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have the heart or the skill to do, I shall not determine ; but this, I am sure, is that which every one ought to do, who professes to love truth, and would not impose upon himself which is a surer way to be made a fool of than by being exposed to the sophistry of others. The disposition to put any cheat upon ourselves works constantly, and we are pleased with it, but are impatient of being bantered or misled by others. The inability I here speak of is not any natural defect that makes men incapable of examining their own principles. To such, rules of conducting their understandings are useless; and that is the case of very few. The great number is of those whom the ill habit of never exerting their thoughts has disabled; the powers of their minds are starved by disuse, and have lost that reach and strength which nature fitted them to receive from exercise. Those who are in a condition to learn the first rules of plain arithmetic, and could be brought to cast up an ordinary sum, are capable of this, if they had but accustomed their minds to reasoning but they that have wholly neglected the exercise of their understandings in this way, will be very far, at first, from being able to do it, and as unfit for it as one unpractised in figures to cast up a shop-book, and, perhaps, think it as strange to be set about it. And yet it must nevertheless be
confessed to be a wrong use of our understandings, to build our tenets (in things where we are concerned to hold the truth) upon principles that may lead us into error.
our principles at hap-hazard, upon trust, and without ever having examined them, and then believe a whole system, upon a presumption that they are true and solid; and what is all this, but childish, shameful, senseless credulity?
In these two things, viz. an equal indifferency for all truth; I mean the receiving it, the love of it, as truth, but not loving it for any other reason, before we know it to be true; and in the examination of our principles, and not receiving any for such, nor building on them, til we are fully convinced, as rational creatures, of their solidity, truth, and certainty; consists that freedom of the understanding which is necessary to a rational creature, and without which it is not truly an understanding. It is conceit, fancy, extravagance, any thing rather than understanding, if it must be under the constraint of receiving and holding opinions by the authority of any thing but their own, not fancied, but perceived, evidence. This was rightly called imposition, and is of all other the worst and most dangerous sort of it. For we impose upon ourselves, which is the strongest imposition of all others; and we
impose upon ourselves in that part which ought with the greatest care to be kept free from all imposition. The world is apt to cast great blame on those who have an indifferency for opinions, especially in religion. I fear this is the foundation of great error and worse consequences. To be indifferent which of two opinions is true, is the right temper of the mind that preserves it from being imposed on, and disposes it to examine with that indifferency, till it has done its best to find the truth, and this is the only direct and safe way to it. But to be indifferent whether we embrace falsehood or truth, is the great road to error. Those who are not indifferent which opinion is true, are guilty of this; they suppose without examining, that what they hold is true, and they think they ought to be zealous for it. Those, it is plain by their warmth and eagerness, are not indifferent for their own opinions, but methinks are very indifferent whether they be true or false; since they cannot endure to have any doubts raised, or objections made against them; and it is visible they never have made any themselves, and so, never having examined, know not, nor are concerned, as they should be, to know whether they be true or false.
These are the common and most general miscarriages which I think men should avoid, or rectify, in a right conduct of their under
standings, and should be particularly taken care of in education. The business whereof, in respect of knowledge, is not, as I think, to perfect a learner in all or any one of the sciences, but to give his mind that freedom, that disposition, and those habits, that may enable him to attain any part of knowledge he shall apply himself to, or stand in need of in the future course of his life.
This, and this only, is well principling, and not the instilling a reverence and veneration for certain dogmas, under the specious title of principles, which are often so remote from that truth and evidence which belongs to principles, that they ought to be rejected, as false and erroneous; and often cause men so educated, when they come abroad into the world, and find they cannot maintain the principles so taken up and rested in, to cast off all principles, and turn perfect skeptics, regardless of knowledge and virtue.
There are several weaknesses and defects in the understanding, either from the natural temper of the mind, or ill habits taken up, which hinder it in its progress to knowledge. Of these, there are as many, possibly, to be found, if the mind were thoroughly studied, as there are diseases of the body, each whereof clogs and disables the understanding to some degree, and therefore deserves to be looked after and cured I shall set down some few
to excite men, especially those who make knowledge their business, to look into them→ selves, and observe whether they do not indulge some weaknesses, allow some miscarriages in the management of their intellectua! faculty, which is prejudicial to them in the search of truth.
§ 13. Observations
PARTICULAR matters of fact are the undoubted foundations on which our civil and natural knowledge is built the benefit the understanding makes of them is to draw from them conclusions, which may be as standing rules of knowledge, and consequently of practice. The mind often makes not that benefit it should of the information it receives from the accounts of civil or natural historians, by being too forward or too slow in making observations on the particular facts recorded in them.
There are those who are very assiduous, in reading, and yet do not much advance their knowledge by it. They are delighted with the stories that are told, and perhaps can tell them again, for they make all they read nothing but history to themselves; but not reflecting on it, not making to themselves observations from what they read, they are very little improved by all that crowd of