Imatges de pÓgina
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A

DISSERTATION

UPON THE

ARGUMENT A PRIORI

For proving the Existence of a

FIRST CAUSE:

IN A LETTER TO MR. LAW.

A

DISSERTATION

UPON THE

ARGUMENT A PRIORI

For proving the Existence of a

FIRST CAUSE:

IN A LETTER TO MR. LAW.

SIR, WHEN I last had the pleasure of your conversation, in company with one or two more ingenious friends, I remember we soon fell to asking each other, what news from the republic of letters; what fresh pamphlets stirring; what works, relating either to religion or science, had'appeared lately, or were soon likely to appear. Hereupon several things were mentioned, and passed off in discourse : but what we happened more particularly to dwell upon, was the consideration of some metaphysical pieces concerning the proving the existence of a Deity a priori, (as the Schools term it,) that is to say, from some supposed antecedent necessity, considered as a ground, or reason, or foundation, or internal cause, or formal cause of the Divine existence. And here, if I remember, we were inquisitive to know, what those scholastic terms imported, and whether the thought contained in them was entirely new, a recent product of the eighteenth century; as also what weight or solidity there was in it: and if there were none, whether it portended any detriment to religion or science, and might be worth the opposing or confuting. Upon the debating and canvassing the particulars now mentioned, my opinion then was, and I am since more and more confirmed in the same, that those who have appeared as advocates for that argument a priori, seem to have had no clear notion of the thing itself, or of the terms they make use of; that the thought however was not a new thought, though perhaps it might be justly called a new tenet, as having been constantly exploded for many centuries upwards, and never once maintained by metaphysicians or divines ; that moreover it was absolutely untenable, yea and carried its own confutation along with it, as soon as understood; and lastly, that such principles might be prejudicial, in some measure, both to religion and science, if they should happen to prevail; and that consequently it would be doing good service to both, if due care were taken, in a proper manner, to prevent their growth.

With these sentiments (which seemed also to be pretty nearly the common sentiments of all then present) I departed from you at that time. And no sooner was I returned to my books, and had some vacant leisure on my hands, but I thought of throwing out what occurred to me on those heads into paper, digesting it into a kind of dissertation, which I here send you for your perusal, and which I leave entirely to your disposal. The method, which I have chalked out for myself, in the essay here following, is ;

1. To give some historical account of what the most

eminent metaphysicians and divines have taught, so

far as concerns the point in question. II. To consider the argumentative part, in order to take is off the ambiguity of words, and thereby to prevent ,,. confusion of ideas. 1. III. To examine into the tendency of the new tenets, ... with respect either to religion or science.

These three heads will furnish out so many distinct sections or chapters.

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