Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

III.

Of

and

PART we doubt of this agreement in their influence on the

judgment, when we consider the nature and effects of

education ? knowledge

All those opinions and notions of things, to which probability.

we have been accustomed from our infancy, take such deep root, that 'tis impossible for us, by all the powers of reason and experience, to eradicate them; and this habit not only approaches in its influence, but even on many occasions prevails over that which arises from the constant and inseparable union of causes and effects. Here we must not be contented with saying, that the vividness of the idea produces the belief: we must maintain that they are individually the same. The frequent repetition of any idea infixes it in the imagination ; but could never possibly of itself produce belief, if that act of the mind was, by the original constitution of our natures, annexed only to a reasoning

and comparison of ideas. Custom may lead us into, с C

some false comparison of ideas: This is the utmost effect we can conceive of it; but 'tis certain it could never supply the place of that comparison, nor produce any act of the mind which naturally belonged to that principle.

A person that has lost a leg or an arm by amputation endeavours for a long time afterwards to serve himself with them. After the death of any one, 'tis a common remark of the whole family, but especially the servants, that they can scarce believe him to be dead, but still imagine him to be in his chamber or in any other place, where they were accustomed to find him. I have often heard in conversation, after talking of a person that is any way celebrated, that one, who has no acquaintance with him, will say, I have never

IX.

Of

other relations

and

seen such a one, but almost fancy I have, so often have I SECT. heard talk of him. All these are parallel instances. If we consider this argument from education in a pro

the effects of per light, 'twill appear very convincing; and the more so, that 'tis founded on one of the most common phenomena that is any where to be met with. I am persuaded that other labits. upon examination, we shall find more than one half of those opinions that prevail among mankind to be owt ing to education, and that the principles which are thus implicitly embraced, overbalance those, which are ow ing either to abstract reasoning or experience. As liars, by the frequent repetition of their lies, come at last to remember them; so the judgment, or rather the ima gination, by the like means, may have ideas so strongly imprinted on it, and conceive them in so full a light, that they may operate upon the mind in the same manner with those which the senses, memory, or reason present to us. But as education is an artificial and not a natural cause, and as its maxims are frequently contrary to reason, and even to themselves in different times and places, it is never upon that account recognised by philosophers; though in reality it be built almost on the same foundation of custom and repetition as our reasonings from causes and effects. *

In general we may observe, that as our assent to all probable reasonings is founded on the vivacity of ideas, it resembles many of those whimsies and prejudices which are rejected under the opprobrious character of being the offspring of the imagination. By this expression it appears, that the word imagination, is commonly used in two different senses; and though nothing be more contrary to true philosopy than this inaccuracy, yet, in the following reasonings, I have often been obliged to fall into it. When I oppose the imagination to the memory, I mean the faculty by which we form our fainter ideas. When I oppose it to reason, I mean the same faculty, excluding only our demonstrative and probable reasonings. When I oppose it to neither, 'tis indifferent whether it be taken in the larger or more limited sense, or at least the context will sufficiently explain the meaning.

SECTION X.

OF THE INFLUENCE OF BELIEF.

Of

and

PART But though education be disclaimed by philosophy, III.

as a fallacious ground of assent to any opinion, it pre

vails nevertheless in the world, and is the cause why all knowledge

systems are apt to be rejected at first as new and unusual. probability. This, perhaps, will be the fate of what I have here ad

vanced concerning belief; and though the proofs I have produced appear to me perfectly conclasive, I expect not to make many proselytes to my opinion. Men will scarce ever be persuaded, that effects of such consequence can flow from principles which are seemingly so inconsiderable, and that the far greatest part of our reasonings, with all our actions and passions, can be de rived from nothing but custom and habits To obviate this objection, I shall here anticipate a little what would more properly fall under our consideration afterwards, when we come to treat of the Passions and the Sense of Beauty

There is implanted in the human mind a perception of pain and pleasure, as the chief spring and moving principle of all its actions. But pain and pleasure have two ways of making their appearance in the mind; of which the one has effects very different from the other. They may either appear an impression to the actual feeling, or only in idea, as at present when I mention them. 'Tis evident the influence of these upon our actions is far from being equal. Impressions always

X.

Of the influence

of belief

actuate the soul, and that in the highest degree; but SECT. 'tis not every idea which has the same effect. Nature has proceeded with caution in this case, and seems to have carefully avoided the inconveniences of two extremes. Did impressions alone influence the will, we should every moment of our lives be subject to the greatest calamities; because, though we foresaw their approach, we should not be provided by nature with any principle of action, which might impel us to avoid them. On the other hand, did every idea influence our actions, our condition would not be much mended. For such is the unsteadiness and activity of thought, that the images of every thing, especially of goods and evils, are always wandering in the mind; and were it moved by every idle conception of this kind, it would never enjoy a moment's peace and tranquillity.

Nature has therefore chosen a medium, and has neither bestowed on every idea of good and evil the power of actuating the will, nor yet has entirely excluded them from this influence. Though an idle fiction has no efficacy, yet we find by experience, that the ideas of those objects, which we believe either are or will be existent, produce in a lesser degree the same effect with those impressions, which are immediately present to the senses and perception. The effect then of belief is to raise up a simple idea to an equality with our impressions, and bestow on it a like influence on the passions. This effect it can only have by making an idea approach an impression in force and vivacity. For as the different degrees of force make all the original difference betwixt an impression and an idea, they must of consequence be the source of all the differences in the effects of these perceptions, and their removal, in whole or in part, the cause of every new re

[blocks in formation]

III.

PART semblance they acquire. Wherever we can make an

idea approach the impressions in force and vivacity, Of it will likewise imitate them in its influence on the knowledge

and mind; and vice versa, where it imitates them in that probability.

influence, as in the present case, this must proceed from its approaching them in force and vivacity. Belief, therefore, since it causes an idea to imitate the effects of the impressions, must make it resemble them in these qualities, and is nothing but a more vivid and intense conception of any idea. This then may both

ve as an additional argument for the present system, and may give us a notion after what manner our reasonings from causation are able to operate on the will and passions.

As belief is almost absolutely requisite to the exciting our passions, so the passions, in their turn, are very favourable to belief; and not only such facts as convey agreeable emotions, but very often such as give pain, do upon that account become more readily the objects of faith and opinion. A coward, whose fears are easily awakened, readily assents to every account of danger he meets with; as a person of a sorrowful and melancholy disposition is very credulous of every thing that nourishes his prevailing passion. When any affecting object is presented, it gives the alarm, and excites immediately a degree of its proper passion; especially in persons who are naturally inclined to that passion. This emotion passes by an easy transition to the imagination; and, diffusing itself over our idea of the affecting object, makes us form that idea with greater force and vivacity, and consequently assent to it, according to the precedent system. Admiration and surprise have the same effect as the other passions; and accordingly we may observe, that among the vul

« ZurückWeiter »