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concerning that, wherein the idea is obscure and confused. 'And therefore to your lordship’s question,“ how is it possible for us to have a clear perception of the agreement of ideas, if the ideas themselves be not clear and distinct?” I answer, very well; because an obscure or confused idea, i. e. that is not perfectly clear and distinct in all its parts, may be compared with another in that part of it which is clear and distinct : which will, I humbly conceive, remove all those difficulties, inconsistencies, and contradictions, which your lordship seems to be troubled with, from my words quoted in those pages.
Your lordship having, as it seems, quite forgot that you were to show wherein the certainty of deductions, in the way of ideas, was inconsistent with the certainty of deductions, in the way of reason, brings here a new charge upon my way of certainty, viz. “ that I have no criterion to distinguish false and doubtful ideas from true and certain." Your lordship says, the academics went upon ideas, or representations of things to their minds; and pray, my lord, does not your lordship do so too? Or has Mr.J. Š. so won upon your lordship, by his solid philosophy against the fancies of the ideists, that you begin to think him in the right in this too; where he says, “ that notions are the materials of our knowledge; and that a notion is the very thing itself existing in the understanding*?” For since I make no doubt but that, in all your lordship's knowledge, you will allow that you have some immediate objects of your thoughts, which are the materials of that knowledge, about which it is employed, those immediate objects, if they are not, as Mr. J. S. says, the very things themselves, must be ideas. Not thinking your lordship therefore yet so perfect a convert of Mr. J. S.'s, that you are persuaded, that as often as you think of your cathedral church, or of Des Cartes's vortices, that the very cathedral church at Worcester, or the motion of those vortices, itself exists in your understanding; when one of them never existed but in that one place at Worcester, and the other never existed any where in rerum
* Solid Philosoply, p. 24, and 27.
natura. I conclude, your lordship has immediate objects of your mind, which are not the very things themselves existing in your understanding ; which if, with the academics, you will please to call representations, as I suppose you will, rather than with me ideas, it will make no difference.
This being so, I must then make the same objection against your way of certainty by reason, that your lordship does against my way of certainty by ideas (for upon the comparison of these two we now are) and then I return your words here again, viz. “that
have no criterion to distinguish false and doubtful representations from true and certain ; how then can any man be secure, that he is not imposed upon in your lordship’s way of representations ?”
Your lordship says, “ I tell you of a way of certainty by ideas, and never offer any such method for examining them, as the academics required for their probability.” Answ. I was not, I confess, so well acquainted with what the academics went upon for the criterion of a greater probability as your lordship is; or if I had, I writing, as your lordship knows, out of my own thoughts, could not well transcribe out of them. But that you should tell me, I never offer any criterion to distinguish false from true ideas, I cannot but wonder; and therefore crave leave to beg your lordship to look again into b. ii. c. 32. of my Essay; and there, I persuade myself, you will find a criterion, whereby true and false ideas may be distinguished.
Your lordship brings for instance the idea of solidity; but what it is an instance of, I confess I do not see: “ Your lordship charges on my way of certainty, that I have no criterion to distinguish false and doubtful ideas from true and certain; which is followed by an account you give, how the academics examined their ideas or representations, before they allowed them to prevail on them to give an assent, as to a greater probability.” And then you tell me, that “I never offer any such method for examining them, as the academics required for their probability:" to which your lordship subjoins these words ; “as for
instance, my first idea, which I go upon, of solidity.” Would not one now expect, that this should be an instance to make good your lordship's charge, that I have no criterion to distinguish whether my idea of solidity were false and doubtful, or true and certain ?
To show that I have no such criterion, your lordship asks me two questions: the first is, “ how my idea of solidity comes to be clear and distinct ?” I will suppose for once, that I know not how it comes to be clear and distinct : how will this prove, that I have no criterion to know whether it be true or false? For the question here is not about knowing how an idea comes to be clear and distinct; but how I shall know whether it be true or false. But your lordship's following words seem to aim at a farther objection; your words all together are, “ how this idea” [i. c. my idea of solidity, which consists in repletion of space, with an exclusion of all other solid substances] “comes to be clear and distinct to me, when others, who go on in the same way of ideas, have quite another idea of it ?” My lord, I desire your lordship to name who those “others" are, who
go in the same way of ideas with me, who have quite another idea of this my idea than I have; for to this idea I could be sure that "it,” in any other writer but your lordship, must here refer: but, my lord, it is one of your privileged particles, and I have nothing to say to it. But let it be so, that others have quite another idea of it than I; how does that prove, that I have no criterion to distinguish whether my idea of solidity be true or no ?
Your lordship farther adds, “ that those others think that they have as plain and distinct an idea, that extension and body are the same:" and then your lordship asks, "now what criterion is there to come to a certainty in this matter ?” Answ. In what matter, I beseech your lordship? If it be whether my idea of solidity be a true idea, which is the matter here in question, in this matter I have given a criterion to know, in my Essay *: if it be to decide the question, whether the word “body” more properly stands for the simple
* B.ij. c. 32,
idea of space, or for the complex idea of space and solidity together, that is not the question here; nor can there be any other criterion to decide it by, but the propriety of our language.
But your lordship adds, “ ideas can have no way of certainty in themselves, if it be possible for even philosophical and rational men to fall into such contrary ideas about the same thing; and both sides think their ideas to be clear and distinct." If this were so, I do not see how this would any way prove, that I had no criterion whereby it might be discerned whether my ideas of solidity were true or no; which was to be proved.
But at last, this which your lordship calls “contrary ideas about the same thing,” is nothing but a difference about a name. For I think nobody will say, that the idea of extension and the idea of solidity are the same ideas: all the difference then between those philosophical and rational men, which your lordship mentions here, is no more but this, whether the simple idea
pure extension shall be called body, or whether the complex ideas of extension and solidity joined together shall be called body; which will be no more than a bare verbal dispute to any one, who does not take sounds for things, and make the word body something more than a sign of what the speaker would signify by it.. But what the speaker makes the term body stand for, cannot be precisely known till he has determined it in his own mind, and made it known to another; and then there can between them be no longer a dispute about the signification of the word: v. g. if one of those philosophical rational men tells your lordship, that he makes the term body to stand precisely for the simple idea of pure extension, your lordship or he can be in no doubt or uncertainty concerning this thing; but whenever he uses the word body, your lordship must suppose in his mind the simple idea of extension, as the thing he means by body. If, on the other side, another of those philosophical rational men shall tell your lordship, that he makes the term body to stand precisely for a complex idea made up of the simple ideas of extension and solidity joined together; your lordship or he can be in no
doubt or uncertainty concerning this thing: but whenever he uses the word body, your lordship must think on, and allow the idea belonging to it, to be that complex one.
As your lordship can allow this different use of the term body in these different men, without changing any idea, or any thing in your own mind, but the application of the same term to different ideas, which changes neither the truth nor certainty of any of your lordship’s ideas, from what it was before: so those two philosophical rational men may, in discourse one with another, agree to use that term body for either of those two ideas, which they please, without at all making their ideas, on either side, false or uncertain. But if they will contest which of these ideas the sound body ought to stand for, it is visible their difference is not about any reality of things, but the propriety of speech; and their dispute and doubt is only about the signification of a word.
Your lordship's second question is," whether by this idea of solidity we may come to know what it is.” Answ. I must ask you here again, what you mean by it ? If your lordship by it means solidity, then your question runs thus : whether by this [i.e. my] “idea of solidity, we may come to know what solidity is ?” Answ. Without doubt, if your lordship means by the term solidity what I mean by the term solidity; for then I have told you what it is, in the chapter above-cited by your lordship * : if you mean any thing else by the term solidity, when your lordship will please to tell me what you mean by it, I will tell your lordship what solidity is. This, I humbly conceive, you will find yourself obliged to do, if what I have said of solidity does not satisfy you what it is. For you will not think it reasonable I should tell your lordship what a thing is when expressed by you in a term, which I do not know what your lordship means by, nor what you make it stand for. But your lordship asks,“ wherein it consists;" if
you mean wherein the idea of it consists, that I have already told your lordship, in the chapter of my Essay above
* Essay, B. ii. c. 4.