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In this, Epicurus and Lucretius appear to have been true philosophers, and their intermedials, which have been so much ridiculed, were no other than the unresisting space in which Newton has demonstrated that the planets move round their orbits in times proportioned to their areas. Thus it was not Epicurus's intermedials, but his opponents, that were ridiculous. But when Epicurus afterwards tells us that his atoms declined in the void by chance; that this declination formed men and animals by chance; that the eyes were placed in the upper part of the head, and the feet at the end of the legs, by chance; that ears were not given to hear, but that the declination of atoms having fortuitously composed ears, men fortuitously made use of them to hear with,—this madness, called physics, has been very justly turned into ridicule. - Sound philosophy, then, has long distinguished what is good in Epicurus and Lucretius, from their chimeras, founded on imagination and ignorance. The most submissive minds have adopted the doctrine of creation in time, and the most daring have admitted that of creation before all time. Some have received with faith a universe produced from nothing; others, unable to comprehend this doctrine in physics, have believed that all beings were emanations from the Great—the Supreme and Universal Being: but all have rejected the fortuitous concurrence of atoms; all have acknowledged that chance is a word without meaning, What we call chance, can be no other than the unknown cause of a known effect. Whence comes it then, that philosophers are still accused of thinking that the stupendous and indescribable arrangement of the universe is a production of the fortuitous concurrence of atomsan effect of chance? Neither Spinoza nor any one else has advanced this absurdity.
Yet the son of the great Racine says, in his poem on Religion,
O toi! qui follement fais ton Dieu du hasard,
A l'aide de son bec maçonne l'hirondelle :
Comment, pour élever ce hardi bâtiment,
Its mass concentrate, and its structure round? These lines are assuredly thrown away. No one makes chance his God; no one has said that while a swallow"
tempers his clay, it takes the form of his abode by chance:” on the contrary it is said, that “he makes his nest by the laws of necessity," which is the opposite of chance.
The only question now agitated is, whether the author of nature has formed primordial parts unsusceptible of division, or if all is continually dividing and changing into other elements. The first system seems to account for everything, and the second, hitherto at least, for nothing.
If the first elements of things were not indestructible, one element might at last swallow up all the rest, and change them into its own substance. Hence perhaps it was, that Empedocles imagined that everything came from fire and would be destroyed by fire.
This question of atoms involves another; that of the divisibility of matter ad infinitum. The word atom signifies without parts-not to be divided. You divide it in thought; for, if you were to divide it in reality, it would no longer be an atom.
You may divide a grain of gold into eighteen millions of visible parts; a grain of copper, dissolved in spirit of sal ammoniac, has exhibited upwards of twenty-two thousand parts: but when
have arrived at the last element, the atom escapes the microscope, and you can divide no further except in imagination.
The infinite divisibility of atoms is like some propositions in geometry. You may pass an infinity of curves between a circle and its tangent, supposing the circle and the tangent to be lines without breadth ; but there are no such lines in nature.
You likewise establish that asymptotes will approach one another without ever meeting ; but it is under the supposition that they are lines having length without breadth-things which have only a speculative existence.
So, also, we represent unity by a line, and divide this line and this unity into as many fractions as you please ; but this infinity of fractions will never be any other than our unity and our line.
It is not strictly demonstrated that atoms are indivisible; but it appears that they are not divided by the laws of nature.
AVARICE. AVARITIES, amor habendi,--desire of having, avidity, covetousness.
Properly speaking, avarice is the desire of accumulating, whether in grain, moveables, money, or curiosities. There were avaricious men long before coin was invented.
We do not call a man avaricious, who has four-andtwenty coach-horses, yet will not lend one to his friend; or who, having two thousand bottles of Burgundy in his cellar, will not send you half-a-dozen, when he knows you to be in want of them. If he show you a hundred thousand crowns' worth of diamonds, you do not think of asking him to present you with one worth twenty livres; you consider him as a man of great magnificence, but not at all avaricious.
He who in finance, in army contracts, and great undertakings, gained two millions each year, and who, when possessed of forty-three millions, besides his houses at Paris and his moveables, expended fifty thousand crowns per annum for his table, and sometimes lent money to noblemen at five per cent. interest, did not pass, in the minds of the people, for an avaricious man.
He had, however, all his life burned with the thirst of gain; the demon of covetousness was perpetually tormenting him; he continued to accumulate to the last day of his life. This passion, which was constantly gratified, has never been called avarice. He did not expend a tenth part of his income; yet he had the reputation of a generous man, too fond of splendour.
A father of a family who, with an income of twenty thousand livres, expends only five or six, and accumulates his savings to portion his children, has the reputation among his
neighbours of being avaricious, mean, stingy, a niggard, a miser, a gripe-farthing; and every abusive epithet that can be thought of is bestowed upon him.
Nevertheless, this good citizen is much more to be honoured than the Cræsus I have just mentioned : he expends three times as much in proportion. But the cause of the great difference between their reputations is this:
Men hate the individual whom they call avaricious, only because there is nothing to be gained by him. The physician, the apothecary, the wine-merchant, the draper, the grocer, the saddler, and a few girls, gain a good deal by our Cresus, who is truly avaricious. But with our close and economical citizen, there is nothing to be done; therefore he is loaded with maledictions.
As for those among the avaricious who deprive themselves of the necessaries of life, we leave them to Plautus and Molière.
Must not a man be very thoroughly possessed by the demon of etymology to say, with Pezron and others, that the Roman word augurium came from the Celtic words au and gur ? According to these learned men, au must, among the Basques and Bas-Bretons, have signified the liver ; because asu, which (say they) signified left, doubtless stood for the liver, which is on the right side: and gar meant man, or yellow, or red, in that Celtic tongue of which we have not one memorial. Truly, this is powerful reasoning.
Absurd curiosity (for we must call things by their right names) has been carried so far as to seek Hebrew and Chaldee derivations for certain Teutonic and Celtic words. This, Bochart never fails to do. It is astonishing with what confidence these men of genius have proved that expressions used on the banks of the Tyher were borrowed from the patois of the savages of Biscay. Nay, they even assert that this patois was one of the first idioms of the primitive language-the parent of all other languages throughout the world. They have only to proceed, and say that all the various notes of birds come from the cry of the two first parrots, from which every other species of birds has been produced.
The religious folly of auguries was originally founded on very sound and natural observations. The birds of passage have always marked the progress of the seasons; we see them come in flocks in the spring, and return in the autumn. The cuckoo is heard only in fine weather, which his note seems to invite. The swallows, skimming along the ground, announce rain. Each climate has its bird, which is in effect its augury.
Among the observing part of mankind there were, no doubt, knaves who persuaded fools that there was something divine in these animals, and that their flight presaged our destinies, which were written on the wings of a sparrow just as clearly as in the stars.
The commentators on the allegorical and interesting story of Joseph sold by his brethren, and made Pharaoh's prime minister for having explained his dreams, infer that Joseph was skilled in the science of auguries, from the circumstance that Joseph's steward is commanded to say to his brethren, “ Is not this it," (the silver cup) “ in which my lord drinketh ? and whereby indeed he divineth ?* Joseph, having caused his brethren to be brought back before him, says to them, “ What deed is this that ye have done? Wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine ?”+
Judah acknowledges, in the name of his brethren, that Joseph is a great diviner, and that God has inspired him—“ God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants.”! At that time they took Joseph for an
* Genesis, chap. xliv. v. 5. + Jbid. v. 16. | Ibid. chap. xliv. v. 16.