Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

not blindly adore either the antient or modern Guides : Let us do Justice to both, and pay Regard: to Merit, in whatsoever Subject it shines, not examining whether it be new or old.

XXII. But tho we should happen to have so much Strength of Soul, as may resist our Prepossession in favour of the Ancients, or our Inclinations to the Moderns, yet we are seldom refolute enough wholly to divest our felves of the natural Fondness we have for our own Conceptions. This is one of the greatest Weaknesses of human Understanding: Man, by the Force of Self-love, thinks nothing fo properly his own as his Opinion: This he looks upon as his Creature, and therefore he renounces all other Interests, to maintain and fupport it. This Obstinacy of defending what Men have once embrac'd, has been sometimes carried to very strange and unnatural Extremities. Pythagoras's Scholars chofe Diog.La. to be burnt, rather than to abjure the Doctrine ert. I. 8. of their Master: And the Followers of Hegefias Idem. 1.2. by too strict an Adherence to the Rigour of his Precepts, starv'd themselves to Death. Nay, the Wise Socrates weakly paid his Life for his Philosophical Perfuafion. Nor have there been Inter wanting in these latter Ages, Men absurd talitatis enough to die Martyrs to their own extravagant incommoDoctrines. For Error has its Votaries under a da,& hoc ftricter Tie, and a more absolute Engagement est, çaligo

mentium, than Truth. Nay, some there are, who take a

nec tantum fecret Pride in authorizing that by their Suf- neceffitas frage, which does not approve it self to their errandi,fed Reason, and blindly follow Principles that they errorum adon't understand, only that they may enjoy the mor. Sen.

Quafi Vanity of Espousing what is abstruse and diffi

quidquam fit infelicius homine cui fua figmente dominantur ! Plin-N. H.

cult.

terd mor

tenent.

cult. These are the most universal Illusions of Self-love ; which as ’tis ridiculous in all its Motions, is never more so, than in its Stiffness to justify its own fallacious Views: And as nothing is more irregular than what it wills and

desires, so nothing is more indefensible than Nibil vo- what it thinks and conceives. But those Men seem lunt inter to run to the last Extravagance, who inveigh credi meli- against all Opinions publickly receivd, can bear ùs quàm

no Sentiments but their own upon any Subject quod ipfe of Discourse, and pity all that happen to be of

a different Persuasion. They are so taken up Petron. with their private Notions, and so much abound

in their own Sense, as to remain Strangers to the Sense of other Men. This is properly the Character of little and narrow Spirits. For, as much Merit as there is in vigorously maintaining true Reason, when we are once ascertain'd of its Truth, so much Virtue there is in abandoning false Reason, when we are once apprized of its Falsity. This is an Ingenuity of Temper truly magnanimous, in the judgment of Aristotle. For there cannot be a nobler Mark of real Greatness of Soul, than thus to preserve our Liberty entire, between Truth and Falsehood, so as to be able to allert the one, and discard

the other, according to our best Light, and our A Saturnis justest Apprehension of both. 'Twas thus Hippocapitum se

crates confess’d himself to have been fomedeceptum tradidit

times led into a Mistake by uncertain Principles. Hippocra- 'So great a Modesty could only proceed from Tes; more as great a Capacity: For to distrust our own fcilicet

Sufficiency, is one of the furest Characters of magnorum virorum

Wisdom. fiduciamque magnam habentium. Nam levia ingenia quæ nibil babent, nibil fibi detrabunt. Magno viro convenit, etiam fimplex veri erroris confeffio. Cell, 1. 8.

XXIII. It

XXIII. It requires a great Mastery of Knowledge, to be able to pronounce of Things, according to their different Degrees of Certitude ; to separate Truth from Appearance, to fix the Bounds of Probability, so as to pass a clear and distinct Judgment upon all sorts of Questions. For the Disorders that arise in Mens Spirits, with regard to the great Variety of Opinions and Schemes, is owing to their Confusions and Indistinctness of f Thought. For Example, Copernicus shut himself up in his Study, to erect a new System of the World. He reviv'd the Doctrine of Nicetas the Syracusian, That the Sun is the only Body in the Universe which preserves a constant Reft. He rack'd his Fancy to adorn and dress up his Hypothesis ; and we must own that nothing could be more finely conceiv'd, or more nicely wrought. Yet, would it be reasonable to admit the Conjectures of this great Man, as demonftrative Proofs ? Would it be just, to overlook the Authority of all former Ages, to set up a private Judgment as a Common Law to Mankind, and to oblige the whole world to believe that Nature is mov'd and govern'd in concert with the Imagination of Copernicus ? Descartes built a new System of Physick upon Principles not altogether new : He himself look'd upon this System as no better than a Fi&tion, or Ro. mance, which was the Name that he gave his Philosophy among his intimate Friends. And Thall that be facred to me which was a Jest to the Author ? I confess my self his Admirer, but cannot submit to be in the Number of his Slaves : And I insist upon my first Principle, as the Measure of all philosophical Reasonings, that we ought to proportion our Assent to the different Degrees of Certitude in the Subject of De

bate; Debate; so as never to entertain Truth as Pro

bability, nor Probability as Truth. 'Tis in this Maximé Epicurus, as cited by Tully, has plac'd the Height fapientis and Excellence of Wisdom: And 'tis an Imputaest, veritation of Folly to do otherwise: because Things xione ses are often very widely distant from the Represepjungere. tation which they bear in our Opinions and Cic. de Ideas. fin.

XXIV. It is from a wrong Genius, and a false Light, Non ab., that Men forsake the ordinary Process of Philopublicis fophy, to pursue some extraordinary and unpramoribus atis’d Method ; and 'tis always a sign of an evil philofo- Taste in Sciences, not to love what is commonly pbia. Sen. receiv'd : Men are very much in danger

of losing themselves, when they are inclined to

travel in By-paths. In the Conduct of Human Ælian. v. Life, we cannot desert the publick Opinion, H. l. 4.

without ex pofing our felves to the greatest Absurdities. Alexander, though truly brave and valiant, for want of this Caution rendred himself little, and contemptible. “He wept, says Plutarch, because, upon Democritus's Suppofition " of a Plurality of Worlds, he had scarce con" quer'd the larger Part of One. ” And Ælian well obferves, that all the Greatness of Soul which appear'd in this noble Reflection, became

ridiculous, as being built on a false Principle. E1 philo- In the same manner, according to Cicero's Judge fopbia quæ ment, a Magistrate, whose Life ought to be a suscipit

publick Example, in a well-regulated State, patrocinium volup

would be absurd, if he should govern his Conduct Satis, etsi by the Opinion of Epicurus; and, instead of cui vera Gravity and Severity, declare for Liberty and videatur, Pleasure A Perfon in Great Employment, unprocul tar less he acts upon the stricteft Principles, cannot men abest ab eo viro: quem autorem publici confilii, regendæ civitatis ducem ele volumu. Cic. de Orat.

retain Men within the Bounds of Duty With Alia bona what Effect can he that is licentious in his Beha

mala

videntur viour, persuade or command, others to be re. Stoicis es gular ?" If, says Tully, in our Speeches at the cæteris

Bar, we should follow the Stoical Notion of gentibus, "Good and Evil, of Honour and Disgrace, so alia vis bo

contrary to the Belief of the rest of Mankind ignominia: “ we must never expect to carry a Cause. ” Norledealifeis any Thing more extravagant than Torquatus's quamur Way of arguing in the Senate, upon Epicurus's nullam Principles, as represented by the same great rem dicen

do expedio Author. There are in that Discourse some

re poliStrokes of the finest and most delicate Railery; mus. and thence we learn, that Cicera took a Delight idem. ib. in exposing the Maxims of all Philosophy, but Ea dicas

in Senatu such as was in common Vogue; and esteemid

quæ non nothing more repugnant to Eloquence, than sentias: Singularity of Opinion. It was the like Conside- id non pu. ration, which engag'd Demofthenes, to keep clear dear fentiof all the various Seats and parties that Athens e que pue

deat di fo plentifully brought forth, in his Time; that he might not go out of the common Ways and Cic. de Sentiments, which he judg’d the most proper for fin. the Art of Persuasion. And Julius Cæfar, though a Veseres great Philosopher in his Notions, yet was never

ad ufum jo in bis Ambition : He pursued no other popularem Schemes, but those of Popularity and Address ; & civilem because he knew, that these only could let him de rebus into the Hearts of his Countrymen. In a Word, disputant.

idem Oif. very difficult to preserve the Character of a wise Man, and yet to recede from common Opinions ; or the Character of a publick Person, and yet to entertain private and peculiar Conceits. And, to extend this to all Professions, how capricious would it seem in a Poet, to de fcribe the Earth moving about the Sun, according to Democritus's System ;or, according to that of Descartes, never to introduce the Stars, or

Con

cere,

Stoici non

'tis

3•

« PoprzedniaDalej »