« PreviousContinue »
OF THE NATURE OF IDEAS.
FIRSAL just be enfcience rathrin
TIRST, the nature of conception or perception*
shall just be mentioned, though this may seem to belong to another science rather than logic.
Perception is that act of the mind.(or, as some philosophers call it, rather a passion or impression), where. by the mind becomes conscious of any thing, as when I feel hunger, thirst, or cold, or heat; when I see a horse, a tree, or a man ; when I hear a human voice, or thunder, I am conscious of these things, and this is called perception. If I study, meditate, wish, or fear, I am conscious of these inward acts also, and my mind perceives its own thoughts, wishes, fears, &c.
An idea is generally defined a representation of a thing in the mind; it is a representation of something that we have seen, felt, heard, &*c. or been conscious of. That notion or form of a horfe, a tree, or a man, which is in the mind, is called the idea of a horse, a tree, or a man.
That notion of hunger, cold, sound, colour, thought, or wish, or fear, which is in the mind, is called the idea of hunger, cold, sound, with, &c.
It is not the outward object or thing which is pera ceived, viz, the horse, the man, &c. nor is it the very perception or sense and feeling, viz. of hunger or cold, &c. which is called the idea ; but it is the thing as it exists in the mind by way of conception or representation that is properly called the idea, whether the object be present or absent. • As a horse, a man, and a tree, are the outward objects of our perception, and the outward archetypes of patterns of our ideas, so our own sensations of hunger, cold, &c. are also inward archetypes or patterns of our ideas; but the notions or pictures of these things, as they are considered or conceived in the mind, are precisely the ideas that we have to do with in logic. To fee a horse, or to feel cold, is one thing: to think of and converse about a man, a horse, hunger, or cold, iş. another. · Among all these ideas, such as represent bodies are generally called images, especially if the idea of the the fhape be included. Those inward representations which we have of spirit, thought, love, hatred, cause, effeét, c. are more pure and mental ideas, belonging more especially to the mind, and carry nothing of shape or sense in them. But I shall have occafion to speak more particularly of the original, and the distinction of ideas, in the third chapter. I proceed therefore now to consider the objects of our ideas,
* The words Conception and Perception are often used promifcu, ously, as I have done here, because I would not embarrass a learner with too many distinctions ; but if I were to distinguish them, 3 would say perception is the consciousness of an object when present; conception is the forming an idea of the object whether present of absent.
THE object of perception is that which is repres
I fented in the idea, that which is the archetype or pattern, according to which the idea is formed ; and thus judgment; propofitions, reasons, and long discourses, may all become the objects of perception; but in this place we speak chiefly of the first and more fimple objects of it, before they are joined and formed. into propositions or discourses.
Every object of our idea is called a theme, whether it be a being or not-being, for nót-being may be proa posed to our thoughts, as well as that which has a
real being. But let us first treat of beings, and that in the largest extent of the word. ' ;
A being is considered as possible, or as actual.
When it is considered as poslible, it is said to have an effence or nature. Such were all things before their creation. When it is considered as actual, then it is faid to have existence also. Such are all things which are created, and God himself the creator.
Effence, therefore, is but the very nature of any being, whether it be actually existing or no. A rofe in winter has an essence, in summer it has existence also,
Note, There is but one being which includes exiftence in the very essence of it, and that is God, who therefore actually exists by natural and eternal neces. fity; but the actual existence of every creature is very distinct from its effence, for it may be or may not be, as God pleases.
Again, every being is considered either as fubfisting in and by itself, and then it is called a substance; or it fubfists in and by another, and then it is called a mode or manner of being. Though few writers als low mode to be called a being in the same perfect sense as a substance is : and some modes have evidently more of real entity or being than others, as will ap. pear when we come to treat of them. These things will furnish us matter for larger discourse in the fol. lowing sections.
A SUBSTANCE is a being which can subsist by A itself, without dependence upon any other created being. The notion of sublisting by itself gives occasion to logicians to call it a lubitance. So a horse, a house, wood, stone, water, fire, a spirit, a body, an angel, are called substances, because they depend on nothing but God for their existence.
It has been usual also in the description of substance to add, it is that which is the subject of modes or accidents; a body is the substance or subject, its shape is the mode.
But left we be led into mistakes, let us here take notice, that when a substance is said to subfist without dependence upon another created being, all that we mean is, that it cannot be annihilated, or utterly deAtroyed and reduced to nothing, by any power inferior to that of our creator, though its present particular form, nature, and properties may be altered and de.ftroyed by many inferior causes ; a horse may die and turn to duft; wood may be turned into fire, smoke, and ashes; a house into rubbish, and water into ice or vapour; but the substance or matter of which they are made ftill remains, though the forms and shapes of it are altered. A body may cease to be a horse or a house, but it is a body still; and in this sense it dedepends only upon God for its existence,
Among substances, some are thinking or conscious beings, or having a power of thought, such as the 'mind of man, God, angels. Some are extended, and folid or impenetrable, that is, they have dimensions of length, breadth, and depth, and have also a power of resistance, or exclude every thing of the same kind from being in the same place. This is the proper character of matter or body.
As for the idea of space, whether it be void or full, that is, a vacuum or a plenum, whether it be interspersed among all bodies, or may be supposed to reach beyond the bounds of the creation, it is an argument too long and too hard to be disputed in this place what the nature of it is. It has been much debated whe. .ther it be a real substance, or a mere conception of the mind; whether it be the immensity of the divine na· ture, or the mere order of co-existent beings; whether it be the manner of our conception of the distances of bodies, or a mere nothing. Therefore I drop the mention of it here, and refer the reader to the firft
effay among the Philosophical Elays by I. W. published 1733..
Now, if we seclude space out of our consideration, there will remain but two sorts of substances in the world, that is, matter and mind; or, as we otherwise call them, body and spirit ; at least we have no ideas of any other substance but there*.
:* Because men have different ideas and notions of substance, I thought it not proper entirely to omit all accounts of them, and therefore have thrown them into the margin. • Some philosophers suppose that our acquaintance with matter or mind reaches no farther than the mere properties of them, and that there is a sort of unknown being, which is the substance or the sube ject by which these properties of folid extension and of cogitation are supported, and in which these properties inhere or exift. But per. haps this notion arises only from our turning the mere abstracted or logical notion of fubftance or self-sublisting into the notion of a die ftinct, physical, or natural being, without any neceflity. Solid extension seems to me be the very fubftance of matter, or of all bodies; and a power of thinking, which is always in act, seems to be the very substance of all spirits; for God himself is an intelligent, al. mighty power; nor is there any need to seek for any other secret and unknown being or abstracted fubftance entirely diftinct from these, in order to support the several modes or properties of matter or mind; for these two ideas are sufficient for that purpose ; there. fore I rather think these are subftances.
It must be confefied, when we say, spirit is a thinking fubstance, and matter is an extended folid substance, we are fometimes ready to imagine, that extension and solidity are but mere modes and properties of a certain unknown fubstance or subject which supports them, and which we call body; and that a power of thinking is but - a mere mode and property of some unknown substance or subject
which supports it, and which we call fpirit; but I rather take this "to be a niere mistake which we are led into by the grammatical form and use of words; and perhaps our logical way of thinking by substances and modes, as well as our grammatical way of talking by substantives and adjectives, help to delude us into the supposition.
However, that I may not be wanting to any of my readers, I would let them know Mr Locke's opinion, which has obtained much in the present age, and it is this: “ That our idea of any particular substance is only such a combination of Gmple ideas as represents that thing as subsisting by itself, in which the supposed or confused idea of substance (such as it is) is always ready to offer itself. It is a conjunction of ideas co-existing in such a cause of their union, and makes the whole subject subfist by itself, though the cause of their union be unknown ; and our general idea of substance arises from the self-fubfistence of this collection of ideas.”
Now if this notion or substance rest here, and be considered mere. ly as an unknown cause of the union of properties, it is much more