Abbildungen der Seite

play, and that insensibly led me to the advantages which attend robbing on the highway. o the beautiful and never-enoughadmired connection of vices ! It would take too much time to show how they all hang together, and what an infinite deal of good takes its rise from every one of them. One word for a favourite vice, and I shall leave you to make out the rest yourself, by applying the same mode of reasoning to all other vices. A poor girl, who might not have the spending of half-a-crown a week in what you call an honest way, no sooner hath the good fortune to be a kept mistress, but she employs milliners, laundresses, tire-women, mercers, and a number of other trades, to the benefit of her country. It would be endless to trace and pursue every particular vice through its consequences and effects, and show the vast advantage they all are of to the public. The true springs that actuate the great machine of commerce, and make a fourishing state, have been hitherto little understood. Your moralists and divines have for so many ages been corrupting the genuine sense of mankind, and filling their heads with such absurd principles, that it is in the power of few men to contemplate real life with an unprejudiced eye. And fewer still have sufficient parts and sagacity to pursue a long train of consequences, relations, and dependences, which must be done in order to form a just and entire notion of the public weal. But, as I said before, our sect hath produced men capable of these discoveries, who have displayed them in full light, and made, them public for the benefit of their country.

(From Alciphron.)



Body is opposite to spirit or mind. We have a notion of spirit from thought and action. We have a notion of body from resist

So far forth as there is real power, there is spirit. So far forth as there is resistance, there is inability or

nt of power ; that is, there is a negation of spirit. We are embodied, that is, we are clogged by weight, and hindered by resistance. But in respect of a perfect spirit, there is nothing hard or impenetrable ; there is no resistance to the deity ; nor hath he any body ; nor is the supreme being united to the world, as the soul of an animal

is to its body, which necessarily implieth defect, both as an instrument and as a constant weight and impediment.

Thus much it consists with piety to say, that a divine agent doth by his virtue permeate and govern the elementary fire or light which serves as animal spirit to enliven and actuate the whole mass, and all the members of this visible world. Nor is this doctrine less philosophical than pious. We see all nature alive or in motion. We see water turned into air, and air rarified and made elastic by the attraction of another medium, more pure indeed, more subtile and more volatile than air. But still, as this is a moveable, extended, and consequently a corporeal being, it cannot be itself the principle of motion, but leads us naturally and necessarily to an incorporeal spirit or agent. We are conscious that a spirit can begin, alter, or determinate motion, but nothing of this appears in body. Nay, the contrary is evident, both to experiment and reflection.

Natural phenomena are only natural appearances. They are, therefore, such as we see and perceive them. Their real and objective natures are, therefore, the same ; passive without anything active, fluent and changing without anything permanent in them. However, as these make the first impressions, and the mind takes her first flight and spring, as it were, by resting her foot on these objects, they are not only first considered by all men, but most considered by most men. They and the phantoms that result from those appearances, the children of imagination grafted upon sense, such for example as pure space, are thought by many the very first in existence and stability, and to embrace and comprehend all other beings.

Now although such phantoms as corporeal forces, absolute motions and real spaces, do pass in physics for causes and principles, yet are they in truth but hypotheses, nor can they be the objects of real science. They pass nevertheless in physics conversant about things of sense, and confined to experiments and mechanics. But when we enter the province of the philosophia prima, we discover another order of beings, mind and its acts, permanent being, not dependent on corporeal things, nor resulting, nor connected, nor contained ; but containing, connecting, enlivening the whole frame ; and imparting those motions, forms, qualities, and that order and symmetry to all those transient phenomena which we term the course of nature.

It is with our faculties as with our affections, what first seizes

holds fast. It is a vulgar theme that man is a compound of contrarieties, which breed a restless struggle in his nature between flesh and spirit, the beast and the angel, earth and heaven, ever weighed down and ever bearing up. During which conflict the character fluctuates ; when either side prevails, it is then fixed for vice or virtue. And life from different principles takes a different issue. It is the same in regard to our faculties. Sense at first besets and overbears the mind. The sensible appearances are all in all ; our reasonings are employed about them ; our desires terminate in them ; we look no farther for realities or causes, till intellect begins to dawn, and cast a ray on this shadowy scene. We then perceive the true principle of unity, identity and exist

Those things that before seemed to constitute the whole of being, upon taking an intellectual view of things, prove to be but fleeting phantoms.

(From Siris.)




BEFORE we proceed any further, it is necessary to spend some time in answering objections which may probably be made against the principles hitherto laid down. In doing of which if I seem too prolix to those of quick apprehensions, I hope it may be pardoned, since all men do not equally apprehend things of this nature ; and I am willing to be understood of every one. First, then, it will be objected that by the foregoing principles, all that is real and substantial in nature is banished out of the world ; and instead thereof a chimerical scheme of ideas takes place. All things that exist, exist only in the mind, that is, they are purely notional. What therefore becomes of the sun, moon, and stars ? What must we think of houses, rivers, mountains, trees, stones ; nay, even of our own bodies ? Are all these but so many chimeras and illusions on the fancy ? To all which, and whatever else of the same sort may be objected I answer, that by the principles promised, we are not deprived of any one thing in nature. Whatever we see, feel, hear, or in any wise conceive or understand, remains as secure as ever, and is as real as ever. There is

a rerum natura, and the distinction between realities and chimeras retains its full force. This is evident from sections 29, 30, and 33, where we have shown what is meant by real things in opposition to chimeras or ideas of our own framing ; but then they both equally exist in the mind, and in that sense are like ideas.

I do not argue against the existence of any one thing that we can apprehend, either by sense or reflection. That the things I see with mine eyes and touch with my hands do exist, I make not the least question. The only thing whose existence we deny, is that which the philosophers call matter or corporeal substance. And in doing of this, there is no damage done to the rest of mankind, who, I daresay, will never miss it. The atheist indeed will want the colour of an empty name to support his impiety; and the philosophers may possibly find they have lost a great handle for trifling and disputation.

If any man thinks this detracts from the existence or reality of things, he is very far from understanding what hath been promised in the plainest terms I could think of. Take here an abstract of what has been said. There are spiritual substances, minds, or human souls which will or excite ideas in themselves at pleasure ; but these are faint, weak, and unsteady in respect of others they perceive by sense, which being impressed upon them according to certain rules or laws of nature, speak themselves the effect of a mind more powerful and wise than human spirits. These latter are said to have more reality in them than the former ; by which is meant that they are more affecting, orderly, and distinct, and that they are not fictions of the mind perceiving them. And in this sense, the sun that I see by day is the real sun, and that which I imagine by night is the idea of the former. In the sense here given of reality, it is evident that every vegetable, star, mineral, and in general each part of the mundane system, is as much a real being by our principles as any other. Whether others mean anything by the term really different from what I do, I entreat them to look into their own thoughts and see.

It will be urged that thus much at least is true, to wit, that we take away all corporeal substances. To this my answer is, that if the word substance be taken in the vulgar sense, for a combination of sensible qualities, such as extension, solidity, weight, and the like; this we cannot be accused of taking away. But if it be taken in a philosophic sense, for the support of accidents or qualities without the mind, then indeed I acknowledge

that we take it away, if one may be said to take that away which never had any existence, not even in the imagination.

But say you, it sounds very harsh to say we eat and drink ideas, and are clothed with ideas. I acknowledge it does so, the word idea not being used in common discourse to signify the several combinations of sensible qualities, which are called things ; and it is certain that any expression which varies from the familiar use of language will seem harsh and ridiculous. But this doth not concern the truth of the proposition, which in other words is no more than to say, we are fed and clothed with those things which we perceive immediately by our senses. The hardness or softness, the colour, taste, warmth, figure, and such like qualities, which, combined together, constitute the several sorts of victuals and apparel, have been shown to exist only in the mind that perceives them ; and this is all that is meant by calling them ideas; which word, if it was as ordinarily used as “thing,” would sound no harsher or more ridiculous than it. I am not for disputing about the propriety, but the truth of the expression. If therefore you agree with me that we eat and drink, and are clad with the immediate objects of sense which cannot exist unperceived or without the mind; I shall readily grant it is more proper or conformable to custom that they should be called things rather than ideas.

If it be demanded why I make use of the word idea, and do not rather, in compliance with custom, call them things, I answer, I do it for two reasons : First, because the term “thing," in contradistinction to “idea,” is generally supposed to denote somewhat existing without the mind : secondly, because “thing” hath a more comprehensive signification than “idea,” including spirits or thinking things as well as ideas. Since, therefore, the objects of sense exist only in the mind, and are withal thoughtless and inactive, I chose to mark them by the word “idea,” which implies those properties.

But say what we can, some one perhaps may be apt to reply, he will still believe his senses, and never suffer any arguments, how plausible soever, to prevail over the certainty of them. Be it so, assert the evidence of sense as high as you please, we are willing to do the same. That what I see, hear, and feel doth exist, that is to say, is perceived by me, I no more doubt than I do of my own being. But I do not see how the testimony of sense can be alleged as a proof for the existence of any thing

« ZurückWeiter »