Sec 3-4: Ancient, Modern Philosophy

SEC. 3: THE ANcIENT PHILOSOPHY

  • Several moralists have recommended it as an excellent method of:
    • becoming acquainted with our own hearts
    • knowing our progress in virtue:
      • to recollect our dreams in a morning
      • examine them with the same rigour that we would our most serious and most deliberate actions.
  • They say that our character:
    • is the same throughout
    • appears best where:
      • artifice, fear, and policy have no place
      • men can neither be hypocrites with themselves nor others.
  • The fictions of the imagination are influenced with the most unbounded liberty by:
    • our temper’s generosity or baseness
    • our meekness or cruelty
    • our courage or pusilanimity
  • These fictions discover themselves in the most glaring colours.
  • In like manner, there might be several useful discoveries from a criticism of the ancient philosophy’s fictions on substances, substantial form, accidents, and occult qualities.
    • No matter how unreasonable and capricious, these are very intimately connected with the principles of human nature.
  • The most judicious philosophers confessed that our ideas of bodies are nothing but collections formed by the mind of the ideas of the several distinct sensible qualities which:
    • composes objects
    • we find to have a constant union with each other.
  • However entirely distinct these qualities may be, we commonly regard the compound they form as:
    • one thing
    • continuing the same under very considerable alterations.
  • The acknowledged composition is contrary to:
    • this supposed simplicity.
    • the variation to the identity.
  • Therefore, it may be worthwhile to consider the:
    • causes which make us fall into such contradictions
    • means we use to conceal them.
  • The ideas of the several distinct, successive qualities of objects are united together by a very close relation.
    • The mind, in looking along the succession, must be carried from one part of it to another by an easy transition.
      • It will no more perceive the change, than if it contemplated the same unchangeable object.
  • This easy transition is the effect, or rather essence of relation.
  • I and as the imagination readily takes one idea for another, where their influence on the mind is similar;
    • Hence it proceeds, that any such succession of related qualities is readily considered as one continued object, existing without any variation.
  • The smooth and uninterrupted progress of the thought is alike in both cases.
    • It readily:
      • deceives the mind
      • makes us ascribe an identity to the changeable succession of connected qualities.
  • The variations which were insensible when they arose gradually, now appear of consequence and destroy the identity when:
    • we alter our method of considering the succession,
    • we survey at once any two distinct periods of its duration, instead of tracing it gradually through the successive points of time
    • we compare the different conditions of the successive qualities.
  • This causes a contrariety in our method of thinking, from:
    • our different points of view about the object
    • the nearness or remoteness of those instants of time which we compare together.
  • When we gradually follow an object in its successive changes.
    • The smooth progress of the thought makes us ascribe an identity to the succession.
    • Because it is by a similar act of the mind we consider an unchangeable object.
  • When we compare its situation after a considerable change, the progress of the thought is broken.
    • Consequently, we are presented with the idea of diversity to reconcile the contradictions between:
      • something unknown and invisible
        • The imagination supposes this to continue the same under all these variations.
      • this unintelligible something.
        • The imagination calls this a substance or original matter.
  • We entertain a like notion with regard to the simplicity of substances and from like causes.
  • Suppose an object perfectly simple and indivisible is presented along with another object.
    • The other object’s co-existent parts are connected together by a strong relation.
    • The mind’s actions in considering these two objects are not very different.
  • The imagination conceives the simple object at once, with facility:
    • by a single effort of thought
    • without change or variation.
  • The connection of parts in the compound object has almost the same effect.
    • It unites the object within itself, that the fancy does not feel the transition in passing from one part to another.
  • Hence the colour, taste, figure, solidity, and other qualities, combined in a peach or melon, are conceived to form one thing.
    • Their close relation makes them affect the thought in the same way as if they were perfectly uncompounded.
  • But the mind does not rest here.
  • Whenever it views the object in another light, it finds that all these qualities are different, distinguishable, and separable from each other.
    • This view is destructive of the mind’s primary and more natural notions.
    • It obliges the imagination to feign an unknown something, or original substance and matter as:
      • a principle of union or cohesion among these qualities
      • what may give the compound object a title to be called one thing, despite its diversity and composition.
  • The peripatetic philosophy:
    • asserts the original matter to be perfectly homogeneous in all bodies
    • considers fire, water, earth, and air, as of the very same substance, on account of their gradual revolutions and changes into each other.
  • At the same time, it assigns to each of these species of objects a distinct substantial form, which it supposes to be:
    • the source of all those different qualities they possess
    • a new foundation of simplicity and identity to each particular species.
  • All depends on our manner of viewing the objects.
    • When we look along the insensible changes of bodies, we suppose all of them to be of the same substance or essence.
    • When we consider their sensible differences, we attribute to each of them a substantial and essential difference.
    • To indulge ourselves in both these ways of considering our objects, we suppose all bodies to have at once a substance and a substantial form.
  • The notion of accidents is an unavoidable consequence of this method of thinking with regard to substances and substantial forms.
  • We cannot forbear looking on colours, sounds, tastes, figures, and other properties of bodies, as existences which cannot subsist apart.
    • We require a subject of inhesion to sustain and support them.
  • If we never discover any of these sensible qualities, we likewise never fancy a substance to exist.
    • The same habit which makes us infer a connection between cause and effect, makes us here infer a dependence of every quality on the unknown substance.
  • The custom of imagining a dependence has the same effect as the custom of observing it would have.
    • However, this conceit is no more reasonable than any of the foregoing.
  • Every quality is a distinct thing from another.
    • It may be conceived to exist apart and may exist apart from:
      • every other quality
      • that unintelligible chimera of a substance.
  • But these philosophers carry their fictions still farther in their sentiments on occult qualities.
    • Both suppose:
      • a substance supporting, which they do not understand
      • an accident supported, of which they have as imperfect an idea.
  • Therefore, the whole system is entirely incomprehensible.
    • Yet it is derived from principles as natural as any of these above-explained.
  • We may observe a gradation of three opinions that rise above each other, according as the persons, who form them, acquire new degrees of reason and knowledge.
  • These opinions are that of:
    • the vulgar
    • a false philosophy
    • the true.
  • On inquiry, that the true philosophy approaches nearer to the sentiments of the vulgar, than to those of a mistaken knowledge.
  • It is natural for men, in their common and careless way of thinking, to imagine they perceive a connection between such objects as they have constantly found united together.
    • Custom has made it difficult to separate the ideas, and so they are apt to fancy such a separation to be impossible and absurd.
  • But philosophers who abstract from the effects of custom and compare the ideas of objects, immediately:
    • perceive the falsehood of these vulgar sentiments
    • discover that there is no known connection among objects.
  • Every different object appears to them entirely distinct and separate.
    • They perceive that it is not from a view of the nature and qualities of objects we infer one from another, but only when in several instances we observe them to have been constantly conjoined.
  • But these philosophers frequently search for the qualities which make up this agency, instead of:
    • drawing a just inference from this observation
    • concluding that we have no idea of power or agency, separate from the mind and belonging to causes
  • They are displeased with every system, suggested by their reason, to explain it.
    • The vulgar error is that there is a natural and perceivable connection between the sensible qualities and actions of matter.
      • But this connection is insufficient to keep them from ever seeking for this connection in matter or causes.
    • They have sufficient genius to free them from this vulgar error.
  • Had they fallen on the just conclusion, they would have returned to the situation of the vulgar.
    • They would have regarded all these disquisitions with indolence and indifference.
  • At present they seem to be in a very lamentable condition.
    • The poets have given us a faint notion of their condition in their descriptions of the punishment of Sisyphus and Tantalus.
  • What can be more tormenting than to eagerly seek:
    • what forever flies us;
    • for it in a place, where it is impossible it can ever exist?
  • Nature seems to have observed a kind of justice and compensation in everything.
    • She has not neglected philosophers more than the rest of the creation.
    • She has reserved them a consolation amid all their disappointments and afflictions.
      • This consolation is principally in their invention of the words: faculty and occult quality.
  • It is usual to omit the significant and intelligible idea from terms after their frequent use.
    • We only preserve the custom of recalling the idea at pleasure.
    • We naturally put them on the same footing as terms with ideas that are totally insignificant and unintelligible.
    •  and to have a secret meaning, which we might discover by reflection.
    • Their resemblance:
      • deceives the mind as usual
      • makes us imagine a thorough resemblance and conformity.
    • By this means, these philosophers set themselves at ease.
    • They arrive at last, by an illusion, at the same indifference, which the people attain by their stupidity, and true philosophers by their moderate scepticism.
    • They need only say, that any phenomenon, which puzzles them, arises from a faculty or an occult quality, and there is an end of all dispute and enquiry upon the matter.
  • In all the instances wherein the Peripatetics were guided by every trivial propensity of the imagination, none is more remarkable than their sympathies, antipathies, and horrors of a vacuum.
    • There is a very remarkable inclination in human nature to:
      • bestow the same emotions on external objects, which it observes in itself
      • find everywhere those ideas which are most present to it.
  • This inclination is suppressed by a little reflection.
    • It only takes place in children, poets, and the ancient philosophers.
    • It appears:
      • in children, by their desire of beating the stones which hurt them.
      • in poets, by their readiness to personify everything
      • in the ancient philosophers, by these fictions of sympathy and antipathy.
    • We must pardon:
      • children, because of their age
      • poets, because they follow implicitly the suggestions of their fancy
    • But what excuse do our philosophers have in so signal a weakness?

SEC. 4: THE MODERN PHILOSOPHY

  • It may be objected that the imagination is the ultimate judge of all systems of philosophy.
    • I am unjust in blaming the ancient philosophers for:
      • using that faculty
      • allowing themselves to be entirely guided by it in their reasonings.
  • To justify myself, I must distinguish between:
    • permanent, irresistible, and universal principles in the imagination
      • such as the customary transition from causes to effects, and from effects to causes
      • These are the foundation of all our thoughts and actions.
        • Upon their removal, human nature must immediately perish and go to ruin.
    • changeable, weak, and irregular principles
      • such as those I have just noticed
      • These are neither unavoidable to mankind, nor necessary, or so much as useful in the conduct of life.
      • On the contrary, they:
        • are observed only to take place in weak minds
        • are opposite to the other principles of custom and reasoning
        • may easily be subverted by a due contrast and opposition.
  • This is why the former are received by philosophy, and the latter rejected.
  • A person reasons justly and naturally concludes that somebody is near him, when he hears a voice in the dark, though that conclusion is derived only from custom.
    • This custom infixes and enlivens the idea of a human because of his usual conjunction with the present impression.
  • But a person who is tormented by spectres in the dark, might reason naturally too.
    • But then a malady arising from natural causes is also natural, though contrary to health.
  • The following are like the spectres in the dark:
    • the opinions of the ancient philosophers
    • their fictions of substance and accident
    • their reasonings on substantial forms and occult qualities.
  • They are derived from common principles which are not universal nor unavoidable in human nature.
  • The modern philosophy pretends to:
    • be entirely free from this defect
    • arise only from the solid, permanent, and consistent principles of the imagination.
  • We will look into what grounds this pretension is founded on.
  • The fundamental principle of that philosophy is its opinion that colours, sounds, tastes, smells, and temperature are nothing but impressions in the mind.
    • These impressions are derived from the operation of external objects without any resemblance to the qualities of the objects.
  • Only one of the reasons for this opinion is satisfactory: that colours, sounds, tastes, smells, and temperature are derived from the variations of those impressions, even while the external object continues the same.
  • These variations depend on several circumstances.
    • On the different situations of our health:
      • A sick man feels a disagreeable taste in meat.
      • Meat pleased him the most before.
    • On the different complexions and constitutions of men:
      • Some seem bitter to one but sweet to another.
    • On the difference of their external situation and position:
      • Colours reflected from the clouds change according to:
        • the distance of the clouds
        • the angle they make with the eye and luminous body.
  • Fire also communicates the sensation of pleasure at one distance and pain at another.
    • Instances of this kind are very numerous and frequent.
  • The conclusion drawn from them is likewise satisfactory.
  • When different impressions of the same sense arise from any object, every one of these impressions does not have a resembling quality in the object.
  • The same object cannot be endowed with different qualities of the same sense at the same time.
    • The same quality cannot resemble entirely different impressions.
    • It follows that many of our impressions have no external model or archetype.
  • From like effects we presume like causes.
    • Many of the impressions of colour, sound, etc. are nothing but internal existences, and to arise from causes, which no ways resemble them.
  • These impressions are in appearance nothing different from the other impressions of colour, sound, etc.
    • We conclude that all of them are derived from a like origin.
  • All the other doctrines of that philosophy seem to follow easily after this principle is admitted.
  • Upon the removal of sounds, colours, heat, cold, and other sensible qualities, from the rank of continued independent existences, we are reduced merely to ‘primary qualities’.
    • Primary qualities are the only real ones which we have any adequate notion of.
  • These primary qualities are extension and solidity, with their different mixtures and modifications; figure, motion, gravity, and cohesion.
  • The generation, encrease, decay, and corruption of animals and vegetables, are nothing but changes of figure and motion; as also the operations of all bodies on each other; of fire, of light, water, air, earth, and of all the elements and powers of nature.
  • One figure and motion produces another figure and motion; nor does there remain in the material universe any other principle, either active or passive, of which we can form the most distant idea.
  • I believe many objections might be made to this system.
  • But I shall focus on one which is very decisive.
  • Instead of explaining the operations of external objects by its means, we utterly:
    • annihilate all these objects
    • reduce ourselves to the opinions of the most extravagant skepticism concerning them.
  • If colours, sounds, tastes, and smells be merely perceptions, nothing we can conceive has a real, continued, and independent existence
    • not even motion, extension and solidity, which are the primary qualities chiefly insisted on.
  • Motion is a quality inconceivable alone and without a reference to some other object.
    • The idea of motion necessarily supposes the idea of a body moving.
  • What is our idea of the moving body, without which motion is incomprehensible?
    • It must resolve itself into the idea of extension or of solidity.
    • Consequently, the reality of motion depends on the reality of these other qualities.
  • This opinion is universally acknowledged concerning motion.
    • I have:
      • proved this to be true with regard to extension
      • shown that it is impossible to conceive extension, but as composed of parts endowed with colour or solidity.
  • The idea of extension is a compound idea.
    • But as it is not compounded of an infinite number of parts or inferior ideas, it must at last resolve itself into such as are perfectly simple and indivisible.
  • These simple and indivisible parts are not ideas of extension.
    • They must be non entities, unless conceived as coloured or solid.
  • Colour is excluded from any real existence.
    • The reality, therefore, of our idea of extension depends upon the reality of that of solidity, nor can the former be just while the latter is chimerical.
  • Let us, then, lend our attention to the examination of the idea of solidity.
  • The idea of solidity is that of two objects.
    • Impelled by the utmost force, they cannot penetrate each other, but still maintain a separate and distinct existence.
  • Therefore, solidity is perfectly incomprehensible alone and without the conception of some bodies, which are solid, and maintain this separate and distinct existence.
  • What idea do we have of these bodies?
    • The ideas of colours, sounds, and other secondary qualities are excluded.
    • The idea of motion depends on the idea of extension.
    • The idea of extension depends on the idea of solidity.
  • Therefore, it is impossible that the idea of solidity can depend on either of them.
    • For that would:
      • be to run in a circle
      • make one idea depend on another, while at the same time the latter depends on the former.
  • Our modern philosophy leaves us no just nor satisfactory idea of solidity, nor consequently of matter.
  • This argument will appear entirely conclusive to everyone that comprehends it.
    • But it may seem abstruse and intricate to the general readers.
    • I will render it more obvious by a different explanation.
  • To form an idea of solidity, we must conceive two bodies pressing on each other without any penetration.
    • It is impossible to arrive at this idea, when we confine ourselves to one object, much more without conceiving any.
  • Two non-entities cannot exclude each other from their places.
    • Because they never possess any place, nor can be endowed with any quality.
  • What idea do we form of these bodies or objects, to which we suppose solidity to belong?
    • To say, that we conceive them merely as solid, is to run on to infinity.
    • To affirm, that we paint them out to ourselves as extended, either resolves all into a false idea, or returns in a circle.
  • Extension must necessarily be considered as:
    • coloured, or
      • This is a false idea.
    • solid
      • This brings us back to the first question.
  • We may make the same observation on mobility and figure.
  • On the whole, we must conclude that after the exclusion of colours, sounds, heat and cold from the rank of external existences, nothing remains to afford us a just and constituent idea of body.
  • Add to this, that, properly speaking, solidity or impenetrability is nothing, but an impossibility of annihilation, as (Part 2, Sec. 4) has been already observed:
  • This is why it is the more necessary for us to form some distinct idea of that object, whose annihilation we suppose impossible.
  • An impossibility of being annihilated:
    • cannot exist
    • can never be conceived to exist, by itself.
  • It necessarily requires some object or real existence, to belong to.
  • The difficulty still remains, how to form an idea of this object or existence without having recourse to the secondary and sensible qualities.
  • We must not omit on this occasion our accustomed method of examining ideas by considering those impressions, from which they are derived.
  • The impressions which enter by the sight and hearing, the smell and taste, are affirmed by modern philosophy to be without any resembling objects
  • consequently the idea of solidity, which is supposed to be real, can never be derived from any of these senses.
  • Therefore, the feeling is the only sense remaining that can convey the impression.
    • The impression is original to the idea of solidity.
    • We naturally imagine that we:
      • feel the solidity of bodies
      • need but touch any object in order to perceive this quality.
  • But this method of thinking is more popular than philosophical, as will appear from the following reflections.
  • First, Bodies are felt by means of their solidity.
  • Yet the feeling is a quite different thing from the solidity
  • They do not resemble each other.
  • A man who has the palsey in one hand, has as perfect an idea of impenetrability when he observes that hand to be supported by the table, as when he feels the same table with the other hand.
  • An object that presses on us meets resistance.
    • That resistance, by the motion it gives to the nerves and animal spirits, conveys a sensation to the mind.
    • But it does not follow, that the sensation, motion, and resistance are any ways resembling.
  • Secondly, The impressions of touch are simple impressions, except when considered with regard to their extension.
    • This extension makes nothing to the present purpose.
  • From this simplicity I infer that they do not represent solidity nor any real object.
  • For let us put two cases
    • a man who presses a stone with his hand
      • In this case, there is a feeling conjoined with the solidity.
    • two stones which press each other
      • In this case, there is no feeling.
  • To make these two cases alike, we need to remove some part of the impression which the man feels by his hand.
    • That is impossible in a simple impression.
    • It obliges us to remove the whole impression.
    • It proves that this whole impression has no archetype or model in external objects.
  • We add that solidity necessarily supposes two bodies, along with contiguity and impulse.
    • As a compound object, it can never be represented by a simple impression.
    • The solidity continues always invariably the same.
    • But the impressions of touch change every moment on us.
    • This is a clear proof that the latter are not representations of the former.
  • Thus, there is a direct and total opposition between:
    • our reason and our senses, or
    • those conclusions we form from cause and effect and those conclusions that persuade us of the continued and independent existence of body.
  • When we reason from cause and effect, we conclude that neither colour, sound, taste, nor smell have a continued and independent existence.
  • When we exclude these sensible qualities, nothing remains in the universe that has such an existence.

Words: 3886

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