صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

the way beyond the line; and the antipodes would be still as much unknown as when it was declared heresy to hold there were any. But having spoken sufficiently of words, and the ill or careless

use that is commonly made of them, I shall not say any thing more of it here.

$ 31. Hitherto we have examined the Extent in reextent of our knowledge, in respect of the spect to uniseveral sorts of beings that are. There is versality. another extent of it, in respect of universality, which will also deserve to be considered ; and in this regard, our knowledge follows the nature of our ideas. If the ideas are abstract, whose agreement or disagreement we perceive, our knowledge is universal. For what is known of such general ideas, will be true of every particular thing, in whom that essence, i.e. that abstract idea is to be found; and what is once known of such ideas will be perpetually and for ever true. So that as to all general knowledge, we must search and find it only in our minds, and it is only the examining of our own ideas that furnisheth us with that. Truths belonging to essences of things, (that is, to abstract ideas) are eternal, and are to be found out by the contemplation only of those essences : as the existences of things are to be known only from experience. But having more to say of this in the chapters where I shall speak of general and real knowledge, this may here suffice as to the universality of our knowledge in general.


Of the Reality of Knowledge.

ideas may


§ 1. I DOUBT not but my reader by this Knowledge time may be apt to think, that I have been placed in all this while only building a castle in the

air; and be ready to say to me, “ To what be all bare vision.

purpose all this stir ? Knowledge, say you,

is only the perception of the agreement or disagreement of our own ideas: but who knows what those ideas may be? Is there any thing so extravagant as the imaginations of men's brains ? Where is the head that has no chimeras in it? Or if there be a sober and a wise man, what difference will there be, by your rules, between his knowledge and that of the most extravagant fancy in the world? They both have their ideas, and perceive their agreement and disagreement one with another. If there be any difference between them, the advantage will be on the warm-headed man's side, as having the more ideas, and the more lively: and so, by your rules, he will be the more knowing. If it be true, that all knowledge lies only in the perception of the agreement or disagreement of our own ideas, the visions of an enthu. siast, and the reasonings of a sober man, will be equally certain. It is no matter how things are; so a man observe but the agreement of his own imaginations, and talk conformably, it is all truth, all certainty. Such castles in the air will be as strong holds of truth as the demonstrations of Euclid. That an harpy is not a centaur is by this way as certain knowledge, and as much a truth, as that a square is not a circle.

“ But of what use is all this fine knowledge of men's own imaginations to a man that inquires after the reality of things? It matters not what men's fancies

so, where

are; it is the knowledge of things that is only to be prized : it is this alone gives a value to our reasonings, and preference to one man's knowledge over another's; that it is of things as they really are, and not of dreams and fancies." $ 2. To which I answer, that if our

Answ. Not knowledge of our ideas terminate in them, and reach no farther, where there is some- ideas

agree thing farther intended, our most serious with things. thoughts will be of little more use than the reveries of a crazy brain; and the truths built thereon of no more weight than the discourses of a man, who sees things clearly in a'dream, and with great assurance utters them. But I hope, before I have done, to make it evident, that this way of certainty, by the knowledge of our own ideas, goes a little farther than bare imagination: and I believe it will appear, that all the certainty of general truths a man has lies in nothing else.

§ 3. It is evident the mind knows not things immediately, but only by the intervention of the ideas it has of them. Our knowledge therefore is real, only so far as there is a conformity between 'our ideas and the reality of things. But what shall be here the criterion ? How shall the mind, when it perceives nothing but its own ideas, know that they agree with things themselves ? This, though it seems not to want difficulty, yet, I think, there be two sorts of ideas, that, we may be assured, agree with things.

$ 4. First, the first are simple ideas, As, 1. All which since the mind, as has been showed, simple ideas can by no means make to itself, must ne

do. cessarily be the product of things operating on the mind in a natural way, and producing therein those perceptions which by the wisdom and will of our Maker they are ordained and adapted to. From whence it follows, that simple ideas are not fictions of our fancies, but the natural and regular productions of things without us, really operating upon us, and so



except of

carry with them all the conformity which is intended, or which our state requires : for they represent to us things under those appearances which they are fitted to produce in us, whereby we are enabled to distinguish the sorts of particular substances, to discern the states they are in, and so to take them for our necessities, and to apply them to our uses. Thus the idea of whiteness, or bitterness, as it is in the mind, exactly answering that power which is in any body to produce it there, has all the real conformity it can, or ought to have, with things without us. And this con, formity between our simple ideas, and the existence of things, is sufficient for real knowledge.

§ 5. Secondly, all our complex ideas, 2. All com

except those of substances, being archeplex ideas,

types of the mind's own making, not in substances. . tended to be the copies of any thing, nor

referred to the existence of any thing, as to their originals ; cannot want any conformity necessary to real knowledge. For that which is not designed to represent any thing but itself, can never be capable of a wrong representation, nor mislead us from the true apprehension of any thing, by its dislikeness to it; and such, excepting those of substances, are all our complex ideas : which, as I have showed in another place, are combinations of ideas, which the mind, by its free choice, puts together, without considering any connexion they have in nature. And hence it is, that in all these sorts the ideas themselves are considered as the archetypes, and things no otherwise regarded, but as they are conformable to them. So that we cannot but be infallibly certain, that all the knowledge we attain concerning these ideas is real, and reaches things themselves; because in all our thoughts, reasonings, and discourses of this kind, we intend things no farther than as they are conformable to our ideas. So that in these we cannot miss of a certain and undoubted reality.

$ 6. I doubt not but it will be easily Hence the granted, that the knowledge we have of realityofmamathematical truths is not only certain, thematical but real knowledge; and not the bare

knowledge, empty vision of vain insignificant chimeras of the brain: and yet,if we will consider, we shall find that it is only of our own ideas. The mathematician considers the truth and properties belonging to a rectangle, or circle, only as they are in idea in his own mind. For it is possible he never found either of them existing mathematically, i. e. precisely true, in his life. But yet the knowledge he has of any truths or properties belonging to a circle, or any other mathematical figure, are nevertheless true and certain, even of real things existing; because real things are no farther concerned, nor intended to be meant by any such propositions, than as things really agree to those archetypes in his mind. Is it true of the idea of a triangle, that its three angles are equal to two right ones ? It is true also of a triangle, wherever it really exists. Whatever other figure exists, that is not exactly answerable to the idea of a triangle in his mind, is not at all concerned in that proposition: and therefore he is certain all his knowledge concerning such ideas is real knowledge; because intending things no farther than they agree with those his ideas, he is sure what he knows concerning those figures, when they have barely an ideal existence in his mind, will hold true of them also, when they have real existence in matter; his consideration being barely of those figures, which are the same, wherever or however they exist. § 7. And hence it follows, that moral

And of moknowledge is as capable of real certainty ral. as mathematics. For certainty being but the perception of the agreement or disagreement of our ideas; and demonstration nothing but the perception of such agreement, by the intervention of other ideas, or mediums; our moral ideas, as well as mathematical, being archetypes themselves, and so

« السابقةمتابعة »