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cloud in which they are involved, necessarily arises from the subject itself; and are rarely inclined to suspect their own ignorance, incapacity, or preju. dice. It must, however, be acknowledged, that Metaphysics cannot be wholly vindicated from the charge of obscurity; a certain degree of darkness and doubt hangs over all our investigations on these mysterious subjects ; but we ought carefully to distinguish between that obscurity which arises from the nature of the subject, and which is necessarily connected with it, and the obfcurity which arises from the want of a proper and adequate attention to the subject; and I am strongly inclined to suspect, that it is this latter fpecies of obscurity, which by those who are most fond of declaiming against the Study of Metaphysics, is al. most invariably mistaken for the former.
“ Metaphysics," Mr. K. further observes, “were
once encouraged and cultivated, because they “ served the purposes of superstition. They involved “ theological subjects in a perplexity which the
simple could never unravel. They gave an air " of mystery and depth which caught the admi. “ ration of the vulgar. They are now employed “ in a similar manner in the service of infidelity.
They have induced the half-learned and the “ conceited, those who think they understand “ them, and those who wish to be thought by “ others to understand them, to adopt, without “ being apprehensive of danger, opinions fatal to “ their own happiness, and to the existence of O 2
“ society.” Notwithstanding the volubility and smartness of this declamation, I hope Mr. K. will not think he concedes too much in granting, that even in Metaphysics there is such a distinction as truth and falsehood; and that of two opposite opinions, if one is wrong, the other must be right; and, I presume, I may further be allowed to suppole, that the metaphysical notions to which Mr. K. alludes in the last paragraph, as having been productive of such extensive mischief, are in themselves false and erroneous. Now I should be glad to be informed how these false and dangerous metaphysical opinions, opinions which have produced effects so fatal to the happiness, and even to the existence of society, can ever be properly and satisfactorily confuted, but by metaphysical arguments ? Certainly, just and rational sentiments in Metaphysics must be serviceable to the general cause of virtue and happiness, in exactly the same proportion that the false and absurd opinions to which he refers are prejudicial and dangerous. No doubt the Study of Metaphysics may, in particular instances, have produced an unhappy effect upon the minds of the half-learned and conceited; upon those whofe capacities were unequal to the discussion of subjects of this nature, or upon those who engaged in the pursuit of them with previous corrupt and vicious propensities. The study of theology is likewise liable to the fame objection; but what then? To torrow the noble and decisive argument of Hamlet, “ If the sun breed maggots “ in a dead dog," is that glorious luminary therefore to be reproached ? The interests of truth, virtue, and happiness, are inseparably connected; and if Mr. K. thinks that any particular opinions in Metaphysics are unfavourable to virtue and happiness, why should he desire to prevent any man, who has paid a proper attention to the subject, from attempting to expose the fallacy and falsehood of them? He asserts, however, that “ Even when “ cultivated by the honest and truly ingenious, “ they exhibit an instance of blameable pride ; “ they aim at a science to which man can never “ attain. It is truly laughable to observe a crea“ ture, with hardly knowledge enough of the “ things around him to guide him with safety,
perplexing himself with ontological enquiries “ into the nature of angels, and the essence of the 6 devil.” But Mr. K. who seems to apply to metaphysical debate what Solomon says of contention in general, " that it should be left off before it be “ meddled with,” is certainly a very incompetent judge what degree of attainment may be reached by such men as Locke, Hartley, and Clarke; and let their attainments be ever so flender, I cannot agree with Mr. K. that it is an instance of blameable pride to engage in disquisitions of this nature, because, previously to the trial, I presume no man, I mean Mr. K. excepted, can pretend to fay, what degree of proficiency it is practicable to arrive at. Also, as I have no objection to join in a laugh, I wish Mr.
K. had been so obliging as to have specified the names of those writers who have “ perplexed them“ selves by ontological enquiries into the nature of “ angels, and the essence of the devil.” I acknowledge they have totally escaped my notice and observation; and if we could for a moment fuppose, after the authentic information we have re. ceived from Mr. K. that there really were no such writers, it would not, I think, be amiss, rather than be disappointed of a laugh, to direct it againft the man who
may have credulity enough to believe, or effrontery enough to affirm, that there are perfons who actually employ themselves in such preposterous speculations.
“ The ontologists and pneumatologists, the “ nominales and reales, the doctores seraphici, and " all the tribe of microscopic philosophers, are in “ the present age of discernment,” as Mr. K. further informs us, “ totally neglected. Even Males branche and Locke, the most rational of the me“ taphysicians, are daily losing ground. A few,
however, in the present times, have been so uno fortunate as to waste their labour in defending « Materialisin, in expatiating on Liberty and Ne“ ceffity, and in proving that man is no more than “ an animal.” It is true, the metaphysical opinions of the middle ages, as contained in the laborious works of those philosophers who go
under the general denomination of the Schoolmen, many of whom were men of admirable talents, and the whole Aristotelian system, are now exploded. The dogmas
of the Stagyrite are justly superseded by the more rational and intelligible hypothesis of Des Cartes and Locke; but whoever represents this total change of system, as a proof of the uncertainty and futility of metaphysical researches in general, should recollect, that natural philosophy has undergone a revolution equally striking; that the system of Locke and Hartley does not differ more from that of Thomas Aquinas, than the Newtonian theory of the universe does from the Ptolemaic. In the present age of discernment, however, it seems, that even Locke is daily losing ground; and whenever the discernment of the age shall happily arrive to an equality with that of Mr. K. the Essay on Human Understanding will no doubt be completely discarded. It is not by force of argument, indeed, that Mr. Locke's system is to be demolished. Our modern men of discernment have found out a method of attack much more pleasant, as well as effectual. In short, they are determined to laugh it out of countenance; and this new fect of laughing philosophers are fortunately able to boast of a leader in Mr. K.'s estimation every way worthy of his distinguished rank and station. " Such mi“ serable effects of metaphysical research,” says Mr. K. “ have induced an amiable writer, whose a heart and abilities vie with each other for ex" cellence, to vindicate the nature and immuta
bility of Truth, to expose the futility of Meta
physics, to confound the devices of its patrons, " and to establish the natural rights of common