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pains to examine it; and the examination has turned out to my entire fatisfaction. But the materials I have collected on this fubject are far too bulky to be inferted here. The fceptical arguments are founded, not only on mistakes concerning the nature of virtue, but also on fome hiftorical facts mifrepresented, and on others fo equivocal, and bare of circumstances, that they really have no meaning. From the number of historical, as well as philofophical, difquifitions, which I found it neceffary to introduce, the inquiry concerning the univerfality and immutability of moral truth, which I thought to have comprised in a few pages, foon fwelled into a treatife. I meant to have finished it fome years ago; but have been prevented by a number of unforeseen accidents.
5. Of probable truth, a fuperior being may think differently from us, and yet in the right. For every propofition is either true or falfe; and every probable past event has either happened, or not happened; as every probable future event will either happen or not happen. From the imperfection of our faculties, and from the narrownefs of our experience, we may judge wrong, when we think that a certain event has happened, or will happen and a being of more extensive experience, and more perfect understanding, may fee that we judge wrong; for that the event in question never did happen, nor ever will. Yet it does not follow,
follow, that a man may either prudently or rationally distrust his probable notions as fallacious. That which man, by the conftitution of his nature, is determined to admit as probable, he ought to admit as probable; for, in regard to man, that is probable truth. Not to admit it probable, when at the fame time he must believe it to be so, is mere obftinacy and not to believe that probable, which all other men who have the fame view of all the circumstances, believe probable, would be afcribed to caprice, or want of understanding. If one in fuch a case were refractory, we should naturally ask, How comes it that you think differently from us in this matter? have you any reafon to think us in a mistake? is your knowledge of the circumstances from which we infer the probability of this event, different from ours? do you know any thing about it of which we are ignorant? If he reply in the negative, and yet perfift in contradicting our opinion, we fhould certainly think him an unreasonable man. Every thing, therefore, which to human creatures feems intuitively probable, is to be accounted one of the first principles of probable human knowledge. A human creature acts an irrational part when he argues against it; and if he refufe to acknowledge it probable, he cannot, without contradicting himself, acquiefce in any other human probability whatsoever.
It appears from what has been faid, that
there are various kinds of intuitive certainty; and that those who will not allow any truth to be felf-evident, except what has all the characteristics of a geometrical axiom, are much mistaken. From the view we have given of this fubject, it would be easy to reduce thefe intuitive certainties into claffes; but this is not neceffary on the prefent occafion. We are here treating of the nature and immutability of truth as perceived by human faculties. Whatever intuitive propofition man, by the law of his nature, must believe as certain, or as probable, is, in regard to him, certain or probable truth; and must constitute a part of human knowledge, and remain unalterably the fame, as long as the human constitution remains unaltered. we must often repeat, that he who attempts to difprove fuch intuitive truth, or to make men fceptical in regard to it, acts a part as inconsistent with found reasoning, and as effectually fubverfive of human knowledge, as if he attempted to difprove truths which he knew to be agreeable to the eternal and neceffary relations of things. Whether the Deity can or cannot change these truths into falfehoods, we need not feek to determine, because it is of no confequence to us to know. It becomes us better to inquire, with humility and reverence, into what he has done, than vainly, and perhaps prefumptuously, into what he can do. Whatever he has been pleased to establish in the universe, is as cer
tainly established, as if it were in itself unchangeable and from eternity; and, while he wills it to remain what he made it, is as permanent as his own nature.
The preceding theory rejected by Sceptical Writers.
E have feen, that mathematicians and natural philofophers do, in effect, acknowledge the distinction between common fense and reason, as above explained; admitting the dictates of the former as ultimate principles, and never attempting either to prove or to disprove them by reafoning. If we inquire a little into the genius of modern fcepticism, we shall fee, that, there, a very different plan of investigation has been adopted. This will beft appear by instances taken from that pretended philofophy. But first let us offer a few general remarks.
General Obfervations. Rife and Progress of Modern Scepticifm.
1. THE Cartefian philosophy is to be confidered as the ground-work of modern fcepticism. The fource of LOCKE'S reasoning against the separate existence of the fecondary qualities of matter, of BERKELEY'S reasoning against the existence of a material world, and of HUME's reafoning against the existence both of foul and body, may be found in the first part of the Principia of DES CARTES. Yet nothing feems to have been further from the intention of this worthy and most ingenious philofopher, than to give countenance to irreligion or licentiousness. He begins with doubting; but it is with a view to arrive at conviction: his fucceffors (fome of them at least) the further they advance in their fyftems, become more and more fceptical; and at length the reader is told, to his infinite pleasure and emolument, that the understanding, acting alone, does entirely fubvert itfelf, and leaves not the lowest degree of evidence in any propofition *.
* Treatise of Human Nature, vol. 1. p. 464.