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among the believers in the non-existence of matter. But when Mr. Hume arrived, and demonstrated to him that upon the same principles mind was not more entitled to belief than matter, he confesses that he was startled. It appears, that he was alarmed for the evidence of religion, which seemed to him to vanish, if these conclusions were just. If no evidence remained for the existence either of mind, or of matter, no evidence appeared to remain for the existence of a God; and if that article of belief was lost, along with it, of course, disappeared all that system of anticipations respecting a future life, which rested upon it as their foundation. With this loss of the prospect of a future life, Dr. Reid, who was a pious man, appears to have been much more deeply affected, then with any revolution in his ideas respecting the present life, to which the progress of his reasonings had conducted him; and he tells us that he immediately began to exert himself to discover, if possible, a flaw in the chain of reasoning which produced so unhappy a result.
He soon convinced himself that he had made the discovery of which he was in quest. It was a doctrine of the ancient philosophers that the mind perceived not external objects immedis ately, but by means of certain representations, or images of them, called ideas, which they sent off, and which entered the mind by the inlets of the senses. The language of this theory had be come the language in which all discourse relating to the mind was carried on. Upon it the language of Mr. Locke’s Essay was in a great measure founded : and that of Dr. Berkeley and Mr. Hume followed the universal example.
According to the theory, said Dr. Reid, that the mind per ceives the qualities of matter, not immediately, but by means of certain floating images, it has no evidence of matter, which it never perceives. But what if this theory be without foundation ? Then it will follow that the mind perceives matter immediately, and the evidence for its existence returns. The theory was so perfectly gratuitous, that the moment it occurred to any one to inquire for its evidence, it was overthrown. Dr. Reid refuted it with scorn; and declared, that as the arguments for the nonexistence of matter rested upon this foundation, they fell with its of course, to the ground.
When Dr. Reid, however, made the declaration, that the arguments for the non-existence of matter were altogether founded upon the theory of ideas, he advanced a great deal too far. Of this he himself was aware. He perceived that immediately we really are acquainted with nothing but our own feelings. It is from these feelings that every thing else, both matter and mind, is to be inferred. But from them how is any thing to be inferred ? Not by experience, because we have experience of nothing but the feelings themselves; not by reasoning, because there is no medium of proof which unites the premises with the conclusion. He says expressly, “our sensations have no resemblance to external objects, nor can we discover by our reason any necessary connexion between the existence of the former, and that of the latter.” In another passage he declares, “ No man can show by any good argument, that all our sensations might not have been as they are, though no body, or quality of body, had ever existed.”
To lay a foundation then for a belief in the existence of matter and mind, Dr. Reid was under the necessity of looking out for another resource. It was the doctrine of all philosophy, that some things were not to be proved. In all reasoning we at last arrive at first principles, which are assumed. To this quarter Dr. Reid betook himself for the means of establishing a belief in the existence of mind and matter. These points, he said, were not to be proved, they were to be taken for granted.
In the next place, therefore, it was incumbent upon him to show, that such a mode of determining this most important controversy, was by no means unreasonable. He attempted to show, that there was a variety of cases in which belief, the most absolute, took place in the human mind, without a possibility of assigning any reason for such belief; or of giving any other account of it, than that such is the constitution of our nature.
With respect to the marks by which a belief of this sort may be known and distinguished, the most remarkable of them is the common assent of mankind. A belief which, in this manner, is common to månkind, but which can be traced to no acknowledged principle of thought, he regarded as instinctive ; and he gave to it the name of common sense.
The desire to augment and strengthen his proofs, naturally drew Dr. Reid into a multiplication of the instances of instinctive belief; as well as into an exaggeration of the importance of the mark by which they were made known and recommended. He seemed to be eager to collect as many propositions as possible; of which he could at one and at the same time affirm, both that thcy were fit to be believed, and that no reason could be given why they should be believed. He lavished also his praises upon common sense, whieh he endeavoured to represent as a guide far superior to philosophy, and of which the decisions, when any diversity occurred, were always to be implicitly followed. He even" availed himself of an ambiguity, which he himself had created in the meaning of the term, to cast ridicule very plentifully upon every man who did not agreer with him. According to the usual meaning of the word common sense, it denotes a belief founded upon some very obvious and incontroveftible reasons which it requires folly either to overlook, or to question. Dr. Reid applied it to a new case, which he himself was the first to point out, the case of belief not founded upon reasons, at all. Did any man call in question any proposition which he was pleased to represent as not an object of reasoning, but of instinctive belief, Dr. Reid was very apt to laugh at him, as ranking with those contemptible men who are not under the guidance of common sense; that is, men whose belief is not governed by those obvious and incontrovertible reasons, which it is folly either to overlook or controvert. This, however, was not the case. The dissent was not from any proposition supported by obvious and incontrovertible reasons, but from a poposition which according to Dr. Reid ought to be believed without any reason at all.
This doctrine had not been long before the world, when it met with a very unreserved and forward controversialist, in Dr. Priestley. Any blemish which might lie upon its surface was not very likely to escape the keen though busy eye of this critic; but he was neither , sufficiently acquainted with the science, nor sufficiently capable of patient, close, and subtle thinking, to go to the bottom of the principles which he attacked; nor could he avoid such displays of ignorance and self-delusion, as afforded a colour to Dr. Reid and his followers for treating the book with contempt, and holding themselves exempt from the obligation of answering its objections.
This was a misfortune to the science. Had the philosophy of Reid been controverted at an early period, with such a degree of knowledge and skill as would have commanded the respect and attention of the public, he would have been compelled to reconsider the foundation of his belief; and, either by obviating ill founded opinions, or by abandoning untenable ground, would have left the science in a better state, and more likely to invite a succession of cultivators.
It is a remarkable proof of the little taste there still is for profound and accurate thinking in England ; in other words, a remarkable proof of the coarse and vulgar footing on which the business of education in this country remains--that, from the date of Dr. Priestley's volume in 1774, to the present day, not a single work, the object of which is to controvert the philosophy of Reid, has been presented to the public. That such has been the case is not owing to the general acceptance with which, in the southern part of the island, his, doctrines, have been favoured; for they are spoken of with disapprobation by all but a few. Nor yet is it owing to their want of celebrity ;, for scarcely any doctrines, fabricated in this country, and related to the class to which they belong, can equal them in brilliancy of reputation. No! the effect is solely to be ascribed to the indifference of the people to what may be either thought or said upon a subject of so much importance.
Dr. Reid's list of what he calls “simple, original, and there fore inexplicable " cases of belief; in other words, belief altogether independent both of reason and of experience, first engages the castigating hand of Dr. Priestley. He exhibits them in a table, which certainly swells to a formidable size; but from which a considerable deduction might be made, by throwing out cases which he has inserted as distinct, though included under: other titles. Among the things which we believe by an instinctive impulse, independently both of reason and experience, one is, that every sensation of which we are conscious is caused by a material object; another is, that every thing of which we are conscious, call it feeling, call it act, or call it idea, inheres in a mind; another is, that each of us is the same person that he was yesterday, or any other day since his birth; a fourth is, that similar effects will always flow from similar causes; a fifth is, that every body will speak truth; to which another instinctive propensity is added by Dr. Reid, and that is, a propensity to speak the truth.
Upon this mode of philosophising, the following strictures were easily made. If every speculator may lay down propositions at his pleasure, which have no dependence either upon reason or experience, but which he says our nature instinctively compells us to believe, there is an end to all reasoning and of all philosophy. I lay down, says Dr. Reid, such and such a proposition. I ask your reason for it, says Dr. Priestley. Reason, says Dr. Reid, is not applicable to this proposition; it is believed by instinct. Who says so, cries Dr. Priestley ? I say so, replies Dr. Reid. This much being said, it is evident the dispute is at an end. Dr. Reid assumes that the proposition is to be believed merely because he calls it an original principle, that is because he says it is to believed. The ipse dixit of Dr. Reid is the standard of reason and philosophy. He solves every thing by the infallible method of declaring that it is just as he pleases, and because he so pleases; and in the true stile of Lord Peter, ke finishes, by calling every body fool and rogue that dissents from him.
No, says Dr. Reid, it is not upon the ground of my ipse dixit alone that I say you ought to believe; but upon the ground of my ipse dixit, along with the general opinion of mankind. But Dr. Priestly found no difficulty in replying, that if the ipse dixit of Dr. Reid be a very insufficient ground for the establishment of any fundamental article of belief, the ordinary opinion of mankind is, if possible, still less a criterion of truth. Surely if we have no reason for believing in the existence, either of matter or of mind, but the vulgar impression of the mass of mankind, joined to the ipse dixit of Dr. Reid, it is a belief which no. rational mind will entertain with great confidence. The mass of mankind believe with perfect assurance, that what is in the mind when they see a ball of gold is a perfect image of the ball itself. Dr. Reid will tell them it is only a feeling; which has no more resemblance to a ball of gold, than the pain of the colic to the sound of a trumpet. The mass of mankind believe that exten-, sion is essentially coloured ; and no man will pretend that he can think of extension without colour, yet Dr. Reid will allow that no necessary connexion exists between them. Of such illusions, to which mankind are subject, and which universally prevail till philosophy slowly disentangles one groundless association after another, it were superfluous to multiply instances. In the same manner the supposition of some external cause resembling the feelings communicated by our senses, and the supposition of some feeling substance to which all our feelings belong, is so na-.. turally, suggested by those feelings, that if we could be ever so. completely assured that those feelings offered no ground of inference either to matter as a cause, or to mind as a subject, we can conceive how it might have been even traced a priorị that man would form the very conclusions respecting those points which hitherto have exhibited a prevalence so nearly universal. · Had Dr. Priestley confined himself to the task of enforcing these strictures, and of fixing the attention of mankind upon the conclusion to which they lead; that the philosophy of Dr. Reid completely fails in providing that antidote which it pre-, tends to provide, to the scepticism of Bishop Berkeley and Mr. Hume; he would have performed an essential service to the progress of this species of philosophy, because he would have stimulated Dr. Reid himself, as well
as others, to a more vigorous prosecution of the inquiry; and so important a branch of science would not have been left in the disgraceful condition in which it has so long been treated, presenting conclusions of the utmost moment which nobody is willing to believe, supported by a chain of reasoning which we feel to be wrong, but which nobody has answered.
But Dr. Priestley was ambitious of providing the antidote himself, and by the impotence of his attempt discredited the criticism by which he had disclosed the failure of his predecessor. As, for instance, so ignorant was he of the reasonings of Berkeley and Hume; reasonings which Dr. Reid declares to be demonstrative, and in which, after repeated examinations he had not discovered a flaw, as to give it as his opinion, that even according to the theory of ideas, the existence of matter may be
VOL. VI, NO. XI.