In considering this subject, we can see that as the people concerned acquire new degrees of reason and knowledge, their opinions rise up through three levels. These opinions are •that of the common people, •that of a false philosophy, and •that of the true philosophy—and we shall find when we look into it that the true philosophy is closer to the views of the common people than it is to those of a mistaken knowledge ·such as many philosophers have·. It is natural for men in their common and careless way of thinking to imagine that they perceive a connection between objects that they have constantly found united together; and because custom has made it hard for them to separate the ideas, they are apt to imagine such a separation to be in itself impossible and absurd. ·Thus, for example: Someone observes—for things (x) like middle-sized physical objects—that •x-is-left-unsupported is almost always followed immediately by •x-falls-to-the-ground; this creates in him a custom of expectation, in which an impression of •x-unsupported leads quickly and smoothly and easily to an idea of •x-falling; and this inclines him to think that the idea of •non-support is absolutely tied to the idea of •falling in the way that the idea of being square is tied to the idea of being rectangular; which means that he is inclined to think he can see that it is absolutely (logically) impossible for an unsupported object of the relevant kind not to fall·. But philosophers, who set aside the effects of custom and look for relations between the ideas of objects, immediately see the falsehood of these common opinions and discover that there is no known connection among objects—·that is, none of the kind involving a connection between the ideas of the objects·. Every object appears to them entirely distinct and separate from every other; and they see that when we infer one from another, our basis is not a view of the nature and qualities of the objects but only an experience of having often observed ·objects of those kinds· to have been constantly conjoined. But these philosophers, instead of soundly inferring from this that we don’t have any idea of mind-independent objective power or agency, frequently search for the qualities in which this agency consists, and are displeased with every account of it that their reason suggests to them. Their intellects are sharp enough to keep from the common error that there is a natural and perceivable connection ·of ideas· between matter’s various perceptible qualities and how it behaves, but not sharp enough to keep them from looking for such a connection in matter itself—in the causes themselves. If they had found their way to the right conclusion, they would have turned back to the situation of the common people, and would have adopted a lazy ‘don’t care’ attitude to all these long investigations ·into the causal tie·. As things are, they seem to be in a very lamentable condition, much worse that the poets present in their descriptions of the punishments of Sisyphus and Tantalus. For what could be more tormenting than to seek eagerly something that always flies away from us, and to seek it in a place where it can’t possibly be?
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