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phy of the inimitable Locke! When will philosophy cease to disgrace herself by follies and absurdities?
But to proceed with the Bishop. “ It is indeed,” says he, “ an opinion strangely prevalent amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word, all sensible objects have an existence, natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding." (And who will not join the Prelate in expressing his astonishment at the ignorance, and credulity of mankind in forming such an opinion?) “ But with how great an assurance and acquiescence soever this principle may be entertained in the world; yet whoever shall find in his heart, to call it in question may, if I mistake not, perceive it to involve a manifest contradiction. For what are the forementioned objects but the things we perceive by sense, and what do we perceive besides our own ideas or sensations?” That is to say, by the eye we see or perceive not magnitude and figure; but those perceptions or ideas which the mind has of them, by the ear, not those undulations of the air, which occasion sound, but our sensations of sound, and the like of the other senses. Is not such an at. tempt to confuse the science of mind worthy of the highest reprobation? But the Bishop continues in the strain. “Some truths there are so near, and obvious to the mind, that a man need only open his eyes to see them. Such I take this important one to be, to wit, that all the quire of heaven, and furniture of the earth, in a word all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world, have not any subsistence without a mind, and that their being is to be perceived or known.” This, if established would certainly be a much greater discovery than any that Newton could boast of. We have only to open our eyes to perceive that there is no sun, moon, stars, or earth. Those must be singular opticks that, instead of presenting objects to our view, annihilates them, and ought to be denominated instruments of vision reversed, or the power of seeing backward.
He proceeds. “But say you, the ideas themselves do not exist without the mind; yet there may be things like them whereof they are copies or resemblances, which things exist without the mind in an unthinking substance. I answer, an idea can be like nothing but an idea; a colour, or figure, can be like nothing but another colour or figure, If we look but ever so little into our thoughts, we shall find it impossible for us to conceive a likeness except only between our ideas.” And yet Dr. Reid represents all the philosophers as maintaining, that ideas are the images or representatives of outward objects; and Berkeley as justly inferring from thence the non-existence of an exterior world. Berkeley with more acuteness perceived that this doctrine would operate against his system; for if there were the images of outward objects in the mind, there would be strong presumption, that where there was image there must be the real being; where there was a shadow, there must be a substance; and where there was a representative, there must be a constituent.
But that I may not expend time uselessly in exhibiting these intellectual fooleries, this egregious trifling with our understandings, I shall hasten to the only part in which the semblance of an argument appears, and we shall see that this was the same argument used by Mr. Hume, and which had presented itself as a difficulty to Des Cartes, Locke, and all the philosophers. I shall state it at full length and in all its force, and the refutation of it shall close our strictures upon the Bishop's performances. It is found in his treatise upon the Principles of Human Knowledge, sect. 18, part 1st.
“ But though it were possible that solid, figured, moveable substances may exist without the mind, corresponding to the ideas we have of bodies, yet, how is it possible for us to know this? Either we must know it by sense or by reason. As for our senses, by them we have the knowledge only of our sensations, ideas, or those things which are immediately perceived by sense, call them what you will. But they do not inform us that things exist without the mind; or unperceived, like to those that are perceived. This the materialists themselves acknowledge. It remains, therefore, that if we have any knowledge at all of external things, it must be by reason, inferring their existence from what is immediately perceived by sense. But what reason can induce us to believe the existence of bodies without the mind, from what we perceive; since the very patrons of matter themselves, do not pretend there is any necessary connection between them, and our ideas? I say, it is granted on all hands, and what happens in dreams, phrensies and the like, puts it beyond dispute,) that it is possible we might be affected with all the ideas we have now, though no bodies existed without resembling them. Hence it is evident, the supposition of external bodies is not necessary for the producing our ideas: since it is granted they are produced, sometimes, and might possibly be produced always in the same order we see them in at present, without their own concurrence.”
We see the same argument exhibited by Mr. Hume, with some difference only in the phraseology, in the Treatise of Human Nature, part 4. sect. 2nd. “That our senses offer not their im pressions as the images of something distinct, or independent and external, is evident; because they convey to us nothing but a single perception, and never give us the least intimation of any thing beyond. A single perception can never produce the idea of a double existence, but by some inference of the reason or imagination. When the mind looks further than what immediately appears to it, its conclusions can never be put to the account of the senses; and it certainly looks farther, when from a single perception it infers a double existence, and supposes the relation of resemblance, and causation between them.” As this argument is not without some show of reason, we shall distinctly state it, and then furnish our answer to it. It consists in this, which is the ground-work of the system of immaterialism. It is admitted by all the philosophers, that all our perceptions of outward objects are produced in the mind by some action in the organs of sense, and that those perceptions, by the appointment of the Creator, are annexed to such action. Now, upon what ground can we infer the existence of such objects, from the mere circumstance that we have perceptions of them? Is it from sense that we arrive at this conclusion? But by sense, it is evident, all that we can obtain is, our perceptions of those things we call the objects of sense. Sense alone can give us no knowledge of their existence, since all that it can communicate to the mind are our sensations; and it is certain if that action could be produced in the organ, without the existence of objects, the perceptions would still be excited. Is it from reason that we would infer the existence of objects, grounding its conclusions upon our perception of their qualities? But it is clear also, that reason cannot deduce such an inference; since we know that there is no necessary connection between our perceptions, and the existence of objects, as appears in the case of dreams, phrensies, and disorders of the mind, in which things appear to be present, that we are sure have no real being. This is the argument, and it is not without plausibility. It was this view of the subject that led Des Cartes to declare, that he reposed confidence in the perceptions of sense, because God could be no deceiver, and would not delude him by false shows and apparitions. The answer, however, to an objection of this kind is sufficiently evident, upon the principles of a sound philosophy. The testimony of our senses, to use the language of Mr. Locke, is the true, and sole evidence in the case, and should be
deemed satisfactory. Reason may furnish arguments why we should repose confidence in the report which they make, but can never give confirmation to the intelligence they communicate. They are the proper and sole judges in the The same holds here as in the instance of
memory, and intuitive certainty in matters of demonstration.
We can give no reason why we place confidence in the evidence of our memories, or why we believe in the certainty of intuitive truths; but that such are the laws of our constitution; and if any one should deny that we can ever safely trust our memories, or that we can ever be perfectly certain that twice two are four, and that things equal to the same thing are equal to one another, all that we could answer, would be as Mr. Locke does, in the case of the testimony of the senses, we think him unworthy to be reasoned with. Some of the ancient sceptics we know carried matters to this extremity, denying that there was any such thing as truth, or if there were, that it was discoverable by the human mind, and therefore, made it their boast to remain in a state of entire indifference and suspense of mind. Such scepticism, if we could suppose it to be genuine and sincere, would border upon insanity, and if affected, is an object of pity and contempt.