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The phrases in their context!


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 ideas.
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.