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The phrases in their context!


We can conceive a thinking being to have either many or few perceptions.
Suppose the mind to be reduced even below the life of an oyster.
Suppose it to have only one perception, as of thirst or hunger.
Consider it in that situation.
Do you conceive any thing but merely that perception? Have you any notion of self or substance? If not, the addition of other perceptions can never give you that notion.
The annihilation, which some people suppose to follow upon death, and which entirely destroys this self, is nothing but an extinction of all particular perceptions; love and hatred, pain and pleasure, thought and sensation.
These therefore must be the same with self; since the one cannot survive the other.
Is self the same with substance? If it be, how can that question have place, concerning the subsistence of self, under a change of substance? If they be distinct, what is the difference betwixt them? For my part, I have a notion of neither, when conceived distinct from particular perceptions.
Philosophers begin to be reconciled to the principle, that we have no idea of external substance, distinct from the ideas of particular qualities.
This must pave the way for a like principle with regard to the mind, that we have no notion of it, distinct from the particular perceptions.
So far I seem to be attended with sufficient evidence.
But having thus loosened all our particular perceptions, when I proceed to explain the principle of connexion, which binds them together, and makes us attribute to them a real simplicity and identity; I am sensible, that my account is very defective, and that nothing but the seeming evidence of the precedent reasonings coued have induced me to receive it.
If perceptions are distinct existences, they form a whole only by being connected together.
But no connexions among distinct existences are ever discoverable by human understanding.
We only feel a connexion or determination of the thought, to pass from one object to another.
It follows, therefore, that the thought alone finds personal identity, when reflecting on the train of past perceptions, that compose a mind, the ideas of them are felt to be connected together, and naturally introduce each other.
However extraordinary this conclusion may seem, it need not surprize us.
Most philosophers seem inclined to think, that personal identity arises from consciousness; and consciousness is nothing but a reflected thought or perception.
The present philosophy, therefore, has so far a promising aspect.
But all my hopes vanish, when I come to explain the principles, that unite our successive perceptions in our thought or consciousness.
I cannot discover any theory, which gives me satisfaction on this head.