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What Probabilities determine the Assent.
      §15. But yet there is some end of it, and a Man having carefully
enquired into all the grounds of Probability and Unlikeliness; done
his utmost to inform himself in all Particulars fairly; and cast up
the Summ total on both sides, may in most Cases come to acknow-
ledge, upon the whole Matter, on which side the Probability rests:
wherein some Proofs in Matter of Reason, being suppositions upon
universal Experience, are so cogent and clear; and some Testi-
monies in Matter of Fact so universal, that he cannot refuse his
Assent. So that, I think, we may conclude, that in Propositions,
where though the Proofs in view are of most Moment, yet there are
sufficient grounds, to suspect that there is either Fallacy in Words,
or certain Proofs, as considerable, to be produced on the contrary
side, there Assent, Suspense, or Dissent, are often voluntary
Actions: But where the Proofs are such as make it highly probable
and there is not sufficient ground to suspect, that there is either
Fallacy of Words, (which sober and serious Consideration may dis-
cover,) nor equally valid Proofs yet undiscovered latent on the
other side, (which also the Nature of the Thing, may, in some Cases,
make plain to a considerate Man,) there, I think, a Man, who has
weighed them, can scarce refuse his Assent to the side, on which the
greater Probability appears. Whether it be probably, that a prom-
iscuous jumble of printing Letters should often fall into a Method
and order, which should stamp on Paper a coherent Discourse; or
that a blind fortuitous concourse of Atoms, not guided by an
understanding Agent, should frequently constitute the Bodies of
any Species of Animals: in these and the like Cases, I think, no Body
that considers them, can be one jot at a stand which side to take,
nor at all waver in his Assent. Lastly, when there can be no Supposi-
tion, (the thing in its own nature indifferent, and wholly depending
upon the Testimony of Witnesses,) that there is as fair Testi-
mony against, as for the Matter of Fact attested; which by Enquiry,
is to be learned, v.g. whether there was 1700 years agone such a
Man at Rome as Julius Caesar: In all such Cases, I say, I think it is not
— 717 —
in any rational Man’s Power to refuse his Assent; but that it neces-
sarily follows, and closes with such Probabilities. In other less clear
Cases, I think, it is in a Man’s Power to suspend his Assent; and,
perhaps, content himself with the Proofs he has, if they favour the
Opinion that suits with his Inclination, or Interest, and so stop
from farther search. But that a Man should afford his Assent to that
side, on which the less Probability appears to him, seems to me
utterly impracticable, and as impossible, as it is to believe the same
thing probable and improbable at the same time.
Locke Hum IV, 20, §15, pp. 716-717