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Locke's two main characteristics.

§ 2. In order to understand Locke we must always bear in mind what I may call his two main characteristics; Ist, his craving to know and to speak the truth and the whole truth in everything, truth not for a purpose but for itself*; 2nd, his perfect trust in the reason as the guide, the only guide, to truth.†

83. 1st. Those who have not reflected much on the subject will naturally suppose that the desire to know the truth is common to all men, and the desire to speak the truth common to most. But this is very far from being the case. If we had any earnest desire for truth we should examine things carefully before we admitted them as truths; in other words our opinions would be the growth of long and energetic thought. But instead of this they are formed for the most part quite carelessly and at haphazard, and we value them not on account of their supposed agreement with fact but because though "poor things" they are Own or those of our sect or party. Locke on the other


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* "Believe it, my good friend, to love truth for truth's sake is the principal part of human perfection in this world and the seed-plot of all other virtues." L. to Bolde, quoted by Fowler, Locke, p. 120. This shows us that according to Locke "the principal part of human perfection " is to be found in the intellect.

+ Lady Masham seems to consider these two characteristics identical. She wrote to Leclerc of Locke after his death: "He was always, in the greatest and in the smallest affairs of human life, as well as in specula tive opinions, disposed to follow reason, whosoever it were that suggested it; he being ever a faithful servant, I had almost said a slave, to truth; never abandoning her for anything else, and following her for her own sake purely" (quoted by Fox-Bourne). But it is one thing to desire truth, and another to think one's own reasoning power the sole means of obtaining it.

Ist Truth for itself. 2nd Reason for Truth.

hand was always endeavouring to get at the truth for its own sake. This separated him from men in general. And he brought great powers of mind to bear on the investiga tion. This raised him above them.

§ 4. 2nd. Locke's second characteristic was his entire reliance on the guidance of reason. "The faculty of reasoning," says he, "seldom or never deceives those who trust to it." Elsewhere, borrowing a metaphor from Solomon (Prov. xx, 27), he speaks of this faculty as "the candle of the Lord set up by Himself in men's minds." (F. B. ij. 129). In a fine passage in the Conduct of the Understanding he calls it "the touchstone of truth" (§ iij, Fowler's edition, p. 10). He even goes so far in his correspondence with Molyneux as to maintain that intelligent honest men cannot possibly differ.*

But if we consider it from one point of view the treatise on the Conduct of the Understanding is itself a witness that human reason is a compass liable to incalculable variations and likely enough to shipwreck those who steer by it alone. In this book Locke shows us that to come to a true result the understanding (1) must be perfectly trained, (2) must not be affected by any feeling in favour of or against any

* "I am far from imagining myself infallible; but yet I should be loth to differ from any thinking man; being fully persuaded there are very few things of pure speculation wherein two thinking men who impartially seek truth can differ if they give themselves the leisure to examine their hypotheses and understand one another " (L. to W. M., 26 Dec., 1692). Again he writes: "I am persuaded that upon debate you and I cannot be of two opinions, nor I think any two men used to think with freedom, who really prefer truth to opiniatrety and a little foolish vain-glory of not having made a mistake" (L. to W. M., 3 Sept., 1694).

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Locke's definition of knowledge.

particular result, and (3) must have before it all the data necessary for forming a judgment. In practice these conditions are seldom (if ever) fulfilled; and Locke himself, when he wants an instance of a mind that can acquiesce in the certainty of its conclusions, takes it from "angels and separate spirits who may be endowed with more comprehensive faculties " than we are (C. of U. § iij, 3).

§ 5. It seems to me then that Locke much exaggerates the power of the individual reason for getting at the truth. And to exaggerate the importance of one function of the mind is to unduly diminish the importance of the rest. Thus we find that in Locke's scheme of education little thought is taken for the play of the affections and feelings; and as for the imagination it is treated merely as a source of mischief.

§ 6. Locke, as it has often been pointed out, differs from the schoolmaster in making small account of the knowledge to be acquired by those under education. But it has not been so often remarked that the fundamental difference is much deeper than this and lies in the conception of knowledge itself. With the ordinary schoolmaster the test of knowledge is the power of reproduction. Whatever pupils can reproduce with difficulty they know imperfectly; whatever they can reproduce with ease they know thoroughly. But Locke's definition of knowledge confines it to a much smaller area. According to him knowledge is "the internal perception of the mind" (Locke to Stillingfleet v. F. B. ij, 432). "Knowing is seeing; and if it be so, it is madness to persuade ourselves we do so by another man's eyes, let him use never so many words to tell us that what he asserts

is very visible. Till we ourselves see it with our own eyes, and perceive it by our own understandings, we are as much

Knowing without seeing.

in the dark and as void of knowledge as before, let us believe any learned authors as much as we will" (C. of U. § 24).

§ 7. Here Locke makes no distinction between different classes of truths. But surely very important differences


About some physical facts our knowledge is at once most certain and most definite when we derive it through the evidence of our own senses. "Seeing is believing," says the proverb. It may be believing, but it is not knowing. That certainty which we call knowledge we often arrive at better by the testimony of others than by that of our

own senses.

Miss Martineau in her Autobiography tells us that as a child of ten she entirely and unaccountably failed to see a comet which was visible to all other people; but, although her own senses were at fault, the evidence for the comet was so conclusive that she may be said to have known there was a comet in the sky.


Compare Carlyle :— Except thine own eye have got to see it, except thine own soul have victoriously struggled to clear vision and belief of it, what is the thing seen the thing believed by another or by never so many others? Alas, it is not thine, though thou look on it, brag about it, and bully and fight about it till thou die, striving to persuade thyself and all men how much it is thine! Not it is thine, but only a windy echo and tradition of it bedded [an echo bedded?] in hypocrisy, ending sure enough in tragical futility is thine." Froude's Thos. Carlyle, ij, 10. Similarly Locke wrote to Bolde in 1699 :—“To be learned in the lump by other men's thoughts, and to be right by saying after others is much the easier and quieter way; but how a rational man that should enquire and know for himself can content himself with a faith or religion taken upon trust, or with such a servile submission of his understanding as to admit all and nothing else but what fashion makes passable among men, is to me astonishing." Quoted by Fowler, Locke, p. 118.

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Discentem credere oportet.

On sufficient evidence we can know anything, just as we know there is a great water-fall at Niagara though we may never have crossed the Atlantic. But we cannot be so cer tain simply on the evidence of our senses. If we trusted entirely to them we might take the earth for a plane and "know" that the sun moved round it.

§ 8. But Locke probably considers as the subject of knowledge not so much physical facts as the great body of truths which are ascertained by the intellect. It is the eye of the mind by which alone knowledge is to be gained. Of these truths the purest specimens are the truths of geometry. It may be said that only those who have followed the proofs know that the area of the square on the side opposite the right angle in a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the other sides. But even in pure reasoning like this, the tiro often seems to see what he does not really see; and where his own reason brings him to a conclusion different from the one established he knows only that he is mistaken.

§ 9. It must be admitted then that first-hand knowledge, knowledge derived from the vision of the eye or of the mind, is not the only knowledge the young require. Every learner must take things on trust, as even Lord Bacon admits. Discentem credere oportet. To use Locke's own words :-"I do not say, to be a good geographer that a man should visit every mountain, river, promontory, and creek upon the face of the earth, view the buildings and survey the land everywhere as if he were going to make a purchase " (C. of U., iij, ad f.). So that even according to Locke's own shewing we must use the eyes of others as well as our own, and this is true not in geography only, but in all other branches of knowledge.

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