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fulness in the Dictionary. Still more provoking when an identity of meaning is only disguised by different modes of expression, and when the term has been closely sifted, to their mutual astonishment, both parties discover the same thing lying under the bran and chaff after this heated operation.
Plato and ARISTOTLE probably agreed much better than the opposite parties they raised up imagined; their difference was in the manner of expression, rather than in the points discussed. The NOMINALISTS and the REALISTS, who once filled the world with their brawls, and who from irregular words came to regular blows, could never comprehend their alternate nonsense; though the Nominalists only denied what no one in his senses would affirm; and the Realists only contended for what no one in his senses would deny; a hair's breadth might have joined what the spirit of party had sundered!
Do we flatter ourselves that the Logomachies of the Nominalists and the Realists terminated with these scolding schoolmen? Modern nonsense, weighed against the obsolete, may make the scales tremble for awhile, but it will lose its
agreeable quality of freshness, and subside into an equipoise. We find their spirit still lurking among our own metaphysicians. " Lo! the Nominalists and the Realists again!” exclaimed my learned friend, Sharon Turner, alluding to our modern doctrines on abstract ideas, on which there is still a doubt, whether they are any thing more than generalising terms*. LEIBNITZ confused his philosophy by the term sufficient reason: for every existence, for every event, and for every truth, there must be a sufficient reason. This vagueness of language produced a perpetual misconception, and Leibnitz was proud of his equivocal triumphs in always affording a new interpretation! It is conjectured that he only employed his term of sufficient reason, for the plain simple word of cause. Even LOCKE, who has himself so admirably noticed the “ abuse of words,” has been charged with using vague .and indefinite ones; he has sometimes employed the words reflection, mind, and spirit in so indefinite a way, that they have confused his philosophy ; thus by some ambiguous expressions, our great metaphysician has been made to estab. lish doctrines fatal to the immutability of moral distinctions. Even the eagle-eye of the intellectual Newton grew dim in the obscurity of the language of Locke. We are astonished to discover that two such intellects should not comprehend the same ideas; for NEWTON wrote to LocКЕ, , I beg your pardon for representing that you
* Turner's Hist. of England, i. 514.
struck at the root of morality in a principle laid down in your book of Ideas—and that I took you for a Hobbist * !” The difference of opinion between Locke and Reid is in consequence of an ambiguity in the word principle, as employed by Reid. The removal of a solitary word may cast a luminous ray over a whole body of philosophy: “ If we had called the infinite the indefinite,” says Condillac, in his Traité des Sensations, “ by this small change of a word we should have avoided the error of imagining that we have a positive idea of infinity, from whence so many false reasonings have been
* We owe this curious unpublished letter to the zeal and care of Professor Dugald Stewart, in his excellent Dissertations.
carried on, not only by metaphysicians, but even by geometricians.” The word reason has been used with different meanings by different writers ; reasoning and reason have been often confounded ; a man may have an endless capacity for reasoning, without being much influenced by reason, and to be reasonable, perhaps differs from both! So Moliere tells us,
Raisonner est l'emploi de toute ma maison ;
In this research on " confusion of words,” might enter the voluminous history of the founders of sects, who have usually employed terms which had no meaning attached to them, or were so arnbiguous that their real notions have never been comprehended; hence the most chimerical opinions have been imputed to founders of sects. We may instance that of the Antinomians, whose remarkable denomination explains their doctrine, expressing that they were “against law!” Their founder was John Agricola, a follower of Luther, who, while he lived, had kept Agricola's follies from exploding, which they did when he asserted that there was no such thing as sin, our salvation depending on faith, and not on works; and when he declaimed against the Law of God. To wlat lengths some of his sect pushed this verbal doctrine is known; but the real notions of this Agricola probably never will be! Bayle considered him as a harmless dreamer in theology, who had confused his head by Paul's controversies, with the Jews; but Mosheim, who bestows on this early reformer the epithets of ventosus and versipellis, windy and crafty! or, as his translator has it, charges him with “vanity, presumption, and artifice,” tells us by the term “ law,” Agricola only meant the ten commandments of Moses, which he considered were abrogated by the Gospel, being designed for the Jews and not for the Christians. Agricola then, by the words the “ Law of God,” and “ that there was no such thing as sin," must have said one thing and meant another! This appears to have been the case with most of the divines of the sixteenth century; for even Mosheim complains of