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passions they are possessed with to influence their judgments, especially of men and things, that may any way relate to their present circumstances and interest. Truth is all simple, all pure, will bear no mixture of any thing else with it. It is rigid and inflexible to any by interests; and so should the understanding be, whose use and excellency lies in conforming itself to it. To think of every thing just as it is in itself is the proper business of the understanding, though it be not that which men always employ it to. This all men, at first hearing, allow is the right use every one should make of his understanding. Nobody will be at such an open defiance with common sense as to profess that we should not endeavour to know and think of things as they are in themselves; and yet there is nothing more frequent than to do the contrary; and men are apt to excuse themselves ; and think they have reason to do so, if they have but a pretence that it is for God, or a good cause; that is, in effect, for themselves, their own persuasion, or party : for those in their turns the several sects of men, especially in matters of religion, entitle God and a good cause. But God requires not men to wrong or misuse their faculties for him, nor to lie to others, or themselves, for his sake; which they purposely do, who will not suffer their understandings to have right conceptions of the things proposed to them, and designedly restrain themselves from having just thoughts of every thing, as far as they are concerned to inquire. And as for a good cause, that needs not such ill helps ; if it be good, truth will support it, and it has no need of fallacy or falsehood. $ 15. Very much of kin to this is the
Arguments. hunting after arguments to make good one side of a question, and wholly to neglect and refuse those which favour the other side. What is this but wilfully to misguide the understanding, and is so far from giving truth its due value, that it wholly debases it: espouse opinions that best comport with their power, profit, or credit, and then seek arguments to support them? Truth lit upon this way is of no more avail to us than error ; for what is so taken up by us may be false as well as true, and he has not done his duty who has thus stumbled upon truth in his way to preferment.
There is another, but more innocent way of collecting arguments, very familiar among bookish men, which is to furnish themselves with the arguments they meet with pro and con in the questions they study. This helps them not to judge right, nor argue strongly, but only to talk copiously on either side, without being steady and settled in their own judgments: for such arguments, gathered from other men's thoughts, floating only in the memory, are there ready, indeed, to supply copious talk with some appearance of reason, but are far from helping us to judge right. Such variety of arguments only distract the understanding that relies on them, unless it has gone farther than such a superficial way of examining; this is to quit truth for appearance, only to serve our vanity. The sure and only way to get true knowledge is to form in our minds clear settled notions of things, with names annexed to those determined ideas. These we are to consider, with their several relations and habitudes, and not amuse ourselves with floating names, and words of indetermined signification, which we can use in several senses to serve a turn. It is in the perception of the habitudes and respects our ideas have one to another that real knowledge consists; and when a man once perceives how far they agree or disagree one with another, he will be able to judge of what other people say, and will not need to be led by the arguments of others, which are many of them nothing but plausible sophistry. This will teach him to state the question right, and see whereon it turns; and thus he will stand upon his own legs, and know by his own understanding. Whereas by collecting and learning arguments by heart, he will be but a retainer to others; and when any one questions the foundations they are built upon, he will be at a non
a plus, and be fain to give up his implicit knowledge.
$ 16. Labour for labour-sake is against Haste. nature. The understanding, as well as all the other faculties, chooses always the shortest way to its end, would presently obtain the knowledge it is about, and then set upon some new inquiry. But this, whether laziness or haste, often misleads it, and makes it content itself with improper ways of search, and such as will not serve the turn : sometimes it rests upon testimony, when testimony of right has nothing to do, because it is easier to believe than to be scientifically instructed: sometimes it contents itself with one argument, and rests satisfied with that, as it were a demonstration, whereas the thing under proof is not capable of demonstration, and therefore must be submitted to the trial of probabilities, and all the material arguments pro and con be examined and brought to a balance. In some cases the mind is determined by probable topics in inquiries where demonstration may be had. All these, and several others which laziness, impatience, custom, and want of use and attention lead men into, are misapplications of the understanding in the search of truth. In every question the nature and manner of the proof it is capable of should be considered, to make our inquiry such as it should be. This would save a great deal of frequently misemployed pains, and lead us sooner to that discovery and possession of truth we are capable of. The multiplying variety of arguments, especially frivolous ones, such as are all that are merely verbal, is not only lost labour, but cumbers the memory to no purpose, and serves only to hinder it from seizing and holding of the truth in all those cases which are capable of demonstration. In such a way of proof the truth and certainty is seen, and the mind fully possesses itself of it; when in the other way of assent it only hovers about it, is amused with uncertainties. In this superficial way, indeed, the mind is capable of more variety of plausible talk, but is not enlarged, as it should be, in its knowledge. It is to this same haste and impatience of the mind also, that a not due tracing of the arguments to their true foundation is owing; men see a little, presume a great deal, and so jump to the conclusion. This is a short way to fancy and conceit, and (if firmly embraced) to opinionatry, but is certainly the farthest way about to knowledge. For he that will know, must by the connexion of the proofs see the truth, and the ground it stands on; and therefore, if he has for haste skipped over what he should have examined, he must begin and go over all again, or else he will never come to knowledge.
$ 17. Another fault of as ill consequence Desultory.
as this, which proceeds also from laziness, with a mixture of vanity, is the skipping from one sort of knowledge to another. Some men's tempers are quickly weary of any one thing. Constancy and assiduity is what they cannot bear : the same study long continued in is as intolerable to them as the appearing long in the same clothes, or fashion, is to a court-lady. Smattering
§ 18. Others, that they may seem uni
versally knowing, get a little smattering in every thing. Both these may fill their heads with superficial notions of things, but are very much out of the way of attaining truth or knowledge. Universality.
§ 19. I do not here speak against the
taking a taste of every sort of knowledge; it is certainly very useful and necessary to form the mind; but then it must be done in a different way, and to a different end. Not for talk and vanity to fill the head with shreds of all kinds, that he who is possessed of such a frippery may be able to match the discourses of all he shall meet with, as if nothing could come amiss to him; and his head was so well stored a magazine, that nothing could be proposed which he was not master of, and was readily furnished to entertain any one on. This is an excellency, indeed, and a great one too, to have a real and true knowledge in all, or most of the objects of contemplation. But it is what the mind of one and the same man can hardly attain unto; and the instances are so few of those who have, in any measure, approached towards it, that I know not whether they are to be proposed as examples in the ordinary conduct of the understanding. For a man to understand fully the business of his particular calling in the commonwealth, and of religion, which is his calling as he is a man in the world, is usually enough to take up his whole time; and there are few that inform themselves in these, which is every man's proper and peculiar business, so to the bottom as they should do. But though this be so, and there are very few men that extend their thoughts towards universal knowledge; yet I do not doubt, but if the right way were taken, and the methods of inquiry were ordered as they should be, men of little business and great leisure might go a great deal farther in it than is usually done. To turn to the business in hand; the end and use of a little insight in those parts of knowledge, which are not a man's proper business, is to accustom our minds to all sorts of ideas, and the proper ways of examining their habitudes and relations. This gives the mind a freedom, and the exercising the understanding in the several ways of inquiry and reasoning, which the most skilful have made use of, teaches the mind sagacity and wariness, and a suppleness to apply itself more closely and dexterously to the bents and turns of the matter in all its researches. Besides, this universal taste of all the sciences, with an indifferency before the mind is possessed with any one in particular, and grown into love and admiration of what is made its darling, will prevent another evil, very commonly to be observed in those who have from the beginning been seasoned only by one part of knowledge. Let a man be given up to the con