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THE ensuing treatises are true and genuine remains of the deceased author, whose name they bear; but, for the greatest part, received not his last hand, being, in a great measure, little more than sudden views, intended to be afterwards revised and farther looked into; but by sickness, intervention of business, or preferable inquiries, happened to be thrust aside, and so lay neglected.
The "conduct of the understanding" he always thought to be a subject very well worth consideration. As any miscarriages, in that point, accidentally came into his mind, he used sometimes to set them down in writing, with those remedies that he could then think of. This method, though it makes not that haste to the end which one could wish, yet, perhaps, is the only one that can be followed in the case; it being here, as in physic, impossible for a physician to describe a disease, or seek remedies for it, till he comes to meet with it. Such particulars of this kind as occurred to the author, at a time of leisure, he, as is before said, set down in writing; intending, if he had lived, to have reduced them into order and method, and to have made a complete treatise; whereas now it is only a collection of casual observations, sufficient to make men see some faults in the conduct of their understanding, and suspect there may be more; and may, perhaps, serve to excite others to inquire farther into it than the author hath done.
The Examination of P. Malebranche's Opinion, of seeing all Things in God, shows it to be a very groundless notion, and was not published by the author, because he looked upon it to be an opinion that would not spread, but was like to die of itself, or at least to do no great harm.
The Discourse of Miracles was writ for his own satisfaction, and never went beyond the first draught, and was occasioned by his reading Mr. Fleetwood's Essay on Miracles, and the letter writ to him on that subject.
The Fourth Letter for Toleration is imperfect, was begun by the author a little before his death, but never finished. It was designed for an answer to a book entitled, A Second Letter to the Author of the Three Letters for Toleration, &c. which was writ against the author's Third Letter for Toleration, about twelve years after the said Third Letter had been published.
The Memoirs of the late Earl of Shaftesbury are only certain particular facts, set down in writing by the author, as they occurred to his memory: if time and health would have permitted him, he had gone on farther, and from such materials have collected and compiled a history of that noble peer.
P. MALEBRANCHE'S OPINION
SEEING ALL THINGS IN GOD.
1. THE acute and ingenious author of the Recherche de la Vérité, among a great many very fine thoughts, judicious reasonings, and uncommon reflections, has in that treatise started the notion of "seeing all things in God," as the best way to explain the nature and manner of the ideas in our understanding. The desire I had to have my unaffected ignorance removed has made it necessary for me to see whether this hypothesis, when examined, and the parts of it put together, can be thought to cure our ignorance, or is intelligible and satisfactory to one who would not deceive himself, take words for things, and think he knows what he knows not.
2. This I observe at the entrance, that P. Malebranche having enumerated, and in the following chapters showed the difficulties of the other ways, whereby he thinks human understanding may be at
Recherche de la Vérité, 1. 3. p. 2. c. 1.
tempted to be explained, and how insufficient they are to give a satisfactory account of the ideas we have, erects this of "seeing all things in God" upon their ruin, as the true, because it is impossible to find a better. Which argument, so far being only "argumentum ad ignorantiam," loses all its force as soon as we consider the weakness of our minds, and the narrowness of our capacities, and have but humility enough to allow, that there may be many things which we cannot fully comprehend, and that God is not bound in all he does to subject his ways of operation to the scrutiny of our thoughts, and confine himself to do nothing but what we must comprehend. And it will very little help to cure my ignorance, that this is the best of four or five hypotheses proposed, which are all defective, if this too has in it what is inconsistent with itself, or unintelligible to me.
3. The P. Malebranche's Recherche de la Vérité, 1. 3. p. 2. c. 1, tells us, that whatever the mind perceives "must be actually present and intimately united to it." That the things that the mind perceives are its own sensations, imaginations, or notions, which, being in the soul the modifications of it, need no ideas to represent them. But all things exterior to the soul we cannot perceive but by the intervention of ideas, supposing that the things themselves cannot be intimately united to the soul. But because spiritual things may possibly be united to the soul, therefore he thinks it probable that they can discover themselves immediately without ideas; though of this he doubts, because he believes not there is any substance purely intelligible but that of God; and that though spirits can possibly unite themselves to our minds, yet at present we cannot entirely know them. But he speaks here principally of material things, which he says certainly cannot unite themselves to our souls in such a manner as is necessary that it should perceive them; because, being extended, the soul not being so, there is no proportion between them.
4. This is the sum of his doctrine contained in the first chapter of the second part of the third book, as