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They believe the fubftance of a full-grown body to continue the fame, notwithstanding its being fometimes fatter, and fometimes leaner; even as they fuppofe the fubftance of a wall to be the fame before and after it is plaistered, or painted. They therefore do not ascribe to it identity of person, and diversity of substance, but a real and proper identity both of substance and perfon. Of the identity of the body while increasing in ftature, they conceive, nearly in the fame way, as of the identity of vegetables: they know in what refpects it continues the fame, and in what refpects it becomes different; there is no confufion in their notions; they never fuppofe it to be different in thofe refpects in which they know it to be the fame.
When philofophers speak of the identity of the human body, they must mean, not that its fubftance is the fame, for this they fay is perpetually changing; but that it is the fame, in refpect of its having been all along animated with the fame vital and thinking principle, diftinguifhed by the fame name, marked with the fame or fimilar features, placed in the fame relations of life, &c. It must be obvious to the intelligent reader, that the difficulties attending this fubject arife not from any ambiguity or intricacy in our notions or judgements, for these are extremely clear, but from our way of expreffing them: the particulars in which an object continues the fame, are often fo blended with VOL. I. K thofe
thofe in which it has become different, that we cannot find proper words for marking the distinction, and therefore must have recourse to obfcure circumlocutions.
But whatever judgements we form of the identity of coporeal objects, we cannot from them draw any inference concerning the identity of our mind. We cannot ascribe extenfion or folidity to the foul, far less any increase or diminution of folid or extended parts. Here, therefore, there is no ground for diftinguishing diverfity of substance from identity of perfon. Our foul is the very fame being now it was yesterday, last year, twenty years ago. This is a dictate of common fenfe, an intuitive truth, which all mankind, by the law of their nature, do and must believe, and the contrary of which is inconceivable. We have perhaps changed many of our principles; we may have acquired many new ideas and notions, and loft many of those we once had; but that the fubstance, effence, or perfonality, of the foul, has fuffered any change, increase, or diminution, we never have fupposed, nor can fuppofe. New faculties have perhaps appeared, with which we were formerly unacquainted; but thefe we cannot conceive to have affected the identity of the foul, any more than learning to write, or to play on a mufical inftrument, is conceived to affect the identity of the hand; or than the perception of harmony the first time one hears mufic,
is conceived to affect the identity of the ear *.
But if we perceive our identity by confcioufnefs, and if the acts of consciousness by which we perceive it be interrupted, how can we know that our identity is not inter rupted? I answer, The law of our nature determines us, whether we will or not, to believe that we continue the fame thinking beings. The interruption of consciousness, whether more or lefs frequent, makes no change in this belief. My perception of the visible creation is every moment interrupted by the winking of my eyes. Am I therefore to believe, that the vifible univerfe, which I this moment perceive, is not the fame with
I beg leave to quote a few lines from an excellent poem, written by an author, whofe genius and virtue were an honour to his country, and to human nature :
"Am I but what I feem, mere flesh and blood,
ARBUTHNOT. See Dodfley's Collection, vol. 1. p. 180.
the vifible univerfe I perceived last moment? Then must I alfo believe, that the existence of the universe depends on the motion of my eyelids; and that the mufcles which move them have the power of creating and annihilating worlds.
To conclude: That our foul exists, and continues through life the fame individual being, is a dictate of common fense; a truth which the law of our nature renders it impoffible for us to disbelieve; and in regard to which, we cannot fuppofe ourselves in an error, without fuppofing our faculties fallacious, and confequently difclaiming all conviction, and all certainty, and difavowing the distinction between truth and falfehood.
Of the Evidence of Memory.
ΤΗ HE evidence of memory commands our belief as effectually as that of fenfe. With regard to any of my tranfactions of yefterday which I now remember, I cannot doubt whether I performed them or not. That I dined to-day, and was in bed last night, is as certain to me, as that I at prefent fee the colour of this paper. If we had no memory, knowledge and experience would
be impoffible; and if we had any tendency to diftruft our memory, knowledge and experience would be of as little ufe in directing our conduct and fentiments, as our dreams now are. Sometimes we doubt, whether in a particular cafe we exert memory or imagination; and our belief is fufpended accordingly but no fooner do we become confcious, that we remember, than conviction inftantly takes place; we fay, I am certain it was fo, for now I remember I was an eyewitness.
But who is it that teaches the child to believe, that yesterday he was punished, becaufe he remembers to have been punished yesterday? Or, by what argument will you convince him, that, notwithstanding his remembrance, he ought not to believe that he was punished yesterday, because memory is fallacious? The matter depends not on education or reasoning. We trust to the evidence of memory, because we cannot help trusting to it. The fame Providence that endued us with memory, without any care of ours, endued us also with an instinctive propenfity to believe in it, previously to all reafoning and experience. Nay, all reafoning fuppofes the testimony of memory to be authentic: for, without trufting implicitly to this teftimony, no train of reasoning could be profecuted; we could never be convinced, that the conclufion is fair, if we did not remember the feveral fteps of the argument, and if