Page images
PDF
EPUB

in the agreement or disagreement with those patterns prescribed by some law.

Ş, 15. To conceive rightly of moral actions, we must take notice of them under this two-fold consideration.

First, as they are in themselves each made up of such a collection of simple ideas. Thus drunkenness, or lying, signify such or such a collection of simple ideas, which I call mixed modes, and in this sense they are as much positive absolute ideas, as the drinking of a horse, or speaking of a parrot. Secondly, our actions are considered as good, bad, or indifferent, and in this respect they are relative, it being their conformity to, or disagreement with some rule that makes them to be regular or irregular, good or bad : and so, as far as they are compared with a rule, and thereupon denominated, they come under relation. Thus the challenging and fighting with a man, as it is a certain positive mode, or particular sort of action, by particular ideaș, diştinguished from all others, is called duelling : which, when considered in relation to the law of God, will deserve the name sin; to the law of fashion, in some countries, valour and virtue; and to the municipal laws of some governments, a capital crime. In this case, when the positive mode has one name, and another pame as it stands in relation to the law, the distinction may as easily be observed, as it is in substances, where one name, v. g. man, is used to signify the thing; another, v. g. father, to signify the relation. +

6. 16. But because very frequently the The denomi. positive idea of the action, and its moral nations of relation, are comprehended together under

ended together under actions often one name, and the same word inade use of mislead us. to express both the mode or action, and its moral rectitude or obliquity; therefore the relation itself is less taken notice of, and there is often no distinction made betweca the positive idea of the action, and the reference it has to a rule. By which confusion of these two distinct considerations under one term, those who yield too easy to the impressions of sounds, and are forward to take names for things, are often misled in their judgment of actions. Thus the taking from another what is his, without his knowledge or allowance, is properly called stealing; but that name being com·monly understood to signity also the moral pravity of the action, and to denote its contrariety to the law, men are apt to condemn whatever they hear called stealing as an ill action, disagreeing with the rule of right. And yet the private taking away his sword from a madman, to prevent his doing mischief, though it be properly denominated stealing, as the name of such a mixed mode; yet when compared to the law of God, and considered in its relation to that supreme rule, it is no sin or transgression, though the name stealing ordinarily carries such an intimation with it.

ther

$. 17. And thus much for the relation of Relations in. romerable,

human actions to a law, which therefore I

call moral relation. It would make a volume to go over all sorts of relations; it is not therefore to be expected that I should here mention them all. It suffices to our present purpose to show by these, what the ideas are we bave of this comprehensive consideration, called relation : which is so various, and the occasions of it so many (as many as there can be of comparing things one to another) that it is not very easy to reduce it to rules, or under just - heads. Those I have mentioned, I think, are some of the most considerable, and such as may serve to let us see from whence we get our ideas of relations, and wherein they are founded. But before I quit this argument, from what has been said, give me leave to observe ; All relations

5. 18. First, that it is evident that all terminate in relation terminates in, and is ultimately simple ideas. founded on those simple ideas we have got from sensation or reflection : so that all that we have in our thoughts ourselves (if we think of any thing, or have any meaning) or would signify to others, when we use words standing for relations, is nothing but some simple ideas, or collections of simple ideas, compared one with another. This is so manifest in that sort called proportional, that nothing can be more: for when a 11 says, honey is sweeter than wax, it is plain that his

thoughts thoughts in this relation terminate in this simple idea, sweetness, which is equally true of all the rest; though where they are compounded or decompounded, the simple ideas they are made up of are, perhaps, seldom taken notice of. V.g. when the word father is mentioned; first, there is meant that particular species, or collective idea, signified by the word man. Secondly, those sensible simple ideas, signified by the word generation : and, thirdly, the effects of it, and all the simple ideas signified by the word child. So the word friend being taken for a nian, who loves, and is ready to do good to another, has all these following ideas to the making of it up: first, all the simple ideas, comprehended in the word man, or intelligent being. Secondly, the idea of love. Thirdly, the idea of readiness or disposition. Fourthly, the idea of action, which is any kind of thought or motion. Fifthly, the idea of good, which signifies any thing that may advance his happiness, and terminates at last, if examined, in particular simple ideas; of which the word good in general signifies any one, but, if removed from all simple ideas quite, it signifies nothing at all. And thus also all moral words terminate at last, though perhaps more remotely, in a collection of simple ideas : the immediate signification of relative words, being very often other supposed known relations; which, if traced one to anothér, still end in simple ideas.

§. 19. Secondly, That in relations we We have or. have for the most part, if not always, as

dinarily as clear a notion of the relation, as we have clear (or

clearer)anoof those simple ideas, wherein it is founded.

tion of the Agreement or disagreement, whereon rela- relation, as tion depends, being things whereof we have of its foun.commonly as clear ideas, as of any other

dation, whatsoever ; it being but the distinguishing simple ideas, or their degrees one from another, without which we could have no distinct knowledge at all. For if I have a clear idea of sweetness, light or extension, I have too, of equal, or more or less of each of these : if I know what it is for one man to be born of a woman, viz. Sempronia, I know what it is for another

man

man to be born of the same woman Sempronia; and so have as clear a notion of brothers, as of births, and perhaps clearer. For if I believed that Sempronia dug Titus out of the parsley-bed (as they used to tell children) and thereby became his mother; and that afterwards, in the same manner, she dug Caius out of the parsley-bed; I had as clear a notion of the relation of brothers between them, as if I had all the skill of a inidwife: the notion that the same woman contributed, as mother, equally to their births, (though I were ignorant or mistaken in the manner of it), being that on which I grounded the relation, and that they agreed in that circumstance of birth, let it be what it will. The comparing them then in their descent from the same person, without knowing the particular circumstances of that descent, is enough to found my notion of their having or not having the relation of brothers. But though the ideas of particular relations are capable of being as clear and distinct in the minds of those, who will duly consider them, as those of mixed modes, and more determinate than those of substances; yet the names belonging to relation are often of as doubtful and uncertain signification, as those of substances of mixed modes, and much more than those of simple ideas: because relative words being the marks of this comparison, which is made only by men's thoughts, and is an idea only in men's minds, men frequently apply them to different comparisons of things, according to their own imaginations, which do not always correspond with those of others using the same name. The notion

g. 20. Thirdly, 'That in these I call moof the rela ral relations, I have a true notion of relation is the tion, by comparing the action with the rule, same, whe.

whether the rule be true or false. For if I ther the rula any action is

measure any thing by a yard, I know whecompared to ther the thing I measure be longer or shorter be true or than that supposed yard, though perhaps false. the yard I measure by be not exactly the standard; which indeed is another inquiry. For though the rule be erroneous, and I mistaken in it'; yet the agreement or disagreement observable in that which I

compare

compare with, makes me perceive the relation. Though measuring by a wrong rule, I shall thereby be brought to judge amiss of its moral rectitude, because I have tried it by that which is not the true rule ; yet I am not mistaken in the relation which that action bears to that rule I compare it to, which is agreement or disagreernent.

CH A P. XXIX.

of Clear and Obscure, Distinct and Confused Ideas.

6.1. AVING shown the original of

Ideas, some our ideas, and taken a view of clear and their several sorts; considered the differ distinct, ence between the simple and the complex, others oband observed how the complex ones are di

scure and

confused, vided 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.

g. 2. The perception of the mind being clear and most aptly explained by words relating to

obscure exthe sight, we shall best understand what is plained by meant by clear and obscure in our ideas, sight. 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 cleax, when they are such as the objects themselves,

from

« PreviousContinue »