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SCEPTICAL Doubts concerning the OPERA
TIONS of the UNDERSTANDING.
A LL the objects of human reason or enquiry
may naturally be divided into two kinds, viz. Relations of Ideas and Matters of Fall. Of the first kind are the propofitions in Geometry, Algebra, and Arithmetic; and in short, every propofition, which is either intuitively or demonstratively certain. That the square of the hypothenuse is equal to the squares of the trvo fides, is a proposition, which expresses a relation betwixt these figures. That three times five is equal to the half of thirty, expresses a relation betwixt these numbers. Propositions of this kind are discoverable by the mere operation of thought, without dependance on what is any where existent in the universe. Tho' there never were a true circle or triESSA age is saturs, the truth ஈனம் fa Ta retain thei angle in nature, the truths demonstrated by Euclid, would for ever retain their certainty and evidence.
MATTERS of faa, which of samaa reaion, are not af se ; nor is oes evidence gu, of a like nature with Gary o erary matter of fa it caa seva imply a con by the mind with equal di Ever fo conformable to tre μπ will πε! τιε εο- πσττος. pofition, and implies no affirmation, that it will therefore, attempt to der. it demonftratively false, tion, and could never be mind.
It may, therefore, be to enquire what is the na afsares as of any real ex beyond the present teľ records of our memory. 'tis observable, has been the ancients or moderns ; and errors, in the prosecu quiry, may be the more e
Matters of fact, which are the second objects of human reason, are not ascertain'd in the same man. ner ; nor is our evidence of their truth, however great, of a like nature with the foregoing. The contrary of every matter of fact is still possible; because it can never imply a contradiction, and is conceiv'd by the mind with equal distinctness and facility, as if ever so conformable to truth and reality. That the fun will not rise to-morrow is no less intelligible a pro. position, and implies no more contradi&tion, than the affirmation, that it will rise. We should in vain, therefore, attempt to demonstrate its fallhood. Were it demonstratively false, it would imply a contradiction, and could never be distinctly conceiv'd by the mind.
Ir may, therefore, be a subject, worthy curiosity, to enquire what is the nature of that evidence, which assures us of any real existence and matter of fact, beyond the present teftimony of our senses, or the records of our memory. This part of philosophy, 'tis observable, has been little cultivated, either by the ancients or moderns ; and therefore our doubts and errors, in the prosecution of so important an enquiry, may be the more excusable, while we march thro' such dificult paths, without any guide or di. rection. They may even prove useful, by exciting curiosity, and destroying that implicit faith and se. carity, which is the bane of all reasoning and free enquiry. The discovery of defects in the common philofophy, if any such there be, will not, I presume, be a discouragement, but rather an incitement, as is usual, to attempt fomething more full and satisfactory, than has yet been propos'd to the public.
All seasonings concerning matter of fact seem to be founded in the relation of Cause and Effet. By means of that relation alone can we go beyond the evidence of our memory and senses. If you werç to ak a man, why he believes any matter of fact, which is absent ; for instance, that his friend is in the country, or in France ; he would give you a reafon ; and this reason would be some other fact ; as a letter receiv'd from him, or the knowlege of his former resolutions and promises. A man, finding a watch or any other machine in a desert island, would conclude, that there had once been men in that island. All our reasonings concerning fact are of the fame nature. And here 'tis constantly suppos'd, that there is a connexion between the present fact and that infer’d from it. Were there nothing to bind them to. gether, the inference would be altogether precarious. The hearing of an articulate voice and rational dis