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§. 22. Difference of men's discoveries depends upon the different application of their faculties.
To conclude: some ideas forwardly offer themselves to all men's understandings; some sorts of truth result from any ideas, as soon as the mind puts them into propositions; other truths require a train of ideas placed in order, a due comparing of them, and deductions made with attention, before they can be discovered and assented to. Some of the first sort, because of their general and easy reception, have been mistaken for innate; but the truth is, ideas and notions are no more born with us than arts and sciences, though some of them indeed offer themselves to our faculties more readily than others, and therefore are more generally received; though that too be according as the organs of our bodies and powers of our minds happen to be employed : God having fitted men with faculties and means to discover, receive, and retain truths according as they are employed. The great difference that is to be found in the notions of mankind is from the different use they put their faculties to; whilst some (and those the most) taking things upon trust, misemploy their power of assent, by lazily enslaving their minds to the dictates and dominion of others in doctrines, which it is their duty carefully to examine, and not blindly, with an implicit faith, to swallow. Others, employing their thoughts only about some few things, grow acquainted sufficiently with them, attain great degrees of knowledge in them, and are ignorant of all other, having never let their thoughts loose in the search of other enquiries. Thus, that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right ones, is a truth as certain as any thing can be, and I think more evident than many of those propositions that go for principles; and yet there are millions, however expert in other things, who know not this at all, because they never set their thoughts on work about such angles; and he that certainly knows this proposition, may yet be utterly ignorant of the truth of other propositions, in mathematics itself, which are as clear and as evident as this: because, in his search of those ma thematical truths, he stopped his thoughts short, and went not so far. The same may happen concerning the notions we have of the being of a deity; for though there be no truth which a man may more evidently make out to himself than the existence of a God, yet he that shall content himself with things as he finds them in this world, as they
minister to his pleasures and passions, and not make inquiry a little farther into their causes, ends, and admirable contrivances, and pursue the thoughts thereof with dili❤ gence and attention; may live long without any notion of such a being. And if any person hath by talk put such a notion into his head, he may perhaps believe it; but if he hath never examined it, his knowledge of it will be no perfecter than his, who having been told that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right ones, takes it upon trust, without examining the demonstration; and may yield his assent as a probable opinion, but hath no knowledge of the truth of it: which yet his faculties, if carefully employed, were able to make clear and evident to him. But this only by the by, to show how much our knowledge depends upon the right use of those powers nature hath bestowed upon us, and how little upon such innate principles, as are in vain supposed to be in all mankind for their direction; which all men could not but know, if they were there, or else they would be there to no purpose and which since all men do not know, nor can distinguish from other adventitious truths, we may well conclude there are no such.
§. 23. Men must think and know for themselves.
What censure doubting thus of innate principles may deserve from men, who will be apt to call it, pulling up the old foundations of knowledge and certainty, I cannot tell; I persuade myself at least, that the way I have pursued, being conformable to truth, lays those foundations surer. This I am certain, I have not made it my business either to quit or follow any authority in the ensuing discourse; truth has been my only aim, and wherever that has appeared to lead, my thoughts have impartially followed, without minding whether the footsteps of any other lay that way or no. Not that I want a due respect to other men's opinions; but, after all, the greatest reverence is due to truth: and I hope it will not be thought arrogance to say, that perhaps we should make greater progress in the discovery of rational and contemplative knowledge, if we sought it in the fountain, in the consideration of things themselves, and made use rather of our own thoughts than other men's to find it: for I think we may as rationally hope to see with other men's eyes, as to know by other men's understandings. So much as we ourselves
consider and comprehend of truth and reason, so much we possess of real and true knowledge. The floating of other men's opinions in our brains makes us not one jot the more knowing, though they happen to be true. What in them was science, is in us but opiniatrety; whilst we give up our assent only to reverend names, and do not, as they did, employ our own reason to understand those truths which gave them reputation. Aristotle was certainly a knowing man, but nobody ever thought him so because he blindly embraced, or confidently vented, the opinions of another. And if the taking up another's principles, without examining them, made not him a philo pher, I suppose it will hardly make any body else so. In the sciences, every one has so much as he really knows and comprehends: what he believes only, and takes upon trust, are but shreds; which however well in the whole piece, make no considerable addition to his stock who gathers them. Such borrowed wealth, like fairy money, though it were gold in the hand from which he received it, will be but leaves and dust when it comes to use.
§. 24. Whence the opinion of innate principles.
When men have found some general propositions, that could not be doubted of as soon as understood, it was, I know, a short and easy way to conclude them innate.This being once received, it eased the lazy from the pains of search, and stopped the inquiry of the doubtful concerning all that was once styled innate. And it was of no small advantage to those who affected to be masters and teachers, to make this the principle of principles, "that principles must not "be questioned" for having once established this tenet, that there are innate principles, it put their followers upon a necessity of receiving some doctrines as such; which was to take them off from the use of their own reason and judgment, and put them on believing and taking them upon trust, without farther examination: in which posture of blind credulity, they might be more easily governed by, and made useful to, some sort of men, who had the skill and office to principle and guide them. Nor is it a small power it gives one man over another, to have the authority to be the dictator of principles, and teacher of unquestionable truths: and to make a man swallow that for an innate principle, which may serve to his purpose who teacheth them: where
as had they examined the ways whereby men came to the knowledge of many universal truths, they would have found them to result in the minds of men from the being of things themselves, when duly considered; and that they were discovered by the application of those faculties, that were fitted by nature to receive and judge of them, when duly employed about them.
§. 25. Conclusion.
To show how the understanding proceeds herein, is the design of the following discourse; which I shall proceed to, when I have first premised, that hitherto, to clear my way to those foundations, which I conceive are the only true ones whereon to establish those notions we can have of our own knowledge, it hath been necessary for me to give an account of the reasons I had to doubt of innate principles. And since the arguments which are against them do some of them rise from common received opinions, I have been forced to take several things for granted, which is hardly avoidable to any one, whose task is to show the falsehood or improbability of any tenet; it happening in controversial discourses, as it does in assaulting of towns, where if the ground be but firm where on the batteries are erected, there is no farther inquiry of whom it is borrowed, nor whom it belongs to, so it affords but a fit rise for the present purpose. But in the future part of this discourse, designing to raise an edifice uniform and consistent with itself, as far as my own experience and observation will assist me, I hope to erect it on such a basis, that I shall not need to shore it up with props and buttresses, leaning on borrowed or begged foundations; or at least, if mine prove a castle in the air, I will endeavour it shall be all of piece, and hang together.Wherein I warn the reader not to expect undeniable cogent demonstrations, unless I may be allowed the privilege not seldom assumed by others, to take my principles for granted and then, I doubt not, but I can demonstrate too. All that I shall say for the principles I proceed on is, that I can only appeal to men's own unprejudiced experience and observation, whether they be true or no; and this is enough for a man who professes no more, than to lay down candidly and freely his own conjectures concerning a subject lying somewhat in the dark, without any other design than an unbiassed inquiry after truth.
OF IDEAS IN GENERAL, AND THEIR ORIGINAL.
§. 1. Idea is the object of thinking.
EVERY man being consciousness to himself that he thinks, and that which his mind is applied about, whilst thinking, being the ideas that are there, it is past doubt, that men have in their minds several ideas, such as are those expressed by the words, Whiteness, Hardness, Sweetness, Thinking, Motion, Man, Elephant, Army, Drunkenness, and others. It is in the first place then to be inquired, how he comes by them. I know it is a received doctrine, that men have native ideas, and original characters, stamped upon their minds, in their very first being. This opinion I have, at large, examined already; and, I suppose, what I have said, in the foregoing book, will be much more easily admitted, when I have shown, whence the understanding may get all the ideas it has, and by what ways and degrees they come into the mind; for which I shall appeal to every one's own observation and experience.
§. 2. All ideas come from sensation or reflection.
Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas; how comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it, with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, from experience; in all that our knowledge is founded, and from that it ultimately derives itself. Our observation employed either about external sensible objects, or about the internal operations of our minds, perceived and reflected on by ourselves, is that which supplies our understandings with all the materials of thinking. These two are the fountains of knowledge, from whence all the ideas we have, or can naturally have, do spring.