Imatges de pÓgina
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Essay on Truth.

215 would be able to make would not be this means he is certain, that is, he sufficiently accurate to enable him to has the evidence of consciousness that' discover any of those properties which he has a complete and correct idea of were not obvious at first sight, yet the figure whose properties he is inthey might, and would be sufficient vestigating ; and if he takes care to to suggest the idea of a perfect circle; have the same evidence for each step for it would be obvious, that there of the reasoning which he employs, it was a point somewhere about the is manifest that he will have the highmiddle, which was nearly equi-distant est evidence of the correctness of his from all parts of the outside. And conclusion, which it is possible for if, upon this, he should define a per- man, constituted as he is, to have. fect circle to be a figure bounded by From the above it appears that all a line, which he called the circum. mathematical figures are ideal, or exference, and which is every where ist only in the imagination; hence the equally distant from a point within it, mathematician has a complete concepcalled by him its centre, it is evident tion of the figure whose properties he that he would now be in possession of is investigating—it is a creation of his a standard to which he might refer in own, and he has the evidence of conany of his subsequent researches; and sciousness that no circumstance refrom this property of his ideal circle, specting it, however trivial, can escape that all his radii are exactly equal, he his notice he has likewise the same might proceed to deduce such other evidence for every step of his reasonproperties as he was able to discover; ing; for in every transition which he always comparing his conclusions with makes from one property to another, the definition, and not with such ap- he has the immediate evidence of proximations to a circle as he could consciousness whether they agree or make, or might observe in nature. disagree, his mind taking cognizance Now this is the very process which of both at the same instant. Here, mathematicians have adopted. Their then, are the circumstances which senses, in the first instance, presented give such peculiar force to mathemaa variety of figures to them for exa- tical evidence or demonstration ; we mination, most of which were rough know, by consciousness, that the and irregular, though some among things themselves are completely comthem, upon a superficial view, had the prehended; we have the same eviappearance of regularity.; yet even dence for every successive step in the those, upon a closer examination, demonstration, and at the conclusion were found to have a great nuinber of we are conscious that we remember small inequalities. The general ap- this; but even supposing there should pearance, however, of any of the lat- be some part of the demonstration of ter was, by supposing all these small which we have not a clear and disinequalities removed, sufficient to sug- tinct remembrance, we have the power gest to the mind the idea of a perfect of going over the whole again, and of figure of its d; which perfect figure repeating this re-examination till we would evidently exist only in the ima- are conscious that we do remember gination, the description of this ideal every part distinctly, till we are able figure is called a definition of it. A to make the whole pass in rapid redefinition of any geometrical figure, if view before the mind. It is therefore it be a good one, consists in the enun- clear that we have the evidence of ciation of some fundamental property memory and consciousness for the of that figure, from which its other truth of the conclusion. But this is properties may be deduced, and which the highest kind of evidence which it likewise distinguishes it from all other is possible for man to have ; it not figures.

only does, but must always, carry The definitions of the various figures irresistible conviction to the mind, so being once established, the mathema- long as the mind of man has existtician no longer has recourse to any ence: form which actually exists in nature, 4th. Of metaphysical truths. If but in all his investigations refers to we attentively examine the principles the definition alone, that is, to the on which our reasoning on most subidea, existing in his own mind, from jects is founded, we cannot fail to obwhich the definition was taken. By serve that there are some of them 80.

general, that they apply with the same both did and did not exist at the very ease and certainty to the most pro- same instant; and, consequently, to found researches as to the most trivial suppose it possible for any thing to and common-place transactions; while produce itself

, involves a direct conat the same time, their truth is so tradiction. And should this examinaplain and so obvious, that any one tion be continued through the whole, who professes to call it in question, is it would be found that in all such proimmediately suspected of being either positions as the above, the evidence insincere or insane. And as those on which we give our assent to them, general principles are applicable to is the consciousness that the contrary mind as well as to body or matter, supposition contains within itself a they have been designated metaphysi- direct contradiction, and, therefore, cal, to distinguish them from physical cannot be true. Whence the evidence truths.-Of this class are the follow. for their truth is equally strong as that ing :-It is a direct contradiction to for any mathematical truth whatever. suppose that any thing, or any change, It appears from what has been said, can be produced by absolute nothing. that it is utterly beyond the power of It is impossible for any thing to pro- the imagination itself to devise any duce itself. If a change take place, inethod by which we can conceive it that change must have been produced possible for any one of tbis class of by something: and if the thing changed maxims to be false, so long as the be really passive, the alteration or terms are used in the same significachange must have been produced by tion. So that to enable any person something which was different from even in his own mind to conceive them the thing itself. If a thing which now false, he must first attach different exists, once had no existence, that meanings to the terms in which they thing must have been produced by are expressed; but then it must be something else, &c. In all these, as obvious that, although the sounds or well as several more of a similar, de- characters used in announcing them scription, as soon as the terms are un- remain the same, by changing the derstood, the mind immediately per- ideas affixed to those sounds or chaceives that it would involve a direct racters, the maxims themselves are contradiction to suppose any of them really altered, and may, of course, be to be false. Thus, in the first of either true or false, according to the these, as soon as the term absolute nature of the new ideas introduced. nothing is understood to mean the This naturally leads me to the consinegation of all attributes, properties deration of another class of metaphyor qualities, substratum and all, the sical propositions, which, although complete absence of every thing which they have been and are still considered could possibly produce any thing else, by the bulk of mankind to be equally we immediately perceive that it would certain as the former class, have nebe a direct contradiction to this nega- vertheless given rise to much controtive idea to suppose any thing what versy among metaphysicians; it will ever to be produced. Here the idea scarcely be necessary to add, that I of contradiction or impossibility con- allude to those relating to cause and veyed by the terins is the sign, and effect, such as, Every effect must have the real impossibility which exists in a cause : every cause must produce the nature of things, for absolute no- some effect : equal causes must prothing ever to produce something, is duce equal effects, &c. It may, perthe thing signified. And it is the haps, appear surprising to some, that agreement of these, or the application any difference of opinion should ever of this idea of impossibility to those have existed respecting the truth of cases only where it really exists in these maxims; but this surprise will nature, which constitutes the truth or cease, when it is recollected that very correctness of the maxim or proposi- different meanings have been attached tion. Again, if we examine what is to the word cause. · It is commonly meant by the expression, a thing pro- defined to be that which produces or duces itself, we immediately perceive effects any thing : but this definition that it involves within itself the con- is evidently ambiguous ; for if an tradictory idea that the thing was act- agent, by an exertion of its power, ing before it had existence, that is, it produce or effect any thing, the word

Essay on Truth

217 cause may, according to this defini- the Human Mind, says--" When we tion, mean either the agent itself, or speak of one thing being the cause of that particular exertion of power re. another, all that we mean is, that the quired to produce or effect that parti. two are constantly conjoined, so that cular thing. This latter signification when we see the one we may expect appears to have been adopted by a the other.” And the definitions of the very great majority of mankind : and other tivo writers are the same in subwhenerer the term is used in this stance as this. sense, the above propositions admit of To avoid any misapprehension reas strict demonstrations as any of the specting the meaning of this definitheorems in Euclid, and may with the tion, it will be necessary to keep in greatest safety be ranked among esta- mind, that the word conjoined is used blished metaphysical truths. Some in opposition to connected. In the few individuals, however, have under language of these philosophers it destood the word cause to mean the notes that two events take place togeagent itself, and this difference in its ther, or else immediately after one application las given rise to much another, but which are in other rediscussion; for although the maxim, spects entirely loose and separate, and that every effect must have a cause, have no influence whatever upon one will still be true, yet it by no means another.—That this was the meaning follass, that equal causes must pro- attached to the term by Hume, seems duce equal effects, if the word cause not to admit of a doubt, since he exbe understood to mean the agent only. pressly says" All events seem enFor if the agent be free, it is impossi- tirely loose and separate. One event ble for us to determine whether the follows another, but we never can obwhole or only a part of its power was serve any tye between them. They exerted in producing any given effect, seem conjoined, but never connected.'' as this, on the-supposition of its being And that D. Stewart uses it in the free, depended entirely upon its own same sense, is evident from the decided will alone. And if to this we add the manner in which he expresses his apconsideration, that even those persons probation of Hume's opinions on this who sometimes understand the word subject. Professor Leslie's concurcause in this sense, most commonly rence, also, is too notorious to require use it to denote the exertion of power to be more particularly mentioned ia made by the agent, it must appear this place. highly improper in any case to make Now I would ask any of the advothe word cause signify the agent only, cates of this definition, whether any as it cannot fail to render our ideas person ever imagined that the state of and reasoning on this subject confused the tides is the cause of the changes and contradictory. But there is yet we observe in the moon: that summer another signification which has been is the cause of winter, or winter the attached to the word cause by some cause of summer : that day is the date writers of very great eminence, as cause of night, or night the cause of Hume, Leslie, Dugald Stewart, &c.; day: and yet it would be very easy to and although the latter two restrain it prove any one of these propositions to to physical causes, yet as the former be true, if by the word cause we meant not only applies it to metaphysical nothing more than “ that the two are reasonings, but uses the conclusions constantly conjoined, so that when we drawn from it as the principal argu-, see the one we may expect the other.” ments in his attempts to establish his Nay, an expert inetaphysician would -sceptical opinions, it appears neces- find no difficulty in clearly proving to sary to take some notice of a circum- a Northumbrian, that the coming of stance that has been so much used by wild geese is the cause of winter, and this celebrated writer and his follow their departure the cause of summer, ers, and which is generally considered if this definition be correct. as inimical to the discovery of truth, The truth seems to be, that this is either in metaphysics, morals or reli- not the meaning of the word cause, gion, especially as it appears to me to even in physical inquiries; for we be incorrect even when applied to never in any instance use it till there physical researches. Dugald Stewart, arises in the mind a conviction that in his Elements of the Philosophy of the two objects are not merely con


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joined but connected ; that the former really connected: it matters not wheobijeet exercises some controuling in- ther this connexion proceeds from the fluence over the latter ; though we nature bestowed upon them at the cannot by our senses perceive in what creation, which is the opinion of soine, manner this influence is exerted. Who or whether it proceeds from those is there that does not feel with D. laws of action which the Supreme Stewart, that “the natural bias of Being has imposed upon himself, so the mind is surely to conceive physical long as he shall continue the present events as somehow linked together ; system, which appears to be the opiand natural substances, as possessed nion of others. For in either case, of certain powers and virtues, which we are certain that the two objects or fit them to produce particular effects”? events, which we have supposed to be :-But I for one inust beg leave to dis- really connected, must always remain sent from this celebrated writer, when connected, so long as they retain the he adds, “ that we have no reason to same nature, or the same laws are believe this to be the case, has been observed ; that is, so long as man shewn in a very particular manner by shall exist as he now is : and, conseMr. Hume, and by other writers; and quently, if we perceive one of these must, indeed, appear evident to every objects or events, at any.

time or place, person, on a moment's reflection : we are quite certain, if this supposifor neither Hume nor any other writer tion be correct, that the other inust has ever yet shewn that physical events be along with it. Let us now examine are not linked together ; nor has any the other supposition, viz, that they one of them proved that the "powers are not connected.--Now, whenever and virtues” which have been bestow- there is a very great number of really ed upon “material substances” are unconnected objects or events, it ad. not such as to “ fit them to produce inits of mathematical demonstration, particular effects.” The whole that that the chances against the junction has been done by these writers amounts of any two particular objects or events to no more than, first, to shew that far exceeds the chances for it when we can have no knowledge of the pro- there is only one trial : that the perties of material substances, except chances for the same two, being twice through the medium of our senses : conjoined successively, is still far less : and, secondly, that our senses never and, in short, that the chances against give us any information respecting their being conjoined any considerable the connexion between physical events. number of times successively, is so But, on the other hand, it must be inconceivably great as to make such a observed, that in no case whatever do continued conjunction approach as they afford us any evidence that there near to an absolute impossibility as is really no connexion, no vinculum any thing can be conceived to be, whatever. The fact is, they give us which is not really so. It therefore no information at all on the subject, follows, that if two objects be really either for or against. From which it unconnected, we shall always, in a appears that the vinculum or bond, if few trials, find them separate or unthere be any, is something which can conjoined: whereas, if they be really no more be perceived by our senses connected, they never can be found than the material substance or sub- separate. stratum itself: it, therefore, follows, But we know, from observation, that we can only come to the knows that there are many physical events ledge of its existence or non-existence, which appear always conjoined. For hy examining whether the effects or example, if cold, above a certain dephenomena observed are such as must gree, be applied to pure water, the proceed from its existence or non-ex- water is always frozen ; if fire be apistence.

plied to wax, it is always melted, Now, if we take any two physical Hence, if we compare these facts with events, which to our senses appear to the conclusions deduced from the two be conjoined, we are absolutely certain foregoing suppositions, the only posthat they must either be connected or sible ones, it necessarily follows that they must not, for there is no other we cannot avoid believing that the supposition besides these two possible. application of cold to water, and of First, then, let us suppose them to be fire to wax, is somehow or other really

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Illustration of John vi. 62.

219 connected with the congelation of the order to specify the edition in which former and the melting of the latter : such errata are found, it will be ne-' and we then, and not till then, con- cessary to mention the place in which ceive that the application of cold to it was printed; the date, and the type, water, and of fire to wax, is the cause as described in the Society's Cataof the congelation of the one and the logue.” inelting of the other.-From which, it It is pleasing to see the Society appears, that so far is it from being awaking, though late, to its duty; and true, " that we have no reason to in order to assist its efforts towards an believe” that physical events are link- emendation of the printed copies of ed together; the fact is, we have the English Bible, (the Stereotype every reason to believe it, which it is copies in which errors are of inost possible for us to have, constituted as consequence as being most widely difwe are.

fused and most likely to be permaHence the word cause always im- nent,) we subjoin another list of errata plies something more than mere con- that have fallen under our observation. junction, even in physical inquiries; In the London Svo. ed., stereotype, viz. our belief that there is a real con- 1814. nexion. So that in physics, as well as Numb. xxiï. Chap. xxii. for Chap. in metaphysics, the word cause is al

xxiii. ways used to denote that which really

Job vi. 4, “ thereof” for whereof. does, or is supposed to, produce the

xv. 8,“ secrets” for secret. effect. It therefore follows, that all

xxvii. 21, “ carried" for cara those arguments against the certainty rieth. and truth of the general maxims re

Luke xvii. 14, “priest” for priests, lating to cause and effect, drawn from this arbitrary and improper definition

Acts xxiii. 18, “for he" for who. of the word cause, must be altogether

In the Oxford 8vo, ed., stereotype, futile and inapplicable. From what

1814. has been said on this subject, it ap

Psalm vii. 3,“ sea” for seas. pears that the evidence on which we

cxliv. 13,

garments" for give our assent to what have been very garners, as in ed. 1811. properly and emphatically called fun

Prov. xxiv. 12, “knew” for know. damental metaphysical truths, arises

Acts xiii. 7, “heard” for hear, from, or resolves itself into, the con. In the London 8vo. ed., stereotype, sciousness that the supposition that 1819. any of them is false, involves in itself Psalm xxxviii. 3,

" and” for any. a contradietion.

4,"heave” for heurya [To be concluded in the next Number.]

Ilustration of Jolin vi. 62.

Alnwick. Errors in the various Editions of the

HIS language seems to have been English Bible,

used by way of appeal or question SINCE our last number appeared, to the Jews, who revolted at some of {p. 161,) the Bible Society has adver- where he was before,” must thereused for false readings of the English fore have an allusion to some place Bibles put out under the Society's pa- where they knew him to have been; tronage; for the patent printers have otherwise his question or appeal could so far condescended to this institution not have been more plain and intellias to introduce its name into the title- gible than the language which had pages of the copies purchased on its given thein offence. account. At the head of No. 68 of But neither the Jews in general nor its “Monthly Extracts,” is the fol. our Lord's disciples knew any thing lowing notice : “ The Committee, anx. of a descent of their Master from ious to render their Bibles and Tes. heaven. Where he was before,taments as correct as possible, request must therefore have a reference to the favour of communications from some other place than that to which time to time, of any errata which may his disciples afterwards

hiin have been discovered in reading. In ascend.


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