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167. John Locke, 1632-1704. (Manual, pp. 269-274.)


TAKING WORDS FOR THINGS. Another great abuse of words, is the taking them for things. This, though it in some degree concerns all names in general, yet more particularly affects those of substances. To this abuse, those men are most subject, who most confine their thoughts to any one system, and give themselves up into a firm belief of the perfection of any received hypothesis ; whereby they come to be persuaded, that the terms of that sect are so suited to the nature of things, that they perfectly correspond with their real existence. Who is there, that has been bred up in the peripatetic philosophy, who does not think the ten names under which are ranked the ten predicaments, to be exactly conformable to the nature of things ? Who is there of that school that is not persuaded that substantial forms, vegetative souls, abhorrence of a vacuum, intentional species, &c., are something real ? These words men have learned from their very entrance upon knowledge, and have found their masters and systems lay great stress upon them; and, therefore, they cannot quit the opinion, that they are conformable by nature, and the representations of something that really exists. The Platonists have their soul of the world, and the Epicureans their endeavour towards motions in their atoms, when at rest. There is scarce any sect in philosophy has not a distinct set of terms that others understand not. But yet this gibberish, which in the weakness of the human understanding serves so well to palliate men's ignorance and cover their errors, comes by familiar use amongst those of the same tribe, to seem the most important part of language, and of all other, the terms the most significant: and should aërial and ethereal vehicles come once, by the prevalency of that doctrine, to be generally received anywhere, no doubt those terms would make impressions on men's minds, so as to establish them in the persuasion of the reality of such things, as much as peripatetic forms and intentional species have heretofore done.

How much names taken from things are apt to mislead the understanding, the attentive reading of philosophical writers would abundantly discover, and that, perhaps, in words little suspected of any such misuse. I shall instance in one only, and that a familiar one. How many intricate disputes have there been about matter, as if there were some such thing really in nature, distinct from body; as it is evident, the word matter stands for an idea distinct from the idea of body? For if the ideas these two terms stood for were precisely the same, they might indifferently, in all places, be put one for another. But we see, that though it be proper to say there is one matter of all bodies, one cannot say, there is one body of all matters. We familiarly say, one body is bigger than another; but it sounds harsh (and, I think, is never used) to say, one matter is bigger than another. Whence comes this, then ? viz., from hence, that though matter and body be not really distinct, but wherever there is the one, there is the other; yet matter and body stand for two different conceptions, whereof the one is incomplete, and but a part of the other. For body stands for a solid extended figured substance, whereof matter is but a partial and more confused conception; it seeming to me to be used for the substance and solidity of body, without taking in its extension and figure; and, therefore it is that, speaking of matter, we speak of it always as one, because in truth, it expressly contains nothing but the idea of a solid substance, which is everywhere the same, everywhere uniform. This being our idea of matter, we no more conceive, or speak of, different matters in the world than we do of different solidities; though we both conceive and speak of different bodies, because extension and figure are capable of iation. But since solidity cannot exist without extension and figure, the taking matter to be the name of something really existing under that precision, has no doubt produced those obscure and unintelligible discourses and disputes, which have filled the heads and books of philosophers concerning materia prima, which imperfection or abuse, how far it may concern a great many other general terms, I leave to be considered. This, I think, I may at least say, that we should have a great many fewer disputes in the world, if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas only, and not for things themselves. For when we argue about matter, or any the like term, we truly argue only about the idea we express by that sound, whether that precise idea agree to any thing really existing in nature or no.

And if men would tell what ideas they make their words stand for, there could not be half that obscurity or wrangling in the search or support of truth that there is.

But whatever inconvenience follows from this mistake of words, this, I am sure, that, by constant and familiar use, they charm men into notions far remote from the truth of things. It would be a hard matter to persuade any one that the words which his father, or schoolmaster, the parson of the parish or such a reverend doctor, used, signified nothing that really existed in nature: which, perhaps, is none of the least causes, that men are so hardly drawn to quit their mistakes, even in opinions purely philosophical, and where they have no other interest but truth. For the words they have a long time been used to, remaining firm in their minds, it is no wonder that the wrong notions annexed to them should not be removed.

168. Isaac Barrow. 1630-1677. (Manual, pp. 274-277.)


The first excellency peculiar to the Christian doctrine I observe to be this; that it assigneth a true, proper, and complete character or notion of God ; complete, I mean, not absolutely, but in respect to our condition and capacity ; such a notion as agreeth thoroughly with what the best reason dictateth, the works of nature declare, ancient tradition doth attest, and common experience doth intimate, concerning God; such a character as is apt to breed highest love and reverence in men's hearts towards him, to engage them in the strictest practice of duty and obedience to him. It ascribeth unto him all conceivable perfections of nature in the highest degree ; it asserteth unto him all his due rights and prerogatives; it commendeth and justifieth to us all his actions and proceedings. For in his essence it representeth him one, eternal, perfectly simple and pure, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, independent, impassible, and immutable; as also, according to his essential disposition of will and natural manner of acting, most absolute and free, most good and benign, most holy and just, most veracious and constant; it acknowledgeth him the maker and upholder of all beings, of what nature and what degree soever, both material and immaterial, visible and invisible; it attributeth to him supreme majesty and authority over all. It informeth us that he framed this visible world with especial regard to our use and benefit; that he preserveth it with the same gracious respect; that he governeth us with a particular care and providence, viewing all the thoughts, and ordering all the actions, of men to good ends, general or particular. It declareth him in his dealings with rational creatures very tender and careful of their good, exceeding beneficent and merciful toward them, compassionate of their evils, placable for their offences, accessible and inclinable to help them at their entreaty, or in their need, yet nowise fond or indulgent to them, not enduring them to proceed in perverse or wanton courses, but impartially just, and inflexibly severe toward all iniquity obstinately pursued ; it, in short, describeth him most amiable in his goodness, most terrible in his justice, most glorious and venerable in all his ways of providence : whatever perfection in essence, state, or practice, either philosophers, by rational collection from innate notions, or from contemplation of natural effects, or upon observing occurrences in human affairs, or other institutions from the relics of primitive tradition, by politic reflection upon things, .from other fountains, or by other means whatever, have by parts imperfectly, obscurely, and faintly, attributed to God, all those our religion, in a full, clear, and peremptory manner, with advantage beyond what I can express, doth ascribe and assert unto him; not intermixing therewith, as other doctrines and institutions may be observed to do, any thing unworthy of him or misbecoming him; adjoining nothing repugnant to that which natural light discerneth or approveth ; but showing somewhat beyond what it can descry concerning God's incomprehensible nature and manner of subsistence, his unsearchable counsels of wisdom, his admirable methods of providence, whereby he hath designed to commend his goodness to us, and to glorify his justice; which sorts of truths exceeding man's reach to devise or comprehend, as it becometh God, who so far transcendeth us in wisdom and knowledge, to reveal them; so they, wondrously conspiring with the perfections of God otherwise discernible by us, do argue or confirm the divinity of the doctrine which acquainteth us with them : for a doctrine, how plausible soever, which should teach us nothing about God, that by other means could not be found out, and whose bottom common-sense might not fathom, there were no urgent cause why we should derive it from heaven, or why we should not rather deem it the invention of some witty or subtile



To the question what the thing we speak of is, or what this facetiousness doth import? I might reply as Democritus did to him that asked the definition of a man, 'Tis that which we all see and know: any one better apprehends what it is by acquaintance than I can inform him by description. It is indeed a thing so versatile and multiform, appearing in so many shapes, so many postures, so many garbs, so variously apprehended by several eyes and judgments, that it seemeth no less hard to settle a clear and certain notion thereof, than to make a portrait of Proteus, or to define the figure of a fleeting air. Sometimes it lieth in pat allusion to a known story, or in seasonable application of a trivial saying, or in forging an apposite tale: sometimes it playeth in words and phrases, taking advantage from the ambiguity of their sense, or the affinity of their sound : sometimes it is wrapped in a dress of humorous expression : sometimes it lurketh under an odd similitude : sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quirkish reason, in a shrewd imitation, in cunningly diverting, or cleverly retorting an objection : sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart irony, in a lusty hyperbole, in a startling metaphor, in a plausible reconciling of contradictions, or in acute nonsense : sometimes a scenical representation of persons or things, a counterfeit speech, a mimical look or gesture passeth for it: sometimes an affected simplicity, sometimes a presumptuous bluntness, giveth it being : sometimes it riseth from a lucky hitting upon what is strange, sometimes from a crafty wresting obvious matter to the purpose : often it consisteth in one knows not what, and springeth up one can hardly tell how. Its ways are unaccountable and inexplicable, being answerable to the numberless rovings of fancy and windings of language. It is, in short, a manner of speaking out of the simple and plain way (such as reason teacheth and proveth things by), which, by a pretty surprising uncouthness in conceit or expression, doth affect and amuse the fancy, stirring in it some wonder, and breeding some delight thereto.

169. John Tillotson. 1630-1694. (Manual, p. 277.)


Another most considerable and essential ingredient of happiness is goodness, without which, as there can be no true majesty and greatness, so neither can there be any felicity or happiness. Now goodness is a generous disposition of mind to communicate and diffuse itself, by making others partakers of its happiness in such degrees as they are capable of it, and as wisdom shall direct. For he is not so happy as may be, who hath not the pleasure of making others so, and of seeing them put into an happy condition by his means, which is the highest pleasure, I had almost said pride, but I mayo truly say glory, of a good and great mind. For by such communications of himself, an immense and all-sufficient being doth not lessen himself, or put any thing out of his power, but doth rather enlarge and magnify himself; and does, as I may say, give great ease and delight to a full and fruitful being, without the least diminution of his power and happiness. For the cause and original of all other beings can make nothing so independent upon itself as not still to maintain his interest in it, to have it always under his power and government; and no being can rebel against his maker, without extreme hazard to himself.

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