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he lived, and, when dead, finds a conspicuous place in the records of fame. But there is a better record than that of fame; and better kept; where the name of the philanthropist has found a place, and where it would be a real joy to think that the philosopher had found one also, however humble.
Of Mr. Hume's PhilosopHICAL WORKS, on which we now propose to offer some remarks, it will be difficult to speak, within the limits prescribed to this article, in sufficient detail to give the reader even a general notion of the whole. His subjects are very miscellaneous, take a wide range, and intermeddle in the discussion of them, with first principles in almost every region of human knowledge. The utmost we can attempt is to touch upon a few prominent points. His ' treatise of Human Nature,' which, subsequently, he endeavoured to replace by a more matured 'Inquiry concerning Human Understanding,' was the boldest, and unquestionably the most able, attack which had ever been made in this country upon all the principles both of human knowledge and belief. Its author took the rank of a master in the school of universal scepticism. The latter work, which he was so exceedingly anxious to have substituted for the unripe fruit of his youthful speculations, differed nothing in the essentials of the system from its precursor ; but merely softened and corrected those matters in argument or illustration, which his maturer judgment disapproved. In the course of all his writings, whether on metaphysical, moral, political, or theological subjects, the same leading principles are either openly repeated, or may be traced, as directing the current of his thoughts, and the entire cast of his reasonings.
His starting point in philosophy was eternal necessity, immutable law-unintelligent, inexorable fate—and this notion he laboured to carry out through every region of thought; just as if the entire universe, material and immaterial, could be explained in analogy with a complicated piece of mechanism, as utterly removed from the supremacy of wisdom and benevolence, or any moral principle whatever, as the movement of a pendulum, or the concretion of atoms in a stone. If there is a · Dry-as-dusť in literature, there is, also, as ‘Hard-as-steel,' and • Cold-as-stone, in philosophy—and here it is. It was, indeed, as Sir James Mackintosh has observed, though we pretend not to quote his words, a remarkable, a highly memorable fact, that this philosopher, who was not himself destitute of the emotions of benevolence, nor insensible to their value in human society, nor sceptical even of their deep root in the human constitution, could yet contemplate with satisfaction, and even announce to the world, with the authority of what he believed to be the highest philosophy—the total absence of benevolence from the throne of the universe. Yet he never attempts to explain how such a principle could have arisen and become prevalent in human nature, if it had not formed an essential part of those laws which govern human nature. The sceptical philosophy altogether seems to assort ill with the notion to which we have just alluded; for that which results from absolute and universal necessity, ought to offer the most stable and immutable foundations for human knowledge. Where nothing is left to be accounted for by the exercise of free-will, either in the supreme agent or in inferior ones, where no abstract notion of voluntary and invisible power is admitted, but every thing reduced under the law of invariable necessity, there the succession of cause and effect is unquestionably placed in the keeping of this à priori necessity. Yet the philosopher commenced his career, not by simply attempting to prove that nothing was certainly known, but that it was impossible to know any thing, so as to justify belief; and that, from the very nature of man's understanding, he is doomed to utter and hopeless ignorance and uncertainty. The theory of speculation which had thus led to universal scepticism, is, in itself, innocuous and powerless; provided it be kept fully up to the point of universality ; because then everything remains in the same relation to every other thing; and the theory itself, becoming implicated in its own principle, is resolved into the absurdity of believing that there can be no belief, which is as comfortless a dilemma as any understanding can reach, and as direct and palpable a contradiction as any stupidity can construct. The very effort to reason the mind into universal scepticism, is just an attempt to employ the powers and laws of the mind to stultify themselves, and to reason in direct opposition to those principles of the human mind upon which alone any reasoning can be founded. That argumentation which explodes all principles of knowledge and belief, can really invalidate none; and the only danger, therefore, to be apprehended from the sceptical philosophy is, its partial application. If the sceptic will assert that the mathematician can no more prove the principles of his science than the theologian his, and that all the principles of metaphysical philosophy are just as destitute of proof, as all those of natural religion and natural philosophy, then each party may safely remain just where he was ; and his science may retain its relation to all the other branches of human knowledge undisturbed. In this case nothing is endangered or destroyed, but the reputation of the sceptic himself, who, when all other arguments fail, may be told, that the laws of human nature are too strong for his philosopny; and that he cannot, if he would, make his scepticism a practical system; that indeed he never intends to do so; but must inevitably con
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tinue to act upon those principles of knowledge and belief, whatever they may be, which bear the denomination of common sense. But the mischief of sceptical philosophy has always consisted in the dishonesty of its abettors, and the partial application of its principles. No man ever argued more forcibly against all belief than Mr. Hume, and yet no man ever proved more clearly, both in argument and practice, that many things could be certainly known, ought to be believed, and ought to become rules and laws of human action. So that, while no man ever laboured more energetically to sap the foundations of human knowledge and belief, yet no one was guilty of greater inconsistency, or greater injustice, by the limited application of his own theory. Had he carried out his sceptical philosophy fully and fairly to every department, it would have brought, as we have shown, its own antidote along with it; and the philosopher would have been compelled to take refuge in the region of common sense. But, unhappily, he reduced it to practice exclusively against the principles of natural and revealed religion.
This was not the only logical inconsistency in which his philosophy involved him. His doctrine of cause and effect, which we shall presently notice, stands forth in memorable contrast to his doctrine of eternal necessity. His notion of cause and effect seems to exclude all idea of necessary connexion, and to assert that our idea of causation, the result exclusively of experience and observation, not only contains no conception of à priori necessity, but that there really exists no absolute power which connects effects with causes; and that there is nothing beyond, or additional to, precedents and sequents. Consequently the idea of an absolute necessity, or a preexisting and predetermined nexus between cause and effect, seems to be precluded. Yet, on the other hand, his eternal law of necessity involving both matter and mind, seems to remove the doctrine of causation farther back than he has represented in his treatise on that subject, and to place it under the power of this à priori law, which is introduced to supply the place of the common notion of a deity; but which does not really embody the notion itself of that secret and impalpable power, against which his entire argument upon causation seems to be directed. There is one view, however, in which his theory of absolute necessity, and his theory of causation may be identified ; and that is in the denial of ruling, intelligent power; to exclude which both theories appear to have been constructed, and in which, therefore, they agree. If, however, in one theory he denies all power, and admits nothing but the juxta-position of phenomena, yet in the other, he felt compelled to uphold the notion of an invisible power, under the name of a law invariably executing itself. Thus it seems impossible to reconcile the two theories; and his philosophy, in the one case or the other, becomes worthless. To us it appears utterly inconsistent, to say, we have, and can have, no idea of any à priori power in causes, or necessary connexion between them and their effects, and yet to say that every known and observed cause and effect is under a law of universal and absolute necessity.
Upon his theory of causation itself we shall now offer a few observations. The subject, though treated by him in a very confused manner, may be divided into two branches; the first is an attempt to analyse the idea of causation, in which he concludes that antecedents and sequents are the total both of our idea and of the thing itself;—the second is an argument to show, that we acquire the idea of causation exclusively by experience and observation, and that, consequently, it falls under the law of association of ideas. Of the first part of this theory, as opposed to the notion of active power, so strenuously maintained by Reid, and backed by Stewart, it may be sufficient here to say, that while Hume challenges the production or proof of any power or of any relation between cause and effect, beyond that of invariable juxtaposition; his opponents, on the other hand, insist, that our notion of cause and effect is not exhausted by his explanation, and can never find its equivalent in the mere relation of time expressed by antecedence and sequence. The controversy between these opposing philosophers seems to be reduced to this issue; the one side challenges the proof that there is anything more, and the other side defies the proof that there is nothing more than the alleged antecedence and sequence. For our own part we are inclined to think that this portion of Hume's theory when elucidated fully, and corrected, as it is, very ably, by Dr. Brown, and as perhaps its author would have improved it, does sufficiently explain, if not the absolute reality of causation, yet all our knowledge, and perhaps all that can be logically said to be contained in our idea of it.
The other branch of Hume's theory respecting the manner in which the idea is first formed, is, we conceive, much more open to formidable objection. It cannot be by the law of association, nor by experience of repeated instances, that we come to form the notion of one thing being a cause and another the effect. Mr. Hume's exposition of his doctrine is given in the following extract:
Every idea is copied from some preceding impression or senti· ment; and where we cannot find any impression, we may be certain
that there is no idea. In all single instances of the operation of bodies or minds, there is nothing that produces any impression, nor consequently can suggest any idea of power or necessary connexion. But when many uniform instances appear, and the same object is always followed by the same event, we then begin to entertain the notion of cause and connexion. We then feel a new sentiment or impression, io wit, a customary connexion in the thought or imagination between one object and its usual attendant ; and this sentiment is the original of that idea which we seek for. For as this idea arises from a number of similar instances, and not from any single instance, it must arise from that circumstance in which the number of instances differ froin every individual instance But this customary connexion or transition of the imagination is the only circumstance in which they differ. In every other particular they are alike.'— Inquiry concerning Human Understanding, sec. VII.
· Several parts of this paragraph are as false, in point of fact, as the whole is fallacious in respect of reasoning. Let us take the very first sentence :— Every idea is copied from some preceding impression or sentiment.' How then can first ideas and first impressions of all the different classes be accounted for? If every idea is copied from a preceding one, then let us know after what copy our first idea was formed ? The doctrine is either nonsense, or it presupposes innate ideas. But no philosophy ever precluded more effectually and completely that notion than Mr. Hume's. If, then, we have no innate ideas, the first we ever gained can be a copy of no prior one ; and till we have at least one idea fixed and formed distinctly in the mind, perfectly independent of every other idea, it would be impossible, upon Mr. Hume's showing, that we could ever acquire a copy, and consequently, if the first is necessarily a copy, we can have no idea at all.
But let us proceed to the next sentence. He says : ‘In all single instances of the operation of bodies or minds, there is nothing that produces any impression, nor consequently can suggest any idea of power or necessary connexion. But when many uniform instances appear, and the same object is always followed by the same event, we then begin to entertain the notion of cause and connexion. But if there were no intuitive tendency in the human mind to attribute effects to causes, no law constraining it to infer a connexion in the cases supposed, it would be exceedingly difficult to imagine why, if the first phenomenon had failed to produce any impression, a second, a third or a fourth of a like kind, should suggest an idea for the first time, which could be a copy of no one previously existing. The very fact, however, upon which Hume rests for the confirmation of his theory, is false; for it is certain beyond dispute that first impressions of phenomena, where antecedence and sequence are observed, suggest the idea of 'causation just as certainly as at the