« PreviousContinue »
organ of fight. Here reasoning is employ-. ed: but where does it terminate? It terminates in experience, which I have acquired by means of my fenfes. But if I believed them fallacious, if I believed things to be otherwise than my fenfes reprefent them, I fhould never acquire experience at all. Or, 3. I apply, first to one man, then to another, and then to a third, who all affure me, that they perceive no fuch circle floating in the air, and at the fame time inform me of the true caufe of the appearance. I believe their declaration, either because I have had experience of their veracity, or because I have an innate propenfity to credit teftimony. To gain experience implies a belief in the evidence of fenfe, which reafoning cannot account for; and a propenfity to credit teftimony previous to experience or reafoning, is equally unaccountable *.. So that, although we acknowledge fome of our fenfes, in fome instances, deceitful, our detection of the deceit, whether by the evidence of our other fenfes, or by a retrofpect to our past experience, or by our trusting to the testimony See fect. 8. of this chapter.
of other men, doth ftill imply, that we do and must believe our fenfes previously to all reafoning.
A human creature born with a propenfity to disbelieve his fenfes, would be as useless and helplefs as if he wanted them. To his own preservation he could contribute nothing; and, after ages of being, would remain as deftitute of knowledge and experience, as when he began to be.
Sometimes we seem to diftruft the evidence of our fenfes, when in reality we only doubt whether we have that evidence or not. I may appeal to any man, if he were thoroughly convinced that he had really, when awake, feen and converfed with a ghost, whether any reasoning would convince him that it was a delufion. Reasoning might lead him to fufpect, that he had been dreaming, and therefore to doubt whether or not he had the evidence of fenfe; but if he were affured that he had that evidence, no arguments whatsoever would fhake his belief.
Of the Evidence of Internal Senfe.
BY attending to what passes in
my mind, I know, not only that it exists, but also that it exerts certain powers of action and perception; which, on account either of a diversity in their objects, or of a difference in their manner of operating, I confider as feparate and distinct faculties and which I find it expedient to diftinguifh by different names, that I may be able to fpeak of them fo as to be underftood. Thus I am confcious that at one time I exert memory, at another time imagination: fometimes I believe, fometimes I doubt the performance of certain actions, and the indulgence of certain affections, is attended with an agreeable feeling of a peculiar kind, which I call moral approbation; different actions and affections excite the oppofite feeling, of moral disapprobation: to relieve diftrefs, I feel to be meritorious and praife-worthy; to pick a pocket, I know to be blameable,
and worthy of punishment: I am confcious, that fome actions are in my power, that others are not; that when I neglect to do what I ought to do, and can do, I deferve to be punished; and that when I act neceffarily, or upon unavoidable and irresistible compulfion, I deferve neither punishment nor blame. Of all these sentiments I am as confcious, and as certain, as I am of my own existence. I cannot prove that I feel them, neither to myself, nor to others; but that I do really feel them, is as evident to me as demonftration could make it. I cannot prove, in regard to my moral feelings, that they are conformable to any extrinfic and eternal relations of things; but I know that my conftitution neceffarily determines me to believe them juft and genuine, even as it determines me to believe that I myself ex ift, and that things are as my exterial fenfes reprefent them. And a fophifter could no more prove to my conviction, that these feelings are fallacious, or that I have no fuch feelings, than he could prove to my conviction, that two and two may be equal to five, or that my friend is as much prefent with me when I think of him at
a thousand miles diftance, as when I fit and converfe with him in the fame chamber. An expert logician might perhaps puzzle me with words, and propose difficulties I could not folve: but he might as well attempt to convince me, that I do not exist, as that I do not feel what I am confcious I do feel. And if he could induce me to fufpect that I may poffibly be mistaken, what standard of truth could he propofe to me, more evident, and of higher authority, than my own feelings? Shall I believe his teftimony, and difbelieve my own fenfations? Shall I admit his reasons, because I cannot confute them, although common fenfe tells me they are falfe? Shall I fuffer the ambiguities of artificial language to prevail against the clear, the intelligible, the irresistible voice of nature? Am I to judge of the colouring of a flower by moonshine, or by the light of the fun? Or, because I cannot by candle-light diftinguifh green from blue, fhall I therefore infer, that green and blue are the fame ?
We cannot difbelieve the evidence of internal fenfe, without offering violence And if we be led into
to our nature.