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that is told for present satisfaction. And I believe some of the incomparable Mr. Newton's wonderful demonstrations cost him so much pains, that though they were all founded in nothing but several ideas of quantity, yet those ideas did not presently satisfy his mind, though they were such that, with great application and labour of thought, they were able to satisfy him with certainty, i.e. produce demonstration. Your lordship adds,
“ But even this will not do as to the idea of an infinite Being
Though the complex idea for which the sound God stands (whether containing in it the idea of necessary existence or no, for the case is the same) will not prove the real existence of a being answering that idea, any more than any other idea in any one's mind will prove the existence of any real being answering that idea; yet, I humbly conceive, it does not hence follow, but that there may be other ideas by which the being of a God may be proved. For nobody that I know ever said, that every idea would prove every thing, or that an idea in men's minds would prove the existence of such a real being: and therefore if this idea fail to prove, what is proposed to be proved by it, it is no more an exception against the way of ideas, than it would be an exception against the way of medius terminus, in arguing that somebody used one that did not prove. It follows:
“ It is not enough to say they will not examine how far it will hold ; for they ought either to say, that it doth hold, or give up this ground of certainty from clear and distinct ideas."
Here, my lord, I am got again into the plural number: but not knowing anybody but myself who has used these words which are set down out of my Essay, and which you are in this and the foregoing paragraph arguing against, I am forced to beg your lordship to let me know, who those persons are whom your lordship, joining with me, entitles with me to these words of my book; or to whom your lordship joining me, entitles me by these words of mine to what they have published, that I may see how far I am answerable for them.
Now as to the words themselves, viz." I will not examine how far the idea proposed does or does not prove the existence of a God," because they are mine; and your lordship excepts against them, and tells me, “it was not enough to say, I will not examine, &c. For I ought either to have said, that it doth hold, or give up this ground of certainty from clear and distinct ideas.” I will answer as well as I can.
I could not then, my lord, well say, that that doth hold, which I thought did not hold; but I imagined I might, without entering into the examen, and showing the weakness of that argument, pass it by with saying, I would not examine, and so left it with this thought, “ valeat quantum valere potest.”
But though I did this, and said not then, it will hold, nay think now it will not hold, yet I do not see how from thence I was then, or am now under any necessity to give up the ground of certainty from ideas; because the
ground of certainty from ideas may be right, though in the present instance a right use were not made of them, or a right idea was not made use of to produce the certainty sought. Ideas in mathematics are a sure ground of certainty; and yet every one may not make so right an use of them, as to attain to certainty by them: but yet any one's failing of certainty by them, is not the overturning of this truth, that certainty is to be had by them. Clear and distinct I have omitted here to join with ideas, not because clear and distinct make any ideas unfit ito produce certainty, which have all other fitness to do it; but because I do not limit certainty to clear and distinct ideas only, since there may be certainty from ideas that are not in all their parts perfectly clear and distinct.
Your lordship, in the following paragraph, endeavours to show, that I have not proved the being of a God by ideas; and from thence, with an argument not unlike the preceding, you conclude, that ideas cannot be the grounds of certainty, because I have not grounded my proof of a God on ideas. To which way of argumentation I must crave leave here again to reply, that your lordship's supposing, as you do, that there is an
other way to certainty, which is not that of ideas, does not prove that certainty may not be had from ideas, because I make use of that other way. This being premised, I shall endeavour to show, that my proof of a Deity is all grounded on ideas, however your lordship is pleased to call it by other names. Your lordship’s words are :
“But instead of the proper argument from ideas, we are told, that—from the consideration of ourselves, and what we find in our own constitutions, our reason leads us to the knowledge of this certain and evident truth, that there is an eternal, most powerful, and most knowing Being. All which I readily yield; but we see plainly, the certainty is not placed in the idea, but in good and sound reason,” from the consideration of ourselves and our constitutions. “ What! in the idea of ourselves ? No, certainly.”
Give me leave, my lord, to ask where I ever said, that certainty was placed in the idea, which your lordship urges my words as a contradiction of I think I never said so. 1. Because I do not remember it. 2. Because your lordship has not quoted any place where I have said so. 3. Because I all along in my book, which has the honour to be so often quoted here by your lordship, say the quite contrary. For I place certainty where I think every body will find it, and nowhere else, viz, in the perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas; so that, in my opinion, it is impossible to be placed in any one single idea, simple or complex. I must own, that I think certainty grounded on ideas; and therefore to take your lordship’s words here, as I think they are meant, in opposition to what I say,
I shall take the liberty to change your lordship's words here, “ What! in the idea of ourselves ? No, certainly,” into words used by your lordship in the foregoing page, to the same purpose, “What! can the grounds of our certainty arise from the idea of ourselves ? No, certainly.”
To which permit me, my lord, with due respect to reply, Yes, certainly. The certainty of the being of a God, in my proof, is grounded on the idea of ourselves,
as we are thinking beings. But your lordship urges my own words, which are, that “from the consideration of ourselves, and what we find in our constitutions, our reason leads us to the knowledge of this certain and evident truth.”
My lord, I must confess I never thought, that the consideration of ourselves, and what we find in our own constitutions, excluded the consideration of the idea either of being or of thinking, two of the ideas that make a part of the complex idea a man has of himself. If consideration of ourselves excludes those ideas, I may be charged with speaking improperly: but it is plain, nevertheless, that I ground the proof of a God on those deas, and I thought I spoke properly enough; when meaning that the consideration of those ideas, which our own being offered us, and so finding their agreement or disagreement with others, we were thereby, i. e. by thus reasoning, led into the knowledge of the existence of the first infinite Being, i. e. of God; I expressed it as I did, in the more familiar way of speaking. For my purpose, in that chapter, being to make out the knowledge of the existence of a God, and not to prove that it was by ideas, I thought it most proper to express myself in the most usual and familiar way, to let it the easier into men's minds, by common words and known ways of expression: and therefore, as I think, I have scarce used the word idea in that whole chapter, but only in that one place, where my speaking against laying the whole proof only upon our idea of a most perfect Being obliged me to it. But
your lordship says, that in this way of coming to a certain knowledge of the being of a God, “ from the consideration of ourselves, and what we find in our own constitutions, the certainty is placed in good and sound reason.” I hope so. “ But not in the idea."
What your lordship here means by not placed in the idea, I confess, I do not well understand; but if
your lordship means that it is not grounded on the ideas of thinking and existence before-mentioned, and the comparing of them, and finding their agreement or disagreement with other ideas, that I must take the liberty
Bishop of Worcester.
59 to dissent from: for in this sense it may be placed in ideas, and in good and sound reason too, i.e. in reason rightly managing those ideas so as to produce evidence by them. So that, my lord, I must own I see not the force of the argument which says, not in ideas but in sound reason; since I see no such opposition between them, but that ideas and sound reason may consist together. For instance: when a man would show the certainty of this truth, that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right ones; the first thing probably that he does, is to draw a diagram. What is the use of that diagram? but steadily to suggest to his mind those several ideas he would make use of in that demonstration. The cousidering and laying these together in such order, and with such connexion, as to make the agreement of the ideas of the three angles of the triangle, with the ideas of two right ones, to be perceived, is called right reasoning, and the business of that faculty which we call reason; which when it operates rightly by considering and comparing ideas so as to produce certainty, this showing or demonstration that the thing is so, is called good and sound reason. The ground of this certainty lies in ideas themselves, and their agreement or disagreement, which reason neither does or can alter, but only lays them so together as to make it perceivable; and without such a due consideration and ordering of the ideas, certainty could not be had : and thus certainty is placed both in ideas, and in good and sound reason.
This affords an easy answer to your lordship’s next words, brought to prove, that the certainty of a God is not placed on the idea of ourselves. They stand thus :
" For let our ideas be taken which way we please, by sensation or reflection, yet it is not the idea that makes us certain, but the argument from that which we perceive in and about ourselves.”
Nothing truer than that it is not the idea that makes us certain without reason, or without the understanding: but it is as true, that it is not reason, it is not the understanding, that makes us certain without ideas. It