… “Chapter XXVII,
Of Identity and Diversity”.
This is very difficult reading. Our English writing style has changed from Locke’s time, nearly
four centuries ago.
Here are the excerpts of interest:
6. The identity of man. … “
For if the identity of soul alone makes the same man; and there be
nothing in the nature of matter why the same individual spirit may not be united to different
bodies, it will be possible that those men, living in distant ages, and of different tempers, may
have been the same man: which way of speaking must be from a very strange use of the word
man, applied to an idea out of which body and shape are excluded. And that way of speaking
would agree yet worse with the notions of those philosophers who allow of transmigration, and
are of opinion that the souls of men may, for their miscarriages, be detruded into the bodies of
beasts, as fit habitations, with organs suited to the satisfaction of their brutal inclinations. But yet
I think nobody, could he be sure that the soul of Heliogabalus were in one of his hogs, would yet
say that hog were a man or Heliogabalus.
"I had a mind to know, from Prince Maurice's own mouth, the account of a common, but
much credited story, that I had heard so often from many others, of an old parrot he had in
Brazil, during his government there, that spoke, and asked, and answered common
questions, like a reasonable creature: so that those of his train there generally concluded it
to be witchery or possession; and one of his chaplains, who lived long afterwards in
Holland, would never from that time endure a parrot, but said they all had a devil in them.
I had heard many particulars of this story, and as severed by people hard to be discredited,
which made me ask Prince Maurice what there was of it. He said, with his usual plainness
and dryness in talk, there was something true, but a great deal false of what had been
reported. I desired to know of him what there was of the first. He told me short and coldly,
that he had heard of such an old parrot when he had been at Brazil; and though he
believed nothing of it, and it was a good way off, yet he had so much curiosity as to send for
it: that it was a very great and a very old one; and when it came first into the room where
the prince was, with a great many Dutchmen about him, it said presently, What a company
of white men are here! They asked it, what it thought that man was, pointing to the prince.
It answered, Some General or other. When they brought it close to him, he asked it, D'ou
venez-vous? (Where are you from) It answered, De Marinnan. The Prince, A qui estes-vous?
(What are you?) The Parrot, A un Portugais. The Prince, Que fais-tu la? (What do you do?)