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ties in the attainment of plain, practical, and useful knowledge?
The confequences of fubmitting every fentiment and principle to the test of reafoning, have been confidered already. This practice hath, in every age, tended much to confound fcience, to prevent the detection of error, and (may we not add?) to debase the human understanding. For have we not seen real genius, under the influence of a difputatious fpirit, derived, from nature, fashion, or education, evaporate in fubtlety, fophiftry, and vain refinement? Lucretius, Cicero, and Des Cartes, might be mentioned as examples. And it will be matter of lafting regret in the republic of letters, that a greater than the greatest of thefe, I mean John Milton, had the misfortune to be born in an age when the ftudy of fcholaftic theology was deemed an essential part of intellectual difcipline.
It is either affectation, or falfe modefty, that makes men fay they know nothing with certainty. It is true, the knowledge of man, compared with that of fuperior beings, may be very inconfiderable; and compared with that of The Supreme, is as nothing
nothing and vanity it is true also, that we are daily puzzled in attempting to account for the most familiar appearances. But it is true, notwithstanding, that we do know, and cannot poffibly doubt of our knowing, fome things with certainty. And,
"Let fchool-taught pride diffemble all it can,
To be vain of any attainment, is prefumption and folly but to think every thing difputable, is a proof of a weak: mind and captious temper. And however fceptics may boaft of their modefty, in disclaiming all pretenfions to certain know→ ledge, I would appeal to the man of candour, whether they or we feem to poffefs least of that virtue;-they, who fuppofe, that they can raise infurmountable objections in every fubject; or we, who believe, that our Maker hath permitted us to know with certainty fome few things?
In oppofition to this practice of making every thing matter of difpute, we have endeavoured to fhow, that the instinctive fuggeftions of common fenfe are the ulti
* Goldsmith's Traveller.
mate ftandard of truth to man; that whatever contradicts them is contrary to fact, and therefore false; that to fuppofe them cognisable by reafon, is to fuppofe truth as variable as the intellectual, or as the argumentative, abilities of men; and that it is an abufe of reafon, and tends to the fubverfion of fcience, to call in question the authenticity of our natural feelings.
That science never profpered while the old logic continued in fashion, is undeniable. Lord Verulam was one of the first who brought it into difrepute; and propofed a different method of investigating truth, namely, that the appearances of nature should be carefully observed, and that, instead of facts being wrefted to make them fall in with theory, theory fhould be cautiously inferred from facts, and from them only. The event has fully proved, that our great philofopher was in the right for fcience hath made more progrefs fince his time, and by his method, than for a thoufand years before. The court of Rome well knew the importance of the school-logic in fupporting their authority; they knew it could be employed more fuccessfully in difquifing error, 3 I
than in vindicating truth: and Puffendorff fcruples not to affirm, that they patronised it for this very reafon *. Let it not then be urged, as an objection to this difcourfe, that it recommends a method of confutation which is not strictly logical. It is enough for me, that the method here recommended is agreeable to good fenfe and found philofophy, and to the general notions and practices of men.
The fubject continued.
HE reader hath no doubt obferved,
TH that I have frequently ufed the term
metaphyfic, as if it implied fomething worthy of contempt or cenfure. That no lover of fcience may be offended, I fhall now account for this, by explaining the nature of that metaphyfic which I conceive to be
* De Monarchia Pontificis Romani, cap. 34.
repugnant to true philofophy, though it hath often affumed the name; and which, therefore, in my judgement, the friends of truth ought folicitoufly to guard against. This explanation will lead to fome remarks that may perhaps throw additional light on the prefent fubject.
Aristotle bequeathed by legacy his writings to Theophraftus; who left them, together with his own, to Neleus of Scepfis. The pofterity of Neleus, being illiterate men, kept them for fome time locked up; but afterwards hearing, that the king of the country was making a general fearch for books to furnish his library at Pergamus, they hid them in a hole below ground; where they lay for many years, and fuffered much from worms and dampnefs. At last, however, they were fold to one Apellicon, who caufed them to be copied out; and, having (according to Strabo) a greater paffion for books than for knowledge, ordered the tranfcribers to fupply the chafins, which they accordingly did, with very little judgement. When Sylla took Athens, he feized on Apellicon's library, and carried it to Rome. Here the books of Ariftotle were revised, by 312 Tyranniq.