« PreviousContinue »
we should certainly think him an unreafonable man. Every thing, therefore, which to human creatures feems intuitively probable, is to be accounted one of the firft principles of probable human knowledge. A human creature acts an irrational part when he argues against it; and if he refuse to acknowledge it probable, he cannot, without contradicting himself, acquiefce in any other human probability
It appears from what has been faid, that there are various kinds of intuitive certainty; and that those who will not allow any truth to be felf-evident, except what has all the characteristics of a geometrical axiom, are much mistaken. From the view we have given of this fubject, it would be eafy to reduce thefe intuitive certainties into claffes; but this is not neceffary on the prefent occafion. We are here treating of the nature and immutability of truth as perceived by human faculties. Whatever intuitive propofition man, by the law of his nature, must believe as certain, or as probable, is, in regard to him, certain or probable truth; and must constitute a part of human knowledge, and remain unalte
rably the fame, as long as the human conftitution remains unaltered. And we must often repeat, that he who attempts to dif prove fuch intuitive truth, or to make men fceptical in regard to it, acts a part as inconfiftent with found reasoning, and as effectually fubverfive of all human knowledge, as if he attempted to disprove truths which he certainly knew to be agreeable to the eternal and neceffary relations of things. Whether the Deity can or cannot change these truths into falfehoods, we need not feek to determine, because it is of no confequence to us to know. It becomes us better to inquire, with humility and reverence, into what he hath done, than vainly, and perhaps prefumptuously, into what he can do. Whatever he hath been pleased to establish in the universe, is as certainly established, as if it were in itself unchangeable and from eternity; and, while he wills it to remain what he hath made it, is as permanent as his own
CHA P. II.
The preceding theory rejected by Sceptical Writers.
E have feen, that mathematicians and natural philofophers do, in effect, acknowledge the diftinction between common fenfe and reafon, as above explained; admitting the dictates of the former as ultimate and unquestionable principles, and never attempting either to prove or to difprove them by reafoning. If we inquire a little into the genius of modern fcepticifin, we fhall fee, that, there, a very different plan of investigation has been adopted. This will best appear by inftances taken from that pretended philofophy. But firft let us offer a few general remarks.
General Obfervations. Rife and progress of Modern Scepticifm.
THE HE Cartefian philofophy is to be confidered as the ground-work of modern fcepticifm. The fource of LOCKE'S reafoning against the feparate existence of the fecondary qualities of matter, of BERKELEY'S reafoning against the exiftence of a material world, and of HUME'S reafoning against the existence both of foul and body, may be found in the first part of the Principia of DES CARTES. Yet nothing feems to have been further from the intention of this worthy and most ingenious philofopher, than to give countenance to error, irreligion, or licentioufnefs. He begins with doubting; but it is with a view to arrive at conviction: his fucceffors (fome of them at least) the further they advance in their fyftems, become more and more fceptical; and at length the reader is told, to his infinite pleasure and emolument, that the understanding,
acting alone, doth entirely fubvert itself, and leaves not the lowest degree of evidence in any propofition whatsoever.
The first thing a philofopher ought to do, according to DES CARTES, is to divest himself of all prejudices, and all his former opinions; to reject the evidence of fenfe, of intuition, and of mathematical demonstration; to fuppofe, that there is no God, nor heaven, nor earth; and that we have neither hands, nor feet, nor body; in a word, he is to doubt of every thing of which it is poffible to doubt, and to be perfuaded, that every thing is false which can poffibly be conceived to be doubtful. Now there is only one point of which it is impoffible to doubt, namely, That I, the perfon who doubts, am thinking. This propofition, therefore, I think, and this only, may be taken for granted; and nothing else whatsoever is to be believed without proof.
What is to be expected from this ftrange introduction? One or other of thefe two things must neceffarily follow. This author will either believe nothing at all; or if he believe any thing, it must be upon the recommendation of falfe and sophisti