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sidered by those, who, with me, dispose themselves to embrace truth, wherever they find it.
$ 2. General assent the great argument. There is nothing more commonly taken for granted, than that there are certain principles, both speculative and practical, (for they speak of both) universally agreed upon by all mankind; which therefore they argue, must needs be constant impressions, which the souls of men receive in their first beings, and which they bring into the world with them, as necessarily and really as they do any of their inherent faculties.
$ 3. Universal consent proves nothing innate. This argument, drawn from universal consent, has this misfortune in it, that if it were true in matter of fact, that there were certain truths, wherein all mankind agreed, it would not prove them innate, if there can be
shewn how men may come to that universal agreement, in the things they do consent in; which I presume may
be done. $ 4. “ What is, is ;” and “it is impossible for the
same thing to be, and not to be," not universally assented to
But, which is worse, this argument of universal consent, which is made use of to prove innate principles, seems to me a demonstration that there are none such; because there are none to which all mankind give an universal assent. I shall begin with the speculative, and instance in those magnified principles of demonstration ; “ whatsoever is, is,” and “ it is impossible for the same thing to be, and not to be;" which, of all others, I think have the most allowed title to innate. These have so settled a reputation of maxims universally received, that it will, no doubt, be thought strange, if any one should seem to question it. But yet I take liberty to say, that these propositions are so far from having an universal assent, that there are great part of mankind, to whom they are not so much as known.
$ 5. Not on the mind naturally imprinted, because not
known to children, idiots, fc. For, first, it is evident, that all children and idiots have not the least apprehension or thought of them; and the want of that is enough to destroy that uni. versal assent, which must needs be the necessary concomitant of all innate truths: it seeming to me near a contradiction, to say, that there are truths imprinted on the soul, which it perceives or understands not; imprinting, if it signifiy any thing, being nothing else, but the making certain truths to be perceived. For to imprint any thing on the mind, without the mind's perceiving it, seems to me hardly intelligible. If therefore children and idiots have souls, have minds, with those impressions upon them, they must unavoidably perceive them, and necessarily know and assent to these truths; which since they do not, it is evident that there are no such impressions. For if they are not notions naturally imprinted, how can they be innate ? and if they are notions imprinted, how can they be unknown? To say a notion is imprinted on the mind, and yet at the same time to say, that the mind is ignorant of it, and never yet took notice of it, is to make this impression nothing. No proposition can be said to be in the mind, which it never yet knew, which it was never yet conscious of. For if any one may; then by the same reason, all propositions that are true, and the mind is capable of ever assenting to, may be said to be in the mind, and to be imprinted : Since, if any one can be said to be in the mind, which it never yet knew, it must be only, because it is capable of knowing it, and so the mind is of all truths it ever shall know. Nay, thus truths may be imprinted on the mind, which it never did, nor ever shall know: for a man may live long, and die at last in ignorance of many truths, which his mind was capable of knowing, and that with certainty. So that
if the capacity of knowing, be the natural impression contended for, all the truths a man ever comes to know, will, by this account, be every one of them innate; and this great point will amount to no more, but only to a very improper way of speaking; which, whilst it pretends to assert the contrary, says nothing different from those, who deny innate principles. For no body, I think, ever denied that the mind was capable of knowing several truths. The capacity they say is innate, the knowledge acquired. But then to what end such contest for certain innate waxims ? If truths can be imprinted on the understanding without being perceived, I can see no difference
there can be, between any truths the mind is capable of knowing in respect of their original : they must all be innate, or all adventitious : in vain shall a man go about to distinguish them. He therefore that talks of innate notions in the understanding, cannot (if he intend thereby any distinct sort of truths) mean such truths to be in the understanding, as it never perceived, and is yet wholly ignorant of. For if these words (to be in the understanding) have any propriety, they signify to be understood; so that, to be in the understanding, and not to be understood ; to be in the mind, and never to be perceived, is all one, as to say, any thing is, and is not, in the mind or understanding. If therefore these two propositions, “ whatsoever is, is ;" and, “it is impossible for the same thing to be, and not to be,” are by nature imprinted, children cannot be ignorant of them, infants, and all that have souls, must necessarily have them in their understandings, know the truth of them, and assent to it.
$6. To avoid this, it is usually answered, That all men know and assent to them, when they come to the use of reason, and this is enough to prove them
innate. I answer,
§ 7. That men know them when they come to the use of
answered. DOUBTFUL expressions, that have scarce any signification, go for clear reasons, to those, who being pre-possessed, take not the pains to examine even what they themselves say. For to apply this answer with any tolerable sense to our present purpose, it must signify one of these two things: either, that as soon as men come to the use of reason, these supposed native inscriptions come to be known, and observed by them; or else, that the use and exercise of men's reason assists them in the discovery of these principles, and certainly makes them known to them. § 8. If reason discovered them, that would not prove
them innate. If they mean that by the use of reason men may discover these principles; and that this is sufficient to prove them innate; their way of argument will stand thus, (viz.) that, whatever truths reason can certainly discover to us, and make us firmly assent to, those are all naturally imprinted on the mind; since that universal assent, which is made the mark of them, amounts to no more but this : that by the use of reason, we are capable to come to a certain knowledge of, and assent to them; and by this means there will be no difference between the maxims of the mathematicians, and theorems they deduce from them, all must be equally allowed innate; they being all discoveries made by the use of reason, and truths that a rational creature may certainly come to know, if he apply his thoughts rightly that way.
99. It is false that reason discovers them. But how can these men think the use of reason necessary to discover principles that are supposed innate, when reason (if we may believe them) is nothing else, but the faculty of deducing unknown truths from principles or propositions that are already known? That certainly can never be thought innate, which we have need of reason to discover,
unless as I have said, we will have all the certain truths, that reason ever teaches us, to be innate. We may as well think the use of reason necessary to make our eyes discover visible objects, as that there should be need of reason, or the exercise thereof, to make the understanding see what is originally engraven on it, and cannot be in the understanding, before it be perceived by it. So that to make reason discover those truths thus imprinted, is to say, that the use of reason discovers to a man, what he knew before ; and if men have those innate, impressed truths originally, and before the use of reason, and yet are always ignorant of them, till they come to the use of reason, it is in effeet to
say, know, and know them not at the same time.
$ 10. It will here perhaps be said, that mathematical demonstrations, and other truths, that are not innate, are not assented to, as soon as proposed, wherein they are distinguished from these maxims, and other innate truths. I shall have occasion to speak of assent upon the first proposing, more particularly by and by. I shall here only, and that very readily, allow, that these maxims, and mathematical demonstrations, are in this different ; that the one have need of reason, using of proofs, to make them out, and to gain our assent; but the other, as soon as understood, are without any the least reasoning, embraced and assented to. But I withal beg leave to observe, that it lays open the weakness of this subterfuge, which requires the use of reason, for the discovery of these general truths : Since it must be confessed, that in their discovery, there is no use made of reasoning at all. And I think those who give this answer, will not be forward to affirm, that the knowledge of this maxim, “ That it is impossible for the same thing to be, and not to be," is a deduction of our reason.
For this would be to destroy that bounty of nature, they seem so fond of, whilst