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Title: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
Author: Hume, David, 1711-1776
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" ***



Extracted from:
Enquiries Concerning the Human Understanding, and Concerning the
Principles of Morals, By David Hume.

Reprinted from The Posthumous Edition of 1777, and Edited with
Introduction, Comparative Tables of Contents, and Analytical Index
by L.A. Selby-Bigge, M.A., Late Fellow of University College, Oxford.

Second Edition, 1902


  I.    Of the different Species of Philosophy
  II.   Of the Origin of Ideas
  III.  Of the Association of Ideas
  IV.   Sceptical Doubts concerning the Operations of the Understanding
  V.    Sceptical Solution of these Doubts
  VI.   Of Probability
  VII.  Of the Idea of necessary Connexion
  VIII. Of Liberty and Necessity
  IX.   Of the Reason of Animals
  X.    Of Miracles
  XI.   Of a particular Providence and of a future State
  XII.  Of the academical or sceptical Philosophy




1. Moral philosophy, or the science of human nature, may be treated
after two different manners; each of which has its peculiar merit, and
may contribute to the entertainment, instruction, and reformation of
mankind. The one considers man chiefly as born for action; and as
influenced in his measures by taste and sentiment; pursuing one object,
and avoiding another, according to the value which these objects seem to
possess, and according to the light in which they present themselves. As
virtue, of all objects, is allowed to be the most valuable, this species
of philosophers paint her in the most amiable colours; borrowing all
helps from poetry and eloquence, and treating their subject in an easy
and obvious manner, and such as is best fitted to please the
imagination, and engage the affections. They select the most striking
observations and instances from common life; place opposite characters
in a proper contrast; and alluring us into the paths of virtue by the
views of glory and happiness, direct our steps in these paths by the
soundest precepts and most illustrious examples. They make us _feel_ the
difference between vice and virtue; they excite and regulate our
sentiments; and so they can but bend our hearts to the love of probity
and true honour, they think, that they have fully attained the end of
all their labours.

2. The other species of philosophers consider man in the light of a
reasonable rather than an active being, and endeavour to form his
understanding more than cultivate his manners. They regard human nature
as a subject of speculation; and with a narrow scrutiny examine it, in
order to find those principles, which regulate our understanding, excite
our sentiments, and make us approve or blame any particular object,
action, or behaviour. They think it a reproach to all literature, that
philosophy should not yet have fixed, beyond controversy, the foundation
of morals, reasoning, and criticism; and should for ever talk of truth
and falsehood, vice and virtue, beauty and deformity, without being able
to determine the source of these distinctions. While they attempt this
arduous task, they are deterred by no difficulties; but proceeding from
particular instances to general principles, they still push on their
enquiries to principles more general, and rest not satisfied till they
arrive at those original principles, by which, in every science, all
human curiosity must be bounded. Though their speculations seem
abstract, and even unintelligible to common readers, they aim at the
approbation of the learned and the wise; and think themselves
sufficiently compensated for the labour of their whole lives, if they
can discover some hidden truths, which may contribute to the instruction
of posterity.

3. It is certain that the easy and obvious philosophy will always, with
the generality of mankind, have the preference above the accurate and
abstruse; and by many will be recommended, not only as more agreeable,
but more useful than the other. It enters more into common life; moulds
the heart and affections; and, by touching those principles which
actuate men, reforms their conduct, and brings them nearer to that model
of perfection which it describes. On the contrary, the abstruse
philosophy, being founded on a turn of mind, which cannot enter into
business and action, vanishes when the philosopher leaves the shade, and
comes into open day; nor can its principles easily retain any influence
over our conduct and behaviour. The feelings of our heart, the agitation
of our passions, the vehemence of our affections, dissipate all its
conclusions, and reduce the profound philosopher to a mere plebeian.

4. This also must be confessed, that the most durable, as well as
justest fame, has been acquired by the easy philosophy, and that
abstract reasoners seem hitherto to have enjoyed only a momentary
reputation, from the caprice or ignorance of their own age, but have not
been able to support their renown with more equitable posterity. It is
easy for a profound philosopher to commit a mistake in his subtile
reasonings; and one mistake is the necessary parent of another, while he
pushes on his consequences, and is not deterred from embracing any
conclusion, by its unusual appearance, or its contradiction to popular
opinion. But a philosopher, who purposes only to represent the common
sense of mankind in more beautiful and more engaging colours, if by
accident he falls into error, goes no farther; but renewing his appeal
to common sense, and the natural sentiments of the mind, returns into
the right path, and secures himself from any dangerous illusions. The
fame of Cicero flourishes at present; but that of Aristotle is utterly
decayed. La Bruyere passes the seas, and still maintains his reputation:
But the glory of Malebranche is confined to his own nation, and to his
own age. And Addison, perhaps, will be read with pleasure, when Locke
shall be entirely forgotten.

The mere philosopher is a character, which is commonly but little
acceptable in the world, as being supposed to contribute nothing either
to the advantage or pleasure of society; while he lives remote from
communication with mankind, and is wrapped up in principles and notions
equally remote from their comprehension. On the other hand, the mere
ignorant is still more despised; nor is any thing deemed a surer sign of
an illiberal genius in an age and nation where the sciences flourish,
than to be entirely destitute of all relish for those noble
entertainments. The most perfect character is supposed to lie between
those extremes; retaining an equal ability and taste for books, company,
and business; preserving in conversation that discernment and delicacy
which arise from polite letters; and in business, that probity and
accuracy which are the natural result of a just philosophy. In order to
diffuse and cultivate so accomplished a character, nothing can be more
useful than compositions of the easy style and manner, which draw not
too much from life, require no deep application or retreat to be
comprehended, and send back the student among mankind full of noble
sentiments and wise precepts, applicable to every exigence of human
life. By means of such compositions, virtue becomes amiable, science
agreeable, company instructive, and retirement entertaining.

Man is a reasonable being; and as such, receives from science his proper
food and nourishment: But so narrow are the bounds of human
understanding, that little satisfaction can be hoped for in this
particular, either from the extent of security or his acquisitions. Man
is a sociable, no less than a reasonable being: But neither can he
always enjoy company agreeable and amusing, or preserve the proper
relish for them. Man is also an active being; and from that disposition,
as well as from the various necessities of human life, must submit to
business and occupation: But the mind requires some relaxation, and
cannot always support its bent to care and industry. It seems, then,
that nature has pointed out a mixed kind of life as most suitable to the
human race, and secretly admonished them to allow none of these biasses
to _draw_ too much, so as to incapacitate them for other occupations and
entertainments. Indulge your passion for science, says she, but let your
science be human, and such as may have a direct reference to action and
society. Abstruse thought and profound researches I prohibit, and will
severely punish, by the pensive melancholy which they introduce, by the
endless uncertainty in which they involve you, and by the cold reception
which your pretended discoveries shall meet with, when communicated. Be
a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.

5. Were the generality of mankind contented to prefer the easy
philosophy to the abstract and profound, without throwing any blame or
contempt on the latter, it might not be improper, perhaps, to comply
with this general opinion, and allow every man to enjoy, without
opposition, his own taste and sentiment. But as the matter is often
carried farther, even to the absolute rejecting of all profound
reasonings, or what is commonly called _metaphysics_, we shall now
proceed to consider what can reasonably be pleaded in their behalf.

We may begin with observing, that one considerable advantage, which
results from the accurate and abstract philosophy, is, its subserviency
to the easy and humane; which, without the former, can never attain a
sufficient degree of exactness in its sentiments, precepts, or
reasonings. All polite letters are nothing but pictures of human life in
various attitudes and situations; and inspire us with different
sentiments, of praise or blame, admiration or ridicule, according to the
qualities of the object, which they set before us. An artist must be
better qualified to succeed in this undertaking, who, besides a delicate
taste and a quick apprehension, possesses an accurate knowledge of the
internal fabric, the operations of the understanding, the workings of
the passions, and the various species of sentiment which discriminate
vice and virtue. How painful soever this inward search or enquiry may
appear, it becomes, in some measure, requisite to those, who would
describe with success the obvious and outward appearances of life and
manners. The anatomist presents to the eye the most hideous and
disagreeable objects; but his science is useful to the painter in
delineating even a Venus or an Helen. While the latter employs all the
richest colours of his art, and gives his figures the most graceful and
engaging airs; he must still carry his attention to the inward structure
of the human body, the position of the muscles, the fabric of the bones,
and the use and figure of every part or organ. Accuracy is, in every
case, advantageous to beauty, and just reasoning to delicate sentiment.
In vain would we exalt the one by depreciating the other.

Besides, we may observe, in every art or profession, even those which
most concern life or action, that a spirit of accuracy, however
acquired, carries all of them nearer their perfection, and renders them
more subservient to the interests of society. And though a philosopher
may live remote from business, the genius of philosophy, if carefully
cultivated by several, must gradually diffuse itself throughout the
whole society, and bestow a similar correctness on every art and
calling. The politician will acquire greater foresight and subtility, in
the subdividing and balancing of power; the lawyer more method and finer
principles in his reasonings; and the general more regularity in his
discipline, and more caution in his plans and operations. The stability
of modern governments above the ancient, and the accuracy of modern
philosophy, have improved, and probably will still improve, by similar

6. Were there no advantage to be reaped from these studies, beyond the
gratification of an innocent curiosity, yet ought not even this to be
despised; as being one accession to those few safe and harmless
pleasures, which are bestowed on human race. The sweetest and most
inoffensive path of life leads through the avenues of science and
learning; and whoever can either remove any obstructions in this way, or
open up any new prospect, ought so far to be esteemed a benefactor to
mankind. And though these researches may appear painful and fatiguing,
it is with some minds as with some bodies, which being endowed with
vigorous and florid health, require severe exercise, and reap a pleasure
from what, to the generality of mankind, may seem burdensome and
laborious. Obscurity, indeed, is painful to the mind as well as to the
eye; but to bring light from obscurity, by whatever labour, must needs
be delightful and rejoicing.

But this obscurity in the profound and abstract philosophy, is objected
to, not only as painful and fatiguing, but as the inevitable source of
uncertainty and error. Here indeed lies the justest and most plausible
objection against a considerable part of metaphysics, that they are not
properly a science; but arise either from the fruitless efforts of human
vanity, which would penetrate into subjects utterly inaccessible to the
understanding, or from the craft of popular superstitions, which, being
unable to defend themselves on fair ground, raise these intangling
brambles to cover and protect their weakness. Chaced from the open
country, these robbers fly into the forest, and lie in wait to break in
upon every unguarded avenue of the mind, and overwhelm it with religious
fears and prejudices. The stoutest antagonist, if he remit his watch a
moment, is oppressed. And many, through cowardice and folly, open the
gates to the enemies, and willingly receive them with reverence and
submission, as their legal sovereigns.

7. But is this a sufficient reason, why philosophers should desist from
such researches, and leave superstition still in possession of her
retreat? Is it not proper to draw an opposite conclusion, and perceive
the necessity of carrying the war into the most secret recesses of the
enemy? In vain do we hope, that men, from frequent disappointment, will
at last abandon such airy sciences, and discover the proper province of
human reason. For, besides, that many persons find too sensible an
interest in perpetually recalling such topics; besides this, I say, the
motive of blind despair can never reasonably have place in the sciences;
since, however unsuccessful former attempts may have proved, there is
still room to hope, that the industry, good fortune, or improved
sagacity of succeeding generations may reach discoveries unknown to
former ages. Each adventurous genius will still leap at the arduous
prize, and find himself stimulated, rather that discouraged, by the
failures of his predecessors; while he hopes that the glory of achieving
so hard an adventure is reserved for him alone. The only method of
freeing learning, at once, from these abstruse questions, is to enquire
seriously into the nature of human understanding, and show, from an
exact analysis of its powers and capacity, that it is by no means fitted
for such remote and abstruse subjects. We must submit to this fatigue,
in order to live at ease ever after: And must cultivate true metaphysics
with some care, in order to destroy the false and adulterate. Indolence,
which, to some persons, affords a safeguard against this deceitful
philosophy, is, with others, overbalanced by curiosity; and despair,
which, at some moments, prevails, may give place afterwards to sanguine
hopes and expectations. Accurate and just reasoning is the only catholic
remedy, fitted for all persons and all dispositions; and is alone able
to subvert that abstruse philosophy and metaphysical jargon, which,
being mixed up with popular superstition, renders it in a manner
impenetrable to careless reasoners, and gives it the air of science
and wisdom.

8. Besides this advantage of rejecting, after deliberate enquiry, the
most uncertain and disagreeable part of learning, there are many
positive advantages, which result from an accurate scrutiny into the
powers and faculties of human nature. It is remarkable concerning the
operations of the mind, that, though most intimately present to us, yet,
whenever they become the object of reflexion, they seem involved in
obscurity; nor can the eye readily find those lines and boundaries,
which discriminate and distinguish them. The objects are too fine to
remain long in the same aspect or situation; and must be apprehended in
an instant, by a superior penetration, derived from nature, and improved
by habit and reflexion. It becomes, therefore, no inconsiderable part of
science barely to know the different operations of the mind, to separate
them from each other, to class them under their proper heads, and to
correct all that seeming disorder, in which they lie involved, when made
the object of reflexion and enquiry. This talk of ordering and
distinguishing, which has no merit, when performed with regard to
external bodies, the objects of our senses, rises in its value, when
directed towards the operations of the mind, in proportion to the
difficulty and labour, which we meet with in performing it. And if we
can go no farther than this mental geography, or delineation of the
distinct parts and powers of the mind, it is at least a satisfaction to
go so far; and the more obvious this science may appear (and it is by no
means obvious) the more contemptible still must the ignorance of it be
esteemed, in all pretenders to learning and philosophy.

Nor can there remain any suspicion, that this science is uncertain and
chimerical; unless we should entertain such a scepticism as is entirely
subversive of all speculation, and even action. It cannot be doubted,
that the mind is endowed with several powers and faculties, that these
powers are distinct from each other, that what is really distinct to the
immediate perception may be distinguished by reflexion; and
consequently, that there is a truth and falsehood in all propositions on
this subject, and a truth and falsehood, which lie not beyond the
compass of human understanding. There are many obvious distinctions of
this kind, such as those between the will and understanding, the
imagination and passions, which fall within the comprehension of every
human creature; and the finer and more philosophical distinctions are no
less real and certain, though more difficult to be comprehended. Some
instances, especially late ones, of success in these enquiries, may give
us a juster notion of the certainty and solidity of this branch of
learning. And shall we esteem it worthy the labour of a philosopher to
give us a true system of the planets, and adjust the position and order
of those remote bodies; while we affect to overlook those, who, with so
much success, delineate the parts of the mind, in which we are so
intimately concerned?

9. But may we not hope, that philosophy, if cultivated with care, and
encouraged by the attention of the public, may carry its researches
still farther, and discover, at least in some degree, the secret springs
and principles, by which the human mind is actuated in its operations?
Astronomers had long contented themselves with proving, from the
phaenomena, the true motions, order, and magnitude of the heavenly
bodies: Till a philosopher, at last, arose, who seems, from the happiest
reasoning, to have also determined the laws and forces, by which the
revolutions of the planets are governed and directed. The like has been
performed with regard to other parts of nature. And there is no reason
to despair of equal success in our enquiries concerning the mental
powers and economy, if prosecuted with equal capacity and caution. It is
probable, that one operation and principle of the mind depends on
another; which, again, may be resolved into one more general and
universal: And how far these researches may possibly be carried, it will
be difficult for us, before, or even after, a careful trial, exactly to
determine. This is certain, that attempts of this kind are every day
made even by those who philosophize the most negligently: And nothing
can be more requisite than to enter upon the enterprize with thorough
care and attention; that, if it lie within the compass of human
understanding, it may at last be happily achieved; if not, it may,
however, be rejected with some confidence and security. This last
conclusion, surely, is not desirable; nor ought it to be embraced too
rashly. For how much must we diminish from the beauty and value of this
species of philosophy, upon such a supposition? Moralists have hitherto
been accustomed, when they considered the vast multitude and diversity
of those actions that excite our approbation or dislike, to search for
some common principle, on which this variety of sentiments might depend.
And though they have sometimes carried the matter too far, by their
passion for some one general principle; it must, however, be confessed,
that they are excusable in expecting to find some general principles,
into which all the vices and virtues were justly to be resolved. The
like has been the endeavour of critics, logicians, and even politicians:
Nor have their attempts been wholly unsuccessful; though perhaps longer
time, greater accuracy, and more ardent application may bring these
sciences still nearer their perfection. To throw up at once all
pretensions of this kind may justly be deemed more rash, precipitate,
and dogmatical, than even the boldest and most affirmative philosophy,
that has ever attempted to impose its crude dictates and principles
on mankind.

10. What though these reasonings concerning human nature seem abstract,
and of difficult comprehension? This affords no presumption of their
falsehood. On the contrary, it seems impossible, that what has hitherto
escaped so many wise and profound philosophers can be very obvious and
easy. And whatever pains these researches may cost us, we may think
ourselves sufficiently rewarded, not only in point of profit but of
pleasure, if, by that means, we can make any addition to our stock of
knowledge, in subjects of such unspeakable importance.

But as, after all, the abstractedness of these speculations is no
recommendation, but rather a disadvantage to them, and as this
difficulty may perhaps be surmounted by care and art, and the avoiding
of all unnecessary detail, we have, in the following enquiry, attempted
to throw some light upon subjects, from which uncertainty has hitherto
deterred the wise, and obscurity the ignorant. Happy, if we can unite
the boundaries of the different species of philosophy, by reconciling
profound enquiry with clearness, and truth with novelty! And still more
happy, if, reasoning in this easy manner, we can undermine the
foundations of an abstruse philosophy, which seems to have hitherto
served only as a shelter to superstition, and a cover to absurdity
and error!



11. Every one will readily allow, that there is a considerable
difference between the perceptions of the mind, when a man feels the
pain of excessive heat, or the pleasure of moderate warmth, and when he
afterwards recalls to his memory this sensation, or anticipates it by
his imagination. These faculties may mimic or copy the perceptions of
the senses; but they never can entirely reach the force and vivacity of
the original sentiment. The utmost we say of them, even when they
operate with greatest vigour, is, that they represent their object in so
lively a manner, that we could _almost_ say we feel or see it: But,
except the mind be disordered by disease or madness, they never can
arrive at such a pitch of vivacity, as to render these perceptions
altogether undistinguishable. All the colours of poetry, however
splendid, can never paint natural objects in such a manner as to make
the description be taken for a real landskip. The most lively thought is
still inferior to the dullest sensation.

We may observe a like distinction to run through all the other
perceptions of the mind. A man in a fit of anger, is actuated in a very
different manner from one who only thinks of that emotion. If you tell
me, that any person is in love, I easily understand your meaning, and
form a just conception of his situation; but never can mistake that
conception for the real disorders and agitations of the passion. When we
reflect on our past sentiments and affections, our thought is a faithful
mirror, and copies its objects truly; but the colours which it employs
are faint and dull, in comparison of those in which our original
perceptions were clothed. It requires no nice discernment or
metaphysical head to mark the distinction between them.

12. Here therefore we may divide all the perceptions of the mind into
two classes or species, which are distinguished by their different
degrees of force and vivacity. The less forcible and lively are commonly
denominated _Thoughts_ or _Ideas_. The other species want a name in our
language, and in most others; I suppose, because it was not requisite
for any, but philosophical purposes, to rank them under a general term
or appellation. Let us, therefore, use a little freedom, and call them
_Impressions_; employing that word in a sense somewhat different from
the usual. By the term _impression_, then, I mean all our more lively
perceptions, when we hear, or see, or feel, or love, or hate, or desire,
or will. And impressions are distinguished from ideas, which are the
less lively perceptions, of which we are conscious, when we reflect on
any of those sensations or movements above mentioned.

13. Nothing, at first view, may seem more unbounded than the thought of
man, which not only escapes all human power and authority, but is not
even restrained within the limits of nature and reality. To form
monsters, and join incongruous shapes and appearances, costs the
imagination no more trouble than to conceive the most natural and
familiar objects. And while the body is confined to one planet, along
which it creeps with pain and difficulty; the thought can in an instant
transport us into the most distant regions of the universe; or even
beyond the universe, into the unbounded chaos, where nature is supposed
to lie in total confusion. What never was seen, or heard of, may yet be
conceived; nor is any thing beyond the power of thought, except what
implies an absolute contradiction.

But though our thought seems to possess this unbounded liberty, we shall
find, upon a nearer examination, that it is really confined within very
narrow limits, and that all this creative power of the mind amounts to
no more than the faculty of compounding, transposing, augmenting, or
diminishing the materials afforded us by the senses and experience. When
we think of a golden mountain, we only join two consistent ideas,
_gold_, and _mountain_, with which we were formerly acquainted. A
virtuous horse we can conceive; because, from our own feeling, we can
conceive virtue; and this we may unite to the figure and shape of a
horse, which is an animal familiar to us. In short, all the materials of
thinking are derived either from our outward or inward sentiment: the
mixture and composition of these belongs alone to the mind and will. Or,
to express myself in philosophical language, all our ideas or more
feeble perceptions are copies of our impressions or more lively ones.

14. To prove this, the two following arguments will, I hope, be
sufficient. First, when we analyze our thoughts or ideas, however
compounded or sublime, we always find that they resolve themselves into
such simple ideas as were copied from a precedent feeling or sentiment.
Even those ideas, which, at first view, seem the most wide of this
origin, are found, upon a nearer scrutiny, to be derived from it. The
idea of God, as meaning an infinitely intelligent, wise, and good Being,
arises from reflecting on the operations of our own mind, and
augmenting, without limit, those qualities of goodness and wisdom. We
may prosecute this enquiry to what length we please; where we shall
always find, that every idea which we examine is copied from a similar
impression. Those who would assert that this position is not universally
true nor without exception, have only one, and that an easy method of
refuting it; by producing that idea, which, in their opinion, is not
derived from this source. It will then be incumbent on us, if we would
maintain our doctrine, to produce the impression, or lively perception,
which corresponds to it.

15. Secondly. If it happen, from a defect of the organ, that a man is
not susceptible of any species of sensation, we always find that he is
as little susceptible of the correspondent ideas. A blind man can form
no notion of colours; a deaf man of sounds. Restore either of them that
sense in which he is deficient; by opening this new inlet for his
sensations, you also open an inlet for the ideas; and he finds no
difficulty in conceiving these objects. The case is the same, if the
object, proper for exciting any sensation, has never been applied to the
organ. A Laplander or Negro has no notion of the relish of wine. And
though there are few or no instances of a like deficiency in the mind,
where a person has never felt or is wholly incapable of a sentiment or
passion that belongs to his species; yet we find the same observation to
take place in a less degree. A man of mild manners can form no idea of
inveterate revenge or cruelty; nor can a selfish heart easily conceive
the heights of friendship and generosity. It is readily allowed, that
other beings may possess many senses of which we can have no conception;
because the ideas of them have never been introduced to us in the only
manner by which an idea can have access to the mind, to wit, by the
actual feeling and sensation.

16. There is, however, one contradictory phenomenon, which may prove
that it is not absolutely impossible for ideas to arise, independent of
their correspondent impressions. I believe it will readily be allowed,
that the several distinct ideas of colour, which enter by the eye, or
those of sound, which are conveyed by the ear, are really different from
each other; though, at the same time, resembling. Now if this be true of
different colours, it must be no less so of the different shades of the
same colour; and each shade produces a distinct idea, independent of the
rest. For if this should be denied, it is possible, by the continual
gradation of shades, to run a colour insensibly into what is most remote
from it; and if you will not allow any of the means to be different, you
cannot, without absurdity, deny the extremes to be the same. Suppose,
therefore, a person to have enjoyed his sight for thirty years, and to
have become perfectly acquainted with colours of all kinds except one
particular shade of blue, for instance, which it never has been his
fortune to meet with. Let all the different shades of that colour,
except that single one, be placed before him, descending gradually from
the deepest to the lightest; it is plain that he will perceive a blank,
where that shade is wanting, and will be sensible that there is a
greater distance in that place between the contiguous colours than in
any other. Now I ask, whether it be possible for him, from his own
imagination, to supply this deficiency, and raise up to himself the idea
of that particular shade, though it had never been conveyed to him by
his senses? I believe there are few but will be of opinion that he can:
and this may serve as a proof that the simple ideas are not always, in
every instance, derived from the correspondent impressions; though this
instance is so singular, that it is scarcely worth our observing, and
does not merit that for it alone we should alter our general maxim.

17. Here, therefore, is a proposition, which not only seems, in itself,
simple and intelligible; but, if a proper use were made of it, might
render every dispute equally intelligible, and banish all that jargon,
which has so long taken possession of metaphysical reasonings, and drawn
disgrace upon them. All ideas, especially abstract ones, are naturally
faint and obscure: the mind has but a slender hold of them: they are apt
to be confounded with other resembling ideas; and when we have often
employed any term, though without a distinct meaning, we are apt to
imagine it has a determinate idea annexed to it. On the contrary, all
impressions, that is, all sensations, either outward or inward, are
strong and vivid: the limits between them are more exactly determined:
nor is it easy to fall into any error or mistake with regard to them.
When we entertain, therefore, any suspicion that a philosophical term is
employed without any meaning or idea (as is but too frequent), we need
but enquire, _from what impression is that supposed idea derived_? And
if it be impossible to assign any, this will serve to confirm our
suspicion. By bringing ideas into so clear a light we may reasonably
hope to remove all dispute, which may arise, concerning their nature and

    [1] It is probable that no more was meant by those, who denied
    innate ideas, than that all ideas were copies of our
    impressions; though it must be confessed, that the terms, which
    they employed, were not chosen with such caution, nor so
    exactly defined, as to prevent all mistakes about their
    doctrine. For what is meant by _innate_? If innate be
    equivalent to natural, then all the perceptions and ideas of
    the mind must be allowed to be innate or natural, in whatever
    sense we take the latter word, whether in opposition to what is
    uncommon, artificial, or miraculous. If by innate be meant,
    contemporary to our birth, the dispute seems to be frivolous;
    nor is it worth while to enquire at what time thinking begins,
    whether before, at, or after our birth. Again, the word _idea_,
    seems to be commonly taken in a very loose sense, by LOCKE and
    others; as standing for any of our perceptions, our sensations
    and passions, as well as thoughts. Now in this sense, I should
    desire to know, what can be meant by asserting, that self-love,
    or resentment of injuries, or the passion between the sexes is
    not innate?

    But admitting these terms, _impressions_ and _ideas_, in the
    sense above explained, and understanding by _innate_, what is
    original or copied from no precedent perception, then may we
    assert that all our impressions are innate, and our ideas
    not innate.

    To be ingenuous, I must own it to be my opinion, that LOCKE was
    betrayed into this question by the schoolmen, who, making use
    of undefined terms, draw out their disputes to a tedious
    length, without ever touching the point in question. A like
    ambiguity and circumlocution seem to run through that
    philosopher's reasonings on this as well as most other



18. It is evident that there is a principle of connexion between the
different thoughts or ideas of the mind, and that, in their appearance
to the memory or imagination, they introduce each other with a certain
degree of method and regularity. In our more serious thinking or
discourse this is so observable that any particular thought, which
breaks in upon the regular tract or chain of ideas, is immediately
remarked and rejected. And even in our wildest and most wandering
reveries, nay in our very dreams, we shall find, if we reflect, that the
imagination ran not altogether at adventures, but that there was still a
connexion upheld among the different ideas, which succeeded each other.
Were the loosest and freest conversation to be transcribed, there would
immediately be observed something which connected it in all its
transitions. Or where this is wanting, the person who broke the thread
of discourse might still inform you, that there had secretly revolved in
his mind a succession of thought, which had gradually led him from the
subject of conversation. Among different languages, even where we cannot
suspect the least connexion or communication, it is found, that the
words, expressive of ideas, the most compounded, do yet nearly
correspond to each other: a certain proof that the simple ideas,
comprehended in the compound ones, were bound together by some universal
principle, which had an equal influence on all mankind.

19. Though it be too obvious to escape observation, that different ideas
are connected together; I do not find that any philosopher has attempted
to enumerate or class all the principles of association; a subject,
however, that seems worthy of curiosity. To me, there appear to be only
three principles of connexion among ideas, namely, _Resemblance_,
_Contiguity_ in time or place, and _Cause or Effect_.

That these principles serve to connect ideas will not, I believe, be
much doubted. A picture naturally leads our thoughts to the original[2]:
the mention of one apartment in a building naturally introduces an
enquiry or discourse concerning the others[3]: and if we think of a
wound, we can scarcely forbear reflecting on the pain which follows
it[4]. But that this enumeration is complete, and that there are no
other principles of association except these, may be difficult to prove
to the satisfaction of the reader, or even to a man's own satisfaction.
All we can do, in such cases, is to run over several instances, and
examine carefully the principle which binds the different thoughts to
each other, never stopping till we render the principle as general as
possible[5]. The more instances we examine, and the more care we employ,
the more assurance shall we acquire, that the enumeration, which we form
from the whole, is complete and entire.

    [2] Resemblance.

    [3] Contiguity.

    [4] Cause and effect.

    [5] For instance, Contrast or Contrariety is also a connexion
    among Ideas: but it may, perhaps, be considered as a mixture of
    _Causation_ and _Resemblance_. Where two objects are contrary,
    the one destroys the other; that is, the cause of its
    annihilation, and the idea of the annihilation of an object,
    implies the idea of its former existence.




20. All the objects of human reason or enquiry may naturally be divided
into two kinds, to wit, _Relations of Ideas_, and _Matters of Fact_. Of
the first kind are the sciences of Geometry, Algebra, and Arithmetic;
and in short, every affirmation which is either intuitively or
demonstratively certain. _That the square of the hypothenuse is equal to
the square of the two sides_, is a proposition which expresses a
relation between these figures. _That three times five is equal to the
half of thirty_, expresses a relation between these numbers.
Propositions of this kind are discoverable by the mere operation of
thought, without dependence on what is anywhere existent in the
universe. Though there never were a circle or triangle in nature, the
truths demonstrated by Euclid would for ever retain their certainty
and evidence.

21. Matters of fact, which are the second objects of human reason, are
not ascertained in the same manner; 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 conceived by the mind with the same facility and
distinctness, as if ever so conformable to reality. _That the sun will
not rise to-morrow_ is no less intelligible a proposition, and implies
no more contradiction than the affirmation, _that it will rise_. We
should in vain, therefore, attempt to demonstrate its falsehood. Were it
demonstratively false, it would imply a contradiction, and could never
be distinctly conceived by the mind.

It may, therefore, be a subject worthy of curiosity, to enquire what is
the nature of that evidence which assures us of any real existence and
matter of fact, beyond the present testimony of our senses, or the
records of our memory. This part of philosophy, it is 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 through such difficult paths
without any guide or direction. They may even prove useful, by exciting
curiosity, and destroying that implicit faith and security, which is the
bane of all reasoning and free enquiry. The discovery of defects in the
common philosophy, if any such there be, will not, I presume, be a
discouragement, but rather an incitement, as is usual, to attempt
something more full and satisfactory than has yet been proposed to
the public.

22. All reasonings concerning matter of fact seem to be founded on the
relation of _Cause and Effect_. By means of that relation alone we can
go beyond the evidence of our memory and senses. If you were to ask 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
reason; and this reason would be some other fact; as a letter received
from him, or the knowledge 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 same nature. And here it is constantly
supposed that there is a connexion between the present fact and that
which is inferred from it. Were there nothing to bind them together, the
inference would be entirely precarious. The hearing of an articulate
voice and rational discourse in the dark assures us of the presence of
some person: Why? because these are the effects of the human make and
fabric, and closely connected with it. If we anatomize all the other
reasonings of this nature, we shall find that they are founded on the
relation of cause and effect, and that this relation is either near or
remote, direct or collateral. Heat and light are collateral effects of
fire, and the one effect may justly be inferred from the other.

23. If we would satisfy ourselves, therefore, concerning the nature of
that evidence, which assures us of matters of fact, we must enquire how
we arrive at the knowledge of cause and effect.

I shall venture to affirm, as a general proposition, which admits of no
exception, that the knowledge of this relation is not, in any instance,
attained by reasonings _a priori_; but arises entirely from experience,
when we find that any particular objects are constantly conjoined with
each other. Let an object be presented to a man of ever so strong
natural reason and abilities; if that object be entirely new to him, he
will not be able, by the most accurate examination of its sensible
qualities, to discover any of its causes or effects. Adam, though his
rational faculties be supposed, at the very first, entirely perfect,
could not have inferred from the fluidity and transparency of water that
it would suffocate him, or from the light and warmth of fire that it
would consume him. No object ever discovers, by the qualities which
appear to the senses, either the causes which produced it, or the
effects which will arise from it; nor can our reason, unassisted by
experience, ever draw any inference concerning real existence and
matter of fact.

24. This proposition, _that causes and effects are discoverable, not by
reason but by experience_, will readily be admitted with regard to such
objects, as we remember to have once been altogether unknown to us;
since we must be conscious of the utter inability, which we then lay
under, of foretelling what would arise from them. Present two smooth
pieces of marble to a man who has no tincture of natural philosophy; he
will never discover that they will adhere together in such a manner as
to require great force to separate them in a direct line, while they
make so small a resistance to a lateral pressure. Such events, as bear
little analogy to the common course of nature, are also readily
confessed to be known only by experience; nor does any man imagine that
the explosion of gunpowder, or the attraction of a loadstone, could ever
be discovered by arguments _a priori_. In like manner, when an effect is
supposed to depend upon an intricate machinery or secret structure of
parts, we make no difficulty in attributing all our knowledge of it to
experience. Who will assert that he can give the ultimate reason, why
milk or bread is proper nourishment for a man, not for a lion or
a tiger?

But the same truth may not appear, at first sight, to have the same
evidence with regard to events, which have become familiar to us from
our first appearance in the world, which bear a close analogy to the
whole course of nature, and which are supposed to depend on the simple
qualities of objects, without any secret structure of parts. We are apt
to imagine that we could discover these effects by the mere operation of
our reason, without experience. We fancy, that were we brought on a
sudden into this world, we could at first have inferred that one
Billiard-ball would communicate motion to another upon impulse; and that
we needed not to have waited for the event, in order to pronounce with
certainty concerning it. Such is the influence of custom, that, where it
is strongest, it not only covers our natural ignorance, but even
conceals itself, and seems not to take place, merely because it is found
in the highest degree.

25. But to convince us that all the laws of nature, and all the
operations of bodies without exception, are known only by experience,
the following reflections may, perhaps, suffice. Were any object
presented to us, and were we required to pronounce concerning the
effect, which will result from it, without consulting past observation;
after what manner, I beseech you, must the mind proceed in this
operation? It must invent or imagine some event, which it ascribes to
the object as its effect; and it is plain that this invention must be
entirely arbitrary. The mind can never possibly find the effect in the
supposed cause, by the most accurate scrutiny and examination. For the
effect is totally different from the cause, and consequently can never
be discovered in it. Motion in the second Billiard-ball is a quite
distinct event from motion in the first; nor is there anything in the
one to suggest the smallest hint of the other. A stone or piece of metal
raised into the air, and left without any support, immediately falls:
but to consider the matter _a priori_, is there anything we discover in
this situation which can beget the idea of a downward, rather than an
upward, or any other motion, in the stone or metal? And as the first
imagination or invention of a particular effect, in all natural
operations, is arbitrary, where we consult not experience; so must we
also esteem the supposed tie or connexion between the cause and effect,
which binds them together, and renders it impossible that any other
effect could result from the operation of that cause. When I see, for
instance, a Billiard-ball moving in a straight line towards another;
even suppose motion in the second ball should by accident be suggested
to me, as the result of their contact or impulse; may I not conceive,
that a hundred different events might as well follow from that cause?
May not both these balls remain at absolute rest? May not the first ball
return in a straight line, or leap off from the second in any line or
direction? All these suppositions are consistent and conceivable. Why
then should we give the preference to one, which is no more consistent
or conceivable than the rest? All our reasonings _a priori_ will never
be able to show us any foundation for this preference.

In a word, then, every effect is a distinct event from its cause. It
could not, therefore, be discovered in the cause, and the first
invention or conception of it, _a priori_, must be entirely arbitrary.
And even after it is suggested, the conjunction of it with the cause
must appear equally arbitrary; since there are always many other
effects, which, to reason, must seem fully as consistent and natural. In
vain, therefore, should we pretend to determine any single event, or
infer any cause or effect, without the assistance of observation and

26. Hence we may discover the reason why no philosopher, who is rational
and modest, has ever pretended to assign the ultimate cause of any
natural operation, or to show distinctly the action of that power, which
produces any single effect in the universe. It is confessed, that the
utmost effort of human reason is to reduce the principles, productive of
natural phenomena, to a greater simplicity, and to resolve the many
particular effects into a few general causes, by means of reasonings
from analogy, experience, and observation. But as to the causes of these
general causes, we should in vain attempt their discovery; nor shall we
ever be able to satisfy ourselves, by any particular explication of
them. These ultimate springs and principles are totally shut up from
human curiosity and enquiry. Elasticity, gravity, cohesion of parts,
communication of motion by impulse; these are probably the ultimate
causes and principles which we shall ever discover in nature; and we may
esteem ourselves sufficiently happy, if, by accurate enquiry and
reasoning, we can trace up the particular phenomena to, or near to,
these general principles. The most perfect philosophy of the natural
kind only staves off our ignorance a little longer: as perhaps the most
perfect philosophy of the moral or metaphysical kind serves only to
discover larger portions of it. Thus the observation of human blindness
and weakness is the result of all philosophy, and meets us at every
turn, in spite of our endeavours to elude or avoid it.

27. Nor is geometry, when taken into the assistance of natural
philosophy, ever able to remedy this defect, or lead us into the
knowledge of ultimate causes, by all that accuracy of reasoning for
which it is so justly celebrated. Every part of mixed mathematics
proceeds upon the supposition that certain laws are established by
nature in her operations; and abstract reasonings are employed, either
to assist experience in the discovery of these laws, or to determine
their influence in particular instances, where it depends upon any
precise degree of distance and quantity. Thus, it is a law of motion,
discovered by experience, that the moment or force of any body in motion
is in the compound ratio or proportion of its solid contents and its
velocity; and consequently, that a small force may remove the greatest
obstacle or raise the greatest weight, if, by any contrivance or
machinery, we can increase the velocity of that force, so as to make it
an overmatch for its antagonist. Geometry assists us in the application
of this law, by giving us the just dimensions of all the parts and
figures which can enter into any species of machine; but still the
discovery of the law itself is owing merely to experience, and all the
abstract reasonings in the world could never lead us one step towards
the knowledge of it. When we reason _a priori_, and consider merely any
object or cause, as it appears to the mind, independent of all
observation, it never could suggest to us the notion of any distinct
object, such as its effect; much less, show us the inseparable and
inviolable connexion between them. A man must be very sagacious who
could discover by reasoning that crystal is the effect of heat, and ice
of cold, without being previously acquainted with the operation of these


28. But we have not yet attained any tolerable satisfaction with regard
to the question first proposed. Each solution still gives rise to a new
question as difficult as the foregoing, and leads us on to farther
enquiries. When it is asked, _What is the nature of all our reasonings
concerning matter of fact?_ the proper answer seems to be, that they are
founded on the relation of cause and effect. When again it is asked,
_What is the foundation of all our reasonings and conclusions concerning
that relation?_ it may be replied in one word, Experience. But if we
still carry on our sifting humour, and ask, _What is the foundation of
all conclusions from experience?_ this implies a new question, which may
be of more difficult solution and explication. Philosophers, that give
themselves airs of superior wisdom and sufficiency, have a hard task
when they encounter persons of inquisitive dispositions, who push them
from every corner to which they retreat, and who are sure at last to
bring them to some dangerous dilemma. The best expedient to prevent this
confusion, is to be modest in our pretensions; and even to discover the
difficulty ourselves before it is objected to us. By this means, we may
make a kind of merit of our very ignorance.

I shall content myself, in this section, with an easy task, and shall
pretend only to give a negative answer to the question here proposed. I
say then, that, even after we have experience of the operations of cause
and effect, our conclusions from that experience are _not_ founded on
reasoning, or any process of the understanding. This answer we must
endeavour both to explain and to defend.

29. It must certainly be allowed, that nature has kept us at a great
distance from all her secrets, and has afforded us only the knowledge of
a few superficial qualities of objects; while she conceals from us those
powers and principles on which the influence of those objects entirely
depends. Our senses inform us of the colour, weight, and consistence of
bread; but neither sense nor reason can ever inform us of those
qualities which fit it for the nourishment and support of a human body.
Sight or feeling conveys an idea of the actual motion of bodies; but as
to that wonderful force or power, which would carry on a moving body for
ever in a continued change of place, and which bodies never lose but by
communicating it to others; of this we cannot form the most distant
conception. But notwithstanding this ignorance of natural powers[6] and
principles, we always presume, when we see like sensible qualities, that
they have like secret powers, and expect that effects, similar to those
which we have experienced, will follow from them. If a body of like
colour and consistence with that bread, which we have formerly eat, be
presented to us, we make no scruple of repeating the experiment, and
foresee, with certainty, like nourishment and support. Now this is a
process of the mind or thought, of which I would willingly know the
foundation. It is allowed on all hands that there is no known connexion
between the sensible qualities and the secret powers; and consequently,
that the mind is not led to form such a conclusion concerning their
constant and regular conjunction, by anything which it knows of their
nature. As to past _Experience_, it can be allowed to give _direct_ and
_certain_ information of those precise objects only, and that precise
period of time, which fell under its cognizance: but why this experience
should be extended to future times, and to other objects, which for
aught we know, may be only in appearance similar; this is the main
question on which I would insist. The bread, which I formerly eat,
nourished me; that is, a body of such sensible qualities was, at that
time, endued with such secret powers: but does it follow, that other
bread must also nourish me at another time, and that like sensible
qualities must always be attended with like secret powers? The
consequence seems nowise necessary. At least, it must be acknowledged
that there is here a consequence drawn by the mind; that there is a
certain step taken; a process of thought, and an inference, which wants
to be explained. These two propositions are far from being the same, _I
have found that such an object has always been attended with such an
effect_, and _I foresee, that other objects, which are, in appearance,
similar, will be attended with similar effects_. I shall allow, if you
please, that the one proposition may justly be inferred from the other:
I know, in fact, that it always is inferred. But if you insist that the
inference is made by a chain of reasoning, I desire you to produce that
reasoning. The connexion between these propositions is not intuitive.
There is required a medium, which may enable the mind to draw such an
inference, if indeed it be drawn by reasoning and argument. What that
medium is, I must confess, passes my comprehension; and it is incumbent
on those to produce it, who assert that it really exists, and is the
origin of all our conclusions concerning matter of fact.

    [6] The word, Power, is here used in a loose and popular sense.
    The more accurate explication of it would give additional
    evidence to this argument. See Sect. 7.

30. This negative argument must certainly, in process of time, become
altogether convincing, if many penetrating and able philosophers shall
turn their enquiries this way and no one be ever able to discover any
connecting proposition or intermediate step, which supports the
understanding in this conclusion. But as the question is yet new, every
reader may not trust so far to his own penetration, as to conclude,
because an argument escapes his enquiry, that therefore it does not
really exist. For this reason it may be requisite to venture upon a more
difficult task; and enumerating all the branches of human knowledge,
endeavour to show that none of them can afford such an argument.

All reasonings may be divided into two kinds, namely, demonstrative
reasoning, or that concerning relations of ideas, and moral reasoning,
or that concerning matter of fact and existence. That there are no
demonstrative arguments in the case seems evident; since it implies no
contradiction that the course of nature may change, and that an object,
seemingly like those which we have experienced, may be attended with
different or contrary effects. May I not clearly and distinctly conceive
that a body, falling from the clouds, and which, in all other respects,
resembles snow, has yet the taste of salt or feeling of fire? Is there
any more intelligible proposition than to affirm, that all the trees
will flourish in December and January, and decay in May and June? Now
whatever is intelligible, and can be distinctly conceived, implies no
contradiction, and can never be proved false by any demonstrative
argument or abstract reasoning _à priori_.

If we be, therefore, engaged by arguments to put trust in past
experience, and make it the standard of our future judgement, these
arguments must be probable only, or such as regard matter of fact and
real existence, according to the division above mentioned. But that
there is no argument of this kind, must appear, if our explication of
that species of reasoning be admitted as solid and satisfactory. We have
said that all arguments concerning existence are founded on the relation
of cause and effect; that our knowledge of that relation is derived
entirely from experience; and that all our experimental conclusions
proceed upon the supposition that the future will be conformable to the
past. To endeavour, therefore, the proof of this last supposition by
probable arguments, or arguments regarding existence, must be evidently
going in a circle, and taking that for granted, which is the very point
in question.

31. In reality, all arguments from experience are founded on the
similarity 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 human 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 conclusion 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 so 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.

32. Should it be said that, from a number of uniform experiments, we
_infer_ a connexion between the sensible 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 interposing ideas,
which join propositions so very wide of each other? It is confessed that
the colour, consistence, and other sensible qualities of bread appear
not, of themselves, to have any connexion with the secret powers of
nourishment and support. 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 philosophers,
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 sensible
qualities, is produced, we expect similar powers and forces, and look
for a like effect. From a body of like colour and consistence with bread
we expect like nourishment and support. But this surely is a step or
progress of the mind, which wants to be explained. When a man says, _I
have found, in all past instances, such sensible qualities conjoined
with such secret powers_: And when he says, _Similar sensible qualities
will always be conjoined with similar secret powers_, he is not guilty
of a tautology, nor are these propositions in any respect the same. 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 say it is experimental, is
begging the question. For all inferences from experience suppose, as
their foundation, that the future will resemble the past, and that
similar powers will be conjoined with similar sensible qualities. If
there be any suspicion that the course of nature may change, and that
the past may be no rule for the future, all experience becomes useless,
and can give rise to no inference 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 so. 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 say 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 satisfaction 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.

33. 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 exist. 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 enumeration is not complete, or the examination not
accurate. But with regard to the present subject, there are some
considerations which seem to remove all this accusation of arrogance or
suspicion of mistake.

It is certain that the most ignorant and stupid peasants--nay infants,
nay even 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 similar effect from a cause which is similar in its sensible
qualities and appearance. If you assert, 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 reflection,
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 present 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; since I cannot
now discover an argument which, it seems, was perfectly familiar to me
long before I was out of my cradle.




34. The passion for philosophy, like that for religion, seems liable to
this inconvenience, that, 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 resolution, towards that side which already _draws_ too
much, by the bias and propensity of the natural temper. It is certain
that, while we aspire to the magnanimous firmness of the philosophic
sage, and endeavour to confine our pleasures altogether within our own
minds, we may, at last, render our philosophy like that of Epictetus,
and other _Stoics_, only a more refined system of selfishness, and
reason ourselves out of all virtue as well as social enjoyment. While we
study with attention the vanity of human life, and turn all our thoughts
towards 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 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 with any natural affection or
propensity; and that is the Academic or Sceptical philosophy. The
academics always talk of doubt and suspense of judgement, of danger in
hasty determinations, of confining to very narrow bounds the enquiries
of the understanding, and of renouncing all speculations which lie not
within the limits of common life and practice. Nothing, therefore, can
be more contrary than such a philosophy to the supine indolence of the
mind, its rash arrogance, its lofty pretensions, and its superstitious
credulity. Every passion is mortified by it, except the love of truth;
and that passion never is, nor can be, carried to too high a degree. It
is surprising, 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, perhaps, the very
circumstance which renders it so innocent is what chiefly exposes it to
the public hatred 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 profane, and

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 action, as well as
speculation. Nature will always maintain her rights, and prevail in the
end over any abstract reasoning whatsoever. Though we should conclude,
for instance, as in the foregoing section, 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 knowledge depends, will ever be
affected by such a discovery. If the mind be not engaged by argument to
make this step, it must be induced 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.

35. Suppose a person, though endowed with the strongest faculties of
reason and reflection, to be brought on 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
anything 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 performed, never appear 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, the
other the effect. Their conjunction may be arbitrary and casual. There
may be no reason to infer the existence of 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 assured of anything beyond what was immediately present to his
memory and senses.

Suppose, again, that he has acquired more experience, and has lived so
long in the world as to have observed familiar objects or events to be
constantly conjoined together; what is the consequence of this
experience? He immediately infers the existence of one object from the
appearance of the other. Yet he has not, by all his experience, acquired
any idea or knowledge of the secret power by which the one object
produces the other; nor is it, by any process of reasoning, he is
engaged to draw this inference. But still he finds himself determined to
draw it: And though he should be convinced that his understanding has no
part in the operation, he would nevertheless continue in the same course
of thinking. There is some other principle which determines him to form
such a conclusion.

36. This principle is Custom or Habit. For wherever the repetition of
any particular act or operation produces a propensity to renew the same
act or operation, without being impelled by any reasoning or process of
the understanding, we always say, that this propensity is the effect of
_Custom_. By employing that word, we pretend not to have given the
ultimate reason of such a propensity. We only point out a principle of
human nature, which is universally acknowledged, and which is well known
by its effects. Perhaps we can push our enquiries no farther, or pretend
to give the cause of this cause; but must rest contented with it as the
ultimate principle, which we can assign, of all our conclusions from
experience. It is sufficient satisfaction, that we can go so far,
without repining at the narrowness of our faculties because they will
carry us no farther. And it is certain we here advance a very
intelligible proposition at least, if not a true one, when we assert
that, after the constant conjunction of two objects--heat and flame, for
instance, weight and solidity--we are determined by custom alone to
expect the one from the appearance of the other. This hypothesis seems
even the only one which explains the difficulty, why we draw, from a
thousand instances, an inference which we are not able to draw from one
instance, that is, in no respect, different from them. Reason is
incapable of any such variation. The conclusions which it draws from
considering one circle are the same which it would form upon surveying
all the circles in the universe. But no man, having seen only one body
move after being impelled by another, could infer that every other body
will move after a like impulse. All inferences from experience,
therefore, are effects of custom, not of reasoning[7].

    [7] Nothing is more useful than for writers, even, on _moral_,
    _political_, or _physical_ subjects, to distinguish between
    _reason_ and _experience_, and to suppose, that these species
    of argumentation are entirely different from each other. The
    former are taken for the mere result of our intellectual
    faculties, which, by considering _à priori_ the nature of
    things, and examining the effects, that must follow from their
    operation, establish particular principles of science and
    philosophy. The latter are supposed to be derived entirely from
    sense and observation, by which we learn what has actually
    resulted from the operation of particular objects, and are
    thence able to infer, what will, for the future, result from
    them. Thus, for instance, the limitations and restraints of
    civil government, and a legal constitution, may be defended,
    either from _reason_, which reflecting on the great frailty and
    corruption of human nature, teaches, that no man can safely be
    trusted with unlimited authority; or from _experience_ and
    history, which inform us of the enormous abuses, that ambition,
    in every age and country, has been found to make of so
    imprudent a confidence.

    The same distinction between reason and experience is
    maintained in all our deliberations concerning the conduct of
    life; while the experienced statesman, general, physician, or
    merchant is trusted and followed; and the unpractised novice,
    with whatever natural talents endowed, neglected and despised.
    Though it be allowed, that reason may form very plausible
    conjectures with regard to the consequences of such a
    particular conduct in such particular circumstances; it is
    still supposed imperfect, without the assistance of experience,
    which is alone able to give stability and certainty to the
    maxims, derived from study and reflection.

    But notwithstanding that this distinction be thus universally
    received, both in the active speculative scenes of life, I
    shall not scruple to pronounce, that it is, at bottom,
    erroneous, at least, superficial.

    If we examine those arguments, which, in any of the sciences
    above mentioned, are supposed to be the mere effects of
    reasoning and reflection, they will be found to terminate, at
    last, in some general principle or conclusion, for which we can
    assign no reason but observation and experience. The only
    difference between them and those maxims, which are vulgarly
    esteemed the result of pure experience, is, that the former
    cannot be established without some process of thought, and some
    reflection on what we have observed, in order to distinguish
    its circumstances, and trace its consequences: Whereas in the
    latter, the experienced event is exactly and fully familiar to
    that which we infer as the result of any particular situation.
    The history of a TIBERIUS or a NERO makes us dread a like
    tyranny, were our monarchs freed from the restraints of laws
    and senates: But the observation of any fraud or cruelty in
    private life is sufficient, with the aid of a little thought,
    to give us the same apprehension; while it serves as an
    instance of the general corruption of human nature, and shows
    us the danger which we must incur by reposing an entire
    confidence in mankind. In both cases, it is experience which is
    ultimately the foundation of our inference and conclusion.

    There is no man so young and unexperienced, as not to have
    formed, from observation, many general and just maxims
    concerning human affairs and the conduct of life; but it must
    be confessed, that, when a man comes to put these in practice,
    he will be extremely liable to error, till time and farther
    experience both enlarge these maxims, and teach him their
    proper use and application. In every situation or incident,
    there are many particular and seemingly minute circumstances,
    which the man of greatest talent is, at first, apt to overlook,
    though on them the justness of his conclusions, and
    consequently the prudence of his conduct, entirely depend. Not
    to mention, that, to a young beginner, the general observations
    and maxims occur not always on the proper occasions, nor can be
    immediately applied with due calmness and distinction. The
    truth is, an unexperienced reasoner could be no reasoner at
    all, were he absolutely unexperienced; and when we assign that
    character to any one, we mean it only in a comparative sense,
    and suppose him possessed of experience, in a smaller and more
    imperfect degree.

Custom, then, is the great guide of human life. It is that principle
alone which renders our experience useful to us, and makes us expect,
for the future, a similar train of events with those which have appeared
in the past.

Without the influence of custom, we should be entirely ignorant of every
matter of fact beyond what is immediately present to the memory and
senses. We should never know how to adjust means to ends, or to employ
our natural powers in the production of any effect. There would be an
end at once of all action, as well as of the chief part of speculation.

37. But here it may be proper to remark, that though our conclusions
from experience carry us beyond our memory and senses, and assure us of
matters of fact which happened in the most distant places and most
remote ages, yet some fact must always be present to the senses or
memory, from which we may first proceed in drawing these conclusions. A
man, who should find in a desert country the remains of pompous
buildings, would conclude that the country had, in ancient times, been
cultivated by civilized inhabitants; but did nothing of this nature
occur to him, he could never form such an inference. We learn the events
of former ages from history; but then we must peruse the volumes in
which this instruction is contained, and thence carry up our inferences
from one testimony to another, till we arrive at the eyewitnesses and
spectators of these distant events. In a word, if we proceed not upon
some fact, present to the memory or senses, our reasonings would be
merely hypothetical; and however the particular links might be connected
with each other, the whole chain of inferences would have nothing to
support it, nor could we ever, by its means, arrive at the knowledge of
any real existence. If I ask why you believe any particular matter of
fact, which you relate, you must tell me some reason; and this reason
will be some other fact, connected with it. But as you cannot proceed
after this manner, _in infinitum_, you must at last terminate in some
fact, which is present to your memory or senses; or must allow that your
belief is entirely without foundation.

38. What, then, is the conclusion of the whole matter? A simple one;
though, it must be confessed, pretty remote from the common theories of
philosophy. All belief of matter of fact or real existence is derived
merely from some object, present to the memory or senses, and a
customary conjunction between that and some other object. Or in other
words; having found, in many instances, that any two kinds of
objects--flame and heat, snow and cold--have always been conjoined
together; if flame or snow be presented anew to the senses, the mind is
carried by custom to expect heat or cold, and to _believe_ that such a
quality does exist, and will discover itself upon a nearer approach.
This belief is the necessary result of placing the mind in such
circumstances. It is an operation of the soul, when we are so situated,
as unavoidable as to feel the passion of love, when we receive benefits;
or hatred, when we meet with injuries. All these operations are a
species of natural instincts, which no reasoning or process of the
thought and understanding is able either to produce or to prevent.

At this point, it would be very allowable for us to stop our
philosophical researches. In most questions we can never make a single
step farther; and in all questions we must terminate here at last, after
our most restless and curious enquiries. But still our curiosity will be
pardonable, perhaps commendable, if it carry us on to still farther
researches, and make us examine more accurately the nature of this
_belief_, and of the _customary conjunction_, whence it is derived. By
this means we may meet with some explications and analogies that will
give satisfaction; at least to such as love the abstract sciences, and
can be entertained with speculations, which, however accurate, may still
retain a degree of doubt and uncertainty. As to readers of a different
taste; the remaining part of this section is not calculated for them,
and the following enquiries may well be understood, though it be


39. Nothing is more free than the imagination of man; and though it
cannot exceed that original stock of ideas furnished by the internal and
external senses, it has unlimited power of mixing, compounding,
separating, and dividing these ideas, in all the varieties of fiction
and vision. It can feign a train of events, with all the appearance of
reality, ascribe to them a particular time and place, conceive them as
existent, and paint them out to itself with every circumstance, that
belongs to any historical fact, which it believes with the greatest
certainty. Wherein, therefore, consists the difference between such a
fiction and belief? It lies not merely in any peculiar idea, which is
annexed to such a conception as commands our assent, and which is
wanting to every known fiction. For as the mind has authority over all
its ideas, it could voluntarily annex this particular idea to any
fiction, and consequently be able to believe whatever it pleases;
contrary to what we find by daily experience. We can, in our conception,
join the head of a man to the body of a horse; but it is not in our
power to believe that such an animal has ever really existed.

It follows, therefore, that the difference between _fiction_ and
_belief_ lies in some sentiment or feeling, which is annexed to the
latter, not to the former, and which depends not on the will, nor can be
commanded at pleasure. It must be excited by nature, like all other
sentiments; and must arise from the particular situation, in which the
mind is placed at any particular juncture. Whenever any object is
presented to the memory or senses, it immediately, by the force of
custom, carries the imagination to conceive that object, which is
usually conjoined to it; and this conception is attended with a feeling
or sentiment, different from the loose reveries of the fancy. In this
consists the whole nature of belief. For as there is no matter of fact
which we believe so firmly that we cannot conceive the contrary, there
would be no difference between the conception assented to and that which
is rejected, were it not for some sentiment which distinguishes the one
from the other. If I see a billiard-ball moving towards another, on a
smooth table, I can easily conceive it to stop upon contact. This
conception implies no contradiction; but still it feels very differently
from that conception by which I represent to myself the impulse and the
communication of motion from one ball to another.

40. Were we to attempt a _definition_ of this sentiment, we should,
perhaps, find it a very difficult, if not an impossible task; in the
same manner as if we should endeavour to define the feeling of cold or
passion of anger, to a creature who never had any experience of these
sentiments. Belief is the true and proper name of this feeling; and no
one is ever at a loss to know the meaning of that term; because every
man is every moment conscious of the sentiment represented by it. It may
not, however, be improper to attempt a _description_ of this sentiment;
in hopes we may, by that means, arrive at some analogies, which may
afford a more perfect explication of it. I say, then, that belief is
nothing but a more vivid, lively, forcible, firm, steady conception of
an object, than what the imagination alone is ever able to attain. This
variety of terms, which may seem so unphilosophical, is intended only to
express that act of the mind, which renders realities, or what is taken
for such, more present to us than fictions, causes them to weigh more in
the thought, and gives them a superior influence on the passions and
imagination. Provided we agree about the thing, it is needless to
dispute about the terms. The imagination has the command over all its
ideas, and can join and mix and vary them, in all the ways possible. It
may conceive fictitious objects with all the circumstances of place and
time. It may set them, in a manner, before our eyes, in their true
colours, just as they might have existed. But as it is impossible that
this faculty of imagination can ever, of itself, reach belief, it is
evident that belief consists not in the peculiar nature or order of
ideas, but in the _manner_ of their conception, and in their _feeling_
to the mind. I confess, that it is impossible perfectly to explain this
feeling or manner of conception. We may make use of words which express
something near it. But its true and proper name, as we observed before,
is _belief_; which is a term that every one sufficiently understands in
common life. And in philosophy, we can go no farther than assert, that
_belief_ is something felt by the mind, which distinguishes the ideas of
the judgement from the fictions of the imagination. It gives them more
weight and influence; makes them appear of greater importance; enforces
them in the mind; and renders them the governing principle of our
actions. I hear at present, for instance, a person's voice, with whom I
am acquainted; and the sound comes as from the next room. This
impression of my senses immediately conveys my thought to the person,
together with all the surrounding objects. I paint them out to myself as
existing at present, with the same qualities and relations, of which I
formerly knew them possessed. These ideas take faster hold of my mind
than ideas of an enchanted castle. They are very different to the
feeling, and have a much greater influence of every kind, either to give
pleasure or pain, joy or sorrow.

Let us, then, take in the whole compass of this doctrine, and allow,
that the sentiment of belief is nothing but a conception more intense
and steady than what attends the mere fictions of the imagination, and
that this _manner_ of conception arises from a customary conjunction of
the object with something present to the memory or senses: I believe
that it will not be difficult, upon these suppositions, to find other
operations of the mind analogous to it, and to trace up these phenomena
to principles still more general.

41. We have already observed that nature has established connexions
among particular ideas, and that no sooner one idea occurs to our
thoughts than it introduces its correlative, and carries our attention
towards it, by a gentle and insensible movement. These principles of
connexion or association we have reduced to three, namely,
_Resemblance_, _Contiguity_ and _Causation_; which are the only bonds
that unite our thoughts together, and beget that regular train of
reflection or discourse, which, in a greater or less degree, takes place
among all mankind. Now here arises a question, on which the solution of
the present difficulty will depend. Does it happen, in all these
relations, that, when one of the objects is presented to the senses or
memory, the mind is not only carried to the conception of the
correlative, but reaches a steadier and stronger conception of it than
what otherwise it would have been able to attain? This seems to be the
case with that belief which arises from the relation of cause and
effect. And if the case be the same with the other relations or
principles of associations, this may be established as a general law,
which takes place in all the operations of the mind.

We may, therefore, observe, as the first experiment to our present
purpose, that, upon the appearance of the picture of an absent friend,
our idea of him is evidently enlivened by the _resemblance_, and that
every passion, which that idea occasions, whether of joy or sorrow,
acquires new force and vigour. In producing this effect, there concur
both a relation and a present impression. Where the picture bears him no
resemblance, at least was not intended for him, it never so much as
conveys our thought to him: And where it is absent, as well as the
person, though the mind may pass from the thought of the one to that of
the other, it feels its idea to be rather weakened than enlivened by
that transition. We take a pleasure in viewing the picture of a friend,
when it is set before us; but when it is removed, rather choose to
consider him directly than by reflection in an image, which is equally
distant and obscure.

The ceremonies of the Roman Catholic religion may be considered as
instances of the same nature. The devotees of that superstition usually
plead in excuse for the mummeries, with which they are upbraided, that
they feel the good effect of those external motions, and postures, and
actions, in enlivening their devotion and quickening their fervour,
which otherwise would decay, if directed entirely to distant and
immaterial objects. We shadow out the objects of our faith, say they, in
sensible types and images, and render them more present to us by the
immediate presence of these types, than it is possible for us to do
merely by an intellectual view and contemplation. Sensible objects have
always a greater influence on the fancy than any other; and this
influence they readily convey to those ideas to which they are related,
and which they resemble. I shall only infer from these practices, and
this reasoning, that the effect of resemblance in enlivening the ideas
is very common; and as in every case a resemblance and a present
impression must concur, we are abundantly supplied with experiments to
prove the reality of the foregoing principle.

42. We may add force to these experiments by others of a different kind,
in considering the effects of _contiguity_ as well as of _resemblance_.
It is certain that distance diminishes the force of every idea, and
that, upon our approach to any object; though it does not discover
itself to our senses; it operates upon the mind with an influence, which
imitates an immediate impression. The thinking on any object readily
transports the mind to what is contiguous; but it is only the actual
presence of an object, that transports it with a superior vivacity. When
I am a few miles from home, whatever relates to it touches me more
nearly than when I am two hundred leagues distant; though even at that
distance the reflecting on any thing in the neighbourhood of my friends
or family naturally produces an idea of them. But as in this latter
case, both the objects of the mind are ideas; notwithstanding there is
an easy transition between them; that transition alone is not able to
give a superior vivacity to any of the ideas, for want of some immediate

    [8] 'Naturane nobis, inquit, datum dicam, an errore quodam, ut,
    cum ea loca videamus, in quibus memoria dignos viros
    acceperimus multum esse versatos, magis moveamur, quam siquando
    eorum ipsorum aut facta audiamus aut scriptum aliquod legamus?
    Velut ego nunc moveor. Venit enim mihi Plato in mentem, quera
    accepimus primum hic disputare solitum: cuius etiam illi
    hortuli propinqui non memoriam solum mihi afferunt, sed ipsum
    videntur in conspectu meo hic ponere. Hic Speusippus, hic
    Xenocrates, hic eius auditor Polemo; cuius ipsa illa sessio
    fuit, quam videmus. Equidem etiam curiam nostram, Hostiliam
    dico, non hanc novam, quae mihi minor esse videtur postquam est
    maior, solebam intuens, Scipionem, Catonem, Laelium, nostrum
    vero in primis avum cogitare. Tanta vis admonitionis est in
    locis; ut non sine causa ex his memoriae deducta sit

    _Cicero de Finibus_. Lib. v.

43. No one can doubt but causation has the same influence as the other
two relations of resemblance and contiguity. Superstitious people are
fond of the reliques of saints and holy men, for the same reason, that
they seek after types or images, in order to enliven their devotion, and
give them a more intimate and strong conception of those exemplary
lives, which they desire to imitate. Now it is evident, that one of the
best reliques, which a devotee could procure, would be the handywork of
a saint; and if his cloaths and furniture are ever to be considered in
this light, it is because they were once at his disposal, and were moved
and affected by him; in which respect they are to be considered as
imperfect effects, and as connected with him by a shorter chain of
consequences than any of those, by which we learn the reality of his

Suppose, that the son of a friend, who had been long dead or absent,
were presented to us; it is evident, that this object would instantly
revive its correlative idea, and recal to our thoughts all past
intimacies and familiarities, in more lively colours than they would
otherwise have appeared to us. This is another phaenomenon, which seems
to prove the principle above mentioned.

44. We may observe, that, in these phaenomena, the belief of the
correlative object is always presupposed; without which the relation
could have no effect. The influence of the picture supposes, that we
_believe_ our friend to have once existed. Contiguity to home can never
excite our ideas of home, unless we _believe_ that it really exists. Now
I assert, that this belief, where it reaches beyond the memory or
senses, is of a similar nature, and arises from similar causes, with the
transition of thought and vivacity of conception here explained. When I
throw a piece of dry wood into a fire, my mind is immediately carried to
conceive, that it augments, not extinguishes the flame. This transition
of thought from the cause to the effect proceeds not from reason. It
derives its origin altogether from custom and experience. And as it
first begins from an object, present to the senses, it renders the idea
or conception of flame more strong and lively than any loose, floating
reverie of the imagination. That idea arises immediately. The thought
moves instantly towards it, and conveys to it all that force of
conception, which is derived from the impression present to the senses.
When a sword is levelled at my breast, does not the idea of wound and
pain strike me more strongly, than when a glass of wine is presented to
me, even though by accident this idea should occur after the appearance
of the latter object? But what is there in this whole matter to cause
such a strong conception, except only a present object and a customary
transition to the idea of another object, which we have been accustomed
to conjoin with the former? This is the whole operation of the mind, in
all our conclusions concerning matter of fact and existence; and it is a
satisfaction to find some analogies, by which it may be explained. The
transition from a present object does in all cases give strength and
solidity to the related idea.

Here, then, is a kind of pre-established harmony between the course of
nature and the succession of our ideas; and though the powers and
forces, by which the former is governed, be wholly unknown to us; yet
our thoughts and conceptions have still, we find, gone on in the same
train with the other works of nature. Custom is that principle, by which
this correspondence has been effected; so necessary to the subsistence
of our species, and the regulation of our conduct, in every circumstance
and occurrence of human life. Had not the presence of an object,
instantly excited the idea of those objects, commonly conjoined with it,
all our knowledge must have been limited to the narrow sphere of our
memory and senses; and we should never have been able to adjust means to
ends, or employ our natural powers, either to the producing of good, or
avoiding of evil. Those, who delight in the discovery and contemplation
of _final causes_, have here ample subject to employ their wonder and

45. I shall add, for a further confirmation of the foregoing theory,
that, as this operation of the mind, by which we infer like effects from
like causes, and _vice versa_, is so essential to the subsistence of all
human creatures, it is not probable, that it could be trusted to the
fallacious deductions of our reason, which is slow in its operations;
appears not, in any degree, during the first years of infancy; and at
best is, in every age and period of human life, extremely liable to
error and mistake. It is more conformable to the ordinary wisdom of
nature to secure so necessary an act of the mind, by some instinct or
mechanical tendency, which may be infallible in its operations, may
discover itself at the first appearance of life and thought, and may be
independent of all the laboured deductions of the understanding. As
nature has taught us the use of our limbs, without giving us the
knowledge of the muscles and nerves, by which they are actuated; so has
she implanted in us an instinct, which carries forward the thought in a
correspondent course to that which she has established among external
objects; though we are ignorant of those powers and forces, on which
this regular course and succession of objects totally depends.



    [9] Mr. Locke divides all arguments into demonstrative and
    probable. In this view, we must say, that it is only probable
    all men must die, or that the sun will rise to-morrow. But to
    conform our language more to common use, we ought to divide
    arguments into _demonstrations_, _proofs_, and _probabilities_.
    By proofs meaning such arguments from experience as leave no
    room for doubt or opposition.

46. Though there be no such thing as _Chance_ in the world; our
ignorance of the real cause of any event has the same influence on the
understanding, and begets a like species of belief or opinion.

There is certainly a probability, which arises from a superiority of
chances on any side; and according as this superiority encreases, and
surpasses the opposite chances, the probability receives a
proportionable encrease, and begets still a higher degree of belief or
assent to that side, in which we discover the superiority. If a dye were
marked with one figure or number of spots on four sides, and with
another figure or number of spots on the two remaining sides, it would
be more probable, that the former would turn up than the latter; though,
if it had a thousand sides marked in the same manner, and only one side
different, the probability would be much higher, and our belief or
expectation of the event more steady and secure. This process of the
thought or reasoning may seem trivial and obvious; but to those who
consider it more narrowly, it may, perhaps, afford matter for curious

It seems evident, that, when the mind looks forward to discover the
event, which may result from the throw of such a dye, it considers the
turning up of each particular side as alike probable; and this is the
very nature of chance, to render all the particular events, comprehended
in it, entirely equal. But finding a greater number of sides concur in
the one event than in the other, the mind is carried more frequently to
that event, and meets it oftener, in revolving the various possibilities
or chances, on which the ultimate result depends. This concurrence of
several views in one particular event begets immediately, by an
inexplicable contrivance of nature, the sentiment of belief, and gives
that event the advantage over its antagonist, which is supported by a
smaller number of views, and recurs less frequently to the mind. If we
allow, that belief is nothing but a firmer and stronger conception of an
object than what attends the mere fictions of the imagination, this
operation may, perhaps, in some measure, be accounted for. The
concurrence of these several views or glimpses imprints the idea more
strongly on the imagination; gives it superior force and vigour; renders
its influence on the passions and affections more sensible; and in a
word, begets that reliance or security, which constitutes the nature of
belief and opinion.

47. The case is the same with the probability of causes, as with that of
chance. There are some causes, which are entirely uniform and constant
in producing a particular effect; and no instance has ever yet been
found of any failure or irregularity in their operation. Fire has always
burned, and water suffocated every human creature: The production of
motion by impulse and gravity is an universal law, which has hitherto
admitted of no exception. But there are other causes, which have been
found more irregular and uncertain; nor has rhubarb always proved a
purge, or opium a soporific to every one, who has taken these medicines.
It is true, when any cause fails of producing its usual effect,
philosophers ascribe not this to any irregularity in nature; but
suppose, that some secret causes, in the particular structure of parts,
have prevented the operation. Our reasonings, however, and conclusions
concerning the event are the same as if this principle had no place.
Being determined by custom to transfer the past to the future, in all
our inferences; where the past has been entirely regular and uniform, we
expect the event with the greatest assurance, and leave no room for any
contrary supposition. But where different effects have been found to
follow from causes, which are to _appearance_ exactly similar, all these
various effects must occur to the mind in transferring the past to the
future, and enter into our consideration, when we determine the
probability of the event. Though we give the preference to that which
has been found most usual, and believe that this effect will exist, we
must not overlook the other effects, but must assign to each of them a
particular weight and authority, in proportion as we have found it to be
more or less frequent. It is more probable, in almost every country of
Europe, that there will be frost sometime in January, than that the
weather will continue open throughout that whole month; though this
probability varies according to the different climates, and approaches
to a certainty in the more northern kingdoms. Here then it seems
evident, that, when we transfer the past to the future, in order to
determine the effect, which will result from any cause, we transfer all
the different events, in the same proportion as they have appeared in
the past, and conceive one to have existed a hundred times, for
instance, another ten times, and another once. As a great number of
views do here concur in one event, they fortify and confirm it to the
imagination, beget that sentiment which we call _belief,_ and give its
object the preference above the contrary event, which is not supported
by an equal number of experiments, and recurs not so frequently to the
thought in transferring the past to the future. Let any one try to
account for this operation of the mind upon any of the received systems
of philosophy, and he will be sensible of the difficulty. For my part, I
shall think it sufficient, if the present hints excite the curiosity of
philosophers, and make them sensible how defective all common theories
are in treating of such curious and such sublime subjects.




48. The great advantage of the mathematical sciences above the moral
consists in this, that the ideas of the former, being sensible, are
always clear and determinate, the smallest distinction between them is
immediately perceptible, and the same terms are still expressive of the
same ideas, without ambiguity or variation. An oval is never mistaken
for a circle, nor an hyperbola for an ellipsis. The isosceles and
scalenum are distinguished by boundaries more exact than vice and
virtue, right and wrong. If any term be defined in geometry, the mind
readily, of itself, substitutes, on all occasions, the definition for
the term defined: Or even when no definition is employed, the object
itself may be presented to the senses, and by that means be steadily and
clearly apprehended. But the finer sentiments of the mind, the
operations of the understanding, the various agitations of the passions,
though really in themselves distinct, easily escape us, when surveyed by
reflection; nor is it in our power to recal the original object, as
often as we have occasion to contemplate it. Ambiguity, by this means,
is gradually introduced into our reasonings: Similar objects are readily
taken to be the same: And the conclusion becomes at last very wide of
the premises.

One may safely, however, affirm, that, if we consider these sciences in
a proper light, their advantages and disadvantages nearly compensate
each other, and reduce both of them to a state of equality. If the mind,
with greater facility, retains the ideas of geometry clear and
determinate, it must carry on a much longer and more intricate chain of
reasoning, and compare ideas much wider of each other, in order to reach
the abstruser truths of that science. And if moral ideas are apt,
without extreme care, to fall into obscurity and confusion, the
inferences are always much shorter in these disquisitions, and the
intermediate steps, which lead to the conclusion, much fewer than in the
sciences which treat of quantity and number. In reality, there is
scarcely a proposition in Euclid so simple, as not to consist of more
parts, than are to be found in any moral reasoning which runs not into
chimera and conceit. Where we trace the principles of the human mind
through a few steps, we may be very well satisfied with our progress;
considering how soon nature throws a bar to all our enquiries concerning
causes, and reduces us to an acknowledgment of our ignorance. The chief
obstacle, therefore, to our improvement in the moral or metaphysical
sciences is the obscurity of the ideas, and ambiguity of the terms. The
principal difficulty in the mathematics is the length of inferences and
compass of thought, requisite to the forming of any conclusion. And,
perhaps, our progress in natural philosophy is chiefly retarded by the
want of proper experiments and phaenomena, which are often discovered by
chance, and cannot always be found, when requisite, even by the most
diligent and prudent enquiry. As moral philosophy seems hitherto to have
received less improvement than either geometry or physics, we may
conclude, that, if there be any difference in this respect among these
sciences, the difficulties, which obstruct the progress of the former,
require superior care and capacity to be surmounted.

49. There are no ideas, which occur in metaphysics, more obscure and
uncertain, than those of _power, force, energy_ or _necessary
connexion_, of which it is every moment necessary for us to treat in all
our disquisitions. We shall, therefore, endeavour, in this section, to
fix, if possible, the precise meaning of these terms, and thereby remove
some part of that obscurity, which is so much complained of in this
species of philosophy.

It seems a proposition, which will not admit of much dispute, that all
our ideas are nothing but copies of our impressions, or, in other words,
that it is impossible for us to _think_ of any thing, which we have not
antecedently _felt_, either by our external or internal senses. I have
endeavoured[10] to explain and prove this proposition, and have expressed
my hopes, that, by a proper application of it, men may reach a greater
clearness and precision in philosophical reasonings, than what they have
hitherto been able to attain. Complex ideas may, perhaps, be well known
by definition, which is nothing but an enumeration of those parts or
simple ideas, that compose them. But when we have pushed up definitions
to the most simple ideas, and find still some ambiguity and obscurity;
what resource are we then possessed of? By what invention can we throw
light upon these ideas, and render them altogether precise and
determinate to our intellectual view? Produce the impressions or
original sentiments, from which the ideas are copied. These impressions
are all strong and sensible. They admit not of ambiguity. They are not
only placed in a full light themselves, but may throw light on their
correspondent ideas, which lie in obscurity. And by this means, we may,
perhaps, attain a new microscope or species of optics, by which, in the
moral sciences, the most minute, and most simple ideas may be so
enlarged as to fall readily under our apprehension, and be equally known
with the grossest and most sensible ideas, that can be the object of
our enquiry.

    [10] Section II.

50. To be fully acquainted, therefore, with the idea of power or
necessary connexion, let us examine its impression; and in order to find
the impression with greater certainty, let us search for it in all the
sources, from which it may possibly be derived.

When we look about us towards external objects, and consider the
operation of causes, we are never able, in a single instance, to
discover any power or necessary connexion; any quality, which binds the
effect to the cause, and renders the one an infallible consequence of
the other. We only find, that the one does actually, in fact, follow the
other. The impulse of one billiard-ball is attended with motion in the
second. This is the whole that appears to the _outward_ senses. The mind
feels no sentiment or _inward_ impression from this succession of
objects: Consequently, there is not, in any single, particular instance
of cause and effect, any thing which can suggest the idea of power or
necessary connexion.

From the first appearance of an object, we never can conjecture what
effect will result from it. But were the power or energy of any cause
discoverable by the mind, we could foresee the effect, even without
experience; and might, at first, pronounce with certainty concerning it,
by mere dint of thought and reasoning.

In reality, there is no part of matter, that does ever, by its sensible
qualities, discover any power or energy, or give us ground to imagine,
that it could produce any thing, or be followed by any other object,
which we could denominate its effect. Solidity, extension, motion; these
qualities are all complete in themselves, and never point out any other
event which may result from them. The scenes of the universe are
continually shifting, and one object follows another in an uninterrupted
succession; but the power of force, which actuates the whole machine, is
entirely concealed from us, and never discovers itself in any of the
sensible qualities of body. We know, that, in fact, heat is a constant
attendant of flame; but what is the connexion between them, we have no
room so much as to conjecture or imagine. It is impossible, therefore,
that the idea of power can be derived from the contemplation of bodies,
in single instances of their operation; because no bodies ever discover
any power, which can be the original of this idea.[11]

    [11] Mr. Locke, in his chapter of power, says that, finding
    from experience, that there are several new productions in
    nature, and concluding that there must somewhere be a power
    capable of producing them, we arrive at last by this reasoning
    at the idea of power. But no reasoning can ever give us a new,
    original, simple idea; as this philosopher himself confesses.
    This, therefore, can never be the origin of that idea.

51. Since, therefore, external objects as they appear to the senses,
give us no idea of power or necessary connexion, by their operation in
particular instances, let us see, whether this idea be derived from
reflection on the operations of our own minds, and be copied from any
internal impression. It may be said, that we are every moment conscious
of internal power; while we feel, that, by the simple command of our
will, we can move the organs of our body, or direct the faculties of our
mind. An act of volition produces motion in our limbs, or raises a new
idea in our imagination. This influence of the will we know by
consciousness. Hence we acquire the idea of power or energy; and are
certain, that we ourselves and all other intelligent beings are
possessed of power. This idea, then, is an idea of reflection, since it
arises from reflecting on the operations of our own mind, and on the
command which is exercised by will, both over the organs of the body and
faculties of the soul.

52. We shall proceed to examine this pretension; and first with regard
to the influence of volition over the organs of the body. This
influence, we may observe, is a fact, which, like all other natural
events, can be known only by experience, and can never be foreseen from
any apparent energy or power in the cause, which connects it with the
effect, and renders the one an infallible consequence of the other. The
motion of our body follows upon the command of our will. Of this we are
every moment conscious. But the means, by which this is effected; the
energy, by which the will performs so extraordinary an operation; of
this we are so far from being immediately conscious, that it must for
ever escape our most diligent enquiry.

For _first_; is there any principle in all nature more mysterious than
the union of soul with body; by which a supposed spiritual substance
acquires such an influence over a material one, that the most refined
thought is able to actuate the grossest matter? Were we empowered, by a
secret wish, to remove mountains, or control the planets in their orbit;
this extensive authority would not be more extraordinary, nor more
beyond our comprehension. But if by consciousness we perceived any power
or energy in the will, we must know this power; we must know its
connexion with the effect; we must know the secret union of soul and
body, and the nature of both these substances; by which the one is able
to operate, in so many instances, upon the other.

_Secondly_, We are not able to move all the organs of the body with a
like authority; though we cannot assign any reason besides experience,
for so remarkable a difference between one and the other. Why has the
will an influence over the tongue and fingers, not over the heart or
liver? This question would never embarrass us, were we conscious of a
power in the former case, not in the latter. We should then perceive,
independent of experience, why the authority of will over the organs of
the body is circumscribed within such particular limits. Being in that
case fully acquainted with the power or force, by which it operates, we
should also know, why its influence reaches precisely to such
boundaries, and no farther.

A man, suddenly struck with palsy in the leg or arm, or who had newly
lost those members, frequently endeavours, at first to move them, and
employ them in their usual offices. Here he is as much conscious of
power to command such limbs, as a man in perfect health is conscious of
power to actuate any member which remains in its natural state and
condition. But consciousness never deceives. Consequently, neither in
the one case nor in the other, are we ever conscious of any power. We
learn the influence of our will from experience alone. And experience
only teaches us, how one event constantly follows another; without
instructing us in the secret connexion, which binds them together, and
renders them inseparable.

_Thirdly,_ We learn from anatomy, that the immediate object of power in
voluntary motion, is not the member itself which is moved, but certain
muscles, and nerves, and animal spirits, and, perhaps, something still
more minute and more unknown, through which the motion is successively
propagated, ere it reach the member itself whose motion is the immediate
object of volition. Can there be a more certain proof, that the power,
by which this whole operation is performed, so far from being directly
and fully known by an inward sentiment or consciousness, is, to the last
degree mysterious and unintelligible? Here the mind wills a certain
event: Immediately another event, unknown to ourselves, and totally
different from the one intended, is produced: This event produces
another, equally unknown: Till at last, through a long succession, the
desired event is produced. But if the original power were felt, it must
be known: Were it known, its effect also must be known; since all power
is relative to its effect. And _vice versa,_ if the effect be not known,
the power cannot be known nor felt. How indeed can we be conscious of a
power to move our limbs, when we have no such power; but only that to
move certain animal spirits, which, though they produce at last the
motion of our limbs, yet operate in such a manner as is wholly beyond
our comprehension?

We may, therefore, conclude from the whole, I hope, without any
temerity, though with assurance; that our idea of power is not copied
from any sentiment or consciousness of power within ourselves, when we
give rise to animal motion, or apply our limbs to their proper use and
office. That their motion follows the command of the will is a matter of
common experience, like other natural events: But the power or energy by
which this is effected, like that in other natural events, is unknown
and inconceivable.[12]

    [12] It may be pretended, that the resistance which we meet
    with in bodies, obliging us frequently to exert our force, and
    call up all our power, this gives us the idea of force and
    power. It is this _nisus_, or strong endeavour, of which we are
    conscious, that is the original impression from which this idea
    is copied. But, first, we attribute power to a vast number of
    objects, where we never can suppose this resistance or exertion
    of force to take place; to the Supreme Being, who never meets
    with any resistance; to the mind in its command over its ideas
    and limbs, in common thinking and motion, where the effect
    follows immediately upon the will, without any exertion or
    summoning up of force; to inanimate matter, which is not
    capable of this sentiment. _Secondly,_ This sentiment of an
    endeavour to overcome resistance has no known connexion with
    any event: What follows it, we know by experience; but could
    not know it _à priori._ It must, however, be confessed, that
    the animal _nisus,_ which we experience, though it can afford
    no accurate precise idea of power, enters very much into that
    vulgar, inaccurate idea, which is formed of it.

53. Shall we then assert, that we are conscious of a power or energy in
our own minds, when, by an act or command of our will, we raise up a new
idea, fix the mind to the contemplation of it, turn it on all sides, and
at last dismiss it for some other idea, when we think that we have
surveyed it with sufficient accuracy? I believe the same arguments will
prove, that even this command of the will gives us no real idea of force
or energy.

_First,_ It must be allowed, that, when we know a power, we know that
very circumstance in the cause, by which it is enabled to produce the
effect: For these are supposed to be synonimous. We must, therefore,
know both the cause and effect, and the relation between them. But do we
pretend to be acquainted with the nature of the human soul and the
nature of an idea, or the aptitude of the one to produce the other? This
is a real creation; a production of something out of nothing: Which
implies a power so great, that it may seem, at first sight, beyond the
reach of any being, less than infinite. At least it must be owned, that
such a power is not felt, nor known, nor even conceivable by the mind.
We only feel the event, namely, the existence of an idea, consequent to
a command of the will: But the manner, in which this operation is
performed, the power by which it is produced, is entirely beyond our

_Secondly_, The command of the mind over itself is limited, as well as
its command over the body; and these limits are not known by reason, or
any acquaintance with the nature of cause and effect, but only by
experience and observation, as in all other natural events and in the
operation of external objects. Our authority over our sentiments and
passions is much weaker than that over our ideas; and even the latter
authority is circumscribed within very narrow boundaries. Will any one
pretend to assign the ultimate reason of these boundaries, or show why
the power is deficient in one case, not in another.

_Thirdly_, This self-command is very different at different times. A man
in health possesses more of it than one languishing with sickness. We
are more master of our thoughts in the morning than in the evening:
Fasting, than after a full meal. Can we give any reason for these
variations, except experience? Where then is the power, of which we
pretend to be conscious? Is there not here, either in a spiritual or
material substance, or both, some secret mechanism or structure of
parts, upon which the effect depends, and which, being entirely unknown
to us, renders the power or energy of the will equally unknown and

Volition is surely an act of the mind, with which we are sufficiently
acquainted. Reflect upon it. Consider it on all sides. Do you find
anything in it like this creative power, by which it raises from nothing
a new idea, and with a kind of _Fiat_, imitates the omnipotence of its
Maker, if I may be allowed so to speak, who called forth into existence
all the various scenes of nature? So far from being conscious of this
energy in the will, it requires as certain experience as that of which
we are possessed, to convince us that such extraordinary effects do ever
result from a simple act of volition.

54. The generality of mankind never find any difficulty in accounting
for the more common and familiar operations of nature--such as the
descent of heavy bodies, the growth of plants, the generation of
animals, or the nourishment of bodies by food: But suppose that, in all
these cases, they perceive the very force or energy of the cause, by
which it is connected with its effect, and is for ever infallible in its
operation. They acquire, by long habit, such a turn of mind, that, upon
the appearance of the cause, they immediately expect with assurance its
usual attendant, and hardly conceive it possible that any other event
could result from it. It is only on the discovery of extraordinary
phaenomena, such as earthquakes, pestilence, and prodigies of any kind,
that they find themselves at a loss to assign a proper cause, and to
explain the manner in which the effect is produced by it. It is usual
for men, in such difficulties, to have recourse to some invisible
intelligent principle[13] as the immediate cause of that event which
surprises them, and which, they think, cannot be accounted for from the
common powers of nature. But philosophers, who carry their scrutiny a
little farther, immediately perceive that, even in the most familiar
events, the energy of the cause is as unintelligible as in the most
unusual, and that we only learn by experience the frequent _Conjunction_
of objects, without being ever able to comprehend anything like
_Connexion_ between them.

    [13] [Greek: theos apo maechanaes.]

55. Here, then, many philosophers think themselves obliged by reason to
have recourse, on all occasions, to the same principle, which the vulgar
never appeal to but in cases that appear miraculous and supernatural.
They acknowledge mind and intelligence to be, not only the ultimate and
original cause of all things, but the immediate and sole cause of every
event which appears in nature. They pretend that those objects which are
commonly denominated _causes,_ are in reality nothing but _occasions;_
and that the true and direct principle of every effect is not any power
or force in nature, but a volition of the Supreme Being, who wills that
such particular objects should for ever be conjoined with each other.
Instead of saying that one billiard-ball moves another by a force which
it has derived from the author of nature, it is the Deity himself, they
say, who, by a particular volition, moves the second ball, being
determined to this operation by the impulse of the first ball, in
consequence of those general laws which he has laid down to himself in
the government of the universe. But philosophers advancing still in
their inquiries, discover that, as we are totally ignorant of the power
on which depends the mutual operation of bodies, we are no less ignorant
of that power on which depends the operation of mind on body, or of body
on mind; nor are we able, either from our senses or consciousness, to
assign the ultimate principle in one case more than in the other. The
same ignorance, therefore, reduces them to the same conclusion. They
assert that the Deity is the immediate cause of the union between soul
and body; and that they are not the organs of sense, which, being
agitated by external objects, produce sensations in the mind; but that
it is a particular volition of our omnipotent Maker, which excites such
a sensation, in consequence of such a motion in the organ. In like
manner, it is not any energy in the will that produces local motion in
our members: It is God himself, who is pleased to second our will, in
itself impotent, and to command that motion which we erroneously
attribute to our own power and efficacy. Nor do philosophers stop at
this conclusion. They sometimes extend the same inference to the mind
itself, in its internal operations. Our mental vision or conception of
ideas is nothing but a revelation made to us by our Maker. When we
voluntarily turn our thoughts to any object, and raise up its image in
the fancy, it is not the will which creates that idea: It is the
universal Creator, who discovers it to the mind, and renders it
present to us.

56. Thus, according to these philosophers, every thing is full of God.
Not content with the principle, that nothing exists but by his will,
that nothing possesses any power but by his concession: They rob nature,
and all created beings, of every power, in order to render their
dependence on the Deity still more sensible and immediate. They consider
not that, by this theory, they diminish, instead of magnifying, the
grandeur of those attributes, which they affect so much to celebrate. It
argues surely more power in the Deity to delegate a certain degree of
power to inferior creatures than to produce every thing by his own
immediate volition. It argues more wisdom to contrive at first the
fabric of the world with such perfect foresight that, of itself, and by
its proper operation, it may serve all the purposes of providence, than
if the great Creator were obliged every moment to adjust its parts, and
animate by his breath all the wheels of that stupendous machine.

But if we would have a more philosophical confutation of this theory,
perhaps the two following reflections may suffice.

57. _First_, it seems to me that this theory of the universal energy and
operation of the Supreme Being is too bold ever to carry conviction with
it to a man, sufficiently apprized of the weakness of human reason, and
the narrow limits to which it is confined in all its operations. Though
the chain of arguments which conduct to it were ever so logical, there
must arise a strong suspicion, if not an absolute assurance, that it has
carried us quite beyond the reach of our faculties, when it leads to
conclusions so extraordinary, and so remote from common life and
experience. We are got into fairy land, long ere we have reached the
last steps of our theory; and _there_ we have no reason to trust our
common methods of argument, or to think that our usual analogies and
probabilities have any authority. Our line is too short to fathom such
immense abysses. And however we may flatter ourselves that we are
guided, in every step which we take, by a kind of verisimilitude and
experience, we may be assured that this fancied experience has no
authority when we thus apply it to subjects that lie entirely out of the
sphere of experience. But on this we shall have occasion to touch

    [14] Section XII.

_Secondly,_ I cannot perceive any force in the arguments on which this
theory is founded. We are ignorant, it is true, of the manner in which
bodies operate on each other: Their force or energy is entirely
incomprehensible: But are we not equally ignorant of the manner or force
by which a mind, even the supreme mind, operates either on itself or on
body? Whence, I beseech you, do we acquire any idea of it? We have no
sentiment or consciousness of this power in ourselves. We have no idea
of the Supreme Being but what we learn from reflection on our own
faculties. Were our ignorance, therefore, a good reason for rejecting
any thing, we should be led into that principle of denying all energy in
the Supreme Being as much as in the grossest matter. We surely
comprehend as little the operations of one as of the other. Is it more
difficult to conceive that motion may arise from impulse than that it
may arise from volition? All we know is our profound ignorance in
both cases[15].

    [15] I need not examine at length the _vis inertiae_ which is
    so much talked of in the new philosophy, and which is ascribed
    to matter. We find by experience, that a body at rest or in
    motion continues for ever in its present state, till put from
    it by some new cause; and that a body impelled takes as much
    motion from the impelling body as it acquires itself. These are
    facts. When we call this a _vis inertiae_, we only mark these
    facts, without pretending to have any idea of the inert power;
    in the same manner as, when we talk of gravity, we mean certain
    effects, without comprehending that active power. It was never
    the meaning of Sir ISAAC NEWTON to rob second causes of all
    force or energy; though some of his followers have endeavoured
    to establish that theory upon his authority. On the contrary,
    that great philosopher had recourse to an etherial active fluid
    to explain his universal attraction; though he was so cautious
    and modest as to allow, that it was a mere hypothesis, not to
    be insisted on, without more experiments. I must confess, that
    there is something in the fate of opinions a little
    extraordinary. DES CARTES insinuated that doctrine of the
    universal and sole efficacy of the Deity, without insisting on
    it. MALEBRANCHE and other CARTESIANS made it the foundation of
    all their philosophy. It had, however, no authority in England.
    LOCKE, CLARKE, and CUDWORTH, never so much as take notice of
    it, but suppose all along, that matter has a real, though
    subordinate and derived power. By what means has it become so
    prevalent among our modern metaphysicians?


58. But to hasten to a conclusion of this argument, which is already
drawn out to too great a length: We have sought in vain for an idea of
power or necessary connexion in all the sources from which we could
suppose it to be derived. It appears that, in single instances of the
operation of bodies, we never can, by our utmost scrutiny, discover any
thing but one event following another, without being able to comprehend
any force or power by which the cause operates, or any connexion between
it and its supposed effect. The same difficulty occurs in contemplating
the operations of mind on body--where we observe the motion of the
latter to follow upon the volition of the former, but are not able to
observe or conceive the tie which binds together the motion and
volition, or the energy by which the mind produces this effect. The
authority of the will over its own faculties and ideas is not a whit
more comprehensible: So that, upon the whole, there appears not,
throughout all nature, any one instance of connexion which is
conceivable by us. All events seem entirely loose and separate. One
event follows another; but we never can observe any tie between them.
They seem _conjoined_, but never _connected_. And as we can have no idea
of any thing which never appeared to our outward sense or inward
sentiment, the necessary conclusion _seems_ to be that we have no idea
of connexion or power at all, and that these words are absolutely
without any meaning, when employed either in philosophical reasonings or
common life.

59. But there still remains one method of avoiding this conclusion, and
one source which we have not yet examined. When any natural object or
event is presented, it is impossible for us, by any sagacity or
penetration, to discover, or even conjecture, without experience, what
event will result from it, or to carry our foresight beyond that object
which is immediately present to the memory and senses. Even after one
instance or experiment where we have observed a particular event to
follow upon another, we are not entitled to form a general rule, or
foretell what will happen in like cases; it being justly esteemed an
unpardonable temerity to judge of the whole course of nature from one
single experiment, however accurate or certain. But when one particular
species of event has always, in all instances, been conjoined with
another, we make no longer any scruple of foretelling one upon the
appearance of the other, and of employing that reasoning, which can
alone assure us of any matter of fact or existence. We then call the one
object, _Cause;_ the other, _Effect._ We suppose that there is some
connexion between them; some power in the one, by which it infallibly
produces the other, and operates with the greatest certainty and
strongest necessity.

It appears, then, that this idea of a necessary connexion among events
arises from a number of similar instances which occur of the constant
conjunction of these events; nor can that idea ever be suggested by any
one of these instances, surveyed in all possible lights and positions.
But there is nothing in a number of instances, different from every
single instance, which is supposed to be exactly similar; except only,
that after a repetition of similar instances, the mind is carried by
habit, upon the appearance of one event, to expect its usual attendant,
and to believe that it will exist. This connexion, therefore, which we
_feel_ in the mind, this customary transition of the imagination from
one object to its usual attendant, is the sentiment or impression from
which we form the idea of power or necessary connexion. Nothing farther
is in the case. Contemplate the subject on all sides; you will never
find any other origin of that idea. This is the sole difference between
one instance, from which we can never receive the idea of connexion, and
a number of similar instances, by which it is suggested. The first time
a man saw the communication of motion by impulse, as by the shock of two
billiard balls, he could not pronounce that the one event was
_connected:_ but only that it was _conjoined_ with the other. After he
has observed several instances of this nature, he then pronounces them
to be _connected._ What alteration has happened to give rise to this new
idea of _connexion?_ Nothing but that he now _feels_ these events to be
connected in his imagination, and can readily foretell the existence of
one from the appearance of the other. When we say, therefore, that one
object is connected with another, we mean only that they have acquired a
connexion in our thought, and give rise to this inference, by which they
become proofs of each other's existence: A conclusion which is somewhat
extraordinary, but which seems founded on sufficient evidence. Nor will
its evidence be weakened by any general diffidence of the understanding,
or sceptical suspicion concerning every conclusion which is new and
extraordinary. No conclusions can be more agreeable to scepticism than
such as make discoveries concerning the weakness and narrow limits of
human reason and capacity.

60. And what stronger instance can be produced of the surprising
ignorance and weakness of the understanding than the present? For
surely, if there be any relation among objects which it imports to us to
know perfectly, it is that of cause and effect. On this are founded all
our reasonings concerning matter of fact or existence. By means of it
alone we attain any assurance concerning objects which are removed from
the present testimony of our memory and senses. The only immediate
utility of all sciences, is to teach us, how to control and regulate
future events by their causes. Our thoughts and enquiries are,
therefore, every moment, employed about this relation: Yet so imperfect
are the ideas which we form concerning it, that it is impossible to give
any just definition of cause, except what is drawn from something
extraneous and foreign to it. Similar objects are always conjoined with
similar. Of this we have experience. Suitably to this experience,
therefore, we may define a cause to be _an object, followed by another,
and where all the objects similar to the first are followed by objects
similar to the second_. Or in other words _where, if the first object
had not been, the second never had existed_. The appearance of a cause
always conveys the mind, by a customary transition, to the idea of the
effect. Of this also we have experience. We may, therefore, suitably to
this experience, form another definition of cause, and call it, _an
object followed by another, and whose appearance always conveys the
thought to that other._ But though both these definitions be drawn from
circumstances foreign to the cause, we cannot remedy this inconvenience,
or attain any more perfect definition, which may point out that
circumstance in the cause, which gives it a connexion with its effect.
We have no idea of this connexion, nor even any distinct notion what it
is we desire to know, when we endeavour at a conception of it. We say,
for instance, that the vibration of this string is the cause of this
particular sound. But what do we mean by that affirmation? We either
mean _that this vibration is followed by this sound, and that all
similar vibrations have been followed by similar sounds:_ Or, _that this
vibration is followed by this sound, and that upon the appearance of one
the mind anticipates the senses, and forms immediately an idea of the
other._ We may consider the relation of cause and effect in either of
these two lights; but beyond these, we have no idea of it.[16]

    [16] According to these explications and definitions, the idea
    of _power_ is relative as much as that of _cause;_ and both
    have a reference to an effect, or some other event constantly
    conjoined with the former. When we consider the _unknown_
    circumstance of an object, by which the degree or quantity of
    its effect is fixed and determined, we call that its power: And
    accordingly, it is allowed by all philosophers, that the effect
    is the measure of the power. But if they had any idea of power,
    as it is in itself, why could not they Measure it in itself?
    The dispute whether the force of a body in motion be as its
    velocity, or the square of its velocity; this dispute, I say,
    need not be decided by comparing its effects in equal or
    unequal times; but by a direct mensuration and comparison.

    As to the frequent use of the words, Force, Power, Energy, &c.,
    which every where occur in common conversation, as well as in
    philosophy; that is no proof, that we are acquainted, in any
    instance, with the connecting principle between cause and
    effect, or can account ultimately for the production of one
    thing to another. These words, as commonly used, have very
    loose meanings annexed to them; and their ideas are very
    uncertain and confused. No animal can put external bodies in
    motion without the sentiment of a _nisus_ or endeavour; and
    every animal has a sentiment or feeling from the stroke or blow
    of an external object, that is in motion. These sensations,
    which are merely animal, and from which we can _à priori_ draw
    no inference, we are apt to transfer to inanimate objects, and
    to suppose, that they have some such feelings, whenever they
    transfer or receive motion. With regard to energies, which are
    exerted, without our annexing to them any idea of communicated
    motion, we consider only the constant experienced conjunction
    of the events; and as we _feel_ a customary connexion between
    the ideas, we transfer that feeling to the objects; as nothing
    is more usual than to apply to external bodies every internal
    sensation, which they occasion.

61. To recapitulate, therefore, the reasonings of this section: Every
idea is copied from some preceding impression or sentiment; and where we
cannot find any impression, we may be certain that there is no idea. In
all single instances of the operation of bodies or minds, there is
nothing that produces any impression, nor consequently can suggest any
idea of power or necessary connexion. But when many uniform instances
appear, and the same object is always followed by the same event; we
then begin to entertain the notion of cause and connexion. We then
_feel_ a new sentiment or impression, to wit, a customary connexion in
the thought or imagination between one object and its usual attendant;
and this sentiment is the original of that idea which we seek for. For
as this idea arises from a number of similar instances, and not from any
single instance, it must arise from that circumstance, in which the
number of instances differ from every individual instance. But this
customary connexion or transition of the imagination is the only
circumstance in which they differ. In every other particular they are
alike. The first instance which we saw of motion communicated by the
shock of two billiard balls (to return to this obvious illustration) is
exactly similar to any instance that may, at present, occur to us;
except only, that we could not, at first, _infer_ one event from the
other; which we are enabled to do at present, after so long a course of
uniform experience. I know not whether the reader will readily apprehend
this reasoning. I am afraid that, should I multiply words about it, or
throw it into a greater variety of lights, it would only become more
obscure and intricate. In all abstract reasonings there is one point of
view which, if we can happily hit, we shall go farther towards
illustrating the subject than by all the eloquence and copious
expression in the world. This point of view we should endeavour to
reach, and reserve the flowers of rhetoric for subjects which are more
adapted to them.




62. It might reasonably be expected in questions which have been
canvassed and disputed with great eagerness, since the first origin of
science and philosophy, that the meaning of all the terms, at least,
should have been agreed upon among the disputants; and our enquiries, in
the course of two thousand years, been able to pass from words to the
true and real subject of the controversy. For how easy may it seem to
give exact definitions of the terms employed in reasoning, and make
these definitions, not the mere sound of words, the object of future
scrutiny and examination? But if we consider the matter more narrowly,
we shall be apt to draw a quite opposite conclusion. From this
circumstance alone, that a controversy has been long kept on foot, and
remains still undecided, we may presume that there is some ambiguity in
the expression, and that the disputants affix different ideas to the
terms employed in the controversy. For as the faculties of the mind are
supposed to be naturally alike in every individual; otherwise nothing
could be more fruitless than to reason or dispute together; it were
impossible, if men affix the same ideas to their terms, that they could
so long form different opinions of the same subject; especially when
they communicate their views, and each party turn themselves on all
sides, in search of arguments which may give them the victory over their
antagonists. It is true, if men attempt the discussion of questions
which lie entirely beyond the reach of human capacity, such as those
concerning the origin of worlds, or the economy of the intellectual
system or region of spirits, they may long beat the air in their
fruitless contests, and never arrive at any determinate conclusion. But
if the question regard any subject of common life and experience,
nothing, one would think, could preserve the dispute so long undecided
but some ambiguous expressions, which keep the antagonists still at a
distance, and hinder them from grappling with each other.

63. This has been the case in the long disputed question concerning
liberty and necessity; and to so remarkable a degree that, if I be not
much mistaken, we shall find, that all mankind, both learned and
ignorant, have always been of the same opinion with regard to this
subject, and that a few intelligible definitions would immediately have
put an end to the whole controversy. I own that this dispute has been so
much canvassed on all hands, and has led philosophers into such a
labyrinth of obscure sophistry, that it is no wonder, if a sensible
reader indulge his ease so far as to turn a deaf ear to the proposal of
such a question, from which he can expect neither instruction or
entertainment. But the state of the argument here proposed may, perhaps,
serve to renew his attention; as it has more novelty, promises at least
some decision of the controversy, and will not much disturb his ease by
any intricate or obscure reasoning.

I hope, therefore, to make it appear that all men have ever agreed in
the doctrine both of necessity and of liberty, according to any
reasonable sense, which can be put on these terms; and that the whole
controversy has hitherto turned merely upon words. We shall begin with
examining the doctrine of necessity.

64. It is universally allowed that matter, in all its operations, is
actuated by a necessary force, and that every natural effect is so
precisely determined by the energy of its cause that no other effect, in
such particular circumstances, could possibly have resulted from it. The
degree and direction of every motion is, by the laws of nature,
prescribed with such exactness that a living creature may as soon arise
from the shock of two bodies as motion in any other degree or direction
than what is actually produced by it. Would we, therefore, form a just
and precise idea of _necessity_, we must consider whence that idea
arises when we apply it to the operation of bodies.

It seems evident that, if all the scenes of nature were continually
shifted in such a manner that no two events bore any resemblance to each
other, but every object was entirely new, without any similitude to
whatever had been seen before, we should never, in that case, have
attained the least idea of necessity, or of a connexion among these
objects. We might say, upon such a supposition, that one object or event
has followed another; not that one was produced by the other. The
relation of cause and effect must be utterly unknown to mankind.
Inference and reasoning concerning the operations of nature would, from
that moment, be at an end; and the memory and senses remain the only
canals, by which the knowledge of any real existence could possibly have
access to the mind. Our idea, therefore, of necessity and causation
arises entirely from the uniformity observable in the operations of
nature, where similar objects are constantly conjoined together, and the
mind is determined by custom to infer the one from the appearance of the
other. These two circumstances form the whole of that necessity, which
we ascribe to matter. Beyond the constant _conjunction_ of similar
objects, and the consequent _inference_ from one to the other, we have
no notion of any necessity or connexion.

If it appear, therefore, that all mankind have ever allowed, without any
doubt or hesitation, that these two circumstances take place in the
voluntary actions of men, and in the operations of mind; it must follow,
that all mankind have ever agreed in the doctrine of necessity, and that
they have hitherto disputed, merely for not understanding each other.

65. As to the first circumstance, the constant and regular conjunction
of similar events, we may possibly satisfy ourselves by the following
considerations. It is universally acknowledged that there is a great
uniformity among the actions of men, in all nations and ages, and that
human nature remains still the same, in its principles and operations.
The same motives always produce the same actions. The same events follow
from the same causes. Ambition, avarice, self-love, vanity, friendship,
generosity, public spirit: these passions, mixed in various degrees, and
distributed through society, have been, from the beginning of the world,
and still are, the source of all the actions and enterprises, which have
ever been observed among mankind. Would you know the sentiments,
inclinations, and course of life of the Greeks and Romans? Study well
the temper and actions of the French and English: You cannot be much
mistaken in transferring to the former _most_ of the observations which
you have made with regard to the latter. Mankind are so much the same,
in all times and places, that history informs us of nothing new or
strange in this particular. Its chief use is only to discover the
constant and universal principles of human nature, by showing men in all
varieties of circumstances and situations, and furnishing us with
materials from which we may form our observations and become acquainted
with the regular springs of human action and behaviour. These records of
wars, intrigues, factions, and revolutions, are so many collections of
experiments, by which the politician or moral philosopher fixes the
principles of his science, in the same manner as the physician or
natural philosopher becomes acquainted with the nature of plants,
minerals, and other external objects, by the experiments which he forms
concerning them. Nor are the earth, water, and other elements, examined
by Aristotle, and Hippocrates, more like to those which at present lie
under our observation than the men described by Polybius and Tacitus are
to those who now govern the world.

Should a traveller, returning from a far country, bring us an account of
men, wholly different from any with whom we were ever acquainted; men,
who were entirely divested of avarice, ambition, or revenge; who knew no
pleasure but friendship, generosity, and public spirit; we should
immediately, from these circumstances, detect the falsehood, and prove
him a liar, with the same certainty as if he had stuffed his narration
with stories of centaurs and dragons, miracles and prodigies. And if we
would explode any forgery in history, we cannot make use of a more
convincing argument, than to prove, that the actions ascribed to any
person are directly contrary to the course of nature, and that no human
motives, in such circumstances, could ever induce him to such a conduct.
The veracity of Quintus Curtius is as much to be suspected, when he
describes the supernatural courage of Alexander, by which he was hurried
on singly to attack multitudes, as when he describes his supernatural
force and activity, by which he was able to resist them. So readily and
universally do we acknowledge a uniformity in human motives and actions
as well as in the operations of body.

Hence likewise the benefit of that experience, acquired by long life and
a variety of business and company, in order to instruct us in the
principles of human nature, and regulate our future conduct, as well as
speculation. By means of this guide, we mount up to the knowledge of
men's inclinations and motives, from their actions, expressions, and
even gestures; and again descend to the interpretation of their actions
from our knowledge of their motives and inclinations. The general
observations treasured up by a course of experience, give us the clue of
human nature, and teach us to unravel all its intricacies. Pretexts and
appearances no longer deceive us. Public declarations pass for the
specious colouring of a cause. And though virtue and honour be allowed
their proper weight and authority, that perfect disinterestedness, so
often pretended to, is never expected in multitudes and parties; seldom
in their leaders; and scarcely even in individuals of any rank or
station. But were there no uniformity in human actions, and were every
experiment which we could form of this kind irregular and anomalous, it
were impossible to collect any general observations concerning mankind;
and no experience, however accurately digested by reflection, would ever
serve to any purpose. Why is the aged husbandman more skilful in his
calling than the young beginner but because there is a certain
uniformity in the operation of the sun, rain, and earth towards the
production of vegetables; and experience teaches the old practitioner
the rules by which this operation is governed and directed.

66. We must not, however, expect that this uniformity of human actions
should be carried to such a length as that all men, in the same
circumstances, will always act precisely in the same manner, without
making any allowance for the diversity of characters, prejudices, and
opinions. Such a uniformity in every particular, is found in no part of
nature. On the contrary, from observing the variety of conduct in
different men, we are enabled to form a greater variety of maxims, which
still suppose a degree of uniformity and regularity.

Are the manners of men different in different ages and countries? We
learn thence the great force of custom and education, which mould the
human mind from its infancy and form it into a fixed and established
character. Is the behaviour and conduct of the one sex very unlike that
of the other? Is it thence we become acquainted with the different
characters which nature has impressed upon the sexes, and which she
preserves with constancy and regularity? Are the actions of the same
person much diversified in the different periods of his life, from
infancy to old age? This affords room for many general observations
concerning the gradual change of our sentiments and inclinations, and
the different maxims which prevail in the different ages of human
creatures. Even the characters, which are peculiar to each individual,
have a uniformity in their influence; otherwise our acquaintance with
the persons and our observation of their conduct could never teach us
their dispositions, or serve to direct our behaviour with regard
to them.

67. I grant it possible to find some actions, which seem to have no
regular connexion with any known motives, and are exceptions to all the
measures of conduct which have ever been established for the government
of men. But if we would willingly know what judgement should be formed
of such irregular and extraordinary actions, we may consider the
sentiments commonly entertained with regard to those irregular events
which appear in the course of nature, and the operations of external
objects. All causes are not conjoined to their usual effects with like
uniformity. An artificer, who handles only dead matter, may be
disappointed of his aim, as well as the politician, who directs the
conduct of sensible and intelligent agents.

The vulgar, who take things according to their first appearance,
attribute the uncertainty of events to such an uncertainty in the causes
as makes the latter often fail of their usual influence; though they
meet with no impediment in their operation. But philosophers, observing
that, almost in every part of nature, there is contained a vast variety
of springs and principles, which are hid, by reason of their minuteness
or remoteness, find, that it is at least possible the contrariety of
events may not proceed from any contingency in the cause, but from the
secret operation of contrary causes. This possibility is converted into
certainty by farther observation, when they remark that, upon an exact
scrutiny, a contrariety of effects always betrays a contrariety of
causes, and proceeds from their mutual opposition. A peasant can give no
better reason for the stopping of any clock or watch than to say that it
does not commonly go right: But an artist easily perceives that the same
force in the spring or pendulum has always the same influence on the
wheels; but fails of its usual effect, perhaps by reason of a grain of
dust, which puts a stop to the whole movement. From the observation of
several parallel instances, philosophers form a maxim that the connexion
between all causes and effects is equally necessary, and that its
seeming uncertainty in some instances proceeds from the secret
opposition of contrary causes.

Thus, for instance, in the human body, when the usual symptoms of health
or sickness disappoint our expectation; when medicines operate not with
their wonted powers; when irregular events follow from any particular
cause; the philosopher and physician are not surprised at the matter,
nor are ever tempted to deny, in general, the necessity and uniformity
of those principles by which the animal economy is conducted. They know
that a human body is a mighty complicated machine: That many secret
powers lurk in it, which are altogether beyond our comprehension: That
to us it must often appear very uncertain in its operations: And that
therefore the irregular events, which outwardly discover themselves, can
be no proof that the laws of nature are not observed with the greatest
regularity in its internal operations and government.

68. The philosopher, if he be consistent, must apply the same reasoning
to the actions and volitions of intelligent agents. The most irregular
and unexpected resolutions of men may frequently be accounted for by
those who know every particular circumstance of their character and
situation. A person of an obliging disposition gives a peevish answer:
But he has the toothache, or has not dined. A stupid fellow discovers an
uncommon alacrity in his carriage: But he has met with a sudden piece of
good fortune. Or even when an action, as sometimes happens, cannot be
particularly accounted for, either by the person himself or by others;
we know, in general, that the characters of men are, to a certain
degree, inconstant and irregular. This is, in a manner, the constant
character of human nature; though it be applicable, in a more particular
manner, to some persons who have no fixed rule for their conduct, but
proceed in a continued course of caprice and inconstancy. The internal
principles and motives may operate in a uniform manner, notwithstanding
these seeming irregularities; in the same manner as the winds, rain,
clouds, and other variations of the weather are supposed to be governed
by steady principles; though not easily discoverable by human sagacity
and enquiry.

69. Thus it appears, not only that the conjunction between motives and
voluntary actions is as regular and uniform as that between the cause
and effect in any part of nature; but also that this regular conjunction
has been universally acknowledged among mankind, and has never been the
subject of dispute, either in philosophy or common life. Now, as it is
from past experience that we draw all inferences concerning the future,
and as we conclude that objects will always be conjoined together which
we find to have always been conjoined; it may seem superfluous to prove
that this experienced uniformity in human actions is a source whence we
draw _inferences_ concerning them. But in order to throw the argument
into a greater variety of lights we shall also insist, though briefly,
on this latter topic.

The mutual dependence of men is so great in all societies that scarce
any human action is entirely complete in itself, or is performed without
some reference to the actions of others, which are requisite to make it
answer fully the intention of the agent. The poorest artificer, who
labours alone, expects at least the protection of the magistrate, to
ensure him the enjoyment of the fruits of his labour. He also expects
that, when he carries his goods to market, and offers them at a
reasonable price, he shall find purchasers, and shall be able, by the
money he acquires, to engage others to supply him with those commodities
which are requisite for his subsistence. In proportion as men extend
their dealings, and render their intercourse with others more
complicated, they always comprehend, in their schemes of life, a greater
variety of voluntary actions, which they expect, from the proper
motives, to co-operate with their own. In all these conclusions they
take their measures from past experience, in the same manner as in their
reasonings concerning external objects; and firmly believe that men, as
well as all the elements, are to continue, in their operations, the same
that they have ever found them. A manufacturer reckons upon the labour
of his servants for the execution of any work as much as upon the tools
which he employs, and would be equally surprised were his expectations
disappointed. In short, this experimental inference and reasoning
concerning the actions of others enters so much into human life that no
man, while awake, is ever a moment without employing it. Have we not
reason, therefore, to affirm that all mankind have always agreed in the
doctrine of necessity according to the foregoing definition and
explication of it?

70. Nor have philosophers ever entertained a different opinion from the
people in this particular. For, not to mention that almost every action
of their life supposes that opinion, there are even few of the
speculative parts of learning to which it is not essential. What would
become of _history,_ had we not a dependence on the veracity of the
historian according to the experience which we have had of mankind? How
could _politics_ be a science, if laws and forms of goverment had not a
uniform influence upon society? Where would be the foundation of
_morals,_ if particular characters had no certain or determinate power
to produce particular sentiments, and if these sentiments had no
constant operation on actions? And with what pretence could we employ
our _criticism_ upon any poet or polite author, if we could not
pronounce the conduct and sentiments of his actors either natural or
unnatural to such characters, and in such circumstances? It seems almost
impossible, therefore, to engage either in science or action of any kind
without acknowledging the doctrine of necessity, and this _inference_
from motive to voluntary actions, from characters to conduct.

And indeed, when we consider how aptly _natural_ and _moral_ evidence
link together, and form only one chain of argument, we shall make no
scruple to allow that they are of the same nature, and derived from the
same principles. A prisoner who has neither money nor interest,
discovers the impossibility of his escape, as well when he considers the
obstinacy of the gaoler, as the walls and bars with which he is
surrounded; and, in all attempts for his freedom, chooses rather to work
upon the stone and iron of the one, than upon the inflexible nature of
the other. The same prisoner, when conducted to the scaffold, foresees
his death as certainly from the constancy and fidelity of his guards, as
from the operation of the axe or wheel. His mind runs along a certain
train of ideas: The refusal of the soldiers to consent to his escape;
the action of the executioner; the separation of the head and body;
bleeding, convulsive motions, and death. Here is a connected chain of
natural causes and voluntary actions; but the mind feels no difference
between them in passing from one link to another: Nor is less certain of
the future event than if it were connected with the objects present to
the memory or senses, by a train of causes, cemented together by what we
are pleased to call a _physical_ necessity. The same experienced union
has the same effect on the mind, whether the united objects be motives,
volition, and actions; or figure and motion. We may change the name of
things; but their nature and their operation on the understanding
never change.

Were a man, whom I know to be honest and opulent, and with whom I live
in intimate friendship, to come into my house, where I am surrounded
with my servants, I rest assured that he is not to stab me before he
leaves it in order to rob me of my silver standish; and I no more
suspect this event than the falling of the house itself, which is new,
and solidly built and founded._--But he may have been seized with a
sudden and unknown frenzy.--_So may a sudden earthquake arise, and shake
and tumble my house about my ears. I shall therefore change the
suppositions. I shall say that I know with certainty that he is not to
put his hand into the fire and hold it there till it be consumed: And
this event, I think I can foretell with the same assurance, as that, if
he throw himself out at the window, and meet with no obstruction, he
will not remain a moment suspended in the air. No suspicion of an
unknown frenzy can give the least possibility to the former event, which
is so contrary to all the known principles of human nature. A man who at
noon leaves his purse full of gold on the pavement at Charing-Cross, may
as well expect that it will fly away like a feather, as that he will
find it untouched an hour after. Above one half of human reasonings
contain inferences of a similar nature, attended with more or less
degrees of certainty proportioned to our experience of the usual conduct
of mankind in such particular situations.

71. I have frequently considered, what could possibly be the reason why
all mankind, though they have ever, without hesitation, acknowledged the
doctrine of necessity in their whole practice and reasoning, have yet
discovered such a reluctance to acknowledge it in words, and have rather
shown a propensity, in all ages, to profess the contrary opinion. The
matter, I think, may be accounted for after the following manner. If we
examine the operations of body, and the production of effects from their
causes, we shall find that all our faculties can never carry us farther
in our knowledge of this relation than barely to observe that particular
objects are _constantly conjoined_ together, and that the mind is
carried, by a _customary transition,_ from the appearance of one to the
belief of the other. But though this conclusion concerning human
ignorance be the result of the strictest scrutiny of this subject, men
still entertain a strong propensity to believe that they penetrate
farther into the powers of nature, and perceive something like a
necessary connexion between the cause and the effect. When again they
turn their reflections towards the operations of their own minds, and
_feel_ no such connexion of the motive and the action; they are thence
apt to suppose, that there is a difference between the effects which
result from material force, and those which arise from thought and
intelligence. But being once convinced that we know nothing farther of
causation of any kind than merely the _constant conjunction_ of objects,
and the consequent _inference_ of the mind from one to another, and
finding that these two circumstances are universally allowed to have
place in voluntary actions; we may be more easily led to own the same
necessity common to all causes. And though this reasoning may contradict
the systems of many philosophers, in ascribing necessity to the
determinations of the will, we shall find, upon reflection, that they
dissent from it in words only, not in their real sentiment. Necessity,
according to the sense in which it is here taken, has never yet been
rejected, nor can ever, I think, be rejected by any philosopher. It may
only, perhaps, be pretended that the mind can perceive, in the
operations of matter, some farther connexion between the cause and
effect; and connexion that has not place in voluntary actions of
intelligent beings. Now whether it be so or not, can only appear upon
examination; and it is incumbent on these philosophers to make good
their assertion, by defining or describing that necessity, and pointing
it out to us in the operations of material causes.

72. It would seem, indeed, that men begin at the wrong end of this
question concerning liberty and necessity, when they enter upon it by
examining the faculties of the soul, the influence of the understanding,
and the operations of the will. Let them first discuss a more simple
question, namely, the operations of body and of brute unintelligent
matter; and try whether they can there form any idea of causation and
necessity, except that of a constant conjunction of objects, and
subsequent inference of the mind from one to another. If these
circumstances form, in reality, the whole of that necessity, which we
conceive in matter, and if these circumstances be also universally
acknowledged to take place in the operations of the mind, the dispute is
at an end; at least, must be owned to be thenceforth merely verbal. But
as long as we will rashly suppose, that we have some farther idea of
necessity and causation in the operations of external objects; at the
same time, that we can find nothing farther in the voluntary actions of
the mind; there is no possibility of bringing the question to any
determinate issue, while we proceed upon so erroneous a supposition. The
only method of undeceiving us is to mount up higher; to examine the
narrow extent of science when applied to material causes; and to
convince ourselves that all we know of them is the constant conjunction
and inference above mentioned. We may, perhaps, find that it is with
difficulty we are induced to fix such narrow limits to human
understanding: But we can afterwards find no difficulty when we come to
apply this doctrine to the actions of the will. For as it is evident
that these have a regular conjunction with motives and circumstances and
characters, and as we always draw inferences from one to the other, we
must be obliged to acknowledge in words that necessity, which we have
already avowed, in every deliberation of our lives, and in every step of
our conduct and behaviour.[17]

    [17] The prevalence of the doctrine of liberty may be accounted
    for, from another cause, viz. a false sensation or seeming
    experience which we have, or may have, of liberty or
    indifference, in many of our actions. The necessity of any
    action, whether of matter or of mind, is not, properly
    speaking, a quality in the agent, but in any thinking or
    intelligent being, who may consider the action; and it consists
    chiefly in the determination of his thoughts to infer the
    existence of that action from some preceding objects; as
    liberty, when opposed to necessity, is nothing but the want of
    that determination, and a certain looseness or indifference,
    which we feel, in passing, or not passing, from the idea of one
    object to that of any succeeding one. Now we may observe,
    that, though, in _reflecting_ on human actions, we seldom feel
    such a looseness, or indifference, but are commonly able to
    infer them with considerable certainty from their motives, and
    from the dispositions of the agent; yet it frequently happens,
    that, in _performing_ the actions themselves, we are sensible
    of something like it: And as all resembling objects are readily
    taken for each other, this has been employed as a demonstrative
    and even intuitive proof of human liberty. We feel, that our
    actions are subject to our will, on most occasions; and imagine
    we feel, that the will itself is subject to nothing, because,
    when by a denial of it we are provoked to try, we feel, that it
    moves easily every way, and produces an image of itself (or a
    _Velleïty,_ as it is called in the schools) even on that side,
    on which it did not settle. This image, or faint motion, we
    persuade ourselves, could, at that time, have been compleated
    into the thing itself; because, should that be denied, we find,
    upon a second trial, that, at present, it can. We consider not,
    that the fantastical desire of shewing liberty, is here the
    motive of our actions. And it seems certain, that, however we
    may imagine we feel a liberty within ourselves, a spectator can
    commonly infer our actions from our motives and character; and
    even where he cannot, he concludes in general, that he might,
    were he perfectly acquainted with every circumstance of our
    situation and temper, and the most secret springs of our
    complexion and disposition. Now this is the very essence of
    necessity, according to the foregoing doctrine.

73. But to proceed in this reconciling project with regard to the
question of liberty and necessity; the most contentious question of
metaphysics, the most contentious science; it will not require many
words to prove, that all mankind have ever agreed in the doctrine of
liberty as well as in that of necessity, and that the whole dispute, in
this respect also, has been hitherto merely verbal. For what is meant by
liberty, when applied to voluntary actions? We cannot surely mean that
actions have so little connexion with motives, inclinations, and
circumstances, that one does not follow with a certain degree of
uniformity from the other, and that one affords no inference by which we
can conclude the existence of the other. For these are plain and
acknowledged matters of fact. By liberty, then, we can only mean _a
power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the
will;_ that is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to
move, we also may. Now this hypothetical liberty is universally allowed
to belong to every one who is not a prisoner and in chains. Here, then,
is no subject of dispute.

74. Whatever definition we may give of liberty, we should be careful to
observe two requisite circumstances; _first,_ that it be consistent with
plain matter of fact; _secondly,_ that it be consistent with itself. If
we observe these circumstances, and render our definition intelligible,
I am persuaded that all mankind will be found of one opinion with
regard to it.

It is universally allowed that nothing exists without a cause of its
existence, and that chance, when strictly examined, is a mere negative
word, and means not any real power which has anywhere a being in nature.
But it is pretended that some causes are necessary, some not necessary.
Here then is the advantage of definitions. Let any one _define_ a cause,
without comprehending, as a part of the definition, a _necessary
connexion_ with its effect; and let him show distinctly the origin of
the idea, expressed by the definition; and I shall readily give up the
whole controversy. But if the foregoing explication of the matter be
received, this must be absolutely impracticable. Had not objects a
regular conjunction with each other, we should never have entertained
any notion of cause and effect; and this regular conjunction produces
that inference of the understanding, which is the only connexion, that
we can have any comprehension of. Whoever attempts a definition of
cause, exclusive of these circumstances, will be obliged either to
employ unintelligible terms or such as are synonymous to the term which
he endeavours to define.[18] And if the definition above mentioned be
admitted; liberty, when opposed to necessity, not to constraint, is the
same thing with chance; which is universally allowed to have no

    [18] Thus, if a cause be defined, _that which produces any
    thing;_ it is easy to observe, that _producing_ is synonymous
    to _causing._ In like manner, if a cause be defined, _that by
    which any thing exists;_ this is liable to the same objection.
    For what is meant by these words, _by which?_ Had it been said,
    that a cause is _that_ after which _any thing constantly
    exists;_ we should have understood the terms. For this is,
    indeed, all we know of the matter. And this constancy forms the
    very essence of necessity, nor have we any other idea of it.


75. There is no method of reasoning more common, and yet none more
blameable, than, in philosophical disputes, to endeavour the refutation
of any hypothesis, by a pretence of its dangerous consequences to
religion and morality. When any opinion leads to absurdities, it is
certainly false; but it is not certain that an opinion is false, because
it is of dangerous consequence. Such topics, therefore, ought entirely
to be forborne; as serving nothing to the discovery of truth, but only
to make the person of an antagonist odious. This I observe in general,
without pretending to draw any advantage from it. I frankly submit to
an examination of this kind, and shall venture to affirm that the
doctrines, both of necessity and of liberty, as above explained, are not
only consistent with morality, but are absolutely essential to
its support.

Necessity may be defined two ways, conformably to the two definitions of
_cause_, of which it makes an essential part. It consists either in the
constant conjunction of like objects, or in the inference of the
understanding from one object to another. Now necessity, in both these
senses, (which, indeed, are at bottom the same) has universally, though
tacitly, in the schools, in the pulpit, and in common life, been allowed
to belong to the will of man; and no one has ever pretended to deny that
we can draw inferences concerning human actions, and that those
inferences are founded on the experienced union of like actions, with
like motives, inclinations, and circumstances. The only particular in
which any one can differ, is, that either, perhaps, he will refuse to
give the name of necessity to this property of human actions: But as
long as the meaning is understood, I hope the word can do no harm: Or
that he will maintain it possible to discover something farther in the
operations of matter. But this, it must be acknowledged, can be of no
consequence to morality or religion, whatever it may be to natural
philosophy or metaphysics. We may here be mistaken in asserting that
there is no idea of any other necessity or connexion in the actions of
body: But surely we ascribe nothing to the actions of the mind, but what
everyone does, and must readily allow of. We change no circumstance in
the received orthodox system with regard to the will, but only in that
with regard to material objects and causes. Nothing, therefore, can be
more innocent, at least, than this doctrine.

76. All laws being founded on rewards and punishments, it is supposed as
a fundamental principle, that these motives have a regular and uniform
influence on the mind, and both produce the good and prevent the evil
actions. We may give to this influence what name we please; but, as it
is usually conjoined with the action, it must be esteemed a _cause_, and
be looked upon as an instance of that necessity, which we would here

The only proper object of hatred or vengeance is a person or creature,
endowed with thought and consciousness; and when any criminal or
injurious actions excite that passion, it is only by their relation to
the person, or connexion with him. Actions are, by their very nature,
temporary and perishing; and where they proceed not from some _cause_ in
the character and disposition of the person who performed them, they can
neither redound to his honour, if good; nor infamy, if evil. The actions
themselves may be blameable; they may be contrary to all the rules of
morality and religion: But the person is not answerable for them; and as
they proceeded from nothing in him that is durable and constant, and
leave nothing of that nature behind them, it is impossible he can, upon
their account, become the object of punishment or vengeance. According
to the principle, therefore, which denies necessity, and consequently
causes, a man is as pure and untainted, after having committed the most
horrid crime, as at the first moment of his birth, nor is his character
anywise concerned in his actions, since they are not derived from it,
and the wickedness of the one can never be used as a proof of the
depravity of the other.

Men are not blamed for such actions as they perform ignorantly and
casually, whatever may be the consequences. Why? but because the
principles of these actions are only momentary, and terminate in them
alone. Men are less blamed for such actions as they perform hastily and
unpremeditately than for such as proceed from deliberation. For what
reason? but because a hasty temper, though a constant cause or
principle in the mind, operates only by intervals, and infects not the
whole character. Again, repentance wipes off every crime, if attended
with a reformation of life and manners. How is this to be accounted for?
but by asserting that actions render a person criminal merely as they
are proofs of criminal principles in the mind; and when, by an
alteration of these principles, they cease to be just proofs, they
likewise cease to be criminal. But, except upon the doctrine of
necessity, they never were just proofs, and consequently never
were criminal.

77. It will be equally easy to prove, and from the same arguments, that
_liberty_, according to that definition above mentioned, in which all
men agree, is also essential to morality, and that no human actions,
where it is wanting, are susceptible of any moral qualities, or can be
the objects either of approbation or dislike. For as actions are objects
of our moral sentiment, so far only as they are indications of the
internal character, passions, and affections; it is impossible that they
can give rise either to praise or blame, where they proceed not from
these principles, but are derived altogether from external violence.

78. I pretend not to have obviated or removed all objections to this
theory, with regard to necessity and liberty. I can foresee other
objections, derived from topics which have not here been treated of. It
may be said, for instance, that, if voluntary actions be subjected to
the same laws of necessity with the operations of matter, there is a
continued chain of necessary causes, pre-ordained and pre-determined,
reaching from the original cause of all to every single volition of
every human creature. No contingency anywhere in the universe; no
indifference; no liberty. While we act, we are, at the same time, acted
upon. The ultimate Author of all our volitions is the Creator of the
world, who first bestowed motion on this immense machine, and placed all
beings in that particular position, whence every subsequent event, by
an inevitable necessity, must result. Human actions, therefore, either
can have no moral turpitude at all, as proceeding from so good a cause;
or if they have any turpitude, they must involve our Creator in the same
guilt, while he is acknowledged to be their ultimate cause and author.
For as a man, who fired a mine, is answerable for all the consequences
whether the train he employed be long or short; so wherever a continued
chain of necessary causes is fixed, that Being, either finite or
infinite, who produces the first, is likewise the author of all the
rest, and must both bear the blame and acquire the praise which belong
to them. Our clear and unalterable ideas of morality establish this
rule, upon unquestionable reasons, when we examine the consequences of
any human action; and these reasons must still have greater force when
applied to the volitions and intentions of a Being infinitely wise and
powerful. Ignorance or impotence may be pleaded for so limited a
creature as man; but those imperfections have no place in our Creator.
He foresaw, he ordained, he intended all those actions of men, which we
so rashly pronounce criminal. And we must therefore conclude, either
that they are not criminal, or that the Deity, not man, is accountable
for them. But as either of these positions is absurd and impious, it
follows, that the doctrine from which they are deduced cannot possibly
be true, as being liable to all the same objections. An absurd
consequence, if necessary, proves the original doctrine to be absurd; in
the same manner as criminal actions render criminal the original cause,
if the connexion between them be necessary and evitable.

This objection consists of two parts, which we shall examine separately;
_First_, that, if human actions can be traced up, by a necessary chain,
to the Deity, they can never be criminal; on account of the infinite
perfection of that Being from whom they are derived, and who can intend
nothing but what is altogether good and laudable. Or, _Secondly_, if
they be criminal, we must retract the attribute of perfection, which we
ascribe to the Deity, and must acknowledge him to be the ultimate author
of guilt and moral turpitude in all his creatures.

79. The answer to the first objection seems obvious and convincing.
There are many philosophers who, after an exact scrutiny of all the
phenomena of nature, conclude, that the WHOLE, considered as one system,
is, in every period of its existence, ordered with perfect benevolence;
and that the utmost possible happiness will, in the end, result to all
created beings, without any mixture of positive or absolute ill or
misery. Every physical ill, say they, makes an essential part of this
benevolent system, and could not possibly be removed, even by the Deity
himself, considered as a wise agent, without giving entrance to greater
ill, or excluding greater good, which will result from it. From this
theory, some philosophers, and the ancient _Stoics_ among the rest,
derived a topic of consolation under all afflictions, while they taught
their pupils that those ills under which they laboured were, in reality,
goods to the universe; and that to an enlarged view, which could
comprehend the whole system of nature, every event became an object of
joy and exultation. But though this topic be specious and sublime, it
was soon found in practice weak and ineffectual. You would surely more
irritate than appease a man lying under the racking pains of the gout by
preaching up to him the rectitude of those general laws, which produced
the malignant humours in his body, and led them through the proper
canals, to the sinews and nerves, where they now excite such acute
torments. These enlarged views may, for a moment, please the imagination
of a speculative man, who is placed in ease and security; but neither
can they dwell with constancy on his mind, even though undisturbed by
the emotions of pain or passion; much less can they maintain their
ground when attacked by such powerful antagonists. The affections take a
narrower and more natural survey of their object; and by an economy,
more suitable to the infirmity of human minds, regard alone the beings
around us, and are actuated by such events as appear good or ill to the
private system.

80. The case is the same with _moral_ as with _physical_ ill. It cannot
reasonably be supposed, that those remote considerations, which are
found of so little efficacy with regard to one, will have a more
powerful influence with regard to the other. The mind of man is so
formed by nature that, upon the appearance of certain characters,
dispositions, and actions, it immediately feels the sentiment of
approbation or blame; nor are there any emotions more essential to its
frame and constitution. The characters which engage our approbation are
chiefly such as contribute to the peace and security of human society;
as the characters which excite blame are chiefly such as tend to public
detriment and disturbance: Whence it may reasonably be presumed, that
the moral sentiments arise, either mediately or immediately, from a
reflection of these opposite interests. What though philosophical
meditations establish a different opinion or conjecture; that everything
is right with regard to the WHOLE, and that the qualities, which disturb
society, are, in the main, as beneficial, and are as suitable to the
primary intention of nature as those which more directly promote its
happiness and welfare? Are such remote and uncertain speculations able
to counterbalance the sentiments which arise from the natural and
immediate view of the objects? A man who is robbed of a considerable
sum; does he find his vexation for the loss anywise diminished by these
sublime reflections? Why then should his moral resentment against the
crime be supposed incompatible with them? Or why should not the
acknowledgment of a real distinction between vice and virtue be
reconcileable to all speculative systems of philosophy, as well as that
of a real distinction between personal beauty and deformity? Both these
distinctions are founded in the natural sentiments of the human mind:
And these sentiments are not to be controuled or altered by any
philosophical theory or speculation whatsoever.

81. The _second_ objection admits not of so easy and satisfactory an
answer; nor is it possible to explain distinctly, how the Deity can be
the mediate cause of all the actions of men, without being the author of
sin and moral turpitude. These are mysteries, which mere natural and
unassisted reason is very unfit to handle; and whatever system she
embraces, she must find herself involved in inextricable difficulties,
and even contradictions, at every step which she takes with regard to
such subjects. To reconcile the indifference and contingency of human
actions with prescience; or to defend absolute decrees, and yet free the
Deity from being the author of sin, has been found hitherto to exceed
all the power of philosophy. Happy, if she be thence sensible of her
temerity, when she pries into these sublime mysteries; and leaving a
scene so full of obscurities and perplexities, return, with suitable
modesty, to her true and proper province, the examination of common
life; where she will find difficulties enough to employ her enquiries,
without launching into so boundless an ocean of doubt, uncertainty, and



82. All our reasonings concerning matter of fact are founded on a
species of Analogy, which leads us to expect from any cause the same
events, which we have observed to result from similar causes. Where the
causes are entirely similar, the analogy is perfect, and the inference,
drawn from it, is regarded as certain and conclusive: nor does any man
ever entertain a doubt, where he sees a piece of iron, that it will have
weight and cohesion of parts; as in all other instances, which have ever
fallen under his observation. But where the objects have not so exact a
similarity, the analogy is less perfect, and the inference is less
conclusive; though still it has some force, in proportion to the degree
of similarity and resemblance. The anatomical observations, formed upon
one animal, are, by this species of reasoning, extended to all animals;
and it is certain, that when the circulation of the blood, for instance,
is clearly proved to have place in one creature, as a frog, or fish, it
forms a strong presumption, that the same principle has place in all.
These analogical observations may be carried farther, even to this
science, of which we are now treating; and any theory, by which we
explain the operations of the understanding, or the origin and connexion
of the passions in man, will acquire additional authority, if we find,
that the same theory is requisite to explain the same phenomena in all
other animals. We shall make trial of this, with regard to the
hypothesis, by which we have, in the foregoing discourse, endeavoured
to account for all experimental reasonings; and it is hoped, that this
new point of view will serve to confirm all our former observations.

83. _First_, It seems evident, that animals as well as men learn many
things from experience, and infer, that the same events will always
follow from the same causes. By this principle they become acquainted
with the more obvious properties of external objects, and gradually,
from their birth, treasure up a knowledge of the nature of fire, water,
earth, stones, heights, depths, &c., and of the effects which result
from their operation. The ignorance and inexperience of the young are
here plainly distinguishable from the cunning and sagacity of the old,
who have learned, by long observation, to avoid what hurt them, and to
pursue what gave ease or pleasure. A horse, that has been accustomed to
the field, becomes acquainted with the proper height which he can leap,
and will never attempt what exceeds his force and ability. An old
greyhound will trust the more fatiguing part of the chace to the
younger, and will place himself so as to meet the hare in her doubles;
nor are the conjectures, which he forms on this occasion, founded in any
thing but his observation and experience.

This is still more evident from the effects of discipline and education
on animals, who, by the proper application of rewards and punishments,
may be taught any course of action, and most contrary to their natural
instincts and propensities. Is it not experience, which renders a dog
apprehensive of pain, when you menace him, or lift up the whip to beat
him? Is it not even experience, which makes him answer to his name, and
infer, from such an arbitrary sound, that you mean him rather than any
of his fellows, and intend to call him, when you pronounce it in a
certain manner, and with a certain tone and accent?

In all these cases, we may observe, that the animal infers some fact
beyond what immediately strikes his senses; and that this inference is
altogether founded on past experience, while the creature expects from
the present object the same consequences, which it has always found in
its observation to result from similar objects.

84. _Secondly_, It is impossible, that this inference of the animal can
be founded on any process of argument or reasoning, by which he
concludes, that like events must follow like objects, and that the
course of nature will always be regular in its operations. For if there
be in reality any arguments of this nature, they surely lie too abstruse
for the observation of such imperfect understandings; since it may well
employ the utmost care and attention of a philosophic genius to discover
and observe them. Animals, therefore, are not guided in these inferences
by reasoning: Neither are children: Neither are the generality of
mankind, in their ordinary actions and conclusions: Neither are
philosophers themselves, who, in all the active parts of life, are, in
the main, the same with the vulgar, and are governed by the same maxims.
Nature must have provided some other principle, of more ready, and more
general use and application; nor can an operation of such immense
consequence in life, as that of inferring effects from causes, be
trusted to the uncertain process of reasoning and argumentation. Were
this doubtful with regard to men, it seems to admit of no question with
regard to the brute creation; and the conclusion being once firmly
established in the one, we have a strong presumption, from all the rules
of analogy, that it ought to be universally admitted, without any
exception or reserve. It is custom alone, which engages animals, from
every object, that strikes their senses, to infer its usual attendant,
and carries their imagination, from the appearance of the one, to
conceive the other, in that particular manner, which we denominate
_belief_. No other explication can be given of this operation, in all
the higher, as well as lower classes of sensitive beings, which fall
under our notice and observation [19].

    [19] Since all reasonings concerning facts or causes is derived
    merely from custom, it may be asked how it happens, that men so
    much surpass animals in reasoning, and one man so much
    surpasses another? Has not the same custom the same
    influence on all?

    We shall here endeavour briefly to explain the great difference
    in human understandings: After which the reason of the
    difference between men and animals will easily be comprehended.

    1. When we have lived any time, and have been accustomed to the
    uniformity of nature, we acquire a general habit, by which we
    always transfer the known to the unknown, and conceive the
    latter to resemble the former. By means of this general
    habitual principle, we regard even one experiment as the
    foundation of reasoning, and expect a similar event with some
    degree of certainty, where the experiment has been made
    accurately, and free from all foreign circumstances. It is
    therefore considered as a matter of great importance to observe
    the consequences of things; and as one man may very much
    surpass another in attention and memory and observation, this
    will make a very great difference in their reasoning.

    2. Where there is a complication of causes to produce any
    effect, one mind may be much larger than another, and better
    able to comprehend the whole system of objects, and to infer
    justly their consequences.

    3. One man is able to carry on a chain of consequences to a
    greater length than another.

    4. Few men can think long without running into a confusion of
    ideas, and mistaking one for another; and there are various
    degrees of this infirmity.

    5. The circumstance, on which the effect depends, is frequently
    involved in other circumstances, which are foreign and
    extrinsic. The separation of it often requires great attention,
    accuracy, and subtilty.

    6. The forming of general maxims from particular observation is
    a very nice operation; and nothing is more usual, from haste or
    a narrowness of mind, which sees not on all sides, than to
    commit mistakes in this particular.

    7. When we reason from analogies, the man, who has the greater
    experience or the greater promptitude of suggesting analogies,
    will be the better reasoner.

    8. Byasses from prejudice, education, passion, party, &c. hang
    more upon one mind than another.

    9. After we have acquired a confidence in human testimony,
    books and conversation enlarge much more the sphere of one
    man's experience and thought than those of another.

    It would be easy to discover many other circumstances that make
    a difference in the understandings of men.

85. But though animals learn many parts of their knowledge from
observation, there are also many parts of it, which they derive from the
original hand of nature; which much exceed the share of capacity they
possess on ordinary occasions; and in which they improve, little or
nothing, by the longest practice and experience. These we denominate
Instincts, and are so apt to admire as something very extraordinary, and
inexplicable by all the disquisitions of human understanding. But our
wonder will, perhaps, cease or diminish, when we consider, that the
experimental reasoning itself, which we possess in common with beasts,
and on which the whole conduct of life depends, is nothing but a species
of instinct or mechanical power, that acts in us unknown to ourselves;
and in its chief operations, is not directed by any such relations or
comparisons of ideas, as are the proper objects of our intellectual
faculties. Though the instinct be different, yet still it is an
instinct, which teaches a man to avoid the fire; as much as that, which
teaches a bird, with such exactness, the art of incubation, and the
whole economy and order of its nursery.




86. There is, in Dr. Tillotson's writings, an argument against the _real
presence_, which is as concise, and elegant, and strong as any argument
can possibly be supposed against a doctrine, so little worthy of a
serious refutation. It is acknowledged on all hands, says that learned
prelate, that the authority, either of the scripture or of tradition, is
founded merely in the testimony of the apostles, who were eye-witnesses
to those miracles of our Saviour, by which he proved his divine mission.
Our evidence, then, for the truth of the _Christian_ religion is less
than the evidence for the truth of our senses; because, even in the
first authors of our religion, it was no greater; and it is evident it
must diminish in passing from them to their disciples; nor can any one
rest such confidence in their testimony, as in the immediate object of
his senses. But a weaker evidence can never destroy a stronger; and
therefore, were the doctrine of the real presence ever so clearly
revealed in scripture, it were directly contrary to the rules of just
reasoning to give our assent to it. It contradicts sense, though both
the scripture and tradition, on which it is supposed to be built, carry
not such evidence with them as sense; when they are considered merely as
external evidences, and are not brought home to every one's breast, by
the immediate operation of the Holy Spirit.

Nothing is so convenient as a decisive argument of this kind, which
must at least _silence_ the most arrogant bigotry and superstition, and
free us from their impertinent solicitations. I flatter myself, that I
have discovered an argument of a like nature, which, if just, will, with
the wise and learned, be an everlasting check to all kinds of
superstitious delusion, and consequently, will be useful as long as the
world endures. For so long, I presume, will the accounts of miracles and
prodigies be found in all history, sacred and profane.

87. Though experience be our only guide in reasoning concerning matters
of fact; it must be acknowledged, that this guide is not altogether
infallible, but in some cases is apt to lead us into errors. One, who in
our climate, should expect better weather in any week of June than in
one of December, would reason justly, and conformably to experience; but
it is certain, that he may happen, in the event, to find himself
mistaken. However, we may observe, that, in such a case, he would have
no cause to complain of experience; because it commonly informs us
beforehand of the uncertainty, by that contrariety of events, which we
may learn from a diligent observation. All effects follow not with like
certainty from their supposed causes. Some events are found, in all
countries and all ages, to have been constantly conjoined together:
Others are found to have been more variable, and sometimes to disappoint
our expectations; so that, in our reasonings concerning matter of fact,
there are all imaginable degrees of assurance, from the highest
certainty to the lowest species of moral evidence.

A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence. In such
conclusions as are founded on an infallible experience, he expects the
event with the last degree of assurance, and regards his past experience
as a full _proof_ of the future existence of that event. In other
cases, he proceeds with more caution: He weighs the opposite
experiments: He considers which side is supported by the greater number
of experiments: to that side he inclines, with doubt and hesitation; and
when at last he fixes his judgement, the evidence exceeds not what we
properly call _probability_. All probability, then, supposes an
opposition of experiments and observations, where the one side is found
to overbalance the other, and to produce a degree of evidence,
proportioned to the superiority. A hundred instances or experiments on
one side, and fifty on another, afford a doubtful expectation of any
event; though a hundred uniform experiments, with only one that is
contradictory, reasonably beget a pretty strong degree of assurance. In
all cases, we must balance the opposite experiments, where they are
opposite, and deduct the smaller number from the greater, in order to
know the exact force of the superior evidence.

88. To apply these principles to a particular instance; we may observe,
that there is no species of reasoning more common, more useful, and even
necessary to human life, than that which is derived from the testimony
of men, and the reports of eye-witnesses and spectators. This species of
reasoning, perhaps, one may deny to be founded on the relation of cause
and effect. I shall not dispute about a word. It will be sufficient to
observe that our assurance in any argument of this kind is derived from
no other principle than our observation of the veracity of human
testimony, and of the usual conformity of facts to the reports of
witnesses. It being a general maxim, that no objects have any
discoverable connexion together, and that all the inferences, which we
can draw from one to another, are founded merely on our experience of
their constant and regular conjunction; it is evident, that we ought not
to make an exception to this maxim in favour of human testimony, whose
connexion with any event seems, in itself, as little necessary as any
other. Were not the memory tenacious to a certain degree, had not men
commonly an inclination to truth and a principle of probity; were they
not sensible to shame, when detected in a falsehood: Were not these, I
say, discovered by experience to be qualities, inherent in human nature,
we should never repose the least confidence in human testimony. A man
delirious, or noted for falsehood and villany, has no manner of
authority with us.

And as the evidence, derived from witnesses and human testimony, is
founded on past experience, so it varies with the experience, and is
regarded either as a _proof_ or a _probability_, according as the
conjunction between any particular kind of report and any kind of object
has been found to be constant or variable. There are a number of
circumstances to be taken into consideration in all judgements of this
kind; and the ultimate standard, by which we determine all disputes,
that may arise concerning them, is always derived from experience and
observation. Where this experience is not entirely uniform on any side,
it is attended with an unavoidable contrariety in our judgements, and
with the same opposition and mutual destruction of argument as in every
other kind of evidence. We frequently hesitate concerning the reports of
others. We balance the opposite circumstances, which cause any doubt or
uncertainty; and when we discover a superiority on any side, we incline
to it; but still with a diminution of assurance, in proportion to the
force of its antagonist.

89. This contrariety of evidence, in the present case, may be derived
from several different causes; from the opposition of contrary
testimony; from the character or number of the witnesses; from the
manner of their delivering their testimony; or from the union of all
these circumstances. We entertain a suspicion concerning any matter of
fact, when the witnesses contradict each other; when they are but few,
or of a doubtful character; when they have an interest in what they
affirm; when they deliver their testimony with hesitation, or on the
contrary, with too violent asseverations. There are many other
particulars of the same kind, which may diminish or destroy the force of
any argument, derived from human testimony.

Suppose, for instance, that the fact, which the testimony endeavours to
establish, partakes of the extraordinary and the marvellous; in that
case, the evidence, resulting from the testimony, admits of a
diminution, greater or less, in proportion as the fact is more or less
unusual. The reason why we place any credit in witnesses and historians,
is not derived from any _connexion_, which we perceive _a priori_,
between testimony and reality, but because we are accustomed to find a
conformity between them. But when the fact attested is such a one as has
seldom fallen under our observation, here is a contest of two opposite
experiences; of which the one destroys the other, as far as its force
goes, and the superior can only operate on the mind by the force, which
remains. The very same principle of experience, which gives us a certain
degree of assurance in the testimony of witnesses, gives us also, in
this case, another degree of assurance against the fact, which they
endeavour to establish; from which contradition there necessarily arises
a counterpoize, and mutual destruction of belief and authority.

_I should not believe such a story were it told me by Cato_, was a
proverbial saying in Rome, even during the lifetime of that
philosophical patriot.[20] The incredibility of a fact, it was allowed,
might invalidate so great an authority.

    [20] Plutarch, in vita Catonis.

The Indian prince, who refused to believe the first relations concerning
the effects of frost, reasoned justly; and it naturally required very
strong testimony to engage his assent to facts, that arose from a state
of nature, with which he was unacquainted, and which bore so little
analogy to those events, of which he had had constant and uniform
experience. Though they were not contrary to his experience, they were
not conformable to it.[21]

    [21] No Indian, it is evident, could have experience that water
    did not freeze in cold climates. This is placing nature in a
    situation quite unknown to him; and it is impossible for him to
    tell _a priori _what will result from it. It is making a new
    experiment, the consequence of which is always uncertain. One
    may sometimes conjecture from analogy what will follow; but
    still this is but conjecture. And it must be confessed, that,
    in the present case of freezing, the event follows contrary to
    the rules of analogy, and is such as a rational Indian would
    not look for. The operations of cold upon water are not
    gradual, according to the degrees of cold; but whenever it
    comes to the freezing point, the water passes in a moment, from
    the utmost liquidity to perfect hardness. Such an event,
    therefore, may be denominated _extraordinary_, and requires a
    pretty strong testimony, to render it credible to people in a
    warm climate: But still it is not _miraculous_, nor contrary to
    uniform experience of the course of nature in cases where all
    the circumstances are the same. The inhabitants of Sumatra
    have always seen water fluid in their own climate, and the
    freezing of their rivers ought to be deemed a prodigy: But they
    never saw water in Muscovy during the winter; and therefore
    they cannot reasonably be positive what would there be the

90. But in order to encrease the probability against the testimony of
witnesses, let us suppose, that the fact, which they affirm, instead of
being only marvellous, is really miraculous; and suppose also, that the
testimony considered apart and in itself, amounts to an entire proof; in
that case, there is proof against proof, of which the strongest must
prevail, but still with a diminution of its force, in proportion to that
of its antagonist.

A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and
unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a
miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument
from experience can possibly be imagined. Why is it more than probable,
that all men must die; that lead cannot, of itself, remain suspended in
the air; that fire consumes wood, and is extinguished by water; unless
it be, that these events are found agreeable to the laws of nature, and
there is required a violation of these laws, or in other words, a
miracle to prevent them? Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it ever
happen in the common course of nature. It is no miracle that a man,
seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden: because such a kind of
death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently
observed to happen. But it is a miracle, that a dead man should come to
life; because that has never been observed in any age or country. There
must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event,
otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. And as a uniform
experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full _proof_,
from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle; nor
can such a proof be destroyed, or the miracle rendered credible, but by
an opposite proof, which is superior.[22]

    [22] Sometimes an event may not, _in itself_, seem to be
    contrary to the laws of nature, and yet, if it were real, it
    might, by reason of some circumstances, be denominated a
    miracle; because, in _fact_, it is contrary to these laws. Thus
    if a person, claiming a divine authority, should command a sick
    person to be well, a healthful man to fall down dead, the
    clouds to pour rain, the winds to blow, in short, should order
    many natural events, which immediately follow upon his command;
    these might justly be esteemed miracles, because they are
    really, in this case, contrary to the laws of nature. For if
    any suspicion remain, that the event and command concurred by
    accident, there is no miracle and no transgression of the laws
    of nature. If this suspicion be removed, there is evidently a
    miracle, and a transgression of these laws; because nothing can
    be more contrary to nature than that the voice or command of a
    man should have such an influence. A miracle may be accurately
    defined, _a transgression of a law of nature by a particular
    volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some
    invisible agent_. A miracle may either be discoverable by men
    or not. This alters not its nature and essence. The raising of
    a house or ship into the air is a visible miracle. The raising
    of a feather, when the wind wants ever so little of a force
    requisite for that purpose, is as real a miracle, though not so
    sensible with regard to us.

91. The plain consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of our
attention), 'That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle,
unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more
miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish; and even in
that case there is a mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior
only gives us an assurance suitable to that degree of force, which
remains, after deducting the inferior.' When anyone tells me, that he
saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself,
whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or
be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have
happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to
the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always
reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be
more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till
then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.


92. In the foregoing reasoning we have supposed, that the testimony,
upon which a miracle is founded, may possibly amount to an entire proof,
and that the falsehood of that testimony would be a real prodigy: But it
is easy to shew, that we have been a great deal too liberal in our
concession, and that there never was a miraculous event established on
so full an evidence.

For _first_, there is not to be found, in all history, any miracle
attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good-sense,
education, and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in
themselves; of such undoubted integrity, as to place them beyond all
suspicion of any design to deceive others; of such credit and reputation
in the eyes of mankind, as to have a great deal to lose in case of their
being detected in any falsehood; and at the same time, attesting facts
performed in such a public manner and in so celebrated a part of the
world, as to render the detection unavoidable: All which circumstances
are requisite to give us a full assurance in the testimony of men.

93. _Secondly_. We may observe in human nature a principle which, if
strictly examined, will be found to diminish extremely the assurance,
which we might, from human testimony, have, in any kind of prodigy. The
maxim, by which we commonly conduct ourselves in our reasonings, is,
that the objects, of which we have no experience, resembles those, of
which we have; that what we have found to be most usual is always most
probable; and that where there is an opposition of arguments, we ought
to give the preference to such as are founded on the greatest number of
past observations. But though, in proceeding by this rule, we readily
reject any fact which is unusual and incredible in an ordinary degree;
yet in advancing farther, the mind observes not always the same rule;
but when anything is affirmed utterly absurd and miraculous, it rather
the more readily admits of such a fact, upon account of that very
circumstance, which ought to destroy all its authority. The passion of
_surprise_ and _wonder_, arising from miracles, being an agreeable
emotion, gives a sensible tendency towards the belief of those events,
from which it is derived. And this goes so far, that even those who
cannot enjoy this pleasure immediately, nor can believe those miraculous
events, of which they are informed, yet love to partake of the
satisfaction at second-hand or by rebound, and place a pride and delight
in exciting the admiration of others.

With what greediness are the miraculous accounts of travellers received,
their descriptions of sea and land monsters, their relations of
wonderful adventures, strange men, and uncouth manners? But if the
spirit of religion join itself to the love of wonder, there is an end of
common sense; and human testimony, in these circumstances, loses all
pretensions to authority. A religionist may be an enthusiast, and
imagine he sees what has no reality: he may know his narrative to be
false, and yet persevere in it, with the best intentions in the world,
for the sake of promoting so holy a cause: or even where this delusion
has not place, vanity, excited by so strong a temptation, operates on
him more powerfully than on the rest of mankind in any other
circumstances; and self-interest with equal force. His auditors may not
have, and commonly have not, sufficient judgement to canvass his
evidence: what judgement they have, they renounce by principle, in these
sublime and mysterious subjects: or if they were ever so willing to
employ it, passion and a heated imagination disturb the regularity of
its operations. Their credulity increases his impudence: and his
impudence overpowers their credulity.

Eloquence, when at its highest pitch, leaves little room for reason or
reflection; but addressing itself entirely to the fancy or the
affections, captivates the willing hearers, and subdues their
understanding. Happily, this pitch it seldom attains. But what a Tully
or a Demosthenes could scarcely effect over a Roman or Athenian
audience, every _Capuchin_, every itinerant or stationary teacher can
perform over the generality of mankind, and in a higher degree, by
touching such gross and vulgar passions.

The many instances of forged miracles, and prophecies, and supernatural
events, which, in all ages, have either been detected by contrary
evidence, or which detect themselves by their absurdity, prove
sufficiently the strong propensity of mankind to the extraordinary and
the marvellous, and ought reasonably to beget a suspicion against all
relations of this kind. This is our natural way of thinking, even with
regard to the most common and most credible events. For instance: There
is no kind of report which rises so easily, and spreads so quickly,
especially in country places and provincial towns, as those concerning
marriages; insomuch that two young persons of equal condition never see
each other twice, but the whole neighbourhood immediately join them
together. The pleasure of telling a piece of news so interesting, of
propagating it, and of being the first reporters of it, spreads the
intelligence. And this is so well known, that no man of sense gives
attention to these reports, till he find them confirmed by some greater
evidence. Do not the same passions, and others still stronger, incline
the generality of mankind to believe and report, with the greatest
vehemence and assurance, all religious miracles?

94. _Thirdly_. It forms a strong presumption against all supernatural
and miraculous relations, that they are observed chiefly to abound among
ignorant and barbarous nations; or if a civilized people has ever given
admission to any of them, that people will be found to have received
them from ignorant and barbarous ancestors, who transmitted them with
that inviolable sanction and authority, which always attend received
opinions. When we peruse the first histories of all nations, we are apt
to imagine ourselves transported into some new world; where the whole
frame of nature is disjointed, and every element performs its operations
in a different manner, from what it does at present. Battles,
revolutions, pestilence, famine and death, are never the effect of those
natural causes, which we experience. Prodigies, omens, oracles,
judgements, quite obscure the few natural events, that are intermingled
with them. But as the former grow thinner every page, in proportion as
we advance nearer the enlightened ages, we soon learn, that there is
nothing mysterious or supernatural in the case, but that all proceeds
from the usual propensity of mankind towards the marvellous, and that,
though this inclination may at intervals receive a check from sense and
learning, it can never be thoroughly extirpated from human nature.

_It is strange_, a judicious reader is apt to say, upon the perusal of
these wonderful historians, _that such prodigious_ _events never happen
in our days_. But it is nothing strange, I hope, that men should lie in
all ages. You must surely have seen instances enough of that frailty.
You have yourself heard many such marvellous relations started, which,
being treated with scorn by all the wise and judicious, have at last
been abandoned even by the vulgar. Be assured, that those renowned lies,
which have spread and flourished to such a monstrous height, arose from
like beginnings; but being sown in a more proper soil, shot up at last
into prodigies almost equal to those which they relate.

It was a wise policy in that false prophet, Alexander, who though now
forgotten, was once so famous, to lay the first scene of his impostures
in Paphlagonia, where, as Lucian tells us, the people were extremely
ignorant and stupid, and ready to swallow even the grossest delusion.
People at a distance, who are weak enough to think the matter at all
worth enquiry, have no opportunity of receiving better information. The
stories come magnified to them by a hundred circumstances. Fools are
industrious in propagating the imposture; while the wise and learned are
contented, in general, to deride its absurdity, without informing
themselves of the particular facts, by which it may be distinctly
refuted. And thus the impostor above mentioned was enabled to proceed,
from his ignorant Paphlagonians, to the enlisting of votaries, even
among the Grecian philosophers, and men of the most eminent rank and
distinction in Rome: nay, could engage the attention of that sage
emperor Marcus Aurelius; so far as to make him trust the success of a
military expedition to his delusive prophecies.

The advantages are so great, of starting an imposture among an ignorant
people, that, even though the delusion should be too gross to impose on
the generality of them (_which, though seldom, is sometimes the case_)
it has a much better chance for succeeding in remote countries, than if
the first scene had been laid in a city renowned for arts and
knowledge. The most ignorant and barbarous of these barbarians carry
the report abroad. None of their countrymen have a large correspondence,
or sufficient credit and authority to contradict and beat down the
delusion. Men's inclination to the marvellous has full opportunity to
display itself. And thus a story, which is universally exploded in the
place where it was first started, shall pass for certain at a thousand
miles distance. But had Alexander fixed his residence at Athens, the
philosophers of that renowned mart of learning had immediately spread,
throughout the whole Roman empire, their sense of the matter; which,
being supported by so great authority, and displayed by all the force of
reason and eloquence, had entirely opened the eyes of mankind. It is
true; Lucian, passing by chance through Paphlagonia, had an opportunity
of performing this good office. But, though much to be wished, it does
not always happen, that every Alexander meets with a Lucian, ready to
expose and detect his impostures.

95. I may add as a _fourth_ reason, which diminishes the authority of
prodigies, that there is no testimony for any, even those which have not
been expressly detected, that is not opposed by an infinite number of
witnesses; so that not only the miracle destroys the credit of
testimony, but the testimony destroys itself. To make this the better
understood, let us consider, that, in matters of religion, whatever is
different is contrary; and that it is impossible the religions of
ancient Rome, of Turkey, of Siam, and of China should, all of them, be
established on any solid foundation. Every miracle, therefore, pretended
to have been wrought in any of these religions (and all of them abound
in miracles), as its direct scope is to establish the particular system
to which it is attributed; so has it the same force, though more
indirectly, to overthrow every other system. In destroying a rival
system, it likewise destroys the credit of those miracles, on which that
system was established; so that all the prodigies of different
religions are to be regarded as contrary facts, and the evidences of
these prodigies, whether weak or strong, as opposite to each other.
According to this method of reasoning, when we believe any miracle of
Mahomet or his successors, we have for our warrant the testimony of a
few barbarous Arabians: And on the other hand, we are to regard the
authority of Titus Livius, Plutarch, Tacitus, and, in short, of all the
authors and witnesses, Grecian, Chinese, and Roman Catholic, who have
related any miracle in their particular religion; I say, we are to
regard their testimony in the same light as if they had mentioned that
Mahometan miracle, and had in express terms contradicted it, with the
same certainty as they have for the miracle they relate. This argument
may appear over subtile and refined; but is not in reality different
from the reasoning of a judge, who supposes, that the credit of two
witnesses, maintaining a crime against any one, is destroyed by the
testimony of two others, who affirm him to have been two hundred leagues
distant, at the same instant when the crime is said to have been

96. One of the best attested miracles in all profane history, is that
which Tacitus reports of Vespasian, who cured a blind man in Alexandria,
by means of his spittle, and a lame man by the mere touch of his foot;
in obedience to a vision of the god Serapis, who had enjoined them to
have recourse to the Emperor, for these miraculous cures. The story may
be seen in that fine historian[23]; where every circumstance seems to add
weight to the testimony, and might be displayed at large with all the
force of argument and eloquence, if any one were now concerned to
enforce the evidence of that exploded and idolatrous superstition. The
gravity, solidity, age, and probity of so great an emperor, who, through
the whole course of his life, conversed in a familiar manner with his
friends and courtiers, and never affected those extraordinary airs of
divinity assumed by Alexander and Demetrius. The historian, a
cotemporary writer, noted for candour and veracity, and withal, the
greatest and most penetrating genius, perhaps, of all antiquity; and so
free from any tendency to credulity, that he even lies under the
contrary imputation, of atheism and profaneness: The persons, from whose
authority he related the miracle, of established character for judgement
and veracity, as we may well presume; eye-witnesses of the fact, and
confirming their testimony, after the Flavian family was despoiled of
the empire, and could no longer give any reward, as the price of a lie.
_Utrumque, qui interfuere, nunc quoque memorant, postquam nullum
mendacio pretium_. To which if we add the public nature of the facts, as
related, it will appear, that no evidence can well be supposed stronger
for so gross and so palpable a falsehood.

    [23] Hist. lib. iv. cap. 81. Suetonius gives nearly the same
    account _in vita_ Vesp.

There is also a memorable story related by Cardinal de Retz, which may
well deserve our consideration. When that intriguing politician fled
into Spain, to avoid the persecution of his enemies, he passed through
Saragossa, the capital of Arragon, where he was shewn, in the cathedral,
a man, who had served seven years as a door-keeper, and was well known
to every body in town, that had ever paid his devotions at that church.
He had been seen, for so long a time, wanting a leg; but recovered that
limb by the rubbing of holy oil upon the stump; and the cardinal assures
us that he saw him with two legs. This miracle was vouched by all the
canons of the church; and the whole company in town were appealed to for
a confirmation of the fact; whom the cardinal found, by their zealous
devotion, to be thorough believers of the miracle. Here the relater was
also cotemporary to the supposed prodigy, of an incredulous and
libertine character, as well as of great genius; the miracle of so
_singular_ a nature as could scarcely admit of a counterfeit, and the
witnesses very numerous, and all of them, in a manner, spectators of the
fact, to which they gave their testimony. And what adds mightily to the
force of the evidence, and may double our surprise on this occasion, is,
that the cardinal himself, who relates the story, seems not to give any
credit to it, and consequently cannot be suspected of any concurrence in
the holy fraud. He considered justly, that it was not requisite, in
order to reject a fact of this nature, to be able accurately to disprove
the testimony, and to trace its falsehood, through all the circumstances
of knavery and credulity which produced it. He knew, that, as this was
commonly altogether impossible at any small distance of time and place;
so was it extremely difficult, even where one was immediately present,
by reason of the bigotry, ignorance, cunning, and roguery of a great
part of mankind. He therefore concluded, like a just reasoner, that such
an evidence carried falsehood upon the very face of it, and that a
miracle, supported by any human testimony, was more properly a subject
of derision than of argument.

There surely never was a greater number of miracles ascribed to one
person, than those, which were lately said to have been wrought in
France upon the tomb of Abbé Paris, the famous Jansenist, with whose
sanctity the people were so long deluded. The curing of the sick, giving
hearing to the deaf, and sight to the blind, were every where talked of
as the usual effects of that holy sepulchre. But what is more
extraordinary; many of the miracles were immediately proved upon the
spot, before judges of unquestioned integrity, attested by witnesses of
credit and distinction, in a learned age, and on the most eminent
theatre that is now in the world. Nor is this all: a relation of them
was published and dispersed every where; nor were the _Jesuits_, though
a learned body, supported by the civil magistrate, and determined
enemies to those opinions, in whose favour the miracles were said to
have been wrought, ever able distinctly to refute or detect them[24].
Where shall we find such a number of circumstances, agreeing to the
corroboration of one fact? And what have we to oppose to such a cloud of
witnesses, but the absolute impossibility or miraculous nature of the
events, which they relate? And this surely, in the eyes of all
reasonable people, will alone be regarded as a sufficient refutation.

    [24] This book was writ by Mons. Montgeron, counsellor or judge
    of the parliament of Paris, a man of figure and character, who
    was also a martyr to the cause, and is now said to be somewhere
    in a dungeon on account of his book.

    There is another book in three volumes (called _Recueil des
    Miracles de l'Abbé_ Paris) giving an account of many of these
    miracles, and accompanied with prefatory discourses, which are
    very well written. There runs, however, through the whole of
    these a ridiculous comparison between the miracles of our
    Saviour and those of the Abbé; wherein it is asserted, that the
    evidence for the latter is equal to that for the former: As if
    the testimony of men could ever be put in the balance with that
    of God himself, who conducted the pen of the inspired writers.
    If these writers, indeed, were to be considered merely as human
    testimony, the French author is very moderate in his
    comparison; since he might, with some appearance of reason,
    pretend, that the Jansenist miracles much surpass the other in
    evidence and authority. The following circumstances are drawn
    from authentic papers, inserted in the above-mentioned book.

    Many of the miracles of Abbé Paris were proved immediately by
    witnesses before the officiality or bishop's court at Paris,
    under the eye of cardinal Noailles, whose character for
    integrity and capacity was never contested even by his enemies.

    His successor in the archbishopric was an enemy to the
    Jansenists, and for that reason promoted to the see by the
    court. Yet 22 rectors or curés of Paris, with infinite
    earnestness, press him to examine those miracles, which they
    assert to be known to the whole world, and undisputably
    certain: But he wisely forbore.

    The Molinist party had tried to discredit these miracles in one
    instance, that of Mademoiselle le Franc. But, besides that
    their proceedings were in many respects the most irregular in
    the world, particularly in citing only a few of the Jansenist
    witnesses, whom they tampered with: Besides this, I say, they
    soon found themselves overwhelmed by a cloud of new witnesses,
    one hundred and twenty in number, most of them persons of
    credit and substance in Paris, who gave oath for the miracle.
    This was accompanied with a solemn and earnest appeal to the
    parliament. But the parliament were forbidden by authority to
    meddle in the affair. It was at last observed, that where men
    are heated by zeal and enthusiasm, there is no degree of human
    testimony so strong as may not be procured for the greatest
    absurdity: And those who will be so silly as to examine the
    affair by that medium, and seek particular flaws in the
    testimony, are almost sure to be confounded. It must be a
    miserable imposture, indeed, that does not prevail in
    that contest.

    All who have been in France about that time have heard of the
    reputation of Mons. Heraut, the _lieutenant de Police_, whose
    vigilance, penetration, activity, and extensive intelligence
    have been much talked of. This magistrate, who by the nature of
    his office is almost absolute, was vested with full powers, on
    purpose to suppress or discredit these miracles; and he
    frequently seized immediately, and examined the witnesses and
    subjects of them: But never could reach any thing satisfactory
    against them.

    In the case of Mademoiselle Thibaut he sent the famous De Sylva
    to examine her; whose evidence is very curious. The physician
    declares, that it was impossible she could have been so ill as
    was proved by witnesses; because it was impossible she could,
    in so short a time, have recovered so perfectly as he found
    her. He reasoned, like a man of sense, from natural causes; but
    the opposite party told him, that the whole was a miracle, and
    that his evidence was the very best proof of it.

    The Molinists were in a sad dilemma. They durst not assert the
    absolute insufficiency of human evidence, to prove a miracle.
    They were obliged to say, that these miracles were wrought by
    witchcraft and the devil. But they were told, that this was the
    resource of the Jews of old.

    No Jansenist was ever embarrassed to account for the cessation
    of the miracles, when the church-yard was shut up by the king's
    edict. It was the touch of the tomb, which produced these
    extraordinary effects; and when no one could approach the tomb,
    no effects could be expected. God, indeed, could have thrown
    down the walls in a moment; but he is master of his own graces
    and works, and it belongs not to us to account for them. He did
    not throw down the walls of every city like those of Jericho,
    on the sounding of the rams horns, nor break up the prison of
    every apostle, like that of St. Paul.

    No less a man, than the Due de Chatillon, a duke and peer of
    France, of the highest rank and family, gives evidence of a
    miraculous cure, performed upon a servant of his, who had lived
    several years in his house with a visible and palpable
    infirmity. I shall conclude with observing, that no clergy are
    more celebrated for strictness of life and manners than the
    secular clergy of France, particularly the rectors or curés of
    Paris, who bear testimony to these impostures. The learning,
    genius, and probity of the gentlemen, and the austerity of the
    nuns of Port-Royal, have been much celebrated all over Europe.
    Yet they all give evidence for a miracle, wrought on the niece
    of the famous Pascal, whose sanctity of life, as well as
    extraordinary capacity, is well known. The famous Racine gives
    an account of this miracle in his famous history of Port-Royal,
    and fortifies it with all the proofs, which a multitude of
    nuns, priests, physicians, and men of the world, all of them of
    undoubted credit, could bestow upon it. Several men of letters,
    particularly the bishop of Tournay, thought this miracle so
    certain, as to employ it in the refutation of atheists and
    free-thinkers. The queen-regent of France, who was extremely
    prejudiced against the Port-Royal, sent her own physician to
    examine the miracle, who returned an absolute convert. In
    short, the supernatural cure was so uncontestable, that it
    saved, for a time, that famous monastery from the ruin with
    which it was threatened by the Jesuits. Had it been a cheat, it
    had certainly been detected by such sagacious and powerful
    antagonists, and must have hastened the ruin of the contrivers.
    Our divines, who can build up a formidable castle from such
    despicable materials; what a prodigious fabric could they have
    reared from these and many other circumstances, which I have
    not mentioned! How often would the great names of Pascal,
    Racine, Amaud, Nicole, have resounded in our ears? But if they
    be wise, they had better adopt the miracle, as being more
    worth, a thousand times, than all the rest of the collection.
    Besides, it may serve very much to their purpose. For that
    miracle was really performed by the touch of an authentic holy
    prickle of the holy thorn, which composed the holy crown,
    which, &c.

97. Is the consequence just, because some human testimony has the utmost
force and authority in some cases, when it relates the battle of
Philippi or Pharsalia for instance; that therefore all kinds of
testimony must, in all cases, have equal force and authority? Suppose
that the Caesarean and Pompeian factions had, each of them, claimed the
victory in these battles, and that the historians of each party had
uniformly ascribed the advantage to their own side; how could mankind,
at this distance, have been able to determine between them? The
contrariety is equally strong between the miracles related by Herodotus
or Plutarch, and those delivered by Mariana, Bede, or any monkish

The wise lend a very academic faith to every report which favours the
passion of the reporter; whether it magnifies his country, his family,
or himself, or in any other way strikes in with his natural inclinations
and propensities. But what greater temptation than to appear a
missionary, a prophet, an ambassador from heaven? Who would not
encounter many dangers and difficulties, in order to attain so sublime a
character? Or if, by the help of vanity and a heated imagination, a man
has first made a convert of himself, and entered seriously into the
delusion; who ever scruples to make use of pious frauds, in support of
so holy and meritorious a cause?

The smallest spark may here kindle into the greatest flame; because the
materials are always prepared for it. The _avidum genus auricularum_[25],
the gazing populace, receive greedily, without examination, whatever
sooths superstition, and promotes wonder.

    [25] Lucret.

How many stories of this nature have, in all ages, been detected and
exploded in their infancy? How many more have been celebrated for a
time, and have afterwards sunk into neglect and oblivion? Where such
reports, therefore, fly about, the solution of the phenomenon is
obvious; and we judge in conformity to regular experience and
observation, when we account for it by the known and natural principles
of credulity and delusion. And shall we, rather than have a recourse to
so natural a solution, allow of a miraculous violation of the most
established laws of nature?

I need not mention the difficulty of detecting a falsehood in any
private or even public history, at the place, where it is said to
happen; much more when the scene is removed to ever so small a distance.
Even a court of judicature, with all the authority, accuracy, and
judgement, which they can employ, find themselves often at a loss to
distinguish between truth and falsehood in the most recent actions. But
the matter never comes to any issue, if trusted to the common method of
altercations and debate and flying rumours; especially when men's
passions have taken part on either side.

In the infancy of new religions, the wise and learned commonly esteem
the matter too inconsiderable to deserve their attention or regard. And
when afterwards they would willingly detect the cheat, in order to
undeceive the deluded multitude, the season is now past, and the records
and witnesses, which might clear up the matter, have perished
beyond recovery.

No means of detection remain, but those which must be drawn from the
very testimony itself of the reporters: and these, though always
sufficient with the judicious and knowing, are commonly too fine to fall
under the comprehension of the vulgar.

98. Upon the whole, then, it appears, that no testimony for any kind of
miracle has ever amounted to a probability, much less to a proof; and
that, even supposing it amounted to a proof, it would be opposed by
another proof; derived from the very nature of the fact, which it would
endeavour to establish. It is experience only, which gives authority to
human testimony; and it is the same experience, which assures us of the
laws of nature. When, therefore, these two kinds of experience are
contrary, we have nothing to do but substract the one from the other,
and embrace an opinion, either on one side or the other, with that
assurance which arises from the remainder. But according to the
principle here explained, this substraction, with regard to all popular
religions, amounts to an entire annihilation; and therefore we may
establish it as a maxim, that no human testimony can have such force as
to prove a miracle, and make it a just foundation for any such system
of religion.

99. I beg the limitations here made may be remarked, when I say, that a
miracle can never be proved, so as to be the foundation of a system of
religion. For I own, that otherwise, there may possibly be miracles, or
violations of the usual course of nature, of such a kind as to admit of
proof from human testimony; though, perhaps, it will be impossible to
find any such in all the records of history. Thus, suppose, all authors,
in all languages, agree, that, from the first of January 1600, there was
a total darkness over the whole earth for eight days: suppose that the
tradition of this extraordinary event is still strong and lively among
the people: that all travellers, who return from foreign countries,
bring us accounts of the same tradition, without the least variation or
contradiction: it is evident, that our present philosophers, instead of
doubting the fact, ought to receive it as certain, and ought to search
for the causes whence it might be derived. The decay, corruption, and
dissolution of nature, is an event rendered probable by so many
analogies, that any phenomenon, which seems to have a tendency towards
that catastrophe, comes within the reach of human testimony, if that
testimony be very extensive and uniform.

But suppose, that all the historians who treat of England, should agree,
that, on the first of January 1600, Queen Elizabeth died; that both
before and after her death she was seen by her physicians and the whole
court, as is usual with persons of her rank; that her successor was
acknowledged and proclaimed by the parliament; and that, after being
interred a month, she again appeared, resumed the throne, and governed
England for three years: I must confess that I should be surprised at
the concurrence of so many odd circumstances, but should not have the
least inclination to believe so miraculous an event. I should not doubt
of her pretended death, and of those other public circumstances that
followed it: I should only assert it to have been pretended, and that it
neither was, nor possibly could be real. You would in vain object to me
the difficulty, and almost impossibility of deceiving the world in an
affair of such consequence; the wisdom and solid judgement of that
renowned queen; with the little or no advantage which she could reap
from so poor an artifice: All this might astonish me; but I would still
reply, that the knavery and folly of men are such common phenomena, that
I should rather believe the most extraordinary events to arise from
their concurrence, than admit of so signal a violation of the laws
of nature.

But should this miracle be ascribed to any new system of religion; men,
in all ages, have been so much imposed on by ridiculous stories of that
kind, that this very circumstance would be a full proof of a cheat, and
sufficient, with all men of sense, not only to make them reject the
fact, but even reject it without farther examination. Though the Being
to whom the miracle is ascribed, be, in this case, Almighty, it does
not, upon that account, become a whit more probable; since it is
impossible for us to know the attributes or actions of such a Being,
otherwise than from the experience which we have of his productions, in
the usual course of nature. This still reduces us to past observation,
and obliges us to compare the instances of the violation of truth in the
testimony of men, with those of the violation of the laws of nature by
miracles, in order to judge which of them is most likely and probable.
As the violations of truth are more common in the testimony concerning
religious miracles, than in that concerning any other matter of fact;
this must diminish very much the authority of the former testimony, and
make us form a general resolution, never to lend any attention to it,
with whatever specious pretence it may be covered.

Lord Bacon seems to have embraced the same principles of reasoning. 'We
ought,' says he, 'to make a collection or particular history of all
monsters and prodigious births or productions, and in a word of every
thing new, rare, and extraordinary in nature. But this must be done with
the most severe scrutiny, lest we depart from truth. Above all, every
relation must be considered as suspicious, which depends in any degree
upon religion, as the prodigies of Livy: And no less so, every thing
that is to be found in the writers of natural magic or alchimy, or such
authors, who seem, all of them, to have an unconquerable appetite for
falsehood and fable[26].'

    [26] Nov. Org. lib. ii. aph. 29.

100. I am the better pleased with the method of reasoning here
delivered, as I think it may serve to confound those dangerous friends
or disguised enemies to the _Christian Religion_, who have undertaken to
defend it by the principles of human reason. Our most holy religion is
founded on _Faith_, not on reason; and it is a sure method of exposing
it to put it to such a trial as it is, by no means, fitted to endure. To
make this more evident, let us examine those miracles, related in
scripture; and not to lose ourselves in too wide a field, let us confine
ourselves to such as we find in the _Pentateuch_, which we shall
examine, according to the principles of these pretended Christians, not
as the word or testimony of God himself, but as the production of a mere
human writer and historian. Here then we are first to consider a book,
presented to us by a barbarous and ignorant people, written in an age
when they were still more barbarous, and in all probability long after
the facts which it relates, corroborated by no concurring testimony, and
resembling those fabulous accounts, which every nation gives of its
origin. Upon reading this book, we find it full of prodigies and
miracles. It gives an account of a state of the world and of human
nature entirely different from the present: Of our fall from that state:
Of the age of man, extended to near a thousand years: Of the destruction
of the world by a deluge: Of the arbitrary choice of one people, as the
favourites of heaven; and that people the countrymen of the author: Of
their deliverance from bondage by prodigies the most astonishing
imaginable: I desire any one to lay his hand upon his heart, and after a
serious consideration declare, whether he thinks that the falsehood of
such a book, supported by such a testimony, would be more extraordinary
and miraculous than all the miracles it relates; which is, however,
necessary to make it be received, according to the measures of
probability above established.

101. What we have said of miracles may be applied, without any
variation, to prophecies; and indeed, all prophecies are real miracles,
and as such only, can be admitted as proofs of any revelation. If it did
not exceed the capacity of human nature to foretell future events, it
would be absurd to employ any prophecy as an argument for a divine
mission or authority from heaven. So that, upon the whole, we may
conclude, that the _Christian Religion_ not only was at first attended
with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable
person without one. Mere reason is insufficient to convince us of its
veracity: And whoever is moved by _Faith_ to assent to it, is conscious
of a continued miracle in his own person, which subverts all the
principles of his understanding, and gives him a determination to
believe what is most contrary to custom and experience.



102. I was lately engaged in conversation with a friend who loves
sceptical paradoxes; where, though he advanced many principles, of which
I can by no means approve, yet as they seem to be curious, and to bear
some relation to the chain of reasoning carried on throughout this
enquiry, I shall here copy them from my memory as accurately as I can,
in order to submit them to the judgement of the reader.

Our conversation began with my admiring the singular good fortune of
philosophy, which, as it requires entire liberty above all other
privileges, and chiefly flourishes from the free opposition of
sentiments and argumentation, received its first birth in an age and
country of freedom and toleration, and was never cramped, even in its
most extravagant principles, by any creeds, concessions, or penal
statutes. For, except the banishment of Protagoras, and the death of
Socrates, which last event proceeded partly from other motives, there
are scarcely any instances to be met with, in ancient history, of this
bigotted jealousy, with which the present age is so much infested.
Epicurus lived at Athens to an advanced age, in peace and tranquillity:
Epicureans[27] were even admitted to receive the sacerdotal character,
and to officiate at the altar, in the most sacred rites of the
established religion: And the public encouragement[28] of pensions and
salaries was afforded equally, by the wisest of all the Roman
emperors[29], to the professors of every sect of philosophy. How
requisite such kind of treatment was to philosophy, in her early youth,
will easily be conceived, if we reflect, that, even at present, when she
may be supposed more hardy and robust, she bears with much difficulty
the inclemency of the seasons, and those harsh winds of calumny and
persecution, which blow upon her.

    [27] Luciani [Greek: symp. ae Lapithai].

    [28] Luciani [Greek: eunouchos].

    [29] Luciani and Dio.

You admire, says my friend, as the singular good fortune of philosophy,
what seems to result from the natural course of things, and to be
unavoidable in every age and nation. This pertinacious bigotry, of which
you complain, as so fatal to philosophy, is really her offspring, who,
after allying with superstition, separates himself entirely from the
interest of his parent, and becomes her most inveterate enemy and
persecutor. Speculative dogmas of religion, the present occasions of
such furious dispute, could not possibly be conceived or admitted in the
early ages of the world; when mankind, being wholly illiterate, formed
an idea of religion more suitable to their weak apprehension, and
composed their sacred tenets of such tales chiefly as were the objects
of traditional belief, more than of argument or disputation. After the
first alarm, therefore, was over, which arose from the new paradoxes and
principles of the philosophers; these teachers seem ever after, during
the ages of antiquity, to have lived in great harmony with the
established superstition, and to have made a fair partition of mankind
between them; the former claiming all the learned and wise, the latter
possessing all the vulgar and illiterate.

103. It seems then, say I, that you leave politics entirely out of the
question, and never suppose, that a wise magistrate can justly be
jealous of certain tenets of philosophy, such as those of Epicurus,
which, denying a divine existence, and consequently a providence and a
future state, seem to loosen, in a great measure, the ties of morality,
and may be supposed, for that reason, pernicious to the peace of
civil society.

I know, replied he, that in fact these persecutions never, in any age,
proceeded from calm reason, or from experience of the pernicious
consequences of philosophy; but arose entirely from passion and
prejudice. But what if I should advance farther, and assert, that if
Epicurus had been accused before the people, by any of the _sycophants_
or informers of those days, he could easily have defended his cause, and
proved his principles of philosophy to be as salutary as those of his
adversaries, who endeavoured, with such zeal, to expose him to the
public hatred and jealousy?

I wish, said I, you would try your eloquence upon so extraordinary a
topic, and make a speech for Epicurus, which might satisfy, not the mob
of Athens, if you will allow that ancient and polite city to have
contained any mob, but the more philosophical part of his audience, such
as might be supposed capable of comprehending his arguments.

The matter would not be difficult, upon such conditions, replied he: And
if you please, I shall suppose myself Epicurus for a moment, and make
you stand for the Athenian people, and shall deliver you such an
harangue as will fill all the urn with white beans, and leave not a
black one to gratify the malice of my adversaries.

Very well: Pray proceed upon these suppositions.

104. I come hither, O ye Athenians, to justify in your assembly what I
maintained in my school, and I find myself impeached by furious
antagonists, instead of reasoning with calm and dispassionate enquirers.
Your deliberations, which of right should be directed to questions of
public good, and the interest of the commonwealth, are diverted to the
disquisitions of speculative philosophy; and these magnificent, but
perhaps fruitless enquiries, take place of your more familiar but more
useful occupations. But so far as in me lies, I will prevent this abuse.
We shall not here dispute concerning the origin and government of
worlds. We shall only enquire how far such questions concern the public
interest. And if I can persuade you, that they are entirely indifferent
to the peace of society and security of government, I hope that you will
presently send us back to our schools, there to examine, at leisure, the
question the most sublime, but at the same time, the most speculative of
all philosophy.

The religious philosophers, not satisfied with the tradition of your
forefathers, and doctrine of your priests (in which I willingly
acquiesce), indulge a rash curiosity, in trying how far they can
establish religion upon the principles of reason; and they thereby
excite, instead of satisfying, the doubts, which naturally arise from a
diligent and scrutinous enquiry. They paint, in the most magnificent
colours, the order, beauty, and wise arrangement of the universe; and
then ask, if such a glorious display of intelligence could proceed from
the fortuitous concourse of atoms, or if chance could produce what the
greatest genius can never sufficiently admire. I shall not examine the
justness of this argument. I shall allow it to be as solid as my
antagonists and accusers can desire. It is sufficient, if I can prove,
from this very reasoning, that the question is entirely speculative, and
that, when, in my philosophical disquisitions, I deny a providence and a
future state, I undermine not the foundations of society, but advance
principles, which they themselves, upon their own topics, if they argue
consistently, must allow to be solid and satisfactory.

105. You then, who are my accusers, have acknowledged, that the chief or
sole argument for a divine existence (which I never questioned) is
derived from the order of nature; where there appear such marks of
intelligence and design, that you think it extravagant to assign for its
cause, either chance, or the blind and unguided force of matter. You
allow, that this is an argument drawn from effects to causes. From the
order of the work, you infer, that there must have been project and
forethought in the workman. If you cannot make out this point, you
allow, that your conclusion fails; and you pretend not to establish the
conclusion in a greater latitude than the phenomena of nature will
justify. These are your concessions. I desire you to mark the

When we infer any particular cause from an effect, we must proportion
the one to the other, and can never be allowed to ascribe to the cause
any qualities, but what are exactly sufficient to produce the effect. A
body of ten ounces raised in any scale may serve as a proof, that the
counterbalancing weight exceeds ten ounces; but can never afford a
reason that it exceeds a hundred. If the cause, assigned for any effect,
be not sufficient to produce it, we must either reject that cause, or
add to it such qualities as will give it a just proportion to the
effect. But if we ascribe to it farther qualities, or affirm it capable
of producing other effects, we can only indulge the licence of
conjecture, and arbitrarily suppose the existence of qualities and
energies, without reason or authority.

The same rule holds, whether the cause assigned be brute unconscious
matter, or a rational intelligent being. If the cause be known only by
the effect, we never ought to ascribe to it any qualities, beyond what
are precisely requisite to produce the effect: Nor can we, by any rules
of just reasoning, return back from the cause, and infer other effects
from it, beyond those by which alone it is known to us. No one, merely
from the sight of one of Zeuxis's pictures, could know, that he was also
a statuary or architect, and was an artist no less skilful in stone and
marble than in colours. The talents and taste, displayed in the
particular work before us; these we may safely conclude the workman to
be possessed of. The cause must be proportioned to the effect; and if
we exactly and precisely proportion it, we shall never find in it any
qualities, that point farther, or afford an inference concerning any
other design or performance. Such qualities must be somewhat beyond what
is merely requisite for producing the effect, which we examine.

106. Allowing, therefore, the gods to be the authors of the existence or
order of the universe; it follows, that they possess that precise degree
of power, intelligence, and benevolence, which appears in their
workmanship; but nothing farther can ever be proved, except we call in
the assistance of exaggeration and flattery to supply the defects of
argument and reasoning. So far as the traces of any attributes, at
present, appear, so far may we conclude these attributes to exist. The
supposition of farther attributes is mere hypothesis; much more the
supposition, that, in distant regions of space or periods of time, there
has been, or will be, a more magnificent display of these attributes,
and a scheme of administration more suitable to such imaginary virtues.
We can never be allowed to mount up from the universe, the effect, to
Jupiter, the cause; and then descend downwards, to infer any new effect
from that cause; as if the present effects alone were not entirely
worthy of the glorious attributes, which we ascribe to that deity. The
knowledge of the cause being derived solely from the effect, they must
be exactly adjusted to each other; and the one can never refer to
anything farther, or be the foundation of any new inference and

You find certain phenomena in nature. You seek a cause or author. You
imagine that you have found him. You afterwards become so enamoured of
this offspring of your brain, that you imagine it impossible, but he
must produce something greater and more perfect than the present scene
of things, which is so full of ill and disorder. You forget, that this
superlative intelligence and benevolence are entirely imaginary, or, at
least, without any foundation in reason; and that you have no ground to
ascribe to him any qualities, but what you see he has actually exerted
and displayed in his productions. Let your gods, therefore, O
philosophers, be suited to the present appearances of nature: and
presume not to alter these appearances by arbitrary suppositions, in
order to suit them to the attributes, which you so fondly ascribe to
your deities.

107. When priests and poets, supported by your authority, O Athenians,
talk of a golden or silver age, which preceded the present state of vice
and misery, I hear them with attention and with reverence. But when
philosophers, who pretend to neglect authority, and to cultivate reason,
hold the same discourse, I pay them not, I own, the same obsequious
submission and pious deference. I ask; who carried them into the
celestial regions, who admitted them into the councils of the gods, who
opened to them the book of fate, that they thus rashly affirm, that
their deities have executed, or will execute, any purpose beyond what
has actually appeared? If they tell me, that they have mounted on the
steps or by the gradual ascent of reason, and by drawing inferences from
effects to causes, I still insist, that they have aided the ascent of
reason by the wings of imagination; otherwise they could not thus change
their manner of inference, and argue from causes to effects; presuming,
that a more perfect production than the present world would be more
suitable to such perfect beings as the gods, and forgetting that they
have no reason to ascribe to these celestial beings any perfection or
any attribute, but what can be found in the present world.

Hence all the fruitless industry to account for the ill appearances of
nature, and save the honour of the gods; while we must acknowledge the
reality of that evil and disorder, with which the world so much abounds.
The obstinate and intractable qualities of matter, we are told, or the
observance of general laws, or some such reason, is the sole cause,
which controlled the power and benevolence of Jupiter, and obliged him
to create mankind and every sensible creature so imperfect and so
unhappy. These attributes then, are, it seems, beforehand, taken for
granted, in their greatest latitude. And upon that supposition, I own
that such conjectures may, perhaps, be admitted as plausible solutions
of the ill phenomena. But still I ask; Why take these attributes for
granted, or why ascribe to the cause any qualities but what actually
appear in the effect? Why torture your brain to justify the course of
nature upon suppositions, which, for aught you know, may be entirely
imaginary, and of which there are to be found no traces in the course
of nature?

The religious hypothesis, therefore, must be considered only as a
particular method of accounting for the visible phenomena of the
universe: but no just reasoner will ever presume to infer from it any
single fact, and alter or add to the phenomena, in any single
particular. If you think, that the appearances of things prove such
causes, it is allowable for you to draw an inference concerning the
existence of these causes. In such complicated and sublime subjects,
every one should be indulged in the liberty of conjecture and argument.
But here you ought to rest. If you come backward, and arguing from your
inferred causes, conclude, that any other fact has existed, or will
exist, in the course of nature, which may serve as a fuller display of
particular attributes; I must admonish you, that you have departed from
the method of reasoning, attached to the present subject, and have
certainly added something to the attributes of the cause, beyond what
appears in the effect; otherwise you could never, with tolerable sense
or propriety, add anything to the effect, in order to render it more
worthy of the cause.

108. Where, then, is the odiousness of that doctrine, which I teach in
my school, or rather, which I examine in my gardens? Or what do you find
in this whole question, wherein the security of good morals, or the
peace and order of society, is in the least concerned?

I deny a providence, you say, and supreme governor of the world, who
guides the course of events, and punishes the vicious with infamy and
disappointment, and rewards the virtuous with honour and success, in all
their undertakings. But surely, I deny not the course itself of events,
which lies open to every one's inquiry and examination. I acknowledge,
that, in the present order of things, virtue is attended with more peace
of mind than vice, and meets with a more favourable reception from the
world. I am sensible, that, according to the past experience of mankind,
friendship is the chief joy of human life, and moderation the only
source of tranquillity and happiness. I never balance between the
virtuous and the vicious course of life; but am sensible, that, to a
well-disposed mind, every advantage is on the side of the former. And
what can you say more, allowing all your suppositions and reasonings?
You tell me, indeed, that this disposition of things proceeds from
intelligence and design. But whatever it proceeds from, the disposition
itself, on which depends our happiness or misery, and consequently our
conduct and deportment in life is still the same. It is still open for
me, as well as you, to regulate my behaviour, by my experience of past
events. And if you affirm, that, while a divine providence is allowed,
and a supreme distributive justice in the universe, I ought to expect
some more particular reward of the good, and punishment of the bad,
beyond the ordinary course of events; I here find the same fallacy,
which I have before endeavoured to detect. You persist in imagining,
that, if we grant that divine existence, for which you so earnestly
contend, you may safely infer consequences from it, and add something
to the experienced order of nature, by arguing from the attributes which
you ascribe to your gods. You seem not to remember, that all your
reasonings on this subject can only be drawn from effects to causes; and
that every argument, deducted from causes to effects, must of necessity
be a gross sophism; since it is impossible for you to know anything of
the cause, but what you have antecedently, not inferred, but discovered
to the full, in the effect.

109. But what must a philosopher think of those vain reasoners, who,
instead of regarding the present scene of things as the sole object of
their contemplation, so far reverse the whole course of nature, as to
render this life merely a passage to something farther; a porch, which
leads to a greater, and vastly different building; a prologue, which
serves only to introduce the piece, and give it more grace and
propriety? Whence, do you think, can such philosophers derive their idea
of the gods? From their own conceit and imagination surely. For if they
derived it from the present phenomena, it would never point to anything
farther, but must be exactly adjusted to them. That the divinity may
_possibly_ be endowed with attributes, which we have never seen exerted;
may be governed by principles of action, which we cannot discover to be
satisfied: all this will freely be allowed. But still this is mere
_possibility_ and hypothesis. We never can have reason to _infer_ any
attributes, or any principles of action in him, but so far as we know
them to have been exerted and satisfied.

_Are there any marks of a distributive justice in the world?_ If you
answer in the affirmative, I conclude, that, since justice here exerts
itself, it is satisfied. If you reply in the negative, I conclude, that
you have then no reason to ascribe justice, in our sense of it, to the
gods. If you hold a medium between affirmation and negation, by saying,
that the justice of the gods, at present, exerts itself in part, but not
in its full extent; I answer, that you have no reason to give it any
particular extent, but only so far as you see it, _at present_,
exert itself.

110. Thus I bring the dispute, O Athenians, to a short issue with my
antagonists. The course of nature lies open to my contemplation as well
as to theirs. The experienced train of events is the great standard, by
which we all regulate our conduct. Nothing else can be appealed to in
the field, or in the senate. Nothing else ought ever to be heard of in
the school, or in the closet. In vain would our limited understanding
break through those boundaries, which are too narrow for our fond
imagination. While we argue from the course of nature, and infer a
particular intelligent cause, which first bestowed, and still preserves
order in the universe, we embrace a principle, which is both uncertain
and useless. It is uncertain; because the subject lies entirely beyond
the reach of human experience. It is useless; because our knowledge of
this cause being derived entirely from the course of nature, we can
never, according to the rules of just reasoning, return back from the
cause with any new inference, or making additions to the common and
experienced course of nature, establish any new principles of conduct
and behaviour.

111. I observe (said I, finding he had finished his harangue) that you
neglect not the artifice of the demagogues of old; and as you were
pleased to make me stand for the people, you insinuate yourself into my
favour by embracing those principles, to which, you know, I have always
expressed a particular attachment. But allowing you to make experience
(as indeed I think you ought) the only standard of our judgement
concerning this, and all other questions of fact; I doubt not but, from
the very same experience, to which you appeal, it may be possible to
refute this reasoning, which you have put into the mouth of Epicurus.
If you saw, for instance, a half-finished building, surrounded with
heaps of brick and stone and mortar, and all the instruments of masonry;
could you not _infer_ from the effect, that it was a work of design and
contrivance? And could you not return again, from this inferred cause,
to infer new additions to the effect, and conclude, that the building
would soon be finished, and receive all the further improvements, which
art could bestow upon it? If you saw upon the sea-shore the print of one
human foot, you would conclude, that a man had passed that way, and that
he had also left the traces of the other foot, though effaced by the
rolling of the sands or inundation of the waters. Why then do you refuse
to admit the same method of reasoning with regard to the order of
nature? Consider the world and the present life only as an imperfect
building, from which you can infer a superior intelligence; and arguing
from that superior intelligence, which can leave nothing imperfect; why
may you not infer a more finished scheme or plan, which will receive its
completion in some distant point of space or time? Are not these methods
of reasoning exactly similar? And under what pretence can you embrace
the one, while you reject the other?

112. The infinite difference of the subjects, replied he, is a
sufficient foundation for this difference in my conclusions. In works of
_human_ art and contrivance, it is allowable to advance from the effect
to the cause, and returning back from the cause, to form new inferences
concerning the effect, and examine the alterations, which it has
probably undergone, or may still undergo. But what is the foundation of
this method of reasoning? Plainly this; that man is a being, whom we
know by experience, whose motives and designs we are acquainted with,
and whose projects and inclinations have a certain connexion and
coherence, according to the laws which nature has established for the
government of such a creature. When, therefore, we find, that any work
has proceeded from the skill and industry of man; as we are otherwise
acquainted with the nature of the animal, we can draw a hundred
inferences concerning what may be expected from him; and these
inferences will all be founded in experience and observation. But did we
know man only from the single work or production which we examine, it
were impossible for us to argue in this manner; because our knowledge of
all the qualities, which we ascribe to him, being in that case derived
from the production, it is impossible they could point to anything
farther, or be the foundation of any new inference. The print of a foot
in the sand can only prove, when considered alone, that there was some
figure adapted to it, by which it was produced: but the print of a human
foot proves likewise, from our other experience, that there was probably
another foot, which also left its impression, though effaced by time or
other accidents. Here we mount from the effect to the cause; and
descending again from the cause, infer alterations in the effect; but
this is not a continuation of the same simple chain of reasoning. We
comprehend in this case a hundred other experiences and observations,
concerning the _usual_ figure and members of that species of animal,
without which this method of argument must be considered as fallacious
and sophistical.

113. The case is not the same with our reasonings from the works of
nature. The Deity is known to us only by his productions, and is a
single being in the universe, not comprehended under any species or
genus, from whose experienced attributes or qualities, we can, by
analogy, infer any attribute or quality in him. As the universe shews
wisdom and goodness, we infer wisdom and goodness. As it shews a
particular degree of these perfections, we infer a particular degree of
them, precisely adapted to the effect which we examine. But farther
attributes or farther degrees of the same attributes, we can never be
authorised to infer or suppose, by any rules of just reasoning. Now,
without some such licence of supposition, it is impossible for us to
argue from the cause, or infer any alteration in the effect, beyond what
has immediately fallen under our observation. Greater good produced by
this Being must still prove a greater degree of goodness: a more
impartial distribution of rewards and punishments must proceed from a
greater regard to justice and equity. Every supposed addition to the
works of nature makes an addition to the attributes of the Author of
nature; and consequently, being entirely unsupported by any reason or
argument, can never be admitted but as mere conjecture and

    [30] In general, it may, I think, be established as a maxim,
    that where any cause is known only by its particular effects,
    it must be impossible to infer any new effects from that cause;
    since the qualities, which are requisite to produce these new
    effects along with the former, must either be different, or
    superior, or of more extensive operation, than those which
    simply produced the effect, whence alone the cause is supposed
    to be known to us. We can never, therefore, have any reason to
    suppose the existence of these qualities. To say, that the new
    effects proceed only from a continuation of the same energy,
    which is already known from the first effects, will not remove
    the difficulty. For even granting this to be the case (which
    can seldom be supposed), the very continuation and exertion of
    a like energy (for it is impossible it can be absolutely the
    same), I say, this exertion of a like energy, in a different
    period of space and time, is a very arbitrary supposition, and
    what there cannot possibly be any traces of in the effects,
    from which all our knowledge of the cause is originally
    derived. Let the _inferred_ cause be exactly proportioned (as
    it should be) to the known effect; and it is impossible that
    it can possess any qualities, from which new or different
    effects can be _inferred_.

The great source of our mistake in this subject, and of the unbounded
licence of conjecture, which we indulge, is, that we tacitly consider
ourselves, as in the place of the Supreme Being, and conclude, that he
will, on every occasion, observe the same conduct, which we ourselves,
in his situation, would have embraced as reasonable and eligible. But,
besides that the ordinary course of nature may convince us, that almost
everything is regulated by principles and maxims very different from
ours; besides this, I say, it must evidently appear contrary to all
rules of analogy to reason, from the intentions and projects of men, to
those of a Being so different, and so much superior. In human nature,
there is a certain experienced coherence of designs and inclinations; so
that when, from any fact, we have discovered one intention of any man,
it may often be reasonable, from experience, to infer another, and draw
a long chain of conclusions concerning his past or future conduct. But
this method of reasoning can never have place with regard to a Being, so
remote and incomprehensible, who bears much less analogy to any other
being in the universe than the sun to a waxen taper, and who discovers
himself only by some faint traces or outlines, beyond which we have no
authority to ascribe to him any attribute or perfection. What we imagine
to be a superior perfection, may really be a defect. Or were it ever so
much a perfection, the ascribing of it to the Supreme Being, where it
appears not to have been really exerted, to the full, in his works,
savours more of flattery and panegyric, than of just reasoning and sound
philosophy. All the philosophy, therefore, in the world, and all the
religion, which is nothing but a species of philosophy, will never be
able to carry us beyond the usual course of experience, or give us
measures of conduct and behaviour different from those which are
furnished by reflections on common life. No new fact can ever be
inferred from the religious hypothesis; no event foreseen or foretold;
no reward or punishment expected or dreaded, beyond what is already
known by practice and observation. So that my apology for Epicurus will
still appear solid and satisfactory; nor have the political interests
of society any connexion with the philosophical disputes concerning
metaphysics and religion.

114. There is still one circumstance, replied I, which you seem to have
overlooked. Though I should allow your premises, I must deny your
conclusion. You conclude, that religious doctrines and reasonings _can_
have no influence on life, because they _ought_ to have no influence;
never considering, that men reason not in the same manner you do, but
draw many consequences from the belief of a divine Existence, and
suppose that the Deity will inflict punishments on vice, and bestow
rewards on virtue, beyond what appear in the ordinary course of nature.
Whether this reasoning of theirs be just or not, is no matter. Its
influence on their life and conduct must still be the same. And, those,
who attempt to disabuse them of such prejudices, may, for aught I know,
be good reasoners, but I cannot allow them to be good citizens and
politicians; since they free men from one restraint upon their passions,
and make the infringement of the laws of society, in one respect, more
easy and secure.

After all, I may, perhaps, agree to your general conclusion in favour of
liberty, though upon different premises from those, on which you
endeavour to found it. I think, that the state ought to tolerate every
principle of philosophy; nor is there an instance, that any government
has suffered in its political interests by such indulgence. There is no
enthusiasm among philosophers; their doctrines are not very alluring to
the people; and no restraint can be put upon their reasonings, but what
must be of dangerous consequence to the sciences, and even to the state,
by paving the way for persecution and oppression in points, where the
generality of mankind are more deeply interested and concerned.

115. But there occurs to me (continued I) with regard to your main
topic, a difficulty, which I shall just propose to you without insisting
on it; lest it lead into reasonings of too nice and delicate a nature.
In a word, I much doubt whether it be possible for a cause to be known
only by its effect (as you have all along supposed) or to be of so
singular and particular a nature as to have no parallel and no
similarity with any other cause or object, that has ever fallen under
our observation. It is only when two _species_ of objects are found to
be constantly conjoined, that we can infer the one from the other; and
were an effect presented, which was entirely singular, and could not be
comprehended under any known _species_, I do not see, that we could form
any conjecture or inference at all concerning its cause. If experience
and observation and analogy be, indeed, the only guides which we can
reasonably follow in inferences of this nature; both the effect and
cause must bear a similarity and resemblance to other effects and
causes, which we know, and which we have found, in many instances, to be
conjoined with each other. I leave it to your own reflection to pursue
the consequences of this principle. I shall just observe, that, as the
antagonists of Epicurus always suppose the universe, an effect quite
singular and unparalleled, to be the proof of a Deity, a cause no less
singular and unparalleled; your reasonings, upon that supposition, seem,
at least, to merit our attention. There is, I own, some difficulty, how
we can ever return from the cause to the effect, and, reasoning from our
ideas of the former, infer any alteration on the latter, or any
addition to it.




116. There is not a greater number of philosophical reasonings,
displayed upon any subject, than those, which prove the existence of a
Deity, and refute the fallacies of _Atheists_; and yet the most
religious philosophers still dispute whether any man can be so blinded
as to be a speculative atheist. How shall we reconcile these
contradictions? The knights-errant, who wandered about to clear the
world of dragons and giants, never entertained the least doubt with
regard to the existence of these monsters.

The _Sceptic_ is another enemy of religion, who naturally provokes the
indignation of all divines and graver philosophers; though it is
certain, that no man ever met with any such absurd creature, or
conversed with a man, who had no opinion or principle concerning any
subject, either of action or speculation. This begets a very natural
question; What is meant by a sceptic? And how far it is possible to push
these philosophical principles of doubt and uncertainty?

There is a species of scepticism, _antecedent_ to all study and
philosophy, which is much inculcated by Des Cartes and others, as a
sovereign preservative against error and precipitate judgement. It
recommends an universal doubt, not only of all our former opinions and
principles, but also of our very faculties; of whose veracity, say they,
we must assure ourselves, by a chain of reasoning, deduced from some
original principle, which cannot possibly be fallacious or deceitful.
But neither is there any such original principle, which has a
prerogative above others, that are self-evident and convincing: or if
there were, could we advance a step beyond it, but by the use of those
very faculties, of which we are supposed to be already diffident. The
Cartesian doubt, therefore, were it ever possible to be attained by any
human creature (as it plainly is not) would be entirely incurable; and
no reasoning could ever bring us to a state of assurance and conviction
upon any subject.

It must, however, be confessed, that this species of scepticism, when
more moderate, may be understood in a very reasonable sense, and is a
necessary preparative to the study of philosophy, by preserving a proper
impartiality in our judgements, and weaning our mind from all those
prejudices, which we may have imbibed from education or rash opinion. To
begin with clear and self-evident principles, to advance by timorous and
sure steps, to review frequently our conclusions, and examine accurately
all their consequences; though by these means we shall make both a slow
and a short progress in our systems; are the only methods, by which we
can ever hope to reach truth, and attain a proper stability and
certainty in our determinations.

117. There is another species of scepticism, _consequent_ to science and
enquiry, when men are supposed to have discovered, either the absolute
fallaciousness of their mental faculties, or their unfitness to reach
any fixed determination in all those curious subjects of speculation,
about which they are commonly employed. Even our very senses are brought
into dispute, by a certain species of philosophers; and the maxims of
common life are subjected to the same doubt as the most profound
principles or conclusions of metaphysics and theology. As these
paradoxical tenets (if they may be called tenets) are to be met with in
some philosophers, and the refutation of them in several, they naturally
excite our curiosity, and make us enquire into the arguments, on which
they may be founded.

I need not insist upon the more trite topics, employed by the sceptics
in all ages, against the evidence of _sense_; such as those which are
derived from the imperfection and fallaciousness of our organs, on
numberless occasions; the crooked appearance of an oar in water; the
various aspects of objects, according to their different distances; the
double images which arise from the pressing one eye; with many other
appearances of a like nature. These sceptical topics, indeed, are only
sufficient to prove, that the senses alone are not implicitly to be
depended on; but that we must correct their evidence by reason, and by
considerations, derived from the nature of the medium, the distance of
the object, and the disposition of the organ, in order to render them,
within their sphere, the proper _criteria_ of truth and falsehood. There
are other more profound arguments against the senses, which admit not of
so easy a solution.

118. It seems evident, that men are carried, by a natural instinct or
prepossession, to repose faith in their senses; and that, without any
reasoning, or even almost before the use of reason, we always suppose an
external universe, which depends not on our perception, but would exist,
though we and every sensible creature were absent or annihilated. Even
the animal creation are governed by a like opinion, and preserve this
belief of external objects, in all their thoughts, designs, and actions.

It seems also evident, that, when men follow this blind and powerful
instinct of nature, they always suppose the very images, presented by
the senses, to be the external objects, and never entertain any
suspicion, that the one are nothing but representations of the other.
This very table, which we see white, and which we feel hard, is believed
to exist, independent of our perception, and to be something external
to our mind, which perceives it. Our presence bestows not being on it:
our absence does not annihilate it. It preserves its existence uniform
and entire, independent of the situation of intelligent beings, who
perceive or contemplate it.

But this universal and primary opinion of all men is soon destroyed by
the slightest philosophy, which teaches us, that nothing can ever be
present to the mind but an image or perception, and that the senses are
only the inlets, through which these images are conveyed, without being
able to produce any immediate intercourse between the mind and the
object. The table, which we see, seems to diminish, as we remove farther
from it: but the real table, which exists independent of us, suffers no
alteration: it was, therefore, nothing but its image, which was present
to the mind. These are the obvious dictates of reason; and no man, who
reflects, ever doubted, that the existences, which we consider, when we
say, _this house_ and _that tree_, are nothing but perceptions in the
mind, and fleeting copies or representations of other existences, which
remain uniform and independent.

119. So far, then, are we necessitated by reasoning to contradict or
depart from the primary instincts of nature, and to embrace a new system
with regard to the evidence of our senses. But here philosophy finds
herself extremely embarrassed, when she would justify this new system,
and obviate the cavils and objections of the sceptics. She can no longer
plead the infallible and irresistible instinct of nature: for that led
us to a quite different system, which is acknowledged fallible and even
erroneous. And to justify this pretended philosophical system, by a
chain of clear and convincing argument, or even any appearance of
argument, exceeds the power of all human capacity.

By what argument can it be proved, that the perceptions of the mind
must be caused by external objects, entirely different from them, though
resembling them (if that be possible) and could not arise either from
the energy of the mind itself, or from the suggestion of some invisible
and unknown spirit, or from some other cause still more unknown to us?
It is acknowledged, that, in fact, many of these perceptions arise not
from anything external, as in dreams, madness, and other diseases. And
nothing can be more inexplicable than the manner, in which body should
so operate upon mind as ever to convey an image of itself to a
substance, supposed of so different, and even contrary a nature.

It is a question of fact, whether the perceptions of the senses be
produced by external objects, resembling them: how shall this question
be determined? By experience surely; as all other questions of a like
nature. But here experience is, and must be entirely silent. The mind
has never anything present to it but the perceptions, and cannot
possibly reach any experience of their connexion with objects. The
supposition of such a connexion is, therefore, without any foundation in

120. To have recourse to the veracity of the supreme Being, in order to
prove the veracity of our senses, is surely making a very unexpected
circuit. If his veracity were at all concerned in this matter, our
senses would be entirely infallible; because it is not possible that he
can ever deceive. Not to mention, that, if the external world be once
called in question, we shall be at a loss to find arguments, by which we
may prove the existence of that Being or any of his attributes.

121. This is a topic, therefore, in which the profounder and more
philosophical sceptics will always triumph, when they endeavour to
introduce an universal doubt into all subjects of human knowledge and
enquiry. Do you follow the instincts and propensities of nature, may
they say, in assenting to the veracity of sense? But these lead you to
believe that the very perception or sensible image is the external
object. Do you disclaim this principle, in order to embrace a more
rational opinion, that the perceptions are only representations of
something external? You here depart from your natural propensities and
more obvious sentiments; and yet are not able to satisfy your reason,
which can never find any convincing argument from experience to prove,
that the perceptions are connected with any external objects.

122. There is another sceptical topic of a like nature, derived from the
most profound philosophy; which might merit our attention, were it
requisite to dive so deep, in order to discover arguments and
reasonings, which can so little serve to any serious purpose. It is
universally allowed by modern enquirers, that all the sensible qualities
of objects, such as hard, soft, hot, cold, white, black, &c. are merely
secondary, and exist not in the objects themselves, but are perceptions
of the mind, without any external archetype or model, which they
represent. If this be allowed, with regard to secondary qualities, it
must also follow, with regard to the supposed primary qualities of
extension and solidity; nor can the latter be any more entitled to that
denomination than the former. The idea of extension is entirely acquired
from the senses of sight and feeling; and if all the qualities,
perceived by the senses, be in the mind, not in the object, the same
conclusion must reach the idea of extension, which is wholly dependent
on the sensible ideas or the ideas of secondary qualities. Nothing can
save us from this conclusion, but the asserting, that the ideas of those
primary qualities are attained by _Abstraction_, an opinion, which, if
we examine it accurately, we shall find to be unintelligible, and even
absurd. An extension, that is neither tangible nor visible, cannot
possibly be conceived: and a tangible or visible extension, which is
neither hard nor soft, black nor white, is equally beyond the reach of
human conception. Let any man try to conceive a triangle in general,
which is neither _Isosceles_ nor _Scalenum_, nor has any particular
length or proportion of sides; and he will soon perceive the absurdity
of all the scholastic notions with regard to abstraction and
general ideas.[31]

    [31] This argument is drawn from Dr. Berkeley; and indeed most
    of the writings of that very ingenious author form the best
    lessons of scepticism, which are to be found either among
    the ancient or modern philosopher, Bayle not excepted. He
    professes, however, in his title-page (and undoubtedly with
    great truth) to have composed his book against the sceptics as
    well as against the atheists and free-thinkers. But that all
    his arguments, though otherwise intended, are, in reality,
    merely sceptical, appears from this, _that they admit of no
    answer and produce no conviction_. Their only effect is to
    cause that momentary amazement and irresolution and confusion,
    which is the result of scepticism.

123. Thus the first philosophical objection to the evidence of sense or
to the opinion of external existence consists in this, that such an
opinion, if rested on natural instinct, is contrary to reason, and if
referred to reason, is contrary to natural instinct, and at the same
time carries no rational evidence with it, to convince an impartial
enquirer. The second objection goes farther, and represents this opinion
as contrary to reason: at least, if it be a principle of reason, that
all sensible qualities are in the mind, not in the object. Bereave
matter of all its intelligible qualities, both primary and secondary,
you in a manner annihilate it, and leave only a certain unknown,
inexplicable _something_, as the cause of our perceptions; a notion so
imperfect, that no sceptic will think it worth while to contend
against it.


124. It may seem a very extravagant attempt of the sceptics to destroy
_reason_ by argument and ratiocination; yet is this the grand scope of
all their enquiries and disputes. They endeavour to find objections,
both to our abstract reasonings, and to those which regard matter of
fact and existence.

The chief objection against all _abstract_ reasonings is derived from
the ideas of space and time; ideas, which, in common life and to a
careless view, are very clear and intelligible, but when they pass
through the scrutiny of the profound sciences (and they are the chief
object of these sciences) afford principles, which seem full of
absurdity and contradiction. No priestly _dogmas_, invented on purpose
to tame and subdue the rebellious reason of mankind, ever shocked common
sense more than the doctrine of the infinitive divisibility of
extension, with its consequences; as they are pompously displayed by all
geometricians and metaphysicians, with a kind of triumph and exultation.
A real quantity, infinitely less than any finite quantity, containing
quantities infinitely less than itself, and so on _in infinitum_; this
is an edifice so bold and prodigious, that it is too weighty for any
pretended demonstration to support, because it shocks the clearest and
most natural principles of human reason.[32] But what renders the matter
more extraordinary, is, that these seemingly absurd opinions are
supported by a chain of reasoning, the clearest and most natural; nor is
it possible for us to allow the premises without admitting the
consequences. Nothing can be more convincing and satisfactory than all
the conclusions concerning the properties of circles and triangles; and
yet, when these are once received, how can we deny, that the angle of
contact between a circle and its tangent is infinitely less than any
rectilineal angle, that as you may increase the diameter of the circle
_in infinitum_, this angle of contact becomes still less, even _in
infinitum_, and that the angle of contact between other curves and their
tangents may be infinitely less than those between any circle and its
tangent, and so on, _in infinitum_? The demonstration of these
principles seems as unexceptionable as that which proves the three
angles of a triangle to be equal to two right ones, though the latter
opinion be natural and easy, and the former big with contradiction and
absurdity. Reason here seems to be thrown into a kind of amazement and
suspence, which, without the suggestions of any sceptic, gives her a
diffidence of herself, and of the ground on which she treads. She sees a
full light, which illuminates certain places; but that light borders
upon the most profound darkness. And between these she is so dazzled and
confounded, that she scarcely can pronounce with certainty and assurance
concerning any one object.

    [32] Whatever disputes there may be about mathematical points,
    we must allow that there are physical points; that is, parts
    of extension, which cannot be divided or lessened, either by
    the eye or imagination. These images, then, which are present
    to the fancy or senses, are absolutely indivisible, and
    consequently must be allowed by mathematicians to be infinitely
    less than any real part of extension; and yet nothing appears
    more certain to reason, than that an infinite number of them
    composes an infinite extension. How much more an infinite
    number of those infinitely small parts of extension, which are
    still supposed infinitely divisible.

125. The absurdity of these bold determinations of the abstract sciences
seems to become, if possible, still more palpable with regard to time
than extension. An infinite number of real parts of time, passing in
succession, and exhausted one after another, appears so evident a
contradiction, that no man, one should think, whose judgement is not
corrupted, instead of being improved, by the sciences, would ever be
able to admit of it.

Yet still reason must remain restless, and unquiet, even with regard to
that scepticism, to which she is driven by these seeming absurdities and
contradictions. How any clear, distinct idea can contain circumstances,
contradictory to itself, or to any other clear, distinct idea, is
absolutely incomprehensible; and is, perhaps, as absurd as any
proposition, which can be formed. So that nothing can be more
sceptical, or more full of doubt and hesitation, than this scepticism
itself, which arises from some of the paradoxical conclusions of
geometry or the science of quantity.[33]

    [33] It seems to me not impossible to avoid these absurdities
    and contradictions, if it be admitted, that there is no such
    thing as abstract or general ideas, properly speaking; but that
    all general ideas are, in reality, particular ones, attached to
    a general term, which recalls, upon occasion, other particular
    ones, that resemble, in certain circumstances, the idea,
    present to the mind. Thus when the term Horse is pronounced, we
    immediately figure to ourselves the idea of a black or a white
    animal, of a particular size or figure: But as that term is
    also usually applied to animals of other colours, figures and
    sizes, these ideas, though not actually present to the imagination,
    are easily recalled; and our reasoning and conclusion proceed
    in the same way, as if they were actually present. If this be
    admitted (as seems reasonable) it follows that all the ideas of
    quantity, upon which mathematicians reason, are nothing but
    particular, and such as are suggested by the senses and
    imagination, and consequently, cannot be infinitely divisible.
    It is sufficient to have dropped this hint at present, without
    prosecuting it any farther. It certainly concerns all lovers
    of science not to expose themselves to the ridicule and
    contempt of the ignorant by their conclusions; and this seems
    the readiest solution of these difficulties.

126. The sceptical objections to _moral_ evidence, or to the reasonings
concerning matter of fact, are either _popular_ or _philosophical_. The
popular objections are derived from the natural weakness of human
understanding; the contradictory opinions, which have been entertained
in different ages and nations; the variations of our judgement in
sickness and health, youth and old age, prosperity and adversity; the
perpetual contradiction of each particular man's opinions and
sentiments; with many other topics of that kind. It is needless to
insist farther on this head. These objections are but weak. For as, in
common life, we reason every moment concerning fact and existence, and
cannot possibly subsist, without continually employing this species of
argument, any popular objections, derived from thence, must be
insufficient to destroy that evidence. The great subverter of
_Pyrrhonism_ or the excessive principles of scepticism is action, and
employment, and the occupations of common life. These principles may
flourish and triumph in the schools; where it is, indeed, difficult, if
not impossible, to refute them. But as soon as they leave the shade, and
by the presence of the real objects, which actuate our passions and
sentiments, are put in opposition to the more powerful principles of our
nature, they vanish like smoke, and leave the most determined sceptic in
the same condition as other mortals.

127. The sceptic, therefore, had better keep within his proper sphere,
and display those _philosophical_ objections, which arise from more
profound researches. Here he seems to have ample matter of triumph;
while he justly insists, that all our evidence for any matter of fact,
which lies beyond the testimony of sense or memory, is derived entirely
from the relation of cause and effect; that we have no other idea of
this relation than that of two objects, which have been frequently
_conjoined_ together; that we have no argument to convince us, that
objects, which have, in our experience, been frequently conjoined, will
likewise, in other instances, be conjoined in the same manner; and that
nothing leads us to this inference but custom or a certain instinct of
our nature; which it is indeed difficult to resist, but which, like
other instincts, may be fallacious and deceitful. While the sceptic
insists upon these topics, he shows his force, or rather, indeed, his
own and our weakness; and seems, for the time at least, to destroy all
assurance and conviction. These arguments might be displayed at greater
length, if any durable good or benefit to society could ever be expected
to result from them.

128. For here is the chief and most confounding objection to _excessive_
scepticism, that no durable good can ever result from it; while it
remains in its full force and vigour. We need only ask such a sceptic,
_What his meaning is? And what he proposes by all these curious
researches?_ He is immediately at a loss, and knows not what to answer.
A Copernican or Ptolemaic, who supports each his different system of
astronomy, may hope to produce a conviction, which will remain constant
and durable, with his audience. A Stoic or Epicurean displays
principles, which may not be durable, but which have an effect on
conduct and behaviour. But a Pyrrhonian cannot expect, that his
philosophy will have any constant influence on the mind: or if it had,
that its influence would be beneficial to society. On the contrary, he
must acknowledge, if he will acknowledge anything, that all human life
must perish, were his principles universally and steadily to prevail.
All discourse, all action would immediately cease; and men remain in a
total lethargy, till the necessities of nature, unsatisfied, put an end
to their miserable existence. It is true; so fatal an event is very
little to be dreaded. Nature is always too strong for principle. And
though a Pyrrhonian may throw himself or others into a momentary
amazement and confusion by his profound reasonings; the first and most
trivial event in life will put to flight all his doubts and scruples, and
leave him the same, in every point of action and speculation, with the
philosophers of every other sect, or with those who never concerned
themselves in any philosophical researches. When he awakes from his
dream, he will be the first to join in the laugh against himself, and to
confess, that all his objections are mere amusement, and can have no
other tendency than to show the whimsical condition of mankind, who must
act and reason and believe; though they are not able, by their most
diligent enquiry, to satisfy themselves concerning the foundation of
these operations, or to remove the objections, which may be raised
against them.


129. There is, indeed, a more _mitigated_ scepticism or _academical_
philosophy, which may be both durable and useful, and which may, in
part, be the result of this Pyrrhonism, or _excessive_ scepticism, when
its undistinguished doubts are, in some measure, corrected by common
sense and reflection. The greater part of mankind are naturally apt to
be affirmative and dogmatical in their opinions; and while they see
objects only on one side, and have no idea of any counterpoising
argument, they throw themselves precipitately into the principles, to
which they are inclined; nor have they any indulgence for those who
entertain opposite sentiments. To hesitate or balance perplexes their
understanding, checks their passion, and suspends their action. They
are, therefore, impatient till they escape from a state, which to them
is so uneasy: and they think, that they could never remove themselves
far enough from it, by the violence of their affirmations and obstinacy
of their belief. But could such dogmatical reasoners become sensible of
the strange infirmities of human understanding, even in its most perfect
state, and when most accurate and cautious in its determinations; such a
reflection would naturally inspire them with more modesty and reserve,
and diminish their fond opinion of themselves, and their prejudice
against antagonists. The illiterate may reflect on the disposition of
the learned, who, amidst all the advantages of study and reflection, are
commonly still diffident in their determinations: and if any of the
learned be inclined, from their natural temper, to haughtiness and
obstinacy, a small tincture of Pyrrhonism might abate their pride, by
showing them, that the few advantages, which they may have attained over
their fellows, are but inconsiderable, if compared with the universal
perplexity and confusion, which is inherent in human nature. In
general, there is a degree of doubt, and caution, and modesty, which,
in all kinds of scrutiny and decision, ought for ever to accompany a
just reasoner.

130. Another species of _mitigated_ scepticism which may be of advantage
to mankind, and which may be the natural result of the Pyrrhonian doubts
and scruples, is the limitation of our enquiries to such subjects as are
best adapted to the narrow capacity of human understanding. The
_imagination_ of man is naturally sublime, delighted with whatever is
remote and extraordinary, and running, without control, into the most
distant parts of space and time in order to avoid the objects, which
custom has rendered too familiar to it. A correct _Judgement_ observes a
contrary method, and avoiding all distant and high enquiries, confines
itself to common life, and to such subjects as fall under daily practice
and experience; leaving the more sublime topics to the embellishment of
poets and orators, or to the arts of priests and politicians. To bring
us to so salutary a determination, nothing can be more serviceable, than
to be once thoroughly convinced of the force of the Pyrrhonian doubt,
and of the impossibility, that anything, but the strong power of natural
instinct, could free us from it. Those who have a propensity to
philosophy, will still continue their researches; because they reflect,
that, besides the immediate pleasure, attending such an occupation,
philosophical decisions are nothing but the reflections of common life,
methodized and corrected. But they will never be tempted to go beyond
common life, so long as they consider the imperfection of those
faculties which they employ, their narrow reach, and their inaccurate
operations. While we cannot give a satisfactory reason, why we believe,
after a thousand experiments, that a stone will fall, or fire burn; can
we ever satisfy ourselves concerning any determination, which we may
form, with regard to the origin of worlds, and the situation of nature,
from, and to eternity?

This narrow limitation, indeed, of our enquiries, is, in every respect,
so reasonable, that it suffices to make the slightest examination into
the natural powers of the human mind and to compare them with their
objects, in order to recommend it to us. We shall then find what are the
proper subjects of science and enquiry.

131. It seems to me, that the only objects of the abstract science or of
demonstration are quantity and number, and that all attempts to extend
this more perfect species of knowledge beyond these bounds are mere
sophistry and illusion. As the component parts of quantity and number
are entirely similar, their relations become intricate and involved; and
nothing can be more curious, as well as useful, than to trace, by a
variety of mediums, their equality or inequality, through their
different appearances. But as all other ideas are clearly distinct and
different from each other, we can never advance farther, by our utmost
scrutiny, than to observe this diversity, and, by an obvious reflection,
pronounce one thing not to be another. Or if there be any difficulty in
these decisions, it proceeds entirely from the undeterminate meaning of
words, which is corrected by juster definitions. That _the square of the
hypothenuse is equal to the squares of the other two sides_, cannot be
known, let the terms be ever so exactly defined, without a train of
reasoning and enquiry. But to convince us of this proposition, _that
where there is no property, there can be no injustice_, it is only
necessary to define the terms, and explain injustice to be a violation
of property. This proposition is, indeed, nothing but a more imperfect
definition. It is the same case with all those pretended syllogistical
reasonings, which may be found in every other branch of learning, except
the sciences of quantity and number; and these may safely, I think, be
pronounced the only proper objects of knowledge and demonstration.

132. All other enquiries of men regard only matter of fact and
existence; and these are evidently incapable of demonstration. Whatever
_is_ may _not be_. No negation of a fact can involve a contradiction.
The non-existence of any being, without exception, is as clear and
distinct an idea as its existence. The proposition, which affirms it not
to be, however false, is no less conceivable and intelligible, than that
which affirms it to be. The case is different with the sciences,
properly so called. Every proposition, which is not true, is there
confused and unintelligible. That the cube root of 64 is equal to the
half of 10, is a false proposition, and can never be distinctly
conceived. But that Caesar, or the angel Gabriel, or any being never
existed, may be a false proposition, but still is perfectly conceivable,
and implies no contradiction.

The existence, therefore, of any being can only be proved by arguments
from its cause or its effect; and these arguments are founded entirely
on experience. If we reason _a priori_, anything may appear able to
produce anything. The falling of a pebble may, for aught we know,
extinguish the sun; or the wish of a man control the planets in their
orbits. It is only experience, which teaches us the nature and bounds of
cause and effect, and enables us to infer the existence of one object
from that of another[34]. Such is the foundation of moral reasoning,
which forms the greater part of human knowledge, and is the source of
all human action and behaviour.

    [34] That impious maxim of the ancient philosophy, _Ex nihilo,
    nihil fit_, by which the creation of matter was excluded,
    ceases to be a maxim, according to this philosophy. Not only the
    will of the supreme Being may create matter; but, for aught we
    know _a priori_, the will of any other being might create it,
    or any other cause, that the most whimsical imagination
    can assign.

Moral reasonings are either concerning particular or general facts. All
deliberations in life regard the former; as also all disquisitions in
history, chronology, geography, and astronomy.

The sciences, which treat of general facts, are politics, natural
philosophy, physic, chemistry, &c. where the qualities, causes and
effects of a whole species of objects are enquired into.

Divinity or Theology, as it proves the existence of a Deity, and the
immortality of souls, is composed partly of reasonings concerning
particular, partly concerning general facts. It has a foundation in
_reason_, so far as it is supported by experience. But its best and most
solid foundation is _faith_ and divine revelation.

Morals and criticism are not so properly objects of the understanding as
of taste and sentiment. Beauty, whether moral or natural, is felt, more
properly than perceived. Or if we reason concerning it, and endeavour to
fix its standard, we regard a new fact, to wit, the general tastes of
mankind, or some such fact, which may be the object of reasoning
and enquiry.

When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc
must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school
metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, _Does it contain any abstract
reasoning concerning quantity or number?_ No. _Does it contain any
experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?_ No.
Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry
and illusion.


  not source of ideas of primary qualities, 122.

  philosophy, 34.

  and philosophy, 1, 4, 34, 128;


  a species of, the foundation of all reasoning about matter of fact,

  the reason of, 83-85;
  learn from experience and draw inferences, 83;
  which can only be founded on custom, 84;
  cause of difference between men and animals, 84 n.


  to senses must be corrected by reason, 117.

A priori
  25, 36 n, 89 n, 132, 132 n.


  of ideas, three principles of, 18-19, 41-44 (v. _Cause_ C).



  (v. _Cause_ C, 39-45);
  and chance, 46.

  really a sceptic, 122 n.


  and soul, mystery of union of, 52;
  volition and movements of, 52.

  Real existence of (v. _Scepticism_, B, 118-123).

  first (v. _God_, _Necessity_, 78-81; _Providence_,
          102-115, 132 n).
  a principle of association of ideas, 19, 43;
  sole foundation of reasonings about matter of fact or real existence,

  A. _Knowledge of Causes arises from experience not from Reason_,

  Reasonings _a priori_ give no knowledge of cause and effect,
          23 f.;
  impossible to see the effect in the cause since they are totally
          different, 25;
  natural philosophy never pretends to assign ultimate causes, but only
          to reduce causes to a few general causes, e.g. gravity, 26;
  geometry applies laws obtained by experience, 27.

  Conclusions from experience not based on any process of the
          understanding, 28;
  yet we infer in the future a similar connexion between known
          qualities of things and their secret powers, to that which
          we assumed in the past. On what is this inference based? 29;
  demonstrative reasoning has no place here, and all experimental
          reasoning assumes the resemblance of the future to the past,
          and so cannot prove it without being circular, 30, 32;
  if reasoning were the basis of this belief, there would be no need
          for the multiplication of instances or of long experience,
  yet conclusions about matter of fact are affected by experience even
          in beasts and children, so that they cannot be founded on
          abstruse reasoning, 33;
  to explain our inferences from experience a principle is required of
          equal weight and authority with reason, 34.

  B. _Custom enables us to infer existence of one object from the
          appearance of another_, 35-38.

  Experience enables us to ascribe a more than arbitrary connexion to
          objects, 35;
  we are determined to this by custom or habit which is the great guide
          of human life, 36;
  but our inference must be based on some fact present to the senses
          or memory, 37;
  the customary conjunction between such an object and some other
          object produces an operation of the soul which is as
          unavoidable as love, 38;
  animals also infer one event from another by custom, 82-84;
  and in man as in animals experimental reasoning depends on a species
          of instinct or mechanical power that acts in us unknown to
          ourselves, 85.

  C. _Belief_, 39-45.
  Belief differs from fiction or the loose reveries of the fancy by
          some feeling annexed to it, 39;
  belief cannot be defined, but may be described as a more lively,
          forcible, firm, steady conception of an object than can be
          attained by the imagination alone, 40;
  it is produced by the principles of association, viz. resemblance,
  contiguity, 42;
  causation, 43;
  by a kind of pre-established harmony between the course of nature
          and our ideas, 44;
  this operation of our minds necessary to our subsistence and so
          entrusted by nature to instinct rather than to reasoning, 45.

  _Probability_, 46-7.

  Belief produced by a majority of chances by an inexplicable
          contrivance of Nature, 46 (cf. 87-8);
  probability of causes: the failure of a cause ascribed to a secret
          counteracting cause, 47 (cf. 67);
  it is universally allowed that chance when strictly examined is a
          mere negative word, 74.

  D. _Power_, 49-57.

  Power, force, energy, necessary connexion must either be defined by
          analysis or explained by production of the impression from
          which they are copied, 49;
  from the first appearance of an object we cannot foretell its effect:
          we cannot see the power of a single body: we only see
          sequence, 50.

  Is the idea of power derived from an internal impression and is it an
          idea of reflection? 51;
  it is not derived, as Locke said, from reasoning about power of
          production in nature, 50 n;
  nor from consciousness of influence of will over bodily organs, 52;
  nor from effort to overcome resistance, 52 n (cf. 60 n);
  nor from influence of will over mind, 53;
  many philosophers appeal to an invisible intelligent principle, to a
          volition of the supreme being, and regard causes as only
          occasions and our mental conceptions as revelations, 54-5;
  thus diminishing the grandeur of God, 56;
  this theory too bold and beyond verification by our faculties, and
          is no explanation, 57;
  vis inertiae, 57 n.

  In single instances we only see sequence of loose events which are
          conjoined and never connected, 58;
  the idea of necessary connexion only arises from a number of similar
          instances, and the only difference between such a number and
          a single instance is that the former produces a habit of
          expecting the usual attendant, 59, 61.
  This customary transition is the impression from which we form the
          idea of necessary connexion.

  E. _Reasoning from effect to cause and conversely_, 105-115 (v.

  In arguing from effect to cause we must not infer more qualities in
          the cause than are required to produce the effect, nor reason
          backwards from an inferred cause to new effects, 105-8;
  we can reason back from cause to new effects in the case of human
          acts by analogy which rests on previous knowledge, 111-2;
  when the effect is entirely singular and does not belong to any
          species we cannot infer its cause at all, 115.

  F. _Definitions of Cause_, 60 (cf. 74 n).


  ignorance of causes, 46;
  has no existence, 74 (v. _Cause_ B).


  in reasoning, 30.

  37 n.

  peculiarity of ideas of, 16.

  19, 42.

  the test of demonstration, 132.

  19 n.

  of matter of fact always possible, 21, 132.

  132 n.


  57 n, 158 n.

  when strongest conceals itself, 24;
  an ultimate principle of all conclusions from experience, 36, 127;
  and belief, 39-45;
  gives rise to inferences of animals, 84.

  only applicable to complex ideas, 49;
  need of, 131;
  of cause, 60.

  opp. intuitive, 20;
  reasoning, 30;
  confined to quantity and number, 131;
  impossible to demonstrate a fact since no negation of a fact can
          involve a contradiction, 132.

  57 n.;
  his universal doubt antecedent to study if strictly taken is
          incurable, since even from an indubitable first principle no
          advance can be made except by the faculties which we doubt,
  his appeal to the veracity of God is useless, 120 (v. _Scepticism_,

  argument from, 105 f. (v. _Providence_).

  of mathematical and physical points, 124.

  Cartesian, 116, 120 (v. _Scepticism_ A).


  philosophy, defence of, 102-15;
  denial of providence and future state is harmless, 104 (v.

  truths in, do not depend on existence of circles or triangles, 20.

  moral and natural, 70;
  value of human, 82-9 (v. _Miracles_).

  doctrine of necessity either makes God the cause of evil or denies
          existence of evil as regards the whole, 78-81.

  external and perception, 118-9 (v. _Scepticism_, B, 116-32).

Ex nihilo nihil
  132 n.

  (v. _Cause_ A, 23-33);
  opposition of reason and experience usual, but really erroneous and
          superficial, 36 n.

  Infallible, may be regarded as proof, 87 (v. _Miracles_);
  all the philosophy and religion in the world cannot carry us beyond
          the usual course of experience, 113.

  a supposed primary quality, 122.

  101, 132.

  and fact (v. _Cause_ C), 39 f.

  inference to, from past, 29 (v. _Cause_ A).

  ideas, do not really exist, but only particular ideas attached to a
          general term, 125 n.

  mental, 8.

  propositions of certain, as depending only on relations of ideas not
          on existence of objects, 20;
  gives no knowledge of ultimate causes: only applies laws discovered
          by experience, 27.

  idea of, 14;
  no idea of except what we learn from reflection on our own
          faculties, 57;
  theory that God is cause of all motion and thought, causes being
          only occasions of his volition, 54-57;
  by doctrine of necessity either there are no bad actions or God is
          the cause of evil, 78-81.

  Veracity of, appealed to, 120.

  And creation of matter, 132 n.

  v. _Providence_, 102-115; _Scepticism_, 116-132.

  age, 107.


  (v. _Custom_, _Cause_ B).

  use of, 65.

  nature, inconstancy a constant character of, 68.

  A. _Origin of_, 11-17.

  Perceptions divided into impressions and ideas, 11-12;
  the mind can only compound the materials derived from outward or
          inward sentiment, 13 (cf. 53);
  all ideas resolvable into simple ideas copied from precedent
          feelings, 14;
  deficiency in an organ of sensation produces deficiency in
          corresponding idea, 15-16;
  suspected ideas to be tested by asking for the impression from
          which it is derived, 17 (cf. 49);
  idea of reflection, 51;
  general ideas, 135 n;
  innate ideas, 19 n;
  power of will over ideas, 53.

  B. _Association of_, 18-19.

  Ideas introduce each other with a certain degree of method and
          regularity, 18;
  only three principles of association, viz. Resemblance, Contiguity,
          and Cause or Effect, 19;
  contrariety, 19 n;
  production of belief by these principles, 41-43.

  C. Correspondence of ideas and course of nature, 44;
  relations of ideas one of two possible objects of enquiry, 20;
  such relations discoverable by the mere operation of thought, 20,
  no demonstration possible except in case of ideas of quantity or
          number, 131.

  11, 39;
  and belief, 40.

  all our more lively perceptions, 12;
  the test of ideas, 17, 49.

  peculiar turpitude of explained, 12.

  of the negative, 132 (cf. 20).

  57 n.

  and similarity, 30, 115 (v. _Cause_).

  divisibility, 124 f.

  multiplication of not required by reason, 31.

  more trustworthy than reasoning, 45;
  the basis of all experimental reasoning, 85;
  the basis of realism, 118, 121.

  opp. mediate reasoning, 2.

La Bruyere

  (v. _Necessity_, 62-97).
  Definition of hypothetical liberty, 73.
  Necessary to morality, 77.

  4, 40 n, 50 n, 57 n.
  His loose use of 'ideas,' 19 n;
  betrayed into frivolous disputes about innate ideas by the
          School-men, 19 n;
  distinction of primary and secondary qualities, 122.

  4, 57 n..

  a reasonable and active being, 4.

  rules of, based on and vary with utility, 118.

  ideas of, clear and determinate, hence their superiority to moral
          and metaphysical sciences, 48;
  their difficulty, 48.

  Mathematical and physical points, 124 n.

  necessity of, 64;
  creation of, 132 n (v. _Scepticism_ A).

  contrary of, always possible, 21;
  arguments to new, based only on cause and effect, 22.

  not a science, 5-6;
  how inferior and superior to mathematics, 48.

  mental geography, 8;
  secret springs and principles of, 9;
  can only mix and compound materials given by inward and outward
          sentiment, 13;
  power of will over, 53.


  Belief in human evidence diminishes according as the event witnessed
          is unusual or extraordinary, 89;
  difference between extraordinary and miraculous, 89 n;
  if the evidence for a miracle amounted to proof we should have one
          proof opposed by another proof, for the proof against a
          miracle is as complete as possible;
  an event is not miraculous unless there is a uniform experience,
          that is a proof, against it, 90;
  definition of miracle, 90 n;
  hence no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle unless its
          falsehood would be more miraculous than the event it
          establishes, 91;
  as a fact the evidence for a miracle has never amounted to proof, 92;
  the passion for the wonderful in human nature, 93;
  prevalence of miracles in savage and early periods and their
          diminution with civilization, 94;
  the evidence for miracles in matters of religion opposed by the
          almost infinite number of witnesses for rival religions, 95;
  value of human testimony diminished by temptation to pose as a
          prophet or apostle, 97;
  no testimony for a miracle has ever amounted to a probability, much
          less to a proof, and if it did amount to a proof it would be
          opposed by another perfect proof, 98;
  so a miracle can never be proved so as to be the foundation of a
          system of religion, 99;
  a conclusion which confounds those who base the Christian religion
          on reason, not on faith, 100;
  the Christian religion cannot be believed without a miracle which
          will subvert the principle of a man's understanding and give
          him a determination to believe what is most contrary to
          custom and experience, 101.

  evil (q.v.) 80.

Moral science
  inferior to mathematics, 48;
  sceptical objections to, 126-7.

  Moral evidence easily combined with natural, 70.


  design in, 105 f. (v. _Providence_),
  and the course of our ideas, 44.

  State of, a philosophical fiction, 151, 151 n.

  connexion (v. _Cause_).

  two definitions of, 75.

  A. _and Liberty_, 62-81;
  the controversy is based on ambiguity, and all mankind have always
          been of the same opinion on this subject, 63;
  our idea of the necessity of matter arises solely from observed
          uniformity and consequent inference, circumstances which are
          allowed by all men to exist in respect of human action, 64;
  history and knowledge of human nature assume such uniformity, 65,
  which does not exclude variety due to education and progress, 66;
  irregular actions to be explained by secret operation of contrary
          causes, 67;
  the inconstancy of human action, its constant character, as of winds
          and weather, 68;
  we all acknowledge and draw inferences from the regular conjunction
          of motives and actions, 69;
  history, politics, and morals show this, and the possibility of
          combining moral and natural evidence shows that they have a
          common origin, 70;
  the reluctance to acknowledge the necessity of actions due to a
          lingering belief that we can see real connexion behind mere
          conjunction, 71;
  we should begin with the examination not of the soul and will but of
          brute matter, 72;
  the prevalence of the liberty doctrine due to a false sensation of
          liberty and a false experiment, 72 n;
  though this question is the most contentious of all, mankind has
          always agreed in the doctrine of liberty, if we mean by it
          that hypothetical liberty which consists in a power of
          acting or not acting according to the determinations of our
          will, and which can be ascribed to every one who is not a
          prisoner, 73;
  liberty when opposed to necessity, and not merely to constraint, is
          the same as chance, 74.

  B. _Both necessity and liberty are necessary to morality_, this
          doctrine of necessity only alters our view of matter and so
          is at least innocent, 75;
  rewards and punishments imply the uniform influence of motives, and
          connexion of character and action: if necessity be denied,
          a man may commit any crime and be no worse for it, 76;
  liberty also essential to morality, 77.

  Objection that doctrine of necessity and of a regular chain of
          causes either makes God the cause of evil, or abolishes evil
          in actions, 78;
  Stoic answer, that the whole system is good, is specious but
          ineffectual in practice, 79;
  no speculative argument can counteract the impulse of our natural
          sentiments to blame certain actions, 80;
  how God can be the cause of all actions without being the author of
          moral evil is a mystery with which philosophy cannot deal,

  inconceivability of, 132.

  57 n.

  52 n, 60 n.

  the object of demonstration, 131.

Occasional causes
  theory of, 55.

  between thought and course of nature, 44-5.

  and external objects, 119 f. (v. _Scepticism_, _Impression_,

  moral, two branches of, abstruse and practical, 1-5;
  gratifies innocent curiosity, 6;
  metaphysics tries to deal with matters inaccessible to human
          understanding, 6.

  True, must lay down limits of understanding, 7 (cf. 113);
  a large part of, consists in mental geography, 8;
  may hope to resolve principles of mind into still more general
          principles, 9.

  Natural, only staves off our ignorance a little longer, as moral or
          metaphysical philosophy serves only to discover larger
          portions of it, 26;
  academical, or sceptical, flatters no bias or passion except love of
          truth, and so has few partisans, 34;
  though it destroy speculation, cannot destroy action, for nature
          steps in and asserts her rights, 34;
  moral, inferior to mathematics in clearness of ideas, superior in
          shortness of arguments, 48.

  Controversies in, due to ambiguity of terms, 62.

  Disputes in, not be settled by appeal to dangerous consequences of a
          doctrine, 75.

  Speculative, entirely indifferent to the peace of society and
          security of government, 104 (cf. 114).

  All the philosophy in the world, and all the religion in the world,
          which is nothing but a species of philosophy, can never
          carry us beyond the usual course of experience, 113.

  Happiness of, to have originated in an age and country of freedom
          and toleration, 102.

  physical, indivisible, 124 n.

  50 f, 60 n. (v. _Cause_ D).

  46 f. (v. _Cause_, B).

  arguments, 38, 46 n.

  50 n.

  not the foundation of justice, 257.

  46 n, 86-101 (v. _Miracles_, _Demonstrative_).

  102-115 (v. _God_).

  The sole argument for a divine existence is from the marks of design
          in nature; must not infer greater power in the cause than is
          necessary to produce the observed effects, nor argue from
          such an inferred cause to any new effects which have not
          been observed, 105;
  so must not infer in God more power, wisdom, and benevolence than
          appears in nature, 106;
  so it is unnecessary to try and save the honour of the Gods by
          assuming the intractability of matter or the observance of
          general laws, 107;
  to argue from effects to unknown causes, and then from these causes
          to unknown effects, is a gross sophism, 108.

  From imperfect exercise of justice in this world we cannot infer its
          perfect exercise in a future world, 109;
  we must regulate our conduct solely by the experienced train of
          events, 110;
  in case of human works of art we can infer the perfect from the
          imperfect, but that is because we know man by experience and
          also know other instances of his art, 111-112;
  but in the case of God we only know him by his productions, and do
          not know any class of beings to which he belongs, 113;
  and the universe, his production, is entirely singular and does not
          belong to a known species of things, 115.

  requires doctrines of necessity and liberty, 76 (v. _Necessity_).


  primary and secondary, 122.

  and number, the only objects of demonstration, the parts of them
          being entirely similar, 131.

  presence, 86.

  and thought, 44.

  of the vulgar, 118.

  (a)  opp. intuition, 29;
  opp. experience, 28, 36 n.

  (b) Corrects sympathy and senses, 117.
  No match for nature, 34.

  Fallacious, compared with instinct, 45.

  Of men and animals, 84 n.

  (c) attempts to destroy, by reasoning, 124;
  objections to abstract reasoning, 124 f. (v. _Scepticism_).

  (d) _Reasoning_.

  Two kinds of, demonstrative and moral, 30, 46 n, 132;
  moral, divided into general and particular, 132;
  produces demonstrations, proofs, and probabilities, 46 n.

  Probable (v. _Cause_, 28-32).

  of ideas, discoverable by the mere operation of thought,
          independently of the existence of any object, 20.

  a kind of philosophy, 113 (v. _Miracles, Providence_).

  19, 41 (v. _Similarity_).

  and idea of power, 53 n.

  A. antecedent to study and philosophy, such as Descartes' universal
          doubt of our faculties, would be incurable: in a more
          moderate sense it is useful, 116 (cf. 129-30);
  extravagant attempts of, to destroy reason by reasoning, 124.

  No such absurd creature as a man who has no opinion about anything
          at all, 116;
  admits of no answer and produces no conviction, 122 n. (cf. 34, 126,

  B. _As to the Senses_, 117-123.

  The ordinary criticisms of our senses only show that they have to be
          corrected by Reason, 117;
  more profound arguments show that the vulgar belief in external
          objects is baseless, and that the objects we see are nothing
          but perceptions which are fleeting copies of other
          existences, 118;
  even this philosophy is hard to justify; it appeals neither to
          natural instinct, nor to experience, for experience tells
          nothing of objects which perceptions resemble, 119;
  the appeal to the _veracity of God_ is useless, 120;
  and scepticism is here triumphant, 121.

  _The distinction between primary and secondary qualities_ is useless,
          for the supposed primary qualities are only perceptions, 122;
  and Berkeley's theory that ideas of primary qualities are obtained by
          abstraction is impossible, 122, 122 n;
  if matter is deprived of both primary and secondary qualities there
          is nothing left except a mere something which is not worth
          arguing about, 123.

  C. _As to Reason_, 124-130.

  Attempt to destroy Reason by reasoning extravagant, 124;
  objection to _abstract reasoning_ because it asserts infinite
          divisibility of extension which is shocking to common sense,
  and infinite divisibility of time, 125;
  yet the ideas attacked are so clear and distinct that scepticism
          becomes sceptical about itself, 125.

  Popular objections to _moral reasoning_ about matter of fact, based
          on weakness of understanding, variation of judgement, and
          disagreement among men, confuted by action, 126;
  philosophical objections, that we only experience conjunction and
          that inference is based on custom, 127;
  excessive scepticism refuted by its uselessness and put to flight by
          the most trivial event in life, 128.

  Mitigated scepticism or academical philosophy useful as a corrective
          and as producing caution and modesty, 129;
  and as limiting understanding to proper objects, 130;
  all reasoning which is not either abstract, about quantity and
          number, or experimental, about matters of fact, is sophistry
          and illusion, 132.

  D. In _Religion_ (v. _Miracles_, _Providence_).

  132 (v. _Reason_, (d); _Scepticism_, C).

  powers, 39;
  counteracting causes, 47, 67.

  outward and inward sensation supplies all the materials of
          thinking--must be corrected by reason, 117.

  Scepticism concerning, 117 (v. _Scepticism_, B).

  basis of all arguments from experience, 31 (cf. 115).

  a supposed primary quality, 122.

  and body, 52.

  and time, 124 f.

  an effect which belongs to no species does not admit of inference
          to its cause, 115 (cf. 113).

  34, 79.

  6 (v. _Providence_).

  science of, 132 (v. _God_, _Providence_).

  argument against real presence, 86.

  and space, 124 f.

  8, 17 (v. _Scepticism_).

  limits of human, 7;
  operations of, to be classified, 8;
  opp. experience, 28;
  weakness of, 126 (v. _Reason_, _Scepticism_).

  as ground of distinction between virtues and talents, 130.

  theory that everything is good as regards 'the whole,' 79, 80.

  compounds materials given by senses, 13;
  influence of over organs of body can never give us the idea of
          power; for we are not conscious of any power in our will,
          only of sequence of motions on will, 52;
  so with power of will over our minds in raising up new ideas, 53.

  Of God, cannot be used to explain motion, 57.

  Freedom of (v. _Necessity_).

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