Images de page
PDF
ePub

be of a somewhat different character from what has often been imagined.

Let it, then, be considered what we mean, when we say of a person, He is old; we evidently compare him in regard to his age, whenever we use those expressions, with others, with people in general, and place the particular number of years, to which he may have attained, by the side of that period, which we are in the habit of regarding as the ordinary limit of man's pilgrimage.

The same, when we say of any person, that he is young; he is then considered as falling far short of an assumed period, an approximation to which gives to another person the reputation of age.

Again, when we say of any individual, that he is wise or ignorant, we tacitly make a comparison of what he has learnt with the acquisitions of mankind in general. If it exceed the ordinary sum of human knowledge, we call him wise; if it fall short, he is characterized, as ignorant.

Accordingly, a comparison of this sort being implied in the use of epithets, a North American savage, or a person of any other uncivilized race, might enjoy the reputation of great wisdom among his own people, who could not but be accounted ignorant in any philosophical society of a civilized nation.

§. 87. Of ideas of natural relations.

SECONDLY; Having mentioned proportional relations, as forming a minor or subordinate division of this third, general class of our complex ideas, it is to be noticed here, that there is another, a SECOND occasion of comparing things together, so as to ascertain ideas of relation; viz. When we consider their origin or beginning, and see how other things stand in reference to that origin. And such ideas as are ascertained in this way, and are found to result, as it were, from creation and nature, are what are termed IDEAS OF NATURAL RELATIONS.

It seems to be particularly characteristick of those relations, which we have now in view, that they are perma

nent; meaning by the remark, that they are not altered and brought to an end by ordinary circumstances; but, as they begin to exist at the moment of birth, will be found to terminate only with the life either of the subject of the relation or of the correlated person.

Such are the ideas of father, brother, son, nephew, &c. Mr. Locke mentions the term, countrymen, that is, those, who were born in the same country or tract of ground, as belonging here.

6. 88. Of ideas of instituted or conventional relations.

THIRDLY; There are relations, which do not result from the constitution of nature, but are the consequence of the various obligations and duties in civil society; and these, therefore, may be called ideas of CONSTItuted or

CONVENTIONAL RELATIONS.

Thus a GENERAL is one, who has the power to command an army, this power being delegated to him by virtue of certain provisions, entering originally into the terms of the civil compact.

An ARMY is a collection or body of armed men, who are under obligations, by the terms of such civil compact, to obey one man.

A CITIZEN OF BURGHER is one, who has a right to the privileges of civil society in a certain place, that is to say, is the subject of some government, to the principles of whose organization he is supposed to have consented, and to have taken a part in it.

These relations may be distinguished from the natural relations in the preceding section, by the circumstance, that they are not permanent, but are dependent upon the will or agreement of men, and may terminate before the subjects of them have ceased to exist.

The general may cease to act in that capacity, since the government, who gave him his authority, may take it away again. The army may be disbanded, and the bonds of civil society may be broken loose, and its members go

back again into the unrestricted freedom of the state of

nature.

It is not thus in natural relations. The father is a father, so long as the son lives, the son sustains the filial relation so long as the existence of the father, and, in all cases of this description, the relations do not terminate, until one of the correlated persons is no more.

§. 89. Place is an idea of relation.

We cannot conceive of any body having place or position, without comparing it with some other bodies. If, therefore, having two bodies fixed, or which maintain the same relative position, we can compare a third body with them, the third body can then be said to have place or position.

This may be illustrated by the chess-men, placed on the chess-board. We say, the men are in the same place, although the board may have been removed from one room to another. We use this language, because we consider the men only in relation to each other and the parts of the board, and not in relation to the rooms or parts of the

room.

Hence we may clearly have an idea of the place or position of all the different parts of the universe, considered separately, because they may be compared with other parts.

But we are unable to form any idea of the place or position of the universe considered, as a whole, because we have then no other body, with which we can compare it.

§. 89. Chronological dates involve ideas of relation.

The independence of the North American colonies was declared, July 4th, 1776.

These expressions may be thus explained.

We assume the present year, 1826, as a given period and reckon back to the year, one, which coincides with the birth of our Saviour; then the year, 1776, expresses the

distance between these two extremes, viz. one, and eighteen hundred, twenty six. This seems to be all we learn, when we say, the Independence of the United States was declared at the period mentioned.

We mean the same thing, and convey the same idea, whether we say that the Saviour was born in the year, ONE, of the Christian era, or, in the year, 4004, from the creation of the world. But, in the first case, the year, 4004, expresses the distance between these two extremes, viz. the beginning of the world, and the present time; while, in the second instance, the event itself forms the beginning of the series.

So that all dates appear to be properly classed under ideas of relation.

§. 90. Cause and effect ideas of relation.

CAUSE and EFFECT, which are nothing more than regular antecedents and consequents, as already repeatedly remarked, belong here. They certainly have a relation to each other, for we cannot conceive of a cause, if we exclude from the list of our ideas the correlative notion of effect, nor, on the other hand, do we call any thing an effect without a reference to some antecedent.

It would seem from an examination of the process of the mind, in regard to these ideas, that we derive our notion of effect from an observation of the changes, which take place in bodies around us. When any change has happened, we necessarily feel, as if something had been done, and we term it an effect, having a mental reference to something antecedent, as before mentioned. So that we have the idea of effect, in the first instance, by means of the senses; and as we cannot have an idea of cause without its correlative, we may look upon this idea also as capable of being traced to the same source; and both of them, when we notice their mutual dependence and connection, are to be considered as most naturally coming under the general class of relations.

§. 91. Modes, substances, and relations resolvable into

simple ideas.

All our complex ideas, whether MODES, SUBSTANCEs, or RELATIONS, may be traced back and resolved into simple ideas, although it may not be very obvious, in some instances, how this is to be done, or when we have arrived at the end of the analysis.

It seems in general to be more easy to ascertain what are the simple ideas, which enter into the formation of the two first classes, than of the third. But nothing, it must be confessed, is so much wanting as the patience necessary to go into a careful examination of our thoughts, in order to a successful result even in this last class.

When we say, that honey is sweeter than bread, or that iron is harder than wax, the words, swEETER and HARDER express relations or relative ideas, but being analyzed, so far as we are able to, they clearly terminate in the simple ideas of sweetness and hardness.

When we say of any individual, whom we happen to see, that he is our friend or our enemy, words, which not only express relations, but are correlative to each other, what do we mean to say or imply in the use of such expressions, but this; viz.

(1) That he is a man, (2) That he exercises love or hatred, (3) That we are the subjects of it. And having made this general analysis of the terms, we are then to consider what the complex notion, expressed by the word, MAN, is made up of, to inquire also where the idea of LOVE or of HATRED is to be classed, and what is its origin, &c. And thus we shall in the end arrive at those ideas, which are termed simple.

At present no further remarks remain to be made by us on the subject of the origin of our ideas. As this Treatise is designed for beginners in the science, to be more particular might tend rather to discourage, than to lead them on in the path of knowledge; and yet, we trust, such a view of it has been taken, as will not only be deemed in general correct, but sufficiently extensive to satisfy a modcrate curiosity.

« PrécédentContinuer »