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DEFENCE of Mr. LOCKE'S OPINION
HE candid author of the late effay upon perfonal identity cannot justly be offended with any attempt to explain and vindicate Mr. Locke's hypothefis, if it is carried on in the fame spirit, though it fhould be attended with the overthrow of fome of his own favourite notions; fince he owns that it is of confequence to form right opinions on this point: which was indeed once deemed an important one, how little foever fuch may be regarded now-a-days. I fhall proceed therefore, without farther apology, to fettle the terms of this queftion, and endeavour to ftate it fo as to bring matters to a fhort and clear determination.
Now the word perfon, as is well obferved by Mr. Locke (the diftinguishing excellence of whofe writings confifts in sticking close to the point in hand, and striking out all foreign and impertinent confiderations) is properly a forenfic term, and here to be used in the ftrict forenfic fenfe, denoting fome fuch quality or modification in man as denominates him a moral agent, or an accountable creature; renders him the proper fubject of laws, and a true object of rewards or punishments. When we apply it to any man, we do not treat of him abfolutely, and in grofs; but under a particular relation or precifion: we do not comprehend or concern ourselves about the feveral inherent properties which accompany him in real existence, which go to the making up the whole complex notion of an active and intelligent being; but arbitrarily abstract one fingle quality
or mode from all the reft, and view him under that dif tinct precifion only which points out the idea abovementioned, exclufive of every other idea that may belong to him in any other view, either as fubftance, quality, or mode. And therefore the confideration of this fame quality, or qualification, will not be altered by any others of which he may be poffeffed; but remains the fame whatever he fhall confift of befides: whether his foul be a material or immaterial fubftance, or no fubftance at all, as may appear from examining the import of these pronouns, I, thou, he, &c. [the grammatical meaning of fuch words generally pointing out the true origin of our ideas primarily annexed to them] which both in their original fenfe and common acceptation are purely perfonal terms, and as fuch lead to no farther confideration either of foul or body; nay, fometimes are distinguished from both, as in the following line,
Linquebant dulces animas, aut ægra trahebant
An inquiry after the identity of fuch perfon will be, whether at different times he is, or how he can be, and know himself to be the fame in that refpect, or equally fubjected to the very fame relations and confequent obligations which he was under formerly, and in which he ftill perceives himself to be involved, whenever he reflects upon himself and them. This we fhall find to confift in nothing more, than his becoming fenfible av different times of what he had thought or done before; and being as fully convinced that he then thought or did it, as he now is of his present thoughts, acts, or existence.
Beyond this we neither can, nor need go for evidence in any thing; this, we fhall foon fee, is the clear and only medium through which diftant things can be dif- . covered and compared together; which at the same time fufficiently ascertains and establishes their several natures and realities respectively; so far as they relate to our
See Locke on 1 Cor. xv. 53.
felves and to each other: or if this fhould not be esteemed fufficient to that end, we fhall find, in. the last place, that there is nothing else left for it. This diftinct consciousness of our paft actions, from whence arise all the ideas of merit and demerit, will moft undoubtedly be regarded with the strictest exactness in foro divino; and indeed has its due weight in foro humano, whenever it can be with certainty determined: wherever this appears to be wanting, all judicial proceedings are at an end. How plain foever any criminal act were, the man would now-a-days be acquitted from guilt in the commiffion of it, and discharged from the penalties annexed to fuch fact, could it at the fame time be as plainly made out, that he was incapable of knowing what he did, or is now under a like incapacity of recollecting it. And it would be held a fufficient reafon for fuch acquittal, that the punishment, or perfecution of a creature in thefe circumftances, could not answer the end propofed by fociety in punishment, viz. the prevention of evil, the only end that I know of, which can juftify punishments in any cafe. The reason then why fuch a plea, has usually so small regard paid to it in courts of juftice, is, I apprehend, either the difficulty of having this incapacity proved with the fame clearnefs that the fact itself is eftablished; or the common maxim that.one crime, or criminal indifpofition, is not admiffible in excufe for another; as in cafes of drunkenness, violent paffion, killing or maiming men by mistake when one is engaged in an unlawful purfuit, &c. Or in fome of these cafes perhaps men are punished for the murders, &c. not because they poffibly may be confcious of them, and yet that consciousness not appear; but that fuch evils may be more effectually prevented by ftriking at the remoter cause, i. e. exciting a falutary terrour of thofe confeffedly evil practices and habits, which are often found to terminate in fuch fatal effects. A kind of injuftice is here indeed committed by fociety, which we have no reafon to fuppofe will be admitted in foro divino, and fome worfe instances may be feen in our statute books. By the 23 of Hen. 8. a man becoming lunatic after an act of treason fhall be liable to be arraigned, tried, and executed.
cuted. But Hale* in his P. C. fays, That if a traítor becomes non compos before conviction he shall not be arraigned; if after conviction, he fhall not be executed and Hawkins † obferves the fame concerning those who have committed any capital offences.
In human courts, which cannot always dive into the hearts of men and difcover the true fprings of action, nor confequently weigh the effects and operations of cach in an equal balance; in this ftate of ignorance and uncertainty, fuch a notorious indifpofition as that of drunkenness, v. g. being generally a great fault in itself, is feldom allowed in extenuation of fuch others as are committed under its influence; nor indeed does it, I believe, often produce any new, materially different trains of thinking, or totally obliterate the old ones; but where this is really fo, the Deity would make just abatement for fuch defect or difability, as was at the time both unconquerable and unavoidable; nor can we properly impute actions confequent upon any real diforder of the rational faculties, howfoever that disorder might have been contracted; and therefore all animadverfions upon them must be in vain nor is a man punishable for any thing befide the bare act of contracting fuch diforder, or for the original cause of this disability, how great or durable foever; the dangerous confequences of which he did, or might forefee. As is the cafe in fome other confirmed habits, viz. that of fwearing, &c. which often operate mechanically and unperceived, and in which therefore all the moral turpitude (or what is fo accounted) arising from them, never can reach beyond the fountain-head from whence they are derived, and from which all the effects of thein, naturally, and even neceffarily flow. We must therefore conclude in general, that a perfon's guilt is eftimated according to his past and prefent confcioufnefs of the offence, and of his having been the author of it. Nor is it merely his having forgotten the thing, but his having fo far loft the notion of it out of his mind, that how frequently foever, or in what forcible manner foever, it may
*Hale P. C. 10.
+ Hawk. P. C. c.