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An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. (1748)

Sect. XII. Of the academical or sceptical Philosophy

David Hume.

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An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

David Hume.

Sect. XII. Of the academical or sceptical Philosophy

                                PART I.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                              PART II.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                            PART III.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The End

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