« AnteriorContinuar »
natural biasses. Third, Erroneous reasoning occasioned by acquired biasses. With refpect to the first, instances 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 reason. Plato, taking for granted the following erroneous proposition, That every being which moves itself must have a foul, concludes that the world must have a soul, because it moves itself (a). Aristotle taking it for granted, without the least evidence and contrary to truth, that all heavy bodies tend to the centre of the universe, proves the earth to be the centre of the universe by the following argument. Heavy bodies natu
rally tend to the centre of the universe:
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 universe.” Appion ridicules the Jews for adhering literally to the precept of resting on their fabbath, so as to suffer Jerusalem to be taken that day by : (a) Cicero, De natura Deorum, lib. 2. § 12.
Ptolomy son of Lagus. Mark the anfwer of Josephus : Whoever passes a sober “ judgement on this matter, will find our
practice agreeable to honour and virtue; 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 opposition to every moral principle ! A superstitious and absurd doctrine, That God will interpose by a miracle to declare what is right in every controversy, has occasioned much erroneous reasoning and absurd practice. The practice of determining controversies by single combat, commenced about the seventh century, when religion had degenerated into superstition, and courage was esteemed the only moral virtue. The parliament of Paris, in the reign of Charles VI. appointed a single 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 accused by his son-in-law for too great familiarity with his wife, a duel between them was appointed by the same
parliament, parliament. ' Voltaire justly observes, that the parliament decreed a parricide to be committed, in order to try an accusation of incest, which possibly was not committed. The trials by water and by fire, rest on the fame erroneous foundation. In the former, if the person accused funk to the bottom, it was a judgement pronounced by God that he was innocent: if he kept above, it was a judgement that he was guilty. Fleury (a) remarks, that if ever the person accused was found guilty, it was his own fault. In Sicily, a woman accused of adultery, was compelled to swear to her innocence: the oath, taken down in writing, was laid on water; and if it did not fink, the woman was innocent. We find the same pradlice in Japan, and in Malabar. One of the articles infifted on by the reformers in Scotland, was, That public prayers be made and the facraments administered in the vulgar tongue. The answer of a provincial council was in the following words: “That to
“ conceive public prayers or administer :,« 'the facraments in any language but Latin, is contrary to the traditions and (a) Histoire Ecclefiaftique.
practice practice of the Catholic church for many ages past; and that the demand cannot be granted, without impiety to
God and disobedience to the church.” Here it is taken for granted, that the practice of the church is always right; which is building an argument on a very rotten foundation. The Caribbeans abstain from swines fielh ; taking it erroneously for granted, that such food would make them have small eyes, held by them a great deformity. They also abstain froin eating turtle; which they think would infect them with the laziness and stupidity of that animal. Upon the fame erroneous notion, the Brasilians abstain from the flesh of ducks, and of every creature that moves slowly. It is observed of northern nations, that they do not open the mouth
sufficiently for distinct articulation; and : the reason given is, that the coldness of that northern tongues abound with confonants, which admit but a small aperture of the mouth. (See Elements of Criticism, chap. Beauty of language). A list of German names to be found in every catalogue of books, will make this evident, RutgerJous, for example, Faesch. To account for a a fact that is certain, any reafon commonly suffices.
the air makes them keep the mouth as close as possible. This reason is indolently copied by writers one from another : people enured to a cold climate feel little cold in the mouth; beside that a cause so weak could never operate equally anong fu many different nations. The real cause is, Vol. III.
A talent for writing seems in Germany to be estimated by weight, as beauty is faid to be in Holland. Cocceius for.writing three weighty folio volumes on law, has obtained among his countrymen the epithet of Great. This author, handling the rules of succession in land-eftates, has with most profound erudition founded all of them upon the following very simple proposition : In a competition, that descendent is entitled to be preferred who has the greatest quantity of the predeceffor's blood in his veins. Quæritur, has a
a man any of his predecessor's blood in his veins, otherwise than metaphorically? Simple indeed! to build an argument in law upon a pure metaphor:
Next of reasonings where the conclusion follows not from the premises, or funda