Scepsis Scientifica - Chap. III.

Chap. III.

            To begin then with the theory of our own natures; we shall find in them too great evidence of intellectual deficience and deplorable confessions of human ignorance. For we came into the world, and we know not how; we live in't in a self-nescience, and go hence again and are as ignorant of our recess. We grow, we live, we move at first in a microcosm, and can give no more scientifical account, of the state of our three quarters confinement, then if we had never been extant in the greater world, but had expired in an abortion; we are enlarged from the prison of the womb, our senses are affected, we imagine and remember; and yet know no more of the immediate reasons of these common functions, than those little embryo anchorites: we breathe, we talk, we move, while we are ignorant of the manner of these vital performances. The dogmatist knows not how he stirs his finger; nor by what art or method he directs his tongue in articulating sounds into voices. New parts are added to our substance, to supply our continual decayings, and as we die we are born daily; nor can we give a certain account, how the aliment is so prepared for nutrition, or by what mechanism it is so regularly distributed; we are transported by passions; and our minds ruffled by the disorders of the body; nor yet can we tell how these should reach our immaterial selves, or how the soul should be affected by such kind of agitations. We lay us down, to sleep away our cares; night shuts up the senses' windows, the mind contracts into the brain's centre; we live in death, and lie as in the grave. Now we know nothing, nor can our waking thoughts inform us, who is Morpheus, and what that leaden key is that locks us up within our senseless cels: there's a difficulty that pincheth, nor will it easily be resolved. The soul is awake, and solicited by external motions, for some of them reach the perceptive region in the most silent repose, and obscurity of night. What is't then that prevents our sensations; or if we do perceive, how is't that we know it not? But we dream, see visions, converse with chimeras; the one half of our lives is a romance, a fiction. We retain a catch of those pretty stories, and our awakened imagination smiles in the recollection. Nor yet can our most severe inquiries find what did so abuse us, or show the nature and manner of these nocturnal illusions: when we puzzle ourselves in the disquisition, we do but dream, and every hypothesis is a fancy. Our most industrious conceits are but like their object, and as uncertain as those of midnight. Thus when some days and nights have gone over us, the stroke of fate concludes the number of our pulses; we take our leave of the sun and moon, and lay our heads in ashes. The vital flame goes out, the soul retires into another world, and the body to dwell in darkness. Nor doth the last scene yield us any more satisfaction in our autography; for we are as ignorant how the soul leaves the light, as how it first came into it; we know as little how the union is dissolved, that is the chain of the so differing subsistencies that compound us, as how it first commenced. This then is the proud creature that so highly pretends to knowledge, and that makes such a noise and bustle for opinions. The instruction of delphos may shame such confidents into modesty: and till we have learned that honest advise, though from hell, ΓΝΩΘΙ ΣΕΑΥΤΟΝ [Greek: GNOTHI SEAYTON], confidence is arrogance, and dogmatizing unreasonable presuming. I doubt not but the opinionative resolver, thinks all these easy problems, and the theories here accounted mysteries, are to him revelations. But let him suspend that conclusion till he hath weighed the considerations hereof, which the process of our discourse will present him with; and if he can unty those knots, he is able to teach all humanity, and will do well to oblige mankind by his informations

 

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