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between the simple and the complex, and observed how the complex ones are divided into those of modes, substances, and relations; all which, I think, is necessary to be done by any one, who would acquaint himself thoroughly with the progress of the mind in its apprehension and knowledge of things: it will, perhaps, be thought I have dwelt long enough upon the examination of ideas. I must, nevertheless, crave leave to offer some few other considerations concerning them. The first is, that some are clear, and others obscure; some distinct, and others confused.
§. 2. Clear and obscure explained by sight.
The perception of the mind being most aptly explained by words relating to the sight, we shall best understand what is meant by clear and obscure in our ideas, by reflecting on what we call clear and obscure in the objects of sight. Light being that which discovers to us visible objects, we give the name of obscure to that which is not placed in a light sufficient to discover minutely to us the figure and colours, which are observable in it, and which, in a better light, would be discernible. In like manner our simple ideas are clear, when they are such as the objects themselves, from whence they were taken, did or might, in a well-ordered sensation or perception, present them. Whilst the memory retains them thus, and can produce them to the mind, whenever it has occasion to consider them, they are clear ideas. So far as they either want any thing of the original exactness, or have lost any of their first freshness, and are, as it were, faded or tarnished by time; so far are they obscure. Complex ideas, as they are made up of simple ones, so they are clear when the ideas that go to their composition are clear: and the number and order of those simple ideas, that are the ingredients of any complex one, is determined and certain.
§. 3. Causes of obscurity.
The causes of obscurity in simple ideas seem to be either dull organs, or very slight and transient impressions made by the objects, or else a weakness in the memory not able to retain them as received. For, to return again to visible objects to help us to apprehend this matter if the organs or faculties of perception, like wax over-hardened with cold, will not receive the impression of the seal, from the usual impulse wont to imprint it; or, like wax of a temper too soft, will not hold it well when well imprinted;
or else supposing the wax of a temper fit, but the seal not applied with a sufficient force to make a clear impression: in any of these cases the print left by the seal will be obscure. This, I suppose, needs no application to make it plainer.
§. 4. Distinct and confused, what.
As a clear idea is that whereof the mind has such a full and evident perception, as it does receive from an outward object operating duly on a well-disposed organ; so a distinct idea is that wherein the mind perceives a difference. from all other; and a confused idea is such a one, as is not sufficiently distinguishable from another, from which it ought to be different.
§. 5. Objection.
If no idea be confused, but such as is not sufficiently distinguishable from another, from which it should be different; it will be hard, may any one say, to find any where a confused idea. For let any idea be as it will, it can be no other but such as the mind perceives it to be; and that very perception sufficiently distinguishes it from all other ideas, which cannot be other, i. e. different, without being perceived to be so. No idea therefore can be undistinguishable from another, from which it ought to be diffe rent, unless you would have it different from itself: for from all other it is evidently different.
§. 6. Confusion of ideas is in reference to their names. To remove this difficulty, and to help us to conceive aright what it is that makes the confusion ideas are at any time chargeable with, we must consider, that things ranked under distinct names are supposed different enough to be distinguished, and so each sort by its peculiar name may be marked, and discoursed of apart upon any occasion and there is nothing more evident, than that the greatest part of different names are supposed to stand for different things. Now every idea a man has being visibly what it is, and distinct from all other ideas but itself; that which makes it confused, is, when it is such, that it may as well be called by another name, as that which it is expressed by the difference which keeps the things (to be ranked under those two different names) distinct, and makes some of them belong rather to the one, and some of them to the other of those names, being left out; and so the distinction, which was intended to be kept up by those different names, is quite lost.
§. 7. Defaults which make confusion. The defaults which usually occasion this confusion, I think, are chiefly these following:
First, complex ideas made up of too few simple ones.
First, when any complex idea (for it is complex ideas that are most liable to confusion) is made up of too small a number of simple ideas, and such only as are common to other things, whereby the differences that make it deserve a different name, are left out. Thus he that has an
idea made up of barely the simple ones of a beast with spots, has but a confused idea of a leopard; it not being thereby sufficiently distinguished from a lynx, and several other sorts of beasts that are spotted. So that such an idea, though it hath the peculiar name leopard, is not distinguishable from those designed by the names lynx or panther, and may as well come under the name lynx as leopard. How much the custom of defining of words by general terms contributes to make the ideas we would express by them confused and undetermined, I leave others to consider. This is evident, that confused ideas are such as render the use of words uncertain, and take away the benefit of distinct names. When the ideas, for which we use different terms, have not a difference answerable to their distinct names, and so cannot be distinguished by them, there it is that they are truly confused.
§. 8. Secondly, or its simple ones jumbled disorderly together. Secondly, Another fault which makes our ideas confused, is, when though the particulars that make up any idea are in number enough: yet they are so jumbled together, that it is not easily discernible whether it more belongs to the name that is given it, than to any other. There is nothing properer to make us conceive this confusion, than a sort of pictures usually shown as surprising pieces of art, wherein the colours, as they are laid by the pencil on the table itself, mark out very odd and unusual figures, and have no discernible order in their position. This draught, thus made up of parts wherein no symmetry nor order appears, is in itself no more a confused thing, than the picture of a cloudy sky; wherein though there be as little order of colours or figures to be found, yet nobody thinks it a confused picture. What is it then that makes it be thought confused, since the want of symmetry does not? as it is plain it does not; for another draught made, barely in imitation of this, could not be called confused. I
answer, that which makes it be thought confused, is, the applying it to some name, to which it does no more discernibly belong, than to some other: v. g. When it is said to be the picture of a man or Cæsar, then any one with reason counts it confused: because it is not discernible, in that state, to belong more to the name man, or Cæsar, than to the name baboon, or Pompey; which are supposed to stand for different ideas from those signified by man, or Cæsar. But when a cylindrical mirror, placed right, hath reduced those irregular lines on the table into their due order and proportion, then the confusion ceases, and the eye presently sees that it is a man, or Cæsar, i. e. that it belongs to those names; and that it is sufficiently distinguishable from a baboon, or Pompey, i. e. from the ideas signified by those names. Just thus it is with our ideas, which are as it were the pictures of things. No one of these mental draughts, however the parts are put together, can be called confused (for they are plainly discernible as they are) till it be ranked under some ordinary name, to which it cannot be discerned to belong, any more than it does to some other name of an allowed different signification.
§. 9. Thirdly, or are mutable and undetermined.
Thirdly, A third defect that frequently gives the name of confused to our ideas, is, when any one of them is uncertain and undetermined. Thus we may observe men, who not forbearing to use the ordinary words of their language, till they have learned their precise signification, change the idea they make this or that term stand for, almost as often as they use it. He that does this, out of uncertainty of what he should leave out, or put into his idea of church or idolatry, every time he thinks of either, and holds not steady to any one precise combination of ideas that makes it up, is said to have a confused idea of idolatry or the church: though this be still for the same reason as the former, viz. because a mutable idea (if we will allow it to be one idea) cannot belong to one name rather than another; and so loses the distinction that distinct names are designed for.
§. 10. Confusion, without reference to names, hardly con ceivable.
By what has been said, we may observe how much names, as supposed steady signs of things, and by their difference to stand for and keep things distinct that in themsleves are different, are the occasion of denominating
389 ideas distinct or confused, by a secret and unobserved reference the mind makes of its ideas to such names. This perhaps will be fuller understood, after what I say of words, in the third book, has been read and considered.But without taking notice of such a reference of ideas to distinct names, as the signs of distinct things, it will be hard to say what a confused idea is. And therefore when a man designs, by any name, a sort of things, or any one particular thing, distinct from all others, the complex idea he annexes to that name is the more distinct, the more particular the ideas are, and the greater and more determinate the number and order of them is, whereof it is made up. For the more it has of these, the more it has still of the perceivable differences, whereby it is kept separate and distinct from ideas belonging to other names, even those that approach nearest to it; and thereby all confusion with them is avoided.
§. 11. Confusion concerns always two ideas.
Confusion, making it a difficulty to separate two things that should be separated, concerns always two ideas; and those most, which most approach one another. Whenever therefore we suspect any idea to be confused, we must examine what other it is in danger to be confounded with, or which it cannot easily be separated form; and that will always be found an idea belonging to another name, and so should be a different thing, from which yet it is not sufficiently distinct; being either the same with it, or making a part of it, or at least as properly called by that name, as the other it is ranked under; and so keeps not that difference from that other idea, which the different names import.
§. 12. Causes of confusion.
This, I think, is the confusion proper to ideas, which still carries with it a secret reference to names. At least, if there be any other confusion of ideas, this is that which most of all disorders men's thoughts and discourses: ideas, as ranked under names, being those that for the most part men reason of within themselves, and always those which they commune about with others. And therefore where there are supposed two different ideas marked by two different names, which are not as distinguishable as the sounds that stand for them, there never fails to be confusion: and where any ideas are distinct as the ideas of those two sounds they are marked by, there can be between