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evidently going in a circle, and taking that for granted, which is the very point in question.
In reality, all arguments from experience are founded on the fimilarity which we discover among natural objects, and by which we are induced to expect effects similar to those which we have found to follow from such objects. And though none but a fool or madman will ever pretend to dispute the authority of experience, or to reject that great guide of humani life; it may surely be allowed a philosopher to have so much curiosity at least as to examine the principle of human nature, which gives this mighty authority to experience, and makes us draw advantage from that similarity which nature has placed among different objects. From causes which appear similar, we expect similar effects. This is the sum of all our experimental conclusions. Now it seems evident, that if this conclufion were formed by reason, it would be as perfect at first, and upon one instance, as after ever so long a course of experience: but the case is far otherwise. Nothing fo like as eggs; yet no one, on account of this appearing similarity, expects the same taste and relish in all of them. It is only after a long course of uniform experiments in any kind, that we attain a firm reliance and security with regard to a particular event. Now where is that process of reasoning, which, from one instance, draws a conclusion so different from that which it infers from a hundred instances that are nowise different from that single one? This question I propose as much for the sake of information, as with an intention of raising difficulties. I cannot find, I cannot imagine, any such reasoning. But I keep my mind still open to instruction, if any one will vouchsafe to bestow it on me.
Should it be said, that, from a number of uniform experiments, we infer a connection between the fenfible qualities and the secret powers; this, I must confess, seems the same difficulty, couched in different terms. The question still recurs, on what process of
argument this inference is founded? Where is the medium, the interpofing ideas, which join propofitions fo very wide of each other? It is confeffed, that the colour, consistence, and other fenfible qualities of bread, appear not of themselves to have any connection with the fecret powers of nourifhment and fupport. For otherwise we could infer these secret powers from the first appearance of these sensible qualities, without the aid of experience, contrary to the sentiment of all philofophers, and contrary to plain matter of fact. Here then is our natural state of ignorance with regard to the powers and influence of all objects. How is this remedied by experience? It only shows us a number of uniform effects resulting from certain objects, and teaches us, that those particular objects, at that particular time, were endowed with such powers and forces. When a new object, endowed with similar fenfible qualities, is produced, we expect fimilar powers and forces, and look for a like effect. From a body of like colour and confiftence with bread, we expect like nourishment and fupport. But this furely is a step or progrefs of the mind which wants to be explained. When a man says, I have found, in all past instances, such fenfible qualities conjoined with such fecret powers; and when he says, fimilar fenfible qualities will always be conjoined with fimilar fecret powers; he is not guilty of a tautology, nor are these propofitions in any respect the fame. You say that the one proposition is an inference from the other: But you must confess that the inference is not intuitive; neither is it demonstrative. Of what nature is it then? To fay it is experimental is begging the question. For all inferences from experience fuppose, as their foundation, that the future will resemble the past, and that fimilar powers will be conjoined with fimilar fenfible qualities. If there Be any fufpicion that the course of nature may change, and that the past may be no rule for the future, alt experience becomes ufeless, and can give rise to no infe
rence or conclusion. It is impossible, therefore, that any arguments from experience can prove this resemblance of the past to the future; since all these arguments are founded on the supposition of that resemblance. Let the course of things be allowed hitherto ever so regular; that alone, without some new argument or inference, proves not, that for the future it will continue fo. In vain do you pretend to have learned the nature of bodies from your past experience. Their secret nature, and consequently all their effects and influence, may change, without any change in their sensible qualities. This happens sometimes, and with regard to some objects: Why may it not happen always, and with regard to all objects? What logic, what process of argument, secures you against this supposition? My practice, you say, refutes my doubts. But you mistake the purport of my question. As an agent, I am quite satisfied in the point; but as a philosopher, who has some share of curiosity, I will not fay scepticism, I want to learn the foundation of this inference. No reading, no enquiry, has yet been able to remove my difficulty, or give me fatisfaction in a matter of such importance. Can I do better than propose the difficulty to the public, even though, perhaps, I have small hopes of obtaining a solution? We shall at least, by this means, be sensible of our ignorance, if we do not augment our knowledge.
I must confess, that a man is guilty of unpardonable arrogance, who concludes, because an argument has escaped his own investigation, that therefore it does not really exift. I must also confess, that though all the learned, for several ages, should have employed themselves in fruitless search upon any subject, it may still, perhaps, be rash to conclude positively, that the subject must therefore pass all human comprehension. Even though we examine all the sources of our knowledge, and conclude them unfit for such a subject, there may still remain a suspicion, that the enumeraVol. II.
tion is not complete, or the examination not accurate, But with regard to the present subject, there are some confiderations which seem to remove all this accufa. tion of arrogance or suspicion of mistake.
It is certain, that the most ignorant and stupid peasants, nay infants, nay every brute beasts, improve by experience, and learn the qualities of natural objects, by observing the effects which result from them. When a child has felt the sensation of pain from touching the flame of a candle, he will be careful not to put his hand near any candle; but will expect a fi. inilar effect from a cause, which is similar in its sen- . fible qualities and appearance. If you affert, therefore, that the understanding of the child is led into this conclusion by any process of argument or ratiocination, I may justly require you to produce that argument; nor have you any pretence to refuse so equitable a demand. You cannot say, that the argument is abstruse, and may possibly escape your enquiry ; since you confess, that it is obvious to the capacity of a mere infant. If you hesitate therefore a moment, or if, after reftection, you produce any intricate or 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 in the prefent section. If I be right, I pretend not to have made any mighty discovery. And if I be wrong, I must acknowledge myself to be indeed a very backward scholar; fince I cannot now discover an argument, which, it seems, was perfectly similar to me long before I was out of
HE passion for philosophy, like that for religion,
seems liable to this inconvenience, at though It aims at the correction of our manners, and extirpation of our vices, it may only serve, by imprudent management, to foster a predominant inclination, and push the mind with more determined refolution, towards that side which already draws too much, by the biass and propensity of the natural temper. It is certain, that, while we aspire to the magnanimous firmness of the philofophic fage, and endeavour to confine our pleasures altogether within ourown minds, we may, at last, render our philosophy like that of EPICTETUS, and other Stoics, only a more refined fyitem of selfishness, and reason ourselves out of all vir. tue as well as social enjoyment. While we study with attention the vanity of human life, and turn all our thoughts towards the empty and tranfitory 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 business, seeks a pretence of reason to give itself a full and uncontrolled 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 witli