All that can be said upon the number and nature of elements is, in my opinion, confinedto discussions entirely of a metaphysical nature. The subject only furnishes us withindefinite problems, which may be solved in a thousand different ways, not one of which,in all probability, is consistent with nature. I shall therefore only add upon this subject,that if, by the termelements, we mean to express those simple and indivisible atoms ofwhich matter is composed, it is extremely probable we know nothing at all about them;but, if we apply the termelements, orprinciples of bodies, to express our idea of the lastpoint which analysis is capable of reaching, we must admit, as elements, all thesubstances into which we are capable, by any means, to reduce bodies by decomposition.Not that we are entitled to affirm, that these substances we consider as simple may not becompounded of two, or even of a greater number of principles; but, since these principlescannot be separated, or rather since we have not hitherto discovered the means ofseparating them, they act with regard to us as simple substances, and we ought never tosuppose them compounded until experiment and observation has proved them to be so.
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