Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors]

from the happiest reasoning, to have also determin'd the laws and forces, by which the revolutions of the planets are govern'd and directed. The like has been perform'd with regard to other parts of nature. And there is no reason to despair of equal success in our enquiries concerning the mental powers and oc. conomy, if prosecuted with equal capacity and caution. 'Tis probable, that one operation and principle of the mind depends on another ; which, again, may be resolv'd into one more general and universal : And how far these researches may possibly be carry'd, 'twill be difficult for us, before, or even after, a care. ful trial, exactly to determine. This is certain, that attempts of this kind are every day made even by those who philosophize the most negligently ; and nothing can be more requisite than to enter upon the enterprize with thorough care and attention. that, if it lie within the compass of human understanding, it may at last be happily atchiev'd ; if not, it may, however, be rejected with some confidence and security. This last conclusion, surely, is not desirable, nor ought it to be embrac'd too rashly. For how much must we diminish from the beauty and va. lue of this species of philosophy, upon such a supposition ? Moralists have hitherto been accustom'd, when they confider'd the vast multitude and diversity of actions that excite our approbation or dislike, to search for some common principle, on which this variety of sentiments might depend. And tho they have sometimes carry'd the matter too far, by their passion for some one general principle ; it must, how. ever, be confeft, that they are excusable, in expect. ing to find some general principles, into which all the vices and virtues were justly to be resolv'd. The like has been the endeavour of critics, logicians, and even politicians : Nor have their attempts been alto. gecher unsuccessful; tho' perhaps longer time, greater accuracy, and more ardent application may bring these sciences still nearer their perfection. To throw up at once all pretensions of this kind may justly be esteem'd more rash, precipitate, and dogmatical, than even the boldest and most affirmative philosophy, which has ever attempted to impose its crude dictates and principles on mankind.

What tho' these reasonings concerning human nature seem abftract, and of difficult comprehension ? This affords no presumption of their fallhood. On the contrary, it seems impoflible, that what has hitherto escap'd so many wise and profound philosophers can be very obvious and easy. And whatever pains these researches may cost us, we may think ourselves sufficiently rewarded, not only in point of profit but of pleasure, if, by that means, we can make any addition to our stock of knowlege, in fubjects of such unspeakable importance.


But as, after all, the abstractness of these speculations is no recommendation, but rather a disad. vantage to them, and as this difficulty may perhaps be surmounted by care and art, and the avoiding all unnecessary detail, we have, in the following essays, attempted to throw some light upon subjects, from which uncertainty has hitherto deter'd the wise, and obscurity the ignorant. Happy, if we can unite the boundaries of the different species of philosophy, by reconciling profound enquiry with clearness, and truch with novelty ! And still more happy, if, reasoning in this easy manner, we can undermine the foundations of an abstruse philosophy, which seems to have serv'd hitherto only as a helter to fuperfti. tion and a cover to absurdity and error!




Of the Origin of Ideas.

VERY one will readily allow, that there is a

considerable difference betwixt the perceptions of the mind, when a man feels the pain of excessive heat, or the pleasure of moderate warmth, and when he afterwards recalls to his memory this sensation, or anticipates it by his imagination. These faculties may mimic or copy the perceptions of the senses; but they never can reach entirely the force and vivacity of the original sentiment. The utmost we say of them, even when they operate with greatest vigour, is, that they represent their object in so lively a man. ner, that we could almost say we feel or see it: Buc except the mind be disorder'd by disease or madness, they never can arrive at such a pitch of vivacity as to render these perceptions altogether undistinguishable. All the colours of poetry, however splendid, can never paint natural objects in such a manner as to make the description to be taken for a real landskip. The


« ZurückWeiter »