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SECTION XI. 1,3:13 OF A PARTICULAR PROVIDENCE AND OF A FUTURE
STATE, ** ?
was lately engaged in conversation with a friend who loves sceptical paradoxes ; where, though he advanced many principles, of which I can by no means approve, yet as they seem to be curious, and to bear some relation to the chain of reasoning carried on throughout this inquiry, I shall here copy them from my memory as accurately as I can, in order to submit them to the judgment of the reader.
Our conversation began with my admiring the singular good fortune of philosophy, which, as it requires entire liberty above all other privileges, and chiefly flourishes from the free opposition of sentiments and argumentation, received its first birth in an age and country of freedom and toleration, and was never cramped, even in its most extravagant principles, by any creeds, confessions, or penal statutes. For, except the banishment of PROTAGORAS, and the death of SocRATEs, which last event proceeded partly from other motives, there are scarcely any instances to be met with, in ancient his. tory, of this bigotted jealousy, with which the present age is so much infested. Epicurus lived at ATHENS TO an advanced age, in peace and tranquillity: EpicuBEANS* were even admitted to receive the sacerdotal
* LUCIANI GU47, M, 107 iai.
character, and to officiate at the altar, in the most sacred rites of the established religion: And the publiç encouragement* of pensions and salaries was afforded equally, by the wisest of all the Roman emperors t, to the professors of every sect of philosophy, How requisite such kind of treatment was to philosophy, in her early youth, will easily be conceived, if we reflect, that, even at present, when she may be supposed more hardy and robust, she bears with much difficulty the inclemency of the seasons, and those harsh winds of calumny and persecu. tion, which blow upon her.
You admire, says my friend, as the singulax good fortune of philosophy, what seems to result from the patu, ral course of things, and to be unavoidable in every age and nation, This pertinacious bigotry, of which you complain, as so fatal to philosophy, is really her offspring, who, after allying with superstition, separates himself entirely from the interest of his parent, and be comes her most inveterate enemy and persecutor. Speculative dogmaš of religion, the present’occasions of such furious dispute, could not possibly be conceived or admitted in the early ages of the world; when mankind, þeing wholly, illiterate, formed an idea of religion more suitable to their weak apprehension, and composed their. sacred tenets of such tales chiefly as were the objects of traditional belief, more than of argument or disputation, After the first alarm, therefore, was over, which arose from the new paradoxes and principles of the philosophers, these teachers seem ever after, during the ages of antiquity, to have lived in great harmony with the established superstition, and to have made a fair partition of mankind between them; the former claiming all the learned and wise, the latter possessing all the vulgar and iliterate.
It seems then, say I, that you leave politics entirely out of the question, and never suppose, that a wise ma. gistrate can justly be jealous of certain tenets of philosophý, such as those of EPICURUS, which, denying a divine existence, and consequently a providence and a fu türe state, seem to loosen, in a great measure, the ties of morality, and may be supposed, for that reason, perni. cious to the peace of civil society. :).
1.7700 vichy Ili I know, replied he, that in fact these persecutions never, in any age, proceeded from calm reason, or from experience of the pernicious consequences of philoso phy; but arose entirely from passion and prejudice. But what if I should advance farther, and assert, that, if EPICURUS had been accused before the people, by any of the sycophants, or informers, of those days, he could easily have defended his cause, and proved his principles of philosophy to be as salutary as those of his adversaries, who endeavoured, with such zeal, to expose him to the public hatred and jealousy?...an d til
I wish, said I, you would try your eloquence upon só extraordinary a topic, and make a speech for EPICURUS, which might satisfy, not the mob of ATHENS, if you will allow that ancient and polite city to have contained any mob, but the more philosophical part of his aua dience, such as might be supposed capable of compre
With hending his arguments. Fido cloro rastie v lod sa
The matter would not be difficult, upon such condi. tions, replied he: And if you please, I shall suppose my. self EPICURUS for a moment, and make you stand for the ATHENIAN people, and shall deliver you such an ħarangue as will fill all the urn with white beans, and leave not a black one to gratify the malice of my adversaries.123
Very well ? Pray proceed upon these suppositions.
assembly, what I maintained in my school, and I find myself impeached by furious antagonists; instead of reasoning with calm and dispassionate inquirers.' Your deliberations, which of right should be directed to questions of public good, and the interests of the commonwealth, are diverted to the disquisitions of speculative philosophy ; and these magnificent, but perhaps fruitless inquiries, take place of your more familiar but more useful occupations. But so far as in me lies, I will prevent this abuse. We shall not here dispute coneerning the origin and government of worlds. We shall only inquire how far such questions concern the public interest. And if I can persuade you, that they are entirely indifferent to the peace of society and security of government, I hope that you will presently send us back to our schools, there to examine, at leisure, the question, the most sublime, but, at the same time, the most speculative of all philosophy.,
The religious philosophers, not satisfied with the tra. dition of your forefathers, and doctrine of your priests (in which I willingly acquiesce), indulge a rash curiosi. ty, in trying how far they can establish religion upon the principles of reason ; and they thereby excite, instead of satisfying, the doubts which naturally arise from a diligent and scrutinous inquiry. They paint, in the most magnificent colours, the order, beauty, and wise arrangement of the universe; and then ask, if such a glorious display of intelligence could proceed from the fortuitous concourse of atoms, or if chance could produce what the greatest genius can never sufficiently admire. I shall not examine the justness of this argument. I shall allow it to be as solid as my antagonists and accusers can desire. It is sufficient, if I can prove, from this very seasoning, that the question is entirely speculative, and
that, when, in my philosophical disquisitions, I deny a providence and a future state, I undermine not to foundations of society, but advance principles; which they themselves, upon their own topics, if they argue consistently, must allow to be solid and satisfactory., weil 11:You then, who are my accusers, have acknowledged, that the chief or sole argument for a divine existence (which I never questioned) is derived from the order of Nature ;, where there appear such marks of intelligence and design, that you think it extravagant to assign for its cause, either chance, or the blind and unguided force of matter. You allow that this is an argument drawn from effects to causes. From the order of the work, you infer, that there must have been project and forethought in the workman. If you cannot make out this point, you allow that your conclusion fails ; and you pretend not to establish the conclusion in a greater latitude than the phenomena of Nature will justify. These are your concessions. I desire you to mark the consequences. ...When we infer any particular cause from an effect, we must proportion the one to the other, and can never be allowed to ascribe to the cause any qualities, but what are exactly sufficient to produce the effect. A body of ten ounces raised in any scale may serve as a proof, that the counterbalancing weight exceeds ten ounces ; but can never afford a reason that it exceeds a hundred. If the cause, assigned for any effect, be not sufficient to produce it, we must either reject that cause, or add to it such qualities as will give it a just proportion to the effect. But if we ascribe to it farther qualities, or affirm it capable of producing other effects, we can only iņdulge the licence of conjecture, and arbitrarily suppose the existence of qualities and energies, without reason or authority,