Imágenes de página

§ 5. Bring nothing but the joining or separating

Ideas without Words. Bur to return to the consideration of truth ; we must, I say, observe two sorts of propositions that we are capable of making.

First, Mental, wherein the ideas in our understandings are without the use of words put together, or separated by the mind, perceiving or judging of their agreement or disagreement.

Secondly, Verbal propositions, which are words, the signs of our idias, put together or separated in affirmative or negative sentences. By which way of affirming or denying, there figns, made by sounds, are as it were put together or separated one from another. So that proposition consists in joining or separating signs, and truth consists in the putting together or separating those signs, according as the things which they itand for agree or disagree. 9 6. When mental Propositions contain real Truth,

and when verbal. EVERY one's experience, will satisfy him, that the mind, either by perceiving or supposing the agreement or disagreement of any of its ideas, does tacitly within itself put them into a kind of propofition affirmative or negative, which I have endeavoured to express by the terms, putting together and separating ; but this action of the mind, which is so familiar to every thinking and reasoning man, is easier to be conceived by reflecting on what pasies in us when we affirm or deny, than to be explained by words. When a man has in his mind the idea of two lines, viz. the side and diagonal of a square, whereof the diagonal is an inch long, he may have the idea also of the division of that line into a certain number of equal parts ; v. g. into five, ten, an hundred, a thousand, or any other number, and may have the idea of that inch-line being divisible or not divisible, into such equal parts, as a certain number of them will be equal to the side-line. Now, whenever he perceives, believes, or supposes such a kind of divisibility to agree or disagree to his idea of

that line, he, as it were, joins or separates those two ideas, viz. the idea of that line, and the idea of that kind oi divisibility; and so makes a mental propofi. tion, which is true or falle, according as such a kind of divisibility, a divisibility into such aliquot parts, does really agree to that line or no. When ideas are so put together, or separated in the mind, as they, or the things they stand for, do agree or not, that is, as I may call it, mental truth; but truth of words is something more, and that is, the affirming or deny. ing of words one of another, as the ideas they stand for agree or disagree; and this again is twofold, either purely verbal and trifling, which I shall speak of, chap. 10., or real and instructive, which is the object of that real knowledge which we have spoken of al. ready. $ 7. Objection against verbal Truth, that tbus it

may all be chimerical. But here again will be apt to occur the same doubt about truth, that did about knowledge ; and it will be objected, that if truth be nothing but the joining or separating of words in propofitions, as the ideas they stand for agree or disagree in mens minds, the knowledge of truth is not so valuable a thing as it is taken to be, nor worth the pains and time men employ to the search of it; since by this acccunt it amounts to no more than the conformity of words to the chimeras of mens brains. Who knows not what odd notions many mens heads are filled with, and what strange ideas all mens brains are capable of? But if we rest here, we know the truth of nothing by this rule, but of the visionary world in our own ima. ginations ; nor have other truth, but what as much concerns harpies and centaurs, as men and horses; for those and the like may be ideas in our heads, and have their agreement and disagreement there, as well as the ideas of real beings, and so have as true propofitions made about them; and it will be altogether as true a proposition to say, all centaurs are animals, as that all men are animals ; and the certain. ty of one as great as the other. For in both the propositions, the words are put together according to the agreement of the ideas in our minds ; and the agreement of the idea of animal with that of centaur, is as clear and visible to the mind, as the agreement of the idea of animal with that of man; and so these two propofitions are equally true, equally certain. But of what use is all such truth to us? Ø 8. Answered, Real Truth is about Ideas agreeing

to things. Though what has been said in the foregoing chap'er, to distinguish real from imaginary knowledge, might suffice here, in answer to this doubt, to distinguish real truth from chimerical, or (if you please) barely nominal, they depending both on the same foundation ; yet it may not be amiss here again to consider, that though our words fignify nothing but our ideas, yet being designed by them to signify things, the truth they contain, when put into propositions, will be only verbal, when they stand for ideas in the mind, that have not an agreement with the reality of things. And therefore truth, as well as knowledge, may well come under the distinction of verbal and real ; that being only verbal truth, wherein terms are joined ac. cording to the agreement or disagreement of the ideas they stand for, without regarding whether our ideas are such as really have, or are capable of having an existence in nature. But then it is they contain real truth, when these signs are joined, as our ideas agree; and when our ideas are such, as we know are capable of having an existence in nature ; which in substances we cannot know, but by knowing that such have exifted. Ø 9. Falsehood is the joining of Names otherwise

than their Ideas agree. TRUTH is the marking down in words the agreement or disagreement of ideas as it is ; Falsehood is the marking down in words the agreement or disagree. ment of ideas otherwise than it is ; and so far as these ideas, thus marked by sounds, agree to their archetypes, so far only is the truth real. The know

ledge of this truth consists in knowing what ideas the words stand for, and the perception of the agreement or disagreement of those ideas, according as it is marked by those words.

§ 10. General Propositions to be treated of more at

But because words are looked on as the great conduits of truth and knowledge, and that in conveying and receiving of truth, and commonly in reasoning about it, we make use of words and propositions, I fall more at large inquire, wherein the certainty of real truths, contained in propofitions, consists, and where ir is to be had ; and endeavour to show in what fort of universal propositions we are capable of being cere tain of their real truth or falsehood. · I thall begin with general propositions, as those which most employ our thoughts, and exercise our contemplation. Geniral truths are most looked after by the mind, as those that most enlarge our knowledge ; and by their comprehensiveness, fatisfying us at once of many particulars, enlarge our view, and shorten our way to knowledge.

11. Moral and metaphyhcal Trustb. Besides truth taken in the strict sense before men. tioned, there are other sorts of truths; as, 1. Moral truth, which is speaking of things according to the persuasion of our own minds, though the proposition we speak agree not to the reality of things. 2. Mli. taphysical truth, which is nothing but the real exist. ence of things, conformable to the id:as to which we have annexed their names. This, though it seems to consist in the very beings of things, yet when considered a little nearly, will appear to include a tacit propofition, whereby the mind joins that particular thing to the idea it had before settled with a name to it. But these considerations of truth, either having been before taken notice of, or not being much to our present purpose, it may suffice here only to have men. tioned them.




$ 1. Trenting of Words necesary to knowledge. THOUGH the examining and judging of ideas by

themselves, their names being quite laid aside, be the best and surest way to clear and distinct know. ledge ; yet through the prevailing custom of using sounds for ideas, I think it is very seldom practised. Every one may observe how common it is for names to be made use of, instead of the ideas themselves, even when me think and reason within their own breasts ; especially if the ideas be very complex, and made up of a great collection of simple ones. This makes the confideration of words and propositions fo necesary a part of the creatise of knowledge, that it is very hard to speak intelligibly of the one, without explaining the other. § 2. General Truths hardly to be understood, but

in verbal Propofitions. All the knowledge we have being only of particular or general truths, it is evident that whatever may be done in the former of these, the latter, which is that which with reason is moft sought after, can never be well made known, and is very seldom apprehended, but as conceived and expressed in words. It is not therefore out of our way, in the examination of our knowledge, to inquire into the truth and certainty of universal propofitions.

$2. Certainty twofold, of Truth and of Knowledge. But that we may not be milled in this case, by that which is the danger every where, I mean by the doubtfulness of terms, it is fit to observe, that cer. tainty is twofold ; certainty of truth, and certainty of knowledge. Certainty of truib is when words are so put together in propositions as exactly to express the agreement or disagreement of the ideas they stand for,

« AnteriorContinuar »