« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
E RR AT A.
8, dele the whole line.
- not be, r. be not.
preserved, r. erected.
migh, F. might.
imbibe, r. indeed.
feecond, r. fecond.
H E celebrated controversy on the subject of
Liberty and Necessity has, from the earliest ages and in various modes, attracted the attention and employed the fagacity of philosophical and speculative minds. Whether the course of human events is fixed and unalterable, or uncertain and contingent, is a question in the highest degree curious and interesting, but at the same time involved in difficulties of such magnitude, that it may be justly doubted whether it is capable of a solution so clear and fatisfactory, as to preclude a difference of opinion on this subject, amongst enquirers equally candid, impartial, and intelligent. In modern times, indeed, the controversy has assumed a more regular and scientific form; and B
the utmost force of the human understanding has been exerted, the utmost powers of ratiocination displayed by the advocates on each side, in their attempts to establish or confirm their respective systems : yet the question does not seem to approach to a decision, and the greatest names in the republic of letters are still divided in opinion on this important point. Perhaps it may afford some amusement to those who do not possess leisure or inclination to toil through the numerous volumes to which this controversy has given birth, to view, in a small compass, the principal arguments on each side, expressed in easy and intelligible terms : by which means they will be enabled to form a general idea of the nature of this famous controversy, and be in some degree qualified to form a judgment respecting it. First then, the Neceffarian writers (amongst whom Hume, Hobbes, Collins, Liebnitz, Hutcheson, Edwards, Hartley, Priestley, and perhaps Locke, are to be claffed), ftrenuously maintain, that the course of human events is absolutely fixed and unalterable, and that nothing could possibly, or at least without a change in the fundamental laws of the universe, take place, otherwise than as it is, has been, or is to be. This, they affirm, is not merely a probable conclusion, but a conclusion demonstrably resulting from the following considerations : Whatever begins to exist, must have an adequate cause of its existence; for, if the smallest particle of dust, or the most transient emotion of the
mind, mind, could come into existence without a cause, it is evident that the whole universe, and all the inhabitants it contains, might also exist without a cause: and consequently, it would be impossible to prove the existence of the great and original Cause of all things. This primary truth, then, being established, they affert further, that the same causes in the same circumstances must produce exactly the same effects ; this axiom being consonant to all the phenomena of nature, and indeed the basis and foundation of all just philosophy. To affirm that the fame causes do not in the same circumstances produce invariably the same effects, is in reality to assert that a cause of existence is not absolutely necessary; for, if nothing in the cause corresponds to the variation in the effect, that variation exists without a cause; consequently this truth is equally incontrovertible with the first : and they proceed with confidence to a third proposition, necessarily resulting from the two former, viz. that a man in any given situation must form certain or definite volitions or determinations ; for, if nothing exists without a cause, and the same causes in the fame. circumstances produce the same effects, the volitions referred to must have had a cause, and the cause which was adequate to the production of those volitions, was inadequate to the production, of any other than those ; for a variation in the volitions would necessarily imply a variation in the cause, From hence it follows, by easy and
irrefragable deduction, that in every possible situation in which a human or thinking being can be placed, his volitions must be determinate and certain ; that the volitions of all mankind are so, and finally, that as every event comes to pass in consequence of causes previously existing, the whole feries of events is under the influence of an abfolute and uncontrollable Necessity. Again, it is urged as an undeniable matter of fact, by this class of metaphysicians,
that no volition ever takes place in the mind without some motive: as this proposition is too plain to be called in question, it must be allowed, that when different motives present themselves to the imagination, the mind will be invariably influenced by the stronger motive ; consequently the volition must be in the strictest sense necessary. Thę prescience of the Divine Being affords also a collateral arguinent of the greatest weight in support of the doctrine of Necessity; for, if future events are, in their own nature, uncertain and contingent, Omniscience itself cannot see them to be otherwise than they a&ually are ; and it is a gross and palpable contradiction to affert, that God can with absolute certainty foretell that a particular event shall take place; and at the same time to affirm, that the event foretold depends upon the free-will of man for its accomplishment, if the determinations of the will are themselvęs lawless and uncertain.