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knowledge. Alas! what is become of the magnificence of external nature, and the wonders of intellectual energy, the immortal beauties of truth and virtue, and the triumphs of a good confcience! Where now the warmth of benevolence, the fire of generosity, the exultations of hope, the tranquil ecftafy of devotion, and the pang of fympathetic delight! All, around, above, and beneath, is one vaft inanity, or rather an enormous chaos, encompaffed with darkness univerfally and eternally impenetrable. Body and spirit are utterly annihilated; and there remains nothing (for we must again defcend into the gibberish of metaphyfic) but a vast collection, bundle, mass, or heap, of unperceived perceptions.
Such, if Mr HUME's words have any meaning, is the refult of his fyftem. And what is this refult? If he or his admirers can prove, that there is a poffibility of expreffing it in words which do not imply a contradiction, I will not call it nonfenfe. If he or they can prove, that it is compatible with any one acknowledged truth in philofophy, in morals, in religion natural or revealed, I will not call it impious. If. he or they can prove, that it does not arise
from common facts mifreprefented, and common words mifunderflood, I fhall admit that it may have arifen from accurate observation, candid and liberal inquiry, perfect knowledge of human nature, and the enlarged views of true philofophic genius.
SEC T. II.
Of the Non-existence of Matter.
IN N the preceding fection I have taken a flight furvey of the principles, and method of investigation, adopted by the most celebrated promoters of modern fcepticism. And it appears, that they have not attended to the diftinction of reafon and common fenfe, as explained in the first part of this Effay, and as acknowledged by mathematicians and natural philofophers. Erroneous, abfurd, and self-contradictory notions, have been the confequence. And now, by entering into a more particular detail, we might eafily fhow, that many of thofe abfurdities that difgrace the philosophy of human nature, would never have existed, if men had acknowledged and attended to this diftinction; regulating their inquiries by the criterion above mentioned,
mentioned, and never profecuting any chain of argument beyond the felf-evident principles of common fenfe. We fhall confine ourfelves to two inftances; one of which is connected with the evidence of external fenfe, and the other with that of internal.
That matter or body hath a real, separate, independent existence *; that there is a real fun above us, a real air around us, and a real earth under our feet,—has been the univerfal belief of all men who were not mad, ever fince the creation. This is believed, not because it is or can be proved by argument, but because the conftitution of our nature is fuch that we muft believe it. There is here the fame ground of belief, that there is in the following propofitions: I exift; Whatever is, is; Two and two make four. It is abfurd, nay, it is impoffible, to believe the contrary. I could as easily believe, that I do not exift, that two and two are
By independent exiftence, we mean an existence that does not depend on us, nor, fo far as we know, on any being, except the creator. BERKELEY, and others, fay, that matter exists not but in the minds that perceive it; and confequently depends, in refpect of its existence, upon those minds.
N n 2
equal to three, that whatever is, is not; as believe, that I have neither hands, nor feet, nor head, nor cloaths, nor houfe, nor country, nor acquaintance; that the fun, moon, and ftars, and ocean, and tempeft, thunder and lightning, moun→ tains, rivers, and cities, have no existence but as ideas or thoughts in my mind, and, independent on me and my faculties, do not exist at all, and could not poffibly exift if I were to be annihilated; that fire, and burning, and pain, which I feel, and the recollection of pain that is past, and the idea of pain which I never felt, are all in the fame fenfe ideas or perceptions in my mind, and nothing elfe; that the qua lities of matter are not qualities of matter, but affections of fpirit; and that I have no evidence that any being exists in nature but myself. Philofophers may fay what they please; and the world, who are apt enough to admire what is monftrous, may give them credit; but I affirm, that it is not in the power, either of wit or of madnefs, to contrive any conceit more inconfiftent, more abfurd, or more nonfenfical, than this, That the material world hath no existence but in
DES CARTES acknowledges, that every perfon must be perfuaded of the existence of a material world: but he does not allow this point to be self-evident, or fo certain as not to admit of doubt; because, says he, we find in experience, that our fenfes are fometimes in an error, and because in dreams we often mistake ideas for external things really exifting. He therefore begins his philofophy of bodies with a formal proof of the existence of body *.
But however imperfect, and however fallacious, we acknowledge our fenfes to be in other matters, it is certain, that no man ever thought them fallacious in regard to the existence of body; nay, every man of a found mind is, by the law of his nature, convinced, that, in this refpect at least, they are not, and cannot be mistaken. Men have fometimes been deceived by fophiftical argument, because the human understanding is in fome, and indeed in many, refpects fallible; but does it follow, that we cannot, without proof, be certain of any thing, not even of our own existence, nor of the truth of a geometrical axiom? Some difeafes are fo fa
* Cartefii Principia, part. 1. § 4. part. 2. § 1.