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derstand not the terms, nor by a great part of those who do understand them, but have yet never heard nor thought of those propositions ; which, I think, is at least one half of mankind. But were the number far less, it would be enough to destroy universal assent, and thereby show these propositions not to be innate, if children alone were ignorant of them. $. 25. But that I may not be accused to These
is not the argue from the thoughts of intants, which ims
first known. are unknown to us, and to conclude from what passes in their understandings before they express it; I say next, that these two general propositions are not the truths that first possess the minds of children, nor are antecedent to all acquired and adventitious notions; which, if they were innate, they must needs be Whether we can determine it or no, it matters not, there is certainly a time when children begin to think, and their words and actions do assure us that they do so. When therefore they are capable of thought, of knowledge, of assent, can it rationally be supposed, they can be ignorant of those notions that nature has imprinted, were there any such? Can it be imagined, with any appearance of reason, that they perceive the impressions from things without, and be at the same time ignorant of those characters which nature itself has taken care to stamp within ? Can they receive and assent to adventitious notions, and be ignorant of those which are supposed woven into the very principles of their being, and imprinted there in indelible characters, to be the foundation and guide of all their acquired kvowledge, and future reasonings? This would be, to inake nature take pains to no purpose; or, at least, to write very ill ; since its characters could not be read by those eyes, which saw other things very well; and those are very ill supposed the clearest parts of truth, and the foundations of all our knowledge, which are not first known, and without which the undoubted knowledge of several other things inay be liad. The child certainly knows, that the nurse that feeds it, is neither the cat it plays with, nor the blackmoor it is afraid of; that the wormseed or mustard it refuses, is not the apple or sugar it cries for; this it is certainly and undoubtedly assured of: but will any one say, it is by virtue of this principle, “ that it is impossible for the same thing to be, and not to be," that it so firmly assents to these, and other parts of its knowledge? Or that the child has any notion or apprehension of that proposition at an age, wherein yet, it is plain, it knows a great many other truths ? He that will say, children join these general abstract speculations with their sucking botiles and their rattles, may, perhaps, with justice, be thought to have more passion and zeal for his opinion, but less sincerity and truth, than one of that age.
§. 26. Though therefore there be several And so not innate.
general prropositions, that meet with con
stant and ready assent, as soon as proposed to men grown up, who have attained the use of more general and abstract ideas, and names standing for them; yet they not being to be found in those of tender years, who nevertheless know other things, they cannot pretend to universal assent of intelligent persons, and so by no means can be supposed innate: it being impossible, that any truth which is innate (if there were any such) should be unknown, at least to any one who knows any thing else: since, if there are innate truths, they must be innate thoughts ; there being nothing a truth in the mind, that it has never thought on. Whereby it is evident, if there be any innate truths in the mind, they must necessarily be the first of any thought on; the first that appear there.
$. 27. That the general maxims, we are Not innate,
discoursing of, are not known to children, because they appear least, idiots, and a great part of mankind, we where what have already sufficiently proved; whereby is innate
it is evident, they have not an universal shows itself clearest.
assent, nor are general impressions. But
there is this farther argument in it against their being innate, that these characters, if they were native and original impressions, should appear fairest
and clearest in those persons in whom yet we find no footsteps of them : and it is, in my opinion, a strong presumption, that they are not innate, since they are least known to those, in whom, if they were innate, they must needs exert themselves with inost force and vigour. For children, idiots, savages, and illiterate people, being of all others the least corrupted by custom, or borrowe:l : opinions; learning and education having not cast their native thoughts into new moulds, nor, by superinducing foreign and studied doctrines, confounded those fair characters nature had written there; one might reasonably imagine, that in their minds these innate 'notions should lie open fairly to every one's view, as it is certain the thoughts of children do. It might very well be expected, that these principles should be perfectly known to naturals, which being stamped immediately on the soul (as these nien suppose) can have no dependance on the constitutions or organs of the body, the only confessed difference between them and others. One would think, accord, ing to these men's principles, that all these native beams of light (were there any such) should in those who have no reserves, no arts of concealment, sline out in their full lustre, and leave us in no more doubt of their being there, than we are of their love of pleasure, and abhorrence of pain. But alas, amongst children, idiots, savages, and the grossly illiterate, what general maxims are to be found? what universal principles of knowledge: Their notions are few and narrow, borrowed only from those objects they have had most to do with, and which have made upon their senses the frequentest and strongest impressions. А child knows his nurse and his cradle, and by degrees the play-things of a little more advanced age : and a young savage has, perhaps, bis head filled with love and hunting, according to the fashion of his tribe. But he that from a child untaught, or a wild inhabitant of the woods, will expect these abstract maxims and reputed principles of science, will, I fear, find himself inistaken. Such kind of general propositions are seldom mentioned in the huts of Indians, much less are they to be found in the thoughts of children, or any impressions of them on the minds of naturals. They are the language and business of the schools and academies of learned nations, accustomed to that sort of conversation or learning, where disputes are frequent: these maxims being suited to artificial argumentation, and useful for conviction; but not much conducing to the discovery of truth, or advancement of knowledge. But of their small use for the improvement of knowledge, I shall have occasion to speak more at large, 1. 4. c. 7. CHAP. III.
f. 28. I know not how absurd this may Recapitulacion.
seem to the masters of demonstration: and
probably it will hardly down with any body at first hearing. I must therefore beg a little truce with prejudice, and the forbearance of censure, till I have been heard out in the sequel of this discourse, being very willing to submit to better judgments. And since I impartially search after truth, I shall not be sorry to be convinced that I have been too fond of my own notions ; which I confess we are all apt to be, when application and study have warmed our heads with them.
Upon the whole matter, I cannot see any ground to think these two speculative maxims innate, since they are not universally assented to ; and the assent they so generally find, is no other than what several propositions, not allowed to be innate, cqually partake in with them; and since the assent that is given them, is produced another way, and comes not from natural inscription, as I doubt not but to make appear in the following discourse. And if these first principles of knowledge and science are found not to be innate, no other speculative maxims can (I supposc) with better right pretend to be so.
No Innate Practical Principles.
$. 1. F those speculative maxims, whereof No moral we discoursed in the foregoing chap- principles so
clear, and so ter, have not an actual universal assent from
generally reall mankind, as we there proved, it is much ceived, as the more visible concerning practical princi- foremention ples, that they come short of an univer- ed specula.
tive maxims. sal reception : and I think it will be hard to instance any one moral rule, which can pretend to so general and ready an assent as,
“ what is, is ;
is ;" or to be so manifest a truth as this, " that it is impossible for the same thing to be, and not to be.” Whereby it is evident, that they are farther removed from a title to be innate; and the doubt of their being native impressions on the mind, is stronger against those moral principles than the other. Not that it brings their truth at all in question : they are equally true, though not equally evident. Those speculative maxims carry their own evidence with them : but moral principles require reasoning and discourse, and some exercise of the mind, to discover the certainty of their truth. They lie not open as natural characters engraven on the mind; which, if any such were, they must needs be visible by themselves, and by their own light be certain and known to every body. But this is no derogation to their truth and certainty, no more than it is to the truth or certainty of the three angles of a triangle being equal to two right ones ; because it is not so evident, as " the whole is bigger than a part;” nor so apt to be assented to at first hearing. It may suffice, that these moral rules are capable of demonstration; and there. fore it is our own fault, if we come not to a certain knowledge of them. But the ignorance wherein many men are of them, and the slowness of assent wherewith others receive them, are manifest proofs that they are VOL. I. D