Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

in it.

how far the general conduct of men will be influenced by the belief of that doctrine. To these confiderations we shall fubjoin the fubftance of Dr. Priestley’s reply. We choose this subject, both because we particularly attended to it, when we gave an account of Dr. Priestley's original work;---[See M. REV, vel. lviii. May 1778, page 361.) and likewise because, if Dr. P. has succeeded in his new illustration of it, he has cleared up what has always appeared to us one of the most difficult parts of his doctrine, as applied to the conduct of men believing

Mír. Palmer asks, what can posibly have a stronger tendency towards the rendering men indifferent with respect to their conduct, and preven:ing all human endeavours, than for a man to believe that he has no power over his actions; ' so that' (to use Dr. Priestley's own words) no action or event could possibly be cther wise than it has been, is, or is to be? This would be the case, Dr. Priestley has before owned, • if their own actions and determinations were not necessary links in this chain of causes and events, and if their good or bad fuccess did not, in the Atricteit sense of the word, depend upon themselves.'

According to Mr. Palmer, the confideration of the actions and determinations of men being necessary links in this chain of causes and events,' is the very thing that constitutes the diffi. culty, instead of removing it. If all human actions and determinations are necessary, what is there,' he asks, that, in any proper sense, can be said to depend upon a man's self? What, on this plan of human nature, are all endeavours or efforts which a man can exert, but impressions, or the consequences of impreffions, made upon him, in which he has not the least concern as an efficient or agent?-To look upon every action and event as necessary, and that nothing could be otherwise than it is, is a much better faivo for all the follies and errors of men, than any other which they have been able to find out. If any, therefore, are to succeed better, or be happier, in any part of their existence, than others, their superior prosperity and happiness will be infallibly secured to them: and though there is a certain disposition of mind and course of action, which are inseparably connected with their success and happiness, as means to bring about these events; yet the means, as well as the end, are alike necessary; and having no power to make either the one or the other at ail different from what they are, or are to be; their lot, through the whole of their being, is by them ablulutely unalterable.'

Mr. Palmer then alludes to the case of the farmer, adduced by Dr. Priestley, as a popular illustration of his doctrine; and which, on that account, we transcribed into the page of our Review above referred to. In this case, Mr. Palmer lays, that

the

yet/

the Doctor seems to take the principle of neceflity for ganted, and then reasons upon it, as if it were really true. To make it a case in point, it must be supposed, not only that “ vegetation is subject to the established laws of nature;" but likewise, that the farmer believes, that he himself is, in the whole of his conduct, subject to the like physical necessity; and that, if he is to reap, he shall also find himself under a necesary, compulsive, inAuence to low. Whether this is a common opinion among that plain sort of men,' says Mr. Palmer, • let the Doctor himfelf, on impartial reflection, determine. But, till that is firft proved, no inference, favourable to the doctrine of neceffity, can be drawn from the pains they take, in making use of the mcans appointed for rendering the earth fruitful.'—The fact, he doubts not, is, that they do consider themselves as having it in their power to neglect or use the means: and, did they believe the contrary, he apprehends, that their belief would be attended with want of exertion, and neglect of their concerns.

In his answer to these objections and observations of Mr. Palmer, Dr. Priestley does not defend himfelf against the whole of the doctrine here imputed to him.- I am confident,' says he (treating only of what makes a man's actions his own, and de pending on himself), that, in what you say on this subject, you deceive yourself by the use of words, or you could not draw the consequences that you do, from what you suppose to be my dodrine on this subject.' He then proceeds :

• Strictly and philosophically speaking, my success in any thing I will to accomplish, depends upon myself, if my own exertions and actions are necessary links in that chain of events, by which alone it can be brought about. And, certainly, if I do know this, and the object or end be defirable to me, this defire (if it be of sufficient strength) cannot but produce the exertion that is necessary to gain my end. This reasoning appears to me extremely easy, and perfectly conclusive; and yet, though I have repeated it several times, and have placed it in a variety of lights, you do not seem to have considered it. I shall, there. fore, give another instance, and add some farther illustrations.'

This other initance, in which the Author fubftitutes himself in the room of the farmer, seems to us calculated to obviaie the objection above made by Mr. Palmer to the former illustration; and in which he urges, that farmers do not, in general, know, or believe in, the doctrine of necessity: whereas no one can doubt of Dr. Priestley's believing in his own doctrine.

«Can I,' says he, have a sufficiently strong wish to answer your book, and not of course read it, mark proper extracts from it, arrange them, write my remarks upon them, then transcribe them for the press, and put them into the hands of a bookseller or printer, &c. when I know, that if all this be not done, the book will never be answered ? Surely, my firm belief that all these things are necessarily connected, must convince me of the necessity of setting about the work, if I wish to do it at all; and my wish to have it done, is here to be supposed, as having arisen from a variety of previous circumstances.

done,

• If, therefore, I shall certainly find myself disposed to act just as I now do, believing my actions to be necessary, your objection to my doctrine, on this account, cannot have a sufficient foundation. You say, that if the thing must be, it must be; if your book is to be answered by me, it will be answered by me ; and that I may, therefore, make myself easy about it, and do nothing. I answer, that fo I should, either if I had no desire to have it done, which happens not to be the case, or if I thought that no exertions of mine were necessary to gain my end, which is not the case neither. On this consideration depends the capital distinction that I make between the doctrines of philosophical neceffity, and Calvinistic predestination.

Dr. Priestley then proceeds to fhew, that the doctrine of philosophical necessity supposes a necessary connection between our endeavours and our success ; ' so that if only the desire of success, the first link in this chain, be sufficiently strong, all the sest will follow of course, and the end will be certainly accomplished.'-Whereas, according to the Calvinists, the desire and the end, have no neceffary connection. In the work of conversion or regeneration, for instance, they say, that · God is the sole agent, and men altogether passive;'—that, without his immediate agency, to which nothing on the part of man can contribute, let a man exert himself ever so much, in the use of all possible means ; yet all his volitions, and all his actions, would be only finful, and deserving of the wrath and curse of God to all eternity.'

Notwithstanding these explanations, and allowing the justice and propriety of these distinctions, between the doctrine of philosophical necessity and that of Calvinistic predestination; still, we apprehend, the capital difficulty will appear to many not to be removed by them. We mean that contained in the passage which we have marked with Italics, in the paragraph preceding the last. Notwithstanding all that is here said, this stumblingblock still seems to rear its head, and this question still recurs; -If the thing MUST be, it must be; and therefore, how can I prevent it, or why should I exert myself?-Or, in other words, does it depend on me to prevent or produce an event, which “ cannot possibly be otherwise than it is to be?' If, in the plan of providence (may an indolent man say), I am the destined agent, whose exertions are necessary to a certain end; the desire of success,' and other links in the chain of causes, will necessarily impel me to those exertions; and I will patiently await their Rev. Jan. 1780.

D

impulse;

impulse; which as yet I do not feel — We own, however, that, in the Author's care of the farmer - who knows, certainly, that if he does not sow, it is decrced that he mall not reap-as well as in his own case, above given, the difficulty has appeared to us to be lessened; on our particularly attending to a circumstance or two, on which Dr Priestley has not perhaps sufficiently amplified, to render his doctrine generally in telligible to his readers. Mr. Palmer, at least, seems not to have comprehended his former illustration ; by his dwelling so much on the observation, that farmers, in general, do not believe in the doctrine of necessity :- a remark, which appears to us to be of no consequence in the present argument. Dr. Priestley's principal intention, we apprehend, was to fhew, that a belief in the doctrine of neceflity is not incompatible with, or even unfavourable to, the most spirited exertions; and that a farmer, believing in that doćirine ever so firmly, will nevertheless, without any dereliction of his principles, exert the fame endeavours as another farmer who is an anti-necesarian. Those who have not perfectly understood Dr. Priestley's illustration, may possibly perceive its drift, by feeing it represented in a somewhat new light, or the light in which it strikes us.

One of the circumstances to which we have alluded above is, the ignorance of men respecting the decrees of providence.. On this ignorance (and the necessary influence of motives) we apprehend, that our Necesarian Farmer founds his plan of conduct ;—for we will suppose Dr. Priestley's active farmer to be as determined a neceffarian as himself; and yet he shall till and fow fields with as much fpirit (Dr. Priestley would say more) as any of his more orthodox neighbours, who think they have a will of their own. Suppofing one of these last to ridicule our farmer, on account of a conduct seemingly fo inconfiftent with his principles; we can conceive him thus answering his opponent:

Will you, Sir, be so kind as to inform me which of these two decrees has paffed ;-whether I fhall low my fields, and live, or neglect them and starve ? I firmly believe one of these events to be unalterably determined; but I know not which ; nor can you inform me. Under this uncertainty (nay, partly because of this uncertainty), but knowing the uniformity of the course of nature, and that unlets I low I cannot potibly reap, and feeling moreover a desire to low; I shall low with as much spirit as yourself; and half a year hence, my barns and stacks will inform us both what was the decree.-Nay, even now, I think I can venture to specify the decree before-hand, and to pronounce, that it is the favourable one; because I find myself determined (by motives that have a certain and necessary influence) to exert such endeavours to fulfil it, as can scarce fail of producing that effect, according to the usual course of things.

Thus

[ocr errors]

Thus likewise, in the other instance, Dr. Priestley might say; I know not, certainly, whether it is decreed, that I shall, or shall not write an answer to Mr. Palmer's book: but, ignorant as I am of that decree, I know my own present feelings, and am sensible of a sufficiently strong desire to answer it. I know likewise, that unleis I take the pen in my hand, I cannot answer it. Nay, further, though the decree is as yet a secret to me, it shall not (in consequence of my endeavours) remain a secret much longer; for I will fit down, and answer it immediately. - And so, in fact, it has turned out.

In these amplifications of Dr. Priestley's two illustrations, we know not whether we have caught the whole of his means ing, or only a part of it. If we have erred, in our attempt to illustrate it ftill farther, we cannot well incur much disgrace in such a dark subject : and besides, we err in very good company. -As to the main question, it is ably difcuffed by both the parties; but the cause of liberty is more pertinaciously defended by Mr. Palmer, than by Dr. Prieliley's former amicable antagonift, Dr. Price. For instance, the latter owns, that he cannot see how a contingent event can be the object of fore-know- ' ledge, even to the Deity himself. “ It carries," fays he, in his correspondence with Dr. Priestley, p. 175. " the appearance of a contradiction; it is in leed a difficulty, and I do not pretend to be capable of removing it." - Mr. Palmer, however, in his zeal for liberty, more boldly gives up, in fact, the divine prescience; and endeavours to Mew, that the sacrifice is not very greac: for that, by giving up such a notion of prescience, as is directly inconsistent with the idea of liberty, or agency in man,' we only deny that to belong to the supreme mind, which is in truth no perfeition at all :

Again, Dri Price acknowledged it to be absurd to suppose, that men ever act either without, or against, motives; but he luppoled the filf-determining power to exert itfelt only when the motives were equal and contrary: -a very rare case indeed !-and which reduces, as Dr. Priestley observes, this boasted liberty of man to a very small matter, hardly worth contending for.' Mr. Palmer makes no such concessions; but, in general, supposes that the mind may act contrary to any morive whatever. It is difficult, however, to resist the force of Dr. Priestley's argument,--that our volitions, and our actions, depending on them, must always be the same, cæteris paribus, i. e. every circumftance being equal; or • must always be definite, in definite circumstances :'--for what, we may ask, is there to produce an alteration, when every aflignable circumstance is exactly equal ? In pbyfies, a proposition of this nature pafles with every one as an axiom ;-that fimilar causes, operating on the same material subftance, under similar circumstances, muft produce effects pre

cisely

[ocr errors]

D 2

« ElőzőTovább »