Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

their words, that I have made this remark. In all that is here suggeited concerning the little use for the improvement of knowledge, or dangerous use in ondetermined ideas, I have been far enough from saying or intending they should be laid afde, as fome bare been too forward to charge me. I affirm them to be truths, felf-evident truths, and so cannot be laid aside. As far as their influence will reach, it is in vain to endeavour, nor would I attempt to abridge it ; but yet, without any injury to truth or knowledge, I may have reason to think their use is not answerable to the great stress which seems to be laid on them, and I may warn men not to make an ill use of them, for the con. firming themselves in errors. $15. Their Application dangerous about comples

Ideas. But let them be of what use they will in verbal prepositions, they cannot discover or prove to us the leail knowledge of the nature of substances, as they are found and exist without us, any farther than grounded on experience; and though the consequence of these two propositions, called principles, be very clear, and their use not dangerous or hurtful, in the probatica of such things wherein there is no need at all of them for proof, but such as are clear by themselves with. out them, viz. where our ideas are determined, and known by the names that stand for them; yet when thele principles, viz. what is, is, and it is impossible for the same thing to be, and not to be, are made use of in the probation of propofitions, wherein are words standing for complex ideas, v. g. man, borse, gold, virtue, there they are of infinite danger, and moit commonly make men receive and retain falsehood for manifest truth, and uncertainty for demonftration ; upon which follows error, obstinacy, and all the mir. chiefs that can happen for wrong reasoning ; the rea. son whereof is not that these principles are less true, or of less force in proving propositions made of terms standing for complex ideas, than where the pro;0!1. tions are about simple ideas; but because men nittake

generally, thinking that where the same terms are preserved, the propositions are about the same things, though the ideas they stand for are in truth different; therefore these masims are made use of to support those, which in sound and appearance are contradic. tory propofitions ; as is clear in the demonstrations above-mentioned about a vacuum. So that whilst men take words for things, as usually they do, these max. ims may and do commonly serve to prove contradictory propositions, as shall yet be farther made mani. felt.

$16. Instance in Man. For instance ; let man be that concerning which you would by these first principles demonstrate any thing, and we shall fee, that so far as demonstration is by these principles, it is only verbal, and gives us no certain universal true propofition, or knowledge of any being existing without us. First, a child having framed the idea of a man, it is probable that his idea is just like that picture, which the painter makes of the visible appearances joined together; and such a complication of ideas together in his understanding, makes up the single complex idea which he calls man, whereof white or felh-colour in England being one, the child can demonstrate to you that a Negro is not a man, because white colour was one of the constant fim. ple ideas of the complex idea he calls man : and there. fore he can demonstrate by the principle, it is imposa fible for the same thing to be, and not to be, that a negro is not a man ; the foundation of his certainty being pot that universal proposition, which perhaps he never heard nor thought of, but the clear diftinet perception he hath or his own fiinple ideas of black and white, which he cannot be persuaded to take, nor can ever aisake one for another, whether he knows that maxim or no : and to this child, or any one who hath such an idea, which he calls man, can you never de. monstrate that a man hath a soul, because his idea of man includes no such notion or idea in it ; and there. fore to him the principle of what is, is, proves not this matter ; but it depends upon collection and observa. tion, by which he is to make his complex idea called Wዝ.

SECONDLY, another that hath gone farther in framing and collecting the idea he calls man, and to the out. ward shape adds laughter and rational discourse, may demonstrate that infants and changelings are no men, by this maxim, it is imposible for the same thing 10 bi, and not to be: and I have discoursed with very ration. al men, who have actually denied that they are men.

Ø 18. Thirdir, perhaps another makes up the complex idea which he calls man, only out of the ideas of body in general, and the powers of language and reason, and leaves out the shape wholly. This man is able to de. monstrate, that a man may have no hands, but be quadrupes, neither of those being included in his idea of man; and in whatever body or shape he found Speech and real n joined, that was a man; because hav. ing a clear knowledge of such a complex idea, it is certain that what is, is. 919. Little Use of these Maxims in Priofs where

we have clear and distinct Ideas. So that, if rightly considered, I think we may say, that where our ideas are determined in our minds, and have annexed to them by us known and steady names under those settled determinations, there is little need or no use at all of these maxim', to prove the agreement or disagreement of any of them. He that cannot discern the truth or falsehood of such prop fi. tions, without the help of these and the like maxims, will not be helped by these maxims to do it; fince he cannot be supposed to know the truth of these masims themselves without proof, if lie cannot know the truth of others without proof, which are as self-evident as these. Upon this ground it is that intuitive knowledge neither requires nor admits any proof, one part of it more than another. He that will suppose it does, takes away the foundation of all knowledge and cere

tainty; and he that needs any proof to make him certain, and give his assent to this proposition, that two are equal to two, will also have need of a proof to make him admit, that what is is. He that needs a probation to convince him, that two are not three, that white is not black, that a triangle is not a circle, &c. or any other two determined distinct ideas are not one and the same, will need also a demonstration to convince him that it is impossible for the fame thing to be, and not to be. § 20. Their Ufe dangerous where our Ideas are con

fused. AND as these maxims are of little ufe, where we have determined ideas; so they are, as I have showed, of dangerous use, where our ideas are not determined, and where we use words that are not annexed to determined ideas, but such as are of a loose and wandering signification, sometimes standing for one, and sometimes for another idea ;. from which follows mif. take and error, which thefe maxims (brought as proofs to establish propositions, wherein the terms Itand for undetermined ideas) do by their authority confirm and rivet.

CHAP. VIII.

OF TRIFLING PROPOSITIONS. 9.1. Some Propositions bring no Increase to our know

ledge. HETHER the maxims treated of in the fore.

going chapter, be of that use to real knowledge, as is generally supposed, I leave to be considered. This I think may confidently be affirmed, that there are universal propositions, which, though they be certainly true, yet they add no light to our understandings, bring no increase to our knowledge. Such are,

$ 2. As first, Identical Propositions. FIRST, Al parely identical propositions. Thefe obvi. ously, and at first blush, appear to contain no instrucVOL. III.

E

tion in them; for when we allirm the faiil term of itself, whether it be barely verbal, or whether it contains any clear and real idea, it shows us nothing but what we must certainly know before, whether such a proposition be either made by or proposed to us. In. deed that most general one, what is is, may serve sometimes to show a man the absurdity he is guilty of, when by circumlocution, or equivocal terms, he would in particular instances deny the same thing of itself; because nobody will so openly bid defiance to common fense, as to affirm visible and direct contradictions in plain words; or if he does, a man is excused if he breaks off any farther discourse with him. But yet I think I may fay, that neither that received maxim, vor any other identical proposition, teaches us any thing; and though in such kind of propofitions, this great and magnified maxim, boasted to be the foundation of demonstration, may be, and often is made use of to confirm them, yet all it proves amounts to no more than this, that the same word may with great certainty be affirmed of itself, without any doubt of the truth of any such propofition, and let me add allo, without any real knowledge.

§ 3. For at this rate, any very ignorant person who can but make a proposition, and knows what he means when he says, ay or no, may make a million of propositions, of whole truths he may be infalliby certain, and yet not know one thing in the world thereby; v. g. what is a soul is a soul; or a foul is a fou; a Spirit is a spirit; a feitiche is, a feitike, &c. These all being equivalent to this propofition, viz. what is is, i. e. what hath exiflence hath exifience; or, who hath a soul hath a foul. What is this more than trifling with words? It is but like a monkey shifting his oyller from one hand to the other; and had he had but words, might, iu doubt, have said, oyster in right hand is fubjent, and ovitur in left hand is predicaie; and so minti m ili a dela-evidcat propofition of oyster, i, e. Ogled p w/t07; and yes, with all this,

« AnteriorContinuar »