« EdellinenJatka »
truth of this proposition, "that all gold is malleable,"
would be as certain as of this, " the three angles of all
right-lined triangles are all equal to two right ones."
§ 11. Had we such ideas of substances, ^ Jj
as to know what real constitutions pro- t;eg which
duce those sensible qualities we find in make our
them, and how those qualities flowed from complex
thence, we could, by the specific ideas of WeMofsub. . '. * , * r . , stances, ue
their real essences in our own minds, more penj mostiy
certainly find out their properties and dis- one xternal,
cover what qualities they had or had not, remote, and
than we can now by our senses: and to "auses
know the properties of gold, it would be
no more necessary that gold should exist, and that we
should make experiments upon it, than it is necessary
for the knowing the properties of a triangle, that a
triangle should exist in any matter; the idea in our
minds would serve for the one as well as the other.
But we are so far from being admitted into the secrets
of nature, that we scarce so much as ever approach
the first entrance towards them. For we are wont to
consider the substances we meet with, each of them
as an entire thing by itself, having all its qualities in
itself, and independent of other things; overlooking,
for the most part, the operations of those invisible
fluids they are encompassed with, and upon whose
motions and operations depend the greatest part of
those qualities which are taken notice of in them,
and are made by us the inherent marks of distinction
whereby we know and denominate them. Put a piece
of gold any where by itself, separate from the reach
and influence of all other bodies, it will immediately
lose all its colour and weight, and perhaps malleable
ness too; which, for aught I know, would be changed
into a perfect friability. Water, in which to us fluidity
is an essential quality, left to itself, would cease to be
fluid. But if inanimate bodies owe so much of their
present state to other bodies without them, that they
would not be what they appear to us, were those bodies that environ them removed; it is yet more so in vegetables, which are nourished, grow, and produce leaves, flowers, and seeds in a constant succession. And if we look a little nearer into the state of animals, we shall find that their dependence, as to life, motion, and the most considerable qualities to be observed in them, is so wholly on extrinsical causes and qualities of other bodies that make no part of them, that they cannot subsist a moment without them: though yet those bodies on which they depend are little taken notice of, and make no part of the complex ideas we frame of those animals. Take the air but for a minute from the greatest part of living creatures, and they presently lose sense, life, and motion. This the necessity of breathing has forced into our knowledge. But how many other extrinsical, and possibly very remote bodies, do the springs of these admirable machines depend on, which are not vulgarly observed, or so much as thought on; and how many are there, which the severest inquiry can never discover! The inhabitants of this spot of the universe, though removed so many millions of miles from the sun, yet depend so much on the duly tempered motion of particles coming from, or agitated by it, that were this earth removed but a small part of the distance out of its present situation, and placed a little farther or nearer that source of heat, it is more than probable that the greatest part of the animals in it would immediately perish: since we find them so often destroyed by an excess or defect of the sun's warmth, which an accidental position, in-some parts of this our little globe, exposes them to. The qualities observed in a loadstone must needs have their source far beyond the confines of that body; and the ravage made often on several sorts of animals by invisible causes, the certain death (as we are told) of some of them, by barely passing the line, or, as it is certain of other, by being removed into a neighbouring country; evidently show that the concurrence and operations of several bodies, with which they are seldom thought to have any thing to do, is absolutely necessary to make them be what they appear to us, and to preserve those qualities by which we know and distinguish them. We are then quite out of the way, when we think that things contain within themselves the qualities that appear to us in them; and we in vain search for that constitution within the body of a fly, or an elephant, upon which depend those qualities and powers we observe in them. For| which perhaps, to understand them aright, we ought to look not only beyond this our earth and atmosphere, but even beyond the sun, or remotest star our eyes have yet discovered. For how much the being and operation of particular substances in this our globe depends on causes utterly beyond our view, is impossible for us to determine. We see and perceive some of the motions and grosser operations of things here about us; but whence the streams come that keep all these curious machines in motion and repair, how conveyed and modified, is beyond our notice and apprehension: and the great parts and wheels, as I may so say, of this stupendous structure of the universe, may, for aught we know, have such a connexion and dependence in their influences and operations one upon another, that perhaps things in this our mansion would put on quite another face, and cease to be what they are, if some one of the stars or great bodies, incomprehensibly remote from us, should cease to be or move as it does. This is certain, things however absolute and entire they seem in themselves, are but retainers to other parts of nature, for that which they are most taken notice of by us. Their observable qualities, actions, and powers, are owing to something without them; and there is not so complete and perfect a part that we know of nature, which does not owe the being it has, and the excellencies of it, to its neighbours; and we must not confine our thoughts within the surface of any body, Vol. in. c
but look a great deal farther, to comprehend perfectly those qualities that are in it.
§ 12. If this be so, it is not to be wondered, that we have very imperfect ideas of substances; and that the real essences, on which depend their properties and operations, are unknown to us. We cannot discover so much as that size, figure, and texture of their minute and active parts, which is really in them; much less the different motions and impulses made in and upon them by bodies from without, upon which depends, and by which is formed, the greatest and most remarkable part of those qualities we observe in them, and of which our complex ideas of them are made up. This consideration alone is enough to put an end to all our hopes of ever having the ideas of their real essences ; which whilst we want, the nominal essences we make use of instead of them will be able to furnish us but very sparingly with any general knowledge, or universal propositions capable of real certainty.
Judgment § l3' ^e are not tnererore to wonder, may reach if certainty be to be found in very few gefarther, but neral propositions made concerning subthat is not stances: our knowledge of their qualities now e ge. Rn(l properties goes very seldom farther than our senses reach and inform us. Possibly inquisitive and observing men may, by strength of judgment,penetratefarther,and on probabilities takenfrom wary observation, and hints well laid together, often guess right at what experience has not yet discovered to them. But this is but guessing still; it amounts only to opinion, and has not that certainty which is requisite to knowledge. For all general knowledge lies only in our own thoughts, and consists barely in the contemplation of our own abstract ideas. Whereever we perceive any agreement or disagreement amongst them, there we have general knowledge; and, by putting the names of those ideas together accordingly in propositions, can with certainty pronounce general truths. But because the abstract ideas of substances, for which their specific names stand, whenever they have any distinct and determinate signification, have a discoverable connexion or inconsistency with but a very few other ideas; the certainty of universal propositions concerning substances is very narrow and scanty in that part, which is our principal inquiry concerning them; and there are scarce any of the names of substances, let the idea it is applied to be what it will, of which we can generally and with certainty pronounce, that it has or has not this or that other quality belonging to it, and constantly co-existing or inconsistent with that idea, wherever it is to be found.
§ 14. Before we can have any tolerable What ig re. knowledge of this kind, we must first quisite for know what changes the primary qualities our knowof one body do regularly produce in the le^Se °f primary qualities of another, and how. su stancesSecondly, we must know what primary qualities of any body produce certain sensations or ideas in us. This is in truth no less than to know all the effects of matter, under its divers modifications of bulk, figure, cohesion of parts, motion and rest. Which, I think every body will allow, is utterly impossible to be known by us without revelation. Nor if it were revealed to us, what sort of figure, bulk, and motion of corpuscles, would produce in us the sensation of a yellow colour, and what sort of figure, bulk, and texture of parts, in the superficies of any body, were fit to give such corpuscles their due motion to produce that colour; would that be enough to make universal propositions with certainty, concerning the several sorts of them, unless we had faculties acute enough to perceive the precise bulk, figure, texture, and motion of bodies in those minute parts, by which they operate on our senses, so that we might by those frame our abstract ideas of them. I have mentioned here