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ticulars, that either pass through, or lodge themfelves in their understandings. They dream on in a conftant course of reading and cramming themselves; but not digesting any thing, it produces nothing but an heap of crudities.
If their memories retain well, one may fay, they have the materials of knowledge; but, like those for building, they are of no advantage, if there be no other ufe made of them but to let them lie heaped up together. Oppofite to thefe, there are others who lofe the improvement they should make of matters of fact by a quite contrary conduct. They are apt to draw general conclufions, and raise axioms from every particular they meet with. These make as little true benefit of history as the other; nay, being of forward and active spirits, receive more harm by it; it being of worfe confequence to steer one's thoughts by a wrong rule, than to have none at all; errour doing to bufy men much more harm, than ignorance to the flow and fluggish. Between these, those seem to do beft, who taking material and useful hints, fometimes from fingle matters of fact, carry them in their minds to be judged of, by what they fhall find in hiftory, to confirm or reverfe thefe imperfect obfervations; which may be established into rules fit to be relied on, when they are juftified by a fufficient and wary induction of particulars. He that makes no fuch reflections on what he reads, only loads his mind with a rhapfody of tales, fit, in winter-nights, for the entertainment of others: and he that will improve every matter of fact into a maxim, will abound in contrary obfervations, that can be of no other ufe but to perplex and pudder him, if he compares them; or elfe to mifguide him, if he gives himself up to the authority of that, which for its novelty, or for fome other fancy, best pleases him.
§. 14. Next to thefe, we may place those who fuffer their own natural tempers and paffions they are poffeffed with, to influence their judgments, efpecially of men and things, that may any way relate to their prefent circumftances and intereft. Truth is all fimple, all pure, will bear no mixture of any thing
elfe with it. It is rigid and inflexible to any bye interefts; and fo fhould the understanding be, whofe ufe and excellency lies in conforming itself to it. To think of every thing just as it is in itself, is the proper bufinefs of the understanding, though it be not that which men always imploy it to. This all men, at first hearing, allow, is the right ufe every one should make of his understanding. Nobody will be at fuch an open defiance with common fense, as to profess that we should not endeavour to know, and think of things as they are in themselves; and yet there is nothing more frequent than to do the contrary; and men are apt to excuse themselves; and think they have reason to do so, if they have but a pretence that it is for God, or a good caufe: that is, in effect, for themselves, their own perfuafion, or party for those in their turns the feveral fects of men, especially in matters of religion, entitle God and a good caufe. But God requires not men to wrong or misuse their faculties for him, nor to lye to others, or themselves, for his fake; which they purposely do, who will not fuffer their understandings to have right conceptions of the things proposed to them, and defignedly reftrain themselves from having just thoughts of every thing, as far as they are concerned to inquire. And as for a good caufe, that needs not such ill helps; if it be good, truth will fupport it, and it has no need of fallacy or falfhood.
§. 15. Very much of kin to this, is the hunting after arguments to make good one fide of a question, and wholly to neglect and refufe thofe which favour the other fide. What is this but wilfully to rifguide the understanding, and is fo far from giving truth its due value, that it wholly debafes it: espouse opinions that beft comport with their power, profit, or credit, and then feek arguments to fupport them? Truth light upon this way, us than eris of no more avail to rour; for what is fo taken up by us may be false as well as true, and he has not done his duty who has thus ftumbled upon truth in his way to preferment.
There is another, but more innocent way of collecting arguments, very familiar among bookish men, which
is to furnish themselves with the arguments they meet with pro and con in the queftions they ftudy. This helps them not to judge right, nor argue ftrongly, but only to talk copiously on either fide, without being steady and fettled in their own judgments: For fuch arguments gathered from other men's thoughts, floating only in the memory, are there ready, indeed, to fupply copious talk with fome appearance of reafon, but are far from helping us to judge right. Such variety of arguments only distract the understanding that relies on them, unless it has gone farther than fuch a fuperficial way of examining; this is to quit truth for appearance, only to ferve our vanity. The fure and only way to get true knowledge, is to form in our minds clear fettled notions of things, with names annexed to thofe determined ideas. These we are to confider, with their several relations and habitudes, and not amufe ourselves with floating names, and words of indetermined fignification, which we can use in several fenfes to ferve a turn. It is in the perception of the habitudes and respects our ideas have one to another, that real knowledge confifts; and when a man once perceives how far they agree or difagree one with another, he will be able to judge of what other people fay, and will not need to be led by the arguments of others, which are many of them nothing but plaufible fophiftry. This will teach him to ftate the queftion right, and fee whereon it turns; and thus he will stand upon his own legs, and know by his own understanding. Whereas by collecting and learning arguments by heart, he will be but a retainer to others; and when any one queftions the foundations they are built upon, he will be at a nonplus, and be fain to give up his implicit knowledge.
§. 16. Labour for labour-fake is against nature. The understanding, as well as all the other faculties, choofes always the shortest way to its end, would prefently obtain the knowledge it is about, and then fet upon fome new inquiry. But this, whether laziness or hafte, often misleads it, and makes it content itself with improper ways of fearch, and fuch as will not ferve the turn: fometimes it refts upon testimony,
timony, when teftimony of right has nothing to do, because it is easier to believe than to be fcientifically inftructed: fometimes it contents itself with one argument, and refts fatisfied with that, as it were a demonftration, whereas the thing under proof is not capable of demonftration, and therefore must be fubmitted to the trial of probabilities, and all the material arguments pro and con be examined and brought to a balance. In fome cafes the mind is determined by probable topics in inquiries where demonftration may be had. All these, and several others, which laziness, impatience, custom, and want of use and attention lead men into, are misapplications of the understanding in the fearch of truth. In every question the nature and manner of the proof it is capable of fhould be confidered, to make our inquiry fuch as it fhould be. This would fave a great deal of frequently mifemployed pains, and lead us fooner to that discovery and poffeffion of truth we are capable of. The multiplying variety of arguments, especially frivolous ones, fuch as are all that are merely verbal, is not only loft labour, but cumbers the memory to no purpose, and ferves only to hinder it from feizing and holding of the truth in all those cafes which are capable of demonstration. In fuch a way of proof the truth and certainty is feen, and the mind fully poffeffes itself of it; when in the other way of affent it only hovers about it, is amused with uncertainties. In this fuperficial way, indeed, the mind is capable of more variety of plaufible talk, but is not enlarged, as it should be, in its knowledge. It is to this fame hafte and impatience of the mind alfo, that a not due tracing of the arguments to their true foundation is owing; men fee a little, prefume a great deal, and fo jump to the conclufion. This is a fhort way to fancy and conceit, and (if firmly embraced) to opinionatry, but is certainly the farthest way about to knowledge. For he that will know, must by the connexion of the proofs fee the truth, and the ground it stands on; and therefore, if he has for hafte skipt over what he should have examined, he must begin and over all again, or else he will never come to knowledge. VOL. II.
§. 17. Another fault of as ill confequence
Defultory. as this, which proceeds alfo from laziness, with a mixture of vanity, is the fkipping from one fort of knowledge to another. Some men's tempers are quickly weary of any one thing. Conftancy and affiduity is what they cannot bear: the fame ftudy long continued in, is as intolerable to them, as the appearing long in the fame clothes, or fashion, is to a courtlady.
Smattering. §. 18. Others, that they may feem univerfally knowing, get a little fmattering in every thing. Both thefe may fill their heads with fuperficial notions of things, but are very much out of the way of attaining truth or knowledge.
Univerfality. §. 19. I do not here fpeak against the taking a taste of every fort of knowledge; it is certainly very ufeful and neceffary to form the mind; but then it must be done in a different way, and to a different end. Not for talk and vanity to fill the head with fhreds of all kinds, that he who is poffeffed of fuch a frippery, may be able to match the difcourfes of all he fhall meet with, as if nothing could come amifs to him; and his head was fo well ftored a magazine, that nothing could be propofed which he was not mafter of, and was readily furnished to entertain any one on. This is an excellency, indeed, and a great one too, to have a real and true knowledge in all, or most of the objects of contemplation. But it is what the mind of one and the fame man can hardly attain unto; and the inftances are fo few of thofe who have, in any meafure, approached towards it, that I know not whether they are to be propofed as examples in the ordinary conduct of the understanding. For a man to understand fully. the bufinefs of his particular calling in the commonwealth, and of religion, which is his calling as he is a man in the world, is ufually enough to take up his whole time; and there are few that inform themfelves in thefe, which is every man's proper and peculiar business, so to the bottom as they fhould do. But though this be fo, and there are very few men that extend their thoughts towards univerfal knowledge; yet I do not doubt, but