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For let any one reflect, and then tell me, wherein does his idea of man differ from that of Peter and Paul, or his idea of horse from that of Bucephalus, but in the leaving out something that is peculiar to each individual, and retaining so much of those particular complex ideas of several particular existences as they are found to agree in? Of the complex ideas signified by the names man and horse, leaving out but those particulars wherein they differ, and retaining only those wherein they agree, and of those making a new distinct complex idea, and giving the name animal to it; one has a more general term, that comprehends with man several other creatures. Leave out of the idea of animal, sense and spontaneous motion; and the remaining complex idea, made up of the remaining simple ones of body, life, and nourishment, becomes a more general one, under the more comprehensive term vivens. And, not to dwell longer upon this particular, so evident in itself, by the same way the mind proceeds to body, substance, and at last to being, thing, and such universal terms, which stand for any of our ideas whatsoever. To conclude, this whole mystery of genera and species, which make such a noise in the schools, and are with justice so little regarded out of them, is nothing else but abstract ideas, more or less comprehensive, with names annexed to them. In all which this is constant and unvariable, that every more general term stands for such an idea, and is but a part of any of those contained under it.
§ 10. This may show us the reason why, in the defining of words, which is nothing but declaring their significations, we make use of the genus, or next general word that comprehends it. Which is not out of necessity, but only to save the labour of enumerating the several simple ideas, which the next general word or genus stands for; or, perhaps, sometimes the shame of not being able to do it. But though defining by genus and differentia (I crave
genus is ordinarily
made use of
leave to use these terms of art, though originally Latin, since they most properly suit those notions they are applied to): I say, though defining by the genus be the shortest way, yet I think it may be doubted whether it be the best. This I am sure, it is not the only, and so not absolutely necessary. For definition being nothing but making another understand by words what idea the term defined stands for, a definition is best made by enumerating those simple ideas that are combined in the signification of the term defined: and if instead of such an enumeration men have accustomed themselves to use the next general term, it has not been out of necessity, or for greater clearness, but for quickness and despatch sake. For, I think, that no one who desired to know what idea the word man stood for, if it should be said, that man was a solid extended substance, having life, sense, spontaneous motion, and the faculty of reasoning; I doubt not but the meaning of the term man would be as well understood, and the idea it stands for be at least as clearly made known, as when it is defined to be a rational animal: which by the several definitions of animal, vivens, and corpus, resolves itself into those enumerated ideas. I have, in explaining the term man, followed here the ordinary definition of the schools: which though, perhaps, not the most exact, yet serves well enough to my present purpose. And one may, in this instance, see what gave occasion to the rule, that a definition must consist of genus and differentia: and it suffices to show us the little necessity there is of such a rule, or advantage in the strict observing of it. For definitions, as has been said, being only the explaining of one word by several others, so that the meaning or idea it stands for may be certainly known; languages are not always so made according to the rules of logic, that every term can have its signification exactly and clearly expressed by two others. Experience sufficiently satisfies us to the contrary; or else those who have made this rule have done ill, that they have given us so few definitions
conformable to it. But of definitions more in the
universal are creatures of the understanding.
§ 11. To return to general words, it is plain by what has been said, that general and universal belong not to the real existence of things, but are the inventions and creatures of the understanding, made by it for its own use, and concern only signs, whether words or ideas. Words are general, as has been said, when used for signs of general ideas, and so are applicable indifferently to many particular things: and ideas are general, when they are set up as the representatives of many particular things; but universality belongs not to things themselves, which are all of them particular in their existence; even those words and ideas which in their signification are general. When therefore we quit particulars, the generals that rest are only creatures of our own making; their general nature being nothing but the capacity they are put into by the understanding, of signifying or representing many particulars. For the signification they have is nothing but a relation, that by the mind of man is added to them (1).
(1) Against this the bishop of Worcester objects, and our author* answers as followeth: "However," saith the bishop, "the abstracted ideas are the work of the mind, yet they are not mere creatures of the mind; as appears by an instance produced of the essence of the sun being in one single individual: in which case it is granted, That the idea may be so abstracted, that more suns might agree in it, and it is as much a sort, as if there were as many suns as there are stars. So that here we have a real essence subsisting in one individual, but capable of being multiplied into more, and the same essence remaining. But in this one sun there is a real essence, and not a mere nominal or abstracted essence: but suppose there were more suns, would not each of them have the real essence of the sun? For what is it makes the second sun, but having the same real essence with the first? If it were but a nominal essence, then the second would have nothing but the name."
This, as I understand it, replies Mr. Locke, is to prove that the abstract general essence of any sort of things, or things of the
In his first letter.
§ 12. The next thing therefore to be considered is, what kind of signification it is that general words have. For as it is evident, that they do not signify barely one particular thing; for then they would. not be general terms, but proper names; so on the other side it is as evident, they do not signify a
ideas are the
the genera and species.
same denomination, v. g. of man or marigold, hath a real being out of the understanding? which, I confess, I am not able to conceive. Your lordship's proof here brought out of my essay, concerning the sun, I humbly conceive, will not reach it; because what is said there, does not at all concern the real but nominal essence, as is evident from hence, that the idea I speak of there is a complex idea; but we have no complex idea of the internal constitution or real essence of the sun. Besides, I say expressly, That our distinguishing substances into species, by names, is not at all founded on their real essences. So that the sun being one of these substances, I cannot, in the place quoted by your lordship, be supposed to mean by essence of the sun the real essence of the sun, unless I had so expressed it. But all this argument will be at an end, when your lordship shall have explained what you mean by these words, "true sun." In my sense of them, any thing will be a true sun to which the name sun may be truly and properly applied, and to that substance or thing the name sun may be truly and properly applied, which has united in it that combination of sensible qualities, by which any thing else, that is called sun, is distinguished from other substances, i. e. by the nominal essence : and thus our sun is denominated and distinguished from a fixed star, not by a real essence that we do not know (for if we did, it is possible we should find the real essence or constitution of one of the fixed stars to be the same with that of our sun) but by a complex idea of sensible qualities co-existing, which, wherever they are found, make true sun. And thus I crave leave to answer your lordship's question-" For what is it makes the second sun to be a true sun, but having the same real essence with the first? If it were but a nominal essence, then the second would have nothing but the name."
I humbly conceive, if it had the nominal essence, it would have something besides the name, viz. That nominal essence which is sufficient to denominate it truly a sun, or to make it be a true sun, though we know nothing of that real essence whereon that nominal one depends. Your lordship will then argue, that that real essence is in the second sun, and makes the second sun. I grant it, when the second sun comes to exist, so as to be perceived by us to have all the ideas contained in our complex idea, i. e. in our nominal essence of a sun. For should it be true (as is now believed by astronomers), that the real essence of the sun were in any of the
plurality for man and men would then signify the same, and the distinction of numbers (as the grammarians call them) would be superfluous and useless. That then which general words signify is a sort of things; and each of them does that, by being a sign of an abstract idea in the mind, to which idea, as things existing are found to agree, so they come to be ranked
fixed stars, yet such a star could not for that be by us called a sun, whilst it answers not our complex idea, or nominal essence of a sun. But how far that will prove, that the essences of things, as they are knowable by us, have a reality in them distinct from that of abstract ideas in the mind, which are merely creatures of the mind, I do not see; and we shall farther inquire, in considering your lordship's following words. "Therefore," say you, "there must be a real essence in every individual of the same kind." Yes, and I beg leave of your lordship to say, of a different kind too. For that alone is it which makes it to be what it is.
That every individual substance has real, internal, individual, constitution, i. e. a real essence, that makes it to be what it is, I readily grant. Upon this your lordship says, "Peter, James, and John, are all true and real men." Answer, Without doubt, supposing them to be men, they are true and real men, i. e. supposing the name of that species belongs to them. And so three bobaques are all true and real bobaques, supposing the name of that species of animals belongs to them.
For I beseech your lordship to consider, whether in your way of argument, by naming them, Peter, James, and John, names familiar to us, as appropriated to individuals of the species man, your lordship does not first suppose them men, and then very safely ask, whether they be not all true and real men? But if I should ask your lordship whether Weweena, Chuckery, and Cousheda, were true and real men or no? your lordship would not be able to tell me, till, I having pointed out to your lordship the individuals called by those names, your lordship, by examining whether they had in them those sensible qualities which your lordship has combined into that complex idea to which you give the specific name man, determined them all, or some of them, to be the species which you call man, and so to be true and real man; which when your lordship has determined, it is plain you did it by that which is only the nominal essence, as not knowing the real one. But your lordship farther asks, What is it makes Peter, James, and John real men? Is it the attributing the general name to them? No, certainly; but that the true and real essence of a man is in every one of them."
If, when your lordship asks," What makes them men?" your lordship used the word making in the proper sense for the efficient cause, and in that sense it were true, that the essence of a man,