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Of

and

PART from that observation; and by means of it can build

an argument on one single experiment, when duly pre

pared and examined. What we have found once to knowledge

follow from any object, we conclude will for ever probability.

follow from it; and if this maxim be not always built upon as certain, 'tis not for want of a sufficient number of experiments, but because we frequently meet with instances to the contrary; which leads us to the second species of probability, where there is a contrariety in our experience and observation.

'Twould be very happy for men in the conduct of their lives and actions, were the same objects always conjoined together, and we had nothing to fear but the mistakes of our own judgment, without having any reason to apprehend the uncertainty of nature. But as ’tis frequently found, that one observation is contrary to another, and that causes and effects follow not in the same order, of which we have had experience, we are obliged to vary our reasoning on account of this uncertainty, and take into consideration the contrariety of events. The first question that occurs on this head, is concerning the nature and causes of the contrariety.

The vulgar, who take things according to their first appearance, attribute the uncertainty of events to such an uncertainty in the causes, as makes them often fail of their usual influence, though they meet with no obstacle nor impediment in their operation. But philosophers observing, that almost in every part of nature there is contained a vast variety of springs and principles, which are hid, by reason of their minuteness or remoteness, find that 'tis at least possible the contrariety of events may not proceed from any contingency in the cause, but from the secret operation of contrary

XII.

Of the

of causes.

čauses. This possibility is converted into certainty by SECT. farther observation, when they remark, that upon an exact scrutiny, a contrariety of effects always betrays

probability à contrariety of causes, and proceeds from their mutual hinderance and opposition. A peasant can give no better reason for the stopping of any clock or watch than to say, that commonly it does not go right: but an artisan easily perceives, that the same force in the spring or pendulum has always the same influence on the wheels; but fails of its usual effect, perhaps by reason of a grain of dust, which puts a stop to the whole movement. From the observation of several parallel instances, philosophers form a maxim, that the eonnexion betwixt all causes and effects is equally necessary, and that its seeming uncertainty in some ins stances proceeds from the secret opposition of contrary

causes.

But however philosophers and the vulgar may differ in their explication of the contrariety of events, their inferences from it are always of the same kind, and founded on the same principles. A contrariety of events in the past may give us a kind of hesitating belief for the future, after two several ways. First, by producing an imperfect habit and transition from the present impression to the related idea. When the conjunction of any two objects is frequents without being entirely constant, the mind is determined to pass from one object to the other; but not with so entire a habit, as when the union is uninterrupted, and all the instances we have ever met with are uniform and of a piece. We find from common experience, in our actions as well as reasonings, that a constant perseverance in any course of life produces a strong inclination and tendency to continue for the future; though there

PART 111.

Of knowledge

and probability

are habits of inferior degrees of force, proportioned to the inferior degrees of steadiness and uniformity in our conduct.

There is no doubt brut this principle sometimes takes place, and produces those inferences we draw from contrary phenomena; though I am persuaded that, upon examination, we shall not find it to be the principle that most commonly influences the mind in this species of reasoning. When we follow only the habitual determination of the mind, we make the transition without any reflection, and interpose not a moment's delay betwixt the view of one object, and the belief of that which is often found to attend it. As the custom depends not upon any deliberation, it operates immediately, without allowing any time for reflection. But this method of proceeding we have but few instances of in our probable reasonings; and even fewer than in those, which are derived from the uninterrupted conjunction of objects. In the former species of reasoning we commonly take knowingly into consideration the contrariety of past events; we compare the different sides of the contrariety, and carefully weigh the experiments, which we have on each side: whence we may conclude, that our reasonings of this kind arise not directly from the habit, but in an oblique manner; which we must now endeavour to explain.

'Tis evident, that when an object is attended with contrary effects, we judge of them only by our past experience, and always consider those as possible, which we have observed to follow from it. And as past experience regulates our judgment concerning the possibility of these effects, so it does that concerning their probability; and that effect, which has been the most common, we always esteem the most likely..

XII.

Of the

of causes.

Here then are two things to be considered, viz. the SECT. reasons which determine us to make the past a standard for the future, and the manner how we extract a

probability single judgment from a contrariety of past events.

First we may observe, that the supposition, that the future resembles the past, is not founded on arguments of any kind, but is derived entirely from habit, by which we are determined to expect for the future the same train of objects to which we have been accustomed. This habit or determination to transfer the past to the future is full and perfect; and consequently the first impulse of the imagination in this species of reasoning is endowed with the same qualities.

But, secondly, when in considering past experiments we find them of a contrary nature, this determination, though full and perfect in itself, presents us with no steady object, but offers us a number of disagreeing images in a certain order and proportion. The first impulse therefore is here broke into pieces, and diffuses itself over all those images, of which each partakes an equal share of that force and vivacity that is derived from the impulse. Any of these past events may again happen; and we judge, that when they do happen, they will be mixed in the same proportion as

in the past.

If our intention, therefore, be to consider the proportions of contrary events in a great number of instances, the images presented by our past experience must remain in their first form, and preserve their first proportions. Suppose, for instance, I have found, by long observation, that of twenty ships which go to sea, only nineteen return. Suppose I see at present twenty ships that leave the port: I transfer my past experience to the future, and represent to myself nineteen of these

III.

Of

and

PART ships as returning in safety, and one as perishing.

Concerning this there can be no difficulty. But as we

frequently run over those several ideas of past events, knowledge

in order to form a judgment concerning one single probability

event, which appears uncertains this consideration must change the

first form of our ideas, and draw together the divided images presented by experience; since 'tis to it we refer the determination of that particular event, upon which we reason. Many of these images are supposed to concur, and a superior num. ber to concur on one side. These agreeing images Unite together, and render the idea more strong and lively, not only than a mere fiction of the imagina: tion, but also than any idea, which is supported by a lesser number of experiments. Each new experiment is as a new stroke of the pencil, which bestows an ad. ditional vivacity on the colours, without either multiplying or enlarging the figure. This operation of the mind has been so fully explained in treating of the probability of chance, that I need not here endeavour to render it more intelligible. Every past experiment may be considered as a kind of chance; it being un. certain to us, whether the object will exist conforma: ble to one experiment or another; and for this reason every thing that has been said on the one subject iş applicable to both.

Thus, upon the whole, contrary experiments produce an imperfect belief, either by weakening the habit, or by dividing and afterwards joining in different parts, that perfect habit, which makes us conclude in general, that instances, of which we have no experience, must necessarily resemble those of which we have.

To justify still farther this account of the second species of probability, where we reason with know

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