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25. Method (1694)

Section 1 (of 1)

Normalized

Method

The way to finde truth as far as we are able to reach it in this our darke and short sighted state is to pursue the hypothesis that seems to us to carry with it the most light and consistency as far as we can without raiseing objections or sticking at those that come in our way till we have caried our present principle as far as it will goe and given what light and strength we can to all the parts of it. And when that is done then to take into our consideration any objections that lie against it but not soe as to pursue them as objections against the Systeme we had formerly erected but to consider upon what foundation they are bottomed and examin that in all its parts and then puting the two whole Systems togeather see which is liable to most exceptions and labours under the greatest difficulties. For such is the weaknesse of our understandings that unlesse where we have clear demonstration we can scarce make out to our selves any truths which will not be liable to some exception beyond our power wholy to clear it from and therefor if upon that ground we are presently bound to give up our former opinion we shall be in a perpetual fluctuation. every day changeing our mindes and passeing from one side to another we shall loose all stability of thought and at last give up all probable truths as if there were noe such thing or which is not much better think it indifferent which side we take. To this yet as dangerous as it is the ordinary way of manageing controversies in the world directly tends. If an opponent can finde one weake place in his adversarys doctrine and and reduce him to a stand with difficulties riseing from thence he presently concludes he has got the day and may justly triumph in the goodnesse of his owne cause. where as victory noe more certainly always accompanies Truth than it does Right, It shews indeed the weaknesse of the part attacked or of the defense of it. But to shew which side has the best pretence to truth and followers The two whole systems must be set by one another and considerd entirely and then see which is most consistent in all its parts; which least clogd with incoherencies or absurdities and which freest from begd principles and unintelligible notions. This is the fairest way to search after Truth and the surest not to mistake on which side she is. There is scarce any controversie which is not a full instance of this and if a man will imbrace noe opinion but what he can clear from all difficultys and remove all objections I feare he will have but very narrow thoughts and finde very litle that he shall assent <t>o. What then will you say shall he embrace that for truth which has improbabilities in it that he cannot master? upon that ground what may he not enterteine? and where shall he end? This has a clear answer. In contradictory opinions one must be true that he cannot doubt. Which then shall he take? That which is accompanied with the greater light and evidence that which is freest from the grosser absurdities though our narrow capacitys cannot penetrate it on every side. Some men have made objections to the beleif of a God and think they ought to be heard and hearkend to because perhaps noe body can unravel all the difficultys of creation and providence which are but arguments of the weaknesse of our understanding and not against the being of a God. Let us take a view then of those mens hypothesis and let us see what direct contradictions they must be involved in who denie a god. If there be noe God from eternity then there was noe thinking thing from eternity. For the eternall thinking thing I call god. If from eternity there were noe thinking thing, then thinking things were made out of unthinking things by an unthinking power; as great an absurdity as that noe thing should produce some thing. If matter be that eternall thinking thing let us change that deceitfull word matter which seems to stand for one thing when it means the congeries of all Bodies and then the opinion will be that all bodies every distinct atom is in its owne nature a thinking thing. let any one then resolve with him self how such an infinite number of distinct independent thinkeing things came to be of one minde and to consent and contrive togeather to make such an admirable frame as the world and the species of things and their successive continuation is. How some of them consented to lie buried for long or numberlesse ages in the bowels and center of this earth or other massy globes places certainly very uneasy for thinkeing beings. whilst others are delighting them selves in the pleasures of freedom and the day. Let them produce harmony beauty constancy from such a congeries of thinkeing independent attoms. and one may I think allow them to be creators of this world and I know not why upon this grounds they should not thinke soe of them selves since there is noe reason why the thinking attoms in them should not be as wise as any other in the universe for if they once allow one attom of matter to have from eternity some degrees of knowledg and power above any other, they must tell us a reason why it is soe or else this supposition will be ridiculous when set up against the supposition of a being that had from eternity more knowledg and more power than all matter taken togeather and soe was able to frame it into this orderly state of nature soe visible and admirable in all the parts of it

Diplomatic

115r

Method

The way to finde truth as far as we are able to reach it in this our darke and short sighted state is to pursue the hypothesis that seems to us to carry with it the most light and consistency as far as we can without raiseing objections or sticking & at those that come in our way till we have caried our present principle as far as it will goe and given what light and strength we can to all the parts of it. And when that is done then to take into our consideration any objections that lie against it but not soe as to pursue them as objections against the Systeme whe we had formerly erected but to consider upon what foundation they are bottomed and examin that in all its parts and then puting the two whole Systems togeather see which is liable to most exceptions and labours under the greatest difficulties. For such is the weaknesse of our understandings that unlesse where we have clear demonstration we can scarce make out to our selves any truths which will not be liable to some exception which perhaps we cannot beyond our power wholy to clear it from and therefor if upon that ground we are presently bound to give up our former opinion which shall quickly be reduced to perfect Scepticisme. have left in our mindes noe assent to any probable truth at all. we shall be in a perpetual fluctuation. every day changeing our mindes and passeing from one side to another at last be we shall loose ing all stability of thought and give up at last give up all probable truths as if there were noe such thing or which is not much better think it indifferent which side we take. To this yet as dangerous as it is the ordinary way of manageing disp<utes> controversies in the world directly tends. If an opponent can finde one weake place in his adversarys doctrine and attacks it soe that shew the weaknesse and reduce him to a stand with difficulties riseing from thence he presently concludes he has got the day and expects his adversary should yield up him self and his cause to this victory. may justly triumph in the goodnesse of his owne cause. where as victory is noe more certainly always accompanies Truth than it does Right, It shews indeed the weaknesse of the part attacked or of the defense of it. But to shew .. which side has the best pretence to truth and followers tThe two whole systems must be con. set by one another and considerd entirely and then see which is most consistent in all its parts; which least clogd with incoherencies or absurdities and which least freest from begd principles and unintelligible notions. This is the fairest way to search after Truth and the surest not to mistake on which side she is. There is scarce any controversie which is not a full instance of this and if a man will imbrace noe opinion but what he can clear from all doubts difficultys and remove all objections I feare he will have but very narrow thoughts and finde very litle that he shall assent <t>o. What then will you say shall he embrace that for truth which has improbabilities in it that he cannot master? upon that ground what may he not enterteine? and where shall he end? This has a clear answer. In contradictory opinions one must be true that he cannot doubt. Which then shall he take? That which is accompanied with the greater light and evidence that which is freest from the grosser absurdities though our narrow capacitys cannot penetrate it on every side. Some men have made objections

115v

to the beleif of a God and think they ought to be heard and hearkend to because perhaps noe body can unravel all the difficultys of creation and providence which are but arguments of the weaknesse of our understanding and not against the being of a God. Let us take a view then of those mens hypothesis and let us see what direct contradictions they must be involved in who denie a god. If there be noe God from eternity then there was noe thinking thing from eternity. the For the eternall thinking thing I call god. If from eternity there we.re noe thinking thing, then thinking things were made out of unthinking .things by an unthinking power; as great an absurdity as that somethin<g> noe thing should produce some thing. If matter be that eternall thinking thing let us change that deceitfull word as if it matter which seems to st ooand for one thing and say bodies are in their owne nature thinking things when it means the congeries of all Bodies and then the opinion will be that all thin<gs> bodies every distinct atom is in its owne nature a thinking thing. let any one then resolve with him self how such an infinite number of distinct independent thinkeing things came to be of one minde and to consent and contrive togeather to make such an admirable frame as the world and the species of things and their successive continuation is. How some of them consented to lie buried for endless long or numberlesse ages in the bowels and center of this earth or other massy globes whils<t> places certainly very uneasy for thinkeing beings. whilst others are delighting them selves in the pleasures of freedom and the day. Let them produce harmony beauty constancy from such a congeries of thinkeing independent attoms. and one may I think allow them to be creators of this world and I know not why upon this grounds they should not be thinke soe of them selves since there is noe reason why the thinking attoms in them should not be as wise as any other in the universe for if they once allow one particle attom of matter to have more degrees from eternity some degrees of knowledg and power above any other, they must tell us a reason why it is soe or else this supposition will be ridiculous when set up against the supposition of a being that had from eternity more p knowledg and more power than all matter taken togeather and soe was able to frame it into this orderly .... state of nature soe visible and admirable in the world all the parts of th. the world it


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See also Essay, IV.x.10, pp. 623-624.
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