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Title: A Treatise of Human Nature

Author: David Hume

Release Date: December, 2003 [Etext #4705]
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* * * * * * * * * *



My design in the present work is sufficiently explained in the
Introduction. The reader must only observe, that all the subjects I have
there planned out to myself, are not treated of in these two volumes. The
subjects of the Understanding and Passions make a compleat chain of
reasoning by themselves; and I was willing to take advantage of this
natural division, in order to try the taste of the public. If I have the
good fortune to meet with success, I shall proceed to the examination of
Morals, Politics, and Criticism; which will compleat this Treatise of
Human Nature. The approbation of the public I consider as the greatest
reward of my labours; but am determined to regard its judgment, whatever
it be, as my best instruction.


Nothing is more usual and more natural for those, who pretend to discover
anything new to the world in philosophy and the sciences, than to
insinuate the praises of their own systems, by decrying all those, which
have been advanced before them. And indeed were they content with
lamenting that ignorance, which we still lie under in the most important
questions, that can come before the tribunal of human reason, there are
few, who have an acquaintance with the sciences, that would not readily
agree with them. It is easy for one of judgment and learning, to perceive
the weak foundation even of those systems, which have obtained the
greatest credit, and have carried their pretensions highest to accurate
and profound reasoning. Principles taken upon trust, consequences lamely
deduced from them, want of coherence in the parts, and of evidence in the
whole, these are every where to be met with in the systems of the most
eminent philosophers, and seem to have drawn disgrace upon philosophy

Nor is there required such profound knowledge to discover the present
imperfect condition of the sciences, but even the rabble without doors
may, judge from the noise and clamour, which they hear, that all goes not
well within. There is nothing which is not the subject of debate, and in
which men of learning are not of contrary opinions. The most trivial
question escapes not our controversy, and in the most momentous we are
not able to give any certain decision. Disputes are multiplied, as if
every thing was uncertain; and these disputes are managed with the
greatest warmth, as if every thing was certain. Amidst all this bustle
it is not reason, which carries the prize, but eloquence; and no man
needs ever despair of gaining proselytes to the most extravagant
hypothesis, who has art enough to represent it in any favourable colours.
The victory is not gained by the men at arms, who manage the pike and the
sword; but by the trumpeters, drummers, and musicians of the army.

From hence in my opinion arises that common prejudice against
metaphysical reasonings of all kinds, even amongst those, who profess
themselves scholars, and have a just value for every other part of
literature. By metaphysical reasonings, they do not understand those on
any particular branch of science, but every kind of argument, which is
any way abstruse, and requires some attention to be comprehended. We have
so often lost our labour in such researches, that we commonly reject them
without hesitation, and resolve, if we must for ever be a prey to errors
and delusions, that they shall at least be natural and entertaining. And
indeed nothing but the most determined scepticism, along with a great
degree of indolence, can justify this aversion to metaphysics. For if
truth be at all within the reach of human capacity, it is certain it must
lie very deep and abstruse: and to hope we shall arrive at it without
pains, while the greatest geniuses have failed with the utmost pains,
must certainly be esteemed sufficiently vain and presumptuous. I pretend
to no such advantage in the philosophy I am going to unfold, and would
esteem it a strong presumption against it, were it so very easy and

It is evident, that all the sciences have a relation, greater or less, to
human nature: and that however wide any of them may seem to run from it,
they still return back by one passage or another. Even. Mathematics,
Natural Philosophy, and Natural Religion, are in some measure dependent
on the science of MAN; since the lie under the cognizance of men, and are
judged of by their powers and faculties. It is impossible to tell what
changes and improvements we might make in these sciences were we
thoroughly acquainted with the extent and force of human understanding,
and could explain the nature of the ideas we employ, and of the
operations we perform in our reasonings. And these improvements are the
more to be hoped for in natural religion, as it is not content with
instructing us in the nature of superior powers, but carries its views
farther, to their disposition towards us, and our duties towards them;
and consequently we ourselves are not only the beings, that reason, but
also one of the objects, concerning which we reason.

If therefore the sciences of Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Natural
Religion, have such a dependence on the knowledge of man, what may be
expected in the other sciences, whose connexion with human nature is more
close and intimate? The sole end of logic is to explain the principles
and operations of our reasoning faculty, and the nature of our ideas:
morals and criticism regard our tastes and sentiments: and politics
consider men as united in society, and dependent on each other. In these
four sciences of Logic, Morals, Criticism, and Politics, is comprehended
almost everything, which it can any way import us to be acquainted with,
or which can tend either to the improvement or ornament of the human

Here then is the only expedient, from which we can hope for success in
our philosophical researches, to leave the tedious lingering method,
which we have hitherto followed, and instead of taking now and then a
castle or village on the frontier, to march up directly to the capital or
center of these sciences, to human nature itself; which being once
masters of, we may every where else hope for an easy victory. From this
station we may extend our conquests over all those sciences, which more
intimately concern human life, and may afterwards proceed at leisure to
discover more fully those, which are the objects of pore curiosity. There
is no question of importance, whose decision is not comprised in the
science of man; and there is none, which can be decided with any
certainty, before we become acquainted with that science. In pretending,
therefore, to explain the principles of human nature, we in effect
propose a compleat system of the sciences, built on a foundation almost
entirely new, and the only one upon which they can stand with any

And as the science of man is the-only solid foundation for the other
sciences, so the only solid foundation we can give to this science
itself must be laid on experience and observation. It is no astonishing
reflection to consider, that the application of experimental philosophy
to moral subjects should come after that to natural at the distance of
above a whole century; since we find in fact, that there was about the
same interval betwixt the origins of these sciences; and that reckoning
from THALES to SOCRATES, the space of time is nearly equal to that
betwixt, my Lord Bacon and some late philosophers [Mr. Locke, my Lord
Shaftesbury, Dr. Mandeville, Mr. Hutchinson, Dr. Butler, etc.] in England,
who have begun to put the science of man on a new footing, and have
engaged the attention, and excited the curiosity of the public. So true it
is, that however other nations may rival us in poetry, and excel us in
some other agreeable arts, the improvements in reason and philosophy can
only be owing to a land of toleration and of liberty.

Nor ought we to think, that this latter improvement in the science of man
will do less honour to our native country than the former in natural
philosophy, but ought rather to esteem it a greater glory, upon account
of the greater importance of that science, as well as the necessity it
lay under of such a reformation. For to me it seems evident, that the
essence of the mind being equally unknown to us with that of external
bodies, it must be equally impossible to form any notion of its powers
and qualities otherwise than from careful and exact experiments, and the
observation of those particular effects, which result from its different
circumstances and situations. And though we must endeavour to render all
our principles as universal as possible, by tracing up our experiments to
the utmost, and explaining all effects from the simplest and fewest
causes, it is still certain we cannot go beyond experience; and any
hypothesis, that pretends to discover the ultimate original qualities of
human nature, ought at first to be rejected as presumptuous and

I do not think a philosopher, who would apply himself so earnestly to the
explaining the ultimate principles of the soul, would show himself a
great master in that very science of human nature, which he pretends to
explain, or very knowing in what is naturally satisfactory to the mind of
man. For nothing is more certain, than that despair has almost the same
effect upon us with enjoyment, and that we are no sooner acquainted with
the impossibility of satisfying any desire, than the desire itself
vanishes. When we see, that we have arrived at the utmost extent of human
reason, we sit down contented, though we be perfectly satisfied in the
main of our ignorance, and perceive that we can give no reason for our
most general and most refined principles, beside our experience of their
reality; which is the reason of the mere vulgar, and what it required no
study at first to have discovered for the most particular and most
extraordinary phaenomenon. And as this impossibility of making any
farther progress is enough to satisfy the reader, so the writer may
derive a more delicate satisfaction from the free confession of his
ignorance, and from his prudence in avoiding that error, into which so
many have fallen, of imposing their conjectures and hypotheses on the
world for the most certain principles. When this mutual contentment and
satisfaction can be obtained betwixt the master and scholar, I know not
what more we can require of our philosophy.

But if this impossibility of explaining ultimate principles should be
esteemed a defect in the science of man, I will venture to affirm, that
it is a defect common to it with all the sciences, and all the arts, in
which we can employ ourselves, whether they be such as are cultivated in
the schools of the philosophers, or practised in the shops of the meanest
artizans. None of them can go beyond experience, or establish any
principles which are not founded on that authority. Moral philosophy has,
indeed, this peculiar disadvantage, which is not found in natural, that
in collecting its experiments, it cannot make them purposely, with
premeditation, and after such a manner as to satisfy itself concerning
every particular difficulty which may be. When I am at a loss to know the
effects of one body upon another in any situation, I need only put them
in that situation, and observe what results from it. But should I
endeavour to clear up after the same manner any doubt in moral
philosophy, by placing myself in the same case with that which I
consider, it is evident this reflection and premeditation would so disturb
the operation of my natural principles, as must render it impossible to
form any just conclusion from the phenomenon. We must therefore glean up
our experiments in this science from a cautious observation of human
life, and take them as they appear in the common course of the world, by
men's behaviour in company, in affairs, and in their pleasures. Where
experiments of this kind are judiciously collected and compared, we may
hope to establish on them a science which will not be inferior in
certainty, and will be much superior in utility to any other of human




All the perceptions of the human mind resolve themselves into two
distinct kinds, which I shall call IMPRESSIONS and IDEAS. The difference
betwixt these consists in the degrees of force and liveliness, with which
they strike upon the mind, and make their way into our thought or
consciousness. Those perceptions, which enter with most force and
violence, we may name impressions: and under this name I comprehend all
our sensations, passions and emotions, as they make their first
appearance in the soul. By ideas I mean the faint images of these in
thinking and reasoning; such as, for instance, are all the perceptions
excited by the present discourse, excepting only those which arise from
the sight and touch, and excepting the immediate pleasure or uneasiness
it may occasion. I believe it will not be very necessary to employ many
words in explaining this distinction. Every one of himself will readily
perceive the difference betwixt feeling and thinking. The common degrees
of these are easily distinguished; though it is not impossible but in
particular instances they may very nearly approach to each other. Thus in
sleep, in a fever, in madness, or in any very violent emotions of soul,
our ideas may approach to our impressions, As on the other hand it
sometimes happens, that our impressions are so faint and low, that we
cannot distinguish them from our ideas. But notwithstanding this near
resemblance in a few instances, they are in general so very different,
that no-one can make a scruple to rank them under distinct heads, and
assign to each a peculiar name to mark the difference [Footnote 1.].

[Footnote 1. I here make use of these terms, impression and idea, in a
sense different from what is usual, and I hope this liberty will be
allowed me. Perhaps I rather restore the word, idea, to its original
sense, from which Mr LOCKE had perverted it, in making it stand for all
our perceptions. By the terms of impression I would not be understood to
express the manner, in which our lively perceptions are produced in the
soul, but merely the perceptions themselves; for which there is no
particular name either in the English or any other language, that I know

There is another division of our perceptions, which it will be convenient
to observe, and which extends itself both to our impressions and ideas.
This division is into SIMPLE and COMPLEX. Simple perceptions or
impressions and ideas are such as admit of no distinction nor separation.
The complex are the contrary to these, and may be distinguished into
parts. Though a particular colour, taste, and smell, are qualities all
united together in this apple, it is easy to perceive they are not the
same, but are at least distinguishable from each other.

Having by these divisions given an order and arrangement to our objects,
we may now apply ourselves to consider with the more accuracy their
qualities and relations. The first circumstance, that strikes my eye, is
the great resemblance betwixt our impressions and ideas in every other
particular, except their degree of force and vivacity. The one seem to be
in a manner the reflexion of the other; so that all the perceptions of
the mind are double, and appear both as impressions and ideas. When I
shut my eyes and think of my chamber, the ideas I form are exact
representations of the impressions I felt; nor is there any circumstance
of the one, which is not to be found in the other. In running over my
other perceptions, I find still the same resemblance and representation.
Ideas and impressions appear always to correspond to each other. This
circumstance seems to me remarkable, and engages my attention for a

Upon a more accurate survey I find I have been carried away too far by
the first appearance, and that I must make use of the distinction of
perceptions into simple and complex, to limit this general decision, that
all our ideas and impressions are resembling. I observe, that many of our
complex ideas never had impressions, that corresponded to them, and that
many of our complex impressions never are exactly copied in ideas. I can
imagine to myself such a city as the New Jerusalem, whose pavement is
gold and walls are rubies, though I never saw any such. I have seen Paris;
but shall I affirm I can form such an idea of that city, as will
perfectly represent all its streets and houses in their real and just

I perceive, therefore, that though there is in general a great,
resemblance betwixt our complex impressions and ideas, yet the rule is not
universally true, that they are exact copies of each other. We may next
consider how the case stands with our simple, perceptions. After the most
accurate examination, of which I am capable, I venture to affirm, that
the rule here holds without any exception, and that every simple idea has
a simple impression, which resembles it, and every simple impression a
correspondent idea. That idea of red, which we form in the dark, and that
impression which strikes our eyes in sun-shine, differ only in degree,
not in nature. That the case is the same with all our simple impressions
and ideas, it is impossible to prove by a particular enumeration of them.
Every one may satisfy himself in this point by running over as many as he
pleases. But if any one should deny this universal resemblance, I know no
way of convincing him, but by desiring him to shew a simple impression,
that has not a correspondent idea, or a simple idea, that has not a
correspondent impression. If he does not answer this challenge, as it is
certain he cannot, we may from his silence and our own observation
establish our conclusion.

Thus we find, that all simple ideas and impressions resemble each other;
and as the complex are formed from them, we may affirm in general, that
these two species of perception are exactly correspondent. Having
discovered this relation, which requires no farther examination, I am
curious to find some other of their qualities. Let us consider how. they
stand with regard to their existence, and which of the impressions and
ideas are causes, and which effects.

The full examination of this question is the subject of the present
treatise; and therefore we shall here content ourselves with establishing

In seeking for phenomena to prove this proposition, I find only those of
two kinds; but in each kind the phenomena are obvious, numerous, and
conclusive. I first make myself certain, by a new, review, of what I have
already asserted, that every simple impression is attended with a
correspondent idea, and every simple idea with a correspondent
impression. From this constant conjunction of resembling perceptions I
immediately conclude, that there is a great connexion betwixt our
correspondent impressions and ideas, and that the existence of the one
has a considerable influence upon that of the other. Such a constant
conjunction, in such an infinite number of instances, can never arise
from chance; but clearly proves a dependence of the impressions on the
ideas, or of the ideas on the impressions. That I may know on which side
this dependence lies, I consider the order of their first appearance; and
find by constant experience, that the simple impressions always take the
precedence of their correspondent ideas, but never appear in the contrary
order. To give a child an idea of scarlet or orange, of sweet or bitter,
I present the objects, or in other words, convey to him these
impressions; but proceed not so absurdly, as to endeavour to produce the
impressions by exciting the ideas. Our ideas upon their appearance
produce not their correspondent impressions, nor do we perceive any
colour, or feel any sensation merely upon thinking of them. On the other
hand we find, that any impression either of the mind or body is
constantly followed by an idea, which resembles it, and is only different
in the degrees of force and liveliness, The constant conjunction of our
resembling perceptions, is a convincing proof, that the one are the
causes of the other; and this priority of the impressions is an equal
proof, that our impressions are the causes of our ideas, not our ideas
of our, impressions.

To confirm this I consider Another plain and convincing phaenomenon;
which is, that, where-ever by any accident the faculties, which give rise
to any impressions, are obstructed in their operations, as when one is
born blind or deaf; not only the impressions are lost, but also their
correspondent ideas; so that there never appear in the mind the least
traces of either of them. Nor is this only true, where the organs of
sensation are entirely destroyed, but likewise where they have never been
put in action to produce a particular impression. We cannot form to
ourselves a just idea of the taste of a pine apple, without having
actually tasted it.

There is however one contradictory phaenomenon, which may prove, that
it is not absolutely impossible for ideas to go before their correspondent
impressions. I believe it will readily be allowed that the several
distinct ideas of colours, which enter by the eyes, or those of sounds,
which are conveyed by the hearing, are really different from each other,
though at the same time resembling. Now if this be true of different
colours, it must be no less so of the different shades of the same
colour, that each of them produces a distinct idea, independent of the
rest. For if this should be denied, it is possible, by the continual
gradation of shades, to run a colour insensibly into what is most remote
from it; and if you will not allow any of the means to be different, you
cannot without absurdity deny the extremes to be the same. Suppose
therefore a person to have enjoyed his sight for thirty years, and to
have become perfectly well acquainted with colours of all kinds,
excepting one particular shade of blue, for instance, which it never has
been his fortune to meet with. Let all the different shades of that
colour, except that single one, be placed before him, descending
gradually from the deepest to the lightest; it is plain, that he will
perceive a blank, where that shade is wanting, said will be sensible,
that there is a greater distance in that place betwixt the contiguous
colours, than in any other. Now I ask, whether it is possible for him,
from his own imagination, to supply this deficiency, and raise up to
himself the idea of that particular shade, though it had never been
conveyed to him by his senses? I believe i here are few but will be of
opinion that he can; and this may serve as a proof, that the simple ideas
are not always derived from the correspondent impressions; though the
instance is so particular and singular, that it is scarce worth our
observing, and does not merit that for it alone we should alter our
general maxim.

But besides this exception, it may not be amiss to remark on this head,
that the principle of the priority of impressions to ideas must be
understood with another limitation, viz., that as our ideas are images of
our impressions, so we can form secondary ideas, which are images of the
primary; as appears from this very reasoning concerning them. This is
not, properly speaking, an exception to the rule so much as an
explanation of it. Ideas produce the images of them. selves in new ideas;
but as the first ideas are supposed to be derived from impressions, it
still remains true, that all our simple ideas proceed either mediately or
immediately, from their correspondent impressions.

This then is the first principle I establish in the science of human
nature; nor ought we to despise it because of the simplicity of its
appearance. For it is remarkable, that the present question concerning the
precedency of our impressions or ideas, is the same with what has made so
much noise in other terms, when it has been disputed whether there be any
INNATE IDEAS, or whether all ideas be derived from sensation and
reflexion. We may observe, that in order to prove the ideas of extension
and colour not to be innate, philosophers do nothing but shew that they
are conveyed by our senses. To prove the ideas of passion and desire not
to be innate, they observe that we have a preceding experience of these
emotions in ourselves. Now if we carefully examine these arguments, we
shall find that they prove nothing but that ideas are preceded by other
more lively perceptions, from which the are derived, and which they
represent. I hope this clear stating of the question will remove all
disputes concerning it, and win render this principle of more use in our
reasonings, than it seems hitherto to have been.


Since it appears, that our simple impressions are prior to their
correspondent ideas, and that the exceptions are very rare, method seems
to require we should examine our impressions, before we consider our
ideas. Impressions way be divided into two kinds, those Of SENSATION and
those of REFLEXION. The first kind arises in the soul originally, from
unknown causes. The second is derived in a great measure from our ideas,
and that in the following order. An impression first strikes upon the
senses, and makes us perceive heat or cold, thirst or hunger, pleasure or
pain of some kind or other. Of this impression there is a copy taken by
the mind, which remains after the impression ceases; and this we call an
idea. This idea of pleasure or pain, when it returns upon the soul,
produces the new impressions of desire and aversion, hope and fear, which
may properly be called impressions of reflexion, because derived from it.
These again are copied by the memory and imagination, and become ideas;
which perhaps in their turn give rise to other impressions and ideas. So
that the impressions of reflexion are only antecedent to their
correspondent ideas; but posterior to those of sensation, and derived
from them. The examination of our sensations belongs more to anatomists
and natural philosophers than to moral; and therefore shall not at
present be entered upon. And as the impressions of reflexion, viz.
passions, desires, and emotions, which principally deserve our attention,
arise mostly from ideas, it will be necessary to reverse that method,
which at first sight seems most natural; and in order to explain the
nature and principles of the human mind, give a particular account of
ideas, before we proceed to impressions. For this reason I have here
chosen to begin with ideas.


We find by experience, that when any impression has been present with the
mind, it again makes its appearance there as an idea; and this it may do
after two different ways: either when in its new appearance it retains a
considerable degree of its first vivacity, and is somewhat intermediate
betwixt an impression and an idea: or when it entirely loses that
vivacity, and is a perfect idea. The faculty, by which we repeat our
impressions in the first manner, is called the MEMORY, and the other the
IMAGINATION. It is evident at first sight, that the ideas of the memory
are much more lively and strong than those of the imagination, and that
the former faculty paints its objects in more distinct colours, than any
which are employed by the latter. When we remember any past event, the
idea of it flows in upon the mind in a forcible manner; whereas in the
imagination the perception is faint and languid, and cannot without
difficulty be preserved by the mind steddy and uniform for any
considerable time. Here then is a sensible difference betwixt one species
of ideas and another. But of this more fully hereafter.[Part II, Sect. 5.]

There is another difference betwixt these two kinds of ideas, which:-s no
less evident, namely that though neither the ideas, of the memory nor
imagination, neither the lively nor faint ideas can make their appearance
in the mind, unless their correspondent impressions have gone before to
prepare the way for them, yet the imagination is not restrained to the
same order and form with the original impressions; while the memory is in
a manner tied down in that respect, without any power of variation.

It is evident, that the memory preserves the original form, in which its
objects were presented, and that where-ever we depart from it in
recollecting any thing, it proceeds from some defect or imperfection in
that faculty. An historian may, perhaps, for the more convenient Carrying
on of his narration, relate an event before another, to which it was in
fact posterior; but then he takes notice of this disorder, if he be
exact; and by that means replaces the idea in its due position. It is the
same case in our recollection of those places and persons, with which we
were formerly acquainted. The chief exercise of the memory is not to
preserve the simple ideas, but their order and position. In short, this
principle is supported by such a number of common and vulgar phaenomena,
that we may spare ourselves the trouble of insisting on it any farther.

The same evidence follows us in our second principle, OF THE LIBERTY OF
with in poems and romances put this entirely out of the question. Nature
there is totally confounded, and nothing mentioned but winged horses,
fiery dragons, and monstrous giants. Nor will this liberty of the fancy
appear strange, when we consider, that all our ideas are copyed from our
impressions, and that there are not any two impressions which are
perfectly inseparable. Not to mention, that this is an evident
consequence of the division of ideas into simple and complex. Where-ever
the imagination perceives a difference among ideas, it can easily produce
a separation.


As all simple ideas may be separated by the imagination, and may be
united again in what form it pleases, nothing would be more unaccountable
than the operations of that faculty, were it not guided by some universal
principles, which render it, in some measure, uniform with itself in all
times and places. Were ideas entirely loose and unconnected, chance alone
would join them; and it is impossible the same simple ideas should fall
regularly into complex ones (as they Commonly do) without some bond of
union among them, some associating quality, by which one idea naturally
introduces another. This uniting principle among ideas is not to be
considered as an inseparable connexion; for that has been already
excluded from the imagination: Nor yet are we to conclude, that without
it the mind cannot join two ideas; for nothing is more free than that
faculty: but we are only to regard it as a gentle force, which commonly
prevails, and is the cause why, among other things, languages so nearly
correspond to each other; nature in a manner pointing out to every one
those simple ideas, which are most proper to be united in a complex one.
The qualities, from which this association arises, and by which the mind
is after this manner conveyed from one idea to another, are three, viz.

I believe it will not be very necessary to prove, that these qualities
produce an association among ideas, and upon the appearance of one idea
naturally introduce another. It is plain, that in the course of our
thinking, and in the constant revolution of our ideas, our imagination
runs easily from one idea to any other that resembles it, and that this
quality alone is to the fancy a sufficient bond and association. It is
likewise evident that as the senses, in changing their objects, are
necessitated to change them regularly, and take them as they lie
CONTIGUOUS to each other, the imagination must by long custom acquire the
same method of thinking, and run along the parts of space and time in
conceiving its objects. As to the connexion, that is made by the relation
of cause and effect, we shall have occasion afterwards to examine it to
the bottom, and therefore shall not at present insist upon it. It is
sufficient to observe, that there is no relation, which produces a
stronger connexion in the fancy, and makes one idea more readily recall
another, than the relation of cause and effect betwixt their objects.

That we may understand the full extent of these relations, we must
consider, that two objects are connected together in the imagination, not
only when the one is immediately resembling, contiguous to, or the cause
of the other, but also when there is interposed betwixt them a third
object, which bears to both of them any of these relations. This may be
carried on to a great length; though at the same time we may observe, that
each remove considerably weakens the relation. Cousins in the fourth
degree are connected by causation, if I may be allowed to use that term;
but not so closely as brothers, much less as child and parent. In general
we may observe, that all the relations of blood depend upon cause and
effect, and are esteemed near or remote, according to the number of
connecting causes interposed betwixt the persons.

Of the three relations above-mentioned this of causation is the most
extensive. Two objects may be considered as placed in this relation, as
well when one is the cause of any of the actions or motions of the other,
as when the former is the cause of the existence of the latter. For as
that action or motion is nothing but the object itself, considered in a
certain light, and as the object continues the same in all its different
situations, it is easy to imagine how such an influence of objects upon
one another may connect them in the imagination.

We may carry this farther, and remark, not only that two objects are
connected by the relation of cause and effect, when the one produces a
motion or any action in the other, but also when it has a power of
producing it. And this we may observe to be the source of all the
relation, of interest and duty, by which men influence each other in
society, and are placed in the ties of government and subordination. A
master is such-a-one as by his situation, arising either from force or
agreement, has a power of directing in certain particulars the actions of
another, whom we call servant. A judge is one, who in all disputed cases
can fix by his opinion the possession or property of any thing betwixt
any members of the society. When a person is possessed of any power,
there is no more required to convert it into action, but the exertion of
the will; and that in every case is considered as possible, and in many
as probable; especially in the case of authority, where the obedience of
the subject is a pleasure and advantage to the superior.

These are therefore the principles of union or cohesion among our simple
ideas, and in the imagination supply the place of that inseparable
connexion, by which they are united in our memory. Here is a kind of
ATTRACTION, which in the mental world will be found to have as
extraordinary effects as in the natural, and to shew itself in as many
and as various forms. Its effects are every where conspicuous; but as to
its causes, they are mostly unknown, and must be resolved into original
qualities of human nature, which I pretend not to explain. Nothing is
more requisite for a true philosopher, than to restrain the intemperate
desire of searching into causes, and having established any doctrine upon
a sufficient number of experiments, rest contented with that, when he
sees a farther examination would lead him into obscure and uncertain
speculations. In that case his enquiry would be much better employed in
examining the effects than the causes of his principle.

Amongst the effects of this union or association of ideas, there are none
more remarkable, than those complex ideas, which are the common subjects
of our thoughts and reasoning, and generally arise from some principle of
union among our simple ideas. These complex ideas may be divided into
Relations, Modes, and Substances. We shall briefly examine each of these
in order, and shall subjoin some considerations concerning our general
and particular ideas, before we leave the present subject, which may be
considered as the elements of this philosophy.


The word RELATION is commonly used in two senses considerably different
from each other. Either for that quality, by which two ideas are
connected together in the imagination, and the one naturally introduces
the other, after the manner above-explained: or for that particular
circumstance, in which, even upon the arbitrary union of two ideas in the
fancy, we may think proper to compare them. In common language the former
is always the sense, in which we use the word, relation; and it is only in
philosophy, that we extend it to mean any particular subject of
comparison, without a connecting principle. Thus distance will be allowed
by philosophers to be a true relation, because we acquire an idea of it
by the comparing of objects: But in a common way we say, THAT NOTHING CAN
HAVE LESS RELATION: as if distance and relation were incompatible.

It may perhaps be esteemed an endless task to enumerate all those
qualities, which make objects admit of comparison, and by which the ideas
of philosophical relation are produced. But if we diligently consider
them, we shall find that without difficulty they may be comprised under
seven general heads, which may be considered as the sources of all
philosophical relation.

(1) The first is RESEMBLANCE: And this is a relation, without which no
philosophical relation can exist; since no objects will admit of
comparison, but what have some degree of resemblance. But though
resemblance be necessary to all philosophical relation, it does not
follow, that it always produces a connexion or association of ideas. When
a quality becomes very general, and is common to a great many
individuals, it leads not the mind directly to any one of them; but by
presenting at once too great a choice, does thereby prevent the
imagination from fixing on any single object.

(2) IDENTITY may be esteemed a second species of relation. This relation
I here consider as applied in its strictest sense to constant and
unchangeable objects; without examining the nature and foundation of
personal identity, which shall find its place afterwards. Of all
relations the most universal is that of identity, being common to every
being whose existence has any duration.

(3) After identity the most universal and comprehensive relations are
those of SPACE and TIME, which are the sources of an infinite number of
comparisons, such as distant, contiguous, above, below, before, after,

(4) All those objects, which admit of QUANTITY, or NUMBER, may be
compared in that particular; which is another very fertile source of

(5) When any two objects possess the same QUALITY in common, the DEGREES,
in which they possess it, form a fifth species of relation. Thus of two
objects, which are both heavy, the one may be either of greater, or less
weight than the other. Two colours, that are of the same kind, may yet be
of different shades, and in that respect admit of comparison.

(6) The relation of CONTRARIETY may at first sight be regarded as an
SOME DEGREE OF RESEMBLANCE. But let us consider, that no two ideas are in
themselves contrary, except those of existence and non-existence, which
are plainly resembling, as implying both of them an idea of the object;
though the latter excludes the object from all times and places, in which
it is supposed not to exist.

(7) All other objects, such as fire and water, heat and cold, are only
found to be contrary from experience, and from the contrariety of their
causes or effects; which relation of cause and effect is a seventh
philosophical relation, as well as a natural one. The resemblance implied
in this relation, shall be explained afterwards.

It might naturally be expected, that I should join DIFFERENCE to the
other relations. But that I consider rather as a negation of relation,
than as anything real or positive. Difference is of two kinds as opposed
either to identity or resemblance. The first is called a difference of
number; the other of KIND.


I would fain ask those philosophers, who found so much of their
reasonings on the distinction of substance and accident, and imagine we
have clear ideas of each, whether the idea of substance be derived from
the impressions of sensation or of reflection? If it be conveyed to us by
our senses, I ask, which of them; and after what manner? If it be
perceived by the eyes, it must be a colour; if by the ears, a sound; if
by the palate, a taste; and so of the other senses. But I believe none
will assert, that substance is either a colour, or sound, or a taste. The
idea, of substance must therefore be derived from an impression of
reflection, if it really exist. But the impressions of reflection resolve
themselves into our passions and emotions: none of which can possibly
represent a substance. We have therefore no idea of substance, distinct
from that of a collection of particular qualities, nor have we any other
meaning when we either talk or reason concerning it.

The idea of a substance as well as that of a mode, is nothing but a
collection of Simple ideas, that are united by the imagination, and have
a particular name assigned them, by which we are able to recall, either
to ourselves or others, that collection. But the difference betwixt these
ideas consists in this, that the particular qualities, which form a
substance, are commonly referred to an unknown something, in which they
are supposed to inhere; or granting this fiction should not take place,
are at least supposed to be closely and inseparably connected by the
relations of contiguity and causation. The effect of this is, that
whatever new simple quality we discover to have the same connexion with
the rest, we immediately comprehend it among them, even though it did not
enter into the first conception of the substance. Thus our idea of gold
may at first be a yellow colour, weight, malleableness, fusibility; but
upon the discovery of its dissolubility in aqua regia, we join that to
the other qualities, and suppose it to belong to the substance as much as
if its idea had from the beginning made a part of the compound one. The
principal of union being regarded as the chief part of the complex idea,
gives entrance to whatever quality afterwards occurs, and is equally
comprehended by it, as are the others, which first presented themselves.

That this cannot take place in modes, is evident from considering their
mature. The. simple ideas of which modes are formed, either represent
qualities, which are not united by contiguity and causation, but are
dispersed in different subjects; or if they be all united together, the
uniting principle is not regarded as the foundation of the complex idea.
The idea of a dance is an instance of the first kind of modes; that of
beauty of the second. The reason is obvious, why such complex ideas
cannot receive any new idea, without changing the name, which
distinguishes the mode.


A very material question has been started concerning ABSTRACT or GENERAL
THEM. A great philosopher [Dr. Berkeley.] has disputed the received
opinion in this particular, and has asserted, that all general ideas are
nothing but particular ones, annexed to a certain term, which gives them a
more extensive signification, and makes them recall upon occasion other
individuals, which are similar to them. As I look upon this to be one of
the greatest and most valuable discoveries that has been made of late
years in the republic of letters, I shag here endeavour to confirm it by
some arguments, which I hope will put it beyond all doubt and

It is evident, that in forming most of our general ideas, if not all of
them, we abstract from every particular degree of quantity and quality,
and that an object ceases not to be of any particular species on account
of every small alteration in its extension, duration and other
properties. It may therefore be thought, that here is a plain dilemma,
that decides concerning the nature of those abstract ideas, which have
afforded so much speculation to philosophers. The abstract idea of a man
represents men of all sizes and all qualities; which it is concluded it
cannot do, but either by representing at once all possible sizes and all
possible qualities, or by, representing no particular one at all. Now it
having been esteemed absurd to defend the former proposition, as implying
an infinite capacity in the mind, it has been commonly inferred in favour
of the letter: and our abstract ideas have been supposed to represent no
particular degree either of quantity or quality. But that this inference
is erroneous, I shall endeavour to make appear, first, by proving, that
it is utterly impossible to conceive any quantity or quality, without
forming a precise notion of its degrees: And secondly by showing, that
though the capacity of the mind be not infinite, yet we can at once form a
notion of all possible degrees of quantity and quality, in such a manner
at least, as, however imperfect, may serve all the purposes of reflection
and conversation.

To begin with the first proposition, THAT THE MIND CANNOT FORM ANY NOTION
EACH; we may prove this by the three following arguments. First, We have
observed, that whatever objects are different are distinguishable, and
that whatever objects are distinguishable are separable by the thought
and imagination. And we may here add, that these propositions are
equally true in the inverse, and that whatever objects are separable are
also distinguishable, and that whatever objects are distinguishable, are
also different. For how is it possible we can separate what is not
distinguishable, or distinguish what is not different? In order therefore
to know, whether abstraction implies a separation, we need only consider
it in this view, and examine, whether all the circumstances, which we
abstract from in our general ideas, be such as are distinguishable and
different from those, which we retain as essential parts of them. But
it is evident at first sight, that the precise length of a line is not
different nor distinguishable from the line itself. nor the precise
degree of any quality from the quality. These ideas, therefore, admit no
more of separation than they do of distinction and difference. They are
consequently conjoined with each other in the conception; and the general
idea of a. line, notwithstanding all our abstractions and refinements,
has in its appearance in the mind a precise degree of quantity and
quality; however it may be made to represent others, which have different
degrees of both.

Secondly, it is contest, that no object can appear to the senses; or in
other words, that no impression can become present to the mind, without
being determined in its degrees both of quantity and quality. The
confusion, in which impressions are sometimes involved, proceeds only
from their faintness and unsteadiness, not from any capacity in the mind
to receive any impression, which in its real existence has no particular
degree nor proportion. That is a contradiction in terms; and even implies
the flattest of all contradictions, viz. that it is possible for the same
thing both to be and not to be.

Now since all ideas are derived from impressions, and are nothing but
copies and representations of them, whatever is true of the one must be
acknowledged concerning the other. Impressions and ideas differ only in
their strength and vivacity. The foregoing conclusion is not founded on
any particular degree of vivacity. It cannot therefore be affected by any
variation in that particular. An idea is a weaker impression; and as a
strong impression must necessarily have a determinate quantity and
quality, the case must be the same with its copy or representative.

Thirdly, it is a principle generally received in philosophy that
everything in nature is individual, and that it is utterly absurd to
suppose a triangle really existent, which has no precise proportion of
sides and angles. If this therefore be absurd in fact and reality, it
must also be absurd in idea; since nothing of which we can form a clear
and distinct idea is absurd and impossible. But to form the idea of an
object, and to form an idea simply, is the same thing; the reference of
the idea to an object being an extraneous denomination, of which in
itself it bears no mark or character. Now as it is impossible to form an
idea of an object, that is possest of quantity and quality, and yet is
possest of no precise degree of either; it follows that there is an equal
impossibility of forming an idea, that is not limited and confined in
both these particulars. Abstract ideas are therefore in themselves
individual, however they may become general in their representation. The
image in the mind is only that of a particular object, though the
application of it in our reasoning be the same, as if it were universal.

This application of ideas beyond their nature proceeds from our
collecting all their possible degrees of quantity and quality in such an
imperfect manner as may serve the purposes of life, which is the second
proposition I proposed to explain. When we have found a resemblance
[Footnote 2.] among several objects, that often occur to us, we apply the
same name to all of them, whatever differences we may observe in the
degrees of their quantity and quality, and whatever other differences may
appear among them. After we have acquired a custom of this kind, the
hearing of that name revives the idea of one of these objects, and makes
the imagination conceive it with all its particular circumstances and
proportions. But as the same word is supposed to have been frequently
applied to other individuals, that are different in many respects from
that idea, which is immediately present to the mind; the word not being
able to revive the idea of all these individuals, but only touches the
soul, if I may be allowed so to speak, and revives that custom, which we
have acquired by surveying them. They are not really and in fact present
to the mind, but only in power; nor do we draw them all out distinctly in
the imagination, but keep ourselves in a readiness to survey any of them,
as we may be prompted by a present design or necessity. The word raises up
an individual idea, along with a certain custom; and that custom produces
any other individual one, for which we may have occasion. But as the
production of all the ideas, to which the name may be applied, is in most
eases impossible, we abridge that work by a more partial consideration,
and find but few inconveniences to arise in our reasoning from that

[Footnote 2. It is evident, that even different simple ideas may have a
similarity or resemblance to each other; nor is it necessary, that the
point or circumstance of resemblance shoud be distinct or separable from
that in which they differ. BLUE and GREEN are different simple ideas, but
are more resembling than BLUE and SCARLET; tho their perfect simplicity
excludes all possibility of separation or distinction. It is the same case
with particular sounds, and tastes and smells. These admit of infinite
resemblances upon the general appearance and comparison, without having
any common circumstance the same. And of this we may be certain, even
from the very abstract terms SIMPLE IDEA. They comprehend all simple
ideas under them. These resemble each other in their simplicity. And yet
from their very nature, which excludes all composition, this
circumstance, In which they resemble, Is not distinguishable nor
separable from the rest. It is the same case with all the degrees In any
quality. They are all resembling and yet the quality, In any individual,
Is not distinct from the degree.]

For this is one of the most extraordinary circumstances in the present
affair, that after the mind has produced an individual idea, upon which
we reason, the attendant custom, revived by the general or abstract term,
readily suggests any other individual, if by chance we form any
reasoning, that agrees not with it. Thus should we mention the word
triangle, and form the idea of a particular equilateral one to correspond
to it, and should we afterwards assert, that the three angles of a
triangle are equal to each other, the other individuals of a scalenum and
isosceles, which we overlooked at first, immediately crowd in upon us,
and make us perceive the falshood of this proposition, though it be true
with relation to that idea, which we had formed. If the mind suggests not
always these ideas upon occasion, it proceeds from some imperfection in
its faculties; and such a one as is often the source of false reasoning
and sophistry. But this is principally the case with those ideas which
are abstruse and compounded. On other occasions the custom is more
entire, and it is seldom we run into such errors.

Nay so entire is the custom, that the very same idea may be annext to
several different words, and may be employed in different reasonings,
without any danger of mistake. Thus the idea of an equilateral triangle
of an inch perpendicular may serve us in talking of a figure, of a
rectilinear figure, of a regular figure, of a triangle, and of an
equilateral triangle. AR these terms, therefore, are in this case
attended with the same idea; but as they are wont to be applied in a
greater or lesser compass, they excite their particular habits, and
thereby keep the mind in a readiness to observe, that no conclusion be
formed contrary to any ideas, which are usually comprized under them.

Before those habits have become entirely perfect, perhaps the mind may
not be content with forming the idea of only one individual, but may run
over several, in order to make itself comprehend its own meaning, and the
compass of that collection, which it intends to express by the general
term. That we may fix the meaning of the word, figure, we may revolve in
our mind the ideas of circles, squares, parallelograms, triangles of
different sizes and proportions, and may not rest on one image or idea.
However this may be, it is certain that we form the idea of individuals,
whenever we use any general term; that we seldom or never can exhaust
these individuals; and that those, which remain, are only represented by
means of that habit, by which we recall them, whenever any present
occasion requires it. This then is the nature of our abstract ideas and
general terms; and it is after this manner we account for the foregoing
THEIR REPRESENTATION. A particular idea becomes general by being annexed
to a general term; that is, to a term, which from a customary conjunction
has a relation to many other particular ideas, and readily recalls them
in the imagination.

The only difficulty, that can remain on this subject, must be with regard
to that custom, which so readily recalls every particular idea, for which
we may have occasion, and is excited by any word or sound, to which we
commonly annex it. The most proper method, in my opinion, of giving a
satisfactory explication of this act of the mind, is by producing other
instances, which are analogous to it, and other principles, which
facilitate its operation. To explain the ultimate causes of our mental
actions is impossible. It is sufficient, if we can give any satisfactory
account of them from experience and analogy.

First then I observe, that when we mention any great number, such as a
thousand, the mind has generally no adequate idea of it, but only a power
of producing such an idea, by its adequate idea of the decimals, under
which the number is comprehended. This imperfection, however, in our
ideas, is never felt in our reasonings; which seems to be an instance
parallel to the present one of universal ideas.

Secondly, we have several instances of habits, which may be revived by
one single word; as when a person, who has by rote any periods of a
discourse, or any number of verses, will be put in remembrance of the
whole, which he is at a loss to recollect, by that single word or
expression, with which they begin.

Thirdly, I believe every one, who examines the situation of his mind in
reasoning will agree with me, that we do not annex distinct and compleat
ideas to every term we make use of, and that in talking of government,
church, negotiation, conquest, we seldom spread out in our minds all the
simple ideas, of which these complex ones are composed. It is however
observable, that notwithstanding this imperfection we may avoid talking
nonsense on these subjects, and may perceive any repugnance among the
ideas, as well as if we had a fall comprehension of them. Thus if instead
of saying, that in war the weaker have always recourse to negotiation, we
should say, that they have always recourse to conquest, the custom, which
we have acquired of attributing certain relations to ideas, still follows
the words, and makes us immediately perceive the absurdity of that
proposition; in the same manner as one particular idea may serve us in
reasoning concerning other ideas, however different from it in several

Fourthly, As the individuals are collected together, said placed under a
general term with a view to that resemblance, which they bear to each
other, this relation must facilitate their entrance in the imagination,
and make them be suggested more readily upon occasion. And indeed if we
consider the common progress of the thought, either in reflection or
conversation, we shall find great reason to be satisfyed in this
particular. Nothing is more admirable, than the readiness, with which the
imagination suggests its ideas, and presents them at the very instant, in
which they become necessary or useful. The fancy runs from one end of the
universe to the other in collecting those ideas, which belong to any
subject. One would think the whole intellectual world of ideas was at
once subjected to our view, and that we did nothing but pick out such as
were most proper for our purpose. There may not, however, be any present,
beside those very ideas, that are thus collected by a kind of magical
faculty in the soul, which, though it be always most perfect in the
greatest geniuses, and is properly what we call a genius, is however
inexplicable by the utmost efforts of human understanding.

Perhaps these four reflections may help to remove an difficulties to the
hypothesis I have proposed concerning abstract ideas, so contrary to
that, which has hitherto prevailed in philosophy, But, to tell the truth
I place my chief confidence in what I have already proved concerning the
impossibility of general ideas, according to the common method of
explaining them. We must certainly seek some new system on this head, and
there plainly is none beside what I have proposed. If ideas be particular
in their nature, and at the same time finite in their number, it is only
by custom they can become general in their representation, and contain an
infinite number of other ideas under them.

Before I leave this subject I shall employ the same principles to explain
that distinction of reason, which is so much talked of, and is so little
understood, in the schools. Of this kind is the distinction betwixt
figure and the body figured; motion and the body moved. The difficulty of
explaining this distinction arises from the principle above explained,
that all ideas, which are different, are separable. For it follows from
thence, that if the figure be different from the body, their ideas must
be separable as well as distinguishable: if they be not different, their
ideas can neither be separable nor distinguishable. What then is meant by
a distinction of reason, since it implies neither a difference nor

To remove this difficulty we must have recourse to the foregoing
explication of abstract ideas. It is certain that the mind would never
have dreamed of distinguishing a figure from the body figured, as being
in reality neither distinguishable, nor different, nor separable; did it
not observe, that even in this simplicity there might be contained many
different resemblances and relations. Thus when a globe of white marble
is presented, we receive only the impression of a white colour disposed
in a certain form, nor are we able to separate and distinguish the colour
from the form. But observing afterwards a globe of black marble and a
cube of white, and comparing them with our former object, we find two
separate resemblances, in what formerly seemed, and really is, perfectly
inseparable. After a little more practice of this kind, we begin to
distinguish the figure from the colour by a distinction of reason; that
is, we consider the figure and colour together, since they are in effect
the same and undistinguishable; but still view them in different aspects,
according to the resemblances, of which they are susceptible. When we
would consider only the figure of the globe of white marble, we form in
reality an idea both of the figure and colour, but tacitly carry our eye
to its resemblance with the globe of black marble: And in the same
manner, when we would consider its colour only, we turn our view to its
resemblance with the cube of white marble. By this means we accompany our
ideas with a kind of reflection, of which custom renders us, in a great
measure, insensible. A person, who desires us to consider the figure of a
globe of white marble without thinking on its colour, desires an
impossibility but his meaning is, that we should consider the figure and
colour together, but still keep in our eye the resemblance to the globe
of black marble, or that to any other globe of whatever colour or



Whatever has the air of a paradox, and is contrary to the first and most
unprejudiced notions of mankind, is often greedily embraced by
philosophers, as shewing the superiority of their science, which coued
discover opinions so remote from vulgar conception. On the other hand,
anything proposed to us, which causes surprize and admiration, gives such
a satisfaction to the mind, that it indulges itself in those agreeable
emotions, and will never be persuaded that its pleasure is entirely
without foundation. From these dispositions in philosophers and their
disciples arises that mutual complaisance betwixt them; while the former
furnish such plenty of strange and unaccountable opinions, and the latter
so readily believe them. Of this mutual complaisance I cannot give a more
evident instance than in the doctrine of infinite divisibility, with the
examination of which I shall begin this subject of the ideas of space and

It is universally allowed, that the capacity of the mind is limited, and
can never attain a full and adequate conception of infinity: And though it
were not allowed, it would be sufficiently evident from the plainest
observation and experience. It is also obvious, that whatever is capable
of being divided in infinitum, must consist of an infinite number of
parts, and that it is impossible to set any bounds to the number of parts,
without setting bounds at the same time to the division. It requires
scarce any, induction to conclude from hence, that the idea, which we
form of any finite quality, is not infinitely divisible, but that by
proper distinctions and separations we may run up this idea to inferior
ones, which will be perfectly simple and indivisible. In rejecting the
infinite capacity of the mind, we suppose it may arrive at an end in the
division of its ideas; nor are there any possible means of evading the
evidence of this conclusion.

It is therefore certain, that the imagination reaches a minimum, and may
raise up to itself an idea, of which it cannot conceive any sub-division,
and which cannot be diminished without a total annihilation. When you
tell me of the thousandth and ten thousandth part of a grain of sand, I
have a, distinct idea of these numbers and of their different
proportions; but the images, which I form in my mind to represent the
things themselves, are nothing different from each other, nor inferior to
that image, by which I represent the grain of sand itself, which is
supposed so vastly to exceed them. What consists of parts is
distinguishable into them, and what is distinguishable is separable. But
whatever we may imagine of the thing, the idea of a grain of sand is not
distinguishable, nor separable into twenty, much less into a thousand,
ten thousand, or an infinite number of different ideas.

It is the same case with the impressions of the senses as with the ideas
of the imagination. Put a spot of ink upon paper, fix your eye upon that
spot, and retire to such a distance, that, at last you lose sight of it;
it is plain, that the moment before it vanished the image or impression
was perfectly indivisible. It is not for want of rays of light striking on
our eyes, that the minute parts of distant bodies convey not any sensible
impression; but because they are removed beyond that distance, at which
their impressions were reduced to a minimum, and were incapable of any
farther diminution. A microscope or telescope, which renders them
visible, produces not any new rays of light, but only spreads those,
which always flowed from them; and by that means both gives parts to
impressions, which to the naked eye appear simple and uncompounded, and
advances to a minimum, what was formerly imperceptible.

We may hence discover the error of the common opinion, that the capacity
of the mind is limited on both sides, and that it is impossible for the
imagination to form an adequate idea, of what goes beyond a certain
degree of minuteness as well as of greatness. Nothing can be more minute,
than some ideas, which we form in the fancy; and images, which appear to
the senses; since there are ideas and images perfectly simple and
indivisible. The only defect of our senses is, that they give us
disproportioned images of things, and represent as minute and
uncompounded what is really great and composed of a vast number of parts.
This mistake we are not sensible of: but taking the impressions of those
minute objects, which appear to the senses, to be equal or nearly equal
to the objects, and finding by reason, that there are other objects
vastly more minute, we too hastily conclude, that these are inferior to
any idea of our imagination or impression of our senses. This however is
certain, that we can form ideas, which shall be no greater than the
smallest atom of the animal spirits of an insect a thousand times less
than a mite: And we ought rather to conclude, that the difficulty lies in
enlarging our conceptions so much as to form a just notion of a mite, or
even of an insect a thousand times less than a mite. For in order to form
a just notion of these animals, we must have a distinct idea representing
every part of them, which, according to the system of infinite
divisibility, is utterly impossible, and, recording to that of
indivisible parts or atoms, is extremely difficult, by reason of the vast
number and multiplicity of these parts.


Wherever ideas are adequate representations of objects, the relations,
contradictions and agreements of the ideas are all applicable to the
objects; and this we may in general observe to be the foundation of all
human knowledge. But our ideas are adequate representations of the most
minute parts of extension; and through whatever divisions and subdivisions
we may suppose these parts to be arrived at, they can never become
inferior to some ideas, which we form. The plain consequence is, that
whatever appears impossible and contradictory upon the comparison of
these ideas, must be really impossible and contradictory, without any
farther excuse or evasion.

Every thing capable of being infinitely divided contains an infinite
number of parts; otherwise the division would be stopt short by the
indivisible parts, which we should immediately arrive at. If therefore
any finite extension be infinitely divisible, it can be no contradiction
to suppose, that a finite extension contains an infinite number of parts:
And vice versa, if it be a contradiction to suppose, that a finite
extension contains an infinite number of parts, no finite extension can
be infinitely divisible. But that this latter supposition is absurd, I
easily convince myself by the consideration of my clear ideas. I first
take the least idea I can form of a part of extension, and being certain
that there is nothing more minute than this idea, I conclude, that
whatever I discover by its means must be a real quality of extension. I
then repeat this idea once, twice, thrice, &c., and find the compound
idea of extension, arising from its repetition, always to augment, and
become double, triple, quadruple, &c., till at last it swells up to a
considerable bulk, greater or smaller, in proportion as I repeat more or
less the same idea. When I stop in the addition of parts, the idea of
extension ceases to augment; and were I to carry on the addition in
infinitum, I clearly perceive, that the idea of extension must also
become infinite. Upon the whole, I conclude, that the idea of all
infinite number of parts is individually the same idea with that of an
infinite extension; that no finite extension is capable of containing an
infinite number of parts; and consequently that no finite extension is
infinitely divisible [Footnote 3.].

[Footnote 3. It has been objected to me, that infinite divisibility
supposes only an infinite number of PROPORTIONAL not of ALIQIOT parts,
and that an infinite number of proportional parts does not form an
infinite extension. But this distinction is entirely frivolous. Whether
these parts be calld ALIQUOT or PROPORTIONAL, they cannot be inferior to
those minute parts we conceive; and therefore cannot form a less extension
by their conjunction.]

I may subjoin another argument proposed by a noted author [Mons.
MALEZIEU], which seems to me very strong and beautiful. It is evident,
that existence in itself belongs only to unity, and is never applicable to
number, but on account of the unites, of which the number is composed.
Twenty men may be said to exist; but it is only because one, two, three,
four, &c. are existent, and if you deny the existence of the latter, that
of the former falls of course. It is therefore utterly absurd to suppose
any number to exist, and yet deny the existence of unites; and as
extension is always a number, according to the common sentiment of
metaphysicians, and never resolves itself into any unite or indivisible
quantity, it follows, that extension can never at all exist. It is in vain
to reply, that any determinate quantity of extension is an unite; but
such-a-one as admits of an infinite number of fractions, and is
inexhaustible in its sub-divisions. For by the same rule these twenty men
may be considered as a unit. The whole globe of the earth, nay the whole
universe, may be considered as a unit. That term of unity is merely a
fictitious denomination, which the mind may apply to any quantity of
objects it collects together; nor can such an unity any more exist alone
than number can, as being in reality a true number. But the unity, which
can exist alone, and whose existence is necessary to that of all number,
is of another kind, and must be perfectly indivisible, and incapable of
being resolved into any lesser unity.

All this reasoning takes place with regard to time; along with an
additional argument, which it may be proper to take notice of. It is a
property inseparable from time, and which in a manner constitutes its
essence, that each of its parts succeeds another, and that none of them,
however contiguous, can ever be co-existent. For the same reason, that
the year 1737 cannot concur with the present year 1738 every moment must
be distinct from, and posterior or antecedent to another. It is certain
then, that time, as it exists, must be composed of indivisible moments.
For if in time we could never arrive at an end of division, and if each
moment, as it succeeds another, were not perfectly single and
indivisible, there would be an infinite number of co-existent moments, or
parts of time; which I believe will be allowed to be an arrant

The infinite divisibility of space implies that of time, as is evident
from the nature of motion. If the latter, therefore, be impossible, the
former must be equally so.

I doubt not but, it will readily be allowed by the most obstinate
defender of the doctrine of infinite divisibility, that these arguments
are difficulties, and that it is impossible to give any answer to them
which will be perfectly clear and satisfactory. But here we may observe,
that nothing can be more absurd, than this custom of calling a difficulty
what pretends to be a demonstration, and endeavouring by that means to
elude its force and evidence. It is not in demonstrations as in
probabilities, that difficulties can take place, and one argument
counter-ballance another, and diminish its authority. A demonstration, if
just, admits of no opposite difficulty; and if not just, it is a mere
sophism, and consequently can never be a difficulty. It is either
irresistible, or has no manner of force. To talk therefore of objections
and replies, and ballancing of arguments in such a question as this, is
to confess, either that human reason is nothing but a play of words, or
that the person himself, who talks so, has not a Capacity equal to such
subjects. Demonstrations may be difficult to be comprehended, because of
abstractedness of the subject; but can never have such difficulties as
will weaken their authority, when once they are comprehended.

It is true, mathematicians are wont to say, that there are here equally
strong arguments on the other side of the question, and that the doctrine
of indivisible points is also liable to unanswerable objections. Before I
examine these arguments and objections in detail, I will here take them
in a body, and endeavour by a short and decisive reason to prove at once,
that it is utterly impossible they can have any just foundation.

It is an established maxim in metaphysics, That whatever the mind clearly
conceives, includes the idea of possible existence, or in other words,
that nothing we imagine is absolutely impossible. We can form the idea of
a golden mountain, and from thence conclude that such a mountain may
actually exist. We can form no idea of a mountain without a valley, and
therefore regard it as impossible.

Now it is certain we have an idea of extension; for otherwise why do we
talk and reason concerning it? It is likewise certain that this idea, as
conceived by the imagination, though divisible into parts or inferior
ideas, is not infinitely divisible, nor consists of an infinite number of
parts: For that exceeds the comprehension of our limited capacities. Here
then is an idea of extension, which consists of parts or inferior ideas,
that are perfectly, indivisible: consequently this idea implies no
contradiction: consequently it is possible for extension really to exist
conformable to it: and consequently all the arguments employed against
the possibility of mathematical points are mere scholastick quibbles, and
unworthy of our attention.

These consequences we may carry one step farther, and conclude that all
the pretended demonstrations for the infinite divisibility of extension
are equally sophistical; since it is certain these demonstrations cannot
be just without proving the impossibility of mathematical points; which
it is an evident absurdity to pretend to.


No discovery coued have been made more happily for deciding all
controversies concerning ideas, than that abovementioned, that
impressions always take the precedency of them, and that every idea, with
which the imagination is furnished, first makes its appearance in a
correspondent impression. These latter perceptions are all so clear and
evident, that they admit of no controversy; though many of our ideas are
so obscure, that it is almost impossible even for the mind, which forms
them, to tell exactly their nature and composition. Let us apply this
principle, in order to discover farther the nature of our ideas of space
and time.

Upon opening my eyes, and turning them to the surrounding objects, I
perceive many visible bodies; and upon shutting them again, and
considering the distance betwixt these bodies, I acquire the idea of
extension. As every idea is derived from some impression, which is exactly
similar to it, the impressions similar to this idea of extension, must
either be some sensations derived from the sight, or some internal
impressions arising from these sensations.

Our internal impressions are our passions, emotions, desires and
aversions; none of which, I believe, will ever be asserted to be the
model, from which the idea of space is derived. There remains therefore
nothing but the senses, which can convey to us this original impression.
Now what impression do oar senses here convey to us? This is the
principal question, and decides without appeal concerning the nature of
the idea.

The table before me is alone sufficient by its view to give me the idea
of extension. This idea, then, is borrowed from, and represents some
impression, which this moment appears to the senses. But my senses convey
to me only the impressions of coloured points, disposed in a, certain
manner. If the eye is sensible of any thing farther, I desire it may be
pointed out to me. But if it be impossible to shew any thing farther, we
may conclude with certainty, that the idea of extension is nothing but a
copy of these coloured points, and of the manner of their appearance.

Suppose that in the extended object, or composition of coloured points,
from which we first received the idea of extension, the points were of a
purple colour; it follows, that in every repetition of that idea we would
not only place the points in the same order with respect to each other,
but also bestow on them that precise colour, with which alone we are
acquainted. But afterwards having experience of the other colours of
violet, green, red, white, black, and of all the different compositions
of these, and finding a resemblance in the disposition of coloured
points, of which they are composed, we omit the peculiarities of colour,
as far as possible, and found an abstract idea merely on that disposition
of points, or manner of appearance, in which they agree. Nay even when
the resemblance is carryed beyond the objects of one sense, and the
impressions of touch are found to be Similar to those of sight in the
disposition of their parts; this does not hinder the abstract idea from
representing both, upon account of their resemblance. All abstract ideas
are really nothing but particular ones, considered in a certain light;
but being annexed to general terms, they are able to represent a vast
variety, and to comprehend objects, which, as they are alike in some
particulars, are in others vastly wide of each other.

The idea of time, being derived from the succession of our perceptions of
every kind, ideas as well as impressions, and impressions of reflection
as well as of sensations will afford us an instance of an abstract idea,
which comprehends a still greater variety than that of space, and yet is
represented in the fancy by some particular individual idea of a
determinate quantity and quality.

As it is from the disposition of visible and tangible objects we receive
the idea of space, so from the succession of ideas and impressions we
form the idea of time, nor is it possible for time alone ever to make its
appearance, or be taken notice of by the mind. A man in a sound sleep, or
strongly occupyed with one thought, is insensible of time; and according
as his perceptions succeed each other with greater or less rapidity, the
same duration appears longer or shorter to his imagination. It has been
remarked by a great philosopher, that our perceptions have certain
bounds in this particular, which are fixed by the original nature and
constitution of the mind, and beyond which no influence of external
objects on the senses is ever able to hasten or retard our thought. If
you wheel about a burning coal with rapidity, it will present to the
senses an image of a circle of fire; nor will there seem to be any
interval of time betwixt its revolutions; meerly because it is impossible
for our perceptions to succeed each other with the same rapidity, that
motion may be communicated to external objects. Wherever we have no
successive perceptions, we have no notion of time, even though there be a
real succession in the objects. From these phenomena, as well as from
many others, we may conclude, that time cannot make its appearance to the
mind, either alone, or attended with a steady unchangeable object, but is
always discovered some PERCEIVABLE succession of changeable objects.

To confirm this we may add the following argument, which to me seems
perfectly decisive and convincing. It is evident, that time or duration
consists of different parts: For otherwise we coued not conceive a longer
or shorter duration. It is also evident, that these parts are not
co-existent: For that quality of the co-existence of parts belongs to
extension, and is what distinguishes it from duration. Now as time is
composed of parts, that are not coexistent: an unchangeable object, since
it produces none but coexistent impressions, produces none that can give
us the idea of time; and consequently that idea must be derived from a
succession of changeable objects, and time in its first appearance can
never be severed from such a succession.

Having therefore found, that time in its first appearance to the mind is
always conjoined with a succession of changeable objects, and that
otherwise it can never fall under our notice, we must now examine whether
it can be conceived without our conceiving any succession of objects, and
whether it can alone form a distinct idea in the imagination.

In order to know whether any objects, which are joined in impression, be
inseparable in idea, we need only consider, if they be different from
each other; in which case, it is plain they may be conceived apart. Every
thing, that is different is distinguishable: and everything, that is
distinguishable, may be separated, according to the maxims
above-explained. If on the contrary they be not different, they are not
distinguishable: and if they be not distinguishable, they cannot be
separated. But this is precisely the case with respect to time, compared
with our successive perceptions. The idea of time is not derived from a
particular impression mixed up with others, and plainly distinguishable
from them; but arises altogether from the manner, in which impressions
appear to the mind, without making one of the number. Five notes played
on a flute give us the impression and idea of time; though time be not a
sixth impression, which presents itself to the hearing or any other of
the senses. Nor is it a sixth impression, which the mind by reflection
finds in itself. These five sounds making their appearance in this
particular manner, excite no emotion in the mind, nor produce an
affection of any kind, which being observed by it can give rise to a new
idea. For that is necessary to produce a new idea of reflection, nor can
the mind, by revolving over a thousand times all its ideas of sensation,
ever extract from them any new original idea, unless nature has so framed
its faculties, that it feels some new original impression arise from such
a contemplation. But here it only takes notice of the manner, in which
the different sounds make their appearance; and that it may afterwards
consider without considering these particular sounds, but may conjoin it
with any other objects. The ideas of some objects it certainly must have,
nor is it possible for it without these ideas ever to arrive at any
conception of time; which since it, appears not as any primary distinct
impression, can plainly be nothing but different ideas, or impressions,
or objects disposed in a certain manner, that is, succeeding each other.

I know there are some who pretend, that the idea of duration is
applicable in a proper sense to objects, which are perfectly
unchangeable; and this I take to be the common opinion of philosophers as
well as of the vulgar. But to be convinced of its falsehood we need but
reflect on the foregoing conclusion, that the idea of duration is always
derived from a succession of changeable objects, and can never be
conveyed to the mind by any thing stedfast and unchangeable. For it
inevitably follows from thence, that since the idea of duration cannot be
derived from such an object, it can never-in any propriety or exactness
be applied to it, nor can any thing unchangeable be ever said to have
duration. Ideas always represent the Objects or impressions, from which
they are derived, and can never without a fiction represent or be applied
to any other. By what fiction we apply the idea of time, even to what is
unchangeable, and suppose, as is common, that duration is a measure of
rest as well as of motion, we shall consider [Sect 5.] afterwards.

There is another very decisive argument, which establishes the present
doctrine concerning our ideas of space and time, and is founded only on
that simple principle, that our ideas of them are compounded of parts,
which are indivisible. This argument may be worth the examining.

Every idea, that is distinguishable, being also separable, let us take
one of those simple indivisible ideas, of which the compound one of
extension is formed, and separating it from all others, and considering
it apart, let us form a judgment of its nature and qualities.

It is plain it is not the idea of extension. For the idea of extension
consists of parts; and this idea, according to t-he supposition, is
perfectly simple and indivisible. Is it therefore nothing? That is
absolutely impossible. For as the compound idea of extension, which is
real, is composed of such ideas; were these so many non-entities, there
would be a real existence composed of non-entities; which is absurd.
Here therefore I must ask, What is our idea of a simple and indivisible
point? No wonder if my answer appear somewhat new, since the question
itself has scarce ever yet been thought of. We are wont to dispute
concerning the nature of mathematical points, but seldom concerning the
nature of their ideas.

The idea of space is conveyed to the. mind by two senses, the sight and
touch; nor does anything ever appear extended, that is not either visible
or tangible. That compound impression, which represents extension,
consists of several lesser impressions, that are indivisible to the eye
or feeling, and may be called impressions of atoms or corpuscles endowed
with colour and solidity. But this is not all. It is not only requisite,
that these atoms should be coloured or tangible, in order to discover
themselves to our senses; it is also necessary we should preserve the idea
of their colour or tangibility in order to comprehend them by our
imagination. There is nothing but the idea of their colour or
tangibility, which can render them conceivable by the mind. Upon the
removal of the ideas of these sensible qualities, they are utterly
annihilated to the thought or imagination.

Now such as the parts are, such is the whole. If a point be not
considered as coloured or tangible, it can convey to us no idea; and
consequently the idea of extension, which is composed of the ideas of
these points, can never possibly exist. But if the idea of extension
really can exist, as we are conscious it does, its parts must also exist;
and in order to that, must be considered as coloured or tangible. We have
therefore no idea of space or extension, but when we regard it as an
object either of our sight or feeling.

The same reasoning will prove, that the indivisible moments of time must
be filled with some real object or existence, whose succession forms the
duration, and makes it be conceivable by the mind.


Our system concerning space and time consists of two parts, which are
intimately connected together. The first depends on this chain of
reasoning. The capacity of the mind is not infinite; consequently no idea
of extension or duration consists of an infinite number of parts or
inferior ideas, but of a finite number, and these simple and indivisible:
It is therefore possible for space and time to exist conformable to this
idea: And if it be possible, it is certain they actually do exist
conformable to it; since their infinite divisibility is utterly
impossible and contradictory.

The other part of our system is a consequence of this. The parts, into
which the ideas of space and time resolve themselves, become at last
indivisible; and these indivisible parts, being nothing in themselves,
are inconceivable when not filled with something real and existent. The
ideas of space and time are therefore no separate or distinct ideas, but
merely those of the manner or order, in which objects exist: Or in other
words, it is impossible to conceive either a vacuum and extension without
matter, or a time, when there was no succession or change in any real
existence. The intimate connexion betwixt these parts of our system is
the reason why we shall examine together the objections, which have been
urged against both of them, beginning with those against the finite
divisibility of extension.

I. The first of these objections, which I shall take notice of, is more
proper to prove this connexion and dependence of the one part upon the
other, than to destroy either of them. It has often been maintained in
the schools, that extension must be divisible, in infinitum, because the
system of mathematical points is absurd; and that system is absurd,
because a mathematical point is a non-entity, and consequently can never
by its conjunction with others form a real existence. This would be
perfectly decisive, were there no medium betwixt the infinite
divisibility of matter, and the non-entity of mathematical points. But
there is evidently a medium, viz. the bestowing a colour or solidity on
these points; and the absurdity of both the extremes is a demonstration
of the truth and reality of this medium. The system of physical points,
which is another medium, is too absurd to need a refutation. A real
extension, such as a physical point is supposed to be, can never exist
without parts, different from each other; and wherever objects are
different, they are distinguishable and separable by the imagination.

II. The second objection is derived from the necessity there would be of
PENETRATION, if extension consisted of mathematical points. A simple and
indivisible atom, that touches another, must necessarily penetrate it;
for it is impossible it can touch it by its external parts, from the very
supposition of its perfect simplicity, which excludes all parts. It must
therefore touch it intimately, and in its whole essence, SECUNDUM SE,
TOTA, ET TOTALITER; which is the very definition of penetration. But
penetration is impossible: Mathematical points are of consequence equally

I answer this objection by substituting a juster idea of penetration.
Suppose two bodies containing no void within their circumference, to
approach each other, and to unite in such a manner that the body, which
results from their union, is no more extended than either of them; it is
this we must mean when we talk of penetration. But it is evident this
penetration is nothing but the annihilation of one of these bodies, and
the preservation of the other, without our being able to distinguish
particularly which is preserved and which annihilated. Before the
approach we have the idea of two bodies. After it we have the idea only
of one. It is impossible for the mind to preserve any notion of difference
betwixt two bodies of the same nature existing in the same place at the
same time.

Taking then penetration in this sense, for the annihilation of one body
upon its approach to another, I ask any one, if he sees a necessity, that
a coloured or tangible point should be annihilated upon the approach of
another coloured or tangible point? On the contrary, does he not
evidently perceive, that from the union of these points there results an
object, which is compounded and divisible, and may be distinguished into
two parts, of which each preserves its existence distinct and separate,
notwithstanding its contiguity to the other? Let him aid his fancy by
conceiving these points to be of different colours, the better to prevent
their coalition and confusion. A blue and a red point may surely lie
contiguous without any penetration or annihilation. For if they cannot,
what possibly can become of them? Whether shall the red or the blue be
annihilated? Or if these colours unite into one, what new colour will
they produce by their union?

What chiefly gives rise to these objections, and at the same time renders
it so difficult to give a satisfactory answer to them, is the natural
infirmity and unsteadiness both of our imagination and senses, when
employed on such minute objects. Put a spot of ink upon paper, and retire
to such a distance, that the spot becomes altogether invisible; you will
find, that upon your return and nearer approach the spot first becomes
visible by short intervals; and afterwards becomes always visible; and
afterwards acquires only a new force in its colouring without augmenting
its bulk; and afterwards, when it has encreased to such a degree as to be
really extended, it is still difficult for the imagination to break it
into its component parts, because of the uneasiness it finds in the
conception of such a minute object as a single point. This infirmity
affects most of our reasonings on the present subject, and makes it
almost impossible to answer in an intelligible manner, and in proper
expressions, many questions which may arise concerning it.

III. There have been many objections drawn from the mathematics against
the indivisibility of the parts of extension: though at first sight that
science seems rather favourable to the present doctrine; and if it be
contrary in its DEMONSTRATIONS, it is perfectly conformable in its
definitions. My present business then must be to defend the definitions,
and refute the demonstrations.

A surface is DEFINed to be length and breadth without depth: A line to be
length without breadth or depth: A point to be what has neither length,
breadth nor depth. It is evident that all this is perfectly unintelligible
upon any other supposition than that of the. composition of extension by
indivisible points or atoms. How else coued any thing exist without
length, without breadth, or without depth?

Two different answers, I find, have been made to this argument; neither
of which is in my opinion satisfactory. The first is, that the objects of
geometry, those surfaces, lines and points, whose proportions and
positions it examines, are mere ideas in the mind; I and not only never
did, but never can exist in nature. They never did exist; for no one will
pretend to draw a line or make a surface entirely conformable to the
definition: They never can exist; for we may produce demonstrations from
these very ideas to prove, that they are impossible.

But can anything be imagined more absurd and contradictory than this
reasoning? Whatever can be conceived by a clear and distinct idea
necessarily implies the possibility of existence; and he who pretends to
prove the impossibility of its existence by any argument derived from the
clear idea, in reality asserts, that we have no clear idea of it, because
we have a clear idea. It is in vain to search for a contradiction in any
thing that is distinctly conceived by the mind. Did it imply any
contradiction, it is impossible it coued ever be conceived.

There is therefore no medium betwixt allowing at least the possibility of
indivisible points, and denying their idea; and it is on this latter
principle, that the second answer to the foregoing argument is founded.
It has been pretended [L'Art de penser.], that though it be impossible to
conceive a length without any breadth, yet by an abstraction without a
separation, we can consider the one without regarding the other; in the
same manner as we may think of the length of the way betwixt two towns,
and overlook its breadth. The length is inseparable from the breadth both
in nature and in our minds; but this excludes not a partial consideration,
and a distinction of reason, after the manner above explained.

In refuting this answer I shall not insist on the argument, which I have
already sufficiently explained, that if it be impossible for the mind to
arrive at a minimum in its ideas, its capacity must be infinite, in order
to comprehend the infinite number of parts, of which its idea of any
extension would be composed. I shall here endeavour to find some new
absurdities in this reasoning.

A surface terminates a solid; a line terminates a surface; a point
terminates a line; but I assert, that if the ideas of a point, line or
surface were not indivisible, it is impossible we should ever conceive
these terminations: For let these ideas be supposed infinitely divisible;
and then let the fancy endeavour to fix itself on the idea of the last
surface, line or point; it immediately finds this idea to break into
parts; and upon its seizing the last of these parts, it loses its hold by
a new division, and so on in infinitum, without any possibility of its
arriving at a concluding idea. The number of fractions bring it no nearer
the last division, than the first idea it formed. Every particle eludes
the grasp by a new fraction; like quicksilver, when we endeavour to seize
it. But as in fact there must be something, which terminates the idea of
every finite quantity; and as this terminating idea cannot itself consist
of parts or inferior ideas; otherwise it would be the last of its parts,
which finished the idea, and so on; this is a clear proof, that the ideas
of surfaces, lines and points admit not of any division; those of
surfaces in depth; of lines in breadth and depth; and of points in any

The school were so sensible of the force of this argument, that some of
them maintained, that nature has mixed among those particles of matter,
which are divisible in infinitum, a number of mathematical points, in
order to give a termination to bodies; and others eluded the force of
this reasoning by a heap of unintelligible cavils and distinctions. Both
these adversaries equally yield the victory. A man who hides himself,
confesses as evidently the superiority of his enemy, as another, who
fairly delivers his arms.

Thus it appears, that the definitions of mathematics destroy the
pretended demonstrations; and that if we have the idea of indivisible
points, lines and surfaces conformable to the definition, their existence
is certainly possible: but if we have no such idea, it is impossible we can
ever conceive the termination of any figure; without which conception
there can be no geometrical demonstration.

But I go farther, and maintain, that none of these demonstrations can
have sufficient weight to establish such a principle, as this of infinite
divisibility; and that because with regard to such minute objects, they
are not properly demonstrations, being built on ideas, which are not
exact, and maxims, which are not precisely true. When geometry decides
anything concerning the proportions of quantity, we ought not to look for
the utmost precision and exactness. None of its proofs extend so far. It
takes the dimensions and proportions of figures justly; but roughly, and
with some liberty. Its errors are never considerable; nor would it err at
all, did it not aspire to such an absolute perfection.

I first ask mathematicians, what they mean when they say one line or
surface is EQUAL to, or GREATER or LESS than another? Let any of them
give an answer, to whatever sect he belongs, and whether he maintains the
composition of extension by indivisible points, or by quantities
divisible in infinitum. This question will embarrass both of them.

There are few or no mathematicians, who defend the hypothesis of
indivisible points; and yet these have the readiest and justest answer to
the present question. They need only reply, that lines or surfaces are
equal, when the numbers of points in each are equal; and that as the
proportion of the numbers varies, the proportion of the lines and
surfaces is also varyed. But though this answer be just, as well as
obvious; yet I may affirm, that this standard of equality is entirely
useless, and that it never is from such a comparison we determine objects
to be equal or unequal with respect to each other. For as the points,
which enter into the composition of any line or surface, whether
perceived by the sight or touch, are so minute and so confounded with
each other, that it is utterly impossible for the mind to compute their
number, such a computation will Never afford us a standard by which we
may judge of proportions. No one will ever be able to determine by an
exact numeration, that an inch has fewer points than a foot, or a foot
fewer than an ell or any greater measure: for which reason we seldom or
never consider this as the standard of equality or inequality.

As to those, who imagine, that extension is divisible in infinitum, it is
impossible they can make use of this answer, or fix the equality of any
line or surface by a numeration of its component parts. For since,
according to their hypothesis, the least as well as greatest figures
contain an infinite number of parts; and since infinite numbers, properly
speaking, can neither be equal nor unequal with respect to each other;
the equality or inequality of any portions of space can never depend on
any proportion in the number of their parts. It is true, it may be said,
that the inequality of an ell and a yard consists in the different
numbers of the feet, of which they are composed; and that of a foot and a
yard in the number of the inches. Bat as that quantity we call an inch in
the one is supposed equal to what we call an inch in the other, and as
it is impossible for the mind to find this equality by proceeding in
infinitum with these references to inferior quantities: it is evident,
that at last we must fix some standard of equality different from an
enumeration of the parts.

There are some [See Dr. Barrow's mathematical lectures.], who pretend,
that equality is best defined by congruity, and that any two figures are
equal, when upon the placing of one upon the other, all their parts
correspond to and touch each other. In order to judge of this definition
let us consider, that since equality is a relation, it is not, strictly
speaking, a property in the figures themselves, but arises merely from the
comparison, which the mind makes betwixt them. If it consists, therefore,
in this imaginary application and mutual contact of parts, we must at
least have a distinct notion of these parts, and must conceive their
contact. Now it is plain, that in this conception we would run up these
parts to the greatest minuteness, which can possibly be conceived; since
the contact of large parts would never render the figures equal. But the
minutest parts we can conceive are mathematical points; and consequently
this standard of equality is the same with that derived from the equality
of the number of points; which we have already determined to be a just but
an useless standard. We must therefore look to some other quarter for a
solution of the present difficulty.

There are many philosophers, who refuse to assign any standard of
equality, but assert, that it is sufficient to present two objects, that
are equal, in order to give us a just notion of this proportion. All
definitions, say they, are fruitless, without the perception of such
objects; and where we perceive such objects, we no longer stand in need
of any definition. To this reasoning, I entirely agree; and assert, that
the only useful notion of equality, or inequality, is derived from the
whole united appearance and the comparison of particular objects.

It is evident, that the eye, or rather the mind is often able at one view
to determine the proportions of bodies, and pronounce them equal to, or
greater or less than each other, without examining or comparing the
number of their minute parts. Such judgments are not only common, but in
many cases certain and infallible. When the measure of a yard and that of
a foot are presented, the mind can no more question, that the first is
longer than the second, than it can doubt of those principles, which are
the most clear and self-evident.

There are therefore three proportions, which the mind distinguishes in
the general appearance of its objects, and calls by the names of greater,
less and equal. But though its decisions concerning these proportions be
sometimes infallible, they are not always so; nor are our judgments of
this kind more exempt from doubt and error than those on any other
subject. We frequently correct our first opinion by a review and
reflection; and pronounce those objects to be equal, which at first we
esteemed unequal; and regard an object as less, though before it appeared
greater than another. Nor is this the only correction, which these
judgments of our senses undergo; but we often discover our error by a
juxtaposition of the objects; or where that is impracticable, by the use
of some common and invariable measure, which being successively applied
to each, informs us of their different proportions. And even this
correction is susceptible of a new correction, and of different degrees
of exactness, according to the nature of the instrument, by which we
measure the bodies, and the care which we employ in the comparison.

When therefore the mind is accustomed to these judgments and their
corrections, and finds that the same proportion which makes two figures
have in the eye that appearance, which we call equality, makes them also
correspond to each other, and to any common measure, with which they are
compared, we form a mixed notion of equality derived both from the looser
and stricter methods of comparison. But we are not content with this. For
as sound reason convinces us that there are bodies vastly more minute
than those, which appear to the senses; and as a false reason would
perswade us, that there are bodies infinitely more minute; we clearly
perceive, that we are not possessed of any instrument or art of
measuring, which can secure us from ill error and uncertainty. We are
sensible, that the addition or removal of one of these minute parts, is
not discernible either in the appearance or measuring; and as we imagine,
that two figures, which were equal before, cannot be equal after this
removal or addition, we therefore suppose some imaginary standard of
equality, by which the appearances and measuring are exactly corrected,
and the figures reduced entirely to that proportion. This standard is
plainly imaginary. For as the very idea of equality is that of such a
particular appearance corrected by juxtaposition or a common measure. the
notion of any correction beyond what we have instruments and art to make,
is a mere fiction of the mind, and useless as well as incomprehensible.
But though this standard be only imaginary, the fiction however is very
natural; nor is anything more usual, than for the mind to proceed after
this manner with any action, even after the reason has ceased, which
first determined it to begin. This appears very conspicuously with regard
to time; where though it is evident we have no exact method of determining
the proportions of parts, not even so exact as in extension, yet the
various corrections of our measures, and their different degrees of
exactness, have given as an obscure and implicit notion of a perfect and
entire equality. The case is the same in many other subjects. A musician
finding his ear becoming every day more delicate, and correcting himself
by reflection and attention, proceeds with the same act of the mind, even
when the subject fails him, and entertains a notion of a compleat TIERCE
or OCTAVE, without being able to tell whence he derives his standard. A
painter forms the same fiction with regard to colours. A mechanic with
regard to motion. To the one light and shade; to the other swift and slow
are imagined to be capable of an exact comparison and equality beyond the
judgments of the senses.

We may apply the same reasoning to CURVE and RIGHT lines. Nothing is more
apparent to the senses, than the distinction betwixt a curve and a right
line; nor are there any ideas we more easily form than the ideas of these
objects. But however easily we may form these ideas, it is impossible to
produce any definition of them, which will fix the precise boundaries
betwixt them. When we draw lines upon paper, or any continued surface,
there is a certain order, by which the lines run along from one point to
another, that they may produce the entire impression of a curve or right
line; but this order is perfectly unknown, and nothing is observed but
the united appearance. Thus even upon the system of indivisible points,
we can only form a distant notion of some unknown standard to these
objects. Upon that of infinite divisibility we cannot go even this
length; but are reduced meerly to the general appearance, as the rule by
which we determine lines to be either curve or right ones. But though we
can give no perfect definition of these lines, nor produce any very exact
method of distinguishing the one from the other; yet this hinders us not
from correcting the first appearance by a more accurate consideration,
and by a comparison with some rule, of whose rectitude from repeated
trials we have a greater assurance. And it is from these corrections, and
by carrying on the same action of the mind, even when its reason fails
us, that we form the loose idea of a perfect standard to these figures,
without being able to explain or comprehend it.

It is true, mathematicians pretend they give an exact definition of a
right line, when they say, it is the shortest way betwixt two points. But
in the first place I observe, that this is more properly the discovery of
one of the properties of a right line, than a just deflation of it. For I
ask any one, if upon mention of a right line he thinks not immediately on
such a particular appearance, and if it is not by accident only that he
considers this property? A right line can be comprehended alone; but this
definition is unintelligible without a comparison with other lines, which
we conceive to be more extended. In common life it is established as a
maxim, that the straightest way is always the shortest; which would be as
absurd as to say, the shortest way is always the shortest, if our idea of
a right line was not different from that of the shortest way betwixt two

Secondly, I repeat what I have already established, that we have no
precise idea of equality and inequality, shorter and longer, more than of
a right line or a curve; and consequently that the one can never afford
us a perfect standard for the other. An exact idea can never be built on
such as are loose and undetermined.

The idea of a plain surface is as little susceptible of a precise
standard as that of a right line; nor have we any other means of
distinguishing such a surface, than its general appearance. It is in vain,
that mathematicians represent a plain surface as produced by the flowing
of a right line. It will immediately be objected, that our idea of a
surface is as independent of this method of forming a surface, as our
idea of an ellipse is of that of a cone; that the idea of a right line is
no more precise than that of a plain surface; that a right line may flow
irregularly, and by that means form a figure quite different from a
plane; and that therefore we must suppose it to flow along two right
lines, parallel to each other, and on the same plane; which is a
description, that explains a thing by itself, and returns in a circle.

It appears, then, that the ideas which are most essential to geometry,
viz. those of equality and inequality, of a right line and a plain
surface, are far from being exact and determinate, according to our
common method of conceiving them. Not only we are incapable of telling,
if the case be in any degree doubtful, when such particular figures are
equal; when such a line is a right one, and such a surface a plain one;
but we can form no idea of that proportion, or of these figures, which is
firm and invariable. Our appeal is still to the weak and fallible
judgment, which we make from the appearance of the objects, and correct
by a compass or common measure; and if we join the supposition of any
farther correction, it is of such-a-one as is either useless or
imaginary. In vain should we have recourse to the common topic, and
employ the supposition of a deity, whose omnipotence may enable him to
form a perfect geometrical figure, and describe a right line without any
curve or inflexion. As the ultimate standard of these figures is derived
from nothing but the senses and imagination, it is absurd to talk of any
perfection beyond what these faculties can judge of; since the true
perfection of any thing consists in its conformity to its standard.

Now since these ideas are so loose and uncertain, I would fain ask any
mathematician what infallible assurance he has, not only of the more
intricate, and obscure propositions of his science, but of the most
vulgar and obvious principles? How can he prove to me, for instance, that
two right lines cannot have one common segment? Or that it is impossible
to draw more than one right line betwixt any two points? should be tell
me, that these opinions are obviously absurd, and repugnant to our clear
ideas; I would answer, that I do not deny, where two right lines incline
upon each other with a sensible angle, but it is absurd to imagine them to
have a common segment. But supposing these two lines to approach at the
rate of an inch in twenty leagues, I perceive no absurdity in asserting,
that upon their contact they become one. For, I beseech you, by what rule
or standard do you judge, when you assert, that the line, in which I have
supposed them to concur, cannot make the same right line with those two,
that form so small an angle betwixt them? You must surely have some idea
of a right line, to which this line does not agree. Do you therefore mean
that it takes not the points in the same order and by the same rule, as
is peculiar and essential to a right line? If so, I must inform you, that
besides that in judging after this manner you allow, that extension is
composed of indivisible points (which, perhaps, is more than you intend)
besides this, I say, I must inform you, that neither is this the standard
from which we form the idea of a right line; nor, if it were, is there
any such firmness in our senses or imagination, as to determine when
such an order is violated or preserved. The original standard of a right
line is in reality nothing but a certain general appearance; and it is
evident right lines may be made to concur with each other, and yet
correspond to this standard, though corrected by all the means either
practicable or imaginable.

To whatever side mathematicians turn, this dilemma still meets them. If
they judge of equality, or any other proportion, by the accurate and
exact standard, viz. the enumeration of the minute indivisible parts,
they both employ a standard, which is useless in practice, and actually
establish the indivisibility of extension, which they endeavour to
explode. Or if they employ, as is usual, the inaccurate standard, derived
from a comparison of objects, upon their general appearance, corrected by
measuring and juxtaposition; their first principles, though certain and
infallible, are too coarse to afford any such subtile inferences as they
commonly draw from them. The first principles are founded on the
imagination and senses: The conclusion, therefore, can never go beyond,
much less contradict these faculties.

This may open our eyes a little, and let us see, that no geometrical
demonstration for the infinite divisibility of extension can have so much
force as what we naturally attribute to every argument, which is
supported by such magnificent pretensions. At the same time we may learn
the reason, why geometry falls of evidence in this single point, while
all its other reasonings command our fullest assent and approbation. And
indeed it seems more requisite to give the reason of this exception, than
to shew, that we really must make such an exception, and regard all the
mathematical arguments for infinite divisibility as utterly sophistical.
For it is evident, that as no idea of quantity is infinitely divisible,
there cannot be imagined a more glaring absurdity, than to endeavour to
prove, that quantity itself admits of such a division; and to prove this
by means of ideas, which are directly opposite in that particular. And as
this absurdity is very glaring in itself, so there is no argument founded
on it. which is not attended with a new absurdity, and involves not an
evident contradiction.

I might give as instances those arguments for infinite divisibility,
which are derived from the point of contact. I know there is no
mathematician, who will not refuse to be judged by the diagrams he
describes upon paper, these being loose draughts, as he will tell us, and
serving only to convey with greater facility certain ideas, which are the
true foundation of all our reasoning. This I am satisfyed with, and am
willing to rest the controversy merely upon these ideas. I desire
therefore our mathematician to form, as accurately as possible, the ideas
of a circle and a right line; and I then ask, if upon the conception of
their contact he can conceive them as touching in a mathematical point,
or if he must necessarily imagine them to concur for some space.
Whichever side he chuses, he runs himself into equal difficulties. If he
affirms, that in tracing these figures in his imagination, he can imagine
them to touch only in a point, he allows the possibility of that idea,
and consequently of the thing. If he says, that in his conception of the
contact of those lines he must make them concur, he thereby acknowledges
the fallacy of geometrical demonstrations, when carryed beyond a certain
degree of minuteness; since it is certain he has such demonstrations
against the concurrence of a circle and a right line; that is, in other
words, be can prove an idea, viz. that of concurrence, to be INCOMPATIBLE
with two other ideas, those of a circle and right line; though at the same
time he acknowledges these ideas to be inseparable.


If the second part of my system be true, that the idea of space or
extension is nothing but the idea of visible or tangible points
distributed in a certain order; it follows, that we can form no idea of a
vacuum, or space, where there is nothing visible or tangible. This gives
rise to three objections, which I shall examine together, because the
answer I shall give to one is a consequence of that which I shall make
use of for the others.

First, It may be said, that men have disputed for many ages concerning a
vacuum and a plenum, without being able to bring the affair to a final
decision; and philosophers, even at this day, think themselves at liberty
to take part on either side, as their fancy leads them. But whatever
foundation there may be for a controversy concerning the things
themselves, it may be pretended, that the very dispute is decisive
concerning the idea, and that it is impossible men coued so long reason
about a vacuum, and either refute or defend it, without having a notion
of what they refuted or defended.

Secondly, If this argument should be contested, the reality or at least
the possibility of the idea of a vacuum may be proved by the following
reasoning. Every idea is possible, which is a necessary and infallible
consequence of such as are possible. Now though we allow the world to be
at present a plenum, we may easily conceive it to be deprived of motion;
and this idea will certainly be allowed possible. It must also be allowed
possible, to conceive the annihilation of any part of matter by the
omnipotence of the deity, while the other parts remain at rest. For as
every idea, that is distinguishable, is separable by the imagination; and
as every idea, that is separable by the imagination, may be conceived to
be separately existent; it is evident, that the existence of one particle
of matter, no more implies the existence of another, than a square figure
in one body implies a square figure in every one. This being granted, I
now demand what results from the concurrence of these two possible ideas
of rest and annihilation, and what must we conceive to follow upon the
annihilation of all the air and subtile matter in the chamber, supposing
the walls to remain the same, without any motion or alteration? There are
some metaphysicians, who answer, that since matter and extension are the
same, the annihilation of one necessarily implies that of the other; and
there being now no distance betwixt the walls of the chamber, they touch
each other; in the same manner as my hand touches the paper, which is
immediately before me. But though this answer be very common, I defy these
metaphysicians to conceive the matter according to their hypothesis, or
imagine the floor and roof, with all the opposite sides of the chamber,
to touch each other, while they continue in rest, and preserve the same
position. For how can the two walls, that run from south to north, touch
each other, while they touch the opposite ends of two walls, that run
from east to west? And how can the floor and. roof ever meet, while they
are separated by the four walls, that lie in a contrary position? If you
change their position, you suppose a motion. If you conceive any thing
betwixt them, you suppose a new creation. But keeping strictly to the two
ideas of rest and annihilation, it is evident, that the idea, which
results from them, is not that of a contact of parts, but something else;
which is concluded to be the idea of a vacuum.

The third objection carries the matter still farther, and not only
asserts, that the idea of a vacuum is real and possible, but also
necessary and unavoidable. This assertion is founded on the motion we
observe in bodies, which, it is maintained, would be impossible and
inconceivable without a vacuum, into which one body must move in order to
make way for another.. I shall not enlarge upon this objection, because
it principally belongs to natural philosophy, which lies without our
present sphere.

In order to answer these objections, we must take the matter pretty deep,
and consider the nature and origin of several ideas, lest we dispute
without understanding perfectly the subject of the controversy. It is
evident the idea of darkness is no positive idea, but merely the negation
of .light, or more properly speaking, of coloured and visible objects. A
man, who enjoys his sight, receives no other perception from turning his
eyes on every side, when entirely deprived of light, than what is common
to him with one born blind; and it is certain such-a-one has no idea
either of light or darkness. The consequence of this is, that it is not
from the mere removal of visible objects we receive the impression of
extension without matter; and that the idea of utter darkness can never
be the same with that of vacuum.

Suppose again a man to be Supported in the air, and to be softly conveyed
along by some invisible power; it is evident he is sensible of nothing,
and never receives the idea of extension, nor indeed any idea, from this
invariable motion. Even supposing he moves his limbs to and fro, this
cannot convey to him that idea. He feels in that case a certain sensation
or impression, the parts of which are successive to each other, and may
give him the idea of time: But certainly are not disposed in such a
manner, as is necessary to convey the idea of s ace or the idea of space
or extension.

Since then it appears, that darkness and motion, with the utter removal
of every thing visible and tangible, can never give us the idea of
extension without matter, or of a vacuum; the next question is, whether
they can convey this idea, when mixed with something visible and

It is commonly allowed by philosophers, that all bodies, which discover
themselves to the eye, appear as if painted on a plain surface, and that
their different degrees of remoteness from ourselves are discovered more
by reason than by the senses. When I hold up my hand before me, and
spread my fingers, they are separated as perfectly by the blue colour of
the firmament, as they coued be by any visible object, which I coued
place betwixt them. In order, therefore, to know whether the sight can
convey the impression and idea of a vacuum, we must suppose, that amidst
an entire darkness, there are luminous bodies presented to us, whose
light discovers only these bodies themselves, without giving us any
impression of the surrounding objects.

We must form a parallel supposition concerning the objects of our
feeling. It is not proper to suppose a perfect removal of all tangible
objects: we must allow something to be perceived by the feeling; and
after an interval and motion of the hand or other organ of sensation,
another object of the touch to be met with; and upon leaving that,
another; and so on, as often as we please. The question is, whether these
intervals do not afford us the idea of extension without body?

To begin with the first case; it is evident, that when only two luminous
bodies appear to the eye, we can perceive, whether they be conjoined or
separate: whether they be separated by a great or small distance; and if
this distance varies, we can perceive its increase or diminution, with
the motion of the bodies. But as the distance is not in this case any
thing coloured or visible, it may be thought that there is here a vacuum
or pure extension, not only intelligible to the mind, but obvious to the
very senses.

This is our natural and most familiar way of thinking; but which we shall
learn to correct by a little reflection. We may observe, that when two
bodies present themselves, where there was formerly an entire darkness,
the only change, that is discoverable, is in the appearance of these two
objects, and that all the rest continues to be as before, a perfect
negation of light, and of every coloured or visible object. This is not
only true of what may be said to be remote from these bodies, but also of
the very distance; which is interposed betwixt them; that being nothing
but darkness, or the negation of light; without parts, without
composition, invariable and indivisible. Now since this distance causes
no perception different from what a blind man receives from his eyes, or
what is conveyed to us in the darkest night, it must partake of the same
properties: And as blindness and darkness afford us no ideas of
extension, it is impossible that the dark and undistinguishable distance
betwixt two bodies can ever produce that idea.

The sole difference betwixt an absolute darkness and the appearance of
two or more visible luminous objects consists, as I said, in the objects
themselves, and in the manner they affect our senses. The angles, which
the rays of light flowing from them, form with each other; the motion
that is required in the eye, in its passage from one to the other; and
the different parts of the organs, which are affected by them; these
produce the only perceptions, from which we can judge of the distance.
But as these perceptions are each of them simple and indivisible, they
can never give us the idea of extension.

We may illustrate this by considering the sense of feeling, and the
imaginary distance or interval interposed betwixt tangible or solid
objects. I suppose two cases, viz. that of a man supported in the air,
and moving his limbs to and fro, without meeting any thing tangible; and
that of a man, who feeling something tangible, leaves it, and after a
motion, of which he is sensible, perceives another tangible object; and I
then ask, wherein consists the difference betwixt these two cases? No one
will make any scruple to affirm, that it consists meerly in the
perceiving those objects, and that the sensation, which arises from the
motion, is in both cases the same: And as that sensation is not capable
of conveying to us an idea of extension, when unaccompanyed with some
other perception, it can no more give us that idea, when mixed with the
impressions of tangible objects; since that mixture produces no
alteration upon it.

But though motion and darkness, either alone, or attended with tangible
and visible objects, convey no idea of a vacuum or extension without
matter, yet they are the causes why we falsly imagine we can form such an
idea. For there is a close relation betwixt that motion and darkness, and
a real extension, or composition of visible and tangible objects.

First, We may observe, that two visible objects appearing in the midst of
utter darkness, affect the senses in the same manner, and form the same
angle by the rays, which flow from them, and meet in the eye, as if the
distance betwixt them were find with visible objects, that give us a true
idea of extension. The sensation of motion is likewise the same, when
there is nothing tangible interposed betwixt two bodies, as when we feel
a compounded body, whose different parts are placed beyond each other.

Secondly, We find by experience, that two bodies, which are so placed as
to affect the senses in the same manner with two others, that have a
certain extent of visible objects interposed betwixt them, are capable of
receiving the same extent, without any sensible impulse or penetration,
and without any change on that angle, under which they appear to the
senses. In like manner, where there is one object, which we cannot feel
after another without an interval, and the perceiving of that sensation
we call motion in our hand or organ of sensation; experience shews us,
that it is possible the same object may be felt with the same sensation of
motion, along with the interposed impression of solid and tangible
objects, attending the sensation. That is, in other words, an invisible
and intangible distance may be converted into a visible and tangible one,
without any change on the distant objects.

Thirdly, We may observe, as another relation betwixt these two kinds of
distance, that they have nearly the same effects on every natural
phaenomenon. For as all qualities, such as heat, cold, light, attraction,
&c. diminish in proportion to the distance; there is but little
difference observed, whether this distance be marled out by compounded
and sensible objects, or be known only by the manner, in which the
distant objects affect the senses.

Here then are three relations betwixt that distance, which conveys the
idea of extension, and that other, which is not filled with any coloured
or solid object. The distant objects affect the senses in the same
manner, whether separated by the one distance or the other; the second
species of distance is found capable of receiving the first; and they
both equally diminish the force of every quality.

These relations betwixt the two kinds of distance will afford us an easy
reason, why the one has so often been taken for the other, and why we
imagine we have an idea of extension without the idea of any object
either of the sight or feeling. For we may establish it as a general
maxim in this science of human nature, that wherever there is a close
relation betwixt two ideas, the mind is very apt to mistake them, and in
all its discourses and reasonings to use the one for the other. This
phaenomenon occurs on so many occasions, and is of such consequence, that
I cannot forbear stopping a moment to examine its causes. I shall only
premise, that we must distinguish exactly betwixt the phaenomenon itself,
and the causes, which I shall assign for it; and must not imagine from
any uncertainty in the latter, that the former is also uncertain. The
phaenomenon may be real, though my explication be chimerical. The falshood
of the one is no consequence of that of the other; though at the same time
we may observe, that it is very natural for us to draw such a consequence;
which is an evident instance of that very principle, which I endeavour to

When I received the relations of resemblance, contiguity and causation,
as principles of union among ideas, without examining into their causes,
it was more in prosecution of my first maxim, that we must in the end rest
contented with experience, than for want of something specious and
plausible, which I might have displayed on that subject. It would have
been easy to have made an imaginary dissection of the brain, and have
shewn, why upon our conception of any idea, the animal spirits run into
all the contiguous traces, and rouze up the other ideas, that are related
to it. But though I have neglected any advantage, which I might have drawn
from this topic in explaining the relations of ideas, I am afraid I must
here have recourse to it, in order to account for the mistakes that arise
from these relations. I shall therefore observe, that as the mind is
endowed with a power of exciting any idea it pleases; whenever it
dispatches the spirits into that region of the brain, in which the idea
is placed; these spirits always excite the idea, when they run precisely
into the proper traces, and rummage that cell, which belongs to the idea.
But as their motion is seldom direct, and naturally turns a little to the
one side or the other; for this reason the animal spirits, falling into
the contiguous traces, present other related ideas in lieu of that, which
the mind desired at first to survey. This change we are not always
sensible of; but continuing still the same train of thought, make use of
the related idea, which is presented to us, and employ it in our
reasoning, as if it were the same with what we demanded. This is the
cause of many mistakes and sophisms in philosophy; as will naturally be
imagined, and as it would be easy to show, if there was occasion.

Of the three relations above-mentioned that of resemblance is the most
fertile source of error; and indeed there are few mistakes in reasoning,
which do not borrow largely from that origin. Resembling ideas are not
only related together, but the actions of the mind, which we employ in
considering them, are so little different, that we are not able to
distinguish them. This last circumstance is of great consequence, and we
may in general observe, that wherever the actions of the mind in forming
any two ideas are the same or resembling, we are very apt to confound
these ideas, and take the one for the other. Of this we shall see many
instances in the progress of this treatise. But though resemblance be the
relation, which most readily produces a mistake in ideas, yet the others
of causation and contiguity may also concur in the same influence. We
might produce the figures of poets and orators, as sufficient proofs of
this, were it as usual, as it is reasonable, in metaphysical subjects to
draw our arguments from that quarter. But lest metaphysicians should
esteem this below their dignity, I shall borrow a proof from an
observation, which may be made on most of their own discourses, viz. that
it is usual for men to use words for ideas, and to talk instead of
thinking in their reasonings. We use words for ideas, because they are
commonly so closely connected that the mind easily mistakes them. And
this likewise is the reason, why we substitute the idea of a distance,
which is not considered either as visible or tangible, in the room of
extension, which is nothing but a composition of visible or tangible
points disposed in a certain order. In causing this mistake there concur
both the relations of causation and resemblance. As the first species of
distance is found to be convertible into the second, it is in this respect
a kind of cause; and the similarity of their manner of affecting the
senses, and diminishing every quality, forms the relation of resemblance.

After this chain of reasoning and explication of my principles, I am now
prepared to answer all the objections that have been offered, whether
derived from metaphysics or mechanics. The frequent disputes concerning a
vacuum, or extension without matter prove not the reality of the idea,
upon which the dispute turns; there being nothing more common, than to
see men deceive themselves in this particular; especially when by means
of any close relation, there is another idea presented, which may be the
occasion of their mistake.

We may make almost the same answer to the second objection, derived from
the conjunction of the ideas of rest and annihilation. When every thing
is annihilated in the chamber, and the walls continue immoveable, the
chamber must be conceived much in the same manner as at present, when the
air that fills it, is not an object of the senses. This annihilation
leaves to the eye, that fictitious distance, which is discovered by the
different parts of the organ, that are affected, and by the degrees of
light and shade;--and to the feeling, that which consists in a sensation
of motion in the hand, or other member of the body. In vain should we.
search any farther. On whichever side we turn this subject, we shall find
that these are the only impressions such an object can produce after the
supposed annihilation; and it has already been remarked, that impressions
can give rise to no ideas, but to such as resemble them.

Since a body interposed betwixt two others may be supposed to be
annihilated, without producing any change upon such as lie on each hand
of it, it is easily conceived, how it may be created anew, and yet produce
as little alteration. Now the motion of a body has much the same effect
as its creation. The distant bodies are no more affected in the one case,
than in the other. This suffices to satisfy the imagination, and proves
there is no repugnance in such a motion. Afterwards experience comes in
play to persuade us that two bodies, situated in the manner
above-described, have really such a capacity of receiving body betwixt
them, and that there is no obstacle to the conversion of the invisible
and intangible distance into one that is visible and tangible. However
natural that conversion may seem, we cannot be sure it is practicable,
before we have had experience of it.

Thus I seem to have answered the three objections above-mentioned; though
at the same time I am sensible, that few will be satisfyed with these
answers, but will immediately propose new objections and difficulties.
It will probably be said, that my reasoning makes nothing to the matter in
hands and that I explain only the manner in which objects affect the
senses, without endeavouring to account for their real nature and
operations. Though there be nothing visible or tangible interposed betwixt
two bodies, yet we find BY EXPERIENCE, that the bodies may be placed in
the same manner, with regard to the eye, and require the same motion of
the hand in passing from one to the other, as if divided by something
visible and tangible. This invisible and intangible distance is also
found by experience to contain a capacity of receiving body, or of
becoming visible and tangible. Here is the whole of my system; and in no
part of it have I endeavoured to explain the cause, which separates
bodies after this manner, and gives them a capacity of receiving others
betwixt them, without any impulse or penetration.

I answer this objection, by pleading guilty, and by confessing that my
intention never was to penetrate into the nature of bodies, or explain
the secret causes of their operations. For besides that this belongs not
to my present purpose, I am afraid, that such an enterprise is beyond the
reach of human understanding, and that we can never pretend to know body
otherwise than by those external properties, which discover themselves to
the senses. As to those who attempt any thing farther, I cannot approve
of their ambition, till I see, in some one instance at least, that they
have met with success. But at present I content myself with knowing
perfectly the manner in which objects affect my senses, and their
connections with each other, as far as experience informs me of them.
This suffices for the conduct of life; and this also suffices for my
philosophy, which pretends only to explain the nature and causes of our
perceptions, or impressions and ideas [Footnote 4.].

[Footnote 4. As long as we confine our speculations to the appearances of
objects to our senses, without entering into disquisitions concerning
their real nature and operations, we are safe from all difficulties, and
can never be embarrassed by any question. Thus, if it be asked, if the
invisible and intangible distance, interposed betwixt two objects, be
something or nothing: It is easy to answer, that it is SOMETHING, VIZ. a
property of the objects, which affect the SENSES after such a particular
manner. If it be asked whether two objects, having such a distance betwixt
them, touch or not: it may be answered, that this depends upon the
definition of the word, TOUCH. If objects be said to touch, when there is
nothing SENSIBLE interposed betwixt them, these objects touch: it objects
be said to touch, when their IMAGES strike contiguous parts of the eye,
and when the hand FEELS both objects successively, without any interposed
motion, these objects do not touch. The appearances of objects to our
senses are all consistent; and no difficulties can ever arise, but from
the obscurity of the terms we make use of.

If we carry our enquiry beyond the appearances of objects to the senses,
I am afraid, that most of our conclusions will be full of scepticism and
uncertainty. Thus if it be asked, whether or not the invisible and
intangible distance be always full of body, or of something that by an
improvement of our organs might become visible or tangible, I must
acknowledge, that I find no very decisive arguments on either side; though
I am inclined to the contrary opinion, as being more suitable to vulgar
and popular notions. If THE NEWTONIAN philosophy be rightly understood,
it will be found to mean no more. A vacuum is asserted: That is, bodies
are said to be placed after such a manner, is to receive bodies betwixt
them, without impulsion or penetration. The real nature of this position
of bodies is unknown. We are only acquainted with its effects on the
senses, and its power of receiving body. Nothing is more suitable to that
philosophy, than a modest scepticism to a certain degree, and a fair
confession of ignorance in subjects, that exceed all human capacity.]

I shall conclude this subject of extension with a paradox, which will
easily be explained from the foregoing reasoning. This paradox is, that
if you are pleased to give to the in-visible and intangible distance, or
in other words, to the capacity of becoming a visible and tangible
distance, the name of a vacuum, extension and matter are the same, and
yet there is a vacuum. If you will not give it that name, motion is
possible in a plenum, without any impulse in infinitum, without returning
in a circle, and without penetration. But however we may express
ourselves, we must always confess, that we have no idea of any real
extension without filling it with sensible objects, and conceiving its
parts as visible or tangible.

As to the doctrine, that time is nothing but the manner, in which some
real objects exist; we may observe, that it is liable to the same
objections as the similar doctrine with regard to extension. If it be a
sufficient proof, that we have the idea of a vacuum, because we dispute
and reason concerning it; we must for the same reason have the idea of
time without any changeable existence; since there is no subject of
dispute more frequent and common. But that we really have no such idea,
is certain. For whence should it be derived? Does it arise from an
impression of sensation or of reflection? Point it out distinctly to us,
that we may know its nature and qualities. But if you cannot point out
any such impression, you may be certain you are mistaken, when you
imagine you have any such idea.

But though it be impossible to shew the impression, from which the idea of
time without a changeable existence is derived; yet we can easily point
out those appearances, which make us fancy we have that idea. For we may
observe, that there is a continual succession of perceptions in our mind;
so that the idea of time being for ever present with us; when we consider
a stedfast object at five-a-clock, and regard the same at six; we are apt
to apply to it that idea in the same manner as if every moment were
distinguished by a different position, or an alteration of the object.
The first and second appearances of the object, being compared with the
succession of our perceptions, seem equally removed as if the object had
really changed. To which we may add, what experience shews us, that the
object was susceptible of such a number of changes betwixt these
appearances; as also that the unchangeable or rather fictitious duration
has the same effect upon every quality, by encreasing or diminishing it,
as that succession, which is obvious to the senses. From these three
relations we are apt to confound our ideas, and imagine we can form the
idea of a time and duration, without any change or succession.


It may not be amiss, before we leave this subject, to explain the ideas
of existence and of external existence; which have their difficulties, as
well as the ideas of space and time. By this means we shall be the better
prepared for the examination of knowledge and probability, when we
understand perfectly all those particular ideas, which may enter into our

There is no impression nor idea of any kind, of which we have any
consciousness or memory, that is not conceived as existent; and it is
evident, that from this consciousness the most perfect idea and assurance
of being is derived. From hence we may form a dilemma, the most clear and
conclusive that can be imagined, viz. that since we never remember any
idea or impression without attributing existence to it, the idea of
existence must either be derived from a distinct impression, conjoined
with every perception or object of our thought, or must be the very same
with the idea of the perception or object.

As this dilemma is an evident consequence of the principle, that every
idea arises from a similar impression, so our decision betwixt the
propositions of the dilemma is no more doubtful. go far from there being
any distinct impression, attending every impression and every idea, that
I do not think there are any two distinct impressions, which are
inseparably conjoined. Though certain sensations may at one time be united,
we quickly find they admit of a separation, and may be presented apart.
And thus, though every impression and idea we remember be considered as
existent, the idea of existence is not derived from any particular

The idea of existence, then, is the very same with the idea of what we
conceive to be existent. To reflect on any thing simply, and to reflect
on it as existent, are nothing different from each other. That idea, when
conjoined with the idea of any object, makes no addition to it. Whatever
we conceive, we conceive to be existent. Any idea we please to form is
the idea of a being; and the idea of a being is any idea we please to

Whoever opposes this, must necessarily point out that distinct
impression, from which the idea of entity is derived, and must prove,
that this impression is inseparable from every perception we believe to
be existent. This we may without hesitation conclude to be impossible.

Our foregoing reasoning [Part I. Sect. 7.] concerning the distinction of
ideas without any real difference will not here serve us in any stead.
That kind of distinction is founded on the different resemblances, which
the same simple idea may have to several different ideas. But no object
can be presented resembling some object with respect to its existence, and
different from others in the same particular; since every object, that is
presented, must necessarily be existent.

A like reasoning will account for the idea of external existence. We may
observe, that it is universally allowed by philosophers, and is besides
pretty obvious of itself, that nothing is ever really present with the
mind but its perceptions or impressions and ideas, and that external
objects become known to us only by those perceptions they occasion. To
hate, to love, to think, to feel, to see; all this is nothing but to

Now since nothing is ever present to the mind but perceptions, and since
all ideas are derived from something antecedently present to the mind; it
follows, that it is impossible for us so much as to conceive or form an
idea of any thing specifically different. from ideas and impressions. Let
us fix our attention out of ourselves as much as possible: Let us chase
our imagination to the heavens, or to the utmost limits of the universe;
we never really advance a step beyond ourselves, nor can conceive any
kind of existence, but those perceptions, which have appeared in that
narrow compass. This is the universe of the imagination, nor have we any
idea but what is there produced.

The farthest we can go towards a conception of external objects, when
supposed SPECIFICALLY different from our perceptions, is to form a
relative idea of them, without pretending to comprehend the related
objects. Generally speaking we do not suppose them specifically
different; but only attribute to them different relations, connections
and durations. But of this more fully hereafter.[Part IV, Sect. 2.]



There are seven [Part I. Sect. 5.] different kinds of philosophical
CAUSATION. These relations may be divided into two classes; into such as
depend entirely on the ideas, which we compare together, and such as may
be changed without any change in the ideas. It is from the idea of a
triangle, that we discover the relation of equality, which its three
angles bear to two right ones; and this relation is invariable, as long
as our idea remains the same. On the contrary, the relations of
contiguity and distance betwixt two objects may be changed merely by an
alteration of their place, without any change on the objects themselves
or on their ideas; and the place depends on a hundred different
accidents, which cannot be foreseen by the mind. It is the same case with
identity and causation. Two objects, though perfectly resembling each
other, and even appearing in the same place at different times, may be
numerically different: And as the power, by which one object produces
another, is never discoverable merely from their idea, it is evident cause
and effect are relations, of which we receive information from
experience, and not from any abstract reasoning or reflection. There is
no single phaenomenon, even the most simple, which can be accounted for
from the qualities of the objects, as they appear to us; or which we
coued foresee without the help of our memory and experience.

It appears, therefore, that of these seven philosophical relations, there
remain only four, which depending solely upon ideas, can be the objects
of knowledge said certainty. These four are RESEMBLANCE, CONTRARIETY,
relations are discoverable at first sight, and fall more properly under
the province of intuition than demonstration. When any objects resemble
each other, the resemblance will at first strike the eve, or rather the
mind; and seldom requires a second examination. The case is the same with
contrariety, and with the degrees of any quality. No one can once doubt
but existence and non-existence destroy each other, and are perfectly
incompatible and contrary. And though it be impossible to judge exactly of
the degrees of any quality, such as colour, taste, heat, cold, when the
difference betwixt them is very small: yet it is easy to decide, that any
of them is superior or inferior to another, when their difference is
considerable. And this decision we always pronounce at first sight,
without any enquiry or reasoning.

We might proceed, after the same manner, in fixing the proportions of
quantity or number, and might at one view observe a superiority or
inferiority betwixt any numbers, or figures; especially where the
difference is very great and remarkable. As to equality or any exact
proportion, we can only guess at it from a single consideration; except
in very short numbers, or very limited portions of extension; which are
comprehended in an instant, and where we perceive an impossibility of
falling into any considerable error. In all other cases we must settle
the proportions with some liberty, or proceed in a more artificial

I have already I observed, that geometry, or the art, by which we fix
the proportions of figures; though it much excels both in universality and
exactness, the loose judgments of the senses and imagination; yet never
attains a perfect precision and exactness. It's first principles are
still drawn from the general appearance of the objects; and that
appearance can never afford us any security, when we examine, the
prodigious minuteness of which nature is susceptible. Our ideas seem to
give a perfect assurance, that no two right lines can have a common
segment; but if we consider these ideas, we shall find, that they always
suppose a sensible inclination of the two lines, and that where the angle
they form is extremely small, we have no standard of a I @ right line so
precise as to assure us of the truth of this proposition. It is the same
case with most of the primary decisions of the mathematics.

There remain, therefore, algebra and arithmetic as the only sciences, in
which we can carry on a chain of reasoning to any degree of intricacy,
and yet preserve a perfect exactness and certainty. We are possest of a
precise standard, by which we can judge of the equality and proportion of
numbers; and according as they correspond or not to that standard, we
determine their relations, without any possibility of error. When two
numbers are so combined, as that the one has always an unite answering to
every unite of the other, we pronounce them equal; and it is for want of
such a standard of equality in extension, that geometry can scarce be
esteemed a perfect and infallible science.

But here it may not be amiss to obviate a difficulty, which may arise
from my asserting, that though geometry falls short of that perfect
precision and certainty, which are peculiar to arithmetic and algebra,
yet it excels the imperfect judgments of our senses and imagination. The
reason why I impute any defect to geometry, is, because its original and
fundamental principles are derived merely from appearances; and it may
perhaps be imagined, that this defect must always attend it, and keep it
from ever reaching a greater exactness in the comparison of objects or
ideas, than what our eye or imagination alone is able to attain. I own
that this defect so far attends it, as to keep it from ever aspiring to a
full certainty: But since these fundamental principles depend on the
easiest and least deceitful appearances, they bestow on their
consequences a degree of exactness, of which these consequences are
singly incapable. It is impossible for the eye to determine the angles of
a chiliagon to be equal to 1996 right angles, or make any conjecture,
that approaches this proportion; but when it determines, that right lines
cannot concur; that we cannot draw more than one right line between two
given points; it's mistakes can never be of any consequence. And this is
the nature and use of geometry, to run us up to such appearances, as, by
reason of their simplicity, cannot lead us into any considerable error.

I shall here take occasion to propose a second observation concerning our
demonstrative reasonings, which is suggested by the same subject of the
mathematics. It is usual with mathematicians, to pretend, that those
ideas, which are their objects, are of so refined and spiritual a nature,
that they fall not under the conception of the fancy, but must be
comprehended by a pure and intellectual view, of which the superior
faculties of the soul are alone capable. The same notion runs through most
parts of philosophy, and is principally made use of to explain oar
abstract ideas, and to shew how we can form an idea of a triangle, for
instance, which shall neither be an isoceles nor scalenum, nor be
confined to any particular length and proportion of sides. It is easy to
see, why philosophers are so fond of this notion of some spiritual and
refined perceptions; since by that means they cover many of their
absurdities, and may refuse to submit to the decisions of clear ideas, by
appealing to such as are obscure and uncertain. But to destroy this
artifice, we need but reflect on that principle so oft insisted on, that
all our ideas are copyed from our impressions. For from thence we may
immediately conclude, that since all impressions are clear and precise,
the ideas, which are copyed from them, must be of the same nature, and
can never, but from our fault, contain any thing so dark and intricate.
An idea is by its very nature weaker and fainter than an impression; but
being in every other respect the same, cannot imply any very great
mystery. If its weakness render it obscure, it is our business to remedy
that defect, as much as possible, by keeping the idea steady and precise;
and till we have done so, it is in vain to pretend to reasoning and


This is all I think necessary to observe concerning those four relations,
which are the foundation of science; but as to the other three, which
depend not upon the idea, and may be absent or present even while that
remains the same, it will be proper to explain them more particularly.
These three relations are identity, the situations in time and place, and

All kinds of reasoning consist in nothing but a comparison, and a
discovery of those relations, either constant or inconstant, which two or
more objects bear to each other. This comparison we may make, either when
both the objects are present to the senses, or when neither of them is
present, or when only one. When both the objects are present to the
senses along with the relation, we call this perception rather than
reasoning; nor is there in this case any exercise of the thought, or any
action, properly speaking, but a mere passive admission of the
impressions through the organs of sensation. According to this way of
thinking, we ought not to receive as reasoning any of the observations we
may make concerning identity, and the relations of time and .place; since
in none of them the mind can go beyond what is immediately present to the
senses, either to discover the real existence or the relations of
objects. It is only causation, which produces such a connexion, as to give
us assurance from the existence or action of one object, that it was
followed or preceded by any other existence or action; nor can the other
two relations be ever made use of in reasoning, except so far as they
either affect or are affected by it. There is nothing in any objects to
perswade us, that they are either always remote or always contiguous; and
when from experience and observation we discover, that their relation in
this particular is invariable, we, always conclude there is some secret
cause, which separates or unites them. The same reasoning extends to
identity. We readily suppose an object may continue individually the
same, though several times absent from and present to the senses; and
ascribe to it an identity, notwithstanding the interruption of the
perception, whenever we conclude, that if we had kept our eye or hand
constantly upon it, it would have conveyed an invariable and
uninterrupted perception. But this conclusion beyond the impressions of
our senses can be founded only on the connexion of cause and effect; nor
can we otherwise have any security, that the object is not changed upon
us, however much the new object may resemble that which was formerly
present to the senses. Whenever we discover such a perfect resemblance,
we consider, whether it be common in that species of objects; whether
possibly or probably any cause coued operate in producing the change and
resemblance; and according as we determine concerning these causes and
effects, we form our judgment concerning the identity of the object.

Here then it appears, that of those three relations, which depend not
upon the mere ideas, the only one, that can be traced beyond our senses
and informs us of existences and objects, which we do not see or feel, is
causation. This relation, therefore, we shall endeavour to explain fully
before we leave the subject of the understanding.

To begin regularly, we must consider the idea of causation, and see from
what origin it is derived. It is impossible to reason justly, without
understanding perfectly the idea concerning which we reason; and it is
impossible perfectly to understand any idea, without tracing it up to its
origin, and examining that primary impression, from which it arises. The
examination of the impression bestows a clearness on the idea; and the
examination of the idea bestows a like clearness on all our reasoning.

Let us therefore cast our eye on any two objects, which we call cause
and effect, and turn them on all sides, in order to find that impression,
which produces an idea, of such prodigious consequence. At first sight I
perceive, that I must not search for it in any of the particular
qualities of the objects; since. which-ever of these qualities I pitch
on, I find some object, that is not possessed of it, and yet falls under
the denomination of cause or effect. And indeed there is nothing
existent, either externally or internally, which is not to be considered
either as a cause or an effect; though it is plain there is no one quality,
which universally belongs to all beings, and gives them a title to that

The idea, then, of causation must be derived from some relation among
objects; and that relation we must now endeavour to discover. I find in
the first place, that whatever objects are considered as causes or
effects, are contiguous; and that nothing can operate in a time or place,
which is ever so little removed from those of its existence. Though distant
objects may sometimes seem productive of each other, they are commonly
found upon examination to be linked by a chain of causes, which are
contiguous among themselves, and to the distant objects; and when in any
particular instance we cannot discover this connexion, we still presume
it to exist. We may therefore consider the relation of CONTIGUITY as
essential to that of causation; at least may suppose it such, according
to the general opinion, till we can find a more [Part IV. Sect. 5.] proper
occasion to clear up this matter, by examining what objects are or are not
susceptible of juxtaposition and conjunction.

The second relation I shall observe as essential to causes and effects,
is not so universally acknowledged, but is liable to some controversy.
It is that of PRIORITY Of time in the cause before the effect. Some
pretend that it is not absolutely necessary a cause should precede its
effect; but that any object or action, in the very first moment of its
existence, may exert its productive quality, and give rise to another
object or action, perfectly co-temporary with itself. But beside that
experience in most instances seems to contradict this opinion, we may
establish the relation of priority by a kind of inference or reasoning.
It is an established maxim both in natural and moral philosophy, that an
object, which exists for any time in its full perfection without
producing another, is not its sole cause; but is assisted by some other
principle, which pushes it from its state of inactivity, and makes it
exert that energy, of which it was secretly possest. Now if any cause may
be perfectly co-temporary with its effect, it is certain, according to
this maxim, that they must all of them be so; since any one of them,
which retards its operation for a single moment, exerts not itself at
that very individual time, in which it might have operated; and therefore
is no proper cause. The consequence of this would be no less than the
destruction of that succession of causes, which we observe in the world;
and indeed, the utter annihilation of time. For if one cause were
co-temporary with its effect, and this effect with its effect, and so on,
it is plain there would be no such thing as succession, and all objects
must be co-existent.

If this argument appear satisfactory, it is well. If not, I beg the reader
to allow me the same liberty, which I have used in the preceding case, of
supposing it such. For he shall find, that the affair is of no great

Having thus discovered or supposed the two relations of contiguity and
succession to be essential to causes and effects, I find I am stopt
short, and can proceed no farther in considering any single instance of
cause and effect. Motion in one body is regarded upon impulse as the
cause of motion in another. When we consider these objects with utmost
attention, we find only that the one body approaches the other; and that
the motion of it precedes that of the other, but without any, sensible
interval. It is in vain to rack ourselves with farther thought and
reflection upon this subject. We can go no farther in considering this
particular instance.

Should any one leave this instance, and pretend to define a cause, by
saying it is something productive of another, it is evident he would say
nothing. For what does he mean by production? Can he give any definition
of it, that will not be the same with that of causation? If he can; I
desire it may be produced. If he cannot; he here runs in a circle, and
gives a synonimous term instead of a definition.

Shall we then rest contented with these two relations of contiguity and
succession, as affording a complete idea of causation? By, no means. An
object may be contiguous and prior to another, without being considered
as its cause. There is a NECESSARY CONNEXION to be taken into
consideration; and that relation is of much greater importance, than any
of the other two above-mentioned.

Here again I turn the object on all sides, in order to discover the
nature of this necessary connexion, and find the impression, or
impressions, from which its idea may be derived. When I cast my eye on
the known Qualities of objects, I immediately discover that the relation
of cause and effect depends not in the least on them. When I consider
their relations, I can find none but those of contiguity and succession;
which I have already regarded as imperfect and unsatisfactory. Shall the
despair of success make me assert, that I am here possest of an idea,
which is not preceded by any similar impression? This would be too strong
a proof of levity and inconstancy; since the contrary principle has been
already so firmly established, as to admit of no farther doubt; at least,
till we have more fully examined the present difficulty.

We must, therefore, proceed like those, who being in search of any thing,
that lies concealed from them, and not finding it in the place they
expected, beat about all the neighbouring fields, without any certain
view or design, in hopes their good fortune will at last guide them to
what they search for. It is necessary for us to leave the direct survey of
this question concerning the nature of that necessary connexion, which
enters into our idea of cause and effect; and endeavour to find some
other questions, the examination of which will perhaps afford a hint,
that may serve to clear up the present difficulty. Of these questions
there occur two, which I shall proceed to examine, viz.

First, For what reason we pronounce it necessary, that every thing whose
existence has a beginning, should also have a cause.

Secondly, Why we conclude, that such particular causes must necessarily
have such particular effects; and what is the nature of that inference we
draw from the one to the other, and of the belief we repose in it?

I shall only observe before I proceed any farther, that though the ideas
of cause and effect be derived from the impressions of reflection as well
as from those of sensation, yet for brevity's sake, I commonly mention
only the latter as the origin of these ideas; though I desire that
whatever I say of them may also extend to the former. Passions are
connected with their objects and with one another; no less than external
bodies are connected together. The same relation, then, of cause and
effect, which belongs to one, must be common to all of them.


To begin with the first question concerning the necessity of a cause:
It is a general maxim in philosophy, that whatever begins to exist, must
have a cause of existence. This is commonly taken for granted in all
reasonings, without any proof given or demanded. It is supposed to be
founded on intuition, and to be one of those maxims, which though they may
be denyed with the lips, it is impossible for men in their hearts really
to doubt of. But if we examine this maxim by the idea of knowledge
above-explained, we shall discover in it no mark of any such intuitive
certainty; but on the contrary shall find, that it is of a nature quite
foreign to that species of conviction.

All certainty arises from the comparison of ideas, and from the discovery
of such relations as are unalterable, so long as the ideas continue the
implyed in this proposition, Whatever has a beginning has also a cause of
existence. That proposition therefore is not intuitively certain. At
least any one, who would assert it to be intuitively certain, must deny
these to be the only infallible relations, and must find some other
relation of that kind to be implyed in it; which it will then be time
enough to examine.

But here is an argument, which proves at once, that the foregoing
proposition is neither intuitively nor demonstrably certain. We can never
demonstrate the necessity of a cause to every new existence, or new
modification of existence, without shewing at the same time the
impossibility there is, that any thing can ever begin to exist without
some productive principle; and where the latter proposition cannot be
proved, we must despair of ever being able to prove the former. Now that
the latter proposition is utterly incapable of a demonstrative proof, we
may satisfy ourselves by considering that as all distinct ideas are
separable from each other, and as the ideas of cause and effect are
evidently distinct, it will be easy for us to conceive any object to be
non-existent this moment, and existent the next, without conjoining to it
the distinct idea of a cause or productive principle. The separation,
therefore, of the idea of a cause from that of a beginning of existence,
is plainly possible for the imagination; and consequently the actual
separation of these objects is so far possible, that it implies no
contradiction nor absurdity; and is therefore incapable of being refuted
by any reasoning from mere ideas; without which it is impossible to
demonstrate the necessity of a cause.

Accordingly we shall find upon examination, that every demonstration,
which has been produced for the necessity of a cause, is fallacious and
sophistical. All the points of time and place, say some philosophers
[Mr. Hobbes.], in which we can suppose any object to be-in to exist, are
in themselves equal; and unless there be some cause, which is peculiar to
one time and to one place, and which by that means determines and fixes
the existence, it must remain in eternal suspence; and the object can
never begin to be, for want of something to fix its beginning. But I ask;
Is there any more difficulty in supposing the time and place to be fixed
without a cause, than to suppose the existence to be determined in that
manner? The first question that occurs on this subject is always, whether
the object shall exist or not: The next, when and where it shall begin to
exist. If the removal of a cause be intuitively absurd in the one case, it
must be so in the other: And if that absurdity be not clear without a
proof in the one case, it will equally require one in the other. The
absurdity, then, of the one supposition can never be a proof of that of
the other; since they are both upon the same footing, and must stand or
fall by the same reasoning.

The second argument[Dr, Clarke and others.], which I find used on this
head, labours under an equal difficulty. Every thing, it is said, must
have a cause; for if any thing wanted a cause, it would produce ITSELF;
that is, exist before it existed; which is impossible. But this reasoning
is plainly unconclusive; because it supposes, that in our denial of a
cause we still grant what we expressly deny, viz. that there must be a
cause; which therefore is taken to be the object itself; and that, no
doubt, is an evident contradiction. But to say that any thing is produced,
of to express myself more properly, comes into existence, without a cause,
is not to affirm, that it is itself its own cause; but on the contrary in
excluding all external causes, excludes a fortiori the thing itself, which
is created. An object, that exists absolutely without any cause, certainly
is not its own cause; and when you assert, that the one follows from the
other, you suppose the very point in questions and take it for granted,
that it is utterly impossible any thing can ever begin to exist without a
cause, but that, upon the exclusion of one productive principle, we must
still have recourse to another.

It is exactly the same case with the third argument[Mr. Locke.], which has
been employed to demonstrate the necessity of a cause. Whatever is
produced without any cause, is produced by nothing; or in other words, has
nothing for its cause. But nothing can never be a cause, no more than it
can be something, or equal to two right angles. By the same intuition,
that we perceive nothing not to be equal to two right angles, or not to be
something, we perceive, that it can never be a cause; and consequently
must perceive, that every object has a real cause of its existence.

I believe it will not be necessary to employ many words in shewing the
weakness of this argument, after what I have said of the foregoing. They
are all of them founded on the same fallacy, and are derived from the
same turn of thought. It is sufficient only to observe, that when we
exclude all causes we really do exclude them, and neither suppose nothing
nor the object itself to be the causes of the existence; and consequently
can draw no argument from the absurdity of these suppositions to prove
the absurdity of that exclusion. If every thing must have a cause, it
follows, that upon the exclusion of other causes we must accept of the
object itself or of nothing as causes. But it is the very point in
question, whether every thing must have a cause or not; and therefore,
according to all just reasoning, it ought never to be taken for granted.

They are still more frivolous, who say, that every effect must have a,
cause, because it is implyed in the very idea of effect. Every effect
necessarily pre-supposes a cause; effect being a relative term, of which
cause is the correlative. But this does not prove, that every being must
be preceded by a cause; no more than it follows, because every husband
must have a wife, that therefore every man must be marryed. The true
state of the question is, whether every object, which begins to exist,
must owe its existence to a cause: and this I assert neither to be
intuitively nor demonstratively certain, and hope to have proved it
sufficiently by the foregoing arguments.

Since it is not from knowledge or any scientific reasoning, that we
derive the opinion of the necessity of a cause to every new production,
that opinion must necessarily arise from observation and experience. The
next question, then, should naturally be, how experience gives rise to
such a principle? But as I find it will be more convenient to sink this
question in the following, Why we conclude, that such particular causes
must necessarily have such particular erects, and why we form an
inference from one to another? we shall make that the subject of our
future enquiry. It will, perhaps, be found in the end, that the same
answer will serve for both questions.


Though the mind in its reasonings from causes or effects carries its view
beyond those objects, which it sees or remembers, it must never lose
sight of them entirely, nor reason merely upon its own ideas, without
some mixture of impressions, or at least of ideas of the memory, which
are equivalent to impressions. When we infer effects from causes, we must
establish the existence of these causes; which we have only two ways of
doing, either by an immediate perception of our memory or senses, or by
an inference from other causes; which causes again we must ascertain in
the same manner, either by a present impression, or by an inference from
their causes, and so on, till we arrive at some object, which we see or
remember. It is impossible for us to carry on our inferences IN INFINITUM;
and the only thing, that can stop them, is an impression of the memory or
senses, beyond which there is no room for doubt or enquiry.

To give an instance of this, we may chuse any point of history, and
consider for what reason we either believe or reject it. Thus we believe
that Caesar was killed in the senate-house on the ides of March; and that
because this fact is established on the unanimous testimony of
historians, who agree to assign this precise time and place to that
event. Here are certain characters and letters present either to our
memory or senses; which characters we likewise remember to have been used
as the signs of certain ideas; and these ideas were either in the minds
of such as were immediately present at that action, and received the
ideas directly from its existence; or they were derived from the
testimony of others, and that again from another testimony, by a visible
gradation, it will we arrive at those who were eyewitnesses and spectators
of the event. It is obvious all this chain of argument or connexion of
causes and effects, is at first founded on those characters or letters,
which are seen or remembered, and that without the authority either of
the memory or senses our whole reasoning would be chimerical and without
foundation. Every link of the chain would in that case hang upon another;
but there would not be any thing fixed to one end of it, capable of
sustaining the whole; and consequently there would be no belief nor
evidence. And this actually is the case with all hypothetical arguments,
or reasonings upon a supposition; there being in them, neither any
present impression, nor belief of a real existence,

I need not observe, that it is no just objection to the present doctrine,
that we can reason upon our past conclusions or principles, without
having recourse to those impressions, from which they first arose. For
even supposing these impressions should be entirely effaced from the
memory, the conviction they produced may still remain; and it is equally
true, that all reasonings concerning causes and effects are originally
derived from some impression; in the same manner, as the assurance of a
demonstration proceeds always from a comparison of ideas, though it may
continue after the comparison is forgot.


In this kind of reasoning, then, from causation, we employ materials,
which are of a mixed and heterogeneous nature, and which, however
connected, are yet essentially different from each other. All our
arguments concerning causes and effects consist both of an impression of
the memory or, senses, and of the idea of that existence, which produces
the object of the impression, or is produced by it. Here therefore we
have three things to explain, viz. First, The original impression.
Secondly, The transition to the idea of the connected cause or effect.
Thirdly, The nature and qualities of that idea.

As to those impressions, which arise from the senses, their ultimate
cause is, in my opinion, perfectly inexplicable by human reason, and
it will always be impossible to decide with certainty, whether they arise
immediately from the object, or are produced by the creative power of the
mind, or are derived from the author of our being. Nor is such a question
any way material to our present purpose. We may draw inferences from the
coherence of our perceptions, whether they be true or false; whether they
represent nature justly, or be mere illusions of the senses.

When we search for the characteristic, which distinguishes the memory
from the imagination, we must immediately perceive, that it cannot lie in
the simple ideas it presents to us; since both these faculties borrow
their simple ideas from the impressions, and can never go beyond these
original perceptions. These faculties are as little distinguished from
each other by the arrangement of their complex ideas. For though it be a
peculiar property of the memory to preserve the original order and
position of its ideas, while the imagination transposes and changes them,
as it pleases; yet this difference is not sufficient to distinguish them
in their operation, or make us know the one from the other; it being
impossible to recal the past impressions, in order to compare them with
our present ideas, and see whether their arrangement be exactly similar.
Since therefore the memory, is known, neither by the order of its complex
ideas, nor the nature of its simple ones; it follows, that the difference
betwixt it and the imagination lies in its superior force and vivacity. A
man may indulge his fancy in feigning any past scene of adventures; nor
would there be any possibility of distinguishing this from a remembrance
of a like kind, were not the ideas of the imagination fainter and more

It frequently happens, that when two men have been engaged in any scene
of action, the one shall remember it much better than the other, and
shall have all the difficulty in the world to make his companion
recollect it. He runs over several circumstances in vain; mentions the
time, the place, the company, what was said, what was done on all sides;
till at last he hits on some lucky circumstance, that revives the whole,
and gives his friend a perfect memory of every thing. Here the person
that forgets receives at first all the ideas from the discourse of the
other, with the same circumstances of time and place; though he considers
them as mere fictions of the imagination. But as soon as the circumstance
is mentioned, that touches the memory, the very same ideas now appear in
a new light, and have, in a manner, a different feeling from what they
had before. Without any other alteration, beside that of the feeling,
they become immediately ideas of the memory, and are assented to.

Since, therefore, the imagination can represent all the same objects that
the memory can offer to us, and since those faculties are only
distinguished by the different feeling of the ideas they present, it may
be proper to consider what is the nature of that feeling. And here I
believe every one will readily agree with me, that the ideas of the
memory are more strong and lively than those of the fancy.

A painter, who intended to represent a passion or emotion of any kind,
would endeavour to get a sight of a person actuated by a like emotion, in
order to enliven his ideas, and give them a force and vivacity superior
to what is found in those, which are mere fictions of the imagination.
The more recent this memory is, the clearer is the idea; and when after a
long interval he would return to the contemplation of his object, he
always finds its idea to be much decayed, if not wholly obliterated. We
are frequently in doubt concerning the ideas of the memory, as they
become very weak and feeble; and are at a loss to determine whether any
image proceeds from the fancy or the memory, when it is not drawn in such
lively colours as distinguish that latter faculty. I think, I remember
such an event, says one; but am not sure. A long tract of time has almost
worn it out of my memory, and leaves me uncertain whether or not it be
the pure offspring of my fancy.

And as an idea of the memory, by losing its force and vivacity, may
degenerate to such a degree, as to be taken for an idea of the
imagination; so on the other hand an idea of the imagination may acquire
such a force and vivacity, as to pass for an idea of the memory, and
counterfeit its effects on the belief and judgment. This is noted in the
case of liars; who by the frequent repetition of their lies, come at last
to believe and remember them, as realities; custom and habit having in
this case, as in many others, the same influence on the mind as nature,
and infixing the idea with equal force and vigour.

Thus it appears, that the belief or assent, which always attends the
memory and senses, is nothing but the vivacity of those perceptions they
present; and that this alone distinguishes them from the imagination. To
believe is in this case to feel an immediate impression of the senses, or
a repetition of that impression in the memory. It is merely the force and
liveliness of the perception, which constitutes the first act of the
judgment, and lays the foundation of that reasoning, which we build upon
it, when we trace the relation of cause and effect.


It is easy to observe, that in tracing this relation, the inference we
draw from cause to effect, is not derived merely from a survey of these
particular objects, and from such a penetration into their essences as
may discover the dependance of the one upon the other. There is no
object, which implies the existence of any other if we consider these
objects in themselves, and never look beyond the ideas which we form of
them. Such an inference would amount to knowledge, and would imply the
absolute contradiction and impossibility of conceiving any thing
different. But as all distinct ideas are separable, it is evident there
can be no impossibility of that kind. When we pass from a present
impression to the idea of any object, we might possibly have separated
the idea from the impression, and have substituted any other idea in its

It is therefore by EXPERIENCE only, that we can infer the existence of one
object from that of another. The nature of experience is this. We
remember to have had frequent instances of the existence of one species
of objects; and also remember, that the individuals of another species of
objects have always attended them, and have existed in a regular order of
contiguity and succession with regard to them. Thus we remember, to have
seen that species of object we call flame, and to have felt that species
of sensation we call heat. We likewise call to mind their constant
conjunction in all past instances. Without any farther ceremony, we call
the one cause and the other effect, and infer the existence of the one
from that of the other. In all those instances, from which we learn the
conjunction of particular causes and effects, both the causes and effects
have been perceived by the senses, and are remembered But in all cases,
wherein we reason concerning them, there is only one perceived or
remembered, and the other is supplyed in conformity to our past

Thus in advancing we have insensibly discovered a new relation betwixt
cause and effect, when we least expected it, and were entirely employed
upon another subject. This relation is their CONSTANT CONJUNCTION.
Contiguity and succession are not sufficient to make us pronounce any two
objects to be cause and effect, unless we perceive, that these two
relations are preserved in several instances. We may now see the
advantage of quitting the direct survey of this relation, in order to
discover the nature of that necessary connexion, which makes so essential
a part of it. There are hopes, that by this means we may at last arrive
at our proposed end; though to tell the truth, this new-discovered
relation of a constant conjunction seems to advance us but very little in
our way. For it implies no more than this, that like objects have always
been placed in like relations of contiguity and succession; and it seems
evident, at least at first sight, that by this means we can never
discover any new idea, and can only multiply, but not enlarge the objects
of our mind. It may be thought, that what we learn not from one object,
we can never learn from a hundred, which are all of the same kind, and
are perfectly resembling in every circumstance. As our senses shew us in
one instance two bodies, or motions, or qualities in certain relations of
success and contiguity; so our memory presents us only with a multitude
of instances, wherein we always find like bodies, motions, or qualities
in like relations. From the mere repetition of any past impression, even
to infinity, there never will arise any new original idea, such as that
of a necessary connexion; and the number of impressions has in this case
no more effect than if we confined ourselves to one only. But though this
reasoning seems just and obvious; yet as it would be folly to despair too
soon, we shall continue the thread of our discourse; and having found,
that after the discovery of the constant conjunction of any objects, we
always draw an inference from one object to another, we shall now examine
the nature of that inference, and of the transition from the impression
to the idea. Perhaps it will appear in the end, that the necessary
connexion depends on the inference, instead of the inference's depending
on the necessary connexion.

Since it appears, that the transition from an impression present to the
memory or senses to the idea of an object, which we call cause or effect,
is founded on past experience, and on our remembrance of their constant
conjunction, the next question is, Whether experience produces the idea
by means of the understanding or imagination; whether we are determined
by reason to make the transition, or by a certain association and
relation of perceptions. If reason determined us, it would proceed upon
that principle, that instances, of which we have had no experience, must
resemble those, of which we have had experience, and that the course of
nature continues always uniformly the same. In order therefore to clear
up this matter, let us consider all the arguments, upon which such a
proposition may be supposed to be founded; and as these must be derived
either from knowledge or probability, let us cast our eve on each of
these degrees of evidence, and see whether they afford any just
conclusion of this nature.

Our foregoing method of reasoning will easily convince us, that there can
be no demonstrative arguments to prove, that those instances, of which we
have, had no experience, resemble those, of which we have had experience.
We can at least conceive a change in the course of nature; which
sufficiently proves, that such a change is not absolutely impossible. To
form a clear idea of any thing, is an undeniable argument for its
possibility, and is alone a refutation of any pretended demonstration
against it.

Probability, as it discovers not the relations of ideas, considered as
such, but only those of objects, must in some respects be founded on the
impressions of our memory and senses, and in some respects on our ideas.
Were there no mixture of any impression in our probable reasonings, the
conclusion would be entirely chimerical: And were there no mixture of
ideas, the action of the mind, in observing the relation, would, properly
speaking, be sensation, not reasoning. It is therefore necessary, that in
all probable reasonings there be something present to the mind, either
seen or remembered; and that from this we infer something connected with
it, which is not seen nor remembered.

The only connexion or relation of objects, which can lead us beyond the
immediate impressions of our memory and senses, is that of cause and
effect; and that because it is the only one, on which we can found a just
inference from one object to another. The idea of cause and effect is
derived from experience, which informs us, that such particular objects,
in all past instances, have been constantly conjoined with each other:
And as an object similar to one of these is supposed to be immediately
present in its impression, we thence presume on the existence of one
similar to its usual attendant. According to this account of things,
which is, I think, in every point unquestionable, probability is founded
on the presumption of a resemblance betwixt those objects, of which we
have had experience, and those, of which we have had none; and therefore
it is impossible this presumption can arise from probability. The same
principle cannot be both the, cause and effect of another; and this is,
perhaps, the only proposition concerning that relation, which is either
intuitively or demonstratively certain.

Should any one think to elude this argument; and without determining
whether our reasoning on this subject be derived from demonstration or
probability, pretend that all conclusions from causes and effects are
built on solid reasoning: I can only desire, that this reasoning may be
produced, in order to be exposed to our examination. It may, perhaps, be
said, that after experience of the constant conjunction of certain
objects, we reason in the following manner. Such an object is always
found to produce another. It is impossible it coued have this effect, if
it was not endowed with a power of production. The power necessarily
implies the effect; and therefore there is a just foundation for drawing
a conclusion from the existence of one object to that of its usual
attendant. The past production implies a power: The power implies a new
production: And the new production is what we infer from the power and
the past production.

It were easy for me to shew the weakness of this reasoning, were I willing
to make use of those observations, I have already made, that the idea of
production is the same with that of causation, and that no existence
certainly and demonstratively implies a power in any other object; or
were it proper to anticipate what I shall have occasion to remark
afterwards concerning the idea we form of power and efficacy. But as such
a method of proceeding may seem either to weaken my system, by resting
one part of it on another, or to breed a confusion in my reasoning, I
shall endeavour to maintain my present assertion without any such

It shall therefore be allowed for a moment, that the production of one
object by another in any one instance implies a power; and that this
power is connected with its effect. But it having been already proved,
that the power lies not in the sensible qualities of the cause; and there
being nothing but the sensible qualities present to us; I ask, why in
other instances you presume that the same power still exists, merely upon
the appearance of these qualities? Your appeal to past experience decides
nothing in the present case; and at the utmost can only prove, that that
very object, which produced any other, was at that very instant endowed
with such a power; but can never prove, that the same power must continue
in the same object or collection of sensible qualities; much less, that a
like power is always conjoined with like sensible qualities. should it be
said, that we have experience, that the same power continues united with
the same object, and that like objects are endowed with like powers, I
would renew my question, why from this experience we form any conclusion
beyond those past instances, of which we have had experience. If you
answer this question in, the same manner as the preceding, your answer
gives still occasion to a new question of the same kind, even in
infinitum; which clearly proves, that the foregoing reasoning had no just

Thus not only our reason fails us in the discovery of the ultimate
connexion of causes and effects, but even after experience has informed
us of their constant conjunction, it is impossible for us to satisfy
ourselves by our reason, why we should extend that experience beyond
those particular instances, which have fallen under our observation. We
suppose, but are never able to prove, that there must be a resemblance
betwixt those objects, of which we have had experience, and those which
lie beyond the reach of our discovery.

We have already taken notice of certain relations, which make us pass
from one object to another, even though there be no reason to determine us
to that transition; and this we may establish for a general rule, that
wherever the mind constantly and uniformly makes a transition without any
reason, it is influenced by these relations. Now this is exactly the
present case. Reason can never shew us the connexion of one object with
another, though aided by experience, and the observation of their constant
conjunction in all past instances. When the mind, therefore, passes from
the idea or impression of one object to the idea or belief of another, it
is not determined by reason, but by certain principles, which associate
together the ideas of these objects, and unite them in the imagination.
Had ideas no more union in the fancy than objects seem to have to the
understanding, we coued never draw any inference from causes to effects,
nor repose belief in any matter of fact. The inference, therefore,
depends solely on the union of ideas.

The principles of union among ideas, I have reduced to three general
ones, and have asserted, that the idea or impression of any object
naturally introduces the idea of any other object, that is resembling,
contiguous to, or connected with it. These principles I allow to be
neither the infallible nor the sole causes of an union among ideas. They
are not the infallible causes. For one may fix his attention during
Sometime on any one object without looking farther. They are not the sole
causes. For the thought has evidently a very irregular motion in running
along its objects, and may leap from the heavens to the earth, from one
end of the creation to the other, without any certain method or order.
But though I allow this weakness in these three relations, and this
irregularity in the imagination; yet I assert that the only general
principles, which associate ideas, are resemblance, contiguity and

There is indeed a principle of union among ideas, which at first sight
may be esteemed different from any of these, but will be found at the
bottom to depend on the same origin. When every individual of any species
of objects is found by experience to be constantly united with an
individual of another species, the appearance of any new individual of
either species naturally conveys the thought to its usual attendant. Thus
because such a particular idea is commonly annexed to such a particular
word, nothing is required but the hearing of that word to produce the
correspondent idea; and it will scarce be possible for the mind, by its
utmost efforts, to prevent that transition. In this case it is not
absolutely necessary, that upon hearing such a particular sound we
should reflect on any past experience, and consider what idea has been
usually connected with the sound. The imagination of itself supplies the
place of this reflection, and is so accustomed to pass from the word to
the idea, that it interposes not a moment's delay betwixt the hearing of
the one, and the conception of the other.

But though I acknowledge this to be a true principle of association among
ideas, I assert it to be the very same with that betwixt the ideas of
cause and effects and to be an essential part in all our reasonings from
that relation. We have no other notion of cause and effect, but that of
certain objects, which have been always conjoined together, and which in
all past instances have been found inseparable. We cannot penetrate into
the reason of the conjunction. We only observe the thing itself, and
always find that from the constant conjunction the objects acquire an
union in the imagination. When the impression of one becomes present to
us, we immediately form an idea of its usual attendant; and consequently
we may establish this as one part of the definition of an opinion or
belief, that it is an idea related to or associated with a present

Thus though causation be a philosophical relation, as implying contiguity,
succession, and constant conjunction, yet it is only so far as it is a
natural relation, and produces an union among our ideas, that we are able
to reason upon it, or draw any inference from it.


The idea of an object is an essential part of the belief of it, but not
the whole. We conceive many things, which we do not believe. In order
then to discover more fully the nature of belief, or the qualities of
those ideas we assent to, let us weigh the following considerations.

It is evident, that all reasonings from causes or effects terminate in
conclusions, concerning matter of fact; that is, concerning the existence
of objects or of their qualities. It is also evident, that the idea, of
existence is nothing different from the idea of any object, and that when
after the simple conception of any thing we would conceive it as
existent, we in reality make no addition to or alteration on our first
idea. Thus when we affirm, that God is existent, we simply form the idea
of such a being, as he is represented to us; nor is the existence, which
we attribute to him, conceived by a particular idea, which we join to the
idea of his other qualities, and can again separate and distinguish from
them. But I go farther; and not content with asserting, that the
conception of the existence of any object is no addition to the simple
conception of it, I likewise maintain, that the belief of the existence
joins no new ideas to those which compose the idea of the object. When
I think of God, when I think of him as existent, and when I believe him
to be existent, my idea of him neither encreases nor diminishes. But as
it is certain there is a great difference betwixt the simple conception of
the existence of an object, and the belief of it, and as this difference
lies not in the parts or composition of the idea, which we conceive; it
follows, that it must lie in the manner, in which we conceive it.

Suppose a person present with me, who advances propositions, to which I
do not assent, that Caesar dyed in his bed, that silver is more fusible,
than lead, or mercury heavier than gold; it is evident, that
notwithstanding my incredulity, I clearly understand his meaning, and
form all the same ideas, which he forms. My imagination is endowed with
the same powers as his; nor is it possible for him to conceive any idea,
which I cannot conceive; nor conjoin any, which I cannot conjoin. I
therefore ask, Wherein consists the difference betwixt believing and
disbelieving any proposition? The answer is easy with regard to
propositions, that are proved by intuition or demonstration. In that
case, the person, who assents, not only conceives the ideas according to
the proposition, but is necessarily determined to conceive them in that
particular manner, either immediately or by the interposition of other
ideas. Whatever is absurd is unintelligible; nor is it possible for the
imagination to conceive any thing contrary to a demonstration. But as in
reasonings from causation, and concerning matters of fact, this absolute
necessity cannot take place, and the imagination is free to conceive both
sides of the question, I still ask, Wherein consists the deference
betwixt incredulity and belief? since in both cases the conception of the
idea is equally possible and requisite.

It will not be a satisfactory answer to say, that a person, who does not
assent to a proposition you advance; after having conceived the object in
the same manner with you; immediately conceives it in a different manner,
and has different ideas of it. This answer is unsatisfactory; not because
it contains any falshood, but because it discovers not all the truth.
It is contest, that in all cases, wherein we dissent from any person, we
conceive both sides of the question; but as we can believe only one, it
evidently follows, that the belief must make some difference betwixt that
conception to which we assent, and that from which we dissent. We may
mingle, and unite, and separate, and confound, and vary our ideas in a
hundred different ways; but until there appears some principle, which
fixes one of these different situations, we have in reality no opinion:
And this principle, as it plainly makes no addition to our precedent
ideas, can only change the manner of our conceiving them.

All the perceptions of the mind are of two kinds, viz. impressions and
ideas, which differ from each other only in their different degrees of
force and vivacity. Our ideas are copyed from our impressions, and
represent them in all their parts. When you would any way vary the idea
of a particular object, you can only encrease or diminish its force and
vivacity. If you make any other change on it, it represents a different
object or impression. The case is the same as in colours. A particular
shade of any colour may acquire a new degree of liveliness or brightness
without any other variation. But when you produce any other variation,
it is no longer the same shade or colour. So that as belief does nothing
but vary the manner, in which we conceive any object, it can only bestow
on our ideas an additional force and vivacity. An opinion, therefore, or
belief may be most accurately defined, a lively idea related to or
associated with a present impression.

We may here take occasion to observe a very remarkable error, which
being frequently inculcated in the schools, has become a kind of
establishd maxim, and is universally received by all logicians. This
error consists in the vulgar division of the acts of the understanding,
into CONCEPTION, JUDGMENT and REASONING, and in the definitions we give
of them. Conception is defind to be the simple survey of one or more
ideas: Judgment to be the separating or uniting of different ideas:
Reasoning to be the separating or uniting of different ideas by the
interposition of others, which show the relation they bear to each other.
But these distinctions and definitions are faulty in very considerable
articles. For FIRST, it is far from being true, that in every judgment,
which we form, we unite two different ideas; since in that proposition,
GOD IS, or indeed any other, which regards existence, the idea of
existence is no distinct idea, which we unite with that of the object,
and which is capable of forming a compound idea by the union. SECONDLY,
As we can thus form a proposition, which contains only one idea, so we
may exert our reason without employing more than two ideas, and without
having recourse to a third to serve as a medium betwixt them. We infer a
cause immediately from its effect; and this inference is not only a true
species of reasoning, but the strongest of all others, and more
convincing than when we interpose another idea to connect the two
extremes. What we may in general affirm concerning these three acts of
the understanding is, that taking them in a proper light, they all
resolve themselves into the first, and are nothing but particular ways of
conceiving our objects. Whether we consider a single object, or several;
whether we dwell on these objects, or run from them to others; and in
whatever form or order we survey them, the act of the mind exceeds not a
simple conception; and the only remarkable difference, which occurs on
this occasion, is, when we join belief to the conception, and are
persuaded of the truth of what we conceive. This act of the mind has
never yet been explaind by any philosopher; and therefore I am at liberty
to propose my hypothesis concerning it; which is, that it is only a strong
and steady conception of any idea, and such as approaches in some measure
to an immediate impression. [Footnote 5.]

[Footnote 5. Here are the heads of those arguments, which lead us to this
conclusion. When we infer the existence of an object from that of others,
some object must always be present either to the memory or senses, in
order to be the foundation of our reasoning; since the mind cannot run up
with its inferences IN INFINITUM. Reason can never satisfy us that the
existence of any one object does ever imply that of another; so that when
we pass from the impression of one to the idea or belief of another, we
are not determined by reason, but by custom or a principle of association.
But belief is somewhat more than a simple idea. It is a particular manner
of forming an idea: And as the same idea can only be varyed by a variation
of its degrees of force and vivacity; it follows upon the whole, that
belief is a lively idea produced by a relation to a present impression,
according to the foregoing definition.]

This operation of the mind, which forms the belief of any matter of fact,
seems hitherto to have been one of the greatest mysteries of philosophy;
though no one has so much as suspected, that there was any difficulty in
explaining it. For my part I must own, that I find a considerable
difficulty in the case; and that even when I think I understand the
subject perfectly, I am at a loss for terms to express my meaning. I
conclude, by an induction which seems to me very evident, that an opinion
or belief is nothing but an idea, that is different from a fiction, not
in the nature or the order of its parts, but in the manner of its being
conceived. But when I would explain this manner, I scarce find any word
that fully answers the case, but am obliged to have recourse to every
one's feeling, in order to give him a perfect notion of this operation of
the mind. An idea assented to FEELS different from a fictitious idea,
that the fancy alone presents to us: And this different feeling I
endeavour to explain by calling it a superior force, or vivacity, or
solidity, or FIRMNESS, or steadiness. This variety of terms, which may
seem so unphilosophical, is intended only to express that act of the
mind, which renders realities more present to us than fictions, causes
them to weigh more in the thought, and gives them a superior influence on
the passions and imagination. Provided we agree about the thing, it is
needless to dispute about the terms. The imagination has the command over
all its ideas, and can join, and mix, and vary them in all the ways
possible. It may conceive objects with all the circumstances of place and
time. It may set them, in a, manner, before our eyes in their true
colours, just as they might have existed. But as it is impossible, that
that faculty can ever, of itself, reach belief, it is evident, that belief
consists not in the nature and order of our ideas, but in the manner of
their conception, and in their feeling to the mind. T confess, that it is
impossible to explain perfectly this feeling or manner of conception. We
may make use of words, that express something near it. But its true and
proper name is belief, which is a term that every one sufficiently
understands in common life. And in philosophy we can go no farther, than
assert, that it is something felt by the mind, which distinguishes the
ideas of the judgment from the fictions of the imagination. It gives them
more force and influence; makes them appear of greater importance;
infixes them in the mind; and renders them the governing principles of
all our actions.

This definition will also be found to be entirely conformable to every
one's feeling and experience. Nothing is more evident, than that those
ideas, to which we assent, are more strong, firm and vivid, than the
loose reveries of a castle-builder. If one person sits down to read a
book as a romance, and another as a true history, they plainly receive
the same ideas, and in the same order; nor does the incredulity of the
one, and the belief of the other hinder them from putting the very same
sense upon their author. His words produce the same ideas in both; though
his testimony has not the same influence on them. The latter has a more
lively conception of all the incidents. He enters deeper into the
concerns of the persons: represents to himself their actions, and
characters, and friendships, and enmities: He even goes so far as to form
a notion of their features, and air, and person. While the former, who
gives no credit to the testimony of the author, has a more faint and
languid conception of all these particulars; and except on account of the
style and ingenuity of the composition, can receive little entertainment
from it.


Having thus explained the nature of belief, and shewn that it consists in
a lively idea related to a present impression; let us now proceed to
examine from what principles it is derived, and what bestows the vivacity
on the idea.

I would willingly establish it as a general maxim in the science of human
nature, that when any impression becomes present to us, it not only
transports the mind to such ideas as are related to it, but likewise
communicates to them a share of its force and vivacity. All the
operations of the mind depend in a great measure on its disposition, when
it performs them; and according as the spirits are more or less elevated,
and the attention more or less fixed, the action will always have more or
less vigour and vivacity. When therefore any object is presented, which
elevates and enlivens the thought, every action, to which the mind
applies itself, will be more strong and vivid, as Tong as that
disposition continues, Now it is evident the continuance of the
disposition depends entirely on the objects, about which the mind is
employed; and that any new object naturally gives a new direction to the
spirits, and changes the disposition; as on the contrary, when the mind
fixes constantly on the same object, or passes easily and insensibly
along related objects, the disposition has a much longer duration. Hence
it happens, that when the mind is once inlivened by a present impression,
it proceeds to form a more lively idea of the related objects, by a
natural transition of the disposition from the one to the other. The
change of the objects is so easy, that the mind is scarce sensible of it,
but applies itself to the conception of the related idea with all the
force and vivacity it acquired from the present impression.

If in considering the nature of relation, and that facility of
transition, which is essential to it, we can satisfy ourselves concerning
the reality of this phaenomenon, it is well: But I must confess I place my
chief confidence in experience to prove so material a principle. We may,
therefore, observe, as the first experiment to our present purpose, that
upon the appearance of the picture of an absent friend, our idea of him
is evidently inlivened by the resemblance, and that every passion, which
that idea occasions, whether of joy or sorrow, acquires new force and
vigour. In producing this effect there concur both a relation and a
present impression. Where the picture bears him no resemblance, or at
least was not intended for him, it never so much as conveys our thought
to him: And where it is absent, as well as the person; though the mind may
pass from the thought of the one to that of the other; it feels its idea
to be rather weekend than inlivened by that transition. We take a
pleasure in viewing the picture of a friend, when it is set before us; but
when it is removed, rather choose to consider him directly, than by
reflexion in an image, which is equally distinct and obscure.

The ceremonies of the Roman Catholic religion may be considered as
experiments of the same nature. The devotees of that strange superstition
usually plead in excuse of the mummeries, with which they are upbraided,
that they feel the good effect of those external motions, and postures,
and actions, in enlivening their devotion, and quickening their fervour,
which otherwise would decay away, if directed entirely to distant and
immaterial objects. We shadow out the objects of our faith, say they, in
sensible types and images, and render them more present to us by the
immediate presence of these types, than it is possible for us to do,
merely by an intellectual view and contemplation. Sensible objects have
always a greater influence on the fancy than any other; and this
influence they readily convey to those ideas, to which they are related,
and which they Resemble. I shall only infer from these practices, and
this reasoning, that the effect of resemblance in inlivening the idea is
very common; and as in every case a resemblance and a present impression
must concur, we are abundantly supplyed with experiments to prove the
reality of the foregoing principle.

We may add force to these experiments by others of a different kind, in
considering the effects of contiguity, as well as of resemblance. It is
certain, that distance diminishes the force of every idea, and that upon
our approach to any object; though it does not discover itself to our
senses; it operates upon the mind with an influence that imitates an
immediate impression. The thinking on any object readily transports the
mind to what is contiguous; but it is only the actual presence of an
object, that transports it with a superior vivacity. When I am a few
miles from home, whatever relates to it touches me more nearly than when
I am two hundred leagues distant; though even at that distance the
reflecting on any thing in the neighbourhood of my friends and family
naturally produces an idea of them. But as in this latter case, both the
objects of the mind are ideas; notwithstanding there is an easy
transition betwixt them; that transition alone is not able to give a
superior vivacity to any of the ideas, for want of some immediate
impression. [Footnote 6.]

SIT DISCIPLINA. Cicero de Finibus, lib. 5.

{"Should I, he said, "attribute to instinct or to some kind of illusion
the fact that when we see those places in which we are told notable men
spent much of their time, we are more powerfully affected than when we
hear of the exploits of the men themselves or read something written?
This is just what is happening to me now; for I am reminded of Plato who,
we are told, was the first to make a practice of holding discussions
here. Those gardens of his near by do not merely put me in mind of him;
they seem to set the man himself before my very eyes. Speusippus was
here; so was Xenocrates; so was his pupil, Polemo, and that very seat
which we may view was his.

"Then again, when I looked at our Senate-house (I mean the old building
of Hostilius, not this new one; when it was enlarged, it diminished in my
estimation), I used to think of Scipio, Cato, Laelius and in particular
of my own grandfather.

"Such is the power of places to evoke associations; so it is with good
reason that they are used as a basis for memory training."}]

No one can doubt but causation has the same influence as the other two
relations; of resemblance and contiguity. Superstitious people are fond
of the relicks of saints and holy men, for the same reason that they seek
after types and images, in order to enliven their devotion, and give them
a more intimate and strong conception of those exemplary lives, which
they desire to imitate. Now it is evident, one of the best relicks a
devotee coued procure, would be the handywork of a saint; and if his
cloaths and furniture are ever to be considered in this light, it is
because they were once at his disposal, and were moved and affected by
him; in which respect they are to be considered as imperfect effects, and
as connected with him by a shorter chain of consequences than any of
those, from which we learn the reality of his existence. This phaenomenon
clearly proves, that a present impression with a relation of causation
may, inliven any idea, and consequently produce belief or assent,
according to the precedent definition of it.

But why need we seek for other arguments to prove, that a present
impression with a relation or transition of the fancy may inliven any
idea, when this very instance of our reasonings from cause and effect
will alone suffice to that purpose? It is certain we must have an idea of
every matter of fact, which we believe. It is certain, that this idea
arises only from a relation to a present impression. It is certain, that
the belief super-adds nothing to the idea, but only changes our manner of
conceiving it, and renders it more strong and lively. The present
conclusion concerning the influence of relation is the immediate
consequence of all these steps; and every step appears to me sure end
infallible. There enters nothing into this operation of the mind but a
present impression, a lively idea, and a relation or association in the
fancy betwixt the impression and idea; so that there can be no suspicion
of mistake.

In order to put this whole affair in a fuller light, let us consider it
as a question in natural philosophy, which we must determine by
experience and observation. I suppose there is an object presented, from
which I draw a certain conclusion, and form to myself ideas, which I am
said to believe or assent to. Here it is evident, that however that
object, which is present to my senses, and that other, whose existence I
infer by reasoning, may be thought to influence each other by their
particular powers or qualities; yet as the phenomenon of belief, which we
at present examine, is merely internal, these powers and qualities, being
entirely unknown, can have no hand in producing it. It is the present
impression, which is to be considered as the true and real cause of the
idea, and of the belief which attends it. We must therefore endeavour to
discover by experiments the particular qualities, by which it is enabled
to produce so extraordinary an effect.

First then I observe, that the present impression has not this effect by
its own proper power and efficacy, and when considered alone, as a single
perception, limited to the present moment. I find, that an impression,
from which, on its first appearance, I can draw no conclusion, may
afterwards become the foundation of belief, when I have had experience of
its usual consequences. We must in every case have observed the same
impression in past instances, and have found it to be constantly
conjoined with some other impression. This is confirmed by such a
multitude of experiments, that it admits not of the smallest doubt.

From a second observation I conclude, that the belief, which attends the
present impression, and is produced by a number of past impressions and
conjunctions; that this belief, I say, arises immediately, without any
new operation of the reason or imagination. Of this I can be certain,
because I never am conscious of any such operation, and find nothing in
the subject, on which it can be founded. Now as we call every thing
CUSTOM, which proceeds from a past repetition, without any new reasoning
or conclusion, we-may establish it as a certain truth, that all the
belief, which follows upon any present impression, is derived solely from
that origin. When we are accustomed to see two impressions conjoined
together, the appearance or idea of the one immediately carries us to the
idea of the other.

Being fully satisfyed on this head, I make a third set of experiments, in
order to know, whether any thing be requisite, beside the customary
transition, towards the production of this phaenomenon of belief. I
therefore change the first impression into an idea; and observe, that
though the customary transition to the correlative idea still remains, yet
there is in reality no belief nor perswasion. A present impression, then,
is absolutely requisite to this whole operation; and when after this I
compare an impression with an idea, and find that their only difference
consists in their different degrees of force and vivacity, I conclude
upon the whole, that belief is a more vivid and intense conception of an
idea, proceeding from its relation to a present impression.

Thus all probable reasoning is nothing but a species of sensation. It is
not solely in poetry and music, we must follow our taste and sentiment,
but likewise in philosophy. When I am convinced of any principle, it is
only an idea, which strikes more strongly upon me. When I give the
preference to one set of arguments above another, I do nothing but decide
from my feeling concerning the superiority of their influence. Objects
have no discoverable connexion together; nor is it from any other
principle but custom operating upon the imagination, that we can draw any
inference from the appearance of one to the existence of another.

It will here be worth our observation, that the past experience, on which
all our judgments concerning cause and effect depend, may operate on our
mind in such an insensible manner as never to be taken notice of, and may
even in some measure be unknown to us. A person, who stops short in his
journey upon meeting a river in his way, foresees the consequences of his
proceeding forward; and his knowledge of these consequences is conveyed
to him by past experience, which informs him of such certain conjunctions
of causes and effects. But can we think, that on this occasion he
reflects on any past experience, and calls to remembrance instances, that
he has seen or heard of, in order to discover the effects of water on
animal bodies? No surely; this is not the method, in which he proceeds in
his reasoning. The idea of sinking is so closely connected with that of
water, and the idea of suffocating with that of sinking, that the mind
makes the transition without the assistance of the memory. The custom
operates before we have time for reflection. The objects seem so
inseparable, that we interpose not a moment's delay in passing from the
one to the other. But as this transition proceeds from experience, and
not from any primary connexion betwixt the ideas, we must necessarily
acknowledge, that experience may produce a belief and a judgment of
causes and effects by a secret operation, and without being once thought
of. This removes all pretext, if there yet remains any, for asserting
that the mind is convinced by reasoning of that principle, that instances
of which we have no experience, must necessarily resemble those, of which
we have. For we here find, that the understanding or imagination can draw
inferences from past experience, without reflecting on it; much more
without forming any principle concerning it, or reasoning upon that

In general we may observe, that in all the most established and uniform
conjunctions of causes and effects, such as those of gravity, impulse,
solidity, &c. the mind never carries its view expressly to consider any
past experience: Though in other associations of objects, which are more
rare and unusual, it may assist the custom and transition of ideas by
this reflection. Nay we find in some cases, that the reflection produces
the belief without the custom; or more properly speaking, that the
reflection produces the custom in an oblique and artificial manner. I
explain myself. It is certain, that not only in philosophy, but even in
common life, we may attain the knowledge of a particular cause merely by
one experiment, provided it be made with judgment, and after a careful
removal of all foreign and superfluous circumstances. Now as after one
experiment of this kind, the mind, upon the appearance either of the
cause or the effect, can draw an inference concerning the existence of
its correlative; and as a habit can never be acquired merely by one
instance; it may be thought, that belief cannot in this case be esteemed
the effect of custom. But this difficulty will vanish, if we consider,
that though we are here supposed to have had only one experiment of a
particular effect, yet we have many millions to convince us of this
principle; that like objects placed in like circumstances, will always
produce like effects; and as this principle has established itself by a
sufficient custom, it bestows an evidence and firmness on any opinion, to
which it can be applied. The connexion of the ideas is not habitual after
one experiment: but this connexion is comprehended under another
principle, that is habitual; which brings us back to our hypothesis. In
all cases we transfer our experience to instances, of which we have no
experience, either expressly or tacitly, either directly or indirectly.

I must not conclude this subject without observing, that it is very
difficult to talk of the operations of the mind with perfect propriety
and exactness; because common language has seldom made any very nice
distinctions among them, but has generally called by the same term all
such as nearly resemble each other. And as this is a source almost
inevitable of obscurity and confusion in the author; so it may frequently
give rise to doubts and objections in the reader, which otherwise he
would never have dreamed of. Thus my general position, that an opinion or
belief is nothing but a strong and lively idea derived from a present
impression related to it, maybe liable to the following objection, by
reason of a little ambiguity in those words strong and lively. It may be
said, that not only an impression may give rise to reasoning, but that an
idea may also have the same influence; especially upon my principle, that
all our ideas are derived from correspondent impressions. For suppose I
form at present an idea, of which I have forgot the correspondent
impression, I am able to conclude from this idea, that such an impression
did once exist; and as this conclusion is attended with belief, it may be
asked, from whence are the qualities of force and vivacity derived, which
constitute this belief? And to this I answer very readily, from the
present idea. For as this idea is not here considered, as the
representation of any absent object, but as a real perception in the
mind, of which we are intimately conscious, it must be able to bestow on
whatever is related to it the same quality, call it firmness, or
solidity, or force, or vivacity, with which the mind reflects upon it,
and is assured of its present existence. The idea here supplies the place
of an impression, and is entirely the same, so far as regards our present

Upon the same principles we need not be surprized to hear of the
remembrance of an idea: that is, of the idea of an idea, and of its force
and vivacity superior to the loose conceptions of the imagination. In
thinking of our past thoughts we not only delineate out the objects, of
which we were thinking, but also conceive the action of the mind in the
meditation, that certain JE-NE-SCAI-QUOI, of which it is impossible to
give any definition or description, but which every one sufficiently
understands. When the memory offers an idea of this, and represents it as
past, it is easily conceived how that idea may have more vigour and
firmness, than when we think of a past thought, of which we have no

After this any one will understand how we may form the idea of an
impression and of an idea, and how we way believe the existence of an
impression and of an idea.


However convincing the foregoing arguments may appear, we must not rest
contented with them, but must turn the subject on every side, in order to
find some new points of view, from which we may illustrate and confirm
such extraordinary, and such fundamental principles. A scrupulous
hesitation to receive any new hypothesis is so laudable a disposition in
philosophers, and so necessary to the examination of truth, that it
deserves to be complyed with, and requires that every argument be
produced, which may tend to their satisfaction, and every objection
removed, which may stop them in their reasoning.

I have often observed, that, beside cause and effect, the two relations
of resemblance and contiguity, are to be considered as associating
principles of thought, and as capable of conveying the imagination from
one idea to another. I have also observed, that when of two objects
connected to-ether by any of these relations, one is immediately present
to the memory or senses, not only the mind is conveyed to its co-relative
by means of the associating principle; but likewise conceives it with an
additional force and vigour, by the united operation of that principle,
and of the present impression. All this I have observed, in order to
confirm by analogy, my explication of our judgments concerning cause and
effect. But this very argument may, perhaps, be turned against me, and
instead of a confirmation of my hypothesis, may become an objection to
it. For it may be said, that if all the parts of that hypothesis be true,
viz. that these three species of relation are derived from the same
principles; that their effects in informing and enlivening our ideas are
the same; and that belief is nothing but a more forcible and vivid
conception of an idea; it should follow, that that action of the mind may
not only be derived from the relation of cause and effect, but also from
those of contiguity and resemblance. But as we find by experience, that
belief arises only from causation, and that we can draw no inference
from one object to another, except they be connected by this relation, we
may conclude, that there is some error in that reasoning, which leads us
into such difficulties.

This is the objection; let us now consider its solution. It is evident,
that whatever is present to the memory, striking upon the mind with a
vivacity, which resembles an immediate impression, must become of
considerable moment in all the operations of the mind, and must easily
distinguish itself above the mere fictions of the imagination. Of these
impressions or ideas of the memory we form a kind of system,
comprehending whatever we remember to have been present, either to our
internal perception or senses; and every particular of that system,
joined to the present impressions, we are pleased to call a reality. But
the mind stops not here. For finding, that with this system of
perceptions, there is another connected by custom, or if you will, by the
relation of cause or effect, it proceeds to the consideration of their
ideas; and as it feels that it is in a manner necessarily determined to
view these particular ideas, and that the custom or relation, by which it
is determined, admits not of the least change, it forms them into a new
system, which it likewise dignifies with the title of realities. The
first of these systems is the object of the memory and senses; the second
of the judgment.

It is this latter principle, which peoples the world, and brings us
acquainted with such existences, as by their removal in time and place,
lie beyond the reach of the senses and memory. By means of it I paint the
universe in my imagination, and fix my attention on any part of it I
please. I form an idea of ROME, which I neither see nor remember; but
which is connected with such impressions as I remember to have received
from the conversation and books of travellers and historians. This idea
of Rome I place in a certain situation on the idea of an object, which I
call the globe. I join to it the conception of a particular government,
and religion, and manners. I look backward and consider its first
foundation; its several revolutions, successes, and misfortunes. All
this, and everything else, which I believe, are nothing but ideas; though
by their force and settled order, arising from custom and the relation of
cause and effect, they distinguish themselves from the other ideas, which
are merely the offspring of the imagination.

As to the influence of contiguity and resemblance, we may observe, that
if the contiguous and resembling object be comprehended in this system of
realities, there is no doubt but these two relations will assist that of
cause and effect, and infix the related idea with more force in the
imagination. This I shall enlarge upon presently. Mean while I shall
carry my observation a step farther, and assert, that even where the
related object is but feigned, the relation will serve to enliven the
idea, and encrease its influence. A poet, no doubt, will be the better
able to form a strong description of the Elysian fields, that he prompts
his imagination by the view of a beautiful meadow or garden; as at
another time he may by his fancy place himself in the midst of these
fabulous regions, that by the feigned contiguity he may enliven his

But though I cannot altogether exclude the relations of resemblance and
contiguity from operating on the fancy in this manner, it is observable
that, when single, their influence is very feeble and uncertain. As the
relation of cause and effect is requisite to persuade us of any real
existence, so is this persuasion requisite to give force to these other
relations. For where upon the appearance of an impression we not only
feign another object, but likewise arbitrarily, and of our mere good-will
and pleasure give it a particular relation to the impression, this can
have but a small effect upon the mind; nor is there any reason, why, upon
the return of the same impression, we should be determined to place the
same object in the same relation to it. There is no manner of necessity
for the mind to feign any resembling and contiguous objects; and if it
feigns such, there is as little necessity for it always to confine itself
to the same, without any difference or variation. And indeed such a
fiction is founded on so little reason, that nothing but pure caprice can
determine the mind to form it; and that principle being fluctuating and
uncertain, it is impossible it can ever operate with any considerable
degree of force and constancy. The mind forsees and anticipates the
change; and even from the very first instant feels the looseness of its
actions, and the weak hold it has of its objects. And as this
imperfection is very sensible in every single instance, it still
encreases by experience and observation, when we compare the several
instances we may remember, and form a general rule against the reposing
any assurance in those momentary glimpses of light, which arise in the
imagination from a feigned resemblance and contiguity.

The relation of cause and effect has all the opposite advantages. The
objects it presents are fixt and unalterable. The impressions of the
memory never change in any considerable degree; and each impression draws
along with it a precise idea, which takes its place in the imagination as
something solid and real, certain and invariable. The thought is always
determined to pass from the impression to the idea, and from that
particular impression to that particular idea, without any choice or

But not content with removing this objection, I shall endeavour to
extract from it a proof of the present doctrine. Contiguity and
resemblance have an effect much inferior to causation; but still have
some effect, and augment the conviction of any opinion, and the vivacity
of any conception. If this can be proved in several new instances, beside
what we have already observed, it will be allowed no inconsiderable
argument, that belief is nothing but a lively idea related to a present

To begin with contiguity; it has been remarked among the Mahometans as
well as Christians, that those pilgrims, who have seen MECCA or the HOLY
LAND, are ever after more faithful and zealous believers, than those who
have not had that advantage. A man, whose memory presents him with a
lively image of the Red-Sea, and the Desert, and Jerusalem, and Galilee,
can never doubt of any miraculous events, which are related either by
Moses or the Evangelists. The lively idea of the places passes by an easy
transition to the facts, which are supposed to have been related to them
by contiguity, and encreases the belief by encreasing the vivacity of the
conception. The remembrance of these fields and rivers has the same
influence on the vulgar as a new argument; and from the same causes.

We may form a like observation concerning resemblance. We have remarked,
that the conclusion, which we draw from a present object to its absent
cause or effect, is never founded on any qualities, which we observe in
that object, considered in itself, or, in other words, that it is
impossible to determine, otherwise than by experience, what will result
from any phenomenon, or what has preceded it. But though this be so evident
in itself, that it seemed not to require any, proof; yet some
philosophers have imagined that there is an apparent cause for the
communication of motion, and that a reasonable man might immediately
infer the motion of one body from the impulse of another, without having
recourse to any past observation. That this opinion is false will admit
of an easy proof. For if such an inference may be drawn merely from the
ideas of body, of motion, and of impulse, it must amount to a
demonstration, and must imply the absolute impossibility of any contrary
supposition. Every effect, then, beside the communication of motion,
implies a formal contradiction; and it is impossible not only that it can
exist, but also that it can be conceived. But we may soon satisfy
ourselves of the contrary, by forming a clear and consistent idea of one
body's moving upon another, and of its rest immediately upon the contact,
or of its returning back in the same line in which it came; or of its
annihilation; or circular or elliptical motion: and in short, of an
infinite number of other changes, which we may suppose it to undergo.
These suppositions are all consistent and natural; and the reason, Why we
imagine the communication of motion to be more consistent and natural not
only than those suppositions, but also than any other natural effect, is
founded on the relation of resemblance betwixt the cause and effect,
which is here united to experience, and binds the objects in the closest
and most intimate manner to each other, so as to make us imagine them to
be absolutely inseparable. Resemblance, then, has the same or a parallel
influence with experience; and as the only immediate effect of experience
is to associate our ideas together, it follows, that all belief arises
from the association of ideas, according to my hypothesis.

It is universally allowed by the writers on optics, that the eye at all
times sees an equal number of physical points, and that a man on the top
of a mountain has no larger an image presented to his senses, than when
he is cooped up in the narrowest court or chamber. It is only by
experience that he infers the greatness of the object from some peculiar
qualities of the image; and this inference of the judgment he confounds
with sensation, as is common on other occasions. Now it is evident, that
the inference of the judgment is here much more lively than what is usual
in our common reasonings, and that a man has a more vivid conception of
the vast extent of the ocean from the image he receives by the eye, when
he stands on the top of the high promontory, than merely from hearing the
roaring of the waters. He feels a more sensible pleasure from its
magnificence; which is a proof of a more lively idea: And he confounds
his judgment with sensation, which is another proof of it. But as the
inference is equally certain and immediate in both cases, this superior
vivacity of our conception in one case can proceed from nothing but this,
that in drawing an inference from the sight, beside the customary
conjunction, there is also a resemblance betwixt the image and the object
we infer; which strengthens the relation, and conveys the vivacity of the
impression to the related idea with an easier and more natural movement.

No weakness of human nature is more universal and conspicuous than what
we commonly call CREDULITY, or a too easy faith in the testimony of
others; and this weakness is also very naturally accounted for from the
influence of resemblance. When we receive any matter of fact upon human
testimony, our faith arises from the very same origin as our inferences
from causes to effects, and from effects to causes; nor is there anything
but our experience of the governing principles of human nature, which can
give us any assurance of the veracity of men. But though experience be the
true standard of this, as well as of all other judgments, we. seldom
regulate ourselves entirely by it; but have a remarkable propensity to
believe whatever is reported, even concerning apparitions, enchantments,
and prodigies, however contrary to daily experience and observation. The
words or discourses of others have an intimate connexion with certain
ideas in their mind; and these ideas have also a connexion with the facts
or objects, which they represent. This latter connexion is generally much
over-rated, and commands our assent beyond what experience will justify;
which can proceed from nothing beside the resemblance betwixt the ideas
and the facts. Other effects only point out their causes in an oblique
manner; but the testimony of men does it directly, and is to be
considered as an image as well as an effect. No wonder, therefore, we are
so rash in drawing our inferences from it, and are less guided by
experience in our judgments concerning it, than in those upon any other

As resemblance, when conjoined with causation, fortifies our reasonings;
so the want of it in any very great degree is able almost entirely to
destroy them. Of this there is a remarkable instance in the universal
carelessness and stupidity of men with regard to a future state, where
they show as obstinate an incredulity, as they do a blind credulity on
other occasions. There is not indeed a more ample matter of wonder to the
studious, and of regret to the pious man, than to observe the negligence
of the bulk of mankind concerning their approaching condition; and it is
with reason, that many eminent theologians have not scrupled to affirm,
that though the vulgar have no formal principles of infidelity, yet they
are really infidels in their hearts, and have nothing like what we can
call a belief of the eternal duration of their souls. For let us consider
on the one hand what divines have displayed with such eloquence
concerning the importance of eternity; and at the same time reflect, that
though in matters of rhetoric we ought to lay our account with some
exaggeration, we must in this case allow, that the strongest figures are
infinitely inferior to the subject: And after this let us view on the
other hand, the prodigious security of men in this particular: I ask, if
these people really believe what is inculcated on them, and what they
pretend to affirm; and the answer is obviously in the negative. As belief
is an act of the mind arising from custom, it is not strange the want of
resemblance should overthrow what custom has established, and diminish
the force of the idea, as much as that latter principle encreases it. A
future state is so far removed from our comprehension, and we have so
obscure an idea of the manner, in which we shall exist after the
dissolution of the body, that all the reasons we can invent, however
strong in themselves, and however much assisted by education, are never
able with slow imaginations to surmount this difficulty, or bestow a
sufficient authority and force on the idea. I rather choose to ascribe
this incredulity to the faint idea we form of our future condition,
derived from its want of resemblance to the present life, than to that
derived from its remoteness. For I observe, that men are everywhere
concerned about what may happen after their death, provided it regard
this world; and that there are few to whom their name, their family,
their friends, and their country are in. any period of time entirely

And indeed the want of resemblance in this case so entirely destroys
belief, that except those few, who upon cool reflection on the importance
of the subject, have taken care by repeated meditation to imprint in
their minds the arguments for a future state, there scarce are any, who
believe the immortality of the soul with a true and established judgment;
such as is derived from the testimony of travellers and historians. This
appears very conspicuously wherever men have occasion to compare the
pleasures and pains, the rewards and punishments of this life with those
of a future; even though the case does not concern themselves, and there
is no violent passion to disturb their judgment. The Roman Clatholicks are
certainly the most zealous of any sect in the Christian world; and yet
you'll find few among the more sensible people of that communion who do
not blame the Gunpowder-treason, and the massacre of St. Bartholomew, as
cruel and barbarous, though projected or executed against those very
people, whom without any scruple they condemn to eternal and infinite
punishments. All we can say in excuse for this inconsistency is, that
they really do not believe what they affirm concerning a future state;
nor is there any better proof of it than the very inconsistency.

We may add to this a remark; that in matters of religion men take a
pleasure in being terrifyed, and that no preachers are so popular, as
those who excite the most dismal and gloomy passions. In the common
affairs of life, where we feel and are penetrated with the solidity of
the subject, nothing can be more disagreeable than fear and terror; and
it is only in dramatic performances and in religious discourses, that they
ever give pleasure. In these latter cases the imagination reposes itself
indolently on the idea; and the passion, being softened by the want of
belief in the subject, has no more than the agreeable effect of
enlivening the mind, and fixing the attention.

The present hypothesis will receive additional confirmation, if we
examine the effects of other kinds of custom, as well as of other
relations. To understand this we must consider, that custom, to which I
attribute all belief and reasoning, may operate upon the mind in
invigorating an idea after two several ways. For supposing that in all
past experience we have found two objects to have been always conjoined
together, it is evident, that upon the appearance of one of these objects
in an impression, we must from custom make an easy transition to the idea
of that object, which usually attends it; and by means of the present
impression and easy transition must conceive that idea in a stronger and
more lively manner, than we do any loose floating image of the fancy. But
let us next suppose, that a mere idea alone, without any of this curious
and almost artificial preparation, should frequently make its appearance
in the mind, this idea must by degrees acquire a facility and force; and
both by its firm hold and easy introduction distinguish itself from any
new and unusual idea. This is the only particular, in which these two
kinds of custom agree; and if it appear, that their effects on the
judgment, are similar and proportionable, we may certainly conclude, that
the foregoing explication of that faculty is satisfactory. But can we
doubt of this agreement in their influence on the judgment, when we
consider the nature and effects Of EDUCATION?

All those opinions and notions of things, to which we have been
accustomed from our infancy, take such deep root, that it is impossible
for us, by all the powers of reason and experience, to eradicate them;
and this habit not only approaches in its influence, but even on many
occasions prevails over that which a-rises from the constant and
inseparable union of causes and effects. Here we most not be contented
with saying, that the vividness of the idea produces the belief: We must
maintain that they are individually the same. The frequent repetition of
any idea infixes it in the imagination; but coued never possibly of
itself produce belief, if that act of the mind was, by the original
constitution of our natures, annexed only to a reasoning and comparison
of ideas. Custom may lead us into some false comparison of ideas. This is
the utmost effect we can conceive of it. But it is certain it coued never
supply the place of that comparison, nor produce any act of the mind,
which naturally belonged to that principle.

A person, that has lost a leg or an arm by amputation, endeavours for a
long time afterwards to serve himself with them. After the death of any
one, it is a common remark of the whole family, but especially of the
servants, that they can scarce believe him to be dead, but still imagine
him to be in his chamber or in any other place, where they were
accustomed to find him. I have often heard in conversation, after talking
of a person, that is any way celebrated, that one, who has no
acquaintance with him, will say, I have never seen such-a-one, but almost
fancy I have; so often have I heard talk of him. All these are parallel

If we consider this argument from EDUCATION in a proper light, it will
appear very convincing; and the more so, that it is founded on one of the
most common phaenomena, that is any where to be met with. I am persuaded,
that upon examination we shall find more than one half of those opinions,
that prevail among mankind, to be owing to education, and that the
principles, which are thus implicitely embraced, overballance those,
which are owing either to abstract reasoning or experience. As liars, by
the frequent repetition of their lies, come at last to remember them; so
the judgment, or rather the imagination, by the like means, may have
ideas so strongly imprinted on it, and conceive them in so full a light,
that they may operate upon the mind in the same manner with those, which
the senses, memory or reason present to us. But as education is an
artificial and not a natural cause, and as its maxims are frequently
contrary to reason, and even to themselves in different times and places,
it is never upon that account recognized by philosophers; though in
reality it be built almost on the same foundation of custom and repetition
as our reasonings from causes and effects.

[Footnote 7. In general we may observe, that as our assent to all probable
reasonings is founded on the vivacity of ideas, It resembles many of
those whimsies and prejudices, which are rejected under the opprobrious
character of being the offspring of the imagination. By this expression
it appears that the word, imagination, is commonly usd in two different
senses; and tho nothing be more contrary to true philosophy, than this
inaccuracy, yet in the following reasonings I have often been obligd to
fall into it. When I oppose the Imagination to the memory, I mean the
faculty, by which we form our fainter ideas. When I oppose it to reason,
I mean the same faculty, excluding only our demonstrative and probable
reasonings. When I oppose it to neither, it is indifferent whether it be
taken in the larger or more limited sense, or at least the context will
sufficiently explain the meaning.]


But though education be disclaimed by philosophy, as a fallacious ground
of assent to any opinion, it prevails nevertheless in the world, and is
the cause why all systems are apt to be rejected at first as new and
unusual. This perhaps will be the fate of what I have here advanced
concerning belief, and though the proofs I have produced appear to me
perfectly conclusive, I expect not to make many proselytes to my opinion.
Men will scarce ever be persuaded, that effects of such consequence can
flow from principles, which are seemingly so inconsiderable, and that the
far greatest part of our reasonings with all our actions and passions, can
be derived from nothing but custom and habit. To obviate this objection, I
shall here anticipate a little what would more properly fall under our
consideration afterwards, when we come to treat of the passions and the
sense of beauty.

There is implanted in the human mind a perception of pain and pleasure,
as the chief spring and moving principle of all its actions. But pain and
pleasure have two ways of making their appearance in the mind; of which
the one has effects very different from the other. They may either appear
in impression to the actual feeling, or only in idea, as at present when
I mention them. It is evident the influence of these upon our actions is
far from being equal. Impressions always actuate the soul, and that in
the highest degree; but it is not every idea which has the same effect.
Nature has proceeded with caution in this came, and seems to have
carefully avoided the inconveniences of two extremes. Did impressions
alone influence the will, we should every moment of our lives be subject
to the greatest calamities; because, though we foresaw their approach, we
should not be provided by nature with any principle of action, which
might impel us to avoid them. On the other hand, did every idea influence
our actions, our condition would not be much mended. For such is the
unsteadiness and activity of thought, that the images of every thing,
especially of goods and evils, are always wandering in the mind; and were
it moved by every idle conception of this kind, it would never enjoy a
moment's peace and tranquillity.

Nature has, therefore, chosen a medium, and has neither bestowed on every
idea of good and evil the power of actuating the will, nor yet has
entirely excluded them from this influence. Though an idle fiction has no
efficacy, yet we find by experience, that the ideas of those objects,
which we believe either are or will be existent, produce in a lesser
degree the same effect with those impressions, which are immediately
present to the senses and perception. The effect, then, of belief is to
raise up a simple idea to an equality with our impressions, and bestow on
it a like influence on the passions. This effect it can only have by
making an idea approach an impression in force and vivacity. For as the
different degrees of force make all the original difference betwixt an
impression and an idea, they must of consequence be the source of all the
differences in the effects of these perceptions, and their removal, in
whole or in part, the cause of every new resemblance they acquire.
Wherever we can make an idea approach the impressions in force and
vivacity, it will likewise imitate them in its influence on the mind; and
vice versa, where it imitates them in that influence, as in the present
case, this must proceed from its approaching them in force and vivacity.
Belief, therefore, since it causes an idea to imitate the effects of the
impressions, must make it resemble them in these qualities, and is
may both serve as an additional argument for the present system, and may
give us a notion after what manner our reasonings from causation are able
to operate on the will and passions.

As belief is almost absolutely requisite to the exciting our passions, so
the passions in their turn are very favourable to belief; and not only
such facts as convey agreeable emotions, but very often such as give
pain, do upon that account become more readily the objects of faith and
opinion. A coward, whose fears are easily awakened, readily assents to
every account of danger he meets with; as a person of a sorrowful and
melancholy disposition is very credulous of every thing, that nourishes
his prevailing passion. When any affecting object is presented, it gives
the alarm, and excites immediately a degree of its proper passion;
especially in persons who are naturally inclined to that passion. This
emotion passes by an easy transition to the imagination; and diffusing
itself over our idea of the affecting object, makes us form that idea
with greater force and vivacity, and consequently assent to it, according
to the precedent system. Admiration and surprize have the same effect as
the other passions; and accordingly we may observe, that among the
vulgar, quacks and projectors meet with a more easy faith upon account of
their magnificent pretensions, than if they kept themselves within the
bounds of moderation. The first astonishment, which naturally attends
their miraculous relations, spreads itself over the whole soul, and so
vivifies and enlivens the idea, that it resembles the inferences we draw
from experience. This is a mystery, with which we may be already a little
acquainted, and which we shall have farther occasion to be let into in
the progress of this treatise.

After this account of the influence of belief on the passions, we shall
find less difficulty in explaining its effects on the imagination,
however extraordinary they may appear. It is certain we cannot take
pleasure in any discourse, where our judgment gives no assent to those
images which are presented to our fancy. The conversation of those who
have acquired a habit of lying, though in affairs of no moment, never
gives any satisfaction; and that because those ideas they present to us,
not being attended with belief, make no impression upon the mind. Poets
themselves, though liars by profession, always endeavour to give an air of
truth to their fictions; and where that is totally neglected, their
performances, however ingenious, will never be able to afford much
pleasure. In short, we may observe, that even when ideas have no manner
of influence on the will and passions, truth and reality are still
requisite, in order to make them entertaining to the imagination.

But if we compare together all the phenomena that occur on this head, we
shall find, that truth, however necessary it may seem in all works of
genius, has no other effect than to procure an easy reception for the
ideas, and to make the mind acquiesce in them with satisfaction, or at
least without reluctance. But as this is an effect, which may easily be
supposed to flow from that solidity and force, which, according to my
system, attend those ideas that are established by reasonings from
causation; it follows, that all the influence of belief upon the fancy
may be explained from that system. Accordingly we may observe, that
wherever that influence arises from any other principles beside truth or
reality, they supply its place, and give an equal entertainment to the
imagination. Poets have formed what they call a poetical system of
things, which though it be believed neither by themselves nor readers, is
commonly esteemed a sufficient foundation for any fiction. We have been
so much accustomed to the names of MARS, JUPITER, VENUS, that in the same
manner as education infixes any opinion, the constant repetition of these
ideas makes them enter into the mind with facility, and prevail upon the
fancy, without influencing the judgment. In like manner tragedians always
borrow their fable, or at least the names of their principal actors, from
some known passage in history; and that not in order to deceive the
spectators; for they will frankly confess, that truth is not in any
circumstance inviolably observed: but in order to procure a more easy
reception into the imagination for those extraordinary events, which they
represent. But this is a precaution, which is not required of comic
poets, whose personages and incidents, being of a more familiar kind,
enter easily into the conception, and are received without any such
formality, even though at first night they be known to be fictitious, and
the pure offspring of the fancy.

This mixture of truth and falshood in the fables of tragic poets not only
serves our present purpose, by shewing, that the imagination can be
satisfyed without any absolute belief or assurance; but may in another
view be regarded as a very strong confirmation of this system. It is
evident, that poets make use of this artifice of borrowing the names of
their persons, and the chief events of their poems, from history, in
order to procure a more easy reception for the whole, and cause it to
make a deeper impression on the fancy and affections. The several
incidents of the piece acquire a kind of relation by being united into
one poem or representation; and if any of these incidents be an object of
belief, it bestows a force and vivacity on the others, which are related
to it. The vividness of the first conception diffuses itself along the
relations, and is conveyed, as by so many pipes or canals, to every idea
that has any communication with the primary one. This, indeed, can never
amount to a perfect assurance; and that because the union among the ideas
is, in a manner, accidental: But still it approaches so near, in its
influence, as may convince us, that they are derived from the same
origin. Belief must please the imagination by means of the force and
vivacity which attends it; since every idea, which has force and
vivacity, is found to be agreeable to that faculty.

To confirm this we may observe, that the assistance is mutual betwixt the
judgment and fancy, as well as betwixt the judgment and passion; and that
belief not only gives vigour to the imagination, but that a vigorous and
strong imagination is of all talents the most proper to procure belief
and authority. It is difficult for us to withhold our assent from what is
painted out to us in all the colours of eloquence; and the vivacity
produced by the fancy is in many cases greater than that which arises
from custom and experience. We are hurried away by the lively imagination
of our author or companion; and even be himself is often a victim to his
own fire and genius.

Nor will it be amiss to remark, that as a lively imagination very often
degenerates into madness or folly, and bears it a great resemblance in
its operations; so they influence the judgment after the same manner, and
produce belief from the very same principles. When the imagination, from
any extraordinary ferment of the blood and spirits, acquires such a
vivacity as disorders all its powers and faculties, there is no means of
distinguishing betwixt truth and falshood; but every loose fiction or
idea, having the same influence as the impressions of the memory, or the
conclusions of the judgment, is received on the same footing, and
operates with equal force on the passions. A present impression and a
customary transition are now no longer necessary to enliven our ideas.
Every chimera of the brain is as vivid and intense as any of those
inferences, which we formerly dignifyed with the name of conclusions
concerning matters of fact, and sometimes as the present impressions of
the senses.

We may observe the same effect of poetry in a lesser degree; and this is
common both to poetry and madness, that the vivacity they bestow on the
ideas is not derived from the particular situations or connexions of the
objects of these ideas, but from the present temper and disposition of
the person. But how great soever the pitch may be, to which this vivacity
rises, it is evident, that in poetry it never has the same feeling with
that which arises in the mind, when we reason, though even upon the lowest
species of probability. The mind can easily distinguish betwixt the one
and the other; and whatever emotion the poetical enthusiasm may give to
the spirits, it is still the mere phantom of belief or persuasion. The
case is the same with the idea, as with the passion it occasions. There
is no passion of the human mind but what may arise from poetry; though at
the same time the feelings of the passions are very different when
excited by poetical fictions, from what they are when they are from
belief and reality. A passion, which is disagreeable in real life, may
afford the highest entertainment in a tragedy, or epic poem. In the
latter case, it lies not with that weight upon us: It feels less firm and
solid: And has no other than the agreeable effect of exciting the
spirits, and rouzing the attention. The difference in the passions is a
clear proof of a like difference in those ideas, from which the passions
are derived. Where the vivacity arises from a customary conjunction with
a present impression; though the imagination may not, in appearance, be so
much moved; yet there is always something more forcible and real in its
actions, than in the fervors of poetry and eloquence. The force of our
mental actions in this case, no more than in any other, is not to be
measured by the apparent agitation of the mind. A poetical description
may have a more sensible effect on the fancy, than an historical
narration. It may collect more of those circumstances, that form a
compleat image or picture. It may seem to set the object before us in
more lively colours. But still the ideas it presents are different to the
feeling from those, which arise from the memory and the judgment. There
is something weak and imperfect amidst all that seeming vehemence of
thought and sentiment, which attends the fictions of poetry.

We shall afterwards have occasion to remark both the resemblance and
differences betwixt a poetical enthusiasm, and a serious conviction. In
the mean time I cannot forbear observing, that the great difference in
their feeling proceeds in some measure from reflection and GENERAL RULES.
We observe, that the vigour of conception, which fictions receive from
poetry and eloquence, is a circumstance merely accidental, of which every
idea is equally susceptible; and that such fictions are connected with
nothing that is real. This observation makes us only lend ourselves, so
to speak, to the fiction: But causes the idea to feel very different from
the eternal established persuasions founded on memory and custom. They
are somewhat of the same kind: But the one is much inferior to the other,
both in its causes and effects.

A like reflection on general rules keeps us from augmenting our belief
upon every encrease of the force and vivacity of our ideas. Where an
opinion admits of no doubt, or opposite probability, we attribute to it a
full conviction: though the want of resemblance, or contiguity, may render
its force inferior to that of other opinions. It is thus the understanding
corrects the appearances of the senses, and makes us imagine, that an
object at twenty foot distance seems even to the eye as large as one of
the same dimensions at ten.

We may observe the same effect of poetry in a lesser degree; only with
this difference, that the least reflection dissipates the illusions of
poetry, and Places the objects in their proper light. It is however
certain, that in the warmth of a poetical enthusiasm, a poet has a,
counterfeit belief, and even a kind of vision of his objects: And if
there be any shadow of argument to support this belief, nothing
contributes more to his full conviction than a blaze of poetical figures
and images, which have their effect upon the poet himself, as well as
upon his readers.


But in order to bestow on this system its full force and evidence, we
must carry our eye from it a moment to consider its consequences, and
explain from the same principles some other species of reasoning, which
are derived from the same origin.

Those philosophers, who have divided human reason into knowledge and
probability, and have defined the first to be that evidence, which arises
from the comparison of ideas, are obliged to comprehend all our arguments
from causes or effects under the general term of probability. But though
every one be free to use his terms in what sense he pleases; and
accordingly in the precedent part of this discourse, I have followed this
method of expression; it is however certain, that in common discourse we
readily affirm, that many arguments from causation exceed probability,
and may be received as a superior kind of evidence. One would appear
ridiculous, who would say, that it is only probable the sun will rise
to-morrow, or that all men must dye; though it is plain we have no further
assurance of these facts, than what experience affords us. For this
reason, it would perhaps be more convenient, in order at once to preserve
the common signification of words, and mark the several degrees of
evidence, to distinguish human reason into three kinds, viz. THAT FROM
assurance arising from the comparison of ideas. By proofs, those
arguments, which are derived from the relation of cause and effect, and
which are entirely free from doubt and uncertainty. By probability, that
evidence, which is still attended with uncertainty. It is this last
species of reasoning, I proceed to examine.

Probability or reasoning from conjecture may be divided into two kinds,
viz. that which is founded on chance, and that which arises from causes.
We shall consider each of these in order.

The idea of cause and effect is derived from experience, which presenting
us with certain objects constantly conjoined with each other, produces
such a habit of surveying them in that relation, that we cannot without a
sensible violence survey them iii any other. On the other hand, as chance
is nothing real in itself, and, properly speaking, is merely the negation
of a cause, its influence on the mind is contrary to that of causation;
and it is essential to it, to leave the imagination perfectly indifferent,
either to consider the existence or non-existence of that object, which
is regarded as contingent. A cause traces the way to our thought, and in
a manner forces us to survey such certain objects, in such certain
relations. Chance can only destroy this determination of the thought, and
leave the mind in its native situation of indifference; in which, upon
the absence of a cause, it is instantly re-instated.

Since therefore an entire indifference is essential to chance, no one
chance can possibly be superior to another, otherwise than as it is
composed of a superior number of equal chances. For if we affirm that one
chance can, after any other manner, be superior to another, we must at
the same time affirm, that there is something, which gives it the
superiority, and determines the event rather to that side than the other:
That is, in other words, we must allow of a cause, and destroy the
supposition of chance; which we had before established. A perfect and
total indifference is essential to chance, and one total indifference can
never in itself be either superior or inferior to another. This truth is
not peculiar to my system, but is acknowledged by every one, that forms
calculations concerning chances.

And here it is remarkable, that though chance and causation be directly
contrary, yet it is impossible for us to conceive this combination of
chances, which is requisite to render one hazard superior to another,
without supposing a mixture of causes among the chances, and a
conjunction of necessity in some particulars, with a total indifference
in others. Where nothing limits the chances, every notion, that the most
extravagant fancy can form, is upon a footing of equality; nor can there
be any circumstance to give one the advantage above another. Thus unless
we allow, that there are some causes to make the dice fall, and preserve
their form in their fall, and lie upon some one of their sides, we can
form no calculation concerning the laws of hazard. But supposing these
causes to operate, and supposing likewise all the rest to be indifferent
and to be determined by chance, it is easy to arrive at a notion of a
superior combination of chances. A dye that has four sides marked with a
certain number of spots, and only two with another, affords us an obvious
and easy instance of this superiority. The mind is here limited by the
causes to such a precise number and quality of the events; and at the
same time is undetermined in its choice of any particular event.

Proceeding then in that reasoning, wherein we have advanced three steps;
that chance is merely the negation of a cause, and produces a total
indifference in the mind; that one negation of a cause and one total
indifference can never be superior or inferior to another; and that there
must always be a mixture of causes among the chances, in order to be the
foundation of any reasoning: We are next to consider what effect a
superior combination of chances can have upon the mind, and after what
manner it influences our judgment and opinion. Here we may repeat all the
same arguments we employed in examining that belief, which arises from
causes; and may prove, after the same manner, that a superior number of
chances produces our assent neither by demonstration nor probability.
It is indeed evident that we can never by the comparison of mere ideas
make any discovery, which can be of consequence in this affairs and that
it is impossible to prove with certainty, that any event must fall on that
side where there is a superior number of chances. To, suppose in this
case any certainty, were to overthrow what we have established concerning
the opposition of chances, and their perfect equality and indifference.

Should it be said, that though in an opposition of chances it is
impossible to determine with certainty, on which side the event will fall,
yet we can pronounce with certainty, that it is more likely and probable,
it will be on that side where there is a superior number of chances, than
where there is an inferior: should this be said, I would ask, what is here
meant by likelihood and probability? The likelihood and probability of
chances is a superior number of equal chances; and consequently when we
say it is likely the event win fall on the side, which is superior, rather
than on the inferior, we do no more than affirm, that where there is a
superior number of chances there is actually a superior, and where there
is an inferior there is an inferior; which are identical propositions,
and of no consequence. The question is, by what means a superior number
of equal chances operates upon the mind, and produces belief or assent;
since it appears, that it is neither by arguments derived from
demonstration, nor from probability.

In order to clear up this difficulty, we shall suppose a person to take a
dye, formed after such a manner as that four of its sides are marked with
one figure, or one number of spots, and two with another; and to put this
dye into the box with an intention of throwing it: It is plain, he must
conclude the one figure to be more probable than the other, and give the
preference to that which is inscribed on the greatest number of sides. He
in a manner believes, that this will lie uppermost; though still with
hesitation and doubt, in proportion to the number of chances, which are
contrary: And according as these contrary chances diminish, and the
superiority encreases on the other side, his belief acquires new degrees
of stability and assurance. This belief arises from an operation of the
mind upon the simple and limited object before us; and therefore its
nature will be the more easily discovered and explained. We have nothing
but one single dye to contemplate, in order to comprehend one of the most
curious operations of the understanding.

This dye, formed as above, contains three circumstances worthy of our
attention. First, Certain causes, such as gravity, solidity, a cubical
figure, &c. which determine it to fall, to preserve its form in its fall,
and to turn up one of its sides. Secondly, A certain number of sides,
which are supposed indifferent. Thirdly, A certain figure inscribed on
each side. These three particulars form the whole nature of the dye, so
far as relates to our present purpose; and consequently are the only
circumstances regarded by the mind in its forming a judgment concerning
the result of such a throw. Let us, therefore, consider gradually and
carefully what must be the influence of these circumstances on the
thought and imagination.

First, We have already observed, that the mind is determined by custom to
pass from any cause to its effect, and that upon the appearance of the
one, it is almost impossible for it not to form an idea of the other.
Their constant conjunction in past instances has produced such a habit in
the mind, that it always conjoins them in its thought, and infers the
existence of the one from that of its usual attendant. When it considers
the dye as no longer supported by the box, it can not without violence
regard it as suspended in the air; but naturally places it on the table,
and views it as turning up one of its sides. This is the effect of the
intermingled causes, which are requisite to our forming any calculation
concerning chances.

Secondly, It is supposed, that though the dye be necessarily determined to
fall, and turn up one of its sides, yet there is nothing to fix the
particular side, but that this is determined entirely by chance. The very
nature and essence of chance is a negation of causes, and the leaving the
mind in a perfect indifference among those events, which are supposed
contingent. When therefore the thought is determined by the causes to
consider the dye as falling and turning up one of its sides, the chances
present all these sides as equal, and make us consider every one of them,
one after another, as alike probable and possible. The imagination passes
from the cause, viz. the throwing of the dye, to the effect, viz. the
turning up one of the six sides; and feels a kind of impossibility both
of stopping short in the way, and of forming any other idea. But as all
these six sides are incompatible, and the dye cannot turn up above one at
once, this principle directs us not to consider all of them at once as
lying uppermost; which we look upon as impossible: Neither does it direct
us with its entire force to any particular side; for in that case this
side would be considered as certain and inevitable; but it directs us to
the whole six sides after such a manner as to divide its force equally
among them. We conclude in general, that some one of them must result
from the throw: We run all of them over in our minds: The determination
of the thought is common to all; but no more of its force falls to the
share of any one, than what is suitable to its proportion with the rest.
It is after this manner the original impulse, and consequently the
vivacity of thought, arising from the causes, is divided and split in
pieces by the intermingled chances.

We have already seen the influence of the two first qualities of the dye,
viz. the causes, and the number and indifference of the sides, and have
learned how they give an impulse to the thought, and divide that impulse
into as many parts as there are unites in the number of sides. We must
now consider the effects of the third particular, viz. the figures
inscribed on each side. It is evident that where several sides have the
same figure inscribe on them, they must concur in their influence on the
mind, and must unite upon one image or idea of a figure all those divided
impulses, that were dispersed over the several sides, upon which that
figure is inscribed. Were the question only what side will be turned up,
these are all perfectly equal, and no one coued ever have any advantage
above another. But as the question is concerning the figure, and as the
same figure is presented by more than one side: it is evident, that the
impulses belonging to all these sides must re-unite in that one figure,
and become stronger and more forcible by the union. Four sides are
supposed in the present case to have the same figure inscribed on them,
and two to have another figure. The impulses of the former are,
therefore, superior to those of the latter. But as the events are
contrary, and it is impossible both these figures can be turned up; the
impulses likewise become contrary, and the inferior destroys the
superior, as far as its strength goes. The vivacity of the idea is always
proportionable to the degrees of the impulse or tendency to the
transition; and belief is the same with the vivacity of the idea,
according to the precedent doctrine.


What I have said concerning the probability of chances can serve to no
other purpose, than to assist us in explaining the probability of causes;
since it is commonly allowed by philosophers, that what the vulgar call
chance is nothing but a secret and concealed cause. That species of
probability, therefore, is what we must chiefly examine.

The probabilities of causes are of several kinds; but are all derived
from the same origin, viz. THE ASSOCIATION OF IDEAS TO A PRESENT
IMPRESSION. As the habit, which produces the association, arises from the
frequent conjunction of objects, it must arrive at its perfection by
degrees, and must acquire new force from each instance, that falls under
our observation. The first instance has little or no force: The second
makes some addition to it: The third becomes still more sensible; and
it is by these slow steps, that our judgment arrives at a full assurance.
But before it attains this pitch of perfection, it passes through several
inferior degrees, and in all of them is only to be esteemed a presumption
or probability. The gradation, therefore, from probabilities to proofs is
in many cases insensible; and the difference betwixt these kinds of
evidence is more easily perceived in the remote degrees, than in the near
and contiguous.

It is worthy of remark on this occasion, that though the species of
probability here explained be the first in order, and naturally takes
place before any entire proof can exist, yet no one, who is arrived at
the age of maturity, can any longer be acquainted with it. It is true,
nothing is more common than for people of the most advanced knowledge to
have attained only an imperfect experience of many particular events;
which naturally produces only an imperfect habit and transition: But then
we must consider, that the mind, having formed another observation
concerning the connexion of causes and effects, gives new force to its
reasoning from that observation; and by means of it can build an argument
on one single experiment, when duly prepared and examined. What we have
found once to follow from any object, we conclude will for ever follow
from it; and if this maxim be not always built upon as certain, it is not
for want of a sufficient number of experiments, but because we frequently
meet with instances to the contrary; which leads us to the second species
of probability, where there is a contrariety in our experience and

It would be very happy for men in the conduct of their lives and actions,
were the same objects always conjoined together, and, we had nothing to
fear but the mistakes of our own judgment, without having any reason to
apprehend the uncertainty of nature. But as it is frequently found, that
one observation is contrary to another, and that causes and effects
follow not in the same order, of which we have I had experience, we are
obliged to vary our reasoning on, account of this uncertainty, and take
into consideration the contrariety of events. The first question, that
occurs on this head, is concerning the nature and causes of the

The vulgar, who take things according to their first appearance,
attribute the uncertainty of events to such an uncertainty in the causes,
as makes them often fail of their usual influence, though they meet with
no obstacle nor impediment in their operation. But philosophers observing,
that almost in every part of nature there is contained a vast variety of
springs and principles, which are hid, by reason of their minuteness or
remoteness, find that it is at least possible the contrariety of events
may not proceed from any contingency in the cause, but from the secret
operation of contrary causes. This possibility is converted into
certainty by farther observation, when they remark, that upon an exact
scrutiny, a contrariety of effects always betrays a contrariety of
causes, and proceeds from their mutual hindrance and opposition. A
peasant can give no better reason for the stopping of any clock or watch
than to say, that commonly it does not go right: But an artizan easily
perceives, that the same force in the spring or pendulum has always the
same influence on the wheels; but fails of its usual effect, perhaps by
reason of a grain of dust, which puts a stop to the whole movement. From
the observation of several parallel instances, philosophers form a maxim,
that the connexion betwixt all causes and effects is equally necessary,
and that its seeming uncertainty in some instances proceeds from the
secret opposition of contrary causes.

But however philosophers and the vulgar may differ in their explication
of the contrariety of events, their inferences from it are always of the
same kind, and founded on the same principles. A contrariety of events in
the past may give us a kind of hesitating belief for the future after two
several ways. First, By producing an imperfect habit and transition from
the present impression to the related idea. When the conjunction of any
two objects is frequent, without being entirely constant, the mind is
determined to pass from one object to the other; but not with so entire a
habit, as when the union is uninterrupted, and all the instances we have
ever met with are uniform and of a piece-.. We find from common
experience, in our actions as well as reasonings, that a constant
perseverance in any course of life produces a strong inclination and
tendency to continue for the future; though there are habits of inferior
degrees of force, proportioned to the inferior degrees of steadiness and
uniformity in our conduct.

There is no doubt but this principle sometimes takes place, and produces
those inferences we draw from contrary phaenomena: though I am perswaded,
that upon examination we shall not find it to be the principle, that most
commonly influences the mind in this species of reasoning. When we follow
only the habitual determination of the mind, we make the transition
without any reflection, and interpose not a moment's delay betwixt the
view of one object and the belief of that, which is often found to attend
it. As the custom depends not upon any deliberation, it operates
immediately, without allowing any time for reflection. But this method of
proceeding we have but few instances of in our probable reasonings; and
even fewer than in those, which are derived from the uninterrupted
conjunction of objects. In the former species of reasoning we commonly
take knowingly into consideration the contrariety of past events; we
compare the different sides of the contrariety, and carefully weigh the
experiments, which we have on each side: Whence we may conclude, that our
reasonings of this kind arise not directly from the habit, but in an
oblique manner; which we must now endeavour to explain.

It is evident, that when an object is attended with contrary effects, we
judge of them only by our past experience, and always consider those as
possible, which we have observed to follow from it. And as past
experience regulates our judgment concerning the possibility of these
effects, so it does that concerning their probability; and that effect,
which has been the most common, we always esteem the most likely. Here
then are two things to be considered, viz. the reasons which determine us
to make the past a standard for the future, and the manner how we extract
a single judgment from a contrariety of past events.

First we may observe, that the supposition, that the future resembles the
past, is not founded on arguments of any kind, but is derived entirely
from habit, by which we are determined to expect for the future the same
train of objects, to which we have been accustomed. This habit or
determination to transfer the past to the future is full and perfect; and
consequently the first impulse of the imagination in this species of
reasoning is endowed with the same qualities.

But, secondly, when in considering past experiments we find them of a
contrary nature, this determination, though full and perfect in itself,
presents us with no steady object, but offers us a number of disagreeing
images in a certain order and proportion. The first impulse, therefore,
is here broke into pieces, and diffuses itself over all those images, of
which each partakes an equal share of that force and vivacity, that is
derived from the impulse. Any of these past events may again happen; and
we judge, that when they do happen, they will be mixed in the same
proportion as in the past.

If our intention, therefore, be to consider the proportions of contrary
events in a great number of instances, the images presented by our past
experience must remain in their FIRST FORM, and preserve their first
proportions. Suppose, for instance, I have found by long observation,
that of twenty ships, which go to sea, only nineteen return. Suppose I
see at present twenty ships that leave the port: I transfer my past
experience to the future, and represent to myself nineteen of these ships
as returning in safety, and one as perishing. Concerning this there can
be no difficulty. But as we frequently run over those several ideas of
past events, in order to form a judgment concerning one single event,
which appears uncertain; this consideration must change the FIRST FORM of
our ideas, and draw together the divided images presented by experience;
since it is to it we refer the determination of that particular event,
upon which we reason. Many of these images are supposed to concur, and a
superior number to concur on one side. These agreeing images unite
together, and render the idea more strong and lively, not only than a
mere fiction of the imagination, but also than any idea, which is
supported by a lesser number of experiments. Each new experiment is as a
new stroke of the pencil, which bestows an additional vivacity on the
colours without either multiplying or enlarging the figure. This
operation of the mind has been so fully explained in treating of the
probability of chance, that I need not here endeavour to render it more
intelligible. Every past experiment may be considered as a kind of
chance; I it being uncertain to us, whether the object will exist
conformable to one experiment or another. And for this reason every thing
that has been said on the one subject is applicable to both.

Thus upon the whole, contrary experiments produce an imperfect belief,
either by weakening the habit, or by dividing and afterwards joining in
different parts, that perfect habit, which makes us conclude in general,
that instances, of which we have no experience, must necessarily resemble
those of which we have.

To justify still farther this account of the second species of
probability, where we reason with knowledge and reflection from a
contrariety of past experiments, I shall propose the following
considerations, without fearing to give offence by that air of subtilty,
which attends them. Just reasoning ought still, perhaps, to retain its
force, however subtile; in the same manner as matter preserves its
solidity in the air, and fire, and animal spirits, as well as in the
grosser and more sensible forms.

First, We may observe, that there is no probability so great as not to
allow of a contrary possibility; because otherwise it would cease to be a
probability, and would become a certainty. That probability of causes,
which is most extensive, and which we at present examine, depends on a
contrariety of experiments: and it is evident An experiment in the past
proves at least a possibility for the future.

Secondly, The component parts of this possibility and probability are of
the same nature, and differ in number only, but not in kind. It has been
observed, that all single chances are entirely equal, and that the only
circumstance, which can give any event, that is contingent, a superiority
over another is a superior number of chances. In like manner, as the
uncertainty of causes is discovery by experience, which presents us with
a view of contrary events, it is plain, that when we transfer the past to
the future, the known to the unknown, every past experiment has the same
weight, and that it is only a superior number of them, which can throw the
ballance on any side. The possibility, therefore, which enters into every
reasoning of this kind, is composed of parts, which are of the same
nature both among themselves, and with those, that compose the opposite

Thirdly, We may establish it as a certain maxim, that in all moral as
well as natural phaenomena, wherever any cause consists of a number of
parts, and the effect encreases or diminishes, according to the variation
of that number, the effects properly speaking, is a compounded one, and
arises from the union of the several effects, that proceed from each part
of the cause. Thus, because the gravity of a body encreases or diminishes
by the encrease or diminution of its parts, we conclude that each part
contains this quality and contributes to the gravity of the whole. The
absence or presence of a part of the cause is attended with that of a
proportionable part of the effect. This connexion or constant conjunction
sufficiently proves the one part to be the cause of the other. As the
belief which we have of any event, encreases or diminishes according to
the number of chances or past experiments, it is to be considered as a
compounded effect, of which each part arises from a proportionable number
of chances or experiments.

Let us now join these three observations, and see what conclusion we can
draw from them. To every probability there is an opposite possibility.
This possibility is composed of parts, that are entirely of the same
nature with those of the probability; and consequently have the same
influence on the mind and understanding. The belief, which attends the
probability, is a compounded effect, and is formed by the concurrence of
the several effects, which proceed from each part of the probability.
Since therefore each part of the probability contributes to the
production of the belief, each part of the possibility must have the same
influence on the opposite side; the nature of these parts being entirely
the same. The contrary belief, attending the possibility, implies a view
of a certain object, as well as the probability does an opposite view. In
this particular both these degrees of belief are alike. The only manner
then, in which the superior number of similar component parts in the one
can exert its influence, and prevail above the inferior in the other, is
by producing a stronger and more lively view of its object. Each part
presents a particular view; and all these views uniting together produce
one general view, which is fuller and more distinct by the greater number
of causes or principles, from which it is derived.

The component parts of the probability and possibility, being alike in
their nature, must produce like effects; and the likeness of their
effects consists in this, that each of them presents a view of a
particular object. But though these parts be alike in their nature, they
are very different in their quantity and number; and this difference must
appear in the effect as well as the similarity. Now as the view they
present is in both cases full and entire, and comprehends the object in
all its parts, it is impossible that in this particular there can be any
difference; nor is there any thing but a superior vivacity in the
probability, arising from the concurrence of a superior number of views,
which can distinguish these effects.

Here is almost the same argument in a different light. All our reasonings
concerning the probability of causes are founded on the transferring of
past to future. The transferring of any past experiment to the future is
sufficient to give us a view of the object; whether that experiment be
single or combined with others of the same kind; whether it be entire, or
opposed by others of a contrary kind. Suppose, then, it acquires both
these qualities of combination and opposition, it loses not upon that
account its former power of presenting a view of the object, but only
concurs with and opposes other experiments, that have a like influence. A
question, therefore, may arise concerning the manner both of the
concurrence and opposition. As to the concurrence, there is only the
choice left betwixt these two hypotheses. First, That the view of the
object, occasioned by the transference of each past experiment, preserves
itself entire, and only multiplies the number of views. Or, SECONDLY,
That it runs into the other similar and correspondent views, and gives
them a superior degree of force and vivacity. But that the first
hypothesis is erroneous, is evident from experience, which informs us,
that the belief, attending any reasoning, consists in one conclusion, not
in a multitude of similar ones, which would only distract the mind, and
in many cases would be too numerous to be comprehended distinctly by any
finite capacity. It remains, therefore, as the only reasonable opinion,
that these similar views run into each other, and unite their forces; so
as to produce a stronger and clearer view, than what arises from any one
alone. This is the manner, in which past experiments concur, when they
are transfered to any future event. As to the manner of their opposition,
it is evident, that as the contrary views are incompatible with each
other, and it is impossible the object can at once exist conformable to
both of them, their influence becomes mutually destructive, and the mind
is determined to the superior only with that force, which remains, after
subtracting the inferior.

I am sensible how abstruse all this reasoning must appear to the
generality of readers, who not being accustomed to such profound
reflections on the intellectual faculties of the mind, will be apt to
reject as chimerical whatever strikes not in with the common received
notions, and with the easiest and most obvious principles of philosophy.
And no doubt there are some pains required to enter into these arguments;
though perhaps very little are necessary to perceive the imperfection of
every vulgar hypothesis on this subject, and the little light, which
philosophy can yet afford us in such sublime and such curious
speculations. Let men be once fully perswaded of these two principles,
THOSE OF WHICH WE HAVE HAD EXPERIENCE; I say, let men be once fully
convinced of these two principles, and this will throw them so loose from
all common systems, that they will make no difficulty of receiving any,
which may appear the most extraordinary. These principles we have found
to be sufficiently convincing, even with regard to our most certain
reasonings from causation: But I shall venture to affirm, that with
regard to these conjectural or probable reasonings they still acquire a
new degree of evidence.

First, It is obvious, that in reasonings of this kind, it is not the
object presented to us, which, considered in itself, affords us any reason
to draw a conclusion concerning any other object or event. For as this
latter object is supposed uncertain, and as the uncertainty is derived
from a concealed contrariety of causes in the former, were any of the
causes placed in the known qualities of that object, they would no longer
be concealed, nor would our conclusion be uncertain.

But, secondly, it is equally obvious in this species of reasoning, that if
the transference of the past to the future were founded merely on a
conclusion of the understanding, it coued never occasion any belief or
assurance. When we transfer contrary experiments to the future, we can
only repeat these contrary experiments with their particular proportions;
which coued not produce assurance in any single event, upon which we
reason, unless the fancy melted together all those images that concur,
and extracted from them one single idea or image, which is intense and
lively in proportion to the number of experiments from which it is
derived, and their superiority above their antagonists. Our past
experience presents no determinate object; and as our belief, however
faint, fixes itself on a determinate object, it is evident that the belief
arises not merely from the transference of past to future, but from some
operation of the fancy conjoined with it. This may lead us to conceive
the manner, in which that faculty enters into all our reasonings.

I shall conclude this subject with two reflections, which may deserve our
attention. The FIRST may be explained after this manner. When the mind
forms a reasoning concerning any matter of fact, which is only probable,
it casts its eye backward upon past experience, and transferring it to
the future, is presented with so many contrary views of its object, of
which those that are of the same kind uniting together, and running into
one act of the mind, serve to fortify and inliven it. But suppose that
this multitude of views or glimpses of an object proceeds not from
experience, but from. a voluntary act of the imagination; this effect
does not follow, or at least, follows not in the same degree. For though
custom and education produce belief by such a repetition, as is not
derived from experience, yet this requires a long tract of time, along
with a very frequent and undesigned repetition. In general we may
pronounce, that a person who would voluntarily repeat any idea in his
mind, though supported by one past experience, would be no more inclined
to believe the existence of its object, than if he had contented himself
with one survey of it. Beside the effect of design; each act of the mind,
being separate and independent, has a separate influence, and joins not
its force with that of its fellows. Not being united by any common
object, producing them, they have no relation to each other; and
consequently make no transition or union of forces. This phaenomenon we
shall understand better afterwards.

My second reflection is founded on those large probabilities, which the
mind can judge of, and the minute differences it can observe betwixt
them. When the chances or experiments on one side amount to ten thousand,
and on the other to ten thousand and one, the judgment gives the
preference to the latter, upon account of that superiority; though it is
plainly impossible for the mind to run over every particular view, and
distinguish the superior vivacity of the image arising from the superior
number, where the difference is so inconsiderable. We have a parallel
instance in the affections. It is evident, according to the principles
above-mentioned, that when an object produces any passion in us, which
varies according to the different quantity of the object; I say, it is
evident, that the passion, properly speaking, is not a simple emotion,
but a compounded one, of a great number of weaker passions, derived from
a view of each part of the object. For otherwise it were impossible the
passion should encrease by the encrease of these parts. Thus a man, who
desires a thousand pound, has in reality a thousand or more desires which
uniting together, seem to make only one passion; though the composition
evidently betrays itself upon every alteration of the object, by the
preference he gives to the larger number, if superior only by an unite.
Yet nothing can be more certain, than that so small a difference would
not be discernible in the passions, nor coued render them distinguishable
from each other. The difference, therefore, of our conduct in preferring
the greater number depends not upon our passions, but upon custom, and
general rules. We have found in a multitude of instances, that the
augmenting the numbers of any sum augments the passion, where the numbers
are precise and the difference sensible. The mind can perceive from its
immediate feeling, that three guineas produce a greater passion than two;
and this it transfers to larger numbers, because of the resemblance; and
by a general rule assigns to a thousand guineas, a stronger passion than
to nine hundred and ninety nine. These general rules we shall explain

But beside these two species of probability, which a-re derived from an
imperfect experience and from contrary causes, there is a third arising
from ANALOGY, which differs from them in some material circumstances.
According to the hypothesis above explained all kinds of reasoning from
causes or effects are founded on two particulars, viz., the constant
conjunction of any two objects in all past experience, and the
resemblance of a present object to any one of them. The effect of these
two particulars is, that the present object invigorates and inlivens the
imagination; and the resemblance, along with the constant union, conveys
this force and vivacity to the related idea; which we are therefore said
to believe, or assent to. If you weaken either the union or resemblance,
you weaken the principle of transition, and of consequence that belief,
which arises from it. The vivacity of the first impression cannot be
fully conveyed to the related idea, either where the conjunction of their
objects is not constant, or where the present impression does not
perfectly resemble any of those, whose union we are accustomed to
observe. In those probabilities of chance and causes above-explained,
it is the constancy of the union, which is diminished; and in the
probability derived from analogy, it is the resemblance only, which is
affected. Without some degree of resemblance, as well as union, it is
impossible there can be any reasoning: but as this resemblance admits of
many different degrees, the reasoning becomes proportionably more or less
firm and certain. An experiment loses of its force, when transferred to
instances, which are not exactly resembling; though it is evident it may
still retain as much as may be the foundation of probability, as long as
there is any resemblance remaining.


All these kinds of probability are received by philosophers, and allowed
to be reasonable foundations of belief and opinion. But there are others,
that are derived from the same principles, though they have not had the
good fortune to obtain the same sanction. The first probability of this
kind may be accounted for thus. The diminution of the union, and of the
resemblance, as above explained, diminishes the facility of the
transition, and by that means weakens the evidence; and we may farther
observe, that the same diminution of the evidence will follow from a
diminution of the impression, and from the shading of those colours,
under which it appears to the memory or senses. The argument, which we
found on any matter of fact we remember, is more or less convincing
according as the fact is recent or remote; and though the difference in
these degrees of evidence be not received by philosophy as solid and
legitimate; because in that case an argument must have a different force
to day, from what it shall have a month hence; yet notwithstanding the
opposition of philosophy, it is certain, this circumstance has a
considerable influence on the understanding, and secretly changes the
authority of the same argument, according to the different times, in
which it is proposed to us. A greater force and vivacity in the
impression naturally conveys a greater to the related idea; and it is on
the degrees of force and vivacity, that the belief depends, according to
the foregoing system.

There is a second difference, which we may frequently observe in our
degrees of belief and assurance, and which never fails to take place,
though disclaimed by philosophers. An experiment, that is recent and fresh
in the memory, affects us more than one that is in some measure
obliterated; and has a superior influence on the judgment, as well as on
the passions. A lively impression produces more assurance than a faint
one; because it has more original force to communicate to the related
idea, which thereby acquires a greater force and vivacity. A recent
observation has a like effect; because the custom and transition is there
more entire, and preserves better the original force in the
communication. Thus a drunkard, who has seen his companion die of a
debauch, is struck with that instance for some time, and dreads a like
accident for himself: But as the memory of it decays away by degrees, his
former security returns, and the danger seems less certain and real.

I add, as a third instance of this kind, that though our reasonings from
proofs and from probabilities be considerably different from each other,
yet the former species of reasoning often degenerates insensibly into the
latter, by nothing but the multitude of connected arguments. It is
certain, that when an inference is drawn immediately from an object,
without any intermediate cause or effect, the conviction is much
stronger, and the persuasion more lively, than when the imagination is
carryed through a long chain of connected arguments, however infallible
the connexion of each link may be esteemed. It is from the original
impression, that the vivacity of all the ideas is derived, by means of
the customary transition of the imagination; and it is evident this
vivacity must gradually decay in proportion to the distance, and must
lose somewhat in each transition. Sometimes this distance has a greater
influence than even contrary experiments would have; and a man may
receive a more lively conviction from a probable reasoning, which is
close and immediate, than from a long chain of consequences, though just
and conclusive in each part. Nay it is seldom such reasonings produce any
conviction; and one must have a very strong and firm imagination to
preserve the evidence to the end, where it passes through so many, stages.

But here it may not be amiss to remark a very curious phaenomenon, which
the present subject suggests to us. It is evident there is no point of
ancient history, of which we can have any assurance, but by passing
through many millions of causes and effects, and through a chain of
arguments of almost an immeasurable length. Before the knowledge of the
fact coued come to the first historian, it must be conveyed through many
mouths; and after it is committed to writing, each new copy is a new
object, of which the connexion with the foregoing is known only by
experience and observation. Perhaps, therefore, it may be concluded from
the precedent reasoning, that the evidence of all ancient history must now
be lost; or at least, will be lost in time, as the chain of causes
encreases, and runs on to a greater length. But as it seems contrary to
common sense to think, that if the republic of letters, and the art of
printing continue on the same footing as at present, our posterity, even
after a thousand ages, can ever doubt if there has been such a man as
JULIUS CAESAR; this may be considered as an objection to the present
system. If belief consisted only in a certain vivacity, conveyed from an
original impression, it would decay by the length of the transition, and
must at last be utterly extinguished: And vice versa, if belief on some
occasions be not capable of such an extinction; it must be something
different from that vivacity.

Before I answer this objection I shall observe, that from this topic
there has been borrowed a very celebrated argument against the Christian
Religion; but with this difference, that the connexion betwixt each link
of the chain in human testimony has been there supposed not to go beyond
probability, and to be liable to a degree of doubt and uncertainty. And
indeed it must be confest, that in this manner of considering the
subject, (which however is not a true one) there is no history or
tradition, but what must in the end lose all its force and evidence.
Every new probability diminishes the original conviction; and however
great that conviction may be supposed, it is impossible it can subsist
under such re-iterated diminutions. This is true in general; though we
shall find [Part IV. Sect. 1.] afterwards, that there is one very
memorable exception, which is of vast consequence in the present subject
of the understanding.

Mean while to give a solution of the preceding objection upon the
supposition, that historical evidence amounts at first to an entire proof;
let us consider, that though the links are innumerable, that connect
any original fact with the present impression, which is the foundation of
belief; yet they are all of the same kind, and depend on the fidelity of
Printers and Copyists. One edition passes into another, and that into a
third, and so on, till we come to that volume we peruse at present. There
is no variation in the steps. After we know one we know all of them; and
after we have made one, we can have no scruple as to the rest. This
circumstance alone preserves the evidence of history, and will perpetuate
the memory of the present age to the latest posterity. If all the long
chain of causes and effects, which connect any past event with any volume
of history, were composed of parts different from each other, and which
it were necessary for the mind distinctly to conceive, it is impossible we
should preserve to the end any belief or evidence. But as most of these
proofs are perfectly resembling, the mind runs easily along them, jumps
from one part to another with facility, and forms but a confused and
general notion of each link. By this means a long chain of argument, has
as little effect in diminishing the original vivacity, as a much shorter
would have, if composed of parts, which were different from each other,
and of which each required a distinct consideration.

A fourth unphilosophical species of probability is that derived from
general rules, which we rashly form to ourselves, and which are the
source of what we properly call PREJUDICE. An IRISHMAN cannot have wit,
and a Frenchman cannot have solidity; for which reason, though the
conversation of the former in any instance be visibly very agreeable, and
of the latter very judicious, we have entertained such a prejudice
against them, that they must be dunces or fops in spite of sense and
reason. Human nature is very subject to errors of this kind; and perhaps
this nation as much as any other.

Should it be demanded why men form general rules, and allow them to
influence their judgment, even contrary to present observation and
experience, I should reply, that in my opinion it proceeds from those
very principles, on which all judgments concerning causes and effects
depend. Our judgments concerning cause and effect are derived from habit
and experience; and when we have been accustomed to see one object united
to another, our imagination passes from the first to the second, by a
natural transition, which precedes reflection, and which cannot be
prevented by it. Now it is the nature of custom not only to operate with
its full force, when objects are presented, that are exactly the, same
with those to which we have been accustomed; but also to operate in an
inferior degree, when we discover such as are similar; and though the
habit loses somewhat of its force by every difference, yet it is seldom
entirely destroyed, where any considerable circumstances remain the same.
A man, who has contracted a custom of eating fruit by the use of pears or
peaches, will satisfy himself with melons, where he cannot find his
favourite fruit; as one, who has become a drunkard by the use of red
wines, will be carried almost with the same violence to white, if
presented to him. From this principle I have accounted for that species
of probability, derived from analogy, where we transfer our experience in
past instances to objects which are resembling, but are not exactly the
same with those concerning which we have had experience. In proportion as
the resemblance decays, the probability diminishes; but still has some
force as long as there remain any traces of the resemblance.

This observation we may carry farther; and may remark, that though custom
be the foundation of all our judgments, yet sometimes it has an effect on
the imagination in opposition to the judgment, and produces a contrariety
in our sentiments concerning the same object. I explain myself. In almost
all kinds of causes there is a complication of circumstances, of which
some are essential, and others superfluous; some are absolutely requisite
to the production of the effect, and others are only conjoined by
accident. Now we may observe, that when these superfluous circumstances
are numerous, and remarkable, and frequently conjoined with the
essential, they have such an influence on the imagination, that even in
the absence of the latter they carry us on to t-he conception of the
usual effect, and give to that conception a force and vivacity, which
make it superior to the mere fictions of the fancy. We may correct this
propensity by a reflection on the nature of those circumstances: but it is
still certain, that custom takes the start, and gives a biass to the

To illustrate this by a familiar instance, let us consider the case of a
man, who, being hung out from a high tower in a cage of iron cannot
forbear trembling, when he surveys the precipice below him, though he
knows himself to be perfectly secure from falling, by his experience of
the solidity of the iron, which supports him; and though the ideas of fall
and descent, and harm and death, be derived solely from custom and
experience. The same custom goes beyond the instances, from which it is
derived, and to which it perfectly corresponds; and influences his ideas
of such objects as are in some respect resembling, but fall not precisely
under the same rule. The circumstances of depth and descent strike so
strongly upon him, that their influence can-not be destroyed by the
contrary circumstances of support and solidity, which ought to give him a
perfect security. His imagination runs away with its object, and excites
a passion proportioned to it. That passion returns back upon the
imagination and inlivens the idea; which lively idea has a new influence
on the passion, and in its turn augments its force and violence; and both
his fancy and affections, thus mutually supporting each other, cause the
whole to have a very great influence upon him.

But why need we seek for other instances, while the present subject of
philosophical probabilities offers us so obvious an one, in the
opposition betwixt the judgment and imagination arising from these
effects of custom? According to my system, all reasonings are nothing but
the effects of custom; and custom has no influence, but by inlivening the
imagination, and giving us a strong conception of any object. It may,
therefore, be concluded, that our judgment and imagination can never be
contrary, and that custom cannot operate on the latter faculty after such
a manner, as to render it opposite to the former. This difficulty we can
remove after no other manner, than by supposing the influence of general
rules. We shall afterwards take [Sect. 15.] notice of some general rules,
by which we ought to regulate our judgment concerning causes and effects;
and these rules are formed on the nature of our understanding, and on our
experience of its operations in the judgments we form concerning objects.
By them we learn to distinguish the accidental circumstances from the
efficacious causes; and when we find that an effect can be produced
without the concurrence of any particular circumstance, we conclude that
that circumstance makes not a part of the efficacious cause, however
frequently conjoined with it. But as this frequent conjunction necessity
makes it have some effect on the imagination, in spite of the opposite
conclusion from general rules, the opposition of these two principles
produces a contrariety in our thoughts, and causes us to ascribe the one
inference to our judgment, and the other to our imagination. The general
rule is attributed to our judgment; as being more extensive and constant.
The exception to the imagination, as being more capricious and uncertain.

Thus our general rules are in a manner set in opposition to each other.
When an object appears, that resembles any cause in very considerable
circumstances, the imagination naturally carries us to a lively
conception of the usual effect, Though the object be different in the most
material and most efficacious circumstances from that cause. Here is the
first influence of general rules. But when we take a review of this act
of the mind, and compare it with the more general and authentic
operations of the understanding, we find it to be of an irregular nature,
and destructive of all the most established principles of reasonings;
which is the cause of our rejecting it. This is a second influence of
general rules, and implies the condemnation of the former. Sometimes the
one, sometimes the other prevails, according to the disposition and
character of the person. The vulgar are commonly guided by the first, and
wise men by the second. Mean while the sceptics may here have the
pleasure of observing a new and signal contradiction in our reason, and
of seeing all philosophy ready to be subverted by a principle of human
nature, and again saved by a new direction of the very same principle.
The following of general rules is a very unphilosophical species of
probability; and yet it is only by following them that we can correct
this, and all other unphilosophical probabilities.

Since we have instances, where general rules operate on the imagination
even contrary to the judgment, we need not be surprized to see their
effects encrease, when conjoined with that latter faculty, and to observe
that they bestow on the ideas they present to us a force superior to what
attends any other. Every one knows, there is an indirect manner of
insinuating praise or blame, which is much less shocking than the open
flattery or censure of any person. However be may communicate his
sentiments by such secret insinuations, and make them known with equal
certainty as by the open discovery of them, it is certain that their
influence is not equally strong and powerful. One who lashes me with
concealed strokes of satire, moves not my indignation to such a degree,
as if he flatly told me I was a fool and coxcomb; though I equally
understand his meaning, as if he did. This difference is to be attributed
to the influence of general rules.

Whether a person openly, abuses me, or slyly intimates his contempt, in
neither case do I immediately perceive his sentiment or opinion; and it is
only by signs, that is, by its effects, I become sensible of it. The only
difference, then, betwixt these two cases consists in this, that in the
open discovery of his sentiments he makes use of signs, which are general
and universal; and in the secret intimation employs such as are more
singular and uncommon. The effect of this circumstance is, that the
imagination, in running from the present impression to the absent idea,
makes the transition with greater facility, and consequently conceives
the object with greater force, where the connexion is common and
universal, than where it is more rare and particular. Accordingly we may
observe, that the open declaration of our sentiments is called the taking
off the mask, as the secret intimation of our opinions is said to be the
veiling of them. The difference betwixt an idea produced by a general
connexion, and that arising from a particular one is here compared to the
difference betwixt an impression and an idea. This difference in the
imagination has a suitable effect on the passions; and this effect is
augmented by another circumstance. A secret intimation of anger or
contempt shews that we still have some consideration for the person, and
avoid the directly abusing him. This makes a concealed satire less
disagreeable; but still this depends on the same principle. For if an
idea were not more feeble, when only intimated, it would never be
esteemed a mark of greater respect to proceed in this method than in the

Sometimes scurrility is less displeasing than delicate satire, because it
revenges us in a manner for the injury at the very time it is committed,
by affording us a just reason to blame and contemn the person, who
injures us. But this phaenomenon likewise depends upon the same
principle. For why do we blame all gross and injurious language, unless
it be, because we esteem it contrary to good breeding and humanity? And
why is it contrary, unless it be more shocking than any delicate satire?
The rules of good breeding condemn whatever is openly disobliging, and
gives a sensible pain and confusion to those, with whom we converse.
After this is once established, abusive language is universally blamed,
and gives less pain upon account of its coarseness and incivility, which
render the person despicable, that employs it. It becomes less
disagreeable, merely because originally it is more so; and it is more
disagreeable, because it affords an inference by general and common
rules, that are palpable and undeniable.

To this explication of the different influence of open and concealed
flattery or satire, I shall add the consideration of another phenomenon,
which is analogous to it. There are many particulars in the point of
honour both of men and women, whose violations, when open and avowed, the
world never excuses, but which it is more apt to overlook, when the
appearances are saved, and the transgression is secret and concealed.
Even those, who know with equal certainty, that the fault is committed,
pardon it more easily, when the proofs seem in some measure oblique and
equivocal, than when they are direct and undeniable. The same idea is
presented in both cases, and, properly speaking, is equally assented to
by the judgment; and yet its influence is different, because of the
different manner, in which it is presented.

Now if we compare these two cases, of the open and concealed violations
of the laws of honour, we shall find, that the difference betwixt them
consists in this, that in the first ease the sign, from which we infer
the blameable action, is single, and suffices alone to be the foundation
of our reasoning and judgment; whereas in the latter the signs are
numerous, and decide little or nothing when alone and unaccompanyed with
many minute circumstances, which are almost imperceptible. But it is
certainly true, that any reasoning is always the more convincing, the
more single and united it is to the eye, and the less exercise it gives
to the imagination to collect all its parts, and run from them to the
correlative idea, which forms the conclusion. The labour of the thought
disturbs the regular progress of the sentiments, as we shall observe
presently.[Part IV. Sect. 1.] The idea strikes not on us with ouch
vivacity; and consequently has no such influence on the passion and

From the same principles we may account for those observations of the
CARDINAL DE RETZ, that there are many things, in which the world wishes
to be deceived; and that it more easily excuses a person in acting than
in talking contrary to the decorum of his profession and character. A
fault in words is commonly more open and distinct than one in actions,
which admit of many palliating excuses, and decide not so clearly
concerning the intention and views of the actor.

Thus it appears upon the whole, that every kind of opinion or judgment,
which amounts not to knowledge, is derived entirely from the force and
vivacity of the perception, and that these qualities constitute in the
mind, what we call the BELIEF Of the existence of any object. This force
and this vivacity are most conspicuous in the memory; and therefore our
confidence in the veracity of that faculty is the greatest imaginable,
and equals in many respects the assurance of a demonstration. The next
degree of these qualities is that derived from the relation of cause and
effect; and this too is very great, especially when the conjunction is
found by experience to be perfectly constant, and when the object, which
is present to us, exactly resembles those, of which we have had
experience. But below this degree of evidence there are many others,
which have an influence on the passions and imagination, proportioned to
that degree of force and vivacity, which they communicate to the ideas.
It is by habit we make the transition from cause to effect; and it is from
some present impression we borrow that vivacity, which we diffuse over
the correlative idea. But when we have not observed a sufficient number
of instances, to produce a strong habit; or when these instances are
contrary to each other; or when the resemblance is not exact; or the
present impression is faint and obscure; or the experience in some
measure obliterated from the memory; or the connexion dependent on a long
chain of objects; or the inference derived from general rules, and yet
not conformable to them: In all these cases the evidence diminishes by
the diminution of the force and intenseness of the idea. This therefore
is the nature of the judgment and probability.

What principally gives authority to this system is, beside the undoubted
arguments, upon which each part is founded, the agreement of these parts,
and the necessity of one to explain another. The belief, which attends
our memory, is of the same nature with that, which is derived from our
judgments: Nor is there any difference betwixt that judgment, which is
derived from a constant and uniform connexion of causes and effects, and
that which depends upon an interrupted and uncertain. It is indeed
evident, that in all determinations, where the mind decides from contrary
experiments, it is first divided within itself, and has an inclination to
either side in proportion to the number of experiments we have seen and
remember. This contest is at last determined to the advantage of that
side, where we observe a superior number of these experiments; but still
with a diminution of force in the evidence correspondent to the number of
the opposite experiments. Each possibility, of which the probability is
composed, operates separately upon the imagination; and it is the larger
collection of possibilities, which at last prevails, and that with a
force proportionable to its superiority. All these phenomena lead
directly to the precedent system; nor will it ever be possible upon any
other principles to give a satisfactory and consistent explication of
them. Without considering these judgments as the effects of custom on the
imagination, we shall lose ourselves in perpetual contradiction and


Having thus explained the manner, in which we reason beyond our immediate
impressions, and conclude that such particular causes must have such
particular effects; we must now return upon our footsteps to examine that
question, which [Sect. 2.] first occured to us, and which we dropt in our
way, viz. What is our idea of necessity, when we say that two objects are
necessarily connected together. Upon this head I repeat what I have often
had occasion to observe, that as we have no idea, that is not derived
from an impression, we must find some impression, that gives rise to this
idea of necessity, if we assert we have really such an idea. In order to
this I consider, in what objects necessity is commonly supposed to lie;
and finding that it is always ascribed to causes and effects, I turn my
eye to two objects supposed to be placed in that relation; and examine
them in all the situations, of which they are susceptible. I immediately
perceive, that they are contiguous in time and place, and that the object
we call cause precedes the other we call effect. In no one instance can
I go any farther, nor is it possible for me to discover any third
relation betwixt these objects. I therefore enlarge my view to comprehend
several instances; where I find like objects always existing in like
relations of contiguity and succession. At first sight this seems to
serve but little to my purpose. The reflection on several instances only
repeats the same objects; and therefore can never give rise to a new
idea. But upon farther enquiry I find, that the repetition is not in
every particular the same, but produces a new impression, and by that
means the idea, which I at present examine. For after a frequent
repetition, I find, that upon the appearance of one of the objects, the
mind is determined by custom to consider its usual attendant, and to
consider it in a stronger light upon account of its relation to the first
object. It is this impression, then, or determination, which affords me
the idea of necessity.

I doubt not but these consequences will at first sight be received
without difficulty, as being evident deductions from principles, which we
have already established, and which we have often employed in our
reasonings. This evidence both in the first principles, and in the
deductions, may seduce us unwarily into the conclusion, and make us
imagine it contains nothing extraordinary, nor worthy of our curiosity.
But though such an inadvertence may facilitate the reception of this
reasoning, it will make it be the more easily forgot; for which reason I
think it proper to give warning, that I have just now examined one of the
most sublime questions in philosophy, viz. that concerning the power and
efficacy of causes; where all the sciences seem so much interested. Such
a warning will naturally rouze up the attention of the reader, and make
him desire a more full account of my doctrine, as well as of the
arguments, on which it is founded. This request is so reasonable, that I
cannot refuse complying with it; especially as I am hopeful that these
principles, the more they are examined, will acquire the more force and

There is no question, which on account of its importance, as well as
difficulty, has caused more disputes both among antient and modern
philosophers, than this concerning the efficacy of causes, or that
quality which makes them be followed by their effects. But before they
entered upon these disputes, methinks it would not have been improper to
have examined what idea we have of that efficacy, which is the subject of
the controversy. This is what I find principally wanting in their
reasonings, and what I shall here endeavour to supply.

I begin with observing that the terms of EFFICACY, AGENCY, POWER, FORCE,
synonymous; and therefore it is an absurdity to employ any of them in
defining the rest. By this observation we reject at once all the vulgar
definitions, which philosophers have given of power and efficacy; and
instead of searching for the idea in these definitions, must look for it
in the impressions, from which it is originally derived. If it be a
compound idea, it must arise from compound impressions. If simple, from
simple impressions.

I believe the most general and most popular explication of this matter, is
to say [See Mr. Locke, chapter of power.], that finding from experience,
that there are several new productions in matter, such as the motions and
variations of body, and concluding that there must somewhere be a power
capable of producing them, we arrive at last by this reasoning at the idea
of power and efficacy. But to be convinced that this explication is more
popular than philosophical, we need but reflect on two very obvious
principles. First, That reason alone can never give rise to any original
idea, and secondly, that reason, as distinguished from experience, can
never make us conclude, that a cause or productive quality is absolutely
requisite to every beginning of existence. Both these considerations have
been sufficiently explained: and therefore shall not at present be any
farther insisted on.

I shall only infer from them, that since reason can never give rise to
the idea of efficacy, that idea must be derived from experience, and from
some particular instances of this efficacy, which make their passage into
the mind by the common channels of sensation or reflection. Ideas always
represent their objects or impressions; and vice versa, there are some
objects necessary to give rise to every idea. If we pretend, therefore,
to have any just idea of this efficacy, we must produce some instance,
wherein the efficacy is plainly discoverable to the mind, and its
operations obvious to our consciousness or sensation. By the refusal of
this, we acknowledge, that the idea is impossible and imaginary, since
the principle of innate ideas, which alone can save us from this dilemma,
has been already refuted, and is now almost universally rejected in the
learned world. Our present business, then, must be to find some natural
production, where the operation and efficacy of a cause can be clearly
conceived and comprehended by the mind, without any danger of obscurity
or mistake.

In this research we meet with very little encouragement from that
prodigious diversity, which is found in the opinions of those
philosophers, who have pretended to explain the secret force and energy
of causes. [See Father Malbranche, Book vi. Part 2, chap. 3. And the
illustrations upon it.] There are some, who maintain, that bodies operate
by their substantial form; others, by their accidents or qualities;
several, by their matter and form; some, by their form and accidents;
others, by certain virtues and faculties distinct from all this. All these
sentiments again are mixed and varyed in a thousand different ways; and
form a strong presumption, that none of them have any solidity or
evidence, and that the supposition of an efficacy in any of the known
qualities of matter is entirely without foundation. This presumption must
encrease upon us, when we consider, that these principles of substantial
forms, and accidents, and faculties, are not in reality any of the known
properties of bodies, but are perfectly unintelligible and inexplicable.
For it is evident philosophers would never have had recourse to such
obscure and uncertain principles, had they met with any satisfaction in
such as are clear and intelligible; especially in such an affair as this,
which must be an object of the simplest understanding, if not of the
senses. Upon the whole, we may conclude, that it is impossible in any one
instance to shew the principle, in which the force and agency of a cause
is placed; and that the most refined and most vulgar understandings are
equally at a loss in this particular. If any one think proper to refute
this assertion, he need not put himself to the trouble of inventing any
long reasonings: but may at once shew us an instance of a cause, where we
discover the power or operating principle. This defiance we are obliged
frequently to make use of, as being almost the only means of proving a
negative in philosophy.

The small success, which has been met with in all the attempts to fix
this power, has at last obliged philosophers to conclude, that the
ultimate force and efficacy of nature is perfectly unknown to us, and
that it is in vain we search for it in all the known qualities of matter.
In this opinion they are almost unanimous; and it is only in the inference
they draw from it, that they discover any difference in their sentiments.
For some of them, as the CARTESIANS in particular, having established it
as a principle, that we are perfectly acquainted with the essence of
matter, have very naturally inferred, that it is endowed with no
efficacy, and that it is impossible for it of itself to communicate
motion, or produce any of those effects, which we ascribe to it. As the
essence of matter consists in extension, and as extension implies not
actual motion, but only mobility; they conclude, that the energy, which
produces the motion, cannot lie in the extension.

This conclusion leads them into another, which they regard as perfectly
unavoidable. Matter, say they, is in itself entirely unactive, and
deprived of any power, by which it may produce, or continue, or
communicate motion: But since these effects are evident to our senses,
and since the power, that produces them, must be placed somewhere, it
must lie in the DEITY, or that divine being, who contains in his nature
all excellency and perfection. It is the deity, therefore, who is the
prime mover of the universe, and who not only first created matter, and
gave it it's original impulse, but likewise by a continued exertion of
omnipotence, supports its existence, and successively bestows on it all
those motions, and configurations, and qualities, with which it is

This opinion is certainly very curious, and well worth our attention; but
it will appear superfluous to examine it in this place, if we reflect a
moment on our present purpose in taking notice of it. We have established
it as a principle, that as all ideas are derived from impressions, or
some precedent perceptions, it is impossible we can have any idea of power
and efficacy, unless some instances can be produced, wherein this power
is perceived to exert itself. Now, as these instances can never be
discovered in body, the Cartesians, proceeding upon their principle of
innate ideas, have had recourse to a supreme spirit or deity, whom they
consider as the only active being in the universe, and as the immediate
cause of every alteration in matter. But the principle of innate ideas
being allowed to be false, it follows, that the supposition of a deity
can serve us in no stead, in accounting for that idea of agency, which we
search for in vain in all the objects, which are presented to our senses,
or which we are internally conscious of in our own minds. For if every
idea be derived from an impression, the idea of a deity proceeds from the
same origin; and if no impression, either of sensation or reflection,
implies any force or efficacy, it is equally impossible to discover or
even imagine any such active principle in the deity. Since these
philosophers, therefore, have concluded, that matter cannot be endowed
with any efficacious principle, because it is impossible to discover in it
such a principle; the same course of reasoning should determine them to
exclude it from the supreme being. Or if they esteem that opinion absurd
and impious, as it really is, I shall tell them how they may avoid it;
and that is, by concluding from the very first, that they have no
adequate idea of power or efficacy in any object; since neither in body
nor spirit, neither in superior nor inferior natures, are they able to
discover one single instance of it.

The same conclusion is unavoidable upon the hypothesis of those, who
maintain the efficacy of second causes, and attribute a derivative, but a
real power and energy to matter. For as they confess, that this energy
lies not in any of the known qualities of matter, the difficulty still
remains concerning the origin of its idea. If we have really an idea of
power, we may attribute power to an unknown quality: But as it is
impossible, that that idea can be derived from such a quality, and as
there is nothing in known qualities, which can produce it; it follows
that we deceive ourselves, when we imagine we are possest of any idea of
this kind, after the manner we commonly understand it. All ideas are
derived from, and represent impressions. We never have any impression,
that contains any power or efficacy. We never therefore have any idea of

Some have asserted, that we feel an energy, or power, in our own mind;
and that having in this manner acquired the idea of power, we transfer
that quality to matter, where we are not able immediately to discover it.
The motions of our body, and the thoughts and sentiments of our mind,
(say they) obey the will; nor do we seek any farther to acquire a just
notion of force or power. But to convince us how fallacious this
reasoning is, we need only consider, that the will being here considered
as a cause, has no more a discoverable connexion with its effects, than
any material cause has with its proper effect. So far from perceiving the
connexion betwixt an act of volition, and a motion of the body; it is
allowed that no effect is more inexplicable from the powers and essence
of thought and matter. Nor is the empire of the will over our mind more
intelligible. The effect is there distinguishable and separable from the
cause, and coued not be foreseen without the experience of their constant
conjunction. We have command over our mind to a certain degree, but
beyond that, lose all empire over it: And it is evidently impossible to
fix any precise bounds to our authority, where we consult not experience.
In short, the actions of the mind are, in this respect, the same with
those of matter. We perceive only their constant conjunction; nor can we
ever reason beyond it. No internal impression has an apparent energy,
more than external objects have. Since, therefore, matter is confessed by
philosophers to operate by an unknown force, we should in vain hope to
attain an idea of force by consulting our own minds. [Footnote 8.]

[Footnote 8. The same imperfection attends our ideas of the Deity; but
this can have no effect either on religion or morals. The order of the
universe proves an omnipotent mind; that is, a mind whose wili is
CONSTANTLY ATTENDED with the obedience of every creature and being.
Nothing more is requisite to give a foundation to all the articles of
religion. nor is It necessary we shoud form a distinct idea of the force
and energy of the supreme Being.]

It has been established as a certain principle, that general or abstract
ideas are nothing but individual ones taken in a certain light, and that,
in reflecting on any object, it is as impossible to exclude from our
thought all particular degrees of quantity and quality as from the real
nature of things. If we be possest, therefore, of any idea of power in
general, we must also be able to conceive some particular species of it;
and as power cannot subsist alone, but is always regarded as an attribute
of some being or existence, we must be able. to place this power in some
particular being, and conceive that being as endowed with a real force
and energy, by which such a particular effect necessarily results from
its operation. We must distinctly and particularly conceive the connexion
betwixt the cause and effect, and be able to pronounce, from a simple
view of the one, that it must be followed or preceded by the other. This
is the true manner of conceiving a particular power in a particular body:
and a general idea being impossible without an individual; where the
latter is impossible, it is certain the former can never exist. Now
nothing is more evident, than that the human mind cannot form such an
idea of two objects, as to conceive any connexion betwixt them, or
comprehend distinctly that power or efficacy, by which they are united.
Such a connexion would amount to a demonstration, and would imply the
absolute impossibility for the one object not to follow, or to be
conceived not to follow upon the other: Which kind of connexion has
already been rejected in all cases. If any one is of a contrary opinion,
and thinks he has attained a notion of power in any particular object, I
desire he may point out to me that object. But till I meet with
such-a-one, which I despair of, I cannot forbear concluding, that since
we can never distinctly conceive how any particular power can possibly
reside in any particular object, we deceive ourselves in imagining we can
form any such general idea.

Thus upon the whole we may infer, that when we talk of any being, whether
of a superior or inferior nature, as endowed with a power or force,
proportioned to any effect; when we speak of a necessary connexion
betwixt objects, and suppose, that this connexion depends upon an
efficacy or energy, with which any of these objects are endowed; in all
these expressions, so applied, we have really no distinct meaning, and
make use only of common words, without any clear and determinate ideas.
But as it is more probable, that these expressions do here lose their true
meaning by being wrong applied, than that they never have any meaning;
it will be proper to bestow another consideration on this subject, to see
if possibly we can discover the nature and origin of those ideas, we
annex to them.

Suppose two objects to be presented to us, of which the one is the cause
and the other the effect; it is plain, that from the simple consideration
of one, or both these objects we never shall perceive the tie by which
they are united, or be able certainly to pronounce, that there is a
connexion betwixt them. It is not, therefore, from any one instance, that
we arrive at the idea of cause and effect, of a necessary connexion of
power, of force, of energy, and of efficacy. Did we never see any but
particular conjunctions of objects, entirely different from each other,
we should never be able to form any such ideas.

But again; suppose we observe several instances, in which the same
objects are always conjoined together, we immediately conceive a
connexion betwixt them, and begin to draw an inference from one to
another. This multiplicity of resembling instances, therefore,
constitutes the very essence of power or connexion, and is the source
from which the idea of it arises. In order, then, to understand the idea
of power, we must consider that multiplicity; nor do I ask more to give a
solution of that difficulty, which has so long perplexed us. For thus I
reason. The repetition of perfectly similar instances can never alone
give rise to an original idea, different from what is to be found in any
particular instance, as has been observed, and as evidently follows from
our fundamental principle, that all ideas are copyed from impressions.
Since therefore the idea of power is a new original idea, not to be found
in any one instance, and which yet arises from the repetition of several
instances, it follows, that the repetition alone has not that effect, but
must either discover or produce something new, which is the source of
that idea. Did the repetition neither discover nor produce anything new,
our ideas might be multiplyed by it, but would not be enlarged above what
they are upon the observation of one single instance. Every enlargement,
therefore, (such as the idea of power or connexion) which arises from the
multiplicity of similar instances, is copyed from some effects of the
multiplicity, and will be perfectly understood by understanding these
effects. Wherever we find anything new to be discovered or produced by
the repetition, there we must place the power, and must never look for it
in any other object.

But it is evident, in the first place, that the repetition of like objects
in like relations of succession and contiguity discovers nothing new in
any one of them: since we can draw no inference from it, nor make it a
subject either of our demonstrative or probable reasonings;[Sect. 6.] as
has been already proved. Nay suppose we coued draw an inference, it would
be of no consequence in the present case; since no kind of reasoning can
give rise to a new idea, such as this of power is; but wherever we
reason, we must antecedently be possest of clear ideas, which may be the
objects of our reasoning. The conception always precedes the
understanding; and where the one is obscure, the other is uncertain;
where the one fails, the other must fail also.

Secondly, It is certain that this repetition of similar objects in similar
situations produces nothing new either in these objects, or in any
external body. For it will readily be allowed, that the several instances
we have of the conjunction of resembling causes and effects are in
themselves entirely independent, and that the communication of motion,
which I see result at present from the shock of two billiard-balls, is
totally distinct from that which I saw result from such an impulse a
twelve-month ago. These impulses have no influence on each other. They
are entirely divided by time and place; and the one might have existed
and communicated motion, though the other never had been in being.

There is, then, nothing new either discovered or produced in any objects
by their constant conjunction, and by the uninterrupted resemblance of
their relations of succession and contiguity. But it is from this
resemblance, that the ideas of necessity, of power, and of efficacy, are
derived. These ideas, therefore, represent not anything, that does or
can belong to the objects, which are constantly conjoined. This is an
argument, which, in every view we can examine it, will be found perfectly
unanswerable. Similar instances are still the first source of our idea of
power or necessity; at the same time that they have no influence by their
similarity either on each other, or on any external object. We must,
therefore, turn ourselves to some other quarter to seek the origin of
that idea.

Though the several resembling instances, which give rise to the idea of
power, have no influence on each other, and can never produce any new
quality in the object, which can be the model of that idea, yet the
observation of this resemblance produces a new impression in the mind,
which is its real model. For after we have observed the resemblance in a
sufficient number of instances, we immediately feel a determination of
the mind to pass from one object to its usual attendant, and to conceive
it in a stronger light upon account of that relation. This determination
is the only effect of the resemblance; and therefore must be the same
with power or efficacy, whose idea is derived from the resemblance. The
several instances of resembling conjunctions lead us into the notion of
power and necessity. These instances are in themselves totally distinct
from each other, and have no union but in the mind, which observes them,
and collects their ideas. Necessity, then, is the effect of this
observation, and is nothing but an internal impression of. the mind, or a
determination to carry our thoughts from one object to another. Without
considering it in this view, we can never arrive at the most distant
notion of it, or be able to attribute it either to external or internal
objects, to spirit or body, to causes or effects.

The necessary connexion betwixt causes and effects is the foundation of
our inference from one to the other. The foundation of our inference is
the transition arising from the accustomed union. These are, therefore,
the same.

The idea of necessity arises from some impression. There is no impression
conveyed by our senses, which can give rise to that idea. It must,
therefore, be derived from some internal impression, or impression of
reflection. There is no internal impression, which has any relation to
the present business, but that propensity, which custom produces, to pass
from an object to the idea of its usual attendant. This therefore is the
essence of necessity. Upon the whole, necessity is something, that exists
in the mind, not in objects; nor is it possible for us ever to form the
most distant idea of it, considered as a quality in bodies. Either we
have no idea of necessity, or necessity is nothing but that determination
of the thought to pass from causes to effects, and from effects to
causes, according to their experienced union.

Thus as the necessity, which makes two times two equal to four, or three
angles of a triangle equal to two right ones, lies only in the act of the
understanding, by which we consider and compare these ideas; in like
manner the necessity or power, which unites causes and effects, lies in
the determination of the mind to pass from the one to the other. The
efficacy or energy of causes is neither placed in the causes themselves,
nor in the deity, nor in the concurrence of these two principles; but
belongs entirely to the soul, which considers the union of two or more
objects in all past instances. It is here that the real power of causes is
placed along with their connexion and necessity.

I am sensible, that of all the paradoxes, which I, have had, or shall
hereafter have occasion to advance in the course of this treatise, the
present one is the most violent, and that it is merely by dint of solid
proof and reasoning I can ever hope it will have admission, and overcome
the inveterate prejudices of mankind. Before we are reconciled to this
doctrine, how often must we repeat to ourselves, that the simple view of
any two objects or actions, however related, can never give us any idea,
of power, or of a connexion betwixt them: that this idea arises from the
repetition of their union: that the repetition neither discovers nor
causes any thing in the objects, but has an influence only on the mind,
by that customary transition it produces: that this customary transition
is, therefore, the same with the power and necessity; which are
consequently qualities of perceptions, not of objects, and are internally
felt by the soul, and not perceivd externally in bodies? There is
commonly an astonishment attending every thing extraordinary; and this
astonishment changes immediately into the highest degree of esteem or
contempt, according as we approve or disapprove of the subject. I am much
afraid, that though the foregoing reasoning appears to me the shortest and
most decisive imaginable; yet with the generality of readers the biass of
the mind will prevail, and give them a prejudice against the present

This contrary biass is easily accounted for. It is a common observation,
that the mind has a great propensity to spread itself on external
objects, and to conjoin with them any internal impressions, which they
occasion, and which always make their appearance at the same time that
these objects discover themselves to the senses. Thus as certain sounds
and smells are always found to attend certain visible objects, we
naturally imagine a conjunction, even in place, betwixt the objects and
qualities, though the qualities be of such a nature as to admit of no such
conjunction, and really exist no where. But of this more fully hereafter
[Part IV, Sect. 5.]. Mean while it is sufficient to observe, that the same
propensity is the reason, why we suppose necessity and power to lie in
the objects we consider, not in our mind that considers them;
notwithstanding it is not possible for us to form the most distant idea
of that quality, when it is not taken for the determination of the mind,
to pass from the idea of an object to that of its usual attendant.

But though this be the only reasonable account we can give of necessity,
the contrary notion if; so riveted in the mind from the principles
above-mentioned, that I doubt not but my sentiments will be treated by
many as extravagant and ridiculous. What! the efficacy of causes lie in
the determination of the mind! As if causes did not operate entirely
independent of the mind, and would not continue their operation, even
though there was no mind existent to contemplate them, or reason
concerning them. Thought may well depend on causes for its operation, but
not causes on thought. This is to reverse the order of nature, and make
that secondary, which is really primary, To every operation there is a
power proportioned; and this power must be placed on the body, that
operates. If we remove the power from one cause, we must ascribe it to
another: But to remove it from all causes, and bestow it on a being, that
is no ways related to the cause or effect, but by perceiving them, is a
gross absurdity, and contrary to the most certain principles of human

I can only reply to all these arguments, that the case is here much the
same, as if a blind man should pretend to find a great many absurdities
in the supposition, that the colour of scarlet is not the same with the
sound of a trumpet, nor light the same with solidity. If we have really
no idea of a power or efficacy in any object, or of any real connexion
betwixt causes and effects, it will be to little purpose to prove, that an
efficacy is necessary in all operations. We do not understand our own
meaning in talking so, but ignorantly confound ideas, which are entirely
distinct from each other. I am, indeed, ready to allow, that there may be
several qualities both in material and immaterial objects, with which we
are utterly unacquainted; and if we please to call these POWER or
EFFICACY, it will be of little consequence to the world. But when, instead
of meaning these unknown qualities, we make the terms of power and
efficacy signify something, of which we have a clear idea, and which is
incompatible with those objects, to which we apply it, obscurity and
error begin then to take place, and we are led astray by a false
philosophy. This is the case, when we transfer the determination of the
thought to external objects, and suppose any real intelligible connexion
betwixt them; that being a quality, which can only belong to the mind
that considers them.

As to what may be said, that the operations of nature are independent of
our thought and reasoning, I allow it; and accordingly have observed,
that objects bear to each other the relations of contiguity and
succession: that like objects may be observed in several instances to
have like relations; and that all this is independent of, and antecedent
to the operations of the understanding. But if we go any farther, and
ascribe a power or necessary connexion to these objects; this is what we
can never observe in them, but must draw the idea of it from what we feel
internally in contemplating them. And this I carry so far, that I am
ready to convert my present reasoning into an instance of it, by a
subtility, which it will not be difficult to comprehend.

When any object is presented to us, it immediately conveys to the mind a
lively idea of that object, which is usually found to attend it; and this
determination of the mind forms the necessary connexion of these objects.
But when we change the point of view, from the objects to the
perceptions; in that case the impression is to be considered as the
cause, and the lively idea as the effect; and their necessary connexion
is that new determination, which we feel to pass from the idea of the one
to that of the other. The uniting principle among our internal
perceptions is as unintelligible as that among external objects, and is
not known to us any other way than by experience. Now the nature and
effects of experience have been already sufficiently examined and
explained. It never gives us any insight into the internal structure or
operating principle of objects, but only accustoms the mind to pass from
one to another.

It is now time to collect all the different parts of this reasoning, and
by joining them together form an exact definition of the relation of
cause and effect, which makes the subject of the present enquiry. This
order would not have been excusable, of first examining our inference
from the relation before we had explained the relation itself, had it
been possible to proceed in a different method. But as the nature of the
relation depends so much on that of the inference, we have been obliged
to advance in this seemingly preposterous manner, and make use of terms
before we were able exactly to define them, or fix their meaning. We
shall now correct this fault by giving a precise definition of cause and

There may two definitions be given of this relation, which are only
different, by their presenting a different view of the same object, and
making us consider it either as a philosophical or as a natural relation;
either as a comparison of two ideas, or as an association betwixt them.
We may define a CAUSE to be An object precedent and contiguous to
another, and where all the objects resembling the former are placed in
like relations of precedency and contiguity to those objects that
resemble the latter. I If this definition be esteemed defective, because
drawn from objects foreign to the cause, we may substitute this other
definition in its place, viz. A CAUSE is an object precedent and
contiguous to another, and so united with it, that the idea, of the one
determines the mind to form the idea of the other, and the impression of
the one to form a more lively idea of the other. 2 should this
definition also be rejected for the same reason, I know no other remedy,
than that the persons, who express this delicacy, should substitute a
juster definition in its place. But for my part I must own my incapacity
for such an undertaking. When I examine with the utmost accuracy those
objects, which are commonly denominated causes and effects, I find, in
considering a single instance, that the one object is precedent and
contiguous to the other; and in inlarging my view to consider several
instances, I find only, that like objects are constantly placed in like
relations of succession and contiguity. Again, when I consider the
influence of this constant conjunction, I perceive, that such a relation
can never be an object of reasoning, and can never operate upon the mind,
but by means of custom, which determines the imagination to make a
transition from the idea of one object to that of its usual attendant,
and from the impression of one to a more lively idea of the other.
However extraordinary these sentiments may appear, I think it fruitless
to trouble myself with any farther enquiry or reasoning upon the subject,
but shall repose myself on them as on established maxims.

It will only be proper, before we leave this subject, to draw some
corrollaries from it, by which we may remove several prejudices and
popular errors, that have very much prevailed in philosophy. First, We
may learn from the foregoing, doctrine, that all causes are of the same
kind, and that in particular there is no foundation for that distinction,
which we sometimes make betwixt efficient causes and causes sine qua non;
or betwixt efficient causes, and formal, and material, and exemplary, and
final causes. For as our idea of efficiency is derived from the constant
conjunction of two objects, wherever this is observed, the cause is
efficient; and where it is not, there can never be a cause of any kind.
For the same reason we must reject the distinction betwixt cause and
occasion, when supposed to signify any thing essentially different from
each other. If constant conjunction be implyed in what we call occasion,
it is a real cause. If not, it is no relation at all, and cannot give rise
to any argument or reasoning.

Secondly, The same course of reasoning will make us conclude, that there
is but one kind of necessity, as there is but one kind of cause, and that
the common distinction betwixt moral and physical necessity is without
any foundation in nature. This clearly appears from the precedent
explication of necessity. It is the constant conjunction of objects, along
with the determination of the mind, which constitutes a physical
necessity: And the removal of these is the same thing with chance. As
objects must either be conjoined or not, and as the mind must either be
determined or not to pass from one object to another, it is impossible to
admit of any medium betwixt chance and an absolute necessity. In
weakening this conjunction and determination you do not change the nature
of the necessity; since even in the operation of bodies, these have
different degrees of constancy and force, without producing a different
species of that relation.

The distinction, which we often make betwixt POWER and the EXERCISE
of it, is equally without foundation.

Thirdly, We may now be able fully to overcome all that repugnance, which
it is so natural for us to entertain against the foregoing reasoning, by
which we endeavoured to prove, that the necessity of a cause to every
beginning of existence is not founded on any arguments either
demonstrative or intuitive. Such an opinion will not appear strange after
the foregoing definitions. If we define a cause to be an object precedent
and contiguous to another, and where all the objects resembling the
farmer are placed in a like relation of .priority and contiguity to those
objects, that resemble the latter; we may easily conceive, that there is
no absolute nor metaphysical necessity, that every beginning of existence
should be attended with such an object. If we define a cause to be, AN
IDEA OF THE OTHER; we shall make still less difficulty of assenting to
this opinion. Such an influence on the mind is in itself perfectly
extraordinary and incomprehensible; nor can we be certain of its reality,
but from experience and observation.

I shall add as a fourth corrollary that we can never have reason to
believe that any object exists, of which we cannot form an idea. For as
all our reasonings concerning existence are derived from causation, and
as all our reasonings concerning causation are derived from the
experienced conjunction of objects, not from any reasoning or reflection,
the same experience must give us a notion of these objects, and must
remove all mystery from our conclusions. This is so evident, that it would
scarce have merited our attention, were it not to obviate certain
objections of this kind, which might arise against the following
reasonings concerning matter and substance. I need not observe, that a
full knowledge of the object is not requisite, but only of those
qualities of it, which we believe to exist.


According to the precedent doctrine, there are no objects which by the
mere survey, without consulting experience, we can determine to be the
causes of any other; and no objects, which we can certainly determine in
the same manner not to be the causes. Any thing may produce any thing.
Creation, annihilation, motion, reason, volition; all these may arise
from one another, or from any other object we can imagine. Nor will this
appear strange, if we compare two principles explained above, THAT THE
contrary, nothing hinders them from having that constant conjunction, on
which the relation of cause and effect totally depends.

Since therefore it is possible for all objects to become causes or effects
to each other, it may be proper to fix some general rules, by which we
may know when they really are so.

(1) The cause and effect must be contiguous in space and time.

(2) The cause must be prior to the effect.

(3) There must be a constant union betwixt the cause and effect. It is
chiefly this quality, that constitutes the relation.

(4) The same cause always produces the same effect, and the same effect
never arises but from the same cause. This principle we derive from
experience, and is the source of most of our philosophical reasonings.
For when by any clear experiment we have discovered the causes or effects
of any phaenomenon, we immediately extend our observation to every
phenomenon of the same kind, without waiting for that constant
repetition, from which the first idea of this relation is derived.

(5) There is another principle, which hangs upon this, viz. that where
several different objects produce the same effect, it must be by means of
some quality, which we discover to be common amongst them. For as like
effects imply like causes, we must always ascribe the causation to the
circumstance, wherein we discover the resemblance.

(6) The following principle is founded on the same reason. The difference
in the effects of two resembling objects must proceed from that
particular, in which they differ. For as like causes always produce like
effects, when in any instance we find our expectation to be disappointed,
we must conclude that this irregularity proceeds from some difference in
the causes.

(7) When any object encreases or diminishes with the encrease or
diminution of its cause, it is to be regarded as a compounded effect,
derived from the union of the several different effects, which arise from
the several different parts of the cause. The absence or presence of one
part of the cause is here supposed to be always attended with the absence
or presence of a proportionable part of the effect. This constant
conjunction sufficiently proves, that the one part is the cause of the
other. We must, however, beware not to draw such a conclusion from a few
experiments. A certain degree of heat gives pleasure; if you diminish
that heat, the pleasure diminishes; but it does not follow, that if you
augment it beyond a certain degree, the pleasure will likewise augment;
for we find that it degenerates into pain.

(8) The eighth and last rule I shall take notice of is, that an object,
which exists for any time in its full perfection without any effect, is
not the sole cause of that effect, but requires to be assisted by some
other principle, which may forward its influence and operation. For as
like effects necessarily follow from like causes, and in a contiguous
time and place, their separation for a moment shews, that these causes
are not compleat ones.

Here is all the LOGIC I think proper to employ in my reasoning; and
perhaps even this was not very necessary, but might have been supplyd by
the natural principles of our understanding. Our scholastic head-pieces
and logicians shew no such superiority above the mere vulgar in their
reason and ability, as to give us any inclination to imitate them in
delivering a long system of rules and precepts to direct our judgment, in
philosophy. All the rules of this nature are very easy in their
invention, but extremely difficult in their application; and even
experimental philosophy, which seems the most natural and simple of any,
requires the utmost stretch of human judgment. There is no phaenomenon in
nature, but what is compounded and modifyd by so many different
circumstances, that in order to arrive at the decisive point, we must
carefully separate whatever is superfluous, and enquire by new
experiments, if every particular circumstance of the first experiment was
essential to it. These new experiments are liable to a discussion of the
same kind; so that the utmost constancy is requird to make us persevere
in our enquiry, and the utmost sagacity to choose the right way among so
many that present themselves. If this be the case even in natural
philosophy, how much more in moral, where there is a much greater
complication of circumstances, and where those views and sentiments,
which are essential to any action of the mind, are so implicit and
obscure, that they often escape our strictest attention, and are not only
unaccountable in their causes, but even unknown in their existence? I am
much afraid lest the small success I meet with in my enquiries will make
this observation bear the air of an apology rather than of boasting.

If any thing can give me security in this particular, it will be the
enlarging of the sphere of my experiments as much as possible; for which
reason it may be proper in this place to examine the reasoning faculty of
brutes, as well as that of human creatures.


Next to the ridicule of denying an evident truth, is that of taking much
pains to defend it; and no truth appears to me more evident, than that
beasts are endowd with thought and reason as well as men. The arguments
are in this case so obvious, that they never escape the most stupid and

We are conscious, that we ourselves, in adapting means to ends, are
guided by reason and design, and that it is not ignorantly nor casually we
perform those actions, which tend to self-preservation, to the obtaining
pleasure, and avoiding pain. When therefore we see other creatures, in
millions of instances, perform like actions, and direct them to the ends,
all our principles of reason and probability carry us with an invincible
force to believe the existence of a like cause. It is needless in my
opinion to illustrate this argument by the enumeration of particulars.
The smallest attention will supply us with more than are requisite. The
resemblance betwixt the actions of animals and those of men is so entire
in this respect, that the very first action of the first animal we shall
please to pitch on, will afford us an incontestable argument for the
present doctrine.

This doctrine is as useful as it is obvious, and furnishes us with a kind
of touchstone, by which we may try every system in this species of
philosophy. It is from the resemblance of the external actions of animals
to those we ourselves perform, that we judge their internal likewise to
resemble ours; and the same principle of reasoning, carryd one step
farther, will make us conclude that since our internal actions resemble
each other, the causes, from which they are derivd, must also be
resembling. When any hypothesis, therefore, is advancd to explain a
mental operation, which is common to men and beasts, we must apply the
same hypothesis to both; and as every true hypothesis will abide this
trial, so I may venture to affirm, that no false one will ever be able to
endure it. The common defect of those systems, which philosophers have
employd to account for the actions of the mind, is, that they suppose
such a subtility and refinement of thought, as not only exceeds the
capacity of mere animals, but even of children and the common people in
our own species; who are notwithstanding susceptible of the same emotions
and affections as persons of the most accomplishd genius and
understanding. Such a subtility is a dear proof of the falshood, as the
contrary simplicity of the truth, of any system.

Let us therefore put our present system concerning the nature of the
understanding to this decisive trial, and see whether it will equally
account for the reasonings of beasts as for these of the human species.

Here we must make a distinction betwixt those actions of animals, which
are of a vulgar nature, and seem to be on a level with their common
capacities, and those more extraordinary instances of sagacity, which
they sometimes discover for their own preservation, and the propagation
of their species. A dog, that avoids fire and precipices, that shuns
strangers, and caresses his master, affords us an instance of the first
kind. A bird, that chooses with such care and nicety the place and
materials of her nest, and sits upon her eggs for a due time, and in
suitable season, with all the precaution that a chymist is capable of in
the most delicate projection, furnishes us with a lively instance of the

As to the former actions, I assert they proceed from a reasoning, that is
not in itself different, nor founded on different principles, from that
which appears in human nature. It is necessary in the first place, that
there be some impression immediately present to their memory or senses,
in order to be the foundation of their judgment. From the tone of voice
the dog infers his masters anger, and foresees his own punishment. From a
certain sensation affecting his smell, he judges his game not to be far
distant from him.

Secondly, The inference he draws from the present impression is built on
experience, and on his observation of the conjunction of objects in past
instances. As you vary this experience, he varies his reasoning. Make a
beating follow upon one sign or motion for some time, and afterwards upon
another; and he will successively draw different conclusions, according
to his most recent experience.

Now let any philosopher make a trial, and endeavour to explain that act
of the mind, which we call BELIEF, and give an account of the principles,
from which it is derivd, independent of the influence of custom on the
imagination. and let his hypothesis be equally applicable to beasts as to
the human species; and after he has done this, I promise to embrace his
opinion. But at the same time I demand as an equitable condition, that if
my system be the only one, which can answer to all these terms, it may be
receivd as entirely satisfactory and convincing. And that it is the only
one, is evident almost without any reasoning. Beasts certainly never
perceive any real connexion among objects. It is therefore by experience
they infer one from another. They can never by any arguments form a
general conclusion, that those objects, of which they have had no
experience, resemble those of which they have. It is therefore by means of
custom alone, that experience operates upon them. All this was
sufficiently evident with respect to man. But with respect to beasts
there cannot be the least suspicion of mistake; which must be ownd to be
a strong confirmation, or rather an invincible proof of my system.

Nothing shews more the force of habit in reconciling us to any
phaenomenoun, than this, that men are not astonished at the operations of
their own reason, at the same time, that they admire the instinct of
animals, and find a difficulty in explaining it, merely because it cannot
be reducd tothe very same principles. To consider the matter aright,
reason is nothing but a wonderful and unintelligible instinct in our
souls, which carries us along a certain train of ideas, and endows them
with particular qualities, according to their particular situations and
relations. This instinct, it is true, arises from past observation and
experience; but can any one give the ultimate reason, why past experience
and observation produces such an effect, any more than why nature alone
shoud produce it? Nature may certainly produce whatever can arise from
habit: Nay, habit is nothing but one of the principles of nature, and
derives all its force from that origin.



In all demonstrative sciences the rules are certain and infallible; but
when we apply them, our fallible said uncertain faculties are very apt to
depart from them, and fall into error. We must, therefore, in every
reasoning form a new judgment, as a check or controul on our first
judgment or belief; and must enlarge our view to comprehend a kind of
history of all the instances, wherein our understanding has deceived us,
compared with those, wherein its testimony was just and true. Our reason
must be considered as a kind of cause, of which truth is the natural
effect; but such-a-one as by the irruption of other causes, and by the
inconstancy of our mental powers, may frequently be prevented. By this
means all knowledge degenerates into probability; and this probability is
greater or less, according to our experience of the veracity or
deceitfulness of our understanding, and according to the simplicity or
intricacy of the question.

There is no Algebraist nor Mathematician so expert in his science, as to
place entire confidence in any truth immediately upon his discovery of
it, or regard it as any thing, but a were probability. Every time he runs
over his proofs, his confidence encreases; but still more by the
approbation of his friends; and is raised to its utmost perfection by the
universal assent and applauses of the, learned world. Now it is evident,
that this gradual encrease of assurance is nothing but the addition of
new probabilities, and is derived from the constant union of causes and
effects, according to past experience and observation.

In accompts of any length or importance, Merchants seldom trust to the,
infallible certainty of numbers for their security; but by the artificial
structure of the accompts, produce a probability beyond what is derived
from the skill and experience of the accomptant. For that is plainly of
itself some degree of probability; though uncertain and variable,
according to the degrees of his experience and length of the accompt. Now
as none will maintain, that our assurance in a long numeration exceeds
probability, I may safely affirm, that there scarce is any proposition
concerning numbers, of which we can have a fuller security. For it is
easily possible, by gradually diminishing the numbers, to reduce the
longest series of addition to the most simple question, which can be
formed, to an addition of two single numbers; and upon this supposition
we shall find it impracticable to shew the precise limits of knowledge
and of probability, or discover that particular number, at which the one
ends and the other begins. But knowledge and probability are of such
contrary and disagreeing natures, that they cannot well run insensibly
into each other, and that because they will not divide, but must be
either entirely present, or entirely absent. Besides, if any single
addition were certain, every one would be so, and consequently the whole
or total sum; unless the whole can be different from all its parts. I had
almost said, that this was certain; but I reflect that it must reduce
itself, as well as every other reasoning, and from knowledge degenerate
into probability.

Since therefore all knowledge resolves itself into probability, and
becomes at last of the same nature with that evidence, which we employ in
common life, we must now examine this latter species of reasoning, and
see on what foundation it stands.

In every judgment, which we can form concerning probability, as well as
concerning knowledge, we ought always to correct the first judgment,
derived from the nature of the object, by another judgment, derived from
the nature of the understanding. It is certain a man of solid sense and
long experience ought to have, and usually has, a greater assurance in
his opinions, than one that is foolish and ignorant, and that our
sentiments have different degrees of authority, even with ourselves, in
proportion to the degrees of our reason and experience. In the man of the
best sense and longest experience, this authority is never entire; since
even such-a-one must be conscious of many errors in the past, and must
still dread the like for the future. Here then arises a new species of
probability to correct and regulate the first, and fix its just standard
and proportion. As demonstration is subject to the controul of
probability, so is probability liable to a new correction by a reflex act
of the mind, wherein the nature of our understanding, and our reasoning
from the first probability become our objects.

Having thus found in every probability, beside the original uncertainty
inherent in the subject, a new uncertainty derived from the weakness of
that faculty, which judges, and having adjusted these two together, we
are obliged by our reason to add a new doubt derived from the possibility
of error in the estimation we make of the truth and fidelity of our
faculties. This is a doubt, which immediately occurs to us, and of which,
if we would closely pursue our reason, we cannot avoid giving a decision.
But this decision, though it should be favourable to our preceding
judgment, being founded only on probability, must weaken still further
our first evidence, and must itself be weakened by a fourth doubt of the
same kind, and so on in infinitum: till at last there remain nothing of
the original probability, however great we may suppose it to have been,
and however small the diminution by every new uncertainty. No finite
object can subsist under a decrease repeated IN INFINITUM; and even the
vastest quantity, which can enter into human imagination, must in this
manner be reduced to nothing. Let our first belief be never so strong, it
must infallibly perish by passing through so many new examinations, of
which each diminishes somewhat of its force and vigour. When I reflect on
the natural fallibility of my judgment, I have less confidence in my
opinions, than when I only consider the objects concerning which I
reason; and when I proceed still farther, to turn the scrutiny against
every successive estimation I make of my faculties, all the rules of
logic require a continual diminution, and at last a total extinction of
belief and evidence.

Should it here be asked me, whether I sincerely assent to this argument,
which I seem to take such pains to inculcate, and whether I be really one
of those sceptics, who hold that all is uncertain, and that our judgment
is not in any thing possest of any measures of truth and falshood; I
should reply, that this question is entirely superfluous, and that
neither I, nor any other person was ever sincerely and constantly of that
opinion. Nature, by an absolute and uncontroulable necessity has
determined us to judge as well as to breathe and feel; nor can we any
more forbear viewing certain objects in a stronger and fuller light, upon
account of their customary connexion with a present impression, than we
can hinder ourselves from thinking as long, as we are awake, or seeing
the surrounding bodies, when we turn our eyes towards them in broad
sunshine. Whoever has taken the pains to refute the cavils of this total
scepticism, has really disputed without an antagonist, and endeavoured by
arguments to establish a faculty, which nature has antecedently implanted
in the mind, and rendered unavoidable.

My intention then in displaying so carefully the arguments of that
fantastic sect, is only to make the reader sensible of the truth of my
hypothesis, that all our reasonings concerning causes and effects are
derived from nothing but custom; and that belief is more properly an act
of the, sensitive, than of the cogitative part of our natures. I have
here proved, that the very same principles, which make us form a decision
upon any subject, and correct that decision by the consideration of our
genius and capacity, and of the situation of our mind, when we examined
that subject; I say, I have proved, that these same principles, when
carryed farther, and applied to every new reflex judgment, must, by
continually diminishing the original evidence, at last reduce it to
nothing, and utterly subvert all belief and opinion. If belief,
therefore, were a simple act of the thought, without any peculiar manner
of conception, or the addition of a force and vivacity, it must
infallibly destroy itself, and in every case terminate in a total
suspense of judgment. But as experience will sufficiently convince any
one, who thinks it worth while to try, that though he can find no error in
the foregoing arguments, yet he still continues to believe, and think,
and reason as usual, he may safely conclude, that his reasoning and
belief is some sensation or peculiar manner of conception, which it is
impossible for mere ideas and reflections to destroy.

But here, perhaps, it may be demanded, how it happens, even upon my
hypothesis, that these arguments above-explained produce not a total
suspense of judgment, and after what manner the mind ever retains a
degree of assurance in any subject? For as these new probabilities, which
by their repetition perpetually diminish the original evidence, are
founded on the very same principles, whether of thought or sensation, as
the primary judgment, it may seem unavoidable, that in either case they
must equally subvert it, and by the opposition, either of contrary
thoughts or sensations, reduce the mind to a total uncertainty. I
suppose, there is some question proposed to me, and that after revolving
over the impressions of my memory and senses, and carrying my thoughts
from them to such objects, as are commonly conjoined with them, I feel a
stronger and more forcible conception on the one side, than on the other.
This strong conception forms my first decision. I suppose, that
afterwards I examine my judgment itself, and observing from experience,
that it is sometimes just and sometimes erroneous, I consider it as
regulated by contrary principles or causes, of which some lead to truth,
and some to error; and in ballancing these contrary causes, I diminish by
a new probability the assurance of my first decision. This new
probability is liable to the same diminution as the foregoing, and so on,
IN INFINITUM. It is therefore demanded, how it happens, that even after
all we retain a degree of belief, which is sufficient for our purpose,
either in philosophy or common life.

I answer, that after the first and second decision; as the action of the
mind becomes forced and unnatural, and the ideas faint and obscure; though
the principles of judgment, and the ballancing of opposite causes be the
same as at the very beginning; yet their influence on the imagination,
and the vigour they add to, or diminish from the thought, is by no means
equal. Where the mind reaches not its objects with easiness and facility,
the same principles have not the same effect as in a more natural
conception of the ideas; nor does the imagination feel a sensation, which
holds any proportion with that which arises from its common judgments and
opinions. The attention is on the stretch: The posture of the mind is
uneasy; and the spirits being diverted from their natural course, are not
governed in their movements by the same laws, at least not to the same
degree, as when they flow in their usual channel.

If we desire similar instances, it will not be very difficult to find
them. The present subject of metaphysics will supply us abundantly. The
same argument, which would have been esteemed convincing in a reasoning
concerning history or politics, has little or no influence in these
abstruser subjects, even though it be perfectly comprehended; and that
because there is required a study and an effort of thought, in order to
its being comprehended: And this effort of thought disturbs the operation
of our sentiments, on which the belief depends. The case is the same in
other subjects. The straining of the imagination always hinders the
regular flowing of the passions and sentiments. A tragic poet, that would
represent his heroes as very ingenious and witty in their misfortunes,
would never touch the passions. As the emotions of the soul prevent any
subtile reasoning and reflection, so these latter actions of the mind are
equally prejudicial to the former. The mind, as well as the body, seems
to be endowed with a certain precise degree of force and activity, which
it never employs in one action, but at the expense of all the rest. This
is more evidently true, where the actions are of quite different natures;
since in that case the force of the mind is not only diverted, but even
the disposition changed, so as to render us incapable of a sudden
transition from one action to the other, and still more of performing
both at once. No wonder, then, the conviction, which arises from a
subtile reasoning, diminishes in proportion to the efforts, which the
imagination makes to enter into the reasoning, and to conceive it in all
its parts. Belief, being a lively conception, can never be entire, where
it is not founded on something natural and easy.

This I take to be the true state of the question, and cannot approve of
that expeditious way, which some take with the sceptics, to reject at
once all their arguments without enquiry or examination. If the sceptical
reasonings be strong, say they, it is a proof, that reason may have some
force and authority: if weak, they can never be sufficient to invalidate
all the conclusions of our understanding. This argument is not just;
because the sceptical reasonings, were it possible for them to exist, and
were they not destroyed by their subtility, would be successively both
strong and weak, according to the successive dispositions of the mind.
Reason first appears in possession of the throne, prescribing laws, and
imposing maxims, with an absolute sway and authority. Her enemy,
therefore, is obliged to take shelter under her protection, and by making
use of rational arguments to prove the fallaciousness and imbecility of
reason, produces, in a manner, a patent under her band and seal. This
patent has at first an authority, proportioned to the present and
immediate authority of reason, from which it is derived. But as it is
supposed to be contradictory to reason, it gradually diminishes the force
of that governing power and its own at the same time; till at last they
both vanish away into nothing, by a regulax and just diminution. The
sceptical and dogmatical reasons are of the same kind, though contrary in
their operation and tendency; so that where the latter is strong, it has
an enemy of equal force in the former to encounter; and as their forces
were at first equal, they still continue so, as long as either of them
subsists; nor does one of them lose any force in the contest, without
taking as much from its antagonist. It is happy, therefore, that nature
breaks the force of all sceptical arguments in time, and keeps them from
having any considerable influence on the understanding. Were we to trust
entirely to their self-destruction, that can never take place, until they
have first subverted all conviction, and have totally destroyed human


Thus the sceptic still continues to reason and believe, even though be
asserts, that he cannot defend his reason by reason; and by the same rule
he must assent to the principle concerning the existence of body, though
he cannot pretend by any arguments of philosophy to maintain its veracity.
Nature has not left this to his choice, and has doubtless, esteemed it an
affair of too great importance to be trusted to our uncertain reasonings
and speculations. We may well ask, What causes induce us to believe in
the existence of body? but it is in vain to ask, Whether there be body or
not? That is a point, which we must take for granted in all our

The subject, then, of our present enquiry is concerning the causes which
induce us to believe in the existence of body: And my reasonings on this
head I shall begin with a distinction, which at first sight may seem
superfluous, but which will contribute very much to the perfect
understanding of what follows. We ought to examine apart those two
questions, which are commonly confounded together, viz. Why we attribute
a continued existence to objects, even when they are not present to the
senses; and why we suppose them to have an existence DISTINCT from the
mind and perception. Under this last head I comprehend their situation as
well as relations, their external position as well as the independence of
their existence and operation. These two questions concerning the
continued and distinct existence of body are intimately connected
together. For if the objects of our senses continue to exist, even when
they are not perceived, their existence is of course independent of and
distinct from the perception: and vice versa, if their existence be
independent of the perception and distinct from it, they must continue to
exist, even though they be not perceived. But though the decision of the
one question decides the other; yet that we may the more easily discover
the principles of human nature, from whence the decision arises, we shall
carry along with us this distinction, and shall consider, whether it be
the senses, reason, or the imagination, that produces the opinion of a
continued or of a distinct existence. These are the only questions, that
are intelligible on the present subject. For as to the notion of external
existence, when taken for something specially different from our
perceptions [Part. II. Sect. 6.], we have already shewn its absurdity.

To begin with the SENSES, it is evident these faculties are incapable of
giving rise to the notion of the continued existence of their objects,
after they no longer appear to the senses. For that is a contradiction in
terms, and suppose that the senses continue to operate, even after they
have ceased all manner of operation. These faculties, therefore, if they
have any influence in the present case, must produce the opinion of a
distinct, not of a continued existence; and in order to that, must
present their impressions either as images and representations, or as
these very distinct and external existences.

That our senses offer not their impressions as the images of something
distinct, or independent, and external, is evident; because they convey
to us nothing but a single perception, and never give us the least
intimation of any thing beyond. A single perception can never produce the
idea of a double existence, but by some inference either of the reason or
imagination. When the mind looks farther than what immediately appears to
it, its conclusions can never be put to the account of the senses; and it
certainly looks farther, when from a single perception it infers a double
existence, and supposes the relations of resemblance and causation
betwixt them.

If our senses, therefore, suggest any idea of distinct existences, they
must convey the impressions as those very existences, by a kind of
fallacy and illusion. Upon this bead we may observe, that all sensations
are felt by the mind, such as they really are, and that when we doubt,
whether they present themselves as distinct objects, or as mere
impressions, the difficulty is not concerning their nature, but
concerning their relations and situation. Now if the senses presented
our impressions as external to, and independent of ourselves, both the
objects and ourselves must be obvious to our senses, otherwise they coued
not be compared by these faculties. The difficulty, then, is how fax we
are ourselves the objects of our senses.

It is certain there is no question in philosophy more abstruse than that
concerning identity, and the nature of the uniting principle, which
constitutes a person. So far from being able by our senses merely to
determine this question, we must have recourse to the most profound
metaphysics to give a satisfactory answer to it; and in common life it is
evident these ideas of self and person are never very fixed nor
determinate. It is absurd, therefore, to imagine the senses can ever
distinguish betwixt ourselves and external objects.

Add to this, that every impression, external and internal, passions,
affections, sensations, pains and pleasures, are originally on the same
footing; and that whatever other differences we may observe among them,
they appear, all of them, in their true colours, as impressions or
perceptions. And indeed, if we consider the matter aright, it is scarce
possible it should be otherwise, nor is it conceivable that our senses
should be more capable of deceiving us in the situation and relations,
than in the nature of our impressions. For since all actions and
sensations of the mind are known to us by consciousness, they must
necessarily appear in every particular what they are, and be what they
appear. Every thing that enters the mind, being in reality a perception,
it is impossible any thing should to feeling appear different. This were
to suppose, that even where we are most intimately conscious, we might be

But not to lose time in examining, whether it is possible for our senses
to deceive us, and represent our perceptions as distinct from ourselves,
that is as external to and independent of us; let us consider whether
they really do so, and whether this error proceeds from an immediate
sensation, or from some other causes.

To begin with the question concerning EXTERNAL existence, it may perhaps
be said, that setting aside the metaphysical question of the identity of
a thinking substance, our own body evidently belongs to us; and as
several impressions appear exterior to the body, we suppose them also
exterior to ourselves. The paper, on which I write at present, is beyond
my hand. The table is beyond the paper. The walls of the chamber beyond
the table. And in casting my eye towards the window, I perceive a great
extent of fields and buildings beyond my chamber. From all this it may be
infered, that no other faculty is required, beside the senses, to
convince us of the external existence of body. But to prevent this
inference, we need only weigh the three following considerations. First,
That, properly speaking, it is not our body we perceive, when we regard
our limbs and members, but certain impressions, which enter by the
senses; so that the ascribing a real and corporeal existence to these
impressions, or to their objects, is an act of the mind as difficult to
explain, as that which we examine at present. Secondly, Sounds, and
tastes, and smelts, though commonly regarded by the mind as continued
independent qualities, appear not to have any existence in extension, and
consequently cannot appear to the senses as situated externally to the
body. The reason, why we ascribe a, place to them, shall be: considered
afterwards. Thirdly, Even our sight informs us not of distance or outness
(so to speak) immediately and without a certain reasoning and experience,
as is acknowledged by the most rational philosophers.

As to the independency of our perceptions on ourselves, this can never be
an object of the senses; but any opinion we form concerning it, must be
derived from experience and observation: And we shall see afterwards,
that our conclusions from experience are far from being favourable to the
doctrine of the independency of our perceptions. Mean while we may
observe that when we talk of real distinct existences, we have commonly
more in our eye their independency than external situation in place, and
think an object has a sufficient reality, when its Being is
uninterrupted, and independent of the incessant revolutions, which we are
conscious of in ourselves.

Thus to resume what I have said concerning the senses; they give us no
notion of continued existence, because they cannot operate beyond the
extent, in which they really operate. They as little produce the opinion
of a distinct existence, because they neither can offer it to the mind as
represented, nor as original. To offer it as represented, they must
present both an object and an image. To make it appear as original, they
must convey a falshood; and this falshood must lie in the relations and
situation: In order to which they must be able to compare the object with
ourselves; and even in that case they do not, nor is it possible they
should, deceive us. We may, therefore, conclude with certainty, that the
opinion of a continued and of a distinct existence never arises from the

To confirm this we may observe, that there are three different kinds of
impressions conveyed by the senses. The first are those of the figure,
bulk, motion and solidity of bodies. The second those of colours, tastes,
smells, sounds, heat and cold. The third are the pains and pleasures,
that arise from the application of objects to our bodies, as by the
cutting of our flesh with steel, and such like. Both philosophers and the
vulgar suppose the first of these to have a distinct continued existence.
The vulgar only regard the second as on the same footing. Both
philosophers and the vulgar, again, esteem the third to be merely
perceptions and consequently interrupted and dependent beings.

Now it is evident, that, whatever may be our philosophical opinion,
colours, Sounds, heat and cold, as far as appears to the senses, exist
after the same manner with motion and solidity, and that the difference
we make betwixt them in this respect, arises not from the mere
perception. So strong the prejudice for the distinct continued existence
Of the former qualities, that when the contrary opinion is advanced by
modern philosophers, people imagine they can almost refute it from their
feeling and experience, and that their very senses contradict this
philosophy. It is also evident, that colours, sounds, &c. are originally
on the same footing with the pain that arises from steel, and pleasure
that proceeds from a fire; and that the difference betwixt them is
founded neither on perception nor reason, but on the imagination. For as
they are confest to be, both of them, nothing but perceptions arising
from the particular configurations and motions of the parts of body,
wherein possibly can their difference consist? Upon the whole, then, we
may conclude, that as far as the senses are judges, all perceptions are
the same in the manner of their existence.

We may also observe in this instance of sounds and colours, that we can
attribute a distinct continued existence to objects without ever
consulting REASON, or weighing our opinions by any philosophical
principles. And indeed, whatever convincing arguments philosophers may
fancy they can produce to establish the belief of objects independent of
the mind, it is obvious these arguments are known but to very few, and
that it is not by them, that children, peasants, and the greatest part of
mankind are induced to attribute objects to some impressions, and deny
them to others. Accordingly we find, that all the conclusions, which the
vulgar form on this head, are directly contrary to those, which are
confirmed by philosophy. For philosophy informs us, that every thing,
which appears to the mind, is nothing but a perception, and is
interrupted, and dependent on the mind: whereas the vulgar confound
perceptions and objects, and attribute a distinct continued existence to
the very things they feel or see. This sentiment, then, as it is entirely
unreasonable, must proceed from some other faculty than the
understanding. To which we may add, that as long as we take our
perceptions and objects to be the same, we can never infer the existence
of the one from that of the other, nor form any argument from the
relation of cause and effect; which is the only one that earl assure us
of matter of fact. Even after we distinguish our perceptions from our
objects, it will appear presently, that we are still incapable of
reasoning from the existence of one to that of the other: So that upon
the whole our reason neither does, nor is it possible it ever should,
upon any supposition, give us an assurance of the continued and distinct
existence of body. That opinion must be entirely owing to the
IMAGINATION: which must now be the subject of our enquiry.

Since all impressions are internal and perishing existences, and appear
as such, the notion of their distinct and continued existence must arise
from a concurrence of some of their qualities with the qualities of the
imagination, and since this notion does not extend to all of them, it
must arise from certain qualities peculiar to some impressions. It will
therefore be easy for us to discover these qualities by a comparison of
the impressions, to which we attribute a distinct and continued
existence, with those, which we regard as internal and perishing.

We may observe, then, that it is neither upon account of the
involuntariness of certain impressions, as is commonly supposed, nor of
their superior force and violence, that we attribute to them a reality,
and continued existence, which we refuse to others, that are voluntary or
feeble. For it is evident our pains and pleasures, our passions and
affections, which we never suppose to have any existence beyond our
perception, operate with greater violence, and are equally involuntary,
as the impressions of figure and extension, colour and sound, which we
suppose to be permanent beings. The heat of a fire, when moderate, is
supposed to exist in the fire; but the pain, which it causes upon a near
approach, is not taken to have any being, except in the perception.

These vulgar opinions, then, being rejected, we must search for some
other hypothesis, by which we may discover those peculiar qualities in
our impressions, which makes us attribute to them a distinct and
continued existence.

After a little examination, we shall find, that all those objects, to
which we attribute a continued existence, have a peculiar constancy,
which distinguishes them from the impressions, whose existence depends
upon our perception. Those mountains, and houses, and trees, which lie at
present under my eye, have always appeared to me in the same order; and
when I lose sight of them by shutting my eyes or turning my head, I soon
after find them return upon me without the least alteration. My bed and
table, my books and papers, present themselves in the same uniform
manner, and change not upon account of any interruption in my seeing or
perceivilng them. This is the case with all the impressions, whose
objects are supposed to have an external existence; and is the case with
no other impressions, whether gentle or violent, voluntary or

This constancy, however, is not so perfect as not to admit of very
considerable exceptions. Bodies often change their position and
qualities, and after a little absence or interruption may become hardly
knowable. But here it is observable, that even in these changes they
preserve a coherence, and have a regular dependence on each other; which
is the foundation of a kind of reasoning from causation, and produces the
opinion of their continued existence. When I return to my chamber after
an hour's absence, I find not my fire in the same situation, in which I
left it: But then I am accustomed in other instances to see a like
alteration produced in a like time, whether I am present or absent, near
or remote. This coherence, therefore, in their changes is one of the
characteristics of external objects, as well as their constancy.

Having found that the opinion of the continued existence of body depends
on the COHERENCE, and CONSTANCY of certain impressions, I now proceed to
examine after what manner these qualities give rise to so extraordinary
an opinion. To begin with the coherence; we may observe, that though those
internal impressions, which we regard as fleeting and perishing, have
also a certain coherence or regularity in their appearances, yet it is of
somewhat a different nature, from that which we discover in bodies. Our
passions are found by experience to have a mutual connexion with and
dependence on each other; but on no occasion is it necessary to suppose,
that they have existed and operated, when they were not perceived, in
order to preserve the same dependence and connexion, of which we have had
experience. The case is not the same with relation to external objects.
Those require a continued existence, or otherwise lose, in a great
measure, the regularity of their operation. I am here seated in my
chamber with my face to the fire; and all the objects, that strike my
senses, are contained in a few yards around me. My memory, indeed,
informs me of the existence of many objects; but then this information
extends not beyond their past existence, nor do either my senses or
memory give any testimony to the continuance of their being. When
therefore I am thus seated, and revolve over these thoughts, I hear on a
sudden a noise as of a door turning upon its hinges; and a little after
see a porter, who advances towards me. This gives occasion to many new
reflections and reasonings. First, I never have observed, that this noise
coued proceed from any thing but the motion of a door; and therefore
conclude, that the present phaenomenon is a contradiction to all past
experience, unless the door, which I remember on the other side the
chamber, be still in being. Again, I have always found, that a human body
was possest of a quality, which I call gravity, and which hinders it from
mounting in the air, as this porter must have done to arrive at my
chamber, unless the stairs I remember be not annihilated by my absence.
But this is not all. I receive a letter, which upon, opening it I
perceive by the hand-writing and subscription to have come from a friend,
who says he is two hundred leagues distant. It is evident I can never
account for this phenomenon, conformable to my experience in other
instances, without spreading out in my mind the whole sea and continent
between us, and supposing the effects and continued existence of posts
and ferries, according to my Memory and observation. To consider these
phaenomena of the porter and letter in a certain light, they are
contradictions to common experience, and may be regarded as objections to
those maxims, which we form concerning the connexions of causes and
effects. I am accustomed to hear such a sound, and see such an object in
motion at the same time. I have not received in this particular instance
both these perceptions. These observations are contrary, unless I suppose
that the door still remains, and that it was opened without my perceiving
it: And this supposition, which was at first entirely arbitrary and
hypothetical, acquires a force and evidence by its being the only one,
upon which I can reconcile these contradictions. There is scarce a moment
of my life, wherein there is not a similar instance presented to me, and
I have not occasion to suppose the continued existence of objects, in
order to connect their past and present appearances, and give them such
an union with each other, as I have found by experience to be suitable to
their particular natures and circumstances. Here then I am naturally led
to regard the world, as something real and durable, and as preserving its
existence, even when it is no longer present to my perception.

But though this conclusion from the coherence of appearances may seem to
be of the same nature with our reasonings concerning causes and effects;
as being derived from custom, and regulated by past experience; we shall
find upon examination, that they are at the bottom considerably different
from each other, and that this inference arises from the understanding,
and from custom in an indirect and oblique manner. For it will readily be
allowed, that since nothing is ever really present to the mind, besides
its own perceptions, it is not only impossible, that any habit should ever
be acquired otherwise than by the regular succession of these
perceptions, but also that any habit should ever exceed that degree of
regularity. Any degree, therefore, of regularity in our perceptions, can
never be a foundation for us to infer a, greater degree of regularity in
some objects, which are not perceived; since this supposes a
contradiction, viz. a habit acquired by what was never present to the
mind. But it is evident, that whenever we infer the continued existence
of the objects of sense from their coherence, and the frequency of their
union, it is in order to bestow on the objects a greater regularity than
what is observed in our mere perceptions. We remark a connexion betwixt
two kinds of objects in their past appearance to the senses, but are not
able to observe this connexion to be perfectly constant, since the
turning about of our head or the shutting of our eyes is able to break
it. What then do we suppose in this case, but that these objects still
continue their usual connexion, notwithstanding their apparent
interruption, and that the irregular appearances are joined by something,
of which we are insensible? But as all reasoning concerning matters of
fact arises only from custom, and custom can only be the effect of
repeated perceptions, the extending of custom and reasoning beyond the
perceptions can never be the direct and natural effect of the constant
repetition and connexion, but must arise from the co-operation of some
other principles.

I have already observed [Part II, Sect. 4.], in examining the foundation
of mathematics, that the imagination, when set into any train of thinking,
is apt to continue, even when its object fails it, and like a galley put
in motion by the oars, carries on its course without any new impulse. This
I have assigned for the reason, why, after considering several loose
standards of equality, and correcting them by each other, we proceed to
imagine so correct and exact a standard of that relation, as is not liable
to the least error or variation. The same principle makes us easily
entertain this opinion of the continued existence of body. Objects have a
certain coherence even as they appear to our senses; but this coherence is
much greater and more uniform, if we suppose the object.% to have a
continued existence; and as the mind is once in the train of observing an
uniformity among objects, it naturally continues, till it renders the
uniformity as compleat as possible. The simple supposition of their
continued existence suffices for this purpose, and gives us a notion of a
much greater regularity among objects, than what they have when we look
no farther than our senses.

But whatever force we may ascribe to this principle, I am afraid it is too
weak to support alone so vast an edifice, as is that of the continued
existence of all external bodies; and that we must join the constancy of
their appearance to the coherence, in order to give a satisfactory
account of that opinion. As the explication of this will lead me into a
considerable compass of very profound reasoning; I think it proper, in
order to avoid confusion, to give a short sketch or abridgment of my
system, and afterwards draw out all its parts in their full compass. This
inference from the constancy of our perceptions, like the precedent from
their coherence, gives rise to the opinion of the continued existence of
body, which is prior to that of its distinct existence, and produces that
latter principle.

When we have been accustomed to observe a constancy in certain
impressions, and have found, that the perception of the sun or ocean, for
instance, returns upon us after an absence or annihilation with like
parts and in a like order, as at its first appearance, we are not apt to
regard these interrupted perceptions as different, (which they really
are) but on the contrary consider them as individually the same, upon
account of their resemblance. But as this interruption of their existence
is contrary to their perfect identity, and makes us regard the first
impression as annihilated, and the second as newly created, we find
ourselves somewhat at a loss, and are involved in a kind of
contradiction. In order to free ourselves from this difficulty, we
disguise, as much as possible, the interruption, or rather remove it
entirely, by supposing that these interrupted perceptions are connected
by a real existence, of which we are insensible. This supposition, or
idea of continued existence, acquires a force and vivacity from the
memory of these broken impressions, and from that propensity, which they
give us, to suppose them the same; and according to the precedent
reasoning, the very essence of belief consists in the force and vivacity
of the conception.

In order to justify this system, there are four things requisite. First,
To explain the PRINCIPIUM INDIVIDUATIONIS, or principle of identity.
Secondly, Give a reason, why the resemblance of our broken and
interrupted perceptions induces us to attribute an identity to them.
Thirdly, Account for that propensity, which this illusion gives, to
unite these broken appearances by a continued existence. Fourthly and
lastly, Explain that force and vivacity of conception, which arises from
the propensity.

First, As to the principle of individuation; we may observe, that the
view of any one object is not sufficient to convey the idea of identity.
For in that proposition, an object is the same with itself, if the idea
expressed by the word, object, were no ways distinguished from that meant
by itself; we really should mean nothing, nor would the proposition
contain a predicate and a subject, which however are implyed in this
affirmation. One single object conveys the idea of unity, not that of

On the other hand, a multiplicity of objects can never convey this idea,
however resembling they may be supposed. The mind always pronounces the
one not to be the other, and considers them as forming two, three, or any
determinate number of objects, whose existences are entirely distinct and

Since then both number and unity are incompatible with the relation of
identity, it must lie in something that is neither of them. But to tell
the truth, at first sight this seems utterly impossible. Betwixt unity
and number there can be no medium; no more than betwixt existence and
nonexistence. After one object is supposed to exist, we must either
suppose another also to exist; in which case we have the idea of number:
Or we must suppose it not to exist; in which case the first object
remains at unity.

To remove this difficulty, let us have recourse to the idea of time or
duration. I have already observd [Part II, Sect. 5.], that time, in a
strict sense, implies succession, and that when we apply its idea to any
unchangeable object, it is only by a fiction of the imagination, by which
the unchangeable object is supposd to participate of the changes of the
co-existent objects, and in particular of that of our perceptions. This
fiction of the imagination almost universally takes place; and it is by
means of it, that a single object, placd before us, and surveyd for any
time without our discovering in it any interruption or variation, is able
to give us a notion of identity. For when we consider any two points of
this time, we may place them in different lights: We may either survey
them at the very same instant; in which case they give us the idea of
number, both by themselves and by the object; which must be multiplyd, in
order to be conceivd at once, as existent in these two different points
of time: Or on the other hand, we may trace the succession of time by a
like succession of ideas, and conceiving first one moment, along with the
object then existent, imagine afterwards a change in the time without any
VARIATION or INTERRUPTION in the object; in which case it gives us the
idea of unity. Here then is an idea, which is a medium betwixt unity and.
number; or more properly speaking, is either of them, according to the
view, in which we take it: And this idea we call that of identity. We
cannot, in any propriety of speech, say, that an object is the same with
itself, unless we mean, that the object existent at one time is the same
with itself existent at another. By this means we make a difference,
betwixt the idea meant by the word, OBJECT, and that meant by ITSELF,
without going the length of number, and at the same time without
restraining ourselves to a strict and absolute unity.

Thus the principle of individuation is nothing but the INVARIABLENESS and
UNINTERRUPTEDNESS of any object, thro a supposd variation of time, by
which the mind can trace it in the different periods of its existence,
without any break of the view, and without being obligd to form the idea
of multiplicity or number.

I now proceed to explain the SECOND part of my system, and shew why the
constancy of our perceptions makes us ascribe to them a perfect numerical
identity, tho there be very long intervals betwixt their appearance, and
they have only one of the essential qualities of identity, VIZ,
INVARIABLENESS. That I may avoid all ambiguity and confusion on this
head, I shall observe, that I here account for the opinions and belief of
the vulgar with regard to the existence of body; and therefore must
entirely conform myself to their manner of thinking and of expressing
themselves. Now we have already observd, that however philosophers may
distinguish betwixt the objects and perceptions of the senses; which they
suppose co-existent and resembling; yet this is a distinction, which is
not comprehended by the generality of mankind, who as they perceive only
one being, can never assent to the opinion of a double existence and
representation. Those very sensations, which enter by the eye or ear, are
with them the true objects, nor can they readily conceive that this pen
or paper, which is immediately perceivd, represents another, which is
different from, but resembling it. In order, therefore, to accommodate
myself to their notions, I shall at first suppose; that there is only a
single existence, which I shall call indifferently OBJECT or PERCEPTION,
according as it shall seem best to suit my purpose, understanding by both
of them what any common man means by a hat, or shoe, or stone, or any
other impression, conveyd to him by his senses. I shall be sure to give
warning, when I return to a more philosophical way of speaking and

To enter, therefore, upon the question concerning the source of the error
and deception with regard to identity, when we attribute it to our
resembling perceptions, notwithstanding their interruption; I must here
recal an observation, which I have already provd and explaind
[Part II. Sect. 5.]. Nothing is more apt to make us mistake one idea for
another, than any relation betwixt them, which associates them together in
the imagination, and makes it pass with facility from one to the other. Of
all relations, that of resemblance is in this respect the most
efficacious; and that because it not only causes an association of ideas,
but also of dispositions, and makes us conceive the one idea by an act or
operation of the mind, similar to that by which we conceive the other.
This circumstance I have observd to be of great moment; and we may
establish it for a general rule, that whatever ideas place the mind in the
same disposition or in similar ones, are very apt to be confounded. The
mind readily passes from one to the other, and perceives not the change
without a strict attention, of which, generally speaking, it is wholly

In order to apply this general maxim, we must first examine the
disposition of the mind in viewing any object which preserves a perfect
identity, and then find some other object, that is confounded with it, by
causing a similar disposition. When we fix our thought on any object, and
suppose it to continue the same for some time; it is evident we suppose
the change to lie only in the time, and never exert ourselves to produce
any new image or idea of the object. The faculties of the mind repose
themselves in a manner, and take no more exercise, than what is necessary
to continue that idea, of which we were formerly possest, and which
subsists without variation or interruption. The passage from one moment
to another is scarce felt, and distinguishes not itself by a different
perception or idea, which may require a different direction of the
spirits, in order to its conception.

Now what other objects, beside identical ones, are capable of placing the
mind in the same disposition, when it considers them, and of causing the
same uninterrupted passage of the imagination from one idea to another?
This question is of the last importance. For if we can find any such
objects, we may certainly conclude, from the foregoing principle, that
they are very naturally confounded with identical ones, and are taken for
them in most of our reasonings. But though this question be very
important, it is not very difficult nor doubtful. For I immediately reply,
that a succession of related objects places the mind in this disposition,
and is considered with the same smooth and uninterrupted progress of the
imagination, as attends the view of the same invariable object. The very
nature and essence of relation is to connect our ideas with each other,
and upon the appearance of one, to facilitate the transition to its
correlative. The passage betwixt related ideas is, therefore, so smooth
and easy, that it produces little alteration on the mind, and seems like
the continuation of the same action; and as the continuation of the same
action is an effect of the continued view of the same object, it is for
this reason we attribute sameness to every succession of related objects.
The thought slides along the succession with equal facility, as if it
considered only one object; and therefore confounds the succession with
the identity.

We shall afterwards see many instances of this tendency of relation to
make us ascribe an identity to different objects; but shall here confine
ourselves to the present subject. We find by experience, that there is
such a constancy in almost all the impressions of the senses, that their
interruption produces no alteration on them, and hinders them not from
returning the same in appearance and in situation as at their first
existence. I survey the furniture of my chamber; I shut my eyes, and
afterwards open them; and find the new perceptions to resemble perfectly
those, which formerly struck my senses. This resemblance is observed in a
thousand instances, and naturally connects together our ideas of these
interrupted perceptions by the strongest relation. and conveys the mind
with an easy transition from one to another. An easy transition or
passage of the imagination, along the ideas of these different and
interrupted perceptions, is almost the same disposition of mind with that
in which we consider one constant and uninterrupted perception. It is
therefore very natural for us to mistake the one for the other.

[Footnote 9 This reasoning, it must be confest, is somewhat abstruse, and
difficult to be comprehended; but it is remarkable, that this very
difficulty may be converted into a proof of the reasoning. We may
observe, that there are two relations, and both of them resemblances,
which contribute to our mistaking the succession of our interrupted
perceptions for an identical object. The first is, the resemblance of the
perceptions: The second is the resemblance, which the act of the mind in
surveying a succession of resembling objects bears to that in surveying
an identical object. Now these resemblances we are apt to confound with
each other; and it is natural we shoud, according to this very reasoning.
But let us keep them distinct, and we shall find no difficulty in
conceiving the precedent argument.]

The persons, who entertain this opinion concerning the identity of our
resembling perceptions, are in general an the unthinking and
unphilosophical part of mankind, (that is, all of us, at one time or
other) and consequently such as suppose their perceptions to be their
only objects, and never think of a double existence internal and
external, representing and represented. The very image, which is present
to the senses, is with us the real body; and it is to these interrupted
images we ascribe a perfect identity. But as the interruption of the
appearance seems contrary to the identity, and naturally leads us to
regard these resembling perceptions as different from each other, we here
find ourselves at a loss how to reconcile such opposite opinions. The
smooth passage of the imagination along the ideas of the resembling
perceptions makes us ascribe to them a perfect identity. The interrupted
manner of their appearance makes us consider them as so many resembling,
but still distinct beings, which appear after certain intervals. The
perplexity arising from this contradiction produces a propension to unite
these broken appearances by the fiction of a continued existence, which
is the third part of that hypothesis I proposed to explain.

Nothing is more certain from experience, than that any contradiction
either to the sentiments or passions gives a sensible uneasiness, whether
it proceeds from without or from within; from the opposition of external
objects, or from the combat of internal principles. On the contrary,
whatever strikes in with the natural propensities, and either externally
forwards their satisfaction, or internally concurs with their movements,
is sure to give a sensible pleasure. Now there being here an opposition
betwixt the notion of the identity of resembling perceptions, and the
interruption of their appearance, the mind must be uneasy in that
situation, and will naturally seek relief from the uneasiness. Since the
uneasiness arises from the opposition of two contrary principles, it must
look for relief by sacrificing the one to the other. But as the smooth
passage of our thought along our resembling perceptions makes us ascribe
to them an identity, we can never without reluctance yield up that
opinion. We must, therefore, turn to the other side, and suppose that our
perceptions are no longer interrupted, but preserve a continued as well
as an invariable existence, and are by that means entirely the same. But
here the interruptions in the appearance of these perceptions are so long
and frequent, that it is impossible to overlook them; and as the
appearance of a perception in the mind and its existence seem at first
sight entirely the same, it may be doubted, whether we can ever assent to
so palpable a contradiction, and suppose a perception to exist without
being present to the mind. In order to clear up this matter, and learn
how the interruption in the appearance of a perception implies not
necessarily an interruption in its existence, it will be proper to touch
upon some principles, which we shall have occasion to explain more fully
afterwards. [Sect. 6.]

We may begin with observing, that the difficulty in the present case is
not concerning the matter of fact, or whether the mind forms such a
conclusion concerning the continued existence of its perceptions, but
only concerning the manner in which the conclusion is formed, and
principles from which it is derived. It is certain, that almost all
mankind, and even philosophers themselves, for the greatest part of their
lives, take their perceptions to be their only objects, and suppose, that
the very being, which is intimately present to the mind, is the real body
or material existence. It is also certain, that this very perception or
object is supposed to have a continued uninterrupted being, and neither
to be annihilated by our absence, nor to be brought into existence by our
presence. When we are absent from it, we say it still exists, but that we
do not feel, we do not see it. When we are present, we say we feel, or
see it. Here then may arise two questions; First, How we can satisfy
ourselves in supposing a perception to be absent from the mind without
being annihilated. Secondly, After what manner we conceive an object to
become present to the mind, without some new creation of a perception or
image; and what we mean by this seeing, and feeling, and perceiving.

As to the first question; we may observe, that what we. call a mind, is
nothing but a heap or collection of different perceptions, united
together by certain relations, and supposed, though falsely, to be endowed
with a perfect simplicity and identity. Now as every perception is
distinguishable from another, and may be considered as separately
existent; it evidently follows, that there is no absurdity in separating
any particular perception from the mind; that is, in breaking off all its
relations, with that connected mass of perceptions, which constitute a
thinking being.

The same reasoning affords us an answer to the second question. If the
name of perception renders not this separation from a mind absurd and
contradictory, the name of object, standing for the very same thing, can
never render their conjunction impossible. External objects are seen, and
felt, and become present to the mind; that is, they acquire such a
relation to a connected heap of perceptions, as to influence them very
considerably in augmenting their number by present reflections and
passions, and in storing the memory with ideas. The same continued and
uninterrupted Being may, therefore, be sometimes present to the mind, and
sometimes absent from it, without any real or essential change in the
Being itself. An interrupted appearance to the senses implies not
necessarily an interruption in the existence. The supposition of the
continued existence of sensible objects or perceptions involves no
contradiction. We may easily indulge our inclination to that supposition.
When the exact resemblance of our perceptions makes us ascribe to them an
identity, we may remove the seeming interruption by feigning a continued
being, which may fill those intervals, and preserve a perfect and entire
identity to our perceptions.

But as we here not only feign but believe this continued existence, the
question is, from whence arises such a belief; and this question leads us
to the fourth member of this system. It has been proved already, that
belief in general consists in nothing, but the vivacity of an idea; and
that an idea may acquire this vivacity by its relation to some present
impression. Impressions are naturally the most vivid perceptions of the
mind; and this quality is in part conveyed by the relation to every
connected idea. The relation causes a smooth passage from the impression
to the idea, and even gives a propensity to that passage. The mind falls
so easily from the one perception to the other, that it scarce perceives
the change, but retains in the second a considerable share of the
vivacity of the first. It is excited by the lively impression; and this
vivacity is conveyed to the related idea, without any great diminution in
the passage, by reason of the smooth transition and the propensity of the

But suppose, that this propensity arises from some other principle,
besides that of relation; it is evident it must still have the same
effect, and convey the vivacity from the impression to the idea. Now this
is exactly the present case. Our memory presents us with a vast number of
instances of perceptions perfectly resembling each other, that return at
different distances of time, and after considerable interruptions. This
resemblance gives us a propension to consider these interrupted
perceptions as the same; and also a propension to connect them by a
continued existence, in order to justify this identity, and avoid the
contradiction, in which the interrupted appearance of these perceptions
seems necessarily to involve us. Here then we have a propensity to feign
the continued existence of all sensible objects; and as this propensity
arises from some lively impressions of the memory, it bestows a vivacity
on that fiction: or in other words, makes us believe the continued
existence of body. If sometimes we ascribe a continued existence to
objects, which are perfectly new to us, and of whose constancy and
coherence we have no experience, it is because the manner, in which they
present themselves to our senses, resembles that of constant and coherent
objects; and this resemblance is a source of reasoning and analogy, and
leads us to attribute the same qualities to similar objects.

I believe an intelligent reader will find less difficulty to assent to
this system, than to comprehend it fully and distinctly, and will allow,
after a little reflection, that every part carries its own proof along
with it. It is indeed evident, that as the vulgar suppose their
perceptions to be their only objects, and at the same time believe the
continued existence of matter, we must account for the origin of the
belief upon that supposition. Now upon that supposition, it is a false
opinion that any of our objects, or perceptions, are identically the same
after an interruption; and consequently the opinion of their identity can
never arise from reason, but must arise from the imagination. The
imagination is seduced into such an opinion only by means of the
resemblance of certain perceptions; since we find they are only our
resembling perceptions, which we have a propension to suppose the same.
This propension to bestow an identity on our resembling perceptions,
produces the fiction of a continued existence; since that fiction, as
well as the identity, is really false, as is acknowledged by all
philosophers, and has no other effect than to remedy the interruption of
our perceptions, which is the only circumstance that is contrary to their
identity. In the last place this propension causes belief by means of the
present impressions of the memory; since without the remembrance of
former sensations, it is plain we never should have any belief of the
continued existence of body. Thus in examining all these parts, we find
that each of them is supported by the strongest proofs: and that all of
them together form a consistent system, which is perfectly convincing. A
strong propensity or inclination alone, without any present impression,
will sometimes cause a belief or opinion. How much more when aided by
that circumstance?

But though we are led after this manner, by the natural propensity of the
imagination, to ascribe a continued existence to those sensible objects
or perceptions, which we find to resemble each other in their interrupted
appearance; yet a very little reflection and philosophy is sufficient to
make us perceive the fallacy of that opinion. I have already observed,
that there is an intimate connexion betwixt those two principles, of a
continued and of a distinct or independent existence, and that we no
sooner establish the one than the other follows, as a necessary
consequence. It is the opinion of a continued existence, which first takes
place, and without much study or reflection draws the other along with
it, wherever the mind follows its first and most natural tendency. But
when we compare experiments, and reason a little upon them, we quickly
perceive, that the doctrine of the independent existence of our sensible
perceptions is contrary to the plainest experience. This leads us
backward upon our footsteps to perceive our error in attributing a
continued existence to our perceptions, and is the origin of many very
curious opinions, which we shall here endeavour to account for.

It will first be proper to observe a few of those experiments, which
convince us, that our perceptions are not possest of any independent
existence. When we press one eye with a finger, we immediately perceive
all the objects to become double, and one half of them to be removed from
their common and natural position. But as we do not attribute to
continued existence to both these perceptions, and as they are both of
the same nature, we clearly perceive, that all our perceptions are
dependent on our organs, and the disposition of our nerves and animal
spirits. This opinion is confirmed by the seeming encrease and diminution
of objects, according to their distance; by the apparent alterations in
their figure; by the changes in their colour and other qualities from our
sickness and distempers: and by an infinite number of other experiments
of the same kind; from all which we learn, that our sensible perceptions
are not possest of any distinct or independent existence.

The natural consequence of this reasoning should be, that our perceptions
have no more a continued than an independent existence; and indeed
philosophers have so far run into this opinion, that they change their
system, and distinguish, (as we shall do for the future) betwixt
perceptions and objects, of which the former are supposed to be
interrupted, and perishing, and different at every different return; the
latter to be uninterrupted, and to preserve a continued existence and
identity. But however philosophical this new system may be esteemed, I
assert that it is only a palliative remedy, and that it contains all the
difficulties of the vulgar system, with some others, that are peculiar to
itself. There are no principles either of the understanding or fancy,
which lead us directly to embrace this opinion of the double existence of
perceptions and objects, nor can we arrive at it but by passing through
the common hypothesis of the identity and continuance of our interrupted
perceptions. Were we not first perswaded, that our perceptions are our
only objects, and continue to exist even when they no longer make their
appearance to the senses, we should never be led to think, that our
perceptions and objects are different, and that our objects alone
preserve a continued existence. The latter hypothesis has no primary
recommendation either to reason or the imagination, but acquires all its
influence on the imagination from the former. This proposition contains
two parts, which we shall endeavour to prove as distinctly and clearly,
as such abstruse subjects will permit.

As to the first part of the proposition, that this philosophical
hypothesis has no primary recommendation, either to reason, or the
imagination, we may soon satisfy ourselves with regard to reason by the
following reflections. The only existences, of which we are certain, are
perceptions, which being immediately present to us by consciousness,
command our strongest assent, and are the first foundation of all our
conclusions. The only conclusion we can draw from the existence of one
thing to that of another, is by means of the relation of cause and
effect, which shews, that there is a connexion betwixt them, and that the
existence of one is dependent on that of the other. The idea of this
relation is derived from past experience, by which we find, that two
beings are constantly conjoined together, and are always present at once
to the mind. But as no beings are ever present to the mind but
perceptions; it follows that we may observe a conjunction or a relation
of cause and effect between different perceptions, but can never observe
it between perceptions and objects. It is impossible, therefore, that from
the existence or any of the qualities of the former, we can ever form any
conclusion concerning the existence of the latter, or ever satisfy our
reason in this particular.

It is no less certain, that this philosophical system has no primary
recommendation to the imagination, and that that faculty would never, of
itself, and by its original tendency, have fallen upon such a principle.
I confess it will be somewhat difficult to prove this to the fall
satisfaction of the reader; because it implies a negative, which in many
cases will not admit of any positive proof. If any one would take the
pains to examine this question, and would invent a system, to account for
the direct origin of this opinion from the imagination, we should be
able, by the examination of that system, to pronounce a certain judgment
in the present subject. Let it be taken for granted, that our perceptions
are broken, and interrupted, and however like, are still different from
each other; and let any one upon this supposition shew why the fancy,
directly and immediately, proceeds to the belief of another existence,
resembling these perceptions in their nature, but yet continued, and
uninterrupted, and identical; and after he has done this to my
satisfaction, I promise to renounce my present opinion. Mean while I
cannot forbear concluding, from the very abstractedness and difficulty of
the first supposition, that it is an improper subject for the fancy to
work upon. Whoever would explain the origin of the common opinion
concerning the continued and distinct existence of body, must take the
mind in its common situation, and must proceed upon the supposition, that
our perceptions are our only objects, and continue to exist even when
they are not perceived. Though this opinion be false, it is the most
natural of any, and has alone any primary recommendation to the fancy.

As to the second part of the proposition, that the philosophical system
acquires all its influence on the imagination from the vulgar one; we may
observe, that this is a natural and unavoidable consequence of the
foregoing conclusion, that it has no primary recommendation to reason or
the imagination. For as the philosophical system is found by experience
to take hold of many minds, and in particular of all those, who reflect
ever so little on this subject, it must derive all its authority from the
vulgar system; since it has no original authority of its own. The manner,
in which these two systems, though directly contrary, are connected
together, may be explains, as follows.

The imagination naturally runs on in this train of thinking. Our
perceptions are our only objects: Resembling perceptions are the same,
however broken or uninterrupted in their appearance: This appealing
interruption is contrary to the identity: The interruption consequently
extends not beyond the appearance, and the perception or object really
continues to exist, even when absent from us: Our sensible perception s
have, therefore, a continued and uninterrupted existence. But as a little
reflection destroys this conclusion, that our perceptions have a
continued existence, by shewing that they have a dependent one, it would
naturally be expected, that we must altogether reject the opinion, that
there is such a thing in nature as a continued existence, which is
preserved even when it no longer appears to the senses. The case,
however, is otherwise. Philosophers are so far from rejecting the opinion
of a continued existence upon rejecting that of the independence and
continuance of our sensible perceptions, that though all sects agree in
the latter sentiment, the former, which is, in a manner, its necessary
consequence, has been peculiar to a few extravagant sceptics; who after
all maintained that opinion in words only, and were never able to bring
themselves sincerely to believe it.

There is a great difference betwixt such opinions as we form after a calm
and profound reflection, and such as we embrace by a kind of instinct or
natural impulse, on account of their suitableness and conformity to the
mind. If these opinions become contrary, it is not difficult to foresee
which of them will have the advantage. As long as our attention is bent
upon the subject, the philosophical and studyed principle may prevail;
but the moment we relax our thoughts, nature will display herself, and
draw us back to our former opinion. Nay she has sometimes such an
influence, that she can stop our progress, even in the midst of our most
profound reflections, and keep us from running on with all the
consequences of any philosophical opinion. Thus though we clearly perceive
the dependence and interruption of our perceptions, we stop short in our
career, and never upon that account reject the notion of an independent
and continued existence. That opinion has taken such deep root in the
imagination, that it is impossible ever to eradicate it, nor will any
strained metaphysical conviction of the dependence of our perceptions be
sufficient for that purpose.

But though our natural and obvious principles here prevail above our
studied reflections, it is certain there must be sonic struggle and
opposition in the case: at least so long as these rejections retain any
force or vivacity. In order to set ourselves at ease in this particular,
we contrive a new hypothesis, which seems to comprehend both these
principles of reason and imagination. This hypothesis is the
philosophical, one of the double existence of perceptions and objects;
which pleases our reason, in allowing, that our dependent perceptions are
interrupted and different; and at the same time is agreeable to the
imagination, in attributing a continued existence to something else,
which we call objects. This philosophical system, therefore, is the
monstrous offspring of two principles, which are contrary to each other,
which are both at once embraced by the mind, and which are unable
mutually to destroy each other. The imagination tells us, that our
resembling perceptions have a continued and uninterrupted existence, and
are not annihilated by their absence. Reflection tells us, that even our
resembling perceptions are interrupted in their existence, and different
from each other. The contradiction betwixt these opinions we elude by a
new fiction, which is conformable to the hypotheses both of reflection
and fancy, by ascribing these contrary qualities to different existences;
the interruption to perceptions, and the continuance to objects. Nature
is obstinate, and will not quit the field, however strongly attacked by
reason; and at the same time reason is so clear in the point, that there
is no possibility of disguising her. Not being able to reconcile these
two enemies, we endeavour to set ourselves at ease as much as possible,
by successively granting to each whatever it demands, and by feigning a
double existence, where each may find something, that has all the
conditions it desires. Were we fully convinced, that our resembling
perceptions are continued, and identical, and independent, we should
never run into this opinion of a double existence. since we should find
satisfaction in our first supposition, and would not look beyond. Again,
were we fully convinced, that our perceptions are dependent, and
interrupted, and different, we should be as little inclined to embrace
the opinion of a double existence; since in that case we should clearly
perceive the error of our first supposition of a continued existence, and
would never regard it any farther. It is therefore from the intermediate
situation of the mind, that this opinion arises, and from such an
adherence to these two contrary principles, as makes us seek some pretext
to justify our receiving both; which happily at last is found in the
system of a double existence.

Another advantage of this philosophical system is its similarity to the
vulgar one; by which means we can humour our reason for a moment, when it
becomes troublesome and sollicitous; and yet upon its least negligence or
inattention, can easily return to our vulgar and natural notions.
Accordingly we find, that philosophers neglect not this advantage; but
immediately upon leaving their closets, mingle with the rest of mankind
in those exploded opinions, that our perceptions are our only objects,
and continue identically and uninterruptedly the same in all their
interrupted appearances.

There are other particulars of this system, wherein we may remark its
dependence on the fancy, in a very conspicuous manner. Of these, I shall
observe the two following. First, We suppose external objects to resemble
internal perceptions. I have already shewn, that the relation of cause
and effect can never afford us any just conclusion from the existence or
qualities of our perceptions to the existence of external continued
objects: And I shall farther add, that even though they coued afford such
a conclusion, we should never have any reason to infer, that our objects
resemble our perceptions. That opinion, therefore, is derived from
nothing but the quality of the fancy above-explained, all its ideas from some precedent perception>. We never can conceive any
thing but perceptions, and therefore must make every thing resemble them.

Secondly, As we suppose our objects in general to resemble our
perceptions, so we take it for granted, that every particular object
resembles that perception, which it causes. The relation of cause and
effect determines us to join the other of resemblance; and the ideas of
these existences being already united together in the fancy by the former
relation, we naturally add the latter to compleat the union. We have a
strong propensity to compleat every union by joining new relations to
those which we have before observed betwixt any ideas, as we shall have
occasion to observe presently. [Sect. 5.]

Having thus given an account of all the systems both popular and
philosophical, with regard to external existences, I cannot forbear
giving vent to a certain sentiment, which arises upon reviewing those
systems. I begun this subject with premising, that we ought to have an
implicit faith in our senses, and that this would be the conclusion, I
should draw from the whole of my reasoning. But to be ingenuous, I feel
myself at present of a quite contrary sentiment, and am more inclined to
repose no faith at all in my senses, or rather imagination, than to place
in it such an implicit confidence. I cannot conceive bow such trivial
qualities of the fancy, conducted by such false suppositions, can ever
lead to any solid and rational system. They are the coherence and
constancy of our perceptions, which produce the opinion of their
continued existence; though these qualities of perceptions have no
perceivable connexion with such an existence. The constancy of our
perceptions has the most considerable effect, and yet is attended with
the greatest difficulties. It is a gross illusion to suppose, that our
resembling perceptions are numerically the same; and it is this illusion,
which leads us into the opinion, that these perceptions are
uninterrupted, and are still existent, even when they are not present to
the senses. This is the case with our popular system. And as to our
philosophical one, it is liable to the same difficulties; and is
over-and-above loaded with this absurdity, that it at once denies and
establishes the vulgar supposition. Philosophers deny our resembling
perceptions to be identically the same, and uninterrupted; and yet have
so great a propensity to believe them such, that they arbitrarily invent
a new set of perceptions, to which they attribute these qualities. I say,
a new set of perceptions: For we may well suppose in general, but it is
impossible for us distinctly to conceive, objects to be in their nature
any thing but exactly the same with perceptions. What then can we look
for from this confusion of groundless and extraordinary opinions but
error and falshood? And how can we justify to ourselves any belief we
repose in them?

This sceptical doubt, both with respect to reason and the senses, is a
malady, which can never be radically cured, but must return upon us every
moment, however we may chace it away, and sometimes may seem entirely
free from it. It is impossible upon any system to defend either our
understanding or senses; and we but expose them farther when we endeavour
to justify them in that manner. As the sceptical doubt arises naturally
from a profound and intense reflection on those subjects, it always
encreases, the farther we carry our reflections, whether in opposition or
conformity to it. Carelessness and in-attention alone can afford us any
remedy. For this reason I rely entirely upon them; and take it for
granted, whatever may be the reader's opinion at this present moment,
that an hour hence he will be persuaded there is both an external and
internal world; and going upon that supposition, I intend to examine some
general systems both ancient and modern, which have been proposed of
both, before I proceed to a more particular enquiry concerning our
impressions. This will not, perhaps, in the end be found foreign to our
present purpose.


Several moralists have recommended it as an excellent method of becoming
acquainted with our own hearts, and knowing our progress in virtue, to
recollect our dreams in a morning, and examine them with the same rigour,
that we would our most serious and most deliberate actions. Our character
is the same throughout, say they, and appears best where artifice, fear,
and policy have no place, and men can neither be hypocrites with
themselves nor others. The generosity, or baseness of our temper, our
meekness or cruelty, our courage or pusilanimity, influence the fictions
of the imagination with the most unbounded liberty, and discover
themselves in the most glaring colours. In like manner, I am persuaded,
there might be several useful discoveries made from a criticism of the
fictions of the antient philosophy, concerning substances, and
substantial form, and accidents, and occult qualities; which, however
unreasonable and capricious, have a very intimate connexion with the
principles of human nature.

It is confest by the most judicious philosophers, that our ideas of bodies
are nothing but collections formed by the mind of the ideas of the
several distinct sensible qualities, of which objects are composed, and
which we find to have a constant union with each other. But however these
qualities may in themselves be entirely distinct, it is certain we
commonly regard the compound, which they form, as ONE thing, and as
continuing the SAME under very considerable alterations. The acknowledged
composition is evidently contrary to this supposed simplicity, and the
variation to the identity. It may, therefore, be worth while to consider
the causes, which make us almost universally fall into such evident
contradictions, as well as the means by which we endeavour to conceal

It is evident, that as the ideas of the several distinct, successive
qualities of objects are united together by a very close relation, the
mind, in looking along the succession, must be carryed from one part of
it to another by an easy transition, and will no more perceive the
change, than if it contemplated the same unchangeable object. This easy
transition is the effect, or rather essence of relation; I and as the
imagination readily takes one idea for another, where their influence on
the mind is similar; hence it proceeds, that any such succession of
related qualities is readily considered as one continued object, existing
without any variation. The smooth and uninterrupted progress of the
thought, being alike in both cases, readily deceives the mind, and makes
us ascribe an identity to the changeable succession of connected

But when we alter our method of considering the succession, and instead
of traceing it gradually through the successive points of time, survey at
once Any two distinct periods of its duration, and compare the different
conditions of the successive qualities; in that case the variations,
which were insensible when they arose gradually, do now appear of
consequence, and seem entirely to destroy the identity. By this means
there arises a kind of contrariety in our method of thinking, from the
different points of view, in which we survey the object, and from the
nearness or remoteness of those instants of time, which we compare
together. When we gradually follow an object in its successive changes,
the smooth progress of the thought makes us ascribe an identity to the
succession; because it is by a similar act of the mind we consider an
unchangeable object. When we compare its situation after a considerable
change the progress of the thought is. broke; and consequently we are
presented with the idea of diversity: In order to reconcile which
contradictions the imagination is apt to feign something unknown and
invisible, which it supposes to continue the same under all these
variations; and this unintelligible something it calls a substance, or
original and first matter.

We entertain a like notion with regard to the simplicity of substances,
and from like causes. Suppose an object perfectly simple and indivisible
to be presented, along with another object, whose co-existent parts are
connected together by a strong relation, it is evident the actions of the
mind, in considering these two objects, are not very different. The
imagination conceives the simple object at once, with facility, by a
single effort of thought, without change or variation. The connexion of
parts in the compound object has almost the same effect, and so unites
the object within itself, that the fancy feels not the transition in
passing from one part to another. Hence the colour, taste, figure,
solidity, and other qualities, combined in a peach or melon, are
conceived to form one thing; and that on account of their close relation,
which makes them affect the thought in the same manner, as if perfectly
uncompounded. But the mind rests not here. Whenever it views the object
in another light, it finds that all these qualities are different, and
distinguishable, and separable from each other; which view of things
being destructive of its primary and more natural notions, obliges the
imagination to feign an unknown something, or original substance and
matter, as a principle of union or cohesion among these qualities, and as
what may give the compound object a title to be called one thing,
notwithstanding its diversity and composition.

The peripatetic philosophy asserts the original matter to be perfectly
homogeneous in all bodies, and considers fire, water, earth, and air, as
of the very same substance; on account of their gradual revolutions and
changes into each other. At the same time it assigns to each of these
species of objects a distinct substantial form, which it supposes to be
the source of all those different qualities they possess, and to be a new
foundation of simplicity and identity to each particular species. All
depends on our manner of viewing the objects. When we look along the
insensible changes of bodies, we suppose all of them to be of the same
substance or essence. When we consider their sensible differences, we
attribute to each of them a substantial and essential difference. And in
order to indulge ourselves in both these ways of considering our objects,
we suppose all bodies to have at once a substance and a substantial form.

The notion of accidents is an unavoidable consequence of this method of
thinking with regard to substances and substantial forms; nor can we
forbear looking upon colours, sounds, tastes, figures, and other
properties of bodies, as existences, which cannot subsist apart, but
require a subject of inhesion to sustain and support them. For having
never discovered any of these sensible qualities, where, for the reasons
above-mentioned, we did not likewise fancy a substance to exist; the same
habit, which makes us infer a connexion betwixt cause and effect, makes
us here infer a dependence of every quality on the unknown substance. The
custom of imagining a dependence has the same effect as the custom of
observing it would have. This conceit, however, is no more reasonable
than any of the foregoing. Every quality being a distinct thing from
another, may be conceived to exist apart, and may exist apart, not only
from every other quality, but from that unintelligible chimera of a

But these philosophers carry their fictions still farther in their
sentiments concerning occult qualities, and both suppose a substance
supporting, which they do not understand, and an accident supported, of
which they have as imperfect an idea. The whole system, therefore, is
entirely incomprehensible, and yet is derived from principles as natural
as any of these above-explained.

In considering this subject we may observe a gradation of three opinions,
that rise above each other, according as the persons, who form them,
acquire new degrees of reason and knowledge. These opinions are that of
the vulgar, that of a false philosophy, and that of the true; where we
shall find upon enquiry, that the true philosophy approaches nearer to
the sentiments of the vulgar, than to those of a mistaken knowledge. It is
natural. for men, in their common and care, less way of thinking, to
imagine they perceive a connexion betwixt such objects as they have
constantly found united together; and because custom has rendered it
difficult to separate the ideas, they are apt to fancy such a separation
to be in itself impossible and absurd. But philosophers, who abstract
from the effects of custom, and compare the ideas of objects, immediately
perceive the falshood of these vulgar sentiments, and discover that there
is no known connexion among objects. Every different object appears to
them entirely distinct and separate; and they perceive, that it is not
from a view of the nature and qualities of objects we infer one from
another, but only when in several instances we observe them to have been
constantly conjoined. But these philosophers, instead of drawing a just
inference from this observation, and concluding, that we have no idea of
power or agency, separate from the mind, and belonging to causes; I say,
instead of drawing this conclusion, they frequently search for the
qualities, in which this agency consists, and are displeased with every
system, which their reason suggests to them, in order to explain it. They
have sufficient force of genius to free them from the vulgar error, that
there is a natural and perceivable connexion betwixt the several sensible
qualities and. actions of matter; but not sufficient to keep them from
ever seeking for this connexion in matter, or causes. Had they fallen
upon the just conclusion, they would have returned back to the situation
of the vulgar, and would have regarded all these disquisitions with
indolence and indifference. At present they seem to be in a very
lamentable condition, and such as the poets have given us but a faint
notion of in their descriptions of the punishment of Sisyphus and
Tantalus. For what can be imagined more tormenting, than to seek with
eagerness, what for ever flies us; and seek for it in a place, where it is
impossible it can ever exist?

But as nature seems to have observed a kind of justice and compensation
in every thing, she has not neglected philosophers more than the rest of
the creation; but has reserved them a consolation amid all their
disappointments and afflictions. This consolation principally consists in
their invention of the words: faculty and occult quality. For it being
usual, after the frequent use of terms, which are really significant and
intelligible, to omit the idea, which we would express by them, and to
preserve only the custom, by which we recal the idea at pleasure; so it
naturally happens, that after the frequent use of terms, which are wholly
insignificant and unintelligible, we fancy them to be on the same footing
with the precedent, and to have a secret meaning, which we might discover
by reflection. The resemblance of their appearance deceives the mind, as
is usual, and makes us imagine a thorough resemblance and conformity. By
this means these philosophers set themselves at ease, and arrive at last,
by an illusion, at the same indifference, which the people attain by
their stupidity, and true philosophers by their moderate scepticism. They
need only say, that any phenomenon, which puzzles them, arises from a
faculty or an occult quality, and there is an end of all dispute and
enquiry upon the matter.

But among all the instances, wherein the Peripatetics have shewn they
were guided by every trivial propensity of the imagination, no one is
more-remarkable than their sympathies, antipathies, and horrors of a
vacuum. There is a very remarkable inclination in human nature, to bestow
on external objects the same emotions, which it observes in itself; and
to find every where those ideas, which are most present to it. This
inclination, it is true, is suppressed by a little reflection, and only
takes place in children, poets, and the antient philosophers. It appears
in children, by their desire of beating the stones, which hurt them: In
poets, by their readiness to personify every thing: And in the antient
philosophers, by these fictions of sympathy and antipathy. We must pardon
children, because of their age; poets, because they profess to follow
implicitly the suggestions of their fancy: But what excuse shall we find
to justify our philosophers in so signal a weakness?


But here it may be objected, that the imagination, according to my own
confession, being the ultimate judge of all systems of philosophy, I am
unjust in blaming the antient philosophers for making use of that
faculty, and allowing themselves to be entirely guided by it in their
reasonings. In order to justify myself, I must distinguish in the
imagination betwixt the principles which are permanent, irresistible, and
universal; such as the customary transition from causes to effects, and
from effects to causes: And the principles, which are changeable, weak,
and irregular; such as those I have just now taken notice of. The former
are the foundation of all our thoughts and actions, so that upon their
removal human nature must immediately perish and go to ruin. The latter
are neither unavoidable to mankind, nor necessary, or so much as useful
in the conduct of life; but on the contrary are observed only to take
place in weak minds, and being opposite to the other principles of custom
and reasoning, may easily be subverted by a due contrast and opposition.
For this reason the former are received by philosophy, and the latter
rejected. One who concludes somebody to be near him, when he hears an
articulate voice in the dark, reasons justly and naturally; though that
conclusion be derived from nothing but custom, which infixes and inlivens
the idea of a human creature, on account of his usual conjunction with
the present impression. But one, who is tormented he knows not why, with
the apprehension of spectres in the dark, may, perhaps, be said to
reason, and to reason naturally too: But then it must be in the same
sense, that a malady is said to be natural; as arising from natural
causes, though it be contrary to health, the most agreeable and most
natural situation of man.

The opinions of the antient philosophers, their fictions of substance and
accident, and their reasonings concerning substantial forms and occult
qualities, are like the spectres in the dark, and are derived from
principles, which, however common, are neither universal nor unavoidable
in human nature. The modern philosophy pretends to be entirely free from
this defect, and to arise only from the solid, permanent, and consistent
principles of the imagination. Upon what grounds this pretension is
founded must now be the subject of our enquiry.

The fundamental principle of that philosophy is the opinion concerning
colours, sounds, tastes, smells, heat and cold; which it asserts to be
nothing but impressions in the mind, derived from the operation of
external objects, and without any resemblance to the qualities of the
objects. Upon examination, I find only one of the reasons commonly
produced for this opinion to be satisfactory, viz. that derived from the
variations of those impressions, even while the external object, to all
appearance, continues the same. These variations depend upon several
circumstances. Upon the different situations of our health: A man in a
malady feels a disagreeable taste in meats, which before pleased him the
most. Upon the different complexions and constitutions of men That seems
bitter to one, which is sweet to another. Upon the difference of their
external situation and position: Colours reflected from the clouds change
according to the distance of the clouds, and according to the angle they
make with the eye and luminous body. Fire. also communicates the
sensation of pleasure at one distance, and that of pain at another.
Instances of this kind are very numerous and frequent.

The conclusion drawn from them, is likewise as satisfactory as can
possibly be imagined. It is certain, that when different impressions of
the same sense arise from any object, every one of these impressions has
not a resembling quality existent in the object. For as the same object
cannot, at the same time, be endowed with different qualities of the same
sense, and as the same quality cannot resemble impressions entirely
different; it evidently follows, that many of our impressions have no
external model or archetype. Now from like effects we presume like
causes. Many of the impressions of colour, sound, &c. are confest to be
nothing but internal existences, and to arise from causes, which no ways
resemble them. These impressions are in appearance nothing different from
the other impressions of colour, sound, &c. We conclude, therefore, that
they are, all of them, derived from a like origin.

This principle being once admitted, all the other doctrines of that
philosophy seem to follow by an easy consequence. For upon the removal of
sounds, colours, beat, cold, and other sensible qualities, from the rank
of continued independent existences, we are reduced merely to what are
called primary qualities, as the only real ones, of which we have any
adequate notion. These primary qualities are extension and solidity, with
their different mixtures and modifications; figure, motion, gravity, and
cohesion. The generation, encrease, decay, and corruption of animals and
vegetables, are nothing but changes of figure and motion; as also the
operations of all bodies on each other; of fire, of light, water, air,
earth, and of all the elements and powers of nature. One figure and
motion produces another figure and motion; nor does there remain in. the
material universe any other principle, either active or passive, of which
we can form the most distant idea.

I believe many objections might be made to this system But at present I
shall confine myself to one, which is in my opinion very decisive. I
assert, that instead of explaining the operations of external objects by
its means, we utterly annihilate all these objects, and reduce ourselves
to the opinions of the most extravagant scepticism concerning them. If
colours, sounds, tastes, and smells be merely perceptions, nothing we can
conceive is possest of a real, continued, and independent existence; not
even motion, extension and solidity, which are the primary qualities
chiefly insisted on.

To begin with the examination of motion; it is evident this is a quality
altogether inconceivable alone, and without a reference to some other
object. The idea of motion necessarily supposes that of a body moving.
Now what is our idea of the moving body, without which motion is
incomprehensible? It must resolve itself into the idea of extension or of
solidity; and consequently the reality of motion depends upon that of
these other qualities.

This opinion, which is universally acknowledged concerning motion, I have
proved to be true with regard to extension; and have shewn that it is
impossible to conceive extension, but as composed of parts, endowed with
colour or solidity. The idea of extension is a compound idea; but as it
is not compounded of an infinite number of parts or inferior ideas, it
must at last resolve itself into such as are perfectly simple and
indivisible. These simple and indivisible parts, not being ideas of
extension, must be non entities, unless conceived as coloured or solid.
Colour is excluded from any real existence. The reality, therefore, of
our idea of extension depends upon the reality of that of solidity, nor
can the former be just while the latter is chimerical. Let us, then, lend
our attention to the examination of the idea of solidity.

The idea of solidity is that of two objects, which being impelled by the
utmost force, cannot penetrate each other; but still maintain a separate
and distinct existence. Solidity, therefore, is perfectly
incomprehensible alone, and without the conception of some bodies, which
are solid, and maintain this separate and distinct existence. Now what
idea have we of these bodies? The ideas of colours, sounds, and other
secondary qualities are excluded. The idea of motion depends on that of
extension, and the idea of extension on that of solidity. It is
impossible, therefore, that the idea of solidity can depend on either of
them. For that would be to run in a circle, and make one idea depend on
another, while at the same time the latter depends on the former. Our
modern philosophy, therefore, leaves us no just nor satisfactory idea of
solidity; nor consequently of matter.

This argument will appear entirely conclusive to every one that
comprehends it; but because it may seem abstruse and intricate to the
generality of readers, I hope to be excused, if I endeavour to render it
more obvious by some variation of the expression. In order to form an
idea of solidity, we must conceive two bodies pressing on each other
without any penetration; and it is impossible to arrive at this idea, when
we confine ourselves to one object, much more without conceiving any. Two
non-entities cannot exclude each other from their places; because they
-never possess any place, nor can be endowed with any quality. Now I ask,
what idea do we form of these bodies or objects, to which we suppose
solidity to belong? To say, that we conceive them merely as solid, is to
run on in infinitum. To affirm, that we paint them out to ourselves as
extended, either resolves all into a false idea, or returns in a circle.
Extension must necessarily be considered either as coloured, which is a
false idea; I or as solid, which brings us back to the first question. We
may make the same observation concerning mobility and figure; and upon
the whole must conclude, that after the exclusion of colours, sounds,
heat and cold from the rank of external existences, there remains
nothing, which can afford us a just and constituent idea of body.

Add to this, that, properly speaking, solidity or impenetrability is
nothing, but an impossibility of annihilation, as [Part II. Sect. 4.]
has been already observed: For which reason it is the more necessary for
us to form some distinct idea of that object, whose annihilation we
suppose impossible. An impossibility of being annihilated cannot exist,
and can never be conceived to exist, by itself: but necessarily requires
some object or real existence, to which it may belong. Now the difficulty
still remains, how to form an idea of this object or existence, without
having recourse to the secondary and sensible qualities.

Nor must we omit on this occasion our accustomed method of examining
ideas by considering those impressions, from which they are derived. The
impressions, which enter by the sight and hearing, the smell and taste,
are affirmed by modern philosophy to be without any resembling objects;
and consequently the idea of solidity, which is supposed to be real, can
never be derived from any of these senses. There remains, therefore, the
feeling as the only sense, that can convey the impression, which is
original to the idea of solidity; and indeed we naturally imagine, that
we feel the solidity of bodies, and need but touch any object in order to
perceive this quality. But this method of thinking is more popular than
philosophical; as will appear from the following reflections.

First, It is easy to observe, that though bodies are felt by means of
their solidity, yet the feeling is a quite different thing from the
solidity; and that they have not the least resemblance to each other. A
man, who has the palsey in one hand, has as perfect an idea of
impenetrability, when he observes that hand to be supported by the table,
as when he feels the same table with the other hand. An object, that
presses upon any of our members, meets with resistance; and that
resistance, by the motion it gives to the nerves and animal spirits,
conveys a certain sensation to the mind; but it does not follow, that the
sensation, motion, and resistance are any ways resembling.

Secondly, The impressions of touch are simple impressions, except when
considered with regard to their extension; which makes nothing to the
present purpose: And from this simplicity I infer, that they neither
represent solidity, nor any real object. For let us put two cases, viz.
that of a man, who presses a stone, or any solid body, with his hand, and
that of two stones, which press each other; it will readily be allowed,
that these two cases are not in every respect alike, but that in the
former there is conjoined with the solidity, a feeling or sensation, of
which there is no appearance in the latter. In order, therefore, to make
these two cases alike, it is necessary to remove some part of the
impression, which the man feels by his hand, or organ of sensation; and
that being impossible in a simple impression, obliges us to remove the
whole, and proves that this whole impression has no archetype or model in
external objects. To which we may add, that solidity necessarily supposes
two bodies, along with contiguity and impulse; which being a compound
object, can never be represented by a simple impression. Not to mention,
that though solidity continues always invariably the same, the impressions
of touch change every moment upon us; which is a clear proof that the
latter are not representations of the former.

Thus there is a direct and total opposition betwixt our reason and our
senses; or more properly speaking, betwixt those conclusions we form from
cause and effect, and those that persuade us of the continued and
independent existence of body. When we reason from cause and effect, we
conclude, that neither colour, sound, taste, nor smell have a continued
and independent existence. When we exclude these sensible qualities there
remains nothing in the universe, which has such an existence.


Having found such contradictions and difficulties in every system
concerning external objects, and in the idea of matter, which we fancy so
clear and determinate, We shall naturally expect still greater
difficulties and contradictions in every hypothesis concerning our
internal perceptions, and the nature of the mind, which we are apt to
imagine so much more obscure, and uncertain. But in this we should
deceive ourselves. The intellectual world, though involved in infinite
obscurities, is not perplexed with any such contradictions, as those we
have discovered in the natural. What is known concerning it, agrees with
itself; and what is unknown, we must be contented to leave so.

It is true, would we hearken to certain philosophers, they promise to
diminish our ignorance; but I am afraid it is at the hazard of running us
into contradictions, from which the subject is of itself exempted. These
philosophers are the curious reasoners concerning the material or
immaterial substances, in which they suppose our perceptions to inhere.
In order to put a stop to these endless cavils on both sides, I know no
better method, than to ask these philosophers in a few words, What they
mean by substance and inhesion? And after they have answered this
question, it will then be reasonable, and not till then, to enter
seriously into the dispute.

This question we have found impossible to be answered with regard to
matter and body: But besides that in the case of the mind, it labours
under all the same difficulties, it is burthened with some additional
ones, which are peculiar to that subject. As every idea is derived from a
precedent impression, had we any idea of the substance of our minds, we
must also have an impression of it; which is very difficult, if not
impossible, to be conceived. For how can an impression represent a
substance, otherwise than by resembling it? And how can an impression
resemble a substance, since, according to this philosophy, it is not a
substance, and has none of the peculiar qualities or characteristics of a

But leaving the question of what may or may not be, for that other what
actually is, I desire those philosophers, who pretend that we have an
idea of the substance of our minds, to point out the impression that
produces it, and tell distinctly after what manner that impression
operates, and from what object it is derived. Is it an impression of
sensation or of reflection? Is it pleasant, or painful, or indifferent? I
Does it attend us at all times, or does it only return at intervals? If
at intervals, at what times principally does it return, and by what
causes is it produced?

If instead of answering these questions, any one should evade the
difficulty, by saying, that the definition of a substance is something
which may exist by itself; and that this definition ought to satisfy us:
should this be said, I should observe, that this definition agrees to
every thing, that can possibly be conceived; and never will serve to
distinguish substance from accident, or the soul from its perceptions.
For thus I reason. Whatever is clearly conceived may exist; and whatever
is clearly conceived, after any manner, may exist after the same manner.
This is one principle, which has been already acknowledged. Again, every
thing, which is different, is distinguishable, and every thing which is
distinguishable, is separable by the imagination. This is another
principle. My conclusion from both is, that since all our perceptions are
different from each other, and from every thing else in the universe,
they are also distinct and separable, and may be considered as separately
existent, and may exist separately, and have no need of any thing else to
support their existence. They are, therefore, substances, as far as this
definition explains a substance.

Thus neither by considering the first origin of ideas, nor by means of a
definition are we able to arrive at any satisfactory notion of substance;
which seems to me a sufficient reason for abandoning utterly that dispute
concerning the materiality and immateriality of the soul, and makes me
absolutely condemn even the question itself. We have no perfect idea of
any thing but of a perception. A substance is entirely different from a
perception. We have, therefore, no idea of a substance. Inhesion in
something is supposed to be requisite to support the existence of our
perceptions. Nothing appears requisite to support the existence of a
perception. We have, therefore, no idea of inhesion. What possibility
then of answering that question, Whether perceptions inhere in a material
or immaterial substance, when we do not so much as understand the meaning
of the question?

There is one argument commonly employed for the immateriality of the
soul, which seems to me remarkable. Whatever is extended consists of
parts; and whatever consists of parts is divisible, if not in reality, at
least in the imagination. But it is impossible anything divisible can be
conjoined to a thought or perception, which is a being altogether
inseparable and indivisible. For supposing such a conjunction, would the
indivisible thought exist on the left or on the right hand of this
extended divisible body? On the surface or in the middle? On the back or
fore side of it? If it be conjoined with the extension, it must exist
somewhere within its dimensions. If it exist within its dimensions, it
must either exist in one particular part; and then that particular part
is indivisible, and the perception is conjoined only with it, not with
the extension: Or if the thought exists in every part, it must also be
extended, and separable, and divisible, as well as the body; which is
utterly absurd and contradictory. For can any one conceive a passion of a
yard in length, a foot in breadth, and an inch in thickness? Thought,
therefore, and extension are qualities wholly incompatible, and never can
incorporate together into one subject.

This argument affects not the question concerning the substance of the
soul, but only that concerning its local conjunction with matter; and
therefore it may not be improper to consider in general what objects are,
or are not susceptible of a local conjunction. This is a curious
question, and may lead us to some discoveries of considerable moment.

The first notion of space and extension is derived solely from the senses
of sight and feeling; nor is there any thing, but what is coloured or
tangible, that has parts disposed after such a manner, as to convey that
idea. When we diminish or encrease a relish, it is not after the same
manner that we diminish or encrease any visible object; and when several
sounds strike our hearing at once, custom and reflection alone make us
form an idea of the degrees of the distance and contiguity of those
bodies, from which they are derived. Whatever marks the place of its
existence either must be extended, or must be a mathematical point,
without parts or composition. What is extended must have a particular
figure, as square, round, triangular; none of which will agree to a
desire, or indeed to any impression or idea, except to these two senses
above-mentioned. Neither ought a desire, though indivisible, to be
considered as a mathematical point. For in that case it would be possible,
by the addition of others, to make two, three, four desires, and these
disposed and situated in such a manner, as to have a determinate length,
breadth and thickness; which is evidently absurd.

It will not be surprising after this, if I deliver a maxim, which is
condemned by several metaphysicians, and is esteemed contrary to the most
certain principles of hum reason. This maxim is that an object may exist,
and yet be no where: and I assert, that this is not only possible, but
that the greatest part of beings do and must exist after this manner. An
object may be said to be no where, when its parts are not so situated
with respect to each other, as to form any figure or quantity; nor the
whole with respect to other bodies so as to answer to our notions of
contiguity or distance. Now this is evidently the case with all our
perceptions and objects, except those of the sight and feeling. A moral
reflection cannot be placed on the right or on the left hand of a
passion, nor can a smell or sound be either of a circular or a square
figure. These objects and perceptions, so far from requiring any
particular place, are absolutely incompatible with it, and even the
imagination cannot attribute it to them. And as to the absurdity of
supposing them to be no where, we may consider, that if the passions and
sentiments appear to the perception to have any particular place, the
idea of extension might be derived from them, as well as from the sight
and touch; contrary to what we have already established. If they APPEAR
not to have any particular place, they may possibly exist in the same
manner; since whatever we conceive is possible.

It will not now be necessary to prove, that those perceptions, which are
simple, and exist no where, are incapable of any conjunction in place
with matter or body, which is extended and divisible; since it is
impossible to found a relation but on some common quality. It may be
better worth our while to remark, that this question of the local
conjunction of objects does not only occur in metaphysical disputes
concerning the nature of the soul, but that even in common life we have
every moment occasion to examine it. Thus supposing we consider a fig at
one end of the table, and an olive at the other, it is evident, that in
forming the complex ideas of these substances, one of the most obvious is
that of their different relishes; and it is as evident, that we
incorporate and conjoin these qualities with such as are coloured and
tangible. The bitter taste of the one, and sweet of the other are
supposed to lie in the very visible body, and to be separated from each
other by the whole length of the table. This is so notable and so natural
an illusion, that it may be proper to consider the principles, from which
it is derived.

Though an extended object be incapable of a conjunction in place with
another, that exists without any place or extension, yet are they
susceptible of many other relations. Thus the taste and smell of any
fruit are inseparable from its other qualities of colour and tangibility;
and whichever of them be the cause or effect, it is certain they are
always co-existent. Nor are they only co-existent in general, but also
co-temporary in their appearance in the mind; and it is upon the
application of the extended body to our senses we perceive its particular
taste and smell. These relations, then, of causation, and contiguity in
the time of their appearance, betwixt the extended object and the
quality, which exists without any particular place, must have such an
effect on the mind, that upon the appearance of one it will immediately
turn its thought to the conception of the other. Nor is this all. We not
only turn our thought from one to the other upon account of their
relation, but likewise endeavour to give them a new relation, viz. that
of a CONJUNCTION IN PLACE, that we may render the transition more easy
and natural. For it is a quality, which I shall often have occasion to
remark in human nature, and shall explain more fully in its proper place,
that when objects are united by any relation, we have a strong propensity
to add some new relation to them, in order to compleat the union. In our
arrangement of bodies we never fail to place such as are resembling, in
contiguity to each other, or at least in correspondent points of view:
Why? but because we feel a satisfaction in joining the relation of
contiguity to that of resemblance, or the resemblance of situation to
that of qualities. The effects this propensity have been [Sect. 2, towards
the end.] already observed in that resemblance, which we so readily
suppose betwixt particular impressions and their external causes. But we
shall not find a more evident effect of it, than in the present instance,
where from the relations of causation and contiguity in time betwixt two
objects, we feign likewise that of a conjunction in place, in order to
strengthen the connexion.

But whatever confused notions we may form of an union in place betwixt an
extended body, as a fig, and its particular taste, it is certain that upon
reflection we must observe this union something altogether unintelligible
and contradictory. For should we ask ourselves one obvious question, viz.
if the taste, which we conceive to be contained in the circumference of
the body, is in every part of it or in one only, we must quickly find
ourselves at a loss, and perceive the impossibility of ever giving a
satisfactory answer. We cannot rely, that it is only in one part: For
experience convinces us, that every part has the same relish. We can as
little reply, that it exists in every part: For then we must suppose it
figured and extended; which is absurd and incomprehensible. Here then we
are influenced by two principles directly contrary to each other, viz.
that inclination of our fancy by which we are determined to incorporate
the taste with the extended object, and our reason, which shows us the
impossibility of such an union. Being divided betwixt these opposite
principles, we renounce neither one nor the other, but involve the
subject in such confusion and obscurity, that we no longer perceive the
opposition. We suppose, that the taste exists within the circumference of
the body, but in such a manner, that it fills the whole without
extension, and exists entire in every part without separation. In short,
we use in our most familiar way of thinking, that scholastic principle,
which, when crudely proposed, appears so shocking, of TOTUM IN TOTO &
TOLUM IN QUALIBET PARTE: Which is much the same, as if we should say,
that a thing is in a certain place, and yet is not there.

All this absurdity proceeds from our endeavouring to bestow a place on
what is utterly incapable of it; and that endeavour again arises from our
inclination to compleat an union, which is founded on causation, and a
contiguity of time, by attributing to the objects a conjunction in place.
But if ever reason be of sufficient force to overcome prejudice, it is
certain, that in the present case it must prevail. For we have only this
choice left, either to suppose that some beings exist without any place;
or that they are figured and extended; or that when they are incorporated
with extended objects, the whole is in the whole, and the whole in every
part. The absurdity of the two last suppositions proves sufficiently the
veracity of the first. Nor is there any fourth opinion. For as to the
supposition of their existence in the manner of mathematical points, it
resolves itself into the second opinion, and supposes, that several
passions may be placed in a circular figure, and that a certain number of
smells, conjoined with a certain number of sounds, may make a body of
twelve cubic inches; which appears ridiculous upon the bare mentioning of

But though in this view of things we cannot refuse to condemn the
materialists, who conjoin all thought with extension; yet a little
reflection will show us equal reason for blaming their antagonists, who
conjoin all thought with a simple and indivisible substance. The most
vulgar philosophy informs us, that no external object can make itself
known to the mind immediately, and without the interposition of an image
or perception. That table, which just now appears to me, is only a
perception, and all its qualities are qualities of a perception. Now the
most obvious of all its qualities is extension. The perception consists
of parts. These parts are so situated, as to afford us the notion of
distance and contiguity; of length, breadth, and thickness. The
termination of these three dimensions is what we call figure. This figure
is moveable, separable, and divisible. Mobility, and separability are the
distinguishing properties of extended objects. And to cut short all
disputes, the very idea of extension is copyed from nothing but an
impression, and consequently must perfectly agree to it. To say the idea
of extension agrees to any thing, is to say it is extended.

The free-thinker may now triumph in his turn; and having found there are
impressions and ideas really extended, may ask his antagonists, how they
can incorporate a simple and indivisible subject with an extended
perception? All the arguments of Theologians may here be retorted upon
them. Is the indivisible subject, or immaterial substance, if you will,
on the left or on the right hand of the perception? Is it in this
particular part, or in that other? Is it in every part without being
extended? Or is it entire in any one part without deserting the rest?
It is impossible to give any answer to these questions, but what will both
be absurd in itself, and will account for the union of our indivisible
perceptions with an extended substance.

This gives me an occasion to take a-new into consideration the question
concerning the substance of the soul; and though I have condemned that
question as utterly unintelligible, yet I cannot forbear proposing some
farther reflections concerning it. I assert, that the doctrine of the
immateriality, simplicity, and indivisibility of a thinking substance is
a true atheism, and will serve to justify all those sentiments, for which
Spinoza is so universally infamous. From this topic, I hope at least to
reap one advantage, that my adversaries will not have any pretext to
render the present doctrine odious by their declamations, when they see
that they can be so easily retorted on them.

The fundamental principle of the atheism of Spinoza is the doctrine of
the simplicity of the universe, and the unity of that substance, in which
he supposes both thought and matter to inhere. There is only one
substance, says he, in the world; and that substance is perfectly simple
and indivisible, and exists every where, without any local presence.
Whatever we discover externally by sensation; whatever we feel internally
by reflection; all these are nothing but modifications of that one,
simple, and necessarily existent being, and are not possest of any
separate or distinct existence. Every passion of the soul; every
configuration of matter, however different and various, inhere in the
same substance, and preserve in themselves their characters of
distinction, without communicating them to that subject, in which they
inhere. The same substratum, if I may so speak, supports the most
different modifications, without any difference in itself; and varies
them, without any variation. Neither time, nor place, nor all the
diversity of nature are able to produce any composition or change in its
perfect simplicity and identity.

I believe this brief exposition of the principles of that famous atheist
will be sufficient for the present purpose, and that without entering
farther into these gloomy and obscure regions, I shall be able to shew,
that this hideous hypothesis is almost the same with that of the
immateriality of the soul, which has become so popular. To make this
evident, let us [Part II, Sect. 6.] remember, that as every idea is
derived from a preceding perception, it is impossible our idea of a
perception, and that of an object or external existence can ever represent
what are specifically different from each other. Whatever difference we
may suppose betwixt them, it is still incomprehensible to us; and we are
obliged either to conceive an external object merely as a relation
without a relative, or to make it the very same with a perception or

The consequence I shall draw from this may, at first sight, appear a mere
sophism; but upon the least examination will be found solid and
satisfactory. I say then, that since we may suppose, but never can
conceive a specific deference betwixt an object and impression; any
conclusion we form concerning the connexion and repugnance of
impressions, will not be known certainly to be applicable to objects; but
that on the other hand, whatever conclusions of this kind we form
concerning objects, will most certainly be applicable to impressions. The
reason is not difficult. As an object is supposed to be different from an
impression, we cannot be sure, that the circumstance, upon which we found
our reasoning, is common to both, supposing we form the reasoning upon
the impression. It is still possible, that the object may differ from it
in that particular. But when we first form our reasoning concerning the
object, it is beyond doubt, that the same reasoning must extend to the
impression: And that because the quality of the object, upon which the
argument is founded, must at least be conceived by the mind; and coued
not be conceived, unless it were common to an impression; since we have
no idea but what is derived from that origin. Thus we may establish it as
a certain maxim, that we can never, by any principle, but by an irregular
kind [Such as that of Sect. 2, form the coherence of our perceptions.]
of reasoning from experience, discover a connexion or repugnance
betwixt objects, which extends not to impressions; though the inverse
proposition may not be equally true, that all the discoverable relations
of impressions are common to objects.

To apply this to the present case; there are two different systems of
being presented, to which I suppose myself under .t necessity of
assigning some substance, or ground of inhesion. I observe first the
universe of objects or of body: The sun, moon and stars; the earth, seas,
plants, animals, men, ships, houses, and other productions either of art
or nature. Here Spinoza appears, and tells me, that these are only
modifications; and that the subject, in which they inhere, is simple,
incompounded, and indivisible. After this I consider the other system of
beings, viz. the universe of thought, or my impressions and ideas. There
I observe another sun, moon and stars; an earth, and seas, covered and
inhabited by plants and animals; towns, houses, mountains, rivers; and in
short every thing I can discover or conceive in the first system. Upon my
enquiring concerning these, Theologians present themselves, and tell me,
that these also are modifications, and modifications of one simple,
uncompounded, and indivisible substance. Immediately upon which I am
deafened with the noise of a hundred voices, that treat the first
hypothesis with detestation and scorn, and the second with applause and
veneration. I turn my attention to these hypotheses to see what may be
the reason of so great a partiality; and find that they have the same
fault of being unintelligible, and that as far as we can understand them,
they are so much alike, that it is impossible to discover any absurdity in
one, which is not common to both of them. We have no idea of any quality
in an object, which does not agree to, and may not represent a quality in
an impression; and that because all our ideas are derived from our
impressions. We can never, therefore, find any repugnance betwixt an
extended object as a modification, and a simple uncompounded essence, as
its substance, unless that repugnance takes place equally betwixt the
perception or impression of that extended object, and the same
uncompounded essence. Every idea of a quality in an object passes through
an impression; and therefore every perceivable relation, whether of
connexion or repugnance, must be common both to objects and impressions.

But though this argument, considered in general, seems evident beyond all
doubt and contradiction, yet to make it more clear and sensible, let us
survey it in detail; and see whether all the absurdities, which have been
found in the system of Spinoza, may not likewise be discovered in that of
Theologians. [See Bayle's dictionary, article of Spinoza.]

First, It has been said against Spinoza, according to the scholastic way
of talking, rather than thinking, that a mode, not being any distinct or
separate existence, must be the very same with its substance, and
consequently the extension of the universe, must be in a manner
identifyed with that, simple, uncompounded essence, in which the universe
is supposed to inhere. But this, it may be pretended, is utterly
impossible and inconceivable unless the indivisible substance expand
itself, so as to correspond to the extension, or the extension contract
itself, so as to answer to the indivisible substance. This argument seems
just, as far as we can understand it; and it is plain nothing is required,
but a change in the terms, to apply the same argument to our extended
perceptions, and the simple essence of the soul; the ideas of objects and
perceptions being in every respect the same, only attended with the
supposition of a difference, that is unknown and incomprehensible.

Secondly, It has been said, that we have no idea of substance, which is
not applicable to matter; nor any idea of a distinct substance, which is
not applicable to every distinct portion of matter. Matter, therefore, is
not a mode but a substance, and each part of matter is not a distinct
mode, but a distinct substance. I have already proved, that we have no
perfect idea of substance; but that taking it for something, that can
exist by itself, it is evident every perception is a substance, and every
distinct part of a perception a distinct substance: And consequently the
one hypothesis labours under the same difficulties in this respect with
the other.

Thirdly, It has been objected to the system of one simple substance in
the universe, that this substance being the support or substratum of
every thing, must at the very same instant be modifyed into forms, which
are contrary and incompatible. The round and square figures are
incompatible in the same substance at the same time. How then is it
possible, that the same substance can at once be modifyed into that
square table, and into this round one? I ask the same question concerning
the impressions of these tables; and find that the answer is no more
satisfactory in one case than in the other.

It appears, then, that to whatever side we turn, the same difficulties
follow us, and that we cannot advance one step towards the establishing
the simplicity and immateriality o the soul, without preparing the way
for a dangerous and irrecoverable atheism. It is the same case, if instead
o calling thought a modification of the soul, we should give it the more
antient, and yet more modish name of an action. By an action we mean much
the same thing, as what is commonly called an abstract mode; that is,
something, which, properly speaking, is neither distinguishable, nor
separable from its substance, and is only conceived by a distinction of
reason, or an abstraction. But nothing is gained by this change of the
term of modification, for that of action; nor do we free ourselves from
one single difficulty by its means; as will appear from the two following

First, I observe, that the word, action, according to this explication of
it, can never justly be applied to any perception, as derived from a mind
or thinking substance. Our perceptions are all really different, and
separable, and distinguishable from each other, and from everything else,
which we can imagine: and therefore it is impossible to conceive, how they
can be the action or abstract mode of any substance. The instance of
motion, which is commonly made use of to shew after what manner
perception depends, as an action, upon its substance, rather confounds
than instructs us. Motion to all appearance induces no real nor
essential change on the body, but only varies its relation to other
objects. But betwixt a person in the morning walking a garden with
company, agreeable to him; and a person in the afternoon inclosed in a
dungeon, and full of terror, despair, and resentment, there seems to be
a radical difference, and of quite another kind, than what is produced on
a body by the change of its situation. As we conclude from the
distinction and separability of their ideas, that external objects have a
separate existence from each other; so when we make these ideas
themselves our objects, we must draw the same conclusion concerning them,
according to the precedent reasoning. At least it must be confest, that
having idea of the substance of the soul, it is impossible for us to tell
how it can admit of such differences, and even contrarieties of
perception without any fundamental change; and consequently can never
tell in what sense perceptions are actions of that substance. The use,
therefore, of the word, action, unaccompanyed with any meaning, instead
of that of modification, makes no addition to our knowledge, nor is of
any advantage to the doctrine of the immateriality of the soul.

I add in the second place, that if it brings any advantage to that cause,
it must bring an equal to the cause of atheism. For do our Theologians
pretend to make a monopoly of the word, action, and may not the atheists
likewise take possession of it, and affirm that plants, animals, men, &c.
are nothing but particular actions of one simple universal substance,
which exerts itself from a blind and absolute necessity? This you'll say
is utterly absurd. I own it is unintelligible; but at the same time
assert, according to the principles above-explained, that it is impossible
to discover any absurdity in the supposition, that all the various
objects in nature are actions of one simple substance, which absurdity
will not be applicable to a like supposition concerning impressions and

From these hypotheses concerning the substance and local conjunction of
our perceptions, we may pass to another, which is more intelligible than
the former, and more important than the latter, viz. concerning the cause
of our perceptions. Matter and motion, it is commonly said in the schools,
however varyed, are still matter and motion, and produce only a
difference in the position and situation of objects. Divide a body as
often as you please, it is still body. Place it in any figure, nothing
ever results but figure, or the relation of parts. Move it in any manner,
you still find motion or a change of relation. It is absurd to imagine,
that motion in a circle, for instance, should be nothing but merely
motion in a circle; while motion in another direction, as in an ellipse,
should also be a passion or moral reflection: That the shocking of two
globular particles should become a sensation of pain, and that the
meeting of two triangular ones should afford a pleasure. Now as these
different shocks, and variations, and mixtures are the only changes, of
which matter is susceptible, and as these never afford us any idea of
thought or perception, it is concluded to be impossible, that thought can
ever be caused by matter.

Few have been able to withstand the seeming evidence of this argument;
and yet nothing in the world is more easy than to refute it. We need only
reflect on what has been proved at large, that we are never sensible of
any connexion betwixt causes and effects, and that it is only by our
experience of their constant conjunction, we can arrive at any knowledge
of this relation. Now as all objects, which are not contrary, are
susceptible of a constant conjunction, and as no real objects are
contrary [Part III. Sect. 15.]; I have inferred from these principles,
that to consider the matter A PRIORI, any thing may produce any thing,
and that we shall never discover a reason, why any object may or may not
be the cause of any other, however great, or however little the
resemblance may be betwixt them. This evidently destroys the precedent
reasoning concerning the cause of thought or perception. For though there
appear no manner of connexion betwixt motion or thought, the case is the
same with all other causes and effects. Place one body of a pound weight
on one end of a lever, and another body of the same weight on another end;
you will never find in these bodies any principle of motion dependent on
their distances from the center, more than of thought and perception. If
you pretend, therefore, to prove a priori, that such a position of bodies
can never cause thought; because turn it which way you will, it is nothing
but a position of bodies; you must by the same course of reasoning
conclude, that it can never produce motion; since there is no more
apparent connexion in the one case than in the other. But as this latter
conclusion is contrary to evident experience, and as it is possible we may
have a like experience in the operations of the mind, and may perceive a
constant conjunction of thought and motion; you reason too hastily, when
from the mere consideration of the ideas, you conclude that it is
impossible motion can ever produce thought, or a different position of
parts give rise to a different passion or reflection. Nay it is not only
possible we may have such an experience, but it is certain we have it;
since every one may perceive, that the different dispositions of his body
change his thoughts and sentiments. And should it be said, that this
depends on the union of soul and body; I would answer, that we must
separate the question concerning the substance of the mind from that
concerning the cause of its thought; and that confining ourselves to the
latter question we find by the comparing their ideas, that thought and
motion are different from each other, and by experience, that they are
constantly united; which being all the circumstances, that enter into the
idea of cause and effect, when applied to the operations of matter, we
may certainly conclude, that motion may be, and actually is, the cause of
thought and perception.

There seems only this dilemma left us in the present case; either to
assert, that nothing can be the cause of another, but where the mind can
perceive the connexion in its idea of the objects: Or to maintain, that
all objects, which we find constantly conjoined, are upon that account to
be regarded as causes and effects. If we choose the first part of the
dilemma, these are the consequences. First, We in reality affirm, that
there is no such thing in the universe as a cause or productive
principle, not even the deity himself; since our idea of that supreme
Being is derived from particular impressions, none of which contain any
efficacy, nor seem to have any connexion with any other existence. As to
what may be said, that the connexion betwixt the idea of an infinitely
powerful being, and that of any effect, which he wills, is necessary and
unavoidable; I answer, that we have no idea of a being endowed with any
power, much less of one endowed with infinite power. But if we will
change expressions, we can only define power by connexion; and then in
saying, that the idea, of an infinitely powerful being is connected with
that of every effect, which he wills, we really do no more than assert,
that a being, whose volition is connected with every effect, is connected
with every effect: which is an identical proposition, and gives us no
insight into the nature of this power or connexion. But, secondly,
supposing, that the deity were the great and efficacious principle, which
supplies the deficiency of all causes, this leads us into the grossest
impieties and absurdities. For upon the same account, that we have
recourse to him in natural operations, and assert that matter cannot of
itself communicate motion, or produce thought, viz. because there is no
apparent connexion betwixt these objects; I say, upon the very same
account, we must acknowledge that the deity is the author of all our
volitions and perceptions; since they have no more apparent connexion
either with one another, or with the supposed but unknown substance of
the soul. This agency of the supreme Being we know to have been asserted
by [As father Malebranche and other Cartesians.] several philosophers with
relation to all the actions of the mind, except volition, or rather an
inconsiderable part of volition; though it is easy to perceive, that this
exception is a mere pretext, to avoid the dangerous consequences. of that
doctrine. If nothing be active but what has an apparent power, thought is
in no case any more active than matter; and if this inactivity must make
us have recourse to a deity, the supreme being is the real cause of all
our actions, bad as well as good, vicious as well as virtuous.

Thus we are necessarily reduced to the other side of the dilemma, viz..
that all objects, which are found to be constantly conjoined, are upon
that account only to be regarded as causes and effects. Now as all
objects, which are not contrary, are susceptible of a constant
conjunction, and as no real objects are contrary: it follows, that for
ought we can determine by the mere ideas, any thing may be the cause or
effect of any thing; which evidently gives the advantage to the
materialists above their antagonists.

To pronounce, then, the final decision upon the whole; the question
concerning the substance of the soul is absolutely unintelligible: All
our perceptions are not susceptible of a local union, either with what is
extended or unextended: there being some of them of the one kind, and
some of the other: And as the constant conjunction of objects constitutes
the very essence of cause and effect, matter and motion may often be
regarded as the causes of thought, as far as we have any notion of that

It is certainly a kind of indignity to philosophy, whose sovereign
authority ought every where to be acknowledged, to oblige her on every
occasion to make apologies for her conclusions, and justify herself to
every particular art and science, which may be offended at her. This puts
one in mind of a king arrainged for high-treason against his subjects.
There is only one occasion, when philosophy will think it necessary and
even honourable to justify herself, and that is, when religion may seem
to be in the least offended; whose rights are as dear to her as her own,
and are indeed the same. If any one, therefore, should imagine that the
foregoing arguments are any ways dangerous to religion, I hope the
following apology will remove his apprehensions.

There is no foundation for any conclusion a priori, either concerning the
operations or duration of any object, of which it is possible for the
human mind to form a conception. Any object may be imagined to become
entirely inactive, or to be annihilated in a moment; and it is an evident
principle, that whatever we can imagine, is possible. Now this is no more
true of matter, than of spirit; of an extended compounded substance, than
of a simple and unextended. In both cases the metaphysical arguments for
the immortality of the soul are equally inconclusive: and in both cases
the moral arguments and those derived from the analogy of nature are
equally strong and convincing. If my philosophy, therefore, makes no
addition to the arguments for religion, I have at least the satisfaction
to think it takes nothing from them, but that every thing remains
precisely as before.


There are some philosophers. who imagine we are every moment intimately
conscious of what we call our SELF; that we feel its existence and its
continuance in existence; and are certain, beyond the evidence of a
demonstration, both o its perfect identity and simplicity. The strongest
sensation, the most violent passion, say they, instead of distracting us
from this view, only fix it the more intensely, and make us consider
their influence on self either by their pain or pleasure. To attempt a
farther proof of this were to weaken its evidence; since no proof can be
derived from any fact, of which we are so intimately conscious; nor is
there any thing, of which we can be certain, if we doubt of this.

Unluckily all these positive assertions are contrary to that very
experience, which is pleaded for them, nor have we any idea of self,
after the manner it is here explained. For from what impression coued
this idea be derived? This question it is impossible to answer without a
manifest contradiction and absurdity; and yet it is a question, which must
necessarily be answered, if we would have the idea of self pass for clear
and intelligible, It must be some one impression, that gives rise to
every real idea. But self or person is not any one impression, but that
to which our several impressions and ideas are supposed to have a
reference. If any impression gives rise to the idea of self, that
impression must continue invariably the same, through the whole course of
our lives; since self is supposed to exist after that manner. But there
is no impression constant and invariable. Pain and pleasure, grief and
joy, passions and sensations succeed each other, and never all exist at
the same time. It cannot, therefore, be from any of these impressions,
or from any other, that the idea of self is derived; and consequently
there is no such idea.

But farther, what must become of all our particular perceptions upon this
hypothesis? All these are different, and distinguishable, and separable
from each other, and may be separately considered, and may exist
separately, and have no Deed of tiny thing to support their existence.
After what manner, therefore, do they belong to self; and how are they
connected with it? For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I
call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of
heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never
can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe
any thing but the perception. When my perceptions are removed for any
time, as by sound sleep; so long am I insensible of myself, and may truly
be said not to exist. And were all my perceptions removed by death, and
coued I neither think, nor feel, nor see, nor love, nor hate after the
dissolution of my body, I should be entirely annihilated, nor do I
conceive what is farther requisite to make me a perfect non-entity. If
any one, upon serious and unprejudiced reflection thinks he has a
different notion of himself, I must confess I call reason no longer with
him. All I can allow him is, that he may be in the right as well as I,
and that we are essentially different in this particular. He may,
perhaps, perceive something simple and continued, which he calls himself;
though I am certain there is no such principle in me.

But setting aside some metaphysicians of this kind, I may venture to
affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or
collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an
inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement. Our
eyes cannot turn in their sockets without varying our perceptions. Our
thought is still more variable than our sight; and all our other senses
and faculties contribute to this change; nor is there any single power of
the soul, which remains unalterably the same, perhaps for one moment. The
mind is a .kind of theatre, where several perceptions successively make
their appearance; pass, re-pass, glide away, and mingle in an infinite
variety of postures and situations. There is properly no simplicity in it
at one time, nor identity in different; whatever natural propension we
may have to imagine that simplicity and identity. The comparison of the
theatre must not mislead us. They are the successive perceptions only,
that constitute the mind; nor have we the most distant notion of the
place, where these scenes are represented, or of the materials, of which
it is composed.

What then gives us so great a propension to ascribe an identity to these
successive perceptions, and to suppose ourselves possest of an invariable
and uninterrupted existence through the whole course of our lives? In
order to answer this question, we must distinguish betwixt personal
identity, as it regards our thought or imagination, and as it regards our
passions or the concern we take in ourselves. The first is our present
subject; and to explain it perfectly we must take the matter pretty deep,
and account for that identity, which we attribute to plants and animals;
there being a great analogy betwixt it, and the identity of a self or

We have a distinct idea of an object, that remains invariable and
uninterrupted through a supposed variation of time; and this idea we call
that of identity or sameness. We have also a distinct idea of several
different objects existing in succession, and connected together by a
close relation; and this to an accurate view affords as perfect a notion
of diversity, as if there was no manner of relation among the objects.
But though these two ideas of identity, and a succession of related
objects be in themselves perfectly distinct, and even contrary, yet it is
certain, that in our common way of thinking they are generally confounded
with each other. That action of the imagination, by which we consider the
uninterrupted and invariable object, and that by which we reflect on the
succession of related objects, are almost the same to the feeling, nor is
there much more effort of thought required in the latter case than in the
former. The relation facilitates the transition of the mind from one
object to another, and renders its passage as smooth as if it
contemplated one continued object. This resemblance is the cause of the
confusion and mistake, and makes us substitute the notion of identity,
instead of that of related objects. However at one instant we may
consider the related succession as variable or interrupted, we are sure
the next to ascribe to it a perfect identity, and regard it as enviable
and uninterrupted. Our propensity to this mistake is so great from the
resemblance above-mentioned, that we fall into it before we are aware;
and though we incessantly correct ourselves by reflection, and return to a
more accurate method of thinking, yet we cannot long sustain our
philosophy, or take off this biass from the imagination. Our last
resource is to yield to it, and boldly assert that these different
related objects are in effect the same, however interrupted and variable.
In order to justify to ourselves this absurdity, we often feign some new
and unintelligible principle, that connects the objects together, and
prevents their interruption or variation. Thus we feign the continued
existence of the perceptions of our senses, to remove the interruption:
and run into the notion of a soul, and self, and substance, to disguise
the variation. But we may farther observe, that where we do not give rise
to such a fiction, our propension to confound identity with relation is
so great, that we are apt to imagine [Footnote 10] something unknown and
mysterious, connecting the parts, beside their relation; and this I take
to be the case with regard to the identity we ascribe to plants and
vegetables. And even when this does not take place, we still feel a
propensity to confound these ideas, though we a-re not able fully to
satisfy ourselves in that particular, nor find any thing invariable and
uninterrupted to justify our notion of identity.

[Footnote 10 If the reader is desirous to see how a great genius may be
influencd by these seemingly trivial principles of the imagination, as
well as the mere vulgar, let him read my Lord SHAFTSBURYS reasonings
concerning the uniting principle of the universe, and the identity of
plants and animals. See his MORALISTS: or, PHILOSOPHICAL RHAPSODY.]

Thus the controversy concerning identity is not merely a dispute of
words. For when we attribute identity, in an improper sense, to variable
or interrupted objects, our mistake is not confined to the expression,
but is commonly attended with a fiction, either of something invariable
and uninterrupted, or of something mysterious and inexplicable, or at
least with a propensity to such fictions. What will suffice to prove this
hypothesis to the satisfaction of every fair enquirer, is to shew from
daily experience and observation, that the objects, which are variable or
interrupted, and yet are supposed to continue the same, are such only as
consist of a succession of parts, connected together by resemblance,
contiguity, or causation. For as such a succession answers evidently to
our notion of diversity, it can only be by mistake we ascribe to it an
identity; and as the relation of parts, which leads us into this mistake,
is really nothing but a quality, which produces an association of ideas,
and an easy transition of the imagination from one to another, it can
only be from the resemblance, which this act of the mind bears to that,
by which we contemplate one continued object, that the error arises. Our
chief business, then, must be to prove, that all objects, to which we
ascribe identity, without observing their invariableness and
uninterruptedness, are such as consist of a succession of related

In order to this, suppose any mass of matter, of which the parts are
contiguous and connected, to be placed before us; it is plain we must
attribute a perfect identity to this mass, provided all the parts
continue uninterruptedly and invariably the same, whatever motion or
change of place we may observe either in the whole or in any of the
parts. But supposing some very small or inconsiderable part to be added
to the mass, or subtracted from it; though this absolutely destroys the
identity of the whole, strictly speaking; yet as we seldom think so
accurately, we scruple not to pronounce a mass of matter the same, where
we find so trivial an alteration. The passage of the thought from the
object before the change to the object after it, is so smooth and easy,
that we scarce perceive the transition, and are apt to imagine, that it is
nothing but a continued survey of the same object.

There is a very remarkable circumstance, that attends this experiment;
which is, that though the change of any considerable part in a mass of
matter destroys the identity of the whole, let we must measure the
greatness of the part, not absolutely, but by its proportion to the
whole. The addition or diminution of a mountain would not be sufficient
to produce a diversity in a planet: though the change of a very few inches
would be able to destroy the identity of some bodies. It will be
impossible to account for this, but by reflecting that objects operate
upon the mind, and break or interrupt the continuity of its actions not
according to their real greatness, but according to their proportion to
each other: And therefore, since this interruption makes an object cease
to appear the same, it must be the uninterrupted progress o the thought,
which constitutes the imperfect identity.

This may be confirmed by another phenomenon. A change in any considerable
part of a body destroys its identity; but it is remarkable, that where the
change is produced gradually and insensibly we are less apt to ascribe to
it the same effect. The reason can plainly be no other, than that the
mind, in following the successive changes of the body, feels an easy
passage from the surveying its condition in one moment to the viewing of
it in another, and at no particular time perceives any interruption in
its actions. From which continued perception, it ascribes a continued
existence and identity to the object.

But whatever precaution we may use in introducing the changes gradually,
and making them proportionable to the whole, it is certain, that where the
changes are at last observed to become considerable, we make a scruple of
ascribing identity to such different objects. There is, however, another
artifice, by which we may induce the imagination to advance a step
farther; and that is, by producing a reference of the parts to each
other, and a combination to some common end or purpose. A ship, of which
a considerable part has been changed by frequent reparations, is still
considered as the same; nor does the difference of the materials hinder
us from ascribing an identity to it. The common end, in which the parts
conspire, is the same under all their variations, and affords an easy
transition of the imagination from one situation of the body to another.

But this is still more remarkable, when we add a sympathy of parts to
their common end, and suppose that they bear to each other, the
reciprocal relation of cause and effect in all their actions and
operations. This is the case with all animals and vegetables; where not
only the several parts have a reference to some general purpose, but also
a mutual dependence on, and connexion with each other. The effect of so
strong a relation is, that though every one must allow, that in a very few
years both vegetables and animals endure a total change, yet we still
attribute identity to them, while their form, size, and substance are
entirely altered. An oak, that grows from a small plant to a large tree,
is still the same oak; though there be not one particle of matter, or
figure of its parts the same. An infant becomes a man-, and is sometimes
fat, sometimes lean, without any change in his identity.

We may also consider the two following phaenomena, which are remarkable
in their kind. The first is, that though we commonly be able to
distinguish pretty exactly betwixt numerical and specific identity, yet it
sometimes happens, that we confound them, and in our thinking and
reasoning employ the one for the other. Thus a man, who bears a noise,
that is frequently interrupted and renewed, says, it is still the same
noise; though it is evident the sounds have only a specific identity or
resemblance, and there is nothing numerically the same, but the cause,
which produced them. In like manner it may be said without breach of the
propriety of language, that such a church, which was formerly of brick,
fell to ruin, and that the parish rebuilt the same church of free-stone,
and according to modern architecture. Here neither the form nor materials
are the same, nor is there any thing common to the two objects, but their
relation to the inhabitants of the parish; and yet this alone is
sufficient to make us denominate them the same. But we must observe, that
in these cases the first object is in a manner annihilated before the
second comes into existence; by which means, we are never presented in any
one point of time with the idea of difference and multiplicity: and for
that reason are less scrupulous in calling them the same.

Secondly, We may remark, that though in a succession of related objects,
it be in a manner requisite, that the change of parts be not sudden nor
entire, in order to preserve the identity, yet where the objects are in
their nature changeable and inconstant, we admit of a more sudden
transition, than would otherwise be consistent with that relation. Thus as
the nature of a river consists in the motion and change of parts; though
in less than four and twenty hours these be totally altered; this hinders
not the river from continuing the same during several ages. What is
natural and essential to any thing is, in a manner, expected; and what is
expected makes less impression, and appears of less moment, than what is
unusual and extraordinary. A considerable change of the former kind seems
really less to the imagination, than the most trivial alteration of the
latter; and by breaking less the continuity of the thought, has less
influence in destroying the identity.

We now proceed to explain the nature of personal identity, which has
become so great a question ill philosophy, especially of late years in
England, where all the abstruser sciences are studyed with a peculiar
ardour and application. And here it is evident, the same method of
reasoning must be continued. which has so successfully explained the
identity of plants, and animals, and ships, and houses, and of all the
compounded and changeable productions either of art or nature. The
identity, which we ascribe to the mind of man, is only a fictitious one,
and of a like kind with that which we ascribe to vegetables and animal
bodies. It cannot, therefore, have a different origin, but must proceed
from a like operation of the imagination upon like objects.

But lest this argument should not convince the reader; though in my
opinion perfectly decisive; let him weigh the following reasoning, which
is still closer and more immediate. It is evident, that the identity,
which we attribute to the human mind, however perfect we may imagine it to
be, is not able to run the several different perceptions into one, and
make them lose their characters of distinction and difference, which are
essential to them. It is still true, that every distinct perception, which
enters into the composition of the mind, is a distinct existence, and is
different, and distinguishable, and separable from every other
perception, either contemporary or successive. But, as, notwithstanding
this distinction and separability, we suppose the whole train of
perceptions to be united by identity, a question naturally arises
concerning this relation of identity; whether it be something that really
binds our several perceptions together, or only associates their ideas in
the imagination. That is, in other words, whether in pronouncing
concerning the identity of a person, we observe some real bond among his
perceptions, or only feel one among the ideas we form of them. This
question we might easily decide, if we would recollect what has been
already proud at large, that the understanding never observes any real
connexion among objects, and that even the union of cause and effect,
when strictly examined, resolves itself into a customary association of
ideas. For from thence it evidently follows, that identity is nothing
really belonging to these different perceptions, and uniting them
together; but is merely a quality, which we attribute to them, because of
the union of their ideas in the imagination, when we reflect upon them.
Now the only qualities, which can give ideas an union in the imagination,
are these three relations above-mentioned. There are the uniting
principles in the ideal world, and without them every distinct object is
separable by the mind, and may be separately considered, and appears not
to have any more connexion with any other object, than if disjoined by
the greatest difference and remoteness. It is, therefore, on some of these
three relations of resemblance, contiguity and causation, that identity
depends; and as the very essence of these relations consists in their
producing an easy transition of ideas; it follows, that our notions of
personal identity, proceed entirely from the smooth and uninterrupted
progress of the thought along a train of connected ideas, according to
the principles above-explained.

The only question, therefore, which remains, is, by what relations this
uninterrupted progress of our thought is produced, when we consider the
successive existence of a mind or thinking person. And here it is evident
we must confine ourselves to resemblance and causation, and must drop
contiguity, which has little or no influence in the present case.

To begin with resemblance; suppose we coued see clearly into the breast
of another, and observe that succession of perceptions, which constitutes
his mind or thinking principle, and suppose that he always preserves the
memory of a considerable part of past perceptions; it is evident that
nothing coued more contribute to the bestowing a relation on this
succession amidst all its variations. For what is the memory but a
faculty, by which we raise up the images of past perceptions? And as an
image necessarily resembles its object, must not. the frequent placing of
these resembling perceptions in the chain of thought, convey the
imagination more easily from one link to another, and make the whole seem
like the continuance of one object? In this particular, then, the memory
not only discovers the identity, but also contributes to its production,
by producing the relation of resemblance among the perceptions. The case
is the same whether we consider ourselves or others.

As to causation; we may observe, that the true idea of the human mind, is
to consider it as a system of different perceptions or different
existences, which are linked together by the relation of cause and
effect, and mutually produce, destroy, influence, and modify each other.
Our impressions give rise to their correspondent ideas; said these ideas
in their turn produce other impressions. One thought chaces another, and
draws after it a third, by which it is expelled in its turn. In this
respect, I cannot compare the soul more properly to any thing than to a
republic or commonwealth, in which the several members are united by the
reciprocal ties of government and subordination, and give rise to other
persons, who propagate the same republic in the incessant changes of its
parts. And as the same individual republic may not only change its
members, but also its laws and constitutions; in like manner the same
person may vary his character and disposition, as well as his impressions
and ideas, without losing his identity. Whatever changes he endures, his
several parts are still connected by the relation of causation. And in
this view our identity with regard to the passions serves to corroborate
that with regard to the imagination, by the making our distant
perceptions influence each other, and by giving us a present concern for
our past or future pains or pleasures.

As a memory alone acquaints us with the continuance and extent of this
succession of perceptions, it is to be considered, upon that account
chiefly, as the source of personal identity. Had we no memory, we never
should have any notion of causation, nor consequently of that chain of
causes and effects, which constitute our self or person. But having once
acquired this notion of causation from the memory, we can extend the same
chain of causes, and consequently the identity of car persons beyond our
memory, and can comprehend times, and circumstances, and actions, which
we have entirely forgot, but suppose in general to have existed. For how
few of our past actions are there, of which we have any memory? Who can
tell me, for instance, what were his thoughts and actions on the 1st of
January 1715, the 11th of March 1719, and the 3rd of August 1733? Or will
he affirm, because he has entirely forgot the incidents of these days,
that the present self is not the same person with the self of that time;
and by that means overturn all the most established notions of personal
identity? In this view, therefore, memory does not so much produce as
discover personal identity, by shewing us the relation of cause and
effect among our different perceptions. It will be incumbent on those, who
affirm that memory produces entirely our personal identity, to give a
reason why we cm thus extend our identity beyond our memory.

The whole of this doctrine leads us to a conclusion, which is of great
importance in the present affair, viz. that all the nice and subtile
questions concerning personal identity can never possibly be decided, and
are to be regarded rather as gramatical than as philosophical
difficulties. Identity depends on the relations of ideas; and these
relations produce identity, by means of that easy transition they
occasion. But as the relations, and the easiness of the transition may
diminish by insensible degrees, we have no just standard, by. which we
can decide any dispute concerning the time, when they acquire or lose a
title to the name of identity. All the disputes concerning the identity
of connected objects are merely verbal, except so fax as the relation of
parts gives rise to some fiction or imaginary principle of union, as we
have already observed.

What I have said concerning the first origin and uncertainty of our
notion of identity, as applied to the human mind, may be extended with
little or no variation to that of simplicity. An object, whose different
co-existent parts are bound together by a close relation, operates upon
the imagination after much the same manner as one perfectly simple and
indivisible and requires not a much greater stretch of thought in order
to its conception. From this similarity of operation we attribute a
simplicity to it, and feign a principle of union as the support of this
simplicity, and the center of all the different parts and qualities of
the object.

Thus we have finished our examination of the several systems of
philosophy, both of the intellectual and natural world; and in our
miscellaneous way of reasoning have been led into several topics; which
will either illustrate and confirm some preceding part of this discourse,
or prepare the way for our following opinions. It is now time to return to
a more close examination of our subject, and to proceed in the accurate
anatomy of human nature, having fully explained the nature of our
judgment and understandings.


But before I launch out into those immense depths of philosophy, which
lie before me, I find myself inclined to stop a moment in my present
station, and to ponder that voyage, which I have undertaken, and which
undoubtedly requires the utmost art and industry to be brought to a happy
conclusion. Methinks I am like a man, who having struck on many shoals,
and having narrowly escaped shipwreck in passing a small frith, has yet
the temerity to put out to sea in the same leaky weather-beaten vessel,
and even carries his ambition so far as to think of compassing the globe
under these disadvantageous circumstances. My memory of past errors and
perplexities, makes me diffident for the future. The wretched condition,
weakness, and disorder of the faculties, I must employ in my enquiries,
encrease my apprehensions. And the impossibility of amending or
correcting these faculties, reduces me almost to despair, and makes me
resolve to perish on the barren rock, on which I am at present, rather
than venture myself upon that boundless ocean, which runs out into
immensity. This sudden view of my danger strikes me with melancholy; and
as it is usual for that passion, above all others, to indulge itself; I
cannot forbear feeding my despair, with all those desponding reflections,
which the present subject furnishes me with in such abundance.

I am first affrighted and confounded with that forelorn solitude, in
which I am placed in my philosophy, and fancy myself some strange uncouth
monster, who not being able to mingle and unite in society, has been
expelled all human commerce, and left utterly abandoned and disconsolate.
Fain would I run into the crowd for shelter and warmth; but cannot
prevail with myself to mix with such deformity. I call upon others to
join me, in order to make a company apart; but no one will hearken to me.
Every one keeps at a distance, and dreads that storm, which beats upon me
from every side. I have exposed myself to the enmity of all
metaphysicians, logicians, mathematicians, and even theologians; and can
I wonder at the insults I must suffer? I have declared my disapprobation
of their systems; and can I be surprized, if they should express a hatred
of mine and of my person? When I look abroad, I foresee on every side,
dispute, contradiction, anger, calumny and detraction. When I turn my eye
inward, I find nothing but doubt and ignorance. All the world conspires
to oppose and contradict me; though such is my weakness, that I feel all
my opinions loosen and fall of themselves, when unsupported by the
approbation of others. Every step I take is with hesitation, and every
new reflection makes me dread an error and absurdity in my reasoning.

For with what confidence can I venture upon such bold enterprises, when
beside those numberless infirmities peculiar to myself, I find so many
which are common to human nature? Can I be sure, that in leaving all
established opinions I am following truth; and by what criterion shall I
distinguish her, even if fortune should at last guide me on her
foot-steps? After the most accurate and exact of my reasonings, I can
give no reason why I should assent to it; and feel nothing but a strong
propensity to consider objects strongly in that view, under which they
appear to me. Experience is a principle, which instructs me in the
several conjunctions of objects for the past. Habit is another principle,
which determines me to expect the same for the future; and both of them
conspiring to operate upon the imagination, make me form certain ideas in
a more intense and lively manner, than others, which are not attended
with the same advantages. Without this quality, by which the mind
enlivens some ideas beyond others (which seemingly is so trivial, and so
little founded on reason) we coued never assent to any argument, nor
carry our view beyond those few objects, which are present to our senses.
Nay, even to these objects we coued never attribute any existence, but
what was dependent on the senses; and must comprehend them entirely in
that succession of perceptions, which constitutes our self or person. Nay
farther, even with relation to that succession, we coued only admit of
those perceptions, which are immediately present to our consciousness,
nor coued those lively images, with which the memory presents us, be ever
received as true pictures of past perceptions. The memory, senses, and
understanding are, therefore, all of them founded on the imagination, or
the vivacity of our ideas.

No wonder a principle so inconstant and fallacious should lead us into
errors, when implicitly followed (as it must be) in all its variations.
It is this principle, which makes us reason from causes and effects; and
it is the same principle, which convinces us of the continued existence of
external objects, when absent from the senses. But though these two
operations be equally natural and necessary in the human mind, yet in
some circumstances they are [Sect. 4.] directly contrary, nor is it
possible for us to reason justly and regularly from causes and effects,
and at the same time believe the continued existence of matter. How then
shall we adjust those principles together? Which of them shall we prefer?
Or in case we prefer neither of them, but successively assent to both, as
is usual among philosophers, with what confidence can we afterwards usurp
that glorious title, when we thus knowingly embrace a manifest

This contradiction [Part III. Sect. 14.] would be more excusable, were it
compensated by any degree of solidity and satisfaction in the other parts
of our reasoning. But the case is quite contrary. When we trace up the
human understanding to its first principles, we find it to lead us into
such sentiments, as seem to turn into ridicule all our past pains and
industry, and to discourage us from future enquiries. Nothing is more
curiously enquired after by the mind of man, than the causes of every
phenomenon; nor are we content with knowing the immediate causes, but
push on our enquiries, till we arrive at the original and ultimate
principle. We would not willingly stop before we are acquainted with that
energy in the cause, by which it operates on its effect; that tie, which
connects them together; and that efficacious quality, on which the tie
depends. This is our aim in all our studies and reflections: And how must
we be disappointed, when we learn, that this connexion, tie, or energy
lies merely in ourselves, and is nothing but that determination of the
mind, which is acquired by custom, and causes us to make a transition
from an object to its usual attendant, and from the impression of one to
the lively idea of the other? Such a discovery not only cuts off all hope
of ever attaining satisfaction, but even prevents our very wishes; since
it appears, that when we say we desire to know the ultimate and operating
principle, as something, which resides in the external object, we either
contradict ourselves, or talk without a meaning.

This deficiency in our ideas is not, indeed, perceived in common life,
nor are we sensible, that in the most usual conjunctions of cause and
effect we are as ignorant of the ultimate principle, which binds them
together, as in the most unusual and extraordinary. But this proceeds
merely from an illusion of the imagination; and the question is, how far
we ought to yield to these illusions. This question is very difficult,
and reduces us to a very dangerous dilemma, whichever way we answer it.
For if we assent to every trivial suggestion of the fancy; beside that
these suggestions are often contrary to each other; they lead us into
such errors, absurdities, and obscurities, that we must at last become
ashamed of our credulity. Nothing is more dangerous to reason than the
flights of the imagination, and nothing has been the occasion of more
mistakes among philosophers. Men of bright fancies may in this respect be
compared to those angels, whom the scripture represents as covering their
eyes with their wings. This has already appeared in so many instances,
that we may spare ourselves the trouble of enlarging upon it any farther.

But on the other hand, if the consideration of these instances makes us
take a resolution to reject all the trivial suggestions of the fancy, and
adhere to the understanding, that is, to the general and more established
properties of the imagination; even this resolution, if steadily
executed, would be dangerous, and attended with the most fatal
consequences. For I have already shewn [Sect. 1.], that the understanding,
when it acts alone, and according to its most general principles, entirely
subverts itself, and leaves not the lowest degree of evidence in any
proposition, either in philosophy or common life. We save ourselves from
this total scepticism only by means of that singular and seemingly
trivial property of the fancy, by which we enter with difficulty into
remote views of things, and are not able to accompany them with so
sensible an impression, as we do those, which are more easy and natural.
Shall we, then, establish it for a general maxim, that no refined or
elaborate reasoning is ever to be received? Consider well the
consequences of such a principle. By this means you cut off entirely all
science and philosophy: You proceed upon one singular quality of the
imagination, and by a parity of reason must embrace all of them: And you
expressly contradict yourself; since this maxim must be built on the
preceding reasoning, which will be allowed to be sufficiently refined and
metaphysical. What party, then, shall we choose among these difficulties?
If we embrace this principle, and condemn all refined reasoning, we run
into the most manifest absurdities. If we reject it in favour of these
reasonings, we subvert entirely the, human understanding. We have,
therefore, no choice left but betwixt a false reason and none at all. For
my part, know not what ought to be done in the present case. I can only
observe what is commonly done; which is, that this difficulty is seldom
or never thought of; and even where it has once been present to the mind,
is quickly forgot, and leaves but a small impression behind it. Very
refined reflections have little or no influence upon us; and yet we do
not, and cannot establish it for a rule, that they ought not to have any
influence; which implies a manifest contradiction.

But what have I here said, that reflections very refined and metaphysical
have little or no influence upon us? This opinion I can scarce forbear
retracting, and condemning from my present feeling and experience. The
intense view of these manifold contradictions and imperfections in human
reason has so wrought upon me, and heated my brain, that I am ready to
reject all belief and reasoning, and can look upon no opinion even as
more probable or likely than another. Where am I, or what? From what
causes do I derive my existence, and to what condition shall I return?
Whose favour shall I court, and whose anger must I dread? What beings
surround me? and on whom have, I any influence, or who have any influence
on me? I am confounded with all these questions, and begin to fancy
myself in the most deplorable condition imaginable, invironed with the
deepest darkness, and utterly deprived of the use of every member and

Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling
these clouds, nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of
this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent
of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which
obliterate all these chimeras. I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I
converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four
hours' amusement, I would return to these speculations, they appear so
cold, and strained, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to
enter into them any farther.

Here then I find myself absolutely and necessarily determined to live,
and talk, and act like other people in the common affairs of life. But
notwithstanding that my natural propensity, and the course of my animal
spirits and passions reduce me to this indolent belief in the general
maxims of the world, I still feel such remains of my former disposition,
that I am ready to throw all my books and papers into the fire, and
resolve never more to renounce the pleasures of life for the sake of
reasoning and philosophy. For those are my sentiments in that splenetic
humour, which governs me at present. I may, nay I must yield to the
current of nature, in submitting to my senses and understanding; and in
this blind submission I shew most perfectly my sceptical disposition and
principles. But does it follow, that I must strive against the current of
nature, which leads me to indolence and pleasure; that I must seclude
myself, in some measure, from the commerce and society of men, which is
so agreeable; and that I must torture my brains with subtilities and
sophistries, at the very time that I cannot satisfy myself concerning the
reasonableness of so painful an application, nor have any tolerable
prospect of arriving by its means at truth and certainty. Under what
obligation do I lie of making such an abuse of time? And to what end can
it serve either for the service of mankind, or for my own private
interest? No: If I must be a fool, as all those who reason or believe any
thing certainly are, my follies shall at least be natural and agreeable.
Where I strive against my inclination, I shall have a good reason for my
resistance; and will no more be led a wandering into such dreary
solitudes, and rough passages, as I have hitherto met with.

These are the sentiments of my spleen and indolence; and indeed I must
confess, that philosophy has nothing to oppose to them, and expects a
victory more from the returns of a serious good-humoured disposition,
than from the force of reason and conviction. In all the incidents of
life we ought still to preserve our scepticism. If we believe, that fire
warms, or water refreshes, it is only because it costs us too much pains
to think otherwise. Nay if we are philosophers, it ought only to be upon
sceptical principles, and from an inclination, which we feel to the
employing ourselves after that manner. Where reason is lively, and mixes
itself with some propensity, it ought to be assented to. Where it does
not, it never can have any title to operate upon us.

At the time, therefore, that I am tired with amusement and company, and
have indulged a reverie in my chamber, or in a solitary walk by a
river-side, I feel my mind all collected within itself, and am naturally
inclined to carry my view into all those subjects, about which I have met
with so many disputes in the course of my reading and conversation. I
cannot forbear having a curiosity to be acquainted with the principles of
moral good and evil, the nature and foundation of government, and the
cause of those several passions and inclinations, which actuate and
govern me. I am uneasy to think I approve of one object, and disapprove
of another; call one thing beautiful, and another deformed; decide
concerning truth and falshood, reason and folly, without knowing upon
what principles I proceed. I am concerned for the condition of the
learned world, which lies under such t deplorable ignorance in all these
particulars. I feel an ambition to arise in me of contributing to the
instruction of mankind, and of acquiring a name by my inventions and
discoveries. These sentiments spring up naturally in my present
disposition; and should I endeavour to banish them, by attaching myself
to any other business or diversion, I feel I should be a loser in point
of pleasure; and this is the origin of my philosophy.

But even suppose this curiosity and ambition should not transport me into
speculations without the sphere of common life, it would necessarily
happen, that from my very weakness I must be led into such enquiries.
It is certain, that superstition is much more bold in its systems and
hypotheses than philosophy; and while the latter contents itself with
assigning new causes and principles to the phaenomena, which appear in
the visible world, the former opens a world of its own, and presents us
with scenes, and beings, and objects, which are altogether new. Since
therefore it is almost impossible for the mind of man to rest, like those
of beasts, in that narrow circle of objects, which are the subject of
daily conversation and action, we ought only to deliberate concerning the
choice of our guide, and ought to prefer that which is safest and most
agreeable. And in this respect I make bold to recommend philosophy, and
shall not scruple to give it the preference to superstition of every kind
or denomination. For as superstition arises naturally and easily from the
popular opinions of mankind, it seizes more strongly on the mind, and is
often able to disturb us in the conduct of our lives and actions.
Philosophy on the contrary, if just, can present us only with mild and
moderate sentiments; and if false and extravagant, its opinions are
merely the objects of a cold and general speculation, and seldom go so
far as to interrupt the course of our natural propensities. The CYNICS
are an extraordinary instance of philosophers, who from reasonings purely
philosophical ran into as great extravagancies of conduct as any Monk or
Dervise that ever was in the world. Generally speaking, the errors in
religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.

I am sensible, that these two cases of the strength and weakness of the
mind will not comprehend all mankind, and that there are in England, in
particular, many honest gentlemen, who being always employed in their
domestic affairs, or amusing themselves in common recreations, have
carried their thoughts very little beyond those objects, which are every
day exposed to their senses. And indeed, of such as these I pretend not
to make philosophers, nor do I expect them either to be associates in
these researches or auditors of these discoveries. They do well to keep
themselves in their present situation; and instead of refining them into
philosophers, I wish we coued communicate to our founders of systems, a
share of this gross earthy mixture, as an ingredient, which they commonly
stand much in need of, and which would serve to temper those fiery
particles, of which they are composed. While a warm imagination is
allowed to enter into philosophy, and hypotheses embraced merely for
being specious and agreeable, we can never have any steady principles,
nor any sentiments, which will suit with common practice and experience.
But were these hypotheses once removed, we might hope to establish a
system or set of opinions, which if not true (for that, perhaps, is too
much to be hoped for) might at least be satisfactory to the human mind,
and might stand the test of the most critical examination. Nor should we
despair of attaining this end, because of the many chimerical systems,
which have successively arisen and decayed away among men, would we
consider the shortness of that period, wherein these questions have been
the subjects of enquiry and reasoning. Two thousand years with such long
interruptions, and under such mighty discouragements are a small space of
time to give any tolerable perfection to the sciences; and perhaps we are
still in too early an age of the world to discover any principles, which
will bear the examination of the latest posterity. For my part, my only
hope is, that I may contribute a little to the advancement of knowledge,
by giving in some particulars a different turn to the speculations of
philosophers, and pointing out to them more distinctly those subjects,
where alone they can expect assurance and conviction. Human Nature is the
only science of man; and yet has been hitherto the most neglected. It will
be sufficient for me, if I can bring it a little more into fashion; and
the hope of this serves to compose my temper from that spleen, and
invigorate it from that indolence, which sometimes prevail upon me. If
the reader finds himself in the same easy disposition, let him follow me
in my future speculations. If not, let him follow his inclination, and
wait the returns of application and good humour. The conduct of a man,
who studies philosophy in this careless manner, is more truly sceptical
than that of one, who feeling in himself an inclination to it, is yet so
overwhelmed with doubts and scruples, as totally to reject it. A true
sceptic will be diffident of his philosophical doubts, as well as of his
philosophical conviction; and will never refuse any innocent
satisfaction, which offers itself, upon account of either of them.

Nor is it only proper we should in general indulge our inclination in the
most elaborate philosophical researches, notwithstanding our sceptical
principles, but also that we should yield to that propensity, which
inclines us to be positive and certain in particular points, according to
the light, in which we survey them in any particular instant. It is easier
to forbear all examination and enquiry, than to check ourselves in so
natural a propensity, and guard against that assurance, which always
arises from an exact and full survey of an object. On such an occasion we
are apt not only to forget our scepticism, but even our modesty too; and
make use of such terms as these, it is evident, it is certain, it is
undeniable; which a due deference to the public ought, perhaps, to
prevent. I may have fallen into this fault after the example of others;
but I here enter a caveat against any Objections, which may be offered on
that head; and declare that such expressions were extorted from me by the
present view of the object, and imply no dogmatical spirit, nor conceited
idea of my own judgment, which are sentiments that I am sensible can
become no body, and a sceptic still less than any other.




As all the perceptions of the mind may be divided into impressions and
ideas, so the impressions admit of another division into original and
secondary. This division of the impressions is the same with that
which I formerly made use of [Book I. Part I. Sect. 2.] when I
distinguished them into impressions of sensation and reflection. Original
impressions or impressions of sensation are such as without any antecedent
perception arise in the soul, from the constitution of the body, from the
animal spirits, or from the application of objects to the external organs.
Secondary, or reflective impressions are such as proceed from some of
these original ones, either immediately or by the interposition of its
idea. Of the first kind are all the impressions of the senses, and all
bodily pains and pleasures: Of the second are the passions, and other
emotions resembling them.

It is certain, that the mind, in its perceptions, must begin somewhere;
and that since the impressions precede their correspondent ideas, there
must be some impressions, which without any introduction make their
appearance in the soul. As these depend upon natural and physical causes,
the examination of them would lead me too far from my present subject,
into the sciences of anatomy and natural philosophy. For this reason I
shall here confine myself to those other impressions, which I have called
secondary and reflective, as arising either from the original
impressions, or from their ideas. Bodily pains and pleasures are the
source of many passions, both when felt and considered by the mind; but
arise originally in the soul, or in the body, whichever you please to
call it, without any preceding thought or perception. A fit of the gout
produces a long train of passions, as grief, hope, fear; but is not
derived immediately from any affection or idea. The reflective
impressions may be divided into two kinds, viz. the calm and the VIOLENT.
Of the first kind is the sense of beauty and deformity in action,
composition, and external objects. Of the second are the passions of love
and hatred, grief and joy, pride and humility. This division is far from
being exact. The raptures of poetry and music frequently rise to the
greatest height; while those other impressions, properly called PASSIONS,
may decay into so soft an emotion, as to become, in a manner,
imperceptible. But as in general the passions are more violent than the
emotions arising from beauty and deformity, these impressions have been
commonly distinguished from each other. The subject of the human mind
being so copious and various, I shall here take advantage of this vulgar
and spacious division, that I may proceed with the greater order; and
having said ali I thought necessary concerning our ideas, shall now
explain those violent emotions or passions, their nature, origin, causes,
and effects.

When we take a survey of the passions, there occurs a division of them
into DIRECT and INDIRECT. By direct passions I understand such as arise
immediately from good or evil, from pain or pleasure. By indirect such as
proceed from the same principles, but by the conjunction of other
qualities. This distinction I cannot at present justify or explain any
farther. I can only observe in general, that under the indirect passions
I comprehend pride, humility, ambition, vanity, love, hatred, envy, pity,
malice, generosity, with their dependants. And under the direct passions,
desire, aversion, grief, joy, hope, fear, despair and security. I shall
begin with the former.


The passions of PRIDE and HUMILITY being simple and uniform impressions,
it is impossible we can ever, by a multitude of words, give a just
definition of them, or indeed of any of the passions. The utmost we can
pretend to is a description of them, by an enumeration of such
circumstances, as attend them: But as these words, PRIDE and humility,
are of general use, and the impressions they represent the most common of
any, every one, of himself, will be able to form a just idea of them,
without any danger of mistake. For which reason, not to lose time upon
preliminaries, I shall immediately enter upon the examination of these

It is evident, that pride and humility, though directly contrary, have yet
the same OBJECT. This object is self, or that succession of related ideas
and impressions, of which we have an intimate memory and consciousness.
Here the view always fixes when we are actuated by either of these
passions. According as our idea of ourself is more or less advantageous,
we feel either of those opposite affections, and are elated by pride, or
dejected with humility. Whatever other objects may be comprehended by the
mind, they are always considered with a view to ourselves; otherwise they
would never be able either to excite these passions, or produce the
smallest encrease or diminution of them. When self enters not into the
consideration, there is no room either for pride or humility.

But though that connected succession of perceptions, which we call SELF,
be always the object of these two passions, it is impossible it can be
their CAUSE, or be sufficient alone to excite them. For as these passions
are directly contrary, and have the same object in common; were their
object also their cause; it coued never produce any degree of the one
passion, but at the same time it must excite an equal degree of the other;
which opposition and contrariety must destroy both. It is impossible a man
can at the same time be both proud and humble; and where he has different
reasons for these passions, as frequently happens, the passions either
take place alternately; or if they encounter, the one annihilates the
other, as far as its strength goes, and the remainder only of that, which
is superior, continues to operate upon the mind. But in the present case
neither of the passions coued ever become superior; because supposing it
to be the view only of ourself, which excited them, that being perfectly
indifferent to either, must produce both in the very same proportion; or
in other words, can produce neither. To excite any passion, and at the
same time raise an equal share of its antagonist, is immediately to undo
what was done, and must leave the mind at last perfectly calm and

We must therefore, make a distinction betwixt the cause and the object of
these passions; betwixt that idea, which excites them, and that to which
they direct their view, when excited. Pride and humility, being once
raised, immediately turn our attention to ourself, and regard that as
their ultimate and final object; but there is something farther requisite
in order to raise them: Something, which is peculiar to one of the
passions, and produces not both in the very same degree. The first idea,
that is presented to the mind, is that of the cause or productive
principle. This excites the passion, connected with it; and that passion,
when excited. turns our view to another idea, which is that of self. Here
then is a passion placed betwixt two ideas, of which the one produces it,
and the other is produced by it. The first idea, therefore, represents
the cause, the second the object of the passion.

To begin with the causes of pride and humility; we may observe, that
their most obvious and remarkable property is the vast variety of
subjects, on which they may be placed. Every valuable quality of the
mind, whether of the imagination, judgment, memory or disposition; wit,
good-sense, learning, courage, justice, integrity; all these are the
cause of pride; and their opposites of humility. Nor are these passions
confined to the mind but extend their view to the body likewise. A man
may he proud of his beauty, strength, agility, good mein, address in
dancing, riding, and of his dexterity in any manual business or
manufacture. But this is not all. The passions looking farther,
comprehend whatever objects are in the least allyed or related to us. Our
country, family, children, relations, riches, houses, gardens, horses,
dogs, cloaths; any of these may become a cause either of pride or of

From the consideration of these causes, it appears necessary we shoud
make a new distinction in the causes of the passion, betwixt that
QUALITY, which operates, and the subject, on which it is placed. A man,
for instance, is vain of a beautiful house, which belongs to him, or
which he has himself built and contrived. Here the object of the passion
is himself, and the cause is the beautiful house: Which cause again is
sub-divided into two parts, viz. the quality, which operates upon the
passion, and the subject in which the quality inheres. The quality is the
beauty, and the subject is the house, considered as his property or
contrivance. Both these parts are essential, nor is the distinction vain
and chimerical. Beauty, considered merely as such, unless placed upon
something related to us, never produces any pride or vanity; and the
strongest. relation alone, without beauty, or something else in its
place, has as little influence on that passion. Since, therefore, these
two particulars are easily separated and there is a necessity for their
conjunction, in order to produce the passion, we ought to consider them
as component parts of the cause; and infix in our minds an exact idea of
this distinction.


Being so far advanced as to observe a difference betwixt the object of
the passions and their cause, and to distinguish in the cause the
quality, which operates on the passions, from the subject, in which it
inheres; we now proceed to examine what determines each of them to be
what it is, and assigns such a particular object, and quality, and
subject to these affections. By this means we shall fully understand the
origin of pride and humility.

It is evident in the first place, that these passions are derermined to
have self for their object, not only by a natural but also by an original
property. No one can doubt but this property is natural from the constancy
and steadiness of its operations. It is always self, which is the
object of pride and humility; and whenever the passions look beyond, it is
still with a view to ourselves, nor can any person or object otherwise
have any influence upon us.

That this proceeds from an original quality or primary impulse, will
likewise appear evident, if we consider that it is the distinguishing
characteristic of these passions Unless nature had given some original
qualities to the mind, it coued never have any secondary ones; because in
that case it would have no foundation for action, nor coued ever begin to
exert itself. Now these qualities, which we must consider as original,
are such as are most inseparable from the soul, and can be resolved into
no other: And such is the quality, which determines the object of pride
and humility. We may, perhaps, make it a greater question, whether the
causes, that produce the passion, be as natural as the object, to which
it is directed, and whether all that vast variety proceeds from caprice
or from the constitution of the mind. This doubt we shall soon remove, if
we cast our eye upon human nature, and consider that in all nations and
ages, the same objects still give rise to pride and humility; and that
upon the view even of a stranger, we can know pretty nearly, what will
either encrease or diminish his passions of this kind. If there be any
variation in this particular, it proceeds from nothing but a difference
in the tempers and complexions of men; and is besides very
inconsiderable. Can we imagine it possible, that while human nature
remains the same, men will ever become entirely indifferent to their
power, riches, beauty or personal merit, and that their pride and vanity
will not be affected by these advantages?

But though the causes of pride and humility be plainly natural, we shall
find upon examination, that they are not original, and that it is utterly
impossible they should each of them be adapted to these passions by a
particular provision, and primary constitution of nature, Beside their
prodigious number, many of them are the effects of art, and arise partly
from the industry, partly from the caprice, and partly from the good
fortune of men, Industry produces houses, furniture, cloaths. Caprice
determines their particular kinds and qualities. And good fortune
frequently contributes to all this, by discovering the effects that
result from the different mixtures and combinations of bodies. It is
absurd, therefore, to imagine, that each of these was foreseen and
provided for by nature, and that every new production of art, which
causes pride or humility; instead of adapting itself to the passion by
partaking of some general quality, that naturally operates on the mind;
is itself the object of an original principle, which till then lay
concealed in the soul, and is only by accident at last brought to light.
Thus the first mechanic, that invented a fine scritoire, produced pride
in him, who became possest of it, by principles different from those,
which made him proud of handsome chairs and tables. As this appears
evidently ridiculous, we must conclude, that each cause of pride and
humility is not adapted to the passions by a distinct original quality;
but that there are some one or more circumstances common to all of them,
on which their efficacy depends.

Besides, we find in the course of nature, that though the effects be many,
the principles, from which they arise, are commonly but few and simple,
and that it is the sign of an unskilful naturalist to have recourse to a
different quality, in order to explain every different operation. How
much more must this be true with regard to the human mind, which being so
confined a subject may justly be thought incapable of containing such a
monstrous heap of principles, as wou d be necessary to excite the
passions of pride and humility, were each distinct cause adapted to the
passion by a distinct set of principles?

Here, therefore, moral philosophy is in the same condition as natural,
with regard to astronomy before the time of COPERNICUS. The antients,
though sensible of that maxim, THAT NATURE DOES NOTHING IN VAIN, contrived
such intricate systems of the heavens, as seemed inconsistent with true
philosophy, and gave place at last to something more simple and natural.
To invent without scruple a new principle to every new phaenomenon,
instead of adapting it to the old; to overload our hypotheses with a
variety of this kind; are certain proofs, that none of these principles
is the just one, and that we only desire, by a number of falsehoods, to
cover our ignorance of the truth.


Thus we have established two truths without any obstacle or difficulty,
CAUSE IS ADAPTED TO ITS PASSION. We shall now proceed to enquire how we
may reduce these principles to a lesser number, and find among the causes
something common, on which their influence depends.

In order to this we must reflect on certain properties of human nature,
which though they have a mighty influence on every operation both of the
understanding and passions, are not commonly much insisted on by
philosophers. The first of these is the association of ideas, which I
have so often observed and explained. It is impossible for the mind to fix
itself steadily upon one idea for any considerable time; nor can it by
its utmost efforts ever arrive at such a constancy. But however
changeable our thoughts may be, they are not entirely without rule and
method in their changes. The rule, by which they proceed, is to pass from
one object to what is resembling, contiguous to, or produced by it. When
one idea is present to the imagination, any other, united by these
relations, naturally follows it, and enters with more facility by means
of that introduction.

The second property I shall observe in the human mind is a like
association of impressions. All resembling impressions are connected
together, and no sooner one arises than the rest immediately follow.
Grief and disappointment give rise to anger, anger to envy, envy to
malice, and malice to grief again, till the whole circle be compleated.
In like manner our temper, when elevated with joy, naturally throws
itself into love, generosity, pity, courage, pride, and the other
resembling affections. It is difficult for the mind, when actuated by any
passion, to confine itself to that passion alone, without any change or
variation. Human nature is too inconstant to admit of any such
regularity. Changeableness is essential to it. And to what can it so
naturally change as to affections or emotions, which are suitable to the
temper, and agree with that set of passions, which then prevail? It is
evident, then, there is an attraction or association among impressions,
as well as among ideas; though with this remarkable difference, that ideas
are associated by resemblance, contiguity, and causation; and impressions
only by resemblance.

In the THIRD place, it is observable of these two kinds of association,
that they very much assist and forward each other, and that the
transition is more easily made where they both concur in the same object.
Thus a man, who, by any injury from another, is very much discomposed and
ruffled in his temper, is apt to find a hundred subjects of discontent,
impatience, fear, and other uneasy passions; especially if he can
discover these subjects in or near the person, who was the cause of his
first passion. Those principles, which forward the transition of ideas,
here concur with those, which operate on the passions; and both uniting
in one action, bestow on the mind a double impulse. The new passion,
therefore, must arise with so much greater violence, and the transition
to it must be rendered so much more easy and natural.

Upon this occasion I may cite the authority of an elegant writer, who
expresses himself in the following manner.

"As the fancy delights in every thing that is great, strange, or
beautiful, and is still more pleased the more it finds of these
perfections in the same object, so it is capable of receiving a new
satisfaction by the assistance of another sense. Thus any continued
sound, as the music of birds, or a fall of waters, awakens every moment
the mind of the beholder, and makes him more attentive to the several
beauties of the place, that lie before him. Thus if there arises a
fragrancy of smells or perfumes, they heighten the pleasure of the
imagination, and make even the colours and verdure of the landschape
appear more agreeable; for the ideas of both senses recommend each other,
and are pleasanter together than when they enter the mind separately: As
the different colours of a picture, when they are well disposed, set off
one another, and receive an additional beauty from the advantage of the
situation." [Addison, SPECTATOR 412, final paragraph.]

In this phaenomenon we may remark the association both of impressions and
ideas, as well as the mutual assistance they lend each other.


These principles being established on unquestionable experience, I begin
to consider how we shall apply them, by revolving over all the causes of
pride and humility, whether these causes be regarded, as the qualities,
that operate, or as the subjects, on which the qualities are placed. In
examining these qualities I immediately find many of them to concur in
producing the sensation of pain and pleasure, independent of those
affections, which I here endeavour to explain. Thus the beauty of our
person, of itself, and by its very appearance, gives pleasure, as well as
pride; and its deformity, pain as well as humility. A magnificent feast
delights us, and a sordid one displeases. What I discover to be true in
some instances, I suppose to be so in all; and take it for granted at
present, without any farther proof, that every cause of pride, by its
peculiar qualities, produces a separate pleasure, and of humility a
separate uneasiness.

Again, in considering the subjects, to which these qualities adhere, I
make a new supposition, which also appears probable from many obvious
instances, viz, that these subjects are either parts of ourselves, or
something nearly related to us. Thus the good and bad qualities of our
actions and manners constitute virtue and vice, and determine our
personal character, than which nothing operates more strongly on these
passions. In like manner, it is the beauty or deformity of our person,
houses, equipage, or furniture, by which we are rendered either vain or
humble. The same qualities, when transfered to subjects, which bear us no
relation, influence not in the smallest degree either of these

Having thus in a manner supposed two properties of the causes of these
affections, viz, that the qualities produce a separate pain or pleasure,
and that the subjects, on which the qualities are placed, are related to
self; I proceed to examine the passions themselves, in order to find
something in them, correspondent to the supposed properties of their
causes. First, I find, that the peculiar object of pride and humility is
determined by an original and natural instinct, and that it is absolutely
impossible, from the primary constitution of the mind, that these
passions should ever look beyond self, or that individual person. of
whose actions and sentiments each of us is intimately conscious. Here at
last the view always rests, when we are actuated by either of these
passions; nor can we, in that situation of mind, ever lose sight of this
object. For this I pretend not to give any reason; but consider such a
peculiar direction of the thought as an original quality.

The SECOND quality, which I discover in these passions, and which I
likewise consider an an original quality, is their sensations, or the
peculiar emotions they excite in the soul, and which constitute their
very being and essence. Thus pride is a pleasant sensation, and humility
a painful; and upon the removal of the pleasure and pain, there is in
reality no pride nor humility. Of this our very feeling convinces us; and
beyond our feeling, it is here in vain to reason or dispute.

If I compare, therefore, these two established properties of the
passions, viz, their object, which is self, and their sensation, which is
either pleasant or painful, to the two supposed properties of the causes,
viz, their relation to self, and their tendency to produce a pain or
pleasure, independent of the passion; I immediately find, that taking
these suppositions to be just, the true system breaks in upon me with an
irresistible evidence. That cause, which excites the passion, is related
to the object, which nature has attributed to the passion; the sensation,
which the cause separately produces, is related to the sensation of the
passion: From this double relation of ideas and impressions, the passion
is derived. The one idea is easily converted into its correlative; and
the one impression into that, which resembles and corresponds to it: With
how much greater facility must this transition be made, where these
movements mutually assist each other, and the mind receives a double
impulse from the relations both of its impressions and ideas?

That we may comprehend this the better, we must suppose, that nature has
given to the organs of the human mind, a certain disposition fitted to
produce a peculiar impression or emotion, which we call pride: To this
emotion she has assigned a certain idea, viz, that of self, which it
never fails to produce. This contrivance of nature is easily conceived.
We have many instances of such a situation of affairs. The nerves of the
nose and palate are so disposed, as in certain circumstances to convey
such peculiar sensations to the mind: The sensations of lust and hunger
always produce in us the idea of those peculiar objects, which are
suitable to each appetite. These two circumstances are united in pride.
The organs are so disposed as to produce the passion; and the passion,
after its production, naturally produces a certain idea. All this needs
no proof. It is evident we never should be possest of that passion, were
there not a disposition of mind proper for it; and it is as evident, that
the passion always turns our view to ourselves, and makes us think of our
own qualities and circumstances.

This being fully comprehended, it may now be asked, WHETHER NATURE
in this particular her conduct is different in the different passions and
sensations. The palate must be excited by an external object, in order to
produce any relish: But hunger arises internally, without the concurrence
of any external object. But however the case may stand with other
passions and impressions, it is certain, that pride requires the
assistance of some foreign object, and that the organs, which produce it,
exert not themselves like the heart and arteries, by an original internal
movement. For first, daily experience convinces us, that pride requires
certain causes to excite it, and languishes when unsupported by some
excellency in the character, in bodily accomplishments, in cloaths,
equipage or fortune. SECONDLY, it is evident pride would be perpetual, if
it arose immediately from nature; since the object is always the same,
and there is no disposition of body peculiar to pride, as there is to
thirst and hunger. Thirdly, Humility is in the very same situation with
pride; and therefore, either must, upon this supposition, be perpetual
likewise, or must destroy the contrary passion from, the very first
moment; so that none of them coued ever make its appearance. Upon the
whole, we may rest satisfyed with the foregoing conclusion, that pride
must have a cause, as well as an object, and that the one has no
influence without the other.

The difficulty, then, is only to discover this cause, and find what it is
that gives the first motion to pride, and sets those organs in action,
which are naturally fitted to produce that emotion. Upon my consulting
experience, in order to resolve this difficulty, I immediately find a
hundred different causes, that produce pride; and upon examining these
causes, I suppose, what at first I perceive to be probable, that all of
them concur in two circumstances; which are, that of themselves they
produce an impression, allyed to the passion, and are placed on a
subject, allyed to the object of the passion. When I consider after this
the nature of relation, and its effects both on the passions and ideas, I
can no longer doubt, upon these suppositions, that it is the very
principle, which gives rise to pride, and bestows motion on those organs,
which being naturally disposed to produce that affection, require only a
first impulse or beginning to their action. Any thing, that gives a
pleasant sensation, and is related to self, excites the passion of pride,
which is also agreeable, and has self for its object.

What I have said of pride is equally true of humility. The sensation of
humility is uneasy, as that of pride is agreeable; for which reason the
separate sensation, arising from the causes, must be reversed, while the
relation to self continues the same. Though pride and humility are
directly contrary in their effects, and in their sensations, they have
notwithstanding the same object; so that it is requisite only to change
the relation of impressions, without making any change upon that of
ideas. Accordingly we find, that a beautiful house, belonging to
ourselves, produces pride; and that the same house, still belonging to
ourselves, produces humility, when by any accident its beauty is changed
into deformity, and thereby the sensation of pleasure, which corresponded
to pride, is transformed into pain, which is related to humility. The
double relation between the ideas and impressions subsists in both cases,
and produces an easy transition from the one emotion to the other.

In a word, nature has bestowed a kind of attraction on certain
impressions and ideas, by which one of them, upon its appearance,
naturally introduces its correlative. If these two attractions or
associations of impressions and ideas concur on the same object, they
mutually assist each other, and the transition of the affections and of
the imagination is made with the greatest ease and facility. When an idea
produces an impression, related to an impression, which is connected with
an idea, related to the first idea, these two impressions must be in a
manner inseparable, nor will the one in any case be unattended with the
other. It is after this manner, that the particular causes of pride and
humility are determined. The quality, which operates on the passion,
produces separately an impression resembling it; the subject, to which
the quality adheres, is related to self, the object of the passion: No
wonder the whole cause, consisting of a quality and of a subject, does so
unavoidably give rise to the pass on.

To illustrate this hypothesis. we may compare it to that, by which I have
already explained the belief attending the judgments, which we form from
causation. I have observed, that in all judgments of this kind, there is
always a present impression. and a related idea; and that the present
impression gives a vivacity to the fancy, and the relation conveys this
vivacity, by an easy transition, to the related idea. Without the present
impression, the attention is not fixed, nor the spirits excited. Without
the relation, this attention rests on its first object, and has no
farther consequence. There is evidently a great analogy betwixt that
hypothesis. and our present one of an impression and idea, that transfuse
themselves into another impression and idea by means of their double
relation: Which analogy must be allowed to be no despicable proof of both


But before we proceed farther in this subject, and examine particularly
all the causes of pride and humility, it will be proper to make some
limitations to the general system, THAT ALL AGREEABLE OBJECTS, RELATED TO
AND DISAGREEABLE ONES, HUMILITY: And these limitations are derived from
the very nature of the subject.

I. Suppose an agreeable object to acquire a relation to self, the first
passion, that appears on this occasion, is joy; and this passion
discovers itself upon a slighter relation than pride and vain-glory. We
may feel joy upon being present at a feast, where our senses are regard
with delicacies of every kind: But it is only the master of the feast,
who, beside the same joy, has the additional passion of self-applause and
vanity. It is true, men sometimes boast of a great entertainment, at which
they have only been present; and by so small a relation convert their
pleasure into pride: But however, this must in general be owned, that joy
arises from a more inconsiderable relation than vanity, and that many
things, which are too foreign to produce pride, are yet able to give us a
delight and pleasure, The reason of the difference may be explained thus.
A relation is requisite to joy, in order to approach the object to us,
and make it give us any satisfaction. But beside this, which is common to
both passions, it is requisite to pride, in order to produce a transition
from one passion to another, and convert the falsification into vanity.
As it has a double task to perform, it must be endowed with double force
and energy. To which we may add, that where agreeable objects bear not a
very close relation to ourselves, they commonly do to some other
person; and this latter relation not only excels, but even diminishes,
and sometimes destroys the former, as we shall see afterwards.
[Part II. Sec. 4.]

Here then is the first limitation, we must make to our general position,
that every thing related to us, which produces pleasure or pain, produces
likewise pride or humility. There is not only a relation required, but a
close one, and a closer than is required to joy.

II. The second limitation is, that the agreeable or disagreeable object
be not only closely related, but also peculiar to ourselves, or at least
common to us with a few persons. It is a quality observable in human
nature, and which we shall endeavour to explain afterwards, that every
thing, which is often presented. and to which we have been long
accustomed, loses its value in our eyes, and is in a little time despised
and neglected. We likewise judge of objects more from comparison than
from their real and intrinsic merit; and where we cannot by some contrast
enhance their value, we are apt to overlook even what is essentially good
in them. These qualities of the mind have an effect upon joy as well as
pride; and it is remarkable, that goods. which are common to all mankind,
and have become familiar to us by custom, give us little satisfaction;
though perhaps of a more excellent kind, than those on which, for their
singularity, we set a much higher value. But though this circumstance
operates on both these passions, it has a much greater influence on
vanity. We are rejoiced for many goods, which, on account of their
frequency, give us no pride. Health, when it returns after a long
absence, affords us a very sensible satisfaction; but is seldom regarded
as a subject of vanity, because it is shared with such vast numbers.

The reason, why pride is so much more delicate in this particular than
joy, I take to be, as follows. In order to excite pride, there are always
two objects we must contemplate. viz, the cause or that object which
produces pleasure; and self, which is the real object of the passion. But
joy has only one object necessary to its production. viz, that which
gives pleasure; and though it be requisite, that this bear some relation
to self, yet that is only requisite in order to render it agreeable; nor
is self, properly speaking, the object of this passion. Since, therefore,
pride has in a manner two objects, to which it directs our view; it
follows, that where neither of them have any singularity, the passion
must be more weakened upon that account, than a passion, which has only
one object. Upon comparing ourselves with others, as we are every moment
apt to do, we find we are not in the least distinguished; and upon
comparing the object we possess, we discover still the same unlucky
circumstance. By two comparisons so disadvantageous the passion must be
entirely destroyed.

III The third limitation is, that the pleasant or painful object be very
discernible and obvious, and that not only to ourselves, but to others
also. This circumstance, like the two foregoing, has an effect upon joy,
as well as pride. We fancy Ourselves more happy, as well as more virtuous
or beautiful, when we appear so to others; but are still more
ostentatious of our virtues than of our pleasures. This proceeds from
causes, which I shall endeavour to explain afterwards.

IV. The fourth limitation is derived from the inconstancy of the cause of
these passions, and from the short duration of its connexion with
ourselves. What is casual and inconstant gives but little joy, and less
pride. We are not much satisfyed with the thing itself; and are still
less apt to feel any new degrees of self-satisfaction upon its account.
We foresee and anticipate its change by the imagination; which makes us
little satisfyed with the thing: We compare it to ourselves, whose
existence is more durable; by which means its inconstancy appears still
greater. It seems ridiculous to infer an excellency in ourselves from an
object, which is of so much shorter duration, and attends us during so
small a part of our existence. It will be easy to comprehend the reason,
why this cause operates not with the same force in joy as in pride; since
the idea of self is not so essential to the former passion as to the

V. I may add as a fifth limitation, or rather enlargement of this system,
that general rules have a great influence upon pride and humility, as
well as on all the other passions. Hence we form a notion of different
ranks of men, suitable to the power of riches they are possest of; and
this notion we change not upon account of any peculiarities of the health
or temper of the persons, which may deprive them of all enjoyment in
their possessions. This may be accounted for from the same principles,
that explained the influence of general rules on the understanding.
Custom readily carries us beyond the just bounds in our passions, as well
as in our reasonings.

It may not be amiss to observe on this occasion, that the influence of
general rules and maxims on the passions very much contributes to
facilitate the effects of all the principles, which we shall explain in
the progress of this treatise. For it is evident, that if a person
full-grown, and of the same nature with ourselves, were on a
sudden-transported into our world, he would be very much embarrased with
every object, and would. not readily find what degree of love or hatred,
pride or humility, or any other passion he ought to attribute to it. The
passions are often varyed by very inconsiderable principles; and these do
not always play with a perfect regularity, especially on the first trial.
But as custom and practice have brought to light all these principles,
and have settled the just value of every thing; this must certainly
contribute to the easy production of the passions, and guide us, by means
of general established maxims, in the proportions we ought to observe in
preferring one object to another. This remark may, perhaps, serve to
obviate difficulties, that mayarise concerning some causes, which I shall
hereafter ascribe to particular passions, and which may be esteemed too
refined to operate so universally and certainly, as they are found to do.

I shall close this subject with a reflection derived from these five
limitations. This reflection is, that the persons, who are proudest, and
who in the eye of the world have most reason for their pride, are not
always the happiest; nor the most humble always the most miserable, as
may at first sight be imagined from this system. An evil may be real.
though its cause has no relation to us: It may be real, without being
peculiar: It may be real, without shewing itself to others: It may be
real, without being constant: And it may he real, without falling under
the general rules. Such evils as these will not fail to render us
miserable, though they have little tendency to diminish pride: And perhaps
the most real and the most solid evils of life will be found of this


Taking these limitations along with us, let us proceed to examine the
causes of pride and humility; and see, whether in every case we can
discover the double relations, by which they operate on the passions. If
we find that all these causes are related to self, and produce a pleasure
or uneasiness separate from the passion, there will remain no farther
scruple with regard to the present system. We shall principally endeavour
to prove the latter point; the former being in a manner self-evident.

To begin, with vice and virtue; which are the most obvious causes of
these passions; it would be entirely foreign to my present purpose to
enter upon the controversy, which of late years has so much excited the
The examination of this I reserve for the following book; and in the mean
time I shall endeavour to show, that my system maintains its ground upon
either of these hypotheses; which will be a strong proof of its solidity.

For granting that morality had no foundation in nature, it must still be
allowed, that vice and virtue, either from self-interest or the
prejudices of education, produce in us a real pain and pleasure; and this
we may observe to be strenuously asserted by the defenders of that
hypothesis. Every passion, habit, or turn of character (say they) which
has a tendency to our advantage or prejudice, gives a delight or
uneasiness; and it is from thence the approbation or disapprobation
arises. We easily gain from the liberality of others, but are always in
danger of losing by their avarice: Courage defends us, but cowardice lays
us open to every attack: Justice is the support of society, but
injustice, unless checked would quickly prove its ruin: Humility exalts;
but pride mortifies us. For these reasons the former qualities are
esteemed virtues, and the latter regarded as vices. Now since it is
granted there is a delight or uneasiness still attending merit or demerit
of every kind, this is all that is requisite for my purpose.

But I go farther, and observe, that this moral hypothesis and my present
system not only agree together, but also that, allowing the former to be
just, it is an absolute and invincible proof of the latter. For if all
morality be founded on the pain or pleasure, which arises from the
prospect of any loss or advantage, that may result from our own
characters, or from those of others, all the effects of morality must-be
derived from the same pain or pleasure, and among the rest, the passions
of pride and humility. The very essence of virtue, according to this
hypothesis, is to produce pleasure and that of vice to give pain. The
virtue and vice must be part of our character in order to excite pride or
humility. What farther proof can we desire for the double relation of
impressions and ideas?

The same unquestionable argument may be derived from the opinion of
those, who maintain that morality is something real, essential, and
founded on nature. The most probable hypothesis, which has been advanced
to explain the distinction betwixt vice and virtue, and the origin of
moral rights and obligations, is, that from a primary constitution of
nature certain characters and passions, by the very view and
contemplation, produce a pain, and others in like manner excite a
pleasure. The uneasiness and satisfaction are not only inseparable from
vice and virtue, but constitute their very nature and essence. To approve
of a character is to feel an original delight upon its appearance. To
disapprove of it is to be sensible of an uneasiness. The pain and
pleasure, therefore, being the primary causes of vice and virtue, must
also be the causes of all their effects, and consequently of pride and
humility, which are the unavoidable attendants of that distinction.

But supposing this hypothesis of moral philosophy should be allowed to be
false, it is still evident, that pain and pleasure, if not the causes of
vice and virtue, are at least inseparable from them. A generous and noble
character affords a satisfaction even in the survey; and when presented to
us, though only in a poem or fable, never fails to charm and delight us.
On the other hand cruelty and treachery displease from their very nature;
nor is it possible ever to reconcile us to these qualities, either in
ourselves or others. Thus one hypothesis of morality is an undeniable
proof of the foregoing system, and the other at worst agrees with it. But
pride and humility arise not from these qualities alone of the mind,
which, according to the vulgar systems of ethicks, have been comprehended
as parts of moral duty, but from any other that has a connexion with
pleasure and uneasiness. Nothing flatters our vanity more than the talent
of pleasing by our wit, good humour, or any other accomplishment; and
nothing gives us a more sensible mortification than a disappointment in
any attempt of that nature. No one has ever been able to tell what wit
is, and to-shew why such a system of thought must be received under that
denomination, and such another rejected. It is only by taste we can decide
concerning it, nor are we possest of any other standard, upon which we
can form a judgment of this kind. Now what is this taste, from which true
and false wit in a manner receive their being, and without which no
thought can have a title to either of these denominations? It is plainly
nothing but a sensation of pleasure from true wit, and of uneasiness from
false, without oar being able to tell the reasons of that pleasure or
uneasiness. The power of bestowing these opposite sensations is.
therefore, the very essence of true and false wit; and consequently the
cause of that pride or humility, which arises from them.

There may, perhaps, be some, who being accustomed to the style of the
schools and pulpit. and having never considered human nature in any other
light, than that in which they place it, may here be surprized to hear me
talk of virtue as exciting pride, which they look upon as a vice; and of
vice as producing humility, which they have been taught to consider as a
virtue. But not to dispute about words, I observe, that by pride I
understand that agreeable impression, which arises in the mind, when the
view either of our virtue, beauty, riches or power makes us satisfyed
with ourselves: and that by humility I mean the opposite impression. It is
evident the former impression is not always vicious, nor the latter
virtuous. The most rigid morality allows us to receive a pleasure from
reflecting on a generous action; and it is by none esteemed a virtue to
feel any fruitless remorses upon the thoughts of past villainy and
baseness. Let us, therefore, examine these impressions, considered in
themselves; and enquire into their causes, whether placed on the mind or
body, without troubling ourselves at present with that merit or blame,
which may attend them.


Whether we consider the body as a part of ourselves, or assent to those
philosophers, who regard it as something external, it must still be
allowed to be near enough connected with us to form one of these double
relations, which I have asserted to be necessary to the causes of pride
and humility. Wherever, therefore, we can find the other relation of
impressions to join to this of ideas, we may expect with assurance either
of these passions, according as the impression is pleasant or uneasy. But
beauty of all kinds gives us a peculiar delight and satisfaction; as
deformity produces pain, upon whatever subject it may be placed, and
whether surveyed in an animate or inanimate object. If the beauty or
deformity, therefore, be placed upon our own bodies, this pleasure or
uneasiness must be converted into pride or humility, as having in this
case all the circumstances requisite to produce a perfect transition of
impressions and ideas. These opposite sensations are related to the
opposite passions. The beauty or deformity is closely related to self,
the object of both these passions. No wonder, then our own beauty becomes
an object of pride, and deformity of humility.

But this effect of personal and bodily qualities is not only a proof of.
the present system, by shewing that the passions arise not in this case
without all the circumstances I have required, but may be employed as a
stronger and more convincing argument. If we consider all the hypotheses,
which have been formed either by philosophy or common reason, to explain
the difference betwixt beauty and deformity, we shall find that all of
them resolve into this, that beauty is such an order and construction of
parts, as either by the primary constitution of our nature, by custom, or
by caprice, is fitted to give a pleasure and satisfaction to the soul.
This is the distinguishing character of beauty, and forms all the
difference betwixt it and deformity, whose natural tendency is to produce
uneasiness. Pleasure and pain, therefore, are not only necessary
attendants of beauty and deformity, but constitute their very essence.
And indeed, if we consider, that a great part of the beauty, which we
admire either in animals or in other objects, is derived from the idea of
convenience and utility, we shall make no scruple to assent to this
opinion. That shape, which produces strength, is beautiful in one animal;
and that which is a sign of agility in another. The order and convenience
of a palace are no less essential to its beauty, than its mere figure and
appearance. In like manner the rules of architecture require, that the
top of a pillar should be more slender than its base, and that because
such a figure conveys to us the idea of security, which is pleasant;
whereas the contrary form gives us the apprehension of danger, which is
uneasy. From innumerable instances of this kind, as well as from
considering that beauty like wit, cannot be defined, but is discerned
only by a taste or sensation, we may conclude, that beauty is nothing but
a form, which produces pleasure, as deformity is a structure of parts,
which conveys pain; and since the power of producing pain and pleasure
make in this manner the essence of beauty and deformity, all the effects
of these qualities must be derived from the sensation; and among the rest
pride and humility, which of all their effects are the most common and

This argument I esteem just and decisive; but in order to give greater
authority to the present reasoning, let us suppose it false for a moment,
and see what will follow. It is certain, then, that if the power of
producing pleasure and pain forms not the essence of beauty and
deformity, the sensations are at least inseparable from the qualities,
and it is even difficult to consider them apart. Now there is nothing
common to natural and moral beauty, (both of which are the causes of
pride) but this power of producing pleasure; and as a common effect
supposes always a common cause, it is plain the pleasure must in both
cases be the real and influencing cause of the passion. Again; there is
nothing originally different betwixt the beauty of our bodies and the
beauty of external and foreign objects, but that the one has a near
relation to ourselves, which is wanting in the other. This original
difference, therefore, must be the cause of all their other differences,
and among the rest, of their different influence upon the passion of
pride, which is excited by the beauty of our person, but is not affected
in the lcast by that of foreign and external objects. Placing, then,
these two conclusions together, we find they compose the preceding system
betwixt them, viz, that pleasure, as a related or resembling impression,
when placed on a related object. by a natural transition, produces pride;
and its contrary, humility. This system, then, seems already sufficiently
confirmed by experience; that we have not yet exhausted all our

It is not the beauty of the body alone that produces pride, but also its
strength and force. Strength is a kind of power; and therefore the desire
to excel in strength is to be considered as an inferior species of
ambition. For this reason the present phaenomenon will be sufficiently
accounted for, in explaining that passion.

Concerning all other bodily accomplishments we may observe in general,
that whatever in ourselves is either useful, beautiful, or surprising, is
an object of pride; and it's contrary, of humility. Now it is obvious,
that every thing useful, beautiful or surprising, agrees in producing a
separate pleasure and agrees in nothing else. The pleasure, therefore,
with the relation to self must be the cause of the passion.

Though it should be questioned, whether beauty be not something real, and
different from the power of producing pleasure, it can never be disputed,
that as surprize is nothing but a pleasure arising from novelty, it is
not, properly speaking, a quality in any object, but merely a passion or
impression in the soul. It must, therefore, be from that impression, that
pride by a natural transition arises. And it arises so naturally, that
there is nothing in us or belonging to us, which produces surprize, that
does not at the same time excite that other passion. Thus we are vain of
the surprising adventures we have met with, the escapes we have made, and
dangers we have been exposed to. Hence the origin of vulgar lying; where
men without any interest, and merely out of vanity, heap up a number of
extraordinary events, which are either the fictions of their brain, or if
true, have at least no connexion with themselves. Their fruitful
invention supplies them with a variety of adventures; and where that
talent is wanting, they appropriate such as belong to others, in order to
satisfy their vanity.

In this phaenomenon are contained two curious experiments, which if we
compare them together, according to the known rules, by which we judge of
cause and effect in anatomy, natural philosophy, and other sciences, will
be an undeniable argument for that influence of the double relations
above-mentioned. By one of these experiments we find, that an object
produces pride merely by the interposition of pleasure; and that because
the quality, by which it produces pride, is in reality nothing but the
power of producing pleasure. By the other experiment we find, that the
pleasure produces the pride by a transition along related ideas; because
when we cut off that relation the passion is immediately destroyed.. A
surprising adventure, in which we have been ourselves engaged, is related
to us, and by that means produces pride: But the adventures of others,
though they may cause pleasure, yet for want of this relation of ideas,
never excite that passion. What farther proof can be desired for the
present system?

There is only one objection to this system with regard to our body: which
is, that though nothing be more agreeable than health, and more painful
than sickness, yet commonly men are neither proud of the one, nor
mortifyed with the other. This will easily be accounted for, if we
consider the second and fourth limitations, proposed to our general
system. It was observed, that no object ever produces pride or humility,
if it has not something peculiar to ourself; as also, that every cause of
that passion must be in some measure constant, and hold some proportion
to the duration of our self, which, is its object. Now as health and
sickness vary incessantly to all men, and there is none, who is solely or
certainly fixed in either, these accidental blessings and calamities are
in a manner separated from us, and are never considered as connected with
our being and existence. And that this account is just appears hence,
that wherever a malady of any kind is so rooted in our constitution, that
we no longer entertain any hopes of recovery, from that moment it becomes
an object of humility; as is evident in old men, whom nothing mortifies
more than the consideration of their age and infirmities. They endeavour,
as long as possible, to conceal their blindness and deafness, their
rheums and gouts; nor do they ever confess them without reluctance and
uneasiness. And though young men are not ashamed of every head-ach or cold
they fall into, yet no topic is so proper to mortify human pride, and
make us entertain a mean opinion of our nature, than this, that we are
every moment of our lives subject to such infirmities. This sufficiently
proves that bodily pain and sickness are in themselves proper causes of
humility; though the custom of estimating every thing by comparison more
than by its intrinsic worth and value, makes us overlook these
calamities, which we find to be incident to every one, and causes us to
form an idea of our merit and character independent of them.

We are ashamed of such maladies as affect others, and are either
dangerous or disagreeable to them. Of the epilepsy; because it gives a
horror to every one present: Of the itch; because it is infectious: Of
the king's-evil; because it commonly goes to posterity. Men always
consider the sentiments of others in their judgment of themselves. This
has evidently appeared in some of the foregoing reasonings; and will
appear still more evidently, and be more fully explained afterwards,


But though pride and humility have the qualities of our mind and body that
is self, for their natural and more immediate causes, we find by
experience, that there are many other objects, which produce these
affections, and that the primary one is, in some measure, obscured and
lost by the rnultiplicity of foreign and extrinsic. We found a vanity
upon houses, gardens, equipages, as well as upon personal merit and
accomplishments; and though these external advantages be in themselves
widely distant from thought or a person, yet they considerably influence
even a passion, which is directed to that as its ultimate object, This,
happens when external objects acquire any particular relation to
ourselves, and are associated or connected with us. A beautiful fish in
the ocean, an animal in a desart, and indeed any thing that neither
belongs, nor is related to us, has no manner of influence on our vanity,
whatever extraordinary qualities it may be endowed with, and whatever
degree of surprize and admiration it may naturally occasion. It must be
some way associated with us in order to touch our pride. Its idea must
hang in a manner, upon that of ourselves and the transition from the one
to the other must be easy and natural.

But here it is remarkable, that though the relation of resemblance
operates upon the mind in the same manner as contiguity and causation, in
conveying us from one idea to another, yet it is seldom a foundation
either of pride or of humility. If we resemble a person in any of the
valuable parts of his character, we must, in some degree, possess the
quality, in which we resemble him; and this quality we always chuse to
survey directly in ourselves rather than by reflexion in another person,
when we would found upon it any degree of vanity. So that though a
likeness may occasionally produce that passion by suggesting a more
advantageous idea of ourselves, it is there the view fixes at last, and
the passion finds its ultimate and final cause.

There are instances, indeed, wherein men shew a vanity in resembling a
great man in his countenance, shape, air, or other minute circumstances,
that contribute not in any degree to his reputation; but it must be
confessed that this extends not very far, nor is of any considerable
moment in these affections. For this I assign the following reason. We
can never have a vanity of resembling in trifles any person, unless he be
possessed of very shining qualities, which give us a respect and
veneration for him. These qualities, then, are, properly speaking, the
causes of our vanity, by means of their relation to ourselves. Now after
what manner are they related to ourselves? They are parts of the person
we value, and consequently connected with these trifles; which are also
supposed to be parts of him. These trifles are connected with the
resembling qualities in us; and these qualities in us, being parts, are
connected with the whole; and by that means form a chain of several links
of the person we resemble. But besides that this multitude of relations
must weaken the connexion; it is evident the mind, in passing from the
shining qualities to the trivial ones, must by that contrast the better
perceive the minuteness of the latter, and be in some measure ashamed of
the comparison and resemblance.

The relation, therefore, of contiguity, or that of causation, betwixt the
cause and object of pride and humility, is alone requisite to give rise
to these passions; and these relations are nothing else but qualities, by
which the imagination is conveyed from one idea to another. Now let us
consider what effect these can possibly have upon the mind, and by what
means they become so requisite to the production of the passions. It is
evident, that the association of ideas operates in so silent and
imperceptible a manner, that we are scarce sensible of it, and discover
it more by its effects than by any immediate feeling or perception. It
produces no emotion, and gives rise to no new impression of any kind, but
only modifies those ideas, of which the mind was formerly possessed, and
which it coued recal upon occasion. From this reasoning, as well as from
undoubted experience, we may conclude, that an association of ideas,
however necessary, is not alone sufficient to give rise to any passion.

It is evident, then, that when the mind feels the passion either of pride
or humility upon the appearance of related object, there is, beside the
relation or transition of thought, an emotion or original impression
produced by some other principle. The question is, whether the emotion
first produced be the passion itself, or some other impression related to
it. This question we cannot be long in deciding, For besides all the
other arguments, with which this subject abounds, it must evidently
appear, that the relation of ideas, which experience shews to be so
requisite a circumstance to the production of the passion, would be
entirely superfluous, were it not to second a relation of affections, and
facilitate the transition from one impression to another. If nature
produced immediately the passion of pride or humility, it would be
compleated in itself, and would require no farther addition or encrease
from any other affection. But supposing the first emotion to be only
related to pride or humility, it is easily conceived to what purpose the
relation of objects may serve, and how the two different associations, of
impressions and ideas, by uniting their forces, may assist each other's
operation. This is not only easily conceived, but I will venture to
affirm it is the only manner, in which we can conceive this subject. An
easy transition of ideas, which, of itself, causes no emotion, can never
be necessary, or even useful to the passions, but by forwarding the
transition betwixt some related impressions. Not to mention, that the
same object causes a greater or smaller degree of pride, not only in
proportion to the encrease or decrease of its qualities, but also to the
distance or nearness of the relation; which is a clear argument for the
transition of affections along the relation of ideas; since every change
in the relation produces a proportionable change in the passion. Thus one
part of the preceding system, concerning the relations of ideas is a
sufficient proof of the other, concerning that of impressions; and is
itself so evidently founded on experience, that it would be lost time to
endeavour farther to prove it.

This will appear still more evidently in particular instances. Men are
vain of the beauty of their country, of their county, of their parish.
Here the idea of beauty plainly produces a pleasure. This pleasure is
related to pride. The object or cause of this pleasure is, by the
supposition, related to self, or the object of pride. By this double
relation of impressions and ideas, a transition is made from the one
impression to the other.

Men are also vain of the temperature of the climate, in which they were
born; of the fertility of their native soil; of the goodness of the
wines, fruits or victuals, produced by it; of the softness or force of
their language; with other particulars of that kind. These objects have
plainly a reference to the pleasures of the senses, and are originally
considered as agreeable to the feeling, taste or hearing. How is it
possible they coued ever become objects of pride, except by means of that
transition above-explained?

There are some, that discover a vanity of an opposite kind, and affect to
depreciate their own country, in comparison of those, to which they have
travelled. These persons find, when they are at home, and surrounded with
their countrymen, that the strong relation betwixt them and their own
nation is shared with so many, that it is in a manner lost to them;
whereas their distant relation to a foreign country, which is formed by
their having seen it and lived in it, is augmented by their considering
how few there are who have done the same. For this reason they always
admire the beauty, utility and rarity of what is abroad, above what is at

Since we can be vain of a country, climate or any inanimate object, which
bears a relation to us, it is no wonder we are vain of the qualities of
those, who are connected with us by blood or friendship. Accordingly we
find, that the very same qualities, which in ourselves produce pride,
produce also in a lesser degree the same affection, when discovered in
persons related to us. The beauty, address, merit, credit and honours of
their kindred are carefully displayed by the proud, as some of their most
considerable sources of their vanity.

As we are proud of riches in ourselves, so to satisfy our vanity we
desire that every one, who has any connexion with us, should likewise be
possest of them, and are ashamed of any one, that is mean or poor, among
our friends and relations. For this reason we remove the poor as far from
us as possible; and as we cannot prevent poverty in some distant
collaterals, and our forefathers are taken to be our nearest relations;
upon this account every one affects to be of a good family, and to be
descended from a long succession of rich and honourable ancestors.

I have frequently observed, that those, who boast of the antiquity of
their families, are glad when they can join this circumstance, that their
ancestors for many generations have been uninterrupted proprietors of the
same portion of land, and that their family has never changed its
possessions, or been transplanted into any other county or province. I
have also observed, that it is an additional subject of vanity, when they
can boast, that these possessions have been transmitted through a descent
composed entirely of males, and that the honour, and fortune have never
past through any female. Let us endeavour to explain these phaenomena by
the foregoing system.

It is evident, that when any one boasts of the antiquity of his family,
the subjects of his vanity are not merely the extent of time and number
of ancestors, but also their riches and credit, which are supposed to
reflect a lustre on himself on account of his relation to them. He first
considers these objects; is affected by them in an agreeable manner; and
then returning back to himself, through the relation of parent and child,
is elevated with the passion of pride, by means of the double relation,
of impressions and ideas. Since therefore the passion depends on these
relations, whatever strengthens any of the relations must also encrease
the passion, and whatever weakens the relations must diminish the
passion. Now it is certain the identity of the possesion strengthens the
relation of ideas arising from blood and kindred, and conveys the fancy
with greater facility from one generation to another, from the remote
ancestors to their posterity, who are both their heirs and their
descendants. By this facility the impression is transmitted more entire,
and excites a greater degree of pride and vanity.

The case is the same with the transmission of the honours and fortune
through a succession of males without their passing through any female. It
is a quality of human nature, which we shall consider [Part II. Sect, 2.]
afterwards, that the imagination naturally turns to whatever is important
and considerable; and where two objects are presented to it, a small and a
great one, usually leaves the former, and dwells entirely upon the latter.
As in the society of marriage, the male sex has the advantage above the
female, the husband first engages our attention; and whether we consider
him directly, or reach him by passing through related objects, the thought
both rests upon him with greater satisfaction, and arrives at him with
greater facility than his consort. It is easy to see, that this property
must strengthen the child's relation to the father, and weaken that to the
mother. For as all relations are nothing hut a propensity to pass from
one idea ma another, whatever strengthens the propensity strengthens the
relation; and as we have a stronger propensity to pass from the idea of
the children to that of the father, than from the same idea to that of
the mother, we ought to regard the former relation as the closer and more
considerable. This is the reason why children commonly bear their
father's name, and are esteemed to be of nobler or baser birth, according
to his family. And though the mother should be possest of a superior
spirit and genius to the father, as often happens, the general rule
prevails, notwithstanding the exceprion, according to the doctrine
above-explained. Nay even when a superiority of any kind is so great, or
when any other reasons have such an effect, as to make the children rather
represent: the mother's family than the father's, the general rule still
retains such an efficacy that it weakens the relation, and makes a kind of
break in the line of ancestors. The imagination runs not along them with
facility, nor is able to transfer the honour and credit of the ancestors
to their posterity of the same name and family so readily, as when the
transition is conformable to the general rules, and passes from father to
son, or from brother to brother.


But the relation, which is esteemed the closest, and which of all others
produces most commonly the passion of pride, is that of property. This
relation it will be impossible for me fully to explain before I come to
treat of justice and the other moral virtues. It is sufficient to observe
on this occasion, that property may be defined, such a relation betwixt a
person and an. object as permits him, but forbids any other, the free use
and possession of it, without violating the laws of justice and moral
equity. If justice, therefore, be a virtue, which has a natural and
original influence on the human mind, property may be looked upon as a
particular species of causation; whether we consider the liberty it gives
the proprietor to operate as he please upon the object or the advantages,
which he reaps from it. It is the same case, if justice, according to the
system of certain philosophers, should be esteemed an artificial and not
a natural virtue. For then honour, and custom, and civil laws supply the
place of natural conscience, and produce, in some degree, the same
effects. This in the mean time is certain, that the mention of the
property naturally carries our thought to the proprietor, and of the
proprietor to the property; which being a proof of a perfect relation of
ideas is all that is requisite to our present purpose. A relation of
ideas, joined to that of impressions, always produces a transition of
affections; and therefore, whenever any pleasure or pain arises from an
object, connected with us by property. we may be certain, that either
pride or humility must arise from this conjunction of relations; if the
foregoing system be solid and satisfactory. And whether it be so or not,
we may soon satisfy ourselves by the most cursory view of human life.

Every thing belonging to a vain man is the best that is any where to be
found. His houses, equipage, furniture, doaths, horses, hounds, excel all
others in his conceit; and it is easy to observe, that from the least
advantage in any of these, he draws a new subject of pride and vanity.
His wine, if you'll believe him, has a finer flavour than any other; his
cookery is more exquisite; his table more orderly; his servants more
expert; the air, in which he lives, more healthful; the soil he
cultivates more fertile; his fruits ripen earlier and to greater
perfection: Such a thing is remarkable for its novelty; such another for
its antiquity: This is the workmanship of a famous artist; that belonged
once to such a prince or great man: All objects, in a word, that are
useful, beautiful or surprising, or are related to such, may, by means of
property, give rise to this passion. These agree in giving pleasure, and
agree in nothing else. This alone is common to them; and therefore must
be the quality that produces the passion, which is their common effect.
As every new instance is a new argument, and as the instances are here
without number, I may venture to affirm, that scarce any system was ever
so fully proved by experience, as that which I have here advanced.

If the property of any thing, that gives pleasure either by its utility,
beauty or novelty, produces also pride by a double relation of
impressions and ideas; we need not be surprized, that the power of
acquiring this property, should have the same effect. Now riches are to
be considered as the power of acquiring the property of what pleases; and
it is only in this view they have any influence on the passions. Paper
will, on many occasions, be considered as riches, and that because it may
convey the power of acquiring money: And money is not riches, as it is a
metal endowed with certain qualities of solidity, weight and fusibility;
but only as it has a relation to the pleasures and conveniences of life.
Taking then this for granted, which is in itself so evident, we may draw
from it one of the strongest arguments I have yet employed to prove the
influence of the double relations on pride and humility.

It has been observed in treating of the understanding, that the
distinction, which we sometimes make betwixt a power and the exercise of
it, is entirely frivolous, and that neither man nor any other being ought
ever to be thought possest of any ability, unless it be exerted and put in
action. But though this be strictly true in a just and philosophical way
of thinking, it is certain it is not the philosophy of our passions; but
that many things operate upon them by means of the idea and supposition
of power, independent of its actual exercise. We are pleased when we
acquire an ability of procuring pleasure, and are displeased when another
acquires a power of giving pain. This is evident from experience; but in
order to give a just explication of the matter, and account for this
satisfaction and uneasiness, we must weigh the following reflections.

It is evident the error of distinguishing power from its exercise proceeds
not entirely from the scholastic doctrine of free-will, which, indeed,
enters very little into common life, and has but small influence on our
vulgar and popular ways of thinking. According to that doctrine, motives
deprive us not of free-will, nor take away our power of performing or
forbearing any action. But according to common notions a man has no
power, where very considerable motives lie betwixt him and the
satisfaction of his desires, and determine him to forbear what he wishes
to perform. I do not think I have fallen into my enemy's power, when I
see him pass me in the streets with a sword by his side, while I am
unprovided of any weapon. I know that the fear of the civil magistrate is
as strong a restraint as any of iron, and that I am in as perfect safety
as if he were chained or imprisoned. But when a person acquires such an
authority over me, that not only there is no external obstacle to his
actions; but also that he may punish or reward me as he pleases, without
any dread of punishment in his turn, I then attribute a full power to
him, and consider myself as his subject or vassal.

Now if we compare these two cases, that of a person, who has very strong
motives of interest or safety to forbear any action, and that of another,
who lies under no such obligation, we shall find, according to the
philosophy explained in the foregoing book, that the only known
difference betwixt them lies in this, that in the former case we conclude
from past experience, that the person never will perform that action, and
in the latter, that he possibly or probably will perform it. Nothing is
more fluctuating and inconstant on many occasions, than the will of man;
nor is there any thing but strong motives, which can give us an absolute
certainty in pronouncing concerning any of his future actions. When we
see a person free from these motives, we suppose a possibility either of
his acting or forbearing; and though in general we may conclude him to be
determined by motives and causes, yet this removes not the uncertainty of
our judgment concerning these causes, nor the influence of that
uncertainty on the passions. Since therefore we ascribe a power of
performing an action to every one, who has no very powerful motive to
forbear it, and refuse it to such as have; it may justly be concluded,
that power has always a reference to its exercise, either actual or
probable, and that we consider a person as endowed with any ability when
we find from past experience, that it is probable, or at least possible he
may exert it. And indeed, as our passions always regard the real
existence of objects, and we always judge of this reality from past
instances; nothing can be more likely of itself, without any farther
reasoning, than that power consists in the possibility or probability of
any action, as discovered by experience and the practice of the world.

Now it is evident, that wherever a person is in such a situadon with
regard to me, that there is no very powerful motive to deter him from
injuring me, and consequently it is uncertain whether he will injure me or
not, I must be uneasy in such a situation, and cannot consider the
possibility or probability of that injury without a sensible concern. The
passions are not only affected by such events as are certain and
infallible, but also in an inferior degree by such as are possible and
contingent. And though perhaps I never really feel any harm, and discover
by the event, that, philosophically speaking, the person never had any
power of harming me; since he did not exert any; this prevents not my
uneasiness from the preceding uncertainty. The agreeable passions may
here operate as well as the uneasy, and convey a pleasure when I perceive
a good to become either possible or probable by the possibility or
probability of another's bestowing it on me, upon the removal of any
strong motives, which might formerly have hindered him.

But we may farther observe, that this satisfaction encreases, when any
good approaches in such a manner that it it in one's own power to take or
leave it, and there neither is any physical impediment, nor any very
strong motive to hinder our enjoyment. As all men desire pleasure,
nothing can be more probable, than its existence when there is no
external obstacle to the producing it, and men perceive no danger in
following their inclinations. In that case their imagination easily
anticipates the satisfaction, and conveys the same joy, as if they were
persuaded of its real and actual existence.

But this accounts not sufficiently for the satisfaction, which attends
riches. A miser receives delight from his money; that is, from the power
it affords him of procuring all the pleasures and conveniences of life,
though he knows he has enjoyed his riches for forty years without ever
employing them; and consequently cannot conclude by any species of
reasoning, that the real existence of these pleasures is nearer, than if
he were entirely deprived of all his possessions. But though he cannot
form any such conclusion in a way of reasoning concerning she nearer
approach of the pleasure, it is certain he imagines it to approach nearer,
whenever all external obstacles are removed, along with the more powerful
motives of interest and danger, which oppose it. For farther satisfaction
on this head I must refer to my account of the will, where I shall
[Part III. Sect. 2.] explain that false sensation of liberty, which make,
us imagine we can perform any thing, that is not very dangerous or
destructive. Whenever any other person is under no strong obligations of
interest to forbear any pleasure, we judge from experience, that the
pleasure will exist, and that he will probably obtain it. But when
ourselves are in that situation, we judge from an illusion of the fancy,
that the pleasure is still closer and more immediate. The will seems to
move easily every way, and casts a shadow or image of itself, even to that
side, on which it did not settle. By means of this image the enjoyment
seems to approach nearer to us, and gives us the same lively satisfaction,
as if it were perfectly certain and unavoidable.

It will now be easy to draw this whole reasoning to a paint, and to prove,
that when riches produce any pride or vanity in their possessors, as they
never fail so do, it is only by means of a double relation of impressions
and ideas. The very essence of riches consists in the power of procuring
the pleasures and conveniences of life. The very essence of this consists
in the probability of its exercise, and in its causing us to anticipate,
by a true or false reasoning, the real existence of the pleasure. This
anticipation of pleasure is, in itself, a very considerable pleasure; and
as its cause is some possession or property, which we enjoy, and which is
thereby related to us, we here dearly see all the parts of the foregoing
system most exactly and distinctly drawn out before us. For the same
reason, that riches cause pleasure and pride, and poverty excites
uneasiness and humility, power must produce the former emotions, and
slavery the latter. Power or an authority over others makes us capable of
satisfying all our desires; as slavery, by subjecting us to the will of
others, exposes us to a thousand wants, and mortifications.

It is here worth observing, that the vanity of power, or shame of slavery,
are much augmented by the consideration of the persons, over whom we
exercise our authority, or who exercise it over us. For supposing it
possible to frame statues of such an admirable mechanism, that they coued
move and act in obedience to the will; it is evident the possession of
them would give pleasure and pride, but not to such a degree, as the same
authority, when exerted over sensible and rational creatures, whose
condition, being compared to our own, makes it seem more agreeable and
honourable. Comparison is in every case a sure method of augmenting our
esteem of any thing. A rich man feels the felicity of his condition
better by opposing it to that of a beggar. But there is a peculiar
advantage in power, by the contrast, which is, in a manner, presented to
us, betwixt ourselves and the person we command. The comparison is
obvious and natural: The imagination finds it in the very subject: The
passage of the thought to its conception is smooth and easy. And that
this circumstance has a considerable effect in augmenting its influence,
will appear afterwards in examining the nature of malice and envy.


But beside these original causes of pride and humility, there is a
secondary one in the opinions of others, which has an equal influence on
the affections. Our reputation, our character, our name are
considerations of vast weight and importance; and even the other causes
of pride; virtue, beauty and riches; have little influence, when not
seconded by the opinions and sentiments of others. In order to account
for this phaenomenon it will be necessary to take some compass, and first
explain the nature of sympathy.

No quality of human nature is more remarkable, both in itself and in its
consequences, than that propensity we have to sympathize with others, and
to receive by communication their inclinations and sentiments, however
different from, or even contrary to our own. This is not only conspicuous
in children, who implicitly embrace every opinion proposed to them; but
also in men of the greatest judgment and understanding, who find it very
difficult to follow their own reason or inclination, in opposition to
that of their friends and daily companions. To this principle we ought to
ascribe the great uniformity we may observe in the humours and turn of
thinking of those of the same nation; and it is much more probable, that
this resemblance arises from sympathy, than from any influence of the
soil and climate, which, though they continue invariably the same, are not
able to preserve the character of a nation the same for a century
together. A good-natured man finds himself in an instant of the same
humour with his company; and even the proudest and most surly take a
tincture from their countrymen and acquaintance. A chearful countenance
infuses a sensible complacency and serenity into my mind; as an angry or
sorrowful one throws a sudden dump upon me. Hatred, resentment, esteem,
love, courage, mirth and melancholy; all these passions I feel more from
communication than from my own natural temper and disposition. So
remarkable a phaenomenon merits our attention, and must be traced up to
its first principles.

When any affection is infused by sympathy, it is at first known only by
its effects, and by those external signs in the countenance and
conversation, which convey an idea of it. This idea is presently
converted into an impression, and acquires such a degree of force and
vivacity, as to become the very passion itself, and produce an equal
emotion, as any original affection. However instantaneous this change of
the idea into an impression may be, it proceeds from certain views and
reflections, which will not escape the strict scrutiny of a. philosopher,
though they may the person himself, who makes them.

It is evident, that the idea, or rather impression of ourselves is always
intimately present with us, and that our consciousness gives us so lively
a conception of our own person, that it is not possible to imagine, that
any thing can in this particular go beyond it. Whatever object,
therefore, is related to ourselves must be conceived with a little
vivacity of conception, according to the foregoing principles; and though
this relation should not be so strong as that of causation, it must still
have a considerable influence. Resemblance and contiguity are relations
not to be neglected; especially when by an inference from cause and
effect, and by the observation of external signs, we are informed of the
real existence of the object, which is resembling or contiguous.

Now it is obvious, that nature has preserved a great resemblance among all
human creatures, and that we never remark any passion or principle in
others, of which, in some degree or other, we may not find a parallel in
ourselves. The case is the same with the fabric of the mind, as with that
of the body. However the parts may differ in shape or size, their
structure and composition are in general the same. There is a very
remarkable resemblance, which preserves itself amidst all their variety;
and this resemblance must very much contribute to make us enter into the
sentiments of others; and embrace them with facility and pleasure.
Accordingly we find, that where, beside the general resemblance of our
natures, there is any peculiar similarity in our manners, or character,
or country, or language, it facilitates the sympathy. The stronger the
relation is betwixt ourselves and any object, the more easily does the
imagination make the transition, and convey to the related idea the
vivacity of conception, with which we always form the idea of our own

Nor is resemblance the only relation, which has this effect, but receives
new force from other relations, that may accompany it. The sentiments of
others have little influence, when far removed from us, and require the
relation of contiguity, to make them communicate themselves entirely. The
relations of blood, being a species of causation, may sometimes
contribute to the same effect; as also acquaintance, which operates in
the same manner with education and custom; as we shall see more fully
[Part II. Sect. 4.] afterwards. All these relations, when united together,
convey the impression or consciousness of our own person to the idea of
the sentiments or passions of others, and makes us conceive them in the
strongest and most lively manner.

It has been remarked in the beginning of this treatise, that all ideas
are borrowed from impressions, and that these two kinds of perceptions
differ only in the degrees of force and vivacity, with which they strike
upon the soul. The component part. of ideas and impressions are precisely
alike. The manner and order of their appearance may be the same. The
different degrees of their force and vivacity are, therefore, the only
particulars, that distinguish them: And as this difference may be
removed, in some measure, by a relation betwixt the impressions and
ideas, it is no wonder an idea of a sentiment or passion, may by this
means be inlivened as to become the very sentiment or passion. The lively
idea of any object always approaches is impression; and it is certain we
may feel sickness and pain from the mere force of imagination, and make a
malady real by often thinking of it. But this is most remarkable in the
opinions and affections; and it is there principally that a lively idea is
converted into an impression. Our affections depend more upon ourselves,
and the internal operations of the mind, than any other impressions; for
which reason they arise more naturally from the imagination, and from
every lively idea we form of them. This is the nature and cause of
sympathy; and it is after this manner we enter so deep into the opinions
and affections of others, whenever we discover them.

What is principally remarkable in this whole affair is the strong
confirmation these phaenomena give to the foregoing system concerning the
understanding, and consequently to the present one concerning the
passions; since these are analogous to each other. It is indeed evident,
that when we sympathize with the passions and sentiments of others, these
movements appear at first in our mind as mere ideas, and are conceived to
belong to another person, as we conceive any other matter of fact. It is
also evident, that the ideas of the affections of others are converted
into the very impressions they represent, and that the passions arise in
conformity to the images we form of them. All this is an object of the
plainest experience, and depends not on any hypothesis of philosophy.
That science can only be admitted to explain the phaenomena; though at the
same time it must be confest, they are so clear of themselves, that there
is but little occasion to employ it. For besides the relation of cause
and effect, by which we are convinced of the reality of the passion, with
which we sympathize; besides this, I say, we must be assisted by the
relations of resemblance and contiguity, in order to feel the sympathy in
its full perfection. And since these relations can entirely convert an
idea into an impression, and convey the vivacity of the latter into the
former, so perfectly as to lose nothing of it in the transition, we may
easily conceive how the relation of cause and effect alone, may serve to
strengthen and inliven an idea. In sympathy there is an evident
conversion of an idea into an impression. This conversion arises from the
relation of objects to ourself. Ourself is always intimately present to
us. Let us compare all these circumstances, and we shall find, that
sympathy is exactly correspondent to the operations of our understanding;
and even contains something more surprizing and extraordinary.

It is now time to turn our view from the general consideration of
sympathy, to its influence on pride and humility, when these passions
arise from praise and blame, from reputation and infamy. We may observe,
that no person is ever praised by another for any quality, which would
not, if real, produce, of itself, a pride in the person possest of it.
The elogiums either turn upon his power, or riches, or family, or virtue;
all of which are subjects of vanity, that we have already explained and
accounted for. It is certain, then, that if a person considered himself in
the same light, in which he appears to his admirer, he would first
receive a separate pleasure, and afterwards a pride or self-satisfaction,
according to the hypothesis above explained. Now nothing is more natural
than for us to embrace the opinions of others in this particular; both
from sympathy, which renders all their sentiments intimately present to
us; and from reasoning, which makes us regard their judgment, as a kind
of argument for what they affirm. These two principles of authority and
sympathy influence almost all our opinions; but must have a peculiar
influence, when we judge of our own worth and character. Such judgments
are always attended with passion [Book I, Part III. Sect. 10.]; and
nothing tends more to disturb our understanding, and precipitate us into
any opinions, however unreasonable, than their connexion with passion;
which diffuses itself over the imagination, and gives an additional force
to every related idea. To which we may add, that being conscious of great
partiality in our own favour, we are peculiarly pleased with any thing,
that confirms the good opinion we have of ourselves, and are easily
shocked with whatever opposes it.

All this appears very probable in theory; but in order to bestow a full
certainty on this reasoning, we must examine the phaenonena of the
passions, and see if they agree with it,

Among these phaenomena we may esteem it a very favourable one to our
present purposes that though fame in general be agreeable, yet we receive
a much greater satisfaction from the approbation of those, whom we
ourselves esteem and approve of, than of those, whom we hate and despise.
In like measure we are principally mortifyed with the contempt of
persons, upon whose judgment we set some value, and are, in a peat
measure, indifferent about the opinions of the rest of mankind. But if
the mind received from any original instinct a desire of fame and
aversion to infamy, fame and infamy would influence us without
distinction; and every opinion, according as it were favourabk or
unfavourable, would equally excite that desire or aversion. The judgment
of a fool is the judgment of another person, as well as that of a wise
man, and is only inferior in its influence on our own judgment.

We are not only better pleased with the approbation of a wise man than
with that of a fool, but receive an additional satisfaction from the
former, when it is obtained after a long and intimate acquaintance. This
is accounted for after the same manner.

The praises of others never give us much pleasure, unless they concur
with our own opinion, and extol us for those qualities, in which we
chiefly excel. A mere soldier little values the character of eloquence: A
gownman of courage: A bishop of humour: Or a merchant of learning.
Whatever esteem a man may have for any quality, abstractedly considered;
when he is conscious he is not possest of it; the opinions of the whole
world will give him little pleasure in that particular, and that because
they never will be able to draw his own opinion after them.

Nothing is more usual than for men of good families, but narrow
circumstances, to leave their friends and country, and rather seek their
livelihood by mean and mechanical employments among strangers, than among
those, who are acquainted with their birth and education. We shall be
unknown, say they, where we go. No body will suspect from what family we
are sprung. We shall be removed from all our friends and acquaintance,
and our poverty and meanness will by that means sit more easy upon us. In
examining these sentiments, I find they afford many very convincing
arguments for my present purpose.

First, We may infer from them, that the uneasiness of being contemned
depends on sympathy, and that sympathy depends on the relation of objects
to ourselves; since we are most uneasy under the contempt of persons, who
are both related to us by blood, and contiguous in place. Hence we-seek
to diminish this sympathy and uneasiness by separating these relations,
and placing ourselves in a contiguity to strangers, and at a distance
from relations.

Secondly, We may conclude, that relations are requisite to sympathy, not
absolutely considered as relations, but by their influence in converting
our ideas of the sentiments of others into the very sentiments, by means
of the association betwixt the idea of their persons, and that of our
own. For here the relations of kindred and contiguity both subsist; but
not being united in the same persons, they contribute in a less degree to
the sympathy.

Thirdly, This very circumstance of the diminution of sympathy by the
separation of relations is worthy of our attention. Suppose I am placed
in a poor condition among strangers, and consequently am but lightly
treated; I yet find myself easier in that situation, than when I was
every day exposed to the contempt of my kindred and countrymen. Here I
feel a double contempt; from my relations, but they are absent; from
those about me, but they are strangers. This double contempt is likewise
strengthened by the two relations of kindred and contiguity. But as the
persons are not the same, who are connected with me by those two
relations, this difference of ideas separates the impressions arising
from the contempt, and keeps them from running into each other. The
contempt of my neighbours has a certain influence; as has also that of my
kindred: But these influences are distinct, and never unite; as when the
contempt proceeds from persons who are at once both my neighbours and
kindred. This phaenomenon is analogous to the system of pride and
humility above-explained, which may seem so extraordinary to vulgar

Fourthly, A person in these circumstances naturally conceals his birth
from those among whom he lives, and is very uneasy, if any one suspects
him to be of a family, much superior to his present fortune and way of
living. Every thing in this world is judged of by comparison. What is an
immense fortune for a private gentleman is beggary for a prince. A
peasant would think himself happy in what cannot afford necessaries for a
gentleman. When a man has either been acustomed to a more splendid way of
living, or thinks himself intitled to it by his birth and quality, every
thing below is disagreeable and even shameful; and it is with she greatest
industry he conceals his pretensions to a better fortune. Here he himself
knows his misfortunes; but as those, with whom he lives. are ignorant of
them, he has the disagreeable reflection and comparison suggested only by
his own thoughts, and never receives it by a sympathy with others; which
must contribute very much so his ease and satisfaction.

If there be any objections to this hypothesis, THAT THE PLEASURE, WHICH
shall find, uponexamination, that these objections, when taken in a
properlight, will serve to confirm it. Popular fame may be agreeable even
to a man, who despises the vulgar; but it is because their multitude gives
them additional weight and authority. Plagiaries are delighted with
praises, which they are conscious they do not deserve; but this is a kind
of castle-building, where the imagination amuses itself with its own
fictions, and strives to render them firm and stable by a sympathy with
the sentiments of others. Proud men are most shocked with contempt, should
they do not most readily assent to it; but it is because of the opposition
betwixt the passion, which is natural so them, and that received by
sympathy. A violent lover in like manner is very much disp pleased when
you blame and condemn his love; though it is evident your opposition can
have no influence, but by the hold it takes of himself, and by his
sympathy with you. If he despises you, or perceives you are in jest,
whatever you say has no effect upon him.


Thus in whatever light we consider this subject, we may still observe,
that die causes of pride and humility correspond exactly to our
hypothesis, and that nothing can excite either of these passions, unless
it be both related to ourselves, and produces a pleasure or pain
independent of the passion. We have not only proved, that a tendency to
produce pleasure or pain is common to all the causes of pride or
humility, but also that it is the only thing, which is common; and
consequently is the quality, by which they operate. We have farther
proved, that the most considerable causes of these passions are really
nothing but the power of producing either agreeable or uneasy sensations;
and therefore that all their effects, and amongst the rest, pride and
humility, are derived solely from that origin. Such simple and natural
principles, founded on such solid proofs, cannot fail to be received by
philosophers, unless opposed by some objections, that have escaped me.

It is usual with anatomists to join their observations and experiments on
human bodies to those on beasts, and from the agreement of these
experiments to derive an additional argument for any particular
hypothesis. It is indeed certain, that where the structure of parts in
brutes is the same as in men, and the operation of these parts also the
same, the causes of that operation cannot be different, and that whatever
we discover to be true of the one species, may be concluded without
hesitation to be certain of the other. Thus though the mixture of humours
and the composition of minute parts may justly be presumed so be somewhat
different in men from what it is in mere animals; and therefore any
experiment we make upon the one concerning the effects of medicines will
not always apply to the other; yet as the structure of the veins and
muscles, the fabric and situation of the heart, of the lungs, the
stomach, the liver and other parts, are the same or nearly the same in
all animals, the very same hypothesis, which in one species explains
muscular motion, the progress of the chyle, the circulation of the blood,
must be applicable to every one; and according as it agrees or disagrees
with the experiments we may make in any species of creatures, we may draw
a proof of its truth or falshood on the whole. Let us, therefore, apply
this method of enquiry, which is found so just and useful in reasonings
concerning the body, to our present anatomy of the mind, and see what
discoveries we can make by it.

In order to this we must first shew the correspondence of passions in men
and animals, and afterwards compare the causes, which produce these

It is plain, that almost in every species of creatures, but especially of
the nobler kind, there are many evident marks of pride and humility. The
very port and gait of a swan, or turkey, or peacock show the high idea he
has entertained of himself, and his contempt of all others. This is the
more remarkable, that in the two last species of animals, the pride
always attends the beauty, and is discovered in the male only. The vanity
and emulation of nightingales in singing have been commonly remarked; as
likewise that of horses in swiftness, of hounds in sagacity and smell, of
the bull and cock in strength, and of every other animal in his
particular excellency. Add to this, that every species of creatures,
which approach so often to man, as to familiarize themselves with him,
show an evident pride in his approbation, and are pleased with his
praises and caresses, independent of every other consideration. Nor are
they the caresses of every one without distinction, which give them this
vanity, but those principally of the persons they know and love; in the
same manner as that passion is excited in mankind. All these are evident
proofs, that pride and humility are not merely human passions, but extend
themselves over the whole animal creation.

The CAUSES of these passions are likewise much the same in beasts as in
us, making a just allowance for our superior knowledge and understanding.
Thus animals have little or no sense of virtue or vice; they quickly lose
sight of the relations of blood; and are incapable of that of right and
property: For which reason the causes of their pride and humility must
lie solely in the body, and can never be placed either in the mind or
external objects. But so far as regards the body, the same qualities
cause pride in the animal as in the human kind; and it is on beauty,
strength, swiftness or some other useful or agreeable quality that this
passion is always founded.

The next question is, whether, since those passions are the same, and
arise from the same causes through the whole creation, the manner, in
which the causes operate, be also the same. According to all rules of
analogy, this is justly to be expected; and if we find upon trial, that
the explication of these phaenomena, which we make use of in one species,
will not apply to the rest, we may presume that that explication, however
specious, is in reality without foundation.

In order to decide this question, let us consider, that there is
evidently the same relation of ideas, and derived from the same causes,
in the minds of animals as in those of men. A dog, that has hid a bone,
often forgets the place; but when brought to it, his thought passes
easily to what he formerly concealed, by means of the contiguity, which
produces a relation among his ideas. In like manner, when he has been
heartily beat in any place, he will tremble on his approach to it, even
though he discover no signs of any present danger. The effects of
resemblance are not so remarkable; but as that relation makes a
considerable ingredient in causation, of which all animals shew so
evident a judgment, we may conclude that the three relations of
resemblance, contiguity and causation operate in the same manner upon
beasts as upon human creatures.

There are also instances of the relation of impressions, sufficient to
convince us, that there is an union of certain affections with each other
in the inferior species of creatures as well as in the superior, and that
their minds are frequently conveyed through a series of connected
emotions. A dog, when elevated with joy, runs naturally into love and
kindness, whether of his master or of the sex. In like manner, when full
of pain and sorrow, he becomes quarrelsome and illnatured; and that
passion; which at first was grief, is by the smallest occasion converted
into anger.

Thus all the internal principles, that are necessary in us to produce
either pride or humility, are commcm to all creaturn; and since the
causes, which excite these passions, are likewise the same, we may justly
conclude, that these causes operate after the same manner through the
whole animal creation. My hypothesis Is so simple, and supposes so little
reflection and judgment, that it is applicable to every sensible creature;
which must not only be allowed to be a convincing proof of its veracity,
but, I am confident, will be found an objection to every other system.



It is altogether impossible to give any definition of the passions of love
and hatred; and that because they produce merely a simple impression,
without any mixture or composition. Twould be as unnecessary to attempt
any description of them, drawn from their nature, origin, causes and
objects; and that both because these are the subjects of our present
enquiry, and because these passions of themselves are sufficiently known
from our common feeling and experience. This we have already observed
concerning pride and humility, and here repeat it concerning love and
hatred; and indeed there is so great a resemblance betwixt these two sets
of passions, that we shall be obliged to begin with a kind of abridgment
of our reasonings concerning the former, in order to explain the latter.

As the immediate object of pride and humility is self or that identical
person, of whose thoughts, actions, and sensations we are intimately
conscious; so the object of love and hatred is some other person, of
whose thoughts, actions, and sensations we are not conscious. This is
sufficiently evident from experience. Our love and hatred are always
directed to some sensible being external to us; and when we talk of
self-love, it is not in a proper sense, nor has the sensation it produces
any thing in common with that tender emotion which is excited by a friend
or mistress. It is the same case with hatred. We may be mortified by our
own faults and follies; but never feel any anger or hatred. except from
the injuries of others.

But though the object of love and hatred be always some other person, it
is plain that the object is not, properly speaking, the cause of these
passions, or alone sufficient to excite them. For since love and hatred
are directly contrary in their sensation, and have the same object in
common, if that object were also their cause, it would produce these
opposite passions in an equal degree; and as they must, from the very
first moment, destroy each other, none of them would ever be able to make
its appearance. There must, therefore, be some cause different from the

If we consider the causes of love and hatred, we shall find they are very
much diversifyed, and have not many things in common. The virtue,
knowledge, wit, good sense, good humour of any person, produce love and
esteem; as the opposite qualities, hatred and contempt. The same passions
arise from bodily accomplishments, such as beauty, force, swiftness,
dexterity; and from their contraries; as likewise from the external
advantages and disadvantages of family, possession, cloaths, nation and
climate. There is not one of these objects, but what by its different
qualities may produce love and esteem, or hatred and contempt

From the view of these causes we may derive a new distinction betwixt the
quality that operates, and the subject on which it is placed. A prince,
that is possessed of a stately palace, commands the esteem of the people
upon that account; and that first, by the beauty of the palace, and
secondly, by the relation of property, which connects it with him. The
removal of either of these destroys the passion; which evidently proves
that the cause Is a compounded one.

Twould be tedious to trace the passions of love and hatred, through all
the observations which we have formed concerning pride and humility, and
which are equally applicable to both sets of passions. Twill be
sufficient to remark in general, that the object of love and hatred is
evidently some thinking person; and that the sensation of the former
passion is always agreeable, and of the latter uneasy. We may also
suppose with some shew of probability, THAT THE CAUSE OF BOTH THESE

One of these suppositions, viz, that the cause of love and hatred must be
related to a person or thinking being, in order to produce these
passions, is not only probable, but too evident to be contested. Virtue
and vice, when considered in the abstract; beauty and deformity, when
placed on inanimate objects; poverty and riches when belonging to a third
person, excite no degree of love or hatred, esteem or contempt towards
those, who have no relation to them. A person looking out at a window,
sees me in the street, and beyond me a beautiful palace, with which I
have no concern: I believe none will pretend, that this person will pay
me the same respect, as if I were owner of the palace.

It is not so evident at first sight, that a relation of impressions is
requisite to these passions, and that because in the transition the one
impression is so much confounded with the other, that they become in a
manner undistinguishable. But as in pride and humility, we have easily
been able to make the separation, and to prove, that every cause of these
passions, produces a separate pain or pleasure, I might here observe the
same method with the same success, in examining particularly the several
causes of love and hatred. But as I hasten a full and decisive proof of
these systems, I delay this examination for a moment: And in the mean
time shall endeavour to convert to my present purpose all my reaaonings
concerning pride and humility, by an argument that isfounded on
unquestionable ex

There are few persons, that are satisfyed with their own character, or
genius, or fortune, who are nor desirous of shewing themselves to the
world, and of acquiring the love and approbation of mankind. Now it is
evident, that the very same qualities and circumstances, which are the
causes of pride or self-esteem, are also the causes of vanity or the
desire of reputation; and that we always put to view those particulars
with which in ourselves we are best satisfyed. But if love and esteem
were not produced by the same qualities as pride, according as these
qualities are related to ourselves or others, this method of proceeding
would be very absurd, nor coued men expect a correspondence in the
sentiments of every other person, with those themselves have entertained.
It is true, few can form exact systems of the passions, or make
reflections on their general nature and resemblances. But without such a
progress in philosophy, we are not subject to many mistakes in this
particular, but are sufficiently guided by common experience, as well as
by a kind of presentation; which tells us what will operate on others, by
what we feel immediately in ourselves. Since then the same qualities that
produce pride or humility, cause love or hatred; all the arguments that
have been employed to prove, that the causes of the former passions
excite a pain or pleasure independent of the passion, will be applicable
with equal evidence to the causes of the latter.


Upon duly weighing these arguments, no one will make any scruple to
assent to that condusion I draw from them, concerning the transition
along related impressions and ideas, especially as it is a principle, in
itself, so easy and natural. But that we may place this system beyond
doubt both with regard to love and hatred, pride and humility, it will be
proper to make some new experiments upon all these passions, as well as
to recal a few of these observations, which I have formerly touched upon.

In order to make these experiments, let us suppose I am m company with a
person, whom I formerly regarded without any sentiments either of
friendship or enmity. Here I have the natural and ultimate object of all
these four pas sions placed before me. Myself am the proper object of
pride or humility; the other person of love or hatred.

Regard now with attention the nature of these passions, and their
situation with respect to each other. It is evident here are four
affections, placed, as it were, in a square or regular connexion with,
and distance from each other. The passions of pride and humility, as well
as those of love and hatred, are connected together by the identity of
their object, which to the first set of passions is self, to the second
some other person. These two lines of communication or connexion form two
opposite sides of the square. Again, pride and love are agreeable
passions; hatred and humility uneasy. This similitude of sensation
betwixt pride and love, and that betwixt humility and hatred form a new
connexion, and may be considered as the other two sides of the square.
Upon the whole, pride is connected with humility, love with hatred, by
their objects or ideas: Pride with love, humility with hatred, by their
sensations or impressions.

I say then, that nothing can produce any of these passions without
bearing it a double relation, viz, of ideas to the object of the passion,
and of sensation to the passion itself. This we must prove by our
experiments. First Experiment. To proceed with the greater order in these
experiments, let us first suppose, that being placed in the situation
above-mentioned, viz, in company with some other person, there is an
object presented, that has no relation either of impressions or ideas to
any of these passions. Thus suppose we regard together an ordinary stone,
or other common object, belonging to neither of us, and causing of itself
no emotion, or independent pain and pleasure: It is evident such an object
will produce none of these four passions. Let us try it upon each of them
successively. Let us apply it to love, to hatred, to humility, to pride;
none of them ever arises in the smallest degree imaginable. Let us change
the object, as oft as we please; provided still we choose one, that has
neither of these two relations. Let us repeat the experiment in all the
dispositions, of which the mind is susceptible. No object, in the vast
variety of nature, will, in any disposition, produce any passion without
these relations.

Second Experiment. Since an object, that wants both these relations can
never produce any passion, let us bestow on it only one of these
relations; and see what will follow. Thus suppose, I regard a stone or
any common object, that belongs either to me or my companion, and by that
means acquires a relation of ideas to the object of the passions: It is
plain, that to consider the matter a priori, no emotion of any kind can
reasonably be expected. For besides, that a relation of ideas operates
secretly and calmly on the mind, it bestows an equal impulse towards the
opposite passions of pride and humility, love and hatred, according as
the object belongs to ourselves or others; which opposition of the
passions must destroy both, and leave the mind perfectly free from any
affection or emotion. This reasoning a priori is confirmed by experience.
No trivial or vulgar object, that causes not a pain or pleasure,
independent of the passion, will ever, by its property or other relations
either to ourselves or others, be able to produce the affections of pride
or humility, love or hatred.

Third Experiment. It is evident, therefore, that a relation of ideas is
not able alone to give rise to these affections. Let us now remove this
relation, and in its stead place a relation of impressions, by presenting
an object, which is agreeable or disagreeable, but has no relation either
to ourself or companion; and let us observe the consequences. To consider
the matter first a priori, as in the preceding experiment; we may
conclude, that the object will have a small, but an uncertain connexion
with these passions. For besides, that this relation is not a cold and
imperceptible one, it has not the inconvenience of the relation of ideas,
nor directs us with equal force to two contrary passions, which by their
opposition destroy each other. But if we consider, on the other hand,
that this transition from the sensation to the affection is not forwarded
by any principle, that produces a transition of ideas; but, on the
contrary, that though the one impression be easily transfused into the
other, yet the change of objects is supposed contrary to all the
principles, that cause a transition of that kind; we may from thence
infer, that nothing will ever be a steady or durable cause of any
passion, that is connected with the passion merely by a relation of
impressions. What our reason would conclude from analogy, after balancing
these arguments, would be, that an object, which produces pleasure or
uneasiness, but has no manner of connexion either with ourselves or
others, may give such a turn to the disposition, as that may naturally
fall into pride or love, humility or hatred, and search for other
objects, upon which by a double relation, it can found these affections;
but that an object, which has only one of these relations, though the most
advantageous one, can never give rise to any constant and established

Most fortunately all this reasoning is found to be exactly conformable to
experience, and the phaenomena of the passions. Suppose I were
travelling with a companion through a country, to which we are both utter
strangers; it is evident, that if the prospects be beautiful, the roads
agreeable, and the inns commodious, this may put me into good humour both
with myself and fellow-traveller. But as we suppose, that this country
has no relation either to myself or friend. it can never be the immediate
cause of pride or love; and therefore if I found not the passion on some
other object, that bears either of us a closer relation, my emotions are
rather to be considerd as the overflowings of an elevate or humane
disposition, than as an established passion. The case is the same where
the object produces uneasiness.

Fourth Experiment. Having found, that neither an object without any
relation of ideas or impressions, nor an object, that has only one
relation, can ever cause pride or humility, love or hatred; reason alone
may convince us, without any farther experiment, that whatever has a
double relation must necessarily excite these passions; since it is
evident they must have some cause. But to leave as little room for doubt
as possible, let us renew our experiments, and see whether the event in
this case answers our expectation. I choose an object, such as virtue,
that causes a separate satisfaction: On this object I bestow a relation
to self; and find, that from this disposition of affairs, there
immediately arises a passion. But what passion? That very one of pride,
to which this object bears a double relation. Its idea is related to that
of self, the object of the passion: The sensation it causes resembles the
sensation of the passion. That I may be sure I am not mistaken in this
experiment, I remove first one relation; then another; and find, that
each removal destroys the passion, and leaves the object perfectly
indifferent. But I am not content with this. I make a still farther
trial; and instead of removing the relation, I only change it for one of
a different kind. I suppose the virtue to belong to my companion, not to
myself; and observe what follows from this alteration. I immediately
perceive the affections wheel to about, and leaving pride, where there is
only one relation, viz, of impressions, fall to the side of love, where
they are attracted by a double relation of impressions and ideas. By
repeating the same experiment, in changing anew the relation of ideas, I
bring the affections back to pride; and by a new repetition I again place
them at love or kindness. Being fully convinced of the influence of this
relation, I try the effects of the other; and by changing virtue for
vice, convert the pleasant impression, which arises from the former, into
the disagreeable one, which proceeds from the latter. The effect still
answers expectation. Vice, when placed on another, excites, by means of
its double relations, the passion of hatred, instead of love, which for
the same reason arises from virtue. To continue the experiment, I change
anew the relation of ideas, and suppose the vice to belong to myself.
What follows? What is usual. A subsequent change of the passion from
hatred to humility. This humility I convert into pride by a new change of
the impression; and find after all that I have compleated the round, and
have by these changes brought back the passion to that very situation, in
which I first found it.

But to make the matter still more certain, I alter the object; and
instead of vice and virtue, make the trial upon beauty and deformity,
riches and poverty, power and servitude. Each of these objects runs the
circle of the passions in the same manner, by a change of their
relations: And in whatever order we proceed, whether through pride, love,
hatred, humility, or through humility, hatred, love, pride, the experiment
is not in the least diversifyed. Esteem and contempt, indeed, arise on
some occasions instead of love and hatred; but these are at the bottom
the same passions, only diversifyed by some causes, which we shall
explain afterwards.

Fifth Experiment. To give greater authority to these experiments, let us
change the situation of affairs as much as possible, and place the
passions and objects in all the different positions, of which they are
susceptible. Let us suppose, beside the relations above-mentioned, that
the person, along with whom I make all these experiments, is closely
connected with me either by blood or friendship. He is, we shall suppose,
my son or brother, or is united to me by a long and familiar
acquaintance. Let us next suppose, that the cause of the passion acquires
a double relation of impressions and ideas to this person; and let us see
what the effects are of all these complicated attractions and relations.

Before we consider what they are in fact, let us determine what they
ought to be, conformable to my hypothesis. It is plain, that, according as
the impression is either pleasant or uneasy, the passion of love or
hatred must arise towards the person, who is thus connected to the cause
of the impression by these double relations, which I have all along
required. The virtue of a brother must make me love him; as his vice or
infamy must excite the contrary passion. But to judge only from the
situation of affairs, I should not expect, that the affections would rest
there, and never transfuse themselves into any other impression. As there
is here a person, who by means of a double relation is the object of my
passion, the very same reasoning leads me to think the passion will be
carryed farther. The person has a relation of ideas to myself, according
to the supposition; the passion, of which he is the object, by being
either agreeable or uneasy, has a relation of impressions to pride or
humility. It is evident, then, that one of these passions must arise from
the love or hatred.

This is the reasoning I form in conformity to my hypothesis; and am
pleased to find upon trial that every thing answers exactly to my
expectation. The virtue or vice of a son or brother not only excites love
or hatred, but by a new transition, from similar causes, gives rise to
pride or humility. Nothing causes greater vanity than any shining quality
in our relations; as nothing mortifies us more than their vice or infamy.
This exact conformity of experience to our reasoning is a convincing
proof of the solidity of that hypothesis, upon which we reason.

Sixth Experiment. This evidence will be still augmented, if we reverse
the experiment, and preserving still the same relations, begin only with
a different passion. Suppose, that instead of the virtue or vice of a son
or brother, which causes first love or hatred, and afterwards pride or
humility, we place these good or bad qualities on ourselves, without any
immediate connexion with the person, who is related to us: Experience
shews us, that by this change of situation the whole chain is broke, and
that the mind is not conveyed from one passion to another, as in the
preceding instance. We never love or hate a son or brother for the virtue
or vice we discern in ourselves; though it is evident the same qualities
in him give us a very sensible pride or humility. The transition from
pride or humility to love or hatred is not so natural as from love or
hatred to pride or humility. This may at first sight be esteemed contrary
to my hypothesis; since the relations of impressions and ideas are in both
cases precisely the same. Pride and humility are impressions related to
love and hatred. Myself am related to the person. It should, therefore,
be expected, that like causes must produce like effects, and a perfect
transition arise from the double relation, as in all other cases. This
difficulty we may easily solve by the following reflections.

It is evident, that as we are at all times intimately conscious of
ourselves, our sentiments and passions, their ideas must strike upon us
with greater vivacity than the ideas of the sentiments and passions of
any other person. But every thing, that strikes upon us with vivacity,
and appears in a full and strong light, forces itself, in a manner, into
our consideration, and becomes present to the mind on the smallest hint
and most trivial relation. For the same reason, when it is once present,
it engages the attention, and keeps it from wandering to other objects,
however strong may be their relation to our first object. The imagination
passes easily from obscure to lively ideas, but with difficulty from
lively to obscure. In the one case the relation is aided by another
principle: In the other case, it is opposed by it.

Now I have observed, that those two faculties of the mind, the
imagination and passions, assist each other in their operations when
their propensities are similar, and when they act upon the same object.
The mind has always a propensity to pass from a passion to any other
related to it; and this propensity is forwarded when the object of the
one passion is related to that of the other. The two impulses concur with
each other, and render the whole transition more smooth and easy. But if
it should happen, that while the relation of ideas, strictly speaking,
continues the same, its influence, in causing a transition of the
imagination, should no longer take place, it is evident its influence on
the passions must also cease, as being dependent entirely on that
transition. This is the reason why pride or humility is not transfused
into love or hatred with the same ease, that the latter passions are
changed into the former. If a person be my brother I am his likewise: but
though the relations be reciprocal they have very different effects on the
imagination. The passage is smooth and open from the consideration of any
person related to us to that of ourself, of whom we are every moment
conscious. But when the affections are once directed to ourself. the
fancy passes not with the same facility from that object to any other
person, how closely so ever connected with us. This easy or difficult
transition of the imagination operates upon the passions, and facilitates
or retards their transition, which is a clear proof, that these two
faculties of the passions and imagination are connected together, and
that the relations of ideas have an influence upon the affections.
Besides innumerable experiments that prove this, we here find, that even
when the relation remains; if by any particular circumstance its usual
effect upon the fancy in producing an association or transition of ideas,
is prevented; its usual effect upon the passions, in conveying us from
one to another, is in like manner prevented.

Some may, perhaps, find a contradiction betwixt this phaenomenon and that
of sympathy, where the mind passes easily from the idea of ourselves to
that of any other object related to us. But this difficulty will vanish,
if we consider that in sympathy our own person is not the object of any
passion, nor is there any thing, that fixes our attention on ourselves;
as in the present case, where we are supposed to be actuated with pride
or humility. Ourself, independent of the perception of every other
object, is in reality nothing: For which reason we must turn our view to
external objects; and it is natural for us to consider with most attention
such as lie contiguous to us, or resemble us. But when self is the object
of a passion, it is not natural to quit the consideration of it, till the
passion be exhausted: in which case the double relations of impressions
and ideas can no longer operate.

Seventh Experiment. To put this whole reasoning to a farther trial, let
us make a new experiment; and as we have already seen the effects of
related passions and ideas, let us here suppose an identity of passions
along with a relation of ideas; and let us consider the effects of this
new situation. It is evident a transition of the passions from the one
object to the other is here in all reason to be expected; since the
relation of ideas is supposed still to continue, and identity of
impressions must produce a stronger connexion, than the most perfect
resemblance, that can be imagined. If a double relation, therefore, of
impressions and ideas is able to produce a transition from one to the
other, much more an identity of impressions with a relation of ideas.
Accordingly we find, that when we either love or hate any person, the
passions seldom continue within their first bounds; but extend themselves
towards all the contiguous objects, and comprehend the friends and
relations of him we love or hate. Nothing is more natural than to bear a
kindness to one brother on account of our friendship for another, without
any farther examination of his character. A quarrel with one person gives
us a hatred for the whole family, though entirely innocent of that, which
displeases us. Instances of this kind are every where to be met with.

There is only one difficulty in this experiment, which it will be
necessary to account for, before we proceed any farther. It is evident,
that though all passions pass easily from one object to another related to
it, yet this transition is made with greater facility, where the more
considerable object is first presented, and the lesser follows it, than
where this order is reversed, and the lesser takes the precedence. Thus
it is more natural for us to love the son upon account of the father, than
the father upon account of the son; the servant for the master, than the
master for the servant; the subject for the prince, than the prince for
the subject. In like manner we more readily contract a hatred against a
whole family, where our first quarrel is with the head of it, than where
we are displeased with a son, or servant, or some inferior member. In
short, our passions, like other objects, descend with greater facility
than they ascend.

That we may comprehend, wherein consists the difficulty of explaining
this phaenomenon, we must consider, that the very same reason, which
determines the imagination to pass from remote to contiguous objects,
with more facility than from contiguous to remote, causes it likewise to
change with more ease, the less for the greater, than the greater for the
less. Whatever has the greatest influence is most taken notice of; and
whatever is most taken notice of, presents itself most readily to the
imagination. We are more apt to over-look in any subject, what is
trivial, than what appears of considerable moment; but especially if the
latter takes the precedence, and first engages our attention. Thus if any
accident makes us consider the Satellites of JUPITER, our fancy is
naturally determined to form the idea of that planet; but if we first
reflect on the principal planet, it is more natural for us to overlook its
attendants. The mention of the provinces of any empire conveys our
thought to the seat of the empire; but the fancy returns not with the
same facility to the consideration of the provinces. The idea of the
servant makes us think of the master; that of the subject carries our
view to the prince. But the same relation has not an equal influence in
conveying us back again. And on this is founded that reproach of Cornelia
to her sons, that they ought to be ashamed she should be more known by
the title of the daughter of Scipio than by that of the mother of the
Gracchi. This was, in other words, exhorting them to render themselves as
illustrious and famous as their grandfather, otherwise the imagination of
the people, passing from her who was intermediate, and placed in an equal
relation to both, would always leave them, and denominate her by what was
more considerable and of greater moment. On the same principle is founded
that common custom of making wives bear the name of their husbands,
rather than husbands that of their wives; as also the ceremony of giving
the precedency to those, whom we honour and respect. We might find many
other instances to confirm this principle, were it not already
sufficiently evident.

Now since the fancy finds the same facility in passing from the lesser to
the greater, as from remote to contiguous, why does not this easy
transition of ideas assist the transition of passions in the former case,
as well as in the latter? The virtues of a friend or brother produce
first love, and then pride; because in that case the imagination passes
from remote to contiguous, according to its propensity. Our own virtues
produce not first pride, and then love to a friend or brother; because
the passage in that case would be from contiguous to remote, contrary to
its propensity. But the love or hatred of an inferior causes not readily
any passion to the superior, though that be the natural propensity of the
imagination: While the love or hatred of a superior, causes a passion to
the inferior, contrary to its propensity. In short, the same facility of
transition operates not in the same manner upon superior and inferior as
upon contiguous and remote. These two phaenomena appear contradictory,
and require some attention to be reconciled.

As the transition of ideas is here made contrary to the natural
propensity of the imagination, that faculty must be overpowered by some
stronger principle of another kind; and as there is nothing ever present
to the mind but impressions and ideas, this principle must necessarily
lie in the impressions. Now it has been observed, that impressions or
passions are connected only by their resemblance, and that where any two
passions place the mind in the same or in similar dispositions, it very
naturally passes from the one to the other: As on the contrary, a
repugnance in the dispositions produces a difficulty in the transition of
the passions. But it is observable, that this repugnance may arise from a
difference of degree as well as of kind; nor do we experience a greater
difficulty in passing suddenly from a small degree of love to a small
degree of hatred, than from a small to a great degree of either of these
affections. A man, when calm or only moderately agitated, is so
different, in every respect, from himself, when disturbed with a violent
passion, that no two persons can be more unlike; nor is it easy to pass
from the one extreme to the other, without a considerable interval
betwixt them.

The difficulty is not less, if it be not rather greater, in passing from
the strong passion to the weak, than in passing from the weak to the
strong, provided the one passion upon its appearance destroys the other,
and they do not both of them exist at once. But the case is entirely
altered, when the passions unite together, and actuate the mind at the
same time. A weak passion, when added to a strong, makes not so
considerable a change in the disposition, as a strong when added to a
weak; for which reason there is a closer connexion betwixt the great
degree and the small, than betwixt the small degree and the great.

The degree of any passion depends upon the nature of its object; and an
affection directed to a person, who is considerable in our eyes, fills
and possesses the mind much more than one, which has for its object a
person we esteem of less consequence. Here then the contradiction betwixt
the propensities of the imagination and passion displays itself. When we
turn our thought to a great and a small object, the imagination finds
more facility in passing from the small to the great, than from the great
to the small; but the affections find a greater difficulty: And as the
affections are a more powerful principle than the imagination, no wonder
they prevail over it, and draw the mind to their side. In spite of the
difficulty of passing from the idea of great to that of little, a passion
directed to the former, produces always a similar passion towards the
latter; when the great and little are related together. The idea of the
servant conveys our thought most readily to the master; but the hatred or
love of the master produces with greater facility anger or good-will to
the servant. The strongest passion in this case takes the precedence; and
the addition of the weaker making no considerable change on the
disposition, the passage is by that means rendered more easy and natural
betwixt them.

As in the foregoing experiment we found, that a relation of ideas, which,
by any particular circumstance, ceases to produce its usual effect of
facilitating the transition of ideas, ceases likewise to operate on the
passions; so in the present experiment we find the same property of the
impressions. Two different degrees of the same passion are surely related
together; but if the smaller be first present, it has little or no
tendency to introduce the greater; and that because the addition of the
great to the little, produces a more sensible alteration on the temper,
than the addition of the little to the great. These phaenomena, when duly
weighed, will be found convincing proofs of this hypothesis.

And these proofs will be confirmed, if we consider the manner in which
the mind here reconciles the contradiction, I have observed betwixt the
passions and the imagination. The fancy passes with more facility from
the less to the greater, than from the greater to the less: But on the
contrary a violent passion produces more easily a feeble, than that does
a violent. In this opposition the passion in the end prevails over the
imagination; but it is commonly by complying with it, and by seeking
another quality, which may counter-ballance that principle, from whence
the opposition arises. When we love the father or master of a family, we
little think of his children or servants. But when these are present with
us, or when it lies any ways in our power to serve them, the nearness and
contiguity in this case encreases their magnitude, or at least removes
that opposition, which the fancy makes to the transition of the
affections. If the imagination finds a difficulty in passing from greater
to less, it finds an equal facility in passing from remote to contiguous,
which brings the matter to an equality, and leaves the way open from the
one passion to the other.

Eighth Experiment. I have observed that the transition from love or
hatred to pride or humility, is more easy than from pride or humility to
love or hatred; and that the difficulty, which the imagination finds in
passing from contiguous to remote, is the cause why we scarce have any
instance of the latter transition of the affections. I must, however,
make one exception, viz, when the very cause of the pride and humility is
placed in some other person. For in that case the imagination is
necessitated to consider the person, nor can it possibly confine its view
to ourselves. Thus nothing more readily produces kindness and affection
to any person, than his approbation of our conduct and character: As on
the other hand, nothing inspires us with a stronger hatred, than his
blame or contempt. Here it is evident, that the original passion is pride
or humility, whose object is self; and that this passion is transfused
into love or hatred, whose object is some other person, notwithstanding
the rule I have already established, THAT THE IMAGINATION PASSES WITH
DIFFICULTY FROM CONTIGUOUS TO REMOTE. But the transition in this case is
not made merely on account of the relation betwixt ourselves and the
person; but because that very person is the real cause of our first
passion, and of consequence is intimately connected with it. It is his
approbation that produces pride; and disapprobation, humility. No wonder,
then, the imagination returns back again attended with the related
passions of love and hatred. This is not a contradiction, but an
exception to the rule; and an exception that arises from the same reason
with the rule itself.

Such an exception as this is, therefore, rather a confirmation of the
rule. And indeed, if we consider all the eight experiments I have
explained, we shall find that the same principle appears in all of them,
and that it is by means of a transition arising from a double relation of
impressions and ideas, pride and humility, love and hatred are produced.
An object without [First Experiment.] a relation, or [Second and Third
Experiments] with but one, never produces either of these passions; and it
is [Fourth Experiment.] found that the passion always varies in conformity
to the relation. Nay we may observe, that where the relation, by any
particular circumstance, has not its usual effect of producing a
transition either of [Sixth Experiment.] ideas or of impressions, it
ceases to operate upon the passions, and gives rise neither to pride nor
love, humility nor hatred. This rule we find still to hold good [Seventh
and Eighth Experiments.] even under the appearance of its contrary; and as
relation is frequently experienced to have no effect; which upon
examination is found to proceed from some particular circumstance, that
prevents the transition; so even in instances, where that circumstance,
though present, prevents not the transition, it is found to arise from
some other circumstance, which counter-balances it. Thus not only the
variations resolve themselves into the general principle, but even the
variations of these variations.


After so many and such undeniable proofs drawn from daily experience and
observation, it may seem superfluous to enter into a particular
examination of all the causes of love and hatred. I shall, therefore,
employ the sequel of this part, First, In removing some difficulties,
concerning particular causes of these passions. Secondly, In examining
the compound affections, which arise from the mixture of love and hatred
with other emotions.

Nothing is more evident, than that any person acquires our kindness, or
is exposed to our ill-will, in proportion to the pleasure or uneasiness
we receive from him, and that the passions keep pace exactly with the
sensations in all their changes and variations. Whoever can find the
means either by his services, his beauty, or his flattery, to render
himself useful or agreeable to us, is sure of our affections: As on the
other hand, whoever harms or displeases us never fails to excite our
anger or hatred. When our own nation is at war with any other, we detest
them under the character of cruel, perfidious, unjust and violent: But
always esteem ourselves and allies equitable, moderate, and merciful. If
the general of our enemies be successful, it is with difficulty we allow
him the figure and character of a man. He is a sorcerer: He has a
communication with daemons; as is reported of OLIVER CROMWELL, and the
DUKE OF LUXEMBOURG: He is bloody-minded, and takes a pleasure in death
and destruction. But if the success be on our side, our commander has all
the opposite good qualities, and is a pattern of virtue, as well as of
courage and conduct. His treachery we call policy: His cruelty is an evil
inseparable from war. In short, every one of his faults we either
endeavour to extenuate, or dignify it with the name of that virtue, which
approaches it. It is evident the same method of thinking runs through
common life.

There are some, who add another condition, and require not only that the
pain and pleasure arise from the person, but likewise that it arise
knowingly, and with a particular design and intention. A man, who wounds
and harms us by accident, becomes not our enemy upon that account, nor do
we think ourselves bound by any ties of gratitude to one, who does us any
service after the same manner. By the intention we judge of the actions,
and according as that is good or bad, they become causes of love or

But here we must make a distinction. If that quality in another, which
pleases or displeases, be constant and inherent in his person and
character, it will cause love or hatred independent of the intention: But
otherwise a knowledge and design is requisite, in order to give rise to
these passions. One that is disagreeable by his deformity or folly is the
object of our aversion, though nothing be more certain, than that he has
not the least intention of displeasing us by these qualities. But if the
uneasiness proceed not from a quality, but an action, which is produced
and annihilated in a moment, it is necessary, in order to produce some
relation, and connect this action sufficiently with the person. that it
be derived from a particular fore-thought and design. It is not enough,
that the action arise from the person, and have him for its immediate
cause and author. This relation alone is too feeble and inconstant to be
a foundation for these passions. It reaches not the sensible and thinking
part, and neither proceeds from any thing durable in him, nor leaves any
thing behind it; but passes in a moment, and is as if it had never been.
On the other hand, an intention shews certain qualities, which remaining
after the action is performed, connect it with the person, and facilitate
the transition of ideas from one to the other. We can never think of him
without reflecting on these qualities; unless repentance and a change of
life have produced an alteration in that respect: In which case the
passion is likewise altered. This therefore is one reason, why an
intention is requisite to excite either love or hatred.

But we must farther consider, that an intention, besides its
strengthening the relation of ideas, is often necessary to produce a
relation of impressions, and give rise to pleasure and uneasiness. For
it is observable, that the principal part of an injury is the contempt and
hatred, which it shews in the person, that injures us; and without that,
the mere harm gives us a less sensible uneasiness. In like manner, a good
office is agreeable, chiefly because it flatters our vanity, and is a
proof of the kindness and esteem of the person, who performs it. The
removal of the intention, removes the mortification in the one case, and
vanity in the other, and must of course cause a remarkable diminution in
the passions of love and hatred.

I grant, that these effects of the removal of design, in diminishing the
relations of impressions and ideas, are not entire, nor able to remove
every degree of these relations. But then I ask, if the removal of design
be able entirely to remove the passion of love and hatred? Experience, I
am sure, informs us of the contrary, nor is there any thing more certain,
than that men often fall into a violent anger for injuries, which they
themselves must own to be entirely involuntary and accidental. This
emotion, indeed, cannot be of long continuance; but still is sufficient
to shew, that there is a natural connexion betwixt uneasiness and anger,
and that the relation of impressions will operate upon a very small
relation of ideas. But when the violence of the impression is once a
little abated, the defect of the relation begins to be better felt; and
as the character of a person is no wise interested in such injuries as
are casual and involuntary, it seldom happens that on their account, we
entertain a lasting enmity.

To illustrate this doctrine by a parallel instance, we may observe, that
not only the uneasiness, which proceeds from another by accident, has but
little force to excite our passion, but also that which arises from an
acknowledged necessity and duty. One that has a real design of harming
us, proceeding not from hatred and ill-will, but from justice and equity,
draws not upon him our anger, if we be in any degree reasonable;
notwithstanding he is both the cause, and the knowing cause of our
sufferings. Let us examine a little this phaenomenon.

It is evident in the first place, that this circumstance is not decisive;
and though it may be able to diminish the passions, it is seldom it can
entirely remove them. How few criminals are there, who have no ill-will
to the person, that accuses them, or to the judge, that condemns them,
even though they be conscious of their own deserts? In like manner our
antagonist in a law-suit, and our competitor for any office, are commonly
regarded as our enemies; though we must acknowledge, if we would but
reflect a moment, that their motive is entirely as justifiable as our

Besides we may consider, that when we receive harm from any person, we
are apt to imagine him criminal, and it is with extreme difficulty we
allow of his justice and innocence. This is a clear proof, that,
independent of the opinion of iniquity, any harm or uneasiness has a
natural tendency to excite our hatred, and that afterwards we seek for
reasons upon which we may justify and establish the passion. Here the
idea of injury produces not the passion, but arises from it.

Nor is it any wonder that passion should produce the opinion of injury;
since otherwise it must suffer a considerable diminution, which all the
passions avoid as much as possible. The removal of injury may remove the
anger, without proving that the anger arises only from the injury. The
harm and the justice are two contrary objects, of which the one has a
tendency to produce hatred, and the other love; and it is according to
their different degrees, and our particular turn of thinking, that either
of the objects prevails, and excites its proper passion.


Having given a reason, why several actions, that cause a real pleasure or
uneasiness, excite not any degree, or but a small one, of the passion of
love or hatred towards the actors; it will be necessary to shew, wherein
consists the pleasure or uneasiness of many objects, which we find by
experience to produce these passions.

According to the preceding system there is always required a double
relation of impressions and ideas betwixt the cause and effect, in order
to produce either love or hatred. But though this be universally true, it
is remarkable that the passion of love may be excited by only one relation
of a different kind, viz, betwixt ourselves and the object; or more
properly speaking, that this relation is always attended with both the
others. Whoever is united to us by any connexion is always sure of a
share of our love, proportioned to the connexion, without enquiring into
his other qualities. Thus the relation of blood produces the strongest
tie the mind is capable of in the love of parents to their children, and
a lesser degree of the same affection, as the relation lessens. Nor has
consanguinity alone this effect, but any other relation without
exception. We love our country-men, our neighbours, those of the same
trade, profession, and even name with ourselves. Every one of these
relations is esteemed some tie, and gives a title to a share of our

There is another phaenomenon, which is parallel to this, viz, that
acquaintance, without any kind of relation, gives rise to love and
kindness. When we have contracted a habitude and intimacy with any person;
though in frequenting his company we have not been able to discover
any very valuable quality, of which he is possessed; yet we cannot
forebear preferring him to strangers, of whose superior merit we are
fully convinced. These two phaenomena of the effects of relation and
acquaintance will give mutual light to each other, and may be both
explained from the same principle.

Those, who take a pleasure in declaiming against human nature, have
observed, that man is altogether insufficient to support himself; and
that when you loosen all the holds, which he has of external objects, he
immediately drops down into the deepest melancholy and despair. From
this, say they, proceeds that continual search after amusement in gaming,
in hunting, in business; by which we endeavour to forget ourselves, and
excite our spirits from the languid state, into which they fall, when not
sustained by some brisk and lively emotion. To this method of thinking I
so far agree, that I own the mind to be insufficient, of itself, to its
own entertainment, and that it naturally seeks after foreign objects,
which may produce a lively sensation, and agitate the spirits. On the
appearance of such an object it awakes, as it were, from a dream: The
blood flows with a new tide: The heart is elevated: And the whole man
acquires a vigour, which he cannot command in his solitary and calm
moments. Hence company is naturally so rejoicing, as presenting the
liveliest of all objects, viz, a rational and thinking Being like
ourselves, who communicates to us all the actions of his mind; makes us
privy to his inmost sentiments and affections; and lets us see, in the
very instant of their production, all the emotions, which are caused by
any object. Every lively idea is agreeable, but especially that of a
passion, because such an idea becomes a kind of passion, and gives a more
sensible agitation to the mind, than any other image or conception.

This being once admitted, all the rest is easy. For as the company of
strangers is agreeable to us for a short time, by inlivening our thought;
so the company of our relations and acquaintance must be peculiarly
agreeable, because it has this effect in a greater degree, and is of more
durable influence. Whatever is related to us is conceived in a lively
manner by the easy transition from ourselves to the related object.
Custom also, or acquaintance facilitates the entrance, and strengthens
the conception of any object. The first case is parallel to our
reasonings from cause and effect; the second to education. And as
reasoning and education concur only in producing a lively and strong idea
of any object; so is this the only particular, which is common to
relation and acquaintance. This must, therefore, be the influencing
quality, by which they produce all their common effects; and love or
kindness being one of these effects, it must be from the force and
liveliness of conception, that the passion is derived. Such a conception
is peculiarly agreeable, and makes us have an affectionate regard for
every thing, that produces it, when the proper object of kindness and

It is obvious, that people associate together according to their
particular tempers and dispositions, and that men of gay tempers
naturally love the gay; as the serious bear an affection to the serious.
This not only happens, where they remark this resemblance betwixt
themselves and others, but also by the natural course of the disposition,
and by a certain sympathy, which always arises betwixt similar
characters. Where they remark the resemblance, it operates after the
manner of a relation, by producing a connexion of ideas. Where they do
not remark it, it operates by some other principle; and if this latter
principle be similar to the former, it must be received as a confirmation
of the foregoing reasoning.

The idea of ourselves is always intimately present to us, and conveys a
sensible degree of vivacity to the idea of any other object, to which we
are related. This lively idea changes by degrees into a real impression;
these two kinds of perception being in a great measure the same, and
differing only in their degrees of force and vivacity. But this change
must be produced with the greater ease, that our natural temper gives us
a propensity to the same impression, which we observe in others, and
makes it arise upon any slight occasion. In that case resemblance
converts the idea into an impression, not only by means of the relation,
and by transfusing the original vivacity into the related idea; but also
by presenting such materials as take fire from the least spark. And as in
both cases a love or affection arises from the resemblance, we may learn
that a sympathy with others is agreeable only by giving an emotion to the
spirits, since an easy sympathy and correspondent emotions are alone

The great propensity men have to pride may be considered as another
similar phaenomenon. It often happens, that after we have lived a
considerable time in any city; however at first it might be disagreeable
to us; yet as we become familiar with the objects, and contact an
acquaintance, though merely with the streets and buildings, the aversion
diminishes by degrees, and at last changes into the opposite passion. The
mind finds a satisfaction and ease in the view of objects, to which it is
accustomed, and naturally prefers them to others, which, though, perhaps,
in themselves more valuable, are less known to it. By the same quality of
the mind we are seduced into a good opinion of ourselves, and of all
objects, that belong to us. They appear in a stronger light; are more
agreeable; and consequently fitter subjects of pride and vanity, than any

It may not be amiss, in treating of the affection we bear our
acquaintance and relations, to observe some pretty curious phaenomena,
which attend it. It is easy to remark in common life, that children esteem
their relation to their mother to be weakened, in a great measure, by her
second marriage, and no longer regard her with the same eye, as if she
had continued in her state of widow-hood. Nor does this happen only, when
they have felt any inconveniences from her second marriage, or when her
husband is much her inferior; but even without any of these
considerations, and merely because she has become part of another family.
This also takes place with regard to the second marriage of a father; but
in a much less degree: And it is certain the ties of blood are not so much
loosened in the latter case as by the marriage of a mother. These two
phaenomena are remarkable in themselves, but much more so when compared.

In order to produce a perfect relation betwixt two objects, it is
requisite, not only that the imagination be conveyed from one to the
other by resemblance, contiguity or causation, but also that it return
back from the second to the first with the same ease and facility. At
first sight this may seem a necessary and unavoidable consequence. If one
object resemble another, the latter object must necessarily resemble the
former. If one object be the cause of another, the second object is
effect to its cause. It is the same case with contiguity: And therefore
the relation being always reciprocal, it may be thought, that the return
of the imagination from the second to the first must also, in every case,
be equally natural as its passage from the first to the second. But upon
farther examination we shall easily discover our mistake. For supposing
the second object, beside its reciprocal relation to the first, to have
also a strong relation to a third object; in that case the thought,
passing from the first object to the second, returns not back with the
same facility, though the relation continues the same; but is readily
carryed on to the third object, by means of the new relation, which
presents itself, and gives a new impulse to the imagination. This new
relation, therefore, weakens the tie betwixt the first and second
objects. The fancy is by its very nature wavering and inconstant; and
considers always two objects as more strongly related together, where it
finds the passage equally easy both in going and returning, than where
the transition is easy only in one of these motions. The double motion is
a kind of a double tie, and binds the objects together in the closest and
most intimate manner.

The second marriage of a mother breaks not the relation of child and
parent; and that relation suffices to convey my imagination from myself
to her with the greatest ease and facility. But after the imagination is
arrived at this point of view, it finds its object to be surrounded with
so many other relations, which challenge its regard, that it knows not
which to prefer, and is at a loss what new object to pitch upon. The ties
of interest and duty bind her to another family, and prevent that return
of the fancy from her to myself, which is necessary to support the union.
The thought has no longer the vibration, requisite to set it perfectly at
ease, and indulge its inclination to change. It goes with facility, but
returns with difficulty; and by that interruption finds the relation much
weakened from what it would be were the passage open and easy on both

Now to give a reason, why this effect follows not in the same degree upon
the second marriage of a father: we may reflect on what has been proved
already, that though the imagination goes easily from the view of a lesser
object to that of a greater, yet it returns not with the same facility
from the greater to the less. When my imagination goes from myself to my
father, it passes not so readily from him to his second wife, nor
considers him as entering into a different family, but as continuing the
head of that family, of which I am myself a part. His superiority
prevents the easy transition of the thought from him to his spouse, but
keeps the passage still open for a return to myself along the same
relation of child and parent. He is not sunk in the new relation he
acquires; so that the double motion or vibration of thought is still easy
and natural. By this indulgence of the fancy in its inconstancy, the tie
of child and parent still preserves its full force and influence. A
mother thinks not her tie to a son weakened, because it is shared with her
husband: Nor a son his with a parent, because it is shared with a brother.
The third object is here related to the first, as well as to the second;
so that the imagination goes and comes along all of them with the
greatest facility.


Nothing has a greater tendency to give us an esteem for any person, than
his power and riches; or a contempt, than his poverty and meanness: And
as esteem and contempt are to be considered as species of love and
hatred, it will be proper in this place to explain these phaenomena.

Here it happens most fortunately, that the greatest difficulty is not to
discover a principle capable of producing such an effect, but to choose
the chief and predominant among several, that present themselves. The
satisfaction we take in the riches of others, and the esteem we have for
the possessors may be ascribed to three different causes. FIRST, To the
objects they possess; such as houses, gardens, equipages; which, being
agreeable in themselves, necessarily produce a sentiment of pleasure in
every one; that either considers or surveys them. SECONDLY, To the
expectation of advantage from the rich and powerful by our sharing their
possessions. THIRDLY, To sympathy, which makes us partake of the
satisfaction of every one, that approaches us. All these principles may
concur in producing the present phaenomenon. The question is, to which of
them we ought principally to ascribe it,

It is certain, that the first principle, viz, the reflection on agreeable
objects, has a greater influence, than what, at first sight, we may be
apt to imagine. We seldom reflect on what is beautiful or ugly, agreeable
or disagreeable, without an emotion of pleasure or uneasiness; and though
these sensations appear not much in our common indolent way of thinking,
it is easy, either in reading or conversation, to discover them. Men of
wit always turn the discourse on subjects that are entertaining to the
imagination; and poets never present any objects but such as are of the
same nature. Mr Philips has chosen CYDER for the subject of an excellent
poem. Beer would not have been so proper, as being neither so agreeable
to the taste nor eye. But he would certainly have preferred wine to
either of them, coued his native country have afforded him so agreeable a
liquor. We may learn from thence, that every thing, which is agreeable to
the senses, is also in some measure agreeable to the fancy, and conveys
to the thought an image of that satisfaction, which it gives by its real
application to the bodily organs.

But though these reasons may induce us to comprehend this delicacy of the
imagination among the causes of the respect, which we pay the rich and
powerful, there are many other reasons, that may keep us from regarding
it as the sole or principal. For as the ideas of pleasure can have an
influence only by means of their vivacity, which makes them approach
impressions, it is most natural those ideas should have that influence,
which are favoured by most circumstances, and have a natural tendency to
become strong and lively; such as our ideas of the passions and
sensations of any human creature. Every human creature resembles
ourselves, and by that means has an advantage above any other object, in
operating on the imagination.

Besides, if we consider the nature of that faculty, and the great
influence which all relations have upon it, we shall easily be persuaded,
that however the ideas of the pleasant wines, music, or gardens, which
the rich man enjoys, may become lively and agreeable, the fancy will not
confine itself to them, but will carry its view to the related objects;
and in particular, to the person, who possesses them. And this is the
more natural, that the pleasant idea or image produces here a passion
towards the person, by means of his relation to the object; so that it is
unavoidable but he must enter into the original conception, since he
makes the object of the derivative passion: But if he enters into the
original conception, and is considered as enjoying these agreeable
objects, it is sympathy, which is properly the cause of the affection; and
the third principle is more powerful and universal than the first.

Add to this, that riches and power alone, even though unemployed,
naturally cause esteem and respect: And consequently these passions arise
not from the idea of any beautiful or agreeable objects. It is true; money
implies a kind of representation of such objects, by the power it affords
of obtaining them; and for that reason may still be esteemed proper to
convey those agreeable images, which may give rise to the passion. But as
this prospect is very distant, it is more natural for us to take a
contiguous object, viz, the satisfaction, which this power affords the
person, who is possest of it. And of this we shall be farther satisfyed,
if we consider, that riches represent the goods of life, only by means of
the will; which employs them; and therefore imply in their very nature an
idea of the person, and cannot be considered without a kind of sympathy
with his sensations and enjoyments.

This we may confirm by a reflection, which to some will, perhaps, appear
too subtile and refined. I have already observed, that power, as
distinguished from its exercise, has either no meaning at all, or is
nothing but a possibility or probability of existence; by which any
object approaches to reality, and has a sensible influence on the mind. I
have also observed, that this approach, by an illusion of the fancy,
appears much greater, when we ourselves are possest of the power, than
when it is enjoyed by another; and that in the former case the objects
seem to touch upon the very verge of reality, and convey almost an equal
satisfaction, as if actually in our possession. Now I assert, that where
we esteem a person upon account of his riches, we must enter into this
sentiment of the proprietor, and that without such a sympathy the idea of
the agreeable objects, which they give him the power to produce, would
have but a feeble influence upon us. An avaritious man is respected for
his money, though he scarce is possest of a power; that is, there scarce
is a probability or even possibility of his employing it in the
acquisition of the pleasures and conveniences of life. To himself alone
this power seems perfect and entire; and therefore we must receive his
sentiments by sympathy, before we can have a strong intense idea of these
enjoyments, or esteem him upon account of them.

Thus we have found, that the first principle, viz, the agreeable idea of
those objects, which riches afford the enjoyment of; resolves itself in a
great measure into the third, and becomes a sympathy with the person we
esteem or love. Let us now examine the second principle, viz, the
agreeable expectation of advantage, and see what force we may justly
attribute to it.

It is obvious, that though riches and authority undoubtedly give their
owner a power of doing us service, yet this power is not to be considered
as on the same footing with that, which they afford him, of pleasing
himself, and satisfying his own appetites. Self-love approaches the power
and exercise very near each other in the latter case; but in order to
produce a similar effect in the former, we must suppose a friendship and
good-will to be conjoined with the riches. Without that circumstance it is
difficult to conceive on what we can found our hope of advantage from the
riches of others, though there is nothing more certain, than that we
naturally esteem and respect the rich, even before we discover in them
any such favourable disposition towards us.

But I carry this farther, and observe, not only that we respect the rich
and powerful, where they shew no inclination to serve us, but also when
we lie so much out of the sphere of their activity, that they cannot even
be supposed to be endowed with that power. Prisoners of war are always
treated with a respect suitable to their condition; and it is certain
riches go very far towards fixing the condition of any person. If birth
and quality enter for a share, this still affords us an argument of the
same kind. For what is it we call a man of birth, but one who is
descended from a long succession of rich and powerful ancestors, and who
acquires our esteem by his relation to persons whom we esteem? His
ancestors, therefore, though dead, are respected, in some measure, on
account of their riches, and consequently without any kind of

But not to go so far as prisoners of war and the dead to find instances
of this disinterested esteem for riches, let us observe with a little
attention those phaenomena that occur to us in common life and
conversation. A man, who is himself of a competent fortune, upon coming
into a company of strangers, naturally treats them with different degrees
of respect and deference, as he is informed of their different fortunes
and conditions; though it is impossible he can ever propose, and perhaps
would not accept of any advantage from them. A traveller is always
admitted into company, and meets with civility, in proportion as his
train and equipage speak him a man of great or moderate fortune. In
short, the different ranks of men are, in a great measure, regulated by
riches, and that with regard to superiors as well as inferiors, strangers
as well as acquaintance.

There is, indeed, an answer to these arguments, drawn from the influence
of general rules. It may be pretended, that being accustomed to expect
succour and protection from the rich and powerful, and to esteem them
upon that account, we extend the same sentiments to those, who resemble
them in their fortune, but from whom we can never hope for any advantage.
The general rule still prevails, and by giving a bent to the imagination
draws along the passion, in the same manner as if its proper object were
real and existent.

But that this principle does not here take place, will easily appear, if
we consider, that in order to establish a general rule, and extend it
beyond its proper bounds, there is required a certain uniformity in our
experience, and a great superiority of those instances, which are
conformable to the rule, above the contrary. But here the case is quite
otherwise. Of a hundred men of credit and fortune I meet with, there is
not, perhaps, one from whom I can expect advantage; so that it is
impossible any custom can ever prevail in the present case.

Upon the whole, there remains nothing, which can give us an esteem for
power and riches, and a contempt for meanness and poverty, except the
principle of sympathy, by which we enter into the sentiments of the rich
and poor, and partake of their pleasure and uneasiness. Riches give
satisfaction to their possessor; and this satisfaction is conveyed to the
beholder by the imagination, which produces an idea resembling the
original impression in force and vivacity. This agreeable idea or
impression is connected with love, which is an agreeable passion. It
proceeds from a thinking conscious being, which is the very object of
love. From this relation of impressions, and identity of ideas, the
passion arises, according to my hypothesis.

The best method of reconciling us to this opinion is to take a general
survey of the universe, and observe the force of sympathy through the
whole animal creation, and the easy communication of sentiments from one
thinking being to another. In all creatures, that prey not upon others,
and are not agitated with violent passions, there appears a remarkable
desire of company, which associates them together, without any advantages
they can ever propose to reap from their union. This is still more
conspicuous in man, as being the creature of the universe, who has the
most ardent desire of society, and is fitted for it by the most
advantages. We can form no wish, which has not a reference to society. A
perfect solitude is, perhaps, the greatest punishment we can suffer.
Every pleasure languishes when enjoyed a-part from company, and every
pain becomes more cruel and intolerable. Whatever other passions we may
be actuated by; pride, ambition, avarice, curiosity, revenge or lust; the
soul or animating principle of them all is sympathy; nor would they have
any force, were we to abstract entirely from the thoughts and sentiments
of others. Let all the powers and elements of nature conspire to serve
and obey one man: Let the sun rise and set at his command: The sea and
rivers roll as he pleases, and the earth furnish spontaneously whatever
may be useful or agreeable to him: He will still be miserable, till you
give him some one person at least, with whom he may share his happiness,
and whose esteem and friendship he may enjoy.

This conclusion from a general view of human nature, we may confirm by
particular instances, wherein the force of sympathy is very remarkable.
Most kinds of beauty are derived from this origin; and though our first
object be some senseless inanimate piece of matter, it is seldom we rest
there, and carry not our view to its influence on sensible and rational
creatures. A man, who shews us any house or building, takes particular
care among other things to point out the convenience of the apartments,
the advantages of their situation, and the little room lost in the
stairs, antichambers and passages; and indeed it is evident, the chief
part of the beauty consists in these particulars. The observation of
convenience gives pleasure, since convenience is a beauty. But after what
manner does it give pleasure? It is certain our own interest is not in the
least concerned; and as this is a beauty of interest, not of form, so to
speak, it must delight us merely by communication, and by our
sympathizing with the proprietor of the lodging. We enter into his
interest by the force of imagination, and feel the same satisfaction,
that the objects naturally occasion in him.

This observation extends to tables, chairs, scritoires, chimneys,
coaches, sadles, ploughs, and indeed to every work of art; it being an
universal rule, that their beauty is chiefly derived from their utility,
and from their fitness for that purpose, to which they are destined. But
this is an advantage, that concerns only the owner, nor is there any
thing but sympathy, which can interest the spectator.

It is evident, that nothing renders a field more agreeable than its
fertility, and that scarce any advantages of ornament or situation will
be able to equal this beauty. It is the same case with particular trees
and plants, as with the field on which they grow. I know not but a plain,
overgrown with furze and broom, may be, in itself, as beautiful as a hill
covered with vines or olive-trees; though it will never appear so to one,
who is acquainted with the value of each. But this is a beauty merely of
imagination, and has no foundation in what appears to the senses.
Fertility and value have a plain reference to use; and that to riches,
joy, and plenty; in which though we have no hope of partaking, yet we
enter into them by the vivacity of the fancy, and share them, in some
measure, with the proprietor.

There is no rule in painting more reasonable than that of ballancing the
figures, and placing them with the greatest exactness on their proper
centers of gravity. A figure, which is not justly ballanced, is
disagreeable; and that because it conveys the ideas of its fall, of harm,
and of pain: Which ideas are painful, when by sympathy they acquire any
degree of force and vivacity.

Add to this, that the principal part of personal beauty is an air of
health and vigour, and such a construction of members as promises
strength and activity. This idea of beauty cannot be accounted for but by

In general we may remark, that the minds of men are mirrors to one
another, not only because they reflect each others emotions, but also
because those rays of passions, sentiments and opinions may be often
reverberated, and may decay away by insensible degrees. Thus the
pleasure, which a rich man receives from his possessions, being thrown
upon the beholder, causes a pleasure and esteem; which sentiments again,
being perceived and sympathized with, encrease the pleasure of the
possessor; and being once more reflected, become a new foundation for
pleasure and esteem in the beholder. There is certainly an original
satisfaction in riches derived from that power, which they bestow, of
enjoying all the pleasures of life; and as this is their very nature and
essence, it must be the first source of all the passions, which arise
from them. One of the most considerable of these passions is that of love
or esteem in others, which therefore proceeds from a sympathy with the
pleasure of the possessor. But the possessor has also a secondary
satisfaction in riches arising from the love and esteem he acquires by
them, and this satisfaction is nothing but a second reflexion of that
original pleasure, which proceeded from himself. This secondary
satisfaction or vanity becomes one of the principal recommendations of
riches, and is the chief reason, why we either desire them for ourselves,
or esteem them in others. Here then is a third rebound of the original
pleasure; after which it is difficult to distinguish the images and
reflexions, by reason of their faintness and confusion.


Ideas may be compared to the extension and solidity of matter, and
impressions, especially reflective ones, to colours, tastes, smells and
other sensible qualities. Ideas never admit of a total union, but are
endowed with a kind of impenetrability, by which they exclude each other,
and are capable of forming a compound by their conjunction, not by their
mixture. On the other hand, impressions and passions are susceptible of
an entire union; and like colours, may be blended so perfectly together,
that each of them may lose itself, and contribute only to vary that
uniform impression, which arises from the whole. Some of the most curious
phaenomena of the human mind are derived from this property of the

In examining those ingredients, which are capable of uniting with love
and hatred, I begin to be sensible, in some measure, of a misfortune,
that has attended every system of philosophy, with which the world has
been yet acquainted. It is commonly found, that in accounting for the
operations of nature by any particular hypothesis; among a number of
experiments, that quadrate exactly with the principles we would endeavour
to establish; there is always some phaenomenon, which is more stubborn,
and will not so easily bend to our purpose. We need not be surprized,
that this should happen in natural philosophy. The essence and
composition of external bodies are so obscure, that we must necessarily,
in our reasonings, or rather conjectures concerning them, involve
ourselves in contradictions and absurdities. But as the perceptions of
the mind are perfectly known, and I have used all imaginable caution in
forming conclusions concerning them, I have always hoped to keep clear of
those contradictions, which have attended every other system. Accordingly
the difficulty, which I have at present in my eye, is nowise contrary to
my system; but only departs a little from that simplicity, which has been
hitherto its principal force and beauty.

The passions of love and hatred are always followed by, or rather
conjoined with benevolence and anger. It is this conjunction, which
chiefly distinguishes these affections from pride and humility. For pride
and humility are pure emotions in the soul, unattended with any desire,
and not immediately exciting us to action. But love and hatred are not
compleated within themselves, nor rest in that emotion, which they
produce, but carry the mind to something farther. Love is always followed
by a desire of the happiness of the person beloved, and an aversion to
his misery: As hatred produces a desire of the misery and an aversion to
the happiness of the person hated. So remarkable a difference betwixt
these two sets of passions of pride and humility, love and hatred, which
in so many other particulars correspond to each other, merits our

The conjunction of this desire and aversion with love and hatred may be
accounted for by two different hypotheses. The first is, that love and
hatred have not only a cause, which excites them, viz, pleasure and pain;
and an object, to which they are directed, viz, a person or thinking
being; but likewise an end, which they endeavour to attain, viz, the
happiness or misery of the person beloved or hated; all which views,
mixing together, make only one passion. According to this system, love is
nothing but the desire of happiness to another person, and hatred that of
misery. The desire and aversion constitute the very nature of love and
hatred. They are not only inseparable but the same.

But this is evidently contrary to experience. For though it is certain we
never love any person without desiring his happiness, nor hate any
without wishing his misery, yet these desires arise only upon the ideas
of the happiness or misery of our friend or enemy being presented by the
imagination, and are not absolutely essential to love and hatred. They
are the most obvious and natural sentiments of these affections, but not
the only ones. The passions may express themselves in a hundred ways, and
may subsist a considerable time, without our reflecting on the happiness
or misery of their objects; which clearly proves, that these desires are
not the same with love and hatred, nor make any essential part of them.

We may, therefore, infer, that benevolence and anger are passions
different from love and hatred, and only conjoined with them, by the
original constitution of the mind. As nature has given to the body
certain appetites and inclinations, which she encreases, diminishes, or
changes according to the situation of the fluids or solids; she has
proceeded in the same manner with the mind. According as we are possessed
with love or hatred, the correspondent desire of the happiness or misery
of the person, who is the object of these passions, arises in the mind,
and varies with each variation of these opposite passions. This order of
things, abstractedly considered, is not necessary. Love and hatred might
have been unattended with any such desires, or their particular connexion
might have been entirely reversed. If nature had so pleased, love might
have had the same effect as hatred, and hatred as love. I see no
contradiction in supposing a desire of producing misery annexed to love,
and of happiness to hatred. If the sensation of the passion and desire be
opposite, nature coued have altered the sensation without altering the
tendency of the desire, and by that means made them compatible with each


But though the desire of the happiness or misery of others, according to
the love or hatred we bear them, be an arbitrary and original instinct
implanted in our nature, we find it may be counterfeited on many
occasions, and may arise from secondary principles. Pity is a concern
for, and malice a joy in the misery of others, without any friendship or
enmity to occasion this concern or joy. We pity even strangers, and such
as are perfectly indifferent to us: And if our ill-will to another
proceed from any harm or injury, it is not, properly speaking, malice,
but revenge. But if we examine these affections of pity and malice we
shall find them to be secondary ones, arising from original affections,
which are varied by some particular turn of thought and imagination.

It will be easy to explain the passion of pity, from the precedent
reasoning concerning sympathy. We have a lively idea of every thing
related to us. All human creatures are related to us by resemblance.
Their persons, therefore, their interests, their passions, their pains
and pleasures must strike upon us in a lively manner, and produce an
emotion similar to the original one; since a lively idea is easily
converted into an impression. If this be true in general, it must be more
so of affliction and sorrow. These have always a stronger and more
lasting influence than any pleasure or enjoyment.

A spectator of a tragedy passes through a long train of grief, terror,
indignation, and other affections, which the poet represents in the
persons he introduces. As many tragedies end happily, and no excellent
one can be composed without some reverses of fortune, the spectator must
sympathize with all these changes, and receive the fictitious joy as well
as every other passion. Unless, therefore, it be asserted, that every
distinct passion is communicated by a distinct original quality, and is
not derived from the general principle of sympathy above-explained, it
must be allowed, that all of them arise from that principle. To except
any one in particular must appear highly unreasonable. As they are all
first present in the mind of one person, and afterwards appear in the
mind of another; and as the manner of their appearance, first as an idea,
then as an impression, is in every case the same, the transition must
arise from the same principle. I am at least sure, that this method of
reasoning would be considered as certain, either in natural philosophy or
common life.

Add to this, that pity depends, in a great measure, on the contiguity,
and even sight of the object; which is a proof, that it is derived from
the imagination. Not to mention that women and children are most subject
to pity, as being most guided by that faculty. The same infirmity, which
makes them faint at the sight of a naked sword, though in the hands of
their best friend, makes them pity extremely those, whom they find in any
grief or affliction. Those philosophers, who derive this passion from I
know not what subtile reflections on the instability of fortune, and our
being liable to the same miseries we behold, will find this observation
contrary to them among a great many others, which it were easy to

There remains only to take notice of a pretty remarkable phaenomenon of
this passion; which is, that the communicated passion of sympathy
sometimes acquires strength from the weakness of its original, and even
arises by a transition from affections, which have no existence. Thus
when a person obtains any honourable office, or inherits a great fortune,
we are always the more rejoiced for his prosperity, the less sense he
seems to have of it, and the greater equanimity and indifference he shews
in its enjoyment. In like manner a man, who is not dejected by
misfortunes, is the more lamented on account of his patience; and if that
virtue extends so far as utterly to remove all sense of uneasiness, it
still farther encreases our compassion. When a person of merit falls into
what is vulgarly esteemed a great misfortune, we form a notion of his
condition; and carrying our fancy from the cause to the usual effect,
first conceive a lively idea of his sorrow, and then feel an impression
of it, entirely over-looking that greatness of mind, which elevates him
above such emotions, or only considering it so far as to encrease our
admiration, love and tenderness for him. We find from experience, that
such a degree of passion is usually connected with such a misfortune; and
though there be an exception in the present case, yet the imagination is
affected by the general rule, and makes us conceive a lively idea of the
passion, or rather feel the passion itself, in the same manner, as if the
person were really actuated by it. From the same principles we blush for
the conduct of those, who behave themselves foolishly before us; and that
though they shew no sense of shame, nor seem in the least conscious of
their folly. All this proceeds from sympathy; but it is of a partial kind,
and views its objects only on one side, without considering the other,
which has a contrary effect, and would entirely destroy that emotion,
which arises from the first appearance.

We have also instances, wherein an indifference and insensibility under
misfortune encreases our concern for the misfortunate, even though the
indifference proceed not from any virtue and magnanimity. It is an
aggravation of a murder, that it was committed upon persons asleep and in
perfect security; as historians readily observe of any infant prince, who
is captive in the hands of his enemies, that he is the more worthy of
compassion the less sensible he is of his miserable condition. As we
ourselves are here acquainted with the wretched situation of the person,
it gives us a lively idea and sensation of sorrow, which is the passion
that generally attends it; and this idea becomes still more lively, and
the sensation more violent by a contrast with that security and
indifference, which we observe in the person himself. A contrast of any
kind never fails to affect the imagination, especially when presented by
the subject; and it is on the imagination that pity entirely depends.

[Footnote 11. To prevent all ambiguity, I must observe, that where I
oppose the imagination to the memory, I mean in general the faculty that
presents our fainter ideas. In all other places, and particularly when it
is opposed to the understanding, I understand the same faculty, excluding
only our demonstrative and probable reasonings.]


We must now proceed to account for the passion of malice, which imitates
the effects of hatred, as pity does those of love; and gives us a joy in
the sufferings and miseries of others, without any offence or injury on
their part.

So little are men governed by reason in their sentiments and opinions,
that they always judge more of objects by comparison than from their
intrinsic worth and value. When the mind considers, or is accustomed to,
any degree of. perfection, whatever falls short of it, though really
esteemable, has notwithstanding the same effect upon the passions; as
what is defective and ill. This is an original quality of the soul, and
similar to what we have every day experience of in our bodies. Let a man
heat one band and cool the other; the same water will, at the same time,
seem both hot and cold, according to the disposition of the different
organs. A small degree of any quality, succeeding a greater, produces the
same sensation, as if less than it really is, and even sometimes as the
opposite quality. Any gentle pain, that follows a violent one, seems as
nothing, or rather becomes a pleasure; as on the other hand a violent
pain, succeeding a gentle one, is doubly grievous and uneasy.

This no one can doubt of with regard to our passions and sensations. But
there may arise some difficulty with regard to our ideas and objects.
When an object augments or diminishes to the eye or imagination from a
comparison with others, the image and idea of the object are still the
same, and are equally extended in the retina, and in the brain or organ
of perception. The eyes refract the rays of light, and the optic nerves
convey the images to the brain in the very same manner, whether a great
or small object has preceded; nor does even the imagination alter the
dimensions of its object on account of a comparison with others. The
question then is, how from the same impression and the same idea we can
form such different judgments concerning the same object, and at one time
admire its bulk, and at another despise its littleness. This variation in
our judgments must certainly proceed from a variation in some perception;
but as the variation lies not in the immediate impression or idea of the
object, it must lie in some other impression, that accompanies it.

In order to explain this matter, I shall just touch upon two principles,
one of which shall be more fully explained in the progress of this
treatise; the other has been already accounted for. I believe it may
safely be established for a general maxim, that no object is presented to
the senses, nor image formed in the fancy, but what is accompanyed with
some emotion or movement of spirits proportioned to it; and however
custom may make us insensible of this sensation and cause us to confound
it with the object or idea, it will be easy, by careful and exact
experiments, to separate and distinguish them. For to instance only in
the cases of extension and number; it is evident, that any very bulky
object, such as the ocean, an extended plain, a vast chain of mountains,
a wide forest: or any very numerous collection of objects, such as an
army, a fleet, a crowd, excite in the mind a sensible emotion; and that
the admiration, which arises on the appearance of such objects, is one of
the most lively pleasures, which human nature is capable of enjoying. Now
as this admiration encreases or diminishes by the encrease or diminution
of the objects, we may conclude, according to our foregoing
[Book I. Part III. Sect. 15.] principles, that it is a compound effect,
proceeding from the conjunction of the several effects, which arise from
each part of the cause. Every part, then, of extension, and every unite of
number has a separate emotion attending it; and though that emotion be not
always agreeable, yet by its conjunction with others, and by its agitating
the spirits to a just pitch, it contributes to the production of
admiration, which is always agreeable. If this be allowed with respect to
extension and number, we can make no difficulty with respect to virtue and
vice, wit and folly, riches and poverty, happiness and misery, and other
objects of that kind, which are always attended with an evident emotion.

The second principle I shall take notice of is that of our adherence to
general rules; which has such a mighty influence on the actions and
understanding, and is able to impose on the very senses. When an object
is found by-experience to be always accompanyed with another; whenever
the first object appears, though changed in very material circumstances;
we naturally fly to the conception of the second, and form an idea of it
in as lively and strong a manner, as if we had infered its existence by
the justest and most authentic conclusion of our understanding. Nothing
can undeceive us, not even our senses, which, instead of correcting this
false judgment, are often perverted by it, and seem to authorize its

The conclusion I draw from these two principles, joined to the influence
of comparison above-mentioned, is very short and decisive. Every object
is attended with some emotion proportioned to it; a great object with a
great emotion, a small object with a small emotion. A great object,
therefore, succeeding a small one makes a great emotion succeed a small
one. Now a great emotion succeeding a small one becomes still greater,
and rises beyond its ordinary proportion. But as there is a certain
degree of an emotion, which commonly attends every magnitude of a-n
object; when the emotion encreases, we naturally imagine that the object
has likewise encreased. The effect conveys our view to its usual cause, a
certain degree of emotion to a certain magnitude of the object; nor do we
consider, that comparison may change the emotion without changing
anything in the object. Those who are acquainted with the metaphysical
part of optics and know how we transfer the judgments and conclusions of
the understanding to the senses, will easily conceive this whole

But leaving this new discovery of an impression, that secretly attends
every idea; we must at least allow of that principle, from whence the
discovery arose, that objects appear greater or less by a comparison with
others. We have so many instances of this, that it is impossible we can
dispute its veracity; and it is from this principle I derive the passions
of malice and envy.

It is evident we must receive a greater or less satisfaction or uneasiness
from reflecting on our own condition and circumstances, in proportion as
they appear more or less fortunate or unhappy, in proportion to the
degrees of riches, and power, and merit, and reputation, which we think
ourselves possest of. Now as we seldom judge of objects from their
intrinsic value, but form our notions of them from a comparison with
other objects; it follows, that according as we observe a greater or less
share of happiness or misery in others, we must make an estimate of our
own, and feel a consequent pain or pleasure. The misery of another gives
us a more lively idea of our happiness, and his happiness of our misery.
The former, therefore, produces delight; and the latter uneasiness.

Here then is a kind of pity reverst, or contrary sensations arising in
the beholder, from those which are felt by the person, whom he considers.
In general we may observe, that in all kinds of comparison an object
makes us always receive from another, to which it is compared, a
sensation contrary to what arises from itself in its direct and immediate
survey. A small object makes a great one appear still greater. A great
object makes a little one appear less. Deformity of itself produces
uneasiness; but makes us receive new pleasure by its contrast with a
beautiful object, whose beauty is augmented by it; as on the other hand,
beauty, which of itself produces pleasure, makes us receive a new pain by
the contrast with any thing ugiy, whose deformity it augments. The case,
therefore, must be the same with happiness and misery. The direct survey
of another's pleasure naturally gives us plcasure, and therefore produces
pain when cornpared with our own. His pain, considered in itself, is
painful to us, but augments the idea of our own happiness, and gives us

Nor will it appear strange, that we may feel a reverst sensation from the
happiness and misery of others; since we find the same comparison may
give us a kind of malice against ourselves, and make us rejoice for our
pains, and grieve for our pleasures. Thus the prospect of past pain is
agreeable, when we are satisfyed with our present condition; as on the
other hand our past pleasures give us uneasiness, when we enjoy nothing
at present equal to them. The comparison being the same, as when we
reflect on the sentiments of others, must be attended with the same

Nay a person may extend this malice against himself, even to his present
fortune, and carry it so far as designedly to seek affliction, and
encrease his pains and sorrows. This may happen upon two occasions.
First, Upon the distress and misfortune of a friend, or person dear to
him. Secondly, Upon the feeling any remorses for a crime, of which he has
been guilty. It is from the principle of comparison that both these
irregular appetites for evil arise. A person, who indulges himself in any
pleasure, while his friend lies under affliction, feels the reflected
uneasiness from his friend more sensibly by a comparison with the
original pleasure, which he himself enjoys. This contrast, indeed, ought
also to inliven the present pleasure. But as grief is here supposed to be
the predominant passion, every addition falls to that side, and is
swallowed up in it, without operating in the least upon the contrary
affection. It is the same case with those penances, which men inflict on
themselves for their past sins and failings. When a. criminal reflects on
the punishment he deserves, the idea of it is magnifyed by a comparison
with his present ease and satisfaction; which forces him, in a manner, to
seek uneasiness, in order to avoid so disagreeable a contrast.

This reasoning will account for the origin of envy as well as of malice.
The only difference betwixt these passions lies in this, that envy is
excited by some present enjoyment of another, which by comparison
diminishes our idea of our own: Whereas malice is the unprovoked desire
of producing evil to another, in order to reap a pleasure from the
comparison. The enjoyment, which is the object of envy, is commonly
superior to our own. A superiority naturally seems to overshade us, and
presents a disagreeable comparison. But even in the case of an
inferiority, we still desire a greater distance, in order to augment,
still more the idea of ourself. When this distance diminishes, the
comparison is less to our advantage; and consequently gives us less
pleasure, and is even disagreeable. Hence arises that species of envy,
which men feel, when they perceive their inferiors approaching or
overtaking them in the pursuits of glory or happiness. In this envy we
may see the effects of comparison twice repeated. A man, who compares
himself to his inferior, receives a pleasure from the comparison: And
when the inferiority decreases by the elevation of the inferior, what
should only have been a decrease of pleasure, becomes a real pain, by a
new comparison with its preceding condition.

It is worthy of observation concerning that envy, which arises from a
superiority in others, that it is not the great disproportion betwixt
ourself and another, which produces it; but on the contrary, our
proximity. A common soldier bears no such envy to his general as to his
sergeant or corporal; nor does an eminent writer meet with so great
jealousy in common hackney scriblers, as in authors, that more nearly
approach him. It may, indeed, be thought, that the greater the
disproportion is, the greater must be the uneasiness from the comparison.
But we may consider on the other hand, that the great disproportion cuts
off the relation, and either keeps us from comparing ourselves with what
is remote from us, or diminishes the effects of the comparison.
Resemblance and proximity always produce a relation of ideas; and where
you destroy these ties, however other accidents may bring two ideas
together; as they have no bond or connecting quality to join them in the
imagination; it is impossible they can remain long united, or have any
considerable influence on each other.

I have observed in considering the nature of ambition, that the great
feel a double pleasure in authority from the comparison of their own
condition with that of their slaves; and that this comparison has a
double influence, because it is natural, and presented by the subject.
When the fancy, in the comparison of objects, passes not easily from the
one object to the other, the action of the mind is, in a great measure,
broke, and the fancy, in considering the second object, begins, as it
were, upon a new footing. The impression, which attends every object,
seems not greater in that case by succeeding a less of the same kind; but
these two impressions are distinct, and produce their distinct effects,
without any communication together. The want of relation in the ideas
breaks the relation of the impressions, and by such a separation prevents
their mutual operation and influence.

To confirm this we may observe, that the proximity in the degree of merit
is not alone sufficient to give rise to envy, but must be assisted by
other relations. A poet is not apt to envy a philosopher, or a poet of a
different kind, of a different nation, or of a different age. All these
differences prevent or weaken the comparison, and consequently the

This too is the reason, why all objects appear great or little, merely by
a comparison with those of the same species. A mountain neither magnifies
nor diminishes a horse in our eyes; but when a Flemish and a Welsh horse
are seen together, the one appears greater and the other less, than when
viewed apart.

From the same principle we may account for that remark of historians,
that any party in a civil war always choose to call in a foreign enemy at
any hazard rather than submit to their fellow-citizens. Guicciardin
applies this remark to the wars in Italy, where the relations betwixt the
different states are, properly speaking, nothing but of name, language,
and contiguity. Yet even these relations, when joined with superiority,
by making the comparison more natural, make it likewise more grievous,
and cause men to search for some other superiority, which may be attended
with no relation, and by that means may have a less sensible influence on
the imagination. The mind quickly perceives its several advantages and
disadvantages; and finding its situation to be most uneasy, where
superiority is conjoined with other relations, seeks its repose as much
as possible, by their separation, and by breaking that association of
ideas, which renders the comparison so much more natural and efficacious.
When it cannot break the association, it feels a stronger desire to
remove the superiority; and this is the reason why travellers are
commonly so lavish of their praises to the Chinese and Persians, at the
same time, that they depreciate those neighbouring nations, which may
stand upon a foot of rivalship with their native country.

These examples from history and common experience are rich and curious;
but we may find parallel ones in the arts, which are no less remarkable.
should an author compose a treatise, of which one part was serious and
profound, another light and humorous, every one would condemn so strange
a mixture, and would accuse him of the neglect of all rules of art and
criticism. These rules of art are founded on the qualities of human
nature; and the quality of human nature, which requires a consistency in
every performance. is that which renders the mind incapable of passing in
a moment from one passion and disposition to a quite different one. Yet
this makes us not blame Mr Prior for joining his Alma and his Solomon in
the same volume; though that admirable poet has succeeded perfectly well
in the gaiety of the one, as well as in the melancholy of the other. Even
supposing the reader should peruse these two compositions without any
interval, he would feel little or no difficulty in the change of
passions: Why, but because he considers these performances as entirely
different, and by this break in the ideas, breaks the progress of the
affections, and hinders the one from influencing or contradicting the

An heroic and burlesque design, united in one picture, would be
monstrous; though we place two pictures of so opposite a character in the
same chamber, and even close by each other, without any scruple or

In a word, no ideas can affect each other, either by comparison, or by
the passions they separately produce, unless they be united together by
some relation, which may cause an easy transition of the ideas, and
consequently of the emotions or impressions, attending the ideas; and may
preserve the one impression in the passage of the imagination to the
object of the other. This principle is very remarkable, because it is
analogous to what we have observed both concerning the understanding and
the passions. Suppose two objects to be presented to me, which are not
connected by any kind of relation. Suppose that each of these objects
separately produces a passion; and that these two passions are in
themselves contrary: We find from experience, that the want of relation
in the objects or ideas hinders the natural contrariety of the passions,
and that the break in the transition of the thought removes the
affections from each other, and prevents their opposition. It is the same
case with comparison; and from both these phaenomena we may safely
conclude, that the relation of ideas must forward the transition of
impressions; since its absence alone is able to prevent it, and to
separate what naturally should have operated upon each other. When the
absence of an object or quality re moves any usual or natural effect, we
may certalnly conclude that its presence contributes to the production of
the effect.


Thus we have endeavoured to account for pity and malice. Both these
affections arise from the imagination, according to the light, in which
it places its object. When our fancy considers directly the sentiments of
others, and enters deep into them, it makes us sensible of all the
passions it surveys, but in a particular manner of grief or sorrow. On
the contrary, when we compare the sentiments of others to our own, we
feel a sensation directly opposite to the original one, viz. a joy from
the grief of others, and a grief from their joy. But these are only the
first foundations of the affections of pity and malice. Other passions
are afterwards confounded with them. There is always a mixture of love or
tenderness with pity, and of hatred or anger with malice. But it must be
confessed, that this mixture seems at first sight to be contradictory to
my system. For as pity is an uneasiness, and malice a joy, arising from
the misery of others, pity should naturally, as in all other cases,
produce hatred; and malice, love. This contradiction I endeavour to
reconcile, after the following manner.

In order to cause a transition of passions, there is required a double
relation of impressions and ideas, nor is one relation sufficient to
produce this effect. But that we may understand the full force of this
double relation, we must consider, that it is not the present sensation
alone or momentary pain or pleasure, which determines the character of
any passion, but the whole bent or tendency of it from the beginning to
the end. One impression may be related to another, not only when their
sensations are resembling, as we have all along supposed in the preceding
cases; but also when their im pulses or directions are similar and
correspondent. This cannot take place with regard to pride and humility;
because these are only pure sensations, without any direction or tendency
to action. We are, therefore, to look for instances of this peculiar
relation of impressions only in such affections, as are attended with a
certain appetite or desire; such as those of love and hatred,

Benevolence or the appetite, which attends love, is a desire of the
happiness of the person beloved, and an aversion to his misery; as anger
or the appetite, which attends hatred, is a desire of the misery of the
person hated, and an aversion to his happiness. A desire, therefore, of
the happiness of another, and aversion to his misery, are similar to
benevolence; and a desire of his misery and aversion to his happiness are
correspondent to anger. Now pity is a desire of happiness to another, and
aversion to his misery; as malice is the contrary appetite. Pity, then,
is related to benevolence; and malice to anger: And as benevolence has
been already found to be connected with love, by a natural and original
quality, and anger with hatred; it is by this chain the passions of pity
and malice are connected with love and hatred.

This hypothesis is founded on sufficient experience. A man, who from any
motives has entertained a resolution of performing an action, naturally
runs into every other view or motive, which may fortify that resolution,
and give it authority and influence on the mind. To confirm us in any
design, we search for motives drawn from interest, from honour, from
duty. What wonder, then, that pity and benevolence, malice, and anger,
being the same desires arising from different principles, should so
totally mix together as to be undistinguishable? As to the connexion
betwixt benevolence and love, anger and hatred, being original and
primary, it admits of no difficulty.

We may add to this another experiment, viz, that benevolence and anger,
and consequently love and hatred, arise when our happiness or misery have
any dependance on the happiness or misery of another person, without any
farther relation. I doubt not but this experiment will appear so singular
as to excuse us for stopping a moment to consider it.

Suppose, that two persons of the same trade should seek employment in a
town, that is not able to maintain both, it is plain the success of one is
perfectly incompatible with that of the other, and that whatever is for
the interest of either is contrary to that of his rival, and so vice
versa. Suppose again, that two merchants, though living in different parts
of the world, should enter into co-partnership together, the advantage or
loss of one becomes immediately the advantage or loss of his partner, and
the same fortune necessarily attends both. Now it is evident, that in the
first case, hatred always follows upon the contrariety of interests; as
in the second, love arises from their union. Let us consider to what
principle we can ascribe these passions.

It is plain they arise not from the double relations of impressions and
ideas, if we regard only the present sensation. For takeing the first
case of rivalship; though the pleasure and advantage of an antagonist
necessarily causes my pain and loss, yet to counter-ballance this, his
pain and loss causes my pleasure and advantage; and supposing him to be
unsuccessful, I may by this means receive from him a superior degree of
satisfaction. In the same manner the success of a partner rejoices me,
but then his misfortunes afflict me in an equal proportion; and it is easy
to imagine, that the latter sentiment may in many cases preponderate. But
whether the fortune of a rival or partner be good or bad, I always hate
the former and love the latter.

This love of a partner cannot proceed from the relation or connexion
betwixt us; in the same manner as I love a brother or countryman. A rival
has almost as close a relation to me as a partner. For as the pleasure of
the latter causes my pleasure, and his pain my pain; so the pleasure of
the former causes my pain, and his pain my pleasure. The connexion, then,
of cause and effect is the same in both cases; and if in the one case,
the cause and effect have a farther relation of resemblance, they have
that of contrariety in the other; which, being also a species of
resemblance, leaves the matter pretty equal.

The only explication, then, we can give of this phaenomenon is derived
from that principle of a parallel direction above-mentioned. Our concern
for our own interest gives us a pleasure in the pleasure, and a pain in
the pain of a partner, after the same manner as by sympathy we feel a
sensation correspondent to those, which appear in any person, who is
present with us. On the other hand, the same concern for our interest
makes us feel a pain in the pleasure, and a pleasure in the pain of a
rival; and in short the same contrariety of sentiments as arises from
comparison and malice. Since, therefore, a parallel direction of the
affections, proceeding from interest, can give rise to benevolence or
anger, no wonder the same parallel direction, derived from sympathy and
from comparison, should have the same effect.

In general we may observe, that it is impossible to do good to others,
from whatever motive, without feeling some touches of kindness and
good-will towards them; as the injuries we do, not only cause hatred in
the person, who suffers them, but even in ourselves. These phaenomena,
indeed, may in part be accounted for from other principles.

But here there occurs a considerable objection, which it will be necessary
to examine before we proceed any farther. I have endeavoured to prove,
that power and riches, or poverty and meanness; which give rise to love
or hatred, without producing any original pleasure or uneasiness; operate
upon us by means of a secondary sensation derived from a sympathy with
that pain or satisfaction, which they produce in the person, who
possesses them. From a sympathy with his pleasure there arises love; from
that with his uneasiness, hatred. But it is a maxim, which I have just now
established, and which is absolutely necessary to the explication of the
phaenomena of pity and malice, that it is not the present sensation or
momentary pain or pleasure, which determines the character of any
passion, but the general bent or tendency of it from the beginning to the
end. For this reason, pity or a sympathy with pain produces love, and
that because it interests us in the fortunes of others, good or bad, and
gives us a secondary sensation correspondent to the primary; in which it
has the same influence with love and benevolence. Since then this rule
holds good in one case, why does it not prevail throughout, and why does
sympathy in uneasiness ever produce any passion beside good-will and
kindness? Is it becoming a philosopher to alter his method of reasoning,
and run from one principle to its contrary, according to the particular
phaenomenon, which he would explain?

I have mentioned two different causes, from which a transition of passion
may arise, viz, a double relation of ideas and impressions, and what is
similar to it, a conformity in the tendency and direction of any two
desires, which arise from different principles. Now I assert, that when a
sympathy with uneasiness is weak, it produces hatred or contempt by the
former cause; when strong, it produces love or tenderness by the latter.
This is the solution of the foregoing difficulty, which seems so urgent;
and this is a principle founded on such evident arguments, that we ought
to have established it, even though it were not necessary to the
explication of any phaenomenon.

It is certain, that sympathy is not always limited to the present moment,
but that we often feel by communication the pains and pleasures of
others, which are not in being, and which we only anticipate by the force
of imagination. For supposing I saw a person perfectly unknown to me,
who, while asleep in the fields, was in danger of being trod under foot
by horses, I should immediately run to his assistance; and in this I
should be actuated by the same principle of sympathy, which makes me
concerned for the present sorrows of a stranger. The bare mention of this
is sufficient. Sympathy being nothing but a lively idea converted into an
impression, it is evident, that, in considering the future possible or
probable condition of any person, we may enter into it with so vivid a
conception as to make it our own concern; and by that means be sensible.
of pains and pleasures, which neither belong to ourselves, nor at the
present instant have any real existence.

But however we may look forward to the future in sympathizing with any
person, the extending of our sympathy depends in a great measure upon our
sense of his present condition. It is a great effort of imagination, to
form such lively ideas even of the present sentiments of others as to
feel these very sentiments; but it is impossible we coued extend this
sympathy to the future, without being aided by some circumstance in the
present, which strikes upon us in a lively manner. When the present
misery of another has any strong influence upon me, the vivacity of the
conception is not confined merely to its immediate object, but diffuses
its influence over all the related ideas, and gives me a lively notion of
all the circumstances of that person, whether past, present, or future;
possible, probable or certain. By means of this lively notion I am
interested in them; take part with them; and feel a sympathetic motion in
my breast, conformable to whatever I imagine in his. If I diminish the
vivacity of the first conception, I diminish that of the related ideas;
as pipes can convey no more water than what arises at the fountain. By
this diminution I destroy the future prospect, which is necessary to
interest me perfectly in the fortune of another. I may feel the present
impression, but carry my sympathy no farther, and never transfuse the
force of the first conception into my ideas of the related objects. If it
be another's misery, which is presented in this feeble manner, I receive
it by communication, and am affected with all the passions related to it:
But as I am not so much interested as to concern myself in his good
fortune, as well as his bad, I never feel the extensive sympathy, nor the
passions related to it.

Now in order to know what passions are related to these different kinds
of sympathy, we must consider, that benevolence is an original pleasure
arising from the pleasure of the person beloved, and a pain proceeding
from his pain: From which correspondence of impressions there arises a
subsequent desire of his pleasure, and aversion to his pain. In order,
then, to make a passion run parallel with benevolence, it is requisite we
should feel these double impressions, correspondent to those of the
person, whom we consider; nor is any one of them alone sufficient for
that purpose. When we sympathize only with one impression, and that a
painful one, this sympathy is related to anger and to hatred, upon
account of the uneasiness it conveys to us. But as the extensive or
limited sympathy depends upon the force of the first sympathy; it
follows, that the passion of love or hatred depends upon the same
principle. A strong impression, when communicated, gives a double
tendency of the passions; which is related to benevolence and love by a
similarity of direction; however painful the first impression might have
been. A weak impression, that is painful, is related to anger and hatred
by the resemblance of sensations. Benevolence, therefore, arises from a
great degree of misery, or any degree strongly sympathized with: Hatred
or contempt from a small degree, or one weakly sympathized with; which is
the principle I intended to prove and explain.

Nor have we only our reason to trust to for this principle, but also
experience. A certain degree of poverty produces contempt; but a degree
beyond causes compassion and good-will. We may under-value a peasant or
servant; but when the misery of a beggar appears very great, or is
painted in very lively colours, we sympathize with him in his
afflictions; and feel in our heart evident touches of pity and
benevolence. The same object causes contrary passions according to its
different degrees. The passions, therefore, must depend upon principles,
that operate in such certain degrees, according to my hypothesis. The
encrease of the sympathy has evidently the same effect as the encrease of
the misery.

A barren or desolate country always seems ugly and disagreeable, and
commonly inspires us with contempt for the inhabitants. This deformity,
however, proceeds in a great measure from a sympathy with the
inhabitants, as has been already observed; but it is only a weak one, and
reaches no farther than the immediate sensation, which is disagreeable.
The view of a city in ashes conveys benevolent sentiments; because we
there enter so deep into the interests of the miserable inhabitants, as
to wish for their prosperity, as well as feel their adversity.

But though the force of the impression generally produces pity and
benevolence, it is certain, that by being carryed too far it ceases to
have that effect. This, perhaps, may be worth our notice. When the
uneasiness is either small in itself, or remote from us, it engages not
the imagination, nor is able to convey an equal concern for the future
and contingent good, as for the present and real evil Upon its acquiring
greater force, we become so interested in the concerns of the person, as
to be sensible both of his good and had fortune; and from that compleat
sympathy there arises pity and benevolence. But it will easily be
imagined, that where the present evil strikes with more than ordinary
force, it may entirely engage our attention, and prevent that double
sympathy, above-mentioned. Thus we find, that though every one, but
especially women, are apt to contract a kindness for criminals, who go to
the scaffold, and readily imagine them to be uncommonly handsome and
wellshaped; yet one, who is present at the cruel execution of the rack,
feels no such tender emotions; but is in a manner overcome with horror,
and has no leisure to temper this uneasy sensation by any opposite

But the instance, which makes the most clearly for my hypothesis, is that
wherein by a change of the objects we separate the double sympathy even
from a midling degree of the passion; in which case we find, that pity,
instead of producing love and tenderness as usual, always gives rise to
the contrary affection. When we observe a person in misfortunes, we are
affected with pity and love; but the author of that misfortune becomes
the object of our strongest hatred, and is the more detested in
proportion to the degree of our compassion. Now for what reason should
the same passion of pity produce love to the person, who suffers the
misfortune, and hatred to the person, who causes it; unless it be because
in the latter case the author bears a relation only to the misfortune;
whereas in considering the sufferer we carry our view on every side, and
wish for his prosperity, as well as are sensible of his affliction?

I. shall just observe, before I leave the present subject, that this
phaenomenon of the double sympathy, and its tendency to cause love, may
contribute to the production of the kindness, which we naturally bear our
relations and acquaintance. Custom and relation make us enter deeply into
the sentiments of others; and whatever fortune we suppose to attend them,
is rendered present to us by the imagination, and operates as if
originally our own. We rejoice in their pleasures, and grieve for their
sorrows, merely from the force of sympathy. Nothing that concerns them is
indifferent to us; and as this correspondence of sentiments is the
natural attendant of love, it readily produces that affection.


There now remains only to explain the passion of respect and contempt,
along with the amorous affection, in. order to understand all the
passions which have any mixture of love or hatred. Let us begin with
respect and contempt.

In considering the qualities and circumstances of others, we may either
regard them as they really are in themselves; or may make a comparison
betwixt them and our own qualities and circumstances; or may join these
two methods of consideration. The good qualities of others, from the
first point of view, produce love; from the second, humility; and from
the third, respect; which is a mixture of these two passions. Their bad
qualities, after the same manner, cause either hatred, or pride, or
contempt, according to the light in which we survey them.

That there is a mixture of pride in contempt, and of humility in respect,
is, I think, too evident, from their very feeling or appearance, to
require any particular proof. That this mixture arises from a tacit
comparison of the person contemned or respected with ourselves is no less
evident. The same man may cause either respect, love, or contempt by his
condition and talents, according as the person, who considers him, from
his inferior becomes his equal or superior. In changing the point of
view, though the object may remain the same, its proportion to ourselves
entirely alters; which is the cause of an alteration in the passions.
These passions, therefore, arise from our observing the proportion; that
is, from a comparison.

I have already observed, that the mind has a much stronger propensity to
pride than to humility, and have endeavoured, from the principles of
human nature, to assign a cause for this phaenomenon. Whether my
reasoning be received or not, the phaenomenon is undisputed, and appears
in many instances. Among the rest, it is the reason why there is a much
greater mixture of pride in contempt, than of humility in respect, and
why we are more elevated with the view of one below us, than mortifyed
with the presence of one above us. Contempt or scorn has so strong a
tincture of pride, that there scarce is any other passion discernable:
Whereas in esteem or respect, love makes a more considerable ingredient
than humility. The passion of vanity is so prompt, that it rouzes at the
least call; while humility requires a stronger impulse to make it exert

But here it may reasonably be asked, why this mixture takes place only in
some cases, and appears not on every occasion. All those objects, which
cause love, when placed on another person, are the causes of pride, when
transfered to ourselves; and consequently ought to be causes of humility,
as well as love, while they belong to others, and are only compared to
those, which we ourselves possess. In like manner every quality, which,
by being directly considered, produces hatred, ought always to give rise
to pride by comparison, and by a mixture of these passions of hatred and
pride ought to excite contempt or scorn. The difficulty then is, why any
objects ever cause pure love or hatred, and produce not always the mixt
passions of respect and contempt.

I have supposed all along, that the passions of love and pride, and those
of humility and hatred are similar in their sensations, and that the two
former are always agreeable, and the two latter painful. But though this
be universally true, it is observable, that the two agreeable, as well as
the two painful passions, have some difference, and even contrarieties,
which distinguish them. Nothing invigorates and exalts the mind equally
with pride and vanity; though at the same time love or tenderness is
rather found to weaken and infeeble it. The same difference is observable
betwixt the uneasy passions. Anger and hatred bestow a new force on all
our thoughts and actions; while humility and shame deject and discourage
us. Of these qualities of the passions, it will be necessary to form a
distinct idea. Let us remember, that pride and hatred invigorate the
soul; and love and humility infeeble it.

From this it follows, that though the conformity betwixt love and hatred
in the agreeableness of their sensation makes them always be excited by
the same objects, yet this other contrariety is the reason, why they are
excited in very different degrees. Genius and learning are pleasant and
magnificent objects, and by both these circumstances are adapted to pride
and vanity; but have a relation to love by their pleasure only. Ignorance
and simplicity are disagreeable and mean, which in the same manner gives
them a double connexion with humility, and a single one with hatred. We
may, therefore, consider it as certain, that though the same object always
produces love and pride, humility and hatred, according to its different
situations, yet it seldom produces either the two former or the two
latter passions, in the same proportion.

It is here we must seek for a solution of the difficulty above-mentioned,
why any object ever excites pure love or hatred, and does not always
produce respect or contempt, by a mixture of humility or pride. No
quality in another gives rise to humility by comparison, unless it would
have produced pride by being placed in ourselves; and vice versa no
object excites pride by comparison, unless it would have produced
humility by the direct survey. This is evident, objects always produce by
comparison a sensation directly contrary to their original one. Suppose,
therefore, an object to be presented, which is peculiarly fitted to
produce love, but imperfectly to excite pride; this object, belonging to
another, gives rise directly to a great degree of love, but to a small
one of humility by comparison; and consequently that latter passion is
scarce felt in the compound, nor is able to convert the love into
respect. This is the case with good nature, good humour, facility,
generosity, beauty, and many other qualities. These have a peculiar
aptitude to produce love in others; but not so great a tendency to excite
pride in ourselves: For which reason the view of them, as belonging to
another person, produces pure love, with but a small mixture of humility
and respect. It is easy to extend the same reasoning to the opposite

Before we leave this subject, it may not be amiss to account for a pretty
curious phaenomenon, viz, why we commonly keep at a distance such as we
contemn, and allow not our inferiors to approach too near even in place
and situation. It has already been observed, that almost every kind of
idea is attended with some emotion, even the ideas of number and
extension, much more those of such objects as are esteemed of consequence
in life, and fix our attention. It is not with entire indifference we can
survey either a rich man or a poor one, but must feel some faint touches
at least, of respect in the former case, and of contempt in the latter.
These two passions are contrary to each other; but in order to make this
contrariety be felt, the objects must be someway related; otherwise the
affections are totally separate and distinct, and never encounter. The
relation takes place wherever the persons become contiguous; which is a
general reason why we are uneasy at seeing such disproportioned objects,
as a rich man and a poor one, a nobleman and a porter, in that situation.

This uneasiness, which is common to every spectator, must be more
sensible to the superior; and that because the near approach of the
inferior is regarded as .a piece of illbreeding, and shews that he is not
sensible of the disproportion, and is no way affected by it. A sense of
superiority in another breeds in all men an inclination to keep
themselves at a distance from him, and determines them to redouble the
marks of respect and reverence, when they are obliged to approach him;
and where they do not observe that conduct, it is a proof they are not
sensible of his superiority. From hence too it proceeds, that any great
difference in the degrees of any quality is called a distance by a common
metaphor, which, however trivial it may appear, is founded on natural
principles of the imagination. A great difference inclines us to produce
a distance. The ideas of distance and difference are, therefore,
connected together. Connected ideas are readily taken for each other; and
this is in general the source of the metaphor, as we shall have occasion
to observe afterwards.


Of all the compound passions, which proceed from a mixture of love and
hatred with other affections, no one better deserves our attention, than
that love, which arises betwixt the sexes, as well on account of its
force and violence, as those curious principles of philosophy, for which
it affords us an uncontestable argument. It is plain, that this affection,
in its most natural state, is derived from the conjunction of three
different impressions or passions, viz. The pleasing sensation arising
from beauty; the bodily appetite for generation; and a generous kindness
or good-will. The origin of kindness from beauty may be explained from
the foregoing reasoning. The question is how the bodily appetite is
excited by it.

The appetite of generation, when confined to a certain degree, is
evidently of the pleasant kind, and has a strong connexion with, all the
agreeable emotions. Joy, mirth. vanity, and kindness are all incentives
to this desire; as well as music, dancing, wine, and good cheer. On the
other hand, sorrow, melancholy, poverty, humility are destructive of it.
From this quality it is easily conceived why it should be connected with
the sense of beauty.

But there is another principle that contributes to the same effect. I
have observed that the parallel direction of the desires is a real
relation, and no less than a resemblance in their sensation, produces a
connexion among them. That we may fully comprehend the extent of this
relation, we must consider, that any principal desire may be attended
with subordinate ones, which are connected with it, and to which if other
desires are parallel, they are by that means related to the principal
one. Thus hunger may oft be considered as the primary inclination of the
soul, and the desire of approaching the meat as the secondary one; since
it is absolutely necessary to the satisfying that appetite. If an object,
therefore, by any separate qualities, inclines us to approach the meat,
it naturally encreases our appetite; as on the contrary, whatever
inclines us to set our victuals at a distance, is contradictory to
hunger, and diminishes our inclination to them. Now it is plain that
beauty has the first effect, and deformity the second: Which is the
reason why the former gives us a keener appetite for our victuals, and
the latter is sufficient to disgust us at the most savoury dish. that
cookery has invented. All this is easily applicable to the appetite for

From these two relations, viz, resemblance and a parallel desire, there
arises such a connexion betwixt the sense of beauty, the bodily appetite,
and benevolence, that they become in a manner inseparable: And we find
from experience that it is indifferent which of them advances first; since
any of them is almost sure to be attended with the related affections.
One, who is inflamed with lust, feels at least a momentary kindness
towards the object of it, and at the same time fancies her more beautiful
than ordinary; as there are many, who begin with kindness and esteem for
the wit and merit of the person, and advance from that to the other
passions. But the most common species of love is that which first arises
from beauty, and afterwards diffuses itself into kindness and into the
bodily appetite. Kindness or esteem, and the appetite to generation, are
too remote to unite easily together. The one is, perhaps, the most
refined passion of the soul; the other the most gross and vulgar. The
love of beauty is placed in a just medium betwixt them, and partakes of
both their natures: From whence it proceeds, that it is so singularly
fitted to produce both.

This account of love is not peculiar to my system, but is unavoidable on
any hypothesis. The three affections, which compose this passion, are
evidently distinct, and has each of them its distinct object. It is
certain, therefore, that it is only by their relation they produce each
other. But the relation of passions is not alone sufficient. It is
likewise necessary, there should be a relation of ideas. The beauty of one
person never inspires us with love for another. This then is a sensible
proof of the double relation of impressions and ideas. From one instance
so evident as this we may form a judgment of the rest.

This may also serve in another view to illustrate what I have insisted on
concerning the origin of pride and humility, love and hatred. I have
observed, that though self be the object of the first set of passions, and
some other person of the second, yet these objects cannot alone be the
causes of the passions; as having each of them a relation to two contrary
affections, which must from the very first moment destroy each other.
Here then is the situation of the mind, as I have already described it.
It has certain organs naturally fitted to produce a passion; that
passion, when produced, naturally turns the view to a certain object. But
this not being sufficient to produce the passion, there is required some
other emotion, which by a double relation of impressions and ideas may
set these principles in action, and bestow on them their first impulse.
This situation is still more remarkable with regard to the appetite of
generation. Sex is not only the object, but also the cause of the
appetite. We not only turn our view to it, when actuated by that
appetite; but the reflecting on it suffices to excite the appetite. But
as this cause loses its force by too great frequency, it is necessary it
should be quickened by some new impulse; and that impulse we find to
arise from the beauty of the person; that is, from a double relation of
impressions and ideas. Since this double relation is necessary where an
affection has both a distinct cause, and object, how much more so, where
it has only a distinct object, without any determinate cause?


But to pass from the passions of love and hatred, and from their mixtures
and compositions, as they appear m man, to the same affections, as they
display themselves in brutes; we may observe, not only that love and
hatred are common to the whole sensitive creation, but likewise that
their causes, as above-explained, are of so simple a nature, that they
may easily be supposed to operate on mere animals. There is no force of
reflection or penetration required. Every thing is conducted by springs
and principles, which are not peculiar to man, or any one species of
animals. The conclusion from this is obvious in favour of the foregoing

Love in animals, has not for its only object animals of the same species,
but extends itself farther, and comprehends almost every sensible and
thinking being. A dog naturally loves a man above his own species, and
very commonly meets with a return of affection.

As animals are but little susceptible either of the pleasures or pains of
the imagination, they can judge of objects only by the sensible good or
evil, which they produce, and from that must regulate their affections
towards them. Accordingly we find, that by benefits or injuries we
produce their love or hatred; and that by feeding and cherishing any
animal, we quickly acquire his affections; as by beating and abusing him
we never fail to draw on us his enmity and ill-will.

Love in beasts is not caused so much by relation, as in our species; and
that because their thoughts are not so active as to trace relations,
except in very obvious instances. Yet it is easy to remark, that on some
occasions it has a considerable influence upon them. Thus acquaintance,
which has the same effect as relation, always produces love in animals
either to men or to each other. For the same reason any likeness among
them is the source of affection. An ox confined to a park with horses,
will naturally join their company, if I may so speak, but always leaves
it to enjoy that of his own species, where he has the choice of both.

The affection of parents to their young proceeds from a peculiar instinct
in animals, as well as in our species.

It is evident, that sympathy, or the communication of passions, takes
place among animals, no less than among men. Fear, anger, courage, and
other affections are frequently communicated from one animal to another,
without their knowledge of that cause, which produced the original
passion. Grief likewise is received by sympathy; and produces almost all
the same consequences, and excites the same emotions as in our species.
The howlings and lamentations of a dog produce a sensible concern in his
fellows. And it is remarkable, that though almost all animals use in play
the same member, and nearly the same action as in fighting; a lion, a
tyger, a cat their paws; an ox his horns; a dog his teeth; a horse his
heels: Yet they most carefully avoid harming their companion, even though
they have nothing to fear from his resentment; which is an evident proof
of the sense brutes have of each other's pain and pleasure.

Every one has observed how much more dogs are animated when they hunt in
a pack, than when they pursue their game apart; and it is evident this can
proceed from nothing but from sympathy. It is also well known to hunters,
that this effect follows in a greater degree, and even in too .great a
degree, where two packs, that are strangers to each other, are joined
together. We might, perhaps, be at a loss to explain this phaenomenon, if
we had not experience of a similar in ourselves.

Envy and malice are passions very remarkable in animals. They are perhaps
more common than pity; as requiring less effort of thought and



We come now to explain the direct passions, or the impressions, which
arise immediately from good or evil, from pain or pleasure. Of this kind
are, desire and aversion, grief and joy, hope and fear.

Of all the immediate effects of pain and pleasure, there is none more
remarkable than the WILL; and though properly speaking, it be not
comprehended among the passions, yet as the full understanding of its
nature and properties, is necessary to the explanation of them, we shall
here make it the subject of our enquiry. I desire it may be observed,
that by the will, I mean nothing but the internal impression we feel and
are conscious of, when we knowingly give rise to any new motion of our
body, or new perception of our mind. This impression, like the preceding
ones of pride and humility, love and hatred, it is impossible to define,
and needless to describe any farther; for which reason we shall cut off
all those definitions and distinctions, with which philosophers are wont
to perplex rather than dear up this question; and entering at first upon
the subject, shall examine that long disputed question concerning liberty
and necessity; which occurs so naturally in treating of the will.

It is universally acknowledged, that the operations of external bodies are
necessary, and that in the communication of their motion, in their
attraction, and mutual cohesion, there are nor the least traces of
indifference or liberty. Every object is determined by an absolute fate
toa certain degree and direction of irs motion, and can no more depart
from that precise line, in which it moves, than it can convert itself
into an angel, or spirit, or any superior substance. The actions,
therefore, of matter are to be regarded as instances of necessary
actions; and whatever is in this respect on the same footing with matter,
must be acknowledged to be necessary. That we may know whether this be
the case with the actions of the mind, we shall begin with examining
matter, and considering on what the idea of a necessity in its operations
are founded, and why we conclude one body or action to be the infallible
cause of another.

It has been observed already, that in no single instance the ultimate
connexion of any objects is discoverable, either by our senses or reason,
and that we can never penetrate so far into the essence and construction
of bodies, as to perceive the principle, on which their mutual influence
depends. It is their constant union alone, with which we are acquainted;
and it is from the constant union the necessity arises. If objects had nor
an uniform and regular conjunction with each other, we should never
arrive at any idea of cause and effect; and even after all, the
necessity, which enters into that idea, is nothing but a determination of
the mind to pass from one object to its usual attendant, and infer the
existence of one from that of the other. Here then are two particulars,
which we are to consider as essential to necessity, viz, the constant
union and the inference of the mind; and wherever we discover these we
must acknowledge a necessity. As the actions of matter have no necessity,
but what is derived from these circumstances, and it is not by any
insight into the essence of bodies we discover their connexion, the
absence of this insight, while the union and inference remain, will
never, in any case, remove the necessity. It is the observation of the
union, which produces the inference; for which reason it might be thought
sufficient, if we prove a constant union in the actions of the mind, in
order to establish the inference, along with the necessity of these
actions. But that I may bestow a greater force on my reasoning, I shall
examine these particulars apart, and shall first prove from experience
that our actions have a constant union with our motives, tempers, and
circumstances, before I consider the inferences we draw from it.

To this end a very slight and general view of the common course of human
affairs will be sufficient. There is no light, in which we can take them,
that does nor confirm this principle. Whether we consider mankind
according to the difference of sexes, ages, governments, conditions, or
methods of education; the same uniformity and regular operation of
natural principles are discernible. Uke causes still produce like
effects; in the same manner as in the mutual action of the elements and
powers of nature.

There are different trees, which regularly produce fruit, whose relish is
different from each other; and this regularity will be admitted as an
instance of necessity and causes in external bodies. But are the products
of Guienne and of Champagne more regularly different than the sentiments,
actions, and passions of the two sexes, of which the one are
distinguished by their force and maturity, the other by their delicacy
and softness?

Are the changes of our body from infancy to old age more regular and
certain than those of our mind and conduct? And would a man be more
ridiculous, who would expect that an infant of four years old will raise
a weight of three hundred pound, than one, who from a person of the same
age. would look for a philosophical reasoning, or a prudent and
well-concerted action?

We must certainly allow, that the cohesion of the parts of matter arises
from natural and necessary principles, whatever difficulty we may find in
explaining them: And for a reason we must allow, that human society is
founded on like principles; and our reason in the latter case, is better
than even that in the former; because we not only observe, that men
always seek society, but can also explain the principles, on which this
universal propensity is founded. For is it more certain, that two flat
pieces of marble will unite together, than that two young savages of
different sexes will copulate? Do the children arise from this copulation
more uniformly, than does the parents care for their safety and
preservation? And after they have arrived at years of discretion by the
care of their parents, are the inconveniencies attending their separation
more certain than their foresight of these inconveniencies and their care
of avoiding them by a close union and confederacy?

The skin, pores, muscles, and nerves of a day-labourer are different from
those of a man of quality: So are his sentiments, actions and manners.
The different stations of life influence the whole fabric, external and
internal; and different stations arise necessarily, because uniformly,
from the necessary and uniform principles of human nature. Men cannot
live without society, and cannot be associated without government.
Government makes a distinction of property, and establishes the different
ranks of men. This produces industry, traffic, manufactures, law-suits,
war, leagues, alliances, voyages, travels, cities, fleets, ports, and all
those other actions and objects, which cause such a diversity, and at the
same time maintain such an uniformity in human life.

Should a traveller, returning from a far country, tell us, that he had
seen a climate in the fiftieth degree of northern latitude, where all the
fruits ripen and come to perfection in the winter, and decay in the
summer, after the same manner as in England they are produced and decay
in the contrary seasons, he would find few so credulous as to believe
him. I am apt to think a travellar would meet with as little credit, who
should inform us of people exactly of the same character with those in
Plato's republic on the one hand, or those in Hobbes's Leviathan on the
other. There is a general course of nature in human actions, as well as
in the operations of the sun and the climate. There are also characters
peculiar to different nations and particular persons, as well as common
to mankind. The knowledge of these characters is founded on the
observation of an uniformity in the actions, that flow from them; and
this uniformity forms the very essence of necessity.

I can imagine only one way of eluding this argument, which is by denying
that uniformity of human actions, on which it is founded. As long as
actions have a constant union and connexion with the situation and temper
of the agent, however we may in words refuse to acknowledge the
necessity, we really allow the thing. Now some may, perhaps, find a
pretext to deny this regular union and connexion. For what is more
capricious than human actions? What more inconstant than the desires of
man? And what creature departs more widely, not only from right reason,
but from his own character and disposition? An hour, a moment is
sufficient to make him change from one extreme to another, and overturn
what cost the greatest pain and labour to establish. Necessity is regular
and certain. Human conduct is irregular and uncertain. The one,
therefore, proceeds not from the other.

To this I reply, that in judging of the actions of men we must proceed
upon the same maxims, as when we reason concerning external objects. When
any phaenomena are constantly and invariably conjoined together, they
acquire such a connexion in the imagination, that it passes from one to
the other, without any doubt or hesitation. But below this there are many
inferior degrees of evidence and probability, nor does one single
contrariety of experiment entirely destroy all our reasoning. The mind
ballances the contrary experiments, and deducting the inferior from the
superior, proceeds with that degree of assurance or evidence, which
remains. Even when these contrary experiments are entirely equal, we
remove not the notion of causes and necessity; but supposing that the
usual contrariety proceeds from the operation of contrary and concealed
causes, we conclude, that the chance or indifference lies only in our
judgment on account of our imperfect knowledge, not in the things
themselves, which are in every case equally necessary, though to
appearance not equally constant or certain. No union can be more constant
and certain, than that of some actions with some motives and characters;
and if in other cases the union is uncertain, it is no more than what
happens in the operations of body, nor can we conclude any thing from the
one irregularity, which will not follow equally from the other.

It is commonly allowed that mad-men have no liberty. But were we to judge
by their actions, these have less regularity and constancy than the
actions of wise-men, and consequently are farther removed from necessity.
Our way of thinking in this particular is, therefore, absolutely
inconsistent; but is a natural consequence of these confused ideas and
undefined terms, which we so commonly make use of in our reasonings,
especially on the present subject.

We must now shew, that as the union betwixt motives and actions has the
same constancy, as that in any natural operations, so its influence on
the understanding is also the same, in determining us to infer the
existence of one from that of another. If this shall appear, there is no
known circumstance, that enters into the connexion and production of the
actions of matter, that is not to be found in all the operations of the
mind; and consequently we cannot, without a manifest absurdity, attribute
necessity to the one, and refuse into the other.

There is no philosopher, whose judgment is so riveted to this fantastical
system of liberty, as not to acknowledge the force of moral evidence, and
both in speculation and practice proceed upon it, as upon a reasonable
foundation. Now moral evidence is nothing but a conclusion concerning the
actions of men, derived from the consideration of their motives, temper
and situation. Thus when we see certain characters or figures described
upon paper, we infer that the person, who produced them, would affirm
such facts, the death of Caesar, the success of Augustus, the cruelty of
Nero; and remembering many other concurrent testimonies we conclude, that
those facts were once really existant, and that so many men, without any
interest, would never conspire to deceive us; especially since they must,
in the attempt, expose themselves to the derision of all their
contemporaries, when these facts were asserted to be recent and
universally known. The same kind of reasoning runs through politics, war,
commerce, economy, and indeed mixes itself so entirely in human life,
that it is impossible to act or subsist a moment without having recourse
to it. A prince, who imposes a tax upon his subjects, expects their
compliance. A general, who conducts an army, makes account of a certain
degree of courage. A merchant looks for fidelity and skill in his factor
or super-cargo. A man, who gives orders for his dinner, doubts not of the
obedience of his servants. In short, as nothing more nearly interests us
than our own actions and those of others, the greatest part of our
reasonings is employed in judgments concerning them. Now I assert, that
whoever reasons after this manner, does ipso facto believe the actions of
the will to arise from necessity, and that he knows not what he means,
when he denies it.

All those objects, of which we call the one cause and the other effect,
considered in themselves, are as distinct and separate from each other,
as any two things in nature, nor can we ever, by the most accurate survey
of them, infer the existence of the one from that of the other. It is only
from experience and the observation of their constant union, that we are
able to form this inference; and even after all, the inference is nothing
but the effects of custom on the imagination. We must not here be content
with saying, that the idea of cause and effect arises from objects
constantly united; but must affirm, that it is the very same with the idea
of those objects, and that the necessary connexion is not discovered by a
conclusion of the understanding, but is merely a perception of the mind.
Wherever, therefore, we observe the same union, and wherever the union
operates in the same manner upon the belief and opinion, we have the idea
of causes and necessity, though perhaps we may avoid those expressions.
Motion in one body in all past instances, that have fallen under our
observation, is followed upon impulse by motion in another. It is
impossible for the mind to penetrate farther. From this constant union it
forms the idea of cause and effect, and by its influence feels the
necessity. As there is the same constancy, and the same influence in what
we call moral evidence, I ask no more. What remains can only be a dispute
of words.

And indeed, when we consider how aptly natural and moral evidence cement
together, and form only one chain of argument betwixt them, we shall make
no scruple to allow, that they are of the same nature, and derived from
the same principles. A prisoner, who has neither money nor interest,
discovers the impossibility of his escape, as well from the obstinacy of
the goaler, as from the walls and bars with which he is surrounded; and
in all attempts for his freedom chuses rather to work upon the stone and
iron of the one, than upon the inflexible nature of the other. The same
prisoner, when conducted to the scaffold, foresees his death as certainly
from the constancy and fidelity of his guards as from the operation of
the ax or wheel. His mind runs along a certain train of ideas: The
refusal of the soldiers to consent to his escape, the action of the
executioner; the separation of the head and body; bleeding, convulsive
motions, and death. Here is a connected chain of natural causes and
voluntary actions; but the mind feels no difference betwixt them in
passing from one link to another; nor is less certain of the future event
than if it were connected with the present impressions of the memory and
senses by a train of causes cemented together by what we are pleased to
call a physical necessity. The same experienced union has the same effect
on the mind, whether the united objects be motives, volitions and
actions; or figure and motion. We may change the names of things; but
their nature and their operation on the understanding never change.

I dare be positive no one will ever endeavour to refute these reasonings
otherwise than by altering my definitions, and assigning a different
meaning to the terms of cause, and effect, and necessity, and liberty,
and chance. According to my definitions, necessity makes an essential
part of causation; and consequently liberty, by removing necessity,
removes also causes, and is the very same thing with chance. As chance is
commonly thought to imply a contradiction, and is at least directly
contrary to experience, there are always the same arguments against
liberty or free-will. If any one alters the definitions, I cannot pretend
to argue with him, until I know the meaning he assigns to these terms.


I believe we may assign the three following reasons for the prevalance of
the doctrine of liberty, however absurd it may be in one sense, and
unintelligible in any other. First, After we have performed any action;
though we confess we were influenced by particular views and motives; it
is difficult for us to persuade ourselves we were governed by necessity,
and that it was utterly impossible for us to have acted otherwise; the
idea of necessity seeming to imply something of force, and violence, and
constraint, of which we are not sensible. Few are capable of
distinguishing betwixt the liberty of spontaniety, as it is called in the
schools, and the liberty of indifference; betwixt that which is opposed
to violence, and that which means a negation of necessity and causes. The
first is even the most common sense of the word; and as it is only that
species of liberty, which it concerns us to preserve, our thoughts have
been principally turned towards it, and have almost universally
confounded it with the other.

Secondly, There is a false sensation or experience even of the liberty of
indifference; which is regarded as an argument for its real existence.
The necessity of any action, whether of matter or of the mind, is not
properly a quality in the agent, but in any thinking or intelligent
being, who may consider the action, and consists in the determination of
his thought to infer its existence from some preceding objects: As
liberty or chance, on the other hand, is nothing but the want of that
determination, and a certain looseness, which we feel in passing or not
passing from the idea of one to that of the other. Now we may observe,
that though in reflecting on human actions we seldom feel such a looseness
or indifference, yet it very commonly happens, that in performing the
actions themselves we are sensible of something like it: And as all
related or resembling objects are readily taken for each other, this has
been employed as a demonstrative or even an intuitive proof of human
liberty. We feel that our actions are subject to our will on most
occasions, and imagine we feel that the will itself is subject to
nothing; because when by a denial of it we are provoked to try, we feel
that it moves easily every way, and produces an image of itself even on
that side, on which it did not settle. This image or faint motion, we
persuade ourselves, coued have been compleated into the thing itself;
because, should that be denyed, we find, upon a second trial, that it
can. But these efforts are all in vain; and whatever capricious and
irregular actions we may perform; as the desire of showing our liberty is
the sole motive of our actions; we can never free ourselves from the
bonds of necessity. We may imagine we feel a liberty within ourselves;
but a spectator can commonly infer our actions from our motives and
character; and even where he cannot, he concludes in general, that he
might, were he perfectly acquainted with every circumstance of our
situation and temper, and the most secret springs of our complexion and
disposition. Now this is the very essence of necessity, according to the
foregoing doctrine.

A third reason why the doctrine of liberty has generally been better
received in the world, than its antagonist, proceeds from religion, which
has been very unnecessarily interested in this question. There is no
method of reasoning more common, and yet none more blameable, than in
philosophical debates to endeavour to refute any hypothesis by a pretext
of its dangerous consequences to religion and morality. When any opinion
leads us into absurdities, it is certainly false; but it is not certain an
opinion is false, because it is of dangerous consequence. Such topics,
therefore, ought entirely to be foreborn, as serving nothing to the
discovery of truth, but only to make the person of an antagonist odious.
This I observe in general, without pretending to draw any advantage from
it. I submit myself frankly to an examination of this kind, and dare
venture to affirm, that the doctrine of necessity, according to my
explication of it, is not only innocent, but even advantageous to
religion and morality.

I define necessity two ways, conformable to the two definitions of cause,
of which it makes an essential part. I place it either in the constant
union and conjunction of like objects, or in the inference of the mind
from the one to the other. Now necessity, in both these senses, has
universally, though tacitely, in the schools, in the pulpit, and in common
life, been allowed to belong to the will of man, and no one has ever
pretended to deny, that we can draw inferences concerning human actions,
and that those inferences are founded on the experienced union of like
actions with like motives and circumstances. The only particular in which
any one can differ from me, is either, that perhaps he will refuse to
call this necessity. But as long as the meaning is understood, I hope the
word can do no harm. Or that he will maintain there is something else in
the operations of matter. Now whether it be so or not is of no
consequence to religion, whatever it may be to natural philosophy. I may
be mistaken in asserting, that we have no idea of any other connexion in
the actions of body, and shall be glad to be farther instructed on that
head: But sure I am, I ascribe nothing to the actions of the mind, but
what must readily be allowed of. Let no one, therefore, put an invidious
construction on my words, by saying simply, that I assert the necessity
of human actions, and place them on the same footing with the operations
of senseless matter. I do not ascribe to the will that unintelligible
necessity, which is supposed to lie in matter. But I ascribe to matter,
that intelligible quality, call it necessity or not, which the most
rigorous orthodoxy does or must allow to belong to the will. I change,
therefore, nothing in the received systems, with regard to the will, but
only with regard to material objects.

Nay I shall go farther, and assert, that this kind of necessity is so
essential to religion and morality, that without it there must ensue an
absolute subversion of both, and that every other supposition is entirely
destructive to all laws both divine and human. It is indeed certain, that
as all human laws are founded on rewards and punishments, it is supposed
as a fundamental principle, that these motives have an influence on the
mind, and both produce the good and prevent the evil actions. We may give
to this influence what name we please; but as it is usually conjoined with
the action, common sense requires it should be esteemed a cause, and be
booked upon as an instance of that necessity, which I would establish.

This reasoning is equally solid, when applied to divine laws, so far as
the deity is considered as a legislator, and is supposed to inflict
punishment and bestow rewards with a design to produce obedience. But I
also maintain, that even where he acts not in his magisterial capacity,
but is regarded as the avenger of crimes merely on account of their
odiousness and deformity, not only it is impossible, without the necessary
connexion of cause and effect in human actions, that punishments coued be
inflicted compatible with justice and moral equity; but also that it
coued ever enter into the thoughts of any reasonable being to inflict
them. The constant and universal object of hatred or anger is a person or
creature endowed with thought and consciousness; and when any criminal or
injurious actions excite that passion, it is only by their relation to the
person or connexion with him. But according to the doctrine of liberty or
chance, this connexion is reduced to nothing, nor are men more
accountable for those actions, which are designed and premeditated, than
for such as are the most casual and accidental. Actions are by their very
nature temporary and perishing; and where they proceed not from some
cause in the characters and disposition of the person, who performed
them, they infix not themselves upon him, and can neither redound to his
honour, if good, nor infamy, if evil. The action itself may be blameable;
it may be contrary to all the rules of morality and religion: But the
person is not responsible for it; and as it proceeded from nothing in
him, that is durable or constant, and leaves nothing of that nature
behind it, it is impossible he can, upon its account, become the object of
punishment or vengeance. According to the hypothesis of liberty,
therefore, a man is as pure and untainted, after having committed the
most horrid crimes, as at the first moment of his birth, nor is his
character any way concerned in his actions; since they are not derived
from it, and the wickedness of the one can never be used as a proof of
the depravity of the other. It is only upon the principles of necessity,
that a person acquires any merit or demerit from his actions, however the
common opinion may incline to the contrary.

But so inconsistent are men with themselves, that though they often
assert, that necessity utterly destroys all merit and demerit either
towards mankind or superior powers, yet they continue still to reason upon
these very principles of necessity in all their judgments concerning this
matter. Men are not blamed for such evil actions as they perform
ignorantly and casually, whatever may be their consequences. Why? but
because the causes of these actions are only momentary, and terminate in
them alone. Men are less blamed for such evil actions, as they perform
hastily and unpremeditately, than for such as proceed from thought and
deliberation. For what reason? but because a hasty temper, though a
constant cause in the mind, operates only by intervals, and infects not
the whole character. Again, repentance wipes off every crime, especially
if attended with an evident reformation of life and manners. How is this
to be accounted for? But by asserting that actions render a person
criminal, merely as they are proofs of criminal passions or principles in
the mind; and when by any alteration of these principles they cease to be
just proofs, they likewise cease to be criminal. But according to the
doctrine of liberty or chance they never were just proofs, and
consequently never were criminal.

Here then I turn to my adversary, and desire him to free his own system
from these odious consequences before he charge them upon others. Or if
he rather chuses, that this question should be decided by fair arguments
before philosophers, than by declamations before the people, let him
return to what I have advanced to prove that liberty and chance are
synonimous; and concerning the nature of moral evidence and the
regularity of human actions. Upon a review of these reasonings, I cannot
doubt of an entire victory; and therefore having proved, that all actions
of the will have particular causes, I proceed to explain what these
causes are, and how they operate.


Nothing is more usual in philosophy, and even in common life, than to
talk of the combat of passion and reason, to give the preference to
reason, and assert that men are only so far virtuous as they conform
themselves to its dictates. Every rational creature, it is said, is
obliged to regulate his actions by reason; and if any other motive or
principle challenge the direction of his conduct, he ought to oppose it,
till it be entirely subdued, or at least brought to a conformity with
that superior principle. On this method of thinking the greatest part of
moral philosophy, antient and modern, seems to be founded; nor is there
an ampler field, as well for metaphysical arguments, as popular
declamations, than this supposed pre-eminence of reason above passion.
The eternity, invariableness, and divine origin of the former have been
displayed to the best advantage: The blindness, unconstancy, and
deceitfulness of the latter have been as strongly insisted on. In order
to shew the fallacy of all this philosophy, I shall endeavour to prove
first, that reason alone can never be a motive to any action of the will;
and secondly, that it can never oppose passion in the direction of the

The understanding exerts itself after two different ways, as it judges
from demonstration or probability; as it regards the abstract relations
of our ideas, or those relations of objects, of which experience only
gives us information. I believe it scarce will be asserted, that the
first species of reasoning alone is ever the cause of any action. As its
proper province is the world of ideas, and as the will always places us
in that of realities, demonstration and volition seem, upon that account,
to be totally removed, from each other. Mathematics, indeed, are useful
in all mechanical operations, and arithmetic in almost every art and
profession: But it is not of themselves they have any influence: Mechanics
are the art of regulating the motions of bodies to some designed end or
purpose; and the reason why we employ arithmetic in fixing the
proportions of numbers, is only that we may discover the proportions of
their influence and operation. A merchant is desirous of knowing the sum
total of his accounts with any person: Why? but that he may learn what
sum will have the same effects in paying his debt, and going to market,
as all the particular articles taken together. Abstract or demonstrative
reasoning, therefore, never influences any of our actions, but only as it
directs our judgment concerning causes and effects; which leads us to the
second operation of the understanding.

It is obvious, that when we have the prospect of pain or pleasure from any
object, we feel a consequent emotion of aversion or propensity, and are
carryed to avoid or embrace what will give us this uneasines or
satisfaction. It is also obvious, that this emotion rests not here, but
making us cast our view on every side, comprehends whatever objects are
connected with its original one by the relation of cause and effect. Here
then reasoning takes place to discover this relation; and according as
our reasoning varies, our actions receive a subsequent variation. But
it is evident in this case that the impulse arises not from reason, but is
only directed by it. It is from the prospect of pain or pleasure that the
aversion or propensity arises towards any object: And these emotions
extend themselves to the causes and effects of that object, as they are
pointed out to us by reason and experience. It can never in the least
concern us to know, that such objects are causes, and such others
effects, if both the causes and effects be indifferent to us. Where the
objects themselves do not affect us, their connexion can never give them
any influence; and it is plain, that as reason is nothing but the
discovery of this connexion, it cannot be by its means that the objects
are able to affect us.

Since reason alone can never produce any action, or give rise to
volition, I infer, that the same faculty is as incapable of preventing
volition, or of disputing the preference with any passion or emotion.
This consequence is necessary. It is impossible reason coued have the
latter effect of preventing volition, but by giving an impulse in a
contrary direction to our passion; and that impulse, had it operated
alone, would have been able to produce volition. Nothing can oppose or
retard the impulse of passion, but a contrary impulse; and if this
contrary impulse ever arises from reason, that latter faculty must have
an original influence on the will, and must be able to cause, as well as
hinder any act of volition. But if reason has no original influence, it is
impossible it can withstand any principle, which has such an efficacy, or
ever keep the mind in suspence a moment. Thus it appears, that the
principle, which opposes our passion, cannot be the same with reason, and
is only called so in an improper sense. We speak not strictly and
philosophically when we talk of the combat of passion and of reason.
Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never
pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them. As this opinion
may appear somewhat extraordinary, it may not be improper to confirm it
by some other considerations.

A passion is an original existence, or, if you will, modification of
existence, and contains not any representative quality, which renders it
a copy of any other existence or modification. When I am angry, I am
actually possest with the passion, and in that emotion have no more a
reference to any other object, than when I am thirsty, or sick, or more
than five foot high. It is impossible, therefore, that this passion can be
opposed by, or be contradictory to truth and reason; since this
contradiction consists in the disagreement of ideas, considered as
copies, with those objects, which they represent

What may at first occur on this head, is, that as nothing can be contrary
to truth or reason, except what has a reference to it, and as the
judgments of our understanding only have this reference, it must follow,
that passions can be contrary to reason only so far as they are
accompanyed with some judgment or opinion. According to this principle,
which is so obvious and natural, it is only in two senses, that any
affection can be called unreasonable. First, When a passion, such as hope
or fear, grief or joy, despair or security, is founded on the supposition
or the existence of objects, which really do not exist. Secondly, When in
exerting any passion in action, we chuse means insufficient for the
designed end, and deceive ourselves in our judgment of causes and
effects. Where a passion is neither founded on false suppositions, nor
chuses means insufficient for the end, the understanding can neither
justify nor condemn it. It is not contrary to reason to prefer the
destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. It is not
contrary to reason for me to chuse my total ruin, to prevent the least
uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me. It is as little
contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledgeed lesser good to my
greater, and have a more ardent affection for the former than the latter.
A trivial good may, from certain circumstances, produce a desire superior
to what arises from the greatest and most valuable enjoyment; nor is
there any thing more extraordinary in this, than in mechanics to see one
pound weight raise up a hundred by the advantage of its situation. In
short, a passion must be accompanyed with some false judgment. in order
to its being unreasonable; and even then it is not the passion, properly
speaking, which is unreasonable, but the judgment.

The consequences are evident. Since a passion can never, in any sense, be
called unreasonable, but when founded on a false supposition. or when it
chuses means insufficient for the designed end, it is impossible, that
reason and passion can ever oppose each other, or dispute for the
government of the will and actions. The moment we perceive the falshood
of any supposition, or the insufficiency of any means our passions yield
to our reason without any opposition. I may desire any fruit as of an
excellent relish; but whenever you convince me of my mistake, my longing
ceases. I may will the performance of certain actions as means of
obtaining any desired good; but as my willing of these actions is only
secondary, and founded on the supposition, that they are causes of the
proposed effect; as soon as I discover the falshood of that supposition,
they must become indifferent to me.

It is natural for one, that does not examine objects with a strict
philosophic eye, to imagine, that those actions of the mind are entirely
the same, which produce not a different sensation, and are not
immediately distinguishable to the feeling and perception. Reason, for
instance, exerts itself without producing any sensible emotion; and
except in the more sublime disquisitions of philosophy, or in the
frivolous subtilties of the school, scarce ever conveys any pleasure or
uneasiness. Hence it proceeds, that every action of the mind, which
operates with the same calmness and tranquillity, is confounded with
reason by all those, who judge of things from the first view and
appearance. Now it is certain, there are certain calm desires and
tendencies, which, though they be real passions, produce little emotion in
the mind, and are more known by their effects than by the immediate
feeling or sensation. These desires are of two kinds; either certain
instincts originally implanted in our natures, such as benevolence and
resentment, the love of life, and kindness to children; or the general
appetite to good, and aversion to evil, considered merely as such. When
any of these passions are calm, and cause no disorder in the soul, they
are very readily taken for the determinations of reason, and are supposed
to proceed from the same faculty, with that, which judges of truth and
falshood. Their nature and principles have been supposed the same,
because their sensations are not evidently different.

Beside these calm passions, which often determine the will, there are
certain violent emotions of the same kind, which have likewise a great
influence on that faculty. When I receive any injury from another, I
often feel a violent passion of resentment, which makes me desire his
evil and punishment, independent of all considerations of pleasure and
advantage to myself. When I am immediately threatened with any grievous
ill, my fears, apprehensions, and aversions rise to a great height, and
produce a sensible emotion.

The common error of metaphysicians has lain in ascribing the direction of
the will entirely to one of these principles, and supposing the other to
have no influence. Men often act knowingly against their interest: For
which reason the view of the greatest possible good does not always
influence them. Men often counter-act a violent passion in prosecution of
their interests and designs: It is not therefore the present uneasiness
alone, which determines them. In general we may observe, that both these
principles operate on the will; and where they are contrary, that either
of them prevails, according to the general character or present
disposition of the person. What we call strength of mind, implies the
prevalence of the calm passions above the violent; though we may easily
observe, there is no man so constantly possessed of this virtue, as never
on any occasion to yield to the sollicitations of passion and desire.
From these variations of temper proceeds the great difficulty of deciding
concerning the actions and resolutions of men, where there is any
contrariety of motives and passions.


There is not-in philosophy a subject of more nice speculation than this
of the different causes and effects of the calm and violent passions.
It is evident passions influence not the will in proportion to their
violence, or the disorder they occasion in the temper; but on the
contrary, that when a passion has once become a settled principle of
action, and is the predominant inclination of the soul, it commonly
produces no longer any sensible agitation. As repeated custom and its own
force have made every thing yield to it, it directs the actions and
conduct without that opposition and emotion, which so naturally attend
every momentary gust of passion. We must, therefore, distinguish betwixt
a calm and a weak passion; betwixt a violent and a strong one. But
notwithstanding this, it is certain, that when we would govern a man, and
push him to any action, it will commonly be better policy to work upon the
violent than the calm passions, and rather take him by his inclination,
than what is vulgarly called his reason. We ought to place the object in
such particular situations as are proper to encrease the violence of the
passion. For we may observe, that all depends upon the situation of the
object, and that a variation in this particular will be able to change
the calm and the violent passions into each other. Both these kinds of
passions pursue good, and avoid evil; and both of them are encreased or
diminished by the encrease or diminution of the good or evil. But herein
lies the difference betwixt them: The same good, when near, will cause a
violent passion, which, when remote, produces only a calm one. As this
subject belongs very properly to the present question concerning the
will, we shall here examine it to the bottom, and shall consider some of
those circumstances and situations of objects, which render a passion
either calm or violent.

It is a remarkable property of human nature, that any emotion, which
attends a passion, is easily converted into it, though in their natures
they be originally different from, and even contrary to each other. It is
true; in order to make a perfect union among passions, there is always
required a double relation of impressions and ideas; nor is one relation
sufficient for that purpose. But though this be confirmed by undoubted
experience, we must understand it with its proper limitations, and must
regard the double relation, as requisite only to make one passion produce
another. When two passions are already produced by their separate causes,
and are both present in the mind, they readily mingle and unite, though
they have but one relation, and sometimes without any. The predominant
passion swallows up the inferior, and converts it into itself. The
spirits, when once excited, easily receive a change in their direction;
and it is natural to imagine this change will come from the prevailing
affection. The connexion is in many respects closer betwixt any two
passions, than betwixt any passion and indifference.

When a person is once heartily in love, the little faults and caprices of
his mistress, the jealousies and quarrels, to which that commerce is so
subject; however unpleasant and related to anger and hatred; are yet
found to give additional force to the prevailing passion. It is a common
artifice of politicians, when they would affect any person very much by a
matter of fact, of which they intend to inform him, first to excite his
curiosity; delay as long as possible the satisfying it; and by that means
raise his anxiety and impatience to the utmost, before they give him a
full insight into the business. They know that his curiosity will
precipitate him into the passion they design to raise, and assist the
object in its influence on the mind. A soldier advancing to the battle,
is naturally inspired with courage and confidence, when he thinks on his
friends and fellow-soldiers; and is struck with fear and terror, when he
reflects on the enemy. Whatever new emotion, therefore, proceeds from the
former naturally encreases the courage; as the same emotion, proceeding
from the latter, augments the fear; by the relation of ideas, and the
conversion of the inferior emotion into the predominant. Hence it is that
in martial discipline, the uniformity and lustre of our habit, the
regularity of our figures and motions, with all the pomp and majesty of
war, encourage ourselves and allies; while the same objects in the enemy
strike terror into us, though agreeable and beautiful in themselves.

Since passions, however independent, are naturally transfused into each
other, if they are both present at the same time; it follows, that when
good or evil is placed in such a situation, as to cause any particular
emotion, beside its direct passion of desire or aversion, that latter
passion must acquire new force and violence.

This happens, among other cases, whenever any object excites contrary
passions. For it is observable that an opposition of passions commonly
causes a new emotion in the spirits, and produces more disorder, than the
concurrence of any two affections of equal force. This new emotion is
easily converted into the predominant passion, and encreases its
violence, beyond the pitch it would have arrived at had it met with no
opposition. Hence we naturally desire what is forbid, and take a pleasure
in performing actions, merely because they are unlawful. The notion of
duty, when opposite to the passions, is seldom able to overcome them; and
when it fails of that effect, is apt rather to encrease them, by
producing an opposition in our motives and principles. The same effect
follows whether the opposition arises from internal motives or external
obstacles. The passion commonly acquires new force and violence in both

The efforts, which the mind makes to surmount the obstacle, excite the
spirits and inliven the passion.

Uncertainty has the same influence as opposition. The agitation of the
thought; the quick turns it makes from one view to another; the variety
of passions, which succeed each other, according to the different views;
All these produce an agitation in the mind, and transfuse themselves into
the predominant passion.

There is not in my opinion any other natural cause, why security
diminishes the passions, than because it removes that uncertainty, which
encreases them. The mind, when left to itself, immediately languishes;
and in order to preserve its ardour, must be every moment supported by a
new flow of passion. For the same reason, despair, though contrary to
security, has a like influence.

It is certain nothing more powerfully animates any affection, than to
conceal some part of its object by throwing it into a kind of shade,
which at the same time that it chews enough to pre-possess us in favour
of the object, leaves still some work for the imagination. Besides that
obscurity is always attended with a kind of uncertainty; the effort,
which the fancy makes to compleat the idea, rouzes the spirits, and gives
an additional force to the passion.

As despair and security, though contrary to each other, produce the same
effects; so absence is observed to have contrary effects, and in
different circumstances either encreases or diminishes our affections.
The Duc de La Rochefoucault has very well observed, that absence destroys
weak passions, but encreases strong; as the wind extinguishes a candle,
but blows up a fire. Long absence naturally weakens our idea, and
diminishes the passion: But where the idea is so strong and lively as to
support itself, the uneasiness, arising from absence, encreases the
passion and gives it new force and violence.


But nothing has a greater effect both to encrease and diminish our
passions, to convert pleasure into pain, and pain into pleasure, than
custom and repetition. Custom has two original effects upon the mind, in
bestowing a facility in the performance of any action or the conception
of any object; and afterwards a tendency or inclination towards it; and
from these we may account for all its other effects, however

When the soul applies itself to the performance of any action, or the
conception of any object, to which it is not accustomed, there is a
certain unpliableness in the faculties, and a difficulty of the spirit's
moving in their new direction. As this difficulty excites the spirits,
it is the source of wonder, surprize, and of all the emotions, which arise
from novelty; and is in itself very agreeable, like every thing, which
inlivens the mind to a moderate degree. But though surprize be agreeable
in itself, yet as it puts the spirits in agitation, it not only augments
our agreeable affections, but also our painful, according to the foregoing
principle, that every emotion, which precedes or attends a passion, is
easily converted into it. Hence every thing, that is new, is most
affecting, and gives us either more pleasure or pain, than what, strictly
speaking, naturally belongs to it. When it often returns upon us, the
novelty wears off; the passions subside; the hurry of the spirits is
over; and we survey the objects with greater tranquillity.

By degrees the repetition produces a facility of the human mind, and an
infallible source of pleasure, where the facility goes not beyond a
certain degree. And here it is remarkable that the pleasure, which arises
from a moderate facility, has not the same tendency with that which
arises from novelty, to augment the painful, as well as the agreeable
affections. The pleasure of facility does not so much consist in any
ferment of the spirits, as in their orderly motion; which will sometimes
be so powerful as even to convert pain into pleasure, and give us a
relish in time what at first was most harsh and disagreeable.

But again, as facility converts pain into pleasure, so it often converts
pleasure into pain, when it is too great, and renders the actions of the
mind so faint and languid, that they are no longer able to interest and
support it. And indeed, scarce any other objects become disagreeable
through custom; but such as are naturally attended with some emotion or
affection, which is destroyed by the too frequent repetition. One can
consider the clouds, and heavens, and trees, and stones, however
frequently repeated, without ever feeling any aversion. But when the fair
sex, or music, or good cheer, or any thing, that naturally ought to be
agreeable, becomes indifferent, it easily produces the opposite

But custom not only gives a facility to perform any action, but likewise
an inclination and tendency towards it, where it is not entirely
disagreeable, and can never be the object of inclination. And this is the
reason why custom encreases all active habits, but diminishes passive,
according to the observation of a late eminent philosopher. The facility
takes off from the force of the passive habits by rendering the motion of
the spirits faint and languid. But as in the active, the spirits are
sufficiently supported of themselves, the tendency of the mind gives them
new force, and bends them more strongly to the action.


It is remarkable, that the imagination and affections have close union
together, and that nothing, which affects the former, can be entirely
indifferent to the latter. Wherever our ideas of good or evil acquire a
new vivacity, the passions become more violent; and keep pace with the
imagination in all its variations. Whether this proceeds from the
principle above-mentioned, that any attendant emotion is easily converted
into the predominant, I shall not determine. It is sufficient for my
present purpose, that we have many instances to confirm this influence of
the imagination upon the passions.

Any pleasure, with which we are acquainted, affects us more than any
other, which we own to be superior, but of whose nature we are wholly
ignorant. Of the one we can form a particular and determinate idea: The
other we conceive under the general notion of pleasure; and it is certain,
that the more general and universal any of our ideas are, the less
influence they have upon the imagination. A general idea, though it be
nothing but a particular one considered in a certain view, is commonly
more obscure; and that because no particular idea, by which we represent
a general one, is ever fixed or determinate, but may easily be changed
for other particular ones, which will serve equally in the

There is a noted passage in the history of Greece, which may serve for
our present purpose. Themistocles told the Athenians, that he had formed
a design, which would be highly useful to the public, but which it was
impossible for him to communicate to them without ruining the execution,
since its success depended entirely on the secrecy with which it should
be conducted. The Athenians, instead of granting him full power to act as
he thought fitting, ordered him to communicate his design to Aristides,
in whose prudence they had an entire confidence, and whose opinion they
were resolved blindly to submit to. The design of Themistocles was
secretly to set fire to the fleet of all the Grecian commonwealths, which
was assembled in a neighbouring port, and which being once destroyed
would give the Athenians the empire of the sea without any rival
Aristides returned to the assembly, and told them, that nothing coued be
more advantageous than the design of Themistocles but at the same time
that nothing coued be more unjust: Upon which the people unanimously
rejected the project.

A late celebrated historian [Mons. Rollin {Charles Rollin,
HISTOIRE ANCIENNE.(Paris 1730-38)}.] admires this passage of antient
history, as one of the most singular that is any where to be met.

"Here," says he, "they are not philosophers, to whom it is easy in their
schools to establish the finest maxims and most sublime rules of
morality, who decide that interest ought never to prevail above justice.
It is a whole people interested in the proposal. which is made to them,
who consider it as of importance to the public good, and who
notwithstanding reject it unanimously, and without hesitation, merely
because it is contrary to justice."

For my part I see nothing so extraordinary in this proceeding of the
Athenians. The same reasons, which render it so easy for philosophers to
establish these sublime maxims, tend, in part, to diminish the merit of
such a conduct in that people. Philosophers never ballance betwixt profit
and honesty, because their decisions are general, and neither their
passions nor imaginations are interested in the objects. And though in the
present case the advantage was immediate to the Athenians, yet as it was
known only under the general notion of advantage, without being conceived
by any particular idea, it must have had a less considerable influence on
their imaginations, and have been a less violent temptation, than if they
had been acquainted with all its circumstances: Otherwise it is difficult
to conceive, that a whole people, unjust and violent as men commonly are,
should so unanimously have adhered to justice, and rejected any
considerable advantage.

Any satisfaction, which we lately enjoyed, and of which the memory is
fresh and recent, operates on the will with more violence, than another
of which the traces are decayed, and almost obliterated. From whence does
this proceed, but that the memory in the first case assists the fancy.
and gives an additional force and vigour to its conceptions? The image of
the past pleasure being strong and violent, bestows these qualities on
the idea of the future pleasure, which is connected with it by the
relation of resemblance.

A pleasure, which is suitable to the way of life, in which we are
engaged, excites more our desires and appetites than another, which is
foreign to it. This phaenomenon may be explained from the same principle.

Nothing is more capable of infusing any passion into the mind, than
eloquence, by which objects are represented in their strongest and most
lively colours. We may of ourselves acknowledge, that such an object is
valuable, and such another odious; but until an orator excites the
imagination, and gives force to these ideas, they may have but a feeble
influence either on the will or the affections.

But eloquence is not always necessary. The bare opinion of another,
especially when inforced with passion, will cause an idea of good or evil
to have an influence upon us, which would otherwise have been entirely
neglected. This proceeds from the principle of sympathy or communication;
and sympathy, as I have already observed, is nothing but the conversion
of an idea into an impression by the force of imagination.

It is remarkable, that lively passions commonly attend a lively
imagination. In this respect, as well as others, the force of the passion
depends as much on the temper of the person, as the nature or situation
of the object.

I have already observed, that belief is nothing but a lively idea related
to a present impression. This vivacity is a requisite circumstance to the
exciting all our passions, the calm as well as the violent; nor has a
mere fiction of the imagination any considerable influence upon either of
them. It is too weak to take hold of the mind, or be attended with


There is an easy reason, why every thing contiguous to us, either in
space or time, should be conceived with a peculiar force and vivacity,
and excel every other object, in its influence on the imagination.
Ourself is intimately present to us, and whatever is related to self must
partake of that quality. But where an object is so far removed as to have
lost the advantage of this relation, why, as it is farther removed, its
idea becomes still fainter and more obscure, would, perhaps, require a
more particular examination.

It is obvious, that the imagination can never totally forget the points of
space and time, in which we are existent; but receives such frequent
advertisements of them from the passions and senses, that however it may
turn its attention to foreign and remote objects, it is necessitated
every moment to reflect on the present. IOt is also remarkable, that in
the conception of those objects, which we regard as real and existent, we
take them in their proper order and situation, and never leap from one
object to another, which is distant from it, without running over, at
least in a cursory manner, all those objects, which are interposed
betwixt them. When we reflect, therefore, on any object distant from
ourselves, we are obliged not only to reach it at first by passing through
all the intermediate space betwixt ourselves and the object, but also to
renew our progress every moment; being every moment recalled to the
consideration of ourselves and our present situation. It is easily
conceived, that this interruption must weaken the idea by breaking the
action of the mind, and hindering the conception from being so intense
and continued, as when we reflect on a nearer object. The fewer steps we
make to arrive at the object, and the smoother the road is, this
diminution of vivacity is less sensibly felt, but still may be observed
more or less in proportion to the degrees of distance and difficulty.

Here then we are to consider two kinds of objects, the contiguous and
remote; of which the former, by means of their relation to ourselves,
approach an impression in force and vivacity; the latter by reason of the
interruption in our manner of conceiving them, appear in a weaker and
more imperfect light. This is their effect on the imagination. If my
reasoning be just, they must have a proportionable effect on the will and
passions. Contiguous objects must have an influence much superior to the
distant and remote. Accordingly we find in common life, that men are
principally concerned about those objects, which are not much removed
either in space or time, enjoying the present, and leaving what is afar
off to the care of chance and fortune. Talk to a man of his condition
thirty years hence, and he will not regard you. Speak of what is to
happen tomorrow, and he will lend you attention. The breaking of a mirror
gives us more concern when at home, than the burning of a house, when
abroad, and some hundred leagues distant.

But farther; though distance both in space and time has a considerable
effect on the imagination, and by that means on the will and passions,
yet the consequence of a removal in space are much inferior to those of a
removal in time. Twenty years are certainly but a small distance of time
in comparison of what history and even the memory of some may inform them
of, and yet I doubt if a thousand leagues, or even the greatest distance
of place this globe can admit of, will so remarkably weaken our ideas,
and diminish our passions. A West-Indian merchant will tell you, that he
is not without concern about what passes in Jamaica; though few extend
their views so far into futurity, as to dread very remote accidents.

The cause of this phaenomenon must evidently lie in the different
properties of space and time. Without having recourse to metaphysics, any
one may easily observe, that space or extension consists of a number of
co-existent parts disposed in a certain order, and capable of being at
once present to the sight or feeling. On the contrary, time or succession,
though it consists likewise of parts, never presents to us more
than one at once; nor is it possible for any two of them ever to be
co-existent. These qualities of the objects have a suitable effect on the
imagination. The parts of extension being susceptible of an union to the
senses, acquire an union in the fancy; and as the appearance of one part
excludes not another, the transition or passage of the thought through the
contiguous parts is by that means rendered more smooth and easy. On the
other hand, the incompatibility of the parts of time in their real
existence separates them in the imagination, and makes it more difficult
for that faculty to trace any long succession or series of events. Every
part must appear single and alone, nor can regularly have entrance into
the fancy without banishing what is supposed to have been immediately
precedent. By this means any distance in time causes a greater
interruption in the thought than an equal distance in space, and
consequently weakens more considerably the idea, and consequently the
passions; which depend in a great measure, on the imagination, according
to my system.

There is another phaenomenon of a like nature with the foregoing, viz,
the superior effects of the same distance in futurity above that in the
past. This difference with respect to the will is easily accounted for.
As none of our actions can alter the past, it is not strange it should
never determine the will. But with respect to the passions the question
is yet entire, and well worth the examining.

Besides the propensity to a gradual progression through the points of space
and time, we have another peculiarity in our method of thinking, which
concurs in producing this phaenomenon. We always follow the succession of
time in placing our ideas, and from the consideration of any object pass
more easily to that, which follows immediately after it, than to that
which went before it. We may learn this, among other instances, from the
order, which is always observed in historical narrations. Nothing but an
absolute necessity can oblige an historian to break the order of time,
and in his narration give the precedence to an event, which was in
reality posterior to another.

This will easily be applied to the question in hand, if we reflect on
what I have before observed, that the present situation of the person is
always that of the imagination, and that it is from thence we proceed to
the conception of any distant object. When the object is past, the
progression of the thought in passing to it from the present is contrary
to nature, as proceeding from one point of time to that which is
preceding, and from that to another preceding, in opposition to the
natural course of the succession. On the other hand, when we turn our
thought to a future object, our fancy flows along the stream of time, and
arrives at the object by an order, which seems most natural, passing
always from one point of time to that which is immediately posterior to
it. This easy progression of ideas favours the imagination, and makes it
conceive its object in a stronger and fuller light, than when we are
continually opposed in our passage, and are obliged to overcome the
difficulties arising from the natural propensity of the fancy. A small
degree of distance in the past has, therefore, a greater effect, in
interupting and weakening the conception, than a much greater in the
future. From this effect of it on the imagination is derived its
influence on the will and passions.

There is another cause, which both contributes to the same effect, and
proceeds from the same quality of the fancy, by which we are determined
to trace the succession of time by a similar succession of ideas. When
from the present instant we consider two points of time equally distant
in the future and in the past, it is evident, that, abstractedly
considered, their relation to the present is almost equal. For as the
future will sometime be present, so the past was once present. If we
coued, therefore, remove this quality of the imagination, an equal
distance in the past and in the future, would have a similar influence.
Nor is this only true, when the fancy remains fixed, and from the present
instant surveys the future and the past; but also when it changes its
situation, and places us in different periods of time. For as on the one
hand, in supposing ourselves existent in a point of time interposed
betwixt the present instant and the future object, we find the future
object approach to us, and the past retire, and become more distant: so
on the other hand, in supposing ourselves existent in a point of time
interposed betwixt the present and the past, the past approaches to us,
and the future becomes more distant. But from the property of the fancy
above-mentioned we rather chuse to fix our thought on the point of time
interposed betwixt the present and the future, than on that betwixt the
present and the past. We advance, rather than retard our existence; and
following what seems the natural succession of time, proceed from past to
present, and from present to future. By which means we conceive the
future as flowing every moment nearer us, and the past as retiring. An
equal distance, therefore, in the past and in the future, has not the
same effect on the imagination; and that because we consider the one as
continually encreasing, and the other as continually diminishing. The
fancy anticipates the course of things, and surveys the object in that
condition, to which it tends, as well as in that, which is regarded as
the present.


Thus we have accounted for three phaenomena, which seem pretty
remarkable. Why distance weakens the conception and passion: Why distance
in time has a greater effect than that in space: And why distance in past
time has still a greater effect than that in future. We must now consider
three phaenomena, which seem to be, in a manner, the reverse of these:
Why a very great distance encreases our esteem and admiration for an
object; Why such a distance in time encreases it more than that in space:
And a distance in past time more than that in future. The curiousness of
the subject will, I hope, excuse my dwelling on it for some time.

To begin with the first phaenomenon, why a great distance encreases our
esteem and admiration for an object; it is evident that the mere view and
contemplation of any greatness, whether successive or extended, enlarges
the soul, and give it a sensible delight and pleasure. A wide plain, the
ocean, eternity, a succession of several ages; all these are entertaining
objects, and excel every thing, however beautiful, which accompanies not
its beauty with a suitable greatness. Now when any very distant object is
presented to the imagination, we naturally reflect on the interposed
distance, and by that means, conceiving something great and magnificent,
receive the usual satisfaction. But as the fancy passes easily from one
idea to another related to it, and transports to the second all the
passions excited by the first, the admiration, which is directed to the
distance, naturally diffuses itself over the distant object. Accordingly
we find, that it is not necessary the object should be actually distant
from us, in order to cause our admiration; but that it is sufficient, if,
by the natural association of ideas, it conveys our view to any
considerable distance. A great traveller, though in the same chamber, will
pass for a very extraordinary person; as a Greek medal, even in our
cabinet, is always esteemed a valuable curiosity. Here the object, by a
natural transition, conveys our views to the distance; and the
admiration, which arises from that distance, by another natural
transition, returns back to the object.

But though every great distance produces an admiration for the distant
object, a distance in time has a more considerable effect than that in
space. Antient busts and inscriptions are more valued than Japan tables:
And not to mention the Greeks and Romans, it is certain we regard with
more veneration the old Chaldeans and Egyptians, than the modem Chinese
and Persians, and bestow more fruitless pains to dear up the history and
chronology of the former, than it would cost us to make a voyage, and be
certainly informed of the character, learning and government of the
latter. I shall be obliged to make a digression in order to explain this

It is a quality very observable in human nature, that any opposition,
which does not entirely discourage and intimidate us, has rather a
contrary effect, and inspires us with a more than ordinary grandeur and
magnanimity. In collecting our force to overcome the opposition, we
invigorate the soul, and give it an elevation with which otherwise it
would never have been acquainted. Compliance, by rendering our strength
useless, makes us insensible of it: but opposition awakens and employs it.

This is also true in the universe. Opposition not only enlarges the soul;
but the soul, when full of courage and magnanimity, in a manner seeks


[And, among the tamer beasts, [he] longs to be granted, in answer to his
prayers, a slavering boar, or to have a tawny lion come down from the

Whatever supports and fills the passions is agreeable to us; as on the
contrary, what weakens and infeebles them is uneasy. As opposition has
the first effect, and facility the second, no wonder the mind, in certain
dispositions, desires the former, and is averse to the latter.

These principles have an effect on the imagination as well as on the
passions. To be convinced of this we need only consider the influence of
heights and depths on that faculty. Any great elevation of place
communicates a kind of pride or sublimity of imagination, and gives a
fancyed superiority over those that lie below; and, vice versa, a sublime
and strong imagination conveys the idea of ascent and elevation. Hence it
proceeds, that we associate, in a manner, the idea of whatever is good
with that of height, and evil with low. ness. Heaven is supposed to be
above, and hell below. A noble genius is called an elevate and sublime
one. ATQUE UDAM SPERNIT HUMUM FUGIENTE PENNA. [Spurns the dank soil in
winged flight.] On the contrary, a vulgar and trivial conception is
stiled indifferently low or mean. Prosperity is denominated ascent, and
adversity descent. Kings and princes are supposed to be placed at the top
of human affairs; as peasants and day-labourers are said to be in the
lowest stations. These methods of thinking, and of expressing ourselves,
are not of so little consequence as they may appear at first sight.

It is evident to common sense, as well as philosophy, that there is no
natural nor essential difference betwixt high and low, and that this
distinction arises only from the gravitation of matter, which produces a
motion from the one to the other. The very same direction, which in this
part of the globe is called ascent, is denominated descent in our
antipodes; which can proceed from nothing but the contrary tendency of
bodies. Now it is certain, that the tendency of bodies, continually
operating upon our senses, must produce, from custom, a like tendency in
the fancy, and that when we consider any object situated in an ascent,
the idea of its weight gives us a propensity to transport it from the
place, in which it is situated, to the place immediately below it, and so
on, until we come to the ground, which equally stops the body and our
imagination. For a like reason we feel a difficulty in mounting, and pass
not without a kind of reluctance from the inferior to that which is
situated above it; as if our ideas acquired a kind of gravity from their
objects. As a proof of this, do we not find, that the facility, which is
so much studyed in music and poetry, is called the fail or cadency of the
harmony or period; the idea of facility communicating to us that of
descent, in the same manner as descent produces a facility?

Since the imagination, therefore, in running from low to high, finds an
opposition in its internal qualities and principles, and since the soul,
when elevated with joy and courage, in a manner seeks opposition, and
throws itself with alacrity into any scene of thought or action, where
its courage meets with matter to nourish and employ it; it follows, that
everything, which invigorates and inlivens the soul, whether by touching
the passions or imagination. naturally conveys to the fancy this
inclination for ascent, and determines it to run against the natural
stream of its thoughts and conceptions. This aspiring progress of the
imagination suits the present disposition of the mind; and the
difficulty, instead of extinguishing its vigour and alacrity, has the
contrary affect, of sustaining and encreasing it. Virtue, genius, power,
and riches are for this reason associated with height and sublimity; as
poverty, slavery, and folly are conjoined with descent and lowness. Were
the case the same with us as Milton represents it to be with the angels,
to whom descent is adverse, and who cannot sink without labour and
compulsion, this order of things would be entirely inverted; as appears
hence, that the very nature of ascent and descent is derived from the
difficulty and propensity, and consequently every one of their effects
proceeds from that origin.

All this is easily applied to the present question, why a considerable
distance in time produces a greater veneration for the distant objects
than a like removal in space. The imagination moves with more difficulty
in passing from one portion of time to another, than in a transition
through the parts of space; and that because space or extension appears
united to our senses, while time or succession is always broken and
divided. This difficulty, when joined with a small distance, interrupts
and weakens the fancy: But has a contrary effect in a great removal. The
mind, elevated by the vastness of its object, is still farther elevated
by the difficulty of the conception; and being obliged every moment to
renew its efforts in the transition from one part of time to another,
feels a more vigorous and sublime disposition, than in a transition
through the parts of space, where the ideas flow along with easiness and
facility. In this disposition, the imagination, passing, as is usual,
from the consideration of the distance to the view of the distant
objects, gives us a proportionable veneration for it; and this is the
reason why all the relicts of antiquity are so precious in our eyes, and
appear more valuable than what is brought even from the remotest parts of
the world.

The third phaenomenon I have remarked will be a full confirmation of
this. It is not every removal in time, which has the effect of producing
veneration and esteem. We are not apt to imagine our posterity will excel
us, or equal our ancestors. This phaenomenon is the more remarkable,
because any distance in futurity weakens not our ideas so much as an
equal removal in the past. Though a removal in the past, when very great,
encreases our passions beyond a like removal in the future, yet a small
removal has a greater influence in diminishing them.

In our common way of thinking we are placed in a kind of middle station
betwixt the past and future; and as our imagination finds a kind of
difficulty in running along the former, and a facility in following the
course of the latter, the difficulty conveys the notion of ascent, and
the facility of the contrary. Hence we imagine our ancestors to be, in a
manner, mounted above us, and our posterity to lie below us. Our fancy
arrives not at the one without effort, but easily reaches the other:
Which effort weakens the conception, where the distance is small; but
enlarges and elevates the imagination, when attended with a suitable
object. As on the other hand, the facility assists the fancy in a small
removal, but takes off from its force when it contemplates any
considerable distance.

It may not be improper, before we leave this subject of the will, to
resume, in a few words, all that has been said concerning it, in order to
set the whole more distinctly before the eyes of the reader. What we
commonly understand by passion is a violent and sensible emotion of mind,
when any good or evil is presented, or any object, which, by the original
formation of our faculties, is fitted to excite an appetite. By reason we
mean affections of the very same kind with the former; but such as
operate more calmly, and cause no disorder in the temper: Which
tranquillity leads us into a mistake concerning them, and causes us to
regard them as conclusions only of our intellectual faculties. Both the
causes and effects of these violent and calm passions are pretty
variable, and depend, in a great measure, on the peculiar temper and
disposition of every individual. Generally speaking, the violent passions
have a more powerful influence on the will; though it is often found, that
the calm ones, when corroborated by reflection, and seconded by
resolution, are able to controul them in their most furious movements.
What makes this whole affair more uncertain, is, that a calm passion may
easily be changed into a violent one, either by a change of temper, or of
the circumstances and situation of the object, as by the borrowing of
force from any attendant passion, by custom, or by exciting the
imagination. Upon the whole, this struggle of passion and of reason, as
it is called, diversifies human life, and makes men so different not only
from each other, but also from themselves in different times. Philosophy
can only account for a few of the greater and more sensible events of
this war; but must leave all the smaller and more delicate revolutions,
as dependent on principles too fine and minute for her comprehension.


It is easy to observe, that the passions, both direct and indirect, are
founded on pain and pleasure, and that in order to produce an affection
of any kind, it is only requisite to present some good or evil. Upon the
removal of pain and pleasure there immediately follows a removal of love
and hatred, pride and humility, desire and aversion, and of most of our
reflective or secondary impressions.

The impressions, which arise from good and evil most naturally, and with
the least preparation are the direct passions of desire and aversion,
grief and joy, hope and fear, along with volition. The mind by an
original instinct tends to unite itself with the good, and to avoid the
evil, though they be conceived merely in idea, and be considered as to
exist in any future period of time.

But supposing that there is an immediate impression of pain or pleasure,
and that arising from an object related to ourselves or others, this does
not prevent the propensity or aversion, with the consequent emotions, but
by concurring with certain dormant principles of the human mind, excites
the new impressions of pride or humility, love or hatred. That
propensity, which unites us to the object, or separates us from it, still
continues to operate, but in conjunction with the indirect passions,
which arise from a double relation of impressions and ideas.

These indirect passions, being always agreeable or uneasy, give in their
turn additional force to the direct passions, and encrease our desire and
aversion to the object. Thus a suit of fine cloaths produces pleasure
from their beauty; and this pleasure produces the direct passions, or the
impressions of volition and desire. Again, when these cloaths are
considered as belonging to ourself, the double relation conveys to us the
sentiment of pride, which is an indirect passion; and the pleasure, which
attends that passion, returns back to the direct affections, and gives
new force to our desire or volition, joy or hope.

When good is certain or probable, it produces joy. When evil is in the
same situation there arises GRIEF or SORROW.

When either good or evil is uncertain, it gives rise to FEAR or HOPE,
according to the degrees of uncertainty on the one side or the other.

DESIRE arises from good considered simply, and AVERSION is derived from
evil. The WILL exerts itself, when either the good or the absence of the
evil may be attained by any action of the mind or body.

Beside good and evil, or in other words, pain and pleasure, the direct
passions frequently arise from a natural impulse or instinct, which is
perfectly unaccountable. Of this kind is the desire of punishment to our
enemies, and of happiness to our friends; hunger, lust, and a few other
bodily appetites. These passions, properly speaking, produce good and
evil, and proceed not from them, like the other affections.

None of the direct affections seem to merit our particular attention,
except hope and fear, which we shall here endeavour to account for. It is
evident that the very same event, which by its certainty would produce
grief or joy, gives always rise to fear or hope, when only probable and
uncertain. In order, therefore, to understand the reason why this
circumstance makes such a considerable difference, we must reflect on
what I have already advanced in the preceding book concerning the nature
of probability.

Probability arises from an opposition of contrary chances or causes, by
which the mind is not allowed to fix on either side, but is incessantly
tost from one to another, and at one moment is determined to consider an
object as existent, and at another moment as the contrary. The
imagination or understanding, call it which you please, fluctuates
betwixt the opposite views; and though perhaps it may be oftener turned to
the one side than the other, it is impossible for it, by reason of the
opposition of causes or chances, to rest on either. The pro and con of
the question alternately prevail; and the mind, surveying the object in
its opposite principles, finds such a contrariety as utterly destroys all
certainty and established opinion.

Suppose, then, that the object, concerning whose reality we are doubtful,
is an object either of desire or aversion, it is evident, that, according
as the mind turns itself either to the one side or the other, it must
feel a momentary impression of joy or sorrow. An object, whose existence
we desire, gives satisfaction, when we reflect on those causes, which
produce it; and for the same reason excites grief or uneasiness from the
opposite consideration: So that as the understanding, in all probable
questions, is divided betwixt the contrary points of view, the affections
must in the same manner be divided betwixt opposite emotions.

Now if we consider the human mind, we shall find, that with regard to the
passions, it is not the nature of a wind-instrument of music, which in
running over all the notes immediately loses the sound after the breath
ceases; but rather resembles a string-instrument, where after each stroke
the vibrations still retain some sound, which gradually and insensibly
decays. The imagination is extreme quick and agile; but the passions are
slow and restive: For which reason, when any object is presented, that
affords a variety of views to the one, and emotions to the other; though
the fancy may change its views with great celerity; each stroke will not
produce a clear and distinct note of passion, but the one passion will
always be mixt and confounded with the other. According as the
probability inclines to good or evil, the passion of joy or sorrow
predominates in the composition: Because the nature of probability is to
cast a superior number of views or chances on one side; or, which is the
same thing, a superior number of returns of one passion; or since the
dispersed passions are collected into one, a superior degree of that
passion. That is, in other words, the grief and joy being intermingled
with each other, by means of the contrary views of the imagination,
produce by their union the passions of hope and fear.

Upon this head there may be started a very curious question concerning
that contrariety of passions, which is our present subject. It is
observable, that where the objects of contrary passions are presented at
once, beside the encrease of the predominant passion (which has been
already explained, and commonly arises at their first shock or
rencounter) it sometimes happens, that both the passions exist
successively, and by short intervals; sometimes, that they destroy each
other, and neither of them takes place; and sometimes that both of them
remain united in the mind. It may, therefore, be asked, by what theory we
can explain these variations, and to what general principle we can reduce

When the contrary passions arise from objects entirely different, they
take place alternately, the want of relation in the ideas separating the
impressions from each other, and preventing their opposition. Thus when a
man is afflicted for the loss of a law-suit, and joyful for the birth of
a son, the mind running from the agreeable to the calamitous object, with
whatever celerity it may perform this motion, can scarcely temper the one
affection with the other, and remain betwixt them in a state of

It more easily attains that calm situation, when the same event is of a
mixt nature, and contains something adverse and something prosperous in
its different circumstances. For in that case, both the passions,
mingling with each other by means of the relation, become mutually
destructive, and leave the mind in perfect tranquility.

But suppose, in the third place, that the object is not a compound of
good or evil, but is considered as probable or improbable in any degree;
in that case I assert, that the contrary passions will both of them be
present at once in the soul, and instead of destroying and tempering each
other, will subsist together, and produce a third impression or affection
by their union. Contrary passions are not capable of destroying each
other, except when their contrary movements exactly rencounter, and are
opposite in their direction, as well as in the sensation they produce.
This exact rencounter depends upon the relations of those ideas, from
which they are derived, and is more or less perfect, according to the
degrees of the relation. In the case of probability the contrary chances
are so far related, that they determine concerning the existence or
non-existence of the same object. But this relation is far from being
perfect; since some of the chances lie on the side of existence, and
others on that of non-existence; which are objects altogether
incompatible. It is impossible by one steady view to survey the opposite
chances, and the events dependent on them; but it is necessary, that the
imagination should run alternately from the one to the other. Each view
of the imagination produces its peculiar passion, which decays away by
degrees, and is followed by a sensible vibration after the stroke. The
incompatibility of the views keeps the passions from shocking in a direct
line, if that expression may be allowed; and yet their relation is
sufficient to mingle their fainter emotions. It is after this manner that
hope and fear arise from the different mixture of these opposite passions
of grief and joy, and from their imperfect union and conjunction.

Upon the whole, contrary passions succeed each other alternately, when
they arise from different objects: They mutually destroy each other, when
they proceed from different parts of the same: And they subsist both of
them. and mingle together, when they are derived from the contrary and
incompatible chances or possibilities, on which any one object depends.
The influence of the relations of ideas is plainly seen in this whole
affair. If the objects of the contrary passions be totally different, the
passions are like two opposite liquors in different bottles, which have
no influence on each other. If the objects be intimately connected, the
passions are like an alcali and an acid, which, being mingled, destroy
each other. If the relation be more imperfect, and consists in the
contradictory views of the same object, the passions are like oil and
vinegar, which, however mingled, never perfectly unite and incorporate.

As the hypothesis concerning hope and fear carries its own evidence along
with it, we shall be the more concise in our proofs. A few strong
arguments are better than many weak ones.

The passions of fear and hope may arise when the chances are equal on
both sides, and no superiority can be discovered in the one above the
other. Nay, in this situation the passions are rather the strongest, as
the mind has then the least foundation to rest upon, and is tossed with
the greatest uncertainty. Throw in a superior degree of probability to
the side of grief, you immediately see that passion diffuse itself over
the composition, and tincture it into fear. Encrease the probability, and
by that means the grief, the fear prevails still more and more, till at
last it runs insensibly, as the joy continually diminishes, into pure
grief. After you have brought it to this situation, diminish the grief,
after the same manner that you encreased it; by diminishing the
probability on that side, and you'll see the passion clear every moment,
until it changes insensibly into hope; which again runs, after the same
manner, by slow degrees, into joy, as you encrease that part of the
composition by the encrease of the probability. Are not these as plain
proofs, that the passions of fear and hope are mixtures of grief and joy,
as in optics it is a proof, that a coloured ray of the sun passing through
a prism, is a composition of two others, when, as you diminish or encrease
the quantity of either, you find it prevail proportionably more or less
in the composition? I am sure neither natural nor moral philosophy admits
of stronger proofs.

Probability is of two kinds, either when the object is really in itself
uncertain, and to be determined by chance; or when, though the object be
already certain, yet it is uncertain to our judgment, which finds a number
of proofs on each side of the question. Both these kinds of probabilities
cause fear and hope; which can only proceed from that property, in which
they agree, viz, the uncertainty and fluctuation they bestow on the
imagination by that contrariety of views, which is common to both.

It is a probable good or evil, that commonly produces hope or fear;
because probability, being a wavering and unconstant method of surveying
an object, causes naturally a like mixture and uncertainty of passion.
But we may observe, that wherever from other causes this mixture can be
produced, the passions of fear and hope will arise, even though there be
no probability; which must be allowed to be a convincing proof of the
present hypothesis. We find that an evil, barely conceived as possible,
does sometimes produce fear; especially if the evil be very great. A man
cannot think of excessive pains and tortures without trembling, if he be
in the least danger of suffering them. The smallness of the probability
is compensated by the greatness of the evil; and the sensation is equally
lively, as if the evil were more probable. One view or glimpse of the
former, has the same effect as several of the latter.

But they are not only possible evils, that cause fear, but even some
allowed to be impossible; as when we tremble on the brink of a precipice,
though we know ourselves to be in perfect security, and have it in our
choice whether we wili advance a step farther. This proceeds from the
immediate presence of the evil, which influences the imagination in the
same manner as the certainty of it would do; but being encountered by the
reflection on our security, is immediately retracted, and causes the same
kind of passion, as when from a contrariety of chances contrary passions
are produced.

Evils, that are certain, have sometimes the same effect in producing
fear, as the possible or impossible. Thus a man in a strong prison
well-guarded, without the least means of escape, trembles at the thought
of the rack, to which he is sentenced. This happens only when the certain
evil is terrible and confounding; in which case the mind continually
rejects it with horror, while it continually presses in upon the thought.
The evil is there flxed and established, but the mind cannot endure to
fix upon it; from which fluctuation and uncertainty there arises a
passion of much the same appearance with fear.

But it is not only where good or evil is uncertain, as to its existence,
but also as to its kind, that fear or hope arises. Let one be told by a
person, whose veracity he cannot doubt of, that one of his sons is
suddenly killed, it is evident the passion this event would occasion,
would not settle into pure grief, till he got certain information, which
of his sons he had lost. Here there is an evil certain, but the kind of
it uncertain. Consequently the fear we feel on this occasion is without
the least mixture of joy, and arises merely from the fluctuation of the
fancy betwixt its objects. And though each side of the question produces
here the same passion, yet that passion cannot settle, but receives from
the imagination a tremulous and unsteady motion, resembling in its cause,
as well as in its sensation, the mixture and contention of grief and joy.

From these principles we may account for a phaenomenon in the passions,
which at first sight seems very extraordinary, viz, that surprize is apt
to change into fear, and every thing that is unexpected affrights us. The
most obvious conclusion from this is, that human nature is in general
pusillanimous; since upon the sudden appearance of any object. we
immediately conclude it to be an evil, and without waiting till we can
examine its nature, whether it be good or bad, are at first affected with
fear. This I say is the most obvious conclusion; but upon farther
examination we shall find that the phaenomenon is otherwise to be
accounted for. The suddenness and strangeness of an appearance naturally
excite a commotion in the mind, like every thing for which we are not
prepared, and to which we are not accustomed. This commotion, again,
naturally produces a curiosity or inquisitiveness, which being very
violent, from the strong and sudden impulse of the object, becomes
uneasy, and resembles in its fluctuation and uncertainty, the sensation
of fear or the mixed passions of grief and joy. This image of fear
naturally converts into the thing itself, and gives us a real
apprehension of evil, as the mind always forms its judgments more from
its present disposition than from the nature of its objects.

Thus all kinds of uncertainty have a strong connexion with fear, even
though they do not cause any opposition of passions by the opposite views
and considerations they present to us. A person, who has left his friend
in any malady, will feel more anxiety upon his account, than if he were
present, though perhaps he is not only incapable of giving him assistance,
but likewise of judging of the event of his sickness. In this case, though
the principal object of the passion, viz, the life or death of his
friend, be to him equally uncertain when present as when absent; yet
there are a thousand little circumstances of his friend's situation and
condition, the knowledge of which fixes the idea, and prevents that
fluctuation and uncertainty so near allyed to fear. Uncertainty is,
indeed, in one respect as near allyed to hope as to fear, since it makes
an essential part in the composition of the former passion; but the
reason, why it inclines not to that side, is, that uncertainty alone is
uneasy, and has a reladon of impressions to the uneasy passions.

It is thus our uncertainty concerning any minute circumstance relating to
a person encreases our apprehensions of his death or misfortune. Horace
has remarked this phaenomenon.


[As a bird, watching over her fledgelings, is more afraid of their being
attacked by snakes if she were to leave them even though, were she to
stay, she would not be any more capable of helping them, when they were
with her.]

But this principle of the connexion of fear with uncertainty I carry
farther, and observe that any doubt produces that passion, even though it
presents nothing to us on any side but what is good and desireable. A
virgin, on her bridalnight goes to bed full of fears and apprehensions,
though she expects nothing but pleasure of the highest kind, and what she
has long wished for. The newness and greatness of the event, the
confusion of wishes and joys so embarrass the mind, that it knows not on
what passion to fix itself; from whence arises a fluttering or
unsettledness of the spirits. which being, in some degree, uneasy, very
naturally degenerates into fear.

Thus we still find, that whatever causes any fluctuation or mixture of
passions, with any degree of uneasiness, always produces fear, or at
least a passion so like it, that they are scarcely to be distinguished.

I have here confined myself to the examination of hope and fear in their
most simple and natural situation, without considering all the variations
they may receive from the mixture of different views and reflections.
Terror, consternation, astonishment, anxiety, and other passions of that
kind, are nothing but different species and degrees of fear. It is easy to
imagine how a different situation of the object, or a different turn of
thought, may change even the sensation of a passion; and this may in
general account for all the particular sub-divisions of the other
affections, as well as of fear. Love may shew itself in the shape of
tenderness, friendship, intimacy, esteem, good-will, and in many other
appearances; which at the bottom are the same affections; and arise from
the same causes, though with a small variation, which it is not necessary
to give any particular account of. It is for this reason I have all along
confined myself to the principal passion.

The same care of avoiding prolixity is the reason why I wave the
examination of the will and direct passions, as they appear in animals;
since nothing is more evident, than that they are of the same nature, and
excited by the same causes as in human creatures. I leave this to the
reader's own observation; desiring him at the same time to consider the
additional force this bestows on the present system.


But methinks we have been not a little inattentive to run over so many
different parts of the human mind, and examine so many passions, without
taking once into the consideration that love of truth, which was the
first source of all our enquiries. Twill therefore be proper, before we
leave this subject, to bestow a few reflections on that passion, and shew
its origin in human nature. It is an affection of so peculiar a kind, that
it would have been impossible to have treated of it under an