Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

cause it was innate, but because the consideration of the nature of the things contained in those words, would not suffer him to think otherwise, how or whensoever he is brought to reflect on them: and if whatever is assented to, at first hearing and understanding the terms, must pass for an innate principle, every well-grounded observation, drawn from particulars into a general rule, must be innate; when yet it is certain, that not all, but only sagacious heads, light at first on these observations, and reduce them into general propositions, not innate, but collected from a preceding acquaintance, and reflection on particular instances. These, when observing men have made them, unobserving men, when they are proposed to them, cannot refuse their assent to.

$ 22. If it be said, “ the understanding Implicitly hath an implicit knowledge of these prin

known be

fore prociples, but not an explicit, before this first

posing, sighearing,” (as they must, who will say,“ that nifies, that they are in the understanding before they the mind is are known") it will be hard to conceive

capable of

understandwhat is meant by a principle imprinted on

nciple imprinted on ing them, or the understanding implicitly, unless it be else signifies this; that the mind is capable of under- nothing. standing and assenting firmly to such propositions. And thus all mathematical demonstrations, as well as first principles, must be received as native impressions on the mind; which I fear they will scarce allow them to be, who find it harder to demonstrate a proposition, than assent to it when demonstrated. And few mathematicians will be forward to believe, that all the diagrams they have drawn were but copies of those innate characters which nature had engraven upon their minds.

$ 23. There is, I fear, this farther weak. The arguness in the foregoing argument, which mento

senting on would persuade us, that therefore those first hearing, maxims are to be thought innate which is upon afalse men admit at first hearing, because they supposition

of no prece- assent to propositions, which they are not

teach- taught, nor do receive from the force of any ing.

argument or demonstration, but a bare explication or understanding of the terms. Under which, there seems to me to lie this fallacy; that men are supposed not to be taught, nor to learn any thing de novo; when, in truth, they are taught, and do learn something they were ignorant of before. For first, it is evident, that they have learned the terms and their signification, neither of which was born with them. But this is not all the acquired knowledge in the case : the ideas themselves, about which the proposition is, are not born with them, no more than their names, but got afterwards. So that in all propositions that are assented to at first hearing, the terms of the proposition, their standing for such ideas, and the ideas themselves that they stand for, being neither of them innate, I would fain know what there is remaining in such propositions that is innate. · For I would gladly have any one name that proposition, whose terms or ideas were either of them innate. We by degrees get ideas and names, and learn their appropriated connexion one with another; and then to propositions made in such terms, whose signification we have learnt, and wherein the agreement or disagreement we can perceive in our ideas, when put together, is expressed, we at first hearing assent; though to other propositions, in themselves as certain and evident, but which are concerning ideas not so soon or so easily got, we are at the same time no way capable of assenting. For though a child quickly assents to this proposition, “ that an apple is not fire,” when, by familiar acquaintance, he has got the ideas of those two different things distinctly imprinted on his mind, and has learnt that the names apple and fire stand for them; yet, it will be some years after, perhaps, before the same child will assent to this proposition, “ that it is impossible for the same thing to be, and not to be ;" because, that though, perhaps, the words are as easy

to be learnt, yet the signification of them being more large, comprehensive, and abstract, than of the names annexed to those sensible things the child hath to do with, it is longer before he learns their precise meaning, and it requires more time plainly to form in his mind those general ideas they stand for. Till that be done, you will in vain endeavour to make any child assent to a proposition made up of such general terms: but as soon as ever he has got those ideas, and learned their names, he forwardly closes with the one as well as the other of the forementioned propositions, and with both for the same reason; viz. because he finds the ideas he has in his mind to agree or disagree, according as the words standing for them are affirmed or denied one of another in the proposition. But if propositions be brought to him in words, which stand for ideas he has not yet in his mind; to such propositions, however evidently true or false in themselves, he affords neither assent nor dissent, but is ignorant: for words being but empty sounds, any farther than they are signs of our ideas, we cannot but assent to them, as they correspond to those ideas we have, but no farther than that. But the showing by what steps and ways knowledge comes into our minds, and the grounds of several degrees of assent, being the business of the following discourse, it may suffice to have only touched on it here, as one reason that made me doubt of those innate principles.

§ 24. To conclude this argument of Not innate, universal consent, I agree, with these de

because not

universally fenders of innate principles, that if they

assented to. are innate, they must needs have universal assent; for that a truth should be innate, and yet not assented to, is to me as unintelligible, as for a man to know a truth, and be ignorant of it, at the same time. But then, by these men's own confession, they cannot be innate; since they are not assented to by those who understand not the terms, nor by a great part of those who do understand them, but have yet

of our ind to the showing

Not the next, the under

never heard nor thought of those propositions ; which, I think, is at least one half of mankind. But were the number far less, it would be enough to destroy universal assent, and thereby show these propositions not to be innate, if children alone were ignorant of them.

$ 25. But that I may not be accused to These maxims not argue from the thoughts of infants, which the first are unknown to us, and to conclude from known. what passes in their understandings before they express it; I say next, that these two general propositions are not the truths that first possess the minds of children, nor are antecedent to all acquired and adventitious notions; which, if they were innate, they must needs be. Whether we can determine it or no, it matters not; there is certainly a time when children begin to think, and their words and actions do assure us that they do so. When therefore they are capable of thought, of knowledge, of assent, can it rationally be supposed they can be ignorant of those notions that nature has imprinted, were there any such? Can it be imagined, with any appearance of reason, that they perceive the impressions from things without, and be at the same time ignorant of those characters which nature itself has taken care to stamp within ? Can they receive and assent to adventitious notions, and be ignorant of those which are supposed woven into the very principles of their being, and imprinted there in indelible characters, to be the foundation and guide of all their acquired knowledge and future reasonings ? This would be to make nature take pains to no purpose, or, at least, to write very ill: since its characters could not be read by those eyes which saw other things very well; and those are very ill supposed the clearest parts of truth, and the foundations of all our knowledge, which are not first known, and without which the undoubted knowledge of several other things may be had. The child certainly knows that the nurse that feeds it is neither the cat it plays with, nor the blackmoor it is afraid of; that the wormseed or mustard it refuses is not the apple or sugar it cries for; this it is certainly and undoubtedly assured of: but will any one say, it is by virtue of this principle,“ that it is impossible for the same thing to be, and not to be," that it so firmly assents to these, and other parts of its knowledge; or that the child has any notion or apprehension of that proposition, at an age, wherein yet, it is plain, it knows a great many other truths? He that will say, children join these general abstractspeculations with their sucking-bottles and their rattles, may, perhaps, with justice, be thought to have more passion and zeal for his opinion, but less sincerity and truth, than one of that age.

$ 26. Though therefore there be several And so not general propositions that meet with con- innate. stant and ready assent, as soon as proposed to men grown up, who have attained the use of more general and abstract ideas, and names standing for them; yet they not being to be found in those of tender years, who nevertheless know other things, they cannot pretend to universal assent of intelligent persons, and so by no means can be supposed innate; it being impossible, that any truth which is innate (if there were any such) should be unknown, at least to any one who knows any thing else: since, if there are innate truths, they must be innate thoughts; there being nothing a truth in the mind that it has never thought on. Whereby it is evident, if there be any innate truths in the mind, they must necessarily be the first of any thought on; the first that appear there.

$ 27. That the general maxims we are discoursing of are not known to children, because they

Not innate, idiots, and a great part of mankind, we appear least, have already sufficiently proved ; whereby where what it is evident, they have not an universal

shows itself assent, nor are general impressions. But clearest. there is this farther argument in it against 3.3 their being innate; that these characters, if they were

madan nivonal

is innate

« ZurückWeiter »