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guide in the conduct of life, we should have cause to complain; but our Maker has provided us with the moral sense, a guide little fubject to error in matters of importance. In the fciences, reafon is ef fential; but in the conduct of life, which is our chief concern, reafon may be an ufeful affiftant; but to be our director is not its province.
The national progress of reafon has been flower in Europe, than that of any other art: ftatuary, painting, architecture, and other fine arts, approach nearer perfection, as well as morality and natural history. Manners and every art that appears externally, may in part be acquired by imitation and example: in reafoning there is nothing external to be laid hold of. But there is befide a particular cause that regards Europe, which is the blind deference that for many ages was paid to Aristotle; who has kept the reasoning faculty in chains more than two thousand years. In his logic, the plain and fimple mode of reafoning is rejected, that which Nature dictates; and in its ftead is introduced an artificial mode, fhowy but unsubstantial, of no ufe for discovering truth; but con
trived with great art for wrangling and
parliament of Paris prohibited, under pain of death, any thing to be taught contrary to the doctrines of Ariftotle. Julius II. and Leo X. Roman Pontiffs, contributed zealously to the reformation of letters; but they did not foresee that they were also contributing to the reformation of religion, and of every science that depends on reafoning. Though the fetters of fyllogifm have many years ago been fhaken off; yet, like a limb long kept from motion, the reasoning faculty has fcarcely to this day attained its free and natural exercise. Mathematics is the only fcience that never has been cramped by fyllogifm, and we find reasoning there in great perfection at an early period. The very flow progress of reasoning in other matters, will appear from the following induction.
To exemplify erroneous and absurd reafonings of every fort, would be endless. The reader, I prefume, will be fatisfied with a few inftances; and I fhall endeavour to select what are amufing. For the fake of order, I divide them into three heads. First, Inftances fhowing the imbecillity of human reason during its nonage. Second, Erroneous reafoning occafioned by VOL. III. F f natural
natural biaffes. Third, Erroneous reafoning occafioned by acquired biaffes. With respect to the firft, inftances are endless of reasonings founded on erroneous premises. It was an Epicurean doctrine, That the gods have all of them a human figure; moved by the following argument, that no being of any other figure has the use of reafon. Plato, taking for granted the following erroneous propofition, That every being which moves itself must have a foul, concludes that the world must have a foul, because it moves itself (a). Ariftotle taking it for granted, without the leaft evidence and contrary to truth, that all heavy bodies tend to the centre of the univerfe, proves the earth to be the centre of the univerfe by the following argument. "Heavy bodies na
turally tend to the centre of the uni"verfe: we know by experience that heavy "bodies tend to the centre of the earth: "therefore the centre of the earth is the "centre of the univerfe." Appion ridicules the Jews for adhering literally to the precept of refling on their fabbath, fo as to fuffer Jerufalem to be taken that day by
(e) Cicero, De natura Deorum, lib. 2. § 12.
Ptolomy fon of Lagus. Mark the answer of Jofephus : "Whoever paffes a fober, judgement on this matter, will find our "practice agreeable to honour and vir66 tue; for what can be more honourable "and virtuous, than to poftpone our country, and even life itself, to the fer"vice of God, and of his holy religion ?” A strange idea of religion, to put it in direct oppofition to every moral principle! A superstitious and abfurd doctrine, That God will interpose by a miracle to declare what is right in every controverfy, has occafioned much erroneous reafoning and abfurd practice. The practice of determining controverfies by fingle combat, commenced about the feventh century, when religion had degenerated into fuperstion, and courage was efteemed the only moral virtue. The parliament of Paris, in the reign of Charles VI. appointed a fingle combat between two gentlemen, in order to have the judgement of God whether the one had committed a rape on the other's wife. In the 1454, John Picard being accufed by his fon-in-law for too great familiarity with his wife, a duel be tween them was appointed by the fame Ff2 parliament.