Page images
PDF
EPUB

dent, are closely connected. But how, or upon what, account, is there need of the existence of whatever is necessarily existing, in order to the existence of any other thing? Is it as there is need of space and duration, in order to the existence of any thing; or it is needful only as the cause of the existence of all other things? If the former be said, as your instance seems to intimate, I answer, space and duration are very abstruse in their natures, and, I think, cannot properly be called things, but are considered rather as affections which belong, and in the order of our thoughts are antecedently necessary, to the existence of all things. And I can no more conceive how a necessarily existing being can, on the same account or in the same manner as space and duration are, be needful in order to the existence of any other being, than I can conceive extension attributed to a thought: that idea no more belonging to a thing existing, than extension belongs to thought. But if the latter be said, that there is need of the existence of whatever is a necessary being, in order to the existence of any other thing; only as this necessary being must be the cause of the existence of all other things I think this is plainly begging the question; for it supposes that there is no other being exists, but what is casual, and so not necessary. And on what other account, or in what other manner than one of these two, there can be need of the existence of a necessary being in order to the existence of any thing else, I cannot conceive.

Thus, sir, you see I entirely agree with you in all the consequences you have drawn from your suppositions, but cannot see the truth of the suppositions themselves.

I have aimed at nothing in my style, but only to be intelligible; being sensible that it is very difficult (as you observe) to express one's self on these sorts of subjects, especially for one who is altogether unaccustomed to write upon them. I have nothing at present more to add, but my sincerest thanks for your trouble in answering my letter, and

for your professed readiness to be acquainted with any other difficulty that I may meet with in any of your writings. I am willing to interpret this, as somewhat like a promise of an answer to what I have now written, if there be any thing in it which deserves one. I am,

Reverend Sir,

Your most obliged humble Servant.

November 28, 1713.

THE

ANSWER

ΤΟ

THE SECOND LETTER.

SIR,

It seems to me, that the reason why you do not apprehend ubiquity to be necessarily connected with self-existence, is because, in the order of your ideas, you first conceive a being, (a finite being, suppose,) and then conceive self-existence to be a property of that being; as the angles are properties of a triangle, when a triangle exists: whereas, on the contrary, necessity of existence, not being a property consequent upon the supposition of the things existing, but antecedently the cause or ground of that existence, it is evident this necessity, being not limited to any antecedent subject, as angles are to a triangle, but being itself original, absolute, and (in order of nature) antecedent to all existence, cannot but be every where, for the same reason that it is any where. By applying this reasoning to the instance of space, you will find, that by consequence it belongs truly to that substance, whereof space is a property, as duration also is. What you say about a necessary being existing somewhere, supposes it to be a finite ; and being finite, supposes some cause which determined that such a certain quantity of that being should exist, neither more nor less: and that cause must

* Or mode of existence.

either be a voluntary cause; or else such a necessary cause, the quantity of whose power must be determined and limited by some other cause. But in original absolute necessity, antecedent (in order of nature) to the existence of any thing, nothing of all this can have place; but the necessity is necessarily every where alike.

Concerning the second difficulty, I answer, That which exists necessarily, is needful to the existence of any other thing; not considered now as a cause, (for that indeed is begging the question) but as a sine qua non ; in the sense as space is necessary to every thing, and nothing can possibly be conceived to exist, without thereby presupposing space: which, therefore, I apprehend to be a property or mode of the self-existent substance, and that by being evidently necessary itself, it proves that the substance, of which it is a mode, must also be necessary; necessary both in itself, and needful to the existence of any thing else whatsoever. Extension, indeed, does not belong to thought, because thought is not a being; but there is need of extension to the existence of every being, to a being which has or has not thought, or any other quality what

soever.

I am, Sir,

Your real Friend and Servant.

London, November 28, 1713.

[ocr errors]

THE

THIRD LETTER.

REVEREND SIR,

I DON'T very well understand your meaning, when you say that you think, in the order of my ideas, I first conceive a being (finite suppose) to exist, and then conceive self-existence to be a property of that being. If you mean, that I first suppose a finite being to exist I know not why; affirming necessity of existence to be only a consequent of its existence; and that, when I have supposed it finite, I very safely conclude it is not infinite; I am utterly at a loss, upon what expressions in my letter this conjecture can be founded. But if you mean, that I first of all prove a being to exist from eternity, and then, from the reasons of things, prove that such a being must be eternally necessary; I freely own it. Neither do I conceive it to be irregular or absurd; - for there is a great difference between the order in which things exist, and the order in which I prove to myself that they exist. Neither do I think my saying a necessary being exists somewhere, supposes it to be finite; it only supposes that this being exists in space, without determining whether here, or there, or every where.

To my second objection, you say, That which exists necessarily, is needful to the existence of any other thing, as a sine qua non; in the sense space is necessary to

« PreviousContinue »