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Paris issued a Mandement against it: in his answer to which, Rousseau says that for writing that book he deserved to have a column erected to his memory. He took the hint probably from Plato. I am glad to find you do better with Greek, than many of the young men; and I doubt not, but you will in a short time do as well as the best of them. Does Matthew recommend to you no book upon the Greek idioms ? Does he explain them to you as they occur? Has he made any attempt towards an explanation of Socrates's Demon ? I never could satisfy myself about that point:— whether Socrates seriously and enthusiastically fancied that he felt occasionally an inward supernatural admonition, as our Quakers talk of an inward light, and our Methodists of inward feelings and experiencies of the Spirit; or whether he meant only the suggestions of his own reason and conscience, and ascribed them to a supernatural cause, by way of giving greater authority to himself, to his character and conversation, with a superstitious people? Which of these two cases was the fact, I own, I never could decide, nor can now decide, to my own satisfaction. Either of the suppositions bears hard upon his character. The former bears hard upon him as a man of sense and sound judgment; the latter, as a man of sincerity and truth.”*
" Jan. 8, 1789. I have just had a Letter from Dr. Parr. He says you are a monkey for not having found your way yet to Hatton. When the weather is better, the days longer,
* [My learned and excellent friend, the Rev. Archdeacon Nares, was the author of an Essay on the Demon or Divination of Socrates, Lond. 1782. 8vo. pr. 8s. See the Classical Journal, T. xv. p. 205. His opinion is opposed by my philosophical friend, Thomas Taylor, Esq. T. xvi. p. 160. E. H. B.]
and you have a week to spare, I would have you by all means make him a visit. Hatton is not more than 4 or 5 miles from Warwick; and you will easily ride thither in a day.” “Jan. 16. I shall see Dr. Brown's book, I hope, tomorrow. I am glad to find that Drake speaks so well of it. Parr, you know, spoke of it in the highest terms. You do well to make yourself master of that part of Euclid, in which you have been already lectured. I take for granted you read Ludlam's remarks as you go along. You are right too in rubbing up your algebra. But you must not, at the same time, neglect your Latin and Greek." Whatever be your future pursuit, a competent knowledge of those languages will be of the highest use to you. Not to mention, that a want of such knowledge will be a great drawback upon your professional reputation, whatever your profession may be. I would advise you to mix always your philosophical and classical studies. I have found that a little variety of reading assists, rather than distracts the attention. Bolinbroke's Letters on History are very masterly, the modern parts especially. He always seemed to me to have perfect command of his subject. His stile, too, I used to think excellent: I do not now think quite so highly of it. He has a dashing, petulant, over
* [A friend of mine in College found out a notable plan for uniting classical and mathematical learning, which is worthy of record. I called on him one morning, and observed that he was reading Euclid in Latin I expressed my surprise, but was silenced, when he gravely assured me that he had adopted the plan for the purpose of saving time, as he could thus acquire a Latin style, while he was studying mathematics.
bearing manner. But he is animated and vigorous. Upon the whole, his stile is fitter for speaking than writing, — especially de rebus gravibus et philosophicis. I have not much to say about his Letter on Retirement and Study. It is written with spirit, but it is too general to be of much use. It says little, too, but what every body knows; for every body knows that all prejudices are to be laid aside in the investigation of truth, and that evidence, pure evidence, is alone to be attended to. But there are various kinds of truths, and the evidence for them differs both in kind and degree. It is, therefore, of the utmost consequence to have clear and fixed ideas of the various kinds and degrees of evidence. Otherwise we shall in some instances be apt to expect a stronger degree of evidence, than the nature of the thing admits, and in others may be satisfied with less evidence, than the nature of the subject requires. D'Alembert has many excellent suggestions, as I recollect, upon the nature of evidence; and Condillac is still more full. In almost every other book, too, of logic and metaphysics, you will find more or less upon this subject, though not perhaps systematically drawn out. Dr. Reid has a system, in which, I think, he is sometimes right, but oftener wrong. Shall I amuse myself by talking to you a little upon this subject in my own way? I hope you also will receive some amusement at least, if not benefit. “The first evidence, in order of time, is that of the senses. It is, too, the foundation of all other evidence. We see, -we hear, we touch, etc. Of the reality of these perceptions there can be no doubt; nor is it possible to reason with a man, who questions their reality. Whether the objects of these perceptions are equally real, whether thcy have a real, absolute existence, independently of all perception of them, is another question. Dr. Berkeley first started this doubt, and has endeavoured with great ingenuity to prove that external things have only a relative existence, and that the whole material world exists only as being perceived by some mind. This question, though curious, you will at once see to be of no use or consequence. The existence of external things can be of no consequence, of no effect, with respect to us, but as they are perceived by us. Supposing 10,000 worlds to exist, and to be out of the reach of our perception — they are the same to us as if they did not exist. Frivolous, however, as this question is, I will try to throw a little light upon it. It is assumed by most metaphysical writers, by Mr. Hume particularly, that the mind neither does nor can perceive anything but its own ideas; these ideas being alone present to it, and being the only real and immediate objects of its perception. Upon this position it seems impossible to prove that anything else does really and actually exist but such ideas. The mind, having no perception of anything but its own ideas, can have no knowledge of the actual existence of anything else — of the existence of external objects particularly. With this position I always felt myself dissatisfied; and am now, after reading Dr. Reid, and considering the matter with all the attention in my power, perfectly convinced that the position is not true. When I perceive an object by any of my senses, I perceive the object itself and nothing else; I am not conscious of any intervening idea, any intervening object, between the thing itself perceived, and my perception of it. I see a man, a tree — my mind perceives a man, a tree, and nothing else. It perceives them immediately, directly, without anything intervening, that I am conscious of. It perceives the things themselves, not any ideas of such things. Of this fact I feel the same assurance, as I do of my own existence. In what manner this fact is brought about, — in what manner the mind is made to perceive external objects, is utterly inexplicable. We only know that it perceives them through the instrumentality of the organs of sense: yet at the time of perception we have no consciousness of such instrumentality. But the same difficulty attends the other system, that of perceiving ideas only; and the manner, in which such an infinite variety of ideas is brought before the view of the mind, is equally inexplicable. If then we perceive external objects themselves directly and immediately, and not the ideas of such objects, which appears to me to be the fact, it seems to follow that such perception affords as strong a proof of their existence, or, as D'Alembert somewhere states it, 'supposing the existence of external objects, we could not have a stronger proof of such existence than we actually have. I shall have, at some other time, a little more to say upon the subject of sensible evidence. If what I have said, be not quite clear to you, pray tell me.”
“ Febr. 1. I do not like the continuance of your cough. Pray, be as careful as possible to avoid all sudden changes from heat to cold, or from cold to heat. The latter in Dr. Brown's opinion is as bad as the former. I have read his Elements. His theory is ingenious, and of the most seducing simplicity. But our knowledge of the nervous system is so very limited, that it can hardly serve as a basis for anything beyond conjecture. The theory, however, has certainly more plausibility, than any that has preceded it. His assertions are positive and strong,