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a cause is
other, you suppose the very point in question, and SECT. take it for granted, that 'tis utterly impossible
any thing can ever begin to exist without a cause,
upon the exclusion of one productive principle, we must still always have recourse to another.
'Tis exactly the same case with the third argument, which has been employed to demonstrate the necessity of
Whatever is produced without any cause, is produced by nothing; or, in other words, has nothing for its cause. But nothing can never be a cause, no more than it can be something, or equal to two right angles. By the same intuition, that we perceive nothing not to be equal to two right angles, or not to be something, we perceive, that it can never be a cause; and consequently must perceive, that every object has a real cause of its existence.
I believe it will not be necessary to employ many words in showing the weakness of this argument, after what I have said of the foregoing. They are all of them founded on the same fallacy, and are derived from the same turn of thought. 'Tis sufficient only to observe, that when we exclude all causes we really do exclude them, and neither suppose nothing nor the object itself to be the causes of the existence; and consequently can draw no argument from the absurdity of these suppositions to prove the absurdity of that exclusion. If every thing must have a cause, it follows, that, upon the exclusion of other causes, we must accept of the object itself or of nothing as causes. But 'tis the very point in question, whether every thing must have a cause or not; and therefore, according to all just reasoning, it ought never to be taken for grantedo
They are still more frivolous who say, that every effect must have a cause, because 'tis implied in the very
idea of effect. Every effect necessarily presupknowledge
poses a cause; effect being a relative term, of which probability.
cause is the correlative. But this does not prove that every being must be preceded by a cause; no more than it follows, because every husband must have a wife, that therefore every man must be married. The true state of the question is, whether every object which begins to exist, must owe its existence to a cause; and this I assert neither to be intuitively nor demonstratively certain, and hope to have proved it sufficiently by the foregoing arguments.
Since it is not from knowledge or any scientific reasoning, that we derive the opinion of the necessity of a cause to every new production, that opinion must necessarily arise from observation and experience. The next question, then, should naturally be, how experience gives rise to such a principle ?
principle ? But as I find it will be more convenient to sink this question in the following, why we conclude, that such particular causes must necessarily have such particular effects, and why we form an inference from one to another ? we shall make that the subject of our future inquiry. 'Twill, perhaps, be found in the end, that the same answer will serve for both questions.
OF THE COMPONENT PARTS OF OUR REASONINGS CON
CERNING CAUSE AND EFFECT.
Though the mind in its reasonings from causes or
IV. effects, carries its view beyond those objects which it sees or remembers, it must never lose sight of them
component entirely, nor reason merely upon its own ideas, with- parts of our
reasonings out some mixture of impressions, or at least of ideas
concerning of the memory, which are equivalent to impressions. elfect. When we infer effects from causes, we must establish the existence of these causes; which we have only two ways of doing, either by an immediate perception of our memory or senses, or by an inference from other causes; which causes again we must ascertain in the same manner, either by a present impression or by an inference from their causes, and so on, till we arrive at some object, which we see or remember. 'Tis impossible for us to carry on our inferences in infinitum ; and the only thing that can stop them, is an impression of the memory or senses, beyond which there is no room for doubt or inquiry.
To give an instance of this, we may choose any point of history, and consider for what reason we either believe or reject it. Thus, we believe that Cæsar was killed in the senate-house on the ides of March, and that because this fact is established on the unanimous testimony of historians, who agree to assign this precise time and place to that event. Here are certain
PART characters and letters present either to our memory or
senses; which characters we likewise remember to
have been used as the signs of certain ideas; and these knowledge
ideas were either in the minds of such as were immeprobability
diately present at that action, and received the ideas directly from its existence; or they were derived from the testimony of others, and that again from another testimony, by a visible gradation, till we arrive at those who were eye-witnesses and spectators of the event. 'Tis obvious all this chain of argument or connexion of causes and effects, is at first founded on those characters or letters, which are seen or remembered, and that without the authority either of the memory or senses, our whole reasoning would be chimerical and without foundation. Every link of the chain would in that case hang upon another; but there would not be any thing fixed to one end of it, capable of sustaining the whole; and consequently there would be no belief nor evidence. And this actually is the case with all hypothetical arguments, or reasonings upon a supposition; there being in them neither any present impression, nor belief of a real existence.
I need not observe, that 'tis no just objection to the present doctrine, that we can reason upon our past conclusions or principles, without having recourse to those impressions, from which they first arose. For even supposing these impressions should be entirely effaced from the memory, the conviction they produced may still remain ; and 'tis equally true, that all reasonings concerning causes and effects are originally derived from some impression ; in the same manner, as the assurance of a demonstration proceeds always from a comparison of ideas, though it may continue after the comparison is forgot.
OF THE IMPRESSIONS OF THE SENSES AND MEMORY.
In this kind of reasoning, then, from causation, we SECT. employ materials, which are of a mixed and heterogeneous nature, and which, however connected, are yet essentially different from each other. All our argu
of ments concerning causes and effects consist both of an the senses impression of the memory or senses, and of the idea of memory. that existence, which produces the object of the impression, or is produced by it. Here, therefore, we have three things to explain, viz. first, the original impression. Secondly, the transition to the idea of the connected cause or effect. Thirdly, the nature and qualities of that idea.
As to those impressions, which arise from the senses, their ultimate cause is, in my opinion, perfectly inexplicable by human reason, and 'twill always be impossible to decide with certainty, whether they arise immediately from the object, or are produced by the creative power of the mind, or are derived from the Author of our being. Nor is such a question any way material to our present purpose. We may draw inferences from the coherence of our perceptions, whether they be true or false; whether they represent nature justly, or be mere illusions of the senses.
When we search for the characteristic, which distinguishes the memory from the imagination, we must immediately perceive, that it cannot lie in the simple ideas it presents to us; since both these faculties bor