Scepsis Scientifica - Chap. XV.

Chap. XV.

            Again (6.) We owe much of our errour and ntellectual scarcity to the interest in, and power which our affections have over our so easy seducible understandings. And 'tis a truth well worthy the pen, from which it dropt; periit judicium, ubi res transiit in affectum. That Jove himself cannot be wise and in love; may be understood in a larger sense, than antiquity meant it. Affection bribes the judgement to the most notorious inequality; and we cannot expect an equitable award, where the judge is made a party: so that, that understanding only is capable of giving a just decision, which is, as Aristotle saith of the law, Νους ανευ ορεξεως[Greek: Noys aney orecheos]: but where the will, or passion hath the casting voice, the case of truth is desperate. And yet this is the miserable disorder, into which we are lapsed: the lower powers are gotten uppermost; and we see like men on our heads, as Plato observed of old, that on the right hand, which indeed is on the left. The woman in us, still prosecutes a deceit, like that begun in the garden: and our understandings are wedded to an Eve, as fatal as the mother of our miseries. And while all things are judged according to their suitableness, or disagreement to the gusto of the fond feminine; we shall be as far from the tree of knowledge, as from that which is guarded by the cherubin. The deceiver soon found this soft place of Adam's; and innocency itself did not secure him from this way of seduction. The first deception entered in at this postern, and hath ever since kept it open for the entry of Legion: so that we scarce see anything now but through our passions, the most blind, and sophisticate things about us. The monsters which story relates to have their eyes in their breasts, are pictures of us in our invisible selves. Our love of one opinion induceth us to embrace it; and our hate of another, doth more than fit us, for its rejection: and, that love is blind, is extensible beyond the object of poetry. When once the affections are engaged, there's but a short step to the understanding: and, facile credimus quod volumus, is a truth, that needs not plead authority to credit it.

            The reason, I conceive, is this: love as it were uniting the object to the soul, gives it a kind of identity with us; so that the beloved idea is but ourselves in another name: and when self is at the bar, the sentence is not like to be impartial: for every man is naturally a Narcissus, and each passion in us, no other but self-love sweetned by milder epithets. We can love nothing, but what we find agreeable to ourselves; and our desire of what is so, hath its first inducement from within us: yea, we love nothing but what resembleth us; and whatever we applaud as good or excellent, is but self in a transcript, and e contra. Thus to reach the highest of our amours, and to speak all at once: we love our friends, because they are our image; and we love our God, because we are his. So then, the beloved opinion being thus wedded to the intellect; the case of our espoused self becomes our own: and when we weigh ourselves, justice doth not use to hold the balance.

            Besides, all things being double-handed, and having the appearances both of truth, and falsehood; where our affections have engaged us, we attend only to the former, which we see through a magnifying medium: while looking on the latter, through the wrong end of the perspective, which scants their dimensions, we neglect and contemn them. Yea, and as in corrupt judicial proceedings, the fore-stalled understanding passes a peremptory sentence upon the single hearing of one party; and so though it may chance to be right in the conclusion; is yet unjust and mistaken in the method of inference.

            But to give a more particular account of this imposture; our affections engage us either,

 

(1.) By our love to ourselves: or,
(2.) By our love to others.

            The former, in the instances of,

(1.) Natural disposition.
(2.) Custom and education.
(3.) Interest. And
(4.) Love of our own productions.

            The latter, in the homage which is paid to antiquity, and authority.

            These are causes of our mistakes, and arguments that we can scarce do otherwise. And therefore I speak to them in their order.

            1. Congruity of opinions, whether true or false, to our natural constitution, is one great incentive to their reception; for in a sense the completion of the mind, as well as manners, follows the temperament of the body. On this account some men are genially disposed to some opinions, and naturally as averse to others. And we love and hate without a known cause of either. Some faces both of persons and things, we admire and dote on: others, in our impartial apprehensions no less deserving our esteem, we can not behold without resentment; yea it may be with an invincible disregard. And I question not, but intellectual representations are received by us, with as unequal a fate upon a bare temperamental relish or disgust: the understanding also hath its idiosyncrasies, as well as other faculties. So that the great stirs of the disputing world, are but the conflicts of the humours. Superstition, atheism, and enthusiasm, are tempers; not mere infusions of education, and opinion. Indeed the dull and unactive spirits that concern not themselves in theory, follow the swinge of the common belief in which they were first instructed: but the more vigorous and stirring will fall into that of their particular crasis. And when the humour is awakened, all the bonds of custom and education cannot hold them. The opinions which are suited to their respective tempers will make way to their assent, in spite of accidental preengagements. Thus opinions have their climes and national diversities: and as some regions have their proper vices, not so generally found in others; so have they their mental depravities, which are drawn in with the air of their country. And perhaps this is a considerable cause of the diversity of lawes, customs, religions, natural and moral doctrines, which is to be found in the divided regions of the inhabited Earth. Wherefore I wonder not at the idolatry of the Jews of old, or of the several parts of the world to this day, at the sensual expectation of the Musselmen, the circumstantial follies of the Papists, or the antic devotions of the barbarous Indians; since that the most senseless conceits and fooleries cannot miss of harbour, where affection grown upon the stock of a depraved constitution, hath endeared them.

            And if we do but more nearly look into our faculties, beginning our survey from the lowest dregs of sense, even those which have a nearer commerce with matter, and so by steps ascend to our more spiritualized selves: we shall throughly discover how constitutional partiality sways us. To begin then at the senses; that to one palate is sweet, and delicious, which to another, is odious and distastful; or more compendiously in the proverb, one man's meat, is another's poison. What to one is a most grateful odour, to another is noxious and displeasant; and 'twere a misery to some to lie stretched on a bed of roses: that's a welcome touch to one, which is disagreeing to another; the same aires which some entertain with most delightful transports, to others are importune; and the objects which this man can't see without an extasy, that is no more moved at than a statue. If we pass further, the fancies of men are so immediately diversisied by the individual crasis, that every man is in this a phoenix; and owns something wherein none are like him: and these are as many, as human nature hath singulars. Now the fancies of the most, like the index of a clock, are moved but by the inward springs and wheels of the corporal machine; which even on the most sublimed intellectuals is dangerously influential. And yet this sits at the helm of the world's belief; and vulgar reason is no better than a more refined imagination. So then the senses, fancy, and what we call reason itself, being thus influenced by the body's temperament, and little better than indications of it; it cannot be otherwise, but that this love of ourselves should strongly incline us in our most abstracted dijudications.

 

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