Page images
PDF
EPUB

60

CHAP. IV.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS CONCERNING INNATE PRIN

CIPLES, BOTH SPECULATIVE AND PRACTICAL.

with us.

$ 1. Principles not innate, unless their ideas be innate. Had those, who would persuade us that there are innate principles, not taken them together in gross, but considered separately the parts out of which those propositions are made: they would not, perhaps, have been so forward to believe they were innate : since, if the ideas which made up those truths were not, it was impossible that the propositions made up of them should be innate, or the knowledge of them be born

For if the ideas be not innate, there was a time when the mind was without those principles ; and then they will not be innate, but be derived from some other original. For where the ideas themselves are not, there can be no knowledge, no assent, no mental or verbal propositions about them. § 2. Ideas, especially those belonging to principles, not

born with children. If we will attentively consider new-born children, we shall have little reason to think, that they bring many ideas into the world with them. For bating perhaps some faint ideas of hunger and thirst, and warmth, and some pains which they may have felt in the womb, there is not the least appearance of any settled ideas at all in them; especially of ideas, answering the terms which make up those universal propositions, that are esteemed innate principles. One may perceive how, by degrees, afterwards, ideas come into their minds; and that they get no more, nor no other, than what experience, and the obser

be so.

vation of things, that come in tlreir way, furnish them with : which might be enough to satisfy us, that they are not original characters stamped on the mind.

§ 3. “ It is impossible for the same thing to be, and not to be," is certainly (if there be any such) an innate principle. But can any one think, or will any one say, that impossibility and identity are two innate ideas? Are they such as all mankind have, and bripg into the world with them ? And are they those which are the first in children, and antecedent to all acquired ones? If they are innate, they must needs

Hath a child an idea of impossibility and identity, before it has of white or black, sweet or bitter? And is it from the knowledge of this principle, that it concludes, that wormwood rubbed on the nipple hath not the same taste that it used to receive from thence? Is it the actual knowledge of “impossibile est idem esse, & non esse," that makes a child distinguish between its mother and a stranger ? or, that makes it fond of the one, and fly the other? Or does the mind regulate itself and its assent by ideas, that it never yet had? Or the understanding draw conclusions from principles, which it never yet knew or understood ? The names impossibility and identity stand for two ideas, so far from being innate, or born with us, that I think it requires great care and attention to form the right in our understandings. They are so far from being brought into the world with us, so remote from the thoughts of infancy and childhood; that, I believe, upon examination it will be found, that many grown men want them.

§ 4. Identity, an idea not innate. If identity (to instance in that alone) be a native impression, and consequently so clear and obvious to us, that we must needs know it even from our cradles; I would gladly be resolved by one of seven, or seventy years old, whether a man, being a creature consisting of soul and body, be the same man when his body is changed? Whether Euphorbus and Pythagoras, having had the same soul, were the same men, though they lived several ages asunder ? Nay, whether the cock too, which had the same soul, were not the same with both of them? Whereby, perhaps, it will appear, that our idea of sameness is not so settled

and clear, as to deserve to be thought innate in us. For if those innate ideas are not clear and distinct, so as to be universally known, and naturally agreed on, they cannot be subjects of universal and undoubted truths; but will be the unavoid able occasion of perpetual uncertainty. For, I suppose, every one's idea of identity will not be the same that Pythagoras and others of his followers have. And which then shall be true? Which innate ? Or are there two different ideas of identity, both innate?

5. Nor let any one think, that the questions I have here proposed about the identity of man, are bare empty speculations; which, if they were, would be enough to show, that there was in the understandings of men no innate idea of identity. He that shall

, with a little attention, reflect on the tion, and consider that divine justice will bring to judgment, at the last day, the very same persons, to be happy or miserable in the other, who did well or ill in this life; will find it perhaps not easy to resolve with himself, what makes the same man, or wherein identity consists; and will not be forward to think he, and every one, even children themselves, havé naturally a clear idea of it.

$ 6. Whole and part not innate ideas. Let us examine that principle of mathematics, viz. “ that the whole is bigger than a part.” This, I take it, is reckoned amongst innate principles. I am sure it has as good a title as any to be thought so; which yet nobody can think it to be, when he considers the ideas it comprehends in it, “whole

resurrec

and part," are perfectly relative: but the positive ideas, to which they properly and immediately belong, are extension and number, of which alone whole and part are relations. So that if whole and part are innate ideas, extension and number must be so too ; it being impossible to have an idea of a relation, with out having any at all of the thing to which it belongs, and in which it is founded. Now whether the minds of men have naturally imprinted on them the ideas of extension and number, I leave to be considered by those, who are the patrons of innate principles.

8 7. Idea of worship not innate. “ That God is to be worshipped,” is, without doubt, as great a truth as any can enter into the mind of man, and deserves the first place amongst all

praca tical principles. But yet it can by no means be thought innate, unless the ideas of God and worship are innate. That the idea the term worship stands for, is not in the understanding of children, and a character stamped on the mind in its first original, I think, will be easily granted, by any one that considers how few there be, amongst grown men, who have a clear and distinct notion of it. And, I suppose, there cannot be any thing more ridiculous, than to say that children have this practical principle innate, “ that God is to be worshipped;" and yet,

that they know not what that worship of God is, which is their duty. But to pass by this:

§ 8. Idea of God not innate. If any idea can be imagined innate, the idea of God may, of all others, for many reasons be thought so; since it is hard to conceive, how there should be innate moral principles, without an innate idea of a Deity: without a notion of a law-maker, it is impossible to have a notion of a law, and an obligation to observe it. Besides the atheists, taken notice of ainongst the ancients, and left branded upon the re‘cords of history, hath not navigation discovered, in these later ages, whole nations at the bay of Soldania (a), in Brazil (6), in Boranday (c), and in the Carib. bee islands, &c. amongst whom there was to be found no notion of a God, no religion ? Nicholaus del Techo in literis, ex Paraquaria de Caaiguarum conversione, has these words (d): “ Reperi eam gentem nullum nomen habere, quod Deum & hominis animam sig. nificet, nulla sacra habet, nulla idola." These are instances of nations where uncultivated nature has been left to itself, without the help of letters, and discipline, and the improvements of arts and sciences. But there are others to be found, who have enjoyed these in a very great measure; who yet, for want of a due application of their thoughts this way, want the idea and knowledge of God. It will, I doubt not, be a surprize to others, as it was to me, to find the Siamites of this number. But for this, let them consult the king of France's late envoy thither (e), who gives no better account of the Chinese themselves (f). And if we will not believe La Loubere, the missionaries of China, even the Jesuits themselves, the great encomiasts of the Chinese, do all to a man agree, and will convince us that the sect of the literati, or learned, keeping to the old religion of China, and the ruling party there, are all of them atheists. Vid. Navarette, in the collection of voyages, vol. the first, and Historia cultus Sinensium. And perhaps if we should, with attention, mind the lives and discourses of people not so far off, we should have too much reason to fear, that many in more civilized countries have no very strong and clear impressions of a deity upon their minds; and that the complaints of atheism;

12

(a) Roe apud Thevenot, p. 2. (6) Jo. de Lery, c. 16. (c) Martiniere om Terry *}. and 343. Ovington 48% rd) Relatio triplex de rebus Indicis Caaiguarum 43.

(e) La Loubere du Royaume de Siam, l. 1. c. 9. sect. 15. & c. 20, scct. 22, & c. 22. sect. 6.

(f) Ib. t. 1. c. 20. sect. 4, & c, 23.

« PreviousContinue »