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word, is in plain English, standing under or upholding (1).
3. An obscure and relative idea of substance in general being thus made, we
Of the sorts
(1) From this paragraph, there hath been raised an objection by the bishop of Worcester, as if our author's doctrine here concerning ideas had almost discarded substance out of the world: his words in this paragraph, being brought to prove, that he is one of the gentlemen of this new way of reasoning, that have almost discarded substance out of the reasonable part of the world. To which our author replies: *This, my lord, is an accusation, which your lordship will pardon me, if I do not readily know what to plead to, because I do not understand what it is almost to discard substance out of the reasonable part of the world. If your lordship means by it, that I deny, or doubt, that there is in the world any such thing as substance, that your lordship will acquit me of, when your lordship looks again into this 23d chapter of the second book, which you have cited more than once; where you will find these words, § 4. “When we talk or think of any particular sort of corporeal substances, as horse, stone, &c. though the idea we have of either of them be but the complication or collection of those several simple ideas of sensible qualities, which we used to find united in the thing called horse or stone; yet, because we cannot conceive how they should subsist alone, nor one in another, we suppose them existing in, and supported by some common subject, which support we denote by the name substance; though it is certain, we have no clear or distinct idea of that thing we suppose a support." And again, § 5. "The same happens concerning the operations of the mind, viz. thinking, reasoning, fearing, &c. which we considering not to subsist of themselves, nor apprehending how they can belong to body, or be produced by it, we are apt to think these the actions of some other substance, which we call spirit; whereby yet it is evident, that having no other idea, or notion of matter, but something wherein those many sensible qualities, which affect our senses, do subsist, by supposing a substance, wherein thinking, knowing, doubting, and a power of moving, &c. do subsist, we have as clear a notion of the nature or substance of spirit, as we have of body; the one being supposed to be (without knowing what it is) the substratum to those simple ideas we have from without; and the other supposed (with a like ignorance of what it is) to be the substratum to those operations, which we experiment in ourselves within." And again, § 6. "Whatever therefore be the secret nature of substance in general, all the ideas we have of particular distinct substances are nothing but several combinations of simple ideas, co-existing in such, though unknown cause of their union, as makes the whole subsist of itself." And I
* In his first letter to that bishop.
come to have the ideas of particular sorts of substances, by collecting such combinations of simple ideas, as are by experience and observation of men's senses taken notice of to exist together, and are there
farther say in the same section," that we suppose these combinations to rest in, and to be adherent to that unknown common subject, which inheres not in any thing else." And § 3. "That our complex ideas of substances, besides all those simple ideas they are made up of, have always the confused idea of something to which they belong, and in which they subsist; and therefore, when we speak of any sort of substance, we say it is a thing having such and such qualities; as body is a thing that is extended, figured, and capable of motion; spirit, a thing capable of thinking.
"These, and the like fashions of speaking, intimate that the substance is supposed always something besides the extension, figure, solidity, motion, thinking, or other observable idea, though we know not what it is."
"Our idea of body, I say, is an extended, solid substance; and our idea of soul, is of a substance that thinks." So that as long as there is any such thing as body or spirit in the world, I have done nothing towards the discarding substance out of the reasonable part of the world. Nay, as long as there is any simple idea or sensible quality left, according to my way of arguing, substance cannot be discarded; because all simple ideas, all sensible qualities, carry with them a supposition of a substratum to exist in, and of a substance wherein they inhere: and of this that whole chapter is so full, that I challenge any one who reads it to think I have almost, or one jot, discarded substance out of the reasonable part of the world. And of this man, horse, sun, water, iron, diamond, &c. which I have mentioned of distinct sorts of substances, will be my witnesses, as long as any such things remain in being; of which I say, † “That the ideas of substances are such combinations of simple ideas as are taken to represent distinct particular things subsisting by themselves, in which the supposed or confused idea of substance is always the first and chief."
If, by almost discarding substance out of the reasonable part of the world, your lordship means, that I have destroyed, and almost discarded the true idea we have of it, by calling it a substratum, a supposition of we know not what support of qualities as are capable of producing simple ideas in us, an obscure and relative idea: § that without knowing what it is, it is that which supports accidents; so that of substance we have no idea of what it is, but only a confused obscure one of what it does: I must confess, this and the like I have said of our idea of substance; and should be very glad to be con
* B. 2. c. 23. § 22.
† B. 2. c. 12. § 6.
fore supposed to flow from the particular internal constitution, or unknown essence of that substance. Thus we come to have the ideas of a man, horse, gold, water, &c. of which substances, whether any
vinced by your lordship, or any body else, that I have spoken too meanly of it. He that would show me a more clear and distinct idea of substance, would do me a kindness I should thank him for. But this is the best I can hitherto find, either in my own thoughts, or in the books of logicians; for their account or idea of it is, that it is ens, or res per se subsistens, & substans accidentibus; which in effect is no more, but that substance is a being or thing; or, in short, something they know not what, or of which they have no clearer idea, than that it is something which supports accidents, or other simple ideas or modes, and is not supported itself as a mode, or an accident. So that I do not see but Burgersdicius, Sanderson, and the whole tribe of logicians, must be reckoned with the gentlemen of this new way of reasoning, who have almost discarded substance out of the reasonable part of the world.
But supposing, my lord, that I, or these gentlemen, logicians of note in the schools, should own that we have a very imperfect, obscure, inadequate idea of substance, would it not be a little too hard to charge us with discarding substance out of the world? For what almost discarding, and reasonable part of the world, signifies, I must confess I do not clearly comprehend; but let almost and reasonable part signify here what they will, for I dare say your lordship meant something by them; would not your lordship think you were a little hardly dealt with, if, for acknowledging yourself to have a very imperfect and inadequate idea of God, or of several other things which in this very treatise you confess our understandings come short in, and cannot comprehend, you should be accused to be one of these gentlemen that have almost discarded God, or those other mysterious things, whereof you contend we have very imperfect and inadequate ideas, out of the reasonable world? For I suppose your lordship means by almost discarding out of the reasonable world, something that is blamable, for it seems not to be inserted for a commendation; and yet I think he deserves no blame, who owns the having imperfect, inadequate, obscure ideas, where he has no better; however, if it be inferred from thence, that either he almost excludes those things out of being, or out of rational discourse, if that be meant by the reasonable world; for the first of these will not hold, because the being of things in the world depends not on our ideas: the latter indeed is true in some degree, but it is no fault; for it is certain, that where we have imperfect, inadequate, confused, obscure ideas, we cannot discourse and reason about those things so well, fully, and clearly, as if we had perfect, adequate, clear, and distinct ideas.
Other objections are made against the following parts of this
one has any other clear idea, farther than of certain simple ideas co-existent together, I appeal to every one's own experience. It is the ordinary qualities observable in iron, or a diamond, put together, that make
paragraph by that reverend prelate, viz. The repetition of the story of the Indian philosopher, and the talking like children about substance to which our author replies:
Your lordship, I must own, with great reason, takes notice, that I paralleled more than once our idea of substance with the Indian philosopher's he-knew-not-what, which supported the tortoise, &c.
This repetition is, I confess, a fault in exact writing: but I have acknowledged and excused it in these words in my preface: "I am not ignorant how little I herein consult my own reputation, when I knowingly let my essay go with a fault so apt to disgust the most judicious, who are always the nicest readers." And there farther add, "That I did not publish my essay for such great masters of knowledge as your lordship; but fitted it to men of my own size, to whom repetitions might be sometimes useful." It would not therefore have been beside your lordship's generosity (who were not intended to be provoked by this repetition) to have passed by such a fault as this, in one who pretends not beyond the lower rank of writers. But I see your lordship would have me exact, and without any faults; and I wish I could be so, the better to deserve your lordship's approbation.
My saying, "That when we talk of substance, we talk like children; who being asked a question about something which they know not, readily give this satisfactory answer, "That it is something;" your lordship seems mightily to lay to heart in these words that follow. If this be the truth of the case, we must still talk like children, and I know not how it can be remedied. For if we cannot come at a rational idea of substance, we can have no principle of certainty to go upon in this debate.
If your lordship has any better and distincter idea of substance than mine is, which I have given an account of, your lordship is not at all concerned in what I have there said. But those whose idea of substance, whether a rational or not rational idea, is like mine, something, they know not what, must in that, with me, talk like children, when they speak of something, they know not what. For a philosopher that says, That which supports accidents, is something, he knows not what; and a countryman that says, the foundation of the great church at Harlem is supported by something, he knows not what; and a child that stands in the dark upon his mother's muff, and says he stands upon something, he knows not what, in this respect talk all three alike. But if the countryman knows, that the foundation of the church of Harlem is supported by a rock, as the houses about Bristol are; or by gravel, as the houses about London are; or by wooden piles, as the houses in Amsterdam are; it is plain,
the true complex idea of those substances, which a smith or a jeweller commonly knows better than a philosopher; who, whatever substantial forms he may talk of, has no other idea of those substances, than
that then having a clear and distinct idea of the thing that supports the church, he does not talk of this matter as a child; nor will he of the support of accidents, when he has a clearer and more distinct idea of it, than that it is barely something. But as long as we think like children, in cases where our ideas are no clearer nor distincter than theirs, I agree with your lordship, that I know not how it can be remedied, but that we must talk like them.
Farther, the bishop asks, Whether there be no difference between the bare being of a thing, and its subsistence by itself? To which our author answers, Yes. But what will that do to prove, that upon my principles we can come to no certainty of reason, that there is any such thing as substance? You seem by this question to conclude, That the idea of a thing that subsists by itself, is a clear and distinct idea of substance: but I beg leave to ask, Is the idea of the manner of subsistence of a thing, the idea of the thing itself? If it be not, we may have a clear and distinct idea of the manner, and yet have none but a very obscure and confused one of the thing. For example; I tell your lordship, that I know a thing that cannot subsist without a support, and I know another thing that does subsist without a support, and say no more of them: can you, by having the clear and distinct ideas of having a support, and not having a support, say, that you have a clear and distinct idea of the thing that I know which has, and of the thing that I know which has not a support? If your lordship can, I beseech you to give me the clear and distinct ideas of these, which I only call by the general name, things, that have or have not supports: for such there are, and such I shall give your lordship clear and distinct ideas of, when you shall please to call upon me for them; though I think your lordship will scarce find them by the general and confused idea of things, nor in the clearer and more distinct idea of having or not having a support.
To show a blind man, that he has no clear and distinct idea of scarlet, I tell him, that his notion of it, that it is a thing or being, does not prove he has any clear or distinct idea of it; but barely that he takes it to be something, he knows not what. He replies, That he knows more than that, v. g. he knows that it subsists, or inheres in another thing: and is there no difference, says he, in your lordship's words, between the bare being of a thing, and its subsistence in another? Yes, say I to him, a great deal: they are very different ideas. But for all that, you have no clear and distinct idea of scarlet, nor such a one as I have, who see and know it, and have another kind of idea of it, besides that of inherence.
* Mr. Locke's third letter.