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O read and criticise the modern fyftems of scepticism, is so disagreeable a task, that nothing but a regard to duty could ever have determined me to engage in it. I found in them neither inftruction nor amufement; I wrote against them with all the disgust that one feels in wrangling with an unreasonable adverfary; and I publifhed what I had written, with the certain profpect of raifing many enemies, and with fuch an opinion of my performance; as allowed me not to entertain any fanguine hope of fuccefs. I thought it however poffible, nay, and probable too, that this book might do good. I knew that it contained fome matters of importance, which, if I was not able to fet them in the best light, might however, by my means, be fuggefted to others more capable to do them justice.
Since these papers were first published, I have laid myself out to obtain information of what has been faid of them, both 3 X 2 by
by their friends and by their enemies; hoping to profit by the cenfures of the latter, as well as by the admonitions of the former. I do not hear, that any perfon has accufed me of mifconceiving or misreprefenting my adverfaries doctrine. Again and again have I requested it of those whom I know to be mafters of the whole controverfy, to give me their thoughts freely on this point; and they have repeatedly told me, that, in their judgement, nothing of this kind can be laid to my charge.
Most of the objections that have been made I had forefeen, and, as I thought, fufficiently obviated by occafional remarks in the course of the effay. But, in regard to fome of them, I find it neceffary now to be more particular. I wish to give the fulleft fatisfaction to every candid mind: and I am fure I do not, on thefe fubjects, entertain a single thought which I need to be ashamed or afraid to lay before the public.
I have been much blamed for entering fo warmly into this controverfy. In order to prepoffefs the minds of those who had not read this performance, with an unfavourable
favourable opinion of it, and of its author, infinuations have been made, and carefully helped about, that it treats only of fome abstruse points of speculative metaphysic ; which, however, I am accused of having difcuffed, or attempted to difcufs, with all the zeal of the most furious bigot, indulging myself in an indecent vehemence of language, and uttering the most rancoT rous invectives against those who differ from me in opinion. Much, on this occafion, has been faid in praise of moderation and scepticism; moderation, the fource of candour, good-breeding, and good-nature; and fcepticism, the child of impartiality, and the parent of humility. When men believe with full conviction, nothing, it seems, is to be expected from them but bigotry and bitterness: when they fuffer themselves in their inquiries to be biaffed by partiality, or warmed with affection, they are philofophers no longer, but revilers and enthusiasts! - If this were a just account of the matter and manner of the Effay on Truth, I fhould not have the face even to attempt an apology; for were any perfon guilty of the fault here complained
plained of, I myself fhould certainly be one of the firft to condemn him.
In the whole circle of human fciences, real or pretended, there is not any thing to be found which I think more perfectly contemptible, than the fpeculative metaphyfic of the moderns. It is indeed a inoft wretched medley of ill-digefted notions, indiftinct perceptions, inaccurate obfervations, perverted language, and fophiftical argument; diftinguishing where there is no difference, and confounding where there is no fimilitude; feigning difficulties where it cannot find them, and overlooking them when real. I know no end that the ftudy of fuch jargon can anfwer, except to harden and ftupefy the heart, bewilder the understanding, four the temper, and habituate the mind to irrefolution, captioufnefs, and falfehood. For ftudies of this fort I have neither time nor inclination, I have neither head nor heart. To enter into them at all, is foolblic. to enter into them with warmth, riI have Debut to treat thofe with any bitfo warmly intofe judgements concerning to prepoffefs ther from ours, is in a very not read this Hious and criminal. Thus
far, then, my adverfaries, and I are agreed. Had the fceptical philofophers confined themfelves to those inoffenfive wranglings that fhow only the fubtlety and captioufnefs of the difputant, but affect not the principles of human conduct, they never would have found an opponent in me. My paffion for writing is not strong; and my love of controverfy fo weak, that, if it could always be avoided with a fafe confcience, I would never engage in it at all. But when doctrines are published fubverfive of morality and religion; doctrines, of which I perceive and have it in my power to expofe the abfurdity, my duty to the public forbids me to be filent; efpecially when I fee, that, by the influence of fashion, folly, or more criminal caufes, thofe doctrines fpread wider and wider every day, diffufing ignorance, mifery, and licentioufnefs, where-ever they prevail. Let us oppofe the torrent, though we should not be able to check it. The zeal and example of the weak have often roufed to action, and to victory, the flumbering virtue of the ftrong.
I likewife agree with my adverfaries in this, that fcepticifm, where it tends to