Page images
PDF
EPUB

virtues that counterfeit it, and what are the real vices that oppose it: what are the evils which attend the neglect of it, what are the rewards for the practice of it both here and hereafter.

If the subject be historical or a matter of fact, we may then inquire whether the action was done at all; whether it was done in such a manner, or by such persons as is reported; at what time it was done; iņ what place; by what motive, and for what design; what is the evidence of the fact; who are the witnesses; what is tveir character and credibility; what signs there are of such a fact; what concurrent testimonies, which may either support the truth of it, or render it doubtful.

In order to make due enquiries into all these and many other particulars which go towards the complete and comprehensive idea of any being, the science of ontology is exceedingly necessary. This is what was wont to be called the first part of metaphy, sics in the peripatetic schools. It treats of being, in its most general nature, and of all its affections and relations. I confess the old Popish schoolmen have mingled a number of useless subtleties with this science; they have exhausted their own spirits, and the spirits of their readers, in many laborious and intricate trifles, and some of their writings have been fruitful of names without ideas, which hath done much injury to the sacred study of divinity. Upon this account many of the moderns have most unjustly abandoned the whole science at once, and thrown abundance of contempt and raillery upon the very name of metaphysics. But this contempt and censure is very unreasonable; for this science, separated from some Aristotelian fooleries and scholastic subtle. ties, is so necessary to a distinct conception, solid judg. inent, and just reasoning ou many subjects, that sometimes it is introduced as a part of logic, and not without reason. And those who utterly despise and ridicule it, either betray their own ignorance, or will be supposed to make their wit and banter a refuge and excuse for their own laziness. Yet thus much I would add, that the late writers of ontology are generally the best on this account, because they have left out much of the ancient jargon. See the brief scheme of ontology in the Philosophical Essays by I. W.

Here let it be noted, that it is neither useful, necessary, or possible to run through all the modes, circumstances, and relations of every subject we take in band; but in ontology we enumerate a great variety of them, that so a judicious mind may choose what are those circumstances, relations, and properties of any subject, which are most necessary to the present design of him that speaks or writes, either to explain, to illustrate, or to prove the point.

As we arrive at the complete knowledge of an idea in all its parts by that act of the mind which is called division, so we come to a comprehensive conception of a thing in its several properties and relations, by that act of the mind which is called abstraction, i.e. we consider each single relation or property of the subject alone, and thus we do as it were withdraw and separate it in our minds both from the subject itself, as well as from other properties and relations, in order to make a fuller observation of it.

This act of abstraction is said to be two-fold, either precisive or negative.

Precisive abstraction is when we consider those things apart which cannot really exist apart; as when we consider a mode, without considering its substance and subject, or one essential mode without another. Negative abstraction is when we consider one thing separate from another, which may also exist without it; as when we conceive of a subject without conceiving of its accidental modes or relations; or when we conceive of oue accident without thinking of another. If I think of reading or writing, without the express idea of some man, this is precisive abstraction; or if I think of the attraction of iron, without the express idea of some particular magnetic body. But when I think of a needle, without an idea of its sharpness, this is negative abstraction ; and it is the same when I think of its sharpness without consider. ing its length. SECT. X.-Of the extensive Conception of Things, and

of Distribution. As the completeness of an idea, refers to the several parts that compose, and the comprehension of an idea includes various properties, so the extension of an idea denotes the various sorts or kinds of beings to which the same idea belongs : and if we would be fully acquainted with a subject we must observe,

This fourth rule to direct our conceptions, viz. Conceive of things in all their extension, i. e. we must search out the various species or special natures which are contained under it as a genus or general nature. If we would know the nature of an animal perfectly, we must take cognizance of beasts, birds, fishes, and insects, as well as men, all which are contained under the general nature and name of animal..

As an integral whole is distinguished into its several parts hy division, so the word distribution is most properly used when we distinguish an universal whole into its several kinds of species ; and, perhaps it had been better if this word had been always confined to this signification, though it must be confessed, that we frequently speak of the division of an idea into its several kinds, as well as into several parts.

The rules of a good distribution are much the same with those which we hare before applied to division, which may be just repeated again in the briefest mannsr, in order to give examples to them.

Rule 1: Each part singly taken must contain less than the whole, but all the parts taken collectively or together, must contain neither more nor less than the whole; or, as logicians sometimes express it, the parts of the division ought to exhaust the whole thing which is divided. So medicine is justly distributed into prophylactic, or the art of preserving health; and therapeutic, or the art of restoring health; for there is no other sort of medicine besides these two.

But men are not well distributed into tall or short, for there are some of a middle stature.

Rule II. In all distributions we should first consi. der the larger and more immediate kinds of species, or ranks of being, and not divide a thing at once into the more minute and remote. Aegenus should not at once be divided into individuals, or even into tbe lowest species, if there be a species superior. Thus it would be very improper to divide animalinto trout, lobster, eel, dog, bear, eagle, dove, worm, and butterfly, for these are inferior kinds; whereas ani. inal ought first to be distributed into man, beast, bird, fish, insect; and then beast should be distributed into dog, bear, &c. bird into eagle, dove, &c. fish into trout, eel, lobster, &c.

It is irregular also to join any inferior species in the same rank or order with the superior; as if he would distinguish animals into birds, bears, and oysters, &c. it would be a ridiculous distribution.

Rule III. The several parts of a distribution ought to be opposite; that is, one species or class of beings the same rank of division ought not to contain or include another : so men ought not to be divided into the rich, the poor, the learned, and the tall; for poor men may be both learned and tall, and so may the rich.

But it will be objected, are not animated bodies rightly distributed into vegetable and animal, or (as they are usually called) sensitive? now the sensitive contains the vegetative nature in it, for animals grow as well as plants. I answer, that in this and all such distributions, the word vegetative signifies merely vegetative; and in this sense vegetative will be suffi. ciently opposite to animal, for it cannot be said of an animal that it contains mere vegetation in the iden of it.

Rule IV. Let not subdivisions be too numerous without necessity; therefore I think quantity is better distinguished at once into a line, a surface, and a solid, than to say, as Ramus does, that quantity is ei. ther a line, or a thing lined; and a thing lined is ei. ther a surface or a solid.

Rule V. Distribute every subject according to the special design you bave in view, so far as is necessary or useful to your present inquiry. Thus a politician distributes mankind according to their civil characters into the rulers and ruled; and a physician divides them into the sick or the healthy; but a divine dis. tributes them into Turks, Heathens, Jews, or Cbristians.

Here note, that it is a very useless thing to distri. bute any idea into such kinds or members as have no different properties to be spoken of; as it is mere trifling to divide right angles into such whose legs are equal, and whose legs are unequal, for as the mere right angle they have no different properties.

Rule VI. In all your distributions observe the nature of things with great exactness; and do not affect any particular form of distribution, as sone persons have done, by dividing every genus into two species, or into three species ; whereas nature is infinitely va. rious, and human affairs and human sciences have as great a variety, nor is there any one form of distri. bution that will exactly suit with all subjects.

Note, It is to this doctrine of distribution of a genus into its several species, we must also refer the distribution of a cause according to its several effects, as some medicines are heating, some are cooling ; or an effect, when it is distinguished by its causes, as faith is either built on divine testimony or human. It is to this head we refer particular artificial bodies, when they are distinguished according to the matter they = re made of, as a statue is either of brass, of marble, or wood, &c. and in any other beings, when they are distinguished according to their end and design, as the furniture of body or mind is either for ornament

To this head also we refer subjects when they are divided according to their modes or accidents; as men are either merry or grave, or sad; and modes, when they are divided by their subjects, as distempers belong to the fluids, or to the solid parts, of the animal.

or use,

« PreviousContinue »