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which we pass upon things are generally built on some fecret reasoning or argument by which the proposition is fupposed to be proved. ; But there may be yet some farther affittances given to our reasoning powers in their fearch after truth, and an observation of the following rules will be of great importance for that end,
1. Rule. Accustom yourselves to clear and distinct ideas, to evident propofitions, to strong and convincing arguments. Converse much with those friends, and thote books and those parts of learning where you meet with the greatest clearness of thought and force of reasoning. The ma. thematical sciences, and particularly arithmetic, geome. try, and mechanics, abound with these advantages : and if there were nothing valuable in them for the uses of human life ; yet the very speculative parts of this sort of learning are well worth our study ; for by perpetual examples they teach us to conceive with clearness, to . connect our ideas and propositions in train of depen.. dence, to reason with strength and demonstration, and to distinguish between truth and falsehood. Some. thing of these sciences should be studied by every man, who pretends to learning, and that (as Mr Locke expresses it) not so much to make us mathematicians, as to make us reasonable creatures. .
We should gain such a familiarity with evidence of perception and force of reasoning, and get such a habit of discerning clear truth, that the mind may be soon. offended with obscurity and confusion: then we shall (as it were naturally and with ease restrain our minds from rash judgment, before we attain just evidence of the propofition which is offered to us; and we hall with the same ease, and (as it were) naturally seize and embrace every truth that is proposed with jutt evidence.
This habit of conceiving clearly, of judging juftly, and of reasoning well, is not to be attained merely by the happiness of constitution, the brightness of genius, the best natural parts, or the best collection of logical precepts. It is custom and practice that must form and establish this habit. We must apply ourselves to it till we perform all this readily, and without reflect. ing on rules. A coherent thinker, and a friet reafon er is not to be made at once by a set of rules, any
more than a good painter or musician may be formed extempore by an excellent lecture on music or painting. It is of infinite importance therefore in our younger years, to be taught both the value and the practice of conceiving clearly and reasoning right : for when we are grown up to the middle of life, or paft it, it is no wonder that we should not learn good reasoning, any more than that an ignorant clown should not be able to learn fine language, dancing, or a court. ly behaviour, when his rustic airs have grown up with him till the age of forty. · For want of this care, fome persons of rank and education dwell all their days among obscure ideas; they conceive and judge always in confufion, they take weak arguments for demonstration, they are led away with the disguises and shadows of truth. Now if such persons happen to have a bright imagination, a volubility of speech, and a copiousness of language, they not only impofe many errors upon their own understandings, but they stamp the image of their own mistakes upon their neighbours also, and spread their errors abroad.
It is a matter of just lamentation and pity, to confia der the weakness of the common multitude of mankind in this respect, how they receive any thing into their assent upon the most trifling grounds. True reasoning hath very little share in forming their opinions. They resist the most convincing arguments by an ob. itinate adherence to their prejudices, and believe the most improbable things with the greatest affurance.
They talk of the abstrusest mysteries, and determine upon them with the utmost confidence, and without juft evidence either from reason or revelation. A confused heap of dark and in congfent ideas make up a good part of their knowledge in matters of philosophy as well as religion, having never been taught the use and value of clear and just reasoning.
Yet it must be still confessed that there are some my. Ateries, in religion, both natural and revealed, as well as some absrufe points in philosophy, wherein the wise as well as the unwise must be content with obscure ideas. There are seyeral things, especially relating 10
the invisible world, which are unsearchable in our pre. rent state, and therefore we must believe what revelation plainly dictates, though the ideas may be obscure, Reason itself demands this of us; but we should seek for the brightest evidence both of ideas, and of the connection of them, wherefoever it is attainable.
Rule II. Enlarge your general acquaintance with things daily, in order to attain a rich furniture of topics, or middle terms, whereby those propofitions which occur may be either proved or difproved; but especially meditate and inquire with great diligence and exactneis into the nature, properties, circumstances and relations of the particular subject about which you judge or argue. Consider its caufes, effects, consequences, ad. juncts, opposites, figns, &c. so far as is needful to your present purpose. You should survey a question round about, and on all fides, and extend your views as far as possible, to every thing that has a connection with it. This practice has many advantages in it; as,
1. It will be a means to suggest to your mind proper topics for argument about any proposition that relates to the same subject.
2. It will enable you with greater readiness and justness of thought to give an answer to any sudden quertion upon that subject, whether it arises in your own mind, or be proposed by others. ping. This will instruct you to give a plainer and fpeedier solution of any difficulties that may attend the theme of your discourse, and to refute the objections of those who have espoused a contrary opinion.
4. By such a large survey of the whole subject in all it's properties and relations, you will be better secured from inconsistencies, that is, from afferting or denying any thing in one place, which contradicts what you have afferted or denied in another; and to attain these ends, an extensiveness of understanding and a large memory are of unspeakable service,
One would be ready to wonder sometimes, how ea. fily great and wife and learned men are led into affertions in some parts of the same treatife, which are found to be scarce consistent with what they have afferted in other places : but the true reason is the narrownefs of the mind of man, that it cannot take in all the innu
merable properties and relations, of one subject with a dingle view ; and therefore whilft they are intent on one particular part of their theme, they bend all their force of thought to prove or dilproye some proposition that relates to that part, without a sufficient attention to the consequences which may flow from it, and which may unhappily affect another part of the fame subject, and by this means they are sometimes led to say things which are inconsistent. In such a case the great dealers in dispute and controversy take pleasure to cast nonsense and felf-contradiction on their antagonist with huge and hateful reproaches. For my part, I rather chule to pity human nature, whose necessary narrowness of underitanding exposes us all to fome degrees of this frailty. · But the most extensive survey possible of our whole subject is the best remedy against it. It is our judging and arguing upon a partial view of things, that exposes us to mistakes, and pushes us into absurdities, or at least to the very borders of them. · Rule III. In searching the knowledge of things, als ways keep the precise point of the present question in your eye. Take heed that you add nothing to it while you are arguing, nor omit any part of it. Watch carefully left any new ideas Aide in, to mingle themselves either with the subject or predicate. See that the ques. rion be not altered by the ambiguity of any word taken in different senses ; nor let any secret prejudices of your own, or the sophistical arts of others, cheat your une derstanding by changing the question, or shuffling in any thing else in its room.
And for this end it is useful to keep the precise matter of inquiry as simple as may be, and disengaged from a complication of ideas, which do not neceffarily belong to it. By admitting a complication of ideas, and take ing too many things at once into one queition, the mind is fometimes dazzled and bewildered ; and the truth is jost in such a variety and confusion of ideas; whereas by, limiting and narrowing the question, you take a fuller survey of the whole of it..
By keeping the single point of inquiry in our conitant view, we shall be secured from ludden, rath, and impertinent responses and determinations, which fome have obtruded, instead of solutions and solid answers, before they perfectly know the questions.
· Rule IV. When you have exactly considered the precise points of inquiry, or what is unknown in the question, then consider what, and how much you know already of this question, or of the ideas and terms of which it is composed. It is by a comparison of the known and unknown parts of the question together, that you may find what reference the part known hath unto, or what connection it hath with the thing that is fought : those ideas, whereby the known and unknown parts of the question are connected, will furnish you with middle terms or arguments whereby the thing proposed may be proved or disproved.'
In this part of your work, (viz.) comparing ideas together, take due time, and be not too haity to come to a determination, especially in points of importance. Some men when they see a little agreement or disagreement between ideas, they presume a great deal, and so jump into the conclusion: this is a short way to fancy opinion, and conceit : but a most unsafe and uncertain way to true knowledge and wisdom. . si . -- Rule V. In chuling your middle terms or arguments to prove any question, always take such topics as are furcst, and least fallible, and which carry the greatest evidence and strength with them. Be not so folicitous, about the number, as the weight of your arguments, especially in proving any proposition which admits of natural certainty, or of compleat demonstration. Many times we do injury to a cause by dwelling upon trifling arguments. · We amuse our hearers with uncertainties, by multiplying the number of feeble reasonings, before we mention those which are more fubitantial, conclufive, and convincing. And too often we yield up our. own affent to mere probable arguments, where certain. proots may be obtained. '.
Yet it must be confessed there are many cases, where. in the growing number of probable arguments increases the degree of probability, and gives a great and sufficient confirmation to the truth which is fought ; as,
(1.) When we are inquiring the true sense of any word or phrase, we are more confirmed in the signification of it, by finding the same expression so used in several authors, or in leveral places of the same author. (2.) When we are searching out the true meaning