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for this reason, think it proper to call a man well-read who reads many authors, since he must of necessity have more ill models than good, and be more stuffed with bombast, ill fancy, and wry thought, than filled with solid sense and just imagination.

One would imagine that our philosophical writers, who pretend to treat of morals, should far out-do mere poets in recommending virtue, and representing what was fair and amiable in human actions. One would imagine that, if they turned their eye towards remote countries (of which they affect so much to speak), they should search for that simplicity of manners and innocence of behavior which has been often known among mere savages, ere they were corrupted by our commerce, and, by sad example, instructed in all kinds of treachery and inhumanity. 'T would be of advantage to us to hear the causes of this strange corruption in ourselves, and be made to consider of our deviation from nature, and from that just purity of manners which might be expected, especially from a people so assisted and enlightened by religion. For who would not naturally expect more justice, fidelity, temperance, and honesty from Christians than from Mahometans or mere pagans? But so far are our modern moralists from condemning any unnatural vices or corrupt manners, whether in our own or foreign climates, that they would have vice itself appear as natural as virtue, and from the worst examples would represent to us that all actions are naturally indifferent; that they have no note or character of good or ill in themselves, but are distinguished by mere fashion, law or arbitrary decree. Wonderful philosophy! raised from the dregs of an illiterate, mean kind, which was ever despised among the great ancients, and rejected by all men of action or sound erudition, but in these ages imperfectly copied from the original, and, with much disadvantage, imitated and assumed in common both by devout and indevout attempters in the moral kind.

Should a writer upon music, addressing himself to the students and lovers of the art, declare to them that the measure or rule of harmony was caprice or will, humor or fashion, 'tis not very likely he should be heard with great attention or treated with real gravity. For harmony is harmony by nature, let men judge ever so ridiculously of music. So is symmetry and proportion founded still in nature, let men's fancy prove ever so barbarous, or their fashions ever so Gothic, in their architec

ture, sculpture, or whatever other designing art. 'Tis the same case where life and manners are concerned. Virtue has the same fixed standard. The same numbers, harmony, and proportion will have place in morals, and are discoverable in the characters and affections of mankind; in which are laid the just foundations of an art and science superior to every other of human practice and comprehension. . .




[Berkeley is the only English philosopher of the eighteenth century whose style makes him a figure of importance in literature. In 1710 he had published his Principles of Human Knowledge, setting forth his theory that the universe is purely spiritual, and that the existence of material substance is an unnecessary assumption. It had been much misunderstood, and to answer the arguments of his opponents he made use of the form of the Platonic dialogue in the work here represented. In Hylas (connected with Greek vλŋ, matter) he personifies the belief in material substance; in Philonous (“lover of mind") his own doctrine. The extracts are chiefly from the first dialogue, with a short passage from the second and another from the conclusion of the third.]

Hylas. You were represented in last night's conversation as one who maintained the most extravagant opinion that ever entered into the mind of man, to wit, that there is no such thing as material substance in the world.

Philonous. That there is no such thing as what philosophers call material substance, I am seriously persuaded; but if I were made to see anything absurd or skeptical in this, I should then have the same reason to renounce this that I imagine I have now to reject the contrary opinion.

Hylas. What! Can anything be more fantastical, more repugnant to common sense, or a more manifest piece of skepticism, than to believe there is no such thing as matter?

Philonous. Softly, good Hylas. What if it should prove that you, who hold there is, are by virtue of that opinion a greater skeptic, and maintain more paradoxes and repugnances to common sense, than I who believe no such thing?

Hylas. You may as soon persuade me the part is greater than the whole as that, in order to avoid absurdity and skepticism, I should ever be obliged to give up my opinion in this point.

Philonous. Well, then, are you content to admit that opinion for true which, upon examination, shall appear most agreeable to common sense, and remote from skepticism?

Hylas. With all my heart. Since you are for raising disputes about the plainest things in nature, I am content for once to hear what you have to say.

Philonous. Pray, Hylas, what do you mean by a skeptic? Hylas. I mean what all men mean, one that doubts of everything.

Philonous. He, then, who entertains no doubt concerning some particular point, with regard to that point cannot be thought a skeptic.

Hylas. I agree with you.

Philonous. Whether doth doubting consist in embracing the affirmative or negative side of a question?

Hylas. In neither; for whoever understands English cannot but know that doubting signifies a suspense between both.

Philonous. He, then, that denies any point can no more be said to doubt of it, than he who affirmeth it with the same degree of assurance.

Hylas. True.

Philonous. And, consequently, for such his denial is no more to be esteemed a skeptic than the other.

Hylas. I acknowledge it.

Philonous. How cometh it to pass, then, Hylas, that you pronounce me a skeptic because I deny what you affirm, to wit, the existence of matter? Since, for aught you can tell, I am as peremptory in my denial as you in your affirmation.

Hylas. Hold, Philonous, I have been a little out in my definition; but every false step a man makes in discourse is not to be insisted on. I said, indeed, that a skeptic was one who doubted of everything; but I should have added, or who denies the reality and truth of things.

Philonous. What things? Do you mean the principles and theorems of sciences? But these you know are universal intellectual notions, and consequently independent of matter; the denial therefore of this doth not imply the denying them.

Hylas. I grant it. But are there no other things? What think you of distrusting the senses, of denying the real existence of sensible things, or pretending to know nothing of them? Is not this sufficient to denominate a man a skeptic?

Philonous. Shall we therefore examine which of us it is that denies the reality of sensible things, or professes the greatest

ignorance of them? — since, if I take you rightly, he is to be esteemed the greatest skeptic?

Hylas. That is what I desire.

Philonous. What mean you by sensible things?

Hylas. Those things which are perceived by the senses. Can you imagine that I mean anything else?

Philonous. Pardon me, Hylas, if I am desirous clearly to apprehend your notions, since this may much shorten our inquiry. Suffer me then to ask you this farther question. Are those things only perceived by the senses which are perceived immediately? Or, may those things properly be said to be sensible which are perceived mediately, or not without the intervention of others?

Hylas. I do not sufficiently understand you.

Philonous. In reading a book, what I immediately perceive are the letters, but mediately, or by means of these, are suggested to my mind the notions of God, virtue, truth, etc. Now, that the letters are truly sensible things, or perceived by sense, there is no doubt; but I would know whether you take the things suggested by them to be so too.

Hylas. No, certainly; it were absurd to think God or virtue sensible things, though they may be signified and suggested to the mind by sensible marks, with which they have an arbitrary connection.

Philonous. It seems, then, that by sensible things you mean those only which can be perceived immediately by sense?

Hylas. Right.

Philonous. Doth it not follow from this that, though I see one part of the sky red, and another blue, and that my reason doth thence evidently conclude there must be some cause of that diversity of colors, yet that cause cannot be said to be a sensible thing, or perceived by the sense of seeing?

Hylas. It doth.

Philonous. In like manner, though I hear variety of sounds, yet I cannot be said to hear the causes of those sounds?

Hylas. You cannot.

Philonous. And when by my touch I perceive a thing to be hot and heavy, I cannot say, with any truth or propriety, that I feel the cause of its heat or weight?

Hylas. To prevent any more questions of this kind, I tell you

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