« PrejšnjaNaprej »
posely reserved, until the materials of the work were fully collected. The first page contains the following Preamble or Preface, to the whole work.
"OF THE PREJUDICES OF THE IMAGINATION.
(Lemma to the whole.)
"Of all prejudices, no one so fights with Natural Philosophy, and prevails more against it than those of Imagination. It is these, which make the vulgar so roar out, upon the mention of some very rational philosophical truths. And, indeed, I have known of some very learned men, that have pretended to a more than ordinary freedom from such prejudices, so overcome by them, that, merely because of them, they have believed things most absurd. And truly, I hardly know of any other prejudices, that are more powerful against truth, of any kind, than these; and I believe they will not give the hand to any, in any case, except to those, arising from our ruling self-interest, or the impetuosity of human passions. And there is very good reason for it: for opinions, arising from imagination, take us as soon as we are born, are beat into us by every act of sensation, and so grow up with us, from our very births, and by that means, grow into us so fast, that it is almost impossible to root them out: being, as it were, so incorporated with our very minds, that whatsoever is objected, contrary thereunto, is as if it were dissonant to the very constitution of them. Hence, men come to make what they can actually perceive, by their senses, or by immediate or outside reflection into their own souls, the standard of possibility, or impossibility; so that there must be no body, forsooth, bigger than they can conceive of, or less than they can see with their eyes: no motion, either much swifter, or slower, than they can imagine. As to the greatness, and distance of bodies, the learned world have pretty well conquered their imagination, with respect to them; neither will any body flatly deny, that it is possible, for bodies to be of any degree of bigness, that can be mentioned; yet, imaginations of this kind, among the learned themselves, even of this learned age, have a very powerful, secret influence, to cause them either to reject things, really true, as erroneous, or to embrace those that are really so. Thus, some men will yet say, that they cannot conceive, how the Fixed Stars can be so distant, as that the Earth's annual revolution should cause no parallax among them, and so, are about to fall back into antiquated Ptolemy, his system; merely to ease their imagination. Thus also, on the other hand, a very learned man, and sagacious astronomer, upon consideration of the vast magnitude of the visible part of the Universe, has, in the ecstacy of his imagination, been hurried on,
to pronounce the Universe infinite; which I may say, out of veneration, was beneath such a man as he. As if it were any more an argument, because what he could see of the Universe were so big, as he was assured it was. And suppose, he had discovered the visible Universe, so vast as it is, to be as a globule of water to another Universe; the case is the same; as if it would have been any more of an argument, that that larger Universe was infinite, than if the visible part thereof, were no bigger, than a particle of the water of this. I think one is no nearer to infinite, than another.
"To remedy this prejudice, I will, as the best method I can think of, demonstrate two or three physical Theorems; which I believe, if they are clearly understood, will put every man clean out of conceit with his imagination: in order whereunto, these two are prerequisite.
"PRELIMINARY PROPOSITIONS. "Prop. I. There is no degree of Swiftness of Motion whatever, but what is possible.
Prop. II. There may be bodies of any indefinite degree of Smallness."
Each of these propositions is demonstrated; and a third is subjoined, but left without demonstration, together with several Postulates. The next half sheet contains the following discussion, in which he establishes the reality of BEING, as the foundation of a System of philosophy.
"That there should absolutely be Nothing at all, is utterly impossible. The mind, let it stretch its conceptions ever so far, can never so much as bring itself to conceive of a state of perfect Nothing. It puts the mind into mere convulsion and confusion, to think of such a state; and it contradicts the very nature of the soul, to think that such a state should be. It is the greatest of contradictions, and the aggregate of all contradictions, to say that THING should not be. It is true, we cannot so distinctly show the contradiction in words; because we cannot talk about it, without speaking stark nonsense, and contradicting ourselves at every word: and because Nothing is that, whereby we distinctly show other particular contradictions. But here we are run up to our first principle, and have no other to explain the nothingness, or not being, of Nothing by. Indeed, we can mean nothing else by Nothing, but a state of absolute contradiction; and if any man thinks, that he can conceive well enough how there should be Nothing, I'll engage, that what he means by Nothing, is as much Something, as any thing that he ever thought of in his life; and I believe, that if he knew what Nothing was, it would be intuitively evident to him that it could not be. Thus we see
it is necessary that some being should eternally be. And it is a more palpable contradiction still to say, that there must be Being somewhere, and not otherwhere, for the words Absolute Nothing, and Where, contradict each other. And, besides, it gives as great a shock to the mind, to think of pure Nothing being in any one place, as it does to think of it in all places: and it is self-evident, that there can be Nothing in one place, as well as in another; and if there can be in one, there can be in all. So that we see that this Necessary, Eternal Being must be Infinite and Omnipotent.
"This Infinite and Omnipotent being cannot be solid. Let us see how contradictory it is, to say that an Infinite being is solid; for solidity surely is nothing, but resistance to other solidities. Space is this necessary, eternal, infinite, and omnipresent being. We find that we can, with ease, conceive how all other beings should not be. We can remove them out of our minds, and place some other in the room of them but Space is the very thing, that we can never remove, and conceive of its not being. If a man would imagine Space any where to be divided, so as there should be Nothing between the divided parts, there remains Space between, notwithstanding, and so the man contradicts himself. And it is self-evident I believe to every man, that Space is necessary, eternal, infinite and omnipresent. But I had as good speak plain: I have already said as much as that Space is God.* And it is indeed clear to me, that all the Space there is, not proper to body, all the Space there is without the bounds of Creation, all the Space there was before the Creation, is God himself; and nobody would in the least pick at it, if it were not because of the gross conceptions that we have of Space.
"A state of absolute nothing is a state of absolute contradiction. Absolute nothing is the aggregate of all the contradictions in the world: a state wherein there is neither body nor spirit, nor space, neither empty space nor full space, neither little nor great, narrow nor broad, neither infinite space nor finite space, not even a mathematical point, neither up nor down, neither north nor south, (I do not mean as it is with respect to the body of the earth, or some other great body) but no contrary points, positions or directions, no such thing as either here or there, this way or that way, or any way. When we go about to form an idea of perfect Nothing, we must shut out all these things; we must shut out of our minds, both space that has something in it, and space that has nothing in it. We must not allow ourselves to think of the least part of space, be it ever so small. Nor must we suffer our thoughts to take sanctuary in a mathematical point.
* This was written at 15 or 16 years of age.
When we go to expel Being out of our thoughts, we must be careful not to leave empty Space in the room of it; and when we go to expel emptiness from our thoughts, we must not think to squeeze it out, by any thing close, hard, and solid; but we must think of the same, that the sleeping rocks do dream of; and not till then, shall we get a complete idea of Nothing.
"When we go to enquire, Whether or no, there can be absolutely Nothing? we utter nonsense in so enquiring. The stating of the question is nonsense; because we make a disjunction where there is none. Either Being, or absolute Nothing, is no disjunction; no more than whether a triangle is a triangle, or not a triangle. There is no other way, but only for there to be existence: there is no such thing, as absolute Nothing. There is such a thing, as Nothing, with respect to this ink and paper: there is such a thing, as Nothing, with respect to you and me: there is such a thing, as Nothing, with respect to this globe of earth, and with respect to this Universe. There is another way, beside these things having existence; but there is no such thing, as Nothing, with respect to Entity, or Being, absolutely considered. We do not know what we say, if we say, that we think it possible in itself, that there should not be Entity.
"And how doth it grate upon the mind to think that Something should be from all eternity, and yet Nothing all the while be conscious of it. To illustrate this: Let us suppose that the World had a being from all eternity, and had many great changes and wonderful revolutions, and all the while Nothing knew it, there was no knowledge in the Universe of any such thing. How is it possible to bring the mind to imagine this. Yea, it is really impossible it should be, that any thing should exist, and Nothing know it. Then you will say, If it be so, it is, because Nothing has any existence but in consciousness: No, certainly, no where else, but either in created or uncreated consciousness.
"Suppose there were another Universe, merely of bodies, created at a great distance from this; created in excellent order, harmonious motions, and a beautiful variety; and there was no created intelligence in it, nothing but senseless bodies, and nothing but God knew any thing of it. I demand where else that Universe would have a being, but only in the Divine consciousness? Certainly in no other respect. There would be figures, and magnitudes, and motions, and proportions; but where, where else, except in the Almighty's knowledge? How is it possible there should.-But then you will say, For the same reason in a room closely shut up, which nobody sees, there is nothing except in God's knowledge.-I answer, Cre
ated beings are conscious of the effects of what is in the room; for perhaps there is not one leaf of a tree, nor a spire of grass, but what produces effects all over the Universe, and will produce them to the end of eternity. But any otherwise, there is nothing in a room so shut up, but only in God's consciousness. How can any thing be there any other way. This will appear to be truly so, to any one who thinks of it, with the whole united strength of his mind. Let us suppose, for illustration, this impossibility, that all the spirits in the Universe were for a time deprived of their consciousness, and that God's consciousness at the same time were to be intermitted. I say the Universe for that time would cease to be of itself; and this not merely, as we speak, because the Almighty could not attend to uphold it; but because God could know nothing of it. It is our foolish imagination, that will not suffer us to see it. We fancy there may be figures and magnitudes, relations and properties, without any one knowing of it. But it is our imagination hurts us. We do not know what figures and properties are. "Our imagination makes us fancy, that we see shapes, and colours, and magnitudes, though nobody is there to behold it. But to help our imagination, let us thus state the case: Let us suppose the creation deprived of every ray of light, so that there should not be the least glimmering of light in the Universe. Now all will own, that, in such case, the Universe would really be immediately deprived of all its colours. No one part of the Universe is any more red, or blue, or green, or yellow, or black, or white, or light, or dark, or transparent, or opake. There would be no visible distinction, between the Universe and the rest of the incomprehensible void: yea, there would be no difference in these respects, between the Universe and the infinite void; so that any part of that void would really be as light and as dark, as white and as black, as red and as green, as blue and as brown, as transparent and as opake, as any part of the Universe: so that, in such case, there would be no difference, in these respects, between the Universe and Nothing. So also there would be no difference, between one part of the Universe and another: all, in these respects, is alike confounded with, and undistinguished from, infinite emptiness.
"At the same time, also, let us suppose the Universe to be altogether deprived of motion, and all parts of it to be at perfect rest. Then, the Universe would not differ from the void, in this respect: there would be no more motion in the one, than in the other. Then, also, solidity would cease. All that we mean, or can be meant, by solidity, is resistance; resistance to touch, the resistance of some parts of space. This is all the knowledge we get of solidity, by our senses, and, I