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§ 73. And thus I have, in a short draught, given a view of our original ideas, from whence all the rest are derived, and of which they are made up; which if I would consider, as a philosopher, and examine on what causes they depend, and of what they are made, I believe they all might be reduced to these very few primary and original ones, viz. Extension, Solidity, Mobility, or the power of being moved; which by our senses we receive from body; Perceptivity, or the power of perception, or thinking; Motivity, or the power of moving; which by reflection we receive from our minds. I crave leave to make use of these two new words, to avoid the danger of being mistaken in the use of those which are equivocal. To which if we add Existence, Duration, Number; which belong both to the one and the other; we have, perhaps, all the original ideas, on which the rest depend. For by these, I imagine, might be explained the nature of colours, sounds, tastes, smells, and all other ideas we have, if we had but faculties acute enough to perceive the severally modified extensions and motions of these minute bodies, which produce those several sensations in us. But my present purpose being only to inquire into the knowledge the mind has of things, by those ideas and appearances, which God has fitted it to receive from them, and how the mind comes by that knowledge, rather than into their causes, or manner of production; I shall not, contrary to the design of this essay, set myself to inquire philosophically into the peculiar constitution of bodies, and the configuration of parts, whereby they have the power to produce in us the ideas of their sensible qualities: I shall not enter any farther into that disquisition, it sufficing to my purpose to observe, that gold or saffron has a power to produce in us the idea of yellow, and snow or milk the idea of white, which we can only have by our sight, without examining the texture of the parts of those bodies, or the particular figures or motion of the particles which rebound from them, to cause in us that particular sensation: though when we go beyond the bare ideas in our minds, and would inquire into their causes, we cannot conceive any thing else to be in any sensible object, whereby it produces different ideas in us, but the different bulk, figure, number, texture, and motion of its insensible parts.

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§ 32. If the number of simple ideas, that make the nominal essence of the lowest species, or first sorting of individuals, depends on the mind of man variously collecting them, it is much more evident that they do so, in the more comprehensive classes, which by the masters of logic are called genera. These are complex ideas designedly imperfect: and it is visible at first sight, that several of those qualities that are to be found in the things themselves, are purposely left out of generical ideas. For as the mind, to make general ideas comprehending several particulars, leaves out those of time, and place, and such other, that make them incommunicable to more than one individual; so to make other yet more general ideas, that may comprehend different sorts, it leaves out those qualities that distinguish them, and puts into its new collection only such ideas as are common to several sorts. The same convenience that made men express several parcels of yellow matter coming from Guinea and Peru under one name, sets them also upon making of one name that may comprehend both gold and silver, and some other bodies of different sorts. This is done by leaving out those qualities, which are peculiar to each sort; and retaining a complex idea made up of those that are common to them all; to which the name metal being annexed, there is a genus constituted; the essence whereof being that abstract idea, containing only malleableness and fusability, with certain degrees of weight and fixedness, wherein some bodies of several kinds agree, leaves out the colour, and other qualities peculiar to gold and silver, and the other sorts comprehended under the name metal. Whereby it is plain, that men follow not exactly the patterns set them by nature, when they make their general ideas of substances; since there is no body to be found, which has barely malleableness and fusibility in it, without other qualities as inseparable as those. But men, in making their general ideas, seeing more the convenience of language and quick dispatch, by short and comprehensive signs, than the true and precise nature of things as they exist, have, in the framing their abstract ideas, chiefly pursued that end, which was to be furnished with store of general and variously comprehensive names. So that in this whole business of genera and species, the genus, or more comprehensive, is but a partial conception of what is in the species, and the species but a partial idea of what is to be found in each individual. If therefore any one will think, that a man, and a horse, and an animal, and a plant, &c. are distinguished by real essences made by nature, he must think nature to be very liberal of these real essences, making one for body, another for an animal, and another for a horse; and all these essences liberally bestowed upon Bucephalus. But if we would rightly consider what is done in all these genera and species, or sorts, we should find, that there is no new thing made, but only more or less comprehensive signs, whereby we may be enabled to express, in a few syllables, great numbers of particular things, as they agree in more or less general conceptions, which we have framed to that purpose. In all which we may observe, that the more general term is always the name of a less complex idea; and that each genus is but a partial conception of the species comprehended under it. So that if these abstract general ideas be thought to be complete, it can only be in respect of a certain established relation between them and certain names, which are made use of to signify them; and not in respect of any thing existing, as made by nature.


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From the same principles it may be collected that all such pompous theories of morals, however seemingly diversified, yet amount ultimately to the same thing, being all built upon the same false bottom of innate notions; and from the history of this science we may see that they have received no manner of improvement (as indeed by the supposition of their innateness they become incapable of any) from the days of Plato to our own; but must always take the main point, the ground of obligation, for granted: which is in truth the shortest and safest way of proceeding for such self-taught philosophers, and saves a deal of trouble in seeking reasons for what they advance, where none are to be found. Mr. Locke went a far different way to work, at the very entrance on his Essay, pointing out the true origin of all our passions and affections, i. e. sensitive pleasure and pain; and accordingly directing us to the proper principle and end of virtue, private happiness, in each individual; as well as laying down the adequate rule and only solid ground of moral obligation, the divine will. From whence also it may well be concluded that moral propositions are equally capable of certainty, and that such certainty is equally reducible to strict demonstration here as in other sciences, since they consist of the very same kind of ideas [viz. general abstract ones, the true and only ground of all general knowledge]: provided always that the terms be once clearly settled, in which lies the chief difficulty, and are constantly applied (as surely they may be) with equal steadiness and precision: which was undoubtedly Mr. Locke’s meaning in that assertion of his which drew upon him so many solicitations to set about such a systematic demonstration of morals.