« AnteriorContinuar »
not have been one whit the wiser or more knowing: and that way of handling the matter would much at once have satisfied the monkey's hunger, or a man's understanding; and they two would have improved in knowledge and bulk together.
I know there are some, who because identical propositions are self-evident, show a great concern for them, and think they do great fervice to philosophy by crying them up, as if in them was contained all knowledge, and the understanding were led into all truth by them only. I grant, as forwardly as any one, that they are all true and self-evident. I grant, farther, that the foundation of all our knowledge lies in the faculty we have of perceiving the same idea to be the same, and of discerning it from those that are different, as I have shown in the foregoing chapter. But how that vindicates the making use of identical propositions, for the improvement of knowledge, from the imputation of trifling, I do not see. Let any one repeat, as often as he pleases, that the will is the will, or lay what stress on it he thinks fit, of what use is this, and an infinite the like propositions, for the enlarging our knowledge ? Let a man abound as much as the plenty of words which he has will permit him in such propositions as these ; a law is a law, and obligation is obligation ; right is right, and wrong is wrong : will these and the like ever help him to an acquaintance with ethics? or instruct him or others in the knowledge of morality? Those who know not, nor perhaps ever will know, what is right and what is wrong, nor the measures of them, can with as much assurance make, and infallibly know the truth of these and all such propositions, as he that is best instructed in morality can do. But what advance do such propositions give in the knowledge of any thing neceffary, or useful for their conduct ? .
He would be thought to do little less than trifle, who, for the enlightening the understanding in any part of knowledge, should be busy with identical propofitions, and insist on such maxims as these : fube
ftance is substance, and body is body; a vacuum is a vacuum, and a vortex is a vortex ; a centaur is a cthtaur, and a chimera is a chimera, &c.; for these and all such are equally true, equally certain, and equally' self-evident; but yet they cannot but be counted trifling, when made use of as principles of instruction, and stress laid on them, as helps to knowledge; fince they teach nothing but what every one, who is capa. ble of discourse, knows without being told, viz. tha: the same term is the same term, and the same idea the same idea. And upon this account it was that I formerly did, and do still think, the offering and incul. cating such propositions, in order to give the under. standing any new light or inlet into the knowledge of things, no better than trifling.
Instruction lies in something very different; and be that would enlarge his own, or another's mind, to truths he does not yet know, must find out intermedate ideas, and then lay them in such order one by another, that the understanding may see the agreemer: or disagreement of those in question. Propofitions that do this are instructive; but they are far frop such as affirm the same term of itself; which is no war to advance one's self or others in any sort of know ledge. It no more helps to that, than it would hel: any one in his learning to read, to have such propefitions as these inculcated to him, an A is an A, ara B is a B; which a man may know as well as ar schoolmaster, and yet never be able to read a word a. long as he lives. Nor do these, or any such identica propofitions, help him one jot forward in the skill c: reading, let him make what use of them he can,
If those who blame my calling them trifling prog fitions, had but read, and been at the pains to unde:stand what I had above writ in very plain English, the could not but have seen that by identical propofitisks, I mean only such wherein the same term importing the fame idea, is affirmed of itself; which I take to be the proper fignification of identical propoptions ; and concerning all such, I think I may continue fafey
en wice of a double necenithe ule no beca
Chap. 8. Of Trifling Propositions.
TOP to say, that to propose them as instructive, is no bete ter than trifling; for no one who has the use of reafon can. miss them, where it is necessary they should be taken notice of, nor doubt of their truth, when he does take notice of them.
But if men will call propositions identical, wherein the same term is not affirmed of itself, whether they speak more properly than I, others muft judge. This is certain, all that they say of propositions that are not identical in my sense, concerns not me, nor what I have said ; all that I have said relating to those propositions wherein the same term is affirmed of itself; and I would fain fee an instance, wherein any such can be made use of, to the advantage and improvement of any one's knowledge, Instances of other kinds, whatever use may be made of them, concern not me, as not being such as I call identical. $ 4. Secondly, When a Part of any Complex Idea is
predicated of the whole. Seconder, Another sort of trifling propositions is, when a part of the complex idea is predicated of the name of the whole, a part of the definition of the word defined. Such are all propositions wherein the genus is predicated of the species, or more compren hensive or less comprehensive terms; for what information, what knowledge carries this proposition in it, viz. kad is a metal, to a man who knows the complex idea the name lead stands for ? all the simple ideas that go to the complex one signified by the term metal, being nothing but what he before comprehended, and fignified by the name lead. Indeed, to a man that knows the signification of the word metal, and not of the word lead, it is a shorter way to explain the signification of the word lead, by faying it is a metal, which at once expresses several of its simple ideas, than to enumerate them one by one, telling him it is a body very heavy, fusible and malleable.
$ 5. As part of the Definition of the Terms defined. ALIKE trilling it is, to predicate any other part of the definition of the term defined, or to affirm any one of the simple ideas of a complex one, of the name of the whole complex idea ; as all gold is fusible; for fufbility being one of the simple ideas that goes to the making up the complex one the sound gold stands for, what can it be but playing with sounds, to affirm that of the name gold, which is comprehended in its received signification? It would be thought little better than ridiculous, to affirm gravely as a truth of moment, that gold is geilow ; and I see not how it is any jot more niwerial to say, it is fusible, unless that quality be left out of the complex idea, of which the found gold is the mark in ordinary speech. What instruction can it carry with it, to tell one that which he hath been told already, or he is supposed to know before? For I am supposed to know the signification of the word another uses to me, or else he is to tell me. And if I know that the name gold stands for this complex idea of body, yellow, heavy, fusible, malleable, it will not much instruct me to put it folemnly afterwards in a proposition, and gravely fay, all gold is fufble. Such propositions can only serve to show the difingenuity of one, who will go from the definition of his own terms, by reminding him sometimes of it; but carry no knowledge with them, but of the fignification of words, however certain they be.
6. Instance-Man and Palfry. Everr man is an animal, or living body, is as certain a proposition as can be ; but no more conducing to the knowledge of things than to say, a palfry is an ambling horft, or a neighing ambling animal, both being only about the signification of words, and make me know but this, that body, fenife, and motion, or power of sensation and moving, are three of those ideas that I always comprehend and fignify by the word man, and where they are not to be found together, the name man belongs not to that thing; and fo of the other, that body, sense, and a certain way of going, with a certain kind of voice, are some of thote ideas which I always comprehend, and signify by the word palfry; and when they are not to be found to
gether, the name palfry belongs not to that thing. It is just the same, and to the fame purpose, when any term standing for any one or more of the fimple ideas that altogether make up that complex idea which is called a man, is affirmed of the term man ; v. g. suppose a Roman fignified by the word homo, all these distinct ideas, united in one subject, corporietas, fenhbilitas, potentia, se movendi, rationalitas, risibilitas ; he might, no doubt, with great certainty, universally affirm one, more, or all of these together, of the word homo, but did no more than say that the word homo, in his country, comprehended in its signification all these ideas. Much like a romance knight, who by the word palfry signified these ideas ; body of a certain figure, four-legged, with sense, motion, ambling, neighing, white, used to have a woman on his back, might with the same certainty universally affirm also any or all of these of the word palfry; but did thereby teach no more, but that the word palfry, in his or romance language, stood for all these, and was not to be applied to any thing, where any of these was wanting. But he that shall tell me, that in whatever thing sense, motion, reason, laughter, were united, that thing had actually a notion of GOD, or would be cast into a sleep by opium, made indeed an instructive proposition, because neither having the notion of GOD, nor being cast into feep by opium, being contained in the ideas fignified by the word man, we are by such propositions taught something more than barely what the word man stands for, and therefore the knowledge contained in it is more than verbal.
$ 7. For this teaches but the signification of Words. BEFORE a man makes any propofition, he is supposed to understand the terms lie uses in it, or else he talks like a parrot, only making a noise by imitation, and framing certain sounds which he has learnt of others, but not as a rational creature, using them for signs of išleas which he has in his mind. The hearer also is supposed to understand the terms as the speaker uses them, or else he talks jargon, and makes an unintel