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The translator makes the following statement, in the advertise ment prefixed to the volume :
• In the year 1829, M. Cousin delivered a course of Lectures which was published in two volumes octavo, under the title of “ History of Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century." of this course, the second volume contains an extended critical analysis of Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding. The Lectures, from the sixteenth to the twenty-fifth inclusive, are taken up with this analysis. These are the Lectures of which a translation is here given to the public.
This examination of the Essay on the Human Understanding, is pronounced, by the writer of the article on the “ Philosophy of Perception," in the EDINBURGH REVIEW, for October, 1830, No. 103, Art. IX. p. 191, to be “the most important work on Locke, since the Nouveaux Essais of Leibnitz."
In regard to the form of the work, I have thought it best to print the ten Lectures of which the work is composed, as so many distinct chapters ; changing the numbering, to give to it the form of a work by itself. As to the rest, I have aimed to give an exact translation, with no other changes than the omission of some of the more direct forms of address used by a lecturer to his audience, and also an explanatory word or clause occasionally inserted in brackets.
In the appendix, I have brought together,—without any pretensions to a regular plan of elucidating the text, and without having any particular class of readers in view,-such remarks as occurred to me in the progress of preparing the work; and also, extracts from the author's other writings, and from other sources,-parıly as they were indicated by the author, and partly as they occurred to my own recollection.'
pp. iii, iv.
A correct knowledge of the system maintained by Locke, is essential to an advantageous study of the history of modern intellectual philosophy; as his opinions are interwoven in the discussions of almost all succeeding writers on the subject, both in Great Britain, and on the continent of Europe. They are either his followers, or perverters, or opposers. The object of his celebrated Treatise on the Understanding, is, to “inquire into the origin, extent, and certainty of human knowledge;" and in preparing the way for this, to explain the origin and nature of our ideas. In entering on an examination of his work, almost every page of which treats of ideas, we are met with the preliminary question, whether we really have any ideas? Some philosophers affect to consider what they are pleased to call Mr. Locke's ideal system, as already exploded. We shall in vain look for a satisfactory decision on this point, unless we bave a distinct understanding of the meaning of the term idea. We think, that it is used in three different senses. In common discourse, it is, perhaps, generally understood to be
synonymous with thought. To have an idea, is to have a thought. But by some philosophers, and sometimes even in familiar conversation, the term idea is used to signify, not thought itself, but the object of thought; that about which any one is thinking: not the act of the mind, but the object which is presented to its view; that which any one sees, or hears, or imagines, or remembers. Again, it has been supposed by many, that an external object can be perceived only by means of an image, or species, as it is termed, introduced into the brain, and there presented to the view of the mind, in some such manner, as a distant object is seen, by means of an image painted on the retina of the eye.
We have, then, these three significations of the term idea.
1. Thought. 2. The object of thought. 3. The medium of thought. The latter may be called, for distinction sake, a representative idea.
Whole systems of philosophy, as we apprehend, owe their ongin to the confounding of these several meanings. As Mr. Locke uses the term in almost every paragraph; as his whole work is an inquiry into the origin, nature, and comparison of ideas, and the knowledge which we derive from them; it is all-important, in reading his treatise, to be able to interpret correctly the meaning which he gives to the word. His style is not distinguished for philosophical precision in the use of terms. His language is often figurative, and not unfrequently ambiguous. Avoiding, for the most part, the technical phraseology of metaphysics, he endeavors to express philosophical opinions in common English; a language, which, in his day, was far from being brought to the state of precision which it has since attained, by the labors of philologists and lexicographers, and the influence of logical, and scientific
, and literary discussion. As he introduced a new philosophy, there was then no scientific language accommodated to the original views which he wished to express. The technical words and phrases of the old philosophy, would not answer bis purpose. He gives to certain terms a latitude of signification, which would scarcely be admissible, in philosophical writings, at the present day. For example, the word perception he employs to express the notice which the mind takes of any object, whether material or mental; whereas, it is now commonly restricted, in logical use, to our observation of the qualities of matter. He appears not to have particularly marked the distinction, so advantageously made by later writers, between perception and sensation; using ibem interchangeably, except that he applies the latter term to the effects produced on the mind by material objects only. His language is not so logically exact, that the precise signification can
always be determined from a single sentence, cut out from its place, and transferred to the pages of another writer, so as to exclude the opportunity of illustration from adjoining passages. His meaning is to be gathered, rather from the general current of the composition, than from particular and insulated expressions. There are few writers who would be more liable to be misunderstood, from mere fragments of passages presented in quotations. Whole. volumes of finely-wrought speculation, have originated in the misconstruction of a single sentence. On one essential point, however, as if anticipating the blunders of his commentators, he has taken special pains to guard against misapprehension ; though, we have reason to believe, without much success. As his whole Essay on the Human Understanding depends upon the meaning of the word idea, he has opened the work with a formal definition.
In what sense, then, does Mr. Locke use the terın idea ? Does he mean by it, thought, simply, or the object of thought, or the medium of thought? Let him speak for himself. “I must here, in the entrance, beg pardon of my reader, for the frequent use of the word idea, which he will find in the following treatise. It being that term which, I think, serves best to stand for whatsoever is the object of the understanding, when a man thinks; I have used it to express whatever is meant by phantasm, notion, species, or whatever it is which the mind can be employed about in thinking; and I could not avoid frequently using it. I presume it will be granted me, that there are such ideas in men's minds ; every one is conscious of them in himself; and men's words and actions will satisfy him, that they are in others.” B. I. ch. i. $ 8. Again, “Every man being conscious to himself, that he thinks; and that which his mind is applied about whilst thinking, being the ideas that are there; 'tis past doubt, that men have in their minds several ideas, such as are those expressed in the words, whiteness, bardness, sweetness, thinking, motion, man, elephant, army, drunkenness, and others; it is, in the first place, to be inquired, how he comes by them.” B. II. ch. i. $ 1. 6 Wbatsoever the mind perceives in itself, or is the immediate object of perception, thought, or understanding, that I call idea.” B. II. ch. viii. 98. In Mr. Locke's second letter to the bishop of Worcester, he says, “The things signified by idea, are nothing but the immediate objects of our minds in thinking. So that, unless any one can oppose the article your lordship defends, without thinking on something, he must use the things signified by ideas; for be that thinks, must have some immediate object of his mind in thinking: i. e., must have ideas."
Does Mr. Locke, in these passages, by defining idea to be the "immediate object of the mind in thinking,” mean to say, that it is that image or species in the brain, which some philosophers sup
pose to be the medium of thought; the means by which objects are brought into the view of the mind ? He has, it is true, introduced into his definitions, the ambiguous terms, phantasm, notion, and species. These are sometimes used to signify an image on the brain. But they are not invariably to be so understood. With respect to “such ideas” as Mr. Locke has defined, he says, “ Every one is conscious of them in himself.” Now, is every man conscious of having images or species in the brain ; those phantasms which are supposed, by some philosophers, to be the medium of thought? Are these the only objects on which we
are conscious of thinking? Phantasms in the brain may be ideas, even in Mr. Locke's sense, whenever some philosopher, in his speculations, happens to be thinking of them; that is, to make them the object of his thoughts. But do we never think of any thing else? Are these the only objects to which, according to the evidence of consciousness, our attention is directed, when we look abroad, upon the diversified scenes of the world around us? Mr. Locke says he uses the word idea, to signify whatever it is which the mind can be employed about in thinking. The hypothesis concerning the means of thought, is wholly distinct from the fact, that whenever we think, we are thinking of something; and that this something is the object of our thoughts.
What, then, is the meaning which Mr. Locke intends to give to the term ideas? We understand him to mean, THE OBJECTS OF THOUGHT; the things, either real or imaginary, on which we are at any time thinking: to use his own language, “whatever is the object of the understanding, when a man thinks.” He takes it for granted, that a man cannot think, “ without thinking on something," and that something is the thing signified by idea."
Can it be so, then, that, according to Locke, things themselves, and not mere images of things, are signified by the term ideas ? Does he mean to call the heavens and the earth, mountains, rivers, forests, and every thing else, ideas? Is there no distinction to be made between ideas and things? We answer, that so far as things are brought before any mau's mind; so far as they are made the objects of his thoughts; they are, for the time, that man's ideas, in the sense in which we understand Mr. Locke. Speaking of our complex ideas of substances, he observes," I shall consider them as collections of simple ideas in the mind, taken from combinations of simple ideas existing together constantly in things.” B. II. ch. xxxii. § 18. Again, the mind is said to make a false judgment, “when in its complex idea, it has united a certain number of simple ideas that do really exist together, in some sorts of creatures; but has left out others as much inseparable.” B. II. ch. xxii. $ 23. “Our complex ideas of substances, are such combinations of simple ideas, as are really united, and co-exist in things without us." B. II. ch. xxx. $ 5. “All the inquiries, that we can make concerning any of our ideas; all that we know, or can affirm, concerning any of them, is, that it is or is not the same with some other; that it does or does not co-exist with some other, in the same subject; that it has this or that relation to some other idea ; or, that it has a real eristence without the mind.” B. IV. ch. i. $ 7.
What then is the difference, according to Locke, between ideas and things?
Our idea of a thing, is what the thing appears to us to be; what we think it to be. But the appearance may be different from the reality. If a man thinks of any thing precisely as it is, there is no difference between his idea and the thing. If he has a correct notion of a circle, the circle itself is his idea, the real object of his thoughts. But things often appear to us very different from what they are in fact. Our ideas of them are then different from the things themselves. An idea is not always a real thing. It may be a picture of the imagination. On the other hand, a thing is not always an idea. It may be the object of no man's thoughts. It may be an idea at one time, and not at another. It may be the idea of one man, and not of others.
But Mr. Locke speaks of ideas, as being in the mind. Does not this imply, that he uses the term to signify thought itself, rather than the object of thought? “'Tis past doubt,” he says, “ that men have in their minds several ideas, such as those ex. pressed in the words, man, elephant, army, drunkenness, etc.” İs an elephant a thought? Is drunkenness a thought ? We can easily understand, that they may be objects of thought. But it would require more metaphysics than we have at command, to convert them into thought itself. Locke says, that " fluidity is a simple idea ;" that “the substance wood, which is a certain collection of simple ideas so called, by the application of fire, is turned into another substance called ashes, i. e., another complex idea." B. II. ch. xxvi. 81. Are wood and ashes collections of thoughts ? When he speaks of ideas as “co-existing in things without us ;" as having “a real existence without the mind;" does he mean to say, that our thoughts have an existence without the mind? Do the hills, the rocks, and the rivers, think, whenever we happen to be thinking of them? He says, that “diagrams drawn on paper, are copies of the ideas in the mind.” B. III. ch. iii. & 19. Does he intend by this, that when we see a circle or triangle, we have a circular or triangular thought?
What then can be meant, when it is said, that ideas are in the mind? Just what is meant in common discourse, when we speak of any object of thought, as being in the mind; not in the same place,