Page images
PDF
EPUB

in this grand argument consists, is, that among several things the Will actually chooses one before another, at the same time that it is perfectly indifferent; which is the very same thing as to say, the mind has a preference, at the same time that it has no preference. What is meant cannot be, that the mind is indifferent before it comes to have a choice, or until it has a preference ; or, which is the same thing, that the mind is indifferent until it comes to be not indifferent: For certainly this author did not think he had a controversy with any person in supposing this. And then it is nothing to his purpose, that the mind which chooses, was indifferent once; unless it chooses, remaining indifferent; for otherwise, it does not choose at all in that case of indifference, concerning which is all the question. Besides, it appears in fact, that the thing which this author supposes, is not that the Will choos. es one thing before another, concerning which it is indifferent before it chooses; but also is indifferent when it chooses ; and that its being otherwise than indifferent is not until afterwards, in consequence of its choice ; that the chosen thing's appearing preferable and more agreeable than another, arises from its choice already made. His words are, (p. 30.) • Where the objects which are proposed, appear equally fit or good, the Will is left without a guide or director ; and therefore must take its own choice by its own determination ; it being properly a selfdetermining power. And in such cas. es the Will does as it were make a good to itself by its own choice, i. e. creates its own pleasure or delight in this selfchosen good. Even as a man by seizing upon a spot of unoccupied land, in an uninhabited country, makes it his own possession and property, and as such rejoices in it. Where things were indifferent before, the Will finds nothing to make them more agrecable, considered merely in themselves ; but the pleasure it feels ARISING FROM ITS OWN CHOICE, and its perseverance therein. We love many things we have chos. en, AND PURELY BECAUSE WE CHOSE THEM.”

This is as much as to say, that we first begin to prefer many things, now ceasing any longer to be indifferent with respect to them, purely because we have preferred and chos. en them before. These things must needs be spoken incon. siderately by this author. Choice or preference cannot be before itself in the same instance, either in the order of time or nature : It cannot be the foundation of itself, or the fruit or consequence of itself. The very act of choosing one thing. rather than another, is preferring that thing, and that is set. ting a higher value on that thing. But that the mind sets an higher value on one thing than another, is not, in the first place, the fruit of its setting a higher value on that thing.

This author says, p. 36, “ The Will may be perfectly indifferent, and yet the Will may determine itself to choose one or the other.” And again, in the same page, “ I am entire. ly indifferent to either; and yet my Will may determine ito self to choose.” And again,“ Which I shall choose must be determined by the mere act of my Will.” If the choice is determined by a mere act of Will, then the choice is determined by a mere act of choice. And concerning this matter, viz. That the act of the Will itself is determined by an act of choice, this writer is express, in page 72. Speaking of the case, where there is no superior fitness in objects presented, he has these words : “ There it must act by its own CHOICE, and determine itself as it PLEASES." Where it is supposed that the very determination, which is the ground and spring of the Will's act, is an act of choice and pleasure, wherein one act is more agreeable and the mind better pleased in it than another; and this preference and superior pleasedness is the ground of all it does in the case. And if so, the mind is not indifferent when it determines itself, but had rather do one thing than another, had rather determine itself one way than another. And therefore the Will does not act at all in indifference ; not so much as in the first step it takes, or the first rise and beginning of its acting. If it be possible for the understanding to act in indifference, yet to be sure the Will never does; because the Will's beginning to act is the very same thing as its beginning to choose or prefer. And if in the very first act of the Will, the mind prefers something, then the idea of that thing preferred, does at that time preponderate, or prevail in the mind; or, which is the same thing,

the idea of it has a prevailing influence on the Will. So that this wholly destroys the thing supposed, viz. That the mind can, by a sovereign power, choose one of two or more things, which in the view of the mind are, in every respect, perfectly equal, one of which does not at all preponderate, nor has any prevailing influence on the mind above another. . .

Sơ that this author, in his grand argument for the ability of the Will to choose one of two or more things, concerning which it is perfectly indifferent, does at the same time, in effect, deny the thing he supposes, and allows and asserts the point he endeavors to overthrow ; even that the Will, in choosing, is subject to no prevailing influence of the idea, or view of the thing chosen. And indeed it is impossible to of. fer this argument without overthrowing it; the thing supposed in it being inconsistent with itself, and that which denies itself. To suppose the Will to act at all in a state of perfect indifference, either to determine itself, or to do any thing else, is to assert that the mind chooses without choosing. To say that when it is indifferent, it can do as it pleases, is to say that it can follow its pleasure when it has no pleasure to follow. And therefore if there be any difficulty in the instances of two cakes, two eggs, &c. which are exactly alike, one as good as another; concerning which this author supposes the mind in fact has a choice, and so in effect supposes that it has a pref. erence; it as much concerned himself to solve the difficulty, as it does those whom he opposes. For if these instances prove any thing to his purpose, they prove that a man chooses without choice. And yet this is not to his purpose ; because if this is what he asserts, his own words are as much, against him, and do as much contradict him, as the words of those he disputes against can do.

2. There is no great difficulty in shewing, in such instances as are alleged, not only that it must needs be so, that the mind must be influenced in its choice, by something that has a preponderating influence upon it, but also how it is so. A little attention to our own experience, and a distinct consideration of the acts of our own minds, in such cases, will be suf ficient to clear up the matter.

Voli V.

Thus, supposing I have a chessboard before me ; and be. . cause I am required by a superior, or desired by a friend, or to make some experiment concerning my own ability and liberty, or on some other consideration, I am determined to touch some one of the spots or squares on the board with my finger; not being limited or directed in the first proposal, or my own first purpose, which is general, to any one in particular; and there being nothing in the squares, in themselves considered, that recommends any one of all the sixtyfour, more than another: In this case, my mind determines to give itself up to what is vulgarly called accident, * by determining to touch that square which happens to be most in view, which my eye is especially upon at that moment, or which happens to be then most in my mind, or which I shall be directed to by some other such like accident....Here are several steps of the mind's proceeding (though all may be done as it were in a moment) the first step is its general determination that it will touch one of the squares. The next step is another general determination to give itself up to accident, in some certain way; as to touch that which shall be most in the eye or mind at that time, or to some other such like accident. The third and last step is a particular determination to touch a certain individual spot, even that square, which, by that sort of accident the mind has pitched upon, has actually offered itself beyond others. Now it is apparent that in none of these several steps does the mind proceed in absolute indifference, but in each of them is influenced by a preponderating inducement. So it is in the first step ; the mind's general determination to touch one of the sixtyfour spots : The mind is not absolutely indifferent whether it does so or no; it is induced to it, for the sake of making some experiment, or by the desire of a friend, or some other motive that prevails. So it is in the second step, the mind's determining to give it

* I have elsewhere observed what that is which is vulgarly called accident; that it is nothing akin to the Arminian metaphysical notion of contingence, something not connected with any thing foregoing; but that it is something that comes to pass in the course of things, in some affair that men are concerned in, unforeseen, and not owing to their design,

self up to accident, by touching that which shall be most in the eye, or the idea of which shall be most prevalent in the mind, &c. The mind is not absolutely indifferent whether it proceeds by this rule or no ; but chooses it because it appears at that time a convenient and requisite expedient in order to fulfil the general purpose aforesaid. And so it is in the third and last step, it is determining to touch that individual spot which actually does prevail in the mind's view. The mind is not indifferent concerning this; but is influenced by a pre-, vailing inducement and reason; which is, that this is a prosecution of the preceding determination, which appeared requisite, and was fixed before in the second step.

Accident will ever servé à man, without hindering him a moment, in such a case. It will always be so among a number of objects in view, one will prevail in the eye, or in idea beyond others. When we have our eyes open in the clear sunshine, many objects strike the eye at once, and innumerable images may be at once painted in it by the rays of light; but the attention of the mind is not equal to several of them at once ; or if it be, it does not continue so for any time. And so it is with respect to the ideas of the mind in general: Sev. cral ideas are not in equal strength in the mind's view and notice at once ; or at least, does not remain so for any sensible continuance. There is nothing in the world more constantly varying, than the ideas of the mind : They do not remain precisely in the same state for the least perceivable space of time ; as is evident by this, that all perceivable time is judged and perceived by the mind only by the succession or the successive changes of its own ideas : Therefore while the views or perceptions of the mind remain precisely in the same state, there is no perceivable space or length of time, because no sensible succession.

As the acts of the Will, in each step of the foremention. ed proceedure, do not come to pass without a particular cause, every act is owing to a prevailing inducement ; so the acci. dent, as I have called it, or that which happens in the unsearchable course of things, to which the mind yields itself, and by which it is guided, is not any thing that comes to pass

« PreviousContinue »