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circumstances are to be regarded as the constant, and which as the accidental, antecedents of the effect. If, in the course of our experience, the same combination of circumstances is always exhibited to us with. out any alteration, and is invariably followed by the fame result, we must for ever remain ignorant, whe. ther this result be connected with the whole combination, or with one or more of the circumstances combined ; and therefore, if we are anxious, upon any occasion, to produce a similar effect, the only rule that we can follow with perfect security, is to imitate in every particular circumstance the combination which we have seen. It is only where we have an opportunity of separating such circumstances from each other ; of combining them variously together ; and of observing the effects which result from these different experiments, that we can ascertain with precision, the general laws of nature, and strip physical causes of their accidental and uneffential concom. itants.
To illustrate this by an example. Let us suppose that a savage, who, in a particular instance, had found himself relieved of some bodily indisposition by a draught of cold water, is a second time afflicted with a similar disorder, and is desirous to repeat the faine remedy. With the limited degree of experience which we have here supposed him to possess, it would be impossible for the acutest philosopher, in his fituation, to determine, whether the cure was owing to the water which was drunk, to the cup in which it was contained, to the fountain from which it was taken, to the particular day of the month, or to the particular age of the moon. In order, therefore, to ensure the success of the remedy, he will very naturally, and very wisely, copy,as far as he can recollect, every circumstance which accompanied the first application of it. He will make use of the fame cup, draw the water from the fame fountain, hold his
body in the fame posture, and turn his face in the fame direction; and thus all the accidental circumstances in which the first experiment was made, will come to be associated equally in his mind with the effect produced. The fountain from which the water was drawn will be considered as poflefsed of particular virtues; and the cup from which it was drunk, will be fet apart from vulgar uses, for the fake of those who may afterwards have occasion to apply the remedy. It is the enlargement of experience alone, and not any progress in the art of reasoning, which can cure the mind of these associations, and free the practice of medicine from those fuperftitious observances with which we always find it incumbered among rude nations.
Many instances of this species of superstition might be produced from the works of philosophers who have flourished in more enlightened ages. In particular, many might be produced from the writings of those physical inquirers who immediately succeeded to Lord Bacon, and who, convinced by his arguments, of the folly of all reasonings a priori, concerning the laws of nature, were frequently apt to run into the opposite extreme, by recording every circumstance, even the most ludicrous, and the most obviously ineffential, which attended their experiments.*
The observations which have been hitherto made, relate entirely to associations founded on casual combinations of material objects, or of physical events. The effects which thefe affociations produce on the
* The reader will scarcely believe, that the follow ng cure for a dysentery, is copied verbatim from the works of Mr. Boyle:
“ Take the thigh-bone of a hanged man, (perhaps another may understanding, and which are so palpable, that they cannot fail to strike the most careless observer, will prepare the reader for the remarks I am now to make, on some analogous prejudices which warp our opinions on still more important subjects.
serve, but this was still made use of,) calcine it to whiteness, and “having purged the patient with an antimonial medicine, give him
one dram of this white powder for one dose, in some good cor« dial, whether conserve or liquor.”
As the established laws of the material world, which have been exhibited to our senses from our infancy, gradually accommodate to themselves the order of our thoughts ; so the most arbitrary and capricious institutions and customs, by a long and conftant and exclusive operation on the mind, ac quire such an influence in forming the intellectual habits, that every deviation from them not only produces surprise, but is apt to excite sentiments of con. tempt and of ridicule. A person who has never ex. tended his views beyond that fociety of which he himself is a member, is apt to consider many peculiarities in the manners and customs of his country. men as founded on the universal principles of the human constitution ; and when he hears of other nations, whose practices in similar cases are different, he is apt to censure them as unnatural, and to des. pise them as absurd. There are two classes of inen who have more particularly been charged with this weakness; thofe who are placed at the bottom, and those who have reached the summit of the scale of refinement; the fromer from ignorance, and the latter from national vanity.
For curing this class of prejudices, the obvious expedient which nature points out to us, is to extend our acquaintance with human affairs, either by means of books, or of perfonal observation. The effects of travelling, in enlarging and enlightening the mind, are obvious to our daily experience ; and similar advantages may be derived (although, per. haps, not in an equal degree) from a careful study of the manners of paft ages or of distant nations, as they are described by the historian. In making, however, these attempts for our intellectual improve ment, it is of the utmost consequence to us to vary, to a considerable degree, the objects of our attention ; in order to prevent any danger of our acquiring an exclufive preference for the caprices of any one people, whose political situation, or whose moral character, may attach us to them as faultless models for our imitation. The same weakness and versatility of mind; the same facility of association, which, in the case of a person who has never extended his views beyond his own community, is a source of national prejudice and of national bigotry, renders the mind, when forced into new situations, easily susceptible of other prejudices no less capricious; and frequently prevents the time, which is devoted to tra. velling, or to study, from being subservient to any better purpose, than an importation of foreign fashions, or a ftill more ludicrous imitation of antient follies,
The philofopher whose thoughts dwell habitually, not merely upon what is, or what has been, but upon what is best and most expedient for mankind ; who, to the study of books, and the observation of manners, has added a careful examination of the principles of the human constitution, and of those which ought to regulate the social order ; is the only person who is effectually secured against both the weaknesses which I have described. By learning to separate what is effential to morality and to happiness, from those adventitious trifles which it is the province of, fashion to direct, he is equally guarded against the follies of national prejudice, and a weak deviation, in matters of indiffer. :* ence, from established ideas. Upon his mind, thus occupied with important subjects of reflection, the fluctuating caprices and fashions of the times lose their influence ; while accustomed to avoid the flavery of local and arbitrary habits, he possesses, in his
own genuine simplicity of character, the same pow. er of accommodation to external circumstances, which men of the world derive from the pliability of their taste, and the versatility of their manners. As the order, too, of his ideas is accommodated, not to what is casually presented from without, but to his own systematical principles, his associations are subject only to those flow and pleasing changes which arise from his growing light and improving reason: and, in such a period of the world as the present, when the press not only excludes the possibility of a permanent retrogradation in human affairs, but operates with an irresistible though gradual progress, in undermining prejudices and in extending the triumphs of philofophy, he may reasonably indulge the hope, that society will every day approach nearer and nearer to what he wishes it to be, A man of such a character, instead of looking back on the past with regret, finds himself (if I may use the expref: fion) more at home in the world, and more satisfied with its order, the longer he lives in it. The melancholy contrasts which old men are sometimes difposed to ftate, between its condition, when they are about to leave it, and that in which they found it at the commencement of their career, arises, in most cales, from the unlimited influence which in their early years they had allowed to the fashions of the times, in the formation of their characters. How different from those sentiments and prospects which dignified the retreat of Turgot, and brightened the declining years of Franklin !
The querulous temper, however, which is inci. dent to old men, although it renders their manners disagreeable in the intercourse of social life, is by no means the most contemptible form in which the prejudices I have now been describing may display their influence. Such a temper indicates at least a certain degree of obfervation, in marking the viciffi.