Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

and falsehood different and opposite? Is truth permanent and eternal ?- few persons would be hardy enough to answer in the negative. Attempts, however, have been made, sometimes through inadvertence, rarely (I hope) from design, to underinine the foundations of truth, and to render their stability questionable ; and thefe atteinpts have been so vigorously forwarded, and so often renewed, that they now constitute a considerable part of what is called the philosophy of the burman mind.

It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to give a logical definition of Truth. But we shall endeavour to give such a description of it, as may make others understand what we mean by the word. The definitions of former writers are not so clear, nor so unexceptionable, as could be wished. There therefore we shall overlook, without feeking either to explain or to correct them; and shall satisfy ourselves with taking notice of some of the mental phenomena that attend the perception of truth. This seems to be the fafest way of introducing the subject.

[ocr errors]

С НАР

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

0

[ocr errors]

N hearing these propositions,- I ex

ist, Things equal to one and the fame thing are equal to one another, The sun rose to-day, There is a God, Ingratitude ought to be blamed and punished, The three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, &c. -I am conscious, that

my mind readily admits and acquiesces in them. I say, that I believe them to be true ; that is, I conceive them to express something conformable to the nature of things *. Of the contrary propofitions I should say, that iny

mind doth not acquiesce in them, but disbelieves them, and conceives them to express soinething not conformable to the nature of things. My judgement in this case, I conceive to be the same which I should form in regard to these propositions, if I were perfectly

-ώσθ' έκασον ως έχει το άναι, ούτω και της αληθέας.

Aristot. Metaph. lib. 2. cap. 1.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

acquainted with all nature, in all its parts, and in all its laws *

If I be asked, what I mean by the nature of things, I cannot otherwise explain myself, than by faying, that there is in my mind something which induces me to think, that every thing existing in nature, is determined to exist, and to exist after a certain manner, in consequence of established laws; and that whatever is agreeable to those laws is agrecable to the nature of things, because by those laws the nature of all things is determined. : Of those laws I do not pretend to know any thing, except fo far as they seem to be intimated to me by my own feelings, and by the suggestions of my own understanding. But these feelings and suggestions are such, and affect me in such a manner, that I cannot help. receiving them, and trusting in them, and believing that their intimations are not fallacious, but such as I fhould approve if I were perfectly açquainted with every thing in the universe, and such as I may approve, and admit of,

* This remark, when applied to truth in general, iş subject to certain limitations ; for which fee part 2. chap. I. fect. 3.

and

and regulate my conduct by, without danger of any inconvenience.

It is not easy on this subject to avoid is dentical expresfiors. I am not certain that I have been able to avoid them. And perhaps I might have expressed my meaning more thortly and more clearly, by faying, that I account That to be truth which the constitution of my nature determines me to believe, and That to be falsehood which the constitution of my nature determines me to disbelieve. Believing and disbelieving are simple acts of the mind; I can neither define nor defcribe them in words; and therefore the reader must judge of their nature from his own experience. We often believe what we afterwards find to be false; but while belief continues, we think it true; when we discover its falsity, we believe it - no longer.

Hitherto we have used the word belief to denote that act of the mind which at tends the perception of truth in general. But truths are of different kinds; some are certain, others only probable; and we ought not to call that act of the mind which attends the perception of certainty,

and

and that which attends the perception of probability, by one and the same name, Some have called the former conviction, and the latter affent. All convictions are equally strong; but assent admits of innumerable degrees, from moral certainty, which is the highest degree, downward, through the several stages of opinion, to that sufpense of judgement which is called doubt. We

may, without abfurdity, speak of probable truth, as well as of certain truth.. Whatever a rational being is determined, by the constitution of his nature, to admit as probable, may be called probable truth; the acknowledgement of it is as universal as rational nature, and will be as

But, in this inquiry, we propose to confine ourselves chiefly to that kind of truth which may be called certain, which enforceth our conviction; and the belief of which, in a found mind, is not tinctured with

any doubt or uncertainty. The investigation and perception of truth is commonly ascribed to our rational faculties : and these have by some been reduced to two; Reason, and Judgement; the former being supposed to be converfant about certain truths, the latter chief

ly

permanent.

« PredošláPokračovať »