« PreviousContinue »
cumbered with some difficulties very hard, and perhaps impossible to be explained or understood by us. For I would fain have instanced any thing in our notion of spirit more perplexed, or nearer a contradiction, than the very notion of body includes in it; the divisibility in infinitum of any finite extension involving us, whether we grant or deny it, in consequences impossible to be explicated or made in our apprehensions consistent: consequences that carry greater difficulty, aud more apparent absurdity, than any thing can follow from the notion of an immaterial knowing substance. We know $ 32. Which we are not at all to wonnothing be- der at, since we having but some few suyond our perficial ideas of things, discovered to us simple ideas
only by the senses from without, or by the mind, reflecting on what it experiments in itself within, have no knowledge beyond that, much less of the internal constitution and true nature of things, being destitute of faculties to attain it. And therefore experimenting and discovering in ourselves knowledge, and the power of voluntary motion, as certainly as we experiment or discover in things without us the cohesion and separation of solid parts, which is the extension and motion of bodies; we have as much reason to be satisfied with our notion of immaterial spirit, as with our notion of body, and the existence of the one as well as the other. For it being no more a contradiction that thinking should exist, separate and independent from solidity, than it is a contradiction that solidity should exist separate and independent from thinking, they being both but simple ideas, independent one from another,—and having as clear and distinct ideas in us of thinking as of solidity,—I know not why we may not as well allow a thinking thing without solidity, i. e. immaterial, to exist, as a solid thing without thinking, i. e. matter, to exist; especially since it is not harder to conceive how thinking should exist without matter, than how matter should think. For whensoever we would proceed beyond these simple ideas we have from sensation and reflection, and dive farther into the nature of things, we fall presently into darkness and obscurity, perplexedness and difficulties; and can discover nothing farther but our own blindness and ignorance. But whichever of these complex ideas be clearest, that of body or immaterial spirit, this is evident, that the simple ideas that make them up are no other than what we have received from sensation or reflection; and so is it of all our other ideas of substances, even of God himself.
$ 33. For if we examine the idea we Idea of God. have of the incomprehensible Supreme Being, we shall find, that we come by it the same way; and that the complex ideas we have both of God and separate spirits are made up of the simple ideas we receive from reflection: v. g. having, from what we experiment in ourselves, got the ideas of existence and duration ; of knowledge and power ; of pleasure and happiness; and of several other qualities and powers, which it is better to have than to be without: when we would frame an idea the most suitable we can to the Supreme Being, we enlarge every one of these with our idea of infinity; and so putting them together, make our complex idea of God. For that the mind has such a power of enlarging some of its ideas, received from sensation and reflection, has been already shown.
S 34. If I find that I know some few things, and some of them, or all, perhaps, imperfectly, I can frame an idea of knowing twice as many; which I can double again, as often as I can add to number; and thus enlarge my idea of knowledge, by extending its comprehension to all things existing or possible. The same also I can do of knowing them more perfectly ; i. e. all their qualities, powers, causes, consequences, and relations, &c. till all be perfectly known that is in them, or can any way relate to them; and thus frame the idea of infinite or boundless knowledge. The same may also be done of power, till we come to that we call infinite; and also of the duration of existence, without beginning or end; and so frame the idea of an eternal being. The degrees or extent wherein we ascribe existence, power, wisdom, and all other perfections (which we can have any ideas of) to that sovereign being which we call God, being all boundless, and infinite, we frame the best idea of him our minds are capable of: all which is done, I say, by enlarging those simple ideas we have taken from the operations of our own minds by reflection, or by our senses from exterior things, to that vastness to which infinity can extend them.
$ 35. For it is infinity, which joined to Idea of God.
our ideas of existence, power, knowledge, &c. makes that complex idea, whereby we represent to ourselves, the best we can, the Supreme Being. For though in his own essence (which certainly we do not know, not knowing the real essence of a pebble, or a fly or of our own selves) God be simple and uncompounded; yet, I think, I may say we have no other idea of him but a complex one of existence, knowledge, power, happiness, &c, infinite and eternal; which are all distinct ideas, and some of them, being relative, are again compounded of others; all which being, as has been shown, originally got from sensation and reflection, go to make up the idea or notion we have of God. No idea in § 36. This farther is to be observed, our complex that there is no idea we attribute to God,
bating infinity, which is not also a part spirits, but those got
of our complex idea of other spirits. Befrom sensa
cause, being capable of no other simple tion or re
ideas, belonging to any thing but body, flection.
but those which by reflection we receive from the operation of our own minds, we can attribute to spirits no other but what we receive from thence : and all the difference we can put between them in our contemplation of spirits is only in the several extents and degrees of their knowledge, power, duration,
happiness, &c. For that in our ideas, as well of spirits as of other things, we are restrained to those we receive from sensation and reflection, is evident from hence, that in our ideas of spirits, how much soever advanced in perfection beyond those of bodies, even to that of infinity, we cannot yet have any idea of the manner wherein they discover their thoughts one to another : though we must necessarily conclude, that separate spirits, which are beings that have perfecter knowledge and greater happiness than we, must needs have also a perfecter way of communicating their thoughts than we have, who are fain to make use of corporeal signs and particular sounds; which are therefore of most general use, as being the best and quickest we are capable of. But of immediate communication, having no experiment in ourselves, and consequently no notion of it at all, we have no idea how spirits, which use not words, can with quickness, or much less how spirits, that have no bodies, can be masters of their own thoughts, and communicate or conceal them at pleasure, though we cannot but necessarily suppose they have such a power. $ 37. And thus we have seen what kind
Recapitulaof ideas we have of substances of all kinds, tion. wherein they consist, and how we came by them. From whence, I think, it is very evident,
First, That all our ideas of the several sorts of substances are nothing but collections of simple ideas, with a supposition of something to which they belong, and in which they subsist ; though of this supposed something we have no clear distinct idea at all.
Secondly, That all the simple ideas, that thus united in one common substratum make up our complex ideas of several sorts of substances, are no other but such as we have received from sensation or reflection. So that even in those which we think we are most intimately acquainted with, and that come nearest the comprehension of our most enlarged conceptions, we cannot go beyond those simple ideas. And even in
those which seem most remote from all we have to do with, and do infinitely surpass any thing we can perceive in ourselves by reflection, or discover by sensation in other things, we can attain to nothing but those simple ideas, which we originally received from sensation or reflection; as is evident in the complex ideas we have of angels, and particularly of God himself.
Thirdly, That most of the simple ideas that make up our complex ideas of substances, when truly considered, are only powers, however we are apt to take them for positive qualities; v. g. the greatest part of the ideas that make our complex idea of gold are yellowness, great weight, ductility, fusibility, and solubility in aqua regia, &c. all united together in an unknown substratum ; all which ideas are nothing else but so many relations to other substances, and are not really in the gold, considered barely in itself, though they depend on those real and primary qualities of its internal constitution, whereby it has a fitness differently to operate, and be operated on by several other substances.
Of collective Ideas of Substances. One idea.
§ 1. Besides these complex ideas of
several single substances, as of man, horse, gold, violet, apple, &c. the mind hath also complex collective ideas of substances; which I so call, because such ideas are made up of many particular substances considered together, as united into one idea, and which so joined are looked on as one : v. g. the idea of such a collection of men as make an army, though consisting of a great number of distinct substances, is as much one idea as the idea of a man : and the great collective idea of all bodies whatsoever, signified by