« PreviousContinue »
ambiguity by being affixed to some of those ideas. This practice would by degrees' take away part of the uncertainty of language. And for this reason I cannot but congratulate our English tongue, that it has . been abundantly enriched with the translation of words from all our neighbour nations, as well as frorn ancient languages, and these words have been as it were en. franchised amongst us ; for French, Latin, Greek, and German names will fignify English ideas, as well as words that are anciently and entirely English.
It may not be amiss to mention in this place, that as the determination of the particular sense in which any word is used, is called the definition of the name, so the enumeration of the various senses of an equivo. cal word, is sometimes called the division or distinction of the name ;- and for this purpose good dictionaries are of excellent use. 1 This distinction of the name or word is greatly nea cessary in argumentation or dispute; when a fallacious argument is used, he that answers it diftinguishes the several senses of some word or phrase in it, and shews in what sense it is true, and in what sense it is as evidently false.
A S there is much confusion introduced into our A ideas, by the means of those words to which they are affixed, so the mingling our ideas with each other without caution is a farther occasion whereby they become confused. A court lady, born and bred up amongst pomp and equipage, and the vain notions of birth and quality, constantly joins and mixes all these with the idea of herself, and she imagines these to be effential to her nature, and as it were necessary to her being; thence she is tempted to look upon menial servants, and the lowest rank of mankind, as ano
ther species of beings quite distinct from herself. A plough-boy, that has never travelled beyond his own village, and has seen nothing but thatched houses and his parish-church, is naturally led to imagine that thatch belongs to the very nature of a house, and that must be a church which is built of stone, and especially if it has a spire upon it. A child whose uncle has been excessive fond, and his schoolmaster very severe, eafily believes, that fondness always belongs to uncles, and that severity is essential to masters or instructors. He has seen allo soldiers with red coats, or ministers with long black gowns, and therefore he persuades himself that these garbs are essential to the characters, and that he is not a minister who has not a long black gown, nor can he be a soldier who is not dressed in red. It would be well if all such mistakes ended with childhood.
It might be also subjoined, that our complex ideas become confused, not only by uniting or blending to gether more simple or single ideas, than really belong:to them, as in the instances jnst mentioned; but obscue rity and confusion sometimes come upon our ideas also, for want of uniting a sufficient number of single ideas to make the complex one: so if I conceive of a leopard only as a spotted beast, this does not distinguish it from a tyger or a lynx, nor from many dogs or hor. ses, which are spotted too ; and therefore a leopard must have some more ideas added to complete and dis ftinguish it.
I grant that it is a large and free acquaintance with the world, a watchful observation and diligent search into the nature of things that must fully correct this kind of errors : the rules of logic are not sufficient to do it : but yet the rules of logic may instruct us by what means to distinguish one thing from another, and how to search and mark out as far as may be, the contents and limits of the nature of distinct beings, and thus may give us great aslistance towards the remedy of these mistakes..
As the definition of names frees us from that confue fion which words introduce, so the definition of things will, in some measure, guard us against that confusion
which mingled ideas have introduced : for as a definic tion of the name explains what any words means, so a definition of the thing explains what is the nature of that thing. . . . In order to form a definition of any thing we must put forth these three acts of the mind. :'
First, compare the thing to be defined with other things that are most like to itself, and see wherein its essence or nature agrees with them; and this is called the general nature or genus in a definition : so if you would define what wine is, first compare it with other things, like itself, as cyder, perry, &c. and you will find it agrees essentially with them in this, that it is a fort of juice.
Secondly, consider the most remarkable and primary attribute, property, or idea wherein this thing differs from those other things that are most like it; and that is its effential or specific difference: fo wine differs from cyder and perry, and all other juices, in that it is pressed from a grape. This may be called its specia. al nature, which distinguishes it from other juices. . Thirdly, join the general and special nature together, or (which is ali one) the genus and the difference; and these make up a definition. So the juice of a grape, or juice prefled from grapes, is the definition of wine.
So if I would define what winter is, I consider first wherein it agrees with other things which are most like it, (viz.) summer, spring, autumn, and I find they are all seasons of the year ; therefore a season of the year is the genus. Then I observe wherein it differs from these, and that is in the shortness of the days ; for it is this which does primarily diftinguish it from other seasons; therefore this may be called its special nature of its difference. Then by joining these together I make a definition. Winter is that season of the year wherein the days are shortest. I confess indeed ihis is but a ruder definition of it; for to define it, as an accurate astronomer, I must limit the days, hours and minutes.
After the same manner if we would explain or define what the picture of a man is, we consider first the genus or general nature of it, which is a representation; and herein it agrees with many other things, as a statue, a thadow, a print, a verbal description of a man, &c. Then we confider wherein it differs from there, and we find it differs from a verbal description in that it is a representation to the eye and not to the ear; it differs from a statue in that it is a representation upon a fiat surface, and not in a solid figure ; it differs from a fhadow, in that it is an abiding representation and not a fleeting one : it differs from a print or draught, because it represents the colours by paint as well as the shape of the object by delineation. Now so many or rather so few of these ideas put together, as are just fufficient to distinguish a picture from all other representations, make up its effential difference or its special nature; and all these are included in its being painted on a plain furface. Then join this to the genus, which is a repretentation ; and thus you have the complete de finition of the picture of a man, (viz.) it is the representation of a man in paint upon a surface (or a plane.) toe
Here it must be observed, that when we speak of the genus and difference as compoộng a definition, it muft always be understood that the nearest genus and specific difference are required.
The next general nature or the nearest genus must be used in a definition, because it includes all the rest; and if I would define wine, I must say wine is a juice, which is the nearest genus; and not say, wine is a liquid, which is a remote general nature; or wine is a lubítance, which is yet more remote, for juice includes both substance and liquid. Besides, neither of these two remote general natures would make any diftinction between wine and a thousand other substances or other liquids, a remote genus leaves the thing too much undiftinguished. .
The specific difference is that primary.attribute which distinguishes each species from one another, while they itood ranked under the same general nature or genus. Though winę differs from other liquids in that it is the juice of a certain fruit, yet this is but a general or generic difference, for it does not distinguith wine from cyder or perry; the specifie difference of wine
therefore is its pressure from the grape; as, cyder is prefled from apples and perry from pears. si
In definitions also we must use the primary attribute that distinguishes the species or special nature, and not attempt to define wine by its particular tastes, or effects, or other properties, which are but fecondary or consequential, when its pressure from the grape is the most obvious and primary distinction of it from all other juices. Iconfess in some cases it is not so eally known which is the primary idea that distinguishes one thing from another; and therefore some would as Loon define winter by the coldness of the season, as by the shortness of the days ; though the shortness of the days is doubtless the most just, primary and philofophical difference betwixt that and the other leatons or the year, since winter days are always shortest, but not always the coldest ; I add also that the shortness of the days is one cause of the coldness, but the cold is 110 cause of their thortness.
Rules of the Definition of the Things. THE special rules of a good definition; are there ::
JE Rule I. A definition must be universal, or as: fome call it adequate ; that is, it must agree to all the particular fpecies or individuals that are included under the faine idea ; fo the juice of a grape agrees to all pro. per wines, whether red, white, France, Spanish, Flo. rence, &c. * Rule II. It mut be proper and peculiar to the thing defined, and agree to that alone ; for it is the very delign of a definition effectually to distinguish one thing from all others : so the juice of a grape agrees to no other substance, to no other liquid, to no other being but wine. These two rules being observed, will always render a