« PreviousContinue »
Qf the consideration which the Speaker ought to have of the Hearers, as Men in general.
RHEToRIC, as was observed already, not only considers the subject, but also the hearers and the speak
cause, it must have been he cause of itself; a third, with equal consistency, that nothing must have been the cause. Thus, by always assuming the absolute necessity of a cause, they demonstrate the absolute necessity of a cause. For a full illustration of the futility of such pretended reason':gs, see to e Treatise of Human Nature, B. I. Part 3 Sect. 3. I do not think they have succeeded better who have attempted to assign a reason for the faith we have in this principle, that the future will resemble the part. A late author imagines, that he solves the difficulty at once, by saying, that “what is now time past, was once future ; and that “ though no man has had experience of what if future, every man “has had experience of what was future.” Would it then be more perspicuous to state the question thus, “How come we to “believe that what is future, not what was future, will resemble “ the past " Of the first he says expressly, that no man has had experience, though almost in the same breath he tells us, not very consistently, “ The answer is sufficient, have we not found it to “be so 2° an answer which appears to me not more illogical than ungrammatical. But admitting with him, that to consider time as past or future, (though no distinction can be more precise) is only puzzling the question; let us enquire whether a reason can be assigned, for judging that the unknown time will resemble the known. Suppose our whole time divided into equal portions. Call these portions. A, B, C, D, E, F, G. Of these the three first have been experienced, the remaining four are not. The three first I found to resemble one another, but how must I argue
Of the consideration which the speaker ought to have
er *. The hearers must be considered in a twofold view, as men in general, and as such men in particular.
with regard to the rest ? Shall I say, B was like A, therefore D will be like C ; or, if you think it strengthens the argument, shall I say, C resembled A and B, therefore D will resemble A, B, and C. I would gladly know what sort of reasoning, scientifical or moral, this could be denominated : or what is the medium by which the conclusion is made out Suppose, further, I get acquainted with D, formerly unknown, and find that it actually resembles A, B, and C, how can this furnish me with any knowledge of E, F, and G, things totally distinct The resemblance I have discovered in D to A, B, and C, can never be extended to any thing that is not D, nor any part of D, namely, to E, F, and G : unless you assume this as the medium, that the unknown will re. semble the known; or, which is equivalent, that the future will resemble the past. So far is this principle, therefore, from being deduced from particular experiences, that it is fundamental to all particular deductions from experience, in which we could not advance a single step without it. We are often misled in cases of this nature, by a vague and popular use of words, not attending to the nicer differences in their import in different situations. If one were to ask me, “Have you then no reason to believe that the “future will resemble the past " I should certainly answer, “I “ have the greatest reason to believe it.” And if the question had been concerning a geometrical axiom, I should have returned the same answer. By reason we often mean, not an argument, or medium of proving, but a ground in human nature on which a par. ticular judgment is founded, Nay further, as no progress in reasoning can be made where there is no foundation, (and first principles are here the sole foundation) I should readily admit, that the man who does not believe such propositions, if it were possible to find such a man, is perfectly irrational, and consequently not to be argued with, -
of the hearers, as men in general.
As men in general, it must be allowed there are certain principles in our nature, which, when properly addressed and managed, give no inconsiderable aid to reason in promoting belief. Nor is it just to conclude from this concession, as some have hastily done, that oratory may be defined, “The art of deception.” The use of such helps will be found, on a stricter examination, to be in most cases quite legitimate, and even necessary, if we would give reason herself that influence which is certainly her due. In order to evince the truth considered by itself, conclusive arguments alone are requisite; but in order to convince me by these arguments, it is moreover requisite that they be understood, that they be attended to, that they be remembered by me; and, in order to persuade me by them to any particular action or conduct, it is further requisite, that, by interesting me in the subject, they may, as it were, be felt. It is not therefore the understanding alone that is here concerned. If the orator would prove successful, it is necessary that he engage in his service all these different powers of the mind, the imagination, the memory, and the passions. These are not the supplanters of reason, or even rivals in her sway; they are her handmaids, by whose ministry she is enabled to usher truth into the heart, and procure it there a favourable reception. As handmaids they are liable to be seduced by sophistry in the garb of reason, and sometimes are made ignorantly to lend their aid in the introduction of falsehood. But their service is not on this account to be dispensed with ; there is even a necessity of employ
Of the consideration which the speaker ought to have of the hearers, &c.
ing it founded in our nature. Our eyes and hands and feet will give us the same assistance in doing mischief as in doing good; but it would not therefore be better for the world, that all mankind were blind and lame. Arms are not to be laid aside by honest men, because carried by assassins and ruffians; they are to be used the rather for this very reason. Nor are those mental powers, of which eloquence so much avails herself, like the art of war or other human arts, perfectly indifferent to good and evil, and only beneficial as they are rightly employed. On the contrary, they are by nature, as will perhaps appear afterwards, more friendly to truth than to falsehood, and more easily retained in the cause of virtue, than in that of vice ".
Sect. I. Men considered as endowed with understanding.
SECT, I....Men considered as endowed with
BUT to descend to particulars; the first thing to be studied by the speaker is, that his arguments may be understood. If they be unintelligible, the cause must be either in the sense or in the expression. It lies in
the sense, if the mediums of proof be such as the
hearers are unacquainted with ; that is, if the ideas introduced be either without the sphere of their knowledge, or too abstract for their apprehension and habits of thinking. It lies in the sense likewise, if the train of reasoning (though no unusual ideas should be introduced) be longer, or more complex, or more intricate, than they are accustomed to. But as the fitness of the arguments in these respects, depends on the capacity, education, and attainments of the hearers, which, in different orders of men are different, this properly belongs to the consideration which the speaker ought to have of his audience, not as men in general, but as such men in particular. The obscurity which ariseth from the expression will come in course to be considered in the sequel.
SECT. II....Men considered as endowed with
THE second thing requisite is, that they be attended to ; for this purpose the imagination must be en