« AnteriorContinuar »
Neque gratia neque ird teneri pot est ^ quod quœ tali a ejsent imbed lla ejjsent omnia.
The Share we have in the Knowledge of Truth, whatever it be, is not acquired by our own Frommjhenct Strength. This is what God has plainly gi- comes our ven us to understand by the-Witnesses he has Knowledge of chosen out of the common People, simple and Trutb. ignorant Men, to inform us of his wonderful Secrets. Our Faith is not of our own acquiring, but purely the Gift of another's Bounty. 'Tis not by Reasoning, or by Virtue of our Understanding, that we have acquired our Religion, but by foreign Authority and Command; and the Weakness of our Judgment is of more Assistance to us in it, than the Strength of it •> and our Blindness more than the Clearness of our Sight. 'Tis more owing to our Ignorance, than to our Knowledge, that we know any Thing of Divine Wisdom. 'Tis no Wonder if our natural and terrestrial Faculties cannot conceive this supernatural and celestial Knowledge. We can only bring, on our Part, Obedience and Submission : 'Fof 'it is written, I will destroy the Wisdom of the Wife,
* and will bring to nothing the Understanding of the
* Prudent. Where is the Wife? Where is the Scribe?
* Where is the Disputer of this World? Hath not God « made foolish the Wisdom of this World? For, after
* that, in the Wisdom of God, the World knew not God,
* it pleased God by the Foolishness of Preaching to save 'them that believe."'
Finally, were I to examine, whether it be in the Power of Man to find out that which he seeks, and jnet>jer >tis;* if that Search, wherein he has busied him- Marfs Power self so many Ages, has inriched him with to find out any new Ability, and any solid Truth, I be- <Irulh' lieve he will confess to me, if he speaks from his Conscience, that all he has got by so long a Disquisition, is only to have learned to know his own Weakness. We have only by long Study confirmed and verified the Ignorance we were in by Nature. The fame has happened to Men who are truly wife, which befals Ears of" Corn:
» 1 Cor. i. 19, t$c.
They moot up and raise their Heads straight and lofty, whilst they are empty ; but, when they are full, and swelled with Grain in Maturity, begin to flag and droop. So Men, having tried and sounded all Things, and not having found, in that Mass of Knowledge and Provision of such Variety, any Thing solid and firm, nor any Thing but Vanity, have quitted their Presumption, and acknowledged their State by Nature. 'Tis what Velleius reproaches Cotta and Cicero0 withal, That they had learned from Philop, that they had learned nothing. Pherecides% one of the seven Wise Men, writing from his DeathBed to Thales, said q, ' I have ordered my People after
* my Interment to carry my Writings to thee. If they
* please thee, and the other Sages, publish; if not, sup
* press them. They contain no Certainty with which I
* myself am satisfied: Neither do I pretend to know the 'Truth, or to attain to it: I rather open than discover
* Things.' The wisest Man' that ever was, being asked, What he knew, made Answer, That he knew this, that he knew nothing. By this he verified the Assertion, that the greatest Part of what we know is the least of what we do not know, that is to fay, that even that which we think we know is but a Portion, and a very small Portion of our Ignorance. We know Things in Dreams, fays Plato, and are ignorant of them in Reality. s Omnes pene veteres nihil cognofci, nihil percipi, nihil sciri pojfe dixerunt: angustos sensus, imbecilles animos, brevia curricula vita, i. e. Almost all the Ancients have declared, that there is nothing to be known, nothing to be perceived nor understood: That the Senses are too limited, Minds too weak, and the Time of Life too lhort. And of Cicero himself, whose Merit was all owing to his Learning, Valerius fa^s, that in his old Age he began to despise Letters, and that, when he applied to Study, it was without Dependence
• Cicero de Natura Deorum, lib. i. c. 17.
t Cicero was one that attended the Lectures of this Philo, who was an Academic Philosopher.
'i Diog. Laert. lib. i. at the End of the Life of the Pbertcides, sect. 1 zz. 'Socrates. Cic. Acad. Quæst. Lib. i. c. 4.
• Cic. Acad. Qusst. lib. i. c, 12.
pendence upon any one Sect, following what he thought probable, now in one Sect, then in another, evermore wavering under the Doubts of the Academy. lDicendum est., fed it a ut nihil affirm em; quœram omnia, dubitans plerumque, et nihil diffidens. i. e. Something I must fay (as he told his Brother) but without affirming any Thing; I inquire into all Things, but am generally doubting and diffident of myself. I should have too much of the best of the Argument, were I to consider Man in his common Way of Living, and in the Gross; and yet I might do it by his own Rule, who judges of Truth, not by the Weight, but by the Number of Votes. There we will leave the Vulgar,
a£>ui vigilans stertit,
Mortua cut vita eft prose jam vivo atque videnti *.
Who when awake, his Soul but nods at best,
who neither feel nor judge themselves, and let most of their natural Faculties lie idle.
I will take Man in his sublimest State. Let us view him in that small Number of excellent and ,
select Men, who, having been endowed with Q 't0 J%TM£ a curious and particular natural Talent, have the greatest moreover hardened and whetted it by Care, Geniuses have Study, and Art, and raised it to the highest JjMj^ Pitch of Wisdom to which it can possibly arrive. They have adjusted their Souls to all Senses and all Biasses, have propped and supported them with all the foreign Assistance proper for them, and inriched and adorned them with all that they could borrow for their Advantage, both from within and without the World. Those are they in whom resides human Nature, to the utmost Degree of Perfection. They have regulated the World with Polity and Laws. They have instructed it
« Cic. de Div. lib. ii. c. 3.
w Montaigne has transposed these two Verses of Lucretius to adapt them tfje rnore nicely to his Subject.
in the Arts and Sciences, and also by the Example of their admirable Manners. I mail bring to my Account those Men only, their Testimony and Experience. Let us see how far they have proceeded, and on what they depended. The Maladies and Defects, that we mall find amongst these Men, the World may boldly declare to be purely their own.
Whoever enters upon the Search of any Thing, comes
at last to this Point ^: He either fays, that
All Philosophy he has found it, or that it is not to be found,
fhneiinds °s tHat he 1S stU1 lti ?Ucst °f iC" The Wh°1<?
of Philosophy is divided into these three Kinds. Its Design is to seek out Truth, Knowledge, and Certainty. The Periapatetics, Epicureans, Stoics, and others Have thought they have found it. These established the Sciences which we have, and have treated of them as of Certainties. Clitomachus, Carneades, and the Academics despaired in their Search, and were of Opinion, that Truth could not be conceived by our Understandings. These place all to the Account of human Frailty and Ignorance. This Sect has had the most numerous and the most noble Followers.
Pyrrbo, and other Sceptics or Doubters, whose Doctrines were held by many of the Ancients, 22S^"Æ as deduced from Homer, the seven Wise Men, Pyrrhonians. Archilochus, Euripides, Zeno, Democritus, ana Xencpkoft, say, that they are still in the Search of Truth. These judge that they, who think they have found it, are vastly deceived •, and that it is also too daring a Vanity in the second Sort to affirm, that 'tis not in the Power of Man to attain to it. For this establishing the Measure of our Strength, to know and judge of the Difficulty of Things, is a great and extreme Degree
« In this very Stile, do?s Sixtus Empirietu, the famous Pyrrhonian, from whom Montaigne has taken many Things, begin his Treatise of the Pyrrhonian Hypothesis; and infers, as Montaigne does, that there are three general Methods of philosophizing, the one Dogmatic, the other Academic, and the other Sceptic. Some affirm they have found the Truth, others declare it to be above our Comprehension, and others, are still in quest of it, 3
of Knowledge, of which they doubt, whether Man is capable.
* Nil sciri quisquis pit at., id quoque nescit,
He that fays nothing can be known, o'erthrows
The Ignorance that knows itself, that judges and condemns itself, is not total Ignorance, which to bs, it must be ignorant of itself. So that the Profession of the Pyrrhonians is to waver, doubt, and inquire, to be sure of no. thing, and to be answerable for nothing. Of the three Operations of the Soul, the Imagination, the Appetite, and the Consent, they admit of the two first, but, as for the last, they support and maintain it ambiguously, without Inclination or Approbation either of one Thing or another, 'tis so trivial. Zcno described the State of his Imagination, according to this Division of the Faculties of the Mind. The Hand, extended and open, indicated Appearance; the Hand half shut, and the Fingers a little crooked, shewed Consent; the Right Fist clinched, Comprehension; and, when with the Left-Hand he yet pressed the Fist closer, Knowledge '.
Now this upright and inflexible State of the Opinion of the Pyrrhonians, receiving all Objects, without Application or Consent, leads them taLBfYyn\ioto their Ataraxy, which is a peaceable State nism. of Life, composed" and exempt from the Agitations which we receive by the Impression of that Opinion and Knowledge which we think we have of Things; from whence arise Fear, Avarice, Envy, immoderate Desires, Ambition, Pride, Superstition, the Love of Novelty, Rebellion, Disobedience, Obstinacy, and most of the bodily Evils. Nay, and by that they exempt themselves from the Jealousy of their Discipline. For they debate after a very gentle Manner, and in their Dis
Q_ 4 PU^S
« Lucret. Lib. iv. v. 471. » Cic. Acad. Quaest.iib.iv. c 47.