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; . . . THOUGH there be no such thing as Chance in the world, our ignorance of the real cause of any event has the same influence on the understanding, and begets ą. like species of belief or opinion.
úa en ... There is certainly & probability, which arises from a superiority of chances on any side; and according as this superiority increases, and surpasses the opposite chances; the probability receives a proportionable increase, and begets still a higher degree of belief or assent to that side in which we discover the superiority. If a dye were marked with one figure or number of spots on four sides, and with another figure or number of spots on the two remaining sides, it would be more probable, that the former would turn up than the latter; though, if it had a thousand sides marked in the same manner, and only one side different, the probability would be much higher, and our belief or expectation of the event more steady and secure. This process of the thought or reze
* Mr Locke divides all arguments into demonstrative and probable. In this view, we must say, that it is only probable all men must die, or that the sun will rise to-morrow. But to conform our language more to common use, we ought to divide arguments into demonstrations, proofs, and probabilities. By proofs, meaning such arguments from experience as leave no room for doubt or opposition.
soning may seem trivial and obvious; but to those whe consider it more narrowly, it may, perhaps, afford matter for curious speculation.'in ","dict who city in the
It seems evident, that when the mind looks forward to discover the event, which may result from the throw of such a dye, it considers the turning up of each partie culár side as alike probable; and this is the very nature of chance, to render all the particular events, comprehended in it, entirely equal." But finding a greater number of sides concur in the one event than in the other, the mind is carried more frequently to that event, and meets it oftener, in revolving the various possibilities or chances, on 'which the ultimate result depends. This concurrence of several views in one particular event be. gets' immediately, by an explicable contrivance of 'natüre, the sentiment of belief, and gives that event the advantage over its antagonist, which is supported by à smalfer number of views, and recurs less frequently to the mind. If we allow, that belief is nothing but à firmer and stronger conception of an object than what attends the mere fictions of the imagination, this operation may, perhaps, in some measure, be accounted for. The concurrence of these several views or glimpses imprints the idea more strongly on the imagination; gives it superior force and vigour; renders its influence on the passions and affections more sensible; and in a word, begets that reliancel or security, which constitutes the nature of belief and opinion. . . !
The case is the same with the probability of causes as with that of chance. There are some causes which are entirely uniform and constant in producing a particular effect; and no instance has ever yet been found of any. failure or irregularity in their operation. Fire has always burned, and water suffocated, every human crea
ture: The production of motion, by impulse and gravity is an universal law, which has hitherto admitted of no exception. But there are other causes, which have been found more irregular and uncertain ; nor has rhubarb always proved a purge, or opium a, soporific, to every one who has taken these medicines. It is true, when any, cause fails of producing its usual effect, philosophers ascribe not this to any irregularity in nature ; but suppose, that some secret, causes, in the particular structure of parts, have prevented the operation. Our reasonings, however, and conclusions concerning the event, are the same as if this principle had no place, Being determined by custom to transfer the past to the future, in all our inferences, where the past has been entirely regular and uniform, we expect the event with the greatest assurance, and leave no room for any contrary supposition. But where different effects have been found to follow from causes, which are to appear. ance exactly similar, all these various effects must oc«. cur to the mind in transferring the past to the future, and enter into our consideration when we determine. the probability of the event. Though we give the preference to that which has been found most usual, and believe that this effect will exist, we must not overlook the other effects, but must assign to each of them a par ticular weight and authority, in proportion as we have found it to be more or less frequent. It is more probable, in almost every country of EUROPE, that there will be frost some time in JANUARY, than that the weather will continue open throughout that whole, month ; though. this probability, varies according to the different clim. mates, and approaches to a certainty in the more north. ern kingdoms. Here then it seems evident, that, when we třansfer, the past to the future, in order to determinethe effect which will result from any cause, we transfer all the different events, in the same proportion as they have appeared in the past, and conceive one to have existed a hundred times, for instance, another ten times, and another once. As a great number of views do here concur in one event, they fortify and confirm it to the imagination, beget that sentiment which we call belief, and give its object the preference above the contrary event, which is not supported by an equal number of experiments, and recurs not so frequently to the thought in transferring the past to the future. Let any one try to account for this operation of the mind upon any of the received systems of philosophy, and he will be sensible of the difficulty. For my part, I shall think it sufficient, if the present hints excite the curiosity of philosophers, and make them sensible how defective all common theories are in treating of such curious and such sublime subjeets. .
in biar arjits in atro, SECTION VII. : ! ; i . . "p er te",?. A . 2 OF THE IDEA OF NECESSARY CONNECTION.
The great advantage of the mathematical sciences mabove the moral consists in this, that the ideas of the
former, being sensible, are always clear and determinatė, the smallest distinction between them is immediately perceptible, and the same terms are still expressive of the same ideas, without ambiguity or variation. An oval is never mistaken for a circle, nor an hyperbola for an ellipsis. The isosceles and scalenum are distinguished by boundaries more exact than vice and virtue, right and wrong. If any term be defined in geometry, the mind readily, of itself, substitutes, on all occasions, the definition for the term defined : Or even when no definition is employed, the object itself may be presented to the senses, and by that means be steadily and clearly apprehended. But the finer sentiments of the mind, the operations of the understanding, the various agitations of the passions, though really in themselves distinct, eam sily escape us, when surveyed by reflection ; nor is it in our power to recal the original object, as often as we have occasion to contemplate it. Ambiguity, by this means, is gradually introduced into our reasonings : Similar objects are readily taken to be the same: And the conclusion becomes at last very wide of the premises.