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how can we know that our identity is not interrupted? I anfwer, The law of our nature determines us, whether we will or not, to believe that we continue the fame thinking beings. The interruption of confcioufnefs, whether more or lefs frequent, makes no change in this belief. My perception of the visible creation is every moment interrupted by the winking of my eyes. Am I therefore to believe, that the visible univerfe, which I this moment perceive, is not the fame with the visible universe I perceived laft moment? Then must I also believe, that the existence of the universe depends on the motion of my eye-lids; and that the mufcles which move them have the power of creating and annihilating worlds.
To conclude: That our foul exifts, and continues through life the fame individual being, is a dictate of common fense; a truth which the law of our nature renders it impoffible for us to difbelieve; and in regard to which, we cannot fuppofe ourfelves in an error, without fuppofing our faculties fallacious, and confequently dif claiming all conviction, and all certainty, M 2 and
SE CT. IV.
Of the Evidence of Memory.
THE evidence of memory commands our belief as effectually as the evidence of sense. I cannot poffibly doubt, with regard to any of iny transactions of yesterday which I now remember, whether I performed them or not. That I dined to-day, and was in bed last night, is as certain to me, as that I at prefent fee the colour of this paper. If we had no memory, knowledge and experience would be impoffible; and if we had any tendency to diftruft our memory, knowledge and experience would be of as little ufe in directing our conduct and fentiments, as our dreams now are. Sometimes we doubt, whether in a particular cafe we exert memory or imagination; and our belief is fufpended accordingly: but no fooner do we become confcious, that we remember, than conviction instantly takes place; we fay,
fay, I am certain it was fo, for now I remember I was an eye-witnefs.
But who is it that teacheth the child to believe, that yesterday he was punished, because he remembers to have been punished yesterday? Or, by what argument will you convince him, that, notwithstanding his remembrance, he ought not to believe that he was punished yesterday, because memory is fallacious? The matter depends not on education or reafoning. We truft to the evidence of memory, because we cannot help trusting
to it. The fame Providence which endued us with memory, without any care of ours, endued us alfo with an instinctive propenfity to believe in it, previously to all reafoning and experience. Nay, all reafoning fuppofeth the testimony of memory to be authentic: for, without trufting implicitly to this teftimony, no train of reafoning could be profecuted; we could never be convinced, that the conclufion is fair, if we did not remember the several steps of the argument, and if we were not certain that this remembrance is not fallacious.
The diverfities of memory in different
men are very remarkable; and in the fame man the remembrance of fome things is more lafting, and more lively, than that of others. Some of the ideas of memory feem to decay gradually by length of time; fo that there may be fome things which I distinctly remembered seven years ago, but which at prefent I remember very imperfectly, and which in seven years more (if I live fo long) I fhall have utterly forgotten. Hence fome have been led to think, that the evidence of memory decays gradually, from abfolute certainty, through all the degrees of probability, down to that fufpenfe of judgement which we call doubt. They feem to have imagined, that the vivacity of the idea is in fome fort neceffary to the establishment of belief. Nay, one author has gone fo far as to fay, that belief is nothing else but this vivacity of ideas; as if we never believed what we have no lively conception of, nor doubted of any thing of which we have a lively conception. But this doctrine is fo abfurd, that it hardly deferves a ferious confutation. I have a much more lively idea of Don Quixote than of the present King
*Treatife of Human Nature, vol. 1. p. 172.
of Pruffia; and yet I believe that the latter does exist, and that the former never did. When I was a schoolboy, I read an abridgement of the history of Robinson Crufoe, and firmly believed every word of it; fince I grew up, I have read that ingenious work at large, and consequently have a much livelier conception of it than before; yet now I believe the whole to be a fiction, Some months ago, I read the Treatife of Human Nature, and have at prefent a pretty clear remembrance of its contents; but I fhall probably forget the greater part of it in a fhort time. When this happens, I ought not, according to Mr HUME's theory, to believe that I ever read it. As long, however, as my faculties remain unimpaired, I fear I fhall hardly be able to bring myself to this pitch of fcepticism. No, no; I fhall ever have good reason to remember I read that book, however imperfect my remembrance may be, and however little ground I may have. to congratulate myself upon my acquaintance with it.
The vivacity of a perception does not feem neceffary to our belief of the exiftence of the object perceived. I fee a town afar