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of his own country, without rendering himself ridiculous. To require that men should use their words constantly in the same sense, and for none but determined and uniformideas, would be to think that all men should have the same notions, and should talk of nothing but what they have clear and distinct ideas of; which is not to be expected by any one, who hath not vanity enough to imagine he can prevail with men to be very knowing or very silent. And he must be very little skilled in the world, who thinks that a voluble tongue shall accompany only a good understanding ; or that men's talking much or little should hold proportion only to their knowledge. But yet ne
$ 3. But though the market and excessary to
change must be left to their own ways of philosophy. talking, and gossipings not be robbed of their ancient privilege; though the schools and men of argument would perhaps take it amiss to have any thing offered to abate the length, or lessen the number of their disputes: yet methinks those who pretend seriously to search after or maintain truth, should think themselves obliged to study how they might deliver themselves without obscurity, doubtfulness, or equivocation, to which men's words are naturally liable, if care be not taken. Misuse of
§ 4. For he that shall well consider the words the errors and obscurity, the mistakes and great cause confusion, that are spread in the world of errors. by an ill use of words, will find some reason to doubt whether language, as it has been employed, has contributed more to the improvement or hinderance of knowledge amongst mankind. How many are there that, when they would think on things, fix their thoughts only on words, especially when they would apply their minds to moral matters? And who then can wonder, if the result of such contemplations and reasonings, about little more than sounds, whilst the ideas they annexed to them are very confused and very unsteady, or perhaps none at all,- who can wonder, I say, that such thoughts and reasonings end in nothing but obscurity and mistake, without any clear judgment or knowledge ? $ 5. This inconvenience,in an ill use of
Obstinacy, words, men suffer in their own private meditations : but much more manifest are the disorders which follow from it, in conversation, discourse, and arguings with others. For language being the great conduit whereby men convey their discoveries, reasonings, and knowledge, from one to another; he that makes an ill use of it, though he does not corrupt the fountains of knowledge, which are in things themselves; yet he does, as much as in him lies, break or stop the pipes, whereby it is distributed to the public use and advantage of mankind. He that uses words without any clear and steady meaning, what does he but lead himself and others into errors? And he that designedly does it, ought to be looked on as an enemy to truth and knowledge. And yet who can wonder that all the sciences and parts of knowledge have been so overcharged with obscure and equivocal terms, and insignificant and doubtful expressions, capable to make the most attentive or quick-sighted very little or not at all the more knowing or orthodox'; since subtilty, in those who make profession to teach or defend truth, hath passed so much for a virtue : a virtue, indeed, which, consisting for the most part in nothing but the fallacious and illusory use of obscure or deceitful terms, is only fit to make men more conceited in their ignorance, and more obstinate in their errors. $ 6. Let us look into the books of con
And wrantroversy of any kind ; there we shall see,
gling that the effect of obscure, unsteady, or equivocal terms, is nothing but noise and wrangling about sounds, without convincing or bettering a man's understanding. For if the idea be not agreed on betwixt the speaker and hearer, for which the words stand, the argument is not about things, but names. As often as such a word, whose signification is not
ascertained betwixt them, comes in use, their understandings have no other object wherein they agree, but barely the sound; the things that they think on at that time, as expressed by that word, being quite different.
$ 7. Whether a bat be a bird or no, is Instance, bat and bird.
not a question : whether a bat be another
thing than indeed it is, or have other qualities than indeed it has, for that would be extremely absurd to doubt of: but the question is, 1. Either between those that acknowledge themselves to have but imperfect ideas of one or both of this sort of things, for which these names are supposed to stand ; and then it is a real inquiry concerning the name of a bird or a bat, to make their yet imperfect ideas of it more complete, by examining whether all the simple ideas, to which, combined together, they both give the name bird, be all to be found in a bat: but this is a question only of inquirers (not disputers) who nei. ther affirm, nor deny, but examine. Or, 2. It is a question between disputants, whereof the one affirms, and the other denies, that a bat is a bird. And then the question is barely about the signification of one or both these words; in that they not having both the same complex ideas, to which they give these two names, one holds, and the other denies, that these two names may be affirmed one of another. Were they agreed in the signification of these two names, it were impossible they should dispute about them : for they would presently and clearly see (were that adjusted between them) whether all the simple ideas, of the more general name bird, were found in the complex idea of a bat, or no; and so there could be no doubt, whether a bat were a bird or no. And here I desire it may be considered, and carefully examined, whether the greatest part of the disputes in the world are not merely verbal, and about the signification of words ; and whether, if the terms they are made in were defined, and reduced in their signification (as they must be where they signify anything) to determined collections of the simple ideas they do or should stand for, those disputes would not end of themselves, and immediately vanish. I leave it then to be considered, what the learning of disputation is, and how well they are employed for the advantage of themselves or others, whose business is only the vain ostentation of sounds; i. e. those who spend their lives in disputes and controversies. When I shall see any of those combatants strip all his terms of ambiguity and obscurity (which every one may do in the words he uses himself) I shall think him a champion for knowledge, truth, and peace, and not the slave of vain-glory, ambition, or a party:
$ 8. To remedy the defects of speech before-mentioned to some degree, and to prevent the inconveniencies that follow from them, I imagine the observation of these following rules may be of use, till somebody better able shall judge it worth his while to think more maturely on this matter, and oblige the world with his thoughts on it.
First, a man shall take care to use no 1. Remedy, word without a signification, no name to use no without an idea for which he makes it word withstand. This rule will not seem altogether
out an idea. needless to any one who shall take the pains to recollect how often he has met with such words, as instinct, sympathy and antipathy, &c. in the discourse of others, so made use of, as he might easily conclude, that those that used them had no ideas in their minds to which they applied them; but spoke them only as sounds, which usually served instead of reasons on the like occasions. Not but that these words, and the like, have very proper significations in which they may be used; but there being no natural connexion between any words and any ideas, these, and any other may be learned by rote, and pronounced or writ by men who have no ideas in their minds to which they have annexed them, and for which they
distinct ideas annexed to them in
make them stand; which is necessary they should, if men would speak intelligibly even to themselves alone.
$ 9. Secondly, it is not enough a man 2. To have
uses his words as signs of some ideas : those he annexes them to, if they be sim
ple, must be clear and distinct; if commodes. plex, must be determinate, i. e. the
precise collection of simple ideas settled in the mind, with that sound annexed to it, as the sign of that precise determined collection, and no other. This is very necessary in names of modes, and especially moral words; which having no settled objects in nature, from whence their ideas are taken, as from their original are apt to be very confused. Justice is a word in every man's mouth, but most commonly with a very undetermined loose signification : which will always be so, unless a man has in his mind a distinct comprehension of the component parts that complex idea consists of: and if it be decompounded, must be able to resolye it still on, till he at last comes to the simple ideas that make it up : and unless this be done, a man makes an ill use of the word, let it be justice, for example, or any other. I do not say, a man need stand to recollect, and make this analysis at large, every time the word justice comes in his way: but this at least is necessary, that he have so examined the signification of that name, and settled the idea of all its parts in his mind, that he can do it when he pleases. If one, who makes his complex idea of justice to be such a treatment of the person or goods of another as is according to law, hath not a clear and distinct idea what law is, which makes a part of his complex idea of justice, it is plain his idea of justice itself will be confused and imperfect. This exactness will, perhaps, be judged very troublesome ; and therefore most men will think they may be excused from settling the complex ideas of mixed modes so precisely in their minds. But yet I must say, till this be done, it must not be wondered that they have a great