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knows not what support of such qualities, which are capable of producing simple ideas in us; which qualities are commonly called accidents. If any one
should be asked, what is the subject wherein colour or
up of distinct complications of modes, yet they are looked on as one idea, called by one name, as making distinct sorts of substance.
But that my notion of substance in general is quite different from these, and has no such combination of simple ideas in it, is evident from the immediate following words, where I say, * "The idea of pure substance in general is only a supposition of we know not what support of such qualities as are capable of producing simple ideas in And these two I plainly distinguish all along, particularly where I say, "Whatever therefore be the secret and abstract nature of substance in general, all the ideas we have of particular distinct substances are nothing but several combinations of simple ideas, coexisting in such, though unknown cause of their union, as makes the whole subsist of itself."
The other thing laid to my charge is, as if I took the being of substance to be doubtful, or rendered it so by the imperfect and illgrounded idea I have given of it. To which I beg leave to say, that I ground not the being, but the idea of substance, on our accustoming ourselves to suppose some substratum; for it is of the idea alone I speak there, and not of the being of substance. And having every where affirmed and built upon it, that a man is a substance, I cannot be supposed to question or doubt of the being of substance, till I can question or doubt of my own being. Farther, I say, † "Sensation convinces us, that there are solid, extended substances; and reflection, that there are thinking ones." So that, I think, the being of substance is not shaken by what I have said: and if the idea of it should be, yet (the being of things depending not on our ideas) the being of substance would not be at all shaken by my saying, we had but an obscure imperfect idea of it, and that that idea came from our accustoming ourselves to suppose some substratum; or indeed, if I should say, we had no idea of substance at all. For a great many things may be, and are granted to have a being, and be in nature, of which we have no ideas. For example: it cannot be doubted but there are distinct species of separate spirits, of which yet we have no distinct ideas at all: it cannot be questioned but spirits have ways of communicating their thoughts, and yet we have no idea of it at all.
The being then of substance being safe and secure, notwithstanding any thing I have said, let us see whether the idea of it be not so too. Your lordship asks, with concern, and is this all, indeed, that is to be said for the being (if your lordship please, let it be the idea) of substance, that we accustom ourselves to suppose a substratum? Is that custom grounded upon true reason or no? I have said that it
weight inheres, he would have nothing to say, but the solid extended parts: and if he were demanded, what is it that that solidity and extension adhere in, he would not be in a much better case than the Indian before-mentioned, who, saying that the world was supported by a great elephant, was asked what the elephant rested on; to which his answer was, a great tortoise. But being again pressed to know what gave support to the broad-backed tortoise, replied, something, he knew not what. And thus here, as in all other cases where we use words without having clear and distinct ideas, we talk like children; who being questioned what such a thing is, which they know not, readily give this satisfactory answer, that it is something: which in truth signifies no more, when so used either by children or men, but that they know not what; and that the thing they pretend to know and talk of is what they have no distinct idea of at all, and so are perfectly ignorant of it, and in the dark. The idea then we have, to which we give the general name substance, being nothing but the supposed, but unknown support of those qualities we find existing, which we imagine cannot subsist, "sine re substante," without something to support them, we call that support substantia; which, according to the true import of the
is grounded upon this, "That we cannot conceive how simple ideas of sensible qualities should subsist alone; and therefore we suppose them to exist in, and to be supported by, some common subject which support we denote by the name substance." Which, I think, is a true reason, because it is the same your lordship grounds the supposition of a substratum on, in this very page; even on the repugnancy to our conceptions, that modes and accidents should subsist by themselves. So that I have the good luck to agree here with your lordship; and consequently conclude, I have your approbation in this, that the substratum to modes or accidents, which is our idea of substance in general, is founded in this, "that we cannot conceive how modes or accidents can subsist by themselves."
*B. II. c. 23. § 4.
word, is in plain English, standing under or upholding (1).
3. An obscure and relative idea of substance in general being thus made, we
Of the sorts of substance.
(1) From this paragraph, there hath been raised an objection by the bishop of Worcester, as if our author's doctrine here concerning ideas had almost discarded substance out of the world: his words in this paragraph, being brought to prove, that he is one of the gentlemen of this new way of reasoning, that have almost discarded substance out of the reasonable part of the world. To which our author replies:* This, my lord, is an accusation, which your lordship will pardon me, if I do not readily know what to plead to, because I do not understand what it is almost to discard substance out of the reasonable part of the world. If your lordship means by it, that I deny, or doubt, that there is in the world any such thing as substance, that your lordship will acquit me of, when your lordship looks again into this 23d chapter of the second book, which you have cited more than once; where you will find these words, § 4. "When we talk or think of any particular sort of corporeal substances, as horse, stone, &c. though the idea we have of either of them be but the complication or collection of those several simple ideas of sensible qualities, which we used to find united in the thing called horse or stone; yet, because we cannot conceive how they should subsist alone, nor one in another, we suppose them existing in, and supported by some common subject, which support we denote by the name substance; though it is certain, we have no clear or distinct idea of that thing we suppose a support." And again, § 5. “The same happens concerning the operations of the mind, viz. thinking, reasoning, fearing, &c. which we considering not to subsist of themselves, nor apprehending how they can belong to body, or be produced by it, we are apt to think these the actions of some other substance, which we call spirit; whereby yet it is evident, that having no other idea, or notion of matter, but something wherein those many sensible qualities, which affect our senses, do subsist, by supposing a substance, wherein thinking, knowing, doubting, and a power of moving, &c. do subsist, we have as clear a notion of the nature or substance of spirit, as we have of body; the one being supposed to be (without knowing what it is) the substratum to those simple ideas we have from without; and the other supposed (with a like ignorance of what it is) to be the substratum to those operations, which we experiment in ourselves within." And again, § 6. "Whatever therefore be the secret nature of substance in general, all the ideas we have of particular distinct substances are nothing but several combinations of simple ideas, co-existing in such, though unknown cause of their union, as makes the whole subsist of itself." And I
* In his first letter to that bishop.
come to have the ideas of particular sorts of substances, by collecting such combinations of simple ideas, as are by experience and observation of men's senses taken notice of to exist together, and are there
farther say in the same section, "that we suppose these combinations to rest in, and to be adherent to that unknown common subject, which inheres not in any thing else." And § 3. "That our complex ideas of substances, besides all those simple ideas they are made up of, have always the confused idea of something to which they belong, and in which they subsist; and therefore, when we speak of any sort of substance, we say it is a thing having such and such qualities; as body is a thing that is extended, figured, and capable of motion; spirit, a thing capable of thinking.
These, and the like fashions of speaking, intimate that the substance is supposed always something besides the extension, figure, solidity, motion, thinking, or other observable idea, though we know not what it is.'
"Our idea of body, I say, * is an extended, solid substance; and our idea of soul, is of a substance that thinks." So that as long as there is any such thing as body or spirit in the world, I have done nothing towards the discarding substance out of the reasonable part of the world. Nay, as long as there is any simple idea or sensible quality left, according to my way of arguing, substance cannot be discarded; because all simple ideas, all sensible qualities, carry with them a supposition of a substratum to exist in, and of a substance wherein they inhere and of this that whole chapter is so full, that I challenge any one who reads it to think I have almost, or one jot, discarded substance out of the reasonable part of the world. And of this man, horse, sun, water, iron, diamond, &c. which I have mentioned of distinct sorts of substances, will be my witnesses, as long as any such things remain in being; of which I say, "That the ideas of substances are such combinations of simple ideas as are taken to represent distinct particular things subsisting by themselves, in which the supposed or confused idea of substance is always the first and chief."
If, by almost discarding substance out of the reasonable part of the world, your lordship means, that I have destroyed, and almost discarded the true idea we have of it, by calling it a substratum, ‡ a supposition of we know not what support of qualities as are capable of producing simple ideas in us, an obscure and relative idea: without knowing what it is, it is that which supports accidents; so that of substance we have no idea of what it is, but only a confused obscure one of what it does: I must confess, this and the like I have said of our idea of substance; and should be very glad to be con
* B. 2. c. 23. § 22.
† B. 2. c. 12. § 6.
fore supposed to flow from the particular internal constitution, or unknown essence of that substance. Thus we come to have the ideas of a man, horse, gold, water, &c. of which substances, whether any
vinced by your lordship, or any body else, that I have spoken too meanly of it. He that would show me a more clear and distinct idea of substance, would do me a kindness I should thank him for. But this is the best I can hitherto find, either in my own thoughts, or in the books of logicians; for their account or idea of it is, that it is ens, or res per se subsistens, & substans accidentibus; which in effect is no more, but that substance is a being or thing; or, in short, something they know not what, or of which they have no clearer idea, than that it is something which supports accidents, or other simple ideas or modes, and is not supported itself as a mode, or an accident. So that I do not see but Burgersdicius, Sanderson, and the whole tribe of logicians, must be reckoned with the gentlemen of this new way of reasoning, who have almost discarded substance out of the reasonable part of the world.
But supposing, my lord, that I, or these gentlemen, logicians of note in the schools, should own that we have a very imperfect, obscure, inadequate idea of substance, would it not be a little too hard to charge us with discarding substance out of the world? For what almost discarding, and reasonable part of the world, signifies, I must confess I do not clearly comprehend; but let almost and reasonable part signify here what they will, for I dare say your lordship meant something by them; would not your lordship think you were a little hardly dealt with, if, for acknowledging yourself to have a very imperfect and inadequate idea of God, or of several other things which in this very treatise you confess our understandings come short in, and cannot comprehend, you should be accused to be one of these gentlemen that have almost discarded God, or those other mysterious things, whereof you contend we have very imperfect and inadequate ideas, out of the reasonable world? For I suppose your lordship means by almost discarding out of the reasonable world, something that is blamable, for it seems not to be inserted for a commendation; and yet I think he deserves no blame, who owns the having imperfect, inadequate, obscure ideas, where he has no better; however, if it be inferred from thence, that either he almost excludes those things out of being, or out of rational discourse, if that be meant by the reasonable world; for the first of these will not hold, because the being of things in the world depends not on our ideas: the latter indeed is true in some degree, but it is no fault; for it is certain, that where we have imperfect, inadequate, confused, obscure ideas, we cannot discourse and reason about those things so well, fully, and clearly, as if we had perfect, adequate, clear, and distinct ideas.
Other objections are made against the following parts of this