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those who have lived without steady attentive reflection,—who have not made the internal operations of their own minds, objects of careful contemplation, are like children, who seeing everything about them as new, and surrounded with a world of unknown objects, by the solicitation of their senses, are drawn rapidly from one object to another, and are delighted with a variety of things, without observing any one of them particularly.

Ideas are therefore obscure from a variety of causes. Dull organs never convey distinct impressions; when the impressions are slight and transient, so that the memory does not retain them well, the ideas are necessarily obscure. Thus, ideas, with reference to themselves, are distinct or obscure; and even if distinct, too commonly confusion arises among them when we attach names to them. This arises from the arbitrary nature of the name; there being no natural connection between the name and the idea it represents, the distinction which was intended to be established, is easily lost sight of, and the idea escapes.

It is thus difficult to seize even a simple idea, and attach to it a significant sign or word. But complex ideas are yet more fugitive. They are still more liable to confusion. It is extremely difficult to combine in a single sign all the simple ideas which constitute the complex one, and when only a part of them are seized,

course occurs, for in that case those will be left out which made it deserve a different name. To define it by general terms only increases the confusion. It destroys the distinction upon which alone certainty rests. Until the precise signification of a word is determined, it is used indiscriminately to express any part or portion of the simple ideas it was intended to express in combination; whence, endless confusion arises. The complex idea annexed to any name is distinct and clear, according as the simple ideas of which it is composed are certain, their number determinate, and their order well arranged; for it is by these that it is kept separate and apart from all other ideas, attached to other names, and ideas that are constantly passing from one term to another, exchange their significance as well as their relation, and cannot be said to belong to any name, or to have any determinate meaning.


Some ideas have strong affinities, and are allied by nature; others are combined in the mind voluntarily, or by chance. Were ideas equally distinct and clear in different minds, and the same relations always attached to them, men would not differ so much in their notions and opinions, nor would they arrive at such different and contradictory conclusions in their reasoning. As it is, their interests, their inclinations, their education, in a word their habits, control them. Accustomed to attach certain relations to certain ideas, and to connect them with a particular system, and it being natural for our faculties to receive a greater aptitude to act in the manner they have before acted, it is difficult to change the impulse, and at length an invincible attachment is contracted for what at first was merely arbitrary, or the result of accident; and our notions, or chains of reasoning proceed at the sugges

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tion of a single idea, as mechanically as a familiar tune passes through the mind at the suggestion of a single note. This is the effect of our intellectual habits in the association of ideas.

A correct language affords an efficient remedy for these evils; and further, it furnishes the elements for the art of reasoning itself.

Correct reasoning grows out of, or is founded upon, the just and natural relation of our ideas; but this relation will depend mainly upon the mode in which we use words. If we conduct the process of reasoning in the order of the formation of language, we shall proceed in a manner that will never lead us astray. There is nothing in nature but individual objects, distinct things. General and abstract ideas exist alone in the mind, without any archetypes in nature ; they are therefore not the elements of the art of reasoning, but have served rather to confuse it, by suggesting relations which do not belong to the things themselves. To argue that classes and kinds could not exist without abstract ideas, and that we could not reason without the former, is to insist that nature cannot exist as it is without a peculiar notion in the mind, and that the art of reasoning is a mere series of fictions. We often see men, who make no pretensions to learning, reason well; and while they remain in their own sphere, they are generally correct; this is sufficient to lead us to suspect that nature has provided such men with means of reasoning, and has suggested the true use of them.

Language was exact as long as it concerned itself with things relative to the first wants of man. It was then constantly corrected by experience. But when it deviated into the regions of philosophy and imagination, errors accumulated, and by degrees became confirmed and legalized.

It was then contracted, and possessed but few elements, yet, when it spoke, its tones were clear and distinct: then it never spoke without saying something, and never spoke only to utter absurdities.

Had philosophers attempted in the right spirit to perfect it, they would have continued it as it commenced. They would have furnished themselves with new ideas, and sought new words in analogy, and language would have remained exact.

This is true now, and will eternally hold true with regard to the attainment of every mind.

If the language in which one's knowledge is couched be not exact, his ideas are but floating visions, which make no impression, or they are so vague that nothing useful can come of them, and they only lumber the mind with useless trash.

Had it been possible for language to have been created, and completed, under the care of the arts and sciences, it would have been exact. If it had borrow, ed none of its elements from


source, but had been formed as necessity required, the history of language would be the same with the history of learning. In its formation and progress we should see the origin and generation of knowledge.

Analogy would always shed a clear light upon the acceptation of words, and we should know how to speak with precision.

The prevalence of a correct language among men would be the triumph of truth on earth. Wranglings would in a measure cease, men would not so often be imposed upon by their passions, subtlety would not be dignified with the name of learning, nor would a profusion of words pass for extensive knowledge: above all, the sciences generally would take a stand with mathematics, they too would be exact. The doubt and confusion in which they are involved, exist in their language, and not in nature.

The truths of all sciences are capable of demonstration, when we know their language; in all the process is the same; we proceed by a series of relations from the known to the unknown. Our ideas approach as the expression is simplified, and when they are brought together, the conclusion flows immediately from their relations,

Algebraic language shows in the most sensible manner, how one judgment flows successively from another, and the demonstration rests exclusively upon the accuracy and completeness of the language. If words cannot express algebraic truth with as much ease and simplicity as signs, they nevertheless can perform the same office, and the result will be as certain whether we use signs or words, if our words are correct.

If therefore, the sciences are not all exact and capable of a rigorous demonstration, it is not because they are incapable of demonstration, but because their language is not correct: they speak a gibberish that means anything, or nothing. They do not enlighten the

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