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"of which I feel to be irresistible; but, by annihilating space itself 66 as an external existence, bids defiance to a conviction inseparable "from the human understanding; and, therefore, although I cannot "point out the precise oversight which has led you astray, there "must necessarily be some errour, either in your original data, or "in your subsequent reasoning." Or, supposing Clarke to have perceived, as clearly as Reid, that Berkeley's reasoning was perfectly unexceptionable, might he not have added;" The conclusion "which it involves is a demonstration in the form of a reductio ad "absurdum, of the unsoundness of the ideal theory, on which the "whole of your argument is built?”*
I am far from supposing that Berkeley would have admitted this consideration as decisive of the point in dispute. On the contrary, it appears from his writings, that the scheme of immaterialism was, in his opinion, more agreeable to popular belief, than the received theories of philosophers concerning the independent existence of the external world; nay, that he considered it as one of the many advantages likely to result from the universal adoption of his system, that men would thereby be reduced from paradoxes to common "sense."
The question, however, if not decided by this discussion, would at least have been brought to a short and simple issue; for the paramount authority of the common sense or common reason of mankind being equally recognised by both parties, all that remained for their examination was,--whether the belief of the existence, or that of the non-existence of matter, was sanctioned by this supreme tribunal? For ascertaining this point, nothing more was necessary than an accurate analysis of the meaning annexed to the word existence : which analysis would have at once shown, not only that we are irresistibly led to ascribe to the material world all the independent reality which this word expresses, but that it is from the material world that our first and most satisfactory notions of existence are drawn. The mathematical affections of matter (extension and figure) to which the constitution of the mind imperiously forces us to ascribe an existence, not only independent of our perceptions, but necessary and eternal, might more particularly have been pressed upon Berke
* I acknowledge, very readily, that the force of this indirect mode of reasoning is essen. tially different in mathematics, from what it is in the other branches of knowledge; for the object of mathematics (as will afterwards more fully appear) not being truth, but systematical connexion and consistency, whenever two contradictory propositions occur, embracing evidently the only possible suppositions on the point in question, if the one can be shown to be incompatible with the definitions or hypotheses on which the science is founded, this may be regarded as perfectly equivalent to a direct proof of the legitimacy of the opposite conclusion. In other sciences, the force of a reductio ad absurdum depends entirely on the maxim. "That truth is always consistent with itself;" a maxim which, however certain, rests evidently on grounds of a more abstract and metaphysical nature, than the indireet demonstrations of geometry. It is a maxim, at the same time, to which the most sceptical writers have not been able to refuse their testimony. "Truth (says Mr. Hunie himself) is one thing, but errours are numberless, and every man has a different one"
The unity or systematical consistency of truth, is a subject which well deserves to be further prosecuted. It involves many important consequences, of which Mr. Hume does not, from the general spirit of his philosophy, seem to have been sufficiently aware.
ley, as proofs how incompatible his notions were with those laws of belief, to which the learned and the unlearned must in common submit.*
But farther (in order to prevent any cavil about the foregoing illustration,) we shall suppose that Clarke had anticipated Hume in perceiving that the ideal theory went to the annihilation of mind as well as of matter; and that he had succeeded in proving, to the satisfaction of Berkeley, that nothing existed in the universe but impressions and ideas. Is it possible to imagine that Berkeley would not immediately have seen and acknowledged, that a theory which led to a conclusion directly contradicted by the evidence of consciousness, ought not, out of respect to ancient authority, to be rashly admitted: and that in the present instance, it was much more philosophical to argue from the conclusion against the hypothesis, than to argue from the hypothesis in proof of the conclusion? No middle course, it is evident, was left him between such an acknowledgment, and an unqualified acquiescence in those very doctrines which it was the great aim of his system to tear up by the roots.
The two chief objections which I have heard urged against this mode of defence, are not perfectly consistent with each other. The one represents it as a presumptuous and dangerous innovation in the established rules of philosophical controversy, calculated to stifle entirely a spirit of liberal inquiry; while the other charges its authors with all the meanness and guilt of literary plagiarism. I shall offer a few slight remarks upon each of these accusations.
1. That the doctrine in question is not a new one, nor even the language in which it has been recently stated an innovation in the received phraseology of logical science, has been shown by Dr. Reid, in a collection of very interesting quotations, which may be found in different parts of his Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, more particularly in the second chapter of the sixth essay. Nor has this doctrine been generally rejected even by those writers who, in their theories, have departed the farthest from the ordinary opinions of the world. Berkeley has sanctioned it in the most explicit manner, in a passage already quoted from his works, in which he not only attempts the extraordinary task of reconciling the scheme of immaterialism with the common sense of mankind, but alleges the very circumstance of its conformity to the unsophisticated judgment of the human race, as a strong argument in its favour, when contrasted with the paradoxical doctrine of the independent existence of matter. The ablest advocates, too, for the necessity of human actions, have held a similar language; exerting their ingenuity to show, that there is nothing in this tenet which does not perfectly accord with our internal consciousness, when our supposed feelings of liberty, with all their concomitant circumstances are accurately analyzed, and duly weighed. In this respect,
See Note (B.)
†This I own, appears to me the only argument for the scheme of necessity, which deserves a moment's consideration, in the present state of the controversy: and it is cer
Mr. Hume forms almost a solitary exception, avowing, with the greatest frankness, the complete repugnance between his philosophy and the laws of belief to which all men are subjected by the constitution of their nature. "I dine; I play a game at backgam"mon; I converse, and am happy with my friends; and when, after "three or four hours of amusement, I would return to these specu"lations, they appear so cold, so strained, and so ridiculous, that I "cannot find in my heart to enter into them any further. Here, "then, I find myself absolutely and necessarily determined to live, "and talk, and act, like other people in the common affairs of life."
Even Mr. Hume himself, however, seems at times to forget his sceptical theories, and sanctions, by his own authority, not only the same logical maxims, but the same mode of expressing them, which has been so severely censured in some of his opponents.
"Those (he observes) who have refused the reality of moral "distinctions, may be ranked among the disingenuous disputants. "The only way of converting an antagonist of this kind, is, to leave "him to himself; for, finding that nobody keeps up the controversy "with him, 'tis probable he will at last, of himself, from mere "weariness, come over to the side of common sense and reason."t
To the authorities which have been already produced by Reid and his successors, in vindication of that mode of arguing which is now under our review, I shall beg leave to add another, which, as far as I know, has not yet been remarked by any of them; and which, while it effectually removes from it the imputation of novelty, states, in clear and forcible terms, the grounds of that respect to which it is entitled, even in those cases where it is opposed by logical subtleties which seem to baffle all our powers of reasoning.
"What is it (said some of the ancient sophists) which constitutes "what we call little, much, long, broad, small, or great? Do three "grains of corn make a heap? The answer must be-No. Do "four grains make a heap? You must make the same answer as be"fore. They continued their interrogations from one grain to "another, without end; and if you should happen at last to answer, "here is a heap, they pretended your answer was absurd, in as much "as it supposed, that one single grain makes the difference between "what is a heap, and what is not. I might prove, by the same 66 method, that a great drinker is never drunk. Will one drop of "wine fuddle him?-No. Two drops, then? By no means; neither "three nor four. I might thus continue my interrogations from one 66 drop to another; and if, at the end of the 999th drop, you an
tainly possible to state it in such a form as to give it some degree of plausibility to a superficial inquirer. On this point, however, as on many others, our first and third thoughts will be found perfectly to coincide; a more careful and profound examination of the question infallibly bringing back to their natural impressions, those who reflect on the subject with candour and with due attention. Having alluded to so very important a controversy, I could not help throwing out this hint here. The farther prosecution of it would be altogether foreign to my present purpose.
*Treatise of Human Nature, Vol. I. P. 467.
+ Inquiry concerning the Principles of Morals.
"swered, he is not fuddled, and at the 1000th he is, I should be en"titled to infer, that one single drop of wine makes the difference "between being drunk and being sober; which is absurd. If the "interrogations went on from bottle to bottle, you could easily mark "the difference in question. But he who attacks you with a sorites, "is at liberty to choose his own weapons; and, by making use "of the smallest conceivable increments, renders it impossible for "you to name a precise point which fixes a sensible limit between "being drunk and being sober; between what is little and what is "great; between what is enough and what is too much. A man "of the world would laugh at these sophistical quibbles, and would "appeal to common sense; to that degree of knowledge which, in "common life, is sufficient to enable us to establish such distinc"tions. But to this tribunal a professed dialectician was not permit"ted to resort; he was obliged to answer in form; and if unable to "find a solution according to the rules of art, his defeat was una"voidable. Even at this day, an Irish tutor,* who should harass a C6 professor of Salamanca with similar subtleties, and should receive "no other answer but this,-common sense, and the general consent of "mankind, sufficiently show that your inferences are false,—would gain "the victory; his antagonist having declined to defend himself with "those logical weapons with which the assault had been made."
Had the foregoing passage been read to the late Dr. Priestley, while he was employed in combating the writings of Reid, Oswald, and Beattie, he would, I apprehend, without hesitation, have supposed it to be the production of one of their disciples. The fact is, it is a translation from Mr. Bayle, an author who was never accused of an undue deference for established opinions, and who was himself undoubtedly one of the most subtile disputants of modern times.t
From this quotation it clearly appears, not only that the substance of the doctrine maintained by these philosophers is of a much earlier date than their writings; but that, in adopting the phrase common sense, to express that standard or criterion of truth to which they ap
It is remarkable of this ingenious, eloquent, and gallant nation, that it has been for ages distinguished, in the universities on the continent, for its proficiency in the school logic. Le Sage (who seems to have had a very just idea of the value of this accomplish ment) alludes to this feature in the Irish character, in the account given by Gil Blas of his studies at Oviedo. Je m'appliquai aussi à la logique, qui m'apprit à raisonner beaucoup. J'aimois tant la dispute, que j'arrêtois les passans, connus ou inconnus, pour leur proposer des argomens. Je m'addressois quelquefois à des figures Hibernoises, qui ne demandoient pas mieux, et il falloit alors nous voir disputer. Quels gestes, quelles grimaces, quelles contorsions! nos yeux etoient pleins de fureur, et nos bouches ecumantes. On nous devoit plutot prendre pour des possédés que pour des philosophes.”‡
+See Bayle's Dictionary, article Chrysippe. I have availed myself, in the above translation (with a few retrenchments and corrections,) of that which is given in the Eng. lish Biographical and Critical Dictionary.
I applied myself also to Logic, and began to argue apace. I was so much in love with dispute, that I stopped passengers, known or unknown, and proposed arguments to them; and sometimes meeting with Hibernian geniuses, who were very glad of the occa sion, it was a good jest to see us dispute. By our extravagant gestures, grimace, contortions, our eyes full of fury, and our mouths full of foam, you would have taken us for Bedlamites rather than philosophers.]
pealed, they did not depart from the language previously in use among the least dogmatical of their predecessors.
In the passage just quoted from Bayle, that passion for disputation which, in modern Europe, has so often subjected the plainest truths to the tribunal of metaphysical discussion, is, with great justness, traced to the unlimited influence which the school logic maintained for so many ages over the understandings of the learned. And although, since the period when Bayle wrote, this influence has every where most remarkably declined, it has yet left traces behind it, in the habits of thinking and judging, prevalent among speculative men, which are but too discernible in all the branches of science connected with the philosophy of the mind. In illustration of this remark, it would be easy to produce a copious list of examples from the literary history of the eighteenth century; but the farther prosecution of the subject here would lead me aside from the conclusions which I have at present in view. I shall therefore content myself with opposing, to the contentious and sceptical spirit bequeathed by the schoolmen to their successors, the following wise and cautious maxims of their master,-maxims which, while they illustrate his anxiety to guard the principles of the demonstrative sciences against the captiousness of sophists, evince the respect which he conceived to be due by the philosopher to the universal reason of the human race.
"Those things are to be regarded as first truths, the credit of "which is not derived from other truths, but is inherent in them"selves. As for probable truths, they are such as are admitted by "all men, or by the generality of men, or by wise men; and, among "these last, either by all the wise, or by the generality of the wise, "or by such of the wise as are of the highest authority."*
The argument from universal consent, on which so much stress is laid by many of the ancients, is the same doctrine with the foregoing, under a form somewhat different. It is stated with great simplicity and force by a Platonic philosopher, in the following sen
"In such a contest, and tumult, and disagreement, (about other "matters of opinion) you may see this one law and language ac"knowledged by common accord. This the Greek says, and this "the barbarian says; and the inhabitant of the continent, and the "islander; and the wise, and the unwise."t
* Ἔστι δε αληθη μεν και πρώτα, τα μη δι' έτερων, αλλα δι' αυτων έχοντα την πίστιν. Ενδοξα δε, τα δοκουντα πασιν, η τοις πλείστοις, η τοις σοφοίς και τουτοις, η τοις πασιν, η τοις πλείστοις, τοις μάλιστα γνωρίμες, και ενδόξοις.-Αristot. Top. Lib. 1. cap. i. (Vol. I. p. 180, ed. Du. Val.)
† Ἐν τοσουτῳ δε πολεμῳ και ςάσει και διαφωνία ένα ίδοις αν εν παση γη όμοφωνον νόμον και λόγον, &c. Ταυτα δε ὁ Ἕλλην λέγει, και ὁ Βαρβαρος λέγει, και ὁ ηπειρώτης, και ὁ θαλάττιος, και ο σοφος, και ὁ ασυφος.-Ματ. (speaking of the existence of the Deity) Dis. 1.
"Una in re consensio omnium gentium lex naturae putanda est.-Cic. 1 Tusc.‡ "Multum dare solemus praesumptioni omnium hominum: Apud nos veritatis argumen. tum est, aliquid omnibus videri," &c. &c.-Sen. Ep. 117.)
[The consent of all nations must be esteemed the law of nature.]
[We are disposed to pay much respect to the general opinions of mankind; and allow that universal agreement is a good argument of truth.]