Infomotions, Inc.Locke's Conduct of the understanding / [John Locke] ; edited with introd., notes, etc. by Thomas Fowler. / Locke, John, 1632-1704

Author: Locke, John, 1632-1704
Title: Locke's Conduct of the understanding / [John Locke] ; edited with introd., notes, etc. by Thomas Fowler.
Publisher: Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1881.
Tag(s): knowledge, theory of; section; novum organum
Contributor(s): Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.)
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Size: 48,259 words (really short) Grade range: 12-16 (college) Readability score: 50 (average)
Identifier: lockesconductofu00lock
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'■o/essor of Logic in the Unii'ersity of Oxford; Fello7v of Lincoln College 




[ All rights resetted ] 

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Locke's tract or rather chapter ' Of the Conduct of 
the Understanding,' though often praised, and occa- 
sionally republished in a separate form, has never been 
edited with notes. It is thought that such assistance as 
is offered to the student in this edition may cause it to 
be more widely read and more generally useful. 

The testimony accorded to this book by Hallam, in his 
Introduction to the Literature of Europe, may fittingly 
occupy a position in its editor's preface : — 

'I cannot think any parent or instructor justified in 
neglecting to put this little treatise in the hands of a boy 
about the time when the reasoning faculties become 
developed. It will give him a sober and serious, not 
flippant or self-conceited, independency of thinking ; and, 
while it teaches how to distrust ourselves and to watch 
those prejudices which necessarily grow up from one 
cause or another, will inspire a reasonable confidence in 
what he has well considered, by taking off a little of that 
deference to authority which is the more to be regretted 
in its excess that, like its cousin-german, party-spirit, it 
is frequently united to loyalty of heart and the generous 
enthusiasm of youth,' 


The treatise is unrevised and incomplete, but these 
circumstances (the reasons of which are explained in the 
Introduction) only slightly affect its value to the student. 

It may be remarked that the punctuation of the original 
edition, which seems to have been made almost entirely 
at hap-hazard, has been revised throughout by the pre- 
sent editor. 

The sketch of Locke's life prefixed to this work is 
necessarily meagre. For a fuller biography and an 
account of his writings generally, the reader is referred 
to the editor's 'Locke,' recently published by Messrs. 
Macmillan in their series of ' English INIen of Letters,' or 
to the elaborate and, so far as concerns the biographical 
portion, almost exhaustive Life of Locke by Mr. Fox- 
Bourne in two volumes. 

*** Words obelized, thus, t t, occur in the original 
text, but require to be omitted, in order to make sense. 
Words within brackets, thus, [ ], do not occur in the 
original text, but require to be inserted, in order to make 
sense. Both these signs have been used as sparingly as 

Lincoln College, 
Nov. 5, 1880. 



Introduction ix 

Of the Conduct of the Understanding 

Section 1. Introduction 3 

„ 2. Parts .... 


_^ „ 3. Reasoning 


„ 4. Practice and Habits 


^ „ 5. Ideas 


„ 6. Principles' 


„ 7. Mat/iematics . 


„ 8. Religion . 


^=»' „ 9. Ideas 


„ 10. Prejudice 


„ 11. hidifferency 


„ 12. Examine 


„ 13. Observation 


„ 14. Bias 

. n 

„ 15. Argianents 

. 38 

„ 16. Haste . 


„ 17. Desultory 


„ 18. Sinattcrijtg 


^ 5, 19. Universality . 


,, „ 20. Reading . . . , 


„ 21. Intermediate Principles 

• 47 

„ 22. Partiality 

. 48 

„ 23. Theology 

. . 49 




Section 24. 

Partiality 50 



Haste .... 

■ 58 



Anticipation . 

. 60 




. 6r 



Practice .... 

. 62 



Words .... 

. 64 




. 66 




. 68 



Similes .... 




Assent .... 




Indifferency .... 




Ignorance with Indifferency . 








Perseverance .... 




Presumption .... 




Despondency .... 








Association .... 








Fundatnental Verities . 




Bottoming .... 




Trans/erring of Thoughts 





I/joHN Locke, who is now best known as a philosopher, 
though, in his own time, he was almost equally celebrated as 
a theologian, financier, and statesman, was born at Wrington, 
a villaga^n the North of Somersetshire, not far from Bristol, 
Aug. 29, 1632. His family, who belonged to the lower class 
of English gentry, were in tolerably comfortable circumstances, 
and to the judicious care of his father young Locke seems 
to have been indebted for many of his characteristics, both 
moral and mental. Of his early boyhood we learn next to 
nothing, except that it pretty nearly coincided with the 
troubles of the Civil Wars. * I no sooner perceived myself in 
the world,' he wrote in 1660, 'but I found myself in a storm 
which has lasted almost hitherto.' It was probably in 1646 
that he was admitted, under the stern government of Dr. 
Busby, a scholar of Westminster School. In the ' Thoughts 
concerning Education,' where he criticises most severely the 
discipline, methods, and studies of the English public-schools, 
there are probably many passages inspired by a recollection 
of his owo experiences as a school-boy. In the Michaelmas 
Term of '1652, at what was then the rather late age of 
twenty, Locke commenced residence in Oxford as a Student 
of Christ Church. There he took his degrees, and became 
in due time Tutor and Censor. Probably the most powerful 
influence, which he underwent in Oxford, was that of Dr. 
John Owen, then Dean of Christ Church, a learned and, for 
those days, remarkably tolerant divine, who ranged himself 
on the side of the Independents. It has been suggested, with 



some plausibility, that the views subsequently embodied in 
Locke's Letters on Toleration may partly have had their 
origin in the example and teaching of Owen. 
■ Locke's first introduction to public life was as secretary to 
Sir Walter Vane in his mission to the Elector of Branden- 
burg, in 1665-6.' The mission came to nothing, but Locke's 
notes on the manners, customs, and sights of Cleves, the 
quaint old capital of Brandenburg, are still full of a curious 
interest. He is peculiarly sarcastic on the scholastic dispu- 
tations of the monks, but abounds in admiration for the 
mutual toleration shown, in private life, by the different re- 
ligious sects. -^In the summer of 1666, some months after his 
return to England, he made an acquaintance at Oxford, 
which probably determined the future course of his life by 
diverting him from the quiet pursuits and studies of the 
University to politics and public business. The famous 
Lord Ashley, afterwards First Earl of Shaftesbury, had come 
to Oxford, for the purpose of drinking the Astrop waters, 
and the duty of providing them had been entrusted by 
Dr. David Thomas, Ashley's Oxford physician, to Locke, 
who was himself preparing for a medical career. There 
having been some miscarriage, Locke waited on Lord Ashley, 
to excuse the delay. 'Each was much pleased with the con- 
versation of the other, and thus began a friendship which, 
■whether in prosperity or adversity, seems never to have 
cooled during the remainder of their joint livesi" "In the 
summer of 1667, Locke took up his residence with Lord 
Ashley in London',' though he still paid occasional visits of 
some length to Oxford. At Lord Ashley's town-house he 
formed the acquaintance of many men of letters and science, 
as well as of some of the leading politicians, then residing in 
London. At the same time, he was quietly pursuing his 
studies in medicine, politics, and philosophy.' Besides acting 
as general adviser and medical attendant to Lord Ashley and 
his family, he was specially charged with the tuition of 
Anthony Ashley, the eldest son, who subsequently became 
Second Earl of Shaftesbury. It is curious that Locke after- 


•wards stood in a similar relation, though rather as supervisor 
of studies than actual instructor, to the Third Earl of 
Shaftesbury, son of the second and grandson of tlie first Earl, 
the famous author of the Characteristics. While living in 
Lord Ashley's house, and acting, in a sort of informal capacity, 
as secretary to the 'lords proprietors of the colony of Carolina,' 
of whom Ashley was one, he drew up the document, now 
printed in his works, called ' The Fundamental Constitutions 
of Carolina.' Some of the provisions, however, must have 
been decidedly distasteful to Locke, and we must by no 
means regard him as responsible for the scheme in its final 
shape. But a far more important work, the famous Essay on 
the Human Understandingj'^eems to have had its first 
origin about or soon after the same period. We are told, in 
his Epistle to the Reader, thatlive or six friends meeting at 
his chamber, ' and discoursing on a subject very remote from 
this, found themselves quickly at a stand by the difficulties 
that rose on every side.' After they had puzzled themselves 
for some time, without coming any nearer to a resolution of 
their doubts, it came into his thoughts that they took a wrong 
course, ' and that, before we set ourselves upon enquiries of 
that nature, it was necessary to examine our own abilities, 
and see what objects our Understandings were or were not 
fitted to deal with.' This course he proposed to the com- 
pany, and * it was thereupon agreed that this should be our 
first cnqm'ry.' ' Some hasty and undigested thoughts on a sub- 
ject I had never before considered, which I set down against 
our next meeting, gave the first entrance into this discourse, 
which, having been thus begun by chance, was continued by 
entreaty ; written by incoherent parcels ; and, after long in- 
tervals of neglect, resumed again, as my humour or occasions 
permitted ; and, at last, in a retirement where an attendance 
on my health gave me leisure, it was brought into that order 
thou now seest it.' i-'The Copy of the First Edition of the 
E^say which belonged to Sir James Tyrrell, one of Locke's 
most intimate friends, is now in the British Museum. In it 
is a marginal note, stating that the discussion on the occasion , 



alluded to turned on ' the principles of morality and revealed 
religion.' It is also stated that the time was the winter of 
1673. The latter statement, however, is probably mistaken, 
as there is concurrent evidence to show that it was in 1670 or 
167 1. It would thus appear that Locke was occupied nearly 
twenty years in maturing the greatest of his works ; for the 
Essay Avas not published till 1690. 

In November, 1672, Lord Ashley, who had recently been 
created Earl of Shaftesbury, was appointed Lord High Chan- 
cellor of England. Locke shared to some extent in his 
patron's good fortune, being made Secretary of Presentations, 
that is, of the Chancellor's Church Patronage, and subsequently 
Secretary to the Council of Trade and Foreign Plantations. 
The salary of the latter office, however, he appears never to 
have received. But his circumstances were always easy, and, 
being neither needy nor avaricious, he was entirely free from 
the sordid cares which often consume so much of the time 
and thoughts of men of letters. 

One care, however, he constantly had. His health was 
always extremely weak, and the air of London seems to have 
been peculiarly trying to it. The malady from which he 
mainly suffered was a bronchial affection, which compelled him 
•^n 1675 to seek what was then the usual resort of English 
invalids, Montpellier.''' There, at Paris, and in making ex- 
cursions in the country parts of France, he spent his time till 
the spring of 1679, when he returned to England. While 
r>ocke was living abroad, Shaftesbury had been imprisoned 
in the Tower for a year, but, by a sudden turn of fortune, he 
had been restored to office as President of the newly created 
Council. What were Locke's exact relations to Shaftesbury 
during this second tenure of office, we do not know, but any 
way the two friends were in close and frequent intercourse. 
In the autumn, however, of this year, the King felt himself 
strong enough to assert his own predilections, and Shaftesbury's 
name was, * by his Majesty's command in Council,' struck out 
of the list of the Privy Council. Locke, like a true man, 
adhered to the cause of his patron, even in adversity, and we 


never obtain the slightest glimpse of any attempt to make 
terms with the party in power on his own account. One of 
his main cares at this time was the superintendence of the 
education of Shaftesbury's grandson, afterwards the third Earl, 
who, the second earl being apparently a person of somewhat 
tceble intellect, had been made over to the formal guardian- 
ship of his grandfather. The author of the Characteristics, 
though an opponent of Locke's philosophy, always acknow- 
ledges the deepest gratitude for the care which he had be- 
stowed on him in childhood and youth. During these years, 
political animosities were growing more and more bitter, and 
political intrigues more and more complicated, till, at last, the 
state of the kingdom became exceedingly critical. We can 
hardly be surprised that, when both sides seemed ready to 
strike, ministers took the initiative. On the 2nd of July, 
1 68 1, Shaftesbury was arrested on a charge of High Treason, 
and committed to the Tower. AVhen he was at length 
brought to trial, the Grand Jury, amidst the plaudits of the 
spectators, threw out the Bill. But both his political and 
natural life were drawing to a close. In the summer of 1682, 
he began to concert measures with Monmouth, Russell, and 
others, for a general rising against the King. The plot was 
soon discovered, and, after hiding for some time in England, 
he escaped to Holland, where he died of gout in the stomach, 
Jan. 21, 1682-3. 

Though there is no evidence to implicate Locke in Shaftes- 
bury's conspiracy, and though it is most improbable that he 
was engaged in the plots which succeeded it, enough suspicion 
attached to him to render his residence in England highly 
dangerous. He escaped to Holland in the autumn of 1683, and 
remained there, in what was, on the whole, a very pleasant, and 
certainly a very profitable exile, till the occurrence of the 
English Revolution. With the exception of some months 
during which he was obliged to hide for his life or, at least, 
to go through the ceremony of hiding for it, in consequence 
of demands from the English court, his surroundings seem 
to have been as comfortable and congenial as they could 


well be. He made many friendships, including those of the 
theologian, Limborch, and the philosopher and critic, Le 
Clerc. And his leisure was sufficient, not only to enable him 
to complete the Essay on the Human Understanding, but 
also to write the Letter on Toleration, the Thoughts con- 
cerning Education, and the second of the two Treatises on 
Government, none of which, however, were published till after 
his return to England: But, though he was mainly engaged 
in study and writing, his political interests and activities had by 
no means flagged, Locke took a principal share in the nego- 
tiations which placed William of Orange on the throne of 
England, and, when he returned to his own country, it was 
in the company of the Princess Mary, William's Queen, 
One incident of his exile ought not to be omitted, though, 
perhaps, his biographers have made too much of it. Soon 
after his retreat to Holland, and in consequence of his being 
suspected of writing political pamphlets, he was deprived, by 
order of the government, of his Studentship at Christ Church. 
The responsibility of this act attaches to the Ministry and not 
to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, for, the College 
being a royal foundation, it was then held that the Crown 
had an absolute right to appoint or suspend membei-s on the 
foundation at its pleasure. And, though the Dean and 
Chapter might have won our admiration, had they, at the 
risk of their places, resisted the royal commands, like the 
Fellows of Magdalen College in the next reign, they can 
hardly be blamed for not having exhibited so extraordinary a 
spirit of heroism. It may be mentioned, as an instance of 
Locke's magnanimity, that he desisted from an appeal for 
restitution, made after the Revolution, out of consideration 
for the existing possessor. 

(..On his return to England, in 1688-9, Locke was almost 
immediately ollcrcd the important diplomatic post of ambas- 
sador to Frederick the (ircat, Elector of Brandenburg, but, on 
the ground of his feeble health, he was compelled to decline 
it.'^His health, which seems to have suffered from his return 
to England, and especially from * the pestilent smoke of the 


metropolis ' (maligtius hujus urbis fumus), was henceforth an 
object of constant solicitude to him. He often made pro- 
longed visits to the houses of his friends in the country, but, 
at hust, in the spring of 1691, he entered into an arrangement 
with Sir F>ancis and Lady Masham, by which he was able to 
regard their manor-house of Oates, near High Laver in 
Essex, as his permanent home. Oates is in a pleasant country, 
abounding in wood and water, and Locke, ' having made trial 
of the air of the place, thought none would be more suitable 
to him.' Lady Masham, who was daughter of Dr. Ralph 
Cudworth, the metaphysician and moralist, best known to us 
as the author of the ' Treatise concerning Eternal and Immu- 
table Morality,' had, as Damaris Cudworth, been one of 
Locke's acquaintances, before his retirement to Holland. 
She and her step-daughter, Esther Masham, devoted them- 
selves to him for the remainder of his life, and nothing can be 
more touching than the mutual esteem and affection, never 
broken, apparently, by the slightest jealousy or ill-feeling, 
which henceforth marked his relations with the whole of the 
IMasham family. No philosopher, probably, ever enjoyed a 
more congenial retreat, or had the good fortune to be tended 
in his later years with more care and solicitude. 
u About a year before his settlement at Oates, Locke had 
brought out his great work, the Essay on the Human Under- 
standing, the main topics of which, as we have already seen, 
had suggested themselves to him about twenty years before. 
For the copyright of this book, the most important treatise, 
and that which has exercised the greatest and widest influence, 
in the whole range of English philosophy, he received the 
sum of ^30. In the spring of 1689, had appeared, at Gouda 
in Holland, the Epistola de Tolerantia, in which he boldly 
maintained that the civil magistrate has no concern with re- 
ligious worship or doctrine, except so far as it may affect the 
security of civil government. The exception, Locke con- 
ceived, excluded Atheists, Roman Catholics, and perhaps cer- 
tain sects of Antinomians. This tract, which was soon trans- 
lated into English, was brought out, without Locke's name 


and apparently without his knowledge, by Limborch, to whom 
it had been addressed as a letter. 

Except some congratulatory verses, presented by Oxford 
students to Cromwell in the ' Musarum Oxoniensium iXaio- 
<l)opia,' which was published, while he was an Undergraduate, 
in 1654, Locke, active as his pen had been all along, made no 
appearance in print till he was nearly fifty-four years of age. 
Such was his natural modesty that, had it not been for the 
fortunate circumstances which brought him into contact with 
Le Clerc, the editor of the Bibliotheque Universelle, he 
might never have consented to make any of his writings 
public. In the number of the Review just mentioned for 
July, 1686, appeared Locke's Method of a Common-Place 
Book, under the title ' Methode Nouvelle de dresser des Re- 
cueils,' and in the number for January, 1687-8, an epitome of 
the Essay, which seems to have been then completed, was 
translated into French by Le Clerc. After his return to 
England, his works followed one another in rapid succession, 
though they generally appeared anonymously.'' Thus, besides 
the Epistola de Tolerantia and the Essay, there were pub- 
lished, within a year or two of his return, the Two Treatises of 
Government (designed to defend the principles of the Revolu- 
tion), and the Second Letter concerning Toleration. In 1692 
appeared the Third Letter for Toleration (Locke, not- 
withstanding his peaceful disposition, had now been forced 
into an embittered controversy), and a financial tract, of 
which I shall say more presently, entitled ' Some Considera- 
tions of the Lowering cf Interest and Raising the Value of 
Money.' In the following year, he published, in the form of 
a Treatise, several letters on Education which he had written, 
during his stay in Holland, to his friend Edward Clarke of 
Chipley. These ' Thoughts concerning Education' touch on 
some of the same topics as the treatise here re-publishcd on 
' The Conduct of the Understanding,' and the two might ad- 
vantageously be read together. Much of the earlier portion 
of the work, relating, as it does, to diet and physical manage- 
ment is rather tedious and antiquated. But the criticisms on 


what were then the main ingredients of a public-school educa- 
tion, theme-writing, verse-writing, repetition, and grammar, 
and on the irrational severity which mai-ked the scholastic dis- 
cipline of that time, may still be read with interest, perhaps 
even with profit. 

/Though Locke had refused diplomatic employment, he 
was frequently consulted by the government and contributed 
often very largely to the various political measures which were 
passed during William's reign. Thus, he probably took a 
considerable share in settling the terms of the Toleration 
Act of J 689, though the 'small beginnings,' as he calls them, 
of that act by no means satisfied his ideal of religious liberty. 
Another order of questions which greatly interested him, and 
towards the solution of which he probably contributed more 
than any other man of that generation, was connected with 
the monetary and financial difficulties which specially embar- 
rassed William the Third's government during its earlier years. 
It had been proposed to lower the maximum rate of interest, 
allowed by law, from six per cent, to four, with the mistaken 
idea that the trade of the country would, by this means, be 
improved. It had also been proposed to remedy the very 
serious evils under which the country was suffering from the 
clipped coinage by * raising the value,' as it was called, or, in 
other words, lowering the denomination of the silver coins. 
Both these schemes were opposed by Locke in the tract just 
referred to, which was dedicated to Somers, an old friend of 
his, now rapidly becoming one of the most powerful of 
William the Third's ministers. Two other tracts on the 
latter of these subjects followed in 1695. But Locke did not 
content himself simply with opposing the schemes of others. 
The re-coinage bill which received the Royal Assent on the 
2ist of January, 1695-6, and which, in spite of some tem- 
porary inconvenience, established the silver coinage once for 
all on a satisfactory basis, had been shaped, to a great extent, 
by his suggestions, and was largely facilitated in its passage 
through the two Houses by his exertions. The country soon 
got rid of its clipped money, then the bane of all commerce, 


and individuals lost comparatively little by the transition to a 
sound currency. Only a few months before the re-coinage bill 
was introduced, Locke had, it is said, drawn up the paper of 
Reasons by which the Commons induced the Lords to agree 
to the Repeal of the Licensing Act, thus effecting for the 
liberty of the press and the diffusion of literature what, as 
INIacaulay says, ' ?»Iilton's Areopagitica had failed to do.' In 
connection with these topics, it may be mentioned that he 
was one of the original proprietors of the Bank of England, 
which, in spite of much Tory opposition, was established by 
Act of Parliament in the spring of 1694. 

Scon after his return to England, Locke was appointed a 
Commissioner of Appeals, an office with a modest salary and 
very slight duties. In 1696, however, his services were en- 
listed for a far more arduous and important post. The 
government of William, of which Montague and Somers were 
now the most active members, determined to revive the old 
Council of Trade and Plantations. The duties of this com- 
mission were of the most multifarious character, comprising 
at once the administration of the colonies, of the poor-laws, 
and of the whole trade, internal and external, of the country. 
'-iLocke very unwillingly accepted a place on the Council, but, 
having once consented to serve, he became its •T)residing 
genius. Whether in town or at Gates, he was always striking 
out new schemes, or working assiduously at the details of 
the department. For a little more than four years he devoted 
himself to this employment, conjointly, of course, with his 
literary work, but at last, in the summer of 1700, he was 
compelled, notwithstanding the remonstrances of the King, 
to resign his place at the board, in which it is interesting 
to know that he was succeeded by Matthew Prior, the 

During these years of public employment, Locke's pen was 
by no means idle. In 1695 had appeared his ' Reasonableness 
of Christianity,' a work in which, while assuming the infalli- 
bility of the Scriptures and the supernatural character of 
Christ's mission, he attempts to limit as far as possible 


the essential articles of the Christian faith. The views of 
religion and religious controversy adopted in this book 
have a general affinity with those of the Arminian or Re- 
monstrant divines, among whom Locke had mixed in Hol- 
land. But, in some particulars, they approach the doctrines 
of Faustus Socinus, and hence a cry of Socinianism was 
not unnaturally raised against the author, who, though the 
work was published anonymously, was soon known to be 
Locke. The attack was commenced by a Cambridge clergy- 
man named John Edwards, and for some years Locke was 
engaged in a bitter controversy both with him and with 
Stillingfiect, Bishop of Worcester, who endeavoured to excite 
theological prejudices against many passages in the Essay. 
Polemics of this character, so fashionable in that age, were 
against the whole bent of Locke's nature, and we may be cer- 
tain that he was forced to take part in them most unwil- 
lingly. A far more congenial employment was the preparation 
of the Fourth Edition of the Essay, which, incorporating 
many additions and corrections, was issued in the autumn of 
1699, and was the last published during its author's life-time. 
The tractate here re-published, on the Conduct of the Un- 
derstanding, was designed to form a chapter in this new 
edition, but it seems to have grown so much on its author's 
hands, that he reserved it either for the next edition or for 
separate publication. The only other literary work of any 
importance, apart from controversial pamphlets, which occu- 
pied Locke's later years was the paraphrase and commentary 
on some of St. Paul's Epistles. He appears to have under- 
taken this work more for his own satisfaction, and as a kind 
of religious exercise in which he might spend his declining 
years, than w-ith the view of instructing the public. These 
notes, which were not published till after his death, abound in 
good sense, but, as we might expect from the time at which 
they were written, they have little critical value. 

After his resignation of his place on the Board of Trade, 
Locke seems to have lived a peculiarly quiet, and, at the 
same time, notwithstanding the increasing feebleness of 


his health, a peculiarly happy life. His cheerfulness and 
gaiety of temper never deserted him. The Mashams were 
indefatigable in their attention to all his wants, whether 
physical or intellectuah' And, Gates being only about twenty 
miles from London, he was entertained by a constant flow of 
visitors. Amongst those who came down to see him, on single 
occasions, were Newton, the famous Earl of Peterborough, 
and William Molyneux, a clever and patriotic Member of the 
Irish House of Commons, with whom he had corresponded 
in familiar terms on a great variety of subjects for many 
years, but whom he had never before seen. The most con- 
stant visitor to Gates, however, was Peter King, a young kins- 
man of his own, who, having been taken out of his father's 
shop at Exeter by Locke, had been educated at Leyden, and 
was now rising rapidly at the English bar. King, who was 
an admirable lawyer, though not a brilliant speaker, afterwards 
became successively Recorder of London, Lord Chief Justice 
of the Common Pleas, and Lord High Chancellor of England. 
It is to his great-grandson, Peter, the seventh Lord King, 
father of the present Earl of Lovelace, that we owe the 
biography, which, previously to the publication of Mr. Fox- 
Bourne's Life, was the great authority for Locke's personal 
history. There seems to have been a strong mutual re- 
gard between the two cousins (King was Locke's first cousin 
once removed), and there can be no doubt that King owed 
his professional advancement to his elder relative, who not 
only introduced him to the bar but procured for him 
a seat in Parliament. When Locke died, the greater part 
of his property was divided between Peter King and Frank 
Masham, the son of Sir Francis and Lady Masham, who, 
like King, was a kind of adopted child. ' Gne of Locke's main 
characteristics was the attraction he always exercised on 
young people, and the kindness and consideration which he 
always showed to them. 

The winter of 1703-4 seems to have aggravated the symp- 
toms of his disease, and the return of summer did not bring 
its usual relief. He lingered on, however, during the autumn, 


retaining his faculties and his cheerfulness to the last. On the 
afternoon of the 28th of October, 1704, he passed quietly 
away, Lady Masham reading the Psalms to him almost up to 
the moment of his death. ^-^e is buried in the church-yard 
of High Laver. The epitaph on the wall above his tomb was 
composed by himself. 

;- tocke's character was a peculiarly amiable one. He was 
eminently cheerful, kindly, and good-natured. With children 
and young people he was always an especial favourite^ Few 
men of letters probably have possessed so much geniality 
combined with so much humour." He had rare powers of con- 
versation, and was always acceptable in companies of all ranks, 
ages, and professions. Whatever the pursuit of the person 
he was conversing with, he had a happy knack of interesting 
himself in it, and was usually able to impart as well as receive 
information, whatever might be the subject of discourse. 
Hence, perhaps, the singular power of illustration and expo- 
sition which marks his works. He always writes like a 
man of the world, who draws from a varied stock of know- 
ledge not of books only but of men. " Another trait which 
distinguishes both his writings and his life is his transparent 
candour and his simple love of truth. The words of the 
epitaph which he designed for himself — ' Litcris innutritus 
eousque tantum profecit, ut veritati unice litaret' (Brought 
up among letters, he advanced just so far as to make an 
acceptable offering to truth alone) — well explains the main 
character and purpose of his career.^ 

The treatise Of the Conduct of the Understanding, here 
re-published, was, as I have already stated, originally designed 
as an additional chapter to the Essay. Writing to William 
IMolyneux, April 10, 1697, Locke himself gives the following 
account of the occasion of his writing on the subject. * I 
have lately got a little leisure to think of some additions to 
my book, against the next edition, and within these few days 
have fallen upon a subject, that I know not how far it will 


lead me. I have written several pages on it, but the matter, the 
farther I go, opens the more upon me, and I cannot yet get 
sight of any end of it. The title of the chapter will be " Of the 
Conduct of the Understanding," which if I shall pursue as far 
as I imagine it will reach, and as it deserves, will, I conclude, 
make the largest chapter of my Essay.' The chapter did not, 
however, appear in the Fourth Edition of the Essay, nor was it 
published, or even revised, during its author's life-time. It was 
included in the ' Posthumous Works of Mr. John Locke,' 
edited anonymously, though probably by Peter King, in 1706. 
Of these treatises generally the editor says that 'for the 
greatest part they received not the author's last hand, being 
in a great measure little more than sudden views, intended to 
be afterwards revised and farther looked into, but by sickness, 
intervention of business, or preferable enquiries, happened to 
be thrust aside, and so lay neglected.' The account given of 
this treatise in particular will help to explain some of its 
peculiarities and defects : 

' The Conduct of the Understanding he ' (the Author) 
* always thought to be a subject very well worth consideration. 
As any miscarriages in that point accidentally came into his 
mind, he used sometimes to set them down in writing, with 
those remedies he could then think of. This method, though 
it makes not that haste to the end which one would wish, is 
yet perhaps the only one that can be followed in the case ; it • 
being here, as in physic, impossible for a physician to describe 
a disease, or seek remedies for it, till he comes to meet with 
it. Such particulars of this kind as occurred to the author 
at a time of leisure he set down in writing, intending, if 
he had lived, to have reduced them into order and method, 
and to have made a complete treatise ; whereas now it is only 
a collection of casual observations, sufficient to make men see 
some faults in the conduct of their understanding, and suspect 
there may be more, and may perhaps serve to excite others to 
enquire farther into it than the Author hath done.' 

Not only is the treatise irregular and incoinplctc, as a whole, 
but some of the individual sentences have never been hewn 


into shape. Locke's customary style, like that of most 
authors of his time, is much less finished and correct than 
what we should expect from any writer of the present day, 
but we can hardly suppose that even he, on revision, would 
have allowed many of the sentences in this treatise to go into 
print without some attempt to remodel them. Another defect 
is the large amount of repetition. These drawbacks, however, 
are of comparatively little importance, as the meaning is 
almost always clear, and the terse brevity of the book as a 
whole, as well as the many racy passages in which it abounds, 
offer ample amends to the reader for the tediousness of some 
few sections. 

No one acquainted with Bacon's writings can read this 
book, without perceiving Locke's obligations to the first book 
of the Novum Organum. This fact is the more remarkable, 
as, with one or two exceptions (See Essay, Bk. II, Ch. 12, § i, 
Bk. IV, Ch. 17, § 4, and my introduction to the Novum Or- 
ganum, § 14, ad init.), there are no specific traces of Bacon's 
influence in the Essay. It might, however, be justly said 
that Locke's whole mode of treating philosophical ques- 
tions is thoroughly imbued with the spirit of tiie Baconian 

What is specially remarkable in the mode of handling 
logical questions in this treatise is the emphasis laid on what 
may be called the moral causes of fallacious reasoning: pre- 1 
judice, haste, mental indolence, over-regard for authority, 
love of antiquity or novelty, self-sufficiency, despondency, and 
the various other conditions of mind which are quite as effec- 
tive in barring the way to truth as any sophisms, however 
skilful, which others may attempt to impose upon us. 

The relation of the treatise on the Conduct of the Under- 
standing to the Essay is that of a sort of practical appendix. 
The one book enquires into the constitution and history of 
the Human IMind, the other attempts to suggest rules and 
cautions for guiding or controlling its operations in the search 
for knowledge. Locke's design, like Bacon's, was to supple- 
ment and enlarge the logic of the schools by the addition of 


practical precepts and warnings, which should be instrumental 
in leading to the discovery of truth rather than in helping to 
secure victory in disputation. The more special object of 
Bacon's method, however, was to overcome the subtlety of 
nature, and extort from it some account of its secrets ; while 
the scattered hints contained in this treatise of Locke have 
for their object rather to produce a vigorous understanding, and 
to suggest improved modes of study and reasoning generally. 
The treatise abounds in robust common-sense, and, notwith- 
standing a few flat or tedious passages, it can hardly fail 
to repay the student for the short time consumed in its 




Quid lam temerarium tamque indignum sapienlis gravitate atque 
constantia, quam aut falsum sentire aiit quod non satis exploratc 
perceplum sit et cognitum sine ulla dubitatione defendere !— Cic. 
De Natitra Deorum, Book I, Chap. I. 


the real performances of nature, and, catching at what it 
cannot reach, has served to confirm and establish errors, 
rather than to open a way to truth.' And therefore a 
little after he says, ' That it is absolutely necessary that a 
better and perfecter use and employment of the mind and 
understanding should be introduced.' Necessario reqiii- 
ritur ut melior et pcrfcclior mentis et intdkctus humani usus 
et adoperatio introducalur, 



There is, it is visible, great variety in men's under- 
standings, and their natural constitutions put so wide a 
difference between some men in this respect, that art and 
industry would never be able to master; and their very 
natures seem to want a foundation to raise on it that 
which other men easily attain unto. — Amongst men of 
equal education there is great inequality of parts. And 
the woods of America, as well as the schools of Athens, 
produce men of several abilities in the same kind. Though 
this be so, yet 1 imagine most men come very short of 
what they might attain unto in their several degrees by a 
neglect of their understandings. A few rules of logic are 
thought sufficient in this case for those who pretend to 
the highest improvement ; whereas I think there are a 
great many natural defects in the understanding capable 
of amendment, which are overlooked and wholly neglected. 
And it is easy to perceive that men are guilty of a great 
many faults in the exercise and improvement of this 
faculty of the mind, which hinder them in their progress 
and keep them in ignorance and error all their lives. 


Some of them I shall take notice of, and endeavour to 
point out proper remedies for in the following discourse. 



Besides the want of determined ideas, and of sagacity 
and exercise in finding out and laying in order interme- 
diate ideas, there are three miscarriages that men are 
guilty o& in reference to their reason, whereby this faculty 
is hindered in them from that service it might do and was 
designed for. And he that reflects upon the actions and 
discourses of mankind, will find their defects in this kind 
very frequent and very observable. 

1. The first is of those who seldom reason at all, but 
do and think according to the example of others, whether 
parents, neighbours, ministers, or who else they are pleased 
to make choice of to have an implicit faith in, for the 
saving of themselves the pains and trouble of thinking 
and examining for themselves. 

2. The second is of those who put passion in the place 
of reason, and, being resolved that shall govern their 
actions and arguments, neither use their own nor hearken 
to other people's reason, any farther than it suits their 
humour, interest, or party ; and these one may observe 
commonly content themselves with words which have no 
distinct ideas to them, though, in other matters, that they 
come with an unbiassed indifferency to, they want not 
abilities to talk and hear reason, where they have no 
secret inclination that hinders them from being tractable 
to it. 

3. The third sort is of those who readily and sincerely 


follow reason, but, for want of having that which one may 
call large, sound, round-ahout sense, have not a full view ol 
all that relates to the question and may be of moment to 
decide it. We are all short sighted, and very often see 
but one side of a matter ; our views are not extended to 
all that has a connection with it. From this defect I 
think no man is free. We see but in part, and we know 
but in part, and therefore it is no wonder we conclude 
not right from our partial views. ii^This might instruct the 
jiroudest esteemer of his own parts, how useful it is to 
talk and consult with others, even such as come short of 
him in capacity, quickness and penetration : for ^ince no 
one sees all, and we generally have different prospects of 
the same thing, according -to our different, as I may say, 
positions to it, it is not incongruous to think nor beneath- 
any man to try, whether another may not have notions of 
things which have escaped him, and which his reason 
would make use of if they came into his mind. <-4-The 
faculty of reasoning seldom or never deceives those who 
trust to it ; its consequences from what it builds on are 
evident and certain, but that which it oftenest, if not only, 
misleads us in is that the principles from which we con- 
clude, the grounds upon which we bottom our reasoning, 
are but a part, something is left out which should go into 
the reckoning to make it just and exact. Here we may 
imagine a vast and almost infinite advantage that angels 
and separate spirits may have over us ; who, in their 
several degrees of elevation above us, may be endowed 
with more comprehensive faculties, and some of them 
perhaps have perfect and exact views of all finite beings 
that come under their consideration, can, as it were, in the 
twinkling of an eye, collect together all their scattered and 
almost boundless relations. A mind so furnished, what 


reason has it lo acquiesce in the certainty of its conclu- 
sions ! 

In this we may see the reason why some men of study 
and thought, that reason right and are lovers of truth, do 
make no great advances in their discoveries of it. Error 
and truth are uncertainly blended in their minds ; their 
decisions are lame and defective, and they are very often 
mistaken in their judgments : the reason whereof is, they 
converse but with one sort of men, they read but one sort 
of books, they will not come in the hearing but of one 
sort of notions ; the truth is, they canton out to them- 
selves a litde Goshen in the intellectual world, where light 
shines, and, as they conclude, day blesses them ; but the 
rest of that vast Expansinn they give up to night and 
darkness, and so avoid coming near it. They have a 
pretty trafifick with known correspondents in some little 
creek; within that they confine themselves, and are dex- 
terous managers enough of the wares and products of 
that corner with which they content themselves, but will 
not venture out into the great ocean of knowledge, to 
survey the riches that nature hath stored other parts with, 
no less genuine, no less solid, no less useful, than what 
has fallen to their lot in the admired plenty and sufficiency 
of their own little spot, which to them contains whatsoever 
is good in the universe. Those who live thus mued up 
within their own contracted territories, and will not look 
abroad beyond the boundaries that chance, conceit, or 
laziness has set to their enquiries, but live separate from 
the notions, discourses and attainments of the rest of 
mankind, may not amiss be represented by the inhabi- 
tants of the Marian islands ; who, being separated by a 
large tract of sea from all communion with the habitable 
parts of the earth, thought themselves the only people of 


the world. And though the straitness of the conveniences 
of hfe amongst them had never reached so far as to the 
use of fire, till the Spaniards, not many years since, in 
their voyages from Acapulco to Manilia brought it 
amongst them ; yet in the want and ignorance of almost 
all things, they looked upon themselves, even after that 
the Spaniards had brought amongst them the notice of 
variety of nations abounding in sciences, arts and con- 
veniences of life, of which they knew nothing, they looked 
upon themselves, I say, as the happiest and wisest people 
of the universe. But for all that, no body, I think, will 
imagine them deep naturalists, or soHd metaphysicians ; 
no body will deem the quickest sighted amongst them to 
have very enlarged views in ethics or politics, nor can any 
one allow the most capable amongst them to be advanced so 
iar in his understanding as to have any other knowledge 
but of the few little things of his and the neighbouring 
islands within his commerce, but far enough from that 
comprehensive enlargement of mind which adorns a soul 
devoted to truth, assisted with letters, and a free consider- 
ation of the several views and sentiments of thinking 
men of all sides. Let not men therefore that would have 
a sight of, what every one pretends to be desirous to have 
a sight of, truth in its full extent, narrow and blind their 
own prospect. Let not men think there is no truth but 
in the sciences that they study, or the books that they 
read. To prejudge other men's notions before we have 
looked into them is not to shew their darkness, but to put 
out our own eyes. (Try all Ihings, hold fas I thai ivhich is 
i^ood, is a divine rule coming from the Father of light and 
until ; and it is hard to know what other way men can 
come at truili, to lay hold of it, if they do not dig and 
search for it as for gold and hid treasure; but he that 


does so must have much earth and rubbish before he gets 
the pure metal ; sand, and pebbles, and dross usually lie 
blended with it, but the gold is nevertheless gold, and will 
enrich the man that employs his pains to seek and sepa- 
rate it. Neither is there any danger he should be deceived 
by the mixture. Every man carries about him a touch- 
stone, if he will make use of it, to distinguish substantial 
gold from superficial glitterings, truth from appearances. 
And indeed the use and benefit of this touchstone, which 
is natural reason, is spoiled and lost only by assumed 
prejudices, overweening presumption, and narrowing our 
minds. The want of exercising it in the full extent of 
things intelligible, is that which weakens and extinguishes 
this noble faculty in us. Trace it, and see whether it be 
not so. The day labourer in a country village has com- 
monly but a small pittance of knowledge, because his 
ideas and notions have been confined to the narrow 
bounds of a poor conversation and employment ; the low 
mechanic of a country town does somewhat outdo him ; 
porters and cobblers of great cities surpass them. A 
country gentleman, who, leaving Latin and Learning in 
the university, removes thence to his mansion house, and 
associates with neighbours of the same strain, who relish 
nothing but hunting and a bottle ; with those alone he 
spends his time, with those alone he converses, and 
can away with no company whose discourse goes be- 
yond what claret and dissoluteness inspire. Such a 
patriot, formed in this happy way of improvement, can- 
not fail, as we see, to give notable decisions upon the 
bench at quarter sessions, and eminent proofs of his skill 
in politics, when the strength of his purse and party have 
advanced him to a more conspicuous station. To such a 
one truly an ordinary coffee-house gleaner of the city is 


an errant statesman, and as much superior to, as a man 
conversant about Whitehall and the court is to an ordinary 
shopkeeper. To carry this a little farther. Here is one 
muffled up in the zeal and infallibility of his own sect, and 
will not touch a book or enter into debate with a person 
that will question any of those things which to him are 
sacred. Another surveys our differences in religion with 
an equitable and fair indifference, and so finds probably 
that none of them are in every thing unexceptionable. 
These divisions and systems were made by men, and 
carry the mark of fallible on them ; and in those whom 
he diiTcrs from, and, till he opened his eyes, had a general 
prejudice against, he meets with more to be said for a 
great many things than before he was aware of, or could 
have imagined. Which of these two now is most likely 
to judge right in our religious controversies, and to be 
most stored with truth, the mark all pretend to aim at ? 
All these men that I have instanced in, thus unequally 
furnished with truth and advanced in knowledge, I sup- 
pose of equal natural parts ; all the odds between them 
has been the different scope that has been given to their 
understandings to range in, for the gathering up of in- 
formation, and furnishing their heads with ideas, notions 
and observations, whereon to employ their minds and 
forni their understandings. 

It will possibly be objected, who is sufficient for ail 
this.' I answer, more than can be imagined. Everyone 
knows what his proper business is, and what, according to 
the character he makes of himself, the world may justly 
expect of him ; and to answer that, he will find he will 
have time and opportunity enough to furnish himself, if he 
will not deprive himself by a narrowness of spirit of those 
helps that are at hand. I do not say to be a good 


geographer that a man should visit every mountain, river, 
promontory and creek upon the face of the earth, view 
the buildings, and survey the land every where, as if he 
were going to make a purchase. But yet every one must 
allow that he shall know a country better that makes often 
sallies into it, and traverses it up and down, than he that 
like a mill horse goes still round in the same' track, or 
keeps within the narrow bounds of a field or two that 
delight him. He that will enquire out the best books in 
every science, and inform himself of the most material 
authors of the several sects of philosophy and religion, 
will not find it an infinite work to acquaint himself with 
the sentiments of mankind concerning the most'^w^eighty 
and comprehensive subjects. Let him exercise the free- 
dom of his reason and understanding in such a latitude 
as this, and his mind will be strengthened, his capacity 
enlarged, his faculties improved ; and the light, which the 
remote and scattered parts of truth will give to one 
another, will so assist his judgment, that he will seldom 
be widely out, or miss giving proof of a clear head and a 
comprehensive knowledge. At least, this is the only way 
I know to give the understanding its due improvement to 
. the full extent of its capacity, and to distinguish the two 
most different things I know in the world, a logical 
chicaner from a man of reason. Only, he that would 
thus give the mind its flight, and send abroad his en- 
quiries into all parts after truth, must be sure to settle in 
his head determined ideas of all that he employs his 
thoughts about, and never fail to judge himself, and judge 
unbiassedly of all that he receives from others, either in 
their writings or discourses. Reverence or prejudice 
must not be suffered to give beauty or deformity to any 
of their opinions. 



\Vc are born with faculties and powers capable almost 
of any thing, such at least as would carry us farther than 
can easily be imagined: /but it is only the exercise of 
those powers which gives us ability and skill in any thing, 
and leads us towards perfection./ 

A middle-aged ploughman will scarce ever be brought 
to the carriage and language of a gentleman, though his 
body be as well proportioned, and his joints as supple, 
and hi^atural parts not any way inferior. The legs of 
a dancing master and the fingers of a musician fall as it 
were naturally, without thought or pains, into regular and 
admirable motions. Bid them change their parts, and 
they will in vain endeavour to produce like motions in the 
members not used .to them, and it will require length of 
time and long practice to attain but some degrees of a 
like ability. What incredible and astonishing actions do 
we find rope dancers and tumblers bring their bodies to ; 
not but that sundry in almost all manual arts are as 
wonderful ; but I name those which the world takes 
notice of for such, because on that very account they give 
money to see them. All these admired motions beyond 
the reach, and almost the conception, of unpractised 
spectators are nothing but the mere eflfects of use and 
industry in men, whose bodies have nothing peculiar in 
them from those of the amazed lookers on. 

As it is in the body, so it is in the mind ; practice 
makes it what it is, and most even of those excellences 
which are looked on as natural endowments will be 
found, when examined into more narrowly, to be the 


product of exercise, and to be raised to that pitch only by 
repeated actions. Some men are remarked for pleasant- 
ness in raillery ; others for apologues and apposite divert- 
ing stories. This is apt to be taken for the effect of pure 
nature, and that the rather, because it is not got by rules, 
and those who excel in either of them never purposely set 
themselves to the study of it as an art to be learnt. But 
yet it is true that at first some lucky hit, which took with 
some body and gained him commendation, encouraged 
him to try again, inclined his thoughts and endeavours 
that way, till at last he insensibly got a facility in it without 
perceiving how ; and that is attributed wholly to nature 
which was much more the effect of use and practice. I 
do not deny that natural disposition may often give the 
first rise to it ; but that never carries a man far without 
use and exercise, and it is practice alone that brings the 
powers of the mind as well as those of the body to their 
perfection. Many a good poetic vein is buried under a 
trade, and never produces any thing for want of improve- 
ment. We see the ways of discourse and reasoning are 
very different, even concerning the same matter, at court 
and in the university. And he that will go but from 
Westminster-hall to the Exchange, will find a different 
genius and turn in their ways of talking, and yet one 
cannot think that all whose lot fell in the city were born 
with different parts from those who were bred at the 
university or inns of court. 

To what purpose all this, but to shew that the difference, 
so observable in men's understandings and parts, does not 
arise so much from their natural faculties as acquired 
habits. lie would be laughed at that should go about to 
make a fine dancer out of a country hedger, at past fifty. 
And he will not have much better success, who shall 


endeavour at that age to make a man reason well, or speak 
liandsomely, who has never been used to it, though you 
should lay before him a collection of all the best precepts 
of logic or oratory. No body is made any thing by hear- 
ing of rules, or laying them up in his memory ; practice 
must settle the habit of doing without reflecting on the 
rule, and you may as well hope to make a good painter or 
musician extempore by a lecture and instruction in the 
arts of music and painting, as a coherent thinker or strict 
reasoner by a set of rules, shewing him wherein right 
reasoning consists. 

This being so, that defects and weakness in men's 
understandings, as well as other faculties, come from 
want of a right use of their own minds, I am apt to think 
the fault is generally mislaid upon nature, and there is 
often a complaint of want of parts, when the fault lies in 
want of a due improvement of them. We see men fre- 
quently dexterous and sharp enoug i in making a bargain, 
who, if you reason with them about matters of religion, 
appear perfectly stupid. 



I will not here, in what relates to the right conduct and 
improvement of the understanding, repeat again the 
getting clear and determined ideas, and the employing 
our thoughts rather about them than about sounds put 
for them, nor of settling the signification of words which 
we use with ourselves in the search of truth or with others 
in discoursing about it. Those hindrances of our under- 
standings in the pursuit of knowledge, I have sufficiently 
enlarged upon in another place; so that nothing more 
needs here to be said of those matters. 




There is another fault that stops or misleads men in 
their knowledge, which I have also spoken something of, 
but yet is necessary to mention here again, that we may 
examine it to the bottom and see the root it springs from, 
and that is a custom of taking up with principles that are 
not self-evident and very often not so much as true. It is 
not unusual to see men rest their opinions upon founda- 
tions that have no more certainty and solidity than the 
propositions built on them and embraced for their sake. 
Such foundations are these and the like, namely : the 
founders or leaders of my party are good men, and 
therefore their tenets are true ; it is the opinion of a sect 
that is erroneous, therefore it is false ; it hath been long 
received in the world, therefore it is true ; or it is new, and 
therefore false. 

These, and many the like, which are by no means the 
measures of truth and falsehood, the generality of men 
make the standards by which they accustom their under- 
standing to judge. And thus they falling into a habit of 
determining truth and falsehood by such wrong measures, 
it is no wonder they should embrace error for certainly, 
and be very positive in things they have no ground for. 

There is not any who pretends to the least reason, but, 
when any of these his false maxims are brought to the 
test, must acknowledge them to be fallible, and such as 
he will not allow in those that differ from him ; and yet, 
after he is convinced of this, you shall see him go on in 
the use of them, and the very next occasion that offers 


argue again upon the same grounds. Would one not be ready 
to think that men are willing to impose upon themselves 
and mislead their own understandings, who conduct them 
1))' such wrong measures, even after they see they cannot 
be relied on ? But yet they will not appear so blameable 
as may be thought at first sight; for I think there are 
a great many tliat argue thus in earnest, and do it not to 
impose on themselves or others. They are persuaded of 
what they say, and think there is weight in it, though in 
a like case they have been " convinced there is none ; but 
men would be intolerable to themselves, and contemptible 
lo others, if they should embrace opinions without any 
ground, and hold what they could give no manner of 
reason for. True or false, solid or sandy, the mind must 
have some foundation to rest itself upon, and, as I have 
remarked in another place, it no sooner entertains any 
proposition, but it frequently hastens to some hypothesis 
to bottom it on ; till then it is unquiet and unsettled. So 
much do our own very tempers dispose us to a right use 
of our understandings, if we would follow as we should the 
inclinations of our nature. 

In some matters of concernment, especially those of 
religion, men are not permitted to be always wavering and 
uncertain, they must embrace and profess some tenets or 
other ; and it would be a shame, nay, a contradiction too 
heavy for any one's mind to lie constantly under, for him 
to pretend seriously to be persuaded of the truth of any 
religion, and yet not to be able to give any reason of his 
belief, or to say any thing for his preference of this to any 
other opinion. And therefore they must make use of 
some principles or other, and those can be no other than 
such as they have and can manage ; and to say they are 
not in earnest persuaded by them, and do not rest upon 



those they make use of, is contrary to experience, and to 
allege that they are not misled when we complain they are. 

If this be so, it will be urged, why then do they not 
rather make use of sure and unquestionable principles, 
than rest on such grounds as may deceive them, and will, 
as is visible, serve to support error as well as truth ? 

To this I answer, the reason why they do not make use 
of better and surer principles, is because they cannot ; but 
this inability proceeds not from want of natural parts (for 
those few whose case that is are to be excused) but for 
want of use and exercise. Few men are from their youth 
accustomed to strict reasoning, and to trace the depend- 
ence of any truth in a long train of consequences to its 
remote principles, and to observe its connection ; and he 
that by frequent practice has not been used to this em- 
ployment of his understanding, it is no more wonder that 
he should not, when he is grown into years, be able to 
bring his mind to it, than that he should not be on a 
sudden able to grave or design, dance on the ropes, or 
write a good hand, who has never practised either of them. 

Nay, the most of men are so wholly strangers to this, 
that they do not so much as perceive their want of it. 
They dispatch the ordinary business of their callings by 
rote, as we say, as they have learnt it, and, if at any time 
they miss success, they impute it to any thing rather than 
want of thought or skill ; that they conclude (because 
they know no better) they have in perfection. Or if 
there be any subject that interest or fancy has recom- 
mended to their thoughts, their reasoning about it is 
still after their own fashion ; be it better or worse, it serves 
their turns, and is the best they are acquainted with : and 
therefore when they are led by it into mistakes, and their 
business succeeds accordingly, they impute it to any cross 


accident, or default of others, rather than to their own 
want of understanding ; that is what no body discovers 
or complains of in himself Whatsoever made his busi- 
ness to miscarry, it was not want of right thought and 
judgment in himself: he sees no such defect in himself, 
but is satisfied that he carries on his designs well enough 
by his own reasoning, or at least should have done, had 
it not been for unlucky traverses not in his power. Thus 
being content with this short and very imperfect use of 
his understanding, he never troubles himself to seek out 
methods of improving his mind, and lives all his life 
without any notion of close reasoning in a continued 
connection of a long train of consequences from sure 
foundations, such as is requisite for the making out and 
clearing most of the speculative truths most men own 
to believe and are most concerned in. Not to mention 
here what I shall have occasion to insist on by and by 
more fully, namely, that in many cases it is not one 
series of consequences will serve the turn, but many 
different and opposite deductions must be examined and 
laid together, before a man can come to make a right 
judgment of the point in question. What then can be 
expected from men that neither see the want of any such 
kind of reasoning as this, nor, if they do, know they how 
to set about it, or could perform it ? You may as well 
set a countryman who scarce knows the figures, and 
never cast up a sum of three particulars, to state a mer- 
chant's long account, and find the true balance of it. 

What then should be done in the case ? I answer, we 
should always remember what I said above, that the 
faculties of our souls are improved and made u^ful to 
us just after the same manner as our bodies are.\ Would 
you have a man write or paint, dance or fence well, or 
c 2 


perform any other manual operation dexterously and with 
ease, let him have ever so much vigour and activity, sup- 
pleness and address naturally, yet no body expects this 
from him unless he has been used to it, and has em- 
ployed time and pains in fashioning and forming his 
hand or outward parts to these motions. Just so it is in 
the mind ; would you have a man reason well, you must 
use him to it betimes, exercise his mind in observing the 
connection of ideas and following them in train. Nothing 
does this better than mathematics, which therefore I think 
should be taught all those who have the time and oppor- 
tunity, not so much to make them mathematicians as to 
make them reasonable creatures ; for though we all call 
ourselves so, because we are born to it if we please, yet 
we may truly say nature gives us but the seeds of it ; we 
are born to be, if we please, rational creatures, but it is 
use and exercise only that makes us so, and we are in- 
deed so no farther than industry and application has 
carried us. And therefore, in ways of reasoning which 
men have not been used to, he that will observe the 
conclusions they take up must be satisfied they are not 
tatt all rational. '' 

This has beeh~'the less taken notice of, because every 
one, in his private affairs, uses some sort of reasoning or 
other, enough to denominate him reasonable. But the 
mistake is, that he that is found reasonable in one thing 
is concluded to be so in all, and to think or say otherwise 
is thought so unjust an affront, and so senseless a cen- 
sure, that no body ventures to do it. It looks like the 
degradation of a man below the dignity of his nature. \ It 
is true that he that reasons well in any one thing has a 
mind naturally capable of reasoning well in others, and 
to the same degree of strength and clearness, and pos- 


sibly much greater, had his understanding been so em- 
ployed. But it is as true that he, who can reason well 
to day about one sort of matters, cannot at all reason 
to day about others, though perhaps a year hence he 
may. But wherever a man's rational faculty fails him, and 
will not serve him to reason, there we cannot say he is 
rational, how capable soever he may be by time and 
exercise to become so. 

Try in men of low and mean education, who have 
never elevated their thoughts above the spade and the 
plough, nor looked beyond the ordinary drudgery of a 
day labourer. Take the thoughts of such an one, used 
for many years to one track, out of that narrow compass 
he has been all his life confined to, you will find him no 
Tnore capable of reasoning than almost a perfect natural. 
\^Some one or two rules, on which their conclusions imme- 
diately depend, you will find in most men have governed 
all their thoughts ; these, true or false, have been the 
maxims they have been guided by : take these from them, 
and they are perfectly at a loss, their compass and pole 
star then are gone, and their understanding is perfectly 
at a nonplus, and therefore they either immediately 
return to their old maxims again as the foundations of 
all truth to them, notwithstanding all that can be said to 
shew their weakness, or, if they give them up to their 
reasons, they with them give up all truth and further 
enquiry, and think there is no such thing as certainty. 
For if you would enlarge their thoughts, and settle them 
upon more remote and surer principles, they either can- 
not easily apprehend them, or, if they can, know not 
what use to make of them ; for long deductions from 
remote principles is what they have not been used to, 
and cannot manage. 


What then, can grown men never be improved or 
enlarged in their understandings ? I say not so, but this 
I think I may say, that it will not be done without in- 
dustry and application, which will require more time and 
pains than grown men, settled in their course of life, will 
allow to it, and therefore very seldom is done. And this 
very capacity of attaining it by use and exercise only 
brings us back to that which I laid down before, that it 
is only practice that improves our minds as well as 
bodies, and we must expect nothing from our under- 
standings any farther than they^are perfected by habits. 

The Americans are not all born with worse under- 
standings than the Europeans, though we see none of 
them have such reaches in the arts and sciences. And 
among the children of a poor countryman, the lucky 
chance of education and getting into the world gives one 
infinitely the superiority in parts over the rest, who, con- 
tinuing at home, had continued also just of the same size 
with his brethren. 

He that has to do with young scholars, especially in 
mathematics, may perceive how their minds open by 
degrees, and how it is exercise alone that opens them. 
Sometimes they will stick a long time at a part of a 
demonstration, not for want of will and application, but 
really for want of perceiving the connection of two ideas 
that, to one whose understanding is more exercised, is as 
visible as any thing can be. The same would be with a 
grown man beginning to study mathematics ; the under- 
standing, for want of use, often sticks in very plain way, 
and he himself that is so puzzled, when he comes to see 
the connection, wonders what it was he stuck at in a 
case so plain. 




I have mentioned mathematics as a way to settle in 
the mind a habit of reasoning closely and in train ; not that 
I think it necessary that all men should be deep mathe- 
maticians, but that having got the way of reasoning, which 
that study necessarily brings the mind to, they might be 
able to transfer it to other parts of knowledge as they 
shall have occasion. For, in all sorts of reasoning, every 
single argument should be managed as a mathematical 
demonstration, the connection and dependence of ideas 
should be followed till the mind is brought to the source 
on which it bottoms and observes the coherence all 
along, though, in proofs of probability, fbne such train 
is not enough to settle the judgment as in demonstrative 

Where a truth is made out by one demonstration, there 
needs no farther enquiry, but in probabilities where there 
wants demonstration to establish the truth beyond doubt, 
there it is not enough to trace one argument to its source, 
and observe its strength and weakness, but all the argu- 
ments, after having been so examined on both sides, 
must be laid in balance one against another, and upon 
the whole the understanding determine its assent. 

This is a way of reasoning the understanding should 
be accustomed to, which is so different from what the 
illiterate are used to, that even learned men oftentimes 
seem to have very little or no notion of it. Nor is it to 
be wondered, since the way of disputing in the schools 
leads them quite away from it, by insisting on one 
topical argument, by the success of which the truth or 


falsehood of the question is to be determined and victory 
adjudged to the opponent or defendant ; which is all one 
as if one should balance an account by one sum charged 
and discharged, when there are an hundred others to be 
taken into consideration. 

This therefore it would be well if men's minds were 
accustomed to, and that early, that they might not erect 
their opinions upon one single view,^^vhen so many other 
are requisite to make up the account, and must come into 
the reckoning before a man can form a right judgment._J 
This would enlarge their minds, and give a due freedom 
to their understandings, that they might not be led into 
error by presumption, laziness or precipitancy; for 1 
think no body can approve such a conduct of the under- 
standing as should mislead it from truth, though it be 
ever so much in fashion to make use of it. 

To this perhaps it will be objected, that to manage the 
understanding, as I propose, would require every man to 
be a scholar, and to be furnished with all the materials of 
knowledge, and exercised in all the ways of reasoning. 
To which I answer, that it is a shame for those that have 
time and the means to attain knowledge, to want any 
helps or assistance for the improvement of their under- 
standings that are to be got, and to such I would be 
thought here chiefly to speak. Those methinks, who, by 
the industry and parts of their ancestors have been set 
free from a constant drudgery to their backs and their 
bellies, should bestow some of their spare time on their 
heads, and open their minds by some trials and essays in 
all the sorts and matters of reasoning. I have before 
mentioned mathematics, wherein algebra gives new helps 
and views to the understanding. If I propose these, it is 
not, as I said, to make every man a thorough mathema- 


tician, or a deep algebraist ; but yet I think the study of 
them is of infinite use even to grown men. 

First by experimentally convincing them that, to make 
any one reason well, it is not enough to have parts where- 
with he is satisfied and that serve him well enough in his 
ordinary course. A man in those studies will see that, 
however good he may think his understanding, yet in 
many things, and those very visible, it may fail him. This 
would take off that presumption that most men have of 
themselves in this part ; and they would not be so apt 
to think their minds wanted no helps to enlarge them, 
that there could be nothing added to the acuteness and 
penetration of their understandings. 

Secondly, the study of mathematics would shew them 
the necessity there is, in reasoning, to separate all the dis- 
tinct ideas,^nd see the habitudes that all those concerned 
in the present enquiry have to one another, and to lay by 
those which relate not to the proposition in hand and 
wholly to leave them out of the reckoningy This is that 
which in other Subjects/ besides quantity, is what is abso- 
lutely requisite to just reasoning, though in them it is not 
so easily observed nor so carefully practised,/ In those 
parts of knowledge where it is thought demonstration has 
nothing to do, men reason as it were in the lump : and, 
if, upon a summary and confused view or upon a partial 
consideration, they can raise the appearance of a proba- 
bility, they usually rest content ; especially if it be in a 
dispute where every little straw is laid hold on, and every 
thing that can but be drawn in any way to give colour to the 
argument is advanced with ostentation. But that mind is 
not in a posture to find the truth, that does not distinctly 
take all the parts asunder, and, omitting what is not at all 
to the point, draw a conclusion from the result of all the 


particulars which any way influence it. There is another 
no less useful habit to be got by an application to mathe- 
matical demonstrations, and that is, of using the mind to 
a long train of consequences ; but, having mentioned that 
already, I shall not again here repeat it. 

As to men whose fortunes and time is narrower, what 
may suffice them is not of that vast extent as may be 
imagined, and so comes not within the objection. 

No body is under an obligation to know every thing. 
/^Knowledge and science in general is the business only 
of those who are at ease and leisure. Those who have 
particular callings ought to understand them ; and it is no 
unreasonable proposal, nor impossible to be compassed, 
that they should think and reason right about v. hat is their 
daily employment. This one cannot think them incapable 
of, without levelling them with the brutes, and charging 
them with a stupidity below the rank of rational creatures. 



Besides his particular calling for the support of this 
life, every one has a concern in a future life, which he is 
bound to look after. This engages his thoughts in 
religion ; and here it mightily lies upon him to understand 
and reason right. Men therefore cannot be excused from 
understanding the words, and framing the general notions, 
relating to religion right. The one day of seven, besides 
other days of rest, allows in the christian world time 
enough for this (had they no other idle hours), if they 
would but make use of these vacancies from their dail\' 
labour, and apply themselves to an improvement of 


knowledge, with as much diligence as they often do to 
a great many other things that are useless, and had but 
those that would enter them according to their several 
capacities in a right way to this knowledge. The original 
make of their minds is like that of other men, and 
they would be found not to want understanding fit to 
receive the knowledge of religion, if they were a little 
encouraged and helped in it as they should be. For 
there are instances of very mean people, who have raised 
their minds to a great sense and understanding of religion. 
And though these have not been so frequent as could be 
wished, yet they are enough to clear that condition of life 
from a necessity of gross ignorance, and to shew that 
more might be brought to be rational creatures and 
christians (for they can hardly be thought really to be so, 
who, wearing the name, know not so much as the very 
principles of that religion) if due care were taken of them. 
For, if I mistake not, the peasantry lately in France (a 
rank of people under a much heavier pressure of want and 
poverty than the day labourers in England) of the re- 
formed religion understood it much better, and could say 
more for it, than those of a higher condition among us. 

But if it shall be concluded that the meaner sort of 
people must give themselves up to a brutish stupidity in 
the things of their nearest concernment, which I see no 
reason for, this excuses not those of a freer fortune and 
education, if they neglect their understandings, and take 
no care to employ them as they ought and set them 
right in the knowledge of those things for which princi- 
pally they were given them. At least those whose plentiful 
fortunes allow them the opportunities and helps of im- 
provements are not so few, but that it might be hoped 
great advancements might be made in knowledge of all 


kinds, especially in that of the greatest concern and 
largest views, if men would make a right use of their 
faculties and study their own understandings. 



Outward corporeal objects that constantly importune 
our senses, and captivate our appetites, fail not to fill our 
heads with lively and lasting ideas of that kind. Here 
the mind needs not be set upon getting greater store ; 
they offer themselves fast enough, and are usually enter- 
tained in such plenty and lodged so carefully, that the 
mind wants room or attention for others that it has more 
use and need of. To fit the understanding therefore for 
such reasoning as I have been above speaking of, care 
should be taken to fill it with moral and more abstract 
ideas ; for these not offering themselves to the senses, but 
being to be framed to the understanding, people are 
generally so neglectful of a faculty they are apt to think 
wants nothing, that I fear most men's minds are more 
unfurnished with such ideas than is imagined. They 
often use the words, and how can they be suspected to 
want the ideas ? What I have said in the third book of 
my essay, will excuse me from any other answer to this 
question. But to convince people of what moment it is 
to their understandings to be furnished with such abstract 
ideas steady and settled in them, give me leave to ask 
how any one shall be able to know whether he be 
obliged to be just, if he has not established ideas in his 
mind of obligation and of justice, since knowledge con- 


sists in nothing but the perceived agreement or disagree- 
ment of those ideas ; and so of all others the like which 
concern our lives and manners. And if men do find a 
difficulty to see the agreement or disagreement of two 
angles which lie before their eyes, unalterable in a dia- 
gram, how utterly impossible will it be to perceive in it 
ideas that have no other sensible objects to represent 
them to the mind but sounds with which they have no 
manner of conformity, and therefore had need to be 
clearly setUed in the mind themselves, if we would make 
any clear judgment about them. This therefore is one of 
the first things the mind should be employed about in the 
right conduct of the understanding, without which it is 
impossible it should be capable of reasoning right about 
those matters. But in these and all other ideas, care 
must be taken that they harbour no inconsistences, and 
that they have a real existence where real existence is 
supposed, and are not mere chimeras with a supposed 



Every one is forward to complain of the prejudices 
that mislead other men or parties, as if he were free, and 
had none of his own. This being objected on all sides, 
it is agreed that it is a fault and an hindrance to know- 
ledge. What now is the cure ? No other but this, that 
every man should let alone others' prejudices and examine 
his own. No body is convinced of his by the accusation 
of another ; he recriminates by the same rule, and is 
clear. The only way to remove this great cause of 


ignorance and error out of the world is for every one 
impartially to examine himself. If others will not deal 
fairly with their own minds, does that make my errors 
truths, or ought it to make me in love with them and 
willing to impose on myself? If others love cataracts on 
their eyes, should that hinder me from couching of mine 
as soon as I could? Every one declares against blind- 
ness, and yet who almost is not fond of that which dims 
his sight, and keeps the clear light out of his mind, which 
should lead him into truth and knowledge? False or 
doubtful positions, relied upon as unquestionable maxims, 
keep those in the dark from truth, who build on them. 
Such are usually the prejudices imbibed from education, 
party, reverence, fashion, interest, &c. This is the mote 
which every one sees in his brother's eye, but never 
regards the beam in his own. For who is there almost 
that is ever brought fairly to examine his own principles, 
and see whether they are such as will bear the trial ? but 
yet this should be one of the first things every one should 
set about, and be scrupulous in, who would rightly 
conduct his understanding in the search of truth and 

To those who are willing to get rid of this great 
hindrance of knowledge — for to such only I write — to 
those who would shake off this great and dangerous 
impostor prejudice, who dresses up falsehood in the like- 
ness of truth, and so dexterously hoodwinks men's minds 
as to keep them in the dark with a behef that they are 
more in the light than any that do not see with their 
eyes, I shall offer this one mark whereby prejudice may 
be known. He that is strongly of any opinion, must 
suppose (unless he be self-condemned) that his persuasion 
is built upon good grounds, and that his assent is no 



greater than what the evidence of the truth he holds 
forces him to, and that they are arguments and not 
inclination or fancy that make him so confident and 
positive in his tenets. Now if, after all his profession, he 
cannot bear any opposition to his opinion, if he cannot 
so much as give a patient hearing, much less examine 
and weigh the arguments on the other side, does he not 
plainly confess it is prejudice governs him ? And it is 
not the evidence of truth, but some lazy anticipation, 
some beloved presumption that he desires to rest undis- 
turbed in. For if what he holds be, as he gives out, well 
fenced with evidence, and he sees it to be true, what need 
he fear to put it to the proof? If his opinion be settled 
upon a firm foundation, if the arguments that support it 
and have obtained his assent be clear, good, and con- 
vincing, why should he be shy to have it tried whether they 
be proof or not? He whose assent goes beyond his 
evidence owes this excess of his adherence only to pre- 
judice, and does, in effect, own it, when he refuses to 
hear what is offered against it ; declaring thereby that it 
is not evidence he seeks, but the quiet enjoyment of the 
opinion he is fond of, with a forward condemnation of all 
that may stand in opposition to it, unheard and unex- 
amined ; which, what is it but prejudice ? Qui aequum 
statuerit parte inauditd altera, etiam si aequum slatuerii, 
haud acquus fucrit. He that would acquit himself in this 
case as a lover of truth, not giving way to any preoccu- 
pation or bias that may mislead him, must do two things 
that are not very common nor very easy. 




First, he must not be in love with any opinion, or wish 
it to be true, till he knows it to be so, and then he will 
not need to wish it : for nothing that is false can deserve 
our good wishes, nor a desire that it should have the 
place and force of truth ; and yet nothing is more 
frequent than this. Men are fond of certain tenets upon 
no other evidence but respect and custom, and think they 
must maintain them, or all is gone, though they have 
never examined the ground they stand on, nor have ever 
made them out to themselves, or can make them out to 
others. We should contend earnestly for the truth, but 
we should first be sure that it is truth, or else we fight 
against God, who is the God of truth, and do the work of 
the devil, who is the father and propagator of lies ; and 
our zeal, though ever so warm, will not excuse us ; for 
this is plainly prejudice. 



Secondly, he must do that which he will find himself 
very averse to, as judging the thing unnecessary or 
himself incapable of doing it. He must try whether his 
principles be certainly true or not, and how far he may 
safely rely upon them. This, whether fewer have the 
heart or the skill to do, I shall not determine ; but this I 
am sure, this is that which every one ought to do, who 
professes to love truth and would not impose upon him- 


self which is a surer way to be made a fool of than by 
being exposed to the sophistry of others. The disposi- 
tion to put any cheat upon ourselves works constantly, 
and we are pleased with it, but are impatient of being 
bantered or misled by others. The inability I here speak 
of is not any natural defect that makes men incapable of 
examining their own principles. To such, rules of con- 
ducting their understandings are useless, and that is the 
case of very few. The great number is of those whom 
the ill habit of never exerting their thoughts has disabled : 
the powers of their mincls are starved by disuse, and have 
lost that reach and strength which nature fitted them to 
receive from exercise. Those who are in a condition to 
learn the first rules of plain arithmetic, and could be 
brought to cast up an ordinary sum, are capable of this, 
if they had but accustomed their minds to reasoning : but 
they that have wholly neglected the exercise of their 
understandings in this way will be very far at first from 
being able to do it, and as unfit for it as one unpractised 
in figures to cast up a shopbook, and perhaps think it as 
strange to be set about it. And yet it must nevertheless 
be confessed to be a wrong use of our understandings to 
build our tenets (in things where we are concerned to 
hold the truth) upon principles that may lead, us into 
error. We take our principles at haphazard upon trust, 
and without ever having examined them, and then believe 
a w^hole system, upon a presumption that they are true 
and solid ; and what is all this but childish, shameful, 
senseless credulity ."* 

In these two things, namely, an equal indiffercncy for 
all truth, I mean the receiving it in the love of it as 
truth, but not loving it for any other reason before we 
know it to be true, and in the examination of our prin- 



ciples, and not receiving any for such nor building on 
them till we are fully convinced, as rational creatures, of 
their solidity, truth, and certainty, .consists that freedom 
of the understanding which is necessary to a rational 
creature, and without which it is not truly an under- 
standing. It is conceit, fancy, extravagance, any thing 
rather than understanding, if it must be under the 
constraint of receiving and holding opinions by the 
authority of any thing but their own, not fancied, but 
perceived, evidence. This was rightly called imposition, 
and is of all other the worst and most dangerous sort of 
it. For we impose upon ourselves, which is the strongest 
imposition of all others; and we impose upon ourselves 
in that part which ought with the greatest care to be kept 
free from all imposition. The world is apt to cast great 
blame on those who have an indifferency for opinions, 
especially in religion. I fear this is the foundation of 
great error and worse consequences. To be indifferent 
which of two opinions is true, is the right temper of the 
mind that preserves it from being imposed on, and dis- 
poses it to examine with that indifferency, till it has done 
its best to find the truth, and this is the only direct and 
safe way to it. But to be indifferent whether we embrace 
falsehood or truth or no, is the great road to error. 
Those who are not indifferent which opinion is true are 
guilty of this ; they suppose, without examining, that 
what they hold is true, and then think they ought to be 
zealous for it. Those, it is plain by their warmth and 
eagerness, are not indifferent for their own opinions, but 
methinks are very indifferent whether they be true or 
false, since they cannot endure to have any doubts raised 
or objections made against them ; and it is visible they 
never have n.ade any themselves, and so, never having 


examined them, know not nor are concerned, as they 
should be, to know whether they be true or false. 

These are the common and most general miscarriages 
which I think men should avoid or rectify in a right 
conduct of their understandings, and should be particu- 
larly taken care of in education. The business whereof 
in respect of knowledge is not, as I think, to perfect 
a learner in all or any one of the sciences, but to give 
his mind that freedom, that disposition, and those habits 
that may enable him to attain any part of knowledge he 
shall apply himself to, or stand in need of, in the future 
course of his life. 

This and this only is well principling, and not the 
instilling a reverence and veneration for certain dogmas 
under the specious title of principles, which are often so 
remote from that truth and evidence which belongs to 
prmciples that they ought to be rejected as false and 
erroneous, and is often the cause, to men so educated, 
when they come abroad into the world, and find they 
cannot maintain the principles so taken up and rested in, 
to cast off all principles and turn perfect sceptics, regard- 
less of knowledge and virtue. 

There are several weaknesses and defects in the under- 
standing, either from the natural temper of the mind or 
ill habits taken up, which hinder it in its progress to 
knowledge. Of these there are as many possibly to be 
found, if the mind were thoroughly studied, as there are 
diseases of the body, each whereof clogs and disables the 
understanding to some degree, and therefore deserves to 
be looked after and cured. I shall set down some few 
to excite men, especially those who make knowledge their 
business, to look into themselves, and observe ^\■helher they 
do not indulge some weakness, allow some miscarriages 

D 2 


in the management of their intellectual faculty, which is 
prejudicial to them in the search of truth. 



Particular matters of fact are the undoubted foundations 
on which our civil and natural knowledge is built ; the 
benefit the understanding makes of them is to draw from 
them conclusions, which may be as standing rules of 
knowledge, and consequently of practice. The mind 
often makes not that benefit it should of the information 
it receives from the accounts of civil or natural historians, 
in being too forward or too slow in making observations 
on the particular facts recorded in them. 

There are those who are very assiduous in reading, 
and yet do not much advance their knowledge by it. 
They are delighted with the stories that are told, and 
perhaps can tell them again, for they make all they read 
nothing but history to themselves ; but not reflecting on 
it, not making to themselves observations from what they 
read, they are very little improved by all that crowd of 
particulars that either pass through or lodge themselves 
in their understandings. They dream on in a constant 
course of reading and cramming themselves, but, not 
digesting any thing, it produces nothing but a heap of 

If their memories retain well, one may say they have 
the materials of knowledge, but, like those for building, 
they are of no advantage, if there be no other use made 
of them but to let them lie heaped up together. Opposite 
to these there are others who lose the improvement they 
should make of matters of fact by a quite contrary 


conduct. They are apt to draw general conclusions, 
and raise axicjms from every particular they meet with. 
These make as little true benefit of history as the other, 
nay, being of forward and active spirits, receive more 
harm by it ; it being of worse consequence to steer one's 
thoughts by a wrong rule than to have none at all, error 
doing to busy men much more harm than ignorance to the 
slow and sluggish. Between these, those seem to do best 
who taking material and useful hints, sometimes from 
single matters of fact, carry them in their minds to be 
judged of by what they shall find in history to confirm 
or reverse these imperfect observations ; which may be 
established into rules fit to be relied on, when they are 
justified by a sufficient and wary induction of particulars. 
He that makes no such reflections on what he reads, 
only loads his mind with a rhapsody of tales fit in winter 
nights for the entertainment of others ; and he that will 
improve every matter of fact into a maxim, will abound 
in contrary observations, that can be of no other use 
but to perplex and pudder him, if he compares them, 
or else to misguide him, if he gives himself up to the 
authority of that which for its novelty, or for some other 
fancy, best pleases him. 



Next to these we may place those who suff'er their 
own natural tempers and passions they are possessed 
with to influence their judgments, especially of men and 
things that may any way relate to their present circum- 
stances and interest. Truth is all sim})le, all pure, will 
bear no mixture of any thing else with it. It is rigid 


and inflexible to any bye interests ; and so should the 
understanding be, whose use and excellency lies in con- 
forming itself to it. To think of every thing just as it 
is in itself is the proper business of the understanding, 
though it be not that which men always employ it to. 
This all men, at first hearing, allow is the right use every 
one should make of his understanding. No body will be 
at such an open defiance with common sense, as to 
profess that we should not endeavour to know and think 
of things as they are in themselves, and yet there is 
nothing more frequent than to do the contrary. And 
men are apt to excuse themselves, and think they have 
reason to do so, if they have but a pretence that it is for 
God, or a good cause, that is, in effect, for themselves, 
their own persuasion, or party; for ttot those in their 
turns the several sects of men, esp>ecially in matters of re- 
ligion, entitle God and a good cause. But God requires 
not men to wrong or misuse their faculties for Him, nor 
to lie to others or themselves for his sake ; which they 
purposely do, who will not suffer their understandings to 
have right conceptions of the things proposed to them, and 
designedly restrain themselves from having just thoughts 
of every thing, as far as they are concerned to enquire. 
And as for a good cause, that needs not such ill helps, 
if it be good, truth will support it, and it has no need of 
fallacy or falsehood. 



Very much of kin to this is the hunting after argu- 
ments to make good one side of a question, and wholly 
to neglect and refuse those which favour the other side. 


What is this but wilfully to misguide the understanding ? 
And [it] is so far from giving truth its due value, that 
it wholly debases it. [Men] espouse opinions that best 
comport with their power, profit, or credit, and then seek 
arguments to support them. Truth, light upon this way, 
is of no more avail to us than error; for what is so taken 
up by us may be false as well as true, and he has not 
done his duly who has thus stumbled upon truth in his 
way to preferment. 

There is another, but more innocent way of collecting 
arguments, Vtry familiar among bookish men, which is to 
furnish themselves with the arguments they meet with pro 
and con in the questions they study. This helps them 
not to judge right, nor argue strongly, but only to talk 
copiously on either side, without being steady and settled 
in their own judgments : for such arguments gathered 
from other men's thoughts, floating only in the memory, 
are there ready indeed to supply copious talk with some 
appearance of reason, but are far from helping us to judge 
right. Such variety of arguments only distract the under- 
standing that relies on them, unless it has gone farther 
than such a superficial way of examining ; this is to quit 
truth for appearance, only to serve our vanity. The 
sure and only way to get true knowledge is to form in 
our minds clear settled notions of things, with names an- 
nexed to those determined ideas. These we are to con- 
sider, and with their several relations and habitudes, and 
not amuse ourselves with floating names, and words of 
indetermined signification, which we can use in several 
senses to serve a turn. It is in the perception of the 
habitudes and respects our ideas have one to another that 
real knowledge consists ; and when a man once perceives 
how far they agree or disagree one with another, he will 


be able to judge of what other people say, and will not need 
to be led by the arguments of others, which are many of 
them nothing but plausible sophistry. This will teach 
him to state the question right, and see whereon it turns ; 
and thus he will stand upon his own legs, and know by 
his own understanding. Whereas by collecting and learn- 
ing arguments by heart, he will be but a retainer to 
others ; and when any one questions the foundations they 
are built upon, he will be at a nonplus, and be fain to give 
up his implicit knowledge. 



Labour for labour['s] sake is against nature. The 
understanding, as well as all the other faculties, chooses 
always the shortest way to its end, would presently obtain 
the knowledge it is about, and then set upon some new 
inquiry. But this whether laziness or haste often mis- 
leads it, and makes it content itself with improper ways of 
search and such as will not serve the turn. Sometimes it 
rests upon testimony, when testimony of right has nothing 
to do, because it is easier to believe than to be scientifically 
instructed. Sometimes it contents itself with one argu- 
ment, and rests satisfied with that, as it were a demonstra- 
tion ; whereas the thing under proof is not capable of 
demonstration, and therefore must be submitted to the trial 
of probabilities, and all the material arguments pro and con 
be examined and brought to a balance. In some cases 
the mind is determined by probable topics in inquiries, 
where demonstration may be had. All these, and several 
others, which laziness, impatience, custom, and want of 
use and attention lead men into, are misapplications of the 
understanding in the search of truth. In every question, 


ihe nature and manner of the proof it is capable of 
should first be considered to make our inquiry such as 
it should be. This would save a great deal of frequently 
misemployed pains, and lead us sooner to that discovery 
and possession of truth we are capable of. The multiply- 
ins; variety of arguments, especially frivolous ones, such 
as are all that are merely verbal, is not only lost labour, 
but cumbers the memory to no purpose, and serves only 
to hinder it from seizing and holding of the truth in all 
those cases which are capable of demonstration. In such 
a way of proof the truth and certainty is seen, and the 
mind fully possesses itself of it ; when in the other way of 
assent, it only hovers about it, is amused with uncertainties. 
In this superficial way, indeed, the mind is capable of 
more variety of plausible talk, but is not enlarged as it 
should be in its knowledge. , It is to this same haste and 
impatience of the mind also that a not due tracing of 
the arguments to their true foundation is owing ; men see 
a little, presume a great deal, and so jump to the con- 
clusion. \ This is a short way to fancy and conceit, and (if 
firmly embraced) to opiniatrity, but is certainly the farthest 
way about to knowledge. For he that will know must by 
the connection of the proofs see the truth, and the ground 
it stands on ; and, therefore, if he has for haste skipt over 
what he should have examined, he must begin and go 
over all again, or else he will never come to knowledge. | 



Another fault of as ill consequence as this, which pro- 
ceeds also from laziness with a mixture of vanity, is the 
skipping from one sort of knowledge to another. Some 


men's tempers are quickly weary of any one thing. Con- 
stancy and assiduity is what they cannot bear : the same 
study long continued in is as intolerable to them, as 
the appearing long in the same clothes or fashion is to 
a court lady. 



— Others, that they may seem universally knowing, get 
a little smattering in every thing. Both these may fill their 
heads with superficial notions of things, but are very 
much out of the way of attaining truth or knowledge. 



I do not here speak against the taking a taste of every 
sort of knowledge ; it is certainly very useful and neces- 
sary to form the mind, but then it must be done in a 
different way and to a different end. Not for talk and 
vanity to fill the head with shreds of all kinds, that he, who 
is possessed of such a frippery, may be able to match the 
discourses of all he shall meet with, as if nothing could 
come amiss to him, and his head was so well stored a 
magazine, that nothing could be proposed which he was 
not master of and was readily furnished to entertain any 
one on. This is an excellency indeed, and a great one 
too, to have a real and true knowledge in all or most of 
the objects of contemplation. But it is what the mind of 
one and the same man can hardly attain unto ; and the 
instances are so few of those who have in any measure 


approached towards it, that I know not whether they are 
to be proposed as examples in the ordinary conduct of 
the understanding. For a man to understand fully the 
lousiness of his particular calling in the commonwealth, 
and of religion, which is his calling as he is a man in the 
world, is usually enough to take up his whole time ; and 
there are few that inform themselves in these, which is 
every man's proper and peculiar business, so to the 
bottom as they should do. But though this be so, and 
there are very few- men that extend their thoughts towards 
universal knowledge, yet I do not doubt but if the right 
way were taken, and the methods of enquiry were ordered 
as they should be, men of little business and great leisure 
might go a great deal farther in it than is usually done. 
To return to the business in hand, the end and use of 
a little insight in those parts of knowledge, which are not 
a man's proper business, is to accustom our minds to all 
sorts of ideas and the proper ways of examining their 
habitudes and relations. This gives the mind a freedom, 
and the exercising the understanding in the several ways 
of inquiry and reasoning, which the most skilful have 
made use of, teaches the mind sagacity and wariness, and 
a suppleness to apply itself more closely and dexterously 
to the bents and turns of the matter in all its researches. 
Besides, this universal taste of all the sciences, with an 
indifterency before the mind is possessed with any one in 
particular and grown into love and admiration of what is 
made its darling, will prevent another evil very commonly 
to be observed in those who ha\'e from the beginning 
been seasoned only by one part of knowledge. Let a 
man be given up to the contemplation of one sort of 
knowledge, antl that will become every thing. The mind 
will take such a tincture from a familiarity with that 


object, that every thing else, how remote soever, will be 
brought under the same view. A metaphysician will 
bring plowing and gardening immediately to abstract 
notions; the history of nature shall signify nothing to him. 
An alchymist, on the contrary, shall reduce divinity to the 
maxims of his laboratory, explain morality by Sal, Sul- 
phur, and INIercury, and allegorize the scripture itself, and 
the sacred mysteries thereof, into the philosopher's stone. 
And I heard once a man, who had a more than ordinary 
excellency in music, seriously accommodate Moses' seven 
days of the first week to the notes of music, as if from 
thence had been taken the measure and method of the 
creation. It is of no small consequence to keep the mind 
from such a possession, which I think is best done by 
giving it a fair and equal view of the whole intellectual 
world, wherein it may see the order, rank, and beauty of 
the whole, and give a just allowance to the distinct 
provinces of the several sciences in the due order and 
usefulness of each of them. 

If this be that which old men will not think necessary, 
nor be easily brought to, it is fit at least that it should be 
practised in the breeding of the young. The business of 
education, as I have already observed, is not, as I think, 
to make them perfect in any one of the sciences, but so 
to open and dispose their minds as may best make them 
capable of any, when they shall apply themselves to it. 
If men are for a long time accustomed only to one sort 
or method of thoughts, their minds grow stiff in it, and do 
not readily turn to another. It is therefore to give them 
this freedom, that I think they should be made to look 
into all sorts of knowledge, and exercise their under- 
standings in so wide a variety and slock of knowledge. 
But 1 do not propose it as a variety and slock of know- 


ledge, but a variety and freedom of thinking, as an 
increase of the powers and activity of the mind, not as 
an enlargement of its possessions. 



This is that which I think great readers are apt to be 
mistaken in. Those who have read of every thing are 
tliought to understand every thing too ; but it is not 
always so. Reading furnishes the mind only with ma- 
terials of knowledge ; it is thinking makes what we 
read ou/s. ^Ve are of the ruminating kind, and ii 
is not enough to cram ourselves with a great load of 
collections ; unless we chew them over again, they 
will not give us strength and nourishment.,, There 
are indeed in some writers visible instances of deep 
thoughts, close and acute reasoning, and ideas well 
pursued. The light these would give, would be of great 
use, if their readers would observe and imitate them ; all 
the rest at best are but particulars fit to be turned into 
knowledge, but that can be done only by our own medi- 
tation, and examining the reach, force, and coherence of 
what is said : and then, as far as we apprehend and see 
the connection of ideas, so far it is ours ; without that, it 
is but so much loose matter floating in our brain. (The 
memory may be stored, but the judgment is little better, 
and the stock of knowledge not increased, by being able 
to repeat what others have said or produce the arguments 
we have foimd in them. ySuch a knowlcdge'as this is but 
knowledge by hearsay, and the ostentation of it is at best 
but talking by rote, and very often upon weak and wrong 


principles. For all that is to be found in books is not 
built upon true foundations, nor always rightly deduced 
from the principles it is pretended to be built on. Such 
an examen as is requisite to discover that, every reader's 
mind is not forward to make ; especially in those who 
have given themselves up to a party, and only hunt for 
what they can scrape together that may favour and sup- 
port the tenets of it. Such men wilfully exclude them- 
selves from truth and from all true benefit to be received 
by reading. Others of more indifferency often want 
attention and industry. The mind is backward in itself 
to be at the pains to trace every argument to its original, 
and to see upon what basis it stands, and how firmly ; 
but yet it is this that gives so much the advantage to one 
man more than another in reading. The mind should, 
by severe rules, be tied down to this at first uneasy task ; 
use and exercise will give it facility. So that those who 
are accustomed to it, readily, as it were with one cast of 
the eye, take a view of the argument, and presently, in 
most cases, see where it bottoms. Those who have got 
this faculty, one may say, have got the true key of books, 
and the clue to lead them through the mizmaze of variety 
of opinions and authors to truth and certainty. This 
young beginners should be entered in, and shewed the 
use of, that they might profit by their reading. Those 
who are strangers to it will be apt to think it too great 
a clog in the way of men's studies, and they will suspect 
they shall make but small progress, if, in the books they 
read, they must stand to examine and unravel every argu- 
ment and follow it step by step up to its original. 

I answer, this is a good objection, and ought to weigli 
with those whose reading is designed for much talk and 
little knowledge, and I have nothing to say to it. But 


1 am here inquiring into the conduct of the understand- 
ing in its progress towards knowledge ; and to those 
who aim at that, I may say that he, who fair and softly 
goes steadily forward in a course Uiat points right, will 
sooner be at his journey's end, than he that runs after 
every one he meets, though he gallop all day full speed. 

To which let me add, that this way of thinking on and 
profiling by what we read will be a clog and rub to any 
one only in the beginning ; when custom and exercise 
has made it familiar, it will be dispatched in most occa- 
sions, without resting or interruption in the course of our 
reading. The motions and views of a mind exercised 
that way are wonderfully quick ; and a man, used to such 
sort of reflections, sees as much at one glimpse as would 
require a long discourse to lay before another and make 
out in an entire and gradual deduction. Besides, that 
when the first difficulties are over, the delight and sensible 
advantage it brings mightily encourages and enlivens the 
mind in reading, which without this is very improperly 
called study. 



As an help to this, I thhik it may be proposed that, for 
the saving the long progression of the thoughts to remote 
and first principles in every case, the mind should pro- 
vide itself several stages; that is to say, intermediate 
principles, which it might have recourse to in the ex- 
amining those positions that come in its way. These, 
though they are not self-evident principles, yet, if they 
have been made out from them by a wary and unques- 


tionable deduction, may be depended on as certain and 
infallible truths, and serve as unquestionable truths to 
prove other points depending on them by a nearer and 
shorter view than remote and general maxims. These 
may serve as landmarks to shew what lies in the direct 
way of truth, or is quite besides it. And thus mathe- 
maticians do, who do not in every new problem run 
it back to the first axioms, through all the whole train 
of intermediate propositions. Certain theorems, that 
they have settled to themselves upon sure demonstration, 
serve to resolve to them multitudes of propositions which 
depend on them, and are as firmly made out from thence, 
as if the mind went afresh over every link of the whole 
chain that ties them to first self-evident principles. Only 
in other sciences great care is to be taken that they 
establish those intermediate principles with as much 
caution, exactness, and indifferency, as mathematicians 
use in the setding any of their great theorems. When 
this is not done, but men take up the principles in this 
or that science upon credit, inclination, interest, &c. in 
haste, without due examination and most unquestionable 
proof, they lay a trap for themselves, and as much as in 
them lies captivate their understandings to mistake, false- 
hood, and error. 



As there is a partiality to opinions, which, as we have 
already observed, is apt to mislead the understanding, so 
there is often a partiality to studies, which is prejudicial 
also to knowledge and improvement. Those sciences 


which men are particularly versed in they are apt to value 
and extol, as if that part of knowledge which every one 
has acquainted himself with were that alone which was 
worth the having, and all the rest were idle and empty 
amusements, comparatively of no use or importance. 
This is the effect of ignorance and not knowledge, the 
being vainly puffed up with a flatulency arising from 
a weak and narrow comprehension. It is not amiss that 
every one should relish the science that he has made his 
peculiar study; a view of its beauties and a sense of its 
usefulness carries a man on with the more delight and 
warmth in the pursuit and improvement of it. But the 
contempt of all other knowledge, as if it were nothing in 
comparison of law or physic, of astronomy or chymistry, 
or perhaps some yet meaner part of knowledge, wherein 
I have got some smattering, or am somewhat advanced, 
is not only the mark of a vain or little mind, but does 
this prejudice in the conduct of the understanding, that 
it coops it up within narrow bounds, and hinders it from 
looking abroad into other provinces of the intellectual 
world, more beautiful possibly, and more fruitful than 
that which it had till then laboured in ; wherein it might 
find, besides new knowledge, ways or hints whereby it 
might be enabled the better to cultivate its own. 



There is indeed one science (as they are now dis- 
tinguished) incomparably above all the rest, where it is 
not by corruption narrowed into a trade or faction, for 
mean or ill ends and secular interests ; I mean theology, 



which, containing the knowledge of God and His crea- 
tures, our duty to him and our fellow-creatures, and a 
view of our present and future state, is the comprehen- 
sion of all other knowledge directed to its true end, i. e. 
I the honour and veneration of the Creator and the happi- 
f ness of mankind. This is that noble study which is 
every man's duty, and every one that can be called a 
, rational creature is capable of The works of nature 
I and the words of revelation display it to mankind in 
I characters so large and visible, that those who are not 
I quite blind may in them read and see the first principles 
f and most necessary parts of it ; and from thence, as they 
t have time and industry, may be enabled to go on to the 
more abstruse parts of it, and penetrate into those infinite 
depths filled with the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 
This is that science which would truly enlarge men's 
minds, were it studied, or permitted to be studied, every 
where with that freedom, love of truth and charity, which 
it teaches, and were not made, contrary to its nature, the 
occasion of strife, faction, malignity, and narrow impo- 
sitions. I shall say no more here of this, but that it 
is undoubtedly a wrong use of my understanding to make 
it the rule and measure of another man's ; a use which 
it is neither fit for nor capable of. 



This partiality, where it is not permitted an authority to 
render all other studies insignificant or contemptible, is 
often indulged so far as to be relied upon and made use 
of in other parts of knowledge, to which it does not at all 
belong, and wherewith it has no manner of affinity. Some 


men have so used their heads to mathematical figures that, 
giving a preference to the methods of that science, they 
introduce lines and diagrams into their study of divinity 
or politic enquiries, as if nothing could be known without 
them ; and others, accustomed to retired speculations, run 
natural philosophy into metaphysical notions and the 
abstract generalities of logic; and how often may one 
meet with religion and morality treated of in the terms 
of the laboratory, and thought to be improved by the 
methods and notions of chymistry. But he that will take 
care of the conduct of his understanding, to direct it right 
to the knowledge of things, must avoid those undue mix- 
tures, and not by a fondness for what he has found useful 
and necessary in one transfer it to another science, where 
it serves only to perplex and confound the understanding. 
It is a certain truth that res nolunt male adminislrari ; it is 
no less certain, res nolunt male inielligi. Things themselves 
are to be considered as they are in themselves, and then 
they will shew us in what way they are to be understood. 
For to have right conceptions about them, we must bring 
our understandings to the inflexible natures and un- 
alterable relations of things, and not endeavour to bring 
things to any preconceived notions of our own. 

There is another partiality very commonly observable 
in men of study, no less prejudicial nor ridiculous than the 
former ; and that is a fantastical and wild attributing all 
knowledge to the ancients alone, or to the moderns. This 
raving upon antiquity in matter of poetry, Horace has 
wittily described and exposed in one of his satyrs. The 
same sort of madness may be found in reference to all 
the other sciences. Some will not admit an opinion not 
authorized by men of old, who were then all giants in 
knowledge : nothing is to be put into the treasury of 
E 2 


truth or knowledge, which has not the stamp of Greece or 
Rome upon it ; and since their days will scarce allow that 
men have been able to see, think, or write. Others, with 
a like extravagancy, contemn all that the ancients have left 
us, and, being taken with the modern inventions and dis- 
coveries, lay by all that went before, as if whatever is 
called old must have the decay of time upon it, and truth 
too were liable to mould and rottenness. Men, I think, 
have been much the same for natural endowments in all 
times. Fashion, discipline, and education have put emi- 
nent differences in the ages of several countries, and made 
one generation much differ from another in arts and 
sciences : but truth is always the same ; time alters it not, 
nor is it the better or worse for being of ancient or modern 
tradition. Many were eminent in former ages of the 
world for their discovery and delivery of it ; but though 
the knowledge they have left us be worth our study, yet 
they exhausted not all its treasure ; they left a great deal 
for the industry and sagacity of after ages, and so shall we. 
That was once new to them which any one now receives 
with veneration for its antiquity ; nor was it the worse 
for appearing as a novelty, and that which is now em- 
braced for its newness will, to posterity, be old, but not 
thereby be less true or less genuine. There is no occasion 
on this account to oppose the ancients and the moderns 
to one another, or to be squeamish on either side. He 
that wisely conducts his mind in the pursuit of knowledge 
will gather what lights, and get what helps he can, from 
either of them, from whom they are best to be had, 
without adoring the errors or rejecting the truths which 
he may find mingled in them. 

Another partiality may be observed, in some to vulgar, 
in others to heterodox tenets : some are apt to conclude 


that what is the common opinion cannot but be true ; so 
many men's eyes they think cannot but see right ; so many 
men's understandings of all sorts cannot be deceived, 
and therefore [they] will not venture to look beyond the 
received notions of the place and age, nor have so pre- 
sumptuous a thought as to be wiser than their neighbours. 
They are content to go with the crowd, and so go easily, 
which they think is going right, or at least serves them as 
well. But however vox popuU vox Dei has prevailed as 
a maxim, yet I do not remember wherever God delivered 
his oracles by the multitude, or Nature truths by the herd. 
On the other side, some fly all common opinions as either 
false or frivolous. The title of many-headed beast is 
a sufficient reason to them to conclude that no truths of 
weight or consequence can be lodged there. Vulgar 
opinions are suited to vulgar capacities, and adapted to 
the ends of those that govern. He that will know the 
truth of things must leave the common and beaten track, 
which none but weak and servile minds are satisfied to 
trudge along continually in. Such nice palates relish 
nothing but strange notions quite out of the way : what- 
ever is commonly received has the mark of the beast on 
it, and they think it a lessening to them to hearken to it, 
or receive it ; their mind runs only after paradoxes ; 
these they seek, these they embrace, these alone they 
vent, and so, as they think, distinguish themselves from 
the vulgar. But common or uncommon are not the 
marks to distinguish truth or falsehood, and therefore 
should not be any bias to us in our enquiries. We should 
not judge of things by men's opinions, but of opinions by 
things! The multitude reason but ill, and therefore may 
be well suspected, and cannot be relied on, nor should 
be followed as a sure guide ; but philosojihers who have 


quitted the orthodoxy of the community, and the popular 
doctrines of their countries, have fallen into as extrava- 
gant and as absurd opinions as ever common reception 
countenanced. It would be madness to refuse to breathe 
the common air, or quench one's thirst with water, because 
the rabble use them to these purposes ; and, if there are 
conveniences of life which common use reaches not, 
it is not reason to reject them, because they are not 
grown into the ordinary fashion of the country, and ever)'- 
villager doth not know them. 

Truth, whether in or out of fashion, is the measure of 
knowledge, and the business of the understanding ; what- 
soever is besides that, however authorized by consent or 
recommended by rarity, is nothing but ignorance, or 
something worse. 

Another sort of partiality there is, whereby men impose 
upon themselves, and by it make their reading little useful 
to themselves ; I mean the making use of the opinions of 
writers, and laying stress upon their authorities, wherever 
they find them to favour their own opinions. 

There is nothing almost has done more harm to men 
dedicated to letters than giving the name of study to 
reading, and making a man of great reading to be the 
same with a man of great knowledge, or at least to be 
a title of honour. All that can be recorded in writing are 
only facts or reasonings. Facts are of three sorts : 

1. Merely of natural agents, observable in the ordinary 
operations of bodies one upon another, whether in the 
visible course of things left to themselves, or in experi- 
ments made by men applying agents and patients to one 
another, after a peculiar and artificial manner. 

2. Of voluntary agents, more especially the actions of 
men in society, which makes civil and moral history. 


;^,. Of opinions. 

In these three consists, as it seems to me, that which 
commonly has the name of learning ; to which perhaps 
some may add a distinct head of critical writings, which 
indeed at bottom is nothing but matter of fact, and 
resolves itself into this, that such a man, or set of men, 
used such a word or phrase in such a sense, i.e. that they 
made such sounds the marks of such ideas. 

Under reasonings I comprehend all the discoveries of 
general truths made by human reason, whether found by 
intuition, demonstration, or probable deductions. And 
this is that which is, if not alone knowledge (because the 
truth or probability of particular propositions may be 
known too), yet is, as may be supposed, most properly 
the business of those who pretend to improve their under- 
standings and make themselves knowing by reading. 

Books and reading are looked upon to be the great 
helps of the understanding and instruments of knowledge, 
as it must be allowed that they are ; and yet I beg leave 
to question whether these do not prove an hindrance to 
many, and keep several bookish men from attaining to 
solid and true knowledge. This, I think, I may be per- 
mitted to say, that there is no part wherein the under- 
.standing needs a more careful and wary conduct than in 
the use of books ; without which they will prove rather 
innocent amusements than profitable employments of our 
time, and bring but small additions to our knowledge. 

There is not seldom to be found even amongst those 
who aim at knowledge, who with an unwearied industry 
employ their whole time in books, who scarce allow them- 
selves time to eat or sleep, but read, and read, and read on, 
but yet make no great advances in real knowledge, though 
there be no defect in their intellectual faculties, to which 


their little progress can be imputed. The mistake here is, 
that it is usually supposed that, by reading, the author's 
knowledge is transfused into the reader's understanding ; 
and so it is, but not by bare reading, but by reading and 
understanding what he writ, ^^'hereby I mean, not barely 
comprehending what is affirmed or denied in each propo- 
sition (though that great readers do not always think 
themselves concerned precisely to do), but to see and 
follow the train of his reasonings, observe the strength 
and clearness of their connection, and examine upon 
what they bottom. Without this, a man may read the 
discourses of a very rational author, writ in a language 
and in propositions that he very well understands, and 
yet acquire not one jot of his knowledge ; which con- 
sisting only in the perceived, certain, or probable connec- 
tion of the ideas made use of in his reasonings, the 
reader's knowledge is no farther increased than he per- 
ceives that, so much as he sees of this connection, so 
much he know^s of the truth or probability of that author's 

All that he relies on without this perception, he takes 
upon trust upon the author's credit, without any know- 
ledge of it at all. This makes me not at all wonder to 
see some men so abound in citations, and build so much 
upon authorities, it being the sole foundation on which 
they bottom most of their own tenets ; so that in effect 
they have but a second hand or implicit knowledge, i.e. 
are in the right, if such an one from whom they borrowed 
it were in the right in that opinion which they took from 
him, which indeed is no knowledge at all. Writers of 
this or former ages may be good witnesses of matters of 
fact which they deliver, which we may do well to take 
upon their authority; but their credit can go no farther 


than this, it cannot at all affect the trulli and falsehood of 
opinions, which have no other sort of trial Init reason and 
])roof, which they themselves made use of to make them- 
selves knowing, and so must others too that will partake 
in their knowledge. Indeed it is an advantage that they 
have been at the pains to find out the proofs, and lay 
them in that order that may shew the truth or probability 
of their conclusions ; and for this we owe them great 
acknowledgments for saving us the pains in searching 
out those proofs which they have collected for us, and 
w'hich possibly, after all our pains, we might not have 
found, nor been able to have set them in so good a light as 
that which they left them us in. Upon this account we 
are mightily beholding to judicious writers of all ages for 
those discoveries and discourses they have left behind 
them for our instruction, if we know how to make a right 
use of them ; which is not to run them over in a hasty 
})erusal, and perhaps lodge their opinions or some re- 
markable passages in our memories, but to enter into 
their reasonings, examine their proofs, and then judge of 
the truth or falsehood, probability or improbability of 
what they advance, not by any opinion we have enter- 
tained of the author, but by the evidence he produces 
and the conviction he affords us, drawn from things 
themselves. Knowing is seeing, and, if it be so, it is 
madness to persuade ourselves that we do so by another 
man's eyes, let him use ever so many words to tell us that 
what he asserts is very visible. Till we ourselves see it 
with our own eyes, and perceive it by our own under- 
standings, we are as much in the dark and as void of 
knowledge as before, let us believe any learned author as 
much as we will. 

Euclid and Archimedes are allowed to be knowing, and 


to have demonstrated what they say; and yet, whoever 
shall read over their writings without perceiving the con- 
nection of their proofs, and seeing what they shew, though 
he may understand all their words, yet he is not the more 
knowing : he may believe indeed, but does not know 
what they say, and so is not advanced one jot in mathe- 
matical knowledge by all his reading of those approved 


The eagerness and strong bent of the mind after 
knowledge, if not warily regulated, is often an hindrance 
to it. It still presses into farther discoveries and new 
objects, and catches at the variety of knowledge, and 
therefore often stays not long enough on what is before 
it to look into it as it should, for haste to pursue what 
is yet out of sight. He that rides post through a coun- 
try may be able, from the transient view, to tell how 
in general the parts lie, and may be able to give some 
loose description of here a mountain and there a plain, 
here a morass and there a river, woodland in one part 
and savanas in another. Such superficial ideas and obser- 
vations as these he may collect in galloping over it. But 
the more useful observations of the soil, plants, animals, 
and inhabitants, with their several sorts and properties, 
must necessarily escape him ; and it is seldom men ever 
discover the rich mines, without some digging. Nature 
commonly lodges her treasure and jewels in rocky 
ground. If the matter be knotty, and the sense lies 
deep, the mind must slop and buckle to it, and stick 


upon it with labour and thought and close contem- 
plation, and not leave it till it has mastered the difTi- 
culty, and got possession of truth. But here care must 
be taken to avoid the other extreme : a man must not 
stick at every useless nicety, and expect mysteries of 
science in every trivial question or scruple that he may 
raise. He that will stand to pick up and examine every 
pebble that comes in his way is as unlikely to return en- 
riched and loaden with jewels, as the other that travelled 
full speed. Truths are not the better nor the worse 
for their obviousness or difficulty, but their value is to 
be measured by their usefulness and tendency. Insig- 
nificant observations should not take up any of our 
minutes, and those that enlarge our view, and give light 
towards farther and useful discoveries, should not be 
neglected, though they stop our course, and spend some 
of our time in a fixed attention. 

There is another haste that does often and will mislead 
the mind, if it be left to itself and its own conduct. The 
understanding is naturally forward, not only to learn its 
knowledge by variety (which makes it skip over one 
to get speedily to another part of knowledge), but also 
eager to enlarge its views by running too fast into 
general observations and conclusions, without a due 
examination of particulars enough whereon to found 
those general axioms. This seems to enlarge their stock, 
but it is of fancies not realities ; such theories built upon 
narrow foundations stand but weakly, and, if they fall 
not of themselves, are at least very hard to be supported 
against the assaults of opposition. And thus men, being 
too hasty to erect to themselves general notions and ill- 
grounded theories, find themselves deceived in their stock 
of knowledge, when they come to examine their hastily 


assumed maxims themselves, or to have them attacked 
by others. General observations drawn from particulars 
are the jewels of knowledge, comprehending great store 
in a little room ; but they are therefore to be made with 
the greater care and caution, lest, if we take counterfeit 
for true, our loss and shame be the greater when our 
stock comes to a severe scrutiny. One or two particulars 
may suggest hints of enquiry, and they do well to take 
those hints ; but if they turn them into conclusions, and 
make them presently general rules, they are forward 
indeed, but it is only to impose on themselves by propo- 
sitions assumed for truths without sufficient warrant. To 
make such observations is, as has been already remarked, 
to make the head a magazine of materials which can 
hardly be called knowledge, or at least it is but like 
a collection of lumber not reduced to use or order ; 
and he that makes every thing an observation has the 
same useless plenty and much more falsehood mixed 
with it. The extremes on both sides are to be avoided, 
and he will be able to give the best account of his studies 
who keeps his understanding in the right mean between 



Whether it be a love of that which brings the first 
light and information to their minds, and want of vigour 
and industry to enquire, or else that men content them- 
selves with any appearance of knowledge, right or wrong, 
which, when they have once got, they will hold fast : 
this is visible, that many men give themselves up to 


the first anticipations of their minds, and are very tena- 
cious of the opinions that first possess them ; they are 
often as fond of their first conceptions as of their first 
born, and will by no means recede from the judgment 
they have once made, or any conjecture or conceit which 
they have once entertained. This is a fault in the 
conduct of the understanding, since this firmness or 
rather stiffness of the mind is not from an adherence 
to truth but a submission to prejudice. It is an un- 
reasonable homage paid to prepossession, whereby we 
shew a reverence not to (what we pretend to seek) truth ; 
but what by hap-hazard we chance to light on, be it 
what it will. This is visibly a preposterous use of our 
faculties, and is a downright prostituting of ttfe' mind 
to resign it thus, and put it under the power of the first 
comer. This can never be allowed or ought to be fol- 
lowed as a right way to knowledge, till the understanding 
(whose business it is to conform itself to what it finds 
on the objects without) can by its own opiniatrity change 
that, and make the unalterable nature of things comply 
with its own hasty determinations, which will never be. 
Whatever we fancy, things keep their course ; and their 
habitudes, correspondences, and relations keep the same 
to one another. 



Contrary to these, but by a like dangerous excess on 
the other side, are those who always resign their judg- 
ment to the last man they heard or read. Truth never 
sinks into these men's minds, nor gives any tincture to 


them, but, chameleon-like, they take the colour of what 
is laid before them, and as soon lose and resign it to 
the next that happens to come in their way. The order 
wherein opinions are proposed or received by us is no 
rule of their rectitude, nor ought to be a cause of their 
preference. First or last in this case is the effect of 
chance, and not the measure of truth or falsehood. This 
every one must confess, and therefore should, in the 
pursuit of truth, keep his mind free from the influence 
of any such accidents. A man may as reasonably draw 
cuts for his tenets, regulate his persuasion by the cast 
of a die, as take it up for its novelty, or retain it because 
it had his first assent and he was never of another mind. 
Well-weighed reasons are to determine the judgment ; 
those the mind should be always ready to hearken and 
submit to, and by their testimony and suffrage entertain 
or reject any tenet indifferently, whether it be a perfect 
stranger or an old acquaintance. 



Though the faculties of the mind are improved 
by exercise, yet they must not be put to a stress 
beyond their strength. Quid valeant humeri, quid f err e 
recusefii, must be made the measure of every one's 
understanding, who has a desire not only to per- 
form well, but to keep up the vigour of his faculties, 
and not to balk his understanding by what is too hard 
for it. The mind by being engaged in a task beyond 
its strength, like the body strained by lifting at a weight 


too heavy, has often its force broken, and thereby gets 
an unaptness or an aversion to any vigorous attempt 
ever after. A sinew cracked seldom recovers its former 
strength, or at least the tenderness of the sprain remains 
a good while after, and the memory of it longer, and 
leaves a lasting caution in the man not to put the part 
quickly again to any robust employment. So it fares 
in the mind once jaded by an attempt above its power; 
It either is disabled for the future, or else checks at any 
vigorous undertaking ever after, at least is very hardly 
brought to exert its force again on any subject that 
requires thought and meditation. The understanding 
should be brought to the difficult and knotty parts of 
knowledge, that try the strength of thought and a full 
bent of the mind, by insensible degrees ; and in such 
a gradual proceeding nothing is too hard for it. Nor 
let it be objected, that such a slow progress will never 
reach the extent of some sciences. It is not to be 
imagined how far constancy will carry a man ; however, 
it is better walking slowly in a rugged way, than to 
break a leg and be a cripple. He that begins with the 
calf may carry the ox ; but he that will at first go to 
take up an ox, may so disable himself, as not [to] be 
able to lift a calf after that. When the mind, by insen- 
sible degrees, has brought itself to attention and close 
thinking, it will be able to cope with difiiculties, and 
master them without any prejudice to itself, and then 
it may go on roundly. Every abstruse problem, every 
intricate question will not baffle, discourage, or break it. 
But though putting the mind unprepared upon an un- 
usual stress that may discourage or damp it for the future 
ought to be avoided, yet this must not run it, by an over 
great shyness of difBculties, into a lazy sauntering about 


ordinary and obvious things that demand no thought 
or application. This debases and enervates the under- 
standing, makes it weak and unfit for labour. This is 
a sort of hovering about the surface of things, without 
any insight into them or penetration ; and, when the 
mind has been once habituated to this lazy recumbency 
and satisfaction on the obvious surface of things, it is 
in danger to rest satisfied there, and go no deeper, since 
it cannot do it without pains and digging. He that has 
for some time accustomed himself to take up with what 
easily off"ers itself at first view, has reason to fear he shall 
never reconcile himself to the fatigue of turning and 
tumbling things in his mind to discover their more retired 
and more valuable secrets. 

It is not strange that methods of learning, which 
scholars have been accustomed to in their beginning 
and entrance upon the sciences, should influence them 
all their lives, and be settled in their minds by an over- 
ruling reverence, especially if they be such as universal 
use has established. Learners must at first be believers, 
and, their masters' rules having been once made axioms 
to them, it is no wonder they should keep that dignity, 
and, by the authority they have once got, mislead those 
who think it sufficient to excuse them, if they go out of 
their way in a well beaten track. 



I have copiously enough spoken of the abuse of words 
in another place, and therefore shall upon this reflection, 
that the sciences are full of them, warn those that would 


conduct their understandings right, not to take any term, 
liowsoever authorized by the language of the schools, to 
stand for any thing till they have an idea of it. A word 
may be of frequent use and great credit with several au- 
thors, and be by them made use of, as if it stood for some 
real being; but yet if he that reads cannot frame any 
distinct idea of that being, it is certainly to him a mere 
empty sound without a meaning, and he learns no more 
by all that is said of it or attributed to it, than if it were 
affumed only of that bare empty sound. They who would 
advance in knowledge, and not deceive and swell them- 
selves with a little articulated air, should lay down this 
as a fundamental rule, not to take words for things, nor 
suppose that names in books signify real entities in 
nature, till they can frame clear and distinct ideas of those 
entities. It will not perhaps be allowed if I should set 
down suhstajitial forms and ijitentmial species, as such that 
may justly be suspected to be of this kind of insignificant 
terms. But this I am sure, to one that can form no 
determined ideas of what they stand for, they signify 
nothing at all; and all that he thinks he knows about 
them is to him so much knowledge about nothing, and 
amounts at most but to a learned ignorance. It is not 
without all reason supposed, that there are many such 
empty terms to be found in some learned writers, to 
which they had recourse to etch out their systems where 
their understandings could not furnish them with con- 
ceptions from things. But yet I believe the supposing 
of some realities in nature, answering those and the like 
words, have much perplexed some, and quite misled 
others in the study of nature. That which in any dis- 
course signifies, / know noi what, should be considered 
/ know noi when. Where men have any conceptions, they 



can, if they are ever so abstruse or abstracted, explain 
them, and the terms they use for them. For our concep- 
tions being nothing but ideas, which are all made up of 
simple ones, if they cannot give us the ideas their words 
stand for, it is plain they have none. To what purpose 
can it be to hunt after his conceptions, who has none, or 
none distinct ? He that knew not what he himself meant 
by a learned term, cannot make us know any thing by his 
use of it, let us beat our heads about it ever so long. 
Whether we are able to comprehend all the operations of 
nature and the manners of them, it matters not to enquire ; 
but this is certain, that we can comprehend no more 
of them than we can distinctly conceive ; and therefore 
to obtrude terms where we have no distinct conceptions, 
as if they did contain or rather conceal something, is 
but an artifice of learned vanity, to cover a defect in 
an hypothesis or our understandings. Words are not 
made to conceal, but to declare and shew something : 
where they are by those, who pretend to instruct, other- 
wise used, they conceal indeed something, but that which 
they conceal is nothing but the ignorance, error, or 
sophistry of the talker, for there is, in truth, nothing else 
under them. 



That there is a constant succession and flux of ideas 
in our minds, I have observed in the former part of 
this essay, and every one may take notice of it in himself. 
This I suppose may deserve some part of our care in 
the conduct of our understandings ; and I think it may 


be of great advantage, if we can by use get that power 
over our minds as to be able to direct that train of 
ideas, that so, since there will new ones perpetually come 
into our thoughts by a constant succession, we may 
be able by choice so to direct them, that none may 
come in view, but such as are pertinent to our present 
enquiry, and in such order as may be most useful to 
the discovery we are upon ; or at least, if some foreign 
and unsought ideas will offer themselves, that yet we 
might be able to reject them, and keep them from taking 
off our minds from its present pursuit, and hinder them 
from running away with our thoughts quite from the 
subject in hand. This is not, I suspect, so easy to be 
done as perhaps may be imagined; and yet, for aught 
1 know, this may be, if not the chief, yet one of the 
great differences that carry some men in their reasoning 
so far beyond others, where they seem to be naturally 
of equal parts. A proper and effectual remedy for this 
wandering of thoughts I would be glad to find. He 
that shall propose such an one would do great service 
to the studious and contemplative part of mankind, and 
perhaps help unthijiking men to become thinking. I 
must acknowledge that hitherto I have discovered no 
other way to keep our thoughts close to their business, 
but the endeavouring as much as we can, and by frequent 
attention and application getting the habit of attention 
and application. He that will observe children, will find 
that, even when they endeavour their uttermost, they 
cannot keep- their minds from straggling. The way to 
cure it, I am satisfied, is not angry chiding or beating, 
for that presently fills their heads with all the ideas that 
fear, dread, or confusion can offer to them. To bring 
back gently their wandering thoughts, by leading them 

F 2 


into the path and going before them in the train they 
should pursue, without any rebuke, or so much as taking 
notice (where it can be avoided) of their roving, I sup- 
pose would sooner reconcile and inure them to attention, 
than all those rougher methods which more distract their 
thought, and, hindering the application they would pro- 
mote, introduce a contrary habit. 



Distinction and division are (if I mistake not the 
import of the words) very different things : the one being 
the perception of a difference that nature has placed in 
things ; the other our making a division where there is 
yet none. At least, if I may be permitted to consider 
them in this sense, I think I may say of them, that one 
of them is the most necessary and conducive to true 
knowledge that can be, the other, when too much made 
use of, serves only to puzzle and confound the under- 
standing. To observe every the least difiference that is in 
things argues a quick and clear sight, and this keeps the 
understanding steady and right in its way to knowledge. 
But though it be useful to discern every variety that is to 
be found in nature, yet it is not convenient to consider 
every difference that is in things, and divide them into 
distinct classes under every such difference. This will 
run us, if followed, into particulars (for every individual 
has something that differences it from another), and we 
shall be able to establish no general truths, or else at 
least shall be apt to perplex the mind about them. The 
collection of several thinars into several classes gives the 


mind more general and larger views; but we must take 
care to unite them only in that, and so far as they do 
agree, for so far they may be united under the considera- 
tion. For entity itself, that comprehends all things, as 
general as it is, may afford us clear and rational con- 
ceptions. If we would well weigh and keep in our minds 
what it is we are considering, that would best instruct us 
when we should or should not branch into farther dis- 
tinctions, which are to be taken only from a due contem- 
plation of things ; to which there is nothing more opposite 
than the art of verbal distinctions, made at pleasure, in 
learned and arbitrarily invented terms to be applied at a 
venture, without comprehending or conveying any distinct 
notions, and so altogether fitted to artificial talk or empty 
noise in dispute, without any clearing of difficulties or 
advance in knowledge. Whatsoever subject we examine 
and would get knowledge in, we should, I think, make as 
general and as large as it will bear ; nor can there be any 
danger of this, if the idea of it be settled and determined : 
for, if that be so, we shall easily distinguish it from any 
other idea, though comprehended under the same name. 
For it is to fence against the entanglements of equivocal 
words, and the great art of sophistry which lies in them, 
that distinctions have been mukiplied, and their use 
thought necessary. But had every distinct abstract idea 
a distinct known name, there would be little need of these 
multiplied scholastic distinctions, though there would be 
nevertheless as much need still of the mind's observing 
the differences that are in things, and discriminating them 
thereby one from another. It is not therefore the right 
way to knowledge, to hunt after, and fill the head with, 
abundance of artificial and scholastic distincdons, where- 
with learned men's writings are often filled; and we 


sometimes find what they treat of so divided and sub- 
divided, that the mind of the most attentive reader loses 
the sight of it, as it is more than probable the writer 
himself did ; for in things crumbled into dust it is in vain 
to affect or pretend order, or expect clearness. To avoid 
confusion by too few or too many divisions, is a great 
skill in thinking as well as writing, which is but the copy- 
ing our thoughts ; but what are the boundaries of the 
mean between the two vicious excesses on both hands, 
I think is hard to set down in words : clear and distinct 
ideas is all that I yet know able to regulate it. But as to 
verbal distinctions received and applied to common terms, 
i.e. equivocal words, they are more properly, I think, the 
business of criticism and dictionaries than of real know- 
ledge and philosophy, since they, for the most part, 
explain the meaning of words, and give us their several 
significations. The dexterous management of terms, and 
being able to /end and prove with them, I know has and 
does pass in the world for a great part of learning ; but it 
is learning distinct from knowledge, for knowledge con- 
sists only in perceiving the habitudes and relations of 
ideas one to another, which is done without words ; the 
intervention of a sound helps nothing to it. And hence 
we see that there is least use of distinctions where there is 
most knowledge ; I mean in mathematics, where men 
have determined ideas with known names to them ; and 
so there being no room for equivocations, there is no 
need of distinctions. In arguing, the opponent uses as 
comprehensive and equivocal terms as he can, to involve 
his adversary in the doubtfulness of his expressions : this 
is expected, and therefore the answerer on his side makes 
it his play to distinguish as much as he can, and thinks 
he can never do it too much ; nor can he indeed in that 


way wherein victory may be had without truth and with- 
out knowledge. This seems to me to be the art of 
disputing. Use your words as captiously as you can in 
your arguing on one side, and apply distinctions as much 
as you can, on the other side, to every term, to nonplus 
your opponent ; so that in this sort of scholarship, there 
being no bounds set to distinguishing, some men have 
thought all acuteness to have lain in it ; and therefore in 
all they have read or thought on, their great business has 
l)een to amuse themselves with distincdons, and multiply 
to themselves divisions, at least more than the nature of 
the thing required. There seems to me, as I said, to be 
no other rule for this, but a due and right consideration 
of things as they are in themselves. He that has settled 
in his mind determined ideas, with names affi.xed to them, 
will be able both to discern their differences one from 
another, which is really distinguishing ; and, where the 
})enury of words affords not terms answering every dis- 
tinct idea, will be able to apply proper distinguishing 
terms to the comprehensive and equivocal names he is 
forced to make use of. This is all the need I know of 
distinguishing terms ; and, in such verbal distinctions, 
each term of the distinction, joined to that whose signifi- 
cation it distinguishes, is but a distinct name for a distinct 
idea. Where they are so, and men have clear and dis- 
tinct conceptions that answer their verbal distinctions, 
they are right, and are pertinent as far as they serve to 
clear any thing in the subject under consideration. And 
this is that which seems to me the proper and only 
measure of distinctions and divisions ; which he that will 
conduct his understanding right must not look for in the 
acuteness of invention, nor the authority of writers, but 
will find only in the consideration of things themselves, 


whether they are led into it by their own meditations or 
the information of boolcs. 

An aptness to jumble things together, wherein can be 
found any likeness, is a fault in the understanding on the 
other side, which will not fail to mislead it, and, by thus 
lumping of things, hinder the mind from distinct and 
accurate conceptions of them. 



To which let me here add another near of kin to this, 
at least in name, and that is, letting the mind, upon the 
suggestion of any new notion, run immediately after 
similes to make it the clearer to itself; which, though 
it may be a good way and useful in the explaining our 
thoughts to others, yet it is by no means a right method- 
to settle true notions of any thing in ourselves, because 
similes always fail in some part, and come short of that 
exactness which our conceptions should have to things, 
if we would think aright. This indeed makes men plaus- 
ible talkers ; for those are always most acceptable in 
discourse, who have the way to let their thoughts into 
other men's minds with the greatest ease and facility. 
Whether those thoughts are well formed and correspond 
with things, matters not ; few men care to be instructed 
but at an easy rate, f They who in their discourse strike 
the fancy, and take the hearers' conceptions along with 
them as fast as their words flow, are the applauded 
talkers, and go for the only men of clear thoughts. 
Nothing contributes so much to this as similes, whereby 
men think they themselves understand better, because 


they are Ijeltcr understood. ]iut it is one thing to think 
light, and another thing to know the right way to lay 
our thoughts before others with advantage and clearnesis, 
be they right or wrong!>j Well chosen similes, metaphors 
and allegories, with method and order, do this the best 
of any thing, because, being taken from objects already 
known and familiar to the understanding, they are con- 
ceived as fast as spoken ; and, the correspondence being 
concluded, the thing they are brought to explain and 
elucidate is thought to be understood too. Thus fancy 
passes for knowledge, and what is prettily said is mis- 
taken for solid.X I say not this to decry metaphor, or 
with design to take away that ornament of speech ; m\' 
business here is not with rhetoricians and orators, but 
with philosophers and lovers of truth ; to whom I would 
beg leave to give this one rule whereby to try whether, 
in the application of their thoughts to any thing for the 
improvement of their knowledge, they do in truth com- 
prehend the matter before them really such as it is in 
itself The way to discover this is to observe whether, 
in the laying it before themselves or others, they make 
use only of borrowed representations and ideas foreign 
to the thing, which are applied to it by way of accmomo- 
dation, as bearing some proportion or imagined likeness 
to the subject under consideration. Figured and meta- 
phorical expressions do well to illustrate more abstruse 
and unfamiliar ideas which the mind is not yet thoroughly 
accustomed to ; but then they must be made use of to 
illustrate ideas that we already have, not to paint to us 
those which we yet have not. Such borrowed and 
allusive ideas may follow real and solid truth, to set 
it off when found, but must by no means be set in its 
place and taken for it. If all our search has yet reached 


no farther than simile and metaphor, we may assure our- 
selves we rather fancy than know, and are not yet pene- 
trated into the inside and reality of the thing, be it what 
it will, but content ourselves with what our imaginations, 
not things themselves, furnish us with. 



In the whole conduct of the understanding, there is 
nothing of more moment than to know when, and where, 
and how far to give assent, and possibly there is nothing 
harder. It is very easily said, and no body questions 
it, that giving and withholding our assent, and the 
degrees of it, should be regulated by the evidence which 
things carry with them ; and yet we see men are not 
the better for this rule ; some firmly embrace doctrines 
upon slight grounds, some upon no grounds, and some 
contrary to appearance. Some admit of certainty, and 
are not to be moved in what they hold : others waver 
in every thing, and there want not those that reject all 
as uncertain. What then shall a novice, an enquirer, 
a stranger do in the case? I answer, use his eyes. 
There is a correspondence in things, and agreement and 
disagreement in ideas, discernible in very different degrees, 
and there are eyes in men to see them if they please, only 
their eyes may be dimmed or dazzled, and the discerning 
sight in them impaired or lost. Interest and passion 
dazzle, the custom of arguing on any side, even against 
our persuasions, dims the understanding, and makes it by 
degrees lose the faculty of discerning clearly between 
truth and falsehood, and so of adhering to the right side. 


It is not safe to play with error, and dress it up to our- 
selves or others in the shape of truth. The mind by 
degrees loses its natural relish of real solid truth, is 
reconciled insensibly to any thing that can but be dressed 
up into any faint appearance of it ; and, if the fancy be 
allowed the place of judgment at first in sport, it after- 
wards comes by use to usurp it, and what is recom- 
mended by this flatterer (that studies but to please) is 
received for good. There are so many ways of fallacy, 
such arts of giving colours, appearances, and resemblances 
by this court dresser, the fancy, that he who is not wary 
to admit nothing but truth itself, very careful not to make 
his mind subservient to any thing else, cannot but be 
caught. He that has a mind to believe, has half assented 
already ; and he that, by often arguing against his own 
sense, imposes falsehoods on others, is not far from 
believing himself. This takes away the great distance 
there is betwixt truth and falsehood ; it brings them 
almost together, and makes it no great odds, in things 
that approach so near, which you take ; and when things 
are brought to that pass, passion or interest, &c. easily, 
and without being perceived, determine which shall be 
the right. 



I have said above that we should keep a perfect indif- 
ferency for all opinions, not wish any of them true, or try 
to make them appear so ; but, being indifferent, receive 
and embrace them according as evidence, and that alone, 


gives the attestation of truth. They that do thus, i.e. 
keep their minds indifferent to opinions, to be determined 
only by evidence, will always find the understanding has 
perception enough to distinguish between evidence or no 
evidence, betwixt plain and doubtful ; and if they neither 
give nor refuse their assent but by that measure, they will 
be safe in the opinions they have. Which being perhaps 
but few, this caution will have also this good in it, that it 
will put them upon considering, and teach them the 
necessity of examining more than they do ; without which 
the mind is but a receptacle of inconsistences, not the 
storehouse of truths. They that do not keep up this 
indifferency in themselves for all but truth, not supposed, 
but evidenced in themselves, put coloured spectacles 
before their eyes, and look on things through false 
glasses, and then think themselves excused in following 
the false appearances, which they themselves put upon 
them. I do not expect that by this way the assent should 
in every one be proportioned to the grounds and clear- 
ness wherewith every truth is capable to be made out, or 
that men should be perfectly kept from error : that is 
more than human nature can by any means be advanced 
to. I aim at no such unattainable privilege. I am only 
speaking of what they should do who would deal fairly 
with their own minds, and make a right use of their 
faculties in the pursuit of truth. We fail them a great deal 
more than they fail us. It is mismanagement more than 
want of abilities that men have reason to complain of, 
and which they actually do complain of in those that 
differ from them. He that, by an indifferency for all but 
truth, suffers not his assent to go faster than his evidence, 
nor beyond it, will learn to examine and examine fairly 
instead of presuming, and no body will be at a loss or in 


danger for want of embracing those truths \vhich are 
necessary in his station and circumstances. In any other 
way but this, all the world are born to orthodoxy : they 
imbibe at first the allowed opinions of their country and 
party, and so, never questioning their truth, not one of 
a hundred ever examines. They are applauded for pre- 
suming they are in the right. He that considers is a foe 
to orthodoxy, because possibly he may deviate from some 
of the received doctrines there. And thus men, without 
any industry or acquisition of their own, inherit local 
truths (for it is not the same every where), and are inured 
to assent without evidence. This influences farther than 
is thought; for what one of a hundred of the zealous 
bigots in all parties ever examined the tenets he is so stiff 
in, or ever thought it his business or duty so to do ? It 
is suspected of lukewarmness to suppose it necessary, and 
a tendency to apostacy to go about it. And if a man can 
bring his mind once to be positive and fierce for positions 
whose evidence he has never once examined, and that in 
matters of greatest concernment to him, what shall keep 
him from this short and easy way of being in the right in 
cases of less moment.? Thus we are taught to clothe 
our minds as we do our bodies after the fashion in vogue, 
and it is accounted fantasticalness, or something worse, 
not to do so. This custom (which who dares oppose?) 
makes the short-sighted bigots, and the warier sceptics, as 
far as it prevails. And those that break from it are in 
danger of heresy; for, taking the whole world, how much 
of it doth truth and orthodoxy possess together ? Though 
it is by the last alone (which has the good luck to be 
every where) that error and heresy are judged of; for 
argument and evidence signify nothing in the case, and 
excuse no where, but are sure to be borne down in all 


societies by the infallible orthodoxy of the place. Whether 
this be the way to truth and right assent, let the opinions, 
that take place and prescribe in the several habitable 
parts of the earth, declare. I never saw any reason yet 
why truth might not be trusted to its own evidence ; I am 
sure, if that be not able to support it, there is no fence 
against error, and then truth and falsehood are but names 
that stand for the same things. Evidence therefore is that 
by which alone every man is (and should be) taught to 
regulate his assent, who is then and then only in the right 
way when he follows it. 

Men deficient in knowledge, are usually in one of these 
three states : either wholly ignorant ; or as doubting of 
some proposition they have either embraced formerly, or 
at present are inclined to ; or, lastly, they do with assur- 
ance hold and profess, without ever having examined and 
been convinced by well grounded arguments. 

The first of these are in the best state of the three, by 
having their minds yet in their perfect freedom and indif- 
ferency, the likelier to pursue truth the better, having no 
bias yet clapped on to mislead them. 



For ignorance with an indifferency for truth is nearer to 
it, than opinion with ungrounded inclination, which is the 
great source of error ; and they are more in danger to go 
out of the way who are marching under the conduct of 
a guide, that it is a hundred to one will mislead them, than 
he that has not yet taken a step and is likelier to be pre- 
vailed on to enquire after the right way. 


The last of the three sorts are in the worst con- 
dition of all ; for if a man can be persuaded and 
fully assured of any thing for a truth, without having 
examined, what is there that he may not embrace 
for truth? And if he has given himself up to believe 
a lie, what means is there left to recover one who can 
be assured without examining ? To the other two this 
I crave leave to say, that as he that is ignorant is in 
the best state of the two, so he should pursue truth in 
a method suitable to that state, i.e. by enquiring directly 
into the nature of the thing itself, without minding the 
opinions of others, or troubling himself with their ques- 
tions or disputes about it, but to see what he himself can, 
sincerely searching after truth, find out. He that proceeds 
upon other principles in his enquiry into any sciences, 
though he be resolved to examine them and judge of 
them freely, does yet at least put himself on that side, 
and post himself in a parly which he will not quit till he 
be beaten out ; by which the mind is insensibly engaged 
to make what defence it can, and so is unawares biassed. 
I do not say but a man should embrace some opinion 
when he has examined, else he examines to no purpose ; 
but the surest and safest way is to have no opinion at all 
till he has examined, and that without any the least regard 
to the opinions or systems of other men about it. For 
example, were it my business to understand physic, would 
not the safer and readier way be to consult nature herself, 
and inform myself in the history of diseases and their 
cures, than espousing the principles of the dogmatists, 
methodists, or chymists, engage in all the disputes con- 
cerning either of those systems, and suppose it to be true, 
till I have tried what they can say to beat me out of it. 
Or, supposing that Hippocrates, or any other book. 


infallibly contains the whole art of physic, would not the 
direct way be to study, read and consider that book, 
weigh and compare the parts of it to find the truth, 
rather than espouse the doctrines of any party, who, 
though they acknowledge his authority, have already 
interpreted and wiredrawn all his text to their own sense ; 
the tincture whereof when I have imbibed, I am more in 
danger to misunderstand his true meaning, than if I had 
come to him with a mind unprepossessed by doctors and 
commentators of my sect, whose reasonings, interpreta- 
tion, and language, which I have been used to, will of 
course make all chime that way, and make another and 
perhaps the genuine meaning of the author seem harsh, 
' strained, and uncouth to me. For words, having natu- 
rally none of their own, carry that signification to the 
hearer, that he is used to put upon them, whatever be the 
sense of him that uses them. This, I think, is visibly 
so ; and if it be, he that begins to have any doubt 
of any of his tenets, which he received without ex- 
amination, ought, as much as he can, to put himself 
wholly into this state of ignorance in reference to 
that question, and throwing wholly by all his former 
notions, and the opinions of others, examine, with a 
perfect indifferency, the question in its source, without 
any inclination to either side, or any regard to his or 
others' unexamined opinions. This I own is no easy 
thing to do, but I am not enquiring the easy way to 
opinion, but the right way to truth; which they must 
follow who will deal fairly with their own understandings 
and their own souls. 




The indiflferency that I here propose will also enable 
them to state the question right, which they are in doubt 
about, without which they can never come to a fair and 
t lear decision of it. 



Another fruit from this indifferency and the considering 
things in themselves, abstract from our own opinions and 
other men's notions and discourses on them, will be that 
each man will pursue his thoughts in that method which 
will be most agreeable to the nature of the thing and 
to his apprehension of what it suggests to him ; in which 
he ought to proceed with regularity and constancy, until 
he come to a well-grounded resolution wherein he may 
acquiesce. If it be objected that this will require every 
man to be a scholar, and quit all his other business, 
and betake himself wholly to study ; I answer, I propose 
no more to any one than he has time for. Some men's 
state and condition requires no great extent of know- 
ledge ; the necessary provision for life swallows the great- 
est part of their time. But one man's want of leisure 
is no excuse for the oscitancy and ignorance of those 
who have time to spare ; and every one has enough to 
get as much knowledge as is required and expected of 
him, and he that does not that is in love with ignorance, 
and is accountable for it. 





The variety of distempers in men's minds is as great 
as of those in their bodies; some are epidemic, few escape 
them, and every one too, if he would look into himself, 
would find some defect of his particular genius. There 
is scarce any one without some idiosyncrasy that he 
suflfers by. This man presumes upon his parts, that 
they will not fail him at time of need, and so thinks it 
superfluous labour to make any provision before hand. 
His understanding is to him like Fortunatus's purse, which 
is always to furnish him without ever putting any thing 
into it before-hand ; and so he sits still satisfied, without 
endeavouring to store his understanding with knowledge. 
It is the spontaneous product of the country, and what 
need of labour in tillage? Such men may spread their 
native riches before the ignorant ; but they were best not 
come to stress and trial with the skilful. We are born 
ignorant of every thing. The superficies of things that 
surround them make impressions on the negligent, but no 
body penetrates into the inside without labour, attention, 
and industry. Stones and timber grow of themselves, but 
yet there is no uniform pile with symmetry and conveni- 
ence to lodge in without toil and pains. God has made 
the intellectual world harmonious and beautiful without 
us ; but it will never come into our heads all at once ; 
we must bring it home piecemeal, and there set it up by 
our own industry, or else we shall have nothing but dark- 
ness and a chaos within, whatever order and light there 
be in things without us. 




On the other side, there are others that depress their 
own minds, despond at the first difficulty, and conclude 
that the getting an insight in any of the sciences or 
making any progress in knowledge, farther than serves 
their ordinary business, is above their capacities. These 
sit still, because they think they have not legs to go ; 
as the others I last mentioned do, because they think 
they have wings to fly, and can soar on high when they 
please. To these latter one may for answer apply the 
proverb. Use legs and have legs. No body knows what 
strength of parts he has till he has tried them. And of 
the understanding one may most truly say, that its force 
is greater generally than it thinks, till it is put to it. 
Viresqtie acquirit ewido. 

And therefore the proper remedy here is but to set 
the mind to work, and apply the thoughts vigorously to 
the business ; for it holds in the struggles of the mind, 
as in those of war, Dum putaitt se vincere, vicere ; a per- 
suasion that we shall overcome any difficulties that we 
meet with in the sciences seldom fails to carry us through 
them. No body knows the strength of his mind and the 
force of steady and regular application, till he has tried. 
This is certain, he that sets out upon weak legs will not 
only go farther, but grow stronger too than one who, 
with a vigorous constitution and firm limbs, only sits 

Something of kin to this men may observe in them- 
selves, when the mind frights itself (as it often does) with 
G 2 


any thing reflected on in gross, and transiently viewed 
confusedly and at a distance. Things, thus offered to 
the mind, carry the shew of nothing but difficulty in 
them, and are thought to be wrapped up in impenetrable 
obscurity. But the truth is, these are nothing but spectres 
that the understanding raises to itself to flatter its own 
laziness. It sees nothing distinctly in things remote and 
in a huddle, and therefore concludes too faintly that there 
is nothing more clear to be discovered in them. It is 
but to approach nearer, and that mist of our own raising 
that enveloped them will remove ; and those that in that 
mist appeared hideous giants, not to be grappled with, 
will be found to be of the ordinary and natural size and 
shape. Things that in a remote and confused view seem 
very obscure, must be approached by gentle and regular 
steps; and what is most visible, easy, and obvious in 
them first considered. Reduce them into their distinct 
parts ; and then in their due order bring all that should 
be known concerning every one of those parts into plain 
and simple questions ; and then what was thought ob- 
scure, perplexed, and too hard for our weak parts, will 
lay itself open to the understanding in a fair view, and let 
the mind into that which before it was awed with and 
kept at a distance from, as wholly mysterious. I appeal 
to my reader's experience, whether this has never hap- 
pened to him, especially when, busy on one thing, he has 
occasionally reflected on another. I ask him, whether he has 
never thus been scared with a sudden opinion of mighty 
difficulties, which yet have vanished, when he has seriously 
and methodically applied himself to the consideration of 
this seeming terrible subject; and there has been no 
other matter of astonishment left, but that he amused 
himself with so discouraging a prospect of his own rais- 


ing about a matter, which in the handling was found to 
have nothing in it more strange nor intricate than several 
other things which he had long since and with ease mas- 
tered ? Tiiis experience should teach us how to deal with 
such bugbears another time, which should rather serve to 
excite our vigour than enervate our industry. The surest 
way for a learner, in this as in all other cases, is not to 
advance by jumps and large strides; let that which he 
sets himself to learn next be indeed the next, i. e. as 
nearly conjoined with what he knows already as is pos- 
sible; let it be distinct but not remote from it; let it 
be new and what he did not know before, that the 
understanding may advance ; but let it be as little at 
once as may be, that its advances may be clear and sure. 
All the ground that it gets this way it will hold. This 
distinct gradual growth in knowledge is firm and sure, 
it carries its own light with it in every step of its progres- 
sion in an easy and orderly train, than which there is 
nothing of more use to the understanding. And thougli 
this perhaps may seem a very slow and Imgering way to 
knowledge, yet I dare confidently affirm tliat whoever will 
try it in himself, or any one he will teach, shall find the 
advances greater in this method, than they would in the 
same space of time have been in any other he could have 
taken. The greatest part of true knowledge lies in a 
distinct perception of things in themselves distinct. And 
some men give more clear light and knowledge by the 
bare distinct stating of a question, than others by talking 
of it in gross whole hours together. In this, they who 
so state a question do no more but separate and disen- 
tangle the parts of it one from another, and lay them, 
when so disentangled, in their due order. This often, 
without any more ado, resolves the doubt, and shews 


the mind where the truth lies. The agreement or disa- 
greement of the ideas in question, when they are once 
separated and distinctly considered, is, in many cases, 
presently perceived, and thereby clear and lasting know- 
ledge gained ; whereas things in gross taken up together, 
and so lying together in confusion, can produce in the 
mind but a confused, which in effect is no knowledge, 
or at least, when it comes to be examined and made 
use of, will prove little better than none. I therefore take 
the liberty to repeat here again what I have said else- 
where, that, in learning any thing, as little should be 
proposed to the mind at once as is possible ; and, that 
being understood and fully mastered, to proceed to the 
next adjoining part yet unknown, simple, unperplexed pro- 
position belonging to the matter in hand, and tending to 
the clearing what is principally designed. 



Analogy is of great use to the mind in many cases, 
especially in natural philosophy, and that part of it chiefly 
which consists in happy and successful experiments. But 
here we must take care that we keep ourselves within that 
wherein the analogy consists. For example, the acid oil of 
vitriol is found to be good in such a case, therefore the 
spirit of nitre or vinegar may be used in the like case. 
If the good eff^ect of it be owing wholly to the acidity of 
it, the trial may be justified ; but if there be something 
else besides the acidity in the oil of vitriol, which pro- 
duces the good we desire in the case, we mistake that 


lor analogy, which is not, and suffer our understanding 
to be misguided by a wrong supposition of analogy where 
there is none. 



Though I have, in the second book of my Essay con- 
i crning Human Understanding, treated of the association 
of ideas ; yet having done it there historically, as giving- 
a view of the understanding in this as well as its several 
other ways of operating, rather than designing there to 
enquire into the remedies [that] ought to be applied to 
it: it will, under this latter consideration, afford other 
matter of thought to those who have a mind to instruct 
themselves thoroughly in the right way of conducting 
their understandings ; and that the rather, because this, if 
I mistake not, is as frequent a cause of mistake and error 
in us as perhaps any thing else that can be named, and is 
a disease of the mind as hard to be cured as any ; it 
being a very hard thing to convince any one that things 
are not so, and naturally so, as they constantly appear to 

By this one easy and unheeded miscarriage of the 
understanding, sandy and loose foundations become in- 
fallible principles, and will not suffer themselves to be 
touched or questioned : such unnatural connections be- 
come by custom as natural to the mind, as sun and light. 
Fire and warmth go together, and so seem to carry with 
tliem as natural an evidence as self-evident truths them- 
selves. And where then shall one with hopes of success 
begin the cure '^ INIany men firmly embrace fiilsehood for 
truth ; not only because they never thought otherwise, but 


also because, thus blinded as they have been from the 
beginning, they never could think otherwise ; at least 
without a vigour of mind able to contest the empire of 
habit, and look into its own principles, a freedom which 
few men have the notion of in themselves, and fewer are 
allowed the practice of by others; it being the great art 
and business of the teachers and guides in most sects, to 
suppress, as much as they can, this fundamental duty 
which every man owes himself, and [which] is the first 
steady step towards right and truth in the whole train of 
his actions and opinions. This would give one reason to 
suspect that such teachers are conscious to themselves 
of the falsehood or w-eakness of the tenets they profess, 
since they will not suffer the grounds whereon they are 
built to be examined ; whereas those who seek truth only, 
and desire to own and propagate nothing else, freely 
expose their principles to the test, are pleased to have 
them examined, give men leave to reject them if they 
can, and, if there be any thing weak and unsound in them, 
are willing to have it detected, that they themselves, as 
well as others, may not lay any stress upon any received 
proposition beyond what the evidence of its truth will 
warrant and allow. 

There is, I know% a great fault among all sorts of 
people of principHng their children and scholars ; which 
at last, when looked into, amounts to no more, but 
making them imbibe their teachers' notions and tenets by 
an implicit faith, and firmly to adhere to them whether 
true or false. What colours may be given to this, or of 
what use it may be when practised upon the vulgar, 
destined to labour and given up to the service of their 
bellies, I will not here enquire. But as to the ingenuous 
part of mankind, whose condition allows them leisure, 


and letters, and enquiry after truth, I can sec no other 
right way of principling them, but to take heed, as much 
as may be, that, in their tender years, ideas that have no 
natural cohesion come not to be united in their heads, 
and that this rule be often inculcated to them to be their 
guide in the whole course of their lives and studies, viz. 
that they never suflfer any ideas to be joined in their 
understandings in any other or stronger combination than 
what their own nature and correspondence give them ; 
and that they often examine those that they find linked 
together in their minds, whether this association of ideas 
be from the visible agreement that is in the ideas them- 
selves, or from the habitual and prevailing custom of the 
mind joining them thus together in thinking. 

This is for caution against this evil, before it be 
thoroughly riveted by custom in the understanding ; but 
he that would cure it, when habit has established it, must 
nicely observe the very quick and almost imperceptible 
motions of the mind in its habitual actions. What I have 
said in another place about the change of the ideas of 
sense into those of judgment may be proof of this. Let 
any one not skilled in painting be told when he sees 
botdes and tobacco pipes, and other things so painted, 
as they are in some places shewn, that he does not see 
protuberances, and you will not convince him but by the 
touch : he will not believe that, by an instantaneous leger- 
demain of his own thoughts, one idea is substituted for 
the other. How frequent instances may one meet with of 
this in the arguings of the learned, who not seldom, in 
two ideas that they have been accustomed to join in their 
minds, substitute one for the other ; and, I am apt to 
think, often without perceiving it themselves. This, whilst 
they are under the deceit of it, makes them incapable of 

90 OF THE coy DUCT 

conviction, and they applaud themselves as zealous cham- 
pions for truth, when indeed they are contending for 
error. And the confusion of two different ideas, which a 
customary connection of them in their minds hath made 
to them almost one, fills their heads with false views, and 
their reasonings with false consequences. 



Right understanding consists in the discovery and 
adherence to truth, and that in the perception of the 
visible or probable agreement or disagreement of ideas, 
as they are affirmed and denied one of another. From 
whence it is evident that the right use and conduct of 
the understanding, whose business is purely truth and 
nothing else, is, that the mind should be kept in a 
perfect indifferency, not inclining to either side, any 
farther than evidence settles it by knowledge, or the 
overbalance of probability gives it the turn of assent 
and belief; but yet it is very hard to meet with any 
discourse, wherein one may not perceive the author not 
only maintain (for that is reasonable and fit) but inclined 
and biassed to one side of the question, with marks of 
a desire that that should be true. If it be asked me, 
how authors who have such a bias and lean to it may 
be discovered, I answer, by observing how, in their writ- 
ings or arguings, they are often led by their inclinations 
to change the ideas of the question, either by changing 
the terms, or by adding and joining others to them, 
whereby the ideas under consideration are so varied as 
to be more serviceable to their purpose, and to be thereby 


brought to an easier and nearer agreement or more visible 
and remoter disagreement one with another. This is 
plain and direct sophistry ; but I am far from thinking 
that, wherever it is found, it is made use of with design 
to deceive and mislead the readers. It is visible that 
men's prejudices and inclinations by this way impose 
often upon themselves ; and their affections for truth, 
under their prepossession in favour of one side, is the 
very thing that leads them from it. Inclination suggests 
and slides into their discourse favourable terms, which 
introduce favourable ideas, till at last, by this means, 
that is concluded clear and evident, thus dressed up, 
which taken in its native state, by making use of none 
but the precise determined ideas, would find no admit- 
tance at all. The putting these glosses on what they 
affirm, these, as they are thought, handsome, easy, and 
graceful explications of what they are discoursing on, 
is so much the character of what is called and esteemed 
writing well, that it is very hard to think that authors 
will ever be persuaded to leave what serves so well to 
propagate their opinions and procure themselves credit 
in the world, for a more jejune and dry way of writing, 
by keeping to the same terms precisely annexed to the 
same ideas, a sour and blunt stiffness tolerable in ma- 
thematicians only, who force their way and make truth 
prevail by irresistible demonstration. 

But yet if authors cannot be prevailed with to quit 
the looser, though more insinuating, ways of writing, 
if they will not think fit to keep close to truth and 
instruction by unvaried terms and plain unsophisticated 
arguments, yet it concerns readers not to be imposed 
on by fallacies and the prevailing ways of insinuation. 
To do this, the surest and most effectual remedy is, to 


fix in the mind the clear and distinct ideas of the question 
stripped of words ; and so Ukewise, in the train of argu- 
mentation, to take up the author's ideas, neglecting his 
words, observing how they connect or separate those in 
the question. He that does this will be able to cast off 
all that is superfluous ; he will see what is pertinent, what 
coherent, what is direct to, what slides by the question. 
This will readily shew him all the foreign ideas in the 
discourse, and where they were brought in ; and though 
they perhaps dazzled the writer, yet he will perceive that 
they give no light nor strength to his reasonings. 

This, though it be the shortest and easiest way of 
reading books with profit, and keeping one's self from 
being misled by great names or plausible discourses, yet, 
it being hard and tedious to those who have not accus- 
tomed themselves to it, it is not to be expected that 
every one (amongst those few who really pursue truth) 
should this way guard his understanding from being 
imposed on by the wilful or, at least, undesigned sophistry, 
which creeps into most of the books of argument. They 
that write against their conviction, or that next to them 
are resolved to maintain the tenets of a party they are 
engaged in, cannot be supposed to reject any arms that 
may help to defend their cause, and therefore such 
should be read with the greatest caution. And they who 
write for opinions they are sincerely persuaded of, and 
believe to be true, think they may so far allow themselves 
to indulge their laudable affection to truth, as to permit 
their esteem of it to give it the best colours, and set it 
off with the best expressions and dress they can, thereby 
to gain it the easiest entrance into the minds of their 
readers and fix it deepest there. 

One of those being the state of mind we may justly 


suppose most writers to be in, it is fit their readers, who 
apply to them for instruction, should not lay by that 
caution which becomes a sincere pursuit of truth and 
should make them always watchful against whatever 
might conceal or misrepresent it. If they have not the 
skill of representing to themselves the author's sense by 
pure ideas separated from sounds, and thereby divested 
of the false liglits and deceitful ornaments of speech, this 
yet they should do, they should keep the precise question 
steadily in their minds, carry it along with them through 
the whole discourse, and suffer not the least alteration in 
the terms, either by addition, subtraction, or substituting 
any other. This every one can do who has a mind to it : 
and he that has not a mind to it, it is plain makes his 
understanding only the warehouse of other men's lumber ; 
I mean, false and unconcluding reasonings, rather than 
a repository of truth for his own use, which will prove 
substantial and stand him in stead when he has occasion 
for it. And whether such an one deals fairly by his own 
mind, and conducts his own understanding right, I leave 
to his own understanding to judge. 



The mind of man being very narrow, and so slow in 
making acquaintance with things and taking in new 
truths that no one man is capable, in a much longer life 
than ours, to know all truths ; it becomes our prudence, 
in our search after knowledge, to employ our thoughts 
about fundamental and material questions, carefully 
avoiding those that are trifling, and not suffering our- 


selves to be diverted from our main even purpose by 
those that are merely incidental. How much of many 
young men's time is thrown away in purely logical 
enquiries, I need not mention. This is no better than if 
a man, who was to be a painter, should spend all his time 
in examining the threads of the several cloths he is to 
paint upon, and counting the hairs of each pencil and 
brush he intends to use in the laying on of his colours. 
Nay, it is much worse than for a young painter to spend 
his apprenticeship in such useless niceties ; for he, at the 
end of all his pains to no purpose, finds that it is not 
painting, nor any help to it, and so is really to no pur- 
pose. Whereas men designed for scholars have often 
their heads so filled and warmed with disputes on logical 
questions, that they take those airy useless notions for 
real and substantial knowledge, and think their under- 
standings so well furnished with science that they need 
not look any farther into the nature of things, or descend 
to the mechanical drudgery of experiment and inquiry. 
This is so obvious a mismanagement of the under- 
standing, and that in the professed way to knowledge, 
that it could not be passed by ; to which might be joined 
abundance of questions, and the way of handling them in 
the schools. What faults in particular of this kind every 
man is, or may be guilty of, would be infinite to enu- 
merate ; it suffices to have shewn that superficial and 
slight discoveries and observations that contain nothing 
of moment in themselves, nor serve as clues to lead us 
into farther knowledge, should be lightly passed by, and 
never thouglit worth our searching after. There are 
fundamental truths that lie at the bottom, the basis upon 
which a great many others rest, and in which they have 
their consistency. These are teeming truths, rich in 


Store, with whicli they furnish the mind, and, like the 
lights of heaven, are not only beautiful and entertaining 
in themselves, but give light and evidence to other things 
thai without them could not be seen or known. Such is 
that admirable discovery of Mr. Newton, that all bodies 
gravitate to one another, which may be counted as the 
basis of natural philosophy; which of what use it is 
to the understanding of the great frame of our solar 
system, he has to the astonishment of the learned world 
shewn, and how much farther it would guide us in other 
things, if rightly pursued, is not yet known. Our 
Saviour's great rule, that we should love our neighbour as 
ourselves, is such a fundamental truth for the regulating 
human society, that I think by that alone one might 
without difliculty determine all the cases and doubts in 
social morality. These, and such as these, are the truths 
we should endeavour to find out and store our minds 
with. Which leads me to another thing in the conduct 
of the understanding that is no less necessarv, viz. 



To accustom ourselves in any question proposed to 
examine and find out upon what it bottoms. IMost of 
the difficulties that come in our way, when well considered 
and traced, lead us to some proposition which, known to 
be true, clears the doubt, and gives an easy solution of 
the question, whilst topical and superficial arguments, 
of which there is store to be found on both sides, filling 
the head with variety of thoughts and the mouth with 
copious discourse, serve only to amuse the understanding, 


and entertain company without coming to the bottom of 
the question, the only place of rest and stability for an 
inquisitive mind whose tendency is only to truth and 

For example, if it be demanded, whether the grand 
seignior can lawfully take what he will from any of his 
people ? This question cannot be resolved without 
coming to a certainty, whether all men are naturally 
equal ; for upon that it turns, and that truth, well settled 
in the understanding and carried in the mind through the 
various debates concerning the various rights of men in 
society, will go a great way in putting an end to them 
and shewing on which side the truth is. 



There is scarce any thing more for the improvement of 
knowledge, for the ease of life, and the dispatch of busi- 
ness, than for a man to be able to dispose of his own 
thoughts; and there is scarce anything harder in the 
whole conduct of the understanding, than to get a full 
mastery over it. The mind, in a waking man, has 
always some object that it applies itself to ; which, when 
we are lazy or unconcerned, we can easily change, and 
at pleasure transfer our thoughts to another, and from 
thence to a third, which has no relation to either of the 
former. Hence men forwardly conclude, and frequently 
say, nothing is so free as thought, and it were well it 
were so ; but the contrary will be found true in several 
instances; and there are many cases wherein there is 


nothing more rcsty and ungovernable than our thoughts: 
they will not be directed what objects to pursue, nor be 
taken off from those they have once fixed on, but run 
away with a man in pursuit of those ideas they have in 
view, let him do what he can. 

T will not here mention again what I have above taken 
notice of, how hard it is to get the mind, narrowed by a 
custom of thirty or forty years standing to a scanty col- 
lection of obvious and common ideas, to enlarge itself to 
a more copious stock, and grow into an acquaintance 
with those that would afford more abundant matter of 
useful contemplation ; it is not of this I am here speak- 
ing. The inconvenience I would here represent and find 
a remedy for, is the difficulty there is sometimes to 
transfer our minds from one subject to another, in cases 
where the ideas are equally familiar to us. 

Matters that are recommended to our thoughts by any 
of our passions take possession of our minds with a kind 
of authority, and will not be kept out or dislodged, but, as 
if the passion that rules were, for the time, the sheriff of 
the place, and came with all the posse, the understanding 
is seized and taken with the object it introduces, as if it 
had a legal right to be alone considered there. There is 
scarce any body, I think, of so calm a temper who hath 
not sometime found this tyranny on his understanding, 
and suffered under the inconvenience of it. Who is there 
almost whose mind, at some time or other, love or anger, 
fear or grief, has not so fastened to some clog, that it 
could not turn itself to any other object ? I call it a clog, 
for it hangs upon the mind so as to hinder its vigour and 
activity in the pursuit of other contemplations, and ad- 
vances itself little or not [at] all in the knowledge of the 
thing which it so closely hugs and constantly pores on. 



Men thus possessed are sometimes as if they were so in 
the worst sense, and lay under the power of an enchant- 
ment. They see not what passes before their eyes ; hear 
not the audible discourse of the company; and when by 
any strong application to them they are roused a little, 
they are Hke men brought to themselves from some 
remote region ; whereas in truth they come no farther 
than their secret cabinet within, where they have been 
wholly taken up with the puppet, which is for that time 
appointed for their entertainment. The shame that such 
dumps cause to well-bred people, when it carries them 
away from the company, where they should bear a part in 
the conversation, is a sufficient argument that it is a fault 
in the conduct of our understanding, not to have that 
power over it as to make use of it to those purposes and 
on those occasions wherein we have need of its assistance. 
The mind should be always free and ready to turn itself 
to the variety of objects that occur, and allow them as 
much consideration as shall for that time be thought fit. 
To be engrossed so by one object, as not to be prevailed 
on to leave it for another that we judge fitter for our 
contemplation, is to make it of no use to us. Did this state 
of mind remsun always so, every one would, without scruple, 
give it the name of perfect madness ; and whilst it does 
last, at whatever intervals it returns, such a rotation of 
thoughts about the same object no more carries us 
forwards towards the attainment of knowledge, than 
getting upon a mill-horse whilst he jogs on in his 
circular track would carry a man a journey. 

I grant something must be allowed to legitimate pas- 
sions and to natural inclinations. Every man, besides 
occasional affections, has beloved studies, and those the 
mind will more closely stick to ; but yet it is best that it 


should be always at liberty, and under the free disposal of 
the man, to act how and upon what he directs. This we 
should endeavour to obtain, unless we would be content 
with such a flaw in our understandings, that sometimes 
we should be as it were without it ; for it is very little 
better than so in cases where we cannot make use of it 
to those purposes we would and which stand in present 
need of it. 

But before fit remedies can be thought on for this 
disease, we must know the several causes of it, and 
thereby regulate th^ cure, if we will hope to labour with 

One we have already instanced in, whereof all men that 
reflect have so general a knowledge, and so often an 
experience in themselves, that no body doubts of it. A 
prevailing passion so pins down our thoughts to the 
object and concern of it, that a man passionately in love 
cannot bring himself to think of his ordinary affairs, or 
a kind mother, drooping under the loss of a child, is not 
able to bear a part as she was wont in the discourse of 
the company or conversation of her friends. 

But though passion be the most obvious and general, 
yet it is not the only cause that binds up the understand- 
ing, and confines it for the time to one object from which 
it will not be taken off. 

Besides this, we may often find that the understanding, 
when it has a while employed itself upon a subject which 
either chance, or some slight accident, offered to it with- 
out the interest or recommendation of any passion, works 
itself into a warmth, and by degrees gets into a career, 
wherein, like a bowl down a hill, it increases its motion 
by going, and will not be stopped or diverted, though, 
when the heat is over, it sees all this earnest application 
H 2 


was about a trifle not worth a thought, and all the pains 
employed about it lost labour. 

There is a third sort, if I mistake not, yet lower than 
this ; it is a sort of childishness, if I may so say, of the 
understanding, wherein, during the fit, it plays with and 
dandles some insignificant puppet to no end, nor with 
any design at all, and yet cannot easily be got off from it. 
Thus some trivial sentence, or a scrap of poetry, will 
sometimes get into men's heads, and make such a 
chiming there, that there is no stilUng of it ; no peace 
' to be obtained, nor attention to any thing else, but this 
impertinent guest will take up the mind and possess the 
thoughts in spite of all endeavours to get rid of it. 
Whether every one hath experimented in themselves this 
troublesome intrusion of some striking ideas which thus 
importune the understanding, and hinder it from being 
better employed, I know not. But persons of very good 
parts, and those more than one, I have heard speak and 
complain of it themselves. The reason I have to make 
this doubt is from what I have known in a case something 
of kin to this, though much odder, and that is of a sort of 
visions that some people have lying quiet but perfectly 
awake in the dark, or with their eyes shut. It is a great 
variety of faces, most commonly very odd ones, that 
appear to them in a train one after another ; so that 
having had just the sight of the one, it immediately passes 
away to give place to another, that the same instant 
succeeds and has as quick an exit as its leader, and so 
they march on in a constant succession ; nor can any one 
of them by any endeavour be stopped or retained beyond 
the instant of its appearance, but is thrust out by its 
follower, which will have its turn. Concerning this fan- 
tastical phenomenon I have talked with several people, 


whereof some have been perfectly acquainted with it, and 
others have been so wholly strangers to it, that they could 
hardly be brought to conceive or believe it. I knew a 
lady of excellent parts, who had got past thirty without 
having ever had the least notice of any such thing ; she 
was so great a stranger to it that, when she heard me and 
another talking of it, [she] could scarce forbear thinking 
we bantered her; but sometime after, drinking a large 
dose of dilute tea (as she was ordered by a physician) 
going to bed, she told us at next meeting, that she had 
now experimented what our discourse had much ado to 
persuade her of. She had seen a great variety of faces in 
a long train, succeeding one another, as we had de- 
scribed ; they were all strangers and intruders, such as she 
had no acquaintance with before, nor sought after then, 
and as they came of themselves they went too ; none of 
them stayed a moment, nor could be detained by all the 
endeavours she could use, but went on in their solemn 
procession, just appeared and then vanished. This odd 
phenomenon seems to have a mechanical cause, and to 
depend upon the matter and motion of the blood or 
animal spirits. 

When the fancy is bound by passion, I know no way 
to set the mind free and at liberty to prosecute what 
thoughts the man would make choice of, but to allay the 
present passion, or counterbalance it with another, which 
is an art to be got by study and acquaintance with the 

Those who find themselves apt to be carried away with 
the spontaneous current of their own thoughts, not excited 
by any passion or interest, must be very wary and careful 
in all the instances of it to stop it, and never humour 
their minds in being thus triflingly busy. Men know the 


value of their corporal liberty, and therefore suffer not 
willingly fetters and chains to be put upon them. To 
have the mind captivated is, for the time, certainly the 
greater evil of the two, and deserves our utmost care and 
endeavours to preserve the freedom of our better part. 
In this case our pains will not be lost; striving and 
struggling will prevail, if we constantly, in all such oc- 
casions, make use of it. We must never indulge these 
trivial attentions of thought ; as soon as we find the mind 
makes itself a business of nothing, we should immediately 
disturb and check it, introduce new and more serious 
considerations, and not leave till we have beaten it off 
from the pursuit it was upon. This, at first, if we have 
let the contrary practice grow to a habit, will perhaps be 
diflficult ; but constant endeavours will by degrees prevail, 
and at last make it easy. And when a man is pretty well 
advanced, and can command his mind off at pleasure 
from incidental and undesigned pursuits, it may not be 
amiss for him to go on farther, and make attempts upon 
meditations of greater moment, that at the last he may 
have a full power over his own mind, and be so fully 
master of his own thoughts, as to be able to transfer them 
from one subject to another with the same ease that he 
can lay by any thing he has in his hand and take some- 
thing else that he has a mind to in the room of it. This 
liberty of mind is of great use both in business and study, 
and he that has got it will have no small advantage of 
ease and despatch in all that is the chosen and useful 
employment of his understanding. 

The third and last way which I mentioned the mind to 
be sometimes taken up with, I mean the chiming of some 
particular words or sentence in the memory, and, as it 
were, making a noise in the head, and the lik^ seldom 


happens but when the mind is lazy or very loosely and 
negligently employed. It were better indeed be without 
such impertinent and useless repetitions; any obvious 
idea, when it is roving causelessly at a venture, being of 
more use and apter to suggest something worth consider- 
ation, than the insignificant buzz of purely empty sounds. 
But since the rousing of the mind, and setting the under- 
standing on work with some degrees of vigour, does for 
the most part presently set it free from these idle com- 
panions ; it may not be amiss, whenever we find ourselves 
troubled with them, to make use of so profitable a remedy 
that is always at hand. 



Page 3. operative powers are directed. Cp. Essay on the Human 
Understanding, Bk. II, ch. 21, § 29: 'The Will is nothing but a 
power in the Mind to direct the operative faculties of a man to 
motion or rest. To the question. What is it determines the Will ? 
the true and proper answer is, The Mind. For that which determines 
the general power of directing to this or that particular direction, 
is nothing but the agent itself exercising the power it has that 
particular way. If this answer satisfies not, 'tis plain the mean- 
ing of the question. What determines the Will ? is this, ^^'hat moves 
the Mind, in every particular instance, to determine its general 
power of directing to this or that particular motion or rest ? And 
to this I answer, The motive for continuing in the same state or 
action, is only the present Satisfaction in it : the motive to change 
is always some Uneasiness ; nothing setting us upon the change 
of state, or upon any new action, but some Uneasiness. This is 
the great motive that works on the Mind to put it upon action, 
which for shortness sake we will call determining of the Will.' 
Locke's theory of volition seems, in brief, to be this : something, 
suggested by desire in the first instance, is regarded, on reflection, 
by the understanding as desirable; this motive, as it may be called, 
produces uneasiness ; the imeasiness determines the will, and the 
will, thus directed, results in action. 

Page 4. two or three thousand years. The date of Aristotle, 
from whom the scholastic logic was, with certain additions and 
modifications, derived, is the fourth century before Christ. He was 
born not earlier than 392 B.C., nor later than 3S4 b.c. He died in 
322 B.C. But many traces of his logical doctrine are already to be 


found in Plato, and some may be carried back even as far as Zeno 
the Eleatic, who is said to have been born about 488 B.C. 

Lord Vcridani's, that is, Francis Bacon, b. 1 560-1, d. 1626, who 
was created Baron Verulam, and subsequently Viscount St. Alban. 
He is commonly, but inaccurately, called Lord Bacon. 

preface to his Novum Orgamim. This passage is to be found, not 
in the preface to the Novum Organum, but in that to the Instauratio 
Magna generally, of which great, but unfinished, undertaking the 
Novum Organum was designed to be the second part. This pre- 
face, with other small pieces, was, however, published along with 
the Novum Organum. The sentences quoted will be found in my 
edition of the Novum Organum, p. 161, or in Ellis and Spedding's 
Edition, vol. i, p. 129. 

but became a part of it, literally, ' nor is it without evil itself.' 

which took place, literally, -which is received,' that is, which is in 
common use. 

subtilty. This "or subtility is the old way of spelling subtlety, 
which is derived from the Latin word subtilitas. 


Page 8. of one sort of notions. Cp. Bacon, Novum Organum, 
Bk. i, Aph. 54 : ' Adamant homines scientias et contemplationes 
particulares ; aut quia auctores et inventores se earum credunt ; aut 
quia plurimum in illis operae posuerunt, iisque maxime assueverunt. 
Hujusmodi vero homines, si ad philosophiam et contemplationes 
universales se contulerint, illas ex prioribus phantasiis detorquent 
et corrumpunt.' He then goes on to exemplify this ' idol of the den ' 
in Aristotle, ' qui naturalem suam philosophiam logicae suae prorsus 
mancipavit,' in the Alchemists, and in Gilbert, who is charged with 
having subordinated the whole of his system to magnetism. 

Matian Islands. Properly the Marianne or Ladrone Islands. 
These, to the number of about twenty, lie in the North Pacific 
Ocean, between the 13th and 21st degrees of N. lat. and the 144th 
and 146th of E. long. They were originally discovered in i.'i2i, by 
Magellan, who called them Las Islas de las Ladrones, or the Isles 
of Thieves, on account of the thievish propensities of their inha- 
bitants. They were subsequently called the Mariana or 
Islands from Mary Ann of Austria, queen of Spain, at whose ex- 


pense Christian missionaries were sent over for their conversion. 
The statements made by Locke will be found in Martiniere's Dic- 
tionnaire Geographique et Critique. When Magellan set fire, as a 
punishment, to some of their huts and trees, the islanders are said 
to have ta'<en the fire for an animal, devouring its prey. 

Page 9. hold fast that which is good, i Thess. v. 21. In the 
English Version "■ prove all things.' The Greek word is Soietfia^frt. 
The Apostle does not use these expressions in the same general 
sense as that in which Locke applies them, but is referring specially 
to x'^'^p'^of^O''''''^) spiritual gifts, real or assumed. 

hid treasure. See Proverbs ii. 4. 

Page 11. errant. Now spelt arrant, as when we speak of ' an 
arrant', that is, a thorough, 'fool.' 


Page 14. to their fcrfection. This is a very common topic with 
moralists and psychologists. The readers of Aristotle will be re- 
minded of several places in Eth. Nic. Bk. II, especially ch. i. 

Page 15. wherein right reasoning consists. Both here and in the 
Thoughts concerning Education, Locke undoubtedly under^•alues 
the importance of rhetorical and logical rules, as offering guidance 
for effective speaking or correct reasoning, and contributing to pro- 
tect the mind from the influence of sophisms. The passage (§ 188) 
in the Thoughts concerning Education may be compared with that 
in the text. ' Rhetoric and Logic, being the arts that in the ordinary 
method usually follow immediately after grammar, it may perhaps 
be wondered that I have said so little of them. The reason is, 
because of the little advantage young people receive by them. For 
I have seldom or never observed any one to get the skill of reason- 
ing well or speaking handsomely, by studying those rules which 
pretend to teach it. And therefore I would have a young gentle- 
man take a view of them in the shortest systems could be found, 
without dwelling long on the contemplation and study of those 
formalities. Right Reasoning is founded on something else than the 
Predicaments and Predicables, and does not consist in talking in 
Mode and Figure itself. But it is besides my present business to 
enlarge upon this speculation. To come therefore to what we have 
in hand : if you would have your son reason well, let him read 
Chillingworth ; and if you would have him speak well, let him be 


conversant in Tully, to give him the true idea of eloquence ; and let 
him read those things that are well writ in English, to perfect his 
style in the purity of our language.' 

To teach children or youths a number of mere abstract rules, 
without constant application and illustration, is the most senseless 
mode of education that could be devised. And it will always be a 
question whether, instead of beginning with the rule, we ought not 
to begin with the concrete instance, and, by analysis of the sentence 
or argument, shew the meaning or establish the validity of the rule. 
Thus, to listen to the best speakers may be the best way of learning 
to speak with effect ; to read the best writers of learning to write in 
a clear, forcible, and interesting manner; to follow, through its various 
connections, a complicated piece of reasoning the surest rnethod 
of learning to discriminate between true and false arguments. But, 
in all these cases, the principles which underlie the art of the 
successful speaker or the demonstrations of the convincing reasoner 
ought to be pointed out to the pupil. Wherever we begin, the 
abstract rule and the concrete illustration ought never to be divorced 
in the practical work of teaching. 

The question of the desirability or utility of teaching rules of 
rhetoric differs widely from the same question, when considered in 
reference to logic. So far as the rules of rhetoric aim at mere per- 
suasion, apart from lucid order, agreeable utterance and the like, 
they may be regarded as devices for enabling a speaker, by manipu- 
lating arguments and exciting the passions and affections, to con- 
vince his auditors irrespectively of the soundness of the reasoning. 
But the sole object of the rules of logic is, or ought to be, to preserve 
the student from imposing by false reasoning upon himself, and to 
enable him to detect the fallacious reasonings of others. Hence, 
while the aim of logic is always a desirable one, that of rhetoric is 
often very questionable. Moreover, when the various rhetorical 
devices for setting off or detracting from the just force of an argu- 
ment have once become known to the reader or auditor, he is put 
on his guard and they cease to have the designed effect ; whereas the 
observance of the rules of logic is to the common interest of all 
persons, whether speakers or auditors, writers or readers, whose 
object is the ascertainment of truth and the avoidance of error. 

The reader who wishes to see a defence of logical rules against 
the attacks of Locke and others may consult Mill's Logic, Intro- 


diiction, §§ 5,6, and Bk. Ill, ch. 9, § 3; also my Inductive Logic, Ch. 3, 
Ajipended Note 3. I venture to quote some sentences from the 
latter work. ' The reply,' whether to those who, like Locke, ques- 
tion the utility of syllogistic rules and formulx, or to those who, 
like Whewell, object to formulating any canons in inductive reason- 
ing, is ' that Logic does not profess to supply arguments, but to test 
them. Men have certainly reasoned, and reasoned with the greatest 
force, without any conscious use of the rules of Logic. But it is the 
province of a system of Logic to analyse the arguments commonly 
employed, to discriminate between those which are correct and those 
which are incorrect, and thus to enable men to detect, in the case of 
others, and to avoid, in their own case, erroneous methods of reason- 
ing. To think of appropriate arguments is undoubtedly more diffi- 
cult than to test them ; but this does not obviate the necessity of 
submitting them to a test. Nor is it a more real objection that 
men, who know nothing of the technical rules of Logic, often reason 
faultlessly themselves, and show remarkable acuteness in detecting 
inconclusive reasoning in the arguments of others. Many men 
speak grammatically without having learnt any system of grammar; 
in the same manner, many men reason logically without having 
learnt any system of Logic. But the great majority of men, th. re 
can be little doubt, may derive assistance both from the one and the 
other. Grammar fulfils its functions when it raises the student to 
the level of the most correct speakers; similarly. Logic fulfils its 
functions when it raises the student to the level of the best 

The thorny, wearisome, and often utterly unpractical character of 
the old logical discipline might well suggest to Locke his objections 
to it, though these objections do not seem to have gone to the ex- 
tent of proposing to abolish it altogether. Not only were the 
examples generally alien to the reasonings of practical life, but a 
most disproportionate share of the text-books, as well as of the oral 
instruction, was devoted to topics like the predicaments, post- 
predicaments, predicables, &c., which, if forming any part of Logic 
at all, have little direct bearing on its main function, which I take to 
be the examination of evidence, or, in other words, the discrimination 
of truefrom false reasoning. 

Locke's celebrated attack on the Syllogism is to be found in the 
Essay, Bk. IV, ch. 17, §§ 4-6. It is there that he makes the often- 


quoted, though irrelevant, remark, that ' God has not been so spar- 
ing to men, to make them barely two-legged creatures, and left it to 
Aristotle to make them rational.' 


clear and deto-mined ideas. There is a chapter in the Essay 
(Bk. II, ch. 29) entitled ' On Clear and Distinct, Obscure and Con- 
fused Ideas.' In § 4 of that chapter, the difference between the 
expression ' a clear idea ' and ' a distinct idea ' is stated as follows : 
' As a clear idea is that whereof the mind has such a full and evident 
perception as it does receive from an outward object operating duly 
on a well-disposed organ, so a distinct idea is that wherein the mind 
perceives a difference from all other ; and a confused idea is such an 
one, as is not sufficiently distinguishable from another from which it 
ought to be different.' Cp. Descartes, Principia, Pt. I, § 45 : ' Quin 
et permulti homines nihil plane in tota vita percipiunt satis recte, ad 
certum de eo judicium ferendum. Etenim ad perceptionem cui 
certum et indubitatum judicium possit inniti, non modo requiritur ut 
sit clara, sed etiam ut sit distincta. Claram voco illam, quae menti 
attendenti praesens et aperta est ; si cut ea clare a nobis videri 
dicimus quae, oculo intuenti praesentia, satis fortiter et aperte ilium 
movent. Distinctam autem illam, quae, cum clara sit, ab omnibus 
aliis ita sejuncta est et praecisa, ut nihil plane aliud quam quod 
clarum est in se contineat.' See also Port Royal Logic, Pt. I, ch. 9, 
and Leibnitz, Meditationes de Cognitione, Veritate, et Ideis, ad 
init. (ed. Erdmann, p. 79). As the terms are discriminated by these 
authors, an idea is clear so far as we are able to distinguish the 
various attributes which it implies, distinct so far as we are able to 
distinguish it, as a whole, from all other ideas. An idea ought, of 
course, to be both clear and distinct. 

In the Fourth Edition of the Essay, Locke proposed to substitult. 
for the expression ' clear and distinct ' the word ' determined ' or 
' determinate.' He explains his meaning, in the Epistle to the 
Reader, thus : ' By determinate, when applied to a simple idea, I 
mean that simple appearance which the mind has in its view, or 
perceives in itself, when that idea is said to be in it. By deter- 
mined, when applied to a complex idea, I mean such an one as 
consists of a determinate number of certain simple or less complex 
ideas, joined in such a proportion and situation as the mind has 


before its view and sees in itself when that idea is present in it, or 
should be present in it, when a man gives a name to it. 1 say 
should be ; because it is not every one, nor perhaps any one, who is 
so careful of his language as to use no word, till he views in his 
mind the precise determined idea which he resolves to make it the 
sign of.' To the ' determined idea ' a particular sign should be 
steadily annexed, or, in other words, a name should be determined to 
that precise idea. What Locke seems to mean is that we should 
always envisage, realise, or explore our ideas, and then take care 
invariably to employ the same term for the same idea. 

Probably he here uses the words ' clear ' and ' determined ' as 
synonymous, as he seems to use the words ' clear and determinate ' 
'clear and distinct,' in the Essay, Bk. II, ch. ii, § 3. If the terms, 
however, in this place are meant to be distinguished, ' determined ' 
must be taken as the equivalent of distinct. 

in another place. See the whole of the Third Book of the Essay, 
but especially chs. 9, 10, 11. The student, who reads these chapters, 
will do well to compare Bacon's Novum Organum, Bk. I, Aphorisms 
43i 59. 60 (on the ' Idola Fori '). 


Page 16. principles. Principia, "px'^'j the ultimate major premisses 
from which our reasonings proceed. These, according to Locke, 
arise from the laying together and perceiving the agreement of our 
ideas, and our ideas are all derived from experience, either of the 
operations of our own minds or of the external world, that is, to use 
the phraseology of the Essay, either from Sensation or Reflection. See 
Bk. I; and Bk. II, ch. i. Hence there are no innate principles, inas- 
much as there are no innate ideas To maintain that there are 
innate principles is ' to take men from the use of their own reason 
and judgment, and put them upon believing and taking principles 
upon trust, without further examination : in which posture of blind 
credulity, men may be more easily governed by, and made useful to, 
some sort of men, who have the skill and office to principle and 
guide them.' Bk. I, ch. 4, § 24. Instances of legitimate 'First 
Principles ' are such as these : ' Things that are equal to the same 
thing are equal to one another ' ; ' A body under the action of no 
external force will remain at rest or move uniformly in a straight 
line ' (First Law of Motion); 'The angles of incidence and reflexion 


of a ray of light are equal ' ; ' The supply and demand of com- 
modities have a constant tendency to become equalised.' In- 
stances of false ' First Principles ' would be such as the circular 
motion of the planets, the immutability of the heavenly bodies, the 
decuple proportion, in respect to density and rarity, of the elements, 
the proposition that the wealth of a country depends upon the 
excess of its exports over its imports, and the like. All legitimate 
' first principles ' must either be self-evident or based on careful 
induction, and even those which appear to be self-evident will be 
found, on a more exact analysis, to have been originally formed by 
early and constant inductions. This is alike the doctrine of Bacon 
and Aristotle. See Aristotle, Anal. Post. II. 19, Metaph. I. i, Eth. 
Nic. VI. 3 (3), and Bacon's Novum Organum, Bk. I, Aphs. 13, 14, 
19, 105, &c, &c. 

e?nbraced for their sake. It is plain that the premisses ought to 
be more certain, at least to the person who employs them, than the 
conclusion ; else they afford no proof. On this fact Aristotle insists 
in An. Post. I. 2. 

no ground for. Bacon is never weary of insisting on the necessity 
of examining first principles, and of condemning the slovenly and 
indolent manner in which the men of his time were accustomed to 
accept them either on trust, or on little or no enquiry. See, for 
instance, Nov. Org. Bk. I, Aphs. 14, 17: 'Syllogismus ex proposi- 
tionibus constat, propositiones ex verbis, verba notionum tesserae 
sunt. Itaque si notiones ipsae (id quod basis rei est) confusae sint, 
et temere a rebus abstractae ; nihil in iis, quae superstruuntur, est 
firmitudinis. Itaque spes est una in inductione vera.' ' Nee minor 
est libido et aberratio in constituendis axiomatibus, quam in notioni- 
bus abstrahendis ; idque in ipsis principiis, quae ab inductione 
vulgari pendent. At multo major est in axiomatibus et proposi- 
tionibus inferioribus, quae educit syllogismus.' Unless we make 
sure of the truth of our first principles, at starting, the application 
of the syllogism may only result in multiplying error instead of 
deducing truth. 

With what Locke here says on the carelessness of men in ad- 
mitting unproved ' First Principles,' compare the admirable chapter 
on ' Wrong Assent or Error ' in the Essay, Bk. IV, ch. 20, especially 
§§ 8-10. 
Page 17. in another place. See Essay, Bk. IV, ch. 12, §§ 13, 13. 


Cp. Bacon, Novum Organiini, Ilk. 1, Aph. 48: ' Gliscit intellectus 
humanus, ncqiie consistcre aut aajuiescere potis est, sed ulterius 
petit.' Bacon, thinking of ultimate causes, which he regards as not 
ascertainable, adds ' at frustra.' Counselling the encouragement of 
curiosity on one side, and the cultivation of modesty on the other, 
he concludes the Aphorism by saying : ' Est autem aeque imperiti 
et leviter philosophantis, in maxime universalibus causam requircre, 
ac in subordinatis et subalternis causam non desiiierare.' 

hypothesis. The word ' hypothesis ' seems to be used here not 
so much in the sense of an assumption, as of a basis or foundation, 
a sense more akin to the original meaning of the term. Cp. Plato, 
Republic, p. 51 1 B : rdj viroOeaeis -rroiov/xtvos ovk upxo-i, aXKoL tw ovti 
vTToOiafii, oiov (niffaafis t( koX up/xcii, Plato, however, is sjieaking 
of the bases on which we may rise to more general truths, Locke of 
the general principles on which we ' bottom ' our particular beliefs. 
The former is thinking of the ' bases ' of inductive, the latter of the 
' bases ' of deductive reasoning. 

On ' scientific hypothesis ' and the circumstances which distin- 
guish it from unscientific hypothesis, see my Inductive Logic, ch. 2, 
§ 3. 3»cl ed. pp. 95-121. 

Page 18. interest or fancy. Cp. Essay, Bk. IV, ch. 20, § 1 2. 

Page 19. more fully. See the next section. 

Page 20. better than niathematics. To cultivate habits of pre- 
cise reasoning, and to train the mind to deal with abstract ideas and 
principles, no discipline can be better adapted than that of mathe- 
matics. But a mind trained exclusively on mathematics would be 
very ill equipped to deal with the various and complicated problems 
of life and science. An early training in mathematical reasoning 
should always be supplemented, as education proceeds, by forming 
a habit of analysing and estimating the value of evidence in subjects 
which admit not only of certain, but of more or less probable con- 
clusions, such as language, law, the moral and physical sciences, 
history, and the affairs of ordinary life. 

•\at\ all rational. This is the reading of the original edition. 
But, in the edition of 1781, it is printed as 'not all rational,' which, 
it seems to me, is much more likely to be what Locke wrote. The 
' they ' must refer to ' men,' not ' conclusions.' 

of reasoning -well in others. This remark is not only true, but emi- 
nently useful and instructive. ' Natural incapacity ' for particular 



branches of study, say mathematics or language, rarely exists, except 
in imagination ; unless indeed the subject of it is deficient in mental 
power generally. 

Page 21. have governed all their thoughts. Men should be 
peculiarly on their guard against constantly repeating, to themselves 
or others, compact and neatly-worded maxims. Principles of this 
kind come after a time to exercise a tyranny over the mind, recur on 
every occasion, and, being taken without any qualification, often 
have a wonderful effect in pen-erting the judgment. The tendency 
to be constantly enunciating and acting on maxims of this kind 
is often particularly observable in old men, or persons whose ex- 
perience has been mainly confined to some one sphere of activity, 
such as seafaring men or lawyers. 

Page 22. 7vith youttg scholars. Locke speaks from experience. 
Not only had he given much advice with respect to the education of 
children and young men, but he had spent a great part of his time in 
the practical work of instruction. In early life he acted as Tutor 
and Censor of Christ Church. Afterwards, he was instructor to the 
second, and super\-ised the studies of the third. Earl of Shaftesbury. 
Moreover, while in France during the years 1677 and 1678, he 
travelled with a pupil, the son of a rich merchant named Sir 
John Banks. It is curious, when we remember Locke's attacks 
on the logic of the Schools, to learn the nature of his objections 
to entering young Banks in the study of mathematics. ' To 
engage one in mathematics who is not yet acquainted with the 
ver)' rudiments of logic is a method of study I have not known 
piactised, and seems to me not very reasonable.' Letter to 
Sir John Banks, quoted in Fox-Bourne's Life of Locke, vol. i. 
P- 378- 


Page 23. transfer it. But, in doing so, they must recollect that 
they are, for the most part, dealing with propositions which admit 
only of probable, not of demonstrative, proof. 

as in demonstrative knowledge. What Locke means is that the 
mode of proof, that is, the analysis of the reasoning, is the same in all 
cases, though in some cases the conclusions may be demonstrative, 
in others only probable. The only differences which he recognises 
between demonstrative and probable reasoning are that, in the one. 


a single proof is sufTicient to cstabli^h the conclusion, which may 
then be taken for certain, whereas, in the other, several arguments 
■of varying degrees of probability, some tending one way and some 
another, have to be taken into account, the conclusion expressing 
the preponderance of the evidence. F"or his remarks on Probability, 
see Essay, Bk. IV, chs. 15, 16, and ch. 17, § 5. 

It is by no means correct to say that ' in all sorts of reasoning 
every single argument should be managed as a mathematical de- 
monstration.' It is indeed true that, in all cases, a belief should be 
traced ' to the source on which it bottoms ' or that the propositions 
on which our assent is based should be so put together that we may 
see their connection with the conclusion. But this connection may 
be exhibited in various ways. Thus, the best and most natural 
mode of representing an inductive argument (see the first chapter of 
my Elements of Inductive Logic) is entirely different from that ot 
representing a deductive argument, though, by a certain amount ot 
manipulation, the one form may be brought under the other. Again, 
even in deductive ratiocination, there are rules, quite distinct from 
those of the ordinary syllogism, for estimating the precise value to 
be attached to probable arguments, whether in single syllogisms or 
in combinations of syllogisms or on a balance of rival probabilities. 
The student will find a statement and discussion of such rules in 
almost any recent work on Logic. Mr. Venn's Logic of Chance 
is specially appropriated to the discussion of these and kindred 

disputing in the schools. What Locke thought of the 'disputa- 
tions,' which were then in common use throughout the universities 
of Europe, may be gathered from the following passage, which 
occurs in the 'Thoughts concerning Education,' § 189: 'If the use 
and end of right reasoning be to have right notions and a right 
judgment of things, to distinguish betwixt truth and falsehood, 
right and wrong, and to act accordingly, be sure not to let your son 
be bred up in the art and formality of disputing, either practising 
it himself or admiring it in others, unless, instead of an able man, 
you desire to have him an insignificant wrangler, opinionater in 
discourse, and priding himself in contradicting others, or — which 
is worse— questioning everything, and thinking there is no such 
thing as truth to be sought, but only victory in disputing. 
There cannot be anything so disingenuous, so misbecoming a 
I 2 


gentleman or any one who pretends to be a rational creature, as not 
to yield to plain reason and the conviction of clear arguments. Is 
there anything more inconsistent with civil conversation, and the end 
of all debate, than not to take an answer, though never so full and 
satisfactory, but still to go on with the dispute as long as equivocal 
sounds can furnish a inedhis terminus, a term to wrangle with on 
the one side or a distinction on the other, whether pertinent or 
impertinent, sense or nonsense, agreeing with or contrary to what he 
had said before, it matters not ? For this, in short, is the way and 
perfection of logical disputes, that the opponent never take any 
answer nor the respondent never yield to any argument. This, 
neither of them must do, whatever becomes of truth or knowledge, 
unless he will pass for a poor baffled wretch, and lie under the 
disgrace of not being able to maintain whatever he has once 
affirmed, which is the great aim and glory of disputing.' 

one topical argument. Cp. Essay, Bk. IV, ch. 17, § 5. 

The expression 'topical argument' applies to an argument de- 
rived from certain general heads of probability, which, in the 
language of Aristotle and his followers, were called tottoi, common 
places, or common forms. They were the main subject of the art 
entitled ro-niKr} or SiaXeicTiKT], and of the eight (or, including the 
Sophistici Elenchi, the nine) books called the Topics. This work 
deals with logic when applied to disputation on disputable (probable) 
matter, as opposed to the logic of demonstration in science, which is 
treated in the Posterior Analytics. 

It does not seem to be essential to disputation that only one 
argument should be insisted on, though, of course, by changing his 
ground, the disputant acknowledges himself to have been defeated 
on the ground which he originally assumed ; or, at least, shows that 
he has not entire confidence in it. 

Page 25. out of the reckoning. Here Locke has undoubtedly hit 
on one of the great excellences of mathematical discipline. The 
power of abstracting the mind from all irrelevant data and issues 
is specially developed even by such elementary departments of ma- 
thematical work as those of solving what are called ' Problems ' in 
Algebraic Equations and ' Deductions ' in Plane Geometry. Exer- 
cises of this kind ought to form an invariable element in early 
education. The tendency to dwell on or diverge to irrelevant 
topics is, perhaps, the most frequent of all the intellectual faults 


to which ordinary men are subject, whether in argument, in con- 
versation, or in thinking for themselves. 

as it 2ve}e in the lump. Instead of reasoning in the lump, they 
ought carefully to distinguish the various questions to be resolved, 
thus ascertaining exactly where the difficulties lie. When the 
various questions have been disentangled, they ought to form a 
separate conclusion on each of the questions or groups of (juestions 
before them. 


Page 26. understand and reason right. It must be recollected 
that Locke was himself a writer on religious topics. In 1695, about 
two years before he had begun to write the treatise here re-published, 
he published his work on ' The Reasonableness of Christianity as 
delivered in the Scriptures,' wherein he attempts to discriminate 
between the essential and non-essential elements in Christian belief. 
During the last years of his life, he was engaged in writing notes on 
some of St. Paul's Epistles, which, however, were not published till 
after his death. See ch. 9 of my ' Locke ' in the series of English 
Men of Letters. 

Page 27. in a right way to this knowledge. I have noticed in 
the Introduction that this book was never revised by its author, and 
hence that many of the sentences are ungrammatical. In this sen- 
tence, he must have meant to say, ' and if those who had other idle 
hours would only enter them (viz. those who have not), according to 
their several capacities, in a right way to this knowledge.' 

of the reformed religion. Locke had probably seen and heard a 
good deal of the Huguenots during his stay at Montpellier and his 
journeys in the south of France. Moreover, the Revocation of the 
Edict of Nantes, in 1685, had brought over to England large numbers 
of them, who were remarkable for their Industry, thrift, and intelli- 
gence. It will be noticed that he says 'lately,' referring to the time 
before the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which had caused such 
a large proportion of the French Protestants to emigrate to foreign 

Locke's observations, during his travels, of the intense poverty 
of the French peasantry are given both in Lord King's Life, 
and in that of Mr. Fox-Bourne. See the latter, vol. i. pp. 400-402, 
or my ' Locke,' p. 29. 



Page 29. agreement or disagreement of those ideas. This is the 
doctrine of the Fourth Book of Locke's Essay. See Bk IV, ch. l. 


Page 30. 7uith their eyes. The word ' their ' is emphatic. 
Page 31. haud aequus ftierit. 

' Qui statiiit aliquid parte inaudita altera, 
Aequum licet statuerit, haud aequus fuit.' 

Seneca, Medea, 199, 200. 


Page 32. Examine. This section should have been headed 

Page 35. in the future course of his life. This is the ideal of a 
liberal education, the object of which is to form intellectual aptitudes 
rather than to infuse specific knowledge. The advocates of a special 
education, on the other hand, maintain that, after a certain period in 
a young man's life, the best mode of enabling him to learn well any 
subject to which he may hereafter apply himself is to exercise him 
thoroughly on some one branch of knowledge. Lastly, what is called an 
useful education is one which is designed solely with a view to fitting 
the pupil for his future profession or walk in life. Locke's point of 
view is at least as old as the time of Plato. See Republic, p. 518 B, 
&c., and the whole scheme of the higher education as delineated in 
that dialogue. 

The same view is presented in Locke's Thoughts concerning Educa- 
tion, in a somewhat exaggerated form, so as to be fairly open, per- 
haps, to the charge of recommending a merely superficial education : 

' The great work of a Governor is to fashion the carriage and form 
the mind ; to settle in his pupil good habits and the principles of 
virtue and wisdom ; to give him by little and little a view of man- 
kind, and work him into a love and imitation of what is excellent 
and praise-worthy ; and, in the prosecution of it, to give him vigour, 
activity, and industry. The studies, which he sets him upon, are but 
as it were the exercises of his faculties and employment of his time, 
to keep him from sauntering and idleness, to teach him application, 
and accustom him to take pains, and to give him some little taste of 


what his own industry must perfect. For who exjKcts that, umlcr 
a tutor, a young gentleman should be an accom])lished critic, orator, 
or logician ; go to the bottom of Metaphysics, Natural Philosophy, 
or Mathematics; or be a master in History or Chronology? Though 
something of each of these is to be taught him. But it is only to 
open the door, that he may look in and as it were begin an acquaint- 
ance, l)ut not to dwell there. And a Governor would be much 
lilamcd, that should keep his pupil too long and lead him too far 
in most of them. But of good breeding, knowledge of the world, 
virtue, industry, and a love of reputation, he cannot have too much. 
And, if he have these, he will not long want what he needs or desires 
of the other.' § 94. He seems, however, immediately to lajise into 
recommending a merely useful education. ' And since it cannot be 
hoped he should have time and strength to leani all things, most 
j)ains should be taken about that which is most necessary, and that 
principally looked after, which will be of most and frequcntcst use 
to him in the world.' Then, after speaking of the time devoted to 
learning the technicalities of Logic, he adds: ' Reason, if consulted 
with, would advise that their children's time should be spent in 
acquiring what might be useful to them when tlicy come to be men. 
rather than to have their heads stuffed wi'.h a deal of trash, a great 
part whereof they usually never do ('tis certain they never need to) 
think on again as long as they live.' 


Page 36. to draio from ihcm cciiclusions. The conclusions 
being inductions, which are based on the facts. Here, again, the 
spirit of Locke's remarks is thoroughly Baconian. 

from every particular they meet luith. Cp. Bacon, Novum C)r- 
ganum, Bk. I, Aph. 95 : 'Qui tractaverunt scientias aut empirici aut 
dogmatici fuerunt. Empirici, formicae more, congerunt tantum, tt 
utuntur : rationales, aranearum more, telas ex se conficiunt : apis 
vero ratio media est, quae materiam ex floribus horti ct agri elicit ; 
sed tamen eam propria facultate vertit et digerit. Neque absimile 
philosophiae verum opificium est ; quod nee mentis viribus tantum 
aut praecipue nititur, neque ex historia naturali et mcchanicis 
cxperimentis praebitam materiam, in memoria intcgram, sed in inttl- 
lectu mutatani et subactam, repoiiit. Itaque ex harum facultatum 


(experimentalis scilicet et rationalis) arctiore et sanctiore foedere 
(quod adhuc factum non est) bene sperandum est.' 

Page 37. of history. We must recollect that the word history 
was at this time used for a collection of facts of any kind. Bacon 
commonly uses the term in this sense. Thus the alternative title of 
the Sylva Sylvarum is ' A Natural History,' and the third part of the 
Instauratio Magna was to be entitled ' Phaenomena Universi. sive 
Historia Naturalis et Experimentalis ad condendam Philosophiam.' 
In the title of Aristotle's work, the Historia Animalium (nept ra ^wa 
laTopiai), the word means 'enquiry,' but it quickly passes from this 
meaning to signify the result of such an enquir}% the information thus 

pudder, to confuse, throw up a dust round. The more ordinary term 
\s pother (from poudre, dust). Both words are used alike as substan- 
tives and verbs. Thus in the Essay, Bk. Ill, ch. 5, § 16, Locke says, 
' When it is considered, what a pudder is made about essences,' &c. 


Page 38. or themselves for his sake. Cp. Bacon's Advancement 
of Learning, Book I, Aldis Wright's edition, p. 9 : ' And as for the 
conceit that too much knowledge should incline a man to atheism, 
and that the ignorance of second causes should make a more devout 
dependence upon God, which is the first cause ; first, it is good to 
ask the question which Job asked of his friends: Will yoit lie for 
God, as one man will do for another, to gratify him ? For certain it 
is that God worketh nothing in nature but by second causes : and 
if they would have it otherwise believed, it is mere imposture, as it 
were in favour towards God ; and nothing else but to offer to the 
author of truth the unclean sacrifice of a lie.' 


Page 39. A}td\it']. I have ventured to attempt to reconstruct 
this and the next sentence. 

light. ? lit or lighted. 

those determined ideas. This is tlie doctrine expounded at large 
in the third and fourth books of the Essay. 

Page 40. implicit hnozuledge. That is, knowledge which he has 
merely taken on trust, second-hand knowledge which he has never 
verified for himself. 



Page 41. jump to the conclusion. This procedure is wli.-il Ibcon 
calls ' anticipatio mentis." 


Page 43. and that will become everything. Cp. Bacon, Novum 
Organum, Bk. I, Aph. 54: 'Adamant homines scicntias et contem- 
plationes particiilares ; aiit quia authores et iiiventores se earum 
credunt ; aut quia plurimum in illis operae posuerunt, iisque maxime 
assueverunt. Huju^modi vero homines, si ad philosophiam et con- 
templationes univeisales se contulerint, illas ex prioribus phnntasiis 
detorquent, et corrumpunt ; id quod maxime conspicuuni ceinitur in 
Aristotele, qui nalurakm suam philosophiam logicae suae prorsus 
mancipavit, ut earn fere inutilem et contenliosam reddiderit. Chcmi- 
corum autem genus, ex paucis experimentis foniacis, philosophiam 
constituerunt phantasticam, ct ad pauca spectantem : quineiiam 
Gilbertus, postquam in contemplationibus magnctis se laboriosissime 
exercuisset, confinxit statim philosophiam consentaneam rei apud 
ipsum praepollenti.' 

Page 44. and Alerciity. This was the Triad of Paracelsus, and. 
at an earlier time, of Basilius Valentinus. See my edition of Bacon's 
Novum Organum, note 35 on Bk. II, Aph. 50, pp. 576, ;. 


Page 46. mizmaze. A maze or labyrinth. The word is dupli- 
cated, for the sake of emphasis. 


Page 47. intermediate principles. These are those 'axiomata 
media' of which Bacon speaks, when he says: 'At media sunt 
axiomata ilia vera et solida et viva, in quibus humanae res et for- 
tunae sitae sunt.' Nov. Org. Bk. I, Aph. 104. They may be arrived 
at in two ways: either by an induction, through the 'axiomata 
infima,' from particulars; or by deduction from the 'suprema et 
generalissima axiomata,' only that, in this latter case, the higher 
axioms themselves must previously have been constituted as the 
result of a careful induction Both Locke and Bacon give good 
advice, when they recommend men, as a general rule, not to rua 


back their conclusions to first principles, but to be content with 
showing their dependence on nearer and intermediate principles, 
provided that these last be such as themselves admit of satisfactory 
proof. When men begin by enunciating some general and abstract 
principle, and then attach to it the particular conclusion which they 
wish us to receive, we may reasonably suspect that the intermediate 
links are wanting, and, any way, we should insist on having them 
supplied. On the other hand, the connection between the ultimate 
conclusion and the intermediate principle is often pretty obvious, 
and the intermediate principle may be one which most men, having 
any acquaintance with the subject, recognise as not itself requiring 
proof. The demonstrations in geometry are well cited by Locke as 
instances in point. 


Page 48. partiality to studies. This section has much in common 
with the latter half of Section 19, 'On Universality.' 


Page 50. words of revelation. He is here thinking of the dis- 
tinction between natural and revealed religion, a distinction so much 
dwelt on by writers in the 17th and iSth centuries. 


Page 51. chymistry. Cp. what Locke here says with Sections 
19, 22. 

Satyrs. Or, as the word would now be written, Satires. The 
Latin word is Satura or Satira, tiot Satyra, which is an incorrect 
form. The allusion must be to the Epistles, Bk. II, Ep. i. The 
Epistles have often been regarded as continuations of the Satires. 

giants. A recent writer, Mr. Gold win Smith, has somewhere 
remarked that we have measured the bones of these giants, and 
found them to be of the same length as our own. 

Page 52. mould and rottenness. Cp. Bacon, Nov. Org. Bk. I, 
Aph. 56: ' Reperiuntur ingenia alia in admirationem antiquitatis, 
alia in amorem et amplexum novitatis effusa; pauca vero ejus tem- 
peramenti sunt, ut modum tenere possint, quin aut quae recte posita 
sunt ab antiquis convellant, aut ea contemnant quae recte afferuntur 
a novis. Hoc vero magno scientiarum et philosophiae detrimento 


fit, quum studia potius sint anliquitatis ct novitatis, quam judicia : 
Veritas autem non a felicitate teniporis alicujus, tjuae res varia est ; 
sed a lumine naturae et experientiae, (juod actcrnuin est, pelenda est. 
llaque abnej^aiuH sunt ista studia; et videndum, ne intcllectus ab 
illis ad consensum abripiatur.' 

less (rue or less genuine. Bacon (Novum Orj^anuni, Uk. I, Aph. 
84) has some extremely striking remarks on the exaggerated love for 
antiquity, though it must be confessed that his own tendency was to 
err in the direction of unduly depreciating the merits of previous 
authors : 

'Rursus vero homines a progressu in scientiis detinuit et fere iri- 
cantavit rcverentia antiquitatis, et virorum, qui in philosoi)hia magni 
habiti sunt, authoritas, atcjue deindc consensus. Atque dc consensu 
sujDerius dictum est. 

' De antiquitate autem opinio, quam homines de ipsa fovent, 
negligens omnino est, et vix verbo ipsi congrua. Mundi enim 
.senium et grandaevitas pro antiquitate veie habenda sunt ; quae 
temporibus nostris tribui debent, non juniori aetati mundi, qualis 
apud antiques fuit. Ilia enim aetas, respectu nostri, ajitiqua et 
major; respectu mimdi ipsius, nova et minor fuit. Atque revera 
quemadmodum majorem rerum humanarum notitiam et maturius 
judicium ab homine sene expectamus quam a juvene, propter ex- 
perientiam et rerum, quas vidit, et audivit, et cogitavit, varietateni 
et copiam ; eodem modo et a nostra aetate (si vires suas nosset, et 
experiri et intendere vellet) majora multo quam a priscis temporibus 
expectari par est; utpote aetate mundi grandiore, et infiiiitis ex- 
perimentis et observationibus aucta et cumulata. 

' Neque pro nihilo aestimandum, quod per longinquas navigationes 
et peregrinationes (quae seculis nostris increbuerunt) plurima in 
natura patuerint, et reperta sint, quae novam philosophiae hicem 
immittere possint. Quin et turpe hominibus foret, si globi ma- 
tcrialis tractus, terrarum videlicet, marium, astrorum, nostris tem- 
poribus immensum aperti et illuslrati sint ; globi autem intellectualis 
finis inter veterum inventa et anguslias cohibeantur. 

' Authorcs vero quod attinet, summae pusillanimitatis est authoribus 
infuiita tribuere, authori autem authorum, atque adeo omnis authori- 
talis, Tcmpori, jus suum denegare. Kecte enim Veritas Teniporis 
fdia dicitur, non Authoritatis. Itaque mirum non est, si fascina 
ista antiquitatis et authorum et consensus hominum virtutem ita 


ligaverint, ut cum rebus ipsis consuescere (tanquam maleficiati) non 
potuerint.' , 

The reader may consult my notes, and the various parallel passages 
which I have cited in illustration of this Aphorism. See my edition 
of the Novum Organum, pp. 276-8. 

Page 54. artificial ??ianncr. The distinction here drawn is that 
between observation and experiment. In my Inductive Logic (ch. 2, 
§ i), I have distinguished between these processes as follows: 'To 
observe is to watch with attention phenomena as they occur, to 
experiment (or, to adopt more ordinary language^ to perform an 
expe7'iment) is, not only to observe, but also to place the phenomena 
under pecviliarly favourable circumstances, as a preliminary to obser- 
vation. Thus, every experiment implies an observation, but it also 
implies something more. In an experiment, I arrange or create the 
circumstances under which I wish to make my observation. Thus, if 
two bodies are falling to the ground, and I attend to the pheno- 
menon, I am said to observe it ; but, if I place the bodies under the 
exhausted receiver of an air-pump, or cause them to be dropped 
under any special circumstances whatever, I may be said not only 
to make an observation, but also to perform an experiment. Bacon 
has not inaptly compared experiment with the torture of witnesses. 
Mr. Mill distinguishes between the two processes, by saying that 
in observation we Jind our instance in nature, in experiment we 
make it by an artificial arrangement of circumstances.* 

Page 56. cati be imputed. Here again we have an unrevised 
sentence, which cannot be construed grammatically. The sentence 
might, perhaps, be recast thus : ' There are not seldom to be found 
even amongst such as aim . . . men who make,' &c. 

of that authors opinions. Hallam, somewhere in his Introduction 
to the Literature of Europe, says, speaking, I think, of the writers 
of the 1 7th century, that they read too many books and entertained 
too great a respect for their authors. 

upon authorities. On the illegitimate employment of the Argument 
from Authority, see my Inductive Logic, ch. 6, 3rd ed., pp. 285-293. 

Page 57. beholding. ? beholden. 


Page 58. savanas. Spanish, sabana. Tlie word is now usually 
spelt savannah. It is used in those parts of America which are or 


have been Spanish, to express what is elsewhere called a prairie, that 
is, a tract of land covered with natural vegetation. 

Page 59. 7v/icrcott to foimd those general axioms. Here again 
Locke is on ground thoroughly familiar to the readers of the 
Novum Organum. See, for instance, amongst many other places, 
Bk. I, Aphs. 19-26. There can he no <loubl that Locke is indebted 
to Bacon both for the thought and language of this passage. Cp., 
for instance, the following sentences in Aphs. 25, 24: ' Axiomata, 
quae in usu sunt, ex tenui et manipulari experientia, ct paucis particu- 
laribus, quae ut plurimum occurrunt, fluxere ; et sunt fei e admensuram 
eorum facta et extensa : ut nil mirum sit, si ad nova particularia non 
ducant.' ' Sed axiomata, a particularibus rite ct ordinc abstracta, nova 
particularia rursus facile indicant et designant.' 

Page 60. suggest hints of enquiry. Or, in more technical lan- 
guage, may suggest hypotheses or provisional explanations. One or 
two instances may often put us on the scent, and lead us to some 
provisional theory, which further enquir}' may either confirm, modify, 
or disprove. A hypothesis, started on these slender groiuids, should 
always be held loosely, and we should constantly be on the look-out 
for further facts bearing upon it, whether favourable or unfavourable. 
What, however, frequently happens is that, when a hypothesis has 
been once formed, all the facts which support it are carefully noted, 
while those which are unfavourable to it are ignored. 

as has been already 7-cmarkcd. See Section 13, and cp. Section 20. 
Locke's meaning in this, sentence is not very clear. The clause be- 
ginning ' To make such observations' seems to allude to the habit of 
merely collecting particulars without basing conclusions on them, 
whereas the clause beginning ' and he that makes everj'thing an ob- 
servation' seems to allude to the habit of generalising on insufficient 

Page 61. anticipations of their minds. Cp. Bacon's expression 
* anticipationes mentis.' 


Page 62. recusent. Horace, Ars Poetica, 11. 39, 40: 
'Et versate diu, quid ferrc recusent, 
Quid valeant humeri.' 


Page 64. tJiat dignity. Dignitas is one of the synonyms for axiom. 
This use of the word goes'back as far as the times of Priscian and 
Boethius, while Latin was still a living language. 

zvell bcatcft track. That is, who think it a sufficient excuse for 
going astray, if the wrong path they take be a well beaten track. 


Page 64. in another place. That is, the Third Book of the 
Essay, and especially ch. lo. 

Page 65. substantial forms and intentional species. The sjih- 
stantial form was regarded as that occult principle which, actuating, 
as it were, matter, produced the distinctive manifestations of any 
particular class of Substances. Chauvin (Lexicon Philosophicum) 
gives the following account of the Peripatetic doctrine oi substantial 
fo7-ms : ' Peripatetic! formam definiunt per rationem Substantiae, 
seu rationem talem, per quam res aliqua certa ac determinata sub- 
stantiae evadit, atque est. Ex materia prima et forma substantiali 
compositum substantial fieri vohmt. Alias illam definiunt per 
substantiam incompletam, quae materiae unita corjDus naturale 
componit, omniumque hujus operationum primum principium est, 
certis tamen qualitatibus tanquam instrumentis utitur ad suos effectus 
producendos. Scilicet in quovis corpore, post materiam illam primam, 
quam fingunt, praeter extensionem solidam seu impenetrabilem, 
praeterque omnia accidentia sensibilia. formam aliquam substantialem 
sensibus occultam, caeterarum dominam, inexistere, cui in omnibus 
functionibus hae ministrent, indubitanter asserunt.' Thus, the 
'rational soul' (anima rationalis) is the 'substantial form' of man. 

Intentional Species were supposed to be certain images or simili- 
tudes intermediate between the outward object and the percipient 
mind. They represented to the mind, it was thought, the various 
qualities as they existed in the object. They were called species 
{(iSrj), that is, forms or appearances, because they were regarded 
as representative of the external reality ; intentional (from intentio 
animi), that is, notional, in order to distinguish them from material 
and wholly objective appearances. They were supposed to be 
neither merely affections of external objects nor merely modifications 
of the mind, but a something mediating between mind and matter, 
and thus enabling the former to become acquainted with the latter. 
On this conception, and on the distinction between sensible and 


intelligible species, species impressae and species exprcssae, see 
Hamilton's Reid, pp. 952-957. It must be acknowledged that 
traces of this doctrine arc to be found even in Locke's Essay ; for he 
sometimes seems to speak of 'ideas,' as if they were not merely 
mental modifications, but a tertium quid, a something intermediate 
between external objects and the mind. See^ for instance. Essay, 
Bk. II, ch. I, § 25; Bk. IV, ch. 21, § 4. 

insignijicant. That is, non-significant, having no meaning. 

efch oul. That is, to complete, to fill in the outline of their 

I know not what. Locke constantly speaks in the Essay of the 
idea of Substance as of a 'something I know not what.' The 
remark in the Text, it is almost needless to point out, affords a good 
instance of Locke's felicitous way of stating homely truths. 

Page 66. simple ones. See Essay, Bk. II, chs. i, 2. 


Page 67. from straggling. Cp. the Sections (123-127) on 
Sauntering, in the Thoughts concerning Education. 


Page 68. Distinction and division. If Locke uses these terms 
in their proper sense, they may be distinguished as follows. A 
distinction is a determination of the various meanings of an equivocal 
term, such as canis, humanity, post, &c. (and, in practice, it was ex- 
tended to determining the various meanings of ambiguous sentences). 
A division, in the strict sense of the word, is a determination of the 
various species which fall under the same genus, or, to employ less 
technical language, of the various subject-classes which fall under 
the same higher class. It is thus an exposition of what logicians 
call the denotation of a term. Thus, to distinguish the various 
meanings of a word like humanity, church, house, &c., would be 
a distinction. To enumerate the various kinds of plane rectilineal 
figures, namely, triangles, squares, and polygons, would be a division. 
' In a distinction the same definition is not predicable of each of the 
terms distinguished, but in a division the same definition is predicable 
of each dividing member' (as the subject classes are called). See my 
Deductive Logic, Part II, ch. 8. 


Bishop Sanderson (whose Compendium of Logic was in common 
vise in Locke's time) thus distinguishes between Distinction and 
Division in Pt. I, ch. i8 : ' Divisio est latioris in angustiora deductio. 
Quae si sit nominis, distinciio, si rei, Divisio magis proprie appellatur. 
Distinctio est ambiguae vocis in sua significata distributio : ut canis 
in piscem, domesticum animal, et coeleste sidus. Ambiguum onme 
prius est distinguendum, quam definiendum ; indistinctio enim parit 
continuas lites : nee aliter constabit, quid aut de quo agatur. Nee 
tamen semper excutiendae sunt omnes significationum minutiae, 
sed quae sunt cum subjecto negotio conjunctae, aut in quibus error 
contingere potest, si non distinguantur. — Divisio rei perfccta est 
totius alicujus proprie dicti in partes proprie dictas distributio.' He 
then proceeds to explain what is a whole and what are parts, pro- 
perly so called ; the one being a genus, or logical whole, the other 
being species, or logical parts. Chauvin (Lexicon Philosophicum) 
says : ' Distinctio Logica simia est divisionis. In hoc loco divisi, 
consistit vocabulum homonymum ; et loco membrorum dividentium, 
plures termini, qui isto vocabulo significantur. V.g. sentiens aliud 
actu, aliud potentia sentit.' 

Locke's meaning in this Section is not always very clear, but I 
cannot doubt that what he intends to commend is Division, 'the 
perception of a difference that nature has placed in things,' while 
what he wishes to caution his readers against is over-subtlety in 
Distinction. The determination of the various subject-classes which 
are included under any higher class, like the reverse process of 
grouping lower classes under some higher class ('generalisation '), 
is a logical process indispensable to any complicated act of reasoning. 
Any man who can analyse his thoughts will find that he is performing 
both these processes all day long. Distinction is also a process of 
the greatest utility, but it is not employed to nearly the same extent 
as division, and, if words and sentences were properly constructed, 
it would not be required at all. We must recollect, in reading this 
Section, that Locke has an eye to the ' Disputations,' which were so 
common in the Universities in his time, the method of which largely 
affected the controversial, and especially the theological, writings of 
his contemporaries. In these disputations, the distinctions were 
often of the most frivolous and shadowy character, being, in fact, 
' distinctions without differences.' It is against the waste of time 
and 'puzzling of the understanding' involved in such useless and 


over-subtle distinctions that Locke is here mainly protesting, though 
it cannot escape his notice that the process of division may similarly 
be over-strained, either by recognising too minute shades of difference 
in constituting the subject-classes or by needlessly increasing the 
number of steps in the descending process of sub-division. Hence, 
a certain amount of confusion is produced in this Section by con- 
sidering together, and apparently not always carefully distinguishing 
between, the two faults of over-subtlety in distinction and over- 
minuteness in division. Both of these faults were more common 
in Locke's time than in our own, but they are still common enough 
to render the warnings of this section not altogether superfluous to 
the modern reader. 

Page 69. thereby one from another. That is to say, there would 
no longer be any need of distinctions, but there would still be need 
of divisions. 

Page 70. too much. ' Distinguo ' is the constantly recurring 
term of the scholastic disputations. 

Page 71. t/tey are right. That is, the verbal distinctions. 

Page 72. conceptions of than. On the tendency of the mind 
to note differences rather than resemblances, or resemblances rather 
than differences, one of the instances of the idola specus, there is an 
admirable aphorism in the Novum Organum : ' Maximum et velut 
radicale discrimen ingeniorum, quoad philosophiam et scientias, 
illud est : quod alia ingenia sint fortiora et ajDtiora ad notandas 
rerum differentias ; alia, ad notandas rerum similitudines. Ingenia 
enim constantia et acuta figere contemplationes, et morari, et 
haerere in omni subtilitate differentiarum possunt: ingenia autem 
sublimia et discursiva etiam tenuissimas et catholicas rerum simili- 
tudines et agnoscunt et componunt : utrumque autem ingenium facile 
labitur in excessum, prensando aut gradus rerum, aut umbras.' — Nov. 
Org. Bk. L Aph. 55. 


Page 72. think aright. A simile or meta])hor may often be 
most appropriately used for the purpose of illustrating or enforcing 
an argument, but it should never be used in lieu of an argument. 
* How does this simile apply to the case in point, and what is the 
argument which it is meant to illustrate,' are questions which should 
always be asked, when a simile, metaphor, or allegorj' is employed, 



From want of putting these questions, men often deceive, not only 
others, but themselves. 

Page 73. under cotisideratio7i. This sentence is somewhat in- 
volved. The emphatic word in it is only. 'Which' refers to the 
' borrowed representations ' and ' foreign ideas.' 


Page 74. to give assent. The student should read the chapters 
on Probability and Degrees of Assent in the Essay. See Bk. IV, 
chs. 15, 16. 

all as iincertaifi. Like the two ancient sects of the New Academy 
and the Ephectici (Pyrrhonists or Sceptics). 


Page 75. said above. See Section 11, which is on the same 
subject as this. 

Page 77. born to orthodoxy. Orthodoxy, which, according to 
the original usage of the term, is the dogma of the Catholic Church 
as opposed to the tenets of heretics, is, practically speaking, at any 
particular time and in any particular country, the body of opinions 
then and there most prevalent. 

Page 78. best state of the three. The reader will be reminded, 
though the cases are not strictly parallel, of the answer of the 
Delphic Oracle to Chaerephon, that there was no man wiser than 
Socrates, and of Socrates' explanation of the response, that he alone 
was conscious of his own ignorance. The conceit of knowledge 
without the reality was a far inferior state of mind to ignorance 
with the consciousness of it. See Plato's Apology of Socrates, and 
Crete's Greece, Pt. II, ch. 68. 


Page 79. or chymists. These were various sects of physicians. 
The Dogmatists and Empirics were opposed rather in respect of 
their logical method than their medical doctrine. The former, 
who trusted mainly to the deductions of reason, falsely claimed for 
themselves the authority of Hippocrates (the great physician of Cos, 
born, according to the common account, b.c. 460) ; the latter, who 
r professed to ground their conclusions solely on experience* may 


conveniently be dated from I'hilinus of Cos, who flourished about 
250 B.C. The Methodists were a later school, and appear to have 
meant nothing more by the name which they assumed than that 
they proposed a new method, distinct from that of either the 
Dogmatists or Empirics. Their doctrine rested on a philosophical 
theory of Atomism. Its earliest exponents were Asclepiades of 
one of the towns named Prusa in Bithynia and Themison of 
Laodicea, both belonging to the ist century, b.c. By the 'chymists' 
Locke probably means the followers of Paracelsus (b. 1493, d. I540> 
though ' chymiatria ' or the art of healing by means of drugs had, 
of course, existed long before his time. The body, according to 
Paracelsus, being composed of sulphur, mercury, and salt, all disease 
arises from the relative increase, diminution, or disarrangement of 
these elements. For further information on these schools, the reader 
may consult the History of Medicine of Sprengel, Daremberg, or 


Page 81. oscitancy. Laziness. The Latin word ' oscitatio,' per- 
haps from ' os' and ' cito' (moving the mouth), means literally 'gaping' 
or ' yawning,' and, hence, laziness. 


Page 82. Fortunatus' purse. ' Fortunatus is the legendary hero 
of one of the most popular of European chap-books. He was a 
native, says the story, of Famagosta in Cyprus, and after many 
strange adventures and vicissitudes fell in with the goddess of 
Fortune in a wild forest, and received from her a purse which was 
continually replenished as often as he drew from its stores.' . . . ' The 
earliest known edition of the German text of Fortunatus appeared 
at Augsburg in 1509, and the modem German investigators are 
disposed to regard this as the original fonn. Innumerable rifaci- 
mentos have been made in French, Italian, Dutch, English, &c., 
and cheap editions are still common enough on the bookstalls.' 
Encyclopaedia Britannica. 

K 2 



Page 83. eundo. Virg. Aen. iv. 175. 

vicet-e. I do not know the source of this quotation, but cp. Viig. 
Aen. V. 231 : 

'Hos successus alit : possunt, quia posse videntur.' 

Page 86. said elscivherc. Cp. Sections 25, 28, and Thoughts 
concerning Education, Sections 64-66. 

2i7ipei-plcxcd proposition. This is another sentence, the construction 
of which would probably have been altered, had the book been 
revised. As it stands, it is doubtful whether we should take the 
words from ' simple, unperplexed proposition ' to the end of the 
sentence as an independent clause, the construction then being that 
of the ablative absolute, or regard them as describing the requisites 
of the 'next adjoining part yet unkno^vn.' Either way, what is 
meant by ' simple, unperplexed proposition ' is a proposition making 
one simple statement or asking one simple question, as opposed to 
a proposition involving a number of statements or asking a plurality 
of questions, and therefore putting before the mind several issues 
instead of one. 


Analogy. On the various meanings of the word Analogy, and 
on the nature of the argument founded on Analogy, in the modern 
sense of that term, see my Inductive Logic, ch. 4. The peculiarity 
of the argument is that we do not draw our inference from a number 
of instances, as in Induction, but from a number of points of re- 
semblance. ' The argument is based, not on the number of instances 
in which the two sets of qualities are found united, but on the 
number of qualities which are found to be common to two or more 
instances : the argument is not that I have so often observed a, b, c 
in conjunction with w that I believe these qualities to be conjoined 
invariably, but that I know X and Y to resemble each other in so 
many points that I believe them to resemble each other in all.* The 
argument is never absolutely conclusive, because its very character- 
istic is to argue from a number of known points of resemblance to 
the common possession of some other quality which is known to exist 
in the one instance but not known to exist in the other. Were it 
known to exist in both, either as a matter of fact or as a certain 


inference from induction, there would be no occasion for the argument 
from analogy. 

may l>c Justified. But, if we know that the good effect is owing 
wholly to the acidity, the argument is not an analogical but an 
inductive argument, and, wherever we find acidity, unless there be 
counteracting circumstances, we may be certain that the good effect 
will follow. On the other hand, if we know that the good effect 
is 7iot owing to the acidity, there is an equally certain induction 
on the negative side, and no ground for analogy whatever. The 
very essence of the argument from analogy is that there should be 
some amount of uncertainty as to whether the quality known to 
belong to the one case or instance [here the power of producing 
a good effect] also belongs to the other, and, if we actually know 
that it is due to some other quality which both the cases or instances 
possess in common, the argument ceases to be analogical and 
becomes inductive. See my Inductive Logic, 3rd ed., p. 223, &c. 
It is almost needless to say that the analysis of inductive reasoning, 
and the discrimination of its various kinds, were little advanced in 
Locke's time, nor was he, as many passages of the Essay show, 
at all adequately acquainted even with what had already been done 
or suggested by Bacon in this department of Logic. 


Page 87. Human Understanding. See Bk. II, ch. 33. This 
admirable chapter, which the student should by all means consult, 
was added in the Fourth Edition of the Essay, published in 1699. 
It had probably been written some years before. 

Page 88. principling. That is, imbuing them, by repeated 
admonition, with general maxims of conduct or general principles 
of speculation, the truth of which is taken for granted. On ' Prin- 
ciples,' see Section 6. 

Page 89. ttnited in their heads. That is to say, that ideas 
come not to be thought to have a necessary or usual connection, 
when they have no such necessary or usual connection as a matter 
of fact, and that the extent of any usual connection be not 

in another place. He is referring here to the celebrated passage 
contained in the Essay, Bk. II, ch. 9, §§ 8-10. The reference in § 8 


to Mr. Mol}'neux was inserted in the Second Edition. It would 
be out of place here to refer at any length to the manner in which 
this idea was worked out and extended by Bp. Berkeley in his 
New Theory of Vision, or to the subsequent developments and 
modifications of Berkeley's theory by Professor Bain and others. 
See Berkeley's 'Essay towards a New Theory of Vision,' with 
Professor Eraser's Preface, and Professor Bain's Mental Science, 
Bk. II, eh. 7, sections on Theory of Vision. The most familiar 
and perhaps the best example of ' the change of the ideas of sense 
into those of judgment ' is to be found in the acquired perceptions 
of sight. Thus, for instance, our estimates of distance are, in 
the language of Berkeley, formed by ' an act of judgment grounded 
on experience rather than by sense.' We do not see distance, but 
we learn to estimate it, whether it be near or remote, by constantly 
repeated acts of corriparison between our various visual sensations, 
on the one hand, and the sensations derived from touch, muscular 
exertion, and locomotion, on the other. 


Page 90. Fallacies. In its widest and commonest sense, a 
Fallacy may be described as any error either in the premisses or the 
conclusions of our arguments. Such errors are due sometimes to 
moral, sometimes to intellectual causes. One chapter, at least, 
in every work on Logic, and that which is almost invariably the 
most practically useful, is devoted to the discussion of Fallacies. 
See, for instance. Mill's Logic, Bk. V, my Deductive Logic, Pt. Ill, 
Ch. 8, and my Inductive Logic, Ch. 6. Bacon's very fresh and 
interesting treatment of Fallacies is to be found in his doctrine of 
the Idola, Novum Organum, Bk. I, Aphs. 38-70. 


Page 94. purely logical enquiries. That, is to say, in mere 
logical subtleties and technical distinctions. Opposed as Locke 
was to the logical discipline then prevailing, he would have been 
one of the last to question the importance of analysing the reasoning 
process and determining the ultimate grounds on which the various 
orders of our beliefs rest. To answer these questions was, in fact, 
one of his main motives for writing the Essay. 


Page D5. Mr. Neioton. Compare what Locke says of Newton 
ill the ICpistle to the Reader, prefixed to the Essay: 'The Common- 
wealth of Learning is not at this time without master-biiihiers, 
whose mighty designs, in advancing the sciences, will leave lasting 
monuments to the admiration of posterity; but every one must not 
hope to be a Boyle or a Sydenham. And in an age that produces 
such masters as the great — Huygenius, and the incomparable 
Mr. Newton, with some other of that strain, it is ambition enough 
to be employed as an under-labourer in clearing ground a little, and 
removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way to knowledge.' 
Locke and Newton were, during a great part of their lives, on terms 
of intimate friendship, and it was, to a large extent, through Locke's 
exertions that Newton was appointed to Ike office of Warden of 
the Mint. 

Newton's great discovery as to the law of gravitation, when stated 
precisely, is that every particle of matter attracts every other particle 
with a force varying inversely as the square of the distance. 


topical. See note on the expression * topical argument ' in Sect. 7. 
These topical or dialectical arguments Locke regarded as fit only 
for disputation, not for arriving at truth for oneself. The same 
contrast between the arguments employed by the disputant or dia- 
lectician and the scientific investigator, having truth only for his object, 
is of constant occurrence in Bacon's Novum Organum. 

Page 96. grand seignior. Locke is, of course, thinking not of 
the ' Grand Seignior' of Constantinople, but of the King of England. 
For a discussion of this question, see the second of the 'Two 
Treatises of Government,' 


Page 97- above. See Section 9. 

by any of our passions. Cp. Bacon, Novum Organum, Bk. I, 
Aph. 49 : ' Intellectus humanus luminis sicci non est ; sed recipit 
infusionem a volimtate et affectibus, id quod generat ad quod 
■milt scientias : quod enim mavult homo verum esse, id potius 
credit. Kejicit itaque difficilia, ob inquirendi impatientiam ; sobria, 
quia coarctant spem ; altiora naturae, propter superstitionem ; lumen 


experientiae, propter arrogantiam et fastum, ne videatur mens versari 
in vilibus et fluxis ; paradoxa, propter opinionem vulgi ; denique 
innumeris modis, iisque interdum imperceptibilibus, affectus in- 
tellectum imbuit et inficit.' 

posse. ' Posse Comitatus,' ' the power of a county, including the 
aid and attendance of all knights and other men above the age of 
fifteen within the county. It is called out when a riot is committed, 
a possession is kept on a forcible entry, or any force is used or rescue 
made contrary to the commandment of the Queen's writ, or in 
opposition to the execution of justice.' Wharton's Law Lexicon. 

Page 98. their entertainment, Pre-possession is the name which 
we usually give to this state of mind. 

Page 99. without it. That is, without the understanding. 
Page 100. experimented. That is, experienced. 
Page 101. animal spirits. Phenomena of this kind, which are 
by no means rare, are undoubtedly due to physical causes, such as 
insanity, delirium, intoxication, or indigestion. Many analogous 
phenomena are described in De Quincey's Confessions of an English 

with another. This plan of 'counterbalancing' one passion by 
means of another is the most potent instrument with which the 
practical moralist is armed. It is often in vain to try to reason a 
man out of the indulgence of some master-passion or the persistent 
pursuit of some favourite course of conduct. But excite some other 
passion or affection, such, say, as fear, or ambition, or love of 
accumulation, or care for others, and the passion which we wish 
to moderate or eradicate may, with comparative ease, be kept under 
control. The set of a man's thoughts and actions is determined, 
not by the absolute strength of any one desire, but by the relative 
strength of all. Hence, to increase the intensity of any one passion 
or desire is to take an infallible means of weakening that of another. 


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