« FöregåendeFortsätt »
all the business and affairs of life, that (as is common in the use of inany words,) from the frequency of its application, it has appropriated to itself the name of Evidence, which is a general term, equally applicable to the principles of other kinds of truth befides Historical.
This General Principle is, however, very different in its nature and constitution from Mathematical, Physical, and other Axioms,
and, accordingly, the Method of REASONING from it, in all particular instances, is very different.
Axioms, logically speaking, are the Causes of truth producing it in the minds of all who can apply them in reasoning ; without respect to persons, times, and places. They are, therefore, general Laws possessed of a certain standard, which is fixed and determined in itself, by which they impart the fame degree of certainty and conviction in all the cases to which they are applied, namely that which they possess themselves. Testi
mony, on the other hand, is not properly the Cause of truth : it is only the Medium, however indispensable, through which truths already deduced from other Causes are conveyed from one mind to another : it is only the Instrument by which actual truths are converted into historical ; which Medium or Instrument has an immediate connection with, and dependency upon, particular perfons, times and places, by which their power and operation are perpetually varied, become stronger or weaker, more contracted or more enlarged. It is not, therefore, a general Law pofseffing one common rule or standard, by which it imparts, in all cases, the fame degree of certainty and conviction.
Historical learning is, therefore, the reverse of philosophical. Philosophy confifts in tracing Generals, History in pursuing Individuals : And the Testimony on which it is founded varies with the Circumstances, in every particular instance to which it is applied. Historical REASONING does not conclude by reducing particulars under general propositions by Syllogism or Superinduction. It has a more tedious and laborious process; descending to the investigation of every particular historical fact through all the windings of Testimony, either by tracing it up to its proper time, place, and the persons of its primitive witnesses, or by bringing it down from thence; and consisting in a minute examination of particular witnesses, in a candid estimate of collateral proofs, and in a conclusion formed upon a full induction and fair valuation of the whole.
a Historia proprie individuorum eft, quæ bircumscribuntur loco et tempore. Baconus De Augm. Sc. lib. ii. cap. I.
The knowledge, which we derive through the channel of History, is more various and extensive, more interesting and important, than, perhaps, the whole stock of our other
Probability wanting that intuitive Evidence which infallibly determines the Understanding, and produces certain Knowledge, the Mind, if it would proceed rationally, ought to examine all the Grounds of Probability, and see how they make more or less for or against any Propofition, before it affents to, or dissents from it, and, upon a due Balancing the Whole, reject or receive it, with a more or less firm Aflent, proporcionably to the Prepondesancy of the greater Grounds of Probability on one side or the other. Locke Hum. Und. B. iv. c. xv. §. 5.
information : and the investigation of historical facts, which must be conducted by a particular and separate process, constitutes a very large proportion of the most useful labours, and valuable collections, of learned men. History involves in its composition many different and distinct objects, and has many different ends in view. In the execution, it receives from the pen of the historian many graces and embellishments, and, from the interest which man always takes in the concerns of man, it becomes a species of writing the most entertaining to the mind, and the most pleasing to the imagination. Divested, however, of these adventitious considerations, and logically viewed, it is the investigation of Facts through the channel of Testimony. And the general Rule by which this investigation is conducted, in bringing them down from the time of their actual existence, is, first, To enquire whether the Senses of the primitive witnesses were duly informed of the facts related, and they themselves competent to judge of them : secondly, To examine whether these wit
nesses were bonest and faithful relators of these facts to others : thirdly, as testimony, from the nature and neceflity of things, is often committed to written record, To trace the purity and authenticity of that record through all the persons, times, and places, through which it has descended : lastly, To strengthen and corroborate the whole conclusion, by the examination and adduction of collateral testimonies. In which work of various learning, extensive enquiry, and attentive investigation, Reason will, I fear, derive little help from Mood and Fi. gure.
. In the Testimony of others, is to be considered, 1. The Number. 2. The Integrity. 3. The Skill of the Witnesses. 4. The Design of the Author, where it is a Testimony out of a Book cited. 5. The Consistency of the Parts and Circumstances of the Relation. 6. Contrary Testimonies. Locke Hum. Und. B. iv. c. xv. 5.4.
• But, however it be in Knowledge, I think I may truly fay, it is of far less, or no Use at all in Probabilities, For the Allent there being to be determined by the Preponderancy, after a due Weighing of all the Proofs, with all Circumstances on both sides, nothing is so unfit to aflift the Mind in that, as Syllogism ; which running away with one assumed Probability, or one topical Argument, pursues that till it has led the Mind quite out of