Samuel Parr.

Metaphysical tracts by English philosophers of the eighteenth century, consisting of 1. Clavis universalis; 2. A specimen of true philosophy, by Arthur Collier; 3. Conjecturae quaedam de sensu, motu, et idearum generatione; 4. An inquiry into the origin of human appetites and affections; 5. Man in q online

. (page 1 of 25)
Online LibrarySamuel ParrMetaphysical tracts by English philosophers of the eighteenth century, consisting of 1. Clavis universalis; 2. A specimen of true philosophy, by Arthur Collier; 3. Conjecturae quaedam de sensu, motu, et idearum generatione; 4. An inquiry into the origin of human appetites and affections; 5. Man in q → online text (page 1 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

i j>@

3 = 6





| >mw;^v:












| i

"a * *c "tX>A<o^~ a = 6






















THE present volume, prepared for the press by the late
Dr. Parr, was nearly ready for publication when that
learned person died. Except the doctor's own copy, now
in the library of Mr. Swanston, of the Chancery bar, the
whole impression wanted the 141st page at the end of
Collier's tracts, as well as those from page 208 of " Man
in quest of Himself," to the end. However, by the liber-
ality of Mr. Swanston, this defect has been remedied.
The proprietor was induced to purchase the work thus
left by Dr. Parr, being about to publish " Memoirs of
Arthur Collier," the author of the first two tracts in the
collection. As to the authors of the third and fifth tracts,
they were doubtless David Hartley and Abraham Tucker
respectively. By whom the fourth was penned, he has
hitherto failed to discover : he thinks, however, that it
probably was written by a Cambridge man and a resident
of Lincoln, or the neighbourhood; and he infers this
from the dedication, in which Cambridge is made to pre-
cede Oxford, as well as from the tract having been ori-
ginally printed at Lincoln. The proprietor regrets that
the printing and the paper are of an inferior kind, and
that there are many typographical errors which need
correction : he, however, in some degree consoles himself
for these defects, by considering, that he is enabled to
offer to the reader, at a moderate price, a volume of tracts,


of which several have been hitherto of great rarity, and
eagerly sought after by the studious, which he could never
have done had he reprinted the book ; and that the
readers of the present work are not likely to stand in
need of a table of errata.

E. L.

56 Chancery Lane,
March 2, 1837.



New Inquiry after TRUTH,




Non-Existence, or Impossibility,



& OP THE ^




Assensus 8? Approbatio circa Materiam Difficilem est certwn
Argumentum Falsitatis istius Opinionis cui Assentitur.

Mr. Maleb. De Inquir. Verit. L?b. iii. P, 194.


Printed for ROBERT GOSLING, at the Mitre and Crown againft
St. Dunftan's Church in Fleet-ftreet. 1715.




Wherein the question in general is explained and
stated* and the whole subject divided into two
particular heads page 1


Chap. I. Wherein the first question is considered,
viz. Whether the visible world is external or
not . - -

Sect. I. That the seeming Externeity of a vi-
sible object, is no argument of its real ex-
terneity ... - 10

Sect. II. That a visible object, as such, is not

external - 20

Chap. II. Objections answered 31


That there is no external world, and that
an external world is a being utterly impos-
sible - - - - - - 40


Chap. I. Argument L - 40

Chap. II. Argument II. - 43

Chap. III. Argument III. 46

Chap. IV. Argument IV. - 50

Chap. V. Argument V. 58

Chap. VI. Argument VI. - 62

Chap. VII. Argument VII. 65

Chap. VIII. Argument VIII. - 70

Chap. IX. Argument IX. - 71

Chap. X. Objections answered - - 76

The conclusion of the whole,
Of the use and consequences of the foregoing

treatise - - - 89






Wherein the Question in general is explained and
stated, and the whole subject divided into two
particular heads.

HOUGH I am verily persuaded, that in
the whole course of the following treatise, I shall
or can have no other adversary, but prejudice; yet,
having by me no mechanical engine proper to re-
move it; nor, being able to invent any other me-
thod of attacking it, besides that of fair reason and
argument; rather than the world should finish its
course without once offering to enquire in what
manner it exists, (and for one reason more, which
I need not name, unless the end desired were more
hopeful;) I am at last, after a ten years pause and
deliberation, content to put myself upon the trial
of the common reader, without pretending to any
better art of gaining him on my side, than that of
dry reason and metaphysical demonstration.

The question I am concerned about is in general
this, whether there be any such thing as an external
world. And my title will suffice to inform my
reader, that the negative of this question is the
point I am to demonstrate.

In order to which, Jet us first explain the terms.
Accordingly, by world, I mean whatsoever is usu-
ally understood by the terms, body, extension,
space, matter, quantity, &c. if there be any other
word in our english tongue, which is synonimous
with all or any of these terms. And now nothing
remains but the explication of the word external.


By this, in general, I understand the same as is
usually understood by the words, absolute, self-
existent, independent, &c. and this is what I deny
of all matter, body, extension, &c.

If this, you will say, be all that I mean by the
word external, I am like to meet with no adversary
at all, for who has ever affirmed, that matter is self-
existent, absolute or independent ?

To this I answer, what others hold, or have held
in times past, I shall not here inquire. On the
contrary, I should be glad to find by the event,
that all mankind were agreed in that which I con-
tend for as the truth, viz. that matter is not, can-
not be independent, absolute, or self-existent. Irt
the mean time, whether they are so or no, will be
tried by this.

Secondly, and more particularly, that by not
independent, not absolutely existent, not external,
I mean and contend for nothing less, than that all
matter, body, extension, &c. exists in, or in de-
pendence on mind, thought, or perception, and that
it is not capable of an existence, which is not thus

This perhaps may awaken another to demand of
me how ? to which I as readily answer, just how
my reader pleases, provided it be somehow. As
for instance, we usually say, an accident exists in,
or in dependence on, its proper subject ; and that
its very essence, or reality of its existence, is so to
exist. Will this pass for an explication of my as-
sertion ? if so, I am content to stand by it, in this
sense of the words. Again, we usually say, (and
fancy too we know what we mean in saying,)
that a body exists in, and also in dependance on,
its proper place, so as to exist necessarily in some
place or other. Will this description of dependance
please my inquisitive reader ? If so, I am content
to join issue with him, and contend that all matter

( 5 )

exists in, or as much dependantly on, mind,
thought, or perception, to the full, as any body
exists in place. Nay, I hold the description to be
so just and apposite, as if a man should say, a
thing is like itself: for I suppose I need not tell
my reader, that when I affirm that all matter ex-
ists in mind, after the same manner as body exists
in place, I mean the very same as if I had said,
that mind itself is the place of body, and so its
place, as that it is not capable of existing in any
other place, or in place after any other manner.
Again, lastly, it is a common saying, that an object
of perception exists in, or in dependance on, its
respective faculty. And of these objects, there are
many who will reckon with me, light, sounds,
colours, and even some material things, such as
trees, houses, &c, which are seen, as we say, in a
looking-glass, but which are, or ought to be owned
to have no existence but in, or respectively on, the
minds or faculties of those who perceive them. But
to please all parties at once, I affirm that I know
of no manner, in which an object of perception
exists in, or on, its respective faculty, which I will
not admit in this place, to be a just description of
that manner of in-existence, after which all matter
that exists, is affirmed by me to exist in mind.
Nevertheless, were I to speak my mind freely, I
should chuse to compare it to the in-existence of
some, rather than some other objects of perception,
particularly such as are objects of the sense of
vision; and of these, those more especially, which
are allowed by others, to exist wholly in the mind
or visive faculty j such as objects seen in a look-
ing glass, by men distempered, light-headed, ec-
static, &c. where not only colours, but intire bodies,
are perceived or seen. For these cases are exactly
parallel, with that existence which I affirm of all
matter, body, or extension whatsoever.

Having endeavoured, in as distinct terms as I
can, to give my reader notice of what I mean by
the proposition I have undertaken the defence of,
it will be requisite in the next place, to declare in
as plain terms, what I do not mean by it.

Accordingly, I declare in the first place, that
in affirming that there is no external world, I make
no doubt or question of the existence of bodies,
or whether the bodies which are seen exist or not.
It is with me a first principle, that whatsoever is
seen, is* To deny, or doubt of this, is errant
scepticism, and at once unqualifies a man for any
part or office of a disputant, or philosopher; so
that it will be remembered from this time, that my
enquiry is not concerning the existence, but alto-
gether concerning the extra-existence of certain
things or objects ; or, in other words, what I af-
firm and contend for, is not that bodies do not
exist, or that the external world does not exist,
but that such and such bodies, which are supposed
to exist, do not exist externally; or in universal
terms, that there is no such thing as an external

Secondly, I profess and declare, that notwith-
standing this my assertion, I am persuaded that I
see all bodies just as other folks do ; that is, the
visible world is seen by me, or, which is the same,
seems to me to be as much external or independ-
ant, as to its existence, on my mind, self, or visive
faculty, as any visible object does, or can be pre-
tended to do or be, to any other person. I have
neither, as I know of, another nature, nor another
knack of seeing objects, different from other per-
sons, suitable to the hypothesis of their existence
"which I here contend for. So far from this, that I
believe, and am very sure, that this seeming, or (as
I shall desire leave to call it) quasi externeity of visi-
ble objects, is not only the eflect of the will of God,

(as it is his will that light and colours should seem
to be without the soul, that heat should seem to be
in the fire, pain in the hand, &c.) but also that it is
a natural and necessary condition of their visibility ;
I would say, that though God should be supposed
to make a world, or any one visible object, which
is granted to be not external, yet by the condition
of its being seen, it would, and must be quasi
external to the perceptive faculty ; as much so to
the full, as. is any material object usually seen in
this visible world.

Moreover, thirdly, when I affirm that all matter
exists dependantly on mind, I am sure my reader
will allow me to say, I do not mean by this, that
matter or bodies exist in bodies. As for instance,
when I affirm or say, that the world, which I see
exists in my mind, I cannot be supposed to mean
that one body exists in another, or that all the
bodies which I see exist in that, which common
use has taught me to call my body. I must needs
desire to have this remembered, because experience
has taught me how apt persons are, or will be, to
mistake me in this particular.

Fourthly, when 1 affirm that this or that visible
object exists in, or dependantly on, my mind, or
perceptive faculty, I must desire to be understood
to mean no more than I say, by the words mind
and perceptive faculty. In like manner I would
be understood, when I affirm in general, that all
matter or body exists in, or dependantly on, mind.
I say this to acquit myself from the imputation of
holding, that the mind causes its own ideas, or
objects of perception ; or, lest any one by a mis-
take should fancy that I affirm, that matter depends
for its existence on the will of man, or any creature
whatsoever. But now, if any such mistake should
arise in another's mind, he has wherewith to rect-
ify it -, in as much as I assure him, that by mind,

( 6 )

I mean that part, or act, or faculty of the soul,
which is distinguished by the name intellective, or
perceptive, as in exclusion of that other part which
is distinguished by the term will.

Fifthly, when I affirm that all matter exists in
mind, or that no matter is external, I do not mean,
that the world, or any visible object of it, which I
(for instance) see, is dependant on the mind of
any other person besides myself; or that the world,
or matter, which any other person sees, is depend-
ant on mine, or any other person's mind, or faculty
of perception. On the contrary, I contend as well
as grant, that the world which John sees is external
to Peter, and the world which Peter sees is external
to John. That is, I hold the thing to be the same
in this, as in any other case of sensation ; for in-
stance, that of sound. Here two or more persons,
who are present at a concert of music, may indeed
in some sense be said to hear the same notes or
melody ; but yet the truth is, that the sound which
one hears, is not the very same with the sound
which another hears, because the souls or persons
are supposed to be different; and therefore, the
sound which Peter hears, is external to, or inde-
pendant on the soul of John, and that which John
hears, is external to the soul or person of Peter.

Lastly, when I affirm that no matter is altogether
external, but necessarily exists in some mind or
other, exemplified and distinguished by the proper
names of John, Peter, &c. I have no design to
affirm, that every part or particle of matter, which
does or can exist, must needs exist in some created
mind or other. On the contrary, I believe that
infinite worlds might exist, though not one single
created, (or rather merely created,) mind were
ever in being. And as in fact there are thousands
and ten thousands, I believe, and I even contend,
that there is an universe, or material world in being,

( 7 )

which is, at least, numerically different from every
material world perceived by mere creatures. By this,
I mean the great mundane idea of created (or rather
twice created) matter, by which all things are pro-
duced ; or rather, (as my present subject leads me
to speak,) by which the great God gives sensations
to all his thinking creatures, and by which things
that are not, are preserved, and ordered in the same
manner as if they were.

And now I presume and hope, that my meaning
is sufficiently understood, when I affirm, that all
matter which exists, exists in, or dependantly on,
mind ; or, that there is no such thing as an exter-
nal world.

Nevertheless, after all the simplicity to which
this question seems already to be reduced, I find
myself necessitated to divide it into two. For, in
Order to prove that there is no external world, it
must needs be one article to shew that the visible
world is not external, and when this is done, though
in this all be indeed done, which relates to any opi-
nion yet maintained by men, yet something still is
\vanting towards a full demonstration of the point
at large, and to come up to the universal terms, in
which the question is expressed.

Accordingly, I shall proceed in this order. First
to shew, that the visible world is not external. Se-
condly, to demonstrate more at large, or simply,
that an external world is a being utterly impossible.
Which two shall be the subjects of two distinct
parts or books.


( 8 )


CHAP. i.

Wherein the first question is considered, viz. Whether
the visible World is external or not.


,ST, then, I affirm that the visible world
is not external. By the visible world, I mean every
material object, which is, or has been, or can be
seen. I say can be seen, (which is the import of
the word visible,) in order to comprehend whatever
worlds there are, or may be conceived to be, (besides
that which we see who live on this earth,) whether
planetary, celestial, or supercelestial worlds. Be
they what, or how many they will, supposing they are
visible, that is, actually seen by some particular souls
or other, they are all understood and comprehended
within the notion of the visible world : for my sub-
ject leads me to affirm, that a visible world, as vi-
sible, is not external. Some perhaps will be apt to
prevent my inquiry, by urging that it is not capable
of being a question, whether the visible world be
external or not; it being self-evident, that a visible
object, as visible or seen, is and must be exter-
nal ; that an object's being seen as external, is a
simple and direct proof of its being really external ;
and consequently that there is no foundation for
the distinction between the quasi and real exter-
neity of a visible object, which I laid down in my

I answer, then indeed I am blown up at once,
if there be any truth or consequence in the objec-
tion. But the best of it is, that I had never any
design to palm this distinction upon my reader gra-
tis, foreseeing it might stick with him. Nevertheless,

( 9 )

he must allow me the common benefit of words,
whereby to explain my meaning ; and this was all
the liberty I presumed upon, in premising that
distinction. Whether the seeming externeity of a
visible object, be indeed an argument of its real
externeity, I leave to be proved by all those who
will affirm it. However, it cannot be denied, but
that it is capable of being a question. For though
the truth, (or fact) be against me, yet visible ob-
jects seern to be external ; and herein we all agree ;
'so that one member of the distinction is allowed
by all to be good. If so, what should hinder it
from being a fair question, whether this seeming be
an argument of its real externeity ? For my own
part, I am far from taking it for granted, that this
distinction is good, or built upon real facts, (though
every one must allow the distinction to be good in
general between real and apparent,) for this would
be to take a main part of the last question for
granted. But then, on the other hand, it cannot
be expected that I should admit an adversary to
take it for granted, that this distinction (with re-
gard to visible objects) is not good; in other
words, that there is no difference in the thing, be-
tween seeming and real externeity, or between
visible and external. For this would be to grant
away at once the whole matter I am concerned for.
If therefore another would have me grant or allow
this, let him fairly set himself to shew, wherein lies
the connection between these two different terms,
or prove what is affirmed in the objection, namely,
that a visible object, as visible or seen, is and must
be external. Here, the least thing to be expected
is, that he point or single out one visible object,
which is allowed, or may be plainly proved to be
external. In the mean time, or till something of
this kind be attempted by another, all must allow

( 10 )

me the liberty of doubting, whether there be any
such connection or not 5 at least bear with me,
whilst I am content to prove that there is no such

Let this then be the first step by which I rise to
my last conclusion; namely, to shew, that the seem-
ing externeity of a visible object, is no argument of
its real externeity. Or, in other words, that a visi-
ble object may exist h), or depen< -antly on, the mind
of him that seeth it, notwithstanding that it is seen,
and is allowed to seem to be external to, or inde-
pendant on it.


That the seeming externeity of a visible object, is no
argument of its real externeity.

TO show this, I think the best way will be
by instances, or an induction of particular objects,
which, though they seem as much to be external,
as any objects whatsoever, yet are, or must needs
be granted, to be not external. These, to speak as
orderly as I can, shall be divided into two sorts,
possibles and actuals.

By actuals are meant certain instances of per-
ception, which are ordinary and usual, or which,
at least, have been in fact. And by possibles are
meant certain instances of perception, which have
never indeed been fact, bat which need nothing
but an increase of power, to make tham so at any
time. And,

First, for the last of these, viz. of possible in-
stances of perception; where the object perceived
is allowed to be not external, though it appears to
be as much so as any objects whatsoever. Of this

( 11 \

sort I shall mention two, and that according to
their degrees of actuality. And,

First, for that which is the least actual of the
two, which shall be an instance of a man's per-
ceiving a creature, which has not so much as in its
kind, existed externally; (supposing here for the
present that some things have so existed;) I mean,
one of those they usually call chimaera's. Of these
there are distinctions and names, of which one is

A centaur, is an ens or being, partly horse, and
partly man : a mere fiction of poets or painters;
that is, a creature which has never existed, or been
seen, any otherwise than in imagination. But in
imagination it has, or is supposed to have been
seen, and as such it has existed, and does or may
continually exist.

Well now,- let some particular person be sup-
posed, in whose mind or imagination, a centaur
does, this instant exist ; and let his name be called
Apelles. Apelies then perceives a centaur, and
that vividly or distinctly enough to draw the pic-
ture of it, or describe its shape and proportions
with his pencil.

These things supposed, I demand how does this
centaur seem to Apelles ? Either as within or with-
out him, whilst he fixes the eye ot his mind upon
it, so as to describe it ? For an answer to this
question, I appeal to every person living, whether
an object of imagination does not seem or appear
to be as much external to the mind, which sees it,
as any object whatsoever j that is as any of those
which are called objects of vision. If so, I might
here observe, that we have already one instance of
an object perceived, which, as perceived, is seen as
without, yet is indeed not so, but altogether exist-
ent in, or dependant on, the mind that perceives it.
But I am content to suppose that it will be urged to

( 12 )

me, that this is not an instance to the intended
purpose, which was not concerning imagination,
but sense, and particularly that of vision. Well,
I submit to the charge of fact, lest I should seem
too rigorous, and so overstrain my point : but then
my reader will agree with me in the conclusion I
contend for, if from this very instance I shew him
a like possible case of vision, wherein the object
perceived is not external.

In speaking of possibles, allowed to be such, I
have all power at my command, or the liberty of
supposing the power of God himself to produce
effects for me. Suppose then an almighty power
ready at hand to produce this imagined centaur
into an object of vision ; what is to be done in this
case, or to this end ? Must an external centaur be
created that Apelles may see it? Perhaps so, but
is there no easier or shorter way than this for A-
pelles to see a centaur? Nay, but he is supposed
already to see a centaur, only that we do not use
to call it seeing, but imagining, because of the faint
and languid manner after which he seeth it. But

Online LibrarySamuel ParrMetaphysical tracts by English philosophers of the eighteenth century, consisting of 1. Clavis universalis; 2. A specimen of true philosophy, by Arthur Collier; 3. Conjecturae quaedam de sensu, motu, et idearum generatione; 4. An inquiry into the origin of human appetites and affections; 5. Man in q → online text (page 1 of 25)