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III. The greatest evidence and certainty of any proposi. tion does not depend upon the variety of the ways or kinds of evidence, whereby it is known, but rather upon the strength and degree of evidence, and the clearness of that light in or by which it appears to the mind. For a proposition that is known only one way may be much more certain, and have stronger evidence than another that is supposed to be known many ways. There- . fore these propositions, nothing has no properties; nothing can make itself; which are known only by intelligence, are much surer and truer than this proposition, ihe rainbow has real and inherent colours in it; or than this, the sun rolls round the earth ; though we seem to know both these last by our senses, apd by the common testimony of our neighbours. So any proposition that is clearly evident to our own consciousness or divine faith, is much more certain to us than a thousand others that have only the evidence of feeble and obscure sensations, of mere probable reasonings and doubtful arguments, or the witness of fallible men, or even though all these should join together.
CHAP. III.-The Springs of false Judgment, or the Doc
trine of Prejudices.
IN the end of the foregoing chapter, we have surveyed the several sorts of evidence on which we build our assent to propositions. Tbese are indeed the general groupds upon which we form our judgments concerning things. What remains in this Second part of Logic, is to point out the several springs and causes of our mistakes in judging, and to lay down some rules by which we should conduct ourselves in passing a judgment on every thing that is proposed to us.
I confess many things which will be mentioned in these following chapters, might be as well referred to the Third Part of Logic, where we shall treat of reasoning and argument; för most of our false judgments seem to include a secret bad reasoning in them : and while we shew the springs of error, and the rules of true judgment, we do at the same time discover which arguments are fallacious, which reasonings are weak, and which are just and strong. Yet since this is usually called a judging ill or judging well, I think we may without any impropriety treat of it here, and this will lay a surer foundation for all sorts of ratiocination and arguments.
Rash judgments are called prejudices, and so are the springs of them. This word in common life signifies an ill opinion which we have conceived of some other person, or some injury done to him. But when we use the word in matters of science, it signifies a judgment that is formed concerning any person or thing before sufficient examination ; and generally we suppose it to mean a false judgment or mistake : at least it is an opinion taken up without solid reason for it, or an assent given to a proposition before we have just evidence of the truth of it, though the thing itself may happen to be true.
Sometimes these rash judgments are called prepossessions ; whereby is meant, that some particular opinion has possessed the mind, and engaged the assent, without sufficient search or evi. dence of the truth of it.
There is a vast variety of these prejudices and prepossessions, which attend mankind in every age and condition of life; they lay the foundations of many an error, and many an unhappy practice, both in the affairs of religion, and in our civil concern
pents, as well as in matters of learning. It it necessary for a nian who pursues truth to enquire into the springs of error, that as far as possible he may rid himself of old prejudices, and watch hourly against new ones.
The number of them is so great, and they are so interwoven with each other, as well as with the powers of human nature, that it is sometimes hard to distinguish them apart; yet for method's sake we shall reduce them to these four gencral heads, namely, prejudices arising from things, or from words, from ourselves, or from other persons; and after the description of each prejudice, we shall propose one or more ways of curing it.
Sect. I.-Prejudices arising from Things. THE first sort of prejudices are those which arise from the things themselves about which we judge. But here let it be observed, that there is nothing in the nature of things that will necessarily lead us into error, if we do but use our reason aright, and withhold our judgment till there appear sufficient evidence of truth. But since we are so unbappily prone to take advantage of every doubtful appearance and circumstance of things to form a wrong judgment, and plunge ourselves into mistake, therefore it is proper to consider what there is in the things themselves that may occasion our errors.
1. The obscurity of some truths, and the difficulty of searching them out, is one occasion of rash and mistaken judgment.
Some truths are difficult because they lie remote from the first principles of knowledge, and want a long chain of argument to come at them ; such are many of the deep things of algebra and geometry, and some of the theorems and problems of most parts of the mathematics. Many things also in natural philosophy are dark and intricate upon this account, because we canuot come at any certain knowledge of them without the labour of many and difficult, as well as chargeable expe: riments.
There are other truths which have great darkness upon them because we have no proper means or medjum to come at the knowledge of them.' Though in our age we have found out many of the deep things of nature by the assistance of glasses and other instruments ; yet we are not hitherto arrived at any sufficient methods to discover the shapes of these little particles of matter which distinguish the several sapours, odours, and colours of bodies ; por to find what sort of atoms coinpose liquids, or solids, and distinguish wood, minerals, metals, glass, stone, &c. There is a darkness also lies upon the actions of the intek lectual or angelical world; their manners of subsistence and agency, the power of spirits to move bodies, and the union of our souls with this animal body of ours, are much unknown to us on this account.
Now in many of those cases, a great part of mankind is not content to be entirely ignorant; but they rather choose to form rash and hasty judginents, to guess at things without just evidence, to believe something concerning them before they can know them; and thereby they fall into error.
'This sort of prejudice, as well as most others, is cured by patience and diligence in enquiry and reasoning, and a suspension of judgment, till we have attained some proper medians of kuowledge, and till we see sufficient evidence of the truth. "
II. The appearance of things in a disguise, is another spring of prejudice, or rash judgment. The outside of things, which first strikes us, is oftentimes different from their inward nature; and we are tempted to judge saddenly according to outward appearances. If a picture is daubed with many bright and glaring colours, the vulgar eye admires it as an excellent piece , whereas the same person judges very contemptuously of some admirable design, sketched out only with a black pencil on a coarse paper; though by the hand of Raphael. So the scholar spies the name of a new book in a public news-paper ; he is charmed with the title, le purchases, he reads with huge expectations, and finds it all trash and impertinence ; this is a prejudice derived from the appearance; we are too ready to judge that volume valuable which bath so good a frontispiece. The large heap of encomniums and swelling words of assurance that are bestowed on quack-medicines in public advertisements, tempt many a reader to judge them infallible, and to use the pills or the plaister, with vast hope, and frequent disappointment.
We are tempted to form our judgment of persons as well as things by these outward appearances. Where there is wealth, equipage, and splendour, we are ready to call that man bappy
but we see not the vexing disquietudes of his soul; and when we spy a person in ragged garments, we foron a despicable opinion of him too suddenly; we can hardly think him either happy or wise, our judgment is so strangely biassed by outward and sensible things. It was through the power of this prejudice that the Jews rejected our blessed Saviour; they could not suffer themselves to believe that the man who appeared as the Son of a car. penter was also the Son of God. And because St. Paul was of little stature, a mean presence, and his voice conteinptible, some of the Corinthians were tempted to doubt whether he was inspired or no.
This prejudice is cured by a longer acquaintance with this world, and a just observation that things are sometimes better and sometimes worse than they appeur to be. We ought therefore to restrain our excessive forwardness to form our opinion of persons or things before we have opportunity to search into them more perfectly. Remember that the grey beard does not make a philosopher; all is not gold tliat glisters; and a rough diamond may be worth an immense sum.
III. A mixture of different qualities in the same thing, is another temptation to judge amiss. We are ready to be carried away by that quality which strikes the first or the strongest impressions upon us, and we judge of the whole object according to that quality, regardless of all the rest ; or sometimes we colour over all the other qualities with that one tincture, whether it be bad or good.
When we have just reason to admire a man for his virtues, we are sometimes inclined not only to neglect his weaknesses, but even to put a good colour upon them, and to think them amiable. When we read a book that has many excellent truths in it, and divine sentiments, we are tempted to approve not only that whole book, but even all the writings of that author. When a poet, or an orator, or a painter, has performed admirably in several illustrious pieces, we sonetimes also admire his very errors, we mistake his blunders for beauties, and are so ignorantly fond as to copy after them.
It is this prejudice that has rendered so many great scholars perfect bigots, and inclined them to defend Homer or Horace, Livy or Cicero, in their mistakes, and vindicate all the follies of their favourite author. It is this that tempts some great writers to support the sayings of almost all the ancients of the fathers of the church, and admire them even in their very reveries.
On the other hand, if an author has professed heretical sentiments in religion, we throw our scorn upon every thing he writes, we despise even his critical or mathematical learning, and will hardly allow him common sense. If a poem has some blemish in it, there is a set of false critics who decry it universally, and will allow no beauties there.
This sort of prejudice is relieved by learning to distinguish things well, and not to judge in the lump. There is scarce any, thing in the world of nature or art, in the world of morality or religion, that is perfectly uniform. There is a mixture of wisdom and folly, vice and virtue, good and evil, both in men and things. We should remember that some persons have great wit and liule judgment; others are judicious, but not witty. Some are good humoured without compliment ; others have all the for, malities of complaisance but no good humour. We ought to know that one man may be vicious and learned, while another has virtue without learning. That many a man thinks admirably well, who has a poor utterance; while others have a charming manner of speech, but their thoughts are trifling and impertinent. Some are good neighbours and courteous, and charitable towards men, who have no piety towards God; others are truly religious but of morose natural tempers. Some excellent sayings are found in very silly books, and some silly thoughts appear in books of value. We should neither praise nor dispraise by wholesale, but separate the good from the evil, and judge of them apart; the accuracy of a good judgment consists much in making such distinctions.
Yet let it be noted too, that is common discourse we usually denominate persons and things according to the major part of their character. He is to be called a wise man who has but few follies; he is a good philosopher who knows much of nature, and for the most part reasons well in matters of human science; and that book should be esteemed well written, which has more of good sense in it than it has of impertinence.
IV. Though a thing be uniform in its own nature, yet the different lights in which it may be placed, and the different views in which it appears to us, will be ready to excite in us mistaken judgments concerning it. Let an erectcone be placed on a horizontal plane, at a great distance from the eye, and it appears a plain triangle ; but we shall judge that very cone to be nothing but a flat circle, if its base be obverted towards us. Set a common round plate a little obliquely before our eyes afar off, and we shall think it an oval figure; but if the very edge of it be turned towards us, we shall take it for a straight line. So when we view the several folds of a changeable silk, we pronounce this part red and that yellow, because of its different position to the light, though the silk laid smooth in one light appears all of one colour.
When we survey the miseries of mankind, and think of the sorrows of millions, both on earth and in hell the divine government has a terrible aspect, and we may be tempted to thiok hardly