Page images

Probable reasoning is endless in its varieties; and affords different degrees of conviction, depending on the nature of

, the subject upon which it is employ'd.

[blocks in formation]

A Progress from infancy to maturity in

the mind of man, fimilar to that in his body, has been often mentioned. The external senses, being early necessary for self-preservation, arrive quickly at maturity. The internal senses are of a flower growth, as well as every other mental power : their maturity would be of little or no use while the body is weak, and unfit for action. Reasoning, as observed in the first section, requires two «mental powers, the power of invention, and that of perceiving relations. By the former are discovered intermediate propositions, having the same relation to the fundamental proposition and to the conVOL. III.





clufion; and that relation is verified by the latter. Both powers are necessary to the person who frames an argument, or a chain of reasoning: the latter only, to the person who judges of it. Savages are miserably deficient in both. With respect to the former, a savage may have from his nature a talent for invention ; but it will stand him in little stead without a stock of ideas enabling him to select what may answer his purpose ; and a favage has no opportunity to acquire such a stock. With respect to the latter, he knows little of relations. And how should he know, when both study and practice are necessary for distinguishing between relations ? The understanding, at the same time, is among the illiterate obsequious to passion and prepofleffion; and among then the

prepossession imagination acts without control, forming conclusions often no better than mere dreams. In short, considering the many causes that millead from just reasoning, in days especially of ignorance, the erroneous and absurd opinions that have prevailed in the world, and that continue in fome measure to prevail, are far from beįng surprising. Were reason our only guide in the conduct of life, we should have cause to complain ;, but our Maker has provided us with the moral sense, a guide little subject to error in matters of importance. In the sciences, reason is effential; but in the conduct of life, which is our chief concern; reason may be an useful assistant; but to be our director is not its province.

The national progress of reason has been flower in Europe, than that of any other art : ftatuary, painting, architecture, and other fine arts, approach nearer perfection, as well as morality and natural history. Manners and every art that appears externally, may in part be acquired by imitation and example : in reasoning there is nothing external to be laid hold of. But there is beside a particular cause that regards Europe, which is the blind deference that for many ages was paid to Aristotle ; who has kept the reasoning faculty in chains more than two thousand years. In his logic, the plain and simple mode of reasoning tis, rejected, that which Nature dictates; and in its stead is introduced an artificial mode, showy but unsubítantial, of no use for discovering truth ;- but conEe 2


[ocr errors]

urived with great art: for wrangling and disputation. Considering that reason for so inany ages has been immured in the enchanted castle of fyllogism, where phantoms pass for realities; the flow progress of reason toward maturity is far from being surprising. The taking of Constantinople by the Turks ann. 1453, unfolded a new scene, which in time relieved the world from the usurpation of Aristotle, and restored reason to her privileges. All the knowledge of Europe was centred in Conftantinople ; and the learned men of that city, abhorring the Turks and their government, took refuge in Italy. The Greek language was introduced among

the western nations of Europe ; and the study of Greek and Roman classics became fathionable. Men, having acquired new ideas, began to think for themselves: they exerted their native faculty of reason : the futility of Aristotle's logic became apparent to the penetrating; and is now apparent to all. Yet so late as the year 1621, several persons were banished from Paris for contradicting that philosopher, about matter and form, and about the number of the elements. And shortly after, the


[ocr errors]

parliament of Paris prohibited, under pain of death, any thing to be taught contrary to the doctrines of Aristotle. · Julius II. and Leo X, Roman Pontiffs, contributed zealously to the reformation of letters; but they did not foresee that they were also contributing to the reformation of religion, and of every science that depends on reasoning. Tho' the fetters of fyllogism have many years ago been shaken off ; yet, like a limb long kept from motion, the reasoning faculty has scarcely to this day attained its free and natural exercise. Mathematics is the only science that never has been cramped by fyllogism, and we find reasoning there in great perfection at an early period. The very flow progress of reasoning in other matters, will appear from the following induction,

To exemplify erroneous and absurd reasonings of every fort, would be endless. The reader, I presume, will be satisfied with a few instances; and I shall endeavour to select what are amusing. For the fake of order, I divide them into three heads. First, Instances showing the imbecillity of human reason during its nonage. Second, Erroneous reasoning occasioned by


ܕ ܝ ܙ

« PreviousContinue »