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a great many fewer disputes in the world, if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas only, and not for things themselves. For when we argue about matter, or any the like term, we truly argue only about the idea we express by that sound, whether that precise idea agree to any thing really existing in nature or no. And if men would tell what ideas they make their words stand for, there could not be half that obscurity or wrangling, in the search or support of truth, that there is. This makes § 16. But whatever inconvenience folerrors last- lows from this mistake of words, this I ami ing
sure, that by constant and familiar use they charm men into notions far remote from the truth of things. It would be a hard matter to persuade any one that the words which his father or schoolmaster, the parson of the parish, or such a reverend doctor used, signified nothing that really existed in nature; which, perhaps, is none of the least causes that men are so hardly drawn to quit their mistakes, even in opinions purely philosophical, and where they have no other interest but truth. For the words they have a long time been used to remaining firm in their minds, it is no wonder that the wrong notions annexed to them should not be removed. 5. Setting
§ 17. Fifthly, another abuse of words, them for
is the setting them in the place of things
which they do or can by no means signify. cannot sig
We may observe, that in the general names nify.
of substances, whereof the nominal essences are only known to us, when we put them into propositions, and affirm or deny any thing about them, we do most commonly tacitly suppose,orintend they should stand for the real essence of a certain sort of substances. For when a man says gold is malleable, he means and would insinuate something more than this, that what I call gold is malleable, (though truly it amounts to no more) but would have this understood, viz. that gold, i. e. what has the real essence of gold, is malleable;
which amounts to thus much, that malleableness de pends on, and is inseparable from, the real essence of gold. But a man not knowing wherein that real essence consists, the connexion in his mind of malleableness is not truly with an essence he knows not, but only with the sound gold he puts for it. Thus when we say, that animal rationale is, and animal implume bipes latis unguibus is not a good definition of a man; it is plain, we suppose the name man in this case to stand for the real essence of a species, and would signify, that a rational animal better described that real essence than a two-legged animal with broad nails, and without feathers. For else, why might not Plato as properly make the word &rpwtos, or man, stand for his complex idea, made up of the idea of a body, distinguished from others by a certain shape and other outward appearances, as Aristotle make the complex idea, to which he gave the name är gwirios, or man, of body and the faculty of reasoning joined together; unless the name dvogwtos, or man, were supposed to stand for something else than what it signifies; and to be put in the place of some other thing than the idea a man professes he would express by it?
$ 18. It is true, the names of substances would be much more useful, and proposi- them for the
v.g. Putting tions made in them much more certain, real essences were the real essences of substances the of subideas in our minds which those words signified. And it is for want of those real essences that our words convey so little knowledge or certainty in our discourses about them: and therefore the mind, to remove that imperfection as much as it can, makes them, by a secret supposition, to stand for a thing, having that real essence, as if thereby it made some nearer approaches to it. For though the word man or gold signify nothing truly but a complex idea of properties united together in one sort of substances; yet there is scarce any body in the use of these words, but often supposes each of those names
to stand for a thing having the real essence, on which these properties depend. Which is so far from diminishing the imperfection of our words, that by a plain abuse it adds to it when we would make them stand for something, which not being in our complex idea, the name we use can no ways be the sign of. Hence we
$ 19. This shows us the reason why in
mixed modes any of the ideas, that make change of the composition of the complex one, being our idea in
left out or changed, it is allowed to be substances
another thing, i. e. to be of another spechange the
cies : it is plain in chance-medley, manspecies. slaughter, murder, parricide, &c. The reason whereof is, because the complex idea signified by that name is the real as well as nominal essence ; and there is no secret reference of that name to any other essence but that. But in substances it is not so. For though in that called gold one puts into his complex idea what another leaves out, and vice versa; yet men do not usually think that therefore the species is changed: because they secretly in their minds refer that name, and suppose it annexed to a real immutable essence of a thing existing, on which those properties depend. He that adds to his complex' idea of gold that of fixedness and solubility in aq. regia, which he put not in it before, is not thought to have changed the species; but only to have a more perfect idea, by adding another simple idea, which is always in fact joined with those other, of which his former complex idea consisted. But this reference of the name to a thing, whereof we had not the idea, is so far from helping at all, that it only serves the more to involve us in difficulties. For by this tacit reference to the real essence of that species of bodies, the word gold (which, by standing for a more or less perfect collection of simple ideas, serves to design that sort of body well enough in civil discourse) comes to have no signification at all, being put for somewhat, whereof we have no idea at all, and so can signify nothing at all, when the body itself is away. For however it may be thought all one ; yet, if well considered, it will be found a quite different thing to argue about gold in name, and about a parcel in the body itself, v. g. a piece of leaf-gold laid before us; though in discourse we are fain to substitute the name for the thing. § 20. That which I think very much
The cause of disposes men to substitute their names for the abuse, a the real essences of species, is the supposi- supposition tion before-mentioned, that nature works of nature's regularly in the production of things, and working al
ways regu. sets the boundaries to each of those species, larly. by giving exactly the same realinternal constitution to each individual, which we rank under one general name. Whereas anyone who observes their different qualities can hardly doubt, that many of the individuals called by the same name, are, in their internal constitution, as different one from another as several of those which are ranked under different specific names. This supposition, however, that the same precise and internal constitution goes always with the same specific name, makes men forward to take those names for the representatives of those real essences, though indeed they signify nothing but the complex ideas they have in their minds when they use them. So that, if I may so say, signifying one thing, and being supposed for, or put in the place of another, they cannot but, in such a kind of use, cause a great deal of uncertainty in men's discourses; especially in those who have thoroughly imbibed the doctrine of substantial forms, whereby they firmly imagine the several species of things to be determined and distinguished.
$ 21. But however preposterous and ab- This abuse surd it be to make our names stand forideas containstwo we have not, or (which is all one) essences that we know not, it being in effect to make our words the signs of nothing; yet it is evident to any one, who ever so little reflects on the use men make of their words, that there is nothing more familiar. When
a man asks whether this or that thing he sees, let it be a drill, or a monstrous fætus, be a man or no; it is evident, the question is not, whether that particular thing agree to his complex idea, expressed by the name man; but whether it has in it the real essence of a species of things, which he supposes his name man to stand for. In which way of using the names of substances there are these false suppositions contained.
First, that there are certain precise essences, according to which nature makes all particular things, and by which they are distinguished into species. That every thing has a real constitution, whereby it is what it is, and on which its sensible qualities depend, is past doubt; but I think it has been proved, that this makes not the distinction of species, as we rank them, nor the boundaries of their names.
Secondly, this tacitly also insinuates, as if we had ideas of these proposed essences. For to what purpose else is it to inquire whether this or that thing have the real essence of the species man, if we did not suppose that there were such as pecific essence known? which yet is utterly false : and therefore such application of names, as would make them stand for ideas which we have not, must needs cause great disorder in discourses and reasonings about them, and be a great inconvenience in our communication by words. 6. A suppo
§ 22. Sixthly, there remains yet another sition that
more general, though perhaps less observed, wordshave a
abuse of words: and that is, that men havevident sig. ing by a long and familiar use annexed to nification. them certain ideas, they are apt to imagine so near and necessary a connexion between the names and the signification they use them in, that they forwardly suppose one cannot but understand what their meaning is; and therefore one ought to acquiesce in the words delivered, as if it were past doubt, that, in the use of those common received sounds, the speaker and hearer had necessarily the same precise ideas. Whence presuming, that when they have in discourse used any