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Before concluding these preliminary remarks, I cannot help expressing my regret, that the subject on which I am about to enter will so frequently lay me under the necessity of criticising the language, and of disputing the opinions of my predecessors. In doing so, I am not conscious of being at all influenced by a wish to indulge myself in the captiousness of controversy; nor am I much afraid of this imputation from any of my readers who shall honour these speculations with an attentive perusal. My real aim is, in the first place, to explain the grounds of my own deviations from the track which has been commonly pursued; and, secondly, to facilitate the progress of such as may follow me in the same path, by directing their attention to those points of divergency in the way, which may

suggest matter for doubt or hesitation. I know, at the same time, t. ÿ best

that, in the opinion of many, the best mode of unfolding the prin- mode ciples of a science is to state them systematically and concisely,


without any historical retrospects whatever; and I believe the opi-unfolding

nion is well-founded, in those departments of knowledge, where the difficulty arises less from vague ideas and indefinite terms, than from 7


the length of the logical chain which the student has to trace. But, plus of a in such disquisitions as we are now engaged in, it is chiefly from the science. gradual correction of verbal ambiguities, and the gradual detection of unsuspected prejudices, that a progressive, though slow approximation to truth, is to be expected. It is indeed a slow approximation, at best, that we can hope to accomplish at present, in the examination of a subject where so many powerful causes (particularly those connected with the imperfections of language) conspire to lead us astray. But the study of the human mind is not, on that account, to be abandoned. Whoever compares its actual state with that in mental which Bacon, Des Cartes, and Locke found it, must be sensible how

amply their efforts for its improvement have been repaid, both by philosophy their own attainments, and by those of others who have since pro progressing fited by their example. I am willing to hope, that some useful hints for its farther advancement may be derived even from my own

A distinction similar to this was plainly in the mind of Cudworth when he wrote the fol lowing passage, which, although drawn from the purest sources of ancient philosophy, will, I doubt not, from the uncouthness of the phraseology, have the appearance of extrava gance to many in the present times. To myself it appears to point at a fact of the highest importance in the moral constitution of man.

"We have all of us by nature μavra rs (as both Plato and Aristotle call it) a certain divination, presage, and paturient vaticination in our minds, of some higher good and perfection, than either power or knowledge Knowledge is plainly to be preferred before power, as being that which guides and directs its blind force and impetus; but Aristotle himself declares, that there is your guttor, which is you agxn; something better than reason and knowledge, which is the principle and original of it. For (saith he) λogou agxn ou nogos, andα tinguTTOV. The principle of reason is not reason, but something better." Intellectual System, p. 203.

Lord Shaftesbury has expressed the same truth more simply and perspicuously in that beautiful sentence which occurs more than once in his writings: True wisdom comes more from the heart than from the head."-Numberless illustrations of this profound max. im must immediately crowd on the memory of all who are conversant with the most enlightened works on the theory of legislation; more particularly, with those which ap peared, during the eighteenth century, on the science of political economy.



researches; and, distant as the prospect may be of raising it to a level with the physical science of the Newtonian school, by uniting the opinions of speculative men about fundamental principles, my ambition as an author will be fully gratified, if, by the few who are competent to judge, I shall be allowed to have contributed my share, however small, towards the attainment of so great an object.

In the discussions which immediately follow, no argument will, I trust, occur beyond the reach of those who shall read them with the attention which every inquiry into the human mind indispensably requires. I have certainly endeavoured, to the utmost of my abilities, to render every sentence which I have written, not only intelligible but perspicuous; and, where I have failed in the attempt, the obscurity will, I hope, be imputed, not to an affectation of mystery, but to some errour of judgment. I can, without much vanity, say, that, with less expense of thought, I could have rivalled the obscurity of Kant; and that the invention of a new technical language, such as that which he has introduced, would have been an easier task, than the communication of clear and precise notions (if I have been so fortunate as to succeed in this communication,) without departing from the established modes of expression.

To the following observations of D'Alembert (with some trifling verbal exceptions) I give my most cordial assent; and, mortifying as they may appear to the pretensions of bolder theorists, I should be happy to see them generally recognised as canons of philosophical criticism: "Truth in metaphysics resembles truth in matters of in "taste. In both cases, the seeds of it exist in every mind; though "few think of attending to this latent treasure, till it be pointed out "to them by more curious inquirers. It should seem that every "thing we learn from a good metaphysical book is only a sort of re"miniscence of what the mind previously knew. The obscurity, of "which we are apt to complain in this science, may be always justly "ascribed to the author; because the information, which he professes to communicate, requires no technical language appropriated to "itself. Accordingly, we may apply to good metaphysical authors "what has been said of those who excel in the art of writing, that, "in reading them, every body is apt to imagine, that he himself "could have written in the same manner.

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"But, in this sort of speculation, if all are qualified to understand, "all are not fitted to teach. The merit of accommodating easily to "the apprehension of others, notions, which are at once simple and

Most diffi" just, appears, from its extreme rarity, to be much greater than is par "commonly imagined. Sound metaphysical principles are truths рас "which every one is ready to seize, but which few men have the talent "of unfolding; so difficult is it in this, as well as in other instances, to 66 appropriate to one's self what seems to be the common inheritance "of the human race."*

"Le vrai en métaphysique ressemble au vrai en matiêre de goût; c'est un vrai dont tous les esprits ont le germe en eux-mêmes, auquel la plupart ne font point d'attention, mais qu'ils reconnoissent dès qu'on le leur montre. Il semble que tout ce qu'on apprend


I am, at the same time, fully aware, that whoever, in treating of the human mind, aims to be understood, must lay his account with Je forfeiting, in the opinion of a very large proportion of readers, all pretensions to depth, to subtlety, or to invention. The acquisition of a new nomenclature is, in itself, no inconsiderable reward to the from industry of those, who study only from motives of literary vanity;"

nor studied motin and, if D'Alembert's idea of this branch of science be just, the wider of ambition


sees not

an author deviates from truth, the more likely are his conclusions to assume the appearance of discoveries. I may add, that it is chiefly in those discussions which possess the best claims to originality, where he may expect to be told by the multitude, that they have learned from him nothing but what they knew before. The latitude with which the word metaphysics is frequently used, The tum makes it necessary for me to remark, with respect to the foregoing passage from D'Alembert, that he limits the term entirely to an account of the origin of our ideas. "The generation of our ideas (he "tells us) belongs to metaphysics. It forms one of the principal "objects, and perhaps ought to form the sole object of that sci-thed. 66 ence."*If the meaning of the word be extended, as it too often is in our language, so as to comprehend all those inquiries which relate to the theory and to the improvement of our mental powers, some of his observations must be understood with very important restrictions. What he has stated, however, on the inseparable connexion between perspicuity of style and soundness of investigation in metaphysical disquisitions, will be found to hold equally in every research to which that epithet can, with any colour of propriety, be applied.

dans un bon livre de métaphysique, ne soit qu'une espèce de réminiscence de ce que notre
ame a déja su; l'obscurité, quand il y en a, vient toujours de la faute de l'auteur, parce
que la science qu'il se propose d'enseigner n'a point d'autre langue que la langue com-
mune. Aussi peut-on appliquer aux bons auteurs de métaphysique ce qu'on a dit des bons
écrivains, qu'il n'y a personne qui en les lisant, ne croie pouvoir en dire autant qu'eux.
"Mais si dans ce genre tous sont faits pour entendre, tous ne sont pas faits pour instru
ire. Le mérite de faire entrer avec facilité dans les esprits des notions vraies et simples,
est beaucoup plus grand qu'on ne pense, puisque l'expérience nous prouve combien il est
rare; les saines idées métaphysiques sont des vérités communes que chacun saisit, mais
que peu d'hommes ont le talent de développer, tant il est difficile, dans quelque sujet que
ce puisse être, de se rendre propre ce qui appartient à tout le monde."-Elemens de Phi-

"La génération de nos idées appartient à la métaphysique; c'est un de ses objets principaux, et peut-être devroit elle s'y borner."—Elemens de Philosophie.




tal laws

of belief.

HE propriety of the title prefixed to this Chapter will, I trust, be
justified sufficiently by the speculations which are to follow. As
these differ, in some essential points, from the conclusions of former
writers, I found myself under the necessity of abandoning, in various
instances, their phraseology;-but my reasons for the particular
changes which I have made, cannot possibly be judged of, or even
understood, till the inquiries by which I was led to adopt them be
carefully examined.

I begin with a review of some of those primary truths, a conviction of which is necessarily implied in all our thoughts and in all our actions; and which seem, on that account, rather to form constituent and essential elements of reason, than objects with which reason is conversant. The import of this last remark will appear more clearly afterwards.

The primary truths to which I mean to confine my attention at present are, 1. Mathematical Axioms: 2. Truths (or more properly speaking, Laws of Belief,) inseparably connected with the exercise of Consciousness, Perception, Memory, and Reasoning.-Of some additional laws of Belief, the truth of which is tacitly recognised in all our reasonings concerning contingent events, I shall have occasion to take notice under a different article.



I HAVE placed this class of truths at the head of the enumeration, merely because they seem likely, from the place which they hold

Why math: in the elements of geometry, to present to my readers a more inaxions



teresting and at the same time an easier subject of discussion, than some of the more abstract and latent elements of our knowledge, afterwards to be considered. In other respects, a different arrange

ment might perhaps have possessed some advantages, in point of strict logical method.


On the evidence of mathematical axioms it is unnecessary to enlarge, as the controversies to which they have given occasion are

entirely of a speculative, or rather scholastic description; and have no tendency to affect the certainty of that branch of science to which they are supposed to be subservient.

It must at the same time be confessed, with respect to this class of propositions (and the same remark may be extended to axioms in general,) that some of the logical questions connected with them continue still to be involved in much obscurity. In proportion to Axions their extreme simplicity is the difficulty of illustrating or of describing their nature in unexceptionable language; or even of ascertain

difficult ing a precise criterion by which they may be distinguished from to be exother truths which approach to them nearly. It is chiefly owing to plained this, that, in geometry, there are no theorems of which it is so difficult to give a rigorous demonstration, as those, of which persons unacquainted with the nature of mathematical evidence are apt to say, of their that they require no proof whatever. But the inconveniences aris-simplicity

ing from these circumstances are of trifling moment; occasioning, at the worst, some embarrassment to those mathematical writers, who are studious of the most finished elegance in their exposition of elementary principles; or to metaphysicians, anxious to display their subtilty upon points which cannot possibly lead to any practical conclusion.

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It was long ago remarked by Locke, of the axioms of geometry, as stated by Euclid, that although the proposition be at first enunciated in general terms, and afterwards appealed to, in its particular applications, as a principle previously examined and admitted, yet that the truth is not less evident in the latter case than in the former. He observes farther, that it is in some of its particular applications,/ formed by that the truth of every axiom is originally perceived by the mind; Genevaliza and, therefore, that the general proposition, so far from being the tion ground of our assent to the truths which it comprehends, is only a verbal generalization of what, in particular instances, has been already acknowledged as true.

The same author remarks, that some of these axioms" are no 66 more than bare verbal propositions, and teach us nothing but the 66 respect and import of names one to another. The whole is equal "to all its parts: what real truth, I beseech you, does it teach us? "What more is contained in that maxim, than what the signification "of the word totum, or the whole does of itself import? And he that "knows that the word whole stands for what is made up of all its 66 parts, knows very little less, than that the whole is equal to all "its parts." And upon the same ground, I think, that this proposi"tion, A hill is higher than a valley, and several the like, may also pass for maxims."



Notwithstanding these considerations, Mr. Locke does not object to the form which Euclid has given to his axioms, or to the place which he has assigned to them in his Elements. On the Axionn he is of opinion, that a collection of such maxims is not without rea- not withou son prefixed to a mathematical system; in order "having in the beginning perfectly acquainted their

that learners, use
thoughts with

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