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DISQUISITION

ON

POWER.

SECTION I.

Of a determinate Notion of POWER.

BEING or existence, is the name we give to a fimple object of conception, the notion of which is attained by abftraction. The notion of existence feems the only unlimitedly general or univerfal notion we are capable of forming. It is naturally and obviously effential to every pos fible object of conception. Logically confidered, it is the most universal of all our notions of mode, as applicable to every thought of our minds, refpecting either matter or fpirit.

If we confider exiftence as a whole, the first divifion is into exiftence actual, and existence

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merely in conception. The former is applicable to all we fee, hear, feel, tafte, smell or know to exift, independent in any refpect on one's own mind, that is, whether we fuppofe my mind or the mind of fome other perfon to exift, or not, capable of conceiving them. Actual existence is extended alfo to ali mental existence, conceived, without respect to its objects. The latter is applied to all our conceptions which have no objects actually exifting; but which are merely imagined, fictitious or fancied beings; that is, what we express by the term poffibles.

Another divifion of our notion of being is, into pofitive being and negative being. Objects of both the former claffes may be pofitive beings: but the objects of mere conception, alone, can be negative beings. Again, Objects of the clafs of positives, may be both actual beings and imagined beings but objects of the negative class, such as all negations and privations, are never more than merely conceived or imagined beings. The primary affections of being are duration and extenfion-duration and extenfion are affections equally applied to the negation of beings, as to positive beings. We conceive that were there no pofitive existence, yet duration and extenfion must be.

Power, is in its own nature an actual and pofitive being and ontologically confidered, is an affection of being, next in order of nature to exten

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fion and duration, it being effential to all actual being. We are incapable of forming a picturesque conception of power; nor is it a tranfcript by reflection from our confcioufness: but it is, like extenfion and duration, a fimple object of thought, the thought of every one, which can only be fingled out by its relations and accompanying objects.

The mind being every day informed by the fenses of the alterations of the fimple modes it obferves in external objects actually exifting, and taking notice how one comes to an end and ceafes to be, and another begins to exist, which was not before. And concluding from what it has fo conftantly obferved to have been, that the like changes will for the future be made in the fame things by like objects and by like ways, confiders respecting one thing the poffibility of having any of its fimple modes changed, and respecting another the actually concurring to that change, and fo comes to a notion of that which we call power.

Reflection on what paffes in our own minds, also, leads us to the conception of power. The mind reflecting on what it is confcious of within itself, and obferving a conftant changé of its thoughts, fometimes by the impreffions of outward objects on the fenfes, and fometimes through the medium of its determinations or other modified thoughts; and

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and confidering as before, that the like changes will in future be made in the fame objects of thought by like objects, by the like ways, confiders refpecting one thought, the poffibility, of having any of its fimple objects changed, and respecting another thought, the actually concurring to that change, and hence also comes to the conception of that object which is denominated power.

Power or energy is not only effential to producing and sustaining change: but also to abiding or enduring, in oppofition to change. We cannot reflect on the origin, continuation or deftruction of being, without admitting the existence of power. We cannot reflect on the origin of our existence without unavoidably admitting the exiftence of power, adequate power; nor can we reflect on our daily prefervation, without fome notion of accompanying power; neither can we anticipate our advancement in a future ftate, without this effential co-existent. Indeed the actual existence of power perpetually forceth itfelf on us and thus aids our conception of itself, that fimple incomprehenfible thing we call

power.

Power, is that by which change is immediately produced, and by which enduring is sustained in oppofition to change. I believe myself incapable fa direct and abfolute conception of power, yet

think I have a determinate conception of it: as a fimple object, like other fimple objects, it is incapable of a definition composed of the genus, fpecies and difference, that is, of a ftriftly logical' definition: Yet if we reflect that power is always relative, the reflection, on its relation to change, enables us to determine its notion, or furnishes us ample materials for that purpose.

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Some have endeavoured to perfuade us, that no difficulty attends the meaning of the word. power: but on reading the works of the fame Gentlemen, I have found more ambiguity, and indeterminedness of meaning affixed to the word, than I could have expected from their learning and acumen. They seem to have no apprehenfion of ambiguity, when they confound power with: property, ability, capacity, might, liberty, dominion, poffibility and feveral other terms, all which admit determinate meanings. I do not think it trifling or needless, seriously to enquire, what is ineant by power, for although it is a common word in our language, ufed every day in converfation, it does not seem ufed with a determinate fignification. If I fay, the human mind has the property of perceiving, and that it has! the power of perceiving: thefe expreffions will be admitted as fynonimous. If I fay, fire has ability to melt brafs, and that, fire has power to elt brafs, thefe expreffions also will be accounted

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