Page images

names belonging to relation are often of as doubtful and uncertain signification as those of substances of mixed modes, and much more than those of simple ideas; because relative words being the marks of this comparison, which is made only by men's thoughts, and is an idea only in men's minds, men frequently apply them to different comparisons of things, according to their own imaginations, which do not always correspond with those of others using the same


The notion of the relation is the same, whether the rule any action is

be true or


§ 20. Thirdly, That in these I call moral relations I have a true notion of relation, by comparing the action with the rule, whether the rule be true or false. For if I measure any thing by a compared to yard, I know whether the thing I measure be longer or shorter than that supposed yard, though perhaps the yard I measure by be not exactly the standard, which indeed is another inquiry: for though the rule be erroneous, and I mistaken in it, yet the agreement or disagreement observable in that which I compare with makes me perceive the relation. Though measuring by a wrong rule, I shall thereby be brought to judge amiss of its moral rectitude, because I have tried it by that which is not the true rule; yet I am not mistaken in the relation which that action bears to that rule I compare it to, which is agreement or disagree



Of clear and obscure, distinct and confused Ideas.

Ideas some clear and distinct, others ob

§ 1. HAVING shown the original of our ideas, and taken a view of their several sorts; considered the difference between the simple and the complex, and observed

how the complex ones are divided into scure and those of modes, substances, and relations; confused. all which, I think, is necessary to be done by any one who would acquaint himself thoroughly with the progress of the mind in its apprehension and knowledge of things; it will, perhaps, be thought I have dwelt long enough upon the examination of ideas. I must, nevertheless, crave leave to offer some few other considerations concerning them. The first is, that some are clear, and others obscure; some distinct, and others confused.

Clear and

obscure ex

plained by

§ 2. The perception of the mind being most aptly explained by words relating to the sight, we shall best understand what is meant by clear and obscure in our ideas sight. by reflecting on what we call clear and obscure in the objects of sight. Light being that which discovers to us visible objects, we give the name of obscure to that which is not placed in a light sufficient to discover minutely to us the figure and colours, which are observable in it, and which, in a better light, would be discernible. In like manner our simple ideas are clear when they are such as the objects themselves, from whence they were taken, did or might, in a wellordered sensation or perception, present them. Whilst the memory retains them thus, and can produce them to the mind, whenever it has occasion to consider them, they are clear ideas. So far as they either want any thing of the original exactness, or have lost any of their first freshness, and are, as it were, faded or tarnished by time; so far are they obscure. Complex ideas, as they are made up of simple ones, so they are clear when the ideas that go to their composition are clear, and the number and order of those simple ideas, that are the ingredients of any complex one, is determinate and certain.

§ 3. The causes of obscurity in simple Causes of ideas seem to be either dull organs, or obscurity. very slight and transient impressions made by the

objects, or else a weakness in the memory not able to retain them as received. For to return again to visible objects, to help us to apprehend this matter: if the organs or faculties of perception, like wax overhardened with cold, will not receive the impression of the seal, from the usual impulse wont to imprint it; or, like wax of a temper too soft, will not hold it well when well imprinted; or else, supposing the wax of a temper fit, but the seal not applied with a sufficient force to make a clear impression: in any of these cases, the print left by the seal will be obscure. This, I suppose, needs no application to make it plainer. Distinct and § 4. As a clear idea is that whereof the mind has such a full and evident percep

confused, what.

tion, as it does receive from an outward object operating duly on a well-disposed organ; so a distinct idea is that wherein the mind perceives a difference from all other; and a confused idea is such an one as is not sufficiently distinguishable from another, from which it ought to be different.

§ 5. If no idea be confused but such Objection. as is not sufficiently distinguishable from another, from which it should be different; it will be hard, may any one say, to find any where a confused idea. For let any idea be as it will, it can be no other but such as the mind perceives it to be; and that very perception sufficiently distinguishes it from all other ideas, which cannot be other, i. e. different, without being perceived to be so. No idea therefore can be undistinguishable from another, from which it ought to be different, unless you would have it different from itself: for from all other it is evidently different. § 6. To remove this difficulty, and to help us to conceive aright what it is that makes the confusion ideas are at any time chargeable with, we must consider, that things ranked under distinct names are supposed different enough to be distinguished, that so each sort by its peculiar name may be marked, and discoursed

Confusion of ideas is in reference to their names.

of apart upon any occasion: and there is nothing more evident, than that the greatest part of different names are supposed to stand for different things. Now every idea a man has being visibly what it is, and distinct from all other ideas but itself, that which makes it confused is, when it is such, that it may as well be called by another name as that which it is expressed by the difference which keeps the things (to be ranked under those two different names) distinct, and make some of them belong rather to the one, and some of them to the other of those names, being left out; and so the distinction, which was intended to be kept up by those different names is quite lost. § 7. The defaults which usually occa- Defaults sion this confusion, I think, are chiefly which make these following:

First, When any complex idea (for it is complex ideas that are most liable to confusion) is made up of too small a number of simple ideas, and such only as are common to other things, whereby the


First, complex ideas made up of too few sim

ple ones.

differences that make it deserve a different name are left out. Thus he that has an idea made up of barely the simple ones of a beast with spots, has but a confused idea of a leopard; it not being thereby sufficiently distinguished from a lynx, and several other sorts of beasts that are spotted. So that such an idea, though it hath the peculiar name leopard, is not distinguishable from those designed by the names lynx or panther, and may as well come under the name lynx as leopard. How much the custom of defining of words by general terms contributes to make the ideas we would express by them confused and undetermined, I leave others to consider. This is evident, that confused ideas are such as render the use of words uncertain, and take away the benefit of distinct names. When the ideas, for which we use different terms, have not a difference answerable to their distinct names,



and so cannot be distinguished by them, there it is that they are truly confused.

Secondly, or its simple ones jumbled disorderly together.

$8. Secondly, Another fault which makes our ideas confused is, when though the particulars that make up any idea are in number enough; yet they are so jumbled together, that it is not easily discernible whether it more belongs to the name that is given it than to any other. There is nothing properer to make us conceive this confusion, than a sort of pictures usually shown as surprising pieces of art, wherein the colours, as they are laid by the pencil on the table itself, mark out very odd and unusual figures, and have no discernible order in their position. This draught, thus made up of parts wherein no symmetry nor order appears, is in itself no more a confused thing than the picture of a cloudy sky; wherein though there be as little order of colours or figures to be found, yet nobody thinks it a confused picture. What is it then that makes it be thought confused, since the want of symmetry does not? as it is plain it does not; for another draught made, barely in imitation of this, could not be called confused. I answer, that which makes it be thought confused is the applying it to some name to which it does no more discernibly belong than to some other: v. g. when it is said to be the picture of a man, or Cæsar, then any one with reason counts it confused: because it is not discernible in that state to belong more to the name man, or Cæsar, than to the name baboon, or Pompey; which are supposed to stand for different ideas from those signified by man or Cæsar. But when a cylindrical mirror, placed right, hath reduced those irregular lines on the table into their due order and proportion, then the confusion ceases, and the eye presently sees that it is a man, or Cæsar, i. e. that it belongs to those names; and that it is sufficiently distinguishable from a baboon, or Pompey, i. e. from

« PreviousContinue »