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It may, in like manner, be admitted as an axiom in psychology, that ideas associated by the same idea will associate one another. Hence it will happen, that if from experiencing the connexion of two things, there results, as infallibly there will result, an association between the ideas or notions annexed to them, as each idea will moreover be associated by its sign, there will likewise be an association between the ideas of the signs. Hence the sounds considered as signs will be conceived to have a connexion analogous to that which subsisteth among the things signified; I say, the sounds considered as signs; for this way of considering them constantly attends us in speaking, writing, hearing, and reading. When we purposely abstract from it, and regard them merely as sounds, we are instantly sensible that they are quite unconnnected, and have no other relation than what ariseth from similitude of tone or accent. But to consider them in this manner commonly results from previous design, and requires a kind of effort which is not exerted in the ordinary use of speech. In ordinary use they are regarded solely as signs, or, rather, they are confounded with the things they signify; the consequence of which is, that in the manner just now explained, we come insensibly to conceive a connexion among them of a very different sort from that of which sounds are naturally susceptible.

Now this conception, habit, or tendency of the mind, call it which you please, is considerably strengthened both by the frequent use of language and by the structure of it. It is strengthened by the frequent use of language. Language is the sole channel through which we communicate our knowledge and discoveries to others, and through which the knowledge and discoveries of others are communicated to us. By reiterated recourse to this medium, it necessarily happens, that when things are related to each other, the words signifying those things are more commonly brought together in discourse. Hence the words and names themselves, by customary vicinity, contract in the fancy a relation additional to that which they derive purely from being the symbols of related things. Farther, this tendency is strengthened by the structure of language. All languages whatever, even the most barbarous, as far as hath yet appeared, are of a regular and analogical make. The consequence is, that similar relations in things will be expressed similarly; that is, by similar inflections, derivations, compositions, arrangement of words, or juxtaposition of particles, according to the genus or grammatical form of the particular tongue. Now as, by the habitual use of a language (even though it were quite irregular), the signs would insensibly become connected in the imagination, wherever the things signified are connected in nature, so, by the regular structure of a language, this can

nexion among the signs is conceived as analogous to that which subsisteth among their archetypes. From these principles we may be enabled both to understand the meaning and to perceive the justness of what is affirmed in the end of the preceding quotation : “ The custom which we have acquired of attributing certain relations to ideas still follows the words, and makes us immediately perceive the absurdity of that proposition.” Immediately, that is, even before we have leisure to give that attention to the signs which is necessary in order to form a just conception of the things signified. In confirmation of this doctrine it may be observed, that we really think by signs as well as speak by them.

I have hitherto, in conformity to what is now become a general and inveterate custom, and in order to avoid tiresome circumlocutions,

used the terms sign and idea as exactly correlative. This, I am sensible, is not done with strict propriety. All words are signs, but that the signification cannot always be represented by an idea, will, I apprehend, be abundantly evident from the observations following. All the truths which constitute science, which give exercise to reason, and are discovered by philosophy, are general; all our ideas, in the strictest sense of the word, are particular. All the particular truths about which we are conversant are properly historical, and compose the furniture of memory. Nor do I include under the term historical the truths which belong to natural history, for even these too are general. Now beyond particular truths or individual facts, first perceived and then remembered, we should never be able to proceed one single step in thinking, any more than in conversing, without the use of signs.

When it is affirmed that the whole is equal to all its parts, there cannot be an affirmation which is more perfectly intelligible, or which commands a fuller assent. If, in order to comprehend this, I recur to ideas, all that I can do is to form a notion of some individual whole, divided into a certain number of parts, of which it is constituted, suppose of the year divided into the four seasons. Now all that I can be said to discern here is the relation of equality between this particular whole and its component parts. If I recur to another example, I only perceive another particular truth. The same holds of a third and of a fourth. But so far am I, after the perception of ten thousand particular similar instances, from the discovery of the universal truth, that if the mind had not the power of considering things as signs, or particular ideas as representing an infinity of others, resembling in one circumstance, though totally dissimilar in every other, I could not so much as conceive the meaning of a universal truth. Hence it is that some ideas, to adopt the ex

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pression of the author above quoted, are particular in their nature, but general in their representation.

There is, however, it must be acknowledged, a difficulty in explaining this power the mind hath of considering ideas, not in their private, but, as it were, in their representative capacity ; which, on that author's system who divides all the objects of thought into impressions and ideas, will be found altogether insurmountable. It was to avoid this difficulty that philosophers at first recurred, as is sometimes the case, to a still greater, or, rather, to ą downright absurdity, the doctrine of abstract ideas. I mean only that doctrine as it hath been frequently explained; for if any one is pleased to call that faculty by which a particular idea is regarded as representing a whole order by the name abstraction, I have no objection to the term ; nay, more, I think it sufficiently expressive of the sense ; while certain qualities of the individual remain unnoticed, and are therefore abstracted from, those qualities only which it hath in common with the order engross the mind's attention. But this is not what those writers seem to mean who philosophize upon abstract ideas, as is evident from their own explications.

The patrons of this theory maintain, or, at least, express themselves as if they maintained, that the mind is endowed with a power of forming ideas or images within itself, that are possessed not only of incongruous, but of inconsistent qualities-of a triangle, for example, that is of all possible dimensions and proportions, both in sides and angles, at once right-angled, acute-angled, and obtuse-angled, equilateral, equicural, and scalenum. One would have thought that the bare mention of this hypothesis would have been equivalent to a confutation of it, since it really confùtes itself.

Yet in this manner one no less respectable in the philosophic world than Mr. Locke has, on some occasions, expressed himself.* I consider the difference, however, on this article between him and the two authors above mentioned, as more apparent than real, or (which amounts to the same thing) more in words than in sentiments. It is, indeed, scarcely possible that men of discernment should think differently on a subject so perfectly subjected to every one's own consciousness and experience. What has betrayed the former into such unguarded and improper expressions is plainly an undue, and, till then, unprecedented use of the word idea, which he has employed (for the sake, I suppose, of simplifying his system) to signify not only, as formerly, the traces of things retained in the memory, and the images formed by the fancy, but even the perceptions of the senses on the one hand, and the conceptions of the intellect on the

* Essay on Human Understanding, b. ii., c. xi., sect. x., xi. ; b. iv., c. vii., sect. ix.


other, “it being that term which,” in his opinion, best to stand for whatsoever is the object of the understanding when a man thinks."* Accordingly, he nowhere, that I remember, defines it, with some logicians," a pattern or copy of a thing in the mind.” Nevertheless, he has not always, in speaking on the subject, attended to the different acceptation he had in the beginning affixed to the word ; but, misled by the common definition (which regards a more limited objeci), and applying it to the term in that more extensive inport which he had himself given it, has fallen into those inconsistencies in language which have been before observed. Thus this great man has, in his own example, as it were, demonstrated how difficult it is even for the wisest to guard uniformly against the inconveniences arising from the ambiguity of words.

But that what I have now advanced is not spoken rashly, and that there was no material difference between his opinion and theirs on this article, is, I think, manifest from the following passage : " To return to general words, it is plain, by what has been said, that general and universal belong not to the real existence of things, but are the inventions and creatures of the understanding, made by it for its own use, and concern only signs, whether words or ideas. Words are general, as has been said, when used for signs of general ideas, and so are applicable indifferently to many particular things; and ideas are general when they are set up as the representatives of many particular things; but universality belongs not to things themselves, which are all of them particular in their existence, even those words and ideas which in their signification are general. When, therefore, we quit particulars, the generals that rest are only creatures of our own making, their general nature being nothing but the capacity they are put into by the understanding, of signifying or representing many particulars. For the signification they have is nothing but a relation that by the mind of man is added to them.”+ Nothing, in my apprehension, can be more exactly coincident with Berkeley's doctrine of abstraction. Here not only words, but ideas, are made signs; and a particular idea is made general, not by any change produced in it (for then it would be no longer the same idea), but " by being set up as the representative of many particular things." Universality, he observes, as it belongs not to things, belongs not even to " those words and ideas which are all of them particular in their existence, but general in their signification.”. Again, the general nature of those ideas is " nothing but the capacity they are put into by the understanding, of signifying or representing many particulars ;” and, if possible, still more

* Essay on Human Understanding, b. i., c.i., sect. vii.
† Ibid., b. iii., c. iii., sect. xi.

explicitly, “ the signification they have is nothing but a relation ;” no alteration on their essence," that by the mind of man is added to them."

Some of the greatest admirers of that eminent philosopher seem to have overlooked entirely the preceding account of his sentiments on this subject, and through I know not what passion for the paradoxical (I should rather say, the impossible and unintelligible), have shown an amazing zeal for defending the propriety of the hasty expressions which appear in the passages formerly referred to. Has not the mind of man, say they, an unlimited power in moulding and combining its ideas? The mind, it must be owned, hath an unlimited power in moulding and combining its ideas. It often produceth wonderful forms of its own, out of the materials ori. ginally supplied by sense; forms, indeed, of which there is no exemplar to be found in nature; centaurs, and griffons,

“ Gorgons, and hydras, and chimeras dire." But still it must not attempt absolute impossibilities, by giving to its creature contradictory qualities. It must not attempt to conceive the same thing to be black and white at the same time, to be no more than three inches long, and yet no less than three thousand; to conceive two or more lines to be both equal and unequal, the same angle to be at once acute, obtuse, and right. These philosophers sagely remark, as a consequence of their doctrine, that the mind must be extremely slow in attaining so wonderful a talent; whereas, on the contrary, nothing can be more evident than that the power of abstracting, as I have explained it, is, to a certain degree, and must be, as early as the use of speech, and is, consequently, discoverable even in infants.

But if such an extraordinary faculty as they speak of were possible, I cannot, for my part, conceive what purpose it could serve.

An idea hath been defined by some logicians the form or resemblance of a thing in the mind, and the whole of its power and use in thinking is supposed to arise from an exact conformity to its archetype. What, then, is the use or power of that idea, to which there neither is nor can be any archetype in nature, which is merely a creature of the brain, a monster that bears not the likeness of anything in the universe ?

In the extensive sense in which Locke, who is considered as the most strenuous supporter of that doctrine, uses the word idea, even the perceptions of the senses, as I had occasion lately to remark, are included under that term; and if so, it is uncontrovertible, that a particular idea often serves as the sign of a whole class. Thus, in every one of Euclid's theorems, a particular triangle, and a particular parallelogram, and a particular circle, are employed as signs to denote all

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