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TIF HE first rule is this, seek after a clear and diftinét:
conception of things as they are in their own nature, and do not content yourselves with obscure and confused ideas, where clearer are to be attained.. in
There are some things indeed whereof distinct ideas are scarce attainable, they seem to furpass the capacity of the understanding in our present state ; such are the notions of eternal, immense, infinite whether thisinfinity be applied to number, as an infinite multitude; te quantity, as infinite length, breadth, to powers and i perfections, as strength, wisdom, or goodness infinite, , Ear Though mathematicians in their way demonstrate several things in the doctrine of infinites, yet there are still some infolvable difficulties that attend the ideas of infinity, when it is applied to mind or body; and while it is in reality but an idea ever growing, we cannot have : so clear and distinct a conception of it as to secure us. from mistakes in some of our reasonings about it..
There are many other things that belong to the maaterial world, wherein the sharpest philosophers have : not yet arrived at. clear and distinct ideas, such as the: particular shape, situation, contexture, motion of the : small particles of minerals, metals, plants, &c. where by their very natures and effences are diftinguished from each other. Nor have we either senses or instrui. ment sufficiently nice and accurate to find them out.. There are other things in the world of spirits where in our ideas are very dark and confused, such as their". union with animal nature, the way of their action on material beings, and their converse with each other. . And though it is a laudable ambition to search what may be known of these matters, yet it is a vast hin- drance to the enrichment of our understandings; if we spend too much of our time and pains among infinites and unsearchables, and those things for the investigae. tion whereof we are pot furnished with proper facale.
ties in the present state. It is therefore of great fervice to the true improvement of the mind, to diftinguish well between knowables and unknowables.
As far as things are knowable by us, it is of excellent use to accustom ourselves to clear and distinct ideas. Now among many other occafions of the dark ness and mistakes of our minds, there are these two things which most remarkably bring confusion into our ideas.
1. That from our infancy we have had the ideas of things so far connected with the ideas of words, that we often mistake words for things, we mingle and confound one with the other.
2. From our youngest years we have been ever ready to consider things not so much in their own natures, as in their various respects to ourselves, and chiefly to, our senses; and we have also joined and mingled the ideas of some things, with many other ideas, to which they are not a-kiä in their own natures.
In order therefore to a clear and distinct knowledge of things, we must unclotbe them of all these relations and mixtures, that we may contemplate them naked, and in their own natures, and distinguish the subject that we have in view from all other subjects whatsoever: now to perform this well, we must here confie der the definition of words, and the definition of things..
SECT. II. Of the Definition of Words or Names. TF we conceive of things as angels and unbodied
l fpirits do without involving them in those clouds, which words and language throw upon them, we should feldom be in danger of such mistakes as, are perpetually committed by us in the present state ; and indeed it would be of unknown advantage to us to accuftom.
ourselves to form ideas of things without words, that. we might know them in their own proper natures. But since we must use words, both to learn and to communicate most of our notions, we fhould do it with just rules of caution. I have already declared in part, how often and by what means our words become the occasions of errors in our conceptions of things. To remedy such inconveniencies, we must get exact definition of the words we make ufe of, that: is, we must determine precisely the senfe of our words, which is called the definition of the name.
Now a definition of the name being only, a declaration in what sense the word is used, or what idea or object we mean by it, this may be expreffed by any one or more of the properties, effects or circumstances of that object which do sufficiently diftinguish it from other objects: as if I were to tell what I mean by the word air, I may say it is that thin matter which we breathe in and breathe out continually; or it is that fluid body in which the birds fly a little above the earth; or it is that invisible matter which fills all places near the earth, or which immediately encompaffes the globe of earth and water. So if I would tell what I. mean by light, I would say it is that medium whereby we see the colourg and Shapes of things ; or it is that which distinguishes the day from the night. If I were asked what I mean by religion, I would answer, it isz a collection of all our duties to God, if taken in a. strict and limited sense; but if taken in a large sense, it: is, a collection of all our duties, both to God and man. These are called the definitions of the name.
Note, in defining the name, there is no necessity that: we should be acquainted with the intimate effence or nature of the thing;, for, any manner of defcription that will but sufficiently acquaint another person what we mean by: such a word, is a sufficient definition for the name. And on this account, a synonymous word, or a mere negation of the contrary, a translation of the word "into another tongue, or a grammatical explica. tion of it, is sometimes sufficient for this purpose ; as if.one would know what I mean by a sphere, I. teld.
him it is a globe, if he afk what is a triangle, it is that which has three, angles; or an oval is that which has the shape of an egg. Dark is that which has no light; asthma is a difficulty of breathing; a diaphoretic medicine, or a sudorific, is something that will provoke sweating; and an insolvent is a man that cannot pay his debts.
Since it is the design of logic, not only to assist us in learning but in teaching also, it is necessary that we should be furnished with some particular directions relating to the definitions of names, both in teaching and dearning.
SECT. III. : Directions concerning the Definitions of Names. Direct I. UT AVE a care of making use of mere
0 words, instead of ideas, that is, such words as have no meaning, no definition belonging to '. them: do not always imagine that there are ideas wheresoever there are names: for though mankind hath so many millions of ideas more than they have names, yet so foolish and lavish are we, that too often we use some words in mere waste, and have no ideas for them; or at least, our ideas are fo exceedingly shattered and confused, broken and blended, various and unsettled, that they can signify nothing toward the improvement of the underitanding. You will find a great deal of reason for this remark, if you read the popish schoolmen, or the mystic divines.
Never rest satisfied therefore with mere words which have not ideas belonging to them, or at least no fet. tled and determinate ideas. Deal not in such empty ware, whether you are a learner or a teacher; for hereby some persons have made themselves rich in words, and learned in their own esteem : whereas in reality their understandings have been poor, and they knew nothing.
Let me give, for instance, some of those writers of talkers who deal much in the words nature, fate, luck, chance, perfection, power, life, fortune, inftinet, &c. and that even in the most calm and instructive parts of their discourse; though neither they themselves nor their hearers, have any fettled meaning under thofe words; and thus they build up their reasonings, and infer what they please, with an ambition of the name of learning, or of sublime elevations in religion ; whereas in truth they do but amuse themselves and their admirers with fwelling words of vanity, understanding neither what they fay, nor whereof they affirm. But this fort of talk was reproved of old by the two chief apostles St Peter and St Paul, 1 Tim. i. 7. and 2 Pet. ii. 18.
When pretenders to philosophy or good sense grow fond of this sort of learning, they dazzle and confound their weak hearers, but fall under the neglect of the wise. The Epicureans are guilty of this fault, when they ascribe the formation of this world to chance : the Aristotelians, when they say, nature abhors a vacuum : the Stoics when they talk of fate, which is superior to the gods : and the gamesters when they curse their illluck, or hope for the favours of fortune. Whereas, if they would tell us, that by the word nature they mean the properties of any being, or the order of things eftablished at the creation ; that by the word fate they intend the decrees of God, or the neceffary connection and influence of second causes and effects; if by the word luck or chance they signify the absolute negation of any determinate cause, or only their ignorance of any such cause, we should know how to converse with them, and to afsent to, or diffent from their opinions. But while they flutter in the dark, and make a noife with words which have no fixed ideas, they talk to the wind, and can never profit.
I would make this matter a little plainer ftill by inftances borrowed from the Peripatetic philosophy, which was taught once in all the schools. The profesa for fancies he has assigned the true reason, why all heavy bodies tend downward, why amber will draw feathers or straws, and the loadstone draw iron, when he tells you, that this is done by certain gravitating and