John Locke.

An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding, Volume 1 MDCXC, Based on the 2nd Edition, Books 1 and 2 online

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it is a part in the conduct of men towards their happiness, neglected to
a degree, that it will be possibly entertained as a paradox, if it be
said, that men can MAKE things or actions more or less pleasing to
themselves; and thereby remedy that, to which one may justly impute a
great deal of their wandering. Fashion and the common opinion having
settled wrong notions, and education and custom ill habits, the just
values of things are misplaced, and the palates of men corrupted.
Pains should be taken to rectify these; and contrary habits change our
pleasures, and give a relish to that which is necessary or conducive to
our happiness. This every one must confess he can do; and when happiness
is lost, and misery overtakes him, he will confess he did amiss in
neglecting it, and condemn himself for it; and I ask every one, whether
he has not often done so?

72. Preference of Vice to Virtue a manifest wrong Judgment.

I shall not now enlarge any further on the wrong judgments and neglect
of what is in their power, whereby men mislead themselves. This would
make a volume, and is not my business. But whatever false notions, or
shameful neglect of what is in their power, may put men out of their way
to happiness, and distract them, as we see, into so different courses
of life, this yet is certain, that morality established upon its true
foundations, cannot but determine the choice in any one that will but
consider: and he that will not be so far a rational creature as to
reflect seriously upon INFINITE happiness and misery, must needs condemn
himself as not making that use of his understanding he should. The
rewards and punishments of another life which the Almighty has
established, as the enforcements of his law, are of weight enough to
determine the choice against whatever pleasure or pain this life can
show, where the eternal state is considered but in its bare possibility
which nobody can make any doubt of. He that will allow exquisite and
endless happiness to be but the possible consequence of a good life
here, and the contrary state the possible reward of a bad one, must
own himself to judge very much amiss if he does not conclude, - That a
virtuous life, with the certain expectation of everlasting bliss, which
may come, is to be preferred to a vicious one, with the fear of that
dreadful state of misery, which it is very possible may overtake the
guilty; or, at best, the terrible uncertain hope of annihilation. This
is evidently so, though the virtuous life here had nothing but pain, and
the vicious continual pleasure: which yet is, for the most part, quite
otherwise, and wicked men have not much the odds to brag of, even in
their present possession; nay, all things rightly considered, have, I
think, even the worse part here. But when infinite happiness is put into
one scale, against infinite misery in the other; if the worst that comes
to the pious man, if he mistakes, be the best that the wicked can attain
to, if he be in the right, who can without madness run the venture?
Who in his wits would choose to come within a possibility of infinite
misery; which if he miss, there is yet nothing to be got by that hazard?
Whereas, on the other side, the sober man ventures nothing against
infinite happiness to be got, if his expectation comes not to pass. If
the good man be in the right, he is eternally happy; if he mistakes, he
is not miserable, he feels nothing. On the other side, if the wicked
man be in the right, he is not happy; if he mistakes, he is infinitely
miserable. Must it not be a most manifest wrong judgment that does not
presently see to which side, in this case, the preference is to
be given? I have forborne to mention anything of the certainty or
probability of a future state, designing here to show the wrong judgment
that any one must allow he makes, upon his own principles, laid how he
pleases, who prefers the short pleasures of a vicious life upon any
consideration, whilst he knows, and cannot but be certain, that a future
life is at least possible.

73. Recapitulation - Liberty of indifferency.

To conclude this inquiry into human liberty, which, as it stood before,
I myself from the beginning fearing, and a very judicious friend of
mine, since the publication, suspecting to have some mistake in it,
though he could not particularly show it me, I was put upon a stricter
review of this chapter. Wherein lighting upon a very easy and scarce
observable slip I had made, in putting one seemingly indifferent word
for another that discovery opened to me this present view, which here,
in this second edition, I submit to the learned world, and which, in
short, is this: LIBERTY is a power to act or not to act, according as
the mind directs. A power to direct the operative faculties to motion or
rest in particular instances is that which we call the WILL. That which
in the train of our voluntary actions determines the will to any change
of operation is SOME PRESENT UNEASINESS, which is, or at least is always
accompanied with that of DESIRE. Desire is always moved by evil, to fly
it: because a total freedom from pain always makes a necessary part
of our happiness: but every good, nay, every greater good, does not
constantly move desire, because it may not make, or may not be taken to
make, any necessary part of our happiness. For all that we desire, is
only to be happy. But, though this general desire of happiness operates
constantly and invariably, yet the satisfaction of any particular desire
CAN BE SUSPENDED from determining the will to any subservient action,
till we have maturely examined whether the particular apparent good
which we then desire makes a part of our real happiness, or be
consistent or inconsistent with it. The result of our judgment upon that
examination is what ultimately determines the man; who could not be FREE
if his will were determined by anything but his own desire, guided by
his own judgment.

74. Active and passive power, in motions and in thinking.

True notions concerning the nature and extent of LIBERTY are of so great
importance, that I hope I shall be pardoned this digression, which my
attempt to explain it has led me into. The ideas of will, volition,
liberty, and necessity, in this Chapter of Power, came naturally in
my way. In a former edition of this Treatise I gave an account of my
thoughts concerning them, according to the light I then had. And now, as
a lover of truth, and not a worshipper of my own doctrines, I own some
change of my opinion; which I think I have discovered ground for. In
what I first writ, I with an unbiassed indifferency followed truth,
whither I thought she led me. But neither being so vain as to fancy
infallibility, nor so disingenuous as to dissemble my mistakes for fear
of blemishing my reputation, I have, with the same sincere design for
truth only, not been ashamed to publish what a severer inquiry has
suggested. It is not impossible but that some may think my former
notions right; and some (as I have already found) these latter; and some
neither. I shall not at all wonder at this variety in men's opinions:
impartial deductions of reason in controverted points being so rare, and
exact ones in abstract notions not so very easy especially if of any
length. And, therefore, I should think myself not a little beholden to
any one, who would, upon these or any other grounds, fairly clear this
subject of LIBERTY from any difficulties that may yet remain.

75. Summary of our Original ideas.

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, see 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 further into
that disquisition; it sufficing to my purpose to observe, that gold or
saffron has 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 anything
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.



1. Mixed Modes, what.

Having treated of SIMPLE MODES in the foregoing chapters, and given
several instances of some of the most considerable of them, to show
what they are, and how we come by them; we are now in the next place to
consider those we call MIXED MODES; such are the complex ideas we mark
by the names OBLIGATION, DRUNKENNESS, a LIE, &c.; which consisting of
several combinations of simple ideas of DIFFERENT kinds, I have called
mixed modes, to distinguish them from the more simple modes, which
consist only of simple ideas of the SAME kind. These mixed modes, being
also such combinations of simple ideas as are not looked upon to be
characteristical marks of any real beings that have a steady existence,
but scattered and independent ideas put together by the mind, are
thereby distinguished from the complex ideas of substances.

2. Made by the Mind.

That the mind, in respect of its simple ideas, is wholly passive, and
receives them all from the existence and operations of things, such as
sensation or reflection offers them, without being able to MAKE any one
idea, experience shows us. But if we attentively consider these ideas
I call mixed modes, we are now speaking of, we shall find their origin
quite different. The mind often exercises an ACTIVE power in making
these several combinations. For, it being once furnished with simple
ideas, it can put them together in several compositions, and so make
variety of complex ideas, without examining whether they exist so
together in nature. And hence I think it is that these ideas are called
NOTIONS: as they had their original, and constant existence, more in the
thoughts of men, than in the reality of things; and to form such ideas,
it sufficed that the mind put the parts of them together, and that they
were consistent in the understanding without considering whether they
had any real being: though I do not deny but several of them might be
taken from observation, and the existence of several simple ideas so
combined, as they are put together in the understanding. For the man who
first framed the idea of HYPOCRISY, might have either taken it at first
from the observation of one who made show of good qualities which he had
not; or else have framed that idea in his mind without having any such
pattern to fashion it by. For it is evident that, in the beginning of
languages and societies of men, several of those complex ideas, which
were consequent to the constitutions established amongst them, must
needs have been in the minds of men before they existed anywhere else;
and that many names that stood for such complex ideas were in use, and
so those ideas framed, before the combinations they stood for ever

3. Sometimes got by the Explication of their Names.

Indeed, now that languages are made, and abound with words standing for
such combinations, an usual way of GETTING these complex ideas is, by
the explication of those terms that stand for them. For, consisting of a
company of simple ideas combined, they may, by words standing for those
simple ideas, be represented to the mind of one who understands those
words, though that complex combination of simple ideas were never
offered to his mind by the real existence of things. Thus a man may
come to have the idea of SACRILEGE or MURDER, by enumerating to him the
simple ideas which these words stand for; without ever seeing either of
them committed.

4. The Name ties the Parts of mixed Modes into one Idea.

Every mixed mode consisting of many distinct simple ideas, it seems
reasonable to inquire, Whence it has its unity; and how such a precise
multitude comes to make but one idea; since that combination does not
always exist together in nature? To which I answer, it is plain it has
its unity from an act of the mind, combining those several simple ideas
together, and considering them as one complex one, consisting of those
parts; and the mark of this union, or that which is looked on generally
to complete it, is one NAME given to that combination. For it is by
their names that men commonly regulate their account of their distinct
species of mixed modes, seldom allowing or considering any number of
simple ideas to make one complex one, but such collections as there be
names for. Thus, though the killing of an old man be as fit in nature
to be united into one complex idea, as the killing a man's father; yet,
there being no name standing precisely for the one, as there is the name
of PARRICIDE to mark the other, it is not taken for a particular complex
idea, nor a distinct species of actions from that of killing a young
man, or any other man.

5. The Cause of making mixed Modes.

If we should inquire a little further, to see what it is that occasions
men to make several combinations of simple ideas into distinct, and,
as it were, settled modes, and neglect others, which in the nature of
things themselves, have as much an aptness to be combined and make
distinct ideas, we shall find the reason of it to be the end of
language; which being to mark, or communicate men's thoughts to one
another with all the dispatch that may be, they usually make SUCH
collections of ideas into complex modes, and affix names to them, as
they have frequent use of in their way of living and conversation,
leaving others which they have but seldom an occasion to mention,
loose and without names that tie them together: they rather choosing
to enumerate (when they have need) such ideas as make them up, by the
particular names that stand for them, than to trouble their memories
by multiplying of complex ideas with names to them, which they seldom or
never have any occasion to make use of.

6. Why Words in one Language have none answering in another.

This shows us how it comes to pass that there are in every language many
particular words which cannot be rendered by any one single word of
another. For the several fashions, customs, and manners of one nation,
making several combinations of ideas familiar and necessary in one,
which another people have had never an occasion to make, or perhaps so
much as take notice of, names come of course to be annexed to them, to
avoid long periphrases in things of daily conversation; and so they
become so many distinct complex ideas in their minds. Thus ostrakismos
amongst the Greeks, and proscriptio amongst the Romans, were words which
other languages had no names that exactly answered; because they stood
for complex ideas which were not in the minds of the men of other
nations. Where there was no such custom, there was no notion of any such
actions; no use of such combinations of ideas as were united, and, as
it were, tied together, by those terms: and therefore in other countries
there were no names for them.

7. And Languages change.

Hence also we may see the reason, why languages constantly change, take
up new and lay by old terms. Because change of customs and opinions
bringing with it new combinations of ideas, which it is necessary
frequently to think on and talk about, new names, to avoid long
descriptions, are annexed to them; and so they become new species of
complex modes. What a number of different ideas are by this means wrapped
up in one short sound, and how much of our time and breath is thereby
saved, any one will see, who will but take the pains to enumerate all the
ideas that either REPRIEVE or APPEAL stand for; and instead of either of
those names, use a periphrasis, to make any one understand their meaning.

8. Mixed Modes

Though I shall have occasion to consider this more at-large when I come
to treat of Words and their use, yet I could not avoid to take thus
much notice here of the NAMES OF MIXED MODES; which being fleeting and
transient combinations of simple ideas, which have but a short existence
anywhere but in the minds of men, and there too have no longer any
existence than whilst they are thought on, have not so much anywhere the
appearance of a constant and lasting existence as in their names: which
are therefore, in this sort of ideas, very apt to be taken for the ideas
themselves. For, if we should inquire where the idea of a TRIUMPH or
APOTHEOSIS exists, it is evident they could neither of them exist
altogether anywhere in the things themselves, being actions that
required time to their performance, and so could never all exist
together; and as to the minds of men, where the ideas of these actions
are supposed to be lodged, they have there too a very uncertain
existence: and therefore we are apt to annex them to the names that
excite them in us.

9. How we get the Ideas of mixed Modes.

There are therefore three ways whereby we get these complex ideas of
mixed modes: - (1) By experience and OBSERVATION of things themselves:
thus, by seeing two men mixed wrestle or fence, we get the idea of
wrestling or fencing. (2) By INVENTION, or voluntary putting together
of several simple ideas in our own minds: so he that first invented
printing or etching, had an idea of it in his mind before it ever
existed. (3) Which is the most usual way, by EXPLAINING THE NAMES of
actions we never saw, or motions we cannot see; and by enumerating, and
thereby, as it were, setting before our imaginations all those ideas
which go to the making them up, and are the constituent parts of them.
For, having by sensation and reflection stored our minds with simple
ideas, and by use got the names that stand for them, we can by those
means represent to another any complex idea we would have him conceive;
so that it has in it no simple ideas but what he knows, and has with us
the same name for. For all our complex ideas are ultimately resolvable
into simple ideas, of which they are compounded and originally made up,
though perhaps their immediate ingredients, as I may so say, are also
complex ideas. Thus, the mixed mode which the word LIE stands for is
made of these simple ideas: - (1) Articulate sounds. (2) Certain ideas in
the mind of the speaker. (3) Those words the signs of those ideas. (4)
Those signs put together, by affirmation or negation, otherwise than the
ideas they stand for are in the mind of the speaker. I think I need not
go any further in the analysis of that complex idea we call a lie: what
I have said is enough to show that it is made up of simple ideas. And it
could not be but an offensive tediousness to my reader, to trouble him
with a more minute enumeration of every particular simple idea that goes
to this complex one; which, from what has been said, he cannot but be
able to make out to himself. The same may be done in all our complex
ideas whatsoever; which, however compounded and decompounded, may at
last be resolved into simple ideas, which are all the materials of
knowledge or thought we have, or can have. Nor shall we have reason to
fear that the mind is hereby stinted to too scanty a number of ideas,
if we consider what an inexhaustible stock of simple modes number and
figure alone afford us. How far then mixed modes, which admit of the
various combinations of different simple ideas, and their infinite
modes, are from being few and scanty, we may easily imagine. So that,
before we have done, we shall see that nobody need be afraid he shall
not have scope and compass enough for his thoughts to range in, though
they be, as I pretend, confined only to simple ideas, received from
sensation or reflection, and their several combinations.

10. Motion, Thinking, and Power have been most modified.

It is worth our observing, which of all our simple ideas have been MOST
modified, and had most mixed ideas made out of them, with names given to
them. And those have been these three: - THINKING and MOTION (which are
the two ideas which comprehend in them all action,) and POWER, from
whence these actions are conceived to flow. These simple ideas, I say,
of thinking, motion, and power, have been those which have been most
modified; and out of whose modifications have been made most complex
modes, with names to them. For ACTION being the great business of
mankind, and the whole matter about which all laws are conversant, it is
no wonder that the several modes of thinking and motion should be taken
notice of, the ideas of them observed, and laid up in the memory, and
have names assigned to them; without which laws could be but ill made,
or vice and disorders repressed. Nor could any communication be well
had amongst men without such complex ideas, with names to them: and
therefore men have settled names, and supposed settled ideas in their
minds, of modes of actions, distinguished by their causes, means,
objects, ends, instruments, time, place, and other circumstances; and
also of their powers fitted for those actions: v.g. BOLDNESS is the
power to speak or do what we intend, before others, without fear or
disorder; and the Greeks call the confidence of speaking by a peculiar
name, [word in Greek]: which power or ability in man of doing anything,
when it has been acquired by frequent doing the same thing, is that idea
we name HABIT; when it is forward, and ready upon every occasion
to break into action, we call it DISPOSITION. Thus, TESTINESS is a
disposition or aptness to be angry.

To conclude: Let us examine any modes of action, v.g. CONSIDERATION and
ASSENT, which are actions of the mind; RUNNING and SPEAKING, which are
actions of the body; REVENGE and MURDER, which are actions of both
together, and we shall find them but so many collections of simple
ideas, which, together, make up the complex ones signified by those

11. Several Words seeming to signify Action, signify but the effect.

POWER being the source from whence all action proceeds, the substances
wherein these powers are, when they *[lost line??] exert this power into
act, are called CAUSES, and the substances which thereupon are produced,
or the simple ideas which are introduced into any subject by the
exerting of that power, are called EFFECTS. The EFFICACY whereby the new
substance or idea is produced is called, in the subject exerting that
power, ACTION; but in the subject wherein any simple idea is changed or
produced, it is called PASSION: which efficacy, however various, and
the effects almost infinite, yet we can, I think, conceive it, in
intellectual agents, to be nothing else but modes of thinking and
willing; in corporeal agents, nothing else but modifications of motion.
I say I think we cannot conceive it to be any other but these two. For
whatever sort of action besides these produces any effects, I confess
myself to have no notion nor idea of; and so it is quite remote from my
thoughts, apprehensions, and knowledge; and as much in the dark to me
as five other senses, or as the ideas of colours to a blind man. And

Online LibraryJohn LockeAn Essay Concerning Humane Understanding, Volume 1 MDCXC, Based on the 2nd Edition, Books 1 and 2 → online text (page 24 of 34)