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§ 10. Prejudice.
EVERY one is forward to complain of the prejudices that mislead other men or parties, as if he were free, and had none of his own. This being objected on all sides, it is agreed, that it is a fault and an hinderance to knowledge. What now is the cure? No other but this, that every man should let alone other's prejudices, and examine his own.-Nobody is convinced of his by the accusation of another, he recriminates by the same rule, and is clear. The only way to remove this great cause of ignorance and error out of the world is for every one impartially to examine himself. If others will not deal fairly with their own minds, does that make my errors truths? or ought it to make me in love with them, and willing to impose on myself? If others love cataracts in their eyes, should that hinder me from couching mine as soon as I can? Every one declares against blindness, and yet who almost is not fond of that which dims his sight and keeps the clear light out of his mind, which should lead him into truth and knowledge? False or doubtful positions, relied upon as unquestionable maxims, keep those in the dark from truth who build on them. Such are usually the preju→ dices imbibed from education, party, rever
ence, fashion, interest, & This is the mote which every one sees in his brother's eye, but never regards the beam in his own. For who is there almost that is ever brought fairly to examine his own principles, and see whether they are such as will bear the trial? But yet this should be one of the first things every one should set about, and be scrupulous in, who would rightly conduct his understanding in the search of truth and knowledge.
To those who are willing to get rid of this great hinderance of knowledge (for to such only I write) to those who would shake off this great and dangerous impostor prejudice, who dresses up falsehood in the likeness of truth, and so dexterously hoodwinks men's minds, as to keep them in the dark, with a belief that they are more in the light than any that do not see with their eyes; I shall offer this one mark whereby prejudice may be known. He that is strongly of any opinion, must suppose (unless he be self-condemned) that his persuasion is built upon good grounds; and that his assent is no greater than what the evidence of the truth he holds forces him to; and that they are arguments, and not inclination or fancy, that make him so confident and positive in his tenets. Now, if after all his profession, he cannot bear any opposition to his opinion, it'
he cannot so much as give a patient hearing, much less examine and weigh the arguments on the other side, does he not plainly confess it is prejudice governs him? and it is not the evidence of truth, but some lazy anticipation, some beloved presumption that he desires to rest undisturbed in. For if what he holds be, as he gives out, well fenced with evidence, and he sees it to be true, what need he fear to put it to the proof? If his opinion be settled upon a firm foundation, if the arguments that support it, and have obtained his assent, be clear, good, and convincing, why should he be shy to have it tried whether they be proof or not? He whose assent goes beyond his evidence, owes this excess of his adherence only to prejudice, and does in effect own it, when he refuses to hear what is offered against it; declaring thereby, that it is not evidence he seeks, but the quiet enjoyment of the opinion he is fond of, with a forward condemnation of all that may stand in opposition to it, unheard and unexamined; which, what is it but prejudice? Qui æquum statuerit parte inaudita altera etiamsi aquum statuerit, haud æquus fuerit. He that would acquit himself in this case as a lover of truth, not giving way to any preoccupation or bias that may mislead him, must do two things that are not very common, nor very easy.
§ 11. Indifferency.
FIRST, he must not be in love with any opinion, or wish it to be true, till he knows it to be So, and then he will not need to wish it ; for nothing that is false can deserve our good wishes, nor a desire that it should have the place and force of truth; and yet nothing is more frequent than this. Men are fond of
certain tenets upon no other evidence but respect and custom, and think they must maintain them, or all is gone; though they have never examined the ground they stand on, nor have ever made them out to themselves, or can make them out to others: we should contend earnestly for the truth, but we should first be sure that it is truth, or else we fight against God, who is the God of truth, and do the work of the devil, who is the father and propagator of lies; and our zeal, though ever so warm, will not excuse us, for this is plainly prejudice.
§ 12. Examine.
SECONDLY, he must do that which he will find himself very averse to, as judging the thing unnecessary, or himself incapable of doing it. He must try whether his principles be certainly true, or not, and how far he may safely rely upon them. This, whether fewer
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 i 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