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Must I quote Epictetus, or any other ancient author, to prove that men were of the fame opinion in former times? No idea occurs more frequently in my reading and converfation, than that of power or agency; and I think I understand my own meaning as well when I speak of it as when I speak of any thing else. But this idea has had the misfortune to come under the examination of a certain author, who, according to custom, has found means fo to darken and disfigure it, that, till we have cleared it of his mifreprefentations, we cannot proceed any further in the prefent fubject. And we are the more inclined to digrefs on this occafion, because he has made his theory of power the ground of fome Atheistical inferences, which we fhould not fcruple at any time to step out of our way to overturn. Perhaps thefe frequent digreffions are offenfive to the reader : they are equally fo to the writer. To remove rubbish is neither an elegant nor a pleasant work, but it is often neceffary. It is peculiarly neceffary in the philofophy of human nature. The road to moral truth has been left in fuch a plight by fome modern projectors, that a man of honesty and plain fense must either, with great labour and lofs of time, delve his way through, or be fwallowed up in a quagmire. The metaphysician advances more eafily. His levity, perhaps, enables him, like Camilla in Virgil, to skim along the furface without finking; or perhaps,


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haps, the extreme fubtlety of his genius can, like Satan in Paradife Loft, penetrate this chaos, without being much incumbered or retarded in his progrefs. But men of ordinary talents have not those advantages, and must therefore be allowed to flounce along, though with no very graceful motion, the best way they can.

All ideas, according to Mr HUME's fundamental hypothesis, are derived from and represent impreffions: But we have never any impreffion that contains any power or efficacy: We never, therefore, have any idea of power*. In proof of the minor propofition of this fyllogifm, he remarks, That "when we think we perceive our mind act❝ing on matter, or one piece of matter act"ing upon another, we do in fact perceive "only two objects or events contiguous and "fucceffive, the fecond of which is always "found in experience to follow the firft; "but that we never perceive, either by ex"ternal fenfe, or by consciousness, that power, energy, or efficacy, which connects "the one event with the other. By obser"ving that the two events do always ac

company each other, the imagination ac"quires a habit of going readily from the "firft to the fecond, and from the fecond 66 to the first; and hence we are led to con"ceive a kind of neceffary connection be

*Treatife of Human Nature, vol. 1. p. 282.

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26 tween them. But in fact there is neither neceffity nor power in the objects we confider, but only in the mind that confiders "them; and even in the mind, this power


of neceffity is nothing but a determination. "of the fancy, acquired by habit, to pafs "from the idea of an object to that of its "ufual attendant *." So that what we call the efficacy of a caufe to produce an effect, is neither in the caufe nor in the effect, but only in the imagination, which has contracted a habit of paffing from the object [ called the cause, to the object called the effect, and thus affociating them together. Has the fire a power to melt lead? No; but the fancy is determined by habit to pass from the idea of fire to that of melted lead, on account of our having always perceived them contiguous and fucceffive;-and this is the whole matter. Have I a power to move my arm? No; the volition that precedes the motion of my arm has no connection with that motion; but the motion having been always obferved to follow the volition, comes to be affociated with it in the fancy; and what we call the power, or neceffary connection, has nothing to do, either with the volition, or with the motion, but is merely a determination of my fancy, or your fancy, or any body's fancy, to affociate the idea or

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Treatife of Human Nature, vol. 1. p. 272.-300.


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impreffion of my volition with the impreffion or idea of the motion of my arm.—I am forry I cannot express myself more clearly; but I fhould not do juftice to my author, if I did not imitate his language on the present occafion plain words will never do, when one has an unintelligible doctrine to fupport.

What fhall we fay to this collection of strange phrases? or what name shall we give it? Shall we call it a moft ingenious difcovery, illuftrated by a most ingenious argument? This would be complimenting the author at a very great expence; for this would imply, not only that he is the wifeft of mortal men, but also that he is the only individual of that species of animals who is not a fool. Certain it is, that all men have in all ages talked, and argued, and acted, from a perfuafion that they had a very distinct notion of power. If our author can prove, that they had no fuch notion, he can also prove, that all human difcourfe is nonfenfe, all human actions abfurdity, and all human compofitions (his own not excepted) words without meaning. The boldness of this theory will, however, pafs with many, for a proof of its being ingenious. Be it fo, Gentlemen, I dispute not about epithets; if you will have it, that genius confifteth in the art of putting words together fo as to form abfurd propofitions, I have nothing more to fay. Others will admire this doctrine, because the words by which the au

thor means to illustrate and prove it, if printed on a good paper and with an elegant type, would of themfelves make a pretty fizeable volume. It were pity to deprive these people of the pleasure of admiring; otherwife I might tell them, that nothing is more eafy than this method of compofition; for that I would undertake, at a very short warning, (if it could be done innocently, and without prejudice to my health), to write as many pages, with equal appearance of reafon and argument, and with equal advantage to philofophy and mankind, in vindication of any given abfurdity; provided only, that (like the abfurdity in queftion) it were expreffed in words of which one at least is ambiguous.

In truth, I am fo little difpofed to admire this extraordinary paradox, that nothing could make me believe its author to have been in earneft, if I had not found him drawing inferences from it too serious to be jested with by any perfon who is not abfolutely distracted. It is one of Mr HUME'S maxims, "That we can never have reason to believe, that any object, or quality of an object, exifts, of which we cannot form cc an idea *." But, according to this aftonishing theory of power, and caufation, 66 we have no idea of power, nor of a being



Treatife of Human Nature, vol. 1. p. 302.

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