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plying to every thing under the name of cause, whether ascribed to matter or to mind. Yet were the words, as here used, capable of any restricted interpretation, they might rather be restricted to the subject of mind than to what is merely physical or material, as stated in the letter. For a living and respectable advocate of the doctrine there avowed, as limited to physical objects, has most suitably observed, that what is merely physical can with little propriety be spoken of under the name of
Mr. Leslie, however, has furnished us with means of ascertaining the import and extent of his doctrine, in a way that still more effectually precludes the possibility of its being explained in any limited sense, by the unqualified approbation he expresses of what is new and peculiar in Mr. Hume's opinions relative to causation, and particularly of his Essay on Necessary Connexion. For all who have read this essay of Mr. Hume must know, that though he does apply his doctrine to what have been called physical causes, the great object of the essay is metaphysical, and that the greater part of the reasoning refers directly to the subject of cause, or an efficient principle in mind. Mr. Hume's doctrine has, accordingly, been opposed upon this ground, by both contemporary and later philosophers ; and Mr. Leslie, it is believed, is the first person, in this country, that has publicly approved of it.*
* That Mr. Hume’s doctrine concerning the relation of cause and effect in physics is sanctioned by the highest theological authorities in our language, has been sufficiently shown in the foregoing pages. That it coincides with the universal opinion of all the soundest philosophers of the present age, will not, I believe, be disputed.
It is no less incontrovertible, (after the light which has been thrown on this subject since Mr. Hume's time), that his reasonings concerning physical causes and effects are completely unconnected, in point of sound logic, with the sceptical conclusion to which he conceived them to be subservient. In fact, this is now so well understood by all who unite with physical science any tincture of general philosophy, that an author who has occasion, in an experimental inquiry, to appeal to such parts of Mr. Hume's Essay as tend to illustrate the rules of inductive investigation, can hardly think himself called on, in every instance, to guard his character against the imputation of Atheism, by entering a formal caveat against Mr. Hume's metaphysical inferences. Of this no stronger proof can be given than the following note subjoined by the late pious and ingenious Dr. Henry Hunter * to his English translation of Euler's Letters to a German Princess. I quote from this author in preference to any other, as he was himself, for a considerable number of years, a member of the Presbytery of Edinburgh ; a circumstance which renders it somewhat sur
Mr. Leslie has, at the same time, ventured a little beyond the precise ground that was marked out by Mr. Hume; for, while Mr. Hume seems only to contend that we can attain no idea of a connexion between cause and effect, and are therefore not entitled to reason upon the supposition that there is a connexion, Mr. Leslie expressly asserts that no such connexion exists. He accordingly attempts, in his note, to establish this position, 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.” This argument is evidently opposed to the reasoning of the most enlightened adversaries of Mr. Hume, who have, with great propriety, contended that the use and import of the word power in all languages affords a strong refutation of his doctrine. And there is, besides, an evident impossibility of restricting such an argument to physical causes : for if we were not left in possession of a word to denote an efficient principle, how should we henceforth speak of such a principle, with reference even to the Divine mind?
prising, that Mr. Leslie should have been pointed out by any gentleman connected with that reverend body as the first person in this country who has publicly approved of Mr. Hume's reasonings with respect to necessary connexion.
“ The properties of matter must ultimately be referred to the arbitrary appointment of the Author of Nature. There are certain principles at which the prudent philosopher will choose to stop, lest, by pushing his researches too far, he involve himself in greater obscurity. Those who attempted to account for gravity by mechanical impulse, committed an egregious oversight ; for the question still recurs, what produces this impulse ? No metaphysical work has ever done so much service to philosophy as Mr. Hume's admirable Essay on Necessary Connexion.”—Vol. 1. p. 46. lst Edition.
The first edition of this translation was published ten years ago ; and yet, although the book has since that period been in very general circulation among all classes of readers in Scotland, I have never heard that any one of Mr. Leslie's accusers has thought it necessary to warn his countrymen against its pernicious tendency. For my own part, I cannot help thinking, that the compliment to the Essay in question is expressed by Dr. Hunter in terms too strong and unqualified for a work, which, from its popular style of composition, was likely to fall into the hands of many persons, not well qualified to restrict his approbation (as a scientific reader must immediately perceive from the context it was meant to be restricted,) to those parts of Hume's doctrine which admit of a practical application to physical researches. Yet where is the critic who would presume to draw from the note, as it actually stands, any inference to the prejudice of Dr. Hunter's principles as a philosopher or a divine?
In the first edition of the translation which is now before me, this note is subscribed E. E. (English Editor.) In the second edition, it is subscribed F. E. (French Editor.) But this is obviously a typographical error, as the whole spirit of the note is in direct opposition to the prevailing tenets of French philosophy.
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 “ application 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.f
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.