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a difputatious fpirit, derived from nature, fashion, or education, evaporate in subtlety, fophistry, and vain refinement? Lucretius, Cicero, and Des Cartes, might be mentioned as examples. And it will be matter of lafting regret in the republic of letters, that one, greater in fome refpects than the greateft of thefe, I mean John Milton, had the misfortune to be born in an age when the ftudy of fcholaftic theology was deemed an effential part of intellectual difcipline.
from truth, in perplexing the caufe with arguments that he knows to be frivolous, in confounding the judgement of his hearers by unreasonable appeals to their paffions, or in wearing out their attention with studied prolixity, the lefs refpectable will he be in his private character, and the lefs useful as a member of fociety. 1 never heard a lawyer blamed for declining a caufe notorioufly bad but to engage for hire in all causes, good and bad, with equal zeal, and equal alacrity, is furely not commendable.
To be able to fpeak readily and plaufibly in vindication of any opinion, is no doubt an ornamental, and may be an ufeful accomplishment. But to teach it, belongs rather to the rhetorician, than to the philofopher. And it is to be feared, that, in their ardour to acquire it, young men have fometimes become more enamoured of victory than of truth, and more intent upon words than upon argument; and that they may have alfo been too eager to difplay it in private company, where, unlefs feafoned with wit and modefty, with fweetnefs of temper, and foftnefs of voice, it foon becomes a moft intolerable nuifance. To philofophy, that is, to the right obfervation and interpretation of nature, habits of wrangling, and theories of fyllogifm, feem to me to be juft as neceffary a prelude, as the art of rope-dancing is to the ftudy of agriculture.
It is either affectation, or falfe modefty, that makes men say they know nothing with certainty. Man's knowledge, indeed, compared with that of fuperior beings, may be very inconfiderable; and compared with that of The Supreme, is "as nothing, and "vanity:" and it is true, that we are daily puzzled in attempting to account for the moft familiar appearances. But it is true, notwithstanding, that we do know, and cannot doubt of our knowing, fome things with certainty. And
"Let fchool-taught pride diffemble all it
To be vain of any attainment, is prefumption and folly but to think every thing difputable, is a proof of a weak mind and captious temper. And however fceptics may boast of their modefty, in difclaiming all tenfions to certain knowledge, I would appeal to the man of candour, whether they or we feem to poffefs least of that virtue; they, who fuppofe, that they can raise infurmountable objections in every fubject; or we, who believe, that our Maker has permitted us to know with certainty some few things?
In oppofition to this practice of making every thing matter of difpute, we have endeavoured to fhow, that the instinctive fug
geftions of common fenfe are the ultimate ftandard of truth to man; that whatever contradicts them is contrary to fact, and therefore false; that to fuppofe them cognifable by reafon, is to fuppofe truth as variable as the intellectual, or as the argumentative, abilities of men; and that it is an abuse of reason, and tends to the fubverfion of science, to call in question the authenticity of our natural feelings, and of the natural fuggeftions of the human understanding.
That science never profpered while the old logic continued in fashion, is undeniable. Lord Verulam was one of the first who brought it into difrepute; and propofed a different method of investigating truth, namely, that the appearances of nature fhould be carefully obferved; and, instead of facts being wrested to make them fall in with theory, that theory fhould be cautiously inferred from facts, and from them only. The event has fully proved, that our great philofopher was in 'the right for fcience has made more progrefs fince his time, and by his method, than for a thousand years before. The court of Rome well knew the importance of the fchool-logic in fupporting their authority; they knew it could be employed more fuccefsfully in difguifing error, than in vindicating truth: and Puffendorff fcruples not to infinuate, that they patronised it for this very reafon *. Let it not * De Monarchia Pontificis Romani.
then be urged, as an objection to this difcourse, that it recommends a method of confutation which is not ftrictly logical. It is enough for me, that the method here recommended is agreeable to good fenfe and found philofophy, and to the general notions and practices of men.
CHA P. II.
The subject continued. Eftimate of Metaphyfic. Causes of the Degeneracy of Moral Science.
HE reader has no doubt obferved, that I have frequently ufed the term Metaphyfic, as if it implied fomething worthy of contempt or cenfure. That no lover of science may be offended, I fhall now account for this, by explaining the nature of that metaphyfic which I conceive to be repugnant to true philofophy, though it has often affumed the name; and which, therefore, in my judgement, the friends of truth ought folicitoufly to guard against. This explanation will lead to fome remarks that may perhaps throw additional light on the prefent fubject.
Ariftotle bequeathed by legacy his writings
to Theophraftus; who left them, together with his own, to Neleus of Scepfis. The pofterity of Neleus, being illiterate men, kept them for fome time locked up; but afterwards hearing, that the king of the country was making a general fearch for books to furnish his library at Pergamus, they hid them in a hole under ground; where they lay for many years, and fuffered much from worms and dampnefs. At laft, however, they were fold to one Apellicon; who caufed them to be copied out; and, having (according to Strabo) a greater paffion for books than for knowledge, ordered the transcribers to fupply the chafms from their own invention. When Sylla took Athens, he seized on Apellicon's library, and carried it to Rome. Here the books of Ariftotle were revised, by Tyrannio the grammarian, and afterwards by Andronicus of Rhodes, a Peripatetic philofopher, who publifhed the first complete edition of them *. To fourteen of these books, which it seems had no general title, Andronicus prefixed the words, Ta meta ta phyficat; that is, The books pofterior to the phyfics; either becaufe, in the order of the former arrangement, they happened to be placed, or because the editor meant that they fhould be ftudied, next after the phyfics.
* Strabo, p. 609. Paris edit. 1620. Plut. Sylla. † Τὰ μετὰ τα φυσικα.