'd not at first Sight think any thing he saw, High or Low, Erect or Inverted.
  • 96. This Illustrated by an Example.
  • 97. By what means he'd come to denominate Visible Objects, high or low, &c.
  • 98. Why he shou'd think those Objects highest, which are painted on the lowest part of his Eye, and vice versâ.
  • 99. How he wou'd perceive by Sight the Situation of external Objects.
  • 100. Our Propension to think the contrary, no Argu­ment against what hath been said.
  • 101. Objection.
  • 102. Answer.
  • 103. An Object cou'd not be known at first Sight by the Colour.
  • 104. Nor by the Magnitude thereof.
  • 105. Nor by the Figure.
  • 106. In the first act of Vision, no Tangible Thing wou'd be suggested by Sight.
  • 107. Difficulty proposed concerning Number.
  • 108. Number of Things Visible wou'd not at first Sight suggest the like Number of things Tangible.
  • 109. Number, the Creature of the Mind.
  • 110. One born Blind wou'd not at first sight number Visible Things as others do.
  • 111. The Situation of any Object determin'd with re­spect only to Objects of the same Sense.
  • 112. No Distance, great or small, between a Visible and Tangible Thing.
  • [Page] 113. The not observing this, cause of Difficulty in Erect Vision.
  • 114. Which otherwise includes nothing unaccounta­ble.
  • 115. What is meant by the Pictures being inverted.
  • 116. Cause of Mistake in this Matter.
  • 117. Images in the Eye, not Pictures of external Objects.
  • 118. In what Sense they are Pictures.
  • 119. In this Affair we must carefully distinguish be­tween Ideas of Sight and Touch.
  • 120. Difficult to explain by Words the true Theory of Vision.
  • 121. The Question, whether there is any Idea common to Sight and Touch, stated.
  • 122. Abstract Extension inquir'd into.
  • 123. It is Incomprehensible.
  • 124. Abstract Extension not the Object of Geometry.
  • 125. The general Idea of a Triangle, consider'd.
  • 126. Vacuum or pure Space, not common to Sight and Touch.
  • 127. There is no Idea or kind of Idea, common to both Senses.
  • 128. First Argument in Proof hereof.
  • 129. Second Argument.
  • 130. Visible Figure and Extension, not distinct Ideas from Colour.
  • 131. Third Argument.
  • 132. Confirmation drawn from Mr. Molyneux's Pro­blem of a Sphere and a Cube, publish'd by Mr. Locke.
  • 133. Which is falsely solved, if the common Supposition be true.
  • 134. More might be said in proof of our Tenet, but this suffices.
  • 135. Father Reflexion on the foregoing Problem.
  • [Page] 136. The same thing doth not affect both Sight and Touch.
  • 137. The same Idea of Motion not common to Sight and Touch.
  • 138. The way wherein we apprehend Motion by Sight, easily collected from what hath been said.
  • 139. Qu. How Visible and Tangible Ideas came to have the same name if not of the same Kind?
  • 140. This accounted for without supposing them of the same Kind.
  • 141. Obj. That a Tangible Square is liker to a Visible Square than to a Visible Circle.
  • 142. Answ. That a Visible Square is fitter than a Visible Circle to represent a Tangible Square.
  • 143. But it doth not hence follow, that a Visible Square is like a Tangible Square.
  • 144. Why we are more apt to confound Visible with Tangible Ideas, than other Signs with the Things signify'd.
  • 145. Several other Reasons hereof, assign'd.
  • 146. Reluctancy in rejecting any Opinion, no Argu­ment of its Truth.
  • 147. Proper Objects of Vision the Language of the Author of Nature.
  • 148. In it there is much admirable and deserving our Attention.
  • 149. Question propos'd concerning the Object of Geome­try.
  • 150. At first View we are apt to think Visible Exten­sion the Object of Geometry.
  • 151. Visible Extension shewn not to be the Object of Geometry.
  • 152. Words may as well be thought the Object of Geometry as Visible Extension.
  • 153. It is propos'd to inquire, what Progress an In­telligence that cou'd see but not feel, might make in Geometry.
  • [Page] 154. He cannot understand those Parts which relate to Solids, and their Surfaces, and Lines generated by their Section.
  • 155. Nor even the Elements of plain Geometry.
  • 156. The proper Objects of Sight incapable of being managed as Geometrical Figures.
  • 157. The Opinion of those who hold plain Figures to be the immediate Objects of Sight, considered.
  • 158. Plains no more the immediate Objects of Sight, than Solids.
  • 159. Difficult to enter precisely into the Thoughts of the above-mentioned Intelligence.

AN ESSAY TOWARDS A New Theory of Vision.

I. MY Design is to shew the Manner, where­in we perceive by Sight the Distance, Magnitude, and Situation of Objects. Also to consider the Difference there is betwixt the Ideas of Sight and Touch, and whether there be any Idea common to both Senses.

II. It is, I think, agreed by all, that Distance, of it self and immediately, cannot be seen: For Distance being a Line directed end-wise to the Eye, it projects only one Point in the Fund of the Eye, which Point remains invariably the same, whether the Distance be longer or shorter.

[Page 154] III. I find it also acknowledged, that the Esti­mate we make of the Distance of Objects conside­derably remote, is rather an Act of Judgment grounded on Experience, than of Sense. For Example, when I perceive a great Number of in­termediate Objects, such as Houses, Fields, Ri­vers, and the like, which I have experienced to take up a considerable Space, I thence form a Judg­ment or Conclusion, that the Object I see beyond them is at a great Distance. Again, when an Ob­ject appears faint and small, which at a near Di­stance I have experienced to make a vigorous and large Appearance, I instantly conclude it to be far off: And this, 'tis evident is the result of Experi­ence; without which, from the faintness and lit­tleness I should not have inferred any thing con­cerning the Distance of Objects.

IV. But when an Object is placed at so near a Distance, as that the Interval between the Eyes bears any sensible Proportion to it, the Opinion of speculative Men is, that the two Optic Axes (the Fancy that we see only with one Eye at once being exploded) concurring at the Object do there make an Angle, by means of which, according as it is greater or lesser, the Object is perceived to be nearer or farther off .

V. Betwixt which, and the foregoing manner of estimating Distance, there is this remarkable Diffe­rence: That, whereas there was no apparent, ne­cessary Connexion between small Distance and a large and strong Appearance, or between great Distance and little and faint Appearance, there ap­pears a very necessary Connexion between an ob­tuse [Page 155] Angle and near Distance, and an acute Angle and farther Distance. It does not in the least de­pend upon Experience, but may be evidently known by any one before he had experienced it, that the nearer the Concurrence of the Optic Axes, the greater the Angle, and the remoter their Con­currence is, the lesser will be the Angle compre­hended by them.

VI. There is another way mentioned by Optic Writers, whereby they will have us judge of those Distances, in respect of which the Breadth of the Pupil hath any sensible bigness: And that is the greater or lesser Divergency of the Rays, which issuing from the visible Point, do fall on the Pupil: That Point being judged nearest, which is seen by most diverging Rays; and that remoter, which is seen by less diverging Rays: And so on, the ap­parent Distance still increasing, as the Divergency of the Rays decreases, till at length it becomes in­finite, when the Rays that fall on the Pupil are to Sense Parallel. And after this manner it is said we perceive Distance when we look only with one Eye.

VII. In this Case also, 'tis plain we are not be­holding to Experience: It being a certain, necessa­ry Truth, that the nearer the direct Rays falling on the Eye approach to Parallelism, the farther off is the Point of their Intersection, or the visible Point from whence they flow.

VIII. Now though the Accounts here given of perceiving near Distance by Sight are receiv'd for true, and accordingly made use of in determining the apparent places of Objects, they do neverthe­less [Page 156] seem very unsatisfactory: And that for these following Reasons.

IX. It is evident that when the Mind perceives any Idea, not immediately and of it self, it must be by the means of some other Idea: Thus, for Instance, the Passions which are in the Mind of a­nother, are of themselves to me invisible. I may nevertheless perceive them by Sight, though not immediately, yet by means of the Colours they produce in the Countenance. We often see Shame or Fear in the Looks of a Man, by perceiving the Changes of his Countenance to Red or Pale.

X. Moreover it is evident that no Idea, which is not it self perceived, can be the means of per­ceiving any other Idea. If I do not perceive the Redness or Paleness of a Man's Face themselves, it is impossible I should perceive by them the Passions which are in his Mind.

XI. Now from SECT. II. it is plain that Di­stance is in its own nature imperceptible, and yet it is perceived by Sight. It remains, therefore, that it be brought into view by means of some o­ther Idea, that is it self immediately perceived in the Act of Vision.

XII. But those Lines and Angles, by means whereof some Men pretend to explain the Percep­tion of Distance, are themselves not at all perceiv­ed, nor are they in truth ever thought of by those unskilful in Optics. I appeal to any one's Expe­rience, whether upon Sight of an Object, he com­putes its Distance by the bigness of the Angle, made by the meeting of the two Optic Axes? Or whe­ther he ever thinks of the greater or lesser Diver­gency [Page 157] of the Rays, which arrive from any Point to his Pupil? Every one is himself the best judge of what he perceives, and what not. In vain shall any Man tell me, that I perceive certain Lines and Angles which introduce into my Mind the various Ideas of Distance, so long as I my self am consci­ous of no such thing.

XIII. Since therefore those Angles and Lines are not themselves perceived by Sight, it follows from SECT. X. that the Mind does not by them judge of the Distance of Objects.

XIV. The Truth of this Assertion will be, yet, farther evident to any one that considers those Lines and Angles have no real Existence in Nature, being only an Hypothesis fram'd by the Mathema­ticians, and by them introduced into Optics, that they might treat of that Science in a Geometrical way.

XV. The last Reason I shall give for rejecting that Doctrine, is, that tho' we should grant the real Existence of those Optic Angles, &c. and that it was possible for the Mind to perceive them; yet these Principles wou'd not be found sufficient to explain the Phoenomena of Distance, as shall be shewn hereafter.

XVI. Now, it being already shewn that Distance is suggested to the Mind, by the Mediation of some other Idea which is it self perceived in the Act of Seeing, it remains that we inquire what Ideas, or Sensations there be that attend Vision, unto which we may suppose the Ideas of Distance are connected, and by which they are introduced into the Mind. And First, It is certain by Expe­rience, [Page 158] that when we look at a near Object with both Eyes, according as it approaches, or recedes from us, we alter the Disposition of our Eyes, by lessening or widening the Interval between the Pu­pils. This Disposition or Turn of the Eyes is at­tended with a Sensation, which seems to me to be that which in this Case brings the Idea of greater or lesser Distance into the Mind.

XVII. Not that there is any natural or necessary Connexion between the Sensation we perceive by the Turn of the Eyes, and greater or lesser Di­stance; but because the Mind has by constant Ex­perience found the different Sensations correspond­ing to the different Dispositions of the Eyes, to be attended each with a different Degree of Di­stance in the Object; There has grown an Habi­tual or Customary Connexion between those two sorts of Ideas, so that the Mind no sooner perceives the Sensation arising from the different Turn it gives the Eyes, in order to bring the Pupils near­er, or farther asunder, but it withal perceives the different Idea of Distance which was wont to be connected with that Sensation: Just as upon hear­ing a certain Sound, the Idea is immediately sug­gested to the Understanding, which Custom had united with it.

XVIII. Nor do I see, how I can easily be mista­ken in this Matter. I know evidently that Di­stance is not perceived of it self. That by conse­quence, it must be perceived by means of some o­ther Idea which is immediately perceived, and varies with the different Degrees of Distance. I know also that the Sensation arising from the Turn of the Eyes is of it self immediately perceived, and various Degrees thereof are connected with [Page 159] different Distances, which never fail to accompany them into my Mind, when I view an Object distinctly with both Eyes, whose Distance is so small that in respect of it the Interval between the Eyes has any considerable Magnitude.

XIX. I know it is a received Opinion, that by altering the Disposition of the Eyes, the Mind perceives whether the Angle of the Optic Axes, or the lateral Angles comprehended between the Interval of the Eyes and the Optic Axes, are made greater or lesser; and that accordingly by a kind of Natural Geometry, it judges the Point of their Intersection to be nearer, or farther off. But that this is not true, I am convinced by my own Ex­perience, since I am not conscious, that I make any such use of the Perception I have by the Turn of my Eyes. And for me to make those Judgments, and draw those Conclusions from it, without know­ing that I do so, seems altogether incomprehen­sible.

XX. From all which it follows, that the Judg­ment we make of the Distance of an Object, view­ed with both Eyes, is entirely the Result of Ex­perience. If we had not constantly found certain Sensations arising from the various Disposition of the Eyes, attended with certain Degrees of Dis­tance, we shou'd never make those sudden Judg­ments from them, concerning the Distance of Ob­jects; no more than we wou'd pretend to judge of a Man's Thoughts by his pronouncing Words we had never heard before.

XXI. Secondly, An Object placed at a certain Distance from the Eye, to which the breadth of the Pupil bears a considerable Proportion, being made [Page 160] to approach, is seen more confusedly: And the nearer it is brought, the more confused Appear­ance it makes. And this being found constantly to be so, there ariseth in the Mind an Habitual Con­nexion between the several Degrees of Confusion and Distance; the greater Confusion still imploying the lesser Distance, and the lesser Confusion, the greater Distance of the Object.

XXII. This confused Appearance of the Ob­ject doth therefore seem to be the Medium, where­by the Mind judgeth of Distance in those Cases, wherein the most approved Writers of Optics will have it judge by the different Divergency, with which the Rays flowing from the Radiating Point fall on the Pupil. No Man, I believe, will pre­tend to see or feel those imaginary Angles, that the Rays are supposed to form according to their various Inclinations on his Eye. But he cannot choose Seeing whether the Object appear more or less confused. It is therefore a manifest Conse­quence from what has been demonstrated, that in­stead of the greater, or lesser Divergency of the Rays, the Mind makes use of the greater or lesser Confusedness of the Appearance, thereby to deter­mine the apparent Place of an Object.

XXIII. Nor doth it avail to say, there is not any necessary Connexion between confused Vision, and Distance, great or small. For I ask any Man, what necessary Connexion he sees between the Red­ness of a Blush and Shame? And yet no sooner shall he behold that Colour to arise in the Face of another, but it brings into his Mind the Idea of that Passion which hath been observed to accompa­ny it.

[Page 161] XXIV. What seems to have misled the Writers of Optics in this Matter is, that they imagine Men judge of Distance, as they do of a Conclusion in Mathematics; betwixt which and the Premises it is indeed absolutely requisite there be an apparent, necessary Connexion: But it is far otherwise, in the sudden Judgments Men make of Distance. We are not to think, that Brutes and Children, or even grown reasonable Men, whenever they perceive an Object to approach, or depart from them, do it by virtue of Geometry and Demonstration.

XXV. That one Idea may suggest another to the Mind, it will suffice that they have been ob­served to go together, without any Demonstration of the Necessity of their Coexistence, or without so much as knowing what it is that makes them so to coexist. Of this there are innumerable Instances, of which no one can be ignorant.

XXVI. Thus, greater Confusion having been constantly attended with nearer Distance, no sooner is the former Idea perceived, but it suggests the latter to our Thoughts. And if it had been the ordinary Course of Nature, that the farther off an Object were placed, the more confused it shou'd appear, it is certain, the very same Perception, that now makes us think an Object approaches, would then have made us to imagine it went far­ther off. That Perception, abstracting from Custom and Experience, being equally fitted to produce the Idea of great Distance, or small Distance, or no Distance at all.

XXVII. Thirdly, An Object being placed at the Distance above specified, and brought nearer to the Eye, we may nevertheless prevent, at least for some time, the Appearance's growing more [Page 162] confused, by straining the Eye. In which Case, that Sensation supplys the place of confused Vision, in aiding the Mind to judge of the Distance of the Object; it being esteemed so much the nearer, by how much the Effort or Straining of the Eye in order to distinct Vision is greater.

XXVIII. I have here set down those Sensations or Ideas, that seem to be the constant and general Occasions of introducing into the Mind the different Ideas of near Distance. It is true in most Cases, that divers other Circumstances contribute to frame our Idea of Distance, to wit, the particular Num­ber, Size, Kind, &c. of the things seen. Concern­ing which, as well as all other the forementioned Occasions which suggest Distance, I shall only ob­serve, they have none of them, in their own Na­ture, any Relation or Connexion with it: Nor is it possible, they shou'd ever signify the various De­grees thereof, otherwise than as by Experience they have been found to be connected with them.

XXIX. I shall proceed upon these Principles to account for a Phaenomenon, which has hitherto strangely puzzled the Writers of Optics, and is so far from being accounted for by any of their The­ories of Vision, that it is, by their own Confession, plainly repugnant to them: And of Consequence, if nothing else cou'd be objected, were alone suf­ficient to bring their Credit in Question. The whole Difficulty I shall lay before you in the Words of the Learned Dr. Barrow, with which he concludes his Optic Lectures.

Haec sunt, quae circa pantem Opticae praecipue Mathematicam dicenda mihi suggessit meditatio. Circa reliquas, (quae [...] sunt, adeoque saepiuscule pro certis principiis plausibiles conjectu­ras [Page 163] venditare necessum habent) nihil fere quic­quam admodum verisimile succurrit, a pervulga­tis (ab iis, inquam, quae Keplerus, Scheinerus, Cartesius, & post illos alii tradiderunt) alienum aut diversum. Atqui tacere malo, quam toties oblatam cramben reponere. Proinde receptui ca­no; nec ita tamen ut prorsùs discedam antea­quam improbam quandam difficultatem (pro sin­ceritate quam & vobis & veritati debeo minime dissimulandam) in medium protulero, quae doctri­nae nostrae, hactenus inculcatae, se objicit adver­sam, ab ea saltem nullam admittit solutionem. Illa, breviter, talis est: Lenti vel Speculo cavo EBF exponatur punctum visi­bile


A, ita Distans ut Radii ex A manantes ex inflexione ver­sus axem A B cogantur. Sit­que radiationis Limes (seu punc­ti A imago, qualem supra pas­sim statuimus) punctum Z. In­ter hoc autem & inflectentis ver­ticem B uspiam positus concipi­atur Oculus. Quaeri jam po­test ubi loci debeat punctum A apparere? Retrorsum ad punc­tum Z videri non sert Natura (cum omnis impressio sensum af­ficiens proveniat a partibus A) ac experientia reclamat. No­stris autem e placitis consequi videtur, ipsum ad partes anti­cas apparens ab intervallo lon­gissime dissito, (quod & maxi­mum sensibile quodvis Intervallum quodammodo exsuperet) apparere. Cum enim quo Radiis mi­nus divergentibus attingitur Objectum, eo (se­clusis utique praenotionibus & praejudiciis) longius abesse sentiatur; et quod Parallelos ad Oculum [Page 164] Radios projicit, remotissime positum aestimetur. Exigere Ratio videtur ut quod convergentibus ra­diis apprehenditur, adhuc magis, si fieri posset, quoad apparentiam elongetur. Quin & circa Casum hunc generatim inquiri possit, quidnam omnino sit, quod apparentem puncti A locum de­terminet, faciatque quod constanti ratione nunc propius, nunc remotius appareat? Cui itidem dubio, nihil quicquam ex hactenus dictorum A­nalogia, responderi posse videtur, nisi debere punctum A perpetuo longissime semotum videri. Verum experientia secus attestatur, illud pro di­versa Oculi inter puncta B, Z, positione varie distans; nunquam fere (si unquam) longinquius ipso A libere spectato, subinde vero multo pro­pinquius adparere; quinimo, quo oculum appel­lentes radii magis convergunt eo speciem Objecti propius accedere. Nempe, si puncto B admoveatur Oculus, suo (ad lentem) fere nativo in loco con­spicitur punctum A (vel aeque distans, ad Spe­culum;) ad O reductus oculus ejusce speciem ap­propinquantem cernit; ad P adhuc vicinius ip­sum existimat; ac ita sensim, donec alicubi tan­dem, velut ad Q, constituto oculo objectum summe proquinquum apparens, in meram confusionem inci­piat evanescere. Quae sane cuncta rationibus atque decretis nostris repugnare videntur, aut cum iis saltem parum amice conspirant. Neque no­stram tantum sententiam pulsat hoc experimentum; at ex aequo caeteras quas norim omnes, veterem imprimis ac vulgatam nostrae prae reliquis affinem ita convellere videtur, ut ejus vi coactus doctis­simus A. Tacquetus isti principio (cui pene soli totam in aedificaverat Catoptricam suam) ceu in­fido ac inconstanti renunciarit, adeoque suam ip­se doctrinam labefactarit; id tamen, opinor, mi­nime facturus, si rem totam inspexisset penitius, [Page 165] atque difficultatis fundum attigisset. Apud me vero non ita pollet haec, nec eousque praepollebit ulla difficultas, ut ab iis, quae manifeste rationi consentanea video, discedam; praesertim quum ut hic accidit, ejusmodi difficultas in singularis cu­iuspiam casûs disparitate fundetur. Nimirum in praesente casu peculiare quiddam, naturae sub­tilitati involutum, delitescit, aegre fortassis, nisi perfectius explorato videndi modo, detegendum. Circa quod nil, fateor, hactenus excogitare potui, quod adblandiretur animo meo, nedum plane sa­tisfaceret. Vobis itaque nodum hunc, utinam feli­ciore conatu, resolvendum committo.

In English as follows.

I have here delivered what my Thoughts have suggested to me, concerning that part of Optics which is more properly Mathematical. As for the other Parts of that Science (which being ra­ther Physical, do consequently abound with plau­sible Conjectures instead of certain Principles) there has in them scarce any thing occurr'd to my Observation, different from what has been alrea­dy said by Kepler, Scheinerus, Descartes, and o­thers. And methinks I had better say nothing at all, than repeat that which has been so often said by others. I Think it therefore high time to take my leave of this Subject: But before I quit it for good and all, the fair and ingenuous Deal­ing that I owe both to You and to Truth, obligeth me to acquaint you with a cer­tain untoward Difficulty, which seems direct­ly opposite to the Doctrine I have been hi­therto inculcating, at least, admits of no So­lution from it. In short it is this. Before the double Convex Glass or Concave Speculum [Page 166] E B F, let the Point A be pla­ced,
at such a Distance that the Rays proceeding from A, af­ter Refraction or Reflection, be brought to Unite some­where in the Ax A B. And suppose the Point of Union (i. e. the Image of the Point A, as hath been already set forth) to be Z; between which and B, the Vertex of the Glass or Speculum, conceive the Eye to be any where placed. The Question now is, where the Point A ought to appear? Ex­perience shews that it doth not appear behind at the Point Z, and it were contrary to Na­ture that it shou'd; since all the Impression which affects the Sense comes from towards A. But from our Tenets it shou'd seem to follow that it wou'd appear before the Eye at a vast Distance off, so great as shou'd in some Sort surpass all sensible Distance. For Since if we exclude all Anticipa­tions and Prejudices, every Object appears by so much the farther off, by how much the Rays it sends to the Eye are less Diverging. And that Object is thought to be most remote, from which Parallel Rays proceed unto the Eye. Reason wou'd make one think, that Object shou'd appear, at yet a greater Distance, which is seen by con­verging Rays. Moreover it may in general be asked concerning this Case, what it is that de­termines the apparent Place of the Point A, and maketh it to appear after a constant manner, sometimes nearer, at other times farther off? To which Doubt, I see nothing that can be answer'd [Page 167] agreeable to the Principles we have laid down, except only that the Point A ought always to appear extremely remote. But on the contrary, we are assur'd by Experience that the Point A appears variously distant, according to the diffe­rent Situations of the Eye between the Points B and Z. And that it doth almost never (if at all) seem farther off, than it wou'd if it were be­held by the naked Eye, but on the contrary, it doth sometimes appear much nearer. Nay, it is even certain, that by how much the Rays fall­ing on the Eye do more converge, by so much the nearer does the Object seem to approach. For the Eye being placed close to the Point B, the Object A appears nearly in its own natural Place, if the Point B is taken in the Glass, or at the same Distance, if in the Speculum. The Eye being brought back to O, the Object seems to draw near: And being come to P it beholds it still nearer. And so on by little and little, till at length the Eye being placed somewhere, sup­pose at Q, the Object appearing extremely near, begins to vanish into meer Confusion. All which doth seem repugnant to our Principles, at least, not rightly to agree with them. Nor is our Tenet alone struck at by this Experiment, but likewise all others that ever came to my Know­ledge are, every whit as much, endanger'd by it. The ancient one especially (which is most com­monly received, and comes nearest to mine) seems to be so effectually overthrown thereby, that the most learned Tacquet has been forced to reject that Principle, as false and uncertain, on which alone he had built almost his whole Catoptrics, and consequently by taking away the Foundation, hath himself pulled down the Superstructure he had raised on it. Which, nevertheless, I do not believe he wou'd have done, had he but consi­der'd [Page 168] the whole matter more throughly, and ex­amined the Difficulty to the bottom. But as for me, neither this, nor any other Difficulty shall have so great an Influence on me, as to make me renounce that which I know to be manifestly a­greeable to Reason: Especially when, as it here falls out, the Difficulty is founded in the peculi­ar Nature of a certain odd and particular Case. For in the present Case something peculiar lies hid, which being involved in the Subtilty of Na­ture will, perhaps, hardly be discovered till such Time, as the manner of Vision is more perfectly made known. Concerning which, I must own, I have hitherto been able to find out nothing that has the least shew of Probability, not to mention Certainty. I shall, therefore, leave this Knot to be untied by you, wishing you may have better Success in it than I have had.

XXX. The ancient and receiv'd Principle, which Dr. Barrow here mentions as the main Foundation of Tacquet's Catoptrics, is that every visible Point seen by Reflection from a Speculum, shall appear placed at the Intersection of the reflected Ray, and the Perpendicular of Incidence. Which Inter­section in the present Case, happening to be behind the Eye, it greatly shakes the Authority of that Principle, where on the aforementioned Author proceeds throughout his whole Catoptrics, in de­termining the apparent Place of Objects seen by Reflexion from any kind of Speculum.

XXXI. Let us now see how this Phaenomenon agrees with our Tenets. The Eye the nearer it is placed to the Point B in the foregoing Figures, the more distinct is the Appearance of the Object; but as it recedes to O, the Appearance grows more Confused; and at P it sees the Object yet more [Page 169] Confused; and so on till the Eye being brought back to Z sees the Object in the greatest Confusi­on of all. Wherefore by SECT. XXI. the Object shou'd seem to approach the Eye gradually, as it recedes from the Point B, that is at O it shou'd (in Consequence of the Principle I have laid down in the aforesaid Section) seem nearer than it did at B, and at P nearer than at O, and at Q nearer than at P; and so on, till it quite vanishes at Z. Which is the very matter of Fact, as any one that pleases may easily satisfy himself by Experiment.

XXXII. This Case is much the same, as if we shou'd suppose an Englishman to meet a Foreigner, who used the same Words with the English, but in a direct contrary Signification. The Englishman wou'd not fail to make a wrong Judgment of the Ideas annexed to those Sounds, in the Mind of him that used them. Just so, in the present Case the Object speaks (if I may so say) with Words that the Eye is well acquainted with, that is, Confusions of Appearance; but whereas heretofore the greater Confusions were always wont to signify nearer Distances, they have in this Case a direct, contrary Signification, being connected with the greater Distances. Whence it follows, that the Eye must unavoidably be mistaken, since it will take the Confusions in the Sense it has been used to, which is directly opposed to the True.

XXXIII. This Phaenomenon as it entirely sub­verts the Opinion of those, who will have us judge of Distance by Lines and Angles, on which Sup­position it is altogether inexplicable, so it seems to me no small Confirmation of the Truth of that Principle whereby it is explain'd. But in order to a more full Explication of this Point, and to shew how far the Hypothesis of the Mind's judg­ing [Page 170] by the various Divergency of Rays, may be of use in determining the apparent Place of an Object, it will be necessary to premise some few Things, which are already well known to those who have any Skill in Dioptrics.

XXXIV. First, Any radiating Point is then distinctly seen when the Rays proceeding from it are, by the refractive Power of the Crystalline, ac­curately reunited in the Retina or Fund of the Eye: But if they are reunited, either before they arrive at the Retina, or after they have past it, then there is confused Vision.

XXXV. Secondly, Suppose in the adjacent Fi­gures NP represent an Eye duly framed, and re­taining

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

[Page 171] its natural Figure. In Fig. 1. the Rays falling nearly Parallel on the Eye, are by the Cry­stalline AB refracted, so as their Focus or Point of Union F falls exactly on the Retina: But if the Rays fall sensibly diverging on the Eye, as in Fig. 2. then their Focus falls beyond the Retina: Or if the Rays are made to converge by the Lens QS, before they come at the Eye, as in Fig. 3. their Focus F will fall before the Retina. In which two last Cases, it is evident from the fore­going Section, that the Appearance of the Point Z is confused. And by how much the greater is the Convergency, or Divergency of the Rays fall­ing on the Pupil, by so much the farther will the Point of their Reunion be from the Retina, either before or behind it, and consequently the Point Z will appear, by so much the more confused. And this by the bye, may shew us the Difference be­tween confused, and faint Vision. Confused Vision is, when the Rays proceeding from each distinct Point of the Object are not accurately recollected in one corresponding Point on the Retina, but take up some Space thereon: So that Rays from dif­ferent Points become mixed, and confused together. This is opposed to a distinct Vision, and attends near Objects. Faint Vision is, when by reason of the Distance of the Object or Grossness of the in­terjacent Medium few Rays arrive from the Object to the Eye. This is opposed to vigorous or clear Vision, and attends remote Objects. But to re­turn.

XXXVI. The Eye, or (to speak truly) the Mind perceiving only the Confusion it self, with­out ever considering the Cause from which it pro­ceeds, doth constantly annex the same Degree of Distance to the same Degree of Confusion. [Page 172] Whether that Confusion be occasioned by converging, or by diverging Rays, it matters not. Whence it follows, that the Eye viewing the Object Z through the Glass QS (which by Refraction causeth the Rays ZQ, ZS, &c. to converge) shou'd judge it to be at such a Nearness, at which if it were placed, it wou'd radiate on the Eye with Rays diverging to that Degree, as wou'd produce the same Confusion, which is now pro­duced by Converging Rays, i. e. wou'd cover a Portion of the Retina equal to DC. vid. Fig. 3. supra. But then this must be understood (to use Dr. Barrow's Phrase) seclusis praenotionibus & praeju­diciis, in case we abstract from all other Circum­stances of Vision, such as the Figure, Size, Faint­ness, &c. of the visible Objects; all which do or­dinarily concur to form our Idea of Distance, the Mind having by frequent Experience observed their several Sorts or Degrees, to be connected with va­rious Distances.

XXXVII. It plainly follows from what hath been said, that a Person perfectly Purblind (i. e. that cou'd not see an Object distinctly, but when placed close to his Eye) wou'd not make the same wrong Judgment that others do, in the foremen­tioned Case. For, to him, greater Confusions con­stantly suggesting greater Distances, he must, as he recedes from the Glass, and the Object grows more Confused, judge it to be at a farther Distance con­trary to what they do, who have had the Percep­tion of the Objects growing more confused, con­nected with the Idea of Approach.

XXXVIII. Hence also it doth appear, there may be good use of Computation by Lines and Angles in Optics; not that the Mind judgeth of Distance immediately by them, but because it judg­eth [Page 173] by somewhat which is connected with them, and to the Determination whereof they may be subservient. Thus the Mind judging of the Di­stance of an Object, by the Confusedness of its Ap­pearance, and this Confusedness being greater or lesser to the naked Eye, according as the Object is seen by Rays more or less diverging, it follows, that a Man may make use of the Divergency of the Rays in computing the apparent Distance, though not for its own sake, yet on account of the Confusion with which it is connected. But, so it is, the Confusion it self is intirely neglected by Mathematicians, as having no necessary Relation with Distance, such as the greater or lesser Angles of Divergency are conceived to have. And these (especially for that they fall under Mathematical Computation) are alone regarded, in determin­ing the apparent Places of Objects, as though they were the sole and immediate Cause of the Judgments the Mind makes of Distance. Whereas, in Truth, they shou'd not at all be regarded in themselves, or any otherwise, than as they are supposed to be the Cause of Confused Vision.

XXXIX. The not considering of this has been a fundamental and perplexing Oversight. For Proof whereof, we need go no farther than the Case be­fore us. It having been observed, that the most diverging Rays brought into the Mind the Idea of nearest Distance, and that still, as the Divergency decreased, the Distance increased: and it being thought, the Connexion between the various De­grees of Divergency and Distance, was immediate, this naturally leads one to conclude, from an ill grounded Analogy, that converging Rays shall make an Object appear at an immense Distance: And that, as the Convergency increases, the Di­stance (if it were possible) shou'd do so likewise. [Page 174] That this was the Cause of Dr. Barrow's Mistake, is evident from his own Words which we have quoted. Whereas had the learned Doctor observ'd, that diverging and converging Rays, how opposite soever they may seem, do nevertheless agree in producing the same Effect, to wit, Confusedness of Vision, greater Degrees whereof are produced in­differently, either as the Divergency or Conver­gency of the Rays increaseth. And that it is by this Effect, which is the same in both, that either the Divergency or Convergency is perceived by the Eye; I say had he but consider'd this, it is certain he would have made a quite contrary Judg­ment, and rightly concluded, that those Rays which fall on the Eye with greater Degrees of Convergency shou'd make the Object from whence they proceed, appear by so much the nearer. But it is plain, it was impossible for any Man to attain to a right Notion of this Matter, so long as he had regard only to Lines and Angles, and did not apprehend the true Nature of Vision, and how far it was of Mathematical Consideration.

XL. Before we dismiss this Subject, it is fit we take notice of a Query relating thereto, proposed by the ingenious Mr. Molyneux, in his Treatise of Dioptrics *, where speaking of this Difficulty, he has these Words: ‘And so he (i. e. Dr. Barrow) leaves this Difficulty to the Solution of others, which I (after so great an Example) shall do like­wise; but with the Resolution of the same ad­mirable Author of not quitting the evident Doc­trine which we have before laid down, for de­termining the Locus Objecti, on account of being press'd by one Difficulty, which seems inexpli­cable till a more intimate Knowledge of the Vi­sive [Page 175] Faculty be obtained by Mortals. In the mean time, I propose it to the Consideration of the Ingenious, Whether the Locus Apparens of an Object placed as in this 9th Section, be not as much before the Eye, as the distinct Base is be­hind the Eye?’ To which Query we may ven­ture to answer in the Negative. For in the pre­sent Case, the Rule for determining the Distance of the distinct Base, or respective Focus from the Glass is this: As the Difference between the Distance of the Object and Focus is to the Focus or Focal Length, so the Distance of the Object from the Glass is to the Distance of the respective Focus or distinct Base from the Glass *. Let us now suppose the Object to be placed at the Distance of the Focal Length, and one half of the Focal Length from the Glass, and the Eye close to the Glass, hence it will follow by the Rule, that the Distance of the distinct Base behind the Eye is double the true Distance of the Object before the Eye. If therefore Mr. Molyneux's Conjecture held good, it wou'd follow that the Eye shou'd see the Object, twice as far off as it really is; and in other Cases at three or four times its due Distance, or more. But this manifestly contradicts Experience, the Object never appear­ing, at farthest, beyond its due Distance. What ever therefore is built on this Supposition (vid. Corol. 1. Prop. 57. ibid.) comes to the Ground along with it.

XLI. From what hath been premis'd, it is a manifest Consequence, that a Man born blind, be­ing made to see, wou'd, at first, have no Idea of Distance by Sight; The Sun and Stars, the remo­test Objects as well as the nearer wou'd all seem to be in his Eye, or rather in his Mind. The Ob­jects [Page 176] intromitted by Sight, wou'd seem to him (as in truth they are) no other than a new Set of Thoughts or Sensations, each whereof is as near to him, as the Perceptions of Pain or Pleasure, or the most inward Passions of his Soul. For our judg­ing Objects perceiv'd by Sight to be at any Dis­tance, or without the Mind, is (vid. SECT. XXVIII.) intirely the Effect of Experience, which one in those Circumstances cou'd not yet have attained to.

XLII. It is indeed otherwise upon the common Supposition, that Men judge of Distance by the Angle of the Optic Axes, just as one in the Dark, or a Blind-man by the Angle comprehended by two Sticks, one whereof he held in each Hand. For if this were true, it wou'd follow that one blind from his Birth being made to see, shou'd stand in need of no new Experience, in order to perceive Distance by Sight. But that this is false, has, I think, been sufficiently demonstrated.

XLIII. And perhaps upon a strict Inquiry, we shall not find that even those, who from their Birth have grown up in a continu'd Habit of Seeing, are irrecoverably prejudiced on the other side, to wit, in thinking what they see to be at a Distance from them. For at this time it seems agreed on all hands, by those who have had any Thoughts of that Matter, that Colours, which are the proper and immediate Object of Sight, are not without the Mind. But then it will be said, by Sight we have also the Ideas of Extension, and Figure, and Mo­tion; all which may well be thought without, and at some Distance from the Mind, though Colour shou'd not. In answer to this, I appeal to any Man's Experience, whether the visible Extension of any Object doth not appear as near to him, as [Page 177] the Colour of that Object; Nay, whether they do not both seem to be in the very same Place. Is not the Extension we see Coloured, and is it possi­ble for us, so much as in Thought, to separate and abstract Colour from Extension? Now, where the Extension is, there surely is the Figure, and there the Motion too. I speak of those which are per­ceived by Sight.

XLIV. But for a fuller Explication of this Point, and to shew that the immediate Objects of Sight are not so much as the Ideas or Resemblan­ces of things placed at a Distance, it is requisite that we look nearer into the Matter, and carefully observe what is meant in common Discourse, when one says, that which he sees is at a Distance from him. Suppose, for Example, that looking at the Moon I shou'd say it were fifty or sixty Semidia­meters of the Earth distant from me. Let us see what Moon this is spoken of: It is plain it cannot be the visible Moon, or any thing like the visible Moon, or that which I see, which is only a round, luminous Plain, of about thirty visible Points in Diameter. For in case I am carried from the place where I stand directly towards the Moon, it is mani­fest the Object varies, still as I go on; and by the time that I am advanced fifty or sixty Semidiameters of the Earth, I shall be so far from being near a small, round, luminous Flat, that I shall perceive nothing like it; this Object having long since disappeared, and if I wou'd recover it, it must be by going back to the Earth from whence I set out. Again, sup­pose I perceive by Sight the faint and obscure Idea of something, which I doubt whether it be a Man, or a Tree, or a Tower, but judge it to be at the Distance of about a Mile. 'Tis plain I cannot mean, that what I see is a Mile off, or that it is the Image or Likeness of any thing which is a Mile off, since [Page 178] that every Step I take towards it, the Appearance alters, and from being obscure, small, and faint, grows clear, large and vigorous. And when I come to the Mile's end, that which I saw first is quite lost, neither do I find any thing in the like­ness of it.

XLV. In these and the like Instances, the truth of the Matter stands thus: Having of a long time experienced certain Ideas, perceivable by Touch, as Distance, tangible Figure, and Solidity, to have been connected with certain Ideas of Sight, I do upon perceiving these Ideas of Sight, forth­with conclude what Tangible Ideas are, by the wonted ordinary course of Nature, like to follow. Looking at an Object I perceive a certain visible Figure and Colour, with some degree of Faintness and other Circumstances, which from what I have formerly observed, determine me to think, that if I advance forward so many Paces or Miles, I shall be affected with such and such Ideas of Touch: So that in truth and strictness of Speech, I neither see Distance it self, nor any thing that I take to be at a Distance. I say, neither Distance, nor things placed at a Distance are themselves, or their Ideas, truly perceived by Sight. This I am persuaded of, as to what concerns my self; and I believe whoever will look narrowly into his own Thoughts, and examine what he means by saying, he sees this or that thing at a Distance, will agree with me, that what he sees only suggests to his Understanding, that after having passed a certain Distance, to be measured by the Motion of his Body, which is perceivable by Touch, he shall come to perceive such and such tangible Ideas which have been usu­ally connected with such and such visible Ideas. But that one might be deceived by these suggesti­ons of Sense, and that there is no necessary Con­nexion [Page 179] between visible and tangible Ideas suggested by them, we need go no farther than the next Looking-glass or Picture to be convinced. Note, that when I speak of Tangible Ideas, I take the word Idea for any the immediate Object of Sense, or Understanding, in which large Signification it is commonly used by the Moderns.

XLVI. From what we have shewn it is a mani­fest Consequence, that the Ideas of Space, Outness, and Things placed at a Distance, are not, strictly speaking, the Object of Sight; they are not other­wise perceived by the Eye than by the Ear. Sit­ting in my Study I hear a Coach drive along the Street; I look through the Casement and see it; I walk out and enter into it; thus, common Speech wou'd incline one to think, I heard, saw, and touch'd the same thing, to wit, the Coach. It is nevertheless certain, the Ideas intromitted by each Sense are widely different, and distinct from each other; but having been observed constantly to go together, they are spoken of as one and the same thing. By the variation of the Noise I perceive the different Distances of the Coach, and know that it approaches before I look out. Thus by the Ear I perceive Distance, just after the same manner as I do by the Eye.

XLVII. I do not nevertheless say, I hear Dis­tance in like manner as I say that I see it, the Ide­as perceived by Hearing not being so apt to be confounded with the Ideas of Touch, as those of Sight are; so likewise a Man is easily convinced that Bodies and external Things are not properly the Object of Hearing, but only Sounds, by the Mediation whereof the Idea of this or that Body, or Distance is suggested to his Thoughts. But then one is with more difficulty brought to discern [Page 180] the Difference there is betwixt the Ideas of Sight and Touch: Though it be certain, a Man no more sees or feels the same thing, than he hears and feels the same thing.

XLVIII. One Reason of which seems to be this. It is thought a great Absurdity to imagine, that one and the same thing shou'd have any more than one Extension, and one Figure. But the Extension and Figure of a Body, being let into the Mind two ways, and that indifferently, either by Sight or Touch, it seems to follow that we see the same Extension, and the same Figure which we feel.

XLIX. But if we take a close and accurate View of Things, it must be acknowledged that we never see and feel one and the same Object. That which is seen is one thing, and that which is felt is ano­ther; if the visible Figure and Extension be not the same with the tangible Figure and Extension, we are not to infer that one and the same thing has divers Extensions. The true Consequence is, that the Objects of Sight and Touch are two dis­tinct things. It may perhaps require some Thought rightly to conceive this Distinction. And the Difficulty seems not a little increased, because the Combination of Visible Ideas hath constantly the same Name, as the Combination of Tangible Ideas wherewith it is connected: Which doth of necessi­ty arise from the use and end of Language.

L. In order therefore to treat accurately and unconfusedly of Vision, we must bear in mind that there are two sorts of Objects apprehended by the Eye, the one primarily and immediately, the other secondarily and by Intervention of the former. [Page 181] Those of the first sort neither are, nor appear to be without the Mind, or at any Distance off; they may indeed grow greater, or smaller, more con­fused, or more clear, or more faint, but they do not, cannot appraoch or recede from us. When­ever we say an Object is at a Distance, whenever we say it draws near, or goes farther off, we must always mean it of the latter sort, which properly belong to the Touch, and are not so truly per­ceived, as suggested by the Eye in like manner as Thoughts by the Ear.

LI. No sooner do we hear the Words of a fa­miliar Language pronounced in our Ears, but the Ideas corresponding thereto present themselves to our Minds; in the very same instant the Sound and the Meaning enter the Understanding: So closely are they united, that it is not in our Power to keep out the one, except we exclude the other also. We even act in all respects as if we heard the very Thoughts themselves. So likewise the secondary Objects, or those which are only sug­gested by Sight, do often more strongly affect us, and are more regarded than the proper Objects of that Sense; along with which they enter into the Mind, and with which they have a far more strict Connexion, than Ideas have with Words. Hence it is, we find it so difficult to discriminate between the immediate and mediate Objects of Sight, and are so prone to attribute to the former, what be­longs only to the latter. They are, as it were, most closely twisted, blended, and incorporated together. And the Prejudice is confirmed and ri­veted in our Thoughts by a long tract of Time, by the use of Language, and want of Reflexion. However, I believe any one that shall attentively consider what we have already said, and shall say upon this Subject before we have done, (especially [Page 182] if he pursue it in his own Thoughts) may be able to deliver himself from that Prejudice. Sure I am 'tis worth some Attention, to whoever wou'd un­derstand the true nature of Vision.

LII. I have now done with Distance, and pro­ceed to shew how it is, that we perceive by Sight the Magnitude of Objects. It is the Opinion of some that we do it by Angles, or by Angles in con­junction with Distance; but neither Angles, nor Distance being perceivable by Sight, and the things we see being in truth at no Distance from us, it follows, that as we have shewn Lines and Angles not to be the Medium, the Mind makes use of in apprehending the Apparent Place, so neither are they the Medium whereby it apprehends the Ap­parent Magnitude of Objects.

LIII. It is well known that the same Extension at a near Distance shall subtend a greater Angle, and at a farther Distance, a lesser Angle. And by this Principle (we are told) the Mind estimates the Magnitude of an Object comparing the Angle un­der which it is seen with its Distance, and thence inferring the Magnitude thereof. What inclines Men to this Mistake (beside the Humour of mak­ing one see by Geometry is, that the same Percep­tions or Ideas which suggest Distance, do also sug­gest Magnitude. But if we examine it, we shall find they suggest the latter, as immediately as the former. I say, they do not first suggest Distance, and then leave it to the Judgment to use that as a Medium, whereby to collect the Magnitude; but they have as close, and immediate a Connexion with the Magnitude, as with the Distance; and suggest Magnitude as independently of Distance, as they do Distance independently of Magnitude. All [Page 183] which will be evident to whoever considers what hath been already said, and what follows.

LIV. It hath been shewn, there are two sorts of Objects apprehended by Sight; each whereof hath its distinct Magnitude, or Extension. The one, properly Tangible, i. e. to be perceived and mea­sured by Touch, and not immediately falling un­der the Sense of seeing: The other, properly and immediately Visible, by Mediation of which the former is brought in View. Each of these Mag­nitudes are greater or lesser, according as they con­tain in them more or fewer Points, they being made up of Points or Minimums. For, whatever may be said of Extension in Abstract, it is certain sensible Extension is not infinitely Divisible. There is a Minimum Tangibile, and a Minimum Visibile, be­yond which Sense cannot perceive. This every one's Experience will inform him.

LV. The Magnitude of the Object which exists without the Mind, and is at a Distance, continues always invariably the same: But the Visible Object still changing as you approach to, or recede from the Tangible Object, it hath no fixed and deter­minate Greatness. Whenever therefore, we speak of the Magnitude of any thing, for Instance a Tree or a House, we must mean the Tangible Magni­tude, otherwise there can be nothing steady and free from Ambiguity spoken of it. But though the Tangible and Visible Magnitude in truth be­long to two distinct Objects: I shall nevertheless (especially since those Objects are called by the same Name, and are observed to coexist) to avoid tediousness and singularity of Speech, sometimes speak of them, as belonging to one and the same thing.

[Page 184] LVI. Now in order to discover by what means, the Magnitude of Tangible Objects is perceived by Sight; I need only reflect on what passes in my own Mind, and observe what those things be, which introduce the Ideas of greater or lesser into my Thoughts, when I look on any Object. And these I find to be, First, the Magnitude or Exten­sion of the Visible Object, which being immediate­ly perceived by sight, is connected with that o­ther which is Tangible, and placed at a Distance. Secondly, The Confusion or Distinctness. And Thirdly, the Vigorousness or Faintness of the afore­said Visible Appearance. Caeteris paribus, by how much the greater or lesser, the Visible Object is, by so much the greater or lesser, do I conclude the Tangible Object to be. But, be the Idea imme­diately perceived by Sight never so large, yet if it be withal Confused, I judge the Magnitude of the thing to be but small. If it be Distinct and Clear, I judge it greater. And if it be Faint, I appre­hend it to be yet greater. What is here meant, by Confusion and Faintness, hath been explained in SECT. XXXV.

LVII. Moreover the Judgments we make of Greatness do, in like manner as those of Distance, depend on the Disposition of the Eye, also on the Figure, Number and Situation of Objects and o­ther Circumstances that have been observ'd to at­tend great, or small Tangible Magnitudes. Thus, for Instance, the very same Quantity of Visible Ex­tension, which in the Figure of a Tower, doth suggest the Idea of great Magnitude, shall, in the Figure of a Man suggest the Idea of much smaller Magnitude. That this is owing to the Experi­ence we have had of the usual Bigness of a Tower and a Man, no one, I suppose, need be told.

LVIII. It is also evident, that Confusion or Faintness, have no more a necessary Connexion [Page 185] with little or great Magnitude, than they have with little or great Distance. As they suggest the latter, so they suggest the former to our Minds. And by Consequence, if it were not for Experi­ence, we shou'd no more judge a faint or confused Appearance to be connected with great or little Magnitude, than we shou'd that it was connected with great or little Distance.

LIX. Nor will it be found, that great or small Visible Magnitude hath any necessary Relation to great or small Tangible Magnitude: So that the one may certainly be infer'd from the other. But, before we come to the Proof of this, it is fit we consider the Difference there is betwixt the Extension and Figure which is the proper Object of Touch, and that other which is termed Visible; and how the former is principally, though not im­mediately taken notice of, when we look at any Object. This has been before mentioned, but we shall here inquire into the Cause thereof. We regard the Objects that environ us, in proportion as they are adapted to benefit or injure our own Bodies, and thereby produce in our Minds the Sensations of Pleasure or Pain. Now Bodies ope­rating on our Organs, by an immediate Applica­tion, and the Hurt or Advantage arising there­from, depending altogether on the Tangible, and not at all on the Visible, Qualities of any Object: This is a plain Reason, why those shou'd be re­garded by us much more than these; and for this End, the Visive Sense seems to have been bestow­ed on Animals, to wit, that by the Perception of Visible Ideas (which in themselves are not capable of affecting, or any wise altering the Frame of their Bodies) they may be able to foresee (from the Experience they have had, what Tangible Ideas are connected with such, and such Visible Ideas) [Page 186] the Damage or Benefit which is like to ensue, up­on the Application of their own Bodies to this or that Body which is at a Distance. Which Fore­sight, how necessary it is to the preservation of an Animal, every one's Experience can inform him. Hence it is, that when we look at an Object, the Tangible Figure and Extension thereof are princi­pally attended to; whilst there is small heed taken of the Visible Figure and Magnitude, which, though more immediately perceived, do less con­cern us, and are not fitted to pruduce any Altera­tion in our Bodies.

LX. That the Matter of Fact is true, will be evident to any one, who considers that a Man placed at Ten Foot Distance, is thought as great, as if he were placed at the Distance only of Five Foot; which is true, not with Relation to the Vi­sible, but Tangible Greatness of the Object. The Visible Magnitude being far greater, at one Station, than it is at the other.

LXI. Inches, Feet, &c. are settled, stated Lengths, whereby we measure Objects, and esti­mate their Magnitude, we say, for Example, an Object appears to be six Inches, or Six Foot long. Now, that this cannot be meant of Visible Inches, &c. is evident, because a Visible Inch is it self no constant, determinate Magnitude, and cannot there­fore serve to mark out, and determine the Magni­tude of any other thing. Take an Inch mark'd upon a Ruler; view it, successively, at the distance of half a Foot, a Foot, a Foot and a Half, &c. from the Eye: At each of which, and at all the intermediate Distances, the Inch shall have a diffe­rent Visible Extension, i. e. there shall be more or fewer Points discerned in it. Now I ask which of all these various Extensions, is that stated, deter­minate [Page 187] one, that is agreed on, for a common Mea­sure of other Magnitudes? No Reason can be assign­ed, why we shou'd pitch on one, more than ano­ther: And except there be some invariable, deter­minate Extension fixed on to be marked by the Word Inch, it is plain, it can be used to little Pur­pose; and to say, a Thing contains this or that Number of Inches, shall imply no more than that it is extended, without bringing any particular Idea of that Extension into the Mind. Farther, an Inch and a Foot, from different Distances, shall both exhibit the same Visible Magnitude, and yet at the same time, you shall say, that one seems se­veral times greater than the other. From all which it is manifest, that the Judgments we make of the Magnitude of Objects by Sight, are altogether in reference to their Tangible Extension. When­ever we say an Object is Great, or Small, of this or that determinate Measure, I say, it must be meant of the Tangible, and not the Visible Exten­sion, which, though immediately perceived, is ne­vertheless little taken notice of

LXII. Now, that there is no necessary Con­nexion, between these two Distinct Extensions is evident from hence: Because our Eyes might have been framed in such a manner, as to be able to see nothing but what were less than the Minimum Tan­gibile. In which Case, it is not impossible we might have perceived all the immediate Objects of Sight, the very same that we do now: But unto those Visible Appearances, there wou'd not be connected those different Tangible Magnitudes, that are now. Which shews, the Judgments we make of the Mag­nitude of Things placed at a distance, from the va­rious Greatness of the Immediate Objects of Sight, do not arise from any Essential or Necessary, but only [Page 188] a Customary Tye, which has been observ'd between them.

LXIII. Moreover, it is not only certain, that any Idea of Sight might not have been connected with this or that Idea of Touch, which we now observe to accompany it: But also, that the great­er Visible Magnitudes might have been connected with, and introduced into our Minds lesser Tangi­ble Magnitudes, and the lesser Visible Magnitudes greater Tangible Magnitudes. Nay, that it actu­ally is so, we have daily Experience; that Object which makes a strong and large Appearance, not seeming near so great as another, the Visible Mag­nitude whereof is much less, but more faint, and the Appearance upper, or which is the same thing painted lower on the Retina, which Faintness and Situation suggest both greater Magnitude and greater Distance.

LXIV. From which, and from SECT. LVII. and LVIII. it is manifest, that as we do not per­ceive the Magnitudes of Objects immediately by Sight, so neither do we perceive them, by the Me­diation of any thing which has a necessary Connex­ion with them. Those Ideas that now suggest un­to us the various Magnitudes of External Objects, before we touch them, might possibly have suggest­ed no such thing: Or they might have signified them, in a direct contrary manner, so that the very same Ideas, on the Perception whereof we judge an Object to be Small, might as well have serv'd to make us conclude it Great. Those Ideas being in their own Nature equally fitted to bring into our Minds the Idea of Small or Great, or no Size at all of outward Objects; just as the Words of any Language are in their own Nature indifferent to signify this or that thing, or nothing at all.

[Page 189] LXV. As we see Distance, so we see Magnitude. And we see both, in the same way that we see Shame or Anger in Looks of a Man. Those Pas­sions are themselves Invisible, they are nevertheless let in by the Eye along with Colours and Alterati­ons of Countenance, which are the immediate Ob­ject of Vision: And which signify them for no o­ther Reason, than barely because they have been observed to accompany them. Without which Experience, we shou'd no more have taken Blush­ing for a Sign of Shame, than of Gladness

LXVI. We are nevertheless exceeding prone to imagine those things, which are perceived only by the Mediation of others, to be themselves the im­mediate Objects of Sight; or, at least, to have in their own Nature a Fitness to be suggested by them, before ever they had been experienced to coexist with them. From which Prejudice every one, perhaps, will not find it easy to emancipate himself, by any the clearest Convictions of Reason. And there are some Grounds to think, that if there was one only invariable and universal Language in the World, and that Men were born with the Fa­culty of speaking it, it wou'd be the Opinion of many, that the Ideas in other Mens Minds were properly perceived by the Ear, or had at least a necessary and inseparable Tye with the Sounds that were affixed to them. All which seems to a­rise from want of a due Application of our discern­ing Faculty, thereby to discriminate between the Ideas that are in our Understandings, and consi­der them apart from each other; which wou'd preserve us from confounding those that are diffe­rent, and make us fee what Ideas do, and what do not include or imply this or that other Idea.

[Page 190] LXVII. There is a Celebrated Phaenomenon, the Solution whereof I shall attempt to give, by the Principles that have been laid down, in refe­rence to the manner wherein we apprehend by Sight the Magnitude of Objects. The apparent Magnitude of the Moon when placed in the Hori­zon, is much greater than when it is in the Meri­dian. Though the Angle under which the Di­ameter of the Moon is seen, be not observed grea­ter in the former Case, than in the latter: And the Horizontal Moon doth not constantly appear of the same Bigness, but at some times seemeth far greater than at others.

LXVIII. Now in order to explain the Rea­son of the Moon's appearing greater than ordinary in the Horizon, it must be observed, that the Par­ticles which compose our Atmosphere intercept the Rays of Light proceeding from any Object to the Eye; and by how much the greater is the Portion of Atmosphere, interjacent between the Object and the Eye, by so much the more are the Rays intercepted; and by consequence, the Ap­pearance of the Object rendered more Faint, every Object appearing more Vigorous or more Faint, in Proportion as it sendeth more or fewer Rays, into the Eye Now, between the Eye and the Moon, when situated in the Horizon, there lies a far greater Quan­tity of Atmosphere, than there does when the Moon is in the Meridian. Whence it comes to pass, that the Appearance of the Horizontal Moon is fainter, and therefore by SECT. LVI. it shou'd be thought bigger in that Situation, than in the Meridian, or in any other Elevation above the Horizon.

LXIX. Farther, the Air being variously im­pregnated, sometimes more and sometimes less [Page 191] with Vapours and Exhalations fitted to retund and intercept the Rays of Light, it follows, that the Appearance of the Horizontal Moon hath not al­ways an equal Faintness, and by Consequence, that Luminary, tho' in the very same Situation, is at one time judged greater than at another.

LXX. That we have here given the true Ac­count of the Phaenomena of the Horizontal Moon, will, I suppose, be farther evident to any one from the following Considerations. First, It is plain, that which in this Case suggests the Idea of greater Magnitude, must be something which is it self per­ceived; for, that which is unperceived cannot sug­gest to our Perception any other thing. Secondly, It must be something that does not constantly re­main the same, but is subject to some Change or Variation, since the Appearance of the Horizontal Moon varies, being at one time greater than at another. And yet, Thirdly, It cannot be the visible Figure or Magnitude, since that remains the same, or is rather lesser, by how much the Moon is near­er to the Horizon. It remains therefore, that the true Cause is that Affection or Alteration of the Visible Appearance, which proceeds from the greater Paucity of Rays arriving at the Eye, and which I term Faintness: Since this answers all the forementioned Conditions, and I am not conscious of any other Perception that doth.

LXXI. Add to this, that in misty Weather it is a common Observation, that the Appearance of the Horizontal Moon is far larger than usual, which greatly conspires with, and strengthens our Opinion. Neither wou'd it prove, in the least, Irreconcilable with what we have said, if the Ho­rizontal Moon shou'd chance sometimes to seem enlarged beyond its usual Extent, even in more [Page 192] Screne Weather. For we must not only have re­gard to the Mist, which happens to be in the place where we stand; we ought also to take into our Thoughts, the whole Sum of Vapours and Exha­lations, which lie betwixt the Eye and the Moon: All which cooperating to render the Appearance of the Moon more Faint, and thereby increase its Magnitude, it may chance to appear greater than it usually does, even in the Horizontal Position, at a time when, though there be no extraordinary Fog or Haziness, just in the place where we stand; yet, the Air between the Eye and the Moon, taken altogether, may be loaded with a greater quantity of interspersed Vapours and Ex­halations, than at other times.

LXXII. It may be objected, that in Conse­quence of our Principles, the Interposition of a Body in some degree Opaque, which may inter­cept a great Part of the Rays of Light, shou'd ren­der the Appearance of the Moon in the Meridian as large, as when it is viewed in the Horizon. To which I answer, it is not Faintness any how appli­ed, that suggests greater Magnitude, there being no necessary, but only an experimental Connexion between those two things: It follows, that the Faintness, which enlarges the Appearance, must be applied in such Sort, and with such Circumstan­ces, as have been observed to attend the Vision of great Magnitudes. When from a Distance we be­hold great Objects, the Particles of the intermedi­ate Air and Vapours, which are themselves unper­ceivable, do interrupt the Rays of Light, and thereby render the Appearance less strong and vivid; now, Faintness of Appearance caused in this Sort, hath been experienced to coexist with great Magnitude. But when it is caused by the Interposition of an opaque sensible Body, this Cir­cumstance [Page 193] alters the Case, so that a faint Appear­ance this way caused, doth not suggest greater Magnitude, because it hath not been experienced to coexist with it.

LXXIII. Faintness, as well as all other Ideas or Perceptions which suggest Magnitude or Distance, doth it in the same way that Words suggest the Notions to which they are annexed. Now it is known, a Word pronounced with certain Circum­stances, or in a certain Context with other Words, hath not always the same Import and Signification that it hath when pronounced in some other Cir­cumstances, or different Context of Words. The very same visible Appearance as to Faintness and all other respects, if placed on high, shall not sug­gest the same Magnitude that it would if it were seen at an equal Distance, on a level with the Eye. The Reason whereof is, that we are rarely ac­customed to view Objects at a great Height; our Concerns lie among things situated rather before than above us; and accordingly our Eyes are not placed on the top of our Heads, but in such a Po­sition, as is most convenient for us to see distant Objects standing in our way, and this Situation of them being a Circumstance, which usually attends the Vision of distant Objects, we may from hence account for (what is commonly observed) an Ob­ject's appearing of different Magnitude, even with respect to its Horizontal Extension, on the top of a Steeple, for example, an hundred Feet high to one standing below, from what it would if placed at an hundred Feet distance on a level with his Eye. For it hath been shewn, that the Judgment we make on the Magnitude of a thing, depends not on the visible Appearance alone, but also on divers other Circumstances, any one of which being omit­ted or varied may suffice to make some alteration in [Page 194] our Judgment. Hence, the Circumstance of view­ing a distant object in such a Situation as is usual, and suits with the ordinary Posture of the Head and Eyes being omitted, and instead thereof a diffe­rent Situation of the Object, which requires a diffe­rent Posture of the Head taking place, it is not to be wondered at, if the Magnitude be judged diffe­rent; but it will be demanded, why an high Object shoul'd constantly appear less than an equidistant low Object of the same Dimensions, for so it is ob­served to be; it may indeed be granted that the va­riation of some Circumstances may vary the Judg­ment, made on the Magnitude of High Objects, which we are less used to look at: But it does not hence appear, why they shou'd be judged less rather than greater? I answer, that in case the Magnitude of distant Objects was suggested by the Extent of their visible Appearance alone, and thought Proportional thereto, it is certain they wou'd then be judged much less than now they seem to be, Vide SECT. LXXIX. But several Circumstances concurring to form the Judgment we make on the Magnitude of distant Objects, by means of which they appear far larger than others, whose visible Appearance hath an equal or even greater Extension; it follows, that upon the Change or Omission of any of those Circumstances, which are wont to attend the Vision of distant Ob­jects, and so come to influence the Judgments made on their Magnitude, they shall proportionably ap­pear less than otherwise they would. For any of those things that caused an Object to be thought greater, than in proportion to its visible Extensi­on, being either omitted or applied without the usual Circumstances, the Judgment depends more intirely on the visible Extension, and consequently the Object must be judged less. Thus in the pre­sent Case, the Situation of the thing seen being dif­ferent [Page 195] from what it usually is in those Objects we have occasion to view, and whose Magnitude we observe, it follows, that the very same Object, be­ing an hundred Feet high, shou'd seem less than if it was an hundred Feet off on (or nearly on) a level with the Eye. What has been here set forth, seems to me to have no small share in contributing to magnify the Appearance of the horizontal Moon, and deserves not to be passed over in the Explicati­on of it.

LXXIV. If we attentively consider the Phaeno­menon before us, we shall find the not discerning between the mediate and immediate Objects of Sight, to be the chief Cause of the Difficulty that occurs in the Explication of it. The Magnitude of the visible Moon, or that which is the proper and immediate Object of Vision, is no greater when the Moon is in the Horizon, than when it is in the Meridian. How comes it therefore, to seem greater in one Situation than the other? What is it can put this Cheat on the Understanding? It has no other Perception of the Moon, than what it gets by Sight: And that which is seen, is of the same Extent, I say, the visible Appearance hath the same, or rather a less Magnitude when the Moon is viewed in the Horizontal, than when in the Meri­dional Position: And yet it is esteemed greater in the former than in the latter. Herein consists the difficulty, which doth vanish and admit of a most easy Solution, if we consider that as the visible Moon is not greater in the Horizon than in the Meridian, so neither is it thought to be so. It hath been already shewn, that in any act of Vision, the visible Object absolutely, or in it self, is little taken notice of, the Mind still carrying its View from that to some tangible Ideas, which have been observed to be connected with it, and by that means come [Page 196] to be suggested by it. So that when a thing is said to appear great or small, or whatever Estimate be made of the Magnitude of any thing, this is meant not of the visible, but of the tangible Object. This duly considered, it will be no hard matter to re­concile the seeming Contradiction there is, that the Moon shou'd appear of a different Bigness, the vi­sible Magnitude thereof remaining still the same. For by SECT. LVI. the very same visible Exten­sion, with a different Faintness, shall suggest a dif­ferent tangible Extension. When therefore the Ho­rizontal Moon is said to appear greater than the Meridional Moon, this must be understood not of a greater visible Extension, but of a greater tangible or real Extension, which by reason of the more than ordinary Faintness of the visible Appearance, is suggested to the Mind along with it.

LXXV. Many Attempts have been made by Learned Men, to account for this Appearance. Gassendus, Descartes, Hobbes, and several others, have emplowed their Thoughts on that Subject; but how fruitless and unsatisfactory their Endeavours have been, is sufficiently shewn in The Philosophical Transactions *, where you may see their several O­pinions at large set forth and confuted, not with­out some Surprise at the gross Blunders that inge­nious Men have been forced into, by endeavouring to reconcile this Appearance with the ordinary Principles of Optics. Since the Writing of which, there hath been published in the Transactions another Paper relating to the same Affair, by the celebrated Dr. Wallis, wherein he attempts to ac­count for that Phaenomenon, which, though it seems not to contain any thing new, or different from [Page 197] what had been said before by others, I shall never­theless consider in this place.

LXXVI. His Opinion, in short, is this; We judge not of the Magnitude of an Object by the visual Angle alone, but by the visual Angle in conjunction with the Distance. Hence, though the Angle remain the same, or even become less, yet if withal the Distance seem to have been increased, the Object shall appear greater. Now, one way whereby we estimate the Distance of any thing, is by the Number and Extent of the intermediate Objects: When therefore the Moon is seen in the Horizon, the Variety of Fields, Houses, &c. to­gether with the large Prospect of the wide extend­ed Land or Sea, that lies between the Eye and the utmost Limb of the Horizon, suggest unto the Mind the Idea of greater Distance, and consequent­ly magnify the Appearance. And this, according to Dr. Wallis, is the true Account of the ex­traordinary Largeness attributed by the Mind to the Horizontal Moon, at a time when the Angle subtended by its Diameter, is not one jot greater than it used to be.

LXXVII. With reference to this Opinion, not to repeat what hath been already said concerning Distance, I shall only observe, First, That if the Prospect of interjacent Objects be that which sug­gests the Idea of farther Distance, and this Idea of farther Distance be the Cause that brings into the Mind the Idea of greater Magnitude, it shou'd hence follow, that if one looked at the Horizontal Moon from behind a Wall, it would appear no bigger than ordinary. For in that Case, the Wall interposing cuts off all that Prospect of Sea and Land, &c. which might otherwise increase the ap­parent Distance, and thereby the apparent Magni­tude [Page 198] of the Moon. Nor will it suffice to say, the Memory doth even then suggest all that Extent of Land, &c. which lies within the Horizon; which Suggestion occasions a sudden Judgment of Sense, that the Moon is farther off and larger than usual. For ask any Man, who from such a Station behold­ing the Horizontal Moon, shall think her greater than usual, whether he hath at that time in his Mind any Idea of the Intermediate Objects, or long Tract of Land that lies between his Eye and the extreme Edge of the Horizon? And whether it be that Idea which is the Cause of his making the aforementioned Judgment? He will, I suppose, reply in the Negative, and declare the Horizontal Moon shall appear greater than the Meridional, though he never thinks of all or any of those things that lie between him and it. Secondly, It seems impossible by this Hypothesis, to account for the Moon's appearing in the very same Situation, at one time greater than at another; which neverthe­less has been shewn to be very agreeable to the Principles we have laid down, and receives a most easy and natural Explication from them. For the further clearing up of this Point, it is to be ob­served that what we immediately and properly see are only Lights and Colours in sundry Situations and Shades, and Degrees of Faintness and Clear­ness, Confusion and Distinctness. All which visi­ble Objects are only in the Mind; nor do they suggest ought external, whether Distance or Mag­nitude, otherwise than by habitual Connexion as Words do Things. We are also to remark, that, beside the Straining of the Eyes, and beside the vivid and faint, the distinct and confused Appear­ances (which bearing some Proportion to Lines and Angles, have been substituted instead of them, in the foregoing Part of this Treatise) there are other means which suggest both Distance and Mag­nitude; [Page 199] particularly, the Situation of visible Points, or Objects, as upper or lower; the former sug­gesting a farther Distance and greater Magnitude, the latter a nearer Distance and lesser Magnitude: All which is an Effect only of Custom and Experi­ence; there being really nothing intermediate in the Line of Distance, between the Uppermost and Lowermost, which are both Aequidistant, or ra­ther at no Distance from the Eye, as there is also nothing in Upper or Lower, which by necessary Connexion shou'd suggest greater or lesser Magni­tude. Now, as these customary, experimental means of suggesting Distance, do likewise suggest Magnitude, so they suggest the one as immediately as the other. I say, they do not (Vide SECT. LIII.) first suggest Distance, and then leave the Mind from thence to infer or compute Magnitude, but suggest Magnitude as immediately and directly as they suggest Distance.

LXXVIII. This Phaenomenon of the Horizon­tal Moon is a clear Instance of the insufficiency of Lines and Angles, for explaining the way wherein the Mind perceives, and estimates the Magnitude of outward Objects. There is nevertheless a use of Computation by them, in order to determine the apparent Magnitude of things, so far as they have a Connexion with, and are proportional to those other Ideas, or Perceptions which are the true and immediate Occasions that suggest to the Mind the apparent Magnitude of Things. But this in general may, I think, be observed concern­ing Mathematical Computation in Optics: That it can never be very precise and exact, since the Judg­ments we make of the Magnitude of External Things do often depend on several Circumstances, which are not proportionable to, or capable of be­ing defined by Lines and Angles.

[Page 200] LXXIX. From what has been said, we may safely deduce this Consequence, to wit, that a Man born blind, and made to see, wou'd, at first opening of his Eyes make a very different Judg­ment of the Magnitude of Objects intromitted by them, from what others do. He wou'd not con­sider the Ideas of Sight, with reference to, or as having any Connexion with the Ideas of Touch: His View of them being intirely terminated within themselves, he can no otherwise judge them Great or Small, than as they contain a greater or lesser Number of visible Points. Now, it being certain that any visible Point can cover or exclude from View, only one other visible Point, it follows, that whatever Object intercepts the View of another, hath an equal Number of visible Points with it; and consequently they shall both be thought by him to have the same Magnitude. Hence it is evi­dent, one in those Circumstances would judge his Thumb, with which he might hide a Tower, or hinder its being seen, equal to that Tower, or his Hand, the Interposition whereof might conceal the Firmament from his View, equal to the Firma­ment: How great an Inequality soever there may, in our Apprehensions, seem to be betwixt those two things, because of the customary and close Connexion that has grown up in our Minds be­tween the Objects of Sight and Touch, whereby the very different and distinct Ideas of those two Senses, are so blended and confounded together, as to be mistaken for one and the same thing; out of which Prejudice we cannot easily extricate our selves.

LXXX. For the better explaining the Nature of Vision, and setting the manner wherein we per­ceive Magnitudes in a due Light, I shall proceed [Page 201] to make some Observations concerning Matters re­lating thereto, whereof the want of Reflexion, and duly separating between tangible and visible Ideas, is apt to create in us mistaken and confused Notions. And First, I shall observe that the Minimum Visibile is exactly equal in all Beings what­soever, that are endowed with the visive Faculty. No exquisite Formation of the Eye, no peculiar Sharpness of Sight can make it less in one Creature than in another; for it not being distinguishable into Parts, nor in any wise consisting of them, it must necessarily be the same to all. For suppose it otherwise, and that the Minimum Visibile of a Mite, for Instance, be less than the Minimum Visi­bile of a Man; the latter therefore may by De­traction of some part be made equal to the former: It doth therefore consist of Parts, which is incon­sistent with the Notion of a Minimum Visibile, or Point.

LXXXI. It will perhaps be objected that the Minimum Visibile of a Man doth really, and in it self contain Parts whereby it surpasses that of a Mite, though they are not perceivable by the Man. To which I answer, the Minimum Visibile having (in like manner as all other the proper and imme­diate Objects of Sight) been shewn not to have any Existence without the Mind of him who sees it, it follows there cannot be any part of it that is not actually perceived, and therefore visible. Now for any Object to contain several distinct visi­ble Parts, and at the same time to be a Minimum Visibile, is a manifest Contradiction.

LXXXII. Of these visible Points we see at all times an equal Number. It is every whit as great when our View is contracted and bounded by near Objects, as when it is extended to larger and re­moter. [Page 202] For it being impossible that one Minimum Visibile should obscure, or keep out of Sight more than one other, it is a plain Consequence, that when my View is on all sides bounded by the Walls of my Study, I see just as many visible points as I cou'd, in case that by the removal of the Study-walls, and all other Obstructions, I had a full Pros­pect of the circumjacent Fields, Mountains, Sea, and open Firmament; for so long as I am shut up within the Walls, by their Interposition, every Point of the external Objects is covered from my View: But each Point that is seen being able to cover or exclude from Sight, one only other cor­responding Point, it follows, that whilst my Sight is confined to those narrow Walls, I see as many Points, or Minima Visibilia, as I should were those Walls away, by looking on all the external Ob­jects, whose Prospect is intercepted by them. Whenever therefore we are said to have a greater Prospect at one time than another, this must be un­derstood with relation not to the proper and im­mediate, but the secondary and mediate Objects of Vision, which, as hath been shewn, properly be­long to the Touch.

LXXXIII. The visive Faculty considered, with reference to its immediate Objects, may be found to labour of two Defects, First, In respect of the Extent or Number of visible Points that are at once perceivable by it, which is narrow and limit­ed to a certain Degree. It can take in at one View but a certain determinate Number of Mini­ma Visibilia, beyond which it cannot extend its Prospect. Secondly, Our Sight is defective in that its View is not only narrow, but also for the most part confused; of those things that we take in at one Prospect, we can see but a few at once clearly and unconfusedly; and the more we fix our Sight [Page 203] on any one Object, by so much the Darker and more Indistinct shall the rest appear.

LXXXIV. Corresponding to these two Defects of Sight, we may imagine as many Perfections, to wit, 1st. That of comprehending in one View a greater Number of visible Points. 2dly. Of being able to view them all equally and at once, with the utmost Clearness and Distinction. That those Perfections are not actually in some Intelligences of a different Order and Capacity from ours, it is impossible for us to know.

LXXXV. In neither of those two Ways do Mi­croscopes contribute to the improvement of Sight; for when we look through a Microscope, we nei­ther see more visible Points, nor are the collateral Points more distinct than when we look with the naked Eye, at Objects placed in a due Distance. A Microscope brings us as it were into a new World: It presents us with a new Scene of visible Objects, quite different from what we behold with the naked Eye. But herein consists the most re­markable Difference, to wit, that whereas the Ob­jects perceived by the Eye alone, have a certain Connexion with tangible Objects, whereby we are taught to foresee what will ensue upon the Ap­proach or Application of distant Objects to the Parts of our own Body, which much conduceth to its Preservation; there is not the like Connex­ion between things tangible and those visible Ob­jects, that are perceived by help of a fine Micro­scope.

LXXXVI. Hence it is evident, that were our Eyes turned into the Nature of Microscopes, we shou'd not be much benefited by the Change; we shou'd be deprived of the forementioned Advan­tage [Page 204] we at present receive by the visive Faculty; and have left us only the empty Amusement of Seeing, without any other benefit arising from it. But in that Case, it will perhaps be said, our Sight wou'd be endued with a far greater Sharp­ness and Penetration than it now hath. But I wou'd fain know wherein consists that Sharpness, which is esteemed so great an Excellency of Sight. It is certain from what we have already shewn, that the Minimum Visibile is never greater or lesser, but in all Cases constantly the same: And in the Case of Microscopical Eyes, I see only this Difference, to wit, that upon the ceasing of a certain observa­ble Connexion betwixt the divers Perceptions of Sight and Touch, which before enabled us to re­gulate our Actions by the Eye, it wou'd now be rendered utterly unserviceable to that Purpose.

LXXXVII. Upon the whole, it seems that if we consider the Use and End of Sight, together with the present State and Circumstances of our Being, we shall not find any great Cause to com­plain of any Defect or Imperfection in it, or easily conceive how it cou'd be mended. With such ad­mirable Wisdom is that Faculty contrived, both for the Pleasure and Convenience of Life.

LXXXVIII. Having finished what I intended to say, concerning the Distance and Magnitude of Objects, I come now to treat of the Manner, where­in the Mind perceives by Sight their Situation. Among the Discoveries of the last Age, it is re­puted none of the least, that the Manner of Vision hath been more clearly explained, than ever it had been before. There is, at this Day, no one Igno­rant, that the Pictures of external Objects are painted on the Retina, or Fund of the Eye. That we can see nothing which is not so painted: And [Page 205] that, according as the Picture is more Distinct or Confused, so also is the Perception we have of the Object: But then in this Explication of Vision, there occurs one mighty Difficulty. The Objects are painted in an inverted Order on the Bottom of the Eye: The upper part of any Object being painted on the lower part of the Eye, and the lower part of the Object on the upper part of the Eye: And so also as to Right and Left. Since therefore the Pictures are thus inverted, it is demanded how it comes to pass, that we see the Objects erect and in their natural Posture?

LXXXIX. In answer to this Difficulty, we are told, that the Mind perceiving an Impulse of a Ray of Light, on the upper part of the Eye, con­siders this Ray as coming in a direct Line, from the lower part of the Object; and in like manner tracing the Ray that strikes on the lower part of the Eye, it is directed to the upper part of the Object. Thus in the adjacent Figure C the lower Point of the Object A B C is projected on c the upper part of the Eye. So likewise, the highest


Point A is projected on a the lowest part of the Eye, which makes the Representation c b a in­verted: But the Mind considering the Stroke that is made on c as coming in the straight Line C c from the lower end of the Object; and the Stroke or Impulse on a, as coming in the Line [Page 206] A a from the upper End of the Object, is directed to make a right Judgment of the Situation of the Object A B C, notwithstanding the Picture of it is inverted. This is illustrated by conceiving a blind Man, who holding in his Hands two Sticks that cross each other, doth with them touch the extre­mities of an Object, placed in a perpendicular Si­tuation. It is certain, this Man will judge that to be the upper part of the Object, which he touches with the Stick held in the undermost Hand, and that to be the lower part of the Object, which he touches with the Stick in his uppermost Hand. This is the common Explication of the erect Ap­pearance of Objects, which is generally received and acquiesced in, being (as Mr. Molyneux tells us *) allowed by all Men as Satisfactory.

XC. But this account to me does not seem in any degree True. Did I perceive those Impulses, Decussations, and Directions of the Rays of Light, in like manner as hath been set forth, then, indeed, it wou'd not at first view be altogether void of Probability. And there might be some Pretence for the Comparison of the Blind-Man and his cross Sticks. But the Case is far otherwise. I know very well that I perceive no such thing. And of Consequence, I cannot thereby make an Estimate of the Situation of Objects. I appeal to any one's Experience, whether he be conscious to himself, that he thinks on the Intersection made by the Ra­dious Pencils, or pursues the Impulses they give in right Lines, whenever he perceives by Sight the Position of any Object? To me it seems evi­dent, that Crossing and Tracing of the Rays, is never thought on by Children, Idiots, or in truth by any other, save only those who have applyed [Page 207] themselves to the Study of Optics. And for the Mind to judge of the Situation of Objects by those things, without perceiving them, or to perceive them without knowing it, is equally beyond my Comprehension. Add to this, that the explaining the manner of Vision by the Example of cross Sticks, and hunting for the Object along the Axes of the Radious Pencils, doth suppose the proper Objects of Sight to be perceived at a Distance from us, contrary to what hath been demonstrated.

XCI. It remains, therefore, that we look for some other Explication of this Difficulty: And I believe it not impossible to find one, provided we examine it to the Bottom, and carefully distin­guish between the Ideas of Sight and Touch; which cannot be too oft inculcated in treating of Vision: But more especially throughout the consi­deration of this Affair, we ought to carry that Distinction in our Thoughts: For that from want of a right Understanding thereof, the Difficulty of explaining Erect Vision seems chiefly to arise.

XCII. In order to disentangle our Minds, from whatever Prejudices we may entertain with relation to the Subject in hand, nothing seems more appo­site, than the taking into our Thoughts the Case of one born Blind, and afterwards, when grown up, made to see. And though perhaps, it may not be an easy Task to divest our selves intirely of the Experience received from Sight, so as to be able to put our Thoughts exactly in the Posture of such a one's; we must, nevertheless as far as possible, endeavour to frame true Conceptions, of what might reasonably be supposed to pass in his Mind.

[Page 208] XCIII. It is certain, that a Man actually Blind, and who had continued so from his Birth, wou'd by the sense of Feeling attain to have Ideas of Upper and Lower. By the Motion of his Hand he might discern the Situation of any Tangible Object placed within his Reach. That part on which he felt himself supported, or towards which he perceived his Body to gravitate, he wou'd term Lower, and the contrary to this Upper; and ac­cordingly denominate whatsoever Objects he touch­ed.

XCIV. But then, whatever Judgments he makes concerning the Situation of Objects, are confined to those only that are perceivable by Touch. All those things that are Intangible, and of a spiritual Nature, his Thoughts and Desires, his Passions, and in general all the Modifications of his Soul, to these he wou'd never apply the Terms Upper and Lower, except only in a Metaphorical Sense. He may, perhaps, by way of Allusion, speak of high or low Thoughts: But those Terms in their pro­per Signification, wou'd never be applyed to any thing, that was not conceived to exist without the Mind. For a Man born Blind, and remaining in the same State, could mean nothing else by the Words Higher and Lower, than a greater or lesser Distance from the Earth: Which Distance he wou'd measure by the Motion or Application of his Hand, or some other part of his Body. It is, therefore, evident, that all those things which, in respect of each other, wou'd by him be thought Higher or Lower, must be such as were conceived to exist without his Mind, in the ambient Space.

XCV. Whence it plainly follows, that such a one, if we suppose him made to see, wou'd not at [Page 209] first Sight think, that any thing he saw was High or Low, Erect or Inverted; for it hath been al­ready demonstrated in SECT. XLI. that he wou'd not think the Things he perceived by Sight to be at any Distance from him, or without his Mind. The Objects to which he had hitherto been used to apply the Terms Up and Down, High and Low, were such only as affected, or were some way per­ceived by his Touch: But the proper Objects of Vision make a new Set of Ideas, perfectly distinct and different from the former, and which can in no sort make themselves perceived by Touch. There is, therefore, nothing at all that cou'd induce him to think those Terms applicable to them: Nor wou'd he ever think it, till such time as he had observed their Connexion with Tangible Objects, and the same Prejudices began to insinuate it self into his Understanding, which from their Infancy had grown up in the Understandings of other Men.

XCVI. To set this Matter in a clearer Light, I shall make use of an Example. Suppose the above-mentioned blind Person, by his Touch, perceives a Man to stand Erect. Let us inquire into the manner of this. By the application of his Hand to the several Parts of a Humane Body, he had perceived different Tangible Ideas, which being collected into sundry complex ones have distinct Names annexed to them. Thus one Combination of a certain Tangible Figure, Bulk, and Consist­ency of Parts is called the Head, another the Hand, a Third the Foot, and so of the rest: All which Complex Ideas cou'd, in his Understanding, be made up only of Ideas perceivable by Touch. He had also by his Touch obtained an Idea of Earth or Ground, towards which he perceives the Parts of his Body to have a natural Tendency. Now, by Erect nothing more being meant, than [Page 210] that perpendicular Position of a Man, wherein his Feet are nearest to the Earth: If the blind Person by moving his Hand, over the Parts of the Man who stands before him, perceives the tangible Ideas that compose the Head, to be farthest from, and those that compose the Feet to be nearest to, that other Combination of Tangible Ideas which he calls Earth: He will denominate that Man Erect. But if we suppose him on a sudden to receive his Sight, and that he behold a Man standing before him, it is evident, in that Case, he wou'd neither judge the Man he sees to be Erect nor Inverted; for he never having known those Terms applied to any other, save Tangible Things, or which existed in the Space without him, and what he sees neither being Tangible, nor perceived as existing without, he cou'd not know that in propriety of Language they were applicable to it.

XCVII. Afterwards, when upon turning his Head or Eyes up and down to the right and left, he shall observe the visible Objects to change, and shall also attain to know, that they are called by the same Names, and connected with the Objects perceived by Touch; then, indeed, he will come to speak of them and their Situation, in the same Terms that he has been used to apply to Tangible Things: And those that he perceives by turning up his Eyes, he will call Upper, and those that by turning down his Eyes, he will call Lower.

XCVIII. And this seems to me the true Rea­son why he shou'd think those Objects uppermost that are painted on the Lower part of his Eye: For, by turning the Eye up they shall be distinct­ly seen; as likewise those that are painted on the highest part of the Eye shall be distinctly seen, by turning the Eye down, and are for that Reason [Page 211] esteemed lowest: For we have shewn that to the immediate Objects of Sight, considered in them­selves, he wou'd not attribute the Terms High and Low. It must therefore be on account of some Circumstances, which are observed to attend them: And these, it is plain, are the Actions of turning the Eye up and down, which suggest a very obvi­ous Reason, why the Mind shou'd denominate the Objects of Sight accordingly High or Low. And without this Motion of the Eye, this turning it up and down in order to discern different Objects, doubtless Erect, Inverse, and other the like Terms relating to the Position of Tangible Objects, wou'd never have been transferred, or in any degree ap­prehended to belong to the Ideas of Sight: The meer Act of Seeing including nothing in it to that Purpose; whereas the different Situations of the Eye naturally direct the Mind to make a suitable Judgment of the Situation of Objects intromitted by it.

XCIX. Farther, when he has by Experience learned the Connexion there is between the several Ideas of Sight and Touch, he will be able, by the Perception he has of the Situation of Visible Things in respect of one another, to make a sudden and true Estimate of the Situation of Outward, Tan­gible Things corresponding to them. And thus it is, he shall perceive by Sight the Situation of Ex­ternal Objects, which do not properly fall under that Sense.

C. I know we are very prone to think, that if just made to see, we shou'd judge of the Situation of Visible Things as we do now: But, we are also as prone to think, that at first Sight, we shou'd in the same way apprehend the Distance and Magnitude of Objects, as we do now: Which hath been shewn [Page 212] to be a false and groundless Persuasion. And for the like Reasons, the same Censure may be past on the positive Assurance, that most Men, before they have thought sufficiently of the Matter, might have of their being able to determine by the Eye at first view, whether Objects were Erect or Inverse.

CI. It will, perhaps be objected to our Opini­on, that a Man, for Instance, being thought Erect when his Feet are next the Earth, and Inverted when his Head is next the Earth, it doth hence follow, that by the meer act of Vision, without a­ny Experience or altering the Situation of the Eye, we shou'd have determined whether he were Erect or Inverted: For both the Earth it self, and the Limbs of the Man who stands thereon, being e­qually perceived by Sight, one cannot choose see­ing, what part of the Man is nearest the Earth, and what part farthest from it, i. e. whether he be Erect or Inverted.

CII. To which I answer, the Ideas which con­stitute the Tangible Earth and Man, are intirely different from those which constitute the Visible Earth and Man. Nor was it possible, by virtue of the Visive Faculty alone, without superadding any Experience of Touch, or altering the Position of the Eye, ever to have known, or so much as suspected, there had been any Relation or Connex­ion between them: Hence, a Man at first view wou'd not denominate any thing he saw Earth, or Head, or Foot; and consequently, he cou'd not tell by the meer act of Vision, whether the Head or Feet were nearest the Earth: Nor, in­deed, wou'd we have thereby any thought of Earth or Man, Erect or Inverse, at all: Which will be made yet more evident, if we nicely observe, and [Page 213] make a particular Comparison between the Ideas of both Senses.

CIII. That which I see is only variety of Light and Colours. That which I feel is Hard or Soft, Hot or Cold, Rough or Smooth. What Simili­tude, what Connexion have those Ideas with these? Or how is it possible, that any one shou'd see Rea­son, to give one and the same Name to Combinati­ons of Ideas so very different, before he had expe­rienced their Coexistence? We do not find there is any necessary Connexion betwixt this or that Tan­gible Quality, and any Colour whatsoever. And we may sometimes perceive Colours, where there is nothing to be felt. All which doth make it ma­nifest, that no Man at first receiving of his Sight, wou'd know there was any Agreement between this or that particular Object of his Sight, and any Object of Touch he had been already acquainted with: The Colours therefore of the Head, wou'd to him no more suggest the Idea of Head, than they wou'd the Idea of Foot.

CIV. Farther, we have at large shewn (vid. SECT. LXIII and LXIV.) there is no dicoverable, neces­sary Connexion, between any given Visible Magni­tude, and any one particular Tangible Magnitude; but that it is intirely the result of Custom and Ex­perience, and depends on foreign and accidental Circumstances, that we can by the Perception of Visible Extension inform our selves, what may be the Extension of any Tangible Object connected with it. Hence it is certain that neither the Visi­ble Magnitude of Head or Foot, wou'd bring a­long with them into the Mind, at first opening of the Eyes, the respective Tangible Magnitudes of those Parts.

[Page 214] CV. By the foregoing Section, it is plain the Visible Figure of any Part of the Body hath no ne­cessary Connexion with the Tangible Figure there­of, so as at First Sight to suggest it to the Mind: For Figure is the Termination of Magnitude, whence it follows, that no Visible Magnitude, hav­ing in its own Nature an aptness to suggest any one particular Tangible Magnitude, so neither can any Visible Figure be inseparably connected with its corresponding Tangible Figure: So as of it self and in a way prior to Experience, it might sug­gest it to the Understanding. This will be farther evident, if we consider that what seems smooth and round to the Touch, may to Sight, if viewed through a Microscope, seem quite otherwise.

CVI. From all which laid together and duly considered, we may clearly deduce this Inference. In the first act of Vision, no Idea entering by the Eye, wou'd have a perceivable Connexion with the Ideas to which the Names Earth, Man, Head, Foot, &c. were annexed in the Understanding of a Person Blind from his Birth; so as in any sort to introduce them into his Mind, or make themselves be called by the same Names, and reputed the same Things with them, as afterwards they come to be.

CVII. There doth, nevertheless, remain one Difficulty, which perhaps may seem to press hard on our Opinion, and deserve not to be passed over: For though it be granted that neither the Colour, Size, nor Figure of the visible Feet have any ne­cessary Connexion with the Ideas that compose the Tangible Feet, so as to bring them at first sight in­to my Mind, or make me in danger of confounding them before I had been used to, and for some time experienced their Connexion: Yet thus much seems [Page 215] undeniable, namely, that the Number of the visi­ble Feet, being the same with that of the Tangible Feet, I may from hence without any Experience of Sight, reasonably conclude, that they represent or are connected with the Feet rather than the Head. I say, it seems the Idea of two visible Feet will sooner suggest to the Mind, the Idea of two tangible Feet than of one Head; so that the blind Man upon first Reception of the visive Faculty might know, which were the Feet or Two, and which the Head or One.

CVIII. In order to get clear of this seeming Difficulty, we need only observe, that Diversity of visible Objects doth not necessarily infer diversi­ty of tangible Objects corresponding to them. A Picture painted with great variety of Colours af­fects the Touch in one uniform manner; it is there­fore evident, that I do not by any necessary Con­secution, independent of Experience, judge of the number of things Tangible, from the Number of things Visible. I shou'd not therefore at first open­ing my Eyes conclude, that because I see two I shall feel two. How, therefore can I, before Ex­perience teaches me, know that the visible Legs, because two, are connected with the tangible Legs, or the visible Head, because one is connected with the tangible Head? The truth is, the things I see are so very different and heterogeneous from the things I feel, that the Perception of the one wou'd never have suggested the other to my thoughts, or enabled me to pass the least Judgment thereon, un­til I had experienced their Connexion.

CIX. But for a fuller Illustration of this Matter, it ought to be considered that Number (however some may reckon it amongst the Primary Qualities) is nothing fixed and settled, really existing in things [Page 216] themselves. It is intirely the Creature of the Mind, considering, either an Idea by it self, or any Com­bination of Ideas to which it gives one Name, and so makes it pass for an Unite. According as the Mind variously combines its Ideas, the Unite varies; and as the Unite, so the Number, which is only a Collection of Unites, doth also vary. We call a Window one, a Chimney one, and yet a House in which there are many Windows, and many Chim­neys, hath an equal right to be called one, and ma­ny Houses go to the making of one City. In these and the like Instances, it is evident the Unite con­stantly relates to the particular Draughts the Mind makes of its Ideas, to which it affixes Names, and wherein it includes more or less, as best suits its own Ends and Purposes. Whatever therefore the Mind considers as one, that is an Unite. Every Combination of Ideas is considered as one thing by the Mind, and in token thereof is marked by one Name. Now, this Naming and Combining to­gether of Ideas is perfectly arbitrary, and done by the Mind in such sort, as Experience shews it to be most convenient: Without which, our Ideas had never been collected into such sundry distinct Combinations as they now are.

CX. Hence it follows, that a Man born Blind, and afterwards, when grown up, made to see, wou'd not in the first act of Vision, parcel out the Ideas of Sight, into the same distinct Collections that o­thers do, who have experienced which do regular­ly coexist and are proper to be bundled up toge­ther under one Name. He wou'd not, for Exam­ple, make into one complex Idea, and thereby esteem, and unite all those particular Ideas, which constitute the visible Head or Foot. For there can be no Reason assigned why he shou'd do so, barely upon his seeing a Man stand upright before him: [Page 217] There croud into his Mind the Ideas which com­pose the visible Man, in company with all the o­ther Ideas of Sight perceiv'd at the same time: But all these Ideas offer'd at once to his View, he wou'd not distribute into sundry distinct Combinations, till such as by observing the Motion of the Parts of the Man and other Experiences, he comes to know, which are to be separated, and which to be collected together.

CXI. From what hath been premised, it is plain the Objects of Sight and Touch make, if I may so say, two Sets of Ideas, which are widely different from each other. To Objects of either kind, we indifferently attribute the Terms high and low, right and left, and such like, denoting the Position or Situation of things: But then we must well ob­serve that the Position of any Object is determined with respect only to Objects of the same Sense. We say any Object of Touch is high or low; ac­cording as it is more or less distant from the tangi­ble Earth: And in like manner we denominate any Object of Sight high or low, in Proportion as it is more or less distant from the visible Earth: But to define the Situation of visible Things, with re­lation to the Distance they bear from any tangible Thing, or vice versa, this were absurd and perfect­ly untintelligible. For all visible things are equal­ly in the Mind, and take up no part of the exter­nal Space: And consequently are equidistant from any tangible thing, which exists without the Mind.

CXII. Or rather to speak truly, the proper Ob­jects of Sight are at no Distance, neither near nor far from any tangible Thing. For if we in­quire narrowly into the Matter we shall find that those things only are compared together in respect of Distance, which exist after the same manner, or [Page 218] appertain unto the same Sense. For by the Di­stance between any two Points, nothing more is meant than the Number of intermediate Points: If the given Points are visible, the Distance between them is marked out by the Number of the interja­cent visible Points: If they are tangible, the Di­stance between them is a Line consisting of tangi­ble Points; but if they are one Tangible, and the other Visible, the Distance between them doth nei­ther consist of Points perceivable by Sight nor by Touch, i. e. it is utterly inconceivable. This, per­haps, will not find an easy Admission into all Mens Understanding: However, I should gladly be in­formed whether it be not true, by any one who will be at the pains to reflect a little, and apply it home to his Thoughts.

CXIII. The not observing what has been deli­vered in the two last Sections, seems to have occa­sioned no small part of the Difficulty that occurs in the Business of Erect Appearances. The Head, which is painted nearest the Earth, seems to be farthest from it; and on the other hand, the Feet, which are painted farthest from the Earth, are thought nearest to it. Herein lies the Difficulty, which vanishes if we express the thing more clear­ly and free from Ambiguity, thus: How comes it that, to the Eye, the visible Head which is near­est the tangible Earth, seems farthest from the Earth, and the visible Feet, which are farthest from the tangible Earth, seem nearest the Earth? The Question being thus proposed, who sees not the Difficulty is founded on a Supposition, that the Eye, or visive Faculty, or rather the Soul by means thereof, shou'd judge of the Situation of vi­sible Objects, with reference to their Distance from the tangible Earth? Whereas it is evident the tan­gible Earth is not perceived by Sight: And it hath [Page 219] been shewn in the two last preceding Sections, that the Location of Visible Objects is determined only by the Distance they bear from one another; and that it is Nonsense to talk of Distance, far or near, between a visible and tangible Thing.

CXIV. If we confine our Thoughts to the proper Objects of Sight, the whole is plain and easy. The Head is painted farthest from, and the Feet near­est to the visible Earth; and so they appear to be. What is there strange or unaccountable in this? Let us suppose the Pictures in the Fund of the Eye, to be the immediate Objects of the Sight. The Consequence is, that things shou'd appear in the same Posture they are painted in; and is it not so? The Head which is seen, seems farthest from the Earth which is seen; and the Feet, which are seen, seem nearest to the Earth which is seen; and just so they are painted.

CXV. But, say you, the Picture of the Man is inverted, and yet the Appearance is Erect: I ask, what mean you by the Picture of the Man, or, which is the same thing, the visible Man's being inverted? You tell me it is inverted, because the Heels are uppermost, and the Head undermost? Explain me this. You say, that by the Head's being under­most, you mean that it is nearest to the Earth; and by the Heels being uppermost, that they are farthest from the Earth. I ask again, what Earth you mean? You cannot mean the Earth that is painted on the Eye, or the visible Earth: For the Picture of the Head is farthest from the Picture of the Earth, and the Picture of the Feet nearest to the Picture of the Earth; and accordingly the visible Head is farthest from the visible Earth, and the visible Feet nearest to it. It remains, therefore, that you mean the tangible Earth, and so determine the Situation of visible things with respect to tangible Things; contrary to what [Page 220] hath been demonstrated in SECT. CXI. and CXII. The two distinct Provinces of Sight and Touch shou'd be considered apart, and as if their Objects had no Intercourse, no manner of Relation to one another, in point of Distance or Position.

CXVI. Farther, what greatly contributes to make us mistake in this Matter is, that when we think of the Pictures in the Fund of the Eye, we imagine our selves looking on the Fund of another's Eye, or another looking on the Fund of our own Eye, and beholding the Pictures painted thereon. Suppose two Eyes A and B: A from some distance looking on the Pictures in B sees them inverted, and for that reason concludes they are inverted in B: But this is wrong. There are projected in little on the Bottom of A, the Images of the Pictures of, suppose Man, Earth, &c. which are painted on B. And besides these, the Eye B it self, and the Ob­jects which environ it, together with another Earth, are projected in a larger Size on A. Now, by the Eye A, these larger Images are deemed the true Objects, and the lesser only Pictures in miniature. And it is with respect to those greater Images, that it determines the Situation of the smaller Ima­ges: So that comparing the little Man with the great Earth, A judges him inverted, or that the Feet are farthest from, and the Head nearest to the great Earth. Whereas, if A compare the lit­tle Man with the little Earth, then he will appear Erect, i. e. his Head shall seem farthest from, and his Feet nearest to the little Earth. But we must consider that B does not see two Earths as A does: It sees only what is represented by the little Pic­tures in A, and consequently shall judge the Man Erect: For, in truth, the Man in B is not invert­ed, for there the Feet are next the Earth; but it is the Representation of it in A which is inverted, [Page 221] for there the Head of the Representation of the Picture of the Man in B is next the Earth, and the Feet farthest from the Earth, meaning the Earth which is without the Representation of the Pictures in B. For if you take the little Images of the Pic­tures in B, and consider them by themselves, and with respect only to one another, they are all Erect and in their natural Posture.

CXVII. Farther, there lies a Mistake in our i­magining that the Pictures of external Objects are painted on the Bottom of the Eye. It hath been shewn, there is no resemblance between the Ideas of Sight, and things Tangible. It hath likewise been demonstrated, that the proper Objects of Sight do not exist without the Mind. Whence it clearly follows, that the Pictures painted on the Bottom of the Eye, are not the Pictures of external Objects. Let any one consult his own Thoughts, and then say what Affinity, what Likeness there is between that certain Variety and Disposition of Colours, which constitute the visible Man, or Picture of a Man, and that other Combination of far different Ideas, sensible by Touch, which compose the tangible Man. But if this be the Case, how come they to be accounted Pictures or Images, since that sup­poses them to copy or represent some Originals or other?

CXVIII. To which I answer: In the foremen­tioned Instance, the Eye A takes the little Images, included within the Representation of the other Eye B, to be Pictures or Copies, whereof the Ar­chetypes are not things existing without, but the larger Pictures projected on its own Fund: and which by A are not thought Pictures, but the O­riginals, or true Things themselves. Though if we suppose a third Eye C, from a due Distance to [Page 222] behold the Fund of A, then indeed the Things projected thereon, shall, to C, seem Pictures or Images, in the same Sense that those projected on B do to A.

CXIX. Rightly to conceive this Point, we must carefully distinguish between the Ideas of Sight and Touch, between the visible and tangible Eye; for certainly on the tangible Eye, nothing either is or seems to be painted. Again, the visible Eye, as well as all other visible Objects, hath been shewn to exist only in the Mind, which perceiving its own Ideas, and comparing them together, calls some Pictures in respect of others. What hath been said, being rightly comprehended and laid together, doth, I think, afford a full and genuine Explication of the erect Appearance of Objects; which Phaenomenon, I must confess, I do not see how it can be explain­ed by any Theories of Vision hitherto made pub­lick.

CXX. In treating of these things, the use of Language is apt to occasion some Obscurity and Confusion, and create in us wrong Ideas: For Language being accommodated to the Common Notions and Prejudices of Men, it is scarce possi­ble to deliver the naked and precise Truth, with­out great Circumlocution, Impropriety, and (to an unwary Reader) seeming Contradictions; I do, therefore, once for all desire whoever shall think it worth his while to understand what I have written concerning Vision, that he would not stick in this or that Phrase, or manner of Expression, but can­didly collect my Meaning from the whole Sum and Tenor of my Discourse, and laying aside the Words as much as possible, consider the bare Notions themselves, and then judge whether they are agree­able to Truth and his own Experience, or no.

[Page 223] CXXI. We have shewn the way wherein the Mind by mediation of visible Ideas doth perceive or apprehend the Distance, Magnitude, and Situ­ation of tangible Objects. I come now to inquire more particularly concerning the Difference be­tween the Ideas of Sight and Touch, which are call'd by the same Names, and see whether there be any Idea common to both Senses. From what we have at large set forth and demonstrated in the fore­going parts of this Treatise, it is plain there is no one self same numerical Extension, perceived both by Sight and Touch; but that the particular Fi­gures and Extensions perceived by Sight, however they may be called by the same Names, and reput­ed the same Things, with those perceived by Touch, are nevertheless different, and have an Ex­istence distinct and separate from them: So that the Question is not now concerning the same nume­rical Ideas, but whether there be any one and the same sort or Species of Ideas equally perceiveable to both Senses? Or, in other Words, whether Ex­tension, Figure, and Motion perceived by Sight, are not specifically distinct from Extension, Figure and Motion perceived by Touch?

CXXII. But before I come more particularly to discuss this Matter, I find it proper to consider Extension in Abstract: For of this there is much talk, and I apt to think, that when Men speak of Exten­sion, as being an Idea common to Two Senses, it is with a secret Supposition, that we can single out Extension from all other tangible and visible Qua­lities, and form thereof an Abstract Idea, which Idea they will have common both to Sight and Touch. We are therefore to understand by Ex­tension in Abstract, an Idea of Extension; for in­stance, a Line or Surface, intirely stript of all o­ther [Page 224] sensible Qualities and Circumstances that might determine it to any particular Existence; it is nei­ther black nor white, nor red, nor hath it any Co­lour at all, or any tangible Quality whatsoever, and consequently it is of no finite determinate Magni­tude: For that which bounds or distinguishes one Extension from another, is some Quality or Cir­cumstance wherein they disagree.

CXXIII. Now I do not find that I can perceive, imagine, or any wise frame in my Mind such an ab­stract Idea, as is here spoken of. A Line or Sur­face, which is neither black, nor white, nor blue, nor yellow, &c. nor long, nor short, nor rough, nor smooth, nor square, nor round, &c. is per­fectly incomprehensible. This I am sure of as to my self; how far the Faculties of other Men may reach, they best can tell.

CXXIV. It is commonly said, that the Object of Geometry is abstract Extension; but Geometry contemplates Figures: Now, Figure is the Ter­mination of Magnitude, but we have shewn that Extension in Abstract hath no finite determinate Magnitude, whence it clearly follows that it can have no Figure, and consequently is not the Object of Geometry. It is indeed a Tenet as well of the modern as of the ancient Philosophers, that all ge­neral Truths are concerning universal abstract Ideas; without which, we are told, there cou'd be no Science, no Demonstration of any general Proposi­tion in Geometry. But it were no hard matter, did I think it necessary to my present Purpose, to shew that Propositions and Demonstrations in Geometry might be Universal, though they who make them, never think of abstract general Ideas of Triangles or Circles.

[Page 225] CXXV. After reiterated endeavours to appre­hend the general Idea of a Triangle, I have found it altogether incomprehensible. And surely if any one were able to introduce that Idea into my Mind, it must be the Author of the Essay concerning Hu­mane Understanding; He, who has so far distinguish­ed himself from the generality of Writers, by the Clearness and Significancy of what he says. Let us therefore see how this celebrated Author describes the general, or abstract Idea of a Triangle. ‘It must be (says he) neither Oblique, nor Rectan­gular, neither Equilateral, Equicrural, nor Sca­lenum; but all and none of these at once. In effect it is somewhat imperfect that cannot exist; an Idea, wherein some Parts of several different and inconsistent Ideas are put together.’ Essay on Hum. Understanding. B. iv. C. 7. S. 9. This is the Idea, which he thinks needful, for the Enlarge­ment of knowledge, which is the Subject of Ma­thematical Demonstration, and without which we could never come to know any general Proposition concerning Triangles. That Author acknow­ledges it doth ‘require some Pains and Skill to form this general Idea of a Triangle.’ Ibid. But had he called to mind what he says in another place, to wit, ‘That Ideas of mixed Modes wherein any inconsistent Ideas are put together, cannot so much as exist in the Mind, i. e. be conceived.’ Vid. B. iii. C. 10. S. 33. Ibid. I say, had this oc­curred to his Thoughts, it is not improbable he would have owed it above all the Pains and Skill he was master of, to form the above-mentioned I­dea of a Triangle, which is made up of manifest, staring Contradictions. That a Man who thought so much, and laid so great a stress on clear and de­terminate Ideas, shou'd nevertheless talk at this rate, seems very surprising. But the wonder will [Page 226] lessen if it be considered, that the Source whence this Opinion flows, is the prolific Womb which has brought forth innumerable Errors and Difficul­ties, in all parts of Philosophy, and in all the Sciences: But this Matter, taken in its full Ex­tent, were a Subject too vast and comprehensive to be insisted on in this place. And so much for Extension in Abstract.

CXXVI. some, perhaps, may think pure Space, Vacuum, or Trine Dimension to be equally the Object of Sight and Touch: But though we have a very great Propension, to think the Ideas of Outness and Space to be the immediate Ob­ject of Sight; yet if I mistake not, in the forego­ing Parts of this Essay, That hath been clearly demonstrated to be a meer Delusion, arising from the quick and sudden suggestion of Fancy, which so closely connects the Idea of Distance with those of Sight, that we are apt to think it is it self a proper and immediate Object of that Sense, till Reason corrects the Mistake.

CXXVII. It having been shewn, that there are no Abstract Ideas of Figure, and that it is impossi­ble for us, by any Precision of Thought, to frame an Idea of Extension separate from all other Visi­ble and Tangible Qualities, which shall be com­mon both to Sight and Touch: The Question now remaining is, whether the particular Extensions, Figures and Motions perceived by Sight be of the same kind, with the particular Extensions, Figures, and Motions perceived by Touch? In answer to which, I shall venture to lay down the following Proposition: The Extension, Figures, and Motions, perceived by Sight are specifically distinct from the Ide­as of Touch, called by the same Names, nor is there any such thing as one Idea, or kind of Idea common to [Page 227] both Senses. This Proposition may, without much Difficulty, be collected from what hath been said in several Places of this Essay. But, because it seems so remote from, and contrary to, the receiv­ed Notions and settled Opinion of Mankind, I shall attempt to demonstrate it more particularly, and at large, by the following Arguments.

CXXVIII. When upon Perception of an Idea, I range it under this or that sort; it is because it is perceived after the same manner, or because it has a Likeness or Conformity with, or affects me in the same way as the Ideas of the sort I rank it under. In short, it must not be intirely new, but have something in it Old, and already perceived by me: It must, I say, have so much, at least, in common with the Ideas I have before known and named, as to make me give it the same Name with them. But it has been, if I mistake not, clearly made out, that a Man born Blind wou'd not at first reception of his Sight, think the Things he saw were of the same Nature with the Objects of Touch, or had any thing in common with them; but that they were a new Set of Ideas, perceived in a new manner, and intirely different from all he had ever perceived before: So that he wou'd not call them by the same Name, nor repute them to be of the same Sort, with any thing he had hitherto known.

CXXIX. Secondly, Light and Colours are al­lowed by all to constitute a sort or Species intirely different from the Ideas of Touch: Nor will any Man, I presume, say they can make themselves perceived by that Sense: But there is no other immediate Object of Sight, besides Light and Co­lours. It is therefore a direct Consequence, that there is no Idea common to both Senses.

[Page 228] CXXX. It is a prevailing Opinion, even a­mongst those who have thought and writ most ac­curately concerning our Ideas, and the Ways whereby they enter into the Understanding, that something more is perceived by Sight, than barely Light and Colours with their Variations. Mr. Locke termeth Sight, ‘The most Comprehensive of all our Senses, conveying to our Minds the Ideas of Light and Colours, which are peculiar only to that Sense; and also the far different Ideas of Space, Figure and Motion.’ Essay on Human Understand. B. ii. C. 9. S. 9. Space or Distance, we have shewn is no otherwise the Object of Sight than of Hearing. vid. SECT. XLVI. And as for Figure and Extension, I leave it to any one, that shall calmly attend to his own clear and distinct Ideas, to decide whether he has any Idea intro­mitted immediately and properly by Sight, save only Light and Colours: Or whether it be possible for him, to frame in his Mind a distinct Abstract Idea of Visible Extension, or Figure, exclusive of all Colour; and on the other hand, whether he can conceive Colour without Visible Extension? For my own part, I must confess, I am not able to attain so great a nicety of Abstraction; in a strict Sense, I see nothing but Light and Colours, with their several Shades and Variations. He who beside these doth also perceive by Sight Ideas far different and distinct from them, hath that Faculty in a degree more perfect and comprehensive than I can pretend to. It must be owned, that by the mediation of Light and Colours, other far different Ideas are suggested to my Mind: but so they are by Hearing, which beside Sounds which are pecu­liar to that Sense, doth by their mediation suggest not only Space, Figure and Motion, but also all other Ideas whatsoever that can be signified by Words.

[Page 229] CXXXI. Thirdly, It is, I think, an Axiom universally received, that Quantities of the same kind may be added together, and make one intire Sum. Mathematicians add Lines together; but they do not add a Line to a Solid, or conceive it as making one Sum with a Surface: These three kinds of Quantity being thought incapable of any such mutual Addition, and consequently of being compared together, in the several ways of Pro­portion, are by them esteemed intirely Disparate and Heterogeneous. Now let any one try in his Thoughts to add a Visible Line or Surface to a Tangible Line or Surface, so as to conceive them making one continued Sum or Whole. He that can do this, may think them Homogeneous; but he that cannot must, by the foregoing Axiom, think them Heterogeneous: A Blue, and a Red Line I can conceive added together into one Sum, and making one continued Line; but to make, in my Thoughts, one continued Line of a Visible and Tangible Line added together is, I find, a Task far more difficult, and even insurmountable; and I leave it to the Reflexion and Experience of every particular Person to determine for himself.

CXXXII. A farther Confirmation of our Tenet may be drawn from the Solution of Mr. Molyneux's Problem, published by Mr. Locke in his Essay: Which I shall set down as it there lies, together with Mr. Locke's Opinion of it, Suppose a Man born Blind, and now Adult, and taught by his Touch to distinguish between a Cube, and a Sphere of the same Metal, and nighly of the same Bigness, so as to tell, when he felt one and t'other, which is the Cube, and which the Sphere. Suppose then the Cube and Sphere placed on a Table, and the blind Man to be made to See: Quaere, Whether by his [Page 230] Sight, before he touch'd them, he could now distin­guish, and tell, which is the Globe, which the Cube. To which the acute and judicious Proposer an­swers: Not. For though he has obtained the Ex­perience of, how a Globe, how a Cube affects his Touch; yet he has not yet attained the Experience, that what affects his Touch so or so, must affect his Sight so or so: Or that a protuberant Angle in the Cube, that pressed his Hand unequally, shall appear to his Eye, as it doth in the Cube. I agree with this thinking Gentleman, whom I am proud to call my Friend, in his Answer to this his Prob­lem; and am of opinion, that the blind Man, at first Sight would not be able with certainty to say, which was the Globe, which the Cube, whilst he only saw them.’ Essay on Human Under­standing. B. ii. C. 9. S. 8.

CXXXIII. Now, if a Square Surface perceived by Touch be of the same sort with a Square Sur­face perceived by Sight; it is certain the blind Man here mentioned might know a Square Sur­face, as soon as he saw it: It is no more but in­troduced into his Mind, by a new Inlet, an Idea he has been already well acquainted with. Since therefore he is supposed to have known by his Touch, that a Cube is a Body terminated by Square Surfaces; and that a Sphere is not termi­nated by Square Surfaces: upon the supposition that a Visible and Tangible Square differ only in numero, it follows, that he might know, by the unerring mark of the Square Surfaces, which was the Cube, and which not, while he only saw them. We must therefore allow, either that Visible Ex­tension and Figures are specifically distinct from Tangible Extension and Figures, or else, that the Solution of this Problem, given by those two thoughtful and ingenious Men, is wrong.

[Page 231] CXXXIV. Much more might be laid together in Proof of the Proposition I have advanced: But what has been said is, if I mistake not, sufficient to convince any one that shall yield a reasonable At­tention: And, as for those that will not be at the pains of a little Thought, no Multiplication of Words will ever suffice to make them understand the Truth, or rightly conceive my Meaning.

CXXXV. I cannot let go the above-mentioned Problem without some Reflexion on it. It hath been made evident, that a Man blind from his Birth wou'd not, at first Sight, denominate any thing he saw, by the Names he had been used to appropri­ate to Ideas of Touch, vid. SECT. CVI. Cube, Sphere, Table, are Words he has known applied to Things perceivable by Touch, but to Things perfectly Intangible he never knew them appli­ed. Those Words in their wonted application, always marked out to his Mind Bodies, or so­lid Things which were perceived by the Resistance they gave: But there is no Solidity, no Resistance or Protrusion perceived by Sight. In short, the Ideas of Sight are all new Perceptions, to which there be no Names annexed in his Mind; he can­not therefore understand what is said to him con­cerning them: And to ask of the two Bodies he saw placed on the Table, which was the Sphere, which the Cube, were, to him, a Question down­right bantering and unintelligible; nothing he sees being able to suggest to his Thoughts, the Idea of Body, Distance, or in general, of any thing he had already known.

CXXXVI. It is a mistake, to think the same thing affects both Sight and Touch. If the same Angle or Square, which is the Object of Touch, be also the Object of Vision, what shou'd hinder [Page 232] the blind Man, at first Sight, from knowing it? For though the Manner wherein it affects the Sight, be different from that wherein it affected his Touch; yet, there being, beside this Manner or Circumstance, which is new and unknown, the Angle or Figure, which is old and known, he can­not choose but discern it.

CXXXVII. Visible Figure and Extension hav­ing been demonstrated to be of a nature, intirely different and heterogeneous from tangible Figure and Extension, it remains that we inquire concern­ing Motion. Now that visible Motion is not of the same sort with tangible Motion, seems to need no farther Proof, it being an evident Corollary from what we have shewn concerning the Difference there is between visible and tangible Extension: But for a more full and express Proof hereof, we need only observe, that one who had not yet ex­perienced Vision, wou'd not at first sight know Motion. Whence it clearly follows, that Motion perceivable by Sight is of a sort distinct from Mo­tion perceivable by Touch. The Antecedent I prove thus: By Touch he cou'd not perceive any Motion, but what was up or down, to the right or left, nearer or farther from him; besides these, and their several Varieties or Complications, it is impossible he shou'd have any Idea of Motion. He wou'd not therefore think any thing to be Motion, or give the name Motion to any Idea, which he cou'd not range under some or other of those par­ticular kinds thereof. But from SECT. XCV, it is plain that by the meer act of Vision, he cou'd not know Motion upwards or downwards, to the right or left, or in any other possible Direction. From which I conclude, he wou'd not know Motion at all at first sight. As for the Idea of Motion in Abstract, I shall not waste Paper about it, but [Page 233] leave it to my Reader, to make the best he can on't. To me it is perfectly Unintelligible.

CXXXVIII. The Consideration of Motion may furnish a new Field for Inquiry: But since the Man­ner wherein the Mind apprehends by Sight, the Motion of Tangible Objects, with the various De­grees thereof, may be easily collected, from what hath been said concerning the Manner, wherein that Sense doth suggest their various Distances, Magnitudes and Situations, I shall not enlarge any farther on this Subject, but proceed to inquire what may be alledged with greatest appearance of Reason, against the Proposition we have shewn to be true: For where there is so much Prejudice to be encountered, a bare and naked Demonstration of the Truth will scarce suffice. We must also satisfy the Scruples that Men may raise in favour of their preconceived Notions, shew whence the mistake arises, how it came to spread, and carefully dis­close and root out those false Persuasions, that an early Prejudice might have implanted in the Mind.

CXXXIX. First, Therefore, it will be demand­ed, how visible Extension and Figures come to be called by the same Name, with tangible Extension and Figures, if they are not of the same kind with them? It must be something more than Humour or Accident, that cou'd occasion a Custom so con­stant and universal as this, which has obtained in all Ages and Nations of the World, and amongst all Ranks of Men, the Learned as well as the Il­literate.

CXL. To which I answer, we can no more ar­gue a visible and tangible Square to be of the same Species, from their being called by the same Name, [Page 234] than we can, that a tangible Square and the Mo­nosyllable consisting of Six Letters, whereby it is marked, are of the same Species because they are both called by the same Name. It is customary to call written Words, and the Things they signify, by the same Name: For Words not being regarded in their own Nature, or otherwise than as they are Marks of Things, it had been superfluous, and beside the design of Language, to have given them Names distinct from those of the Things marked by them. The same Reason holds here also. Visi­ble Figures are the Marks of tangible Figures, and from SECT. LIX. it is plain, that in themselves they are little regarded, or upon any other Score than for their Connexion with tangible Figures, which by Nature they are ordained to signify. And because this Language of Nature does not vary in different Ages or Nations, hence it is, that in all Times and Places, visible Figures are called by the same Names, as the respective tangible Figures suggested by them, and not because they are alike, or of the same sort with them.

CXLI. But, say you, surely a tangible Square is liker to a visible Square, than to a visible Circle: It has four Angles, and as many Sides; so also has the visible Square, but the visible Circle has no such thing, being bounded by one uniform Curve, without right Lines or Angles, which makes it un­fit to represent the tangible Square, but very fit to represent the tangible Circle. Whence it clearly follows, that visible Figures are Patrons of, or of the same Species with the respective tangible Fi­gures represented by them; that they are like unto them, and of their own Nature fitted to represent them, as being of the same sort; and that they are in no respect arbitrary Signs, as Words.

[Page 235] CXLII. I answer, it must be acknowledged, the visible Square is fitter than the visible Circle, to represent the tangible Square, but then it is not be­cause it is liker, or more of a Species with it; but because the visible Square contains in it several distinct Parts, whereby to mark the several distinct, corresponding Parts of a tangible Square, whereas the visible Circle doth not. The Square perceived by Touch, hath four distinct, equal Sides, so also hath it four distinct equal Angles. It is therefore necessary, that the visible Figures which shall be most proper to mark it, contain four distinct equal Parts corresponding to the four Sides of the tangible Square; as likewise four other distinct and equal Parts, whereby to denote the four equal Angles of the tangible Square. And accordingly we see the visible Figures contain in them distinct visible Parts, answering to the distinct tangible Parts of the Fi­gures signified, or suggested by them.

CXLIII. But it will not hence follow, that any visible Figure is like unto, or of the same Species with its corresponding tangible Figure, unless it be also shewen, that not only the Number, but also the Kind of the Parts be the same in both. To illustrate this, I observe that visible Figures repre­sent tangible Figures, much after the same manner that written Words do Sounds. Now, in this re­spect, Words are not arbitrary, it not being in­different, what written Word stands for any Sound: But it is requisite, that each Word con­tain in it so many distinct Characters, as there are Variations in the Sound in stands for. Thus the single Letter a is proper to mark one simple uni­form Sound; and the word Adultery is accommo­dated to represent the Sound annexed to it, in [Page 236] the Formation whereof, there being eight different Collisions, or Modifications of the Air by the Organs of Speech, each of which produces a diffe­rence of Sound, it was fit, the Word representing it shou'd consist of as many distinct Characters, thereby to mark each particular Difference or Part of the whole Sound: And yet no Body, I presume will say, the single Letter a, or the word Adultery are like unto, or of the same Species with the re­spective Sounds by them represented. It is indeed arbitrary that, in general, Letters of any Lan­guage represent Sounds at all; but when that is once agreed, it is not arbitrary what Combination of Letters shall represent this or that particular Sound. I leave this with the Reader to pursue, and apply it in his own Thoughts.

CXLIV. It must be confest that we are not so apt to confound other Signs with the Things signi­fied, or to think them of the same Species, as we are visible and tangible Ideas. But a little Consi­deration will shew us how this may be, without our supposing them of a like Nature. These Signs are constant and universal, their Connexion with tangible Ideas has been learnt at our first Entrance into the World; and ever since, almost every Mo­ment of our Lives, it has been occurring to our Thoughts, and fastening and striking deeper on our Minds. When we observe that Signs are variable, and of Humane Institution; when we remember, there was a time they were not connected in our Minds, with those things they now so readily sug­gest; but that their Signification was learned by the slow Steps of Experience: This preserves us from confounding them. But when we find the same Signs suggest the same Things all over the World; when we know they are not of Humane [Page 237] Institution, and cannot remember that we ever learned their Signification, but think that at first Sight they would have suggested to us the same Things they do now: All this persuades us they are of the same Species as the Things respectively represented by them, and that it is by a natural Resemblance they suggest them to our Minds.

CXLV. Add to this, that whenever we make a nice Survey of any Object, successively directing the Optic Axis to each Point thereof; there are certain Lines and Figures described by the Motion of the Head or Eye, which being in truth perceiv­ed by Feeling, do nevertheless so mix themselves as it were, with the Ideas of Sight, that we can scarce think but they appertain to that Sense. A­gain, the Ideas of Sight enter into the Mind, seve­ral at once more distinct and unmingled, than is usual in the other Senses beside the Touch. Sounds, for example, perceived at the same In­stant, are apt to coalesce, if I may so say, into one Sound: But we can perceive at the same time great variety of visible Objects, very separate and distinct from each other. Now tangible Extensi­on being made up of several Distinct coexistent parts, we may hence gather another Reason, that may dispose us to imagine a Likeness or Analogy between the immediate Objects of Sight and Touch. But nothing, certainly, doth more contribute to blend and confound them together, than the strict and close Connexion they have with each other. We cannot open our Eyes, but the Ideas of Dis­tance, Bodies, and tangible Figures are suggested by them. So swift and sudden, and unperceiv'd is the Transition from visible to tangible Ideas, that we can scarce forbear thinking them equally the im­mediate Object of Vision.

[Page 238] CXLVI. The Prejudice, which is grounded on these, and whatever other Causes may be assigned thereof, sticks so fast, that it is impossible with­out obstinate Striving, and Labour of the Mind, to get intirely clear of it. But then the Reluctan­cy we find, in rejecting any Opinion, can be no Argument of its Truth, to whoever considers what has been already shewn, with regard to the Prejudices we entertain concerning the Distance, Magnitude, and Situation of Objects; Prejudices so familiar to our Minds, so confirmed and inve­terate, as they will hardly give way to the clearest Demonstration.

CXLVII. Upon the whole, I think we may fairly conclude, that the proper Objects of Vision constitute an Universal Language of the Author of Nature, whereby we are instructed how to regu­late our Actions, in order to attain those things, that are necessary to the Preservation and Well-being of our Bodies, as also to avoid whatever may be hurtful and destructive of them. It is by their Information that we are principally guided in all the Transactions and Concerns of Life. And the manner wherein they signify, and mark unto us the Objects which are at a Distance, is the same with that of Languages and Signs of Humane Appoint­ment, which do not suggest the things signified, by any likeness or Indentity of Nature, but only by an habitual Connexion, that Experience has made us to observe between them.

CXLVIII. Suppose one who had always conti­nued Blind, be told by his Guide, that after he has advanced so many Steps, he shall come to the Brink of a Precipice, or be stopt by a Wall; must not [Page 239] this to him seem very admirable and surprizing? He cannot conceive how it is possible for Mortals to frame such Predictions as these, which to him would seem as strange and unaccountable, as Pro­phesy doth to others. Even they who are blessed with the visive Faculty, may (though familiarity make it less observed) find therein sufficient Cause of Admiration. The wonderful Art and Contri­vance wherewith it is adjusted to those Ends and Purposes for which it was apparently designed, the vast Extent, Number, and Variety of Objects that are at once with so much ease, and quickness, and pleasure suggested by it: All these afford Subject for much and pleasing Speculation, and may, if a­ny thing, give us some glimmering, analogous Prae­notion of Things, which are placed beyond the certain Discovery and Comprehension of our pre­sent State.

CXLIX. I do not design to trouble my self with drawing Corollaries, from the Doctrine I have hi­therto laid down. If it bears the Test, others may, so far as they shall think convenient, employ their Thoughts in extending it farther, and applying it to whatever Purposes it may be subservient to: Only, I cannot forbear making some Inquiry con­cerning the Object of Geometry, which the Subject we have been upon doth naturally lead one to. We have shewn there is no such Idea as that of Exten­sion in Abstract, and that there are two kinds of sensible Extension and Figures, which are intirely distinct and heterogeneous from each other. Now, it is natural to inquire which of these is the Object of Geometry.

CL. Some things there are, which at first sight incline one to think Geometry conversant about [Page 240] Visible Extension. The constant use of the Eyes, both in the practical and speculative Parts of that Science doth very much induce us thereto. It would, without doubt, seem odd to a Mathemati­cian to go about to convince him, the Diagrams he saw upon Paper were not the Figures, or even the Likeness of the Figures, which make the Subject of the Demonstration. The contrary being held an unquestionable Truth, not only by Mathematicians, but also by those who apply themselves more par­ticularly to the Study of Logick; I mean, who consider the Nature of Science, Certainty and De­monstration: It being by them assigned as one Rea­son, of the extraordinary Clearness and Evidence of Geometry, that in this Science the Reasonings are free from those Inconveniencies, which attend the use of arbitrary Signs, the very Ideas themselves being copied out, and exposed to view upon Paper. But, by the bye, how well this agrees with what they likewise assert of abstract Ideas, being the Object of Geometrical Demonstration, I leave to be considered.

CLI. To come to a Resolution in this Point, we need only observe what hath been said in SECT. LIX. LX. LXI. where it is shewn that visible Ex­tensions in themselves are little regarded, and have no settled determinate Greatness, and that Men measure altogether, by the Application of Tangi­ble Extension to Tangible Extension. All which makes it evident, that Visible Extension and Fi­gures are not the Object of Geometry.

CLII. It is therefore plain that Visible Figures are of the same Use in Geometry, that Words are: And the one may as well be accounted the Object of that Science, as the other; neither of them be­ing [Page 241] any otherwise concerned therein, than as they represent or suggest to the Mind the particular Tangible Figures connected with them. There is indeed this Difference between the Signification of Tangible Figures by Visible Figures, and of Ideas by Words: That whereas the Latter is variable and uncertain, depending altogether on the Arbi­trary Appointment of Men, the former is fixed, and immutably the same in all Times and Places. A Visible Square, for Instance, suggests to the Mind the same Tangible Figure in Europe, that it doth in America. Hence it is that the Voice of the Author of Nature, which speaks to our Eyes, is not liable to that Misinterpretation and Ambiguity, that Languages of Humane Contrivance are un­avoidably subject to.

CLIII. Though what has been said may suffice to shew what ought to be determined, with rela­lation to the Object of Geometry; I shall never­theless, for the fuller illustration thereof, consi­der the Case of an Intelligence, or unbodied Spi­rit, which is supposed to see perfectly well, i. e. to have a clear Perception of the proper and imme­diate Objects of Sight, but to have no Sense of Touch. Whether there be any such Being in Na­ture or no, is beside my purpose to inquire. It sufficeth, that the Supposition contains no Contra­diction in it. Let us now examine, what Profici­ency such a one may be able to make in Geometry. Which Speculation will lead us more clearly to see, whether the Ideas of Sight can possibly be the Ob­ject of that Science.

CLIV. First, then it is certain, the aforesaid Intelligence could have no Idea of a Solid, or Quantity of three Dimensions, which followeth [Page 242] from its not having any Idea of Distance. We in­deed are prone to think, that we have by Sight the Ideas of Space and Solids, which ariseth from our imagining that we do, strictly speaking, see Di­stance, and some parts of an Object at a greater distance than others, which hath been demonstrat­ed to be the Effect of the Experience we have had, what Ideas of Touch are connected with such and such Ideas attending Vision: But the Intelligence here spoken of is supposed to have no Experience of Touch. He wou'd not, therefore judge as we do, nor have any Idea of Distance, Outness, or Profundity, nor consequently of Space or Body, either immediately or by Suggestion. Whence it is plain, he can have no Notion of those Parts of Geometry, which relate to the Mensuration of Solids, and their Convex or Concave Surfaces, and contemplate the Properties of Lines generat­ed by the Section of a Solid. The conceiving of any part whereof, is beyond the reach of his Faculties.

CLV. Farther, he cannot comprehend the Manner wherein Geometers describe a right Line or Circle; the Rule and Compass with their use, being things of which it is impossible he should have any Notion: Nor is it an easier matter for him to conceive the placing of one Plain or Angle on another, in order to prove their Equality: Since that supposeth some Idea of Distance, or External Space. All which makes it evident, our pure Intelligence could never attain to know so much as the first Elements of plain Geometry. And perhaps, upon a nice Inquiry, it will be found, he cannot even have an Idea of plain Fi­gures any more than he can of Solids; since some Idea of Distance is necessary, to form the Idea of [Page 243] a Geometrical Plain, as will appear to whoever shall reflect a little on it.

CLVI. All that is properly perceived by the visive Faculty, amounts to no more than Colours with their Variations, and different Proportions of Light and Shade: But, the perpectual Mutabi­lity, and Fleetingness of those immediate Objects of Sight, render them incapable of being manag­ed after the manner of Geometrical Figures; nor is it in any Degree useful that they should. It is true, there are divers of them perceived at once; and more of some, and less of others: But accu­rately to compute their Magnitude, and assign pre­cise determinate Proportions, between Things so variable and inconstant, if we suppose it possible to be done, must yet be a very trifling and insig­nificant Labour.

CLVII. I must confess, it seems to be the O­pinion of some ingenious Men, that flat or plain Figures are immediate Objects of Sight, though they acknowledge Solids are not. And this O­pinion of theirs is grounded on what is observed in Painting, wherein (say they) the Ideas imme­diately imprinted on the Mind, are only of Plains variously coloured, which by a sudden Act of the Judgment are changed into Solids: But, with a little Attention we shall find the Plains here men­tioned, as the immediate Objects of Sight, are not Visible but Tangible Plains. For when we say that Pictures are Plains: we mean thereby, that they appear to the Touch smooth and uniform. But then this Smoothness and Uniformity, or, in other Words, this Plainness of the Picture, is not perceived immediately by Vision: For it appear­eth to the Eye various and multiform.

[Page 244] CLVIII. From all which we may conclude, that Plains are no more the immediate Object of Sight than Solids. What we strictly see are not Solids, nor yet Plains variously coloured; they are only diversity of Colours. And some of these suggest to the Mind Solids, and others plain Fi­gures; just as they have been experienced to be con­nected with the one, or the other: So that we see Plains, in the same way that we see Solids; both being equally suggested by the immediate Objects of Sight, which accordingly are themselves de­nominated Plains and Solids: But though they are called by the same Names, with the Things mark­ed by them, they are nevertheless of a Nature in­tirely different, as hath been demonstrated.

CLIX. What hath been said is, if I mistake not, sufficient to decide the Question we propose to examine, concerning the Ability of a pure Spi­rit, such as we have described, to know Geometry: It is, indeed, no easy matter for us to enter pre­cisely into the Thoughts of such an Intelligence; because we cannot, without great Pains, cleverly separate and disintangle in our Thoughts the pro­per Objects of Sight from those of Touch which are connected with them. This, indeed, in a compleat Degree, seems scarce possible to be per­formed: Which will not seem strange to us, if we consider how hard it is, for any one to hear the Words of his Native Language pronounced in his Ears without understanding them. Though he endeavour to disunite the meaning from the Sound, it will nevertheless intrude into his Thoughts, and he shall find it extreme difficult, if not impos­sible, to put himself exactly in the Posture of a Foreigner, that never learned the Language, so [Page 245] as to be affected barely with the Sounds themselves, and not perceive the Signification annexed to them By this time, I suppose, it is clear that neither Abstract, not Visible Extension makes the Object of Geometry; the not discerning of which may perhaps, have created some Difficulty and useless Labour in Mathematics.


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