Page images
PDF
EPUB

Secondly, when the mind supposes any idea it has in itself to be conformable to some real existence. Thus the two ideas, of a man and a centaur, supposed to be the ideas of real substances, are the one true, and the other false; the one having a conformity to what has really existed, the other not.

Thirdly, when the mind refers any of its ideas to that real constitution and essence of any thing, whereon all its properties depend: and thus the greatest part, if not all our ideas of substances, are false. 5.6. These suppositions the mind is very

The cause apt tacitly to make concerning its own of such re

ferences. ideas. But yet, if we will examine it, we shall find it is chiefly, if not only, concerning its abstract complex ideas. For the natural tendency of the mind being towards knowledge; and finding that if it should proceed by and dwell upon only particular things, its progress would be very slow, and its work endless; therefore to shorten its way to knowledge, and make each perception more comprehensive; the first thing it does, as the foundation of the easier enlarging its knowledge, either by contemplation of the things themselves that it would know, or conference with others about them, is to bind them into bundles, and rank them so into sorts, that what knowledge it gets of any of them, it may thereby with assurance extend to all of that sort; and so advance by larger steps in that, which is its great business, knowledge. This, as I have elsewhere shown, is the reason why we collect things under comprehensive ideas, with names annexed to them, into genera and species, i. e. into kinds and sorts.

$. 7. If therefore we will warily attend to the motions of the mind, and obsei ve what course it usually takes in its way to knowledge; we shall, I think, find that the mind having got an idea, which it thinks it may have use of, either in contemplation or discourse, the first thing it does is to abstract it, and then get a name to it; and so lay it up in its store-house, the memory, as containing the essence of a sort of things, of which that name is always to be the mark. Hence

it

it is, that we may often observe, that when any one sees a new thing of a kind that he knows not, he presently asks what it is, meaning by that inquiry pothing but the name. As if the name carried with it the knows ledge of the species, or the essence of it; whereof it is indeed used as the mark, and is generally supposed an: nexed to it. Cause of §. 8. But this abstract idea being somesuch refer.

thing in the mind between the thing that ences. exists, and the name that is given to it; it is in our ideas, that both the rightness of our knowledge, or the propriety or intelligibleness of our speaking, consists. And hence it is, that nien are so forward to suppose, that the abstract ideas they hare in their minds are such as agree to the things existing without them, to which they are referred; and are the same also, to which the names they give them do by the use and propriety of that language belong. For without this double conformity of their ideas, they find they should both think amiss of things in themselves, and talk of them unintelligibly to others. Simple ideas 6. 9. First then, I say, that when the may be false truth of our ideas is judged of, by the conin reference formity they have to the ideas which other to others of the same

men have, and commonly signify by the name, but are same name, they may be any of them false. least liable to But yet simple ideas are least of all liable to be so. be so mistaken; because a man by his senses, and every day's observation, may easily satisfy himself what the simple ideas are, which their several names that are in common use stand for: they being but few in number, and such as if he doubts or mistakes in, he may easily rectify by the objects they are to be found in. Therefore it is seldom, that any one mistakes in his names of simple ideas; or applies the name red to the idea green; or the name sweet to the idea bitter: much less are men apt to confound the names of ideas belonging to different senses; and call a colour by the name of a taste, &c. whereby it is evident, that the simple ideas they call by any name, are commonly

the

the same that others have and mean when they use the same names.

§. 10. Complex ideas are much more Ideas of liable to be false in this respect: and the mixed modes complex ideas of mixed modes, much more

most liable to

be false in than those of substances : because in sub

this sense. stances (especially those which the common and unborrowed names of any language are applied to) some remarkable sensible qualities, serving ordinarily to distinguish one sort from another, easily preserve those, who take any care in the use of their words, from applying them to sorts of substances, to which they do not at all belong. But in mixed modes we are much more uncertain; it being not so easy to determine of several actions, whether they are to be called justice or cruelty, liberality or prodigality. And so in referring our ideas to those of other men, called by the same names, ours may be false; and the idea in our minds, which we express by the word justice, may perhaps be that which ought to have another name.

$. 11. But whether or no our ideas of mixed modes are more liable than any sort

Or at least to

be tbought to be different from those of other men,

false. which are marked by the same names; this at least is certain, that this sort of falshood is much more familiarly attributed to our ideas of mixed modes, than to any other. When a man is thought to have a false idea of justice, or gratitude, or glory, it is for no other reason, but that his agrees not with the ideas which each of those names are the signs of in other men. §. 12. The reason whereof seems to me

And why. to be this, that the abstract ideas of mixed modes, being men's voluntary combinations of such a precise collection of simple ideas; and so the essence of each species being made by men alone, whereof we have no other sensible standard existing any where, but the name itself, or the definition of that name: we have nothing else to refer these our ideas of mixed modes to, as a standard to which we would conforın thein, but the ideas of those who are thought to use those names in their most proper significations; and so as our ideas conform or differ from them, they pass for true or false. And thus much concerning the truth and falshood of our ideas, in reference to their names. As referred . 13. Secondly, as to the truth and to real exist. falshood of our ideas, in reference to the ences, none

true that

real existence of things; when that is made of our ideas can be false. the standard of their truth, none of them but those of can be termed false, but only our complex substances. ideas of substances. First, simple §. 14. First, our simple ideas being barely ideas in this such perceptions as God has fitted us to resense not

ceive, and given power to external objects to false, and why.

produce in us by established laws and ways,

suitable to his wisdom and goodness, though incomprehensible to us, their truth consists in nothing else but in such appearances as are produced in us, and must be suitable to those powers he has placed in external objects, or else they could not be produced in us: and thus answering those powers, they are what they should be, true ideas. Nor do they become liable to any imputation of falshood, if the mind (as in most men I believe it does) judges these ideas to be in the things themselves. For God, in his wisdom, having set them as marks of distinction in things, whereby we may be able to discern one thing from another, and so choose any of them for our uses, as we have occasion; it alters not the nature of our simple idea, whether we think that the idea of blue be in the violet itself, or in our mind only; and only the power of producing it by the texture of its parts, reflecting the particles of light after a certain inanner, to be in the violet itself. For that texture in the object, by a regular and constant operation, producing the same idea of blue in us, it serves us to distinguish, by our eyes, that from any other thing, whether that distinguishing mark, as it is really in the violet, be only a peculiar texture of parts, or else that very colour, the idea whereof (which is in us) is the exact resemblance. And it is equally from that appearance to be denominated blue, whether it be that real colour, or only a peculiar texture in it, that causes in us that idea : since the name blue notes properly nothing but that mark of distinction that is in a violet, -cernible only by our eyes, whatever it consists in:

from ano.

that being beyond our capacities distinctly to know, and perhaps would be of less use to us, if we had faculties to discern.

§. 15. Neither would it carry any impur Though one tation of falshood to our simple ideas, if man's idea of by the different structure of our organs it blue should were so ordered, that the same object should

be different produce in several men's minds different

ther's. ideas at the same time; v. g. if the idea that a violet produced in one man's mind by his eyes were the same that a marygold produced in another man's, and vice versa. For since this could never be known, because one man's mind could not pass into another man's body, to perceive what appearances were produced by those organs ; neither the ideas hereby, nor the names would be at all confounded, or any falshood be in either. For all things that had the texture of a violet, producing constantly the idea that he called blue; and those which had the texture of a marygold, producing constantly the idea which he as constantly called yellow; whatever those appearances were in his mind, he would be able as regularly to distinguish things for his use by those appearances, and understand and signity those distinctions marked by the naines blue and yellow, as if the appearances, or ideas in his mind, received from those two flowers, were exactly the same with the ideas in other men's minds. I am nevertheless very apt to think, that the sensible ideas produced by any object in different men’s minds, are most commonly very near and undiscernibly alike. For which opinion, I think, there might be many reasons offered : but that being besides my present business, I shall not trouble my reader with them : but only mind him, that the contrary supposition, if it could be proved, is of little use, either for the improvement of our knowledge, or conveniency of life; and so we need not trouble ourselves to examine it. §. 16. From what has been said con

First, simple

ideas in this cerning our simple ideas, I think it evident, that our simple ideas can none of them false, and be false in respect of things existing with- why.

out

sense not

« PreviousContinue »