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O thofe who love learning and mankind, and who are more ambitious to diftinguish themfelves as men, than as difputants, it is matter of humiliation and regret, that names and things have so oft been mistaken for each other; that fo much of the philofopher's time must be employed in afcertaining the fignification of words; and that fo many doctrines, of high reputation, and of ancient date, when traced to their first principles, have been found to terminate in verbal ambiguity. If I have any knowledge of my own heart, or of the fubject I propose to examine, I may venture to affure the reader, that it is no part of the defign of this book, to encourage verbal disputation. On the contrary, it is my fincere purpose to avoid, and to do every thing in my power to check it; convinced as I am, that it never can do any good, and that it has been the cause of much mischief, both in philosophy and in common life. And I hope I have a fairer chance to escape it, than fome who have gone before


before me in this part of science. I aim at no parodoxes; my prejudices (if cer tain inftinctive fuggeftions of the understanding may be fo called) are all in favour of truth and virtue; and I have no principles to fupport, but thofe which feem to me to have influenced the judgements of a great majority of mankind in all ages of the world.



Many will think, that there is but little merit in this declaration; it being as much for my own credit, as for the intereft of mankind, that I guard against a practice, which is acknowledged to be always unprofitable, and generally pernicious. A verbal difputant! what claim can he have to the title of Philofopher! what has he to do with the laws of nature, with the obfervation of facts, with life and manners! Let him not intrude upon the company of men of science; but repofe with his brethren Aquinas and Suarez, in the corner of fome Gothic cloifter, dark as his underftanding, and cold as his heart. Men are now become too judicious to be amused with words, and too firm-minded to be confuted with quibbles. Many of my con


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temporaries would readily join in this apostrophe, who yet are themselves the dupes of some of the most egregious dealers in logomachy that ever perverted the faculty of fpeech. In fact, from fome instances that have occurred to my own obfervation, I have reafon to believe, that verbal controverfy hath not always, even in this age, been accounted a contemptible thing and the reader, when he comes to be better acquainted with my fentiments, will perhaps think the foregoing declaration more difinterested, than at first sight it may ap¬


They who form opinions concerning the manners and principles of the times, may be divided into three claffes. Some will tell us, that the prefent age tranfcends all that have gone before it, in politeness, learning, and good fenfe; will thank Providence (or their stars) that their lot of life has been caft in fo glorious a period; and wonder how men could poffibly support existence amidst the ignorance and barbarifm of former days. By others we are accounted a generation of triflers and profligates, fciolifts in learning, hypocrites

in virtue, and formalifts in good-breeding; wife only when we follow the ancients, and foolish whenever we deviate from their footsteps. Such violent fentiments are generally wrong: and therefore I am difpofed to adopt the notions of those who may be confidered as forming an intermediate clafs; who, though not blind to the follies, are yet willing to acknowledge the virtues, both of paft ages, and of the prefent. And furely, in every age, and in every man, there is fomething to praife, as well as fomething to blame.

When I furvey the philofophy of the prefent age, I find much matter of applause and admiration. Mathematics, Natural Philofophy, and Natural History, in all their branches, have rifen to a pitch of 'perfection, which doth fignal honour to human capacity, and far furpaffeth what the most fanguine projectors of former times had any reafon to look for: and the paths to further improvement in those fciences are fo clearly marked out, that nothing but honefty and attention feems requifite to enfure the fuccefs of future adventurers. Moral Philofophy and Logic

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have not been fo fortunate: yet, even here, we have happily got rid of much pedantry and jargon; our fyftems have more the appearance of liberal fentiment, good tafte, and correct compofition, than those of the fchoolmen; we disclaim (at least in words) all attachment to hypothefis and party; profess to study men and things, as well as books and words; and affert, with the ut most vehemence of proteftation, our love of truth, of candour, and of found philofophy. But let us not be deceived by appearances. Neither Moral Philofophy, nor the kindred fciences of Logic and Criticism, are at prefent upon the most defireable footing. The rage of paradox and system hath transformed them (although of all fciences these ought to be the fimpleft and the cleareft) into a mass of confufion, darkness, and abfurdity. One kind of jargon is laid afide; but another has been adopted, more fashionable indeed, but equally frivolous. Hypothefis, though verbally difclaimed, is really adhered to with as much obftinacy as ever. Words have been defined; but their ambiguity continues. Appeals have been made to experience; but with fuch mifreprefentation




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