To be plain, I own myself able to abstract IN ONE SENSE, as when I consider some particular parts or qualities separated from others, with which, though they are united in some object, yet it is possible they may really exist without them. But I deny that I can abstract from one another, or conceive separately, those qualities which it is impossible should exist so separated; or that I can frame a general notion, by abstracting from particulars in the manner aforesaid--which last are the two proper acceptations of ABSTRACTION.

men who use language are able to ABSTRACT or GENERALIZE their Ideas. That this is the sense and arguing of the author will further appear by his answering the question he in another place puts: "Since all things that exist are only particulars, how come we by general terms?" His answer is: "Words become general by being made the signs of general ideas."

observing how ideas become general we may the better judge how words are made so. And here it is to be noted that I do not deny absolutely there are general ideas, but only that there are any ABSTRACT GENERAL IDEAS;

I come now to consider the SOURCE OF THIS PREVAILING NOTION, and that seems to me to be LANGUAGE.

if I mistake not, it will be found that, when language is once grown familiar, the hearing of the sounds or sight of the characters is oft immediately attended with those passions which at first were wont to be produced by the intervention of ideas that are now quite omitted.

This perceiving, active being is what I call MIND, Spirit, Soul, or MYSELF. By which words I do not denote any one of my ideas, but a thing entirely distinct from them, WHEREIN THEY EXIST, or, which is the same thing, whereby they are perceived--for the existence of an idea consists in being perceived.

The table I write on I say exists, that is, I see and feel it; and if I were out of my study I should say it existed--meaning thereby that if I was in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does perceive it.

For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived, that seems perfectly unintelligible. Their ESSE is PERCIPI, nor is it possible they should have any existence out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them.

we thoroughly examine this tenet it will, perhaps, be found at bottom to depend on the doctrine of ABSTRACT IDEAS.

So far, I will not deny, I can abstract--if that may properly be called ABSTRACTION which extends only to the conceiving separately such objects as it is possible may really exist or be actually perceived asunder. But my conceiving or imagining power does not extend beyond the possibility of real existence or perception. Hence, as it is impossible for me to see or feel anything without an actual sensation of that thing, so is it impossible for me to conceive in my thoughts any sensible thing or object distinct from the sensation or perception of it.

what has been said it follows there is NOT ANY OTHER Substance THAN Spirit, or that which perceives.

TO HAVE AN IDEA IS ALL ONE AS TO PERCEIVE; that therefore wherein color, figure, and the like qualities exist must perceive them;

an idea can be like nothing but an idea; a color or figure can be like nothing but another color or figure.

they will have our ideas of the primary qualities to be patterns or images of things which exist without the mind, in an unthinking substance which they call MATTER.

Extension, Shape, and Motion are ONLY IDEAS EXISTING IN THE MIND, and that an idea can be like nothing but another idea, and that consequently neither they nor their archetypes can exist in an UNPERCEIVING substance.

I desire any one to reflect and try whether he can, by any abstraction of thought, conceive the extension and motion of a body without all other sensible qualities.

The extension therefore which exists without the mind is neither great nor small, the motion neither swift nor slow, that is, they are nothing at all. But, say you, they are extension in general, and motion in general: thus we see how much the tenet of extended movable substances existing without the mind depends on the strange doctrine of ABSTRACT IDEAS.

it is said that heat and cold are affections only of the mind, and not at all patterns of real beings, existing in the corporeal substances which excite them, for that the same body which appears cold to one hand seems warm to another.

EXTENSION is a MODE or accident OF MATTER, and that Matter is the Substratum that supports it.

though you know not what it is, yet you must be supposed to know what relation it bears to accidents, and what is meant by its supporting them.

The general idea of Being appears to me the most abstract and incomprehensible of all other;

Hence, it is evident the supposition of external bodies is not necessary for the producing our ideas;

Hence it is evident the production of ideas or sensations in our minds can be no reason why we should suppose Matter or corporeal substances,


I am content to put the whole upon this issue:--If you can but CONCEIVE it possible for one extended movable substance, or, in general, for any one idea, or anything like an idea, to exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving it, I shall readily give up the cause.

what is all this, I beseech you, more than framing in your mind certain ideas which you call BOOKS and TREES, and the same time omitting to frame the idea of any one that may perceive them?

That this cause cannot be any quality or Idea or combination of ideas, is clear from the preceding section. I must therefore be a substance; but it has been shown that there is no corporeal or material substance: it remains therefore that the CAUSE OF IDEAS is an incorporeal active substance or Spirit. 27. NO IDEA OF SPIRIT.--A spirit is one simple, undivided, active being--as it perceives ideas it is called the UNDERSTANDING, and as it produces or otherwise operates about them it is called the WILL. Hence there can be no idea formed of a soul or spirit; for all ideas whatever, being passive and inert (vide sect. 25), they cannot represent unto us, by way of image or LIKENESS, that which acts.

When in broad daylight I open my eyes, it is not in my power to choose whether I shall see or no, or to determine what particular objects shall present themselves to my view; and so likewise as to the hearing and other senses; the ideas imprinted on them are not creatures of my will. There is THEREFORE SOME OTHER WILL OR SPIRIT that PRODUCES THEM.

And yet THIS consistent UNIFORM WORKING, which so evidently displays the goodness and wisdom of that Governing Spirit whose Will constitutes the laws of nature, is so far from leading our thoughts to Him, that it rather SENDS THEM A WANDERING AFTER SECOND CAUSES.

To all which, and whatever else of the same sort may be objected, I ANSWER, that by the principles premised we are not deprived of any one thing in nature. Whatever we see, feel, hear, or anywise conceive or understand remains as secure as ever, and is as real as ever. There is a RERUM NATURA, and the distinction between realities and chimeras retains its full force.

The only thing whose existence we deny IS THAT WHICH PHILOSOPHERS CALL MATTER or corporeal substance. And in doing of this there is no damage done to the rest of mankind, who, I dare say, will never miss it. The Atheist indeed will want the color of an empty name to support his impiety; and the Philosophers may possibly find they have lost a great handle for trifling and disputation.

There are spiritual substances, minds, or human souls, which will or excite ideas in themselves at pleasure; but these are faint, weak, and unsteady in respect of others they perceive by sense--which, being impressed upon them according to certain rules or laws of nature, speak themselves the effects of a mind more powerful and wise than human spirits.

We are not for having any man turn SKEPTIC and disbelieve his senses; on the contrary, we give them all the stress and assurance imaginable;

For, that we should in truth see EXTERNAL space, and bodies actually existing in it, some nearer, others farther off, seems to carry with it some opposition to what has been said of their existing nowhere without the mind.

DISTANCE or outness is NEITHER IMMEDIATELY of itself PERCEIVED by sight, nor yet apprehended or judged of by lines and angles, or anything that has a necessary connection with it; but (2) that it is ONLY SUGGESTED to our thoughts by certain visible ideas and sensations attending vision, which in their own nature have no manner of similitude or relation either with distance or things placed at a distance; but, by a connection taught us BY EXPERIENCE, they come to signify and suggest them to us, after the same manner that WORDS of any language suggest the ideas they are made to stand for;

only admonish us what ideas of touch will be imprinted in our minds at such and such distances of time, and in consequence of such or such actions.

visible ideas are the Language whereby the governing Spirit on whom we depend informs us what tangible ideas he is about to imprint upon us, in case we excite this or that motion in our own bodies.

SCHOOLMEN, though they acknowledge the existence of Matter, and that the whole mundane fabric is framed out of it, are nevertheless of opinion that it cannot subsist without the divine conservation, which by them is expounded to be a continual creation.

the infinite divisibility of Matter is now universally allowed, at least by the most approved and considerable philosophers, who on the received principles demonstrate it beyond all exception.

Wherever bodies are said to have no existence without the mind, I would not be understood to mean this or that particular mind, but ALL MINDS WHATSOEVER. It does not therefore follow from the foregoing principles that bodies are annihilated and created every moment, or exist not at all during the intervals between our perception of them.

Those qualities are in the mind ONLY AS THEY ARE PERCEIVED BY IT--that is, not by way of MODE or ATTRIBUTE, but only by way of IDEA; and it no more follows the soul or mind is extended, because extension exists in it alone, than it does that it is red or blue, because those colors are ON ALL HANDS acknowledged to exist in it, and nowhere else.

whatever advances have been made, either by ancient or modern philosophers, in the study of nature do all proceed on the supposition that corporeal substance or Matter doth really exist.

To explain the PHENOMENA, is all one as to show why, upon such and such occasions, we are affected with such and such ideas.

they who attempt to account for things do it not by CORPOREAL SUBSTANCE, but by figure, motion, and other qualities, which are in truth no more than mere ideas, and, therefore, cannot be the cause of anything,

though they allow Matter to exist, yet will have God alone to be the immediate efficient cause of all things.

men knowing they perceived several ideas, WHEREOF THEY THEMSELVES WERE NOT THE AUTHORS--as not being excited from within nor depending on the operation of their wills--this made them maintain those ideas, or objects of perception had an EXISTENCE INDEPENDENT OF AND WITHOUT THE MIND, without ever dreaming that a contradiction was involved in those words.

Whenever the course of nature is interrupted by a miracle, men are ready to own the presence of a superior agent. But, when we see things go on in the ordinary course they do not excite in us any reflection;

solidity, bulk, figure, motion, and the like have no activity or efficacy in them, so as to be capable of producing any one effect in nature.

they produce those perceivable effects which in truth cannot be ascribed to anything but Spirit.

It may indeed on some occasions be necessary that the Author of nature display His overruling power in producing some appearance out of the ordinary series of things. Such exceptions from the general rules of nature are proper to surprise and awe men into an acknowledgement of the Divine Being;

the works of nature, which discover so much harmony and contrivance in their make, and are such plain indications of wisdom and beneficence in their Author, rather than to astonish us into a belief of His Being by anomalous and surprising events.

the connection of ideas does not imply the relation of cause and effect, but only of a mark or Sign with the thing signified.

That a few original ideas may be made to signify a great number of effects and actions, it is necessary they be variously combined together. And, to the end their use be permanent and universal, these combinations must be made by rule, and with wise contrivance.

it is the searching after and endeavoring to understand those signs instituted by the Author of Nature, that ought to be the employment of the natural philosopher; and not the pretending to explain things by corporeal causes,

That it exists not in the mind is agreed; and that it exists not in place is no less certain--since all place or extension exists only in the mind, as has been already proved. It remains therefore that it exists nowhere at all.

First, therefore, it was thought that color, figure, motion, and the rest of the sensible qualities or accidents, did really exist without the mind; and for this reason it seemed needful to suppose some unthinking substratum or substance wherein they did exist, since they could not be conceived to exist by themselves.

it having been shown that none even of these can possibly exist otherwise than in a Spirit or Mind which perceives them it follows that we have no longer any reason to suppose the being of Matter; nay, that it is utterly impossible there should be any such thing, so long as that word is taken to denote an unthinking substratum of qualities or accidents wherein they exist without the mind.

yet the prejudice is riveted so deeply in our thoughts, that we can scarce tell how to part with it, and are therefore inclined, since the thing itself is indefensible, at least to retain the name,

a very extraordinary instance of the force of prejudice, and much to be lamented, that the mind of man retains so great a fondness, against all the evidence of reason, for a stupid thoughtless somewhat, by the interposition whereof it would as it were screen itself from the Providence of God, and remove it farther off from the affairs of the world.

if we had a new sense it could only furnish us with new ideas or sensations; and then we should have the same reason against their existing in an unperceiving substance that has been already offered with relation to figure, motion, color and the like.

when words are used without a Meaning, you may put them together as you please without danger of running into a contradiction.

the Holy Scriptures are so clear in the point as will sufficiently convince every good Christian that bodies do really exist,

I do not think that either what philosophers call Matter, or the existence of objects without the mind, is anywhere mentioned in Scripture.

the rod was changed into a real serpent, and the water into real wine.

the very root of Skepticism; for, so long as men thought that real things subsisted without the mind, and that their Knowledge was only so far forth real as it was conformable to real things, it follows they could not be certain they had any real knowledge at all.

all this doubtfulness, which so bewilders and confounds the mind and makes philosophy ridiculous in the eyes of the world, vanishes if we annex a meaning to our words. and not amuse ourselves with the terms "absolute," "external," "exist, "and such-like, signifying we know not what.

the very existence of an unthinking being consists in being perceived. 89. OF THING OR BEING.--Nothing seems of more importance towards erecting a firm system of sound and real knowledge, which may be proof against the assaults of Skepticism, than to lay the beginning in a distinct explication of what is meant by thing,

We may be said to have some knowledge or notion of our own minds, of spirits and active beings, whereof in a strict sense we have not ideas.

To me it seems that ideas, spirits, and relations are all in their respective kinds the object of human knowledge and subject of discourse; and that the term idea would be improperly extended to signify everything we know or have any notion of.

Again, the things perceived by sense may be termed external, with regard to their origin--in that they are not generated from within by the mind itself, but imprinted by a Spirit distinct from that which perceives them. Sensible objects may likewise be said to be "without the mind" in another sense, namely when they exist in some other mind; thus, when I shut my eyes, the things I saw may still exist, but it must be in another mind.

How great a friend material substance has been to Atheists in all ages were needless to relate. All their monstrous systems have so visible and necessary a dependence on it that, when this corner-stone is once removed, the whole fabric cannot choose but fall to the ground, insomuch that it is no longer worth while to bestow a particular consideration on the absurdities of every wretched sect of Atheists.

Did men but consider that the sun, moon, and stars, and every other object of the senses are only so many sensations in their minds, which have no other existence but barely being perceived, doubtless they would never fall down and worship their own ideas, but rather address their homage to that ETERNAL INVISIBLE MIND which produces and sustains all things.

Time, place, and motion, taken in particular or concrete, are what everybody knows, but, having passed through the hands of a metaphysician, they become too abstract and fine to be apprehended by men of ordinary sense.

whenever I attempt to frame a simple idea of time, abstracted from the succession of ideas in my mind, which flows uniformly and is participated by all beings, I am lost and embrangled in inextricable difficulties.

either that he passes away innumerable ages without a thought, or else that he is annihilated every moment of his life, both which seem equally absurd.

Hence, it is a plain consequence that the soul always thinks; and in truth whoever shall go about to divide in his thoughts, or abstract the existence of a spirit from its cogitation, will, I believe, find it no easy task.

The opinion that those and the like words stand for general notions, abstracted from all particular persons and actions, seems to have rendered morality very difficult, and the study thereof of small use to mankind.

One great inducement to our pronouncing ourselves ignorant of the nature of things is the current opinion that everything includes within itself the cause of its properties; or that there is in each object an inward essence which is the source whence its discernible qualities flow, and whereon they depend. Some have pretended to account for appearances by occult qualities, but of late they are mostly resolved into mechanical causes, to wit. the figure, motion, weight, and suchlike qualities, of insensible particles; whereas, in truth, there is no other agent or efficient cause than spirit, it being evident that motion, as well as all other ideas, is perfectly inert.

That bodies should tend towards the center of the earth is not thought strange, because it is what we perceive every moment of our lives. But, that they should have a like gravitation towards the center of the moon may seem odd and unaccountable to most men, because it is discerned only in the tides.

it consists not in an exacter knowledge of the efficient cause that produces them--for that can be no other than the will of a spirit--but

For example, in the business of gravitation or mutual attraction, because it appears in many instances, some are straightway for pronouncing it universal; and that to attract and be attracted by every other body is an essential quality inherent in all bodies whatsoever. Whereas it is evident the fixed stars have no such tendency towards each other; and, so far is that gravitation from being essential to bodies that in some instances a quite contrary principle seems to show itself;

it depends entirely on the will of the Governing Spirit, who causes certain bodies to cleave together or tend towards each other according to various laws, whilst He keeps others at a fixed distance; and to some He gives a quite contrary tendency to fly asunder just as He sees convenient.

this celebrated author holds there is an absolute Space, which, being unperceivable to sense, remains in itself similar and immovable; and relative space to be the measure thereof, which, being movable and defined by its situation in respect of sensible bodies, is vulgarly taken for immovable space. Place he defines to be that part of space which is occupied by any body; and according as the space is absolute or relative so also is the place. Absolute Motion is said to be the translation of a body from absolute place to absolute place, as relative motion is from one relative place to another.

absolute motion, exclusive of all external relation, is incomprehensible; and to this kind of relative motion all the above-mentioned properties, causes, and effects ascribed to absolute motion will, if I mistake not, be found to agree.

the water in the vessel at that time wherein it is said to have the greatest relative circular motion, has, I think, no motion at all;

what has been said it follows that the philosophic consideration of motion does not imply the being of an absolute Space, distinct from that which is perceived by sense and related bodies; which that it cannot exist without the mind is clear upon the same principles that demonstrate the like of all other objects of sense. And perhaps, if we inquire narrowly, we shall find we cannot even frame an idea of pure Space exclusive of all body.

imagine themselves reduced, to wit, of thinking either that Real Space is God, or else that there is something beside God which is eternal, uncreated, infinite, indivisible, immutable.

Unity in abstract we have before considered in sect. 13, from which and what has been said in the Introduction, it plainly follows there is not any such idea. But, number being defined a "collection of units," we may conclude that, if there be no such thing as unity or unit in abstract, there are no ideas of number in abstract denoted by the numeral names and figures. The theories therefore in Arithmetic. if they are abstracted from the names and figures, as likewise from all use and practice, as well as from the particular things numbered, can be supposed to have nothing at all for their object; hence we may see how entirely the science of numbers is subordinate to practice,

the notation of the Arabians or Indians came into use, wherein, by the repetition of a few characters or figures, and varying the signification of each figure according to the place it obtains, all numbers may be most aptly expressed; which seems to have been done in imitation of language, so that an exact analogy is observed betwixt the notation by figures and names, the nine simple figures answering the nine first numeral names and places in the former,

Hence, if we can make it appear that no finite extension contains innumerable parts, or is infinitely divisible, it follows that we shall at once clear the science of Geometry from a great number of difficulties and contradictions

If, therefore, I cannot perceive innumerable parts in any finite extension that I consider, it is certain they are not contained in it;

the geometer considers them abstracting from their magnitude--which does not imply that he forms an abstract idea, but only that he cares not what the particular magnitude is, whether great or small, but looks on that as a thing different to the demonstration.

what has been said the reason is plain why, to the end any theorem become universal in its use, it is necessary we speak of the lines described on paper as though they contained parts which really they do not.

Of late the speculations about Infinities have run so high, and grown to such strange notions, as have occasioned no small scruples and disputes among the geometers of the present age. Some there are of great note who, not content with holding that finite lines may be divided into an infinite number of parts, do yet farther maintain that each of those infinitesimals is itself subdivisible into an infinity of other parts or infinitesimals of a second order, and so on ad infinitum.

in case we had a new sense bestowed upon us, we could only receive thereby some new sensations or ideas of sense.

From the opinion that spirits are to be known after the manner of an idea or sensation have risen many absurd and heterodox tenets, and much skepticism about the nature of the soul. It is even probable that this opinion may have produced a doubt in some whether they had any soul at all distinct from their body since upon inquiry they could not find they had an idea of it.

whereas a soul or spirit is an active being, whose existence consists, not in being perceived, but in perceiving ideas and thinking.

must not be supposed that they who assert the natural immortality of the soul are of opinion that it is absolutely incapable of annihilation even by the infinite power of the Creator who first gave it being, but only that it is not liable to be broken or dissolved by the ordinary laws of nature or motion.

We have shown that the soul is indivisible, incorporeal, unextended, and it is consequently incorruptible.

There is nothing alike or common in them: and to expect that by any multiplication or enlargement of our faculties we may be enabled to know a spirit as we do a triangle, seems as absurd as if we should hope to see a sound.

I will not say that the terms idea and notion may not be used convertibly, if the world will have it so; but yet it conduceth to clearness and propriety that we distinguish things very different by different names. It is also to be remarked that, all relations including an act of the mind, we cannot so properly be said to have an idea, but rather a notion of the relations and habitudes between things.

But, though there be some things which convince us human agents are concerned in producing them; yet it is evident to every one that those things which are called the Works of Nature, that is, the far greater part of the ideas or sensations perceived by us, are not produced by, or dependent on, the wills of men.

it is evident that God is known as certainly and immediately as any other mind or spirit whatsoever distinct from ourselves. We may even assert that the existence of God is far more evidently perceived than the existence of men; because the effects of nature are infinitely more numerous and considerable than those ascribed to human agents.

person is not perceived by sense, as not being an idea; when therefore we see the color, size, figure, and motions of a man, we perceive only certain sensations or ideas excited in our own minds; and these being exhibited to our view in sundry distinct collections, serve to mark out unto us the existence of finite and created spirits like ourselves.

after the same manner we see God; all the difference is that, whereas some one finite and narrow assemblage of ideas denotes a particular human mind, whithersoever we direct our view, we do at all times and in all places perceive manifest tokens of the Divinity:

if by Nature is meant some being distinct from God, as well as from the laws of nature, and things perceived by sense, I must confess that word is to me an empty sound without any intelligible meaning annexed to it.

the aforesaid methods of nature are absolutely necessary, in order to working by the most simple and general rules, and after a steady and consistent manner; which argues both the wisdom and goodness of God.

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