« PrécédentContinuer »
If the language, then, of Mr. Leslie's note, cannot be otherwise understood than as a denial of an efficient or operating principle in any cause, no reasoning can be necessary to show, that this doctrine, were it admitted, would at once put an end to all possiblity of arguing, from what we have been accustomed to call the works of God, for the purpose of proving either his Being or his attributes. But, in fact, the doctrine strikes more directly at the foundation of religion. The sceptical conclusions of Mr. Hume are not merely a consequence of the doctrine; they are, to a great extent, contained in it. The assertion, that there is no operating principle in any cause, is a virtual denial of God as a Creator, and of our relation to him, and dependence upon him, as his creatures. And the doctrine does not less directly strike against the attributes of God. To assert that there is no operating principle in any cause, is a virtual denial of Divine power; and, accordingly, the original author of this doctrine did not hesitate to affirm, in the very Essay that Mr. Leslie has approved and sanctiond, that power seems a word “absolutely without any meaning, when employed either in philosophical reasoning, or in common life.” Nor is power the anly attribute of God that this doctrine would annihilate : for what are his wisdom and goodness but Divine energies, or, in other words, operating principles ? *
Mr. Leslie speaks, in his letter, of the “gross misapplication that Mr. Hume has made of his premises, intimating that he never intended to apply them in the same manner. But if, by Mr. Hume's premises, we are to understand the whole doctrine of the Essay on Necessary
* It is worthy of observation, that although Mr. Leslie is charged in the two last paragraphs with denying the existence of a connexion between cause and effect, and also the existence of an operating principle in any cause, the charge in the Representation and Protest, of his having denied such a NECESSARY connexion between cause and effect as implies an operating principle in the cause, has entirely disappeared. A similar change of language is still more striking in the circular letter, which forms the next article, the writer of which only charges Mr. Leslie with having denied ALL SUCH CONNEXION between cause and effect, as implies an operating principle in the cause. The important epithet necessary is here very dextrously omitted; the author probably taking it for granted, that some of his country brethren were better metaphysicians than the magistrates of Edinburgh. I confess I begin to suspect, that he would now be not ill-pleased, that this unlucky word had been also left out in the original record, which is to transmit to posterity the particulars of this memorable Avisamentum.
Connexion which Mr. Leslie has adopted as his own,* the application of that doctrine, to the extent in which it has now been stated, does not remain a matter of choice to any man who admits the doctrine itself;—if the principle be admitted, the conclusion is irresistible. Mr. Leslie indeed says, that the misapplication of Mr. Hume's premises has already been well pointed out by Dr. Reid. But every man who has read Dr. Reid's Essays, must know that his object in replying to Mr. Hume, is to resist the premises themselves, and the very doctrine which Mr. Leslie has approved and supported as contained in the Essay on Necessary Connexion.
It will not, probably, in these circumstances, appear surprising that they, who object to Mr. Leslie's doctrine, have not received much satisfaction from the pledge he has given, with a view to a future edition of his book,not a pledge to retract his doctrine, or even to correct
* In all the controversial writings into which I have looked, I do not recollect to have met with such an instance of an unblushing want of candor and good faith, as this sentence exhibits. Is it possible for any man of common understanding seriously to doubt, that Mr. Leslie, when he applied the words premises and conclusion to Mr. Hume’s Essay on Necessary. Connexion, used them in the same sense in which they are employed in a quotation which the reader will find in p. 322, of this pamphlet?
| It is rather unfortunate for the writer who has hazarded the foregoing remark, that Dr. Reid himself, in the very first of his Essays on the Active Powers of Man, should have expressed himself so clearly on this point, in the following words.
“ I acknowledge, that our having any conception or idea of power is repugnant to Mr. Locke's Theory, that all our simple ideas are got either by the external senses, or by consciousness. Both cannot be true. Mr. Hume perceived this repugnancy, and consistently maintained, that we have no idea of power. Mr. Locke did not perceive it. If he had, it might have led him to suspect his theory; for when theory is repugnant to fact, it is easy to see which ought to yield.”
From this passage it appears to a demonstration, that, in Dr. Reid's judgment, the unsound part of Mr. Hume's reasonings concerning power lies in that link which connects his premises with his conclusion. This link is Mr. Hume's theory (borrowed, with some slight alterations, from Locke) with respect to the origin of our ideas ; a theory delivered in a previous Essay, and to which Mr. Leslie has not, in the most distant manner, alluded. If this theory be rejected, (which no person can avoid doing who understands the repeated refutations which it has received from Mr. Harris, Dr. Price, Dr. Reid, and others,) Mr. Hume's conclusion falls to the ground. If it be admitted, Dr. Reid pronounces Mr. Hume’s conclusion to be irresistible.
It is worthy of observation, that Dr. Reid, although he asserts Mr. Hume's conclusion concerning the idea of power, to follow as a necessary consequence from Mr. Locke's account of the origin of our ideas, does not, on that account, seem to have thought himself entitled to charge Mr. Locke with an intention to subvert all religion, natural as well as revealed. Some pretty severe strictures on Dr. Reid himself, on this very argument concerning cause and effect, may be found in Dr. Gregory's Essays, (p. 209, et seq. Introd.,) and yet, I can venture to assure this metaphysical inquisitor, that, far from exciting on either side the most distant suspicion of a disagreement between them on those great and fundamental principles, with which that argument is so closely connected, this speculative difference of opinion never for one moment interrupted the cordiality of their friendship.
his language, but merely to show “how grossly and injuriously he has been misrepresented.”—They may be allowed to have some degree of confidence in their own judgment for comprehending the obvious import or meaning of words : * And, even supposing them in an error, which Mr. Leslie, from what he has stated about want of time, might not have it in his power at first to point out, it is presumable that he must have since had leisure to embrace one or other of the opportunities that have been afforded him, of explaining to them their mistakes and misinterpretations, had he found it a practicable task. It is but candid to admit, that his religious professions are sincere, and to suppose that, at the time of his writing the note objected to, he was not duly aware of the dangerous import of the language he has employed : But, if the doctrine of an author cannot be vindicated from such a charge as has been, in this instance, laid, the stronger that his sense of religion is, the stronger obligation should he feel himself under to withdraw, and discontinue to publish what is subversive of religion ; and more than this, in the case of Mr. Leslie, has never been expected or desired.
MEMORIAL clandestinely sent to various Members of
the ensuing General Assembly.t
It is generally known that the Town Council of Edinburgh have lately elected to the Chair of the Professor of Mathematics in the University, Mr. John Leslie, author of an “ Experimental Inquiry into the Nature and Propagation of Heat,” and that objections are stated against Mr. Leslie's appointment as a professor by a majority of the ministers of Edinburgh.
* How far this confidence is well founded, I leave to my readers to judge. (See the foregoing Pamphlet passim, and particularly pp. 344, 345.)
+ The near approach of the General Assembly (which meets to-morrow) obliges me to print the following paper without the comments which I originally intended. I have, however, printed either in italics or in small capitals, the clauses which I wish to recommend more particularly to the reader's attention.
These objections, as far as they are personal to Mr. Leslie, are founded upon the publication now referred to, in which there occur different passages very exceptionable in a religious view. But as the ministers who object to Mr. Leslie have no desire to multiply grounds of charge without necessity, they content themselves with directing the attention of others to the Note No. XVI., subjoined to Mr. Leslie's book, in which he has stated and defended an opinion calculated to undermine the foundation of all religion, both natural and revealed.
The note commences with these words, “ Mr. Hume is the first, as far as I know, who has treated of causation in a truly philosophic manner. His Essay on Necessary Connexion seems a model of clear and accurate reasoning. But it was only wanted to dispel the cloud of mystery, which had so long darkened that important subject. The unsophisticated sentiments of mankind are in perfect unison with the deductions of Logic, and imply nothing more at bottom, in the relation of cause and effect, than a constant and invariable sequence."
It is well known, that Mr. Hume's doctrine of causation, and particularly his Essay on Necessary connexion, are the foundation of all his infidel tenets; and it is evident that Mr. Leslie, in having thus, along with Mr. Hume, denied all such* connexion between cause and effect, as implies an operating principle in the cause, has of course laid a foundation for rejecting all the argument that is derived from the works of God, to prove either his being or his attributes.
Mr. Leslie proceeds, in the Note referred to, to support his proposition by a long etymological argument, intended to show, that neither the word cause, nor any synonymous word in any language, is either designed or calculated to denote any thing more, than “ first in the order of succession," or, “the object which precedes ;" so that were his reasoning to be held conclusive, we should not even be left in possession of words to convey the idea of an operating power in the Divine Mind. And as the doctrine extends equally to a denial of all connexion between volition in the human mind and the conduct to which it leads, there results from it, as unavoidably, a denial of man being accountable for his conduct.
* See Note, p. 356.
This doctrine of Mr. Leslie, in which it will be found, upon examination, that, as a disciple of Mr. Hume, he has even taken higher ground than was ever ventured on by (his) master, has appeared to the Ministers of Edinburgh in a very different view from those partial heresies, real or supposed, for which Professors in the Universities have been formerly called in question by the Church. And looking to the publication of this doctrine, in connexion with the circumstances of the times, when there appears an infidel party arraying itself, with increasing confidence, against the religion of the country, they cannot but consider the appointment of Mr. Leslie to be a Professor and a teacher of youth, as a measure of very unfriendly aspect to our Christian Faith, and our Church establishment for its support.
A letter indeed has appeared from Mr. Leslie, professing to be explanatory of his doctrine; but the Ministers of Edinburgh have found in it little more than an attempt to deny and misrepresent the obvious meaning of words, as if both Mr. Hume's doctrine and Mr. Leslie's referred merely to physical causes; while every man who reads Mr. Hume's Essay in connexion with Mr. Leslie's Note, must perceive that their conjoint doctrine upon the subject of causation is placed upon the broadest ground, extending to every thing under the name of cause, in either matter or mind. Mr. Leslie has indeed added, in his letter, that he did not intend to apply his doctrine to the purposes for which it was applied by Mr. Hume. But to the extent in which the Ministers of Edinburgh have represented his doctrine as hostile to religion, considered as a doctrine subversive of the argument for the being and perfections of God, and for man being an accountable agent,—the application did not remain to be made; the application is necessary and unavoidable : if the principle be once admitted, no mind can resist the conclusion.
The Ministers of Edinburgh have therefore felt it their indispensable duty, to protest, in the most solemn