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secondly, we can know the truth, and so may be certain in propositions, which affirm something of another, which is a necessary consequence of its precise complex idea, but not contained in it: as that the external angle of all triangles is bigger than either of the opposite internal angles; which relation of the outward angle to either of the opposite internal angles making no part of the complex idea signified by the name triangle, this is a real truth, and conveys with it instructive real knowledge. General
$ 9. We having little or no knowledge propositions of what combinations there be of simple concerning ideas existing together in substances, but substances
by our senses, we cannot make any uni
versal certain propositions concerning trifling.
them, any farther than our nominal essences lead us : which being to a very few and inconsiderable truths, in respect of those which depend on their real constitutions, the general propositions that are made about substances, if they are certain, are for the most part but trifling ; and if they are instructive, are uncertain, and such as we can have no knowledge of their real truth, how much soever constant observation and analogy may assist our judgment in guessing. Hence it comes to pass, that one may often meet with very clear and coherent discourses, that amount yet to nothing. For it is plain, that names of substantial beings, as well as others, as far as they have relative significations affixed to them, may, with great truth, be joined negatively and affirmatively in propositions, as their relative definitions make them fit to be so joined; and propositions consisting of such terms, may, with the same clearness, be deduced one from another, as those that convey the most real truths: and all this, without any knowledge of the nature or reality of things existing without us. By this method one may make demonstrations and undoubted propositions in words, and yet thereby advance not one jot in the knowledge of the truth of
things; v. g. he that having learnt these following words, with their ordinary mutually relative acceptations annexed to them; v.g. substance, man, animal, form, soul, vegetative, sensitive, rational, may make several undoubted propositions about the soul, without knowing at all what the soul really is : and of this sort, a man may find an infinite number of propositions, reasonings, and conclusions, in books of metaphysics, school-divinity, and some sort of natural philosophy; and, after all, know as little of God, spirits, or bodies, as he did before he set out.
$ 10. He that hath liberty to define, i, e. to determine the signification of his names of substances (as certainly every one does in effect, who makes them stand for his own ideas) and makes their significations at a venture, taking them from his own or other men's fancies, and not from an examination or inquiry into the nature of things themselves; may, with little trouble, demonstrate them one of another, according to those several respects and mutual relations he has given them one to another; wherein, however things agree or disagree in their own nature, he needs mind nothing but his own notions, with the names he hath bestowed upon them: but thereby no more increases his own knowledge, than he does his riches, who, taking a bag of counters, calls one in a certain place a pound, another in another place a shilling, and a third in a third place a penny; and so proceeding, may undoubtedly reckon right, and cast up a great sum, according to his counters so placed, and standing for more or less as he pleases, without being one jot the richer, or without even knowing how much a pound, shilling, or penny is, but only that one is contained in the other twenty times, and contains the other twelve : which a man may also do in the signification of words, by making them, in respect of one another, more, or less, or equally comprehensive.
$ 11. Though yet concerning most words Thirdly,
using words used in discourses, equally argumentative variously, is and controversial, there is this more to them.
be complained of, which is the worst sort
of trifling, and which sets us yet farther from the certainty of knowledge we hope to attain by them, or find in them ; viz. that most writers are so far from instructing us in the nature and knowledge of things, that they use their words loosely and uncertainly, and do not, by using them constantly and steadily in the same significations, make plain and clear deductions of words one from another, and make their discourses coherent and clear (how little soever they were instructive); which were not difficult to do, did they not find it convenient to shelter their ignorance or obstinacy under the obscurity and perplexedness of their terms: to which, perhaps, inadvertency and ill custom do in many men much contribute.
$ 12. To conclude; barely verbal proverbal pro- positions may be known by these following positions : marks: 1. Predica
First, all propositions, wherein two abstract terms are affirmed one of another,
are barely about the signification of sounds. For since no abstract idea can be the same with any other but itself, when its abstract name is affirmed of any other term, it can signify no more but this, that it may or ought to be called by that name, or that these two names signify the same idea. Thus should any one say, that parsimony is frugality, that gratitude is justice, that this or that action is or is not temperate; however specious these and the like propositions may at first sight seem, yet when we come to press them, and examine nicely what they contain, we shall find that it all amounts to nothing but the signification of those terms. 2. A part of
$ 13. Secondly, all propositions wherein the defini- a part of the complex idea, which any
term stands for, is predicated of that term, dicated of
are only verbal ; v. g. to say that gold is a metal or heavy. And thus all pro
tion in abstract.
* positions, wherein more comprehensive words, called genera, are affirmed of subordinate or less comprehensive, called species, or individuals, are barely verbal.
When by these two rules we have examined the propositions that make up the discourses we ordinarily meet with both in and out of books, we shall, perhaps, find that a greater part of them, than is usually suspected, are purely about the signification of words, and contain nothing in them but the use and application of these signs.
This, I think, I may lay down for an infallible rule, that wherever the distinct idea any word stands for is not known and considered, and something not contained in the idea is not affirmed or denied of it; there our thoughts stick wholly in sounds, and are able to attain no real truth or falsehood. This, perhaps, if well heeded, might save us a great deal of useless amusement and dispute, and very much shorten our trouble and wandering, in the search of real and true knowledge.
cern not existence,
Of our Knowledge of Existence. $ 1. HITHERTO we have only considered
General certhe essences of things, which being only tain proposiabstract ideas, and thereby removed in tions conour thoughts from particular existence (that being the proper operation of the mind, in abstraction, to consider an idea under no other existence, but what it has in the understanding) gives us no knowledge of real existence at all. Where by the way we may take notice, that universal propositions, of whose truth or falsehood we can have certain knowledge, concern not existence; and farther, that all particular affirmations or negations, that would not be certain if they were made general, are only concerning existence; they declaring only the accidental union or separation of ideas in things existing, which, in their abstract natures, have no known necessary union or repugnancy. A threefold $ 2. But, leaving the nature of proposiknowledge tions and different ways of predication to of existence. be considered more at large in another place, let us proceed now to inquire concerning our knowledge of the existence of things, and how we come by it. I say then, that we have the knowledge of our own existence by intuition; of the existence of God by demonstration; and of other things by sensation.
§ 3. As for our own existence, we perOur knowledge of our
ceive it so plainly, and so certainly, that own exist
it neither needs nor is capable of any ence is in
proof. For nothing can be more evident tuitive.
to us than our own existence; I think, I reason, I feel pleasure and pain : can any of these be more evident to me than my own existence? If I doubt of all other things, that very doubt makes me perceive my own existence, and will not suffer me to doubt of that. For if I know I feel pain, it is evident I have as certain perception of my own existence, as of the existence of the pain I feel : or if I know I doubt, I have as certain perception of the existence of the thing doubting, as of that thought which I call doubt. Experience then convinces us that we have an intuitive knowledge of our own existence, and an internal infallible perception that we are. In every act of sensation, reasoning, or thinking, we are conscious to ourselves of our own being; and, in this matter, come not short of the highest
degree of certainty.