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but as being invested with properties: that is, they are considered after the manner of substances, as many other abstract ideas are. And because it is certain, that they are not substances, (much less can they be attributes,) they are, most probably, nothing else but general abstract ideas, common measures and receptacles formed by the mind, for the better lodgement, rangement, and adjustment of our other ideas.
3. As to existence ad extra, it is not to be proved by strength of imagination, but by reasons proper to the case. So it cannot be justly pretended, that we have intuitive evidence. We know and feel our own existence, and from thence can demonstrate the existence of God. I say, demonstrate: for our knowledge of God here is demonstrative only, not intuitive, as will be shewn hereafter. We neither see nor feel space or time as existing ad extra: we contemplate nothing but our own ideas: and from ideas within, to realities without, there is no immediate consequence to be drawn; but whatever we may draw, justly, must be worked out by deduction and inference, and perhaps a long chain of reasoning, before we can come at certainty as to real external existence.
4. To pretend, that our ideas within are as necessarily connected with actual existence without, as the ideas of twice two and four, is mistaking imagination for reason, and association of ideas for connection. That twice two is equal to four, is as certain as that the same idea is the same idea: and the connection of the idea of equality is plain and certain. This is only pronouncing upon the relations of ideas with each other, and so far we cannot be mistaken, having a clear and distinct perception of such relations but ideal existence is not necessarily connected with real existence, like as idea with idea; and therefore the comparison here made is wide and foreign. There is no resemblance between the two cases, but they are as different as possible from each other, as much as fancy and fiction from truth and
5. To make God the substratum of space and time (which really are not attributes or properties, nor ever spoken of as such) is mere solecism and impropriety of expression; a certain mark of as great an error in thought. Not to mention many other just objections which lie against the gross notion of an extended or expanded Deity.
6. Necessary existence is inaccurately and preposterously ex
WATERLAND, VOL. III.
plained by impossibility of non-existence: for the affirmative is in order of nature prior to the negativem; and, strictly speaking, the existence is not necessary, because non-existence is impossible; but on the reverse, non-existence is impossible, because existence, in that instance, is necessary, or infinitely permanent ". The negative truth in this case resolves into its correspondent affirmative, as into its principle, from which it is deduced.
7. In the making the idea of a necessarily existing Being to be the idea of one whose non-existence is an express contradiction, there appears to be a twofold confusion; one between physical and logical necessity; another between a contradiction a priori and a contradiction a posteriori. There is in a necessarily existing Being a physical impossibility of non-existence: which is not the same thing with a logical repugnancy, referring to our ideas as contradictory and repugnant. Those two things are distinct, and ought not to have been confounded.
A contradiction a priori is, when we perceive from the idea of such a cause, that it is a contradiction for that cause not to produce such an effect. There is no such contradiction as this comes to in the supposition of the non-existence of a Deity: for we see not a priori why he must be; we see no cause of it; but, on the contrary, we perceive, that he is absolutely uncaused.
But a posteriori we find it resolve at length into a contradiction, to suppose that no First Cause exists: it is a contradiction to our ideas of cause and effect: for effects must have a cause, and if something now exists, something always existed, something independent; for from nothing could arise nothing. This
m At vero necessitas describi vel intelligi haudquaquam potest absque ratione ipsius esse: nam necessarium est, quod non potest non esse. Quare ipsum esse prius est ratione necessitatis. Gillius, lib. i. tract. 8. cap.4. p.396.
n Necessarium nequaquam recte per possibile, nec per impossibile definitur; nihil enim recte definitur per aliquid posterius eo, sicut secundo Post. et septimo Metaph. demonstratur; sed utrumque istorum est posterius necessario. Non ergo recte definitur necessarium per hoc quod non est possibile non esse, vel per hoc quod impossibile est non esse. Ideoque
Avicen. 1. Metaph. 5. reprobat defini-
o See Dr. Gretton upon the distinction between logical and physical reason. Review, p. 69.
kind of contradiction a posteriori we admit; not the other a priori, which is fiction only, though much has been built upon it.
8. As to absolute (antecedent) necessity's being the cause of the unalterable proportion between twice two and four, it is all a mistake. There is no antecedency in the case. First principles and axioms shine by their own light, have nothing antecedent to demonstrate them by, are perceived by intuition, not demonstration; and resolve only into this, that every thing is what it is, or the same idea is the same idea. The idea of equality is the idea of equality, and the idea of twice two is the idea of twice two, and the idea of four the idea of four: and, as soon as ever the terms expressing those ideas are understood, the proposition is admitted course, requiring no antecedent necessity to ascertain it, no cause to fix it: it is above all causes, being intuitively, not demonstrably discerned. But enough has been said to shew how the erroneous notion of the argument a priori has served to usher in a great deal of confusion and false reasoning in other articles hanging upon it, or ministering to it: so that the letting in that one false principle cannot but tend to the detriment of science in general; which I undertook to shew.
And now, to look back to what has been observed in these papers concerning the pretended demonstration a priori, the sum is as follows that the thought is in some sense old enough, having been suggested, considered, and rejected by the judicious fifteen hundred years ago: that it has been frequently taken notice of since by the schoolmen and others; and drawn out into public light, but always like a criminal, in order to be condemned that though attempts have been made in favour of something under the name of an argument a priori, yet as to the gross sense of it, in which it is now contended for, (viz. as an antecedent ground, reason, foundation, internal cause of the Deity, it appears not to have met with any professed patrons before the eighteenth century; when probably what former ages had been doing was not remembered, or not duly attended to: that the new countenance given to a notion that had been so long and universally exploded, brought it into some degree of credit and repute, before it was understood: that as soon as it came to be more minutely looked into, it began presently to decline, and to sink as it formerly used to do that it is now found to carry in it such insuperable absurdities, as must of
course be a bar to its reception in an inquisitive and discerning age that, lastly, it seems to promise no good to religion or science, while sapping the fundamental articles of one, and crossing the established principles of the other.
This appears to me to be a true report and fair account of what concerns the argument a priori, after the most attentive and impartial inquiries I have hitherto been able to make into it.