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fert, therefore, that the understanding of the child is led into this conclufion by any process of argument or ratiocination, I may justly require you to produce that argument; nor have you any pretext to refuse so equitable a demand. You cannot say, that the ar. gument is abftrufe, and may possibly escape your fearch and enquiry ; fince you confess, that it is ob. vious to the capacity of a mere infant. If you hefitate, therefore, a moment, or if, after reflection, you produce any intricate and profound argument, you, in a manner, give up the question, and confess, that it is not reasoning, which engages us to suppose the past resembling the future, and to expect similar effects from causes, which are, to appearance, similar. This is the proposition, which I intended to enforce by the present essay. If I be right, I pretend to have made no mighty discovery. And if I be wrong, I muff acknowlege myself to be indeed a very backward scholar ; since I cannot now discover an argument, which, it seems, was perfectly familiar to me, long before I was out of my cradle.
ESS A Y
SCEPTICAL SOLUTION of those Doubts.
T HE paflion for philofophy, like that for re
1 ligion, seems liable to this inconvenience, that; tho' it aims at the correction of our manners and extirpation of our vices, it may only serve, by impra. dent management, to foder a. predominant inclination, and push the mind, with more determin'd re. solution, towards that fide, which already draws too much, by the byass and propensity of the natural temper. 'Tis certain, that, while we aspire to the mag. nanimous firmness of the philofophic fage, and endeavour to confine our pleasures altogether within our own minds, we may, at last, render our philosophy, like that of Epictetus and other Stricks, only a more refin'd system of selfishness, and reason ourselves out of all virtue, as well as focial enjoyment. While we ftudy with attention the vanity of human life, and turn all our thoughts on the empty and transitory nature of riches and honours, we are, perhaps, all the while flattering our natural indolence, which, hating the bustle of the world and drudgery of bu. finess, seeks a pretext of reason, to give itself a full and uncontroul'd indulgence. There is, however, one species of philosophy, which seems little liable to this inconvenience, and that because it strikes in with no disorderly passion of the human mind, nor can mingle itself with any natural affection or propenfity; and that is the ACADEMIC or Sceptical phic losophy. The academics talk always of doubts and suspense of judgment, of danger in hafty determi. nations, of confining to very narrow bounds the en. quiries of the understanding, and of renouncing all speculations which lie not within the limits of com. mon life and practice. Nothing, therefore, can be more contrary than such a philosophy to the supine indolence of the mind, its raih arrogance, its lofty pretensions, and its superstitious credulity. Every pallion is mortify'd by it, except the love of truth ; and that passion never is, nor can be carry'd to too high a degree. 'Tis surprizing, therefore, that this philosophy, which, in almost every instance, must be harmless and innocent, should be the subject of so much groundless reproach and obloquy. But, per. haps, the very circumstance which renders it so in. nocent, is what chiefly exposes it to the public hatred
and and resentment. By flattering no irregular passion, it gains few partizans: By opposing so many vices and follies, it raises to itself abundance of enemies, who stigmatize it as libertine, prophane, and irre. ligious.
Nor need we fear, that this philosophy, while it endeavours to limit our enquiries to common life, should ever undermine the reasonings of common life, and carry its doubts so far as to destroy all ac. tion, as well as speculation. Nature will always maintain her rights, and prevail in the end over any abstract reasoning whatsoever., Tho'we should conclude, for instance, as in the foregoing essay, that, in all reasonings from experience, there is a step taken by the mind, which is not supported by any argument or process of the understanding ; there is no danger, that these reasonings, on which almost all knowlege depends, will ever be affected by such a discovery. If the mind be not engag’d, by: argument to make this step, it must be induc'd by some other principle of equal weight and authority; and that principle will preserve its influence as long as human nature remains the same. What that principle is, may well be worth the pains, of enquiry ::.
SUPPOSE a person, tho' endow'd with the strongest faculties of reason and reflection, to be brought on
a sud. a sudden into this world; he would, indeed, immediately observe a continual succession of objects, and one event following another ; but he would not be able to discover any thing farther. He would not, at first, by any reasoning, be able to reach the idea of cause and effect ; since the particular powers, by which all natural operations are performd, never ap. pear to the senses; nor is it reasonable to conclude, merely because one event, in one instance, precedes another, that therefore the one is the cause, and the other the effect. Their conjunction may be arbi. trary and casual. There may be no reason to infer the existence of the one from the appearance of the other. And in a word, such a person, without more experience, could never employ his conjecture or reasoning concerning any matter of fact, or be asfur'd of any thing - beyond what was immediately present to his memory and senses.'
- Suppose' again, that he has acquir’d more expe. rience, and has liv'd so long in the world as to have observ'd fimilar 'objects or events to be constantly conjoin’d together'; what is the consequence of this experience ? He immediately infers the existence of the one object from the appearance of the other. Yet he has not, by all his experience, acquir'd any idea or knowlege of the secret power, by which the one object produces the other ; nor is it, by any pro