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idea of the figure and motion of a sharp piece of steel would give us the idea of that pain which it is able to cause in us. For the cause of any sensation, and the sensation itself, in all the simple ideas of one sense, are two ideas; and two ideas so different and distant one from another, that no two can be more so. And therefore should Des Cartes's globules strike ever so long on the retina of a man, who was blind by a gutta serena, he would thereby never have any idea of light, or any thing approaching it, though he understood what little globules were, and what striking on another body was, ever so well. And therefore the Cartesians very well distinguish between that light which is the cause of that sensation in us, and the idea which is produced in us by it, and is that which is properly light.
§ 11. Simple ideas, as has been shown, Simple ideas why are only to be got by those impressions undefinable, objects themselves make on our minds, farther ex- by the proper inlets appointed to each plained. sort. If they are not received this way, all the words in the world, made use of to explain or define any of their names, will never be able to produce in us the idea it stands for. For words being sounds, can produce in us no other simple ideas than of those very sounds, nor excite any in us but by that voluntary connexion which is known to be between them and those simple ideas which common use has made them signs of. He that thinks otherwise, let him try if any words can give him the taste of a pineapple, and make him have the true idea of the relish of that celebrated delicious fruit. So far as he is told it has a resemblance with any tastes, whereof he has the ideas already in his memory, imprinted there by sensible objects not strangers to his palate, so far may he approach that resemblance in his mind. But this is not giving us that idea by a definition, but exciting in us other simple ideas by their known names; which will be still very different from the true taste of that
fruit itself. In light and colours, and all other simple ideas, it is the same thing; for the signification of sounds is not natural, but only imposed and arbitrary. And no definition of light or redness is more fitted or able to produce either of those ideas in us, than the sound light or red by itself. For to hope to produce an idea of light or colour by a sound, however formed, is to expect that sounds should be visible, or colours audible, and to make the ears do the office of all the other senses which is all one as to say, that we might taste, smell, and see by the ears; a sort of philosophy worthy only of Sancho Pança who had the faculty to see Dulcinea by hearsay. And therefore he that has not before received into his mind, by the proper inlet, the simple idea which any word stands for, can never come to know the signification of that word by any other words or sounds whatsoever, put together according to any rules of definition. The only way is by applying to his senses the proper object, and so producing that idea in him, for which he has learned the name already. A studious blind man who had mightily beat his head about visible objects, and made use of the explication of his books and friends, to understand those names of light and colours which often came in his way, bragged one day that he now understood what scarlet signified. Upon which his friend demanding what scarlet was? the blind man answered, It was like the sound of a trumpet. Just such an understanding of the name of any other simple idea will he have, who hopes to get it only from a definition, or other words made use of to explain it.
§ 12. The case is quite otherwise in complex ideas; which consisting of several simple ones, it is in the power of words, standing for the several ideas that make that composition, to imprint complex ideas in the mind which were never there before, and so make their names be under
in complex ideas, by instances of
a statue and rainbow.
stood. In such collections of ideas, passing under one name, definition, or the teaching the signification of one word by several others, has place, and may make us understand the names of things which never came within the reach of our senses, and frame ideas. suitable to those in other men's minds, when they use those names: provided that none of the terms of the definition stand for any such simple ideas, which he to whom the explication is made has never yet had in his thought. Thus the word statue may be explained to a blind man by other words, when picture cannot; his senses having given him the idea of figure, but not of colours, which therefore words cannot excite in him. This gained the prize to the painter against the statuary each of which contending for the excellency of his art, and the statuary bragging that his was to be preferred, because it reached farther, and even those who had lost their eyes could yet perceive the excellency of it, the painter agreed to refer himself to the judgment of a blind man; who being brought where there was a statue, made by the one, and a picture drawn by the other, he was first led to the statue, in which he traced with his hands all the lineaments of the face and body, and with great admiration applauded the skill of the workman. But being led to the picture, and having his hands laid upon it, was told that now he touched the head, and then the forehead, eyes, nose, &c. as his hands moved over the parts of the picture on the cloth, without finding any the least distinction: whereupon he cried out, that certainly that must needs be a very admirable and divine piece of workmanship which could represent to them all those parts, where he could neither feel nor perceive any thing.
§ 13. He that should use the word rainbow to one who knew all those colours, but yet had never seen that phænomenon, would, by enumerating the figure, largeness, position, and order of the colours, so well define that word, that it might be perfectly under
stood. But yet that definition, how exact and perfect soever, would never make a blind man understand it; because several of the simple ideas that make that complex one, being such as he never received by sensation and experience, no words are able to excite them in his mind.
§14. Simple ideas, as has been showed, can only be got by experience, from those objects which are proper to produce in us those perceptions. When by this means we have our minds stored with them, and know the names for them, then we are in a condition to define, and by definition to understand the names of complex ideas, that are made up of them. But when any term stands for a simple idea, that a man has never yet had in his mind, it is impossible by any words to make known its meaning to him. When any term stands for an idea a man is acquainted with, but is ignorant that that term is the sign of it; there another name, of the same idea which he has been accustomed to, may make him understand its meaning. But in no case whatsoever is any name, of any simple idea, capable of a definition.
The same of complex ideas when
to be made
intelligible by words.
15. Fourthly, But though the names of simple ideas have not the help of definition to determine their signification, yet that hinders not but that they are generally less doubtful and uncertain than those of mixed modes and substances; because they standing only for one simple perception, men, for the most part, easily and perfectly agree in their signification; and there is little room for mistake and wrangling about their meaning. He that knows once that whiteness is the name of that colour he has observed in snow or milk, will not be apt to misapply that word, as long as he retains that idea; which when he has quite lost, he is not apt to mistake the meaning of it, but perceives he understands it not. There is neither a multiplicity of simple ideas to be put together, which makes the
4. Names of
simple ideas least doubt
doubtfulness in the names of mixed modes; nor a supposed, but an unknown real essence, with properties depending thereon, the precise number whereof is also unknown, which makes the difficulty in the names of substances. But, on the contrary, in simple ideas the whole signification of the name is known at once, and consists not of parts, whereof more or less being put in, the idea may be varied, and so the signification of name be obscure or uncertain.
§ 16. Fifthly, This farther may be observed concerning simple ideas and their names, that they have but few ascents in linea prædicamentali (as they call it) from the lowest species to the summum genus. The reason whereof is, that the lowest species being but one simple idea, nothing can be left out of it; that so the difference being taken away, it may agree with some other thing in one idea common to them both; which, having one name, is the genus of the other two: v. g. there is nothing that can be left out of the idea of white and red, to make them agree in one common appearance, and so have one general name; as rationality being left out of the complex idea of man, makes it agree with brute, in the more general idea and name of animal: and therefore when, to avoid unpleasant enumerations, men would comprehend both white and red, and several other such simple ideas, under one general name, they have been fain to do it by a word which denotes only the way they get into the mind. For when white, red, and yellow are all comprehended under the genus or name colour, it signifies no more but such ideas as are produced in the mind only by the sight, and have entrance only through the eyes. And when they would frame yet a more general term, to comprehend both colours and sounds, and the like simple ideas, they do it by a word that signifies all such as come into the mind only by one sense and so the general term quality, in its ordinary acceptation, comprehends colours, sounds,
5. Simple ideas have few ascents