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John Locke Human Understanding

Human Understanding

John Locke

by John Locke



THIS Treatise, which is grown up under your lordship's eye, and
has ventured into the world by your order, does now, by a natural kind
of right, come to your lordship for that protection which you
several years since promised it. It is not that I think any name,
how great soever, set at the beginning of a book, will be able to
cover the faults that are to be found in it. Things in print must
stand and fall by their own worth, or the reader's fancy. But there
being nothing more to be desired for truth than a fair unprejudiced
hearing, nobody is more likely to procure me that than your
lordship, who are allowed to have got so intimate an acquaintance with
her, in her more retired recesses. Your lordship is known to have so
far advanced your speculations in the most abstract and general
knowledge of things, beyond the ordinary reach or common methods, that
your allowance and approbation of the design of this Treatise will
at least preserve it from being condemned without reading, and will
prevail to have those parts a little weighted, which might otherwise
perhaps be thought to deserve no consideration, for being somewhat out
of the common road. The imputation of Novelty is a terrible charge
amongst those who judge of men's heads, as they do of their perukes,
by the fashion, and can allow none to be right but the received
doctrines. Truth scarce ever yet carried it by vote anywhere at its
first appearance: new opinions are always suspected, and usually
opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already
common. But truth, like gold, is not the less so for being newly
brought out of the mine. It is trial and examination must give it
price, and not any antique fashion; and though it be not yet current
by the public stamp, yet it may, for all that, be as old as nature,
and is certainly not the less genuine. Your lordship can give great
and convincing instances of this, whenever you please to oblige the
public with some of those large and comprehensive discoveries you have
made of truths hitherto unknown, unless to some few, from whom your
lordship has been pleased not wholly to conceal them. This alone
were a sufficient reason, were there no other, why I should dedicate
this Essay to your lordship; and its having some little correspondence
with some parts of that nobler and vast system of the sciences your
lordship has made so new, exact, and instructive a draught of, I think
it glory enough, if your lordship permit me to boast, that here and
there I have fallen into some thoughts not wholly different from
yours. If your lordship think fit that, by your encouragement, this
should appear in the world, I hope it may be a reason, some time or
other, to lead your lordship further; and you will allow me to say,
that you here give the world an earnest of something that, if they can
bear with this, will be truly worth their expectation. This, my
lord, shows what a present I here make to your lordship; just such
as the poor man does to his rich and great neighbour, by whom the
basket of flowers or fruit is not ill taken, though he has more plenty
of his own growth, and in much greater perfection. Worthless things
receive a value when they are made the offerings of respect, esteem,
and gratitude: these you have given me so mighty and peculiar
reasons to have, in the highest degree, for your lordship, that if
they can add a price to what they go along with, proportionable to
their own greatness, I can with confidence brag, I here make your
lordship the richest present you ever received. This I am sure, I am
under the greatest obligations to seek all occasions to acknowledge
a long train of favours I have received from your lordship; favours,
though great and important in themselves, yet made much more so by the
forwardness, concern, and kindness, and other obliging
circumstances, that never failed to accompany them. To all this you
are pleased to add that which gives yet more weight and relish to
all the rest: you vouchsafe to continue me in some degrees of your
esteem, and allow me a place in your good thoughts, I had almost
said friendship. This, my lord, your words and actions so constantly
show on all occasions, even to others when I am absent, that it is not
vanity in me to mention what everybody knows: but it would be want
of good manners not to acknowledge what so many are witnesses of,
and every day tell me I am indebted to your lordship for. I wish
they could as easily assist my gratitude, as they convince me of the
great and growing engagements it has to your lordship. This I am sure,
I should write of the Understanding without having any, if I were
not extremely sensible of them, and did not lay hold on this
opportunity to testify to the world how much I am obliged to be, and
how much I am,


Your Lordship's most humble and most obedient servant,


Dorset Court,
24th of May, 1689

I HAVE put into thy hands what has been the diversion of some of
my idle and heavy hours. If it has the good luck to prove so of any of
thine, and thou hast but half so much pleasure in reading as I had
in writing it, thou wilt as little think thy money, as I do my
pains, ill bestowed. Mistake not this for a commendation of my work;
nor conclude, because I was pleased with the doing of it, that
therefore I am fondly taken with it now it is done. He that hawks at
larks and sparrows has no less sport, though a much less
considerable quarry, than he that flies at nobler game: and he is
little acquainted with the subject of this treatise- the
UNDERSTANDING- who does not know that, as it is the most elevated
faculty of the soul, so it is employed with a greater and more
constant delight than any of the other. Its searches after truth are a
sort of hawking and hunting, wherein the very pursuit makes a great
part of the pleasure. Every step the mind takes in its progress
towards Knowledge makes some discovery, which is not only new, but the
best too, for the time at least.
For the understanding, like the eye, judging of objects only by
its own sight, cannot but be pleased with what it discovers, having
less regret for what has escaped it, because it is unknown. Thus he
who has raised himself above the alms-basket, and, not content to live
lazily on scraps of begged opinions, sets his own thoughts on work, to
find and follow truth, will (whatever he lights on) not miss the
hunter's satisfaction; every moment of his pursuit will reward his
pains with some delight; and he will have reason to think his time not
ill spent, even when he cannot much boast of any great acquisition.
This, Reader, is the entertainment of those who let loose their
own thoughts, and follow them in writing; which thou oughtest not to
envy them, since they afford thee an opportunity of the like
diversion, if thou wilt make use of thy own thoughts in reading. It is
to them, if they are thy own, that I refer myself: but if they are
taken upon trust from others, it is no great matter what they are;
they are not following truth, but some meaner consideration; and it is
not worth while to be concerned what he says or thinks, who says or
thinks only as he is directed by another. If thou judgest for
thyself I know thou wilt judge candidly, and then I shall not be
harmed or offended, whatever be thy censure. For though it be
certain that there is nothing in this Treatise of the truth whereof
I am not fully persuaded, yet I consider myself as liable to
mistakes as I can think thee, and know that this book must stand or
fall with thee, not by any opinion I have of it, but thy own. If
thou findest little in it new or instructive to thee, thou art not
to blame me for it. It was not meant for those that had already
mastered this subject, and made a thorough acquaintance with their own
understandings; but for my own information, and the satisfaction of
a few friends, who acknowledged themselves not to have sufficiently
considered it.
Were it fit to trouble thee with the history of this Essay, I should
tell thee, that five or six friends meeting at my chamber, and
discoursing on a subject very remote from this, found themselves
quickly at a stand, by the difficulties that rose on every side. After
we had awhile puzzled ourselves, without coming any nearer a
resolution of those doubts which perplexed us, it came into my
thoughts that we took a wrong course; and that before we set ourselves
upon inquiries of that nature, it was necessary to examine our own
abilities, and see what objects our understandings were, or were
not, fitted to deal with. This I proposed to the company, who all
readily assented; and thereupon it was agreed that this should be
our first inquiry. Some hasty and undigested thoughts, on a subject
I had never before considered, which I set down against our next
meeting, gave the first entrance into this Discourse; which having
been thus begun by chance, was continued by intreaty; written by
incoherent parcels; and after long intervals of neglect, resumed
again, as my humour or occasions permitted; and at last, in a
retirement where an attendance on my health gave me leisure, it was
brought into that order thou now seest it.
This discontinued way of writing may have occasioned, besides
others, two contrary faults, viz., that too little and too much may be
said in it. If thou findest anything wanting, I shall be glad that
what I have written gives thee any desire that I should have gone
further. If it seems too much to thee, thou must blame the subject;
for when I put pen to paper, I thought all I should have to say on
this matter would have been contained in one sheet of paper; but the
further I went the larger prospect I had; new discoveries led me still
on, and so it grew insensibly to the bulk it now appears in. I will
not deny, but possibly it might be reduced to a narrower compass
than it is, and that some parts of it might be contracted, the way
it has been writ in, by catches, and many long intervals of
interruption, being apt to cause some repetitions. But to confess
the truth, I am now too lazy, or too busy, to make it shorter.
I am not ignorant how little I herein consult my own reputation,
when I knowingly let it go with a fault, so apt to disgust the most
judicious, who are always the nicest readers. But they who know
sloth is apt to content itself with any excuse, will pardon me if mine
has prevailed on me, where I think I have a very good one. I will
not therefore allege in my defence, that the same notion, having
different respects, may be convenient or necessary to prove or
illustrate several parts of the same discourse, and that so it has
happened in many parts of this: but waiving that, I shall frankly avow
that I have sometimes dwelt long upon the same argument, and expressed
it different ways, with a quite different design. I pretend not to
publish this Essay for the information of men of large thoughts and
quick apprehensions; to such masters of knowledge I profess myself a
scholar, and therefore warn them beforehand not to expect anything
here, but what, being spun out of my own coarse thoughts, is fitted to
men of my own size, to whom, perhaps, it will not be unacceptable that
I have taken some pains to make plain and familiar to their thoughts
some truths which established prejudice, or the abstractedness of
the ideas themselves, might render difficult. Some objects had need be
turned on every side; and when the notion is new, as I confess some of
these are to me; or out of the ordinary road, as I suspect they will
appear to others, it is not one simple view of it that will gain it
admittance into every understanding, or fix it there with a clear
and lasting impression. There are few, I believe, who have not
observed in themselves or others, that what in one way of proposing
was very obscure, another way of expressing it has made very clear and
intelligible; though afterwards the mind found little difference in
the phrases, and wondered why one failed to be understood more than
the other. But everything does not hit alike upon every man's
imagination. We have our understandings no less different than our
palates; and he that thinks the same truth shall be equally relished
by every one in the same dress, may as well hope to feast every one
with the same sort of cookery: the meat may be the same, and the
nourishment good, yet every one not be able to receive it with that
seasoning; and it must be dressed another way, if you will have it
go down with some, even of strong constitutions. The truth is, those
who advised me to publish it, advised me, for this reason, to
publish it as it is: and since I have been brought to let it go
abroad, I desire it should be understood by whoever gives himself
the pains to read it. I have so little affection to be in print,
that if I were not flattered this Essay might be of some use to
others, as I think it has been to me, I should have confined it to the
view of some friends, who gave the first occasion to it. My
appearing therefore in print being on purpose to be as useful as I
may, I think it necessary to make what I have to say as easy and
intelligible to all sorts of readers as I can. And I had much rather
the speculative and quick-sighted should complain of my being in
some parts tedious, than that any one, not accustomed to abstract
speculations, or prepossessed with different notions, should mistake
or not comprehend my meaning.
It will possibly be censured as a great piece of vanity or insolence
in me, to pretend to instruct this our knowing age; it amounting to
little less, when I own, that I publish this Essay with hopes it may
be useful to others. But, if it may be permitted to speak freely of
those who with a feigned modesty condemn as useless what they
themselves write, methinks it savours much more of vanity or insolence
to publish a book for any other end; and he fails very much of that
respect he owes the public, who prints, and consequently expects men
should read, that wherein he intends not they should meet with
anything of use to themselves or others: and should nothing else be
found allowable in this Treatise, yet my design will not cease to be
so; and the goodness of my intention ought to be some excuse for the
worthlessness of my present. It is that chiefly which secures me
from the fear of censure, which I expect not to escape more than
better writers. Men's principles, notions, and relishes are so
different, that it is hard to find a book which pleases or
displeases all men. I acknowledge the age we live in is not the
least knowing, and therefore not the most easy to be satisfied. If I
have not the good luck to please, yet nobody ought to be offended with
me. I plainly tell all my readers, except half a dozen, this
Treatise was not at first intended for them; and therefore they need
not be at the trouble to be of that number. But yet if any one
thinks fit to be angry and rail at it, he may do it securely, for I
shall find some better way of spending my time than in such kind of
conversation. I shall always have the satisfaction to have aimed
sincerely at truth and usefulness, though in one of the meanest
ways. The commonwealth of learning is not at this time without
master-builders, whose mighty designs, in advancing the sciences, will
leave lasting monuments to the admiration of posterity: but every
one must not hope to be a Boyle or a Sydenham; and in an age that
produces such masters as the great Huygenius and the incomparable
Mr. Newton, with some others of that strain, it is ambition enough
to be employed as an under-labourer in clearing the ground a little,
and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way to knowledge;-
which certainly had been very much more advanced in the world, if
the endeavours of ingenious and industrious men had not been much
cumbered with the learned but frivolous use of uncouth, affected, or
unintelligible terms, introduced into the sciences, and there made
an art of, to that degree that Philosophy, which is nothing but the
true knowledge of things, was thought unfit or incapable to be brought
into well-bred company and polite conversation. Vague and
insignificant forms of speech, and abuse of language, have so long
passed for mysteries of science; and hard and misapplied words, with
little or no meaning, have, by prescription, such a right to be
mistaken for deep learning and height of speculation, that it will not
be easy to persuade either those who speak or those who hear them,
that they are but the covers of ignorance, and hindrance of true
knowledge. To break in upon the sanctuary of vanity and ignorance will
be, I suppose, some service to human understanding; though so few
are apt to think they deceive or are deceived in the use of words;
or that the language of the sect they are of has any faults in it
which ought to be examined or corrected, that I hope I shall be
pardoned if I have in the Third Book dwelt long on this subject, and
endeavoured to make it so plain, that neither the inveterateness of
the mischief, nor the prevalency of the fashion, shall be any excuse
for those who will not take care about the meaning of their own words,
and will not suffer the significancy of their expressions to be
inquired into.
I have been told that a short Epitome of this Treatise, which was
printed in 1688, was by some condemned without reading, because innate
ideas were denied in it; they too hastily concluding, that if innate
ideas were not supposed, there would be little left either of the
notion or proof of spirits. If any one take the like offence at the
entrance of this Treatise, I shall desire him to read it through;
and then I hope he will be convinced, that the taking away false
foundations is not to the prejudice but advantage of truth, which is
never injured or endangered so much as when mixed with, or built on,
In the Second Edition I added as followeth:-
The bookseller will not forgive me if I say nothing of this New
Edition, which he has promised, by the correctness of it, shall make
amends for the many faults committed in the former. He desires too,
that it should be known that it has one whole new chapter concerning
Identity, and many additions and amendments in other places. These I
must inform my reader are not all new matter, but most of them
either further confirmation of what I had said, or explications, to
prevent others being mistaken in the sense of what was formerly
printed, and not any variation in me from it.
I must only except the alterations I have made in Book II. chap.
What I had there written concerning Liberty and the Will, I
thought deserved as accurate a view as I am capable of; those subjects
having in all ages exercised the learned part of the world with
questions and difficulties, that have not a little perplexed
morality and divinity, those parts of knowledge that men are most
concerned to be clear in. Upon a closer inspection into the working of
men's minds, and a stricter examination of those motives and views
they are turned by, I have found reason somewhat to alter the thoughts
I formerly had concerning that which gives the last determination to
the Will in all voluntary actions. This I cannot forbear to
acknowledge to the world with as much freedom and readiness as I at
first published what then seemed to me to be right; thinking myself
more concerned to quit and renounce any opinion of my own, than oppose
that of another, when truth appears against it. For it is truth
alone I seek, and that will always be welcome to me, when or from
whencesoever it comes.
But what forwardness soever I have to resign any opinion I have,
or to recede from anything I have writ, upon the first evidence of any
error in it; yet this I must own, that I have not had the good luck to
receive any light from those exceptions I have met with in print
against any part of my book, nor have, from anything that has been
urged against it, found reason to alter my sense in any of the
points that have been questioned. Whether the subject I have in hand
requires often more thought and attention than cursory readers, at
least such as are prepossessed, are willing to allow; or whether any
obscurity in my expressions casts a cloud over it, and these notions
are made difficult to others' apprehensions in my way of treating
them; so it is, that my meaning, I find, is often mistaken, and I have
not the good luck to be everywhere rightly understood.
Of this the ingenious author of the Discourse Concerning the
Nature of Man has given me a late instance, to mention no other. For
the civility of his expressions, and the candour that belongs to his
order, forbid me to think that he would have closed his Preface with
an insinuation, as if in what I had said, Book II. ch. xxvii,
concerning the third rule which men refer their actions to, I went
about to make virtue vice and vice virtue unless he had mistaken my
meaning; which he could not have done if he had given himself the
trouble to consider what the argument was I was then upon, and what
was the chief design of that chapter, plainly enough set down in the
fourth section and those following. For I was there not laying down
moral rules, but showing the original and nature of moral ideas, and
enumerating the rules men make use of in moral relations, whether
these rules were true or false: and pursuant thereto I tell what is
everywhere called virtue and vice; which "alters not the nature of
things," though men generally do judge of and denominate their actions
according to the esteem and fashion of the place and sect they are of.
If he had been at the pains to reflect on what I had said, Bk. I.
ch. ii. sect. 18, and Bk. II. ch. xxviii. sects. 13, 14, 15 and 20, he
would have known what I think of the eternal and unalterable nature of
right and wrong, and what I call virtue and vice. And if he had
observed that in the place he quotes I only report as a matter of fact
what others call virtue and vice, he would not have found it liable to
any great exception. For I think I am not much out in saying that
one of the rules made use of in the world for a ground or measure of a
moral relation is- that esteem and reputation which several sorts of
actions find variously in the several societies of men, according to
which they are there called virtues or vices. And whatever authority
the learned Mr. Lowde places in his Old English Dictionary, I
daresay it nowhere tells him (if I should appeal to it) that the
same action is not in credit, called and counted a virtue, in one
place, which, being in disrepute, passes for and under the name of
vice in another. The taking notice that men bestow the names of
"virtue" and "vice" according to this rule of Reputation is all I have
done, or can be laid to my charge to have done, towards the making
vice virtue or virtue vice. But the good man does well, and as becomes
his calling, to be watchful in such points, and to take the alarm even
at expressions, which, standing alone by themselves, might sound ill
and be suspected.
'Tis to this zeal, allowable in his function, that I forgive his
citing as he does these words of mine (ch. xxviii. sect. II): "Even
the exhortations of inspired teachers have not feared to appeal to
common repute, Philip. iv. 8"; without taking notice of those
immediately preceding, which introduce them, and run thus: "Whereby
even in the corruption of manners, the true boundaries of the law of
nature, which ought to be the rule of virtue and vice, were pretty
well preserved. So that even the exhortations of inspired teachers,"
&c. By which words, and the rest of that section, it is plain that I
brought that passage of St. Paul, not to prove that the general
measure of what men called virtue and vice throughout the world was,
the reputation and fashion of each particular society within itself;
but to show that, though it were so, yet, for reasons I there give,
men, in that way of denominating their actions, did not for the most
part much stray from the Law of Nature; which is that standing and
unalterable rule by which they ought to judge of the moral rectitude
and gravity of their actions, and accordingly denominate them
virtues or vices. Had Mr. Lowde considered this, he would have found
it little to his purpose to have quoted this passage in a sense I used
it not; and would I imagine have spared the application he subjoins to
it, as not very necessary. But I hope this Second Edition will give
him satisfaction on the point, and that this matter is now so
expressed as to show him there was no cause for scruple.
Though I am forced to differ from him in these apprehensions he
has expressed, in the latter end of his preface, concerning what I had
said about virtue and vice, yet we are better agreed than he thinks in
what he says in his third chapter (p. 78) concerning "natural
inscription and innate notions." I shall not deny him the privilege he
claims (p. 52), to state the question as he pleases, especially when
he states it so as to leave nothing in it contrary to what I have
said. For, according to him, "innate notions, being conditional
things, depending upon the concurrence of several other
circumstances in order to the soul's exerting them," all that he
says for "innate, imprinted, impressed notions" (for of innate ideas
he says nothing at all), amounts at last only to this- that there
are certain propositions which, though the soul from the beginning, or
when a man is born, does not know, yet "by assistance from the outward
senses, and the help of some previous cultivation," it may
afterwards come certainly to know the truth of; which is no more
than what I have affirmed in my First Book. For I suppose by the
"soul's exerting them," he means its beginning to know them; or else
the soul's "exerting of notions" will be to me a very unintelligible
expression; and I think at best is a very unfit one in this, it
misleading men's thoughts by an insinuation, as if these notions
were in the mind before the "soul exerts them," i.e. before they are
known;- whereas truly before they are known, there is nothing of
them in the mind but a capacity to know them, when the "concurrence of
those circumstances," which this ingenious author thinks necessary "in
order to the soul's exerting them," brings them into our knowledge.
P. 52 I find him express it thus: "These natural notions are not
so imprinted upon the soul as that they naturally and necessarily
exert themselves (even in children and idiots) without any
assistance from the outward senses, or without the help of some
previous cultivation." Here, he says, they exert themselves, as p. 78,
that the "soul exerts them." When he has explained to himself or
others what he means by "the soul's exerting innate notions," or their
"exerting themselves"; and what that "previous cultivation and
circumstances" in order to their being exerted are- he will I
suppose find there is so little of controversy between him and me on
the point, bating that he calls that "exerting of notions" which I
in a more vulgar style call "knowing," that I have reason to think
he brought in my name on this occasion only out of the pleasure he has
to speak civilly of me; which I must gratefully acknowledge he has
done everywhere he mentions me, not without conferring on me, as
some others have done, a title I have no right to.
There are so many instances of this, that I think it justice to my
reader and myself to conclude, that either my book is plainly enough
written to be rightly understood by those who peruse it with that
attention and indifferency, which every one who will give himself
the pains to read ought to employ in reading; or else that I have
written mine so obscurely that it is in vain to go about to mend it.
Whichever of these be the truth, it is myself only am affected
thereby; and therefore I shall be far from troubling my reader with
what I think might be said in answer to those several objections I
have met with, to passages here and there of my book; since I persuade
myself that he who thinks them of moment enough to be concerned
whether they are true or false, will be able to see that what is
said is either not well founded, or else not contrary to my
doctrine, when I and my opposer come both to be well understood.
If any other authors, careful that none of their good thoughts
should be lost, have published their censures of my Essay, with this
honour done to it, that they will not suffer it to be an essay, I
leave it to the public to value the obligation they have to their
critical pens, and shall not waste my reader's time in so idle or
ill-natured an employment of mine, as to lessen the satisfaction any
one has in himself, or gives to others, in so hasty a confutation of
what I have written.
The booksellers preparing for the Fourth Edition of my Essay, gave
me notice of it, that I might, if I had leisure, make any additions or
alterations I should think fit. Whereupon I thought it convenient to
advertise the reader, that besides several corrections I had made here
and there, there was one alteration which it was necessary to mention,
because it ran through the whole book, and is of consequence to be
rightly understood. What I thereupon said was this:-
Clear and distinct ideas are terms which, though familiar and
frequent in men's mouths, I have reason to think every one who uses
does not perfectly understand. And possibly 'tis but here and there
one who gives himself the trouble to consider them so far as to know
what he himself or others precisely mean by them. I have therefore
in most places chose to put determinate or determined, instead of
clear and distinct, as more likely to direct men's thoughts to my
meaning in this matter. By those denominations, I mean some object
in the mind, and consequently determined, i.e. such as it is there
seen and perceived to be. This, I think, may fitly be called a
determinate or determined idea, when such as it is at any time
objectively in the mind, and so determined there, it is annexed, and
without variation determined, to a name or articulate sound, which
is to be steadily the sign of that very same object of the mind, or
determinate idea.
To explain this a little more particularly. By determinate, when
applied to a simple idea, I mean that simple appearance which the mind
has in its view, or perceives in itself, when that idea is said to
be in it: by determined, when applied to a complex idea, I mean such
an one as consists of a determinate number of certain simple or less
complex ideas, joined in such a proportion and situation as the mind
has before its view, and sees in itself, when that idea is present
in it, or should be present in it, when a man gives a name to it. I
say should be, because it is not every one, nor perhaps any one, who
is so careful of his language as to use no word till he views in his
mind the precise determined idea which he resolves to make it the sign
of The want of this is the cause of no small obscurity and confusion
in men's thoughts and discourses.
I know there are not words enough in any language to answer all
the variety of ideas that enter into men's discourses and
reasonings. But this hinders not but that when any one uses any
term, he may have in his mind a determined idea, which he makes it the
sign of, and to which he should keep it steadily annexed during that
present discourse. Where he does not, or cannot do this, he in vain
pretends to clear or distinct ideas: it is plain his are not so; and
therefore there can be expected nothing but obscurity and confusion,
where such terms are made use of which have not such a precise
Upon this ground I have thought determined ideas a way of speaking
less liable to mistakes, than clear and distinct: and where men have
got such determined ideas of all that they reason, inquire, or argue
about, they will find a great part of their doubts and disputes at
an end; the greatest part of the questions and controversies that
perplex mankind depending on the doubtful and uncertain use of
words, or (which is the same) indetermined ideas, which they are
made to stand for. I have made choice of these terms to signify, (1)
Some immediate object of the mind, which it perceives and has before
it, distinct from the sound it uses as a sign of it. (2) That this
idea, thus determined, i.e. which the mind has in itself, and knows,
and sees there, be determined without any change to that name, and
that name determined to that precise idea. If men had such
determined ideas in their inquiries and discourses, they would both
discern how far their own inquiries and discourses went, and avoid the
greatest part of the disputes and wranglings they have with others.
Besides this, the bookseller will think it necessary I should
advertise the reader that there is an addition of two chapters
wholly new; the one of the Association of Ideas, the other of
Enthusiasm. These, with some other larger additions never before
printed, he has engaged to print by themselves, after the same manner,
and for the same purpose, as was done when this Essay had the second
In the Sixth Edition there is very little added or altered. The
greatest part of what is new is contained in the twenty-first
chapter of the second book, which any one, if he thinks it worth
while, may, with a very little labour, transcribe into the margin of
the former edition.

As thou knowest not what is the way of the Spirit, nor how the bones
do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest
not the works of God, who maketh all things.- Eccles. 11. 5.

Quam bellum est velle confiteri potius nescire quod nescias, quam
ista effutientem nauseare, atque ipsum sibi displicere.- Cicero, de
Natur. Deor. l. i.


1. An Inquiry into the understanding, pleasant and useful. Since
it is the understanding that sets man above the rest of sensible
beings, and gives him all the advantage and dominion which he has over
them; it is certainly a subject, even for its nobleness, worth our
labour to inquire into. The understanding, like the eye, whilst it
makes us see and perceive all other things, takes no notice of itself;
and it requires art and pains to set it at a distance and make it
its own object. But whatever be the difficulties that lie in the way
of this inquiry; whatever it be that keeps us so much in the dark to
ourselves; sure I am that all the light we can let in upon our
minds, all the acquaintance we can make with our own understandings,
will not only be very pleasant, but bring us great advantage, in
directing our thoughts in the search of other things.
2. Design. This, therefore, being my purpose- to inquire into the
original, certainty, and extent of human knowledge, together with
the grounds and degrees of belief, opinion, and assent;- I shall not
at present meddle with the physical consideration of the mind; or
trouble myself to examine wherein its essence consists; or by what
motions of our spirits or alterations of our bodies we come to have
any sensation by our organs, or any ideas in our understandings; and
whether those ideas do in their formation, any or all of them,
depend on matter or not. These are speculations which, however curious
and entertaining, I shall decline, as lying out of my way in the
design I am now upon. It shall suffice to my present purpose, to
consider the discerning faculties of a man, as they are employed about
the objects which they have to do with. And I shall imagine I have not
wholly misemployed myself in the thoughts I shall have on this
occasion, if, in this historical, plain method, I can give any account
of the ways whereby our understandings come to attain those notions of
things we have; and can set down any measures of the certainty of
our knowledge; or the grounds of those persuasions which are to be
found amongst men, so various, different, and wholly contradictory;
and yet asserted somewhere or other with such assurance and
confidence, that he that shall take a view of the opinions of mankind,
observe their opposition, and at the same time consider the fondness
and devotion wherewith they are embraced, the resolution and eagerness
wherewith they are maintained, may perhaps have reason to suspect,
that either there is no such thing as truth at all, or that mankind
hath no sufficient means to attain a certain knowledge of it.
3. Method. It is therefore worth while to search out the bounds
between opinion and knowledge; and examine by what measures, in things
whereof we have no certain knowledge, we ought to regulate our
assent and moderate our persuasion. In order whereunto I shall
pursue this following method:-
First, I shall inquire into the original of those ideas, notions, or
whatever else you please to call them, which a man observes, and is
conscious to himself he has in his mind; and the ways whereby the
understanding comes to be furnished with them.
Secondly, I shall endeavour to show what knowledge the understanding
hath by those ideas; and the certainty, evidence, and extent of it.
Thirdly, I shall make some inquiry into the nature and grounds of
faith or opinion: whereby I mean that assent which we give to any
proposition as true, of whose truth yet we have no certain
knowledge. And here we shall have occasion to examine the reasons
and degrees of assent.
4. Useful to know the extent of our comprehension. If by this
inquiry into the nature of the understanding, I can discover the
powers thereof; how far they reach; to what things they are in any
degree proportionate; and where they fail us, I suppose it may be of
use to prevail with the busy mind of man to be more cautious in
meddling with things exceeding its comprehension; to stop when it is
at the utmost extent of its tether; and to sit down in a quiet
ignorance of those things which, upon examination, are found to be
beyond the reach of our capacities. We should not then perhaps be so
forward, out of an affectation of an universal knowledge, to raise
questions, and perplex ourselves and others with disputes about things
to which our understandings are not suited; and of which we cannot
frame in our minds any clear or distinct perceptions, or whereof (as
it has perhaps too often happened) we have not any notions at all.
If we can find out how far the understanding can extend its view;
how far it has faculties to attain certainty; and in what cases it can
only judge and guess, we may learn to content ourselves with what is
attainable by us in this state.
5. Our capacity suited to our state and concerns. For though the
comprehension of our understandings comes exceeding short of the
vast extent of things, yet we shall have cause enough to magnify the
bountiful Author of our being, for that proportion and degree of
knowledge he has bestowed on us, so far above all the rest of the
inhabitants of this our mansion. Men have reason to be well
satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given
them (as St. Peter says) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is
necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue;
and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable
provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short
soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect
comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great
concernments, that they have light enough to lead them to the
knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties. Men may
find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands
with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly
quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings
their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to
grasp everything. We shall not have much reason to complain of the
narrowness of our minds, if we will but employ them about what may
be of use to us; for of that they are very capable. And it will be
an unpardonable, as well as childish peevishness, if we undervalue the
advantages of our knowledge, and neglect to improve it to the ends for
which it was given us, because there are some things that are set
out of the reach of it. It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward
servant, who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead
that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us shines
bright enough for all our purposes. The discoveries we can make with
this ought to satisfy us; and we shall then use our understandings
right, when we entertain all objects in that way and proportion that
they are suited to our faculties, and upon those grounds they are
capable of being proposed to us; and not peremptorily or intemperately
require demonstration, and demand certainty, where probability only is
to be had, and which is sufficient to govern all our concernments.
If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all
things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his
legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly.
6. Knowledge of our capacity a cure of scepticism and idleness. When
we know our own strength, we shall the better know what to undertake
with hopes of success; and when we have well surveyed the powers of
our own minds, and made some estimate what we may expect from them, we
shall not be inclined either to sit still, and not set our thoughts on
work at all, in despair of knowing anything; nor on the other side,
question everything, and disclaim all knowledge, because some things
are not to be understood. It is of great use to the sailor to know the
length of his line, though he cannot with it fathom all the depths
of the ocean. It is well he knows that it is long enough to reach
the bottom, at such places as are necessary to direct his voyage,
and caution him against running upon shoals that may ruin him. Our
business here is not to know all things, but those which concern our
conduct. If we can find out those measures, whereby a rational
creature, put in that state in which man is in this world, may and
ought to govern his opinions, and actions depending thereon, we need
not to be troubled that some other things escape our knowledge.
7. Occasion of this essay. This was that which gave the first rise
to this Essay concerning the understanding. For I thought that the
first step towards satisfying several inquiries the mind of man was
very apt to run into, was, to take a survey of our own understandings,
examine our own powers, and see to what things they were adapted. Till
that was done I suspected we began at the wrong end, and in vain
sought for satisfaction in a quiet and sure possession of truths
that most concerned us, whilst we let loose our thoughts into the vast
ocean of Being; as if all that boundless extent were the natural and
undoubted possession of our understandings, wherein there was
nothing exempt from its decisions, or that escaped its
comprehension. Thus men, extending their inquiries beyond their
capacities, and letting their thoughts wander into those depths
where they can find no sure footing, it is no wonder that they raise
questions and multiply disputes, which, never coming to any clear
resolution, are proper only to continue and increase their doubts, and
to confirm them at last in perfect scepticism. Whereas, were the
capacities of our understandings well considered, the extent of our
knowledge once discovered, and the horizon found which sets the bounds
between the enlightened and dark parts of things; between what is
and what is not comprehensible by us, men would perhaps with less
scruple acquiesce in the avowed ignorance of the one, and employ their
thoughts and discourse with more advantage and satisfaction in the
8. What "Idea" stands for. Thus much I thought necessary to say
concerning the occasion of this Inquiry into human Understanding. But,
before I proceed on to what I have thought on this subject, I must
here in the entrance beg pardon of my reader for the frequent use of
the word idea, which he will find in the following treatise. It
being that term which, I think, serves best to stand for whatsoever is
the object of the understanding when a man thinks, I have used it to
express whatever is meant by phantasm, notion, species, or whatever it
is which the mind can be employed about in thinking; and I could not
avoid frequently using it.
I presume it will be easily granted me, that there are such ideas in
men's minds: every one is conscious of them in himself; and men's
words and actions will satisfy him that they are in others.
Our first inquiry then shall be,- how they come into the mind.
Neither Principles nor Ideas Are Innate

Chapter I
No Innate Speculative Principles

1. The way shown how we come by any knowledge, sufficient to prove
it not innate. It is an established opinion amongst some men, that
there are in the understanding certain innate principles; some primary
notions, koinai ennoiai, characters, as it were stamped upon the
mind of man; which the soul receives in its very first being, and
brings into the world with it. It would be sufficient to convince
unprejudiced readers of the falseness of this supposition, if I should
only show (as I hope I shall in the following parts of this Discourse)
how men, barely by the use of their natural faculties, may attain to
all the knowledge they have, without the help of any innate
impressions; and may arrive at certainty, without any such original
notions or principles. For I imagine any one will easily grant that it
would be impertinent to suppose the ideas of colours innate in a
creature to whom God hath given sight, and a power to receive them
by the eyes from external objects: and no less unreasonable would it
be to attribute several truths to the impressions of nature, and
innate characters, when we may observe in ourselves faculties fit to
attain as easy and certain knowledge of them as if they were
originally imprinted on the mind.
But because a man is not permitted without censure to follow his own
thoughts in the search of truth, when they lead him ever so little out
of the common road, I shall set down the reasons that made me doubt of
the truth of that opinion, as an excuse for my mistake, if I be in
one; which I leave to be considered by those who, with me, dispose
themselves to embrace truth wherever they find it.
2. General assent the great argument. There is nothing more commonly
taken for granted than that there are certain principles, both
speculative and practical, (for they speak of both), universally
agreed upon by all mankind: which therefore, they argue, must needs be
the constant impressions which the souls of men receive in their first
beings, and which they bring into the world with them, as
necessarily and really as they do any of their inherent faculties.
3. Universal consent proves nothing innate. This argument, drawn
from universal consent, has this misfortune in it, that if it were
true in matter of fact, that there were certain truths wherein all
mankind agreed, it would not prove them innate, if there can be any
other way shown how men may come to that universal agreement, in the
things they do consent in, which I presume may be done.
4. "What is, is," and "It is impossible for the same thing to be and
not to be," not universally assented to. But, which is worse, this
argument of universal consent, which is made use of to prove innate
principles, seems to me a demonstration that there are none such:
because there are none to which all mankind give an universal
assent. I shall begin with the speculative, and instance in those
magnified principles of demonstration, "Whatsoever is, is," and "It is
impossible for the same thing to be and not to be"; which, of all
others, I think have the most allowed title to innate. These have so
settled a reputation of maxims universally received, that it will no
doubt be thought strange if any one should seem to question it. But
yet I take liberty to say, that these propositions are so far from
having an universal assent, that there are a great part of mankind
to whom they are not so much as known.
5. Not on the mind naturally imprinted, because not known to
children, idiots, &c. For, first, it is evident, that all children and
idiots have not the least apprehension or thought of them. And the
want of that is enough to destroy that universal assent which must
needs be the necessary concomitant of all innate truths: it seeming to
me near a contradiction to say, that there are truths imprinted on the
soul, which it perceives or understands not: imprinting, if it signify
anything, being nothing else but the making certain truths to be
perceived. For to imprint anything on the mind without the mind's
perceiving it, seems to me hardly intelligible. If therefore
children and idiots have souls, have minds, with those impressions
upon them, they must unavoidably perceive them, and necessarily know
and assent to these truths; which since they do not, it is evident
that there are no such impressions. For if they are not notions
naturally imprinted, how can they be innate? and if they are notions
imprinted, how can they be unknown? To say a notion is imprinted on
the mind, and yet at the same time to say, that the mind is ignorant
of it, and never yet took notice of it, is to make this impression
nothing. No proposition can be said to be in the mind which it never
yet knew, which it was never yet conscious of. For if any one may,
then, by the same reason, all propositions that are true, and the mind
is capable ever of assenting to, may be said to be in the mind, and to
be imprinted: since, if any one can be said to be in the mind, which
it never yet knew, it must be only because it is capable of knowing
it; and so the mind is of all truths it ever shall know. Nay, thus
truths may be imprinted on the mind which it never did, nor ever shall
know; for a man may live long, and die at last in ignorance of many
truths which his mind was capable of knowing, and that with certainty.
So that if the capacity of knowing be the natural impression contended
for, all the truths a man ever comes to know will, by this account, be
every one of them innate; and this great point will amount to no more,
but only to a very improper way of speaking; which, whilst it pretends
to assert the contrary, says nothing different from those who deny
innate principles. For nobody, I think, ever denied that the mind
was capable of knowing several truths. The capacity, they say, is
innate; the knowledge acquired. But then to what end such contest
for certain innate maxims? If truths can be imprinted on the
understanding without being perceived, I can see no difference there
can be between any truths the mind is capable of knowing in respect of
their original: they must all be innate or all adventitious: in vain
shall a man go about to distinguish them. He therefore that talks of
innate notions in the understanding, cannot (if he intend thereby
any distinct sort of truths) mean such truths to be in the
understanding as it never perceived, and is yet wholly ignorant of.
For if these words "to be in the understanding" have any propriety,
they signify to be understood. So that to be in the understanding, and
not to be understood; to be in the mind and never to be perceived,
is all one as to say anything is and is not in the mind or
understanding. If therefore these two propositions, "Whatsoever is,
is," and "It is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be,"
are by nature imprinted, children cannot be ignorant of them: infants,
and all that have souls, must necessarily have them in their
understandings, know the truth of them, and assent to it.
6. That men know them when they come to the use of reason, answered.
To avoid this, it is usually answered, that all men know and assent to
them, when they come to the use of reason; and this is enough to prove
them innate. I answer:
7. Doubtful expressions, that have scarce any signification, go
for clear reasons to those who, being prepossessed, take not the pains
to examine even what they themselves say. For, to apply this answer
with any tolerable sense to our present purpose, it must signify one
of these two things: either that as soon as men come to the use of
reason these supposed native inscriptions come to be known and
observed by them; or else, that the use and exercise of men's
reason, assists them in the discovery of these principles, and
certainly makes them known to them.
8. If reason discovered them, that would not prove them innate. If
they mean, that by the use of reason men may discover these
principles, and that this is sufficient to prove them innate; their
way of arguing will stand thus, viz. that whatever truths reason can
certainly discover to us, and make us firmly assent to, those are
all naturally imprinted on the mind; since that universal assent,
which is made the mark of them, amounts to no more but this,- that
by the use of reason we are capable to come to a certain knowledge
of and assent to them; and, by this means, there will be no difference
between the maxims of the mathematicians, and theorems they deduce
from them: all must be equally allowed innate; they being all
discoveries made by the use of reason, and truths that a rational
creature may certainty come to know, if he apply his thoughts
rightly that way.
9. It is false that reason discovers them. But how can these men
think the use of reason necessary to discover principles that are
supposed innate, when reason (if we may believe them) is nothing
else but the faculty of deducing unknown truths from principles or
propositions that are already known? That certainly can never be
thought innate which we have need of reason to discover; unless, as
I have said, we will have all the certain truths that reason ever
teaches us, to be innate. We may as well think the use of reason
necessary to make our eyes discover visible objects, as that there
should be need of reason, or the exercise thereof, to make the
understanding see what is originally engraven on it, and cannot be
in the understanding before it be perceived by it. So that to make
reason discover those truths thus imprinted, is to say, that the use
of reason discovers to a man what he knew before: and if men have
those innate impressed truths originally, and before the use of
reason, and yet are always ignorant of them till they come to the
use of reason, it is in effect to say, that men know and know them not
at the same time.
10. No use made of reasoning in the discovery of these two maxims.
It will here perhaps be said that mathematical demonstrations, and
other truths that are not innate, are not assented to as soon as
proposed, wherein they are distinguished from these maxims and other
innate truths. I shall have occasion to speak of assent upon the first
proposing, more particularly by and by. I shall here only, and that
very readily, allow, that these maxims and mathematical demonstrations
are in this different: that the one have need of reason, using of
proofs, to make them out and to gain our assent; but the other, as
soon as understood, are, without any the least reasoning, embraced and
assented to. But I withal beg leave to observe, that it lays open
the weakness of this subterfuge, which requires the use of reason
for the discovery of these general truths: since it must be
confessed that in their discovery there is no use made of reasoning at
all. And I think those who give this answer will not be forward to
affirm that the knowledge of this maxim, "That it is impossible for
the same thing to be and not to be," is a deduction of our reason. For
this would be to destroy that bounty of nature they seem so fond of,
whilst they make the knowledge of those principles to depend on the
labour of our thoughts. For all reasoning is search, and casting
about, and requires pains and application. And how can it with any
tolerable sense be supposed, that what was imprinted by nature, as the
foundation and guide of our reason, should need the use of reason to
discover it?
11. And if there were, this would prove them not innate. Those who
will take the pains to reflect with a little attention on the
operations of the understanding, will find that this ready assent of
the mind to some truths, depends not, either on native inscription, or
the use of reason, but on a faculty of the mind quite distinct from
both of them, as we shall see hereafter. Reason, therefore, having
nothing to do in procuring our assent to these maxims, if by saying,
that "men know and assent to them, when they come to the use of
reason," be meant, that the use of reason assists us in the
knowledge of these maxims, it is utterly false; and were it true,
would prove them not to be innate.
12. The coming to the use of reason not the time we come to know
these maxims. If by knowing and assenting to them "when we come to the
use of reason," be meant, that this is the time when they come to be
taken notice of by the mind; and that as soon as children come to
the use of reason, they come also to know and assent to these
maxims; this also is false and frivolous. First, it is false;
because it is evident these maxims are not in the mind so early as the
use of reason; and therefore the coming to the use of reason is
falsely assigned as the time of their discovery. How many instances of
the use of reason may we observe in children, a long time before
they have any knowledge of this maxim, "That it is impossible for
the same thing to be and not to be?" And a great part of illiterate
people and savages pass many years, even of their rational age,
without ever thinking on this and the like general propositions. I
grant, men come not to the knowledge of these general and more
abstract truths, which are thought innate, till they come to the use
of reason; and I add, nor then neither. Which is so, because, till
after they come to the use of reason, those general abstract ideas are
not framed in the mind, about which those general maxims are, which
are mistaken for innate principles, but are indeed discoveries made
and verities introduced and brought into the mind by the same way, and
discovered by the same steps, as several other propositions, which
nobody was ever so extravagant as to suppose innate. This I hope to
make plain in the sequel of this Discourse. I allow therefore, a
necessity that men should come to the use of reason before they get
the knowledge of those general truths; but deny that men's coming to
the use of reason is the time of their discovery.
13. By this they are not distinguished from other knowable truths.
In the mean time it is observable, that this saying, that men know and
assent to these maxims "when they come to the use of reason,"
amounts in reality of fact to no more but this,- that they are never
known nor taken notice of before the use of reason, but may possibly
be assented to some time after, during a man's life; but when is
uncertain. And so may all other knowable truths, as well as these;
which therefore have no advantage nor distinction from others by
this note of being known when we come to the use of reason; nor are
thereby proved to be innate, but quite the contrary.
14. If coming to the use of reason were the time of their
discovery it would not prove them innate. But, secondly, were it
true that the precise time of their being known and assented to
were, when men come to the use of reason; neither would that prove
them innate. This way of arguing is as frivolous as the supposition
itself is false. For, by what kind of logic will it appear that any
notion is originally by nature imprinted in the mind in its first
constitution, because it comes first to be observed and assented to
when a faculty of the mind, which has quite a distinct province,
begins to exert itself? And therefore the coming to the use of speech,
if it were supposed the time that these maxims are first assented
to, (which it may be with as much truth as the time when men come to
the use of reason,) would be as good a proof that they were innate, as
to say they are innate because men assent to them when they come to
the use of reason. I agree then with these men of innate principles,
that there is no knowledge of these general and self-evident maxims in
the mind, till it comes to the exercise of reason: but I deny that the
coming to the use of reason is the precise time when they are first
taken notice of, and if that were the precise time, I deny that it
would prove them innate. All that can with any truth be meant by
this proposition, that men "assent to them when they come to the use
of reason," is no more but this,- that the making of general
abstract ideas, and the understanding of general names, being a
concomitant of the rational faculty, and growing up with it,
children commonly get not those general ideas, nor learn the names
that stand for them, till, having for a good while exercised their
reason about familiar and more particular ideas, they are, by their
ordinary discourse and actions with others, acknowledged to be capable
of rational conversation. If assenting to these maxims, when men
come to the use of reason, can be true in any other sense, I desire it
may be shown; or at least, how in this, or any other sense, it
proves them innate.
15. The steps by which the mind attains several truths. The senses
at first let in particular ideas, and furnish the yet empty cabinet,
and the mind by degrees growing familiar with some of them, they are
lodged in the memory, and names got to them. Afterwards, the mind
proceeding further, abstracts them, and by degrees learns the use of
general names. In this manner the mind comes to be furnished with
ideas and language, the materials about which to exercise its
discursive faculty. And the use of reason becomes daily more
visible, as these materials that give it employment increase. But
though the having of general ideas and the use of general words and
reason usually grow together, yet I see not how this any way proves
them innate. The knowledge of some truths, I confess, is very early in
the mind but in a way that shows them not to be innate. For, if we
will observe, we shall find it still to be about ideas, not innate,
but acquired; it being about those first which are imprinted by
external things, with which infants have earliest to do, which make
the most frequent impressions on their senses. In ideas thus got,
the mind discovers that some agree and others differ, probably as soon
as it has any use of memory; as soon as it is able to retain and
perceive distinct ideas. But whether it be then or no, this is
certain, it does so long before it has the use of words; or comes to
that which we commonly call "the use of reason." For a child knows
as certainly before it can speak the difference between the ideas of
sweet and bitter (i.e. that sweet is not bitter), as it knows
afterwards (when it comes to speak) that wormwood and sugarplums are
not the same thing.
16. Assent to supposed innate truths depends on having clear and
distinct ideas of what their terms mean, and not on their
innateness. A child knows not that three and four are equal to
seven, till he comes to be able to count seven, and has got the name
and idea of equality; and then, upon explaining those words, he
presently assents to, or rather perceives the truth of that
proposition. But neither does he then readily assent because it is
an innate truth, nor was his assent wanting till then because he
wanted the use of reason; but the truth of it appears to him as soon
as he has settled in his mind the clear and distinct ideas that
these names stand for. And then he knows the truth of that proposition
upon the same grounds and by the same means, that he knew before
that a rod and a cherry are not the same thing; and upon the same
grounds also that he may come to know afterwards "That it is
impossible for the same thing to be and not to be," as shall be more
fully shown hereafter. So that the later it is before any one comes to
have those general ideas about which those maxims are; or to know
the signification of those general terms that stand for them; or to
put together in his mind the ideas they stand for; the later also will
it be before he comes to assent to those maxims;- whose terms, with
the ideas they stand for, being no more innate than those of a cat
or a weasel, he must stay till time and observation have acquainted
him with them; and then he will be in a capacity to know the truth
of these maxims, upon the first occasion that shall make him put
together those ideas in his mind, and observe whether they agree or
disagree, according as is expressed in those propositions. And
therefore it is that a man knows that eighteen and nineteen are
equal to thirty-seven, by the same self-evidence that he knows one and
two to be equal to three: yet a child knows this not so soon as the
other; not for want of the use of reason, but because the ideas the
words eighteen, nineteen, and thirty-seven stand for, are not so
soon got, as those which are signified by one, two, and three.
17. Assenting as soon as proposed and understood, proves them not
innate. This evasion therefore of general assent when men come to
the use of reason, failing as it does, and leaving no difference
between those suppose innate and other truths that are afterwards
acquired and learnt, men have endeavoured to secure an universal
assent to those they call maxims, by saying, they are generally
assented to as soon as proposed, and the terms they are proposed in
understood: seeing all men, even children, as soon as they hear and
understand the terms, assent to these propositions, they think it is
sufficient to prove them innate. For since men never fail after they
have once understood the words, to acknowledge them for undoubted
truths, they would infer, that certainly these propositions were first
lodged in the understanding, which, without any teaching, the mind, at
the very first proposal immediately closes with and assents to, and
after that never doubts again.
18. If such an assent be a mark of innate, then "that one and two
are equal to three, that sweetness is not bitterness," and a
thousand the like, must be innate. In answer to this, I demand whether
ready assent given to a proposition, upon first hearing and
understanding the terms, be a certain mark of an innate principle?
If it be not, such a general assent is in vain urged as a proof of
them: if it be said that it is a mark of innate, they must then
allow all such propositions to be innate which are generally
assented to as soon as heard, whereby they will find themselves
plentifully stored with innate principles. For upon the same ground,
viz. of assent at first hearing and understanding the terms, that
men would have those maxims pass for innate, they must also admit
several propositions about numbers to be innate; and thus, that one
and two are equal to three, that two and two are equal to four, and
a multitude of other the like propositions in numbers, that
everybody assents to at first hearing and understanding the terms,
must have a place amongst these innate axioms. Nor is this the
prerogative of numbers alone, and propositions made about several of
them; but even natural philosophy, and all the other sciences,
afford propositions which are sure to meet with assent as soon as they
are understood. That "two bodies cannot be in the same place" is a
truth that nobody any more sticks at than at these maxims, that "it is
impossible for the same thing to be and not to be," that "white is not
black," that "a square is not a circle," that "bitterness is not
sweetness." These and a million of such other propositions, as many at
least as we have distinct ideas of, every man in his wits, at first
hearing, and knowing what the names stand for, must necessarily assent
to. If these men will be true to their own rule, and have assent at
first hearing and understanding the terms to be a mark of innate, they
must allow not only as many innate propositions as men have distinct
ideas, but as many as men can make propositions wherein different
ideas are denied one of another. Since every proposition wherein one
different idea is denied of another, will as certainly find assent
at first hearing and understanding the terms as this general one,
"It is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be," or that
which is the foundation of it, and is the easier understood of the
two, "The same is not different"; by which account they will have
legions of innate propositions of this one sort, without mentioning
any other. But, since no proposition can be innate unless the ideas
about which it is be innate, this will be to suppose all our ideas
of colours, sounds, tastes, figure, &c., innate, than which there
cannot be anything more opposite to reason and experience. Universal
and ready assent upon hearing and understanding the terms is, I grant,
a mark of self-evidence; but self-evidence, depending not on innate
impressions, but on something else, (as we shall show hereafter,)
belongs to several propositions which nobody was yet so extravagant as
to pretend to be innate.
19. Such less general propositions known before these universal
maxims. Nor let it be said, that those more particular self-evident
propositions, which are assented to at first hearing, as that "one and
two are equal to three," that "green is not red," &c., are received as
the consequences of those more universal propositions which are looked
on as innate principles; since any one, who will but take the pains to
observe what passes in the understanding, will certainly find that
these, and the like less general propositions, are certainly known,
and firmly assented to by those who are utterly ignorant of those more
general maxims; and so, being earlier in the mind than those (as
they are called) first principles, cannot owe to them the assent
wherewith they are received at first hearing.
20. "One and one equal to Two, &c., not general nor useful,"
answered. If it be said, that these propositions, viz. "two and two
are equal to four," "red is not blue," &c., are not general maxims,
nor of any great use, I answer, that makes nothing to the argument
of universal assent upon hearing and understanding. For, if that be
the certain mark of innate, whatever proposition can be found that
receives general assent as soon as heard and understood, that must
be admitted for an innate proposition, as well as this maxim, "That it
is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be," they being upon
this ground equal. And as to the difference of being more general,
that makes this maxim more remote from being innate; those general and
abstract ideas being more strangers to our first apprehensions than
those of more particular self-evident propositions; and therefore it
is longer before they are admitted and assented to by the growing
understanding. And as to the usefulness of these magnified maxims,
that perhaps will not be found so great as is generally conceived,
when it comes in its due place to be more fully considered.
21. These maxims not being known sometimes till proposed, proves
them not innate. But we have not yet done with "assenting to
propositions at first hearing and understanding their terms." It is
fit we first take notice that this, instead of being a mark that
they are innate, is a proof of the contrary; since it supposes that
several, who understand and know other things, are ignorant of these
principles till they are proposed to them; and that one may be
unacquainted with these truths till he hears them from others. For, if
they were innate, what need they be proposed in order to gaining
assent, when, by being in the understanding, by a natural and original
impression, (if there were any such,) they could not but be known
before? Or doth the proposing them print them clearer in the mind than
nature did? If so, then the consequence will be, that a man knows them
better after he has been thus taught them than he did before. Whence
it will follow that these principles may be made more evident to us by
others' teaching than nature has made them by impression: which will
ill agree with the opinion of innate principles, and give but little
authority to them; but, on the contrary, makes them unfit to be the
foundations of all our other knowledge; as they are pretended to be.
This cannot be denied, that men grow first acquainted with many of
these self-evident truths upon their being proposed: but it is clear
that whosoever does so, finds in himself that he then begins to know a
proposition, which he knew not before, and which from thenceforth he
never questions; not because it was innate, but because the
consideration of the nature of the things contained in those words
would not suffer him to think otherwise, how, or whensoever he is
brought to reflect on them. And if whatever is assented to at first
hearing and understanding the terms must pass for an innate principle,
every well-grounded observation, drawn from particulars into a general
rule, must be innate. When yet it is certain that not all, but only
sagacious heads, light at first on these observations, and reduce them
into general propositions: not innate, but collected from a
preceding acquaintance and reflection on particular instances.
These, when observing men have made them, unobserving men, when they
are proposed to them, cannot refuse their assent to.
22. Implicitly known before proposing, signifies that the mind is
capable of understanding them, or else signifies nothing. If it be
said, the understanding hath an implicit knowledge of these
principles, but not an explicit, before this first hearing (as they
must who will say "that they are in the understanding before they
are known,") it will be hard to conceive what is meant by a
principle imprinted on the understanding implicitly, unless it be
this,- that the mind is capable of understanding and assenting
firmly to such propositions. And thus all mathematical demonstrations,
as well as first principles, must be received as native impressions on
the mind; which I fear they will scarce allow them to be, who find
it harder to demonstrate a proposition than assent to it when
demonstrated. And few mathematicians will be forward to believe,
that all the diagrams they have drawn were but copies of those
innate characters which nature had engraven upon their minds.
23. The argument of assenting on first hearing, is upon a false
supposition of no precedent teaching. There is, I fear, this further
weakness in the foregoing argument, which would persuade us that
therefore those maxims are to be thought innate, which men admit at
first hearing; because they assent to propositions which they are
not taught, nor do receive from the force of any argument or
demonstration, but a bare explication or understanding of the terms.
Under which there seems to me to lie this fallacy, that men are
supposed not to be taught nor to learn anything de novo; when, in
truth, they are taught, and do learn something they were ignorant of
before. For, first, it is evident that they have learned the terms,
and their signification; neither of which was born with them. But this
is not all the acquired knowledge in the case: the ideas themselves,
about which the proposition is, are not born with them, no more than
their names, but got afterwards. So that in all propositions that
are assented to at first hearing, the terms of the proposition,
their standing for such ideas, and the ideas themselves that they
stand for, being neither of them innate, I would fain know what
there is remaining in such propositions that is innate. For I would
gladly have any one name that proposition whose terms or ideas were
either of them innate. We by degrees get ideas and names, and learn
their appropriated connexion one with another; and then to
propositions made in such terms, whose signification we have learnt,
and wherein the agreement or disagreement we can perceive in our ideas
when put together is expressed, we at first hearing assent; though
to other propositions, in themselves as certain and evident, but which
are concerning ideas not so soon or so easily got, we are at the
same time no way capable of assenting. For, though a child quickly
assents to this proposition, "That an apple is not fire," when by
familiar acquaintance he has got the ideas of those two different
things distinctly imprinted on his mind, and has learnt that the names
apple and fire stand for them; yet it will be some years after,
perhaps, before the same child will assent to this proposition,
"That it is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be";
because that, though perhaps the words are as easy to be learnt, yet
the signification of them being more large, comprehensive, and
abstract than of the names annexed to those sensible things the
child hath to do with, it is longer before he learns their precise
meaning, and it requires more time plainly to form in his mind those
general ideas they stand for. Till that be done, you will in vain
endeavour to make any child assent to a proposition made up of such
general terms; but as soon as ever he has got those ideas, and learned
their names, he forwardly closes with the one as well as the other
of the forementioned propositions: and with both for the same
reason; viz. because he finds the ideas he has in his mind to agree or
disagree, according as the words standing for them are affirmed or
denied one of another in the proposition. But if propositions be
brought to him in words which stand for ideas he has not yet in his
mind, to such propositions, however evidently true or false in
themselves, he affords neither assent nor dissent, but is ignorant.
For words being but empty sounds, any further than they are signs of
our ideas, we cannot but assent to them as they correspond to those
ideas we have, but no further than that. But the showing by what steps
and ways knowledge comes into our minds; and the grounds of several
degrees of assent, being the business of the following Discourse, it
may suffice to have only touched on it here, as one reason that made
me doubt of those innate principles.
24. Not innate, because not universally assented to. To conclude
this argument of universal consent, I agree with these defenders of
innate principles,- that if they are innate, they must needs have
universal assent. For that a truth should be innate and yet not
assented to, is to me as unintelligible as for a man to know a truth
and be ignorant of it at the same time. But then, by these men's own
confession, they cannot be innate; since they are not assented to by
those who understand not the terms; nor by a great part of those who
do understand them, but have yet never heard nor thought of those
propositions; which, I think, is at least one half of mankind. But
were the number far less, it would be enough to destroy universal
assent, and thereby show these propositions not to be innate, if
children alone were ignorant of them.
25. These maxims not the first known. But that I may not be
accused to argue from the thoughts of infants, which are unknown to
us, and to conclude from what passes in their understandings before
they express it; I say next, that these two general propositions are
not the truths that first possess the minds of children, nor are
antecedent to all acquired and adventitious notions: which, if they
were innate, they must needs be. Whether we can determine it or no, it
matters not, there is certainly a time when children begin to think,
and their words and actions do assure us that they do so. When
therefore they are capable of thought, of knowledge, of assent, can it
rationally be supposed they can be ignorant of those notions that
nature has imprinted, were there any such? Can it be imagined, with
any appearance of reason, that they perceive the impressions from
things without, and be at the same time ignorant of those characters
which nature itself has taken care to stamp within? Can they receive
and assent to adventitious notions, and be ignorant of those which are
supposed woven into the very principles of their being, and
imprinted there in indelible characters, to be the foundation and
guide of all their acquired knowledge and future reasonings? This
would be to make nature take pains to no purpose; or at least to write
very ill; since its characters could not be read by those eyes which
saw other things very well: and those are very ill supposed the
clearest parts of truth, and the foundations of all our knowledge,
which are not first known, and without which the undoubted knowledge
of several other things may be had. The child certainly knows, that
the nurse that feeds it is neither the cat it plays with, nor the
blackmoor it is afraid of: that the wormseed or mustard it refuses, is
not the apple or sugar it cries for: this it is certainly and
undoubtedly assured of: but will any one say, it is by virtue of
this principle, "That it is impossible for the same thing to be and
not to be," that it so firmly assents to these and other parts of
its knowledge? Or that the child has any notion or apprehension of
that proposition at an age, wherein yet, it is plain, it knows a great
many other truths? He that will say, children join in these general
abstract speculations with their sucking-bottles and their rattles,
may perhaps, with justice, be thought to have more passion and zeal
for his opinion, but less sincerity and truth, than one of that age.
26. And so not innate. Though therefore there be several general
propositions that meet with constant and ready assent, as soon as
proposed to men grown up, who have attained the use of more general
and abstract ideas, and names standing for them; yet they not being to
be found in those of tender years, who nevertheless know other things,
they cannot pretend to universal assent of intelligent persons, and so
by no means can be supposed innate;- it being impossible that any
truth which is innate (if there were any such) should be unknown, at
least to any one who knows anything else. Since, if they are innate
truths, they must be innate thoughts: there being nothing a truth in
the mind that it has never thought on. Whereby it is evident, if there
by any innate truths, they must necessarily be the first of any
thought on; the first that appear.
27. Not innate, because they appear least where what is innate shows
itself clearest. That the general maxims we are discoursing of are not
known to children, idiots, and a great part of mankind, we have
already sufficiently proved: whereby it is evident they have not an
universal assent, nor are general impressions. But there is this
further argument in it against their being innate: that these
characters, if they were native and original impressions, should
appear fairest and clearest in those persons in whom yet we find no
footsteps of them; and it is, in my opinion, a strong presumption that
they are not innate, since they are least known to those in whom, if
they were innate, they must needs exert themselves with most force and
vigour. For children, idiots, savages, and illiterate people, being of
all others the least corrupted by custom, or borrowed opinions;
learning and education having not cast their native thoughts into
new moulds; nor by super-inducing foreign and studied doctrines,
confounded those fair characters nature had written there; one might
reasonably imagine that in their minds these innate notions should lie
open fairly to every one's view, as it is certain the thoughts of
children do. It might very well be expected that these principles
should be perfectly known to naturals; which being stamped immediately
on the soul, (as these men suppose,) can have no dependence on the
constitution or organs of the body, the only confessed difference
between them and others. One would think, according to these men's
principles, that all these native beams of light (were there any such)
should, in those who have no reserves, no arts of concealment, shine
out in their full lustre, and leave us in no more doubt of their being
there, than we are of their love of pleasure and abhorrence of pain.
But alas, amongst children, idiots, savages, and the grossly
illiterate, what general maxims are to be found? What universal
principles of knowledge? Their notions are few and narrow, borrowed
only from those objects they have had most to do with, and which
have made upon their senses the frequentest and strongest impressions.
A child knows his nurse and his cradle, and by degrees the
playthings of a little more advanced age; and a young savage has,
perhaps, his head filled with love and hunting, according to the
fashion of his tribe. But he that from a child untaught, or a wild
inhabitant of the woods, will expect these abstract maxims and reputed
principles of science, will, I fear, find himself mistaken. Such
kind of general propositions are seldom mentioned in the huts of
Indians: much less are they to be found in the thoughts of children,
or any impressions of them on the minds of naturals. They are the
language and business of the schools and academies of learned nations,
accustomed to that sort of conversation or learning, where disputes
are frequent; these maxims being suited to artificial argumentation
and useful for conviction, but not much conducing to the discovery
of truth or advancement of knowledge. But of their small use for the
improvement of knowledge I shall have occasion to speak more at large,
1. 4, c. 7.
28. Recapitulation. I know not how absurd this may seem to the
masters of demonstration. And probably it will hardly go down with
anybody at first hearing. I must therefore beg a little truce with
prejudice, and the forbearance of censure, till I have been heard
out in the sequel of this Discourse, being very willing to submit to
better judgments. And since I impartially search after truth, I
shall not be sorry to be convinced, that I have been too fond of my
own notions; which I confess we are all apt to be, when application
and study have warmed our heads with them.
Upon the whole matter, I cannot see any ground to think these two
speculative Maxims innate: since they are not universally assented to;
and the assent they so generally find is no other than what several
propositions, not allowed to be innate, equally partake in with
them: and since the assent that is given them is produced another way,
and comes not from natural inscription, as I doubt not but to make
appear in the following Discourse. And if these "first principles"
of knowledge and science are found not to be innate, no other
speculative maxims can (I suppose), with better right pretend to be
Chapter II
No Innate Practical Principles

1. No moral principles so clear and so generally received as the
forementioned speculative maxims. If those speculative Maxims, whereof
we discoursed in the foregoing chapter, have not an actual universal
assent from all mankind, as we there proved, it is much more visible
concerning practical Principles, that they come short of an
universal reception: and I think it will be hard to instance any one
moral rule which can pretend to so general and ready an assent as,
"What is, is"; or to be so manifest a truth as this, that "It is
impossible for the same thing to be and not to be." Whereby it is
evident that they are further removed from a title to be innate; and
the doubt of their being native impressions on the mind is stronger
against those moral principles than the other. Not that it brings
their truth at all in question. They are equally true, though not
equally evident. Those speculative maxims carry their own evidence
with them: but moral principles require reasoning and discourse, and
some exercise of the mind, to discover the certainty of their truth.
They lie not open as natural characters engraven on the mind; which,
if any such were, they must needs be visible by themselves, and by
their own light be certain and known to everybody. But this is no
derogation to their truth and certainty; no more than it is to the
truth or certainty of the three angles of a triangle being equal to
two right ones: because it is not so evident as "the whole is bigger
than a part," nor so apt to be assented to at first hearing. It may
suffice that these moral rules are capable of demonstration: and
therefore it is our own faults if we come not to a certain knowledge
of them. But the ignorance wherein many men are of them, and the
slowness of assent wherewith others receive them, are manifest
proofs that they are not innate, and such as offer themselves to their
view without searching.
2. Faith and justice not owned as principles by all men. Whether
there be any such moral principles, wherein all men do agree, I appeal
to any who have been but moderately conversant in the history of
mankind, and looked abroad beyond the smoke of their own chimneys.
Where is that practical truth that is universally received, without
doubt or question, as it must be if innate? Justice, and keeping of
contracts, is that which most men seem to agree in. This is a
principle which is thought to extend itself to the dens of thieves,
and the confederacies of the greatest villains; and they who have gone
furthest towards the putting off of humanity itself, keep faith and
rules of justice one with another. I grant that outlaws themselves
do this one amongst another: but it is without receiving these as
the innate laws of nature. They practise them as rules of
convenience within their own communities: but it is impossible to
conceive that he embraces justice as a practical principle, who acts
fairly with his fellow-highwayman, and at the same time plunders or
kills the next honest man he meets with. Justice and truth are the
common ties of society; and therefore even outlaws and robbers, who
break with all the world besides, must keep faith and rules of
equity amongst themselves; or else they cannot hold together. But will
any one say, that those that live by fraud or rapine have innate
principles of truth and justice which they allow and assent to?
3. Objection: "though men deny them in their practice, yet they
admit them in their thoughts," answered. Perhaps it will be urged,
that the tacit assent of their minds agrees to what their practice
contradicts. I answer, first, I have always thought the actions of men
the best interpreters of their thoughts. But, since it is certain that
most men's practices, and some men's open professions, have either
questioned or denied these principles, it is impossible to establish
an universal consent, (though we should look for it only amongst grown
men,) without which it is impossible to conclude them innate.
Secondly, it is very strange and unreasonable to suppose innate
practical principles, that terminate only in contemplation.
Practical principles, derived from nature, are there for operation,
and must produce conformity of action, not barely speculative assent
to their truth, or else they are in vain distinguished from
speculative maxims. Nature, I confess, has put into man a desire of
happiness and an aversion to misery: these indeed are innate practical
principles which (as practical principles ought) do continue
constantly to operate and influence all our actions without ceasing:
these may be observed in all persons and all ages, steady and
universal; but these are inclinations of the appetite to good, not
impressions of truth on the understanding. I deny not that there are
natural tendencies imprinted on the minds of men; and that from the
very first instances of sense and perception, there are some things
that are grateful and others unwelcome to them; some things that
they incline to and others that they fly: but this makes nothing for
innate characters on the mind, which are to be the principles of
knowledge regulating our practice. Such natural impressions on the
understanding are so far from being confirmed hereby, that this is
an argument against them; since, if there were certain characters
imprinted by nature on the understanding, as the principles of
knowledge, we could not but perceive them constantly operate in us and
influence our knowledge, as we do those others on the will and
appetite; which never cease to be the constant springs and motives
of all our actions, to which we perpetually feel them strongly
impelling us.
4. Moral rules need a proof, ergo not innate. Another reason that
makes me doubt of any innate practical principles is, that I think
there cannot any one moral rule be proposed whereof a man may not
justly demand a reason: which would be perfectly ridiculous and absurd
if they were innate; or so much as self-evident, which every innate
principle must needs be, and not need any proof to ascertain its
truth, nor want any reason to gain it approbation. He would be thought
void of common sense who asked on the one side, or on the other side
went to give a reason why "it is impossible for the same thing to be
and not to be." It carries its own light and evidence with it, and
needs no other proof: he that understands the terms assents to it
for its own sake or else nothing will ever be able to prevail with him
to do it. But should that most unshaken rule of morality and
foundation of all social virtue, "That one should do as he would be
done unto," be proposed to one who never heard of it before, but yet
is of capacity to understand its meaning; might he not without any
absurdity ask a reason why? And were not he that proposed it bound
to make out the truth and reasonableness of it to him? Which plainly
shows it not to be innate; for if it were it could neither want nor
receive any proof; but must needs (at least as soon as heard and
understood) be received and assented to as an unquestionable truth,
which a man can by no means doubt of. So that the truth of all these
moral rules plainly depends upon some other antecedent to them, and
from which they must be deduced; which could not be if either they
were innate or so much as self-evident.
5. Instance in keeping compacts. That men should keep their compacts
is certainly a great and undeniable rule in morality. But yet, if a
Christian, who has the view of happiness and misery in another life,
be asked why a man must keep his word, he will give this as a reason:-
Because God, who has the power of eternal life and death, requires
it of us. But if a Hobbist be asked why? he will answer:- Because
the public requires it, and the Leviathan will punish you if you do
not. And if one of the old philosophers had been asked, he would
have answered:- Because it was dishonest, below the dignity of a
man, and opposite to virtue, the highest perfection of human nature,
to do otherwise.
6. Virtue generally approved, not because innate, but because
profitable. Hence naturally flows the great variety of opinions
concerning moral rules which are to be found among men, according to
the different sorts of happiness they have a prospect of, or propose
to themselves; which could not be if practical principles were innate,
and imprinted in our minds immediately by the hand of God. I grant the
existence of God is so many ways manifest, and the obedience we owe
him so congruous to the light of reason, that a great part of
mankind give testimony to the law of nature: but yet I think it must
be allowed that several moral rules may receive from mankind a very
general approbation, without either knowing or admitting the true
ground of morality; which can only be the will and law of a God, who
sees men in the dark, has in his hand rewards and punishments and
power enough to call to account the proudest offender. For, God
having, by an inseparable connexion, joined virtue and public
happiness together, and made the practice thereof necessary to the
preservation of society, and visibly beneficial to all with whom the
virtuous man has to do; it is no wonder that every one should not only
allow, but recommend and magnify those rules to others, from whose
observance of them he is sure to reap advantage to himself He may, out
of interest as well as conviction, cry up that for sacred, which, if
once trampled on and profaned, he himself cannot be safe nor secure.
This, though it takes nothing from the moral and eternal obligation
which these rules evidently have, yet it shows that the outward
acknowledgment men pay to them in their words proves not that they are
innate principles: nay, it proves not so much as that men assent to
them inwardly in their own minds, as the inviolable rules of their own
practice; since we find that self-interest, and the conveniences of
this life, make many men own an outward profession and approbation
of them, whose actions sufficiently prove that they very little
consider the Lawgiver that prescribed these rules; nor the hell that
he has ordained for the punishment of those that transgress them.
7. Men's actions convince us that the rule of virtue is not their
internal principle. For, if we will not in civility allow too much
sincerity to the professions of most men, but think their actions to
be the interpreters of their thoughts, we shall find that they have no
such internal veneration for these rules, nor so full a persuasion
of their certainty and obligation. The great principle of morality,
"To do as one would be done to," is more commended than practised. But
the breach of this rule cannot be a greater vice, than to teach
others, that it is no moral rule, nor obligatory, would be thought
madness, and contrary to that interest men sacrifice to, when they
break it themselves. Perhaps conscience will be urged as checking us
for such breaches, and so the internal obligation and establishment of
the rule be preserved.
8. Conscience no proof of any innate moral rule. To which I
answer, that I doubt not but, without being written on their hearts,
many men may, by the same way that they come to the knowledge of other
things, come to assent to several moral rules, and be convinced of
their obligation. Others also may come to be of the same mind, from
their education, company, and customs of their country; which
persuasion, however got, will serve to set conscience on work; which
is nothing else but our own opinion or judgment of the moral rectitude
or pravity of our own actions; and if conscience be a proof of
innate principles, contraries may be innate principles; since some men
with the same bent of conscience prosecute what others avoid.
9. Instances of enormities practised without remorse. But I cannot
see how any men should ever transgress those moral rules, with
confidence and serenity, were they innate, and stamped upon their
minds. View but an army at the sacking of a town, and see what
observation or sense of moral principles, or what touch of
conscience for all the outrages they do. Robberies, murders, rapes,
are the sports of men set at liberty from punishment and censure. Have
there not been whole nations, and those of the most civilized
people, amongst whom the exposing their children, and leaving them
in the fields to perish by want or wild beasts has been the
practice; as little condemned or scrupled as the begetting them? Do
they not still, in some countries, put them into the same graves
with their mothers, if they die in childbirth; or despatch them, if
a pretended astrologer declares them to have unhappy stars? And are
there not places where, at a certain age, they kill or expose their
parents, without any remorse at all? In a part of Asia, the sick, when
their case comes to be thought desperate, are carried out and laid
on the earth before they are dead; and left there, exposed to wind and
weather, to perish without assistance or pity. It is familiar among
the Mingrelians, a people professing Christianity, to bury their
children alive without scruple. There are places where they eat
their own children. The Caribbees were wont to geld their children, on
purpose to fat and eat them. And Garcilasso de la Vega tells us of a
people in Peru which were wont to fat and eat the children they got on
their female captives, whom they kept as concubines for that
purpose, and when they were past breeding, the mothers themselves were
killed too and eaten. The virtues whereby the Tououpinambos believed
they merited paradise, were revenge, and eating abundance of their
enemies. They have not so much as a name for God, and have no
religion, no worship. The saints who are canonized amongst the
Turks, lead lives which one cannot with modesty relate. A remarkable
passage to this purpose, out of the voyage of Baumgarten, which is a
book not every day to be met with, I shall set down at large, in the
language it is published in. Ibi (sc. prope Belbes in AEgypto) vidimus
sanctum unum Saracenicum inter arenarum cumulos, ita ut ex utero
matris prodiit nudum sedentem. Mos est, ut didicimus, Mahometistis, ut
eos, qui amentes et sine ratione sunt, prosanctis colant et
venerentur. Insuper et eos, qui cum diu vitam egerint inquinatissimam,
voluntariam demum poenitentiam et paupertatem, sanctitate venerandos
deputant. Ejusmodi vero genus hominum libertatem quandam effrenem
habent, domos quos volunt intrandi, edendi, bibendi, et quod majus
est, concumbendi; ex quo concubitu, si proles secuta fuerit, sancta
similiter habetur. His ergo hominibus dum vivunt, magnos exhibent
honores; mortuis vero vel templa vel monumenta extruunt amplissima,
eosque contingere ac sepelire maximae fortunae ducunt loco.
Audivimus haec dicta et dicenda per interpretem a Mucrelo nostro.
Insuper sanctum illum, quem eo loco vidimus, publicitus apprime
commendari, eum esse hominem sanctum, divinum ac integritate
praecipuum; eo quod, nec foeminarum unquam esset, nec puerorum, sed
tantummodo asellarum concubitor atque mularum. (Peregr. Baumgarten, 1.
ii. c. I. p. 73.) More of the same kind concerning these precious
saints amongst the Turks may be seen in Pietro della Valle, in his
letter of the 25th of January, 1616.
Where then are those innate principles of justice, piety, gratitude,
equity, chastity? Or where is that universal consent that assures us
there are such inbred rules? Murders in duels, when fashion has made
them honourable, are committed without remorse of conscience: nay,
in many places innocence in this case is the greatest ignominy. And if
we look abroad to take a view of men as they are, we shall find that
they have remorse, in one place, for doing or omitting that which
others, in another place, think they merit by.
10. Men have contrary practical principles. He that will carefully
peruse the history of mankind, and look abroad into the several tribes
of men, and with indifferency survey their actions, will be able to
satisfy himself, that there is scarce that principle of morality to be
named, or rule of virtue to be thought on, (those only excepted that
are absolutely necessary to hold society together, which commonly
too are neglected betwixt distinct societies,) which is not, somewhere
or other, slighted and condemned by the general fashion of whole
societies of men, governed by practical opinions and rules of living
quite opposite to others.
11. Whole nations reject several moral rules. Here perhaps it will
be objected, that it is no argument that the rule is not known,
because it is broken. I grant the objection good where men, though
they transgress, yet disown not the law; where fear of shame, censure,
or punishment carries the mark of some awe it has upon them. But it is
impossible to conceive that a whole nation of men should all
publicly reject and renounce what every one of them certainly and
infallibly knew to be a law; for so they must who have it naturally
imprinted on their minds. It is possible men may sometimes own rules
of morality which in their private thoughts they do not believe to
be true, only to keep themselves in reputation and esteem amongst
those who are persuaded of their obligation. But it is not to be
imagined that a whole society of men should publicly and professedly
disown and cast off a rule which they could not in their own minds but
be infallibly certain was a law; nor be ignorant that all men they
should have to do with knew it to be such: and therefore must every
one of them apprehend from others all the contempt and abhorrence
due to one who professes himself void of humanity: and one who,
confounding the known and natural measures of right and wrong,
cannot but be looked on as the professed enemy of their peace and
happiness. Whatever practical principle is innate, cannot but be known
to every one to be just and good. It is therefore little less than a
contradiction to suppose, that whole nations of men should, both in
their professions and practice, unanimously and universally give the
lie to what, by the most invincible evidence, every one of them knew
to be true, right, and good. This is enough to satisfy us that no
practical rule which is anywhere universally, and with public
approbation or allowance, transgressed, can be supposed innate.- But I
have something further to add in answer to this objection.
12. The generally allowed breach of a rule, proof that it is not
innate. The breaking of a rule, say you, is no argument that it is
unknown. I grant it: but the generally allowed breach of it
anywhere, I say, is a proof that it is not innate. For example: let us
take any of these rules, which, being the most obvious deductions of
human reason, and comformable to the natural inclination of the
greatest part of men, fewest people have had the impudence to deny
or inconsideration to doubt of. If any can be thought to be
naturally imprinted, none, I think, can have a fairer pretence to be
innate than this: "Parents, preserve and cherish your children." When,
therefore, you say that this is an innate rule, what do you mean?
Either that it is an innate principle which upon all occasions excites
and directs the actions of all men; or else, that it is a truth
which all men have imprinted on their minds, and which therefore
they know and assent to. But in neither of these senses is it
innate. First, that it is not a principle which influences all men's
actions, is what I have proved by the examples before cited: nor
need we seek so far as Mingrelia or Peru to find instances of such
as neglect, abuse, nay, and destroy their children; or look on it only
as the more than brutality of some savage and barbarous nations,
when we remember that it was a familiar and uncondemned practice
amongst the Greeks and Romans to expose, without pity or remorse,
their innocent infants. Secondly, that it is an innate truth, known to
all men, is also false. For, "Parents preserve your children," is so
far from an innate truth, that it is no truth at all: it being a
command, and not a proposition, and so not capable of truth or
falsehood. To make it capable of being assented to as true, it must be
reduced to some such proposition as this: "It is the duty of parents
to preserve their children." But what duty is, cannot be understood
without a law; nor a law be known or supposed without a lawmaker, or
without reward and punishment; so that it is impossible that this,
or any other, practical principle should be innate, i.e. be
imprinted on the mind as a duty, without supposing the ideas of God,
of law, of obligation, of punishment, of a life after this, innate:
for that punishment follows not in this life the breach of this
rule, and consequently that it has not the force of a law in countries
where the generally allowed practice runs counter to it, is in
itself evident. But these ideas (which must be all of them innate,
if anything as a duty be so) are so far from being innate, that it
is not every studious or thinking man, much less every one that is
born, in whom they are to be found clear and distinct; and that one of
them, which of all others seems most likely to be innate, is not so,
(I mean the idea of God,) I think, in the next chapter, will appear
very evident to any considering man.
13. If men can be ignorant of what is innate, certainty is not
described by innate principles. From what has been said, I think we
may safely conclude, that whatever practical rule is in any place
generally and with allowance broken, cannot be supposed innate; it
being impossible that men should, without shame or fear, confidently
and serenely, break a rule which they could not but evidently know
that God had set up, and would certainly punish the breach of,
(which they must, if it were innate,) to a degree to make it a very
ill bargain to the transgressor. Without such a knowledge as this, a
man can never be certain that anything is his duty. Ignorance or doubt
of the law, hopes to escape the knowledge or power of the law-maker,
or the like, may make men give way to a present appetite; but let
any one see the fault, and the rod by it, and with the
transgression, a fire ready to punish it; a pleasure tempting, and the
hand of the Almighty visibly held up and prepared to take vengeance,
(for this must be the case where any duty is imprinted on the mind,)
and then tell me whether it be possible for people with such a
prospect, such a certain knowledge as this, wantonly, and without
scruple, to offend against a law which they carry about them in
indelible characters, and that stares them in the face whilst they are
breaking it? Whether men, at the same time that they feel in
themselves the imprinted edicts of an Omnipotent Law-maker, can,
with assurance and gaiety, slight and trample underfoot his most
sacred injunctions? And lastly, whether it be possible that whilst a
man thus openly bids defiance to this innate law and supreme Lawgiver,
all the bystanders, yea, even the governors and rulers of the
people, full of the same sense both of the law and Law-maker, should
silently connive, without testifying their dislike or laying the least
blame on it? Principles of actions indeed there are lodged in men's
appetites; but these are so far from being innate moral principles,
that if they were left to their full swing they would carry men to the
overturning of all morality. Moral laws are set as a curb and
restraint to these exorbitant desires, which they cannot be but by
rewards and punishments that will overbalance the satisfaction any one
shall propose to himself in the breach of the law. If, therefore,
anything be imprinted on the minds of all men as a law, all men must
have a certain and unavoidable knowledge that certain and
unavoidable punishment will attend the breach of it. For if men can be
ignorant or doubtful of what is innate, innate principles are insisted
on, and urged to no purpose; truth and certainty (the things
pretended) are not at all secured by them; but men are in the same
uncertain floating estate with as without them. An evident indubitable
knowledge of unavoidable punishment, great enough to make the
transgression very uneligible, must accompany an innate law; unless
with an innate law they can suppose an innate Gospel too. I would
not here be mistaken, as if, because I deny an innate law, I thought
there were none but positive laws. There is a great deal of difference
between an innate law, and a law of nature; between something
imprinted on our minds in their very original, and something that
we, being ignorant of, may attain to the knowledge of, by the use
and due application of our natural faculties. And I think they equally
forsake the truth who, running into contrary extremes, either affirm
an innate law, or deny that there is a law knowable by the light of
nature, i.e. without the help of positive revelation.
14. Those who maintain innate practical principles tell us not
what they are. The difference there is amongst men in their
practical principles is so evident that I think I need say no more
to evince, that it will be impossible to find any innate moral rules
by this mark of general assent; and it is enough to make one suspect
that the supposition of such innate principles is but an opinion taken
up at pleasure; since those who talk so confidently of them are so
sparing to tell us which they are. This might with justice be expected
from those men who lay stress upon this opinion; and it gives occasion
to distrust either their knowledge or charity, who, declaring that God
has imprinted on the minds of men the foundations of knowledge and the
rules of living, are yet so little favourable to the information of
their neighbours, or the quiet of mankind, as not to point out to them
which they are, in the variety men are distracted with. But, in truth,
were there any such innate principles there would be no need to
teach them. Did men find such innate propositions stamped on their
minds, they would easily be able to distinguish them from other truths
that they afterwards learned and deduced from them; and there would be
nothing more easy than to know what, and how many, they were. There
could be no more doubt about their number than there is about the
number of our fingers; and it is like then every system would be ready
to give them us by tale. But since nobody, that I know, has ventured
yet to give a catalogue of them, they cannot blame those who doubt
of these innate principles; since even they who require men to believe
that there are such innate propositions, do not tell us what they are.
It is easy to foresee, that if different men of different sects should
go about to give us a list of those innate practical principles,
they would set down only such as suited their distinct hypotheses, and
were fit to support the doctrines of their particular schools or
churches; a plain evidence that there are no such innate truths.
Nay, a great part of men are so far from finding any such innate moral
principles in themselves, that, by denying freedom to mankind, and
thereby making men no other than bare machines, they take away not
only innate, but all moral rules whatsoever, and leave not a
possibility to believe any such, to those who cannot conceive how
anything can be capable of a law that is not a free agent. And upon
that ground they must necessarily reject all principles of virtue, who
cannot put morality and mechanism together, which are not very easy to
be reconciled or made consistent.
15. Lord Herbert's innate principles examined. When I had written
this, being informed that my Lord Herbert had, in his book De
Veritate, assigned these innate principles, I presently consulted him,
hoping to find in a man of so great parts, something that might
satisfy me in this point, and put an end to my inquiry. In his chapter
De Instinctu Naturali, p. 72, ed. 1656, I met with these six marks
of his Notitiae, Communes:- 1. Prioritas. 2. Independentia. 3.
Universalitas. 4. Certitudo. 5. Necessitas, i.e. as he explains it,
faciunt ad hominis conservationem. 6. Modus conformationis, i.e.
Assensus mulla interposita mora. And at the latter end of his little
treatise De Religione Laici, he says this of these innate
principles: Adeo ut non uniuscujusvis religionis confinio arctentur
quae ubique vigent veritates. Sunt enim in ipsa mente caelitus
descriptae, nullisque traditionibus, sive scriptis, sive non scriptis,
obnoxiae, p. 3. And Veritates nostrae catholicae, quae tanquam indubia
Dei emata inforo interiori descriptae.
Thus, having given the marks of the innate principles or common
notions, and asserted their being imprinted on the minds of men by the
hand of God, he proceeds to set them down, and they are these: 1. Esse
aliquod supremum numen. 2. Numen illud coli debere. 3. Virtutem cum
pietate conjunctam optimam esse rationem cultus divini. 4.
Resipiscendum esse a peccatis. 5. Dari praemium vel paenam post hanc
vitam transactam. Though I allow these to be clear truths, and such
as, if rightly explained, a rational creature can hardly avoid
giving his assent to, yet I think he is far from proving them innate
impressions in foro interiori descriptae. For I must take leave to
16. These five either not all, or more than all, if there are any.
First, that these five propositions are either not all, or more than
all, those common notions written on our minds by the finger of God;
if it were reasonable to believe any at all to be so written. Since
there are other propositions which, even by his own rules, have as
just a pretence to such an original, and may be as well admitted for
innate principles, as at least some of these five he enumerates,
viz. "Do as thou wouldst be done unto." And perhaps some hundreds of
others, when well considered.
17. The supposed marks wanting. Secondly, that all his marks are not
to be found in each of his five propositions, viz. his first,
second, and third marks agree perfectly to neither of them; and the
first, second, third, fourth, and sixth marks agree but ill to his
third, fourth, and fifth propositions. For, besides that we are
assured from history of many men, nay whole nations, who doubt or
disbelieve some or all of them, I cannot see how the third, viz. "That
virtue joined with piety is the best worship of God," can be an innate
principle, when the name or sound virtue, is so hard to be understood;
liable to so much uncertainty in its signification; and the thing it
stands for so much contended about and difficult to be known. And
therefore this cannot be but a very uncertain rule of human
practice, and serve but very little to the conduct of our lives, and
is therefore very unfit to be assigned as an innate practical
18. Of little use if they were innate. For let us consider this
proposition as to its meaning, (for it is the sense, and not sound,
that is and must be the principle or common notion,) viz. "Virtue is
the best worship of God," i.e. is most acceptable to him; which, if
virtue be taken, as most commonly it is, for those actions which,
according to the different opinions of several countries, are
accounted laudable, will be a proposition so far from being certain,
that it will not be true. If virtue be taken for actions conformable
to God's will, or to the rule prescribed by God- which is the true and
only measure of virtue when virtue is used to signify what is in its
own nature right and good- then this proposition, "That virtue is
the best worship of God," will be most true and certain, but of very
little use in human life: since it will amount to no more but this,
viz. "That God is pleased with the doing of what he commands;"-
which a man may certainly know to be true, without knowing what it
is that God doth command; and so be as far from any rule or
principle of his actions as he was before. And I think very few will
take a proposition which amounts to no more than this, viz. "That
God is pleased with the doing of what he himself commands," for an
innate moral principle written on the minds of all men, (however
true and certain it may be,) since it teaches so little. Whosoever
does so will have reason to think hundreds of propositions innate
principles; since there are many which have as good a title as this to
be received for such, which nobody yet ever put into that rank of
innate principles.
19. Scarce possible that God should engrave principles in words of
uncertain meaning. Nor is the fourth proposition (viz."Men must repent
of their sins") much more instructive, till what those actions are
that are meant by sins be set down. For the word peccata, or sins,
being put, as it usually is, to signify in general ill actions that
will draw punishment upon the doers, what great principle of
morality can that be to tell us we should be sorry, and cease to do
that which will bring mischief upon us; without knowing what those
particular actions are that will do so? Indeed this is a very true
proposition, and fit to be incated on and received by those who are
supposed to have been taught what actions in all kinds are sins: but
neither this nor the former can be imagined to be innate principles;
nor to be of any use if they were innate, unless the particular
measures and bounds of all virtues and vices were engraven in men's
minds, and were innate principles also, which I think is very much
to be doubted. And, therefore, I imagine, it will scarcely seem
possible that God should engrave principles in men's minds, in words
of uncertain signification, such as virtues and sins, which amongst
different men stand for different things: nay, it cannot be supposed
to be in words at all, which, being in most of these principles very
general, names, cannot be understood but by knowing the particulars
comprehended under them. And in the practical instances, the
measures must be taken from the knowledge of the actions themselves,
and the rules of them,- abstracted from words, and antecedent to the
knowledge of names; which rules a man must know, what language
soever he chance to learn, whether English or Japan, or if he should
learn no language at all, or never should understand the use of words,
as happens in the case of dumb and deaf men. When it shall be made out
that men ignorant of words, or untaught by the laws and customs of
their country, know that it is part of the worship of God, not to kill
another man; not to know more women than one; not to procure abortion;
not to expose their children; not to take from another what is his,
though we want it ourselves, but on the contrary, relieve and supply
his wants; and whenever we have done the contrary we ought to
repent, be sorry, and resolve to do so no more;- when I say, all men
shall be proved actually to know and allow all these and a thousand
other such rules, all of which come under these two general words made
use of above, viz. virtutes et peccata, virtues and sins, there will
be more reason for admitting these and the like, for common notions
and practical principles. Yet, after all, universal consent (were
there any in moral principles) to truths, the knowledge whereof may be
attained otherwise, would scarce prove them to be innate; which is all
I contend for.
20. Objection, "innate principles may be corrupted," answered. Nor
will it be of much moment here to offer that very ready but not very
material answer, viz. that the innate principles of morality may, by
education, and custom, and the general opinion of those amongst whom
we converse, be darkened, and at last quite worn out of the minds of
men. Which assertion of theirs, if true, quite takes away the argument
of universal consent, by which this opinion of innate principles is
endeavoured to be proved; unless those men will think it reasonable
that their private persuasions, or that of their party, should pass
for universal consent;- a thing not unfrequently done, when men,
presuming themselves to be the only masters of right reason, cast by
the votes and opinions of the rest of mankind as not worthy the
reckoning. And then their argument stands thus:- "The principles which
all mankind allow for true, are innate; those that men of right reason
admit, are the principles allowed by all mankind; we, and those of our
mind, are men of reason; therefore, we agreeing, our principles are
innate;"- which is a very pretty way of arguing, and a short cut to
infallibility. For otherwise it will be very hard to understand how
there be some principles which all men do acknowledge and agree in;
and yet there are none of those principles which are not, by
depraved custom and ill education, blotted out of the minds of many
men: which is to say, that all men admit, but yet many men do deny and
dissent from them. And indeed the supposition of such first principles
will serve us to very little purpose; and we shall be as much at a
loss with as without them, if they may, by any human power- such as
the will of our teachers, or opinions of our companions- be altered or
lost in us: and notwithstanding all this boast of first principles and
innate light, we shall be as much in the dark and uncertainty as if
there were no such thing at all: it being all one to have no rule, and
one that will warp any way; or amongst various and contrary rules, not
to know which is the right. But concerning innate principles, I desire
these men to say, whether they can or cannot, by education and custom,
be blurred and blotted out; if they cannot, we must find them in all
mankind alike, and they must be clear in everybody; and if they may
suffer variation from adventitious notions, we must then find them
clearest and most perspicuous nearest the fountain, in children and
illiterate people, who have received least impression from foreign
opinions. Let them take which side they please, they will certainly
find it inconsistent with visible matter of fact and daily
21. Contrary principles in the world. I easily grant that there
are great numbers of opinions which, by men of different countries,
educations, and tempers, are received and embraced as first and
unquestionable principles; many whereof, both for their absurdity as
well as oppositions to one another, it is impossible should be true.
But yet all those propositions, how remote soever from reason, are
so sacred somewhere or other, that men even of good understanding in
other matters, will sooner part with their lives, and whatever is
dearest to them, than suffer themselves to doubt, or others to
question, the truth of them.
22. How men commonly come by their principles. This, however strange
it may seem, is that which every day's experience confirms; and will
not, perhaps, appear so wonderful, if we consider the ways and steps
by which it is brought about; and how really it may come to pass, that
doctrines that have been derived from no better original than the
superstition of a nurse, or the authority of an old woman, may, by
length of time and consent of neighbours, grow up to the dignity of
principles in religion or morality. For such, who are careful (as they
call it) to principle children well, (and few there be who have not
a set of those principles for them, which they believe in,) instil
into the unwary, and as yet unprejudiced, understanding, (for white
paper receives any characters,) those doctrines they would have them
retain and profess. These being taught them as soon as they have any
apprehension; and still as they grow up confirmed to them, either by
the open profession or tacit consent of all they have to do with; or
at least by those of whose wisdom, knowledge, and piety they have an
opinion, who never suffer those propositions to be otherwise mentioned
but as the basis and foundation on which they build their religion and
manners, come, by these means, to have the reputation of
unquestionable, self-evident, and innate truths.
23. Principles supposed innate because we do not remember when we
began to hold them. To which we may add, that when men so instructed
are grown up, and reflect on their own minds, they cannot find
anything more ancient there than those opinions, which were taught
them before their memory began to keep a register of their actions, or
date the time when any new thing appeared to them; and therefore
make no scruple to conclude, that those propositions of whose
knowledge they can find in themselves no original, were certainly
the impress of God and nature upon their minds, and not taught them by
any one else. These they entertain and submit to, as many do to
their parents with veneration; not because it is natural; nor do
children do it where they are not so taught; but because, having
been always so educated, and having no remembrance of the beginning of
this respect, they think it is natural.
24. How such principles come to be held. This will appear very
likely, and almost unavoidable to come to pass, if we consider the
nature of mankind and the constitution of human affairs; wherein
most men cannot live without employing their time in the daily labours
of their callings; nor be at quiet in their minds without some
foundation or principle to rest their thoughts on. There is scarcely
any one so floating and superficial in his understanding, who hath not
some reverenced propositions, which are to him the principles on which
he bottoms his reasonings, and by which he judgeth of truth and
falsehood, right and wrong; which some, wanting skill and leisure, and
others the inclination, and some being taught that they ought not to
examine, there are few to be found who are not exposed by their
ignorance, laziness, education, or precipitancy, to take them upon
25. Further explained. This is evidently the case of all children
and young folk; and custom, a greater power than nature, seldom
failing to make them worship for divine what she hath inured them to
bow their minds and submit their understandings to, it is no wonder
that grown men, either perplexed in the necessary affairs of life,
or hot in the pursuit of pleasures, should not seriously sit down to
examine their own tenets; especially when one of their principles
is, that principles ought not to be questioned. And had men leisure,
parts, and will, who is there almost that dare shake the foundations
of all his past thoughts and actions, and endure to bring upon himself
the shame of having been a long time wholly in mistake and error?
Who is there hardy enough to contend with the reproach which is
everywhere prepared for those who dare venture to dissent from the
received opinions of their country or party? And where is the man to
be found that can patiently prepare himself to bear the name of
whimsical, sceptical, or atheist; which he is sure to meet with, who
does in the least scruple any of the common opinions? And he will be
much more afraid to question those principles, when he shall think
them, as most men do, the standards set up by God in his mind, to be
the rule and touchstone of all other opinions. And what can hinder him
from thinking them sacred, when he finds them the earliest of all
his own thoughts, and the most reverenced by others?
26. A worship of idols. It is easy to imagine how, by these means,
it comes to pass than men worship the idols that have been set up in
their minds; grow fond of the notions they have been long acquainted
with there; and stamp the characters of divinity upon absurdities
and errors; become zealous votaries to bulls and monkeys, and
contend too, fight, and die in defence of their opinions. Dum solos
credit habendos esse deos, quos ipse colit. For, since the reasoning
faculties of the soul, which are almost constantly, though not
always warily nor wisely employed, would not know how to move, for
want of a foundation and footing, in most men, who through laziness or
avocation do not, or for want of time, or true helps, or for other
causes, cannot penetrate into the principles of knowledge, and trace
truth to its fountain and original, it is natural for them, and almost
unavoidable, to take up with some borrowed principles; which being
reputed and presumed to be the evident proofs of other things, are
thought not to need any other proof themselves. Whoever shall
receive any of these into his mind, and entertain them there with
the reverence usually paid to principles, never venturing to examine
them, but accustoming himself to believe them, because they are to
be believed, may take up, from his education and the fashions of his
country, any absurdity for innate principles; and by long poring on
the same objects, so dim his sight as to take monsters lodged in his
own brain for the images of the Deity, and the workmanship of his
27. Principles must be examined. By this progress, how many there
are who arrive at principles which they believe innate may be easily
observed, in the variety of opposite principles held and contended for
by all sorts and degrees of men. And he that shall deny this to be the
method wherein most men proceed to the assurance they have of the
truth and evidence of their principles, will perhaps find it a hard
matter any other way to account for the contrary tenets, which are
firmly believed, confidently asserted, and which great numbers are
ready at any time to seal with their blood. And, indeed, if it be
the privilege of innate principles to be received upon their own
authority, without examination, I know not what may not be believed,
or how any one's principles can be questioned. If they may and ought
to be examined and tried, I desire to know how first and innate
principles can be tried; or at least it is reasonable to demand the
marks and characters whereby the genuine innate principles may be
distinguished from others: that so, amidst the great variety of
pretenders, I may be kept from mistakes in so material a point as
this. When this is done, I shall be ready to embrace such welcome
and useful propositions; and till then I may with modesty doubt; since
I fear universal consent, which is the only one produced, will
scarcely prove a sufficient mark to direct my choice, and assure me of
any innate principles.
From what has been said, I think it past doubt, that there are no
practical principles wherein all men agree; and therefore none innate.
Chapter III
Other considerations concerning Innate Principles,
both Speculative and Practical

1. Principles not innate, unless their ideas be innate. Had those
who would persuade us that there are innate principles not taken
them together in gross, but considered separately the parts out of
which those propositions are made, they would not, perhaps, have
been so forward to believe they were innate. Since, if the ideas which
made up those truths were not, it was impossible that the propositions
made up of them should be innate, or our knowledge of them be born
with us. For, if the ideas be not innate, there was a time when the
mind was without those principles; and then they will not be innate,
but be derived from some other original. For, where the ideas
themselves are not, there can be no knowledge, no assent, no mental or
verbal propositions about them.
2. Ideas, especially those belonging to principles, not born with
children. If we will attentively consider new-born children, we
shall have little reason to think that they bring many ideas into
the world with them. For, bating perhaps some faint ideas of hunger,
and thirst, and warmth, and some pains, which they may have felt in
the womb, there is not the least appearance of any settled ideas at
all in them; especially of ideas answering the terms which make up
those universal propositions that are esteemed innate principles.
One may perceive how, by degrees, afterwards, ideas come into their
minds; and that they get no more, nor other, than what experience, and
the observation of things that come in their way, furnish them with;
which might be enough to satisfy us that they are not original
characters stamped on the mind.
3. "Impossibility" and "identity" not innate ideas. "It is
impossible for the same thing to be, and not to be," is certainly
(if there be any such) an innate principle. But can any one think,
or will any one say, that "impossibility" and "identity" are two
innate ideas? Are they such as all mankind have, and bring into the
world with them? And are they those which are the first in children,
and antecedent to all acquired ones? If they are innate, they must
needs be so. Hath a child an idea of impossibility and identity,
before it has of white or black, sweet or bitter? And is it from the
knowledge of this principle that it concludes, that wormwood rubbed on
the nipple hath not the same taste that it used to receive from
thence? Is it the actual knowledge of impossible est idem esse, et non
esse, that makes a child distinguish between its mother and a
stranger; or that makes it fond of the one and flee the other? Or does
the mind regulate itself and its assent by ideas that it never yet
had? Or the understanding draw conclusions from principles which it
never yet knew or understood? The names impossibility and identity
stand for two ideas, so far from being innate, or born with us, that I
think it requires great care and attention to form them right in our
understandings. They are so far from being brought into the world with
us, so remote from the thoughts of infancy and childhood, that I
believe, upon examination it will be found that many grown men want
4. "Identity," an idea not innate. If identity (to instance that
alone) be a native impression, and consequently so clear and obvious
to us that we must needs know it even from our cradles, I would gladly
be resolved by any one of seven, or seventy years old, whether a
man, being a creature consisting of soul and body, be the same man
when his body is changed? Whether Euphorbus and Pythagoras, having had
the same soul, were the same men, though they lived several ages
asunder? Nay, whether the cock too, which had the same soul, were
not the same with both of them? Whereby, perhaps, it will appear
that our idea of sameness is not so settled and clear as to deserve to
be thought innate in us. For if those innate ideas are not clear and
distinct, so as to be universally known and naturally agreed on,
they cannot be subjects of universal and undoubted truths, but will be
the unavoidable occasion of perpetual uncertainty. For, I suppose
every one's idea of identity will not be the same that Pythagoras
and thousands of his followers have. And which then shall be true?
Which innate? Or are there two different ideas of identity, both
5. What makes the same man? Nor let any one think that the questions
I have here proposed about the identity of man are bare empty
speculations; which, if they were, would be enough to show, that there
was in the understandings of men no innate idea of identity. He that
shall with a little attention reflect on the resurrection, and
consider that divine justice will bring to judgment, at the last
day, the very same persons, to be happy or miserable in the other, who
did well or ill in this life, will find it perhaps not easy to resolve
with himself, what makes the same man, or wherein identity consists;
and will not be forward to think he, and every one, even children
themselves, have naturally a clear idea of it.
6. Whole and part, not innate ideas. Let us examine that principle
of mathematics, viz. that the whole is bigger than a part. This, I
take it, is reckoned amongst innate principles. I am sure it has as
good a title as any to be thought so; which yet nobody can think it to
be, when he considers [that] the ideas it comprehends in it, whole and
part, are perfectly relative; but the positive ideas to which they
properly and immediately belong are extension and number, of which
alone whole and part are relations. So that if whole and part are
innate ideas, extension and number must be so too; it being impossible
to have an idea of a relation, without having any at all of the
thing to which it belongs, and in which it is founded. Now, whether
the minds of men have naturally imprinted on them the ideas of
extension and number, I leave to be considered by these who are the
patrons of innate principles.
7. Idea of worship not innate. That God is to be worshipped, is,
without doubt, as great a truth as any that can enter into the mind of
man, and deserves the first place amongst all practical principles.
But yet it can by no means be thought innate, unless the ideas of
God and worship are innate. That the idea the term worship stands
for is not in the understanding of children, and a character stamped
on the mind in its first original, I think will be easily granted,
by any one that considers how few there be amongst grown men who
have a clear and distinct notion of it. And, I suppose, there cannot
be anything more ridiculous than to say, that children have this
practical principle innate, "That God is to be worshipped," and yet
that they know not what that worship of God is, which is their duty.
But to pass by this.
8. Idea of God not innate. If any idea can be imagined innate, the
idea of God may, of all others, for many reasons, be thought so; since
it is hard to conceive how there should be innate moral principles,
without an innate idea of a Deity. Without a notion of a law-maker, it
is impossible to have a notion of a law, and an obligation to
observe it. Besides the atheists taken notice of amongst the ancients,
and left branded upon the records of history, hath not navigation
discovered, in these later ages, whole nations, at the bay of
Soldania, in Brazil, [in Boranday,] and in the Caribbee islands,
&c., amongst whom there was to be found no notion of a God, no
religion? Nicholaus del Techo, in Literis ex Paraquaria, de
Caiguarum Conversione, has these words: Reperi eam gentem nullum nomen
habere quod Deum, et hominis animam significet; nulla sacra habet,
nulla idola. These are instances of nations where uncultivated
nature has been left to itself, without the help of letters and
discipline, and the improvements of arts and sciences. But there are
others to be found who have enjoyed these in a very great measure, who
yet, for want of a due application of their thoughts this way, want
the idea and knowledge of God. It will, I doubt not, be a surprise
to others, as it was to me, to find the Siamites of this number. But
for this, let them consult the King of France's late envoy thither,
who gives no better account of the Chinese themselves. And if we
will not believe La Loubere, the missionaries of China, even the
Jesuits themselves, the great encomiasts of the Chinese, do all to a
man agree, and will convince us, that the sect of the literari, or
learned, keeping to the old religion of China, and the ruling party
there, are all of them atheists. Vid. Navarette, in the Collection
of Voyages, vol. i., and Historia Cultus Sinensium. And perhaps, if we
should with attention mind the lives and discourses of people not so
far off, we should have too much reason to fear, that many, in more
civilized countries, have no very strong and clear impressions of a
Deity upon their minds, and that the complaints of atheism made from
the pulpit are not without reason. And though only some profligate
wretches own it too barefacedly now; yet perhaps we should hear more
than we do of it from others, did not the fear of the magistrate's
sword, or their neighbour's censure, tie up people's tongues; which,
were the apprehensions of punishment or shame taken away, would as
openly proclaim their atheism as their lives do.
9. The name of God not universal or obscure in meaning. But had
all mankind everywhere a notion of a God, (whereof yet history tells
us the contrary,) it would not from thence follow, that the idea of
him was innate. For, though no nation were to be found without a name,
and some few dark notions of him, yet that would not prove them to
be natural impressions on the mind; no more than the names of fire, or
the sun, heat, or number, do prove the ideas they stand for to be
innate; because the names of those things, and the ideas of them,
are so universally received and known amongst mankind. Nor, on the
contrary, is the want of such a name, or the absence of such a
notion out of men's minds, any argument against the being of a God;
any more than it would be a proof that there was no loadstone in the
world, because a great part of mankind had neither a notion of any
such thing nor a name for it; or be any show of argument to prove that
there are no distinct and various species of angels, or intelligent
beings above us, because we have no ideas of such distinct species, or
names for them. For, men being furnished with words, by the common
language of their own countries, can scarce avoid having some kind
of ideas of those things whose names those they converse with have
occasion frequently to mention to them. And if they carry with it
the notion of excellency, greatness, or something extraordinary; if
apprehension and concernment accompany it; if the fear of absolute and
irresistible power set it on upon the mind,- the idea is likely to
sink the deeper, and spread the further; especially if it be such an
idea as is agreeable to the common light of reason, and naturally
deducible from every part of our knowledge, as that of a God is. For
the visible marks of extraordinary wisdom and power appear so
plainly in all the works of the creation, that a rational creature,
who will but seriously reflect on them, cannot miss the discovery of a
Deity. And the influence that the discovery of such a Being must
necessarily have on the minds of all that have but once heard of it is
so great, and carries such a weight of thought and communication
with it, that it seems stranger to me that a whole nation of men
should be anywhere found so brutish as to want the notion of a God,
than that they should be without any notion of numbers, or fire.
10. Ideas of God and idea of fire. The name of God being once
mentioned in any part of the world, to express a superior, powerful,
wise, invisible Being, the suitableness of such a notion to the
principles of common reason, and the interest men will always have
to mention it often, must necessarily spread it far and wide; and
continue it down to all generations: though yet the general
reception of this name, and some imperfect and unsteady notions
conveyed thereby to the unthinking part of mankind, prove not the idea
to be innate; but only that they who made the discovery had made a
right use of their reason, thought maturely of the causes of things,
and traced them to their original; from whom other less considering
people having once received so important a notion, it could not easily
be lost again.
11. Idea of God not innate. This is all could be inferred from the
notion of a God, were it to be found universally in all the tribes
of mankind, and generally acknowledged, by men grown to maturity in
all countries. For the generality of the acknowledging of a God, as
I imagine, is extended no further than that; which, if it be
sufficient to prove the idea of God innate, will as well prove the
idea of fire innate; since I think it may be truly said, that there is
not a person in the world who has a notion of a God, who has not
also the idea of fire. I doubt not but if a colony of young children
should be placed in an island where no fire was, they would
certainly neither have any notion of such a thing, nor name for it,
how generally soever it were received and known in all the world
besides; and perhaps too their apprehensions would be as far removed
from any name, or notion, of a God, till some one amongst them had
employed his thoughts to inquire into the constitution and causes of
things, which would easily lead him to the notion of a God; which
having once taught to others, reason, and the natural propensity of
their own thoughts, would afterwards propagate, and continue amongst
12. Suitable to God's goodness, that all men should have an idea
of Him, therefore naturally imprinted by Him, answered. Indeed it is
urged, that it is suitable to the goodness of God, to imprint upon the
minds of men characters and notions of himself, and not to leave
them in the dark and doubt in so grand a concernment; and also, by
that means, to secure to himself the homage and veneration due from so
intelligent a creature as man; and therefore he has done it.
This argument, if it be of any force, will prove much more than
those who use it in this case expect from it. For, if we may
conclude that God hath done for men all that men shall judge is best
for them, because it is suitable to his goodness so to do, it will
prove, not only that God has imprinted on the minds of men an idea
of himself, but that he hath plainly stamped there, in fair
characters, all that men ought to know or believe of him; all that
they ought to do in obedience to his will; and that he hath given them
a will and affections conformable to it. This, no doubt, every one
will think better for men, than that they should, in the dark, grope
after knowledge, as St. Paul tells us all nations did after God
(Acts 17. 27); than that their wills should clash with their
understandings, and their appetites cross their duty. The Romanists
say it is best for men, and so suitable to the goodness of God, that
there should be an infallible judge of controversies on earth; and
therefore there is one. And I, by the same reason, say it is better
for men that every man himself should be infallible. I leave them to
consider, whether, by the force of this argument, they shall think
that every man is so. I think it a very good argument to say,- the
infinitely wise God hath made it so; and therefore it is best. But
it seems to me a little too much confidence of our own wisdom to say,-
"I think it best; and therefore God hath made it so." And in the
matter in hand, it will be in vain to argue from such a topic, that
God hath done so, when certain experience shows us that he hath not.
But the goodness of God hath not been wanting to men, without such
original impressions of knowledge or ideas stamped on the mind;
since he hath furnished man with those faculties which will serve
for the sufficient discovery of all things requisite to the end of
such a being; and I doubt not but to show, that a man, by the right
use of his natural abilities, may, without any innate principles,
attain a knowledge of a God, and other things that concern him. God
having endued man with those faculties of knowledge which he hath, was
no more obliged by his goodness to plant those innate notions in his
mind, than that, having given him reason, hands, and materials, he
should build him bridges or houses,- which some people in the world,
however of good parts, do either totally want, or are but ill provided
of, as well as others are wholly without ideas of God and principles
of morality, or at least have but very ill ones; the reason in both
cases, being, that they never employed their parts, faculties, and
powers industriously that way, but contented themselves with the
opinions, fashions, and things of their country, as they found them,
without looking any further. Had you or I been born at the Bay of
Soldania, possibly our thoughts and notions had not exceeded those
brutish ones of the Hottentots that inhabit there. And had the
Virginia king Apochancana been educated in England, he had been
perhaps as knowing a divine, and as good a mathematician as any in it;
the difference between him and a more improved Englishman lying barely
in this, that the exercise of his faculties was bounded within the
ways, modes, and notions of his own country, and never directed to any
other or further inquiries. And if he had not any idea of a God, it
was only because he pursued not those thoughts that would have led him
to it.
13. Ideas of God various in different men. I grant that if there
were any ideas to be found imprinted on the minds of men, we have
reason to expect it should be the notion of his Maker, as a mark God
set on his own workmanship, to mind man of his dependence and duty;
and that herein should appear the first instances of human
knowledge. But how late is it before any such notion is discoverable
in children? And when we find it there, how much more does it resemble
the opinion and notion of the teacher, than represent the true God? He
that shall observe in children the progress whereby their minds attain
the knowledge they have, will think that the objects they do first and
most familiarly converse with are those that make the first
impressions on their understandings; nor will he find the least
footsteps of any other. It is easy to take notice how their thoughts
enlarge themselves, only as they come to be acquainted with a
greater variety of sensible objects; to retain the ideas of them in
their memories; and to get the skill to compound and enlarge them, and
several ways put them together. How, by these means, they come to
frame in their minds an idea men have of a Deity, I shall hereafter
14. Contrary and inconsistent ideas of God under the same name.
Can it be thought that the ideas men have of God are the characters
and marks of himself, engraven in their minds by his own finger,
when we see that, in the same country, under one and the same name,
men have far different, nay often contrary and inconsistent ideas
and conceptions of him? Their agreeing in a name, or sound, will
scarce prove an innate notion of him.
15. Gross ideas of God. What true or tolerable notion of a Deity
could they have, who acknowledged and worshipped hundreds? Every deity
that they owned above one was an infallible evidence of their
ignorance of Him, and a proof that they had no true notion of God,
where unity, infinity, and eternity were excluded. To which, if we add
their gross conceptions of corporeity, expressed in their images and
representations of their deities; the amours, marriages,
copulations, lusts, quarrels, and other mean qualities attributed by
them to their gods; we shall have little reason to think that the
heathen world, i.e. the greatest part of mankind, had such ideas of
God in their minds as he himself, out of care that they should not
be mistaken about him, was author of. And this universality of
consent, so much argued, if it prove any native impressions, it will
be only this:- that God imprinted on the minds of all men speaking the
same language, a name for himself, but not any idea; since those
people who agreed in the name, had, at the same time, far different
apprehensions about the thing signified. If they say that the
variety of deities worshipped by the heathen world were but figurative
ways of expressing the several attributes of that incomprehensible
Being, or several parts of his providence, I answer: what they might
be in the original I will not here inquire; but that they were so in
the thoughts of the vulgar I think nobody will affirm. And he that
will consult the voyage of the Bishop of Beryte, c. 13, (not to
mention other testimonies,) will find that the theology of the
Siamites professedly owns a plurality of gods: or, as the Abbe de
Choisy more judiciously remarks in his Journal du Voyage de Siam,
107/177, it consists properly in acknowledging no God at all.
16. Idea of God not innate although wise men of all nations come
to have it. If it be said, that wise men of all nations came to have
true conceptions of the unity and infinity of the Deity, I grant it.
But then this,
First, excludes universality of consent in anything but the name;
for those wise men being very few, perhaps one of a thousand, this
universality is very narrow.
Secondly, it seems to me plainly to prove, that the truest and
best notions men have of God were not imprinted, but acquired by
thought and meditation, and a right use of their faculties: since
the wise and considerate men of the world, by a right and careful
employment of their thoughts and reason, attained true notions in this
as well as other things; whilst the lazy and inconsiderate part of
men, making far the greater number, took up their notions by chance,
from common tradition and vulgar conceptions, without much beating
their heads about them. And if it be a reason to think the notion of
God innate, because all wise men had it, virtue too must be thought
innate; for that also wise men have always had.
17. Odd, low, and pitiful ideas of God common among men. This was
evidently the case of all Gentilism. Nor hath even amongst Jews,
Christians, and Mahometans, who acknowledged but one God, this
doctrine, and the care taken in those nations to teach men to have
true notions of a God, prevailed so far as to make men to have the
same and the true ideas of him. How many even amongst us, will be
found upon inquiry to fancy him in the shape of a man sitting in
heaven; and to have many other absurd and unfit conceptions of him?
Christians as well as Turks have had whole sects owning and contending
earnestly for it,- that the Deity was corporeal, and of human shape:
and though we find few now amongst us who profess themselves
Anthropomorphites, (though some I have met with that own it,) yet I
believe he that will make it his business may find amongst the
ignorant and uninstructed Christians many of that opinion. Talk but
with country people, almost of any age, or young people almost of
any condition, and you shall find that, though the name of God be
frequently in their mouths, yet the notions they apply this name to
are so odd, low, and pitiful, that nobody can imagine they were taught
by a rational man; much less that they were characters written by
the finger of God himself. Nor do I see how it derogates more from the
goodness of God, that he has given us minds unfurnished with these
ideas of himself, than that he hath sent us into the world with bodies
unclothed; and that there is no art or skill born with us. For,
being fitted with faculties to attain these, it is want of industry
and consideration in us, and not of bounty in him, if we have them
not. It is as certain that there is a God, as that the opposite angles
made by the intersection of two straight lines are equal. There was
never any rational creature that set himself sincerely to examine
the truth of these propositions that could fail to assent to them;
though yet it be past doubt that there are many men, who, having not
applied their thoughts that way, are ignorant both of the one and
the other. If any one think fit to call this (which is the utmost of
its extent) universal consent, such an one I easily allow; but such an
universal consent as this proves not the idea of God, any more than it
does the idea of such angles, innate.
18. If the idea of God be not innate, no other can be supposed
innate. Since then though the knowledge of a God be the most natural
discovery of human reason, yet the idea of him is not innate, as I
think is evident from what has been said; I imagine there will be
scarce any other idea found that can pretend to it. Since if God
hath set any impression, any character, on the understanding of men,
it is most reasonable to expect it should have been some clear and
uniform idea of Himself; as far as our weak capacities were capable to
receive so incomprehensible and infinite an object. But our minds
being at first void of that idea which we are most concerned to
have, it is a strong presumption against all other innate
characters. I must own, as far as I can observe, I can find none,
and would be glad to be informed by any other.
19. Idea of substance not innate. I confess there is another idea
which would be of general use for mankind to have, as it is of general
talk as if they had it; and that is the idea of substance; which we
neither have nor can have by sensation or reflection. If nature took
care to provide us any ideas, we might well expect they should be such
as by our own faculties we cannot procure to ourselves; but we see, on
the contrary, that since, by those ways whereby other ideas are
brought into our minds, this is not, we have no such clear idea at
all; and therefore signify nothing by the word substance but only an
uncertain supposition of we know not what, i.e. of something whereof
we have no [particular distinct positive] idea, which we take to be
the substratum, or support, of those ideas we do know.
20. No propositions can be innate, since no ideas are innate.
Whatever then we talk of innate, either speculative or practical,
principles, it may with as much probability be said, that a man hath
L100 sterling in his pocket, and yet denied that he hath there
either penny, shilling, crown, or other coin out of which the sum is
to be made up; as to think that certain propositions are innate when
the ideas about which they are can by no means be supposed to be so.
The general reception and assent that is given doth not at all
prove, that the ideas expressed in them are innate; for in many cases,
however the ideas came there, the assent to words expressing the
agreement or disagreement of such ideas, will necessarily follow.
Every one that hath a true idea of God and worship, will assent to
this proposition, "That God is to be worshipped," when expressed in
a language he understands; and every rational man that hath not
thought on it to-day, may be ready to assent to this proposition
to-morrow; and yet millions of men may be well supposed to want one or
both those ideas to-day. For, if we will allow savages, and most
country people, to have ideas of God and worship, (which
conversation with them will not make one forward to believe,) yet I
think few children can be supposed to have those ideas, which
therefore they must begin to have some time or other; and then they
will also begin to assent to that proposition, and make very little
question of it ever after. But such an assent upon hearing, no more
proves the ideas to be innate, than it does that one born blind
(with cataracts which will be couched to-morrow) had the innate
ideas of the sun, or light, or saffron, or yellow; because, when his
sight is cleared, he will certainly assent to this proposition,
"That the sun is lucid, or that saffron is yellow." And therefore,
if such an assent upon hearing cannot prove the ideas innate, it can
much less the propositions made up of those ideas. If they have any
innate ideas, I would be glad to be told what, and how many, they are.
21. No innate ideas in the memory. To which let me add: if there
be any innate ideas, any ideas in the mind which the mind does not
actually think on, they must be lodged in the memory; and from
thence must be brought into view by remembrance; i.e. must be known,
when they are remembered, to have been perceptions in the mind before;
unless remembrance can be without remembrance. For, to remember is
to perceive anything with memory, or with a consciousness that it
was perceived or known before. Without this, whatever idea comes
into the mind is new, and not remembered; this consciousness of its
having been in the mind before, being that which distinguishes
remembering from all other ways of thinking. Whatever idea was never
perceived by the mind was never in the mind. Whatever idea is in the
mind, is, either an actual perception, or else, having been an
actual perception, is so in the mind that, by the memory, it can be
made an actual perception again. Whenever there is the actual
perception of any idea without memory, the idea appears perfectly
new and unknown before to the understanding. Whenever the memory
brings any idea into actual view, it is with a consciousness that it
had been there before, and was not wholly a stranger to the mind.
Whether this be not so, I appeal to every one's observation. And
then I desire an instance of an idea, pretended to be innate, which
(before any impression of it by ways hereafter to be mentioned) any
one could revive and remember, as an idea he had formerly known;
without which consciousness of a former perception there is no
remembrance; and whatever idea comes into the mind without that
consciousness is not remembered, or comes not out of the memory, nor
can be said to be in the mind before that appearance. For what is
not either actually in view or in the memory, is in the mind no way at
all, and is all one as if it had never been there. Suppose a child had
the use of his eyes till he knows and distinguishes colours; but
then cataracts shut the windows, and he is forty or fifty years
perfectly in the dark; and in that time perfectly loses all memory
of the ideas of colours he once had. This was the case of a blind
man I once talked with, who lost his sight by the small-pox when he
was a child, and had no more notion of colours than one born blind.
I ask whether any one can say this man had then any ideas of colours
in his mind, any more than one born blind? And I think nobody will say
that either of them had in his mind any ideas of colours at all. His
cataracts are couched, and then he has the ideas (which he remembers
not) of colours, de novo, by his restored sight, conveyed to his mind,
and that without any consciousness of a former acquaintance. And these
now he can revive and call to mind in the dark. In this case all these
ideas of colours, which, when out of view, can be revived with a
consciousness of a former acquaintance, being thus in the memory,
are said to be in the mind. The use I make of this is,- that
whatever idea, being not actually in view, is in the mind, is there
only by being in the memory; and if it be not in the memory, it is not
in the mind; and if it be in the memory, it cannot by the memory be
brought into actual view without a perception that it comes out of the
memory; which is this, that it had been known before, and is now
remembered. If therefore there be any innate ideas, they must be in
the memory, or else nowhere in the mind; and if they be in the memory,
they can be revived without any impression from without; and
whenever they are brought into the mind they are remembered, i.e. they
bring with them a perception of their not being wholly new to it. This
being a constant and distinguishing difference between what is, and
what is not in the memory, or in the mind;- that what is not in the
memory, whenever it appears there, appears perfectly new and unknown
before; and what is in the memory, or in the mind, whenever it is
suggested by the memory, appears not to be new, but the mind finds
it in itself, and knows it was there before. By this it may be tried
whether there be any innate ideas in the mind before impression from
sensation or reflection. I would fain meet with the man who, when he
came to the use of reason, or at any other time, remembered any of
them; and to whom, after he was born, they were never new. If any
one will say, there are ideas in the mind that are not in the
memory, I desire him to explain himself, and make what he says
22. Principles not innate, because of little use or little
certainty. Besides what I have already said, there is another reason
why I doubt that neither these nor any other principles are innate.
I that am fully persuaded that the infinitely wise God made all things
in perfect wisdom, cannot satisfy myself why he should be supposed
to print upon the minds of men some universal principles; whereof
those that are pretended innate, and concern speculation, are of no
great use; and those that concern practice, not self-evident; and
neither of them distinguishable from some other truths not allowed
to be innate. For, to what purpose should characters be graven on
the mind by the finger of God, which are not clearer there than
those which are afterwards introduced, or cannot be distinguished from
them? If any one thinks there are such innate ideas and
propositions, which by their clearness and usefulness are
distinguishable from all that is adventitious in the mind and
acquired, it will not be a hard matter for him to tell us which they
are; and then every one will be a fit judge whether they be so or
no. Since if there be such innate ideas and impressions, plainly
different from all other perceptions and knowledge, every one will
find it true in himself of the evidence of these supposed innate
maxims, I have spoken already: of their usefulness I shall have
occasion to speak more hereafter.
23. Difference of men's discoveries depends upon the different
application of their faculties. To conclude: some ideas forwardly
offer themselves to all men's understanding; and some sorts of
truths result from any ideas, as soon as the mind puts them into
propositions: other truths require a train of ideas placed in order, a
due comparing of them, and deductions made with attention, before they
can be discovered and assented to. Some of the first sort, because
of their general and easy reception, have been mistaken for innate:
but the truth is, ideas and notions are no more born with us than arts
and sciences; though some of them indeed offer themselves to our
faculties more readily than others; and therefore are more generally
received: though that too be according as the organs of our bodies and
powers of our minds happen to be employed; God having fitted men
with faculties and means to discover, receive, and retain truths,
according as they are employed. The great difference that is to be
found in the notions of mankind is, from the different use they put
their faculties to. Whilst some (and those the most) taking things
upon trust, misemploy their power of assent, by lazily enslaving their
minds to the dictates and dominion of others, in doctrines which it is
their duty carefully to examine, and not blindly, with an implicit
faith, to swallow; others, employing their thoughts only about some
few things, grow acquainted sufficiently with them, attain great
degrees of knowledge in them, and are ignorant of all other, having
never let their thoughts loose in the search of other inquiries. Thus,
that the three angles of a triangle are quite equal to two right
ones is a truth as certain as anything can be, and I think more
evident than many of those propositions that go for principles; and
yet there are millions, however expert in other things, who know not
this at all, because they never set their thoughts on work about
such angles. And he that certainly knows this proposition may yet be
utterly ignorant of the truth of other propositions, in mathematics
itself, which are as clear and evident as this; because, in his search
of those mathematical truths, he stopped his thoughts short and went
not so far. The same may happen concerning the notions we have of
the being of a Deity. For, though there be no truth which a man may
more evidently make out to himself than the existence of a God, yet he
that shall content himself with things as he finds them in this world,
as they minister to his pleasures and passions, and not make inquiry a
little further into their causes, ends, and admirable contrivances,
and pursue the thoughts thereof with diligence and attention, may live
long without any notion of such a Being. And if any person hath by
talk put such a notion into his head, he may perhaps believe it; but
if he hath never examined it, his knowledge of it will be no perfecter
than his, who having been told, that the three angles of a triangle
are equal to two right ones, takes it upon trust, without examining
the demonstration; and may yield his assent as a probable opinion, but
hath no knowledge of the truth of it; which yet his faculties, if
carefully employed, were able to make clear and evident to him. But
this only, by the by, to show how much our knowledge depends upon
the right use of those powers nature hath bestowed upon us, and how
little upon such innate principles as are in vain supposed to be in
all mankind for their direction; which all men could not but know if
they were there, or else they would be there to no purpose. And
which since all men do not know, nor can distinguish from other
adventitious truths, we may well conclude there are no such.
24. Men must think and know for themselves. What censure doubting
thus of innate principles may deserve from men, who will be apt to
call it pulling up the old foundations of knowledge and certainty, I
cannot tell;- I persuade myself at least that the way I have
pursued, being conformable to truth, lays those foundations surer.
This I am certain, I have not made it my business either to quit or
follow any authority in the ensuing Discourse. Truth has been my
only aim; and wherever that has appeared to lead, my thoughts have
impartially followed, without minding whether the footsteps of any
other lay that way or not. Not that I want a due respect to other
men's opinions; but, after all, the greatest reverence is due to
truth: and I hope it will not be thought arrogance to say, that
perhaps we should make greater progress in the discovery of rational
and contemplative knowledge, if we sought it in the fountain, in the
consideration of things themselves; and made use rather of our own
thoughts than other men's to find it. For I think we may as rationally
hope to see with other men's eyes, as to know by other men's
understandings. So much as we ourselves consider and comprehend of
truth and reason, so much we possess of real and true knowledge. The
floating of other men's opinions in our brains, makes us not one jot
the more knowing, though they happen to be true. What in them was
science, is in us but opiniatrety; whilst we give up our assent only
to reverend names, and do not, as they did, employ our own reason to
understand those truths which gave them reputation. Aristotle was
certainly a knowing man, but nobody ever thought him so because he
blindly embraced, and confidently vented the opinions of another.
And if the taking up of another's principles, without examining
them, made not him a philosopher, I suppose it will hardly make
anybody else so. In the sciences, every one has so much as he really
knows and comprehends. What he believes only, and takes upon trust,
are but shreds; which, however well in the whole piece, make no
considerable addition to his stock who gathers them. Such borrowed
wealth, like fairy money, though it were gold in the hand from which
he received it, will be but leaves and dust when it comes to use.
25. Whence the opinion of innate principles. When men have found
some general propositions that could not be doubted of as soon as
understood, it was, I know, a short and easy way to conclude them
innate. This being once received, it eased the lazy from the pains
of search, and stopped the inquiry of the doubtful concerning all that
was once styled innate. And it was of no small advantage to those
who affected to be masters and teachers, to make this the principle of
principles,- that principles must not he questioned. For, having
once established this tenet,- that there are innate principles, it put
their followers upon a necessity of receiving some doctrines as
such; which was to take them off from the use of their own reason
and judgment, and put them on believing and taking them upon trust
without further examination: in which posture of blind credulity, they
might be more easily governed by, and made useful to some sort of men,
who had the skill and office to principle and guide them. Nor is it
a small power it gives one man over another, to have the authority
to be the dictator of principles, and teacher of unquestionable
truths; and to make a man swallow that for an innate principle which
may serve to his purpose who teacheth them. Whereas had they
examined the ways whereby men came to the knowledge of many
universal truths, they would have found them to result in the minds of
men from the being of things themselves, when duly considered; and
that they were discovered by the application of those faculties that
were fitted by nature to receive and judge of them, when duly employed
about them.
26. Conclusion. To show how the understanding proceeds herein is the
design of the following Discourse; which I shall proceed to when I
have first premised, that hitherto,- to clear my way to those
foundations which I conceive are the only true ones, whereon to
establish those notions we can have of our own knowledge,- it hath
been necessary for me to give an account of the reasons I had to doubt
of innate principles. And since the arguments which are against them
do, some of them, rise from common received opinions, I have been
forced to take several things for granted; which is hardly avoidable
to any one, whose task is to show the falsehood or improbability of
any tenet;- it happening in controversial discourses as it does in
assaulting of towns; where, if the ground be but firm whereon the
batteries are erected, there is no further inquiry of whom it is
borrowed, nor whom it belongs to, so it affords but a fit rise for the
present purpose. But in the future part of this Discourse, designing
to raise an edifice uniform and consistent with itself, as far as my
own experience and observation will assist me, I hope to erect it on
such a basis that I shall not need to shore it up with props and
buttresses, leaning on borrowed or begged foundations: or at least, if
mine prove a castle in the air, I will endeavour it shall be all of
a piece and hang together. Wherein I warn the reader not to expect
undeniable cogent demonstrations, unless I may be allowed the
privilege, not seldom assumed by others, to take my principles for
granted; and then, I doubt not, but I can demonstrate too. All that
I shall say for the principles I proceed on is, that I can only appeal
to men's own unprejudiced experience and observation whether they be
true or not; and this is enough for a man who professes no more than
to lay down candidly and freely his own conjectures, concerning a
subject lying somewhat in the dark, without any other design than an
unbiased inquiry after truth.
Of Ideas

Chapter I
Of Ideas in general, and their Original

1. Idea is the object of thinking. Every man being conscious to
himself that he thinks; and that which his mind is applied about
whilst thinking being the ideas that are there, it is past doubt
that men have in their minds several ideas,- such as are those
expressed by the words whiteness, hardness, sweetness, thinking,
motion, man, elephant, army, drunkenness, and others: it is in the
first place then to be inquired, How he comes by them?
I know it is a received doctrine, that men have native ideas, and
original characters, stamped upon their minds in their very first
being. This opinion I have at large examined already; and, I suppose
what I have said in the foregoing Book will be much more easily
admitted, when I have shown whence the understanding may get all the
ideas it has; and by what ways and degrees they may come into the
mind;- for which I shall appeal to every one's own observation and
2. All ideas come from sensation or reflection. Let us then
suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all
characters, without any ideas:- How comes it to be furnished? Whence
comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of
man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? Whence has it
all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer, in one
word, from EXPERIENCE. In that all our knowledge is founded; and
from that it ultimately derives itself. Our observation employed
either, about external sensible objects, or about the internal
operations of our minds perceived and reflected on by ourselves, is
that which supplies our understandings with all the materials of
thinking. These two are the fountains of knowledge, from whence all
the ideas we have, or can naturally have, do spring.
3. The objects of sensation one source of ideas. First, our
Senses, conversant about particular sensible objects, do convey into
the mind several distinct perceptions of things, according to those
various ways wherein those objects do affect them. And thus we come by
those ideas we have of yellow, white, heat, cold, soft, hard,
bitter, sweet, and all those which we call sensible qualities; which
when I say the senses convey into the mind, I mean, they from external
objects convey into the mind what produces there those perceptions.
This great source of most of the ideas we have, depending wholly
upon our senses, and derived by them to the understanding, I call
4. The operations of our minds, the other source of them.
Secondly, the other fountain from which experience furnisheth the
understanding with ideas is,- the perception of the operations of
our own mind within us, as it is employed about the ideas it has got;-
which operations, when the soul comes to reflect on and consider, do
furnish the understanding with another set of ideas, which could not
be had from things without. And such are perception, thinking,
doubting, believing, reasoning, knowing, willing, and all the
different actings of our own minds;- which we being conscious of,
and observing in ourselves, do from these receive into our
understandings as distinct ideas as we do from bodies affecting our
senses. This source of ideas every man has wholly in himself; and
though it be not sense, as having nothing to do with external objects,
yet it is very like it, and might properly enough be called internal
sense. But as I call the other SENSATION, so I Call this REFLECTION,
the ideas it affords being such only as the mind gets by reflecting on
its own operations within itself. By reflection then, in the following
part of this discourse, I would be understood to mean, that notice
which the mind takes of its own operations, and the manner of them, by
reason whereof there come to be ideas of these operations in the
understanding. These two, I say, viz. external material things, as the
objects of SENSATION, and the operations of our own minds within, as
the objects of REFLECTION, are to me the only originals from whence
all our ideas take their beginnings. The term operations here I use in
a large sense, as comprehending not barely the actions of the mind
about its ideas, but some sort of passions arising sometimes from
them, such as is the satisfaction or uneasiness arising from any
5. All our ideas are of the one or the other of these. The
understanding seems to me not to have the least glimmering of any
ideas which it doth not receive from one of these two. External
objects furnish the mind with the ideas of sensible qualities, which
are all those different perceptions they produce in us; and the mind
furnishes the understanding with ideas of its own operations.
These, when we have taken a full survey of them, and their several
modes, combinations, and relations, we shall find to contain all our
whole stock of ideas; and that we have nothing in our minds which
did not come in one of these two ways. Let any one examine his own
thoughts, and thoroughly search into his understanding; and then let
him tell me, whether all the original ideas he has there, are any
other than of the objects of his senses, or of the operations of his
mind, considered as objects of his reflection. And how great a mass of
knowledge soever he imagines to be lodged there, he will, upon
taking a strict view, see that he has not any idea in his mind but
what one of these two have imprinted;- though perhaps, with infinite
variety compounded and enlarged by the understanding, as we shall
see hereafter.
6. Observable in children. He that attentively considers the state
of a child, at his first coming into the world, will have little
reason to think him stored with plenty of ideas, that are to be the
matter of his future knowledge. It is by degrees he comes to be
furnished with them. And though the ideas of obvious and familiar
qualities imprint themselves before the memory begins to keep a
register of time or order, yet it is often so late before some unusual
qualities come in the way, that there are few men that cannot
recollect the beginning of their acquaintance with them. And if it
were worth while, no doubt a child might be so ordered as to have
but a very few, even of the ordinary ideas, till he were grown up to a
man. But all that are born into the world, being surrounded with
bodies that perpetually and diversely affect them, variety of ideas,
whether care be taken of it or not, are imprinted on the minds of
children. Light and colours are busy at hand everywhere, when the
eye is but open; sounds and some tangible qualities fail not to
solicit their proper senses, and force an entrance to the mind;- but
yet, I think, it will be granted easily, that if a child were kept
in a place where he never saw any other but black and white till he
were a man, he would have no more ideas of scarlet or green, than he
that from his childhood never tasted an oyster, or a pine-apple, has
of those particular relishes.
7. Men are differently furnished with these, according to the
different objects they converse with. Men then come to be furnished
with fewer or more simple ideas from without, according as the objects
they converse with afford greater or less variety; and from the
operations of their minds within, according as they more or less
reflect on them. For, though he that contemplates the operations of
his mind, cannot but have plain and clear ideas of them; yet, unless
he turn his thoughts that way, and considers them attentively, he will
no more have clear and distinct ideas of all the operations of his
mind, and all that may be observed therein, than he will have all
the particular ideas of any landscape, or of the parts and motions
of a clock, who will not turn his eyes to it, and with attention
heed all the parts of it. The picture, or clock may be so placed, that
they may come in his way every day; but yet he will have but a
confused idea of all the parts they are made up of, till he applies
himself with attention, to consider them each in particular.
8. Ideas of reflection later, because they need attention. And hence
we see the reason why it is pretty late before most children get ideas
of the operations of their own minds; and some have not any very clear
or perfect ideas of the greatest part of them all their lives.
Because, though they pass there continually, yet, like floating
visions, they make not deep impressions enough to leave in their
mind clear, distinct, lasting ideas, till the understanding turns
inward upon itself, reflects on its own operations, and makes them the
objects of its own contemplation. Children when they come first into
it, are surrounded with a world of new things, which, by a constant
solicitation of their senses, draw the mind constantly to them;
forward to take notice of new, and apt to be delighted with the
variety of changing objects. Thus the first years are usually employed
and diverted in looking abroad. Men's business in them is to
acquaint themselves with what is to be found without; and so growing
up in a constant attention to outward sensations, seldom make any
considerable reflection on what passes within them, till they come
to be of riper years; and some scarce ever at all.
9. The soul begins to have ideas when it begins to perceive. To ask,
at what time a man has first any ideas, is to ask, when he begins to
perceive;- having ideas, and perception, being the same thing. I
know it is an opinion, that the soul always thinks, and that it has
the actual perception of ideas in itself constantly, as long as it
exists; and that actual thinking is as inseparable from the soul as
actual extension is from the body; which if true, to inquire after the
beginning of a man's ideas is the same as to inquire after the
beginning of his soul. For, by this account, soul and its ideas, as
body and its extension, will begin to exist both at the same time.
10. The soul thinks not always; for this wants proofs. But whether
the soul be supposed to exist antecedent to, or coeval with, or some
time after the first rudiments of organization, or the beginnings of
life in the body, I leave to be disputed by those who have better
thought of that matter. I confess myself to have one of those dull
souls, that doth not perceive itself always to contemplate ideas;
nor can conceive it any more necessary for the soul always to think,
than for the body always to move: the perception of ideas being (as
I conceive) to the soul, what motion is to the body; not its
essence, but one of its operations. And therefore, though thinking
be supposed never so much the proper action of the soul, yet it is not
necessary to suppose that it should be always thinking, always in
action. That, perhaps, is the privilege of the infinite Author and
Preserver of all things, who "never slumbers nor sleeps;" but is not
competent to any finite being, at least not to the soul of man. We
know certainly, by experience, that we sometimes think; and thence
draw this infallible consequence,- that there is something in us
that has a power to think. But whether that substance perpetually
thinks or no, we can be no further assured than experience informs us.
For, to say that actual thinking is essential to the soul, and
inseparable from it, is to beg what is in question, and not to prove
it by reason;- which is necessary to be done, if it be not a
self-evident proposition. But whether this, "That the soul always
thinks," be a self-evident proposition, that everybody assents to at
first hearing, I appeal to mankind. It is doubted whether I thought at
all last night or no. The question being about a matter of fact, it is
begging it to bring, as a proof for it, an hypothesis, which is the
very thing in dispute: by which way one may prove anything, and it
is but supposing that all watches, whilst the balance beats, think,
and it is sufficiently proved, and past doubt, that my watch thought
all last night. But he that would not deceive himself, ought to
build his hypothesis on matter of fact, and make it out by sensible
experience, and not presume on matter of fact, because of his
hypothesis, that is, because he supposes it to be so; which way of
proving amounts to this, that I must necessarily think all last night,
because another supposes I always think, though I myself cannot
perceive that I always do so.
But men in love with their opinions may not only suppose what is
in question, but allege wrong matter of fact. How else could any one
make it an inference of mine, that a thing is not, because we are
not sensible of it in our sleep? I do not say there is no soul in a
man, because he is not sensible of it in his sleep; but I do say, he
cannot think at any time, waking or sleeping: without being sensible
of it. Our being sensible of it is not necessary to anything but to
our thoughts; and to them it is; and to them it always will be
necessary, till we can think without being conscious of it.
11. It is not always conscious of it. I grant that the soul, in a
waking man, is never without thought, because it is the condition of
being awake. But whether sleeping without dreaming be not an affection
of the whole man, mind as well as body, may be worth a waking man's
consideration; it being hard to conceive that anything should think
and not be conscious of it. If the soul doth think in a sleeping man
without being conscious of it, I ask whether, during such thinking, it
has any pleasure or pain, or be capable of happiness or misery? I am
sure the man is not; no more than the bed or earth he lies on. For
to be happy or miserable without being conscious of it, seems to me
utterly inconsistent and impossible. Or if it be possible that the
soul can, whilst the body is sleeping, have its thinking,
enjoyments, and concerns, its pleasures or pain, apart, which the
man is not conscious of nor partakes in,- it is certain that
Socrates asleep and Socrates awake is not the same person; but his
soul when he sleeps, and Socrates the man, consisting of body and
soul, when he is waking, are two persons: since waking Socrates has no
knowledge of, or concernment for that happiness or misery of his soul,
which it enjoys alone by itself whilst he sleeps, without perceiving
anything of it; no more than he has for the happiness or misery of a
man in the Indies, whom he knows not. For, if we take wholly away
all consciousness of our actions and sensations, especially of
pleasure and pain, and the concernment that accompanies it, it will be
hard to know wherein to place personal identity.
12. If a sleeping man thinks without knowing it, the sleeping and
waking man are two persons. The soul, during sound sleep, thinks,
say these men. Whilst it thinks and perceives, it is capable certainly
of those of delight or trouble, as well as any other perceptions;
and it must necessarily be conscious of its own perceptions. But it
has all this apart: the sleeping man, it is plain, is conscious of
nothing of all this. Let us suppose, then, the soul of Castor, while
he is sleeping, retired from his body; which is no impossible
supposition for the men I have here to do with, who so liberally allow
life, without a thinking soul, to all other animals. These men
cannot then judge it impossible, or a contradiction, that the body
should live without the soul; nor that the soul should subsist and
think, or have perception, even perception of happiness or misery,
without the body. Let us then, I say, suppose the soul of Castor
separated during his sleep from his body, to think apart. Let us
suppose, too, that it chooses for its scene of thinking the body of
another man, v.g. Pollux, who is sleeping without a soul. For, if
Castor's soul can think, whilst Castor is asleep, what Castor is never
conscious of, it is no matter what place it chooses to think in. We
have here, then, the bodies of two men with only one soul between
them, which we will suppose to sleep and wake by turns; and the soul
still thinking in the waking man, whereof the sleeping man is never
conscious, has never the least perception. I ask, then, whether Castor
and Pollux, thus with only one soul between them, which thinks and
perceives in one what the other is never conscious of, nor is
concerned for, are not two as distinct persons as Castor and Hercules,
or as Socrates and Plato were? And whether one of them might not be
very happy, and the other very miserable? Just by the same reason,
they make the soul and the man two persons, who make the soul think
apart what the man is not conscious of. For, I suppose nobody will
make identity of persons to consist in the soul's being united to
the very same numercial particles of matter. For if that be
necessary to identity, it will be impossible, in that constant flux of
the particles of our bodies, that any man should be the same person
two days, or two moments, together.
13. Impossible to convince those that sleep without dreaming, that
they think. Thus, methinks, every drowsy nod shakes their doctrine,
who teach that the soul is always thinking. Those, at least, who do at
any time sleep without dreaming, can never be convinced that their
thoughts are sometimes for four hours busy without their knowing of
it; and if they are taken in the very act, waked in the middle of that
sleeping contemplation, can give no manner of account of it.
14. That men dream without remembering it, in vain urged. It will
perhaps be said,- That the soul thinks even in the soundest sleep, but
the memory retains it not. That the soul in a sleeping man should be
this moment busy a thinking, and the next moment in a waking man not
remember nor be able to recollect one jot of all those thoughts, is
very hard to be conceived, and would need some better proof than
bare assertion to make it be believed. For who can without any more
ado, but being barely told so, imagine that the greatest part of men
do, during all their lives, for several hours every day, think of
something, which if they were asked, even in the middle of these
thoughts, they could remember nothing at all of? Most men, I think,
pass a great part of their sleep without dreaming. I once knew a man
that was bred a scholar, and had no bad memory, who told me he had
never dreamed in his life, till he had that fever he was then newly
recovered of, which was about the five or six and twentieth year of
his age. I suppose the world affords more such instances: at least
every one's acquaintance will furnish him with examples enough of such
as pass most of their nights without dreaming.
15. Upon this hypothesis, the thoughts of a sleeping man ought to be
most rational. To think often, and never to retain it so much as one
moment, is a very useless sort of thinking; and the soul, in such a
state of thinking, does very little, if at all, excel that of a
looking-glass, which constantly receives variety of images, or
ideas, but retains none; they disappear and vanish, and there remain
no footsteps of them; the looking-glass is never the better for such
ideas, nor the soul for such thoughts. Perhaps it will be said, that
in a waking man the materials of the body are employed, and made use
of, in thinking; and that the memory of thoughts is retained by the
impressions that are made on the brain, and the traces there left
after such thinking; but that in the thinking of the soul, which is
not perceived in a sleeping man, there the soul thinks apart, and
making no use of the organs of the body, leaves no impressions on
it, and consequently no memory of such thoughts. Not to mention
again the absurdity of two distinct persons, which follows from this
supposition, I answer, further,- That whatever ideas the mind can
receive and contemplate without the help of the body, it is reasonable
to conclude it can retain without the help of the body too; or else
the soul, or any separate spirit, will have but little advantage by
thinking. If it has no memory of its own thoughts; if it cannot lay
them up for its own use, and be able to recall them upon occasion;
if it cannot reflect upon what is past, and make use of its former
experiences, reasonings, and contemplations, to what purpose does it
think? They who make the soul a thinking thing, at this rate, will not
make it a much more noble being than those do whom they condemn, for
allowing it to be nothing but the subtilist parts of matter.
Characters drawn on dust, that the first breath of wind effaces; or
impressions made on a heap of atoms, or animal spirits, are altogether
as useful, and render the subject as noble, as the thoughts of a
soul that perish in thinking; that, once out of sight, are gone
forever, and leave no memory of themselves behind them. Nature never
makes excellent things for mean or no uses: and it is hardly to be
conceived that our infinitely wise Creator should make so admirable
a faculty which comes nearest the excellency of his own
incomprehensible being, to be so idly and uselessly employed, at least
a fourth part of its time here, as to think constantly, without
remembering any of those thoughts, without doing any good to itself or
others, or being any way useful to any other part of the creation,
If we will examine it, we shall not find, I suppose, the motion of
dull and senseless matter, any where in the universe, made so little
use of and so wholly thrown away.
16. On this hypothesis, the soul must have ideas not derived from
sensation or reflection, of which there is no appearance. It is
true, we have sometimes instances of perception whilst we are
asleep, and retain the memory of those thoughts: but how extravagant
and incoherent for the most part they are; how little conformable to
the perfection and order of a rational being, those who are acquainted
with dreams need not be told. This I would willingly be satisfied in,-
whether the soul, when it thinks thus apart, and as it were separate
from the body, acts less rationally than when conjointly with it, or
no. If its separate thoughts be less rational, then these men must
say, that the soul owes the perfection of rational thinking to the
body: if it does not, it is a wonder that our dreams should be, for
the most part, so frivolous and irrational; and that the soul should
retain none of its more rational soliloquies and meditations.
17. If I think when I know it not, nobody else can know it. Those
who so confidently tell us that the soul always actually thinks, I
would they would also tell us, what those ideas are that are in the
soul of a child, before or just at the union with the body, before
it hath received any by sensation. The dreams of sleeping men are,
as I take it, all made up of the waking man's ideas; though for the
most part oddly put together. It is strange, if the soul has ideas
of its own that it derived not from sensation or reflection, (as it
must have, if it thought before it received any impressions from the
body,) that it should never, in its private thinking, (so private,
that the man himself perceives it not,) retain any of them the very
moment it wakes out of them, and then make the man glad with new
discoveries. Who can find it reason that the soul should, in its
retirement during sleep, have so many hours' thoughts, and yet never
light on any of those ideas it borrowed not from sensation or
reflection; or at least preserve the memory of none but such, which,
being occasioned from the body, must needs be less natural to a
spirit? It is strange the soul should never once in a man's whole life
recall over any of its pure native thoughts, and those ideas it had
before it borrowed anything from the body; never bring into the waking
man's view any other ideas but what have a tang of the cask, and
manifestly derive their original from that union. If it always thinks,
and so had ideas before it was united, or before it received any
from the body, it is not to be supposed but that during sleep it
recollects its native ideas; and during that retirement from
communicating with the body, whilst it thinks by itself, the ideas
it is busied about should be, sometimes at least, those more natural
and congenial ones which it had in itself, underived from the body, or
its own operations about them: which, since the waking man never
remembers, we must from this hypothesis conclude either that the
soul remembers something that the man does not; or else that memory
belongs only to such ideas as are derived from the body, or the mind's
operations about them.
18. How knows any one that the soul always thinks? For if it be
not a self-evident proposition, it needs proof. I would be glad also
to learn from these men who so confidently pronounce that the human
soul, or, which is all one, that a man always thinks, how they come to
know it; nay, how they come to know that they themselves think when
they themselves do not perceive it. This, I am afraid, is to be sure
without proofs, and to know without perceiving. It is, I suspect, a
confused notion, taken up to serve an hypothesis; and none of those
clear truths, that either their own evidence forces us to admit, or
common experience makes it impudence to deny. For the most that can be
said of it is, that it is possible the soul may always think, but
not always retain it in memory. And I say, it is as possible that
the soul may not always think; and much more probable that it should
sometimes not think, than that it should often think, and that a
long while together, and not be conscious to itself, the next moment
after, that it had thought.
19. "That a man should be busy in thinking, and yet not retain it
the next moment," very improbable. To suppose the soul to think, and
the man not to perceive it, is, as has been said, to make two
persons in one man. And if one considers well these men's way of
speaking, one should be led into a suspicion that they do so. For they
who tell us that the soul always thinks, do never, that I remember,
say that a man always thinks. Can the soul think, and not the man?
Or a man think, and not be conscious of it? This, perhaps, would be
suspected of jargon in others. If they say the man thinks always,
but is not always conscious of it, they may as well say his body is
extended without having parts. For it is altogether as intelligible to
say that a body is extended without parts, as that anything thinks
without being conscious of it, or perceiving that it does so. They who
talk thus may, with as much reason, if it be necessary to their
hypothesis, say that a man is always hungry, but that he does not
always feel it; whereas hunger consists in that very sensation, as
thinking consists in being conscious that one thinks. If they say that
a man is always conscious to himself of thinking, I ask, How they know
it? Consciousness is the perception of what passes in a man's own
mind. Can another man perceive that I am conscious of anything, when I
perceive it not myself? No man's knowledge here can go beyond his
experience. Wake a man out of a sound sleep, and ask him what he was
that moment thinking of. If he himself be conscious of nothing he then
thought on, he must be a notable diviner of thoughts that can assure
him that he was thinking. May he not, with more reason, assure him
he was not asleep? This is something beyond philosophy; and it
cannot be less than revelation, that discovers to another thoughts
in my mind, when I can find none there myself, And they must needs
have a penetrating sight who can certainly see that I think, when I
cannot perceive it myself, and when I declare that I do not; and yet
can see that dogs or elephants do not think, when they give all the
demonstration of it imaginable, except only telling us that they do
so. This some may suspect to be a step beyond the Rosicrucians; it
seeming easier to make one's self invisible to others, than to make
another's thoughts visible to me, which are not visible to himself.
But it is but defining the soul to be "a substance that always
thinks," and the business is done. If such definition be of any
authority, I know not what it can serve for but to make many men
suspect that they have no souls at all; since they find a good part of
their lives pass away without thinking. For no definitions that I
know, no suppositions of any sect, are of force enough to destroy
constant experience; and perhaps it is the affectation of knowing
beyond what we perceive, that makes so much useless dispute and
noise in the world.
20. No ideas but from sensation and reflection, evident, if we
observe children. I see no reason, therefore, to believe that the soul
thinks before the senses have furnished it with ideas to think on; and
as those are increased and retained, so it comes, by exercise, to
improve its faculty of thinking in the several parts of it; as well
as, afterwards, by compounding those ideas, and reflecting on its
own operations, it increases its stock, as well as facility in
remembering, imagining, reasoning, and other modes of thinking.
21. State of a child in the mother's womb. He that will suffer
himself to be informed by observation and experience, and not make his
own hypothesis the rule of nature, will find few signs of a soul
accustomed to much thinking in a new-born child, and much fewer of any
reasoning at all. And yet it is hard to imagine that the rational soul
should think so much, and not reason at all. And he that will consider
that infants newly come into the world spend the greatest part of
their time in sleep, and are seldom awake but when either hunger calls
for the teat, or some pain (the most importunate of all sensations),
or some other violent impression on the body, forces the mind to
perceive and attend to it;- he, I say, who considers this, will
perhaps find reason to imagine that a foetus in the mother's womb
differs not much from the state of a vegetable, but passes the
greatest part of its time without perception or thought; doing very
little but sleep in a place where it needs not seek for food, and is
surrounded with liquor, always equally soft, and near of the same
temper; where the eyes have no light, and the ears so shut up are
not very susceptible of sounds; and where there is little or no
variety, or change of objects, to move the senses.
22. The mind thinks in proportion to the matter it gets from
experience to think about. Follow a child from its birth, and
observe the alterations that time makes, and you shall find, as the
mind by the senses comes more and more to be furnished with ideas,
it comes to be more and more awake; thinks more, the more it has
matter to think on. After some time it begins to know the objects
which, being most familiar with it, have made lasting impressions.
Thus it comes by degrees to know the persons it daily converses
with, and distinguishes them from strangers; which are instances and
effects of its coming to retain and distinguish the ideas the senses
convey to it. And so we may observe how the mind, by degrees, improves
in these; and advances to the exercise of those other faculties of
enlarging, compounding, and abstracting its ideas, and of reasoning
about them, and reflecting upon all these; of which I shall have
occasion to speak more hereafter.
23. A man begins to have ideas when he first has sensation. What
sensation is. If it shall be demanded then, when a man begins to
have any ideas, I think the true answer is,- when he first has any
sensation. For, since there appear not to be any ideas in the mind
before the senses have conveyed any in, I conceive that ideas in the
understanding are coeval with sensation; which is such an impression
or motion made in some part of the body, as produces some perception
in the understanding. It is about these impressions made on our senses
by outward objects that the mind seems first to employ itself, in such
operations as we call perception, remembering, consideration,
reasoning, &c.
24. The original of all our knowledge. In time the mind comes to
reflect on its own operations about the ideas got by sensation, and
thereby stores itself with a new set of ideas, which I call ideas of
reflection. These are the impressions that are made on our senses by
outward objects that are extrinsical to the mind; and its own
operations, proceeding from powers intrinsical and proper to itself,
which, when reflected on by itself, become also objects of its
contemplation- are, as I have said, the original of all knowledge.
Thus the first capacity of human intellect is,- that the mind is
fitted to receive the impressions made on it; either through the
senses by outward objects, or by its own operations when it reflects
on them. This is the first step a man makes towards the discovery of
anything, and the groundwork whereon to build all those notions
which ever he shall have naturally in this world. All those sublime
thoughts which tower above the clouds, and reach as high as heaven
itself, take their rise and footing here: in all that great extent
wherein the mind wanders, in those remote speculations it may seem
to be elevated with, it stirs not one jot beyond those ideas which
sense or reflection have offered for its contemplation.
25. In the reception of simple ideas, the understanding is for the
most part passive. In this part the understanding is merely passive;
and whether or no it will have these beginnings, and as it were
materials of knowledge, is not in its own power. For the objects of
our senses do, many of them, obtrude their particular ideas upon our
minds whether we will or not; and the operations of our minds will not
let us be without, at least, some obscure notions of them. No man
can be wholly ignorant of what he does when he thinks. These simple
ideas, when offered to the mind, the understanding can no more
refuse to have, nor alter when they are imprinted, nor blot them out
and make new ones itself, than a mirror can refuse, alter, or
obliterate the images or ideas which the objects set before it do
therein produce. As the bodies that surround us do diversely affect
our organs, the mind is forced to receive the impressions; and
cannot avoid the perception of those ideas that are annexed to them.
Chapter II
Of Simple Ideas

1. Uncompounded appearances. The better to understand the nature,
manner, and extent of our knowledge, one thing is carefully to be
observed concerning the ideas we have; and that is, that some of
them are simple and some complex.
Though the qualities that affect our senses are, in the things
themselves, so united and blended, that there is no separation, no
distance between them; yet it is plain, the ideas they produce in
the mind enter by the senses simple and unmixed. For, though the sight
and touch often take in from the same object, at the same time,
different ideas;- as a man sees at once motion and colour; the hand
feels softness and warmth in the same piece of wax: yet the simple
ideas thus united in the same subject, are as perfectly distinct as
those that come in by different senses. The coldness and hardness
which a man feels in a piece of ice being as distinct ideas in the
mind as the smell and whiteness of a lily; or as the taste of sugar,
and smell of a rose. And there is nothing can be plainer to a man than
the clear and distinct perception he has of those simple ideas; which,
being each in itself uncompounded, contains in it nothing but one
uniform appearance, or conception in the mind, and is not
distinguishable into different ideas.
2. The mind can neither make nor destroy them. These simple ideas,
the materials of all our knowledge, are suggested and furnished to the
mind only by those two ways above mentioned, viz. sensation and
reflection. When the understanding is once stored with these simple
ideas, it has the power to repeat, compare, and unite them, even to an
almost infinite variety, and so can make at pleasure new complex
ideas. But it is not in the power of the most exalted wit, or enlarged
understanding, by any quickness or variety of thought, to invent or
frame one new simple idea in the mind, not taken in by the ways before
mentioned: nor can any force of the understanding destroy those that
are there. The dominion of man, in this little world of his own
understanding being muchwhat the same as it is in the great world of
visible things; wherein his power, however managed by art and skill,
reaches no farther than to compound and divide the materials that
are made to his hand; but can do nothing towards the making the
least particle of new matter, or destroying one atom of what is
already in being. The same inability will every one find in himself,
who shall go about to fashion in his understanding one simple idea,
not received in by his senses from external objects, or by
reflection from the operations of his own mind about them. I would
have any one try to fancy any taste which had never affected his
palate; or frame the idea of a scent he had never smelt: and when he
can do this, I will also conclude that a blind man hath ideas of
colours, and a deaf man true distinct notions of sounds.
3. Only the qualities that affect the senses are imaginable. This is
the reason why- though we cannot believe it impossible to God to
make a creature with other organs, and more ways to convey into the
understanding the notice of corporeal things than those five, as
they are usually counted, which he has given to man- yet I think it is
not possible for any man to imagine any other qualities in bodies,
howsoever constituted, whereby they can be taken notice of, besides
sounds, tastes, smells, visible and tangible qualities. And had
mankind been made but with four senses, the qualities then which are
the objects of the fifth sense had been as far from our notice,
imagination, and conception, as now any belonging to a sixth, seventh,
or eighth sense can possibly be;- which, whether yet some other
creatures, in some other parts of this vast and stupendous universe,
may not have, will be a great presumption to deny. He that will not
set himself proudly at the top of all things, but will consider the
immensity of this fabric, and the great variety that is to be found in
this little and inconsiderable part of it which he has to do with, may
be apt to think that, in other mansions of it, there may be other
and different intelligent beings, of whose faculties he has as
little knowledge or apprehension as a worm shut up in one drawer of
a cabinet hath of the senses or understanding of a man; such variety
and excellency being suitable to the wisdom and power of the Maker.
I have here followed the common opinion of man's having but five
senses; though, perhaps, there may be justly counted more;- but either
supposition serves equally to my present purpose.
Chapter III
Of Simple Ideas of Sense

1. Division of simple ideas. The better to conceive the ideas we
receive from sensation, it may not be amiss for us to consider them,
in reference to the different ways whereby they make their
approaches to our minds, and make themselves perceivable by us.
First, then, There are some which come into our minds by one sense
Secondly, There are others that convey themselves into the mind by
more senses than one.
Thirdly, Others that are had from reflection only.
Fourthly, There are some that make themselves way, and are suggested
to the mind by all the ways of sensation and reflection.
We shall consider them apart under these several heads.
Ideas of one sense. There are some ideas which have admittance
only through one sense, which is peculiarly adapted to receive them.
Thus light and colours, as white, red, yellow, blue; with their
several degrees or shades and mixtures, as green, scarlet, purple,
sea-green, and the rest, come in only by the eyes. All kinds of
noises, sounds, and tones, only by the ears. The several tastes and
smells, by the nose and palate. And if these organs, or the nerves
which are the conduits to convey them from without to their audience
in the brain,- the mind's presence-room (as I may so call it)- are any
of them so disordered as not to perform their functions, they have
no postern to be admitted by; no other way to bring themselves into
view, and be perceived by the understanding.
The most considerable of those belonging to the touch, are heat
and cold, and solidity: all the rest, consisting almost wholly in
the sensible configuration, as smooth and rough; or else, more or less
firm adhesion of the parts, as hard and soft, tough and brittle, are
obvious enough.
2. Few simple ideas have names. I think it will be needless to
enumerate all the particular simple ideas belonging to each sense. Nor
indeed is it possible if we would; there being a great many more of
them belonging to most of the senses than we have names for. The
variety of smells, which are as many almost, if not more, than species
of bodies in the world, do most of them want names. Sweet and stinking
commonly serve our turn for these ideas, which in effect is little
more than to call them pleasing or displeasing; though the smell of
a rose and violet, both sweet, are certainly very distinct ideas.
Nor are the different tastes, that by our palates we receive ideas of,
much better provided with names. Sweet, bitter, sour, harsh, and
salt are almost all the epithets we have to denominate that numberless
variety of relishes, which are to be found distinct, not only in
almost every sort of creatures, but in the different parts of the same
plant, fruit, or animal. The same may be said of colours and sounds. I
shall, therefore, in the account of simple ideas I am here giving,
content myself to set down only such as are most material to our
present purpose, or are in themselves less apt to be taken notice of
though they are very frequently the ingredients of our complex
ideas; amongst which, I think, I may well account solidity, which
therefore I shall treat of in the next chapter.
Chapter IV
Idea of Solidity

1. We receive this idea from touch. The idea of solidity we
receive by our touch: and it arises from the resistance which we
find in body to the entrance of any other body into the place it
possesses, till it has left it. There is no idea which we receive more
constantly from sensation than solidity. Whether we move or rest, in
what posture soever we are, we always feel something under us that
support us, and hinders our further sinking downwards; and the
bodies which we daily handle make us perceive that, whilst they remain
between them, they do, by an insurmountable force, hinder the approach
of the parts of our hands that press them. That which thus hinders the
approach of two bodies, when they are moved one towards another, I
call solidity. I will not dispute whether this acceptation of the word
solid be nearer to its original signification than that which
mathematicians use it in. It suffices that I think the common notion
of solidity will allow, if not justify, this use of it; but if any one
think it better to call it impenetrability, he has my consent. Only
I have thought the term solidity the more proper to express this idea,
not only because of its vulgar use in that sense, but also because
it carries something more of positive in it than impenetrability;
which is negative, and is perhaps more a consequence of solidity, than
solidity itself. This, of all other, seems the idea most intimately
connected with, and essential to body; so as nowhere else to be
found or imagined, but only in matter. And though our senses take no
notice of it, but in masses of matter, of a bulk sufficient to cause a
sensation in us: yet the mind, having once got this idea from such
grosser sensible bodies, traces it further, and considers it, as
well as figure, in the minutest particle of matter that can exist; and
finds it inseparably inherent in body, wherever or however modified.
2. Solidity fills space. This is the idea which belongs to body,
whereby we conceive it to fill space. The idea of which filling of
space is,- that where we imagine any space taken up by a solid
substance, we conceive it so to possess it, that it excludes all other
solid substances; and will for ever hinder any other two bodies,
that move towards one another in a straight line, from coming to touch
one another, unless it removes from between them in a line not
parallel to that which they move in. This idea of it, the bodies which
we ordinarily handle sufficiently furnish us with.
3. Distinct from space. This resistance, whereby it keeps other
bodies out of the space which it possesses, is so great, that no
force, how great soever, can surmount it. All the bodies in the world,
pressing a drop of water on all sides, will never be able to
overcome the resistance which it will make, soft as it is, to their
approaching one another, till it be removed out of their way:
whereby our idea of solidity is distinguished both from pure space,
which is capable neither of resistance nor motion; and from the
ordinary idea of hardness. For a man may conceive two bodies at a
distance, so as they may approach one another, without touching or
displacing any solid thing, till their superficies come to meet;
whereby, I think, we have the clear idea of space without solidity.
For (not to go so far as annihilation of any particular body) I ask,
whether a man cannot have the idea of the motion of one single body
alone, without any other succeeding immediately into its place? I
think it is evident he can: the idea of motion in one body no more
including the idea of motion in another, than the idea of a square
figure in one body includes the idea of a square figure in another.
I do not ask, whether bodies do so exist, that the motion of one
body cannot really be without the motion of another. To determine this
either way, is to beg the question for or against a vacuum. But my
question is,- whether one cannot have the idea of one body moved,
whilst others are at rest? And I think this no one will deny. If so,
then the place it deserted gives us the idea of pure space without
solidity; whereinto any other body may enter, without either
resistance or protrusion of anything. When the sucker in a pump is
drawn, the space it filled in the tube is certainly the same whether
any other body follows the motion of the sucker or not: nor does it
imply a contradiction that, upon the motion of one body, another
that is only contiguous to it should not follow it. The necessity of
such a motion is built only on the supposition that the world is full;
but not on the distinct ideas of space and solidity, which are as
different as resistance and not resistance, protrusion and not
protrusion. And that men have ideas of space without a body, their
very disputes about a vacuum plainly demonstrate, as is shown in
another place.
4. From hardness. Solidity is hereby also differenced from hardness,
in that solidity consists in repletion, and so an utter exclusion of
other bodies out of the space it possesses: but hardness, in a firm
cohesion of the parts of matter, making up masses of a sensible
bulk, so that the whole does not easily change its figure. And indeed,
hard and soft are names that we give to things only in relation to the
constitutions of our own bodies; that being generally called hard by
us, which will put us to pain sooner than change figure by the
pressure of any part of our bodies; and that, on the contrary, soft,
which changes the situation of its parts upon an easy and unpainful
But this difficulty of changing the situation of the sensible
parts amongst themselves, or of the figure of the whole, gives no more
solidity to the hardest body in the world than to the softest; nor
is an adamant one jot more solid than water. For, though the two
flat sides of two pieces of marble will more easily approach each
other, between which there is nothing but water or air, than if
there be a diamond between them; yet it is not that the parts of the
diamond are more solid than those of water, or resist more; but
because the parts of water, being more easily separable from each
other, they will, by a side motion, be more easily removed, and give
way to the approach of the two pieces of marble. But if they could
be kept from making place by that side motion, they would eternally
hinder the approach of these two pieces of marble, as much as the
diamond; and it would be as impossible by any force to surmount
their resistance, as to surmount the resistance of the parts of a
diamond. The softest body in the world will as invincibly resist the
coming together of any other two bodies, if it be not put out of the
way, but remain between them, as the hardest that can be found or
imagined. He that shall fill a yielding soft body well with air or
water, will quickly find its resistance. And he that thinks that
nothing but bodies that are hard can keep his hands from approaching
one another, may be pleased to make a trial, with the air inclosed
in a football. The experiment, I have been told, was made at Florence,
with a hollow globe of gold filled with water, and exactly closed;
which further shows the solidity of so soft a body as water. For the
golden globe thus filled, being put into a press, which was driven
by the extreme force of screws, the water made itself way through
the pores of that very close metal, and finding no room for a nearer
approach of its particles within, got to the outside, where it rose
like a dew, and so fell in drops, before the sides of the globe
could be made to yield to the violent compression of the engine that
squeezed it.
5. On solidity depend impulse, resistance, and protrusion. By this
idea of solidity is the extension of body distinguished from the
extension of space:- the extension of body being nothing but the
cohesion or continuity of solid, separable, movable parts; and the
extension of space, the continuity of unsolid, inseparable, and
immovable parts. Upon the solidity of bodies also depend their
mutual impulse, resistance, and protrusion. Of pure space then, and
solidity, there are several (amongst which I confess myself one) who
persuade themselves they have clear and distinct ideas; and that
they can think on space, without anything in it that resists or is
protruded by body. This is the idea of pure space, which they think
they have as clear as any idea they can have of the extension of body:
the idea of the distance between the opposite parts of a concave
superficies being equally as clear without as with the idea of any
solid parts between: and on the other side, they persuade themselves
that they have, distinct from that of pure space, the idea of
something that fills space, that can be protruded by the impulse of
other bodies, or resist their motion. If there be others that have not
these two ideas distinct, but confound them, and make but one of them,
I know not how men, who have the same idea under different names, or
different ideas under the same name, can in that case talk with one
another; any more than a man who, not being blind or deaf, has
distinct ideas of the colour of scarlet and the sound of a trumpet,
could discourse concerning scarlet colour with the blind man I
mentioned in another place, who fancied that the idea of scarlet was
like the sound of a trumpet.
6. What solidity is. If any one ask me, What this solidity is, I
send him to his senses to inform him. Let him put a flint or a
football between his hands, and then endeavour to join them, and he
will know. If he thinks this not a sufficient explication of solidity,
what it is, and wherein it consists; I promise to tell him what it is,
and wherein it consists, when he tells me what thinking is, or wherein
it consists; or explains to me what extension or motion is, which
perhaps seems much easier. The simple ideas we have, are such as
experience teaches them us; but if, beyond that, we endeavour by words
to make them clearer in the mind, we shall succeed no better than if
we went about to clear up the darkness of a blind man's mind by
talking; and to discourse into him the ideas of light and colours. The
reason of this I shall show in another place.
Chapter V
Of Simple Ideas of Divers Senses

Ideas received both by seeing and touching. The ideas we get by more
than one sense are, of space or extension, figure, rest, and motion.
For these make perceivable impressions, both on the eyes and touch;
and we can receive and convey into our minds the ideas of the
extension, figure, motion, and rest of bodies, both by seeing and
feeling. But having occasion to speak more at large of these in
another place, I here only enumerate them.
Chapter VI
Of Simple Ideas of Reflection

1. Simple ideas are the operations of mind about its other ideas. The
mind receiving the ideas mentioned in the foregoing chapters from
without, when it turns its view inward upon itself, and observes its
own actions about those ideas it has, takes from thence other ideas,
which are as capable to be the objects of its contemplation as any
of those it received from foreign things.
2. The idea of perception, and idea of willing, we have from
reflection. The two great and principal actions of the mind, which are
most frequently considered, and which are so frequent that every one
that pleases may take notice of them in himself, are these two:-

Perception, or Thinking; and
Volition, or Willing.

The power of thinking is called the Understanding, and the power
of volition is called the Will; and these two powers or abilities in
the mind are denominated faculties.
Of some of the modes of these simple ideas of reflection, such as
are remembrance, discerning, reasoning, judging, knowledge, faith,
&c., I shall have occasion to speak hereafter.
Chapter VII
Of Simple Ideas of both Sensation and Reflection

1. Ideas of pleasure and pain. There be other simple ideas which
convey themselves into the mind by all the ways of sensation and
reflection, viz. pleasure or delight, and its opposite, pain, or
uneasiness; power; existence; unity.
2. Mix with almost all our other ideas. Delight or uneasiness, one
or other of them, join themselves to almost all our ideas both of
sensation and reflection: and there is scarce any affection of our
senses from without, any retired thought of our mind within, which
is not able to produce in us pleasure or pain. By pleasure and pain, I
would be understood to signify, whatsoever delights or molests us;
whether it arises from the thoughts of our minds, or anything
operating on our bodies. For, whether we call it satisfaction,
delight, pleasure, happiness, &c., on the one side, or uneasiness,
trouble, pain, torment, anguish, misery, &c., on the other, they are
still but different degrees of the same thing, and belong to the ideas
of pleasure and pain, delight or uneasiness; which are the names I
shall most commonly use for those two sorts of ideas.
3. As motives of our actions. The infinite wise Author of our being,
having given us the power over several parts of our bodies, to move or
keep them at rest as we think fit; and also. by the motion of them, to
move ourselves and other contiguous bodies, in which consist all the
actions of our body: having also given a power to our minds, in
several instances, to choose, amongst its ideas, which it will think
on, and to pursue the inquiry of this or that subject with
consideration and attention, to excite us to these actions of thinking
and motion that we are capable of,- has been pleased to join to
several thoughts, and several sensations a perception of delight. If
this were wholly separated from all our outward sensations, and inward
thoughts, we should have no reason to prefer one thought or action
to another; negligence to attention, or motion to rest. And so we
should neither stir our bodies, nor employ our minds, but let our
thoughts (if I may so call it) run adrift, without any direction or
design, and suffer the ideas of our minds, like unregarded shadows, to
make their appearances there, as it happened, without attending to
them. In which state man, however furnished with the faculties of
understanding and will, would be a very idle, inactive creature, and
pass his time only in a lazy, lethargic dream. It has therefore
pleased our wise Creator to annex to several objects, and the ideas
which we receive from them, as also to several of our thoughts, a
concomitant pleasure, and that in several objects, to several degrees,
that those faculties which he had endowed us with might not remain
wholly idle and unemployed by us.
4. An end and use of pain. Pain has the same efficacy and use to set
us on work that pleasure has, we being as ready to employ our
faculties to avoid that, as to pursue this: only this is worth our
consideration, that pain is often produced by the same objects and
ideas that produce pleasure in us. This their near conjunction,
which makes us often feel pain in the sensations where we expected
pleasure, gives us new occasion of admiring the wisdom and goodness of
our Maker, who, designing the preservation of our being, has annexed
pain to the application of many things to our bodies, to warn us of
the harm that they will do, and as advices to withdraw from them.
But he, not designing our preservation barely, but the preservation of
every part and organ in its perfection, hath in many cases annexed
pain to those very ideas which delight us. Thus heat, that is very
agreeable to us in one degree, by a little greater increase of it
proves no ordinary torment: and the most pleasant of all sensible
objects, light itself, if there be too much of it, if increased beyond
a due proportion to our eyes, causes a very painful sensation. Which
is wisely and favourably so ordered by nature, that when any object
does, by the vehemency of its operation, disorder the instruments of
sensation, whose structures cannot but be very nice and delicate, we
might, by the pain, be warned to withdraw, before the organ be quite
put out of order, and so be unfitted for its proper function for the
future. The consideration of those objects that produce it may well
persuade us, that this is the end or use of pain. For, though great
light be insufferable to our eyes, yet the highest degree of
darkness does not at all disease them: because that, causing no
disorderly motion in it, leaves that curious organ unharmed in its
natural state. But yet excess of cold as well as heat pains us:
because it is equally destructive to that temper which is necessary to
the preservation of life, and the exercise of the several functions of
the body, and which consists in a moderate degree of warmth; or, if
you please, a motion of the insensible parts of our bodies, confined
within certain bounds.
5. Another end. Beyond all this, we may find another reason why
God hath scattered up and down several degrees of pleasure and pain,
in all the things that environ and affect us; and blended them
together in almost all that our thoughts and senses have to do
with;- that we, finding imperfection, dissatisfaction, and want of
complete happiness, in all the enjoyments which the creatures can
afford us, might be led to seek it in the enjoyment of Him with whom
there is fullness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures for
6. Goodness of God in annexing pleasure and pain to our other ideas.
Though what I have here said may not, perhaps, make the ideas of
pleasure and pain clearer to us than our own experience does, which is
the only way that we are capable of having them; yet the consideration
of the reason why they are annexed to so many other ideas, serving
to give us due sentiments of the wisdom and goodness of the
Sovereign Disposer of all things, may not be unsuitable to the main
end of these inquiries: the knowledge and veneration of him being
the chief end of all our thoughts, and the proper business of all
7. Ideas of existence and unity. Existence and Unity are two other
ideas that are suggested to the understanding by every object without,
and every idea within. When ideas are in our minds, we consider them
as being actually there, as well as we consider things to be
actually without us;- which is, that they exist, or have existence.
And whatever we can consider as one thing, whether a real being or
idea, suggests to the understanding the idea of unity.
8. Idea of power. Power also is another of those simple ideas
which we receive from sensation and reflection. For, observing in
ourselves that we do and can think, and that we can at pleasure move
several parts of our bodies which were at rest; the effects, also,
that natural bodies are able to produce in one another, occurring
every moment to our senses,- we both these ways get the idea of power.
9. Idea of succession. Besides these there is another idea, which,
though suggested by our senses, yet is more constantly offered to us
by what passes in our minds; and that is the idea of succession. For
if we look immediately into ourselves, and reflect on what is
observable there, we shall find our ideas always, whilst we are awake,
or have any thought, passing in train, one going and another coming,
without intermission.
10. Simple ideas the materials of all our knowledge. These, if
they are not all, are at least (as I think) the most considerable of
those simple ideas which the mind has, and out of which is made all
its other knowledge; all which it receives only by the two
forementioned ways of sensation and reflection.
Nor let any one think these too narrow bounds for the capacious mind
of man to expatiate in, which takes its flight further than the stars,
and cannot be confined by the limits of the world; that extends its
thoughts often even beyond the utmost expansion of Matter, and makes
excursions into that incomprehensible Inane. I grant all this, but
desire any one to assign any simple idea which is not received from
one of those inlets before mentioned, or any complex idea not made out
of those simple ones. Nor will it be so strange to think these few
simple ideas sufficient to employ the quickest thought, or largest
capacity; and to furnish the materials of all that various
knowledge, and more various fancies and opinions of all mankind, if we
consider how many words may be made out of the various composition
of twenty-four letters; or if, going one step further, we will but
reflect on the variety of combinations that may be made with barely
one of the above-mentioned ideas, viz. number, whose stock is
inexhaustible and truly infinite: and what a large and immense field
doth extension alone afford the mathematicians?
Chapter VIII
Some further considerations concerning
our Simple Ideas of Sensation

1. Positive ideas from privative causes. Concerning the simple ideas
of Sensation, it is to be considered,- that whatsoever is so
constituted in nature as to be able, by affecting our senses, to cause
any perception in the mind, doth thereby produce in the
understanding a simple idea; which, whatever be the external cause
of it, when it comes to be taken notice of by our discerning
faculty, it is by the mind looked on and considered there to be a real
positive idea in the understanding, as much as any other whatsoever;
though, perhaps, the cause of it be but a privation of the subject.
2. Ideas in the mind distinguished from that in things which gives
rise to them. Thus the ideas of heat and cold, light and darkness,
white and black, motion and rest, are equally clear and positive ideas
in the mind; though, perhaps, some of the causes which produce them
are barely privations, in those subjects from whence our senses derive
those ideas. These the understanding, in its view of them, considers
all as distinct positive ideas, without taking notice of the causes
that produce them: which is an inquiry not belonging to the idea, as
it is in the understanding, but to the nature of the things existing
without us. These are two very different things, and carefully to be
distinguished; it being one thing to perceive and know the idea of
white or black, and quite another to examine what kind of particles
they must be, and how ranged in the superficies, to make any object
appear white or black.
3. We may have the ideas when we are ignorant of their physical
causes. A painter or dyer who never inquired into their causes hath
the ideas of white and black, and other colours, as clearly,
perfectly, and distinctly in his understanding, and perhaps more
distinctly, than the philosopher who hath busied himself in
considering their natures, and thinks he knows how far either of
them is, in its cause, positive or privative; and the idea of black is
no less positive in his mind than that of white, however the cause
of that colour in the external object may be only a privation.
4. Why a privative cause in nature may occasion a positive idea.
If it were the design of my present undertaking to inquire into the
natural causes and manner of perception, I should offer this as a
reason why a privative cause might, in some cases at least, produce
a positive idea; viz. that all sensation being produced in us only
by different degrees and modes of motion in our animal spirits,
variously agitated by external objects, the abatement of any former
motion must as necessarily produce a new sensation as the variation or
increase of it; and so introduce a new idea, which depends only on a
different motion of the animal spirits in that organ.
5. Negative names need not be meaningless. But whether this be so or
not I will not here determine, but appeal to every one's own
experience, whether the shadow of a man, though it consists of nothing
but the absence of light (and the more the absence of light is, the
more discernible is the shadow) does not, when a man looks on it,
cause as clear and positive idea in his mind as a man himself,
though covered over with clear sunshine? And the picture of a shadow
is a positive thing. Indeed, we have negative names, which stand not
directly for positive ideas, but for their absence, such as insipid,
silence, nihil, &c.; which words denote positive ideas, v.g. taste,
sound, being, with a signification of their absence.
6. Whether any ideas are due to causes really privative. And thus
one may truly be said to see darkness. For, supposing a hole perfectly
dark, from whence no light is reflected, it is certain one may see the
figure of it, or it may be painted; or whether the ink I write with
makes any other idea, is a question. The privative causes I have
here assigned of positive ideas are according to the common opinion;
but, in truth, it will be hard to determine whether there be really
any ideas from a privative cause, till it be determined, whether
rest be any more a privation than motion.
7. Ideas in the mind, qualities in bodies. To discover the nature of
our ideas the better, and to discourse of them intelligibly, it will
be convenient to distinguish them as they are ideas or perceptions
in our minds; and as they are modifications of matter in the bodies
that cause such perceptions in us: that so we may not think (as
perhaps usually is done) that they are exactly the images and
resemblances of something inherent in the subject; most of those of
sensation being in the mind no more the likeness of something existing
without us, than the names that stand for them are the likeness of our
ideas, which yet upon hearing they are apt to excite in us.
8. Our ideas and the qualities of bodies. Whatsoever the mind
perceives in itself, or is the immediate object of perception,
thought, or understanding, that I call idea; and the power to
produce any idea in our mind, I call quality of the subject wherein
that power is. Thus a snowball having the power to produce in us the
ideas of white, cold, and round,- the power to produce those ideas
in us, as they are in the snowball, I call qualities; and as they
are sensations or perceptions in our understandings, I call them
ideas; which ideas, if I speak of sometimes as in the things
themselves, I would be understood to mean those qualities in the
objects which produce them in us.
9. Primary qualities of bodies. Qualities thus considered in
bodies are,
First, such as are utterly inseparable from the body, in what
state soever it be; and such as in all the alterations and changes
it suffers, all the force can be used upon it, it constantly keeps;
and such as sense constantly finds in every particle of matter which
has bulk enough to be perceived; and the mind finds inseparable from
every particle of matter, though less than to make itself singly be
perceived by our senses: v.g. Take a grain of wheat, divide it into
two parts; each part has still solidity, extension, figure, and
mobility: divide it again, and it retains still the same qualities;
and so divide it on, till the parts become insensible; they must
retain still each of them all those qualities. For division (which
is all that a mill, or pestle, or any other body, does upon another,
in reducing it to insensible parts) can never take away either
solidity, extension, figure, or mobility from any body, but only makes
two or more distinct separate masses of matter, of that which was
but one before; all which distinct masses, reckoned as so many
distinct bodies, after division, make a certain number. These I call
original or primary qualities of body, which I think we may observe to
produce simple ideas in us, viz. solidity, extension, figure, motion
or rest, and number.
10. Secondary qualities of bodies. Secondly, such qualities which in
truth are nothing in the objects themselves but power to produce
various sensations in us by their primary qualities, i.e. by the bulk,
figure, texture, and motion of their insensible parts, as colours,
sounds, tastes, &c. These I call secondary qualities. To these might
be added a third sort, which are allowed to be barely powers; though
they are as much real qualities in the subject as those which I, to
comply with the common way of speaking, call qualities, but for
distinction, secondary qualities. For the power in fire to produce a
new colour, or consistency, in wax or clay,- by its primary qualities,
is as much a quality in fire, as the power it has to produce in me a
new idea or sensation of warmth or burning, which I felt not
before,- by the same primary qualities, viz. the bulk, texture, and
motion of its insensible parts.
11. How bodies produce ideas in us. The next thing to be
considered is, how bodies produce ideas in us; and that is
manifestly by impulse, the only way which we can conceive bodies to
operate in.
12. By motions, external, and in our organism. If then external
objects be not united to our minds when they produce ideas therein;
and yet we perceive these original qualities in such of them as singly
fall under our senses, it is evident that some motion must be thence
continued by our nerves, or animal spirits, by some parts of our
bodies, to the brains or the seat of sensation, there to produce in
our minds the particular ideas we have of them. And since the
extension, figure, number, and motion of bodies of an observable
bigness, may be perceived at a distance by the sight, it is evident
some singly imperceptible bodies must come from them to the eyes,
and thereby convey to the brain some motion; which produces these
ideas which we have of them in us.
13. How secondary qualities produce their ideas. After the same
manner, that the ideas of these original qualities are produced in us,
we may conceive that the ideas of secondary qualities are also
produced, viz. by the operation of insensible particles on our senses.
For, it being manifest that there are bodies and good store of bodies,
each whereof are so small, that we cannot by any of our senses
discover either their bulk, figure, or motion,- as is evident in the
particles of the air and water, and others extremely smaller than
those; perhaps as much smaller than the particles of air and water, as
the particles of air and water are smaller than peas or
hail-stones;- let us suppose at present that the different motions and
figures, bulk and number, of such particles, affecting the several
organs of our senses, produce in us those different sensations which
we have from the colours and smells of bodies; v.g. that a violet,
by the impulse of such insensible particles of matter, of peculiar
figures and bulks, and in different degrees and modifications of their
motions, causes the ideas of the blue colour, and sweet scent of
that flower to be produced in our minds. It being no more impossible
to conceive that God should annex such ideas to such motions, with
which they have no similitude, than that he should annex the idea of
pain to the motion of a piece of steel dividing our flesh, with
which that idea hath no resemblance.
14. They depend on the primary qualities. What I have said
concerning colours and smells may be understood also of tastes and
sounds, and other the like sensible qualities; which, whatever reality
we by mistake attribute to them, are in truth nothing in the objects
themselves, but powers to produce various sensations in us; and depend
on those primary qualities, viz. bulk, figure, texture, and motion
of parts as I have said.
15. Ideas of primary qualities are resemblances; of secondary,
not. From whence I think it easy to draw this observation,- that the
ideas of primary qualities of bodies are resemblances of them, and
their patterns do really exist in the bodies themselves, but the ideas
produced in us by these secondary qualities have no resemblance of
them at all. There is nothing like our ideas, existing in the bodies
themselves. They are, in the bodies we denominate from them, only a
power to produce those sensations in us: and what is sweet, blue, or
warm in idea, is but the certain bulk, figure, and motion of the
insensible parts, in the bodies themselves, which we call so.
16. Examples. Flame is denominated hot and light; snow, white and
cold; and manna, white and sweet, from the ideas they produce in us.
Which qualities are commonly thought to be the same in those bodies
that those ideas are in us, the one the perfect resemblance of the
other, as they are in a mirror, and it would by most men be judged
very extravagant if one should say otherwise. And yet he that will
consider that the same fire that, at one distance produces in us the
sensation of warmth, does, at a nearer approach, produce in us the far
different sensation of pain, ought to bethink himself what reason he
has to say- that this idea of warmth, which was produced in him by the
fire, is actually in the fire; and his idea of pain, which the same
fire produced in him the same way, is not in the fire. Why are
whiteness and coldness in snow, and pain not, when it produces the one
and the other idea in us; and can do neither, but by the bulk, figure,
number, and motion of its solid parts?
17. The ideas of the primary alone really exist. The particular
bulk, number, figure, and motion of the parts of fire or snow are
really in them,- whether any one's senses perceive them or no: and
therefore they may be called real qualities, because they really exist
in those bodies. But light, heat, whiteness, or coldness, are no
more really in them than sickness or pain is in manna. Take away the
sensation of them; let not the eyes see light or colours, nor the ears
hear sounds; let the palate not taste, nor the nose smell, and all
colours, tastes, odours, and sounds, as they are such particular
ideas, vanish and cease, and are reduced to their causes, i.e. bulk,
figure, and motion of parts.
18. The secondary exist in things only as modes of the primary. A
piece of manna of a sensible bulk is able to produce in us the idea of
a round or square figure; and by being removed from one place to
another, the idea of motion. This idea of motion represents it as it
really is in manna moving: a circle or square are the same, whether in
idea or existence, in the mind or in the manna. And this, both
motion and figure, are really in the manna, whether we take notice
of them or no: this everybody is ready to agree to. Besides, manna, by
tie bulk, figure, texture, and motion of its parts, has a power to
produce the sensations of sickness, and sometimes of acute pains or
gripings in us. That these ideas of sickness and pain are not in the
manna, but effects of its operations on us, and are nowhere when we
feel them not; this also every one readily agrees to. And yet men
are hardly to be brought to think that sweetness and whiteness are not
really in manna; which are but the effects of the operations of manna,
by the motion, size, and figure of its particles, on the eyes and
palate: as the pain and sickness caused by manna are confessedly
nothing but the effects of its operations on the stomach and guts,
by the size, motion, and figure of its insensible parts, (for by
nothing else can a body operate, as has been proved): as if it could
not operate on the eyes and palate, and thereby produce in the mind
particular distinct ideas, which in itself it has not, as well as we
allow it can operate on the guts and stomach, and thereby produce
distinct ideas, which in itself it has not. These ideas, being all
effects of the operations of manna on several parts of our bodies,
by the size, figure number, and motion of its parts;- why those
produced by the eyes and palate should rather be thought to be
really in the manna, than those produced by the stomach and guts; or
why the pain and sickness, ideas that are the effect of manna,
should be thought to be nowhere when they are not felt; and yet the
sweetness and whiteness, effects of the same manna on other parts of
the body, by ways equally as unknown, should be thought to exist in
the manna, when they are not seen or tasted, would need some reason to
19. Examples. Let us consider the red and white colours in porphyry.
Hinder light from striking on it, and its colours vanish; it no longer
produces any such ideas in us: upon the return of light it produces
these appearances on us again. Can any one think any real
alterations are made in the porphyry by the presence or absence of
light; and that those ideas of whiteness and redness are really in
porphyry in. the light, when it is plain it has no colour in the dark?
It has, indeed, such a configuration of particles, both night and day,
as are apt, by the rays of light rebounding from some parts of that
hard stone, to produce in us the idea of redness, and from others
the idea of whiteness; but whiteness or redness are not in it at any
time, but such a texture that hath the power to produce such a
sensation in us.
20. Pound an almond, and the clear white colour will be altered into
a dirty one, and the sweet taste into an oily one. What real
alteration can the beating of the pestle make in any body, but an
alteration of the texture of it?
21. Explains how water felt as cold by one hand may be warm to the
other. Ideas being thus distinguished and understood, we may be able
to give an account how the same water, at the same time, may produce
the idea of cold by one hand and of heat by the other: whereas it is
impossible that the same water, if those ideas were really in it,
should at the same time be both hot and cold. For, if we imagine
warmth, as it is in our hands, to be nothing but a certain sort and
degree of motion in the minute particles of our nerves or animal
spirits, we may understand how it is possible that the same water may,
at the same time, produce the sensations of heat in one hand and
cold in the other; which yet figure never does, that never
producing- the idea of a square by one hand which has produced the
idea of a globe by another. But if the sensation of heat and cold be
nothing but the increase or diminution of the motion of the minute
parts of our bodies, caused by the corpuscles of any other body, it is
easy to be understood, that if that motion be greater in one hand than
in the other; if a body be applied to the two hands, which has in
its minute particles a greater motion than in those of one of the
hands, and a less than in those of the other, it will increase the
motion of the one hand and lessen it in the other; and so cause the
different sensations of heat and cold that depend thereon.
22. An excursion into natural philosophy. I have in what just goes
before been engaged in physical inquiries a little further than
perhaps I intended. But, it being necessary to make the nature of
sensation a little understood; and to make the difference between
the qualities in bodies, and the ideas produced by them in the mind,
to be distinctly conceived, without which it were impossible to
discourse intelligibly of them;- I hope I shall be pardoned this
little excursion into natural philosophy; it being necessary in our
present inquiry to distinguish the primary and real qualities of
bodies, which are always in them (viz. solidity, extension, figure,
number, and motion, or rest, and are sometimes perceived by us, viz.
when the bodies they are in are big enough singly to be discerned),
from those secondary and imputed qualities, which are but the powers
of several combinations of those primary ones, when they operate
without being distinctly discerned;- whereby we may also come to
know what ideas are, and what are not, resemblances of something
really existing in the bodies we denominate from them.
23. Three sorts of qualities in bodies. The qualities, then, that
are in bodies, rightly considered, are of three sorts:-
First, The bulk, figure, number, situation, and motion or rest of
their solid parts. Those are in them, whether we perceive them or not;
and when they are of that size that we can discover them, we have by
these an idea of the thing as it is in itself; as is plain in
artificial things. These I call primary qualities.
Secondly, The power that is in any body, by reason of its insensible
primary qualities, to operate after a peculiar manner on any of our
senses, and thereby produce in us the different ideas of several
colours, sounds, smells, tastes, &c. These are usually called sensible
Thirdly, The power that is in any body, by reason of the
particular constitution of its primary qualities, to make such a
change in the bulk, figure, texture, and motion of another body, as to
make it operate on our senses differently from what it did before.
Thus the sun has a power to make wax white, and fire to make lead
fluid. These are usually called powers.
The first of these, as has been said, I think may be properly called
real, original, or primary qualities; because they are in the things
themselves, whether they are perceived or not: and upon their
different modifications it is that the secondary qualities depend.
The other two are only powers to act differently upon other
things: which powers result from the different modifications of
those primary qualities.
24. The first are resemblances; the second thought to be
resemblances, but are not; the third neither are nor are thought so.
But, though the two latter sorts of qualities are powers barely, and
nothing but powers, relating to several other bodies, and resulting
from the different modifications of the original qualities, yet they
are generally otherwise thought of. For the second sort, viz, the
powers to produce several ideas in us, by our senses, are looked
upon as real qualities in the things thus affecting us: but the
third sort are called and esteemed barely powers. v.g. The idea of
heat or light, which we receive by our eyes, or touch, from the sun,
are commonly thought real qualities existing in the sun, and something
more than mere powers in it. But when we consider the sun in reference
to wax, which it melts or blanches, we look on the whiteness and
softness produced in the wax, not as qualities in the sun, but effects
produced by powers in it. Whereas, if rightly considered, these
qualities of light and warmth, which are perceptions in me when I am
warmed or enlightened by the sun, are no otherwise in the sun, than
the changes made in the wax, when it is blanched or melted, are in the
sun. They are all of them equally powers in the sun, depending on
its primary qualities; whereby it is able, in the one case, so to
alter the bulk, figure, texture, or motion of some of the insensible
parts of my eyes or hands, as thereby to produce in me the idea of
light or heat; and in the other, it is able so to alter the bulk,
figure, texture, or motion of the insensible parts of the wax, as to
make them fit to produce in me the distinct ideas of white and fluid.
25. Why the secondary are ordinarily taken for real qualities, and
not for bare powers. The reason why the one are ordinarily taken for
real qualities, and the other only for bare powers, seems to be,
because the ideas we have of distinct colours, sounds, &c., containing
nothing at all in them of bulk, figure, or motion, we are not apt to
think them the effects of these primary qualities; which appear not,
to our senses, to operate in their production, and with which they
have not any apparent congruity or conceivable connexion. Hence it
is that we are so forward to imagine, that those ideas are the
resemblances of something really existing in the objects themselves:
since sensation discovers nothing of bulk, figure, or motion of
parts in their production; nor can reason show how bodies, by their
bulk, figure, and motion, should produce in the mind the ideas of blue
or yellow, &c. But, in the other case, in the operations of bodies
changing the qualities one of another, we plainly discover that the
quality produced hath commonly no resemblance with anything in the
thing producing it; wherefore we look on it as a bare effect of power.
For, through receiving the idea of heat or light from the sun, we
are apt to think it is a perception and resemblance of such a
quality in the sun; yet when we see wax, or a fair face, receive
change of colour from the sun, we cannot imagine that to be the
reception or resemblance of anything in the sun, because we find not
those different colours in the sun itself. For, our senses being
able to observe a likeness or unlikeness of sensible qualities in
two different external objects, we forwardly enough conclude the
production of any sensible quality in any subject to be an effect of
bare power, and not the communication of any quality which was
really in the efficient, when we find no such sensible quality in
the thing that produced it. But our senses, not being able to discover
any unlikeness between the idea produced in us, and the quality of the
object producing it, we are apt to imagine that our ideas are
resemblances of something in the objects, and not the effects of
certain powers placed in the modification of their primary
qualities, with which primary qualities the ideas produced in us
have no resemblance.
26. Secondary qualities twofold; first, immediately perceivable;
secondly, mediately perceivable. To conclude. Besides those
before-mentioned primary qualities in bodies, viz. bulk, figure,
extension, number, and motion of their solid parts; all the rest,
whereby we take notice of bodies, and distinguish them one from
another, are nothing else but several powers in them, depending on
those primary qualities; whereby they are fitted, either by
immediately operating on our bodies to produce several different ideas
in us; or else, by operating on other bodies, so to change their
primary qualities as to render them capable of producing ideas in us
different from what before they did. The former of these, I think, may
be called secondary qualities immediately perceivable: the latter,
secondary qualities, mediately perceivable.
Chapter IX
Of Perception

1. Perception the first simple idea of reflection. PERCEPTION, as it
is the first faculty of the mind exercised about our ideas; so it is
the first and simplest idea we have from reflection, and is by some
called thinking in general. Though thinking, in the propriety of the
English tongue, signifies that sort of operation in the mind about its
ideas, wherein the mind is active; where it, with some degree of
voluntary attention, considers anything. For in bare naked perception,
the mind is, for the most part, only passive; and what it perceives,
it cannot avoid perceiving.
2. Reflection alone can give us the idea of what perception is. What
perception is, every one will know better by reflecting on what he
does himself, when he sees, hears, feels, &c., or thinks, than by
any discourse of mine. Whoever reflects on what passes in his own mind
cannot miss it. And if he does not reflect, all the words in the world
cannot make him have any notion of it.
3. Arises in sensation only when the mind notices the organic
impression. This is certain, that whatever alterations are made in the
body, if they reach not the mind; whatever impressions are made on the
outward parts, if they are not taken notice of within, there is no
perception. Fire may burn our bodies with no other effect than it does
a billet, unless the motion be continued to the brain, and there the
sense of heat, or idea of pain, be produced in the mind; wherein
consists actual perception.
4. Impulse on the organ insufficient. How often may a man observe in
himself, that whilst his mind is intently employed in the
contemplation of some objects, and curiously surveying some ideas that
are there, it takes no notice of impressions of sounding bodies made
upon the organ of hearing, with the same alteration that uses to be
for the producing the idea of sound? A sufficient impulse there may be
on the organ; but it not reaching the observation of the mind, there
follows no perception: and though the motion that uses to produce
the idea of sound be made in the ear, yet no sound is heard. Want of
sensation, in this case, is not through any defect in the organ, or
that the man's ears are less affected than at other times when he does
hear: but that which uses to produce the idea, though conveyed in by
the usual organ, not being taken notice of in the understanding, and
so imprinting no idea in the mind, there follows no sensation. So that
wherever there is sense or perception, there some idea is actually
produced, and present in the understanding.
5. Children, though they may have ideas in the womb, have none
innate. Therefore I doubt not but children, by the exercise of their
senses about objects that affect them in the womb, receive some few
ideas before they are born, as the unavoidable effects, either of
the bodies that environ them, or else of those wants or diseases
they suffer; amongst which (if one may conjecture concerning things
not very capable of examination) I think the ideas of hunger and
warmth are two: which probably are some of the first that children
have, and which they scarce ever part with again.
6. The effects of sensation in the womb. But though it be reasonable
to imagine that children receive some ideas before they come into
the world, yet these simple ideas are far from those innate principles
which some contend for, and we, above, have rejected. These here
mentioned, being the effects of sensation, are only from some
affections of the body, which happen to them there, and so depend on
something exterior to the mind; no otherwise differing in their manner
of production from other ideas derived from sense, but only in the
precedency of time. Whereas those innate principles are supposed to be
quite of another nature; not coming into the mind by any accidental
alterations in, or operations on the body; but, as it were, original
characters impressed upon it, in the very first moment of its being
and constitution.
7. Which ideas appear first, is not evident, nor important. As there
are some ideas which we may reasonably suppose may be introduced
into the minds of children in the womb, subservient to the necessities
of their life and being there: so, after they are born, those ideas
are the earliest imprinted which happen to be the sensible qualities
which first occur to them; amongst which light is not the least
considerable, nor of the weakest efficacy. And how covetous the mind
is to be furnished with all such ideas as have no pain accompanying
them, may be a little guessed by what is observable in children
new-born; who always turn their eyes to that part from whence the
light comes, lay them how you please. But the ideas that are most
familiar at first, being various according to the divers circumstances
of children's first entertainment in the world, the order wherein
the several ideas come at first into the mind is very various, and
uncertain also; neither is it much material to know it.
8. Sensations often changed by the judgment. We are further to
consider concerning perception, that the ideas we receive by sensation
are often, in grown people, altered by the judgment, without our
taking notice of it. When we set before our eyes a round globe of
any uniform colour, v.g. gold, alabaster, or jet, it is certain that
the idea thereby imprinted on our mind is of a flat circle,
variously shadowed, with several degrees of light and brightness
coming to our eyes. But we having, by use, been accustomed to perceive
what kind of appearance convex bodies are wont to make in us; what
alterations are made in the reflections of light by the difference
of the sensible figures of bodies;- the judgment presently, by an
habitual custom, alters the appearances into their causes. So that
from that which is truly variety of shadow or colour, collecting the
figure, it makes it pass for a mark of figure, and frames to itself
the perception of a convex figure and an uniform colour; when the idea
we receive from thence is only a plane variously coloured, as is
evident in painting. To which purpose I shall here insert a problem of
that very ingenious and studious promoter of real knowledge, the
learned and worthy Mr. Molyneux, which he was pleased to send me in
a letter some months since; and it is this:- "Suppose a man born
blind, and now adult, and taught by his touch to distinguish between a
cube and a sphere of the same metal, and nighly of the same bigness,
so as to tell, when he felt one and the other, which is the cube,
which the sphere. Suppose then the cube and sphere placed on a
table, and the blind man be made to see: quaere, whether by his sight,
before he touched them, he could now distinguish and tell which is the
globe, which the cube?" To which the acute and judicious proposer
answers, "Not. For, though he has obtained the experience of how a
globe, how a cube affects his touch, yet he has not yet obtained the
experience, that what affects his touch so or so, must affect his
sight so or so; or that a protuberant angle in the cube, that
pressed his hand unequally, shall appear to his eye as it does in
the cube."- I agree with this thinking gentleman, whom I am proud to
call my friend, in his answer to this problem; and am of opinion
that the blind man, at first sight, would not be able with certainty
to say which was the globe, which the cube, whilst he only saw them;
though he could unerringly name them by his touch, and certainly
distinguish them by the difference of their figures felt. This I
have set down, and leave with my reader, as an occasion for him to
consider how much he may be beholden to experience, improvement, and
acquired notions, where he thinks he had not the least use of, or help
from them. And the rather, because this observing gentleman further
adds, that "having, upon the occasion of my book, proposed this to
divers very ingenious men, he hardly ever met with one that at first
gave the answer to it which he thinks true, till by hearing his
reasons they were convinced."
9. This judgment apt to be mistaken for direct perception. But
this is not, I think, usual in any of our ideas, but those received by
sight. Because sight, the most comprehensive of all our senses,
conveying to our minds the ideas of light and colours, which are
peculiar only to that sense; and also the far different ideas of
space, figure, and motion, the several varieties whereof change the
appearances of its proper object, viz. light and colours; we bring
ourselves by use to judge of the one by the other. This, in many cases
by a settled habit,- in things whereof we have frequent experience, is
performed so constantly and so quick, that we take that for the
perception of our sensation which is an idea formed by our judgment;
so that one, viz. that of sensation, serves only to excite the
other, and is scarce taken notice of itself;- as a man who reads or
hears with attention and understanding, takes little notice of the
characters or sounds, but of the ideas that are excited in him by
10. How, by habit, ideas of sensation are unconsciously changed into
ideas of judgment. Nor need we wonder that this is done with so little
notice, if we consider how quick the actions of the mind are
performed. For, as itself is thought to take up no space, to have no
extension; so its actions seem to require no time, but many of them
seem to be crowded into an instant. I speak this in comparison to
the actions of the body. Any one may easily observe this in his own
thoughts, who will take the pains to reflect on them. How, as it
were in an instant, do our minds, with one glance, see all the parts
of a demonstration, which may very well be called a long one, if we
consider the time it will require to put it into words, and step by
step show it another? Secondly, we shall not be so much surprised that
this is done in us with so little notice, if we consider how the
facility which we get of doing things, by a custom of doing, makes
them often pass in us without our notice. Habits, especially such as
are begun very early, come at last to produce actions in us, which
often escape our observation. How frequently do we, in a day, cover
our eyes with our eyelids, without perceiving that we are at all in
the dark! Men that, by custom, have got the use of a by-word, do
almost in every sentence pronounce sounds which, though taken notice
of by others, they themselves neither hear nor observe. And
therefore it is not so strange, that our mind should often change
the idea of its sensation into that of its judgment, and make one
serve only to excite the other, without our taking notice of it.
11. Perception puts the difference between animals and vegetables.
This faculty of perception seems to me to be, that which puts the
distinction betwixt the animal kingdom and the inferior parts of
nature. For, however vegetables have, many of them, some degrees of
motion, and upon the different application of other bodies to them, do
very briskly alter their figures and motions, and so have obtained the
name of sensitive plants, from a motion which has some resemblance
to that which in animals follows upon sensation: yet I suppose it is
all bare mechanism; and no otherwise produced than the turning of a
wild oat-beard, by the insinuation of the particles of moisture, or
the shortening of a rope, by the affusion of water. All which is
done without any sensation in the subject, or the having or
receiving any ideas.
12. Perception in all animals. Perception, I believe, is, in some
degree, in all sorts of animals; though in some possibly the avenues
provided by nature for the reception of sensations are so few, and the
perception they are received with so obscure and dull, that it comes
extremely short of the quickness and variety of sensation which is
in other animals; but yet it is sufficient for, and wisely adapted to,
the state and condition of that sort of animals who are thus made.
So that the wisdom and goodness of the Maker plainly appear in all the
parts of this stupendous fabric, and all the several degrees and ranks
of creatures in it.
13. According to their condition. We may, I think, from the make
of an oyster or cockle, reasonably conclude that it has not so many,
nor so quick senses as a man, or several other animals; nor if it had,
would it, in that state and incapacity of transferring itself from one
place to another, be bettered by them. What good would sight and
hearing do to a creature that cannot move itself to or from the
objects wherein at a distance it perceives good or evil? And would not
quickness of sensation be an inconvenience to an animal that must
lie still where chance has once placed it, and there receive the
afflux of colder or warmer, clean or foul water, as it happens to come
to it?
14. Decay of perception in old age. But yet I cannot but think there
is some small dull perception, whereby they are distinguished from
perfect insensibility. And that this may be so, we have plain
instances, even in mankind itself. Take one in whom decrepit old age
has blotted out the memory of his past knowledge, and clearly wiped
out the ideas his mind was formerly stored with, and has, by
destroying his sight, hearing, and smell quite, and his taste to a
great degree, stopped up almost all the passages for new ones to
enter; or if there be some of the inlets yet half open, the
impressions made are scarcely perceived, or not at all retained. How
far such an one (notwithstanding all that is boasted of innate
principles) is in his knowledge and intellectual faculties above the
condition of a cockle or an oyster, I leave to be considered. And if a
man had passed sixty years in such a state, as it is possible he
might, as well as three days, I wonder what difference there would be,
in any intellectual perfections, between him and the lowest degree
of animals.
15. Perception the inlet of all materials of knowledge. Perception
then being the first step and degree towards knowledge, and the
inlet of all the materials of it; the fewer senses any man, as well as
any other creature, hath; and the fewer and duller the impressions are
that are made by them, and the duller the faculties are that are
employed about them,- the more remote are they from that knowledge
which is to be found in some men. But this being in great variety of
degrees (as may be perceived amongst men) cannot certainly be
discovered in the several species of animals, much less in their
particular individuals. It suffices me only to have remarked here,-
that perception is the first operation of all our intellectual
faculties, and the inlet of all knowledge in our minds. And I am apt
too to imagine, that it is perception, in the lowest degree of it,
which puts the boundaries between animals and the inferior ranks of
creatures. But this I mention only as my conjecture by the by; it
being indifferent to the matter in hand which way the learned shall
determine of it.
Chapter X
Of Retention

1. Contemplation. The next faculty of the mind, whereby it makes a
further progress towards knowledge, is that which I call retention; or
the keeping of those simple ideas which from sensation or reflection
it hath received. This is done two ways.
First, by keeping the idea which is brought into it, for some time
actually in view, which is called contemplation.
2. Memory. The other way of retention is, the power to revive
again in our minds those ideas which, after imprinting, have
disappeared, or have been as it were laid aside out of sight. And thus
we do, when we conceive heat or light, yellow or sweet,- the object
being removed. This is memory, which is as it were the storehouse of
our ideas. For, the narrow mind of man not being capable of having
many ideas under view and consideration at once, it was necessary to
have a repository, to lay up those ideas which, at another time, it
might have use of. But, our ideas being nothing but actual perceptions
in the mind, which cease to be anything when there is no perception of
them; this laying up of our ideas in the repository of the memory
signifies no more but this,- that the mind has a power in many cases
to revive perceptions which it has once had, with this additional
perception annexed to them, that it has had them before. And in this
sense it is that our ideas are said to be in our memories, when indeed
they are actually nowhere;- but only there is an ability in the mind
when it will to revive them again, and as it were paint them anew on
itself, though some with more, some with less difficulty; some more
lively, and others more obscurely. And thus it is, by the assistance
of this faculty, that we are said to have all those ideas in our
understandings which, though we do not actually contemplate, yet we
can bring in sight, and make appear again, and be the objects of our
thoughts, without the help of those sensible qualities which first
imprinted them there.
3. Attention, repetition, pleasure and pain, fix ideas. Attention
and repetition help much to the fixing any ideas in the memory. But
those which naturally at first make the deepest and most lasting
impressions, are those which are accompanied with pleasure or pain.
The great business of the senses being, to make us take notice of what
hurts or advantages the body, it is wisely ordered by nature, as has
been shown, that pain should accompany the reception of several ideas;
which, supplying the place of consideration and reasoning in children,
and acting quicker than consideration in grown men, makes both the old
and young avoid painful objects with that haste which is necessary for
their preservation; and in both settles in the memory a caution for
the future.
4. Ideas fade in the memory. Concerning the several degrees of
lasting, wherewith ideas are imprinted on the memory, we may observe,-
that some of them have been produced in the understanding by an object
affecting the senses once only, and no more than once; others, that
have more than once offered themselves to the senses, have yet been
little taken notice of: the mind, either heedless, as in children,
or otherwise employed, as in men intent only on one thing; not setting
the stamp deep into itself. And in some, where they are set on with
care and repeated impressions, either through the temper of the
body, or some other fault, the memory is very weak. In all these
cases, ideas in the mind quickly fade, and often vanish quite out of
the understanding, leaving no more footsteps or remaining characters
of themselves than shadows do flying over fields of corn, and the mind
is as void of them as if they had never been there.
5. Causes of oblivion. Thus many of those ideas which were
produced in the minds of children, in the beginning of their
sensation, (some of which perhaps, as of some pleasures and pains,
were before they were born, and others in their infancy,) if the
future course of their lives they are not repeated again, are quite
lost, without the least glimpse remaining of them. This may be
observed in those who by some mischance have lost their sight when
they were very young; in whom the ideas of colours having been but
slightly taken notice of, and ceasing to be repeated, do quite wear
out; so that some years after, there is no more notion nor memory of
colours left in their minds, than in those of people born blind. The
memory of some men, it is true, is very tenacious, even to a
miracle. But yet there seems to be a constant decay of all our
ideas, even of those which are struck deepest, and in minds the most
retentive; so that if they be not sometimes renewed, by repeated
exercise of the senses, or reflection on those kinds of objects
which at first occasioned them, the print wears out, and at last there
remains nothing to be seen. Thus the ideas, as well as children, of
our youth, often die before us: and our minds represent to us those
tombs to which we are approaching; where, though the brass and
marble remain, yet the inscriptions are effaced by time, and the
imagery moulders away. The pictures drawn in our minds are laid in
fading colours; and if not sometimes refreshed, vanish and
disappear. How much the constitution of our bodies and the make of our
animal spirits are concerned in this; and whether the temper of the
brain makes this difference, that in some it retains the characters
drawn on it like marble, in others like freestone, and in others
little better than sand, I shall not here inquire; though it may
seem probable that the constitution of the body does sometimes
influence the memory, since we oftentimes find a disease quite strip
the mind of all its ideas, and the flames of a fever in a few days
calcine all those images to dust and confusion, which seemed to be
as lasting as if graved in marble.
6. Constantly repeated ideas can scarce be lost. But concerning
the ideas themselves, it is easy to remark, that those that are
oftenest refreshed (amongst which are those that are conveyed into the
mind by more ways than one) by a frequent return of the objects or
actions that produce them, fix themselves best in the memory, and
remain clearest and longest there; and therefore those which are of
the original qualities of bodies, vis. solidity, extension, figure,
motion, and rest; and those that almost constantly affect our
bodies, as heat and cold; and those which are the affections of all
kinds of beings, as existence, duration, and number, which almost
every object that affects our senses, every thought which employs
our minds, bring along with them;- these, I say, and the like ideas,
are seldom quite lost, whilst the mind retains any ideas at all.
7. In remembering, the mind is often active. In this secondary
perception, as I may so call it, or viewing again the ideas that are
lodged in the memory, the mind is oftentimes more than barely passive;
the appearance of those dormant pictures depending sometimes on the
will. The mind very often sets itself on work in search of some hidden
idea, and turns as it were the eye of the soul upon it; though
sometimes too they start up in our minds of their own accord, and
offer themselves to the understanding; and very often are roused and
tumbled out of their dark cells into open daylight, by turbulent and
tempestuous passions; our affections bringing ideas to our memory,
which had otherwise lain quiet and unregarded. This further is to be
observed, concerning ideas lodged in the memory, and upon occasion
revived by the mind, that they are not only (as the word revive
imports) none of them new ones, but also that the mind takes notice of
them as of a former impression, and renews its acquaintance with them,
as with ideas it had known before. So that though ideas formerly
imprinted are not all constantly in view, yet in remembrance they
are constantly known to be such as have been formerly imprinted;
i.e. in view, and taken notice of before, by the understanding.
8. Two defects in the memory, oblivion and slowness. Memory, in an
intellectual creature, is necessary in the next degree to
perception. It is of so great moment, that, where it is wanting, all
the rest of our faculties are in a great measure useless. And we in
our thoughts, reasonings, and knowledge, could not proceed beyond
present objects, were it not for the assistance of our memories;
wherein there may be two defects:-
First, That it loses the idea quite, and so far it produces
perfect ignorance. For, since we can know nothing further than we have
the idea of it, when that is gone, we are in perfect ignorance.
Secondly, That it moves slowly, and retrieves not the ideas that
it has, and are laid up in store, quick enough to serve the mind
upon occasion. This, if it be to a great degree, is stupidity; and
he who, through this default in his memory, has not the ideas that are
really preserved there, ready at hand when need and occasion calls for
them, were almost as good be without them quite, since they serve
him to little purpose. The dull man, who loses the opportunity, whilst
he is seeking in his mind for those ideas that should serve his
turn, is not much more happy in his knowledge than one that is
perfectly ignorant. It is the business therefore of the memory to
furnish to the mind those dormant ideas which it has present
occasion for; in the having them ready at hand on all occasions,
consists that which we call invention, fancy, and quickness of parts.
9. A defect which belongs to the memory of man, as finite. These are
defects we may observe in the memory of one man compared with another.
There is another defect which we may conceive to be in the memory of
man in general;- compared with some superior created intellectual
beings, which in this faculty may so far excel man, that they may have
constantly in view the whole scene of all their former actions,
wherein no one of the thoughts they have ever had may slip out of
their sight. The omniscience of God, who knows all things, past,
present, and to come, and to whom the thoughts of men's hearts
always lie open, may satisfy us of the possibility of this. For who
can doubt but God may communicate to those glorious spirits, his
immediate attendants, any of his perfections; in what proportions he
pleases, as far as created finite beings can be capable? It is
reported of that prodigy of parts, Monsieur Pascal, that till the
decay of his health had impaired his memory, he forgot nothing of what
he had done, read, or thought, in any part of his rational age. This
is a privilege so little known to most men, that it seems almost
incredible to those who, after the ordinary way, measure all others by
themselves; but yet, when considered, may help us to enlarge our
thoughts towards greater perfections of it, in superior ranks of
spirits. For this of Monsieur Pascal was still with the narrowness
that human minds are confined to here,- of having great variety of
ideas only by succession, not all at once. Whereas the several degrees
of angels may probably have larger views; and some of them be
endowed with capacities able to retain together, and constantly set
before them, as in one picture, all their past knowledge at once.
This, we may conceive, would be no small advantage to the knowledge of
a thinking man,- if all his past thoughts and reasonings could be
always present to him. And therefore we may suppose it one of those
ways, wherein the knowledge of separate spirits may exceedingly
surpass ours.
10. Brutes have memory. This faculty of laying up and retaining
the ideas that are brought into the mind, several other animals seem
to have to a great degree, as well as man. For, to pass by other
instances, birds learning of tunes, and the endeavours one may observe
in them to hit the notes right, put it past doubt with me, that they
have perception, and retain ideas in their memories, and use them
for patterns. For it seems to me impossible that they should endeavour
to conform their voices to notes (as it is plain they do) of which
they had no ideas. For, though I should grant sound may mechanically
cause a certain motion of the animal spirits in the brains of those
birds, whilst the tune is actually playing; and that motion may be
continued on to the muscles of the wings, and so the bird mechanically
be driven away by certain noises, because this may tend to the
bird's preservation; yet that can never be supposed a reason why it
should cause mechanically- either whilst the tune is playing, much
less after it has ceased- such a motion of the organs in the bird's
voice as should conform it to the notes of a foreign sound, which
imitation can be of no use to the bird's preservation. But, which is
more, it cannot with any appearance of reason be supposed (much less
proved) that birds, without sense and memory, can approach their notes
nearer and nearer by degrees to a tune played yesterday; which if they
have no idea of in their memory, is now nowhere, nor can be a
pattern for them to imitate, or which any repeated essays can bring
them nearer to. Since there is no reason why the sound of a pipe
should leave traces in their brains, which, not at first, but by their
after-endeavours, should produce the like sounds; and why the sounds
they make themselves, should not make traces which they should follow,
as well as those of the pipe, is impossible to conceive.
Chapter XI
Of Discerning, and other operations of the Mind

1. No knowledge without discernment. Another faculty we may take
notice of in our minds is that of discerning and distinguishing
between the several ideas it has. It is not enough to have a
confused perception of something in general. Unless the mind had a
distinct perception of different objects and their qualities, it would
be capable of very little knowledge, though the bodies that affect
us were as busy about us as they are now, and the mind were
continually employed in thinking. On this faculty of distinguishing
one thing from another depends the evidence and certainty of
several, even very general, propositions, which have passed for innate
truths;- because men, overlooking the true cause why those
propositions find universal assent, impute it wholly to native uniform
impressions; whereas it in truth depends upon this clear discerning
faculty of the mind, whereby it perceives two ideas to be the same, or
different. But of this more hereafter.
2. The difference of wit and judgment. How much the imperfection
of accurately discriminating ideas one from another lies, either in
the dulness or faults of the organs of sense; or want of acuteness,
exercise, or attention in the understanding; or hastiness and
precipitancy, natural to some tempers, I will not here examine: it
suffices to take notice, that this is one of the operations that the
mind may reflect on and observe in itself It is of that consequence to
its other knowledge, that so far as this faculty is in itself dull, or
not rightly made use of, for the distinguishing one thing from
another,- so far our notions are confused, and our reason and judgment
disturbed or misled. If in having our ideas in the memory ready at
hand consists quickness of parts; in this, of having them
unconfused, and being able nicely to distinguish one thing from
another, where there is but the least difference, consists, in a great
measure, the exactness of judgment, and clearness of reason, which
is to be observed in one man above another. And hence perhaps may be
given some reason of that common observation,- that men who have a
great deal of wit, and prompt memories, have not always the clearest
judgment or deepest reason. For wit lying most in the assemblage of
ideas, and putting those together with quickness and variety,
wherein can be found any resemblance or congruity, thereby to make
up pleasant pictures and agreeable visions in the fancy; judgment,
on the contrary, lies quite on the other side, in separating
carefully, one from another, ideas wherein can be found the least
difference, thereby to avoid being misled by similitude, and by
affinity to take one thing for another. This is a way of proceeding
quite contrary to metaphor and allusion; wherein for the most part
lies that entertainment and pleasantry of wit, which strikes so lively
on the fancy, and therefore is so acceptable to all people, because
its beauty appears at first sight, and there is required no labor of
thought to examine what truth or reason there is in it. The mind,
without looking any further, rests satisfied with the agreeableness of
the picture and the gaiety of the fancy. And it is a kind of affront
to go about to examine it, by the severe rules of truth and good
reason; whereby it appears that it consists in something that is not
perfectly conformable to them.
3. Clearness done hinders confusion. To the well distinguishing
our ideas, it chiefly contributes that they be clear and
determinate. And when they are so, it will not breed any confusion
or mistake about them, though the senses should (as sometimes they do)
convey them from the same object differently on different occasions,
and so seem to err. For, though a man in a fever should from sugar
have a bitter taste, which at another time would produce a sweet
one, yet the idea of bitter in that man's mind would be as clear and
distinct from the idea of sweet as if he had tasted only gall. Nor
does it make any more confusion between the two ideas of sweet and
bitter, that the same sort of body produces at one time one, and at
another time another idea by the taste, than it makes a confusion in
two ideas of white and sweet, or white and round, that the same
piece of sugar produces them both in the mind at the same time. And
the ideas of orange-colour and azure, that are produced in the mind by
the same parcel of the infusion of lignum nephriticum, are no less
distinct ideas than those of the same colours taken from two very
different bodies.
4. Comparing. The COMPARING them one with another, in respect of
extent, degrees, time, place, or any other circumstances, is another
operation of the mind about its ideas, and is that upon which
depends all that large tribe of ideas comprehended under relation;
which, of how vast an extent it is, I shall have occasion to
consider hereafter.
5. Brutes compare but imperfectly. How far brutes partake in this
faculty, is not easy to determine. I imagine they have it not in any
great degree: for, though they probably have several ideas distinct
enough, yet it seems to me to be the prerogative of human
understanding, when it has sufficiently distinguished any ideas, so as
to perceive them to be perfectly different, and so consequently two,
to cast about and consider in what circumstances they are capable to
be compared. And therefore, I think, beasts compare not their ideas
further than some sensible circumstances annexed to the objects
themselves. The other power of comparing, which may be observed in
men, belonging to general ideas, and useful only to abstract
reasonings, we may probably conjecture beasts have not.
6. Compounding. The next operation we may observe in the mind
about its ideas is COMPOSITION; whereby it puts together several of
those simple ones it has received from sensation and reflection, and
combines them into complex ones. Under this of composition may be
reckoned also that of enlarging, wherein, though the composition
does not so much appear as in more complex ones, yet it is
nevertheless a putting several ideas together, though of the same
kind. Thus, by adding several units together, we make the idea of a
dozen; and putting together the repeated ideas of several perches,
we frame that of a furlong.
7. Brutes compound but little. In this also, I suppose, brutes
come far short of man. For, though they take in, and retain
together, several combinations of simple ideas, as possibly the shape,
smell, and voice of his master make up the complex idea a dog has of
him, or rather are so many distinct marks whereby he knows him; yet
I do not think they do of themselves ever compound them and make
complex ideas. And perhaps even where we think they have complex
ideas, it is only one simple one that directs them in the knowledge of
several things, which possibly they distinguish less by their sight
than we imagine. For I have been credibly informed that a bitch will
nurse, play with, and be fond of young foxes, as much as, and in place
of her puppies, if you can but get them once to suck her so long
that her milk may go through them. And those animals which have a
numerous brood of young ones at once, appear not to have any knowledge
of their number; for though they are mightily concerned for any of
their young that are taken from them whilst they are in sight or
hearing, yet if one or two of them be stolen from them in their
absence, or without noise, they appear not to miss them, or to have
any sense that their number is lessened.
8. Naming. When children have, by repeated sensations, got ideas
fixed in their memories, they begin by degrees to learn the use of
signs. And when they have got the skill to apply the organs of
speech to the framing of articulate sounds, they begin to make use
of words, to signify their ideas to others. These verbal signs they
sometimes borrow from others, and sometimes make themselves, as one
may observe among the new and unusual names children often give to
things in the first use of language.
9. Abstraction. The use of words then being to stand as outward
marks of our internal ideas, and those ideas being taken from
particular things, if every particular idea that we take in should
have a distinct name, names must be endless. To prevent this, the mind
makes the particular ideas received from particular objects to
become general; which is done by considering them as they are in the
mind such appearances,- separate from all other existences, and the
circumstances of real existence, as time, place, or any other
concomitant ideas. This is called ABSTRACTION, whereby ideas taken
from particular beings become general representatives of all of the
same kind; and their names general names, applicable to whatever
exists conformable to such abstract ideas. Such precise, naked
appearances in the mind, without considering how, whence, or with what
others they came there, the understanding lays up (with names commonly
annexed to them) as the standards to rank real existences into
sorts, as they agree with these patterns, and to denominate them
accordingly. Thus the same colour being observed to-day in chalk or
snow, which the mind yesterday received from milk, it considers that
appearance alone, makes it a representative of all of that kind; and
having given it the name whiteness, it by that sound signifies the
same quality wheresoever to be imagined or met with; and thus
universals, whether ideas or terms, are made.
10. Brutes abstract not. If it may be doubted whether beasts
compound and enlarge their ideas that way to any degree; this, I
think, I may be positive in,- that the power of abstracting is not
at all in them; and that the having of general ideas is that which
puts a perfect distinction betwixt man and brutes, and is an
excellency which the faculties of brutes do by no means attain to. For
it is evident we observe no footsteps in them of making use of general
signs for universal ideas; from which we have reason to imagine that
they have not the faculty of abstracting, or making general ideas,
since they have no use of words, or any other general signs.
11. Brutes abstract not, yet are not bare machines. Nor can it be
imputed to their want of fit organs to frame articulate sounds, that
they have no use or knowledge of general words; since many of them, we
find, can fashion such sounds, and pronounce words distinctly
enough, but never with any such application. And, on the other side,
men who, through some defect in the organs, want words, yet fail not
to express their universal ideas by signs, which serve them instead of
general words, a faculty which we see beasts come short in. And,
therefore, I think, we may suppose, that it is in this that the
species of brutes are discriminated from man: and it is that proper
difference wherein they are wholly separated, and which at last widens
to so vast a distance. For if they have any ideas at all, and are
not bare machines, (as some would have them,) we cannot deny them to
have some reason. It seems as evident to me, that they do some of them
in certain instances reason, as that they have sense; but it is only
in particular ideas, just as they received them from their senses.
They are the best of them tied up within those narrow bounds, and have
not (as I think) the faculty to enlarge them by any kind of
12. Idiots and madmen. How far idiots are concerned in the want or
weakness of any, or all of the foregoing faculties, an exact
observation of their several ways of faultering would no doubt
discover. For those who either perceive but dully, or retain the ideas
that come into their minds but ill, who cannot readily excite or
compound them, will have little matter to think on. Those who cannot
distinguish, compare, and abstract, would hardly be able to understand
and make use of language, or judge or reason to any tolerable
degree; but only a little and imperfectly about things present, and
very familiar to their senses. And indeed any of the forementioned
faculties, if wanting, or out of order, produce suitable defects in
men's understandings and knowledge.
13. Difference between idiots and madmen. In fine, the defect in
naturals seems to proceed from want of quickness, activity, and motion
in the intellectual faculties, whereby they are deprived of reason;
whereas madmen, on the other side, seem to suffer by the other
extreme. For they do not appear to me to have lost the faculty of
reasoning, but having joined together some ideas very wrongly, they
mistake them for truths; and they err as men do that argue right
from wrong principles. For, by the violence of their imaginations,
having taken their fancies for realities, they make right deductions
from them. Thus you shall find a distracted man fancying himself a
king, with a right inference require suitable attendance, respect, and
obedience: others who have thought themselves made of glass, have used
the caution necessary to preserve such brittle bodies. Hence it
comes to pass that a man who is very sober, and of a right
understanding in all other things, may in one particular be as frantic
as any in Bedlam; if either by any sudden very strong impression, or
long fixing his fancy upon one sort of thoughts, incoherent ideas have
been cemented together so powerfully, as to remain united. But there
are degrees of madness, as of folly; the disorderly jumbling ideas
together is in some more, and some less. In short, herein seems to lie
the difference between idiots and madmen: that madmen put wrong
ideas together, and so make wrong propositions, but argue and reason
right from them; but idiots make very few or no propositions, and
reason scarce at all.
14. Method followed in this explication of faculties. These, I
think, are the first faculties and operations of the mind, which it
makes use of in understanding; and though they are exercised about all
its ideas in general, yet the instances I have hitherto given have
been chiefly in simple ideas. And I have subjoined the explication
of these faculties of the mind to that of simple ideas, before I
come to what I have to say concerning complex ones, for these
following reasons:-
First, Because several of these faculties being exercised at first
principally about simple ideas, we might, by following nature in its
ordinary method, trace and discover them, in their rise, progress, and
gradual improvements.
Secondly, Because observing the faculties of the mind, how they
operate about simple ideas,- which are usually, in most men's minds,
much more clear, precise, and distinct than complex ones,- we may
the better examine and learn how the mind extracts, denominates,
compares, and exercises, in its other operations about those which are
complex, wherein we are much more liable to mistake.
Thirdly, Because these very operations of the mind about ideas
received from sensations, are themselves, when reflected on, another
set of ideas, derived from that other source of our knowledge, which I
call reflection; and therefore fit to be considered in this place
after the simple ideas of sensation. Of compounding, comparing,
abstracting, &c., I have but just spoken, having occasion to treat
of them more at large in other places.
15. The true beginning of human knowledge. And thus I have given a
short, and, I think, true history of the first beginnings of human
knowledge;- whence the mind has its first objects; and by what steps
it makes its progress to the laying in and storing up those ideas, out
of which is to be framed all the knowledge it is capable of: wherein I
must appeal to experience and observation whether I am in the right:
the best way to come to truth being to examine things as really they
are, and not to conclude they are, as we fancy of ourselves, or have
been taught by others to imagine.
16. Appeal to experience. To deal truly, this is the only way that I
can discover, whereby the ideas of things are brought into the
understanding. If other men have either innate ideas or infused
principles, they have reason to enjoy them; and if they are sure of
it, it is impossible for others to deny them the privilege that they
have above their neighbours. I can speak but of what I find in myself,
and is agreeable to those notions, which, if we will examine the whole
course of men in their several ages, countries, and educations, seem
to depend on those foundations which I have laid, and to correspond
with this method in all the parts and degrees thereof.
17. Dark room. I pretend not to teach, but to inquire; and therefore
cannot but confess here again,- that external and internal sensation
are the only passages I can find of knowledge to the understanding.
These alone, as far as I can discover, are the windows by which
light is let into this dark room. For, methinks, the understanding
is not much unlike a closet wholly shut from light, with only some
little openings left, to let in external visible resemblances, or
ideas of things without: would the pictures coming into such a dark
room but stay there, and lie so orderly as to be found upon
occasion, it would very much resemble the understanding of a man, in
reference to all objects of sight, and the ideas of them.
These are my guesses concerning the means whereby the
understanding comes to have and retain simple ideas, and the modes
of them, with some other operations about them.
I proceed now to examine some of these simple ideas and their
modes a little more particularly.
Chapter XII
Of Complex Ideas

1. Made by the mind out of simple ones. We have hitherto
considered those ideas, in the reception whereof the mind is only
passive, which are those simple ones received from sensation and
reflection before mentioned, whereof the mind cannot make one to
itself, nor have any idea which does not wholly consist of them. But
as the mind is wholly passive in the reception of all its simple
ideas, so it exerts several acts of its own, whereby out of its simple
ideas, as the materials and foundations of the rest, the others are
framed. The acts of the mind, wherein it exerts its power over its
simple ideas, are chiefly these three: (1) Combining several simple
ideas into one compound one; and thus all complex ideas are made.
(2) The second is bringing two ideas, whether simple or complex,
together, and setting them by one another, so as to take a view of
them at once, without uniting them into one; by which way it gets
all its ideas of relations. (3) The third is separating them from
all other ideas that accompany them in their real existence: this is
called abstraction: and thus all its general ideas are made. This
shows man's power, and its ways of operation, to be much the same in
the material and intellectual world. For the materials in both being
such as he has no power over, either to make or destroy, all that
man can do is either to unite them together, or to set them by one
another, or wholly separate them. I shall here begin with the first of
these in the consideration of complex ideas, and come to the other two
in their due places. As simple ideas are observed to exist in
several combinations united together, so the mind has a power to
consider several of them united together as one idea; and that not
only as they are united in external objects, but as itself has
joined them together. Ideas thus made up of several simple ones put
together, I call complex;- such as are beauty, gratitude, a man, an
army, the universe; which, though complicated of various simple ideas,
or complex ideas made up of simple ones, yet are, when the mind
pleases, considered each by itself, as one entire thing, and signified
by one name.
2. Made voluntarily. In this faculty of repeating and joining
together its ideas, the mind has great power in varying and
multiplying the objects of its thoughts, infinitely beyond what
sensation or reflection furnished it with: but all this still confined
to those simple ideas which it received from those two sources, and
which are the ultimate materials of all its compositions. For simple
ideas are all from things themselves, and of these the mind can have
no more, nor other than what are suggested to it. It can have no other
ideas of sensible qualities than what come from without by the senses;
nor any ideas of other kind of operations of a thinking substance,
than what it finds in itself But when it has once got these simple
ideas, it is not confined barely to observation, and what offers
itself from without; it can, by its own power, put together those
ideas it has, and make new complex ones, which it never received so
3. Complex ideas are either of modes, substances, or relations.
COMPLEX IDEAS, however compounded and decompounded, though their
number be infinite, and the variety endless, wherewith they fill and
entertain the thoughts of men; yet I think they may be all reduced
under these three heads:-


4. Ideas of modes. First, Modes I call such complex ideas which,
however compounded, contain not in them the supposition of
subsisting by themselves, but are considered as dependences on, or
affections of substances;- such as are the ideas signified by the
words triangle, gratitude, murder, &c. And if in this I use the word
mode in somewhat a different sense from its ordinary signification,
I beg pardon; it being unavoidable in discourses, differing from the
ordinary received notions, either to make new words, or to use old
words in somewhat a new signification; the later whereof, in our
present case, is perhaps the more tolerable of the two.
5. Simple and mixed modes of simple ideas. Of these modes, there are
two sorts which deserve distinct consideration:
First, there are some which are only variations, or different
combinations of the same simple idea, without the mixture of any
other;- as a dozen, or score; which are nothing but the ideas of so
many distinct units added together, and these I call simple modes as
being contained within the bounds of one simple idea.
Secondly, there are others compounded of simple ideas of several
kinds, put together to make one complex one;- v.g. beauty,
consisting of a certain composition of colour and figure, causing
delight to the beholder; theft, which being the concealed change of
the possession of anything, without the consent of the proprietor,
contains, as is visible, a combination of several ideas of several
kinds: and these I call mixed modes.
6. Ideas of substances, single or collective. Secondly, the ideas of
Substances are such combinations of simple ideas as are taken to
represent distinct particular things subsisting by themselves; the
supposed or confused idea of substance, such as it is, is always the
first and chief Thus if to substance be joined the simple idea of a
certain dull whitish colour, with certain degrees of weight, hardness,
ductility, and fusibility, we have the idea of lead; and a combination
of the ideas of a certain sort of figure, with the powers of motion,
thought and reasoning, joined to substance, the ordinary idea of a
man. Now of substances also, there are two sorts of ideas:- one of
single substances, as they exist separately, as of a man or a sheep;
the other of several of those put together, as an army of men, or
flock of sheep- which collective ideas of several substances thus
put together are as much each of them one single idea as that of a man
or an unit.
7. Ideas of relation. Thirdly, the last sort of complex ideas is
that we call Relation, which consists in the consideration and
comparing one idea with another.
Of these several kinds we shall treat in their order.
8. The abstrusest ideas we can have are all from two sources. If
we trace the progress of our minds, and with attention observe how
it repeats, adds together, and unites its simple ideas received from
sensation or reflection, it will lead us further than at first perhaps
we should have imagined. And, I believe, we shall find, if we warily
observe the originals of our notions, that even the most abstruse
ideas, how remote soever they may seem from sense, or from any
operations of our own minds, are yet only such as the understanding
frames to itself, by repeating and joining together ideas that it
had either from objects of sense, or from its own operations about
them: so that those even large and abstract ideas are derived from
sensation or reflection, being no other than what the mind, by the
ordinary use of its own faculties, employed about ideas received
from objects of sense, or from the operations it observes in itself
about them, may, and does, attain unto.
This I shall endeavour to show in the ideas we have of space,
time, and infinity, and some few others that seem the most remote,
from those originals.
Chapter XIII
Complex Ideas of Simple Modes:-
and First, of the Simple Modes of the Idea of Space

1. Simple modes of simple ideas. Though in the foregoing part I have
often mentioned simple ideas, which are truly the materials of all our
knowledge; yet having treated of them there, rather in the way that
they come into the mind, than as distinguished from others more
compounded, it will not be perhaps amiss to take a view of some of
them again under this consideration, and examine those different
modifications of the same idea; which the mind either finds in
things existing, or is able to make within itself without the help
of any extrinsical object, or any foreign suggestion.
Those modifications of any one simple idea (which, as has been said,
I call simple modes) are as perfectly different and distinct ideas
in the mind as those of the greatest distance or contrariety. For
the idea of two is as distinct from that of one, as blueness from
heat, or either of them from any number: and yet it is made up only of
that simple idea of an unit repeated; and repetitions of this kind
joined together make those distinct simple modes, of a dozen, a gross,
a million.
2. Idea of Space. I shall begin with the simple idea of space. I
have showed above, chap. V, that we get the idea of space, both by our
sight and touch; which, I think, is so evident, that it would be as
needless to go to prove that men perceive, by their sight, a
distance between bodies of different colours, or between the parts
of the same body, as that they see colours themselves: nor is it
less obvious, that they can do so in the dark by feeling and touch.
3. Space and extension. This space, considered barely in length
between any two beings, without considering anything else between
them, is called distance: if considered in length, breadth, and
thickness, I think it may be called capacity. (The term extension is
usually applied to it in what manner soever considered.)
4. Immensity. Each different distance is a different modification of
space; and each idea of any different distance, or space, is a
simple mode of this idea. Men, for the use and by the custom of
measuring, settle in their minds the ideas of certain stated lengths,-
such as are an inch, foot, yard, fathom, mile, diameter of the
earth, &c., which are so many distinct ideas made up only of space.
When any such stated lengths or measures of space are made familiar to
men's thoughts, they can, in their minds, repeat them as often as they
will, without mixing or joining to them the idea of body, or
anything else; and frame to themselves the ideas of long, square, or
cubic feet, yards or fathoms, here amongst the bodies of the universe,
or else beyond the utmost bounds of all bodies; and, by adding these
still one to another, enlarge their ideas of space as much as they
please. The power of repeating or doubling any idea we have of any
distance and adding it to the former as often as we will, without
being ever able to come to any stop or stint, let us enlarge it as
much as we will, is that which gives us the idea of immensity.
5. Figure. There is another modification of this idea, which is
nothing but the relation which the parts of the termination of
extension, or circumscribed space, have amongst themselves. This the
touch discovers in sensible bodies, whose extremities come within
our reach; and the eye takes both from bodies and colours, whose
boundaries are within its view: where, observing how the extremities
terminate,- either in straight lines which meet at discernible angles,
or in crooked lines wherein no angles can be perceived; by considering
these as they relate to one another, in all parts of the extremities
of any body or space, it has that idea we call figure, which affords
to the mind infinite variety. For, besides the vast number of
different figures that do really exist, in the coherent masses of
matter, the stock that the mind has in its power, by varying the
idea of space, and thereby making still new compositions, by repeating
its own ideas, and joining them as it pleases, is perfectly
inexhaustible. And so it can multiply figures in infinitum.
6. Endless variety of figures. For the mind having a power to repeat
the idea of any length directly stretched out, and join it to
another in the same direction, which is to double the length of that
straight line; or else join another with what inclination it thinks
fit, and so make what sort of angle it pleases: and being able also to
shorten any line it imagines, by taking from it one half, one
fourth, or what part it pleases, without being able to come to an
end of any such divisions, it can make an angle of any bigness. So
also the lines that are its sides, of what length it pleases, which
joining again to other lines, of different lengths, and at different
angles, till it has wholly enclosed any space, it is evident that it
can multiply figures, both in their shape and capacity, in
infinitum; all which are but so many different simple modes of space.
The same that it can do with straight lines, it can also do with
crooked, or crooked and straight together; and the same it can do in
lines, it can also in superficies; by which we may be led into farther
thoughts of the endless variety of figures that the mind has a power
to make, and thereby to multiply the simple modes of space.
7. Place. Another idea coming under this head, and belonging to this
tribe, is that we call place. As in simple space, we consider the
relation of distance between any two bodies or points; so in our
idea of place, we consider the relation of distance betwixt
anything, and any two or more points, which are considered as
keeping the same distance one with another, and so considered as at
rest. For when we find anything at the same distance now which it
was yesterday, from any two or more points, which have not since
changed their distance one with another, and with which we then
compared it, we say it hath kept the same place: but if it hath
sensibly altered its distance with either of those points, we say it
hath changed its place: though, vulgarly speaking, in the common
notion of place, we do not always exactly observe the distance from
these precise points, but from larger portions of sensible objects, to
which we consider the thing placed to bear relation, and its
distance from which we have some reason to observe.
8. Place relative to particular bodies. Thus, a company of
chess-men, standing on the same squares of the chess-board where we
left them, we say they are all in the same place, or unmoved, though
perhaps the chess-board hath been in the mean time carried out of
one room into another; because we compared them only to the parts of
the chess-board, which keep the same distance one with another. The
chess-board, we also say, is in the same place it was, if it remain in
the same part of the cabin, though perhaps the ship which it is in
sails all the while. And the ship is said to be in the same place,
supposing it kept the same distance with the parts of the neighbouring
land; though perhaps the earth hath turned round, and so both
chess-men, and board, and ship, have every one changed place, in
respect of remoter bodies, which have kept the same distance one
with another. But yet the distance from certain parts of the board
being that which determines the place of the chessmen; and the
distance from the fixed parts of the cabin (with which we made the
comparison) being that which determined the place of the
chess-board; and the fixed parts of the earth that by which we
determined the place of the ship,- these things may be said to be in
the same place in those respects: though their distance from some
other things, which in this matter we did not consider, being
varied, they have undoubtedly changed place in that respect; and we
ourselves shall think so, when we have occasion to compare them with
those other.
9. Place relative to a present purpose. But this modification of
distance we call place, being made by men for their common use, that
by it they might be able to design the particular position of
things, where they had occasion for such designation; men consider and
determine of this place by reference to those adjacent things which
best served to their present purpose, without considering other things
which, to another purpose, would better determine the place of the
same thing. Thus in the chess-board, the use of the designation of the
place of each chess-man being determined only within that chequered
piece of wood, it would cross that purpose to measure it by anything
else; but when these very chess-men are put up in a bag, if any one
should ask where the black king is, it would be proper to determine
the place by the part of the room it was in, and not by the
chess-board; there being another use of designing the place it is
now in, than when in play it was on the chess-board, and so must be
determined by other bodies. So if any one should ask, in what place
are the verses which report the story of Nisus and Euryalus, it
would be very improper to determine this place, by saying, they were
in such a part of the earth, or in Bodley's library: but the right
designation of the place would be by the parts of Virgil's works;
and the proper answer would be, that these verses were about the
middle of the ninth book of his AEneids, and that they have been
always constantly in the same place ever since Virgil was printed:
which is true, though the book itself hath moved a thousand times, the
use of the idea of place here being, to know in what part of the
book that story is, that so, upon occasion, we may know where to
find it, and have recourse to it for use.
10. Place of the universe. That our idea of place is nothing else
but such a relative position of anything as I have before mentioned, I
think is plain, and will be easily admitted, when we consider that
we can have no idea of the place of the universe, though we can of all
the parts of it; because beyond that we have not the idea of any
fixed, distinct, particular beings, in reference to which we can
imagine it to have any relation of distance; but all beyond it is
one uniform space or expansion, wherein the mind finds no variety,
no marks. For to say that the world is somewhere, means no more than
that it does exist; this, though a phrase borrowed from place,
signifying only its existence, not location: and when one can find
out, and frame in his mind, clearly and distinctly, the place of the
universe, he will be able to tell us whether it moves or stands
still in the undistinguishable inane of infinite space: though it be
true that the word place has sometimes a more confused sense, and
stands for that space which anybody takes up; and so the universe is
in a place.
The idea, therefore, of place we have by the same means that we
get the idea of space, (whereof this is but a particular limited
consideration,) viz, by our sight and touch; by either of which we
receive into our minds the ideas of extension or distance.
11. Extension and body not the same. There are some that would
persuade us, that body and extension are the same thing, who either
change the signification of words, which I would not suspect them of,-
they having so severely condemned the philosophy of others, because it
hath been too much placed in the uncertain meaning, or deceitful
obscurity of doubtful or insignificant terms. If, therefore, they mean
by body and extension the same that other people do, viz. by body
something that is solid and extended, whose parts are separable and
movable different ways; and by extension, only the space that lies
between the extremities of those solid coherent parts, and which is
possessed by them,- they confound very different ideas one with
another; for I appeal to every man's own thoughts whether the idea
of space be not as distinct from that of solidity, as it is from the
idea of scarlet colour? It is true, solidity cannot exist without
extension, neither can scarlet colour exist without extension, but
this hinders not, but that they are distinct ideas. Many ideas require
others, as necessary to their existence or conception, which yet are
very distinct ideas. Motion can neither be, nor be conceived,
without space; and yet motion is not space, nor space motion; space
can exist without it, and they are very distinct ideas; and so, I
think, are those of space and solidity. Solidity is so inseparable
an idea from body, that upon that depends its filling of space, its
contact, impulse, and communication of motion upon impulse. And if
it be a reason to prove that spirit is different from body, because
thinking includes not the idea of extension in it; the same reason
will be as valid, I suppose, to prove that space is not body,
because it includes not the idea of solidity in it; space and solidity
being as distinct ideas as thinking and extension, and as wholly
separable in the mind one from another. Body then and extension, it is
evident, are two distinct ideas. For,
12. Extension not solidity. First, Extension includes no solidity,
nor resistance to the motion of body, as body does.
13. The parts of space inseparable, both really and mentally.
Secondly, The parts of pure space are inseparable one from the
other; so that the continuity cannot be separated, neither really
nor mentally. For I demand of any one to remove any part of it from
another, with which it is continued, even so much as in thought. To
divide and separate actually is, as I think, by removing the parts one
from another, to make two superficies, where before there was a
continuity: and to divide mentally is, to make in the mind two
superficies, where before there was a continuity, and consider them as
removed one from the other; which can only be done in things
considered by the mind as capable of being separated; and by
separation, of acquiring new distinct superficies, which they then
have not, but are capable of But neither of these ways of
separation, whether real or mental, is, as I think, compatible to pure
It is true, a man may consider so much of such a space as is
answerable or commensurate to a foot, without considering the rest,
which is, indeed, a partial consideration, but not so much as mental
separation or division; since a man can no more mentally divide,
without considering two superficies separate one from the other,
than he can actually divide, without making two superficies
disjoined one from the other: but a partial consideration is not
separating. A man may consider light in the sun without its heat, or
mobility in body without its extension, without thinking of their
separation. One is only a partial consideration, terminating in one
alone; and the other is a consideration of both, as existing
14. The parts of space, immovable. Thirdly, The parts of pure
space are immovable, which follows from their inseparability; motion
being nothing but change of distance between any two things; but
this cannot be between parts that are inseparable, which, therefore,
must needs be at perpetual rest one amongst another.
Thus the determined idea of simple space distinguishes it plainly
and sufficiently from body; since its parts are inseparable,
immovable, and without resistance to the motion of body.
15. The definition of extension explains it not. If any one ask me
what this space I speak of is, I will tell him when he tells me what
his extension is. For to say, as is usually done, that extension is to
have partes extra partes, is to say only, that extension is extension.
For what am I the better informed in the nature of extension, when I
am told that extension is to have parts that are extended, exterior to
parts that are extended, i.e. extension consists of extended parts? As
if one, asking what a fibre was, I should answer him,- that it was a
thing made up of several fibres. Would he thereby be enabled to
understand what a fibre was better than he did before? Or rather,
would he not have reason to think that my design was to make sport
with him, rather than seriously to instruct him?
16. Division of beings into bodies and spirits proves not space
and body the same. Those who contend that space and body are the same,
bring this dilemma:- either this space is something or nothing; if
nothing be between two bodies, they must necessarily touch; if it be
allowed to be something, they ask, Whether it be body or spirit? To
which I answer by another question, Who told them that there was, or
could be, nothing but solid beings, which could not think, and
thinking beings that were not extended?- which is all they mean by the
terms body and spirit.
17. Substance which we know not, no proof against space without
body. If it be demanded (as usually it is) whether this space, void of
body, be substance or accident, I shall readily answer I know not; nor
shall be ashamed to own my ignorance, till they that ask show me a
clear distinct idea of substance.
18. Different meanings of substance. I endeavour as much as I can to
deliver myself from those fallacies which we are apt to put upon
ourselves, by taking words for things. It helps not our ignorance to
feign a knowledge where we have none, by making a noise with sounds,
without clear and distinct significations. Names made at pleasure,
neither alter the nature of things, nor make us understand them, but
as they are signs of and stand for determined ideas. And I desire
those who lay so much stress on the sound of these two syllables,
substance, to consider whether applying it, as they do, to the
infinite, incomprehensible God, to finite spirits, and to body, it
be in the same sense; and whether it stands for the same idea, when
each of those three so different beings are called substances. If
so, whether it will thence follow- that God, spirits, and body,
agreeing in the same common nature of substance, differ not any
otherwise than in a bare different modification of that substance;
as a tree and a pebble, being in the same sense body, and agreeing
in the common nature of body, differ only in a bare modification of
that common matter, which will be a very harsh doctrine. If they
say, that they apply it to God, finite spirit, and matter, in three
different significations and that it stands for one idea when God is
said to be a substance; for another when the soul is called substance;
and for a third when body is called so;- if the name substance
stands for three several distinct ideas, they would do well to make
known those distinct ideas, or at least to give three distinct names
to them, to prevent in so important a notion the confusion and
errors that will naturally follow from the promiscuous use of so
doubtful a term; which is so far from being suspected to have three
distinct, that in ordinary use it has scarce one clear distinct
signification. And if they can thus make three distinct ideas of
substance, what hinders why another may not make a fourth?
19. Substance and accidents of little use in philosophy. They who
first ran into the notion of accidents, as a sort of real beings
that needed something to inhere in, were forced to find out the word
substance to support them. Had the poor Indian philosopher (who
imagined that the earth also wanted something to bear it up) but
thought of this word substance, he needed not to have been at the
trouble to find an elephant to support it, and a tortoise to support
his elephant: the word substance would have done it effectually. And
he that inquired might have taken it for as good an answer from an
Indian philosopher,- that substance, without knowing what it is, is
that which supports the earth, as we take it for a sufficient answer
and good doctrine from our European philosophers,- that substance,
without knowing what it is, is that which supports accidents. So
that of substance, we have no idea of what it is, but only a confused,
obscure one of what it does.
20. Sticking on and under-propping. Whatever a learned man may do
here, an intelligent American, who inquired into the nature of things,
would scarce take it for a satisfactory account, if, desiring to learn
our architecture, he should be told that a pillar is a thing supported
by a basis, and a basis something that supported a pillar. Would he
not think himself mocked, instead of taught, with such an account as
this? And a stranger to them would be very liberally instructed in the
nature of books, and the things they contained, if he should be told
that all learned books consisted of paper and letters, and that
letters were things inhering in paper, and paper a thing that held
forth letters: a notable way of having clear ideas of letters and
paper. But were the Latin words, inhaerentia and substantio, put
into the plain English ones that answer them, and were called sticking
on and under-propping, they would better discover to us the very great
clearness there is in the doctrine of substance and accidents, and
show of what use they are in deciding of questions in philosophy.
21. A vacuum beyond the utmost bounds of body. But to return to
our idea of space. If body be not supposed infinite, (which I think no
one will affirm), I would ask, whether, if God placed a man at the
extremity of corporeal beings, he could not stretch his hand beyond
his body? If he could, then he would put his arm where there was
before space without body; and if there he spread his fingers, there
would still be space between them without body. If he could not
stretch out his hand, it must be because of some external hindrance;
(for we suppose him alive, with such a power of moving the parts of
his body that he hath now, which is not in itself impossible, if God
so pleased to have it; or at least it is not impossible for God so
to move him): and then I ask,- whether that which hinders his hand
from moving outwards be substance or accident, something or nothing?
And when they have resolved that, they will be able to resolve
themselves,- what that is, which is or may be between two bodies at
a distance, that is not body, and has no solidity. In the mean time,
the argument is at least as good, that, where nothing hinders, (as
beyond the utmost bounds of all bodies), a body put in motion may move
on, as where there is nothing between, there two bodies must
necessarily touch. For pure space between is sufficient to take away
the necessity of mutual contact; but bare space in the way is not
sufficient to stop motion. The truth is, these men must either own
that they think body infinite, though they are loth to speak it out,
or else affirm that space is not body. For I would fain meet with that
thinking man that can in his thoughts set any bounds to space, more
than he can to duration; or by thinking hope to arrive at the end of
either. And therefore, if his idea of eternity be infinite, so is
his idea of immensity; they are both finite or infinite alike.
22. The power of annihilation proves a vacuum. Farther, those who
assert the impossibility of space existing without matter, must not
only make body infinite, but must also deny a power in God to
annihilate any part of matter. No one, I suppose, will deny that God
can put an end to all motion that is in matter, and fix all the bodies
of the universe in a perfect quiet and rest, and continue them so long
as he pleases. Whoever then will allow that God can, during such a
general rest, annihilate either this book or the body of him that
reads it, must necessarily admit the possibility of a vacuum. For,
it is evident that the space that was filled by the parts of the
annihilated body will still remain, and be a space without body. For
the circumambient bodies being in perfect rest, are a wall of adamant,
and in that state make it a perfect impossibility for any other body
to get into that space. And indeed the necessary motion of one
particle of matter into the place from whence another particle of
matter is removed, is but a consequence from the supposition of
plenitude; which will therefore need some better proof than a supposed
matter of fact, which experiment can never make out;- our own clear
and distinct ideas plainly satisfying us, that there is no necessary
connexion between space and solidity, since we can conceive the one
without the other. And those who dispute for or against a vacuum, do
thereby confess they have distinct ideas of vacuum and plenum, i.e.
that they have an idea of extension void of solidity, though they deny
its existence; or else they dispute about nothing at all. For they who
so much alter the signification of words, as to call extension body,
and consequently make the whole essence of body to be nothing but pure
extension without solidity, must talk absurdly whenever they speak
of vacuum; since it is impossible for extension to be without
extension. For vacuum, whether we affirm or deny its existence,
signifies space without body; whose very existence no one can deny
to be possible, who will not make matter infinite, and take from God a
power to annihilate any particle of it.
23. Motion proves a vacuum. But not to go so far as beyond the
utmost bounds of body in the universe, nor appeal to God's omnipotency
to find a vacuum, the motion of bodies that are in our view and
neighbourhood seems to me plainly to evince it. For I desire any one
so to divide a solid body, of any dimension he pleases, as to make
it possible for the solid parts to move up and down freely every way
within the bounds of that superficies, if there be not left in it a
void space as big as the least part into which he has divided the said
solid body. And if, where the least particle of the body divided is as
big as a mustard-seed, a void space equal to the bulk of a
mustard-seed be requisite to make room for the free motion of the
parts of the divided body within the bounds of its superficies,
where the particles of matter are 100,000,000 less than a
mustard-seed, there must also be a space void of solid matter as big
as 100,000,000 part of a mustard-seed; for if it hold in the one it
will hold in the other, and so on in infinitum. And let this void
space be as little as it will, it destroys the hypothesis of
plenitude. For if there can be a space void of body equal to the
smallest separate particle of matter now existing in nature, it is
still space without body; and makes as great a difference between
space and body as if it were mega chasma, a distance as wide as any in
nature. And therefore, if we suppose not the void space necessary to
motion equal to the least parcel of the divided solid matter, but to
1/10 or 1/1000 of it, the same consequence will always follow of space
without matter.
24. The ideas of space and body distinct. But the question being
here,- Whether the idea of space or extension be the same with the
idea of body? it is not necessary to prove the real existence of a
vacuum, but the idea of it; which it is plain men have when they
inquire and dispute whether there be a vacuum or no. For if they had
not the idea of space without body, they could not make a question
about its existence: and if their idea of body did not include in it
something more than the bare idea of space, they could have no doubt
about the plenitude of the world; and it would be as absurd to demand,
whether there were space without body, as whether there were space
without space, or body without body, since these were but different
names of the same idea.
25. Extension being inseparable from body, proves it not the same.
It is true, the idea of extension joins itself so inseparably with all
visible, and most tangible qualities, that it suffers us to see no
one, or feel very few external objects, without taking in
impressions of extension too. This readiness of extension to make
itself be taken notice of so constantly with other ideas, has been the
occasion, I guess, that some have made the whole essence of body to
consist in extension; which is not much to be wondered at, since
some have had their minds, by their eyes and touch, (the busiest of
all our senses,) so filled with the idea of extension, and, as it
were, wholly possessed with it, that they allowed no existence to
anything that had not extension. I shall not now argue with those men,
who take the measure and possibility of all being only from their
narrow and gross imaginations: but having here to do only with those
who conclude the essence of body to be extension, because they say
they cannot imagine any sensible quality of any body without
extension,- I shall desire them to consider, that, had they
reflected on their ideas of tastes and smells as much as on those of
sight and touch; nay, had they examined their ideas of hunger and
thirst, and several other pains, they would have found that they
included in them no idea of extension at all, which is but an
affection of body, as well as the rest, discoverable by our senses,
which are scarce acute enough to look into the pure essences of
26. Essences of things. If those ideas which are constantly joined
to all others, must therefore be concluded to be the essence of
those things which have constantly those ideas joined to them, and are
inseparable from them; then unity is without doubt the essence of
everything. For there is not any object of sensation or reflection
which does not carry with it the idea of one: but the weakness of this
kind of argument we have already shown sufficiently.
27. Ideas of space and solidity distinct. To conclude: whatever
men shall think concerning the existence of a vacuum, this is plain to
me- that we have as clear an idea of space distinct from solidity,
as we have of solidity distinct from motion, or motion from space.
We have not any two more distinct ideas; and we can as easily conceive
space without solidity, as we can conceive body or space without
motion, though it be never so certain that neither body nor motion can
exist without space. But whether any one will take space to be only
a relation resulting from the existence of other beings at a distance;
or whether they will think the words of the most knowing King Solomon,
"The heaven, and the heaven of heavens, cannot contain thee"; or those
more emphatical ones of the inspired philosopher St. Paul, "In him
we live, move, and have our being," are to be understood in a
literal sense, I leave every one to consider: only our idea of space
is, I think, such as I have mentioned, and distinct from that of body.
For, whether we consider, in matter itself, the distance of its
coherent solid parts, and call it, in respect of those solid parts,
extension; or whether, considering it as lying between the extremities
of any body in its several dimensions, we call it length, breadth, and
thickness; or else, considering it as lying between any two bodies
or positive beings, without any consideration whether there be any
matter or not between, we call it distance;- however named or
considered, it is always the same uniform simple idea of space,
taken from objects about which our senses have been conversant;
whereof, having settled ideas in our minds, we can revive, repeat, and
add them one to another as often as we will, and consider the space or
distance so imagined, either as filled with solid parts, so that
another body cannot come there without displacing and thrusting out
the body that was there before; or else as void of solidity, so that a
body of equal dimensions to that empty or pure space may be placed
in it, without the removing or expulsion of anything that was there.
But, to avoid confusion in discourses concerning this matter, it
were possibly to be wished that the name extension were applied only
to matter, or the distance of the extremities of particular bodies;
and the term expansion to space in general, with or without solid
matter possessing it,- so as to say space is expanded and body
extended. But in this every one has his liberty: I propose it only for
the more clear and distinct way of speaking.
28. Men differ little in clear, simple ideas. The knowing
precisely what our words stand for, would, I imagine, in this as
well as a great many other cases, quickly end the dispute. For I am
apt to think that men, when they come to examine them, find their
simple ideas all generally to agree, though in discourse with one
another they perhaps confound one another with different names. I
imagine that men who abstract their thoughts, and do well examine
the ideas of their own minds, cannot much differ in thinking;
however they may perplex themselves with words, according to the way
of speaking to the several schools or sects they have been bred up in:
though amongst unthinking men, who examine not scrupulously and
carefully their own ideas, and strip them not from the marks men use
for them, but confound them with words, there must be endless dispute,
wrangling, and jargon; especially if they be learned, bookish men,
devoted to some sect, and accustomed to the language of it, and have
learned to talk after others. But if it should happen that any two
thinking men should really have different ideas, I do not see how they
could discourse or argue with another. Here I must not be mistaken, to
think that every floating imagination in men's brains is presently
of that sort of ideas I speak of. It is not easy for the mind to put
off those confused notions and prejudices it has imbibed from
custom, inadvertency, and common conversation. It requires pains and
assiduity to examine its ideas, till it resolves them into those clear
and distinct simple ones, out of which they are compounded; and to see
which, amongst its simple ones, have or have not a necessary connexion
and dependence one upon another. Till a man doth this in the primary
and original notions of things, he builds upon floating and
uncertain principles, and will often find himself at a loss.
Chapter XIV
Idea of Duration and its Simple Modes

1. Duration is fleeting extension. There is another sort of
distance, or length, the idea whereof we get not from the permanent
parts of space, but from the fleeting and perpetually perishing
parts of succession. This we call duration; the simple modes whereof
are any different lengths of it whereof we have distinct ideas, as
hours, days, years, &c., time and eternity.
2. Its idea from reflection on the train of our ideas. The answer of
a great man, to one who asked what time was: Si non rogas intelligo,
(which amounts to this; The more I set myself to think of it, the less
I understand it,) might perhaps persuade one that time, which
reveals all other things, is itself not to be discovered. Duration,
time, and eternity, are, not without reason, thought to have something
very abstruse in their nature. But however remote these may seem
from our comprehension, yet if we trace them right to their originals,
I doubt not but one of those sources of all our knowledge, viz.
sensation and reflection, will be able to furnish us with these ideas,
as clear and distinct as many others which are thought much less
obscure; and we shall find that the idea of eternity itself is derived
from the same common original with the rest of our ideas.
3. Nature and origin of the idea of duration. To understand time and
eternity aright, we ought with attention to consider what idea it is
we have of duration, and how we came by it. It is evident to any one
who will but observe what passes in his own mind, that there is a
train of ideas which constantly succeed one another in his
understanding, as long as he is awake. Reflection on these appearances
of several ideas one after another in our minds, is that which
furnishes us with the idea of succession: and the distance between any
parts of that succession, or between the appearance of any two ideas
in our minds, is that we call duration. For whilst we are thinking, or
whilst we receive successively several ideas in our minds, we know
that we do exist; and so we call the existence, or the continuation of
the existence of ourselves, or anything else, commensurate to the
succession of any ideas in our minds, the duration of ourselves, or
any such other thing co-existent with our thinking.
4. Proof that its idea is got from reflection on the train of our
ideas. That we have our notion of succession and duration from this
original, viz. from reflection on the train of ideas, which we find to
appear one after another in our own minds, seems plain to me, in
that we have no perception of duration but by considering the train of
ideas that take their turns in our understandings. When that
succession of ideas ceases, our perception of duration ceases with it;
which every one clearly experiments in himself, whilst he sleeps
soundly, whether an hour or a day, a month or a year; of which
duration of things, while he sleeps or thinks not, he has no
perception at all, but it is quite lost to him; and the moment wherein
he leaves off to think, till the moment he begins to think again,
seems to him to have no distance. And so I doubt not it would be to
a waking man, if it were possible for him to keep only one idea in his
mind, without variation and the succession of others. And we see, that
one who fixes his thoughts very intently on one thing, so as to take
but little notice of the succession of ideas that pass in his mind,
whilst he is taken up with that earnest contemplation, lets slip out
of his account a good part of that duration, and thinks that time
shorter than it is. But if sleep commonly unites the distant parts
of duration, it is because during that time we have no succession of
ideas in our minds. For if a man, during his sleep, dreams, and
variety of ideas make themselves perceptible in his mind one after
another, he hath then, during such dreaming, a sense of duration,
and of the length of it. By which it is to me very clear, that men
derive their ideas of duration from their reflections on the train
of the ideas they observe to succeed one another in their own
understandings; without which observation they can have no notion of
duration, whatever may happen in the world.
5. The idea of duration applicable to things whilst we sleep. Indeed
a man having, from reflecting on the succession and number of his
own thoughts, got the notion or idea of duration, he can apply that
notion to things which exist while he does not think; as he that has
got the idea of extension from bodies by his sight or touch, can apply
it to distances, where no body is seen or felt. And therefore,
though a man has no perception of the length of duration which
passed whilst he slept or thought not; yet, having observed the
revolution of days and nights, and found the length of their
duration to be in appearance regular and constant, he can, upon the
supposition that that revolution has proceeded after the same manner
whilst he was asleep or thought not, as it used to do at other
times, he can, I say, imagine and make allowance for the length of
duration whilst he slept. But if Adam and Eve, (when they were alone
in the world), instead of their ordinary night's sleep, had passed the
whole twenty-four hours in one continued sleep, the duration of that
twenty-four hours had been irrecoverably lost to them, and been for
ever left out of their account of time.
6. The idea of succession not from motion. Thus by reflecting on the
appearing of various ideas one after another in our understandings, we
get the notion of succession; which, if any one should think we did
rather get from our observation of motion by our senses, he will
perhaps be of my mind when he considers, that even motion produces
in his mind an idea of succession no otherwise than as it produces
there a continued train of distinguishable ideas. For a man looking
upon a body really moving, perceives yet no motion at all unless
that motion produces a constant train of successive ideas: v.g. a
man becalmed at sea, out of sight of land, in a fair day, may look
on the sun, or sea, or ship, a whole hour together, and perceive no
motion at all in either; though it be certain that two, and perhaps
all of them, have moved during that time a great way. But as soon as
he perceives either of them to have changed distance with some other
body, as soon as this motion produces any new idea in him, then he
perceives that there has been motion. But wherever a man is, with
all things at rest about him, without perceiving any motion at all,-
if during this hour of quiet he has been thinking, he will perceive
the various ideas of his own thoughts in his own mind, appearing one
after another, and thereby observe and find succession where he
could observe no motion.
7. Very slow motions unperceived. And this, I think, is the reason
why motions very slow, though they are constant, are not perceived
by us; because in their remove from one sensible part towards another,
their change of distance is so slow, that it causes no new ideas in
us, but a good while one after another. And so not causing a
constant train of new ideas to follow one another immediately in our
minds, we have no perception of motion; which consisting in a constant
succession, we cannot perceive that succession without a constant
succession of varying ideas arising from it.
8. Very swift motions unperceived. On the contrary, things that move
so swift as not to affect the senses distinctly with several
distinguishable distances of their motion, and so cause not any
train of ideas in the mind, are not also perceived. For anything
that moves round about in a circle, in less times than our ideas are
wont to succeed one another in our minds, is not perceived to move;
but seems to be a perfect entire circle of that matter or colour,
and not a part of a circle in motion.
9. The train of ideas has a certain degree of quickness. Hence I
leave it to others to judge, whether it be not probable that our ideas
do, whilst we are awake, succeed one another in our minds at certain
distances; not much unlike the images in the inside of a lantern,
turned round by the heat of a candle. This appearance of theirs in
train, though perhaps it may be sometimes faster and sometimes slower,
yet, I guess, varies not very much in a waking man: there seem to be
certain bounds to the quickness and slowness of the succession of
those ideas one to another in our minds, beyond which they can neither
delay nor hasten.
10. Real succession in swift motions without sense of succession.
The reason I have for this odd conjecture is, from observing that,
in the impressions made upon any of our senses, we can but to a
certain degree perceive any succession; which, if exceeding quick, the
sense of succession is lost, even in cases where it is evident that
there is a real succession. Let a cannon-bullet pass through a room,
and in its way take with it any limb, or fleshy parts of a man, it
is as clear as any demonstration can be, that it must strike
successively the two sides of the room: it is also evident that it
must touch one part of the flesh first, and another after, and so in
succession: and yet, I believe, nobody who ever felt the pain of
such a shot, or heard the blow against the two distant walls, could
perceive any succession either in the pain or sound of so swift a
stroke. Such a part of duration as this, wherein we perceive no
succession, is that which we call an instant, and is that which
takes up the time of only one idea in our minds, without the
succession of another; wherein, therefore, we perceive no succession
at all.
11. In slow motions. This also happens where the motion is so slow
as not to supply a constant train of fresh ideas to the senses, as
fast as the mind is capable of receiving new ones into it; and so
other ideas of our own thoughts, having room to come into our minds
between those offered to our senses by the moving body, there the
sense of motion is lost; and the body, though it really moves, yet,
not changing perceivable distance with some other bodies as fast as
the ideas of our own minds do naturally follow one another in train,
the thing seems to stand still; as is evident in the hands of
clocks, and shadows of sun-dials, and other constant but slow motions,
where, though, after certain intervals, we perceive, by the change
of distance, that it hath moved, yet the motion itself we perceive
12. This train, the measure of other successions. So that to me it
seems, that the constant and regular succession of ideas in a waking
man, is, as it were, the measure and standard of all other
successions. Whereof, if any one either exceeds the pace of our ideas,
as where two sounds or pains, &c., take up in their succession the
duration of but one idea; or else where any motion or succession is so
slow, as that it keeps not pace with the ideas in our minds, or the
quickness in which they take their turns, as when any one or more
ideas in their ordinary course come into our mind, between those which
are offered to the sight by the different perceptible distances of a
body in motion, or between sounds or smells following one another,-
there also the sense of a constant continued succession is lost, and
we perceive it not, but with certain gaps of rest between.
13. The mind cannot fix long on one invariable idea. If it be so,
that the ideas of our minds, whilst we have any there, do constantly
change and shift in a continual succession, it would be impossible,
may any one say, for a man to think long of any one thing. By which,
if it be meant that a man may have one self-same single idea a long
time alone in his mind, without any variation at all, I think, in
matter of fact, it is not possible. For which (not knowing how the
ideas of our minds are framed, of what materials they are made, whence
they have their light, and how they come to make their appearances)
I can give no other reason but experience: and I would have any one
try, whether he can keep one unvaried single idea in his mind, without
any other, for any considerable time together.
14. Proof. For trial, let him take any figure, any degree of light
or whiteness, or what other he pleases, and he will, I suppose, find
it difficult to keep all other ideas out of his mind; but that some,
either of another kind, or various considerations of that idea,
(each of which considerations is a new idea), will constantly
succeed one another in his thoughts, let him be as wary as he can.
15. The extent of our power over the succession of our ideas. All
that is in a man's power in this case, I think, is only to mind and
observe what the ideas are that take their turns in his understanding;
or else to direct the sort, and call in such as he hath a desire or
use of: but hinder the constant succession of fresh ones, I think he
cannot, though he may commonly choose whether he will heedfully
observe and consider them.
16. Ideas, however made, include no sense of motion. Whether these
several ideas in a man's mind be made by certain motions, I will not
here dispute; but this I am sure, that they include no idea of
motion in their appearance; and if a man had not the idea of motion
otherwise, I think he would have none at all, which is enough to my
present purpose; and sufficiently shows that the notice we take of the
ideas of our own minds, appearing there one after another, is that
which gives us the idea of succession and duration, without which we
should have no such ideas at all. It is not then motion, but the
constant train of ideas in our minds whilst we are waking, that
furnishes us with the idea of duration; whereof motion no otherwise
gives us any perception than as it causes in our minds a constant
succession of ideas, as I have before showed: and we have as clear
an idea of succession and duration, by the train of other ideas
succeeding one another in our minds, without the idea of any motion,
as by the train of ideas caused by the uninterrupted sensible change
of distance between two bodies, which we have from motion; and
therefore we should as well have the idea of duration were there no
sense of motion at all.
17. Time is duration set out by measures. Having thus got the idea
of duration, the next thing natural for the mind to do, is to get some
measure of this common duration, whereby it might judge of its
different lengths, and consider the distinct order wherein several
things exist; without which a great part of our knowledge would be
confused, and a great part of history be rendered very useless. This
consideration of duration, as set out by certain periods, and marked
by certain measures or epochs, is that, I think, which most properly
we call time.
18. A good measure of time must divide its whole duration into equal
periods. In the measuring of extension, there is nothing more required
but the application of the standard or measure we make use of to the
thing of whose extension we would be informed. But in the measuring of
duration this cannot be done, because no two different parts of
succession can be put together to measure one another. And nothing
being a measure of duration but duration, as nothing is of extension
but extension, we cannot keep by us any standing, unvarying measure of
duration, which consists in a constant fleeting succession, as we
can of certain lengths of extension, as inches, feet, yards, &c.,
marked out in permanent parcels of matter. Nothing then could serve
well for a convenient measure of time, but what has divided the
whole length of its duration into apparently equal portions, by
constantly repeated periods. What portions of duration are not
distinguished, or considered as distinguished and measured, by such
periods, come not so properly under the notion of time; as appears
by such phrases as these, viz. "Before all time," and "When time shall
be no more."
19. The revolutions of the sun and moon, the properest measures of
time for mankind. The diurnal and annual revolutions of the sun, as
having been, from the beginning of nature, constant, regular, and
universally observable by all mankind, and supposed equal to one
another, have been with reason made use of for the measure of
duration. But the distinction of days and years having depended on the
motion of the sun, it has brought this mistake with it, that it has
been thought that motion and duration were the measure one of another.
For men, in the measuring of the length of time, having been
accustomed to the ideas of minutes, hours, days, months, years, &c.,
which they found themselves upon any mention of time or duration
presently to think on, all which portions of time were measured out by
the motion of those heavenly bodies, they were apt to confound time
and motion; or at least to think that they had a necessary connexion
one with another. Whereas any constant periodical appearance, or
alteration of ideas, in seemingly equidistant spaces of duration, if
constant and universally observable, would have as well
distinguished the intervals of time, as those that have been made
use of. For, supposing the sun, which some have taken to be a fire,
had been lighted up at the same distance of time that it now every day
comes about to the same meridian, and then gone out again about twelve
hours after, and that in the space of an annual revolution it had
sensibly increased in brightness and heat, and so decreased again,-
would not such regular appearances serve to measure out the
distances of duration to all that could observe it, as well without as
with motion? For if the appearances were constant, universally
observable, in equidistant periods, they would serve mankind for
measure of time as well were the motion away.
20. But not by their motion, but periodical appearances. For the
freezing of water, or the blowing of a plant, returning at equidistant
periods in all parts of the earth, would as well serve men to reckon
their years by as the motions of the sun: and in effect we see, that
some people in America counted their years by the coming of certain
birds amongst them at their certain seasons, and leaving them at
others. For a fit of an ague; the sense of hunger or thirst; a smell
or a taste; or any other idea returning constantly at equidistant
periods, and making itself universally be taken notice of, would not
fail to measure out the course of succession, and distinguish the
distances of time. Thus we see that men born blind count time well
enough by years, whose revolutions yet they cannot distinguish by
motions that they perceive not. And I ask whether a blind man, who
distinguished his years either by the heat of summer, or cold of
winter; by the smell of any flower of the spring, or taste of any
fruit of the autumn, would not have a better measure of time than
the Romans had before the reformation of their calendar by Julius
Caesar, or many other people whose years, notwithstanding the motion
of the sun, which they pretended to make use of, are very irregular?
And it adds no small difficulty to chronology, that the exact
lengths of the years that several nations counted by, are hard to be
known, they differing very much one from another, and I think I may
say all of them from the precise motion of the sun. And if the sun
moved from the creation to the flood constantly in the equator, and so
equally dispersed its light and heat to all the habitable parts of the
earth, in days all of the same length, without its annual variations
to the tropics, as a late ingenious author supposes, I do not think it
very easy to imagine, that (notwithstanding the motion of the sun) men
should in the antediluvian world, from the beginning, count by
years, or measure their time by periods that had no sensible marks
very obvious to distinguish them by.
21. No two parts of duration can be certainly known to be equal. But
perhaps it will be said,- without a regular motion, such as of the
sun, or some other, how could it ever be known that such periods
were equal? To which I answer,- the equality of any other returning
appearances might be known by the same way that that of days was
known, or presumed to be so at first; which was only by judging of
them by the train of ideas which had passed in men's minds in the
intervals; by which train of ideas discovering inequality in the
natural days, but none in the artificial days, the artificial days, or
nuchtheerha, were guessed to be equal, which was sufficient to make
them serve for a measure; though exacter search has since discovered
inequality in the diurnal revolutions of the sun, and we know not
whether the annual also be not unequal. These yet, by their presumed
and apparent equality, serve as well to reckon time by (though not
to measure the parts of duration exactly) as if they could be proved
to be exactly equal. We must, therefore, carefully distinguish betwixt
duration itself, and the measures we make use of to judge of its
length. Duration, in itself, is to be considered as going on in one
constant, equal, uniform course: but none of the measures of it
which we make use of can be known to do so, nor can we be assured that
their assigned parts or periods are equal in duration one to
another; for two successive lengths of duration, however measured, can
never be demonstrated to be equal. The motion of the sun, which the
world used so long and so confidently for an exact measure of
duration, has, as I said, been found in its several parts unequal. And
though men have, of late, made use of a pendulum, as a more steady and
regular motion than that of the sun, or, (to speak more truly), of the
earth;- yet if any one should be asked how he certainly knows that the
two successive swings of a pendulum are equal, it would be very hard
to satisfy him that they are infallibly so; since we cannot be sure
that the cause of that motion, which is unknown to us, shall always
operate equally; and we are sure that the medium in which the pendulum
moves is not constantly the same: either of which varying, may alter
the equality of such periods, and thereby destroy the certainty and
exactness of the measure by motion, as well as any other periods of
other appearances; the notion of duration still remaining clear,
though our measures of it cannot (any of them) be demonstrated to be
exact. Since then no two portions of succession can be brought
together, it is impossible ever certainly to know their equality.
All that we can do for a measure of time is, to take such as have
continual successive appearances at seemingly equidistant periods;
of which seeming equality we have no other measure, but such as the
train of our own ideas have lodged in our memories, with the
concurrence of other probable reasons, to persuade us of their
22. Time not the measure of motion. One thing seems strange to
me,- that whilst all men manifestly measured time by the motion of the
great and visible bodies of the world, time yet should be defined to
be the "measure of motion": whereas it is obvious to every one who
reflects ever so little on it, that to measure motion, space is as
necessary to be considered as time; and those who look a little
farther will find also the bulk of the thing moved necessary to be
taken into the computation, by any one who will estimate or measure
motion so as to judge right of it. Nor indeed does motion any
otherwise conduce to the measuring of duration, than as it
constantly brings about the return of certain sensible ideas, in
seeming equidistant periods. For if the motion of the sun were as
unequal as of a ship driven by unsteady winds, sometimes very slow,
and at others irregularly very swift; or if, being constantly
equally swift, it yet was not circular, and produced not the same
appearances,- it would not at all help us to measure time, any more
than the seeming unequal motion of a comet does.
23. Minutes, hours, days, and years not necessary measures of
duration. Minutes, hours, days, and years are, then, no more necessary
to time or duration, than inches, feet, yards, and miles, marked out
in any matter, are to extension. For, though we in this part of the
universe, by the constant use of them, as of periods set out by the
revolutions of the sun, or as known parts of such periods, have
fixed the ideas of such lengths of duration in our minds, which we
apply to all parts of time whose lengths we would consider; yet
there may be other parts of the universe, where they no more use there
measures of ours, than in Japan they do our inches, feet, or miles;
but yet something analogous to them there must be. For without some
regular periodical returns, we could not measure ourselves, or signify
to others, the length of any duration; though at the same time the
world were as full of motion as it is now, but no part of it
disposed into regular and apparently equidistant revolutions. But
the different measures that may be made use of for the account of
time, do not at all alter the notion of duration, which is the thing
to be measured; no more than the different standards of a foot and a
cubit alter the notion of extension to those who make use of those
different measures.
24. Our measure of time applicable to duration before time. The mind
having once got such a measure of time as the annual revolution of the
sun, can apply that measure to duration wherein that measure itself
did not exist, and with which, in the reality of its being, it had
nothing to do. For should one say, that Abraham was born in the two
thousand seven hundred and twelfth year of the Julian period, it is
altogether as intelligible as reckoning from the beginning of the
world, though there were so far back no motion of the sun, nor any
motion at all. For, though the Julian period be supposed to begin
several hundred years before there were really either days, nights, or
years, marked out by any revolutions of the sun,- yet we reckon as
right, and thereby measure durations as well, as if really at that
time the sun had existed, and kept the same ordinary motion it doth
now. The idea of duration equal to an annual revolution of the sun, is
as easily applicable in our thoughts to duration, where no sun or
motion was, as the idea of a foot or yard, taken from bodies here, can
be applied in our thoughts to duration, where no sun or motion was, as
the idea of a foot or yard, taken from bodies here, can be applied
in our thoughts to distances beyond the confines of the world, where
are no bodies at all.
25. As we can measure space in our thoughts where there is no
body. For supposing it were 5639 miles, or millions of miles, from
this place to the remotest body of the universe, (for being finite, it
must be at a certain distance), as we suppose it to be 5639 years from
this time to the first existence of any body in the beginning of the
world;- we can, in our thoughts, apply this measure of a year to
duration before the creation, or beyond the duration of bodies or
motion, as we can this measure of a mile to space beyond the utmost
bodies; and by the one measure duration, where there was no motion, as
well as by the other measure space in our thoughts, where there is
no body.
26. The assumption that the world is neither boundless nor
eternal. If it be objected to me here, that, in this way of explaining
of time, I have begged what I should not, viz. that the world is
neither eternal nor infinite; I answer, That to my present purpose
it is not needful, in this place, to make use of arguments to evince
the world to be finite both in duration and extension. But it being at
least as conceivable as the contrary, I have certainly the liberty
to suppose it, as well as any one hath to suppose the contrary; and
I doubt not, but that every one that will go about it, may easily
conceive in his mind the beginning of motion, though not of all
duration, and so may come to a step and non ultra in his consideration
of motion. So also, in his thoughts, he may set limits to body, and
the extension belonging to it; but not to space, where no body is, the
utmost bounds of space and duration being beyond the reach of thought,
as well as the utmost bounds of number are beyond the largest
comprehension of the mind; and all for the same reason, as we shall
see in another place.
27. Eternity. By the same means, therefore, and from the same
original that we come to have the idea of time, we have also that idea
which we call Eternity; viz. having got the idea of succession and
duration, by reflecting on the train of our own ideas, caused in us
either by the natural appearances of those ideas coming constantly
of themselves into our waking thoughts, or else caused by external
objects successively affecting our senses; and having from the
revolutions of the sun got the ideas of certain lengths of
duration,- we can in our thoughts add such lengths of duration to
one another, as often as we please, and apply them, so added, to
durations past or to come. And this we can continue to do on,
without bounds or limits, and proceed in infinitum, and apply thus the
length of the annual motion of the sun to duration, supposed before
the sun's or any other motion had its being; which is no more
difficult or absurd, than to apply the notion I have of the moving
of a shadow one hour to-day upon the sun-dial to the duration of
something last night, v.g. the burning of a candle, which is now
absolutely separate from all actual motion; and it is as impossible
for the duration of that flame for an hour last night to co-exist with
any motion that now is, or for ever shall be, as for any part of
duration, that was before the beginning of the world, to co-exist with
the motion of the sun now. But yet this hinders not but that, having
the idea of the length of the motion of the shadow on a dial between
the marks of two hours, I can as distinctly measure in my thoughts the
duration of that candle-light last night, as I can the duration of
anything that does now exist: and it is no more than to think, that,
had the sun shone then on the dial, and moved after the same rate it
doth now, the shadow on the dial would have passed from one
hour-line to another whilst that flame of the candle lasted.
28. Our measures of duration dependent on our ideas. The notion of
an hour, day, or year, being only the idea I have of the length of
certain periodical regular motions, neither of which motions do ever
all at once exist, but only in the ideas I have of them in my memory
derived from my senses or reflection; I can with the same ease, and
for the same reason, apply it in my thoughts to duration antecedent to
all manner of motion, as well as to anything that is but a minute or a
day antecedent to the motion that at this very moment the sun is in.
All things past are equally and perfectly at rest; and to this way
of consideration of them are all one, whether they were before the
beginning of the world, or but yesterday: the measuring of any
duration by some motion depending not at all on the real
co-existence of that thing to that motion, or any other periods of
revolution, but the having a clear idea of the length of some
periodical known motion, or other interval of duration, in my mind,
and applying that to the duration of the thing I would measure.
29. The duration of anything need not be co-existent with the motion
we measure it by. Hence we see that some men imagine the duration of
the world, from its first existence to this present year 1689, to have
been 5639 years, or equal to 5639 annual revolutions of the sun, and
others a great deal more; as the Egyptians of old, who in the time
of Alexander counted 23,000 years from the reign of the sun; and the
Chinese now, who account the world 3,269,000 years old, or more; which
longer duration of the world, according to their computation, though I
should not believe to be true, yet I can equally imagine it with them,
and as truly understand, and say one is longer than the other, as I
understand, that Methusalem's life was longer than Enoch's. And if the
common reckoning Of 5639 should be true, (as it may be as well as
any other assigned,) it hinders not at all my imagining what others
mean, when they make the world one thousand years older, since every
one may with the same facility imagine (I do not say believe) the
world to be 50,000 years old, as 5639; and may as well conceive the
duration of 50,000 years as 5639. Whereby it appears that, to the
measuring the duration of anything by time, it is not requisite that
that thing should be co-existent to the motion we measure by, or any
other periodical revolution; but it suffices to this purpose, that
we have the idea of the length of any regular periodical
appearances, which we can in our minds apply to duration, with which
the motion or appearance never co-existed.
30. Infinity in duration. For, as in the history of the creation
delivered by Moses, I can imagine that light existed three days before
the sun was, or had any motion, barely by thinking that the duration
of light before the sun was created was so long as (if the sun had
moved then as it doth now) would have been equal to three of his
diurnal revolutions; so by the same way I can have an idea of the
chaos, or angels, being created before there was either light or any
continued motion, a minute, an hour, a day, a year, or one thousand
years. For, if I can but consider duration equal to one minute, before
either the being or motion of any body, I can add one minute more till
I come to sixty; and by the same way of adding minutes, hours, or
years (i.e. such or such parts of the sun's revolutions, or any
other period whereof I have the idea) proceed in infinitum, and
suppose a duration exceeding as many such periods as I can reckon, let
me add whilst I will, which I think is the notion we have of eternity;
of whose infinity we have no other notion than we have of the infinity
of number, to which we can add for ever without end.
31. Origin of our ideas of duration, and of the measures of it.
And thus I think it is plain, that from those two fountains of all
knowledge before mentioned, viz. reflection and sensation, we got
the ideas of duration, and the measures of it.
For, First, by observing what passes in our minds, how our ideas
there in train constantly some vanish and others begin to appear, we
come by the idea of succession.
Secondly, by observing a distance in the parts of this succession,
we get the idea of duration.
Thirdly, by sensation observing certain appearances, at certain
regular and seeming equidistant periods, we get the ideas of certain
lengths or measures of duration, as minutes, hours, days, years, &c.
Fourthly, by being able to repeat those measures of time, or ideas
of stated length of duration, in our minds, as often as we will, we
can come to imagine duration, where nothing does really endure or
exist; and thus we imagine to-morrow, next year, or seven years hence.
Fifthly, by being able to repeat ideas of any length of time, as
of a minute, a year, or an age, as often as we will in our own
thoughts, and adding them one to another, without ever coming to the
end of such addition, any nearer than we can to the end of number,
to which we can always add; we come by the idea of eternity, as the
future eternal duration of our souls, as well as the eternity of
that infinite Being which must necessarily have always existed.
Sixthly, by considering any part of infinite duration, as set out by
periodical measures, we come by the idea of what we call time in
Chapter XV
Ideas of Duration and Expansion, considered together

1. Both capable of greater and less. Though we have in the precedent
chapters dwelt pretty long on the considerations of space and
duration, yet, they being ideas of general concernment, that have
something very abstruse and peculiar in their nature, the comparing
them one with another may perhaps be of use for their illustration;
and we may have the more clear and distinct conception of them by
taking a view of them together. Distance or space, in its simple
abstract conception, to avoid confusion, I call expansion, to
distinguish it from extension, which by some is used to express this
distance only as it is in the solid parts of matter, and so
includes, or at least intimates, the idea of body: whereas the idea of
pure distance includes no such thing. I prefer also the word expansion
to space, because space is often applied to distance of fleeting
successive parts, which never exist together, as well as to those
which are permanent. In both these (viz. expansion and duration) the
mind has this common idea of continued lengths, capable of greater
or less quantities. For a man has as clear an idea of the difference
of the length of an hour and a day, as of an inch and a foot.
2. Expansion not bounded by matter. The mind, having got the idea of
the length of any part of expansion, let it be a span, or a pace, or
what length you will, can, as has been said, repeat that idea, and so,
adding it to the former, enlarge its idea of length, and make it equal
to two spans, or two paces; and so, as often as it will, till it
equals the distance of any parts of the earth one from another, and
increase thus till it amounts to the distance of the sun or remotest
star. By such a progression as this, setting out from the place
where it is, or any other place, it can proceed and pass beyond all
those lengths, and find nothing to stop its going on, either in or
without body. It is true, we can easily in our thoughts come to the
end of solid extension; the extremity and bounds of all body we have
no difficulty to arrive at: but when the mind is there, it finds
nothing to hinder its progress into this endless expansion; of that it
can neither find nor conceive any end. Nor let any one say, that
beyond the bounds of body, there is nothing at all; unless he will
confine God within the limits of matter. Solomon, whose
understanding was filled and enlarged with wisdom, seems to have other
thoughts when he says, "Heaven, and the heaven of heavens, cannot
contain thee." And he, I think, very much magnifies to himself the
capacity of his own understanding, who persuades himself that he can
extend his thoughts further than God exists, or imagine any
expansion where He is not.
3. Nor duration by motion. Just so is it in duration. The mind
having got the idea of any length of duration, can double, multiply,
and enlarge it, not only beyond its own, but beyond the existence of
all corporeal beings, and all the measures of time, taken from the
great bodies of all the world and their motions. But yet every one
easily admits, that, though we make duration boundless, as certainly
it is, we cannot yet extend it beyond all being. God, every one easily
allows, fills eternity; and it is hard to find a reason why any one
should doubt that He likewise fills immensity. His infinite being is
certainly as boundless one way as another; and methinks it ascribes
a little too much to matter to say, where there is no body, there is
4. Why men more easily admit infinite duration than infinite
expansion. Hence I think we may learn the reason why every one
familiarly and without the least hesitation speaks of and supposes
Eternity, and sticks not to ascribe infinity to duration; but it is
with more doubting and reserve that many admit or suppose the infinity
of space. The reason whereof seems to me to be this,- That duration
and extension being used as names of affections belonging to other
beings, we easily conceive in God infinite duration, and we cannot
avoid doing so: but, not attributing to Him extension, but only to
matter, which is finite, we are apter to doubt of the existence of
expansion without matter; of which alone we commonly suppose it an
attribute. And, therefore, when men pursue their thoughts of space,
they are apt to stop at the confines of body: as if space were there
at an end too, and reached no further. Or if their ideas, upon
consideration, carry them further, yet they term what is beyond the
limits of the universe, imaginary space: as if it were nothing,
because there is no body existing in it. Whereas duration,
antecedent to all body, and to the motions which it is measured by,
they never term imaginary: because it is never supposed void of some
other real existence. And if the names of things may at all direct our
thoughts towards the original of men's ideas, (as I am apt to think
they may very much,) one may have occasion to think by the name
duration, that the continuation of existence, with a kind of
resistance to any destructive force, and the continuation of
solidity (which is apt to be confounded with, and if we will look into
the minute anatomical parts of matter, is little different from,
hardness) were thought to have some analogy, and gave occasion to
words so near of kin as durare and durum esse. And that durare is
applied to the idea of hardness, as well as that of existence, we
see in Horace, Epod. xvi. ferro duravit secula. But, be that as it
will, this is certain, that whoever pursues his own thoughts, will
find them sometimes launch out beyond the extent of body, into the
infinity of space or expansion; the idea whereof is distinct and
separate from body and all other things: which may, (to those who
please), be a subject of further meditation.
5. Time to duration is as place to expansion. Time in general is
to duration as place to expansion. They are so much of those boundless
oceans of eternity and immensity as is set out and distinguished
from the rest, as it were by landmarks; and so are made use of to
denote the position of finite real beings, in respect one to
another, in those uniform infinite oceans of duration and space.
These, rightly considered, are only ideas of determinate distances
from certain known points, fixed in distinguishable sensible things,
and supposed to keep the same distance one from another. From such
points fixed in sensible beings we reckon, and from them we measure
our portions of those infinite quantities; which, so considered, are
that which we call time and place. For duration and space being in
themselves uniform and boundless, the order and position of things,
without such known settled points, would be lost in them; and all
things would lie jumbled in an incurable confusion.
6. Time and place are taken for so much of either as are set out
by the existence and motion of bodies. Time and place, taken thus
for determinate distinguishable portions of those infinite abysses
of space and duration, set out or supposed to be distinguished from
the rest, by marks and known boundaries, have each of them a twofold
First, Time in general is commonly taken for so much of infinite
duration as is measured by, and co-existent with, the existence and
motions of the great bodies of the universe, as far as we know
anything of them: and in this sense time begins and ends with the
frame of this sensible world, as in these phrases before mentioned,
"Before all time," or, "When time shall be no more." Place likewise is
taken sometimes for that portion of infinite space which is
possessed by and comprehended within the material world; and is
thereby distinguished from the rest of expansion; though this may be
more properly called extension than place. Within these two are
confined, and by the observable parts of them are measured and
determined, the particular time or duration, and the particular
extension and place, of all corporeal beings.
7. Sometimes for so much of either as we design by measures taken
from the bulk or motion of bodies. Secondly, sometimes the word time
is used in a larger sense, and is applied to parts of that infinite
duration, not that were really distinguished and measured out by
this real existence, and periodical motions of bodies, that were
appointed from the beginning to be for signs and for seasons and for
days and years, and are accordingly our measures of time; but such
other portions too of that infinite uniform duration, which we upon
any occasion do suppose equal to certain lengths of measured time; and
so consider them as bounded and determined. For, if we should
suppose the creation, or fall of the angels, was at the beginning of
the Julian period, we should speak properly enough, and should be
understood if we said, it is a longer time since the creation of
angels than the creation of the world, by 7640 years: whereby we would
mark out so much of that undistinguished duration as we suppose
equal to, and would have admitted, 7640 annual revolutions of the sun,
moving at the rate it now does. And thus likewise we sometimes speak
of place, distance, or bulk, in the great inane, beyond the confines
of the world, when we consider so much of that space as is equal to,
or capable to receive, a body of any assigned dimensions, as a cubic
foot; or do suppose a point in it, at such a certain distance from any
part of the universe.
8. They belong to all finite beings. Where and when are questions
belonging to all finite existences, and are by us always reckoned from
some known parts of this sensible world, and from some certain
epochs marked out to us by the motions observable in it. Without
some such fixed parts or periods, the order of things would be lost,
to our finite understandings, in the boundless invariable oceans of
duration and expansion, which comprehend in them all finite beings,
and in their full extent belong only to the Deity. And therefore we
are not to wonder that we comprehend them not, and do so often find
our thoughts at a loss, when we would consider them, either abstractly
in themselves, or as any way attributed to the first
incomprehensible Being. But when applied to any particular finite
beings, the extension of any body is so much of that infinite space as
the bulk of the body takes up. And place is the position of any
body, when considered at a certain distance from some other. As the
idea of the particular duration of anything is, an idea of that
portion of infinite duration which passes during the existence of that
thing; so the time when the thing existed is, the idea of that space
of duration which passed between some known and fixed period of
duration, and the being of that thing. One shows the distance of the
extremities of the bulk or existence of the same thing, as that it
is a foot square, or lasted two years; the other shows the distance of
it in place, or existence from other fixed points of space or
duration, as that it was in the middle of Lincoln's Inn Fields, or the
first degree of Taurus, and in the year of our Lord 1671, or the
1000th year of the Julian period. All which distances we measure by
preconceived ideas of certain lengths of space and duration,- as
inches, feet, miles, and degrees, and in the other, minutes, days, and
years, &c.
9. All the parts of extension are extension, and all the parts of
duration are duration. There is one thing more wherein space and
duration have a great conformity, and that is, though they are
justly reckoned amongst our simple ideas, yet none of the distinct
ideas we have of either is without all manner of composition: it is
the very nature of both of them to consist of parts: but their parts
being all of the same kind, and without the mixture of any other idea,
hinder them not from having a place amongst simple ideas. Could the
mind, as in number, come to so small a part of extension or duration
as excluded divisibility, that would be, as it were, the indivisible
unit or idea; by repetition of which, it would make its more
enlarged ideas of extension and duration. But, since the mind is not
able to frame an idea of any space without parts, instead thereof it
makes use of the common measures, which, by familiar use in each
country, have imprinted themselves on the memory (as inches and
feet; or cubits and parasangs; and so seconds, minutes, hours, days,
and years in duration);- the mind makes use, I say, of such ideas as
these, as simple ones: and these are the component parts of larger
ideas, which the mind upon occasion makes by the addition of such
known lengths which it is acquainted with. On the other side, the
ordinary smallest measure we have of either is looked on as an unit in
number, when the mind by division would reduce them into less
fractions. Though on both sides, both in addition and division, either
of space or duration, when the idea under consideration becomes very
big or very small its precise bulk becomes very obscure and
confused; and it is the number of its repeated additions or
divisions that alone remains clear and distinct; as will easily appear
to any one who will let his thoughts loose in the vast expansion of
space, or divisibility of matter. Every part of duration is duration
too; and every part of extension is extension, both of them capable of
addition or division in infinitum. But the least portions of either of
them, whereof we have clear and distinct ideas, may perhaps be fittest
to be considered by us, as the simple ideas of that kind out of
which our complex modes of space, extension, and duration are made up,
and into which they can again be distinctly resolved. Such a small
part in duration may be called a moment, and is the time of one idea
in our minds, in the train of their ordinary succession there. The
other, wanting a proper name, I know not whether I may be allowed to
call a sensible point, meaning thereby the least particle of matter or
space we can discern, which is ordinarily about a minute, and to the
sharpest eyes seldom less than thirty seconds of a circle, whereof the
eye is the centre.
10. Their parts inseparable. Expansion and duration have this
further agreement, that, though they are both considered by us as
having parts, yet their parts are not separable one from another, no
not even in thought: though the parts of bodies from whence we take
our measure of the one; and the parts of motion, or rather the
succession of ideas in our minds, from whence we take the measure of
the other, may be interrupted and separated; as the one is often by
rest, and the other is by sleep, which we call rest too.
11. Duration is as a line, expansion as a solid. But there is this
manifest difference between them,- That the ideas of length which we
have of expansion are turned every way, and so make figure, and
breadth, and thickness; but duration is but as it were the length of
one straight line, extended in infinitum, not capable of multiplicity,
variation, or figure; but is one common measure of all existence
whatsoever, wherein all things, whilst they exist, equally partake.
For this present moment is common to all things that are now in being,
and equally comprehends that part of their existence, as much as if
they were all but one single being; and we may truly say, they all
exist in the same moment of time. Whether angels and spirits have
any analogy to this, in respect to expansion, is beyond my
comprehension: and perhaps for us, who have understandings and
comprehensions suited to our own preservation, and the ends of our own
being, but not to the reality and extent of all other beings, it is
near as hard to conceive any existence, or to have an idea of any real
being, with a perfect negation of all manner of expansion, as it is to
have the idea of any real existence with a perfect negation of all
manner of duration. And therefore, what spirits have to do with space,
or how they communicate in it, we know not. All that we know is,
that bodies do each singly possess its proper portion of it, according
to the extent of solid parts; and thereby exclude all other bodies
from having any share in that particular portion of space, whilst it
remains there.
12. Duration has never two parts together, expansion altogether.
Duration, and time which is a part of it, is the idea we have of
perishing distance, of which no two parts exist together, but follow
each other in succession; an expansion is the idea of lasting
distance, all whose parts exist together, and are not capable of
succession. And therefore, though we cannot conceive any duration
without succession, nor can put it together in our thoughts that any
being does now exist tomorrow, or possess at once more than the
present moment of duration; yet we can conceive the eternal duration
of the Almighty far different from that of man, or any other finite
being. Because man comprehends not in his knowledge or power all
past and future things: his thoughts are but of yesterday, and he
knows not what tomorrow will bring forth. What is once past he can
never recall; and what is yet to come he cannot make present. What I
say of man, I say of all finite beings; who, though they may far
exceed man in knowledge and power, yet are no more than the meanest
creature, in comparison with God himself Finite or any magnitude holds
not any proportion to infinite. God's infinite duration, being
accompanied with infinite knowledge and infinite power, He sees all
things, past and to come; and they are no more distant from His
knowledge, no further removed from His sight, than the present: they
all lie under the same view: and there is nothing which He cannot make
exist each moment He pleases. For the existence of all things,
depending upon His good pleasure, all things exist every moment that
He thinks fit to have them exist. To conclude: expansion and
duration do mutually embrace and comprehend each other; every part
of space being in every part of duration, and every part of duration
in every part of expansion. Such a combination of two distinct ideas
is, I suppose, scarce to be found in all that great variety we do or
can conceive, and may afford matter to further speculation.
Chapter XVI
Idea of Number

1. Number the simplest and most universal idea. Amongst all the
ideas we have, as there is none suggested to the mind by more ways, so
there is none more simple, than that of unity, or one: it has no
shadow of variety or composition in it: every object our senses are
employed about; every idea in our understandings; every thought of our
minds, brings this idea along with it. And therefore it is the most
intimate to our thoughts, as well as it is, in its agreement to all
other things, the most universal idea we have. For number applies
itself to men, angels, actions, thoughts; everything that either
doth exist, or can be imagined.
2. Its modes made by addition. By repeating this idea in our
minds, and adding the repetitions together, we come by the complex
ideas of the modes of it. Thus, by adding one to one, we have the
complex idea of a couple; by putting twelve units together, we have
the complex idea of a dozen; and so of a score, or a million, or any
other number.
3. Each mode distinct. The simple modes of number are of all other
the most distinct; every the least variation, which is an unit, making
each combination as clearly different from that which approacheth
nearest to it, as the most remote; two being as distinct from one,
as two hundred; and the idea of two as distinct from the idea of
three, as the magnitude of the whole earth is from that of a mite.
This is not so in other simple modes, in which it is not so easy,
nor perhaps possible for us to distinguish betwixt two approaching
ideas, which yet are really different. For who will undertake to
find a difference between the white of this paper and that of the next
degree to it: or can form distinct ideas of every the least excess
in extension?
4. Therefore demonstrations in numbers the most precise. The
clearness and distinctness of each mode of number from all others,
even those that approach nearest, makes me apt to think that
demonstrations in numbers, if they are not more evident and exact than
in extension, yet they are more general in their use, and more
determinate in their application. Because the ideas of numbers are
more precise and distinguishable than in extension; where every
equality and excess are not so easy to be observed or measured;
because our thoughts cannot in space arrive at any determined
smallness beyond which it cannot go, as an unit; and therefore the
quantity or proportion of any the least excess cannot be discovered;
which is clear otherwise in number, where, as has been said, 91 is
as distinguishable from go as from 9000, though 91 be the next
immediate excess to 90. But it is not so in extension, where,
whatsoever is more than just a foot or an inch, is not distinguishable
from the standard of a foot or an inch; and in lines which appear of
an equal length, one may be longer than the other by innumerable
parts: nor can any one assign an angle, which shall be the next
biggest to a right one.
5. Names necessary to numbers. By the repeating, as has been said,
the idea of an unit, and joining it to another unit, we make thereof
one collective idea, marked by the name two. And whosoever can do
this, and proceed on, still adding one more to the last collective
idea which he had of any number, and gave a name to it, may count,
or have ideas, for several collections of units, distinguished one
from another, as far as he hath a series of names for following
numbers, and a memory to retain that series, with their several names:
all numeration being but still the adding of one unit more, and giving
to the whole together, as comprehended in one idea, a new or
distinct name or sign, whereby to know it from those before and after,
and distinguish it from every smaller or greater multitude of units.
So that he that can add one to one, and so to two, and so go on with
his tale, taking still with him the distinct names belonging to
every progression; and so again, by subtracting an unit from each
collection, retreat and lessen them, is capable of all the ideas of
numbers within the compass of his language, or for which he hath
names, though not perhaps of more. For, the several simple modes of
numbers being in our minds but so many combinations of units, which
have no variety, nor are capable of any other difference but more or
less, names or marks for each distinct combination seem more necessary
than in any other sort of ideas. For, without such names or marks,
we can hardly well make use of numbers in reckoning, especially
where the combination is made up of any great multitude of units;
which put together, without a name or mark to distinguish that precise
collection, will hardly be kept from being a heap in confusion.
6. Another reason for the necessity of names to numbers. This I
think to be the reason why some Americans I have spoken with, (who
were otherwise of quick and rational parts enough,) could not, as we
do, by any means count to 1000; nor had any distinct idea of that
number, though they could reckon very well to 20. Because their
language being scanty, and accommodated only to the few necessaries of
a needy, simple life, unacquainted either with trade or mathematics,
had no words in it to stand for 1000; so that when they were
discoursed with of those greater numbers, they would show the hairs of
their head, to express a great multitude, which they could not number;
which inability, I suppose, proceeded from their want of names. The
Tououpinambos had no names for numbers above 5; any number beyond that
they made out by showing their fingers, and the fingers of others
who were present. And I doubt not but we ourselves might distinctly
number in words a great deal further than we usually do, would we find
out but some fit denominations to signify them by; whereas, in the way
we take now to name them, by millions of millions of millions, &c., it
is hard to go beyond eighteen, or at most, four and twenty, decimal
progressions, without confusion. But to show how much distinct names
conduce to our well reckoning, or having useful ideas of numbers,
let us see all these following figures in one continued line, as the
marks of one number: v. g.

Nonillions   Octillions   Septillions   Sextillions   Quintrillions

857324       162486       345896        437918        423147

Quartrillions   Trillions   Billions    Millions       Units

248106          235421      261734      368149        623137

The ordinary way of naming this number in English, will be the often
repeating of millions, of millions, of millions, of millions, of
millions, of millions, of millions, of millions, (which is the
denomination of the second six figures). In which way, it will be very
hard to have any distinguishing notions of this number. But whether,
by giving every six figures a new and orderly denomination, these, and
perhaps a great many more figures in progression, might not easily
be counted distinctly, and ideas of them both got more easily to
ourselves, and more plainly signified to others, I leave it to be
considered. This I mention only to show how necessary distinct names
are to numbering, without pretending to introduce new ones of my
7. Why children number not earlier. Thus children, either for want
of names to mark the several progressions of numbers, or not having
yet the faculty to collect scattered ideas into complex ones, and
range them in a regular order, and so retain them in their memories,
as is necessary to reckoning, do not begin to number very early, nor
proceed in it very far or steadily, till a good while after they are
well furnished with good store of other ideas: and one may often
observe them discourse and reason pretty well, and have very clear
conceptions of several other things, before they can tell twenty.
And some, through the default of their memories, who cannot retain the
several combinations of numbers, with their names, annexed in their
distinct orders, and the dependence of so long a train of numeral
progressions, and their relation one to another, are not able all
their lifetime to reckon, or regularly go over any moderate series
of numbers. For he that will count twenty, or have any idea of that
number, must know that nineteen went before, with the distinct name or
sign of every one of them, as they stand marked in their order; for
wherever this fails, a gap is made, the chain breaks, and the progress
in numbering can go no further. So that to reckon right, it is
required, (1) That the mind distinguish carefully two ideas, which are
different one from another only by the addition or subtraction of
one unit: (2) That it retain in memory the names or marks of the
several combinations, from an unit to that number; and that not
confusedly, and at random, but in that exact order that the numbers
follow one another. In either of which, if it trips, the whole
business of numbering will be disturbed, and there will remain only
the confused idea of multitude, but the ideas necessary to distinct
numeration will not be attained to.
8. Number measures all measureables. This further is observable in
number, that it is that which the mind makes use of in measuring all
things that by us are measurable, which principally are expansion
and duration; and our idea of infinity, even when applied to those,
seems to be nothing but the infinity of number. For what else are
our ideas of Eternity and Immensity, but the repeated additions of
certain ideas of imagined parts of duration and expansion, with the
infinity of number; in which we can come to no end of addition? For
such an inexhaustible stock, number (of all other our ideas) most
clearly furnishes us with, as is obvious to every one. For let a man
collect into one sum as great a number as he pleases, this
multitude, how great soever, lessens not one jot the power of adding
to it, or brings him any nearer the end of the inexhaustible stock
of number; where still there remains as much to be added, as if none
were taken out. And this endless addition or addibility (if any one
like the word better) of numbers, so apparent to the mind, is that,
I think, which gives us the clearest and most distinct idea of
infinity: of which more in the following chapter.
Chapter XVII
Of Infinity

1. Infinity, in its original intention, attributed to space,
duration, and number. He that would know what kind of idea it is to
which we give the name of infinity, cannot do it better than by
considering to what infinity is by the mind more immediately
attributed; and then how the mind comes to frame it.
Finite and infinite seem to me to be looked upon by the mind as
the modes of quantity, and to be attributed primarily in their first
designation only to those things which have parts, and are capable
of increase or diminution by the addition or subtraction of any the
least part: and such are the ideas of space, duration, and number,
which we have considered in the foregoing chapters. It is true, that
we cannot but be assured, that the great God, of whom and from whom
are all things, is incomprehensibly infinite: but yet, when we apply
to that first and supreme Being our idea of infinite, in our weak
and narrow thoughts, we do it primarily in respect to his duration and
ubiquity; and, I think, more figuratively to his power, wisdom, and
goodness, and other attributes, which are properly inexhaustible and
incomprehensible, &c. For, when we call them infinite, we have no
other idea of this infinity but what carries with it some reflection
on, and imitation of, that number or extent of the acts or objects
of God's power, wisdom, and goodness, which can never be supposed so
great, or so many, which these attributes will not always surmount and
exceed, let us multiply them in our thoughts as far as we can, with
all the infinity of endless number. I do not pretend to say how
these attributes are in God, who is infinitely beyond the reach of our
narrow capacities: they do, without doubt, contain in them all
possible perfection: but this, I say, is our way of conceiving them,
and these our ideas of their infinity.
2. The idea of finite easily got. Finite then, and infinite, being
by the mind looked on as modifications of expansion and duration,
the next thing to be considered, is,- How the mind comes by them. As
for the idea of finite, there is no great difficulty. The obvious
portions of extension that affect our senses, carry with them into the
mind the idea of finite: and the ordinary periods of succession,
whereby we measure time and duration, as hours, days, and years, are
bounded lengths. The difficulty is, how we come by those boundless
ideas of eternity and immensity; since the objects we converse with
come so much short of any approach or proportion to that largeness.
3. How we come by the idea of infinity. Every one that has any
idea of any stated lengths of space, as a foot, finds that he can
repeat that idea; and joining it to the former, make the idea of two
feet; and by the addition of a third, three feet; and so on, without
ever coming to an end of his additions, whether of the same idea of
a foot, or, if he pleases, of doubling it, or any other idea he has of
any length, as a mile, or diameter of the earth, or of the orbis
magnus: for whichever of these he takes, and how often soever he
doubles, or any otherwise multiplies it, he finds, that, after he
has continued his doubling in his thoughts, and enlarged his idea as
much as he pleases, he has no more reason to stop, nor is one jot
nearer the end of such addition, than he was at first setting out: the
power of enlarging his idea of space by further additions remaining
still the same, he hence takes the idea of infinite space.
4. Our idea of space boundless. This, I think, is the way whereby
the mind gets the idea of infinite space. It is a quite different
consideration, to examine whether the mind has the idea of such a
boundless space actually existing; since our ideas are not always
proofs of the existence of things: but yet, since this comes here in
our way, I suppose I may say, that we are apt to think that space in
itself is actually boundless, to which imagination the idea of space
or expansion of itself naturally leads us. For, it being considered by
us, either as the extension of body, or as existing by itself, without
any solid matter taking it up, (for of such a void space we have not
only the idea, but I have proved, as I think, from the motion of body,
its necessary existence), it is impossible the mind should be ever
able to find or suppose any end of it, or be stopped anywhere in its
progress in this space, how far soever it extends its thoughts. Any
bounds made with body, even adamantine walls, are so far from
putting a stop to the mind in its further progress in space and
extension that it rather facilitates and enlarges it. For so far as
that body reaches, so far no one can doubt of extension; and when we
are come to the utmost extremity of body, what is there that can there
put a stop, and satisfy the mind that it is at the end of space,
when it perceives that it is not; nay, when it is satisfied that
body itself can move into it? For, if it be necessary for the motion
of body, that there should be an empty space, though ever so little,
here amongst bodies; and if it be possible for body to move in or
through that empty space;- nay, it is impossible for any particle of
matter to move but into an empty space; the same possibility of a
body's moving into a void space, beyond the utmost bounds of body,
as well as into a void space interspersed amongst bodies, will
always remain clear and evident: the idea of empty pure space, whether
within or beyond the confines of all bodies, being exactly the same,
differing not in nature, though in bulk; and there being nothing to
hinder body from moving into it. So that wherever the mind places
itself by any thought, either amongst, or remote from all bodies, it
can, in this uniform idea of space, nowhere find any bounds, any
end; and so must necessarily conclude it, by the very nature and
idea of each part of it, to be actually infinite.
5. And so of duration. As, by the power we find in ourselves of
repeating, as often as we will, any idea of space, we get the idea
of immensity; so, by being able to repeat the idea of any length of
duration we have in our minds, with all the endless addition of
number, we come by the idea of eternity. For we find in ourselves,
we can no more come to an end of such repeated ideas than we can
come to the end of number; which every one perceives he cannot. But
here again it is another question, quite different from our having
an idea of eternity, to know whether there were any real being,
whose duration has been eternal. And as to this, I say, he that
considers something now existing, must necessarily come to Something
eternal. But having spoke of this in another place, I shall say here
no more of it, but proceed on to some other considerations of our idea
of infinity.
6. Why other ideas are not capable of infinity. If it be so, that
our idea of infinity be got from the power we observe in ourselves
of repeating, without end, our own ideas, it may be demanded,- Why
we do not attribute infinity to other ideas, as well as those of space
and duration; since they may be as easily, and as often, repeated in
our minds as the other: and yet nobody ever thinks of infinite
sweetness, or infinite whiteness, though he can repeat the idea of
sweet or white, as frequently as those of a yard or a day? To which
I answer,- All the ideas that are considered as having parts, and
are capable of increase by the addition of any equal or less parts,
afford us, by their repetition, the idea of infinity; because, with
this endless repetition, there is continued an enlargement of which
there can be no end. But in other ideas it is not so. For to the
largest idea of extension or duration that I at present have, the
addition of any the least part makes an increase; but to the
perfectest idea I have of the whitest whiteness, if I add another of a
less or equal whiteness, (and of a whiter than I have, I cannot add
the idea), it makes no increase, and enlarges not my idea at all;
and therefore the different ideas of whiteness, &c. are called
degrees. For those ideas that consist of parts are capable of being
augmented by every addition of the least part; but if you take the
idea of white, which one parcel of snow yielded yesterday to our
sight, and another idea of white from another parcel of snow you see
to-day, and put them together in your mind, they embody, as it were,
and run into one, and the idea of whiteness is not at all increased;
and if we add a less degree of whiteness to a greater, we are so far
from increasing, that we diminish it. Those ideas that consist not
of parts cannot be augmented to what proportion men please, or be
stretched beyond what they have received by their senses; but space,
duration, and number, being capable of increase by repetition, leave
in the mind an idea of endless room for more; nor can we conceive
anywhere a stop to a further addition or progression: and so those
ideas alone lead our minds towards the thought of infinity.
7. Difference between infinity of space, and space infinite.
Though our idea of infinity arise from the contemplation of
quantity, and the endless increase the mind is able to make in
quantity, by the repeated additions of what portions thereof it
pleases; yet I guess we cause great confusion in our thoughts, when we
join infinity to any supposed idea of quantity the mind can be thought
to have, and so discourse or reason about an infinite quantity, as
an infinite space, or an infinite duration. For, as our idea of
infinity being, as I think, an endless growing idea, but the idea of
any quantity the mind has, being at that time terminated in that idea,
(for be it as great as it will, it can be no greater than it is,)-
to join infinity to it, is to adjust a standing measure to a growing
bulk; and therefore I think it is not an insignificant subtilty, if
I say, that we are carefully to distinguish between the idea of the
infinity of space, and the idea of a space infinite. The first is
nothing but a supposed endless progression of the mind, over what
repeated ideas of space it pleases; but to have actually in the mind
the idea of a space infinite, is to suppose the mind already passed
over, and actually to have a view of all those repeated ideas of space
which an endless repetition can never totally represent to it; which
carries in it a plain contradiction.
8. We have no idea of infinite space. This, perhaps, will be a
little plainer, if we consider it in numbers. The infinity of numbers,
to the end of whose addition every one perceives there is no approach,
easily appears to any one that reflects on it. But, how clear soever
this idea of the infinity of number be, there is nothing yet more
evident than the absurdity of the actual idea of an infinite number.
Whatsoever positive ideas we have in our minds of any space, duration,
or number, let them be ever so great, they are still finite; but
when we suppose an inexhaustible remainder, from which we remove all
bounds, and wherein we allow the mind an endless progression of
thought, without ever completing the idea, there we have our idea of
infinity: which, though it seems to be pretty clear when we consider
nothing else in it but the negation of an end, yet, when we would
frame in our minds the idea of an infinite space or duration, that
idea is very obscure and confused, because it is made up of two parts,
very different, if not inconsistent. For, let a man frame in his
mind an idea of any space or number, as great as he will; it is
plain the mind rests and terminates in that idea, which is contrary to
the idea of infinity, which consists in a supposed endless
progression. And therefore I think it is that we are so easily
confounded, when we come to argue and reason about infinite space or
duration, &c. Because the parts of such an idea not being perceived to
be, as they are, inconsistent, the one side or other always perplexes,
whatever consequences we draw from the other; as an idea of motion not
passing on would perplex any one who should argue from such an idea,
which is not better than an idea of motion at rest. And such another
seems to me to be the idea of a space, or (which is the same thing)
a number infinite, i.e. of a space or number which the mind actually
has, and so views and terminates in; and of a space or number,
which, in a constant and endless enlarging and progression, it can
in thought never attain to. For, how large soever an idea of space I
have in my mind, it is no larger than it is that instant that I have
it, though I be capable the next instant to double it, and so on in
infinitum; for that alone is infinite which has no bounds; and that
the idea of infinity, in which our thoughts can find none.
9. Number affords us the clearest idea of infinity. But of all other
ideas, it is number, as I have said, which I think furnishes us with
the clearest and most distinct idea of infinity we are capable of.
For, even in space and duration, when the mind pursues the idea of
infinity, it there makes use of the ideas and repetitions of
numbers, as of millions and millions of miles, or years, which are
so many distinct ideas,- kept best by number from running into a
confused heap, wherein the mind loses itself; and when it has added
together as many millions, &c., as it pleases, of known lengths of
space or duration, the clearest idea it can get of infinity, is the
confused incomprehensible remainder of endless addible numbers,
which affords no prospect of stop or boundary.
10. Our different conceptions of the infinity of number contrasted
with those of duration and expansion. It will, perhaps, give us a
little further light into the idea we have of infinity, and discover
to us, that it is nothing but the infinity of number applied to
determinate parts, of which we have in our minds the distinct ideas,
if we consider that number is not generally thought by us infinite,
whereas duration and extension are apt to be so; which arises from
hence,- that in number we are at one end, as it were: for there
being in number nothing less than an unit, we there stop, and are at
an end; but in addition, or increase of number, we can set no
bounds: and so it is like a line, whereof one end terminating with us,
the other is extended still forwards, beyond all that we can conceive.
But in space and duration it is otherwise. For in duration we consider
it as if this line of number were extended both ways- to an
unconceivable, undeterminate, and infinite length; which is evident to
any one that will but reflect on what consideration he hath of
Eternity; which, I suppose, will find to be nothing else but the
turning this infinity of number both ways, a parte ante, and a parte
post, as they speak. For, when we would consider eternity, a parte
ante, what do we but, beginning from ourselves and the present time we
are in, repeat in our minds the ideas of years, or ages, or any
other assignable portion of duration past, with a prospect of
proceeding in such addition with all the infinity of number: and
when we would consider eternity, a parte post, we just after the
same rate begin from ourselves, and reckon by multiplied periods yet
to come, still extending that line of number as before. And these
two being put together, are that infinite duration we call Eternity:
which, as we turn our view either way, forwards or backwards,
appears infinite, because we still turn that way the infinite end of
number, i.e. the power still of adding more.
11. How we conceive the infinity of space. The same happens also
in space, wherein, conceiving ourselves to be, as it were, in the
centre, we do on all sides pursue those indeterminable lines of
number; and reckoning any way from ourselves, a yard, mile, diameter
of the earth, or orbis magnus,- by the infinity of number, we add
others to them, as often as we will. And having no more reason to
set bounds to those repeated ideas than we have to set bounds to
number, we have that indeterminable idea of immensity.
12. Infinite divisibility. And since in any bulk of matter our
thoughts can never arrive at the utmost divisibility, therefore
there is an apparent infinity to us also in that, which has the
infinity also of number; but with this difference,- that, in the
former considerations of the infinity of space and duration, we only
use addition of numbers; whereas this is like the division of an
unit into its fractions, wherein the mind also can proceed in
infinitum, as well as in the former additions; it being indeed but the
addition still of new numbers: though in the addition of the one, we
can have no more the positive idea of a space infinitely great,
than, in the division of the other, we can have the [positive] idea of
a body infinitely little;- our idea of infinity being, as I may say, a
growing or fugitive idea, still in a boundless progression, that can
stop nowhere.
13. No positive idea of infinity. Though it be hard, I think, to
find anyone so absurd as to say he has the positive idea of an
actual infinite number;- the infinity whereof lies only in a power
still of adding any combination of units to any former number, and
that as long and as much as one will; the like also being in the
infinity of space and duration, which power leaves always to the
mind room for endless additions;- yet there be those who imagine
they have positive ideas of infinite duration and space. It would, I
think, be enough to destroy any such positive idea of infinite, to ask
him that has it,- whether he could add to it or no; which would easily
show the mistake of such a positive idea. We can, I think, have no
positive idea of any space or duration which is not made up of, and
commensurate to, repeated numbers of feet or yards, or days and years;
which are the common measures, whereof we have the ideas in our minds,
and whereby we judge of the greatness of this sort of quantities.
And therefore, since an infinite idea of space or duration must
needs be made up of infinite parts, it can have no other infinity than
that of number capable still of further addition; but not an actual
positive idea of a number infinite. For, I think it is evident, that
the addition of finite things together (as are all lengths whereof
we have the positive ideas) can never otherwise produce the idea of
infinite than as number does; which, consisting of additions of finite
units one to another, suggests the idea of infinite, only by a power
we find we have of still increasing the sum, and adding more of the
same kind; without coming one jot nearer the end of such progression.
14. How we cannot have a positive idea of infinity in quantity. They
who would prove their idea of infinite to be positive, seem to me to
do it by a pleasant argument, taken from the negation of an end; which
being negative, the negation of it is positive. He that considers that
the end is, in body, but the extremity or superficies of that body,
will not perhaps be forward to grant that the end is a bare
negative: and he that perceives the end of his pen is black or
white, will be apt to think that the end is something more than a pure
negation. Nor is it, when applied to duration, the bare negation of
existence, but more properly the last moment of it. But if they will
have the end to be nothing but the bare negation of existence, I am
sure they cannot deny but the beginning is the first instant of being,
and is not by any body conceived to be a bare negation; and therefore,
by their own argument, the idea of eternal, a parte ante, or of a
duration without a beginning, is but a negative idea.
15. What is positive, what negative, in our idea of infinite. The
idea of infinite has, I confess, something of positive in all those
things we apply to it. When we would think of infinite space or
duration, we at first step usually make some very large idea, as
perhaps of millions of ages, or miles, which possibly we double and
multiply several times. All that we thus amass together in our
thoughts is positive, and the assemblage of a great number of positive
ideas of space or duration. But what still remains beyond this we have
no more a positive distinct notion of than a mariner has of the
depth of the sea; where, having let down a large portion of his
sounding-line, he reaches no bottom. Whereby he knows the depth to
be so many fathoms, and more; but how much the more is, he hath no
distinct notion at all: and could he always supply new line, and
find the plummet always sink, without ever stopping, he would be
something in the posture of the mind reaching after a complete and
positive idea of infinity. In which case, let this line be ten, or ten
thousand fathoms long, it equally discovers what is beyond it, and
gives only this confused and comparative idea, that this is not all,
but one may yet go farther. So much as the mind comprehends of any
space, it has a positive idea of: but in endeavouring to make it
infinite,- it being always enlarging, always advancing,- the idea is
still imperfect and incomplete. So much space as the mind takes a view
of in its contemplation of greatness, is a clear picture, and positive
in the understanding: but infinite is still greater. 1. Then the
idea of so much is positive and clear. 2. The idea of greater is
also clear; but it is but a comparative idea, the idea of so much
greater as cannot be comprehended. 3. And this is plainly negative:
not positive. For he has no positive clear idea of the largeness of
any extension, (which is that sought for in the idea of infinite),
that has not a comprehensive idea of the dimensions of it: and such,
nobody, I think, pretends to in what is infinite. For to say a man has
a positive clear idea of any quantity, without knowing how great it
is, is as reasonable as to say, he has the positive clear idea of
the number of the sands on the sea-shore, who knows not how many there
be, but only that they are more than twenty. For just such a perfect
and positive idea has he of an infinite space or duration, who says it
is larger than the extent or duration of ten, one hundred, one
thousand, or any other number of miles, or years, whereof he has or
can have a positive idea; which is all the idea, I think, we have of
infinite. So that what lies beyond our positive idea towards infinity,
lies in obscurity, and has the indeterminate confusion of a negative
idea, wherein I know I neither do nor can comprehend all I would, it
being too large for a finite and narrow capacity. And that cannot
but be very far from a positive complete idea, wherein the greatest
part of what I would comprehend is left out, under the undeterminate
intimation of being still greater. For to say, that, having in any
quantity measured so much, or gone so far, you are not yet at the end,
is only to say that that quantity is greater. So that the negation
of an end in any quantity is, in other words, only to say that it is
bigger; and a total negation of an end is but carrying this bigger
still with you, in all the progressions of your thoughts shall make in
quantity; and adding this idea of still greater to all the ideas you
have, or can be supposed to have, of quantity. Now, whether such an
idea as that be positive, I leave any one to consider.
16. We have no positive idea of an infinite duration. I ask those
who say they have a positive idea of eternity, whether their idea of
duration includes in it succession, or not? If it does not, they ought
to show the difference of their notion of duration, when applied to an
eternal Being, and to a finite; since, perhaps, there may be others as
well as I, who will own to them their weakness of understanding in
this point, and acknowledge that the notion they have of duration
forces them to conceive, that whatever has duration, is of a longer
continuance to-day than it was yesterday. If, to avoid succession in
external existence, they return to the punctum stans of the schools, I
suppose they will thereby very little mend the matter, or help us to a
more clear and positive idea of infinite duration; there being nothing
more inconceivable to me than duration without succession. Besides,
that punctum stans, if it signify anything, being not quantum,
finite or infinite cannot belong to it. But, if our weak apprehensions
cannot separate succession from any duration whatsoever, our idea of
eternity can be nothing but of infinite succession of moments of
duration wherein anything does exist; and whether any one has, or
can have, a positive idea of an actual infinite number, I leave him to
consider, till his infinite number be so great that he himself can add
no more to it; and as long as he can increase it, I doubt he himself
will think the idea he hath of it a little too scanty for positive
17. No complete idea of eternal being. I think it unavoidable for
every considering, rational creature, that will but examine his own or
any other existence, to have the notion of an eternal, wise Being, who
had no beginning: and such an idea of infinite duration I am sure I
have. But this negation of a beginning, being but the negation of a
positive thing, scarce gives me a positive idea of infinity; which,
whenever I endeavour to extend my thoughts to, I confess myself at a
loss, and I find I cannot attain any clear comprehension of it.
18. No positive idea of infinite space. He that thinks he has a
positive idea of infinite space, will, when he considers it, find that
he can no more have a positive idea of the greatest, than he has of
the least space. For in this latter, which seems the easier of the
two, and more within our comprehension, we are capable only of a
comparative idea of smallness, which will always be less than any
one whereof we have the positive idea. All our positive ideas of any
quantity, whether great or little, have always bounds, though our
comparative idea, whereby we can always add to the one, and take
from the other, hath no bounds. For that which remains, either great
or little, not being comprehended in that positive idea which we have,
lies in obscurity; and we have no other idea of it, but of the power
of enlarging the one and diminishing the other, without ceasing. A
pestle and mortar will as soon bring any particle of matter to
indivisibility, as the acutest thought of a mathematician; and a
surveyor may as soon with his chain measure out infinite space, as a
philosopher by the quickest flight of mind reach it, or by thinking
comprehend it; which is to have a positive idea of it. He that
thinks on a cube of an inch diameter, has a clear and positive idea of
it in his mind, and so can frame one of 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, and so on, till
he has the idea in his thoughts of something very little; but yet
reaches not the idea of that incomprehensible littleness which
division can produce. What remains of smallness is as far from his
thoughts as when he first began; and therefore he never comes at all
to have a clear and positive idea of that smallness which is
consequent to infinite divisibility.
19. What is positive, what negative, in our idea of infinite.
Every one that looks towards infinity does, as I have said, at first
glance make some very large idea of that which he applies it to, let
it be space or duration; and possibly he wearies his thoughts, by
multiplying in his mind that first large idea: but yet by that he
comes no nearer to the having a positive clear idea of what remains to
make up a positive infinite, than the country fellow had of the
water which was yet to come, and pass the channel of the river where
he stood:

Rusticus expectat dum defluat amnis, at ille
Labitur, et labetur in omne volubilis oevum.

20. Some think they have a positive idea of eternity, and not of
infinite space. There are some I have met that put so much
difference between infinite duration and infinite space, that they
persuade themselves that they have a positive idea of eternity, but
that they have not, nor can have any idea of infinite space. The
reason of which mistake I suppose to be this- that finding, by a due
contemplation of causes and effects, that it is necessary to admit
some Eternal Being, and so to consider the real existence of that
Being as taken up and commensurate to their idea of eternity; but,
on the other side, not finding it necessary, but, on the contrary,
apparently absurd, that body should be infinite, they forwardly
conclude that they can have no idea of infinite space, because they
can have no idea of infinite matter. Which consequence, I conceive, is
very ill collected, because the existence of matter is no ways
necessary to the existence of space, no more than the existence of
motion, or the sun, is necessary to duration, though duration used
to be measured by it. And I doubt not but that a man may have the idea
of ten thousand miles square, without any body so big, as well as
the idea of ten thousand years, without any body so old. It seems as
easy to me to have the idea of space empty of body, as to think of the
capacity of a bushel without corn, or the hollow of a nut-shell
without a kernel in it: it being no more necessary that there should
be existing a solid body, infinitely extended, because we have an idea
of the infinity of space, than it is necessary that the world should
be eternal, because we have an idea of infinite duration. And why
should we think our idea of infinite space requires the real existence
of matter to support it, when we find that we have as clear an idea of
an infinite duration to come, as we have of infinite duration past?
Though I suppose nobody thinks it conceivable that anything does or
has existed in that future duration. Nor is it possible to join our
idea of future duration with present or past existence, any more
than it is possible to make the ideas of yesterday, to-day, and
to-morrow to be the same; or bring ages past and future together,
and make them contemporary. But if these men are of the mind, that
they have clearer ideas of infinite duration than of infinite space,
because it is past doubt that God has existed from all eternity, but
there is no real matter co-extended with infinite space; yet those
philosophers who are of opinion that infinite space is possessed by
God's infinite omnipresence, as well as infinite duration by his
eternal existence, must be allowed to have as clear an idea of
infinite space as of infinite duration; though neither of them, I
think, has any positive idea of infinity in either case. For
whatsoever positive ideas a man has in his mind of any quantity, he
can repeat it, and add it to the former, as easy as he can add
together the ideas of two days, or two paces, which are positive ideas
of lengths he has in his mind, and so on as long as he pleases:
whereby, if a man had a positive idea of infinite, either duration
or space, he could add two infinities together; nay, make one infinite
infinitely bigger than another- absurdities too gross to be confuted.
21. Supposed positive ideas of infinity, cause of mistakes. But
yet if after all this, there be men who persuade themselves that
they have clear positive comprehensive ideas of infinity, it is fit
they enjoy their privilege: and I should be very glad (with some
others that I know, who acknowledge they have none such) to be
better informed by their communication. For I have been hitherto apt
to think that the great and inextricable difficulties which
perpetually involve all discourses concerning infinity,- whether of
space, duration, or divisibility, have been the certain marks of a
defect in our ideas of infinity, and the disproportion the nature
thereof has to the comprehension of our narrow capacities. For, whilst
men talk and dispute of infinite space or duration, as if they had
as complete and positive ideas of them as they have of the names
they use for them, or as they have of a yard, or an hour, or any other
determinate quantity; it is no wonder if the incomprehensible nature
of the thing they discourse of, or reason about, leads them into
perplexities and contradictions, and their minds be overlaid by an
object too large and mighty to be surveyed and managed by them.
22. All these are modes of ideas got from sensation and
reflection. If I have dwelt pretty long on the consideration of
duration, space, and number, and what arises from the contemplation of
them,- Infinity, it is possibly no more than the matter requires;
there being few simple ideas whose modes give more exercise to the
thoughts of men than those do. I pretend not to treat of them in their
full latitude. It suffices to my design to show how the mind
receives them, such as they are, from sensation and reflection; and
how even the idea we have of infinity, how remote soever it may seem
to be from any object of sense, or operation of our mind, has,
nevertheless, as all our other ideas, its original there. Some
mathematicians perhaps, of advanced speculations, may have other
ways to introduce into their minds ideas of infinity. But this hinders
not but that they themselves, as well as all other men, got the
first ideas which they had of infinity from sensation and
reflection, in the method we have here set down.
Chapter XVIII
Other Simple Modes

1. Other simple modes of simple ideas of sensation. Though I have,
in the foregoing chapters, shown how, from simple ideas taken in by
sensation, the mind comes to extend itself even to infinity; which,
however it may of all others seem most remote from any sensible
perception, yet at last hath nothing in it but what is made out of
simple ideas: received into the mind by the senses, and afterwards
there put together, by the faculty the mind has to repeat its own
ideas;- Though, I say, these might be instances enough of simple modes
of the simple ideas of sensation, and suffice to show how the mind
comes by them, yet I shall, for method's sake, though briefly, give an
account of some few more, and then proceed to more complex ideas.
2. Simple modes of motion. To slide, roll, tumble, walk, creep, run,
dance, leap, skip, and abundance of others that might be named, are
words which are no sooner heard but every one who understands
English has presently in his mind distinct ideas, which are all but
the different modifications of motion. Modes of motion answer those of
extension; swift and slow are two different ideas of motion, the
measures whereof are made of the distances of time and space put
together; so they are complex ideas, comprehending time and space with
3. Modes of sounds. The like variety have we in sounds. Every
articulate word is a different modification of sound; by which we
see that, from the sense of hearing, by such modifications, the mind
may be furnished with distinct ideas, to almost an infinite number.
Sounds also, besides the distinct cries of birds and beasts, are
modified by diversity of notes of different length put together, which
make that complex idea called a tune, which a musician may have in his
mind when he hears or makes no sound at all, by reflecting on the
ideas of those sounds, so put together silently in his own fancy.
4. Modes of colours. Those of colours are also very various: some we
take notice of as the different degrees, or as they were termed
shades, of the same colour. But since we very seldom make
assemblages of colours, either for use or delight, but figure is taken
in also, and has its part in it, as in painting, weaving, needleworks,
&c.; those which are taken notice of do most commonly belong to
mixed modes, as being made up of ideas of divers kinds, viz. figure
and colour, such as beauty, rainbow, &c.
5. Modes of tastes. All compounded tastes and smells are also modes,
made up of the simple ideas of those senses. But they, being such as
generally we have no names for, are less taken notice of, and cannot
be set down in writing; and therefore must be left without enumeration
to the thoughts and experience of my reader.
6. Some simple modes have no names. In general it may be observed,
that those simple modes which are considered but as different
degrees of the same simple idea, though they are in themselves many of
them very distinct ideas, yet have ordinarily no distinct names, nor
are much taken notice of, as distinct ideas, where the difference is
but very small between them. Whether men have neglected these modes,
and given no names to them, as wanting measures nicely to
distinguish them; or because, when they were so distinguished, that
knowledge would not be of general or necessary use, I leave it to
the thoughts of others. It is sufficient to my purpose to show, that
all our simple ideas come to our minds only by sensation and
reflection; and that when the mind has them, it can variously repeat
and compound them, and so make new complex ideas. But, though white,
red, or sweet, &c. have not been modified, or made into complex ideas,
by several combinations, so as to be named, and thereby ranked into
species; yet some others of the simple ideas, viz. those of unity,
duration, and motion, &c., above instanced in, as also power and
thinking, have been thus modified to a great variety of complex ideas,
with names belonging to them.
7. Why some modes have, and others have not, names. The reason
whereof, I suppose, has been this,- That the great concernment of
men being with men one amongst another, the knowledge of men, and
their actions, and the signifying of them to one another, was most
necessary; and therefore they made ideas of actions very nicely
modified, and gave those complex ideas names, that they might the more
easily record and discourse of those things they were daily conversant
in, without long ambages and circumlocutions; and that the things they
were continually to give and receive information about might be the
easier and quicker understood. That this is so, and that men in
framing different complex ideas, and giving them names, have been much
governed by the end of speech in general, (which is a very short and
expedite way of conveying their thoughts one to another), is evident
in the names which in several arts have been found out, and applied to
several complex ideas of modified actions, belonging to their
several trades, for dispatch sake, in their direction or discourses
about them. Which ideas are not generally framed in the minds of men
not conversant about these operations. And thence the words that stand
for them, by the greatest part of men of the same language, are not
understood: v.g. coltshire, drilling, filtration, cohobation, are
words standing for certain complex ideas, which being seldom in the
minds of any but those few whose particular employments do at every
turn suggest them to their thoughts, those names of them are not
generally understood but by smiths and chymists; who, having framed
the complex ideas which these words stand for, and having given
names to them, or received them from others, upon hearing of these
names in communication, readily conceive those ideas in their
minds;- as by cohobation all the simple ideas of distilling, and the
pouring the liquor distilled from anything back upon the remaining
matter, and distilling it again. Thus we see that there are great
varieties of simple ideas, as of tastes and smells, which have no
names; and of modes many more; which either not having been
generally enough observed, or else not being of any great use to be
taken notice of in the affairs and converse of men, they have not
had names given to them, and so pass not for species. This we shall
have occasion hereafter to consider more at large, when we come to
speak of words.
Chapter XIX
Of the Modes of Thinking

1. Sensation, remembrance, contemplation, &c., modes of thinking.
When the mind turns its view inwards upon itself, and contemplates its
own actions, thinking is the first that occurs. In it the mind
observes a great variety of modifications, and from thence receives
distinct ideas. Thus the perception or thought which actually
accompanies, and is annexed to, any impression on the body, made by an
external object, being distinct from all other modifications of
thinking, furnishes the mind with a distinct idea, which we call
sensation;- which is, as it were, the actual entrance of any idea into
the understanding by the senses. The same idea, when it again recurs
without the operation of the like object on the external sensory, is
remembrance: if it be sought after by the mind, and with pain and
endeavour found, and brought again in view, it is recollection: if
it be held there long under attentive consideration, it is
contemplation: when ideas float in our mind, without any reflection or
regard of the understanding, it is that which the French call reverie;
our language has scarce a name for it: when the ideas that offer
themselves (for, as I have observed in another place, whilst we are
awake, there will always be a train of ideas succeeding one another in
our minds) are taken notice of, and, as it were, registered in the
memory, it is attention: when the mind with great earnestness, and
of choice, fixes its view on any idea, considers it on all sides,
and will not be called off by the ordinary solicitation of other
ideas, it is that we call intention or study: sleep, without dreaming,
is rest from all these: and dreaming itself is the having of ideas
(whilst the outward senses are stopped, so that they receive not
outward objects with their usual quickness) in the mind, not suggested
by any external objects, or known occasion; nor under any choice or
conduct of the understanding at all: and whether that which we call
ecstasy be not dreaming with the eyes open, I leave to be examined.
2. Other modes of thinking. These are some few instances of those
various modes of thinking, which the mind may observe in itself, and
so have as distinct ideas of as it hath of white and red, a square
or a circle. I do not pretend to enumerate them all, nor to treat at
large of this set of ideas, which are got from reflection: that
would be to make a volume. It suffices to my present purpose to have
shown here, by some few examples, of what sort these ideas are, and
how the mind comes by them; especially since I shall have occasion
hereafter to treat more at large of reasoning, judging, volition,
and knowledge, which are some of the most considerable operations of
the mind, and modes of thinking.
3. The various degrees of attention in thinking. But perhaps it
may not be an unpardonable digression, nor wholly impertinent to our
present design, if we reflect here upon the different state of the
mind in thinking, which those instances of attention, reverie, and
dreaming, &c., before mentioned, naturally enough suggest. That
there are ideas, some or other, always present in the mind of a waking
man, every one's experience convinces him; though the mind employs
itself about them with several degrees of attention. Sometimes the
mind fixes itself with so much earnestness on the contemplation of
some objects, that it turns their ideas on all sides; marks their
relations and circumstances; and views every part so nicely and with
such intention, that it shuts out all other thoughts, and takes no
notice of the ordinary impressions made then on the senses, which at
another season would produce very sensible perceptions: at other times
it barely observes the train of ideas that succeed in the
understanding, without directing and pursuing any of them: and at
other times it lets them pass almost quite unregarded, as faint
shadows that make no impression.
4. Hence it is probable that thinking is the action, not the essence
of the soul. This difference of intention, and remission of the mind
in thinking, with a great variety of degrees between earnest study and
very near minding nothing at all, every one, I think, has experimented
in himself. Trace it a little further, and you find the mind in
sleep retired as it were from the senses, and out of the reach of
those motions made on the organs of sense, which at other times
produce very vivid and sensible ideas. I need not, for this,
instance in those who sleep out whole stormy nights, without hearing
the thunder, or seeing the lightning, or feeling the shaking of the
house, which are sensible enough to those who are waking. But in
this retirement of the mind from the senses, it often retains a yet
more loose and incoherent manner of thinking, which we call
dreaming. And, last of all, sound sleep closes the scene quite, and
puts an end to all appearances. This, I think almost every one has
experience of in himself, and his own observation without difficulty
leads him thus far. That which I would further conclude from hence is,
that since the mind can sensibly put on, at several times, several
degrees of thinking, and be sometimes, even in a waking man, so
remiss, as to have thoughts dim and obscure to that degree that they
are very little removed from none at all; and at last, in the dark
retirements of sound sleep, loses the sight perfectly of all ideas
whatsoever: since, I say, this is evidently so in matter of fact and
constant experience, I ask whether it be not probable, that thinking
is the action and not the essence of the soul? Since the operations of
agents will easily admit of intention and remission: but the
essences of things are not conceived capable of any such variation.
But this by the by.
Chapter XX
Of Modes of Pleasure and Pain

1. Pleasure and pain, simple ideas. Amongst the simple ideas which
we receive both from sensation and reflection, pain and pleasure are
two very considerable ones. For as in the body there is sensation
barely in itself, or accompanied with pain or pleasure, so the thought
or perception of the mind is simply so, or else accompanied also
with pleasure or pain, delight or trouble, call it how you please.
These, like other simple ideas, cannot be described, nor their names
defined; the way of knowing them is, as of the simple ideas of the
senses, only by experience. For, to define them by the presence of
good or evil, is no otherwise to make them known to us than by
making us reflect on what we feel in ourselves, upon the several and
various operations of good and evil upon our minds, as they are
differently applied to or considered by us.
2. Good and evil, what. Things then are good or evil, only in
reference to pleasure or pain. That we call good, which is apt to
cause or increase pleasure, or diminish pain in us; or else to procure
or preserve us the possession of any other good or absence of any
evil. And, on the contrary, we name that evil which is apt to
produce or increase any pain, or diminish any pleasure in us: or
else to procure us any evil, or deprive us of any good. By pleasure
and pain, I must be understood to mean of body or mind, as they are
commonly distinguished; though in truth they be only different
constitutions of the mind, sometimes occasioned by disorder in the
body, sometimes by thoughts of the mind.
3. Our passions moved by good and evil. Pleasure and pain and that
which causes them,- good and evil, are the hinges on which our
passions turn. And if we reflect on ourselves, and observe how
these, under various considerations, operate in us; what modifications
or tempers of mind, what internal sensations (if I may so call them)
they produce in us we may thence form to ourselves the ideas of our
4. Love. Thus any one reflecting upon the thought he has of the
delight which any present or absent thing is apt to produce in him,
has the idea we call love. For when a man declares in autumn when he
is eating them, or in spring when there are none, that he loves
grapes, it is no more but that the taste of grapes delights him: let
an alteration of health or constitution destroy the delight of their
taste, and he then can be said to love grapes no longer.
5. Hatred. On the contrary, the thought of the pain which anything
present or absent is apt to produce in us, is what we call hatred.
Were it my business here to inquire any further than into the bare
ideas of our passions, as they depend on different modifications of
pleasure and pain, I should remark, that our love and hatred of
inanimate insensible beings is commonly founded on that pleasure and
pain which we receive from their use and application any way to our
senses, though with their destruction. But hatred or love, to beings
capable of happiness or misery, is often the uneasiness or delight
which we find in ourselves, arising from a consideration of their very
being or happiness. Thus the being and welfare of a man's children
or friends, producing constant delight in him, he is said constantly
to love them. But it suffices to note, that our ideas of love and
hatred are but the dispositions of the mind, in respect of pleasure
and pain in general, however caused in us.
6. Desire. The uneasiness a man finds in himself upon the absence of
anything whose present enjoyment carries the idea of delight with
it, is that we call desire; which is greater or less, as that
uneasiness is more or less vehement. Where, by the by, it may
perhaps be of some use to remark, that the chief, if not only spur
to human industry and action is uneasiness. For whatsoever good is
proposed, if its absence carries no displeasure or pain with it, if
a man be easy and content without it, there is no desire of it, nor
endeavour after it; there is no more but a bare velleity, the term
used to signify the lowest degree of desire, and that which is next to
none at all, when there is so little uneasiness in the absence of
anything, that it carries a man no further than some faint wishes
for it, without any more effectual or vigorous use of the means to
attain it. Desire also is stopped or abated by the opinion of the
impossibility or unattainableness of the good proposed, as far as
the uneasiness is cured or allayed by that consideration. This might
carry our thoughts further, were it seasonable in this place.
7. Joy is a delight of the mind, from the consideration of the
present or assured approaching possession of a good; and we are then
possessed of any good, when we have it so in our power that we can use
it when we please. Thus a man almost starved has joy at the arrival of
relief, even before he has the pleasure of using it: and a father,
in whom the very well-being of his children causes delight, is always,
as long as his children are in such a state, in the possession of that
good; for he needs but to reflect on it, to have that pleasure.
8. Sorrow is uneasiness in the mind, upon the thought of a good
lost, which might have been enjoyed longer; or the sense of a
present evil.
9. Hope is that pleasure in the mind, which every one finds in
himself, upon the thought of a probable future enjoyment of a thing
which is apt to delight him.
10. Fear is an uneasiness of the mind, upon the thought of future
evil likely to befal us.
11. Despair is the thought of the unattainableness of any good,
which works differently in men's minds, sometimes producing uneasiness
or pain, sometimes rest and indolency.
12. Anger is uneasiness or discomposure of the mind, upon the
receipt of any injury, with a present purpose of revenge.
13. Envy is an uneasiness of the mind, caused by the consideration
of a good we desire obtained by one we think should not have had it
before us.
14. What passions all men have. These two last, envy and anger,
not being caused by pain and pleasure simply in themselves, but having
in them some mixed considerations of ourselves and others, are not
therefore to be found in all men, because those other parts, of
valuing their merits, or intending revenge, is wanting in them. But
all the rest, terminating purely in pain and pleasure, are, I think,
to be found in all men. For we love, desire, rejoice, and hope, only
in respect of pleasure; we hate, fear, and grieve, only in respect
of pain ultimately. In fine, all these passions are moved by things,
only as they appear to be the causes of pleasure and pain, or to
have pleasure or pain some way or other annexed to them. Thus we
extend our hatred usually to the subject (at least, if a sensible or
voluntary agent) which has produced pain in us; because the fear it
leaves is a constant pain: but we do not so constantly love what has
done us good; because pleasure operates not so strongly on us as pain,
and because we are not so ready to have hope it will do so again.
But this by the by.
15. Pleasure and pain, what. By pleasure and pain, delight and
uneasiness, I must all along be understood (as I have above intimated)
to mean not only bodily pain and pleasure, but whatsoever delight or
uneasiness is felt by us, whether arising from any grateful or
unacceptable sensation or reflection.
16. Removal or lessening of either. It is further to be
considered, that, in reference to the passions, the removal or
lessening of a pain is considered, and operates, as a pleasure: and
the loss or diminishing of a pleasure, as a pain.
17. Shame. The passions too have most of them, in most persons,
operations on the body, and cause various changes in it; which not
being always sensible, do not make a necessary part of the idea of
each passion. For shame, which is an uneasiness of the mind upon the
thought of having done something which is indecent, or will lessen the
valued esteem which others have for us, has not always blushing
accompanying it.
18. These instances to show how our ideas of the passions are got
from sensation and reflection. I would not be mistaken here, as if I
meant this as a Discourse of the Passions; they are many more than
those I have here named: and those I have taken notice of would each
of them require a much larger and more accurate discourse. I have only
mentioned these here, as so many instances of modes of pleasure and
pain resulting in our minds from various considerations of good and
evil. I might perhaps have instanced in other modes of pleasure and
pain, more simple than these; as the pain of hunger and thirst, and
the pleasure of eating and drinking to remove them: the pain of
teeth set on edge; the pleasure of music; pain from captious
uninstructive wrangling, and the pleasure of rational conversation
with a friend, or of well-directed study in the search and discovery
of truth. But the passions being of much more concernment to us, I
rather made choice to instance in them, and show how the ideas we have
of them are derived from sensation or reflection.
Chapter XXI
Of Power

1. This idea how got. The mind being every day informed, by the
senses, of the alteration of those simple ideas it observes in
things without; and taking notice how one comes to an end, and
ceases to be, and another begins to exist which was not before;
reflecting also on what passes within itself, and observing a constant
change of its ideas, sometimes by the impression of outward objects on
the senses, and sometimes by the determination of its own choice;
and concluding from what it has so constantly observed to have been,
that the like changes will for the future be made in the same
things, by like agents, and by the like ways,- considers in one
thing the possibility of having any of its simple ideas changed, and
in another the possibility of making that change; and so comes by that
idea which we call power. Thus we say, Fire has a power to melt
gold, i.e. to destroy the consistency of its insensible parts, and
consequently its hardness, and make it fluid; and gold has a power
to be melted; that the sun has a power to blanch wax, and wax a
power to be blanched by the sun, whereby the yellowness is
destroyed, and whiteness made to exist in its room. In which, and
the like cases, the power we consider is in reference to the change of
perceivable ideas. For we cannot observe any alteration to be made in,
or operation upon anything, but by the observable change of its
sensible ideas; nor conceive any alteration to be made, but by
conceiving a change of some of its ideas.
2. Power, active and passive. Power thus considered is two-fold,
viz. as able to make, or able to receive any change. The one may be
called active, and the other passive power. Whether matter be not
wholly destitute of active power, as its author, God, is truly above
all passive power; and whether the intermediate state of created
spirits be not that alone which is capable of both active and
passive power, may be worth consideration. I shall not now enter
into that inquiry, my present business being not to search into the
original of power, but how we come by the idea of it. But since active
powers make so great a part of our complex ideas of natural
substances, (as we shall see hereafter,) and I mention them as such,
according to common apprehension; yet they being not, perhaps, so
truly active powers as our hasty thoughts are apt to represent them, I
judge it not amiss, by this intimation, to direct our minds to the
consideration of God and spirits, for the clearest idea of active
3. Power includes relation. I confess power includes in it some kind
of relation, (a relation to action or change,) as indeed which of
our ideas, of what kind soever, when attentively considered, does not?
For, our ideas of extension, duration, and number, do they not all
contain in them a secret relation of the parts? Figure and motion have
something relative in them much more visibly. And sensible
qualities, as colours and smells, &c., what are they but the powers of
different bodies, in relation to our perception, &c.? And, if
considered in the things themselves, do they not depend on the bulk,
figure, texture, and motion of the parts? All which include some
kind of relation in them. Our idea therefore of power, I think, may
well have a place amongst other simple ideas, and be considered as one
of them; being one of those that make a principal ingredient in our
complex ideas of substances, as we shall hereafter have occasion to
4. The clearest idea of active power had from spirit. We are
abundantly furnished with the idea of passive power by almost all
sorts of sensible things. In most of them we cannot avoid observing
their sensible qualities, nay, their very substances, to be in a
continual flux. And therefore with reason we look on them as liable
still to the same change. Nor have we of active power (which is the
more proper signification of the word power) fewer instances. Since
whatever change is observed, the mind must collect a power somewhere
able to make that change, as well as a possibility in the thing itself
to receive it. But yet, if we will consider it attentively, bodies, by
our senses, do not afford us so clear and distinct an idea of active
power, as we have from reflection on the operations of our minds.
For all power relating to action, and there being but two sorts of
action whereof we have an idea, viz. thinking and motion, let us
consider whence we have the clearest ideas of the powers which produce
these actions. (1) Of thinking, body affords us no idea at all; it
is only from reflection that we have that. (2) Neither have we from
body any idea of the beginning of motion. A body at rest affords us no
idea of any active power to move; and when it is set in motion itself,
that motion is rather a passion than an action in it. For, when the
ball obeys the motion of a billiard-stick, it is not any action of the
ball, but bare passion. Also when by impulse it sets another ball in
motion that lay in its way, it only communicates the motion it had
received from another, and loses in itself so much as the other
received: which gives us but a very obscure idea of an active power of
moving in body, whilst we observe it only to transfer, but not produce
any motion. For it is but a very obscure idea of power which reaches
not the production of the action, but the continuation of the passion.
For so is motion in a body impelled by another; the continuation of
the alteration made in it from rest to motion being little more an
action, than the continuation of the alteration of its figure by the
same blow is an action. The idea of the beginning of motion we have
only from reflection on what passes in ourselves; where we find by
experience, that, barely by willing it, barely by a thought of the
mind, we can move the parts of our bodies, which were before at
rest. So that it seems to me, we have, from the observation of the
operation of bodies by our senses, but a very imperfect obscure idea
of active power; since they afford us not any idea in themselves of
the power to begin any action, either motion or thought. But if,
from the impulse bodies are observed to make one upon another, any one
thinks he has a clear idea of power, it serves as well to my
purpose; sensation being one of those ways whereby the mind comes by
its ideas: only I thought it worth while to consider here, by the way,
whether the mind doth not receive its idea of active power clearer
from reflection on its own operations, than it doth from any
external sensation.
5. Will and understanding two powers in mind or spirit. This, at
least, I think evident,- That we find in ourselves a power to begin or
forbear, continue or end several actions of our minds, and motions
of our bodies, barely by a thought or preference of the mind ordering,
or as it were commanding, the doing or not doing such or such a
particular action. This power which the mind has thus to order the
consideration of any idea, or the forbearing to consider it; or to
prefer the motion of any part of the body to its rest, and vice versa,
in any particular instance, is that which we call the Will. The actual
exercise of that power, by directing any particular action, or its
forbearance, is that which we call volition or willing. The
forbearance of that action, consequent to such order or command of the
mind, is called voluntary. And whatsoever action is performed
without such a thought of the mind, is called involuntary. The power
of perception is that which we call the Understanding. Perception,
which we make the act of the understanding, is of three sorts:- 1. The
perception of ideas in our minds. 2. The perception of the
signification of signs. 3. The perception of the connexion or
repugnancy, agreement or disagreement, that there is between any of
our ideas. All these are attributed to the understanding, or
perceptive power, though it be the two latter only that use allows
us to say we understand.
6. Faculties, not real beings. These powers of the mind, viz. of
perceiving, and of preferring, are usually called by another name. And
the ordinary way of speaking is, that the understanding and will are
two faculties of the mind; a word proper enough, if it be used, as all
words should be, so as not to breed any confusion in men's thoughts,
by being supposed (as I suspect it has been) to stand for some real
beings in the soul that performed those actions of understanding and
volition. For when we say the will is the commanding and superior
faculty of the soul; that it is or is not free; that it determines the
inferior faculties; that it follows the dictates of the understanding,
&c.,- though these and the like expressions, by those that carefully
attend to their own ideas, and conduct their thoughts more by the
evidence of things than the sound of words, may be understood in a
clear and distinct sense- yet I suspect, I say, that this way of
speaking of faculties has misled many into a confused notion of so
many distinct agents in us, which had their several provinces and
authorities, and did command, obey, and perform several actions, as so
many distinct beings; which has been no small occasion of wrangling,
obscurity, and uncertainty, in questions relating to them.
7. Whence the ideas of liberty and necessity. Every one, I think,
finds in himself a power to begin or forbear, continue or put an end
to several actions in himself. From the consideration of the extent of
this power of the mind over the actions of the man, which everyone
finds in himself, arise the ideas of liberty and necessity.
8. Liberty, what. All the actions that we have any idea of
reducing themselves, as has been said, to these two, viz. thinking and
motion; so far as a man has power to think or not to think, to move or
not to move, according to the preference or direction of his own mind,
so far is a man free. Wherever any performance or forbearance are
not equally in a man's power; wherever doing or not doing will not
equally follow upon the preference of his mind directing it, there
he is not free, though perhaps the action may be voluntary. So that
the idea of liberty is, the idea of a power in any agent to do or
forbear any particular action, according to the determination or
thought of the mind, whereby either of them is preferred to the other:
where either of them is not in the power of the agent to be produced
by him according to his volition, there he is not at liberty; that
agent is under necessity. So that liberty cannot be where there is
no thought, no volition, no will; but there may be thought, there
may be will, there may be volition, where there is no liberty. A
little consideration of an obvious instance or two may make this
9. Supposes understanding and will. A tennis-ball, whether in motion
by the stroke of a racket, or lying still at rest, is not by any one
taken to be a free agent. If we inquire into the reason, we shall find
it is because we conceive not a tennis-ball to think, and consequently
not to have any volition, or preference of motion to rest, or vice
versa; and therefore has not liberty, is not a free agent; but all its
both motion and rest come under our idea of necessary, and are so
called. Likewise a man falling into the water, (a bridge breaking
under him), has not herein liberty, is not a free agent. For though he
has volition, though he prefers his not falling to falling; yet the
forbearance of that motion not being in his power, the stop or
cessation of that motion follows not upon his volition; and
therefore therein he is not free. So a man striking himself, or his
friend, by a convulsive motion of his arm, which it is not in his
power, by volition or the direction of his mind, to stop or forbear,
nobody thinks he has in this liberty; every one pities him, as
acting by necessity and constraint.
10. Belongs not to volition. Again: suppose a man be carried, whilst
fast asleep, into a room where is a person he longs to see and speak
with; and be there locked fast in, beyond his power to get out: he
awakes, and is glad to find himself in so desirable company, which
he stays willingly in, i.e. prefers his stay to going away. I ask,
is not this stay voluntary? I think nobody will doubt it: and yet,
being locked fast in, it is evident he is not at liberty not to
stay, he has not freedom to be gone. So that liberty is not an idea
belonging to volition, or preferring; but to the person having the
power of doing, or forbearing to do, according as the mind shall
choose or direct. Our idea of liberty reaches as far as that power,
and no farther. For wherever restraint comes to check that power, or
compulsion takes away that indifferency of ability to act, or to
forbear acting, there liberty, and our notion of it, presently ceases.
11. Voluntary opposed to involuntary, not to necessary. We have
instances enough, and often more than enough, in our own bodies. A
man's heart beats, and the blood circulates, which it is not in his
power by any thought or volition to stop; and therefore in respect
of these motions, where rest depends not on his choice, nor would
follow the determination of his mind, if it should prefer it, he is
not a free agent. Convulsive motions agitate his legs, so that
though he wills it ever so much, he cannot by any power of his mind
stop their motion, (as in that odd disease called chorea sancti viti),
but he is perpetually dancing; he is not at liberty in this action,
but under as much necessity of moving, as a stone that falls, or a
tennis-ball struck with a racket. On the other side, a palsy or the
stocks hinder his legs from obeying the determination of his mind,
if it would thereby transfer his body to another place. In all these
there is want of freedom; though the sitting still, even of a
paralytic, whilst he prefers it to a removal, is truly voluntary.
Voluntary, then, is not opposed to necessary, but to involuntary.
For a man may prefer what he can do, to what he cannot do; the state
he is in, to its absence or change; though necessity has made it in
itself unalterable.
12. Liberty, what. As it is in the motions of the body, so it is
in the thoughts of our minds: where any one is such, that we have
power to take it up, or lay it by, according to the preference of
the mind, there we are at liberty. A waking man, being under the
necessity of having some ideas constantly in his mind, is not at
liberty to think or not to think; no more than he is at liberty,
whether his body shall touch any other or no: but whether he will
remove his contemplation from one idea to another is many times in his
choice; and then he is, in respect of his ideas, as much at liberty as
he is in respect of bodies he rests on; he can at pleasure remove
himself from one to another. But yet some ideas to the mind, like some
motions to the body, are such as in certain circumstances it cannot
avoid, nor obtain their absence by the utmost effort it can use. A man
on the rack is not at liberty to lay by the idea of pain, and divert
himself with other contemplations: and sometimes a boisterous
passion hurries our thoughts, as a hurricane does our bodies,
without leaving us the liberty of thinking on other things, which we
would rather choose. But as soon as the mind regains the power to stop
or continue, begin or forbear, any of these motions of the body
without, or thoughts within, according as it thinks fit to prefer
either to the other, we then consider the man as a free agent again.
13. Necessity, what. Wherever thought is wholly wanting, or the
power to act or forbear according to the direction of thought, there
necessity takes place. This, in an agent capable of volition, when the
beginning or continuation of any action is contrary to that preference
of his mind, is called compulsion; when the hindering or stopping
any action is contrary to his volition, it is called restraint. Agents
that have no thought, no volition at all, are in everything
necessary agents.
14. Liberty belongs not to the will. If this be so, (as I imagine it
is,) I leave it to be considered, whether it may not help to put an
end to that long agitated, and, I think, unreasonable, because
unintelligible question, viz. Whether man's will be free or no? For if
I mistake not, it follows from what I have said, that the question
itself is altogether improper; and it is as insignificant to ask
whether man's will be free, as to ask whether his sleep be swift, or
his virtue square: liberty being as little applicable to the will,
as swiftness of motion is to sleep, or squareness to virtue. Every one
would laugh at the absurdity of such a question as either of these:
because it is obvious that the modifications of motion belong not to
sleep, nor the difference of figure to virtue; and when one well
considers it, I think he will as plainly perceive that liberty,
which is but a power, belongs only to agents, and cannot be an
attribute or modification of the will, which is also but a power.
15. Volition. Such is the difficulty of explaining and giving
clear notions of internal actions by sounds, that I must here warn
my reader, that ordering, directing, choosing, preferring, &c.,
which I have made use of, will not distinctly enough express volition,
unless he will reflect on what he himself does when he wills. For
example, preferring, which seems perhaps best to express the act of
volition, does it not precisely. For though a man would prefer
flying to walking, yet who can say he ever wills it? Volition, it is
plain, is an act of the mind knowingly exerting that dominion it takes
itself to have over any part of the man, by employing it in, or
withholding it from, any particular action. And what is the will,
but the faculty to do this? And is that faculty anything more in
effect than a power; the power of the mind to determine its thought,
to the producing, continuing, or stopping any action, as far as it
depends on us? For can it be denied that whatever agent has a power to
think on its own actions, and to prefer their doing or omission either
to other, has that faculty called will? Will, then, is nothing but
such a power. Liberty, on the other side, is the power a man has to do
or forbear doing any particular action according as its doing or
forbearance has the actual preference in the mind; which is the same
thing as to say, according as he himself wills it.
16. Powers, belonging to agents. It is plain then that the will is
nothing but one power or ability, and freedom another power or ability
so that, to ask, whether the will has freedom, is to ask whether one
power has another power, one ability another ability; a question at
first sight too grossly absurd to make a dispute, or need an answer.
For, who is it that sees not that powers belong only to agents, and
are attributes only of substances, and not of powers themselves? So
that this way of putting the question (viz. whether the will be
free) is in effect to ask, whether the will be a substance, an
agent, or at least to suppose it, since freedom can properly be
attributed to nothing else. If freedom can with any propriety of
speech be applied to power, it may be attributed to the power that
is in a man to produce, or forbear producing, motion in parts of his
body, by choice or preference; which is that which denominates him
free, and is freedom itself. But if any one should ask, whether
freedom were free, he would be suspected not to understand well what
he said; and he would be thought to deserve Midas's ears, who, knowing
that rich was a denomination for the possession of riches, should
demand whether riches themselves were rich.
17. How the will, instead of the man, is called free. However, the
name faculty, which men have given to this power called the will,
and whereby they have been led into a way of talking of the will as
acting, may, by an appropriation that disguises its true sense,
serve a little to palliate the absurdity; yet the will, in truth,
signifies nothing but a power or ability to prefer or choose: and when
the will, under the name of a faculty, is considered as it is,
barely as an ability to do something, the absurdity in saying it is
free, or not free, will easily discover itself For, if it be
reasonable to suppose and talk of faculties as distinct beings that
can act, (as we do, when we say the will orders, and the will is
free,) it is fit that we should make a speaking faculty, and a walking
faculty, and a dancing faculty, by which these actions are produced,
which are but several modes of motion; as well as we make the will and
understanding to be faculties, by which the actions of choosing and
perceiving are produced, which are but several modes of thinking.
And we may as properly say that it is the singing faculty sings, and
the dancing faculty dances, as that the will chooses, or that the
understanding conceives; or, as is usual, that the will directs the
understanding, or the understanding obeys or obeys not the will: it
being altogether as proper and intelligible to say that the power of
speaking directs the power of singing, or the power of singing obeys
or disobeys the power of speaking.
18. This way of talking causes confusion of thought. This way of
talking, nevertheless, has prevailed, and, as I guess, produced
great confusion. For these being all different powers in the mind,
or in the man, to do several actions, he exerts them as he thinks fit:
but the power to do one action is not operated on by the power of
doing another action. For the power of thinking operates not on the
power of choosing, nor the power of choosing on the power of thinking;
no more than the power of dancing operates on the power of singing, or
the power of singing on the power of dancing, as any one who
reflects on it will easily perceive. And yet this is it which we say
when we thus speak, that the will operates on the understanding, or
the understanding on the will.
19. Powers are relations, not agents. I grant, that this or that
actual thought may be the occasion of volition, or exercising the
power a man has to choose; or the actual choice of the mind, the cause
of actual thinking on this or that thing: as the actual singing of
such a tune may be the cause of dancing such a dance, and the actual
dancing of such a dance the occasion of singing such a tune. But in
all these it is not one power that operates on another: but it is
the mind that operates, and exerts these powers; it is the man that
does the action; it is the agent that has power, or is able to do. For
powers are relations, not agents: and that which has the power or
not the power to operate, is that alone which is or is not free, and
not the power itself For freedom, or not freedom, can belong to
nothing but what has or has not a power to act.
20. Liberty belongs not to the will. The attributing to faculties
that which belonged not to them, has given occasion to this way of
talking: but the introducing into discourses concerning the mind, with
the name of faculties, a notion of their operating, has, I suppose, as
little advanced our knowledge in that part of ourselves, as the
great use and mention of the like invention of faculties, in the
operations of the body, has helped us in the knowledge of physic.
Not that I deny there are faculties, both in the body and mind: they
both of them have their powers of operating, else neither the one
nor the other could operate. For nothing can operate that is not
able to operate; and that is not able to operate that has no power
to operate. Nor do I deny that those words, and the like, are to
have their place in the common use of languages that have made them
current. It looks like too much affectation wholly to lay them by: and
philosophy itself, though it likes not a gaudy dress, yet, when it
appears in public, must have so much complacency as to be clothed in
the ordinary fashion and language of the country, so far as it can
consist with truth and perspicuity. But the fault has been, that
faculties have been spoken of and represented as so many distinct
agents. For, it being asked, what it was that digested the meat in our
stomachs? it was a ready and very satisfactory answer to say, that
it was the digestive faculty. What was it that made anything come
out of the body? the expulsive faculty. What moved? the motive
faculty. And so in the mind, the intellectual faculty, or the
understanding, understood; and the elective faculty, or the will,
willed or commanded. This is, in short, to say, that the ability to
digest, digested; and the ability to move, moved; and the ability to
understand, understood. For faculty, ability, and power, I think,
are but different names of the same things: which ways of speaking,
when put into more intelligible words, will, I think, amount to thus
much;- That digestion is performed by something that is able to
digest, motion by something able to move, and understanding by
something able to understand. And, in truth, it would be very
strange if it should be otherwise; as strange as it would be for a man
to be free without being able to be free.
21. But to the agent, or man. To return, then, to the inquiry
about liberty, I think the question is not proper, whether the will be
free, but whether a man be free. Thus, I think,
First, That so far as any one can, by the direction or choice of his
mind, preferring the existence of any action to the non-existence of
that action, and vice versa, make it to exist or not exist, so far
he is free. For if I can, by a thought directing the motion of my
finger, make it move when it was at rest, or vice versa, it is
evident, that in respect of that I am free: and if I can, by a like
thought of my mind, preferring one to the other, produce either
words or silence, I am at liberty to speak or hold my peace: and as
far as this power reaches, of acting or not acting, by the
determination of his own thought preferring either, so far is a man
free. For how can we think any one freer, than to have the power to do
what he will? And so far as any one can, by preferring any action to
its not being, or rest to any action, produce that action or rest,
so far can he do what he will. For such a preferring of action to
its absence, is the willing of it: and we can scarce tell how to
imagine any being freer, than to be able to do what he wills. So
that in respect of actions within the reach of such a power in him,
a man seems as free as it is possible for freedom to make him.
22. In respect of willing, a man is not free. But the inquisitive
mind of man, willing to shift off from himself, as far as he can,
all thoughts of guilt, though it be by putting himself into a worse
state than that of fatal necessity, is not content with this: freedom,
unless it reaches further than this, will not serve the turn: and it
passes for a good plea, that a man is not free at all, if he be not as
free to will as he is to act what he wills. Concerning a man's
liberty, there yet, therefore, is raised this further question,
Whether a man be free to will? Which I think is what is meant, when it
is disputed whether the will be free. And as to that I imagine.
23. How a man cannot be free to will. Secondly, That willing, or
volition, being an action, and freedom consisting in a power of acting
or not acting, a man in respect of willing or the act of volition,
when any action in his power is once proposed to his thoughts, as
presently to be done, cannot be free. The reason whereof is very
manifest. For, it being unavoidable that the action depending on his
will should exist or not exist, and its existence or not existence
following perfectly the determination and preference of his will, he
cannot avoid willing the existence or non-existence of that action; it
is absolutely necessary that he will the one or the other; i.e. prefer
the one to the other: since one of them must necessarily follow; and
that which does follow follows by the choice and determination of
his mind; that is, by his willing it: for if he did not will it, it
would not be. So that, in respect of the act of willing, a man in such
a case is not free: liberty consisting in a power to act or not to
act; which, in regard of volition, a man, upon such a proposal has
not. For it is unavoidably necessary to prefer the doing or
forbearance of an action in a man's power, which is once so proposed
to his thoughts; a man must necessarily will the one or the other of
them; upon which preference or volition, the action or its forbearance
certainly follows, and is truly voluntary. But the act of volition, or
preferring one of the two, being that which he cannot avoid, a man, in
respect of that act of willing, is under a necessity, and so cannot be
free; unless necessity and freedom can consist together, and a man can
be free and bound at once. Besides to make a man free after this
manner, by making the action of willing to depend on his will, there
must be another antecedent will, to determine the acts of this will,
and another to determine that, and so in infinitum: for wherever one
stops, the actions of the last will cannot be free. Nor is any
being, as far I can comprehend beings above me, capable of such a
freedom of will, that it can forbear to will, i.e. to prefer the being
or not being of anything in its power, which it has once considered as
24. Liberty is freedom to execute what is willed. This, then, is
evident, That a man is not at liberty to will, or not to will,
anything in his power that he once considers of: liberty consisting in
a power to act or to forbear acting, and in that only. For a man
that sits still is said yet to be at liberty; because he can walk if
he wills it. A man that walks is at liberty also, not because he walks
or moves; but because he can stand still if he wills it. But if a
man sitting still has not a power to remove himself, he is not at
liberty; so likewise a man falling down a precipice, though in motion,
is not at liberty, because he cannot stop that motion if he would.
This being so, it is plain that a man that is walking, to whom it is
proposed to give off walking, is not at liberty, whether he will
determine himself to walk, or give off walking or not: he must
necessarily prefer one or the other of them; walking or not walking.
And so it is in regard of all other actions in our power so
proposed, which are the far greater number. For, considering the
vast number of voluntary actions that succeed one another every moment
that we are awake in the course of our lives, there are but few of
them that are thought on or proposed to the will, till the time they
are to be done; and in all such actions, as I have shown, the mind, in
respect of willing, has not a power to act or not to act, wherein
consists liberty. The mind, in that case, has not a power to forbear
willing; it cannot avoid some determination concerning them, let the
consideration be as short, the thought as quick as it will, it
either leaves the man in the state he was before thinking, or
changes it; continues the action, or puts an end to it. Whereby it
is manifest, that it orders and directs one, in preference to, or with
neglect of the other, and thereby either the continuation or change
becomes unavoidably voluntary.
25. The will determined by something without it. Since then it is
plain that, in most cases, a man is not at liberty, whether he will or
no, (for, when an action in his power is proposed to his thoughts,
he cannot forbear volition; he must determine one way or the other);
the next thing demanded is,- Whether a man be at liberty to will which
of the two he pleases, motion or rest? This question carries the
absurdity of it so manifestly in itself, that one might thereby
sufficiently be convinced that liberty concerns not the will. For,
to ask whether a man be at liberty to will either motion or rest,
speaking or silence, which he pleases, is to ask whether a man can
will what he wills, or be pleased with what he is pleased with? A
question which, I think, needs no answer: and they who can make a
question of it must suppose one will to determine the acts of another,
and another to determine that, and so on in infinitum.
26. The ideas of liberty and volition must be defined. To avoid
these and the like absurdities, nothing can be of greater use than
to establish in our minds determined ideas of the things under
consideration. If the ideas of liberty and volition were well fixed in
our understandings, and carried along with us in our minds, as they
ought, through all the questions that are raised about them, I suppose
a great part of the difficulties that perplex men's thoughts, and
entangle their understandings, would be much easier resolved; and we
should perceive where the confused signification of terms, or where
the nature of the thing caused the obscurity.
27. Freedom. First, then, it is carefully to be remembered, That
freedom consists in the dependence of the existence, or not
existence of any action, upon our volition of it; and not in the
dependence of any action, or its contrary, on our preference. A man
standing on a cliff, is at liberty to leap twenty yards downwards into
the sea, not because he has a power to do the contrary action, which
is to leap twenty yards upwards, for that he cannot do; but he is
therefore free, because he has a power to leap or not to leap. But
if a greater force than his, either holds him fast, or tumbles him
down, he is no longer free in that case; because the doing or
forbearance of that particular action is no longer in his power. He
that is a close prisoner in a room twenty feet square, being at the
north side of his chamber, is at liberty to walk twenty feet
southward, because he can walk or not walk it; but is not, at the same
time, at liberty to do the contrary, i.e. to walk twenty feet
In this, then, consists freedom, viz. in our being able to act or
not to act, according as we shall choose or will.
28. What volition and action mean. Secondly, we must remember,
that volition or willing is an act of the mind directing its thought
to the production of any action, and thereby exerting its power to
produce it. To avoid multiplying of words, I would crave leave here,
under the word action, to comprehend the forbearance too of any action
proposed: sitting still, or holding one's peace, when walking or
speaking are proposed, though mere forbearances, requiring as much the
determination of the will, and being as often weighty in their
consequences, as the contrary actions, may, on that consideration,
well enough pass for actions too: but this I say, that I may not be
mistaken, if (for brevity's sake) I speak thus.
29. What determines the will. Thirdly, the will being nothing but
a power in the mind to direct the operative faculties of a man to
motion or rest, as far as they depend on such direction; to the
question, What is it determines the will? the true and proper answer
is, The mind. For that which determines the general power of
directing, to this or that particular direction, is nothing but the
agent itself exercising the power it has that particular way. If
this answer satisfies not, it is plain the meaning of the question,
What determines the will? is this,- What moves the mind, in every
particular instance, to determine its general power of directing, to
this or that particular motion or rest? And to this I answer,- The
motive for continuing in the same state or action, is only the present
satisfaction in it; the motive to change is always some uneasiness:
nothing setting us upon the change of state, or upon any new action,
but some uneasiness. This is the great motive that works on the mind
to put it upon action, which for shortness' sake we will call
determining of the will, which I shall more at large explain.
30. Will and desire must not be confounded. But, in the way to it,
it will be necessary to premise, that, though I have above endeavoured
to express the act of volition, by choosing, preferring, and the
like terms, that signify desire as well as volition, for want of other
words to mark that act of the mind whose proper name is willing or
volition; yet, it being a very simple act, whosoever desires to
understand what it is, will better find it by reflecting on his own
mind, and observing what it does when it wills, than by any variety of
articulate sounds whatsoever. This caution of being careful not to
be misled by expressions that do not enough keep up the difference
between the will and several acts of the mind that are quite
distinct from it, I think the more necessary, because I find the
will often confounded with several of the affections, especially
desire, and one put for the other; and that by men who would not
willingly be thought not to have had very distinct notions of
things, and not to have writ very clearly about them. This, I imagine,
has been no small occasion of obscurity and mistake in this matter;
and therefore is, as much as may be, to be avoided. For he that
shall turn his thoughts inwards upon what passes in his mind when he
wills, shall see that the will or power of volition is conversant
about nothing but our own actions; terminates there; and reaches no
further; and that volition is nothing but that particular
determination of the mind, whereby, barely by a thought the mind
endeavours to give rise, continuation, or stop, to any action which it
takes to be in its power. This, well considered, plainly shows that
the will is perfectly distinguished from desire; which, in the very
same action, may have a quite contrary tendency from that which our
will sets us upon. A man, whom I cannot deny, may oblige me to use
persuasions to another, which, at the same time I am speaking, I may
wish may not prevail on him. In this case, it is plain the will and
desire run counter. I will the action; that tends one way, whilst my
desire tends another, and that the direct contrary way. A man who,
by a violent fit of the gout in his limbs, finds a doziness in his
head, or a want of appetite in his stomach removed, desires to be
eased too of the pain of his feet or hands, (for wherever there is
pain, there is a desire to be rid of it), though yet, whilst he
apprehends that the removal of the pain may translate the noxious
humour to a more vital part, his will is never determined to any one
action that may serve to remove this pain. Whence it is evident that
desiring and willing are two distinct acts of the mind; and
consequently, that the will, which is but the power of volition, is
much more distinct from desire.
31. Uneasiness determines the will. To return, then, to the inquiry,
what is it that determines the will in regard to our actions? And
that, upon second thoughts, I am apt to imagine is not, as is
generally supposed, the greater good in view; but some (and for the
most part the most pressing) uneasiness a man is at present under.
This is that which successively determines the will, and sets us
upon those actions we perform. This uneasiness we may call, as it
is, desire; which is an uneasiness of the mind for want of some absent
good. All pain of the body, of what sort soever, and disquiet of the
mind, is uneasiness: and with this is always joined desire, equal to
the pain or uneasiness felt; and is scarce distinguishable from it.
For desire being nothing but an uneasiness in the want of an absent
good, in reference to any pain felt, ease is that absent good; and
till that ease be attained, we may call it desire; nobody feeling pain
that he wishes not to be eased of, with a desire equal to that pain,
and inseparable from it. Besides this desire of ease from pain,
there is another of absent positive good; and here also the desire and
uneasiness are equal. As much as we desire any absent good, so much
are we in pain for it. But here all absent good does not, according to
the greatness it has, or is acknowledged to have, cause pain equal
to that greatness; as all pain causes desire equal to itself:
because the absence of good is not always a pain, as the presence of
pain is. And therefore absent good may be looked on and considered
without desire. But so much as there is anywhere of desire, so much
there is of uneasiness.
32. Desire is uneasiness. That desire is a state of uneasiness,
every one who reflects on himself will quickly find. Who is there that
has not felt in desire what the wise man says of hope, (which is not
much different from it), that it being "deferred makes the heart
sick"; and that still proportionable to the greatness of the desire,
which sometimes raises the uneasiness to that pitch, that it makes
people cry out, "Give me children." give me the thing desired, "or I
die." Life itself, and all its enjoyments, is a burden cannot be borne
under the lasting and unremoved pressure of such an uneasiness.
33. The uneasiness of desire determines the will. Good and evil,
present and absent, it is true, work upon the mind. But that which
immediately determines the will, from time to time, to every voluntary
action, is the uneasiness of desire, fixed on some absent good: either
negative, as indolence to one in pain; or positive, as enjoyment of
pleasure. That it is this uneasiness that determines the will to the
successive voluntary actions, whereof the greatest part of our lives
is made up, and by which we are conducted through different courses to
different ends, I shall endeavour to show, both from experience, and
the reason of the thing.
34. This is the spring of action. When a man is perfectly content
with the state he is in- which is when he is perfectly without any
uneasiness- what industry, what action, what will is there left, but
to continue in it? Of this every man's observation will satisfy him.
And thus we see our all-wise Maker, suitably to our constitution and
frame, and knowing what it is that determines the will, has put into
man the uneasiness of hunger and thirst, and other natural desires,
that return at their seasons, to move and determine their wills, for
the preservation of themselves, and the continuation of their species.
For I think we may conclude, that, if the bare contemplation of
these good ends to which we are carried by these several
uneasinesses had been sufficient to determine the will, and set us
on work, we should have had none of these natural pains, and perhaps
in this world little or no pain at all. "It is better to marry than to
burn," says St. Paul, where we may see what it is that chiefly
drives men into the enjoyments of a conjugal life. A little burning
felt pushes us more powerfully than greater pleasures in prospect draw
or allure.
35. The greatest positive good determines not the will, but
present uneasiness alone. It seems so established and settled a maxim,
by the general consent of all mankind, that good, the greater good,
determines the will, that I do not at all wonder that, when I first
published my thoughts on this subject I took it for granted; and I
imagine that, by a great many, I shall be thought more excusable for
having then done so, than that now I have ventured to recede from so
received an opinion. But yet, upon a stricter inquiry, I am forced
to conclude that good, the greater good, though apprehended and
acknowledged to be so, does not determine the will, until our
desire, raised proportionably to it, makes us uneasy in the want of
it. Convince a man never so much, that plenty has its advantages
over poverty; make him see and own, that the handsome conveniences
of life are better than nasty penury: yet, as long as he is content
with the latter, and finds no uneasiness in it, he moves not; his will
never is determined to any action that shall bring him out of it.
Let a man be ever so well persuaded of the advantages of virtue,
that it is as necessary to a man who has any great aims in this world,
or hopes in the next, as food to life: yet, till he hungers or thirsts
after righteousness, till he feels an uneasiness in the want of it,
his will will not be determined to any action in pursuit of this
confessed greater good; but any other uneasiness he feels in himself
shall take place, and carry his will to other actions. On the other
side, let a drunkard see that his health decays, his estate wastes;
discredit and diseases, and the want of all things, even of his
beloved drink, attends him in the course he follows: yet the returns
of uneasiness to miss his companions, the habitual thirst after his
cups at the usual time, drives him to the tavern, though he has in his
view the loss of health and plenty, and perhaps of the joys of another
life: the least of which is no inconsiderable good, but such as he
confesses is far greater than the tickling of his palate with a
glass of wine, or the idle chat of a soaking club. It is not want of
viewing the greater good; for he sees and acknowledges it, and, in the
intervals of his drinking hours, will take resolutions to pursue the
greater good; but when the uneasiness to miss his accustomed delight
returns, the great acknowledged good loses its hold, and the present
uneasiness determines the will to the accustomed action; which thereby
gets stronger footing to prevail against the next occasion, though
he at the same time makes secret promises to himself that he will do
so no more; this is the last time he will act against the attainment
of those greater goods. And thus he is, from time to time, in the
state of that unhappy complainer, Video meliora, proboque, deteriora
sequor: which sentence, allowed for true, and made good by constant
experience, may in this, and possibly no other way, be easily made
36. Because the removal of uneasiness is the first step to
happiness. If we inquire into the reason of what experience makes so
evident in fact, and examine, why it is uneasiness alone operates on
the will, and determines it in its choice, we shall find that, we
being capable but of one determination of the will to one action at
once, the present uneasiness that we are under does naturally
determine the will, in order to that happiness which we all aim at
in all our actions. For, as much as whilst we are under any
uneasiness, we cannot apprehend ourselves happy, or in the way to
it; pain and uneasiness being, by every one, concluded and felt to
be inconsistent with happiness, spoiling the relish even of those good
things which we have: a little pain serving to mar all the pleasure we
rejoiced in. And, therefore, that which of course determines the
choice of our will to the next action will always be- the removing
of pain, as long as we have any left, as the first and necessary
step towards happiness.
37. Because uneasiness alone is present. Another reason why it is
uneasiness alone determines the will, is this: because that alone is
present and, it is against the nature of things, that what is absent
should operate where it is not. It may be said that absent good may,
by contemplation, be brought home to the mind and made present. The
idea of it indeed may be in the mind, and viewed as present there; but
nothing will be in the mind as a present good, able to
counterbalance the removal of any uneasiness which we are under,
till it raises our desire; and the uneasiness of that has the
prevalency in determining the will. Till then, the idea in the mind of
whatever is good is there only, like other ideas, the object of bare
unactive speculation; but operates not on the will, nor sets us on
work; the reason whereof I shall show by and by. How many are to be
found that have had lively representations set before their minds of
the unspeakable joys of heaven, which they acknowledge both possible
and probable too, who yet would be content to take up with their
happiness here? And so the prevailing uneasiness of their desires, let
loose after the enjoyments of this life, take their turns in the
determining their wills; and all that while they take not one step,
are not one jot moved, towards the good things of another life,
considered as ever so great.
38. Because all who allow the joys of heaven possible, pursue them
not. Were the will determined by the views of good, as it appears in
contemplation greater or less to the understanding, which is the state
of all absent good, and that which, in the received opinion, the
will is supposed to move to, and to be moved by,- I do not see how
it could ever get loose from the infinite eternal joys of heaven, once
proposed and considered as possible. For, all absent good, by which
alone, barely proposed, and coming in view, the will is thought to
be determined, and so to set us on action, being only possible, but
not infallibly certain, it is unavoidable that the infinitely
greater possible good should regularly and constantly determine the
will in all the successive actions it directs; and then we should keep
constantly and steadily in our course towards heaven, without ever
standing still, or directing our actions to any other end: the eternal
condition of a future state infinitely outweighing the expectation
of riches, or honour, or any other worldly pleasure which we can
propose to ourselves, though we should grant these the more probable
to be obtained: for nothing future is yet in possession, and so the
expectation even of these may deceive us. If it were so that the
greater good in view determines the will, so great a good, once
proposed, could not but seize the will, and hold it fast to the
pursuit of this infinitely greatest good, without ever letting it go
again: for the will having a power over, and directing the thoughts,
as well as other actions, would, if it were so, hold the contemplation
of the mind fixed to that good.
39. But any great uneasiness is never neglected. This would be the
state of the mind, and regular tendency of the will in all its
determinations, were it determined by that which is considered and
in view the greater good. But that it is not so, is visible in
experience; the infinitely greatest confessed good being often
neglected, to satisfy the successive uneasiness of our desires
pursuing trifles. But, though the greatest allowed, even
ever-lasting unspeakable, good, which has sometimes moved and affected
the mind, does not stedfastly hold the will, yet we see any very great
and prevailing uneasiness having once laid hold on the will, let it
not go; by which we may be convinced, what it is that determines the
will. Thus any vehement pain of the body; the ungovernable passion
of a man violently in love; or the impatient desire of revenge,
keeps the will steady and intent; and the will, thus determined, never
lets the understanding lay by the object, but all the thoughts of
the mind and powers of the body are uninterruptedly employed that way,
by the determination of the will, influenced by that topping
uneasiness, as long as it lasts; whereby it seems to me evident,
that the will, or power of setting us upon one action in preference to
all others, is determined in us by uneasiness: and whether this be not
so, I desire every one to observe in himself.
40. Desire accompanies all uneasiness. I have hitherto chiefly
instanced in the uneasiness of desire, as that which determines the
will: because that is the chief and most sensible; and the will seldom
orders any action, nor is there any voluntary action performed,
without some desire accompanying it; which I think is the reason why
the will and desire are so often confounded. But yet we are not to
look upon the uneasiness which makes up, or at least accompanies, most
of the other passions, as wholly excluded in the case. Aversion, fear,
anger, envy, shame, &c. have each their uneasinesses too, and
thereby influence the will. These passions are scarce any of them,
in life and practice, simple and alone, and wholly unmixed with
others; though usually, in discourse and contemplation, that carries
the name which operates strongest, and appears most in the present
state of the mind. Nay, there is, I think, scarce any of the
passions to be found without desire joined with it. I am sure wherever
there is uneasiness, there is desire. For we constantly desire
happiness; and whatever we feel of uneasiness, so much it is certain
we want of happiness; even in our own opinion, let our state and
condition otherwise be what it will. Besides, the present moment not
being our eternity, whatever our enjoyment be, we look beyond the
present, and desire goes with our foresight, and that still carries
the will with it. So that even in joy itself, that which keeps up
the action whereon the enjoyment depends, is the desire to continue
it, and fear to lose it: and whenever a greater uneasiness than that
takes place in the mind, the will presently is by that determined to
some new action, and the present delight neglected.
41. The most pressing uneasiness naturally determines the will.
But we being in this world beset with sundry uneasinesses,
distracted with different desires, the next inquiry naturally will
be,- Which of them has the precedency in determining the will to the
next action? and to that the answer is,- That ordinarily which is
the most pressing of those that are judged capable of being then
removed. For, the will being the power of directing our operative
faculties to some action, for some end, cannot at any time be moved
towards what is judged at that time unattainable: that would be to
suppose an intelligent being designedly to act for an end, only to
lose its labour; for so it is to act for what is judged not
attainable; and therefore very great uneasinesses move not the will,
when they are judged not capable of a cure: they in that case put us
not upon endeavours. But, these set apart, the most important and
urgent uneasiness we at that time feel, is that which ordinarily
determines the will, successively, in that train of voluntary
actions which makes up our lives. The greatest present uneasiness is
the spur to action, that is constantly most felt, and for the most
part determines the will in its choice of the next action. For this we
must carry along with us, that the proper and only object of the
will is some action of ours, and nothing else. For we producing
nothing by our willing it, but some action in our power, it is there
the will terminates, and reaches no further.
42. All desire happiness. If it be further asked,- What it is
moves desire? I answer,- happiness, and that alone. Happiness and
misery are the names of two extremes, the utmost bounds whereof we
know not; it is what "eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, nor
hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive." But of some
degrees of both we have very lively impressions; made by several
instances of delight and joy on the one side, and torment and sorrow
on the other; which, for shortness' sake, I shall comprehend under the
names of pleasure and pain; there being pleasure and pain of the
mind as well as the body,-"With him is fulness of joy, and pleasure
for evermore." Or, to speak truly, they are all of the mind; though
some have their rise in the mind from thought, others in the body from
certain modifications of motion.
43. Happiness and misery, good and evil, what they are. Happiness,
then, in its full extent, is the utmost pleasure we are capable of,
and misery the utmost pain; and the lowest degree of what can be
called happiness is so much ease from all pain, and so much present
pleasure, as without which any one cannot be content. Now, because
pleasure and pain are produced in us by the operation of certain
objects, either on our minds or our bodies, and in different
degrees; therefore, what has an aptness to produce pleasure in us is
that we call good, and what is apt to produce pain in us we call evil;
for no other reason but for its aptness to produce pleasure and pain
in us, wherein consists our happiness and misery. Further, though what
is apt to produce any degree of pleasure be in itself good; and what
is apt to produce any degree of pain be evil; yet it often happens
that we do not call it so when it comes in competition with a
greater of its sort; because, when they come in competition, the
degrees also of pleasure and pain have justly a preference. So that if
we will rightly estimate what we call good and evil, we shall find
it lies much in comparison: for the cause of every less degree of
pain, as well as every greater degree of pleasure, has the nature of
good, and vice versa.
44. What good is desired, what not. Though this be that which is
called good and evil, and all good be the proper object of desire in
general; yet all good, even seen and confessed to be so, does not
necessarily move every particular man's desire; but only that part, or
so much of it as is considered and taken to make a necessary part of
his happiness. All other good, however great in reality or appearance,
excites not a man's desires who looks not on it to make a part of that
happiness wherewith he, in his present thoughts, can satisfy
himself. Happiness, under this view, every one constantly pursues, and
desires what makes any part of it: other things, acknowledged to be
good, he can look upon without desire, pass by, and be content
without. There is nobody, I think, so senseless as to deny that
there is pleasure in knowledge: and for the pleasures of sense, they
have too many followers to let it be questioned whether men are
taken with them or no. Now, let one man place his satisfaction in
sensual pleasures, another in the delight of knowledge: though each of
them cannot but confess, there is great pleasure in what the other
pursues; yet, neither of them making the other's delight a part of his
happiness, their desires are not moved, but each is satisfied
without what the other enjoys; and so his will is not determined to
the pursuit of it. But yet, as soon as the studious man's hunger and
thirst make him uneasy, he, whose will was never determined to any
pursuit of good cheer, poignant sauces, delicious wine, by the
pleasant taste he has found in them, is, by the uneasiness of hunger
and thirst, presently determined to eating and drinking, though
possibly with great indifferency, what wholesome food comes in his
way. And, on the other side, the epicure buckles to study, when shame,
or the desire to recommend himself to his mistress, shall make him
uneasy in the want of any sort of knowledge. Thus, how much soever men
are in earnest and constant in pursuit of happiness, yet they may have
a clear view of good, great and confessed good, without being
concerned for it, or moved by it, if they think they can make up their
happiness without it. Though as to pain, that they are always
concerned for; they can feel no uneasiness without being moved. And
therefore, being uneasy in the want of whatever is judged necessary to
their happiness, as soon as any good appears to make a part of their
portion of happiness, they begin to desire it.
45. Why the greatest good is not always desired. This, I think,
any one may observe in himself and others,- That the greater visible
good does not always raise men's desires in proportion to the
greatness it appears, and is acknowledged, to have: though every
little trouble moves us, and sets us on work to get rid of it. The
reason whereof is evident from the nature of our happiness and
misery itself. All present pain, whatever it be, makes a part of our
present misery. but all absent good does not at any time make a
necessary part of our present happiness, nor the absence of it make
a part of our misery. If it did, we should be constantly and
infinitely miserable; there being infinite degrees of happiness
which are not in our possession. All uneasiness therefore being
removed, a moderate portion of good serves at present to content
men; and a few degrees of pleasure, in a succession of ordinary
enjoyments, make up a happiness wherein they can be satisfied. If this
were not so, there could be no room for those indifferent and
visibly trifling actions, to which our wills are so often
determined, and wherein we voluntarily waste so much of our lives;
which remissness could by no means consist with a constant
determination of will or desire to the greatest apparent good. That
this is so, I think few people need go far from home to be
convinced. And indeed in this life there are not many whose
happiness reaches so far as to afford them a constant train of
moderate mean pleasures, without any mixture of uneasiness; and yet
they could be content to stay here for ever: though they cannot
deny, but that it is possible there may be a state of eternal
durable joys after this life, far surpassing all the good that is to
be found here. Nay, they cannot but see that it is more possible
than the attainment and continuation of that pittance of honour,
riches, or pleasure which they pursue, and for which they neglect that
eternal state. But yet, in full view of this difference, satisfied
of the possibility of a perfect, secure, and lasting happiness in a
future state, and under a clear conviction that it is not to be had
here,- whilst they bound their happiness within some little
enjoyment or aim of this life, and exclude the joys of heaven from
making any necessary part of it,- their desires are not moved by
this greater apparent good, nor their wills determined to any
action, or endeavour for its attainment.
46. Why not being desired, it moves not the will. The ordinary
necessities of our lives fill a great part of them with the
uneasinesses of hunger, thirst, heat, cold, weariness, with labour,
and sleepiness, in their constant returns, &c. To which, if, besides
accidental harms, we add the fantastical uneasiness (as itch after
honour, power, or riches, &c.) which acquired habits, by fashion,
example, and education, have settled in us, and a thousand other
irregular desires, which custom has made natural to us, we shall
find that a very little part of our life is so vacant from these
uneasinesses, as to leave us free to the attraction of remoter
absent good. We are seldom at ease, and free enough from the
solicitation of our natural or adopted desires, but a constant
succession of uneasinesses out of that stock which natural wants or
acquired habits have heaped up, take the will in their turns; and no
sooner is one action dispatched, which by such a determination of
the will we are set upon, but another uneasiness is ready to set us on
work. For, the removing of the pains we feel, and are at present
pressed with, being the getting out of misery, and consequently the
first thing to be done in order to happiness,- absent good, though
thought on, confessed, and appearing to be good, not making any part
of this unhappiness in its absence, is justled out, to make way for
the removal of those uneasinesses we feel; till due and repeated
contemplation has brought it nearer to our mind, given some relish
of it, and raised in us some desire: which then beginning to make a
part of our present uneasiness, stands upon fair terms with the rest
to be satisfied, and so, according to its greatness and pressure,
comes in its turn to determine the will.
47. Due consideration raises desire. And thus, by a due
consideration, and examining any good proposed, it is in our power
to raise our desires in a due proportion to the value of that good,
whereby in its turn and place it may come to work upon the will, and
be pursued. For good, though appearing and allowed ever so great,
yet till it has raised desires in our minds, and thereby made us
uneasy in its want, it reaches not our wills; we are not within the
sphere of its activity, our wills being under the determination only
of those uneasinesses which are present to us, which (whilst we have
any) are always soliciting, and ready at hand to give the will its
next determination. The balancing, when there is any in the mind,
being only, which desire shall be next satisfied, which uneasiness
first removed. Whereby it comes to pass that, as long as any
uneasiness, any desire, remains in our mind, there is no room for
good, barely as such, to come at the will, or at all to determine
it. Because, as has been said, the first step in our endeavours
after happiness being to get wholly out of the confines of misery, and
to feel no part of it, the will can be at leisure for nothing else,
till every uneasiness we feel be perfectly removed. which, in the
multitude of wants and desires we are beset with in this imperfect
state, we are not like to be ever freed from in this world.
48. The power to suspend the prosecution of any desire makes way for
consideration. There being in us a great many uneasinesses, always
soliciting and ready to determine the will, it is natural, as I have
said, that the greatest and most pressing should determine the will to
the next action; and so it does for the most part, but not always.
For, the mind having in most cases, as is evident in experience, a
power to suspend the execution and satisfaction of any of its desires;
and so all, one after another; is at liberty to consider the objects
of them, examine them on all sides, and weigh them with others. In
this lies the liberty man has; and from the not using of it right
comes all that variety of mistakes, errors, and faults which we run
into in the conduct of our lives, and our endeavours after
happiness; whilst we precipitate the determination of our wills, and
engage too soon, before due examination. To prevent this, we have a
power to suspend the prosecution of this or that desire; as every
one daily may experiment in himself. This seems to me the source of
all liberty; in this seems to consist that which is (as I think
improperly) called free-will. For, during this suspension of any
desire, before the will be determined to action, and the action (which
follows that determination) done, we have opportunity to examine,
view, and judge of the good or evil of what we are going to do; and
when, upon due examination, we have judged, we have done our duty, all
that we can, or ought to do, in pursuit of our happiness; and it is
not a fault, but a perfection of our nature, to desire, will, and
act according to the last result of a fair examination.
49. To be determined by our own judgment, is no restraint to
liberty. This is so far from being a restraint or diminution of
freedom, that it is the very improvement and benefit of it; it is
not an abridgment, it is the end and use of our liberty; and the
further we are removed from such a determination, the nearer we are to
misery and slavery. A perfect indifference in the mind, not
determinable by its last judgment of the good or evil that is
thought to attend its choice, would be so far from being an
advantage and excellency of any intellectual nature, that it would
be as great an imperfection, as the want of indifferency. to act, or
not to act, till determined by the will, would be an imperfection on
the other side. A man is at liberty to lift up his hand to his head,
or let it rest quiet: he is perfectly indifferent in either; and it
would be an imperfection in him, if he wanted that power, if he were
deprived of that indifferency. But it would be as great an
imperfection, if he had the same indifferency, whether he would prefer
the lifting up his hand, or its remaining in rest, when it would
save his head or eyes from a blow he sees coming: it is as much a
perfection, that desire, or the power of preferring, should be
determined by good, as that the power of acting should be determined
by the will; and the certainer such determination is, the greater is
the perfection. Nay, were we determined by anything but the last
result of our own minds, judging of the good or evil of any action, we
were not free; the very end of our freedom being, that we may attain
the good we choose. And therefore, every man is put under a necessity,
by his constitution as an intelligent being, to be determined in
willing by his own thought and judgment what is best for him to do:
else he would be under the determination of some other than himself,
which is want of liberty. And to deny that a man's will, in every
determination, follows his own judgment, is to say, that a man wills
and acts for an end that he would not have, at the time that he
wills and acts for it. For if he prefers it in his present thoughts
before any other, it is plain he then thinks better of it, and would
have it before any other; unless he can have and not have it, will and
not will it, at the same time; a contradiction too manifest to be
50. The freest agents are so determined. If we look upon those
superior beings above us, who enjoy perfect happiness, we shall have
reason to judge that they are more steadily determined in their choice
of good than we; and yet we have no reason to think they are less
happy, or less free, than we are. And if it were fit for such poor
finite creatures as we are to pronounce what infinite wisdom and
goodness could do, I think we might say, that God himself cannot
choose what is not good; the freedom of the Almighty hinders not his
being determined by what is best.
51. A constant determination to a pursuit of happiness no abridgment
of liberty. But to give a right view of this mistaken part of
liberty let me ask,- Would any one be a changeling, because he is less
determined by wise considerations than a wise man? Is it worth the
name of freedom to be at liberty to play the fool, and draw shame
and misery upon a man's self? If to break loose from the conduct of
reason, and to want that restraint of examination and judgment which
keeps us from choosing or doing the worse, be liberty, true liberty,
madmen and fools are the only freemen: but yet, I think, nobody
would choose to be mad for the sake of such liberty, but he that is
mad already. The constant desire of happiness, and the constraint it
puts upon us to act for it, nobody, I think, accounts an abridgment of
liberty, or at least an abridgment of liberty to be complained of. God
Almighty himself is under the necessity of being happy; and the more
any intelligent being is so, the nearer is its approach to infinite
perfection and happiness. That, in this state of ignorance, we
short-sighted creatures might not mistake true felicity, we are
endowed with a power to suspend any particular desire, and keep it
from determining the will, and engaging us in action. This is standing
still, where we are not sufficiently assured of the way: examination
is consulting a guide. The determination of the will upon inquiry,
is following the direction of that guide: and he that has a power to
act or not to act, according as such determination directs, is a
free agent: such determination abridges not that power wherein liberty
consists. He that has his chains knocked off, and the prison doors set
open to him, is perfectly at liberty, because he may either go or
stay, as he best likes; though his preference be determined to stay,
by the darkness of the night, or illness of the weather, or want of
other lodging. He ceases not to be free; though the desire of some
convenience to be had there absolutely determines his preference,
and makes him stay in his prison.
52. The necessity of pursuing true happiness the foundation of
liberty. As therefore the highest perfection of intellectual nature
lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness; so
the care of ourselves, that we mistake not imaginary for real
happiness, is the necessary foundation of our liberty. The stronger
ties we have to an unalterable pursuit of happiness in general,
which is our greatest good, and which, as such, our desires always
follow, the more are we free from any necessary determination of our
will to any particular action, and from a necessary compliance with
our desire, set upon any particular, and then appearing preferable
good, till we have duly examined whether it has a tendency to, or be
inconsistent with, our real happiness: and therefore, till we are as
much informed upon this inquiry as the weight of the matter, and the
nature of the case demands, we are, by the necessity of preferring and
pursuing true happiness as our greatest good, obliged to suspend the
satisfaction of our desires in particular cases.
53. Power to suspend. This is the hinge on which turns the liberty
of intellectual beings, in their constant endeavours after, and a
steady prosecution of true felicity,- That they can suspend this
prosecution in particular cases, till they have looked before them,
and informed themselves whether that particular thing which is then
proposed or desired lie in the way to their main end, and make a
real part of that which is their greatest good. For, the inclination
and tendency of their nature to happiness is an obligation and
motive to them, to take care not to mistake or miss it; and so
necessarily puts them upon caution, deliberation, and wariness, in the
direction of their particular actions, which are the means to obtain
it. Whatever necessity determines to the pursuit of real bliss, the
same necessity, with the same force, establishes suspense,
deliberation, and scrutiny of each successive desire, whether the
satisfaction of it does not interfere with our true happiness, and
mislead us from it. This, as seems to me, is the great privilege of
finite intellectual beings; and I desire it may be well considered,
whether the great inlet and exercise of all the liberty men have,
are capable of, or can be useful to them, and that whereon depends the
turn of their actions, does not lie in this,- That they can suspend
their desires, and stop them from determining their wills to any
action, till they have duly and fairly examined the good and evil of
it, as far forth as the weight of the thing requires. This we are able
to do; and when we have done it, we have done our duty, and all that
is in our power; and indeed all that needs. For, since the will
supposes knowledge to guide its choice, all that we can do is to
hold our wills undetermined, till we have examined the good and evil
of what we desire. What follows after that, follows in a chain of
consequences, linked one to another, all depending on the last
determination of the judgment, which, whether it shall be upon a hasty
and precipitate view, or upon a due and mature examination, is in
our power; experience showing us, that in most cases, we are able to
suspend the present satisfaction of any desire.
54. Government of our passions the right improvement of liberty. But
if any extreme disturbance (as sometimes it happens) possesses our
whole mind, as when the pain of the rack, an impetuous uneasiness,
as of love, anger, or any other violent passion, running away with us,
allows us not the liberty of thought, and we are not masters enough of
our own minds to consider thoroughly and examine fairly;- God, who
knows our frailty, pities our weakness, and requires of us no more
than we are able to do, and sees what was and what was not in our
power, will judge as a kind and merciful Father. But the forbearance
of a too hasty compliance with our desires, the moderation and
restraint of our passions, so that our understandings may be free to
examine, and reason unbiased give its judgment, being that whereon a
right direction of our conduct to true happiness depends; it is in
this we should employ our chief care and endeavours. In this we should
take pains to suit the relish of our minds to the true intrinsic
good or ill that is in things; and not permit an allowed or supposed
possible great and weighty good to slip out of our thoughts, without
leaving any relish, any desire of itself there, till, by a due
consideration of its true worth, we have formed appetites in our minds
suitable to it, and made ourselves uneasy in the want of it, or in the
fear of losing it. And how much this is in every one's power, by
making resolutions to himself, such as he may keep, is easy for
every one to try. Nor let any one say, he cannot govern his
passions, nor hinder them from breaking out, and carrying him into
action; for what he can do before a prince or a great man, he can do
alone, or in the presence of God, if he will.
55. How men come to pursue different, and often evil, courses.
From what has been said, it is easy to give an account how it comes to
pass, that, though all men desire happiness, yet their wills carry
them so contrarily; and consequently some of them to what is evil. And
to this I say, that the various and contrary choices that men make
in the world do not argue that they do not all pursue good; but that
the same thing is not good to every man alike. This variety of
pursuits shows, that every one does not place his happiness in the
same thing, or choose the same way to it. Were all the concerns of man
terminated in this life, why one followed study and knowledge, and
another hawking and hunting: why one chose luxury and debauchery,
and another sobriety and riches, would not be because every one of
these did not aim at his own happiness; but because their happiness
was placed in different things. And therefore it was a right answer of
the physician to his patient that had sore eyes:- If you have more
pleasure in the taste of wine than in the use of your sight, wine is
good for you; but if the pleasure of seeing be greater to you than
that of drinking, wine is naught.
56. All men seek happiness, but not of the same sort. The mind has a
different relish, as well as the palate; and you will as fruitlessly
endeavour to delight all men with riches or glory (which yet some
men place their happiness in) as you would to satisfy all men's hunger
with cheese or lobsters; which, though very agreeable and delicious
fare to some, are to others extremely nauseous and offensive: and many
persons would with reason prefer the griping of an hungry belly to
those dishes which are a feast to others. Hence it was, I think,
that the philosophers of old did in vain inquire, whether summum bonum
consisted in riches, or bodily delights, or virtue, or
contemplation: and they might have as reasonably disputed, whether the
best relish were to be found in apples, plums, or nuts, and have
divided themselves into sects upon it. For, as pleasant tastes
depend not on the things themselves, but on their agreeableness to
this or that particular palate, wherein there is great variety; so the
greatest happiness consists in the having those things which produce
the greatest pleasure, and in the absence of those which cause any
disturbance, any pain. Now these, to different men, are very different
things. If, therefore, men in this life only have hope; if in this
life only they can enjoy, it is not strange nor unreasonable, that
they should seek their happiness by avoiding all things that disease
them here, and by pursuing all that delight them; wherein it will be
no wonder to find variety and difference. For if there be no
prospect beyond the grave, the inference is certainly right- "Let us
eat and drink," let us enjoy what we "for to-morrow we shall die."
This, I think, may serve to show us the reason, why, though all
men's desires tend to happiness, yet they are not moved by the same
object. Men may choose different things, and yet all choose right;
supposing them only like a company of poor insects; whereof some are
bees, delighted with flowers and their sweetness; others beetles,
delighted with other kinds of viands, which having enjoyed for a
season, they would cease to be, and exist no more for ever.
57. Power to suspend volition explains responsibility for ill
choice. These things, duly weighed, will give us, as I think, a
clear view into the state of human liberty. Liberty, it is plain,
consists in a power to do, or not to do; to do, or forbear doing, as
we will. This cannot be denied. But this seeming to comprehend only
the actions of a man consecutive to volition, it is further inquired,-
Whether he be at liberty to will or no? And to this it has been
answered, that, in most cases, a man is not at liberty to forbear
the act of volition: he must exert an act of his will, whereby the
action proposed is made to exist or not to exist. But yet there is a
case wherein a man is at liberty in respect of willing; and that is
the choosing of a remote good as an end to be pursued. Here a man
may suspend the act of his choice from being determined for or against
the thing proposed, till he has examined whether it be really of a
nature, in itself and consequences, to make him happy or not. For,
when he has once chosen it, and thereby it is become a part of his
happiness, it raises desire, and that proportionably gives him
uneasiness; which determines his will, and sets him at work in pursuit
of his choice on all occasions that offer. And here we may see how
it comes to pass that a man may justly incur punishment, though it
be certain that, in all the particular actions that he wills, he does,
and necessarily does, will that which he then judges to be good.
For, though his will be always determined by that which is judged good
by his understanding, yet it excuses him not; because, by a too
hasty choice of his own making, he has imposed on himself wrong
measures of good and evil; which, however false and fallacious, have
the same influence on all his future conduct, as if they were true and
right. He has vitiated his own palate, and must be answerable to
himself for the sickness and death that follows from it. The eternal
law and nature of things must not be altered to comply with his
ill-ordered choice. If the neglect or abuse of the liberty he had,
to examine what would really and truly make for his happiness,
misleads him, the miscarriages that follow on it must be imputed to
his own election. He had a power to suspend his determination; it
was given him, that he might examine, and take care of his own
happiness, and look that he were not deceived. And he could never
judge, that it was better to be deceived than not, in a matter of so
great and near concernment.
58. Why men choose what makes them miserable. What has been said may
also discover to us the reason why men in this world prefer
different things, and pursue happiness by contrary courses. But yet,
since men are always constant and in earnest in matters of happiness
and misery, the question still remains, How men come often to prefer
the worse to the better; and to choose that, which, by their own
confession, has made them miserable?
59. The causes of this. To account for the various and contrary ways
men take, though all aim at being happy, we must consider whence the
various uneasinesses that determine the will, in the preference of
each voluntary action, have their rise:
(1) From bodily pain. Some of them come from causes not in our
power; such as are often the pains of the body from want, disease,
or outward injuries, as the rack, &c.; which, when present and
violent, operate for the most part forcibly on the will, and turn
the courses of men's lives from virtue, piety, and religion, and
what before they judged to lead to happiness; every one not
endeavouring, or, through disuse, not being able, by the contemplation
of remote and future good, to raise in himself desires of them
strong enough to counterbalance the uneasiness he feels in those
bodily torments, and to keep his will steady in the choice of those
actions which lead to future happiness. A neighbouring country has
been of late a tragical theatre from which we might fetch instances,
if there needed any, and the world did not in all countries and ages
furnish examples enough to confirm that received observation,
Necessitas cogit ad turpia; and therefore there is great reason for us
to pray, "Lead us not into temptation."
(2) From wrong desires arising from wrong judgments. Other
uneasinesses arise from our desires of absent good; which desires
always bear proportion to, and depend on, the judgment we make, and
the relish we have of any absent good; in both which we are apt to
be variously misled, and that by our own fault.
60. Our judgment of present good or evil always right. In the
first place, I shall consider the wrong judgments men make of future
good and evil, whereby their desires are misled. For, as to present
happiness and misery, when that alone comes into consideration, and
the consequences are quite removed, a man never chooses amiss: he
knows what best pleases him, and that he actually prefers. Things in
their present enjoyment are what they seem: the apparent and real good
are, in this case, always the same. For, the pain or pleasure being
just so great and no greater than it is felt, the present good or evil
is really so much as it appears. And therefore were every action of
ours concluded within itself, and drew no consequences after it, we
should undoubtedly never err in our choice of good: we should always
infallibly prefer the best. Were the pains of honest industry, and
of starving with hunger and cold set together before us, nobody
would be in doubt which to choose: were the satisfaction of a lust and
the joys of heaven offered at once to any one's present possession, he
would not balance, or err in the determination of his choice.
61. Our wrong judgments have regard to future good and evil only.
But since our voluntary actions carry not all the happiness and misery
that depend on them along with them in their present performance,
but are the precedent causes of good and evil, which they draw after
them, and bring upon us, when they themselves are past and cease to
be; our desires look beyond our present enjoyments, and carry the mind
out to absent good, according to the necessity which we think there is
of it, to the making or increase of our happiness. It is our opinion
of such a necessity that gives it its attraction: without that, we are
not moved by absent good. For, in this narrow scantling of capacity
which we are accustomed to and sensible of here, wherein we enjoy
but one pleasure at once, which, when all uneasiness is away, is,
whilst it lasts, sufficient to make us think ourselves happy, it is
not all remote and even apparent good that affects us. Because the
indolency and enjoyment we have, sufficing for our present
happiness, we desire not to venture the change; since we judge that we
are happy already, being content, and that is enough. For who is
content is happy. But as soon as any new uneasiness comes in, this
happiness is disturbed, and we are set afresh on work in the pursuit
of happiness.
62. From a wrong judgment of what makes a necessary part of their
happiness. Their aptness therefore to conclude that they can be
happy without it, is one great occasion that men often are not
raised to the desire of the greatest absent good. For, whilst such
thoughts possess them, the joys of a future state move them not;
they have little concern or uneasiness about them; and the will,
free from the determination of such desires, is left to the pursuit of
nearer satisfactions, and to the removal of those uneasinesses which
it then feels, in its want of and longings after them. Change but a
man's view of these things; let him see that virtue and religion are
necessary to his happiness; let him look into the future state of
bliss or misery, and see there God, the righteous judge, ready to
"render to every man according to his deeds; to them who by patient
continuance in well-doing seek for glory, and honour, and immortality,
eternal life; but unto every soul that doth evil, indignation and
wrath, tribulation and anguish." To him, I say, who hath a prospect of
the different state of perfect happiness or misery that attends all
men after this life, depending on their behaviour here, the measures
of good and evil that govern his choice are mightily changed. For,
since nothing of pleasure and pain in this life can bear any
proportion to the endless happiness or exquisite misery of an immortal
soul hereafter, actions in his power will have their preference, not
according to the transient pleasure or pain that accompanies or
follows them here, but as they serve to secure that perfect durable
happiness hereafter.
63. A more particular account of wrong judgments. But, to account
more particularly for the misery that men often bring on themselves,
notwithstanding that they do all in earnest pursue happiness, we
must consider how things come to be represented to our desires under
deceitful appearances: and that is by the judgment pronouncing wrongly
concerning them. To see how far this reaches, and what are the
causes of wrong judgment, we must remember that things are judged good
or bad in a double sense:-
First, That which is properly good or bad, is nothing but barely
pleasure or pain.
Secondly, But because not only present pleasure and pain, but that
also which is apt by its efficacy or consequences to bring it upon
us at a distance, is a proper object of our desires, and apt to move a
creature that has foresight; therefore things also that draw after
them pleasure and pain, are considered as good and evil.
64. No one chooses misery willingly, but only by wrong judgment. The
wrong judgment that misleads us, and makes the will often fasten on
the worse side, lies in misreporting upon the various comparisons of
these. The wrong judgment I am here speaking of is not what one man
may think of the determination of another, but what every man
himself must confess to be wrong. For, since I lay it for a certain
ground, that every intelligent being really seeks happiness, which
consists in the enjoyment of pleasure, without any considerable
mixture of uneasiness; it is impossible anyone should willingly put
into his own draught any bitter ingredient, or leave out anything in
his power that would tend to his satisfaction, and the completing of
his happiness, but only by a wrong judgment. I shall not here speak of
that mistake which is the consequence of invincible error, which
scarce deserves the name of wrong judgment; but of that wrong judgment
which every man himself must confess to be so.
65. Men may err in comparing present and future. (1) Therefore, as
to present pleasure and pain, the mind, as has been said, never
mistakes that which is really good or evil; that which is the
greater pleasure, or the greater pain, is really just as it appears.
But, though present pleasure and pain show their difference and
degrees so plainly as not to leave room to mistake; yet, when we
compare present pleasure or pain with future, (which is usually the
case in most important determinations of the will,) we often make
wrong judgments of them; taking our measures of them in different
positions of distance. Objects near our view are apt to be thought
greater than those of a larger size that are more remote. And so it is
with pleasures and pains: the present is apt to carry it; and those at
a distance have the disadvantage in the comparison. Thus most men,
like spendthrift heirs, are apt to judge a little in hand better
than a great deal to come; and so, for small matters in possession,
part with greater ones in reversion. But that this is a wrong judgment
every one must allow, let his pleasure consist in whatever it will:
since that which is future will certainly come to be present; and
then, having the same advantage of nearness, will show itself in its
full dimensions, and discover his wilful mistake who judged of it by
unequal measures. Were the pleasure of drinking accompanied, the
very moment a man takes off his glass, with that sick stomach and
aching head which, in some men, are sure to follow not many hours
after, I think nobody, whatever pleasure he had in his cups, would, on
these conditions, ever let wine touch his lips; which yet he daily
swallows, and the evil side comes to be chosen only by the fallacy
of a little difference in time. But, if pleasure or pain can be so
lessened only by a few hours' removal, how much more will it be so
by a further distance, to a man that will not, by a right judgment, do
what time will, i.e. bring it home upon himself, and consider it as
present, and there take its true dimensions? This is the way we
usually impose on ourselves, in respect of bare pleasure and pain,
or the true degrees of happiness or misery: the future loses its
just proportion, and what is present obtains the preference as the
greater. I mention not here the wrong judgment, whereby the absent are
not only lessened, but reduced to perfect nothing; when men enjoy what
they can in present, and make sure of that, concluding amiss that no
evil will thence follow. For that lies not in comparing the
greatness of future good and evil, which is that we are here
speaking of; but in another sort of wrong judgment, which is
concerning good or evil, as it is considered to be the cause and
procurement of pleasure or pain that will follow from it.
66. Causes of our judging amiss when we compare present pleasure and
pain with future. The cause of our judging amiss, when we compare
our present pleasure or pain with future, seems to me to be the weak
and narrow constitution of our minds. We cannot well enjoy two
pleasures at once; much less any pleasure almost, whilst pain
possesses us. The present pleasure, if it be not very languid, and
almost none at all, fills our narrow souls, and so takes up the
whole mind that it scarce leaves any thought of things absent: or if
among our pleasures there are some which are not strong enough to
exclude the consideration of things at a distance, yet we have so
great an abhorrence of pain, that a little of it extinguishes all
our pleasures. A little bitter mingled in our cup, leaves no relish of
the sweet. Hence it comes that, at any rate, we desire to be rid of
the present evil, which we are apt to think nothing absent can
equal; because, under the present pain, we find not ourselves
capable of any the least degree of happiness. Men's daily complaints
are a loud proof of this: the pain that any one actually feels is
still of all other the worst; and it is with anguish they cry out,-
"Any rather than this: nothing can be so intolerable as what I now
suffer." And therefore our whole endeavours and thoughts are intent to
get rid of the present evil, before all things, as the first necessary
condition to our happiness; let what will follow. Nothing, as we
passionately think, can exceed, or almost equal, the uneasiness that
sits so heavy upon us. And because the abstinence from a present
pleasure that offers itself is a pain, nay, oftentimes a very great
one, the desire being inflamed by a near and tempting object, it is no
wonder that that operates after the same manner pain does, and lessens
in our thoughts what is future; and so forces us, as it were
blindfold, into its embraces.
67. Absent good unable to counterbalance present uneasiness. Add
to this, that absent good, or, which is the same thing, future
pleasure,- especially if of a sort we are unacquainted with,- seldom
is able to counterbalance any uneasiness, either of pain or desire,
which is present. For, its greatness being no more than what shall
be really tasted when enjoyed, men are apt enough to lessen that; to
make it give place to any present desire; and conclude with themselves
that, when it comes to trial, it may possibly not answer the report or
opinion that generally passes of it: they having often found that, not
only what others have magnified, but even what they themselves have
enjoyed with great pleasure and delight at one time, has proved
insipid or nauseous at another; and therefore they see nothing in it
for which they should forego a present enjoyment. But that this is a
false way of judging, when applied to the happiness of another life,
they must confess; unless they will say, God cannot make those happy
he designs to be so. For that being intended for a state of happiness,
it must certainly be agreeable to everyone's wish and desire: could we
suppose their relishes as different there as they are here, yet the
manna in heaven will suit every one's palate. Thus much of the wrong
judgment we make of present and future pleasure and pain, when they
are compared together, and so the absent considered as future.
68. Wrong judgment in considering consequences of actions. (II) As
to things good or bad in their consequences, and by the aptness that
is in them to procure us good or evil in the future, we judge amiss
several ways.
1. When we judge that so much evil does not really depend on them as
in truth there does.
2. When we judge that, though the consequence be of that moment, yet
it is not of that certainty, but that it may otherwise fall out, or
else by some means be avoided; as by industry, address, change,
repentance, &c.
That these are wrong ways of judging, were easy to show in every
particular, if I would examine them at large singly: but I shall
only mention this in general, viz. that it is a very wrong and
irrational way of proceeding, to venture a greater good for a less,
upon uncertain guesses; and before a due examination be made,
proportionable to the weightiness of the matter, and the concernment
it is to us not to mistake. This I think every one must confess,
especially if he considers the usual cause of this wrong judgment,
whereof these following are some:-
69. Causes of this. (i) Ignorance: He that judges without
informing himself to the utmost that he is capable, cannot acquit
himself of judging amiss.
(ii) Inadvertency: When a man overlooks even that which he does
know. This is an affected and present ignorance, which misleads our
judgments as much as the other. Judging is, as it were, balancing an
account, and determining on which side the odds lie. If therefore
either side be huddled up in haste, and several of the sums that
should have gone into the reckoning be overlooked and left out, this
precipitancy causes as wrong a judgment as if it were a perfect
ignorance. That which most commonly causes this is, the prevalency
of some present pleasure or pain, heightened by our feeble
passionate nature, most strongly wrought on by what is present. To
check this precipitancy, our understanding and reason were given us,
if we will make a right use of them, to search and see, and then judge
thereupon. Without liberty, the understanding would be to no
purpose: and without understanding, liberty (if it could be) would
signify nothing. If a man sees what would do him good or harm, what
would make him happy or miserable, without being able to move
himself one step towards or from it, what is he the better for seeing?
And he that is at liberty to ramble in perfect darkness, what is his
liberty better than if he were driven up and down as a bubble by the
force of the wind? The being acted by a blind impulse from without, or
from within, is little odds. The first, therefore, and great use of
liberty is to hinder blind precipitancy; the principal exercise of
freedom is to stand still, open the eyes, look about, and take a
view of the consequence of what we are going to do, as much as the
weight of the matter requires. How much sloth and negligence, heat and
passion, the prevalency of fashion or acquired indispositions do
severally contribute, on occasion, to these wrong judgments, I shall
not here further inquire. I shall only add one other false judgment,
which I think necessary to mention, because perhaps it is little taken
notice of, though of great influence.
70. Wrong judgment of what is necessary to our happiness. All men
desire happiness, that is past doubt: but, as has been already
observed, when they are rid of pain, they are apt to take up with
any pleasure at hand, or that custom has endeared to them; to rest
satisfied in that; and so being happy, till some new desire, by making
them uneasy, disturbs that happiness, and shows them that they are not
so, they look no further; nor is the will determined to any action
in pursuit of any other known or apparent good. For since we find that
we cannot enjoy all sorts of good, but one excludes another; we do not
fix our desires on every apparent greater good, unless it be judged to
be necessary to our happiness: if we think we can be happy without it,
it moves us not. This is another occasion to men of judging wrong;
when they take not that to be necessary to their happiness which
really is so. This mistake misleads us, both in the choice of the good
we aim at, and very often in the means to it, when it is a remote
good. But, which way ever it be, either by placing it where really
it is not, or by neglecting the means as not necessary to it;- when
a man misses his great end, happiness, he will acknowledge he judged
not right. That which contributes to this mistake is the real or
supposed unpleasantness of the actions which are the way to this
end; it seeming so preposterous a thing to men, to make themselves
unhappy in order to happiness, that they do not easily bring
themselves to it.
71. We can change the agreeableness or disagreeableness in things.
The last inquiry, therefore, concerning this matter is,- Whether it be
in a man's power to change the pleasantness and unpleasantness that
accompanies any sort of action? And as to that, it is plain, in many
cases he can. Men may and should correct their palates, and give
relish to what either has, or they suppose has none. The relish of the
mind is as various as that of the body, and like that too may be
altered; and it is a mistake to think that men cannot change the
displeasingness or indifferency that is in actions into pleasure and
desire, if they will do but what is in their power. A due
consideration will do it in some cases; and practice, application, and
custom in most. Bread or tobacco may be neglected where they are shown
to be useful to health, because of an indifferency or disrelish to
them; reason and consideration at first recommends, and begins their
trial, and use finds, or custom makes them pleasant. That this is so
in virtue too, is very certain. Actions are pleasing or displeasing,
either in themselves, or considered as a means to a greater and more
desirable end. The eating of a well-seasoned dish, suited to a man's
palate, may move the mind by the delight itself that accompanies the
eating, without reference to any other end; to which the consideration
of the pleasure there is in health and strength (to which that meat is
subservient) may add a new gusto, able to make us swallow an
ill-relished potion. In the latter of these, any action is rendered
more or less pleasing, only by the contemplation of the end, and the
being more or less persuaded of its tendency to it, or necessary
connexion with it: but the pleasure of the action itself is best
acquired or increased by use and practice. Trials often reconcile us
to that, which at a distance we looked on with aversion; and by
repetitions wear us into a liking of what possibly, in the first
essay, displeased us. Habits have powerful charms, and put so strong
attractions of easiness and pleasure into what we accustom ourselves
to, that we cannot forbear to do, or at least be easy in the
omission of, actions, which habitual practice has suited, and
thereby recommends to us. Though this be very visible, and every one's
experience shows him he can do so; yet it is a part in the conduct
of men towards their happiness, neglected to a degree, that it will be
possibly entertained as a paradox, if it be said, that men can make
things or actions more or less pleasing to themselves; and thereby
remedy that, to which one may justly impute a great deal of their
wandering. Fashion and the common opinion having settled wrong
notions, and education and custom ill habits, the just values of
things are misplaced, and the palates of men corrupted. Pains should
be taken to rectify these; and contrary habits change our pleasures,
and give a relish to that which is necessary or conducive to our
happiness. This every one must confess he can do; and when happiness
is lost, and misery overtakes him, he will confess he did amiss in
neglecting it, and condemn himself for it; and I ask every one,
whether he has not often done so?
72. Preference of vice to virtue a manifest wrong judgment. I
shall not now enlarge any further on the wrong judgments and neglect
of what is in their power, whereby men mislead themselves. This
would make a volume, and is not my business. But whatever false
notions, or shameful neglect of what is in their power, may put men
out of their way to happiness, and distract them, as we see, into so
different courses of life, this yet is certain, that morality,
established upon its true foundations, cannot but determine the choice
in any one that will but consider: and he that will not be so far a
rational creature as to reflect seriously upon infinite happiness
and misery, must needs condemn himself as not making that use of his
understanding he should. The rewards and punishments of another
life, which the Almighty has established, as the enforcements of his
law, are of weight enough to determine the choice, against whatever
pleasure or pain this life can show, when the eternal state is
considered but in its bare possibility, which nobody can make any
doubt of. He that will allow exquisite and endless happiness to be but
the possible consequence of a good life here, and the contrary state
the possible reward of a bad one, must own himself to judge very
much amiss if he does not conclude,- That a virtuous life, with the
certain expectation of everlasting bliss, which may come, is to be
preferred to a vicious one, with the fear of that dreadful state of
misery, which it is very possible may overtake the guilty; or, at
best, the terrible uncertain hope of annihilation. This is evidently
so, though the virtuous life here had nothing but pain, and the
vicious continual pleasure: which yet is, for the most part, quite
otherwise, and wicked men have not much the odds to brag of, even in
their present possession; nay, all things rightly considered, have,
I think, even the worse part here. But when infinite happiness is
put into one scale, against infinite misery in the other; if the worst
that comes to the pious man, if he mistakes, be the best that the
wicked can attain to, if he be in the right, who can without madness
run the venture? Who in his wits would choose to come within a
possibility of infinite misery; which if he miss, there is yet nothing
to be got by that hazard? Whereas, on the other side, the sober man
ventures nothing against infinite happiness to be got, if his
expectation comes not to pass. If the good man be in the right, he
is eternally happy; if he mistakes, he's not miserable, he feels
nothing. On the other side, if the wicked man be in the right, he is
not happy; if he mistakes, he is infinitely miserable. Must it not
be a most manifest wrong judgment that does not presently see to which
side, in this case, the preference is to be given? I have forborne
to mention anything of the certainty or probability of a future state,
designing here to show the wrong judgment that any one must allow he
makes, upon his own principles, laid how he pleases, who prefers the
short pleasures of a vicious life upon any consideration, whilst he
knows, and cannot but be certain, that a future life is at least
73. Recapitulation- liberty of indifferency. To conclude this
inquiry into human liberty, which, as it stood before, I myself from
the beginning fearing, and a very judicious friend of mine, since
the publication, suspecting to have some mistake in it, though he
could not particularly show it me, I was put upon a stricter review of
this chapter. Wherein lighting upon a very easy and scarce
observable slip I had made, in putting one seemingly indifferent
word for another that discovery opened to me this present view,
which here, in this second edition, I submit to the learned world, and
which, in short, is this: Liberty is a power to act or not to act,
according as the mind directs. A power to direct the operative
faculties to motion or rest in particular instances is that which we
call the will. That which in the train of our voluntary actions
determines the will to any change of operation is some present
uneasiness, which is, or at least is always accompanied with that of
desire. Desire is always moved by evil, to fly it: because a total
freedom from pain always makes a necessary part of our happiness:
but every good, nay, every greater good, does not constantly move
desire, because it may not make, or may not be taken to make, part
of our happiness. For all that we desire, is only to be happy. But,
though this general desire of happiness operates constantly and
invariably, yet the satisfaction of any particular desire can be
suspended from determining the will to any subservient action, till we
have maturely examined whether the particular apparent good which we
then desire makes a part of our real happiness, or be consistent or
inconsistent with it. The result of our judgment upon that examination
is what ultimately determines the man; who could not be free if his
will were determined by anything but his own desire, guided by his own
judgment. I know that liberty, by some, is placed in an indifferency
of the man; antecedent to the determination of his will. I wish they
who lay so much stress on such an antecedent indifferency, as they
call it, had told us plainly, whether this supposed indifferency be
antecedent to the thought and judgment of the understanding, as well
as to the decree of the will. For it is pretty hard to state it
between them, i.e. immediately after the judgment of the
understanding, and before the determination of the will: because the
determination of the will immediately follows the judgment of the
understanding: and to place liberty in an indifferency, antecedent
to the thought and judgment of the understanding, seems to me to place
liberty in a state of darkness, wherein we can neither see nor say
anything of it; at least it places it in a subject incapable of it, no
agent being allowed capable of liberty, but in consequence of
thought and judgment. I am not nice about phrases, and therefore
consent to say with those that love to speak so, that liberty is
placed in indifferency, but it is an indifferency which remains
after the judgment of the understanding, yea, even after the
determination of the will: and that is an indifferency not of the man,
(for after he has once judged which is best, viz. to do or forbear, he
is no longer indifferent,) but an indifferency of the operative powers
of the man, which remaining equally able to operate or to forbear
operating after as before the decree of the will, are in a state,
which, if one pleases, may be called indifferency; and as far as
this indifferency reaches, a man is free, and no further: v.g. I
have the ability to move my hand, or to let it rest; that operative
power is indifferent to move or not to move my hand. I am then, in
that respect perfectly free; my will determines that operative power
to rest: I am yet free, because the indifferency of that my
operative power to act, or not to act, still remains; the power of
moving my hand is not at all impaired by the determination of my will,
which at present orders rest; the indifferency of that power to act,
or not to act, is just as it was before, as will appear, if the will
puts it to the trial, by ordering the contrary. But if, during the
rest of my hand, it be seized with a sudden palsy, the indifferency of
that operative power is gone, and with it my liberty; I have no longer
freedom in that respect, but am under a necessity of letting my hand
rest. On the other side, if my hand be put into motion by a
convulsion, the indifferency of that operative faculty is taken away
by that motion; and my liberty in that case is lost, for I am under
a necessity of having my hand move. I have added this, to show in what
sort of indifferency liberty seems to me to consist, and not in any
other, real or imaginary.
74. Active and passive power, in motions and in thinking. True
notions concerning the nature and extent of liberty are of so great
importance, that I hope I shall be pardoned this digression, which
my attempt to explain it has led me into. The ideas of will, volition,
liberty, and necessity, in this Chapter of Power, came naturally in my
way. In a former edition of this Treatise I gave an account of my
thoughts concerning them, according to the light I then had. And
now, as a lover of truth, and not a worshipper of my own doctrines,
I own some change of my opinion; which I think I have discovered
ground for. In what I first writ, I with an unbiased indifferency
followed truth, whither I thought she led me. But neither being so
vain as to fancy infallibility, nor so disingenuous as to dissemble my
mistakes for fear of blemishing my reputation, I have, with the same
sincere design for truth only, not been ashamed to publish what a
severer inquiry has suggested. It is not impossible but that some
may think my former notions right; and some (as I have already
found) these latter; and some neither. I shall not at all wonder at
this variety in men's opinions: impartial deductions of reason in
controverted points being so rare, and exact ones in abstract
notions not so very easy, especially if of any length. And, therefore,
I should think myself not a little beholden to any one, who would,
upon these or any other grounds, fairly clear this subject of
liberty from any difficulties that may yet remain.
Before I close this chapter, it may perhaps be to our purpose, and
help to give us clearer conceptions about power, if we make our
thoughts take a little more exact survey of action. I have said above,
that we have ideas but of two sorts of action, viz. motion and
thinking. These, in truth, though called and counted actions, yet,
if nearly considered, will not be found to be always perfectly so.
For, if I mistake not, there are instances of both kinds, which,
upon due consideration, will be found rather passions than actions;
and consequently so far the effects barely of passive powers in
those subjects, which yet on their accounts are thought agents. For,
in these instances, the substance that hath motion or thought receives
the impression, whereby it is put into that action, purely from
without, and so acts merely by the capacity it has to receive such
an impression from some external agent; and such power is not properly
an active power, but a mere passive capacity in the subject. Sometimes
the substance or agent puts itself into action by its own power, and
this is properly active power. Whatsoever modification a substance
has, whereby it produces any effect, that is called action: v.g. a
solid substance, by motion, operates on or alters the sensible ideas
of another substance, and therefore this modification of motion we
call action. But yet this motion in that solid substance is, when
rightly considered, but a passion, if it received it only from some
external agent. So that the active power of motion is in no
substance which cannot begin motion in itself or in another
substance when at rest. So likewise in thinking, a power to receive
ideas or thoughts from the operation of any external substance is
called a power of thinking: but this is but a passive power, or
capacity. But to be able to bring into view ideas out of sight at
one's own choice, and to compare which of them one thinks fit, this is
an active power. This reflection may be of some use to preserve us
from mistakes about powers and actions, which grammar, and the
common frame of languages, may be apt to lead us into. Since what is
signified by verbs that grammarians call active, does not always
signify action: v.g. this proposition: I see the moon, or a star, or I
feel the heat of the sun, though expressed by a verb active, does
not signify any action in me, whereby I operate on those substances,
but only the reception of the ideas of light, roundness, and heat;
wherein I am not active, but barely passive, and cannot, in that
position of my eyes or body, avoid receiving them. But when I turn
my eyes another way, or remove my body out of the sunbeams, I am
properly active; because of my own choice, by a power within myself, I
put myself into that motion. Such an action is the product of active
75. Summary of our original ideas. And thus I have, in a short
draught, given a view of our original ideas, from whence all the
rest are derived, and of which they are made up; which, if I would
consider as a philosopher, and examine on what causes they depend, and
of what they are made, I believe they all might be reduced to these
very few primary and original ones, viz.
Mobility, or the power of being moved; which by our senses we
receive from body:
Perceptivity, or the power of perception, or thinking;
Motivity, or the power of moving: which by reflection we receive
from our minds.
I crave leave to make use of these two new words, to avoid the
danger of being mistaken in the use of those which are equivocal.
To which if we add
which belong both to the one and the other, we have, perhaps, all
the original ideas on which the rest depend. For by these, I
imagine, might be explained the nature of colours, sounds, tastes,
smells, and all other ideas we have, if we had but faculties acute
enough to perceive the severally modified extensions and motions of
these minute bodies, which produce those several sensations in us. But
my present purpose being only to inquire into the knowledge the mind
has of things, by those ideas and appearances which God has fitted
it to receive from them, and how the mind comes by that knowledge;
rather than into their causes or manner of production, I shall not,
contrary to the design of this Essay, set myself to inquire
philosophically into the peculiar constitution of bodies, and the
configuration of parts, whereby they have the power to produce in us
the ideas of their sensible qualities. I shall not enter any further
into that disquisition; it sufficing to my purpose to observe, that
gold or saffron has a power to produce in us the idea of yellow, and
snow or milk, the idea of white, which we can only have by our
sight; without examining the texture of the parts of those bodies,
or the particular figures or motion of the particles which rebound
from them, to cause in us that particular sensation: though, when we
go beyond the bare ideas in our minds, and would inquire into their
causes, we cannot conceive anything else to be in any sensible object,
whereby it produces different ideas in us, but the different bulk,
figure, number, texture, and motion of its insensible parts.
Chapter XXII
Of Mixed Modes

1. Mixed modes, what. Having treated of simple modes in the
foregoing chapters, and given several instances of some of the most
considerable of them, to show what they are, and how we come by
them; we are now in the next place to consider those we call mixed
modes; such are the complex ideas we mark by the names obligation,
drunkenness, a lie, &c.; which consisting of several combinations of
simple ideas of different kinds, I have called mixed modes, to
distinguish them from the more simple modes, which consist only of
simple ideas of the same kind. These mixed modes, being also such
combinations of simple ideas as are not looked upon to be
characteristical marks of any real beings that have a steady
existence, but scattered and independent ideas put together by the
mind, are thereby distinguished from the complex ideas of substances.
2. Made by the mind. That the mind, in respect of its simple
ideas, is wholly passive, and receives them all from the existence and
operations of things, such as sensation or reflection offers them,
without being able to make any one idea, experience shows us. But if
we attentively consider these ideas I call mixed modes, we are now
speaking of, we shall find their original quite different. The mind
often exercises an active power in making these several
combinations. For, it being once furnished with simple ideas, it can
put them together in several compositions, and so make variety of
complex ideas, without examining whether they exist so together in
nature. And hence I think it is that these ideas are called notions:
as if they had their original, and constant existence, more in the
thoughts of men, than in the reality of things; and to form such
ideas, it sufficed that the mind put the parts of them together, and
that they were consistent in the understanding, without considering
whether they had any real being: though I do not deny but several of
them might be taken from observation, and the existence of several
simple ideas so combined, as they are put together in the
understanding. For the man who first framed the idea of hypocrisy,
might have either taken it at first from the observation of one who
made show of good qualities which he had not; or else have framed that
idea in his mind without having any such pattern to fashion it by. For
it is evident that, in the beginning of languages and societies of
men, several of those complex ideas, which were consequent to the
constitutions established amongst them, must needs have been in the
minds of men, before they existed anywhere else; and that many names
that stood for such complex ideas were in use, and so those ideas
framed, before the combinations they stood for ever existed.
3. Sometimes got by the explication of their names. Indeed, now that
languages are made, and abound with words standing for such
combinations, an usual way of getting these complex ideas is, by the
explication of those terms that stand for them. For, consisting of a
company of simple ideas combined, they may, by words standing for
those simple ideas, be represented to the mind of one who
understands those words, though that complex combination of simple
ideas were never offered to his mind by the real existence of
things. Thus a man may come to have the idea of sacrilege or murder,
by enumerating to him the simple ideas which these words stand for;
without ever seeing either of them committed.
4. The name ties the parts of mixed modes into one idea. Every mixed
mode consisting of many distinct simple ideas, it seems reasonable
to inquire, Whence it has its unity; and how such a precise
multitude comes to make but one idea; since that combination does
not always exist together in nature? To which I answer, it is plain it
has its unity from an act of the mind, combining those several
simple ideas together, and considering them as one complex one,
consisting of those parts; and the mark of this union, or that which
is looked on generally to complete it, is one name given to that
combination. For it is by their names that men commonly regulate their
account of their distinct species of mixed modes, seldom allowing or
considering any number of simple ideas to make one complex one, but
such collections as there be names for. Thus, though the killing of an
old man be as fit in nature to be united into one complex idea, as the
killing a man's father; yet, there being no name standing precisely
for the one, as there is the name of parricide to mark the other, it
is not taken for a particular complex idea, nor a distinct species
of actions from that of killing a young man, or any other man.
5. The cause of making mixed modes. If we should inquire a little
further, to see what it is that occasions men to make several
combinations of simple ideas into distinct, and, as it were, settled
modes, and neglect others, which in the nature of things themselves,
have as much an aptness to be combined and make distinct ideas, we
shall find the reason of it to be the end of language; which being
to mark, or communicate men's thoughts to one another with all the
dispatch that may be, they usually make such collections of ideas into
complex modes, and affix names to them, as they have frequent use of
in their way of living and conversation, leaving others, which they
have but seldom an occasion to mention, loose and without names that
tie them together: they rather choosing to enumerate (when they have
need) such ideas as make them up, by the particular names that stand
for them, than to trouble their memories by multiplying of complex
ideas with names to them, which they seldom or never have any occasion
to make use of.
6. Why words in one language have none answering in another. This
shows us how it comes to pass that there are in every language many
particular words which cannot be rendered by any one single word of
another. For the several fashions, customs, and manners of one nation,
making several combinations of ideas familiar and necessary in one,
which another people have had never an occasion to make, or perhaps so
much as take notice of, names come of course to be annexed to them, to
avoid long periphrases in things of daily conversation; and so they
become so many distinct complex ideas in their minds. Thus
ostrhakismos amongst the Greeks, and proscriptio amongst the Romans,
were words which other languages had no names that exactly answered;
because they stood for complex ideas which were not in the minds of
the men of other nations. Where there was no such custom, there was no
notion of any such actions; no use of such combinations of ideas as
were united, and, as it were, tied together, by those terms: and
therefore in other countries there were no names for them.
7. And languages change. Hence also we may see the reason, why
languages constantly change, take up new and lay by old terms. Because
change of customs and opinions bringing with it new combinations of
ideas, which it is necessary frequently to think on and talk about,
new names, to avoid long descriptions, are annexed to them; and so
they become new species of complex modes. What a number of different
ideas are by this means wrapped up in one short sound, and how much of
our time and breath is thereby saved, any one will see, who will but
take the pains to enumerate all the ideas that either reprieve or
appeal stand for; and instead of either of those names, use a
periphrasis, to make any one understand their meaning.
8. Mixed modes, where they exist. Though I shall have occasion to
consider this more at large when I come to treat of Words and their
use, yet I could not avoid to take this much notice here of the
names of mixed modes; which being fleeting and transient
combinations of simple ideas, which have but a short existence
anywhere but in the minds of men, and there too have no longer any
existence than whilst they are thought on, have not so much anywhere
the appearance of a constant and lasting existence as in their
names: which are therefore, in this sort of ideas, very apt to be
taken for the ideas themselves. For, if we should inquire where the
idea of a triumph or apotheosis exists, it is evident they could
neither of them exist altogether anywhere in the things themselves,
being actions that required time to their performance, and so could
never all exist together; and as to the minds of men, where the
ideas of these actions are supposed to be lodged, they have there
too a very uncertain existence: and therefore we are apt to annex them
to the names that excite them in us.
9. How we get the ideas of mixed modes. There are therefore three
ways whereby we get these complex ideas of mixed modes:- (1) By
experience and observation of things themselves: thus, by seeing two
men wrestle or fence, we get the idea of wrestling or fencing. (2)
By invention, or voluntary putting together of several simple ideas in
our own minds: so he that first invented printing or etching, had an
idea of it in his mind before it ever existed. (3) Which is the most
usual way, by explaining the names of actions we never saw, or motions
we cannot see; and by enumerating, and thereby, as it were, setting
before our imaginations all those ideas which go to the making them
up, and are the constituent parts of them. For, having by sensation
and reflection stored our minds with simple ideas, and by use got
the names that stand for them, we can by those means represent to
another any complex idea we would have him conceive; so that it has in
it no simple ideas but what he knows, and has with us the same name
for. For all our complex ideas are ultimately resolvable into simple
ideas, of which they are compounded and originally made up, though
perhaps their immediate ingredients, as I may so say, are also complex
ideas. Thus, the mixed mode which the word lie stands for is made of
these simple ideas:- (1) Articulate sounds. (2) Certain ideas in the
mind of the speaker. (3) Those words the signs of those ideas. (4)
Those signs put together, by affirmation or negation, otherwise than
the ideas they stand for are in the mind of the speaker. I think I
need not go any further in the analysis of that complex idea we call a
lie: what I have said is enough to show that it is made up of simple
ideas. And it could not be but an offensive tediousness to my
reader, to trouble him with a more minute enumeration of every
particular simple idea that goes to this complex one; which, from what
has been said, he cannot but be able to make out to himself. The
same may be done in all our complex ideas whatsoever; which, however
compounded and decompounded, may at last be resolved into simple
ideas, which are all the materials of knowledge or thought we have, or
can have. Nor shall we have reason to fear that the mind is hereby
stinted to too scanty a number of ideas, if we consider what an
inexhaustible stock of simple modes number and figure alone afford us.
How far then mixed modes, which admit of the various combinations of
different simple ideas, and their infinite modes, are from being few
and scanty, we may easily imagine. So that, before we have done, we
shall see that nobody need be afraid he shall not have scope and
compass enough for his thoughts to range in, though they be, as I
pretend, confined only to simple ideas, received from sensation or
reflection, and their several combinations.
10. Motion, thinking, and power have been most modified. It is worth
our observing, which of all our simple ideas have been most
modified, and had most mixed ideas made out of them, with names
given to them. And those have been these three:- thinking and motion
(which are the two ideas which comprehend in them all action,) and
power, from whence these actions are conceived to flow. These simple
ideas, I say, of thinking, motion, and power, have been those which
have been most modified; and out of whose modifications have been made
most complex modes, with names to them. For action being the great
business of mankind, and the whole matter about which all laws are
conversant, it is no wonder that the several modes of thinking and
motion should be taken notice of, the ideas of them observed, and laid
up in the memory, and have names assigned to them; without which
laws could be but ill made, or vice and disorders repressed. Nor could
any communication be well had amongst men without such complex
ideas, with names to them: and therefore men have settled names, and
supposed settled ideas in their minds, of modes of actions,
distinguished by their causes, means, objects, ends, instruments,
time, place, and other circumstances; and also of their powers
fitted for those actions: v.g. boldness is the power to speak or do
what we intend, before others, without fear or disorder; and the
Greeks call the confidence of speaking by a peculiar name,
parrhesia: which power or ability in man of doing anything, when it
has been acquired by frequent doing the same thing, is that idea we
name habit; when it is forward, and ready upon every occasion to break
into action, we call it disposition. Thus, testiness is a
disposition or aptness to be angry.
To conclude: Let us examine any modes of action, v.g.
consideration and assent, which are actions of the mind; running and
speaking, which are actions of the body; revenge and murder, which are
actions of both together, and we shall find them but so many
collections of simple ideas, which, together, make up the complex ones
signified by those names.
11. Several words seeming to signify action, signify but the effect.
Power being the source from whence all action proceeds, the substances
wherein these powers are, when they exert this power into act, are
called causes, and the substances which thereupon are produced, or the
simple ideas which are introduced into any subject by the exerting
of that power, are called effects. The efficacy whereby the new
substance or idea is produced is called, in the subject exerting
that power, action; but in the subject wherein any simple idea is
changed or produced, it is called passion: which efficacy, however
various, and the effects almost infinite, yet we can, I think,
conceive it, in intellectual agents, to be nothing else but modes of
thinking and willing; in corporeal agents, nothing else but
modifications of motion. I say, I think we cannot conceive it to be
any other but these two. For whatever sort of action besides these
produce any effects, I confess myself to have no notion nor idea of;
and so it is quite remote from my thoughts, apprehensions, and
knowledge; and as much in the dark to me as five other senses, or as
the ideas of colours to a blind man. And therefore many words which
seem to express some action, signify nothing of the action or modus
operandi at all, but barely the effect, with some circumstances of the
subject wrought on, or cause operating: v.g. creation, annihilation,
contain in them no idea of the action or manner whereby they are
produced, but barely of the cause, and the thing done. And when a
countryman says the cold freezes water, though the word freezing seems
to import some action, yet truly it signifies nothing but the
effect, viz. that water that was before fluid is become hard and
consistent, without containing any idea of the action whereby it is
12. Mixed modes made also of other ideas than those of power and
action. I think I shall not need to remark here that, though power and
action make the greatest part of mixed modes, marked by names, and
familiar in the minds and mouths of men, yet other simple ideas, and
their several combinations, are not excluded: much less, I think, will
it be necessary for me to enumerate all the mixed modes which have
been settled, with names to them. That would be to make a dictionary
of the greatest part of the words made use of in divinity, ethics,
law, and politics, and several other sciences. All that is requisite
to my present design, is to show what sort of ideas those are which
I call mixed modes; how the mind comes by them; and that they are
compositions made up of simple ideas got from sensation and
reflection; which I suppose I have done.
Chapter XXIII
Of our Complex Ideas of Substances

1. Ideas of particular substances, how made. The mind being, as I
have declared, furnished with a great number of the simple ideas,
conveyed in by the senses as they are found in exterior things, or
by reflection on its own operations, takes notice also that a
certain number of these simple ideas go constantly together; which
being presumed to belong to one thing, and words being suited to
common apprehensions, and made use of for quick dispatch, are
called, so united in one subject, by one name; which, by inadvertency,
we are apt afterward to talk of and consider as one simple idea, which
indeed is a complication of many ideas together: because, as I have
said, not imagining how these simple ideas can subsist by
themselves, we accustom ourselves to suppose some substratum wherein
they do subsist, and from which they do result, which therefore we
call substance.
2. Our obscure idea of substance in general. So that if any one will
examine himself concerning his notion of pure substance in general, he
will find he has no other idea of it at all, but only a supposition of
he knows not what support of such qualities which are capable of
producing simple ideas in us; which qualities are commonly called
accidents. If any one should be asked, what is the subject wherein
colour or weight inheres, he would have nothing to say, but the
solid extended parts; and if he were demanded, what is it that
solidity and extension adhere in, he would not be in a much better
case than the Indian before mentioned who, saying that the world was
supported by a great elephant, was asked what the elephant rested
on; to which his answer was- a great tortoise: but being again pressed
to know what gave support to the broad-backed tortoise, replied-
something, he knew not what. And thus here, as in all other cases
where we use words without having clear and distinct ideas, we talk
like children: who, being questioned what such a thing is, which
they know not, readily give this satisfactory answer, that it is
something: which in truth signifies no more, when so used, either by
children or men, but that they know not what; and that the thing
they pretend to know, and talk of, is what they have no distinct
idea of at all, and so are perfectly ignorant of it, and in the
dark. The idea then we have, to which we give the general name
substance, being nothing but the supposed, but unknown, support of
those qualities we find existing, which we imagine cannot subsist sine
re substante, without something to support them, we call that
support substantia; which, according to the true import of the word,
is, in plain English, standing under or upholding.
3. Of the sorts of substances. An obscure and relative idea of
substance in general being thus made we come to have the ideas of
particular sorts of substances, by collecting such combinations of
simple ideas as are, by experience and observation of men's senses,
taken notice of to exist together; and are therefore supposed to
flow from the particular internal constitution, or unknown essence
of that substance. Thus we come to have the ideas of a man, horse,
gold, water, &c.; of which substances, whether any one has any other
clear idea, further than of certain simple ideas co-existent together,
I appeal to every one's own experience. It is the ordinary qualities
observable in iron, or a diamond, put together, that make the true
complex idea of those substances, which a smith or a jeweller commonly
knows better than a philosopher; who, whatever substantial forms he
may talk of, has no other idea of those substances, than what is
framed by a collection of those simple ideas which are to be found
in them: only we must take notice, that our complex ideas of
substances, besides all those simple ideas they are made up of, have
always the confused idea of something to which they belong, and in
which they subsist: and therefore when we speak of any sort of
substance, we say it is a thing having such or such qualities; as body
is a thing that is extended, figured, and capable of motion; spirit, a
thing capable of thinking; and so hardness, friability, and power to
draw iron, we say, are qualities to be found in a loadstone. These,
and the like fashions of speaking, intimate that the substance is
supposed always something besides the extension, figure, solidity,
motion, thinking, or other observable ideas, though we know not what
it is.
4. No clear or distinct idea of substance in general. Hence, when we
talk or think of any particular sort of corporeal substances, as
horse, stone, &c., though the idea we have of either of them be but
the complication or collection of those several simple ideas of
sensible qualities, which we used to find united in the thing called
horse or stone; yet, because we cannot conceive how they should
subsist alone, nor one in another, we suppose them existing in and
supported by some common subject; which support we denote by the
name substance, though it be certain we have no clear or distinct idea
of that thing we suppose a support.
5. As clear an idea of spiritual substance as of corporeal
substance. The same thing happens concerning the operations of the
mind, viz. thinking, reasoning, fearing, &c., which we concluding
not to subsist of themselves, nor apprehending how they can belong
to body, or be produced by it, we are apt to think these the actions
of some other substance, which we call spirit; whereby yet it is
evident that, having no other idea or notion of matter, but
something wherein those many sensible qualities which affect our
senses do subsist; by supposing a substance wherein thinking, knowing,
doubting, and a power of moving, &c., do subsist, we have as clear a
notion of the substance of spirit, as we have of body; the one being
supposed to be (without knowing what it is) the substratum to those
simple ideas we have from without; and the other supposed (with a like
ignorance of what it is) to be the substratum to those operations we
experiment in ourselves within. It is plain then, that the idea of
corporeal substance in matter is as remote from our conceptions and
apprehensions, as that of spiritual substance, or spirit: and
therefore, from our not having any notion of the substance of
spirit, we can no more conclude its non-existence, than we can, for
the same reason, deny the existence of body; it being as rational to
affirm there is no body, because we have no clear and distinct idea of
the substance of matter, as to say there is no spirit, because we have
no clear and distinct idea of the substance of a spirit.
6. Our ideas of particular sorts of substances. Whatever therefore
be the secret abstract nature of substance in general, all the ideas
we have of particular distinct sorts of substances are nothing but
several combinations of simple ideas, coexisting in such, though
unknown, cause of their union, as makes the whole subsist of itself It
is by such combinations of simple ideas, and nothing else, that we
represent particular sorts of substances to ourselves; such are the
ideas we have of their several species in our minds; and such only
do we, by their specific names, signify to others, v.g. man, horse,
sun, water, iron: upon hearing which words, every one who
understands the language, frames in his mind a combination of those
several simple ideas which he has usually observed, or fancied to
exist together under that denomination; all which he supposes to
rest in and be, as it were, adherent to that unknown common subject,
which inheres not in anything else. Though, in the meantime, it be
manifest, and every one, upon inquiry into his own thoughts, will
find, that he has no other idea of any substance, v.g. let it be gold,
horse, iron, man, vitriol, bread, but what he has barely of those
sensible qualities, which he supposes to inhere; with a supposition of
such a substratum as gives, as it were, a support to those qualities
or simple ideas, which he has observed to exist united together. Thus,
the idea of the sun,- what is it but an aggregate of those several
simple ideas, bright, hot, roundish, having a constant regular motion,
at a certain distance from us, and perhaps some other: as he who
thinks and discourses of the sun has been more or less accurate in
observing those sensible qualities, ideas, or properties, which are in
that thing which he calls the sun.
7. Their active and passive powers a great part of our complex ideas
of substances. For he has the perfectest idea of any of the particular
sorts of substances, who has gathered, and put together, most of those
simple ideas which do exist in it; among which are to be reckoned
its active powers, and passive capacities, which, though not simple
ideas, yet in this respect, for brevity's sake, may conveniently
enough be reckoned amongst them. Thus, the power of drawing iron is
one of the ideas of the complex one of that substance we call a
loadstone; and a power to be so drawn is a part of the complex one
we call iron: which powers pass for inherent qualities in those
subjects. Because every substance, being as apt, by the powers we
observe in it, to change some sensible qualities in other subjects, as
it is to produce in us those simple ideas which we receive immediately
from it, does, by those new sensible qualities introduced into other
subjects, discover to us those powers which do thereby mediately
affect our senses, as regularly as its sensible qualities do it
immediately: v.g. we immediately by our senses perceive in fire its
heat and colour; which are, if rightly considered, nothing but
powers in it to produce those ideas in us: we also by our senses
perceive the colour and brittleness of charcoal, whereby we come by
the knowledge of another power in fire, which it has to change the
colour and consistency of wood. By the former, fire immediately, by
the latter, it mediately discovers to us these several powers; which
therefore we look upon to be a part of the qualities of fire, and so
make them a part of the complex idea of it. For all those powers
that we take cognizance of, terminating only in the alteration of some
sensible qualities in those subjects on which they operate, and so
making them exhibit to us new sensible ideas, therefore it is that I
have reckoned these powers amongst the simple ideas which make the
complex ones of the sort? of substances; though these powers
considered in themselves, are truly complex ideas. And in this
looser sense I crave leave to be understood, when I name any of
these potentialities among the simple ideas which we recollect in
our minds when we think of particular substances. For the powers
that are severally in them are necessary to be considered, if we
will have true distinct notions of the several sorts of substances.
8. And why. Nor are we to wonder that powers make a great part of
our complex ideas of substances; since their secondary qualities are
those which in most of them serve principally to distinguish
substances one from another, and commonly make a considerable part
of the complex idea of the several sorts of them. For, our senses
failing us in the discovery of the bulk, texture, and figure of the
minute parts of bodies, on which their real constitutions and
differences depend, we are fain to make use of their secondary
qualities as the characteristical notes and marks whereby to frame
ideas of them in our minds, and distinguish them one from another: all
which secondary qualities, as has been shown, are nothing but bare
powers. For the colour and taste of opium are, as well as its
soporific or anodyne virtues, mere powers, depending on its primary
qualities, whereby it is fitted to produce different operations on
different parts of our bodies.
9. Three sorts of ideas make our complex ones of corporeal
substances. The ideas that make our complex ones of corporeal
substances, are of these three sorts. First, the ideas of the
primary qualities of things, which are discovered by our senses, and
are in them even when we perceive them not; such are the bulk, figure,
number, situation, and motion of the parts of bodies; which are really
in them, whether we take notice of them or not. Secondly, the sensible
secondary qualities, which, depending on these, are nothing but the
powers those substances have to produce several ideas in us by our
senses; which ideas are not in the things themselves, otherwise than
as anything is in its cause. Thirdly, the aptness we consider in any
substance, to give or receive such alterations of primary qualities,
as that the substance so altered should produce in us different
ideas from what it did before; these are called active and passive
powers: all which powers, as far as we have any notice or notion of
them, terminate only in sensible simple ideas. For whatever alteration
a loadstone has the power to make in the minute particles of iron,
we should have no notion of any power it had at all to operate on
iron, did not its sensible motion discover it: and I doubt not, but
there are a thousand changes, that bodies we daily handle have a power
to use in one another, which we never suspect, because they never
appear in sensible effects.
10. Powers thus make a great part of our complex ideas of particular
substances. Powers therefore justly make a great part of our complex
ideas of substances. He that will examine his complex idea of gold,
will find several of its ideas that make it up to be only powers; as
the power of being melted, but of not spending itself in the fire;
of being dissolved in aqua regia, are ideas as necessary to make up
our complex idea of gold, as its colour and weight: which, if duly
considered, are also nothing but different powers. For, to speak
truly, yellowness is not actually in gold, but is a power in gold to
produce that idea in us by our eyes, when placed in a due light: and
the heat, which we cannot leave out of our ideas of the sun, is no
more really in the sun, than the white colour it introduces into
wax. These are both equally powers in the sun, operating, by the
motion and figure of its sensible parts, so on a man, as to make him
have the idea of heat; and so on wax, as to make it capable to produce
in a man the idea of white.
11. The now secondary qualities of bodies would disappear, if we
could discover the primary ones of their minute parts. Had we senses
acute enough to discern the minute particles of bodies, and the real
constitution on which their sensible qualities depend, I doubt not but
they would produce quite different ideas in us: and that which is
now the yellow colour of gold, would then disappear, and instead of it
we should see an admirable texture of parts, of a certain size and
figure. This microscopes plainly discover to us; for what to our naked
eyes produces a certain colour, is, by thus augmenting the acuteness
of our senses, discovered to be quite a different thing; and the
thus altering, as it were, the proportion of the bulk of the minute
parts of a coloured object to our usual sight, produces different
ideas from what it did before. Thus, sand or pounded glass, which is
opaque, and white to the naked eye, is pellucid in a microscope; and a
hair seen in this way, loses its former colour, and is, in a great
measure, pellucid, with a mixture of some bright sparkling colours,
such as appear from the refraction of diamonds, and other pellucid
bodies. Blood, to the naked eye, appears all red; but by a good
microscope, wherein its lesser parts appear, shows only some few
globules of red, swimming in a pellucid liquor, and how these red
globules would appear, if glasses could be found that could yet
magnify them a thousand or ten thousand times more, is uncertain.
12. Our faculties for discovery of the qualities and powers of
substances suited to our state. The infinite wise Contriver of us, and
all things about us, hath fitted our senses, faculties, and organs, to
the conveniences of life, and the business we have to do here. We
are able, by our senses, to know and distinguish things: and to
examine them so far as to apply them to our uses, and several ways
to accommodate the exigences of this life. We have insight enough into
their admirable contrivances and wonderful effects, to admire and
magnify the wisdom, power, and goodness of their Author. Such a
knowledge as this, which is suited to our present condition, we want
not faculties to attain. But it appears not that God intended we
should have a perfect, clear, and adequate knowledge of them: that
perhaps is not in the comprehension of any finite being. We are
furnished with faculties (dull and weak as they are) to discover
enough in the creatures to lead us to the knowledge of the Creator,
and the knowledge of our duty; and we are fitted well enough with
abilities to provide for the conveniences of living: these are our
business in this world. But were our senses altered, and made much
quicker and acuter, the appearance and outward scheme of things
would have quite another face to us; and, I am apt to think, would
be inconsistent with our being, or at least well-being, in this part
of the universe which we inhabit. He that considers how little our
constitution is able to bear a remove into parts of this air, not much
higher than that we commonly breath in, will have reason to be
satisfied, that in this globe of earth allotted for our mansion, the
all-wise Architect has suited our organs, and the bodies that are to
affect them, one to another. If our sense of hearing were but a
thousand times quicker than it is, how would a perpetual noise
distract us. And we should in the quietest retirement be less able
to sleep or meditate than in the middle of a sea-fight. Nay, if that
most instructive of our senses, seeing, were in any man a thousand
or a hundred thousand times more acute than it is by the best
microscope, things several millions of times less than the smallest
object of his sight now would then be visible to his naked eyes, and
so he would come nearer to the discovery of the texture and motion
of the minute parts of corporeal things; and in many of them, probably
get ideas of their internal constitutions: but then he would be in a
quite different world from other people: nothing would appear the same
to him and others: the visible ideas of everything would be different.
So that I doubt, whether he and the rest of men could discourse
concerning the objects of sight, or have any communication about
colours, their appearances being so wholly different. And perhaps such
a quickness and tenderness of sight could not endure bright
sunshine, or so much as open daylight; nor take in but a very small
part of any object at once, and that too only at a very near distance.
And if by the help of such microscopical eyes (if I may so call
them) a man could penetrate further than ordinary into the secret
composition and radical texture of bodies, he would not make any great
advantage by the change, if such an acute sight would not serve to
conduct him to the market and exchange; if he could not see things
he was to avoid, at a convenient distance; nor distinguish things he
had to do with by those sensible qualities others do. He that was
sharp-sighted enough to see the configuration of the minute
particles of the spring of a clock, and observe upon what peculiar
structure and impulse its elastic motion depends, would no doubt
discover something very admirable: but if eyes so framed could not
view at once the hand, and the characters of the hour-plate, and
thereby at a distance see what o'clock it was, their owner could not
be much benefited by that acuteness; which, whilst it discovered the
secret contrivance of the parts of the machine, made him lose its use.
13. Conjecture about the corporeal organs of some spirits. And
here give me leave to propose an extravagant conjecture of mine,
viz. That since we have some reason (if there be any credit to be
given to the report of things that our philosophy cannot account
for) to imagine, that Spirits can assume to themselves bodies of
different bulk, figure, and conformation of parts- whether one great
advantage some of them have over us may not lie in this, that they can
so frame and shape to themselves organs of sensation or perception, as
to suit them to their present design, and the circumstances of the
object they would consider. For how much would that man exceed all
others in knowledge, who had but the faculty so to alter the structure
of his eyes, that one sense, as to make it capable of all the
several degrees of vision which the assistance of glasses (casually at
first lighted on) has taught us to conceive? What wonders would he
discover, who could so fit his eyes to all sorts of objects, as to see
when he pleased the figure and motion of the minute particles in the
blood, and other juices of animals, as distinctly as he does, at other
times, the shape and motion of the animals themselves? But to us, in
our present state, unalterable organs, so contrived as to discover the
figure and motion of the minute parts of bodies, whereon depend
those sensible qualities we now observe in them, would perhaps be of
no advantage. God has no doubt made them so as is best for us in our
present condition. He hath fitted us for the neighbourhood of the
bodies that surround us, and we have to do with; and though we cannot,
by the faculties we have, attain to a perfect knowledge of things, yet
they will serve us well enough for those ends above-mentioned, which
are our great concernment. I beg my reader's pardon for laying
before him so wild a fancy concerning the ways of perception of beings
above us; but how extravagant soever it be, I doubt whether we can
imagine anything about the knowledge of angels but after this
manner, some way or other in proportion to what we find and observe in
ourselves. And though we cannot but allow that the infinite power
and wisdom of God may frame creatures with a thousand other
faculties and ways of perceiving things without them than what we
have, yet our thoughts can go no further than our own: so impossible
it is for us to enlarge our very guesses beyond the ideas received
from our own sensation and reflection. The supposition, at least, that
angels do sometimes assume bodies, needs not startle us; since some of
the most ancient and most learned Fathers of the church seemed to
believe that they had bodies: and this is certain, that their state
and way of existence is unknown to us.
14. Our specific ideas of substances. But to return to the matter in
hand,- the ideas we have of substances, and the ways we come by
them. I say, our specific ideas of substances are nothing else but a
collection of a certain number of simple ideas, considered as united
in one thing. These ideas of substances, though they are commonly
simple apprehensions, and the names of them simple terms, yet in
effect are complex and compounded. Thus the idea which an Englishman
signifies by the name swan, is white colour, long neck, red beak,
black legs, and whole feet, and all these of a certain size, with a
power of swimming in the water, and making a certain kind of noise,
and perhaps, to a man who has long observed this kind of birds, some
other properties: which all terminate in sensible simple ideas, all
united in one common subject.
15. Our ideas of spiritual substances, as clear as of bodily
substances. Besides the complex ideas we have of material sensible
substances, of which I have last spoken,- by the simple ideas we
have taken from those operations of our own minds, which we experiment
daily in ourselves, as thinking, understanding, willing, knowing,
and power of beginning motion, &c., co-existing in some substance,
we are able to frame the complex idea of an immaterial spirit. And
thus, by putting together the ideas of thinking, perceiving,
liberty, and power of moving themselves and other things, we have as
clear a perception and notion of immaterial substances as we have of
material. For putting together the ideas of thinking and willing, or
the power of moving or quieting corporeal motion, joined to substance,
of which we have no distinct idea, we have the idea of an immaterial
spirit; and by putting together the ideas of coherent solid parts, and
a power of being moved, joined with substance, of which likewise we
have no positive idea, we have the idea of matter. The one is as clear
and distinct an idea as the other: the idea of thinking, and moving
a body, being as clear and distinct ideas as the ideas of extension,
solidity, and being moved. For our idea of substance is equally
obscure, or none at all, in both; it is but a supposed I know not
what, to support those ideas we call accidents. It is for want
reflection that we are apt to think that our senses show us nothing
but material things. Every act of sensation, when duly considered,
gives us an equal view of both parts of nature, the corporeal and
spiritual. For whilst I know, by seeing or hearing, &c., that there is
some corporeal being without me, the object of that sensation, I do
more certainly know, that there is some spiritual being within me that
sees and hears. This, I must be convinced, cannot be the action of
bare insensible matter; nor ever could be, without an immaterial
thinking being.
16. No idea of abstract substance either in body or spirit. By the
complex idea of extended, figured, coloured, and all other sensible
qualities, which is all that we know of it, we are as far from the
idea of the substance of body, as if we knew nothing at all: nor after
all the acquaintance and familiarity which we imagine we have with
matter, and the many qualities men assure themselves they perceive and
know in bodies, will it perhaps upon examination be found, that they
have any more or clearer primary ideas belonging to body, than they
have belonging to immaterial spirit.
17. Cohesion of solid parts and impulse, the primary ideas
peculiar to body. The primary ideas we have peculiar to body, as
contradistinguished to spirit, are the cohesion of solid, and
consequently separable, parts, and a power of communicating motion
by impulse. These, I think, are the original ideas proper and peculiar
to body; for figure is but the consequence of finite extension.
18. Thinking and motivity the primary ideas peculiar to spirit.
The ideas we have belonging and peculiar to spirit, are thinking,
and will, or a power of putting body into motion by thought, and,
which is consequent to it, liberty. For, as body cannot but
communicate its motion by impulse to another body, which it meets with
at rest, so the mind can put bodies into motion, or forbear to do
so, as it pleases. The ideas of existence, duration, and mobility, are
common to them both.
19. Spirits capable of motion. There is no reason why it should be
thought strange, that I make mobility belong to spirit; for having
no other idea of motion, but change of distance with other beings that
are considered as at rest; and finding that spirits, as well as
bodies, cannot operate but where they are; and that spirits do operate
at several times in several places, I cannot but attribute change of
place to all finite spirits: (for of the Infinite Spirit I speak not
here). For my soul, being a real being as well as my body, is
certainly as capable of changing distance with any other body, or
being, as body itself; and so is capable of motion. And if a
mathematician can consider a certain distance, or a change of that
distance between two points, one may certainly conceive a distance,
and a change of distance, between two spirits; and so conceive their
motion, their approach or removal, one from another.
20. Proof of this. Every one finds in himself that his soul can
think, will, and operate on his body in the place where that is, but
cannot operate on a body, or in a place, an hundred miles distant from
it. Nobody can imagine that his soul can think or move a body at
Oxford, whilst he is at London; and cannot but know, that, being
united to his body, it constantly changes place all the whole
journey between Oxford and London, as the coach or horse does that
carries him, and I think may be said to be truly all that while in
motion: or if that will not be allowed to afford us a clear idea
enough of its motion, its being separated from the body in death, I
think, will; for to consider it as going out of the body, or leaving
it, and yet to have no idea of its motion, seems to me impossible.
21. God immoveable, because infinite. If it be said by any one
that it cannot change place, because it hath none, for the spirits are
not in loco, but ubi; I suppose that way of talking will not now be of
much weight to many, in an age that is not much disposed to admire, or
suffer themselves to be deceived by such unintelligible ways of
speaking. But if any one thinks there is any sense in that
distinction, and that it is applicable to our present purpose, I
desire him to put it into intelligible English; and then from thence
draw a reason to show that immaterial spirits are not capable of
motion. Indeed motion cannot be attributed to God; not because he is
an immaterial, but because he is an infinite spirit.
22. Our complex idea of an immaterial spirit and our complex idea of
body compared. Let us compare, then, our complex idea of an immaterial
spirit with our complex idea of body, and see whether there be any
more obscurity in one than in the other, and in which most. Our idea
of body, as I think, is an extended solid substance, capable of
communicating motion by impulse: and our idea of soul, as an
immaterial spirit, is of a substance that thinks, and has a power of
exciting motion in body, by willing, or thought. These, I think, are
our complex ideas of soul and body, as contradistinguished; and now
let us examine which has most obscurity in it, and difficulty to be
apprehended. I know that people whose thoughts are immersed in matter,
and have so subjected their minds to their senses that they seldom
reflect on anything beyond them, are apt to say, they cannot
comprehend a thinking thing, which perhaps is true: but I affirm, when
they consider it well, they can no more comprehend an extended thing.
23. Cohesion of solid parts in body as hard to be conceived as
thinking in a soul. If any one says he knows not what it is thinks
in him, he means he knows not what the substance is of that thinking
thing: No more, say I, knows he what the substance is of that solid
thing. Further, if he says he knows not how he thinks, I answer,
Neither knows he how he is extended, how the solid parts of body are
united, or cohere together to make extension. For though the
pressure of the particles of air may account for the cohesion of
several parts of matter that are grosser than the particles of air,
and have pores less than the corpuscles of air, yet the weight or
pressure of the air will not explain, nor can be a cause of the
coherence of the particles of air themselves. And if the pressure of
the aether, or any subtiler matter than the air, may unite, and hold
fast together, the parts of a particle of air, as well as other
bodies, yet it cannot make bonds for itself, and hold together the
parts that make up every the least corpuscle of that materia subtilis.
So that that hypothesis, how ingeniously soever explained, by
showing that the parts of sensible bodies are held together by the
pressure of other external insensible bodies, reaches not the parts of
the aether itself; and by how much the more evident it proves, that
the parts of other bodies are held together by the external pressure
of the aether, and can have no other conceivable cause of their
cohesion and union, by so much the more it leaves us in the dark
concerning the cohesion of the parts of the corpuscles of the aether
itself: which we can neither conceive without parts, they being
bodies, and divisible, nor yet how their parts cohere, they wanting
that cause of cohesion which is given of the cohesion of the parts
of all other bodies.
24. Not explained by an ambient fluid. But, in truth, the pressure
of any ambient fluid, how great soever, can be no intelligible cause
of the cohesion of the solid parts of matter. For, though such a
pressure may hinder the avulsion of two polished superficies, one from
another, in a line perpendicular to them, as in the experiment of
two polished marbles; yet it can never in the least hinder the
separation by a motion, in a line parallel to those surfaces.
Because the ambient fluid, having a full liberty to succeed in each
point of space, deserted by a lateral motion, resists such a motion of
bodies, so joined, no more than it would resist the motion of that
body were it on all sides environed by that fluid, and touched no
other body; and therefore, if there were no other cause of cohesion,
all parts of bodies must be easily separable by such a lateral sliding
motion. For if the pressure of the aether be the adequate cause of
cohesion, wherever that cause operates not, there can be no
cohesion. And since it cannot operate against a lateral separation,
(as has been shown), therefore in every imaginary plane,
intersecting any mass of matter, there could be no more cohesion
than of two polished surfaces, which will always, notwithstanding
any imaginable pressure of a fluid, easily slide one from another.
So that perhaps, how clear an idea soever we think we have of the
extension of body, which is nothing but the cohesion of solid parts,
he that shall well consider it in his mind, may have reason to
conclude, That it is as easy for him to have a clear idea how the soul
thinks as how body is extended. For, since body is no further, nor
otherwise, extended, than by the union and cohesion of its solid
parts, we shall very ill comprehend the extension of body, without
understanding wherein consists the union and cohesion of its parts;
which seems to me as incomprehensible as the manner of thinking, and
how it is performed.
25. We can as little understand how the parts cohere in extension,
as how our spirits perceive or move. I allow it is usual for most
people to wonder how any one should find a difficulty in what they
think they every day observe. Do we not see (will they be ready to
say) the parts of bodies stick firmly together? Is there anything more
common? And what doubt can there be made of it? And the like, I say,
concerning thinking and voluntary motion. Do we not every moment
experiment it in ourselves, and therefore can it be doubted? The
matter of fact is clear, I confess; but when we would a little
nearer look into it, and consider how it is done, there I think we are
at a loss, both in the one and the other; and can as little understand
how the parts of body cohere, as how we ourselves perceive or move.
I would have any one intelligibly explain to me, how the parts of
gold, or brass, (that but now in fusion were as loose from one another
as the particles of water, or the sands of an hour-glass), come in a
few moments to be so united, and adhere so strongly one to another,
that the utmost force of men's arms cannot separate them? A
considering man will, I suppose, be here at a loss to satisfy his own,
or another man's understanding.
26. The cause of coherence of atoms in extended substances
incomprehensible. The little bodies that compose that fluid we call
water, are so extremely small, that I have never heard of any one,
who, by a microscope, (and yet I have heard of some that have
magnified to ten thousand; nay, to much above a hundred thousand
times), pretended to perceive their distinct bulk, figure, or
motion; and the particles of water are also so perfectly loose one
from another, that the least force sensibly separates them. Nay, if we
consider their perpetual motion, we must allow them to have no
cohesion one with another; and yet let but a sharp cold come, and they
unite, they consolidate; these little atoms cohere, and are not,
without great force, separable. He that could find the bonds that
tie these heaps of loose little bodies together so firmly; he that
could make known the cement that makes them stick so fast one to
another, would discover a great and yet unknown secret: and yet when
that was done, would he be far enough from making the extension of
body (which is the cohesion of its solid parts) intelligible, till
he could show wherein consisted the union, or consolidation of the
parts of those bonds, or of that cement, or of the least particle of
matter that exists. Whereby it appears that this primary and
supposed obvious quality of body will be found, when examined, to be
as incomprehensible as anything belonging to our minds, and a solid
extended substance as hard to be conceived as a thinking immaterial
one, whatever difficulties some would raise against it.
27. The supposed pressure brought to explain cohesion is
unintelligible. For, to extend our thoughts a little further, that
pressure which is brought to explain the cohesion of bodies is as
unintelligible as the cohesion itself. For if matter be considered, as
no doubt it is, finite, let any one send his contemplation to the
extremities of the universe, and there see what conceivable hoops,
what bond he can imagine to hold this mass of matter in so close a
pressure together; from whence steel has its firmness, and the parts
of a diamond their hardness and indissolubility. If matter be
finite, it must have its extremes; and there must be something to
hinder it from scattering asunder. If, to avoid this difficulty, any
one will throw himself into the supposition and abyss of infinite
matter, let him consider what light he thereby brings to the
cohesion of body, and whether he be ever the nearer making it
intelligible, by resolving it into a supposition the most absurd and
most incomprehensible of all other: so far is our extension of body
(which is nothing but the cohesion of solid parts) from being clearer,
or more distinct, when we would inquire into the nature, cause, or
manner of it, than the idea of thinking.
28. Communication of motion by impulse, or by thought, equally
unintelligible. Another idea we have of body is, the power of
communication of motion by impulse; and of our souls, the power of
exciting motion by thought. These ideas, the one of body, the other of
our minds, every day's experience clearly furnishes us with: but if
here again we inquire how this is done, we are equally in the dark.
For, in the communication of motion by impulse, wherein as much motion
is lost to one body as is got to the other, which is the ordinariest
case, we can have no other conception, but of the passing of motion
out of one body into another; which, I think, is as obscure and
inconceivable as how our minds move or stop our bodies by thought,
which we every moment find they do. The increase of motion by impulse,
which is observed or believed sometimes to happen, is yet harder to be
understood. We have by daily experience clear evidence of motion
produced both by impulse and by thought; but the manner how, hardly
comes within our comprehension: we are equally at a loss in both. So
that, however we consider motion, and its communication, either from
body or spirit, the idea which belongs to spirit is at least as
clear as that which belongs to body. And if we consider the active
power of moving, or, as I may call it, motivity, it is much clearer in
spirit than body; since two bodies, placed by one another at rest,
will never afford us the idea of a power in the one to move the other,
but by a borrowed motion: whereas the mind every day affords us
ideas of an active power of moving of bodies; and therefore it is
worth our consideration, whether active power be not the proper
attribute of spirits, and passive power of matter. Hence may be
conjectured that created spirits are not totally separate from matter,
because they are both active and passive. Pure spirit, viz. God, is
only active; pure matter is only passive; those beings that are both
active and passive, we may judge to partake of both. But be that as it
will, I think, we have as many and as clear ideas belonging to
spirit as we have belonging to body, the substance of each being
equally unknown to us; and the idea of thinking in spirit, as clear as
of extension in body; and the communication of motion by thought,
which we attribute to spirit, is as evident as that by impulse,
which we ascribe to body. Constant experience makes us sensible of
both these, though our narrow understandings can comprehend neither.
For, when the mind would look beyond those original ideas we have from
sensation or reflection, and penetrate into their causes, and manner
of production, we find still it discovers nothing but its own
29. Summary. To conclude. Sensation convinces us that there are
solid extended substances; and reflection, that there are thinking
ones: experience assures us of the existence of such beings, and
that the one hath a power to move body by impulse, the other by
thought; this we cannot doubt of. Experience, I say, every moment
furnishes us with the clear ideas both of the one and the other. But
beyond these ideas, as received from their proper sources, our
faculties will not reach. If we would inquire further into their
nature, causes, and manner, we perceive not the nature of extension
clearer than we do of thinking. If we would explain them any
further, one is as easy as the other; and there is no more
difficulty to conceive how a substance we know not should, by thought,
set body into motion, than how a substance we know not should, by
impulse, set body into motion. So that we are no more able to discover
wherein the ideas belonging to body consist, than those belonging to
spirit. From whence it seems probable to me, that the simple ideas
we receive from sensation and reflection are the boundaries of our
thoughts; beyond which the mind, whatever efforts it would make, is
not able to advance one jot; nor can it make any discoveries, when
it would pry into the nature and hidden causes of those ideas.
30. Our idea of spirit and our idea of body compared. So that, in
short, the idea we have of spirit, compared with the idea we have of
body, stands thus: the substance of spirits is unknown to us; and so
is the substance of body equally unknown to us. Two primary
qualities or properties of body, viz. solid coherent parts and
impulse, we have distinct clear ideas of: so likewise we know, and
have distinct clear ideas, of two primary qualities or properties of
spirit, viz. thinking, and a power of action; i.e. a power of
beginning or stopping several thoughts or motions. We have also the
ideas of several qualities inherent in bodies, and have the clear
distinct ideas of them; which qualities are but the various
modifications of the extension of cohering solid parts, and their
motion. We have likewise the ideas of the several modes of thinking
viz. believing, doubting, intending, fearing, hoping; all which are
but the several modes of thinking. We have also the ideas of
willing, and moving the body consequent to it, and with the body
itself too; for, as has been shown, spirit is capable of motion.
31. The notion of spirit involves no more difficulty in it than that
of body. Lastly, if this notion of immaterial spirit may have,
perhaps, some difficulties in it not easily to be explained, we have
therefore no more reason to deny or doubt the existence of such
spirits, than we have to deny or doubt the existence of body;
because the notion of body is cumbered with some difficulties very
hard, and perhaps impossible to be explained or understood by us.
For I would fain have instanced anything in our notion of spirit
more perplexed, or nearer a contradiction, than the very notion of
body includes in it; the divisibility in infinitum of any finite
extension involving us, whether we grant or deny it, in consequences
impossible to be explicated or made in our apprehensions consistent;
consequences that carry greater difficulty, and more apparent
absurdity, than anything can follow from the notion of an immaterial
knowing substance.
32. We know nothing of things beyond our simple ideas of them. Which
we are not at all to wonder at, since we having but some few
superficial ideas of things, discovered to us only by the senses
from without, or by the mind, reflecting on what it experiments in
itself within, have no knowledge beyond that, much less of the
internal constitution, and true nature of things, being destitute of
faculties to attain it. And therefore experimenting and discovering in
ourselves knowledge, and the power of voluntary motion, as certainly
as we experiment, or discover in things without us, the cohesion and
separation of solid parts, which is the extension and motion of
bodies; we have as much reason to be satisfied with our notion of
immaterial spirit, as with our notion of body, and the existence of
the one as well as the other. For it being no more a contradiction
that thinking should exist separate and independent from solidity,
than it is a contradiction that solidity should exist separate and
independent from thinking, they being both but simple ideas,
independent one from another: and having as clear and distinct ideas
in us of thinking, as of solidity, I know not why we may not as well
allow a thinking thing without solidity, i.e. immaterial, to exist, as
a solid thing without thinking, i.e. matter, to exist; especially
since it is not harder to conceive how thinking should exist without
matter, than how matter should think. For whensoever we would
proceed beyond these simple ideas we have from sensation and
reflection, and dive further into the nature of things, we fall
presently into darkness and obscurity, perplexedness and difficulties,
and can discover nothing further but our own blindness and
ignorance. But whichever of these complex ideas be clearest, that of
body, or immaterial spirit, this is evident, that the simple ideas
that make them up are no other than what we have received from
sensation or reflection: and so is it of all our other ideas of
substances, even of God himself.
33. Our complex idea of God. For if we examine the idea we have of
the incomprehensible Supreme Being, we shall find that we come by it
the same way; and that the complex ideas we have both of God, and
separate spirits, are made of the simple ideas we receive from
reflection: v.g. having, from what we experiment in ourselves, got the
ideas of existence and duration; of knowledge and power; of pleasure
and happiness; and of several other qualities and powers, which it
is better to have than to be without; when we would frame an idea
the most suitable we can to the Supreme Being, we enlarge every one of
these with our idea of infinity; and so putting them together, make
our complex idea of God. For that the mind has such a power of
enlarging some of its ideas, received from sensation and reflection,
has been already shown.
34. Our complex idea of God as infinite. If I find that I know
some few things, and some of them, or all, perhaps imperfectly, I
can frame an idea of knowing twice as many; which I can double
again, as often as I can add to number; and thus enlarge my idea of
knowledge, by extending its comprehension to all things existing, or
possible. The same also I can do of knowing them more perfectly;
i.e. all their qualities, powers, causes, consequences, and relations,
&c., till all be perfectly known that is in them, or can any way
relate to them: and thus frame the idea of infinite or boundless
knowledge. The same may also be done of power, till we come to that we
call infinite; and also of the duration of existence, without
beginning or end, and so frame the idea of an eternal being. The
degrees or extent wherein we ascribe existence, power, wisdom, and all
other perfections (which we can have any ideas of) to that sovereign
Being, which we call God, being all boundless and infinite, we frame
the best idea of him our minds are capable of: all which is done, I
say, by enlarging those simple ideas we have taken from the operations
of our own minds, by reflection; or by our senses, from exterior
things, to that vastness to which infinity can extend them.
35. God in his own essence incognisable. For it is infinity,
which, joined to our ideas of existence, power, knowledge, &c.,
makes that complex idea, whereby we represent to ourselves, the best
we can, the Supreme Being. For, though in his own essence (which
certainly we do not know, not knowing the real essence of a pebble, or
a fly, or of our own selves) God be simple and uncompounded; yet I
think I may say we have no other idea of him, but a complex one of
existence, knowledge, power, happiness, &c., infinite and eternal:
which are all distinct ideas, and some of them, being relative, are
again compounded of others: all which being, as has been shown,
originally got from sensation and reflection, go to make up the idea
or notion we have of God.
36. No ideas in our complex ideas of spirits, but those got from
sensation or reflection. This further is to be observed, that there is
no idea we attribute to God, bating infinity, which is not also a part
of our complex idea of other spirits. Because, being capable of no
other simple ideas, belonging to anything but body, but those which by
reflection we receive from the operation of our own minds, we can
attribute to spirits no other but what we receive from thence: and all
the difference we can put between them, in our contemplation of
spirits, is only in the several extents and degrees of their
knowledge, power, duration, happiness, &c. For that in our ideas, as
well of spirits as of other things, we are restrained to those we
receive from sensation and reflection, is evident from hence,- That,
in our ideas of spirits, how much soever advanced in perfection beyond
those of bodies, even to that of infinite, we cannot yet have any idea
of the manner wherein they discover their thoughts one to another:
though we must necessarily conclude that separate spirits, which are
beings that have perfecter knowledge and greater happiness than we,
must needs have also a perfecter way of communicating their thoughts
than we have, who are fain to make use of corporeal signs, and
particular sounds; which are therefore of most general use, as being
the best and quickest we are capable of. But of immediate
communication having no experiment in ourselves, and consequently no
notion of it at all, we have no idea how spirits, which use not words,
can with quickness, or much less how spirits that have no bodies can
be masters of their own thoughts, and communicate or conceal them at
pleasure, though we cannot but necessarily suppose they have such a
37. Recapitulation. And thus we have seen what kind of ideas we have
of substances of all kinds, wherein they consist, and how we came by
them. From whence, I think, it is very evident,
First, That all our ideas of the several sorts of substances are
nothing but collections of simple ideas: with a supposition of
something to which they belong, and in which they subsist: though of
this supposed something we have no clear distinct idea at all.
Secondly, That all the simple ideas, that thus united in one
common substratum, make up our complex ideas of several sorts of
substances, are no other but such as we have received from sensation
or reflection. So that even in those which we think we are most
intimately acquainted with, and that come nearest the comprehension of
our most enlarged conceptions, we cannot go beyond those simple ideas.
And even in those which seem most remote from all we have to do
with, and do infinitely surpass anything we can perceive in
ourselves by reflection; or discover by sensation in other things,
we can attain to nothing but those simple ideas, which we originally
received from sensation or reflection; as is evident in the complex
ideas we have of angels, and particularly of God himself.
Thirdly, That most of the simple ideas that make up our complex
ideas of substances, when truly considered, are only powers, however
we are apt to take them for positive qualities; v.g. the greatest part
of the ideas that make our complex idea of gold are yellowness,
great weight, ductility, fusibility, and solubility in aqua regia,
&c., all united together in an unknown substratum: all which ideas are
nothing else but so many relations to other substances; and are not
really in the gold, considered barely in itself, though they depend on
those real and primary qualities of its internal constitution, whereby
it has a fitness differently to operate, and be operated on by several
other substances.
Chapter XXIV
Of Collective Ideas of Substances

1. A collective idea is one idea. Besides these complex ideas of
several single substances, as of man, horse, gold, violet, apple, &c.,
the mind hath also complex collective ideas of substances; which I
so call, because such ideas are made up of many particular
substances considered together, as united into one idea, and which
so joined are looked on as one; v.g. the idea of such a collection
of men as make an army, though consisting of a great number of
distinct substances, is as much one idea as the idea of a man: and the
great collective idea of all bodies whatsoever, signified by the
name world, is as much one idea as the idea of any the least
particle of matter in it; it sufficing to the unity of any idea,
that it be considered as one representation or picture, though made up
of ever so many particulars.
2. Made by the power of composing in the mind. These collective
ideas of substances the mind makes, by its power of composition, and
uniting severally either simple or complex ideas into one, as it does,
by the same faculty, make the complex ideas of particular
substances, consisting of an aggregate of divers simple ideas,
united in one substance. And as the mind, by putting together the
repeated ideas of unity, makes the collective mode, or complex idea,
of any number, as a score, or a gross, &c.,- so, by putting together
several particular substances, it makes collective ideas of
substances, as a troop, an army, a swarm, a city, a fleet; each of
which every one finds that he represents to his own mind by one
idea, in one view; and so under that notion considers those several
things as perfectly one, as one ship, or one atom. Nor is it harder to
conceive how an army of ten thousand men should make one idea, than
how a man should make one idea; it being as easy to the mind to
unite into one the idea of a great number of men, and consider it as
one, as it is to unite into one particular all the distinct ideas that
make up the composition of a man, and consider them all together as
3. Artificial things that are made up of distinct substances are our
collective ideas. Amongst such kind of collective ideas are to be
counted most part of artificial things, at least such of them as are
made up of distinct substances: and, in truth, if we consider all
these collective ideas aright, as army, constellation, universe, as
they are united into so many single ideas, they are but the artificial
draughts of the mind; bringing things very remote, and independent
on one another, into one view, the better to contemplate and discourse
of them, united into one conception, and signified by one name. For
there are no things so remote, nor so contrary, which the mind cannot,
by this art of composition, bring into one idea; as is visible in that
signified by the name universe.
Chapter XXV
Of Relation

1. Relation, what. Besides the ideas, whether simple or complex,
that the mind has of things as they are in themselves, there are
others it gets from their comparison one with another. The
understanding, in the consideration of anything, is not confined to
that precise object: it can carry an idea as it were beyond itself, or
at least look beyond it, to see how it stands in conformity to any
other. When the mind so considers one thing, that it does as it were
bring it to, and set it by another, and carries its view from one to
the other- this is, as the words import, relation and respect; and the
denominations given to positive things, intimating that respect, and
serving as marks to lead the thoughts beyond the subject itself
denominated to something distinct from it, are what we call relatives;
and the things so brought together, related. Thus, when the mind
considers Caius as such a positive being, it takes nothing into that
idea but what really exists in Caius; v.g. when I consider him as a
man, I have nothing in my mind but the complex idea of the species,
man. So likewise, when I say Caius is a white man, I have nothing
but the bare consideration of a man who hath that white colour. But
when I give Caius the name husband, I intimate some other person;
and when I give him the name whiter, I intimate some other thing: in
both cases my thought is led to something beyond Caius, and there
are two things brought into consideration. And since any idea, whether
simple or complex, may be the occasion why the mind thus brings two
things together, and as it were takes a view of them at once, though
still considered as distinct: therefore any of our ideas may be the
foundation of relation. As in the above-mentioned instance, the
contract and ceremony of marriage with Sempronia is the occasion of
the denomination and relation of husband; and the colour white the
occasion why he is said to be whiter than free-stone.
2. Ideas of relations without correlative terms, not easily
apprehended. These and the like relations, expressed by relative terms
that have others answering them, with a reciprocal intimation, as
father and son, bigger and less, cause and effect, are very obvious to
every one, and everybody at first sight perceives the relation. For
father and son, husband and wife, and such other correlative terms,
seem so nearly to belong one to another, and, through custom, do so
readily chime and answer one another in people's memories, that,
upon the naming of either of them, the thoughts are presently
carried beyond the thing so named; and nobody overlooks or doubts of a
relation, where it is so plainly intimated. But where languages have
failed to give correlative names, there the relation is not always
so easily taken notice of. Concubine is, no doubt, a relative name, as
well as a wife: but in languages where this and the like words have
not a correlative term, there people are not so apt to take them to be
so, as wanting that evident mark of relation which is between
correlatives, which seem to explain one another, and not to be able to
exist, but together. Hence it is, that many of those names, which,
duly considered, do include evident relations, have been called
external denominations. But all names that are more than empty
sounds must signify some idea, which is either in the thing to which
the name is applied, and then it is positive, and is looked on as
united to and existing in the thing to which the denomination is
given; or else it arises from the respect the mind finds in it to
something distinct from it, with which it considers it, and then it
includes a relation.
3. Some seemingly absolute terms contain relations. Another sort
of relative terms there is, which are not looked on to be either
relative, or so much as external denominations: which yet, under the
form and appearance of signifying something absolute in the subject,
do conceal a tacit, though less observable, relation. Such are the
seemingly positive terms of old, great, imperfect, &c., whereof I
shall have occasion to speak more at large in the following chapters.
4. Relation different from the things related. This further may be
observed, That the ideas of relation may be the same in men who have
far different ideas of the things that are related, or that are thus
compared: v.g. those who have far different ideas of a man, may yet
agree in the notion of a father; which is a notion superinduced to the
substance, or man, and refers only to an act of that thing called
man whereby he contributed to the generation of one of his own kind,
let man be what it will.
5. Change of relation may be without any change in the things
related. The nature therefore of relation consists in the referring or
comparing two things one to another; from which comparison one or both
comes to be denominated. And if either of those things be removed,
or cease to be, the relation ceases, and the denomination consequent
to it, though the other receive in itself no alteration at all: v.g.
Caius, whom I consider to-day as a father, ceases to be so
to-morrow, only by the death of his son, without any alteration made
in himself. Nay, barely by the mind's changing the object to which
it compares anything, the same thing is capable of having contrary
denominations at the same time: v.g. Caius, compared to several
persons, may be truly be said to be older and younger, stronger and
weaker, &c.
6. Relation only betwixt two things. Whatsoever doth or can exist,
or be considered as one thing is positive: and so not only simple
ideas and substances, but modes also, are positive beings: though
the parts of which they consist are very often relative one to
another: but the whole together considered as one thing, and producing
in us the complex idea of one thing, which idea is in our minds, as
one picture, though an aggregate of divers parts, and under one
name, it is a positive or absolute thing, or idea. Thus a triangle,
though the parts thereof compared one to another be relative, yet
the idea of the whole is a positive absolute idea. The same may be
said of a family, a tune, &c.; for there can be no relation but
betwixt two things considered as two things. There must always be in
relation two ideas or things, either in themselves really separate, or
considered as distinct, and then a ground or occasion for their
7. All things capable of relation. Concerning relation in general,
these things may be considered:
First, That there is no one thing, whether simple idea, substance,
mode, or relation, or name of either of them, which is not capable
of almost an infinite number of considerations in reference to other
things: and therefore this makes no small part of men's thoughts and
words: v.g. one single man may at once be concerned in, and sustain
all these following relations, and many more, viz. father, brother,
son, grandfather, grandson, father-in-law, son-in-law, husband,
friend, enemy, subject, general, judge, patron, client, professor,
European, Englishman, islander, servant, master, possessor, captain,
superior, inferior, bigger, less, older, younger, contemporary,
like, unlike, &c., to an almost infinite number: he being capable of
as many relations as there can be occasions of comparing him to
other things, in any manner of agreement, disagreement, or respect
whatsoever. For, as I said, relation is a way of comparing or
considering two things together, and giving one or both of them some
appellation from that comparison; and sometimes giving even the
relation itself a name.
8. Our ideas of relations often clearer than of the subjects
related. Secondly, This further may be considered concerning relation,
that though it be not contained in the real existence of things, but
something extraneous and superinduced, yet the ideas which relative
words stand for are often clearer and more distinct than of those
substances to which they do belong. The notion we have of a father
or brother is a great deal clearer and more distinct than that we have
of a man; or, if you will, paternity is a thing whereof it is easier
to have a clear idea, than of humanity; and I can much easier conceive
what a friend is, than what God; because the knowledge of one
action, or one simple idea, is oftentimes sufficient to give me the
notion of a relation; but to the knowing of any substantial being,
an accurate collection of sundry ideas is necessary. A man, if he
compares two things together, can hardly be supposed not to know
what it is wherein he compares them: so that when he compares any
things together, he cannot but have a very clear idea of that
relation. The ideas, then, of relations, are capable at least of being
more perfect and distinct in our minds than those of substances.
Because it is commonly hard to know all the simple ideas which are
really in any substance, but for the most part easy enough to know the
simple ideas that make up any relation I think on, or have a name for:
v.g. comparing two men in reference to one common parent, it is very
easy to frame the ideas of brothers, without having yet the perfect
idea of a man. For significant relative words, as well as others,
standing only for ideas; and those being all either simple, or made up
of simple ones, it suffices for the knowing the precise idea the
relative term stands for, to have a clear conception of that which
is the foundation of the relation; which may be done without having
a perfect and clear idea of the thing it is attributed to. Thus,
having the notion that one laid the egg out of which the other was
hatched, I have a clear idea of the relation of dam and chick
between the two cassiowaries in St. James's Park; though perhaps I
have but a very obscure and imperfect idea of those birds themselves.
9. Relations all terminate in simple ideas. Thirdly, Though there be
a great number of considerations wherein things may be compared one
with another, and so a multitude of relations, yet they all
terminate in, and are concerned about those simple ideas, either of
sensation or reflection, which I think to be the whole materials of
all our knowledge. To clear this, I shall show it in the most
considerable relations that we have any notion of; and in some that
seem to be the most remote from sense or reflection: which yet will
appear to have their ideas from thence, and leave it past doubt that
the notions we have of them are but certain simple ideas, and so
originally derived from sense or reflection.
10. Terms leading the mind beyond the subject denominated, are
relative. Fourthly, That relation being the considering of one thing
with another which is extrinsical to it, it is evident that all
words that necessarily lead the mind to any other ideas than are
supposed really to exist in that thing to which the words are
applied are relative words: v.g. a man, black, merry, thoughtful,
thirsty, angry, extended; these and the like are all absolute, because
they neither signify nor intimate anything but what does or is
supposed really to exist in the man thus denominated; but father,
brother, king, husband, blacker, merrier, &c., are words which,
together with the thing they denominate, imply also something else
separate and exterior to the existence of that thing.
11. All relatives made up of simple ideas. Having laid down these
premises concerning relation in general, I shall now proceed to
show, in some instances, how all the ideas we have of relation are
made up, as the others are, only of simple ideas; and that they all,
how refined or remote from sense soever they seem, terminate at last
in simple ideas. I shall begin with the most comprehensive relation,
wherein all things that do, or can exist, are concerned, and that is
the relation of cause and effect: the idea whereof, how derived from
the two fountains of all our knowledge, sensation and reflection, I
shall in the next place consider.
Chapter XXVI
Of Cause and Effect, and other Relations

1. Whence the ideas of cause and effect got. In the notice that
our senses take of the constant vicissitude of things, we cannot but
observe that several particular, both qualities and substances,
begin to exist; and that they receive this their existence from the
due application and operation of some other being. From this
observation we get our ideas of cause and effect. That which
produces any simple or complex idea we denote by the general name,
cause, and that which is produced, effect. Thus, finding that in
that substance which we call wax, fluidity, which is a simple idea
that was not in it before, is constantly produced by the application
of a certain degree of heat we call the simple idea of heat, in
relation to fluidity in wax, the cause of it, and fluidity the effect.
So also, finding that the substance, wood, which is a certain
collection of simple ideas so called, by the application of fire, is
turned into another substance, called ashes; i.e., another complex
idea, consisting of a collection of simple ideas, quite different from
that complex idea which we call wood; we consider fire, in relation to
ashes, as cause, and the ashes, as effect. So that whatever is
considered by us to conduce or operate to the producing any particular
simple idea, or collection of simple ideas, whether substance or mode,
which did not before exist, hath thereby in our minds the relation
of a cause, and so is denominated by us.
2. Creation, generation, making, alteration. Having thus, from
what our senses are able to discover in the operations of bodies on
one another, got the notion of cause and effect, viz. that a cause
is that which makes any other thing, either simple idea, substance, or
mode, begin to be; and an effect is that which had its beginning
from some other thing; the mind finds no great difficulty to
distinguish the several originals of things into two sorts:-
First, When the thing is wholly made new, so that no part thereof
did ever exist before; as when a new particle of matter doth begin
to exist, in rerum natura, which had before no being, and this we call
Secondly, When a thing is made up of particles, which did all of
them before exist; but that very thing, so constituted of pre-existing
particles, which, considered all together, make up such a collection
of simple ideas, had not any existence before, as this man, this
egg, rose, or cherry, &c. And this, when referred to a substance,
produced in the ordinary course of nature by internal principle, but
set on work by, and received from, some external agent, or cause,
and working by insensible ways which we perceive not, we call
generation. When the cause is extrinsical, and the effect produced
by a sensible separation, or juxta-position of discernible parts, we
call it making; and such are all artificial things. When any simple
idea is produced, which was not in that subject before, we call it
alteration. Thus a man is generated, a picture made; and either of
them altered, when any new sensible quality or simple idea is produced
in either of them, which was not there before: and the things thus
made to exist, which were not there before, are effects; and those
things which operated to the existence, causes. In which, and all
other cases, we may observe, that the notion of cause and effect has
its rise from ideas received by sensation or reflection; and that this
relation, how comprehensive soever, terminates at last in them. For to
have the idea of cause and effect, it suffices to consider any
simple idea or substance, as beginning to exist, by the operation of
some other, without knowing the manner of that operation.
3. Relations of time. Time and place are also the foundations of
very large relations; and all finite beings at least are concerned
in them. But having already shown in another place how we get those
ideas, it may suffice here to intimate, that most of the denominations
of things received from time are only relations. Thus, when any one
says that Queen Elizabeth lived sixty-nine, and reigned forty-five
years, these words import only the relation of that duration to some
other, and mean no more but this, That the duration of her existence
was equal to sixty-nine, and the duration of her government to
forty-five annual revolutions of the sun; and so are all words,
answering, How Long? Again, William the Conqueror invaded England
about the year 1066; which means this, That, taking the duration
from our Saviour's time till now for one entire great length of
time, it shows at what distance this invasion was from the two
extremes; and so do all words of time answering to the question, When,
which show only the distance of any point of time from the period of a
longer duration, from which we measure, and to which we thereby
consider it as related.
4. Some ideas of time supposed positive and found to be relative.
There are yet, besides those, other words of time, that ordinarily are
thought to stand for positive ideas, which yet will, when
considered, be found to be relative; such as are, young, old, &c.,
which include and intimate the relation anything has to a certain
length of duration, whereof we have the idea in our minds. Thus,
having settled in our thoughts the idea of the ordinary duration of
a man to be seventy years, when we say a man is young, we mean that
his age is yet but a small part of that which usually men attain to;
and when we denominate him old, we mean that his duration is run out
almost to the end of that which men do not usually exceed. And so it
is but comparing the particular age or duration of this or that man,
to the idea of that duration which we have in our minds, as ordinarily
belonging to that sort of animals: which is plain in the application
of these names to other things; for a man is called young at twenty
years, and very young at seven years old: but yet a horse we call
old at twenty, and a dog at seven years, because in each of these we
compare their age to different ideas of duration, which are settled in
our minds as belonging to these several sorts of animals, in the
ordinary course of nature. But the sun and stars, though they have
outlasted several generations of men, we call not old, because we do
not know what period God hath set to that sort of beings. This term
belonging properly to those things which we can observe in the
ordinary course of things, by a natural decay, to come to an end in
a certain period of time; and so have in our minds, as it were, a
standard to which we can compare the several parts of their
duration; and, by the relation they bear thereunto, call them young or
old; which we cannot, therefore, do to a ruby or a diamond, things
whose usual periods we know not.
5. Relations of place and extension. The relation also that things
have to one another in their places and distances is very obvious to
observe; as above, below, a mile distant from Charing-cross, in
England, and in London. But as in duration, so in extension and
bulk, there are some ideas that are relative which we signify by names
that are thought positive; as great and little are truly relations.
For here also, having, by observation, settled in our minds the
ideas of the bigness of several species of things from those we have
been most accustomed to, we make them as it were the standards,
whereby to denominate the bulk of others. Thus we call a great
apple, such a one as is bigger than the ordinary sort of those we have
been used to; and a little horse, such a one as comes not up to the
size of that idea which we have in our minds to belong ordinarily to
horses; and that will be a great horse to a Welchman, which is but a
little one to a Fleming; they two having, from the different breed
of their countries, taken several-sized ideas to which they compare,
and in relation to which they denominate their great and their little.
6. Absolute terms often stand for relations. So likewise weak and
strong are but relative denominations of power, compared to some ideas
we have at that time of greater or less power. Thus, when we say a
weak man, we mean one that has not so much strength or power to move
as usually men have, or usually those of his size have; which is a
comparing his strength to the idea we have of the usual strength of
men, or men of such a size. The like when we say the creatures are all
weak things; weak there is but a relative term, signifying the
disproportion there is in the power of God and the creatures. And so
abundance of words, in ordinary speech, stand only for relations
(and perhaps the greatest part) which at first sight seem to have no
such signification: v.g. the ship has necessary stores. Necessary
and stores are both relative words; one having a relation to the
accomplishing the voyage intended, and the other to future use. All
which relations, how they are confined to, and terminate in ideas
derived from sensation or reflection, is too obvious to need any
Chapter XXVII
Of Identity and Diversity

1. Wherein identity consists. Another occasion the mind often
takes of comparing, is the very being of things, when, considering
anything as existing at any determined time and place, we compare it
with itself existing at another time, and thereon form the ideas of
identity and diversity. When we see anything to be in any place in any
instant of time, we are sure (be it what it will) that it is that very
thing, and not another which at that same time exists in another
place, how like and undistinguishable soever it may be in all other
respects: and in this consists identity, when the ideas it is
attributed to vary not at all from what they were that moment
wherein we consider their former existence, and to which we compare
the present. For we never finding, nor conceiving it possible, that
two things of the same kind should exist in the same place at the same
time, we rightly conclude, that, whatever exists anywhere at any time,
excludes all of the same kind, and is there itself alone. When
therefore we demand whether anything be the same or no, it refers
always to something that existed such a time in such a place, which it
was certain, at that instant, was the same with itself, and no
other. From whence it follows, that one thing cannot have two
beginnings of existence, nor two things one beginning; it being
impossible for two things of the same kind to be or exist in the
same instant, in the very same place; or one and the same thing in
different places. That, therefore, that had one beginning, is the same
thing; and that which had a different beginning in time and place from
that, is not the same, but diverse. That which has made the difficulty
about this relation has been the little care and attention used in
having precise notions of the things to which it is attributed.
2. Identity of substances. We have the ideas but of three sorts of
substances: 1. God. 2. Finite intelligences. 3. Bodies.
First, God is without beginning, eternal, unalterable, and
everywhere, and therefore concerning his identity there can be no
Secondly, Finite spirits having had each its determinate time and
place of beginning to exist, the relation to that time and place
will always determine to each of them its identity, as long as it
Thirdly, The same will hold of every particle of matter, to which no
addition or subtraction of matter being made, it is the same. For,
though these three sorts of substances, as we term them, do not
exclude one another out of the same place, yet we cannot conceive
but that they must necessarily each of them exclude any of the same
kind out of the same place: or else the notions and names of
identity and diversity would be in vain, and there could be no such
distinctions of substances, or anything else one from another. For
example: could two bodies be in the same place at the same time;
then those two parcels of matter must be one and the same, take them
great or little; nay, all bodies must be one and the same. For, by the
same reason that two particles of matter may be in one place, all
bodies may be in one place: which, when it can be supposed, takes away
the distinction of identity and diversity of one and more, and renders
it ridiculous. But it being a contradiction that two or more should be
one, identity and diversity are relations and ways of comparing well
founded, and of use to the understanding.
Identity of modes and relations. All other things being but modes or
relations ultimately terminated in substances, the identity and
diversity of each particular existence of them too will be by the same
way determined: only as to things whose existence is in succession,
such as are the actions of finite beings, v.g. motion and thought,
both which consist in a continued train of succession, concerning
their diversity there can be no question: because each perishing the
moment it begins, they cannot exist in different times, or in
different places, as permanent beings can at different times exist
in distant places; and therefore no motion or thought, considered as
at different times, can be the same, each part thereof having a
different beginning of existence.
3. Principium Individuationis. From what has been said, it is easy
to discover what is so much inquired after, the principium
individuationis; and that, it is plain, is existence itself; which
determines a being of any sort to a particular time and place,
incommunicable to two beings of the same kind. This, though it seems
easier to conceive in simple substances or modes; yet, when
reflected on, is not more difficult in compound ones, if care be taken
to what it is applied: v.g. let us suppose an atom, i.e. a continued
body under one immutable superficies, existing in a determined time
and place; it is evident, that, considered in any instant of its
existence, it is in that instant the same with itself. For, being at
that instant what it is, and nothing else, it is the same, and so must
continue as long as its existence is continued; for so long it will be
the same, and no other. In like manner, if two or more atoms be joined
together into the same mass, every one of those atoms will be the
same, by the foregoing rule: and whilst they exist united together,
the mass, consisting of the same atoms, must be the same mass, or
the same body, let the parts be ever so differently jumbled. But if
one of these atoms be taken away, or one new one added, it is no
longer the same mass or the same body. In the state of living
creatures, their identity depends not on a mass of the same particles,
but on something else. For in them the variation of great parcels of
matter alters not the identity: an oak growing from a plant to a great
tree, and then lopped, is still the same oak; and a colt grown up to a
horse, sometimes fat, sometimes lean, is all the while the same horse:
though, in both these cases, there may be a manifest change of the
parts; so that truly they are not either of them the same masses of
matter, though they be truly one of them the same oak, and the other
the same horse. The reason whereof is, that, in these two cases- a
mass of matter and a living body- identity is not applied to the
same thing.
4. Identity of vegetables. We must therefore consider wherein an oak
differs from a mass of matter, and that seems to me to be in this,
that the one is only the cohesion of particles of matter any how
united, the other such a disposition of them as constitutes the
parts of an oak; and such an organization of those parts as is fit
to receive and distribute nourishment, so as to continue and frame the
wood, bark, and leaves, &c., of an oak, in which consists the
vegetable life. That being then one plant which has such an
organization of parts in one coherent body, partaking of one common
life, it continues to be the same plant as long as it partakes of
the same life, though that life be communicated to new particles of
matter vitally united to the living plant, in a like continued
organization conformable to that sort of plants. For this
organization, being at any one instant in any one collection of
matter, is in that particular concrete distinguished from all other,
and is that individual life, which existing constantly from that
moment both forwards and backwards, in the same continuity of
insensibly succeeding parts united to the living body of the plant, it
has that identity which makes the same plant, and all the parts of it,
parts of the same plant, during all the time that they exist united in
that continued organization, which is fit to convey that common life
to all the parts so united.
5. Identity of animals. The case is not so much different in
brutes but that any one may hence see what makes an animal and
continues it the same. Something we have like this in machines, and
may serve to illustrate it. For example, what is a watch? It is
plain it is nothing but a fit organization or construction of parts to
a certain end, which, when a sufficient force is added to it, it is
capable to attain. If we would suppose this machine one continued
body, all whose organized parts were repaired, increased, or
diminished by a constant addition or separation of insensible parts,
with one common life, we should have something very much like the body
of an animal; with this difference, That, in an animal the fitness
of the organization, and the motion wherein life consists, begin
together, the motion coming from within; but in machines the force
coming sensibly from without, is often away when the organ is in
order, and well fitted to receive it.
6. The identity of man. This also shows wherein the identity of
the same man consists; viz. in nothing but a participation of the same
continued life, by constantly fleeting particles of matter, in
succession vitally united to the same organized body. He that shall
place the identity of man in anything else, but, like that of other
animals, in one fitly organized body, taken in any one instant, and
from thence continued, under one organization of life, in several
successively fleeting particles of matter united to it, will find it
hard to make an embryo, one of years, mad and sober, the same man,
by any supposition, that will not make it possible for Seth, Ismael,
Socrates, Pilate, St. Austin, and Caesar Borgia, to be the same man.
For if the identity of soul alone makes the same man; and there be
nothing in the nature of matter why the same individual spirit may not
be united to different bodies, it will be possible that those men,
living in distant ages, and of different tempers, may have been the
same man: which way of speaking must be from a very strange use of the
word man, applied to an idea out of which body and shape are excluded.
And that way of speaking would agree yet worse with the notions of
those philosophers who allow of transmigration, and are of opinion
that the souls of men may, for their miscarriages, be detruded into
the bodies of beasts, as fit habitations, with organs suited to the
satisfaction of their brutal inclinations. But yet I think nobody,
could he be sure that the soul of Heliogabalus were in one of his
hogs, would yet say that hog were a man or Heliogabalus.
7. Idea of identity suited to the idea it is applied to. It is not
therefore unity of substance that comprehends all sorts of identity,
or will determine it in every case; but to conceive and judge of it
aright, we must consider what idea the word it is applied to stands
for: it being one thing to be the same substance, another the same
man, and a third the same person, if person, man, and substance, are
three names standing for three different ideas;- for such as is the
idea belonging to that name, such must be the identity; which, if it
had been a little more carefully attended to, would possibly have
prevented a great deal of that confusion which often occurs about this
matter, with no small seeming difficulties, especially concerning
personal identity, which therefore we shall in the next place a little
8. Same man. An animal is a living organized body; and
consequently the same animal, as we have observed, is the same
continued life communicated to different particles of matter, as
they happen successively to be united to that organized living body.
And whatever is talked of other definitions, ingenious observation
puts it past doubt, that the idea in our minds, of which the sound man
in our mouths is the sign, is nothing else but of an animal of such
a certain form. Since I think I may be confident, that, whoever should
see a creature of his own shape or make, though it had no more
reason all its life than a cat or a parrot, would call him still a
man; or whoever should hear a cat or a parrot discourse, reason, and
philosophize, would call or think it nothing but a cat or a parrot;
and say, the one was a dull irrational man, and the other a very
intelligent rational parrot. A relation we have in an author of
great note, is sufficient to countenance the supposition of a rational
His words are: "I had a mind to know, from Prince Maurice's own
mouth, the account of a common, but much credited story, that I had
heard so often from many others, of an old parrot he had in Brazil,
during his government there, that spoke, and asked, and answered
common questions, like a reasonable creature: so that those of his
train there generally concluded it to be witchery or possession; and
one of his chaplains, who lived long afterwards in Holland, would
never from that time endure a parrot, but said they all had a devil in
them. I had heard many particulars of this story, and as severed by
people hard to be discredited, which made me ask Prince Maurice what
there was of it. He said, with his usual plainness and dryness in
talk, there was something true, but a great deal false of what had
been reported. I desired to know of him what there was of the first.
He told me short and coldly, that he had heard of such an old parrot
when he had been at Brazil; and though he believed nothing of it,
and it was a good way off, yet he had so much curiosity as to send for
it: that it was a very great and a very old one; and when it came
first into the room where the prince was, with a great many Dutchmen
about him, it said presently, What a company of white men are here!
They asked it, what it thought that man was, pointing to the prince.
It answered, Some General or other. When they brought it close to him,
he asked it, D'ou venez-vous? It answered, De Marinnan. The Prince,
A qui estes-vous? The Parrot, A un Portugais. The Prince, Que
fais-tu la? Parrot, Je garde les poulles. The Prince laughed, and
said, Vous gardez les poulles? The Parrot answered, Oui, moi; et je
scai bien faire; and made the chuck four or five times that people use
to make to chickens when they call them. I set down the words of
this worthy dialogue in French, just as Prince Maurice said them to
me. I asked him in what language the parrot spoke, and he said in
Brazilian. I asked whether he understood Brazilian; he said No, but he
had taken care to have two interpreters by him, the one a Dutchman
that spoke Brazilian, and the other a Brazilian that spoke Dutch; that
he asked them separately and privately, and both of them agreed in
telling him just the same thing that the parrot had said. I could
not but tell this odd story, because it is so much out of the way, and
from the first hand, and what may pass for a good one; for I dare
say this Prince at least believed himself in all he told me, having
ever passed for a very honest and pious man: I leave it to naturalists
to reason, and to other men to believe, as they please upon it;
however, it is not, perhaps, amiss to relieve or enliven a busy
scene sometimes with such digressions, whether to the purpose or no."
I have taken care that the reader should have the story at large
in the author's own words, because he seems to me not to have
thought it incredible; for it cannot be imagined that so able a man as
he, who had sufficiency enough to warrant all the testimonies he gives
of himself, should take so much pains, in a place where it had nothing
to do, to pin so close, not only on a man whom he mentions as his
friend, but on a Prince in whom he acknowledges very great honesty and
piety, a story which, if he himself thought incredible, he could not
but also think ridiculous. The Prince, it is plain, who vouches this
story, and our author, who relates it from him, both of them call this
talker a parrot: and I ask any one else who thinks such a story fit to
be told, whether, if this parrot, and all of its kind, had always
talked, as we have a prince's word for it this one did,- whether, I
say, they would not have passed for a race of rational animals; but
yet, whether, for all that, they would have been allowed to be men,
and not parrots? For I presume it is not the idea of a thinking or
rational being alone that makes the idea of a man in most people's
sense: but of a body, so and so shaped, joined to it: and if that be
the idea of a man, the same successive body not shifted all at once,
must, as well as the same immaterial spirit, go to the making of the
same man.
9. Personal identity. This being premised, to find wherein
personal identity consists, we must consider what person stands
for;- which, I think, is a thinking intelligent being, that has reason
and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking
thing, in different times and places; which it does only by that
consciousness which is inseparable from thinking, and, as it seems
to me, essential to it: it being impossible for any one to perceive
without perceiving that he does perceive. When we see, hear, smell,
taste, feel, meditate, or will anything, we know that we do so. Thus
it is always as to our present sensations and perceptions: and by this
every one is to himself that which he calls self:- it not being
considered, in this case, whether the same self be continued in the
same or divers substances. For, since consciousness always accompanies
thinking, and it is that which makes every one to be what he calls
self, and thereby distinguishes himself from all other thinking
things, in this alone consists personal identity, i.e. the sameness of
a rational being: and as far as this consciousness can be extended
backwards to any past action or thought, so far reaches the identity
of that person; it is the same self now it was then; and it is by
the same self with this present one that now reflects on it, that that
action was done.
10. Consciousness makes personal identity. But it is further
inquired, whether it be the same identical substance. This few would
think they had reason to doubt of, if these perceptions, with their
consciousness, always remained present in the mind, whereby the same
thinking thing would be always consciously present, and, as would be
thought, evidently the same to itself. But that which seems to make
the difficulty is this, that this consciousness being interrupted
always by forgetfulness, there being no moment of our lives wherein we
have the whole train of all our past actions before our eyes in one
view, but even the best memories losing the sight of one part whilst
they are viewing another; and we sometimes, and that the greatest part
of our lives, not reflecting on our past selves, being intent on our
present thoughts, and in sound sleep having no thoughts at all, or
at least none with that consciousness which remarks our waking
thoughts,- I say, in all these cases, our consciousness being
interrupted, and we losing the sight of our past selves, doubts are
raised whether we are the same thinking thing, i.e. the same substance
or no. Which, however reasonable or unreasonable, concerns not
personal identity at all. The question being what makes the same
person; and not whether it be the same identical substance, which
always thinks in the same person, which, in this case, matters not
at all: different substances, by the same consciousness (where they do
partake in it) being united into one person, as well as different
bodies by the same life are united into one animal, whose identity
is preserved in that change of substances by the unity of one
continued life. For, it being the same consciousness that makes a
man be himself to himself, personal identity depends on that only,
whether it be annexed solely to one individual substance, or can be
continued in a succession of several substances. For as far as any
intelligent being can repeat the idea of any past action with the same
consciousness it had of it at first, and with the same consciousness
it has of any present action; so far it is the same personal self
For it is by the consciousness it has of its present thoughts and
actions, that it is self to itself now, and so will be the same
self, as far as the same consciousness can extend to actions past or
to come. and would be by distance of time, or change of substance,
no more two persons, than a man be two men by wearing other clothes
to-day than he did yesterday, with a long or a short sleep between:
the same consciousness uniting those distant actions into the same
person, whatever substances contributed to their production.
11. Personal identity in change of substance. That this is so, we
have some kind of evidence in our very bodies, all whose particles,
whilst vitally united to this same thinking conscious self, so that we
feel when they are touched, and are affected by, and conscious of good
or harm that happens to them, as a part of ourselves; i.e. of our
thinking conscious self. Thus, the limbs of his body are to every
one a part of Himself; he sympathizes and is concerned for them. Cut
off a hand, and thereby separate it from that consciousness he had
of its heat, cold, and other affections, and it is then no longer a
part of that which is himself, any more than the remotest part of
matter. Thus, we see the substance whereof personal self consisted
at one time may be varied at another, without the change of personal
identity; there being no question about the same person, though the
limbs which but now were a part of it, be cut off.
12. Personality in change of substance. But the question is, Whether
if the same substance which thinks be changed, it can be the same
person; or, remaining the same, it can be different persons?
And to this I answer: First, This can be no question at all to those
who place thought in a purely material animal constitution, void of an
immaterial substance. For, whether their supposition be true or no, it
is plain they conceive personal identity preserved in something else
than identity of substance; as animal identity is preserved in
identity of life, and not of substance. And therefore those who
place thinking in an immaterial substance only, before they can come
to deal with these men, must show why personal identity cannot be
preserved in the change of immaterial substances, or variety of
particular immaterial substances, as well as animal identity is
preserved in the change of material substances, or variety of
particular bodies: unless they will say, it is one immaterial spirit
that makes the same life in brutes, as it is one immaterial spirit
that makes the same person in men; which the Cartesians at least
will not admit, for fear of making brutes thinking things too.
13. Whether in change of thinking substances there can be one
person. But next, as to the first part of the question, Whether, if
the same thinking substance (supposing immaterial substances only to
think) be changed, it can be the same person? I answer, that cannot be
resolved but by those who know what kind of substances they are that
do think; and whether the consciousness of past actions can be
transferred from one thinking substance to another. I grant were the
same consciousness the same individual action it could not: but it
being a present representation of a past action, why it may not be
possible, that that may be represented to the mind to have been
which really never was, will remain to be shown. And therefore how far
the consciousness of past actions is annexed to any individual
agent, so that another cannot possibly have it, will be hard for us to
determine, till we know what kind of action it is that cannot be
done without a reflex act of perception accompanying it, and how
performed by thinking substances, who cannot think without being
conscious of it. But that which we call the same consciousness, not
being the same individual act, why one intellectual substance may
not have represented to it, as done by itself, what it never did,
and was perhaps done by some other agent- why, I say, such a
representation may not possibly be without reality of matter of
fact, as well as several representations in dreams are, which yet
whilst dreaming we take for true- will be difficult to conclude from
the nature of things. And that it never is so, will by us, till we
have clearer views of the nature of thinking substances, be best
resolved into the goodness of God; who, as far as the happiness or
misery of any of his sensible creatures is concerned in it, will
not, by a fatal error of theirs, transfer from one to another that
consciousness which draws reward or punishment with it. How far this
may be an argument against those who would place thinking in a
system of fleeting animal spirits, I leave to be considered. But
yet, to return to the question before us, it must be allowed, that, if
the same consciousness (which, as has been shown, is quite a different
thing from the same numerical figure or motion in body) can be
transferred from one thinking substance to another, it will be
possible that two thinking substances may make but one person. For the
same consciousness being preserved, whether in the same or different
substances, the personal identity is preserved.
14. Whether, the same immaterial substance remaining, there can be
two persons. As to the second part of the question, Whether the same
immaterial substance remaining, there may be two distinct persons;
which question seems to me to be built on this,- Whether the same
immaterial being, being conscious of the action of its past
duration, may be wholly stripped of all the consciousness of its
past existence, and lose it beyond the power of ever retrieving it
again: and so as it were beginning a new account from a new period,
have a consciousness that cannot reach beyond this new state. All
those who hold pre-existence are evidently of this mind; since they
allow the soul to have no remaining consciousness of what it did in
that pre-existent state, either wholly separate from body, or
informing any other body; and if they should not, it is plain
experience would be against them. So that personal identity,
reaching no further than consciousness reaches, a pre-existent
spirit not having continued so many ages in a state of silence, must
needs make different persons. Suppose a Christian Platonist or a
Pythagorean should, upon God's having ended all his works of
creation the seventh day, think his soul hath existed ever since;
and should imagine it has revolved in several human bodies; as I
once met with one, who was persuaded his had been the soul of Socrates
(how reasonably I will not dispute; this I know, that in the post he
filled, which was no inconsiderable one, he passed for a very rational
man, and the press has shown that he wanted not parts or learning;)-
would any one say, that he, being not conscious of any of Socrates's
actions or thoughts, could be the same person with Socrates? Let any
one reflect upon himself, and conclude that he has in himself an
immaterial spirit, which is that which thinks in him, and, in the
constant change of his body keeps him the same: and is that which he
calls himself: let him also suppose it to be the same soul that was in
Nestor or Thersites, at the siege of Troy, (for souls being, as far as
we know anything of them, in their nature indifferent to any parcel of
matter, the supposition has no apparent absurdity in it), which it may
have been, as well as it is now the soul of any other man: but he
now having no consciousness of any of the actions either of Nestor
or Thersites, does or can he conceive himself the same person with
either of them? Can he be concerned in either of their actions?
attribute them to himself, or think them his own, more than the
actions of any other men that ever existed? So that this
consciousness, not reaching to any of the actions of either of those
men, he is no more one self with either of them than if the soul or
immaterial spirit that now informs him had been created, and began
to exist, when it began to inform his present body; though it were
never so true, that the same spirit that informed Nestor's or
Thersites' body were numerically the same that now informs his. For
this would no more make him the same person with Nestor, than if
some of the particles of matter that were once a part of Nestor were
now a part of this man; the same immaterial substance, without the
same consciousness, no more making the same person, by being united to
any body, than the same particle of matter, without consciousness,
united to any body, makes the same person. But let him once find
himself conscious of any of the actions of Nestor, he then finds
himself the same person with Nestor.
15. The body, as well as the soul, goes to the making of a man.
And thus may we be able, without any difficulty, to conceive the
same person at the resurrection, though in a body not exactly in
make or parts the same which he had here,- the same consciousness
going along with the soul that inhabits it. But yet the soul alone, in
the change of bodies, would scarce to any one but to him that makes
the soul the man, be enough to make the same man. For should the
soul of a prince, carrying with it the consciousness of the prince's
past life, enter and inform the body of a cobbler, as soon as deserted
by his own soul, every one sees he would be the same person with the
prince, accountable only for the prince's actions: but who would say
it was the same man? The body too goes to the making the man, and
would, I guess, to everybody determine the man in this case, wherein
the soul, with all its princely thoughts about it, would not make
another man: but he would be the same cobbler to every one besides
himself. I know that, in the ordinary way of speaking, the same
person, and the same man, stand for one and the same thing. And indeed
every one will always have a liberty to speak as he pleases, and to
apply what articulate sounds to what ideas he thinks fit, and change
them as often as he pleases. But yet, when we will inquire what
makes the same spirit, man, or person, we must fix the ideas of
spirit, man, or person in our minds; and having resolved with
ourselves what we mean by them, it will not be hard to determine, in
either of them, or the like, when it is the same, and when not.
16. Consciousness alone unites actions into the same person. But
though the same immaterial substance or soul does not alone,
wherever it be, and in whatsoever state, make the same man; yet it
is plain, consciousness, as far as ever it can be extended- should
it be to ages past- unites existences and actions very remote in
time into the same person, as well as it does the existences and
actions of the immediately preceding moment: so that whatever has
the consciousness of present and past actions, is the same person to
whom they both belong. Had I the same consciousness that I saw the ark
and Noah's flood, as that I saw an overflowing of the Thames last
winter, or as that I write now, I could no more doubt that I who write
this now, that saw' the Thames overflowed last winter, and that viewed
the flood at the general deluge, was the same self,- place that self
in what substance you please- than that I who write this am the same
myself now whilst I write (whether I consist of all the same
substance, material or immaterial, or no) that I was yesterday. For as
to this point of being the same self, it matters not whether this
present self be made up of the same or other substances- I being as
much concerned, and as justly accountable for any action that was done
a thousand years since, appropriated to me now by this
self-consciousness, as I am for what I did the last moment.
17. Self depends on consciousness, not on substance. Self is that
conscious thinking thing,- whatever substance made up of, (whether
spiritual or material, simple or compounded, it matters not)- which is
sensible or conscious of pleasure and pain, capable of happiness or
misery, and so is concerned for itself, as far as that consciousness
extends. Thus every one finds that, whilst comprehended under that
consciousness, the little finger is as much a part of himself as
what is most so. Upon separation of this little finger, should this
consciousness go along with the little finger, and leave the rest of
the body, it is evident the little finger would be the person, the
same person; and self then would have nothing to do with the rest of
the body. As in this case it is the consciousness that goes along with
the substance, when one part is separate from another, which makes the
same person, and constitutes this inseparable self: so it is in
reference to substances remote in time. That with which the
consciousness of this present thinking thing can join itself, makes
the same person, and is one self with it, and with nothing else; and
so attributes to itself, and owns all the actions of that thing, as
its own, as far as that consciousness reaches, and no further; as
every one who reflects will perceive.
18. Persons, not substances, the objects of reward and punishment.
In this personal identity is founded all the right and justice of
reward and punishment; happiness and misery being that for which every
one is concerned for himself, and not mattering what becomes of any
substance, not joined to, or affected with that consciousness. For, as
it is evident in the instance I gave but now, if the consciousness
went along with the little finger when it was cut off, that would be
the same self which was concerned for the whole body yesterday, as
making part of itself, whose actions then it cannot but admit as its
own now. Though, if the same body should still live, and immediately
from the separation of the little finger have its own peculiar
consciousness, whereof the little finger knew nothing, it would not at
all be concerned for it, as a part of itself, or could own any of
its actions, or have any of them imputed to him.
19. Which shows wherein personal identity consists. This may show us
wherein personal identity consists: not in the identity of
substance, but, as I have said, in the identity of consciousness,
wherein if Socrates and the present mayor of Queinborough agree,
they are the same person: if the same Socrates waking and sleeping
do not partake of the same consciousness, Socrates waking and sleeping
is not the same person. And to punish Socrates waking for what
sleeping Socrates thought, and waking Socrates was never conscious of,
would be no more of right, than to punish one twin for what his
brother-twin did, whereof he knew nothing, because their outsides were
so like, that they could not be distinguished; for such twins have
been seen.
20. Absolute oblivion separates what is thus forgotten from the
person, but not from the man. But yet possibly it will still be
objected,- Suppose I wholly lose the memory of some parts of my
life, beyond a possibility of retrieving them, so that perhaps I shall
never be conscious of them again; yet am I not the same person that
did those actions, had those thoughts that I once was conscious of,
though I have now forgot them? To which I answer, that we must here
take notice what the word I is applied to; which, in this case, is the
man only. And the same man being presumed to be the same person, I
is easily here supposed to stand also for the same person. But if it
be possible for the same man to have distinct incommunicable
consciousness at different times, it is past doubt the same man
would at different times make different persons; which, we see, is the
sense of mankind in the solemnest declaration of their opinions, human
laws not punishing the mad man for the sober man's actions, nor the
sober man for what the mad man did,- thereby making them two
persons: which is somewhat explained by our way of speaking in English
when we say such an one is "not himself," or is "beside himself"; in
which phrases it is insinuated, as if those who now, or at least first
used them, thought that self was changed; the selfsame person was no
longer in that man.
21. Difference between identity of man and of person. But yet it
is hard to conceive that Socrates, the same individual man, should
be two persons. To help us a little in this, we must consider what
is meant by Socrates, or the same individual man.
First, it must be either the same individual, immaterial, thinking
substance; in short, the same numerical soul, and nothing else.
Secondly, or the same animal, without any regard to an immaterial
Thirdly, or the same immaterial spirit united to the same animal.
Now, take which of these suppositions you please, it is impossible
to make personal identity to consist in anything but consciousness; or
reach any further than that does.
For, by the first of them, it must be allowed possible that a man
born of different women, and in distant times, may be the same man.
A way of speaking which, whoever admits, must allow it possible for
the same man to be two distinct persons, as any two that have lived in
different ages without the knowledge of one another's thoughts.
By the second and third, Socrates, in this life and after it, cannot
be the same man any way, but by the same consciousness; and so
making human identity to consist in the same thing wherein we place
personal identity, there will be no difficulty to allow the same man
to be the same person. But then they who place human identity in
consciousness only, and not in something else, must consider how
they will make the infant Socrates the same man with Socrates after
the resurrection. But whatsoever to some men makes a man, and
consequently the same individual man, wherein perhaps few are
agreed, personal identity can by us be placed in nothing but
consciousness, (which is that alone which makes what we call self,)
without involving us in great absurdities.
22. But is not a man drunk and sober the same person? why else is he
punished for the fact he commits when drunk, though he be never
afterwards conscious of it? Just as much the same person as a man that
walks, and does other things in his sleep, is the same person, and
is answerable for any mischief he shall do in it. Human laws punish
both, with a justice suitable to their way of knowledge;- because,
in these cases, they cannot distinguish certainly what is real, what
counterfeit: and so the ignorance in drunkenness or sleep is not
admitted as a plea. For, though punishment be annexed to
personality, and personality to consciousness, and the drunkard
perhaps be not conscious of what he did, yet human judicatures
justly punish him; because the fact is proved against him, but want of
consciousness cannot be proved for him. But in the Great Day,
wherein the secrets of all hearts shall be laid open, it may be
reasonable to think, no one shall be made to answer for what he
knows nothing of, but shall receive his doom, his conscience
accusing or excusing him.
23. Consciousness alone unites remote existences into one person.
Nothing but consciousness can unite remote existences into the same
person: the identity of substance will not do it; for whatever
substance there is, however framed, without consciousness there is
no person: and a carcass may be a person, as well as any sort of
substance be so, without consciousness.
Could we suppose two distinct incommunicable consciousnesses
acting the same body, the one constantly by day, the other by night;
and, on the other side, the same consciousness, acting by intervals,
two distinct bodies: I ask, in the first case, whether the day and the
night- man would not be two as distinct persons as Socrates and Plato?
And whether, in the second case, there would not be one person in
two distinct bodies, as much as one man is the same in two distinct
clothings? Nor is it at all material to say, that this same, and
this distinct consciousness, in the cases above mentioned, is owing to
the same and distinct immaterial substances, bringing it with them
to those bodies; which, whether true or no, alters not the case: since
it is evident the personal identity would equally be determined by the
consciousness, whether that consciousness were annexed to some
individual immaterial substance or no. For, granting that the thinking
substance in man must be necessarily supposed immaterial, it is
evident that immaterial thinking thing may sometimes part with its
past consciousness, and be restored to it again: as appears in the
forgetfulness men often have of their past actions; and the mind
many times recovers the memory of a past consciousness, which it had
lost for twenty years together. Make these intervals of memory and
forgetfulness to take their turns regularly by day and night, and
you have two persons with the same immaterial spirit, as much as in
the former instance two persons with the same body. So that self is
not determined by identity or diversity of substance, which it
cannot be sure of, but only by identity of consciousness.
24. Not the substance with which the consciousness may be united.
Indeed it may conceive the substance whereof it is now made up to have
existed formerly, united in the same conscious being: but,
consciousness removed, that substance is no more itself, or makes no
more a part of it, than any other substance; as is evident in the
instance we have already given of a limb cut off, of whose heat, or
cold, or other affections, having no longer any consciousness, it is
no more of a man's self than any other matter of the universe. In like
manner it will be in reference to any immaterial substance, which is
void of that consciousness whereby I am myself to myself: if there
be any part of its existence which I cannot upon recollection join
with that present consciousness whereby I am now myself, it is, in
that part of its existence, no more myself than any other immaterial
being. For, whatsoever any substance has thought or done, which I
cannot recollect, and by my consciousness make my own thought and
action, it will no more belong to me, whether a part of me thought
or did it, than if it had been thought or done by any other immaterial
being anywhere existing.
25. Consciousness unites substances, material or spiritual, with the
same personality. I agree, the more probable opinion is, that this
consciousness is annexed to, and the affection of, one individual
immaterial substance.
But let men, according to their diverse hypotheses, resolve of
that as they please. This every intelligent being, sensible of
happiness or misery, must grant- that there is something that is
himself, that he is concerned for, and would have happy; that this
self has existed in a continued duration more than one instant, and
therefore it is possible may exist, as it has done, months and years
to come, without any certain bounds to be set to its duration; and may
be the same self, by the same consciousness continued on for the
future. And thus, by this consciousness he finds himself to be the
same self which did such and such an action some years since, by which
he comes to be happy or miserable now. In all which account of self,
the same numerical substance is not considered as making the same
self, but the same continued consciousness, in which several
substances may have been united, and again separated from it, which,
whilst they continued in a vital union with that wherein this
consciousness then resided, made a part of that same self. Thus any
part of our bodies, vitally united to that which is conscious in us,
makes a part of ourselves: but upon separation from the vital union by
which that consciousness is communicated, that which a moment since
was part of ourselves, is now no more so than a part of another
man's self is a part of me: and it is not impossible but in a little
time may become a real part of another person. And so we have the same
numerical substance become a part of two different persons; and the
same person preserved under the change of various substances. Could we
suppose any spirit wholly stripped of all its memory or
consciousness of past actions, as we find our minds always are of a
great part of ours, and sometimes of them all; the union or separation
of such a spiritual substance would make no variation of personal
identity, any more than that of any particle of matter does. Any
substance vitally united to the present thinking being is a part of
that very same self which now is; anything united to it by a
consciousness of former actions, makes also a part of the same self,
which is the same both then and now.
26. "Person" a forensic term. Person, as I take it, is the name
for this self. Wherever a man finds what he calls himself, there, I
think, another may say is the same person. It is a forensic term,
appropriating actions and their merit; and so belongs only to
intelligent agents, capable of a law, and happiness, and misery.
This personality extends itself beyond present existence to what is
past, only by consciousness,- whereby it becomes concerned and
accountable; owns and imputes to itself past actions, just upon the
same ground and for the same reason as it does the present. All
which is founded in a concern for happiness, the unavoidable
concomitant of consciousness; that which is conscious of pleasure
and pain, desiring that that self that is conscious should be happy.
And therefore whatever past actions it cannot reconcile or appropriate
to that present self by consciousness, it can be no more concerned
in than if they had never been done: and to receive pleasure or
pain, i.e. reward or punishment, on the account of any such action, is
all one as to be made happy or miserable in its first being, without
any demerit at all. For, supposing a man punished now for what he
had done in another life, whereof he could be made to have no
consciousness at all, what difference is there between that punishment
and being created miserable? And therefore, conformable to this, the
apostle tells us, that, at the great day, when every one shall
"receive according to his doings, the secrets of all hearts shall be
laid open." The sentence shall be justified by the consciousness all
persons shall have, that they themselves, in what bodies soever they
appear, or what substances soever that consciousness adheres to, are
the same that committed those actions, and deserve that punishment for
27. Suppositions that look strange are pardonable in our
ignorance. I am apt enough to think I have, in treating of this
subject, made some suppositions that will look strange to some
readers, and possibly they are so in themselves. But yet, I think they
are such as are pardonable, in this ignorance we are in of the
nature of that thinking thing that is in us, and which we look on as
ourselves. Did we know what it was, or how it was tied to a certain
system of fleeting animal spirits; or whether it could or could not
perform its operations of thinking and memory out of a body
organized as ours is; and whether it has pleased God that no one
such spirit shall ever be united to any but one such body, upon the
right constitution of whose organs its memory should depend; we
might see the absurdity of some of those suppositions I have made. But
taking, as we ordinarily now do (in the dark concerning these
matters), the soul of a man for an immaterial substance, independent
from matter, and indifferent alike to it all; there can, from the
nature of things, be no absurdity at all to suppose that the same soul
may at different times be united to different bodies, and with them
make up for that time one man: as well as we suppose a part of a
sheep's body yesterday should be a part of a man's body to-morrow, and
in that union make a vital part of Meliboeus himself, as well as it
did of his ram.
28. The difficulty from ill use of names. To conclude: Whatever
substance begins to exist, it must, during its existence,
necessarily be the same: whatever compositions of substances begin
to exist, during the union of those substances, the concrete must be
the same: whatsoever mode begins to exist, during its existence it
is the same: and so if the composition be of distinct substances and
different modes, the same rule holds. Whereby it will appear, that the
difficulty or obscurity that has been about this matter rather rises
from the names ill-used, than from any obscurity in things themselves.
For whatever makes the specific idea to which the name is applied,
if that idea be steadily kept to, the distinction of anything into the
same and divers will easily be conceived, and there can arise no doubt
about it.
29. Continuance of that which we have made to he our complex idea of
man makes the same man. For, supposing a rational spirit be the idea
of a man, it is easy to know what is the same man, viz. the same
spirit- whether separate or in a body- will be the same man. Supposing
a rational spirit vitally united to a body of a certain conformation
of parts to make a man; whilst that rational spirit, with that vital
conformation of parts, though continued in a fleeting successive body,
remains, it will be the same man. But if to any one the idea of a
man be but the vital union of parts in a certain shape; as long as
that vital union and shape remain in a concrete, no otherwise the same
but by a continued succession of fleeting particles, it will be the
same man. For, whatever be the composition whereof the complex idea is
made, whenever existence makes it one particular thing under any
denomination the same existence continued preserves it the same
individual under the same denomination.
Chapter XXVIII
Of Other Relations

1. Ideas of proportional relations. Besides the before-mentioned
occasions of time, place, and causality of comparing or referring
things one to another, there are, as I have said, infinite others,
some whereof I shall mention.
First, The first I shall name is some one simple idea, which,
being capable of parts or degrees, affords an occasion of comparing
the subjects wherein it is to one another, in respect of that simple
idea, v.g. whiter, sweeter, equal, more, &c. These relations depending
on the equality and excess of the same simple idea, in several
subjects, may be called, if one will, proportional; and that these are
only conversant about those simple ideas received from sensation or
reflection is so evident that nothing need be said to evince it.
2. Natural relation. Secondly, Another occasion of comparing
things together, or considering one thing, so as to include in that
consideration some other thing, is the circumstances of their origin
or beginning; which being not afterwards to be altered, make the
relations depending thereon as lasting as the subjects to which they
belong, v.g. father and son, brothers, cousin-germans, &c., which have
their relations by one community of blood, wherein they partake in
several degrees: countrymen, i.e. those who were born in the same
country or tract of ground; and these I call natural relations:
wherein we may observe, that mankind have fitted their notions and
words to the use of common life, and not to the truth and extent of
things. For it is certain, that, in reality, the relation is the
same betwixt the begetter and the begotten, in the several races of
other animals as well as men; but yet it is seldom said, this bull
is the grandfather of such a calf, or that two pigeons are
cousin-germans. It is very convenient that, by distinct names, these
relations should be observed and marked out in mankind, there being
occasion, both in laws and other communications one with another, to
mention and take notice of men under these relations: from whence also
arise the obligations of several duties amongst men: whereas, in
brutes, men having very little or no cause to mind these relations,
they have not thought fit to give them distinct and peculiar names.
This, by the way, may give us some light into the different state
and growth of languages; which being suited only to the convenience of
communication, are proportioned to the notions men have, and the
commerce of thoughts familiar amongst them; and not to the reality
or extent of things, nor to the various respects might be found
among them; nor the different abstract considerations might be
framed about them. Where they had no philosophical notions, there they
had no terms to express them: and it is no wonder men should have
framed no names for those things they found no occasion to discourse
of. From whence it is easy to imagine why, as in some countries,
they may have not so much as the name for a horse; and in others,
where they are more careful of the pedigrees of their horses, than
of their own, that there they may have not only names for particular
horses, but also of their several relations of kindred one to another.
3. Ideas of instituted or voluntary relations. Thirdly, Sometimes
the foundation of considering things, with reference to one another,
is some act whereby any one comes by a moral right, power, or
obligation to do something. Thus, a general is one that hath power
to command an army; and an army under a general is a collection of
armed men, obliged to obey one man. A citizen, or a burgher, is one
who has a right to certain privileges in this or that place. All
this sort depending upon men's wills, or agreement in society, I
call instituted, or voluntary; and may be distinguished from the
natural, in that they are most, if not all of them, some way or
other alterable, and separable from the persons to whom they have
sometimes belonged, though neither of the substances, so related, be
destroyed. Now, though these are all reciprocal, as well as the
rest, and contain in them a reference of two things one to the
other; yet, because one of the two things often wants a relative name,
importing that reference, men usually take no notice of it, and the
relation is commonly overlooked: v.g. a patron and client ire easily
allowed to be relations, but a constable or dictator are not so
readily at first hearing considered as such. Because there is no
peculiar name for those who are under the command of a dictator or
constable, expressing a relation to either of them; though it be
certain that either of them hath a certain power over some others, and
so is so far related to them, as well as a patron is to his client, or
general to his army.
4. Ideas of moral relations. Fourthly, There is another sort of
relation, which is the conformity or disagreement men's voluntary
actions have to a rule to which they are referred, and by which they
are judged of; which, I think, may be called moral relation, as
being that which denominates our moral actions, and deserves well to
be examined; there being no part of knowledge wherein we should be
more careful to get determined ideas, and avoid, as much as may be,
obscurity and confusion. Human actions, when with their various
ends, objects, manners, and circumstances, they are framed into
distinct complex ideas, are, as has been shown so many mixed modes,
a great part whereof have names annexed to them. Thus, supposing
gratitude to be a readiness to acknowledge and return kindness
received; polygamy to be the having more wives than one at once:
when we frame these notions thus in our minds, we have there so many
determined ideas of mixed modes. But this is not all that concerns our
actions: it is not enough to have determined ideas of them, and to
know what names belong to such and such combinations of ideas. We have
a further and greater concernment, and that is, to know whether such
actions, so made up, are morally good or bad.
5. Moral good and evil. Good and evil, as hath been shown, (Bk.
II. chap. xx. SS 2, and chap. xxi. SS 43,) are nothing but pleasure or
pain, or that which occasions or procures pleasure or pain to us.
Moral good and evil, then, is only the conformity or disagreement of
our voluntary actions to some law, whereby good or evil is drawn on
us, from the will and power of the law-maker; which good and evil,
pleasure or pain, attending our observance or breach of the law by the
decree of the lawmaker, is that we call reward and punishment.
6. Moral rules. Of these moral rules or laws, to which men generally
refer, and by which they judge of the rectitude or pravity of their
actions, there seem to me to be three sorts, with their three
different enforcements, or rewards and punishments. For, since it
would be utterly in vain to suppose a rule set to the free actions
of men, without annexing to it some enforcement of good and evil to
determine his will, we must, wherever we suppose a law, suppose also
some reward or punishment annexed to that law. It would be in vain for
one intelligent being to set a rule to the actions of another, if he
had it not in his power to reward the compliance with, and punish
deviation from his rule, by some good and evil, that is not the
natural product and consequence of the action itself For that, being a
natural convenience or inconvenience, would operate of itself, without
a law. This, if I mistake not, is the true nature of all law, properly
so called.
7. Laws. The laws that men generally refer their actions to, to
judge of their rectitude or obliquity, seem to me to be these
three:- 1. The divine law. 2. The civil law. 3. The law of opinion
or reputation, if I may so call it. By the relation they bear to the
first of these, men judge whether their actions are sins or duties; by
the second, whether they be criminal or innocent; and by the third,
whether they be virtues or vices.
8. Divine law the measure of sin and duty. First, the divine law,
whereby that law which God has set to the actions of men,- whether
promulgated to them by the light of nature, or the voice of
revelation. That God has given a rule whereby men should govern
themselves, I think there is nobody so brutish as to deny. He has a
right to do it; we are his creatures: he has goodness and wisdom to
direct our actions to that which is best: and he has power to
enforce it by rewards and punishments of infinite weight and
duration in another life; for nobody can take us out of his hands.
This is the only true touchstone of moral rectitude; and, by comparing
them to this law, it is that men judge of the most considerable
moral good or evil of their actions; that is, whether, as duties or
sins, they are like to procure them happiness or misery from the hands
of the ALMIGHTY.
9. Civil law the measure of crimes and innocence. Secondly, the
civil law- the rule set by the commonwealth to the actions of those
who belong to it- is another rule to which men refer their actions; to
judge whether they be criminal or no. This law nobody overlooks: the
rewards and punishments that enforce it being ready at hand, and
suitable to the power that makes it: which is the force of the
Commonwealth, engaged to protect the lives, liberties, and possessions
of those who live according to its laws, and has power to take away
life, liberty, or goods, from him who disobeys; which is the
punishment of offences committed against his law.
10. Philosophical law the measure of virtue and vice. Thirdly, the
law of opinion or reputation. Virtue and vice are names pretended
and supposed everywhere to stand for actions in their own nature right
and wrong: and as far as they really are so applied, they so far are
coincident with the divine law above mentioned. But yet, whatever is
pretended, this is visible, that these names, virtue and vice, in
the particular instances of their application, through the several
nations and societies of men in the world, are constantly attributed
only to such actions as in each country and society are in
reputation or discredit. Nor is it to be thought strange, that men
everywhere should give the name of virtue to those actions, which
amongst them are judged praiseworthy; and call that vice, which they
account blamable: since otherwise they would condemn themselves, if
they should think anything right, to which they allowed not
commendation, anything wrong, which they let pass without blame.
Thus the measure of what is everywhere called and esteemed virtue
and vice is this approbation or dislike, praise or blame, which, by
a secret and tacit consent, establishes itself in the several
societies, tribes, and clubs of men in the world: whereby several
actions come to find credit or disgrace amongst them, according to the
judgment, maxims, or fashion of that place. For, though men uniting
into politic societies, have resigned up to the public the disposing
of all their force, so that they cannot employ it against any
fellow-citizens any further than the law of the country directs: yet
they retain still the power of thinking well or ill, approving or
disapproving of the actions of those whom they live amongst, and
converse with: and by this approbation and dislike they establish
amongst themselves what they will call virtue and vice.
11. The measure that men commonly apply to determine what they
call virtue and vice. That this is the common measure of virtue and
vice, will appear to any one who considers, that, though that passes
for vice in one country which is counted a virtue, or at least not
vice, in another, yet everywhere virtue and praise, vice and blame, go
together. Virtue is everywhere, that which is thought praiseworthy;
and nothing else but that which has the allowance of public esteem
is called virtue. Virtue and praise are so united, that they are
called often by the same name. Sunt sua praemia laudi, says Virgil;
and so Cicero, Nihil habet natura praestantius, quam honestatem,
quam laudem, quam dignitatem, quam decus, which he tells you are all
names for the same thing. This is the language of the heathen
philosophers, who well understood wherein their notions of virtue
and vice consisted. And though perhaps, by the different temper,
education, fashion, maxims, or interest of different sorts of men,
it fell out, that what was thought praiseworthy in one place,
escaped not censure in another; and so in different societies, virtues
and vices were changed: yet, as to the main, they for the most part
kept the same everywhere. For, since nothing can be more natural
than to encourage with esteem and reputation that wherein every one
finds his advantage, and to blame and discountenance the contrary;
it is no wonder that esteem and discredit, virtue and vice, should, in
a great measure, everywhere correspond with the unchangeable rule of
right and wrong, which the law of God hath established; there being
nothing that so directly and visibly secures and advances the
general good of mankind in this world, as obedience to the laws he has
set them, and nothing that breeds such mischiefs and confusion, as the
neglect of them. And therefore men, without renouncing all sense and
reason, and their own interest, which they are so constantly true
to, could not generally mistake, in placing their commendation and
blame on that side that really deserved it not. Nay, even those men
whose practice was otherwise, failed not to give their approbation
right, few being depraved to that degree as not to condemn, at least
in others, the faults they themselves were guilty of; whereby, even in
the corruption of manners, the true boundaries of the law of nature,
which ought to be the rule of virtue and vice, were pretty well
preferred. So that even the exhortations of inspired teachers, have
not feared to appeal to common repute: "Whatsoever is lovely,
whatsoever is of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be
any praise," &c. (Phil. 4. 8.)
12. Its enforcement is commendation and discredit. If any one
shall imagine that I have forgot my own notion of a law, when I make
the law, whereby men judge of virtue and vice, to be nothing else
but the consent of private men, who have not authority enough to
make a law: especially wanting that which is so necessary and
essential to a law, a power to enforce it: I think I may say, that
he who imagines commendation and disgrace not to be strong motives
to men to accommodate themselves to the opinions and rules of those
with whom they converse, seems little skilled in the nature or history
of mankind: the greatest part whereof we shall find to govern
themselves chiefly, if not solely, by this law of fashion; and so they
do that which keeps them in reputation with their company, little
regard the laws of God, or the magistrate. The penalties that attend
the breach of God's laws some, nay perhaps most men, seldom
seriously reflect on: and amongst those that do, many, whilst they
break the law, entertain thoughts of future reconciliation, and making
their peace for such breaches. And as to the punishments due from
the laws of the commonwealth, they frequently flatter themselves
with the hopes of impunity. But no man escapes the punishment of their
censure and dislike, who offends against the fashion and opinion of
the company he keeps, and would recommend himself to. Nor is there one
of ten thousand, who is stiff and insensible enough, to bear up
under the constant dislike and condemnation of his own club. He must
be of a strange and unusual constitution, who can content himself to
live in constant disgrace and disrepute with his own particular
society. Solitude many men have sought, and been reconciled to: but
nobody that has the least thought or sense of a man about him, can
live in society under the constant dislike and ill opinion of his
familiars, and those he converses with. This is a burden too heavy for
human sufferance: and he must be made up of irreconcilable
contradictions, who can take pleasure in company, and yet be
insensible of contempt and disgrace from his companions.
13. These three laws the rules of moral good and evil. These three
then, first, the law of God; secondly, the law of politic societies;
thirdly, the law of fashion, or private censure, are those to which
men variously compare their actions: and it is by their conformity
to one of these laws that they take their measures, when they would
judge of their moral rectitude, and denominate their actions good or
14. Morality is the relation of voluntary actions to these rules.
Whether the rule to which, as to a touchstone, we bring our
voluntary actions, to examine them by, and try their goodness, and
accordingly to name them, which is, as it were, the mark of the
value we set upon them: whether, I say, we take that rule from the
fashion of the country, or the will of a law-maker, the mind is easily
able to observe the relation any action hath to it, and to judge
whether the action agrees or disagrees with the rule; and so hath a
notion of moral goodness or evil, which is either conformity or not
conformity of any action to that rule: and therefore is often called
moral rectitude. This rule being nothing but a collection of several
simple ideas, the conformity thereto is but so ordering the action,
that the simple ideas belonging to it may correspond to those which
the law requires. And thus we see how moral beings and notions are
founded on, and terminated in, these simple ideas we have received
from sensation or reflection. For example: let us consider the complex
idea we signify by the word murder: and when we have taken it asunder,
and examined all the particulars, we shall find them to amount to a
collection of simple ideas derived from reflection or sensation,
viz. First, from reflection on the operations of our own minds, we
have the ideas of willing, considering, purposing beforehand,
malice, or wishing ill to another; and also of life, or perception,
and self-motion. Secondly, from sensation we have the collection of
those simple sensible ideas which are to be found in a man, and of
some action, whereby we put an end to perception and motion in the
man; all which simple ideas are comprehended in the word murder.
This collection of simple ideas, being found by me to agree or
disagree with the esteem of the country I have been bred in, and to be
held by most men there worthy praise or blame, I call the action
virtuous or vicious: if I have the will of a supreme invisible
Lawgiver for my rule, then, as I supposed the action commanded or
forbidden by God, I call it good or evil, sin or duty: and if I
compare it to the civil law, the rule made by the legislative power of
the country, I call it lawful or unlawful, a crime or no crime. So
that whencesoever we take the rule of moral actions; or by what
standard soever we frame in our minds the ideas of virtues or vices,
they consist only, and are made up of collections of simple ideas,
which we originally received from sense or reflection: and their
rectitude or obliquity consists in the agreement or disagreement
with those patterns prescribed by some law.
15. Moral actions may be regarded either absolutely, or as ideas
of relation. To conceive rightly of moral actions, we must take notice
of them under this two-fold consideration. First, as they are in
themselves, each made up of such a collection of simple ideas. Thus
drunkenness, or lying, signify such or such a collection of simple
ideas, which I call mixed modes: and in this sense they are as much
positive absolute ideas, as the drinking of a horse, or speaking of
a parrot. Secondly, our actions are considered as good, bad, or
indifferent; and in this respect they are relative, it being their
conformity to, or disagreement with some rule that makes them to be
regular or irregular, good or bad; and so, as far as they are compared
with a rule, and thereupon denominated, they come under relation. Thus
the challenging and fighting with a man, as it is a certain positive
mode, or particular sort of action, by particular ideas, distinguished
from all others, is called duelling: which, when considered in
relation to the law of God, will deserve the name of sin; to the law
of fashion, in some countries, valour and virtue; and to the municipal
laws of some governments, a capital crime. In this case, when the
positive mode has one name, and another name as it stands in
relation to the law, the distinction may as easily be observed as it
is in substances, where one name, v.g. man, is used to signify the
thing; another, v.g. father, to signify the relation.
16. The denominations of actions often mislead us. But because
very frequently the positive idea of the action, and its moral
relation, are comprehended together under one name, and the game
word made use of to express both the mode or action, and its moral
rectitude or obliquity: therefore the relation itself is less taken
notice of; and there is often no distinction made between the positive
idea of the action, and the reference it has to a rule. By which
confusion of these two distinct considerations under one term, those
who yield too easily to the impressions of sounds, and are forward
to take names for things, are often misled in their judgment of
actions. Thus, the taking from another what is his, without his
knowledge or allowance, is properly called stealing: but that name,
being commonly understood to signify also the moral pravity of the
action, and to denote its contrariety to the law, men are apt to
condemn whatever they hear called stealing, as an ill action,
disagreeing with the rule of right. And yet the private taking away
his sword from a madman, to prevent his doing mischief, though it be
properly denominated stealing, as the name of such a mixed mode; yet
when compared to the law of God, and considered in its relation to
that supreme rule, it is no sin or transgression, though the name
stealing ordinarily carries such an intimation with it.
17. Relations innumerable, and only the most considerable here
mentioned. And thus much for the relation of human actions to a law,
which, therefore, I call moral relations.
It would make a volume to go over all sorts of relations: it is not,
therefore, to be expected that I should here mention them all. It
suffices to our present purpose to show by these, what the ideas are
we have of this comprehensive consideration called relation. Which
is so various, and the occasions of it so many, (as many as there
can be of comparing things one to another,) that it is not very easy
to reduce it to rules, or under just heads. Those I have mentioned,
I think, are some of the most considerable; and such as may serve to
let us see from whence we get our ideas of relations, and wherein they
are founded. But before I quit this argument, from what has been
said give me leave to observe:
18. All relations terminate in simple ideas. First, That it is
evident, that all relation terminates in, and is ultimately founded
on, those simple ideas we have got from sensation or reflection: so
that all we have in our thoughts ourselves, (if we think of
anything, or have any meaning), or would signify to others, when we
use words standing for relations, is nothing but some simple ideas, or
collections of simple ideas, compared one with another. This is so
manifest in that sort called proportional, that nothing can be more.
For when a man says "honey is sweeter than wax," it is plain that
his thoughts in this relation terminate in this simple idea,
sweetness; which is equally true of all the rest: though, where they
are compounded, or decompounded, the simple ideas they are made up of,
are, perhaps, seldom taken notice of: v.g. when the word father is
mentioned: first, there is meant that particular species, or
collective idea, signified by the word man; secondly, those sensible
simple ideas, signified by the word generation; and, thirdly, the
effects of it, and all the simple ideas signified by the word child.
So the word friend, being taken for a man who loves and is ready to do
good to another, has all these following ideas to the making of it up:
first, all the simple ideas, comprehended in the word man, or
intelligent being; secondly, the idea of love; thirdly, the idea of
readiness or disposition; fourthly, the idea of action, which is any
kind of thought or motion; fifthly, the idea of good, which
signifies anything that may advance his happiness, and terminates at
last, if examined, in particular simple ideas, of which the word
good in general signifies any one: but, if removed from all simple
ideas quite, it signifies nothing at all. And thus also all moral
words terminate at last, though perhaps more remotely, in a collection
of simple ideas: the immediate signification of relative words,
being very often other supposed known relations; which, if traced
one to another, still end in simple ideas.
19. We have ordinarily as clear a notion of the relation, as of
the simple ideas in things on which it is founded. Secondly, That in
relations, we have for the most part, if not always, as clear a notion
of the relation as we have of those simple ideas wherein it is
founded: agreement or disagreement, whereon relation depends, being
things whereof we have commonly as clear ideas as of any other
whatsoever; it being but the distinguishing simple ideas, or their
degrees one from another, without which we could have no distinct
knowledge at all. For, if I have a clear idea of sweetness, light,
or extension, I have, too, of equal, or more, or less, of each of
these: if I know what it is for one man to be born of a woman, viz.
Sempronia, I know what it is for another man to be born of the same
woman Sempronia; and so have as clear a notion of brothers as of
births, and perhaps clearer. For if I believed that Sempronia digged
Titus out of the parsley-bed, (as they used to tell children), and
thereby became his mother; and that afterwards, in the same manner,
she digged Caius out of the parsley-bed, I had as clear a notion of
the relation of brothers between them, as if I had all the skill of
a midwife: the notion that the same woman contributed, as mother,
equally to their births, (though I were ignorant or mistaken in the
manner of it), being that on which I grounded the relation; and that
they agreed in that circumstance of birth, let it be what it will. The
comparing them then in their descent from the same person, without
knowing the particular circumstances of that descent, is enough to
found my notion of their having, or not having the relation of
brothers. But though the ideas of particular relations are capable
of being as clear and distinct in the minds of those who will duly
consider them as those of mixed modes, and more determinate than those
of substances: yet the names belonging to relation are often of as
doubtful and uncertain signification as those of substances or mixed
modes; and much more than those of simple ideas. Because relative
words, being the marks of this comparison, which is made only by men's
thoughts, and is an idea only in men's minds, men frequently apply
them to different comparisons of things, according to their own
imaginations; which do not always correspond with those of others
using the same name.
20. The notion of relation is the same, whether the rule any
action is compared to be true or false. Thirdly, That in these I
call moral relations, I have a true notion of relation, by comparing
the action with the rule, whether the rule be true or false. For if
I measure anything by a yard, I know whether the thing I measure be
longer or shorter than that supposed yard, though perhaps the yard I
measure by be not exactly the standard: which indeed is another
inquiry. For though the rule be erroneous, and I mistaken in it; yet
the agreement or disagreement observable in that which I compare with,
makes me perceive the relation. Though, measuring by a wrong rule, I
shall thereby be brought to judge amiss of its moral rectitude;
because I have tried it by that which is not the true rule: yet I am
not mistaken in the relation which that action bears to that rule I
compare it to, which is agreement or disagreement.
Chapter XXIX
Of Clear and Obscure, Distinct and Confused Ideas

1. Ideas, some clear and distinct, others obscure and confused.
Having shown the original of our ideas, and taken a view of their
several sorts; considered the difference between the simple and the
complex; and observed how the complex ones are divided into those of
modes, substances, and relations- all which, I think, is necessary
to be done by any one who would acquaint himself thoroughly with the
progress of the mind, in its apprehension and knowledge of things-
it will, perhaps, be thought I have dwelt long enough upon the
examination of ideas. I must nevertheless, crave leave to offer some
few other considerations concerning them.
The first is, that some are clear and others obscure; some
distinct and others confused.
2. Clear and obscure explained by sight. The perception of the
mind being most aptly explained by words relating to the sight, we
shall best understand what is meant by clear and obscure in our ideas,
by reflecting on what we call clear and obscure in the objects of
sight. Light being that which discovers to us visible objects, we give
the name of obscure to that which is not placed in a light
sufficient to discover minutely to us the figure and colours which are
observable in it, and which, in a better light, would be
discernible. In like manner, our simple ideas are clear, when they are
such as the objects themselves from whence they were taken did or
might, in a well-ordered sensation or perception, present them. Whilst
the memory retains them thus, and can produce them to the mind
whenever it has occasion to consider them, they are clear ideas. So
far as they either want anything of the original exactness, or have
lost any of their first freshness, and are, as it were, faded or
tarnished by time, so far are they obscure. Complex ideas, as they are
made up of simple ones, so they are clear, when the ideas that go to
their composition are clear, and the number and order of those
simple ideas that are the ingredients of any complex one is
determinate and certain.
3. Causes of obscurity. The causes of obscurity, in simple ideas,
seem to be either dull organs; or very slight and transient
impressions made by the objects; or else a weakness in the memory, not
able to retain them as received. For to return again to visible
objects, to help us to apprehend this matter. If the organs, or
faculties of perception, like wax over-hardened with cold, will not
receive the impression of the seal, from the usual impulse wont to
imprint it; or, like wax of a temper too soft, will not hold it
well, when well imprinted; or else supposing the wax of a temper
fit, but the seal not applied with a sufficient force to make a
clear impression: in any of these cases, the print left by the seal
will be obscure. This, I suppose, needs no application to make it
4. Distinct and confused, what. As a clear idea is that whereof
the mind has such a full and evident perception, as it does receive
from an outward object operating duly on a well-disposed organ, so a
distinct idea is that wherein the mind perceives a difference from all
other; and a confused idea is such an one as is not sufficiently
distinguishable from another, from which it ought to be different.
5. Objection. If no idea be confused, but such as is not
sufficiently distinguishable from another from which it should be
different, it will be hard, may any one say, to find anywhere a
confused idea. For, let any idea be as it will, it can be no other but
such as the mind perceives it to be; and that very perception
sufficiently distinguishes it from all other ideas, which cannot be
other, i.e. different, without being perceived to be so. No idea,
therefore, can be undistinguishable from another from which it ought
to be different, unless you would have it different from itself: for
from all other it is evidently different.
6. Confusion of ideas is in reference to their names. To remove this
difficulty, and to help us to conceive aright what it is that makes
the confusion ideas are at any time chargeable with, we must consider,
that things ranked under distinct names are supposed different
enough to be distinguished, that so each sort by its peculiar name may
be marked, and discoursed of apart upon any occasion: and there is
nothing more evident, than that the greatest part of different names
are supposed to stand for different things. Now every idea a man
has, being visibly what it is, and distinct from all other ideas but
itself; that which makes it confused, is, when it is such that it
may as well be called by another name as that which it is expressed
by; the difference which keeps the things (to be ranked under those
two different names) distinct, and makes some of them belong rather to
the one and some of them to the other of those names, being left
out; and so the distinction, which was intended to be kept up by those
different names, is quite lost.
7. Defaults which make this confusion. The defaults which usually
occasion this confusion, I think, are chiefly these following:
Complex Ideas made up of too few simple ones. First, when any
complex idea (for it is complex ideas that are most liable to
confusion) is made up of too small a number of simple ideas, and
such only as are common to other things, whereby the differences
that make it deserve a different name, are left out. Thus, he that has
an idea made up of barely the simple ones of a beast with spots, has
but a confused idea of a leopard; it not being thereby sufficiently
distinguished from a lynx, and several other sorts of beasts that
are spotted. So that such an idea, though it hath the peculiar name
leopard, is not distinguishable from those designed by the names
lynx or panther, and may as well come under the name lynx as
leopard. How much the custom of defining of words by general terms
contributes to make the ideas we would express by them confused and
undetermined, I leave others to consider. This is evident, that
confused ideas are such as render the use of words uncertain, and take
away the benefit of distinct names. When the ideas, for which we use
different terms, have not a difference answerable to their distinct
names, and so cannot be distinguished by them, there it is that they
are truly confused.
8. Their simple ones jumbled disorderly together. Secondly,
Another fault which makes our ideas confused is, when, though the
particulars that make up any idea are in number enough, yet they are
so jumbled together, that it is not easily discernible whether it more
belongs to the name that is given it than to any other. There is
nothing properer to make us conceive this confusion than a sort of
pictures, usually shown as surprising pieces of art, wherein the
colours, as they are laid by the pencil on the table itself, mark
out very odd and unusual figures, and have no discernible order in
their position. This draught, thus made up of parts wherein no
symmetry nor order appears, is in itself no more a confused thing,
than the picture of a cloudy sky; wherein, though there be as little
order of colours or figures to be found, yet nobody thinks it a
confused picture. What is it, then, that makes it be thought confused,
since the want of symmetry does not? As it is plain it does not: for
another draught made barely in imitation of this could not be called
confused. I answer, That which makes it be thought confused is, the
applying it to some name to which it does no more discernibly belong
than to some other: v.g. when it is said to be the picture of a man,
or Caesar, then any one with reason counts it confused; because it
is not discernible in that state to belong more to the name man, or
Caesar, than to the name baboon, or Pompey: which are supposed to
stand for different ideas from those signified by man, or Caesar.
But when a cylindrical mirror, placed right, had reduced those
irregular lines on the table into their due order and proportion, then
the confusion ceases, and the eye presently sees that it is a man,
or Caesar; i.e. that it belongs to those names; and that it is
sufficiently distinguishable from a baboon, or Pompey; i.e. from the
ideas signified by those names. Just thus it is with our ideas,
which are as it were the pictures of things. No one of these mental
draughts, however the parts are put together, can be called confused
(for they are plainly discernible as they are) till it be ranked under
some ordinary name to which it cannot be discerned to belong, any more
than it does to some other name of an allowed different signification.
9. Their simple ones mutable and undetermined. Thirdly, A third
defect that frequently gives the name of confused to our ideas, is,
when any one of them is uncertain and undetermined. Thus we may
observe men who, not forbearing to use the ordinary words of their
language till they have learned their precise signification, change
the idea they make this or that term stand for, almost as often as
they use it. He that does this out of uncertainty of what he should
leave out, or put into his idea of church, or idolatry, every time
he thinks of either, and holds not steady to any one precise
combination of ideas that makes it up, is said to have a confused idea
of idolatry or the church: though this be still for the same reason as
the former, viz. because a mutable idea (if we will allow it to be one
idea) cannot belong to one name rather than another, and so loses
the distinction that distinct names are designed for.
10. Confusion without reference to names, hardly conceivable. By
what has been said, we may observe how much names, as supposed
steady signs of things, and by their difference to stand for, and keep
things distinct that in themselves are different, are the occasion
of denominating ideas distinct or confused, by a secret and unobserved
reference the mind makes of its ideas to such names. This perhaps will
be fuller understood, after what I say of Words in the third Book
has been read and considered. But without taking notice of such a
reference of ideas to distinct names, as the signs of distinct things,
it will be hard to say what a confused idea is. And therefore when a
man designs, by any name, a sort of things, or any one particular
thing, distinct from all others, the complex idea he annexes to that
name is the more distinct, the more particular the ideas are, and
the greater and more determinate the number and order of them is,
whereof it is made up. For, the more it has of these, the more it
has still of the perceivable differences, whereby it is kept
separate and distinct from all ideas belonging to other names, even
those that approach nearest to it, and thereby all confusion with them
is avoided.
11. Confusion concerns always two ideas. Confusion making it a
difficulty to separate two things that should be separated, concerns
always two ideas; and those most which most approach one another.
Whenever, therefore, we suspect any idea to be confused, we must
examine what other it is in danger to be confounded with, or which
it cannot easily be separated from; and that will always be found an
idea belonging to another name, and so should be a different thing,
from which yet it is not sufficiently distinct: being either the
same with it, or making a part of it, or at least as properly called
by that name as the other it is ranked under; and so keeps not that
difference from that other idea which the different names import.
12. Causes of confused ideas. This, I think, is the confusion proper
to ideas; which still carries with it a secret reference to names.
At least, if there be any other confusion of ideas, this is that which
most of all disorders men's thoughts and discourses: ideas, as
ranked under names, being those that for the most part men reason of
within themselves, and always those which they commune about with
others. And therefore where there are supposed two different ideas,
marked by two different names, which are not as distinguishable as the
sounds that stand for them, there never fails to be confusion; and
where any ideas are distinct as the ideas of those two sounds they are
marked by, there can be between them no confusion. The way to
prevent it is to collect and unite into one complex idea, as precisely
as is possible, all those ingredients whereby it is differenced from
others; and to them, so united in a determinate number and order,
apply steadily the same name. But this neither accommodating men's
ease or vanity, nor serving any design but that of naked truth,
which is not always the thing aimed at, such exactness is rather to be
wished than hoped for. And since the loose application of names, to
undetermined, variable, and almost no ideas, serves both to cover
our own ignorance, as well as to perplex and confound others, which
goes for learning and superiority in knowledge, it is no wonder that
most men should use it themselves, whilst they complain of it in
others. Though I think no small part of the confusion to be found in
the notions of men might, by care and ingenuity, be avoided, yet I
am far from concluding it everywhere wilful. Some ideas are so
complex, and made up of so many parts, that the memory does not easily
retain the very same precise combination of simple ideas under one
name: much less are we able constantly to divine for what precise
complex idea such a name stands in another man's use of it. From the
first of these, follows confusion in a man's own reasonings and
opinions within himself; from the latter, frequent confusion in
discoursing and arguing with others. But having more at large
treated of Words, their defects, and abuses, in the following Book,
I shall here say no more of it.
13. Complex ideas may be distinct in one part, and confused in
another. Our complex ideas, being made up of collections, and so
variety of simple ones, may accordingly be very clear and distinct
in one part, and very obscure and confused in another. In a man who
speaks of a chiliaedron, or a body of a thousand sides, the ideas of
the figure may be very confused, though that of the number be very
distinct; so that he being able to discourse and demonstrate
concerning that part of his complex idea which depends upon the number
of thousand, he is apt to think he has a distinct idea of a
chiliaedron; though it be plain he has no precise idea of its
figure, so as to distinguish it, by that, from one that has but 999
sides: the not observing whereof causes no small error in men's
thoughts, and confusion in their discourses.
14. This, if not heeded, causes confusion in our arguings. He that
thinks he has a distinct idea of the figure of a chiliaedron, let
him for trial sake take another parcel of the same uniform matter,
viz. gold or wax of an equal bulk, and make it into a figure of 999
sides. He will, I doubt not, be able to distinguish these two ideas
one from another, by the number of sides; and reason and argue
distinctly about them, whilst he keeps his thoughts and reasoning to
that part only of these ideas which is contained in their numbers;
as that the sides of the one could be divided into two equal
numbers, and of the others not, &c. But when he goes about to
distinguish them by their figure, he will there be presently at a
loss, and not be able, I think, to frame in his mind two ideas, one of
them distinct from the other, by the bare figure of these two pieces
of gold; as he could, if the same parcels of gold were made one into a
cube, the other a figure of five sides. In which incomplete ideas,
we are very apt to impose on ourselves, and wrangle with others,
especially where they have particular and familiar names. For, being
satisfied in that part of the idea which we have clear; and the name
which is familiar to us, being applied to the whole, containing that
part also which is imperfect and obscure, we are apt to use it for
that confused part, and draw deductions from it in the obscure part of
its signification, as confidently as we do from the other.
15. Instance in eternity. Having frequently in our mouths the name
Eternity, we are apt to think we have a positive comprehensive idea of
it, which is as much as to say, that there is no part of that duration
which is not clearly contained in our idea. It is true that he that
thinks so may have a clear idea of duration; he may also have a
clear idea of a very great length of duration; he may also have a
clear idea of the comparison of that great one with still a greater:
but it not being possible for him to include in his idea of any
duration, let it be as great as it will, the whole extent together
of a duration, where he supposes no end, that part of his idea,
which is still beyond the bounds of that large duration he
represents to his own thoughts, is very obscure and undetermined.
And hence it is that in disputes and reasonings concerning eternity,
or any other infinite, we are very apt to blunder, and involve
ourselves in manifest absurdities.
16. Infinite divisibility of matter. In matter, we have no clear
ideas of the smallness of parts much beyond the smallest that occur to
any of our senses: and therefore, when we talk of the divisibility
of matter in infinitum, though we have clear ideas of division and
divisibility, and have also clear ideas of parts made out of a whole
by division; yet we have but very obscure and confused ideas of
corpuscles, or minute bodies, so to be divided, when, by former
divisions, they are reduced to a smallness much exceeding the
perception of any of our senses; and so all that we have clear and
distinct ideas of is of what division in general or abstractedly is,
and the relation of totum and pars: but of the bulk of the body, to be
thus infinitely divided after certain progressions, I think, we have
no clear nor distinct idea at all. For I ask any one, whether,
taking the smallest atom of dust he ever saw, he has any distinct idea
(bating still the number, which concerns not extension) betwixt the
1,000,000th and the 1,000,000,000th part of it. Or if he think he
can refine his ideas to that degree, without losing sight of them, let
him add ten cyphers to each of those numbers. Such a degree of
smallness is not unreasonable to be supposed; since a division carried
on so far brings it no nearer the end of infinite division, than the
first division into two halves does. I must confess, for my part, I
have no clear distinct ideas of the different bulk or extension of
those bodies, having but a very obscure one of either of them. So
that, I think, when we talk of division of bodies in infinitum, our
idea of their distinct bulks, which is the subject and foundation of
division, comes, after a little progression, to be confounded, and
almost lost in obscurity. For that idea which is to represent only
bigness must be very obscure and confused, which we cannot distinguish
from one ten times as big, but only by number: so that we have clear
distinct ideas, we may say, of ten and one, but no distinct ideas of
two such extensions. It is plain from hence, that, when we talk of
infinite divisibility of body or extension, our distinct and clear
ideas are only of numbers: but the clear distinct ideas of extension
after some progress of division, are quite lost; and of such minute
parts we have no distinct ideas at all; but it returns, as all our
ideas of infinite do, at last to that of number always to be added;
but thereby never amounts to any distinct idea of actual infinite
parts. We have, it is true, a clear idea of division, as often as we
think of it; but thereby we have no more a clear idea of infinite
parts in matter, than we have a clear idea of an infinite number, by
being able still to add new numbers to any assigned numbers we have:
endless divisibility giving us no more a clear and distinct idea of
actually infinite parts, than endless addibility (if I may so speak)
gives us a clear and distinct idea of an actually infinite number:
they both being only in a power still of increasing the number, be
it already as great as it will. So that of what remains to be added
(wherein consists the infinity) we have but an obscure, imperfect, and
confused idea; from or about which we can argue or reason with no
certainty or clearness, no more than we can in arithmetic, about a
number of which we have no such distinct idea as we have of 4 or
100; but only this relative obscure one, that, compared to any
other, it is still bigger: and we have no more a clear positive idea
of it, when we say or conceive it is bigger, or more than 400,000,000,
than if we should say it is bigger than 40 or 4: 400,000,000 having no
nearer a proportion to the end of addition or number than 4. For he
that adds only 4 to 4, and so proceeds, shall as soon come to the
end of all addition, as he that adds 400,000,000 to 400,000,000. And
so likewise in eternity; he that has an idea of but four years, has as
much a positive complete idea of eternity, as he that has one of
400,000,000 of years: for what remains of eternity beyond either of
these two numbers of years, is as clear to the one as the other;
i.e. neither of them has any clear positive idea of it at all. For
he that adds only 4 years to 4, and so on, shall as soon reach
eternity as he that adds 400,000,000 of years, and so on; or, if he
please, doubles the increase as often as he will: the remaining
abyss being still as far beyond the end of all these progressions as
it is from the length of a day or an hour. For nothing finite bears
any proportion to infinite; and therefore our ideas, which are all
finite, cannot bear any. Thus it is also in our idea of extension,
when we increase it by addition, as well as when we diminish it by
division, and would enlarge our thoughts to infinite space. After a
few doublings of those ideas of extension, which are the largest we
are accustomed to have, we lose the clear distinct idea of that space:
it becomes a confusedly great one, with a surplus of still greater;
about which, when we would argue or reason, we shall always find
ourselves at a loss; confused ideas, in our arguings and deductions
from that part of them which is confused, always leading us into
Chapter XXX
Of Real and Fantastical Ideas

1. Ideas considered in reference to their archetypes. Besides what
we have already mentioned concerning ideas, other considerations
belong to them, in reference to things from whence they are taken,
or which they may be supposed to represent; and thus, I think, they
may come under a three-fold distinction, and are:-
First, either real or fantastical;
Secondly, adequate or inadequate;
Thirdly, true or false.
First, by real ideas, I mean such as have a foundation in nature;
such as have a conformity with the real being and existence of things,
or with their archetypes. Fantastical or chimerical, I call such as
have no foundation in nature, nor have any conformity with that
reality of being to which they are tacitly referred, as to their
archetypes. If we examine the several sorts of ideas before mentioned,
we shall find that,
2. Simple ideas are all real appearances of things. First, Our
simple ideas are all real, all agree to the reality of things: not
that they are all of them the images or representations of what does
exist; the contrary whereof, in all but the primary qualities of
bodies, hath been already shown. But, though whiteness and coldness
are no more in snow than pain is; yet those ideas of whiteness and
coldness, pain, &c., being in us the effects of powers in things
without us, ordained by our Maker to produce in us such sensations;
they are real ideas in us, whereby we distinguish the qualities that
are really in things themselves. For, these several appearances
being designed to be the mark whereby we are to know and distinguish
things which we have to do with, our ideas do as well serve us to that
purpose, and are as real distinguishing characters, whether they be
only constant effects, or else exact resemblances of something in
the things themselves: the reality lying in that steady correspondence
they have with the distinct constitutions of real beings. But
whether they answer to those constitutions, as to causes or
patterns, it matters not; it suffices that they are constantly
produced by them. And thus our simple ideas are all real and true,
because they answer and agree to those powers of things which
produce them in our minds; that being all that is requisite to make
them real, and not fictions at pleasure. For in simple ideas (as has
been shown) the mind is wholly confined to the operation of things
upon it, and can make to itself no simple idea, more than what it
has received.
3. Complex ideas are voluntary combinations. Though the mind be
wholly passive in respect of its simple ideas; yet, I think, we may
say it is not so in respect of its complex ideas. For those being
combinations of simple ideas put together, and united under one
general name, it is plain that the mind of man uses some kind of
liberty in forming those complex ideas: how else comes it to pass that
one man's idea of gold, or justice, is different from another's, but
because he has put in, or left out of his, some simple idea which
the other has not? The question then is, Which of these are real,
and which barely imaginary combinations? What collections agree to the
reality of things, and what not? And to this I say that,
4. Mixed modes and relations, made of consistent ideas, are real.
Secondly, Mixed modes and relations, having no other reality but
what they have in the minds of men, there is nothing more required
to this kind of ideas to make them real, but that they be so framed,
that there be a possibility of existing conformable to them. These
ideas themselves, being archetypes, cannot differ from their
archetypes, and so cannot be chimerical, unless any one will jumble
together in them inconsistent ideas. Indeed, as any of them have the
names of a known language assigned to them, by which he that has
them in his mind would signify them to others, so bare possibility
of existing is not enough; they must have a conformity to the ordinary
signification of the name that is given them, that they may not be
thought fantastical: as if a man would give the name of justice to
that idea which common use calls liberality. But this
fantasticalness relates more to propriety of speech, than reality of
ideas. For a man to be undisturbed in danger, sedately to consider
what is fittest to be done, and to execute it steadily, is a mixed
mode, or a complex idea of an action which may exist. But to be
undisturbed in danger, without using one's reason or industry, is what
is also possible to be; and so is as real an idea as the other. Though
the first of these, having the name courage given to it, may, in
respect of that name, be a right or wrong idea; but the other,
whilst it has not a common received name of any known language
assigned to it, is not capable of any deformity, being made with no
reference to anything but itself.
5. Complex ideas of substances are real, when they agree with the
existence of things. Thirdly, Our complex ideas of substances, being
made all of them in reference to things existing without us, and
intended to be representations of substances as they really are, are
no further real than as they are such combinations of simple ideas
as are really united, and co-exist in things without us. On the
contrary, those are fantastical which are made up of such
collections of simple ideas as were really never united, never were
found together in any substance: v.g. a rational creature,
consisting of a horse's head, joined to a body of human shape, or such
as the centaurs are described: or, a body yellow, very malleable,
fusible, and fixed, but lighter than common water: or an uniform,
unorganized body, consisting, as to sense, all of similar parts,
with perception and voluntary motion joined to it. Whether such
substances as these can possibly exist or no, it is probable we do not
know: but be that as it will, these ideas of substances, being made
conformable to no pattern existing that we know; and consisting of
such collections of ideas as no substance ever showed us united
together, they ought to pass with us for barely imaginary: but much
more are those complex ideas so, which contain in them any
inconsistency or contradiction of their parts.
Chapter XXXI
Of Adequate and Inadequate Ideas

1. Adequate ideas are such as perfectly represent their
archetypes. Of our real ideas, some are adequate, and some are
inadequate. Those I call adequate, which perfectly represent those
archetypes which the mind supposes them taken from: which it intends
them to stand for, and to which it refers them. Inadequate ideas are
such, which are but a partial or incomplete representation of those
archetypes to which they are referred. Upon which account it is plain,
2. Simple ideas all adequate. First, that all our simple ideas are
adequate. Because, being nothing but the effects of certain powers
in things, fitted and ordained by God to produce such sensations in
us, they cannot but be correspondent and adequate to those powers: and
we are sure they agree to the reality of things. For, if sugar produce
in us the ideas which we call whiteness and sweetness, we are sure
there is a power in sugar to produce those ideas in our minds, or else
they could not have been produced by it. And so each sensation
answering the power that operates on any of our senses, the idea so
produced is a real idea, (and not a fiction of the mind, which has
no power to produce any simple idea); and cannot but be adequate,
since it ought only to answer that power: and so all simple ideas
are adequate. It is true, the things producing in us these simple
ideas are but few of them denominated by us, as if they were only
the causes of them; but as if those ideas were real beings in them.
For, though fire be called painful to the touch, whereby is
signified the power of producing in us the idea of pain, yet it is
denominated also light and hot; as if light and heat were really
something in the fire, more than a power to excite these ideas in
us; and therefore are called qualities in or of the fire. But these
being nothing, in truth, but powers to excite such ideas in us, I must
in that sense be understood, when I speak of secondary qualities as
being in things; or of their ideas as being the objects that excite
them in us. Such ways of speaking, though accommodated to the vulgar
notions, without which one cannot be well understood, yet truly
signify nothing but those powers which are in things to excite certain
sensations or ideas in us. Since were there no fit organs to receive
the impressions fire makes on the sight and touch, nor a mind joined
to those organs to receive the ideas of light and heat by those
impressions from the fire or sun, there would yet be no more light
or heat in the world than there would be pain if there were no
sensible creature to feel it, though the sun should continue just as
it is now, and Mount AEtna flame higher than ever it did. Solidity and
extension, and the termination of it, figure, with motion and rest,
whereof we have the ideas, would be really in the world as they are,
whether there were any sensible being to perceive them or no: and
therefore we have reason to look on those as the real modifications of
matter, and such as are the exciting causes of all our various
sensations from bodies. But this being an inquiry not belonging to
this place, I shall enter no further into it, but proceed to show what
complex ideas are adequate, and what not.
3. Modes are all adequate. Secondly, our complex ideas of modes,
being voluntary collections of simple ideas, which the mind puts
together, without reference to any real archetypes, or standing
patterns, existing anywhere, are and cannot but be adequate ideas.
Because they, not being intended for copies of things really existing,
but for archetypes made by the mind, to rank and denominate things by,
cannot want anything; they having each of them that combination of
ideas, and thereby that perfection, which the mind intended they
should: so that the mind acquiesces in them, and can find nothing
wanting. Thus, by having the idea of a figure with three sides meeting
at three angles, I have a complete idea, wherein I require nothing
else to make it perfect. That the mind is satisfied with the
perfection of this its idea is plain, in that it does not conceive
that any understanding hath, or can have, a more complete or perfect
idea of that thing it signifies by the word triangle, supposing it
to exist, than itself has, in that complex idea of three sides and
three angles, in which is contained all that is or can be essential to
it, or necessary to complete it, wherever or however it exists. But in
our ideas of substances it is otherwise. For there, desiring to copy
things as they really do exist, and to represent to ourselves that
constitution on which all their properties depend, we perceive our
ideas attain not that perfection we intend: we find they still want
something we should be glad were in them; and so are all inadequate.
But mixed modes and relations, being archetypes without patterns,
and so having nothing to represent but themselves, cannot but be
adequate, everything being so to itself. He that at first put together
the idea of danger perceived, absence of disorder from fear, sedate
consideration of what was justly to be done, and executing that
without disturbance, or being deterred by the danger of it, had
certainly in his mind that complex idea made up of that combination:
and intending it to be nothing else but what is, nor to have in it any
other simple ideas but what it hath, it could not also but be an
adequate idea: and laying this up in his memory, with the name courage
annexed to it, to signify to others, and denominate from thence any
action he should observe to agree with it, had thereby a standard to
measure and denominate actions by, as they agreed to it. This idea,
thus made and laid up for a pattern, must necessarily be adequate,
being referred to nothing else but itself, nor made by any other
original but the good liking and will of him that first made this
4. Modes, in reference to settled names, may be inadequate. Indeed
another coming after, and in conversation learning from him the word
courage, may make an idea, to which he gives the name courage,
different from what the first author applied it to, and has in his
mind when he uses it. And in this case, if he designs that his idea in
thinking should be conformable to the other's idea, as the name he
uses in speaking is conformable in sound to his from whom he learned
it, his idea may be very wrong and inadequate: because in this case,
making the other man's idea the pattern of his idea in thinking, as
the other man's word or sound is the pattern of his in speaking, his
idea is so far defective and inadequate, as it is distant from the
archetype and pattern he refers it to, and intends to express and
signify by the name he uses for it; which name he would have to be a
sign of the other man's idea, (to which, in its proper use, it is
primarily annexed), and of his own, as agreeing to it: to which if his
own does not exactly correspond, it is faulty and inadequate.
5. Because then meant, in propriety of speech, to correspond to
the ideas in some other mind. Therefore these complex ideas of
modes, which they are referred by the mind, and intended to correspond
to the ideas in the mind of some other intelligent being, expressed by
the names we apply to them, they may be very deficient, wrong, and
inadequate; because they agree not to that which the mind designs to
be their archetype and pattern: in which respect only any idea of
modes can be wrong, imperfect, or inadequate. And on this account
our ideas of mixed modes are the most liable to be faulty of any
other; but this refers more to proper speaking than knowing right.
6. Ideas of substances, as referred to real essences, not
adequate. Thirdly, what ideas we have of substances, I have above
shown. Now, those ideas have in the mind a double reference: 1.
Sometimes they are referred to a supposed real essence of each species
of things. 2. Sometimes they are only designed to be pictures and
representations in the mind of things that do exist, by ideas of those
qualities that are discoverable in them. In both which ways these
copies of those originals and archetypes are imperfect and inadequate.
First, it is usual for men to make the names of substances stand for
things as supposed to have certain real essences, whereby they are
of this or that species: and names standing for nothing but the
ideas that are in men's minds, they must constantly refer their
ideas to such real essences, as to their archetypes. That men
(especially such as have been bred up in the learning taught in this
part of the world) do suppose certain specific essences of substances,
which each individual in its several kinds is made conformable to
and partakes of, is so far from needing proof that it will be
thought strange if any one should do otherwise. And thus they
ordinarily apply the specific names they rank particular substances
under, to things as distinguished by such specific real essences.
Who is there almost, who would not take it amiss if it should be
doubted whether he called himself a man, with any other meaning than
as having the real essence of a man? And yet if you demand what
those real essences are, it is plain men are ignorant, and know them
not. From whence it follows, that the ideas they have in their
minds, being referred to real essences, as to archetypes which are
unknown, must be so far from being adequate that they cannot be
supposed to be any representation of them at all. The complex ideas we
have of substances are, as it has been shown, certain collections of
simple ideas that have been observed or supposed constantly to exist
together. But such a complex idea cannot be the real essence of any
substance; for then the properties we discover in that body would
depend on that complex idea, and be deducible from it, and their
necessary connexion with it be known; as all properties of a
triangle depend on, and, as far as they are discoverable, are
deducible from the complex idea of three lines including a space.
But it is plain that in our complex ideas of substances are not
contained such ideas, on which all the other qualities that are to
be found in them do depend. The common idea men have of iron is, a
body of a certain colour, weight, and hardness; and a property that
they look on as belonging to it, is malleableness. But yet this
property has no necessary connexion with that complex idea, or any
part of it: and there is no more reason to think that malleableness
depends on that colour, weight, and hardness, than that colour or that
weight depends on its malleableness. And yet, though we know nothing
of these real essences, there is nothing more ordinary than that men
should attribute the sorts of things to such essences. The
particular parcel of matter which makes the ring I have on my finger
is forwardly by most men supposed to have a real essence, whereby it
is gold; and from whence those qualities flow which I find in it, viz.
its peculiar colour, weight, hardness, fusibility, fixedness, and
change of colour upon a slight touch of mercury, &c. This essence,
from which all these properties flow, when I inquire into it and
search after it, I plainly perceive I cannot discover: the furthest
I can go is, only to presume that, it being nothing but body, its real
essence or internal constitution, on which these qualities depend, can
be nothing but the figure, size, and connexion of its solid parts;
of neither of which having any distinct perception at all can I have
any idea of its essence: which is the cause that it has that
particular shining yellowness; a greater weight than anything I know
of the same bulk; and a fitness to have its colour changed by the
touch of quicksilver. If any one will say, that the real essence and
internal constitution, on which these properties depend, is not the
figure, size, and arrangement or connexion of its solid parts, but
something else, called its particular form, I am further from having
any idea of its real essence than I was before. For I have an idea
of figure, size, and situation of solid parts in general, though I
have none of the particular figure, size, or putting together of
parts, whereby the qualities above mentioned are produced; which
qualities I find in that particular parcel of matter that is on my
finger, and not in another parcel of matter, with which I cut the
pen I write with. But, when I am told that something besides the
figure, size, and posture of the solid parts of that body in its
essence, something called substantial form, of that I confess I have
no idea at all, but only of the sound form; which is far enough from
an idea of its real essence or constitution. The like ignorance as I
have of the real essence of this particular substance, I have also
of the real essence of all other natural ones: of which essences I
confess I have no distinct ideas at all; and, I am apt to suppose,
others, when they examine their own knowledge, will find in
themselves, in this one point, the same sort of ignorance.
7. Because men know not the real essences of substances. Now,
then, when men apply to this particular parcel of matter on my
finger a general name already in use, and denominate it gold, do
they not ordinarily, or are they not understood to give it that
name, as belonging to a particular species of bodies, having a real
internal essence; by having of which essence this particular substance
comes to be of that species, and to be called by that name? If it be
so, as it is plain it is, the name by which things are marked as
having that essence must be referred primarily to that essence; and
consequently the idea to which that name is given must be referred
also to that essence, and be intended to represent it. Which
essence, since they who so use the names know not, their ideas of
substances must be all inadequate in that respect, as not containing
in them that real essence which the mind intends they should.
8. Ideas of substances, when regarded as collections of their
qualities, are all inadequate. Secondly, those who, neglecting that
useless supposition of unknown real essences, whereby they are
distinguished, endeavour to copy the substances that exist in the
world, by putting together the ideas of those sensible qualities which
are found coexisting in them, though they come much nearer a
likeness of them than those who imagine they know not what real
specific essences: yet they arrive not at perfectly adequate ideas
of those substances they would thus copy into the their minds: nor
do those copies exactly and fully contain all that is to be found in
their archetypes. Because those qualities and powers of substances,
whereof we make their complex ideas, are so many and various, that
no man's complex idea contains them all. That our complex ideas of
substances do not contain in them all the simple ideas that are united
in the things themselves is evident, in that men do rarely put into
their complex idea of any substance all the simple ideas they do
know to exist in it. Because, endeavouring to make the signification
of their names as clear and as little cumbersome as they can, they
make their specific ideas of the sorts of substance, for the most
part, of a few of those simple ideas which are to be found in them:
but these having no original precedency, or right to be put in, and
make the specific idea, more than others that are left out, it is
plain that both these ways our ideas of substances are deficient and
inadequate. The simple ideas whereof we make our complex ones of
substances are all of them (bating only the figure and bulk of some
sorts) powers; which being relations to other substances, we can never
be sure that we know all the powers that are in any one body, till
we have tried what changes it is fitted to give to or receive from
other substances in their several ways of application: which being
impossible to be tried upon any one body, much less upon all, it is
impossible we should have adequate ideas of any substance made up of a
collection of all its properties.
9. Their powers usually make up our complex ideas of substances.
Whosoever first lighted on a parcel of that sort of substance we
denote by the word gold, could not rationally take the bulk and figure
he observed in that lump to depend on its real essence, or internal
constitution. Therefore those never went into his idea of that species
of body; but its peculiar colour, perhaps, and weight, were the
first he abstracted from it, to make the complex idea of that species.
Which both are but powers; the one to affect our eyes after such a
manner, and to produce in us that idea we call yellow; and the other
to force upwards any other body of equal bulk, they being put into a
pair of equal scales, one against another. Another perhaps added to
these the ideas of fusibility and fixedness, two other passive powers,
in relation to the operation of fire upon it; another, its ductility
and solubility in aqua regia, two other powers, relating to the
operation of other bodies, in changing its outward figure, or
separation of it into insensible parts. These, or parts of these,
put together, usually make the complex idea in men's minds of that
sort of body we call gold.
10. Substances have innumerable powers not contained in our
complex ideas of them. But no one who hath considered the properties
of bodies in general, or this sort in particular, can doubt that this,
called gold, has infinite other properties not contained in that
complex idea. Some who have examined this species more accurately
could, I believe, enumerate ten times as many properties in gold,
all of them as inseparable from its internal constitution, as its
colour or weight: and it is probable, if any one knew all the
properties that are by divers men known of this metal, there would
be an hundred times as many ideas go to the complex idea of gold as
any one man yet has in his; and yet perhaps that not be the thousandth
part of what is to be discovered in it. The changes that that one body
is apt to receive, and make in other bodies, upon a due application,
exceeding far not only what we know, but what we are apt to imagine.
Which will not appear so much a paradox to any one who will but
consider how far men are yet from knowing all the properties of that
one, no very compound figure, a triangle; though it be no small number
that are already by mathematicians discovered of it.
11. Ideas of substances, being got only by collecting their
qualities, are all inadequate. So that all our complex ideas of
substances are imperfect and inadequate. Which would be so also in
mathematical figures, if we were to have our complex ideas of them,
only by collecting their properties in reference to other figures. How
uncertain and imperfect would our ideas be of an ellipsis, if we had
no other idea of it, but some few of its properties? Whereas, having
in our plain idea the whole essence of that figure, we from thence
discover those properties, and demonstratively see how they flow,
and are inseparable from it.
12. Simple ideas, ektupa, and adequate. Thus the mind has three
sorts of abstract ideas or nominal essences:
First, simple ideas, which are ektupa or copies; but yet certainly
adequate. Because, being intended to express nothing but the power
in things to produce in the mind such a sensation, that sensation when
it is produced, cannot but be the effect of that power. So the paper I
write on, having the power in the light (I speak according to the
common notion of light) to produce in men the sensation which I call
white, it cannot but be the effect of such a power in something
without the mind; since the mind has not the power to produce any such
idea in itself: and being meant for nothing else but the effect of
such a power, that simple idea is real and adequate; the sensation
of white, in my mind, being the effect of that power which is in the
paper to produce it, is perfectly adequate to that power; or else that
power would produce a different idea.
13. Ideas of substances are ektupa, and inadequate. Secondly, the
complex ideas of substances are ectypes, copies too; but not perfect
ones, not adequate: which is very evident to the mind, in that it
plainly perceives, that whatever collection of simple ideas it makes
of any substance that exists, it cannot be sure that it exactly
answers all that are in that substance. Since, not having tried all
the operations of all other substances upon it, and found all the
alterations it would receive from, or cause in, other substances, it
cannot have an exact adequate collection of all its active and passive
capacities; and so not have an adequate complex idea of the powers
of any substance existing, and its relations; which is that sort of
complex idea of substances we have. And, after all, if we would
have, and actually had, in our complex idea, an exact collection of
all the secondary qualities or powers of any substance, we should
not yet thereby have an idea of the essence of that thing. For,
since the powers or qualities that are observable by us are not the
real essence of that substance, but depend on it, and flow from it,
any collection whatsoever of these qualities cannot be the real
essence of that thing. Whereby it is plain, that our ideas of
substances are not adequate; are not what the mind intends them to be.
Besides, a man has no idea of substance in general, nor knows what
substance is in itself.
14. Ideas of modes and relations are archetypes and cannot be
adequate. Thirdly, complex ideas of modes and relations are originals,
and archetypes; are not copies, nor made after the pattern of any real
existence, to which the mind intends them to be conformable, and
exactly to answer. These being such collections of simple ideas that
the mind itself puts together, and such collections that each of
them contains in it precisely all that the mind intends that it
should, they are archetypes and essences of modes that may exist;
and so are designed only for, and belong only to such modes as, when
they do exist, have an exact conformity with those complex ideas.
The ideas, therefore, of modes and relations cannot but be adequate.
Chapter XXXII
Of True and False Ideas

1. Truth and falsehood properly belong to propositions, not to
ideas. Though truth and falsehood belong, in propriety of speech, only
to propositions: yet ideas are oftentimes termed true or false (as
what words are there that are not used with great latitude, and with
some deviation from their strict and proper significations?) Though
I think that when ideas themselves are termed true or false, there
is still some secret or tacit proposition, which is the foundation
of that denomination: as we shall see, if we examine the particular
occasions wherein they come to be called true or false. In all which
we shall find some kind of affirmation or negation, which is the
reason of that denomination. For our ideas, being nothing but bare
appearances, or perceptions in our minds, cannot properly and simply
in themselves be said to be true or false, no more than a single
name of anything can be said to be true or false.
2. Ideas and words may be said to be true, inasmuch as they really
are ideas and words. Indeed both ideas and words may be said to be
true, in a metaphysical sense of the word truth; as all other things
that any way exist are said to be true, i.e. really to be such as they
exist. Though in things called true, even in that sense, there is
perhaps a secret reference to our ideas, looked upon as the
standards of that truth; which amounts to a mental proposition, though
it be usually not taken notice of.
3. No idea, as an appearance in the mind, either true or false.
But it is not in that metaphysical sense of truth which we inquire
here, when we examine, whether our ideas are capable of being true
or false, but in the more ordinary acceptation of those words: and
so I say that the ideas in our minds, being only so many perceptions
or appearances there, none of them are false; the idea of a centaur
having no more falsehood in it when it appears in our minds, than
the name centaur has falsehood in it, when it is pronounced by our
mouths, or written on paper. For truth or falsehood lying always in
some affirmation or negation, mental or verbal, our ideas are not
capable, any of them, of being false, till the mind passes some
judgment on them; that is, affirms or denies something of them.
4. Ideas referred to anything extraneous to them may be true or
false. Whenever the mind refers any of its ideas to anything
extraneous to them, they are then capable to be called true or
false. Because the mind, in such a reference, makes a tacit
supposition of their conformity to that thing; which supposition, as
it happens to be true or false, so the ideas themselves come to be
denominated. The most usual cases wherein this happens, are these
5. Other men's ideas; real existence; and supposed real essences,
are what men usually refer their ideas to. First, when the mind
supposes any idea it has conformable to that in other men's minds,
called by the same common name; v.g. when the mind intends or judges
its ideas of justice, temperance, religion, to be the same with what
other men give those names to.
Secondly, when the mind supposes any idea it has in itself to be
conformable to some real existence. Thus the two ideas of a man and
a centaur, supposed to be the ideas of real substances, are the one
true and the other false; the one having a conformity to what has
really existed, the other not.
Thirdly, when the mind refers any of its ideas to that real
constitution and essence of anything, whereon all its properties
depend: and thus the greatest part, if not all our ideas of
substances, are false.
6. The cause of such reference. These suppositions the mind is
very apt tacitly to make concerning its own ideas. But yet, if we will
examine it, we shall find it is chiefly, if not only, concerning its
abstract complex ideas. For the natural tendency of the mind being
towards knowledge; and finding that, if it should proceed by and dwell
upon only particular things, its progress would be very slow, and
its work endless; therefore, to shorten its way to knowledge, and make
each perception more comprehensive, the first thing it does, as the
foundation of the easier enlarging its knowledge, either by
contemplation of the things themselves that it would know, or
conference with others about them, is to bind them into bundles, and
rank them so into sorts, that what knowledge it gets of any of them it
may thereby with assurance extend to all of that sort; and so
advance by larger steps in that which is its great business,
knowledge. This, as I have elsewhere shown, is the reason why we
collect things under comprehensive ideas, with names annexed to
them, into genera and species; i.e. into kinds and sorts.
7. Names of things supposed to carry in them knowledge of their
essences. If therefore we will warily attend to the motions of the
mind, and observe what course it usually takes in its way to
knowledge, we shall I think find, that the mind having got an idea
which it thinks it may have use of either in contemplation or
discourse, the first thing it does is to abstract it, and then get a
name to it; and so lay it up in its storehouse, the memory, as
containing the essence of a sort of things, of which that name is
always to be the mark. Hence it is, that we may often observe that,
when any one sees a new thing of a kind that he knows not, he
presently asks, what it is; meaning by that inquiry nothing but the
name. As if the name carried with it the knowledge of the species,
or the essence of it; whereof it is indeed used as the mark, and is
generally supposed annexed to it.
8. How men suppose that their ideas must correspond to things, and
to the customary meanings of names. But this abstract idea, being
something in the mind, between the thing that exists, and the name
that is given to it; it is in our ideas that both the rightness of our
knowledge, and the propriety and intelligibleness of our speaking,
consists. And hence it is that men are so forward to suppose, that the
abstract ideas they have in their minds are such as agree to the
things existing without them, to which they are referred; and are
the same also to which the names they give them do by the use and
propriety of that language belong. For without this double
conformity of their ideas, they find they should both think amiss of
things in themselves, and talk of them unintelligibly to others.
9. Simple ideas may be false, in reference to others of the same
name, but are least liable to be so. First, then, I say, that when the
truth of our ideas is judged of by the conformity they have to the
ideas which other men have, and commonly signify by the same name,
they may be any of them false. But yet simple ideas are least of all
liable to be so mistaken. Because a man, by his senses and every day's
observation, may easily satisfy himself what the simple ideas are
which their several names that are in common use stand for; they being
but few in number, and such as, if he doubts or mistakes in, he may
easily rectify by the objects they are to be found in. Therefore it is
seldom that any one mistakes in his names of simple ideas, or
applies the name red to the idea green, or the name sweet to the
idea bitter: mush less are men apt to confound the names of ideas
belonging to different senses, and call a colour by the name of a
taste, &c. Whereby it is evident that the simple ideas they call by
any name are commonly the same that others have and mean when they use
the same names.
10. Ideas of mixed modes most liable to be false in this sense.
Complex ideas are much more liable to be false in this respect; and
the complex ideas of mixed modes, much more than those of
substances; because in substances (especially those which the common
and unborrowed names of any language are applied to) some remarkable
sensible qualities, serving ordinarily to distinguish one sort from
another, easily preserve those who take any care in the use of their
words, from applying them to sorts of substances to which they do
not at all belong. But in mixed modes we are much more uncertain; it
being not so easy to determine of several actions, whether they are to
be called justice or cruelly, liberality or prodigality. And so in
referring our ideas to those of other men, called by the same names,
ours may be false; and the idea in our minds, which we express by
the word justice, may perhaps be that which ought to have another
11. Or at least to be thought false. But whether or no our ideas
of mixed modes are more liable than any sort to be different from
those of other men, which are marked by the same names, this at
least is certain, That this sort of falsehood is much more
familiarly attributed to our ideas of mixed modes than to any other.
When a man is thought to have a false idea of justice, or gratitude,
or glory, it is for no other reason, but that his agrees not with
the ideas which each of those names are the signs of in other men.
12. And why. The reason whereof seems to me to be this: That the
abstract ideas of mixed modes, being men's voluntary combinations of
such a precise collection of simple ideas, and so the essence of
each species being made by men alone, whereof we have no other
sensible standard existing anywhere but the name itself, or the
definition of that name; we having nothing else to refer these our
ideas of mixed modes to, as a standard to which we would conform them,
but the ideas of those who are thought to use those names in their
most proper significations; and, so as our ideas conform or differ
from them, they pass for true or false. And thus much concerning the
truth and falsehood of our ideas, in reference to their names.
13. As referred to real existence, none of our ideas can be false
but those of substances. Secondly, as to the truth and falsehood of
our ideas, in reference to the real existence of things. When that
is made the standard of their truth, none of them can be termed
false but only our complex ideas of substances.
14. Simple ideas in this sense not false, and why. First, our simple
ideas, being barely such perceptions as God has fitted us to
receive, and given power to external objects to produce in us by
established laws and ways, suitable to his wisdom and goodness, though
incomprehensible to us, their truth consists in nothing else but in
such appearances as are produced in us, and must be suitable to
those powers he has placed in external objects or else they could
not be produced in us: and thus answering those powers, they are
what they should be, true ideas. Nor do they become liable to any
imputation of falsehood, if the mind (as in most men I believe it
does) judges these ideas to be in the things themselves. For God in
his wisdom having set them as marks of distinction in things,
whereby we may be able to discern one thing from another, and so
choose any of them for our uses as we have occasion; it alters not the
nature of our simple idea, whether we think that the idea of blue be
in the violet itself, or in our mind only; and only the power of
producing it by the texture of its parts, reflecting the particles
of light after a certain manner, to be in the violet itself. For
that texture in the object, by a regular and constant operation
producing the same idea of blue in us, it serves us to distinguish, by
our eyes, that from any other thing; whether that distinguishing mark,
as it is really in the violet, be only a peculiar texture of parts, or
else that very colour, the idea whereof (which is in us) is the
exact resemblance. And it is equally from that appearance to be
denominated blue, whether it be that real colour, or only a peculiar
texture in it, that causes in us that idea: since the name, blue,
notes properly nothing but that mark of distinction that is in a
violet, discernible only by our eyes, whatever it consists in; that
being beyond our capacities distinctly to know, and perhaps would be
of less use to us, if we had faculties to discern.
15. Though one man's idea of blue should be different from
another's. Neither would it carry any imputation of falsehood to our
simple ideas, if by the different structure of our organs it were so
ordered, that the same object should produce in several men's minds
different ideas at the same time; v.g. if the idea that a violet
produced in one man's mind by his eyes were the same that a marigold
produced in another man's, and vice versa. For, since this could never
be known, because one man's mind could not pass into another man's
body, to perceive what appearances were produced by those organs;
neither the ideas hereby, nor the names, would be at all confounded,
or any falsehood be in either. For all things that had the texture
of a violet, producing constantly the idea that he called blue, and
those which had the texture of a marigold, producing constantly the
idea which he as constantly called yellow, whatever those
appearances were in his mind; he would be able as regularly to
distinguish things for his use by those appearances, and understand
and signify those distinctions marked by the name blue and yellow,
as if the appearances or ideas in his mind received from those two
flowers were exactly the same with the ideas in other men's minds. I
am nevertheless very apt to think that the sensible ideas produced
by any object in different men's minds, are most commonly very near
and undiscernibly alike. For which opinion, I think, there might be
many reasons offered: but that being besides my present business, I
shall not trouble my reader with them; but only mind him, that the
contrary supposition, if it could be proved, is of little use,
either for the improvement of our knowledge, or conveniency of life,
and so we need not trouble ourselves to examine it.
16. Simple ideas can none of them be false in respect of real
existence. From what has been said concerning our simple ideas, I
think it evident that our simple ideas can none of them be false in
respect of things existing without us. For the truth of these
appearances or perceptions in our minds consisting, as has been
said, only in their being answerable to the powers in external objects
to produce by our senses such appearances in us, and each of them
being in the mind such as it is, suitable to the power that produced
it, and which alone it represents, it cannot upon that account, or
as referred to such a pattern, be false. Blue and yellow, bitter or
sweet, can never be false ideas: these perceptions in the mind are
just such as they are there, answering the powers appointed by God
to produce them; and so are truly what they are, and are intended to
be. Indeed the names may be misapplied, but that in this respect makes
no falsehood in the ideas; as if a man ignorant in the English
tongue should call purple scarlet.
17. Modes not false cannot be false in reference to essences of
things. Secondly, neither can our complex ideas of modes, in reference
to the essence of anything really existing, be false; because whatever
complex ideas I have of any mode, it hath no reference to any
pattern existing, and made by nature; it is not supposed to contain in
it any other ideas than what it hath; nor to represent anything but
such a complication of ideas as it does. Thus, when I have the idea of
such an action of a man who forbears to afford himself such meat,
drink, and clothing, and other conveniences of life, as his riches and
estate will be sufficient to supply and his station requires, I have
no false idea; but such an one as represents an action, either as I
find or imagine it, and so is capable of neither truth nor
falsehood. But when I give the name frugality or virtue to this
action, then it may be called a false idea, if thereby it be
supposed to agree with that idea to which, in propriety of speech, the
name of frugality doth belong, or to be conformable to that law
which is the standard of virtue and vice.
18. Ideas of substances may be false in reference to existing
things. Thirdly, our complex ideas of substances, being all referred
to patterns in things themselves, may be false. That they are all
false, when looked upon as the representations of the unknown essences
of things, is so evident that there needs nothing to be said of it.
I shall therefore pass over that chimerical supposition, and
consider them as collections of simple ideas in the mind, taken from
combinations of simple ideas existing together constantly in things,
of which patterns they are the supposed copies; and in this
reference of them to the existence of things, they are false ideas:-
(1) When they put together simple ideas, which in the real existence
of things have no union; as when to the shape and size that exist
together in a horse, is joined in the same complex idea the power of
barking like a dog: which three ideas, however put together into one
in the mind, were never united in nature; and this, therefore, may
be called a false idea of a horse. (2) Ideas of substances are, in
this respect, also false, when, from any collection of simple ideas
that do always exist together, there is separated, by a direct
negation, any other simple idea which is constantly joined with
them. Thus, if to extension, solidity, fusibility, the peculiar
weightiness, and yellow colour of gold, any one join in his thoughts
the negation of a greater degree of fixedness than is in lead or
copper, he may be said to have a false complex idea, as well as when
he joins to those other simple ones the idea of perfect absolute
fixedness. For either way, the complex idea of gold being made up of
such simple ones as have no union in nature, may be termed false. But,
if he leave out of this his complex idea that of fixedness quite,
without either actually joining to or separating it from the rest in
his mind, it is, I think, to be looked on as an inadequate and
imperfect idea, rather than a false one; since, though it contains not
all the simple ideas that are united in nature, yet it puts none
together but what do really exist together.
19. Truth or falsehood always supposes affirmation or negation.
Though, in compliance with the ordinary way of speaking, I have
shown in what sense and upon what ground our ideas may be sometimes
called true or false; yet if we will look a little nearer into the
matter, in all cases where any idea is called true or false, it is
from some judgment that the mind makes, or is supposed to make, that
is true or false. For truth or falsehood, being never without some
affirmation or negation, express or tacit, it is not to be found but
where signs are joined or separated, according to the agreement or
disagreement of the things they stand for. The signs we chiefly use
are either ideas or words; wherewith we make either mental or verbal
propositions. Truth lies in so joining or separating these
representatives, as the things they stand for do in themselves agree
or disagree; and falsehood in the contrary, as shall be more fully
shown hereafter.
20. Ideas in themselves neither true nor false. Any idea, then,
which we have in our minds, whether conformable or not to the
existence of things, or to any idea in the minds of other men,
cannot properly for this alone be called false. For these
representations, if they have nothing in them but what is really
existing in things without, cannot be thought false, being exact
representations of something: nor yet if they have anything in them
differing from the reality of things, can they properly be said to
be false representations, or ideas of things they do not represent.
But the mistake and falsehood is:
21. But are false- when judged agreeable to another man's idea,
without being so. First, when the mind having any idea, it judges
and concludes it the same that is in other men's minds, signified by
the same name; or that it is conformable to the ordinary received
signification or definition of that word, when indeed it is not: which
is the most usual mistake in mixed modes, though other ideas also
are liable to it.
22. When judged to agree to real existence, when they do not. (2)
When it having a complex idea made up of such a collection of simple
ones as nature never puts together, it judges it to agree to a species
of creatures really existing; as when it joins the weight of tin to
the colour, fusibility, and fixedness of gold.
23. When judged adequate, without being so. (3) When in its
complex idea it has united a certain number of simple ideas that do
really exist together in some sort of creatures, but has also left out
others as much inseparable, it judges this to be a perfect complete
idea of a sort of things which really it is not; v.g. having joined
the ideas of substance, yellow, malleable, most heavy, and fusible, it
takes that complex idea to be the complete idea of gold, when yet
its peculiar fixedness, and solubility in aqua regia, are as
inseparable from those other ideas, or qualities, of that body as they
are one from another.
24. When judged to represent the real essence. (4) The mistake is
yet greater, when I judge that this complex idea contains in it the
real essence of any body existing; when at least it contains but
some few of those properties which flow from its real essence and
constitution. I say only some few of those properties; for those
properties consisting mostly in the active and passive powers it has
in reference to other things, all that are vulgarly known of any one
body, of which the complex idea of that kind of things is usually
made, are but a very few, in comparison of what a man that has several
ways tried and examined it knows of that one sort of things; and all
that the most expert man knows are but a few, in comparison of what
are really in that body, and depend on its internal or essential
constitution. The essence of a triangle lies in a very little compass,
consists in a very few ideas: three lines including a space make up
that essence: but the properties that flow from this essence are
more than can be easily known or enumerated. So I imagine it is in
substances; their real essences lie in a little compass, though the
properties flowing from that internal constitution are endless.
25. Ideas, when called false. To conclude, a man having no notion of
anything without him, but by the idea he has of it in his mind, (which
idea he has a power to call by what name he pleases), he may indeed
make an idea neither answering the reason of things, nor agreeing to
the idea commonly signified by other people's words; but cannot make a
wrong or false idea of a thing which is no otherwise known to him
but by the idea he has of it: v.g. when I frame an idea of the legs,
arms, and body of a man, and join to this a horse's head and neck, I
do not make a false idea of anything; because it represents nothing
without me. But when I call it a man or Tartar, and imagine it to
represent some real being without me, or to be the same idea that
others call by the same name; in either of these cases I may err.
And upon this account it is that it comes to be termed a false idea;
though indeed the falsehood lies not in the idea, but in that tacit
mental proposition, wherein a conformity and resemblance is attributed
to it which it has not. But yet, if, having framed such an idea in
my mind without thinking either that existence, or the name man or
Tartar, belongs to it, I will call it man or Tartar, I may be justly
thought fantastical in the naming; but not erroneous in my judgment;
nor the idea any way false.
26. More properly to be called right or wrong. Upon the whole,
matter, I think that our ideas, as they are considered by the mind,-
either in reference to the proper signification of their names; or
in reference to the reality of things,- may very fitly be called right
or wrong ideas, according as they agree or disagree to those
patterns to which they are referred. But if any one had rather call
them true or false, it is fit he use a liberty, which every one has,
to call things by those names he thinks best; though, in propriety
of speech, truth or falsehood will, I think, scarce agree to them, but
as they, some way or other, virtually contain in them some mental
proposition. The ideas that are in a man's mind, simply considered,
cannot be wrong; unless complex ones, wherein inconsistent parts are
jumbled together. All other ideas are in themselves right, and the
knowledge about them right and true knowledge; but when we come to
refer them to anything, as to their patterns and archetypes, then they
are capable of being wrong, as far as they disagree with such
Chapter XXXIII
Of the Association of Ideas

1. Something unreasonable in most men. There is scarce any one
that does not observe something that seems odd to him, and is in
itself really extravagant, in the opinions, reasonings, and actions of
other men. The least flaw of this kind, if at all different from his
own, every one is quick-sighted enough to espy in another, and will by
the authority of reason forwardly condemn; though he be guilty of much
greater unreasonableness in his own tenets and conduct, which he never
perceives, and will very hardly, if at all, be convinced of.
2. Not wholly from self-love. This proceeds not wholly from
self-love, though that has often a great hand in it. Men of fair
minds, and not given up to the overweening of self-flattery, are
frequently guilty of it; and in many cases one with amazement hears
the arguings, and is astonished at the obstinacy of a worthy man,
who yields not to the evidence of reason, though laid before him as
clear as daylight.
3. Not from education. This sort of unreasonableness is usually
imputed to education and prejudice, and for the most part truly
enough, though that reaches not the bottom of the disease, nor shows
distinctly enough whence it rises, or wherein it lies. Education is
often rightly assigned for the cause, and prejudice is a good
general name for the thing itself: but yet, I think, he ought to
look a little further, who would trace this sort of madness to the
root it springs from, and so explain it, as to show whence this flaw
has its original in very sober and rational minds, and wherein it
4. A degree of madness found in most men. I shall be pardoned for
calling it by so harsh a name as madness, when it is considered that
opposition to reason deserves that name, and is really madness; and
there is scarce a man so free from it, but that if he should always,
on all occasions, argue or do as in some cases he constantly does,
would not be thought fitter for Bedlam than civil conversation. I do
not here mean when he is under the power of an unruly passion, but
in the steady calm course of his life. That which will yet more
apologize for this harsh name, and ungrateful imputation on the
greatest part of mankind, is, that, inquiring a little by the bye into
the nature of madness (Bk. ii. ch. xi. SS 13), I found it to spring
from the very same root, and to depend on the very same cause we are
here speaking of. This consideration of the thing itself, at a time
when I thought not the least on the subject which I am now treating
of, suggested it to me. And if this be a weakness to which all men are
so liable, if this be a taint which so universally infects mankind,
the greater care should be taken to lay it open under its due name,
thereby to excite the greater care in its prevention and cure.
5. From a wrong connexion of ideas. Some of our ideas have a natural
correspondence and connexion one with another: it is the office and
excellency of our reason to trace these, and hold them together in
that union and correspondence which is founded in their peculiar
beings. Besides this, there is another connexion of ideas wholly owing
to chance or custom. Ideas that in themselves are not all of kin, come
to be so united in some men's minds, that it is very hard to
separate them; they always keep in company, and the one no sooner at
any time comes into the understanding, but its associate appears
with it; and if they are more than two which are thus united, the
whole gang, always inseparable, show themselves together.
6. This connexion made by custom. This strong combination of
ideas, not allied by nature, the mind makes in itself either
voluntarily or by chance; and hence it comes in different men to be
very different, according to their different inclinations,
education, interests, &c. Custom settles habits of thinking in the
understanding, as well as of determining in the will, and of motions
in the body: all which seems to be but trains of motions in the animal
spirits, which, once set a going, continue in the same steps they have
used to; which, by often treading, are worn into a smooth path, and
the motion in it becomes easy, and as it were natural. As far as we
can comprehend thinking, thus ideas seem to be produced in our
minds; or, if they are not, this may serve to explain their
following one another in an habitual train, when once they are put
into their track, as well as it does to explain such motions of the
body. A musician used to any tune will find that, let it but once
begin in his head, the ideas of the several notes of it will follow
one another orderly in his understanding, without any care or
attention, as regularly as his fingers move orderly over the keys of
the organ to play out the tune he has begun, though his unattentive
thoughts be elsewhere a wandering. Whether the natural cause of
these ideas, as well as of that regular dancing of his fingers be
the motion of his animal spirits, I will not determine, how probable
soever, by this instance, it appears to be so: but this may help us
a little to conceive of intellectual habits, and of the tying together
of ideas.
7. Some antipathies an effect of it. That there are such
associations of them made by custom, in the minds of most men, I think
nobody will question, who has well considered himself or others; and
to this, perhaps, might be justly attributed most of the sympathies
and antipathies observable in men, which work as strongly, and produce
as regular effects as if they were natural; and are therefore called
so, though they at first had no other original but the accidental
connexion of two ideas, which either the strength of the first
impression, or future indulgence so united, that they always
afterwards kept company together in that man's mind, as if they were
but one idea. I say most of the antipathies, I do not say all; for
some of them are truly natural, depend upon our original constitution,
and are born with us; but a great part of those which are counted
natural, would have been known to be from unheeded, though perhaps
early, impressions, or wanton fancies at first, which would have
been acknowledged the original of them, if they had been warily
observed. A grown person surfeiting with honey no sooner hears the
name of it, but his fancy immediately carries sickness and qualms to
his stomach, and he cannot bear the very idea of it; other ideas of
dislike, and sickness, and vomiting, presently accompany it, and he is
disturbed; but he knows from whence to date this weakness, and can
tell how he got this indisposition. Had this happened to him by an
over-dose of honey when a child, all the same effects would have
followed; but the cause would have been mistaken, and the antipathy
counted natural.
8. Influence of association to be watched educating young
children. I mention this, not out of any great necessity there is in
this present argument to distinguish nicely between natural and
acquired antipathies; but I take notice of it for another purpose,
viz. that those who have children, or the charge of their education,
would think it worth their while diligently to watch, and carefully to
prevent the undue connexion of ideas in the minds of young people.
This is the time most susceptible of lasting impressions; and though
those relating to the health of the body are by discreet people minded
and fenced against, yet I am apt to doubt, that those which relate
more peculiarly to the mind, and terminate in the understanding or
passions, have been much less heeded than the thing deserves: nay,
those relating purely to the understanding, have, as I suspect, been
by most men wholly overlooked.
9. Wrong connexion of ideas a great cause of errors. This wrong
connexion in our minds of ideas in themselves loose and independent of
one another, has such an influence, and is of so great force to set us
awry in our actions, as well moral as natural, passions, reasonings,
and notions themselves, that perhaps there is not any one thing that
deserves more to be looked after.
10. An instance. The ideas of goblins and sprites have really no
more to do with darkness than light: yet let but a foolish maid
inculcate these often on the mind of a child, and raise them there
together, possibly he shall never be able to separate them again so
long as he lives, but darkness shall ever afterwards bring with it
those frightful ideas, and they shall be so joined, that he can no
more bear the one than the other.
11. Another instance. A man receives a sensible injury from another,
thinks on the man and that action over and over, and by ruminating
on them strongly, or much, in his mind, so cements those two ideas
together, that he makes them almost one; never thinks on the man,
but the pain and displeasure he suffered comes into his mind with
it, so that he scarce distinguishes them, but has as much an
aversion for the one as the other. Thus hatreds are often begotten
from slight and innocent occasions, and quarrels propagated and
continued in the world.
12. A third instance. A man has suffered pain or sickness in any
place; he saw his friend die in such a room: though these have in
nature nothing to do one with another, yet when the idea of the
place occurs to his mind, it brings (the impression being once made)
that of the pain and displeasure with it: he confounds them in his
mind, and can as little bear the one as the other.
13. Why time cures some disorders in the mind, which reason cannot
cure. When this combination is settled, and while it lasts, it is
not in the power of reason to help us, and relieve us from the effects
of it. Ideas in our minds, when they are there, will operate according
to their natures and circumstances. And here we see the cause why time
cures certain affections, which reason, though in the right, and
allowed to be so, has not power over, nor is able against them to
prevail with those who are apt to hearken to it in other cases. The
death of a child that was the daily delight of its mother's eyes,
and joy of her soul, rends from her heart the whole comfort of her
life, and gives her all the torment imaginable: use the consolations
of reason in this case, and you were as good preach ease to one on the
rack, and hope to allay, by rational discourses, the pain of his
joints tearing asunder. Till time has by disuse separated the sense of
that enjoyment and its loss, from the idea of the child returning to
her memory, all representations, though ever so reasonable, are in
vain; and therefore some in whom the union between these ideas is
never dissolved, spend their lives in mourning, and carry an incurable
sorrow to their graves.
14. Another instance of the effect of the association of ideas. A
friend of mine knew one perfectly cured of madness by a very harsh and
offensive operation. The gentleman who was thus recovered, with
great sense of gratitude and acknowledgment owned the cure all his
life after, as the greatest obligation he could have received; but,
whatever gratitude and reason suggested to him, he could never bear
the sight of the operator: that image brought back with it the idea of
that agony which he suffered from his hands, which was too mighty
and intolerable for him to endure.
15. More instances. Many children, imputing the pain they endured at
school to their books they were corrected for, so join those ideas
together, that a book becomes their aversion, and they are never
reconciled to the study and use of them all their lives after; and
thus reading becomes a torment to them, which otherwise possibly
they might have made the great pleasure of their lives. There are
rooms convenient enough, that some men cannot study in, and fashions
of vessels, which, though ever so clean and commodious, they cannot
drink out of, and that by reason of some accidental ideas which are
annexed to them, and make them offensive; and who is there that hath
not observed some man to flag at the appearance, or in the company
of some certain person not otherwise superior to him, but because,
having once on some occasion got the ascendant, the idea of
authority and distance goes along with that of the person, and he that
has been thus subjected, is not able to separate them.
16. A curious instance. Instances of this kind are so plentiful
everywhere, that if I add one more, it is only for the pleasant
oddness of it. It is of a young gentleman, who, having learnt to
dance, and that to great perfection, there happened to stand an old
trunk in the room where he learnt. The idea of this remarkable piece
of household stuff had so mixed itself with the turns and steps of all
his dances, that though in that chamber he could dance excellently
well, yet it was only whilst that trunk was there; nor could he
perform well in any other place, unless that or some such other
trunk had its due position in the room. If this story shall be
suspected to be dressed up with some comical circumstances, a little
beyond precise nature, I answer for myself that I had it some years
since from a very sober and worthy man, upon his own knowledge, as I
report it; and I dare say there are very few inquisitive persons who
read this, who have not met with accounts, if not examples, of this
nature, that may parallel, or at least justify this.
17. Influence of association on intellectual habits. Intellectual
habits and defects this way contracted, are not less frequent and
powerful, though less observed. Let the ideas of being and matter be
strongly joined, either by education or much thought; whilst these are
still combined in the mind, what notions, what reasonings, will
there be about separate spirits? Let custom from the very childhood
have joined figure and shape to the idea of God, and what
absurdities will that mind be liable to about the Deity? Let the
idea of infallibility be inseparably joined to any person, and these
two constantly together possess the mind; and then one body in two
places at once, shall unexamined be swallowed for a certain truth,
by an implicit faith, whenever that imagined infallible person
dictates and demands assent without inquiry.
18. Observable in the opposition between different sects of
philosophy and of religion. Some such wrong and unnatural combinations
of ideas will be found to establish the irreconcilable opposition
between different sects of philosophy and religion; for we cannot
imagine every one of their followers to impose wilfully on himself,
and knowingly refuse truth offered by plain reason. Interest, though
it does a great deal in the case, yet cannot be thought to work
whole societies of men to so universal a perverseness, as that every
one of them to a man should knowingly maintain falsehood: some at
least must be allowed to do what all pretend to, i.e. to pursue
truth sincerely; and therefore there must be something that blinds
their understandings, and makes them not see the falsehood of what
they embrace for real truth. That which thus captivates their reasons,
and leads men of sincerity blindfold from common sense, will, when
examined, be found to be what we are speaking of: some independent
ideas, of no alliance to one another, are, by education, custom, and
the constant din of their party, so coupled in their minds, that
they always appear there together; and they can no more separate
them in their thoughts than if they were but one idea, and they
operate as if they were so. This gives sense to jargon,
demonstration to absurdities, and consistency to nonsense, and is
the foundation of the greatest, I had almost said of all the errors in
the world; or, if it does not reach so far, it is at least the most
dangerous one, since, so far as it obtains, it hinders men from seeing
and examining. When two things, in themselves disjoined, appear to the
sight constantly united; if the eye sees these things riveted which
are loose, where will you begin to rectify the mistakes that follow in
two ideas that they have been accustomed so to join in their minds
as to substitute one for the other, and, as I am apt to think, often
without perceiving it themselves? This, whilst they are under the
deceit of it, makes them incapable of conviction, and they applaud
themselves as zealous champions for truth, when indeed they are
contending for error; and the confusion of two different ideas,
which a customary connexion of them in their minds hath to them made
in effect but one, fills their heads with false views, and their
reasonings with false consequences.
19. Conclusion. Having thus given an account of the original, sorts,
and extent of our IDEAS, with several other considerations about these
(I know not whether I may say) instruments, or materials of our
knowledge, the method I at first proposed to myself would now
require that I should immediately proceed to show, what use the
understanding makes of them, and what KNOWLEDGE we have by them.
This was that which, in the first general view I had of this
subject, was all that I thought I should have to do: but, upon a
nearer approach, I find that there is so close a connexion between
ideas and WORDS, and our abstract ideas and general words have so
constant a relation one to another, that it is impossible to speak
clearly and distinctly of our knowledge, which all consists in
propositions, without considering, first, the nature, use, and
signification of Language; which, therefore, must be the business of
the next Book.
Of Words

Chapter I
Of Words or Language in General

1. Man fitted to form articulate sounds. God, having designed man
for a sociable creature, made him not only with an inclination, and
under a necessity to have fellowship with those of his own kind, but
furnished him also with language, which was to be the great instrument
and common tie of society. Man, therefore, had by nature his organs so
fashioned, as to be fit to frame articulate sounds, which we call
words. But this was not enough to produce language; for parrots, and
several other birds, will be taught to make articulate sounds distinct
enough, which yet by no means are capable of language.
2. To use these sounds as signs of ideas. Besides articulate sounds,
therefore, it was further necessary that he should be able to use
these sounds as signs of internal conceptions; and to make them
stand as marks for the ideas within his own mind, whereby they might
be made known to others, and the thoughts of men's minds be conveyed
from one to another.
3. To make them general signs. But neither was this sufficient to
make words so useful as they ought to be. It is not enough for the
perfection of language, that sounds can be made signs of ideas, unless
those signs can be so made use of as to comprehend several
particular things: for the multiplication of words would have
perplexed their use, had every particular thing need of a distinct
name to be signified by. To remedy this inconvenience, language had
yet a further improvement in the use of general terms, whereby one
word was made to mark a multitude of particular existences: which
advantageous use of sounds was obtained only by the difference of
the ideas they were made signs of: those names becoming general, which
are made to stand for general ideas, and those remaining particular,
where the ideas they are used for are particular.
4. To make them signify the absence of positive ideas. Besides these
names which stand for ideas, there be other words which men make use
of, not to signify any idea, but the want or absence of some ideas,
simple or complex, or all ideas together; such as are nihil in
Latin, and in English, ignorance and barrenness. All which negative or
privative words cannot be said properly to belong to, or signify no
ideas: for then they would be perfectly insignificant sounds; but they
relate to positive ideas, and signify their absence.
5. Words ultimately derived from such as signify sensible ideas.
It may also lead us a little towards the original of all our notions
and knowledge, if we remark how great a dependence our words have on
common sensible ideas; and how those which are made use of to stand
for actions and notions quite removed from sense, have their rise from
thence, and from obvious sensible ideas are transferred to more
abstruse significations, and made to stand for ideas that come not
under the cognizance of our senses; v.g. to imagine, apprehend,
comprehend, adhere, conceive, instil, disgust, disturbance,
tranquillity, &c., are all words taken from the operations of sensible
things, and applied to certain modes of thinking. Spirit, in its
primary signification, is breath; angel, a messenger: and I doubt
not but, if we could trace them to their sources, we should find, in
all languages, the names which stand for things that fall not under
our senses to have had their first rise from sensible ideas. By
which we may give some kind of guess what kind of notions they were,
and whence derived, which filled their minds who were the first
beginners of languages, and how nature, even in the naming of
things, unawares suggested to men the originals and principles of
all their knowledge: whilst, to give names that might make known to
others any operations they felt in themselves, or any other ideas that
came not under their senses, they were fain to borrow words from
ordinary known ideas of sensation, by that means to make others the
more easily to conceive those operations they experimented in
themselves, which made no outward sensible appearances; and then, when
they had got known and agreed names to signify those internal
operations of their own minds, they were sufficiently furnished to
make known by words all their other ideas; since they could consist of
nothing but either of outward sensible perceptions, or of the inward
operations of their minds about them; we having, as has been proved,
no ideas at all, but what originally come either from sensible objects
without, or what we feel within ourselves, from the inward workings of
our own spirits, of which we are conscious to ourselves within.
6. Distribution of subjects to be treated of. But to understand
better the use and force of Language, as subservient to instruction
and knowledge, it will be convenient to consider:
First, To what it is that names, in the use of language, are
immediately applied.
Secondly, Since all (except proper) names are general, and so
stand not particularly for this or that single thing, but for sorts
and ranks of things, it will be necessary to consider, in the next
place, what the sorts and kinds, or, if you rather like the Latin
names, what the Species and Genera of things are, wherein they
consist, and how they come to be made. These being (as they ought)
well looked into, we shall the better come to find the right use of
words; the natural advantages and defects of language; and the
remedies that ought to be used, to avoid the inconveniences of
obscurity or uncertainty in the signification of words: without
which it is impossible to discourse with any clearness or order
concerning knowledge: which, being conversant about propositions,
and those most commonly universal ones, has greater connexion with
words than perhaps is suspected.
These considerations, therefore, shall be the matter of the
following chapters.
Chapter II
Of the Signification of Words

1. Words are sensible signs, necessary for communication of ideas.
Man, though he have great variety of thoughts, and such from which
others as well as himself might receive profit and delight; yet they
are all within his own breast, invisible and hidden from others, nor
can of themselves be made to appear. The comfort and advantage of
society not being to be had without communication of thoughts, it
was necessary that man should find out some external sensible signs,
whereof those invisible ideas, which his thoughts are made up of,
might be made known to others. For this purpose nothing was so fit,
either for plenty or quickness, as those articulate sounds, which with
so much ease and variety he found himself able to make. Thus we may
conceive how words, which were by nature so well adapted to that
purpose, came to be made use of by men as the signs of their ideas;
not by any natural connexion that there is between particular
articulate sounds and certain ideas, for then there would be but one
language amongst all men; but by a voluntary imposition, whereby
such a word is made arbitrarily the mark of such an idea. The use,
then, of words, is to be sensible marks of ideas; and the ideas they
stand for are their proper and immediate signification.
2. Words, in their immediate signification, are the sensible signs
of his ideas who uses them. The use men have of these marks being
either to record their own thoughts, for the assistance of their own
memory or, as it were, to bring out their ideas, and lay them before
the view of others: words, in their primary or immediate
signification, stand for nothing but the ideas in the mind of him that
uses them, how imperfectly soever or carelessly those ideas are
collected from the things which they are supposed to represent. When a
man speaks to another, it is that he may be understood: and the end of
speech is, that those sounds, as marks, may make known his ideas to
the hearer. That then which words are the marks of are the ideas of
the speaker: nor can any one apply them as marks, immediately, to
anything else but the ideas that he himself hath: for this would be to
make them signs of his own conceptions, and yet apply them to other
ideas; which would be to make them signs and not signs of his ideas at
the same time, and so in effect to have no signification at all. Words
being voluntary signs, they cannot be voluntary signs imposed by him
on things he knows not. That would be to make them signs of nothing,
sounds without signification. A man cannot make his words the signs
either of qualities in things, or of conceptions in the mind of
another, whereof he has none in his own. Till he has some ideas of his
own, he cannot suppose them to correspond with the conceptions of
another man; nor can he use any signs for them of another man; nor can
he use any signs for them: for thus they would be the signs of he
knows not what, which is in truth to be the signs of nothing. But when
he represents to himself other men's ideas by some of his own, if he
consent to give them the same names that other men do, it is still
to his own ideas; to ideas that he has, and not to ideas that he has
3. Examples of this. This is so necessary in the use of language,
that in this respect the knowing and the ignorant, the learned and the
unlearned, use the words they speak (with any meaning) all alike.
They, in every man's mouth, stand for the ideas he has, and which he
would express by them. A child having taken notice of nothing in the
metal he hears called gold, but the bright shining yellow colour, he
applies the word gold only to his own idea of that colour, and nothing
else; and therefore calls the same colour in a peacock's tail gold.
Another that hath better observed, adds to shining yellow great
weight: and then the sound gold, when he uses it, stands for a complex
idea of a shining yellow and a very weighty substance. Another adds to
those qualities fusibility: and then the word gold signifies to him
a body, bright, yellow, fusible, and very heavy. Another adds
malleability. Each of these uses equally the word gold, when they have
occasion to express the idea which they have applied it to: but it
is evident that each can apply it only to his own idea; nor can he
make it stand as a sign of such a complex idea as he has not.
4. Words are often secretly referred first to the ideas supposed
to be in other men's minds. But though words, as they are used by men,
can properly and immediately signify nothing but the ideas that are in
the mind of the speaker; yet they in their thoughts give them a secret
reference to two other things.
First, They suppose their words to be marks of the ideas in the
minds also of other men, with whom they communicate: for else they
should talk in vain, and could not be understood, if the sounds they
applied to one idea were such as by the hearer were applied to
another, which is to speak two languages. But in this men stand not
usually to examine, whether the idea they, and those they discourse
with have in their minds be the same: but think it enough that they
use the word, as they imagine, in the common acceptation of that
language; in which they suppose that the idea they make it a sign of
is precisely the same to which the understanding men of that country
apply that name.
5. To the reality of things. Secondly, Because men would not be
thought to talk barely of their own imagination, but of things as
really they are; therefore they often suppose the words to stand
also for the reality of things. But this relating more particularly to
substances and their names, as perhaps the former does to simple ideas
and modes, we shall speak of these two different ways of applying
words more at large, when we come to treat of the names of mixed modes
and substances in particular: though give me leave here to say, that
it is a perverting the use of words, and brings unavoidable
obscurity and confusion into whenever we make them stand for
anything but those ideas we have in our own minds.
6. Words by use readily excite ideas of their objects. Concerning
words, also, it is further to be considered:
First, that they being immediately the signs of men's ideas, and
by that means the instruments whereby men communicate their
conceptions, and express to one another those thoughts and
imaginations they have within their own their own breasts; there
comes, by constant use, to be such a connexion between certain
sounds and the ideas they stand for, that the names heard, almost as
readily excite certain ideas as if the objects themselves, which are
apt to produce them, did actually affect the senses. Which is
manifestly so in all obvious sensible qualities, and in all substances
that frequently and familiarly occur to us.
7. Words are often used without signification, and why. Secondly,
That though the proper and immediate signification of words are
ideas in the mind of the speaker, yet, because by familiar use from
our cradles, we come to learn certain articulate sounds very
perfectly, and have them readily on our tongues, and always at hand in
our memories, but yet are not always careful to examine or settle
their significations perfectly; it often happens that men, even when
they would apply themselves to an attentive consideration, do set
their thoughts more on words than things. Nay, because words are
many of them learned before the ideas are known for which they
stand: therefore some, not only children but men, speak several
words no otherwise than parrots do, only because they have learned
them, and have been accustomed to those sounds. But so far as words
are of use and signification, so far is there a constant connexion
between the sound and the idea, and a designation that the one
stands for the other; without which application of them, they are
nothing but so much insignificant noise.
8. Their signification perfectly arbitrary, not the consequence of a
natural connexion. Words, by long and familiar use, as has been
said, come to excite in men certain ideas so constantly and readily,
that they are apt to suppose a natural connexion between them. But
that they signify only men's peculiar ideas, and that by a perfect
arbitrary imposition, is evident, in that they often fail to excite in
others (even that use the same language) the same ideas we take them
to be signs of: and every man has so inviolable a liberty to make
words stand for what ideas he pleases, that no one hath the power to
make others have the same ideas in their minds that he has, when
they use the same words that he does. And therefore the great Augustus
himself, in the possession of that power which ruled the world,
acknowledged he could not make a new Latin word: which was as much
as to say, that he could not arbitrarily appoint what idea any sound
should be a sign of, in the mouths and common language of his
subjects. It is true, common use, by a tacit consent, appropriates
certain sounds to certain ideas in all languages, which so far
limits the signification of that sound, that unless a man applies it
to the same idea, he does not speak properly: and let me add, that
unless a man's words excite the same ideas in the hearer which he
makes them stand for in speaking, he does not speak intelligibly.
But whatever be the consequence of any man's using of words
differently, either from their general meaning, or the particular
sense of the person to whom he addresses them; this is certain,
their signification, in his use of them, is limited to his ideas,
and they can be signs of nothing else.
Chapter III
Of General Terms

1. The greatest part of words are general terms. All things that
exist being particulars, it may perhaps be thought reasonable that
words, which ought to be conformed to things, should be so too,- I
mean in their signification: but yet we find quite the contrary. The
far greatest part of words that make all languages are general
terms: which has not been the effect of neglect or chance, but of
reason and necessity.
2. That every particular thing should have a name for itself is
impossible. First, It is impossible that every particular thing should
have a distinct peculiar name. For, the signification and use of words
depending on that connexion which the mind makes between its ideas and
the sounds it uses as signs of them, it is necessary, in the
application of names to things, that the mind should have distinct
ideas of the things, and retain also the particular name that
belongs to every one, with its peculiar appropriation to that idea.
But it is beyond the power of human capacity to frame and retain
distinct ideas of all the particular things we meet with: every bird
and beast men saw; every tree and plant that affected the senses,
could not find a place in the most capacious understanding. If it be
looked on as an instance of a prodigious memory, that some generals
have been able to call every soldier in their army by his proper name,
we may easily find a reason why men have never attempted to give names
to each sheep in their flock, or crow that flies over their heads;
much less to call every leaf of plants, or grain of sand that came
in their way, by a peculiar name.
3. And would be useless, if it were possible. Secondly, If it were
possible, it would yet be useless; because it would not serve to the
chief end of language. Men would in vain heap up names of particular
things, that would not serve them to communicate their thoughts. Men
learn names, and use them in talk with others, only that they may be
understood: which is then only done when, by use or consent, the sound
I make by the organs of speech, excites in another man's mind who
hears it, the idea I apply it to in mine, when I speak it. This cannot
be done by names applied to particular things; whereof I alone
having the ideas in my mind, the names of them could not be
significant or intelligible to another, who was not acquainted with
all those very particular things which had fallen under my notice.
4. A distinct name for every particular thing, not fitted for
enlargement of knowledge. Thirdly, But yet, granting this also
feasible, (which I think is not), yet a distinct name for every
particular thing would not be of any great use for the improvement
of knowledge: which, though founded in particular things, enlarges
itself by general views; to which things reduced into sorts, under
general names, are properly subservient. These, with the names
belonging to them, come within some compass, and do not multiply every
moment, beyond what either the mind can contain, or use requires.
And therefore, in these, men have for the most part stopped: but yet
not so as to hinder themselves from distinguishing particular things
by appropriated names, where convenience demands it. And therefore
in their own species, which they have most to do with, and wherein
they have often occasion to mention particular persons, they make
use of proper names; and there distinct individuals have distinct
5. What things have proper names, and why. Besides persons,
countries also, cities, rivers, mountains, and other the like
distinctions of place have usually found peculiar names, and that
for the same reason; they being such as men have often an occasion
to mark particularly, and, as it were, set before others in their
discourses with them. And I doubt not but, if we had reason to mention
particular horses as often as we have to mention particular men, we
should have proper names for the one, as familiar as for the other,
and Bucephalus would be a word as much in use as Alexander. And
therefore we see that, amongst jockeys, horses have their proper names
to be known and distinguished by, as commonly as their servants:
because, amongst them, there is often occasion to mention this or that
particular horse when he is out of sight.
6. How general words are made. The next thing to be considered
is,- How general words come to be made. For, since all things that
exist are only particulars, how come we by general terms; or where
find we those general natures they are supposed to stand for? Words
become general by being made the signs of general ideas: and ideas
become general, by separating from them the circumstances of time
and place, and any other ideas that may determine them to this or that
particular existence. By this way of abstraction they are made capable
of representing more individuals than one; each of which having in
it a conformity to that abstract idea, is (as we call it) of that
7. Shown by the way we enlarge our complex ideas from infancy.
But, to deduce this a little more distinctly, it will not perhaps be
amiss to trace our notions and names from their beginning, and observe
by what degrees we proceed, and by what steps we enlarge our ideas
from our first infancy. There is nothing more evident, than that the
ideas of the persons children converse with (to instance in them
alone) are, like the persons themselves, only particular. The ideas of
the nurse and the mother are well framed in their minds; and, like
pictures of them there, represent only those individuals. The names
they first gave to them are confined to these individuals; and the
names of nurse and mamma, the child uses, determine themselves to
those persons. Afterwards, when time and a larger acquaintance have
made them observe that there are a great many other things in the
world, that in some common agreements of shape, and several other
qualities, resemble their father and mother, and those persons they
have been used to, they frame an idea, which they find those many
particulars do partake in; and to that they give, with others, the
name man, for example. And thus they come to have a general name,
and a general idea. Wherein they make nothing new; but only leave
out of the complex idea they had of Peter and James, Mary and Jane,
that which is peculiar to each, and retain only what is common to them
8. And further enlarge our complex ideas, by still leaving out
properties contained in them. By the same way that they come by the
general name and idea of man, they easily advance to more general
names and notions. For, observing that several things that differ from
their idea of man, and cannot therefore be comprehended under that
name, have yet certain qualities wherein they agree with man, by
retaining only those qualities, and uniting them into one idea, they
have again another and more general idea; to which having given a name
they make a term of a more comprehensive extension: which new idea
is made, not by any new addition, but only as before, by leaving out
the shape, and some other properties signified by the name man, and
retaining only a body, with life, sense, and spontaneous motion,
comprehended under the name animal.
9. General natures are nothing but abstract and partial ideas of
more complex ones. That this is the way whereby men first formed
general ideas, and general names to them, I think is so evident,
that there needs no other proof of it but the considering of a man's
self, or others, and the ordinary proceedings of their minds in
knowledge. And he that thinks general natures or notions are
anything else but such abstract and partial ideas of more complex
ones, taken at first from particular existences, will, I fear, be at a
loss where to find them. For let any one effect, and then tell me,
wherein does his idea of man differ from that of Peter and Paul, or
his idea of horse from that of Bucephalus, but in the leaving out
something that is peculiar to each individual, and retaining so much
of those particular complex ideas of several particular existences
as they are found to agree in? Of the complex ideas signified by the
names man and horse, leaving out but those particulars wherein they
differ, and retaining only those wherein they agree, and of those
making a new distinct complex idea, and giving the name animal to
it, one has a more general term, that comprehends with man several
other creatures. Leave out of the idea of animal, sense and
spontaneous motion, and the remaining complex idea, made up of the
remaining simple ones of body, life, and nourishment, becomes a more
general one, under the more comprehensive term, vivens. And, not to
dwell longer upon this particular, so evident in itself; by the same
way the mind proceeds to body, substance, and at last to being, thing,
and such universal terms, which stand for any of our ideas whatsoever.
To conclude: this whole mystery of genera and species, which make such
a noise in the schools, and are with justice so little regarded out of
them, is nothing else but abstract ideas, more or less
comprehensive, with names annexed to them. In all which this is
constant and unvariable, That every more general term stands for
such an idea, and is but a part of any of those contained under it.
10. Why the genus is ordinarily made use of in definitions. This may
show us the reason why, in the defining of words, which is nothing but
declaring their signification, we make use of the genus, or next
general word that comprehends it. Which is not out of necessity, but
only to save the labour of enumerating the several simple ideas
which the next general word or genus stands for; or, perhaps,
sometimes the shame of not being able to do it. But though defining by
genus and differentia (I crave leave to use these terms of art, though
originally Latin, since they most properly suit those notions they are
applied to), I say, though defining by the genus be the shortest
way, yet I think it may be doubted whether it be the best. This I am
sure, it is not the only, and so not absolutely necessary. For,
definition being nothing but making another understand by words what
idea the term defined stands for, a definition is best made by
enumerating those simple ideas that are combined in the
signification of the term defined: and if, instead of such an
enumeration, men have accustomed themselves to use the next general
term, it has not been out of necessity, or for greater clearness,
but for quickness and dispatch sake. For I think that, to one who
desired to know what idea the word man stood for; if it should be
said, that man was a solid extended substance, having life, sense,
spontaneous motion, and the faculty of reasoning, I doubt not but
the meaning of the term man would be as well understood, and the
idea it stands for be at least as clearly made known, as when it is
defined to be a rational animal: which, by the several definitions
of animal, vivens, and corpus, resolves itself into those enumerated
ideas. I have, in explaining the term man, followed here the
ordinary definition of the schools; which, though perhaps not the most
exact, yet serves well enough to my present purpose. And one may, in
this instance, see what gave occasion to the rule, that a definition
must consist of genus and differentia; and it suffices to show us
the little necessity there is of such a rule, or advantage in the
strict observing of it. For, definitions, as has been said, being only
the explaining of one word by several others, so that the meaning or
idea it stands for may be certainly known; languages are not always so
made according to the rules of logic, that every term can have its
signification exactly and clearly expressed by two others.
Experience sufficiently satisfies us to the contrary; or else those
who have made this rule have done ill, that they have given us so
few definitions conformable to it. But of definitions more in the next
11. General and universal are creatures of the understanding, and
belong not to the real existence of things. To return to general
words: it is plain, by what has been said, that general and
universal belong not to the real existence of things; but are the
inventions and creatures of the understanding, made by it for its
own use, and concern only signs, whether words or ideas. Words are
general, as has been said, when used for signs of general ideas, and
so are applicable indifferently to many particular things; and ideas
are general when they are set up as the representatives of many
particular things: but universality belongs not to things
themselves, which are all of them particular in their existence,
even those words and ideas which in their signification are general.
When therefore we quit particulars, the generals that rest are only
creatures of our own making; their general nature being nothing but
the capacity they are put into, by the understanding, of signifying or
representing many particulars. For the signification they have is
nothing but a relation that, by the mind of man, is added to them.
12. Abstract ideas are the essences of genera and species. The
next thing therefore to be considered is, What kind of signification
it is that general words have. For, as it is evident that they do
not signify barely one particular thing; for then they would not be
general terms, but proper names, so, on the other side, it is as
evident they do not signify a plurality; for man and men would then
signify the same; and the distinction of numbers (as the grammarians
call them) would be superfluous and useless. That then which general
words signify is a sort of things; and each of them does that, by
being a sign of an abstract idea in the mind; to which idea, as things
existing are found to agree, so they come to be ranked under that
name, or, which is all one, be of that sort. Whereby it is evident
that the essences of the sorts, or, if the Latin word pleases
better, species of things, are nothing else but these abstract
ideas. For the having the essence of any species, being that which
makes anything to be of that species; and the conformity to the idea
to which the name is annexed being that which gives a right to that
name; the having the essence, and the having that conformity, must
needs be the same thing: since to be of any species, and to have a
right to the name of that species, is all one. As, for example, to
be a man, or of the species man, and to have right to the name man, is
the same thing. Again, to be a man, or of the species man, and have
the essence of a man, is the same thing. Now, since nothing can be a
man, or have a right to the name man, but what has a conformity to the
abstract idea the name man stands for, nor anything be a man, or
have a right to the species man, but what has the essence of that
species; it follows, that the abstract idea for which the name stands,
and the essence of the species, is one and the same. From whence it is
easy to observe, that the essences of the sorts of things, and,
consequently, the sorting of things, is the workmanship of the
understanding that abstracts and makes those general ideas.
13. They are the workmanship of the understanding, but have their
foundation in the similitude of things. I would not here be thought to
forget, much less to deny, that Nature, in the production of things,
makes several of them alike: there is nothing more obvious, especially
in the race of animals, and all things propagated by seed. But yet I
think we may say, the sorting of them under names is the workmanship
of the understanding, taking occasion, from the similitude it observes
amongst them, to make abstract general ideas, and set them up in the
mind, with names annexed to them, as patterns or forms, (for, in
that sense, the word form has a very proper signification,) to which
as particular things existing are found to agree, so they come to be
of that species, have that denomination, or are put into that classis.
For when we say this is a man, that a horse; this justice, that
cruelty; this a watch, that a jack; what do we else but rank things
under different specific names, as agreeing to those abstract ideas,
of which we have made those names the signs? And what are the essences
of those species set out and marked by names, but those abstract ideas
in the mind; which are, as it were, the bonds between particular
things that exist, and the names they are to be ranked under? And when
general names have any connexion with particular beings, these
abstract ideas are the medium that unites them: so that the essences
of species, as distinguished and denominated by us, neither are nor
can be anything but those precise abstract ideas we have in our minds.
And therefore the supposed real essences of substances, if different
from our abstract ideas, cannot be the essences of the species we rank
things into. For two species may be one, as rationally as two
different essences be the essence of one species: and I demand what
are the alterations [which] may, or may not be made in a horse or
lead, without making either of them to be of another species? In
determining the species of things by our abstract ideas, this is
easy to resolve: but if any one will regulate himself herein by
supposed real essences, he will, I suppose, be at a loss: and he
will never be able to know when anything precisely ceases to be of the
species of a horse or lead.
14. Each distinct abstract idea is a distinct essence. Nor will
any one wonder that I say these essences, or abstract ideas (which are
the measures of name, and the boundaries of species) are the
workmanship of the understanding, who considers that at least the
complex ones are often, in several men, different collections of
simple ideas; and therefore that is covetousness to one man, which
is not so to another. Nay, even in substances, where their abstract
ideas seem to be taken from the things themselves, they are not
constantly the same; no, not in that species which is most familiar to
us, and with which we have the most intimate acquaintance: it having
been more than once doubted, whether the foetus born of a woman were a
man, even so far as that it hath been debated, whether it were or were
not to be nourished and baptized: which could not be, if the
abstract idea or essence to which the name man belonged were of
nature's making; and were not the uncertain and various collection
of simple ideas, which the understanding put together, and then,
abstracting it, affixed a name to it. So that, in truth, every
distinct abstract idea is a distinct essence; and the names that stand
for such distinct ideas are the names of things essentially different.
Thus a circle is as essentially different from an oval as a sheep from
a goat; and rain is as essentially different from snow as water from
earth: that abstract idea which is the essence of one being impossible
to be communicated to the other. And thus any two abstract ideas, that
in any part vary one from another, with two distinct names annexed
to them, constitute two distinct sorts, or, if you please, species, as
essentially different as any two of the most remote or opposite in the
15. Several significations of the word "essence." But since the
essences of things are thought by some (and not without reason) to
be wholly unknown, it may not be amiss to consider the several
significations of the word essence.
Real essences. First, Essence may be taken for the very being of
anything, whereby it is what it is. And thus the real internal, but
generally (in substances) unknown constitution of things, whereon
their discoverable qualities depend, may be called their essence. This
is the proper original signification of the word, as is evident from
the formation of it; essentia, in its primary notation, signifying
properly, being. And in this sense it is still used, when we speak
of the essence of particular things, without giving them any name.
Nominal essences. Secondly, The learning and disputes of the schools
having been much busied about genus and species, the word essence
has almost lost its primary signification: and, instead of the real
constitution of things, has been almost wholly applied to the
artificial constitution of genus and species. It is true, there is
ordinarily supposed a real constitution of the sorts of things; and it
is past doubt there must be some real constitution, on which any
collection of simple ideas co-existing must depend. But, it being
evident that things are ranked under names into sorts or species, only
as they agree to certain abstract ideas, to which we have annexed
those names, the essence of each genus, or sort, comes to be nothing
but that abstract idea which the general, or sortal (if I may have
leave so to call it from sort, as I do general from genus), name
stands for. And this we shall find to be that which the word essence
imports in its most familiar use.
These two sorts of essences, I suppose, may not unfitly be termed,
the one the real, the other nominal essence.
16. Constant connexion between the name and nominal essence. Between
the nominal essence and the name there is so near a connexion, that
the name of any sort of things cannot be attributed to any
particular being but what has this essence, whereby it answers that
abstract idea whereof that name is the sign.
17. Supposition, that species are distinguished by their real
essences, useless. Concerning the real essences of corporeal
substances (to mention these only) there are, if I mistake not, two
opinions. The one is of those who, using the word essence for they
know not what, suppose a certain number of those essences, according
to which all natural things are made, and wherein they do exactly
every one of them partake, and so become of this or that species.
The other and more rational opinion is of those who look on all
natural things to have a real, but unknown, constitution of their
insensible parts; from which flow those sensible qualities which serve
us to distinguish them one from another, according as we have occasion
to rank them into sorts, under common denominations. The former of
these opinions, which supposes these essences as a certain number of
forms or moulds, wherein all natural things that exist are cast, and
do equally partake, has, I imagine, very much perplexed the
knowledge of natural things. The frequent productions of monsters,
in all the species of animals, and of changelings, and other strange
issues of human birth, carry with them difficulties, not possible to
consist with this hypothesis; since it is as impossible that two
things partaking exactly of the same real essence should have
different properties, as that two figures partaking of the same real
essence of a circle should have different properties. But were there
no other reason against it, yet the supposition of essences that
cannot be known; and the making of them, nevertheless, to be that
which distinguishes the species of things, is so wholly useless and
unserviceable to any part of our knowledge, that that alone were
sufficient to make us lay it by, and content ourselves with such
essences of the sorts or species of things as come within the reach of
our knowledge: which, when seriously considered, will be found, as I
have said, to be nothing else but, those abstract complex ideas to
which we have annexed distinct general names.
18. Real and nominal essence the same in simple ideas and modes,
different in substances. Essences being thus distinguished into
nominal and real, we may further observe, that, in the species of
simple ideas and modes, they are always the same; but in substances
always quite different. Thus, a figure including a space between three
lines, is the real as well as nominal essence of a triangle; it
being not only the abstract idea to which the general name is annexed,
but the very essentia or being of the thing itself; that foundation
from which all its properties flow, and to which they are all
inseparably annexed. But it is far otherwise concerning that parcel of
matter which makes the ring on my finger; wherein these two essences
are apparently different. For, it is the real constitution of its
insensible parts, on which depend all those properties of colour,
weight, fusibility, fixedness, &c., which are to be found in it; which
constitution we know not, and so, having no particular idea of, having
no name that is the sign of it. But yet it is its colour, weight,
fusibility, fixedness, &c., which makes it to be gold, or gives it a
right to that name, which is therefore its nominal essence. Since
nothing can be called gold but what has a conformity of qualities to
that abstract complex idea to which that name is annexed. But this
distinction of essences, belonging particularly to substances, we
shall, when we come to consider their names, have an occasion to treat
of more fully.
19. Essences ingenerable and incorruptible. That such abstract
ideas, with names to them, as we have been speaking of are essences,
may further appear by what we are told concerning essences, viz.
that they are all ingenerable and incorruptible. Which cannot be
true of the real constitutions of things, which begin and perish
with them. All things that exist, besides their Author, are all liable
to change; especially those things we are acquainted with, and have
ranked into bands under distinct names or ensigns. Thus, that which
was grass to-day is to-morrow the flesh of a sheep; and, within a
few days after, becomes part of a man: in all which and the like
changes, it is evident their real essence- i.e. that constitution
whereon the properties of these several things depended- is destroyed,
and perishes with them. But essences being taken for ideas established
in the mind, with names annexed to them, they are supposed to remain
steadily the same, whatever mutations the particular substances are
liable to. For, whatever becomes of Alexander and Bucephalus, the
ideas to which man and horse are annexed, are supposed nevertheless to
remain the same; and so the essences of those species are preserved
whole and undestroyed, whatever changes happen to any or all of the
individuals of those species. By this means the essence of a species
rests safe and entire, without the existence of so much as one
individual of that kind. For, were there now no circle existing
anywhere in the world, (as perhaps that figure exists not anywhere
exactly marked out), yet the idea annexed to that name would not cease
to be what it is; nor cease to be as a pattern to determine which of
the particular figures we meet with have or have not a right to the
name circle, and so to show which of them, by having that essence, was
of that species. And though there neither were nor had been in
nature such a beast as an unicorn, or such a fish as a mermaid; yet,
supposing those names to stand for complex abstract ideas that
contained no inconsistency in them, the essence of a mermaid is as
intelligible as that of a man; and the idea of an unicorn as
certain, steady, and permanent as that of a horse. From what has
been said, it is evident, that the doctrine of the immutability of
essences proves them to be only abstract ideas; and is founded on
the relation established between them and certain sounds as signs of
them; and will always be true, as long as the same name can have the
same signification.
20. Recapitulation. To conclude. This is that which in short I would
say, viz. that all the great business of genera and species, and their
essences, amounts to no more but this:- That men making abstract
ideas, and settling them in their minds with names annexed to them, do
thereby enable themselves to consider things, and discourse of them,
as it were in bundles, for the easier and readier improvement and
communication of their knowledge, which would advance but slowly
were their words and thoughts confined only to particulars.
Chapter IV
Of the Names of Simple Ideas

1. Names of simple ideas, modes, and substances, have each something
peculiar. Though all words, as I have shown, signify nothing
immediately but the ideas in the mind of the speaker; yet, upon a
nearer survey, we shall find the names of simple ideas, mixed modes
(under which I comprise relations too), and natural substances, have
each of them something peculiar and different from the other. For
2. Names of simple ideas, and of substances intimate real existence.
First, the names of simple ideas and substances, with the abstract
ideas in the mind which they immediately signify, intimate also some
real existence, from which was derived their original pattern. But the
names of mixed modes terminate in the idea that is in the mind, and
lead not the thoughts any further; as we shall see more at large in
the following chapter.
3. Names of simple ideas and modes signify always both real and
nominal essences. Secondly, The names of simple ideas and modes
signify always the real as well as nominal essence of their species.
But the names of natural substances signify rarely, if ever,
anything but barely the nominal essences of those species; as we shall
show in the chapter that treats of the names of substances in
4. Names of simple ideas are undefinable. Thirdly, The names of
simple ideas are not capable of any definition; the names of all
complex ideas are. It has not, that I know, been yet observed by
anybody what words are, and what are not, capable of being defined;
the want whereof is (as I am apt to think) not seldom the occasion
of great wrangling and obscurity in men's discourses, whilst some
demand definitions of terms that cannot be defined; and others think
they ought not to rest satisfied in an explication made by a more
general word, and its restriction, (or to speak in terms of art, by
a genus and difference), when, even after such definition, made
according to rule, those who hear it have often no more a clear
conception of the meaning of the word than they had before. This at
least I think, that the showing what words are, and what are not,
capable of definitions, and wherein consists a good definition, is not
wholly besides our present purpose; and perhaps will afford so much
light to the nature of these signs and our ideas, as to deserve a more
particular consideration.
5. If all names were definable, it would be a process in
infinitum. I will not here trouble myself to prove that all terms
are not definable, from that progress in infinitum, which it will
visibly lead us into, if we should allow that all names could be
defined. For, if the terms of one definition were still to be
defined by another, where at last should we stop? But I shall, from
the nature of our ideas, and the signification of our words, show
why some names can, and others cannot be defined; and which they are.
6. What a definition is. I think it is agreed, that a definition
is nothing else but the showing the meaning of one word by several
other not synonymous terms. The meaning of words being only the
ideas they are made to stand for by him that uses them, the meaning of
any term is then showed, or the word is defined, when, by other words,
the idea it is made the sign of, and annexed to, in the mind of the
speaker, is as it were represented, or set before the view of another;
and thus its signification is ascertained. This is the only use and
end of definitions; and therefore the only measure of what is, or is
not a good definition.
7. Simple ideas, why undefinable. This being premised, I say that
the names of simple ideas, and those only, are incapable of being
defined. The reason whereof is this, That the several terms of a
definition, signifying several ideas, they can all together by no
means represent an idea which has no composition at all: and therefore
a definition, which is properly nothing but the showing the meaning of
one word by several others not signifying each the same thing, can
in the names of simple ideas have no place.
8. Instances: scholastic definitions of motion. The not observing
this difference in our ideas, and their names, has produced that
eminent trifling in the schools, which is so easy to be observed in
the definitions they give us of some few of these simple ideas. For,
as to the greatest part of them, even those masters of definitions
were fain to leave them untouched, merely by the impossibility they
found in it. What more exquisite jargon could the wit of man invent,
than this definition:- "The act of a being in power, as far forth as
in power"; which would puzzle any rational man, to whom it was not
already known by its famous absurdity, to guess what word it could
ever be supposed to be the explication of. If Tully, asking a Dutchman
what beweeginge was, should have received this explication in his
own language, that it was "actus entis in potentia quatenus in
potentia"; I ask whether any one can imagine he could thereby have
understood what the word beweeginge signified, or have guessed what
idea a Dutchman ordinarily had in his mind, and would signify to
another, when he used that sound?
9. Modern definitions of motion. Nor have the modern philosophers,
who have endeavoured to throw off the jargon of the schools, and speak
intelligibly, much better succeeded in defining simple ideas,
whether by explaining their causes, or any otherwise. The atomists,
who define motion to be "a passage from one place to another," what do
they more than put one synonymous word for another? For what is
passage other than motion? And if they were asked what passage was,
how would they better define it than by motion? For is it not at least
as proper and significant to say, Passage is a motion from one place
to another, as to say, Motion is a passage, &c.? This is to translate,
and not to define, when we change two words of the same
signification one for another; which, when one is better understood
than the other, may serve to discover what idea the unknown stands
for; but is very far from a definition, unless we will say every
English word in the dictionary is the definition of the Latin word
it answers, and that motion is a definition of motus. Nor will the
"successive application of the parts of the superficies of one body to
those of another," which the Cartesians give us, prove a much better
definition of motion, when well examined.
10. Definitions of light. "The act of perspicuous, as far forth as
perspicuous," is another Peripatetic definition of a simple idea;
which, though not more absurd than the former of motion, yet betrays
its uselessness and insignificancy more plainly; because experience
will easily convince any one that it cannot make the meaning of the
word light (which it pretends to define) at all understood by a
blind man, but the definition of motion appears not at first sight
so useless, because it escapes this way of trial. For this simple
idea, entering by the touch as well as sight, it is impossible to show
an example of any one who has no other way to get the idea of
motion, but barely by the definition of that name. Those who tell us
that light is a great number of little globules, striking briskly on
the bottom of the eye, speak more intelligibly than the Schools: but
yet these words never so well understood would make the idea the
word light stands for no more known to a man that understands it not
before, than if one should tell him that light was nothing but a
company of little tennis-balls, which fairies all day long struck with
rackets against some men's foreheads, whilst they passed by others.
For granting this explication of the thing to be true, yet the idea of
the cause of light, if we had it never so exact, would no more give us
the idea of light itself, as it is such a particular perception in us,
than the idea of the figure and motion of a sharp piece of steel would
give us the idea of that pain which it is able to cause in us. For the
cause of any sensation, and the sensation itself, in all the simple
ideas of one sense, are two ideas; and two ideas so different and
distant one from another, that no two can be more so. And therefore,
should Descartes's globules strike never so long on the retina of a
man who was blind by a gutta serena, he would thereby never have any
idea of light, or anything approaching it, though he understood
never so well what little globules were, and what striking on
another body was. And therefore the Cartesians very well distinguish
between that light which is the cause of that sensation in us, and the
idea which is produced in us by it, and is that which is properly
11. Simple ideas, why undefinable, further explained. Simple
ideas, as has been shown, are only to be got by those impressions
objects themselves make on our minds, by the proper inlets appointed
to each sort. If they are not received this way, all the words in
the world, made use of to explain or define any of their names, will
never be able to produce in us the idea it stands for. For, words
being sounds, can produce in us no other simple ideas than of those
very sounds; nor excite any in us, but by that voluntary connexion
which is known to be between them and those simple ideas which
common use has made them the signs of. He that thinks otherwise, let
him try if any words can give him the taste of a pine-apple, and
make him have the true idea of the relish of that celebrated delicious
fruit. So far as he is told it has a resemblance with any tastes
whereof he has the ideas already in his memory, imprinted there by
sensible objects, not strangers to his palate, so far may he
approach that resemblance in his mind. But this is not giving us
that idea by a definition, but exciting in us other simple ideas by
their known names; which will be still very different from the true
taste of that fruit itself. In light and colours, and all other simple
ideas, it is the same thing: for the signification of sounds is not
natural, but only imposed and arbitrary. And no definition of light or
redness is more fitted or able to produce either of those ideas in us,
than the sound light or red, by itself. For, to hope to produce an
idea of light or colour by a sound, however formed, is to expect
that sounds should be visible, or colours audible; and to make the
ears do the office of all the other senses. Which is all one as to
say, that we might taste, smell, and see by the ears: a sort of
philosophy worthy only of Sancho Panza, who had the faculty to see
Dulcinea by hearsay. And therefore he that has not before received
into his mind, by the proper inlet, the simple idea which any word
stands for, can never come to know the signification of that word by
any other words or sounds whatsoever, put together according to any
rules of definition. The only way is, by applying to his senses the
proper object; and so producing that idea in him, for which he has
learned the name already. A studious blind man, who had mightily
beat his head about visible objects, and made use of the explication
of his books and friends, to understand those names of light and
colours which often came in his way, bragged one day, That he now
understood what scarlet signified. Upon which, his friend demanding
what scarlet was? The blind man answered, It was like the sound of a
trumpet. Just such an understanding of the name of any other simple
idea will he have, who hopes to get it only from a definition, or
other words made use of to explain it.
12. The contrary shown in complex ideas, by instances of a statue
and rainbow. The case is quite otherwise in complex ideas; which,
consisting of several simple ones, it is in the power of words,
standing for the several ideas that make that composition, to
imprint complex ideas in the mind which were never there before, and
so make their names be understood. In such collections of ideas,
passing under one name, definition, or the teaching the
signification of one word by several others, has place, and may make
us understand the names of things which never came within the reach of
our senses; and frame ideas suitable to those in other men's minds,
when they use those names: provided that none of the terms of the
definition stand for any such simple ideas, which he to whom the
explication is made has never yet had in his thought. Thus the word
statue may be explained to a blind man by other words, when picture
cannot; his senses having given him the idea of figure, but not of
colours, which therefore words cannot excite in him. This gained the
prize to the painter against the statuary: each of which contending
for the excellency of his art, and the statuary bragging that his
was to be preferred, because it reached further, and even those who
had lost their eyes could yet perceive the excellency of it. The
painter agreed to refer himself to the judgment of a blind man; who
being brought where there was a statue made by the one, and a
picture drawn by the other; he was first led to the statue, in which
he traced with his hands all the lineaments of the face and body,
and with great admiration applauded the skill of the workman. But
being led to the picture, and having his hands laid upon it, was told,
that now he touched the head, and then the forehead, eyes, nose,
&c., as his hand moved over the parts of the picture on the cloth,
without finding any the least distinction: whereupon he cried out,
that certainly that must needs be a very admirable and divine piece of
workmanship, which could represent to them all those parts, where he
could neither feel nor perceive anything.
13. Colours indefinable to the born-blind. He that should use the
word rainbow to one who knew all those colours, but yet had never seen
that phenomenon, would, by enumerating the figure, largeness,
position, and order of the colours, so well define that word that it
might be perfectly understood. But yet that definition, how exact
and perfect soever, would never make a blind man understand it;
because several of the simple ideas that make that complex one,
being such as he never received by sensation and experience, no
words are able to excite them in his mind.
14. Complex ideas definable only when the simple ideas of which they
consist have been got from experience. Simple ideas, as has been
shown, can only be got by experience from those objects which are
proper to produce in us those perceptions. When, by this means, we
have our minds stored with them, and know the names for them, then
we are in a condition to define, and by definition to understand,
the names of complex ideas that are made up of them. But when any term
stands for a simple idea that a man has never yet had in his mind,
it is impossible by any words to make known its meaning to him. When
any term stands for an idea a man is acquainted with, but is
ignorant that that term is the sign of it, then another name of the
same idea, which he has been accustomed to, may make him understand
its meaning. But in no case whatsoever is any name of any simple
idea capable of a definition.
15. Names of simple ideas of less doubtful meaning than those of
mixed modes and substances. Fourthly, But though the names of simple
ideas have not the help of definition to determine their
signification, yet that hinders not but that they are generally less
doubtful and uncertain than those of mixed modes and substances;
because they, standing only for one simple perception, men for the
most part easily and perfectly agree in their signification; and there
is little room for mistake and wrangling about their meaning. He
that knows once that whiteness is the name of that colour he has
observed in snow or milk, will not be apt to misapply that word, as
long as he retains that idea; which when he has quite lost, he is
not apt to mistake the meaning of it, but perceives he understands
it not. There is neither a multiplicity of simple ideas to be put
together, which makes the doubtfulness in the names of mixed modes;
nor a supposed, but an unknown, real essence, with properties
depending thereon, the precise number whereof is also unknown, which
makes the difficulty in the names of substances. But, on the contrary,
in simple ideas the whole signification of the name is known at
once, and consists not of parts, whereof more or less being put in,
the idea may be varied, and so the signification of name be obscure,
or uncertain.
16. Simple ideas have few ascents in linea praedicamentali. Fifthly,
This further may be observed concerning simple ideas and their
names, that they have but few ascents in linea praedicamentali, (as
they call it,) from the lowest species to the summum genus. The reason
whereof is, that the lowest species being but one simple idea, nothing
can be left out of it, that so the difference being taken away, it may
agree with some other thing in one idea common to them both; which,
having one name, is the genus of the other two: v.g. there is
nothing that can be left out of the idea of white and red to make them
agree in one common appearance, and so have one general name; as
rationality being left out of the complex idea of man, makes it
agree with brute in the more general idea and name of animal. And
therefore when, to avoid unpleasant enumerations, men would comprehend
both white and red, and several other such simple ideas, under one
general name, they have been fain to do it by a word which denotes
only the way they get into the mind. For when white, red, and yellow
are all comprehended under the genus or name colour, it signifies no
more but such ideas as are produced in the mind only by the sight, and
have entrance only through the eyes. And when they would frame yet a
more general term to comprehend both colours and sounds, and the
like simple ideas, they do it by a word that signifies all such as
come into the mind only by one sense. And so the general term quality,
in its ordinary acceptation, comprehends colours, sounds, tastes,
smells, and tangible qualities, with distinction from extension,
number, motion, pleasure, and pain, which make impressions on the mind
and introduce their ideas by more senses than one.
17. Names of simple ideas not arbitrary, but perfectly taken from
the existence of things. Sixthly, The names of simple ideas,
substances, and mixed modes have also this difference: that those of
mixed modes stand for ideas perfectly arbitrary; those of substances
are not perfectly so, but refer to a pattern, though with some
latitude; and those of simple ideas are perfectly taken from the
existence of things, and are not arbitrary at an. Which, what
difference it makes in the significations of their names, we shall see
in the following chapters.
Simple modes. The names of simple modes differ little from those
of simple ideas.
Chapter V
Of the Names of Mixed Modes and Relations

1. Mixed modes stand for abstract ideas, as other general names. The
names of mixed modes, being general, they stand, as has been shewed,
for sorts or species of things, each of which has its peculiar
essence. The essences of these species also, as has been shewed, are
nothing but the abstract ideas in the mind, to which the name is
annexed. Thus far the names and essences of mixed modes have nothing
but what is common to them with other ideas: but if we take a little
nearer survey of them, we shall find that they have something
peculiar, which perhaps may deserve our attention.
2. First, The abstract ideas they stand for are made by the
understanding. The first particularity I shall observe in them, is,
that the abstract ideas, or, if you please, the essences, of the
several species of mixed modes, are made by the understanding, wherein
they differ from those of simple ideas: in which sort the mind has
no power to make any one, but only receives such as are presented to
it by the real existence of things operating upon it.
3. Secondly, made arbitrarily, and without patterns. In the next
place, these essences of the species of mixed modes are not only
made by the mind, but made very arbitrarily, made without patterns, or
reference to any real existence. Wherein they differ from those of
substances, which carry with them the supposition of some real
being, from which they are taken, and to which they are comformable.
But, in its complex ideas of mixed modes, the mind takes a liberty not
to follow the existence of things exactly. It unites and retains
certain collections, as so many distinct specific ideas; whilst
others, that as often occur in nature, and are as plainly suggested by
outward things, pass neglected, without particular names or
specifications. Nor does the mind, in these of mixed modes, as in
the complex idea of substances, examine them by the real existence
of things; or verify them by patterns containing such peculiar
compositions in nature. To know whether his idea of adultery or incest
be right, will a man seek it anywhere amongst things existing? Or is
it true because any one has been witness to such an action? No: but it
suffices here, that men have put together such a collection into one
complex idea, that makes the archetype and specific idea, whether ever
any such action were committed in rerum natura or no.
4. How this is done. To understand this right, we must consider
wherein this making of these complex ideas consists; and that is not
in the making any new idea, but putting together those which the
mind had before. Wherein the mind does these three things: First, It
chooses a certain number; Secondly, It gives them connexion, and makes
them into one idea; Thirdly, It ties them together by a name. If we
examine how the mind proceeds in these, and what liberty it takes in
them, we shall easily observe how these essences of the species of
mixed modes are the workmanship of the mind; and, consequently, that
the species themselves are of men's making. Evidently arbitrary, in
that the idea is often before the existence. Nobody can doubt but that
these ideas of mixed modes are made by a voluntary collection of
ideas, put together in the mind, independent from any original
patterns in nature, who will but reflect that this sort of complex
ideas may be made, abstracted, and have names given them, and so a
species be constituted, before any one individual of that species ever
existed. Who can doubt but the ideas of sacrilege or adultery might be
framed in the minds of men, and have names given them, and so these
species of mixed modes be constituted, before either of them was
ever committed; and might be as well discoursed of and reasoned about,
and as certain truths discovered of them, whilst yet they had no being
but in the understanding, as well as now, that they have but too
frequently a real existence? Whereby it is plain how much the sorts of
mixed modes are the creatures of the understanding, where they have
a being as subservient to all the ends of real truth and knowledge, as
when they really exist. And we cannot doubt but law-makers have
often made laws about species of actions which were only the creatures
of their own understandings; beings that had no other existence but in
their own minds. And I think nobody can deny but that the resurrection
was a species of mixed modes in the mind, before it really existed.
6. Instances: murder, incest, stabbing. To see how arbitrarily these
essences of mixed modes are made by the mind, we need but take a
view of almost any of them. A little looking into them will satisfy
us, that it is the mind that combines several scattered independent
ideas into one complex one; and, by the common name it gives them,
makes them the essence of a certain species, without regulating itself
by any connexion they have in nature. For what greater connexion in
nature has the idea of a man than the idea of a sheep with killing,
that this is made a particular species of action, signified by the
word murder, and the other not? Or what union is there in nature
between the idea of the relation of a father with killing than that of
a son or neighbour, that those are combined into one complex idea, and
thereby made the essence of the distinct species parricide, whilst the
other makes no distinct species at all? But, though they have made
killing a man's father or mother a distinct species from killing his
son or daughter, yet, in some other cases, son and daughter are
taken in too, as well as father and mother: and they are all equally
comprehended in the same species, as in that of incest. Thus the
mind in mixed modes arbitrarily unites into complex ideas such as it
finds convenient; whilst others that have altogether as much union
in nature are left loose, and never combined into one idea, because
they have no need of one name. It is evident then that the mind, by
its free choice, gives a connexion to a certain number of ideas, which
in nature have no more union with one another than others that it
leaves out: why else is the part of the weapon the beginning of the
wound is made with taken notice of, to make the distinct species
called stabbing, and the figure and matter of the weapon left out? I
do not say this is done without reason, as we shall see more by and
by; but this I say, that it is done by the free choice of the mind,
pursuing its own ends; and that, therefore, these species of mixed
modes are the workmanship of the understanding. And there is nothing
more evident than that, for the most part, in the framing of these
ideas, the mind searches not its patterns in nature, nor refers the
ideas it makes to the real existence of things, but puts such together
as may best serve its own purposes, without tying itself to a
precise imitation of anything that really exists.
7. But still subservient to the end of language, and not made at
random. But, though these complex ideas or essences of mixed modes
depend on the mind, and are made by it with great liberty, yet they
are not made at random, and jumbled together without any reason at
all. Though these complex ideas be not always copied from nature,
yet they are always suited to the end for which abstract ideas are
made: and though they be combinations made of ideas that are loose
enough, and have as little union in themselves as several others to
which the mind never gives a connexion that combines them into one
idea; yet they are always made for the convenience of communication,
which is the chief end of language. The use of language is, by short
sounds, to signify with ease and dispatch general conceptions; wherein
not only abundance of particulars may be contained, but also a great
variety of independent ideas collected into one complex one. In the
making therefore of the species of mixed modes, men have had regard
only to such combinations as they had occasion to mention one to
another. Those they have combined into distinct complex ideas, and
given names to; whilst others, that in nature have as near a union,
are left loose and unregarded. For, to go no further than human
actions themselves, if they would make distinct abstract ideas of
all the varieties which might be observed in them, the number must
be infinite, and the memory confounded with the plenty, as well as
overcharged to little purpose. It suffices that men make and name so
many complex ideas of these mixed modes as they find they have
occasion to have names for, in the ordinary occurrence of their
affairs. If they join to the idea of killing the idea of father or
mother, and so make a distinct species from killing a man's son or
neighbour, it is because of the different heinousness of the crime,
and the distinct punishment is, due to the murdering a man's father
and mother, different to what ought to be inflicted on the murderer of
a son or neighbour; and therefore they find it necessary to mention it
by a distinct name, which is the end of making that distinct
combination. But though the ideas of mother and daughter are so
differently treated, in reference to the idea of killing, that the one
is joined with it to make a distinct abstract idea with a name, and so
a distinct species, and the other not; yet, in respect of carnal
knowledge, they are both taken in under incest: and that still for the
same convenience of expressing under one name, and reckoning of one
species, such unclean mixtures as have a peculiar turpitude beyond
others; and this to avoid circumlocutions and tedious descriptions.
8. Whereof the intranslatable words of divers languages are a proof.
A moderate skill in different languages will easily satisfy one of the
truth of this, it being so obvious to observe great store of words
in one language which have not any that answer them in another.
Which plainly shows that those of one country, by their customs and
manner of life, have found occasion to make several complex ideas, and
given names to them, which others never collected into specific ideas.
This could not have happened if these species were the steady
workmanship of nature, and not collections made and abstracted by
the mind, in order to naming, and for the convenience of
communication. The terms of our law, which are not empty sounds,
will hardly find words that answer them in the Spanish or Italian,
no scanty languages; much less, I think, could any one translate
them into the Caribbee or Westoe tongues: and the versura of the
Romans, or corban of the Jews, have no words in other languages to
answer them; the reason whereof is plain, from what has been said.
Nay, if we look a little more nearly into this matter, and exactly
compare different languages, we shall find that, though they have
words which in translations and dictionaries are supposed to answer
one another, yet there is scarce one of ten amongst the names of
complex ideas, especially of mixed modes, that stands for the same
precise idea which the word does that in dictionaries it is rendered
by. There are no ideas more common and less compounded than the
measures of time, extension and weight; and the Latin names, hora,
pes, libra, are without difficulty rendered by the English names,
hour, foot, and pound: but yet there is nothing more evident than that
the ideas a Roman annexed to these Latin names, were very far
different from those which an Englishman expresses by those English
ones. And if either of these should make use of the measures that
those of the other language designed by their names, he would be quite
out in his account. These are too sensible proofs to be doubted; and
we shall find this much more so in the names of more abstract and
compounded ideas, such as are the greatest part of those which make up
moral discourses: whose names, when men come curiously to compare with
those they are translated into, in other languages, they will find
very few of them exactly to correspond in the whole extent of their
9. This shows species to be made for communication. The reason why I
take so particular notice of this is, that we may not be mistaken
about genera and species, and their essences, as if they were things
regularly and constantly made by nature, and had a real existence in
things; when they appear, upon a more wary survey, to be nothing
else but an artifice of the understanding, for the easier signifying
such collections of ideas as it should often have occasion to
communicate by one general term; under which divers particulars, as
far forth as they agreed to that abstract idea, might be comprehended.
And if the doubtful signification of the word species may make it
sound harsh to some, that I say the species of mixed modes are "made
by the understanding"; yet, I think, it can by nobody be denied that
it is the mind makes those abstract complex ideas to which specific
names are given. And if it be true, as it is, that the mind makes
the patterns for sorting and naming of things, I leave it to be
considered who makes the boundaries of the sort or species; since with
me species and sort have no other difference than that of a Latin
and English idiom.
10. In mixed modes it is the name that ties the combination of
simple ideas together, and makes it a species. The near relation
that there is between species, essences, and their general name, at
least in mixed modes, will further appear when we consider, that it is
the name that seems to preserve those essences, and give them their
lasting duration. For, the connexion between the loose parts of
those complex ideas being made by the mind, this union, which has no
particular foundation in nature, would cease again, were there not
something that did, as it were, hold it together, and keep the parts
from scattering. Though therefore it be the mind that makes the
collection, it is the name which is as it were the knot that ties them
fast together. What a vast variety of different ideas does the word
triumphus hold together, and deliver to us as one species! Had this
name been never made, or quite lost, we might, no doubt, have had
descriptions of what passed in that solemnity: but yet, I think,
that which holds those different parts together, in the unity of one
complex idea, is that very word annexed to it; without which the
several parts of that would no more be thought to make one thing, than
any other show, which having never been made but once, had never
been united into one complex idea, under one denomination. How much,
therefore, in mixed modes, the unity necessary to any essence
depends on the mind; and how much the continuation and fixing of
that unity depends on the name in common use annexed to it, I leave to
be considered by those who look upon essences and species as real
established things in nature.
11. Suitable to this, we find that men speaking of mixed modes,
seldom imagine or take any other for species of them, but such as
are set out by name: because they, being of man's making only, in
order to naming, no such species are taken notice of, or supposed to
be, unless a name be joined to it, as the sign of man's having
combined into one idea several loose ones; and by that name giving a
lasting union to the parts which would otherwise cease to have any, as
soon as the mind laid by that abstract idea, and ceased actually to
think on it. But when a name is once annexed to it, wherein the
parts of that complex idea have a settled and permanent union, then is
the essence, as it were, established, and the species looked on as
complete. For to what purpose should the memory charge itself with
such compositions, unless it were by abstraction to make them general?
And to what purpose make them general, unless it were that they
might have general names for the convenience of discourse and
communication? Thus we see, that killing a man with a sword or a
hatchet are looked on as no distinct species of action; but if the
point of the sword first enter the body, it passes for a distinct
species, where it has a distinct name, as in England, in whose
language it is called stabbing: but in another country, where it has
not happened to be specified under a peculiar name, it passes not
for a distinct species. But in the species of corporeal substances,
though it be the mind that makes the nominal essence, yet, since those
ideas which are combined in it are supposed to have an union in nature
whether the mind joins them or not, therefore those are looked on as
distinct species, without any operation of the mind, either
abstracting, or giving a name to that complex idea.
12. For the originals of our mixed modes, we look no further than
the mind; which also shows them to he the workmanship of the
understanding. Conformable also to what has been said concerning the
essences of the species of mixed modes, that they are the creatures of
the understanding rather than the works of nature; conformable, I say,
to this, we find that their names lead our thoughts to the mind, and
no further. When we speak of justice, or gratitude, we frame to
ourselves no imagination of anything existing, which we would
conceive; but our thoughts terminate in the abstract ideas of those
virtues, and look not further; as they do when we speak of a horse, or
iron, whose specific ideas we consider not as barely in the mind,
but as in things themselves, which afford the original patterns of
those ideas. But in mixed modes, at least the most considerable
parts of them, which are moral beings, we consider the original
patterns as being in the mind, and to those we refer for the
distinguishing of particular beings under names. And hence I think
it is that these essences of the species of mixed modes are by a
more particular name called notions; as, by a peculiar right,
appertaining to the understanding.
13. Their being made by the understanding without patterns, shows
the reason why they are so compounded. Hence, likewise, we may learn
why the complex ideas of mixed modes are commonly more compounded
and decompounded than those of natural substances. Because they
being the workmanship of the understanding, pursuing only its own
ends, and the conveniency of expressing in short those ideas it
would make known to another, it does with great liberty unite often
into one abstract idea things that, in their nature, have no
coherence; and so under one term bundle together a great variety of
compounded and decompounded ideas. Thus the name of procession: what a
great mixture of independent ideas of persons, habits, tapers, orders,
motions, sounds, does it contain in that complex one, which the mind
of man has arbitrarily put together, to express by that one name?
Whereas the complex ideas of the sorts of substances are usually
made up of only a small number of simple ones; and in the species of
animals, these two, viz. shape and voice, commonly make the whole
nominal essence.
14. Names of mixed modes stand always for their real essences, which
are the workmanship of our minds. Another thing we may observe from
what has been said is, That the names of mixed modes always signify
(when they have any determined signification) the real essences of
their species. For, these abstract ideas being the workmanship of
the mind, and not referred to the real existence of things, there is
no supposition of anything more signified by that name, but barely
that complex idea the mind itself has formed; which is all it would
have expressed by it; and is that on which all the properties of the
species depend, and from which alone they all flow: and so in these
the real and nominal essence is the same; which, of what concernment
it is to the certain knowledge of general truth, we shall see
15. Why their names are usually got before their ideas. This also
may show us the reason why for the most part the names of fixed
modes are got before the ideas they stand for are perfectly known.
Because there being no species of these ordinarily taken notice of but
what have names, and those species, 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 confess 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 frequent
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 substances 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.
16. Reason of my being so large on this subject. What has been
said here of mixed modes is, with very little difference, applicable
also to relations; which, since every man himself may observe, I may
spare myself the pains to enlarge on: especially, since what I have
here said concerning Words in this third Book, 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 every
one'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 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 may 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 further to say concerning
this matter.
Chapter VI
Of the Names of Substances

1. The common names of substances stand for sorts. The common
names of substances, 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 substances do or might agree,
by virtue of which they are capable of being comprehended in one
common conception, and signified by one name. I say 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, genera 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.
2. The essence of each sort of substance is our abstract idea to
which the name is annexed. The measure and boundary of each sort or
species, whereby it is constituted that particular sort, and
distinguished from others, is that we call its essence, which is
nothing but that abstract idea to which the name is annexed; so that
everything 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 sorts, 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
3. The nominal and real essence different. For, though perhaps
voluntary motion, with sense and reason, joined to a body of a certain
shape, be the complex idea to which I and others annex the name 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 Strasburg, from that which a gazing countryman has of it, who
barely sees the motion of the hand, and hears the clock strike, and
observes only some of the outward appearances.
4. Nothing essential to individuals. That essence, in the ordinary
use of the word, relates to sorts, and that it is considered in
particular beings no further 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 anything 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 memory, 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
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, till the 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 than 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 that name; since that
abstract idea is the very essence of that species.
5. The only essences perceived by us in individual substances are
those qualities which entitle them to receive their names. 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 entitled 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 from it, would any one question whether it
wanted anything essential? It would be absurd to ask, Whether a
thing really existing wanted anything essential to it. Or could it
be demanded, Whether this made an essential or specific difference
or no, since we have no other measure of essential or specific but our
abstract ideas? And to talk of specific differences in nature, without
reference to general ideas in names, is to talk unintelligibly. For
I would ask any one, What is sufficient to make an essential
difference in nature between any two particular beings, without any
regard had to some abstract idea, which is looked upon as the
essence and standard of a species? All such patterns and standards
being quite laid aside, particular beings, considered barely in
themselves, will be found to have all their qualities equally
essential; and everything in each individual will be essential to
it; or, which is more, nothing at all. For, though it may be
reasonable to ask, Whether obeying the magnet be essential to iron?
yet I think it is very improper and insignificant to ask, whether it
be essential to the particular parcel of matter I cut my pen with;
without considering it under the name, iron, or as being of a
certain species. And if, as has been said, our abstract ideas, which
have names annexed to them, are the boundaries of species, nothing can
be essential but what is contained in those ideas.
6. Even the real essences of individual substances imply potential
sorts. It is true, I have often mentioned a real essence, distinct
in substances from those abstract ideas of them, which I call their
nominal essence. By this real essence I mean, that real constitution
of anything, which is the foundation of all those properties that
are combined in, and are constantly found to co-exist with the nominal
essence; that particular constitution which everything has within
itself, without any relation to anything without it. But essence, even
in this sense, relates to a sort, and supposes a species. For, being
that real constitution on which the properties depend, it
necessarily supposes a sort of things, properties belonging only to
species, and not to individuals: v.g. supposing the nominal essence of
gold to be a body of such a peculiar colour and weight, with
malleability and fusibility, the real essence is that constitution
of the parts of matter on which these qualities and their union
depend; and is also the foundation of its solubility in aqua regia and
other properties, accompanying that complex idea. Here are essences
and properties, but all upon supposition of a sort or general abstract
idea, which is considered as immutable; but there is no individual
parcel of matter to which any of these qualities are so annexed as
to be essential to it or inseparable from it. That which is
essential belongs to it as a condition whereby it is of this or that
sort: but take away the consideration of its being ranked under the
name of some abstract idea, and then there is nothing necessary to it,
nothing inseparable from it. Indeed, as to the real essences of
substances, we only suppose their being, without precisely knowing
what they are; but that which annexes them still to the species is the
nominal essence, of which they are the supposed foundation and cause.
7. The nominal essence bounds the species for us. The next thing
to be considered is, by which of those essences it is that
substances are determined into sorts or species; and that, it is
evident, is by the nominal essence. For it is that alone that the
name, which is the mark of the sort, signifies. It is impossible,
therefore, that anything should determine the sorts of things, which
we rank under general names, but that idea which that name is designed
as a mark for; which is that, as has been shown, which we call nominal
essence. Why do we say this is a horse, and that a mule; this is an
animal, that an herb? How comes any particular thing to be of this
or that sort, but because it has that nominal essence; or, which is
all one, agrees to that abstract idea, that name is annexed to? And
I desire any one but to reflect on his own thoughts, when he hears
or speaks any of those or other names of substances, to know what sort
of essences they stand for.
8. The nature of species, as formed by us. And that the species of
things to us are nothing but the ranking them under distinct names,
according to the complex ideas in us, and not according to precise,
distinct, real essences in them, is plain from hence:- That we find
many of the individuals that are ranked into one sort, called by one
common name, and so received as being of one species, have yet
qualities, depending on their real constitutions, as far different one
from another as from others from which they are accounted to differ
specifically. This, as it is easy to be observed by all who have to do
with natural bodies, so chemists especially are often, by sad
experience, convinced of it, when they, sometimes in vain, seek for
the same qualities in one parcel of sulphur, antimony, or vitriol,
which they have found in others. For, though they are bodies of the
same species, having the same nominal essence, under the same name,
yet do they often, upon severe ways of examination, betray qualities
so different one from another, as to frustrate the expectation and
labour of very wary chemists. But if things were distinguished into
species, according to their real essences, it would be as impossible
to find different properties in any two individual substances of the
same species, as it is to find different properties in two circles, or
two equilateral triangles. That is properly the essence to us, which
determines every particular to this or that classis; or, which is
the same thing, to this or that general name: and what can that be
else, but that abstract idea to which that name is annexed; and so
has, in truth, a reference, not so much to the being of particular
things, as to their general denominations?
9. Not the real essence, or texture of parts, which we know not. Nor
indeed can we rank and sort things, and consequently (which is the end
of sorting) denominate them, by their real essences; because we know
them not. Our faculties carry us no further towards the knowledge
and distinction of substances, than a collection of those sensible
ideas which we observe in them; which, however made with the
greatest diligence and exactness we are capable of, yet is more remote
from the true internal constitution from which those qualities flow,
than, as I said, a countryman's idea is from the inward contrivance of
that famous clock at Strasburg, whereof he only sees the outward
figure and motions. There is not so contemptible a plant or animal,
that does not confound the most enlarged understanding. Though the
familiar use of things about us take off our wonder, yet it cures
not our ignorance. When we come to examine the stones we tread on,
or the iron we daily handle, we presently find we know not their make;
and can give no reason of the different qualities we find in them.
It is evident the internal constitution, whereon their properties
depend, is unknown to us: for to go no further than the grossest and
most obvious we can imagine amongst them, What is that texture of
parts, that real essence, that makes lead and antimony fusible, wood
and stones not? What makes lead and iron malleable, antimony and
stones not? And yet how infinitely these come short of the fine
contrivances and inconceivable real essences of plants or animals,
every one knows. The workmanship of the all-wise and powerful God in
the great fabric of the universe, and every part thereof, further
exceeds the capacity and comprehension of the most inquisitive and
intelligent man, than the best contrivance of the most ingenious man
doth the conceptions of the most ignorant of rational creatures.
Therefore we in vain pretend to range things into sorts, and dispose
them into certain classes under names, by their real essences, that
are so far from our discovery or comprehension. A blind man may as
soon sort things by their colours, and he that has lost his smell as
well distinguish a lily and a rose by their odours, as by those
internal constitutions which he knows not. He that thinks he can
distinguish sheep and goats by their real essences, that are unknown
to him, may be pleased to try his skill in those species called
cassiowary and querechinchio; and by their internal real essences
determine the boundaries of those species, without knowing the complex
idea of sensible qualities that each of those names stand for, in
the countries where those animals are to be found.
10. Not the substantial form, which we know less. Those,
therefore, who have been taught that the several species of substances
had their distinct internal substantial forms, and that it was those
forms which made the distinction of substances into their true species
and genera, were led yet further out of the way by having their
minds set upon fruitless inquiries after "substantial forms"; wholly
unintelligible, and whereof we have scarce so much as any obscure or
confused conception in general.
11. That the nominal essence is that only whereby we distinguish
species of substances, further evident, from our ideas of finite
spirits and of God. That our ranking and distinguishing natural
substances into species consists in the nominal essences the mind
makes, and not in the real essences to be found in the things
themselves, is further evident from our ideas of spirits. For the mind
getting, only by reflecting on its own operations, those simple
ideas which it attributes to spirits, it hath or can have no other
notion of spirit but by attributing all those operations it finds in
itself to a sort of beings; without consideration of matter. And
even the most advanced notion we have of GOD is but attributing the
same simple ideas which we have got from reflection on what we find in
ourselves, and which we conceive to have more perfection in them
than would be in their absence; attributing, I say, those simple ideas
to Him in an unlimited degree. Thus, having got from reflecting on
ourselves the idea of existence, knowledge, power and pleasure- each
of which we find it better to have than to want; and the more we
have of each the better- joining all these together, with infinity
to each of them, we have the complex idea of an eternal, omniscient,
omnipotent, infinitely wise and happy being. And though we are told
that there are different species of angels; yet we know not how to
frame distinct specific ideas of them: not out of any conceit that the
existence of more species than one of spirits is impossible; but
because having no more simple ideas (nor being able to frame more)
applicable to such beings, but only those few taken from ourselves,
and from the actions of our own minds in thinking, and being
delighted, and moving several parts of our bodies; we can no otherwise
distinguish in our conceptions the several species of spirits, one
from another, but by attributing those operations and powers we find
in ourselves to them in a higher or lower degree; and so have no
very distinct specific ideas of spirits, except only of GOD, to whom
we attribute both duration and all those other ideas with infinity; to
the other spirits, with limitation: nor, as I humbly conceive, do
we, between GOD and them in our ideas, put any difference, by any
number of simple ideas which we have of one and not of the other,
but only that of infinity. All the particular ideas of existence,
knowledge, will, power, and motion, &c., being ideas derived from
the operations of our minds, we attribute all of them to all sorts
of spirits, with the difference only of degrees; to the utmost we
can imagine, even infinity, when we would frame as well as we can an
idea of the First Being; who yet, it is certain, is infinitely more
remote, in the real excellency of his nature, from the highest and
perfectest of all created beings, than the greatest man, nay, purest
seraph, is from the most contemptible part of matter; and consequently
must infinitely exceed what our narrow understandings can conceive
of Him.
12. Of finite spirits there are probably numberless species, in a
continuous series or gradation. It is not impossible to conceive,
nor repugnant to reason, that there may be many species of spirits, as
much separated and diversified one from another by distinct properties
whereof we have no ideas, as the species of sensible things are
distinguished one from another by qualities which we know and
observe in them. That there should be more species of intelligent
creatures above us, than there are of sensible and material below
us, is probable to me from hence: that in all the visible corporeal
world, we see no chasms or gaps. All quite down from us the descent is
by easy steps, and a continued series of things, that in each remove
differ very little one from the other. There are fishes that have
wings, and are not strangers to the airy region: and there are some
birds that are inhabitants of the water, whose blood is cold as
fishes, and their flesh so like in taste that the scrupulous are
allowed them on fish-days. There are animals so near of kin both to
birds and beasts that they are in the middle between both:
amphibious animals link the terrestrial and aquatic together; seals
live at land and sea, and porpoises have the warm blood and entrails
of a hog; not to mention what is confidently reported of mermaids,
or sea-men. There are some brutes that seem to have as much
knowledge and reason as some that are called men: and the animal and
vegetable kingdoms are so nearly joined, that, if you will take the
lowest of one and the highest of the other, there will scarce be
perceived any great difference between them: and so on, till we come
to the lowest and the most inorganical parts of matter, we shall
find everywhere that the several species are linked together, and
differ but in almost insensible degrees. And when we consider the
infinite power and wisdom of the Maker, we have reason to think that
it is suitable to the magnificent harmony of the universe, and the
great design and infinite goodness of the Architect, that the
species of creatures should also, by gentle degrees, ascend upward
from us toward his infinite perfection, as we see they gradually
descend from us downwards: which if it be probable, we have reason
then to be persuaded that there are far more species of creatures
above us than there are beneath; we being, in degrees of perfection,
much more remote from the infinite being of GOD than we are from the
lowest state of being, and that which approaches nearest to nothing.
And yet of all those distinct species, for the reasons above said,
we have no clear distinct ideas.
13. The nominal essence that of the species, as conceived by us,
proved from water and ice. But to return to the species of corporeal
substances. If I should ask any one whether ice and water were two
distinct species of things, I doubt not but I should be answered in
the affirmative: and it cannot be denied but he that says they are two
distinct species is in the right. But if an Englishman bred in
Jamaica, who perhaps had never seen nor heard of ice, coming into
England in the winter, find the water he put in his basin at night
in a great part frozen in the morning, and, not knowing any peculiar
name it had, should call it hardened water; I ask whether this would
be a new species to him, different from water? And I think it would be
answered here, It would not be to him a new species, no more than
congealed jelly, when it is cold, is a distinct species from the
same jelly fluid and warm; or than liquid gold in the furnace is a
distinct species from hard gold in the hands of a workman. And if this
be so, it is plain that our distinct species are nothing but
distinct complex ideas, with distinct names annexed to them. It is
true every substance that exists has its peculiar constitution,
whereon depend those sensible qualities and powers we observe in it;
but the ranking of things into species (which is nothing but sorting
them under several titles) is done by us according to the ideas that
we have of them: which, though sufficient to distinguish them by
names, so that we may be able to discourse of them when we have them
not present before us; yet if we suppose it to be done by their real
internal constitutions, and that things existing are distinguished
by nature into species, by real essences, according as we
distinguish them into species by names, we shall be liable to great
14. Difficulties in the supposition of a certain number of real
essences. To distinguish substantial beings into species, according to
the usual supposition, that there are certain precise essences or
forms of things, whereby all the individuals existing are, by nature
distinguished into species, these things are necessary:-
15. A crude supposition. First, To be assured that nature, in the
production of things, always designs them to partake of certain
regulated established essences, which are to be the models of all
things to be produced. This, in that crude sense it is usually
proposed, would need some better explication, before it can fully be
assented to.
16. Monstrous births. Secondly, It would be necessary to know
whether nature always attains that essence it designs in the
production of things. The irregular and monstrous births, that in
divers sorts of animals have been observed, will always give us reason
to doubt of one or both of these.
17. Are monsters really a distinct species? Thirdly, It ought to
be determined whether those we call monsters be really a distinct
species, according to the scholastic notion of the word species; since
it is certain that everything that exists has its particular
constitution. And yet we find that some of these monstrous productions
have few or none of those qualities which are supposed to result from,
and accompany, the essence of that species from whence, they derive
their originals, and to which, by their descent, they seem to belong.
18. Men can have no ideas of real essences. Fourthly, The real
essences of those things which we distinguish into species, and as
so distinguished we name, ought to be known; i.e. we ought to have
ideas of them. But since we are ignorant in these four points, the
supposed real essences of things stand us not in stead for the
distinguishing substances into species.
19. Our nominal essences of substances not perfect collections of
the properties that flow from their real essences. Fifthly, The only
imaginable help in this case would be, that, having framed perfect
complex ideas of the properties of things flowing from their different
real essences, we should thereby distinguish them into species. But
neither can this be done. For, being ignorant of the real essence
itself, it is impossible to know all those properties that flow from
it, and are so annexed to it, that any one of them being away, we
may certainly conclude that that essence is not there, and so the
thing is not of that species. We can never know what is the precise
number of properties depending on the real essence of gold, any one of
which failing, the real essence of gold, and consequently gold,
would not be there, unless we knew the real essence of gold itself,
and by that determined that species. By the word gold here, I must
be understood to design a particular piece of matter; v.g. the last
guinea that was coined. For, if it should stand here, in its
ordinary signification, for that complex idea which I or any one
else calls gold, i.e. for the nominal essence of gold, it would be
jargon. So hard is it to show the various meaning and imperfection
of words, when we have nothing else but words to do it by.
20. Hence names independent of real essences. By all which it is
clear, that our distinguishing substances into species by names, is
not at all founded on their real essences; nor can we pretend to range
and determine them exactly into species, according to internal
essential differences.
21. But stand for such a collection of simple substances, as we have
made the name stand for. But since, as has been remarked, we have need
of general words, though we know not the real essences of things;
all we can do is, to collect such a number of simple ideas as, by
examination, we find to be united together in things existing, and
thereof to make one complex idea. Which, though it be not the real
essence of any substance that exists, is yet the specific essence to
which our name belongs, and is convertible with it; by which we may at
least try the truth of these nominal essences. For example: there be
that say that the essence of body is extension; if it be so, we can
never mistake in putting the essence of anything for the thing itself.
Let us then in discourse put extension for body, and when we would say
that body moves, let us say that extension moves, and see how ill it
will look. He that should say that one extension by impulse moves
another extension, would, by the bare expression, sufficiently show
the absurdity of such a notion. The essence of anything in respect
of us, is the whole complex idea comprehended and marked by that name;
and in substances, besides the several distinct simple ideas that make
them up, the confused one of substance, or of an unknown support and
cause of their union, is always a part: and therefore the essence of
body is not bare extension, but an extended solid thing; and so to
say, an extended solid thing moves, or impels another, is all one, and
as intelligible, as to say, body moves or impels. Likewise, to say
that a rational animal is capable of conversation, is all one as to
say a man; but no one will say that rationality is capable of
conversation, because it makes not the whole essence to which we
give the name man.
22. Our abstract ideas are to us the measures of the species we
make: instance in that of man. There are creatures in the world that
have shapes like ours, but are hairy, and want language and reason.
There are naturals amongst us that have perfectly our shape, but
want reason, and some of them language too. There are creatures, as it
is said, (sit fides penes authorem, but there appears no contradiction
that there should be such), that, with language and reason and a shape
in other things agreeing with ours, have hairy tails; others where the
males have no beards, and others where the females have. If it be
asked whether these be all men or no, all of human species? it is
plain, the question refers only to the nominal essence: for those of
them to whom the definition of the word man, or the complex idea
signified by the name, agrees, are men, and the other not. But if
the inquiry be made concerning the supposed real essence; and
whether the internal constitution and frame of these several creatures
be specifically different, it is wholly impossible for us to answer,
no part of that going into our specific idea: only we have reason to
think, that where the faculties or outward frame so much differs,
the internal constitution is not exactly the same. But what difference
in the real internal constitution makes a specific difference it is in
vain to inquire; whilst our measures of species be, as they are,
only our abstract ideas, which we know; and not that internal
constitution, which makes no part of them. Shall the difference of
hair only on the skin be a mark of a different internal specific
constitution between a changeling and a drill, when they agree in
shape, and want of reason and speech? And shall not the want of reason
and speech be a sign to us of different real constitutions and species
between a changeling and a reasonable man? And so of the rest, if we
pretend that distinction of species or sorts is fixedly established by
the real frame and secret constitutions of things.
23. Species in animals not distinguished by generation. Nor let
any one say, that the power of propagation in animals by the mixture
of male and female, and in plants by seeds, keeps the supposed real
species distinct and entire. For, granting this to be true, it would
help us in the distinction of the species of things no further than
the tribes of animals and vegetables. What must we do for the rest?
But in those too it is not sufficient: for if history lie not, women
have conceived by drills; and what real species, by that measure, such
a production will be in nature will be a new question: and we have
reason to think this is not impossible, since mules and jumarts, the
one from the mixture of an ass and a mare, the other from the
mixture of a bull and a mare, are so frequent in the world. I once saw
a creature that was the issue of a cat and a rat, and had the plain
marks of both about it; wherein nature appeared to have followed the
pattern of neither sort alone, but to have jumbled them both together.
To which he that shall add the monstrous productions that are so
frequently to be met with in nature, will find it hard, even in the
race of animals, to determine by the pedigree of what species every
animal's issue is; and be at a loss about the real essence, which he
thinks certainly conveyed by generation, and has alone a right to
the specific name. But further, if the species of animals and plants
are to be distinguished only by propagation, must I go to the Indies
to see the sire and dam of the one, and the plant from which the
seed was gathered that produced the other, to know whether this be a
tiger or that tea?
24. Not by substantial forms. Upon the whole matter, it is evident
that it is their own collections of sensible qualities that men make
the essences of their several sorts of substances; and that their real
internal structures are not considered by the greatest part of men
in the sorting them. Much less were any substantial forms ever thought
on by any but those who have in this one part of the world learned the
language of the schools: and yet those ignorant men, who pretend not
any insight into the real essences, nor trouble themselves about
substantial forms, but are content with knowing things one from
another by their sensible qualities, are often better acquainted
with their differences; can more nicely distinguish them from their
uses; and better know what they expect from each, than those learned
quick-sighted men, who look so deep into them, and talk so confidently
of something more hidden and essential.
25. The specific essences that are commonly made by men. But
supposing that the real essences of substances were discoverable by
those that would severely apply themselves to that inquiry, yet we
could not reasonably think that the ranking of things under general
names was regulated by those internal real constitutions, or
anything else but their obvious appearances; since languages, in all
countries, have been established long before sciences. So that they
have not been philosophers or logicians, or such who have troubled
themselves about forms and essences, that have made the general
names that are in use amongst the several nations of men: but those
more or less comprehensive terms have, for the most part, in all
languages, received their birth and signification from ignorant and
illiterate people, who sorted and denominated things by those sensible
qualities they found in them; thereby to signify them, when absent, to
others, whether they had an occasion to mention a sort or a particular
26. Therefore very various and uncertain in the ideas of different
men. Since then it is evident that we sort and name substances by
their nominal and not by their real essences, the next thing to be
considered is how, and by whom these essences come to be made. As to
the latter, it is evident they are made by the mind, and not by
nature: for were they Nature's workmanship, they could not be so
various and different in several men as experience tells us they
are. For if we will examine it, we shall not find the nominal
essence of any one species of substances in all men the same: no,
not of that which of all others we are the most intimately
acquainted with. It could not possibly be that the abstract idea to
which the name man is given should be different in several men, if
it were of Nature's making; and that to one it should be animal
rationale, and to another, animal implume bipes latis unguibus. He
that annexes the name to a complex idea, made up of sense and
spontaneous motion, joined to a body of such a shape, has thereby
one essence of the species man; and he that, upon further examination,
adds rationality, has another essence of the species he calls man:
by which means the same individual will be a true man to the one which
is not so to the other. I think there is scarce any one will allow
this upright figure, so well known, to be the essential difference
of the species man; and yet how far men determine of the sorts of
animals rather by their shape than descent, is very visible; since
it has been more than once debated, whether several human foetuses
should be preserved or received to baptism or no, only because of
the difference of their outward configuration from the ordinary make
of children, without knowing whether they were not as capable of
reason as infants cast in another mould: some whereof, though of an
approved shape, are never capable of as much appearance of reason
all their lives as is to be found in an ape, or an elephant, and never
give any signs of being acted by a rational soul. Whereby it is
evident, that the outward figure, which only was found wanting, and
not the faculty of reason, which nobody could know would be wanting in
its due season, was made essential to the human species. The learned
divine and lawyer must, on such occasions, renounce his sacred
definition of animal rationale, and substitute some other essence of
the human species. Monsieur Menage furnishes us with an example
worth the taking notice of on this occasion: "When the abbot of
Saint Martin," says he, "was born, he had so little of the figure of a
man, that it bespake him rather a monster. It was for some time
under deliberation, whether he should be baptized or no. However, he
was baptized, and declared a man provisionally till time should show
what he would prove. Nature had moulded him so untowardly, that he was
called all his life the Abbot Malotru; i.e. ill-shaped. He was of
Caen." (Menagiana, 278, 430.) This child, we see, was very near
being excluded out of the species of man, barely by his shape. He
escaped very narrowly as he was; and it is certain, a figure a
little more oddly turned had cast him, and he had been executed, as
a thing not to be allowed to pass for a man. And yet there can be no
reason given why, if the lineaments of his face had been a little
altered, a rational soul could not have been lodged in him; why a
visage somewhat longer, or a nose flatter, or a wider mouth, could not
have consisted, as well as the rest of his ill figure, with such a
soul, such parts, as made him, disfigured as he was, capable to be a
dignitary in the church.
27. Nominal essences of particular substances are undetermined by
nature, and therefore various as men vary. Wherein, then, would I
gladly know, consist the precise and unmovable boundaries of that
species? It is plain, if we examine, there is no such thing made by
Nature, and established by her amongst men. The real essence of that
or any other sort of substances, it is evident, we know not; and
therefore are so undetermined in our nominal essences, which we make
ourselves, that, if several men were to be asked concerning some oddly
shaped foetus, as soon as born, whether it were a man or no, it is
past doubt one should meet with different answers. Which could not
happen, if the nominal essences, whereby we limit and distinguish
the species of substances, were not made by man with some liberty; but
were exactly copied from precise boundaries set by nature, whereby
it distinguished all substances into certain species. Who would
undertake to resolve what species that monster was of which is
mentioned by Licetus (Bk. i. c. 3), with a man's head and hog's
body? Or those other which to the bodies of men had the heads of
beasts, as dogs, horses, &c. If any of these creatures had lived,
and could have spoke, it would have increased the difficulty. Had
the upper part to the middle been of human shape, and all below swine,
had it been murder to destroy it? Or must the bishop have been
consulted, whether it were man enough to be admitted to the font or
no? As I have been told it happened in France some years since, in
somewhat a like case. So uncertain are the boundaries of species of
animals to us, who have no other measures than the complex ideas of
our own collecting: and so far are we from certainly knowing what a
man is; though perhaps it will be judged great ignorance to make any
doubt about it. And yet I think I may say, that the certain boundaries
of that species are so far from being determined, and the precise
number of simple ideas which make the nominal essence so far from
being settled and perfectly known, that very material doubts may still
arise about it. And I imagine none of the definitions of the word
man which we yet have, nor descriptions of that sort of animal, are so
perfect and exact as to satisfy a considerate inquisitive person; much
less to obtain a general consent, and to be that which men would
everywhere stick by, in the decision of cases, and determining of life
and death, baptism or no baptism, in productions that might happen.
28. But not so arbitrary as mixed modes. But though these nominal
essences of substances are made by the mind, they are not yet made
so arbitrarily as those of mixed modes. To the making of any nominal
essence, it is necessary, First, that the ideas whereof it consists
have such a union as to make but one idea, how compounded soever.
Secondly, that the particular ideas so united be exactly the same,
neither more nor less. For if two abstract complex ideas differ either
in number or sorts of their component parts, they make two
different, and not one and the same essence. In the first of these,
the mind, in making its complex ideas of substances, only follows
nature; and puts none together which are not supposed to have a
union in nature. Nobody joins the voice of a sheep with the shape of a
horse; nor the colour of lead with the weight and fixedness of gold,
to be the complex ideas of any real substances; unless he has a mind
to fill his head with chimeras, and his discourse with
unintelligible words. Men observing certain qualities always joined
and existing together, therein copied nature; and of ideas so united
made their complex ones of substances. For, though men may make what
complex ideas they please, and give what names to them they will; yet,
if they will be understood when they speak of things really
existing, they must in some degree conform their ideas to the things
they would speak of; or else men's language will be like that of
Babel; and every man's words, being intelligible only to himself,
would no longer serve to conversation and the ordinary affairs of
life, if the ideas they stand for be not some way answering the common
appearances and agreement of substances as they really exist.
29. Our nominal essences of substances usually consist of a few
obvious qualities observed in things. Secondly, Though the mind of
man, in making its complex ideas of substances, never puts any
together that do not really, or are not supposed to, co-exist; and
so it truly borrows that union from nature: yet the number it combines
depends upon the various care, industry, or fancy of him that makes
it. Men generally content themselves with some few sensible obvious
qualities; and often, if not always, leave out others as material
and as firmly united as those that they take. Of sensible substances
there are two sorts: one of organized bodies, which are propagated
by seed; and in these the shape is that which to us is the leading
quality, and most characteristical part, that determines the
species. And therefore in vegetables and animals, an extended solid
substance of such a certain figure usually serves the turn. For
however some men seem to prize their definition of animal rationale,
yet should there a creature be found that had language and reason, but
partaked not of the usual shape of a man, I believe it would hardly
pass for a man, how much soever it were animal rationale. And if
Balaam's ass had all his life discoursed as rationally as he did
once with his master, I doubt yet whether any one would have thought
him worthy the name man, or allowed him to be of the same species with
himself. As in vegetables and animals it is the shape, so in most
other bodies, not propagated by seed, it is the colour we must fix on,
and are most led by. Thus where we find the colour of gold, we are apt
to imagine all the other qualities comprehended in our complex idea to
be there also: and we commonly take these two obvious qualities,
viz. shape and colour, for so presumptive ideas of several species,
that in a good picture, we readily say, this is a lion, and that a
rose; this is a gold, and that a silver goblet, only by the
different figures and colours represented to the eye by the pencil.
30. Yet, imperfect as they thus are, they serve for common converse.
But though this serves well enough for gross and confused conceptions,
and inaccurate ways of talking and thinking; yet men are far enough
from having agreed on the precise number of simple ideas or
qualities belonging to any sort of things, signified by its name.
Nor is it a wonder; since it requires much time, pains, and skill,
strict inquiry, and long examination to find out what, and how many,
those simple ideas are, which are constantly and inseparably united in
nature, and are always to be found together in the same subject.
Most men, wanting either time, inclination, or industry enough for
this, even to some tolerable degree, content themselves with some
few obvious and outward appearances of things, thereby readily to
distinguish and sort them for the common affairs of life: and so,
without further examination, give them names, or take up the names
already in use. Which, though in common conversation they pass well
enough for the signs of some few obvious qualities co-existing, are
yet far enough from comprehending, in a settled signification, a
precise number of simple ideas, much less all those which are united
in nature. He that shall consider, after so much stir about genus
and species, and such a deal of talk of specific differences, how
few words we have yet settled definitions of, may with reason imagine,
that those forms which there hath been so much noise made about are
only chimeras, which give us no light into the specific natures of
things. And he that shall consider how far the names of substances are
from having significations wherein all who use them do agree, will
have reason to conclude that, though the nominal essences of
substances are all supposed to be copied from nature, yet they are
all, or most of them, very imperfect. Since the composition of those
complex ideas are, in several men, very different: and therefore
that these boundaries of species are as men, and not as Nature,
makes them, if at least there are in nature any such prefixed
bounds. It is true that many particular substances are so made by
Nature, that they have agreement and likeness one with another, and so
afford a foundation of being ranked into sorts. But the sorting of
things by us, or the making of determinate species, being in order
to naming and comprehending them under general terms, I cannot see how
it can be properly said, that Nature sets the boundaries of the
species of things: or, if it be so, our boundaries of species are
not exactly conformable to those in nature. For we, having need of
general names for present use, stay not for a perfect discovery of all
those qualities which would best show us their most material
differences and agreements; but we ourselves divide them, by certain
obvious appearances, into species, that we may the easier under
general names communicate our thoughts about them. For, having no
other knowledge of any substance but of the simple ideas that are
united in it; and observing several particular things to agree with
others in several of those simple ideas; we make that collection our
specific idea, and give it a general name; that in recording our
thoughts, and in our discourse with others, we may in one short word
designate all the individuals that agree in that complex idea, without
enumerating the simple ideas that make it up; and so not waste our
time and breath in tedious descriptions: which we see they are fain to
do who would discourse of any new sort of things they have not yet a
name for.
31. Essences of species under the same name very different in
different minds. But however these species of substances pass well
enough in ordinary conversation, it is plain that this complex idea,
wherein they observe several individuals to agree, is by different men
made very differently; by some more, and others less accurately. In
some, this complex idea contains a greater, and in others a smaller
number of qualities; and so is apparently such as the mind makes it.
The yellow shining colour makes gold to children; others add weight,
malleableness, and fusibility; and others yet other qualities, which
they find joined with that yellow colour, as constantly as its
weight and fusibility. For in all these and the like qualities, one
has as good a right to be put into the complex idea of that
substance wherein they are all joined as another. And therefore
different men, leaving out or putting in several simple ideas which
others do not, according to their various examination, skill, or
observation of that subject, have different essences of gold, which
must therefore be of their own and not of nature's making.
32. The more general our ideas of substances are, the more
incomplete and partial they are. If the number of simple ideas that
make the nominal essence of the lowest species, or first sorting, of
individuals, depends on the mind of man, variously collecting them, it
is much more evident that they do so in the more comprehensive
classes, which, by the masters of logic, are called genera. These
are complex ideas designedly imperfect: and it is visible at first
sight, that several of those qualities that are to be found in the
things themselves are purposely left out of generical ideas. For, as
the mind, to make general ideas comprehending several particulars,
leaves out those of time and place, and such other, that make them
incommunicable to more than one individual; so to make other yet
more general ideas, that may comprehend different sorts, it leaves out
those qualities that distinguish them, and puts into its new
collection only such ideas as are common to several sorts. The same
convenience that made men express several parcels of yellow matter
coming from Guinea and Peru under one name, sets them also upon making
of one name that may comprehend both gold and silver, and some other
bodies of different sorts. This is done by leaving out those
qualities, which are peculiar to each sort, and retaining a complex
idea made up of those that are common to them all. To which the name
metal being annexed, there is a genus constituted; the essence whereof
being that abstract idea, containing only malleableness and
fusibility, with certain degrees of weight and fixedness, wherein some
bodies of several kinds agree, leaves out the colour and other
qualities peculiar to gold and silver, and the other sorts
comprehended under the name metal. Whereby it is plain that men follow
not exactly the patterns set them by nature, when they make their
general ideas of substances; since there is no body to be found
which has barely malleableness and fusibility in it, without other
qualities as inseparable as those. But men, in making their general
ideas, seeking more the convenience of language, and quick dispatch by
short and comprehensive signs, than the true and precise nature of
things as they exist, have, in the framing their abstract ideas,
chiefly pursued that end; which was to be furnished with store of
general and variously comprehensive names. So that in this whole
business of genera and species, the genus, or more comprehensive, is
but a partial conception of what is in the species; and the species
but a partial idea of what is to be found in each individual. If
therefore any one will think that a man, and a horse, and an animal,
and a plant, &c., are distinguished by real essences made by nature,
he must think nature to be very liberal of these real essences, making
one for body, another for an animal, and another for a horse; and
all these essences liberally bestowed upon Bucephalus. But if we would
rightly consider what is done in all these genera and species, or
sorts, we should find that there is no new thing made; but only more
or less comprehensive signs, whereby we may be enabled to express in a
few syllables great numbers of particular things, as they agree in
more or less general conceptions, which we have framed to that
purpose. In all which we may observe, that the more general term is
always the name of a less complex idea; and that each genus is but a
partial conception of the species comprehended under it. So that if
these abstract general ideas be thought to be complete, it can only be
in respect of a certain established relation between them and
certain names which are made use of to signify them; and not in
respect of anything existing, as made by nature.
33. This all accommodated to the end of speech. This is adjusted
to the true end of speech, which is to be the easiest and shortest way
of communicating our notions. For thus he that would discourse of
things, as they agreed in the complex idea of extension and
solidity, needed but use the word body to denote all such. He that
to these would join others, signified by the words life, sense, and
spontaneous motion, needed but use the word animal to signify all
which partaked of those ideas, and he that had made a complex idea
of a body, with life, sense, and motion, with the faculty of
reasoning, and a certain shape joined to it, needed but use the
short monosyllable man, to express all particulars that correspond
to that complex idea. This is the proper business of genus and
species: and this men do without any consideration of real essences,
or substantial forms; which come not within the reach of our knowledge
when we think of those things, nor within the signification of our
words when we discourse with others.
34. Instance in Cassowaries. Were I to talk with any one of a sort
of birds I lately saw in St. James's Park, about three or four feet
high, with a covering of something between feathers and hair, of a
dark brown colour, without wings, but in the place thereof two or
three little branches coming down like sprigs of Spanish broom, long
great legs, with feet only of three claws, and without a tail; I
must make this description of it, and so may make others understand
me. But when I am told that the name of it is cassuaris, I may then
use that word to stand in discourse for all my complex idea
mentioned in that description; though by that word, which is now
become a specific name, I know no more of the real essence or
constitution of that sort of animals than I did before; and knew
probably as much of the nature of that species of birds before I
learned the name, as many Englishmen do of swans or herons, which
are specific names, very well known, of sorts of birds common in
35. Men determine the sorts of substances, which may be sorted
variously. From what has been said, it is evident that men make
sorts of things. For, it being different essences alone that make
different species, it is plain that they who make those abstract ideas
which are the nominal essences do thereby make the species, or sort.
Should there be a body found, having all the other qualities of gold
except malleableness, it would no doubt be made a question whether
it were gold or not, i.e. whether it were of that species. This
could be determined only by that abstract idea to which every one
annexed the name gold: so that it would be true gold to him, and
belong to that species, who included not malleableness in his
nominal essence, signified by the sound gold; and on the other side it
would not be true gold, or of that species, to him who included
malleableness in his specific idea. And who, I pray, is it that
makes these diverse species, even under one and the same name, but men
that make two different abstract ideas, consisting not exactly of
the same collection of qualities? Nor is it a mere supposition to
imagine that a body may exist wherein the other obvious qualities of
gold may be without malleableness; since it is certain that gold
itself will be sometimes so eager, (as artists call it), that it
will as little endure the hammer as glass itself. What we have said of
the putting in, or leaving out of malleableness, in the complex idea
the name gold is by any one annexed to, may be said of its peculiar
weight, fixedness, and several other the like qualities: for
whatever is left out, or put in, it is still the complex idea to which
that name is annexed that makes the species: and as any particular
parcel of matter answers that idea, so the name of the sort belongs
truly to it; and it is of that species. And thus anything is true
gold, perfect metal. All which determination of the species, it is
plain, depends on the understanding of man, making this or that
complex idea.
36. Nature makes the similitudes of substances. This, then, in
short, is the case: Nature makes many particular things, which do
agree one with another in many sensible qualities, and probably too in
their internal frame and constitution: but it is not this real essence
that distinguishes them into species; it is men who, taking occasion
from the qualities they find united in them, and wherein they
observe often several individuals to agree, range them into sorts,
in order to their naming, for the convenience of comprehensive
signs; under which individuals, according to their conformity to
this or that abstract idea, come to be ranked as under ensigns: so
that this is of the blue, that the red regiment; this is a man, that a
drill: and in this, I think, consists the whole business of genus
and species.
37. The manner of sorting particular beings the work of fallible
men, though nature makes things alike. I do not deny but nature, in
the constant production of particular beings, makes them not always
new and various, but very much alike and of kin one to another: but
I think it nevertheless true, that the boundaries of the species,
whereby men sort them, are made by men; since the essences of the
species, distinguished by different names, are, as has been proved, of
man's making, and seldom adequate to the internal nature of the things
they are taken from. So that we may truly say, such a manner of
sorting of things is the workmanship of men.
38. Each abstract idea, with a name to it, makes a nominal
essence. One thing I doubt not but will seem very strange in this
doctrine, which is, that from what has been said it will follow,
that each abstract idea, with a name to it, makes a distinct
species. But who can help it, if truth will have it so? For so it must
remain till somebody can show us the species of things limited and
distinguished by something else; and let us see that general terms
signify not our abstract ideas, but something different from them. I
would fain know why a shock and a hound are not as distinct species as
a spaniel and an elephant. We have no other idea of the different
essence of an elephant and a spaniel, than we have of the different
essence of a shock and a hound; all the essential difference,
whereby we know and distinguish them one from another, consisting only
in the different collection of simple ideas, to which we have given
those different names.
39. How genera and species are related to naming. How much the
making of species and genera is in order to general names; and how
much general names are necessary, if not to the being, yet at least to
the completing of a species, and making it pass for such, will appear,
besides what has been said above concerning ice and water, in a very
familiar example. A silent and a striking watch are but one species to
those who have but one name for them: but he that has the name watch
for one, and clock for the other, and distinct complex ideas to
which those names belong, to him they are different species. It will
be said perhaps, that the inward contrivance and constitution is
different between these two, which the watchmaker has a clear idea of.
And yet it is plain they are but one species to him, when he has but
one name for them. For what is sufficient in the inward contrivance to
make a new species? There are some watches that are made with four
wheels, others with five; is this a specific difference to the
workman? Some have strings and physies, and others none; some have the
balance loose, and others regulated by a spiral spring, and others
by hogs' bristles. Are any or all of these enough to make a specific
difference to the workman, that knows each of these and several
other different contrivances in the internal constitutions of watches?
It is certain each of these hath a real difference from the rest;
but whether it be an essential, a specific difference or no, relates
only to the complex idea to which the name watch is given: as long
as they all agree in the idea which that name stands for, and that
name does not as a generical name comprehend different species under
it, they are not essentially nor specifically different. But if any
one will make minuter divisions, from differences that he knows in the
internal frame of watches, and to such precise complex ideas give
names that shall prevail; they will then be new species, to them who
have those ideas with names to them, and can by those differences
distinguish watches into these several sorts; and then watch will be a
generical name. But yet they would be no distinct species to men
ignorant of clock-work, and the inward contrivances of watches, who
had no other idea but the outward shape and bulk, with the marking
of the hours by the hand. For to them all those other names would be
but synonymous terms for the same idea, and signify no more, nor no
other thing but a watch. Just thus I think it is in natural things.
Nobody will doubt that the wheels or springs (if I may so say) within,
are different in a rational man and a changeling; no more than that
there is a difference in the frame between a drill and a changeling.
But whether one or both these differences be essential or
specifical, is only to be known to us by their agreement or
disagreement with the complex idea that the name man stands for: for
by that alone can it be determined whether one, or both, or neither of
those be a man.
40. Species of artificial things less confused than natural. From
what has been before said, we may see the reason why, in the species
of artificial things, there is generally less confusion and
uncertainty than in natural. Because an artificial thing being a
production of man, which the artificer designed, and therefore well
knows the idea of, the name of it is supposed to stand for no other
idea, nor to import any other essence, than what is certainly to be
known, and easy enough to be apprehended. For the idea or essence of
the several sorts of artificial things, consisting for the most part
in nothing but the determinate figure of sensible parts, and sometimes
motion depending thereon, which the artificer fashions in matter, such
as he finds for his turn; it is not beyond the reach of our
faculties to attain a certain idea thereof; and so settle the
signification of the names whereby the species of artificial things
are distinguished, with less doubt, obscurity, and equivocation than
we can in things natural, whose differences and operations depend upon
contrivances beyond the reach of our discoveries.
41. Artificial things of distinct species. I must be excused here if
I think artificial things are of distinct species as well as
natural: since I find they are as plainly and orderly ranked into
sorts, by different abstract ideas, with general names annexed to
them, as distinct one from another as those of natural substances. For
why should we not think a watch and pistol as distinct species one
from another, as a horse and a dog; they being expressed in our
minds by distinct ideas, and to others by distinct appellations?
42. Substances alone, of all our several sorts of ideas, have proper
names. This is further to be observed concerning substances, that they
alone of all our several sorts of ideas have particular or proper
names, whereby one only particular thing is signified. Because in
simple ideas, modes, and relations, it seldom happens that men have
occasion to mention often this or that particular when it is absent.
Besides, the greatest part of mixed modes, being actions which
perish in their birth, are not capable of a lasting duration, as
substances which are the actors; and wherein the simple ideas that
make up the complex ideas designed by the name have a lasting union.
43. Difficult to lead another by words into the thoughts of things
stripped of those abstract ideas we give them. I must beg pardon of my
reader for having dwelt so long upon this subject, and perhaps with
some obscurity. But I desire it may be considered, how difficult it is
to lead another by words into the thoughts of things, stripped of
those specifical differences we give them: which things, if I name
not, I say nothing; and if I do name them, I thereby rank them into
some sort or other, and suggest to the mind the usual abstract idea of
that species; and so cross my purpose. For, to talk of a man, and to
lay by, at the same time, the ordinary signification of the name
man, which is our complex idea usually annexed to it; and bid the
reader consider man, as he is in himself, and as he is really
distinguished from others in his internal constitution, or real
essence, that is, by something he knows not what, looks like trifling:
and yet thus one must do who would speak of the supposed real essences
and species of things, as thought to be made by nature, if it be but
only to make it understood, that there is no such thing signified by
the general names which substances are called by. But because it is
difficult by known familiar names to do this, give me leave to
endeavour by an example to make the different consideration the mind
has of specific names and ideas a little more clear; and to show how
the complex ideas of modes are referred sometimes to archetypes in the
minds of other intelligent beings, or, which is the same, to the
signification annexed by others to their received names; and sometimes
to no archetypes at all. Give me leave also to show how the mind
always refers its ideas of substances, either to the substances
themselves, or to the signification of their names, as to the
archetypes; and also to make plain the nature of species or sorting of
things, as apprehended and made use of by us; and of the essences
belonging to those species: which is perhaps of more moment to
discover the extent and certainty of our knowledge than we at first
44. Instances of mixed modes named kinneah and niouph. Let us
suppose Adam, in the state of a grown man, with a good
understanding, but in a strange country, with all things new and
unknown about him; and no other faculties to attain the knowledge of
them but what one of this age has now. He observes Lamech more
melancholy than usual, and imagines it to be from a suspicion he has
of his wife Adah, (whom he most ardently loved) that she had too
much kindness for another man. Adam discourses these his thoughts to
Eve, and desires her to take care that Adah commit not folly: and in
these discourses with Eve he makes use of these two new words
kinneah and niouph. In time, Adam's mistake appears, for he finds
Lamech's trouble proceeded from having killed a man: but yet the two
names kinneah and niouph, (the one standing for suspicion in a husband
of his wife's disloyalty to him; and the other for the act of
committing disloyalty), lost not their distinct significations. It
is plain then, that here were two distinct complex ideas of mixed
modes, with names to them, two distinct species of actions essentially
different; I ask wherein consisted the essences of these two
distinct species of actions? And it is plain it consisted in a precise
combination of simple ideas, different in one from the other. I ask,
whether the complex idea in Adam's mind, which he called kinneah, were
adequate or not? And it is plain it was; for it being a combination of
simple ideas, which he, without any regard to any archetype, without
respect to anything as a pattern, voluntarily put together,
abstracted, and gave the name kinneah to, to express in short to
others, by that one sound, all the simple ideas contained and united
in that complex one; it must necessarily follow that it was an
adequate idea. His own choice having made that combination, it had all
in it he intended it should, and so could not but be perfect, could
not but be adequate; it being referred to no other archetype which
it was supposed to represent.
45. These words, kinneah and niouph, by degrees grew into common
use, and then the case was somewhat altered. Adam's children had the
same faculties, and thereby the same power that he had, to make what
complex ideas of mixed modes they pleased in their own minds; to
abstract them, and make what sounds they pleased the signs of them:
but the use of names being to make our ideas within us known to
others, that cannot be done, but when the same sign stands for the
same idea in two who would communicate their thoughts and discourse
together. Those, therefore, of Adam's children, that found these two
words, kinneah and niouph, in familiar use, could not take them for
insignificant sounds, but must needs conclude they stood for
something; for certain ideas, abstract ideas. they being general
names; which abstract ideas were the essences of the species
distinguished by those names. If, therefore, they would use these
words as names of species already established and agreed on, they were
obliged to conform the ideas in their minds, signified by these names,
to the ideas that they stood for in other men's minds, as to their
patterns and archetypes; and then indeed their ideas of these
complex modes were liable to be inadequate, as being very apt
(especially those that consisted of combinations of many simple ideas)
not to be exactly conformable to the ideas in other men's minds, using
the same names; though for this there be usually a remedy at hand,
which is to ask the meaning of any word we understand not of him
that uses it: it being as impossible to know certainly what the
words jealousy and adultery stand for in another man's mind,