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as the common tendency of both to lead to scepticism, he assumes to himself entirely the merit of this inference. After stating the argument against the existence of matter, he adds: “ 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 con“fusion which is the result of scepticism.” The observations which have been made on the scope of Berkeley’s argument may serve, at the same time, to illustrate that of Dr Reid's reply to it, which has been, in general, strangely misunderstood. In order to have a just idea of this, it is necessary always to bear in mind, that it is not directed against the sceptical suggestions of the Pyrrhonists, but against Berkeley’s inferences from Locke's principles; or rather against the principles from which these inferences were deduced. The object of the author is not to bring forward any new proofs that Matter does exist, nor (as has been often very uncandidly affirmed) to cut short all discussion upon this question, by an unphilosophical appeal to popular belief: but to overturn the pretended demonstration, that Matter does not exist, by exposing the futility and absurdity of the principles which it assumes as data. That from these data (which had been received, during a long succession of ages, as incontrovertible articles of faith), both Berkeley and Hume have reasoned with unexceptionable fairness, as well as incomparable acuteness, he acknowledges in every page of his works; and only asserts, that the force of their conclusion is annihilated by the falseness and inconsistency of the hypothesis on which it rests. It is to reasoning, therefore, and to reasoning alone, that he appeals, in combating their doctrines; and the ground of his objection to these doctrines is, not that they evince a blameable freedom-and boldness of discussion ;-but that their authors had suffered themselves too easily to be carried along by the received dogmas of the schools.
The very gross misapprehensions which have taken place with respect to the scope of Dr Reid's book have probably been owing, in part, to the unfortunate title which he prefixed to it, of “An In“quiry into the Human Mind, on the Principles of “Common Sense.” So far, however, from meaning, by that phrase, to intimate a more than due respect for the established opinions of any particular sect or party, it must appear evident to those who have taken the trouble to read the work, that his sole intention was to disclaim that implicit reverence for the current maxims, and current phraseology of the learned, which had so widely misled his two illustrious predecessors, Berkeley and Hume 5–to assert, in this most important branch of science, an unlimited right of free inquiry; and to set an example of this freedom, by appealing from Locke's fundamental hypothesis (a hypothesis for which no argument can be produced but the authority of schoolmen) to the unbiassed reason of the human race. It is this common reason of mankind which he uniformly represents as the ultimate standard of truth ; and of its decisions he forms his estimate, neither from the suffrages of the learned nor of the ignorant, but from those Fundamental Laws of Belief which are manifested in the universal conduct of mankind, in all ages and countries of the world ; and to the guidance of which the speculative sceptic must necessarily submit, the very moment he quits the solitude of the closet. It is not, therefore, vulgar prejudice that he wishes to oppose to philosophical speculation, but the essential principles of the human understanding to the gratuitous assumptions of metaphysical theorists. But on this topic I intend to explain myself more fully on a future occasion. While Reid, however, in his controversy with Hume and Berkeley, thus opposes argument to argument, he does not follow the example of Descartes, in attempting to confirm our belief of the existence of matter, by the aid of deductive evidence. All such evidence, he justly observes, must necessarily take for granted some principles not more certain nor more obvious than the thing to be proved; and therefore can add nothing to its authority with men who have duly weighed the nature of reasoning and of demonstrative proof. Nor is this all. Where
scepticism is founded on a suspicion of the possible fallibility of the human faculties, the very idea of correcting it by an appeal to argument is nugatory; inasmuch as such an appeal virtually takes for granted the paramount authority of those laws of belief which the sceptic calls in question. The belief, therefore, of the existence of Matter, is left by Dr Reid on the very same footing on which Descartes found it; open, as it then was, and as it must for ever remain, to the sceptical cavils which affect equally every judgment which the human mind is capable of forming; but freed completely from those metaphysical objections which assailed it, as at variance with the conclusions of philosophy. But although, in so far as the argument of the Berkeleians is concerned, Dr Reid’s reasonings appear to me to be unanswerable, I am not completely satisfied that he has stated the fact on his own side of the question with sufficient fulness and correctness. The grounds of my hesitation on this point I propose to explain, at some length, in the second chapter of this Essay. In the meantime, I think it of still greater importance to caution my readers against another misapprehension (equally remote with the former from truth), by which the Berkeleian controversy has been involved, by some late writers, in additional obscurity. 2. In order to prepare the way for the remarks which are to follow, it is necessary to observe (for the sake of those who are little conversant with the history of Natural Philosophy), that, according to an ingenious theory, proposed about fifty years ago by Father Boscovich," the notions which are commonly entertained concerning the qualities of Matter, are the result of very rash and unwarranted inferences from the phenomena perceived. The ultimate elements (we are taught) of which Matter is composed, are unextended atoms, or, in other words, mathematical points, endued with certain powers of attraction and repulsion ; and it is from these powers that all the physical appearances of the universe arise. The effects, for example, which are vulgarly ascribed to actual contact, are all produced by repulsive forces, occupying those parts of space where bodies are perceived by our senses; and therefore the correct idea that we ought to annex to matter, considered as an object of perception, is merely that of a power of resistance, sufficient to counteract the compressing power which our physical strength enables us to exert. With regard to this theory, I shall not presume to give any decided opinion. That it is attended with some very puzzling difficulties of a metaphysical nature, must, I think, be granted by its most zealous advocates; but, on the other hand, it can scarcely be denied, that the author, or his commentators, have been successful in establishing three propositions. 1. That the supposition of particles, extended and perfectly hard, is liable to strong, if not to insurmountable objections. 2. That there are no facts which afford any direct evidence in support of