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Mr. Locke to Mr. Molyneux.
Oates, Dec. 26, 1692.
WHATEVER has happened to give you leisure sooner than was expected, I hope to receive some advantage by it; and that now you will be able to send me your own thoughts on my book, together with the observations of your friend, into whose hands you have put it with that design. I return you my humble thanks for the papers you did me the favour to send me in your last: but am apt to think you agree with me that there is very little in those papers, wherein either my sense is not mistaken, or very little, wherein the argument is directly against me. I suppose that learned gentleman, if he had had the leisure to read my Essay quite through, would have found several of his objections might have been spared. And I can easily forgive those who have not been at the pains to read the third book of my Essay, if they make use of expressions that, when examined, signify nothing at all, in defence of hypotheses, that have long possessed their minds. I am far from imagining myself infallible; but yet I should be loth to differ from any thinking man, being fully persuaded there are very few things of pure speculation, wherein two thinking men, who impartially seek truth, can differ, if they give themselves the leisure to examine their hypotheses, and understand one another. I, presuming you to be of this make, whereof so few are to be found (for it is not every one that thinks himself a lover, or seeker of truth, who sincerely does it) took the liberty to desire your objections, that in the next edition I might correct my mistakes. For I am not fond of any thing in my book, because I have once thought or said it. And therefore I beg you, you will give yourself the pains to look over my book again with this design, to oblige me, that you would use all manner of freedom, both as to matter, style, disposition, and every thing wherein, in your own thoughts, any thing appears to you fit, in the least, to
be altered, omitted, explained, or added. I find none so fit, nor so fair judges, as those whose minds the study of mathematics has opened, and disentangled from the cheat of words, which has too great an influence in all the other, which go for sciences: and I think (were it not for the doubtful and fallacious use that is made of those signs) might be made much more sciences than they are.
I sent order, some time since, that a posthumous piece of Mr. Boyle's should be given to your bookseller in London, to be conveyed to you. It is A General History of the Air; which, though left by him very imperfect, yet I think the very design of it will please you and it is cast into a method that any one who pleases may add to it, under any of the several titles, as his reading or observation shall furnish him with matter of fact. If such men as you are, curious and knowing, would join to what Mr. Boyle had collected and prepared what comes in their way, we might hope, in some time, to have a considerable history of the air, than which I scarce know any part of natural philosophy would yield more variety and use; but it is a subject too large for the attempts of any one man, and will require the assistance of many hands to make it a history very short of complete.
Since I did myself the honour to write to your brother, I have been very ill, to which you must pardon some part of the length of my silence. But my esteem and respect for you is founded upon something so much beyond compliment and ceremony, that I hope you will not think me the less so, though I do not every post importune you with repeated professions that I am,
Mr. Locke to Mr. Molyneux.
Oates, Jan, 20, 1692-3.
HAD I known I should, within so few days, have received the favour of such a letter as yours of Dec. 22, I should not have troubled you with mine, that went hence but a little before the receipt of yours. I was afraid, in reading the beginning of yours, that I had not so great an interest in you as I flattered myself, and upon a presumption whereof it was, that I took the liberty so confidently to ask your advice, concerning the second edition of my book. But what followed satisfied me, that it was your civility, and not reservedness, made you tell me that the same hand which first formed it is best able to reform it. Could I flatter myself so, as to think I deserved all that you say of me in your obliging letter, I should yet think you a better judge of what is to be reformed in my book, than I myself. You have given the world proofs of your great penetration, and I have received great marks of your candour. But were the inequality between us as much to my advantage as it is on the other side, I should nevertheless beg your opinion. Whatsoever is our own, let us do what we can, stands a little too near us to be viewed as it should: and, though we ever so sincerely aim at truth, yet our own thoughts, judging still of our own thoughts, may be suspected to overlook errors and mistakes. And I should think he valued himself more than truth, and presumed too much on his own abilities, who would not be willing to have all the exceptions could be made, by any ingenious friend, before he ventured any thing into the public. I therefore heartily thank you for those you have sent me, and for consulting some of your friends to the same purpose: and beg the favour, if any thing more occurs from your own thoughts, or from them, you will be pleased to communicate it to me, if it be but those errata typographica you meet with, not taken notice of in the table. I confess, I thought some of the explications
in my book too long, though turned several ways, to make those abstract notions the easier sink into minds prejudiced in the ordinary way of education; and therefore I was of a mind to contract it. But finding you, and some other friends of mine, whom I consulted in the case, of a contrary opinion, and that you judge the redundancy in it a pardonable fault, I shall take very little pains to reform it.
I confess what I say, page 270, compared with 314, 315, may, to an unwary reader, seem to contain a contradiction but you, considering right, perceive that there is none. But it not being reasonable for me to expect that every body should read me with that judg ment you do, and observe the design and foundation of what I say, rather than stick barely in the words, it is fit, as far as may be, that I accommodate myself to ordinary readers, and avoid the appearances of contradiction, even in their thoughts. P. 314, I P. 314, I suppose matter, in its own natural state, void of thought; a supposition I concluded would not be denied me, or not hard to be proved, if it should: and thence I inferred, matter could not be the first eternal Being. But, page 270, I thought it no absurdity, or contradiction, to suppose," that, a "that, a thinking omnipotent Being once granted, such a Being might annex to some systems of matter, ordered in a way that he thought fit, a capacity of some degrees of sense and thinking." To avoid this appearance of a contradiction, in my two suppositions, and clear it up to less attentive readers, I intend in the second edition to alter it thus, if you think it will do:
P. 270, 1. 20, read, "For I see no contradiction in it, that the first, eternal, thinking Being, or omnipotent Spirit, should, if he pleased, give to certain systems of created, senseless matter, put together as he thinks fit, some degrees of sense, perception, and thought; though I judge it no less than a contradiction, to suppose matter (which is evidently, in its own nature, without sense and thought) should be the eternal, first, thinking Being. What certainty of knowledge can any one have, that some percep
tions, such as, v. g. pleasure and pain, should not be in some bodies themselves after”.
P. 315, 1. 5, read, "Thought can never begin to be for it is impossible to conceive that matter, either with or without motion, could have originally, in and from itself, sense, perception, and knowledge; as is evident from hence, that sense, perception, and knowledge must then be a property eternally inseparable from matter, and every particle of it. Not to add, that though our general or specific conception of matter makes us speak of it as one thing; yet really all matter is not one individual thing, neither is there any such thing existing as one material being, or one body, that we know or can conceive. And therefore, if matter were the eternal, first, cogitative Being, there would not be one eternal, infinite, cogitative Being but an infinite number of finite, cogitative beings, independent one of another, of limited force and distinct thoughts, which could never produce that order, harmony, and beauty, is to be found in nature. Since, therefore, whatsoever is the first, eternal Being must necessarily be cogitative and whatsoever is first of all things higher degree, it necessarily follows, that the eternal first Being cannot be matter." Pray give me your opinion, whether, if I print it thus, it will not remove the appearance of any contradiction.
I do not wonder to find you think my discourse about liberty a little too fine spun; I had so much that thought of it myself, that I said the same thing of it to some of my friends, before it was printed; and told them, that upon that account I judged it best to leave it out; but they persuaded me to the contrary. When the connexion of the parts of my subject brought me to the consideration of power, I had no design to meddle with the question of liberty; but barely pursued my thoughts in the contemplation of that power in man of choosing, or preferring, which we call the will, as far as they would lead me, without any the least bias to one side or other; or, if there was any leaning in my mind, it was rather to the contrary side of that,