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THE FIRST LETTER.
DID men, who publish controversial papers, accustom themselves to write with that candor and ingenuity with which you propose your difficulties, I am persuaded almost all disputes might be very amicably terminated, either by men's coming at last to agree in opinion, or, at least, finding reason to suffer each other friendly to differ.
Your two objections are very ingenious, and urged with great strength and acuteness. Yet I am not without hopes of being able to give you satisfaction in both of them. To your first, therefore, I auswer: Whatever may, without a contradiction, be absent from any one place at any one time; may also, without a contradiction, be absent from all places at all times. For, whatever is absolutely necessary at all, is absolutely necessary in every part of space, and in every point of duration. Whatever can at any time be conceived possible to be absent from any one part of space, may for the same reason, [viz. the implying no contradiction in the nature of things,] be conceived possible to be absent from every other part of space at the same time; either by ceasing to
be, or by supposing it never to have begun to be. Your . instance about demonstrating a man to live 1000 years, is what (I think) led you into the mistake; and is a good instance to lead you out of it again. You may suppose a man shall live 1000 years, or God may reveal and promise he shall 1000 years; and upon that supposition, it shall not be possible for the man to be absent from all places in any part of that time. Very true: but why shall it not be possible? Only because it is contrary to the supposition, or to the promise of God; but not contrary to the absolute nature of things; which would be the case, if the man existed necessarily, as every part of space does. In supposing you could demonstrate, a man should live 1000 years, or one year; you make an impossible and contradictory supposition. For though you may know certainly, (by revelation suppose,) that he will live so long; yet this is only the certainty of a thing true in fact, not in itself necessary and demonstration is applicable to nothing but what is necessary_in itself, necessary in all places and at all times equally.
To your second difficulty, I answer: what exists necessarily, not only must so exist alone, as to be independent of any thing else; but, (being self-sufficient,) may also so exist alone, as that every thing else may possibly (or without any contradiction in the nature of things) be supposed not to exist at all: and consequently, (since that which may possibly be supposed not to exist at all, is not necessarily existent,) no other thing can be necessarily existent. Whatever is necessarily existing, there is need of its existence in order to the supposal of the existence of any other thing; so that nothing can possibly be supposed to exist, without presupposing and including antecedently the existence of that which is necessary. For instance: the supposal of the existence of any thing whatever, includes necessarily a presupposition of the existence of space and time; and if any could exist without space or time, it would follow that space and time were not necessarily existing. Therefore, the suppo
sing any thing possibly to exist alone, so as not necessarily to include the presupposal of some other thing, proves demonstrably, that that other things is not necessarily existing; because, whatever has necessity of existence, cannot possibly in any conception whatsoever, be supposed away. There cannot possibly be any notion of the existence of any thing, there cannot possibly be any notion of existence at all, but what shall necessarily preinclude the notion of that which has necessary existence. And consequently the two propositions which you judged independent, are really necessarily connected. These sorts of things are indeed very difficult to express, and not easy to be conceived but by very attentive minds: but to such as can and will attend, nothing (I think) is more demonstrably convictive.
If any thing still sticks with you in this, or any other part of my books, I shall be very willing to be informed of it; who am,
Your assured Friend and Servant,
November, 10, 1713.
P. S.-Many readers, I observe, have misunderstood my second general proposition; as if the words [some one unchangeable and independent Being,] meant [one only-Being.] Whereas the true meaning, and all that the argument there requires, is, [some one at least.] That there can be but one, is the thing proved afterwards in the seventh proposition.
I HAVE often thought that the chief occasions of men's differing so much in their opinions, were, either their not understanding each other, or else, that instead of ingenuously searching after truth, they have made it their business to find out arguments for the proof of what they have once asserted. However, it is certain that there may be other reasons for persons not agreeing in their opinions and where it is so, I cannot but think with you, that they will find reason to suffer each other to differ friendly; every man having a way of thinking, in some respects, peculiarly his own.
I am sorry I must tell you, your answers to my objections are not satisfactory. The reasons why I think them not so, are as follows:
You say, "Whatever is absolutely necessary at all, is absolutely necessary in every part of space, and in every point of duration." Were this evident, it would certainly prove what you bring it for; viz. "that whatever may, without a contradiction, be absent from one place at one time, may also be absent from all places at all times." But I do not conceive, that the idea of ubiquity is contained in the idea of self-existence, or directly fol
lows from it; any otherwise than as, whatever exists, must exist somewhere. You add, "Whatever can at any time be conceived possibly to be absent from any one part of space, may for the same reason [viz. the implying no contradiction in the nature of things,] be conceived possibly to be absent from every other part of space, at the same time." Now I canne, see, that I can make these two suppositions for the same reason, or upon the same account. The reason why I conceive this being may be absent from one place, is because it doth not contradict the former proof, [drawn from the nature of things,] in which I proved only that it must necessarily exist. But the other supposition, viz. that I can conceive it possible to be absent from every part of space at one and the same time, directly contradicts the proof that it must exist somewhere; and so is an express contradiction. Unless it be said, that as, when we have proved the three angles of a triangle equal to two right ones, that relation of the equality of its angles to two right ones, will be wherever a triangle exists; so, when we have proved the necessary existence of a being, this being must exist every where. But there is a great difference between these two things: the one being the proof of a certain relation, upon supposition of such a being's existence with such particular properties; and consequently, wherever this being and these properties exist, this relation must exist too. But from the proof of the necessary existence of a being, it is no evident consequence that it exists every where. My using the word demonstration, instead of proof which leaves no room for doubt, was through negligence, for I never heard of strict demonstration of matter of fact.
In your answer to my second difficulty, you say; "Whatsoever is necessarily existing, there is need of its existence, in order to the supposal of the existence of any other thing." All the consequences you draw from this proposition, I see proved demonstrably; and consequently, that the two propositions I thought indepen