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far as I can comprehend it; wherein, I confess, there are many expressions, which carrying with them, to my mind, no clear ideas, are like to remove but little of my ignorance by their sounds. v. g. “ What it is to be intimately united to the soul ;” what it is for two souls or spirits to be intimately united : for intimate union being an idea taken from bodies, when the parts of one get within the surface of the other, and touch their inward parts; what is the idea of intimate union, I must have, between two beings that have neither of them any extension or surface? And if it be not so explained as to give me a clear idea of that union, it will make me understand very little more of the nature of the ideas in my mind, when it is said I see them in God, who being “ intimately united to the soul” exhibits them to it; than when it is only said they are by the appointment of God produced in the mind by certain motions of our bodies, to which our minds are united. Which, however imperfect a way of explaining this matter, will still be as good as any other that does not by clear ideas remove my ignorance of the manner of my perception.
5. But he says that “ certainly material things cannot unite themselves to our souls." Our bodies are united to our souls : yes ; “but,” says he, “not after a manner which is necessary that the soul may perceive them.” Explain this manner of union, and show wherein the difference consists betwixt the union necessary and not necessary to perception, and then I shall confess this difficulty removed.
The reason that he gives why “ material things cannot be united to our souls after a manner" that is necessary to the soul's perceiving them, is this; viz. That “ material things being extended, and the soul not, there is no proportion between them.” This, if it shows any thing, shows only that a soul and a body cannot be united, because one has surface to be united by, and the other none. But it shows not why soul, united to a body as ours is, cannot, by that body, have the idea of a triangle excited in it, as well as by being united to God (between whom and the soul there is as little proportion, as between any creature immaterial or material and the soul) see in God the idea of a triangle that is in him, since we cannot conceive a triangle, whether seen in matter, or in God, to be without extension.
6. He says, “ There is no substance purely intelligible but that of God.” Here again I must confess myself in the dark, having no notion at all of the “ substance of God;" nor being able to conceive how his is more intelligible than any other substance.
7. One thing more there is, which, I confess, stumbles me in the very foundation of this hypothesis, which stands thus : we cannot “perceive” any thing but what is “intimately united to the soul.” The reason why some things (viz. material) cannot be “ intimately united to the soul” is, because “ there is no proportion between the soul and them.” If this be a good reason, it follows, that the greater the proportion there is between the soul and any other being, the better and more intimately they can be united. Now then I ask, whether there be a greater proportion between God, an infinite being, and the soul, or between finite created spirits and the soul ? And yet the author says, that “ he believes that there is no substance purely intelligible but that of God," and that " we cannot entirely know created spirits at present.” Make this out upon your principles of “ intimate union” and “ proportion," and then they will be of some use to the clearing of your hypothesis, otherwise “ intimate union” and “proportion” are only sounds serving to amuse, not instruct us.
8. In the close of this chapter he enumerates the several ways whereby he thinks we come by ideas, and compares them severally with his own way. Which how much more intelligible it is than either of those, the following chapters will show; to which I shall proceed, when I have observed that it seems a bold determination, when he says, that it must be one of these ways, and we can see objects no other. Which assertion must be built on this good opinion of our capacities, that God cannot make the creatures operate, but in ways conceivable to us. That we cannot
discourse and reason about them farther than we conceive, is a great truth : and it would be well if we would not, but would ingenuously own the shortness of our sight where we do not see.
To say there can be no other, because we conceive no other, does not, I confess, much instruct. And if I should say, that it is possible God has made our souls so, and so united them to our bodies, that, upon certain motions made in our bodies by external objects, the soul should have such or such perceptions or ideas, though in a way inconceivable to us; this perhaps would appear as true and as instructive a proposition as what is so positively laid down.
9. Though the peripatetic doctrine* of the species does not at all satisfy me, yet I think it were not hard to show, that it is as easy to account for the difficulties he charges on it, as for those his own hypothesis is laden with. But it being not my business to defend what I do not understand, nor to prefer the learned gibberish of the schools, to what is yet unintelligible to me in P. M. I shall only take notice of so much of his objections, as concerns what I guess to be the truth. Though I do not think any material species, carrying the resemblance of things by a continual flux from the body we perceive, bring the perception of them to our senses ; yet I think the perception we have of bodies at a distance from ours, may be accounted for, as far as we are capable of understanding it, by the motion of particles of matter coming from them and striking on our organs. In feeling and tasting there is immediate contact. Sound is not unintelligibly explained by a vibrating motion communicated to the medium; and the effluvia of odorous bodies will, without any great diffieulties, account for smells. And therefore P. M. makes his objections only against visible species, as the most difficult to be explained by material causes, as indeed they are. But he that shall allow extreme smallness in the particles of light, and exceeding swiftness in their motion ; and the great porosity that must be granted in bodies, if we compare gold, which wants them not, with air, the medium wherein the rays of light come
* Recherche de la Vérité, 1. 3. pt. 2. c. 2.
to our eyes, and that of a million of rays that rebound from any visible area of any body, perhaps the roro or Tovor part coming to the eye, are enough to move the retina sufficiently to cause a sensation in the mind; will not find any great difficulty in the objections which are brought from the impenetrability of matter, and these rays ruffling and breaking one another in the medium which is full of them. As to what is said, that from one point we can see a great number of objects, that is no objection against the species, or visible appearances of bodies, being brought into the eye by the rays of light; for the bottom of the eye or retina, which, in regard of these rays, is the place of vision, is far from being a point. Nor is it true, that though the eye be in any one place, yet that the sight is performed in one point, i.e. that the rays that bring those visible species do all meet in a point; for they cause their distinct sensations, by striking on distinct parts of the retina, as is plain in optics; and the figure they paint there must be of some considerable bigness, since it takes up on the retina an area whose diameter is at least thirty seconds of a circle, whereof the circumference is in the retina, and the centre somewhere in the crystalline; as a little skill in optics will manifest to any one that considers, that few eyes can perceive an object less than thirty minutes of a circle, whereof the eye is the centre. And he that will but reflect on that seeming odd experiment of seeing only the two outward ones of three bits of paper stuck up against a wall, at about half a foot, or a foot one from another, without seeing the middle one at all, whilst his eye remains fixed in the same posture, must confess that vision is not made in a point, when it is plain, that looking with one eye there is always one part between the extremes of the area that we see, which is not seen at the same time that we perceive the extremes of it; though the looking with two eyes, or the quick turning of the axis of the eye to the part we would distinctly view, when we look but with one, does not let us take notice of it.
10. What I have herc said I think sufficient to make
intelligible, how by material rays of light visible species may be brought into the eye, notwithstanding any of P. M.'s objections against so much of material causes as my hypothesis is concerned in. But when by this means an image is made on the retina, how we see it, I conceive no more than when I am told we see it in God. How we see it, is, I confess, what I understand not in the one or in the other, only it appears to me more difficult to conceive a distinct visible image in the uniform invariable essence of God, than in variously modifiable matter; but the manner how I see either, still escapes my comprehension. Impressions made on the retina by rays of light, I think I understand ; and motions from thence continued to the brain may be conceived, and that these produce ideas in our minds, I am persuaded, but in a manner to me incomprehensible. This I can resolve only into the good pleasure of God, whose ways are past finding out. And, I think, I know it as well when I am told these are ideas that the motion of the animal spirits, by a law established by God, produces in me; as when I am told they are ideas I see in God. The ideas it is certain I have, and God both ways is the original cause of my having them; but the manner how I come by them, how it is that I perceive, I confess I understand not ; though it be plain motion has to do in the producing of them : and motion, so modified, is appointed to be the cause of our having them ; as appears by the curious and artificial structure of the eye, accommodated to all the rules of refraction and dioptrics, that
visible objects might be exactly and regularly painted on the bottom of the eye.
11. The change of bigness in the ideas of visible objects, by distance and optic-glasses, which is the next argument he uses against visible species, is a good argument against them, as supposed by the peripatetics; but when considered, would persuade one that we see the figures and magnitudes of things rather in the bottom of our eyes than in God : the idea we have of them and their grandeur being still proportioned to the bigness of the area, on the bottom of our eyes, that is