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Unformatted text preview: ese troubles - namely that we should attend not to the
words that signify ideas but rather to the ideas themselves. But however good this advice
that they have given others may be, they obviously couldn’t properly follow it themselves
so long as they thought that Ÿthe only immediate use of words was to signify ideas, and
Ÿthat the immediate signification of every general name was a determinate, abstract idea.
24 intro. But when you know that these are mistakes, you can more easily prevent your
thoughts from being influenced by words. Someone who knows that he has only
particular ideas will not waste his time trying to conceive the abstract idea that goes with
any name. And someone who knows that names do not always stand for ideas will spare
himself the labour of looking for ideas where there are none to be had. It is desirable,
therefore, that everyone should try as hard as he can to obtain a clear view of the ideas he 11
wants to consider, separating from them all the clothing and clutter of words that so
greatly blind our judgment and scatter our attention. In vain do we extend our view into
the heavens, and presumably into the entrails of the earth; in vain do we consult the
writings of learned men, and trace the dark footsteps of antiquity; we need only draw aside
the curtain of words, to behold the fairest tree of knowledge, whose fruit, ·namely, our
‘bare naked ideas’·, is excellent and lies within reach of our hand.
25 intro. Unless we take care to clear the first principles of knowledge from being
burdened and deluded by words, we can reason from them for ever without achieving
anything; we can draw consequences from consequences and be never the wiser. The
further we go, the more deeply and irrecoverably we shall be lost and entangled in
difficulties and mistakes. To anyone who plans to read the following pages, therefore, I
say: Make my words the occasion of your own thinking, and try to have the same
sequence of thoughts in reading that I had in writing. This will make it easy for you to
discover the truth or falsity of what I say. You will run no risk of being deceived by my
words, and I do not see how you can be led into an error by considering your own naked,
1. Anyone who surveys the objects of human knowledge will easily see that they are all
ideas that are either Ÿactually imprinted on the senses or Ÿperceived by attending to one’s
own emotions and mental activities or Ÿformed out of ideas of the first two types, with the
help of memory and imagination, by compounding or dividing or simply reproducing ideas
of those other two kinds. By sight I have the ideas of light and colours with their different
degrees and variations. By touch I perceive hard and soft, heat and cold, motion and
resistance, and so on; and each of these also admits of differences of quantity or degree.
Smelling supplies me with odours; the palate with tastes; and hearing conveys sounds to
the mind in all their variety of tone and composition. And when a number of these are
observed to accompany each other, they come to be marked by one name and thus to be
thought of as one thing. Thus, for example, a certain colour, taste, smell, shape and
consistency having been observed to go together, they are taken to be one distinct thing,
called an ‘apple’. Other collections of ideas constitute a stone, a tree, a book, and similar
perceptible things; and these can arouse the emotions of love, hate, joy, grief, and so on,
depending on whether they please or displease us.
2. In addition to all that endless variety of ideas, or objects of knowledge, there is also
something that knows or perceives them, and acts on them in various ways such as
willing, imagining, and remembering. This perceiving, active entity is what I call ‘mind’,
‘spirit’, ‘soul’, or ‘myself’. These words do not refer to any one of my ideas, but rather to
a thing that is entirely distinct from them. It is something in which they exist, or by which
they are perceived. Those are two ways of saying the same thing, because the existence of
an idea consists in its being perceived.
3. Everyone will agree that our thoughts, emotions, and ideas of the imagination exist only
in the mind. It seems to me equally obvious that the various sensations or ideas that are
imprinted on our senses cannot exist except in a mind that perceives them - no matter how
they are blended or combined together (that is, no matter what objects they constitute). 12
You can know this intuitively [= ‘you can see it as immediately self-evident’] by attending
to what is meant by the term ‘exist’ when it is applied to perceptible things. The table that
I am writing on exists, that is, I see and feel it; and if I were out of my study I would still
say that it existed, meaning that Ÿif I were in my study I would perceive it, or that Ÿsome
other spirit actually does perceive it. There was an odour, that is, it was smelled; there was
a sound, it was heard; there was a colour or shape, it was seen or felt. This is all that I can
understand by such expressions as these. Ther...
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This note was uploaded on 03/12/2013 for the course PHIL 105 taught by Professor Mendetta during the Spring '13 term at SUNY Stony Brook.
- Spring '13