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VII.

ideas.

out such as were most proper for our purpose. There SECT. may not, however, be any present, beside those very ideas, that are thus collected by a kind of magical Of abstract faculty in the soul, which, though it be always most perfect in the greatest geniuses, and is properly what we call a genius, is however inexplicable by the utmost efforts of human understanding.

Perhaps these four reflections may help to remove all difficulties to the hypothesis I have proposed concerning abstract ideas, so contrary to that which has hitherto prevailed in philosophy. But to tell the truth, I place my chief confidence in what I have already proved concerning the impossibility of general ideas, according to the common method of explaining them, We must certainly seek some new system on this head, and there plainly is none beside what I have proposed. If ideas be particular in their nature, and at the same time finite in their number, 'tis only by cus- 2 tom they can become general in their representation, and contain an infinite number of other ideas under them.

Before I leave this subject, I shall employ the same principles to explain that distinction of reason, which is so much talked of, and is so little understood in the schools. Of this kind is the distinction betwixt figure and the body figured ; motion and the body moved. The difficulty of explaining this distinction arises from the principle above explained, that all ideas which are different are separable. For it follows from thence, that if the figure be different from the body, their ideas must be separable as well as distinguishable; if they be not different, their ideas can neither be separable nor distinguishable. What then is meant by a dis.

1.

their

&c.

1

PART tinction of reason, since it implies neither a difference

nor separation ? Of ideas, To remove this difficulty, we must have recourse to

origin, the foregoing explication of abstract ideas. 'Tis cercomposition,

tain that the mind would never have dreamed of distinguishing a figure from the body figured, as being in reality neither distinguishable, nor different, nor separable, did it not observe, that even in this simplicity there might be contained many different resemblances and relations. Thus, when a globe of white marble is presented, we receive only the impression of a white

1 colour disposed in a certain form, nor are we able to separate and distinguish the colour from the form. But observing afterwards a globe of black marble and a cube of white, and comparing them with our former object, we find two separate resemblances, in what formerly seemed, and really is, perfectly inseparable. After a little more practice of this kind, we begin to distinguish the figure from the colour by a distinction of reason; that is, we consider the figure and colour together, since they are, in effect, the same and undistinguishable; but still view them in different aspects, according to the resemblances of which they are susceptible. When we would consider only the figure of the globe of white marble, we form in reality an idea both of the figure and colour, but tacitly carry our eye to its resemblance with the globe of black marble: and in the same manner, when we would consider its colour only, we turn our view to its resemblance with the cube of white marble. By this means we accompany our ideas with a kind of reflection, of which custom renders us, in a great measure, insensible. A person who desires us to consider the figure of a globe

VII.

of white marble without thinking on its colour, desires SECT. an impossibility; but his meaning is, that we should consider the colour and figure together, but still keep Of abstract in our eye the resemblance to the globe of black marble, or that to any other globe of whatever colour or substance.

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II.

Of the ideas of

PART WHATEVER has the air of a paradox, and is contrary

to the first and most unprejudiced notions of mankind,

is often greedily embraced by philosophers, as showspace

ing the superiority of their science, which could disand time.

cover opinions so remote from vulgar conception. On
the other hand, any thing proposed to us, which causes
surprise and admiration, gives such a satisfaction to
the mind, that it indulges itself in those agreeable
emotions, and will never be persuaded that its plea-
sure is entirely without foundation. From these dis-
positions in philosophers and their disciples, arises that
mutual complaisance betwixt them; while the former
furnish such plenty of strange and unaccountable opi-
nions, and the latter so readily believe them. Of this
mutual complaisance I cannot give a more evident in-
stance than in the doctrine of infinite divisibility, with
the examination of which I shall begin this subject of
the ideas of space and time.

I.

Of the 1 infinite

of our ideas

of space time.

'Tis universally allowed, that the capacity of the SECT. mind is limited, and can never attain a full and adequate conception of infinity: and though it were not allowed, 'twould be sufficiently evident from the plain- divisibility est observation and experience. 'Tis also obvious, , that whatever is capable of being divided in infinitum,

and must consist of an infinite number of parts, and that 'tis impossible to set any bounds to the number of parts without setting bounds at the same time to the division. It requires scarce any induction to conclude from hence, that the idea, which we form of any finite quality, is not infinitely divisible, but that by proper distinctions and separations we may run up this idea to inferior ones, which will be perfectly simple and indivisible. [In rejecting the infinite capacity of the mind, we suppose it may arrive at an end in the division of its ideas; nor are there any possible means of evading the evidence of this conclusion,

{Tis therefore certain, that the imagination reaches a minimum, and may raise up to itself an idea, of which it cannot conceive any subdivision, and which cannot be diminished without a total annihilation, When

you

tell me of the thousandth and ten thousandth part of a grain of sand, I have a distinct idea of these numbers and of their different proportions; but the images which I form in my mind to represent the things themselves, are nothing different from each other, nor inferior to that image, by which I represent the grain of sand itself, which is supposed so vastly to exceed them. What consists of parts is distinguishable into them, and what is distinguishable is separable. But, whatever we may imagine of the thing, the idea of a grain of sand is not distinguishable nor separable into twenty, much less into a thousand, ten thousand, or an infinite number of different ideas.

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