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I find that some are apt to think, that in that kind of mor. al necessity of men's volitions, which I suppose to be univer. sal, at least some degree of liberty is denied ; that though it be true I allow a sort of liberty, yet those who maintain a selfdetermining power in the Will, and a liberty of contingence and indifference, hold an higher sort of freedom than I do ; but I think this is certainly a great mistake.
Liberty, as I have explained it, in p. 38, and other places, is the power, opportunity, or advantage, that any one has to do as he pleases, or conducting in any respect, according to his pleasure; without considering how his pleasure comes to be as it is. It is demonstrable, and, I think, has been demonstrated, that no necessity of men's volitions that I maintain, is inconsistent with this liberty ; and I think it is impossible for any one to rise higher in his conceptions of liberty than this : If any imagine they desire higher, and that they conceive of a higher and greater liberty than this they are deceived, and delude themselves with confused ambiguous words, instead of ideas. If any one should here say, “ Yes, I conceive of a freedom above and beyond the liberty a man has of conducting in any respect as he pleases, viz. a liberty of choose ing as he pleases.” Such an one, if he reflected, would either blush or laugh at his own instance. Por, is not choosing as he pleases, conducting in some respect, according to his pleasure, and still without determining how he came by that pleasure ? If he says, “ Yes, I came by that pleasure by my own choice.” If he be a man of common sense, by this time he will see his own absurdity ; for he must needs see that his notion or conception, even of this liberty, does not contain any judgment or conception how he comes by that choice, which first determines his pleasure, or which originally fixed his own will respecting the affair. Or if any shall say, “ That a man exercises liberty in this, even in determining his own choice, but not as he pleases, or not in consequence of any choice, preference, or inclination of his own, but by a delermination arising contingently out of a state of absolute indifference ;" this is not rising higher in his conception of liberty ; as such a determination of the Will would not be a vol.
tintary determination of it. Surely he that places liberty in a power of doing something not according to his own choice, or from his choice, has not a higher notion of it, than he that places it in doing as he pleases, or acting from his own election. If there were a power in the mind to determine itself, but not by its choice or according to its pleasure, what advantage would it give? And what liberty, worth contending for, would be exercised in it? Therefore no Arminian, Pelagian, or Epicurean, can rise higher in his conceptions of liberty, than the notion of it which I have explained : Which notion is apparently, perfectly consistent with the whole of that necessity of men's actions, which I suppose takes place. And I scruple not to say, it is beyond all their wits to invent a higher notion, or form a higher imagination of liberty ; let' them talk of sovereignty of the Will, selfdetermining power, selfmotion, selfdirection, arbitrary decision, liberty ad utrumvis, power of choosing differently in given cases, &c. &c. as long as they will. It is apparent that these men, in their strenuous affirmation, and dispute about these things, aim at they know not what, fighting for something they have no conception of, substituting a number of confused, unmeaning words, instead of things, and instead of thoughts. They may be challenged clearly to explain what they would have : They never can answer the challenge..
The author of the Essays, through his whole Essay on Liberty and Necessity, goes on that supposition, that, in order to the being of real liberty, a man must have a freedom that is opposed to moral necessity; and yet he supposes, p. 175, that o such a liberty must signify a power in the mind of acting without and against motives, a power of acting without any view, purpose or design, and even of acting in contradiction to our own desires and aversions, and to all our principles of action ; and is an absurdity altogether inconsistent with a rational nature. Now, who ever imagined such a liberty as this, a higher sort or degree of freedom, than a liberty of following one's own views and purposes, and acting agreeable to his own inclinations and passions? Who will ever reasonably suppose that liberty, which is an absurdity altogether inVol. V.
consistent with a rational nature, to be a kind of liberty above that which is consistent with the nature of a rational, intelligent, designing agent ?
The author of the Essays seems to suppose such a necessity to take place, as is inconsistent with some supposable power of arbitrary choice ;* or that there is some liberty conceivable, whereby men's own actions might be more proper. ly in their power, and by which events might be more depende ent on ourselves ;t contrary to what I suppose to be evident in my Inquiry. What way can be imagined, of our actions being more in our power, from ourselves, or dependent on our. selves, than their being from our power to fulfil our own choice, to act from our own inclination, pursue our own views, and execute our own designs ? Certainly, to be able to act thus, is as properly having our actions in our power, and dependent on ourselves, as a being liable to be the subjects of acts and events, contingently and fortuitously, without desire, view, purpose or design, or any principle of action within ourselves; as we must be acording to this author's own declared sense, if our actions are performed with that liberty that is opposed to moral necessity.
This author seems every where to suppose, that necessity, most properly so called, attends all men's actions; and that the terms necessary, unavoidable, impossible, &c. are equally applicable to the case of moral and natural necessity. In p. 173, he says, “ The idea of necessary and unavoidable, equally agrees, both to moral and physical necessity." And in p. 184, “ All things that fall out in the natural and moral world are alike necessary." P. 174, « This inclination and choice is unavoidably caused or occasioned by the prevailing motive. In this lies the necessity of our actions, that, in such circumstances, it was impossible we could act otherwise." He often expresses himself in like manner elsewhere, speaking in strong terms of men's actions as unavoidable, what they cannot forbear, having no power over their own actions, the
order of them being unalterably fixed and inseparably linked together, &c.*
On the contrary, I have largely declared, that the connexion between antecedent things and consequent ones, which takes place with regard to the acts of men's Wills, which is called moral necessity, is called by the name of necessity improperly; and that all such terms as must, cannot, impossible, unable, irresistible, unavoidable, invincible, &c. when applied here, are not applied in their proper signification, and are either used nonsensically, and with perfect insignificance, or in a sense quite diverse from their original and proper meaning, and their use in common speech ; and, that such a nę. .cessity as attends the acts of men's Wills, is more properly called certainty, than necessity ; it being no other than the certain connexion between the subject and predicate of the proposition which affirms their existence.
Agreeably to what is observed in my Inquiry, I think it is cvidently owing to a strong prejudice in person's minds, arising from an insensible, habitual perversion and misapplication of such like terms as necessary, impossible, unable, unavoidable, invincible, &c. that they are ready to think, that to suppose a certain connexion of men's volitions, without any foregoing motives or inclinations, or any preceding moral influence whatsoever, is truly and properly to suppose such a strong, irrefragable chain of causes and effects, as stands in the way of, and makes utterly vain, opposite desires and endeavors, like immovable and impenetrable mountains of brass ; and im. pedes our liberty like walls of adamant, gates of brass, and bars of iron : Whereas, all such representations suggest ideas as far from the truth, as the east is from the west. Nothing that I maintain, supposes that men are at all hindered by any fatal necessity, from doing, and even willing and choosing as they please, with full freedom; yea with the highest degree of liberty that ever was thought of, or that ever could possibly enter into the heart of any man to conceive. I know it is in vain to endeavor to make some persons believe this, or at least
* P. 180, 188, 193, 194, 195, 197, 198, 399, 205, 206,
fully and steadily to believe it; for if it be demonstrated to them, still the old prejudice remains, which has been long fixed by the use of the terms necessary, must, cannot, impossible, &c, the association with these terms of certain ideas, inconsistent with liberty, is not broken ; and the judgment is powerfully warped by it; as a thing that has been long bent and grown stiff, if it be straightened, will return to its former curvity again and again.
The author of the Essays most manifestly supposes that if men had the truth concerning the real necessity of all their actions clearly in view, they would not appear to themselves, or one another, as at all praiseworthy or culpable, or under any moral obligation, or accountable for their actions ;* which supposes, that men are not to be blamed or praised for any of their actions, and are not under any obligations, nor are truly accountable for any thing they do, by reason of this necessity; which is very contrary to what I have endeavored to prove, throughout the third part of my Inquiry. I humbly conceive it is there shewn, that this is so far from the truth, that the moral necessity of men's actions, which truly take place, is requisite to the being of virtue and vice, or any thing praiseworthy or culpable ; That the liberty of indifference and contingence, which is advanced in opposition to that necessity, is inconsistent with the being of these ; as it would suppose that men are not determined in what they do, by any virtuous or vicious principles, nor act from any motives, intentions or aims whatsoever ; or have any end, either good or bad, in acting. And it is not remarkable, that this author should suppose, that, in order to men's actions truly having any desert, they must be performed without any view, purpose, design, or desire, or any principle of action, or any thing agreeable to a rational nature ? As it will appear that he does, if we compare p. 206, 207, with p. 175.
The Author of the Essays supposes, that God has deeply implanted in man's nature, a strong and invincible apprehension or feeling, as he calls it, of a liberty and contingence, of