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2. Received hypotheses.
$ 8. First, the first and firmest ground 1. Doubtful of probability is the conformity any thing propositions has to our own knowledge, especially that part of our knowledge which we have principles. embraced and continue to look on as principles. These have so great an influence upon our opinions, that it is usually by them we judge of truth, and measure probability to that degree, that what is inconsistent with our principles is so far from passing for probable with us, that it will not be allowed possible. The reverence borne to these principles is so great, and their authority so paramount to all other, that the testimony not only of other men, but the evidence of our own senses are often rejected, when they offer to vouch any thing contrary to these established rules. How much the doctrine of innate principles, and that principles are not to be proved or questioned, has contributed to this, I will not here examine. This I readily grant, that one truth cannot contradict another : but withal I take leave also to say, that every one ought very carefully to beware what he admits for a principle, to examine it strictly, and see whether he certainly knows it to be true of itself by its own evidence, or whether he does only with assurance believe it to be so upon the authority of others. For he hath a strong bias put into his understanding, which will unavoidably misguide his assent, who hath imbibed wrong principles, and has blindly given himself up to the authority of any opinion in itself not evidently true.
§ 9. There is nothing more ordinary than children's receiving into their minds propositions (especially about matters of religion) from their parents, nurses, or those about them : which being insinuated into their unwary, as well as unbiassed understandings, and fastened by degrees, are at last (equally whether true or false) riveted there by long custom and education, beyond all possibility of being pulled out again. For men, when they are grown up, reflecting upon their opinions, and finding those of this sort to be as ancient in their minds as their very memories, not having observed their early insinuation, nor by what means they got them, they are apt to reverence them as sacred things, and not to suffer them to be profaned, touched, or questioned: they look on them as the Urim and Thummim set up in their minds immediately by God himself, to be the great and unerring deciders of truth and falsehood, and the judges to which they are to appeal in all manner of controversies.
S 10. This opinion of his principles (let them be what they will) being once established in any one's mind, it is easy to be imagined what reception any proposition shall find, how clearly soever proved, that shall invalidate their authority, or at all thwart with these internal oracles; whereas the grossest absurdities and improbabilities, being but agreeable to such principles, go down glibly, and are easily digested. The great obstinacy that is to be found in men
firmly believing quite contrary opinions, though many times equally absurd, in the various religions of mankind, are as evident a proof, as they are an unavoidable consequence, of this way of reasoning from received traditional principles. So that men will disbelieve their own eyes, renounce the evidence of their senses, and give their own experience the lie, rather than admit of any thing disagreeing with these sacred tenets. Take an intelligent Romanist, that, from the first dawning of any notions in his understanding, hath had this principle constantly inculcated, viz. that he must believe as the church i. e. those of his communion) believes, or that the pope is infallible; and this he never so much as heard questioned, till at forty or fifty years old he met with one of other principles : how is he prepared easily to swallow, not only against all probability, but even the clear evidence of his senses, the doctrine of transubstantiation! This principle has such an influence on his mind, that he will believe that to be flesh which he sees to be bread. And what way will you take to convince a man of any improbable opinion he holds, who, with some philosophers, hath laid down this as a foundation of reasoning, that he must believe his reason (for so men improperly call arguments drawn from their principles) against his senses? Let an enthusiast be principled, that he or his teacher is inspired, and acted by an immediate communication of the divine spirit, and you in vain bring the evidence of clear reasons against his doctrine. Whoever therefore have imbibed wrong principles, are not, in things inconsistent with these principles, to be moved by the most apparent and convincing probabilities, till they are so candid and ingenuous to themselves as to be persuaded to examine even those very principles, which many never suffer themselves to do. § 11. Secondly, next to these are men
2. Received whose understandings are cast into a
hypotheses. mould, and fashioned just to the size of a received hypothesis. The difference between these and the former is, that they will admit of matter of fact, and agree with dissenters in that; but differ only in assigning of reasons, and explaining the manner of operation. These are not at that open
defiance with their senses with the former: they can endure to hearken to their information a little more patiently; but will by no means admit of their reports in the explanation of things; nor be prevailed on by probabilities, which would convince them that things are not brought about just after the same manner that they have decreed within themselves that they are. Would it not be an insufferable thing for a learned professor, and that which his scarlet would blush at, to have his authority of forty years standing, wrought out of hard rock Greek and Latin, with no small expense of time and candle, and confirmed by general tradition and a reverend beard, in an instant overturned by an upstart novelist? Can any one expect that he should be made to confess, that what he taught his scholars thirty years ago was all error and mistake;
and that he sold them hard words and ignorance at a very dear rate? What probabilities, I say, are sufficient to prevail in such a case? And who ever, by the most cogent arguments, will be prevailed with to disrobe himself at once of all his old opinions, and pretences to knowledge and learning, which with hard study he hath all his time been labouring for; and turn himself out stark naked, in quest afresh of new notions? All the arguments that can be used will be as little able to prevail, as the wind did with the traveller to part with his cloak, which he held only the faster. To this of wrong hypothesis may be reduced the errors that may be occasioned by a true hypothesis, or right principles, but not rightly understood. There is nothing more familiar than this. The instances of men contending for different opinions, which they all derive from the infallible truth of the scripture, are an undeniable proof of it. All that call themselves Christians allow the text, that says, Metavotīte, to carry in it the obligation to a very weighty duty. But yet how very erroneous will one of their practices be, who, understanding nothing but the French, take this rule with one translation to be repentez vous, repent; or with the other, faitiez penitence, do penance! 3. Predo- $ 12. Thirdly, probabilities, which cross
men's appetites and prevailing passions, passions. run the same fate. Let ever so much
probability hang on one side of a covetous man's reasoning, and money on the other; it is easy to foresee which will outweigh. Earthly minds, like mud-walls, resist the strongest batteries : and though perhaps sometimes the force of a clear argument may make some impression, yet they nevertheless stand firm, and keep out the enemy truth, that would captivate or disturba
. Tell a man, passionately in love, that
he is jilted; bring a score of witnesses of the falsehood of his mistress, it is ten to one but three kind words of hers shall invalidate all their testimonies. Quod volumus, facile credimus; what suits our wishes is forwardly believed ; is, I suppose, what every one hath more than once experimented: and though men cannot always openly gainsay or resist the force of manifest probabilities that make against them, yet yield they not to the argument. Not but that it is the nature of the understanding constantly to close with the more probable side ; but yet a man hath a power to suspend and restrain its inquiries, and not permit a full and satisfactory examination, as far as the matter in question is capable, and will bear it to be made. Until that be done, there will be always these two ways left of evading the most apparent probabilities.
$ 13. First, that the arguments being The means (as for the most part they are) brought in of evading words, there may be a fallacy latent in probabilithem: and the consequences being, per
ties: 1. Suphaps, many in train, they may be some of
lacy: them incoherent. There are very few discourses so short, clear, and consistent, to which most men may not, with satisfaction enough to themselves, raise this doubt; and from whose conviction they may not, without reproach of disingenuity or unreasonableness, set themselves free with the old reply, non persuadebis, etiamsi persuaseris; though I cannot answer, I will not yield. § 14. Secondly, manifest probabilities
2. Supposed may be evaded, and the assent withheld
arguments upon this
suggestion, that I know not yet for the con: all that may be said on the contrary side. trary. And therefore though I be beaten, it is not necessary I should yield, not knowing what forces there are in reserve behind. This is a refuge against conviction so open and so wide, that it is hard to determine when a man is quite out of the verge of it.