صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

concerns substances.

uncertainty into all general propositions that can be made about them. Though therefore these things might, to people not possessed with scholastic learning, be treated of in a better and clearer way; yet those wrong notions of essences or species having got root in most people's minds, who have received any tincture from the learning which has prevailed in this part of the world, are to be discovered and removed, to make way for that use of words which should convey certainty with it. This more

§ 5. The names of substances then, particularly whenever made to stand for species,

which are supposed to be constituted by

real essences, which we know not, are not capable to convey certainty to the understanding; of the truth of general propositions made up of such terms, we cannot be sure. The reason whereof is plain: for how can we be sure that this or that quality is in gold, when we know not what is or is not

gold? Since in this way of speaking nothing is gold but what partakes of an essence, which we not knowing, cannot know where it is or is not, and so cannot be sure that any parcel of matter in the world is or is not in this sense gold; being incurably ignorant, whether it has or has not that which makes any thing to be called gold, i. e. that real essence of gold whereof we have no idea at all: this being as impossible for us to know, as it is for a blind man to tell in what flower the colour of a pansy is or is not to be found, whilst he has no idea of the colour of a pansy at all. Or if we could (which is impossible) certainly know where a real essence, which we know not, is ; v. g. in what parcels of matter the real essence of gold is; yet could we not be sure, that this or that quality could with truth be affirmed of gold: since it is impossible for us to know, that this or that quality or idea has a necessary connexion with a real essence, of which we have no idea at all, whatever species that supposed real essence may be imagined to constitute.

existence of

$ 6. On the other side, the names of

The truth of substances, when made use of as they few unishould be, for the ideas men have in their versal prominds, though they carry a clear and positions determinate signification with them, will concerning,

substances is not yet serve us to make many universal

to be known. propositions, of whose truth we can be certain. Not because in this use of them we are uncertain what things are signified by them, but because the complex ideas they stand for are such combinations of simple ones, as carry not with them any discoverable connexion or repugnancy, but with a very few other ideas. $ 7. The complex ideas, that our names

Because coof the species of substances properly stand for, are collections of such qualities as have ideas in few been observed to co-exist in an unknown cases is to

be known. substratum, which we call substance: but what other qualities necessarily co-exist with such combinations we cannot certainly know, unless we can discover their natural dependence; which in their primary qualities we can go but a very little way in; and in all their secondary qualities we can discover

connexion at all, for the reasons mentioned, chap. iii. viz. 1. Because we know not the real constitutions of substances, on which each secondary quality particularly depends. 2. Did we know that, it would serve us only for experimental (not universal) knowledge; and reach with certainty no farther than that bare instance: because our understandings can discover no conceivable connexion between any secondary quality and any modification whatsoever of


of the primary ones. And therefore there are very few general propositions to be made concerning substances, which can carry with them undoubted certainty.

§ 8. All gold is fixed, is a proposition Instance in whose truth we cannot be certain of, how

gold. universally soever it be believed. For if, according to the useless imagination of the schools,


any one supposes the term gold to stand for a species of things, set out by nature, by a real essence belonging to it, it is evident he knows not what particular substances are of that species; and so cannot, with certainty, affirm any thing universally of gold. But if he makes gold stand for a species determined by its nominal essence, let the nominal essence, for example, be the complex idea of a body of a certain yellow colour, malleable, fusible, and heavier than any other known; in this proper use of the word gold, there is no difficulty to know what is or is not gold. But yet no other quality can with certainty be universally affirmed or denied of gold, but what hath a discoverable connexion or inconsistency with that nominal essence. Fixedness, for example, having no necessary connexion, that we can discover, with the colour, weight, or any other simple idea of our complex one, or with the whole combination together; it is impossible that we should certainly know the truth of this proposition, that all gold is fixed.

$ 9. As there is no discoverable connexion between fixedness and the colour, weight, and other simple ideas of that nominal essence of gold; so if we make our complex idea of gold a body yellow, fusible, ductile, weighty, and fixed, we shall be at the same uncertainty concerning solubility in aq. regia, and for the same reason: since we can never, from consideration of the ideas themselves, with certainty affirm or deny of a body, whose complex idea is made up of yellow, very weighty, ductile, fusible, and fixed, that it is soluble in aqua regia; and so on, of the rest of its qualities. I would gladly meet with one general affirmation concerning any quality of gold, that any one can certainly know is true. It will

, no doubt, be presently objected, is not this an universal proposition, “ all gold is malleable ?" To which I answer, it is a very certain proposition, if malleableness be a part of the complex idea the word gold stands for. But then here is nothing


affirmed of gold, but that that sound stands for an idea in which malleableness is contained : and such a sort of truth and certainty as this, it is to say a centaur is four-footed. But if malleableness makes not a part of the specific essence the name of gold stands for, it is plain,“ all gold is malleable” is not a certain proposition. Because let the complex idea of gold be made up of which soever of its other qualities you please, malleableness will not appear to depend on that complex idea, nor follow from any simple one contained in it: the connexion that malleableness has (if it has any) with those other qualities, being only by the intervention of the real constitution of its insensible parts; which, since we know not, it is impossible we should perceive that connexion, unless we could discover that which ties them together.

§ 10. The more, indeed, of these co- As far as existing qualities we unite into one com- any

such coplex idea, under one name, the more precise and determinate we make the signi- known, so fication of that word; but never yet make far universal it thereby more capable of universal cer- propositions tainty, in respect of other qualities not

may be cer

tain. But contained in our complex idea; since we perceive not their connexion or dependence but a little on one another, being ignorant both of way, bethat real constitution in which they are all founded, and also how they flow from it. For the chief part of our knowledge concerning substances is not, as in other things, barely of the relation of two ideas that may exist separately; but is of the necessary connexion and co-existence of several distinct ideas in the same subject, or of their repugnancy so to co-exist. Could we begin at the other end, and discover what it was, wherein that colour consisted, what made a body lighter or heavier, what texture of parts made it malleable, fusible, and fixed, and fit to be dissolved in this sort of liquor, and not in another; if (I say) we had such an idea as this of bodies, and could per

can be

this will go


ceive wherein all sensible qualities originally consist, and how they are produced; we might frame such ideas of them as would furnish us with matter of more general knowledge, and enable us to make universal propositions, that should carry general truth and certainty with them. But whilst our complex ideas of the sorts of substances are so remote from that internal real constitution, on which their sensible qualities depend, and are made up of nothing but an imperfect collection of those apparent qualities our senses can discover; there can be few general propositions concerning substances, of whose real truth we can be certainly assured : since there are but few simple ideas, of whose connexion and necessary coexistence we can have certain and undoubted knowledge. I imagine, amongst all the secondary qualities of substances, and the powers relating to them, there cannot any two be named, whose necessary co-existence, or repugnance to co-exist, can certainly be known, unless in those of the same sense, which necessarily exclude one another, as I have elsewhere showed. No one, I think, by the colour that is in any body, can certainly know what smell, taste, sound, or tangible qualities it has, nor what alterations it is ca. pable to make or receive, on or from other bodies. The same may be said of the sound or taste, &c. Our specific names of substances standing for any collections of such ideas, it is not to be wondered, that we can with them make very few general propositions of undoubted real certainty. But yet so far as any complex idea, of any sort of substances, contains in it any simple idea, whose necessary co-existence with any other may be discovered, so far universal propositions may with certainty be made concerning it: v. g. could any one discover a necessary connexion between malleableness, and the colour or weight of gold, or any other part of the complex idea signified by that name, he might make a certain universal

proposition concerning gold in this respect; and the real

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »