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The phrases in their context!


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.