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An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

After all, I may, perhaps, agree to your general conclusion in favour of liberty, though
upon different premises from those, on which you endeavour to found it. I think, that the
state ought to tolerate every principle of philosophy; nor is there an instance, that any
government has suffered in its political interests by such indulgence. There is no
enthusiasm among philosophers; their doctrines are not very alluring to the people; and
no restraint can be put upon their reasonings, but what must be of dangerous consequence
to the sciences, and even to the state, by paving the way for persecution and oppression in
points, where the generality of mankind are more deeply interested and concerned.
115. But there occurs to me (continued I) with regard to your main topic, a difficulty,
which I shall just propose to you without insisting on it; lest it lead into reasonings of too
nice and delicate a nature. In a word, I much doubt whether it be possible for a cause to
be known only by its effect (as you have all along supposed) or to be of so singular and
particular a nature as to have no parallel and no similarity with any other cause or object,
that has ever fallen under our observation. It is only when two species of objects are
found to be constantly conjoined, that we can infer the one from the other; and were an
effect presented, which was entirely singular, and could not be comprehended under any
known species, I do not see, that we could form any conjecture or inference at all
concerning its cause. If experience and observation and analogy be, indeed, the only
guides which we can reasonably follow in inferences of this nature; both the effect and
cause must bear a similarity and resemblance to other effects and causes, which we know,
and which we have found, in many instances, to be conjoined with each other. I leave it
to your own reflection to pursue the consequences of this principle. I shall just observe,
that, as the antagonists of Epicurus always suppose the universe, an effect quite singular
and unparalleled, to be the proof of a Deity, a cause no less singular and unparalleled;
your reasonings, upon that supposition, seem, at least, to merit our attention. There is, I
own, some difficulty, how we can ever return from the cause to the effect, and, reasoning
from our ideas of the former, infer any alteration on the latter, or any addition to it.