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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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5139. MATERIALISM, Views on.—
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3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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5139. MATERIALISM, Views on.—

consider [Dugald] Stewart and [Destutt] Tracy
as the ablest metaphysicians living; by which
I mean investigators of the thinking faculty
of man. Stewart seems to have given its natural
history from facts and observations;
Tracy its modes of action and deduction, which
he calls Logic, and Ideology; and Cabanis, in
his Physique et Morale de l'Homme, has investigated
anatomically, and most ingeniously, the
particular organs in the human structure which
may most probably exercise that faculty. And
they ask, why may not the mode of action called
thought, have been given to a material organ
of peculiar structure, as that of magnetism is to
the needle, or of elasticity to the spring by a
particular manipulation of the steel. They observe


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that on ignition of the needle or spring, their magnetism and elasticity cease. So on
dissolution of the material organ by death, its
action of thought may cease also, and that nobody
supposes that the magnetism or elasticity
retires to hold a substantive and distinct existence.
These were qualities only of particular
conformations of matter; change the conformation,
and its qualities change also. Mr. Locke
and other materialists have charged with blasphemy
the spiritualists who have denied the
Creator the power of endowing certain forms
of matter with the faculty of thought. These,
however, are speculations and subtleties in
which, for my own part, I have little indulged
myself. When I meet with a proposition beyond
finite comprehension, I abandon it as
I do a weight which human strength cannot
lift, and I think ignorance in these cases is
truly the softest pillow on which I can lay my
head. Were it necessary, however, to form an
opinion, I confess I should, with Mr. Locke,
prefer swallowing one incomprehensibility
rather than two. It requires one effort only
to admit the single incomprehensibility of matter
endowed with thought, and two to believe,
first that of an existence called spirit, of which
we have neither evidence nor idea, and then,
secondly, how that spirit, which has neither
extension nor solidity, can put material organs
into motion. These are things which you and
I may perhaps know ere long. We have so lived
as to fear neither horn of the dilemma.—
To John Adams. Washington ed. vii, 153.
(M. 1820)