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larging our knowledge ? Let a man abound, as much as the plenty of words which he has will permit, in such propositions as these ; a law is a law, and obligation is obligation; right is right, and wrong is wrong : will these and the like ever help him to an acquaintance with ethics ? or instruct him or others in the knowledge of morality? Those who know not, nor perhaps ever will know, what is right and what is wrong, nor the measures of them; can with as much assurance make, and infallibly know the truth of, these and all such propositions, as he that is best instructed in morality can do. But what advance do such propositions give in the knowledge of any thing necessary or useful for their conduct ?
He would be thought to do little less than trifle, who, for the enlightening the understanding in any part of knowledge, should be busy with identical propositions, and insist on such maxims as these: substance is substance, and body is body; a vacuum is a vacuum, and a vortex is a vortex; a centaur is a centaur, and a chimera is a chimera, &c. For these and all such are equally true, equally certain, and equally self-evident. But yet they cannot but be counted trifling, when made use of as principles of instruction, and stress laid on them, as helps to knowledge: since they teach nothing but what every one, who is capable of discourse, knows without being told; viz. that the same term is the same term, and the same idea the same idea. And upon this account it was that I formerly did, and do still think, the offering and inculcating such propositions, in order to give the understanding any new light or inlet into the knowledge of things, no better than trifling.
Instruction lies in something very different; and he that would enlarge his own, or another's mind, to truths he does not yet know, must find out intermediate ideas, and then lay them in such order one by another, that the understanding may see the agreement or disagreement of those in question. Proposi
tions that do this are instructive; but they are far from such as affirm the same term of itself: which is no way to advance one's self or others in any sort of knowledge. It no more helps to that, than it would help any one, in his learning to read, to have such propositions as these inculcated to him. An A is an A, and a B is a B; which a man may know as well as any schoolmaster, and yet never be able to read a word as long as he lives. Nor do these, or any such identical propositions, help him one jot forwards in the skill of reading, let him make what use of them he can.
If those who blame my calling them trifling propositions had but read, and been at the pains to understand, what I had above writ in very plain English, they could not but have seen that by identical propositions I mean only such, wherein the same term, importing the same idea, is affirmed of itself: which I take to be the proper signification of identical propositions: and concerning all such, I think I may continue safely to say, that to propose them as instructive is no better than trifling. For no one who has the use of reason can miss them, where it is necessary they should be taken notice of; nor doubt of their truth, when he does take notice of them.
But if men will call propositions identical, wherein the same term is not affirmed of itself, whether they speak more properly than I others must judge: this is certain, all that they say of propositions that are not identical in my sense, concerns not me, nor what I have said; all that I have said relating to those propositions wherein the same term is affirmed of itself. And I would fain see an instance, wherein any such can be made use of, to the advantage and improvement of any one's knowledge. Instances of other kinds, whatever use may be made of them, concern not me, as not being such as I call identical. Secondly,
§ 4. Secondly, another sort of trifling when a part propositions is, when a part of the comof any com- plex idea is predicated of the name of the whole; a part of the definition of the plex idea is word defined. Such are all propositions predicated
ofthe whole. wherein the genus is predicated of the species, or more comprehensive of less comprehensive terms: for what information, what knowledge carries this proposition in it, viz. lead is a metal, to a man who knows the complex idea the name lead stands for? all the simple ideas that go to the complex one sig. nified by the term metal, being nothing but what he before comprehended, and signified by the name lead. Indeed, to a man that knows the signification of the word metal, and not of the word lead, it is a shorter way to explain the signification of the word lead, by saying it is a metal, which at once expresses several of its simple ideas, than to enumerate them one by one, telling him it is a body very heavy, fusible, and malleable. $ 5. Alike trifling it is, to predicate any
As part of other part of the definition of the term the definidefined, or to affirm any one of the simple tion of the ideas of a complex one of the name of the whole complex idea; as, all gold is fusible. For fusibility being one of the simple ideas that goes to the making up the complex one the sound gold stands for, what can it be but playing with sounds, to affirm that of the name gold which is comprehended in its received signification ? It would be thought little better than ridiculous, to affirm gravely as a truth of moment, that gold is yellow; and I see not how it is any jot more material to say, it is fusible, unless that quality be left out of the complex idea, of which the sound gold is the mark in ordinary speech. What instruction can it carry with it, to tell one that which he hath been told already, or he is supposed to know before ? For I am supposed to know the signification of the word another uses to me, or else he is to tell me. And if I know that the name gold stands for this complex idea of body, yellow, heavy, fusible, malleable, it will not much in. struct me to put it solemnly afterwards in a proposition, and gravely say, all gold is fusible. Such propositions can only serve to show the disingenuity of one, who will go from the definition of his own terms, by reminding him sometimes of it; but carry no knowledge with them, but of the signification of words, however certain they be.
$ 6. Every man is an animal, or living Instance, body, is as certain a proposition as can man and palfry.
be; but no more conducing to the know
ledge of things, than to say, a palfry is an ambling horse, or a neighing ambling animal, both being only about the signification of words, and make me know but this; that body, sense, and motion, or power of sensation and moving, are three of those ideas that I always comprehend and signify by the word man; and where they are not to be found together, the name man belongs not to that thing: and so of the other, that body, sense, and a certain way of going, with a certain kind of voice, are some of those ideas which I always comprehend and signify by the word palfry; and when they are not to be found together, the name palfry belongs not to that thing. It is just the same, and to the same purpose, when any term standing for any one or more of the simple ideas, that all together make up that complex idea which is called man, is affirmed of the term man: v. &, suppose a Roman signified by the word homo all these distinct ideas united in one subject, porietas, sensibilitas, potentia se movendi, rationalitas, risibilitas ;" he might, no doubt, with great certainty, universally affirm one, more, or all of these together of the word homo, but did no more than say that the word homo, in his country, comprehended in its signification all these ideas. Much like a romance knight, who by the word palfry signified these ideas; body of a certain figure, four-legged, with sense, motion, ambling, neighing, white, used to have a woman on his back ; might with the same certainty universally affirm also any or all of these of the word palfry: but did thereby teach no more, but that the word palfry, in his or romance language, stood for all these, and was not to be applied to any thing where any of these was wanting. But he that shall tell me, that in whatever thing sense, motion, reason, and laughter, were united, that thing had actually a notion of God, or would be cast into a sleep by opium, made indeed an instructive proposition : because neither having the notion of God, nor being cast into sleep by opium, being contained in the idea signified by the word man, we are by such propositions taught something more than barely what the word man stands for; an therefore the knowledge contained in it is more than verbal.
$7. Before a man makes any proposi- For this tion, he is supposed to understand the teaches but terms he uses in it, or else he talks like the signia parrot, only making a noise by imita- fication of tion, and framing certain sounds, which he has learnt of others; but not as a rational creature, using them for signs of ideas which he has in his mind. The hearer also is supposed to understand the terms as the speaker uses them, or else he talks jargon, and makes an unintelligible noise. And therefore he trifles with words who makes such a proposition, which, when it is made, contains no more than one of the terms does, and which a man was supposed to know before; v. g. a triangle hath three sides, or saffron is yellow. And this is no farther tolerable, than where a man goes to explain his terms to one who is supposed or declares himself not to understand him: and then it teaches only the signification of that word, and the use of that sign.
$ 8. We can know then the truth of two sorts of propositions with perfect cer
knowledge. tainty; the one is, of those trifling propositions which have a certainty in them, but it is only a verbal certainty, but not instructive. And,
But no real