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natural soever it be to our weak constitutions, to be offended with any sound, wherewith an importunate din hath been made about our ears; yet, my lord, I know your lordship has a better opinion of the articles of our faith, than to think any of them can be overturned, or so much as shaken, with a breath formed into any sound, or term whatsoever.
Names are but the arbitrary marks of conceptions; and so they be sufficiently appropriated to them in their use, I know no other difference any of them have in particular, but as they are of easy or difficult pronunciation, and of a more or less pleasant sound; and what particular antipathies there may be in men to some of them, upon that account, is not easy to be foreseen. This I am sure, no term whatsoever in itself bears, one more than another, any opposition to truth of any kind; they are only propositions that do or can oppose the truth of any article or doctrine ; and thus no term is privileged for being set in opposition to truth.
There is no word to be found, which may not be brought into a proposition, wherein the most sacred and most evident truths may be opposed: but that is not a fault in the term, but him that uses it. And therefore I cannot easily persuade myself (whatever your lordship hath said in the heat of your concern) that you have bestowed so much pains upon my book, because the -word idea is so much used there. For though upon my saying, in my chapter about the existence of God, * That I scarce used the word idea in that whole chapter,' your lordship wishes, that / had done so quite through my book: yet I must rather look upon that as a compliment to me, wherein your lordship wished that my book had been all through suited to vulgar readers, not used to that and the like terms, than that your lordship has such an apprehension of the word idea; or that there is any such harm in the use of it, instead of the word notion (with which your lordship seems to take it to agree in signification), that your lordship would think it worth yourwhile to spend any part of your valuable time and thoughts about my book, for having the word idea so often in it; for this would be to make your lordship to write only against an impropriety of speech. I own to your lordship, it is a great condescension in your lordship to have done it, if that word have such a share in what your lordship has writ against my book, as some expressions would persuade one; and I would, for the satisfaction of your lordship, change the term of idea for a better, if your lordship, or any one, could help me to it; for, that notion will not so well stand for every immediate object of the mind in thinking, as idea does, I have (as I guess) somewhere given a reason in my book, by shewing that the term notion is more peculiarly appropriate to a certain sort of those objects, which I call mixed modes; and, I think, it would not sound altogether so well, to say, the notion of red, and the notion of ahorse ; as the idea of red, and the idea of a horse. But if any one thinks it will, I contend not; for 1 have no fondness for, nor an antipathy to, any particular articulate sounds: nor do 1 think there is any spell orfascination in any of them.
But be the word idea proper or improper, I do not see how it is the better or the worse, because ill men have made use of it, or because it has been made use of to bad purposes; for if that be a reason to condemn or lay it by, we must lay by the terms, scripture, reason, perception, distinct, clear, Sec. Nay, the name of God himself will not escape; for I do not think any one of these, or any other term, can be produced, which hath not been made use of by such men, and to such purposes. And therefore, if the unitarians in their late pamphlets have talked very much of, and strangely amused the world with ideas; I cannot believe your lordship will think that word one jot the worse, or the more dangerous, because they use it; any more than, for their use of them, you will think reason or scripture terms ill or dangerous. And therefore what your lordship says, that I might have enjoyed the satisfaction of my ideas long enough beforeyour lordship had takennotice of them, unless you had found them employed in doing mischief; will, I presume, when your lordship has considered again of this matter, prevail with your lordship, to let me enjoy still the satisfaction I take in my ideas, i. e. as much satisfaction as I can take in so small a matter, as is the using of a proper term, notwithstanding it should be employed by others in doing mischief.
For, my lord, if I should leave it wholly out of my book, and substitute the word notion every where in the room of it; and every body else do so too (though your lordship does not, I suppose, suspect, that I have the vanity to think they would follow my example) my book would, it seems, be the more to your lordship's liking; but I do not see how this would one jot abate the mischief your lordship complains of. For the unitarians might as much employ notions, as they do now ideas, to do mischief; unless they are such fools to think they can conjure with this notable word idea; and that the force of whatthey say, lies in the sound, and not in the signification of their terms.
This I am sure of, that the truths of the Christian religion can be no more battered by one word than another; nor can they be beaten down or endangered by any sound whatsoever. And I am apt to flatter myself, that your lordship is satisfied that there is no harm in theword ideas, because you say, you should not have taken any notice of my ideas, if the enemies of our faith had not taken up my new way of ideas, as an effectual battery against the mysteries of the Christianfaith. In which place, by new way of ideas, nothing, I think, can be construed to be meant, but my expressingmyself by that of ideas; and not by other more common words, and of ancienter standing in the English language.
As to the objection, of the author's way by ideas being a new way, he thus answers: my new way by ideas, or my way by ideas, which often occurs in your lordship's letter, is, I confess, a very large and doubtful expression; and may, in the full latitude, comprehend my whole essay ;. because, treating in it of the understanding, which is nothing but the faculty of thinking, I could not well treat of that faculty of the mind, which consists in thinking, without considering the immediate objects of the mind in thinking, which I call ideas: and therefore in treating of the understanding, I guess it will not be thought strange, that the greatest part of my book has been taken up, in considering what these objects of the mind, in thinking, are j whence they come; what use the mind makes of them, in its several ways of thinking; and what are the outward marks whereby it signifies them to others, or records them for its own use. And this, in short, is my way by ideas, that which your lordship calls my new way by ideas: which, my lord, if it be new, it is but a new history of an old thing. For I think it will not be doubted, that men always performed the actions of thinking, reasoning, believing, and knowing, just after the same manner they do now; though whether the same account has heretofore been given of the way how they performed these actions, or wherein they consisted, I do not know. Were I as well read as your lordship, I should have been safe from that gentle reprimand of your lordship's, for thinking my way of ideas, New, for want of looking into other mens thoughts, which appear in their books.
Your lordship's words, as an acknowledgment of your instructions in the case, and as a warning toothers, who will be so bold adventurers as to spin any thing barely out of their own thoughts, I shall set down at large: And they run thus: Whether you took this way ofideas from the modern philosopher, mentioned by you, is nut at all material; but I intended no reflection upon you in it (for that you mean,bymy commending you as a scholar of so great a master J; I never meant to take from you the honour of your own inventions: and I do believe you when you say, That you wrote from your own thoughts, and the ideas you had there. But many things may seem new to one, who converses only with his own thoughts, which really are not so; as he may find, when he looks into the thoughts of other men, which appear in their books. And therefore, although I have a just esteem for the invention of such, who can spin volumes barely out of their own thoughts; yet lam apt to think, they would oblige the world more, if, after they have thought so much themselves, they would examine what thoughts others have had before them, concerning the same things: that so those may not be thought their own inventions which are common to themselves and others. If a man should try all the magnetical experiments himself, and publish them as his own thouglUs, he might take himself to be the inventor of them: but he that examines and compares with them what Gilbert, and others have done before him, will not diminish the praise of his diligence, but may wish he had compared his thoughts with other men's; by which the world .would receive greater advantage, although he had lost the honour qf being an original.
To alleviate my fault herein, 1 agree with your lordship, that many things may seem NEW, to one that converses only with his own thoughts, which really are not so; but I must crave leave to suggest to your lordship, that if in the spinning them out of his own thoughts, they seem new to him, he is certainly the inventor of them; and they may as justly be thought his own invention, as any one's; and he is as certainly the inventor of them, as any one who.thought on them before him : the distinction of invention, or not invention, lying not in thinking first, or not first, but in borrowing, or not borrowing, our thoughts from another: and he to whom, spinning them out of his own thoughts, they seem new, could not certainly borrow them from another. So he truly invented printing in Europe, who without any communication with the Chinese, spun it out of his own thoughts; though it were ever so true, that the Chinese had the use of printing, nay, of printing in the very same way, among them, many ages before him. So that he that spins any thing out of his own thoughts, that seems new to him, cannot cease to think it his own invention, should he examine ever so far, what thoughts others have had before him, concerning the same thing, and should find by examining, that they had the same thoughts too.
But what great obligation this would be to the world, or weighty cause of turning over and looking into books, I confess I do not see. The great end to me, in conversing with my own or other men's thoughts, in matters of speculation, is to find truth, without being much concerned whether my own spinning of it out of mine, or their spinning of it out of their own thoughts, helps me to it. And how little 1 affect the honour *>f an original, may be seen at that place of my book, where, if any where, that itch of vain-glory was likeliest to have shewn itself, had I been so over-run with it, as to need a cure. It is where I speak of certainty in these following words, taken notice of by your lordship, in another place: • I think I have shewn wherein it is that certainty, real
* certainty consists, which whatever it was to others, was, I confess, td 'me, heretofore, one of those desiderata, which I found great want of.'
Here, my lord, however new this seemed to me, and the more so because possibly I had in vain hunted for it in the books of others; yet I spoke of it as new, only to myself: leaving others in the undisturbed possession of what either by invention, or reading, was theirs before j without assuming to myself any other honour, but that of my own ignorance, till that time, if others before had shewn wherein certainty lay. And yet, my lord, if I had, upon this occasion, been forward to assume to myself the honour of an original, I think I had been pretty safe in it; since I should have had your lordship for my guarantee and vindicator in that point, who are pleased to call it new . and, as such, to write against it.
And truly, my lord, in this respect, my book has had very unlucky stars, since it hath had the misfortune to displease your lordship, with many things in it, for their novelty; as new way of reasoning; new hypothesis about reason ; new sort of certainty; new terms ; new way of ideas; new method of certainty; &c. And yet in other places, your lordship seems to think it worthy in me of your lordship's reflection, for saying, but what others have said before ; as where I say, 'In the different make 'of men's tempers, and application of their thoughts, some arguments 'prevail more on one, and some on another, for the confirmation of 'the same truth.' Your lordship asks, What is this different from what all men of understanding hate said? Again, I take it, your lordship meant not these words for a commendation of my book, where you say, But if no more be meant by 'The simple ideas that come in by sensation, or * reflection, and their being the foundation of our knowledge,' but that our notions of things come in, either from our senses or the exercise of our minds: as there is nothing extraordinary in the discovery, so your lordship
. is far enough from opposing that, wherein you think all mankind are agreed.
And again, But what need all this great noise about ideas and certainty, true and real certainty by ideas; if, after all, it comes only to this, that our ideas only represent to us such things,from whence we bring arguments to prove the truth of things?
But, the world hath been strangely amused with ideas of late; and we have been told that strange things might be done by the help of ideas; and yet these ideas, at last, come to be only common notions of things, which we must make use of in our reasoning. And to the like purpose in other places.
Whether, therefore, at last, your lordship will resolve that it is new or no j or more faulty by its being new, must be left to your lordship. This I find by"it, that my book cannot avoid being condemned on the one side or the other, nor do I see a possibility to help it. If there be readers that like only new thoughts; or, on the other side, others that can bear nothing but what can be justified by received authorities in print; I must desire them to make themselves amends in that part which they like, for the displeasure they receive in the other: but if any should be so exact, as to find fault with both, truly, I know not well what to say to them. The case is a plain case, the book is all over naught, and there is not a sentence in it, that is not, either for its antiquity or novelty, to be condemned, and so there is a short end of it. From your lordship, indeed, in particular, I can hope for something better; for your lordship thinks the general design of it so good, that that, I flatter myself, would prevail on your lordship to preserve it from the fire, i But as to the way, your lordship thinks, I should have taken to prevent the having it thought my invention, when it was common to me with others, it unluckily so fell out, in the subject of my Essay of Human Understanding, that I could not look into the thoughts of other men to inform myself. For my design being, as well as I could, to copy nature, and to give an account of the operations of the mind in thinking; I could look into no-body's understanding but my own, to see how it wrought; nor have a prospect into other men's minds, to view their thoughts there; and observe what steps and motions they took, and by what gradations they proceeded in their acquainting themselves with truth, and their advance in knowledge: what we find of their thoughts in books, is but the result of this, and not the progress and working of their minds, in coming to the opinions or conclusions they set down and published.
All therefore, that I can say of my book, is, that it is a copy of my own mind, in its several ways of operation. And all that I can say for the publishing of it is, that I think the intellectual faculties are made, and operate alike in most men ; and that some, that I shewed it to before I published it, liked it so well, that I was confirmed in that opinion. And therefore, if it should happen, that it should not be so, but that some men should have ways of thinking, reasoning, or arriving at certainty, different from others, and above those that I find my mind to use and acquiesce in, I do not see of what use my book can be to them. I can only make it my humble request, in my own name, and in the name of those that are of my size, who find their minds work, reason, and know in the same low way that mine does, that those men of a more happy genius would shew us the way of their nobler flights; and particularly would discover to us their shorter or surer way to certainty, than by ideas, and the observing their agreement or disagreement.
Your lordship adds, But now, it seems, nothing is intelligible but what suits with the new way of ideas. My lord, The new way of ideas, and the old way of speaking intelligibly* was always and ever will be the same: and if I may take the liberty to declare my sense of it, herein it consists: 1. That a man use no words, but such as he makes the signs of certain determined objects of his mind in thinking, which he can make known to another. 2. Next, that he use the same word steadily for the sign of the same immediate object of his mind in thinking. 3. That he join those words together in propositions, according to the grammatical rules of that language he speaks in. 4. That he unite those sentences in a coherent discourse. Thus, and thus only, I humbly conceive, any one may preserve himself from the confines and suspicion of jargon, whether he pleases to call those immediate objects of his mind, which his words do, or should stand for, ideas or no.
* Mr. Locke's Third Letter to the Bishop of Worcester.