Sivut kuvina

disagreement with them is obvious to us; and I have also stated, that as this general search is the immediate office of the faculty of reason, the knowledge thus obtained is called RATIONAL KNOWLEDGE. In many cases we are so fortunate as to hit


intervening ideas whose connection with the one, the other, or both, as in a chain of perfect evidence, is clear and distinct; and in such case, whether the reasoning consist of a single step or of many, as soon as the mind is able to perceive the connection or repugnancy, the agreement or disagreement, of the ideas in question, the degree of rational knowledge hereby obtained becomes equal, or nearly so, to INTUITIon, and is called DEMONSTRATION. If the proofs, or intervening ideas, do not quite amount to this, we have necessarily an inferior degree of rational knowledge, and we distinguish it by the name of belief, ASSENT, or OPINION; and according to the nature of the proofs or intermediate ideas, as decided by the faculty of the judgment, the opinion is rendered INDUBITABLE, PROBABLE, CONJECTURAL, or susPICIOUS. It is upon

this comparison of two ideas, by means of a mediate idea expressed or understood, that most of our moral information or common knowledge would be found to depend, if we were to analyze it. Thus, on going into the street and hearing a man whom I am acquainted with, asking which is the way to London Bridge, I may, perhaps, observe to a by-stander, “ That man ought to know the way." The by-stander immediately compares the two ideas of going to London Bridge, and the man's obligation to know the way, but can find no connection or agreement between them, and, consequently, is igno

[blocks in formation]

rant of what I mean. He applies to me, therefore, for the intermediate idea by the question, “Why so?" and I give it to him by answering, “Because he has repeatedly been the same road before:” and although he does not put the three ideas into the measured form of the schools, which is called a syllogism, every one as regularly passes through his mind, and gives him the same satisfactory information as if they were to assume such order; in which case they would perhaps run as follows:

Every man who goes repeatedly the same road should

know his way;
This man has been repeatedly the same road:
Therefore this man should know his way.

It would be absurd to introduce this part of logical analysis into common discourse : but it is of high use in the closet, as teaching us precision, by compelling us to measure the force and value of every idea and word of which a proposition consists. We are indebted to Aristotle for its invention; and though it was at one time carried to an absurd excess, it has of late years been far too generally discontinued.

The connective or intermediate idea is not always expressed either in speaking or writing; and hence is not always obvious to the hearer or reader, though it is, or ought to be, so to the framer of the argument. Let me exercise the ingenuity of the audience before me by throwing out, as a trial, the following well-known sentiment of Mr. Pope:

Who governs freemen should himself be free.

Here are two distinct propositions ; and Dr. Johnson, not immediately perceiving their agreement, nor immediately hitting upon any intervening idea or proposition by which they might be united, declared the whole to be a riddle, and that the poet might just as well have written,

Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat.

Had Johnson, however, lived in our own day, and turned his attention to the Continent, it would have been a riddle to him no longer; for he would have called to mind, as I doubt not every one before me has done already, the mischief that has happened to many a free people on the Continent, from the unfortunate want of freedom in the sovereign who is placed over them, and his being under the detestable control of one of the worst, and, unluckily, one of the most universal, tyrants the world has ever witnessed. * He would have been, as every one before me must be, at once prepared to have connected the two ideas of free men, and the propriety of their being governed by a free sovereign, by means of a third or intervening idea to this effect, that otherwise the people themselves might run no small risk of having their freedom destroyed by foreign force; the whole of which might assume the following appearance if reduced to the form of a syllogism :Who governs freemen should be able to maintain their

freedom; But he who is not free himself is not able to maintain their


This lecture was delivered in

* Napoleon Bonaparte. 1814.


Who governs freemen should himself be free.

PROPER OG REAL KNOWLEDGE, then, is of two kinds or degrees, intuition and DEMONSTRATION ; below which, all the information we possess is imperfect knowledge or OPINION. Mr. Locke, nevertheless, out of courtesy to the Cartesian hypothesis, rather than from any other cause, makes proper or real knowledge to consist of three degrees, placing sensible knowledge, or that obtained by an exercise of the external senses, below the two degrees of intuition and demonstration, though above the authority of opinion. In most instances, however, the ideas we obtain from the senses are as clear and as identical as those obtained from any other source ; and in all such cases the knowledge they produce is self-evident or intuitive. And although, at times, the idea excited by a single sense may not be perfectly clear, yet, as we usually correct it, or destroy the doubt which accompanies it, by having recourse to another sense, which furnishes us with the proof or intermediate idea, the knowledge obtained, even in these cases, though not amounting to intuition, is of the nature of demonstration : whence all sensible knowledge (the organs of sense being in themselves perfect, and the objects fully within their scope,) falls, if I mistake not, under the one or the other of these two divisions.

DEMONSTRATIVE KNOWLEDGE, where the intervening proofs or ideas perform their part perfectly, approaches, as I have already observed, to the certainty of intuition. But it has generally been held


that this kind of demonstration can only take place in the science of mathematics, or, in other words, in ideas of number, extension, and figure. I coincide, however, completely with Mr. Locke, in believing that the knowledge afforded by physics may not unfrequently be as certain. I have already stated that the knowledge we possess of our own existence is

Our knowledge of the existence of a God is, on the contrary, DEMONSTRATIVE. Examine, then, the proofs of this latter knowledge, and see whether it be less certain. Am I asked where proofs to this effect are to be found ? On every side they press upon us in clusters.— I cannot, indeed, follow them up at the present moment, for it would require a folio volume instead of the close of a single lecture; and I merely throw out the hint that you may pursue it at home. But this I may venture to say, that whatever cluster we take, it will develope to us a certain proof, and, in its separate value, fall but little short of the force of self-evidence. If I ascend into heaven, he is there; in peerless splendour, in ineffable majesty; diffusing, from an inexhaustible fountain, the mighty tide of light, and life, and love, from world to world, and from system to system. If I descend into the grave, he is there also ; still actively and manifestly employed in the same benevolent pursuit; still, though in a different manner, promoting the calm but unceasing career of vitality and happiness; harmoniously leading on the silent circle of decomposition and re-organization; fructifying the cold and gloomy regions of the tomb; rendering death itself the mysterious source of reproduction and new existence ; and thus literally making the “ dry bones live," and the “dead sing praises” to his name. If

« EdellinenJatka »