Sec 2: Sense Skepticism

SEC 2: SkEPTICISM WITH REGARD TO THE SENSES

  • The skeptic still continues to reason and believe.
    • Even though he cannot defend his reason by reason.
  • He must assent to the principle on the body’s existence.
    • Even though he cannot maintain its veracity by any philosophical arguments.
  • Nature has not:
    • left this to his choice
    • seen it too important to be trusted to our uncertain reasonings and speculations.
  • We may ask: What causes induce us to believe in the body’s existence?
  • But it is in vain to ask: Is there a body or not?
    • This is a point which we must take for granted in all our reasonings.
  • Our present inquiry is on the causes which induce us to believe in the existence of body.
  • I shall begin my reasonings with a distinction, which at first sight may seem superfluous.
    • But it will contribute very much to the perfect understanding of what follows.
  • We should examine apart those two questions commonly confounded together.
    • Why we attribute a continued existence to objects, even when they are not present to the senses.
    • Why we suppose them to have an existence DISTINCT from the mind and perception.
      • Under this last heading I comprehend their:
        • situation and relations
        • external position
        • the independence of their existence and operation.
  • These two questions on the continued and distinct existence of body are intimately connected together.
    • If the objects of our senses continue to exist, their existence is independent of and distinct from the perception, even when they are not perceived.
  • Vice versa, if their existence is independent of the perception and distinct from it, they must continue to exist, even though they be not perceived.
  • The answer of the one question answers the other.
    • Yet we may more easily discover the principles of human nature, from whence the decision arises
    • we shall carry along with us this distinction, and consider whether it is the senses, reason, or the imagination that produces the opinion of a continued or a distinct existence.
  • These are the only intelligible questions on the present subject.
  • We have already shown the absurdity of the notion of external existence, when taken for something specially different from our perceptions (Part 2, Sec. 6).
  • The senses are incapable of creating the notion of the continued existence of their objects, after they no longer appear to the senses.
    • That would:
      • be a contradiction in terms
      • suppose that the senses continue to operate, even after they have ceased all operation.
  • Therefore, the senses must produce the opinion of a distinct, not of a continued existence.
    • It must present their impressions:
      • as images and representations, or
      • as these very distinct and external existences.
  • That our senses offer not their impressions 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 either of the reason or imagination.
  • When the mind looks farther than what immediately appears to it, its conclusions can never be put to the account of the senses.
    • The mind certainly looks farther, when from a single perception it:
      • infers a double existence
      • supposes the relations of resemblance and causation between them.
  • Therefore, if our senses suggest any idea of distinct existences, they must convey the impressions as those very existences, by a kind of fallacy and illusion.
    • All sensations are felt by the mind as they are.
    • When we doubt whether they present themselves as distinct objects, or as mere impressions, the difficulty is not on their nature.
      • The difficulty is on their relations and situation.
  • If the senses presented our impressions as external to, and independent of ourselves, both the objects and ourselves must be obvious to our senses.
    • Otherwise, the senses could not compare them.
    • The difficulty then, is how far we ourselves are the objects of our senses.
  • The most abstruse question in philosophy is the one on:
    • identity
    • the nature of the uniting principle which constitutes a person.
  • We must have recourse to the most profound metaphysics to answer it.
    • Because our senses are unable to answer it.
  • In common life, these ideas of self and person are never very fixed nor determinate.
    • Therefore, it is absurd to imagine that the senses can ever distinguish between ourselves and external objects.
  • Add to this, every external and internal impression, passions, affections, sensations, pains and pleasures, are originally on the same footing.
    • Whatever differences we may observe among them, they appear in their true colours, as impressions or perceptions.
  • If we consider the matter aright, it is scarce possible it should be otherwise.
    • It is inconceivable that our senses be more capable of deceiving us in the situation and relations, than in the nature of our impressions.
    • For since all actions and sensations of the mind are known to us by consciousness, they must appear in every particular what they are, and be what they appear.
  • Everything that enters the mind is in reality a perception.
    • It is impossible anything should appear different to feeling.
  • This is to suppose that we might be mistaken even when we are most intimately conscious.
  • But not to lose time in examining, whether it is possible for our senses to deceive us, and represent our perceptions as distinct from ourselves, that is as external to and independent of us;
  • Let us consider whether:
    • they really do so.
    • whether this error proceeds from:
      • an immediate sensation, or
      • some other causes.
  • On the question on external existence, we set aside the metaphysical question of the identity of a thinking substance.
  • Our own body belongs to us.
  • Several impressions appear exterior to the body.
    • We suppose them also exterior to ourselves.
  • The paper I write on is beyond my hand.
    • The table is beyond the paper.
    • The walls of the room are beyond the table.
    • When I look out the window, I perceive a great fields and buildings beyond my room.
  • We infer that only the senses are required to convince us of the external existence of body.
  • But to prevent this inference, we need only weigh three considerations:
    1. We do not perceive our body when we regard our limbs and members.
      • We perceive certain impressions which enter by the senses.
      • The ascribing of a real and corporeal existence to these impressions or to their objects, is an act of the mind as difficult to explain, as that which we examine at present.
    2. The mind commonly regards sounds, tastes, and smells as continued independent qualities.
      • They do not appear to have any existence in extension.
      • Consequently, they cannot appear to the senses as situated externally to the body.
      • We shall explain why we ascribe a place to them afterwards.
    3. Even our sight does not inform us of distance or outness immediately and without a certain reasoning and experience.
      • This is acknowledged by the most rational philosophers.
  • Regarding the independence of our perceptions on ourselves, this can never be an object of the senses.
    • Any opinion we form on it must be derived from experience and observation.
  • We shall see afterwards that our conclusions from experience are far from being favourable to the doctrine of the independence of our perceptions.
  • Meanwhile, we may observe that when we talk of real distinct existences, we:
    • commonly have more in our eye their independence than external situation in place
    • think an object has a sufficient reality, when its Being is:
      • uninterrupted
      • independent of the incessant revolutions, which we are conscious of in ourselves.
  • The senses give us no notion of continued existence because they cannot operate beyond the extent, in which they really operate.
    • They produce as little opinion of a distinct existence, because they cannot offer it to the mind as represented, nor as original.
      • To offer it as represented, they must present both an object and an image.
      • To make it appear as original, they must convey a falsehood.
        • This falsehood must lie in the relations and situation.
  • In order to which they must be able to compare the object with ourselves;
  • Even in that case they do not, nor is it possible they should, deceive us.
  • Therefore, the opinion of a continued and of a distinct existence never arises from the senses.
  • There are three kinds of impressions conveyed by the senses.
    1. Those of the figure, bulk, motion and solidity of bodies.
      • Both philosophers and the vulgar suppose this to have a distinct continued existence.
    2. Those of colours, tastes, smells, sounds, heat and cold.
      • Only the vulgar regard this on the same footing.
    3. The pains and pleasures arising from the application of objects to our bodies, as by the cutting of our flesh with steel, and the like.
      • Both philosophers and the vulgar, again, esteem this to be merely perceptions.
        • Consequently, they are interrupted and dependent beings.
  • As far they appear to the senses, colours, sounds, temperature exist in the same way with motion and solidity.
    • The difference we make between them in this respect, does not arise from the mere perception.
  • The prejudice for the distinct continued existence of the former qualities is so strong.
    • When the contrary opinion is advanced by modern philosophers, people imagine that:
      • they can almost refute it from their feeling and experience
      • their very senses contradict this philosophy.
  • Colours, sounds, etc. are originally on the same footing with:
    • the pain that arises from steel
    • the pleasure that proceeds from a fire
  • The difference between them is founded not on perception nor reason, but on the imagination.
    • Both of them are nothing but perceptions arising from the particular configurations and motions of the parts of body.
    • Where can their difference possibly consist in?
  • On the whole, we may conclude that all sense perceptions are the same in the manner of their existence.
  • We may also observe in this instance of sounds and colours, that we can attribute a distinct continued existence to objects without ever:
    • consulting reason, or
    • weighing our opinions by any philosophical principles.
  • Philosophers might be able to produce convincing arguments to establish the belief of objects independent of the mind.
    • But these arguments are known but to very few.
    • Children, peasants, and the most of mankind are not induced by these arguments to:
      • attribute objects to some impressions
      • deny objects to other impressions.
  • Accordingly, we find that all the conclusions of the vulgar are directly contrary to the conclusions confirmed by philosophy.
    • Philosophy informs us that everything which appears to the mind, is:
      • nothing but a perception
      • interrupted and dependent on the mind.
    • Whereas the vulgar:
      • confound perceptions and objects
      • attribute a distinct continued existence to the things they feel or see.
  • This sentiment is entirely unreasonable.
    • It must proceed from some other faculty than the understanding.
  • As long as we take our perceptions and objects to be the same, we can never:
    • infer the existence of the one from that of the other
    • form any argument from the relation of cause and effect
      • This relation is the only one that assures us of matter of fact.
  • Even after we distinguish our perceptions from our objects, we are still incapable of reasoning from the existence of one to that of the other.
  • On the whole, our reason can never give us an assurance of the continued and distinct existence of body.
    • That opinion must be entirely owing to the imagination, which must now be the subject of our inquiry.
  • All impressions appear as, and are, internal and perishing existences, the notion of their distinct and continued existence must arise from a concurrence of some of their qualities with the qualities of the imagination.
    • This notion does not extend to all of them.
    • It must arise from certain qualities peculiar to some impressions.
  • Therefore, it will be easy for us to discover these qualities by a comparison of the distinct and continuously existing impressions, with the internal and perishing impressions.
  • It is not because of the involuntariness of certain impressions nor their superior force and violence that we attribute a reality and continued existence to them.
    • We refuse this reality and existence to others that are voluntary or feeble.
  • We never suppose our pains and pleasures, passions and affections to exist beyond our perception.
    • They operate with greater violence and are equally involuntary, as the impressions of figure and extension, colour and sound.
      • We suppose the latter to be permanent beings.
  • When moderate, the heat of a fire is supposed to exist in the fire.
    • But the pain it causes on touch, exists only in the perception.
  • These vulgar opinions are rejected.
  • We must then search for some other hypothesis by which we may discover those peculiar qualities in our impressions, which makes us attribute a distinct and continued existence to them.
  • All those objects to which we attribute a continued existence, have a peculiar constancy.
    • This constancy distinguishes them from the impressions, whose existence depends on our perception.
  • Those mountains, houses, and trees, which I see, have always appeared to me in the same order.
    • When I lose sight of them by shutting my eyes, I find them return on me without alteration soon after.
  • My bed, table, books, and papers, present themselves in the same uniform manner.
    • They do not change because of any interruption in my perceiving them.
  • This is the case with:
    • all the impressions, whose objects have an external existence.
    • no other impressions, whether gentle or violent, voluntary or involuntary.
  • However, this constancy is not so perfect as not to admit of very considerable exceptions.
  • Bodies often change their position and qualities.
    • After a little absence or interruption, they may become hardly knowable.
  • But even in these changes, they:
    • preserve a coherence
    • have a regular dependence on each other.
  • This is the foundation of a kind of reasoning from causation.
    • It produces the opinion of their continued existence.
  • When I return to my room after an hour’s absence, I do not find my fire in the same situation I left it.
    • But then I am accustomed in other instances to see a like alteration produced in a like time, whether I am present or absent, near or remote.
  • Therefore, this coherence in their changes is one of the characteristics of external objects, as well as their constancy.
  • We have found that the opinion of the continued existence of body depends on the coherence, and constancy of certain impressions.
    • I now examine how these qualities create so extraordinary an opinion.
  • Those fleeting and perishing internal impressions also have a certain coherence or regularity in their appearances.
    • Yet it is of somewhat a different nature from the impressions we discover in bodies.
  • Our passions have a mutual connection with and dependence on each other.
    • But it is unnecessary to suppose that they have existed and operated, when they were not perceived in order to preserve the same dependence and connection which we have experienced.
  • This is not the same with relation to external objects.
    • Those relations require a continued existence.
    • Otherwise, they lose the regularity of their operation.
  • I am seated in my room, facing the fire.
    • All the objects that strike my senses are a few yards around me.
    • My memory informs me of the existence of many objects.
    • But then, this information does not extend beyond their past existence.
      • My senses or memory does not give any testimony to the continuance of their being.
  • When I am thus seated and revolve over these thoughts, I:
    • suddenly hear a noise of a door turning on its hinges
    • after a little while, see a porter advancing towards me.
  • This creates many new reflections and reasonings.
    • First, I have always observed that this noise only came from the door’s motion.
      • I therefore conclude that the present phenomenon is a contradiction to all past experience unless the door, which I remember on the other side the room, is still existing.
      • A human body always had a quality I call gravity.
      • Gravity hinders the body from being airborne.
      • This porter must have been airborne to arrive in my room, unless the stairs which I remember are not annihilated by my absence.
      • But this is not all.
    • I receive a letter.
      • Upon opening it, I perceive it to have come from a friend, by the handwriting and subscription.
      • He says he is 200 leagues away.
    • I account for this phenomenon, conformable to my experience in other instances, by:
      • spreading out the whole sea and continent between us in my mind
      • supposing the effects and continued existence of posts and ferries, according to my memory and observation.
  • These phenomena of the porter and letter are contradictions to common experience.
    • They may be regarded as objections to those maxims we form on the connections of causes and effects.
  • I am accustomed to:
    • hear such a sound
    • see such an object in motion at the same time.
    • I have not received in this instance both these perceptions.
  • These observations are contrary, unless I suppose that:
    • the door still remains
    • it was opened without my perceiving it.
  • This supposition was at first entirely arbitrary and hypothetical.
    • It acquires a force and evidence by its being the only one on which I can reconcile these contradictions.
  • There is scarce a moment of my life, wherein there is not a similar instance presented to me.
    • I have no occasion to suppose the continued existence of objects to:
      • connect their past and present appearances
      • give them such an union with each other, as I have found by experience to be suitable to their particular natures and circumstances.
  • I am naturally led to regard the world as something:
    • real and durable
    • preserving its existence, even when it is no longer present to my perception.
  • This conclusion from the coherence of appearances may seem to be of the same nature with our reasonings on causes and effects; as being:
    • derived from custom
    • regulated by past experience.
  • They are ultimately considerably different from each other.
    • This inference arises from:
      • the understanding
      • custom, in an indirect and oblique manner.
  • Nothing is ever really present to the mind besides its own perceptions.
  • It is impossible that any habit should ever:
    • be acquired otherwise than by the regular succession of these perceptions,
    • exceed that degree of regularity.
  • Therefore, any degree of regularity in our perceptions can never be a foundation for us to infer a greater degree of regularity in some objects which are not perceived.
    • Since this supposes a contradiction: a habit acquired by what was never present to the mind.
  • We infer the continued existence of sense-objects from their coherence, and the frequency of their union, to bestow on the objects a greater regularity than what is observed in our mere perceptions.
    • We remark a connection between two kinds of objects in their past appearance to the senses.
    • But we are unable to observe this connection to be perfectly constant.
      • Since it can be broken by:
        • turning our head, or
        • shutting our eyes.
  • We then suppose that:
    • these objects still continue their usual connection, despite their apparent interruption
    • the irregular appearances are joined by something we are insensible of.
  • All reasoning on matters of fact arises only from custom.
    • Custom can only be the effect of repeated perceptions.
    • The extension of custom and reasoning beyond the perceptions can never be the direct and natural effect of the constant repetition and connection.
      • It must arise from the cooperation of some other principles.
  • When the imagination (Part 2, Sec. 4) is set into any train of thinking, it is apt to continue, even when:
    • its object fails it
    • carries on its course without any new impulse, like a galley put in motion by the oars.
  • This why we imagine so exact a standard of that relation, after considering:
    • several loose standards of equality
    • correcting them by each other.
  • The same principle makes us easily entertain this opinion of the continued existence of body.
  • Objects have a certain coherence even as they appear to our senses.
    • But this coherence is much greater and more uniform, if we suppose the object to have a continued existence
    • As the mind is once in the train of observing a uniformity among objects, it naturally continues until it renders the uniformity as complete as possible.
  • The simple supposition of their continued existence suffices for this purpose.
    • It gives us a notion of a much greater regularity among objects, than what they have when we look no farther than our senses.
  • But whatever force we ascribe to this principle:
    • it is too weak to alone support so vast an edifice as that of the continued existence of all external bodies
    • we must join the constancy of their appearance to the coherence, to give a satisfactory account of that opinion.
  • The explanation of this will lead me into a very profound reasoning.
  • To avoid confusion, I will:
    • give a short sketch or abridgment of my system
    • afterwards draw out all its parts in their full compass.
  • This inference from the constancy of our perceptions, like the precedent from their coherence, creates the opinion of the continued existence of body.
    • This opinion:
      • is prior to that of its distinct existence
      • produces that latter principle.
  • When we have been used to observe a constancy in certain impressions, and have found that the perception of the ocean, for instance, returns on us after an absence, we are not apt to regard these interrupted perceptions as different.
    • They really are different.
    • On the contrary, we consider them as individually the same because of their resemblance.
  • This interruption of their existence:
    • is contrary to their perfect identity
    • makes us regard:
      • the first impression as annihilated
      • the second as newly created.
  • We find ourselves at a loss.
    • We are involved in a kind of contradiction.
  • To free ourselves from this difficulty, we:
    • disguise the interruption as much as possible, or
    • remove it entirely, by supposing that these interrupted perceptions are connected by a real existence we are insensible of.
  • This supposition, or idea of continued existence, acquires a force and vivacity from:
    • the memory of these broken impressions
    • that propensity which they give us, to suppose them the same
    • and according to the precedent reasoning, the very essence of belief consists in the force and vivacity of the conception.
  • To justify this system, there are four things requisite.
    1. To explain the principle of identity.
    2. Give a reason why the resemblance of our broken and interrupted perceptions induces us to attribute an identity to them.
    3. Account for that propensity given by this illusion to unite these broken appearances by a continued existence.
    4. Explain that force and vivacity of conception arising from the propensity.
  • First, the view of any one object is insufficient to convey the idea of identity.
    • In that proposition, an object is the same with itself, if the idea expressed by the word, object, were not distinguished from the word, object meant by itself.
    • We really should mean nothing
    • The proposition would not contain a predicate and a subject implied in this affirmation.
  • One single object conveys the idea of unity, not that of identity.
  • On the other hand, a multiplicity of objects can never convey this idea, however resembling they may be supposed.
  • The mind always:
    • pronounces the one not to be the other
    • considers them as forming two, three, or any determinate number of objects, whose existences are entirely distinct and independent.
  • Since then both number and unity are incompatible with the relation of identity, it must lie in something that is neither of them.
    • But to tell the truth at first sight seems utterly impossible.
  • Between unity and number there can be no medium; no more than between existence and nonexistence.
    • After one object is supposed to exist, we must:
      • suppose another also to exist, or
        • In this case, we have the idea of number.
      • suppose it not to exist.
        • In this case, the first object remains at unity.
  • To remove this difficulty, let us have recourse to the idea of time or duration.
    • Time implies succession (Part 2, Sec. 5).
  • When we apply its idea to any unchangeable object, it is only by a fiction of the imagination, by the unchangeable object is supposed to participate of the changes of the co-existent objects, and in particular of that of our perceptions.
  • This fiction of the imagination almost universally takes place.
    • Through this fiction, a single object before us, surveyed for any time without any interruption or variation, is able to give us a notion of identity.
  • For when we consider any two points of this time, we may place them in different lights.
  • We may:
    • survey them at that instant when they give us the idea of number by themselves and by the object; which must be multiplied to be conceived at once, as existent in these two different points of time, or
    • we may trace the succession of time by a like succession of ideas.
      • We conceive first one moment, along with the object then existent, then imagine a change in the time without any variation or interruption in the object, which gives us the idea of unity.
  • Here then is an idea which is a medium between unity and number.
    • This medium is either of them, according to our view of it.
  • We call this idea the idea of identity.
    • We cannot say that an object is the same with itself.
    • Unless we mean that the object existing at one time is the same with itself existing at another.
  • Through this, we make a difference between the idea meant by ‘object’ and the idea meant by ‘itself’, without:
    • going the length of number
    • restraining ourselves to a strict and absolute unity.
  • Thus the principle of individuation is nothing but the invariableness and uninterruptedness of any object, through a supposed variation of time.
  • by which the mind can trace it in the different periods of its existence, without:
    • any break of the view
    • being obliged to form the idea of multiplicity or number.
  • I now proceed to explain the second part of my system, and show why the constancy of our perceptions makes us ascribe to them a perfect numerical identity, though:
    • there are very long intervals between their appearance
    • they have only one of the essential qualities of identity: invariableness.
  • That I may avoid all ambiguity and confusion on this head, I shall observe, that I here account for the opinions and belief of the vulgar with regard to the existence of body;
    • and therefore must entirely conform myself to their manner of thinking and of expressing themselves.
  • Philosophers distinguish between the objects and perceptions of the senses which they suppose co-existent and resembling;
    • Yet this is a distinction which is not comprehended by the generality of mankind.
      • People perceive only one being.
      • They can never assent to the opinion of a double existence and representation.
      • Those sensations which enter the eye or ear are with them the true objects.
      • They cannot readily conceive that this pen or paper immediately perceived, represents another pen and paper different from, but resembling it.
  • To accommodate myself to their notions, I shall at first suppose that there is only a single existence.
    • I shall call this existence indifferently as ‘object’ or ‘perception’.
    • Both of them are what anyone means by a hat, shoe, stone, or any other impression conveyed by the senses.
    • I shall give warning when I return to a more philosophical way of thinking.
  • To know the source of the error and deception with regard to identity, when we attribute it to our resembling perceptions despite their interruption.
  • Recall that (Part 2, Sec. 5) nothing is more apt to make us mistake one idea for another, than any relation between them which:
    • associates them together in the imagination
    • makes it pass with facility from one to the other.
  • The relation of resemblance is the most effective of all relations, in this respect.
    • It causes an association of ideas and dispositions.
    • It makes us conceive the one idea by an act or operation of the mind, similar to that by which we conceive the other idea.
  • This circumstance is of great moment.
  • We may establish it for a general rule that whatever ideas place the mind in the same or similar disposition, are very apt to be confounded.
    • The mind:
      • readily passes from one to the other
      • does not perceive the change because it is totally incapable of a strict attention.
  • To apply this general maxim, we must:
    • first examine the mind’s disposition in viewing any object which preserves a perfect identity
    • find some other object that is confounded with it, by causing a similar disposition.
  • When we fix our thought on any object, and suppose it to continue the same for some time, we:
    • suppose the change to lie only in the time
    • never exert ourselves to produce any new image or idea of the object.
  • The faculties of the mind:
    • repose themselves
    • take no more exercise, than what is necessary to continue that idea:
      • we formerly had
      • which subsists without variation or interruption.
  • The passage from one moment to another is scarce felt.
    • It distinguishes not itself by a different perception or idea.
      • This perception or idea may require a different direction of the spirits for its conception.
  • What other objects, beside identical ones, are capable of placing the mind in the same disposition, when it considers them, and of causing the same uninterrupted passage of the imagination from one idea to another?
  • This question is of the last importance.
  • If we can find such objects, we may conclude from the foregoing principle that they are very naturally:
    • confounded with identical ones
    • taken for them in most of our reasonings.
  • This question is very important, but it is not very difficult nor doubtful.
    • I immediately reply that a succession of related objects:
      • places the mind in this disposition
      • is considered with the same smooth and uninterrupted progress of the imagination, as attends the view of the same invariable object.
  • The very nature and essence of relation is:
    • to connect our ideas with each other
    • to facilitate the transition to its correlative, upon the appearance of one.
  • Therefore, the passage between related ideas is so smooth and easy.
    • It produces little alteration on the mind.
    • It seems like the continuation of the same action.
  • The continuation of the same action is an effect of the continued view of the same object.
    • This is why we attribute sameness to every succession of related objects.
  • The thought slides along the succession with equal facility, as if it considered only one object.
    • It therefore confounds the succession with the identity.
  • We shall afterwards see many instances of this tendency of relation to make us ascribe an identity to different objects; but shall here confine ourselves to the present subject.
  • There is such a constancy in almost all the impressions of the senses.
    • Their interruption:
      • produces no alteration on them
      • does not hinder them from returning the same in appearance and in situation as at their first existence.
  • I survey the furniture of my chamber.
    • I shut my eyes and open them.
    • I find the new perceptions resemble perfectly those which formerly struck my senses.
  • This resemblance:
    • is observed in 1,000 instances.
    • naturally:
      • connects together our ideas of these interrupted perceptions by the strongest relation
      • conveys the mind with an easy transition from one to another.
  • An easy transition or passage of the imagination, along the ideas of these different and interrupted perceptions, is almost the same disposition of mind with that in which we consider one constant and uninterrupted perception.
  • Therefore, it is very natural for us to mistake the one for the other.

Footnote 9.

  • This reasoning is somewhat
    • abstruse
    • difficult to be comprehended.
  • But it is remarkable that this very difficulty may be converted into a proof of the reasoning.
  • There are two relations.
    • Both of them are resemblances which contribute to our mistaking the succession of our interrupted perceptions for an identical object.
  • The first is, the resemblance of the perceptions.
    • The second is the resemblance, which the act of the mind in surveying a succession of resembling objects bears to that in surveying an identical object.
  • We are apt to confound these resemblances with each other.
    • According to this reasoning, we naturally should.
  • But let us keep them distinct.
    • We shall find no difficulty in conceiving the precedent argument.
  • Those who entertain this opinion on the identity of our resembling perceptions are generally the unthinking and unphilosophical part of mankind, (that is, all of us at one time or other).
    • Consequently, they:
      • suppose their perceptions to be their only objects
      • never think of a double existence internal and external, representing and represented.
  • The very image present to the senses, is with us the real body.
    • It is to these interrupted images we ascribe a perfect identity.
  • But the interruption of the appearance seems contrary to the identity.
    • It naturally leads us to regard these resembling perceptions as different from each other.
    • We here find ourselves at a loss how to reconcile such opposite opinions.
  • The imagination’s smooth passage along the ideas of the resembling perceptions makes us ascribe to them a perfect identity.
    • The interrupted manner of their appearance makes us consider them as so many resembling, but still distinct beings which appear after certain intervals.
  • The perplexity arising from this contradiction produces a propension to unite these broken appearances by the fiction of a continued existence, which is the third part of that hypothesis I proposed to explain.
  • Nothing is more certain from experience, than that any contradiction either to the sentiments or passions gives a sensible uneasiness, whether it proceeds from without or from within.
    • from the opposition of external objects, or from the combat of internal principles.
  • On the contrary, we get a sensible pleasure from whatever:
    • strikes in with the natural propensities, and
    • externally forwards their satisfaction, or
    • internally concurs with their movements.
  • There is here an opposition between the notion of the identity of resembling perceptions, and the interruption of their appearance.
    • The mind:
      • must be uneasy in that situation
      • will naturally seek relief from the uneasiness.
  • Since the uneasiness arises from the opposition of two contrary principles, it must look for relief by sacrificing the one to the other.
    • But as the smooth passage of our thought along our resembling perceptions makes us ascribe to them an identity, we can never without reluctance yield up that opinion.
  • Therefore, we must:
    • turn to the other side
    • suppose that our perceptions are no longer interrupted.
      • Instead, they:
        • preserve a continued and invariable existence
        • are entirely the same by that means.
  • But here the interruptions in the appearance of these perceptions are so long and frequent.
    • It is impossible to overlook them
  • The appearance of a perception in the mind and its existence initially seem entirely the same.
    • We may doubt whether we can ever:
      • assent to so palpable a contradiction
      • suppose a perception to exist without being present to the mind.
  • To clear up this matter and learn how the interruption in the appearance of a perception does not necessarily imply an interruption in its existence, it will be proper to touch on some principles which we shall explain more fully afterwards. (Sec. 6)
  • The difficulty in the present case is not on the matter of fact, or whether the mind forms such a conclusion on the continued existence of its perceptions.
    • The  difficulty is only on:
      • the way the conclusion is formed
      • principles it is derived from.
  • Almost all men and even philosophers, for most of their lives, take their perceptions to be their only objects.
    • They suppose that the very being intimately present to the mind, is the real body or material existence.
  • This very perception or object is supposed to:
    • have a continued uninterrupted being, and neither to be annihilated by our absence, nor to be brought into existence by our presence.
  • When we are absent from it, we say it still exists, but that we do not feel, we do not see it.
  • When we are present, we say we feel, or see it. Here then may arise two questions;
  • First, How we can satisfy ourselves in supposing a perception to be absent from the mind without being annihilated.
  • Secondly, After what manner we conceive an object to become present to the mind, without some new creation of a perception or image; and what we mean by this seeing, and feeling, and perceiving.
  • To the first question: What we call a mind is nothing but a heap or collection of different perceptions united together by certain relations and falsely supposed to be endowed with a perfect simplicity and identity.
  • Every perception:
    • is distinguishable from another
    • may be considered as separately existent.
  • It follows that there is no absurdity in separating any particular perception from the mind.
    • that is, in breaking off all its relations, with that connected mass of perceptions, which constitute a thinking being.
  • The same reasoning affords us an answer to the second question.
  • If the name of perception does not render this separation from a mind absurd and contradictory, the name of object, standing for the very same thing, can never render their conjunction impossible.
  • External objects are seen, felt, and become present to the mind.
    • They acquire a relation to a connected heap of perceptions which influences them very considerably in:
      • adding their number by present reflections and passions
      • storing the memory with ideas.
    • The same continued and uninterrupted Being may, therefore, be sometimes present to the mind and sometimes absent from it, without any real or essential change in the Being itself.
  • An interrupted appearance to the senses does not necessarily imply an interruption in the existence.
    • The supposition of the continued existence of sensible objects or perceptions involves no contradiction.
    • We may easily indulge our inclination to that supposition.
  • When the exact resemblance of our perceptions makes us ascribe to them an identity, we may remove the seeming interruption by feigning a continued being.
    • This being may:
      • fill those intervals
      • preserve a perfect and entire identity to our perceptions.
  • We here feign and believe this continued existence.
    • The question is, from whence arises such a belief?
      • This question leads us to the fourth member of this system.
  • Belief in general consists in nothing but the vivacity of an idea.
    • An idea may acquire this vivacity by its relation to some present impression.
  • Impressions are naturally the most vivid perceptions of the mind.
    • This quality is in part conveyed by the relation to every connected idea.
  • The relation:
    • causes a smooth passage from the impression to the idea
    • even gives a propensity to that passage.
  • The mind falls so easily from the one perception to the other.
    • It scarce perceives the change, but retains in the second a considerable share of the vivacity of the first.
  • It is excited by the lively impression.
    • This vivacity is conveyed to the related idea, without any great reduction in the passage, by reason of the smooth transition and the propensity of the imagination.
  • But suppose, that this propensity arises from some other principle, besides that of relation.
    • It is evident it must still have the same effect and convey the vivacity from the impression to the idea.
  • This is exactly the present case.
    • Our memory presents us with a vast number of instances of perceptions perfectly resembling each other that return at different times and after considerable interruptions.
  • This resemblance gives us a propension to:
    • consider these interrupted perceptions as the same
    • connect them by a continued existence, to justify this identity and avoid the contradiction, in which the interrupted appearance of these perceptions seems necessarily to involve us.
  • Here then we have a propensity to feign the continued existence of all sensible objects.
    • As this propensity arises from some lively impressions of the memory, it bestows a vivacity on that fiction.
    • In other words, it makes us believe the continued existence of body.
  • If we ascribe a continued existence to objects perfectly new to us, it is because the way they present themselves to our senses resembles the way of constant and coherent objects.
    • This resemblance is a source of reasoning and analogy.
      • It leads us to attribute the same qualities to similar objects.
  • An intelligent reader will find less difficulty to assent to this system, than to comprehend it fully and distinctly.
    • He will allow, after a little reflection, that every part carries its own proof along with it.
  • The vulgar suppose their perceptions to be their only objects.
    • They believe the continued existence of matter.
    • We must account for the origin of that belief.
  • Upon that supposition, it is a false opinion that any of our objects, or perceptions, are identically the same after an interruption.
    • Consequently, the opinion of their identity can never arise from reason, but must arise from the imagination.
  • The imagination is seduced into such an opinion only by means of the resemblance of certain perceptions.
    • Since we find they are only our resembling perceptions, which we have a propension to suppose the same.
  • This propension to bestow an identity on our resembling perceptions, produces the fiction of a continued existence.
  • That fiction and the identity is really false.
    • This is acknowledged by all philosophers.
    • It has no other effect than to remedy the interruption of our perceptions.
      • This interruption is the only circumstance contrary to their identity.
  • In the last place, this propension causes belief through the memory’s present impressions.
    • Without the remembrance of former sensations, we never should have any belief of the continued existence of body.
  • Thus, we find that each of these parts is supported by the strongest proofs.
    • All of them together form a consistent, perfectly convincing system.
  • A strong propensity or inclination alone, without any present impression, will sometimes cause a belief or opinion.
    • How much more when aided by that circumstance?
  • We are led this way by the imagination’s natural propensity to ascribe a continued existence to those sensible objects or perceptions, which resemble each other in their interrupted appearance.
    • Yet a very little reflection and philosophy is sufficient to make us perceive the fallacy of that opinion.
  • There is an intimate connection between those two principles, of a continued and of a distinct or independent existence, and that we no sooner establish the one than the other follows, as a necessary consequence.
    • Wherever the mind follows its first and most natural tendency, a continued existence first takes place and draws the other along with it.
    • But when we compare experiments, and reason a little on them, we quickly perceive that the doctrine of the independent existence of our sensible perceptions is contrary to the plainest experience.
  • This leads us back on our footsteps to perceive our error in attributing a continued existence to our perceptions
  • and is the origin of many very curious opinions, which we shall here endeavour to account for.
  • It will first be proper to observe a few of those experiments, which convince us that our perceptions do not have any independent existence.
    • When we press one eye with a finger, we immediately perceive all the objects to become double.
      • Half of them are removed from their common and natural position.
  • We clearly perceive that all our perceptions are dependent on our organs and the disposition of our nerves and animal spirits since
    • we do not attribute both these perceptions to continued existence
    • these perceptions are both of the same nature.
  • This opinion is confirmed by the seeming increase and reduction of objects according to their distance.
  • We learn that our sensible perceptions do not have any distinct or independent existence, from:
    • the apparent alterations in their figure
    • the changes in their colour and other qualities from our sickness and distempers
    • an infinite number of other experiments of the same kind
  • The natural consequence of this reasoning is that our perceptions have no more a continued than an independent existence.
  • Philosophers have run into this opinion.
    • They change their system.
    • They distinguish, (as we shall do for the future) between perceptions and objects, of which the former are supposed to be interrupted, and perishing, and different at every different return.
      • the latter to be uninterrupted, and to preserve a continued existence and identity.
  • But however philosophical this new system is, it is only a palliative remedy.
    • It contains all the difficulties of the vulgar system, with some others peculiar to itself.
  • There are no principles of the understanding or fancy, which lead us directly to embrace this opinion of the double existence of perceptions and objects.
  • Nor can we arrive at it but by passing through the common hypothesis of the identity and continuance of our interrupted perceptions.
  • Were we not first persuaded, that our perceptions are our only objects, and continue to exist even when they no longer make their appearance to the senses, we should never be led to think, that our perceptions and objects are different, and that our objects alone preserve a continued existence.
  • The latter hypothesis has no primary recommendation either to reason or the imagination, but acquires all its influence on the imagination from the former.
  • This proposition contains two parts, which we shall endeavour to prove as distinctly and clearly, as such abstruse subjects will permit.
  • The first part of the proposition is that this philosophical hypothesis has no primary recommendation to reason or the imagination.
    • We may soon satisfy ourselves with regard to reason by the following reflections.
  • The only existences, of which we are certain, are perceptions, which being immediately present to us by consciousness, command our strongest assent, and are the first foundation of all our conclusions.
    • The only conclusion we can draw from the existence of one thing to that of another, is by means of the relation of cause and effect.
      • It shows that:
        • there is a connection between them
        • the existence of one is dependent on that of the other.
  • The idea of this relation is derived from past experience, by which we find, that two beings are constantly conjoined together, and are always present at once to the mind.
  • No beings are ever present to the mind but perceptions.
    • It follows that we may observe a conjunction or a relation of cause and effect between different perceptions.
      • But we can never observe it between perceptions and objects.
  • Therefore, it is impossible that from the existence or any of the qualities of the former, we can ever form any conclusion concerning the existence of the latter, or ever satisfy our reason in this particular.
  • It is no less certain, that this philosophical system has no primary recommendation to the imagination
  • and that that faculty would never, of itself, and by its original tendency, have fallen on such a principle.
  • I confess it will be difficult to prove this to the reader’s satisfaction.
  • Because it implies a negative, which in many cases will not admit of any positive proof.
  • If any one would take pains to examine this question and invent a system to account for the direct origin of this opinion from the imagination, we should be able, by the examination of that system, to pronounce a certain judgement in the present subject.
  • Let it be taken for granted, that our perceptions are broken, and interrupted, and however like, are still different from each other; and let any one upon this supposition shew why the fancy, directly and immediately, proceeds to the belief of another existence, resembling these perceptions in their nature, but yet continued, and uninterrupted, and identical; and after he has done this to my satisfaction, I promise to renounce my present opinion.
  • Meanwhile I cannot refrain from concluding that it is an improper subject for the fancy to work on because of the very abstractedness and difficulty of the first supposition.
  • Whoever would explain the origin of the common opinion concerning the continued and distinct existence of body, must:
    • take the mind in its common situation
    • proceed on the supposition that our perceptions are our only objects, and continue to exist even when they are not perceived.
  • This opinion is false, but is the most natural of any.
    • It alone has any primary recommendation to the fancy.
  • The second part of the proposition is that the philosophical system acquires all its influence on the imagination from the vulgar system.
    • This is a natural and unavoidable consequence of the foregoing conclusion, that it has no primary recommendation to reason or the imagination.
  • The philosophical system is found by experience to take hold of many minds, particularly of those who reflect so little on this subject.
    • It must derive all its authority from the vulgar system.
      • Since it has no original authority of its own.
  • How these two systems are connected together, though directly contrary, is explained as follows.
  • The imagination naturally runs on in this train of thinking.
  • Our perceptions are our only objects.
    • Resembling perceptions are the same, however broken or uninterrupted in their appearance.
  • This appealing interruption is contrary to the identity.
  • The interruption consequently extends not beyond the appearance, and the perception or object really continues to exist, even when absent from us.
  • Our sensible perception s have, therefore, a continued and uninterrupted existence.
  • A little reflection destroys the conclusion, that our perceptions have a continued existence, by showing that they have a dependent one.
    • It would naturally be expected, that we must reject the opinion that there is such a thing in nature as a continued existence, which is preserved even when it no longer appears to the senses.
  • The case, however, is otherwise.
    • Philosophers are so far from rejecting the opinion of a continued existence on rejecting that of the independence and continuance of our sensible perceptions,
  • Though all sects agree in the latter sentiment, the former, which is, in a manner, its necessary consequence, has been peculiar to a few extravagant sceptics;
  • who after all maintained that opinion in words only, and were never able to bring themselves sincerely to believe it.
  • There is a great difference between such opinions as we form after a calm and profound reflection, and such as we embrace by a kind of instinct or natural impulse, on account of their suitableness and conformity to the mind.
    • If these opinions become contrary, it is not difficult to foresee which of them will have the advantage.
  • As long as our attention is bent on the subject, the philosophical and studied principle may prevail.
    • But the moment we relax our thoughts, nature will:
      • display herself
      • draw us back to our former opinion.
  • She has sometimes such an influence, that she can stop our progress, even in the midst of our most profound reflections.
    • She can keep us from running with all the consequences of any philosophical opinion.
  • Though we clearly perceive the dependence and interruption of our perceptions, we stop short in our career.
    • We never reject the notion of an independent and continued existence.
  • That opinion has taken such deep root in the imagination.
    • It is impossible to ever eradicate it.
    • No strained metaphysical conviction of the dependence of our perceptions will be sufficient to eradicate it.
  • Our natural and obvious principles here prevail above our studied reflections.
    • But there must be sonic struggle and opposition in the case, at least so long as these rejections retain any force or vivacity.
  • To set ourselves at ease in this, we contrive a new hypothesis.
    • This hypothesis:
      • comprehends these principles of reason and imagination
      • is the philosophical, one of the double existence of perceptions and objects; which pleases our reason, in allowing, that our dependent perceptions are interrupted and different
      • at the same time, it is agreeable to the imagination, in attributing a continued existence to something else, which we call objects.
  • Therefore, this philosophical system is the monstrous offspring of two principles which are:
    • contrary to each other
    • both at once embraced by the mind
    • unable to mutually destroy each other.
  • The imagination tells us that our resembling perceptions:
    • have a continued and uninterrupted existence
    • are not annihilated by their absence.
  • Reflection tells us that even our resembling perceptions are:
    • interrupted in their existence
    • different from each other.
  • We elude the contradiction between these opinions by a new fiction.
    • This fiction is conformable to the hypotheses of reflection and fancy.
    • It ascribes these contrary qualities to different existences:
      • the interruption to perceptions
      • the continuance to objects.
  • Nature is obstinate.
    • It will not quit the field no matter how strongly attacked by reason.
  • Reason is so clear in the point.
    • It is impossible to disguise her.
  • Unable to reconcile these two enemies, we try to set ourselves at ease by successively:
    • granting whatever each demands
    • feigning a double existence, where each may find something that has all the conditions it wants.
  • We would never run into this opinion of a double existence if we were fully convinced that our resembling perceptions are continued, identical, and independent.
    • Since we would:
      • find satisfaction in our first supposition
      • not look beyond it.
  • If we were fully convinced that our perceptions are dependent, interrupted, and different, we would be as little inclined to embrace the opinion of a double existence.
    • Since in that case, we would:
      • clearly perceive the error of our first supposition of a continued existence
      • never regard it any further.
  • Therefore, this opinion arises from:
    • the mind’s intermediate situation
    • such an adherence to these two contrary principles.
      • This adherence makes us seek some pretext to justify our receiving both.
      • Happily, this is finally found in the system of a double existence.
  • Another advantage of this philosophical system is its similarity to the vulgar one.
    • It lets us humour our reason for a moment, when it becomes troublesome and sollicitous.
    • Yet it allows us to easily return to our vulgar and natural notions upon its smallest negligence.
  • Accordingly we find that philosophers do not neglect this advantage.
    • They have exploded opinions that our perceptions:
      • are our only objects
      • continue identically and uninterruptedly the same in all their interrupted appearances.
    • After leaving their closets, those philosophers immediately mingle with the rest of mankind with those opinions.
  • This system has other particulars which depend on the fancy in a very conspicuous way.
  • I shall observe the two following of these:
    • First, we suppose external objects to resemble internal perceptions.
      • The relation of cause and effect can never afford us any just conclusion from the existence or qualities of our perceptions to the existence of external continued objects.
        • Even if they could afford such a conclusion, we would never have any reason to infer that our objects resemble our perceptions.
      • Therefore, that opinion is derived only from the quality of the fancy above-explained.
        • (that it borrows all its ideas from some precedent perception).
    • We can only conceive perceptions.
      • Therefore, we must make everything resemble them.
  • Secondly, we suppose our objects in general to resemble our perceptions.
    • We take it for granted, that every particular object resembles that perception, which it causes.
  • The relation of cause and effect determines us to join the other of resemblance;
  • The ideas of these existences are already united together in the fancy by the former relation, we naturally add the latter to complete the union.
  • We have a strong propensity to complete every union by joining new relations to those which we have before observed between any ideas.
    • We shall observe this in Sec. 5.
  • After giving an account of all popular and philosophical systems with regard to external existences, I cannot refrain from giving vent to a sentiment which arises on reviewing those systems.
    • I begun this subject with premising, that we should have an implicit faith in our senses.
      • This is the conclusion from my whole reasoning.
  • But to be ingenuous, I feel a contrary sentiment.
    • I am more inclined to repose no faith at all in my senses, or rather imagination, than to place in it such an implicit confidence.
  • I cannot conceive how such trivial qualities of the fancy, conducted by such false suppositions, can ever lead to any solid and rational system.
    • They are the coherence and constancy of our perceptions, which produce the opinion of their continued existence;
    • though these qualities of perceptions have no perceivable connexion with such an existence.
  • The constancy of our perceptions has the most considerable effect.
    • Yet it is attended with the greatest difficulties.
  • It is a gross illusion to suppose, that our resembling perceptions are numerically the same;
  • and it is this illusion, which leads us into the opinion, that these perceptions are uninterrupted, and are still existent, even when they are not present to the senses.
  • This is the case with our popular system.
    • Our philosophical one is liable to the same difficulties.
    • It is loaded with this absurdity, that it at once denies and establishes the vulgar supposition.
  • Philosophers deny our resembling perceptions to be identically the same, and uninterrupted.
    • Yet have so great a propensity to believe them such, that they arbitrarily invent a new set of perceptions, to which they attribute these qualities.
  • I say, a new set of perceptions:
  • For we may well suppose in general, but it is impossible for us distinctly to conceive, objects to be in their nature any thing but exactly the same with perceptions.
  • What then can we look for from this confusion of groundless and extraordinary opinions but error and falsehood?
    • How can we justify to ourselves any belief we repose in them?
  • This sceptical doubt of reason and the senses is a malady which can never be radically cured.
    • It must return on us every moment, however we chase it away.
      • We may sometimes seem free from it.
  • It is impossible on any system to defend our understanding or senses.
    • We but expose them farther when we try to justify them in that manner.
  • The skeptical doubt arises naturally from a profound and intense reflection on those subjects.
    • It always increases the farther we carry our reflections, whether in opposition or conformity to it.
  • Carelessness and in-attention alone can afford us any remedy.
    • For this reason, I rely entirely on them.
  • The reader will be persuaded after an hour, that there is both an external and internal world.
  • I will examine some general ancient and modern systems which have been proposed of both, before I proceed to a more particular inquiry on our impressions.
    • This will not, perhaps, be found foreign to our present purpose in the end.

Words: 9732

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