Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
Do our Faculties deceive us?
By Richard Price (17231791)
From Questions in Morals
LET us consider, first, that we are informed of this difficulty by our faculties, and that, consequently, if we do not know that any regard is due to their information, we likewise do not know that there is any regard due to this difficulty. It will appear presently to be a contradiction to suppose that our faculties can teach us universally to suspect themselves.
Secondly, our natures are such, that whatever we see, or think we see evidence against, we cannot believe. If then there should appear to us, on the whole, any evidence against the supposition that our faculties are so contrived as always to deceive us, we are obliged to reject it. Evidence must produce conviction proportioned to the imagined degree of it; and conviction is inconsistent with suspicion. It will signify nothing to urge that no evidence in this case can be regarded because discovered by our suspected faculties; for we cannot suspect, we cannot in any case doubt without reason or against reason. Doubting supposes evidence, and there cannot, therefore, be any such thing as doubting whether evidence itself is to be regarded. A man who doubts of the veracity of his faculties, must do it on their own authority; that is, at the very time, and in the very act of suspecting them, he must trust them. As nothing is more plainly self-destructive than to attempt to prove by reason that reason deserves no credit, or to assert that we have reason for thinking that there is no such thing as reason; it is certainly no less so to pretend that we have reason to doubt whether reason is to be regarded, or which comes to the same, whether our faculties are to be regarded. And, as far as it is acknowledged, there is no reason to doubt, so far it will be ridiculous to pretend to doubt.