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DISQUISITION

ON

PO W E R.

SECTION 1.

Of a determinate Notion of Power.

Being

EING or existence, is the name we give to a simple object of conception, the notion of which is attained by abftraction. The notion of existence seems the only unlimitedly general or universal notion we are capable of forming. It is naturally and obviously essential to every possible object of conception. Logically considered, it is the most universal of all our notions of mode, as applicable to every thought of our minds, respecting either matter or spirit.

If we consider existence as a whole, the firt diviGon is into existence actual, and existence

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merely

or

merely in conception. The former is applicable to all we fee, hear, feel, tafte, smell or know to exist, independent in any respect on one's own mind, that is, whether we suppose my mind the mind of some other person to exist, or not, capable of conceiving them. Actual existence is extended also to ali mental existence, conceived, without respect to its objects. The latter is applied to all our conceptions which have no objects actually existing; but which are merely imagined, fiétitious or fancied beings; that is, what we express by the term possibles.

Another division of our notion of being is, into positive being and negative being. Objects of both the former classes may be positive beings; but the objects of mere conception, alone, can be negative beings. Again, Objects of the class of positives, may be both actual beings and imagined beings : but objects of the negative class, such as all negations and privations, are never more than merely conceived or imagined beings. The primary affections of being are duration and extenfion-duration and extension are affe&tions equally applied to the negation of beings, as to positive beings. We conceive that were there no positive existence, yet duration and extension must be.

Power, is in its own nature an actual and positive being: and ontologically considered, is an affection of being, next in order of nature to extenfion and duration, it being essential to all a&tual being. We are incapable of forming a picturesque conception of power; nor is it a transcript by reflection from our consciousness : but it is, like extension and duration, a simple object of thought, the thought of every one, which can only be fingled out by its relations and accoma panying objects.

The mind being every day informed by the senses of the alterations of the fimple modes it observes in external objects actually existing, and taking notice how one comes to an end and ceafes to be, and another begins to exist, whicly was not before. And concluding from what it has so constantly obferved to have been', that the like changes will for the future be made in the fame things by like objects and by like wäys, considers respecting one thing the possibility of having any of its fimple modes changed, and respecting another the actually concurring to that. change, and so comes to a notion of that whichi we call power.

Reflection on what passes in our own minds, also, leads us to the conception of power. The mind reflecting on what it is conscious of within itself, and observing a constant change of its thoughts, sometimes by the impressions of outward objects on the senses, and sometimes through the medium of its determinations or other modified thoughts ;

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and considering as before, that the like changes will in future be made in the same objects of thought by like objects, by the like ways, confiders respecting one thought, the possibility, of having any of its fimple objects changed, and respecting another thought, the actually concurring to that change, and hence also comes to the conception of that object which is denominated power.

Power or energy is not only effential to pro. ducing and sustaining change : but also to abiding or enduring, in opposition to change. We cannot reflect on the origin, continuation or deftruction of being, without admitting the existence of power. We cannot reflect on the origin of our existence without unavoidably admitting the existence of power, adequate power ; nor can we reflect on our daily preservation, without some notion of accompanying power; neither can we anticipate our advancement in a future ftate, without this essential co-existent. Indeed the actual existence of power perpetually forceth itself on us: and thus aids our conception of itself, that simple incomprehensible thing we call power.

Power, is that by which change is immediately produced, and by which enduring is sustained in opposition to change. I believe myself incapable of a direčt and absolute conception of power, yet think I have a determinate conception of it; as a simple object, like other simple objects, it is incapable of a definition composed of the genus, species and difference, that is, of a ftri&tly logical definition : Yet if we reflect that power is always relative, the reflection, on its relation to change, enables us to determine its notion, or furnishes us ample materials for that purpose.

Some have endeavoured to persuade us, that no difficulty attends the meaning of the word power : but on reading the works of the fame Gentlemen, I have found more ambiguity, and indeterminedness of meaning affixed to the word, than I could have expected from their learning and acumen. They seem to have no apprehension of ambiguity, when they confound power witha : property, ability, capacity, might, liberty, dominion, possibility and several other terms, all which admit determinate meanings. I do not think it trifling or needless, 'seriously to enquire, what is ineant by power, for although it is a com. mon word in our language, ufed every day in converfation, it does not seem ufed with a determinate signification. If I say, the human mind has the property of perceiving, and that it has the power of perceiving: these expressions will be admitted as synonimous. If I say, fire has ability to melt brass, and that, fire has power to gelt brass, these expressions also will be aca

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