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The first thing a philofopher ought to do, according to DES CARTES, is to diveft himfelf of all prejudices, and all his former opinions; to reject the evidence of fenfe, of intuition, and of mathematical demonftration; to fuppofe that there is no God, nor heaven, nor earth; and that man has neither hands, nor feet, nor body; in a word, he is to doubt of every thing of which it is poffible to doubt, and to be perfuaded, that every thing is falfe which can poffibly be conceived to be doubtful. Now there is only one point of which it is impoffible to doubt, namely, That I, the perfon who doubts, am thinking. This propofition, therefore, I think, and this only, may be taken for granted; and nothing else whatsoever is to be believed without proof.
What is to be expected from this strange introduction? One or other of these two things must neceffarily follow. This author will either believe nothing at all; or if he believe any thing, it must be upon the recommendation of fophiftical reasoning*. But DES CARTES is no fceptic in his moral reafonings: therefore, in his moral reafonings, he must be a fophifter. Let us fee, whether we can make good this charge against him by facts.
Taking it for granted that he thinks, he
See the first part of this Effay.
thence infers, that he exifts: Ego cogito, ergo fum: I think; therefore I exift. Now there cannot be thought where there is no exiftence; before he take it for granted that he thinks, he must also take it for granted that he exists. This argument, therefore, proceeds on a fuppofition, that the thing to be proved is true; in other words, it is a fophifm, a petitio principii. Even fuppofing it poffible to conceive thinking, without at the fame time conceiving existence, ftill this is no conclufive argument, except it could be fhown, that it is more evident to a man that he thinks, than that he exifts; for in every true proof a lefs evident propofition is inferred from one that is more evident. But, I think, and, I exift, are equally evident. Therefore this is no true proof.-To fet an example of falfe reafoning in the very foundation of a system, can hardly fail to have bad confequences.
Having in this manner established his own existence, our author next proceeds to prove the veracity of his faculties; that is, to fhow by reasoning, that what he thinks true, is really true, and that what he thinks falfe is really falfe. He would have done better to have taken this alfo for granted the argument by which he attempts to prove it, does more honour to his heart than to his understanding. It is indeed a fophifm of the fame kind with the former, in which he takes that for granted which he means to prove. It
runs thus. We are conscious, that we have in our minds the idea of a being infinitely perfect, intelligent, and powerful, neceffarily exiftent and eternal. This idea differs from all our other ideas in two respects: — It implies the notions of eternal and neceffary existence, and of infinite perfection; —it neither is, nor can be, a fiction of the fancy; and therefore exhibits no chimera or imaginary being, but a true and immutable nature, which muft of neceffity exist, because neceffary existence is comprehended in the idea of it. Therefore there is a God, neceffarily exiftent, infinitely wife, powerful, and true, and poffeffed of all perfection. This Being is the maker of us and of all our faculties; he cannot deceive, because he is infinitely perfect; therefore our faculties are true, and not fallacious *.-The fame argument has been adopted by others, particularly by Dr BARROW. Cartefius," fays that pious and learned author, "hath well obferved, that, to make us abfolutely cer"tain of our having attained the truth, it "is required to be known, whether our fa"culties of apprehending and judging the truth, be true; which can only be known "from the power, goodnefs, and truth of 66 our Creator t."
* Cartefii Princip. Philof. part 1. § 14. 15. 18.
+ Lect. Geomet. 7.
I object not to this argument for the divine existence, drawn from the idea of an all-perfect being, of which the human mind is confcious; though perhaps this is not the most unexceptionable method of evincing that great truth. I allow, that when a man believes a God, he cannot, without abfurdity and impiety, deny or question the veracity of the human faculties; and that to acknowledge a distinction between truth and falfehood, implies a perfuafion, that certain laws are established in the universe, on which the natures of all created things depend, which (to me at least) is incomprehenfible, except on the fuppofition of a fupreme, intelligent, directing caufe. But I acquiefce in these principles, because I take the veracity of my faculties for granted; and this I feel myself neceffitated to do, because I feel it to be the law of my nature, which I cannot poffibly counteract. Proceeding then upon this innate and irresistible notion, that my faculties are true, I infer, by the juftest reasoning, that God exifts; and the evidence for this great truth is fo clear and convincing, that I cannot withstand its force, if I believe any thing else whatever.
DES CARTES argues in a different manner. Because God exifts, (fays he), and is perfect, therefore my faculties are true. Right. But how do you know that God exifts? I infer it from the fecond principle of my philofophy, already established, Cogito, ergo fum.
-How do you know that your inference is
As this philosopher doubted where he ought to have been confident, so he is often confident where he ought to doubt. He admits not his own existence, till he thinks he has proved it; yet his fyftem is replete with hypotheses taken for granted, without proof, almoft without examination. He fets out with the profeffion of univerfal scepticism; but many of his theories are founded in the most unphilofophical credulity. Had he taken a little more for granted, he would have proved a great deal more: he takes almoft nothing for granted, (I speak of what he profeffes, not of what he performs); and therefore he proves nothing. In geometry, however, he is rational and ingenious; there are fome curious remarks in his difcourfe on the paffions; his phyfics are fanciful and plau