It is trial and examination must give it price, and not an antique fashion: 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 Edition: 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 farther; 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: This, my lord, your words and actions so constantly show on all occasions, Edition: 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,. I here put into thy hands, what has been the diversion of some of my idle and heavy hours: 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: 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 Edition: 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: 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 a while 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 Edition: 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. If thou findest any thing wanting, I shall be glad, that what I have writ gives thee any desire, that I should have gone farther: 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 Edition: 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 any thing 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: 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 afterward the mind found little difference in the phrases, and wondered why one failed to be understood more than the other.
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 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 Edition: 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 any thing of use to themselves or others: It is that chiefly which secures me from the fear of censure, which I expect not to escape more than better writers.
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. 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 uncapable 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: I have been told, that a short epitome of this treatise, which was printed , 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 falsehood. In the second edition, I added as followeth:. The bookseller will not forgive me, if I say nothing of this second 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 farther confirmations 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.
What I had there writ concerning liberty and the will, I thought deserved as accurate a view, as I was 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. 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 whence soever it comes. But what forwardness soever I have to resign any opinion I have, or to recede from any thing I have writ, upon the first evidence of any errour 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 any thing 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: 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 writ mine so obscurely, that it is in vain to go about to mend it.
Which ever 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: 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:. And possibly it is 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: By those denominations, I mean some object in the mind, and consequently determined, i.
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 Edition: I say, should be; because it is not every one, not 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.
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: Upon this ground I have thought determined ideas a way of speaking less liable to mistakes, than clear and distinct: 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. That this idea, thus determined, i. 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 impression. In the sixth edition, there is very little added or altered; the greatest part of what is new, is contained in the 21st 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.
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 own 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.
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, Edition: 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.
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 persuasions. In order whereunto, I shall pursue this following method.
First, I shall enquire into the origin 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 shew what knowledge the understanding hath by those ideas; and the certainty, evidence, and extent of it. Thirdly, I shall make some enquiry 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: If, by this enquiry 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. 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. 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 every thing. 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: 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 sun-shine.
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 every things, because we certainly cannot 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.
When we know our own strength, we shall the better know what to undertake with hopes of success: 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. This was that which gave the first rise to this essay concerning the understanding. For I thought that the first step towards satisfying several enquiries, 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 enquiries 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 Edition: Thus much I thought necessary to say concerning the occasion of this enquiry into human understanding.
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.
It would be sufficient to convince unprejudiced readers of the falseness of this supposition, if I should only shew 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: 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.
There is nothing more commonly taken for granted, than that there are certain principles, both speculative and practical Edition: 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 shewn, how men may come to that universal agreement, in the things they do consent in; which I presume may be done.
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.
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.
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: 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: For if they are not notions naturally imprinted, how can they be innate?
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 of ever assenting to, may be said to be in the mind, and to be imprinted: Nay, thus truths may be imprinted on the mind, which it never did, nor ever shall know: 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: For if these words to be in the understanding have any propriety, they signify to be understood: 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.
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: If they mean, that by the use of reason men may discover these principles; and that this is sufficient to prove them innate: 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: 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 Edition: 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? 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. 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: 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. But, secondly, were it true, that the precise time of their being known, and assented to, were, when men come the use of reason, neither would that prove them innate. This way of arguing is as frivolous, as the supposition of itself is false. For by what kind of logic will it appear, Edition: 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: 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 shewn; or at least, how in this, or any other sense, it proves them innate. 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 farther, 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 Edition: 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.
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: 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 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: This evasion therefore of general assent, when men come to the use of reason, failing as it does, and leaving no difference between those supposed 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: 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.
For, upon the same ground, viz. 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.
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, Edition: Universal and ready assent upon hearing and understanding the terms is I grant a mark of self-evidence: For, if that be the certain mark of innate, whatever Edition: 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. 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 Edition: This cannot be denied, that men grow first acquainted with many of these self-evident truths, upon their being proposed: 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. And thus all mathematical demonstrations, as well as first principles, must be received as native impressions on the mind: 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.
There is, I fear, this farther 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 any thing 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: 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.
Till that be done, you will in vain endeavour to make any child assent to a proposition made up of such general terms: 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 farther than they are signs of our ideas, we cannot but assent to them, as they correspond to those ideas we have, but no farther 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. 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 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. 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 Edition: 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 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.
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: Whereby it is evident, if there be any innate truths in the mind, they must necessarily be the first of any thought on; the first that appear there.
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 farther argument in it against their being innate, that these characters, if they were native and original impressions, should appear fairest Edition: 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 constitutions or organs of the body, the only confessed difference between them and others.
But alas, amongst children, idiots, savages, and the grossly illiterate, what general maxims are to be found? 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 play-things of a little more advanced age: 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 Edition: 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: But of their small use for the improvement of knowledge, I shall have occasion to speak more at large, l.
I know not how absurd this may seem to the masters of demonstration: 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 so.
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: Not that it brings their truth at all in question: 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 every body. It may suffice, that these moral rules are capable of demonstration; and therefore it is our own fault, 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 Edition: 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 farthest towards the putting off of humanity itself, keep faith and rules of justice one with another.
I grant that out-laws 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: Justice and truth are the common ties of society; and therefore, even out-laws 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? 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. 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: 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: 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.
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: He would be thought void of common sense, who asked on the one Edition: It carries its own light and evidence with it, and needs no other proof: 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.
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 an 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. 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: 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: 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 Edition: 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. 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.
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 child-birth; or dispatch them, if a pretended Edition: 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 a.
It is familiar among the Mingrelians, a people professing Christianity, to bury their children alive without scruple b. There are places where they eat their own children c. The Caribbees were wont to geld their children, on purpose to fat and eat them d. 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 e.
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 f , 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.
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, 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? Download e-book for iPad: The 5 Seconds of Summer Quiz Book. Are you partial to five Seconds of summer time?
Download e-book for kindle: Beating, when you can expect no good from it, will look more like the fury of an enraged enemy than the good-will of a coinpassionate friend ; and such chastisement carries with it only provocation, without any prospect of amendment.
If it be any father's misfortune to have a son thus perverse and untractable, I know not whet more hs can do but pray for him. But I imagine, if a right course be taken with children from the beginning, very fkw wiH be found to be such ; and when there are any such instances, they are not to be the rule for the education of those who are better natured, and may be managed with better usage.
I f you find it difficult to meet with such a tutor as we desire, you are not to wonder. I only can say, spare no care nor cost to get such an one. All things are to be had that way:
Mr. John Locke was the son of John Locke, of Pensford, a market-town in Somersetshire, five miles from Bristol, by Ann his wife, daughter of Edmund Keen, alias Ken, of Wrington, tanner. He was born at Wrington, another market-town in the same county.
Second Treatise John Locke Preface Preface to the two Treatises Reader, you have here the beginning and the end of a ·two-part· treatise about government. It isn’t worthwhile to go into what happened to the pages that should have come.
The Online Library of Liberty A Project Of Liberty Fund, Inc. John Locke,A Letter concerning Toleration and Other Writings  The Online Library Of Liberty This E-Book (PDF format) is published by Liberty Fund, Inc., a private. Locke, John, The educational writings of John Locke / (Cambridge: The University Press, ), also by John William Adamson (page images at HathiTrust) Locke, John, The educational writings of .
By John Locke. St. Paul sepifllcs, after fo nice a teach of expofitors and commentators, may feem an try out of self-importance, cenfurable for its needleffnefs, didn't the day-by-day and licensed examples of pious and realized males juftify it. this can be fome excufe for me to the general public, if ever thcfe following papers fhould likelihood to return . David Wootton’s wide-ranging and scholarly Introduction sets the writings in the context of their time, examines Locke’s developing ideas and unorthodox Christianity, and analyzes his main arguments. The result is the first fully rounded picture of Locke’s political thought in his own words.