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pleasantry, as the demonstrations which the Society of Freethinkers communicated to Martinus Scriblerus in their letter of greeting and invitation. The arguments which they are represented as urging in this admirable letter, ludicrous as they may seem, are truly as strong, at least, as those of which they are a parody; and indeed, in this case, where both are so like, a very little occasional change of expression is all which is necessary, to convert the grave ratiocination into the parody, and the parody into the grave ratiocination.

"The parts (say they) of an animal body," stating the objection which they profess to answer, "are perpetually changed, and the fluids which seem to be the subject of consciousness are in a perpetual circulation; so that the same individual particles do not remain in the brain; from whence it will follow, that the idea of individual consciousness must be constantly translated from one particle of matter to another, whereby the particle A, for example, must not only be conscious, but conscious that it is the same being with the particle B that went before.

"We answer, this is only a fallacy of the imagination, and is to be understood in no other sense than that maxim of the English law, that the king never dies. This power of thinking, self-moving, and governing the whole machine, is communicated from every particle to its immediate successor, who, as soon as he is gone, immediately takes upon him the government, which still preserves the unity of the whole system.

"They make a great noise about this individuality, how a man is conscious to himself that he is the same individual he was twenty years ago, notwithstanding the flux state of the particles of matter that compose his body. We think this is capable of a very plain answer, and may be easily illustrated by a familiar example.

"Sir John Cutler had a pair of black worsted stockings, which his maid darned so often with silk, that they became at last a pair of silk stockings. Now supposing those stockings of Sir John's endued with some degree of consciousness at every particular darning, they would have been sensible, that they were the same individual pair of stockings both before and after the darning; and this sensation would have continued in them through all the succession of darnings; and yet after the last of all, there was not perhaps one thread left of the first pair of stockings; but they were grown to be silk stockings, as was said before.

"And whereas it is affirmed, that every animal is conscious of some individual self-moving, self-determining principle; it is answered, that, as in a House of Commons all things are determined by a majority, so it is in every animal system. As that which determines the house is said to be the reason of the whole assembly; it is no otherwise with thinking beings, who are determined by the greater force of several particles, which, like so many unthinking members, compose one thinking system."

The identity, which we are to consider, is, as I have already said, the identity only of the principle which feels and thinks, without regard to the changeable state of the particles of the brain, or of the body in general. This unity and permanence of the principle, which thinks, if we had still to invent a phrase, I would rather call mental identity, than personal identity, though the latter phrase may now be considered as almost fixed by the general use of philosophers. On no system can there be this absolute iden* Mart. Scrib. chap. vii.-Pope's Works, edit. 1757, v. vii. p. 82-84.

tity, unless as strictly mental; for, if we adopt the system of materialism, we must reject the absolute lasting identity of the thinking principle altogether; and if we do not adopt that system, it is in the mind alone that we must conceive the identity to subsist. The person, in the common and familiar meaning of the term, though involving the mind, is yet more than the mere mind; and, by those, at least, who are not conversant with the writings of philosophers on the subject, sameness of person would be understood as not mental only, but as combining with the absolute identity of the mind, some sort of identity of the body also; though, it must be confessed, that in its application to the body, the term identity is not used with the same strictness, as in its application to the mind; the bodily identity being not absolute, but admitting of considerable, and ultimately, perhaps, even of total, change, provided only the change be so gradual, as not to be inconsistent with apparent continuity of existence. Still, however, identity of person, at least in the popular notion of it, is something more than identity of mind.

"All mankind," says Dr. Reid, "place their personality in something, that cannot be divided or consist of parts. A part of a person is a manifest absurdity.

"When a man loses his estate, his health, his strength, he is still the same person, and has lost nothing of his personality. If he has a leg or an arm cut off, he is the same person he was before. The amputated member is no part of his person, otherwise it would have a right to a part of his estate, and be liable for a part of his engagements; it would be entitled to a share of his merit and demerit, which is manifestly absurd. A person is something indivisible, and is what Leibnitz calls a monad."*

That all mankind place their personality in something, which cannot be divided into two persons, or into halves or quarters of a person, is true; because the mind itself is indivisible, and the presence of this one indivisible mind is essential to personality. But, though essential to personality in man, mind is not all, in the popular sense of the word at least, which this comprehends. Thus, if, according to the system of metempsychosis we were to suppose the mind, which animates any of our friends, to be the same mind which animated Homer or Plato,-though we should have no scruple, in asserting the identity of the mind itself, in this corporeal transmigration,there is no one, I conceive, who would think himself justifiable in point of accuracy, in saying of Plato and his friend, that they were as exactly, in every respect, the same person, as if no metempsychosis whatever had intervened. It does not follow from this, as Dr. Reid very strangely supposes, that a leg or arm, if it had any relation to our personality, would, after amputation, be liable to a part of our engagements, or be entitled to a share of our merit or demerit; for the engagement, and the moral merit or demerit, belong not to the body, but to the mind, which we believe to continue precisely the same after the amputation as before it. This, however, is a question merely as to the comparative propriety of a term, and as such, therefore, it is unnecessary to dwell upon it. upon it. It is of much more importance, to proceed to the consideration of the actual identity of the mind, whether we termn it simply mental or personal identity.

"That there is something undoubtedly which thinks," says Lord Shaftesbury, "our very doubt itself and scrupulous thought evinces. But in what subject that thought resides, and how that subject is continued one and the * Essays on the Intellectual Powers, Essay III. chap. iv.—v. 1. p. 341. Edit. Ed. 1808.

same, so as to answer constantly to the supposed train of thoughts or reflections, which seem to run so harmoniously through a long course of life, with the same relation still to one single and self-same person, this is not a matter so easily or hastily decided, by those who are nice self-examiners, or searchers after truth and certainty.

""Twill not, in this respect, be sufficient for us to use the seeming logic of a famous* modern, and say, We think; therefore we are.' Which is a notably invented saying, after the model of that like philosophical proposition, that What is, is.' Miraculously argued! If I am, I am.' Nothing more certain! For the ego or I being established in the first part of the proposition, the ergo, no doubt, must hold it good in the latter. But the question is, 'What constitutes the we or I?' And, 'Whether the I of this instant be the same with that of any instant preceding, or to come.' For we have nothing but memory to warrant us, and memory may be false. We may believe we have thought and reflected thus or thus'; but we may be mistaken. We may be conscious of that as truth, which perhaps was no more than dream; and we may be conscious of that as a past dream, which perhaps was never before so much as dreamt of.

"This is what metaphysicians mean, when they say, "That identity can be proved only by consciousness; but that consciousness withal may be as well false as real, in respect of what is past.' So that the same successional we or I must remain still, on this account, undecided.

"To the force of this reasoning I confess I must so far submit, as to declare that for my own part, I take my being upon trust. Let others philosophize as they are able; I shall admire their strength, when, upon this topic, they have refuted what able metaphysicians object, and Pyrrhonists plead in their own behalf.

"Meanwhile, there is no impediment, hinderance, or suspension of action, on account of these wonderfully refined speculations. Argument and debate go on still. Conduct is settled. Rules and measures are given out, and received. Nor do we scruple to act as resolutely upon the mere supposition that we are, as if we had effectually proved it a thousand times, to the full satisfaction of our metaphysical or Pyrrhonean antagonist."+


In stating the objections, that may be urged against our mental identity, by such metaphysical or Pyrrhonean antagonists as those of whom Lord Shaftesbury speaks, I shall endeavour to exhibit the argument in as strong a light as possible, and in a manner that appears to me, in some measure, new. is surely unnecessary for me to warn you, that the argument, however specious, is a sophistical one; and the nature of the peculiar sophistry which it involves shall be afterwards pointed out to you. But I conceive it to be most important, in teaching you to reflect for yourselves,-by far the most important lesson which you can be taught,-that you should be accustomed to consider the force of objections that may be urged, as clearly by the force of that surer evidence which they oppose,-and that even sophistry itself, when it is to be exhibited and confuted, should, therefore, always be exhibited fairly. We pay truth a very easy homage, when we content ourselves with despising her adversaries. The duty which we owe to her is of a more manly kind. It is to gird ourselves for the battle,-to fit us for overcoming those adversaries, whenever they shall dare to present themselves in array; * Monsieur Des Cartes. Shaftesb.


+ Shaftesbury's Characteristics, vol. iii. p. 172–174. Edit. 1745.

and this we cannot do, with absolute confidence, unless we know well the sort of arms which they may use, strong or feeble as those arms may be. I can have no fear, that any argument of this kind, in whatever manner it may be stated, can have the slightest influence on your conviction; because it is directly opposed by a principle of our nature, which is paramount to all reasoning. We believe our identity, as one mind, in our feelings of to-day and our feelings of yesterday, as indubitably as we believe that the fire which burned us yesterday, would, in the same circumstances, burn us to-day,— not from reasoning, but from a principle of instant and irresistible belief, such as gives to reasoning itself all its validity. As Lord Shaftesbury justly says, "We act as resolutely, upon the mere supposition that we are, as if we had effectually proved it a thousand times."

To identity, it may be said, it is necessary that the qualities be the same. That of which the qualities are different, cannot be the same; and the only mode of discovering whether a substance have the same or different qualities, is to observe, how it affects and is affected by other substances. It is recognised by us as the same, or, at least, as perfectly similar, when, in two corresponding series of changes, the same substances affect it in the same manner, and it affects, in the same manner, the same substances; and when either the same substances do not affect it in the same manner, or it does not affect, in the same manner, the same substances, we have no hesitation in considering it as different. Thus, if a white substance, resembling exactly, in every external appearance, a lump of sugar, do not melt when exposed to the action of boiling water, we do not regard it as sugar, because the water does not act on it as we have uniformly known it to act on that substance; or if the same white lump, in every other respect resembling sugar, affect our taste as bitter or acrid rather than sweet, we immediately, in like manner, cease to consider it as sugar, because it does not act upon our nerves of taste in the same manner as sugar acts upon them. The complete similarity, in other respects, is far from sufficient to make us alter our judgment; a single circumstance of manifest difference, in its mode either of acting upon other substances, or of being acted upon by them, being sufficient to destroy the effect of a thousand manifest resemblances.

Let this test of identity, then, it may be said, be applied to the mind, at different periods, if the test be allowed to be a just one; and let it be seen, whether, in the series of changes in which it acts or is acted upon, the phenomena precisely correspond in every case. If the same objects do not act upon it in the same manner, it must then be different, according to the very definition to which we are supposed to have assented.-You, of course, understand, that I am at present only assuming the character of an objector, and that I state an argument, the principle of which you will afterwards find to be false.

When we compare the listless inactivity of the infant, slumbering, from the moment at which he takes his milky food, to the moment at which he awakes to require it again, with the restless energies of that mighty being which he is to become, in his maturer years, pouring truth after truth in rapid and dazzling profusion, upon the world, or grasping in his single hand the destiny of empires, how few are the circumstances of resemblance which we can trace, of all that intelligence which is afterwards to be displayed, how little more is seen, than what serves to give feeble motion to the mere machinery of life. What prophetic eye can venture to look beyond the period

of distinct utterance, and discern that variety of character by which even boyhood is marked, far less are the intellectual and moral growth of the years that follow-the genius, before whose quick glance the errors and prejudices, which all the ages and nations of mankind have received as truths, are to disappear-the political wisdom, with which, in his calm and silent meditations, he is to afford more security to his country than could be given to it by a thousand armies, and which, with a single thought, is to spread protection and happiness to the most distant lands or that ferocious ambition, with which, in unfortunate circumstances of power, he is perhaps to burst the whole frame of civil society, and to stamp, through every age, the deep and dark impression of his existence, in the same manner as he leaves on the earth which he has desolated the track of his sanguinary footsteps. The cradle has its equality almost as the grave. Talents, imbecilities, virtues, vices, slumber in it together, undistinguished; and it is well that it is so, since, to those who are most interested in the preservation of a life that would be helpless but for their aid, it leaves those delightful illusions which more than repay their anxiety and fatigue, and allows them to hope, for a single being, every thing which it is possible for the race of man to become. If clearer presages of the future mind were then discoverable, how large a portion of human happiness would be destroyed by this single circumstance! What pleasure could the mother feel, in her most delightful of offices, if she knew that she was nursing into strength, powers which were to be exerted for the misery of that great or narrow circle in which they were destined to move, and which to her were to be a source, not of blessing, but of grief, and shame, and despair!

"These shall the fury passions tear,

The vultures of the mind,"

says Gray, on thinking of a group of happy children;

"For see, how all around them wait,

The ministers of human fate,

And black Misfortune's baleful train;
Oh! show them, where in ambush stand,
To seize their prey, the murd'rous band!
Oh! tell them, they are men !"


To tell them they are men, though they were capable of understanding it, even in this sense of the word, would not communicate information so melancholy or so astonishing to themselves, as, by breaking too soon that dream of expectation, which is not to last for ever, but which fulfils the benevolent purpose of nature while it lasts, it would communicate to the parent who watches over them, and who sees in them only those pure virtues, and that happiness as pure, which are perhaps more than the nature of man admits, and which, at least in the case before her, are never to be realized.

Is the mind, then, in infancy, and in mature life, precisely the same, when in the one case, so many prominent diversities of character force themselves upon the view, and, in the other case, so little appears to distinguish the future ornament of mankind, from him who is afterwards

"To eat his glutton meal with greedy haste,

Nor know the hand which feeds him?"

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