The species of things are distinguished and made by chance, in order to naming and names imposed on those things which either the conveniences of life or common observation bring into discourse. The greatest part of the rest, sine nomine herb?, lie neglected, neither differenced by names, nor distinguished into species; viz. how many flies and worms are there which, though they are about us in great plenty, we have not yet named nor ranked into species, but come under the general names of flies or worms, which yet are as distinct as a horse and a sheep, though we never have had so great occasion to take notice of them.
So that our ideas of species are almost voluntary, or at least different from the idea of Nature by which she forms and distinguishes them, which in animals she seems to me to keep to with more constancy and exactness than in other bodies and species of things: those being curious engines do perhaps require a greater accurateness for their propagation and continuation of their race; for in vegetables we find that several sorts come from the seeds of one and the same individual, as much different species as those that are allowed to be so by philosophers.
This is very familiar in apples, and perhaps other sorts of fruits, whereof some have distinct names and others only the general, though they begin every day to have more and more given them as they come into use. So that species, in respect of us, are but things ranked into order, because of their agreement inn some ideas which we have made essential in order to our naming them, though what is essentially to belong to any species in reference to Nature be hard to determine; for if a woman should bring forth a creature perfectly of the shape of a man, that never showed any more appearance of reason than a horse, and had no articular language, and another woman should produce another with nothing of the shape, but with the language and reason of a man, I ask which of these you would call by the name man?-both or neither?
**Understanding Arguments Positive and Negative. 1677
** In questions where there are arguments on both sides, one positive proof is to preponderate to a great many negatives, because a positive proof is always founded upon some real existence, whcih we know and apprehend; whereas the negative arguments terminate generally in nothing, in our not being able to conceive, and so may be nothing but conclusions from our ignorance or incapcity, and not from the truth of things which may, and we have experience do, really exist, though they exceed our comprehension. This amongst the things we know and lie obvious to our senses is very evident; for though we are very well acquainted with matter, motion, and distance, yet there are many things in them which we can by no means comprehend; for,
even in the things most obvious and familiar to us, our understanding is nonplussed, and presently discovers its weakness; whenever it enters upon the consideration of anything that is unlimited, or would penetrate into the modes or manner of being or operation, it presently meets with unconquerable difficulties.
Matter, and figure, and motion, and the degrees of both, we have clear notions of; but when we begin to think of the extension or divisibility of the one, or the beginning of either, our understanding sticks and boggles, and knows not which way to turn. We also have no other notion of operation but of matter by motion,-at least I must confess I have not, and should be glad to have any one explain to me intelligibly any other; and yet we shall find it hard to make out any phenomenon by those causes. We know very well that we think, and at pleasure move ourselves, and yet, if we will think a negative argument sufficient to build on, we shall have reason to doubt whether we can do one or other; it being to me inconceivable how matter should think, and as incomprehensible how an immaterial thinking thing should be able to move material, or be affected by it. We having therefore positive experience of our thinking and motion, the negative arguments against them, and the impossibility of understanding them, never shake our assent to these truths, which perhaps will prove a considerable rule to determine us in very material questions.
MEMORY. When we revive in our minds the idea of anything that we have before observed to exist, this we call memory; viz. to recollect in our minds the idea of our father or brother. But when, from the observations we have made of divers particulars, we make a general idea to represent any species in general, as man; or else join several ideas together, which we never observed to exist together, we call it imagination. So that memory is always the picture of something, the idea whereof has existed before in our thoughts, as near the life as we can draw it; but imagination is a picture drawn in our minds without reference to a pattern.
And here it may be observed that the ideas of memory, like painting after the life, come always short, i. e. want something of the original.
For whether a man would remember the dreams he had in the night, or the sights of a foregoing day, some of the traces are always left out, some of the circumstances are forgotten; and those kind of pictures, like those represented successively by several looking-glasses, are the more dim and fainter the further they are off from the original object. For the mind, endeavouring to retain only the traces of the pattern, losing by degrees a great part of them, and not having the liberty to supply any new colours or touches of its own, the picture in the memory every day fades and grows dimmer, and oftentimes is quite lost.
But the imagination, not being tied to any pattern, but adding what colours, what ideas it pleases, to its own workmanship, making originals of its own which are usually very bright and clear in the mind, and sometimes to that degree that they make impressions as strong and as sensible as those ideas which come immediately by the senses from external objects,-so that the mind takes one for the other, and its own imagination for realities.
And in this, it seems, madness consists, and not in the want of reason; for allowing their imagination to be right, one may observe that madmen usually reason right from them: and I guess that those who are about madmen, will find that they make very little use of their memory, which is to recollect particulars past with their circumstances: but having any particular idea suggested to their memory, fancy dresses it up after its own fashion, without regard to the original.
Hence also one may see how it comes to pass that those that think long and intently upon one thing,
come at last to have their minds disturbed about it, and to be a little cracked as to that particular. For by repeating often with vehemence of imagination the ideas that do belong to, or may be brought in about, the same thing, a great many whereof the fancy is wont to furnish, these at length come to take so deep and impression, that they all pass for clear truths and realities, though perhaps the greater part of them have at several times been supplied only by the fancy, and are nothing but the pure effects of the imagination.
This at least is the cause of several errors and mistakes amongst men, even when it does not wholly unhinge the brains, and put all government of the thoughts into the hands of the imagination; as it sometimes happens when the imagination, being much employed, and getting the mastery about any one thing, usurps the dominion over all the other faculties of the mind in all other. But how this comes about, or what it is that gives it on such an occasion that empire,-how it comes thus to be let loose, I confess, I cannot guess. If that were once known, it would be no small advance towards the easier curing of this malady; and perhaps to that purpose it may not be amiss to observe what diet, temper, or other circumstances they are, that set the imagination on fire, and make it active and imperious. This I think, that having often recourse to one's memory, and tying down the mind strictly to the recollecting things past precisely as they were,
may be a means to check those extravagant or towering flights of the imagination. And it is good often to divert the mind from that which it has been earnestly employed about, or which is its ordinary business, to other objects, and to make it attend to the informations of the senses and the things they offer to it. J. L. 1678.
Madness seems to be nothing but a disorder in the imagination, and not in the discursive faculty; for one shall find amongst the distract, those who fancy themselves kings, &c., who discourse and reason right enough upon the suppositions and wrong fancies they have taken. And any sober man may find it in himself in twenty occasions, viz.-in a town where he has not been long resident, let him come into a street that he is pretty well acquainted with at the contrary end to what he imagined, he will find all his reasonings about it so out of order and so inconsistent with the truth, that should he enter into debate upon the situation of the houses, the turnings on the right or left hand, &c. &c., with one who knew the place perfectly, and had the right ideas which way he was going, he would seem little better than frantic.
This, I believe, most people may have observed to have happened to themselves, especially when they have been carried up and down in coaches, and perhaps may have found it sometimes difficult to set their thoughts right, and reform the mistakes of their imagination. And I have known some who, upon the wrong impressions which were at first made upon their imaginations, could never tell which was north or south in Smithfield, though they were no very ill geographers: and when by the sun and the time of the day they were convinced of the position of that place, yet they could not tell how to reconcile it to other parts of the town that were adjoining to it, but out of sight; and were very apt to relapse again, as soon as either the sun disappeared,
or they were out of sight of the place, into the mistakes and confusion of their old ideas. From whence one may see of what moment it is to take care that the first impressions we settle upon our minds be conformable to the truth and to the nature of thing; or else all our meditations and discourse thereupon will be nothing but perfect raving.
The foundation of error and mistake in most men lies in having obscure or confused notions of things, or by reason of their confused ideas, doubtful and obscure words; our words always in their signification depending upon our ideas, being clear or obscure proportionably as our notions are so, and sometimes have little more but the sound of the word for the notion of the thing. For in the discursive faculty of the mind, I do not find that men are so apt to err; but it avails little that their syllogisms are right, if their terms be insignificant and obscure, or confused and indetermined, or that in their internal discourse deductions be regular, if their notions be wrong. Therefore, in our discourse with others, the greatest care is to be had that we be not misled or imposed on by the measure of their words, where the fallacy oftener lies than in faulty consequences.
And in considering by ourselves to take care of our notions, where a man argues right upon wrong notions or terms, he does like a madman; were he makes wrong consequences, he does like a fool: madness seeming to me to lie more in the imagination, and folly in the discourse.
Space, in itself, seems to be nothing but a capacity, or possibility, for extended beings or bodies to be, or exist, which we are apt to conceive infinite; for there being in nothing no resistance, we have a conception very natural and very true, that let bodies be already as far extended as you will, yet, other new bodies should be created, they might exist where there are now no bodies: viz. a globe of a foot diameter might exist beyond the utmost superficies of all bodies now existing; and because we have by our acquaintance with bodies got the idea of the figure and distance of the superficial part of a globe of a foot diameter, we are apt to imagine the space where the globe exists to be really something, to have a real existence before and after its existence there. Whereas, in truth,
it is really nothing, and so has no opposition nor resistance to the being of such a body there; though we, applying the idea of a natural globe, are apt to conceive it as something so far extended, and these are properly the imaginary spaces which are so much disputed of. But as for distance, I suppose that to be the relation of two bodies or beings near or remote to one another, measurable by the ideas we have of distance taken from solid bodies; for were there no beings at all, we might truly say there were no distances. The fallacy we put upon ourselves which inclines us to think otherwise is this, that whenever we talk of distance, we first suppose some real beings existing separate from one another, and then, without taking notice of that supposition,
and the relation that results from their placing one in reference to another, we are apt to consider that space as some positive real being existing without them: whereas, as it seems to me, to be but a bare relation; and when we suppose them to be, viz. a yard asunder, it is no more but to say extended in a direct line to the proportion of three feet or thirty-six inches distance, whereof by use we have got the idea: this gives us the notion of distance, and the vacuum that is between them is understood by this, that bodies of a yard long that come between them, thrust or remove away nothing that was there before.
- I take it for granted that I can conceive a space without a body; for, suppose the universe as big as you will, I can, without the bounds of it, imagine it possible to thrust out or create any the most solid body of any figure, without removing from the place it possesses anything that was there before. Neither does it imply any contradiction to suppose a space so empty within the bounds of the universe, that a body may be brought into it without removing from thence any other' and if this be not granted, I cannot see how one can make out any motion supposing your bodies of what figures or bulk you please, as I imagine it is easy to demonstrate.
If it be possible to suppose nothing, or, in our thoughts, to remove all manner of beings from any place, then this imaginary space is just nothing, and signifies no more but a bare possibility that body may exist where now there is none. If it be impossible to suppose pure nothing, or to extend our thoughts where there is, or we can suppose, no being, this space void of body must be something belonging to the being of the Deity. But be it one or the other, the idea we have of it we take from the extension of bodies which fall under our senses; and this idea of extension being settled in our minds, we are able, by repeating that in our thoughts, without annexing body or impenetrability to it, to imagine spaces where there are no bodies-which imaginary spaces, if we suppose all other beings absent, are purely nothing, but merely a possibility that body might there exist. Or if it be a necessity to suppose a being there, it must be God, whose being we thus make, i. e. suppose extended, but not impenetrable: but be it one or the other, extension seems to be mentally separable from body, and distance nothing but the relation of space, resulting from the existence of two positive beings; or, which is all one, two parts of the same being.