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This propofition, however, fo far differs, in my apprehension, from others of the same order, that I cannot avoid considering the opposite afsertion as not only false, but contradictory; but I do not pretend to explain the ground of this difference.
The faith we give to memory may be thought, on a superficial view, to be resolvable into consciousness, as well as that we give to the immediate impressions of sense. But on a little attention one may easily perceive the difference. To believe the report of our senses doth, indeed, commonly imply, to believe the existence of certain external and corporeal objects, which give rise to our particular sensations. This, I acknowledge, is a principle which doth not spring from consciousness, (for consciousness cannot extend beyond sensation) but from common sense, as well as the assurance we have in the report of memory. But this was not intend. ed to be included under the second branch of intuitive evidence. By that firm belief in fenfe, which I there resolved into consciousness, ‘I meant no more than to say, I am certain that I fee, and feel, and think, what I actually fee, and feel, and think. As in this I pronounce I 2
only concerning my own present feelings, whose effence consists in being felt, and of which I am at present conscious, my conviction is reducible to this axiom, or coincident with it, . It is im• pofsible for a thing to be and not to be at the • same time.' Now when I say, I trust entirely to the clear report of my memory, I mean a good deal more than, 'I am certain that my • memory gives such a report, or represents * things in such a manner,' for this conviction I have indeed from consciousness, but I mean, • I am certain that things happened heretofore
at such a time, in the precise manner in which I • now remember that they then happened.' Thus there is a reference in the ideas of memory to former fenfible impressions, to which there is nothing analogous in sensation. At the same time, it is evident, that remembrance is not always accompanied with this full conviction. To defcribe, in words, the difference between those lively fignatures of memory, which command an unlimited assent, and those fainter traces which raise opinion only, or even doubt, is perhaps impracticable ; but no man stands in need of such assistance to enable him in fa&t to diftinguish them, for the direction of his own judgment and conduct. Some may imagine, that it is from experience we come to know what faith in every case is due to memory. But it will appear more fully afterwards, that unless we had implicitly relied on the distinct and vivid informations of that faculty, we could not have moved a step towards the acquisition of experience. It must, however, be admitted, that experience is of use in affing us to judge concerning the more languid and confused suggestions of memory; or, to speak more properly, concerning the reality of those things, of which we ourselves are doubtful, whether we remember them or not,
In regard to the primary truths of this order, it may be urged, that it cannot be affirmed of them all at least, as it may of the axioms in ma-thematics, or the assurances we have from confciousness, that the denial of them implies ą manifest contradiction. It is, perhaps, physically possible, that the course of nature will be inverted the very next moment; that my me-mory is no other than a delirium, and my life a dream; that all is mere illusion ; that I am the only being in the universe, and that there is no fuch thing as body, Nothing can be juster than the reply given by Buffier, “ It mulț þe owned,” I 3
fays says he*, " that to maintain propofitions, the re“ verse of the primary truths of common sense, “ doth not imply a contradiction, it only im“ plies insanity.” But if any person, on account of this difference in the nature of these two classes of axioms, thould not think the term intuitive fo properly applied to the evidence of the last mentioned, let him denominate it, if he please, instinctive : I have no abjection to the term; nor do I think it derogates in the least from the dignity, the certainty, or the importance of the truths themselves. Such instincts are no other than the oracles af eternal wisdom.
For, let it be observed farther, that axioms of this last kind are as essential to moral rea. soning, to all deductions concerning life and existence, as those of the first kind are to the sciences of arithmetic and geometry. Perhaps it will appear afterwards, that, without the aid of some of them, these sciences themselves would be utterly inaccessible to us. Besides, the mathematical axioms can never extend their influence beyond the precincts of abftract knowledge, in regard to number and extension, or affift us
! Premiéres Véritez, Part I. Chap. 11,
in the discovery of any matter of fact: whereas, with knowledge of the latter kind, the whole conduct and bufiness of human life is principally and intimately connected. All reasoning necessarily supposes that there are certain prin. ciples in which we must acquiesce, and beyond which we cannot go, principles clearly discernible by their own light, which can derive no additional evidence from any thing besides. On the contrary fuppofition, the investigation of truth would be an endless and a fruitless talk ś we should be eternally proving, whilst nothing could ever be proyed; because, by the hypothesis, we could never afcend to premises which require no proof. “ If there be no first truths," says the author lately quoted, “ there can be no “ second truths, nor third, nor indeed any s truth at all*.”
So much for intuitive evidence, in the ex-. tensive meaning which hath here been given to that term, as including every thing whose evidence results from the fimple contemplation of the ideas or perceptions which form the propofition under confideration, and requires not the intervention of any third idea as a medium of
• Ib. Deffein de l'ouvrage.