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believe, and which is of itself fo evident, that no arguments could either illuftrate or enforce it, he then knows, that his reafon can carry him no further, and he fits down contented: and if he can fatisfy himself, that the whole investigation is fairly conducted, and does indeed terminate in this felf-evident principle, he is perfuaded, that his conclufion is true, and cannot be falfe. Whereas the sceptics, from a ftrange conceit, that the dictates of their understanding are fallacious, and that Nature has her roguish emiffaries in every corner, commiffioned and fworn to play tricks with poor mortals, cannot find in their heart to admit any thing as truth, upon the bare authority of their common fenfe. It is doubtless a great advantage to geometry, that its first principles are fo few, its ideas fo diftinct, and its language fo definite. Yet a captious and paradoxical wrangler might, by dint of fophiftry, involve the principles even of this fcience in confufion, provided he thought it worth his while *. But geometrical paradoxes would not roufe the attention of the public; whereas moral paradoxes, when men begin to look about for arguments in vindication of impiety and immorality,
*The author of the Treatise of Human Nature has actually attempted this in his firft volume: but finding, no doubt, that the public would not take any concern in that part of his fyftem, he has not republifhed it in his ESSAYS.
become interesting, and can hardly fail of a powerful and numerous patronage. The corrupt judge; the prostituted courtier; the statesman who enriches himself by the plunder and blood of his country; the pettifogger, who fattens on the spoils of the fatherlefs and the widow; the oppreffor, who, to pamper his own beastly appetite, abandons the deferving peasant to beggary and despair; the hypocrite, the debauchee, the gamefter, the blafphemer,—prick up their ears when they are told, that a celebrated author has written a book containing fuch doctrines, or leading to fuch confequences, as the following: "That moral and intellectual vir
tues are nearly of the fame kind * :” — in other words, That to want honesty, and to want understanding, are equally the objects of moral disapprobation : That every "human action is neceffary, and could not "have been different from what it is †:
"That when we fpeak of power as an at"tribute of any being, God himself not ex"cepted, we ufe words without meaning:"That we can form no idea of power, nor "of any being endued with any power, "much less of one endued with infinite power; and that we can never have reafon to believe, that any object, or quality of
* Treatife of Human Nature, vol. 3. part 3. fect. 4. + Hume's Effays, vol. 2. p. 9r. edit. 1767.
66 an object, exifts, of which we cannot form ' an idea - That it is unreafonable to "believe God to be infinitely wife and good, "while there is any evil or disorder in the "universe; and that we have no good rea"fon to think, that the universe proceeds "from a caufet:-That the external world "does not exift, or at least that its existence 66 may reasonably be doubted ;" and "that" "if the external world be once called in "doubt, we fhall be at a lofs to find arguments, by which we may prove the existence of the Supreme Being, or any of his "attributes: :-That thofe who believe any thing certainly are fools **.” That adultery must be practifed, if men would obtain all the advantages of life; that, if generally practifed, it would in time ceafe to be fcandalous; and that, if practifed fecretly and frequently, it would by degrees come to be thought no crime at all ++: "That the queftion concerning the fubftance of the
*Treatife of Human Nature, vol. 1. p. 284. 302. 432.
+ Hume's Effay on a Particular Providence and Future State.
Berkeley and Hume, paffim.
Hume's Effay on the Sceptical Philofophy, part 1.
** Treatife of Human Nature, vol. 1. p. 468.
++ Hume's Effays, vol. 2. p. 409. edit. 1767.
"foul is unintelligible *: That matter " and motion may often be regarded as the "caufe of thought t:—and, That the foul "of man becomes every different moment a "different being :" from which doctrine it must follow as a confequence, that the actions I performed last year, or this morning, whether virtuous or vitious, are no more imputable to me, than the virtues of Ariftides are imputable to Nero, or the crimes of Nero to the MAN OF Ross.
I know no geometrical axiom, more perfpicuous, more evident, more generally acknowledged, than this propofition, (which every man believes of himself), My body "exifts;" yet this has been denied, and volumes written to prove it falfe. Who will pretend to fet bounds to this fpirit of fcepticifm and fophiftry? Where are the principles that can stop its progrefs, when it has already attacked the existence, both of the human body, and of the human foul? When it denies, and attempts to disprove this, I cannot fee why it may not as well deny a whole to be greater than a part, the radii of the fame circle to be equal to one another; and affirm, that two right lines do contain a
Id. vol. 1. p. 48.
Treatife of Human Nature, vol. 1. p. 434.
+ Id. ibid.
fpace, and that it is poffible for the fame thing to be and not to be.
Had our fceptics been confulted when the first geometrical inftitutions were compiled, they would have given a strange turn to the face of affairs. They would have demanded reasons for the belief of every axiom; and as none could have been given, would have fufpected a fallacy; and probably (for the art of metaphyfical book-making is not of difficult attainment) have made books to prove a priori, that an axiom, from its very nature, cannot be true; or at least that we cannot with certainty pronounce whether it is fo or not. "Take heed to yourselves, gentlemen ; you are going to lay the foundations of a "fcience; be careful to lay them as deep as poffible. Let the love of doubt and difputation animate you to invincible per"feverance. You must go deeper; truth "(if there be any fuch thing) loves profundity and darkness. Hitherto I fee you "quite diftinctly; and, let me tell you, "that is a ftrong prefumption against your "method of operation. I would not give
two pence for that philofophy which is "obvious and intelligible *. Tear up that prejudice, that I may fee what fupports it. "I fee you cannot move it, and therefore am difpofed to question its stability; you
* See Treatife of Human Nature, vol. 1. p. 3. 4.