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humour and temper of maukind, who generally have an inclination to magnify their ideas, and to talk roundly and universally concerning any thing they speak of, which has introdaced aviversal terms of speech into enstom and babit, in all nations and all lavguages, more than nature or reasoa would dictate; yet when this custom is introduced, it is not at all improper to use this sort of language in solem and sacred writings, as well as in familiar discourse,
II. Remarks concerning indefinite propositions. · Note 1. Propositions carrying in them universal forms of expression may sometimes drop the note of universality, and become indefinite, and yet retara the same universal sense, whether metapbysical, patural, or moral, whether collective or distributive.
We may give instances of each of these,
Metaphysical; as, a circle has a center and cireumference. Natural; as, beasts bave four feet. Moral; as, negroes are stupid creatures. Collective; as, the apples will fill a bushel. Distributive; as, men are mortal.
Note 2. There are many cases wherein a collective idea is expressed in a proposition by an indefinite term, and that where it describes the nature or quality of the subject, as well as when it declares some past matters of fact; as, fir-trees set in good order will give a charming prospect; this must signify a collec. tion of fir-trees, for one makes no prospect. Ia matters of fact this is more evident and frequent; as the Romans overcame the Gauls: the robbers surround. ed the coach: the wild geese flew over the Thames in the form of a wedge. All these are collective subjects.
Note 3. In indefinite propositions the subject is often restrained by the predicate, or by the special time, place, or circumstances, as well as in propositions which are expressly universal, as the Chinese are ingenious silk-weavers, i. e. those Chinese, which are silk-weavers, are ingenious at their work. The stars appear to us when the twilight is gone. This can signify no more than the stars which are abore our borizon.
Note 4. All these restrictions tend to reduce some indefinite propositions almost into particular, as will appear under the next remarks.
111. Remarks concerning particular propositions.
Note 1. A particular proposition may sometimes be expressed indefinitely; without any note of particularity prefixed to the subject: as, in times of confnsion laws are not executed, men of virtue are disgraced, and murderers escape, i. e. some laws, some men of virtue, some murderers: unless we should call this language a moral universality, though I think it can hardly extend so far.
Note 2. The words some, a few, &e. though they generally denote a proper particularity, yet sometimes they express a collective idea; as some of the enemies beset the general around. A few Greeks would beat a thousand Indians.
I conclude this section with a few general remarks on this subject, (viz.)
Gen. Rem. 1. Šioce universal, indefinite, and particular terms in the plural mumber, may either be taken in a collective or distributive sense, there is one short and easy way to find when they are collective and when distributive, (viz.) If the plural number may be changed into the singular, i. e. if the predi. cate will agree to one single subject, it is a distributive idea; if not, it is collective.
Gen. Rem. 11. Universal and particular terms in the plural number, such as, all, some, few, many, &c. wben they are taken in their distributive seuse, represent several single ideas; and when they are thus atfixed to the subject of a proposition, render that proposition universal or particular, according to the universality or particularity of the terms affixed.
Gen. Rem. III. Universal and particular terms in the plural number, taken in their collective sense, represent generally one collective idea.
If this one collective idea be thus represented (whether by universal or particular terms) as the subject of a proposition which describes the nature of a thing, it properly makes either a singular or an indefinite proposition; for the words, ali, some, a few,
&c. do not then denote the quantity of the proposi. tion, but are esteemed merely as terms which connect the individuals together in order to compose one cul. lective idea. Observe these instances : all the syca. mores in the garden would make a large grove; i. e. this one collection of sycamores, which is a singular, idea. Some of the sycamores in the garden would make a fine grove. Sycamores would make a noble grove: in these last the subject is rather indefinite than singular. · But it is very evident, that in each of these propositions the predicate can only belong to a collective idea, and therefore the subject must be esteemed a collective.
If this collective idea (whether represented by universal or particular terms) be used in describing past matters of fact, then it is generally to be esteemed a singular idea, and renders the propositions singular: as, all the soldiers of Alexander made but a little army: a few Macedonians vanquished the large army of Darius: some grenadiers in the camp plundered all the neighbouring towns.
Now we have shewn before, that if a proposition describing the nature of things, has an indefinite subject, it is generally to be esteemed universal in its propositional sense; and if it has a singular subject, in its propositional sense it is always ranked with universals.
After all we must be forced to confess, that the language of mankind, and the idioms of speech, are so exceeding various, that it is hard to reduce them to a few rules; and if we would gain a just and precise idea of every universal, particular, and indefinite expression, we must not only consider the particular idiom of the language, but the time, the place, the occasion, the circumstances of the matter spoken of, and thus penetrate as far as possible into the design of the speaker or writer.
SECT. II.-Of affirmative and negative Propositions.
When a proposition is considered with regard to its copula, it may be divided into affirmative and nega
tive, for it is a copula joins or disjoins the two ideas. Others call this a division of propositions according to their quality.
An affirmative proposition is when the idea of the predicate is supposed to agree to the idea of the sub. ject, and is joined to it by the word is, or are, which are the copula; as, all men are sioners. But when the predicate is not supposed to agree with the sub. ject, and is disjoined from it by the particles is not, are not, &c. the proposition is negative: as, man is not innocent; or no man is innocent. In an affirmative proposition we assert one thing to belong tv ano. ther, and as it were unite them in thought and word: in negative propositions we separate one thing from another, and deny their agreement.
It may be thought something odd, that two ideas or terms are said to be disjoined as well as joined by a copula: but if we can but suppose the negative particles do really belong to the copula of negative propositions, it takes away the harshness of the expression; and to make it yet softer, we may consider that the predicate and subject may be properly said to be joined in a form of words as a proposition, by connective particles in grammar or logic, though they are disjoined in their sense and signification. Every youth wlo has learned his grammar, knows there are such words as disjunctive conjunctions.
Several things are worthy of our notice on this subject.
Ist Note. As there are some terms or words, and ideas, (as I have shewy before) concerning which it is hard to determine whether they are negative or positive, so there are some propositions concerning which it may be difficult to say, whether they affirm or deny; as, when we say, Plato was no fool : Cicero was vo unskilful orator : Cæsar made no expedition to Muscovy: an oyster has no part like an eel: it is not necessary for a physician to speak French, and for a physician to speak French is needless. The sense of these propositions is very plain and easy, though logicians might squabble, perhaps, a whole day, whether they should rank them under the names of negative or affirmative.
2d Note. In Latin and English two negatives joined in one sentence make an afirmative; as when we declare, no man is not mortal, it is the same as though we said, man is mortal; but in Greek, and cftentimes in French, two negatives make but a stronger denial.
3d Note. If the mere negative term, not, be added to the copula of an universal affirmative proposition, it reduces it to a particular negative; as, all men are not wise, signifies the same as, some men are not wise.
4th Note. In all affirmative propositions, the predicate is taken in its whole comprehension; that is, every essential part and attribute of it is affirmed concerning the subject ; as when I say, a true Christian is an honest man, every thing that belongs to honesty is affirmed concerning a true Christian.
5th Note. In all negative propositions the predicate is taken in its whole extension : that is, every species and individual that is contained in the general idea of the predicate, is utterly denied concerning the subject; so in this proposition, a spirit is not an animal, we exclude all sorts and kinds, and particular animals whatsoever from the idea of a spirit.
From these two last remarks we may derive this inference, that we ought to attend to tbe entire comprehension of our ideas, and to the universal extension of them, as far as we have proper capacity for it, before we grow too confident in our afirming or denying any thing, which may have the least darkness, doubt, or difficulty attending it: it is the want of that attention that betrays us into many mistakes.
Sect. III.- Of the Opposition and Conversion of Propo
Any two ideas being joined or disjoined in various forms will afford us several propositions: all these may be distinguished according to their quantity and