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ledge, besides those general principles themselves, to depend on general, innate, and self-evident principles, what principle is requisite to prove, that one and one are two, that two and two are four, that three times two are fix? Which being known without any proof, do evince, that either all knowledge does not depend on certain præcognita, or general maxims, called principles, or else that these are principles; and if these are to be counted principles, a great part of numeration will be so. To which if we add all the self-evi. dent propofitions, which may be made about all our distinct ideas, principles will be almost infinite, at least innumerable, which men arrive to the knowledge of, at different ages ; and a great many of these innate principles they never come to know all their lives. But whether they come in view of the mind, earlier or later, this is true of them, that they are all known by their native evidence, are wholly independent, receive no light, nor are capable of any proof one from another; much less the more particular from the more general, or the more simple from the more compounded; the more simple, and less abitract, being the molt familiar, and the easier and earlier apprehended. But whichever be the clearest ideas, the evidence and certainty of all such propositions is in this, that a man sees the same idea to be the same idea, and infallibly perceives two different ideas to be dif. ferent ideas : For when a man has in his understanding the ideas of one and of two, the idea of yellow and the idea of blue, he cannot but certaioly know, that the idea of one is the idea of one, and not the idea of two; and that the idea of yellow is the idea of yel. low, and not the idea of blue ; for a man cancot confound the ideas in his mind, which he has distinct ; that would be to have them confused and distinct at the same time, which is a contradiction ; and to have none distinct, is to have no ufe of our faculties, to have no knowledge at all. And therefore, what idea foever is affirmed of itself, or whatsoever two entire diftinct ideas are denied one of another, the mind can
Chap: I'affent to eittands them
Of Maxims. not but assent to such a proposition as infallibly true, as soon as it understands the terms without hesitation or need of proof, or regarding those made in more general terms, and called maxims.
§ 11. What use these general Maxims have. What shall we then say? Are these general maxims of no 'use? By no means; though perhaps their use is not that which it is commonly taken to be. But since doubting in the least of what hath been by some men ascribed to these maxims, may be apt to be cried out againit, as overturning the foundations of all the sciences, it may be worth while to consider them, with respect to other parts of our knowledge, and ex. amine more particularly to what purposes they serve, and to what not.
1. It is evident from what has been already said, that they are of no use to prove or confirm less general self-evident propositions.
2. It is as plain that they are not, nor have been the foundations whereon any science hath been built. There is, I know, a great deal of talk, propagated from scholastic men, of sciences and the maxims on which they are built ; but it has been my ill luck never to meet with any such seiences, much less any. one built upon these two maxims, what is, is, and it is imposible for the same thing to be, and not to be: And I would be glad to be thown where any such science, erected upon these or any other general axioms, is to be found ; and lhould be obliged to any one, who would lay before me the frame and system of any science so built on these or any such like maxims, that could not be shown to stand as firm without any confideration of them. I ask, whether these general maxims have not the same usc in the study of divinity, and in theological questions, that they have in the other fciences? They serve here too to silence wranglers, and put an end to dispute. But I think that no. body will therefore say, that the Cbriflian religion is built upon these maxims, or that the knowledge we have of it is derived from these principles : It is from
revelation we have received it, and without revelation these maxiinis had never been able to help us to it. When we find out an idea, by whose intervention we discover the connection of two others, this is a revela. tion from God to us, by the voice of reason; for we then come to know a truth that we did not know before. When God declares any truth to us, siis is a revelation to us by the voice of his fpirit, and we are advanced in our knowledge ; but in neither of these do we receive our light or knowledge from 1.1% inns ; but in the one, the things themselves afiord it, and we see the truth in them by perceiving their agreement or disagreement; in the other, God him. self affords it immediately to us, and we see the truth of what he says in his unerring veracity.
3. They are not of use to help men forward in the advancement of sciences, or new discoverie; of yet unknown truths, Mr. Newton, in his never enough to be admired book, las demonstrated several propo. fitions, which are so many new truths, before unknown to the world, and are farther advances in ma. thematical knowledge ; but for the discovery of these, it was not the general maxims, what is, is, or, tle whole is bigger than a part, or the like, that helped him; there were not the clues that led him into the discovery of the truth and certainty of those propofitions, nor was it by them that he got the knowledge of those demonftrations; but by finding out intermediate ideas, that thowed the agreement or disagreement of the ideas, as exprefled in the propoli. tions he demonstrated. This is the great exercise and improvement of human underflanding in the enlarging of knowledge, and advancing the scieaces, where. in they are far enough from receiving any help from the contemplation of these, or the like magnified m.ix. ins. Would those who have this traditional aumiration of these propofitions, that they think no step can be made in kuowledge without the support of an axi. om, no stone laid in the building of the sciences without a general rnaxim, but diftinguish between the me
thod of acquiring knowledge, and of communicating; between the method of raising any science, and that of teaching it to others as far as it is advanced; they would see that those general maxims were not the. foundations on which the first discoverers raised their admirable structures, nor the keys that unlocked and opened those secrets of knowledge ; though afterwards, when schools were erected, and sciences had their professors to teach what others had found out, they often made use of maxims, i. e. laid down certain propositions which were self-evident, or to be received for true ; which being settled in the minds of their scholars as unquestionable verities, they on occasion made ofe of, to convince them of truths in particular instances that were not so familiar to their minds as those general axioms which had before been inculcated to them, and carefully settled in their minds; though these particular instances, when well reflected on, are no less self-evident to the understanding, then the ge. neral maxims brought to confirm them; and it was in those particular instances that the first discoverer found the truth, without the help of the general maxims : And so may any one else do, who with attention con. fiders them.
To come, therefore, to the use that is made of inaxims,
1. They are of use, as has been observed, in the ordinary methods of teaching sciences as far as they are advanced, but of little or none in advancing them farther,
2. They are of use in disputes, for the silencing of obitinate wranglers, and bringing those contests to fome conclusion. Whether a need of them to that end came not in, in the manner following, I crave leave to inquire. The schools having made disputation the touchfone of mens abilities, and the criterion of knowledge, adjudged victory to him that kept the field; and he that had the last word, was concluded to have the better of the argument, if not of the cause ; but because by this means there was like to be no decision be
tween skilful combatants, whilft one never failed of a medius terminus to prove any proposition, and the other could as conftantly, without or with a distinc. tion, deny the major or minor; to prevent, as much as could be, the running out of disputes into an end. less train of syllogisms, certain general propositions, most of them indeed self-evident, were introduced into the schools, which being such as all men al. lowed and agreed in, were looked on as general measures of truth, and served instead of principles (where the disputants had not laid down any other be. tween them), beyond which there was no goiug, aod which must not be receded from by either fide. And thus these maxiins getting the name of principles, beyond which men in dispute could not retreat, were by mistake taken to be the originals and sources from whence all knowledge began, and the foundations whereon the sciences were built ; because, when in their disputes they came to any of these, they stopped there, and went no farther, the matter was deter. mined. But how much this is a mistake hath been already shown.
This method of the schools, which have been thought the fountains of knowledge, introduced, as I suppose, the like use of these maxims into a great part of conversation out of the schools, to stop the mouths of cavillers, whom any one is excused from arguing any longer with, when they deny these general self-evident principles received by all reafovable men who have once thought of them ; but yet their use herein is but to put an end to wrangling. They in truth, when urged in such cases, teach nothing ;that is already done by the intermediate ideas made use of in the debate, whose connection may be seen without the help of those maxims, and so the truth is known before the maxim is produced, and the argument brought to a first principle. Men would give off a wrong argument before it came to that, if in their disputes they proposed to themselves the finding and embracing of truth, and not a contest for victory;