Page images

trived with great art for wrangling and disputation. Confidering that reason for ́ fo many ages has been immured in the enchanted castle of fyllogifm, where phantoms pafs for realities; the flow progress of reafon toward maturity is far from being furprifing. The taking of Conftantinople by the Turks ann. 1453, unfolded a new scene, which in time relieved the world from the ufurpation of Aristotle, and restored reafon 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 claffics became fathionable. Men, having acquired new ideas, began to think for themselves: they exerted their native faculty of reason: the futility of Ariftotle's logic became apparent to the penetrating; and is now apparent to all. Yet fo late as the year 1621, feveral perfons were banished from Paris for contradicting that philofopher, about matter and form, and about the number of the elements. And fhortly after, the


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 forefee that they were alfo contributing to the reformation of religion, and of every science that depends on reasoning. Tho' the fetters of fyllogifm have many years ago been fhaken off; yet, like a limb long kept from motion, the reasoning faculty has fcarcely to this day attained its free and natural exercise. Mathematics is the only science that never has been cramped by fyllogifm, and we find reafoning there in great perfection at an early period. The very flow progrefs of reafoning in other matters, will appear from the following induction.

To exemplify erroneous and abfurd reafonings of every fort, would be endless. The reader, I prefume, will be fatisfied with a few inftances; and I fhall endeavour to felect what are amufing. For the fake of order, I divide them into thrée heads. First, Inftances fhowing the imbecillity of human reafon during its nonage. Second, Erroneous reafoning occafioned by natural

natural biaffes. Third, Erroneous reasoning occafioned by acquired biaffes. With refpect to the first, instances are endless of reafonings founded on erroneous premises. It was an Epicurean doctrine, That the gods have all of them a human figure; moved by the following argument, that no being of any other figure has the use of reafon. Plato, taking for granted the following erroneous propofition, That every being which moves itself must have a foul, concludes that the world must have a foul, because it moves itself (a). Ari- ̈ ftotle taking it for granted, without the least evidence and contrary to truth, that all heavy bodies tend to the centre of the universe, proves the earth to be the centre of the univerfe by the following argument. Heavy bodies natu"rally tend to the centre of the universe:

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

we know by experience that heavy "bodies tend to the centre of the earth :"therefore the centre of the earth is the

"L centre of the univerfe." Appion ridicules the Jews for adhering literally to the precept of refting on their fabbath, fo as to fuffer Jerufalem to be taken that day by

(a) Cicero, De natura Deorum, lib. 2. § 12.



Ptolomy fon of Lagus. Mark the anfwer of Jofephus : "Whoever paffes a fober "judgement on this matter, will find our

[ocr errors]

practice agreeable to honour and vir(( tue; for what can be more honourable "and virtuous, than to poftpone our country, and even life itself, to the fer"vice of God, and of his holy religion ?" A ftrange idea of religion, to put it in direct oppofition to every moral principle! A fuperftitious and abfurd doctrine, That God will interpofe by a miracle to declare what is right in every controversy, has occafioned much erroneous reafoning and abfurd practice. The practice of determining controverfies by fingle combat, commenced about the feventh century; when religion had degenerated into superstition, and courage was esteemed the only moral virtue. The parliament of Paris, in the reign of Charles VI. appointed a fingle combat between two gentlemen, in order to have the judgement of God whether the one had committed a rape on the other's wife. In the 1454, John Picard being accused by his fon-in-law for too great familiarity with his wife, a duel between them was appointed by the fame parliament,

[ocr errors]

parliament. Voltaire juftly obferves, that the parliament decreed a parricide to be committed, in order to try an accufation of inceft, which poffibly was not committed. The trials by water and by fire, reft on the fame erroneous foundation. In the former, if the perfon accufed funk to the bottom, it was a judgement pronounced by God that he was innocent: if he kept above, it was a judgement that he was guilty. Fleury (a) remarks, that if ever the perfon accused was found guilty, it was his own fault. In Sicily, a woman accused of adultery, was compelled to fwear to her innocence: the oath, taken down in writing, was laid on water; and if it did not fink, the woman was innocent. We find the fame practice in Japan, and in Malabar. One of the articles infifted on by the reformers in Scotland, was, That public prayers be made and the facraments administered in the vulgar tongue. The anfwer of a provincial council was in the following words: "That to "conceive public prayers or administer "the facraments in any language but Latin, is contrary to the traditions and

[ocr errors]

(a) Hiftoire Ecclefiaftique.


« PreviousContinue »