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§ 12. The next thing therefore to be
Abstract considered is, what kind
of signification it ideas are the is that general words have. For as it is evident, that they do not signify barely the genera
and species. one particular thing; for then they would not be general terms, but proper names; so on the other side it is as evident, they do not signify a plurality; for man and men would then signify the same, and the distinction of numbers (as the grammarians call them) would be superfluous and useless. That then which general words signify is a sort of things; and each of them does that, by being a sign of an abstract idea in the mind, to which idea, as things existing are found to agree, so they come to be ranked
same denomination, v. g. of man or marigold, hath a real being out of the understanding? which, I confess, I am not able to conceive. Your lordship's proof here brought out of my essay, concerning the sun, I humbly conceive, will not reach it; because what is said there, does not at all concern the real but nominal essence, as is evident from hence, that the idea I speak of there is a complex idea; but we have no complex idea of the internal constitution or real essence of the sun. Besides, I say expressly, That our distinguishing substances into species, by names, is not at all founded on their real essences. So that the sun being one of these substances, I cannot, in the place quoted by your lordship, be supposed to mean by essence of the sun the real essence of the sun, unless I had so expressed it. But all this argument will be at an end, when your lordship shall have explained what you mean by these words, “true sun.” In my sense of them, any thing will be a true sun to which the name sun may be truly and properly applied, and to that substance or thing the name sun may be truly and properly applied, which has united in it that combination of sensible qualities, by which any thing else, that is called sun, is distinguished from other substances, i. e. by the nominal essence: and thus our sun is denominated and distinguished from a fixed star, not by a real essence that we do not know (for if we did, it is possible we should find the real essence or constitution of one of the fixed stars to be the same with that of our sun) but by a complex idea of sensible qualities co-existing, which, wherever they are found, make a true sun. And thus I crave leave to answer. your lordship's question—"For what is it makes the second sun to be a true sun, but having the same real essence with the first ? If it were but a nominal essence, then the second would have nothing but the name.”
I humbly conceive, if it had the nominal essence, it would have something besides the name, viz. That nominal essence which is sufficient to denominate it truly a sun, or to make it be a true sun, though we know nothing of thắt real essence whereon that nominal one depends. Your lordship will then argue, that that real essence is in the second sun, and makes the second sun.
I grant it, when the second sun comes to exist, so as to be perceived by us to have all the ideas contained in our complex idea, i. e. in our nominal essence of a sun. For should it be true (as is now believed by astronomers), that the real essence of the sun were in any of the
fixed stars, yet such a star could not for that be by us called a sun, whilst it answers not our complex idea, or nominal essence of a
But how far that will prove, that the essences of things, as they are knowable by us, have a reality in them distinct from that of abstract ideas in the mind, which are merely creatures of the mind, I do not see; and we shall farther inquire, in considering your lordship's following words. “ Therefore,” say you, " there must be a real essence in every individual of the same kind.” Yes, and I beg leave of your lordship to say, of a different kind too. For that alone is it which makes it to be what it is.
That every individual substance has real, internal, individual constitution, i. e. a real essence, that makes it to be what it is, I readily grant. Upon this your lordship says, “ Peter, James, and John, are all true and real men. Answer. Without doubt, supposing them to be men, they are true and real men, i. e. supposing the name of that species belongs to them. And so three bobaques are all true and real bobaques, supposing the name of that species of animals belongs to them.
For I beseech your lordship to consider, whether in your way of argument, by naming them, Peter, James, and John, names familiar to us, as appropriated to individuals of the species man, your lordship does not first suppose them men, and then very safely ask, whether they be not all true and real men? But if I should ask your lordship whether Weweena, Chuckery, and Cousheda, were true and real men or no? your lordship would not be able to tell me, till, I having pointed out to your lordship the individuals called by those names, your lordship, by examining whether they had in them those sensible qualities which your lordship has combined into that complex idea to which you give the specific name man, determined them all, or some of them, to be the species which you call man, and so to be true and real man; which when
lordship has determined, it is plain you did it by that which is only the nominal essence, as not knowing the real one. But your lordship farther asks, “ What is it makes Peter, James, and John real men? Is it the attributing the general name to them? No, certainly; but that the true and real essence of a man is in every one of them."
If, when your lordship asks, “What makes them men?” your lordship used the word making in the proper sense for the efficient cause, and in that sense it were true, that the essence of a man,
under that name; or, which is all one, be of that sort. Whereby it is evident, that the essences of the sorts, or (if the Latin word pleases better) species of things, are nothing else but these abstract ideas. For the having the essence of any species being that which makes any thing to be of that species, and the conformity to the idea to which the name is annexed be
i.e. the specific essence of that species made a man; it would undoubtedly follow, that this specific essence had a reality beyond that of being only a general abstract idea in the mind. But when it is said, that it is the true and real essence of a man in every one of them that makes Peter, James, and John true and real men, the true and real meaning of these words is no more, but that the essence of that species, i. e. the properties answering the complex abstract idea to which the specific name is given, being found in them, that makes them be properly and truly called men, or is the reason why they are called men. Your lordship adds, “ And we must be as certain of this, as we are that they are men.”
How, I beseech your lordship, are we certain that they are men, but only by our senses, finding those properties in them which answer the abstract complex idea, which is our minds, of the specific idea to which we have annexed the specific name man? This I take to be the true meaning of what your lordship says in the next words, viz. “ They take their denomination of being men from that common nature or essence which is in them;" and I am apt to think these words will not hold true in any other sense.
Your lordship's fourth inference begins thus—"That the general idea is not made from the simple ideas by the mere act of the mind abstracting from circumstances, but from reason and consideration of the nature of things."
I thought, my lord, that reason and consideration had been acts of the mind, mere acts of the mind, when any thing was done by them. Your lordship gives a reason for it, viz. “ For, when we see several individuals that have the same powers and properties, we thence infer, that there must be something common to all, which makes them of one kind.”
I grant the inference to be true; but must beg leave to deny that this proves, that the general idea the name is annexed to, is not made by the mind. I have said, and it agrees with what your lordship here says, * That “the mind, in making its complex ideas of substances, only follows nature, and puts no ideas together, which are not supposed to have an union in nature. Nobody joins the voice of a sheep with the shape of a horse; nor the colour of lead with the weight and fixedness of gold, to be the complex ing that which gives a right to that name; the having the essence, and the having that conformity, must needs be the same thing; since to be of any species, and to have a right to the name of that species, is all one. As, for example, to be a man, or of the species man, and to have right to the name man, is the same thing. Again, to be a man, or of the species man,
* B. iii. c. 6. § 28, 29.
ideas of any real substances; unless he has a mind to fill his head with chimeras, and his discourses with unintelligible words. Men observing certain qualities always joined and existing together, therein copied nature, and of ideas so united, made their complex ones of substance,”' &c. Which is very little different from what your lordship here says, that it is from our observation of individuals, that we come to infer, “ that there is something common to them all.” But I do not see how it will thence follow, that the general or specific idea is not made by the mere act of the mind. “ No," says your lordship, “there is something common to them all, which makes them of one kind; and if the difference of kinds be real, that which makes them all of one kind must not be a nominal, but real essence.”
This may be some objection to the name of nominal essence; but is, as i humbly conceive, none to the thing designed by it. There is an internal constitution of things, on which their properties depend. This your lordship and I are agreed of, and this we call the real essence. There are also certain complex ideas, or combinations of these properties in men's minds, to which they commonly annex specific names, or names of sorts or kinds of things. This, I believe, your lordship does not deny. These complex ideas, for want of a better name, I have called nominal essences; how properly, I will not dispute. But if any one will help me to a better name for them, I am ready to receive it; till then, I must, to express myself, use this. Now, my lord, body, life, and the
power reasoning, being not the real essence of a man, as I believe your lordship will agree, will your lordship say, that they are not enough to make the thing wherein they are found, of the kind called man, and not of the kind called baboon, because the difference of these kinds is real ? If this be not real enough to make the thing of one kind and not of another, I do not see how animal rationale can be enough really to distinguish a man from a horse ; for that is but the nominal, not real essence of that kind, designed by the name man: and yet I suppose, every one thinks it real enough to make a real difference between that and other kinds. And if nothing will serve the turn, to MAKE things of one kind and not of another (which, as I have showed, signifies no more but ranking of them under different specific names) but their real unknown constitutions, which are the real essences we are speaking
and have the essence of a man is, the same thing. Now since nothing can be a man, or have a right to the name man, but what has a conformity to the abstract idea the name man stands for; nor any thing be a man, or have a right to the species man, but what has the essence of that species; it follows, that the abstract idea for which the name stands, and the es
of, I fear it would be a long while before we should have really different kind of substances, or distinct names for them, unless we could distinguish them by these differences, of which we have no distinct conceptions. For I think it would not be readily answered me, if I should demand, wherein lies the real difference in the internal constitution of a stag from that of a buck, which are each of them very well known to be of one kind, and not of the other ; and nobody questions but that the kinds, whereof each of them is, are really different.
Your lordship farther says, « And this difference doth not depend upon the complex ideas of substances, whereby men arbitrarily join modes together in their minds.” I confess, my lord, I know not what to say to this, because I do not know what these complex ideas of substances are, whereby men arbitrarily join modes together in their minds. But I am apt to think there is a mistake in the matter, by the words that follow, which are these: “For let them mistake in their complication of ideas, either in leaving out or putting in what doth not belong to them; and let their ideas be what they please, the real essence of a man, and a horse, and a tree, are just what they were.'
The mistake I spoke of, I humbly suppose, is this, that things are here taken to be distinguished by their real essences; when, by the very way of speaking of them, it is clear, that they are already distinguished by their nominal essences, and are so taken to be. "For what, I beseech your lordship, does your lordship mean, when
you say, “ The real essence of a man, and a horse, and a tree," but that there are such kinds already set out by the signification of these names, man, horse, tree? And what, I beseech your lordship, is the signification of each of these specific names, but the complex idea it stands for? And that complex idea is the nominal essence, and nothing else. So that taking man, as your lordship does here, to stand for a kind or sort of individuals, all which agree in that common complex idea, which that specific name stands for, it is certain that the real essence of all the individuals comprehended under the specific name man,
your of it, would be just the same; let others leave out or put into their complex idea of man what they please; because the real essence on which that unaltered complex idea, i.e. those properties depend, must necessarily be concluded to be the same. VOL. II.