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The consideration of these troubles might make us resolve to reject all the trivial suggestions of the imagination, and adhere to the understanding—that is, to the imagination’s general and more established properties. But even this resolution, if steadily kept to, would be dangerous and would bring the most fatal consequences. For I have already shown in section 1 that the understanding, when it acts alone and according to its most general principles, entirely subverts itself and leaves us without even the lowest level of conviction about any proposition, either in philosophy or common life. We save ourselves from this total scepticism only by means of a special and seemingly trivial property of the imagination—namely, its making it difficult for us to enter into remote views of things, not being able to accompany them with as strong an impression as we do things that are more easy and natural. Shall we, then, adopt it as a general maxim that no refined or elaborate reasoning is ever to be accepted? Consider well the consequences of such a principle! It cuts you off entirely from all science and philosophy; you proceed on the basis of one special quality of the imagination, and by parity of reasoning you should embrace them all; and you explicitly contradict yourself, because this maxim must be based on the preceding reasoning, which you must admit is sufficiently refined and metaphysical ·to fall under the principle and thus be rejected by it·! What side shall we choose among these difficulties? If we embrace this principle and condemn all refined reasoning, we run into the most manifest absurdities. If we reject it in favour of these reasonings, we entirely subvert the human understanding. We are left with a choice between •a false reason and •no reason at all. For my part, I don’t know what ought to be done in the present case. I can only observe what commonly is done, namely: this difficulty is seldom or never thought of, and even when it is present to the mind it is quickly forgotten and leaves only a small impression behind it. Very refined reflections have little or no influence on us; and yet we don’t and can’t accept the rule that they ought not to have any influence, for that implies a manifest contradiction.

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