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thers, as well as of my own. Many examples are given in the chapter above quoted : join to these the following. My servant aiming at a partridge, happens to shoot a favourite spaniel crossing the way unseen. Inflamed with anger, I storm at his rashness, pronounce him guilty, and will listen to no excuse. When passion fubfides, I become sensible that the action was merely accidental, and that the man is absolutely innocent. The nurse overlays my only child, the long-expected heir to a great estate. With difficulty I refrain from putting her to death : “ The wretch “ has murdered my infant: she ought to “ be torn to pieces.” When I turn calm, the matter appears to me in a very different light. The poor woman is inconfolable, and can scarce believe that she is innocent : she bitterly reproaches herself for want of care and concern. But, upon cool - reflection, both she and I become sensible, that no person in found sleep has any selfcommand, and that we cannot be answerable for any action of which we are not conscious. Thus, upon the whole, we discover, that any impression we occasionally have of being able to act in contra
diction to motives, is the result of passion, not of found judgement.
The reader will observe, that this section is copied from Essays on Morality and Natural Religion. The ground-work is the same: the alterations are only in the superstructure; and the subject is abridged in order to adapt it to its present place. The preceding parts of the sketch were published in the second edition of the Principles of Equity. But as law-books have little currency, the publishing the whole in one essay, will not, I hope, be thought improper.
Α Ρ Ρ Ε Ν DI X.
Upon Chance and Contingency.
Hold it to be an intuitive proposition,
That the Deity is the primary cause of all things; that with consummate wifdom he formed the great plan of government, which he carries on by laws suited to the different natures of animate and in,
animate beings; and that these laws, produce a regular chain of causes and effects in the moral as well as the material world, admitting no events but what are comprehended in the original plan (a). Hence it clearly follows, that chance is excluded out of this world, that nothing can happen by accident, and that no event is arbitrary or contingent.
This is the doctrine of the essay quoted ; and, in my apprehension, well founded. But I cannot subscribe to what follows, “ That we have
an impression of chance and contin
gency, which consequently must be de“ lusive.” I would not willingly admit any
delusion in the nature of man, unless it were made evident beyond contradiction ; 'and I now see clearly, that the impression we have of chance and contingency, is not delusive, but perfectly consistent with the established plan.
The explanation of chance and contingency in the said essay, shall be given in the author's own words, as a proper text to reason upon.
“ In our ordinary train “ of thinking, it is certain that all events
(a) See Essays on Morality and Natural Religion, part 1. eľay zo
appear not to us as necessary. A mul“ titude of events seem to be under our CS
power to cause or to prevent; and we “ readily make a distinction betwixt e
vents that are necessary, i. e. that must “ be; and events that are contingent, i. e. “ that may be, or may not be. This dif“ tinction is void of truth : for all things
that fall out either in the material or
moral world, are, as we have seen, a" like necessary, and alike the result of “ fixed laws. Yet, whatever conviction a “ philofopher may have of this, the dif“ tinction betwixt things necessary and
things contingent, possesses his ordinary “ train of thought, as much as it possesses “ the most illiterate. We act universally upon that distinction: nay
it is in truth " the cause of all the labour, care, and in
dustry, of mankind. I illustrate this “ doctrine by an example. Constant ex
perience hath taught us, that death is
a necessary event. The human frame “ is not made to last for ever in its pre“ fent condition; and no man thinks of
; more than a temporary existence upon “ this globe. But the particular time of our death appears a contingent event,
However certain it be, that the time " and manner of the death of each indi“ vidual is determined by a train of preš
ceding causes, and is no less fixed than “ the hour of the sun's rising or setting;
yet no person is affected by this doc“ trine. In the care of prolonging life,
we are directed by the supposed contingency of the time of death, which, to a certain term of years, we consider as depending in a great measure on ourselves, by caution against accidents, due use of food, exercise, &c. These means are prosecuted with the fame diligence
as if there were in fact no necessary “ train of causes to fix the period of life.
In short, whoever attends to his own
practical ideas, whoever reflects upon " the meaning of the following words “ which occur in all languages, of things
possible, contingent, that are in our power
to cause or prevent ; whoever, I say, re« flects upon these words, will clearly fee, " that they suggest certain perceptions or “ notions repugnant to the doctrine above
established of univerfal neceffity.”
In order to show thai there is no repugnance, I begin with defining chance and VOL. IV.