« הקודםהמשך »
our antagonist. Inquirers may differ as to the origin of our belief in the uniformity of nature's successions. On this topic we exact no particular opinion from them. It is enough if we agree in the soundness of that belief, whatever the descent or the derivation of it may have been. It is man's universal judgment, that the same consequents are ever preceded by the same antecedents, and the two questions are altogether distinct from each other—whence does that judgment take its rise, and whether that judgment is a true one. We may differ or agree upon the first. It matters not, if we agree upon the second, which forms the basis of Hume's reasoning. We concede to him his own premises—even that we are not entitled to infer an antecedent from its consequent, unless we have before had the completed observation of both these terms and of the succession between them. We disclaim the aid of all new or questionable principles in meeting his objection, and would rest the argument a posteriori for the being of a God, on a strictly experimental basis.
15. The uniformity of nature lies in this, that the same antecedents are always followed by the same consequents. Grant that the former agree in every respect—then the latter will also agree in every respect. This invariable following of two events, the one by the other, is termed a sequence; and there is not a more unfailing or universal characteristic of nature than the constancy of these sequences.
16. For the argument of this chapter it is enough that we and our antagonists have a common belief in the constancy of these sequences though they who think, as we do, that the belief is of instinctive origin, cannot but feel how wondrous the coincidence is between the constancy itself and the fact, that from the very first dawnings of mental perception this constancy is counted upon. It does not at all appear that the experience of nature's constancy is first waited for ere it is anticipated by the mind. And even although it had to be waited for; and the observation had been made for years of nature’s constancyit is still to be explained why we should infer from this the same constancy in the years which are to come. It does not follow that because nature hath proceeded in a certain invariable course throughout the whole retrospect of our experience, it must therefore do the same throughout the whole range of our future anticipations.
The one fact does not necessarily involve the other. There has been an unfailing constancy in nature through the years that are past and there appears no necessity which can be assigned, why on this account there should be as unfailing a constancy of nature through the years that are to come. It may be, or it may not be,_but yet the firm impregnable conviction of all, is that most certainly it shall be—and this anticipation, which all without exception have, is followed up by the most unexcepted fulfilment.
17. The heat that is of a certain temperature will always melt ice. The impulse that hath once given direction and velocity, will always in the same circumstances be followed up with motion. The body that is raised from the earth's surface, and then left without support, will always descend. The position of the moon in a certain quarter of the heavens, will always be responded to by the rising or falling tides upon our shores. These antecedents may be variously blended; and this will give rise to different results; but the very same assemblage of antecedents will always be followed by the same consequents. Our own personal experience may have been limited to a few square miles of the earth that we tread uponyet this would not hinder such a faith in the immutability of nature, that we could bear it in confident application all over the globe. In other words, we count upon this constancy far beyond what we ever have observed of it—and still the topic of our wonder and gratitude is, that a belief in every way so instinctive should be followed up by an accomplishment so sure.
18. But we shall dilate no further on the general position, that our faith in the future constancy of nature is intuitive, and not deduced by any process of reasoning however short, from our observation of its past constancy. Let us here recommend the masterly treatise of Dr. Thomas Brown on Cause and Effect-a philosopher who, with occasional inadvertencies in the ethical department of his course, hath thrown a flood of copious and original light over the mysteries of the human understanding; and who seems, in particular, to have grappled successfully with a question at one time dark and hopeless as the metaphysics of the schoolmen.
19. Without, therefore, expatiating any farther on the origin of this belief, and certainly without laying the least argumentative stress upon it in the reasonings which we have now to offer-let it suffice for the present that there exists such a belief in our mind, and that it meets with its correspondent reality in nature. '
20. There are two processes of inference, which, however identical in their principle, may be distinguished the one from the other. - When there is an invariable connexion between certain antecedents and certain consequents—then, upon our seeing the antecedents, we look confidently forward to the appearance of the consequents-or, when we see the consequents, we conclude that their proper antecedents have gone before them. But it may so happen, that various antecedents shall be mingled together at the same time—some of which have an influence upon the result, and some of which have none; but still so as to make it a necessary exercise of mind to disentangle the trains from each other, and to discriminate what be the terms which stand to each other in the strict relation of a sequence that is invariable.
21. But to descend from the obscure language of generalities upon this subject. Let us take the case of a watchmaker, and a watch, the former being the antecedent and the latter the consequent -both of which, and the actual conjunction of which, we have already observed, if we have ever seen a watch made. Now, on looking first to the antecedent, there is room for distinguishing between the proper and the accidental. [t were wrong to
say of this antecedent, that it comprises all the particulars which meet and are assembled together in the person of the watchmaker. It has nothing to do, for example, with the colour of his hair, or with the quality of his vestments, or with the height of his stature, or with the features of his countenance, or with the age and period of his life. The strict and proper antecedent is distinct from one and all of these particulars; and may be said to lie enveloped, as it were, in a mass or assemblage of contemporaneous things which have nothing to do with the fabrication of the watch.
The watch, in fact, is the consequent of a purposing mind—putting itself forth in the execution of a mechanism for the indication of time, and possessed of competent skill and power for such an execution. The mind of the observer separates here the essential from the accessary. Should he ever again meet with the forth-putting of the same essential antecedent as before, he will expect the same consequent as before-even though he should never meet with an antecedent compassed about with the same accessaries. The next watchmaker may differ from any he had ever before seen, in a multitude of particulars—in age, in stature, in dress, and general appearance, and a thousand other modifications which it were endless to specify. Yet how manifestly absurd to look for another consequent than a watch because of these accidental variations. It is not to any of these that the watch is a consequent at all. , It is solely to a purposing mind, possessed of competent skill and power and this was common both to the first