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your lordship show me the place, that I may correct the vanity of it, and unsay it to the world.
Again, your lordship says thus,—“I know not whether it argues more stupidity or arrogance to expose a doctrine relating to the divine essence, because they cannot comprehend the manner of it.”
Here, my lord, I find the same “they” again, which, some pages back, evidently involved me: and since that you have named nobody besides me, nor alleged any body's writings but mine; give me leave, therefore, to ask your lordship, whether I am one of these “ they” here also, that I may know whether I am concerned to answer for myself? I am ashamed to importune your lordship so often about the same matter; but I meet with so many places in your lordship's (I had almost said new) way of writing, that put me to a stand, not knowing whether I am meant or no, that I am at a loss whether I should clear myself from what possibly your lordship does not lay to my charge; and yet the reader, thinking it meant of me, should conclude that to be in
book which is not there, and which I utterly disown. Though I cannot be joined with those who expose a doctrine relating to the divine essence, because they cannot comprehend the manner of it; unless your lordship can show where I have so exposed it, which I deny that I have any where done ; yet your lordship, before you come to the bottom of the same page, has these words: “I shall now show, that there can be no sufficient evidence brought from them, by their own confession, concerning the existence of the most spiritual and infinite substance, even God himself.”
If your lordship did mean me in that “they” which is some lines backwards, I must complain to your lordship that you have done me an injury, in imputing that to me which I have not done. And if “their”) here were not meant by your lordship to relate to the same persons, I ask by what shall the reader distinguish them? And how shall any body know who your lordship means? For that I am comprehended here is apparent, by your quoting my Essay in the very next words, and arguing against it in the following pages.
I enter not here into your lordship's argument; that which I am now considering is your lordship’s peculiar way of writing in this part of your treatise, which makes me often in doubt, whether the reader will not condemn my book upon your lordship's authority, where he thinks me concerned, if I say nothing: and yet your lordship may look upon my defence as superfluous, when I did not hold what your lordship argued against.
But to go on with your lordship’s argument, your lordship says,
“ I shall now show that there can be no sufficient evidence brought from simple ideas by their own confession, concerning the existence of the most spiritual and infinite substance, even God himself.”
Your lordship’s way of proving it is this: your lordship says, “we are told, B. iv. c. 10. § 1, • That the evidence of it is equal to mathematical certainty ;' and very good arguments are brought to prove it, in a chapter on purpose: but that which I take notice of, is, that the argument from the clear and distinct idea of a God is passed over.” Supposing all this to be so, your lordship, methinks, with submission, does not prove the proposition you undertook, which was this ; “there can be no sufficient evidence brought from simple ideas, by their own confession concerning [i. e. to prove] the existence of a God.” For if I did in that chapter, as your lordship says, pass over the proof from the clear and distinct idea of God, that, I presume, is no confession that there can be no sufficient evidence brought from clear and distinct ideas, much less from simple ideas, concerning the existence of a God; because the using of one argument brought from one foundation, is no confession that there is not another principle or foundation. But, my lord, I shall not insist upon this, whether it be a confession or no.
Leaving confession out of the proposition, I humbly conceive your lordship's argument does not prove. Your lordship’s proposition to be proved, is, “there can be sufficient evidence brought from simple ideas to prove the existence of a God;" and your lordship's reason is, because the argument from the clear and
distinct idea of God is omitted in my proof of a God. I will suppose, for the strengthening your lordship’s reasoning in the case, that I had said (which I am far enough from saying) that there was no other argument to prove the existence of God, but what I had used
in that chapter; yet, my lord, with all this, your lordship’s argument, I humbly conceive, would not hold: for I might bring evidence from simple ideas, though I brought none from the idea of God; for the idea we have of God is a complex, and no simple idea. So that the terms being changed from simple ideas to a clear and distinct complex idea of God, the proposition which was undertaken to be proved, seems to me unproved.
Your lordship's next words are, “ how can this be consistent with deducing our certainty of knowledge from clear and simple ideas ?”
Here your lordship joins something that is mine with something that is not mine. I do say, that all our knowledge is founded in simple ideas; but I do not say, it is all deduced from clear ideas; much less that we cannot have any certain knowledge of the existence of any thing, whereof we have not a clear, distinct, complex idea; or, that the complex idea must be clear enough to be in itself the evidence of the existence of that thing; which seems to be your lordship's meaning here. Our knowledge is all founded on simple ideas, as I have before explained, though not always about simple ideas; for we may know the truth of propositions which include complex ideas, and those complex ideas may not always be perfectly clear ideas.
In the remaining part of this page, it follows: “I do not go about to justify those who lay the whole stress upon that foundation, which I grant to be too weak to support so important a truth; and that those are very much to blame, who go about to invalidate other arguments for the sake of that: but I doubt all that talk about clear and distinct ideas being made the foundation of certainty, came originally from these discourses or meditations, which are aimed at. The author of them was an ingenious thinking man, and he endeavoured to lay the foundation of certainty, as well as he could. The first thing he found any cer
tainty in, was his own existence; which he founded upon the perceptions of the acts of his mind, which some call an internal infallible perception that we are. From hence he proceeded to inquire, how we came by this certainty? And he resolved it into this, that he had a clear and distinct perception of it; and from hence he formed this general rule, that what we had a clear and distinct perception of was true. Which in reason ought to go no farther, than where there is the like degree of evidence.”
This account which your lordship gives here, what it was wherein Descartes laid the foundation of certainty, containing nothing in it to show what your lordship proposed here, viz. “ that there can be no sufficient evidence brought from ideas, by my own confession, concerning the existence of God himself;" I willingly excuse myself from troubling your lordship concerning it. Only I crave leave to make my acknowledgment to your lordship, for what you are pleased, by the way, to drop in these words : “But I doubt all this talk about clear and distinct ideas being made the foundation of certainty, came originally from these discourses or meditations, which are aimed at.”
By the quotations in your lordship’s immediately preceding words taken out of my Essay *, whieh relate to that ingenious thinking author, as well as by what in your following words is said of his founding certainty in his own existence; it is hard to avoid thinking that your lordship means, that I borrowed from him my notions concerning certainty. And your lordship is so great a man, and every way so far above my meanness, that it cannot be supposed that your lordship intended this for any thing but a commendation of me to the world, as the scholar of so great a master. But though I must always acknowledge to that justly-admired gentleman the great obligation of my first deliverance from the unintelligible way of talking of the philosophy in use in the schools in his time, yet I am so far from entitling his writings to any of the errors or imperfections which are to be found in my Essay, as deriving their original from him, that I must own to
* B. iv, c. 10. $7.
your lordship they were spun barely out of my own thoughts, reflecting as well as I could on my own mind, and the ideas I had there ; and were not, that I know, derived from any other original. But, possibly, I all this while assume to myself an honour which your lordship did not intend to me by this intimation; for though what goes before and after seems to appropriate those words to me, yet some part of them brings me under my usual doubt, which I shall remain under till I know whom these words, viz. “ this talk about clear and distinct ideas being made the foundation of certainty," belong to.
The remaining part of this paragraph contains a discourse of your lordship's upon Descartes's general rule of certainty, in these words: “ For the certainty here was not grounded on the clearness of the perception, but on the plainness of the evidence, which is that of nature, that the very doubting of it proves it; since it is impossible, that any thing should doubt or question its own being, that had it not. So that here it is not the clearness of the idea, but an immediate act of perception, which is the true ground of certainty. And this cannot extend to things without ourselves, of which we can have no other perception than what is caused by the impressions of outward objects. But whether we are to judge according to these impressions, doth not depend on our ideas themselves, but upon the exercise of our judgment and reason about them, which put the difference between true and false, and adequate and inadequate ideas. So that our certainty is not from the ideas themselves, but from the evidence of reason, that those ideas are true and just, and consequently that we may build our certainty upon them."
Granting all this to be so, yet I must confess, my lord, I do not see how it any way tends to show either your lordship’s proof, or my confession “that my proof of an infinite spiritual Being is not placed upon ideas; which is what your lordship professes to be your