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SECT. 3. Method. It is, therefore, worth while to search out the bounds between opinion and knowledge; and examine by what measures, in things, whereof we have no certain knowledge, we ought to regulate our assent, and moderate our persuasions. In order whereunto, I shall pursue this following method.

First, I shall inquire into the original of those ideas, notions, or whatever else you please to call them, which a man observes, and is conscious to himself he has in his mind; and the ways whereby the understanding comes to be furnished with them.

Secondly, I shall endeavour to show what knowledge the understanding hath by those ideas; and the certainty, evidence, and extent of it.

Thirdly, I shall make some inquiry into the nature and grounds of faith or opinion; whereby I mean that assent which we give to any proposition as true, of whose truth yet we have no certain knowledge: and here we shall have occasion to examine the reasons and degrees of assent.

SECT. 4. Useful to know the extent of our comprehension.—If, by this inquiry into the nature of the understanding, I can discover the powers thereof, how far they reach, to what things they are in any degree proportionate, and where they fail us; I suppose it may be of use to prevail with the busy mind of man to be more cautious in meddling with things exceeding its comprehension; to stop when it is at the utmost extent of its tether; and to sit down in a quiet ignorance of those things, which, upon examination, are found to be beyond the reach of our capacities. We should not then, perhaps, be so forward, out of an affectation of a universal knowledge, to raise questions, and perplex ourselves and others with disputes about things to which our understandings are not suited, and of which we cannot frame in our minds any clear or distinct perceptions, or whereof (as it has, perhaps, too often happened) we have not any notions at all. If we can find out how far the understanding can extend its views, how far it has faculties to attain certainty, and in what cases it can only judge and guess, we may learn to content ourselves with what is attainable by us in this


SECT. 5. Our capacity suited to our state and concerns.-For, though the comprehension of our understandings comes exceeding short of the vast extent of things, yet we shall have cause enough to magnify the bountiful Author of our being, for that proportion and degree of knowledge he has bestowed on us, so far above all the rest of the inhabitants of this our mansion. Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he has given them (as St. Peter says) wávra πρὸς ζωὴν καὶ εὐσέβειαν, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life, and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments, that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction; if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp every thing. We shall not have much reason to complain of the narrowness of our minds, if we will but employ them about what may be of use to us: for of that they are very capable: and it will be an unpar donable, as well as childish peevishness, if we undervalue the advantages of our knowledge, and neglect to improve it to the ends for which it was given us, because there are some things that are set out of the reach of it. It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant, who would not attend his business by candlelight, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The candle that is set up in us, shines bright enough for all our purposes.

The discoveries we can make with this, ought to satisfy us: and we shall then use our understanding right, when we entertain all objects in that way and proportion that they are suited to our faculties, and upon those grounds they are capable of being proposed to us; and not peremptorily or intemperately require demonstration, and demand certainty, where probability only is to be had, and which is sufficient to govern all our concernments. If we will disbelieve every thing, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do much-what as wisely as he, who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly.

SECT. 6. Knowledge of our capacity a cure of scepticism and idleness.— When we know our own strength, we shall the better know what to undertake with hopes of success; and when we have well surveyed the powers of our own minds, and made some estimate what we may expect from them, we shall not be inclined either to sit still, and not set our thoughts on work at all, in despair of knowing any thing; or, on the other side, question every thing, and disclaim all knowledge, because some things are not to be understood. It is of great use to the sailor to know the length of his line, though he cannot with it fathom all the depths of the ocean. is well he knows that it is long enough to reach the bottom, at such places as are necessary to direct his voyage, and caution him against running upon shoals that may ruin him. Our business here is not to know all things, but those which concern our conduct. If we can find out those measures whereby a rational creature, put in that state in which man is in, in this world, may and ought to govern his opinions, and actions depending thereon, we need not to be troubled that some other things escape our knowledge.


SECT. 7. Occasion of this essay.-This was that which gave the first rise to this essay concerning the understanding. For I thought that the first step towards satisfying several inquiries the mind of man was very apt to run into, was to take a survey of our own understanding, examine our own powers, and see to what things they were adapted. Till that was done, I suspected we began at the wrong end, and in vain sought for satisfaction in a quiet and sure possession of truths that most concerned us, whilst we let loose our thoughts into the vast ocean of being; as if all that boundless extent were the natural and unbounded possession of our understandings, wherein there was nothing exempt from its decisions, or that escaped its comprehension. Thus men, extending their inquiries beyond their capacites, and letting their thoughts wander into those depths where they can find no sure footing, it is no wonder that they raise questions, and multiply disputes, which, never coming to any clear resolution, are proper only to continue and increase their doubts, and to confirm them at last in perfect scepticism. Whereas, were the capacities of our understandings well considered, the extent of our knowledge once discovered, and the horizon found, which sets the bounds between the enlightened and dark parts of things, between what is and what is not comprehensible by us; men would, perhaps, with less scruple acquiesce in the avowed ignorance of the one, and employ their thoughts and discourse with more advantage and satisfaction in the other.

SECT. 8. What idea stands for.-Thus much I thought necessary to say concerning the occasion of this inquiry into human understanding. But, before I proceed on to what I have thought on this subject, I must here in the entrance beg pardon of my reader for the frequent use of the word "idea," which he will find in the following treatise. It being that term which, I think, serves best to stand for whatsoever is the object of the understanding when a man thinks; I have used it to express whatever is meant by phantasm, notion, species, or whatever it is which the mind can be employed about in thinking; and I could not avoid frequently using it(1).

(1) This modest apology of our author could not procure him the free use of the word idea: but great offence has been taken at it, and it has been censured

I presume it will be easily granted me, that there are such ideas in men's minds; every one is conscious of them in himself, and men's words and actions will satisfy him that they are in others.

Our first inquiry then shall be, how they come into the mind.

as of dangerous consequence: to which you may see what he answers. "The world," saith the bishop of Worcester,* "hath been strangely amused with ideas of late, and we have been told, that strange things might be done by the help of ideas; and yet these ideas, at last, come to be only common notions of things, which we must make use of in our reasoning. You (i. e. the author of the Essay concerning Human Understanding) say in that chapter about the existence of God, you thought it most proper to express yourself in the most usual and familiar way, by common words and expressions. I would you had done so quite through your book; for then you had never given that occasion to the enemies of our faith, to take up your new way of ideas, as an effectual battery (as they imagined) against the mysteries of the Christian faith. But you might have enjoyed the satisfaction of your ideas long enough before I had taken notice of them, unless I had found them employed about doing mischief."

To which our author repliest, It is plain, that that which your lordship apprehends, in my book, may be of dangerous consequence to the article which your lordship has endeavoured to defend, is my introducing new terms; and that which your lordship instances in, is that of ideas. And the reason your lordship gives in every of these places, why your lordship has such an apprehension of ideas, that they may be of dangerous consequence to that article of faith which your lordship has endeavoured to defend, is because they have been applied to such purposes. And I might (your lordship says) have enjoyed the satisfaction of my ideas long enough before you had taken notice of them, unless your lordship had found them employed in doing mischief. Which, at last, as I humbly conceive, amounts to thus much, and no more, viz: That your lordship fears ideas, i. e. the term ideas, may, some time or other, prove of very dangerous consequence to what your lordship has endeavoured to defend, because they have been made use of in arguing against it. For I am sure your lordship does not mean, that you apprehend the things signified by ideas, may be of dangerous consequence to the article of faith your lordship endeavours to defend, because they have been made use of against it: for (besides that your lordship mentions terms) that would be to expect that those who oppose that article, should oppose it without any thoughts; for the things signified by ideas, are nothing but the immediate objects of our minds in thinking: so that unless any one can oppose the article your lordship defends, without thinking on something, he must use the things signified by ideas; for he that thinks, must have some immediate object of his mind in thinking, i. e. must have ideas.

But whether it be the name, or the thing; ideas in sound, or ideas in signification; that your lordship apprehends may be of dangerous consequence to that ar ticle of faith which your lordship endeavours to defend; it seems to me, I will not say a new way of reasoning (for that belongs to me), but were it not your lordship's, I should think it a very extraordinary way of reasoning, to write against a book, wherein your lordship acknowledges they are not used to bad purposes, nor employed to do mischief, only because you find that ideas are, by those who oppose your lordship, employed to do mischief; and so apprehend they may be of dangerous consequence to the article your lordship has engaged in the defence of. For whether ideas as terms, or ideas as the immediate objects of the mind signified by those terms, may be, in your lordship's apprehension, of dangerous consequence to that article; I do not see how your lordship's writing against the notions of ideas, as stated in my book, will at all hinder your opposers from employing them in doing mischief, as before.

However, be that as it will, so it is, that your lordship apprehends these new terms, these ideas, with which the world hath of late been so strangely amused,

Answer to Mr Locke's First Letter.

+ In his Second Letter to the Bishop of Worcester.

(though at last they come to be only common notions of things, as your lordship owns,) may be of dangerous consequence to that article.

My lord, if any, in answer to your lordship's sermons, and in other pamphlets, wherein your lordship complains they have talked so much of ideas, have been troublesome to your lordship with that term, it is not strange that your lordship should be tired with that sound: but how natural soever it be to our weak constitutions to be offended with any sound wherewith an importunate din hath been made about our ears; yet, my lord, I know your lordship has a better opinion of the articles of our faith, than to think any of them can be overturned, or so much as shaken, with a breath formed into any sound or term whatsoever.

Names are but the arbitrary marks of conceptions; and so they be sufficiently appropriated to them in their use, I know no other difference any of them have in particular, but as they are of easy or difficult pronunciation, and of a more or less pleasant sound; and what particular antipathies there may be in men to some of them, upon that account, it is not easy to be foreseen. This, I am sure, no term whatsoever in itself, bears one more than another, any opposition to truth of any kind; they are only propositions that do or can oppose the truth of any article or doctrine; and thus no term is privileged from being set in opposition to truth. There is no word to be found, which may not be brought into a proposition, wherein the most sacred and most evident truths may be opposed; but that is not a fault in the term, but him that uses it. And therefore I cannot easily persuade myself (whatever your lordship hath said in the heat of your concern) that you have bestowed so much pains upon my book, because the word idea is so much used there. For though upon my saying, in my chapter about the existence of God, that I scarce used the word idea in that chapter,' your lordship wishes that I had done so quite through my book; yet I must rather look upon that as a compliment to me, wherein your lordship wished that my book had been all through suited to vulgar readers, not used to that and the like terms, than that your lordship has such an apprehension of the word idea; or that there is any such harm in the use of it, instead of the word notion (with which your lordship seems to take it to agree in signification,) that your lordship would think it worth your while to spend any part of your valuable time and thoughts about my book, for having the word idea so often in it; for this would be to make your lordship to write only against an impropriety of speech. I own to your lordship, it is a great condescension in your lordship to have done it, if that word have such a share in what your lordship has writ against my book, as some expressions would persuade one; and I would, for the satisfaction of your lordship, change the term of idea for a better, if your lordship, or any one, could help me to it; for, that notion will not so well stand for every immediate object I of the mind in thinking, as idea does, I have (as I guess) somewhere given a reason in my book, by showing that the term notion is more peculiarly appropriated to a certain sort of those objects, which I call mixed modes: and I think it would not sound altogether so well, to say, the notion of red, and the notion of a horse; as the idea of red, and the idea of a horse. But if any one thinks it will, I contend not; for I have no fondness for, nor any antipathy to, any particular articulate sounds; nor do I think there is any spell or fascination in any of them. But be the word idea proper or improper, I do not see how it is the better or the worse, because ill men have made use of it, or because it has been made use of to bad purposes; for if that be a reason to condemn, or lay it by, we must lay by, the terms scripture, reason, perception, distinct, clear, &c. Nay, the name of God himself will not escape; for I do not think any one of these, or any other term, can be produced, which hath not been made use of by such men, and to such purposes. And, therefore, if the Unitarians, in their late pamphlets, have talked very much of, and strangely amused the world with ideas, I cannot believe your lordship will think that word one jot the worst, or the more dangerous, because they use it; any more than, for their use of them, you will think reason or scripture terms ill or dangerous. And therefore what your lordship says, that. I might have enjoyed the satisfaction of my ideas iong enough before your lordship had taken notice of them, unless you had found them employed in doing mischief, will, I presume, when your lordship has considered again of this matter, prevail with your lordship, to let me enjoy still the satisfaction I take in my ideas, i. c.

as much satisfaction as I can take in so small a matter, as is the using of a proper term, notwithstanding it should be employed by others in doing mischief.

For, my lord, if I should leave it wholly out of my book and substitute the word notion every where in the room of it, and every body else should do so too, (though your lordship does not, I suppose, suspect that I have the vanity to think they would follow my example) my book would, it seems, be the more to your lordship's liking; but I do not see how this would one jot abate the mischief your lordship complains of. For the Unitarians might as much employ notions as they do now ideas to do mischief; unless they are such fools to think they can conjure with this notable word idea, and that the force of what they say lies in the sound, and not in the signification of their terms.

This I am sure of, that the truths of the Christian religion can be no more battered by one word than another; nor can they be beaten down or endangered by any sound whatsoever. And I am apt to flatter myself, that your lordship is satisfied that there is no harm in the word ideas, because you say, you should not have taken any notice of my ideas, if the enemies of our faith had not taken up my new way of ideas, as an effectual battery against the mysteries of the Christian faith. In which place, by new way of ideas, nothing, I think, can be construed to be meant, but my expressing myself by that of ideas; and not by other more common words and of ancienter standing in the English language.

As to the objection of the author's way by ideas being a new way, he thus answers: my new way by ideas, or my way by ideas, which often occurs in your lordship's letter, is, I confess, a very large and doubtful expression; and may, in the full latitude, comprehend my whole essay; because treating in it of the understanding, which is nothing but the faculty of thinking, I could not well treat of that faculty of the mind, which consists in thinking, without considering the immediate objects of the mind in thinking, which I call ideas: and therefore, in treating of the understanding, I guess it will not be thought strange, that the greatest part of my book has been taken up in considering what these objects of the mind, in thinking, are; whence they come; what use the mind makes of them, in its several ways of thinking; and what are the outward marks whereby it signifies them to others, or records them for its own use. And this, in short, is my way by ideas, that which your lordship calls my new way by ideas; which, my lord, if it be new, it is but a new history of an old thing. For I think it will not be doubted, that men always performed the actions of thinking, reasoning, believing, and knowing, just after the same manner that they do now; though whether the same account has heretofore been given of the way how they performed these actions, or wherein they consisted, I do not know. Where I as well read as your lordship, I should have been safe from that gentle reprimand of your lordships for thinking my way of ideas NEW, for want of looking into other men's thoughts, which appear in their books.

Your lordship's words, as an acknowledgement of your instructions in the case, and as a warning to others, who will be so bold adventurers as to spin any thing barely out of their own thoughts, I shall set down at large. And they run thus: "Whether you took this way of ideas from the modern philosopher mentioned by you, is not at all material; but I intended no reflection upon you in it (for that you mean, by my commending you as a scholar of so great a master.) I never meant to take from you the honour of your own inventions: and I do believe you when you say, That you wrote from your own thoughts, and the ideas you had there. But many things may seem new to one, that converses only with his own thoughts, which really are not so; as he may find, when he looks into the thoughts of other men, which appear in their books. And, therefore, although I have a just esteem for the invention of such, who can spin volumes barely out of their own thoughts, yet I am apt to think they would oblige the world more, if, after they have thought so much themselves, they would examine what thoughts others have had before them, concerning the same things; that so those may not be thought their own inventions, which are common to themselves and others. If a man should try all the magnetical experiments himself, and publish them as his own thoughts, he might take himself to be the inventor of them; but he that examines and compares them with what Gilbert and others

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