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SECT.
VIII.

Of the causes

of belief.

of, and may even in some measure be unknown to us. A person, who stops short in his journey upon meeting a river in his way, foresees the consequences of his proceeding forward; and his knowledge of these consequences is conveyed to him by past experience, which informs him of such certain conjunctions of causes and effects. But can we think, that on this occasion he reflects on any past experience, and calls to remembrance instances that he has seen or heard of, in order to discover the effects of water on animal bodies ? No, surely; this is not the method, in which he proceeds in his reasoning. The idea of sinking is so closely connected with that of water, and the idea of suffocating with that of sinking, that the mind makes the transition without the assistance of the memory. The custom operates before we have time for reflection. The objects seem so inseparable, that we interpose not a moment's delay in passing from the one or the other. But as this transition proceeds from experience, and not from any primary connexion betwixt the ideas, we must necessarily acknowledge, that experience may produce a belief and a judgment of causes and effects by a separate operation, and without being once thought of. This removes att pretext, if there yet remains any, for asserting that the mind is convinced by reasoning of that principle, that instances of which we have no experience, must necessarily resemble those of which we have. For we here find, that the understanding or imagination can draw inferences from past experience, without reflecting on it; much more without forming any principle concerning it, or reasoning upon that principle.

In general we may observe, that in all the most established and uniform conjunctions of causes and effects,

III.

and

PART such as those of gravity, impulse, solidity, &c. the

mind never carries its view expressly to consider any Of

past experience: though in other associations of obknowlerige jects, which are more rare and unusual, it may

assist probability.

the custom and transition of ideas by this reflection. Nay we find in some cases, that the reflection produces the belief without the custom; or, more properly speaking, that the reflection produces the custom in an oblique and artificial manner. I explain myself. 'Tis certain, that not only in philosophy, but even in common life, we may attain the knowledge of a particular cause merely by one experiment, provided it be made with judgment, and after a careful removal of all foreign and superfluous circumstances. Now, as after one experiment of this kind, the mind, upon the appearance either of the cause or the effect, can draw an inference concerning the existence of its correlative, and as a habit can never be acquired merely by one instance, it may be thought that belief cannot in this case be esteemed the effect of custom. But this difficulty will vanish, if we consider, that, though we are here supposed to have had only one experiment of a particular effect, yet we have many millions to convince us of this principle, that like objects, placed in like circumstances, will always produce like effects : and as this principle has established itself by a sufficient custom, it bestows an evidence and firmness on any opinion to which it can be applied. The connexion of the ideas is not habitual after one experiment; but this connexion is comprehended under another principle that is habitual ; which brings us back to our hypothesis. In all cases we transfer our experience to instances of which we have no experience, either expressly or tacitly, either directly or indirectly.

VIII.

Of the causes

of beljef

I must not conclude this subject without observing, SECT. that 'tis very difficult to talk of the operations of the mind with perfect propriety and exactness; because common language has seldom made any very nice distinctions among them, but has generally called by the same term all such as nearly resemble each other. And as this is a source almost inevitable of obscurity and confusion in the author, so it may frequently give rise to doubts and objections in the reader, which otherwise he would never have dreamed of. Thus, my general position, that an opinion or belief is nothing but a strong and lively idea derived from a present impression related to it, may be liable to the following objection, by reason of a little ambiguity in those words strong and lively. It may be said, that not only an impression may give rise to reasoning, but that an idea may also have the same influence; especially upon my principle, that all our ideas are derived from correspondent impressions. For, suppose I form at present an idea, of which I have forgot the correspondent impression, I am able to conclude, from this idea, that such an impression did once exist; and as this conclusion is attended with belief, it may be asked, from whence are the qualities of force and vivacity derived which constitute this belief? And to this I swer very readily, from the present idea. For as this idea is not here considered as the representation of any

absent object, but as a real perception in the mind, of which we are intimately conscious, it must be able to bestow, on whatever is related to it, the same quality, call it firmness, or solidity, or force, or vivacity, with which the mind reflects upon it, and is assured of its present existence. The idea here supplies the place

an

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III.

Of

and

PART of an impression, and is entirely the same, so far as

regards our present purpose.

Upon the same principles we need not be surprised knowledge

to hear of the remembrance of an idea; that is, of probability. the idea of an idea, and of its force and vivacity su

perior to the loose conceptions of the imagination. In thinking of our past thoughts we not only delineate out the objects of which we were thinking, but also conceive the action of the mind in the meditation, that certain je-ne-scai-quoi, of which 'tis impossible to give any definition or description, but which every one sufficiently understands. When the memory offers an idea of this, and represents it as past, 'tis easily conceived how that idea may have more vigour and firmness than when we think of a past thought of which we have no remembrance.

After this, any one will understand how we may form the idea of an impression and of an idea, and how we may believe the existence of an impression and of an idea.

SECTION IX.

OF THE EFFECTS OF OTHER RELATIONS AND OTHER

HABITS.

However convincing the foregoing arguments may appear, we must not rest contented with them, but must turn the subject on every side, in order to find some new points of view, from which we may illustrate

IX.

Of the effects of

other

and

and confirm such extraordinary and such fundamental SECT. principles. A scrupulous hesitation to receive any new hypothesis is so laudable a disposition in philosophers, and so necessary to the examination of truth, that it deserves to be complied with, and requires that

relations

every argument be produced which may tend to their satis other habits. faction, and every objection removed which may stop them in their reasoning.

I have often observed, that, beside cause and effect, the two relations of resemblance and contiguity are to be considered as associating principles of thought, and as capable of conveying the imagination from one idea to another. I have also observed, that when of two objects, connected together by any of these relations, one is immediately present to the memory or senses, not only the mind is conveyed to its co-relative by means of the associating principle, but likewise conceives it with an additional force and vigour, by the united operation of that principle, and of the present impression. All this I have observed, in order to confirm, by analogy, my explication of our judgments concerning cause and effect. But this very argument may perhaps be turned against me, and, instead of a confirmation of my hypothesis, may become an objection to it. For it may be said, that if all the parts of that hypothesis be true, viz. that these three species of relation are derived from the same principles; that their effects, in enforcing and enlivening our ideas, are the same; and that belief is nothing but a more forcible and vivid conception of an idea ; it should follow, that that action of the mind may not only be derived from the relation of cause and effect, but also from those of contiguity and resemblance.

But as we find by experience that belief arises only from causation, and that

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