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confiders these things, will not be much difpofed to overvalue metaphyfical truth, (as it is called), when it happens to contradict any of the natural fentiments of mankind.
In the laws of nature, when thoroughly understood, there appear no contradictions. It is only in the fyftems of philofophers that reafon and common fenfe are at variance. No man of common fenfe ever did or could believe, that the horse he faw coming toward him at full gallop, was an idea in his mind, and nothing elfe; no thief was ever fuch a fool, as to plead in his own defence, that his crime was neceffary and unavoidable, for that man is born to pick pockets as the fparks fly upward. When Reafon invades the rights of Common Senfe, and prefumes to arraign that authority by which the herself acts, nonfenfe and confufion must of neceffity enfue; fcience will foon come to have neither head nor tail, beginning nor end ; philofophy will grow contemptible; and its adherents, far from being treated, as in former times, upon the footing of conjurers, will be thought by the vulgar, and by every man of fense, to be little better than downright fools.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE PRECEDING DOCTRINE, WITH INFERENCES.
UT now a difficulty occurs, which we acknowledge to be not a little perplexing. Granting what is faid above to be true; that all legitimate reafoning, whether of certain or of probable evidence, doth finally refolve itfelf into principles of common fenfe, which we must admit as certain, or as probable, upon their own authority; that therefore common fenfe is the foundation and the standard of all just reafoning; and that the genuine fentiments of nature are never erroneous :-yet by what criterion fhall we know a fentiment of nature from a prejudice of education, a dictate of common fenfe from the fallacy of an inveterate opinion? Muft every principle be admitted as true which we believe, without being able to affign a reafon? then where
where is our fecurity against prejudice and implicit faith! Or must Or must every principle that seems intuitively certain, or intuitively probable, be reasoned upon, that we may know whether it be really what it feems? then where our fecurity against the abufe fo much infifted on, of fubjecting common sense to the test of reasoning!At what point must reafon stop in its inveftigations, and the dictates of common fenfe be admitted as decifive and final
It is much to be regretted, that this matter has been fo little attended to: for a full and fatisfactory difcuffion of it would do more real fervice to the philofophy of human nature, than all the systems of logic in the world; would at once exalt pneumatology to the dignity of fcience, by fettling it on a firm and unchangeable foundation; and would go a great way to banish sophistry from science, and rid the world of fcepticifm. This is indeed the grand defideratum in logic; of no less importance to the moral fciences, than the difcovery of the longitude to navigation. That I fhall fully folve this difficulty, I am not fo vain, nor fo ignorant, as to imagine. But I humbly hope I fhall be X 2
able to throw fome light on the subject, and contribute a little to facilitate the progrefs of those who may hereafter engage in the fame purfuit. If I can accomplish even this, I fhall do a fervice to truth, philofophy, and mankind: if I fhould be thought to fail, there is yet fomething meritorious in the attempt. To have fet the example, may be of consequence.
I fhall endeavour to conduct the reader to the conclufion I have formed on this fubject, by the fame fteps which led me to it; a method which I prefume will be more perfpicuous, and more fatisfactory, than if I were firft to lay down a theory, and then to affign the reafons. By the way, I cannot help exprefling a wifh, that this method of inveftigation were lefs-uncommon, and that philofophers would fometimes explain to us, not only their discoveries, but also the process of thought and experiment, whether accidental or intentional, by which they were led to them.
If the boundary of reafon and common fense had never been fettled in any fcience, I would abandon my prefent fcheme as altogether defperate. But when I reflect,
that in fome of the fciences it hath been long fettled, with the utmost precision, and to univerfal fatisfaction, I conceive better hopes, and flatter myself, that it may perhaps be poffible to fix it even in the philofophy of the mind. The fciences in which this boundary has been long fettled and acknowledged, are, mathematics, and natural philofophy; and it is remarkable, that more truth has been difcovered in thofe sciences than in any other. Now, there is not a more effectual way of learning the rules of any art, than by attending to the practice of those who have performed in it moft fuccessfully: a maxim which, I fuppofe, is no lefs applicable to the art of inveftigating truth, than to the mechanical and the fine arts. Let us fee, then, whether, by attending to the practice of mathematicians and natural philofophers, as contrafted with the practice of those who have treated of the human mind, we can make any discoveries preparatory to the solution of this difficulty.