A Treatise of Human Nature HTML version

assurance, than in the loose and indolent reveries of a castle-builder, every one will
readily own. They strike upon us with more force; they are more present to us; the mind
has a firmer hold of them, and is more actuated and moved by them. It acquiesces in
them; and, in a manner, fixes and reposes itself on them. In short, they approach nearer to
the impressions, which are immediately present to us; and are therefore analogous to
many other operations of the mind.
There is not, in my opinion, any possibility of evading this conclusion, but by asserting,
that belief, beside the simple conception, consists in some impression or feeling,
distinguishable from the conception. It does not modify the conception, and render it
more present and intense: It is only annexed to it, after the same manner that will and
desire are annexed to particular conceptions of good and pleasure. But the following
considerations will, I hope, be sufficient to remove this hypothesis. First, It is directly
contrary to experience, and our immediate consciousness. All men have ever allowed
reasoning to be merely an operation of our thoughts or ideas; and however those ideas
may be varied to the feeling, there is nothing ever enters into our conclusions but ideas,
or our fainter conceptions. For instance; I hear at present a person's voice, whom I am
acquainted with; and this sound comes from the next room. This impression of my senses
immediately conveys my thoughts to the person, along with all the surrounding objects. I
paint them out to myself as existent at present, with the same qualities and relations, that I
formerly knew them possessed of. These ideas take faster hold of my mind, than the ideas
of an inchanted castle. They are different to the feeling; but there is no distinct or separate
impression attending them. It is the same case when I recollect the several incidents of a
journey, or the events of any history. Every particular fact is there the object of belief. Its
idea is modified differently from the loose reveries of a castle-builder: But no distinct
impression attends every distinct idea, or conception of matter of fact. This is the subject
of plain experience. If ever this experience can be disputed on any occasion, it is when
the mind has been agitated with doubts and difficulties; and afterwards, upon taking the
object in a new point of view, or being presented with a new argument, fixes and reposes
itself in one settled conclusion and belief. In this case there is a feeling distinct and
separate from the conception. The passage from doubt and agitation to tranquility and
repose, conveys a satisfaction and pleasure to the mind. But take any other case. Suppose
I see the legs and thighs of a person in motion, while some interposed object conceals the
rest of his body. Here it is certain, the imagination spreads out the whole figure. I give
him a head and shoulders, and breast and neck. These members I conceive and believe
him to be possessed of. Nothing can be more evident, than that this whole operation is
performed by the thought or imagination alone. The transition is immediate. The ideas
presently strike us. Their customary connexion with the present impression, varies them
and modifies them in a certain manner, but produces no act of the mind, distinct from this
peculiarity of conception. Let any one examine his own mind, and he will evidently find
this to be the truth.
Secondly, Whatever may be the case, with regard to this distinct impression, it must be
allowed, that the mind has a firmer hold, or more steady conception of what it takes to be
matter of fact, than of fictions. Why then look any farther, or multiply suppositions
without necessity?