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phical opinions of Mr Turgot, coinciding nearly with those which I have now stated. These opinions are detailed by the author, at considerable length, in the article Earistence of the French Encyclopédie ; but a conciser and clearer account of them may be
found in Condorcet's discourse, prefixed to his essay
“On the application of analysis to the probability of “decisions pronounced by a majority of votes.” From this account it appears, that Turgot resolved “our “belief of the existence of the Material World” into our belief of the continuance of “ the laws of “nature;” or, in other words, that he conceived our belief, in the former of these instances, to amount merely to a conviction of the established order of physical events; and to an expectation that, in the same combination of circumstances, the same event will recur. It has always appeared to me, that something of this sort was necessary to complete Dr Reid's speculations on the Berkeleian controversy;
for although he has shewn our notions concerning the primary qualities of bodies to be connected, by an original law of our constitution, with the sensation which they excite in our minds, he has taken no notice of the grounds of our belief that these qualities have an existence independent of our perceptions.
This belief (as I have elsewhere observed ") is plainly
the result of earperience ; inasmuch as a repetition
of the perceptive act must have been prior to any
judgment, on our part, with respect to the separate
and permanent reality of its object. Nor does ear
* Philosophy of the Human Mind, chap. iii.
perience itself afford a complete solution of the problem ; for, as we are irresistibly led by our perceptions to ascribe to their objects a future as well as a present reality, the question still remains, how are we determined by the experience of the past, to carry our inference forward to a portion of time which is yet to come 2 To myself the difficulty appears to resolve itself, in the simplest and most philosophical manner, into that law of our constitution to which Turgot, long ago, attempted to trace it. If this conclusion be admitted, our conviction of the permanent and independent existence of Matter is but a particular case of a more general law of belief extending to all other phenomena. The generalization seems to me to be equally ingenious and just; and while it coincides perfectly in its spirit and tendency with Reid’s doctrine on the same point, to render that doctrine at once more precise and more luminous. Nor is this view of the subject altogether a novelty in the history of science, any farther than as it aims at a simple and literal statement of the fact, without prejudging any of the other questions, either physical or metaphysical, which may arise out of it. The same doctrine is obviously involved in the physical theory of Boscovich, as well as in some of the metaphysical reveries of Malebranche and of Leibnitz. The last of these writers has, indeed, expressed it very clearly and concisely in one of his letters, where he observes to his correspondent: “Les “choses materielles en elles-même ne sont que des
phenomenes bien réglés.”* The creed, said to be so prevalent among the Hindoos, with respect to the nature of matter, would seem to be grafted on a conception nearly similar. If we may rely on the account given of it by Sir William Jones, it has not the most distant affinity, in its origin or tendency, to the system of idealism, as it is now commonly understoodin this part of the world; the former taking its rise from a high theological speculation; the latter being deduced as a sceptical consequence from a particular hypothesis concerning the origin of our knowledge, inculcated by the schoolmen, and adopted by Locke and his followers. “The difficulties,” Sir William tells us, with great clearness and precision, “attending the vulgar motion of material “substances, induced many of the wisest among the “ancients, and some of the most enlightened among “the moderns, as well as the Hindoo philosophers, “to believe that the whole creation was rather an “energy than a work, by which the infinite mind, “who is present at all times, and in all places, ex“hibits to his creatures a set of perceptions like a
*The same mode of speaking has been adopted by some more modern authors; among others, by the late very ingenious and learned Mr Robison, in his Elements of Mechanical Philosophy. “To us,” he observes, “matter is a mere phenomenon.” (§ 118.) Leibnitz was, I think, the first person by whom it was introduced; but in the writings of Mr Robison, wherever it occurs, it may be safely interpreted as referring to the physical theory of Boscovich, to which he had a strong and avowed leaning; although he was not blind to the various difficulties connected with it, 9.
“wonderful picture, or piece of music, always varied, “yet always uniform.”” In another passage, the same author observes, that “the Vedantis, unable to form a distinct idea “of brute matter independent of mind, or to con“ceive that the work of supreme goodness was left “a moment to itself, imagine that the Deity is ever “present to his werk, and constantly supports a “series of perceptions, which in one sense they “call illusory, though they cannot but admit the “reality of all created forms, as far as the happi“ness of creatures can be affected by them.” + “The word MAYA,” we are afterwards informed, “ or delusion, has a subtile and recondite sense in “the Vedanta philosophy, where it signifies the sys“tem of perceptions, whether of secondary or of “primary qualities, which the Deity was believed, “by Epicharmus, Plato, and many truly pious “men, to raise, by his omnipresent spirit, in the “minds of his creatures; but which had not, in their “opinion, any existence independent of mind.”f The essential difference between these doctrines, and those which Hume has shewn to be necessarily involved in the common account of the origin of our
* Introduction to a translation of some Hindoo verses.
+ Dissertation on the Gods of Greece, Italy, and India.
it Ibid. The last clause of this sentence is somewhat ambiguous ; as it is not quite manifest, whether the author meant an existence independent of the supreme mind, or of the minds of created percipient beings. Neither the one opinion nor the other appears reconcileable with the doctrines, either of Epicharmus or of Plato.—Wide Bruckeri Hist. de Ideis, p. 9. Augustae Vin
knowledge, must appear obvious to all who have any acquaintance with his writings. The Hindoo system represents the material universe as at all times in a state of immediate dependence on the divine energy;-coinciding, in this respect, with the opihions of those pious men in our own quarter of the globe, who have supposed its continued existence to be the effect of a creative act renewed every moment; but admitting, in the most explicit terms, the regularity of the laws according to which its phenomena are exhibited to our senses, and the reality of these phenomena as permanent objects of science. The scepticism of Hume, on the contrary, proceeds entirely on a scholastic hypothesis concerning perception, which, when followed out to its logical consequences, leaves no evidence for the existence, either of the Divine Mind or of any other; nor, indeed, for that of anything whatever, but of our own impressions and ideas. The fault of the Hindoo philosophy, as well as of the systems of Leibnitz and of Malebranche, is, that it pronounces dogmatically on a mystery placed beyond the reach of our faculties; professing to describe the mode in which the intellectual and material worlds are connected together, and to solve the inexplicable problem (as Bacon has justly called it) with respect to the “opus quod operatur Deus a “principio usque ad finem.” In the present state of our knowledge, it is equally absurd to reason for it or against it; but thus much must be allowed in its favour, that while, in its moral tendency, it is diametrically opposite to that of the theory with which