Infomotions, Inc.A Letter From A Gentleman To His Friend In Edinburgh / Hume, David



Author: Hume, David
Title: A Letter From A Gentleman To His Friend In Edinburgh
Publisher: Unknown. (Ask Eric.)
Tag(s): atheism; hume; deity; betwixt; proposition; scepticism; edinburgh; specimen; principles; existence; philosophy; perceptions; justice; principle; arguments; argument; philosophers; moral; opinion; western philosophy
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   Copyright 1995, James Fieser (jfieser@utm.edu). See end note for
   details on copyright and editing conventions. This is a working draft;
   please report errors.1

   Editor's note: In 1744-1745 Hume was a candidate for the Chair of
   Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. The position was to
   be vacated by John Pringle, and the leading candidates were Hume and
   William Cleghorn. The Edinburgh Town Council was responsible for
   electing a replacement; consequently, politics was a key factor in the
   decision. Loyalties were drawn chiefly along the two key political
   party lines: the Argathelians (Hume's party), and the Squadrones
   (Cleghorn's party). Pringle, a Squadrone, procrastinated in stepping
   down, thus allowing the Squadrones to unify their opposition to Hume
   by condemning his anti-religious writings. Chief among the religious
   critics was clergyman William Wishart (d. 1752), the Principal of the
   University of Edinburgh. Although Wishart was an Argathelian, his
   dislike of Hume's philosophy rose above political allegiance; it is
   also relevant that Wishart too sought the position for which Hume was
   applying. Lists of allegedly dangerous propositions from Hume's
   Treatise circulated, presumably penned by Wishart. In the face of such
   strong opposition, Hume's Argathelian support weakened. The religious
   dimension of the competition also compelled the Edinburgh Town Council
   to consult the Edinburgh ministers. Hoping to win over the clergy,
   Hume composed a point by point reply to the circulating lists of
   dangerous propositions. This was sent to Henry Home, and published as
   A Letter from a Gentleman to his Friend in Edinburgh. The clergy were
   not dissuaded, and 12 of the 15 ministers voted against Hume. Hume
   quickly withdrew his candidacy. A month later Hume reflected in a
   letter that the matter of his vocational opportunities "was brought to
   an issue, and by the cabals of the Principal [i.e. Wishart], the
   bigotry of the clergy, and the credulity of the mob, we lost it." In
   1751-1752 Hume sought a philosophy chair at the University of Glasgow,
   and was again unsuccessful. Hume's lesson, perhaps, was to seek civil
   employment through his Argathelian supporters, rather than academic
   employment. The following is from the 1745 edition of A Letter from a
   Gentleman.

   ---------------------------------------------------------------------

   A LETTER FROM A GENTLEMAN TO

           HIS FRIEND IN Edinburgh:

           CONTAINING

           Some OBSERVATIONS ON

     A Specimen of the Principles concerning RELIGION and MORALITY,
     said to be maintain'd in a Book lately publish'd, intituled, A
     Treatise of Human Nature, &c.

   EDINBURGH,

           Printed in the year M.DCC.XLV.

   ---------------------------------------------------------------------

   {3}

   SIR,

   I Have read over the Specimen of the Principles concerning Religion
   and Morality, said to be maintain'd in a Book lately published,
   intituled, A Treatise of Human Nature; being an Attempt to introduce
   the Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects. I have also
   read over what is called the Sum of the Charge. Which Papers, as you
   inform me, have been industriously spread about, and were put into
   your hands some few Days ago.

           I was perswaded that the Clamour of Scepticism, Atheism, &c.
           had been so often employ'd by the worst of Men against the
           best, that it had now lost all its Influence; and should never
           have thought of making any Remarks on these maim'd Excerpts,
           if you had not laid your Commands on me, as a piece of common
           Justice to the Author, and for undeceiving some well-meaning
           People, on whom it seems the enormous Charge has made
           Impression. {4}

           I shall insert the Accusation at full Length, and then go
           regularly through what is called the Sum of the Charge;
           because it is intended, I suppose, to contain the Substance of
           the whole. I shall also take notice of the Specimen as I go
           along.

   Specimen of the Principles concerning Religion and Morality, &c.

   THE Author puts on his Title-page (Vol. I printed for J. Noon, 1739) a
   Passage of Tacitus to this Purpose; "Rare Happiness of our Times, that
   you may think as you will, and speak as you think."

           He expresses his Deference to the Publick in these Words
           (Advertisement, p. 2.) The Approbation of the Publick I
           consider as the greatest Reward of my Labours; but am
           determined to regard its Judgment, whatever it be, as my best
           Instruction."

           He gives us the summary View of his Philosophy from p. 458. to
           470. --

           "I am confounded with that forlorn Solitude, in which I am
           placed in my Philosophy. {5} -- I have exposed myself to the
           Enmity of all Metaphysicians, Logicians, Mathematicians, and
           even Theologians. -- I have declared my Disapprobations of
           their Systems. -- When I turn my Eye inward, I find nothing
           but Doubt and Ignorance. All the World conspires to oppose and
           contradict me; tho' such is my Weakness, that I feel all my
           Opinions loosen and fall of themselves, when unsupported by
           the Approbation of others. -- Can I be sure, that, in leaving
           all established Opinions, I am following Truth? and by what
           Criterion shall I distinguish her, even if Fortune should at
           last guide me on her Footsteps? After the most accurate and
           exact of my Reasonings, I can give no Reason why I should
           assent to it; and feel nothing but a strong Propensity to
           consider Objects strongly in that View under which they appear
           to me. -- The Memory, Senses, and Understanding, are all of
           them founded on the Imagination. -- No Wonder a Principle so
           inconstant and fallacious should lead us into Errors, when
           implicitely followed (as it must be) in all its Variations. --
           I have already shown, that the Understanding, when it acts
           alone, and according to its most general Principles, entirely
           subverts itself, and leaves {6} not the lowest Degree of
           Evidence in any Proposition either in Philosophy or common
           Life. -- We have no Choice left, but betwixt a false Reason
           and none at all. -- Where am I, or what? From what Causes do I
           derive my Existence, and to what Condition shall I return?
           Whose Favour shall I court, and whose Anger must I dread? What
           Beings surround me? On whom have I any Influence, or who have
           any Influence on me? I am confounded with all these Questions,
           and begin to fancy myself in the most deplorable Condition
           imaginable, invironed with the deepest Darkness, and utterly
           deprived of the Use of every Member and Faculty. -- If I must
           be a Fool, as all those who reason or believe any Thing
           certainly are, my Follies shall at least be natural and
           agreeable. -- In all the Incidents of Life, we ought still to
           preserve our Scepticism: If we believe that Fire warms, or
           Water refreshes, 'tis only because it costs us too much Pains
           to think otherwise; nay, if we are Philosophers, it ought only
           to be upon sceptical Principles. -- I cannot forbear having a
           Curiosity to be acquainted with the Principles of moral Good
           and Evil, &c. I am concerned for he Condition of the learned
           World, which lies under such a deplorable {7} Ignorance in all
           these Particulars. I feel an Ambition arise in me of
           contributing to the Instruction of Mankind, and of acquiring a
           Name by my Inventions and Discoveries. -- Should I endeavour
           to banish these Sentiments, I feel I should be a Loser in
           point of Pleasure; and this is the Origin of my Philosophy."

           Agreeable to this summary View, he tells us, p. 123.

             "Let us fix our Attention out of ourselves as much as
             possible. -- We really never advance a Step beyond
             ourselves; nor can conceive any Kind of Existence, but
             these Perceptions which have appeared in that narrow
             Compass: This is the Universe of the Imagination, nor have
             we any Idea but what is there produced."

   Accordingly,

     "An Opinion or Belief may be most accurately defined, A lively
     Idea related or associated with a present Impression; and is more
     properly an Act of the sensitive than of the cognitive Part of our
     Natures."

   And,

     "Belief in general consists in nothing but the Vivacity of an
     Idea. Again, the Idea of Existence is the very same with the Idea
     of what we conceive to be existent. -- Any Idea we please to form
     is the Idea of a Being; and the Idea of a Being is any Idea we
     please to form. And as to the {8} Notion of an external Existence,
     when taken for something specifically different from our
     Perceptions, we have shown its absurdity: And what we call a Mind
     is nothing but a Heap or Collection of different Perceptions
     united together by certain Relations, and supposed, tho' falsly,
     to be endowed with a perfect Simplicity."

   And,

     "The only Existence, of which we are certain, are Perceptions.
     When I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always
     stumble on some particular Perception or other. -- I never can
     catch myself at any Time without a Perception, and never can
     observe any Thing but the Perception. -- If any one think he has a
     different Notion of himself, I must confess I can reason no longer
     with him. -- I may venture to affirm of the rest of Mankind, that
     they are nothing but a Bundle of Perceptions, which succeed each
     other with an inconceivable Rapidity, and are in a perpetual Flux
     and Movement." --

   And lest the Reader should forget to apply all this to the Supreme
   Mind, and the Existence of the First Cause, he has a long Disquisition
   concerning Causes and Effects, the Sum of which amounts to this, That
   all our Reasoning concerning Causes and Effects are derived from
   nothing but Custom: That {9}

     "if any pretend to define a Cause by saying it is something
     productive of another, 'tis evident he would say nothing; for what
     does he mean by Production? That we may define a Cause to be an
     Object precedent and contiguous to another, and where all the
     Objects resembling the former are placed in like Relations of
     Precedency and Contiguity to these Objects that resemble the
     latter; or, a Cause is an Object precedent and contiguous to
     another, and so united with it, that the Idea of the one
     determines the Mind to form the Idea of the other, and the
     Impression of the one to form a more lively Idea of the other."

   From these clear and plain Definitions he infers,

     "That all Causes are of the same Kind; and there is no Foundation
     for the Distinction betwixt efficient Causes, and Causes sine qua
     non; or betwixt efficient Causes, and formal and material, and
     exemplary, and final Causes: And that there is but one Kind of
     Necessity, and the common Distinction betwixt Moral and Physical
     is without any Foundation in Nature: And that the Distinction we
     often make betwixt Power, and the Exercise of it, is equally
     without Foundation: And that the Necessity of a Cause to every
     Beginning of Existence, is not founded on any Arguments
     demonstrative {10} or intuitive: And in fine, That any Thing may
     produce any Thing; Creation, Annihilation, Motion, Reason,
     Volition; all these may arise from one another, or from any other
     Object we can imagine."

   The curious Nostrum he often repeats, p. 430, 434. Again he tells us,

     "That when we talk of any Being, whether of a Superior or Inferior
     Nature, as endowed with a Power or Force proportioned to any
     Effect, -- We have really no distinct Meaning, and make use only
     of common Words, without any clear and determinate Ideas. And if
     we have really no Idea of Power or Efficacy in any Object, or of
     any real connection betwixt Causes and Effects, 'twill be to
     little Purpose to prove that an Efficacy is necessary in all
     Operations. We do not understand our own Meaning in talking so,
     but ignorantly confound Ideas which are intirely distinct from
     each other."

   Again he says,

     "The Efficacy or Energy of Causes is neither placed in the Causes
     is neither placed in the Causes themselves, nor in the Deity, nor
     in the Concurrence of these two Principles, but belongs entirely
     to the Soul (or the Bundle of Perceptions) which considers the
     Union of two or more Objects in all past Instances: 'Tis here that
     the real Power of Causes is {11} placed, along with their
     Connection and Necessity. And in fine, we may observe a
     Conjunction or a Relation of Cause and Effect between different
     Perceptions, but can never observe it between Perceptions and
     Objects."

   'Tis impossible therefore, that, from the Existence or any of the
   Qualities of the former, we can ever form any Conclusion concerning
   the Existence of the latter, or ever satisfy our Reason in this
   Particular with regard to the Existence of a Supreme Being. 'Tis well
   known that this Principle, Whatever begins to exist must have a Cause
   of Existence, is the first Step in the Argument for the Being of a
   Supreme Cause; and that, without it, 'tis impossible to go one Step
   further in that Argument. Now this Maxim he is at great Pains from
   p.141. to explode, and to show, "That it is neither intuitively nor
   demonstratively certain;" and he says,

     "Reason can never satisfy us that the Existence of any Object does
     ever imply that of another. So that, when we pass from the
     Impression of one to the Idea and Belief of another, we are not
     determined by Reason, but by Custom."

   In a marginal Note on the preceeding Page he says,

     "In that Proposition, God is, or indeed any other which regards
     Existence, the Idea of Existence is no distinct Idea {12} which we
     unite with that of the Object, and which is capable of forming a
     compound Idea by the Union."

   Concerning this Principle, That the Deity is the prime Mover of the
   Universe, who first created Matter, and gave its original Impulse, and
   likewise supports its Existence, and successively bestows on it its
   Motions; he says,

     "This Opinion is certainly very curious, but it will appear
     superfluous to examine it in this Place. --For, if the very Idea
     be derived from an Impression, the Idea of a Deity proceeds from
     the same Origin; and, if no Impression implies any Force or
     Efficacy, 'tis equally impossible to discover, or even imagine,
     any such active Principle in the Deity. --Since Philosophers
     therefore have concluded, that Matter cannot be endowed with any
     efficacious Principle, because it is impossible to discover in it
     such a Principle; the same Course of Reasoning should determine
     them to exclude it from the Supreme Being: Or if they esteem that
     Opinion absurd and impious, as it really is, I shall tell them how
     they may avoid it, and that is, by concluding from the very first,
     that they have no adequate Idea of Power of Efficacy in any
     Object; since neither in Body nor Spirit, neither in Superior nor
     {13} Inferior Natures, are they able to discover one single
     Instance of it."

   And says he, "We have no Idea of a Being endowed with any Power, much
   less of one endowed with any infinite Power."

           Concerning the Immateriality of the Soul (from which the
           Argument is taken for its natural Immortality, or that it
           cannot perish by Dissolution as the Body) he says,

             "We certainly may conclude that Motion may be and actually
             is the Cause of Thought and Perception: And no wonder, for
             any Thing may be the Cause or Effect of any Thing; which
             evidently gives the Advantage to the Materialists above
             their Adversaries."

   But yet more plainly,

     "I assert, says he, that the Doctrine of the Immateriality,
     Simplicity, and Indivisibility of a thinking Substance, is a true
     Atheism, and will serve to justify all these Sentiments for which
     Spinoza is so universally infamous."

   This hideous Hypothesis is almost the same with that of the
   Immateriality of the Soul, which has become so popular. And again he
   endeavours to prove, that all the Absurdities which have been found in
   the Systems of Spinoza, may likewise be discovered in that of the
   Theologians: And concludes, that

     "We cannot advance one Step towards the establishing the
     Simplicity and Immateriality {14} of the Soul, without preparing
     the Way for a dangerous and irrecoverable Atheism."

           The Author's Sentiments in Morality we have in Vol. 3. printed
           for T. Longman, 1740. He there tells us, that

             "Reason has no Influence on our Passions and Actions:
             Actions may be laudable or blameable, but they cannot be
             reasonable or unreasonable. That all Beings in the
             Universe, considered in themselves, appear entirely loose
             and independent of each other; 'Tis only by Experience we
             learn their Influence and Connection, and this Influence
             we ought never to extend beyond Experience."

           He takes great Pains to prove, from p.37. That Justice is not
           a natural, but an artificial Virtue; and gives one pretty odd
           Reason for it:

             "We may conclude, that the Laws of Justice, being
             universal and perfectly inflexible, can never be derived
             from Nature. I suppose (says he) a Person to have lent me
             a Sum of Money, on Condition that it be restored in a few
             Days; and also suppose, that, after Expiration of the Term
             agreed on, he demands the Sum: I ask, What Reason or
             Motive have I to restore the Money? Publick Interest is
             not naturally attach'd to the Observation of the Rules of
             Justice, but {15} is only connected with it, after an
             artificial Convention, for Establishment of these Rules.
             Unless we will allow that Nature has established a
             Sophistry, and rendered it necessary and unavoidable; we
             must allow that the Sense of Justice and Injustice is not
             derived from Nature, but arises artificially, tho'
             necessarily, from Education and human Conventions. Here is
             a Proposition which I think may be regarded as certain,
             That it is only from the Selfishness and confined
             Generosity of Men, along with the scanty Provision Nature
             has made for his Wants, that Justice derives its Origin.
             These Impressions, which give Rise to this Sense of
             Justice, are not natural to the Mind of Man, but arise
             from Artifice and human Conventions. Without such a
             Convention, no one would ever have dreamed that there was
             such a Virtue as Justice, or have been induced to conform
             his Actions to it. Taking any single Act, my Justice may
             be pernicious in every Respect: And 'tis only upon the
             Supposition that others are to imitate my Example, that I
             can be induced to embrace that Virtue; since nothing but
             the Combination can render Justice advantageous, or afford
             me any Motive to conform myself to its Rules. {16} And in
             general it may be affirmed, that there is no such Passion
             in human Minds, as the Love of Mankind merely as such,
             independent of personal Qualities, of Service or of
             Relation to ourself."

           Mr. Hobbs, who was at Pains to shake loose all other natural
           Obligations, yet found it necessary to leave, or pretended to
           leave, the Obligation of Promises or Pactions; but our Author
           strikes a bolder Stroke:

             "That the Rule of Morality (says he) which enjoins the
             Performance of Promises, is not natural, will sufficiently
             appear from these two Propositions, which I proceed to
             prove, viz. That a Promise would not be intelligible
             before humans Conventions had established it; and that,
             even if it were intelligible, it would not be attended
             with any moral Obligation."

   And he concludes, "That Promises impose no natural Obligation." And,
   p.115.

     "I shall further observe, That since every new Promise imposes a
     new Obligation of Morality upon the Person who promises, and since
     this new Obligation arises from his Will, it is one of the most
     mysterious and incomprehensible Operations that can possible be
     imagined, and may even be compared to Transubstantiation or Holy
     Orders, where a certain Form of Words, along with a {17} certain
     Intention, changes entirely the Nature of an external Object, and
     even of a human Creature. In fine (says he) as Force is supposed
     to invalidate all Contracts, such a Principle is a Proof that
     Promises have no natural Obligation, and are mere artificial
     Contrivances, for the Conveniency and Advantage of Society."

   Sum of the Charge.

           From the preceeding Specimen it will appear, that the Author
           maintains,

           1. Universal Scepticism. See his Assertions, p.458, --470.
           where he doubts of every Thing (his own Existence excepted)
           and maintains the Folly of pretending to believe any Thing
           with Certainty.

           2. Principles leading to downright Atheism, by denying the
           Doctrine of Causes and Effects, p.321, 138, 298, 300, 301,
           303, 430, 434, 284. where he maintains, that the Necessity of
           a Cause to every Beginning of Existence is not founded on any
           Arguments demonstrative or intuitive.

           3. Errors concerning the very Being and Existence of a God.
           For Instance, Marginal Note, p.172. as to that Proposition,
           God is, he says (or indeed as to any other Thing which regards
           Existence)

             "The Idea {18} of Existence is no distinct Idea which we
             unite with that of the Object, and which is capable of
             forming a compound Idea by Union."

           4. Errors concerning God's being the first Cause, and prime
           Mover of the Universe: For as to this Principle, That the
           Deity first created Matter, and gave it its original Impulse,
           and likewise supports its Existence, he says,

             "This Opinion is certainly very curious, but it will
             appear superfluous to examine it in this Place, &c."

           5. He is chargable with denying the Immateriality of the Soul,
           and the Consequences flowing from this Denial, p.431, 4, 418,
           419, 423.

           6. With sapping the Foundations of Morality, by denying the
           natural and essential Difference betwixt Right and Wrong, Good
           and Evil, Justice and Injustice; making the Difference only
           artificial, and to arise from human Conventions and Compacts,
           Vol. 2. p.5, 19, 128, 41, 43, 48, 69, 70, 73, 4, 44.

   [Observations]

           You see, Dear Sir, that I have concealed no Part of the
           Accusation, but have inserted the Specimen and Charge, as
           transmitted to me, without the smallest Variation. I shall now
           go regularly thro' what is called the Sum of the Charge,
           because it {19} is intended, I suppose, to contain the
           Substance of the whole; and shall take Notice of the Specimen
           as I go along.

           1st, As to the Scepticism with which the Author is charged, I
           must observe, that the Doctrine of the Pyrrhonians or
           Scepticks have been regarded in all Ages as Principles of mere
           Curiosity, or a Kind of Feux d' esprit, without any Influence
           on a Man's steady Principles or Conduct in Life. In Reality, a
           Philosopher who affects to doubt of the Maxims of common
           Reason, and even of his Senses, declares sufficiently that he
           is not in earnest, and that he intends not to advance an
           Opinion which he would recommend as Standards of Judgment and
           Action. All he means by these Scruples is to abate the Pride
           of mere human Reasoners, by showing them, that even with
           regard to Principles which seem the clearest, and which they
           are necessitated from the strongest Instincts of Nature to
           embrace, they are not able to attain a full Consistence and
           absolute Certainty. Modesty then, and Humility, with regard to
           the Operations of our natural Faculties, is the Result of
           Scepticism; not an universal Doubt, which it is impossible for
           any Man to support, and which the first and most trivial
           Accident in Life must immediately disconcert and destroy. {20}

           How is such a Frame of Mind prejudicial to Piety? And must not
           a Man be ridiculous to assert that our Author denies the
           Principles of Religion, when he looks upon them as equally
           certain with the Objects of his Senses? If I be as much
           assured of these Principles, as that this Table at which I now
           write is before me; Can any Thing further be desired by the
           most rigorous Antagonist? 'Tis evident, that so extravagant a
           Doubt as that which Scepticism may seem to recommend, by
           destroying every Thing, really affects nothing, and was never
           intended to be understood seriously, but was meant as a mere
           Philosophical Amusement, or Trial of Wit and Subtility.

           This is a Construction suggested by the very Nature of the
           Subject; but he has not been contented with that, but
           expressly declared it. And all those Principles, cited in the
           Specimen as Proofs of his Scepticism, are positively renounced
           in a few Pages afterwards, and called the Effects of
           Philosophical Melancholy and Delusion. These are his very
           Words; and his Accuser's overlooking them may be thought very
           prudent, but is a Degree of Unfairness which appears to me
           altogether astonishing.

           Were Authorities proper to be employed in any Philosophical
           Reasoning, I could cite you that of Socrates the wisest and
           {21} most religious of the Greek Philosophers, as well as
           Cicero among the Romans, who both of them carried their
           Philosophical Doubts to the highest Degree of Scepticism. All
           the antient Fathers, as well as our first Reformers, are
           copious in representing the Weakness and Uncertainty of mere
           human Reason. And Monsieur Huet the learned Bishop of
           Avaranches (so celebrated for his Demonstration Evangelique
           which contains all the great Proofs of the Christian Religion)
           wrote also a Book on this very Topick, wherein he endeavours
           to revive all the Doctrines of the antient Skepticks or
           Pyrrhonians.

           In Reality, whence come all the various Tribes of Hereticks,
           the Arians, Socinians and Deists, but from too great a
           Confidence in mere human Reason, which they regard as the
           Standard of every Thing, and which they will not submit to the
           superior Light of Revelation? And can one do a more essential
           Service to Piety, than by showing them that this boasted
           Reason of theirs, so far from accounting for the great
           Mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation, is not able fully to
           satisfy itself with regard to its own Operations, and must in
           some Measure fall into a Kind of implicite Faith, even in the
           most obvious and familiar Principles?

           II. The Author is charged with Opinions {22} leading to
           downright Atheism, chiefly by denying this Principle, That
           whatever begins to exist must have a Cause of Existence. To
           give you a Notion of the Extravagance of this Charge, I must
           enter into a little Detail. It is common for Philosophers to
           distinguish the Kinds of Evidence into intuitive,
           demonstrative, sensible, and moral; by which they intend only
           to mark a Difference betwixt them, not to denote a Superiority
           of one above another. Moral Certainty may reach as high a
           Degree of Assurance as Mathematical; and our Senses are surely
           to be comprised amongst the clearest and most convincing of
           all Evidences. Now, it being the Author's Purpose, in the
           Pages cited in the Specimen, to examine the Grounds of that
           Proposition; he used the Freedom of disputing the common
           Opinion, that it was founded on demonstrative or intuitive
           Certainty; but asserts, that it is supported by moral Evidence,
           and is followed by a Conviction of the same Kind with these
           Truths, That all Men must die, and that the Sun will rise
           To-morrow. Is this any Thing like denying the Truth of that
           Proposition, which indeed a Man must have lost all common
           Sense to doubt of?

           But, granting that he had denied it, how is this a Principle
           that leads to Atheism? {23} It would be no difficult Matter to
           show, that the Arguments a posteriori from the Order and
           Course of Nature, these Arguments so sensible, so convincing,
           and so obvious, remain still in their full Force; and that
           nothing is affected by it but the metaphysical Argument a
           priori, which many Men of Learning cannot comprehend, and
           which many Men both of Piety and Learning show no great Value
           for. Bishop Tillotson has used a Degree of Freedom on this
           Head, which I would not willingly allow myself; 'tis in his
           excellent Sermon concerning the Wisdom of being religious,
           where he says, That the Being of a God is not capable of
           Demonstration, but of moral Evidence. I hope none will pretend
           that pious Prelate intended by these Assertions to weaken the
           Evidences for a Divine Existence, but only to distinguish
           accurately its Species of Evidence.

           I say further, that even the metaphysical Arguments for a
           Deity are not affected by a Denial of the Proposition
           above-mentioned. It is only Dr. Clark's Argument which can be
           supposed to be any way concerned. Many other Arguments of the
           same Kind still remain; Des Cartes's for Instance, which has
           always been esteemed as solid and convincing as the other. I
           shall add, that a great Distinction ought always to be {24}
           made betwixt a Man's positive and avowed Opinions, and the
           Inferences which it may please others to draw from them. Had
           the Author really denied the Truth of the foregoing
           Proposition, (which the most superficial Reader cannot think
           ever entered his Head) still he could not properly be charged
           as designing to invalidate any one Argument that any
           Philosopher has employed for a Divine Existence; that is only
           an Inference and Construction of others, which he may refuse
           if he thinks proper.

           Thus you may judge of the Candor of the whole Charge, when you
           see the assigning of one Kind of Evidence for a Proposition,
           instead of another, is called denying that Proposition; that
           the invalidating only one Kind of Argument for the Divine
           Existence is called positive Atheism; nay, that the weakning
           only of one individual Argument of that Kind is called
           rejecting that whole Species of Argument, and the Inferences
           of others are ascribed to the Author as his real Opinion.

           'Tis impossible ever to satisfy a captious Adversary, but it
           would be easy for me to convince the severest Judge, that all
           the solid Arguments for Natural Religion retain their full
           Force upon the Author's Principles concerning Causes and
           Effects and that there is no Necessity even for altering {25}
           the common Methods of expressing or conceiving these
           Arguments. The Author has indeed asserted, That we can judge
           only of the Operations of Causes by Experience, and that,
           reasoning a priori, any thing might appear able to produce any
           thing. We could not know that Stones would descend, or fire
           burn, had we not Experience of these Effects; and indeed,
           without such Experience, we could not certainly infer the
           Existence of one Thing from that of another. This is no great
           Paradox, but seems to have been the Opinion of several
           Philosophers, and seems the most obvious and familiar
           Sentiment on that Subject; but, tho' all Inferences are noway
           weakned by such an Assertion, but on the contrary will be
           found to acquire more Force, as long as Men are disposed to
           trust to their Experience rather than to mere human Reasoning.
           Wherever I see Order, I infer from Experience that there,
           there hath been Design and Contrivance. And the same Principle
           which leads me into this Inference, when I contemplate a
           Building, regular and beautiful in its whole Frame and
           Structure; the same Principle obliges me to infer an
           infinitely perfect Architect, from the infinite Art and
           Contrivance which is display'd in the whole {26} Fabrick of
           the Universe. Is not this the Light in which this Argument
           hath been placed by all Writers concerning Natural Religion?

           III. The next Proof of Atheism is so unaccountable, that I
           know not what to make of it. Our Author indeed asserts, after
           the present pious and learned Bishop of Cloyne, That we have
           no abstract or general Ideas, properly so speaking; and that
           those Ideas, which are called general, are nothing but
           particular Ideas affixed to general Terms. Thus, when I think
           of a Horse in general, I must always conceive that Horse as
           black or white, fat or lean, &c. and can form no Notion of a
           Horse that is not of some particular Colour or Size. In
           Prosecution of the same Topick, the Author hath said, That we
           have no general Idea of Existence, distinct from every
           particular Existence. But a Man must have strange Sagacity,
           that could discover Atheism in so harmless a Proposition.
           This, in my Opinion, might be justified before the University
           of Salamanca, or a Spanish Inquisition. I do indeed believe,
           that, when we assert the Existence of a Deity, we do not form
           a general abstract Idea of Existence, which we unite with the
           Idea of God, and which is capable of forming a compound Idea
           by Union; but this is {27} the Case with regard to every
           Proposition concerning Existence. So that, by this Course of
           Reasoning, we must deny the Existence of every Thing, even of
           ourselves, of which at least even the Accuser himself will
           admit our Author is perswaded.

           IV. Ere answering the fourth Charge, I must use the Freedom to
           deliver a short History of a particular Opinion in Philosophy.
           When Men considered the several Effects and Operations of
           Nature, they were led to examine into the Force or Power by
           which they were performed; and they divided into several
           Opinions upon this Head, according as their other Principles
           were more or less favourable to Religion. The Followers of
           Epicurus and Strato asserted, That this Force was original and
           inherent in Matter, and, operating blindly, produced all the
           various Effects which we behold. The Platonick and
           Peripatetick Schools, perceiving the Absurdity of this
           Proposition, ascribed the Origin of all Force to one primary
           efficient Cause, who first bestowed it on Matter, and
           successively guided it in all its Operations. But all the
           antient Philosophers agreed, that there was a real Force in
           Matter, either original or derived; and that it was really
           Fire which burnt, and Food that nourished, when we observed
           any of these {28} Effects to follow upon the Operations of
           these Bodies: The Schoolmen supposed also a real Power in
           Matter, to whose Operations however the continual Concurrence
           of the Deity was requisite, as well as to the Support of that
           Existence which had been bestowed on Matter, and which they
           considered as a perpetual Creation. No one, till Des Cartes
           and Malbranche, ever entertained an Opinion that Matter had no
           Force either primary or secondary, and independent or
           concurrent, and could not so much as properly be called an
           Instrument in the Hands of the Deity, to serve any of the
           Purposes of Providence. These Philosophers last-mentioned
           substituted the Notion of occasional Causes, by which it was
           asserted that a Billiard Ball did not move another by its
           Impulse, but was only the Occasion why the Deity, in pursuance
           of general Laws, bestowed Motion on the second Ball. But, tho'
           this Opinion be very innocent, it never gained great Credit,
           especially in England, where it was considered as too much
           contrary to received popular Opinions, and too little
           supported by Philosophical Arguments, ever to be admitted as
           any Thing but a mere Hypothesis. Cudworth, Lock and Clark make
           little or no mention of it. Sir Isaac Newton (tho' some of his
           Followers have taken {29} a different Turn of thinking)
           plainly rejects it, by substituting the Hypothesis of an
           AEtheral Fluid, not the immediate Volition of the Deity, as
           the Cause of Attraction. And, in short, this has been a
           Dispute left entirely to the Arguments of Philosophers, and in
           which Religion has never been supposed to be in the least
           concerned.

           Now it is evidently concerning this Cartesian Doctrine, of
           secondary Causes, the Author is treating, when he says, (in
           the Passage referred to in the Charge) That it was a curious
           Opinion, but which it would appear superfluous to examine in
           that Place.

           The Topick there handled is somewhat abstract: But I believe
           any Reader will easily perceive the Truth of this Assertion,
           and that the Author is far from pretending to deny (as
           asserted in the Charge) God's being the first Cause and prime
           Mover of the Universe. That the Author's Words could have no
           such Meaning as they stand connected, is to me so evident,
           that I could pledge on this Head, not only my small Credit as
           a Philosopher, but even all my Pretensions to Trust or Belief
           in the common Affairs of Life.

           V. As to the fifth Article; The Author has not anywhere that I
           remember denied {30} the Immateriality of the Soul in the
           common Sense of the Word. He only says, That that Question did
           not admit of any distinct Meaning; because we had no distinct
           Idea of Substance. This Opinion may be found everywhere in Mr.
           Lock, as well as in Bishop Berkley.

           VI. I come now to the last Charge, which, according to the
           prevalent Opinion of Philosophers in this Age, will certainly
           be regarded as the severest, viz. the Author's destroying all
           the Foundations of Morality.

           He hath indeed denied the eternal Difference of Right and
           Wrong in the Sense in which Clark and Woolaston maintained
           them, viz.. That the Propositions of Morality were of the same
           Nature with the Truths of Mathematicks and the abstract
           Sciences, the Objects merely of Reason, not the Feelings of
           our internal Tastes and Sentiments. In this Opinion he concurs
           with all the antient Moralists, as well as with Mr. Hutchison
           Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Glasgow,
           who, with others, has revived the antient Philosophical
           Discourse, in order to throw an Odium on the Author!

           When the Author asserts that Justice is an artificial not a
           natural Virtue, he seems {31} sensible that he employed Words
           that admit of an invidious Construction; and therefore makes
           use of all proper Expedients, by Definitions and Explanations,
           to prevent it. But of these his Accuser takes no Notice. By
           the natural Virtues he plainly understands Compassion and
           Generosity, and such as we are immediately carried to by a
           natural Instinct, a certain Reflection on the general
           Interests of Human Society, and a Combination with others. In
           the same Sense, Sucking is an Action natural to Man, and
           Speech is artificial. But what is there in this Doctrine that
           can be supposed in the least pernicious? Has he not expresly
           asserted, That Justice, in another Sense of the Word, is so
           natural to Man, that no Society of Men, and even no individual
           Member of any Society, was ever entirely devoid of all Sense
           of it? Some Persons (tho' without any Reason, in my Opinion)
           are displeased with Mr. Hutchison's Philosophy, in sounding
           all the Virtues so much on Instinct, and admitting so little
           of Reason and Reflection. Those should be pleased to find that
           so considerable a Branch of the Moral Duties are founded on
           that Principle.

           The Author has likewise taken care in {32} positive Terms to
           assert, That he does not maintain that Men ly under no
           Obligation to observe Contracts, independent of Society; but
           only, that they never would have formed Contracts, and even
           would not have understood the Meaning of them, independent of
           Society. And whereas it is observed in the Specimen, That our
           Author offers further to prove, that, suppose a Promise was
           intelligible before Human Conventions had established it, it
           would not be attended with any Moral Obligation. The most
           careless Reader must perceive that he does not understand
           Moral in such an extended Sense, as to deny the Obligation of
           Promises, independent of Society; seeing he not only asserts
           what is above-represented, but likewise that the Laws of
           Justice are universal, and perfectly inflexible. It is
           evident, that suppose Mankind, in some primitive unconnected
           State, should be some Means come to the Knowledge of the
           Nature of those Things which we call Contracts and Promises;
           that this Knowledge would have laid them under no such actual
           Obligation, if not placed in such Circumstances as give rise
           to these Contracts.

           I am sorry I should be obliged to cite from my Memory, and
           cannot mention Page and Chapter so accurately as the Accuser.
           I came hither by Post, and brought no {33} Books along with
           me, and cannot now provide myself in the Country with the Book
           referred to.

           This long Letter, with which I have troubled you, was composed
           in one Morning, that I might gratify your Demand of an
           immediate Answer to the heavy Charge brought against your
           Friend; and this, I hope, will excuse any Inaccuracies that
           may have crept into it. I am indeed of Opinion, that the
           Author had better delayed the publishing of that Book; not on
           account of any dangerous Principles contained in it, but
           because on more mature Consideration he might have rendered it
           much less imperfect by further Corrections and Revisals. I
           must not at the same Time omit observing, that nothing can be
           wrote so accurately or innocently, which may not be perverted
           by such Arts as have been imployed on this Occasion. No Man
           would undertake so invidious a Task as that of our Author's
           Accuser, who was not actuated by particular Interests; and you
           know how easy it is, by broken and partial Citations, to
           pervert any Discourse, much more one of so abstract a Nature,
           where it is difficult, or almost impossible, to justify one's
           self to the Publick. The Words which have been carefully pickt
           out from a large Volume will no doubt have a dangerous Aspect
           to careless {34} Readers; and the Author, in my Apprehension,
           cannot fully defend himself without a particular Detail, which
           it is impossible for a careless Reader to enter into. This
           Advantage of the Ground has been trusted to by his Accuser,
           and surely never more abused than on the present Occasion. But
           he has one Advantage, I trust, which is worth a Hundred of
           what his Opposers can boast of, viz. that of Innocence; and I
           hope he has also another Advantage, viz. that of Favour, if we
           really live in a Country of Freedom, where Informers and
           Inquisitors are so deservedly held in universal Detestation,
           where Liberty, at least of Philosophy, is so highly valu'd and
           esteem'd. I am,

           Sir,

           Your most obedient

           humble Servant.

           May 8th 1745.

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   Notes
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