Imágenes de página

taken notice of, but what have names; and those spele cies, or rather their essences, being abstract complex ideas made arbitrarily by the mind; it is convenient, if not necessary, to know the names, before one endeavour to frame these complex ideas: unless a man will fill his head with a company of abstract complex ideas, which others having no names for, he has nothing to do with, but to lay by and forget again. I contess, that in the beginning of languages it was necessary to have the idea, before one gave it the name: and so it is still, where making a new complex idea, one also, by giving it a new name, makes a new word. But this concerns not languages made, which have generally pretty well provided for ideas, which men have fre. quent occasion to have and communicate: and in such, I ask, whether it be not the ordinary method, that children learn the names of mixed modes, before they have their ideas ? What one of a thousand ever frames the abstract ideas of glory and ambition, before he has heard the names of them? In simple ideas and sub. stances I grant it is otherwise ; which being such ideas as have a real existence and union in nature, the ideas and names are got one before the other, as it happens. Reason of §. 16. What has been said' here of mixed my being so modes, is with very little difference applilarge on this cable also to relations; which, since every subject. man himself may observe, I may spare my self the pains to enlarge on; especially, since what I have here said concerning words in this third boos, will possibly be thought by some to be much more than what so slight a subject required. I allow it might be brought into a narrower compass : but I was willing to stay my reader on an argument that appears to me new, and a little out of the way, (I am sure it is one I thought not of when I began to write) that by searching it to the bottom, and turning it on every side, some part or other might meet with everyone's thoughts, and give occasion to the most averse or negligent to reflect on a general miscarriage; which, though of great consequence, is little taken notice of. When it is considered what a pudder is made about


con 23

essences, and how much all sorts of knowledge, discourse, and conversation are pestered and disordered by the careless and confused use and application of words, it will perhaps be thought worth while thoroughly to lay it open. And I shall be pardoned if I have dwelt long on an argument which I think therefore needs to be inculcated; because the faults, men are usually guilty of in this kind, are not only the greatest hindrances of true knowledge, but are so well thought of as to pass for it. Men would often see what a small pittance of reason and truth, or possibly none at all, is mixed with those huffing opinions they are swelled with, if they would but look beyond fashionable sounds, and observe what ideas are, or are not comprehended under those words with which they are so armed at all points, and with which they so confidently lay about them. I shall imagine I have done some service to truth, peace, and learning, if, by any enlargement on this subject, I can make men reflect on their own use of language; and give them reason to suspect, that since it is frequent for others, it Inay also be possible for them to have sometimes very good and approved words in their mouths and writings, with very uncertain, little, or no signification. And therefore it is not unreasonable for them to be wary herein themselves, and not to be unwilling to have them examined by others. With this design therefore I shall go on with what I have farther to say concerning this matter.

[blocks in formation]

§. 1. THE common names of sub

1 stances, as well as other general terms, stand for sorts; which is nothing else but the being made signs of such complex ideas, wherein several particular sub

The com. mon names of substances stand for sorts.


stances do, or might agree, by virtue of which they are capable of being comprehended in one common conception, and signified by one name. I sav, do or might agree: for though there be but one sun existing in the world, yet the idea of it being abstracted, so that more substances (if there were several) might each agree in it; it is as much a sort, as if there were as many suns as there are stars. They want not their reasons who think there are, and that each fixed star would answer the idea the name sun stands for, to one who was placed in a due distance; which, by the way, may show us how much the sorts, or, if you please, gencra and species of things (for those Latin terms signify to me no more than the English word sort) depend on such collections of ideas as men have made, and not on the real nature of things; since it is not impossible but that, in propriety of speech, that might be a sun to one, which is a star to another. The essence §. 2. The measure and boundary of each of each sort is sort, or species, whereby it is constituted the abstract that particular sort, and distinguished from idea.

others, is that we call its essence, which is nothing but that abstract idea to which the name is annexed : so that every thing contained in that idea is essential to that sort. This, though it be all the essence of natural substances that we know, or by which we distinguish them into soris; yet I call it by a peculiar name, the nominal essence, to distinguish it from the real constitution of substances, upon which depends this nominal essence, and all the properties of that sort; which therefore, as has been said, may be called the real essence : v. g. the nominal essence of gold is that complex idea the word gold stands for, let it be, for instance, a body yellow, of a certain weight, malleable, fusible, and fixed. But the real essence is the constitution of the insensible parts of that body, on which those qualities, and all the other properties of gold depend. How far these two are different, though they are both called essence, is obvious at first sight to discover.

$. 3. For though perhaps voluntary motion, with sense and reason, joined to a and real esbody of a certain shape, be the complex sence diffeidea to which I, and others, annex the name rent. man, and so be the nominal essence of the species so called ; yet nobody will say that complex idea is the real essence and source of all those operations which are to be found in any individual of that sort. The foundation of all those qualities, which are the ingredients of our complex idea, is something quite different; and, had we such a knowledge of that constitution of man, from which his faculties of moving, sensation, and reasoning, and other powers flow, and on which his so regular shape depends, as it is possible angels have, and it is certain his Maker has; we should have a quite other idea of his essence than what now is contained in our definition of that species, be it what it will : and our idea of any individual man would be as far different from what it is now, as is his who knows all the springs and wheels, and other contrivances within, of the famous clock at Strasburgh, from that which a gazing countryman has for it, who barely sees the motion of the hand, and hears the clock strike, and observes only some of the outward appearances.

§. 4. That essence, in the ordinary use North of the word, relates to sorts; and that it sential to inis considered in particular beings no far- dividuals. ther than as they are ranked into sorts; appears from hence: that take but away the abstract ideas, by which we sort individuals, and rank them under common names, and then the thought of any thing essential to any of them instantly vanishes; we have no notion of the one without the other; which plainly shows their relation. It is necessary for me to be as I am; God and nature has made me so : but there is nothing I have is essential to me. An accident, or disease, may very much alter my colour, or shape; a fever, or fall, may take away my reason or inemory, or both, and an apoplexy leave neither sense nor understanding, no nor life. Other creatures of my shape may be made with more and better, or fewer and worse


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

faculties than I have; and others may have reason and sense in a shape and body very different from mine. None of these are essential to the one, or the other, or to any individual whatever, will tlie mind refers it to some sort or species of things; and then presently, according to the abstract idea of that sort, something is found essential. Let any one examine his own thoughts, and he will find that as soon as he supposes or speaks of essential, the consideration of some species, or the complex idea, signified by some general name, comes into his mind; and it is in reference to that, that this or that quality is said to be essential. So that if it be asked, whether it be essential to me or any other particular corporeal being to have reason ? I say no; no more than it is essential to this white thing I write on to have words in it. But if that particular being be to be counted of the sort man, and to have the name man given it, then reason is essential to it, supposing reason to be a part of the complex idea the name man stands for: as it is essential to this thing I write on to contain words, if I will give it the name treatise, and rank it under that species. So that essential, and not essential, relate only to our abstract ideas, and the names annexed to them ; which amounts to no more but this, that whatever particular thing has not in it those qualities, which are contained in the abstract idea, which any general term stands for, cannot be ranked under that species, nor be called by tiat name, since that abstract idea is the very essence of that species.

. 5. Thus if the idea of body; with some people, be bare extension or space, then solidity is not essential to body: if others make the idea, to which they give the name body, to be solidity and extension, then solidity is essential to body. That therefore, and that alone, is considered as essential, which makes a part of the complex idea the name of a sort stands for, without which no particular thing can be reckoned of that sort, nor be intitled to that name. Should there be found a parcel of matter that had all the other qualities that are in iron, but wanted obedience to the loadstone; and would neither be drawn by it, nor receive direction

« AnteriorContinuar »