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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

First Principles

tempted to put this passage in. Nothing truer has ever been
said about imagination. Then the voice was heard addressing
the barman and saying :

" I suppose you wouldn't trust me with a quart of beer,
would you ? "


Kant says that all our knowledge is founded on experience.
But each new small increment of knowledge is not so founded,
and our whole knowledge is made up of the accumulation of
these small new increments not one of which is founded upon
experience. Our knowledge, then, is founded not on experience
but on inexperience ; for where there is no novelty, that is to
say no inexperience, there is no increment in experience. Our
knowledge is really founded upon something which we do not
know, but it is converted into experience by memory.

It is like species — we do not know the cause of the variations
whose accumulation results in species and any explanation
which leaves this out of sight ignores the whole difficulty. We
want to know the cause of the effect that inexperience pro-
duces on us.

Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit

We say that everything has a beginning. This is one side of
the matter. There is another according to which everything is
without a beginning — beginnings, and endings also, being, but
as it were, steps cut in a slope of ice without which we could
not climb it. They are for convenience and the hardness of
the hearts of men who make an idol of classification, but they
do not exist apart from our sense of our own convenience.

It was a favourite saying with William Sefton Moorhouse
[in New Zealand] that men cannot get rich by swopping knives.
Nevertheless nature does seem to go upon this principle.
Everybody does eat everybody up. Man eats birds, birds eat
worms and worms eat man again. It is a vicious circle, yet,
somehow or other, there is an increment. I begin to doubt
the principle e% nihilo nihil fit.

We very much want a way of getting something out of
nothing and back into it again. Whether or no we ever shall
get such a way, we see the clearly perceptible arising out of
and returning into the absolutely imperceptible and, so far as