Benjamin Franklin Representative selections, with introduction, bibliograpy, and notes

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 277

after Death? All our Ideas are first
admitted by the Senses and imprinted on the Brain, increasing in Number
by Observation and Experience; there they become the Subjects of the
Soul's Action. The Soul is a mere Power or Faculty of _contemplating_
on, and _comparing_ those Ideas when it has them; hence springs Reason:
But as it can _think_ on nothing but Ideas, it must have them before it
can _think_ at all. Therefore as it may exist before it has receiv'd any
Ideas, it may exist before it _thinks_. To remember a Thing, is to have
the Idea of it still plainly imprinted on the Brain, which the Soul can
turn to and contemplate on Occasion. To forget a Thing, is to have the
Idea of it defac'd and destroy'd by some Accident, or the crouding in
and imprinting of great variety of other Ideas upon it, so that the Soul
cannot find out its Traces and distinguish it. When we have thus lost
the Idea of any one Thing, we can _think_ no more, or _cease to think_,
on that Thing; and as we can lose the Idea of one Thing, so we may of
ten, twenty, a hundred, &c. and even of all Things, because they are not
in their Nature permanent; and often during Life we see that some Men,
(by an Accident or Distemper affecting the Brain,) lose the greatest
Part of their Ideas, and remember very little of their past Actions and
Circumstances. Now upon _Death_, and the Destruction of the Body, the
Ideas contain'd in the Brain, (which are alone the Subjects of the
Soul's Action) being then likewise necessarily destroy'd, the Soul, tho'
incapable of Destruction itself, must then necessarily _cease to think_
or _act_, having nothing left to think or act upon. It is reduc'd to its
first unconscious State before it receiv'd any Ideas. And to cease to
_think_ is but little different from _ceasing to be_.

Nevertheless, 'tis not impossible that this same _Faculty_ of
contemplating Ideas may be hereafter united to a new Body, and receive a
new Set of Ideas; but that will no way concern us who are now living;
for the Identity will be lost, it is no longer that same _Self_ but a
new Being.

I shall here subjoin a short Recapitulation of the Whole, that it may
with all its Parts be comprehended at one View.

1. _It is suppos'd that God the Maker and Governour of the Universe, is
infinitely wise, good, and powerful._

2. _In consequence of His Infinite Wisdom and Goodness, it is asserted,
that whatever

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