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The life of John Locke, with extracts from his correspondence, journals, and common-place books online

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practices are to be found either for governing of policies, or a man's
private conduct, or any beneficial arts employed on natural bodies
for their improvement to our use, which contains these heads — :

Politica sive sapientia civilis.

Prudentia sive sapientia privata.

Physica sive artes circa.

Potum.

Cibum.

Medicinam.

Motus ubi mechanica.

Sensuum objecta.
The fourth I call Adversaria Acquirenda, which are the natural
products of the country, fit to be transplanted into ours, and there
propagated, or else brought thither for some useful quality they
have ; or else to mark the commodities of the country, whether
natural or artificial, which they send out, and are the proper business
of merchandise to get by their commerce, and these are the follow-
ing, Acquirenda and Merces. There is yet one more, which is the his-
tory of natural causes and effects, wherein it may be convenient in our
reading to observe these several properties of bodies, and the several
effects that several bodies or their qualities have one upon another ;
and principally to remark those that may contribute either to the
improvement of arts, or give light into the nature of things, which is
that which I called above Philosophica ; which I conceive to consist
in having a true, clear, and distinct idea of the nature of any thing,
which in natural things or real things, because we are ignorant of
their essence, takes in their causes properties and effects, or as much
of them as we can know, and in moral beings their essence and con-
sequences. This Natural History I call Historica Physica referenda
secundum Species.

December 28, 1680. Rushworth, an 1640. p. 1221. This note to
be added in the margin. This second coming in of the Scots was
occasioned and principally encouraged by a letter which the Lord



JOHN LOCKE. 119

Saville, afterwards Earl of Sussex, writ with his own hand, and forged
the names of a dozen or fourteen of the chiefest of the English no-
bility, together with his own, which he sent into Scotland by the
hands of Mr. H. Darley, who remained there as agent from the said
English Lords until he had brought the Scots in. At the meeting
of the Grand Council, when the English and Scots Lords came toge-
ther, the letter caused great dispute amongst them ; till at last my
Lord Saville, being reconciled to the Court, confessed to the King
the whole matter. — A. E. S.*

The like marginal note to be added p. 1260. — This petition was
presented to the King at York by the hands of the Lord Mandevill
and the Lord Edward Howard. The King immediately called a
Cabinet Counciil, wherein it was concluded to cut off both the Lords'
heads the iiext day ; when the council was up, and the King gone,
Duke Hamilton, and the Earl of Strafford, General of the Army, re-
maining behind, when Duke Hamilton, asking the Earl of Strafford
whether the army would stand to them, the Earl of Strafford answered
he feared not, and protested he did not think of that before then.
Hamilton replied, if we are not sure of the army, it may be our
heads instead of theirs ; whereupon they both agreed to go to the
King and alter the council, which accordingly they did.

May 5th, 1681. — ^Coleman's Sermon on Job II. 20. 4to. London.
45. p. 35.

The 1st Cor. 5, and Matt. 18, are the common places on which
are erected Church Government. Padre Paolo writ many years
before, that when the English hierarchy shall fall into the hands of
busy and audacious men, or meet with a Prince tractable to Prelacy,
then much mischief is likely to ensue in that kingdom. lb. p. 33. —
Quaere. Whether there be any such thing ?

May 16th, 1681. — The three great things that govern mankind
are Reasouj Passion, and Superstition ; the first governs a few, the two
last share the bulk of mankind, and possess them in their turns ; but
superstition is most powerful, and produces the greatest mischiefs.

* Does A. E. S. mean Anthony Earl of Shaftesbury ?



120 THE LIFE OF

June 24th. — There are two sorts of knowledge in the world,
general and particular, founded upon two different principles ; i. e.
true ideas, and matter of fact, or history. All general knowledge is
founded only upon true ideas ; and so far as we have thesie, we are
capable of demonstration, or certain knowledge : for he that has the
true idea of a triangle or circle, is capable of knowing any demon-
stration concerning these figures ; but if he have not the true idea
of a scalenon, he cannot know any thing concerning a scalenon,
though he may have some confused or imperfect opinion concerning
a scalenon, upon a confused or imperfect idea of it ; or when he be-
lieves what others say concerning a scalenon, he may have some
uncertain opinion concerning its properties ; but this is a belief, and
not knowledge. Upon the same reason, he that has a true idea of
God, of himself, as his creature, or the relation he stands in to God
and his fellow-creatures, and of justice, goodness, law, happiness,
&c. &c., is capable of knowing moral things, or have a demonstrative
certainty in them. But though, I say, a man that hath such ideas,
is capable of certain knowledge in them, yet I do not say that pre-
sently he hath thereby that certain knowledge, no more than that
he that hath a true idea of a triangle and a right angle, doth pre-
sently thereby know that three angles of a triangle are equal to two
right ones. He niay believe others that tell him so, but know it
not till he himself hath employed his thoughts on and seen the con-
nection and agreement of their ideas, and so made to himself the
demonstration ; i. e. upon examination seen it to be so. The first
great step, therefore, to knowledge, is to get the mind furnished
with true ideas, which the mind being capable of knowing of moral
things as well as figures, I cannot but think morality, as well as ma-
thematics, capable of demonstration, if men would employ their
understandings to think more about it, and not give themselves up
to the lazy, traditional way of talking one after another, By the
knowledge of natural bodies, and their operation reaching little
farther than bare matter of fact, without having perfect ideas of the
ways and manners they are produced, nor the concurrent causes



JOHN LOCKE, 121

they depend on ; and also the well management of public or private
affairs depending upon the various and unknown humours, interests,
and capacity of men we have to do with in the world, and not upon
any settled ideas of things. Physique, polity, and prudence, are not
capable of demonstration, but a man is principally helped in them
by the history of matter-of-fact, and a sagacity of enquiring into
probable causes, and finding out an analogy in their operations and
effects. Knowledge then depends upon right and true ideas ; opi-
nion upon history and matter-of-fact ; and hence it comes to pass,
that our knowledge of general things are eterncB veritates, and
depend not upon the existence or accidents of things, for the truths
of mathematics and morality are certain, whether men make true
mathematical figures, or suit their actions to the rules of morality
or no. For that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two
right ones, is infallibly true, whether there be any such figure as a
triangle existing in the world or no. And it is true, that it is every
man's duty to be just, whether there be any such thing as a just
man in the world or no. But whether this course in public or
private, affairs will succeed well, — ^whether rhubarb will purge, or
quinquina cure an ague, is only known by experience ; and there is
but probability grounded upon experience or analogical reasoning,
but no certain knowledge or demonstration.

By having true and perfect ideas, we come to be in a capacity of
having perfect knowledge, which consists in two parts : 1st. The
knowing the properties of the thing itself ; thus he that hath the
true idea of a triangle, may know, if he will examine and follow the
conduct of his reason, that its three angles are equal to two right
ones, and the like. 2nd. The knowing how it stands related to any
other figure, of which he has a perfect idea ; viz. that of a triangle.
But without the having these ideas true and perfect, he is not ca-
pable of knowing any of these properties in the thing itself, or rela-
tive to any other, though he may be able to say, after others when
he has afiirmed it, that the three angles of a triangle are equal to
two right ones, and believe them to signify truth ; though he himself

R



122 THE LIFE OF

knows not what thfese words signify, if he have no true ideas of a
triangle or right angles, or knows them not to be true, if he have not
made out to himself that demonstration which is by comparing the
ideas and their parts together.

The best Algebra yet extant is Outred's, though to all Algebra
there needs but two theorems of Euclid, and five rules of Descartes,
but those who are not masters of it make use of more.

" Les esprits populaires s'offence de tout ce qui repugne a leurs
prejuges ;" one ought to take care, therefore, in all discourses, whe-
ther narrative or matter-of-fact, instructive to teach any doctrine, or
persuasive, to take care of shocking the received opinion of those
one has to deal with, whether true or false.

June 26th. — To choose, is to will one thing before another, and
to will is to bend our souls to the having or doing of that which
they see to be good ; (Hooker 553, p. 78.) or rather, to will is, after
consideration, or upon knowledge and choice, to begin or continue
any thought of the mind, or motion of the body, in our power.

Sunday, Au&usx 7th, 1681. — Whatsoever carries any excellency
with it, and includes not imperfection, must needs make a part of
the idea we have of God. So that with being, and the continuation
of it, or perpetual duration, power and wisdom and goodness must
be ingredients of the perfect or super-excellent Being which we call
God, and that in the utmost or infinite degree. But yet that un-
limited power cannot be an excellency without it be regulated by
wisdom and goodness ; for since God is eternal and perfect in his
own being, he cannot make use of that power to change his own
being into a better or another state ; and therefore all the exercise
of that power must be in and upon his creatures, which cannot but
be employed for their good and benefit, as much as the order and
perfection of the whole can allow each individual in its particular
rank and station : and therefore looking on God as a being infinite
in goodness as well as power, we cannot imagine he hath made any
thing with a design that it should be miserable, but that he hath
afforded it all the means of being happy that its nature and estate



JOHN LOCKE. 123

is capable of: and though justice be also a perfection which we
must necessarily ascribe to the Supreme Being, yet we cannot sup-
pose the exercise of it should extend farther than his goodness has
need of it for the preservation of his creatures in the order and
beauty of the state that he has placed each of them in ; for since
our actions cannot reach unto him, or bring him any profit or da-
mage, the punishments he inflicts on any of his creatures, i. e. the
misery or destruction he brings upon them, can be nothing else but
to preserve the greater or more considerable part, and so being
only for preservation, his justice is nothing but a branch of his
goodness, which is fain by severity to restrain the irregular and
destructive parts from doing harm; for to imagine God under a
necessity of punishing for any other reason but this, is to make his
justice a great imperfection, and to suppose a power over him that
necessitates him to operate contrary to the rules of his wisdom and
goodness, which cannot be supposed to make any thing so idly as
that it should be purposely destined or be put in a worse state than
destruction, (misery being as much a worse state than annihilation,
as pain is than insensibility, or the torments of a rack less eligible
than quiet sound sleeping :) the justice then of God can be supposed
to extend no farther than infinite goodness shall find it necessary
for the preservation of his works.

Sunday, Sept. 18th, 1681. — Religion being that homage and obe-
dience which man pays immediately to God, it supposes that man
is capable of knowing that there is a God, and what is required by,
and is acceptable to Him, thereby to avoid his anger and procure
his favour. That there is a God, and what that God is, nothing can
discover to us, nor judge in us, but natural reason. For whatever
discovery we receive any other way, must come originally from in-
spiration, which is an opinion or persuasion in the mind whereof a
man knows not the rise nor reason, but is received there as a truth,
coming from an unknown, and therefore a supernatural cause, and
not founded upon those principles nor observations in the way of
reasoning which makes the understanding admit other things for

R 9,



124 THE LIFE OF

truths. But no such inspiration concerning God, or his worship,
can bie admitted for. truth by him that thinks himself thus inspired,
much less by any other whom he would persuade to believe him
inspired, any farther than it is conformable to reason ; not only
because where reason is not, I judge it is impossible for a man
himself to distinguish betwixt inspiration and fancy, truth and error ;
but also it is impossible to have such a notion of God, as to believe
that he should make a creature to whom the knowledge of himself
was necessary, and yet not to be discovered by that way which dis-
covers every thing else that concerns us, but was to come into the
minds of men only by such a way by which all manner of errors
come in, and is more likely to let in falsehoods than truths, since
nobody can doubt, from the contradiction and strangeness of opinions
concerning God and religion in this world, that men are likely to
have more frenzies than inspirations. Inspiration then, barely in
itself, cannot be a ground to receive any doctrine not conformable
to reason. In the next place, let us see how far inspiration can en-
force on the mind any opinion concerning God or his worship, when
accompanied with a power to do a miracle ; and here, too, I say, the
last determination must be that of reason.

1st. Because reason must be the judge what is a miracle and
what not ; which, not knowing how far the power of natural causes
do extend themselves, and what strange effects they may produce,
is very hard to determine.

2nd, It will always be as great a miracle, that God should alter
the courseiofnaturaL things to. overturn the principles of knowledge
and understanding in a man, by setting up any thing to be received
by him as a truth, which his reason cannot assent to, as the miracle
itself; and so at best, it will be but one miracle against another, and
the greater still on reason's side ; it being harder to believe that
God should alter, and put out of its ordinary course some pheno-
menon of the great world for once, and make things act contrary to
their ordinary rule, purposely that the mind of man might do so



JOHN LOCKE. 125

always afterwards, than that this is some fallacy or natural . effect of
which he knows not the cause, let it look never so strange.

3rd. Because man ,does not know whether there be not several
sorts of creatures above him, and between him and the Supreme,
amongst which there may be some that have the power to produce
in Nature such extraordinary effects as we call miracles, and may
have ; the will to do it, for other reasons than the confirmation of
truth ; for the magicians of Egypt turned their rods into serpents
as well as Moses ; and since so great a miracle as that was done in
opposition to the true God, and the revelation sent by him, what
miracle can have certainty and assurance greater than that of a
man's reason.

And if inspiration have so much the disadvantage of reason in
the man himself who is inspired, it has much more so in him who
receives the revelation only by tradition from another, and that too
very remote in time and place.

I do not hereby deny in the least that God can do, or hath
done, miracles for the confirmation of truth ; but I only say that
we cannot think he should do them to enforce doctrines or notions
of himself, or any worship of him not conformable to reason, or that
we can receive such for truth for the miracle's sake : and even in
those books which have the greatest proof of revelation from God,
and the attestation of miracles to confirm their being so, the miracles
are to be judged by the doctrine, and not the doctrine by the mi-
racles, V. Deut. xiii. i. Matt. xiv. 24. And St. Paul says, " If an angel
from Heaven should teach any other doctrine," &c. &c.

Sunday, Feb. 19th, 1682. — A strong and firm persuasion of any
proposition relating to religion, for which a man hath either no or
not sufiicient proofs from reason, but receives them as truths wrought
in the mind extraordinarily, by influence coming immediately from
God himself, seems to me to be enthusiasm, which can be no evidence
or ground of assurance at all, nor can by any means be taken for
knowledge. If such groundless thoughts as these, concerning ordi-



X26 THE LIFE OF

nary matters, and not religion, possess the mind strongly, we call it
raving, and every one thinks it a degree of madness ; but in religion,
men, accustomed to the thoughts of revelation, make a greater allow-
ance to it, though indeed it be a more dangerous madness ; but
men are apt to think in religion they may, and ought, to quit their
reason.

I find that the Christians, Mahometans, and Brahmins, all pre-
tend to this immediate inspiration, but it is certain that contradic-
tions and falsehoods cannot come from God ; nor can any one that
is of the true religion, be assured of any thing by a way whereof
those of a false religion may be, and are equally confirmed in theirs.
For the Turkish dervishes pretend to revelations, ecstasies, visions,
raptures, to be transported with illumination of God. v. Ricaut.
The Jaugis, amongst the Hindoos, talk of being illuminated and
entirely united to God, v. Bernier, as well as the most spiritualized
Christians.

April 6th. — It is to be observed concerning these illuminations,
that how clear soever they may seem, they carry no knowledge nor cer-
tainty any farther than there are proofs of the truth of those things
that are discovered by them ; and so far they are parts of reason, and
have the same foundation with other persuasions in a man's mind,
whereof his reason judges. If there be no proofs of them, they pass
for nothing but mere imaginations of the fancy, how clearly soever
they appear, or acceptable they may be to the mind. For it is not
the clearness of the fancy, but the evidence of the truth of the thing,
which makes the certainty. He that should pretend to have a clear
sight Of a Turkish paradise, and of an angel sent to direct him thither,
might, perhaps, have a very clear imagination of all this ; but it alto-
gether no more proved that either there were such a place, or that
an angel had the conduct of him thither, than if he saw all this in
colours well-drawn by a painter. These two pictures being no
more different as to the appearance of any thing resembled by them,
than that one is a fleeting draught in the imagination, the other a
lasting one on a sensible body.



JOHN LOCKE. 127

That which makes all the pretenders to supernatural illumina-
tion farther to be suspected to be merely the effect and operation of
the fancy, is, that all the preparations and ways used to dispose the
mind to those illuminations, and make it capable of them, are such
as are apt to disturb and depress the rational power of the mind, and
to advance and set on work the fancy ; such are fasting, solitude,
intense and long meditation on the same thing, opium, intoxicating
liquors, long and vehement turning round, all which are used by
some or other of those who would attain to those extraordinary dis-
courses, as fit preparations of the mind to receive them, all which do
really weaken and disturb the rational faculty, let loose the imagina-
tion, and thereby make the mind less steady in distinguishing be-
twixt truth and fancy.

I do not remember that I have read of any enthusiasts amongst
the Americans, or any who have not pretended to a revealed reli-
gion, as all those before mentioned do ; which if so, it naturally
suggests this inquiry. Whether those that found their religion upon
Revelation, do not from thence take occasion to imagine, that since
God has been pleased by Revelation to discover to them the general
precepts of their religion ; they that have a particular interest in his
favour have reason to expect that he will reveal Himself to them, if
they take the right way to seek it in those things that concern them
in particular, in reference to their conduct, state, or comfort ; but of
this I shall conclude nothing till I shall be more fully assured in
matter-of-fact.

Enthusiasm is a fault in the mind opposite to brutish sensuality;
as far in the other extreme exceeding the just measure of reason, as
thoughts grovelling only in matter, and things of sense, come short
of it;

April 20. — The usual physical proof (if I may so call it) of the
immortality of the soul is this : matter cannot think, ergo, the soul is
immaterial ; nothing can really destroy an immaterial thing, ergo,
the soul is really immaterial.



128 THE LIFE OF

Those who oppose these men, press them very hard with the souls
of beasts; for, say they, beasts feel and think, and therefore their
souls are immaterial, and consequently immortal. This has by some
men been judged so urgent, that they have rather thought . fit to
conclude all beasts perfect machines, rather than allow their souls
immortality or annihilation, both which seem harsh doctrines ; the
one being out of the reach of Nature, and so cannot be received as
the natural state of beasts after this life ; the other equalling them,
in a great measure, to the state of man, if they shall be immortal as
well as he.

But methinks, if I may be permitted to say so, neither of these
speak to the point in question, and perfectly mistake immortality ;
whereby is not meant a state of bare su)bstantial existence and dura-
tion, but a state of sensibility ; for that way that they use of proving the
soul to be immortal, will as well prove the body to be so too ; for since
nothing can really destroy a material substance more than imma-
terial, the body will naturally endure as well as the soul for ever ;
and therefore, in the body they distinguish betwixt duration, and life,
or sense, but not in the soul ; supposing it in the body to depend on
texture, and a certain union with the soul, but in the soul upon its
indivisible and immutable constitution and essence ; and so that it
can no more cease to think and perceive, than it can cease to be im-
material or something. But this is manifestly false, and there is
scarce a man that has not experience to the contrary every twenty-
four hours. For 1 ask what sense or thought the soul (which is cer-
tainly then in a man) has during two or three hours of sound sleep
without dreaming, whereby it is plain that the soul may exist or
have duration for some time without sense or perception ; and if it
may have for this hour, it may also have the same duration without
pain or pleasure, or any thing else, for the next hour, and so to eter-
nity ; so that to prove that immortality of the soul, f imply because it
being naturally not to be destroyed by any thing, it will have an
eternal duration, which duration may be without any perception,



JOHN LOCKE. 129

which is to prove no other immortality of the soul than what belongs
to one of Epicurus's atoms, viz. that it perpetually exists, but has no
sense either of happiness or misery.

" If they say, as some do, that the soul during a sound quiet sleep
perceives and thinks, but remembers it not, one may, with as much
certainty and evidence, say that the bed-post thinks and perceives
too all the while, but remembers it not ; for I ask whether during
this profound sleep the soul has any sense of happiness or misery ;
and if the soul should continue in that state to eternity, (with all that
sense about it whereof it hath no consciousness nor memory,) whe-
ther there could be any such distinct state of heaven or hell, which
we suppose to belong to souls after this life, and for which only
we are concerned for and inquisitive after its immortality -, and



Online LibraryPeter King KingThe life of John Locke, with extracts from his correspondence, journals, and common-place books → online text (page 12 of 37)