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and in substances, the most frequent are of powers; v. g. “a man is white,” signifies, that the thing that has the essence of a man, has also in it the essence of whiteness, which is nothing but a power to produce the idea of whiteness in one, whose eyes can discover ordinary objects; or “a man is rational,” signifies that the same thing that hath the essence of a man, hath also in it the essence of rationality, i. e. a power of reasoning
§. 2. This distinction of names shows us also the difference of our ideas : for if we
the difference observe them, we shall find that our simple of our ideas. ideas have all abstract, as well as concrete names; the one whereof is (to speak the language of grammarians) a substantive, the other an adjective; as whiteness, white; sweetness, sweet. The like also holds in our ideas of modes and relations; as justice, just; equality, equal; only with this difference, that some of the concrete names of relations, amongst men chiefly, are substantives; as paternitas, pater ; whereof it were easy to render a reason. But as to our ideas of substances, we have
few or no abstract names at all. For though the schools have introduced animalitas, humanitas, corporietas, and some others; yet they hold no proportion with that infinite number of names of substances, to which they never were ridiculous enough to attempt the coining of abstract ones: and those few that the schools forged, and put into the mouths of their scholars, could never yet get admittance into common use, or obtain the licence of public approbation. Which seems to me at least to intimate the confession of all mankind, that they have no ideas of the real essences of substances, since they have not names for such ideas : which no doubt they would have had, had not their consciousness to themselves of their ignorance of them kept them from so idle an attempt. And therefore though they had ideas enough to distinguish gold from a stone, and metal from wood; yet they but timorously ventured on such terms as aurietas and saxietas, metallietas and lignietas, or the like names, which should pretend to signify the real essences of those substances, whereof they knew they had no ideas. And indeed it
was only the doctrine of substantial forms, and the confidence of mistaken pretenders to a knowledge that they had not, which first coined, and then introduced animalitas, and humanitas, and the like; which yet went very little farther than their own schools, and could never get to be current amongst understanding men. Indeed, humanitas was a word familiar amongst the Romans, but in a far different sense, and stood not for the abstract essence of any substance; but was the abstracted name of a mode, and its concrete humanus, not homo.
ROM what has been said in the used for re,
foregoing chapters, it is easy to -cording and
perceive what imperfection there is in lancating our
guage, and how the very nature of words thoughts. makes it almost unavoidable for many of
them to be doubtful and uncertain in their significations. To examine the perfection or imperfection of words, it is necessary first to consider their use and end: for as they are more or less fitted to attain that, so are they more or less perfect. We have, in the former part of this discourse, often upon occasion mentioned a double use of words. First, one for the recording of our own thoughts.
Secondly, the other for the communicating of our thoughts to others.
§. 2. As to the first of these, for the reAny words will serve
for cording our own thoughts for the help of recording.
our own memories, whereby, as it were, we
talk to ourselves, any words will serve the turn. For since sounds are voluntary and indifferent signs of any ideas, a man may use what words he pleases, to signify his own ideas to himself: and there will be no imperfection in them, if he constantly use the same
sign for the same idea; for then he cannot fail of having his meaning understood, wherein consists the right use and perfection of language. Ş. 3. Secondly, as to communication of
Communi. words, that too has a double use.
cation by I. Civil.
words civil II. Philosophical.
phical. First, by their civil use, I mean such a coinmuciation of thoughts and ideas by words, as may serve for the upholding common conversation and commerce, about the ordinary affairs and conveniencies of civil life, in the societies of men one amongst another.
Secondly, by the philosophical use of words, I mean such an use of them, as may serve to convey the precise notions of things, and to express, in general propositions, certain and undoubted truths, which the mind may rest upon, and be satisfied with, in its search after true knowledge. These two uses are very distinct; and a great deal less exactness will serve in the one than in the other, as we shall see in what follows. $. 4. The chief end of language in com
The impermunication being to be understood, words
fection of serve not well for that end, neither in civil words is the nor philosophical discourse, when any word doubtfulness does not excite in the hearer the same idea of their sig
nification. which it stands for in the mind of the speaker. Now since sounds have no natural connexion with our ideas, but have all their signification from the arbitrary imposition of men, the doubtfulness and uncertainty of their signification, which is the imperfection we here are speaking of, has its cause more in the ideas they stand for, than in any incapacity there is in one sound more than in another, to signify any.idea: for in that regard they are all equally perfect.
That then which makes doubtfulness and uncertainty in the signification of some more than other words, is the difference of ideas they stand for. §. 5. Words having naturally no significa
Causes of tion, the idea which each stands for must be
their imper. learned and retained by those who would fection. exchange thoughts, and hold intelligible
discourse with others in any language. But this is hardest to be done, where,
First, the ideas they stand for are very complex, and made up of a great number of ideas put together.
Secondly, where the ideas they stand for have no certain connexion in nature; and so no settled standard, any where in nature existing, to rectify and adjust them by:
Thirdly, when the signification of the word is referred to a standard, which standard is not easy to be known.
Fourthly, where the signification of te word, and the real essence of the thing, are not exactly the same.
These are difficulties that attend the signification of several words that are intelligible. Those which are not intelligible at all, such as names standing for any simple ideas, which another has not organs or faculties to attain ; as the names of colours to a blind man, or sounds to a deaf man; need not here be mentioned.
In all these cases we shall find an imperfection in words, which I shall more at large explain, in their particular application to our several sorts of ideas : for if we examine them, we shall find that the names of mixed modes are most liable to doubtfulness and imperfection, for the two first of these reasons; and the names of substances chiefly for the two latter. The names
$. 6. First the names of mixed modes are of mixed many of them liable to great uncertainty modes doubt- and obscurity in their signification. ful. First,
I. Because of that great composition these because the ideas they
complex ideas are often made up of. To stand for are make words serviceable to the end of comso complex. munication, it is necessary (as has been said) that they excite in the hearer exactly the same idea they stand for in the mind of the speaker
. Without this, men fill one another's heads with noise and sounds; but convey not thereby their thoughts, and lay not before one another their ideas, which is the end of discourse and language. But when a word stands for a very complex idea that is compounded and decompounded, it is not easy for men to form and retain that idea so exactly,
as to make the name in common use stand for the same precise idea, without any the least variation. Hence it comes to pass, that men's names of very compound ideas, such as for the most part are moral words, have seldom, in two different men, the same precise signification ; since one man's complex idea seldom agrees with another's, and often differs from his own, froin that which he had yesterday, or will have to-morrow. $. 7. II. Because the names of mixed
Secondly, modes, for the most part, wants standards in
because they nature, whereby men may rectify and adjust have no stantheir significations; therefore they are very
dards. various and doubtful. They are assemblages of ideas put together at the pleasure of the mind, pursuing its own ends of discourse, and suited to its own notions; whereby it designs not to copy any thing really existing, but to denominate and rank things, as they come to agree with those archetypes or forms it has made. He that first brought the word sham, or wheedle, or banter, in use, put together, as he thought fit, those ideas he made it stand for: and as it is with any new names of modes, that are now brought into any language; so it was with the old ones, when they were first made use of. Names therefore that stand for collections of ideas which the mind makes at pleasure, must needs be of doubtful signification, when such collections are no where to be found constantly united in nature, nor any patterns to be shown whereby men may adjust them. What the word murder, or sacrilege, &c. signifies, can never be known from things themselves: there be many of the parts of those complex ideas, which are not visible in the action itself; the intention of the mind, or the relation of holy things, which make a part of murder or sacrilege, have no necessary connexion with the outward and visible action of him that commits either : and the pulling the trigger of the gun, with which the murder is committed, and is all the action that perhaps is visible, has no natural connexion with those other ideas that make up the complex one, named murder. They have their union and combination only from the understanding, which unites them under one name: but