Page images
PDF
EPUB

Faculty.

6. 6. These powers of the mind, viz. of

perceiving, and of preferring, are usually called by another name: and the ordinary way of speaking, is, that the understanding and will are two faculties of the mind ; a word proper enough, if it be used as all words should be, so as not to breed any confusion in men's thoughts, by being supposed (as I suspect it has been) to stand for some real beings in the soul that performed those actions of understanding and volition. For when we say the will is the commanding and superior faculty of the soul : that it is, or is not free; that it determines the inferior faculties; that it follows the dictates of the understanding, &c. though these, and the like expressions, by those that carefully attend to their own ideas, and conduct their thoughts more by the evidence of things, than the sound of words, may be understood in a clear and distinct sense : yet I suspect, I say, that this way of speaking of faculties has inisled many into a confused notion of so many distinct agents in us, which had their several provinces and authorities, and did cominand, obcy, and perform several actions, as so many distinct beings : which has been no sinall occasion of wrangling, obscurity, and uncertainty in questions relating to them. Whence the 6. 7. Every one, I think, finds in himidea of li. self a power to begin or forbear, continue berty and

or put an end to several actions in himself. necessity.

From the consideration of the extent of this power of the mind over the actions of the man, which every one finds in himself, arise the ideas of liberty and necessity.

9. 8. All the actions that we have any Liberty, what.

idea of, reducing themselves, as has been

said, to these two, viz. thinking and motion; so far as a man has power to think, or not to think; to move, or not to move, according to the preference or direction of his own mind; so far is a man free. Wherever any performance or forbearance are not equally in a man's power; wherever doing or not doing, will not equally follow upon the preference of his mind directing it: there le is not free, though per

haps haps the action may be voluntary. So that the idea of liberty is the idea of a power in any agent to do or forbear any particular action, according to the determination or thought of the mind, whereby either of them is preferred to the other ; where either of them is not in the power of the agent to be produced by him according to his volition, there he is not at liberty ; that agent is under necessity. So that liberty cannot be where there is no thought, no volition, no will; but there may be thouglit, there may be will, there may be volition, where there is no liberty. A little consideration of an obvious instance or two may make this clear.

9. 9. A tennis ball, whether in motion by the stroke of a racket, or lying still at Supposes the rest, is not by any one taken to be a free' ing and will. agent If we inquire into the reason, we shall find it is because we conceive not a tennis-ball to think, and consequently not to have any volition, or preference of motion to rest, or vice versa ; and therefore has not liberty, is not a free agent; but all its both motion and rest come under our idea of necessary, and are so called. Likewise a man falling into the water (a bridge breaking under him) has not herein liberty, is not a free agent. For though he has volition, though he prefers his not falling to falling; yet the forbearance of ihat motion not being in his power, the stop or cessation of that motion follows not upon his volition; and therefore therein he is not free. So a man striking himself, or his friend, by a convulsive motion of his arm, which it is not in his power, by volition or the direction of his mind, to stop, or forbear; no-body thinks he has in this liberty; every one pities him, as acti by necessity and constraint.

$. 10. Again, suppose a man be carried, Belongs not whilst fast asleep, into a room, where is a to volition. person he longs to see and speak with; and be there locked fast in, beyond is power to get out; he awakes, and is glad to find bimself in so desirable company, which he stays willingly in, i. e. prefers his stay to going away; I ask, Is not this stay.vo-. luntary? I think no-body will doubt it; and yet being VOL. I.

locked

[graphic]

Voluntary

locked fast in, it is evident he is not at liberty not to stay, he has not freedom to be gone. So that liberty is not an idea belonging to volition, or preferring; but to the person having the power of doing, or forbearing to do, according as the mind shall choose or direct. Our idea of liberty reaches as far as that power, and no farther. For wherever restraint comes to check that power, or compulsion takes away that indifferency of ability on either side to act, or to forbear acting; there liberty, and our notion of it, presently ceases.

§. 11. We have instances enough, and opposed to often more than enough, in our own bodies. involuntary, A man's heart beats, and the blood circunot to neces- lates, which it is not in his power by any sary.

thought or volition to stop ; and therefore in respect to these motions, where rest depends not on his choice, nor would follow the determination of his mind, if it should prefer it, he is not a free agent. Convulsive motions agitate his legs, so that though he wills it ever so much, he cannot by any power of his mind stop their motion (as in that odd disease called chorea sancti Viti) but he is perpetually dancing: he is not at liberty in this action, but under as much necessity of moving, as a stone that falls, or a tennisball struck with a racket. On the other side, a palsy or the stocks hinder his legs from obeying the determination of his mind, if it would thereby transfer his body to another place. In all these there is want of freedom ; though the sitting still even of a paralytick, whilst he prefers it to a removal, is truly voluntary, Voluntary then is not opposed to necessary, but to involuntary. For a man may prefer what he can do, to what he cannot do; the state he is in, to its absence or change, though necessity has made it in itself unalterable.

§. 12. As it is in the motions of the body, Liberty, what.

so it is in the thoughts of our minds : where

any one is such, that we have power to take it up, or lay it by, according to the preference of the mind, there we are at liberty. A waking man being under the necessity of having some ideas constantly in

his mind, is not at liberty to think, or not to think ; no more than he is at liberty whether his body shall touch any other or no: but whether he will remove his contemplation from one idea to another, is many times in his choice; and then he is in respect of his ideas as much at liberty, as he is in respect of bodies he rests on; he can at pleasure remove himself from one to another. But yet some ideas to the mind, like some motions to the body, are such as in certain circumstances it cannot avoid, nor obtain their absence by the utmost effort it can use. A man on the rack is not at liberty to lay by the idea of pain, and divert himself with other contemplations: and sometimes a boisterous passion hurries our thoughts as a hurricane does our bodies, without leaving us the liberty of thinking on other things, which we would rather choose.

But as soon as the mind regains the power to stop or continue, begin or forbear, any of these motions of the body without, or thoughts within, according as it thinks fit to prefer either to the other, we then consider the man as a free agent again. ģ. 13. Wherever thought is wholly want

Necessity, ing, or the power to act or forbear accord- what. ing to the direction of thought; there necessity takes place. This in an agent capable of volition, when the beginning or continuation of any action is contrary to that preference of his mind, is called compulsion; when the hindering or stopping any action is contrary to his volition, it is called restraint. Agents that have no thought, no volition, at all, are in every thing necessary agents. $. 14. If this be so (as I imagine it is) I

Liberty beleave it to be considered whether it may not longs not to help to put an end to that long agitated, the will. and I think, unreasonable, because unintelligible question, viz. Whether man's will be free, or no ? For if I mistake not, it follows from what I have said, that the question itself is altogether improper; and it is as insignificant to ask, whether man's will be free, as to ask whether his sleep be swift, or his virtue square ; liberty being as little applicabļe to the trill, as Q%

swift

[graphic]

swiftness of motion is to sleep, or squareness to virtue. Every one would laugh at the absurdity of such a question, as either of these; because it is obvious, that the modifications of motion belong not to sleep, nor the difference of figure to virtue: and when any one well considers it, I think he will as plainly perceive, that liberty, which is but a power, belongs only to agents, and cannot be an attribute or modification of the will, which is also but a power. Volition.

g. 15. Such is the difficulty of explain

ing and giving clear notions of interna! actions by sounds, that I must here warn my reader that ordering, directing, choosing, preferring, &c. which I have made use of, will not distinctly enough express volition, unless he will reflect on what he himself does when he wills. For example, preferring, which seems perhaps best to express the act of volition, does it not precisely. For though a man would prefer flying to walking, yet who can say he ever wills it? Volition, it is plain, is an act of the mind knowingly exerting that dominion it takes itself to have over any part of the man, by employing it in, or with-holding it from, any particular action. And what is the will, but the faculty to do this ? And is that faculty any thing more in effect than a power, the power of the mind to determine its thought, to the producing, continuing, or stopping any action, as far as it depends on us? For can it be denied, that whatever agent has a power to think on its own actions, and to prefer their doing or omission either to other, has that faculty called will ? Will then is nothing but such a power. Liberty, on the other side, is the power a man has to do or forbear doing any particular action, according as its doing or forbearance has the actual preference in the mind; which is the same thing as to say, according as he himself wills it.

§. 16. It is plain then, that the will is Powers be. longing to

nothing but one power or ability, and freeagents.

dom another power or ability : so that to

ask, whether the will has freedom, is to ask whether one power has another power, one ability ano

ther

« PreviousContinue »