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A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge by George Berkeley

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say you, though it be granted that there is no thoughtless support
of extension and the other qualities or accidents which we perceive,
yet there may perhaps be some inert, unperceiving substance or
substratum of some other qualities, as incomprehensible to us as colours
are to a man born blind, because we have not a sense adapted to them.
But, if we had a new sense, we should possibly no more doubt of their
existence than a blind man made to see does of the existence of light and
colours. I answer, first, if what you mean by the word Matter be only the
unknown support of unknown qualities, it is no matter whether there is
such a thing or no, since it no way concerns us; and I do not see the
advantage there is in disputing about what we know not what, and we know
not why.

78. But, secondly, if we had a new sense it could only furnish us with
new ideas or sensations; and then we should have the same reason against
their existing in an unperceiving substance that has been already offered
with relation to figure, motion, colour and the like. Qualities, as has
been shown, are nothing else but sensations or ideas, which exist only in
a mind perceiving them; and this is true not only of the ideas we are
acquainted with at present, but likewise of all possible ideas

79. But, you will insist, what if I have no reason to believe the
existence of Matter? what if I cannot assign any use to it or explain
anything by it, or even conceive what is meant by that word? yet still it
is no contradiction to say that Matter exists, and that this Matter is in
general a substance, or occasion of ideas; though indeed to go about to
unfold the meaning or adhere to any particular explication of those words
may be attended with great difficulties. I answer, when words are used
without a meaning, you may put them together as you please without danger
of running into a contradiction. You may say, for example, that twice two
is equal to seven, so long as you declare you do not take the words of
that proposition in their usual acceptation but for marks of you know not
what. And, by the same reason, you may say there is an inert thoughtless
substance without accidents which is the occasion of our ideas. And we
shall understand just as much by one proposition as the other.

80. In the last place, you will say, what if we give up the cause of
material Substance, and stand to it that Matter is an unknown
somewhat--neither substance nor accident, spirit nor idea, inert,
thoughtless, indivisible, immovable, unextended, existing in no place.
For, say you, whatever may be urged against substance or occasion, or any
other positive or relative notion of Matter, has no place at all, so
long as this negative definition of Matter is adhered to. I answer, you
may, if so it shall seem good, use the word "Matter" in the same sense as
other men use "nothing," and so make those terms convertible in your
style. For, after all, this is what appears to me to be the result of
that definition, the parts whereof when I consider with attention, either
collectively or separate from each other, I do not find that there is any
kind of effect or impression made on my mind different from what is
excited by the term nothing.

81. You will reply, perhaps, that in the fore-said definition is included
what doth sufficiently distinguish it from nothing--the positive abstract
idea of quiddity, entity, or existence. I own, indeed, that those who
pretend to the faculty of framing abstract general ideas do talk as if
they had such an idea, which is, say they, the most abstract and general
notion of all; that is, to me, the most incomprehensible of all others.
That there are a great variety of spirits of different orders and
capacities, whose faculties both in number and extent are far exceeding
those the Author of my being has bestowed on me, I see no reason to deny.
And for me to pretend to determine by my own few, stinted narrow inlets
of perception, what ideas the inexhaustible power of the Supreme Spirit
may imprint upon them were certainly the utmost folly and
presumption--since there may be, for aught that I know, innumerable sorts
of ideas or sensations, as different from one another, and from all that
I have perceived, as colours are from sounds. But, how ready soever I may
be to acknowledge the scantiness of my comprehension with regard to the
endless variety of spirits and ideas that may possibly exist, yet for any
one to pretend to a notion of Entity or Existence, abstracted from spirit
and idea, from perceived and being perceived, is, I suspect, a downright
repugnancy and trifling with words.--It remains that we consider the
objections which may possibly be made on the part of Religion.

who think that, though the arguments for the real existence of
bodies which are drawn from Reason be allowed not to amount to
demonstration, yet the Holy Scriptures are so clear in the point as
will sufficiently convince every good Christian that bodies do really
exist, and are something more than mere ideas; there being in Holy Writ
innumerable facts related which evidently suppose the reality of timber
and stone, mountains and rivers, and cities, and human bodies. To which I
answer that no sort of writings whatever, sacred or profane, which use
those and the like words in the vulgar acceptation, or so as to have a
meaning in them, are in danger of having their truth called in question
by our doctrine. That all those things do really exist, that there are
bodies, even corporeal substances, when taken in the vulgar sense, has
been shown to be agreeable to our principles; and the difference betwixt
things and ideas, realities and chimeras, has been distinctly explained.
See sect. 29, 30, 33, 36, &c. And I do not think that either what
philosophers call Matter, or the existence of objects without the mind,
is anywhere mentioned in Scripture.

83. NO OBJECTION AS TO LANGUAGE TENABLE.--Again, whether there can
be or be not external things, it is agreed on all hands that the
proper use of words is the marking our conceptions, or things only
as they are known and perceived by us; whence it plainly follows
that in the tenets we have laid down there is nothing inconsistent
with the right use and significancy of language, and that discourse,
of what kind soever, so far as it is intelligible, remains undisturbed.
But all this seems so manifest, from what has been largely set forth
in the premises, that it is needless to insist any farther on it.

84. But, secondly it will be urged that miracles do, at least, lose much
of their stress and import by our principles. What must we think of Moses'
rod? was it not really turned into a serpent; or was there only a change
of ideas in the minds of the spectators? And, can it be supposed that our
Saviour did no more at the marriage-feast in Cana than impose on the
sight, and smell, and taste of the guests, so as to create in them the
appearance or idea only of wine? The same may be said of all other
miracles; which, in consequence of the foregoing principles, must be
looked upon only as so many cheats, or illusions of fancy. To this I
reply, that the rod was changed into a real serpent, and the water into
real wine. That this does not in the least contradict what I have
elsewhere said will be evident from sect. 34 and 35. But this business of
real and imaginary has been already so plainly and fully explained, and
so often referred to, and the difficulties about it are so easily
answered from what has gone before, that it were an affront to the
reader's understanding to resume the explication of it in its place. I
shall only observe that if at table all who were present should see, and
smell, and taste, and drink wine, and find the effects of it, with me
there could be no doubt of its reality; so that at bottom the scruple
concerning real miracles has no place at all on ours, but only on the
received principles, and consequently makes rather for than against what
has been said.

Objections, which I endeavoured to propose in the clearest light,
and gave them all the force and weight I could, we proceed in the
next place to take a view of our tenets in their Consequences.
Some of these appear at first sight--as that several difficult and
obscure questions, on which abundance of speculation has been
thrown away, are entirely banished from philosophy. "Whether
corporeal substance can think," "whether Matter be infinitely divisible,"
and "how it operates on spirit"--these and like inquiries have given
infinite amusement to philosophers in all ages; but depending on the
existence of Matter, they have no longer any place on our principles.
Many other advantages there are, as well with regard to religion as the
sciences, which it is easy for any one to deduce from what has been
premised; but this will appear more plainly in the sequel.

principles we have laid down it follows human knowledge may naturally
be reduced to two heads--that of ideas and that of spirits. Of each
of these I shall treat in order.

And first as to ideas or unthinking things. Our knowledge of these has
been very much obscured and confounded, and we have been led into very
dangerous errors, by supposing a twofold existence of the objects of
sense--the one intelligible or in the mind, the other real and without
the mind; whereby unthinking things are thought to have a natural
subsistence of their own distinct from being perceived by spirits. This,
which, if I mistake not, has been shown to be a most groundless and
absurd notion, is the very root of Scepticism; for, so long as men
thought that real things subsisted without the mind, and that their
knowledge was only so far forth real as it was conformable to real
things, it follows they could not be certain they had any real knowledge
at all. For how can it be known that the things which are perceived are
conformable to those which are not perceived, or exist without the mind?

87. Colour, figure, motion, extension, and the like, considered only as
so many sensations in the mind, are perfectly known, there being nothing
in them which is not perceived. But, if they are looked on as notes or
images, referred to things or archetypes existing without the mind, then
are we involved all in scepticism. We see only the appearances, and not
the real qualities of things. What may be the extension, figure, or
motion of anything really and absolutely, or in itself, it is impossible
for us to know, but only the proportion or relation they bear to our
senses. Things remaining the same, our ideas vary, and which of them, or
even whether any of them at all, represent the true quality really
existing in the thing, it is out of our reach to determine. So that, for
aught we know, all we see, hear, and feel may be only phantom and vain
chimera, and not at all agree with the real things existing in rerum
natura. All this scepticism follows from our supposing a difference
between things and ideas, and that the former have a subsistence without
the mind or unperceived. It were easy to dilate on this subject, and show
how the arguments urged by sceptics in all ages depend on the supposition
of external objects.

OF THINGS CAN BE KNOWN.--So long as we attribute a real existence to
unthinking things, distinct from their being perceived, it is not
only impossible for us to know with evidence the nature of any real
unthinking being, but even that it exists. Hence it is that we see
philosophers distrust their senses, and doubt of the existence of
heaven and earth, of everything they see or feel, even of their own
bodies. And, after all their labour and struggle of thought, they
are forced to own we cannot attain to any self-evident or demonstrative
knowledge of the existence of sensible things. But, all this doubtfulness,
which so bewilders and confounds the mind and makes philosophy
ridiculous in the eyes of the world, vanishes if we annex a meaning
to our words. and not amuse ourselves with the terms "absolute,"
"external," "exist, "and such-like, signifying we know not what. I can as
well doubt of my own being as of the being of those things which I
actually perceive by sense; it being a manifest contradiction that any
sensible object should be immediately perceived by sight or touch, and at
the same time have no existence in nature, since the very existence of an
unthinking being consists in being perceived.

89. OF THING OR BEING.--Nothing seems of more importance towards
erecting a firm system of sound and real knowledge, which may be
proof against the assaults of Scepticism, than to lay the beginning
in a distinct explication of what is meant by thing, reality,
existence; for in vain shall we dispute concerning the real existence
of things, or pretend to any knowledge thereof, so long as we have
not fixed the meaning of those words. Thing or Being is the most
general name of all; it comprehends under it two kinds entirely
distinct and heterogeneous, and which have nothing common but the
name. viz. spirits and ideas. The former are active, indivisible
substances: the latter are inert, fleeting, dependent beings, which
subsist not by themselves, but are supported by, or exist in minds or
spiritual substances. We comprehend our own existence by inward feeling
or reflexion, and that of other spirits by reason. We may be said to have
some knowledge or notion of our own minds, of spirits and active beings,
whereof in a strict sense we have not ideas. In like manner, we know and
have a notion of relations between things or ideas--which relations are
distinct from the ideas or things related, inasmuch as the latter may be
perceived by us without our perceiving the former. To me it seems that
ideas, spirits, and relations are all in their respective kinds the
object of human knowledge and subject of discourse; and that the term
idea would be improperly extended to signify everything we know or have
any notion of.

Ideas imprinted on the senses are real things, or do really exist;
this we do not deny, but we deny they can subsist without the minds which
perceive them, or that they are resemblances of any archetypes existing
without the mind; since the very being of a sensation or idea consists in
being perceived, and an idea can be like nothing but an idea. Again, the
things perceived by sense may be termed external, with regard to their
origin--in that they are not generated from within by the mind itself,
but imprinted by a Spirit distinct from that which perceives them.
Sensible objects may likewise be said to be "without the mind" in another
sense, namely when they exist in some other mind; thus, when I shut my
eyes, the things I saw may still exist, but it must be in another mind.

91. SENSIBLE QUALITIES REAL.--It were a mistake to think that what
is here said derogates in the least from the reality of things.
It is acknowledged, on the received principles, that extension,
motion, and in a word all sensible qualities have need of a support,
as not being able to subsist by themselves. But the objects perceived
by sense are allowed to be nothing but combinations of those qualities,
and consequently cannot subsist by themselves. Thus far it is agreed
on all hand. So that in denying the things perceived by sense an
existence independent of a substance of support wherein they may
exist, we detract nothing from the received opinion of their reality, and
are guilty of no innovation in that respect. All the difference is that,
according to us, the unthinking beings perceived by sense have no
existence distinct from being perceived, and cannot therefore exist in
any other substance than those unextended indivisible substances or
spirits which act and think and perceive them; whereas philosophers
vulgarly hold that the sensible qualities do exist in an inert, extended,
unperceiving substance which they call Matter, to which they attribute a
natural subsistence, exterior to all thinking beings, or distinct from
being perceived by any mind whatsoever, even the eternal mind of the
Creator, wherein they suppose only ideas of the corporeal substances
created by him; if indeed they allow them to be at all created.

92. OBJECTIONS OF ATHEISTS OVERTURNED.--For, as we have shown the
doctrine of Matter or corporeal substance to have been the main
pillar and support of Scepticism, so likewise upon the same foundation
have been raised all the impious schemes of Atheism and Irreligion.
Nay, so great a difficulty has it been thought to conceive Matter
produced out of nothing, that the most celebrated among the ancient
philosophers, even of those who maintained the being of a God,
have thought Matter to be uncreated and co-eternal with Him. How
great a friend material substance has been to Atheists in all ages were
needless to relate. All their monstrous systems have so visible and
necessary a dependence on it that, when this corner-stone is once
removed, the whole fabric cannot choose but fall to the ground, insomuch
that it is no longer worth while to bestow a particular consideration on
the absurdities of every wretched sect of Atheists.

93. AND OF FATALISTS ALSO.--That impious and profane persons should
readily fall in with those systems which favour their inclinations,
by deriding immaterial substance, and supposing the soul to be
divisible and subject to corruption as the body; which exclude all
freedom, intelligence, and design from the formation of things,
and instead thereof make a self--existent, stupid, unthinking
substance the root and origin of all beings; that they should
hearken to those who deny a Providence, or inspection of a Superior
Mind over the affairs of the world, attributing the whole series
of events either to blind chance or fatal necessity arising from
the impulse of one body or another--all this is very natural. And,
on the other hand, when men of better principles observe the enemies
of religion lay so great a stress on unthinking Matter, and all
of them use so much industry and artifice to reduce everything to it,
methinks they should rejoice to see them deprived of their grand support,
and driven from that only fortress, without which your Epicureans,
Hobbists, and the like, have not even the shadow of a pretence, but
become the most cheap and easy triumph in the world.

94. OF IDOLATORS.--The existence of Matter, or bodies unperceived,
has not only been the main support of Atheists and Fatalists,
but on the same principle doth Idolatry likewise in all its various
forms depend. Did men but consider that the sun, moon, and stars,
and every other object of the senses are only so many sensations
in their minds, which have no other existence but barely being
perceived, doubtless they would never fall down and worship their
own ideas, but rather address their homage to that ETERNAL INVISIBLE MIND
which produces and sustains all things.

95. AND SOCINIANS.--The same absurd principle, by mingling itself with
the articles of our faith, has occasioned no small difficulties to
Christians. For example, about the Resurrection, how many scruples and
objections have been raised by Socinians and others? But do not the
most plausible of them depend on the supposition that a body is
denominated the same, with regard not to the form or that which is
perceived by sense, but the material substance, which remains the
same under several forms? Take away this material substance, about
the identity whereof all the dispute is, and mean by body what every
plain ordinary person means by that word, to wit, that which is
immediately seen and felt, which is only a combination of sensible
qualities or ideas, and then their most unanswerable objections
come to nothing.

expelled out of nature drags with it so many sceptical and impious
notions, such an incredible number of disputes and puzzling questions,
which have been thorns in the sides of divines as well as philosophers,
and made so much fruitless work for mankind, that if the arguments
we have produced against it are not found equal to demonstration
(as to me they evidently seem), yet I am sure all friends to knowledge,
peace, and religion have reason to wish they were.

97. Beside the external existence of the objects of perception, another
great source of errors and difficulties with regard to ideal knowledge is
the doctrine of abstract ideas, such as it has been set forth in the
Introduction. The plainest things in the world, those we are most
intimately acquainted with and perfectly know, when they are considered
in an abstract way, appear strangely difficult and incomprehensible.
Time, place, and motion, taken in particular or concrete, are what
everybody knows, but, having passed through the hands of a metaphysician,
they become too abstract and fine to be apprehended by men of ordinary
sense. Bid your servant meet you at such a time in such a place, and he
shall never stay to deliberate on the meaning of those words; in
conceiving that particular time and place, or the motion by which he is
to get thither, he finds not the least difficulty. But if time be taken
exclusive of all those particular actions and ideas that diversify the
day, merely for the continuation of existence or duration in abstract,
then it will perhaps gravel even a philosopher to comprehend it.

98. DILEMMA.--For my own part, whenever I attempt to frame a simple idea
of time, abstracted from the succession of ideas in my mind, which flows
uniformly and is participated by all beings, I am lost and embrangled in
inextricable difficulties. I have no notion of it at all, only I hear
others say it is infinitely divisible, and speak of it in such a manner
as leads me to entertain odd thoughts of my existence; since that
doctrine lays one under an absolute necessity of thinking, either that he
passes away innumerable ages without a thought, or else that he is
annihilated every moment of his life, both which seem equally absurd.
Time therefore being nothing, abstracted from the sucession of ideas in
our minds, it follows that the duration of any finite spirit must be
estimated by the number of ideas or actions succeeding each other in that
same spirit or mind. Hence, it is a plain consequence that the soul
always thinks; and in truth whoever shall go about to divide in his
thoughts, or abstract the existence of a spirit from its cogitation,
will, I believe, find it no easy task.

99. So likewise when we attempt to abstract extension and motion from all
other qualities, and consider them by themselves, we presently lose sight
of them, and run into great extravagances. All which depend on a twofold
abstraction; first, it is supposed that extension, for example, may be
abstracted from all other sensible qualities; and secondly, that the
entity of extension may be abstracted from its being perceived. But,
whoever shall reflect, and take care to understand what he says, will, if
I mistake not, acknowledge that all sensible qualities are alike
sensations and alike real; that where the extension is, there is the
colour, too, i.e., in his mind, and that their archetypes can exist only
in some other mind; and that the objects of sense are nothing but those
sensations combined, blended, or (if one may so speak) concreted
together; none of all which can be supposed to exist unperceived.

100. What it is for a man to be happy, or an object good, every one may
think he knows. But to frame an abstract idea of happiness, prescinded
from all particular pleasure, or of goodness from everything that is
good, this is what few can pretend to. So likewise a man may be just and
virtuous without having precise ideas of justice and virtue. The opinion
that those and the like words stand for general notions, abstracted from
all particular persons and actions, seems to have rendered morality very
difficult, and the study thereof of small use to mankind. And in effect
the doctrine of abstraction has not a little contributed towards spoiling
the most useful parts of knowledge.

101. OF NATURAL PHILOSOPHY AND MATHEMATICS.--The two great provinces
of speculative science conversant about ideas received from sense,
are Natural Philosophy and Mathematics; with regard to each of these
I shall make some observations. And first I shall say somewhat of
Natural Philosophy. On this subject it is that the sceptics triumph.
All that stock of arguments they produce to depreciate our faculties
and make mankind appear ignorant and low, are drawn principally
from this head, namely, that we are under an invincible blindness
as to the true and real nature of things. This they exaggerate,
and love to enlarge on. We are miserably bantered, say they, by our
senses, and amused only with the outside and show of things. The real
essence, the internal qualities and constitution of every the meanest
object, is hid from our view; something there is in every drop of water,
every grain of sand, which it is beyond the power of human understanding
to fathom or comprehend. But, it is evident from what has been shown that
all this complaint is groundless, and that we are influenced by false
principles to that degree as to mistrust our senses, and think we know
nothing of those things which we perfectly comprehend.

102. One great inducement to our pronouncing ourselves ignorant of the
nature of things is the current opinion that everything includes within
itself the cause of its properties; or that there is in each object an
inward essence which is the source whence its discernible qualities flow,
and whereon they depend. Some have pretended to account for appearances
by occult qualities, but of late they are mostly resolved into mechanical
causes, to wit. the figure, motion, weight, and suchlike qualities, of
insensible particles; whereas, in truth, there is no other agent or
efficient cause than spirit, it being evident that motion, as well as all
other ideas, is perfectly inert. See sect. 25. Hence, to endeavour to
explain the production of colours or sounds, by figure, motion,
magnitude, and the like, must needs be labour in vain. And accordingly we
see the attempts of that kind are not at all satisfactory. Which may be
said in general of those instances wherein one idea or quality is
assigned for the cause of another. I need not say how many hypotheses and
speculations are left out, and how much the study of nature is abridged
by this doctrine.

mechanical principle now in vogue is attraction. That a stone
falls to the earth, or the sea swells towards the moon, may to some
appear sufficiently explained thereby. But how are we enlightened by
being told this is done by attraction? Is it that that word signifies the
manner of the tendency, and that it is by the mutual drawing of bodies
instead of their being impelled or protruded towards each other? But,
nothing is determined of the manner or action, and it may as truly (for
aught we know) be termed "impulse," or "protrusion," as "attraction."
Again, the parts of steel we see cohere firmly together, and this also is
accounted for by attraction; but, in this as in the other instances, I do
not perceive that anything is signified besides the effect itself; for as
to the manner of the action whereby it is produced, or the cause which
produces it, these are not so much as aimed at.

104. Indeed, if we take a view of the several phenomena, and compare them
together, we may observe some likeness and conformity between them. For
example, in the falling of a stone to the ground, in the rising of the
sea towards the moon, in cohesion, crystallization, etc, there is
something alike, namely, an union or mutual approach of bodies. So that
any one of these or the like phenomena may not seem strange or surprising
to a man who has nicely observed and compared the effects of nature. For
that only is thought so which is uncommon, or a thing by itself, and out
of the ordinary course of our observation. That bodies should tend
towards the centre of the earth is not thought strange, because it is
what we perceive every moment of our lives. But, that they should have a
like gravitation towards the centre of the moon may seem odd and
unaccountable to most men, because it is discerned only in the tides. But
a philosopher, whose thoughts take in a larger compass of nature, having
observed a certain similitude of appearances, as well in the heavens as
the earth, that argue innumerable bodies to have a mutual tendency
towards each other, which he denotes by the general name "attraction,"
whatever can be reduced to that he thinks justly accounted for. Thus he
explains the tides by the attraction of the terraqueous globe towards the
moon, which to him does not appear odd or anomalous, but only a
particular example of a general rule or law of nature.

105. If therefore we consider the difference there is betwixt natural
philosophers and other men, with regard to their knowledge of the
phenomena, we shall find it consists not in an exacter knowledge of the
efficient cause that produces them--for that can be no other than the
will of a spirit--but only in a greater largeness of comprehension,
whereby analogies, harmonies, and agreements are discovered in the works
of nature, and the particular effects explained, that is, reduced to
general rules, see sect. 62, which rules, grounded on the analogy and
uniformness observed in the production of natural effects, are most
agreeable and sought after by the mind; for that they extend our prospect
beyond what is present and near to us, and enable us to make very
probable conjectures touching things that may have happened at very great
distances of time and place, as well as to predict things to come; which
sort of endeavour towards omniscience is much affected by the mind.

106. CAUTION AS TO THE USE OF ANALOGIES.--But we should proceed warily
in such things, for we are apt to lay too great stress on analogies,
and, to the prejudice of truth, humour that eagerness of the mind
whereby it is carried to extend its knowledge into general theorems.
For example, in the business of gravitation or mutual attraction,
because it appears in many instances, some are straightway for
pronouncing it universal; and that to attract and be attracted
by every other body is an essential quality inherent in all bodies
whatsoever. Whereas it is evident the fixed stars have no such
tendency towards each other; and, so far is that gravitation from being
essential to bodies that in some instances a quite contrary principle
seems to show itself; as in the perpendicular growth of plants, and the
elasticity of the air. There is nothing necessary or essential in the
case, but it depends entirely on the will of the Governing Spirit, who
causes certain bodies to cleave together or tend towards each other
according to various laws, whilst He keeps others at a fixed distance;
and to some He gives a quite contrary tendency to fly asunder just as He
sees convenient.

107. After what has been premised, I think we may lay down the following
conclusions. First, it is plain philosophers amuse themselves in vain,
when they inquire for any natural efficient cause, distinct from a mind
or spirit. Secondly, considering the whole creation is the workmanship of
a wise and good Agent, it should seem to become philosophers to employ
their thoughts (contrary to what some hold) about the final causes of
things; and I confess I see no reason why pointing out the various ends
to which natural things are adapted, and for which they were originally
with unspeakable wisdom contrived, should not be thought one good way of
accounting for them, and altogether worthy a philosopher. Thirdly, from
what has been premised no reason can be drawn why the history of nature
should not still be studied, and observations and experiments made,
which, that they are of use to mankind, and enable us to draw any general
conclusions, is not the result of any immutable habitudes or relations
between things themselves, but only of God's goodness and kindness to men
in the administration of the world. See sect. 30 and 31 Fourthly, by a
diligent observation of the phenomena within our view, we may discover
the general laws of nature, and from them deduce the other phenomena; I
do not say demonstrate, for all deductions of that kind depend on a
supposition that the Author of nature always operates uniformly, and in a
constant observance of those rules we take for principles: which we
cannot evidently know.

108. THREE ANALOGIES.--Those men who frame general rules from the
phenomena and afterwards derive the phenomena from those rules, seem
to consider signs rather than causes. A man may well understand
natural signs without knowing their analogy, or being able to say
by what rule a thing is so or so. And, as it is very possible to
write improperly, through too strict an observance of general grammar
rules; so, in arguing from general laws of nature, it is not impossible
we may extend the analogy too far, and by that means run into mistakes.

109. As in reading other books a wise man will choose to fix his thoughts
on the sense and apply it to use, rather than lay them out in grammatical
remarks on the language; so, in perusing the volume of nature, it seems
beneath the dignity of the mind to affect an exactness in reducing each
particular phenomenon to general rules, or showing how it follows from
them. We should propose to ourselves nobler views, namely, to recreate
and exalt the mind with a prospect of the beauty, order. extent, and
variety of natural things: hence, by proper inferences, to enlarge our
notions of the grandeur, wisdom, and beneficence of the Creator; and
lastly, to make the several parts of the creation, so far as in us lies,
subservient to the ends they were designed for, God's glory, and the
sustentation and comfort of ourselves and fellow-creatures.

110. The best key for the aforesaid analogy or natural Science will be
easily acknowledged to be a certain celebrated Treatise of Mechanics. In
the entrance of which justly admired treatise, Time, Space, and Motion
are distinguished into absolute and relative, true and apparent,
mathematical and vulgar; which distinction, as it is at large explained
by the author, does suppose these quantities to have an existence without
the mind; and that they are ordinarily conceived with relation to
sensible things, to which nevertheless in their own nature they bear no
relation at all.

111. As for Time, as it is there taken in an absolute or abstracted
sense, for the duration or perseverance of the existence of things, I
have nothing more to add concerning it after what has been already said
on that subject. Sect. 97 and 98. For the rest, this celebrated author
holds there is an absolute Space, which, being unperceivable to sense,
remains in itself similar and immovable; and relative space to be the
measure thereof, which, being movable and defined by its situation in
respect of sensible bodies, is vulgarly taken for immovable space. Place
he defines to be that part of space which is occupied by any body; and
according as the space is absolute or relative so also is the place.
Absolute Motion is said to be the translation of a body from absolute
place to absolute place, as relative motion is from one relative place to
another. And, because the parts of absolute space do not fall under our
senses, instead of them we are obliged to use their sensible measures,
and so define both place and motion with respect to bodies which we
regard as immovable. But, it is said in philosophical matters we must
abstract from our senses, since it may be that none of those bodies which
seem to be quiescent are truly so, and the same thing which is moved
relatively may be really at rest; as likewise one and the same body may
be in relative rest and motion, or even moved with contrary relative
motions at the same time, according as its place is variously defined.
All which ambiguity is to be found in the apparent motions, but not at
all in the true or absolute, which should therefore be alone regarded in
philosophy. And the true as we are told are distinguished from apparent
or relative motions by the following properties.--First, in true or
absolute motion all parts which preserve the same position with respect
of the whole, partake of the motions of the whole. Secondly, the place
being moved, that which is placed therein is also moved; so that a body
moving in a place which is in motion doth participate the motion of its
place. Thirdly, true motion is never generated or changed otherwise than
by force impressed on the body itself. Fourthly, true motion is always
changed by force impressed on the body moved. Fifthly, in circular motion
barely relative there is no centrifugal force, which, nevertheless, in
that which is true or absolute, is proportional to the quantity of

what has been said, I must confess it does not appear to me that
there can be any motion other than relative; so that to conceive
motion there must be at least conceived two bodies, whereof the
distance or position in regard to each other is varied. Hence, if there
was one only body in being it could not possibly be moved. This seems
evident, in that the idea I have of motion doth necessarily include

113. APPARENT MOTION DENIED.--But, though in every motion it be
necessary to conceive more bodies than one, yet it may be that one
only is moved, namely, that on which the force causing the change
in the distance or situation of the bodies, is impressed. For, however
some may define relative motion, so as to term that body moved
which changes its distance from some other body, whether the force
or action causing that change were impressed on it or no, yet as
relative motion is that which is perceived by sense, and regarded in
the ordinary affairs of life, it should seem that every man of common
sense knows what it is as well as the best philosopher. Now, I ask any
one whether, in his sense of motion as he walks along the streets, the
stones he passes over may be said to move, because they change distance
with his feet? To me it appears that though motion includes a relation of
one thing to another, yet it is not necessary that each term of the
relation be denominated from it. As a man may think of somewhat which
does not think, so a body may be moved to or from another body which is
not therefore itself in motion.

114. As the place happens to be variously defined, the motion which is
related to it varies. A man in a ship may be said to be quiescent with
relation to the sides of the vessel, and yet move with relation to the
land. Or he may move eastward in respect of the one, and westward in
respect of the other. In the common affairs of life men never go beyond
the earth to define the place of any body; and what is quiescent in
respect of that is accounted absolutely to be so. But philosophers, who
have a greater extent of thought, and juster notions of the system of
things, discover even the earth itself to be moved. In order therefore to
fix their notions they seem to conceive the corporeal world as finite,
and the utmost unmoved walls or shell thereof to be the place whereby
they estimate true motions. If we sound our own conceptions, I believe we
may find all the absolute motion we can frame an idea of to be at bottom
no other than relative motion thus defined. For, as has been already
observed, absolute motion, exclusive of all external relation, is
incomprehensible; and to this kind of relative motion all the
above-mentioned properties, causes, and effects ascribed to absolute
motion will, if I mistake not, be found to agree. As to what is said of
the centrifugal force, that it does not at all belong to circular
relative motion, I do not see how this follows from the experiment which
is brought to prove it. See Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica,
in Schol. Def. VIII. For the water in the vessel at that time wherein it
is said to have the greatest relative circular motion, has, I think, no
motion at all; as is plain from the foregoing section.

115. For, to denominate a body moved it is requisite, first, that it
change its distance or situation with regard to some other body; and
secondly, that the force occasioning that change be applied to it. If
either of these be wanting, I do not think that, agreeably to the sense
of mankind, or the propriety of language, a body can be said to be in
motion. I grant indeed that it is possible for us to think a body which
we see change its distance from some other to be moved, though it have no
force applied to it (in which sense there may be apparent motion), but
then it is because the force causing the change of distance is imagined
by us to be applied or impressed on that body thought to move; which
indeed shows we are capable of mistaking a thing to be in motion which is
not, and that is all.

116. ANY IDEA OF PURE SPACE RELATIVE.--From what has been said it follows
that the philosophic consideration of motion does not imply the
being of an absolute Space, distinct from that which is perceived
by sense and related bodies; which that it cannot exist without the
mind is clear upon the same principles that demonstrate the like
of all other objects of sense. And perhaps, if we inquire narrowly,
we shall find we cannot even frame an idea of pure Space exclusiv
of all body. This I must confess seems impossible, as being a mos
abstract idea. When I excite a motion in some part of my body,
if it be free or without resistance, I say there is Space; but if I
find a resistance, then I say there is Body; and in proportion as the
resistance to motion is lesser or greater, I say the space is more or
less pure. So that when I speak of pure or empty space, it is not to be
supposed that the word "space" stands for an idea distinct from or
conceivable without body and motion--though indeed we are apt to think
every noun substantive stands for a distinct idea that may be separated
from all others; which has occasioned infinite mistakes. When, therefore,
supposing all the world to be annihilated besides my own body, I say
there still remains pure Space, thereby nothing else is meant but only
that I conceive it possible for the limbs of my body to be moved on all
sides without the least resistance, but if that, too, were annihilated
then there could be no motion, and consequently no Space. Some, perhaps,
may think the sense of seeing doth furnish them with the idea of pure
space; but it is plain from what we have elsewhere shown, that the ideas
of space and distance are not obtained by that sense. See the Essay
concerning Vision.

117. What is here laid down seems to put an end to all those disputes and
difficulties that have sprung up amongst the learned concerning the
nature of pure Space. But the chief advantage arising from it is that we
are freed from that dangerous dilemma, to which several who have employed
their thoughts on that subject imagine themselves reduced, to wit, of
thinking either that Real Space is God, or else that there is something
beside God which is eternal, uncreated, infinite, indivisible, immutable.
Both which may justly be thought pernicious and absurd notions. It is
certain that not a few divines, as well as philosophers of great note,
have, from the difficulty they found in conceiving either limits or
annihilation of space, concluded it must be divine. And some of late have
set themselves particularly to show the incommunicable attributes of God
agree to it. Which doctrine, how unworthy soever it may seem of the
Divine Nature, yet I do not see how we can get clear of it, so long as we
adhere to the received opinions.

Natural Philosophy: we come now to make some inquiry concerning
that other great branch of speculative knowledge, to wit, Mathematics.
These, how celebrated soever they may be for their clearness and
certainty of demonstration, which is hardly anywhere else to be
found, cannot nevertheless be supposed altogether free from mistakes, if
in their principles there lurks some secret error which is common to the
professors of those sciences with the rest of mankind. Mathematicians,
though they deduce their theorems from a great height of evidence, yet
their first principles are limited by the consideration of quantity: and
they do not ascend into any inquiry concerning those transcendental
maxims which influence all the particular sciences, each part whereof,
Mathematics not excepted, does consequently participate of the errors
involved in them. That the principles laid down by mathematicians are
true, and their way of deduction from those principles clear and
incontestible, we do not deny; but, we hold there may be certain
erroneous maxims of greater extent than the object of Mathematics, and
for that reason not expressly mentioned, though tacitly supposed
throughout the whole progress of that science; and that the ill effects
of those secret unexamined errors are diffused through all the branches
thereof. To be plain, we suspect the mathematicians are as well as other
men concerned in the errors arising from the doctrine of abstract general
ideas, and the existence of objects without the mind.

119. Arithmetic has been thought to have for its object abstract ideas of
Number; of which to understand the properties and mutual habitudes, is
supposed no mean part of speculative knowledge. The opinion of the pure
and intellectual nature of numbers in abstract has made them in esteem
with those philosophers who seem to have affected an uncommon fineness
and elevation of thought. It has set a price on the most trifling
numerical speculations which in practice are of no use, but serve only
for amusement; and has therefore so far infected the minds of some, that
they have dreamed of mighty mysteries involved in numbers, and attempted
the explication of natural things by them. But, if we inquire into our
own thoughts, and consider what has been premised, we may perhaps
entertain a low opinion of those high flights and abstractions, and look
on all inquiries, about numbers only as so many difficiles nugae, so far
as they are not subservient to practice, and promote the benefit of life.

120. Unity in abstract we have before considered in sect. 13, from which
and what has been said in the Introduction, it plainly follows there is
not any such idea. But, number being defined a "collection of units," we
may conclude that, if there be no such thing as unity or unit in
abstract, there are no ideas of number in abstract denoted by the numeral
names and figures. The theories therefore in Arithmetic. if they are
abstracted from the names and figures, as likewise from all use and
practice, as well as from the particular things numbered, can be supposed
to have nothing at all for their object; hence we may see how entirely
the science of numbers is subordinate to practice, and how jejune and
trifling it becomes when considered as a matter of mere speculation.

121. However, since there may be some who, deluded by the specious show
of discovering abstracted verities, waste their time in arithmetical
theorems and problems which have not any use, it will not be amiss if we
more fully consider and expose the vanity of that pretence; and this will
plainly appear by taking a view of Arithmetic in its infancy, and
observing what it was that originally put men on the study of that
science, and to what scope they directed it. It is natural to think that
at first, men, for ease of memory and help of computation, made use of
counters, or in writing of single strokes, points, or the like, each
whereof was made to signify an unit, i.e., some one thing of whatever
kind they had occasion to reckon. Afterwards they found out the more
compendious ways of making one character stand in place of several
strokes or points. And, lastly, the notation of the Arabians or Indians
came into use, wherein, by the repetition of a few characters or figures,
and varying the signification of each figure according to the place it
obtains, all numbers may be most aptly expressed; which seems to have
been done in imitation of language, so that an exact analogy is observed
betwixt the notation by figures and names, the nine simple figures
answering the nine first numeral names and places in the former,
corresponding to denominations in the latter. And agreeably to those
conditions of the simple and local value of figures, were contrived
methods of finding, from the given figures or marks of the parts, what
figures and how placed are proper to denote the whole, or vice versa. And
having found the sought figures, the same rule or analogy being observed
throughout, it is easy to read them into words; and so the number becomes
perfectly known. For then the number of any particular things is said to
be known, when we know the name of figures (with their due arrangement)
that according to the standing analogy belong to them. For, these signs
being known, we can by the operations of arithmetic know the signs of any
part of the particular sums signified by them; and, thus computing in
signs (because of the connexion established betwixt them and the distinct
multitudes of things whereof one is taken for an unit), we may be able
rightly to sum up, divide, and proportion the things themselves that we
intend to number.

122. In Arithmetic, therefore, we regard not the things, but the signs,
which nevertheless are not regarded for their own sake, but because they
direct us how to act with relation to things, and dispose rightly of
them. Now, agreeably to what we have before observed of words in general
(sect. 19, Introd.) it happens here likewise that abstract ideas are
thought to be signified by numeral names or characters, while they do not
suggest ideas of particular things to our minds. I shall not at present
enter into a more particular dissertation on this subject, but only
observe that it is evident from what has been said, those things which
pass for abstract truths and theorems concerning numbers, are in reality
conversant about no object distinct from particular numeral things,
except only names and characters, which originally came to be considered
on no other account but their being signs, or capable to represent aptly
whatever particular things men had need to compute. Whence it follows
that to study them for their own sake would be just as wise, and to as
good purpose as if a man, neglecting the true use or original intention
and subserviency of language, should spend his time in impertinent
criticisms upon words, or reasonings and controversies purely verbal.

123. From numbers we proceed to speak of Extension, which, considered as
relative, is the object of Geometry. The infinite divisibility of finite
extension, though it is not expressly laid down either as an axiom or
theorem in the elements of that science, yet is throughout the same
everywhere supposed and thought to have so inseparable and essential a
connexion with the principles and demonstrations in Geometry, that
mathematicians never admit it into doubt, or make the least question of
it. And, as this notion is the source from whence do spring all those
amusing geometrical paradoxes which have such a direct repugnancy to the
plain common sense of mankind, and are admitted with so much reluctance
into a mind not yet debauched by learning; so it is the principal
occasion of all that nice and extreme subtilty which renders the study of
Mathematics so difficult and tedious. Hence, if we can make it appear
that no finite extension contains innumerable parts, or is infinitely
divisible, it follows that we shall at once clear the science of Geometry
from a great number of difficulties and contradictions which have ever
been esteemed a reproach to human reason, and withal make the attainment
thereof a business of much less time and pains than it hitherto has been.

124. Every particular finite extension which may possibly be the object
of our thought is an idea existing only in the mind, and consequently
each part thereof must be perceived. If, therefore, I cannot perceive
innumerable parts in any finite extension that I consider, it is certain
they are not contained in it; but, it is evident that I cannot
distinguish innumerable parts in any particular line, surface, or solid,
which I either perceive by sense, or figure to myself in my mind:
wherefore I conclude they are not contained in it. Nothing can be plainer
to me than that the extensions I have in view are no other than my own
ideas; and it is no less plain that I cannot resolve any one of my ideas
into an infinite number of other ideas, that is, that they are not
infinitely divisible. If by finite extension be meant something distinct
from a finite idea, I declare I do not know what that is, and so cannot
affirm or deny anything of it. But if the terms "extension," "parts,"
&c., are taken in any sense conceivable, that is, for ideas, then to say
a finite quantity or extension consists of parts infinite in number is so
manifest a contradiction, that every one at first sight acknowledges it
to be so; and it is impossible it should ever gain the assent of any
reasonable creature who is not brought to it by gentle and slow degrees,
as a converted Gentile to the belief of transubstantiation. Ancient and
rooted prejudices do often pass into principles; and those propositions
which once obtain the force and credit of a principle, are not only
themselves, but likewise whatever is deducible from them, thought
privileged from all examination. And there is no absurdity so gross,
which, by this means, the mind of man may not be prepared to swallow.

125. He whose understanding is possessed with the doctrine of abstract
general ideas may be persuaded that (whatever be thought of the ideas of
sense) extension in abstract is infinitely divisible. And one who thinks
the objects of sense exist without the mind will perhaps in virtue
thereof be brought to admit that a line but an inch long may contain
innumerable parts--really existing, though too small to be discerned.
These errors are grafted as well in the minds of geometricians as of
other men, and have a like influence on their reasonings; and it were no
difficult thing to show how the arguments from Geometry made use of to
support the infinite divisibility of extension are bottomed on them. At
present we shall only observe in general whence it is the mathematicians
are all so fond and tenacious of that doctrine.

126. It has been observed in another place that the theorems and
demonstrations in Geometry are conversant about universal ideas (sect.
15, Introd.); where it is explained in what sense this ought to be
understood, to wit, the particular lines and figures included in the
diagram are supposed to stand for innumerable others of different sizes;
or, in other words, the geometer considers them abstracting from their
magnitude--which does not imply that he forms an abstract idea, but only
that he cares not what the particular magnitude is, whether great or
small, but looks on that as a thing different to the demonstration. Hence
it follows that a line in the scheme but an inch long must be spoken of
as though it contained ten thousand parts, since it is regarded not in
itself, but as it is universal; and it is universal only in its
signification, whereby it represents innumerable lines greater than
itself, in which may be distinguished ten thousand parts or more, though
there may not be above an inch in it. After this manner, the properties
of the lines signified are (by a very usual figure) transferred to the
sign, and thence, through mistake, though to appertain to it considered
in its own nature.

127. Because there is no number of parts so great but it is possible
there may be a line containing more, the inch-line is said to contain
parts more than any assignable number; which is true, not of the inch
taken absolutely, but only for the things signified by it. But men, not
retaining that distinction in their thoughts, slide into a belief that
the small particular line described on paper contains in itself parts
innumerable. There is no such thing as the ten--thousandth part of an
inch; but there is of a mile or diameter of the earth, which may be
signified by that inch. When therefore I delineate a triangle on paper,
and take one side not above an inch, for example, in length to be the
radius, this I consider as divided into 10,000 or 100,000 parts or more;
for, though the ten-thousandth part of that line considered in itself is
nothing at all, and consequently may be neglected without an error or
inconveniency, yet these described lines, being only marks standing for
greater quantities, whereof it may be the ten--thousandth part is very
considerable, it follows that, to prevent notable errors in practice, the
radius must be taken of 10,000 parts or more.

128. LINES WHICH ARE INFINITELY DIVISIBLE.--From what has been said
the reason is plain why, to the end any theorem become universal in
its use, it is necessary we speak of the lines described on paper
as though they contained parts which really they do not. In doing
of which, if we examine the matter thoroughly, we shall perhaps
discover that we cannot conceive an inch itself as consisting of,
or being divisible into, a thousand parts, but only some other line which
is far greater than an inch, and represented by it; and that when we say
a line is infinitely divisible, we must mean a line which is infinitely
great. What we have here observed seems to be the chief cause why, to
suppose the infinite divisibility of finite extension has been thought
necessary in geometry.

129. The several absurdities and contradictions which flowed from this
false principle might, one would think, have been esteemed so many
demonstrations against it. But, by I know not what logic, it is held that
proofs a posteriori are not to be admitted against propositions relating
to infinity, as though it were not impossible even for an infinite mind
to reconcile contradictions; or as if anything absurd and repugnant could
have a necessary connexion with truth or flow from it. But, whoever
considers the weakness of this pretence will think it was contrived on
purpose to humour the laziness of the mind which had rather acquiesce in
an indolent scepticism than be at the pains to go through with a severe
examination of those principles it has ever embraced for true.

130. Of late the speculations about Infinities have run so high, and
grown to such strange notions, as have occasioned no small scruples and
disputes among the geometers of the present age. Some there are of great
note who, not content with holding that finite lines may be divided into
an infinite number of parts, do yet farther maintain that each of those
infinitesimals is itself subdivisible into an infinity of other parts or
infinitesimals of a second order, and so on ad infinitum. These, I say,
assert there are infinitesimals of infinitesimals of infinitesimals, &c.,
without ever coming to an end; so that according to them an inch does not
barely contain an infinite number of parts, but an infinity of an
infinity of an infinity ad infinitum of parts. Others there be who hold
all orders of infinitesimals below the first to be nothing at all;
thinking it with good reason absurd to imagine there is any positive
quantity or part of extension which, though multiplied infinitely, can
never equal the smallest given extension. And yet on the other hand it
seems no less absurd to think the square, cube or other power of a
positive real root, should itself be nothing at all; which they who hold
infinitesimals of the first order, denying all of the subsequent orders,
are obliged to maintain.

131. OBJECTION OF MATHEMATICIANS.--ANSWER.--Have we not therefore
reason to conclude they are both in the wrong, and that there is
in effect no such thing as parts infinitely small, or an infinite
number of parts contained in any finite quantity? But you will
say that if this doctrine obtains it will follow the very foundations
of Geometry are destroyed, and those great men who have raised
that science to so astonishing a height, have been all the while
building a castle in the air. To this it may be replied that whatever is
useful in geometry, and promotes the benefit of human life, does still
remain firm and unshaken on our principles; that science considered as
practical will rather receive advantage than any prejudice from what has
been said. But to set this in a due light may be the proper business of
another place. For the rest, though it should follow that some of the
more intricate and subtle parts of Speculative Mathematics may be pared
off without any prejudice to truth, yet I do not see what damage will be
thence derived to mankind. On the contrary, I think it were highly to be
wished that men of great abilities and obstinate application would draw
off their thoughts from those amusements, and employ them in the study of
such things as lie nearer the concerns of life, or have a more direct
influence on the manners.

that several theorems undoubtedly true are discovered by methods
in which infinitesimals are made use of, which could never have
been if their existence included a contradiction in it; I answer
that upon a thorough examination it will not be found that in any
instance it is necessary to make use of or conceive infinitesimal parts
of finite lines, or even quantities less than the minimum sensible; nay,
it will be evident this is never done, it being impossible.

FOR ITS CONSEQUENCES.--By what we have premised, it is plain that very
numerous and important errors have taken their rise from those false
Principles which were impugned in the foregoing parts of this treatise;
and the opposites of those erroneous tenets at the same time appear to be
most fruitful Principles, from whence do flow innumerable consequences
highly advantageous to true philosophy. as well as to religion.
Particularly Matter, or the absolute existence of corporeal objects, has
been shown to be that wherein the most avowed and pernicious enemies of
all knowledge, whether human or divine, have ever placed their chief
strength and confidence. And surely, if by distinguishing the real
existence of unthinking things from their being perceived, and allowing
them a subsistance of their own out of the minds of spirits, no one thing
is explained in nature, but on the contrary a great many inexplicable
difficulties arise; if the supposition of Matter is barely precarious, as
not being grounded on so much as one single reason; if its consequences
cannot endure the light of examination and free inquiry, but screen
themselves under the dark and general pretence of "infinites being
incomprehensible"; if withal the removal of this Matter be not attended
with the least evil consequence; if it be not even missed in the world,
but everything as well, nay much easier conceived without it; if, lastly,
both Sceptics and Atheists are for ever silenced upon supposing only
spirits and ideas, and this scheme of things is perfectly agreeable both
to Reason and Religion: methinks we may expect it should be admitted and
firmly embraced, though it were proposed only as an hypothesis, and the
existence of Matter had been allowed possible, which yet I think we have
evidently demonstrated that it is not.

134. True it is that, in consequence of the foregoing principles, several
disputes and speculations which are esteemed no mean parts of learning,
are rejected as useless. But, how great a prejudice soever against our
notions this may give to those who have already been deeply engaged, and
make large advances in studies of that nature, yet by others we hope it
will not be thought any just ground of dislike to the principles and
tenets herein laid down, that they abridge the labour of study, and make
human sciences far more clear, compendious and attainable than they were

135. Having despatched what we intended to say concerning the knowledge
of IDEAS, the method we proposed leads us in the next place to treat of
SPIRITS--with regard to which, perhaps, human knowledge is not so
deficient as is vulgarly imagined. The great reason that is assigned for
our being thought ignorant of the nature of spirits is our not having an
idea of it. But, surely it ought not to be looked on as a defect in a
human understanding that it does not perceive the idea of spirit, if it
is manifestly impossible there should be any such idea. And this if I
mistake not has been demonstrated in section 27; to which I shall here
add that a spirit has been shown to be the only substance or support
wherein unthinking beings or ideas can exist; but that this substance
which supports or perceives ideas should itself be an idea or like an
idea is evidently absurd.

136. OBJECTION.--ANSWER.--It will perhaps be said that we want a sense
(as some have imagined) proper to know substances withal, which,
if we had, we might know our own soul as we do a triangle. To this
I answer, that, in case we had a new sense bestowed upon us, we
could only receive thereby some new sensations or ideas of sense.
But I believe nobody will say that what he means by the terms soul
and substance is only some particular sort of idea or sensation.
We may therefore infer that, all things duly considered, it is
not more reasonable to think our faculties defective, in that they do not
furnish us with an idea of spirit or active thinking substance, than it
would be if we should blame them for not being able to comprehend a round

137. From the opinion that spirits are to be known after the manner of an
idea or sensation have risen many absurd and heterodox tenets, and much
scepticism about the nature of the soul. It is even probable that this
opinion may have produced a doubt in some whether they had any soul at
all distinct from their body since upon inquiry they could not find they
had an idea of it. That an idea which is inactive, and the existence
whereof consists in being perceived, should be the image or likeness of
an agent subsisting by itself, seems to need no other refutation than
barely attending to what is meant by those words. But, perhaps you will
say that though an idea cannot resemble a spirit in its thinking, acting,
or subsisting by itself, yet it may in some other respects; and it is not
necessary that an idea or image be in all respects like the original.

138. I answer, if it does not in those mentioned, it is impossible it
should represent it in any other thing. Do but leave out the power of
willing, thinking, and perceiving ideas, and there remains nothing else
wherein the idea can be like a spirit. For, by the word spirit we mean
only that which thinks, wills, and perceives; this, and this alone,
constitutes the signification of the term. If therefore it is impossible
that any degree of those powers should be represented in an idea, it is
evident there can be no idea of a spirit.

139. But it will be objected that, if there is no idea signified by the
terms soul, spirit, and substance, they are wholly insignificant, or have
no meaning in them. I answer, those words do mean or signify a real
thing, which is neither an idea nor like an idea, but that which
perceives ideas, and wills, and reasons about them. What I am myself,
that which I denote by the term I, is the same with what is meant by soul
or spiritual substance. If it be said that this is only quarreling at a
word, and that, since the immediately significations of other names are
by common consent called ideas, no reason can be assigned why that which
is signified by the name spirit or soul may not partake in the same
appellation. I answer, all the unthinking objects of the mind agree in
that they are entirely passive, and their existence consists only in
being perceived; whereas a soul or spirit is an active being, whose
existence consists, not in being perceived, but in perceiving ideas and
thinking. It is therefore necessary, in order to prevent equivocation and
confounding natures perfectly disagreeing and unlike, that we distinguish
between spirit and idea. See sect. 27.

140. OUR IDEA OF SPIRIT.--In a large sense, indeed, we may be said
to have an idea or rather a notion of spirit; that is, we understand
the meaning of the word, otherwise we could not affirm or deny
anything of it. Moreover, as we conceive the ideas that are in the
minds of other spirits by means of our own, which we suppose to be
resemblances of them; so we know other spirits by means of our own
soul--which in that sense is the image or idea of them; it having
a like respect to other spirits that blueness or heat by me perceived
has to those ideas perceived by another.

OF THE FOREGOING DOCTRINE.--It must not be supposed that they who
assert the natural immortality of the soul are of opinion that it
is absolutely incapable of annihilation even by the infinite power
of the Creator who first gave it being, but only that it is not
liable to be broken or dissolved by the ordinary laws of nature
or motion. They indeed who hold the soul of man to be only a thin
vital flame, or system of animal spirits, make it perishing and
corruptible as the body; since there is nothing more easily dissipated
than such a being, which it is naturally impossible should survive
the ruin of the tabernacle wherein it is enclosed. And this notion
has been greedily embraced and cherished by the worst part of mankind,
as the most effectual antidote against all impressions of virtue
and religion. But it has been made evident that bodies, of what frame or
texture soever, are barely passive ideas in the mind, which is more
distant and heterogeneous from them than light is from darkness. We have
shown that the soul is indivisible, incorporeal, unextended, and it is
consequently incorruptible. Nothing can be plainer than that the motions,
changes, decays, and dissolutions which we hourly see befall natural
bodies (and which is what we mean by the course of nature) cannot
possibly affect an active, simple, uncompounded substance; such a being
therefore is indissoluble by the force of nature; that is to say, "the
soul of man is naturally immortal."

142. After what has been said, it is, I suppose, plain that our souls are
not to be known in the same manner as senseless, inactive objects, or by
way of idea. Spirits and ideas are things so wholly different, that when
we say "they exist," "they are known," or the like, these words must not
be thought to signify anything common to both natures. There is nothing
alike or common in them: and to expect that by any multiplication or
enlargement of our faculties we may be enabled to know a spirit as we do
a triangle, seems as absurd as if we should hope to see a sound. This is
inculcated because I imagine it may be of moment towards clearing several
important questions, and preventing some very dangerous errors concerning
the nature of the soul. We may not, I think, strictly be said to have an
idea of an active being, or of an action, although we may be said to have
a notion of them. I have some knowledge or notion of my mind, and its
acts about ideas, inasmuch as I know or understand what is meant by these
words. What I know, that I have some notion of. I will not say that the
terms idea and notion may not be used convertibly, if the world will have
it so; but yet it conduceth to clearness and propriety that we
distinguish things very different by different names. It is also to be
remarked that, all relations including an act of the mind, we cannot so
properly be said to have an idea, but rather a notion of the relations
and habitudes between things. But if, in the modern way, the word idea is
extended to spirits, and relations, and acts, this is, after all, an
affair of verbal concern.

143. It will not be amiss to add, that the doctrine of abstract ideas has
had no small share in rendering those sciences intricate and obscure
which are particularly conversant about spiritual things. Men have
imagined they could frame abstract notions of the powers and acts of the
mind, and consider them prescinded as well from the mind or spirit
itself, as from their respective objects and effects. Hence a great
number of dark and ambiguous terms, presumed to stand for abstract
notions, have been introduced into metaphysics and morality, and from
these have grown infinite distractions and disputes amongst the learned.

144. But, nothing seems more to have contributed towards engaging men in
controversies and mistakes with regard to the nature and operations of
the mind, than the being used to speak of those things in terms borrowed
from sensible ideas. For example, the will is termed the motion of the
soul; this infuses a belief that the mind of man is as a ball in motion,
impelled and determined by the objects of sense, as necessarily as that
is by the stroke of a racket. Hence arise endless scruples and errors of
dangerous consequence in morality. All which, I doubt not, may be
cleared, and truth appear plain, uniform, and consistent, could but
philosophers be prevailed on to retire into themselves, and attentively
consider their own meaning.

145. KNOWLEDGE OF SPIRITS NOT IMMEDIATE.--From what has been said,
it is plain that we cannot know the existence of other spirits
otherwise than by their operations, or the ideas by them excited
in us. I perceive several motions, changes, and combinations of ideas,
that inform me there are certain particular agents, like myself,
which accompany them and concur in their production. Hence, the
knowledge I have of other spirits is not immediate, as is the
knowledge of my ideas; but depending on the intervention of ideas, by me
referred to agents or spirits distinct from myself, as effects or
concomitant signs.

146. But, though there be some things which convince us human agents are
concerned in producing them; yet it is evident to every one that those
things which are called the Works of Nature, that is, the far greater
part of the ideas or sensations perceived by us, are not produced by, or
dependent on, the wills of men. There is therefore some other Spirit that
causes them; since it is repugnant that they should subsist by
themselves. See sect. 29. But, if we attentively consider the constant
regularity, order, and concatenation of natural things, the surprising
magnificence, beauty, and perfection of the larger, and the exquisite
contrivance of the smaller parts of creation, together with the exact
harmony and correspondence of the whole, but above all the
never-enough-admired laws of pain and pleasure, and the instincts or
natural inclinations, appetites, and passions of animals; I say if we
consider all these things, and at the same time attend to the meaning and
import of the attributes One, Eternal, Infinitely Wise, Good, and
Perfect, we shall clearly perceive that they belong to the aforesaid
Spirit, "who works all in all," and "by whom all things consist."

it is evident that God is known as certainly and immediately as
any other mind or spirit whatsoever distinct from ourselves. We may
even assert that the existence of God is far more evidently perceived
than the existence of men; because the effects of nature are infinitely
more numerous and considerable than those ascribed to human agents. There
is not any one mark that denotes a man, or effect produced by him, which
does not more strongly evince the being of that Spirit who is the Author
of Nature. For, it is evident that in affecting other persons the will of
man has no other object than barely the motion of the limbs of his body;
but that such a motion should be attended by, or excite any idea in the
mind of another, depends wholly on the will of the Creator. He alone it
is who, "upholding all things by the word of His power," maintains that
intercourse between spirits whereby they are able to perceive the
existence of each other. And yet this pure and clear light which
enlightens every one is itself invisible.

148. It seems to be a general pretence of the unthinking herd that they
cannot see God. Could we but see Him, say they, as we see a man, we
should believe that He is, and believing obey His commands. But alas, we
need only open our eyes to see the Sovereign Lord of all things, with a
more full and clear view than we do any one of our fellow--creatures. Not
that I imagine we see God (as some will have it) by a direct and
immediate view; or see corporeal things, not by themselves, but by seeing
that which represents them in the essence of God, which doctrine is, I
must confess, to me incomprehensible. But I shall explain my meaning;--A
human spirit or person is not perceived by sense, as not being an idea;
when therefore we see the colour, size, figure, and motions of a man, we
perceive only certain sensations or ideas excited in our own minds; and
these being exhibited to our view in sundry distinct collections, serve
to mark out unto us the existence of finite and created spirits like
ourselves. Hence it is plain we do not see a man--if by man is meant that
which lives, moves, perceives, and thinks as we do--but only such a
certain collection of ideas as directs us to think there is a distinct
principle of thought and motion, like to ourselves, accompanying and
represented by it. And after the same manner we see God; all the
difference is that, whereas some one finite and narrow assemblage of
ideas denotes a particular human mind, whithersoever we direct our view,
we do at all times and in all places perceive manifest tokens of the
Divinity: everything we see, hear, feel, or anywise perceive by sense,
being a sign or effect of the power of God; as is our perception of those
very motions which are produced by men.

149. It is therefore plain that nothing can be more evident to any one
that is capable of the least reflexion than the existence of God, or a
Spirit who is intimately present to our minds, producing in them all that
variety of ideas or sensations which continually affect us, on whom we
have an absolute and entire dependence, in short "in whom we live, and
move, and have our being." That the discovery of this great truth, which
lies so near and obvious to the mind, should be attained to by the reason
of so very few, is a sad instance of the stupidity and inattention of
men, who, though they are surrounded with such clear manifestations of
the Deity, are yet so little affected by them that they seem, as it were,
blinded with excess of light.

has Nature no share in the production of natural things, and must
they be all ascribed to the immediate and sole operation of God?
I answer, if by Nature is meant only the visible series of effects
or sensations imprinted on our minds, according to certain fixed
and general laws, then it is plain that Nature, taken in this sense,
cannot produce anything at all. But, if by Nature is meant some being
distinct from God, as well as from the laws of nature, and things
perceived by sense, I must confess that word is to me an empty sound
without any intelligible meaning annexed to it. Nature, in this
acceptation, is a vain chimera, introduced by those heathens who had not
just notions of the omnipresence and infinite perfection of God. But, it
is more unaccountable that it should be received among Christians,
professing belief in the Holy Scriptures, which constantly ascribe those
effects to the immediate hand of God that heathen philosophers are wont
to impute to Nature. "The Lord He causeth the vapours to ascend; He
maketh lightnings with rain; He bringeth forth the wind out of his
treasures." Jerem. 10. 13. "He turneth the shadow of death into the
morning, and maketh the day dark with night." Amos, 5. 8. "He visiteth
the earth, and maketh it soft with showers: He blesseth the springing
thereof, and crowneth the year with His goodness; so that the pastures
are clothed with flocks, and the valleys are covered over with corn." See
Psalm 65. But, notwithstanding that this is the constant language of
Scripture, yet we have I know not what aversion from believing that God
concerns Himself so nearly in our affairs. Fain would we suppose Him at a
great distance off, and substitute some blind unthinking deputy in His
stead, though (if we may believe Saint Paul) "He be not far from every
one of us."

THREEFOLD.--ANSWER.--It will, I doubt not, be objected that the slow and
gradual methods observed in the production of natural things do not seem
to have for their cause the immediate hand of an Almighty Agent. Besides,
monsters, untimely births, fruits blasted in the blossom, rains falling in
desert places, miseries incident to human life, and the like, are so many
arguments that the whole frame of nature is not immediately actuated and
superintended by a Spirit of infinite wisdom and goodness. But the answer
to this objection is in a good measure plain from sect. 62; it being
visible that the aforesaid methods of nature are absolutely necessary, in
order to working by the most simple and general rules, and after a steady
and consistent manner; which argues both the wisdom and goodness of God.
Such is the artificial contrivance of this mighty machine of nature that,
whilst its motions and various phenomena strike on our senses, the hand
which actuates the whole is itself unperceivable to men of flesh and
blood. "Verily" (saith the prophet) "thou art a God that hidest thyself."
Isaiah, 45. 15. But, though the Lord conceal Himself from the eyes of the
sensual and lazy, who will not be at the least expense of thought, yet to
an unbiased and attentive mind nothing can be more plainly legible than
the intimate presence of an All-wise Spirit, who fashions, regulates and
sustains the whole system of beings. It is clear, from what we have
elsewhere observed, that the operating according to general and stated
laws is so necessary for our guidance in the affairs of life, and letting
us into the secret of nature, that without it all reach and compass of
thought, all human sagacity and design, could serve to no manner of
purpose; it were even impossible there should be any such faculties or
powers in the mind. See sect. 31. Which one consideration abundantly
outbalances whatever particular inconveniences may thence arise.

152. We should further consider that the very blemishes and defects of
nature are not without their use, in that they make an agreeable sort of
variety, and augment the beauty of the rest of the creation, as shades in
a picture serve to set off the brighter and more enlightened parts. We
would likewise do well to examine whether our taxing the waste of seeds
and embryos, and accidental destruction of plants and animals, before
they come to full maturity, as an imprudence in the Author of nature, be
not the effect of prejudice contracted by our familiarity with impotent
and saving mortals. In man indeed a thrifty management of those things
which he cannot procure without much pains and industry may be esteemed
wisdom. But, we must not imagine that the inexplicably fine machine of an
animal or vegetable costs the great Creator any more pains or trouble in
its production than a pebble does; nothing being more evident than that
an Omnipotent Spirit can indifferently produce everything by a mere fiat
or act of His will. Hence, it is plain that the splendid profusion of
natural things should not be interpreted weakness or prodigality in the
agent who produces them, but rather be looked on as an argument of the
riches of His power.

153. As for the mixture of pain or uneasiness which is in the world,
pursuant to the general laws of nature, and the actions of finite,
imperfect spirits, this, in the state we are in at present, is
indispensably necessary to our well-being. But our prospects are too
narrow. We take, for instance, the idea of some one particular pain into
our thoughts, and account it evil; whereas, if we enlarge our view, so as
to comprehend the various ends, connexions, and dependencies of things,
on what occasions and in what proportions we are affected with pain and
pleasure, the nature of human freedom, and the design with which we are
put into the world; we shall be forced to acknowledge that those
particular things which, considered in themselves, appear to be evil,
have the nature of good, when considered as linked with the whole system
of beings.

IN GENERAL ATTENTIVE.--From what has been said, it will be manifest
to any considering person, that it is merely for want of attention
and comprehensiveness of mind that there are any favourers of Atheism
or the Manichean Heresy to be found. Little and unreflecting souls
may indeed burlesque the works of Providence, the beauty and order
whereof they have not capacity, or will not be at the pains, to
comprehend; but those who are masters of any justness and extent
of thought, and are withal used to reflect, can never sufficiently
admire the divine traces of Wisdom and Goodness that shine throughout
the Economy of Nature. But what truth is there which shineth so
strongly on the mind that by an aversion of thought, a wilful shutting
of the eyes, we may not escape seeing it? Is it therefore to be wondered
at, if the generality of men, who are ever intent on business or
pleasure, and little used to fix or open the eye of their mind, should
not have all that conviction and evidence of the Being of God which might
be expected in reasonable creatures?

155. We should rather wonder that men can be found so stupid as to
neglect, than that neglecting they should be unconvinced of such an
evident and momentous truth. And yet it is to be feared that too many of
parts and leisure, who live in Christian countries, are, merely through a
supine and dreadful negligence, sunk into Atheism. Since it is downright
impossible that a soul pierced and enlightened with a thorough sense of
the omnipresence, holiness, and justice of that Almighty Spirit should
persist in a remorseless violation of His laws. We ought, therefore,
earnestly to meditate and dwell on those important points; that so we may
attain conviction without all scruple "that the eyes of the Lord are in
every place beholding the evil and the good; that He is with us and
keepeth us in all places whither we go, and giveth us bread to eat and
raiment to put on"; that He is present and conscious to our innermost
thoughts; and that we have a most absolute and immediate dependence on
Him. A clear view of which great truths cannot choose but fill our hearts
with an awful circumspection and holy fear, which is the strongest
incentive to Virtue, and the best guard against Vice.

156. For, after all, what deserves the first place in our studies is the
consideration of GOD and our DUTY; which to promote, as it was the main
drift and design of my labours, so shall I esteem them altogether useless
and ineffectual if, by what I have said, I cannot inspire my readers with
a pious sense of the Presence of God; and, having shown the falseness or
vanity of those barren speculations which make the chief employment of
learned men, the better dispose them to reverence and embrace the
salutary truths of the Gospel, which to know and to practice is the
highest perfection of human nature.

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