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CHAP. I I I . A N ESSAY ON T R U T H .

3 l
t o r e c r i mi n a t e ; i f a L u c i a n o r a V o l t a i r e f r o m t h e
c oas t o f G u i n e a , o r f r o m t h e f i v e n a t i o n s , w e r e t o
p a y u s a v i s i t , w h a t a p i c t u r e o f E u r o p e a n ma n n e r s
m i g h t h e p r e s e n t t o h i s c o u n t r y me n at hi s r e t u r n !
N o r w o u l d c a r i c a t u r a , o r e x a g g e r a t i o n b e nec es s ar y
t o r e n d e r i t h i d e o u s . A p l a i n h i s t o r i c a l a c c o u n t o f
s o me o f o u r mo s t f a s h i o n a b l e d u e l i s t s , g a mb l e r s ,
a n d a d u l t e r e r s , ( t o n a me n o m o r e ) , w o u l d e x h i b i t
s p e c i me n s o f b r u t i s h b a r b a r i t y , a n d s o t t i s h i n f a t u a -
t i o n , s u c h as m i g h t v i e w i t h a n y t h a t e v e r a p p e a r -
e d i n K a ms c h a t k a , C a l i f o r n i a , o r t h e l a n d o f t h e
H o t t e n t o t s .
I t i s eas y t o see w i t h w h a t v i e w s s o me m o d e r n
a u t h o r s t h r o w o u t t hes e h i n t s t o p r o v e t h e n a t u r a l
i n f e r i o r i t y o f n e g r o e s . B u t l e t e v e r y f r i e n d t o h u -
m a n i t y p r a y , t h a t t h e y m a y b e d i s a p p o i n t e d . B r i -
t o n s a r e f a mo u s f o r g e n e r o s i t y j a v i r t u e i n w h i c h i t
i s eas y f o r t h e m t o e x c e l b o t h t h e R o ma n s a n d t h e
Gr e e k s . L e t i t n e v e r b e s a i d , t h a t s l a v e r y i s c o u n -
t e n a n c e d b y t h e b r a v e s t , a n d mo s t g e n e r o u s p e o p l e
o n e a r t h ; b y a p e o p l e w h o ar e a n i ma t e d w i t h t h a t
h e r o i c p a s s i o n , t h e l o v e o f l i b e r t y , b e y o n d a l l n a -
t i o n s a n c i e n t o r m o d e r n ; a n d t h e f a me o f wh o s e
t o i l s o me , b u t u n w e a r i e d p e r s e v e r a n c e , i n v i n d i c a t -
i n g , a t t h e e x p e n c e o f l i f e a n d f o r t u n e , t h e s a c r e d
r i g h t s o f m a n k i n d , w i l l s t r i k e t e r r o r i n t o t h e h e a r t s
o f s y c o p h a n t s a n d t y r a n t s , a n d e x c i t e t h e a d m i -
r a t i o n a n d g r a t i t u d e o f a l l g o o d m e n t o t h e l at es t
p o s t e r i t y .
C H A P . I I I .
Consequences o f Me t a p h y s i c a l Sc e p t i c i s m,
A F T E R a l l , i t w i l l p e r h a p s be o b j e c t e d t o t h i s
d i s c o u r s e , t h a t I h a v e l a i d t o o m u c h st r ess u p o n
t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s o f me t a p h y s i c a l a b s u r d i t y , a n d r e ^
3 2 2 A N ESSAY ON T R U T H . P A RT I I I .
p r e s e n t e d t h e m as m u c h mo r e d a n g e r o u s t h a n t h e y
. ar e f o u n d t o b e i n f a c t . I s h a l l be t o l d , t h a t m a n y
o f t h e c o n t r o v e r s i e s i n me t a p h y s i c a r e m e r e l y v e r -
b a l ; a n d t h e e r r o r s p r o c e e d i n g f r o m t h e m o f so a b -
s t r a c t a n a t u r e , t h a t p h i l o s o p h e r s r u n l i t t l e r i s k , a n d
t h e v u l g a r n o r i s k a t a l l , o f b e i n g i n f l u e n c e d b y
t h e m i n p r a c t i c e . I t w i l l be s a i d , t h a t I n e v e r h e a r d
o f a n y m a n w h o f e l l a s a c r i f i c e t o B e r k e l e y ' s s y s -
t e m , b y b r e a k i n g h i s n e c k o v e r a ma t e r i a l p r e c i -
p i c e , w h i c h h e h a d t a k e n f o r a n i d e a l o n e ; n o r o f
a n y F a t a l i s t , wh o s e mo r a l s w e r e , u p o n t h e w h o l e ,
m o r e e x c e p t i o n a b l e t h a n t h o s e o f t h e a s s e r t o r s o f
f r e e a g e n c y : i n a w o r d , t h a t w h a t e v e r ef f ec t s u c h
t e n e t s m a y h a v e u p o n t h e u n d e r s t a n d i n g , t h e y s el -
d o m o r n e v e r p r o d u c e a n y s ens i bl e ef f ect s u p o n
t h e h e a r t . I n c o n s i d e r i n g t h i s o b j e c t i o n , I mu s t
c o n f i n e m y s e l f t o a f e w t o p i c s , f o r t h e s u b j e c t t o
w h i c h i t l e a d s i s o f v a s t e x t e n t . T h e i n f l u e n c e o f
t h e me t a p h y s i c a l s p i r i t u p o n a r t , s c i e n c e , a n d m a n -
n e r s , w o u l d f u r n i s h ma t t e r f o r a l a r g e t r e a t i s e . I t
w i l l suf f i ce a t p r e s e n t t o s h e w, t h a t me t a p h y s i c a l
e r r o r s ar e n o t h a r ml e s s , b u t m a y p r o d u c e , a n d a c -
t u a l l y h a v e p r o d u c e d s o me v e r y i mp o r t a n t a n d i n -
t e r e s t i n g c o n s e q ue n c e s .
I b e g i n w i t h a n o b s e r v a t i o n o f t e n m a d e , a n d i n -
d e e d o b v i o u s e n o u g h , n a me l y , T h a t h a p p i n e s s i s t h e
e n d ' o f o u r b e i n g ; a n d t h a t k n o w l e d g e , a n d e v e n
t r u t h i t s el f , ar e v a l u a b l e o n l y as t h e y t e n d t o p r o -
mo t e i t . E v e r y usel ess s t u d y i s a p e r n i c i o u s t h i n g ,
b e c a us e i t wa s t e s o u r t i me a n d mi s e mp l o y s o u r f a -
c u l t i e s . X o p r o v e t h a t me t a p h y s i c a l a b s u r d i t i e s d o
n o g o o d , w o u l d t h e r e f o r e s u f f i c i e n t l y j u s t i f y t h e
p r e s e n t u n d e r t a k i n g . B u t i t r e q u i r e s n o d e e p s a-
g a c i t y t o be abl e t o p r o v e a g r e a t d e a l m o r e .
W e a c k n o wl e d g e , h o w e v e r , t h a t al l me t a p h y s i c a l
e r r o r s ar e n o t e q u a l l y d a n g e r o u s . X h e r e i s a n o b -
s c u r i t y i n t h e a b s t r a c t s c i enc es , as t h e y a r e c o m m o n -
l y t a u g h t , w h i c h i s o f t e n n o ba. d p r e s e r v a t i v e a g a i n s t
OHAP. I H AN ESSAY ON T R U T H . 3 2 o
t h e i r i n f l u e n c e . T h i s o b s c u r i t y i s s o me t i me s una- ^
v o i d a b l e , o n a c c o u n t o f t h e i n s u f f i c i e n c y o f l a n -
g u a g e ; s o me t i me s i t i s o w i n g t o t h e s p i r i t l e s s a n d
s l o v e n l y s t y l e o f t h e w r i t e r j a n d s o me t i me s i t i s
af Fect ed : as w h e n a p h i l o s o p h e r , f r o m p r u d e n t i a l
c o n s i d e r a t i o n s , t h i n k s fit t o d i s g u i s e a n y o c c a s i o n a l
a t t a c k o n t h e r e l i g i o n o r l a ws o f h i s c o u n t r y , b y
s o me a r t f u l e q u i v o c a t i o n , i n t h e f o r m o f a l l e g o r y ,
d i a l o g u e , o r f a b l e * . T h e s t y l e o f T h e T r e a t i s e o f
H u m a n N a t u r e i s so e x c e e d i n g l y o b s c u r e a n d u n -
i n t e r e s t i n g , t h a t i f t h e A u t h o r h a d n o t i n h i s E s s a y s
r e - p u b l i s h e d t h e c a p i t a l d o c t r i n e s o f t h a t w o r k i n a
s t y l e mo r e e l e g a n t a n d s p r i g h t l y , a c o n f u t a t i o n o f
t h e m w o u l d h a v e b e e n a l t o g e t h e r u n n e c e s s a r y :
t h e i r u n c o u t h a n d g l o o m y as pec t w o u l d h a v e d e -
t e r r e d mo s t p e o p l e f r o m c o u r t i n g t h e i r a c q u a i n t -
a n c e . A n d , a f t e r a l l , t h o u g h t h i s a u t h o r i s one o f
* Mr . Hume is not unacquai nt ed wi t h t hi s piece of pol i cy.
Hi s apol ogy f or At hei sm he del i vers by t he mout h of &,Jriend,
i n t he way of conf er ence, pr ef aced -wi th a decl ar at i on, t hat
t hough he cannot by any means approve many of t he sen-
t i ment s of t hat f r i end, yet he t hi nks t hey bear some rela
t i on t o t he chai n of reasoni ng carri ed on i n hi s i nqui ry con-
cer ni ng human nat ur e. He had somet hi ng, i t seems, t o say
agai nst hi s Maker , whi c h he modest l y acknowl edges t o be
curi ous, and wor t hy of at t ent i on, and whi ch he t hought , no
doubt , t o be mi ght y smart and cl ever. T o cal l i t what i t
r eal l y i s, A n at t empt t o vi ndi cat e At hei sm, or what he pr oba-
bl y t hought i t , A vi ndi cat i on of At hei sm, seemed dangerous,
and mi ght di sgust many of hi s wel l - meani ng readers: He calls
i t , t her ef or e, An Essay on a Part i cul ar Providence and a Future
State, and puts hi s capi t al argument s i n t he mout h of ano-
t her person : t hus pr ovi di ng by t he same generous, candi d,
and manl y expedi ent , a snare f or the unwar y reader, and an
evasi on f or hi msel f . Per haps i t wi l l be asked, what I mean
by t he wor d Athei st? I answer, A reasonable creat ure, who
di sbel i eves t he bei ng of God, or t hi nks i t i nconsi stent wi t h
sound reason, t o beli eve t hat t he gr eat Fi r st Cause is per f ect
i n hol i ness, power , wi sdom, j ust i ce and benef i cence, ^i s ,
specul ati ve At hei st ; and he who endeavours t o i nst i l l the same
unbel i ef i nt o ot hers, is a pr act i cal At hei st .
3 2 4 AN ESSAY ON TRUTHJ PART I I I .
t h e d e a d l i e s t , h e i s n o t p e r h a p s o n e o f t h e mo s t
d a n g e r o u s e n e mi e s o f r e l i g i o n . B o l i n g b r e k e , h i s
i n f e r i o r i n s u b t l e t y , b u t f a r s u p e r i o r i n w i t , e l o -
q u e n c e , a n d k n o w l e d g e o f m a n k i n d , i s m o r e d a n -
g e r o u s , bec aus e mo r e e n t e r t a i n i n g . So t h a t t h o u g h
t h e r e a d e r m a y be d i s p o s e d t o a p p l a u d t h e p a t r i o t -
i s m o f t h e g r a n d j u r y o f We s t mi n s t e r , w h o p r e s e n t -
e d t h e p o s t h u mo u s w o r k s o f t h a t n o b l e l o r d as a
p u b l i c n u i s a n c e , h e mu s t be s ens i bl e t h a t t h e r e wa s
n o n e c e s s i t y f o r a f f i x i n g a n y s u c h s t i g ma t o t h e p h i -
l o s o p h i c a l w r i t i n g s o f t h e S c o t t i s h a u t h o r . A n d y e t *
i t c a n n o t be d e n i e d , t h a t e v e n t h e s e , n o t w i t h s t a n d -
i n g t h e i r o b s c u r i t y , h a v e d o n e mi s c h i e f e n o u g h t o
ma k e e v e r y Sj p b e r - mi n d e d p e r s o n e a r n e s t l y w i s h
t h a t t h e y h a d n e v e r e x i s t e d .
F u r t h e r , s o me me t a p h y s i c a l e r r o r s ar e so g r o s s l y
a b s u r d , t h a t t h e r e i s h a r d l y a p o s s i b i l i t y o f t h e i r
p e r v e r t i n g o u r c o n d u c t . S u c h , c o n s i d e r e d i n i t s e l f ,
i s t h e d o c t r i n e o f t h e n o n - e x i s t e n c e o f m a t t e r ;
" whi c h n o m a n i n h i s senses wa s e v e r c apabl e o f b e -
l i e v i n g f o r a s i n g l e m o m e n t . P y r r h o w a s a v a i n ,
h y p o c r i t e : h e t o o k i t i n h i s h e a d t o s ay t h a t h e b e -
l i e v e d n o t h i n g , bec aus e h e w a n t e d t o be t a k e n n o -
t i c e o f : h e a f f e c t e d , t o o , t o ac t u p t o t h i s p r e t e n d e d
d i s b e l i e f ; a n d w o u l d n o t o f h i s o w n a c c o r d s t ep
a s i d e t o a v o i d a d o g , a c h a r i o t , o r a p r e c i p i c e : b u t
h e a l wa v s t o o k c ar e t o h a v e s o me f r i e n d s o r s er -
v a n t s a t h a n d , wh o s e bus i nes s i t wa s t o k e e p t h e
p h i l o s o p h e r o u t o f h a r m' s w a y . T h a t t h e u n i v e r s e
i s n o t h i n g h u t a heap o f i mp r e s s i o n s a n d i deas u n -
p e r c e i v e d b y a n y s ub s t a n c e , i s a n o t h e r o f t h o s e p r o -
f o u n d my s t e r i e s , f r o m w h i c h w e n e e d n o t a p p r e -
h e n d m u c h d a n g e r ; bec aus e i t i s so p e r f e c t l y a b -
s u r d , t h a t n o w o r d s b u t s u c h as i m p l y a c o n t r a d i c -
t i o n , w i l l e x p r e s s i t . I k n o w n o t w h e t h e r t h e a b -
s u r d i t y o f a s y s t e m wa s e v e r b e f o r e u r g e d as a n
a p o l o g y f o r i t s a u t h o r . B u t i t i s b e t t e r t o be a b s u r d
t h a n mi s c h i e v o u s : a n d h a p p y i t we r e f o r t h e w o r l d ,
CHA P . I I I . AN ESSAY ON T RUT H* 3 2 5
a n d m u c h t o t h e c r e d i t o f s o me p e r s o n s n o w i n i t ,
i f me t a p h y s i c i a n s w e r e c h a r g e a b l e w i t h n o t h i n g
w o r s e t h a n a b s u r d i t y .
A g a i n , c e r t a i n e r r o r s i n o u r t h e o r i e s o f h u m a n
n a t u r e , c o n s i d e r e d i n t h e ms e l v e s , ar e i n s o me me a -
s u r e h a r ml e s s , w h e n t h e p r i n c i p l e s t h a t o p p o s e
t h e i r i n f l u e n c e ar e s t r o n g a n d a c t i v e . A g e n t l e d i s -
p o s i t i o n , c o n f i r me d h a b i t s o f v i r t u e , o b e d i e n c e t o
l a w , a r e g a r d t o o r d e r , o r e v e n t h e f e a r o f p u n i s h -
me n t , o f t e n p r o v e a n t i d o t e s t o me t a p h y s i c a l p o i s o n .
W h e n F a t a l i t y has t h e s e p r i n c i p l e s t o c o mb a t , i t
m a y p u z z l e t h e j u d g m e n t , b u t w i l l n o t c o r r u p t t h e
h e a r t . N a t u r a l i n s t i n c t n e v e r f ai l s t o oppos e i t ;
a l l m e n b e l i e v e t h e ms e l v e s f r e e a g e n t s , as l o n g a t
l eas t as t h e y k e e p c l e a r o f me t a p h y s i c ; n a y , so p o w -
e r f u l i s t h e s e n t i me n t o f m o r a l l i b e r t y , t h a t I c a n -
n o t t h i n k i t w a s e v e r e n t i r e l y s u b d u e d i n a n y r a -
t i o n a l b e i n g . H u t i f i t w e r e s u b d u e d , ( a n d s u r e l y
n o F a t a l i s t w i l l a c k n o w l e d g e i t i n v i n c i b l e ) ; i f t h e
o p p o s i t e p r i n c i p l e s s h o u l d at t h e s a me t i me cease
t o a c t ; a n d i f d e b a u c h e r y , b a d e x a mp l e , a n d l i c e n -
t i o u s w r i t i n g s , s h o u l d e x t i n g u i s h o r w e a k e n t h e
sense o f d u t y ; w h a t m i g h t n o t b e a p p r e h e n d e d
f r o m m e n w h o ar e a b o v e l a w , o r c a n s c r een t h e m -
s el v es f r o m p u n i s h me n t ? W h a t v i r t u e i s t o b e e x -
p e c t e d f r o m a b e i n g w h o b e l i e v e s i t s e l f a me r e m a -
c h i n e ? I f I w e r e p e r s u a d e d , t h a t t h e e v i l I c o m -
m i t i s i mp o s e d u p o n me b y f a t a l n e c e s s i t y , I s h o u l d
t h i n k r e p e n t a n c e as a b s u r d as X e r x e s s c o u r g i n g
t h e " wa v e s o f t h e H e l l e s p o n t ; a n d be as l i t t l e d i s -
p o s e d t o f o r m r e s o l u t i o n s o f a me n d me n t , as t o c o n -
t r i v e s c h e me s f o r p r e v e n t i n g t h e f r e q u e n t ec l i ps es
o f t h e s at el l i t es o f J u p i t e r . E v e r y a u t h o r w h o p u b -
l i s h e s a n es s ay i n b e h a l f o f F a t a l i t y , i s w i l l i n g t o
r u n t h e r i s k o f b r i n g i n g a l l m e n o v e r t o h i s o p i n i o n .
W h a t i f t h i s s h o u l d be t h e c o n s e q ue n c e ? I f i t b e
p o s s i b l e t o ma k e o n e r e a s o n a b l e c r e a t u r e a F a t a l -
i s t , m a y i t n o t be pos s i bl e t o ma j t e m a n y s u c h ?
32 A N ESSAY ON T R U T H . P A RT l i t .
A n d - wo u l d t h i s b e a ma t t e r o f l i t t l e o r n o m o -
m e n t ? I t i s d e mo n s t r a b l e , t h a t i t w o u l d n o t . B u t
w e h a v e a l r e a d y e x p l a i n e d o u r s e l v e s o n t h i s h e a d .
O t h e r me t a p h y s i c a l e r r o r s t h e r e a r e , w h i c h ,
t h o u g h t h e y d o n o t s t r i k e m o r e d i r e c t l y a t t h e f o u n -
d a t i o n s o f v i r t u e , ar e m o r e a p t t o i n f l u e n c e ma n -
k i n d , b e c a us e t h e y ar e n o t so v i g o r o u s l y c o u n t e r -
a c t e d b y a n y p a r t i c u l a r p r o p e n s i t y . W h a t s h a l l w e
s ay t o t h e t h e o r y o f ' H o b b e s , w h o ma k e s t h e d i s -
t i n c t i o n b e t w e e n v i c e a n d v i r t u e t o be w h o l l y a r t i -
ficial, w i t h o u t a n y f o u n d a t i o n i n t h e d i v i n e w i l l , o r
h u m a n c o n s t i t u t i o n , a n d d e p e n d i n g e n t i r e l y o n t h e
a r b i t r a r y l a ws o f h u m a n g o v e r n o r s ? A c c o r d i n g t o
t h i s a c c o u n t , n o a c t i o n t h a t i s c o m m a n d e d b y a k i n g
c a n b e v i t i o u s , a n d n o n e v i r t u o u s e x c e p t w a r r a n t e d
b y t h a t a u t h o r i t y . W e r e t h i s o p i n i o n u n i v e r s a l ,
w h a t c o u l d d e t e r m e n f r o m s ec r et wi c k e d n e s s , o r
s u c h as i s n o t c o g n i s a b l e b y l a w ? W h a t c o u l d r e -
s t r a i n g o v e r n o r s f r o m t h e u t mo s t i n s o l e n c e o f t y -
r a n n y I W h a t b u t a mi r a c l e c o u l d s av e t h e h u m a n
r ac e f r o m p e r d i t i o n .
I n t h e p r e f a c e t o o n e o f M r . H u m e ' s l a t e p u b l i -
c a t i o n s , w e ar e p r e s e n t e d w i t h a n e l a b o r a t e p a n e -
g y r i c o n t h e a u t h o r . " H e h a t h e x e r t e d , s ay s t h e
w r i t e r o f t h e p r e f a c e , t h o s e g r e a t t a l e n t s h e r e c e i v -
e d f r o m N a t u r e , a n d t h e a c q u i s i t i o n s h e ma d e b y
s t u d y , i n s e a r c h o f t r u t h , a n d i n p r o m o t i n g t h e
f o o d o f m a n k i n d . " A n o b l e e n c o m i u m i n d e e d !
f i t b e a t r u e o n e , w h a t a r e w e t o t h i n k o f a D o u -
g l a s , a C a mp b e l l , a G e r a r d , a R e i d , a n d s o me
o t h e r s , w h o h a v e a t t a c k e d s e v e r a l o f M r . H u m e ' s
o p i n i o n s * a n d p r o v e d t h e m t o b e c o n t r a r y t o t r u t h ,
a n d s u b v e r s i v e o f t h e g o o d o f m a n k i n d i I t h o u g h t
i n d e e d , t h a t t h e w o r k s o f t h o s e e x c e l l e n t wr i t e r s
h a d g i v e n g r e a t s a t i s f a c t i o n t o t h e f r i e n d s o f t r u t h
a n d v i r t u e , a n d d o n e a n i mp o r t a n t s e r v i c e t o s o c i -
e t y : b u t , i f I b e l i e v e t h i s p r e f a c e r , I mu s t l o o k o n
t h e m , as w e l l as o n t h i s a t t e mp t o f m y o w n , w i t h
CHAP. I I I . A N ESSAY ON T RUT H . 3 2 ?
d e t e s t a t i o n a n d h o r r o r . B u t b e f o r e so g r e a t a
c h a n g e i n m y s e n t i me n t s c a n t a k e p l a c e , i t w i l l be
n e c e s s a r y , t h a t M r . H u m e p r o v e , t o m y s at i s f ac -
t i on, , t h a t he i s n e i t h e r t h e a u t h o r n o r t h e p u b l i s h e r
o f t h e E s s a y s t h a t b e a r h i s n a me , n o r o f t h e T r e a -
t i s e o f H u m a n N a t u r e * F o r I w i l l n o t t a k e i t o n
h i s , n o r o n a n y ma n ' s w o r d , t h a t r e l i g i o n , b o t h
r e v e a l e d a n d n a t u r a l , a n d a l l c o n v i c t i o n i n r e g a r d
t o t r u t h , ar e d e t r i me n t a l t o m a n k i n d . A n d i t i s
m o s t c e r t a i n , t h a t h e , i f h e i s i n d e e d t h e a u t h o r
o f t h o s e E s s a y s , a n d o f t h a t T r e a t i s e , h a t h e x e r t e d
h i s g r e a t t a l e n t s , a n d e mp l o y e d s e v e r a l y e a r s o f h i s
l i f e , i n e n d e a v o u r i n g t o p e r s u a d e t h e w o r l d , t h a t
t h e f u n d a me n t a l d o c t r i n e s o f n a t u r a l r e l i g i b n a r e
i r r a t i o n a l , a n d t h e p r o o f s o f r e v e a l e d r e l i g i o n s u c h
as o u g h t n o t t o s a t i s f y a n i mp a r t i a l m i n d ; a n d t h a t
t h e r e i s n o t i n a n y s c i enc e a n e v i d e n c e o f t r u t h
s u f f i c i e n t t o p r o d u c e c e r t a i n t y . Su p p o s e t hes e
o p i n i o n s e s t a b l i s h e d i n t h e w o r l d , a n d s a y , i f . y o u
c a n , t h a t t h e g o o d o f m a n k i n d w o u l d be p r o mo t e d
b y t h e m . X o m e i t s e e ms i mp o s s i b l e for s o c i e t y
t o e x i s t u n d e r t h e i n f l u e n c e o f s u c h o p i n i o n s . N o r
l e t i t b e t h o u g h t , t h a t w e g i v e a n u n f a v o u r a b l e
v i e w o f h u m a n n a t u r e , w h e n w e i n s i s t o n t h e n e c e s -
s i t y o f g o o d p r i n c i p l e s f o r t h e p r e s e r v a t i o n o f g o o d
o r d e r . S u c h a t o t a l s u b v e r s i o n o f h u m a n s e n t i me n t
i s , I b e l i e v e , i mp o s s i b l e : m a n k i n d at t h e i r v e r y
w o r s t , ar e n o t s u c h mo n s t e r s , as t o a d mi t i t ; r e a -
s o n , c o n s c i e n c e , t a s t e , h a b i t , i n t e r e s t , f e a r , mu s t
p e r p e t u a l l y o p p o s e i t : b u t t h e p h i l o s o p h y t h a t a i ms
a t a t o t a l s u b v e r s i o n o f h u m a n s e n t i me n t i s n o t o n
t h a t a c c o u n t t h e l ess d e t e s t a b l e . A n d y e t i t i s s a i d
o f t h e a u t h o r s o f t h i s p h i l o s o p h y , t h a t t h e y e x e r t
t h e i r g r e a t t a l e n t s i n p r o m o t i n g t h e g o o d o f m a n -
k i n d . W h a t a n i n s u l t o n h u m a n n a t u r e a n d c o m -
m o n s e n s e ! I f m a n k i n d ar e t a me e n o u g h t o a c q u i -
esce i n s u c h a n i n s u l t , a n d s e r v i l e e n o u g h t o r e p l y ,
" I t i s t r u e , w e h a v e b e e n m u c h o b l i g e d t o t h e c e l -
r f
3 2 8 AN ESSAY ON T R U T H . P A RT H I -
e b r a t e d s c ept i c s o f t h i s mo s t e n l i g h t e n e d , a g e , "
t h e y w o u l d a l mo s t t e mp t o n e t o e x p r e s s h i ms e l f i n
t h e s t y l e o f mi s a n t h r o p y , a n d s a y , " S i p o p u l u s v u l t
d e c i p i , d e c i p i a t u r . "
E v e r y d o c t r i n e i s d a n g e r o u s t h a t t e n d s t o d i s c r e -
d i t t h e e v i d e n c e o f o u r s ens es , e x t e r n a l o r i n t e r n a l ,
a n d t o s u b v e r t t h e o r i g i n a l i n s t i n c t i v e p r i n c i p l e s o f
h u m a n b e l i e f . I n t h i s r e s p e c t t h e mo s t u n n a t u r a l
a n d i n c o mp r e h e n s i b l e a b s u r d i t i e s , s u c h as t h e d o c -
t r i n e o f t h e n o n - e x i s t e n c e o f ma t t e r , a n d o f p e r -
c e p t i o n s w i t h o u t a p e r c i p i e n t , ar e f a r f r o m b e i n g
h a r ml e s s ; as t h e y s e e m t o l e a d , a n d a c t u a l l y h a v e
l e d , t b u n i v e r s a l s c e p t i c i s m; a n d set a n e x a mp l e
o f a m e t h o d o f r e a s o n i n g s uf f i c i e n t t o o v e r t u r n a l l
t r u t h , a n d p e r v e r t e v e r y h u m a n f a c u l t y . I n t h i s
r e s p e c t a l s o w e h a v e p r o v e d t h e d o c t r i n e o f f a t a l i -
t y t o be o f mo s t p e r n i c i o u s t e n d e n c y , as i t l e a d s
m e n t o s u p p o s e t h e i r mo r a l s e n t i me n t s f a l l a c i o u s
o r e q u i v o c a l ; n o t t o me n t i o n i t s i n f l u e n c e o n o u r
n o t i o n s o f G o d , a n d n a t u r a l r e l i g i o n . " Wh e n a
s c e p t i c at t ac k s o n e p r i n c i p l e o f c o m m o n s ens e, h e
' does i n ef f ect a t t a c k a l l ; f o r i f w e a r e ma d e d i s -
t r u s t f u l o f t h e v e r a c i t y o f i n s t i n c t i v e c o n v i c t i o n i n
o n e i n s t a n c e , w e mu s t , o r at l eas t w e m a y , b e c o me
e q u a l l y d i s t r u s t f u l i n e v e r y o t h e r . A l i t d e s c e p t i -
c i s m i n t r o d u c e d i n t o s c i enc e w i l l s o o n a s s i mi l a t e
t h e w h o l e t o i t s o w n n a t u r e ; t h e f a t a l f e r me n t a -
t i o n , onc e b e g u n , s p r e a d s w i d e r a n d w i d e r e v e r y
m o m e n t , t i l l a l l t h e ma s s b e t r a n s f o r me d i n t o r o t -
t ennes s a n d p o i s o n .
T h e r e i s n o e x a g g e r a t i o n h e r e . T h e p r e s e n t
s t a t e o f t h e a b s t r a c t sci ences i s a me l a n c h o l y p r o o f ,
t h a t w h a t I say i s t r u e . T h i s i s c a l l e d t h e a g e o f
r e a s o n a n d p h i l o s o p h y ; a n d t h i s i s t h e age o f
a v o w e d a n d d o g ma t i c a l a t h e i s m. Sc e p t i c s h a v e at
l as t g r o w n w e a r y o f d o u b t i n g ; a n d h a v e n o w d i s -
c o v e r e d , b y t h e f o r c e o f t h e i r g r e a t t al ent s^ t h a t
o n e t h i n g a t l eas t i s c e r t a i n , n a me l y , t h a t G o d , a n d
CHAP. I I I . AN ESSAY ON T RUT H. 3 2 9
r e l i g i o n , a n d i m m o r t a l i t y ar e e m p t y s o u n d s . T i l l s
i s t h e final t r i u m p h o f o u r so m u c h boas t ed p h i l o -
s o p h i c s p i r i t ; t hes e ar e t h e l i mi t s o f t h e d o m i n i o n
o f e r r o r , b e y o n d w h i c h w e c an h a r d l y c o n c e i v e i t
p o s s i b l e f o r h u m a n s o p h i s t r y t o p e n e t r a t e . K x u l t ,
O J Vt et aphy s i c , at t h e c o n s u mma t i o n o f t h y g l o -
r i e s . M o r e t h o u c ans t n o t h o p e , mo r e t h o u c ans t
n o t d e s i r e . F a l l d o w n , y e mo r t a l s , a n d a c k n o w -
l e d g e t h e s t u p e n d o u s b l e s s i n g : a d o r e t h o s e me n o f
g r e a t t a l e n t s , t h o s e d a r i n g s p i r i t s , t hos e p a t t e r n s o f
mo d e s t y , g e n t l e n e s s , and. c a n d o u r , t h o s e p r o d i g i e s
o f g e n i u s , t h o s e h e r o e s i n b e n e f i c e n c e , w h o h a v e
t h u s l a b o u r e d ^ t o s t r i p y o u o f e v e r y r a t i o n a l c o n -
s o l a t i o n , a n d t o m a k e y o u r c o n d i t i o n t e n t h o u s a n d
t i me s w o r s e t h a n t h a t o f t h e beast s t h a t p e r i s h .
W h y c a n I n o t e x p r e s s my s e l f w i t h l ess w a r m t h !
W h y c a n I n o t d e v i s e a n a p o l o g y , f o r t h e s e p h i l o -
s o p h e r s , t o s c r e e n t h e m f r o m t h i s d r e a d f u l i m p u -
t a t i o n o f b e i n g t h e e n e mi e s a n d p l a g u e s o f m a n -
k i n d ! P e r h a p s t h e y d o n o t t h e ms e l v e s b e l i e v e
t h e i r o w n t e n e t s , b u t p u b l i s h t h e m o n l y as t h e
me a n s o f g e t t i n g a n a me a n d a f o r t u n e . B u t I
h o p e t h i s i s n o t t h e case ; G o d f o r b i d t h a t i t
s h o u l d ! f o r t h e n t h e e n o r m i t y o f t h e i r g u i l t w o u l d
s u r p a s s a l l p o w e r o f l a n g u a g e ; w e c o u l d o n l y
g a z e at i t , a n d t r e mb l e . C o m p a r e d w i t h s u c h
w i c k e d n e s s , t h e c r i me s o f t h e t h i e f , t h e r o b b e r ,
t h e i n c e n d i a r y , w o u l d a l mo s t d i s a p p e a r . T h e s e
s a c r i f i c e t h e f o r t u n e s o r t h e l i v e s o f s o me o f t h e i r
f e l l o w c r e a t u r e s , t o t h e i r o w n n e c e s s i t y o r out r age- r
o u s a p p e t i t e ! b u t ' t h o s e w o u l d r u n t h e h a z a r d o f
s a c r i f i c i n g , t o t h e i r o w n a v a r i c e o r v a n i t y , t h e h a p -
p i n e s s o f a l l m a n k i n d , b o t h h e r e a n d h e r e a f t e r .
N o ; I c a n n o t s u p p o s e i t : t h e h e a r t o f m a n , h o w ^
e v e r d e p r a v e d , ' i s n o t c apabl e o f s u c h i n f e r n a l m a -
l i g n i t y . P e r h a p s t h e y d o n o t f or es ee t h e c o n s e -
q u e n c e s o f t h e i r d o c t r i n e s . Be r k e L e y mo s t c e r -
330 AN ESSAY Olf TRUTH, PART HI .
tainly did not.But Berkeley did not attack the
religion of his country, did not seek to undermine
the foundations of virtue, did not preach or recom-
mend Atheism. He erred; and who is free from
error ? but his intentions were irreproachable ; and
his conduct as a man, and a Christian, did honour
to human nature.Perhaps our modern sceptics
are ignorant, that without the belief of-a God, and
the hope of immortality, the miseries of human
life would often be insupportable. But can I sup-
pose them in a state of total and invincible stupi-
dity, utter 'Strangers to the human heart, and to hu-
man affairs! Sure they would not thank me for
such a supposition. Yet this I must suppose, or
I must believe them to be the most cruel, the most
perfidious, and the most profligate of men.
Caressed by those who call themselves the great,
ingrossed by the formalities and fopperies of life,
intoxicated with vanity, pampered with adulation,
dissipated in the tumult of business, or amidst the
vicissitudes of folly, they perhaps have little need,
and little relish, for the consolations of religion.
But let them know, that, in the solitary scenes of
life, there is many an honest and tender heart
pining with incurable anguish, pierced with the
sharpest sting of disappointment, bereft of friends,
chilled with poverty, racked with disease, scourg-
ed by the oppressor; whom nothing but trust in
Providence, and the hope of a future retribution,
could preserve from the agonies of despair. And
do they, with sacrilegious hands, attempt to vio-
late this last refuge of the miserable, and to rob
them of the only comfort that had survived the ra-
vages of misfortune,5malice, and tyranny ! Di d i t
ever happen, that the influence of their execrable
tenets disturbed the tranquillity of virtuous retire-
ment, deepened the gloom of human distress, or
aggravated the horrors of the grave ? Is it possible^
GHAP. i n . AH ESSAY ON T R U T H . 3 3 1
t h a t t h i s m a y h a v e h a p p e n e d i n m a n y i ns t anc es ?
I s i t p r o b a b l e t h a t t h i s h a t h h a p p e n e d , o r m a y
h a p p e n , i n o n e s i n g l e i n s t a n c e ? Y e t r a i t o r s t o
h u m a n k i n d , y e mu r d e r e r s o f t h e h u m a n s o u l ,
h o w c a n y e ' a n s we r f o r i t t o y o u r o w n h e a r t s !
S u r e l y e v e r y s p a r k o f y o u r g e n e r o s i t y i s e x t i n -
g u i s h e d f o r e v e r , i f t h i s c o n s i d e r a t i o n d o n o t
a w a k e n i n y o u t h e k e e n e s t r e mo r s e , a n d ma k e y o u
" wi s h i n b i t t e r n e s s o f s o u l B u t I r e mo n s t r a t e i n
v a i n . A l l t h i s m u s t h a v e o f t e n o c c u r r e d t o y o u ,
a n d b e e n as o f t e n r e j e c t e d as u t t e r l y f r i v o l o u s .
C o u l d I e n f o r c e t h e p r e s e n t t o p i c b y an appeal t o
y o u r v a n i t y , I m i g h t p o s s i b l y ma k e s o me i mp r e s -
s i o n : b u t t o p l e a d w i t h y o u o n t h e p r i n c i p l e s o f
b e n e v o l e n c e o r g e n e r o s i t y , i s . t o a d d r e s s y o u i n
l a n g u a g e ye. d o n o t j o r w i l l n o t u n d e r s t a n d ; a n d
as t o t h e s h a me o f b e i n g c o n v i c t e d o f a b s u r d i t y ,
i g n o r a n c e , a n d w a n t o f c a n d o u r , y e h a v e l o n g a g o
p r o v e d y o u r s e l v e s s u p e r i o r t o t h e sense o f ^ i t .
B u t l e t n o t t h e l o v e r s o f t r u t h be d i s c o u r a g e d , :
A t h e i s m c a n n o t be o f l o n g c o n t i n u a n c e , n o r i s t h e r e
m u c h d a n g e r o f i t s b e c o mi n g u n i v e r s a l . T h e i n -
fluence o f s o me c o n s p i c u o u s c h a r a c t e r s has b r o u g h t
i t t o o m u c h i n t o f a s h i o n ; w h i c h , i n a t h o u g h t l e s s
a n d p r o f l i g a t e a g e , i t i s n o d i f f i c u l t ma t t e r t o a c -
c o mp l i s h . B u t w h e n me n h a v e r e t r i e v e d t he p o w -
er s o f s e r i o u s r e f l e c t i o n , t h e y w i l l find i t a f r i g h t -
f u l p h a n t o m ; a n d t h e m i n d w i l l r e t u r n g l a d l y a n d
e a g e r l y t o i t s o l d e n d e a r me n t s . O n e t h i n g w e c e r -
t a i n l y k n o w ; t h e f a s h i o n o f s c e p t i c a l a n d me t a p h y -
s i c al s y s t e ms s o o n passej t h a w a y . T h o s e u n n a t u -
r a l p r o d u c t i o n s , t h e v i l e e f f u s i o n o f a h a r d an J s t u -
p i d h e a r t * t h a t mi s t a k e s i t s o w n r est l essness f o r
t h e a c t i v i t y o f g e n i u s , a n d i t s o w n c apt i ous nes s f o r
s a g a c i t y o f u n d e r s t a n d i n g , m a y , l i k e o t h e r m o n -
s t e r s , pl eas e a w h i l e b y t h e i r s i n g u l a r i t y ; b u t t h e
c h a r m i s s o o n o v e r ; a n d t h e s u c c e e d i n g age w i l l be
a s t o n i s h e d t o h e a r , t h a t t h e i r f o r e f a t h e r s we r e d e -
v f 2
3,32 AN ESSAY ON T R U T H . P A R T I I I *
l u d e d , o r a mu s e d , w i t h s u c h f o o l e r i e s . T h e m e a -
s u r e o f s c e p t i c i s m s e e ms i n d e e d t o b e f u l l ; i t *is
t i me f o r t r u t h t o v i n d i c a t e h e r r i g h t s , a n d w e t r u s t
t h e y s h a l l y e t b e c o mp l e t e l y v i n d i c a t e d . S u c h a r e
t h e h o p e s a n d t h e e a r n e s t wi s h e s o f o n e , w h o has
s e l d o m ma d e c o n t r o v e r s y h i s s t u d y , w h o n e v e r
t o o k p l e a s u r e i n a r g u me n t a t i o n , a n d w h o d i s c l a i ms
a l l a mb i t i o n o f b e i n g r e p u t e d a s u b t l e d i s p u t a n t ;
b u t w h o , ,as a f r i e n d t o h u m a n n a t u r e , w o u l d ac -
c o u n t i t h i s h o n o u r t o b e i n s t r u me n t a l i n p r o m o t -
i n g , t h o u g h b y me a n s u n p l e a s a n t t o h i ms e l f , t h e
cause o f v i r t u e a n d t r u e s c i e n c e , a n d i n b r i n g i n g
t o c o n t e mp t t h a t s c e p t i c a l s o p h i s t r y w h i c h i s e q u a l -
l y s u b v e r s i v e o f b o t h .