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credit, as for the interest of mankind, that I guard against a practice, which is acknowledged to be always unprofitable, and generally pernicious. A verbal disputant! what claim can he have to the title of philosopher! what has he to do with the laws of nature, with the observation of facts, with life and manners! Let him not intrude upon the company of men of science; but repose with his brethren Aquinas and Suarez, in the corner of some Gothic cloister, dark as his understanding, and cold as his heart. Men are now become too judicious to be amused with words, and too firm-minded to be confuted with quibbles. Many of my contempories would readily join in this apostrophe, who yet are themselves the dupes of the most egregious dealers in logomachy that ever perverted the faculty of speech. In fact, from some instances that have occurred to my own observation, I have reason to believe, that verbal controversy has not always, even in this age, been accounted a contemptible thing: and the reader, when he comes to be better acquainted with my sentiments, will perhaps think the foregoing declaration more disinterested than at first sight it may appear.

They who form opinions concerning the manners and principles of the times, may be divided into three classes. Some will tell us, that the present age transcends all that have gone before it, in politeness, learning, and good sense; will thank Providence (or their stars) that their lot of life has been cast in so glorious a period; and wonder how men could support existence amidst the ignorance and barbarism of former days. By others we are accounted a generation of triflers and profligates; sciolists in learning, hypocrites in virtue, and formalists in good-breeding; wise only when we follow the ancients, and foolish

whenever we deviate from them.

Sentiments so vio

lent are generally wrong; and therefore I am disposed to adopt the notions of those who may be considered as forming an intermediate class; who, though not blind to the follies, are yet willing to acknowledge the virtues, both of past ages, and of the present. And surely, in every age, and in every man, there is something to praise, as well at something to blame.

When I survey the philosophy of the present age, I find much matter of applause and admiration. Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Natural History, in all their branches, have risen to a pitch of perfection, that does signal honour to human capacity, and far surpasses what the most sanguine projectors of former times had any reason for : and the paths to further improvement in those sciences are so clearly marked out, that nothing but honesty and attention seems requisite to ensure the success of future adventurers. Moral Philosophy and Logic have not been so fortunate. Yet, even here, we have happily got rid of much pedantry and jargon; our systems have more the appearance of liberal sentiments, good taste, and correct composition, than those of the schoolmen; we disclaim (at least in words) all attachment to hypothesis and party; profess to study men and things, as well as books and words; and assert, with the utmost vehemence of protestation, our love of truth, of candour, and of sound philosophy. But let us not be deceived by appearances. Neither Moral Philosophy, nor the kindred sciences of Logic and Criticism, are at present upon the most desirable footing. The rage of paradox and system has transformed them (although of all sciences these ought to be the simplest and the clearest) into a mass of confusion, darkness, and absurdity. One kind of jargon is laid aside; but

another has been adopted, more fashionable indeed, but not less frivolous. Hypothesis, though verbally disclaimed, is really adhered to with as much obstinacy as ever. Words have been defined, but their meaning still remains indefinite. Appeals have been made to experience; but with such misrepresentation of fact, and in such equivocal language, as plainly shew the authors to have been more concerned for their theory, than for the truth. All sciences, and especially Moral Philosophy ought to regulate human practice practice is regulated by principles, and all principles suppose conviction: yet the aim of our most celebrated moral systems is, to divest the mind of every principle, and of all conviction; and, consequently, to disqualify man for action, and to render him as useless, and as wretched as possible. In a word, SCEPTICISM is now the profession of every fashionable inquirer into human nature; a scepticism which is not confined to points of mere speculation, but has been extended to practical truths of the highest importance, even to the principles of morality and religion. Proofs of all these assertions will appear in the sequel.

I said that my prejudices are all in favour of truth and virtue. To avow any sort of prejudice, may' per haps startle some readers. If it should, I must here intreat all such to pause a moment, and ask of their own hearts these simple questions: Are virtue and truth useful to mankind? Are they matters of indifference? Or are they pernicious? If any one finds himself disposed to think them pernicious, or matters of indifference, I would advise him to lay my book aside; for it does not contain one sentiment in which he can be interested; nor one expression with which he can be pleased. But he who believes that virtue


and truth are of the highest importance, that in them. is laid the foundation of human happiness, and that on them depends the very existence of human society, and of human creatures that person and I are of the same mind; I have no prejudices that he would wish me not to have; he may proceed; and I hope he will proceed with pleasure, and encourage, by his approbation, this honest attempt to vindicate truth and virtue; and to overturn that pretended philosophy which supposes, or which may lead us to suppose, every dictate of conscience, every impulse of understanding, and every information of sense, questionable and ambiguous.

This sceptical philosophy (as it is called) scems to me to be dangerous, not because it is ingenious, but because it is subtle and obscure. Were it rightly understood, no confutation would be necessary; for it does in fact, confute itself, as I hope to demonstrate. But many, to my certain knowledge, have read it, and admitted its tenets, who do not understand the grounds of them; and many more, swayed by the fashion of the times, have greedily adopted its conclusions, without any knowledge of the premises, or any concern about them. An attempt therefore to expose this pretended philosophy to public view, in its proper colours, will not, I hope, be censured as impertinent by any whose opinion I value: if it should, I shall be satisfied with the approbation of my own conscience, which will never reproach me for intending to do good.

I am sorry, that in the course of this inquiry, it will not always be in my power to speak of some celebrated names with that deference, to which superior talents, and superior virtue are always entitled. Every friend to civil and religious liberty, every lover of man.

kind, every admirer of sincerity and simple manners, every heart that warms at the recollection of distinguished virtue, must consider LOCKE as one of the most amiable, and most illustrious men, that ever our nation produced. Such he is-such he will ever be, in my estimation. The parts of his philosophy to which truth obliges me to object, are but few, and, compared with the extent and importance of his other writings, extremely inconsiderable. I object to them, because I think them erroneous and dangerous; and I am convinced, that their author, if he had lived to see the inferences that have been drawn from them, would have been the first to declare them absurd, and would have expunged them from his works with indignation.-BERKELEY was equally amiable in his life, and equally a friend to truth and virtue. In elegance of composition he was perhaps superior. I admire his virtues: I can never sufficiently applaud his zeal in the cause of religion: but some of his reasonings on the subject of human nature I cannot admit, without renouncing my claim to rationality.-There is a writer now alive, of whose philosophy I have much to say. By his philosophy, I mean the sentiments he has published in a book called, A Treatise of Human Nature, in three volumes, printed in the year 1739; the principal and most dangerous doctrines of which he has since republished again, and again, under the title of, Essays, Moral and Political, &c. Of his other works, I say nothing; nor have I at present any concern with them. Virgil is said to have been a bad prose-writer; Cicero was certainly a bad poet and this author, though not much acquainted with human nature, and therefore not well qualified to write a treatise upon it, may yet be an excellent politician, financier, and historian. His

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