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agreement one with another.

Secondly, The other is of such truths, whereof the mind having
been oonvmced, it retains the memory of the conviction without
the proofs. Thus a man that remembers eertadnly that he ones

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peroeired the demoBBtration that the three angles of a triangle are
equal to two rieht ones, is certain that he Imows it, because he
eannot doubt of the truth of it. In his adherence to a truth
where the demonetration bj which it was at first known is forgot^
though a man may be thought rather to believe his memory than
really to know, and this way of entertaining a truth seemed
formerly to me like something between opinion and knowledge. »
sort of assurance whichezceecus bare belief^ for that relies on the
testimony of another ; yet, upon a due examination, I find it
eomes not short of perfect certaintyy and is^ in efiTect, true 'know-
ledge. That which is apt to mislead our first thopghts into ^
mistake in this matter is, that the agreement or disagreement of
the ideas in this case is not perceived, as it was at first, by an
ftctual view of all the intermeoiate ideas whereby the agreement
or disagreement of those in the proposition was at first perceived i
but by other intermediate ideas, that show the agreement or
disagreement of the ideas contained in the proposition whose
oertainty we remember. For example : in this proposition, that
^ the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right ones, one
who has seen and clearly perceived the demonstration of this
truth, knows it to be true, when that demonstration has gone
out of his mind, so that at present it is not actually in view, and
possibly cannot be recollected : but he knows it in a different
way from what he did before. The agreement of the two ideaq
joined in that proposition is perceived ; but it is bv the iuterven-!
tion of other ideas than those which at first produced that per^
eeption. 9e remembers, i «., he knows (for remembrance is but
the reviving of some past knowledge) that he was once certain
of the truth of this proposition, Utat ^ the three angles of a tri-
angle are equal to two right ones.** The immutability of the
same relations between the same immutable things is now the
idea that shows him, that if the three angles of a triangle were
once equal to two right ones, they will always be equiQ to two
right ones. And hence he comes to be certain, that what waa
once true in the ease is always true ; what ideas once agreed will
always ame : and, consequently, what he once knew to be true
he will sTways know to be true, as long as he can remember that
he once knew it Upon this nround it is that particular demon-
StraUons in mathematics afifora general knowledge. If, then, the
perception that the same ideas will eternally have the same
nabitudes and relations be not a soffident ground of knowledge,
there oonld be no knowledge of general propositions in mathe-
maties | for no mathematical demonstration would be any other
than particular : and when a man had demonstrated any pro-
position conoerainff one triangle or circle, his knowledge would
not reach beyond tnat particmar diagram. If he would extend
it farther, he must renew his demonstration in another instance,
before he could know it to be true in another like triangle, ana

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496 BOOK 17. CHAP. L

80 on : by which means one oonld never oome to tlie knowled^
of any general propositions. Nobody, I think^ can deny that
Mr. Newton certainly knows any proposition that he now at any
time reads in his book to be trae, thongh he has not in actnid.
view that admirable chain of intermediate ideas whereby he
at first discovered it to be trae. Such a memory as that, able to
retain such a train of particulars, may be well thought beyond
the reach of human figusulties : when the very disoovery, perce^
tion, and laying together that wonderful connexion of ideas is
found to surpass most readers* comprehension. But yet it is
evident the author himself knows tne proposition to oe true^
remembering he once saw the connexion or those ideas, as cer-
tainly as he Imows such a man wounded another, remembering
that he saw him run him through. But because the memory is
not always so clear as actual perception, and does in all men
more or less decay in length of time, this, amongst other differ-
ences, Ib one which shows that demonstrative knowledge is
much more imperfect than intuitive, as we shall see in the fol«
lowing chapter.

NOTE.— Page 4i4.

The placing of certainty, as Mr. Locke does, in the perception of
the agreement or disaffreement of our ideas, the bishop of Worcester
suspects may be of daDseroos conseqaence to that article of fiudi
which he has endeavoured to defend ; to which Mr. Locke answers : ^
'* Since your Lordship hath not, as I remember, shown, or ffone sbout
to show, how this proposition, vis., *that certainty consists in the per-
eeptioti of the agreement or disagreement of two ideas,' is opposite or
inconsistent with * that article of fiuth which yoor lordship has endea-
voured to defend,' it is plain it is bat yonr lordship's fear that it may
* be of dangerous consequence to it ; ' which, as I hombly conceive, is
DO proof that it is in any way inconststent with that article.

'^ Nobody, I think, can blame your lordship, or any one else, for
being concerned for any article of the Christian faith ; bat if that con-
cern (as it may, and as we know it has done) makes any one appre-
hend danger where no danger is, are we therefore to give up and
condemn any proposition because any one, though of the first rank
and magnitude, fears ' it may be of dangerous conseqaence ' to any
tmth of religion, without showing that it is so? If such fears be the
measores whereby to jndge of truth and falsehood, the afllrming that
there are antipodes womd be still a heresy; and the doctrine of the
motion of the earth most be rejected, as overthrowing the tmth of the
scriptare ; for of that ' dangerous conseqaence ' it has been appiehead-
ed to be by many learned and pious divines, oat of tb& mat
concern for religion. And yet, notwithstanding those mat ap^rdien-
sions 'of what dangerous consequence it misht be,' it is now
uniyersally receired by learned men as an nndoabted tmth, and writ
for by some whose belief of the scriptare is not at sll questioaed, and
• In Ui Seocmd Letter to tiw BUiop of Woroestcr, p^ St. Ac.

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paitlcnlarlj yerj lately by a divine of the chnrch of England, with
great itrength of reason, in his wonderftillj ingenioua ' NewTheoiy of
the Earth.'

" The reason yoor lordship gires of yoor fears, that * it may be of
tnch dangerous consequence to that article of faith which yonr lord-
ship endeaTOurs to defend,' though it occnrs in more places than one,
is only this ; ji%^ that * it is made nse of by ill men to do mischief; ' i. e^
to oppose * that article of faith which your lordship has endeayom^
to defend/ But, my lord, if it be a reason to, lay by any thing as bad
because it is or may be used to an ill purpose, I know not what will
be innocent enough to be kept Arms, which were made for our de-
fence, are sometimes made use of to do 'mischief;' and yet they aro
not thouffht of * dangerous consequence' for all that. Nobody lays by
i^s sword and pistols, or thinks them of such * dangerous consequence '
as to be neglected or thrown away, because robbers and the worst of
men sometimes make use of them to take away honest men's liyes or
goods : and the reason is, because they were designed and will serve
to preserre them. And who knows but this may be the present case ?
If your lordship thinks that placing of certainty in the perception of
the agreement or disagreement of ideas be to be rejected as Mse,
because tou apprehend ' it may be of dangerous consequence to that
article of faith ; ' on the other side, perhaps, others with me may think
it a defence against error, and so (as being of good use) to be received
and adhered to.

'^I would not, my lord, be hereby thou^t to set up my own or any
one's judffment against your lordship's. But I have said this only to
show, whue the argument lies for or against the truth of any proposi-
tion bamly in an imagination that it may be of consequence to the
supporting or oyerthrowing of any remote truth, it will be impossible
that way to determine of the truth or falsehood of that proposition.
For imagination will be set up against imagination, and tne stronger
probably will be against your lordship; the strongest imaginations
being usually in the weakest heads. The only way, in this case, to
put it past doubt, is to show the inconsistency of the two propositions,
and then it will be seen that one overthrows the other, the true the
(alse one.

*< Your lordship says, indeed, this is a 'new method of certainty.' I
will not say so myseu, for fear of deserving a second reproof from your
lordship, for being too forward to assume to myself the * honour of
being an originaL' But this, I think, gives me occasion, and will
excuse me from being thought impertinent, if I ask your lordship,
whether there be any other or older ' method of certainty,* and what
it is ? For if there be no other nor older than this, either this was
always the 'method of certainty,' and so mine is no 'new ' one, or else
the world is obliged to me for this 'new' one, after having been so
long in the want of so necessary a thing as a ' method of certainty.'
If there be an older, I am sure your lordship cannot but know it ;
your condemning mine as 'new,' as well as your thorouffh insight into
antiquity, cannot but satisfy every body that you do. And therefore,
to set the world right in a thing of that great concernment, and to
overthrow mine, and thereby prevent the ' dangerous consequence '
there is in my having unseasonably started it, will not, I humbly con-

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ceiTe, misbeoome your lordsltip's care of 'that artiele yon hayeaii-
deaToured to defend,' nor the good-will yon bear to truth in generaL
For I will be anBwerable for myself that 1 shall, and I think I may be
for all others tiiat they all wiU, giTe off the pladiw of oertain^ in tho
perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas, if your lordahip
will be pleased to show that it lies in any thing else.

''Bat truly, not to ascribe to myself an invention of what has been
as old as knowledge is in the world, I must own I am not guilty of
what your lordship is pleased to call * starting new methods of cer-
tainty.' Knowledge, ever since there has been any in the world, has
consisted in one particular action of the mind | and so, I conceiTe^
will continue to do to the end of it : and to start new methods of
knowledge or certainty, (for they are to me the same thing,) tL «^ to
find out and propose new methods of attaining knowled^ either
with more ease and quickness, or in things ret unknown, is what I
think nobody could blame : but this is not that which your lordship
here means by *new methods of certainty.' Tour lordship, I think,
means by it, die placing of certainty in something wherein either it
does not consist, or else wherein it was not placed before now, if this
were to be called a ' new method of certainty.' As to the latter of
these, I shall know whether I am guilty or no when your lordship will
do me the favour to tell me wherein it was placed before : w)uch your
lordship knows I professed myself ignorant of when I writ m^ book,
and so I am still. But if 'startine of new methods of certainty* be
the placinff of certainty in something wherein it does not consist,
whether I have done that or no, I must appeal to the experience of

" There are several actions of men's minds that they are conscious
to themseWes of performing, as willing, believing, knowm^, ftc, which
they have so particular a sense o( that they can distinffuish them one
from another ; or else thev could not say when they wiued, when they
believed, and when they knew any thing. Bat Uioogh these actions
were different enough from one another not to be confounded hj those
who spoke of them, yet nobody that I had met with had in their writ-
ings particularly set down n^erein the act of knowing precisely eon*

** To this reflection upon the actions of my own mind« the subieet of
my Essay concerning Human Understanding naturally led me ; wherein
if I have done any Uiing * new,' it has been to describe to others, more
particularly than had been done before, what it is their minds do when
they perform that action which they call 'knowing;' and i( npon
exammation, they observe I have given a true account of that action
of their minds in all the parts of it, I suppose it will be in vain to di»*
pute against what they find and foel in memselves. And if I have not
told them right, and exactly what they find and feel in themselves
when their minds perform the act of knowing, what I have said will
be all in vain ; men will not be persuaded against their senses. Know-
ledge is an internal perception of their minds ; and i^ when they
reflect on it, they find it is not what I have said it is, my ffronndless
conceit will not be hearkened to, but be exploded by every body, and
die of itself; and nobody need to be at any pains to drive it out of the
world. So impossible is it to find out or start * new methods of eer-

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talnty/ or to haye them receired, if anr one places it In anj thing bat
in that wherein it reallj consists ; mncn less can anj one be in danger
to be misled into error bj any such *new,' and to CTenr one yisiblj
senseless, project. Can it be supposed that anj one could start a new
method of seeing, and persuade men thereby that they do not see
what they do see ? Is it to be feared that any one can cast such a
mist oyer their eres, that they should not know when they see, and so
be led out of their war by it ?

« Knowledge, I find in myself and I conceiye in others, consists in
the perception of the agreement or disagreement of the immediate ob-
jects of the mind in tmnking, which I call 4deas;' but whether it
does so in others, or no, must be determined by their own experience
reflecting upon the action of thdr mind in knowing ; for that I cannot
alter, nor I think they themselres. But whether they will call those /
immediate objects of their minds in thinking * ideas' or no, is perfectly ^
in their own choice. If they dislike that name, they may call them
* notions,' or * conceptions,* or how they please ; it matters not, if they
use them so as to aToid obscurity and confusion. If they are constantly
used in the same and a known sense, eyery one has the liberty to please
himself in his terms ; there lies neither truth, nor error, nor science in
that ; though those that take them for things, and not for what they
are — ^bare arbitrary signs of our ideas — ^make a great deal ado often
about them ; as if some great matter lay in the use of this or that
sound. All that I know or can imagine of difierence about them is,
that those words are always best whose significations are best known
in the sense they are used, and so axe least apt to breed confusion.

^* My lord, your lordship has been pleased to fincP fault with my use
of the new term ^deas,' without tellmg me a better name for the im->
mediate objects of the mind in thinking. Your lordship has also been
pleased to find fault with my definition of knowledge without doing
me Uie fay our to gi^e me a better : for it is oidy about my definition^
of knowledge, that all this stir concerning certainty is made. For witn |
me to know, and to be certain, is the same thing ; what I know^^tnat i
am certain of; and what I am certain of, that I know. What reaches
to knowledge, I think may be called 'certainty;' and what comes
short of certainty, I think cannot be called knowledge ; as your lord-
ship could not but obserye in the 18th section of chap. iy. of my fourth
book, which you haye quoted.

'' My definition of knowledge, in the beginning of the fourth book
of my * Essay,' stands thus: 'Knowledge seems to me to be nothing
but the perception of the connexion and agreement, or disagreement
and repugnancy, of any of our ideas.' This definition your lordship
dislikes, and apprehenos ' it ma^f be of danserous consequence as to
that article of Christian faidi wmch your lordship has endeayoured to
d<^d.' For this there is a yery easy remedy ; it is but for your lord-
ship to set aside this definition of knowledge by giying us a better, and
this danger is oyer. But your lordship seems rather to haye a con-
troyersy with my book for haying it m it, and to put me upon the
dttfnee of it ; for which I must acknowledge myself obliged to your
Ibiddiip for affording me so much of ^ur time, and for a&owing me
the hoBow of eonyersing so much with one so fiu aboye me in all

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432 BOOK lY. CHAP. IL 810T. L

**Toiir lordship sajs, ' It may be of daogeronfl conteqnenoe to tbmt
article of Christian faith which joxl have endearoiired to defend.*
Thoogh the laws of dispnting allow bare denial as a sufficient answer
to saying without any offer of a nroof^ yet, my lord, to show how
willing I am to giye your lordship sJl sadsraction in what yon appre-
hend may be of *duigerons consequence ' in my book as to that
artide, I shall not stand still sullenly, and put your lordship upon the
difficulty of showing wherein that danger lies ; but shall, on the other
side, endeaTour to show your lordship that that definition of mine,
whether true or false, right or wrong, can be of no * dangerous conse-
quence to that article of faith.' The reason which I shiul offer for it
is this : Because it can be of no consequence to it at alL

'* That which your lordship is afraid it mar be dangerous to, is an
'article of faith ;^ that which your lordship labours and is concerned
for, is the * certainty of faith.' Now. my lord, I humbly conceiye the
* certainty of faith,' if your lordship tiiinks fit to call it so, has nothing
to do with the certainty of knowledge. And to talk of the 'certainty
of faith,' seems all one to me as to talk of the knowledge of belieying
— a way of speaking not easy to me to understand.

"Place knowledge in what you will, start what 'new methods of
certainty ' you please, 'that are apt to leaye men's minds more doubt-
ful than before,' place certainty on such grounds as will leaye little or
no knowledge in the world ; (for these are the arguments your lordship
uses against my definition of knowledge Q this shakes not at all, nor
in the least concerns the assurance of mith; that Is quite distinct
from it, neither stands nor falls with knowledge.

" Faith stands by itself, and upon grounds of its own ; nor can be
remoyed from them, and placed on those of knowledge. Their grounds
are so far from being the same, or haying any thing common, that
when it is brought to certainty, &ith is destroyed ; it is knowledge
then, and faith no longer.'

** With what assurance soeyer of belieying I assent to any 'article
of faith,' so that I steadfastly yenture my all upon it, it is still but
belieying. Bring it to certainty, and it ceases to be faith* I belieye
that Jesus Christ was crucified, dead, and buried, rose again the third
day from the dead, and ascended into heayen : let now such methods
of knowledge or certainty 'be started, as leaye men*s minds more
doubtful than before : ' let the grounds of knowledge be resohed into
what any one pleases, it touches not my faith ; the foundation of that
stands as snreW before, and cannot be at all shaken by it : and one
may as well say, that any thing that weakens the sight, or casta a mist
before the eyes, endangers the hearing, as that any thing which alters
the nature of knowledge (if that could be done) should be of ' danger-
ous consequence to an article of faith.'

"Whether then I am or I am not mistaken, in the placing certainty
in the perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas ; whether
this account of knowledge be true or false, enlarges or straitens the
bounds of it more than it should ; faidi still stands upon ita own basis,
which is not at all altered by it : and eyery article or that has just the
same unmoyed foundation, and the yery same credibility, that it had
before. So that, my lord, whateyer I haye said about certain^, and
how much soeyer I may be out in it, if I am mistaken, your lordship has

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no reason to apprehend any * danger* to any 'article of faith' from
thence ; every one of them stands npon the same bottom it did before,
out of the reach of what belongs to knowledge and certainty. And
thns much of my ' way of certainty by ideas ; ' which I hope wul satisfy
yoor lordship how far it is from being ' dangerous to any article of the
Christian fieuth ' whatsoever.*



1. Intuitive. — ^All onr knowledge consisting, as I have said, in
the view the mind has of its own ideas, which is the utmost
ligKt and greatest certainty we, with our faculties and in our way
of knowledge, are capable of, it may not be amiss to consider
a little the degrees of its evidence. The different deameas of
our knowledge seems to me to lie in the different way of percep-
tion the mind has of the agreement or disagreement of any of
its ideas. For if we will reflect on our own ways of thinking, we
shall find that sometimes the mind perceives the agreement or
disagreement of two ideas immediately by themselves, without
the intervention of any other : and this, I think, we may call
" intuitive knowledge." For in this the mind is at no pains of
proving or examining, but perceives the truth, as the eye doth
light, only by being directed towards it. Thus the mind per-
ceives that white is not black, that a circle is not a triangle, that
three are more than two, and equal to one and two. Such kind
of truths the mind perceives at the first sight of the ideas
together, by bare intuition, without the intervention of any
other idea ; and this kind of knowledge is the clearest and most
certain that human frailty is capable ou This part of knowledge
is irresistible, and, like bright sunshine, forces itself immediately
to be perceived as soon as ever the mind turns its view that
way ; and leaves no room for hesitation, doubt, or examination,
but the mind is presently filled with the clear light of it. It is
on this intuition that depends all the certainty and evidence of
all our knowledge, which certainty every one finds to be so great,
1 that he cannot imagine, and therefore not require, a greater :
for a man cannot conceive himself capjable of a greater certainty,
• than to know that any idea in his mind is such as he perceives
, it to be ; and that two ideas, wherein he perceives a difference,
are different, and not precisely the same. He that demands a
greater certainty than this demands he knows not what^ and
shows only that he has a mind to be a sceptic without beiuff able
to be so. Certainty depends so wholly on this intuition, that in
the next degree of knowledge, which I call " demonstrative,**
this intuition is necessary in all the connexions of the inter-


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434 BOOK IT. CHAP. n. 8K0T. nw— TH.

mediate ideas, without whidi we oannot attain knowledge and

S. DemMiMratwe, — ^The next decree of knowledge ia, where the
mSnd peroeiTes the agreement or disagreement or any ideas, bat
not immediately. Though wherever the mind peroeives the
agreement or disagreement of any of its ideas, there be certain
knowledge ; yet it does not always happen that the mind sees
that agreement or disagreement which tnere is between them,
even where it is discoverable; and in that case remains in
ignorance, and at most gets no &rther than a probable conjec-
ture. The reason why the mind cannot always perceive pre-
sently the agreement or disagreement of two ideas, is, becaose
those ideas concerning whose agreement or disagreement the
inquiry is m^uie, cannot by the mind be so put together as to
show it. In this case then, when the miod cannot so brii^; its
ideas together as, by their immediate comparison and, as it were,
juxtaposition or application one to anotner, to perceive^ their
agreement or disagreement, it is fain, by the intervention of
other ideas (one or more, as it happens), to discover the ^Lmt-
ment or disagreement whidi it searches ; and this is that wnieh
we call '' reasoning." Thus the mind, being willing to know the

Online LibraryJohn LockeAn essay concerning human understanding: With the notes and illustrations of ... → online text (page 54 of 83)