"A river may as soon be made to flow back to its fountain, as volitions can be exempted from the necessitating influence of motives."

— Belsham, William (1752–1827)


Place of Publication
London
Publisher
Printed for C. Dilly
Date
1789
Metaphor
"A river may as soon be made to flow back to its fountain, as volitions can be exempted from the necessitating influence of motives."
Metaphor in Context
In this chapter there is much extraneous matter; and Mr. Locke wanders frequently from the subject he professes to discuss, to which he never reverts without great apparent reluctance: but though there are in his digressive observations very objectionable passages, I shall confine my remarks to those arguments and assertions which bear an immediate relation to the point. "Liberty," says Mr. Locke , sect. 8. "is a power in any agent to do or to forbear any particular action, according to the determination or thought of the mind." This definition is consonant to the popular view of the subject; and it may be called practical Liberty, which no Philosopher ever pretended to call in question. Metaphysical Liberty is a power of forming opposite determinations in the same precise situation. A man in any given circumstances may undoubtedly act as he wills or pleases; but then the act, whatever it be, is a definite act, and in the same precise previous circumstances the same act would invariably take place; for the act results from the previous circumstances, and perfect uniformity in the cause must produce perfect uniformity in the effect. Whatever the ignorant or the vulgar may fancy, therefore, throughout the entire series of causes and effects, nothing could possibly have happened different from what has actually taken place. The course of events is fixed and immutable, and thoughts, volitions, and actions, proceed in one uninterrupted concatenation from the beginning to the end of time, agreeably to the laws originally established by the great Creator; and it is as impossible to disturb the regular progression of causes and effects in the mental as in the material world. A river may as soon be made to flow back to its fountain, as volitions can be exempted from the necessitating influence of motives.
(pp. 275-6)
Provenance
Reading in Google Books
Citation
William Belsham, Essays, Philosophical, Historical, and Literary (London: Printed for C. Dilly, 1789). <Link to Google Books>
Date of Entry
08/24/2011

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.