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knowing any thing; or, on the other side, question every thing, and disclainı all knowledge, because some things are not to be understood. It is of great use to the failor to know the length of his line, though he cannot with it fathom all the depths of the ocean : It. is well he knows that it is long enough to reach the bottom at such places as are neceffary to direct his voyage, and caution him against running upon shoals that may ruin him. Our bufiness here is not to know all things, but those which concern our conduct. If we can tind out those measures whereby a rational creature, put in that state which man is in this world, may and ought to govern his opinions, and actions depende ing thereon, we need not be troubled that some other things escape our knowledge.
Ø 7. Occasion of this Efay. This was that which gave the first rise to this Elay concerning the Understanding ; for I thought that the first step towards fatisfying leveral inquiries the mind of man was very apt to run into, was, to take a survey of our own understandings, examine our own powers, and see to what things they were adapted. Till that was done, I suspected we began at the wrong end, and in vain fought for satisfaction in a quiet and fure poffedion of truths that most concerned us, whilst we let loose our thoughts into the vast ocean of being, as if all that boundless extent were the natural and undoubted pole session of our understandings, wherein there was non thing exempt from its decitions, or that escaped its com. prehenfion. Thus men, extending their inquiries beyond their capacities, and letting their thoughts wander into thole depths where they can find no fure footing, it is no wonder that they raise questions, and multiply disputes, which, never coming to any clear resolution, are proper only to continue and increase their doubts, and to confirm them at last in perfect scepticism; whereas, were the capacities of our understandings well considered, the extent of our knowledge once discovered, and the horizon found which sets the bounds between the enlightened and dark parts of things, between what is and what is not comprehensible by us, men would perhaps, with less scruple, acquiesce in the avowed ignorance of the one, and employ their thoughts and discourse with more advantage and satisfaction in the other.
$ 8. What Idea stands for. Thus much I thought necessary to say concerning the occasion of this inquiry into human understanding ; but before I proceed on to what I have thought on this subjedt, I must here, in the entrance, beg pardon of my reader for the frequent use of the word idea, which he will find in the following treatise. It being that term Avhich I think serves best to stand for whatsoever is the object of the understanding when a man thinks, I have used it to express whatever is meant by phantasm, motion, species, or whatever it is which the mind can be cmployed about in thinking; and I could not avoid frequently using it.
I presume it will be easily granted me that there are such ideas in mens minds ; every one is conscious of them in himself, and mens words and actions will salisfy him that they are in others.
Our first inquiry, then, shall be, how they come into the mind.
NO INNATE PRINCIPLES IN THE MIND. $1. The way flown how we come by any Knowledge,
fufficient to prove it nat Innate. TT is an established opinion amongst some men, that
I there are in the understanding certain innate principles, fome primary notions, Korei švardı, characters, as it were, Itamped upon the mind of man, which the soul receives in its very first being, and brings into the world with it. It would be sufficient to convince unprejudised readers of the falseness of this supposition, if I should only show (as I hope I shall in the following parts of this discourie, how men, barely by the use of
their natural faculties, may attain to all the knowledge they have without the help of any innate impressions, and may arrive at certainty without any such original notions or principles : For I imagine any one will easily grant, that it would be impertinent to suppose the ideas of colours innate in a creature to whom God hath given fight, and a power to receive them by the eyes from external objects : And no less unreasonable would it be to attribute several truths to the impressions of nature and innate characters, when we may observe in our: felves faculties fit to attain as easy and certain knowledge of them, as if they were originally imprinted on the mind.
But because a man is not permitted without censure to follow his own thoughts in the search of truth, when they lead him ever so little out of the common road, I thall set down the reasons that made me doubt of the truth of that opinion, as an excuse for my mistake, if I be in one, which I leave to be considered by those who with me dispose themselves to embrace truth wherever they find it.
2. General Asent 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 confiant impressions, which the souls of men scctive 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 Confent proves nothing Innate. This argunient, 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 any other way shown 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 imposible for the same
thing to be, and not to be, not universally afsented 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 asient. I shall begin with the Speculative, and instance in those magnified principles of demonstration, W batsoever is, is, and, It is impallible 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 pro- . positions are so far from having an universal affent, that there are a great part of mankind to whom they are not so much as known. Ø 5. Not on the mind naturally imprinted, because not
known to Children, Idiots, &c. 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 univerfal 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 foul, which it perceives or understands not; imprinting, if it signify 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 aflent to there 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 impresion nothing. No proposition can be said to be in the mind, which it never yet knew, which it was never yet confcious of; for if any one may, then, by the same reason, all propositions that are true, and the mind is capable of ever afsenting 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 to 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 bis mind wis capable of knowing, and that with cere: tainty : So that, if the capacity of knowing be the natural impresion 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 affert the contrary, says nothing different from those who deny innate principles ; for nobody, 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 maxinis ? If truths can be imprin:ed on the understanding without being perceived, I can see no difference there can b: between any truths the mind is capable of knowing, in respect of their original; they must all be innate, or all adventitious; in vain fhall a man go about to difiinguish them. He therefore that talks of innate notions in the understanding, cannot (if he intend thereby any diftinct 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 ine. derstanding ) have any propriety, they signify to be understood ; so that, to be in the understanding, and not to be under tood; 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 twu propoStions, Illatsoever is, is, and, It is imponible for