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CHA P. I.
Confirmation of this theory from the practice of Mathematicians and Natural Philofophers.
HAT the diftinction between reafon and common fenfe, as here explained, is acknowledged by mathematicians, we have already fhown *. They have been wife enough to trust to the dictates of common fenfe, and to take that for truth which they were under a neceffity of believing, even though it was not in their power to prove it by argument. When a mathematician arrives, in the courfe of his reafoning, at a principle which he must believe, and which is of itfelf fo evident, that no arguments could either illuftrate or enforce it, he then knows, that his reafon can carry him no
* See part 1. chap. 2. fect. 1. of this Effay.
further, and he fits down contented: and if he can fatisfy himself, that the whole investigation is fairly conducted, and does naturally terminate in this felf-evident principle, he is perfuaded that his conclufion is true, and cannot poffibly be false. Whereas the modern fceptics, from a ftrange conceit, that their feelings are fallacious, and that Nature hath her roguish emiffaries in every corner, commiffioned and fworn to play tricks with poor mor tals, cannot find in their heart to admit any thing as truth, upon the bare authority of a feeling or fentiment *. It is doubtless
The word fentiment has, of late years, been much ufed by fome writers, to fignify, not a formed opinion, notion, or principle, (which feems to be the true, and the old English fenfe), but an internal impulfe of paffion, affection, fancy, or intellect, which is to be confidered rather as the caufe or occafion of our forming an opinion, than as the real opinion itself. In this fenfe it is used here, and perhaps in one or two other places of the Ef fay. But though we could produce fufficient authorities for this freedom, we are not very fond of the innovation; having obferved, that fome late authors ufe this word in a way hardly confiftent with precision or perfpicuity; and being fomewhat apprehenfive, that if it is not fixed down to its original fignification, the word fentiment; and its upstart derivative fentimental, may in time give rife to as many ambiguities in language, and errors in philofophy, as the word idea,
a great advantage to geometry, that its firft principles are fo few, its ideas fo diftinct, and its language fo definite. Yet a captious and paradoxical wrangler might, by dint of fophiftry, involve the principles of this fcience in confufion, provided he thought it worth his while *. But geome trical paradoxes would not rouse the attention of the public; whereas moral paradoxes, when men begin to look about for arguments in vindication of impiety, debauchery, and injuftice, become, wonderfully interesting, and can hardly fail of a powerful and numerous patronage, The corrupt judge; the prostituted courtier; the ftatefman who enriches himfelf by the plunder and blood of his country; the pettifogger, who fattens on the spoils of the fatherlefs and widow; the oppreffor, who, to pamper his own beaftly appetite, abandons the deserving peasant to beggary and despair; the hypocrite, the debauchee, the gamefter, the blafphemer,
*The author of the Treatife of Human Nature has actually attempted this in his first volume: but finding, no doubt, that the public would not take any concern in that part of his fyftem, he has not republifhed it in his ESSAYS.
prick up their ears when they are told, that a celebrated author has written a book full of fuch comfortable doctrines as the following: That juftice is not a natural, but an artificial virtue, depending wholly on the arbitrary inftitutions of men, and, previous to the establishment of civil fociety, not at all incumbent *:-That moral, intellectual, and corporeal virtues, are all of the fame kind; in other words, That to want honesty, to want understanding, and to want a leg, are equally the objects of moral difapprobation; and that it is no more a man's duty to be grateful or pious, than to have the genius of Homer, or the strength and beauty of Achilles † :
That every human action is neceffary, and could not have been different from what it is :That when we speak of power as an attribute of any being, God himself not excepted, we ufe words without meaning:-That we can form no idea of power, nor of any being endued with any power, much lefs of one endued
* Treatife of Human Nature, vol. 3. p. 37.
† Ibid. vol. 3. part 3. fect. 4.
Hume's Effays, vol. 2. p. 91. edit. 1767.
with infinite power; and that we can never have reason to believe, that any object, or quality of an object, exifts, of which we cannot form an idea *:-That it is unreasonable to believe God to be infinitely wife and good, while there is any evil or diforder in the univerfe; and that we have no good reason to think," that the univerfe proceeds from a caufe +: That the external material world does not exift ; and that if the external world be once called in doubt as to its exiftence, we fhall be at a lofs to find arguments by which we may prove the being of God, or any of his attributes :-That thofe who believe any thing certainly are fools ** -That adultery must be practifed, if men would obtain all the advantages of life; that, if generally practifed, it would foon ccafe to be fcandalous; and that, if practifed fecretly and frequently, it would by
*Treatife of Human Nature, vol. 1. p. 284. 302.432.
Hume's Effay on a Particular Providence and Future
Berkeley's and Hume's works paffim.
Hume's Efay on the Academical or Sceptical Philofophy, part 1.
** Treatife of Human Nature, vol. 1. p. 468.