Page images

ture expense. These are not times are of so pleasing a nature to the man to be prodigal of the public money. of letters, that a short account of them It is rather a singular circumstance will, I hope, prove agreeable to the to me, that the justices in this bill readers of this excellent miscellany. should be ordered to equalize the The Arabians or Saracens, whose county rate; and that the magistrates wild and barbarous enthusiasm had in corporate towns should be suffered destroyed the Alexandrian library in to go on levying the rate, expending the seventh century, were the first the money and passing their own ac- people who were captivated with the counts, and not the least notice taken learning and arts of Greece; the Araof it. As the law now stands, the bian writers translated into their own inhabitants of a privileged jurisdiction language many Greek authors, and must pay, but they cannot inspect the from them the first rays of science and accounts if they know their money is philosophy began to enlighten the illegally expended. One of the first western hemisphere, and in time dissteps is to correct abuses, and it is to pelled the thick cloud of ignorance be hoped that some public-spirited which, for some ages, had eclipsed member will propose a clause for the literature. magistrates of exempt jurisdictions to admit such accounts to be inspected at reasonable times by such inhabitants as pay to them; for the treasurer of the county will not refuse it to any creditable person.

The Caliph Almanzor was a lover of letters and learned men, and science of every kind was cultivated under his patronage. His grandson Almamun obtained from the Greek emperors copies of their best books, employed the ablest scholars to translate them, and took great pleasure in literary

If the bill in question should ever pass into a law, many of the clauses will be attended with serious addi- conversations. Under the patronage tional expenses to the public, and of the Caliphs, the works of the most with very little prospect of any ad- valuable Greek authors, in different vantage. The observations I have of- branches of science, were translated fered on the most prominent and into Arabic. In philosophy, those of leading features of this intended sta- Plato and Aristotle; in mathematics, tute ought to be well considered by those of Euclid, Archimedes, Apolloevery one, before they begin to de- nius, Diophantus, and others; in memolish the old system. It would be dicine, Hippocrates, Galen, and the certainly a much safer method to en- best professors in this branch of deavour to correct the errors and science; in astronomy, Ptolemy, and corrupt practices which time hath in- other authors. The Arabian literati troduced in the management of the not only translated the works of the affairs of the poor, and to try what Greeks, but several of them composed the present laws are capable of doing. original pieces, as Abulfeda, AbulphaI much doubt whether this hath ragius, Bohadin, and others. ever been put to the test; and I dare affirm, that with a few additional laws there are men in this kingdom, who, if they had the authority with out being checked and perplexed with interested people, would soon reduce the poor's rates very considerably indeed, without adopting any doubtful or expensive experiment, and at the same time they would render the poor more comfortable.

It was from the Arabians that these western parts became first acquainted with the Greek philosophy; and from them several branches of science were introduced into Europe as early as the ninth century, and even into Britain before the end of the eleventh, in which and in the three succeeding centuries several Englishmen travelled into Arabia and Spain in search of knowledge; amongst others Adelard, a monk of Bath, Robert, a monk of Reading, Retinensis, Shelly, Morley, and others.

On the Events which contributed to
the Restoration of Learning.
HE events and circumstances
which have contributed to the
revival and restoration of learning,

Several foreigners also travelled in search of science; amongst others, Gerbertus, a native of France, who


enriched these western parts with the knowledge which he had obtained To the Editor of the Universal Mag, from learned Arabians. The abilities BOOK has lately been pub


of this great man raised him to the A lished by a clergyman of the archiepiscopal see of Rheims, then to that of Ravenna, and at length to the established church, which I with papal chair, which he filled from the many others consider as a valuable year 998 to 1003; but such was the treatise on the subject of "Moral bigotry and superstition of those times Evidence." It was written, I am well that these great luminaries of science, assured, with the sole view of promotthough most of them ecclesiastics, ing the best interests of mankind by were accused of magic by the ignorant pointing out the causes of error, and herd of their brethren. Even Pope thus in some measure enabling us to Gerbert himself, as Bishop Otho avoid it. I had hopes that the book gravely relates of him, obtained the would be received by the public with pontificate by wicked means; for approbation, and become extensively the bishop assures us, that he had useful. Judge then what must have given himself up wholly to the Devil, been my surprise and disappointment, on condition he might obtain what on being told that in the "Oxford he desired; and that it was to this Review," a new publication, this circumstance, and not to the patron- book was very severely censured! age of the emperor Otho III. who However, on procuring the Review had been his pupil, nor to that of Ro- and reading the article, I could not bert the French king, his great bene- help thinking that the censures of the factor, that he owed his election. A reviewers reflected more disgrace on Cardinal Benno also accuses this great themselves than on the author of this man of holding an intercourse with work. To me, there appeared in demons; nor did superstition and bi- them a striking detect, both of cangory cease to persecute science and dour and of discernment. With your genius till the end of the seventeenth permission, I propose to make a few century. remarks on the manner in which this Our Roger Bacon, a Franciscan book has been reviewed; and I am monk, who flourished in the 13th encouraged to hope that you will not century, was accused of magic, and refuse to insert them, when you conwas cast into a French prison, where sider that there is no other mode of he remained for many years. redress to which the author, however injured, can have recourse.

The Oxford reviewers begin their account of the book by affirming that they "have searched in vain for either

Franciscus Petrarch was suspected of magic; and John Faust, who was either the inventor or among the first practisers of printing, was obliged to reveal his art to clear himself novelty of reflection, or depth of refrom the accusation of having had search; nor have we," say they, "been recourse to diabolical assistance. compensated for the want of these by But the great Galileo met with the any thing of that luminous exposition hardest fate, for he was not only im- of the first principles of reasoning prisoned by the inquisition, but he which we were so fully prepared to exwas also under the necessity of pub- pect." These are heavy charges, and licly denying those philosophical will doubtless excite a great contempt truths which he had investigated; and, for the work in the minds of those what is worse for posterity, supersti- readers who trust with implicit confition and ignorance persecuted his dence to the judgment of these critics. fame beyond the grave, for the con- It might, however, have been reafessor of his widow taking advantage sonably expected that the following of her piety obtained leave to peruse passage from the preface would have his manuscripts, of which he destroyed precluded every observation of the those which in his judgment were not kind. "As there is no book written fit to be allowed.

J. S.

The Rev. Mr. Gambier. † Published Feb. 1, 1807.

professedly on this subject (at least as far as the author of this tract can learn) these hints are offered; but not as new thoughts. For in the present advanced state of science, little that is new can be expected on a subject of this nature, Nor are they proposed as comprising a complete system, but merely as an introduction to the study of moral evidence." What reason could the reviewers have, after reading this passage (if they did read it), to expect novelty of reflection?

Study of Moral Evidence; or of that Species of Reasoning which relates to Matters of Fact and Practice.' Here terms are represented as synonimous which are by no means sucli. Evidence of any kind is that upon which our reasoning is founded; and a mind which may readily admit the one, may be wholly incapable of the other. They differ as cause from effect; and it is certain that the same moral evidence will give rise to a very different species of reasoning, according to the stamp and extent of the understanding to which it is submitted."

But why, it may be asked, did the author publish his work, if he was conscious that it contained nothing new? That it contains nothing new, I am not disposed to admit. It embraces a variety of topics which the reviewers have not condescended to notice; nor have they even given the contents of the chapters. Now, though some of these topics may have been incidentally treated of by writers on logic and the human mind, I presume it cannot be shewn that they have all been fully discussed by any writers whatever; nor that they have been systematically arranged for the ease and advantage of the student.

This I call cavilling, because it is insisting on the necessity of making a distinction which is unwarranted by our best writers. Dr. Campbell, in his Philosophy of Rhetoric, plainly uses the terms evidence and reasoning as convertible.* Dr. Johnson thus defines the word evidence-1st, "The state of being evident, clearness, &c." 2dly, "Testimony, proof," The word proof surely comprehends reasoning as well as facts. What phrase is more common than "demonstrative evidence?" and how can a proposition be demonstrated without reasoning? The reviewers seem to have been misled by observing the practice in courts of justice, where the evidence is always considered as a distinct thing from the reasoning of the counsel; but the same distinction does not prevail in the scientific use of the word.

Whoever reads with attention the treatise on Moral Evidence," and is capable of appreciating its value, must, I conceive, be convinced that the author's sole aim was utility: to expose the arts of sophistical disputants, and to teach youth to reason with accuracy on several subjects of the highest The author of this work states, with importance to their welfare; not to great perspicuity, how moral evidence supersede the excellent treatises on differs from demonstration in several logic, of which we are already pos- particulars; shews the superiority of sessed, by a "luminous exposition of the latter; and then remarks, "hence, the first principles of reasoning," as perhaps, some persons may conclude the reviewers profess to have expected. that the study of moral evidence will The different kinds of moral evidence be of little use. But however inferior are, however, clearly defined; and a it may be to demonstration, it is not distinction pointed out between those possible to avoid using it constantly; which are in danger of being con- for it is the only light afforded us to founded, as well as particular direc- form our practical opinions and regutions respecting each of them. What late our conduct." "But," say the other "exposition on the first prin- reviewers, "does he not here conciples of reasoning" could any reader found moral evidence with the preexpect? cepts of moral duty?" By no means. The precepts of moral duty are ac knowledged to be clear and determi nate. No man can entertain a doubt whether or not he ought to be just in his dealings; but a question may arise

Next the reviewers cavil at the title of the book. In the very title of this work, subjects are identified which are in themselves extremely distinct, and this necessarily creates a confused notion of the topics about to be discussed. An Introduction to the

* Second edition, vol. i. p.214.

respecting the justice or injustice of mighty intended that we should culti any particular action, which cannot vate this virtue, then, notwithstandso readily be solved. It may de- ing what the Oxford reviewers have pend on a number of minute circum- thought proper to assert to the constances which ought to be carefully trary, "the clear light of demonstra considered; and when we have done tion would be ill adapted to the trial our utmost by these means to ascer- of our understandings on practical tain the truth, our conclusion must questions."* be founded on moral evidence: so The Oxford reviewers wish the authat the phrase under the conduct of thor of "Moral Evidence" to conmoral evidence HAS a meaning, not- sider seriously to what his reasoning withstanding what the reviewers have amounts, when he affirms that the urged against it; and that meaning greatest talents, natural or acquired, implies nothing absurd. are calculated rather to promote that delusion which sets our duty and our desires at variance [this is an inaccuracy of the reviewers-the author had said, if a man wish to make his

[ocr errors]

It was observed, that "the necessity of acting on this inferior species of evidence is suited to the state in which we are placed; a state in which all the faculties received from the Creator are put to the trial. Now the clear Respecting the nature of the evilight of demonstration would be ill dence for a future state, the following adapted to the trial of our understand- sentiments of archdeacon Paley are ings on practical questions; because submitted to the reader's attention. it could scarcely fail of compelling us Had they ever attracted the notice of to a right judgment even in spite of the Oxford reviewers, they would the most perverse inclinations or the probably have charged the archdeagreatest insincerity. But, being un- con with gravely affirming that the at the conduct of moral evidence, excellence of this evidence consisted our sincerity is continually put to the in its defect and imperfection." test. Hence, if a man wish to make his views of duty consist with his inclinations or present interests, he can seldom want a pretext for so doing; and the greatest talents, natural or acquired, will not secure him against this delusion, but, on the contrary, rather promote it; for they only serve him with more able counsel to deceive himself." On this the reviewers remark, "Surely no writer ever be fore gravely affirmed that the practical excellence of moral evidence consisted in its defect and imperfection." Instead of making any reply to this perverse remark, I shall entreat my readers to consider, first, whether a sincere desire to know, in all cases, what is incumbent on us as rational, social, and accountable creatures, be not a virtue? and, secondly, whether they could have equal scope for the exercise of this virtue, had it been practicable to ascertain, in every instance, the path of duty with as great clearness and certainty as we can ascertain the truth of a proposition in Euclid's Elements? To me it is evident, that, on such a supposition, there would be little room for the exercise of sincerity; and if the Al

"Irresistible proof would restrain the voluntary powers too much; would not answer the purpose of trial and probation; would call for no exercise of candour, seriousness, humility, inquiry; no submission of passions, interests, and prejudices to moral evidence and to probable truth; no habits of reflection, none of that previous desire to learn and to obey the will of God, which forms, perhaps, the test of the virtuous principle."-" May it not be said that irresistible evidence would confound all characters and all dispositions? would subvert rather than promote the true purpose of the divine councils; which is not to produce obedience by a force little short of mechanical constraint, (which obedience would be regularity, not virtue, and would perhaps hardly differ from that which inanimate bodies pay to the laws imposed upon teir nature) but to lead moral agents agreeably to what they are; which is done when light and motives are of such a nature and imparted in such measures that the influence of them depends on the recipients themselves."

Evidences of Christianity, 2d edition, Vol. II. pages 368–371.

me is how it could be missed. For was not the King of Siam misled by relying on his own constant experience, and that of all those with whom he had been previouslyacquainted? Was he not induced by it to discredit the testimony of the Dutch am bassador, notwithstanding its truth? What then can be more evident than that the most constant and uniform experience does not amount to absolute certainty?

views of duty consist with his inclination or present interests,' which is a totally different thing], than to secure us against it. Does it not imply that the divine gift of reason becomes destructive in proportion as it is improved, and that knowledge is the parent of vice and error?-Let me ask the reviewers if they never heard of such a thing as sophistry? and whether they do not know that by means of it a man may impose upon his own understanding as well as on "This writer," the reviewers afothers? If they admit this fact, why firm, "is moreover incorrect in statdo they insinuate that, according to the ing that the King of Siam rejected the principles inculcated by the author of evidence of the Dutch ambassador for Moral Evidence,' the faculty of rea- the existence of ice. He only dissou ought not to be cultivated, when credited his assertion." Is testimony he only cautions his readers against then no evidence? In courts of jusits abuse? tice, if I mistake not, it is deemed a species of evidence, and in many cases considered as perfectly satisfactory. And why it should not in every case that scarcely admits of any other, it is not easy to conceive. But the reviewers seem determined to find fault, whether opportunity offers or not.

[ocr errors]

I should intrude too much on the limits of your publication, and perhaps exhaust the patience of your readers, were I to notice every passage in this review, in which I conceive the treatise on Moral Evidence' to be treated with injustice. I pass on, therefore, to the case of the King of Siam, who, because he had never experienced the effects of extreme cold on water, nor knew any one who had experienced it, rejected such an account from the Dutch ambassador; and was therefore mentioned as an instance of the fallibility of conclusions drawn from experience. "His own experience," says the author of Moral Evidence,' and that of all others, as far as he could learn, were in direct contradiction to the ambassador's assertion; he had therefore as strong reasons for disbelieving him as the most constant experience could afford, yet he was mistaken.”

They proceed as follows: "The very next paragraph contains a specimen of false and inconclusive reasoning, which, notwithstanding that we have already transgressed our limits, we shall proceed to notice, because it involves in it an error which tends to confound and perplex the first truths of moral science." then quote the following passage:~


"This evidence (arising from experience) is also inferior to demonstration, if the propositions affirm the event of things in particular cases; for, as it was observed, the conclusion which my own constant expeOn this the reviewers observe, rience, and that of others afford, re"How the proposition that what our specting these events, is that they own constant experience and the ex- happen according to some established perience of others confirm still falls law of nature. Now the laws of nashort of absolute certainty, is at all il- ture depend upon the will of God; lustrated by an instance of a person but we cannot be certain that it is who rejected as untrue what his own his will that they should always conconstant experience and that of all tinue the same. He may have been others within his knowledge had uni- willing to suspend them on certain formly contradicted, is more than we occasions, where it seemed fit to his can discover." And yet it seems to infinite wisdom. He may even derequire very little penetration to make termine that they shall be totally i this discovery, if such it can be called, changed or abolished. Hence we when it was so clearly pointed out, cannot be certain that events which that the only matter of surprise with depend upon these laws will always UNIVERSAL MAG. VOL. VII.


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »