« PreviousContinue »
ly about probabilities. But certain truths are not all of the fame kind; fome being fupported by one fort of evidence, and others by another: different energies of the understanding must therefore be exerted in perceiving them; and thefe different energies must be expreffed by different names, if we would speak of them distinctly and intelligibly. The certainty of fome truths, for inftance, is perceived intuitively; the certainty of others is perceived, not intuitively, but in confequence of a proof. Most of the propofitions of Euclid are of the latter kind; the axioms of geometry are of the former. Now, if that faculty by which we perceive truth in confequence of a proof, be called Reafon, furely that power by which we perceive felf-evident truth, ought to be diftinguished by a different name. It is of little confequence what name we make choice of, provided that in chufing it we depart not from the analogy of language; and that, in applying it, we avoid equivocation and ambiguity. Some philofophers of note* have given the name of Common Senfe to that faculty by which we
Buffier, Dr Reid, &c.
perceive felf-evident truth; and, as the term seems proper enough, we fhall adopt it. But in a fubject of this kind, there is great danger of our being impofed upon by words; we cannot therefore be too much upon our guard against that fpecies of illufion. We propose to draw fome important inferences from this doctrine of the diftinction between Reafon and Common Senfe. Now thefe words are not always used in the strict fignification we have here affigned them: let us therefore take a view of all the fimilar fenfes in which they are commonly used, and let us explain more particularly that fenfe in which we propose to use them; and thus we fhall take every method in our power to fecure ourselves against the impropriety of confounding our notions by the use of ambiguous and indefinite language. Thefe philological difcuffions are indeed no part of philofophy; but they are very neceffary to prepare us for it. Qui ad interpretandam naturam accefferit," fays Lord Verulam, "verborum mixtam naturam, "et juvamenti et nocumenti imprimis participem, diftincte fciat *."
De interpretatione Naturæ, fent. 9.
This diftinction between Common Senfe and Reason is no modern difcovery The ancient geometricians were all acquainted with it. Ariftotle treats of felfevident principles in many parts of his works, particularly in the fourth book of his Metaphyfics, and in the first book of his latter Analytics. He calls them, Axioms or Dignities, Principles, and Common
* The orvoon of the Greek Stoics feems to mean that benevolent affection which men owe to fociety and to -one another. Some of the modern moralists have called it the Public Senfe. But the notion or idea we mean to exprefs by the term Common Senfe is quite différent. The Benfus Communis of the Latins hath feveral fignifications. It denotes this. Public Senfe, or votonμdom. See Shatefbury's Effay on the freedom of wit and humour,, part 3. fect. 1. Note. 2. It denotes that experience and knowledge of life which is acquired by living in fociety. Thus, Horace feems to use it, lib. 1. fatir.3. lin. 66. And thus Quintilian, fpeaking of the advantages of a public education: "Senfum ipfum qui communis dicitur, ubi "difcet, cum fe a congreffu, qui non hominibus folum, " fed mutis quoque animalibus naturalis eft, fegregarit?" lib. 1. cap. 2. 3. It feems to fignify that inftinctive perfuafion of truth which arifes from intuitive evidence, and is the foundation of all reasoning:
"Corpus enim per fe communis deliquat effe "Senfus; quo nifi prima fides fundata valebit, "Haud erit occultis de rebus quo referentes "Confirmare animi quicquam ratione queamus.” Lucretius, lib. 1. ver. 423,
Sentiments; and fays of them," "That they are known by their own evidence†; "that except fome first principles be taken for granted, there can be neither reafon
* Αξιωμαία, Αρχαι, Κοιναι δόξα, Λέγω δὲ ἀποδεικτικας, και τας κοινας δίξας, ἐξ ὧν ἀτανίες διάκνουσι· οἶον, ὅτι πᾶν ἀναγκαῖον ἡ φαῖαι, ἡ ἀποφώνη καὶ ἀδύναίον ἅμα είναι καὶ μὴ εἶναι.
Metaphyf. lib. 3. cap. 2.
† Analytic. lib. 2. cap. 16. — Of thefe first principies, a French Peripatetic, who wrote about the beginning of the last century, expreffeth himfelf thus: "Ces
principes portent le nom de communs, non feulement parce qu'ils fervent à plufieurs fciences, mais auffi ** parce que l'intelligence en eft commune à tous. On les appelle aufli dignitez, et notions communes à fçavoir, "dignitez, quafi comme dignes entre toutes les autres "qu'on y adioufte foy, à caufe de la grande excellence "de leur clarté et evidence; et notions communes, pour "; ce qu'ils font fi connus, qu' auffi-toft que la fignifica"tion des termes dont ils font compofez eft entenduë,
fans difcourir ny argumenter davantage deffus, chacun "entend naturellement leur verité; fi ce n'eft quelque
hebeté privé de raifon; lequel je renvoye à Ariftote, "qui prononce, que ceux qui doutent, qu'il faut reverer "les Dieux, ou aymer les parents, meritent d'eftre pu"nis; et que ceux qui doutent que la nege eft blanche "ont befoin de fens: et à Averroes, qui dit, que ceux
qui ne fçauroient diftinguer ce qui eft connu par foy "d'avec ce qui ne l'eft pas, font incapables de philofopher; et que ne pouvoir connoiftre ces principes, pro"cede de quelque defaut de nature, ou de peu d'exer"cice, ou d'une mauvaife accouftumance enracinée."
Corps de toute la Philofophie de Theophreßte Boujou, p. 79.
nor reasoning *; that it is impoffible "that every truth fhould admit of proof, "otherwife proof would extend in infinitum, which is altogether incompatible "with its nature †; and that if ever men attempt to prove a firft principle, it is "because they are ignorant of the nature "of proof +."
The word Reafon is ufed in feveral different fenfes. 1. It is used to signify that quality of human nature which diftinguishes man from the inferior animals. Man is called a reasonable being, and the brutes are faid to be irrational. But the faculty of reafon, taking the word in a ftrict fenfe, is perhaps not more characteristical of the nature of man, than his moral faculty, or his imagination, or his
Μηδεν γαρ τιθεντες, ἀναιρᾶσι το διαλέγεσθαι, και όλως λόγον.
4 Όλως μεν γαρ ἁπάντων ἀδύνατον ἀπόδειξιν είναι εις απόρον γαρ αν βαδίζειν ώσε μηδ ̓ ἕντως είναι ἀποδάξιν.
Ariflot. Metaphyf. lib. 4. cap. 4. fub initio.
† Αξίουσι δε και τῦτο ἀποδεικνύναι τινες δι ̓ ἀπαιδευσίαν· ἐςι γαρ άπαιδευσία, το μη γινώσκειν τίνων δὲ ζητῶν ἀποδέξιν, και τινων ου δύο
I cite thefe authorities, that I may not be fufpected of affecting either an uncommon doctrine, or modes of expreflion.