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ESSA Y VII.

ON LIBERTY AND NECESSITY.

ESSA Y VII.

ON LIBERTY AND NECESSITY.

In this Essay I shall give the best account I can of the question concerning liberty and necessity from the writings of others, and afterwards add a few remarks of my own on the explanation of the terms employed in this controversy. Of Mr Hobbes's discourse on this subject, I should be nearly disposed to say with Gassendi, when another work of his, •De Cive,' was presented to him, “ This treatise, though small in bulk

, is in my judgment the very marrow of philosophy.” In order to give a clear and satisfactory view of the question, I shall be obliged to repeat some things I have before stated, for which the importance of the subject as well as other circumstances will, I hope, be a suf

ficient excuse.

The doctrine of necessity is stated by this author with great force and precision as a general question of cause and effect, and with scarcely any particular reference to his mechan

ical theory of the mind. From this naked simple view of the matter, I cannot consistently with truth withhold my full and entire assent. The ground-work, the pure basis of the doctrine is in my opinion incontestable ; it cannot be denied without overturning all the rules of science, as well as the plainest dictates of the understanding: whoever attacks it there in its stronghold, will only injure the cause he espouses. It is that rock upon which whoever falls will be dashed to pieces. But though I cannot pretend to undermine the foundation, yet I may attempt to shake some parts of the superstructure, and to clear away the crust of materialism which has grown over it. In

my opinion, the representations which have commonly been given of the subject by the writers on both sides of the argument are almost equally erroneous, and their opposite conclusions built on an equal misconception of the true principle of necessity. By the principle of moral or philosophical necessity is meant then that the mind is invariably governed by certain laws which determine all its operations; or in other words, that the regular succession of cause and effect is not confined to mere matter, while the impulses of the will are left quite unaccounted for, self-caused, perfectly contingent and fantas

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