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plain and strong, we cannot with-hold our affent; we Thould then be necessarily exposed to believe falshood, if complete evidence should be found in any propofitions that are not true. But surely the God of perfect wisdom, truth and goodness would never oblige his creatures to be thus deceived; and therefore he would never have constituted us of such a frame as would render it naturally impossible to guard against error.
Another consequence is naturally derived from the former; and that is, that the only reason why we fall into a mistake is because we are inpatient to form a judgment of things before we have a clear and evident perception of their agreement or disagreement; and if we will make hale to judge while our ideas are obscure and confused, or before we see whether they agree or disagree, we shall plunge ourselves into perpetual errors. See more on this subject in an essay on the freedom of will in God and man ; published 1732. Sect. 1. p. 13.
Note, What is here afserted concerning the necessity of clear and distinct ideas refer chiefly to propositions, which we form ourselves by our own powers : as for propositions which we derive from the testimony of others, they will be accounted for in chap. IV.
SECT. VIII. Of certain and dubious Propositions, of Knowledge and
INCE we have found that evidence is the great '
criterion and the sure mark of truth; this leads us directly to consider propositions according to their evidence ; and here we must take notice both of the different degrees of evidence, and the different kinds of it.
Propositions according to their different degrees of evidence are diftinguished into certain and dubious.*
* It may be objected, that this certainty and uncertaincy being only in the mind, the division belongs to propositions rather according
Where the evidence of the agreement or disagree. ment of the ideas is so strong and plain, that we cannot forbid or delay our affent, the proposition is called certain; as, every circle hath a centre; the world did not create itself. An affent to such propofitions is honoured with the name of knowledge.
But when there is any obscurity upon the agreement or disagreement of the ideas, so that the mind does not clearly perceive it, and is not compelled to affent or diffent, then the proposition, in a proper and philosophical sense, is called doubtful or uncertain; as, the planets are inhabited ; the souls of brutes are mere matter ; the world will not stand a thousand years longer; Dido built the city of Carthage, &c. Such uncertain propofitions are called opinions.
When we consider ourselves as philosophers or fearchers of truth, it would be well if we always fuse pended a full judgment or determination about any thing, and made further inquiries, where this plain and perfect evidence is wanting; but we are so prone of ourselves to judge without full evidence, and in fome cases the necessity of action in the affairs of life, constrains us to judge and determine upon a tolerable degree of evidence, that we vulgarly call those propositions certain, where we have but very little room or reason to doubt of them, though the evidence be not complete or resistless.
Certainty, according to the schools, is distinguished into objective and subjective. Objective certainty is when the proposition is certainly true in itself; and subjective, when we are certain of the truth of it. The one is in things, the other is in our minds. .
But let it be observed here, that every proposition in itself is certainly true, or certainly faise. For tho' doubtfulness or uncertainty seems to be a medium be
to the degrees of our affent, than the degrees of evidence. But it may well be anfwered, that the evidence here intended is that which appears so to the mind and not the mere evidence in the nature of things; besides, (as we shall fhew immediately) the degree of affent ought to be exactly proportionable to the degree of evidence: and therefore the difference is not great, whether propofitions be called certain or uncertain, according to the measure of evidence, or of affent.
tween certain truth and certain falfhood in our minds, yet there is no such medium in things themselves, no, not even in future events : for now at this time it is certain in itself, that Midsummer-day seven years hence will be serene, or it is certain it will be cloudy, though we are uncertain and utterly ignorant what fort of day it will be : this certainty of distant futurities is known to God only. .
Uncertain or dubious propositions, that is, opinions, are distinguished into probable, or improbable.
When the evidence of any proposition is greater than the evidence of the contrary, then it is a probable opinion; where the evidence and arguments are stronger on the contrary side, we call it improbable. But while the arguments on either side seem to be equally strong, and the evidence for and against any proposition appears equal to the mind, then in common language we call it a doubtful matter. We also call it a dubious or doubtful proposition, when there is no argument on either side, as next Christmas-day will be a very sharp frost. And in general all these propositions are doubtful, wherein we can perceive no sufficient marks or evidences of truth or falfhood. In such a case, the mind which is searching for truth ought to remain in a
ftate of doubt or fufpence, until superior evidence on one fide or the other incline the balance of the judge ment, and determine the probability or certainty to the one fide,
A great many propositions which we generally believe or disbelieve in human affairs, or in the sciences, have very various degrees of evidence, which yet arise not to complete certainty, either of truth or falfhood. Thus it comes to pass that there are such various and almost infinite degrees of probability and improbability. To a weak probability we should give a weak affent ; and a stronger affent is due where the evidence is greater, and the matter more probable. If we proportion our affent in all things to the degrees of evidence, we do the utmost that human nature is capable of in a retional way to secure itself from error,
SECT. IX. Of Sense, Consciousness, Intelligence, Reason, Faith, and
FTER we have considered the evidence of proA positions in the various degrees of it, we come to survey the several kinds of evidence, or the different ways whereby truth is let into the 'mind, and which produce accordingly several kinds of knowledge. We Thall distribute them into these fix, (viz.) sense, consciousness, intelligence, reason, faith, and inspiration, and then diftinguith the propositions which are derived from them.
1. The evidence of fenfe is when we frame a proposition according to the dictate of any of our senses ; so we judge that grass is green; that a trumpet gives a pleasant found ; the fire burns wood ; water is soft, and iron is hard : for we have seen, heard or felt all these. It is upon this evidence of sense that we know and believe the daily occurrences in human life; and almoft all the histories of mankind that are written, by eye ot ear witnesses are built upon this principle. .. .
Under the evidence of sense we do not only include that knowledge which is derived to us by our outward senses of hearing, feeing, feeling, tafting, and smelling, but that also which is derived from the inward sensa tions and appetites of hunger, thirst, ease, pleasure, pain, weariness, reft, &c. and all those things which belong to the body; as, hunger is a painful appetite; light is pleasant ; rest is sweet to the weary limbs.
Propofitions which are built on this evidence, may be named sensible propositions, or the dictates of fense.
II. As we learn what belongs to the body by the evidence of sense, so we learn what belongs to the soul by an inward consciousness, which may be called a sort of internal feeling, or spiritual sensation of what passes in the mind; as, I think before I speak; I delire large
knowledge ; I suspect my own practice ; I studied hard. to day ; my conscience bears witness of my fincerity : my soul hates vain thoughts ; fear is an uneasy passion; long meditation on one thing is tiresome.
Thus it appears that we obtain the knowledge of a multitude of propositions, as well as of single ideas, by those two principles which Mr Locke calls sensation and reflection : one of them is a sort of consciousness, of what affects the body, and the other is a consciousness of what passes in the mind.
Propofitions which are built on this internal consciousness, have yet no particular or distinguishing name assigned to them:
III. Intelligence relates chiefly to those abstracted. propositions which carry their own evidence with them, and admit no doubt about them. Our perception of this self-evidence in any proposition is called intelligence. It is our knowledge of those first principles of truth which are (as it were) wrought into the very nature and make of our mind: they are so evident in themselves to every man who attends to them, that they need no proof. It is the prerogative and peculiar excellence of these propositions, that they can scarce. ever be proved or denied: they cannot easily be provedy, because there is nothing supposed to be more clear or certain, from which an argument may be drawn to prove them. They cannot well be denied, because their own evidence is so bright and convincing, that assoon as the terms are understood the mind necessarily aslents ; such are these, whatsoever acteth hath a being; nothing has no properties; a part is less than the whole;., nothing can be the cause of itself.. • Thele propositions are called axioms, or maxims, or first principles, these are the very foundations of all im.. proved knowledge and reasonings, and on this account these have been thought to be innate propositions, or truths born with us.
Some fuppose that a great part of the knowledge of angels and human souls in the separate state is obtained in this manner, .(viz.) by such an immediate view of things in their own nature, which is called intuition.. · IV. Reasoning is the next sort of evidence, and that