Billeder på siden


"therefore cannot but confess here again, that ex❝ternal and internal sensation are the only passages "that I can find of knowledge to the understanding. These alone, as far as I can discover, are "the windows by which light is let into this dark "room. For, methinks the understanding is not "much unlike a closet, wholly shut from light, with



only some little openings left, to let in external "visible resemblances, or ideas of things without. "Would the pictures coming into a dark room but stay there, and lie so orderly as to be found upon occasion, it would very much resemble the understanding of a man, in reference to all objects of "sight, and the ideas of them." *



I have been induced to multiply these quotations, as some writers have alleged, that an undue advantage has been taken of the unguarded use which Locke has made in them of the word resemblance; which, it has been asserted, he could not possibly mean to be understood in its literal sense. † On this point I must leave my readers to judge from his own language; only remarking, that if this language be considered as at all metaphorical or figurative, the most important inferences, drawn both by himself and his successors, from his celebrated theory concerning the origin of our ideas, amount to nothing better than a play upon words.

For my own part, I can see no good reason for supposing that Locke did not believe that our ideas of primary qualities are really resemblances or copies

* Locke, Book ii. Chap. xi. § 17.

See Priestley's Examination of Reid, &c. p. 28. et seq.

of these qualities, when we know for certain that, till our own times, this has been the universal doctrine of the schools, from Aristotle downwards. Even Leibnitz himself, while he rejected the supposition of these ideas coming into the mind from without, expresses no doubt of their resemblance to the archetypes which they enable us to think of. The soul he considered as a living mirror of the universe; possessing within itself confused or imperfect ideas of all the modifications of things external, whether present, past, or to come that is to say, he retained that part of the scholastic doctrine which is the most palpably absurd and unintelligible; the supposition, that we can think of nothing, unless either the original or the copy be actually in the mind, and the immediate subject of consciousness. All these philosophers have been misled by a vain anxiety to explain the incomprehensible causes of the phenomena of which we are conscious, in the simple acts of thinking, perceiving, and knowing; and they all seem to have imagined that they had advanced a certain length in solving these problems, when they conjectured, that in every act of thought there exists some image or idea in the mind, distinct from the mind itself; by the intermediation of which its intercourse is carried on with things remote or absent. The chief difference among their systems has turned on this, that whereas many have supposed the mind to have been originally provided with a certain portion of its destined furniture, independently of any intercourse with the material world; the prevailing opinion, since Locke's time,

has been, that all our simple, ideas, excepting those which the power of reflection collects from the phenomena of thought, are images or representations of certain external archetypes with which our different organs of sense are conversant; and that, out of these materials, thus treasured up in the repository of the understanding, all the possible objects of human knowledge are manufactured. "What incon"sistency!" (might Voltaire well exclaim)-" We "know not how the earth produces a blade of grass;


or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is "with child; and yet we would persuade ourselves "that we understand the nature and generation of our ideas." *


It is, however, a matter of comparatively little consequence to ascertain what were the notions which Locke himself annexed to his words, if it shall appear clearly, that the interpretation which I have put upon them coincides exactly with the meaning annexed to them by the most distinguished of his successors. How far this is the case, my readers will be enabled to judge by the remarks which I am to state in the next chapter. +

* "Selon Leibnitz, l'ame est une concentration, un miroir " vivant de tout l'univers, qui a en soi toutes les idées confuses "de toutes les modifications de ce monde présentes, passées, et ་་ futures," " &c. &c.

"Chose etrange, nous ne savons pas comment la terre pro"duit un brin d'herbe, comment une femme fait un enfant, et "on croit savoir comment nous faisons des idées."—(See the chapter in Voltaire's account of Newton's Discoveries, entitled De l'Ame et des Idées.)

+ Note (C.)





[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

WE E are percipient of nothing, says Bishop Berkeley, "but of our own perceptions and ideas." -"It is evident to any one who takes a survey of "the objects of human knowledge, that they are "either ideas actually imprinted on the senses, "or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind; † or, lastly, "ideas formed by help of memory and imagination, "either compounding. dividing, or barely represent



ing those originally perceived in the foresaid "ways.”—“ Light and colours," he elsewhere observes, "heat and cold, extension and figure; in

[ocr errors]

a word, the things we see and feel, what are they, "but so many sensations, notions, ideas, or impres❝sions on the senses: and is it possible to separate, "even in thought, any of these from perception ? "For my own part, I might as easily divide a thing "from itself." S

*Ideas of Sensation.

+ Ideas of Reflection.
Principles of Human Knowledge, Sect. 1.
Principles of Human Knowledge, Sect. 5.

No form of words could shew more plainly, that, according to Berkeley's construction of Locke's language, his account of the origin of our ideas was conceived to involve, as an obvious corollary," that "all the immediate objects of human knowledge "exist in the mind itself, and fall under the direct cognizance of consciousness, as much as our sen"sations of heat and cold, or of pleasure and pain."


Mr Hume's great principle with respect to the origin of our ideas, which (as I before hinted) is only that of Locke under a new form, asserts the same doctrine, with greater conciseness, but in a manner still less liable to misinterpretation.


"nal senses." +

"All our ideas are nothing but copies of our im"pressions; or, in other words, it is impossible for "us to think of anything which we have not antecedently felt, either by our external or our interMr Hume tells us elsewhere, that present to the mind but an image "or perception. The senses are only the inlets through which these images are conveyed, with"out being able to produce any immediate inter"course between the mind and the object."‡

"nothing can be


That both of these very acute writers, too, understood, in its literal sense, the word resemblance, as employed by Locke, to express the conformity between our ideas of primary qualities and their sup

The word feeling, whether used here literally or figuratively, can, it is evident, be applied only to what is the immediate subject of consciousness.

Of the Idea of Necessary Connexion, Part I.
Essay on the Academical or Sceptical Philosophy.

« ForrigeFortsæt »