Page images


C. 5.

BOOK for the height of their mountains makes that country

habitable, and their air more temperate ; and affords them rivers, which the flats in the torrid zone do want; unless they be such as come out of the mountainous part. And which seems very strange, he affirms from Tellez, That the heats in some parts of Ethiopia are more tolerable than in Portugal, which lies so many degrees more to the north.

The force of what I have said comes to this. It was supposed to be an argument against Providence, that so great a part of the earth was useless to mankind; which is so far from being true, that undoubted experience hath convinced the world that they have been fully inhabited; and that to the comfortable subsistence of mankind there hath been concurrence of several things, which could not be the result of chance, or of the mechanical laws of the motion of matter: and therefore we ought to conclude these things to be ordered by Divine Providence, for the use and benefit of mankind.

There is yet one thing to be observed, before I end this part of my discourse; which is to shew the pernicious use that hath been made of Des Cartes's laying aside the consideration of final causes. For there was lately a person too well known in the world, (and whom I intend to consider at large afterwards,) who at first professed himself a strict follower of Des Cartes's notions in his Metaphysical Meditations. But he made

use of the argument from the idea to prove the world Des Cartes to be God: and Des Cartes cannot be excused from

giving too great advantage to Spinoza, by supposing the idea of extended matter to be infinite and necessary; which overthrows the force of his own argument from the idea ; for if it agrees to matter, it cannot prove the being of a substance distinct from matter,

Prin. par.2.

n. 21.


and gave occasion to the other to think that nothing but CHAP. infinite matter was implied in this idea. And, to carry on his design the better, he kept close to Des Cartes in excluding the consideration of final causes. For in his Mathematical Ethics (as he calls them) he hath an appendix to his first part, where he doth purposely set himself to overthrow all final causes, as mere fictions B. D. Spi

nos. Opera of men's brains. But the comfort is, that they are no Post. p. 36. late fictions, but the wisest men in all ages, as I have already shewed, did assert them; and it is not a mere mathematical appearance will fright men now out of the principles of reason. But let us examine what the grounds are on which final causes are thus peremptorily condemned. He saith, That they arise from the common prejudice of mankind, who have so much fondness for themselves as to think that all things are done for their sakes: that God made all things for man, and mankind to serve him. But this is not a just and fair representation of the matter. We do not say, that God had no other end in the frame of the universe, but merely for the sake of the inhabitants of the earth; for we do not pretend to give an account of the great ends which the Almighty had in those vast and numerous bodies of the fixed stars, which are so very remote from us: but that which we say, is, that God hath placed mankind in such a station here upon earth, that they cannot but look about them; and when they do so, they cannot but admire to find so great and so wise a Being order all things so, as to see not only the wisdom but the goodness of their Maker. And how doth this appear to be a mere fiction of men's brains? Are there not such just causes for our admiration ? Are there not such conveniences for human life? Do not all men see the wonderful contrivance and usefulness of the parts of their bodies ? And are there not great


BOOK discoveries of the like wisdom in plants and animals,

and the earth and sea ? Are all these mere phantasms and fictions of men's brains ? Why are not the mistakes about these things discovered in a mathematical manner? This might have signified something: but to go about to confute mankind, by telling them that final causes are mere fictions of their brains, is far from being a geometrical way of demonstration. Let us examine, however, the method he takes to make it out. 1. In the first place, he undertakes to shew how mankind came to think so much of final causes; and then, 2, how repugnant they are to the nature of things: 3, how men came to take up the notions of good and evil, and of rewards and punishments, from this opinion about final causes : all which I shall briefly consider. As to the first, he supposes that all men are born ignorant of causes, and look after their own advantage, which they are conscious to themselves of. And what follows? First, that they suppose themselves free, because they know their own desires. And why should they not, as well as know that they think; for they have the like inward perception as to both ? But they are ignorant of the causes which determine their desires. How doth it appear that there are such causes, which they are thus ignorant of? If any man undertakes to assign causes which mankind are not at all sensible of, he ought not to take it for granted that there are such causes, but to prove it in such a manner as to overbalance the evidence of their inward perceptions. For mankind are conscious to themselves of no such causes : if therefore any one will prove that however they are not free, certainly that evidence ought to be clearer than the argument from our own perception to the contrary. I think I move my eye freely to this or that object, and am fully satisfied from that inward perception I have of the voluntary motion of the mus- CHAP. cles belonging to the eye: now if any one goes about to tell me that I am deceived herein, and that there were other causes which determined the motion of my eye, is it not reason I should have evidence greater than what I have from my own sensation? But here we have no causes at all assigned; therefore we must go on. Secondly, saith he, mankind do all things for some end, viz. for their own profit; and therefore desire only to know final causes; and if they find these, they are satisfied. Is not this well said by a man that pretends to demonstration, and that in a geometrical manner ? Could no other ends be thought of but profit? I begin to be of Des Cartes's mind, that geometry spoils men's reasonings in other matters. For, how was it possible for a man of common sense to argue in such a manner; men aim at their own profit, therefore they desire only to know final causes? What profit was it which this author aimed at in making this work of his ? He had, without doubt, some end in it; for I hardly think he could take so much pains for no end at all. Was it a good or a bad end ? For mankind are still apt to be inquisitive into final causes. A good end, no doubt, his friends will say. What was this good end? Was it mere profit ? No, certainly, they will say, his mind was above it; for he devoted himself wholly (as they tell us in the preface to his works) to philosophy; and retired on purpose for the prosecution of his studies. It is then more than possible for a man to aim at some other end than mere profit. And what was the end he proposed in philosophy ? Still we inquire after the end, although profit be set aside; and we cannot have a better account of it than from himself. He tells us, his mind was set upon finding out ibid. de Inthe true good of mankind. This was a noble end in


tel. Emend.


[ocr errors]

Ibid. p.

BOOK deed, and fit for a person that designed to improve his

understanding. But was this true good nothing but profit? So far from it, that he saith, He was soon satisfied that what things mankind generally pursued, were a hinderance to the end he aimed at; and therefore he saw it necessary to give over the pursuit of riches, honours, and sensual pleasures, and to fix upon an eternal and infinite Good, which alone can give satisfaction to the mind, and therefore ought to be pursued with all our might. This one would think were spoken like a true Christian philosopher : but his way is to use our expressions, and to couch his own meaning under very plausible terms: but he speaks his mind more afterwards, when he saith, This chief good of man is to understand the union between the mind and nature. What that is, will appear more afterwards;

but here he saith, That this is the end to which our 361.

studies and endeavours are to be directed. Which is sufficient to my present purpose.

For here it is confessed, that they are only vulgar minds that aim at mere profit as their end; but that there is a higher and more certain and agreeable. end for the minds of men to search after; and that their happiness lies in the attaining of that end. Which being allowed, if we suppose a wise and intelligent Being to have created mankind, there is no incongruity at all in man's making that infinite and eternal Good to be his chief end, nor in pursuing after it with all his endeavours; nor can there be any in supposing that this God should order things in this world with that design, that they should be serviceable to him here as to his present subsistence, in order to his main end. For he allows his philosopher to do many things with that design to serve his end, viz. to speak as other men do, whatever he thinks ; to use sensual pleasures, as they serve for

« PreviousContinue »