Obrazy na stronie

lay great stress upon them; and therefore they cannot quit the opinion, that they are conformable to nature, and are the representations of something that really exists. The Platonists have their soul of the world, and the Epicureans their endeavour towards motion in their atoms, when at rest. There is scarce any sect in philosophy has not a distinct set of terms, that others understand not; but yet this gibberish, which, in the weakness of human understanding, serves so well to palliate men's ignorance, and cover their errors, comes by familiar use amongst those of the same tribe, to seem the most important part of language, and of all other the terms the most significant. And should aerial and ætherial vehicles come once, by the prevalency of that doctrine, to be generally received any where, no doubt those terms would make impressions on men's minds, so as to establish them in the persuasion of the reality of such things, as much as Peripatetic forms and inten'tional species have heretofore done.

§. 15. How much names taken for things Instance in

are apt to mislead the understanding, the

attentive reading of philosophical writers would abundantly discover; and that, perhaps, in words little suspected of any such misuse. I shall instance in one only, and that a very familiar one : how many intricate disputes have there been about matter, as if there were some such thing really in nature, distinct from body; as it is evident the word matter stands for an idea distinct from the idea of body? For if the ideas these two terms stood for were precisely the same, they might indifferently, in all places, be put for one another. But we see, that though it be proper to say, there is one matter of all bodies, one cannot say there is one body of all matters: we familiarly say, one body is bigger than another; but it sounds harsh (and I think is never used) to say, one matter is bigger than another. Whence comes this then? viz. from hence, that though matter and body be not really distinct, but wherever there is the one there is the other; yet matter and body stand for two different conceptions, whereof the one is incomplete, and but a part of the other. For body



stands for a solid extended figured substance, whereof matter is but a partial and more confused conception, it seeming to me to be used for the substance and solidity of body, without taking in its extension and figure: and therefore it is that speaking of matter, we speak of it always as one, because in truth it expressly contains nothing but the idea of a solid substance, which is every where the same, every where uniform. This being our idea of matter, we no more conceive or speak of different matters in the world, than we do of different solidities; though we both conceive and speak of different bodies, because extension and figure are capable of variation. But since solidity cannot exist without extension and figure, the taking matter to be the name of something really existing under that precision, has no doubt produced those obscure and unintelligible discourses and disputes, which have filled the heads and books of philosophers concerning materia prima; which imperfection or abuse, how far it may concern a great many other general terms, I leave to be considered. This, I think, I may at least say, that we should have a great many fewer disputes in the world, if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas only, and not for things themselves.

For when we argue about matter, or any the like term, we truly argue only about the idea we express by that sound, whether that precise idea agree to any thing really existing in nature

And if men would tell what ideas they make their words stand for, there could not be half that obscurity or wrangling, in the search or support of truth, that there is.

§. 16. But whatever inconvenience fol- This makes lows from this mistake of words, this I am

ing. sure, that by constant and familiar use they charm men into notions far remote from the truth of things. It would be a hard matter to persuade any one, that the words which his father or schoolmaster, the parson of the parish, or such a reverend doctor used, signified nothing that really existed in nature; which, perhaps, is none of the least causes, that men are so hardly drawn to quit their mistakes, even in opinions S 2


or no.


errors last

purely philosophical, and where they have no other interest but truth. For the words they have a long time been used to, remaining firm in their minds, it is no wonder that the wrong notions annexed to them should not be removed. Ś. Setting

§. 17. Fifthly, another abuse of words, them for is the setting thein in the place of things what they which they do or can by no means signify. cannot sig- We may observe, that in the general names nify.

of subsiances, whereof the nominal essences are only known to us, when we put them into propositions, and affirm or deny any thing about them, we do most commonly tacitly suppose, or intend they should stand for the real essence of a certain sort of substances. For when a man says gold is malleable, he means and would insinuate something more than this, that what I call gold is malleable, (though truly it amounts to no more) but would have this understood, viz. that gold, i. e. what has the real essence of gold, is malleable; which amounts to thus inuch, that malleableness depends on, and is inseparable from the real essence of gold. But a man, not knowing wherein that real essence consists, the connection in his mind of malleableness, is not truly with an essence he knows not, but only with the sound gold he puts for it. Thus when we say, “ animal rationale” is, and "animal implume bipes latis unguibus” is not a good definition of a man; it is plain, we suppose the name man in this case to stand for the real essence of a species, and would signify, that a rational animal better described that real essence than a two-legged animal with broad nails, and without feathers. For else, why might not Plato ás properly make the word drowns, or man, stand for his complex idea, made up of the idea of a body, distinguished from others by a certain shape and other outward appearances, as Aristotle make the complex idea, to which he gave

the name är@qwos, or man, of body and the faculty of reasoning joined together; unless the name žv@owtos, or man, were supposed to stand for something else than what it signifies; and to be put in the place of some other thing than the idea a man professes he would express by it?


§. 18.

real essences


$. 18. It is true, the names of substances v.g. Putting would be much more useful, and proposi- them for the tions made in them much more certain,

of substan. were the real essences of substances the ideas in our minds which those words signified. And it is for want of those real essences that our words convey so little knowledge or certainty in our discourses about them: and therefore the mind, to remove that imperfection as much as it can, makes them, by a secret supposition, to stand for a thing, having that real essence, as if thereby it made some nearer approaches to it. For though the word man or gold signify nothing truly but a complex idea of properties united together in one sort of substances : yet there is scarce any body in the use of these words, but often supposes each of those names to stand for a thing having the real essence, on which these properties depend. Which is so far from diminishing the imperfection of our words, that by a plain abuse it adds to it when we would make them stand for something, which not being in our complex idea, the name we use can no ways be the sign of.

$. !9. This shows us the reason why in Hence we mixed modes any of the ideas that make the

change of our composition of the complex one, being left idea in subout or changed, it is allowed to be another thing, i. e. to be of another species, it is to change plain in chance-medley, man- slaughter, the species. murder, parricide, &c. The reason whereof is, because the complex idea signified by that name is the real as well as nominal essence; and there is no secret reference of that name to any other essence but that. But in substances it is not so. For though in that called gold one puts into his complex idea what another leaves out, and vice versa; yet men do not usually think that therefore the species is changed: because they secretly in their minds refer that name, and suppose it annexed to a real immutable essence of a thing existing, on which those properties depend. He that adds to his complex idea of gold that of fixedness and solubility in aq. regia, which he put not in it before, is not thought to have changed the species ; but only to have a more perfect



think every

stances not

idea, by adding another simple idea, which is always in fact joined with those other, of which his former complex idea consisted. But this reference of the name to a thing, whereof we had not the idea, is so far from helping at all, that it only serves the more to involve us in difficulties.

For by this tacit reference to the real essence of that species of bodies, the word gold (which by standing for a more or less perfect collection of simple ideas, serves to design that sort of body well enough in civil discourse) comes to have no signification at all, being put for somewhat, whereof we have no idea at all, and so can signify nothing at all, when the body itself is away. For however it may be thought all one; yet, if well considered, it will be found a quite different thing to argue about gold in name, and about a parcel in the body itself, v. g. a piece of leaf-gold laid before us; though in discourse we are fain to substitute the name for the thing The cause of

9. 20. That which I think very much the abuse, a

disposes men to substitute their names for supposition the real essences of species, is the supposiof nature's

tion before-mentioned, that nature works working al.

regularly in the production of things, and ways regularly. sets the boundaries to each of those species

, by giving exactly the same real internal constitution to each individual, which we rank under one general name. Whereas any one who observes their different qualities, can hardly doubt, that many of the individuals, called by the same name, are, in their internal constitution, as different one from another, as several of those which are ranked under different specifick

This supposition, however, that the same pre: cise and internal constitution goes always with the same specifick name, makes men forward to take those names for the representatives of those real essences, though indeed they signify nothing but the complex ideas they have in their minds when they use them. So that, if I may so say, signifying one thing, and being supposed for, or put in the place of another, they cannot but, in such a kind of use, cause a great deal of uncertainty in men's discourses; especially in those who have thą



« PoprzedniaDalej »