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so far wants the materials of true knowledge in his understanding, and hath instead thereof chiineras.
. 32. In our notions concerning subHow in sub
stances, we are liable to all the former in
conveniencies : v. g. he that uses the word tarantula, without having any imagination or idea of what it stands for, pronounces a good word; but so long means nothing at all by it. 2. He that in a new-discovered country shall see several sorts of animals and vegetables, unknown to him before, may have as true ideas of them, as of a horse or a stag; but can speak of them only by a description, till he shall either take the names the natives call them by, or give them names himself. 3. He that uses the word body sometimes for pure extension, and sometimes for extension and solidity together, will talk very fallaciously. 4. He that gives the name horse to that idea, which common usage calls mule, talks improperly, and will not be understood. 5. He that thinks the name centaur stands for some real being, imposes on himself, and mistakes words for things.
$. 33. In modes and relations generally How in modes and
we are liable only to the four first of these relations. inconveniencies ; viz.. 1. I may have in my
memory the names of modes, as gratitude or charity, and yet not have any precise ideas annexed in my thoughts to those names. 2. I may have ideas, and not know the names that belong to them; v. g.
I may have the idea of a man's drinking till his colour and humour be altered, till his tongue trips, and his eyes look red, and his feet fail him; and yet not know, that it is to be called drunkenness. 3. I may have the ideas of virtues or vices, and names also, but apply them amiss : v. g. when I apply the name frugality to that idea which others call and signify by this sound, covetousness. 4. I may use any of those names with inconstancy. 5. But, in modes and relations, I cannot have ideas disagreeing to the existence of things : for modes being complex ideas, made by the mind at pleasure ; and relation being but by way of considering or comparing two things together, and so also an idea of my
own making; these ideas can scarce be found to disagree with any thing existing, since they are not in the mind as the copies of things regularly made by nature, nor as properties inseparably flowing from the internal constitution or essence of any substance; but as it were patterns lodged in my memory, with names annexed to them, to denominate actions and relations by, as they come to exist. But the mistake is commonly in my giving a wrong name to my conceptions; and so using words in a different sense from other people, I am not understood, but am thought to have wrong ideas of them, when I give wrong names to them. Only if I put in my ideas of mixed modes or relations any inconsistent ideas together, I fill my head also with chimeras; since such ideas, if well examined, cannot so much as exist in the mind, much less any real being ever be denominated from them. §. 34. Since wit and fancy find easier en
7. Figura. tertainment in the world, than dry truth
tive speech and real knowiedgè, figurative speeches and also an abuse allusion in language will hardly be admitted of language. as an imperfection or abuse of it. I confess, in discourses where we seek rather pleasure and delight than information and improvement, such ornaments as are borrowed from them can scarce pass for faults. But yet if we would speak of things as they are, we must allow that all the art of rhetorick, besides order and clearness, all the artificial and figurative application of words eloquence hath invented, are for nothing else but to insinuate wrong ideas, move the passions, and thereby mislead the judgment, and so indeed are perfect cheats : and therefore however laudable or allowable oratory may render them in harangues and popular addresses, they are certainly, in all discourses that pretend to inform or instruct, wholly to be avoided ; and where truth and knowledge are concerned, cannot but be thought a great fault, either of the language or person that makes use of them. What, and how various they are, will be superfluous here to take notice; the books of rhetorick which abound in the world, will instruct those who want to be informed : only I cannot but observe how little the preservation and improvement of truth and knowledge is the care and concern of mankind; since the arts of fallacy are endowed and preferred. It is evident how much men love to deceive and be deceived, since rhetorick, that powerful instrument of error and deceit, has its established professors, is publickly taught, and has always been had in great reputation : and, I doubt not, but it will be thought great boldness, if not brutality in me, to have said thus much against it. Eloquence, like the fair sex, has too prevailing beauties in it, to suffer itself ever to be spoken against. And it is in vain to find fault with those arts of deceiving, wherein men find pleasure to be deceived.
Of the Remedies of the
foregoing Imperfections and Abuses. They are THE
"HE natural and improved imworth seek.
perfections of languages we have ing. seen above at large; and speech being the
great bond that holds society together, and the common conduit whereby the improvements of knowledge are conveyed from one man, and one generation to another; it would well deserve our most serious thoughts to consider what remedies are to be found for the inconveniencies above-mentioned.
$. 2. I am not so vain to think, that any
one can pretend to attempt the perfect reforming the languages of the world, no not so much as of his own country, without rendering himself ridiculous. To require that men should use their words constantly in the same sense, and for none but determined and uniform ideas, would be to think that all men should have the same notions, and should talk of nothing but
hat they have clear and distinct ideas of; which is not to be expected by any one, who hath not vanity enough to imagine he can prevail with men to be very knowing or very silent. And he must be very little skilled in the
Are not easy
world, who thinks that a voluble tongue shall accompany only a good understanding; or that men's talking much or little should hold proportion only to their knowledge. §. 3. But though the market and ex
But yet ne. change must be left to their own ways of cessary to talking, and gossipings not be robbed of their philosophy. ancient privilege; though the schools and men of argument would perhaps take it amiss to have any thing offered to abate the length, or lessen the number, of their disputes : yet methinks those who pretend seriously to search after or maintain truth, should think themselves obliged to study how they might deliver themselves without obscurity, doubtfulness, or equivocation, to which men's words are naturally liable, if care be not taken.
4. For he that shall well consider the Misuse of errors and obscurity, the mistakes and con- words the fusion, that are spread in the world by an great cause ill use of words, will find some reason to doubt whether language, as it has been employed, has contributed more to the improvement or hindrance of knowledge amongst mankind. How many are there that, when they would think on things, fix their thoughts only on words, especially when they would apply their minds to moral matters? And who then can wonder, if the result of such contemplations and reasonings, about little more than sounds, whilst the ideas they annexed to them are very confused and very unsteady, or perhaps none at all; who can wonder, I say, that such thoughts and reasonings end in nothing but obscurity and mistake, without any clear judgment or knowledge ? §. 5. This inconvenience, in an ill use of
Obstinacy. words, men suffer in their own private meditations : but much more manifest are the disorders which follow from it, in conversation, discourse, and arguings with others. For language being the great conduit, whereby men convey their discoveries, reasonings, and knowledge, from one to another; he that makes an ill use of it, though he does not corrupt the fountains of knowledge, which are in things themselves;
yet And wrang
yet he does, as much as in him lies, break or stop the pipes, whereby it is distributed to the public use and advantage of mankind. He that uses words without any clear and steady meaning, what does he but lead himself and others into errors ? and he that designedly does it, ought to be looked on as an enemy to truth and knowledge. And yet who can wonder, that all the sciences and parts of knowledge have been so overcharged with obscure and equivocal terms, and infignificant and doubtful expressions, capable to make the most attentive or quick-sighted very little or not at all the more knowing or orthodox ; since subtilty, in those who make profession to teach or defend truth, hath passed so much for a virtue: a virtue, indeed, which consisting for the inost part in nothing but the fallacious and illusory use of obscure or deceitful terms, is only fit to make men more conceited in their ignorance, and more obstinate in their errors.
§. 6. Let us look into the books of conling.
troversy of any kind; there we shall see,
that the effect of obscure, unsteady or equivocal terms, is nothing but noise and wrangling about sounds, without convincing or bettering a man's understanding. For if the idea be not agreed on betwixt the speaker and hearer, for which the words stand, the argument is not about things, but names. As often as such a word, whose signification is not ascertained betwixt them, comes in use, their understandings have no other object wherein they agree, but barely the sound; the things that they think on at that time, as expressed by that word, being quite different.
$. 7. Whether a bat be a bird or no, is Instance, bat
not a question; whether a bat be another and bird.
thing than indeed it is, or have other qualities than indeed it has, for that would be extremely absurd to doubt of: but the question is, 1. Either between those that acknowledged themselves to have but imperfect ideas of one or both of this sort of things, for which these names are supposed to stand; and then it is a 'real inquiry concerning the name of a bird or a bat, to make their yet imperfect ideas of it more complete, by exa