8vo, pp. xii, 288, without the half-title with errata on the verso; a few marginal pencil markings and a single marginal annotation to p. 96, clean tear without loss to p.45, lightly toned, occasional foxing, a very good copy in contemporary calf, double gilt-ruled border, neatly rebacked, panelled spine with double-gilt rules and red morocco label; contemporary ownership inscription of Mich. Kerney to the title-page.
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A dissertation on miracles: containing an examination of the principles advanced by David Hume Esq; in an essay on miracles...
First edition. This dissertation, expanded from a sermon preached before the provincial synod in 1760 is called by Mossner ‘the most elaborate of the eighteenth century and is further remarkable in that it drew comment from Hume himself’ (p. 292). Through an intermediary, the Reverend Hugh Blair, Campbell received criticism of his as yet unpublished work from Hume: ‘I have perused the ingenious performance, which you were so obliging as to put into my hands, with all the attention possible... But the fault lies not in the piece, which is certainly very acute; but in the subject. I know you will say, it lies in neither, but in myself alone. If that be so, I am sorry to say that I believe it is incurable... I could wish your friend had not denominated me an infidel writer, on account of ten or twelve pages which seems to him to have that tendency; while I have wrote so many volumes on history, literature and politics, trade, morals, which in that particular at least, are entirely inoffensive. Is a man to be called a drunkard because he has been fuddled once in his lifetime? Your friend... is certainly a very ingenious man, tho’ a little too zealous for a philosopher...’ (ibid).
The Dissertation was generally admired. ‘The most original part is the argument that the highest anterior improbabilty of an alleged event is counterbalanced by slight direct evidence’ (DNB).
Michael Kerney (1734-1814) was a scholar of Trinity College, Dublin, and sometime Archdeacon of Raphoe.
Chuo III, 64; Jessop, p. 113; see Mossner, The Life of David Hume pp. 292-294.
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First edition. The best-known work of the Roman Catholic philosopher and controversialist John Sergeant (1623–1707). ‘The two philosophers to whom he is most opposed are Descartes and Locke, the “Ideists” whose distinction between ideas in the mind and external reality he saw as sowing the seeds for an incurable scepticism which he strongly attacked, but less clearly refuted. Locke is the main subject of his assault, no doubt because by this stage in the late 1690s it was Locke’s philosophy which was the centre of attention. In place of the strongly repudiated “Way of Ideas” Sergeant attempts to set a philosophy of “Notions”, a concept which some have seen, though on the basis of little evidence, as influencing Berkeley. Ideas Sergeant rejects because they close us off from the world of things – “Solid Philosophy” … Sergeant is a curious figure in the history of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century philosophy, combining his scholastic roots with glimpses of the modern world into an unstable synthesis of Catholic theology (albeit unorthodox), scholastic philosophy and elements of Lockean epistemology, the latter appearing to be a source on which he drew (as Locke noted) despite his overt rejection of much of its content’ (Dictionary of seventeenth-century British philosophers, p. 724).
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