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whatever hand he might be supposed to have in the original book itself, it is plain he had none in that preface, which is neither sense nor English. A puerile edition of Æsop's Fables has likewise his name prefixed to it, and was in all probability ascribed to him for no better reason than the frequent mention made of that book in his Thoughts on Education. The title runs thus: “Æsop's Fables in English and Latin, interlineary, for the Benefit of those who, not having a Master, would learn either of those Tongues. The Second Edition, with Sculptures. By John Locke, gent. Printed for A. Bettesworth, 1723."
12. But it is high time to conduct the reader to Mr. Locke's more authentic and capital productions, the constant demand for which shows that they have stood the test of time; and their peculiar tendency to enlarge and improve the mind must continue that demand while a regard to virtue or religion, science or common sense, remains amongst us. I wish it were in
my power to give so clear and just a view of these as might serve to point out their proper uses, and thereby direct young unprejudiced readers to a more beneficial study of them.
The Essay on Human Understanding, that most distinguished of all his works, is to be considered as a system, at its first appearance, absolutely new, and directly opposite to the notions and persuasions then established in the world. Now as it seldom happens that the person who first suggests a discovery in any science is at the same time solicitous, or perhaps qualified, to lay open all the consequences that follow from it; in such a work much of course is left to the reader, who must carefully apply the leading principles to many cases and conclusions not there specified. To what else but a neglect of this application shall we impute it that there are still numbers amongst us who profess to pay the greatest deference to Mr. Locke, and to be well acquainted with his writings, and would perhaps take it ill to have this pretension questioned ; yet appear either wholly unable, or unaccustomed, to draw the natural consequence from any one of his principal positions ? Why, for instance, do we still continue so unsettled in the first principles and foundation of morals ? How came we not to perceive that by the very same arguments which that great author used with so much success in extirpating innate ideas, he most effectually eradicated all innate or connate senses, instincts, &c. by not only leading us to conclude that every such sense must, in the very nature of it, imply an object correspondent to and of the same standing with itself, to which it refers (as each relative implies its correlate], the real existence of which object he has confuted in every shape ; but also by showing that for each moral proposition men actually want and may demand a reason or proof deduced from another science, and founded on natural good and evil: and consequently where no such reason can be assigned, these same senses, or instincts, with whatever titles decorated*, whether styled sympathetic or sentimental, common or intuitive,-ought to be looked upon as no more than mere habits ; under which familiar name their authority is soon discovered, and their effects accounted for.
From the same principles it may be collected that all such pompous theories of morals, however seemingly diversified, yet amount ultimately to the same thing, being all built upon the same false bottom of innate notions; and from the history of this science we may see that they have received no manner of improvement (as indeed by the supposition of their innateness they become incapable of any) from the days of Plato to our own; but must always take the main point, the ground of obligation, for granted : which
See very accurate explanation of Mr. Locke's doctrine on this head and some others, in a Philosophical Discourse on the Nature of Human Being, prefixed to some Remarks upon bishop Berkley's Treatise on the same subject. Printed for Dodsley, 1776.
is in truth the shortest and safest way of proceeding for such self-taught philosophers, and saves a deal of trouble in seeking reasons for what they advance, where none are to be found. Mr. Locke went a far different way to work, at the very entrance on his Essay, pointing out the true origin of all our passions and affections, i. e. sensitive pleasure and pain; and accordingly directing us to the proper principle and end of virtue, private happiness, in each individual; as well as laying down the adequate rule and only solid ground of moral obligation, the divine will. From whence also it may well be concluded that moral propositions are equally capable of certainty, and that such certainty is equally reducible to strict demonstration here as in other sciences, since they consist of the very same kind of ideas, (viz. general abstract ones, the true and only ground of all general knowledge]; provided always that the terms be once clearly settled, in which lies the chief difficulty, and are constantly applied (as surely they may be) with equal steadiness and precision : which was undoubtedly Mr. Locke's meaning in that assertion of his which drew upon him so many solicitations to set about such a systematic demonstration of morals.
In the same plain and popular introduction, when he has been proving that men think not always, [a position which, as he observes, letter to Molyneux, August 4, 1696, was then admitted in a commencement act at Cambridge for probable, and which few there now-a-days are found weak enough to question] how come we not to attend him through the genuine consequences of that proof? This would soon let us into the true nature of the human constitution, and enable us to determine whether thought, when every mode of it is suspended, though but for an hour, can be deemed an essential property of our immaterial principle, or mind, and as such inseparable from some imaginary substance, or substratum, [words, by the by, so far as they have a meaning, taken entirely
from matter, and terminating in it] any more than motion, under its various modifications, can be judged essential to the body, or to a purely material system *. Of that same substance or substratum, whether material or immaterial, Mr. Locke has farther shown us that we can form but a very imperfect and confused idea, if in truth we have any idea at all of it, though custom and an attachment to the established mode of philosophising still prevails to such a degree that we scarcely know how to proceed without it, and are apt to make as much noise with such logical terms and distinctions, as the schoolmen used to do with their principle of individuation, substantial forms, &c. Whereas, if we could be persuaded to quit every arbitrary hypothesis, and trust to fact and experience, a sound sleep any night would yield sufficient satisfaction in the present case, which thus may derive light even from the darkest parts of nature; and which will the more merit our regard, since the same point has been in some measure confirmed to us by revelation, as our author has likewise shown in his introduction to the Reasonableness of Christianity.
The above-mentioned Essay contains some more refined speculations which are daily gaining ground among thoughtful and intelligent persons, notwithstanding the neglect and the contempt to which studies of this kind are frequently exposed. And when we consider the force of bigotry and the prejudice in favour of antiquity which adheres to narrow minds, it must be matter of surprise to find so small a number of exceptions made to some of his disquisitions which lie out of the common road.
* Vide Defence of Locke's Opinion concerning Personal Identity, Appendix to the Theory of Religion, p. 431, &c. and note 1. to Archbishop King's Or. of E. Sir
Isaac Newton had the very same sentiments with those of our author on the present subject, and more particularly on that state to which he was approaching; as appears from a conversation held with him a little before his death, of which I have been informed by one who took down sir Isaac's words at the time, and since read them to me.
That well-known chapter of Power has been termed the worst part of his whole Essay *, and seems indeed the least defensible, and what gave himself the least satisfaction, after all the pains he and others took to reform it; [v. letters between him and Molyneux and Limborch. To which may be added note 45 to King's Or. of E. p. 220, 4th edit.] which might induce one to believe that this most intricate subject is placed beyond human reach; since so penetrating a genius confesses his inability to see through it. And happy are those inquirers who can discern the extent of their faculties ! who have learnt in time where to stop and suspend a positive determination ! "If you will argue," says he, for or against liberty from consequences, “I will not undertake to answer you; for I own freely to you the weakness of my understanding, that though it be unquestionable that there is omnipotence and omniscience in God our Maker, yet I cannot make freedom in man consistent with omnipotence and omniscience in God, though I am as fully persuaded of both as of any truths I most firmly assent to; and therefore I have long left off the consideration of that question, resolving all into this short conclusion: that, if it be possible for God to make a free agent, then man is free; though I see not the way of it." Letter to M. Jan. 20, 169.
13. Connected in some sort with the fore-mentioned Essay, and in their way equally valuable, are his tracts on Education and the early Conduct of the Understanding, both worthy, as we apprehend, of a more careful perusal than is commonly bestowed upon them, the latter more especially, which seems to be little known, and less attended to. It contains an easy popular illustration of some discoveries in the foregoing Essay, particularly that great and universal law of nature, the support of so many mental powers, (v.g. that of memory under all its modifications) and
* Biogr. Brit. though others are pleased to style it the finest.