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Title: A Treatise of Human Nature
 - Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method Into Moral Subjects; and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
Author: Hume, David
Language: English
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Introductions to Books I and II of
David Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature

Thomas Hill Green

A Treatise of Human Nature, being an attempt to introduce the
Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects and Dialogues
Concerning Natural Religion

by David Hume,

Edited, with preliminary dissertation and Notes, by T.H. Green
and T.H. Grose

London, Longmans Green & Co, 1874

Transcriber's Note:

The Introduction to Book I is taken from an 1898 reprint; that to
Book II from an 1882 reprint, both by Longmans.

The tables of contents have been changed to refer to paragraphs
instead of pages, as was done by R.L. Nettleship in his edition of
Green's _Philosophical Works_. The paragraph numbers are the same as
in the originals, and as in Nettleship's edition.

The Notes which were printed in the margins of the originals have
been placed as captions above the relevant paragraphs.

Green’s footnotes have been placed below the paragraphs to which they
relate. Because this book does not contain Hume’s text, where Green
cites Hume by page number, a reference to the relevant section has
been added in square brackets. Greek phrases are translated in
footnotes marked "Tr."


In this edition we have sought to avoid the inconveniences which are
apt to attend commentaries on philosophical writers, by the plan
of putting together, in the form of continuous introductions, such
explanation and criticism as we had to offer, and confining the
footnotes almost entirely to references, which have been carefully
distinguished from Hume’s own notes. For the introductions to
the first and second volumes Mr. Green alone is responsible. The
introduction to the third is the work of Mr. Grose, who also has
undertaken the revision of Hume’s text.

Throughout the introductions to Volumes I. and II., except where
the contrary is stated, ‘Hume’ must be understood to mean Hume as
represented by the ‘Treatise on Human Nature.’ In taking this as
intrinsically the best representation of his philosophy, we may
be thought to have overlooked the well-known advertisement which
(in an edition posthumously published) he prefixed to the volume
containing his ‘Inquiries concerning the Human Understanding and
the Principles of Morals.’ In it, after stating that the volume,
is mainly a reproduction of what he had previously published in
the ‘Treatise,’ he expresses a hope that ‘some negligences in his
former reasoning, and more in the expression,’ have been corrected,
and desires ‘that the following Pieces may alone be regarded as
containing his philosophical sentiments and principles.’ Was not Hume
himself then, it may be asked, the best judge of what was an adequate
expression of his thoughts, and is there not an unbecoming assurance
in disregarding such a voice from his tomb?

Our answer is that if we had been treating of Hume as a great
literary character, or exhibiting the history of his individual
mind, due account must have been taken of it. Such, however, has not
been the object which, in the Introductions to Volumes I. and II.,
we have presented to ourselves, (See Introd. to Vol. I. § 4.) Our
concern has been with him as the exponent of a philosophical system,
and therefore specially with that statement of his system which
alone purports to be complete, and which was written when philosophy
was still his chief interest, without alloy from the disappointment
of literary ambition. Anyone who will be at the pains to read the
‘Inquiries’ alongside of the original ‘Treatise’ will find that their
only essential difference from it is in the way of omission. They
consist in the main of excerpts from the ‘Treatise,’ re-written in
a lighter style, and with the more difficult parts of it left out.
It is not that the difficulties which logically arise out of Hume’s
system are met, but that the passages which most obviously suggest
them have disappeared without anything to take their place. Thus in
the ‘Inquiry concerning the Human Understanding’ there is nothing
whatever corresponding to Parts II. and IV. of the first Book of the
‘Treatise.’ The effect of this omission on a hasty reader is, no
doubt, a feeling of great relief. Common-sense is no longer actively
repelled by a doctrine which seems to undermine the real world, and
can more easily put a construction on the account of the law of
causation, which remains, compatible with the ‘objective validity’ of
the law--such a construction as in fact forms the basis of Mr. Mill’s
Logic. How inconsistent this construction is with the principles
from which Hume started, and which he never gave up; how impossible
it would be to anyone who had assimilated his system as a whole; how
close is the organic connection between all the parts of this as he
originally conceived it--we must trust to the following introductions
to show. (See, in particular, Introd. to Vol. I. §§ 301 and 321.)

The only discussion in the ‘Inquiry concerning Human Understanding,’
to which nothing in his earlier publication corresponds, is that
on Miracles. On the relation in which this stands to his general
theory some remarks will be found in the Introduction to Vol. I. (§
324, note). The chief variations, other than in the way of omission,
between the later redaction of his ethical doctrine and the earlier,
are noticed in the Introduction to Vol. II. (§§ 31, 43, and 46, and


of the


1. How the history of philosophy should be studied.

2. Hume the last great English philosopher.

3. Kant his true successor.

4. Distinction between literary history and the history of
philosophical systems.

5. Object of the present enquiry.

6. Locke’s problem and method.

7. His notion of the ‘thinking thing’.

8. This he will passively observe.

9. Is such observation possible?

10. Why it seems so.

11. Locke’s account of origin of ideas.

12. Its ambiguities _(a)_ In regard to sensation.

13. _(b)_ In regard to ideas of reflection.

14. What is the ‘tablet’ impressed?

15. Does the mind make impressions on itself?

16. Source of these difficulties. The ‘simple’ idea, as Locke
describes it, is a complex idea of substance and relation.

17. How this contradiction is disguised.

18. Locke’s way of interchanging ‘idea’ and ‘quality’ and its effects.

19. Primary and secondary qualities of bodies.

20. ‘Simple idea’ represented as involving a theory of its own cause.

21. Phrases in which this is implied.

22. Feeling and felt thing confused.

23. The simple idea as ‘ectype’ other than mere sensation.

24. It involves a judgment in which mind and thing are distinguished.

25. And is equivalent to what he afterwards calls ‘knowledge of
identity’. Only as such can it be named.

26. The same implied in calling it an idea of an object.

27. made _for_, not _by_, us, and therefore according to Locke really

28. What did he mean by this?

30. Existence as the mere presence of a feeling.

31. Existence as reality.

32. By confusion of these two meanings, reality and its conditions
are represented as given in simple feeling.

33. Yet reality involves complex ideas which are made by the mind.

34. Such are substance and relation which must be found in every
object of knowledge.

35. Abstract idea of substance and complex ideas of particular sorts
of substance.

36. The abstract idea according to Locke at once precedes and follows
the complex.

37. Reference of ideas to nature or God, the same as reference to

38. But it is explicitly to substance that Locke makes them refer

39. In the process by which we are supposed to arrive at complex
ideas of substances the beginning is the same as the end.

40. Doctrine of abstraction inconsistent with doctrine of complex

41. The confusion covered by use of ‘particulars’.

42. Locke’s account of abstract general ideas.

43. ‘Things not general.’

44. Generality an invention of the mind.

45. The result is, that the feeling of each moment is alone real.

46. How Locke avoids this result.

47. The ‘particular’ was to him the individual qualified by general

48. This is the real thing from which abstraction is supposed to

49. Yet, according to the doctrine of relation, a creation of thought.

50. Summary of the above contradictions.

51. They cannot be overcome without violence to Locke’s fundamental

52. As real existence, the simple idea carries with it ‘invented’
relation of cause.

53. Correlativity of cause and substance.

54. How do we know that ideas correspond to reality of things?
Locke’s answer.

55. It assumes that simple ideas are consciously referred to things
that cause them.

56. Lively ideas real, because they must be effects of things.

57. Present sensation gives knowledge of existence.

58. Reasons why its testimony must be trusted.

59. How does this account fit Locke’s definition of knowledge?

60. Locke’s account of the testimony of sense renders his question as
to its veracity superfluous.

61. Confirmations of the testimony turn upon the distinction between
‘impression’ and ‘idea’.

62. They depend on language which pre-supposes the ascription of
sensation to an outward cause.

63. This ascription means the clothing of sensation with invented

64. What is meant by restricting the testimony of sense to _present_

65. Such restriction, if maintained, would render the testimony

66. But it is not maintained: the testimony is to operation of
permanent identical things.

67. Locke’s treatment of relations of cause and identity.

68. That from which he derives idea of cause pre-supposes it.

69. Rationale of this ‘petitio principii’.

70. Relation of cause has to be put into sensitive experience in
order to be got from it.

71. Origin of the idea of identity according to Locke.

72. Relation of identity not to be distinguished from idea of it.

73. This ‘invented’ relation forms the ‘very being of things’.

74. Locke fails to distinguish between identity and mere unity.

75. Feelings are the real, and do not admit of identity. How then can
identity be real?

76. Yet it is from reality that the idea of it is derived.

77. Transition to Locke’s doctrine of essence.

78. This repeats the inconsistency found in his doctrine of substance.

79. Plan to be followed.

80. What Locke understood by essence.

81. Only to nominal essences that general propositions relate, _i.e._
only to abstract ideas having no real existence.

82. An abstract idea may be a simple one.

83. How then is science of nature possible?

84. No ‘uniformities of phenomena’ can be known.

85. Locke not aware of the full effect of his own doctrine ...

86. ... which is to make the real an abstract residuum of

87. Ground of distinction between actual sensation and ideas in the
mind is itself a thing of the mind.

88. Two meanings of real essence.

89. According to one, it is a collection of ideas as qualities of a

90. ... about real essence in this sense there may be general

91. But such real essence a creature of thought.

92. Hence another view of real essence as unknown qualities of
unknown body.

93. How Locke mixes up these two meanings in ambiguity about body.

94. Body as ‘parcel of matter’ without essence.

95. In this sense body is the mere individuum.

96. Body as qualified by circumstances of time and place.

97. Such body Locke held to be subject of ‘primary qualities’: but
are these compatible with particularity in time?

98. How Locke avoids this question.

99. Body and its qualities supposed to be outside consciousness.

100. How can primary qualities be outside consciousness, and yet

101. Locke answers that they copy themselves in ideas--Berkeley’s
rejoinder. Locke gets out of the difficulty by his doctrine of

102. In which he equivocates between body as unknown opposite of mind
and body as a ‘nominal essence’.

103. Rationale of these contradictions.

104. What knowledge can feeling, even as referred to a ‘solid’ body,

105. Only the knowledge that something is, not _what_ it is.

106. How it is that the real essence of things, according to Locke,
perishes with them, yet is immutable.

107. Only about qualities of matter, as distinct from matter itself,
that Locke feels any difficulty.

108. These, as knowable, must be our ideas, and therefore not a ‘real

109. Are the ‘primary qualities’ then, a ‘nominal essence’?

110. According to Locke’s account they are relations, and thus
inventions of the mind.

111. Body is the complex in which they are found. Do we derive the
idea of body from primary qualities, or the primary qualities from
idea of body?

112. Mathematical ideas, though ideas of ‘primary qualities of body,’
have ‘barely an ideal existence’.

113. Summary view of Locke’s difficulties in regard to the real.

114. Why they do not trouble him more.

115. They re-appear in his doctrine of propositions.

116. The knowledge expressed by a proposition, though certain, may
not be real ...

117. ... when the knowledge concerns substances. In this case general
truth must be merely verbal. Mathematical truths, since they concern
not substances, may be both general and real.

118. Significance of this doctrine.

119. Fatal to the notion that mathematical truths, though general,
are got from experience:

120. ... and to received views of natural science: but Locke not so
clear about this.

121. Ambiguity as to real essence causes like ambiguity as to science
of nature. Particular experiment cannot afford general knowledge.

122. What knowledge it can afford, according to Locke.

123. Not the knowledge which is now supposed to be got by induction.
Yet more than Locke was entitled to suppose it could give.

124. With Locke mathematical truths, though ideal, true also of

125. Two lines of thought in Locke, between which a follower would
have to choose.

126. Transition to doctrine of God and the soul.

127. Thinking substance--source of the same ideas as outer substance.

128. Of which substance is perception the effect?

129. That which is the source of substantiation cannot be itself a

130. To get rid of the inner source of ideas in favour of the outer
would be false to Locke.

131. The mind, which Locke opposes to matter, perpetually shifting.

132. Two ways out of such difficulties. ‘Matter’ and ‘mind’ have the
same source in self-consciousness.

133. Difficulties in the way of ascribing reality to substance as
matter, re-appear in regard to substance as mind.

134. We think not always, yet thought constitutes the self.

135. Locke neither disguises these contradictions, nor attempts to
overcome them.

136. Is the idea of God possible to a consciousness given in time?

137. Locke’s account of this idea.

138. ‘Infinity,’ according to Locke’s account of it, only applicable
to God, if God has parts.

139. Can it be applied to him ‘figuratively’ in virtue of the
indefinite number of His acts?

140. An act, finite in its nature, remains so, however often repeated.

141. God only infinite in a sense in which time is _not_ infinite,
and which Locke could not recognize

142. --the same sense in which the self is infinite.

143. How do I know my own real existence?--Locke’s answer.

144. It cannot be known consistently with Locke’s doctrine of real

145. But he ignores this in treating of the self.

146. Sense in which the self is truly real.

147. Locke’s proof of the real existence of God. There must have been
something from eternity to cause what now is.

148. How ‘eternity’ must be understood if this argument is to be

149. ... and how ‘cause’.

150. The world which is to prove an eternal God must be itself

151. But will the God, whose existence is so proven, be a thinking

152. Yes, according to the true notion of the relation between
thought and matter.

153. Locke’s antinomies--Hume takes one side of them as true.

154. Hume’s scepticism fatal to his own premises. This derived from

155. Berkeley’s religious interest in making Locke consistent.

156. What is meant by relation of mind and matter?

157. Confusions involved in Locke’s materialism.

158. Two ways of dealing with it. Berkeley chooses the most obvious.

159. His account of the relation between visible and tangible
extension. We do not see bodies without the mind ...

160. ... nor yet feel them. The ‘esse’ of body is the ‘percipi’.

170. What then becomes of distinction between reality and fancy?

171. The real = ideas that God causes.

172. Is it then a succession of feelings?

173. Berkeley goes wrong from confusion between thought and feeling.

174. Which, if idea = feeling, does away with space and body.

175. He does not even retain them as ‘abstract ideas’.

176. On the same principle all permanent relations should disappear.

177. By making colour = relations of coloured points, Berkeley
represents relation as seen.

178. Still he admits that space is constituted by a succession of

179. If so, it is not space at all; but Berkeley thinks it is only
not ‘pure’ space. _Space_ and _pure_ space stand or fall together.

180. Berkeley disposes of space for fear of limiting God.

181. How he deals with possibility of general knowledge.

182. His theory of universals ...

183. ... of value, as implying that universality of ideas lies in

184. But he fancies that each idea has a positive nature apart from

185. Traces of progress in his idealism.

186. His way of dealing with physical truths.

187. If they imply permanent relations, his theory properly excludes
them. He supposes a divine decree that one feeling shall follow

188. Locke had explained reality by relation of ideas to outward
body. Liveliness in the idea evidence of this relation.

189. Berkeley retains this notion, only substituting ‘God’ for ‘body’.

190. Not regarding the world as a system of intelligible relations,
he could not regard God as the subject of it.

191. His view of the soul as ‘naturally immortal’.

192. Endless succession of feelings is not immortality in true sense.
Berkeley’s doctrine of matter fatal to a true spiritualism:

193. ... as well as to a true Theism. His inference to God from
necessity of a power to produce ideas;

194. ... a necessity which Hume does not see. A different turn should
have been given to his idealism, if it was to serve his purpose.

195. Hume’s mission. His account of impressions and ideas. Ideas are
fainter impressions.

196. ‘Ideas’ that cannot be so represented must be explained as mere

197. Hume, taken strictly, leaves no distinction between impressions
of reflection and of sensation.

198. Locke’s theory of sensation disappears. Physiology won’t answer
the question that Locke asked.

199. Those who think it will don’t understand the question.

200. Hume’s psychology will not answer it either.

201. It only seems to do so by assuming the ‘fiction’ it has to
account for; by assuming that impression represents a real world.

202. So the ‘Positivist’ juggles with ‘phenomena’.

203. Essential difference, however, between Hume and the ‘Positivist’.

204. He adopts Berkeley’s doctrine of ideas, but without Berkeley’s
saving suppositions,

205. ... in regard to ‘spirit’,

206. ... in regard to relations. His account of these.

207. It corresponds to Locke’s account of the sorts of agreement
between ideas.

208. Could Hume consistently admit idea of relation at all?

210. Only in regard to identity and causation that he sees any
difficulty. These he treats as fictions resulting from ‘natural
relations’ of ideas: _i.e._ from resemblance and contiguity.

212. Is resemblance then an impression?

213. Distinction between resembling feelings and idea of resemblance.

214. Substances = collections of ideas.

215. How can ideas ‘in flux’ be collected?

216. Are there general ideas? Berkeley said, ‘yes and no’.

217. Hume ‘no’ simply. How he accounts for the appearance of there
being such.

219. His account implies that ‘ideas’ are conceptions, not feelings.

220. He virtually yields the point in regard to the _predicate_ of

221. As to the subject, he equivocates between singleness of feeling
and individuality of conception.

222. Result is a theory which admits predication, but only as

223. All propositions restricted in same way as Locke’s propositions
about real existence.

224. The question, how the _singular_ proposition is possible, the
vital one.

225. Not relations of resemblance only, but those of quantity also,
treated by Hume as feelings.

226. He draws the line between certainty and probability at the same
point as Locke; but is more definite as to probability,

227. ... and does not admit opposition of mathematical to physical
certainty--here following Berkeley.

228. His criticisms of the doctrine of primary qualities.

229. It will not do to oppose bodies to our feeling when only feeling
can give idea of body.

230. Locke’s shuffle of ‘body,’ ‘solidity,’ and ‘touch,’ fairly

231. True rationale of Locke’s doctrine.

232. With Hume ‘body’ logically disappears. What then?

233. Can space survive body? Hume derives idea of it from sight and
feeling. Significance with him of such derivation.

234. It means, in effect, that colour and space are the same, and
that feeling may be extended.

235. The parts of space are parts of a perception.

236. Yet the parts of space are co-existent not successive.

237. Hume cannot make space a ‘perception’ without being false to his
own account of perception;

238. ... as appears if we put ‘feeling’ for ‘perception’ in the
passages in question.

239. To make sense of them, we must take perception to mean perceived

240. ... which it can only mean as the result of certain ‘fictions’.

241. If felt thing is no more than feeling, how can it have qualities?

242. The thing will have ceased before the quality begins to be.

243. Hume equivocates by putting ‘coloured points’ for colour.

245. Can a ‘disposition of coloured points’ be an impression?

246. The points must be themselves impressions, and therefore not

247. A ‘compound impression’ excluded by Hume’s doctrine of time.

248. The fact that colours mix, not to the purpose.

249. How Hume avoids appearance of identifying space with colour, and
accounts for the abstraction of space.

250. In so doing, he implies that space is a relation, and a relation
which is not a possible impression.

251. No logical alternative between identifying space with colour,
and admitting an idea not copied from an impression.

252. In his account of the idea as _abstract_, Hume really introduces
distinction between feeling and conception;

253. ... yet avoids appearance of doing so, by treating
‘consideration’ of the relations of a felt thing as if it were itself
the feeling.

254. Summary of contradictions in his account of extension.

255. He gives no account of quantity as such.

256. His account of the relation between Time and Number.

257. What does it come to?

258. Unites alone really exist: number a ‘fictitious denomination’.
Yet ‘unites’ and ‘number’ are correlative; and the supposed fiction

259. Idea of time even more unaccountable on Hume’s principles.

260. His ostensible explanation of it.

261. It turns upon equivocation between feeling and conception of
relations between felt things.

262. He fails to assign any impression or compound of impressions
from which idea of time is copied.

263. How can he adjust the exact sciences to his theory of space and

264. In order to seem to do so, he must get rid of ‘Infinite

265. Quantity made up of impressions, and there must be a least
possible impression.

266. Yet it is admitted that there is an idea of number not made up
of impressions. A finite division into impressions no more possible
than an infinite one.

267. In Hume’s instances it is not really a feeling, but a conceived
thing, that appears as finitely divisible.

268. Upon true notion of quantity infinite divisibility follows of

269. What are the ultimate elements of extension? If not extended,
what are they?

270. Colours or coloured points? What is the difference?

271. True way of dealing with the question.

272. ‘If the point were divisible, it would be no termination of a
line.’ Answer to this.

273. What becomes of the exactness of mathematics according to Hume?

274. The universal propositions of geometry either untrue or

275. Distinction between Hume’s doctrine and that of the hypothetical
nature of mathematics.

276. The admission that no relations of quantity are data of sense
removes difficulty as to general propositions about them.

277. Hume does virtually admit this in regard to numbers.

278. With Hume idea of vacuum impossible, but logically not more so
than that of space.

279. How it is that we talk as if we had idea of vacuum according to

280. His explanation implies that we have an idea virtually the same.

281. By a like device that he is able to explain the appearance of
our having such ideas as Causation and Identity.

283. Knowledge of relation in way of Identity and Causation excluded
by Locke’s definition of knowledge.

284. Inference a transition from an object perceived or remembered to
one that is not so.

285. Relation of cause and effect the same as this transition.

286. Yet seems other than this. How this appearance is to be

287. Inference, resting on supposition of necessary connection, to be
explained before that connection.

288. Account of the inference given by Locke and Clarke rejected.

289. Three points to be explained in the inference according to Hume.

290. _a_. The original impression from which the transition is made
_b_. The transition to inferred idea

291. _c_. The qualities of this idea.

292. It results that necessary connection is an impression of
reflection, _i.e._, a propensity to the transition described.

293. The transition not to anything beyond sense.

294. Nor determined by any objective relation.

295. Definitions of cause: _a_. As a ‘philosophical’ relation.

296. Is Hume entitled to retain ‘philosophical’ relations as distinct
from ‘natural’?

297. Examination of Hume’s language about them.

298. Philosophical relation consists in a comparison, but no
comparison between cause and effect.

299. The comparison is between present and past experience of
succession of objects.

300. Observation of succession already goes beyond sense.

301. As also does the ‘observation concerning identity,’ which the
comparison involves.

302. Identity of objects an unavoidable crux for Hume. His account of

303. Properly with him it is a fiction, in the sense that we have no
such idea. Yet he implies that we have such idea, in saying that we
mistake something else for it.

304. Succession of like feelings mistaken for an identical object:
but the feelings, as described, are already such objects.

305. Fiction of identity thus implied as source of the propensity
which is to account for it.

306. With Hume continued existence of perceptions a fiction different
from their identity. Can perceptions exist when not perceived?

307. Existence of objects, distinct from perceptions, a further
fiction still.

308. Are these several ‘fictions’ really different from each other?

309. Are they not all involved in the simplest perception?

310. Yet they are not possible ideas, because copied from no

311. Comparison of present experience with past, which yields
relation of cause and effect, pre-supposes judgment of identity;

312. ... without which there could be no recognition of an object as
one observed before.

313. Hume makes conceptions of identity and cause each come before
the other. Their true correlativity.

314. Hume quite right in saying that we do not go _more_ beyond sense
in reasoning than in perception.

315. How his doctrine might have been developed. Its actual outcome.

316. No philosophical relation admissible with Hume that is not
derived from a natural one.

317. Examination of his account of cause and effect as ‘natural

318. Double meaning of natural relation. How Hume turns it to account.

319. If an effect is merely a constantly observed sequence, how can
an event be an effect the first time it is observed? Hume evades this

320. Still, he is a long way off the Inductive Logic, which supposes
an objective sequence.

321. Can the principle of uniformity of nature be derived from
sequence of feelings?

322. With Hume the only uniformity is in expectation, as determined
by habit; but strength of such expectation must vary indefinitely.

323. It could not serve the same purpose as the conception of
uniformity of nature.

324. Hume changes the meaning of this expectation by his account
of the ‘remembrance’ which determines it. Bearing of his doctrine
of necessary connexion upon his argument against miracles. This
remembrance, as he describes it, supposes conception of a system of

326. This explains his occasional inconsistent ascription of an
objective character to causation.

327. Reality of remembered ‘system’ transferred to ‘system of

328. Reality of the former ‘system’ other than vivacity of

329. It is constituted by relations, which are not impressions at
all; and in this lies explanation of the inference from it to ‘system
of judgment’.

330. Not seeing this, Hume has to explain inference to latter system
as something forced upon us by habit.

331. But if so, ‘system of judgment’ must consist of feelings
constantly experienced;

332. ... which only differ from remembered feelings inasmuch as their
liveliness has faded. But how can it have faded, if they have been
constantly repeated?

333. Inference then can give no new knowledge.

334. Nor does this merely mean that it cannot constitute new
phenomena, while it can prove relations, previously unknown, between
phenomena. Such a distinction inadmissible with Hume.

335. His distinction of probability of causes from that of chances
might seem to imply conception of nature, as determining inference.

336. But this distinction he only professes to adopt in order to
explain it away.

337. Laws of nature are unqualified habits of expectation.

338. Experience, according to his account of it, cannot be a parent
of knowledge.

339. His attitude towards doctrine of thinking substance.

340. As to Immateriality of the Soul, he plays off Locke and Berkeley
against each other, and proves Berkeley a Spinozist.

341. Causality of spirit treated in the same way.

342. Disposes of ‘personal’ identity by showing contradictions in
Locke’s account of it.

343. Yet can only account for it as a ‘fiction’ by supposing ideas
which with him are impossible.

344. In origin this ‘fiction’ the same as that of ‘Body’.

345. Possibility of such fictitious ideas implies refutation of
Hume’s doctrine.


of the


1. Hume’s doctrine of morals parallel to his doctrine of nature.

2. Its relation to Locke: Locke’s account of freedom, will, and

3. Two questions: Does man always act from the strongest motive?
and, What constitutes his motive? The latter the important question.
Distinction between desires that are, and those that are not,
determined by the conception of self.

4. Effect of this conception on the objects of human desire.

5. Objects so constituted Locke should consistently exclude: But he
finds room for them by treating every desire for an object, of which
the attainment gives pleasure, as a desire for pleasure.

6. Confusion covered by calling ‘happiness’ the general object of

7. ‘Greatest sum of pleasure’ and ‘Pleasure in general’ unmeaning

8. In what sense of happiness is it true that it ‘is really just as
it appears?’ In what sense that it is every one’s object?

9. No real object of human desire can ever be just as it appears.

10. Can Locke consistently allow the distinction between true
happiness and false? Or responsibility?

11. Objections to the Utilitarian answer to these questions.

12. According to Locke present pleasures may be compared with future,
and desire suspended till comparison has been made.

13. What is meant by ‘present’ and ‘future’ pleasure? By the supposed
comparison Locke ought only to have meant the competition of
pleasures equally present in imagination:

14.... and this could give no ground for responsibility. In order to
do so, it must be understood as implying determination by conception
of self.

15. Locke finds moral freedom in necessity of pursuing happiness.

16. If an action is moved by desire for an object, Locke asks no
questions about origin of the object. But what is to be said of
actions, which we only do because we ought?

17. Their object is pleasure, but pleasure given not by nature but by

18. Conformity to law not the moral good, but a means to it.

19. Hume has to derive from ‘impressions’ the objects which Locke
took for granted.

20. Questions which he found at issue, _a_. Is virtue interested?
_b_. What is conscience?

21. Hobbes’ answer to first question.

22. Counter-doctrine of Shaftesbury. Vice is selfishness; but no
clear account of selfishness.

23. Confusion in his notions of self-good and public good; Is all
living for pleasure, or only too much of it, selfish?

24. What have Butler and Hutcheson to say about it? Chiefly that
affections terminate upon their objects; but this does not exclude
the view that all desire is for pleasure.

25. Of moral goodness Butler’s account circular. Hutcheson’s
inconsistent with his doctrine that reason gives no end.

26. Source of the moral judgment: received notion of reason
incompatible with true view. Shaftesbury’s doctrine of rational
affection; spoilt by doctrine of ‘moral sense’.

27. Consequences of the latter.

28. Is an act done for ‘virtue’s sake’ done for pleasure of moral

29. Hume excludes every object of desire but pleasure.

30. His account of ‘direct passions’: all desire is for pleasure.

31. Yet he admits ‘passions’ which produce pleasure, but proceed not
from it.

32. Desire for objects, as he understands it, excluded by his theory
of impressions and ideas.

33. Pride determined by reference to self.

34. This means that it takes its character from that which is not a
possible ‘impression’.

35. Hume’s attempt to represent idea of self as derived from

36. Another device is to suggest a physiological account of pride.

37. Fallacy of this: it does not tell us what pride is to the subject
of it.

38. Account of love involves the same difficulties; and a further one
as to nature of sympathy.

39. Hume’s account of sympathy.

40. It implies a self-consciousness not reducible to impressions.

41. Ambiguity in his account of benevolence: it is a desire and
therefore has pleasure for its object. What pleasure?

42. Pleasure of sympathy with the pleasure of another.

43. All ‘passions’ equally interested or disinterested. Confusion
arises from use of ‘passion’ alike for desire and emotion. Of this
Hume avails himself in his account of active pity.

44. Explanation of apparent conflict between reason and passion.

45. A ‘reasonable’ desire means one that excites little emotion.
Enumeration of possible motives.

46. If pleasure sole motive, what is the distinction of self-love?
Its opposition to disinterested desires, as commonly understood,
disappears. It is desire for pleasure in general.

47. How Hume gives meaning to this otherwise unmeaning definition.
‘Interest,’ like other motives described, implies determination by

48. Thus Hume, having degraded morality for the sake of consistency,
after all is not consistent.

49. If all good is pleasure, what is moral good? Ambiguity in Locke’s

50. Development of it by Clarke, which breaks down for want of true
view of reason.

51. With Hume, moral good is pleasure excited in a particular way,
viz.; in the spectator of the ‘good’ act and by the view of its
tendency to produce pleasure.

53. Moral sense is thus sympathy with pleasure qualified by
consideration of general tendencies.

54. In order to account for the facts it has to become sympathy with
unfelt feelings.

55. Can the distinction between the ‘moral’ and ‘natural’ be
maintained by Hume? What is ‘artificial virtue’?

56. No ground for such distinction in relation between motive and act.

57. Motive to artificial virtues.

58. How artificial virtues become moral.

59. Interest and sympathy account for all obligations civil and moral.

60. What is meant by an action which ought to be done.

61. Sense of morality no motive: when it seems so the motive is
really pride.

62. Distinction between virtuous and vicious motive does not exist
for person moved.

63. ‘Consciousness of sin’ disappears.

64. Only respectability remains: and even this not consistently
accounted for.


How the history of philosophy should be studied.

1. There is a view of the history of mankind, by this time
familiarised to Englishmen, which detaches from the chaos of events
a connected series of ruling actions and beliefs--the achievement of
great men and great epochs, and assigns to these in a special sense
the term ‘historical.’ According to this theory--which indeed, if
there is to be a theory of History at all, alone gives the needful
simplification--the mass of nations must be regarded as left in
swamps and shallows outside the main stream of human development.
They have either never come within the reach of the hopes and
institutions which make history a progress instead of a cycle, or
they have stiffened these into a dead body of ceremony and caste, or
at some great epoch they have failed to discern the sign of the times
and rejected the counsel of God against themselves. Thus permanently
or for generations, with no principle of motion but unsatisfied want,
without the assimilative ideas which from the strife of passions
elicit moral results, they have trodden the old round of war, trade,
and faction, adding nothing to the spiritual heritage of man. It
would seem that the historian need not trouble himself with them,
except so far as relation to them determines the activity of the
progressive nations.

Hume the last great English philosopher.

2. A corresponding theory may with some confidence be applied to
simplify the history of philosophical opinion. The common plan of
seeking this history in compendia of the systems of philosophical
writers, taken in the gross or with no discrimination except in
regard to time and popularity, is mainly to blame for the common
notion that metaphysical enquiry is an endless process of threshing
old straw. Such enquiry is really progressive, and has a real
history, but it is a history represented by a few great names.
At rare epochs there appear men, or sets of men, with the true
speculative impulse to begin at the beginning and go to the end, and
with the faculty of discerning the true point of departure which
previous speculation has fixed for them. The intervals are occupied
by commentators and exponents of the last true philosopher, if it has
been his mission to construct; if it has been sceptical, by writers
who cannot understand the fatal question that he has asked, and
thus still dig in the old vein which he had exhausted, and of which
his final dilemma had shown the bottom. Such an interval was that
which in the growth of continental philosophy followed on the epoch
of Leibnitz; an interval of academic exposition or formulation, in
which the system, that had been to the master an incomplete enquiry,
became in the hands of his disciples a one-sided dogmatism. In the
line of speculation more distinctively English, a like _régime_
of ‘strenua inertia’ has prevailed since the time of Hume. In the
manner of its unprofitableness, indeed, it has differed from the
Wolfian period in Germany, just as the disinterested scepticism of
Hume differed from the system-making for purposes of edification to
which Leibnitz applied himself. It has been unprofitable, because
its representatives have persisted in philosophising upon principles
which Hume had pursued to their legitimate issue and had shown,
not as their enemy but as their advocate, to render all philosophy
futile. Adopting the premises and method of Locke, he cleared them of
all illogical adaptations to popular belief, and experimented with
them on the body of professed knowledge, as one only could do who
had neither any twist of vice nor any bias for doing good, but was a
philosopher because he could not help it.

Kant his true successor.

3. As the result of the experiment, the method, which began with
professing to explain knowledge, showed knowledge to be impossible.
Hume himself was perfectly cognisant of this result, but his
successors in England and Scotland would seem so far to have been
unable to look it in the face. They have either thrust their
heads again into the bush of uncriticised belief, or they have
gone on elaborating Hume’s doctrine of association, in apparent
forgetfulness of Hume’s own proof of its insufficiency to account
for an intelligent, as opposed to a merely instinctive or habitual,
experience. An enquiry, however, so thorough and passionless as the
‘Treatise of Human Nature,’ could not be in vain; and if no English
athlete had strength to carry on the torch, it was transferred to a
more vigorous line in Germany. It awoke Kant, as he used to say, from
his ‘dogmatic slumber,’ to put him into that state of mind by some
called wonder, by others doubt, in which all true philosophy begins.
This state, with less ambiguity of terms, may be described as that of
freedom from presuppositions. It was because Kant, reading Hume with
the eyes of Leibnitz and Leibnitz with the eyes of Hume, was able to
a great extent to rid himself of the presuppositions of both, that he
started that new method of philosophy which, as elaborated by Hegel,
claims to set man free from the artificial impotence of his own false
logic, and thus qualify him for a complete interpretation of his own
achievement in knowledge and morality. Thus the ‘Treatise of Human
Nature’ and the ‘Critic of Pure Reason,’ taken together, form the
real bridge between the old world of philosophy and the new. They are
the essential ‘Propaedeutik,’ without which no one is a qualified
student of modern philosophy. The close correspondence between the
two works becomes more apparent the more each is studied. It is
such as to give a strong presumption that Kant had studied Hume’s
doctrine in its original and complete expression, and not merely as
it was made easy in the ‘Essays.’ The one with full and reasoned
articulation asks the question, which the other with equal fulness
seeks to answer. It is probably because the question in its complete
statement has been so little studied among us, that the intellectual
necessity of the Kantian answer has been so little appreciated.
To trace the origin and bring out the points of the question, in
order to the exhibition of that necessity, will be the object of
the following treatise. To do this thoroughly, indeed, would carry
us back through Hobbes to Bacon. But as present limits do not allow
of so long a journey, we must be content with showing Hume’s direct
filiation to Locke, who, indeed, sufficiently gathered up the results
of the ‘empirical’ philosophy of his predecessors.

Distinction between literary history and the history of philosophical

4. Such a task is very different from an ordinary undertaking in
literary history, and requires different treatment. To the historian
of literature a philosopher is interesting, if at all, on account
of the personal qualities which make a great writer, and have a
permanent effect on letters and general culture. Locke and Hume
undoubtedly had these qualities and produced such an effect--an
effect in Locke’s case more intense upon the immediately following
generations, but in Hume’s more remarkable as having reappeared
after near a century of apparent forgetfulness. Each, indeed, like
every true philosopher, was the mouth-piece of a certain system
of thought determined for him by the stage at which he found the
dialectic movement that constitutes the progress of philosophy, but
each gave to this system the stamp of that personal power which
persuades men. Their mode of expression had none of that academic
or ‘ex cathedra’ character, which has made German philosophy almost
a foreign literature in the country of its birth. They wrote as
citizens and men of the world, anxious (in no bad sense) for effect;
and even when their conclusions were remote from popular belief,
still presented them in the flesh and blood of current terms used in
the current senses. It is not, however, in their human individuality
and its effects upon literature, but as the vehicles of a system of
thought, that it is proposed here to treat them; and this purpose
will best be fulfilled if we follow the line of their speculation
without divergence into literary criticism or history, without
remarks either on the peculiarities of their genius or on any of the
secondary influences which affected their writings or arose out of
them. For a method of this sort, it would seem, there is some need
among us. We have been learning of late to know much more about
philosophers, but it is possible for knowledge about philosophers
to flourish inversely as the knowledge of philosophy. The revived
interest which is noticeable in the history of philosophy may be
an indication either of philosophical vigour or of philosophical
decay. In those whom intellectual indolence, or a misunderstood and
disavowed metaphysic, has landed in scepticism there often survives a
curiosity about the literary history of philosophy, and the writings
which this curiosity produces tend further to spread the notion that
philosophy is a matter about which there has been much guessing by
great intellects, but no definite truth is to be attained. It is
otherwise with those who see in philosophy a progressive effort
towards a fully-articulated conception of the world as rational. To
them its past history is of interest as representing steps in this
progress which have already been taken for us, and which, if we will
make them our own, carry us so far on our way towards the freedom of
perfect understanding; while to ignore them is not to return to the
simplicity of a pre-philosopic age, but to condemn ourselves to grope
in the maze of ‘cultivated opinion,’ itself the confused result of
those past systems of thought which we will not trouble ourselves to
think out.

Object of the present enquiry.

5. The value of that system of thought, which found its clearest
expression in Hume, lies in its being an effort to think to
their logical issue certain notions which since then have become
commonplaces with educated Englishmen, but which, for that reason, we
must detach ourselves from popular controversy to appreciate rightly.
We are familiar enough with these in the form to which adaptation to
the needs of plausibility has gradually reduced them, but because
we do not think them out with the consistency of their original
exponents, we miss their true value. They do not carry us, as they
will do if we restore their original significance, by an intellectual
necessity to those truer notions which, in fact, have been their
sequel in the development of philosophy, but have not yet found their
way into the ‘culture’ of our time. An attempt to restore their
value, however, if this be the right view of its nature, cannot but
seem at first sight invidious. It will seem as if, while we talk of
their value, we were impertinently trying to ‘pull them to pieces.’
But those who understand the difference between philosophical
failures, which are so because they are anachronisms, and those which
in their failure have brought out a new truth and compelled a step
forward in the progress of thought, will understand that a process,
which looks like pulling a great philosopher to pieces, may be the
true way of showing reverence for his greatness. It is a Pharisaical
way of building the sepulchres of philosophers to profess their
doctrine or extol their genius without making their spirit our own.
The genius of Locke and Hume was their readiness to follow the lead
of Ideas: their spirit was the spirit of Rationalism--the spirit
which, however baffled and forced into inconsistent admissions,
is still governed by the faith that all things may ultimately be
understood. We best do reverence to their genius, we most truly
appropriate their spirit, in so exploring the difficulties to which
their enquiry led, as to find in them the suggestion of a theory
which may help us to walk firmly where they stumbled and fell.

Locke’s problem and method.

6. About Locke, as about every other philosopher, the essential
questions are, What was his problem, and what was his method?
Locke, as a man of business, gives us the answers at starting. His
problem was the origin of ‘ideas’ in the individual man, and their
connection as constituting knowledge: his method that of simply
‘looking into his own understanding and seeing how it wrought.’
These answers commend themselves to common sense, and still form
the text of popular psychology. If its confidence in their value,
as explained by Locke, is at all beginning to be shaken, this is
not because, according to a strict logical development, they issued
in Hume’s unanswered scepticism, which was too subtle for popular
effect, but because they are now open to a rougher battery from the
physiologists. Our concern at present is merely to show their precise
meaning, and the difficulties which according to this meaning they

His notion of the ‘thinking thing’.

7. There are two propositions on which Locke is constantly insisting:
one, that the object of his investigation is _his own_ mind; the
other, that his attitude towards this object is that of mere
observation. He speaks of his own mind, it is to be noticed, just
as he might of his own body. It meant something born with, and
dependent on, the particular animal organism that first saw the
light at Wrington on a particular day in 1632. It was as exclusive
of other minds as his body of other bodies, and he could only infer
a resemblance between them and it. With all his animosity to the
coarse spiritualism of the doctrine of innate ideas, he was the
victim of the same notion which gave that doctrine its falsehood and
grotesqueness. He, just as much as the untutored Cartesian, regarded
the ‘minds’ of different men as so many different things; and his
refutation of the objectionable hypothesis proceeds wholly from this
view. Whether the mind is put complete into the body, or is born and
grows with it; whether it has certain characters stamped upon it to
begin with, or receives all its ideas through the senses; whether it
is simple and therefore indiscerptible, or compound and therefore
perishable--all these questions to Locke, as to his opponents,
concern a multitude of ‘thinking things’ in him and them, merely
individual, but happening to be pretty much alike.

This he will passively observe.

8. This ‘thinking thing,’ then, as he finds it in himself, the
philosopher, according to Locke, has merely and passively to observe,
in order to understand the nature of knowledge. ‘I could look into
nobody’s understanding but my own to see how it wrought,’ he says,
but ‘I think the intellectual faculties are made and operate alike
in most men. But if it should happen not to be so, I can only make
it my humble request, in my own name and in the name of those that
are of my size, who find their minds work, reason, and know in the
same low way that mine does, that the men of a more happy genius will
show us the way of their nobler flights.’ (Second Letter to Bishop of
Worcester.) As will appear in the sequel, it is from this imaginary
method of ascertaining the origin and nature of knowledge by passive
observation of what goes on in one’s own mind that the embarrassments
of Locke’s system flow. It was the function of Hume to exhibit the
radical flaw in his master’s method by following it with more than
his master’s rigour.

Is such observation possible?

9. As an observation of the ‘thinking thing,’ the ‘philosophy of
mind’ seems to assume the character of a natural science, and
thus at once acquires definiteness, and if not certainty, at
least plausibility. To deny the possibility of such observation,
in any proper sense of the word, is for most men to tamper with
the unquestioned heritage of all educated intelligence. Hence the
unpalatability of a consistent Positivism; hence, too, on the
other side, the general conviction that the Hegelian reduction of
Psychology to Metaphysics is either an intellectual juggle, or a
wilful return of the philosophy, which psychologists had washed, to
the mire of scholasticism. It is the more important to ascertain what
the observation in question precisely means. What observes, and what
is observed? According to Locke (and empirical psychology has never
substantially varied the answer) the matter to be observed consists
for each man firstly in certain impressions of his own individual
mind, by which this mind from being a mere blank has become
furnished--by which, in other words, his mind has become actually
a mind; and, secondly, in certain operations, which the mind, thus
constituted, performs upon the materials which constitute it. The
observer, all the while, is the constituted mind itself. The question
at once arises, how the developed man can observe in himself (and
it is only to himself, according to Locke, that he can look) that
primitive state in which his mind was a ‘tabula rasa.’ In the first
place, that only can be observed which is present; and the state in
question to the supposed observer is past. If it be replied that it
is recalled by memory, there is the farther objection that memory
only recalls what has been previously known, and how is a man’s own
primitive consciousness, as yet void of the content which is supposed
to come to it through impressions, originally known to him? How can
the ‘tabula rasa’ be cognisant of itself?

Why it seems so.

10. The cover under which this difficulty was hidden from Locke,
as from popular psychologists ever since, consists in the implicit
assumption of certain ideas, either as possessed by or acting upon
the mind in the supposed primitive state, which are yet held to be
arrived at by a gradual process of comparison, abstraction, and
generalisation. This assumption, which renders the whole system
resting upon the interrogation of consciousness a paralogism, is yet
the condition of its apparent possibility. It is only as already
charged with a content which is yet (and for the individual, truly)
maintained to be the gradual acquisition of experience, that the
primitive consciousness has any answer to give to its interrogator.

Locke’s account of origin of ideas.

11. Let us consider the passage where Locke sums up his theory of
the ‘original of our ideas.’ (Book II. chap. i. sec. 23, 24.) ‘Since
there appear not to be any ideas in the mind, before the senses have
conveyed any in, I conceive that ideas in the understanding are
coeval with sensation; which is such an impression, made in some part
of the body, as produces some perception in the understanding. It is
about these impressions made on our senses by outward objects, that
the mind seems first to employ itself in such operations as we call
perception, remembering, consideration, reasoning, &c. In time the
mind comes to reflect on its own operations about the ideas got by
sensation, and thereby stores itself with a new set of ideas, which
I call ideas of reflection. These impressions that are made on our
senses by outward objects, that are extrinsical to the mind; and
its own operations, proceeding from powers intrinsical and proper
to itself, which, when reflected on by itself, become also objects
of its contemplation, are, as I have said, the original of all

Its ambiguities _(a)_ In regard to sensation.

12. Can we from this passage elicit a distinct account of the
beginning of intelligence? In the first place it consists in an
‘idea,’ and an idea is elsewhere (Introduction, sec. 8) stated
to be ‘whatsoever is the object of the understanding, when a man
thinks.’ But the primary idea is an ‘idea of sensation.’ Does this
mean that the primary idea _is_ a sensation, or is a distinction
to be made between the sensation and the idea thereof? The passage
before us would seem to imply such a distinction. Looking merely
to it, we should probably say that by _sensation_ Locke meant ‘an
impression or motion in some part of the body;’ by the _idea of
sensation_ ‘a perception in the understanding,’ which this impression
produces. The account of perception itself gives a different result.
(Book II. chap. ix. sec. 3.) ‘Whatever impressions are made on the
outward parts, if they are not taken notice of within, there is no
perception. Fire may burn our bodies with no other effect than it
does a billet, unless the motion be continued to the brain, and
there the _sense_ of heat or _idea_ of pain be produced in the mind,
wherein consists actual _perception_.’ Here sensation is identified
at once with the idea and with perception, as opposed to the
impression on the bodily organs. [1] To confound the confusion still
farther, in a passage immediately preceding the above, ‘Perception,’
here identified with the idea of sensation, has been distinguished
from it, as ‘exercised about it.’ ‘Perception, as it is the first
faculty of the mind exercised about our ideas, so it is the first and
simplest idea we have from reflection.’ Taking Locke at his word,
then, we find the beginning of intelligence to consist in having an
idea of sensation. This idea, however, we perceive, and to perceive
is to have an idea; _i.e._ to have an idea of an idea of sensation.
But of perception again we have a simple or primitive idea. Therefore
the beginning of intelligence consists in having an idea of an idea
of an idea of sensation.

[1] Cf. Book II. chap. xix. sec. 1. ‘The _perception_, which actually
accompanies and is annexed to any impression on the body, made by
an external object, being distinct from all other modifications of
thinking, furnishes the mind with a distinct idea which we call
_sensation_; which is, as it were, the actual entrance of any idea
into the understanding by the senses.’

_(b)_ In regard to ideas of reflection.

13. By insisting on Locke’s account of the relation between the
ideas of sensation and those of reflection we might be brought to a
different but not more luminous conclusion. In the passages quoted
above, where this relation is most fully spoken of, it appears that
the latter are essentially sequent to those of sensation. ‘_In
time_ the mind comes to reflect on its own operations, about the
ideas got by sensation, and thereby stores itself with a new set
of ideas, which I call ideas of reflection.’ Of these only two are
primary and original (Book II. c. xxi. sec. 73), viz. motivity or
power of moving, with which we are not at present concerned, and
perceptivity or power of perception. But according to Locke, as we
have seen, there cannot be any, the simplest, idea of sensation
without perception. If, then, the _idea_ of perception is only
given later and upon reflection, we must suppose perception to take
place without any idea of it. But with Locke to have an idea and
to perceive are equivalent terms. We must thus conclude that the
beginning of knowledge is an unperceived perception, which is against
his express statement elsewhere (Book II. c. xxvii. sec. 9), that it
is ‘impossible for any one to perceive without perceiving that he
does perceive.’

What is the ‘tablet’ impressed?

14. Meanwhile a perpetual equivocation is kept up between a supposed
impression on the ‘outward parts,’ and a supposed impression on the
‘tablet of the mind.’ It is not the impression upon, or a motion
in, the outward parts, as Locke admits, that constitutes the idea
of sensation. It is not an agitation in the tympanum of the ear,
or a picture on the retina of the eye, that we are conscious of
when we see a sight or hear a sound. [1] The motion or impression,
however, has only, as he seems to suppose, to be ‘continued to the
brain,’ and it becomes an idea of sensation. Notwithstanding the
rough line of distinction between soul and body, which he draws
elsewhere, his theory was practically governed by the supposition
of a cerebral something, in which, as in a third equivocal tablet,
the imaginary mental and bodily tablets are blended. If, however,
the idea of sensation, as an object of the understanding when a man
thinks, differs absolutely from ‘a motion of the outward parts,’
it does so no less absolutely, however language and metaphor may
disguise the difference, from such motion as ‘continued to the
brain.’ An instructed man, doubtless, may come to think about a
motion in his brain, as about a motion of the earth round the sun,
but to speak of such motion as an idea of sensation or an immediate
object of intelligent sense, is to confuse between the object of
consciousness and a possible physical theory of the conditions of
that consciousness. It is only, however, by such an equivocation that
any idea, according to Locke’s account of the idea, can be described
as an ‘impression’ at all, or that the representation of the mind as
a tablet, whether born blank or with characters stamped on it, has
even an apparent meaning. A metaphor, interpreted as a fact, becomes
the basis of his philosophical system.

[1] Cf. Locke’s own statement (Book III. c. iv. sec. 10). ‘The cause
of any sensation, and the sensation itself, in all the simple ideas
of one sense, are two ideas; and two ideas so different and distant
one from another, that no two can be more so.’

Does the mind make impressions on itself?

15. As applied to the ideas of reflection, indeed, the metaphor loses
even its plausibility. In its application to the ideas of sensation
it gains popular acceptance from the ready confusion of thought
and matter in the imaginary cerebral tablet, and the supposition
of actual impact upon this by ‘outward things.’ But in the case of
ideas of reflection, it is the mind that at once gives and takes
the impression. It must be supposed, that is, to make impressions
on itself. There is the further difficulty that as perception is
necessary in order to give an _idea_ of sensation, the impress of
perception must be taken by the mind in its earliest receptivity; or,
in other words, it must impress itself while still a blank, still
void of any ‘furniture’ wherewith to make the impression. There is no
escape from this result unless we suppose perception to precede the
idea of it by some interval of time, which lands us, as we have seen,
in the counter difficulty of supposing an unperceived perception.
Locke disguises the difficulty from himself and his reader by
constantly shifting both the receptive subject and the impressive
matter. We find the ‘tablet’ perpetually receding. First it is the
‘outward part’ or bodily organ. Then it is the brain, to which the
impression received by the outward part must somehow be continued,
in order to produce sensation. Then it is the perceptive mind, which
takes an impression of the sensation or has an idea of it. Finally,
it is the reflective mind, upon which in turn the perceptive mind
makes impressions. But the hasty reader, when he is told that the
mind is passively impressed with ideas of reflection, is apt to
forget that the matter which thus impresses it is, according to
Locke’s showing, simply its perceptive, _i.e._ its passive, self.

Source of these difficulties. The ‘simple’ idea, as Locke describes
it, is a complex idea of substance and relation.

16. The real source of these embarrassments in Locke’s theory,
it must be noted, lies in the attempt to make the individual
consciousness give an answer to its interrogator as to the beginning
of knowledge. The individual looking back on an imaginary earliest
experience pronounces himself in that experience to have been simply
sensitive and passive. But by this he means consciously sensitive
_of something_ and consciously passive _in relation to something_.
That is, he supposes the primitive experience to have involved
consciousness of a self on the one hand and of a thing on the other,
as well as of a relation between the two. In the ‘idea of sensation’
as Locke conceived it, such a consciousness is clearly implied,
notwithstanding his confusion of terms. The idea is a perception,
or consciousness _of a thing_, as opposed to a sensation proper or
affection of the bodily organs. Of the perception, again, there is
an idea, _i.e._ a consciousness by the man, in the perception, of
himself in negative relation to the thing that is his object, and
this consciousness (if we would make Locke consistent in excluding an
unperceived perception) must be taken to go along with the perceptive
act itself. No less than this indeed can be involved in any act that
is to be the beginning of knowledge at all. It is the minimum of
possible thought or intelligence, and the thinking man, looking for
this beginning in the earliest experience of the individual human
animal, must needs find it there. But this means no less than that he
is finding there already the conceptions of substance and relation.
Hence a double contradiction: firstly, a contradiction between the
primariness of self-conscious cognisance of a thing, as the beginning
of possible knowledge, on the one hand, and the primariness of
animal sensation in the history of the individual man on the other;
secondly, a contradiction between the primariness in knowledge of
the ideas of substance and relation, and the seemingly gradual
attainment of those ‘abstractions’ by the individual intellect. The
former of these contradictions is blurred by Locke in the two main
confusions which we have so far noticed: _(a)_ the confusion between
sensation proper and perception, which is covered under the phrase
‘idea of sensation;’ a phrase which, if sensation means the first act
of intelligence, is pleonastic, and if it means the ‘motion of the
outward parts continued to the brain,’ is unmeaning; and _(b)_ the
confusion between the physical affection of the brain and the act of
the self-conscious subject, covered under the equivocal metaphor of
impression. The latter contradiction, that concerning the ideas of
substance and relation, has to be further considered.

How this contradiction is disguised.

17. It is not difficult to show that to have a simple idea, according
to Locke’s account of it, means to have already the conception of
substance and relation, which are yet according to him ‘complex
and derived ideas,’ ‘the workmanship of the mind’ in opposition to
its original material, the result of its action in opposition to
what is given it as passive. The equivocation in terms under which
this contradiction is generally covered is that between ‘idea’
and ‘quality.’ ‘Whatever the mind perceives in itself, or is the
immediate object of perception, thought, or understanding, that
I call _idea_; and the power to produce that idea I call quality
of the subject wherein that power is. Thus a snowball having
power to produce in us the ideas of white, cold, and round, the
powers to produce these ideas in us, as they are in the snowball,
I call qualities; and as they are sensations or perceptions in
our understandings, I call them ideas; which ideas, if I speak of
sometimes as in the things themselves, I would be understood to mean
those qualities in the object which produce them in us.’ (Book II.
chap. viii. sec. 8.)

Locke’s way of interchanging ‘idea’ and ‘quality’ and its effects.

18. An equivocation is not the less so because it is announced.
It is just because Locke allows himself at his convenience to
interchange the terms ‘idea’ and ‘quality’ that his doctrine is at
once so plausible and so hollow. The essential question is whether
the ‘simple idea,’ as the original of knowledge, is on the one hand
a mere feeling, or on the other a thing or quality of a thing.
This question is the crux of empirical psychology. Adopting the
one alternative, we have to face the difficulty of the genesis of
knowledge, as an apprehension of the real, out of mere feeling;
adopting the other, we virtually endow the nascent intelligence with
the conception of substance. By playing fast and loose with ‘idea’
and ‘quality,’ Locke disguised the dilemma from himself. Here again
the metaphor of Impression did him yeoman’s service. The idea, or
‘immediate object of thought,’ being confused with the affection
of the sensitive organs, and this again being accounted for as the
result of actual impact, it was easy to represent the idea itself as
caused by the action of an outward body on the ‘mental tablet.’ Thus
Locke speaks of the ‘objects of our senses obtruding their particular
ideas on our minds, whether we will or no.’ (Book II. chap. i. sec.
25.) This sentence holds in solution an assumption and two fallacies.
The assumption (with which we have no further concern here) is the
physical theory that matter affects the sensitive organs in the way
of actual impact. Of the fallacies, one is the confusion between this
affection and the idea of which it is the occasion to the individual;
the other is the implication that this idea, as such, in its prime
simplicity, recognises itself as the result of, and refers itself as
a quality to, the matter supposed to cause it. This recognition and
reference, it is clearly implied, are involved in the idea itself,
not merely made by the philosopher theorising it. Otherwise the
‘obtrusion’ would be described as of a property or effect, not of an
idea, which means, it must be remembered, the object of consciousness
just as the object of consciousness. Of the same purport is the
statement that ‘the mind is furnished with simple ideas as they are
found in exterior things.’ (Book II. chap, xxiii. sec. 1.) It only
requires a moment’s consideration, indeed, to see that the beginning
of consciousness cannot be a physical theory, which, however true it
may be and however natural it may have become to us, involves not
only the complex conception of material impact, but the application
of this to a case having no palpable likeness to it. But the
‘interrogator of consciousness’ finds in its primitive state just
what he puts there, and thus Locke, with all his pains ‘to set his
mind at a distance from itself,’ involuntarily supposes it, in the
first element of intelligence, to ‘report’ that action of matter upon
itself, which, as the result of a familiar theory--involving not
merely the conceptions of substance, power, and relation, but special
qualifications of these--it reports to the educated man.

Primary and secondary qualities of bodies.

19. This will appear more clearly upon an examination of his doctrine
of ‘the ideas of primary and secondary qualities of bodies.’ The
distinction between them he states as follows. The primary qualities
of bodies are ‘the bulk, figure, number, situation, motion, and rest
of their solid parts; these are in them, whether we perceive them
or no; and when they are of that size that we can discover them, we
have by these an idea of the thing as it is in itself.’ ... Thus
‘the ideas of primary qualities are resemblances of them, and their
patterns do really exist in the bodies themselves. But the ideas
produced in us by the secondary qualities have no resemblance of them
at all. There is nothing like them existing in the bodies themselves.
They are in the bodies, we denominate from them, only a power to
produce these sensations in us; and what is sweet, blue, or warm in
idea is but the certain bulk, figure, and motion of the insensible
parts in the bodies themselves which we call so.’ This power is then
explained to be of two sorts: _(a)_ ‘The power that is in any body,
by reason of its insensible primary qualities, to operate after a
peculiar manner on any of our senses, and thereby produce in us the
different ideas of several colours, sounds, smells, tastes, &c. These
are usually called sensible qualities, _(b)_ The power that is in
any body, by reason of the particular constitution of its primary
qualities, to make such a change in the bulk, figure, texture, and
motion of another body, as to make it operate differently on our
senses from what it did before. Thus the sun has a power to make wax
white, and fire to make lead fluid. These are usually called powers.’
(Book II. chap. viii. sec. 15, 23.)

‘Simple idea’ represented as involving a theory of its own cause.

20. What we have here is a theory of the causes of simple ideas; but
we shall find Locke constantly representing this theory as a simple
idea itself, or the simple idea as involving this theory. By this
unconscious device he is enabled readily to exhibit the genesis of
knowledge out of ‘simple ideas,’ but it is at the cost of converting
these into ‘creations of the mind,’ which with him are the antitheses
of ‘facts’ or ‘reality.’ The process of conversion takes a different
form as applied respectively to the ideas of primary and to those
of secondary qualities. We propose to follow it in the latter
application first.

Phrases in which this is implied.

21. The simple idea caused by a quality he calls the idea _of_ that
quality. Under cover of this phrase, he not only identifies the idea
of a primary quality with the quality itself of which he supposes it
to be a copy, but he also habitually regards the idea of a secondary
quality as the consciousness of a quality _of a thing_, though under
warning that the quality as it is to consciousness is not as it is in
the thing. This reservation rather adds to the confusion. There are
in fact, according to Locke, as appears from his distinction between
the ‘nominal’ and ‘real essence,’ two different things denoted by
every common noun; the thing as it is in itself or in nature, and
the thing as it is for consciousness. The former is the thing as
constituted by a certain configuration of particles, which is only
an object for the physical philosopher, and never fully cognisable
even by him; [1] the latter is the thing as we see and hear and
smell it. Now to a thing in this latter sense, according to Locke,
such a simple idea as to the philosopher is one of a secondary
quality (_i.e._ not a copy, but an effect, of something in a body),
is already in the origin of knowledge referred as a quality, though
without distinction of primary and secondary. He does not indeed
state this in so many words. To have done so might have forced him to
reconsider his doctrine of the mere passivity of the mind in respect
of simple ideas. But it is implied in his constant use of such
phrases as ‘reports of the senses,’ ‘inlet through the senses’--which
have no meaning unless something is reported, something let in--and
in the familiar comparison of the understanding to a ‘closet, wholly
shut from light, with only some little opening left, to let in
external visible resemblances, or ideas, of things without.’ (Book
II. chap. xi. sec. 17.)

[1] This distinction is more fully treated below, paragraphs 88, &c.

Feeling and felt thing confused.

22. Phraseology of this kind, the standing heritage of the philosophy
which seeks the origin of knowledge in sensation, assumes that the
individual sensation is from the first consciously representative;
that it is more than what it is simply in itself--fleeting,
momentary, unnameable (because, while we name it, it has become
another), and for the same reason unknowable, the very negation of
knowability; that it shows the presence of something, whether this
be a ‘body’ to which it is referred as a quality, or a mind of which
it is a modification, or be ultimately reduced to the permanent
conditions of its own possibility. This assumption for the present
has merely to be pointed out; its legitimacy need not be discussed.
Nor need we now discuss the attempts that have been made since Locke
to show that mere sensations, dumb to begin with, may yet become
articulate upon repetition and combination; which in fact endow them
with a faculty of inference, and suppose that though primarily they
report nothing beyond themselves, they yet somehow come to do so
as an explanation of their own recurrence. The sensational theory
in Locke is still, so to speak, unsophisticated. It is true that,
in concert with that ‘thinking gentleman,’ Mr. Molyneux, he had
satisfied himself that what we reckon simple ideas are often really
inferences from such ideas which by habit have become instinctive;
but his account of this habitual process presupposes the reference of
sensation to a thing. ‘When we set before our eyes a round globe of
any uniform colour, it is certain that the idea thereby imprinted in
our mind is of a flat circle, variously shadowed with several degrees
of light and brightness coming to our eyes. But we having by use been
accustomed to perceive what kind of appearance convex bodies are wont
to make in us, what alterations are made in the reflections of light
by the difference of the sensible figures of bodies; the judgment
presently, by an habitual custom, alters the appearances into their
causes. So that from that which truly is variety of colour or shadow,
collecting the figure, it makes it pass for a mark of figure, and
frames to itself the perception of a convex figure, and an uniform
colour.’ (Book II. chap. ix. sec. 8.) The theory here stated involves
two assumptions, each inconsistent with the simplicity of the simple
idea. _(a)_ The actual impression of the ‘plane variously coloured’
is supposed to pronounce itself to be of something outward. Once
call the sensation an ‘impression,’ indeed, or call it anything, and
this or an analogous substantiation of it is implied. It is only
as thus reporting something ‘objective’ that the simple idea of
the plane variously coloured gives anything to be corrected by the
‘perception of the kind of appearance convex bodies are wont to make
in us,’ _i.e._ ‘of the alterations made in the reflections of light
by the difference of the sensible figure of bodies.’ This perception,
indeed, as described, is already itself just the instinctive judgment
which has to be accounted for, and though this objection might be
met by a better statement, yet no statement could serve Locke’s
purpose which did not make assumption _(b)_ that sensations of light
and colour--‘simple ideas of secondary qualities’--are in the very
beginning of knowledge _appearances_, if not of _convex_ bodies, yet
of bodies; if not of bodies, yet of something which they reveal,
which remains there while they pass away.

The simple idea as ‘ectype’ other than mere sensation.

23. The same assumption is patent in Locke’s account of the
distinction between ‘real and fantastic,’ ‘adequate and inadequate,’
ideas. This distinction rests upon that between the thing as
archetype, and the idea as the corresponding ectype. Simple ideas he
holds to be necessarily ‘real’ and ‘adequate,’ because necessarily
answering to their archetypes. ‘Not that they are all of them images
or representations of what does exist: ... whiteness and coldness
are no more in snow than pain is: ... yet are they real ideas in
us, whereby we distinguish the qualities that are really in things
themselves. For these several appearances being designed to be the
marks whereby we are to know and distinguish things which we have
to do with, our ideas do as well serve us to that purpose, and are
as real distinguishing characters, whether they be only constant
effects, or else exact resemblances of something in the things
themselves.’ (Book II. chap. xxx. sec. 2.) The simple idea, then, is
a ‘mark’ or ‘distinguishing character,’ either as a copy or as an
effect, of something other than itself. Only as thus regarded, does
the distinction between real and fantastic possibly apply to it.
So too with the distinction between true and false ideas. As Locke
himself points out, the simple idea in itself is neither true nor
false. It can become so only as ‘referred to something extraneous
to it.’ (Book II. chap, xxxii. sec. 4.) For all that, he speaks of
simple ideas as true and necessarily true, because ‘being barely
such perceptions as God has fitted us to receive, and given power to
external objects to produce in us by established laws and ways ...
their truth consists in nothing else but in such appearances as are
produced in us, and must be suitable to those powers He has placed in
external objects, or else they could not be produced in us.’ (Book
II. chap, xxxii. sec. 14.) Here again we are brought to the same
point. The idea is an ‘appearance’ of something, necessarily true
when it cannot seem to be the appearance of anything else than that
of which it is the appearance. We thus come to the following dilemma.
Either the simple idea is referred to a thing, as its pattern or its
cause, or it cannot be regarded as either real or true. If it is
still objected that it need not be so referred in the beginning of
knowledge, though it comes to be so in the developed intelligence,
the answer is the further question, how can that be knowledge even in
its most elementary phase--the phase of the reception of simple ideas
--which is not a capacity of distinction between real and apparent,
between true and false? If its beginning is a mode of consciousness,
such as mere sensation would be--which, because excluding all
reference, excludes that reference of itself to something else
without which there could be no consciousness of a distinction
between an ‘is’ and an ‘is not,’ and therefore no true judgment at
all--how can any repetition of such modes give such a judgment? [1]

[1] Cf. the ground of distinction between clearness and obscurity of
ideas; (Book II. chap. xxix. sec. 2) ‘Our simple ideas are clear when
they are such as the objects themselves, whence they are taken, did
or might in a well-ordered sensation or perception, present them.’ As
Locke always assumes that immediate consciousness can tell whether an
idea is clear or not, it follows that immediate consciousness must
tell of ‘the object itself, whence the idea is taken.’

It involves a judgment in which mind and thing are distinguished.

24. The fact is that the ‘simple idea’ with Locke, as the beginning
of knowledge, is already, at its minimum, the judgment, ‘I have
an idea different from other ideas, which I did not make for
myself.’ His confusion of this judgment with sensation is merely
the fundamental confusion, on which all empirical psychology rests,
between two essentially distinct questions--one metaphysical, What is
the simplest element of knowledge? the other physiological, What are
the conditions in the individual human organism in virtue of which
it becomes a vehicle of knowledge? Though he failed, however, to
distinguish these questions, their difference made itself appear in a
certain divergence between the second and fourth books of his Essay.
So far we have limited our consideration to passages in the second
book, in which he treats _eo nomine_ of ideas; of simple ideas as
the original of knowledge, of complex ones as formed in its process.
Here the physical theory is predominant. The beginning of knowledge
is that without which the animal is incapable of it, viz. sensation
regarded as an impression through ‘animal spirits’ on the brain. But
it can only be so represented because sensation is identified with
that which later psychology distinguished from it as Perception, and
for which no physical theory can account. As we have seen, the whole
theory of this (the second) book turns upon the supposition that
the simple idea of sensation is in every case an idea of a sensible
quality, and that it is so, not merely for us, considering it _ex
parte post_, but consciously for the individual subject, which can
mean nothing else than that it distinguishes itself from, and refers
itself to, a thing. Locke himself, indeed, according to his plan of
bringing in a ‘faculty of the mind’ whenever it is convenient, would
perhaps rather have said that it is so distinguished and referred ‘by
the mind.’ He considers the simple idea not, as it truly is, the mind
itself in a certain relation, but a datum or material of the mind,
upon which it performs certain operations as upon something other
than itself, though all the while it is constituted, at least in its
actuality, by this material. Between the reference of the simple
idea to the thing, however, by itself and ‘by the mind,’ there is no
essential difference. In either case the reference is inconsistent
with the simplicity of the simple idea; and if the latter expression
avoids the seeming awkwardness of ascribing activity to the idea,
it yet ascribes it to the mind in that elementary stage in which,
according to Locke, it is merely receptive.

And is equivalent to what he afterwards calls ‘knowledge of
identity’. Only as such can it be named.

25. So much for the theory ‘of ideas.’ As if, however, in treating
of ideas he had been treating of anything else than knowledge, he
afterwards considers ‘knowledge’ in a book by itself (the fourth)
under that title, and here the question as to the relation between
idea and thing comes before him in a somewhat different shape.
According to his well-known definition, knowledge is the perception
of the agreement or disagreement of any of our ideas. The agreement
or disagreement may be of four sorts. It may be in the way (1)
of identity, (2) of relation, (3) of co-existence, (4) of real
existence. In his account of the last sort of agreement, it may
be remarked by the way, he departs at once and openly from his
definition, making it an agreement, not of idea with idea, but of an
idea with ‘actual real existence.’ The fatal but connatural wound in
his system, which this inconsistency marks, will appear more fully
below. For the present, our concern is for the adjustment of the
definition of knowledge to the doctrine of the simple idea as the
beginning of knowledge. According to the definition, it cannot be
the simple idea, as such, that constitutes this beginning, but only
the perception of agreement or disagreement between simple ideas.
‘There could be no room,’ says Locke distinctly, ‘for any positive
knowledge at all, if we could not distinguish any relation between
our ideas.’ (Book IV. chap. i. sec. 5.) Yet in the very context
where he makes this statement, the perception of relation is put
as a distinct kind of knowledge apart from others. In his account
of the other kinds, however, he is faithful to his definition, and
treats each as a perception (_i.e._ a judgment) of a relation in the
way of agreement or disagreement. The primary knowledge is that of
identity--the knowledge of an idea as identical with itself. ‘A man
infallibly knows, as soon as ever he has them in his mind, that the
ideas he calls _white_ and _round_, are the very ideas they are,
and not other ideas which he calls _red_ and _square_.’ (Book IV.
chap. i. sec. 4.) Now, as Hume afterwards pointed out, identity is
not simple unity. It cannot be predicated of the ‘idea’ as merely
single, but only as a manifold in singleness. To speak of an idea
as the ‘same with itself’ is unmeaning unless it mean ‘same with
itself _in its manifold appearances_’ _i.e._ unless the idea is
distinguished, as an object existing continuously, from its present
appearance. Thus ‘the infallible knowledge,’ which Locke describes
in the above passage, consists in this, that on the occurrence of a
certain ‘idea’ the man _recognises_ it as one, which at other times
of its occurrence he has called ‘_white_.’ Such a ‘synthesis of
recognition,’ however, expressed by the application of a common term,
implies the reference of a present sensation to a permanent object of
thought, in this case the object thought under the term ‘white,’ so
that the sensation becomes an idea of that object. Were there no such
objects, there would be no significant names, but only noises; and
were the present sensation not so referred, it would not be named. It
may be said indeed that the ‘permanent object of thought’ is merely
the instinctive result of a series of past resembling sensations,
and that the common name is merely the register of this result. But
the question is thus merely thrown further back. Unless the single
fleeting sensation was, to begin with, fixed and defined by relation
to and distinction from something permanent--in other words, unless
it ceased to be a mere sensation--how did it happen that other
sensations were referred to it, as different cases of an identical
phenomenon, to which the noise suggested by it might be applied as a

The same implied in calling it an idea of an object.

26. This primary distinction and relation of the simple idea Locke
implicitly acknowledges when he substitutes for the simple idea,
as in the passage last quoted, the man’s knowledge that he has the
idea; for such knowledge implies the distinction of the idea from its
permanent conscious subject, and its determination by that negative
relation. [1] Thus determined, it becomes itself a permanent object,
or (which comes to the same) an idea _of an object_; a phrase which
Locke at his convenience substitutes for the mere idea, whenever it
is wanted for making his theory of knowledge square with knowledge
itself. Once become such an object, it is a basis to which other
sensations, like and unlike, may be referred as differentiating
attributes. Its identity becomes a definite identity.

[1] Cf. the passage in Book II. chap. vii. sec. 7. ‘When ideas are
in our minds, we consider them as being actually there.’ The mere
‘idea’ is in fact essentially different from the ‘consideration
of it as actually there,’ as sensation is different from thought.
The ‘consideration, &c.,’ really means the thought of the ‘idea’
(sensation) as determined by relation to the conscious subject.

Made _for_, not _by_, us, and therefore according to Locke really

27. Upon analysis, then, of Locke’s account of the most elementary
knowledge, the perception of identity or agreement of an idea with
itself, we find that like the ‘simple idea,’ which he elsewhere
makes the beginning of knowledge, it really means the reference
of a sensation to a conception of a permanent object or subject,
[1] either in such a judgment as ‘this is white’ (_sc._ a white
thing), or in the more elementary one, ‘this is an object to me.’
In the latter form the judgment represents what Locke puts as the
consciousness, ‘I have an idea,’ or as the ‘consideration that the
idea is actually there;’ in the former it represents what he calls
‘the knowledge that the idea which I have in my mind and which I call
white is the very idea it is, and not the idea which I call red.’
It is only because _referred_, as above, that the sensation is in
Locke’s phraseology ‘a testimony’ or ‘report’ of something. As we
said above, his notion of the beginning of knowledge is expressed
not merely in the formula ‘I have an idea different from other
ideas,’ but with the addition, ‘which I did not make for myself.’
[2] The simple idea is supposed to testify to something without that
caused it, and it is this interpretation of it which makes it with
him the ultimate criterion of reality. But unless it were at once
distinguished from and referred to both a thing of which it is an
effect and a subject of which it is an experience, it could not in
the first place testify to anything, nor secondly to a thing as made
for, not by, the subject. This brings us, however, upon Locke’s whole
theory of ‘real existence,’ which requires fuller consideration.

[1] For a recognition by Locke of the correlativity of these (of
which more will have to be said below) cf. Book II. chap. xxiii. sec.
15. ‘Whilst I know by seeing or hearing, &c., that there is some
corporeal being without me, the object of that sensation, I do more
certainly know that there is some spiritual being within me that sees
and hears.’

[2] Cf. Book II. chap. xii. sec. 1.

What did he mean by this?

28. It is a theory, we must premise, which is nowhere explicitly
stated. It has to be gathered chiefly from those passages of the
second book in which he treats of ‘complex’ or ‘artificial’ ideas in
distinction from simple ones, which are necessarily real, and from
the discussion in the fourth book of the ‘extent’ and ‘reality’ of
knowledge. We have, however, to begin with, in the enumeration of
simple ideas, a mention of ‘existence,’ as one of those ‘received
alike through all the ways of sensation and reflection.’ It is an
idea ‘suggested to the understanding by every object without and
every idea within. When ideas are in our minds, we consider them as
being actually there, as well as we consider things to be actually
without us; which is, that they exist, or have existence.’ (Book II.
chap. vii. sec. 7.)

29. The two considerations here mentioned, of ‘ideas as actually
in our minds,’ of ‘things as actually without us,’ are meant
severally to represent the two ways of reflection and sensation,
by which the idea of existence is supposed to be suggested. But
sensation, according to Locke, is an organ of ‘ideas,’ just as much
as reflection. Taking his doctrine strictly, there are no ‘objects’
but ‘ideas’ to suggest the idea of existence, whether by the way of
sensation or by that of reflection, and no ideas that are not ‘in the
mind.’ (Book II. chap. ix. sec. 3, &c.)

Existence as the mere presence of a feeling.

30. The designation of the idea of existence, then, as ‘suggested
by every idea within,’ covers every possible suggestion. It can
mean nothing else than that it is given in every act and mode of
consciousness; that it is inseparable from feeling as such, being
itself at the same time a distinct simple idea. This, we may remark
by the way, involves the conclusion that every idea is composite,
made up of whatever distinguishes it from other ideas together with
the idea of existence. Of this idea of existence itself, however,
it will be impossible to say anything distinctive; for, as it
accompanies all possible objects of consciousness, there will be no
cases where it is absent to be distinguished from those where it is
present. Not merely will it be undefinable, as every simple idea is;
it will be impossible ‘to send a man to his senses’ (according to
Locke’s favourite subterfuge) in order to know what it is, since it
is neither given in one sense as distinct from another, nor in all
senses as distinct from any other modification of consciousness. Thus
regarded, to treat it as a simple idea alongside of other simple
ideas is a palpable contradiction. It is the mere ‘It is felt,’ the
abstraction of consciousness, no more to be reckoned as one among
other ideas than colour in general is to be co-ordinated with red,
white, and blue. Whether I smell a rose in the summer or recall the
smell in winter; whether I see a horse or a ghost, or imagine a
centaur or think of gravitation or the philosopher’s stone--in every
case alike the idea or ‘immediate object of the mind’ _exists_. Yet
we find Locke distinguishing between real ideas, as those that ‘have
a conformity with the existence of things,’ and fantastic ideas, as
those which have no such conformity (Book II. chap. xxx. sec. 1); and
again in the fourth book (chap. i. sec. 7, chap. iii. sec. 21, &c.)
he makes the perception of the agreement of an idea with existence a
special kind of knowledge, different from that of agreement of idea
with idea; and having done so, raises the question whether we have
such a knowledge of existence at all, and decides that our knowledge
of it is very narrow.

Existence as reality.

31. How are such a distinction and such a question to be reconciled
with the attribution of existence to every idea? The answer of
course will be, that when he speaks of ideas as not conforming to
existence, and makes knowledge or the agreement of ideas with each
other something different from their agreement with existence, he
means and generally says ‘real actual existence,’ or the ‘existence
of _things_,’ _i.e._ an existence, whatever it be, which is opposed
to mere existence in consciousness. Doubtless he so means, but this
implies that upon mere consciousness, or the simple presence of
ideas, there has supervened a distinction, which has to be accounted
for, of ideas from things which they represent on the one hand, and
from a mind of which they are affections on the other. Even in the
passage first quoted (Book II. chap. vii. sec. 7), where existence is
ascribed to every idea, on looking closely we find this distinction
obtruding itself, though without explicit acknowledgment. In the
very same breath, so to speak, in which the idea of existence is
said to be suggested by every idea, it is further described as being
either of two considerations--either the consideration of an idea
as actually in our mind, or of a thing as actually without us. Such
considerations at once imply the supervention of that distinction
between ‘mind’ and ‘thing,’ which gives a wholly new meaning to
‘existence.’ They are not, in truth, as Locke supposed, two separate
considerations, one or other of which, as the case may be, is
interchangeable with the ‘idea of existence.’ One is correlative with
the other, and neither is the same as simple feeling. Considered as
actually in the mind, the feeling is distinguished from the mind as
an affection from the subject thereof, and just in virtue of this
distinction is referred to a thing as the cause of the affection, or
becomes representative of a thing. But for such consideration there
would for us, if the doctrine of ideas means anything, be no ‘thing
without us’ at all. To ‘consider things as actually without us’ is to
consider them as causes of the ideas in our mind, and this is to have
an idea of existence quite different from mere consciousness. It is
to have an idea of it which at once suggests the question whether the
existence is real or apparent; in other words, whether the thing, to
which an affection of the mind is referred as its cause, is really
its cause or no.

By confusion of these two meanings, reality and its conditions are
represented as given in simple feeling.

32. Between these two meanings of existence--its meaning as
interchangeable with simple consciousness, and its meaning as
reality--Locke failed to distinguish. Just as, having announced
‘ideas’ to be the sole ‘materials of knowledge,’ he allows himself
at his convenience to put ‘things’ in the place of ideas; so having
identified existence with momentary consciousness or the simple
idea, he substitutes for existence in this sense _reality_, and in
consequence finds reality given solely in the simple idea. Thus when
the conceptions of cause or substance, or relations of any kind, come
under view, since these cannot be represented as given in momentary
consciousness, they have to be pronounced not to exist, and since
existence is reality, to be unreal or ‘fictions of the mind.’ But
without these unreal relations there could be no knowledge, and if
they are not given in the elements of knowledge, it is difficult
to see how they are introduced, or to avoid the appearance of
constructing knowledge out of the unknown. Given in the elements of
knowledge, however, they cannot be, if these are simple ideas or
momentary recurrences of the ‘it is felt.’ But by help of Locke’s
equivocation between the two meanings of existence, they can be
covertly introduced as the real. Existence is given in the simple
idea, existence equals the real, therefore the real is given in the
simple idea. But think or speak of the real as we will, we find that
it exhibits itself as substance, as cause, and as related; _i.e._
according to Locke as a ‘complex’ or ‘invented’ or ‘superinduced’

Yet reality involves complex ideas which are made by the mind.

33. In the second book of his Essay, which treats of ideas, he
makes the grand distinction between ‘the simple ideas which are all
from things themselves, and of which the mind can have no more or
other than what are suggested to it,’ and the ‘complex ideas which
are the workmanship of the mind.’ (Book II. chap. xii.) In his
account of the latter there are some curious cross-divisions, but he
finally enumerates them as ideas either of _modes_, _substances_,
or _relations_. The character of these ideas he then proceeds to
explain in the order given, one after the other, and as if each were
independent of the rest; though according to his own statement the
idea of mode presupposes that of substance, and the idea of substance
involves that of relation. ‘Modes I call such complex ideas, which,
however compounded, contain not in them the supposition of subsisting
by themselves, but are considered as dependencies on, or affections
of, substances; such are the ideas signified by the words ‘triangle,’
‘gratitude,’ ‘murder,’ &c. Of these there are two sorts. First, there
are some which are only variations or different combinations of the
same simple idea without the mixture of any other--as a dozen, or
score--which are nothing but the ideas of so many distinct units
added together; and these I call simple modes, as being contained
within the bounds of one simple idea. Secondly, there are others
compounded of simple ideas of several kinds, put together to make
one complex one; e. g. beauty, ... and these I call _mixed modes_.’
(Book II. chap. xii. secs. 4, 5.) So soon as he comes to speak more
in detail of simple modes, he falls into apparent contradiction with
his doctrine that, as complex ideas, they are the mere workmanship
of the mind. All particular sounds and colours are simple modes of
the simple ideas of sound and colour. (Book II. chap, xviii. sees. 3,
4.) Again, the ideas of figure, place, distance, as of all particular
figures, places, and distances, are simple modes of the simple idea
of space. (Book II. chap, xiii.) To maintain, however, that the ideas
of space, sound, or colour _in general_ (as simple ideas) were taken
from things themselves, while those of _particular_ spaces, sounds,
and colours (as complex ideas) were ‘made by the mind,’ was for Locke
impossible. Thus in the very next chapter after that in which he
has opposed all complex ideas, those of simple modes included, as
made by the mind to all simple ones as taken from things themselves,
he speaks of simple modes ‘either _as found in things existing_,
or as made by the mind within itself.’ (Book II. chap. xiii. sec.
1.) It was not for Locke to get over this confusion by denying the
antithesis between that which the mind ‘makes’ and that which it
‘takes from existing things’ and for the present we must leave it as
it stands. We must further note that a mode being considered ‘as an
affection of a substance,’ space must be to the particular spaces
which are its simple modes, as a substance to its modifications.
So too colour to particular colours, &c., &c. But the idea of a
substance is a complex idea ‘framed by the mind.’ Therefore the idea
of space--at any rate such an idea as we have of it when we think of
distances, places, or figures, and when else do we think of it at
all?--must be a complex and artificial idea. But according to Locke
the idea of space is emphatically a simple idea, given immediately
_both_ by sight and touch, concerning which if a man enquire, he
‘sends him to his senses.’ (Book II. chap, v.)

Such are substance and relation which must be found in every object
of knowledge.

34. These contradictions are not avoidable blunders, due to
carelessness or want of a clear head in the individual writer, ‘The
complex idea of substance’ will not be exorcised; the mind will show
its workmanship in the very elements of knowledge towards which its
relation seems most passive--in the ‘existing things’ which are
the conditions of its experience no less than in the individual’s
conscious reaction upon them. The interrogator of the individual
consciousness seeks to know that consciousness, and just for that
reason must find in it at every stage those formal conceptions,
such as substance and cause, without which there can be no object
of knowledge at all. He thus substantiates sensation, while he
thinks that he merely observes it, and calls it a sensible thing.
Sensations, thus unconsciously transformed, are for him the real, the
actually existent. Whatever is not given by immediate sense, outer or
inner, he reckons a mere ‘thing of the mind.’ The ideas of substance
and relation, then, not being given by sense, must in his eyes be
things of the mind, in distinction from, really existent things. But
speech bewrayeth him. He cannot state anything that he knows save
in terms which imply that substance and relation are in the things
known; and hence an inevitable obtrusion of ‘things of the mind’ in
the place of real existence, just where the opposition between them
is being insisted on. Again, as a man seems to observe consciousness
in himself and others, it has nothing that it has not received. It
is a blank to begin with, but passive of that which is without, and
through its passivity it becomes informed. If the ‘mind,’ then, means
this or that individual consciousness, the things of the mind must be
gradually developed from an original passivity. On the other hand,
let anyone try to know this original passive consciousness, and in
it, as in every other known object-matter, he must find these things
of the mind, substance and relations. If nature is the object, he
must find them in nature; if his own self-consciousness, he must
find them in that consciousness. But while nature knows not what is
in herself, self-consciousness, it would seem, _ex vi termini_, does
know. Therefore not merely substance and relation must be found in
the original consciousness, but the knowledge, the ideas, of them.

Abstract idea of substance and complex ideas of particular sorts of

35. As we follow Locke’s treatment of these ideas more in detail, we
shall find the logical see-saw, here accounted for, appearing with
scarcely a disguise. His account of the origin of the ‘complex ideas
of substances’ is as follows. ‘The mind being furnished with a great
number of the simple ideas, conveyed in by the senses, as they are
found in exterior things, or by reflection on its own operations,
takes notice also that a certain number of these simple ideas go
constantly together; which being presumed to belong to one thing,
and words being suited to common apprehensions and made use of for
quick despatch, are called, so united in one subject, by one name;
which by inadvertency we are apt afterwards to talk of and consider
as one simple idea, which indeed is a complication of many ideas
together; because, as I have said, not imagining how these simple
ideas can subsist by themselves, we accustom ourselves to suppose
some _substratum_, wherein they do subsist, and from which they do
result; which therefore we call _substance_.’ (Book II. chap, xxiii.
sec. 1.) In the controversy with Stillingfleet, which arose out of
this chapter, Locke was constrained further to distinguish (as he
certainly did not do in the original text) between the ‘ideas of
distinct substances, such as man, horse,’ and the ‘general idea of
substance.’ It is to ideas of the former sort that he must be taken
to refer in the above passage, when he speaks of them as formed by
‘complication of many ideas together,’ and these alone are _complex_
in the strict sense. The _general_ idea of substance on the other
hand, which like all general ideas (according to Locke) is made
by abstraction, means the idea of a ‘substratum which we accustom
ourselves to suppose’ as that wherein the complicated ideas ‘do
subsist, and from which they do result.’ This, however, he regards as
itself one, ‘the first and chief,’ among the ideas which make up any
of the ‘distinct substances.’ (Book II. chap. xii. sec. 6.) Nor is
he faithful to the distinction between the general and the complex.
In one passage of the first letter to Stillingfleet, he distinctly
speaks of the _general_ idea of substance as a ‘_complex_ idea made
up of the idea of something plus that of relation to qualities.’ [1]
Notwithstanding this confusion of terms, however, he no doubt had
before him what seemed a clear distinction between the ‘abstract
general idea’ of substance, as such, _i.e._ of ‘something related
as a support to accidents,’ but which does not include ideas of any
particular accidents, and the composite idea of a substance, made up
of a multitude of simple ideas plus that of the something related to
them as a support. We shall find each of these ideas, according to
Locke’s statement, presupposing the other.

[1] Upon a reference to the chapter on ‘complex ideas’ (Book II.
chap, xii.), it will appear that the term is used in a stricter and
a looser sense. In the looser sense it is not confined to _compound_
ideas, but in opposition to simple ones includes those of relation
and even ‘abstract general ideas.’ When Locke thinks of the _general_
idea of substance apart from the complication of accidents referred
to it, he opposes it to the complex idea, according to the stricter
sense of that term. On the other hand, when he thinks of it as ‘made
up’ of the idea of _something_ plus that of relation to qualities (as
if there could be an idea of something apart from such relation), it
seems to him to have two elements, and therefore to be complex.

The abstract idea according to Locke at once precedes and follows the

36. In the passage above quoted, our aptness to consider a
complication of simple ideas, which we notice to go constantly
together, as one simple idea, is accounted for as the result of a
presumption that they belong to one thing. This presumption is again
described in the words that ‘we accustom ourselves to suppose some
substratum, wherein they do subsist, and from which they do result;
which therefore we call substance.’ Here it is implied that the idea
of substance, _i.e._ ‘the general idea of something related as a
support to accidents,’ is one gradually formed upon observation of
the regular coincidence of certain simple ideas. In the sequel (sec.
3 of the same chapter I. xxiii.) we are told that such an idea--‘an
obscure and relative idea of substance in general--being thus made,
we come to have the ideas of particular sorts of substances by
collecting such combinations of simple ideas as are, by experience
and observation of men’s senses, taken notice of to exist together.’
Thus a _general_ idea of substance having been formed by one
gradual process, ideas of particular sorts of substances are formed
by another and later one. But then the very same ‘collection of
such combinations of simple ideas as are taken notice of to exist
together,’ which (according to sec. 3) constitutes the later process
and follows upon the formation of the _general_ idea of substance,
has been previously described as preceding and conditioning that
formation. It is the complication of simple ideas, noticed to go
constantly together, that (according to sec. 1) leads to the ‘idea
of substance in general.’ To this see-saw between the process
preceding and that following the formation of the idea in question
must be added the difficulty, that Locke’s account makes the general
idea precede the particular, which is against the whole tenor of
his doctrine of abstraction as an operation whereby ‘the mind makes
the particular ideas, received from particular objects, to become
general.’ (Book II. chap. xi. sec. 9.)

Reference of ideas to nature or God, the same as reference to

37. It may be said perhaps that Locke’s self-contradiction in
this regard is more apparent than real; that the two processes of
combining simple ideas are essentially different, just because
in the later process they are combined by a conscious act of the
mind as accidents of a ‘something,’ of which the _general_ idea
has been previously formed, whereas in the earlier one they are
merely presented together ‘by nature,’ and, _ex hypothesi_, though
they gradually suggest, do not carry with them any reference to a
‘substratum.’ But upon this we must remark that the presentation of
ideas ‘by nature’ or ‘by God,’ though a mode of speech of which Locke
in his account of the origin of knowledge freely avails himself,
means nothing else than their relation to a ‘substratum,’ if not
‘wherein they do subsist,’ yet ‘from which they do result.’ If then
it is for consciousness that ideas are presented together by nature,
they already carry with them that reference to a substratum which is
supposed gradually to result from their concurrence. If it is not for
consciousness that they are so presented, if they do not _severally_
carry with them a reference to ‘something,’ how is it they come to do
so in the gross? If a single sensation of heat is not referred to a
hot thing, why should it be so referred on the thousandth recurrence?
Because perhaps, recurring constantly in the same relations, it
compels the inference of permanent antecedents? But the ‘same
relations’ mean relations to the same things, and the observation of
these relations presupposes just that conception of _the thing_ which
it is sought to account for,

But it is explicitly to substance that Locke makes them refer

38. We are estopped, however, from any such explanation of Locke as
would suggest these ulterior questions by his explicit statement
that ‘all simple ideas, all sensible qualities, carry with them a
supposition of a substratum to exist in, and of a substance wherein
they inhere.’ The vindication of himself against the pathetic
complaint of Stillingfleet, that he had ‘almost discarded substance
out of the reasonable part of the world,’ in which this statement
occurs, was certainly not needed. Already in the original text
the simple ideas, of which the association suggests the idea of
substance, are such as ‘the mind finds in exterior things or by
reflection on its own operations.’ But to find them in an exterior
thing is to find them in a substance, a ‘something it knows not
what,’ regarded as outward, just as to find them by reflection on
its own operations, as its own, is to find them in such a substance
regarded as inward. The process then by which, according to Locke,
the general idea of substance is arrived at, presupposes this idea
just as much as the process, by which ideas of particular sorts of
substances are got, presupposes it, and the distinction between the
two processes, as he puts it, disappears.

In the process by which we are supposed to arrive at complex ideas of
substances the beginning is the same as the end.

39. The same paralogism appears under a slightly altered form when
it is stated (in the first letter to Stillingfleet) that the idea
of substance as the ‘general indetermined idea of _something_ is
by the abstraction of the mind derived from the simple ideas of
sensation and reflection.’ Now ‘abstraction’ with Locke means the
‘separation of an idea from all other ideas that accompany it in its
real existence.’ (Book II. chap. xii. sec. 1.) It is clear then that
it is impossible to abstract an idea which is not _there_, in real
existence, to be abstracted. Accordingly, if the ‘general idea of
something’ is derived by abstraction from simple ideas of sensation
and reflection, it must be originally given with these ideas, or it
would not afterwards be separated from them. Conversely they must
carry this idea with them, and cannot be simple ideas at all, but
compound ones, each made up of ‘the general idea of something or
being,’ and of an accident which this something supports. How then
does the general idea of substance or ‘something,’ _as derived_,
differ from the idea of ‘something,’ as given in the original ideas
of sensation and reflection from which the supposed process of
abstraction starts? What can be said of the one that cannot be said
of the other? If the derived general idea is of something related
to qualities, what, according to Locke, are the original ideas
but those of qualities related to something? It is true that the
general idea is of something, of which nothing further is known,
related to qualities in general, not to any particular qualities.
But the ‘simple idea’ in like manner can only be of an indeterminate
quality, for in order to any determination of it, the idea must be
put together with another idea, and so cease to be simple; and the
‘something,’ to which it is referred, must for the same reason be
a purely indeterminate something. If, in order to avoid concluding
that Locke thus unwittingly identified the abstract general idea of
substance with any simple idea, we say that the simple idea, because
not abstract, is not indeterminate but of a real quality, defined
by manifold relations, we fall upon the new difficulty that, if so,
not only does the simple idea become manifoldly complex, but just
such an ‘idea of a particular sort of substance’ as, according to
Locke, is derived from the derived idea of substance in general. As
an idea of a quality, it is also necessarily an idea of a correlative
‘something;’ and if it is an idea of a quality in its reality, _i.e._
as determined by various relations, it must be an idea of a variously
qualified something, _i.e._ of a particular substance. Then not
merely the middle of the twofold process by which we are supposed
to get at ‘complex ideas of substances’--_i.e._ the _abstract_
something; but its end--_i.e._ the _particular_ something--turns out
to be the same as its beginning.

Doctrine of abstraction inconsistent with doctrine of complex ideas.

40. The fact is, that in making the general idea of substance precede
particular ideas of sorts of substances (as he certainly however
confusedly does, in the 23rd chapter of the Second Book, [1] as well
as by implication in his doctrine of modes. Book II. chap. xii.
sec. 4), Locke stumbled upon a truth which he was not aware of, and
which will not fit into his ordinary doctrine of general ideas: the
truth that knowledge is a process from the more abstract to the more
concrete, not the reverse, as is commonly supposed, and as Locke’s
definition of abstraction implies. Throughout his prolix discussion
of ‘substance’ and ‘essence’ we find two opposite notions perpetually
cross each other: one that knowledge begins with the simple idea,
the other that it begins with the real thing as particularized by
manifold relations. According to the former notion, simple ideas
being given, void of relation, as the real, the mind of its own act
proceeds to bring them into relation and compound them: according
to the latter, a thing of various properties (_i.e._ relations [2])
being given as the real, the mind proceeds to separate these from
each other. According to the one notion the intellectual process, as
one of complication, ends just where, according to the other notion,
as one of abstraction, it began.

[1] See above, paragraph 35.

[2] Cf. Book II. chap, xxiii. sec. 37. Most of the simple ideas that
make up our complex ideas of substances are only powers ... _e.g._
the greater part of the ideas which make up our complex idea of gold
... are nothing else _but so many relations to other substances_.’

The confusion covered by use of ‘particulars’.

41. The chief verbal equivocation, under which Locke disguises the
confusion of these two notions, is to be found in the use of the
word ‘particular,’ which is sometimes used for the mere individual
having no community with anything else, sometimes for the thing
qualified by relation to a multitude of other things. The simple idea
or sensation; the ‘something’ which the simple idea is supposed to
‘report,’ and which Locke at his pleasure identifies with it; the
complex idea; and the thing as the collection of the properties which
the simple idea ‘reports,’ all are merged by Locke under the one term
‘particulars.’ As the only consistency in his use of the term seems
to lie in its opposition to ‘generals,’ we naturally turn to the
passage where this opposition is spoken of most at large.

Locke’s account of abstract general ideas.

42. ‘General and universal belong not to the real existence of
things, but are the inventions and creatures of the understanding,
made by it for its own use, and concern only signs, whether words or
ideas. Words are general when used for signs of general ideas, and
so are applicable indifferently to many particular things; and ideas
are general, when they are set up as the representatives of many
particular things; but universality belongs not to things themselves,
which are all of them particular in their existence, even those words
and ideas which in their signification are general. When therefore
we quit particulars, the generals that rest are only creatures of
our own making, their general nature being nothing but the capacity
they are put into by the understanding, of signifying or representing
many particulars. For the signification they have is nothing but a
relation that by the mind of man is added to them. ... The sorting of
things under names is the workmanship of the understanding, taking
occasion from the similitude it observes among them to make abstract
general ideas, and set them up in the mind, with names annexed to
them, as patterns or forms (for in that sense the word form has a
very proper signification), to which as particular things are found
to agree, so they come to be of that species, have that denomination,
or are put into that classis. For when we say this is a man, that a
horse; this justice, that cruelty, what do we else but rank things
under different specific names, as agreeing to those abstract ideas,
of which we have made those names the signs? And what are the
essences of those species, set out and marked by names, but those
abstract ideas in the mind; which are, as it were, the bonds between
particular things that exist, and the names they are to be ranked
under?’ (Book III. chap. iii. secs. 11 and 13.)

‘Things not general.’

43. In the first of these remarkable passages we begin with the
familiar opposition between ideas as ‘the creatures of the mind’
and real things. Ideas, and the words which express them, may be
general, but things cannot. ‘They are all of them particular in their
existence.’ Then the ideas and words themselves appear as things,
and as such ‘in their existence’ can only be particular. It is only
in its signification, _i.e._ in its relation to other ideas which
it represents, that an idea, particular itself, becomes general,
and this relation does not belong to the ‘existence’ of the idea or
to the idea in itself, but ‘by the mind of man is added to it.’ The
relation being thus a fictitious addition to reality, ‘general and
universal are mere inventions and creatures of the understanding.’
The next passage, in spite of the warning that all ideas are
particular in their existence, still speaks of general ideas, but
only as ‘set up in the mind.’ To these ‘particular things existing
are found to agree,’ and the agreement is expressed in such judgments
as ‘this is a man, that a horse; this is justice, that cruelty;’ the
‘this’ and ‘that’ representing ‘particular existing things,’ ‘horse’
and ‘cruelty’ abstract general ideas to which these are found to

Generality an invention of the mind.

44. One antithesis is certainly maintained throughout these
passages--that between ‘real existence which is always particular,
and the workmanship of the mind,’ which ‘invents’ generality. Real
existence, however, is ascribed _(a)_ to things themselves, _(b)_ to
words and ideas, even those which become of general signification,
_(c)_ to mixed modes, for in the proposition ‘this is justice,’
the ‘this’ must represent a mixed mode. (Cf. II. xii. 5.) The
characteristic of the ‘really existent,’ which distinguishes it from
the workmanship of the mind, would seem to be mere individuality,
exclusive of all relation. The simple ‘this’ and ‘that,’ apart from
the relation expressed in the judgment, being mere individuals,
are really existent; and conversely, ideas, which in themselves
have real existence, when a relation, in virtue of which they
become significant, has been ‘added to them by the mind,’ become
‘inventions of the understanding.’ This consists with the express
statement in the chapter on ‘relation’ (II. xxv. 8), that it is ‘not
contained in the existence of things, but is something extraneous
and superinduced.’ Thus generality, as a relation between any one
of a multitude of _single_ (not necessarily _simple_) ideas, _e.g._
single ideas of horses, and all the rest--a relation which belongs
not to any one of them singly--is superinduced by the understanding
upon their _real_, _i.e._ their _single_ existence. Apart from this
relation, it would seem, or in their mere singleness, even ideas of
mixed modes, _e.g._ _this act_ of justice, may have real existence.

The result is, that the feeling of each moment is alone real.

45. The result of Locke’s statement, thus examined, clearly is that
real existence belongs to the present momentary act of consciousness,
and to that alone. Ascribed as it is to the ‘thing itself,’ to the
idea which, _as general_, has it not, and to the mixed mode, it is in
each case the momentary presence to consciousness that constitutes
it. To a thing itself, as distinct from the presentation to
consciousness, it cannot belong, for such a ‘thing’ means that which
remains identical with itself under manifold appearances, and both
identity and appearance imply relation, _i.e._ ‘an invention of the
mind.’ As little can it belong to the _content_ of any idea, since
this is in all cases constituted by relation to other ideas. Thus
if I judge ‘this is sweet,’ the real existence lies in the simple
‘this,’ in the mere form of presentation at an individual _now_,
not in the relation of this to other flavours which constitutes the
determinate sweetness, or to a sweetness at other times tasted.
If I judge ‘this is a horse,’ a present vision really exists, but
not so its relation to other sensations of sight or touch, closely
precedent or sequent, which make up the ‘total impression;’ much less
its relation to other like impressions thought of, in consideration
of which a common name is applied to it. If, again, I judge ‘this
is an act of justice,’ the present thought of the act, as present,
really exists; not so those relations of the act which either make
it just, or make me apply the name to it. It is true that according
to this doctrine the ‘really existent’ is the unmeaning, and that
any statement about it is impossible. We cannot judge of it without
bringing it into relation, in which it ceases to be what in its
mere singleness it is, and thus loses its reality, overlaid by the
‘invention of the understanding.’ Nay, if we say that it is the mere
‘this’ or ‘that,’ as such--the simple ‘here’ and ‘now’--the very
‘this,’ in being mentioned or judged of, becomes related to other
things which we have called ‘this,’ and the ‘now’ to other ‘nows.’
Thus each acquires a generality, and with it becomes fictitious.
As Plato long ago taught--though the lesson seems to require to
be taught anew to each generation of philosophers--a consistent
sensationalism must be speechless. Locke, himself, in one of the
passages quoted, implicitly admits this by indicating that only
through relations or in their generality are ideas ‘significant.’

How Locke avoids this result.

46. He was not the man, however, to become speechless out of sheer
consistency. He has a redundancy of terms and tropes for disguising
from himself and his reader the real import of his doctrine. In
the latter part of the passage quoted we find that the relation
or community between ideas, which the understanding invents, is
occasioned by a ‘similitude which it observes among things.’ The
general idea having been thus invented, ‘things are found to agree
with it’--as is natural since they suggested it. Hereupon we are
forced to ask how, if all relation is superinduced upon real
existence by the understanding, an _observed_ relation of similitude
among things can occasion the superinduction; and again how it
happens, if all generality of ideas is a fiction of the mind, that
‘things are found to agree with general ideas.’ How can the real
existence called ‘this’ or ‘that,’ which only really exists so far as
nothing can be said of it but that it is ‘this’ or ‘that,’ agree with
anything whatever? Agreement implies some content, some determination
by properties, _i.e._ by relations, in the things agreeing, whereas
the really existent excludes relation. How then can it agree with the
abstract general idea, the import of which, according to Locke’s own
showing, depends solely on relation?

The ‘particular’ was to him the individual qualified by general

47. Such questions did not occur to Locke, because while asserting
the mere individuality of things existent, and the simplicity of
all ideas as _given_, _i.e._ as real, he never fully recognised the
meaning of his own assertion. Under the shelter of the ambiguous
‘particular’ he could at any time substitute for the _mere_
individual the _determinate_ individual, or individual qualified
by community with other things; just as, again, under covering
of the ‘simple idea’ he could substitute for the mere momentary
consciousness the perception of a definite thing. Thus when he speaks
of the judgment ‘this is gold’ as expressing the agreement of a real
(_i.e._ individual) thing with a general idea, he thinks of ‘this’
a& already having, apart from the judgment, the determination which
it first receives in the judgment. He thinks of it, in other words,
not as the mere ‘perishing’ sensation [1] or individual void of
relation, but as a sensation symbolical of other possibilities of
sensation which, as so many relations of a _thing_ to us or to other
things, are connoted by the common noun ‘gold.’ It thus ‘agrees’
with the abstract idea or conception of qualities, _i.e._ because
it is already the ‘creature of the understanding,’ determined by
relations which constitute a generality and community between it and
other things. Such a notion of the really existent thing--wholly
inconsistent with his doctrine of relation and of the general--Locke
has before him when he speaks of general ideas as formed by
abstraction of certain qualities from real things, or of certain
ideas from other ideas that accompany them in real existence. ‘When
some one first lit on a parcel of that sort of substance we denote by
the word _gold_, ... its peculiar colour, perhaps, and weight were
the first he abstracted from it, to make the complex idea of that
species ... another perhaps added to these the ideas of fusibility
and fixedness ... another its ductility and solubility in aqua regia.
These, or part of these, put together, usually make the complex idea
in men’s minds of that sort of body we call _gold_.’ (Book II. chap.
xxxi. sec. 9.) Here the supposition is that a thing, multitudinously
qualified, is given apart from any action of the understanding,
which then proceeds to act in the way of successively detaching
(‘abstracting’) these qualities and recombining them as the idea of a
species. Such a recombination, indeed, would seem but wasted labour.
The qualities are assumed to be already found by the understanding
and found as in a thing; otherwise the understanding could not
abstract them from it. Why should it then painfully put together in
imperfect combination what has been previously given to it complete?
Of the complex idea which results from the work of abstraction,
nothing can be said but a small part of what is predicable of the
known thing which the possibility of such abstraction presupposes.

[1] ‘All impressions are perishing existences.’--Hume. See below,
paragraph 208.

This is the real thing from which abstraction is supposed to start.

48. ‘The complex idea of a species,’ spoken of in the passage last
quoted, corresponds to what, in Locke’s theory of substance, is
called the ‘idea of a particular sort of substance.’ In considering
that theory we saw that, according to his account, the beginning of
the process by which the ‘abstract idea of substance’ was formed,
was either that abstract idea itself, the mere ‘something,’ or by
a double contradiction the ‘complex idea of a particular sort of
substance’ which yet we only come to have _after_ the abstract idea
has been formed. In the passage now before us there is no direct
mention of the abstraction of the ‘substratum,’ as such, but only of
the quality, and hence there is no ambiguity about the paralogism. It
is not a mere ‘something’ that the man ‘lights upon,’ and thus it is
not this that holds the place at once of the given and the derived
but a something having manifold qualities to be abstracted. In other
words, it is the ‘idea of a particular sort of substance’ that he
starts from, and it is just this again to which as a ‘complex idea
of a species,’ his understanding is supposed gradually to lead him.
The understanding, indeed, according to Locke, is never adequate
to nature, and accordingly the qualities abstracted and recombined
in the complex idea always fall vastly short of the fulness of
those given in the real thing; or as he states it in terms of the
multiplication table (Book II. chap. xxxi. sec. 10), ‘some who have
examined this species more accurately could, I believe, enumerate ten
times as many properties in gold, all of them as inseparable from its
internal constitution, as its colour or weight; and it is probable
if any one knew all the properties that are by divers men known of
this metal, there would an hundred times as many ideas go to the
complex idea of gold, as any one man has yet in his; and yet perhaps
that would not be the thousandth part of what is to be discovered
in it.’ These two million properties, and upwards, which await
abstraction in gold, are all, it must be noted, according to Locke’s
statement elsewhere (Book II. chap xxiii. sec. 37), ‘nothing but so
many relations to other substances.’ It is just on account of these
multitudinous relations of the real thing that the understanding is
inadequate to its comprehension. Yet according to Locke’s doctrine of
relation these must all be themselves ‘superinductions of the mind,’
and the greater the fulness which they constitute, the further is the
distance from the _mere_ individuality which elsewhere, in contrast
with the fictitiousness of ‘generals,’ appears as the equivalent of
real existence.

Yet, according to the doctrine of relation, a creation of thought.

49. The real thing and the creation of the understanding thus change
places. That which is given to the understanding as the real, which
it finds and does not make, is not now the bare atom upon which
relations have to be artificially superinduced. Nor is it the
mere present feeling, which has ‘by the mind of man’ to be made
‘significant,’ or representative of past experience. It is itself an
inexhaustible complex of relations, whether they are considered as
subsisting between it and other things, or between the sensations
which it is ‘fitted to produce in us.’ These are the real, which is
thus a system, a community; and if the ‘general,’ as Locke says,
is that which ‘has the capacity of representing many particulars,’
the real thing itself is general, for it represents--nay, is
constituted by--the manifold particular feelings which, mediately or
immediately, it excites in us. On the other hand, the invention of
the understanding, instead of giving ‘significance’ or content to
the mere individuality of the real, as it does according to Locke’s
theory of ‘generals,’ now appears as detaching fragments from the
fulness of the real to recombine them in an ‘abstract essence’ of its
own. Instead of adding complexity to the simple, it subtracts from
the complex.

Summary of the above contradictions.

50. To gather up, then, the lines of contradiction which traverse
Locke’s doctrine of real existence as it appears in his account of
general and complex ideas:--The idea of substance is an abstract
general idea, not given directly in sensation or reflection, but
‘invented by the understanding,’ as by consequence must be ideas of
particular sorts of substances which presuppose the abstract idea.
On the other hand, the ideas of sensation and reflection, from which
the idea of substance is abstracted, and to which as _real_ it as an
_invention_ is opposed, are ideas of ‘something,’ and are only real
as representative of something. But this idea of something = the idea
of substance. Therefore the idea of substance is the presupposition,
and the condition of the reality, of the very ideas from which it
is said to be derived. Again, if the general idea of substance is
got by abstraction, it must be originally given in conjunction with
the ideas of sensation or reflection from which it is afterwards
abstracted, _i.e._ separated. But in such conjunction it constitutes
the ideas of particular sorts of substances. Therefore these latter
ideas, which yet we ‘come to have’ after the general idea of
substance, form the prior experience from which this general idea is
abstracted. Further, this original experience, from which abstraction
starts, being of ‘sorts of substances,’ and these sorts being
constituted by relations, it follows that relation is given in the
original experience. But that which is so given is ‘real existence’
in opposition to the invention of the understanding. Therefore these
relations, and the community which they constitute, really exist. On
the other hand, mere individuals alone really exist, while relations
between them are superinduced by the mind. Once more, the simple idea
given in sensation or reflection, as it is made _for_ not _by_ us,
has or results from real existence, whereas general and complex ideas
are the workmanship of the mind. But this workmanship consists in the
abstraction of ideas from each other, and from that to which they are
related as qualities. It thus presupposes at once the general idea
of ‘something’ or substance, and the complex idea of qualities of
the something. Therefore it must be general and complex ideas that
are real, as made for and not by us, and that afford the inventive
understanding its material. Yet if so--if they are _given_--why make
them over again by abstraction and recomplication?

They cannot be overcome without violence to Locke’s fundamental

51. We may get over the last difficulty, indeed, by distinguishing
between the complex and confused, between abstraction and analysis.
We may say that what is originally given in experience is the
confused, which to us is simple, or in other words has no definite
content, because, till it has been analysed, nothing can be said of
it, though in itself it is infinitely complex; that thus the process,
which Locke roughly calls abstraction, and which, as he describes
it, consists merely in taking grains from the big heap that is
given in order to make a little heap of one’s own, is yet, rightly
understood, the true process of knowledge--a process which may be
said at once to begin with the complex and to end with it, to take
from the concrete and to constitute it, because it begins with that
which is in itself the fulness of reality, but which only becomes so
for us as it is gradually spelt out by our analysis. To put the case
thus, however, is not to correct Locke’s statement, but wholly to
change his doctrine. It renders futile his easy method of ‘sending
a man to his senses’ for the discovery of reality, and destroys the
supposition that the elements of knowledge can be ascertained by the
interrogation of the individual consciousness. Such consciousness can
tell nothing of its own beginning, if of this beginning, as of the
purely indefinite, nothing can be said; if it only becomes defined
through relations, which in its state of primitive potentiality are
not actually in it. The senses again, so far from being, in that
mere passivity which Locke ascribes to them, organs of ready-made
reality, can have nothing to tell, if it is only through the active
processes of ‘discerning, comparing, and compounding,’ that they
acquire a definite content. But to admit this is nothing else than,
in order to avoid a contradiction of which Locke was not aware, to
efface just that characteristic of his doctrine which commends it to
‘common sense’--the supposition, namely, that the simple datum of
sense, as it is for sense or in its mere individuality, is the real,
in opposition to the ‘invention of the mind.’ That this supposition
is to make the real the unmeaning, the empty, of which nothing can be
said, he did not see because, under an unconscious delusion of words,
even while asserting that the names of simple ideas are undefinable
(Book III. chap. iv. sec. 4), which means that nothing can be said
of such ideas, and while admitting that the processes of discerning,
comparing, and compounding ideas, which mean nothing else than the
bringing them into relation [1] or the superinduction upon them of
fictions of the mind, are necessary to constitute even the beginnings
of knowledge, he yet allows himself to invest the simple idea, as
the real, with those definite qualities which can only accrue to
it, according to his showing, from the ‘inventive’ action of the

[1] Locke only states this explicitly of comparison, ‘an operation
of the mind about its ideas, upon which depends all that large tribe
of ideas, comprehended under relation.’ (Book II. chap. xi. sec.
4.) It is clear, however, that the same remark must apply to the
‘discernment of ideas,’ which is strictly correlative to comparison,
and to their composition, which means that they are brought into
relation as constituents of a whole.

That these three processes are necessary to constitute the beginnings
of knowledge, according to Locke, appears from Book II. chap. xi.
sec. 15, taken in connection with what precedes in that chapter.

As real existence, the simple idea carries with it ‘invented’
relation of cause.

52. Thus invested, it is already substance or symbolical of
substance, not a mere feeling but a felt thing, recognised either
under that minimum of qualification which enables us merely to say
that it is ‘something,’ or (in Locke’s language) abstract substance,
or under the greater complication of qualities which constitutes
a ‘particular sort of substance’--gold, horse, water, &c. Real
existence thus means substance. It is not the simple idea or
sensation by itself that is real, but this idea as caused by a thing.
It is the thing that is primarily the real; the idea only secondarily
so, because it results from a power in the thing. As we have seen,
Locke’s doctrine of the necessary adequacy, reality, and truth of
the simple idea turns upon the supposition that it is, and announces
itself as, an ‘ectype’ of an ‘archetype.’ But there is not a
different archetype to each sensation; if there were, in ‘reporting’
it the sensation would do no more than report itself. It is the
supposed single cause of manifold different sensations or simple
ideas, to which a single name is applied. ‘If sugar produce in us the
ideas which we call whiteness and sweetness, we are sure there is a
power in sugar to produce those ideas in our minds. ... And so each
sensation answering the power that operates on any of our senses, the
idea so produced is a real idea (and not a fiction of the mind, which
has no power to produce any single idea), and cannot but be adequate
... and so all simple ideas are adequate.’ (Book II. chap. xxxi.
sec. 2.) The sugar, which is here the ‘archetype’ and the source of
reality in the idea, is just what Locke elsewhere calls ‘a particular
sort of substance,’ as the ‘something’ from which a certain set of
sensations result, and in which, as sensible qualities, they inhere.
Strictly speaking, however, according to Locke, that which inheres in
the thing is not the quality, as it is to us, but a power to produce
it. (Book II. chap. viii. sec. 28, and c. xxiii. 37.)

Correlativity of cause and substance.

53. In calling a sensation or idea the product of a power, substance
is presupposed just as much as in calling it a sensible quality;
only that with Locke ‘quality’ conveyed the notion of inherence in
the substance, power that of relation to an effect not _in_ the
substance itself. ‘Secondary qualities are nothing but the powers
which _substances_ have to produce several ideas in us by our senses,
which ideas are not in the things themselves, otherwise than as
anything is in its cause.’ (Book II. chap, xxiii. sec. 9.) ‘Most of
the simple ideas, that make up our complex ideas of substances, are
only powers ... or relations to other substances (or, as he explains
elsewhere, ‘relations to our perceptions,’ [1]), and are not really
in the substance considered barely in itself.’ (Book II. chap,
xxiii. sec. 37, and xxxi. 8.) That this implies the inclusion of the
idea of cause in that of substance, appears from Locke’s statement
that ‘whatever is considered by us to operate to the producing any
particular simple idea which did not before exist, hath thereby in
our minds the relation of a cause.’ (Book II. chap. xxvi. sec. 1.)
Thus to be conscious of the reality of a simple idea, as that which
is not made by the subject of the idea, but results from a power
in a thing, is to have the idea of substance as cause. This latter
idea must be the condition of the consciousness of reality. If the
consciousness of reality is implied in the beginning of knowledge, so
must the correlative ideas be of cause and substance.

[1] Book II. chap. xxi. sec. 3.

How do we know that ideas correspond to reality of things? Locke’s

54. On examining Locke’s second rehearsal of his theory in the fourth
book of the Essay--that ‘On Knowledge’--we are led to this result
quite as inevitably as in the book ‘On Ideas.’ He has a special
chapter on the ‘reality of human knowledge,’ where he puts the
problem thus:--‘It is evident the mind knows not things immediately,
but only by the intervention of the ideas it has of them. Our
knowledge therefore is real only so far as there is a conformity
between our ideas and the reality of things. But what shall be here
the criterion? How shall the mind, when it perceives nothing but its
own ideas, know that they agree with things themselves?’ (Book IV.
chap. iv. sec. 3.) It knows this, he proceeds to show, in the case
of simple ideas, because ‘since the mind can by no means make them
to itself, they must be the product of things operating on the mind
in a natural way. ... Simple ideas are not fictions of our fancies,
but the natural and regular productions of things without us, really
operating upon us; and so carry with them all the conformity which
is intended, or which our state requires, for they represent to us
things under those appearances which they are fitted to produce in
us; whereby we are enabled to distinguish the sorts of particular
substances,’ &c. &c. (Book IV. chap. iv. sec. 4.) The whole force
of this passage depends on the notion that simple ideas are already
to the subject of them not his own making, but the product of a
thing, which in its relation to these ideas is a ‘particular sort of
substance.’ It is the reception of such ideas, so related, that Locke
calls ‘sensitive knowledge of particular existence,’ or a ‘perception
of the mind, employed about the particular existence of finite
beings without us.’ (Book IV. chap. ii. sec. 14.) This, however, he
distinguishes from two other ‘degrees of knowledge or certainty,’
‘intuition’ and ‘demonstration,’ of which the former is attained when
the agreement or disagreement of two ideas is perceived immediately,
the latter when it is perceived mediately through the intervention
of certain other agreements or disagreements (less or more), each of
which must in turn be perceived immediately. Demonstration, being
thus really but a series of intuitions, carries the same certainty
as intuition, only it is a certainty which it requires more or less
pains and attention to apprehend. (Book IV. chap. ii. sec. 4.) Of
the ‘other perception of the mind, employed about the particular
existence of finite beings without us,’ which ‘passes under the
name of knowledge,’ he explains that although ‘going beyond bare
probability, it reaches not perfectly to either of the foregoing
degrees of certainty.’ ‘There can be nothing more certain,’ he
proceeds, ‘than that the idea we receive from an external object
is in our minds; this is intuitive knowledge. But whether there be
anything more than barely that idea in our minds, whether we can
thence certainly infer the existence of anything without us which
corresponds to that idea, is that whereof some men think there may be
a question made; because men may have such ideas in their minds, when
no such thing exists, no such object affects their senses.’ (Book IV.
chap. ii. sec. 14.)

It assumes that simple ideas are consciously referred to things that
cause them.

55. It is clear that here in his very statement of the question
Locke begs the answer. If the intuitive certainty is that ‘the idea
we _receive from an external object_ is in our minds,’ [1] how is
it possible to doubt whether such an object exists and affects
our senses? This impossibility of speaking of the simple idea,
except as received from an object, may account for Locke’s apparent
inconsistency in finding the assurance of the reality of knowledge
(under the phrase ‘evidence of the senses’) just in that ‘perception’
which reaches not to intuitive or demonstrative certainty, and only
‘passes under the name of knowledge.’ In the passage just quoted he
shows that he is cognizant of the distinction between the simple
idea and the perception of an existence corresponding to it, and in
consequence distinguishes this perception from proper intuition, but
in the very statement of the distinction it eludes him. The simple
idea, as he speaks of it, becomes itself, as consciously ‘received
from an external object,’ the perception of existence; just as we
have previously seen it become the judgment of identity or perception
of the ‘agreement of an idea with itself,’ which is his first kind of

[1] I do not now raise the question, What are here the ideas, which
must be immediately perceived to agree or disagree in order to make
it a case of ‘intuitive certainty’ or knowledge according to Locke’s
definition. See below, paragraphs 59, 101, and 147.

Lively ideas real, because they must be effects of things.

56. In short, with Locke the simple idea, the perception of existence
corresponding to the idea, and the judgment of identity, are
absolutely merged, and in mutual involution, sometimes under one
designation, sometimes under another, are alike presented as the
beginning of knowledge. As occasion requires, each does duty for the
other. Thus, if the ‘reality of knowledge’ be in question, the simple
idea, which is given, is treated as involving the perception of
existence, and the reality is established. If in turn this perception
is distinguished from the simple idea, and it is asked whether the
correspondence between idea and existence is properly matter of
knowledge, the simple idea has only to be treated as involving the
judgment of identity, which again involves that of existence, and
the question is answered. So in the context under consideration
(Book IV. chap. ii. sec. 14), after raising the question as to the
existence of a thing corresponding to the idea, he answers it by
the counter question, ‘whether anyone is not invincibly conscious
to himself of a different perception, when he looks on the sun by
day, and thinks on it by night; when he actually tastes wormwood, or
smells a rose, or only thinks on that savour or odour? We as plainly
find the difference there is between any idea revived in our minds
by our own memory, and actually coming into our minds by our senses,
as we do between any two distinct ideas.’ The force of the above
lies in its appeal to the perception of identity, or--to apply the
language in which Locke describes this perception--the knowledge that
the idea which a man calls the smell of a rose is the very idea it
is. [1] The mere difference in liveliness between the present and
the recalled idea, which, as Berkeley and Hume rightly maintained,
is the only difference between them as mere ideas, cannot by itself
constitute the difference between the knowledge of the presence of a
thing answering to the idea and the knowledge of its absence. It can
only do this if the more lively idea is _identified_ with past lively
ideas as a representation of one and the same thing which ‘agrees
with itself’ in contrast to the multiplicity of the sensations,
its signs. Only in virtue of this identification can either the
liveliness of the idea show that the thing--the sun or the rose--is
there, or the want of liveliness that it is not, for without it there
would be no thing to be there or not to be there. It is because
this identification is what Locke understands by the first sort of
perception of agreement between ideas, and because he virtually finds
this perception again in the simple idea, that the simple idea is
to him the index of reality. But if so, the idea in its primitive
simplicity is the sign of a thing that is ever the same in the same
relations, and we find the ‘workmanship of the mind,’ its inventions
of substance, cause, and relation, in the very rudiments of knowledge.

[1] See above, paragraph 25.

Present sensation gives knowledge of existence.

57. With that curious tendency to reduplication, which is one of his
characteristics, Locke, after devoting a chapter to the ‘reality of
human knowledge,’ of which the salient passage as to simple ideas has
been already quoted, has another upon our ‘knowledge of existence.’
Here again it is the sensitive knowledge of things actually present
to our senses, which with him is merely a synonym for the simple
idea, that is the prime criterion. (Book IV. chap. iii. secs. 5 and
2, and chap. ii. sec. 2.) After speaking of the knowledge of our own
being and of the existence of a God (about which more will be said
below), he proceeds, ‘No particular man can know the existence of any
other being, but only when, by actually operating upon him, it makes
itself perceived by him. For the having the idea of anything in our
mind no more proves the existence of that thing, than the picture of
a man evidences his being in the world, or the visions of a dream
make thereby a true history. It is therefore the actual receiving of
ideas from without, that gives us notice of the existence of other
things, and makes us know that something doth exist at that time
without us, which causes that idea in us, though perhaps we neither
know nor consider how it does it; for it takes not from the certainty
of our senses and the ideas we receive by them, that we know not the
manner wherein they are produced; _e.g._ whilst I write this, I have,
by the paper affecting my eyes, that idea produced in my mind, which,
whatever object causes, I call _white_; by which I know that the
quality or accident (_i.e._ whose appearance before my eyes always
causes that idea) doth really exist, and hath a being without me. And
of this the greatest assurance. I can possibly have, and to which
my faculties can attain, is the testimony of my eyes, which are the
proper and sole judges of this thing, whose testimony I have reason
to rely on, as so certain, that I can no more doubt whilst I write
this, that I see white and black, and that something really exists
that causes that sensation in me, than that I write and move my
hand.’ (Book IV. chap. xi. secs. 1, 2.)

Reasons why its testimony must be trusted.

58. Reasons are afterwards given for the assurance that the
‘perceptions’ in question are produced in us by ‘exterior causes
affecting our senses.’ The first _(a)_ is, that ‘those that want
the organs of any sense never can have the ideas belonging to that
sense produced in their mind.’ The next _(b)_, that whereas ‘if
I turn my eyes at noon toward the sun, I cannot avoid the ideas
which the light or the sun then produces in me;’ on the other hand,
‘when my eyes are shut or windows fast, as I can at pleasure recall
to my mind the ideas of light or the sun, which former sensations
had lodged in my memory, so I can at pleasure lay them by.’ Again
_(c)_, ‘many of those ideas are produced in us with pain which
afterwards we remember without the least offence. Thus the pain of
heat or cold, when the idea of it is revived in our minds, gives
us no disturbance; which, when felt, was very troublesome, and is
again, when actually repeated; which is occasioned by the disorder
the external object causes in our body, when applied to it.’ Finally
(d), ‘our senses in many cases bear witness to the truth of each
other’s report, concerning the existence of sensible things without
us. He that sees a fire may, if he doubt whether it be anything
more than a bare fancy, feel it too.’ Then comes the conclusion,
dangerously qualified: ‘When our senses do actually convey into our
understandings any idea, we cannot but be satisfied that there doth
something at that time really exist without us, which doth affect
our senses, and by them give notice of itself to our apprehensive
faculties, and actually produce that idea which we then perceive;
and we cannot so far distrust their testimony as to doubt that such
collections of simple ideas, as we have observed by our senses to
be united together, actually exist together. But this knowledge
extends as far as the present testimony of our senses, employed about
particular objects, that do then affect them, and no farther. For
if I saw such a collection of simple ideas as is wont to be called
man, existing together one minute since, and am now alone; I cannot
be certain that the same man exists now, since there is no necessary
connexion of his existence a minute since with his existence now. By
a thousand ways he may cease to be, since I had the testimony of my
senses for his existence.’ (Book IV. chap. xi. sec. 9.)

How does this account fit Locke’s definition of knowledge?

59. Upon the ‘knowledge of the existence of things,’ thus
established, it has to be remarked in the first place that, after
all, according to Locke’s explicit statement, it is not properly
knowledge. It is ‘an assurance that deserves the name of knowledge’
(Book IV. chap. ii. sec. 14, and xi. sec. 3), yet being neither
itself an intuition of agreement between ideas, nor resoluble into a
series of such intuitions, the definition of knowledge excludes it.
Only if existence were itself an ‘idea,’ would the consciousness of
the agreement of the idea with it be a case of knowledge; but to make
existence an idea is to make the whole question about the agreement
of ideas, as such, with existence, as such, unmeaning. To seek escape
from this dilemma by calling the consciousness of the agreement
in question an ‘assurance’ instead of knowledge is a mere verbal
subterfuge. There can be no assurance of agreement between an idea
and that which is no object of consciousness at all. If, however,
existence is an object of consciousness, it can, according to Locke,
be nothing but an idea, and the question as to the _assurance_
of agreement is no less unmeaning than the question as to the
_knowledge_ of it. The raising of the question in fact, as Locke puts
it, implies the impossibility of answering it. It cannot be raised
with any significance, unless existence is external to and other than
an idea. It cannot be answered unless existence is, or is given in,
an object of consciousness, _i.e._ an idea.

Locke’s account of the testimony of sense renders his question as to
its veracity superfluous.

60. As usual, Locke disguises this difficulty from himself, because
in answering the question he alters it. The question, _as he asks
it_, is whether, given the idea, we can have posterior assurance of
something else corresponding to it. The question, _as he answers
it_, is whether the idea includes the consciousness of a real thing
as a constituent; and the answer consists in the simple assertion,
variously repeated, that it does. It is clear, however, that this
answer to the latter question does not answer, but renders unmeaning,
the question as it is originally asked. If, according to Locke’s own
showing, there is nowhere for anything to be found by us but in our
‘ideas’ or our consciousness--if the _thing_ is given in and with the
idea, so that the idea is merely the thing _ex parte nostrâ_--then to
ask if the idea agrees with the thing is as futile as to ask whether
hearing agrees with sound, or the voice with the words it utters.
That the thing is so given is implied throughout Locke’s statement
of the ‘assurance we have of the existence of material beings,’ as
well as of the confirmations of this assurance. If the ‘idea which
I call white’ means the knowledge that ‘the property or accident
(_i.e._ whose appearance before my eyes always causes that idea)
doth really exist and hath a being without me,’ then consciousness
of existence--outward, permanent, substantive, and causative
existence--is involved in the idea, and no ulterior question of
agreement between idea and existence can properly arise. But unless
the simple idea is so interpreted, the senses have no testimony to
give. If it is so interpreted, no extraneous ‘reason to rely upon
the testimony’ can be discovered, for such reason can only be a
repetition of the testimony itself.

Confirmations of the testimony turn upon the distinction between
‘impression’ and ‘idea’.

61. This becomes clearer upon a view of the confirmations of the
testimony, as Locke gives them. They all, we may remark by the way,
presuppose a distinction between the simple idea as originally
represented and the same as recalled or revived. This distinction,
fixed by the verbal one between ‘impression’ and ‘idea,’ we shall
find constantly maintained and all-important in Hume’s system; but in
Locke, though upon it (as we shall see) rests his distinction between
real and nominal essence and his confinement of general knowledge
to the latter, it seems only to turn up as an afterthought. In the
account of the reality and adequacy of ideas it does not appear at
all. There the distinction is merely between the simple idea, as
such, and the complex, as such, without any further discrimination of
the simple idea as originally produced from the same as recalled. So,
too, in the opening account of the reception of simple ideas (Book
II. chap. xii. sec. 1), ‘Perception,’ ‘Retention,’ and ‘Discerning’
are all reckoned together as alike forms of the _passivity_ of the
mind, in contrast with its activity in combination and abstraction,
though retention and discerning have been previously described
in terms which imply activity. In the ‘confirmations’ before us,
however, the distinction between the originally produced and the
revived is essential.

They depend on language which presupposes the ascription of sensation
to an outward cause.

62. The first turns upon the impossibility of producing an idea _de
novo_ without the action of sensitive organs; the two next upon
the difference between the idea as produced through these organs
and the like idea as revived at the will of the individual. It is
hence inferred that the idea as originally produced is the work of
a thing, which must exist _in rerum naturâ_, and by way of a fourth
‘confirmation’ the man who doubts this in the case of one sensation
is invited to try it in another. If, on seeing a fire, he thinks it
‘bare fancy,’ _i.e._ doubts whether his idea is caused by a thing,
let him put his hand into it. This last ‘confirmation’ need not be
further noticed here, since the operation of a producing thing is
as certain or as doubtful for one sensation as for another. [1] Two
certainties are not more sure than one, nor can two doubts make a
certainty. The other ‘confirmations’ alike lie in the words ‘product’
and ‘organ.’ A man has a certain ‘idea:’ afterwards he has another
like it, but differing in liveliness and in the accompanying pleasure
or pain. If he already has, or if the ideas severally bring with
them, the idea of a producing outward thing to which parts of his
body are organs, on the one hand, and of a self ‘having power’ on the
other, then the liveliness, and the accompanying pleasure or pain,
may become indications of the action of the thing, as their absence
may be so of the action of the man’s self; but not otherwise. Locke
throughout, in speaking of the simple ideas as produced or recalled,
implies that they carry with them the consciousness of a cause,
either an outward thing or the self, and only by so doing can he find
in them the needful ‘confirmations’ of the ‘testimony of the senses.’
This testimony is confirmed just because it distinguishes of itself
between the work of ‘nature,’ which is real, and the work of the
man, which is a fiction. In other words, the confirmation is nothing
else than the testimony itself--a testimony which, as we have seen,
since it supposes consciousness, as such, to be consciousness _of a
thing_, eliminates by anticipation the question as to the agreement
of consciousness with things, as with the extraneous.

[1] To feel the object, in the sense of touching it, had a special
significance for Locke, since touch with him was the primary
‘revelation’ of body, as the solid. More will be said of this when we
come to consider his doctrine of ‘real essence,’ as constituted by
primary qualities of body. See below, paragraph 101.

This ascription means the clothing of sensation with invented

63. The distinction between the real and the fantastic, according
to the passages under consideration, thus depends upon that between
the work of nature and the work of man. It is the confusion between
the two works that renders the fantastic possible, while it is the
consciousness of the distinction that sets us upon correcting it.
Where all is the work of man and professes to be no more, as in the
case of ‘mixed modes,’ there is no room for the fantastic (Book II.
chap. xxx. sec. 4, and Book IV. chap. iv. sec. 7); and where there
is ever so much of the fantastic, it would not be so for us, unless
we were conscious of a ‘work of nature,’ to which to oppose it. But
on looking a little closer we find that to be conscious of an idea
as the work of nature, in opposition to the work of man, is to be
conscious of it under relations which, according to Locke, are the
inventions of man. It is nothing else than to be conscious of it as
the result of ‘something having power to produce it’ (Book II. chap.
xxxi. sec. 2), _i.e._ of a substance, to which it is related as a
quality. ‘Nature’ is just the ‘something we know not what,’ which
is substance according to the ‘_abstract_ idea’ thereof. Producing
ideas, it exercises powers, as it essentially belongs to substance
to do, according to our _complex_ idea of it. (Book II. chap, xxiii.
secs. 9, 10.) But substance, according to Locke, whether as abstract
or complex idea, is the ‘workmanship of the mind,’ and power, as a
relation (Book II. chap. xxi. sec. 3, and chap. xxv. sec. 8), ‘is
not contained in the real existence of things.’ Again, the idea of
substance, as a source of power, is the same as the idea of cause.
‘Whatever is considered by us to operate to the producing any
particular simple idea, which did not before exist, hath thereby in
our minds the relation of a cause.’ (Book II. chap. xxvi. sec. 1.)
But the idea of cause is not one ‘that the mind has of things as they
are in themselves,’ but one that it gets by its own act in ‘bringing
things to, and setting them by, one another.’ (Book II. chap. xxv.
sec. 1.) Thus it is with the very ideas, which are the workmanship
of man, that the simple idea has to be clothed upon, in order to
‘testify’ to its being real, _i.e._ (in Locke’s sense) not the work
of man.

What is meant by restricting the testimony of sense to _present_

64. Thus invested, the simple idea has clearly lost its simplicity.
It is not the momentary, isolated consciousness, but the
representation of a thing determined by relations to other things
in an order of nature, and causing an infinite series of resembling
sensations to which a common name is applied. Thus in all the
instances of sensuous testimony mentioned in the chapter before
us, it is not really a simple sensation that is spoken of, but a
sensation referred to a thing--not a mere smell, or taste, or sight,
or feeling, but the smell of a rose, the taste of a pine-apple, the
sight of the sun, the feeling of fire. (Book IV. chap. xi. secs.
4-7.) Immediately afterwards, however, reverting or attempting to
revert to his strict doctrine of the mere individuality of the
simple idea, he says that the testimony of the senses is a ‘present
testimony employed about particular objects, that do then affect
them,’ and that sensitive knowledge extends no farther than such
testimony. This statement, taken by itself, is ambiguous. Does it
mean that sensation testifies to the momentary presence to the
individual of a continuous existence, or is the existence itself as
momentary as its presence to sense? The instance that follows does
not remove the doubt. ‘If I saw such a collection of simple ideas
as is wont to be called _man_, existing together one minute since,
and am now alone; I cannot be certain that the same man exists now,
since there is no necessary connection of his existence a minute
since with his existence now.’ (Book IV. chap. xi. sec. 9.) At first
sight, these words might seem to decide that the existence is merely
coincident with the presence of the sensation--a decision fatal to
the distinction between the real and fantastic, since, if the thing
is only present with the sensation, there can be no combination
of qualities in reality other than the momentary coincidence of
sensations in us. Memory or imagination, indeed, might recall these
in a different order from that in which they originally occurred;
but, if this original order had no being after the occurrence, there
could be no ground for contrasting it with the order of reproduction
as the real with the merely apparent.

Such restriction, if maintained, would render the testimony unmeaning.

65. In the very sentence, however, where Locke restricts the
testimony of sensation to existence present along with it, he uses
language inconsistent with this restriction. The particular existence
which he instances as ‘testified to’ is that of ‘such a collection
of simple ideas as is wont to be called man.’ But these ideas can
only be present in succession. (See Book II. chap. vii. sec. 9, and
chap. xiv. sec. 3.) Even the surface of the man’s body can only be
taken in by successive acts of vision; and, more obviously, the
states of consciousness in which his qualities of motion and action
are presented occupy separate times. If then sensation only testifies
to an existence present along with it, how can it testify to the
co-existence (say) of an erect attitude, of which I have a present
sight, with the risibility which I saw a minute ago? How can the
‘collection of ideas wont to be called man,’ _as co-existing_, be
formed at all? and, if it cannot, how can the present existence of
an object so-called be testified to by sense any more than the past?
The same doctrine, which is fatal to the supposition of ‘a necessary
connexion between the man’s existence a minute since and his
existence now,’ is in fact fatal to the supposition of his existence
as a complex of qualities at all. It does not merely mean that, for
anything we know, the man may have died. Of course he may, and yet
there may be continuity of existence according to natural laws,
though not one for which we have the testimony of present sense,
between the living body and the dead. What Locke had in his mind
was the notion that, as existence is testified to only by present
sensation, and each sensation is merely individual and momentary,
there could be no testimony to the continued existence of anything.
He could not, however, do such violence to the actual fabric of
knowledge as would have been implied in the logical development of
this doctrine, and thus he allowed himself to speak of sense as
testifying to the co-existence of sensible qualities in a thing,
though the individual sensation could only testify to the presence of
one at a time, and could never testify to their _nexus_ in a common
cause at all. This testimony to co-existence in a present thing once
admitted, he naturally allowed himself in the further assumption
that the testimony, on its recurrence, is a testimony to the same
co-existence and the same thing. The existence of the same man (he
evidently supposes), to which sensation testified an hour ago, may be
testified to by a like sensation now. This means that resemblance of
sensation becomes identity of a thing--that like sensations occurring
at different times are interpreted as representing the same thing,
which continuously exists, though not testified to by sense, between
the times.

But it is not maintained: the testimony is to operation of permanent
identical things.

66. In short, as we have seen the simple idea of sensation emerge
from Locke’s inquiry as to the beginning of knowledge transformed
into the judgment, ‘I have an idea different from other ideas
which I did not make for myself,’ so now from the inquiry as to
the correspondence between knowledge and reality it emerges as the
consciousness of a thing now acting upon me, which has continued
to exist since it acted on me before, and in which, as in a common
cause, have existed together powers to affect me which have never
affected me together. If in the one form the operation of thought in
sense, the ‘creation of the understanding’ within the simple idea,
is only latent or potential, in the other it is actual and explicit.
The relations of substance and quality, of cause and effect, and of
identity--all ‘inventions of the mind’--are necessarily involved in
the immediate, spontaneous testimony of passive sense.

Locke’s treatment of relations of cause and identity.

67. It will be noticed that it is upon the first of these, the
relation of substance and quality, that our examination of Locke’s
Essay has so far chiefly gathered. In this it follows the course
taken by Locke himself. Of the idea of substance, _eo nomine_, he
treats at large: of cause and identity (apart from the special
question of personal identity) he says little. So, too, the ‘report
of the senses’ is commonly exhibited as announcing the sensible
qualities of a thing rather than the agency of a cause or continuity
of existence. The difference, of course, is mainly verbal. Sensible
qualities being, as Locke constantly insists, nothing but ‘powers
to operate on our senses’ directly or indirectly, the substance
or thing, as the source of these, takes the character of a cause.
Again, as the sensible quality is supposed to be one and the same in
manifold separate cases of being felt, it has identity in contrast
with the variety of these cases, even as the thing has, on its part,
in contrast with the variety of its qualities. Something, however,
remains to be said of Locke’s treatment of the ideas of cause and
identity in the short passages where he treats of them expressly.
Here, too, we shall find the same contrast between the given and the
invented, tacitly contradicted by an account of the given in terms of
the invented.

That from which he derives idea of cause pre-supposes it.

68. The relation of cause and effect, according to Locke’s general
statement as to relation, must be something ‘not contained in the
real existence of things, but extraneous and superinduced.’ (Book II.
chap. xxv. sec. 8.) It is a ‘complex idea,’ not belonging to things
as they are in themselves, which the mind makes by its own act.
(Book II. chap xii. secs. 1, 7, and chap. xxv. sec. 1.) Its origin,
however, is thus described:--‘In the notice that our senses take
of the constant vicissitude of things, we cannot but observe that
several particular, both qualities and substances, begin to exist;
and that they receive this their existence from the due application
and operation of some other being. From this observation we get
our ideas of cause and effect. That which produces any simple or
complex idea we denote by the general name cause; and that which is
produced, effect. Thus, finding that in that substance which we call
wax, fluidity, which is a simple idea that was not in it before,
is constantly produced by the application of a certain degree of
heat, we call the simple idea of heat, in relation to fluidity in
wax, the cause of it, and fluidity the effect. So, also, finding
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, consisting of a
collection of simple ideas, quite different from that complex idea
which we call wood; we consider fire, in relation to ashes, as cause,
and the ashes as effect.’ Here we find that the ‘given,’ upon which
the relation of cause and effect is ‘superinduced’ or from which the
‘idea of it is got’ (to give Locke the benefit of both expressions),
professedly, according to the first sentence of the passage quoted,
involves the complex or derived idea of substance. The sentence,
indeed, is a remarkable instance of the double refraction which
arises from redundant phraseology. Our senses are supposed to ‘take
notice of a constant vicissitude of things,’ or substances. Thereupon
we observe, what is necessarily implied in this vicissitude, a
beginning of existence in substances or their qualities, ‘received
from the due application or operation of some other being.’ Thereupon
we infer, what is simply another name for existence thus given
and received, a relation of cause and effect. Thus not only does
the _datum_ of the process of ‘invention’ in question, _i.e._ the
observation of change in a thing, involve a _derived_ idea, but a
derived idea which presupposes just this process of invention.

Rationale of this ‘petitio principii’.

69. Here again it is necessary to guard against the notion that
Locke’s obvious _petitio principii_ might be avoided by a better
statement without essential change in his doctrine of ideas. It is
true that ‘a notice of the vicissitude of things’ includes that
‘invention of the understanding’ which it is supposed to suggest,
but state the primary knowledge otherwise--reduce the vicissitude of
things, as it ought to be reduced, in order to make Locke consistent,
to the mere multiplicity of sensations--and the appearance of
suggestion ceases. Change or ‘vicissitude’ is quite other than mere
diversity. It is diversity relative to something which maintains an
identity. This identity, which ulterior analysis may find in a ‘law
of nature,’ Locke found in ‘things’ or ‘substances.’ By the same
unconscious subreption, by which with him a sensible thing takes
the place of sensation, ‘vicissitude of things’ takes the place of
multiplicity of sensations, carrying with it the observation that
the changed state of the thing is due to something else. The mere
multiplicity of sensations could convey no such ‘observation,’ any
more than the sight of counters in a row would convey the notion
that one ‘received its existence’ from the other. Only so far as the
manifold appearances are referred, as its vicissitudes, to something
which remains one, does any need of accounting for their diverse
existence, or in consequence any observation of its derivation ‘from
some other being,’ arise. Locke, it is true, after stating that it
is upon a notice of the vicissitude of things that the observation
in question rests, goes on to speak as if an _origination_ of
substances, which is just the opposite of their vicissitude, might be
observed; and the second instance of production which he gives--that
of ashes upon the burning of wood--seems intended for an instance
of the production of a substance, as distinct from the production
of a quality. He is here, however, as he often does, using the term
‘substance’ loosely, for ‘a certain collection of simple ideas,’
without reference to the ‘substratum wherein they do subsist,’ which
he would have admitted to be ultimately the same for the wood and
for the ashes. The conception, indeed, of such a substratum, whether
vaguely as ‘nature,’ or more precisely as a ‘real constitution of
insensible parts’ (Book III. chap. iii. secs. 18, &c.), governed all
his speculation, and rendered to him what he here calls _substance_
virtually a _mode_, and its production properly a ‘vicissitude.’

Relation of cause has to be put into sensitive experience in order to
be got from it.

70. We thus find that it is only so far as simple ideas are referred
to things--only so far as each in turn, to use Locke’s instance,
is regarded as an appearance ‘in a substance which was not in it
before’--that our sensitive experience, the supposed _datum_ of
knowledge, is an experience of the vicissitudes of things; and again,
that only as an experience of such vicissitude does it furnish the
‘observation from which we get our ideas of cause and effect.’ But
the reference of a sensation to a sensible thing means its reference
to a cause. In other words, the invented relation of cause and effect
must be found in the primary experience in order that it may be got
from it. [1]

[1] Locke’s contradiction of himself in regard to this relation might
be exhibited in a still more striking light by putting side by side
with his account of it his account of the idea of power. The two are
precisely similar, the idea of power being represented as got by a
notice of the alteration of simple ideas in things without (Book II.
chap. xxi. sec. 1), just as the idea of cause and effect is. Power,
too, he expressly says, is a relation. Yet, although the idea of it,
both as derived and as of a relation, ought to be complex, he reckons
it a simple and original one, and by using it interchangeably with
‘sensible quality’ makes it a primary _datum_ of sense.

Origin of the idea of identity according to Locke.

71. The same holds of that other ‘product of the mind,’ the
relation of identity. This ‘idea’ according to Locke, is formed
when, ‘considering anything as existing at any determined time and
place, we compare it with itself existing at another time.’ ‘In this
consists identity,’ he adds, ‘when the ideas it is attributed to,
vary not at all from what they were that moment wherein we consider
their former existence, and to which we compare the present; for we
never finding nor conceiving it possible that two things of the same
kind should exist in the same place at the same time, we rightly
conclude that whatever exists anywhere, at any time, excludes all of
the same kind, and is there itself alone. When, therefore, we demand
whether anything be the same or no? it refers always to something
that existed such a time in such a place, which it was certain at
that instant was the same with itself, and no other; from whence it
follows that one thing cannot have two beginnings of existence, nor
two things one beginning; it being impossible for two things of the
same kind to be or exist in the same instant in the very same place,
or one and the same thing in different places. That, therefore, that
had one beginning, is the same thing; and that which had a different
beginning in time and place from that is not the same, but diverse.’
He goes on to inquire about the _principium individuationis_, which
he decides is ‘existence itself, which determines a being of any sort
to a particular time and place, incommunicable to two beings of the
same kind ... for being at that instant what it is and nothing else,
it is the same, and so must continue as long as its existence is
continued; for so long it will be the same, and no other.’ (Book II.
chap, xxvii. secs. 1-3).

Relation of identity not to be distinguished from idea of it.

72. It is essential to bear in mind with regard to identity, as
with regard to cause and effect, that no distinction according to
Locke can legitimately be made between the relation and the idea
of the relation. As to substance, it is true, he was driven in his
controversy with Stillingfleet to distinguish between ‘the being
and the idea thereof,’ but in dealing with relation he does not
attempt any such violence to his proper system. Between the ‘idea’ as
such and ‘being’ as such, his ‘new way of ideas,’ as Stillingfleet
plaintively called it, left no fair room for distinction. In
this indeed lay its permanent value for speculative thought. The
distinction by which alone it could consistently seek to replace the
old one, so as to meet the exigencies of language and knowledge,
was that between simple ideas, as given and necessarily real, and
the reproductions or combinations in which the mind may alter them.
But since every relation implies a putting together of ideas, and
is thus always, as Locke avows, a complex idea or the work of the
mind, a distinction between its being and the idea thereof, in that
sense of the distinction in which alone it can ever be consistently
admitted by Locke, was clearly inadmissible. Thus in the passages
before us the relation of identity is not explicitly treated as an
original ‘being’ or ‘existence,’ It is an idea formed by the mind
upon a certain ‘consideration of things’ being or existent. But on
looking closely at Locke’s account, we find that it is only so far as
it already belongs to, nay constitutes, the things, that it is formed
upon consideration of them.

This ‘invented’ relation forms the ‘very being of things’.

73. When it is said that the idea of identity, or of any other
relation, is formed upon consideration of things as existing in a
certain way, this is naturally understood to mean--indeed, otherwise
it is unmeaning--that the things are first _known_ as existing, and
that afterwards the idea of the relation in question is formed. But
according to Locke, as we have seen, [1] the first and simplest act
of knowledge possible is the perception of identity between ideas.
Either then the ‘things,’ upon consideration of which the idea of
identity is formed, are not known at all, or the knowledge of them
involves the very idea afterwards formed on consideration of them.
Locke, having at whatever cost of self-contradiction to make his
theory fit the exigencies of language, virtually adopts the latter
alternative, though with an ambiguity of expression which makes a
definite meaning difficult to elicit. We have, however, the positive
statement to begin with, that the comparison in which the relation
originates, is of a thing with itself as existing at another time.
Again, the ‘ideas’ (used interchangeably with ‘things’), to which
identity is attributed, ‘vary not at all from what they were at
that moment wherein we consider their former existence.’ It is here
clearly implied that ‘things’ or ‘ideas’ _exist_, _i.e._ are given
to us in the spontaneous consciousness which we do not make, as each
one and the same throughout a multiplicity of times. This, again,
means that the relation of identity or sameness, _i.e._ unity of
thing under multiplicity of appearance, belongs to or consists in
the ‘very being’ of those given objects of consciousness, which
are in Locke’s sense the real, and upon which according to him all
relation is superinduced by an after-act of thought. So long as each
such object ‘continues to exist,’ so long its ‘sameness with itself
must continue,’ and this sameness is the complex idea, the relation,
of identity. Just as before, following Locke’s lead, we found the
simple idea, as the element of knowledge, become complex--a perceived
identity of ideas; so now mere existence, the ‘very being of things’
(which with Locke is only another name for the simple idea), resolves
itself into a relation, which it requires ‘consideration by the mind’
to constitute.

[1] See above, paragraph 25.

Locke fails to distinguish between identity and mere unity.

74. The process of self-contradiction, by which a ‘creation of the
mind’ finds its way into the real or given, must also appear in a
contradictory conception of the real itself. Kept pure of all that
Locke reckons intellectual fiction, it can be nothing but a simple
chaos of individual units: only by the superinduction of relation
can there be sameness, or continuity of existence, in the minutest
of these for successive moments. Locke presents it arbitrarily under
the conception of mere individuality or of continuity, according
as its distinction from the work of the mind, or its intelligible
content, happens to be before him. A like see-saw in his account of
the individuality and generality of ideas has already been noticed.
[1] In his discussion of identity the contradiction is partly
disguised by a confusion between mere unity on the one hand, and
sameness or unity in difference, on the other. Thus, after starting
with an account of identity as belonging to ideas which are the same
_at different times_, he goes on to speak of a thing as the same
with itself, _at a single instant_. So, too, by the _principium
individuationis_, he understands ‘existence itself, which determines
a being of any sort to a particular time and place.’ As it is clear
from the context that by the _principium individuationis_ he meant
the source of identity or sameness, it will follow that by ‘sameness’
he understood singleness of a thing in a single time and place.
Whence then the plurality, without which ‘sameness’ is unmeaning? In
fact, Locke, having excluded it in his definition, covertly brings
it back again in his instance, which is that of ‘an atom, _i.e._
a continued body under one immutable superficies, existing in a
determined time and place.’ This, ‘considered in any instant of its
existence, is in that instant the same with itself.’ But it is so
because--and, if we suppose the consideration of plurality of _times_
excluded, only because--it is a ‘_continued_’ body, which implies,
though its place be determined, that it exists _in a plurality of
parts of space_. Either this plurality, or that of instants of its
existence, must be recognised in contrast with the unity of body,
if this unity is to become ‘sameness with itself.’ In adding that
not only at the supposed instant is the atom the same, but ‘so must
continue as long as its existence continues,’ Locke shows that he
really thought of the identical body under a plurality of times _ex
parte post_, if not _ex parte ante_.

[1] See above, paragraphs 43, and the following.

Feelings are the real, and do not admit of identity. How then can
identity be real?

75. But how is this continuity, or sameness of existence in plurality
of times or spaces, compatible with the constitution of ‘real
existence’ by mere _individua_? The difficulty is the same, according
to Locke’s premisses, whether the simple ideas by themselves are
taken for the real _individua_, or whether each is taken to represent
a single separate thing. In his chapter on identity he expressly
says that ‘things whose existence is in succession’ do not admit
of identity. Such, he adds, are motion and thought; ‘because, each
perishing the moment it begins, they cannot exist in different times
or in different places as permanent beings can at different times
exist in distant places.’ (Book I. chap, xxvii. sec. 2.) What he
here calls ‘thought’ clearly includes the passive consciousness in
which alone, according to his strict doctrine, reality is given. So
elsewhere (Book II. chap. vii. sec. 9), in accounting for the ‘simple
idea of succession,’ he says generally that ‘if we look immediately
into ourselves we shall find our ideas always, whilst we have any
thought, passing in train, one going and another coming, without
intermission.’ [1] No statement of the ‘perpetual flux’ of ideas,
as each having a separate beginning and end, and ending in the very
moment when it begins, can be stronger than the above. If ‘ideas’ of
any sort, according to this account of them, are to constitute real
existence, no sameness can be found in reality. It must indeed be a
relation ‘invented by the mind.’

[1] It is true that in this place Locke distinguishes between the
‘suggestion by our senses’ of the idea of succession, and that which
passes in our ‘minds,’ by which it is ‘more constantly offered us.’
But since, according to him, the idea of sensation must be ‘produced
in the mind’ if there is to be any either sensation or idea at all
(Book II. chap, ix. secs. 3 and 4), the distinction between the
‘suggestion by our senses’ and what passes in our minds’ cannot be

Yet it is from reality that the idea of it is derived.

76. This, it may be said, is just the conclusion that was wanted in
order to make Locke’s doctrine of the particular relation of identity
correspond with his general doctrine of the fictitiousness of
relations. To complete the consistency, however, his whole account of
the origin of the relation (or of the idea in which it consists) must
be changed, since it supposes it to be derived from an observation
of things or existence, which again is to suppose sameness to be
in the things or to be real. This change made, philosophy would
have to start anew with the problem of accounting for the origin of
the fictitious idea. It would have to explain how it comes to pass
that the mind, if its function consists solely in reproducing and
combining given ideas, or again in ‘abstracting’ combined ideas from
each other, should be able to invent a relation which is neither a
given idea, nor a reproduction, combination, or abstract residuum
of given ideas. This is the great problem which we shall find Hume
attempting. Locke really never saw its necessity, because the
dominion of language--a dominion which, as he did not recognise it,
he had no need to account for--always, in spite of his assertion that
simple ideas are the sole _data_ of consciousness, held him to the
belief in another _datum_ of which ideas are the appearances, viz., a
thing having identity, because the same with itself in the manifold
times of its appearance. This _datum_, under various guises, but
in each demonstrably, according to Locke’s showing, a ‘creation of
thought,’ has met us in all the modes of his theory, as the condition
of knowledge. As the ‘abstract idea’ of substance it renders
‘perishing’ ideas into qualities by which objects may be discerned.
(Book II. chap. xi. sec. 1.) As the relative idea of cause, it makes
them ‘affections’ to be accounted for. As the fiction of a universal,
it is the condition of their mutual qualification as constituents of
a whole. Finally, as the ‘superinduced’ relation of sameness, the
direct negative of the perpetual beginning and ending of ‘ideas,’ it
constitutes the ‘very being of things.’

Transition to Locke’s doctrine of essence.

77. ‘The very being of things,’ let it be noticed, according to
what Locke reckoned their ‘real,’ as distinct from their ‘nominal,’
essence. The consideration of this distinction has been hitherto
postponed; but the discussion of the relation of identity, as
subsisting between the parts of a ‘continued body,’ brings us upon
the doctrine of matter and its ‘primary qualities,’ which cannot be
properly treated except in connection with the other doctrine (which
Locke unhappily kept apart) of the two sorts of ‘essence.’ So far,
it will be remembered, the ‘facts’ or _given_ ideas, which we have
found him unawares converting into theories or ‘invented’ ideas, have
been those of the ‘secondary qualities of body.’ [1] It is these
which are united into things or substances, having been already
‘found in them:’ it is from these that we ‘infer’ the relation of
cause and effect, because as ‘vicissitudes of things’ or ‘affections
of sense’ they presuppose it: it is these again which, as ‘received
from without,’ testify the present existence of something, because
in being so received they are already interpreted as ‘appearances
of something.’ That the ‘thing,’ by reference to which these ideas
are judged to be ‘real,’ ‘adequate,’ and ‘true’--or, in other words,
become elements of a knowledge--is yet itself according to Locke’s
doctrine of substance and relation a ‘fiction of thought,’ has been
sufficiently shown. That it is so no less according to his doctrine
of essence will also appear. The question will then be, whether
by the same showing the ideas of body, of the self, and of God,
can be other than fictions, and the way will be cleared for Hume’s
philosophic adventure of accounting for them as such.

[1] See above, paragraph 20.

This repeats the inconsistency found in his doctrine of substance.

78. In Locke’s doctrine of ‘ideas of substances,’ the ‘thing’
appeared in two inconsistent positions: on the one hand, as that in
which they ‘are found;’ on the other, as that which results from
their concretion, or which, such concretion having been made, we
accustom ourselves to suppose as its basis. This inconsistency,
latent to Locke himself in the theory of substance, comes to the
surface in the theory of essence, where it is (as he thought)
overcome, but in truth only made more definite, by a distinction of

Plan to be followed.

79. This latter theory has so far become part and parcel of the
‘common sense’ of educated men, that it might seem scarcely to need
restatement. It is generally regarded as completing the work, which
Bacon had begun, of transferring philosophy from the scholastic
bondage of words to the fruitful discipline of facts. In the
process of transmission and popular adaptation, however, its true
significance has been lost sight of, and it has been forgotten that
to its original exponent implicitly--explicitly to his more logical
disciple--though it did indeed distinguish effectively between things
and the meaning of words, it was the analysis of the latter only,
and not the understanding of things, that it left as the possible
function of knowledge. It will be well, then, in what follows, first
briefly to restate the theory in its general form; then to show
how it conflicts with the actual knowledge which mankind supposes
itself to have attained; and finally to exhibit at once the necessity
of this conflict as a result of Locke’s governing ideas, and the
ambiguities by which he disguised it from himself.

What Locke understood by essence.

80. The essence of a thing with Locke, in the only sense in which
we can know or intelligibly speak of it, is the meaning of its
name. This, again, is an ‘abstract or general idea,’ which means
that it is an idea ‘separated from the circumstances of time and
place, and any other ideas that may determine it to this or that
particular existence. By this way of abstraction it is made capable
of representing more individuals than one; each of which, having
in it a conformity to that abstract idea, is (as we call it) of
that sort.’ (Book III. chap. iii. sec. 6.) That which is given in
immediate experience, as he proceeds to explain, is this or that
‘particular existence,’ Peter or James, Mary or Jane, such particular
existence being already a complex idea. [1] That it should be so is
indeed in direct contradiction to his doctrine of the primariness of
the simple idea, but is necessary to his doctrine of abstraction.
Some part of the complex idea (it is supposed)--less or more--we
proceed to leave out. The minimum of subtraction would seem to
be that of the ‘circumstances of time and place,’ in which the
particular existence is given. This is the ‘separation of ideas,’
first made, and alone suffices to constitute an ‘abstract idea,’ even
though, as is the case with the idea of the sun, there is only one
‘particular substance’ to agree with it. (Book III. chap. vi. sec.
1.) In proportion as the particular substances compared are more
various, the subtraction of ideas is larger, but, be it less or more,
the remainder is the abstract idea, to which a name--_e.g._ man--is
annexed, and to which as a ‘species’ or ‘standard’ other particular
existences, on being ‘found to agree with it,’ may be referred, so
as to be called by the same name. These ideas then, ‘tied together
by a name,’ form the essence of each particular existence, to which
the same name is applied (Book III. chap. iii. secs. 12 and the
following.) Such essence, however, according to Locke, is ‘nominal,’
not ‘real.’ It is a complex--fuller or emptier--of ideas in us,
which, though it is a ‘uniting medium between a general name and
particular beings,’ [2] in no way represents the qualities of the
latter. These, consisting in an ‘internal constitution of insensible
parts,’ form the ‘real essence’ of the particular beings; an essence,
however, of which we can know nothing. (Book III. chap. vi. sec. 21,
and ix. sec. 12.)

[1] Book III. chap, iii, sec. 7, at the end.

[2] Book III chap. iii. sec. 13.

Only to nominal essences that general propositions relate, _i.e._
only to abstract ideas having no real existence.

81. It is the formation of ‘nominal essences’ that renders general
propositions possible. ‘General certainty,’ says Locke, ‘is never to
be found but in our ideas. Whenever we go to seek it elsewhere in
experiment or observation without us, our knowledge goes not beyond
particulars. It is the contemplation of our own abstract ideas, that
alone is able to afford us general knowledge.’ (Book IV. chap. vi.
sec. 16.) ‘General knowledge,’ he says again, ‘lies only in our own
thoughts.’ [1] This use of ‘our ideas’ and ‘our own thoughts’ as
equivalent phrases, each antithetical to ‘real existence,’ tells
the old tale of a deviation from ‘the new way of ideas’ into easier
paths. According to this new way in its strictness, as we have
sufficiently seen, there is nowhere for anything to be found but ‘in
our ideas.’ It therefore in no way distinguishes general knowledge
or certainty that it cannot be found elsewhere. Locke, however,
having allowed himself in the supposition that simple ideas report a
real existence, other than themselves, but to which they are related
as ectype to archetype, tacitly proceeds to convert them into real
existences, to which ideas in general, as mere thoughts of our own,
may be opposed. Along with this conversion, there supervenes upon
the original distinction between simple and complex ideas, which
alone does duty in the Second Book of the Essay, another distinction,
essential to Locke’s doctrine of the ‘reality’ of knowledge--that
between the idea, whether simple or complex, as originally given in
sensation, and the same as retained or reproduced in the mind. It is
only in the former form that the idea, however simple, reports, and
thus (with Locke) itself is, a real existence. Such real existence
is a ‘particular’ existence, and our knowledge of it a ‘particular’
knowledge. In other words, according to the only consistent doctrine
that we have been able to elicit from Locke, [2] ‘it is a knowledge
which consists in a consciousness, upon occasion of a present
sensation--say, a sensation of redness--that some object is present
here and now causing the sensation; an object which, accordingly,
must be ‘particular’ or transitory as the sensation. The ‘here and
now,’ as in such a case they constitute the particularity of the
object of consciousness, so also render it a real existence. Separate
these (‘the circumstances of time and place’ [3]) from it, and it
at once loses its real existence and becomes an ‘abstract idea,’
one of ‘our own thoughts,’ of which as ‘in the mind’ agreement or
disagreement with some other abstract idea can be asserted in a
general proposition; _e.g._ ‘red is not blue.’ (Book IV. chap. vii.
sec. 4.) [4]

[1] Book IV. chap. vi. sec. 13, cf. Book IV. chap. iii. sec. 31.

[2] See above, paragraph 56.

[3] Book III. chap. iii. sec. 6.

[4] In case there should be any doubt as to Locke’s meaning in this
passage, it may be well to compare Book IV. chap. ix. sec. 1. There
he distinctly opposes the consideration of ideas in the understanding
to the knowledge of real existence. Here (Book IV. chap. vii. sec.
4) he distinctly speaks of the proposition ‘red is not blue’ as
expressing a consideration of ideas in the understanding. It follows
that it is not a proposition as to real existence.

An abstract idea may be a simple one.

82. It is between simple ideas, it will be noticed, that a relation
is here asserted, and in this respect the proposition differs from
such an one as may be formed when simple ideas have been compounded
into the nominal essence of a thing, and in which some one of these
may be asserted of the thing, being already included within the
meaning of its name; _e.g._ ‘a rose has leaves.’ But as expressing a
relation between ideas ‘abstract’ or ‘in the mind,’ in distinction
from present sensations received from without, the two sorts of
proposition, according to the doctrine of Locke’s Fourth Book, stand
on the same footing.’ [1] It is a nominal essence with which both
alike are concerned, and on this depends the general certainty or
self-evidence, by which they are distinguished from ‘experiment
or observation without us.’ These can never ‘reach with certainty
farther than the bare instance’ (Book IV. chap. vi. sec. 7): _i.e._,
though the only channels by which we can reach real existence, they
can never tell more than the presence of this or that sensation as
caused by an unknown thing without, or the present disagreement of
such present sensations with each other. As to the recurrence of such
sensations, or any permanently real relation between them, they can
tell us nothing. Nothing as to their recurrence, because, though in
each case they show the presence of something causing the sensations,
they show nothing of the real essence upon which their recurrence
depends. [2] Nothing as to any permanently real relation between
them, because, although the disagreement between ideas of blue and
red, and the agreement between one idea of red and another, _as in
the mind_, is self-evident, yet as thus in the mind they are not
‘actual sensations’ at all (Book IV. chap. xi. sec. 6), nor do they
convey that ‘sensitive knowledge of particular existence,’ which is
the only possible knowledge of it. (Book IV. chap. iii. sec. 21.)
As actual sensations and indices of reality, they do indeed differ
in this or that ‘bare instance,’ but can convey no certainty that
the real thing or ‘parcel of matter’ (Book III. chap. iii. sec. 18),
which now causes the sensation of (and thus _is_) red, may not at
another time cause the sensation of (and thus _be_) blue.’ [3]

[1] Already in Book II. (chap. xxxi. sec. 12), the simple idea, as
abstract, is spoken of as a nominal essence.

[2] Cf. Book IV. chap. vi. sec. 5. ‘If we could certainly know (which
is impossible) where a real essence, which we know not, is--_e.g._ in
what parcels of matter the real essence of gold is; yet could we not
be sure, that this or that quality could with truth be affirmed of
gold; since it is impossible for us to know that this or that quality
or idea has a necessary connexion with a real essence, of which we
have no idea at all.’

Several passages, of course, can be adduced from Locke which are
inconsistent with the statement in the text: _e.g._ Book IV. chap.
iv. sec. 12. ‘To make knowledge real concerning substances, the ideas
must be taken from the real existence of things. Whatever simple
ideas have been found to coexist in any substance, these we may
with confidence join together again, and so make abstract ideas of
substances. For whatever have once had an union in nature, may be
united again.’ In all such passages, however, as will appear below,
the strict opposition between the real and the mental is lost sight
of, the ‘nature’ or ‘substance,’ in which ideas ‘have a union,’ or
are ‘found to coexist,’ being a system of relations which, according
to Locke, it requires a mind to constitute, and thus itself a
‘nominal essence.’

[3] Cf. Book IV. chap. iii. sec. 29; Book IV. chap. vi. sec. 14; Book
IV. chap. xi. sec. 11.

How then is science of nature possible?

83. We thus come upon the crucial antithesis between relations of
ideas and matters of fact, with the exclusion of general certainty as
to the latter, which was to prove such a potent weapon of scepticism
in the hands of Hume. Of its incompatibility with recognized science
we can have no stronger sign than the fact that, after more than a
century has elapsed since Locke’s premisses were pushed to their
legitimate conclusion, the received system of logic among us is
one which, while professing to accept Locke’s doctrine of essence,
and with it the antithesis in question, throughout assumes the
possibility of general propositions as to matters of fact, and seeks
in their methodical discovery and proof that science of nature which
Locke already ‘suspected’ to be impossible. (Book IV. chap. xii. sec.

No ‘uniformities of phenomena’ can be known.

84. That, so far as any inference from past to future uniformities
is necessary to the science of nature, his doctrine does more than
justify such ‘suspicion,’ is plain enough. Does it, however, leave
room for so much as a knowledge of past uniformities of fact, in
which the natural philosopher, accepting the doctrine, might probably
seek refuge? At first sight, it might seem to do so. ‘As, when our
senses are actually employed about any object, we do know that it
does exist; so by our memory we may be assured that heretofore things
that affected our senses have existed--and thus we have knowledge
of the past existence of several things, whereof our senses having
informed us, our memories still retain the ideas.’ (Book IV. chap.
xi. sec. 11.) Let us see, however, how this knowledge is restricted.
‘Seeing water at this instant, it is an unquestionable truth to me
that water doth exist; and remembering that I saw it yesterday, it
will also be always true, and as long as my memory retains it, always
an undoubted proposition to me, that water did exist the 18th of
July, 1688; as it will also be equally true that a certain number of
very fine colours did exist, which at the same time I saw on a bubble
of that water; but being now quite out of sight both of the water and
bubbles too, it is no more certainly known to me that the water doth
now exist, than that the bubbles and colours therein do so; it being
no more necessary that water should exist to-day because it existed
yesterday, than that the colours or bubbles exist to-day because they
existed yesterday.’ (_Ibid_.)

Locke not aware of the full effect of his own doctrine ...

85. The result is that though I may enumerate a multitude of past
matters-of-fact about water, I cannot gather them up in any general
statement about it as a real existence. So soon as I do so, I pass
from water as a real existence to its ‘nominal essence,’ _i.e._,
to the ideas retained in my mind and put together in a fictitious
substance, to which I have annexed the name ‘water.’ If we proceed to
apply this doctrine to the supposed past matters-of-fact themselves,
we shall find these too attenuating themselves to nonentity.
Subtract in every case from the ‘particular existence’ of which we
have ‘sensitive knowledge’ the qualification by ideas which, as
retained in the mind, do not testify to a present real existence,
and what remains? There is a certainty, according to Locke (Book IV.
chap. xi. sec. 11), not, indeed, that water exists to-day because
it existed yesterday--this is only ‘probable’--but that it has,
as a past matter-of-fact, at this time and that ‘continued long
in existence,’ because this has been ‘observed;’ which must mean
(Book IV. chap. ii. secs. 1, 5, and 9), because there has been a
continued ‘actual sensation’ of it. ‘Water,’ however, is a complex
idea of a substance, and of the elements of this complex idea
those only which at any moment are given in ‘actual sensation’ may
be accounted to ‘really exist.’ First, then, must disappear from
reality the ‘something,’ that unknown substratum of ideas, of which
the idea is emphatically ‘abstract.’ This gone, we naturally fall
back upon a fact of co-existence between ideas, as being a reality,
though the ‘thing’ be a fiction. But if this co-existence is to be
real or to represent a reality, the ideas between which it obtains
must be ‘actual sensations.’ These, whatever they may be, are at
least opposed by Locke to ideas retained in the mind, which only
form a nominal essence. But it is the association of such nominal
essence, in the supposed observation of water, with the actual
sensation that alone gives the latter a meaning. Set this aside as
unreal, and the reality, which the sensation reveals, is at any
rate one of which nothing can be said. It cannot be a relation
between sensations, for such relation implies a consideration of
them by the mind, whereby, according to Locke, they must cease to
be ‘real existences.’ (Book II. chap. xxv. sec. 1.) It cannot even
be a single sensation _as continuously observed_, for every present
moment of such observation has at the next become a past, and thus
the sensation observed in it has lost its ‘actuality,’ and cannot,
_as a ‘real existence_,’ qualify the sensation observed in the next.
Restrict the ‘real existence,’ in short, as Locke does, to an ‘actual
present sensation,’ which can only be defined by opposition to an
idea retained in the mind, and at every instant of its existence it
has passed into the mind and thus ceased really to exist. Reality is
in perpetual process of disappearing into the unreality of thought.
No point can be fixed either in the flux of time or in the imaginary
process from ‘without’ to ‘within’ the mind, on the one side of which
can be placed ‘real existence,’ on the other the ‘mere idea.’ It is
only because Locke unawares defines to himself the ‘actual sensation’
as representative of a real essence, of which, however, according
to him, as itself unknown, the presence is merely inferred from the
sensation, that the ‘actual sensation’ itself is saved from the limbo
of nominal essence, to which ideas, as abstract or in the mind, are
consigned. Only, again, so far as it is thus illogically saved, are
we entitled to that distinction between ‘facts’ and ‘things of the
mind,’ which Locke once for all fixed for English philosophy.

... which is to make the real an abstract residuum of consciousness.

86. By this time we are familiar with the difficulties which this
antithesis has in store for a philosophy which yet admits that it
is only in the mind or in relation to consciousness--in one word,
as ‘ideas’--that facts are to be found at all, while by the ‘mind’
it understands an abstract generalization from the many minds which
severally are born and grow, sleep and wake, with each of us. The
antithesis itself, like every other form in which the impulse after
true knowledge finds expression, implies a distinction between
the seeming and the real; or between that which exists for the
consciousness of the individual and that which really exists. But
outside itself consciousness cannot get. It is there that the real
must, at any rate, manifest itself, if it is to be found at all. Yet
the original antithesis between the mind and its unknown opposite
still prevails, and in consequence that alone which, though indeed
in the mind, is yet given to it by no act of its own, is held to
represent the real. This is the notion which dominates Locke. He
strips from the formed content of consciousness all that the mind
seems to have done for itself, and the abstract residuum, that of
which the individual cannot help being conscious at each moment of
his existence, is or ‘reports’ the real, in opposition to the mind’s
creation. This is Feeling; or more strictly--since it exists, and
whatever does so must exist as one in a number (Book II. chap. vii.
sec. 7)--it is the multitude of single feelings, ‘each perishing the
moment it begins’ (Book II. chap, xxvii. sec. 2), from which all the
definiteness that comes of composition and relation must be supposed
absent. Thus, in trying to get at what shall be the mere fact in
detachment from mental accretions, Locke comes to what is still
consciousness, but the merely indefinite in consciousness. He seeks
the real and finds the void. Of the real as outside consciousness
nothing can be said; and of that again within consciousness, which is
supposed to represent it, nothing can be said.

Ground of distinction between actual sensation and ideas in the mind
is itself a thing of the mind.

87. We have already seen how Locke, in his doctrine of secondary
qualities of substances, practically gets over this difficulty; how
he first projects out of the simple ideas, under relations which it
requires a mind to constitute, a cognisable system of things, and
then gives content and definiteness to the simple ideas in us by
treating them as manifestations of this system of things. In the
doctrine of propositions, the proper correlative to the reduction
of the real to the present simple idea, as that of which we cannot
get rid, would be the reduction of the ‘real proposition’ to the
mere ‘it is now felt.’ If the matter-of-fact is to be that in
consciousness which is independent of the ‘work of the mind’ in
comparing and compounding, this is the only possible expression
for it. It states the only possible ‘real essence,’ which yet is
an essence of nothing, for any reference of it to a thing, if the
thing is outside consciousness, is an impossibility; and if it is
within consciousness, implies an ‘invention of the mind’ both in
the creation of a thing, ‘always the same with itself,’ out of
perishing feelings, and in the reference of the feelings to such a
thing. Thus carried out, the antithesis between ‘fact’ and ‘creation
of the mind’ becomes self-destructive, for, one feeling being as
real as another, it leaves no room for that distinction between the
real and fantastic, to the uncritical sense of which it owes its
birth. To avoid this fusion of dream-land and the waking world,
Locke avails himself of the distinction between the idea (_i.e._
feeling) as in the mind, which is not convertible with reality,
and the idea as somewhere else, no one can say where--‘the actual
sensation’--which is so convertible. The distinction, however, must
either consist in degrees of liveliness, in which case there must be
a corresponding infinity of degrees of reality or unreality, or else
must presuppose a real existence from which the feeling, if ‘actual
sensation,’ _is_--if merely ‘in the mind’ _is not_--derived. Such a
real existence either is an object of consciousness, or is not. If it
is not, no distinction between one kind of feeling and another can
for consciousness be derived from it. If it is, then, granted the
distinction between given feelings and creations of the mind, it must
fall to the latter, and a ‘thing of the mind’ turns out to be the
ground upon which ‘fact’ is opposed to ‘things of the mind.’

Two meanings of real essence.

88. It remains to exhibit briefly the disguises under which these
inherent difficulties of his theory of essence appear in Locke.
Throughout, instead of treating ‘essence’ altogether as a fiction
of the mind--as it must be if feelings in simplicity and singleness
are alone the real--he treats indeed as a merely ‘nominal essence’
every possible combination of ideas of which we can speak, but still
supposes another essence which is ‘real.’ But a real essence of
what? Clearly, according to his statements, of the same ‘thing’ of
which the combination of ideas in the mind is the nominal essence.
Indeed, there is no meaning in the antithesis unless the ‘something,’
of which the latter essence is so nominally, is that of which it is
not so really. So says Locke, ‘the nominal essence of gold is that
complex idea the word gold stands for; let it be, for instance, a
body yellow, of a certain weight, malleable, fusible, and fixed. But
the real essence is the constitution of the insensible parts _of
that body_, on which those qualities and all the other properties of
gold depend.’ (Book III. chap. vi. sec. 2.) Here the notion clearly
is that of one and the same thing, of which we can only say that it
is a ‘body,’ a certain complex of ideas--yellowness, fusibility,
&c.--is the nominal, a certain constitution of insensible parts the
real, essence. It is on the real essence, moreover, that the ideas
which constitute the nominal depend. Yet while they are known, the
real essence (as appears from the context) is wholly unknown. In this
case, it would seem, the cause is not known from its effects.

According to one, it is a collection of ideas as qualities of a thing:

89. There are lurking here two opposite views of the relation between
the nominal essence and the real thing. According to one view, which
prevails in the later chapters of the Second Book and in certain
passages of the third, the relation between them is that with which
we have already become familiar in the doctrine of substance--that,
namely, between ideas as in us and the same as in the thing. (Book
II, chap. xxiii. secs. 9 and 10.) No distinction is made between the
‘idea in the mind’ and the ‘actual sensation.’ The ideas in the mind
are also in the thing, and thus are called its qualities, though for
the most part they are so only secondarily, _i.e._ as effects of
other qualities, which, as copied directly in our ideas, are called
primary, and relatively to these effects are called powers. These
powers have yet innumerable effects to produce in us which they have
not yet produced. (Book II. chap. xxxi. sec. 10.) Those which have
been so far produced, being gathered up in a complex idea to which
a name is annexed, form the ‘nominal essence’ of the thing. Some of
them are of primary qualities, more are of secondary. The originals
of the former, the powers to produce the latter, together with powers
to produce an indefinite multitude more, will constitute the ‘real
essence,’ which is thus ‘a standard made by nature,’ to which the
nominal essence is opposed merely as the inadequate to the adequate.
The ideas, that is to say, which are indicated by the name of a
thing, have been really ‘found in it’ or ‘produced by it,’ but are
only a part of those that remain to be found in it or produced by it.
It is in this sense that Locke opposes the adequacy between nominal
and real essence in the case of mixed modes to their perpetual
inadequacy in the case of ideas of substances. The combination in
the one case is artificially made, in the other is found and being
perpetually enlarged. This he illustrates by imagining the processes
which led Adam severally to the idea of the mixed mode ‘jealousy’ and
that of the substance ‘gold.’ In the former process Adam ‘put ideas
together only by his own imagination, not taken from the existence
of anything ... the standard there was of his own making.’ In the
latter, ‘he has a standard made by nature; and therefore being to
represent that to himself by the idea he has of it, even when it is
absent, he puts no simple idea into his complex one, but what he has
the perception of from the thing itself. He takes care that his idea
be conformable to this archetype.’ (Book III. chap. vi. secs. 46,
47.) ‘It is plain,’ however, ‘that the idea made after this fashion
by this archetype will be always inadequate.’

... about real essence in this sense there may be general knowledge.

90. The nominal essence of a thing, then, according to this view,
being no other than the ‘complex idea of a substance,’ is a
copy of reality, just as the simple idea is. It is a picture or
representation in the mind of a thing that does exist by ideas of
those qualities that are discoverable in it.’ (Book II. chap. xxxi.
secs. 6, 8.) It only differs from the simple idea (which is itself,
as abstract, a nominal essence) [1] in respect of reality, because
the latter is a copy or effect produced singly and involuntarily,
whereas we may put ideas together, as if in a thing, which have
never been so presented together, and, on the other hand, never can
put together all that exist together. (Book II. chap. xxx. sec. 5,
and xxxi. 10.) So far as Locke maintains this view, the difficulty
about general propositions concerning real existence need not arise.
A statement which affirmed of gold one of the qualities included
in the complex idea of that substance, would not express merely an
analysis of an idea in the mind, but would represent a relation
of qualities in the existing thing from which the idea ‘has been
taken.’ These qualities, as in the thing, doubtless would not be,
as in us, feelings (or, as Locke should rather have said in more
recent phraseology, possibilities of feeling), but powers to produce
feeling, nor could any relation between these, as in the thing,
be affirmed but such as had produced its copy or effect in actual
experience. No coexistence of qualities could be truly affirmed,
which had not been found; but, once found--being a coexistence of
qualities and not simply a momentary coincidence of feelings--it
could be affirmed as permanent in a general proposition. That a
relation can be stated universally between ideas collected in
the mind, no one denies, and if such collection ‘is taken from a
combination of simple ideas _existing together constantly in things_’
(Book II. chap, xxxii. sec. 18), the statement will hold equally of
such existence. Thus Locke contrasts mixed modes, which, for the
most part, ‘being actions which perish in the birth, are not capable
of a lasting duration,’ with ‘substances, which are the actors; and
wherein the simple ideas that make up the complex ideas designed by
the name have a lasting union.’ (Book III. chap. vi. sec. 42.)

[1] Book II. chap. xxxi. sec. 12.

But such real essence a creature of thought.

91. In such a doctrine Locke, starting whence he did, could not
remain at rest. We need not here repeat what has been said of it
above in the consideration of his doctrine of substance. Taken
strictly, it implies that ‘real existence’ consists in a permanent
relation of ideas, said to be of secondary qualities, to each other
in dependence on other ideas, said to be of primary qualities. In
other words, in order to constitute reality, it takes ideas out of
that particularity in time and place, which is yet pronounced the
condition of reality, to give them an ‘abstract generality’ which is
fictitious, and then treats them as constituents of a system of which
the ‘invented’ relations of cause and effect and of identity are
the framework. In short, it brings reality wholly within the region
of thought, distinguishing it from the system of complex ideas or
nominal essences which constitute our knowledge, not as the unknown
opposite of all possible thought, but only as the complete from the
incomplete. To one who logically carried out this view, the ground
of distinction between fact and fancy would have to be found in the
relation between thought as ‘objective,’ or in the world, and thought
as so far communicated to us. Here, however, it could scarcely be
found by Locke, with whom ‘thought’ meant simply a faculty of the
‘thinking thing,’ called a ‘soul,’ which might ride in a coach with
him from Oxford to London. (Book II. chap, xxiii. sec. 20.) Was the
distinction then to disappear altogether?

Hence another view of real essence as unknown qualities of unknown

92. It is saved, though at the cost of abandoning the ‘new way of
ideas,’ as it had been followed in the Second Book, by the transfer
of real existence from the thing in which ideas are found, and whose
qualities the complex of ideas in us, though inadequate, represents,
to something called ‘body,’ necessarily unknown, because no ideas
in us are in any way representative of it. To such an unknown body
unknown qualities are supposed to belong under the designation ‘real
essence.’ The subject of the nominal essence, just because its
qualities, being matter of knowledge, are ideas in our minds, is a
wholly different and a fictitious thing.

How Locke mixes up these two meanings in ambiguity about body.

93. This change of ground is of course not recognized by Locke
himself. It is the perpetual crossing of the inconsistent doctrines
that renders his ‘immortal Third Book’ a web of contradictions.
As was said above, he constantly speaks as if the subject of the
real essence were the same with that of the nominal, and never
explicitly allows it to be different. The equivocation under which
the difference is disguised lies in the use of the term ‘body.’
A ‘particular body’ is the subject both of the nominal and real
essence ‘gold’ But ‘body,’ as that in which ‘ideas are found,’ and
in which they permanently coexist according to a natural law, is one
thing; ‘body,’ as the abstraction of the unknown, is quite another.
It is body in the former sense that is the real thing when nominal
essence (the complex of ideas in us) is treated as representative,
though inadequately so, of the real thing; it is body in the latter
sense that is the real thing when this is treated as wholly outside
possible consciousness, and its essence as wholly unrepresented by
possible ideas. By a jumble of the two meanings Locke obtains an
amphibious entity which is at once independent of relation to ideas,
as is body in the latter sense, and a source of ideas representative
of it, as is body in the former sense--which thus carries with it
that opposition to the mental which is supposed necessary to the
real, while yet it seems to manifest itself in ideas. Meanwhile a
third conception of the real keeps thrusting itself upon the other
two--the view, namely, that body in both senses is a fiction of
thought, and that the mere present feeling is alone the real.

Body as ‘parcel of matter’ without essence.

94. Where Locke is insisting on the opposition between the real
essence and any essence that can be known, the former is generally
ascribed either to a ‘particular being’ or to a ‘parcel of matter.’
The passage which brings the opposition into the strongest relief is
perhaps the following:--‘I would ask any one, what is sufficient to
make an essential difference in nature between any two particular
beings, without any regard had to some abstract idea, which is looked
upon as the essence and standard of a species? All such patterns
and standards being quite laid aside, particular beings, considered
barely in themselves, will be found to have all their qualities
equally essential; and everything, in each individual, will be
essential to it, or, which is more, nothing at all. For though it
may be reasonable to ask whether obeying the magnet be essential
to iron; yet I think it is very improper and insignificant to ask
whether it be essential to the particular parcel of matter I cut my
pen with, without considering it under the name _iron_, or as being
of a certain species.’ (Book III. chap. vi. sec. 5.) [1] Here, it
will be seen, the exclusion of the abstract idea from reality carries
with it the exclusion of that ‘standard made by nature,’ which
according to the passages already quoted, is the ‘thing itself from
which the abstract idea is taken, and from which, if correctly taken,
it derives reality. This exclusion, again, means nothing else than
the disappearance from ‘nature’ (which with Locke is interchangeable
with ‘reality’) of all essential difference. There remain, however,
as the ‘real,’ ‘particular beings,’ or ‘individuals,’ or ‘parcels of
matter.’ In each of these, ‘considered barely in itself, everything
will be essential to it, or, which is more, nothing at all.’

[1] To the same purpose is a passage in Book III. chap. x. sec. 19,
towards the end.

In this sense body is the mere individuum.

95. We have already seen, [1] that if by a ‘particular being’ is
meant the mere _individuum_, as it would be upon abstraction of all
relations which according to Locke are fictitious, and constitute
a community or generality, it certainly can have no essential
qualities, since it has no qualities at all. It is a something which
equals nothing. The notion of this bare _individuum_ being the
real is the ‘protoplasm’ of Locke’s philosophy to which, though he
never quite recognized it himself, after the removal of a certain
number of accretions we may always penetrate. It is so because his
unacknowledged method of finding the real consisted in abstracting
from the formed content of consciousness till he came to that which
could not be got rid of. This is the momentarily present relation
of subject and object, which, considered on the side of the object,
gives the mere atom, and on the side of the subject, the mere ‘it is
felt.’ Even in this ultimate abstraction the ‘fiction of thought’
still survives, for the atom is determined to its mere individuality
by relation to other individuals, and the feeling is determined to
the present moment or ‘the now’ by relation to other ‘nows.’

[1] See above, paragraph 45.

Body as qualified by circumstances of time and place.

96. To this ultimate abstraction, however, Locke, though constantly
on the road to it, never quite penetrates. He is farthest from
it--indeed, as far from it as possible--where he is most acceptable
to common sense, as in his ordinary doctrine of abstraction, where
the real, from which the process of abstraction is supposed to begin,
is already the individual in the fullness of its qualities, James
and John, this man or this gold. He is nearest to it when the only
qualification of the ‘particular being,’ which has to be removed by
thought in order to its losing its reality and becoming an abstract
idea, is supposed to consist in ‘circumstances of time and place.’

Such body Locke held to be subject of ‘primary qualities’: but are
these compatible with particularity in time?

97. It is of these circumstances, as the constituents of the real,
that he is thinking in the passage last quoted. As qualified by
‘circumstances of place’ the real is a parcel of matter, and under
this designation Locke thought of it as a subject of ‘primary
qualities of body.’ [1] These, indeed, as he enumerates them, may be
shown to imply relations going far beyond that of simple distinctness
between atoms, and thus to involve much more of the creative action
of thought; but we need be the less concerned for this usurpation on
the part of the particular being, since that which he illegitimately
conveys to it as derived from ‘circumstances of place,’ he virtually
takes away from it again by limitation in time. The ‘particular
being’ has indeed on the one hand a real essence, consisting of
certain primary qualities, but on the other it has no continued
identity. It is only real as present to feeling at this or that
time. The particular being of one moment is not the particular being
of the next. Thus the primary qualities which are a real essence,
_i.e._ an essence of a particular being, at one moment, are not its
real essence at the next, because, while they as represented in the
mind remain the same, the ‘it,’ the particular being is different.
An _immutable_ essence for that very reason cannot be real. The
immutability can only lie in a relation between a certain abstract
(_i.e._ unreal) idea and a certain sound. (Book III. chap. iii. sec.
19.) ‘The real constitution of things,’ on the other hand, ‘begin
and perish with them. All things that exist are liable to change.’
(_Ibid_.) Locke, it is true (as is implied in the term _change_ [2])
never quite drops the notion of there being a real identity in some
unknown background, but this makes no difference in the bearing of
his doctrine upon the possibility of ‘real’ knowledge. It only means
that for an indefinite particularity of ‘beings’ there is substituted
one ‘being’ under an indefinite peculiarity of forms. Though the
reality of the thing _in itself_ be immutable, yet its reality _for
us_ is in perpetual flux. ‘In itself’ it is a substance without
an essence, a ‘something we know not what’ without any ideas to
‘support;’ a ‘parcel of matter,’ indeed, but one in which no quality
is really essential, because its real essence, consisting in its
momentary presentation to sense, changes with the moments. [3]

[1] According to Locke’s ordinary usage of the terms, no distinction
appears between ‘matter’ and ‘body.’ In Book III. chap. X. sec. 15,
however, he distinguishes matter from body as the less determinate
conception from the more. The one implies solidity merely, the
other extension and figure also, so that we may talk of the ‘matter
of bodies,’ but not of the ‘body of matters.’ But since solidity,
according to Locke’s definition, involves the other ‘primary
qualities,’ this distinction does not avail him much.

[2] See above, paragraph 69.

[3] Cf. Book III. chap. vi. sec. 4: ‘Take but away the abstract
ideas by which we sort individuals and rank them under common names,
and then the thought of anything essential to any of them instantly
vanishes,’ &c.

How Locke avoids this question.

98. We have previously noticed [1] Locke’s pregnant remark, that
‘things whose existence is in succession’ do not admit of identity.
(Book II. chap, xxvii. sec. 2.) So far, then, as the ‘real,’ in
distinction from the ‘abstract,’ is constituted by particularity in
time, or has its existence in succession, it excludes the relation
of identity. ‘It perishes in every moment that it begins.’ Had Locke
been master of this notion, instead of being irregularly mastered
by it, he might have anticipated all that Hume had to say. As it
is, even in passages such as those to which reference has just been
made, where he follows its lead the farthest, he is still pulled up
by inconsistent conceptions with which common sense, acting through
common language, restrains the most adventurous philosophy. Thus,
even from his illustration of the liability of all existence to
change--‘that which was grass to-day is to-morrow the flesh of a
sheep, and within a few days after will become part of a man’ [2]--we
find that, just as he does not pursue the individualization of the
real in space so far but that it still remains ‘a constitution
of parts,’ so he does not pursue it in time so far but that a
coexistence of real elements over a certain duration is possible. To
a more thorough analysis, indeed, there is no alternative between
finding reality in relations of thought, which, because relations of
thought, are not in time and therefore are immutable, and submitting
it to such subdivision of time as excludes all real coexistence
because what is real, as present, at one moment is unreal, as past,
at the next. This alternative could not present itself in its
clearness to Locke, because, according to his method of interrogating
consciousness, he inevitably found in its supposed beginning, which
he identified with the real, those products of thought which he
opposed to the real, and thus read into the simple feeling of the
moment that which, if it were the simple feeling of the moment, it
could not contain. Thus throughout the Second Book of the Essay the
simple idea is supposed to represent either as copy or as effect a
permanent reality, whether body or mind: and in the later books, even
where the _representation_ of such reality in knowledge comes in
question, its existence as constituted by ‘primary qualities of body’
is throughout assumed, though general propositions with regard to it
are declared impossible. It is a feeling referred to body, or, in the
language of subsequent psychology, a feeling of the _outward_ sense,
[3] that Locke means by an ‘actual present sensation,’ and it is
properly in virtue of this reference that such sensation is supposed
to be, or to report, the real.

[1] See above, paragraph 75.

[2] Book III. chap. iii. sec. 10.

[3] For the germs of the distinction between outer and inner sense,
see Locke’s Essay, Book II. chap. i. sec. 14: ‘This source of ideas
(the perception of the operations of the mind) every man has wholly
in himself; and though it be not sense, as having nothing to do with
external objects, yet it is very like it, and might properly enough
be called internal sense.’ For the notion of outer sense cf. Book
II. chap. ix. sec. 6, where he is distinguishing the ideas of hunger
and warmth, which he supposes children to receive in the womb from
the ‘innate principles which some contend for.’ ‘These (the ideas
of hunger and warmth) being the effects of sensation, are only from
some affections of the body which happen to them there, and so depend
on something exterior to the mind, not otherwise differing in their
manner of production from other ideas derived from sense, but only in
the precedency of time.’

Body and its qualities supposed to be outside consciousness.

99. According to the doctrine of primary qualities, as originally
stated, the antithesis lies between body as it is in itself and
body as it is for us, not between body as it is for us in ‘actual
sensation,’ and body as it is for us according to ‘ideas in the
mind.’ The primary qualities ‘are in bodies whether we perceive them
or no.’ (Book II. chap. viii. sec. 23.) As he puts it elsewhere (Book
II. chap. xxxi. sec. 2), it is just because ‘solidity and extension
and the termination of it, figure, with motion and rest, whereof we
have the ideas, would be really in the world as they are whether
there were any sensible being to perceive them or no,’ that they are
to be looked on as the _real_ modifications of matter. A change in
them, unlike one in the secondary qualities, or such as is relative
to sense, is a _real_ alteration _in body_. ‘Pound an almond, and the
clear white colour will be altered into a dirty one, and the sweet
taste into an oily one. What alteration can the beating of the pestle
make in any body, but an alteration of the texture of it?’ (Book II.
chap. viii. sec. 20.) It is implied then in the notion of the real as
body that it should be outside consciousness. It is that which seems
to remain when everything belonging to consciousness has been thought
away. Yet it is brought within consciousness again by the supposition
that it has qualities which copy themselves in our ideas and are ‘the
exciting causes of all our various sensations from bodies.’ (Book
II. chap. xxxi. sec. 3.) Again, however, the antithesis between the
real and consciousness prevails, and the qualities of matter or body
having been brought within the latter, are opposed to a ‘substance
of body’--otherwise spoken of as ‘the nature, cause, or manner of
producing the ideas of primary qualities’--which remains outside it,
unknown and unknowable. (Book II. chap, xxiii. sec. 30, &c.)

How can primary qualities be outside consciousness, and yet knowable?

100. The doctrine of primary qualities was naturally the one upon
which the criticism of Berkeley and Hume first fastened, as the
most obvious aberration from the ‘new way of ideas.’ That the very
notion of the senses as ‘reporting’ anything, under secondary no
less than under primary qualities, implies the presence of ‘fictions
of thought’ in the primitive consciousness, may become clear upon
analysis; but it lies on the surface and is avowed by Locke himself
(Book II. chap. viii. secs. 2, 7), that the conception of primary
qualities is only possible upon distinction being made between ideas
as in our minds, and the ‘nature of things existing without us,’
which cannot be given in the simple feeling itself. This admitted,
the distinction might either be traced to the presence within
intelligent consciousness of another factor than simple ideas, or
be accounted for as a gradual ‘invention of the mind.’ In neither
way, however, could Locke regard it and yet retain his distinction
between fact and fancy, as resting upon that between the nature of
things and the mind of man. The way of escape lay in a figure of
speech, the figure of the wax or the mirror. ‘The ideas of primary
qualities are resemblances of them.’ (Book II. chap, viii. sec. 15.)
These qualities then may be treated, according to occasion, either
as primitive data of consciousness, or as the essence of that which
is the unknown opposite of consciousness--in the latter way when the
antithesis between nature and mind is in view, in the former when
nature has yet to be represented as knowable.

Locke answers that they copy themselves in ideas--Berkeley’s
rejoinder. Locke gets out of the difficulty by his doctrine of

101. How, asked Berkeley, can an idea be like anything that is not
an idea? Put the question in its proper strength--How can an idea be
like that of which the sole and simple determination is just that it
is not an idea (and such with Locke is body ‘in itself’ or as the
real)--and it is clearly unanswerable. The process by which Locke
was prevented from putting it to himself is not difficult to trace.
‘Body’ and ‘the solid’ are with him virtually convertible terms.
Each indifferently holds the place of the substance, of which the
primary qualities are so many determinations. [1] It is true that
where solidity has to be defined, it is defined as an attribute of
body, but conversely body itself is treated as a ‘texture of solid
parts,’ _i.e._ as a mode of the solid. Body, in short, so soon as
thought of, resolves itself into a relation of bodies, and the
solid into a relation of solids, but Locke, by a shuffle of the two
terms--representing body as a relation between solids and the solid
as a relation between bodies--gains the appearance of explaining
each in turn by relation to a simpler idea. Body, as the unknown,
is revealed to us by the idea of solidity, which sense conveys to
us; while solidity is explained by reference to the idea of body.
The idea of solidity, we are told, is a simple idea which comes
into the mind solely by the sense of touch. (Book II. chap. iii.
sec. 1.) But no sooner has he thus identified it with an immediate
feeling than, in disregard of his own doctrine, that ‘an idea which
has no composition’ is undefinable (see Book III. chap. iv. sec.
7.), he converts it into a theory of the cause of that feeling. ‘It
arises from the resistance which we find in body to the entrance of
any other body into the place it possesses till it has left it;’
and he at once proceeds to treat it as the consciousness of such
resistance. ‘Whether we move or rest, in what posture soever we are,
we always feel something under us that supports us, and hinders our
farther sinking downwards: and the bodies which we daily handle make
us perceive that whilst they remain between them, they do by an
insurmountable force hinder the approach of the parts of our hands
that press them. That which then hinders the approach of two bodies,
when they are moving one towards another, I call solidity.’ [2]

[1] See Book II. chap. viii. sec. 23: The primary ‘qualities that
are in bodies, are the bulk, figure, number, situation, and motion
or rest, _of their solid parts_.’ Cf. Book II. chap. xiii. sec. 11:
‘Solidity is so inseparable an idea from body, that upon that depends
its filling of space, its contact, impulse, and communication of
motion upon impulse.’

[2] Book II. chap. iv. sec 7.

In which he equivocates between body as unknown opposite of mind and
body as a ‘nominal essence’.

102. Now ‘body’ in this theory is by no means outside consciousness.
It is emphatically ‘in the mind,’ a ‘nominal essence,’ determined
by the relation which the theory assigns to it, and which, like
every relation according to Locke, is a ‘thing of the mind.’ This
relation is that of outwardness to other bodies, and among these to
the sensitive body through which we receive ‘ideas of sensation’--a
body which, on its side, as determined by the relation, has its
essence from the mind. It is, then, not as the unknown opposite
of the mind, but as determined by an intelligible relation which
the mind constitutes, and of which the members are each ‘nominal
essences,’ that body is outward to the sensitive subject. But to
Locke, substituting for body as a nominal essence body as the unknown
thing in itself, and identifying the sensitive subject with the
mind, outwardness in the above sense--an outwardness constituted by
the mind--becomes outwardness to the mind of an unknown opposite of
the mind. Solidity, then, and the properties which its definition
involves (and it involves all the ‘primary qualities’), become
something wholly alien to the mind, which ‘would exist without any
sensible being to perceive them.’ As such, they do duty as a real
essence, when the opposition of this to everything in the mind has
to be asserted. Yet must they be in some sort ideas, for of these
alone (as Locke fully admits) can we think and speak; and if ideas,
in the mind. How is this contradiction to be overcome? By the notion
that though not in or of the mind, they yet copy themselves upon it
in virtue of an impulse in body, correlative to that resistance of
which touch conveys the idea. (Book II. chap. viii. sec. 11). [1]
This explanation, however, is derived from the equivocation between
the two meanings of mind and body respectively. The problem to be
explained is the relation between the mind and that which is only
qualified as the negation of mind; and the explanation is found in
a relation, only existing for the mind, between a sensitive and a
non-sensitive body.

[1] Cf. also the passage from Book II. chap. xiii. sec. 11, quoted
above, paragraph 101, note [1].

Rationale of these contradictions.

103. The case then stands as follows. All that Locke says of body
as the real thing-in-itself, and of its qualities as the essence of
such thing, comes according to his own showing of an action of the
mind which he reckons the source of fictions. ‘Body in itself’ is a
substratum of ideas which the mind ‘accustoms itself to suppose.’
It perpetually recedes, as what was at first a substance becomes in
turn a complex of qualities for which a more remote substratum has
to be supposed--a ‘substance of body,’ a productive cause of matter.
But the substance, however remote, is determined by the qualities to
which it is correlative, as the cause by its effects; and every one
of these--whether the most primary, solidity, or those which ‘the
mind finds inseparable from every particle of matter,’ _i.e._ from
the ‘solid parts of a body,’ [1]--as defined by Locke, is a relation
such as the mind, ‘bringing one thing to and setting it by another’
(Book II. chap. xxv. sec. 1), can alone constitute. To Locke,
however, overcome by the necessity of intelligence, as gradually
developing itself in each of us, to regard the intelligible world as
there before it is known, the real must be something which would be
what it is if thought were not. Strictly taken, this must mean that
it is that of which nothing can be said, and some expression must be
found by means of which it may do double duty as at once apart from
consciousness and in it. This is done by converting ‘the primary
qualities of body, though obviously complex ideas of relation, into
simple feelings of touch,’ [2] and supposing the subject of this
sensation to be related to its object as wax to the seal. If we
suppose this relation, again, which is really within the mind and
constituted by it, to be one between the mind itself, as passive,
and the real, we obtain a ‘real’ which exists apart from the mind,
yet copies itself upon it. The mind, then, so far as it takes such a
copy, becomes an ‘outer sense,’ as to which it may be conveniently
forgotten that it is a mode of mind at all. Thus every modification
of it, as an ‘actual present sensation,’ comes to be opposed to every
idea of memory or imagination, as that which is not of the mind to
that which is; though there is no assignable difference between one
and the other, except an indefinite one in degree of vivacity, that
is not derived from the action of the mind in referring the one to an
object, constituted by itself, to which it does not refer the other.

[1] Cf Book II. chap. viii. sec. 9. The primary qualities of body are
‘such as sense constantly finds in every particle of matter, which
has bulk enough to be perceived, and the mind finds inseparable from
every particle of matter, though less than to make itself singly be
perceived by our senses.’

[2] I write advisedly ‘touch’ only, not ‘sight and touch,’ because,
though Locke (Book II. chap, v.) speaks of the ideas of extension,
figure, motion, and rest of bodies, as received both by sight and
touch, these are all involved in the previous definition of solidity,
of which the idea is ascribed to touch only.

What knowledge can feeling, even as referred to a ‘solid’ body,

104. Let us now consider whether by this reference to body, feeling
becomes any the more a source of general knowledge concerning
matters of fact. As we have seen, if we identify the real with
feeling simply, its distinction from ‘bare vision’ disappears. This
difficulty it is sought to overcome by distinguishing feeling as
merely in the mind from actually present sensation. But on reflection
we find that sensation after all is feeling, and that one feeling
is as much present as another, though present only to become at
the next moment past, and thus, if it is the presence that is the
condition of reality, unreal. The distinction then must lie in the
_actuality_ of the sensation. But does not this actuality mean simply
derivation from the real, _i.e._ derivation from the idea which has
to be derived from it? If, in the spirit of Locke, we answer, ‘No,
it means that the feeling belongs to the outer sense’; the rejoinder
will be that this means either that it is a feeling of touch--and
what should give the feeling of touch this singular privilege over
other feelings of not being in the mind while they are in it?--or
that it is a feeling referred to body, which still implies the
presupposition of the real, only under the special relations of
resistance and impulse. The latter alternative is the one which
Locke virtually adopts, and in adopting it he makes the actuality,
by which sensation is distinguished from ‘feelings in the mind,’
itself a creation of the mind. But though it is by an intellectual
interpretation of the feeling of touch, not by the feeling itself,
that there is given that idea of body, by reference to which actual
sensation is distinguished from the mere idea, still with Locke the
feeling of touch is necessary to the interpretation. Thus, supposing
his notion to be carried out consistently, the actual present
sensation, as reporting the real, must either be a feeling of touch,
or, if of another sort, _e.g._, sight or hearing, must be referable
to an object of touch. In other words, the real will exist for us
so long only as it is touched, and ideas in us will constitute a
real essence so long only as they may be referred to an object now
touched. Let the object cease to be touched, and the ideas become
a nominal essence in the mind, the knowledge which they constitute
ceases to be real, and the proposition which expresses it ceases to
concern matter of fact. Truth as to matters of fact or bodies, then,
must be confined to singular propositions such as ‘this is touched
now,’ ‘that was touched then;’ ‘what is touched now is bitter,’ ‘what
was then touched was red.’ [1]

[1] Thus the conviction that an object seen is not ‘bare fancy,’
which is gained by ‘putting the hand to it’ (Book IV. chap. xi. sec.
l7), as it conveys the idea of solidity, is properly, according to
Locke’s doctrine, not one among other ‘confirmations of the testimony
of the senses,’ but the source of all such testimony, as a testimony
to the real, _i.e._ to body. See above, paragraph 62.

Only the knowledge that something is, not what it is.

105. All that is gained, then, by the conversion of the feeling of
touch, pure and simple, into the idea of a body touched, is the
supposition that _there is_ a real existence which does not come and
go with the sensations. As to _what_ this existence is, as to its
real essence, we can have no knowledge but such as is given in a
present sensation. [1] Any essence of it, otherwise known, could only
be a nominal essence, a relation of ideas in our minds: it would lack
the condition in virtue of which alone a datum of consciousness can
claim to be representative of reality, that of being an impression
made by a body now operating upon us. (Book III. chap. v. sec. 2, and
Book IV. chap. xi. sec. 1.) The memory of such impression, however
faithful, will still only report a _past_ reality. It will itself
be merely ‘an idea in the mind.’ Neither it nor its relation to any
present sensation result from the immediate impact of body, and in
consequence neither ‘really exists.’ All that can be known, then, of
the real, in other words, the whole real essence of body, as it is
for us, reduces itself to that which can at any moment be ‘revealed’
in a single sensation apart from all relation to past sensations; and
this, as we have seen, is nothing at all.

[1] Cf. Book III. chap. vi. sec. 6: ‘As to the real essences of
substances, we only suppose their being, without precisely knowing
what they are.’ The appearance of the qualification ‘precisely,’ as
we shall see below, marks an oscillation from the view, according
to which ‘real essence’ is the negation of the knowable to the view
according to which our knowledge of it is merely inadequate.

How it is that the real essence of things, according to Locke,
perishes with them, yet is immutable.

106. Thus that reduction of reality to that of which nothing can be
said, which follows from its identification with particularity in
time, follows equally from its identification with the resistance
of body, or (which comes to the same) from the notion of an ‘outer
sense’ being its organ; since it is only that which _now_ resists,
not a general possibility of resistance nor a relation between the
resistances of different times, that can be regarded as outside the
mind. In Locke’s language, it is only a particular parcel of matter
that can be so regarded. Of such a parcel, as he rightly says, it is
absurd to ask what is its essence, for it can have none at all. (See
above, paragraph 94.) As real, it has no quality save that of being
a body or of being now touched--a quality, which as all things real
have it and have none other, cannot be a _differentia_ of it. When
we consider that this quality may be regarded equally as immutable
and as changing from moment to moment, we shall see the ground of
Locke’s contradiction of himself in speaking of the real thing
sometimes as indestructible, sometimes as in continual dissolution.
‘The real constitutions of things begin and perish with them.’ (Book
III. chap. iii. sec. 19.) That is, the thing at one moment makes an
impact on the sensitive tablet--in the fact that it does so lie at
once its existence and its essence--but the next moment the impact
is over, and with it thing and essence, _as real_, have disappeared.
Another impact, and thus another thing, has taken its place. But of
this the real essence is just the same as that of the previous thing,
namely, that it may be touched, or is solid, or a body, or a parcel
of matter; nor can this essence be really lost, since than it there
is no other reality, all difference of essence, as Locke expressly
says, [1] being constituted by abstract ideas and the work of the
mind. It follows that _real_ change is impossible. A parcel of matter
at one time is a parcel of matter at all times. Thus we have only to
forget that the relation of continuity between the parcels, not being
an idea caused by impact, should properly fall to the unreal--though
only on the same principle as should that of distinctness between the
times--and we find the real in a continuity of matter, unchangeable
because it has no qualities to change. It may seem strange that when
this notion of the formless continuity of the real being gets the
better of Locke, a man should be the real being which he takes as his
instance. ‘Nothing I have is essential to me. An accident or disease
may very much alter my colour or shape; a fever or fall may take away
my reason or memory, or both; and an apoplexy leave neither sense nor
understanding, no, nor life.’ (Book III. chap. vi. sec. 4.) But as
the sequel shows, the man or the ‘I’ is here considered simply as ‘a
particular corporeal being,’ _i.e._ as the ‘parcel of matter’ which
alone (according to the doctrine of reality now in view) can be the
real in man, and upon which all qualities are ‘superinductions of the
mind.’ [2]

[1] Book III. chap. vi. sec. 4: ‘Take but away the abstract ideas by
which we sort individuals, and then the thought of anything essential
to any of them instantly vanishes.’

[2] See a few lines below the passage quoted: ‘So that if it be
asked, whether it be essential to me, or any other particular
corporeal being, to have reason? I say, no; no more than it is
essential to this white thing I write on to have words in it.’

Only about qualities of matter, as distinct from matter itself, that
Locke feels any difficulty.

107. We may now discern the precise point where the qualm as to
clothing reality with such superinductions commonly returns upon
Locke. The conversion of feeling into body felt and of the particular
time of the feeling into an individuality of the body, and, further,
the fusion of the individual bodies, manifold as the times of
sensation, into one continued body, he passes without scruple. So
long as these are all the traces of mental fiction which ‘matter,’
or ‘body,’ or ‘nature’ bears upon it, he regards it undoubtingly as
the pure ‘privation’ of whatever belongs to the mind. But so soon
as cognisable qualities, forming an essence, come to be ascribed to
body, the reflection arises that these qualities are on our side
ideas, and that so far as they are permanent or continuous they are
not ideas of the sort which can alone represent body as the ‘real’
opposite of mind; they are not the result of momentary impact; they
are not ‘actually present sensations.’ Suppose them, however, to have
no permanence--suppose their reality to be confined to the fleeting
‘now’--and they are no qualities, no essence, at all. There is then
for us no _real_ essence of body or nature; what we call so is a
creation of the mind.

These, as knowable, must be our ideas, and therefore not a ‘real

108. This implies the degradation of the ‘primary qualities of
body’ from the position which they hold in the Second Book of the
Essay, as the real, _par excellence_, to that of a nominal essence.
In the Second Book, just as the complex of ideas, received and to
be received from a substance, is taken for the real thing without
disturbance from the antithesis between reality and ‘ideas in the
mind,’ so the primary qualities of body are taken not only as real,
but as the sources of all other reality. Body, the real thing,
copying itself upon the mind in an idea of sensation (that of
solidity), carries with it from reality into the mind those qualities
which ‘the mind finds inseparable from it,’ with all their modes. ‘A
piece of manna of a sensible bulk is able to produce in us the idea
of a round or square figure, and, by being removed from one place
to another, the idea of motion. This idea of motion represents it,
as it really is in the manna, moving; a circle or square are the
same, whether in idea or existence, in the mind or in the manna;
and this both motion and figure are really in the manna, whether
we take notice of them or no.’ (Book II. chap. viii. sec. 18.) To
the unsophisticated man, taking for granted that the ‘sensible
bulk’ of the manna is a ‘real essence,’ this statement will raise
no difficulties. But when he has learnt from Locke himself that the
‘sensible bulk,’ so far as we can think and speak of it, must consist
in the ideas which it is said to produce, the question as to the real
existence of these must arise. It turns out that they ‘really exist,’
so far as they represent the impact of a body copying itself in
actually present sensation, and that from their reality, accordingly,
must be excluded all qualities that accrue to the present sensation
from its relation to the past. Can the ‘primary qualities’ escape
this exclusion?

Are the ‘primary qualities’ then, a ‘nominal essence’?

109. To obtain a direct and compendious answer to this question
from Locke’s own mouth is not easy, owing to the want of adjustment
between the several passages where he treats of the primary
qualities. They are originally enumerated as the ‘bulk, figure,
number, situation, and motion or rest of the solid parts of bodies’
(Book II. chap. viii. sec. 23), and, as we have seen, are treated
as all involved in that idea of solidity which is given in the
sensation of touch. We have no further account of them till we come
to the chapters on ‘simple modes of space and duration’ (Book II.
chaps. xiii. &c.), which are introduced by the remark, that in the
previous part of the book simple ideas have been treated ‘rather
in the way that they come into the mind than as distinguished from
others more compounded.’ As the simple idea, according to Locke,
is that which comes first into the mind, the two ways of treatment
ought to coincide; but there follows an explanation of the simple
modes in question, of which to a critical reader the plain result is
that the idea of body, which, according to the imaginary theory of
‘the way that it came into the mind’ is simple and equivalent to the
sensation of touch, turns out to be a complex of relations of which
the simplest is called space.

According to Locke’s account they are relations, and thus inventions
of the mind.

110. To know what space itself is, ‘we are sent to our senses’ of
sight and touch. It is ‘as needless to go to prove that men perceive
by their sight a distance between bodies of different colours,
or between the parts of the same body, as that they see colours
themselves; nor is it less obvious that they can do so in the dark by
feeling and touch.’ (Book II. chap. xiii. sec. 2.) Space being thus
explained by reference to distance, and distance _between bodies_,
it might be supposed that distance and body were simpler ideas. In
the next paragraph, however, distance is itself explained to be a
mode of space. It is ‘space considered barely in length between any
two beings,’ and is distinguished _(a)_ from ‘capacity’ or ‘space
considered in length, breadth, and thickness;’ _(b)_ from ‘figure,
which is nothing but the relation which the parts of the termination
of extension, or circumscribed space, have among themselves;’ _(c)_
from ‘place, which is the relation of distance between anything and
any two or more points which are considered as keeping the same
distance one with another, and so as at rest.’ It is then shown at
large (Book II. chap. xiii. sec. 11), as against the Cartesians,
that extension, which is ‘space in whatsoever manner considered,’ is
a ‘distinct idea from body.’ The ground of the distinction plainly
lies in the greater complexity of the idea of body. Throughout the
definition just given ‘space’ is presupposed as the simpler idea of
which capacity, figure, and place are severally modifications; and
these again, as ‘primary qualities,’ though with a slight difference
of designation, [1] are not only all declared inseparable from body,
but are involved in it under a further modification as ‘_qualities
of its solid parts_’ _i.e._, of parts so related to each other
that each will change its place sooner than admit another into it.
(Book II. chap. iv. sec. 2, and chap. viii. sec. 23.) Yet, though
body is thus a complex of relations--all, according to Locke’s
doctrine of relation, inventions of the mind--and though it must
be proportionately remote from the simple idea which ‘comes first
into the mind,’ yet, on the other hand, it is in body, as an object
previously given, that these relations are said to be found, and
found by the senses. (Book II. chap. xiii. secs. 2, 27.) [2]

[1] In the enumeration of primary qualities, ‘capacity’ is
represented by ‘bulk,’ ‘place’ by ‘situation.’

[2] In the second of the passages referred to, it will be seen that
‘matter’ is used interchangeably with ‘body.’

Body is the complex in which they are found. Do we derive the idea of
body from primary qualities, or the primary qualities from idea of

111. It will readily be seen that ‘body’ here is a mode of the
idea of substance, and, like it, [1] appears in two inconsistent
positions as at once the beginning and the end of the process of
knowledge--as on the one hand that in which ideas are found and from
which they are abstracted, and on the other hand that which results
from their complication. As the attempt either to treat particular
qualities as given and substance as an abstraction gradually made,
or conversely to treat the ‘thing’ as given, and relations as
gradually superinduced, necessarily fails for the simple reason
that substance and relations each presuppose the other, so body
presupposes the primary qualities as so many relations which form
its essence or make it what it is, while these again presuppose body
as the matter which they determine, It is because Locke substitutes
for this intellectual order of mutual presupposition a succession of
sensations in time, that he finds himself in the confusion we have
noticed--now giving the priority to sensations in which the idea
of body is supposed to be conveyed, and from it deriving the ideas
of the primary qualities, now giving it to these ideas themselves,
and deriving the idea of body from their complication. This is just
such a contradiction as it would be to put to-day before yesterday.
_We_ may escape it by the consideration that in the case before us
it is not a succession of sensations in time that we have to do with
at all; that ‘the real’ is an intellectual order, or mind, in which
every element, being correlative to every other, at once presupposes
and is presupposed by every other; but that this order communicates
itself to us piecemeal, in a process of which the first condition on
our part is the conception that there _is_ an order, or something
related to something else; and that thus the conception of qualified
substance, which in its definite articulation is the end of all our
knowledge, is yet in another form, that may be called indifferently
either abstract or confused, [2] its beginning. This way of escape,
however, was not open to Locke, because with him it was the condition
of reality in the idea of the body and its qualities that they
should be ‘actually present sensations.’ The priority then of body
to the relations of extension, distance, &c., as of that in which
these relations are found, must, if body and extension are to be
more than nominal essences, be a priority of sensations in time.
But, on the other hand, the priority of the idea of space to the
ideas of its several modes, and of these again to the idea of body,
as of the simpler to the more complex, must no less than the other,
if the ideas in question are to be real, be one in time. Locke’s
contradiction, then, is that of supposing that of two sensations each
is actually present, of two impacts on the sensitive tablet each is
actually made, before the other.

[1] See above, paragraph 39.

[2] ‘Indifferently either abstract or confused,’ because of the
conception that is most confused the least can be said; and it is
thus most abstract.

Mathematical ideas, though ideas of ‘primary qualities of body,’ have
‘barely an ideal existence’.

112. From such a contradiction, even though he was not distinctly
aware of it, he could not but seek a way of escape, From his point
of view two ways might at first sight seem to be open--the priority
in sensitive experience, and with it reality, might be assigned
exclusively either to the idea of body or to that of space. To
whichever of the two it is assigned, the other must become a nominal
essence. If it is the idea of body that is conveyed to the mind
directly from without through sensation, then it must be by a process
in the mind that the spatial relations are abstracted from it; and
conversely, if it is the latter that are given in sensation, it must
be by a mental operation of compounding that the idea of body is
obtained from them. Now, according to Locke’s fundamental notion,
that the reality of an idea depends upon its being in consciousness
a copy _through impact_ of that which is not in consciousness, any
attempt to retain it in the idea of space while sacrificing it in
that of body would be obviously self-destructive. Nor, however we
might re-write his account of the relations of space as ‘found in
bodies,’ could we avoid speaking of them as relations of some sort;
and if relations, then derived from the ‘mind’s carrying its view
from one thing to another,’ and not ‘actually present sensations.’
We shall not, then, be surprised to find Locke tending to the other
alternative, and gradually forgetting his assertion that ‘a circle
or a square are the same whether in idea or in existence,’ and his
elaborate maintenance of the ‘real existence’ of a vacuum, _i.e._,
extension without body. (Book II. chap. xiii. secs. 21 and the
following, and xvii. 4.) In the Fourth Book it is body alone that has
real existence, an existence revealed by actually present sensation,
while all mathematical ideas, the ideas of the circle and the square,
have ‘barely an ideal existence’ (Book IV. chap. iv. sec. 6); and
this means nothing else than the reduction of the primary qualities
of body to a nominal essence. Our ideas of them are general (Book IV.
chap. iii. sec. 24), or merely in the mind. ‘There is no individual
parcel of matter, to which any of these qualities are so annexed as
to be essential to it or inseparable from it.’ (Book III. chap. vi.
sec. 6.) How should there be, when the ‘individual parcel’ means that
which copies itself by impact in the present sensation, while the
qualities in question are relations which cannot be so copied? Yet,
except as attaching to such a parcel, they have no ‘real existence;’
and, conversely, the ‘body,’ from which they _are_ inseparable, not
being an individual parcel of matter in the above sense, must itself
be unreal and belong merely to the mind. The ‘body’ which is real
has for us no qualities, and that reference to it of the ‘actually
present sensation’ by which such sensation is distinguished from
other feeling, is a reference to something of which nothing can be
said. It is a reference which cannot be stated in any proposition
_really_ true; and the difference which it constitutes between ‘bare
vision’ and the feeling to which reality corresponds, must be either
itself unreal or unintelligible.

Summary view of Locke’s difficulties in regard to the real.

113. We have now pursued the antithesis between reality and the work
of the mind along all the lines which Locke indicates, and find
that it everywhere eludes us. The distinction, which only appeared
incidentally in the doctrine of substance, between ‘the being and
the idea thereof--between substance as ‘found’ and substance as
that which ‘we accustom ourselves to suppose’--becomes definite and
explicit as that between real and nominal essence, but it does so
only that the essence, which is merely real, may disappear. Whether
we suppose it the quality of a mere sensation, as such, or of mere
body, as such, we find that we are unawares defining it by relations
which are themselves the work of the mind, and that after abstraction
of these nothing remains to give the antithesis to the work of the
mind any meaning. Meanwhile the attitude of thought, when it has
cleared the antithesis of disguise, but has not yet found that each
of the opposites derives itself from thought as much as the other,
is so awkward and painful that an instinctive reluctance to make
the clearance is not to be wondered at. Over against the world of
knowledge, which is the work of the mind, stands a real world of
which we can say nothing but that it is there, that it makes us aware
of its presence in every sensation, while our interpretation of what
it is, the system of relations which we read into it, is our own
invention. The interpretation is not even to be called a shadow, for
a shadow, however dim, still reflects the reality; it is an arbitrary
fiction, and a fiction of which the possibility is as unaccountable
as the inducement to make it. It is commonly presented as consisting
in abstraction from the concrete. But the concrete, just so far as
concrete, _i.e._, a complex world of relations, cannot be the real
if the separation of the real from the work of the mind is to be
maintained. It must itself be the work of the compounding mind, which
must be supposed again in ‘abstraction’ to decompose what it has
previously compounded. Now, it is of the essence of the doctrine in
question that it denies all power of origination to the mind except
in the way of compounding and abstracting given impressions. Its
supposition is, that whatever precedes the work of composition and
abstraction must be real [1] because the mind passively receives it:
a supposition which, if the mind could originate, would not hold.
How, then, does it come to pass that a ‘nominal essence,’ consisting
of definite qualities, is constructed by a mind, which originates
nothing, out of a ‘real’ matter, which, apart from such construction,
has no qualities at all? And why, granted the construction, should
the mind in ‘abstraction’ go through the Penelopean exercise of
perpetually unweaving the web which it has just woven?

[1] ‘Simple ideas, since the mind can by no means make them to
itself, must necessarily be the product of things operating on the
mind.’ (Book IV. chap. v. sec. 4.)

Why they do not trouble him more.

114. It is Hume’s more logical version of Locke’s doctrine that
first forces these questions to the front. In Locke himself they
are kept back by inconsistencies, which we have already dwelt upon.
For the real, absolutely void of intelligible qualities, because
these are relative to the mind, he is perpetually substituting a
real constituted by such qualities, only with a complexity which we
cannot exhaust. By so doing, though at the cost of sacrificing the
opposition between the real and the mental, he avoids the necessity
of admitting that the system of the sciences is a mere language,
well-or ill-constructed, but unaccountably and without reference
to things. Finally, he so far forgets the opposition altogether as
to find the reality of ‘moral and mathematical’ knowledge in their
‘bare ideality’ itself. (Book IV. chap. iv. sec. 6, &c.) Thus with
him the divorce between knowledge and reality is never complete,
and sometimes they appear in perfect fusion. A consideration of his
doctrine of propositions will show finally how the case between them
stands, as he left it.

They re-appear in his doctrine of propositions.

115. In the Fourth Book of the Essay the same ground has to be
thrice traversed under the several titles of ‘knowledge,’ ‘truth,’
and ‘propositions.’ Knowledge being the perception of agreement or
disagreement between ideas, the proposition is the putting together
or separation of words, as the signs of ideas, in affirmative or
negative sentences (Book IV. chap. v. sec. 5), and truth--the
expression of certainty [1]--consists in the correspondence between
the conjunction or separation of the signs and the agreement or
disagreement of the ideas. (Book IV. chap. v. sec. 2.) Thus, the
question between the real and the mental affects all these. Does this
or that perception of agreement between ideas represent an agreement
in real existence? Is its certainty a real certainty? Does such
or such a proposition, being a correct expression of an agreement
between ideas, also through this express an agreement between things?
Is its truth real, or merely verbal?

[1] All knowledge is certain according to Locke (Cf. IV. chap. vi.
sec. 13, ‘certainty is requisite to knowledge’), though the knowledge
must be expressed before the term ‘certainty’ is naturally applied to
it. (Book IV. chap. vi. sec. 3.) ‘Certainty of knowledge’ is thus a
pleonastic phrase, which only seems not to be so because we conceive
knowledge to have a relation to things which Locke’s definition
denies it, and by ‘certainty,’ in distinction from this, understand
its relation to the subject.

‘Certainty of truth’ is, in like manner, a pleonastic phrase, there
being no difference between the definition of it (Book IV. chap. vi.
sec. 3) and that of ‘truth’ simply, given in Book IV. chap. V. sec. 2.

The knowledge expressed by a proposition, though certain, may not be
real ...

116. To answer these questions, according to Locke, we must consider
whether the knowledge, or the proposition which expresses it,
concerns substances, _i.e._, ‘the co-existence of ideas in nature,’
on the one hand; or, on the other, either the properties of a
mathematical figure or ‘moral ideas.’ If it is of the latter sort,
the agreement of the ideas in the mind is itself their agreement
in reality, since the ideas themselves are archetypes. (Book IV.
chap. iv. secs. 6, 7.) It is only when the ideas are ectypes, as is
the case when the proposition concerns substances, that the doubt
arises whether the agreement between them represents an agreement
in reality. The distinction made here virtually corresponds to that
which appears in the chapters on the reality and adequacy of ideas in
the Second Book, and again in those on ‘names’ in the Third. There
the ‘complex ideas of modes and relation’ are pronounced necessarily
real adequate and true, because, ‘being themselves archetypes, they
cannot differ from their archetypes.’ (Book II. chap. XXX. sec.
4.) [1] With them are contrasted simple ideas and complex ideas of
substances, which are alike ectypes, but with this difference from
each other, that the simple ideas cannot but be faithful copies
of their archetypes, while the ideas of substances cannot but be
otherwise. (Book II. chap. xxxi. secs. 2, 11, &c.) Thus, ‘the names
of simple ideas and substances, with the abstract ideas in the mind
which they immediately signify, intimate also some real existence,
from which was derived their original pattern. But the names of
mixed modes terminate in the idea that is in the mind.’ (Book III.
chap. iv. sec. 2.) ‘The names of simple ideas and modes,’ it is
added, ‘signify always the real as well as nominal essence of their
species’--a statement which, if it is to express Locke’s doctrine
strictly, must be confined to names of simple ideas, while in respect
of modes it should run, that ‘the nominal essence which the names of
these signify is itself the real.’

[1] cf. Book II. chap. xxxi. sec. 3, and xxxii. sec. 17.

... when the knowledge concerns substances. In this case general
truth must be merely verbal. Mathematical truths, since they concern
not substances, may be both general and real.

117. But though the distinction between different kinds of knowledge
in regard to reality cannot but rest on the same principle as that
drawn between different kinds of ideas in the same regard, it is
to be noticed that in the doctrine of the Fourth Book ‘knowledge
concerning substances,’ in contrast with that in which ‘our thoughts
terminate in the abstract ideas,’ has by itself to cover the ground
which, in the Second and Third Book, simple ideas and complex
ideas of substances cover together. This is to be explained by the
observation, already set forth at large, [1] that the simple idea
has in Locke’s Fourth Book become explicitly what in the previous
books it was implicitly, not a feeling proper, but the conscious
reference of a feeling to a thing or substance. Only because it is
thus converted, as we have seen, can it constitute the beginning
of a knowledge which is not a simple idea but a conscious relation
between ideas, or have (what yet it must have if it can be expressed
in a proposition) that capacity of being true or false, which implies
‘the reference by the mind of an idea to something extraneous to it.’
(Book II. chap, xxxii. sec. 4.) Thus, what is said of the ‘simple
idea’ in the Second and Third Books, is in the Fourth transferred to
one form of knowledge concerning substances, to that, namely, which
consists in ‘particular experiment and observation,’ and is expressed
in singular propositions, such as ‘this is yellow,’ ‘this gold is
now solved in aqua regia.’ Such knowledge cannot but be real, the
proposition which expresses it cannot but have _real_ certainty,
because it is the effect of a ‘body actually operating upon us’
(Book IV. chap. xi. sec. 1), just as the simple idea is an ectype
directly made by an archetype. It is otherwise with complex ideas of
substances and with general knowledge or propositions about them.
A group of ideas, each of which, when first produced by a ‘body,’
has been real, when retained in the mind as representing the body,
becomes unreal. The complex idea of gold is only a nominal essence
or the signification of a name; the qualities which compose it are
merely ideas in the mind, and that general truth which consists in a
correct statement of the relation between one of them and another or
the whole--_e.g._, ‘gold is soluble in aqua regia’--holds merely for
the mind; [2] but it is not therefore to be classed with those other
mental truths, which constitute mathematical and moral knowledge,
and which, just because ‘merely ideal,’ are therefore real. Its
merely mental character renders it in Locke’s language a ‘trifling
proposition,’ but does not therefore save it from being _really_
untrue. It is a ‘trifling proposition,’ for, unless solubility in
aqua regia is included in the complex idea which the sound ‘gold’
stands for, the proposition which asserts it of gold is not certain,
not a truth at all. If it is so included, then the proposition is
but ‘playing with sounds.’ It may serve to remind an opponent of
a definition which he has made but is forgetting, but ‘carries no
knowledge with it but of the signification of a word, however certain
it be.’ (Book IV. chap. viii. secs. 5 & 9.) Yet there is a real gold,
outside the mind, of which the complex idea of gold in the mind must
needs try to be a copy, though the conditions of real existence are
such that no ‘complex idea in the mind’ can possibly be a copy of
it. Thus the verbal truth, which general propositions concerning
substances express, is under a perpetual doom of being really untrue.
The exemption of mathematical and moral knowledge from this doom
remains an unexplained mercy. Because merely mental, such knowledge
is real--there being no reality for it to _mis_represent--and yet
not trifling. The proposition that ‘the external angle of all
triangles is bigger than either of the opposite internal angles,’
has that general certainty which is never to be found but in our
ideas, yet ‘conveys instructive real knowledge,’ the predicate
being ‘a necessary consequence of precise complex idea’ which forms
the subject, yet ‘not contained in it.’ (Book IV. chap. viii. sec.
8.) [3] The same might be said apparently, according to Locke’s
judgment (though he is not so explicit about this), of a proposition
in morals, such as ‘God is to be feared and obeyed by man.’ (Book
IV. chap. xi. sec. 13.) [4] But how are such propositions, at once
abstract and real, general and instructive, to be accounted for?
There is no ‘workmanship of the mind’ recognised by Locke but that
which consists in compounding and abstracting (_i.e._, separating)
ideas of which ‘it cannot originate one.’ The ‘abstract ideas’
of mathematics, the ‘mixed modes’ of morals, just as much as the
ideas of substances, must be derived by such mental artifice from
a material given in simple feeling, and ‘real’ because so given.
Yet, while this derivation renders ideas of substances unreal in
contrast with their real ‘originals,’ and general propositions about
them ‘trifling,’ because, while ‘intimating an existence,’ they
tell nothing about it, on the other hand it actually constitutes
the reality of moral and mathematical ideas. Their relation to an
original disappears; they are themselves archetypes, from which the
mind, by its own act, can elicit other ideas not already involved
in the meaning of their names. But this can only mean that the mind
has some other function than that of uniting what it has ‘found’ in
separation, and separating again what it has thus united--that it can
itself originate.

[1] See above, paragraph 25.

[2] Book IV. chap. xi. sec. 13, xii. 9, &c.

[3] Just as according to Kant such a proposition expresses a judgment
‘synthetical,’ yet ‘á-priori.’

[4] Cf. Book IV. chap. iii. sec. 18, and Book III. chap, xi. sec. 16.

Significance of this doctrine.

118. A genius of such native force as Locke’s could not be applied
to philosophy without determining the lines of future speculation,
even though to itself they remained obscure. He stumbles upon truths
when he is not looking for them, and the inconsistencies or accidents
of his system are its most valuable part. Thus, in a certain sense,
he may claim the authorship at once of the popular empiricism of
the modern world, and of its refutation. He fixed the prime article
of its creed, that thought has nothing to do with the constitution
of facts, but only with the representation of them by signs and the
rehearsal to itself of what its signs have signified--in brief, that
its function is merely the analytical judgment; yet his admissions
about mathematical knowledge rendered inevitable the Kantian
question, ‘How are synthetic judgments á-priori possible?’--which was
to lead to the recognition of thought as constituting the objective
world, and thus to get rid of the antithesis between thought and
reality. In his separation of the datum of experience from the work
of thought he was merely following the Syllogistic Logic, which
really assigns no work to the thought, whose office it professes to
magnify, but the analysis of given ideas. Taking the work as that
Logic conceived it (and as it must be conceived if the separation is
to be maintained) he showed--conclusively as against Scholasticism--
the ‘trifling’ character of the necessary and universal truths with
which it dealt. Experience, the manifestation of the real, regarded
as a series of events which to us are sensations, can only yield
propositions singular as the events, and having a truth like them
contingent. By consequence, necessity and universality of connection
can only be found in what the mind does for itself, without reference
to reality, when it analyses the complex idea which it retains as
the memorandum of its past single experiences; _i.e._, in a relation
between ideas or propositions of which one explicitly includes the
other. Upon this relation syllogistic reasoning rests, and, except
so far as it may be of use for convicting an opponent (or oneself)
of inconsistency, it has nothing to say against such nominalism
as the above. Hence, with those followers of Locke who have been
most faithful to their master, it has remained the standing rule
to make the generality of a truth consist in its being analytical
of the meaning of a name, and its necessity in its being included
in one previously conceded. Yet if such were the true account of
the generality and necessity of mathematical propositions, their
truth according to Locke’s explicit statement would be ‘verbal and
trifling,’ not, as it is, ‘real and instructive.’

Fatal to the notion that mathematical truths, though general, are got
from experience:

119. The point of this, the most obvious, contradiction inherent
in Locke’s empiricism, is more or less striking according to the
fidelity with which the notion of matter-of-fact, or of the reality
that is not of the mind, proper to that system, is adhered to.
When the popular Logic derived from Locke has so far forgotten
the pit whence it was digged as to hold that propositions of a
certainty at once real and general can be derived from experience,
and to speak without question of ‘general matters-of-fact’ in a
sense which to Locke almost, to Hume altogether, would have been
a contradiction in terms, it naturally finds no disturbance in
regarding mathematical certainty as different not in kind, but only
in degree, from that of any other ‘generalisation from experience.’
Not aware that the distinction of mathematical from empirical
generality is the condition upon which, according to Locke, the
former escapes condemnation as ‘trifling,’ it does not see any need
for distinguishing the sources from which the two are derived, and
hence goes on asserting against imaginary or insignificant opponents
that mathematical truth is derived from ‘experience;’ which, if
‘experience’ be so changed from what Locke understood by it as to
yield general propositions concerning matters-of-fact of other than
analytical purport, no one need care to deny. That it can yield such
propositions is, doubtless, the supposition of the physical sciences;
nor, we must repeat, is it the _correctness_ of this supposition
that is in question, but the validity, upon its admission, of that
antithesis between experience and the work of thought, which is the
‘be-all and end-all’ of the popular Logic.

... and to received views of natural science: but Locke not so clear
about this.

120. Locke, as we have seen, after all the encroachments made
unawares by thought within the limits of that experience which he
opposes to it--or, to put it conversely, after all that he allows
‘nature’ to take without acknowledgment from ‘mind’--is still so far
faithful to the opposition as to ‘suspect a science of nature to be
impossible.’ This suspicion, which is but a hesitating expression
of the doctrine that general propositions concerning substances are
merely verbal, is the exact counterpart of the doctrine pronounced
without hesitation that mathematical truths, being at once real and
general, do not concern nature at all. Real knowledge concerning
nature being given by single impressions of bodies at single times
operating upon us, and by consequence being expressible only in
singular propositions, any reality which general propositions state
must belong merely to the mind, and a mind which can originate a
reality other than nature’s cannot be a passive receptacle of natural
impressions. Locke admits the real generality of mathematical truths,
but does not face its consequences. Hume, seeing the difficulty, will
not admit the real generality. The modern Logic, founded on Locke,
believing in the possibility of propositions at once real and general
concerning nature. does not see the difficulty at all. It reckons
mathematical to be the same in kind with natural knowledge, each
alike being real notwithstanding its generality; not aware that by
so doing, instead of getting rid, as it fancies, of the originative
function of thought in respect of mathematical knowledge, it only
necessitates the supposition of its being originative in respect of
the knowledge of nature as well.

Ambiguity as to real essence causes like ambiguity as to science of
nature. Particular experiment cannot afford general knowledge.

121. It may find some excuse for itself in the hesitation with
which Locke pronounces the impossibility of real generality in
the knowledge of nature--an hesitation which necessarily results
from the ambiguities, already noticed, in his doctrine of real and
nominal essence. So far as the opposition between the nominal and
real essences of substances is maintained in its absoluteness, as
that between every possible collection of ideas on the one side, and
something wholly apart from thought on the other, this impossibility
follows of necessity. But so far as the notion is admitted of
the nominal essence being in some way, however inadequately,
representative of the real, there is an opening, however indefinite,
for general propositions concerning the latter. On the one hand we
have the express statement that ‘universal propositions, of whose
truth and falsehood we can have certain knowledge, concern not
existence’ (Book IV. chap. ix. sec. 1). They are founded only on the
‘relations and habitudes of abstract ideas’ (Book IV. chap xii. sec.
7); and since it is the proper operation of the mind in abstraction
to consider an idea under no other existence but what it has in the
understanding, they represent no knowledge of _real_ existence at all
(Book IV. chap. ix. sec. 1). Here Locke is consistently following
his doctrine that the ‘particularity in time,’ of which abstraction
is made when we consider ideas as in the understanding, is what
specially distinguishes the real; which thus can only be represented
by ‘actually present sensation.’ It properly results from this
doctrine that the proposition representing particular experiment and
observation is only true of real existence so long as the sensation,
in which the experiment consists, continues present. Not only is the
possibility excluded of such experiment yielding a certainty which
shall be general as well as real, but the particular proposition
itself can only be _really_ true so far as the qualities, whose
co-existence it asserts, are present sensations. The former of these
limitations to real truth we find Locke generally recognising, and
consequently suspecting a science of nature to be impossible; but
the latter, which would be fatal to the supposition of there being a
real nature at all, even when he carries furthest the reduction of
reality to present feeling, he virtually ignores. On the other hand,
there keeps appearing the notion that, inasmuch as the combination
of ideas which make up the nominal essence of a substance is taken
from a combination in nature or reality, whenever the connexion
between any of these is necessary, it warrants a proposition
_universally_ true in virtue of the necessary connexion between the
ideas, and _really_ true in virtue of the ideas being taken from
reality. According to this notion, though ‘the certainty of universal
propositions concerning substances is very narrow and scanty,’ it is
yet possible (Book IV. chap. vi. sec. 13). It is not recognised as
involving that contradiction which it must involve if the antithesis
between reality and ideas in the mind is absolutely adhered to. Nay,
inasmuch as certain ideas of primary qualities, _e.g._ those of
solidity and of the receiving or communicating motion upon impulse,
are necessarily connected, it is supposed actually to exist (Book
IV. chap iii. sec. 14). It is only because, as a matter of fact, our
knowledge of the relation between secondary qualities and primary is
so limited that it cannot be carried further. That they are related
as effects and causes, it would seem, we know; and that the ‘causes
work steadily, and effects constantly flow from them,’ we know also;
but ‘their connexions and dependencies are not discoverable in our
ideas’ (Book IV. chap. iii. sec. 29). That, if discoverable in our
ideas, just because there discovered, the connexion would not be a
real co-existence, Locke never expressly says. He does not so clearly
articulate the antithesis between relations of ideas and matters
of fact. If he had done so, he must also have excluded from real
existence those abstract ideas of body which constitute the scanty
knowledge of it that according to him we do possess (Book IV. chap.
iii. sec. 24). He is more disposed to sigh for discoveries that would
make physics capable of the same general certainty as mathematics,
than to purge the former of those mathematical propositions--really
true only because having no reference to reality--which to him formed
the only scientific element in them.

What knowledge it can afford, according to Locke.

122. The ambiguity of his position will become clearer if we resort
to his favourite ‘instances in gold.’ The proposition, ‘all gold is
soluble in aqua regia,’ is certainly true, if such solubility is
included in the complex idea which the word ‘gold’ stands for, and
if such inclusion is all that the proposition purports to state. It
is equally certain and equally trifling with the proposition, ‘a
centaur is four-footed.’ But, in fact, as a proposition concerning
substance, it purports to state more than this, viz. that a ‘body
whose complex idea is made up of yellow, very weighty, ductile,
fusible, and fixed,’ is always soluble in aqua regia. In other words,
it states the invariable co-existence in a body of the complex idea,
‘solubility in aqua regia,’ with the group of ideas indicated by
‘gold.’ Thus understood--as instructive or synthetical--it has not
the certainty which would belong to it if it were ‘trifling,’ or
analytical, ‘since we can never, from the consideration of the ideas
themselves, with certainty affirm’ their co-existence (Book IV. chap.
vi. sec 9). If we see the solution actually going on, or can recall
the sight of it by memory, we can affirm its co-existence with the
ideas in question in that ‘bare instance;’ and thus, on the principle
that ‘whatever ideas have once been united in nature may be so united
again’ (Book IV. chap. iv. sec. 12), infer a capacity of co-existence
between the ideas, but that is all. ‘Constant observation may assist
our judgments in guessing’ an invariable actual co-existence (Book
IV. chap. viii. sec. 9); but beyond guessing we cannot get. If our
instructive proposition concerning co-existence is to be general
it must remain problematical. It is otherwise with mathematical
propositions. ‘If the three angles of a triangle were once equal to
two right angles, it is certain that they always will be so;’ but
only because such a proposition concerns merely ‘the habitudes and
relations of ideas.’ ‘If the perception that the same ideas will
eternally have the same habitudes and relations be not a sufficient
ground of knowledge, there could be no knowledge of general
propositions in mathematics; for no mathematical demonstration
could be other than particular: and when a man had demonstrated any
proposition concerning one triangle and circle, his knowledge would
not reach beyond that particular diagram’ (Book IV. chap. i. sec. 9).

Not the knowledge which is now supposed to be got by induction. Yet
more than Locke was entitled to suppose it could give.

123. To a reader, fresh from our popular treatises on Logic, such
language would probably at first present no difficulty. He would
merely lament that Locke, as a successor of Bacon, was not better
acquainted with the ‘Inductive methods,’ and thus did not understand
how an observation of co-existence in the bare instance, if the
instance be of the right sort, may warrant a universal affirmation.
Or he may take the other side, and regard Locke’s restriction upon
general certainty as conveying, not any doubt as to the validity
of the inference from an observed case to all cases where the
conditions are ascertainably the same, but a true sense of the
difficulty of ascertaining in any other case that the conditions
are the same. On looking closer, however, he will see that, so far
from Locke’s doctrine legitimately allowing of such an adaptation
to the exigencies of science, it is inconsistent with itself in
admitting the reality of most of the conditions in the case supposed
to be observed, and thus in allowing the real truth even of the
singular proposition. This purports to state, according to Locke’s
terminology, that certain ‘ideas’ do now or did once co-exist in a
body. But the ideas, thus stated to co-exist, according to Locke’s
doctrine that real existence is only testified to by actual present
sensation, differ from each other as that which _really_ exists
from that which does not. In the particular experiment of gold
being solved in aqua regia, from the complex idea of solubility an
indefinite deduction would have to be made for qualification by ideas
retained in the understanding before we could reach the present
sensation; and not only so, but the group of ideas indicated by
‘gold,’ to whose co-existence with solubility the experiment is said
to testify, as Locke himself says, form merely a nominal essence,
while the body to which we ascribe this essence is something which we
‘accustom ourselves to suppose,’ not any ‘parcel of matter’ having
a real existence in nature. [1] In asserting the co-existence of
the ideas forming such a nominal essence with the actual sensation
supposed to be given in the experiment, we change the meaning of
‘existence,’ between the beginning and end of the assertion, from
that according to which all ideas exist to that according to which
existence has no ‘connexion with any other of our ideas but those of
ourselves and God,’ but is testified to by present sensation. [2]
This paralogism escapes Locke just as his equivocal use of the term
‘idea’ escapes him. The distinction, fixed in Hume’s terminology as
that between impression and idea, forces itself upon him, as we have
seen, in the Fourth book of the Essay, where the whole doctrine of
real existence turns upon it, but alongside of it survives the notion
that ideas, though ‘in the mind’ and forming a nominal essence, are
yet, if rightly taken from things, ectypes of reality. Thus he does
not see that the co-existence of ideas, to which the particular
experiment, as he describes it, testifies, is nothing else than the
co-existence of an event with a conception--of that which is in a
particular time, and (according to him) only for that reason real,
with that which is not in time at all but is an unreal abstraction
of the mind’s making. [3] The reality given in the actual sensation
cannot, as a matter of fact, be discovered to have a necessary
connexion with the ideas that form the nominal essence, and therefore
cannot be asserted universally to co-exist with them; but with better
faculties, he thinks, the discovery might be made (Book IV. chap.
iii. sec. 16). It does not to him imply such a contradiction as it
must have done if he had steadily kept in view his doctrine that of
particular (_i.e._ real) existence our ‘knowledge’ is not properly
knowledge at all, but simply sensation--such a contradiction as was
to Hume involved in the notion of deducing a matter of fact.

[1] See above, paragraphs 35, 94, &c.

[2] See above, paragraph 30 and the following.

[3] See above, paragraphs 45, 80, 85, 97.

With Locke mathematical truths, though ideal, true also of nature.

124. It results that those followers of Locke, who hold the
distinction between propositions of mathematical certainty and those
concerning real existence to be one rather of degree than of kind,
though they have the express words of their master against them, can
find much in his way of thinking on their side. This, however, does
not mean that he in any case drops the antithesis between matters of
fact and relations of ideas in favour of matters of fact, so as to
admit that mathematical propositions concern matters of fact, but
that he sometimes drops it in favour of relations of ideas, so as
to represent real existence as consisting in such relations. If the
matter of fact, or real existence, is to be found only in the event
constituted or reported by present feeling, such a relation of ideas,
by no manner of means reducible to an event, as the mathematical
proposition states, can have no sort of connection with it. But if
real existence is such that the relations of ideas, called primary
qualities of matter, constitute it, and the qualities included in our
nominal essences are its copies or effects, then, as on the one side
our complex ideas of substances only fail of reality through want of
fulness, or through mistakes in the process by which they are ‘taken
from things,’ so, on the other side, the mental truth of mathematical
propositions need only fail to be real because the ideas, whose
relations they state, are considered in abstraction from conditions
which qualify them in real existence. ‘If it is true of the idea of
a triangle that its three angles equal two right ones, it is true
also of a triangle, wherever it really exists’ (Book IV. chap. iv.
sec. 6). There is, then, no incompatibility between the idea and
real existence. Mathematical ideas might fairly be reckoned, like
those of substances, to be taken from real existence; but though,
like these, inadequate to its complexity, to be saved from the
necessary infirmities which attach to ideas of substances because not
considered as so taken, but merely as in the mind. There is language
about mathematics in Locke that may be interpreted in this direction,
though his most explicit statements are on the other side. It is not
our business to adjust them, but merely to point out the opposite
tendencies between which a clear-sighted operator on the material
given by Locke would find that he had to choose.

Two lines of thought in Locke, between which a follower would have to

125. On the one hand there is the identification of real existence
with the momentary sensible event. This view, of which the proper
result is the exclusion of predication concerning real existence
altogether, appears in Locke’s restriction of such predication to the
singular proposition, and in his converse assertion that propositions
of mathematical certainty ‘concern not existence’ (Book IV. chap.
iv. sec. 8). The embarrassment resulting from such a doctrine is
that it leads round to the admission of the originativeness of
thought and of the reality of its originations, with the denial of
which it starts. [1] It leads Locke himself along a track, which his
later followers scarcely seem to have noticed, when he treats the
‘never enough to be admired discoveries of Mr. Newton’ as having to
do merely with the relations of ideas in distinction from things,
and looks for a true extension of knowledge--neither in syllogism
which can yield no instructive, nor in experiment which can yield no
general, certainty--but only in a further process of ‘singling out
and laying in order intermediate ideas,’ which are ‘real as well as
nominal essences of their species,’ because they have no reference
to archetypes elsewhere than in the mind (Book IV. chap. vii. sec.
11, and Book IV. chap. xii. sec. 7). On the other hand there is the
notion that ideas, without distinction between ‘actual sensation’
and ‘idea in the mind,’ are taken from permanent things, and are
real if correctly so taken. From this it results that propositions,
universally true as representing a necessary relation between ideas
of primary qualities, are true also of real existence; and that an
extension of such real certainty through the discovery of a necessary
connexion between ideas of primary and those of secondary qualities,
though scarcely to be hoped for, has no inherent impossibility. It
is this notion, again, that unwittingly gives even that limited
significance to the particular experiment which Locke assigns to it,
as indicating a co-existence between ideas present as sensations
and those which can only be regarded as in the mind. Nor is it the
intrinsic import so much as the expression of this notion that is
altered when Locke substitutes an order of nature for substance
as that in which the ideas co-exist. In his Fourth Book he so far
departs from the doctrine implied in his chapters on the reality and
adequacy of ideas and on the names of substances, as to treat the
notion of several single subjects in which ideas co-exist (which he
still holds to be the proper notion of substances), as a fiction
of thought. There are no such single subjects. What we deem so are
really ‘retainers to other parts of nature.’ ‘Their observable
qualities, actions, and powers are owing to something without them;
and there is not so complete and perfect a part that we know of
nature, which does not owe the being it has, and the excellencies
of it, to its neighbours’ (Book IV. chap. vi. sec. 11). As thus
conceived of, the ‘objective order’ which our experience represents
is doubtless other than that collection of fixed separate ‘things,’
implied in the language about substances which Locke found in vogue,
but it remains an objective order still--an order of ‘qualities,
actions, and powers’ which no multitude of sensible events could
constitute, but apart from which no sensible event could have such
significance as to render even a singular proposition of real truth

[1] See above, paragraph 117, sub. fin.

Transition to doctrine of God and the soul.

126. It remains to inquire how, with Locke, the ideas of self and
God escape subjection to those solvents of reality which, with
more or less of consistency and consciousness, he applied to the
conceptions on which the science of nature rests. Such an enquiry
forms the natural transition to the next stage in the history of his
philosophy. It was Berkeley’s practical interest in these ideas that
held him back from a development of his master’s principles, in which
he would have anticipated Hume, and finally brought him to attach
that other meaning to the ‘new way of ideas’ faintly adumbrated
in the later sections of his ‘Siris,’ which gives to Reason the
functions that Locke had assigned to Sense.

Thinking substance--source of the same ideas as outer substance.

127. The dominant notion of the self in Locke is that of the inward
substance, or ‘substratum of ideas,’ co-ordinate with the outward,
‘wherein they do subsist, and from which they do result.’ ‘Sensation
convinces that there are solid extended substances, and reflection
that there are thinking ones’ (Book II. chap, xxiii. sec. 29). We
have already seen how, without disturbance from his doctrine of the
fictitiousness of universals, he treats the simple idea as carrying
with it the distinction of outward and inward, or relations severally
to a ‘thing’ and to a ‘mind.’ It reports itself ambiguously as a
quality of each of these separate substances. It is now, or was to
begin with, the result of an outward thing ‘actually operating upon
us;’ for ‘of simple ideas the mind cannot make one to itself:’ on the
other hand, it is a ‘perception,’ and perception is an ‘operation
of the mind.’ In other words it is at once a modification of the
mind by something of which it is consciously not conscious, and a
modification of the mind by itself--the two sources of one and the
same modification being each determined only as the contradictory
of the other. Thus, when we come to probe the familiar metaphors
under which Locke describes Reflection, as a ‘fountain of ideas’
other than sensation, we find that the confusions which we have
already explored in dealing with the ideas of sensation recur under
added circumstances of embarrassment. Not only does the simple
idea of reflection, like that of sensation, turn out to be already
complicated in its simplicity with the superinduced ideas of cause
and relation, but the causal substance in question turns out to
be one which, from being actually nothing, becomes something by
acting upon itself; while all the time the result of this action is
indistinguishable from that ascribed to the opposite, the external,

Of which substance is perception the effect?

128. To a reader to whom Locke’s language has always seemed to be--as
indeed it is--simply that of common sense and life, in writing the
above we shall seem to be creating a difficulty where none is to be
found. Let us turn, then, to one of the less prolix passages, in
which the distinction between the two sources of ideas is expressed:
‘External objects furnish the mind with the ideas of sensible
qualities, which are all those different perceptions they produce in
us; and the mind furnishes the understanding with ideas of its own
operations’ (Book II. chap. i. sec. 5). We have seen already that
with Locke perception and idea are equivalent terms. It only needs
further to be pointed out that no distinction can be maintained
between his usage of ‘mind’ and of ‘understanding,’ [1] and that the
simple ideas of the mind’s own operations are those of perception
and power, which must be given in and with every idea of a sensible
quality.’ [2] Avoiding synonyms, then, and recalling the results of
our examination of the terms involved in the first clause of the
passage before us, we may re-write the whole thus: ‘Creations of the
mind, which yet are external to it, produce in it those perceptions
of their qualities which they do produce; and the mind produces in
itself the perception of these, its own, perceptions.’

[1] As becomes apparent on examination of such passages, as Book II.
chap. i. sec. 1, sub. fin.; and Book II. chap. i. sec. 23.

[2] See above, paragraphs 11, 12, 16.

That which is the source of substantiation cannot be itself a

129. This attempt to present Locke’s doctrine of the relation between
the mind and the world, as it would be without phraseological
disguises, must not be ascribed to any polemical interest in making
a great writer seem to talk nonsense, The greatest writer must fall
into confusions when he brings under the conceptions of cause and
substance the self-conscious thought which is their source; and
nothing else than this is involved in Locke’s avowed enterprise
of knowing that which renders knowledge possible as he might know
any other object. The enterprise naturally falls into two parts,
corresponding to that distinction of subject and object which
self-consciousness involves. Hitherto we have been dealing with
it on the objective side--with the attempt to know knowledge as a
result of experience received through the senses--and have found the
supposed source of thought already charged with its creations; with
the relations of inner and outer, of substance and attribute, of
cause and effect, of appearance and reality. The supposed ‘outward’
turns out to have its outwardness constituted by thought, and thus
to be inward. The ‘outer sense’ is only an outer sense at all so
far as feelings, by themselves neither outward nor inward, are by
the mind referred to a thing or cause which ‘the mind supposes;’
and only thus have its reports a prerogative of reality over the
‘fantasies,’ supposed merely of the mind. Meanwhile, unable to
ignore the subjective side of self-consciousness, Locke has to put
an inward experience as a separate, but co-ordinate, source of
knowledge alongside of the outer. But this inward experience, simply
as a succession of feelings, does not differ from the outer: it only
so differs as referred to that very ‘thinking thing,’ called the
mind, which by its supposition of causal substance has converted
feeling into an experience of an outer thing. ‘Mind’ thus, by
the relations which it ‘invents,’ constitutes both the inner and
outer, and yet is treated as itself the inner ‘substratum which it
accustoms itself to suppose.’ It thus becomes the creature of its
own suppositions. Nor is this all. This, indeed, is no more than the
fate which it must suffer at the hands of every philosopher who,
in Kantian language, brings the source of the Categories under the
Categories. But with Locke the constitution of the outer world by
mental supposition, however uniformly implied, is always ignored; and
thus mind, as the inward substance, is not only the creature of its
own suppositions, but stands over against a real existence, of which
the reality is held to consist just in its being the opposite of all
such suppositions: while, after all, the effect of these mutually
exclusive causes is one and the same experience, one and the same
system of sequent and co-existent ideas.

To get rid of the inner source of ideas in favour of the outer would
be false to Locke.

130. Is it then a case of _joint_-effect? Do the outer and inner
substances combine, like mechanical forces, to produce the psychical
result? Against such a supposition a follower of Locke would find
not only the language of his master, with whom perception appears
_indifferently_ as the result of the outer or inner cause, but
the inherent impossibility of analysing the effect into separate
elements. The ‘Law of Parsimony,’ then, will dictate to him that
one or other of the causes must be dispensed with; nor, so long as
he takes Locke’s identification of the outward with the real for
granted, will he have much doubt as to which of the two must go.
To get rid of the causality of mind, however, though it might not
be untrue to the tendency of Locke, would be to lose sight of his
essential merit as a formulator of what everyone thinks, which is
that, at whatever cost of confusion or contradiction, he at least
formulates it fully. In him the ‘Dialectic,’ which popular belief
implicitly involves, goes on under our eyes. If the primacy of
self-conscious thought is never recognized, if it remains the victim
of its own misunderstood creations, there is at least no attempt
to disguise the unrest which attaches to it in this self-imposed

The mind, which Locke opposes to matter, perpetually shifting.

131. We have already noticed how the inner ‘tablet,’ on which the
outer thing is supposed to act, is with Locke perpetually receding.
[1] It is first the brain, to which the ‘motion of the outward parts’
must be continued in order to constitute sensation (Book II. chap.
ix. sec. 3). Then perception is distinguished from sensation, and
the brain itself, as the subject of sensation, becomes the outward
in contrast with the understanding as the subject of perception. [2]
Then perception, from being simply a reception, is converted into an
‘operation,’ and thus into an efficient of ideas. The ‘understanding’
itself, as perceptive, is now the outward which makes on the ‘mind,’
as the inner ‘tablet,’ that impression of its own operation in
perception which is called an idea of reflection. [3] Nor does
the regressive process--the process of finding a mind within the
mind--stop here, though the distinction of inner and outer is not any
further so explicitly employed in it. From mind, as receptive of, and
operative about, ideas, _i.e._ consciousness, is distinguished mind
as the ‘substance within us’ of which consciousness is an ‘operation’
that it sometimes exercises, sometimes (_e.g._ when it sleeps) does
not (Book II. chap. i. secs. 10-12); and from this thinking substance
again is distinguished the man who ‘finds it in himself and carries
it about with him in a coach or on horseback (Book II. chap, xxiii.
sec. 20)--the person, ‘consisting of soul and body,’ who is prone to
sleep and in sound sleep is unconscious, but whose personal identity
strangely consists in sameness of consciousness, sameness of an
occasional operation of part of himself. [3]

[1] See above, paragraph 14.

[2] Book II., chap. i. sec. 23. ‘Sensation is such an impression
made in some part of the body, as produces some perception in the

[3] Locke speaks indifferently of the mind impressing the
understanding, and of the understanding impressing the mind, with
ideas of reflection, but as he specially defines ‘understanding’ as
the ‘perceptive power’ (Book II. chap. xxi. sec. 25.), I have written
as above.

[4] Cf. II. chap. i. secs. 11 and 14, with II. chap, xxvii. sec. 9.
It is difficult to see what ingenuity could reconcile the doctrine
stated in Book II. chap. xxvii. sec. 9, that personal identity is
identity of consciousness, with the doctrine implied in Book II.
chap. i. sec. 11, that the waking Socrates is the same person with
Socrates asleep, _i.e._ (according to Locke) not conscious at all.

Two ways out of such difficulties. ‘Matter’ and ‘mind’ have the same
source in self-consciousness.

132. In the history of subsequent philosophy two typical methods
have appeared of dealing with this chaos of antinomies. One, which
we shall have to treat at large in writing of Hume, affects to
dispose of both the outward and the inward synthesis--both of
the unity of feelings in a subject matter and of their unity in
a subject mind--as ‘fictions of thought.’ This method at once
suggests the vital question whether a mind which thus invents has
been effectively suppressed--whether, indeed, the theory can be so
much as stated without a covert assumption of that which it claims
to have destroyed. The other method, of which Kant is the parent,
does not attempt to efface the apparent contradictions which beset
the ‘relation between mind and matter;’ but regarding them as in
a certain sense inevitable, traces them to their source in the
application to the thinking Ego itself of conceptions, which it
does indeed constitute in virtue of its presence to phenomena given
under conditions of time, but under which for that very reason it
cannot itself be known. It is in virtue of the presence of the
self-conscious unit to the manifold of feeling, according to this
doctrine, that the latter becomes an order of definite things, each
external to the other; and it is only by a false inclusion within
this order of that which constitutes it that the Ego itself becomes
a ‘thinking thing’ with other things outside it. The result of such
inclusion is that the real world, which it in the proper sense makes,
becomes a reality external to it, yet apart from which it would
not be actually anything. Thus with Locke, though the mind has a
potential existence of its own, it is experience of ‘things without
it’ that ‘furnishes’ it or makes it what it actually is. But the
relation of such outer things to the mind cannot be spoken of without
contradiction. If supposed outward as bodies, they have to be brought
within consciousness as objects of sensation; if supposed outward
as sensation, they have to be brought within consciousness--to find
a home in the understanding--as ideas of sensation. Meanwhile the
consideration returns that after all the ‘thinking thing’ contributes
something to that which it thinks about; and, this once admitted, it
is as impossible to limit its work on one side as that of the outer
thing on the other. Each usurps the place of its opposite. Thus with
Locke the understanding produces effects on itself, but the product
is one and the same ‘perception’ otherwise treated as an effect of
the outer world. One and the same self-consciousness, in short, [1]
involving the correlation of subject and object, becomes the result
of two separate ‘things,’ each exclusive of the other, into which the
opposite poles of this relation have been converted--the extended
thing or ‘body’ on the one side, and the thinking thing or ‘mind’ on
the other.

[1] For the equivalence of perception with self-consciousness in
Locke, see above, paragraph 24, et infra.

Difficulties in the way of ascribing reality to substance as matter,
re-appear in regard to substance as mind.

133. To each of these supposed ‘things’ thought transfers its own
unity and self-containedness, and thereupon finds itself in new
difficulties. These, so far as they concern the outward thing, have
already been sufficiently noticed. We have seen how the single
self-contained thing on the one hand attenuates itself to the bare
atom, presented in a moment of time, which in its exclusiveness
is actually nothing: [1] how, on the other, it spreads itself, as
everything which for one moment we regard as independent turns out
in the next to be a ‘retainer’ to something else, into a series that
cannot be summed. [2] A like consequence follows when the individual
man, conceiving of the thought, which is not mine but me, and which
is no less the world without which I am not I, as a thinking thing
within him, limited by the limitations of his animal nature, seeks
in this thinking thing, exclusive of other things, that unity and
self-containedness, which only belong to the universal ‘I.’ He
finds that he ‘thinks not always;’ that during a fourth part of his
time he neither thinks nor perceives at all; and that even in his
waking hours his consciousness consists of a succession of separate
feelings, whose recurrence he cannot command. [3] Thought being
thus broken and dependent, substantiality is not to be found in it.
It is next sought in the ‘thing’ of which thought is an occasional
operation--a thing of which it may readily be admitted that its
nature cannot be known (Book II. chap, xxiii. sec. 29, etc.), since
it has no nature, being merely that which remains of the thinking
thing upon abstraction of its sole determination. It is in principle
nothing else than the supposed basis of sensible qualities remaining
after these have been abstracted--the ‘parcel of matter’ which has
no essence--with which accordingly Locke sometimes himself tends
to identify it. [4] But meanwhile, behind this unknown substance,
whether of spirit or of body, the self-consciousness, which has been
treated as its occasional unessential operation, re-asserts itself as
the self which claims both body and spirit, the immaterial no less
than the material substance, as its own, and throughout whatever
diversity in these maintains its own identity.

[1] See above, paragraph 94 and the following.

[2] See above, paragraph 125.

[3] Locke, Essay ii. chap. i. sec. 10, etc.

[4] See above, paragraph 106, near the end.

We think not always, yet thought constitutes the self.

134. Just, then, as Locke’s conception of outward reality grows
under his hands into a conception of nature as a system of relations
which breaks through the limitations of reality as constituted
by mere _individua_, so it is with the self, as he conceived it.
It is not a simple idea. It is not one of the train that is for
ever passing, ‘one going and another coming,’ for it looks on this
succession as that which it experiences, being itself the same
throughout the successive differences (Book II. chap. vii. sec. 9,
and chap. xxvii. sec. 9). As little can it be adjusted to any of
the conditions of real ‘things,’ thinking or unthinking, which he
ordinarily recognises. It has no ‘particularity in space and time.’
That which is past in ‘reality’ is to it present. It is ‘in its
nature indifferent to any parcel of matter.’ It is the same with
itself yesterday and to-day, here and there. That ‘with which its
consciousness can join itself is one self with it,’ and it can so
join itself with substances apart in space and remote in time (Book
II. chap, xxvii. secs. 9, 13, 14, 17). For speaking of it as eternal,
indeed, we could find no warrant in Locke. He does not so clearly
distinguish it from the ‘thinking thing’ supposed to be within each
man, that has ‘had its determinate time and place of beginning to
exist, relation to which determines its identity so long as it
exists’ (Book II. chap. xxvii. sec. 2). Hence he supposed an actual
limit to the past which it could make present--a limit seemingly
fixed for each man at the farthest by the date of his birth--though
he talks vaguely of the possibility of its range being extended (Book
II. chap. xxvii. sec. 16). In the discussion of personal identity,
however, the distinction gradually forces itself upon him, and he at
last expressly says (sec. 16), that if the same Socrates, sleeping
and waking, do not partake of the same consciousness (as according to
Book II. chap. i. sec. 11 he certainly does not), ‘Socrates sleeping
and waking is not the same person;’ whereas the ‘thinking thing’--the
substance of which consciousness is a power sometimes exercised,
sometimes not--is the same in the sleeping as in the waking Socrates.
This is a pregnant admission, but it brings nothing to the birth in
Locke himself. The inference which it suggests to his reader, that
a self which does not slumber or sleep is not one which is born or
dies, does not seem to have occurred to him. Taking for his method
the imaginary process of ‘looking into his own breast,’ instead
of the analysis of knowledge and morality, he could not find the
eternal self which knowledge and morality pre-suppose, but only the
contradiction of a person whose consciousness is not the same for two
moments together, and often ceases altogether, but who yet, in virtue
of an identity of this very consciousness, is the same in childhood
and in old age.

Locke neither disguises these contradictions, nor attempts to
overcome them.

135. Here as elsewhere we have to be thankful that the contradiction
had not been brought home so strongly to Locke as to make him
seek the suppression of either of its alternatives. He was aware
neither of the burden which his philosophy tended to put upon the
self which ‘can consider itself as itself in different times and
places’--the burden of replacing the stable world, when ‘the new way
of ideas’ should have resolved the outward thing into a succession of
feelings--nor of the hopelessness of such a burden being borne by a
‘perishing’ consciousness, ‘of which no two parts exist together, but
follow each other in succession.’ [1] When he ‘looked into himself,’
he found consciousness to consist in the succession of ideas,
‘one coming and another going:’ he also found that ‘consciousness
alone makes what we call self,’ and that he was the same self at
any different points in the succession. He noted the two ‘facts of
consciousness’ at different stages of his enquiry, and was apparently
not struck by their contradiction. He could describe them both, and
whatever he could describe seemed to him to be explained. Hence they
did not suggest to him any question either as to the nature of the
observed object or as to the possibility of observing it, such as
might have diverted philosophy from the method of self-observation.
He left them side by side, and, far from disguising either, put
alongside of them another fact--the presence among the perpetually
perishing ideas of that of a consciousness identical with itself, not
merely in different times and places, but in all times and places.
Such an idea, under the designation of an eternal wise Being, he was
‘sure he had’ (Book II. chap. xvii. sec. 14).

[1] Cf. Book II. chap. xiv. sec. 32--‘by observing what passes in our
minds, how our ideas there in train constantly some vanish and others
begin to appear, we come by the idea of succession; and by observing
a distance in the parts of this succession, we get the idea of
duration’--with chap. xv. sec. 12. ‘Duration is the idea we have of
perishing distance, of which no two parts exist together, but follow
each other in succession.’

Is the idea of God possible to a consciousness given in time?

136. The remark will at once occur that the question concerning the
relation between our consciousness, as in succession, and the idea
of God, is essentially different from that concerning the relation
between this consciousness and the self identical throughout it,
inasmuch as the relation in the one case is between a fact and an
idea, in the other between conflicting facts. The identity of the
self, which Locke asserts, is one of ‘real being,’ and this is
found to lie in consciousness, in apparent conflict with the fact
that consciousness is a succession, of which ‘no two parts exist
together.’ There is no such conflict, it will be said, between the
_idea_ of a conscious being, who is the same yesterday, to-day, and
for ever--the correspondence to which of any reality is a farther
question--and the _fact_ of our consciousness being in succession.
Allowing for the moment the validity of this distinction, we will
consider first the difficulties that attach to Locke’s account of the
idea of God, as an idea.

Locke’s account of this idea.

137. This idea, with him, is a ‘complex idea of substance.’ It is
the idea each man has of the ‘thinking thing within him, enlarged
to infinity.’ It is beset then in the first place with all the
difficulties which we have found to belong to his doctrine of
substance generally and of the thinking substance in particular.
[1] These need not be recalled in detail. When God is the thinking
substance they become more obvious. It is the antithesis to ‘material
substance,’ as the source of ideas of sensation, that alone with
Locke gives a meaning to ‘thinking substance,’ as the source of ideas
of reflection: and if, as we have seen, the antithesis is untenable
when it is merely the source of human ideas that is in question,
much more must it be so in regard to God, to whom any opposition
of material substance must be a limitation of his perfect nature.
Of the generic element in the above definition, then, no more need
here be said. It is the qualification of ‘enlargement to infinity,’
by which the idea of man as a thinking substance is represented as
becoming the idea of God, that is the special difficulty now before
us. Of this Locke writes as follows:--‘The complex idea we have
of God is made up of the simple ones we receive from reflection.
If I find that I know some few things, and some of them, or all
perhaps, imperfectly, I can frame an idea of knowing twice as many:
which I can double again as often as I can add to number, and thus
enlarge my ideas of knowledge by extending its comprehension to all
things existing or possible. The same I can do of knowing them more
perfectly, _i.e._ all their qualities, powers, causes, consequences,
and relations; and thus frame the idea of infinite or boundless
knowledge. The same also may be done of power till we come to that
we call infinite; and also of the duration of existence without
beginning or end; and so frame the idea of an eternal being. ...
All which is done by enlarging the simple ideas we have taken from
the operation of our own minds by reflection, or by our senses from
exterior things, to that vastness to which infinity can extend them.
For it is infinity which joined to our ideas of existence, power,
knowledge, &c., makes that complex idea whereby we represent to
ourselves the supreme being’ (Book II. chap. xxiii. sec. 33--35).
What is meant by this ‘joining of infinity’ to our ideas?

[1] See above, paragraph 35 and the following, and 127 and the

‘Infinity,’ according to Locke’s account of it, only applicable to
God, if God has parts.

138. ‘Finite and infinite,’ says Locke, ‘are looked upon by the mind
as the modes of quantity, and are to be attributed primarily only
to those things that have parts and are capable of increase by the
addition of any the least part’ (Book II. chap. xvii. sec. 1). Such
are ‘duration and expansion.’ The applicability then of the term
‘infinite’ in its proper sense to God implies that he has expansion
or duration; and it is characteristic of Locke that though he was
clear about the divisibility of expansion and duration, as the above
passage shows, he has no scruple about speaking of them as attributes
of God, of whom as being ‘in his own essence simple and uncompounded’
he would never have spoken as ‘having parts.’ ‘Duration is the idea
we have of perishing distance, of which no parts exist together
but follow each other in succession; as expansion is the idea of
lasting distance, all whose parts exist together.’ Yet of duration
and expansion, thus defined, he says that ‘in their full extent’
(_i.e._ as severally ‘eternity and immensity’) ‘they belong only to
the Deity’ (Book II. chap. xv. secs. 8 and 12). ‘A full extent’ of
them, however, is in the nature of the case impossible. With a last
moment duration would cease to be duration; without another space
beyond it space would not be space. Locke is quite aware of this.
When his conception of infinity is not embarrassed by reference to
God, it is simply that of unlimited ‘addibility’--a juxtaposition
of space to space, a succession of time upon time, to which we can
suppose no limit so long as we consider space and time ‘as having
parts, and thus capable of increase by the addition of parts,’ and
which therefore excludes the very possibility of a totality or
‘full extent’ (Book II. chap. xvi. sec. 8, and xvii. sec. 13). The
question, then, whether infinity of expansion and duration in this,
its only proper, sense can be predicated of the perfect God, has
only to be asked in order to be answered in the negative. Nor do we
mend the matter if, instead of ascribing such infinity to God, we
substitute another phrase of Locke’s, and say that He ‘fills eternity
and immensity’ (Book II. chap. xv. sec. 8). Put for eternity and
immensity their proper equivalents according to Locke, viz. unlimited
‘addibility’ of times and spaces, and the essential unmeaningness of
the phrase becomes apparent.

Can it be applied to him ‘figuratively’ in virtue of the indefinite
number of His acts?

139. In regard to any other attributes of God than those of his
duration and expansion, [1] Locke admits that the term ‘infinite’ is
applied ‘figuratively’ (Book II. chap. xvii. sec. 1). ‘When we call
them (_e.g._ His power, wisdom, and goodness) infinite, we have no
other idea of this infinity but what carries with it some reflection
on, or intimation of, that number or extent of the acts or objects of
God’s wisdom, &c., which can never be supposed so great or so many
which these attributes will not always surmount, let us multiply them
in our thoughts as far as we can with all the infinity of endless
number.’ What determination, then, according to this passage, of our
conception of God’s goodness is represented by calling it infinite?
Simply its relation to a number of acts and objects of which the sum
can always be increased, and which, just for that reason, cannot
represent the perfect God. Is it then, it may be asked, of mere
perversity that when thinking of God under attributes that are not
quantitative, and therefore do not carry with them the necessity of
incompleteness, we yet go out of our way by this epithet ‘infinite’
to subject them to the conditions of quantity and its ‘progressus ad

[1] In the passages referred to, Locke speaks of ‘duration and
_ubiquity_.’ The proper counterpart, however, of ‘duration’ according
to him is ‘expansion’--this being to space what duration is to
time. Under the embarrassment, however, which necessarily attends
the ascription of expansion to God, he tacitly substitutes for it
‘ubiquity,’ a term which does not match ‘duration,’ and can only mean
presence throughout the _whole_ of expansion, presence throughout the
whole of that which does not admit of a whole.

An act, finite in its nature, remains so, however often repeated.

140. Retaining Locke’s point of view, our answer of course must
be that our ideas of the Divine attributes, being primarily our
own ideas of reflection, are either ideas of the single successive
acts that constitute our inward experience or formed from these
by abstraction and combination. In parts our experience is given,
in parts only can we recall it. Our complex or abstract ideas are
symbols which only take a meaning so far as we resolve them into
the detached impressions which in the sum they represent, or recall
the objects, each with its own before and after, from which they
were originally taken. So it is with the ideas of wisdom, power, and
goodness, which from ourselves we transfer to God. They represent an
experience given in succession and piece-meal--a numerable series of
acts and events, which like every other number is already infinite
in the only sense of the word of which Locke can give a clear
account, as susceptible of indefinite repetition (Book II. chap.
vi. sec. 8.) When we ‘join infinity’ to these ideas, then, unless
some other meaning is given to infinity, we merely state explicitly
what was originally predicable of the experience they embody. Nor
will it avail us much to shift the meaning of infinite, as Locke
does when he applies it to the divine attributes, from that of
indefinite ‘addibility’ to that of exceeding any sum which indefinite
multiplication can yield us. Let us suppose an act of consciousness,
from which we have taken an abstract idea of an attribute--say of
wisdom--to be a million times repeated; our idea of the attribute
will not vary with the repetition. Nor if, having supposed a limit
to the repetition, we then suppose the act indefinitely repeated
beyond this limit and accordingly speak of the attribute as infinite,
will our idea of the attribute vary at all from what it was to
begin with. Its content will be the same. There will be nothing
to be said of it which could not have been said of the experience
from which it was originally abstracted, and of which the essential
characteristic--that it is one of a series of events of which no two
can be present together--is incompatible with divine perfection.

God only infinite in a sense in which time is _not_ infinite, and
which Locke could not recognize ...

141. It appears then that it is the subjection of our experience
to the form of time which unfits the ideas derived from it for
any combination into an idea of God; nor by being ‘joined with
an infinity,’ which itself merely means the absence of limit to
succession in time, is their unfitness in any way modified. On the
contrary, by such conjunction from being latent it becomes patent.
In one important passage Locke becomes so far aware of this that,
though continuing to ascribe infinite duration to God, he does it
under qualifications inconsistent with the very notion of duration.
‘Though we cannot conceive any duration without succession, nor put
it together in our thoughts that any being does now exist to-morrow
or possess at once more than the present moment of duration; yet
we can conceive the eternal duration of the Almighty far different
from that of man, or any other finite being: because man comprehends
not in his knowledge or power all past and future things ... what
is once past he can never recall, and what is yet to come he cannot
make present. ... God’s infinite duration being accompanied with
infinite knowledge and power, he sees all things past and to come’
(Book II. chap. xv. sec 12). It is clear that in this passage
‘infinite’ changes its meaning; that it is used in one sense--the
proper sense according to Locke--when applied to duration, and in
some wholly different sense, not a figurative one derived from the
former, when applied to knowledge and power; and that the infinite
duration of God, as ‘accompanied by infinite power and knowledge,’ is
no longer in any intelligible sense duration at all. It is no longer
‘the idea we have of perishing distance,’ derived from our fleeting
consciousness in which ‘what is once past can never be recalled,’ but
the attribute of a consciousness of which, if it is to be described
in terms of time at all, in virtue of its ‘seeing all things past
and to come’ at once, it can only be said that it ‘does now exist
to-morrow.’ If it be asked, What meaning can we have in speaking
of such a consciousness? into what simple ideas can it be resolved
when all our ideas are determined by a before and after?--the answer
must be, Just as much or as little meaning as we have when, in like
contradiction to the successive presentation of ideas, we speak
of a self, constituted by consciousness, as identical with itself
throughout the years of our life.

... the same sense in which the self is infinite.

142. A more positive answer it is not our present business to give.
Our concern is to show that ‘eternity and immensity,’ according to
any meaning that Locke recognises, or that the observation of our
ideas could justify, do not express any conception that can carry
us beyond the perpetual incompleteness of our experience; but that
in his doctrine of personal identity he does admit a conception
which no observation of our ideas of reflection--since these are
in succession and could not be observed if they were not--can
account for; and that it is just this conception, the conception of
a constant presence of consciousness to itself incompatible with
conditions of space and time, that can alone give such meaning to
‘eternal and infinite’ as can render them significant epithets of
God. Such a conception (we say it with respect) Locke admits when
it is wanted without knowing it. It must indeed always underlie
the idea of God, however alien to it may be attempted adaptations
of the other ‘infinite’--the _progressus ad indefinitum_ in space
and time--by which, as with Locke, the idea is explained. But it is
one for which the psychological method of observing what happens in
oneself cannot account, and which therefore this method, just so far
as it is thoroughly carried out, must tend to discard. That which
happens, whether we reckon it an inward or an outward, a physical or
a psychical event--and nothing but an event can, properly speaking,
be observed--is as such in time. But the presence of consciousness to
itself, though, as the true ‘punctum stans,’ [1] it is the condition
of the observation of events in time, is not such an event itself.
In the ordinary and proper sense of ‘fact,’ it is not a fact at all,
nor yet a possible abstraction from facts. To the method, then, which
deals with phrases about the mind by ascertaining the observable
‘mental phenomena’ which they represent, it must remain a mere
phrase, to be explained as the offspring of other phrases whose real
import has been misunderstood. It can only recover a significance
when this method, as with Hume, has done its worst, and is found to
leave the possibility of knowledge, without such ‘punctum stans,’
still unaccounted for.

[1] Locke, Essay II. chap. xvii. sec. 16.

How do I know my own real existence?--Locke’s answer.

143. We have finally to notice the way in which Locke maintains
our knowledge of the ‘real existence’ of thinking substance, both
as that which ‘we call our mind,’ and as God. Of the former first.
‘Experience convinces us that we have an intuitive knowledge of our
own existence.... If I know I feel pain, it is evident I have as
certain perception of my own existence as of the pain I feel. If I
know I doubt, I have as certain perception of the existence of the
thing doubting as of that thought which I call doubt’ (Book IV. chap.
ix. sec. 3). Upon this the remark must occur that the existence of a
painful feeling is one thing; the existence of a permanent subject,
remaining the same with itself, when the feeling is over, and
through the succession of other feelings, quite another. The latter
is what is meant by my own existence, of which undoubtedly there
is a ‘certain perception,’ if the feeling of pain has become the
‘knowledge that I feel pain,’ and if by the ‘I’ is understood such
a permanent subject. That the feeling, as ‘simple idea,’ is taken
to begin with by Locke for the knowledge that I feel something, we
have sufficiently seen. [1] Just as, in virtue of this conversion,
it gives us ‘assurance’ of the real existence of the outer thing or
material substance on the one side, so of the thinking substance
on the other. It carries with it the certainty at once that I have
a feeling, and that something makes me feel. But whereas, after
the conversion of feeling into a felt thing has been throughout
assumed--as indeed otherwise feeling could not be spoken of--a
further question is raised, which causes much embarrassment, as to
the real existence of such thing; on the contrary, the reference of
the feeling to the _thinking_ thing is taken as carrying with it the
real existence of such thing. The question whether it really exists
or no is only once raised, and then summarily settled by the sentence
we have quoted, while the reality whether of existence or of essence
on the part of the outward thing, as we have found to our cost, is
the main burden of the Third and Fourth Books.

[1] See above, paragraphs 26 and following, and 59 and following.

It cannot be known consistently with Locke’s doctrine of real

144. In principle, indeed, the answer to both questions, as given
by Locke, is the same: for the reasons which he alleges for being
assured of the ‘existence of a thing without us corresponding to
the idea of sensation’ reduce themselves, as we have seen, to the
reiteration of that reference of the idea to a thing, which according
to him is originally involved in it, and which is but the correlative
of its reference to a subject. This, however, is what he was not
himself aware of. To him the outer and the inner substance were
separate and independent things, for each of which the question of
real existence had to be separately settled. To us, according to the
view already indicated, it is the presence of self-consciousness, or
thought as an object-to-itself, to feeling that converts it into a
relation between feeling thing and felt thing, between ‘cogitative
and incogitative substance.’ The source of substantiation upon
each side being the same, the question as to the real existence of
either substance must be the same, and equally so the answer to it.
It is an answer that must be preceded by a counter question.--Does
real existence mean existence independent of thought? To suppose
such existence is to suppose an impossibility--one which is not the
less so though the existence be supposed material, if ‘material’
means in ‘space’ and space itself is a relation constituted by the
mind, ‘bringing things to and setting them by one another.’ Yet is
the supposition itself but a mode of the logical substantiation
we have explained, followed by an imaginary abstraction of the
work of the mind from this, its own creation. Does real existence
mean a possible feeling? If so, it is as clear that what converts
feeling into a relation between felt thing and feeling subject
cannot in this sense be real, as it is that without such conversion
no distinction between real and fantastic would be possible. Does
it, finally, mean individuality, in such a sense that unless I can
say this or that is substance, thinking or material, substance does
not really exist? If it does, the answer is that substance, being
constituted by a relation by which self-conscious thought is for ever
determining feelings, and which every predication represents, cannot
be identified with any ‘this or that,’ though without it there could
be no ‘this or that’ at all.

But he ignores this in treating of the self.

145. We have already found that Locke accepts each of the above as
determinations of real existence, and that, though in spite of them
he labours to maintain the real existence of outward things, he is
so far faithful to them as to declare real essence unknowable. In
answering the question as to ‘his own existence’ he wholly ignores
them. He does not ask how the real existence of the thinking Ego
sorts with his ordinary doctrine that the real is what would be in
the world whether there were a mind or no; or its real identity,
present throughout the particulars of experience, with his ordinary
doctrine of the fictitiousness of ‘generals.’ A real existence of the
mind, however, founded on the logical necessity of substantiation,
rests on a shifting basis, so long as by the mind is understood a
thinking thing, different in each man, to which his inner experience
is referred as accidents to a substance. The same law of thought
which compels such reference requires that the thinking thing in
its turn, as that which is born grows and dies, be referred as an
accident to some ulterior substance. ‘A fever or fall may take away
my reason or memory, or both; and an apoplexy leave neither sense
nor understanding, no, nor life.’ [1] Just as each outer thing turns
out to be a ‘retainer to something else,’ so is it with the inner
thing. Such a dependent being cannot be an ultimate substance; nor
can any natural agents to which we may trace its dependence really
be so either. The logical necessity of further substantiation would
affect them equally, appearing in the supposition of an unknown
something beyond, which makes them what they are. It is under such
logical necessity that Locke, in regard to all the substances which
he commonly speaks of as ultimate--God, spirit, body--from time
to time gives warning of something still ulterior and unknowable,
whether under the designation of substance or real essence (Book II.
chap. xxiii. secs. 30 and 36). If, then, it will be said, substance
is but the constantly-shifting result of a necessity of thought--so
shifting that there is nothing of which we can finally say, ‘This
is substance, not accident’--there can be no evidence of the ‘real
existence’ of a permanent Ego in the necessary substantiation therein
of my inner experience.

[1] Locke, Book III. chap. vi. sec. 4.

Sense in which the self is truly real.

146. The first result of such a consideration in a reader of Locke
will naturally be an attempt to treat the inner synthesis as a
fiction of thought or figure of speech, and to confine real existence
to single feelings in the moments of their occurrence. This, it
will seem, is to be faithful to Locke’s own clearer mind, as it
frequently emerges from the still-returning cloud of scholasticism.
The final result will rather be the discovery that the single feeling
is nothing real, but that the synthesis of appearances, which alone
for us constitutes reality, is never final or complete: that thus
absolute reality, like ultimate substance, is never to be found by
us--in a thinking as little as in a material thing--belonging as it
does only to that divine self-consciousness, of which the presence
in us is the source and bond of the ever-growing synthesis called
knowledge, but which, because it is the source of that synthesis and
not one of its partial results, is neither real nor knowable in the
same sense as is any other object. It is this presence which alone
gives meaning to ‘proofs of the being of God;’ to Locke’s among
the rest. For it is in a sense true, as he held, that ‘my own real
existence’ is evidence of the existence of God, since the self, in
the only sense in which it is absolutely real or an ultimate subject,
is already God. [1]

[1] See below, paragraph 152.

Locke’s proof of the real existence of God. There must have been
something from eternity to cause what now is.

147. Our knowledge of God’s existence, according to him, is
‘demonstrative,’ based on the ‘intuitive’ knowledge of our own.
Strictly taken, according to his definitions, this must mean that the
agreement of the idea of God with existence is perceived mediately
through the agreement of the idea of self with existence, which is
perceived immediately; that thus the idea of God and the idea of
self ‘agree’. [1] We need not, however, further dwell either on
the contradiction implied in the knowledge of real existence, if
knowledge is a perception of agreement between ideas and if real
existence is the antithesis of ideas; or on the embarrassments which
follow when a definition of reasoning, only really applicable to the
comparison of quantities, is extended to other regions of knowledge.
Locke virtually ignores his definitions in the passage before us. ‘If
we know there is some real being’ (as we do know in the knowledge
of our own existence) ‘and that non-entity cannot produce any real
being, it is an evident demonstration that from eternity there has
been something; since what was not from eternity had a beginning,
and what had a beginning must be produced by something else’ (Book
IV. chap. x. sec. 3). Next as to the qualities of this something
else. ‘What had its being and beginning from another must also have
all that which is in, and belongs to, its being from another too’
(Ibid, sec. 4.). From this is deduced the supreme power and perfect
knowledge of the eternal being upon the principle that whatever is in
the effect must also be in the cause--a principle, however, which has
to be subjected to awkward limitations in order that, while proving
enough, it may not prove too much, it might seem that, according to
it, since the real being, from which as effect the eternal being as
cause is demonstrated, is ‘both material and cogitative’ or ‘made up
of body and spirit,’ matter as well as thought must belong to the
eternal being too. That thought must belong to him, Locke is quite
clear. It is as impossible, he holds, that thought should be derived
from matter, or from matter and motion together, as that something
should be derived from nothing. ‘If we will suppose nothing first
or eternal, matter can never begin to be: if we suppose bare matter
without motion eternal, motion can never begin to be: if we suppose
only matter and motion first or eternal, thought can never begin
to be’ (Book IV. chap. x. sec. 10). The objection which is sure to
occur, that it must be equally impossible for matter to be derived
from thought, he can scarcely be said to face. He takes refuge in the
supreme power of the eternal being, as that which is able to create
matter out of nothing. He does not anticipate the rejoinder to which
he thus lays himself open, that this power in the eternal being to
produce one effect not homogeneous with itself, viz. matter, may
extend to another effect, viz. thought, and that thus the argument
from thought in the effect to thought in the cause becomes invalid,
and nothing but blind power, we know not what, remains as the
attribute of the eternal being. Nor does he remember, when he meets
the objection drawn from the inconceivability of matter being made
out of nothing by saying that what is inconceivable is not therefore
impossible (_ibid_. sec. 19), that it is simply the inconceivability
of a sequence of something upon nothing that has given him his
‘evident demonstration’ of an eternal being.

[1] See above, paragraphs 25 and 24.

How ‘eternity’ must be understood if this argument is to be valid:

148. The value of the first step in Locke’s argument--the inference,
namely, from there being something now to there having been something
from eternity--must be differently estimated according to the meaning
attached to ‘something’ and ‘from eternity.’ If the existence of
something means the occurrence of an event, of this undoubtedly
it can always be said that it follows another event, nor to this
sequence can any limit be supposed, for a first event would not be
an event at all. It would be a contingency contingent upon nothing.
Thus understood, the argument from a something now to a something
from eternity is merely a statement of the infinity of time according
to that notion of infinity, as a ‘progressus ad indefinitum,’ which
we have already seen to be Locke’s. [1] It is the exact reverse of
an argument to a creation or a first cause. If we try to change
its character by a supplementary consideration that infinity in
the series of events is inconceivable, the rejoinder will be that
a first event is not for that reason any less of a contradiction,
and that the infinity which Locke speaks of only professes to be a
negative idea, representing the impossibility of conceiving a first
event (Book II. chap. xvii. sec. 13, &c.). In truth, however, when
Locke speaks of ‘something from eternity’ he does not mean--what
would clearly be no God at all--a series of events to which, because
_of events_, and therefore in time, no limit can be supposed; but a
being which is neither event nor series of events, to which there is
no before or after. The inference to such a being is not of a kind
with the transition from one event to another habitually associated
with it; and if this be the true account of reasoning from effect to
cause, no such reasoning can yield the result which Locke requires.
As we have seen, however, this is not his account of it, [2] however
legitimately it may follow from his general doctrine.

[1] See above, paragraph 138.

[2] See above, paragraph 68.

... and how ‘cause’.

149. The inference of cause with him is the inference from a change
to something having power to produce it. [1] The value of this
definition lies not in the notion of efficient power, but in that
of an order of nature, which it involves. If instead of ‘something
having power to produce it’ we read ‘something that accounts for the
change,’ it expresses the inference on which all science rests, but
which is as far as possible from being merely a transition from one
event to another that usually precedes it. An event, interpreted as
a change of something that remains constant, is no longer a mere
event. It is no longer merely in time, a present which next moment
becomes a past. It takes its character from relation to the thing or
system of things of which it is an altered appearance, but which in
itself is always the same. Only in virtue of such a relation does it
require to be accounted for, to be referred to a ‘cause’ which is in
truth the conception that holds together or reconciles the endless
flux of events with eternal unity. The cause of a ‘phenomenon,’ even
according to the authoritative exponent of the Logic which believes
itself to follow Hume, is the ‘sum total of its conditions.’ In its
fulness, that is, it is simply that system of things, conceived
explicitly, of which there must already have been an implicit
conception in order that the event might be regarded as a change
and thus start the search for a cause. An event in time, apart from
reference to something not in time, could suggest no enquiry into
the sum of its conditions. Upon occurrence of a certain feeling
there might indeed be spontaneous recollection of a feeling usually
precedent, spontaneous expectation of another usually sequent. But
such association of feelings can never explain that conception of
cause in virtue of which, when accounting for a phenomenon, we set
aside the event which in our actual experience has usually preceded
it, for one which we only find to precede it in the single case of
a crucial experiment. That we do so shows that it is not because of
antecedence in time, however apparently uniform, that an educated man
reckons a certain event to be the cause of another, but that, because
of its sole sufficiency under the sum of known conditions to account
for the given event, he decides it to be its uniform antecedent,
however much ordinary appearances may tell to the contrary. Thus,
though he may still strangely define cause as a uniformly antecedent
event (in spite of its being a definition that would prevent him
from speaking of gravity as the cause of the fall of a stone), it
is clear that by such event he means one determined by a complex of
conditions in an unchanging universe. These conditions, again, he may
speak of as contingencies, _i.e._ as events contingent upon other
events in endless series, but he must add ‘contingent in accordance
with the uniformity of nature’--in other words, he must determine the
contingencies by relation to what is not contingent; he must suppose
nature unchanging, though our experience of it through sensation
be a ‘progressus ad indefinitum’--if he is to allow a possibility
of knowledge at all. In short, if events were merely events,
feelings that happen to me now and next moment are over, no ‘law
of causation’ and therefore no knowledge would be possible. If the
knowledge founded on this law actually exists, then the ‘argumentum
a contingentiâ mundi’ rightly understood--the ‘inference’ from
nature to a being neither in time nor contingent but self-dependent
and eternal, that constant reality of which events are the changing
appearances--is valid because the conception of nature, of a
world to be known, already implies such a being. To the rejoinder
that implication in the conception of nature does not prove real
existence, the answer must be the question. What meaning has real
existence, the antithesis of illusion, except such as is equivalent
to this conception?

[1] cf. Book II. chap. xxvi. sec. 1, and chap. xxi. sec. 1.

The world which is to prove an eternal God must be itself eternal.

150. The value, then, of Locke’s demonstration of the existence of
God, as an argument from there being something now to an eternal
being from which the real existence that we know ‘has all which is in
and belongs to it,’ depends on our converting it into the ‘argumentum
a contingentiâ mundi,’ stated as above. In other words, it depends on
our interpreting it in a manner which may be warranted by his rough
account of causation, and by one of the incompatible views of the
real that we have found in him, [1] but which is inconsistent with
his opposition of reality to the work of the mind, and his reduction
of it to ‘particular existence,’ as well as with his ordinary view
that ‘infinite’ and ‘eternal’ can represent only a ‘progressus ad
indefinitum.’ If by ‘real existence corresponding to an idea’ is
meant its presentation in a particular ‘here and now,’ an attempt
to find a real existence of God can bring us to nothing but such a
contradiction in terms as a first event. To prove it from the real
existence of the self is to prove one impossibility from another.
If, on the other hand, real existence implies the determination
of our ideas by an order of nature--if it means ideas ‘in ordine
ad universum’ (to use a Baconian phrase), in distinction from ‘in
ordine ad nos’--then the argument from a present to an eternal real
existence is valid, but simply in the sense that the present is
already real, and ‘has all that is in and belongs to it,’ only in
virtue of the relation to the eternal.

[1] See above, paragraphs 49 and 91.

But will the God, whose existence is so proven, be a thinking being?

151. This, it may be said, is to vindicate Locke’s ‘proof’ only
by making it Pantheistic. It gives us an eternity of nature, but
not God. Our present concern, however, is not with the distinction
between Pantheism and true Theism, but with the exposition of Locke’s
doctrine according to the only development by which it can be made
to show the real existence of an eternal being at all. It is only
by making the most of certain Cartesian elements that appear in his
doctrine, irreconcileable with its general purport, that we can find
fair room in it for such a being, even as the system of nature.
Any attempt to exhibit (in Hegelian phrase) ‘Spirit as the truth
of nature,’ would be to go wholly beyond our record; yet without
this the ‘ens realissimum’ cannot be the God whose existence Locke
believes himself to prove--a _thinking_ being from whom matter and
motion are derived, but in whom they are not. It is true that,
according to the context, it is the real existence of the self from
which that of the eternal being is proved. This is because, in the
Fourth Book, where the ‘proof’ occurs, following the new train of
enquiry started by the definition of knowledge, Locke has for the
time left in abeyance his fundamental doctrine that all simple ideas
are types of reality, and is writing as if ‘my own real existence’
were the only one known with intuitive certainty. This, however,
makes no essential difference in the effect of his argument. The
given existence, from which the divine is proved, is treated
expressly as _both_ ‘material and cogitative:’ nor, since according
to Locke the world is both and man is both, and even the ‘thinking
thing’ takes its content from impressions made by matter, could it be
otherwise. To have taken thought by itself as the basis of the proof
would have been to leave the other part of the world, as he conceived
it, to be referred to another God. The difficulty then arises, either
that there is no inference possible from the nature of the effect
to the nature of the eternal being, its cause; in which case no
attribute whatever can be asserted of the latter: or that to it too,
like the effect, matter as well as thought must belong.

Yes, according to the true notion of the relation between thought and

152. As we have seen, neither of these alternative views is really
met by Locke. To the former we may reply that the relation between
two events, of which neither has anything in common with the other,
but which we improperly speak of as effect and cause (_e.g._ death
and a sunstroke), has no likeness to that which we have explained
between the world in its contingency and the world as an eternal
system--a relation according to which the cause is the effect in
unity. Whatever is part of the reality of the world must belong, it
would seem, to the ‘ens realissimum,’ its cause. We are thus thrown
back on the other horn of the dilemma. Is not matter part of the
reality of the world? This is a question to which the method of
observing the individual consciousness can give none but a delusive
answer. A true answer cannot be given till for this method has been
substituted the enquiry, How knowledge is possible, and it has been
found that it is only possible as the progressive actualisation in
us of a self-consciousness in itself complete, and which in its
completeness includes the world as its object. From the point of view
thus attained the question as to matter will be, How is it related to
this self-consciousness?--a question to which the answer must vary
according to what is understood by ‘matter.’ If it means the abstract
opposite of thought--that which is supposed void of all determination
that comes of thinking--we must pronounce it simply a delusion, the
creation of self-consciousness in one stage of its communication to
us. If it means the world as in space and time, this we may allow to
be real enough as a stage in the process by which self-consciousness
constitutes reality. Thus understood, we may speak of it roughly as
part of the ‘ens realissimum’ which the complete self-consciousness,
or God, includes as its object, without any limitation of the divine
perfectness. The limitation only seems to arise so far as we, being
ourselves (as our knowledge and morality testify), though formally
self-conscious, yet parts of this partial world, interpret it amiss
and ascribe to it a reality, in abstraction from the self-conscious
subject, which it only derives from relation to it. Thus while on
the one hand it is the presence in us of God, as the self-conscious
source of reality, that at once gives us the idea of God and of an
eternal self, and renders superfluous the further question as to
their real existence; on the other hand it is because, for all this
presence, we are but emerging from nature, of which as animals we are
parts, that to us there must seem an incompatibility of existence
between God and matter, between the self and the flux of events which
makes our life. This necessary illusion is our bondage, but when the
source of illusion is known, the bondage is already being broken.

Locke’s antinomies--Hume takes one side of them as true.

153. We have now sufficiently explored the system which it was Hume’s
mission to try to make consistent with itself. We have found that it
is governed throughout by the antithesis between what is given to
consciousness--that in regard to which the mind is passive--as the
supposed real on the one side, and what is ‘invented,’ ‘created,’
‘superinduced’ by the mind on the other: while yet this ‘real’ in all
its forms, as described by Locke, has turned out to be constituted by
such ideas as, according to him, are not given but invented. Stripped
of these superinductions, nothing has been found to remain of it
but that of which nothing can be said--a chaos of unrelated, and
therefore unmeaning, _individua_. Turning to the theory of the mind
itself, the source of the superinduction, we have found this to be a
reduplication of the prolonged inconsistency which forms the theory
of the ‘real.’ It impresses itself with that which, according to the
other theory, is the impress of matter, and it really exists as that
which it itself invents. The value of Hume’s philosophy lies in its
being an attempt to carry out the antithesis more rigorously--to
clear the real, whether under the designation of mind or of its
object, of all that could not be reckoned as given in feelings which
occur to us ‘whether we will or no.’ The consequence is a splendid
failure, a failure which it might have been hoped would have been
taken as a sufficient proof that a theory, which starts from that
antithesis, cannot even be stated without implicitly contradicting

Hume’s scepticism fatal to his own premises. This derived from

154. Such a doctrine--a doctrine founded on the testimony of
the senses, which ends by showing that the senses testify to
nothing--cannot be criticised step by step according to the order in
which its author puts it, for its characteristic is that, in order
to state itself, it has to take for granted popular notions which it
afterwards shows to be unmeaning. Its power over ordinary thinkers
lies just in this, that it arrives at its destructive result by
means of propositions which every one believes, but to the validity
of which its result is really fatal. An account of our primitive
consciousness, which derives its plausibility from availing itself of
the conceptions of cause and substance, is the basis of the argument
which reduces these conceptions to words misunderstood. It cannot,
therefore, be treated by itself, as it stands in the first part of
the Treatise on the Understanding, but must be taken in connection
with Part IV., especially with the section on ‘Scepticism with regard
to the Senses;’ not upon the plan of discrediting a principle by
reference to the ‘dangerous’ nature of its consequences, but because
the final doctrine brings out the inconsistencies lurking in that
assumed to begin with. On this side of his scepticism Hume mainly
followed the orthodox Berkeley, of whose criticism of Locke, made
with a very different purpose, some account must first be given.
The connection between the two authors is instructive in many ways;
not least as showing that when the most pious theological purpose
expresses itself in a doctrine resting on an inadequate philosophical
principle, it is the principle and not the purpose that will regulate
the permanent effect of the doctrine.

Berkeley’s religious interest in making Locke consistent.

155. Berkeley’s treatises, we must remember, though professedly
philosophical, really form a theological polemic. He wrote as the
champion of orthodox Christianity against ‘mathematical atheism,’
and, like others of his order, content with the demolition of the
rival stronghold, did not stay to enquire whether his own untempered
mortar could really hold together the fabric of knowledge and
rational religion which he sought to maintain. He found practical
ungodliness and immorality excusing themselves by a theory of
‘materialism’--a theory which made the whole conscious experience of
man dependent upon ‘unperceiving matter.’ This, whatever it might
be, was not an object which man could love or reverence, or to
which he could think of himself as accountable. Berkeley, full of
devout zeal for God and man, and not without a tincture of clerical
party-spirit (as appears in his heat against Shaftesbury, whom he
ought to have regarded as a philosophical yoke-fellow), felt that
it must be got rid of. He saw, or thought he saw, that the ‘new
way of ideas’ had only to be made consistent with itself, and the
oppressive shadow must vanish. Ideas, according to that new way (or,
to speak less ambiguously, feelings) make up our experience, and
they are not matter. Let us get rid, then, of the self-contradictory
assumption that they are either copies of matter--copies of that,
of which it is the sole and simple differentia that it is not an
idea, or its effects--effects of that which can only be described
as the unknown opposite of the only efficient power with which we
are acquainted--and what becomes of the philosopher’s blind and
dead substitute for the living and knowing God? It was one thing,
however, to show the contradictions involved in Locke’s doctrine of
matter, another effectively to replace it. To the latter end Berkeley
cannot be said to have made any permanent contribution. That explicit
reduction of ideas to feelings ‘particular in time,’ which was his
great weapon of destruction, was incompatible with his doing so.
He adds nothing to the philosophy, which he makes consistent with
itself, while by making it consistent he empties it of three parts of
its suggestiveness. His doctrine, in short, is merely Locke purged,
and Locke purged is no Locke.

What is meant by relation of mind and matter?

156. The question which he mainly dealt with may be stated in general
terms as that of the relation between the mind and the external
world. Under this general statement, however, are covered several
distinct questions, the confusion between which has been a great
snare for philosophers--questions as to the relations _(a)_ between
a sensitive and non-sensitive body, _(b)_ between thought and its
object, _(c)_ between thought and something only qualified as the
negation of thought. The last question, it will be observed, is what
the second becomes upon a certain notion being formed of what the
object of thought must be. Upon this notion being discarded a further
question _(d)_, also covered by the above general statement, must
still remain as to the relation between thought, as in each man, and
the world which he does not make, but which, in some sort, makes
him what he is. In what follows, these questions, for the sake of
brevity, will be referred to symbolically.

Confusions involved in Locke’s materialism.

157. Locke’s doctrine of matter, as we have seen, involves a
confusion between _(a)_ and _(b)_. The feeling of touch in virtue of
an intellectual interpretation--_intellectual_ because implying the
action of the mind as (according to Locke) the source of ideas of
relation--becomes the idea of solidity, _i.e._ the idea of a relation
between bodies in the way of impulse and resistance. But the function
of the intellect in constituting the relation is ignored. Under cover
of the ambiguous ‘idea,’ which stands alike for a nervous irritation
and the intellectual interpretation thereof, the feeling of touch
and conception of solidity are treated as one and the same. Thus the
true _conceived_ outwardness of body to body--an outwardness which
thought, as the source of relations, can alone constitute--becomes
first an imaginary _felt_ outwardness of body to the organs of
touch, and then, by a further fallacy--these organs being confused
with the mind--an outwardness of body to mind, which we need only
kick a stone to be sure of. Meanwhile the consideration of question
_(d)_ necessitates the belief that the real world does not come and
go with each man’s fleeting consciousness, and no distinction being
recognised between consciousness as fleeting and consciousness as
permanent, or between feeling and thought, the real world comes to
be regarded as the absolute opposite of thought and its work. This
opposition combines with the supposed externality of body to mind to
give the notion that body is the real. The qualities which ‘the mind
finds inseparable from body’ thus become qualities which would exist
all the same ‘whether there were a perceiving mind or no,’ and are
primarily real; while such as consist in our feelings, though real
in so far as, ‘not being of our own making, they imply the action
of things without us,’ are yet only secondarily so because this
action is relative to something which is not body. Then, finally, by
a renewed confusion of the relation between thought and its object
with that between body and body, qualities, which are credited with
a primary reality as independent of and antithetical to the mind,
are brought within it again as ideas. They are supposed to copy
themselves upon it by impact and impression; and that not in touch
merely, but (visual feelings being interpreted by help of the same
conception) in sight also.

Two ways of dealing with it. Berkeley chooses the most obvious.

158. Such ‘materialism’ invites two different methods of attack.
On the one hand its recognised principle, that all intellectual
‘superinduction’ upon simple feeling is a departure from the real,
may be insisted on, and it may be shown that it is only by such
superinduction that simple feeling becomes a feeling of body. Matter,
then, with all its qualities, is a fiction except so far as these
can be reduced to simple feelings. Such in substance was Berkeley’s
short method with the materialists. In his early life it seemed
to him sufficient for the purposes of orthodox ‘spiritualism,’
because, having posed the materialist, he took the moral and
spiritual attributes of God as ‘revealed,’ without enquiring into the
possibility of such revelation to a merely sensitive consciousness.
As he advanced, other questions, fatal to the constructive value of
his original method, began to force themselves upon him. Granting
that intellectual superinduction = fiction, how is the fiction
possible to a mind which cannot originate? Exclude from reality all
that such fiction constitutes, and what remains to be real? These
questions, however, though their effect on his mind appears in the
later sections of his ‘Siris,’ he never systematically pursued. He
thus missed the true method of attack on materialism--the only one
that does not build again that which it destroys--the method which
allows that matter is real but only so in virtue of that intellectual
superinduction upon feeling without which there could be for us no
reality at all: that thus it is indeed opposed to thought, but only
by a position which is thought’s own act. For the development of
such views Berkeley had not patience in his youth nor leisure in his
middle life. Whatever he may have suggested, all that he logically
achieved was an exposure of the equivocation between feeling and felt
body; and of this the next result, as appears in Hume, was a doctrine
which indeed delivers mind from dependence on matter, but only by
reducing it in effect to a succession of feelings which cannot know

His account of the relation between visible and tangible extension.
We do not see bodies without the mind ...

159. It was upon the extension of the metaphor of impression to
sight as well as touch, and the consequent notion that body, with
its inseparable qualities, revealed itself through both senses,
that Berkeley first fastened. Is it evident, as Locke supposed it
to be, that men ‘perceive by their sight’ not colours merely, but
‘a distance between bodies of different colours and between parts
of the same body’; [1] in other words, situation and magnitude? To
show that they do not is the purpose of Berkeley’s ‘Essay towards a
new Theory of Vision.’ He starts from two principles which he takes
as recognised: one, that the ‘proper and immediate object of sight
is colour’; the other, that distance from the eye, or distance in
the line of vision, is not immediately seen. If, then, situation and
magnitude are ‘properly and immediately’ seen, they must be qualities
of colour. Now in one sense, according to Berkeley, they are so: in
other words, there is such a thing as _visible_ extension. We see
lights and colours in ‘sundry situations’ as well as ‘in degrees
of faintness and clearness, confusion and distinctness.’ (_Theory
of Vision_, sec. 77.) We also see objects as made up of certain
‘quantities of coloured points,’ _i.e._ as having visible magnitude.
(Ibid. sec. 54.) But situation and magnitude _as visible_ are not
external, not ‘qualities of body,’ nor do they represent by any
_necessary_ connection the situation and magnitude that are truly
qualities of body, the mind, ‘without the mind and at a distance.’
These are tangible. Distance in all its forms--as distance from the
eye; as distance between parts of the same body, or magnitude; and
as distance of body from body, or situation--is tangible. What a man
means when he says that ‘he sees this or that thing at a distance’ is
that ‘what he sees suggests to his understanding that after having
passed a certain distance, to be measured by the motion of his body
which is perceivable by touch, he shall come to perceive such and
such tangible ideas which have been usually connected with such and
such visible ideas’ (Ibid. sec. 45). On the same principle we are
said to see the magnitude and situation of bodies. Owing to long
experience of the connection of these tangible ideas with visible
ones, the magnitude of the latter and their degrees of faintness and
clearness, of confusion and distinctness, enable us to form a ‘sudden
and true’ estimate of the magnitude of the former (_i.e._ of bodies);
even as visible situation enables us to form a like estimate of the
‘situation of things outward and tangible’ (Ibid. secs. 56 and 99).
The connection, however, between the two sets of ideas, Berkeley
insists, is habitual only, not necessary. As Hume afterwards said of
the relation of cause and effect, it is not constituted by the nature
of the ideas related. [2] The visible ideas, that as a matter of fact
‘suggest to us the various magnitudes of external objects before we
touch them, might have suggested no such thing.’ That would really
have been the case had our eyes been so framed as that the _maximum
visibile_ should be less than the _minimum tangibile_; and, as a
matter of constant experience, the greater visible extension suggests
sometimes a greater, sometimes a less, tangible extension according
to the degree of its strength or faintness, ‘being in its own nature
equally fitted to bring into our minds the idea of small or great
or no size at all, just as the words of a language are in their own
nature indifferent to signify this or that thing, or nothing at all.’
(Ibid. secs. 62-64.)

[1] Locke, Essay Book II. chap. xiii. sec. 2.

[2] See below, paragraph 283

... nor yet feel them. The ‘esse’ of body is the ‘percipi’.

160. So far, then, the conclusion merely is that body as external,
and space as a relation between bodies or parts of a body, are not
both seen and felt, but felt only; in other words, that it is only
through the organs of touch that we receive, strictly speaking,
impressions from without. This is all that the Essay on Vision goes
to show; but according to the ‘Principles of Human Knowledge’ this
conclusion was merely provisional. The object of touch does not,
any more than the object of sight, ‘exist without the mind,’ nor is
it ‘the image of an external thing.’ ‘In strict truth the ideas of
sight, when by them we apprehend distance and things placed at a
distance, do not suggest or mark out to us things actually existing
at a distance, but only admonish us what ideas of touch will be
imprinted in our minds at such and such distances of time, and in
consequence of such and such actions’ (‘Principles of H. K.’ sec.
44). Whether, then, we speak of visible or tangible objects, the
object _is_ the idea, its ‘esse is the percipi.’ Body is not a thing
separate from the idea of touch, yet revealed by it; so far as it
exists at all, it must either be that idea or be a succession of
ideas of which that idea is suggestive. It follows that the notion of
the real which identifies it with matter, as something external to
and independent of consciousness, and which derives the reality of
ideas from their relation to body as thus outward, must disappear.
Must not, then, the distinction between the real and fantastic,
between dreams and facts, disappear with it? What meaning is there in
asking whether any given idea is real or not, unless a reference is
implied to something other than the idea itself?

[There are no paragraphs 161-169 in any edition or reprint. Tr]

What then becomes of distinction between reality and fancy?

170. Berkeley’s theory, no less than Locke’s, requires such
reference. He insists, as much as Locke does, on the difference
between ideas of imagination which do, and those of sense which
do not, depend on our own will. ‘It is no more than willing, and
straightway this or that idea arises in my fancy; and by the same
power it is obliterated and makes way for another.’ But ‘when in
broad daylight I open my eyes, it is not in my power to choose
whether I shall see or no, or to determine what particular objects
shall present themselves to my view.’ Moreover ‘the ideas of sense
are more strong, lively and distinct than those of the imagination;
they have likewise a steadiness, order, and coherence, and are not
excited at random as those which are the effects of human wills often
are, but in a regular train and series’ (Ibid. secs. 28-30). These
characteristics of ideas of sense, however, do not with Berkeley, any
more than with Locke, properly speaking, _constitute_ their reality.
This lies in their relation to something else, of which these
characteristics are the tests. The difference between the two writers
lies in their several views as to what this ‘something else’ is. With
Locke it was body or matter, as proximately, though in subordination
to the Divine Will, the ‘imprinter’ of those most lively ideas
which we cannot make for ourselves. His followers insisted on the
proximate, while they ignored the ultimate, reference. Hence, as
Berkeley conceived, their Atheism, which he could cut from under
their feet by the simple plan of eliminating the proximate reference
altogether, and thus showing that God, not matter, is the immediate
‘imprinter’ of ideas on the senses and the suggester of such ideas of
imagination as the ideas of sense, in virtue of habitual association,
constantly introduce (Ibid. sec. 33).

The real = ideas that God causes.

171. To eliminate the reference to matter might seem to be more
easy than to substitute for it a reference to God. If the object
of the idea is only the idea itself, does not all determination by
relation logically disappear from the idea, except (perhaps) such
as consists in the fact of its sequence or antecedence to other
ideas? This issue was afterwards to be tried by Hume--with what
consequences to science and religion we shall see. Berkeley avoids
it by insisting that the ‘percipi,’ to which ‘esse’ is equivalent,
implies reference to a mind. At first sight this reference, as common
to all ideas alike, would not seem to avail much as a basis either
for a distinction between the real and fantastic or for any Theism
except such as would ‘entitle God to all our fancies.’ If it is to
serve Berkeley’s purpose, we must suppose the idea to carry with it
not merely a relation to mind but a relation to it as its effect, and
the conscious subject to carry with him such a distinction between
his own mind and God’s as leads him to refer his ideas to God’s mind
as their cause when they are lively, distinct and coherent, but when
they are otherwise, to his own. And this, in substance, is Berkeley’s
supposition. To show the efficient power of mind he appeals to our
consciousness of ability to produce at will ideas of imagination; to
show that there is a divine mind, distinct from our own, he appeals
to our consciousness of inability to produce ideas of sense.

Is it then a succession of feelings?

172. Even those least disposed to ‘vanquish Berkeley with a grin’
have found his doctrine of the real, which is also his doctrine of
God, ‘unsatisfactory.’ By the real world they are accustomed to
understand something which--at least in respect of its ‘elements’
or ‘conditions’ or ‘laws’--permanently is; though the combinations
of the elements, the events which flow from the conditions, the
manifestations of the laws, may never be at one time what they
will be at the next. But according to the Berkeleian doctrine the
permanent seems to disappear: the ‘is’ gives place to a ‘has been’
and ‘will be.’ If I say (δεικτικῶς) [1] ‘there is a body,’ I must
mean according to it that a feeling has just occurred to me, which
has been so constantly followed by certain other feelings that it
suggests a lively expectation of these. The suggestive feeling
alone _is_, and it is ceasing to be. If this is the true account of
propositions suggested by everyone’s constantly-recurrent experience,
what are we to make of scientific truths, _e.g._ ‘a body will change
its place sooner than let another enter it,’ ‘planets move in
ellipses,’ ‘the square on the hypotheneuse is equal to the squares on
the sides.’ In these cases, too, does the present reality lie merely
in a feeling experienced by this or that scientific man, and to him
suggestive of other feelings? Does the proposition that ‘planets move
in ellipses’ mean that to some watcher of the skies, who understands
Kepler’s laws, a certain perception of ‘visible extension’ (_i.e._
of colour or light and shade) not only suggests, as to others, a
particular expectation of other feelings, which expectation is called
a planet, but a further expectation, not shared by the multitude, of
feelings suggesting successive situations of the visible extension,
which further expectation is called elliptical motion? Such an
explanation of general propositions would be a form of the doctrine
conveniently named after Protagoras--‘ἀληθὲς ὃ ἑκάστῳ ἑκάστοτε δοκεῖ’
[2]--a doctrine which the vindicators of Berkeley are careful to
tell us we must not confound with his. The question, however, is not
whether Berkeley himself admits the doctrine, but whether or no it is
the logical consequence of the method which he uses for the overthrow
of materialists and ‘mathematical Atheists’?

[1] [Greek δεικτικῶς (deiktikos) = “affirmatively” or “capable of
being proven” _i.e._ not merely hypothetically. Tr.]

[2] [Greek ἀληθὲς ὃ ἑκάστῳ ἑκάστοτε δοκεῖ (alethes ho hekasto
hekastote dokei) = the truth for each man is as it appears to him.

Berkeley goes wrong from confusion between thought and feeling. For
Locke’s ‘idea of a thing’ he substitutes ‘idea’ simply.

173. His purpose was the maintenance of Theism, and a true instinct
told him that pure Theism, as distinct from nature-worship and
daemonism, has no philosophical foundation, unless it can be shown
that there is nothing real apart from thought. But in the hurry
of theological advocacy, and under the influence of a misleading
terminology, he failed to distinguish this true proposition--there
is nothing real apart from thought--from this false one, its virtual
contradictory--there is nothing other than feeling. The confusion
was covered, if not caused, by the ambiguity, often noticed, in
the use of the term ‘idea.’ This to Berkeley’s generation stood
alike for feeling proper, which to the subject that merely feels
is neither outer nor inner, because not referring itself to either
mind or thing, and for conception, or an object thought of under
relations. According to Locke, pain, colour, solidity, are all ideas
equally with each other and equally with the _idea of_ pain, _idea
of_ colour, _idea of_ solidity. If all alike, however, were feelings
proper, there would be no world either to exist or be spoken of.
Locke virtually saves it by two suppositions, each incompatible with
the equivalence of idea to feeling, and implying the conversion of
it into conception as above defined. One is that there are abstract
ideas; the other that there are primary qualities of which ideas
are copies, but which do not come and go with our feelings. The
latter supposition gives a world that ‘really exists,’ the former
a world that may be known and spoken of; but neither can maintain
itself without a theory of conception which is not forthcoming in
Locke himself. We need not traverse again the contradictions which
according to his statement they involve--contradictions which, under
whatever disguise, must attach to every philosophy that admits a
reality either in things as apart from thought or in thought as apart
from things, and only disappear when the thing as thought of, and
through thought individualised by the relations which constitute
its community with the universe, is recognised as alone the real.
Misled by the phrase ‘idea of a thing,’ we fancy that idea and thing
have each a separate reality of their own, and then puzzle ourselves
with questions as to how the idea can represent the thing--how the
ideas of primary qualities can be copies of them, and how, if the
real thing of experience be merely individual, a general idea can
be abstracted from it. These questions Berkeley asked and found
unanswerable. There were then two ways of dealing with them before
him. One was to supersede them by a truer view of thought and its
object, as together in essential correlation constituting the real;
but this way he did not take. The other was to avoid them by merging
both thing and idea in the indifference of simple feeling. For a
merely sentient being, it is true--for one who did not think upon
his feelings--the oppositions of inner and outer, of subjective
and objective, of fantastic and real, would not exist; but neither
would knowledge or a world to be known. That such oppositions,
misunderstood, may be a heavy burden on the human spirit, the
experience of current controversy and its spiritual effects might
alone suffice to convince us; but the philosophical deliverance can
only lie in the recognition of thought as their author, not in the
attempt to obliterate them by the reduction of thought and its world
to feeling--an attempt which contradicts itself, since it virtually
admits their existence while it renders them unaccountable.

Which, if idea = feeling, does away with space and body.

174. That Berkeley’s was such an attempt, looking merely to his
treatment of primary qualities and abstract ideas, we certainly could
not doubt: though, since language does not allow of its consistent
statement, and Berkeley was quite ready to turn the exigencies of
language to account, passages logically incompatible with it may
easily be found in him. The hasty reader, when he is told that body
or distance are suggested by feelings of sight and touch rather than
immediately seen, accepts the doctrine without scruple, because he
supposes that which is suggested to be a present reality, though
not at present felt. But if not at present felt it is not according
to Berkeley an idea, therefore ‘without the mind,’ therefore an
impossibility. [1] That which is suggested, then, must itself be
a feeling which consists in the expectation of other feelings.
Distance, and body, _as suggested_, can be no more than such an
expectation; and as _actually existing_, no more than the actual
succession of the expected feelings--a succession of which, as of
every succession, ‘no two parts exist together.’ [2] There is no
time, then, at which it can be said that distance and body exist.

[1] Reference is here merely made to the doctrine by which Berkeley
disposes of ‘matter,’ the consideration of its reconcilability with
his doctrine of ‘spirits’ and ‘relations’ as objects of knowledge
being postponed.

[2] Locke, Book II. chap. xv. sec. 1.

He does not even retain them as ‘abstract ideas’.

175. This, it may seem, however inconsistent with the doctrine of
primary qualities, is little more than the result which Locke himself
comes to in his Fourth Book; since, if ‘actual present succession’
forms our only knowledge of real existence, there could be no time
at which distance and body might be _known_ as really existing. But
Locke, as we have seen, is able to save mathematical, though not
physical, knowledge from the consequences of this admission by his
doctrine of abstract ideas--‘ideas removed in our thoughts from
particular existence’--whose agreement or disagreement is stated
in propositions which ‘concern not existence,’ and for that reason
may be general without becoming either uncertain or uninstructive.
This doctrine Berkeley expressly rejects on the ground that he
could not perceive separately that which could not exist separately
(‘Principles of Human Knowledge,’ Introduction, sec. 10); a ground
which to the ordinary reader seems satisfactory because he has no
doubt, and Berkeley’s instances do not suggest a doubt, as to the
present existence of ‘individual objects’--this man, this horse,
this body. But with Berkeley to exist means to be felt (‘Principles
of Human Knowledge,’ sec. 3), and the feelings, which I name a body,
being successive, its existence must be in succession likewise. The
limitation, then, of possibility of ‘conception’ by possibility of
existence, means that ‘conception,’ too, is reduced to a succession
of feelings.

On the same principle all permanent relations should disappear.

176. Berkeley, then, as a consequence of the methods by which he
disposes at once of the ‘real existence’ and ‘abstract idea of
matter,’ has to meet the following questions:--How are either reality
or knowledge possible without permanent relations? and, How can
feelings, of which one is over before the next begins, constitute
or represent a world of permanent relations? The difficulty becomes
more obvious, though not more serious, when the relations in question
are not merely themselves permanent, as are those between natural
phenomena, but are relations between permanent parts like those of
space. It is for this reason that its doctrine of geometry is the
most easily assailable point of the ‘sensational’ philosophy. Locke
distinguishes the ideas of space and of duration as got, the one
from the permanent parts of space, the other ‘from the fleeting and
perpetually perishing parts of succession.’ [1] He afterwards prefers
to oppose the term ‘expansion’ to ‘duration,’ as bringing out more
clearly than ‘space’ the opposition of relation between permanent
facts to that between ‘fleeting successive facts which never exist
together.’ How, then, can a consciousness, consisting simply of
‘fleeting successive facts,’ either be or represent that of which the
differentia is that its facts are permanent and co-exist?

[1] Book II. chap. xiv. sec. 1.

By making colour = relations of coloured points, Berkeley represents
relation as seen.

177. This crucial question in regard to extension does not seem even
to have suggested itself to Berkeley. The reason why is not far to
seek. Professor Fraser, in his valuable edition, represents him as
meaning by visible extension ‘coloured experience in sense,’ and by
tangible extension ‘resistent experience in sense.’ [1] No fault can
be found with this interpretation, but the essential question, which
Berkeley does not fairly meet, is whether the experience in each
case is complete in a single feeling or consists in a succession of
feelings. If in a single feeling, it clearly is not extension, as a
relation between parts, at all; if in a succession of feelings, it
is only extension because a synthetic principle, which is not itself
one of the feelings, but equally present to them all, transforms
them into permanent parts of which each qualifies the other by
outwardness to it. Berkeley does not see the necessity of such a
principle, because he allows himself to suppose extension--at any
rate visible extension--to be constituted by a single feeling.
Having first pronounced that the proper object of sight is colour,
he quietly substitutes for this _situations_ of colour, degrees of
strength and faintness in colour, and quantities of coloured points,
as if these, interchangeably with mere colour, were properly objects
of sight and perceived in single acts of vision. Now if by object of
sight were meant something other than the sensation itself--something
which to a thinking being it suggests as its cause--there would be
no harm in this language, but neither would there be any ground for
saying that the proper object of sight is colour, for distinguishing
visible from tangible extension, or for denying that the outwardness
of body to body is seen. Such restrictions and distinctions have
no meaning, unless by sight is meant the nervous irritation, the
affection of the visual organ, as it is to a merely feeling subject;
yet in the very passages where he makes them, by saying that we see
situations and degrees of colour, and quantities of coloured points,
Berkeley converts sight into a judgment of extensive and intensive
quantity. He thus fails to discern that the transition from colour
to coloured extension cannot be made without on the one hand either
the presentation of successive pictures or (which comes to the
same) successive acts of attention to a single picture, and on the
other hand a synthesis of the successive presentations as mutually
qualified parts of a whole. In other words, he ignores the work of
thought involved in the constitution alike of coloured and tangible
extension, and in virtue of which alone either is extension at all.

[1] See Fraser’s Berkeley, ‘Theory of Vision,’ note 42. I may here
say that I have gone into less detail in my account of Berkeley’s
system than I should otherwise have thought necessary, because
Professor Fraser has supplied, in the way of explanation of it, all
that a student can require.

Still he admits that space is constituted by a succession of feelings.

178. But though he does not scruple to substitute for colour
situations and quantities of coloured points, these do not with him
constitute space, which he takes according to Locke’s account of it
to be ‘distance between bodies or parts of the same body.’ This,
according to his ‘Theory of Vision,’ is tangible extension, and
this again is alone the object of geometry. As in that treatise a
difference is still supposed between _tangible_ extension and the
feeling of touch, the question does not there necessarily arise
whether the tactual experience, that constitutes this extension, is
complete in a single feeling or only in a succession of feelings;
but when in the subsequent treatise the difference is effaced, it is
decided by implication that the experience is successive: [1] and all
received modifications of the theory, which assign to a locomotive or
muscular sense the office which Berkeley roughly assigned to touch,
make the same implication still more clearly. Now in the absence of
any recognition of a synthetic principle, in relation to which the
successive experience becomes what it is not in itself, this means
nothing else than that space is a succession of feelings, which again
means that space is not space, not a qualification of bodies or parts
of body by mutual externality, since to such qualification it is
necessary that bodies or their parts coexist. Thus, in his hurry to
get rid of externality as independence of the mind, he has really got
rid of it as a relation between bodies, and in so doing (however the
result may be disguised) has logically made a clean sweep of geometry
and physics.

[1] ‘Principles of Human Knowledge,’ sec. 44. It will be observed
that in that passage Berkeley uses the term ‘distance’ not ‘space,’
and though with him the terms are strictly interchangeable, this
may have helped to disguise from him the full monstrosity of the
doctrine, ‘space is a succession of feelings,’ which, stated in that
form, must surely have scandalised him.

If so, it is not space at all; but Berkeley thinks it is only not
‘pure’ space. _Space_ and _pure_ space stand or fall together.

179. Of this result he himself shows no suspicion. He professes to
be able, without violence to his doctrine, to accept the sciences
as they stand, except so far as they rest upon the needless and
unmeaning assumptions (as he reckoned them) of _pure_ space and its
infinite divisibility. The truth seems to be that--at any rate in
the state of mind represented his earlier treatises--he was only
able to work on the lines which Locke had laid. It did not occur
to him to treat the primary qualities as relations constituted by
thought, because Locke had not done so. Locke having treated them as
external to the mind, Berkeley does so likewise, and for that reason
feels that they must be got rid of. The mode of riddance, again,
was virtually determined for him by Locke. Locke having admitted
that they copied themselves in feelings, the untenable element in
this supposition had only to be dropped and they became feelings
simply. It is thus only so far as space is supposed to exist after
a mode of which, according to Locke himself, sense could take no
copy--_i.e._ as exclusive not merely of all colour but of all body,
and as infinitely divisible--that Berkeley becomes aware of its
incompatibility with his doctrine. Pure space, or ‘vacuum,’ to him
means space that can not be touched--a tangible extension that is not
tangible--and is therefore a contradiction in terms. The notion that,
though not touched, it might be seen, he excludes, [1] apparently for
the same reason which prevents him from allowing _visible_ extension
to be space at all; the reason, namely, that there is no ‘outness’
or relation of externality between the parts of such extension.
The fact that there can be no such relation between the successive
feelings which alone, according to him, constitute ‘tangible
extension,’ he did not see to be equally fatal to the latter being
in any true sense space. In other words, he did not see that the
test of reduction to feeling, by which he disposed of the _vacuum_,
disposed of space altogether. If he had, he would have understood
that space and body were intelligible relations, which can be thought
of apart from the feelings which through them become the world that
we know, since it is they that are the conditions of these feelings
becoming a knowledge, not the feelings that are the condition of the
relations being known. Whether they can be thought of apart from
each other--whether the simple relation of externality between parts
of a whole can be thought of without the parts being considered
as solid--is of course a further question, and one which Berkeley
cannot be said properly to discuss at all, since the abstraction of
space from body to him meant its abstraction from feelings of touch.
The answer to it ceases to be difficult as soon as the question is
properly stated.

[1] ‘Principles of Human Knowledge,’ sec. 116.

Berkeley disposes of space for fear of limiting God.

180. As with vacuum, so with infinite divisibility. Once let it
be understood that extension is constituted by the relation of
externality between homogeneous parts, and it follows that there can
be no _least_ part of extension, none that does not itself consist
of parts; in other words, that it is infinitely divisible: just as
conversely it follows that there can be no _last_ part of it, not
having another outside it; in other words, that (to use Locke’s
phrase) it is infinitely addible. Doubtless, as Berkeley held, there
is a ‘minimum visibile’; but this means that there are conditions
under which any seen colour disappears, and disappearing, ceases to
be known under the relation of extension; but it is only through a
confusion of the relation with the colour that the disappearance of
the latter is thought to be a disappearance of so much extension. [1]
It was, in short, the same failure to recognise the true ideality of
space, as a relation constituted by thought, that on the one hand
made its ‘purity’ and infinity unmeaning to Berkeley, and on the
other made him think that, if pure (_sc_. irreducible to feelings)
and infinite, it must limit the Divine perfection, either as being
itself God or as ‘something beside God which is eternal, uncreated,
and infinite’ (‘Principles of Human Knowledge,’ sec. 117). Fear of
this result set him upon that method of resolving space, and with it
the world of nature, into sequent feelings, which, if it had been
really susceptible of logical expression, would at best have given
him nothing but a μέγα ζῶον [2] for God. If he had been in less of
a hurry with his philosophy, he might have found that the current
tendency to ‘bind God in nature or diffuse in space’ required to be
met by a sounder than his boyish idealism--by an idealism which gives
space its due, but reflects that to make space God, or a limitation
on God, is to subject thought itself to the most superficial of the
relations by which it forms the world that it knows.

[1] The same remark of course applies, _mutatis mutandis_, to the
‘minimum tangibile.’ See below, paragraphs 265 and 260.

[2] [Greek μέγα ζῶον (mega zoon) = great being. Tr.]

How he deals with possibility of general knowledge.

181. So far we have only considered Berkeley’s reduction of primary
qualities, supposed to be sensible, to sensations as it affects the
qualities themselves, rather than as it affects the possibility
of universal judgments about them. If, indeed, as we have found,
such reduction really amounts to the absolute obliteration of the
qualities, no further question can remain as to the possibility of
general knowledge concerning them. As Berkeley, however, did not
admit the obliteration, the further question did remain for him:
and the condition of his plausibly answering it was that he should
recognise in the ‘idea,’ as subject of predication, that intelligible
qualification by relation which he did not recognise in it simply as
‘idea,’ and which essentially differences it from feeling proper. If
any particular ‘tangible extension,’ _e.g._ a right-angled triangle,
is only a feeling, or in Berkeley’s own language, ‘a fleeting
perishable passion’ [1] not existing at all, even as an ‘abstract
idea,’ except when some one’s tactual organs are being affected in
a certain way--what are we to make of such a general truth as that
the square on its base is always equal to the squares on its sides?
Omitting all difficulties about the convertibility of a figure with
a feeling, we find two questions still remain--How such separation
can be made of the figure from the other conditions of the tactual
experience as that propositions should be possible which concern the
figure simply; and how a single case of tactual experience--that
in which the mathematician finds a feeling called a right-angled
triangle followed by another which he calls equality between the
squares, &c.--leads in the absence of any ‘necessary connexion’
to the expectation that the sequence will always be the same. [2]
The difficulty becomes the more striking when it is remembered
that though the geometrical proposition in question, according to
Berkeley, concerns the tangible, the experience which suggests it is
merely visual.

[1] ‘Principles of Human Knowledge,’ sec. 89.

[2] See above, paragraph 122.

His theory of universals ...

182. Berkeley’s answer to these questions must be gathered from his
theory of general names. ‘It is, I know,’ he says, ‘a point much
insisted on, that all knowledge and demonstration are about universal
notions, to which I fully agree: but then it does not appear to me
that those notions are formed by abstraction--_universality_, so
far as I can comprehend, not consisting in the absolute positive
nature or conception of anything, but in the relation it bears to
the particulars signified or represented by it; by virtue whereof
it is that things, names, or notions, being in their own nature
_particular_, are rendered universal. Thus, when I demonstrate any
proposition concerning triangles, it is to be supposed that I have in
view the universal idea of a triangle; which is not to be understood
as if I could frame an idea of a triangle which was neither
equilateral nor scalene nor equicrural; but only that the particular
triangle I considered, whether of this or that sort it matters not,
doth equally stand for and represent all rectilinear triangles
whatsoever, and is in that sense universal.’ Thus it is that ‘a man
may consider a figure merely as triangular.’ (‘Principles of Human
Knowledge,’ Introd. secs. 15 and 16.)

... of value, as implying that universality of ideas lies in relation.

183. In this passage appear the beginnings of a process of thought
which, if it had been systematically pursued by Berkeley, might have
brought him to understand by the ‘percipi,’ to which he pronounced
‘esse’ equivalent, definitely the ‘intelligi.’ As it stands, the
result of the passage merely is that the triangle (for instance)
‘in its own nature,’ because ‘particular,’ is not a possible
subject of general predication or reasoning: that it is so only as
‘considered’ under a relation of resemblance to other triangles and
by such consideration universalized. ‘In its own nature,’ or as a
‘particular idea,’ the triangle, we must suppose, is so much tangible
(or visible, as symbolical of tangible) extension, and therefore
according to Berkeley a feeling. But a relation, as he virtually
admits, [1] is neither a feeling nor felt. The triangle, then, as
considered under relation and thus a possible subject of general
propositions, is quite other than the triangle in its own nature.
This, of course, is so far merely a virtual repetition of Locke’s
embarrassing doctrine that real things are not the things which we
speak of, and which are the subject of our sciences; but it is a
repetition with two fruitful differences--one, that the thing in
its ‘absolute positive nature’ is more explicitly identified with
feeling; the other, that the process, by which the thing thought and
spoken of is supposed to be derived from the real thing, is no longer
one of ‘abstraction,’ but consists in consideration of relation.
It is true that with Berkeley the mere feeling has a ‘positive
nature’ apart from considered relations, [2] and that the considered
relation, by which the feeling is universalised, is only that of
resemblance between properties supposed to exist independently of it.
The ‘particular triangle,’ reducible to feelings of touch, has its
triangularity (we must suppose) simply as a feeling. It is only the
resemblance between the triangularity in this and other figures--not
the triangularity itself--that is a relation, and, as a relation, not
felt but considered; or in Berkeley’s language, something of which we
have not properly an ‘idea’ but a ‘notion.’ [3]

[1] See ‘Principles of Human Knowledge,’ sec. 89. (2nd edit.)

[2] See below, paragraph 298.

[3] ‘Principles of Human Knowledge,’ Ibid. This perhaps is the
best place for saying that it is not from any want of respect for
Dr. Stirling that I habitually use ‘notion’ in the loose popular
way which he counts ‘barbarous,’ but because the barbarism is so
prevalent that it seems best to submit to it, and to use ‘conception’
as the equivalent of the German ‘Begriff.’

But he fancies that each idea has a positive nature apart from

184. But though Berkeley only renders explicit the difficulties
implicit in Locke’s doctrine of ideas, that is itself a great step
taken towards disposing of them. Once let the equivocation between
sensible qualities and sensations be got rid of--once let it be
admitted that the triangle in its absolute nature, as opposed to
the triangle considered, is merely a feeling, and that relations
are not feelings or felt--and the question must soon arise, What
in the absence of all relation remains to be the absolute nature
of the triangle? It is a question which ultimately admits of but
one answer. The triangularity of the given single figure must
be allowed to be just as much a relation as the resemblance,
consisting in triangularity, between it and other figures; and if a
relation, then not properly felt, but understood. The ‘particular’
triangle, if by that is meant the triangle as subject of a singular
proposition, is no more ‘particular in time,’ no more constituted
by the occurrence of a feeling, than is the triangle as subject of
a general proposition. It really exists as constituted by relation,
and therefore only as ‘considered’ or understood. In its existence,
as in the consideration of it, the relations indicated by the terms
‘equilateral, equicrural and scalene,’ presuppose the relation of
triangularity, not it them; and for that reason it can be considered
apart from them, though not they apart from it, without any breach
between that which is considered and that which really exists. Thus,
too, it becomes explicable that a single experiment should warrant
a universal affirmation; that the mathematician, having once found
as the result of a certain comparison of magnitudes that the square
on the hypothenuse is equal to the square on the sides, without
waiting for repeated experience at once substitutes for the singular
proposition, which states his discovery, a general one. If the
singular proposition stated a sensible event or the occurrence of a
feeling, such substitution would be inexplicable: for if that were
the true account of the singular proposition, a general one could but
express such expectation of the recurrence of the event as repeated
experience of it can alone give. But a relation is not contingent
with the contingency of feeling. It is permanent with the permanence
of the combining and comparing thought which alone constitutes it;
and for that reason, whether it be recognised as the result of a
mathematical construction or of a crucial experiment in physics, the
proposition which states it must already be virtually universal.

Traces of progress in his idealism.

185. Of such a doctrine Berkeley is rather the unconscious forerunner
than the intelligent prophet. It is precisely upon the question
whether, or how far, he recognised the constitution of things by
intelligible relations, that the interpretation of his early (which
is his only developed) idealism rests. Is it such idealism as Hume’s,
or such idealism as that adumbrated in some passages of his own
‘Siris’? Is the idea, which is real, according to him a feeling or
a conception? Has it a nature of its own, consisting simply in its
being felt, and which we afterwards for purposes of our own consider
in various relations; or does the nature consist only in relations,
which again imply the action of a mind that is eternal--present
to that which is in succession, but not in succession itself? The
truth seems to be that this question in its full significance never
presented itself to Berkeley, at least during the period represented
by his philosophical treatises. His early idealism, as we learn
from the commonplace-book brought to light by Professor Fraser, was
merely a cruder form of Hume’s. By the time of the publication of
the ‘Principles of Human Knowledge’ he had learnt that, unless this
doctrine was to efface ‘spirit’ as well as ‘matter,’ he must modify
it by the admission of a ‘thing’ that was not an ‘idea,’ and of which
the ‘esse’ was ‘percipere’ not ‘percipi.’ This admission carried with
it the distinction between the object felt and the object known,
between ‘idea’ and ‘notion’--a distinction which was more clearly
marked in the ‘Dialogues.’ Of ‘spirit’ we could have a ‘notion,’
though not an ‘idea.’ But it was only in the second edition of the
‘Principles’ that ‘relation’ was put along with ‘spirit,’ as that
which could be known but which was no ‘idea:’ and then without any
recognition of the fact that the whole reduction of primary qualities
to mere ideas was thereby invalidated. The objects, with which the
mathematician deals, are throughout treated as in their own nature
‘particular ideas,’ into the constitution of which relation does not
enter at all; in other words, as successive feelings.

His way of dealing with physical truths.

186. If the truths of mathematics seemed to Berkeley explicable on
this supposition, those of the physical sciences were not likely to
seem less so. As long as the relations with which these sciences deal
are relations between ‘sensible objects,’ he does not notice that
they _are_ relations, and therefore not feelings or felt, at all.
He treats felt things as if the same as feelings, and ignores the
relations altogether. Thus a so-called ‘sensible’ motion causes him
no difficulty. He would be content to say that it was a succession
of ideas, not perceiving that motion implies a relation between
spaces or moments as successively occupied by something that remains
one with itself--a relation which a mere sequence of feelings could
neither constitute nor of itself suggest. It is only about a motion
which does not profess to be ‘seen,’ such as the motion of the earth,
that any question is raised--a question easily disposed of by the
consideration that in a different position we should see it. ‘The
question whether the earth moves or not amounts in reality to no more
than this, to wit, whether we have reason to conclude from what hath
been observed by astronomers, that if we were placed in such and such
circumstances, and such or such a position and distance both from the
earth and sun, we should perceive the former to move among the choir
of the planets, and appearing in all respects like one of them: and
this by the established rules of nature, which we have no reason to
mistrust, is reasonably collected from the phenomena’ (‘Principles of
Human Knowledge,’ sec. 58). [1]

[1] Cf. ‘Dialogues,’ page 147, in Prof. Fraser’s edition.

If they imply permanent relations, his theory properly excludes them.
He supposes a divine decree that one feeling shall follow another.

187. Now this passage clearly does not mean--as it ought to mean
if the ‘_esse_’ of the motion were the ‘_percipi_’ by us--that the
motion of the earth would begin as soon as we were there to see it.
It means that it is now going on as an ‘established law of nature,’
which may be ‘collected from the phenomena.’ In other words, it
means that our successive feelings are so related to each other as
determined by one present and permanent system, on which not they
only but all possible feelings depend, that by a certain set of
them we are led--not to expect a recurrence of them in like order
according to the laws of association, but, what is the exact reverse
of this--to infer that certain other feelings, of which we have no
experience, would now occur to us if certain conditions of situation
on our part were fulfilled, because the ‘ordo ad universum,’ of
which these feelings would be the ‘ordo ad nos,’ does now obtain.
But though Berkeley’s words mean this for us, they did not mean it
for him. That such relation--merely intelligible, or according to
his phraseology not an idea or object of an idea at all, as he must
have admitted it to be--gives to our successive feelings the only
‘nature’ that they possess, he never recognised. By the relation of
idea to idea, as he repeatedly tells us, he meant not a ‘necessary
connexion,’ _i.e._ not a relation without which, neither idea would
be what it is, but such _de facto_ sequence of one upon the other
as renders the occurrence of one the unfailing but arbitrary sign
that the other is coming. It is thus according to him (and here Hume
merely followed suit) that feelings are symbolical--symbolical not
of an order other than the feelings and which accounts for them, but
simply of feelings to follow. To Berkeley, indeed, unlike Hume, the
sequence of feelings symbolical of each other is also symbolical of
something farther, viz. the mind of God: but when we examine what
this ‘mind’ means, we find that it is not an intelligible order by
which our feelings may be interpreted, or the spiritual subject of
such an order, but simply the arbitrary will of a creator that this
feeling shall follow that.

Locke had explained reality by relation of ideas to outward body.
Liveliness in the idea evidence of this relation.

188. Such a doctrine could not help being at once confused in its
account of reality, and insecure in its doctrine alike of the human
spirit and of God. On the recognition of relations as constituting
the _nature_ of ideas rests the possibility of any tenable theory of
their reality. An isolated idea could be neither real nor unreal.
Apart from a definite order of relation we may suppose (if we like)
that it would _be_, but it would certainly not be real; and as
little could it be unreal, since unreality can only result from the
confusion in our consciousness of one order of relation with another.
It is diversity of relations that distinguishes, for instance, these
letters as they now appear on paper from the same as I imagine them
with my eyes shut, giving each sort its own reality: just as upon
confusion with the other each alike becomes unreal. Thus, though
with Locke simple ideas are necessarily real, we soon find that even
according to him they are not truly so in their simplicity, but only
as related to an external thing producing them. He is right enough,
however inconsistent with himself, in making relation constitute
reality; wrong in limiting this prerogative to the one relation of
externality. When he afterwards, in virtual contradiction to this
limitation, finds the reality of moral and mathematical ideas just
in that sole relation to the mind, as its products, which he had
previously made the source of all unreality, he forces upon us the
explanation which he does not himself give, that unreality does not
lie in either relation as opposed to the other, but in the confusion
of any relation with another. It is for lack of this explanation
that Locke himself, as we have seen, finds in the liveliness
and involuntariness of ideas the sole and sufficient tests (not
_constituents_) of their reality; though they are obviously tests
which put the dreams of a man in a fever upon the same footing with
the ‘impressions’ of a man awake, and would often prove that unreal
after dinner which had been proved real before. There is a well-known
story of a man who in a certain state of health commonly saw a
particular gory apparition, but who, knowing its origin, used to have
himself bled till it disappeared. The reality of the apparition lay,
he knew, in some relation between the circulation of his blood and
his organs of sight, in distinction from the reality existing in the
normal relations of his visual organs to the light: and in his idea,
accordingly, there was nothing unreal, because he did not confuse the
one relation with the other. Locke’s doctrine, however, would allow
of no distinction between the apparition as it was for such a man
and as it would be for one who interpreted it as an actual ‘ghost.’
However interpreted, the liveliness and the involuntariness of the
idea remain the same, as does its relation to an efficient cause. If
in order to its reality the cause must be an ‘outward body,’ then it
is no more real when rightly, than when wrongly, interpreted; while
on the ground of liveliness and involuntariness it is as real when
taken for a ghost as when referred to an excess of blood in the head.

Berkeley retains this notion, only substituting ‘God’ for ‘body’.

189. As has been pointed out above, it is in respect not of the
‘ratio cognoscendi’ but of the ‘ratio essendi’ that Berkeley’s
doctrine of reality differs from Locke’s. With him it is not as an
effect of an outward body, but as an immediate effect of God, that
an ‘idea of sense’ is real. Just as with Locke real ideas and matter
serve each to explain the other, so with Berkeley do real ideas and
God. If he is asked, What is God? the answer is, He is the efficient
cause of real ideas; if he is asked, What are real ideas? the answer
is, Those which God produces, as opposed to those which we make
for ourselves. To the inevitable objection, that this is a logical
see-saw, no effective answer can be extracted from Berkeley but
this--that we have subjective tests of the reality of ideas apart
from a knowledge of their cause. In his account of these Berkeley
only differs from Locke in adding to the qualifications of liveliness
and involuntariness those of ‘steadiness, order, and coherence’ in
the ideas. This addition may mean either a great deal or very little.
To us it may mean that the distinction of real and unreal is one that
applies not to feelings but to the conceived relations of feelings;
not to events as such, but to the intellectual interpretation of
them. The occurrence of a feeling taken by itself (it may be truly
said) is neither coherent nor incoherent; nor can the sequence of
feelings one upon another with any significance be called coherence,
since in that case an incoherence would be as impossible as any
failure in the sequence. As little can we mean by such coherence an
usual, by incoherence an unusual, sequence of feelings. If we did,
every sequence not before experienced--such, for instance, as is
exhibited by a new scientific experiment--being unusual, would have
to be pronounced incoherent, and therefore unreal. Coherence, in
short, we may conclude, is only predicable of a system of relations,
not felt but conceived; while incoherence arises from the attempt of
an imperfect intelligence to think an object under relations which
cannot ultimately be held together in thought. The qualification
then of ‘ideas’ as coherent has in truth no meaning unless ‘idea’ be
taken to mean not _feeling_ but _conception_: and thus understood,
the doctrine that coherent ideas _are_ (Berkeley happily excludes the
notion that they merely _represent_) the real, amounts to a clear
identification of the real with the world of conception.

Not regarding the world as a system of intelligible relations, he
could not regard God as the subject of it.

190. If such idealism were Berkeley’s, his inference from the
‘ideality’ of the real to spirit and God would be more valid than
it is. To have got rid of the notion that the world first exists
and then is thought of--to have seen that it only really exists as
thought of--is to have taken the first step in the only possible
‘proof of the being of God,’ as the self-conscious subject in
relation to which alone an intelligible world can exist, and the
presence of which in us is the condition of our knowing it. [1] But
there is nothing to show that in adopting coherence as one test,
among others, of the reality of ideas, he attached to it any of the
significance exhibited above. He adopted it from ordinary language
without considering how it affected his view of the world as a
succession of feelings. That still remained to him a sufficient
account of the world, even when he treated it as affording intuitive
certainty of a soul ‘naturally immortal,’ and demonstrative certainty
of God. He is not aware, while he takes his doctrine of such
certainty from Locke, that he has left out, and not replaced, the
only solid ground for it which Locke’s system suggested.

[1] See above, paragraphs 146 and 149-152.

His view of the soul as ‘naturally immortal’.

191. The soul or self, as he describes it, does not differ from
Locke’s ‘thinking substance,’ except that, having got rid of
‘extended matter’ altogether, he cannot admit with Locke any
possibility of the soul’s being extended, and, having satisfied
himself that ‘time was nothing abstracted from the succession
of ideas in the mind,’ [1] he was clear that ‘the soul always
thinks’--since the time at which it did not think, being abstracted
from a succession of ideas, would be no time at all. A soul which is
necessarily unextended and therefore ‘indiscerptible,’ and without
which there would be no time, he reckons ‘naturally immortal.’

[1] ‘Principles of Human Knowledge,’ sec. 98.

Endless succession of feelings is not immortality in true sense.
Berkeley’s doctrine of matter fatal to a true spiritualism;

192. Upon this the remark must occur that, if the fact of being
unextended constituted immortality, all sounds and smells must be
immortal, and that the inseparability of time from the succession of
feelings may prove that succession endless, but proves no immortality
of a soul unless there be one self-conscious subject of that
succession, identical with itself throughout it. To the supposition
of there being such a subject, which Berkeley virtually makes, his
own mode of disposing of matter suggested ready objections. In Locke,
as we have seen, the two opposite ‘things,’ thinking and material,
always appear in strict correlativity, each representing (though he
was not aware of this) the same logical necessity of substantiation.
‘Sensation convinces us that there are solid extended substances,
and reflection that there are thinking ones.’ These are not two
convictions, however, but one conviction, representing one and the
same essential condition of knowledge. Such logical necessity indeed
is misinterpreted when made a ground for believing the real existence
either of a multitude of independent things, for everything is a
‘retainer’ to everything else; [1] or of a separation of the thinking
from the material substance, since, according to Locke’s own showing,
they at least everywhere overlap; [2] or of an absolutely last
substance, which because last would be unknowable: but it is evidence
of the action of a synthetic principle of self-consciousness without
which all reference of feelings to mutually-qualified subjects
and objects, and therefore all knowledge, would be impossible. It
is idle, however, with Berkeley so to ignore the action of this
principle on the one side as to pronounce the material world a mere
succession of feelings, and so to take it for granted on the other
as to assert that every feeling implies relation to a conscious
substance. Upon such a method the latter assertion has nothing to
rest on but an appeal to the individual’s consciousness--an appeal
which avails as much or as little for material as for thinking
substance, and, in face of the apparent fact that with a knock on the
head the conscious independent substance may disappear altogether,
cannot hold its own against the suggestion that the one substance no
less than the other is reducible to a series of feelings, so closely
and constantly sequent on each other as to seem to coalesce. We
cannot substitute for this illusory appeal the valid method of an
analysis of knowledge, without finding that substantiation in matter
is just as necessary to knowledge as substantiation in mind. If this
method had been Berkeley’s he would have found a better plan for
dealing with the ‘materialism’ in vogue. Instead of trying to show
that material substance was a fiction, he would have shown that it
was really a basis of intelligible relations, and that thus all that
was fictitious about it was its supposed sensibility and consequent
opposition to the work of thought. Then his doctrine of matter
would itself have established the necessity of spirit, not indeed
as substance but as the source of all substantiation. As it was,
misunderstanding the true nature of the antithesis between matter and
mind, in his zeal against matter he took away the ground from under
the spiritualism which he sought to maintain. He simply invited a
successor in speculation, of colder blood than himself, to try the
solution of spirit in the same crucible with matter.

[1] Above, paragraph 125.

[2] Above, paragraph 127.

... as well as to a true Theism. His inference to God from necessity
of a power to produce ideas;

193. His doctrine of God is not only open to the same objection as
his doctrine of spiritual substance, but to others which arise from
the illogical restrictions that have to be put upon his notion of
such substance, if it is to represent at once the God of received
theology and the God whose agency the Berkeleian system requires as
the basis of distinction between the real and unreal. Admitting the
supposition involved in his certainty of the ‘natural immortality’
of the soul--the supposition that the succession of feelings which
constitutes the world, and which at no time was not, implies one
feeling substance--that substance we should naturally conclude was
God. Such a God, it is true (as has been already pointed out [1]),
would merely be the μέγα ζῶον [2] of the crudest Pantheism, but it
is the only God logically admissible--if any be admissible--in an
‘ideal’ system of which the text is not ‘the world really exists
only as thought of,’ but ‘the world only exists as a succession of
feelings.’ It was other than a _feeling_ substance, however, that
Berkeley required not merely to satisfy his religious instincts,
but to take the place held by ‘outward body’ with Locke as the
efficient of real ideas. The reference to this feeling substance, if
necessary for any idea, is necessary for all--for the ‘fantastic’
as well as for those of sense--and can therefore afford no ground
for distinction between the real and unreal. Instead, however, of
being thus led to a truer view of this distinction, as in truth a
distinction between the complete and incomplete conception of an
intelligible world, he simply puts the feeling substance, when he
regards it as God, under an arbitrary limitation, making it relative
only to those ideas of which with Locke ‘matter’ was the substance,
as opposed to those which Locke had referred to the thinking thing.
The direct consequence of this limitation, indeed, might seem to
be merely to make God an animal of partial, instead of universal,
susceptibility; but this consequence Berkeley avoids by dropping
the ordinary notion of substance altogether, so as to represent
the ideas of sense not as subsisting in God but as effects of His
power--as related to Him, in short, just as with Locke ideas of sense
are related to the primary qualities of matter. ‘There must be an
active power to produce our ideas, which is not to be found in ideas
themselves, for we are conscious that they are inert, nor in matter,
since that is but a name for a bundle of ideas; which must therefore
be in spirit, since of that we are conscious as active; yet not in
the spirit of which we are conscious, since then there would be no
difference between real and imaginary ideas; therefore in a Divine
Spirit, to whom, however, may forthwith be ascribed the attributes of
the spirit of which we are conscious.’ Such is the sum of Berkeley’s
natural theology.

[1] Above, paragraph 180.

[2] [Greek μέγα ζῶον (mega zoon) = great being. Tr.]

... a necessity which Hume does not see. A different turn should have
been given to his idealism, if it was to serve his purpose.

194. From a follower of Hume it of course invites the reply that
he does not see the necessity of an active power at all, to which,
since, according to Berkeley’s own showing, it is no possible ‘idea’
or object of an idea, all his own polemic against the ‘absolute
idea’ of matter is equally applicable; that the efficient power,
of which we profess to be conscious in ourselves, is itself only a
name for a particular feeling or impression which precedes certain
other of our impressions; that, even if it were more than this, the
transition from the spiritual efficiency of which we are conscious
to another, of which it is the special differentia that we are not
conscious of it, would be quite illegitimate, and that thus in
saying that certain feelings are real because, being lively and
involuntary, they must be the work of this unknown spirit, we in
effect say nothing more than that they are real because lively and
involuntary. Against a retort of this kind Berkeley’s theistic armour
is even less proof than Locke’s. His ‘proof of the being of God’
is in fact Locke’s with the sole _nervus probandi_ left out. The
value of Locke’s proof, as an argument from their being something
now to their having been something from eternity, lay, we saw, in
its convertibility into an argument from the world as a system of
relations to a present and eternal subject of those relations. For
its being so convertible there was this to be said, that Locke, with
whatever inconsistency, at least recognised the constitution of
reality by permanent relations, though he treated the mere relation
of external efficiency--that in virtue of which we say of nature that
it consists of bodies outward to and acting on each other--as if it
alone constituted the reality of the world. Berkeley’s reduction
of the ‘primary qualities of matter’ to a succession of feelings
logically effaces this relation, and puts nothing intelligible,
nothing but a name, in its place. The effacement of the distinction
between the real and unreal, which would properly ensue, is only
prevented by bringing back relation to something under the name of
God, either wholly unknown and indeterminate, or else, under a thin
disguise, determined by that very relation of external efficiency
which, when ascribed to something only nominally different, had been
pronounced a gratuitous fiction. If Berkeley had dealt with the
opposition of reality to thought by showing the primary qualities
to be conceived relations, and the distinction between the real and
unreal to be one between the fully and the defectively conceived, the
case would have been different. The real and God would alike have
been logically saved. The peculiar embarrassment of Locke’s doctrine
we have found to be that it involves the unreality of every object,
into the constitution of which there enters any idea of reflection,
or any idea retained in the mind, as distinct from the present effect
of a body acting upon us--_i.e._ of every object of which anything
can be said. With the definite substitution of full intelligibility
of relations for present sensibility, as the true account of the
real, this embarrassment would have been got rid of. At the same
time there would have been implied an intelligent subject of these
relations; the ascription to whom, indeed, of moral attributes would
have remained a further problem, but who, far from being a ‘Great
Unknown,’ would be at least determined by relation to that order of
nature which is as necessary to Him as He to it. But in fact, as
we have seen, the notion of the reality of relations, not felt but
understood, only appears in Berkeley’s developed philosophy as an
after-thought, and the notion of an order of nature, other than our
feelings, which enables us to infer what feelings that have never
been felt would be, is an unexplained intrusion in it. The same is
true of the doctrine, which struggles to the surface in the Third
Dialogue, that the ‘sensible world’ is to God not felt at all,
but known; that to Him it is precisely not that which according
to Berkeley’s refutation of materialism it really is--a series or
collection of sensations. These ‘after-thoughts,’ when thoroughly
thought out, imply a complete departure from Berkeley’s original
interpretation of ‘phenomena’ as simple feelings; but with him,
so far from being thought out, they merely suggested themselves
incidentally as the conceptions of God and reality were found to
require them. In other words, that interpretation of phenomena, which
is necessary to any valid ‘collection’ from them of the existence
of God, only appears in him as a consequence of that ‘collection’
having been made. To pursue the original interpretation, so that all
might know what it left of reality, was the best way of deciding
the question of its compatibility with a rational belief in God--a
question of too momentous an interest to be fairly considered in
itself. Thus to pursue it was the mission of Hume.

Hume’s mission. His account of impressions and ideas. Ideas are
fainter impressions.

195. Hume begins with an account of the ‘perceptions of the human
mind,’ which corresponds to Locke’s account of ideas with two main
qualifications, both tending to complete that dependence of thought
on something other than itself which Locke had asserted, but not
consistently maintained. He distinguishes ‘perceptions’ (equivalent
to Locke’s ideas) into ‘impressions’ and ‘ideas’ accordingly as
they are originally produced in feeling or reproduced by memory and
imagination, and he does not allow ‘ideas of reflection’ any place in
the _original_ ‘furniture of the mind.’ ‘An impression first strikes
upon the senses, and makes us perceive heat or cold, thirst or
hunger, pleasure or pain, of some kind or other. Of this impression
there is a copy taken by the mind, which remains after the impression
ceases; and this we call an idea. This idea of pleasure or pain, when
it returns upon the soul, produces the new impressions of desire and
aversion, hope and fear, which may properly be called impressions
of reflection, because derived from it. These, again, are copied by
the memory and imagination, and become ideas; which, perhaps, in
their turn give rise to other impressions and ideas; so that the
impressions are only antecedent to their correspondent ideas, but
posterior to those of sensation and derived from them’ (Part I. §2).
He is at the same time careful to explain that the causes from which
the impressions of sensation arise are unknown (ibid.), and that by
the term ‘impression’ he is not to be ‘understood to express the
manner in which our lively perceptions are produced in the soul,
but merely the perceptions themselves’. [1] The distinction between
impression and idea he treats as equivalent to that between feeling
and thinking, which, again, lies merely in the different degrees of
‘force and liveliness’ with which the perceptions, thus designated,
severally ‘strike upon the mind.’ [2] Thus the rule which he
emphasises [3] ‘that all our simple ideas in their first appearance
are derived from simple impressions which are correspondent to them
and which they exactly represent,’ strictly taken, means no more
than that a feeling must be more lively before it becomes less so.
As the reproduced perception, or ‘idea,’ differs in this respect
from the original one, so, according to the greater or less degree
of secondary liveliness which it possesses, is it called ‘idea of
memory,’ or ‘idea of imagination.’ The only other distinction noticed
is that, as might be expected, the comparative faintness of the
ideas of imagination is accompanied by a possibility of their being
reproduced in a different order from that in which the corresponding
ideas were originally presented. Memory, on the contrary, ‘is in a
manner tied down in this respect, without any power of variation’;
[4] which must be understood to mean that, when the ideas are faint
enough to allow of variation in the order of reproduction, they are
not called ‘ideas of memory.’

[1] p. 312, note [Introduction to the Treatise of Human Nature]

[2] See pp. 327 and 375 [Book I, part I., sec. II. and part III. sec.

[3] p. 310 [Introduction to the Treatise of Human Nature]

[4] p. 318 [Book I, part I., sec. III.]

‘Ideas’ that cannot be so represented must be explained as mere words.

196. All, then, that Hume could find in his mind, when after Locke’s
example he ‘looked into it,’ were, according to his own statement,
feelings with their copies, dividing themselves into two main
orders--those of sensation and those of reflection, of which the
latter, though results of the former, are not their copies. The
question, then, that he had to deal with was, to what impressions
he could reduce those conceptions of relation--of cause and effect,
substance and attribute, and identity--which all knowledge involves.
Failing the impressions of sensation he must try those of reflection,
and failing both he must pronounce such conceptions to be no ‘ideas’
at all, but words misunderstood, and leave knowledge to take its
chance. The vital nerve of his philosophy lies in his treatment
of the ‘association of ideas’ as a sort of process of spontaneous
generation, by which impressions of sensation issue in such
impressions of reflection, in the shape of habitual propensities,’
[1] as will account, not indeed for there being--since there really
are not--but for there seeming to be, those formal conceptions which
Locke, to the embarrassment of his philosophy, had treated as at once
real and creations of the mind.

[1] Pp. 460 and 496 [Book I, part III., sec. XIV. and part IV., sec.

Hume, taken strictly, leaves no distinction between impressions of
reflection and of sensation.

197. Such a method meets at the outset with the difficulty that
the impressions of sensation and those of reflection, if Locke’s
determination of the former by reference to an impressive matter
is excluded, are each determined only by reference to the other.
What is an impression of reflection? It is one that can only
come after an impression of sensation. What is an impression of
sensation? It is one that comes before any impression of reflection.
An apparent determination, indeed, is gained by speaking of the
original impressions as ‘conveyed to us by our senses;’ but this
really means determination by reference to the organs of our body
as affected by outward bodies--in short, by a physical theory. But
of the two essential terms of this theory, ‘our own body,’ and
‘outward body,’ neither, according to Hume, expresses anything
present to the original consciousness. ‘Properly speaking, it is
not our body we perceive when we regard our limbs and members,
but certain impressions which enter by the senses.’ Nor do any of
our impressions ‘inform us of distance and outness (so to speak)
immediately, and without a certain reasoning and experience’. [1] In
such admissions Hume is as much a Berkeleian as Berkeley himself, and
they effectually exclude any reference to body from those original
impressions, by reference to which all other modes of consciousness
are to be explained.

[1] p. 481 [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

Locke’s theory of sensation disappears. Physiology won’t answer the
question that Locke asked.

198. He thus logically cuts off his psychology from the support
which, according to popular conceptions, its primary truths derive
from physiology. We have already noticed how with Locke metaphysic
begs defence of physic; [1] how, having undertaken to answer by
the impossible method of self-observation the question as to what
consciousness is to itself at its beginning, he in fact tells us what
it is to the natural philosopher, who accounts for the production of
sensation by the impact of matter ‘on the outward parts, continued
to the brain.’ To those, of course, who hold that the only possible
theory of knowledge and of the human spirit is physical, it must seem
that this was his greatest merit; that, an unmeaning question having
been asked, it was the best thing to give an answer which indeed
is no answer to the question, but has some elementary truth of its
own. According to them, though he may have been wrong in supposing
consciousness to be to itself what the physiologist explains it to
be--since any supposition at all about it except as a phenomenon,
to which certain other phenomena are invariably antecedent, is at
best superfluous--he was not wrong in taking the physiological
explanation to be the true and sufficient one. To such persons we can
but respectfully point out that they have not come in sight of the
problem which Locke and his followers, on however false a method,
sought to solve; that, however certain may be the correlation between
the brain and thought, in the sense that the individual would be
incapable of the processes of thought unless he had brain and nerves
of a particular sort, yet it is equally certain that every theory of
the correlation must presuppose a knowledge of the processes, and
leave that knowledge exactly where it was before; that thus their
science, valuable like every other science within its own department,
takes for granted just what metaphysic, as a theory of knowledge,
seeks to explain. When the origin, for instance, of the conception
of body or of that of an organic structure is in question, it is
in the strictest sense preposterous to be told that body makes the
conception of body, and that unless the brain were organic to thought
I should not now be thinking. ‘The brain is organic to thought;’ here
is a proposition involving conceptions within conceptions--a whole
hierarchy of ideas. How am I enabled to re-think these in order, to
make my way from the simpler to the more complex, by any iteration
or demonstration of the proposition, which no one disputes, or by
the most precise examination of the details of the organic structure

[1] See above, paragraph 17.

Those who think it will don’t understand the question.

199. The quarrel of the physiologist with the metaphysician is, in
fact, due to an _ignorantia elenchi_ on the part of the former, for
which the behaviour of English ‘metaphysicians,’ in attempting to
assimilate their own procedure to that of the natural philosophers,
and thus to win the popular acceptance which these alone can fairly
look for, has afforded too much excuse. The question really at issue
is not between two co-ordinate sciences, as if a theory of the human
body were claiming also to be a theory of the human soul, and the
theory of the soul were resisting the aggression. The question is,
whether the conceptions which all the departmental sciences alike
presuppose shall have an account given of them or no. For dispensing
with such an account altogether (life being short) there is much
to be said, if only men would or could dispense with it; but the
physiologist, when he claims that his science should supersede
metaphysic, is not dispensing with it, but rendering it in a
preposterous way. He accounts for the formal conceptions in question,
in other words for thought as it is common to all the sciences, as
sequent upon the antecedent facts which his science ascertains--the
facts of the animal organisation. But these conceptions--the
relations of cause and effect, &c.--are necessary to constitute the
facts. They are not an _ex post facto_ interpretation of them, but an
interpretation without which there would be no ascertainable facts
at all. To account for them, therefore, as the result of the facts
is to proceed as a geologist would do, who should treat the present
conformation of the earth as the result of a certain series of past
events, and yet, in describing these, should assume the present
conformation as a determining element in each.

Hume’s psychology will not answer it either.

200. ‘Empirical psychology,’ however, claims to have a way of its
own for explaining thought, distinct from that of the physiologist,
but yet founded on observation, though it is admitted that the
observation takes place under difficulties. Its method consists in
a history of consciousness, as a series of events or successive
states observed in the individual by himself. By tracing such a chain
of _de facto_ sequence it undertakes to account for the elements
common to all knowledge. Its first concern, then, must be, as we
have previously put it, to ascertain what consciousness is to itself
at its beginning. No one with Berkeley before him, and accepting
Berkeley’s negative results, could answer this question in Locke’s
simple way by making the primitive consciousness report itself as an
effect of the operation of body. To do so is to transfer a later and
highly complex form of consciousness, whose growth has to be traced,
into the earlier and simple form from which the growth is supposed to
begin. This, upon the supposition that the process of consciousness
by which conceptions are formed is a series of psychical events--a
supposition on which the whole method of empirical psychology
rests--is in principle the same false procedure as that which we
have imagined in the case of a geologist above. But the question
is whether, by any procedure not open to this condemnation, the
theory could seem to do what it professes to do--explain thought
or ‘cognition by means of conceptions’ as something which happens
in sequence upon previous psychical events. Does it not, however
stated, carry with it an implication of the supposed later state in
the earlier, and is it not solely in virtue of this implication that
it seems to be able to trace the genesis of the later? No one has
pursued it with stricter promises, or made a fairer show of being
faithful to them, than Hume. He will begin with simple feeling,
as first experienced by the individual--unqualified by complex
conceptions, physical or metaphysical, of matter or of mind--and
trace the process by which it generates the ‘ideas of philosophical
relation.’ If it can be shown, as we believe it can be, that, even
when thus pursued, its semblance of success is due to the fact that,
by interpreting the earliest consciousness in terms of the latest, it
puts the latter in place of the former, some suspicion may perhaps
be created that a natural history of self-consciousness, and of the
conceptions by which it makes the world its own, is impossible,
since such a history must be of events, and self-consciousness is
not reducible to a series of events; being already at its beginning
formally, or potentially, or implicitly all that it becomes actually
or explicitly in developed knowledge.

It only seems to do so by assuming the ‘fiction’ it has to account
for; by assuming that impression represents a real world.

201. If Hume were consistent in allowing no other determination to
the impression than that of its having the maximum of vivacity, or
to other modes of consciousness than the several degrees of their
removal from this maximum, he would certainly have avoided the
difficulties which attend Locke’s use of the metaphor of impression,
while at the same time he would have missed the convenience, involved
in this use, of being able to represent the primitive consciousness
as already a recognition of a thing impressing it, and thus an
‘idea of a quality of body.’ But at the outset he remarks that ‘the
examination of our sensations’ (_i.e._ our impressions of sensation)
‘belongs more to anatomists and natural philosophers than to moral,’
and that for that reason he shall begin not with them but with
ideas. [1] Now this virtually means that he will begin, indeed,
with the feelings he finds in himself, but with these as determined
by the notion that they are results of something else, of which
the nature is not for the present explained. Thus, while he does
not, like Locke, identify our earliest consciousness with a rough
and ready physical theory of its cause, he gains the advantage of
this identification in the mind of his reader, who from sensation,
thus apparently defined, transfers a definiteness to the ideas and
secondary impressions as derived from it, though in the sequel the
theory turns out, if possible at all, to be at best a remote result
of custom and association. We shall see this more clearly if we look
back to the general account of impressions and ideas quoted above.
‘An impression first strikes upon the senses and makes us perceive
pleasure or pain, of which a copy is taken by the mind,’ called
an idea. Now if we set aside the notion of a body making impact
upon a sensuous, and through it upon a mental, tablet, pleasure or
pain _is_ the impression, which, again, is as much or as little in
the mind as the idea. Thus the statement might be re-written as
follows:--‘Pleasure or pain makes the mind perceive pleasure or pain,
of which a copy is taken by the mind.’ This, of course, is nonsense;
but between this nonsense and the plausibility of the statement as it
stands, the difference depends on the double distinction understood
in the latter--the distinction _(a)_ between the producing cause of
the impression and the impression produced; and _(b)_ between the
impression as produced on the senses, and the idea as preserved by
the mind. This passage, as we shall see, is only a sample of many of
the same sort. Throughout, however explicitly Hume may give warning
that the difference between impression and idea is only one of
liveliness, however little he may scruple in the sequel to reduce
body and mind alike to the succession of feelings, his system gains
the benefit of the contrary assumption which the uncritical reader
is ready to make for him. As often as the question returns whether
a phrase, purporting to express an ‘abstract conception,’ expresses
any actual idea or no, his test is, ‘Point out the impression from
which the idea, if there be any, is derived’--a test which has
clearly no significance if the impression is merely the idea itself
at a livelier stage (for a person, claiming to have the idea,
would merely have to say that he had never known it more lively,
and that, therefore, it was itself an impression, and the force of
the test would be gone), but which seems so satisfactory because
the impression is regarded as the direct effect of outward things,
and thus as having a prerogative of reality over any perception to
which the mind contributes anything of its own. By availing himself
alternately of this popular conception of the impression of sensation
and of his own account of it, he gains a double means of suppressing
any claim of thought to originate. Every idea, by being supposed in a
more lively state, can be represented as derived from an impression,
and thus (according to the popular notion) as an effect of something
which, whatever it is, is not thought. If thereupon it is pointed out
that this outward something is a form of substance which, according
to Hume’s own showing, is a fiction of thought, there is an easy
refuge open in the reply that ‘impression’ is only meant to express
a lively feeling, not any dependence upon matter of which we know

[1] p. 317 [Book I, part I., sec. III.]

So the ‘Positivist’ juggles with ‘phenomena’.

202. Thus the way is prepared for the juggle which the modern popular
logic performs with the word ‘phenomenon’--a term which gains
acceptance for the theory that turns upon it because it conveys the
notion of a relation between a real order and a perceiving mind,
and thus gives to those who avail themselves of it the benefit
of an implication of the ‘noumena’ which they affect to ignore.
Hume’s inconsistency, however, stops far short of that of his later
disciples. For the purpose of detraction from the work of thought he
availed himself, indeed, of that work as embodied in language, but
only so far as was necessary to his destructive purpose. He did not
seriously affect to be reconstructing the fabric of knowledge on a
basis of fact. There occasionally appears in him, indeed, something
of the charlatanry of common sense in passages, more worthy of
Bolingbroke than himself, where he writes as a champion of facts
against metaphysical jargon. But when we get behind the mask of
concession to popular prejudice, partly ironical, partly due to his
undoubted vanity, we find much more of the ancient sceptic than of
the ‘positive philosopher.’

Essential difference, however, between Hume and the ‘Positivist’.

203. The ancient sceptic (at least as represented by the ancient
philosophers), finding knowledge on the basis of distinction between
the real and apparent to be impossible, discarded the enterprise
of arriving at general truth in opposition to what appears to
the individual at any particular instant, and satisfied himself
with noting such general tendencies of expectation and desire as
would guide men in the conduct of life and enable them to get
what they wanted by contrivance and persuasion. [1] Such a state
of mind excludes all motive to the ‘interrogation of nature,’
for it recognises no ‘nature’ but the present appearance to the
individual; and this does not admit of being interrogated. The
‘positive philosopher’ has nothing in common with it but the use,
in a different sense, of the word ‘apparent.’ He plumes himself,
indeed, on not going in quest of any ‘thing-in-itself’ other than
what appears to the senses; but he distinguishes between a real
and apparent in the order of appearance, and considers the real
order of appearance, having a permanence and uniformity which
belong to no feeling as the individual feels it, to be the true
object of knowledge. No one is more severe upon ‘propensities to
believe,’ however spontaneously suggested by the ordinary sequence
of appearances, if they are found to conflict with the order of
nature as ascertained by experimental interrogation; _i.e._ with a
sequence observed (it may be) in but a single instance. Which of the
two attitudes of thought is the more nearly Hume’s, will come out as
we proceed. It was just with the distinction between the ‘real and
fantastic,’ as Locke had left it, that he had to deal; and, as will
appear, it is finally by a ‘propensity to feign,’ not by a uniform
order of natural phenomena, that he replaces the real which Locke,
according to his first mind, had found in archetypal things and their
operations on us.

[1] Cf. Plato’s ‘Protagoras,’ 323, and ‘Theaetetus,’ 167, with the
concluding paragraphs of the last part of the first book of Hume’s
‘Treatise on Human Nature.’

He adopts Berkeley’s doctrine of ideas, but without Berkeley’s saving

204. We have seen that Berkeley, having reduced ‘simple ideas’ to
their simplicity by showing the illegitimacy of the assumption that
they report qualities of a matter which is itself a complex idea, is
only able to make his constructive theory march by the supposition of
the reality and knowability of ‘spirit’ and relations. ‘Ideas’ are
‘fleeting, perishable passions;’ but the relations between them are
uniform, and in virtue of this uniformity the fleeting idea may be
interpreted as a symbol of a real order. But such relations, as real,
imply the presence of the ideas to the constant mind of God, and, as
knowable, their presence to a like mind in us. We have further seen
how little Berkeley, according to the method by which he disposed of
‘abstract general ideas,’ was entitled to such a supposition. Hume
sets it aside; but the question is, whether without a supposition
virtually the same he can represent the association of ideas as doing
the work that he assigned to it.

... in regard to ‘spirit’,

205. His exclusion of Berkeley’s supposition with regard to ‘spirit’
is stated without disguise, though unfortunately not till towards
the end of the first book of the ‘Treatise on Human Nature,’ which
could not have run so smoothly if the statement had been made at
the beginning. It follows legitimately from the method, which he
inherited, of ‘looking into his mind to see how it wrought.’ ‘From
what impression,’ he asks, ‘could the idea of self be derived? It
must be some one impression that gives rise to every real idea.
But self or person is not any impression, but that to which our
several impressions and ideas are supposed to have a reference.
If any impression gives rise to the idea of self, that impression
must continue invariably the same through the whole course of our
lives, since self is supposed to exist after that manner. But there
is no impression constant and invariable. Pain and pleasure, grief
and joy, passions and sensations succeed each other, and never
all exist at the same time. It cannot, therefore, be from any of
these impressions, or from any other, that the idea of self is
derived; and, consequently, there is no such idea.’ Again: ‘When I
enter most intimately into what is called myself, I always stumble
on some particular perception of heat or cold, light or shade,
love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any
time without a perception, and never can observe anything but the
perception. When my perceptions are removed for any time, as by
sound sleep, so long am I insensible of myself, and may truly be
said not to exist.’ Thus ‘men are nothing but a bundle or collection
of different perceptions that succeed each other with inconceivable
rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux or movement. Our eyes cannot
turn in their sockets without varying our perceptions. Our thought
is still more variable than our sight. ... nor is there any single
power of the soul which remains unalterably the same perhaps for one
moment.... There is properly no simplicity in the mind at one time
nor identity at different’. [1]

[1] pp. 533 and 534 [Book I., part IV., sec. VI.]

... in regard to relations. His account of these.

206. His position in regard to ideas of relation cannot be so
summarily exhibited. It is from its ambiguity, indeed, that his
system derives at once its plausibility and its weakness. In the
first place, it is necessary, according to him, to distinguish
between ‘natural’ and ‘philosophical relation.’ The latter is one
of which the idea is acquired by the comparison of objects, as
distinct from natural relation or ‘the quality by which two ideas
are connected together in the imagination, and the one naturally’
(_i.e._ according to the principle of association) ‘introduces the
other’. [1] Of philosophical relation--or, according to another form
of expression, of ‘qualities by which the ideas of philosophical
relation are produced’--seven kinds are enumerated; viz.
‘resemblance, identity, relations of time and place, proportion in
quantity and number, degrees in quality, contrariety, and causation’.
[2] Some of these do, some do not, _apparently_ correspond to the
qualities by which the mind is _naturally_ ‘conveyed from one idea
to another;’ or which, in other words, constitute the ‘gentle force’
that determines the order in which the imagination habitually puts
together ideas. Freedom in the conjunction of ideas, indeed, is
implied in the term ‘imagination,’ which is only thus differenced
from ‘memory;’ but, as a matter of fact, it commonly only connects
ideas which are related to each other in the way either of
resemblance, or of contiguity in time and place, or of cause and
effect. Other relations of the philosophical sort are the opposite
of _natural_. Thus, ‘distance will be allowed by philosophers to be
a true relation, because we acquire an idea of it by the comparing
of objects; but in a common way we say, “that nothing can be more
distant than such or such things from each other; nothing can have
less relation”’ (ibid.).

[1] p. 322 [Book I, part I., sec. V.]

[2] ibid., and p. 372 [Book I., part III., sec. I.]

It corresponds to Locke’s account of the sorts of agreement between

207. Hume’s classification of philosophical relations evidently
serves the same purpose as Locke’s, of the ‘four sorts of agreement
or disagreement between ideas,’ in the perception of which
knowledge consists; [1] but there are some important discrepancies.
Locke’s second sort, which he awkwardly describes as ‘agreement or
disagreement in the way of relation,’ may fairly be taken to cover
three of Hume’s kinds; viz. relations of time and place, proportion
in quantity or number, and degrees in any quality. About Locke’s
first sort, ‘identity and diversity,’ there is more difficulty. Under
‘identity,’ as was pointed out above, he includes the relations
which Hume distinguishes as ‘identity proper’ and ‘resemblance.’
‘Diversity’ at first sight might seem to correspond to ‘contrariety;’
but the latter, according to Hume’s usage, is much more restricted
in meaning. Difference of number and difference of kind, which he
distinguishes as the opposites severally of identity and resemblance,
though they come under Locke’s ‘diversity,’ are not by Hume
considered relations at all, on the principle that ‘no relation of
any kind can subsist without some degree of resemblance.’ They are
‘rather a negation of relation than anything real and positive.’
‘Contrariety’ he reckons only to obtain between ideas of existence
and non-existence, ‘which are plainly resembling as implying both of
them an idea of the object; though the latter excludes the object
from all times and places in which it is supposed not to exist’.
[2] There remain ‘cause and effect’ in Hume’s list; ‘co-existence’
and ‘real existence’ in Locke’s. ‘Co-existence’ is not expressly
identified by Locke with the relation of cause and effect, but it
is with ‘necessary connection.’ It means specially, it will be
remembered [3], the co-existence of ideas, not as constituents of a
‘nominal essence,’ but as qualities of real substances in nature;
and our knowledge of this depends on our knowledge of necessary
connection between the qualities, either as one supposing the
other (which is the form of necessary connection between primary
qualities), or as one being the effect of the other (which is the
form of necessary connection between the ideas of secondary qualities
and the primary ones). Having no knowledge of necessary connection
as in real substances, we have none of ‘co-existence’ in the above
sense, but only of the present union of ideas in any particular
experiment. [4] The parallel between this doctrine of Locke’s and
Hume’s of cause and effect will appear as we proceed. To ‘real
existence,’ since the knowledge of it according to Locke’s account is
not a perception of agreement between ideas at all, it is not strange
that nothing should correspond in Hume’s list of relations.

[1] See above, paragraph 25 and the passages from Locke there
referred to.

[2] p. 323 [Book I, part I., sec. V.]

[3] See above, paragraph 122.

[4] Locke, Book IV. sec. iii. chap. xiv.; and above, paragraph 121
and 122.

Could Hume consistently admit idea of relation at all?

208. It is his method of dealing with these ideas of philosophical
relation that is specially characteristic of Hume, Let us, then,
consider how the notion of relation altogether is affected by his
reduction of the world of consciousness to impressions and ideas.
What is an impression? To this, as we have seen, the only direct
answer given by him is that it is a feeling which must be more lively
before it becomes less so. [1] For a further account of what is to
be understood by it we must look to the passages where the governing
terms of ‘school-metaphysics’ are, one after the other, shown to be
unmeaning, because not taken from impressions. Thus, when the idea
of substance is to be reduced to an ‘unintelligible chimaera,’ it is
asked whether it ‘be derived from the impressions of sensation or
reflection? If it be conveyed to us by our senses, I ask, which of
them, and after what manner? If it be perceived by the eyes, it must
be a colour; if by the ears, a sound; if by the palate, a taste; and
so of the other senses. But I believe none will assert that substance
is either a colour, or a sound, or a taste. The idea of substance
must therefore be derived from an impression of reflection, if it
really exist. But the impressions of reflection resolve themselves
into our passions and emotions’. [2] From the polemic against
abstract ideas we learn further that ‘the appearance of an object to
the senses’ is the same thing as an ‘impression becoming present to
the mind’. [3] That is to say, when we talk of an impression of an
object, it is not to be understood that the feeling is determined by
reference to anything other than itself: it is itself the object.
To the same purpose, in the criticism of the notion of an external
world, we are told that ‘the senses are incapable of giving rise
to the notion of the continued existence of their objects, after
they no longer appear to the senses; for that is a contradiction
in terms’ (since the appearance _is_ the object); and that ‘they
offer not their impressions as the images of something distinct, or
independent, or external, because they convey to us nothing but a
single perception, and never give us the least intimation of anything
beyond’. [4] The distinction between impression of sensation and
impression of reflection, then, cannot, any more than that between
impression and idea, be regarded as either really or apparently a
distinction between outer and inner. ‘All impressions are internal
and perishing existences’; [5] and, ‘everything that enters the mind
being in reality as the impression, ’tis impossible anything should
to feeling appear different’. [6]

[1] See above, paragraphs 195 and 197.

[2] p. 324 [Book I, part I., sec. VI.]

[3] p. 327 [Book I, part I., sec. VII.]

[4] p. 479 [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

[5] p. 483 [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

[6] p. 480 [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

209. This amounts to a full acceptance of Berkeley’s doctrine
of sense; and the question necessarily arises--such being the
impression, and all ideas being impressions grown weaker, can there
be an idea of relation at all? Is it not open to the same challenge
which Hume offers to those who talk of an idea of substance or of
spirit? ‘It is from some one impression that every real idea is
derived.’ What, then, is the one impression from which the idea of
relation is derived? ‘If it be perceived by the eyes, it must be a
colour; if by the ears, a sound; if by the palate, a taste; and so of
the other senses.’ There remain ‘our passions and emotions;’ but what
passion or emotion is a resemblance, or a proportion, or a relation
of cause and effect?

Only in regard to identity and causation that he sees any difficulty.
These he treats as fictions resulting from ‘natural relations’ of
ideas: _i.e._ from resemblance and contiguity.

210. Respect for Hume’s thoroughness as a philosopher must be
qualified by the observation that he does not attempt to meet this
difficulty in its generality, but only as it affects the relations
of identity and causation. The truth seems to be that he wrote with
Berkeley steadily before his mind; and it was Berkeley’s treatment of
these two relations in particular as not sensible but intelligible,
and his assertion of a philosophic Theism on the strength of their
mere intelligibility, that determined Hume, since it would have been
an anachronism any longer to treat them as sensible, to dispose of
them altogether. The condition of his doing so with success was
that, however unwarrantably, he should treat the other relations
as sensible. The language, which seems to express ideas of the two
questionable relations, he has to account for as the result of
certain impressions of reflection, called ‘propensities to feign,’
which in their turn have to be accounted for as resulting from the
_natural_ relations of ideas according to the definition of these
quoted above, [1] as ‘the qualities by which one idea habitually
introduces another.’ Among these, as we saw, he included not
only resemblance and contiguity in time or place, but ‘cause and
effect.’ ‘There is no relation,’ he says, ‘which produces a stronger
connection in the fancy than this.’ But in this, as in much of the
language which gives the first two Parts their plausibility, he is
taking advantage of received notions on the part of the reader, which
it is the work of the rest of the book to set aside. In any sense,
according to him, in which it differs from usual contiguity, the
relation of cause and effect is itself reducible to a ‘propensity
to feign’ arising from the other natural relations; but when the
reader is told of its producing ‘a strong connection in the fancy,’
he is not apt to think of it as itself nothing more than the product
of such a connection. For the present, however, we have only to
point out that Hume, when he co-ordinates it with the other natural
relations, must be understood to do so provisionally. According to
him it is derived, while they are primary. Upon them, then, rested
the possibility of filling the gap between the occurrence of single
impressions, none ‘determined by reference to anything other than
itself,’ and what we are pleased to call our knowledge, with its
fictions of mind and thing, of real and apparent, of necessary as
distinct from usual connection.

[1] See above, paragraph 206.

211. We will begin with Resemblance. As to this, it will be said, it
is an affectation of subtlety to question whether there can be an
impression of it or no. The difficulty only arises from our regarding
the perception of resemblance as different from, and subsequent to,
the resembling sensations; whereas, in fact, the occurrence of two
impressions of sense, such as (let us say) yellow and red, is itself
the impression of their likeness and unlikeness. Hume himself, it may
be further urged, at any rate in regard to resemblance, anticipates
this solution of an imaginary difficulty by his important division
of philosophical relations into two classes [1]--‘such as depend
entirely on the ideas which we compare together, and such as may be
changed without any change in the ideas’--and by his inclusion of
resemblance in the former class.

[1] p. 372 [Book I, part III., sec. I.]

Is resemblance then an impression?

212. Now we gladly admit the mistake of supposing that sensations
undetermined by relation first occur, and that afterwards we become
conscious of their relation in the way of likeness or unlikeness.
Apart from such relation, it is true, the sensations would be
nothing. But this admission involves an important qualification
of the doctrine that impressions are single, and that the mind
(according to Hume’s awkward figure) is a ‘bundle or collection of
these,’ succeeding each other ‘in a perpetual flux or movement.’ It
implies that the single impression in its singleness is what it is
through relation to another, which must therefore be present along
with it; and that thus, though they may occur in a perpetual flux
of succession--every turn of the eyes in their sockets, as Hume
truly says, giving a new one--yet, just so far as they are qualified
by likeness or unlikeness to each other, they must be taken out
of that succession by something which is not itself in it, but is
indivisibly present to every moment of it. This we may call soul, or
mind, or what we will; but we must not identify it with the brain
[1] either directly or by implication (as we do when we ‘refer to
the anatomist’ for an account of it), since by the brain is meant
something material, _i.e._ divisible, which the unifying subject
spoken of, as feeling no less than as thinking, cannot be. In short,
any such modification of Hume’s doctrine of the singleness and
successiveness of impressions as will entitle us to speak of their
carrying with them, though single and successive, the consciousness
of their resemblance to each other, will also entitle us to speak of
their carrying with them a reference to that which is not itself any
single impression, but is permanent throughout the impressions; and
the whole ground of Hume’s polemic against the idea of self or spirit
is removed. [2]

[1] It is, of course, quite a different thing to say that the brain
(or, more properly, the whole body) is organic to it.

[2] See above, paragraph 205.

Distinction between resembling feelings and idea of resemblance.

213. The above admission, however, does not dispose of the question
about ideas of resemblance. A feeling qualified by relation of
resemblance to other feelings is a different thing from an idea
of that relation--different with all the difference which Hume
ignores between feeling and thought, between consciousness and
self-consciousness. The qualification of successive feelings by
mutual relation implies, indeed, the presence to them of a subject
permanent and immaterial (_i.e._ not in time or space); but it does
not imply that this subject presents them to itself as related
objects, permanent with its own permanence, which abide and may
be considered apart from ‘the circumstances in time’ of their
occurrence. Yet such presentation is supposed by all language other
than interjectional. It is it alone which can give us names of
things, as distinct from noises prompted by the feelings as they
occur. Of course it is open to any one to say that by an idea of
resemblance he does not mean any thought involving the self-conscious
presentation spoken of, but merely a feeling qualified by
resemblance, and not at its liveliest stage. Thus Hume tells us that
by ‘idea’ he merely means a feeling less lively than it has been, and
that by idea _of anything_ he implies no reference to anything other
than the idea, [1] but means just a related idea, _i.e._ a feeling
qualified by ‘natural relation’ to other feelings. It is by this
thoughtful abnegation of thought, as we shall find, that he arrives
at his sceptical result. But language (for the reason mentioned)
would not allow him to be faithful to the abnegation. He could not
make such a profession without being false to it. This appears
already in his account of ‘complex’ and ‘abstract’ ideas.

[1] See above, paragraph 208.

Substances = collections of ideas.

214, His account of the idea of a substance [1] is simply Locke’s, as
Locke’s would become upon elimination of the notion that there is a
real ‘something’ in which the collection of ideas subsist, and from
which they result. It thus avoids all difficulties about the relation
between nominal and real essence. Just as Locke says that in the case
of a ‘mixed mode’ the nominal essence _is_ the real, so Hume would
say of a substance. The only difference is that while the collection
of ideas, called a mixed mode, does not admit of addition without
a change of its name, that called a substance does. Upon discovery
of the solubility of gold in aqua regia we add that idea to the
collection, to which the name ‘gold’ has previously been assigned,
without disturbance in the use of the name, because the name already
covers not only the ideas of certain qualities, but also the idea of
a ‘principle of union’ between them, which will extend to any ideas
presented along with them. As this principle of union, however, is
not itself any ‘real essence,’ but ‘part of the complex idea,’ the
question, so troublesome to Locke, whether a proposition about gold
asserts real co-existence or only the inclusion of an idea in a
nominal essence, will be superfluous. How the ‘principle of union’ is
to be explained, will appear below. [2]

[1] p. 324 [Book I, part I., sec. VI.]

[2] Paragraph 303, and the following.

How can ideas ‘in flux’ be collected?

215. There are names, then, which represent ‘collections of ideas.’
How can we explain such collection if ideas are merely related
feelings grown’ fainter? Do we, when we use one of these names
significantly, recall, though in a fainter form, a series of feelings
that we have experienced in the process of collection? Does the
chemist, when he says that gold is soluble in aqua regia, recall the
visual and tactual feeling which he experienced when he found it
soluble? If so, as that feeling took its character from relation to
a multitude of other ‘complex ideas,’ he must on the same principle
recall in endless series the sensible occurrences from which each
constituent of each constituent of these was derived; and a like
process must be gone through when gold is pronounced ductile,
malleable, &c. But this would be, according to the figure which
Hume himself adopts, to recall a ‘perpetual flux.’ The very term
‘collection of ideas,’ indeed, if this be the meaning of ideas, is
an absurdity, for how can a perpetual flux be collected? If we turn
for a solution of the difficulty to the chapter where Hume expressly
discusses the significance of general names, we shall find that it
is not the question we have here put, and which flows directly from
his account of ideas, that he is there treating, but an entirely
different one, and one that could not be raised till for related
feeling had been substituted the thought of an object under relations.

Are there general ideas? Berkeley said, ‘yes and no’.

216. The chapter mentioned concerns the question which arises out of
Locke’s pregnant statement that words and ideas are ‘particular in
their existence’ even when ‘general in their signification.’ From
this statement we saw [1] that Berkeley derived his explanation of
the apparent generality of ideas--the explanation, namely, which
reduces it to a relation, yet not such a one as would affect the
nature of the idea itself, which is and remains ‘particular,’ but
a symbolical relation between it and other particular ideas for
which it is taken to stand. An idea, however, that carries with it a
consciousness of symbolical relation to other ideas, cannot but be
qualified by this relation. The generality must become part of its
‘nature,’ and, accordingly, the distinction between idea and thing
being obliterated, of the nature of things. Thus Berkeley virtually
arrives at a result which renders unmeaning his preliminary exclusion
of universality from ‘the absolute, positive nature or conception of
anything.’ Hume seeks to avoid it by putting ‘custom’ in the place
of the consciousness of symbolical relation. True to his vocation of
explaining away all functions of thought that will not sort with the
treatment of it as ‘decaying sense,’ he would resolve that idea of a
relation between certain ideas, in virtue of which one is taken to
stand for the rest, into the _de facto_ sequence upon one of them of
the rest. Here, as everywhere else, he would make related feelings do
instead of relations of ideas; but whether the related feelings, as
he is obliged to describe them, do not already presuppose relations
of ideas in distinction from feelings, remains to be seen.

[1] Above, paragraphs 182 and 183.

Hume ‘no’ simply. How he accounts for the appearance of there being

217. The question about ‘generality of signification,’ as he puts it,
comes to this. In every proposition, though its subject be a common
noun, we necessarily present to ourselves some one individual object
‘with all its particular circumstances and proportions.’ How then can
the proposition be general in denotation and connotation? How can it
be made with reference to a multitude of individual objects other
than that presented to the mind, and how can it concern only such of
the qualities of the latter as are common to the multitude? The first
part of the question is answered as follows:-‘When we have found a
resemblance among several objects that often occur to us, we apply
the same name to all of them ... whatever differences may appear
among them. After we have acquired a custom of this kind, the hearing
of that name revives the idea of one of these objects, and makes the
imagination conceive it with all its particular circumstances and
proportions. But as the same word is supposed to have been frequently
applied to other individuals, that are different in many respects
from that idea which is immediately present to the mind, the word
not being able to revive the idea of all these individuals, only
touches the soul and revives that custom which we have acquired by
surveying them. They are not really and in fact present to the mind,
but only in power. ... The word raises up an individual idea along
with a certain custom, and that custom produces any other individual
one for which we may have occasion. ... Thus, should we mention the
word triangle and form the idea of a particular equilateral one to
correspond to it, and should we afterwards assert _that the three
angles of a triangle are equal to each other_, the other individuals
of a scalenum and isosceles, which we overlooked at first,
immediately crowd in upon us and make us perceive the falsehood of
this proposition, though it be true with relation to that idea which
we had formed’. [1]

[1] p. 328 [Book I, part I., sec. VII.]

218. Next, as to the question concerning connotation:--‘The mind
would never have dreamed of distinguishing a figure from the body
figured, as being in reality neither distinguishable nor different
nor separable, did it not observe that even in this simplicity there
might be contained many different resemblances and relations. Thus,
when a globe of white marble is presented, we receive only the
impression of a white colour disposed in a certain form, nor are
we able to distinguish and separate the colour from the form. But
observing afterwards a globe of black marble and a cube of white,
and comparing them with our former object, we find two separate
resemblances in what formerly seemed, and really is, perfectly
inseparable. After a little more practice of this kind, we begin
to distinguish the figure from the colour by a _distinction of
reason_;--_i.e._ we consider the figure and colour together, since
they are, in effect, the same and indistinguishable; but still view
them in different aspects according to the resemblances of which they
are susceptible. ... A person who desires us to consider the figure
of a globe of white marble without thinking on its colour, desires an
impossibility; but his meaning is, that we should consider the colour
and figure together, but still keep in our eye the resemblance to the
globe of black marble or that to any other globe whatever’. [1]

[1] p. 333 [Book I, part I., sec. VII.]

His account implies that ‘ideas’ are conceptions, not feelings.

219. It is clear that the process described in these passages
supposes ‘ab initio’ the conversion of a feeling into a conception;
in other words, the substitution of the definite individuality of
a thing, thought of under attributes, for the mere singleness in
time of a feeling that occurs after another and before a third. The
‘finding of resemblances and differences among objects that often
occur to us’ implies that each object is distinguished as one and
abiding from manifold occurrences, in the way of related feelings, in
which it is presented to us, and that these accordingly are regarded
as representing permanent relations or qualities of the object. Thus
from being related feelings, whether more or less ‘vivacious,’ they
have become, in the proper sense, ideas of relation. The difficulty
about the use of general names, as Hume puts it, really arises just
from the extent to which this process of determination by ideas of
relation, and with it the removal of the object of thought from
simple feeling, is supposed to have gone. It is because the idea is
so complex in its individuality, and because this qualification is
not understood to be the work of thought, by comparison and contrast
accumulating attributes on an object which it itself constitutes,
but is regarded as given ready-made in an impression (_i.e._ a
feeling), that the question arises whether a general proposition is
really possible or no. To all intents and purposes Hume decides that
it is not. The mind is so tied down to the particular collection of
qualities which is given to it or which it ‘finds,’ that it cannot
present one of them to itself without presenting all. Having never
found a triangle that is not equilateral or isosceles or scalene, we
cannot imagine one, for ideas can only be copies of impressions, and
the imagination, though it has a certain freedom in combining what
it finds, can invent nothing that it does not find. Thus the idea,
represented by a general name and of which an assertion, general
in form, is made, must always have a multitude of other qualities
besides those common to it with the other individuals to which the
name is applicable. If any of these, however, were included in the
predicate of the proposition, the sleeping custom, which determines
the mind to pass from the idea present to it to the others to which
the name has been applied, would be awakened, and it would be seen at
once that the predicate is not true of them. When I make a general
statement about ‘the horse,’ there must be present to my mind some
particular horse of my acquaintance, but if on the strength of this
I asserted that ‘the horse is a grey-haired animal,’ the custom of
applying the name without reference to colour would return upon me
and correct me--as it would not if the predicate were ‘four-footed.’

He virtually yields the point in regard to the _predicate_ of

220. It would seem then that the predicate may, though the subject
cannot, represent either a single quality, or a set of qualities
which falls far short even of those common to the class, much more of
those which characterise any individual. If I can think these apart,
or have an idea of them, as the predicate of a proposition, why
not (it may be asked) as the subject? It may be said, indeed, with
truth, that it is a mistake to think of the subject as representing
one idea and the predicate another; that the proposition as a whole
represents one idea, in the sense of a conception of relation between
attributes, and that at bottom this account of it is consistent
with Locke’s definition of knowledge as a perception of relation
between ‘ideas,’ since with him ‘ideas’ and ‘qualities’ are used
interchangeably. [1] It is no less true, however, that the relation
between attributes, which the proposition states, is a relation
between them in an individual subject. It is the nature of the
individuality of this subject, then, that is really in question.
Must it, as Hume supposed, be ‘considered’ under other qualities
than those to which the predicate relates? When the proposition
only concerns the relation between certain qualities of a spherical
figure, must the figure still be considered as of a certain colour
and material?

[1] See above, paragraph 17.

As to the subject, he equivocates between singleness of feeling and
individuality of conception.

221. The possibility of such a question being raised implies that
the step has been already taken, which Hume ignored, from feeling
to thought. His doctrine on the matter arises from that mental
equivocation, of which the effects on Locke have been already
noticed, [1] between the mere singleness of a feeling in time and the
individuality of the object of thought as a complex of relations.
If the impression is the single feeling which disappears with a
turn of the head, and the idea a weaker impression, every idea must
indeed be in one sense ‘individual,’ but in a sense that renders
all predication impossible because it empties the idea of all
content. Really, according to Hume’s doctrine of general names, it is
individual in a sense which is the most remote opposite of this, as a
multitude of ‘different resemblances and relations’ in ‘simplicity.’
It is just such an individual as Locke supposed to be found (so to
speak) ready-made in nature, and from which he supposed the mind
successively to abstract ideas less and less determinate. Such an
object Hume, coming after Berkeley, could not regard in Locke’s
fashion as a separate material existence outside consciousness. The
idea with him is a ‘copy’ not of a thing but of an ‘impression,’
but to the impression he transfers all that individualization by
qualities which Locke had ascribed to the substance found in nature;
and from the impression again transfers it to the idea which ‘is but
the weaker impression.’ Thus the singleness in time of the impression
becomes the ‘simplicity’ of an object ‘containing many different
resemblances and relations,’ and the individuality of the subject
of a proposition, instead of being regarded in its true light as a
temporary isolation from other relations of those for the time under
view--an individuality which is perpetually shifting its limits as
thought proceeds--becomes an individuality fixed once for all by what
is given in the impression. Because, as is supposed, I can only ‘see’
a globe as of a certain colour and material, I can only think of it
as such. If the ‘sight’ of it had been rightly interpreted as itself
a complex work of thought, successively detaching felt things from
the ‘flux’ of feelings and determining these by relations similarly
detached, the difficulty of thinking certain of these--_e.g._ those
designated as ‘figure’--apart from the rest would have disappeared.
It would have been seen that this was merely to separate in
reflective analysis what had been gradually put together in the
successive synthesis of perception. But such an interpretation of the
supposed _datum_ of sense would have been to elevate thought from the
position which Hume assigned to it, as a ‘decaying sense,’ to that of
being itself the organizer of the world which it knows. [2]

[1] See above, paragraphs 47, 95, &c.

[2] The phrase ‘decaying sense’ belongs to Hobbes, but its meaning is
adopted by Hume.

Result is a theory which admits predication, but only as singular.

222. Here, then, as elsewhere, the embarrassment of Hume’s doctrine
is nothing which a better statement of it could avoid. Nay, so
dexterous is his statement, that only upon a close scrutiny does
the embarrassment disclose itself. To be faithful at once to his
reduction of the impression to simple feeling, and to his account of
the idea as a mere copy of the impression, was really impossible. If
he had kept his word in regard to the impression, he must have found
thought filling the void left by the disappearance, under Berkeley’s
criticism, of that outward system of things which Locke had commonly
taken for granted. He preferred fidelity to his account of the
idea, and thus virtually restores the fiction which represents the
real world as consisting of so many, materially separate, bundles
of qualities--a fiction which even Locke in his better moments
was beginning to outgrow--with only the difference that for the
separation of ‘substances’ in space he substitutes a separation of
‘impressions’ in time. That thought (the ‘idea’) can but faintly
copy feeling (the ‘impression’) he consistently maintains, but he
avails himself of the actual determination of feeling by reference
to an object of thought--the determination expressed by such phrases
as impression of a man, impression of a globe, &c.--to charge the
feeling with a content which it only derives from such determination,
while yet he denies it. By this means predication can be accounted
for, as it could not be if our consciousness consisted of mere
feelings and their copies, but only in the form of the singular
proposition; because the object of thought determined by relations,
being identified with a single feeling, must be limited by the ‘this’
or ‘that’ which expresses this singleness of feeling. It is really
_this_ or _that_ globe, _this_ or _that_ man, that is the subject
of the proposition, according to Hume, even when in form it is
general. It is true that the general name ‘globe’ or ‘man’ not merely
represents a ‘particular’ globe or man, though that is all that is
presented to the mind, but also ‘raises up a custom which produces
any other individual idea for which we may have occasion.’ As this
custom, however, is neither itself an idea nor affects the singleness
of the subject idea, it does not constitute any distinction between
singular and general propositions, but only between two sorts of the
singular proposition according as it does, or does not, suggest an
indefinite series of other singular propositions, in which the same
qualities are affirmed of different individual ideas to which the
subject-name has been applied.

All propositions restricted in same way as Locke’s propositions about
real existence.

223. A customary sequence, then, of individual ideas upon each other
is the reality, which through the delusion of words (as we must
suppose) has given rise to the fiction of there being such a thing
as general knowledge. We say ‘fiction,’ for with the possibility of
general propositions, as the Greek philosophers once for all pointed
out, stands or falls the possibility of science. Locke was so far
aware of this that, upon the same principle which led him to deny the
possibility of general propositions concerning real existence, he
‘suspected’ a science of nature to be impossible, and only found an
exemption for moral and mathematical truth from this condemnation in
its ‘bare ideality.’ Hume does away with the exemption. He applies
to all propositions alike the same limitation which Locke applies to
those concerning real existence. With Locke there may very well be a
proposition which to the mind, as well as in form, is general--one of
which the subject is an ‘abstract general idea’--but such proposition
‘concerns not existence.’ As knowledge of real existence is limited
to the ‘actual present sensation,’ so a proposition about such
existence is limited to what is given in such sensation. It is a
real truth that this piece of gold is now being dissolved in aqua
regia, when the ‘particular experiment’ is going on under our eyes,
but the general proposition ‘gold is soluble’ is only an analysis of
a nominal essence. With Hume the distinction between propositions
that do, and those that do not, ‘concern existence’ disappears.
Every proposition is on the same footing in this respect, since it
must needs be a statement about an ‘idea,’ and every idea exists.
‘Every object that is presented must necessarily be existent. ...
Whatever we conceive, we conceive to be existent. Any idea we please
to form is the idea of a being; and the idea of a being is any idea
we please to form’. [1] But since, according to him, the idea cannot
be separated, as Locke supposed it could, from the conditions ‘that
determine it to this or that particular existence,’ propositions
of the sort which Locke understood by ‘general propositions
concerning substances,’ though if they were possible they would
‘concern existence’ as much as any, are simply impossible. Hume,
in short, though he identifies the real and nominal essences which
Locke had distinguished, yet limits the nominal essence by the same
‘particularity in space and time’ by which Locke had limited the real.

[1] p. 370 [Book I, part II., sec. VI.]

The question, how the _singular_ proposition is possible, the vital

224. A great advance in simplification has been made when the false
sort of ‘conceptualism’ has thus been got rid of--that conceptualism
which opposes knowing and being under the notion that things,
though merely individual in reality, may be known as general. This
riddance having been achieved, as it was by Hume, the import of the
proposition becomes the central question of philosophy, the answer
to which must determine our theory of real existence just as much
as of the mind. The issue may be taken on the proposition in its
singular no less than in its general form. The weakness of Hume’s
opponents, indeed, has lain primarily in their allowing that his
doctrine would account for any significant predication whatever,
as distinct from exclamations prompted by feelings as they occur.
This has been the inch, which once yielded, the full ell of his
nominalism has been easily won; just as Locke’s empiricism becomes
invincible as soon as it is admitted that qualified things are ‘found
in nature’ without any constitutive action of the mind. As the only
effective way of dealing with Locke is to ask,--After abstraction
of all that he himself admitted to be the creation of thought, what
remains to be merely found?--so Hume must be met _in limine_ by the
question whether, apart from such ideas of relation as according to
his own showing are not simple impressions, so much as the singular
proposition is possible. If not, then the singularity of such
proposition does not consist in any singleness of presentation to
sense; it is not the ‘particularity in time’ of a present feeling;
and the exclusion of generality, whether in thoughts or in things,
as following from the supposed necessity of such singleness or
particularity, is quite groundless.

Not relations of resemblance only, but those of quantity also,
treated by Hume as feelings.

225. Hitherto the idea of relation which we have had specially in
view has been that of relation in the way of resemblance, and the
propositions have been such as represent the most obvious ‘facts of
observation’--facts about this or that ‘body,’ man or horse or ball.
We have seen that these already suppose the thought of an object
qualified, not transitory as are feelings, but one to which feelings
are referred on their occurrence as resemblances or differences
between it and other objects; but that by an equivocation, which
unexamined phraseology covers, between the thought of such an object
and feeling proper--as if because we talk of seeing a man, therefore
a man were a feeling of colour--Hume is able to represent them as
mere data of sense, and thus to ignore the difference between related
feelings and ideas of relation. Thus the first step has been taken
towards transferring to the sensitive subject, as merely sensitive,
the power of thought and significant speech. The next is to transfer
to it ideas of those other relations [1] which Hume classifies as
‘relations of time and place, proportion in quantity or number,
degrees in any quality’. [2] This done, it is sufficiently equipped
for achieving its deliverance from metaphysics. An animal, capable of
experiments concerning matter of fact, and of reasoning concerning
quantity and number, would certainly have some excuse for throwing
into the fire all books which sought to make it ashamed of its
animality. [3]

[1] The course which our examination of Hume should take was marked
out, it will be remembered, by his enumeration of the ‘_natural_’
relations that regulate the association of ideas. It might seem
a departure from this course to proceed, as in the text, from
the relation of resemblance to ‘relations of time and place,
proportion in quantity or number, and degrees of any quality,’
since these appear in Hume’s enumeration, not of ‘_natural_’ but
of ‘_philosophical_’ relations. Such departure, however, is the
consequence of Hume’s own procedure. Whether he considered these
relations merely equivalent to the ‘natural ones’ of resemblance
and contiguity, he does not expressly say; but his reduction of the
principles of mathematics to data of sense implies that he did so.
The treatment of degrees in quality and proportions in quantity as
sensible implies that the difference between resemblance and measured
resemblance, between contiguity and measured contiguity, is ignored.

[2] p. 368 [Book I, part II., sec. V.]

[3] If we take in our hand any volume of divinity or
school-metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, _Does it contain
any abstract reasoning for quantity or number?_ No. _Does it
contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and
existence?_ No. _Commit it then to the flames, for it can contain
nothing but sophistry and illusion.’_--‘Inquiry concerning the Human
Understanding,’ at the end.

He draws the line between certainty and probability at the same point
as Locke; but is more definite as to probability,

226. In thus leaving mathematics and a limited sort of experimental
physics (limited by the exclusion of all general inference from the
experiment) out of the reach of his scepticism, and in making them
his basis of attack upon what he conceived to be the more pretentious
claims of knowledge, Hume was again following the course marked out
for him by Locke. It will be remembered that Locke, even when his
‘suspicion’ of knowledge is at its strongest, still finds solid
ground _(a)_ in ‘particular experiments’ upon nature, expressed
in singular propositions as opposed to assertions of universal or
necessary connexion, and _(b)_ in mathematical truths which are at
once general, certain, and instructive, because ‘barely ideal.’ All
speculative propositions that do not fall under one or other of these
heads are either ‘trifling’ or merely ‘probable.’ Hume draws the line
between certainty and probability at the same point, nor in regard
to the ground of certainty as to ‘matter of fact or existence’ is
there any essential difference between him and his master. As this
ground is the ‘actual present sensation’ with the one, so it is the
‘impression’ with the other; and it is only when the proposition
becomes universal or asserts a necessary connection, that the
certainty, thus given, is by either supposed to fail. It is true that
with Locke this authority of the sensation is a derived authority,
depending on its reference to a ‘body now operating upon us,’ while
with Hume, so far as he is faithful to his profession of discarding
such reference, it is original. But with each alike the fundamental
notion is that a feeling must be ‘true _while it lasts_,’ and that
in regard to real existence or matter of fact no other truth can
be known but this. Neither perceives that a truth thus restricted
is no truth at all--nothing that can be stated even in a singular
proposition; that the ‘particularity in time,’ on which is supposed
to depend the real certainty of the simple feeling, is just that
which deprives it of significance [1]--because neither is really
faithful to the restriction. Each allows himself to substitute for
the momentary feeling an object qualified by relations, which are the
exact opposite of momentary feelings. ‘If I myself see a man walk
on the ice,’ says Locke (IV, xv. 5), ‘it is past probability, it is
knowledge:’ nor would Hume, though ready enough on occasion to point
out that what is seen must be a colour, have any scruple in assuming
that such a complex judgment as the above so-called ‘sight’ has the
certainty of a simple impression. It is only in bringing to bear upon
the characteristic admission of Locke’s Fourth Book, that no general
knowledge of nature can be more than probable, a more definite notion
of what probability is, and in exhibiting the latent inconsistency
of this admission with Locke’s own doctrine of ideas as effects of
a causative substance, that he modifies the theory of _physical_
certainty which he inherited. In their treatment of mathematical
truths on the other hand, of propositions involving relations of
distance, quantity and degree, a fundamental discrepancy appears
between the two writers. The ground of certainty, which Hume admits
in regard to propositions of this order, must be examined before we
can appreciate his theory of probability as it affects the relations
of cause and substance.

[1] See above, paragraphs 45 and 97.

... and does not admit opposition of mathematical to physical
certainty--here following Berkeley.

227. It has been shown [1] that Locke’s opposition of mathematical to
physical certainty, with his ascription to the former of instructive
generality on the ground of its bare ideality--the ‘ideal’ in this
regard being opposed to what is found in sensation--strikes at the
very root of his system. It implies that thought can originate, and
that what it originates is in some sort real--nay, as being nothing
else than the ‘primary qualities of matter,’ is the source of all
other reality. Here was an alien element which ‘empiricism’ could not
assimilate without changing its character. Carrying such a conception
along with it, it was already charged with an influence which must
ultimately work its complete transmutation by compelling, not the
admission of an ideal world of guess and aspiration alongside of
the empirical, but the recognition of the empirical as itself ideal
The time for this transmutation, however, was not yet. Berkeley, in
over-hasty zeal for God, had missed that only true way of finding God
in the world which lies in the discovery that the world is Thought.
Having taken fright at the ‘mathematical Atheism,’ which seemed to
grow out of the current doctrines about primary qualities of matter,
instead of applying Locke’s own admissions to show that these were
intelligible and merely intelligible, he fancied that he had won the
battle for Theism by making out that they were merely feelings or
sequences of feelings. From him Hume got the text for all he had to
say against the metaphysical mathematicians; but, for the reason that
Hume applied it with no theological interest, its true import becomes
more apparent with him than with Berkeley.

[1] See above, paragraphs 117 and 125.

His criticisms of the doctrine of primary qualities.

228. His account of mathematical truths, as contained in Part II.
of the First Book of the ‘Treatise on Human Nature,’ cannot be
fairly read except in connection with the chapters in Part IV.
on ‘Scepticism with regard to the Senses,’ and on ‘the Modern
Philosophy.’ The latter chapter is expressly a polemic against
Locke’s doctrine of primary qualities, and its drift is to reverse
the relations which Locke had asserted between them and sensations,
making the primary qualities depend on sensations, instead of
sensations on the primary qualities. In Locke himself we have
found that two inconsistent views on the subject perpetually cross
each other. [1] According to one, momentary sensation is the sole
conveyance to us of reality; according to the other, the real is
constituted by qualities of bodies which not only ‘are in them
whether we perceive them or not,’ but which only complex ideas
of relation can represent. The unconscious device which covered
this inconsistency lay, we found, [2] in the conversion of the
mere feeling of touch into the touch _of a body_, and thus into an
experience of solidity. By this conversion, since solidity according
to Locke’s account carries with it all the primary qualities,
these too become data of sensation, while yet, by the retention of
the opposition between them and ideas, the advantage is gained of
apparently avoiding that identification of what is real with simple
feeling, which science and common sense alike repel.

[1] See above, paragraph 99 and following.

[2] See above, paragraph 101.

It will not do to oppose bodies to our feeling when only feeling can
give idea of body.

229. Hume makes a show of getting rid of this see-saw. Instead of
assuming at once the reality of sensation on the strength of its
relation to the primary qualities and the reality of these on the
strength of their being given in tactual experience, he pronounces
sensations alone the real, to which the primary qualities must be
reduced, if they are not to disappear altogether. ‘If colours,
sounds, tastes, and smells be merely perceptions, nothing we
can conceive is possessed of a real, continued, and independent
existence’. [1] That they are perceptions is of course undoubted.
The question is, whether there is a real something beside and
beyond them, contrast with which is implied in speaking of them
as ‘_merely_ perceptions.’ The supposed qualities of such a real
are ‘motion, extension, and solidity’. [2] To modes of these the
other primary qualities enumerated by Locke are reducible; and of
these again motion and extension, according to Locke’s account no
less than Hume’s own, presuppose solidity. What then do we assert
of the real, in contrast with which we talk of perception, as
_mere_ perception, when we say that it is solid? ‘In order to form
an idea of solidity we must conceive two bodies pressing on each
other without any penetration. ... Now, what idea do we form of
these bodies? ... To say that we conceive them as solid is to run
on _ad infinitum_. To affirm that we paint them out to ourselves as
extended, either resolves them all into a false idea or returns in a
circle; extension must necessarily be conceived either as coloured,
which is a false idea, [3] or as solid, which brings us back to the
first question.’ Of solidity, then, the ultimate determination of
the supposed real, there is ‘no idea to be formed’ apart from those
perceptions to which, as independent of our senses, it is opposed.
‘After exclusion of colours, sounds, heat and cold from the rank of
external existences, there remains nothing which can afford us a just
and consistent idea of body.’

[1] p. 513 [Book I, part IV., sec. IV.]

[2] Ibid.

[3] ‘A false idea,’ that is, according to the doctrine that extension
is a primary quality, while colour is only an idea of a secondary
quality, not resembling the quality as it is in the thing.

Locke’s shuffle of ‘body,’ ‘solidity,’ and ‘touch,’ fairly exposed.

230. Our examination of Locke has shown us how it is that his
interpretation of ideas by reference to body is fairly open to this
attack. It is so because, in thus interpreting them, he did not know
what he was really about. He thought he was explaining ideas of sense
according to the only method of explanation which he recognises--the
method of resolving complex into simple ideas, and of ‘sending a man
to his senses’ for a knowledge of the simple. In fact, however, when
he explained ideas of sense as derived from the qualities of body,
he was explaining simple ideas by reference to that which, according
to his own showing, is a complex idea. To say that, as Locke
understood the derivation in question, the primary qualities are
an ἄιτιον γενέσεως to the ideas of secondary qualities, but not an
ἄιτιον γνώσεως [1]--that without our having ideas of them they cause
those ideas of sense from which afterwards our ideas of the primary
qualities are formed--is to suppose an order of reality other than
the order of our sensitive experience, and thus to contradict Locke’s
fundamental doctrine that the genesis of ideas is to be found by
observing their succession in ‘our own breasts.’ It is not thus that
Locke himself escapes the difficulty. As we have seen, he supposes
our ideas of sense to be from the beginning ideas of the qualities of
bodies, and virtually justifies the supposition by sending the reader
to his sense of touch for that idea of solidity in which, as he
defines it, all the primary qualities are involved. That the sense in
question does not really yield the idea is what Hume points out when
he says that, ‘though bodies are felt by means of their solidity, yet
the feeling is quite a different thing from the solidity, nor have
they the least resemblance to each other.’ In other words, having
come to suppose that there are solid bodies, we explain our feeling
as due to their solidity; but we may not at once interpret feeling
as the result of solidity, and treat solidity as itself a feeling.
It was by allowing himself so to treat it that Locke disguised
from himself the objection to his interpretation of feeling. Hume
tears off the disguise, and in effect gives him the choice of being
convicted either of reasoning in a circle or of explaining the simple
idea by reference to the complex. The solidity, which is to explain
feeling, can itself only be explained by reference to body. If body
is only a complex of ideas of sense, in referring tactual feeling to
it we are explaining a simple idea by reference to a compound one.
If it is not, how is it to be defined except in the ‘circular’ way,
which Locke in fact adopts when he makes body a ‘texture of solid
parts’ and solidity a relation of bodies? [2]

[1] [Greek ἄιτιον γενέσεως (aition geneseos) = cause of coming-to-be,
ἄιτιον γνώσεως (aition gnoseos) = cause of being known. Tr.]

[2] See above, paragraph 101.

True rationale of Locke’s doctrine.

231. This ‘vicious circle’ was nothing of which Locke need have been
ashamed, if only he had understood and avowed its necessity. Body
is to solidity and to the primary qualities in general simply as a
substance to the relations that determine it; and the ‘circle’ in
question merely represents the logical impossibility of defining
a substance except by relations, and of defining these relations
without presupposing a substance. It was only Locke’s confusion
of the order of logical correlation with the sequence of feelings
in time, that laid him open to the charge of making body and the
ideas of primary qualities, and again the latter ideas and those
of secondary qualities, at once precede and follow each other. To
avoid this confusion by recognising the logical order--the order of
intellectual ‘fictions’--as that apart from which the sequence of
feelings would be no order of knowable reality at all, would be of
course impossible for one who took Locke’s antithesis of thought
and fact for granted. The time for that was not yet. A way of
escape had first to be sought in a more strict adherence to Locke’s
identification of the sequence of feelings with the order of reality.
Hence Hume’s attempt, reversing Locke’s derivation of ideas of sense
from primary qualities of body, to derive what with Locke had been
primary qualities, as compound impressions of sense, from simple
impressions and to reduce body itself to a name not for any ‘just
and consistent idea,’ but for a ‘propensity to feign,’ the gradual
product of custom and imagination. The question by which the value of
such derivation and reduction is to be tried is our old one, whether
it is not a tacit conversion of the supposed original impressions
into qualities of body that alone makes them seem to yield the result
required of them. If the Fourth Book of the ‘Treatise on Human
Nature,’ with its elimination of the idea of body, had come before
the second, would not the plausibility of the account of mathematical
ideas contained in the latter have disappeared? And conversely, if
these ideas had been reduced to that which upon elimination of the
idea of body they properly become, would not that ‘propensity to
feign,’ which is to take the place of the excluded idea, be itself

With Hume ‘body’ logically disappears. What then?

232. ‘After exclusion of colours, sounds, heat and cold, from the
rank of external existences, there remains nothing which can afford
us a just and consistent idea of body.’ Now, no one can ‘exclude
them from the rank of external existences’ more decisively than
Hume. They are impressions, and ‘all impressions are internal and
perishing existences, and appear as such.’ Nor does he shirk the
consequence, that we have no ‘just and consistent idea of body.’ It
is true that we cannot avoid a ‘belief in its existence’--a belief
which according to Hume consists in the supposition of ‘a continued
existence of objects when they no longer appear to the senses, and of
their existence as distinct from the mind and perceptions;’ in other
words, as ‘external to and independent of us.’ This belief, however,
as he shows, is not given by the senses. That we should feel the
existence of an object to be continued when we no longer feel it, is
a contradiction in terms; nor is it less so, that we should feel it
to be distinct from the feeling. We cannot, then, have an impression
of body; and, since we cannot have an idea which does not correspond
to an impression or collection of impressions, it follows that we can
have no idea of it. How the ‘belief in its existence’ is accounted
for by Hume in the absence of any idea of it, is a question to be
considered later. [1] Our present concern is to know whether the idea
of extension can hold its ground when the idea of body is excluded.

[1] See below, paragraph 303, and foll.

Can space survive body? Hume derives idea of it from sight and
feeling. Significance with him of such derivation.

233. ‘The first notion of space and extension,’ he says, ‘is derived
solely from the senses of sight and feeling: nor is there anything
but what is coloured or tangible that has parts disposed after
such a manner as to convey the idea.’ Now, there may be a meaning
of ‘derivation,’ according to which no one would care to dispute
the first clause of this sentence. Those who hold that _really_,
i.e. _for a consciousness to which the distinction between real and
unreal is possible_, there is no feeling except such as is determined
by thought, are yet far from holding that the determination is
arbitrary; that any and every feeling is potentially any and every
conception. Of the feelings to which the visual and tactual nerves
are organic, as they would be for a merely feeling consciousness,
nothing, they hold, can be said; in that sense they are an ἄπειρον;
[1] but for the thinking consciousness, or (which is the same) as
they _really_ are, these feelings do, while those to which other
nerves are organic do not, form the specific possibility of the
conception of space. According to this meaning of the words, all
must admit that ‘the first notion of space and extension is derived
from the senses of sight and feeling;’ though it does not follow
that a repeated or continued activity of either sense is necessary
to the continued presence of the notion. With Hume, however, the
derivation spoken of must mean that the notion of space is, to begin
with, simply a visual or tactual feeling, and that such it remains,
though with indefinite abatement and revival in the liveliness of the
feeling, according to the amount of which it is called ‘impression’
or ‘idea.’ If we supposed him to mean, not that the notion of space
was either a visual or tactual feeling indifferently, but that it
was a compound result of both, [2] we should merely have to meet
a further difficulty as to the possibility of such composition of
feelings when their inward synthesis in a soul, and the outward in a
body, have been alike excluded. In the next clause of the sentence,
however, we find that for visual and tactual feelings there are
quietly substituted ‘coloured and tangible objects, having parts so
disposed as to convey the idea of extension.’ It is in the light of
this latter clause that the uncritical reader interprets the former.
He reads back the plausibility of the one into the other, and, having
done so, finds the whole plausible. Now this plausibility of the
latter clause arises from its implying a three-fold distinction--a
distinction of colour or tangibility on the one side from the
disposition of the parts on the other; a distinction of the colour,
tangibility and disposition of parts alike from an object to which
they belong; and a distinction of this object from the idea that it
conveys. In other words, it supposes a negative answer to the three
following questions:--Is the idea of extension the same as that of
colour or tangibility? Is it possible without reference to something
other than a possible impression? Is the idea of extension itself
extended? Yet to the two latter questions, according to Hume’s
express statements, the answer must be affirmative; nor can he avoid
the affirmative answer to the first, to which he would properly be
brought, except by equivocation.

[1] [Greek ἄπειρον (apeiron) = unlimited, indefinite or infinite. Tr.]

[2] It is not really in this sense that the impression of space
according to Hume is a ‘compound’ one, as will appear below.

It means, in effect, that colour and space are the same, and that
feeling may be extended.

234. The _pièces justificatives_ for this assertion are not far to
seek. Some of them have been adduced already. The idea of space, like
every other idea, must be a ‘copy of an impression.’ [1] To speak of
a feeling in its fainter stage as an ‘image’ of what it was in its
livelier stage may, indeed, seem a curious use of terms; but in this
sense only, according to Hume’s strict doctrine, can the idea of
space be spoken of as an ‘image’ of anything at all. The impression
from which it is derived, _i.e._ the feeling at its liveliest,
cannot properly be so spoken of, for ‘no impression is presented
by the senses as the image of anything distinct, or external, or
independent.’ [2] If no impression is so presented, neither can
any idea, which copies the impression, be so. It can involve no
reference to anything which does not come and go with the impression.
Accordingly no distinction is possible between space on the one hand,
and either the impression or idea of it on the other. All impressions
and ideas that can be said to be of extension must be themselves
extended; and conversely, as Hume puts it, ‘all the qualities of
extension are qualities of a perception.’ It should follow that space
is either a colour or feeling of touch. In the terms which Hume
himself uses with reference to ‘substance,’ ‘if it be perceived by
the eyes, it must be colour; if by the ears, a sound; and so on, of
the other senses.’ As he expressly tells us that it is ‘perceived by
the eyes,’ the conclusion is inevitable.

[1] P. 340 [Book I, part II., sec. III.]

[2] P. 479 [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

The parts of space are parts of a perception.

235. Hume does not attempt to reject the conclusion directly. He
had too much eye to the appearance of consistency for that. But,
in professing to admit it, he wholly alters its significance. The
passage in question must be quoted at length. ‘The table, which just
now appears to me, is only a perception, and all its qualities are
qualities of a perception. Now, the most obvious of all its qualities
is extension. The perception consists of parts. These parts are so
situated as to afford us the notion of distance and contiguity,
of length, breadth, and thickness. The termination of these three
dimensions is what we call figure. The figure is moveable, separable,
and divisible. Mobility and separability are the distinguishing
properties of extended objects. And, to cut short all disputes, the
very idea of extension is copied from nothing but an impression,
and consequently must perfectly agree to it. To say the idea of
extension agrees to anything is to say it is extended.’ Thus ‘there
are impressions and ideas that are really extended.’ [1]

[1] P. 523 [Book I, part IV., sec. V.]

Yet the parts of space are co-existent not successive.

236. In order to a proper appreciation of this passage it is
essential to bear in mind that Hume, so far as the usages of
language would allow him, ignores all such differences in modes of
consciousness as the Germans indicate by the distinction between
‘Empfindung’ and ‘Vorstellung,’ and by that between ‘Anschauung’
and ‘Begriff;’ or, more properly, that he expressly merges them in
a mode of consciousness for which, according to the most consistent
account that can be gathered from him, the most natural term
would be ‘feeling.’ [1] It is true that Hume himself, admitting a
distinction in the degree of vivacity with which this consciousness
is at different times presented, inclines to restrict the term
‘feeling’ to its more vivacious stage, and to use ‘perception’ as
the more general term, applicable whatever the degree of vivacity
may be. [2] We must not allow him, however, in using this term to
gain the advantage of a meaning which popular theory does, but his
does not, attach to it. ‘Perception’ with him covers ‘idea’ as well
as ‘impression;’ but nothing can be said of idea that cannot be
said of impression, save that it is less lively, nor of impression
that cannot be said of idea, save that it is more so. It is this
explicit reduction of all consciousness virtually, if not in name, to
feeling that brings to the surface the difficulties latent in Locke’s
‘idealism.’ These we have already traced at large; but they may be
summed up in the question, How can feelings, as ‘particular in time’
or (which is the same) in ‘perpetual flux,’ constitute or represent
a world of permanent relations? [3] The difficulty becomes more
obvious, though not more real, when the relations in question are not
merely themselves permanent, like those between natural phenomena,
but are ‘relations between permanent parts,’ like those of space.
It is for this reason that its doctrine about geometry has always
been found the most easily assailable point of the ‘sensational’
philosophy. Locke distinguishes the ideas of space and of duration
as got, the one ‘from the permanent parts of space,’ the other ‘from
the fleeting and perpetually perishing parts of succession.’ [4] He
afterwards prefers the term ‘expansion’ to space, as the opposite
of duration, because it brings out more clearly the distinction
of a relation between permanent parts from that between ‘fleeting
successive parts which never exist together.’ How, then, can a
consciousness consisting simply of ‘fleeting successive parts’ either
be or represent that of which the differentia is that its parts are
permanent and co-exist?

[1] As implying no distinction from, or reference to, a thing causing
and a subject experiencing it. See above, paragraphs 195 and 208, and
the passages there referred to.

[2] ‘To hate, to love, to think, to feel, to see; all this is nothing
but to perceive.’ p. 371 [Book I, part II., sec. IV.]. ‘When I
shut my eyes and _think_ of my chamber, the ideas I form are exact
representations of the impressions I _felt_.’ p. 312 [Book I, part
I., sec. I.].

[3] See above, paragraphs 172 & 176.

[4] Essay Book II. chap. xiv. sec. 1.

Hume cannot make space a ‘perception’ without being false to his own
account of perception;

237. If this crux had been fairly faced by Hume, he must have seen
that the only way in which he could consistently deal with it was
by radically altering, with whatever consequence to the sciences,
Locke’s account of space. As it was, he did not face it, but--whether
intentionally or only in effect--disguised it by availing himself of
the received usages of language, which roughly represent a theory
the exact opposite of his own, to cover the incompatibility between
the established view of the nature of space, and his own reduction
of it to feeling. A very little examination of the passage, quoted
at large above, will show that while in it a profession is made
of identifying extension and a certain sort of perception with
each other, its effect is not really to reduce extension to such a
perception as Hume elsewhere explains all perceptions to be, but
to transfer the recognised properties of extension which with such
reduction would disappear, to something which for the time he chooses
to reckon a perception, but which he can only so reckon at the cost
of contradicting his whole method of dealing with the ideas of God,
the soul, and the world. The passage, in fact, is merely one sample
of the continued shuffle by which Hume on the one hand ascribes to
feeling that intelligible content which it only derives from relation
to objects of thought, and on the other disposes of these objects
because they are not feelings.

... as appears if we put ‘feeling’ for ‘perception’ in the passages
in question.

238. ‘The table, which just now appears to me, is only a perception,
and all its qualities are qualities of a perception. Now, the most
obvious of all its qualities is extension. The perception consists
of parts. These parts are so situated as to afford us the notion
of distance and contiguity, of length, breadth, and thickness,’
&c., &c. If, now, throughout this statement (as according to Hume’s
doctrine we are entitled to do) we write _feeling_ for ‘perception’
and ‘notion,’ it will appear that this table is a feeling, which
has another feeling, called extension, as one of its qualities; and
that this latter feeling consists of parts. These, in turn, must be
themselves feelings, since the parts of which a perception consists
must be themselves perceived, and, being perceived, must, according
to Hume, be themselves perceptions which = feelings. These feelings,
again, afford us other feelings of certain relations--distance and
contiguity, &c.--feelings which, as Hume’s doctrine allows of no
distinction between the feeling and that of which it is the feeling,
must be themselves relations. Thus it would seem that a feeling may
have another feeling as one of its qualities; that the feeling, which
is thus a quality, has other feelings as its co-existent parts; and
that the feelings which are parts ‘afford us’ other feelings which
are relations. Is that sense or nonsense?

To make sense of them, we must take perception to mean perceived

239. To this a follower of Hume, if he could be brought to admit the
legitimacy of depriving his master of the benefit of synonyms, might
probably reply, that the apparent nonsense only arises from our being
unaccustomed to such use of the term ‘feeling;’ that the table is a
‘bundle of feelings,’ actual and possible, of which the actual one
of sight suggests a lively expectation, easily confused with the
presence, of the others belonging to the other senses; that any one
of these may be considered a quality of the total impression formed
by all; that the feeling thus considered, if it happens to be visual,
may not improperly be said to consist of other feelings, as a whole
consists of parts, since it is the result of impressions on different
parts of the retina, and from a different point of view even itself
to be the relation between the parts, just as naturally as a mutual
feeling of friendship may be said either to consist of the loves of
the two parties to the friendship, or to constitute the relation
between them. Such language represents those modern adaptations of
Hume, which retain his identification of the real with the felt but
ignore his restrictions on the felt. Undoubtedly, if Hume allowed
us to drop the distinction between feeling as it might be for a
merely feeling consciousness, and feeling as it is for a thinking
consciousness, the objection to his speaking of feeling in those
terms, in which it must be spoken of if extension is to be a feeling,
would disappear; but so, likewise, would the objection to speaking of
thought as constitutive of reality. To appreciate his view we must
take feeling not as we really know it--for we cannot know it except
under those conditions of self-consciousness, the logical categories,
which in his attempt to get at feeling, pure and simple, Hume is
consistent enough to exclude--but as it becomes upon exclusion of
all determination by objects which Hume reckons fictitious. What it
would thus become _positively_ we of course cannot say, for of the
unknowable nothing can be said; but we can decide _negatively_ what
it cannot be. Can that in any case be said of it, which must be said
of it if a feeling may be extended, and if extension is a feeling?
Can it be such a quality of an object, so consisting of parts, and
such a relation, as we have found that Hume takes it to be in his
account of the perception of this table?

... which it can only mean as the result of certain ‘fictions’.

240. After having taken leave throughout the earlier part of the
‘Treatise on Human Nature’ to speak in the ordinary way of objects
and their qualities--and otherwise of course he could not have
spoken at all--in the fourth book he seems for the first time to
become aware that his doctrine did not authorise such language.
To perceive qualities of an object is to be conscious of relation
between a subject and object, of which neither perishes with the
moment of perception. Such consciousness is self-consciousness,
and cannot be reduced to any natural observable event, since it is
consciousness of that of which we cannot say ‘Lo, here,’ or ‘Lo,
there,’ ‘it is now but was not then,’ or ‘it was then but is not
now.’ It is therefore something which the spirit of the Lockeian
philosophy cannot assimilate, and which Hume, as the most consistent
exponent of that spirit, most consistently tried to get rid of.
The subject as self, the object as body, he professes to reduce to
figures of speech, to be accounted for as the result of certain
‘propensities to feign:’ nor will he allow that any impression or
idea (and impressions and ideas with him, be it remembered, exhaust
our consciousness) carries with it a reference to an object other
than itself, any more than do pleasure or pain to which ‘in their
nature’ all perceptions correspond. [1] He cannot, indeed, avoid
speaking of the consciousness thus reduced to the level of simple
pain and pleasure, as being that which in fact it can only be when
determined by relation to a self-conscious subject, _i.e._ as itself
an object; but he is so far faithful in his attempt to avoid such
determination, that he does not reckon the object more permanent
than the impression. It, too, is a ‘perishing existence.’ As the
impression disappears with a ‘turn of the eye in its socket,’ so does
the object, which really is the impression, and cannot appear other
than it is any more than a feeling can be felt to be what it is not.

[1] ‘Every impression, external and internal, passions, affections,
sensations, pains, and pleasures, are originally on the same footing;
and, whatever other differences we may observe among them, appear,
all of them, in their true colours, as impressions or perceptions.’
p. 480. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

‘All sensations are felt by the mind such as they really are; and,
when we doubt whether they present themselves as distinct objects or
as mere impressions, the difficulty is not concerning their nature,
but concerning their relations and situation.’ p. 480. [ibid.]

[2] See above, paragraph 208, with the passages there cited.

If felt thing is no more than feeling, how can it have qualities?

241. Such being the only possible object, how can qualities of it
be perceived? We cannot here find refuge in any such propensity to
feign as that which, according to Hume, leads us to ‘endow objects
with a continued existence, distinct from our perceptions.’ If such
propensities can give rise to impressions at all, it can only be to
impressions of reflection, and it cannot be in virtue of them that
extension, an impression of sensation, is given as a quality of an
object. Now if there is any meaning in the phrase ‘qualities of an
object,’ it implies that the qualities co-exist with each other and
the object. Feelings, then, which are felt as qualities of another
feeling must co-exist with, _i.e._ (according to Hume) be felt at
the same time as, it and each other. Thus, if an impression of sight
be the supposed object, no feeling that occurs after this impression
has disappeared can be a quality of it. Accordingly, when Hume speaks
of extension being seen as one of the qualities of this table, he
is only entitled to mean that it is one among several feelings,
experienced at one and the same time, which together constitute
the table. Whatever is not so experienced, whether extension or
anything else, can be no quality of that ‘perception.’ How much
of the perception, then, will survive? Can any feelings, strictly
speaking, be cotemporaneous? Those received through different senses,
as Hume is careful to show, may be; _e.g._ the smell, taste, and
colour of a fruit. [1] In regard to them, therefore, we may waive
the difficulty, How can feelings successive to each other be yet
co-existent qualities? but only to find ourselves in another as to
what the object may be of which the cotemporaneous feelings are
qualities. It cannot, according to Hume, be other than one or all
of the cotemporaneous feelings. Is, then, the taste of an apple a
quality of its colour or of its smell, or of colour, smell, and taste
put together? It will not help us to speak of the several feelings
as qualities of the ‘total impression;’ for the ‘total impression’
either merely means the several feelings put together, or else
covertly implies just that reference to an object other than these,
which Hume expressly excludes.

[1] ‘The taste and smell of any fruit are inseparable from its other
qualities of colour and tangibility, and ... ’tis certain they are
always co-existent. Nor are they only co-existent in general, but
also cotemporary in their appearance in the mind.’ p. 521. (Contrast
p. 370, where existence and appearance are identified.) [Book I, part
IV., sec. V. and part II, sec. IV.]

The thing will have ceased before the quality begins to be.

242. In fact, however, when he speaks of the feeling, which is
called extension, as a quality of the feeling, which is called
sight, of the table, he has not even the excuse that he might have
had if the feelings in question, being of different senses, might be
cotemporary. According to him they are feelings of the same sense.
The extension of the table he took to be a datum of sight just as
properly as its colour; yet he cannot call it the same as colour, but
only ‘a quality of the coloured object.’ As the ‘coloured object,’
however, apart from ‘propensities to feign,’ can, according to him,
be no other than the feeling of colour, his doctrine can only mean
that, colour and extension being feelings of the same sense, the
latter is a quality of the former. Is this any more possible than
that red should be a quality of blue, or a sour taste of a bitter
one? Must not the two feelings be successive, however closely
successive, so that the one which is object will have disappeared
before the other, which is to be its quality, will have occurred? [1]

[1] It should be needless to point out that by taking extension to be
a quality of ‘tangibility’ or muscular effort we merely change the
difficulty. The question as to its relation to such feelings will be
simply a repetition of that, put in the text, as to its relation to
the feeling of colour.

Hume equivocates by putting ‘coloured points’ for colour.

243. If we look to the detailed account which Hume gives of the
relation between extension and colour, we find that he avoids the
appearance of making one feeling a quality of another, by in fact
substituting for colour a superficies of coloured points, in which
it is very easy to find extension as a quality because it already
is extension as an object. To speak of extension, though a feeling,
as made up of parts is just as legitimate or illegitimate as to
speak of the feeling of colour being made up of coloured points. The
legitimacy of this once admitted, there remains, indeed, a logical
question as to how it is that a quality should be spoken of in terms
that seem proper to a substance--as is done when it is said to
consist of parts--and yet, again, should be pronounced a relation
of these parts; but to one who professed to merge all logical
distinctions in the indifference of simple feeling, such a question
could have no recognised meaning. It is, then, upon the question
whether, according to Hume’s doctrine of perception, the perception
of an object made up of coloured points may be used interchangeably
with the perception of colour, that the consistency of his doctrine
of extension must finally be tried.

244. The detailed account is to the following effect:--‘Upon opening
my eyes and turning them to the surrounding objects, I perceive many
visible bodies; and upon shutting them again and considering the
distance betwixt these bodies, I acquire the idea of extension.’
From what impression, Hume proceeds to ask, is this idea derived?
‘Internal impressions’ being excluded, ‘there remain nothing but the
senses which can convey to us this original impression.’ ... ‘The
table before me is alone sufficient by its view to give me the idea
of extension. This idea, then, is borrowed from and represents some
impression which this moment appears to the senses. But my senses
convey to me only the impressions of coloured points, disposed in a
certain manner. ... We may conclude that the idea of extension is
nothing but a copy of these coloured points and of the manner of
their appearance.’ [1]

[1] Pp. 340 and 341. [Book I, part II., sec. III.]

Can a ‘disposition of coloured points’ be an impression?

245. If the first sentence of the above had been found by Hume in
an author whom he was criticising, he would scarcely have been
slow to pronounce it tautological. As it stands, it simply tells
us that having seen things extended we consider their extension,
and upon considering it acquire an idea of it. It is a fair sample
enough of those ‘natural histories’ of the soul in vogue among us,
which by the help of a varied nomenclature seem able to explain a
supposed later state of consciousness as the result of a supposed
earlier one, because the terms in which the earlier is described
in effect assume the later. It may be said, however, that it is
only by a misinterpretation of a carelessly written sentence that
Hume can be represented as deriving the idea of extension from the
consideration of distance; that, as the sequel shows, he regarded the
‘consideration’ and the ‘idea’ in question as equivalent, and derived
from the same impression of sense. It is undoubtedly upon his account
of this impression that his doctrine of extension depends. It is
described as ‘an impression of coloured points disposed in a certain
manner.’ To it the idea of extension is related simply as a copy;
which, we have seen, properly means with Hume, as a feeling in a less
lively stage is related to the same feeling in a more lively stage.
It is itself, we must note, the _impression_ of extension; and it is
an impression of sense, about which, accordingly, no further question
can properly be raised. Hume, indeed, allows himself to speak as
if it were included in a ‘perception of visible bodies’ other than
itself; just as in the passage from the fourth book previously
examined, he speaks as if the perception, called extension, were a
quality of some other perception. This we must regard as an exercise
of the privilege which he claims of ‘speaking with the vulgar while
he thought with the learned;’ since, according to him, ‘visible
body,’ in any other sense than that of the impression of coloured
points, is properly a name for a ‘propensity to feign’ resulting from
a process posterior to all impressions of sense. The question remains
whether, in speaking of an impression as one of ‘coloured points
disposed in a certain manner,’ he is not introducing a ‘fiction
of thought’ into the impression just as much as in calling it a
‘perception of body.’

The points must be themselves impressions, and therefore not

246. An impression, we know, can, according to Hume, never be _of_ an
object in the sense of involving a reference to anything other than
itself. When one is said, then, to be _of_ coloured points, &c., this
can only mean that itself _is_, or consists of, such points. Thus the
question we have to answer is only a more definite form of the one
previously put, Can a feeling consist of parts? In answering it we
must remember that the parts, here supposed to be coloured points,
must, according to Hume’s doctrine, be themselves impressions or they
are nothing. Consistently with this he speaks of extension as ‘a
compound impression, consisting of parts or lesser impressions, that
are indivisible to the eye or feeling, and may be called impressions
of atoms or corpuscles, endowed with colour and solidity.’ [1] Now,
unless we suppose that a multitude of feelings of one and the same
sense can be present together, these ‘lesser impressions’ must follow
each other and precede the ‘compound impression.’ That is to say,
none of the parts of which extension consists will be in existence
at the same time, and all will have ceased to exist before extension
itself comes into being. Can we, then, adopt the alternative
supposition that a multitude of feelings of one and the same sense
can be present together? In answering this question according to
Hume’s premisses we may not help ourselves by saying that in a case
of vision there really are impressions on different parts of the
retina. To say that it _really_ is so, is to say that it is so for
the _thinking_ consciousness--for a consciousness that distinguishes
between what it feels and what it knows. To a man, as simply seeing
and while he sees, his sight is not an impression on the retina at
all, much less a combination of impressions on different parts of
the retina. It is so for him only as thinking on the organs of his
sight; or, if we like, as ‘seeing’ them in another, but ‘seeing’ them
in a way determined by sundry suppositions (bodies, rays, and the
like) which are not feelings, and therefore with Hume not possible
‘perceptions,’ at all. But it is the impression of sight, as it would
be for one simply seeing and while he sees, undetermined by reference
to anything other than itself, whether subject or object--an
impression as it would be for a merely feeling consciousness or (in
Hume’s language) ‘on the same footing with pain and pleasure’--that
we have to do with when, from Hume’s point of view, we ask whether a
multitude of such impressions can be present at once, _i.e._ as one

[1] P. 345 [Book I, part II., sec. IV.]

A ‘compound impression’ excluded by Hume’s doctrine of time.

247. If this question had been brought home to Hume, he could
scarcely have avoided the admission that to answer it affirmatively
involved just as much of a contradiction as that which he recognises
between the ‘interrupted’ and ‘continuous’ existence of objects;
[1] and just as in the latter case he gets over the contradiction
by taking the interrupted existence, because the datum of sense,
to be the reality, and the continued existence to be a belief
resulting from ‘propensities to feign,’ so in the case before us
he must have taken the multiplicity of successive impressions to
be the reality, and their co-existence as related parts to be a
figure of speech, which he must account for as best he could. As
it is, he so plays fast and loose with the meaning of ‘impression’
as to hide the contradiction which is involved in the notion of a
‘compound impression’ if impression is interpreted as feeling--the
contradiction, namely, that a single feeling should he felt to be
manifold--and in consequence loses the chance of being brought to
that truer interpretation of the compound impression, as the thought
of an object under relations, which a more honest trial of its
reduction to feeling might have shown to be necessary. To convict so
skilful a writer of a contradiction in terms can never be an easy
task. He does not in so many words tell us that all impressions of
sight must be successive, but he does tell us that ‘the impressions
of touch,’ which, indifferently with those of sight, he holds to
constitute the compound impression of extension, ‘change every moment
upon us.’ [2] And in the immediate sequel of the passage where he
has made out extension to be a compound of co-existent impressions,
he derives the idea of time ‘from the succession of our perceptions
_of every kind_, ideas as well as impressions, and impressions of
reflection as well as of sensation.’ The parts of time, he goes on to
say, cannot be co-existent; and, since ‘time itself is nothing but
different ideas and impressions succeeding each other,’ these parts,
we must conclude, are those ‘perceptions of every kind’ from which
the idea of time is derived. [3] It is only, in fact, by availing
himself of the distinction, which he yet expressly rejects, between
the impression and its object, that he disguises the contradiction in
terms of first pronouncing certain impressions, as parts of space,
co-existent, and then pronouncing all impressions, as parts of time,
successive. A statement that ‘as from the coexistence of visual, and
also of tactual, perceptions we receive the idea of extension, so
from the succession of perceptions of every kind we form the idea
of time,’ would arouse the suspicion of the most casual reader;
while Hume’s version of the same,--‘as ’tis from the disposition of
visible and tangible objects we receive the idea of space, so from
the succession of ideas and impressions we form the idea of time’
[4]--has the full ring of empirical plausibility.

[1] P. 483 and following, and p. 486 [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

[2] P. 516 [Book I, part IV., sec. IV.].

[3] Pp. 342, 343 [Book I, part II., sec. III.].

[4] P. 342 [Book I, part II., sec. III.]

The fact that colours mix, not to the purpose.

248. This plausibility depends chiefly on our reading into Hume’s
doctrine a physical theory which, as implying a distinction between
feeling and its real but unfelt cause, is strictly incompatible with
it. Is it not an undoubted fact, the reader asks, that two colours
may combine to produce a third different from both--that red and
yellow, for instance, together produce orange? Is not this already an
instance of a compound impression? Why may not a like composition of
unextended impressions of colour constitute an impression different
from any one of the component impressions, viz. extended colour?
A moment’s consideration, however, will show that no one has a
conscious sensation at once of red and yellow, and of orange as a
compound of the two. The elements which combine to produce the colour
called orange are not--as they ought to be if it is to be a case of
compound impression in Hume’s sense--feelings of the person who sees
the orange colour, but certain known causes of feeling, confused in
language with the feelings, which separately they might produce,
but which in fact they do not produce when they combine to give the
sensation of orange; and to such causes of feeling, which are not
themselves feelings, Hume properly can have nothing to say.

How Hume avoids appearance of identifying space with colour, and
accounts for the abstraction of space.

249. So far we have been considering the composition of impressions
generally, without special reference to extension. The contradiction
pointed out arises from the confusion between impressions as felt
and impressions as thought of; colour, between feelings as they
are in themselves, presented successively in time, and feelings as
determined by relation to the thinking subject, which takes them out
of the flux of time and converts them into members of a permanent
whole. It is in this form that the confusion is most apt to elude us.
When the conceived object is one of which the qualities can really
be felt, _e.g._ colour, we readily forget that a felt quality is no
longer simply a feeling. But the case is different when the object
is one, like extension, which forces on us the question whether its
qualities can be felt, or presented in feeling, at all. A compound
of impressions of colour, to adopt Hume’s phraseology, even if such
composition were possible, would still be nothing else than an
impression of colour. In more accurate language, the conception,
which results from the action of thought upon feelings of colour,
can only be a conception of colour. Is extension, then, the same as
colour? To say that it was would imply that geometry was a science
of colour; and Hume, though ready enough to outrage ‘Metaphysics and
School Divinity,’ always stops reverently short of direct offence
to the mathematical sciences. As has been said above, of the three
main questions about the idea of extension which his doctrine
raises--Is it itself extended? Is it possible without reference to
something other than a possible impression? Is it the same as the
idea of colour or tangibility?--the last is the only one which he can
scarcely even profess to answer in the affirmative. [1] Even when he
has gone so far as to speak of the parts of a perception, a sound
instinct compels him, instead of identifying the perception directly
with extension, to speak of it as ‘affording through the situation
of its parts the notion of’ extension. [2] In like manner, when he
has asserted extension to be a compound of impressions, he avoids
the proper consequence of the assertion by speaking of the component
impressions as those, not of colour but, of coloured points, ‘atoms
or corpuscles endowed with colour and solidity;’ and, again, does not
call extension the compound of these simply, but the compound of them
as ‘disposed in a certain manner.’ When the idea which is a copy of
this impression has to be spoken of, the expression is varied again.
It is an ‘idea of the coloured points _and of the manner of their
appearance_,’ or of their ‘disposition.’ The disposition of the parts
having been thus virtually distinguished from their colour, it is
easy to suppose that, finding a likeness in the disposition of points
under every unlikeness of their colour, ‘we omit the peculiarities
of colour, as far as possible, and found an abstract idea merely on
that disposition of points, or manner of appearance, in which they
agree. Nay, even when the resemblance is carried beyond the objects
of one sense, and the impressions of touch are found to be similar
to those of sight in the disposition of their parts, this does not
hinder the abstract idea from representing both on account of their
resemblance’. [3]

[1] Above, paragraph 233. Though, as we shall see, he does so in one

[2] Above, paragraph 235.

[3] P. 341 [Book I, part II., sec. III.]

In so doing, he implies that space is a relation, and a relation
which is not a possible impression.

250. If words have any meaning, the above must imply that the
disposition of points is at least a different idea from either colour
or tangibility, however impossible it may be for us to experience
it without one or other of the latter. Nor can we suppose that
this impression, other than colour, is one that first results from
the composition of colours, even if we admit that such composition
could yield a result different from colour. According to Hume,
the components of the compound impression are already impressions
of coloured ‘points, atoms, or corpuscles,’ and such points imply
just that limitation by mutual externality, which is already the
disposition in question. Is this ‘disposition,’ then, an impression
of sensation? If so, ‘through which of the senses is it received? If
it be perceived by the eyes it must be a colour,’ &c. &c.; [1] but
from colour, the impression with which Hume would have identified it
if he could, he yet finds himself obliged virtually to distinguish
it. It is a relation, and not even one of those relations, such as
resemblance, which in Hume’s language, ‘depending on the nature
of the impressions related,’ [2] may plausibly be reckoned to
be themselves impressions. The ‘disposition’ of parts and their
‘situation’ he uses interchangeably, and the situation of impressions
he expressly opposes to their ‘nature’ [3]--that nature in respect
of which all impressions, call them what we like, are ‘originally
on the same footing’ with pain and pleasure. Consistently with this
he pronounces the ‘external position’ of objects--their position as
bodies external to each other and to our body--to be no datum of
sense, no impression or idea, at all. [4] Our belief in it has to
be accounted for as a complex result of ‘propensities to feign.’
How, then, can there be an impression of that which does not belong
to the nature of any impression? What difference is there between
‘bodies’ and ‘corpuscles endowed with colour and solidity,’ that the
outwardness of the latter to each other--also called their ‘distance’
from each, other [5]--should be an impression, while it is admitted
that the same relation between ‘bodies’ cannot be so?

[1] Above, paragraph 208.

[2] P. 372 [Book I, part III., sec. I.], ‘Philosophical relations
may be divided into two classes: into such as depend entirely on the
ideas which we compare together; and such as may be changed without
any change in the ideas. ... The relations of contiguity and distance
between two objects may be changed without any change in the objects
themselves or their ideas.’

[3] P. 480. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.] ‘When we doubt whether
sensations present themselves as distinct objects or as mere
impressions, the difficulty is not concerning their nature, but
concerning their relations and situation.’

[4] P. 481. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.] In there showing that the
senses alone cannot convince us of the external existence of body,
he remarks that ‘sounds, tastes, and smells appear not to have any
existence in extension;’ and (p. 483) [ibid] ‘as far as the senses
are judges, all perceptions are the same in the manner of their
existence.’ Therefore perceptions of sight cannot have ‘an existence
in extension’ any more than ‘sounds, tastes, and smells;’ and if so,
how can ‘existence in extension’ be a perception?

[5] Above, paragraphs 235 and 244.

No logical alternative between identifying space with colour, and
admitting an idea not copied from an impression.

251. To have plainly admitted that it was not an impression must
have compelled Hume either to discard the ‘abstract idea’ with which
geometry deals, or to admit the possibility of ideas other than
‘fainter impressions.’ It is a principle on which he insists with
much emphasis and repetition, that whatever ‘objects,’ ‘impressions,’
or ‘ideas’ are distinguishable are also separable. [1] Now if there
is an abstract idea of extension, it can scarcely be other than
distinguishable, and consequently (according to Hume’s account of
the relation of idea to impression) derived from a distinguishable
and therefore separable impression. It would seem then that Hume
cannot escape conviction of one of two inconsistencies; either that
of supposing a separate impression of extension, which yet is not
of the nature of any assignable sensation; or that of supposing an
abstract idea of it in the absence of any such impression. We shall
find that he does not directly face either horn of the dilemma, but
evades both of them. He admits that ‘the ideas of space and time
are no separate and distinct ideas, but merely those of the manner
or order in which objects’ (_sc._ impressions) ‘exist’. [2] In the
Fourth Book, where the equivalence of impression to feeling is more
consistently carried out, the fact that what is commonly reckoned an
impression is really a judgment about the ‘manner of existence,’ as
opposed to the ‘nature,’ of impressions, is taken as sufficient proof
that it is no impression at all; and if not an impression, therefore
not an idea. [3] He thus involuntarily recognized the true difference
between feeling and thought, between the mere occurrence of feelings
and the presentation of that occurrence by the self-conscious subject
to itself; and, if only he had known what he was about in the
recognition, might have anticipated Kant’s distinction between the
matter and form of sensation. In the Second Book, however, he will
neither say explicitly that space is an impression of colour or a
compound of colours--that would be to extinguish geometry; nor yet
that it is impression of sense separate from that of colour--that
would lay him open to the retort that he was virtually introducing
a sixth sense; nor on the other hand will he boldly avow of it, as
he afterwards does of body, that it is a fiction. He denies that it
is a separate impression, so far as that is necessary for avoiding
the challenge to specify the sense through which it is received;
he distinguishes it from a mere impression of sight, when it is
necessary to avoid its simple identification with colour. By speaking
of it as ‘the manner in which objects exist’--so long as he is not
confronted with the declarations of the Fourth Book or with the
question how, the objects being impressions, their order of existence
can be at once that of succession in time and of co-existence in
space--he gains the credit for it of being a datum of sight, yet
so far distinct from colour as to be a possible ‘foundation for an
abstract idea,’ representative also of objects not coloured at all
but tangible. At the same time, if pressed with the question how it
could be an impression of sight and yet not interchangeable with
colour, he could put off the questioner by reminding him that he
never made it a ‘separate or distinct impression, but one of the
manner in which objects exist.’

[1] Pp. 319, 326, 332, 335, 518. [Book I, part I., sec. IV and VII,
part II, sec. I, and part IV., sec. V.]

[2] P. 346. [Book I, part II., sec. IV.]

[3] P. 480. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

In his account of the idea as _abstract_, Hume really introduces
distinction between feeling and conception;

252. Disguise it as he might, however, the admission that there
was in some sense an abstract idea of space, which the existence
of geometry required of him, really carried with it the admission
either of a distinct impression of the same, or of some transmuting
process by which the idea may become what the impression is not.
His way of evading this consequence has been already noticed in our
examination of his doctrine of ‘abstract ideas’ generally, though
without special reference to extension. [1] It consists in asserting
figure and colour to be ‘really,’ or as an impression, ‘the same and
indistinguishable,’ but different as ‘relations and resemblances’ of
the impression; in other words, different according to the ‘light in
which the impression is considered’ or ‘the aspect in which it is
viewed.’ Of these ‘separate resemblances and relations,’ however, are
there ideas or are there not? If there are not, they are according
to Hume nothing of which we are conscious at all; if there are,
there must be distinguishable, and therefore separable, impressions
corresponding. To say then that figure and colour form one and the
same indistinguishable impression, and yet that they constitute
‘different resemblances and relations,’ without such explanation
as Hume cannot consistently give, is in fact a contradiction in
terms. The true explanation is that the ‘impression’ has a different
meaning, when figure and colour are said to be inseparable in the
impression, from that which it has when spoken of as a subject of
different resemblances and relations. In the former sense it is
the feeling pure and simple--_one_ as presented singly in time,
after another and before a third. In this sense it is doubtless
insusceptible of distinction into qualities of figure and colour,
because (for reasons already stated) it can have no qualities at
all. But the ‘simplicity in which many different resemblances and
relations may be contained’ is quite other than this singleness. It
is the unity of an object thought of under manifold relations--a
unity of which Hume, reducing all consciousness to ‘impression’ and
impression to feeling, has no consistent account to give. Failing
such an account, the unity of the intelligible object, and the
singleness of the feeling in time, are simply confused with each
other. It is only an object as thought of, not a feeling as felt,
that can properly be said to have qualities at all; while it is only
because it is still regarded as a feeling that qualities of it, which
cannot be referred to separate impressions, are pronounced the same
and indistinguishable. If the idea of space is other than a feeling
grown fainter, the sole reason for regarding it as originally an
impression of colour disappears; if it _is_ such a feeling, it cannot
contain such ‘different resemblances and relations’ as render it
representative of objects not only coloured in every possible way,
but not coloured at all.

[1] Above, paragraph 218.

... yet avoids appearance of doing so, by treating ‘consideration’ of
the relations of a felt thing as if it were itself the feeling.

253. It is thus by playing fast and loose with the difference between
feeling and conception that Hume is able, when the character of
extension as an intelligible relation is urged, to reply that it is
the same with the feeling of colour; and on the other hand, when
asked how there then can be an abstract idea of it, to reply that
this does not mean a separate idea, but coloured objects considered
under a certain relation, viz. under that which consists in the
disposition of their parts. The most effective way of meeting him on
his own ground is to ask him how it is, since ‘consideration’ can
only mean a succession of ideas, and ideas are fainter impressions,
that extension, being one and the same impression with colour, can
by any ‘consideration’ become so different from it as to constitute
a resemblance to objects that are not coloured at all. The true
explanation, according to his own terminology, would be that the
resemblance between the white globe and all other globes, being
a resemblance not of impressions but of such relations between
impressions as do not ‘depend on the nature of the impressions’
related, is unaffected by the presence or absence of colour or any
other sensation. Of such relations, however, there can properly,
if ideas are fainter impressions, be no ideas at all. In regard
to those of cause and identity Hume virtually admits this; but
the ‘propensities to feign’ by which in the case of these latter
relations he tries to account for the appearance of there being
ideas of them, cannot plausibly be applied to relations in space and
time, of which, as we shall see, ideas must be assumed in order to
account for the ‘fictions’ of body and necessary connexion. Since
then they cannot be derived from any separate impression without the
introduction in effect of a sixth sense, and since all constitutive
action of thought as distinct from feeling is denied by Hume, the
only way to save appearances is to treat the order in which a
multitude of impressions present themselves as the same with each
impression, even though immediately afterwards it may have to be
confessed, that it is so independent of the nature of any or all of
the impressions as to be the foundation of an abstract idea, which is
representative of other impressions having nothing whatever in common
with them but the order of appearance. This once allowed--an abstract
idea having been somehow arrived at which is not really the copy of
any impression--it is easy to argue back from the abstract idea to an
impression, and because there is an idea of the composition of points
to substitute a ‘composition of coloured points’ for colour as the
original impression. From such impression, being already extension,
the idea of extension can undoubtedly be abstracted.

Summary of contradictions in his account of extension.

254. We now know what becomes of ‘extended matter’ when the doctrine,
which has only to be stated to find acceptance, that we cannot ‘look
for anything anywhere but in our ideas’--in other words that for
us there is no world but consciousness--is fairly carried out. Its
position must become more and more equivocal, as the assumption, that
consciousness reveals to us an alien matter, has in one after another
of its details to be rejected, until a principle of synthesis within
consciousness is found to explain it. In default of this, the feeling
consciousness has to be made to take its place as best it may; which
means that what is said of it as feeling has to be unsaid of it as
extended, and _vice versâ_. As _feeling_, it carries no reference to
anything other than itself, to an object of which it is a quality;
as _extended_, it is a qualified object. As _extended_ again, its
qualities are relations of coexistent parts; as _feeling_, it is an
unlimited succession, and therefore, not being a possible whole, can
have no parts at all. Finally as _feeling_, it must in each moment of
existence either be ‘on the same footing’ with pain and pleasure or
else--a distinction between impressions of sensation and reflection
being unwarrantably admitted--be a colour, a taste, a sound, a smell,
or ‘tangibility;’ as _extended_, it is an ‘order of appearance’ or
‘disposition of corpuscles,’ which, being predicable indifferently
at any rate of two of these sensations, can no more be the same with
either than either can be the same with the other. It is not the
fault of Hume but his merit that, in undertaking to maintain more
strictly than others the identification of extension with feeling,
he brought its impossibility more clearly into view. The pity is
that having carried his speculative enterprise so far before he was
thirty, he allowed literary vanity to interfere with its consistent
pursuit, caring only to think out the philosophy which he inherited
so far as it enabled him to pose with advantage against Mystics and
Dogmatists, but not to that further issue which is the entrance to
the philosophy of Kant.

He gives no account of quantity as such.

255. As it was, he never came fairly to ask himself the fruitful
question. How the sciences of quantity ‘continuous and discreet,’
which undoubtedly do exist, are possible to a merely feeling
consciousness, because, while professedly reducing all consciousness
to this form, he still allowed himself to interpret it in the terms
of these sciences and, having done so, could easily account for their
apparent ‘abstraction’ from it. If colour is already for feeling a
magnitude, as is implied in calling it a ‘composition of coloured
points,’ the question, how a knowledge of magnitude is possible, is
of course superfluous. It only remains to deal, as Hume professes to
do, with the apparent abstraction in mathematics of magnitude from
colour and the consequent suppositions of pure space and infinite
divisibility. Any ulterior problem he ignores. That magnitude is not
any the more a feeling for being ‘endowed with colour’ he shows no
suspicion. He pursues his ‘sensationalism’ in short, in its bearing
on mathematics, just as far as Berkeley did and no further. The
question at issue, as he conceived it, was not as to the possibility
of magnitude altogether, but only as to the existence of a vacuum;
not as to the possibility of number altogether, but only as to the
infinity of its parts. Just as he takes magnitude for granted as
found in extension, and extension as equivalent to the feeling of
colour, so he takes number for granted, without indeed any explicit
account of the impression in which it is to be found, but apparently
as found in time, which again is identified with the succession of
impressions. In the second part of the Treatise, though the idea of
number is assumed and an account is given of it which is supposed
to be fatal to the infinite divisibility of extension, we are told
nothing of the impression or impressions from which it is derived.
In the Fourth Part, however, there is a passage in which a certain
consideration of time is spoken of as its source.

His account of the relation between Time and Number.

256. In the latter passage, in order to account for the idea of
identity, he is supposing ‘a single object placed before us and
surveyed for any time without our discovering in it any variation
or interruption.’ ‘When we consider any two points of this time,’
he proceeds, ‘we may place them in different lights. We may either
survey them at the very same instant; in which case they give us the
idea of number, both by themselves and by the object, which must be
multiplied in order to be conceived at once, as existent in these
two different points of time: or, on the other hand, we may trace
the succession of time by a like succession of ideas, and conceiving
first one moment, along with the object then existent, imagine
afterwards a change in the time without any variation or interruption
in the object; in which case it gives us the idea of unity’. [1]

[1] P. 490. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

What does it come to?

257. A slight scrutiny of this passage will show that it is a
prolonged tautology. The difference is merely verbal between the
processes by which the ideas of number and unity are severally
supposed to be given, except that in the former process it is the
moment of surveying the times that is supposed to be one, while
the times themselves are many; in the latter it is the object that
is supposed to be one, but the times many. According to the second
version of the former process--that according to which the different
times surveyed together are said to give the idea of number ‘by
their object’--even this difference disappears. The only remaining
distinction is that in the one case the object is supposed to be
given as one, ‘without interruption or variation,’ but to become
multiple as conceived to exist in different moments; in the other the
objects are supposed to be given as manifold, being ideas presented
in successive times, but to become one through the imaginary
restriction of the multiplicity to the times in distinction from the
object. Undoubtedly any one of these verbally distinct processes will
yield indifferently the ideas of number and of unity, since these
ideas in strict correlativity are presupposed by each of them. ‘Two
points of time surveyed at the same time’ will give us the idea of
number because, being a duality in unity, they are already a number.
So, too, and for the same reason, will the object, one in itself but
multiple as existent at different times. Nor does the idea given by
imagining ideas, successively presented, to be ‘one uninterrupted
object,’ differ from the above more than many-in-one differs from
one-in-many. The real questions of course are, How two times can be
surveyed at one time; how a single object can be multiplied or become
many; how a succession of ideas can be imagined to be an unvaried and
uninterrupted object. To these questions Hume has no answer to give.
His reduction of thought to feeling logically excluded an answer, and
the only alternative for him was to ignore or disguise them.

Unites alone really exist: number a ‘fictitious denomination’. Yet
‘unites’ and ‘number’ are correlative; and the supposed fiction

258. In the passage from part II. of the Treatise, already referred
to, he distinctly tells us that the unity to which existence
belongs excludes multiplicity. ‘Existence itself belongs to unity,
and is never applicable to number but on account of the unites of
which the number is composed. Twenty men may be said to exist, but
’tis only because one, two, three, four, &c., are existent. ... A
unite, consisting of a number of fractions, is merely a fictitious
denomination, which the mind may apply to any quantity of objects
it collects together; nor can such an unity any more exist alone
than number can, as being in reality a true number. But the unity
which can exist alone, and whose existence is necessary to that of
all number, is of another kind and must be perfectly indivisible
and incapable of being resolved into any lesser unity’. [1] What
then is the ‘unity which can exist alone’? The answer, according
to Hume, must be that it is an impression separately felt and not
resoluble into any other impressions. But then the question arises,
how a succession of such impressions can form a number or sum; and
if they cannot, how the so-called real unity or separate impression
can in any sense be a unite, since a unite is only so as one of a
sum. To put the question otherwise, Is it not the case that a unite
has no more meaning without number than number without unites, and
that every number is not only just such a ‘fictitious denomination,’
as Hume pronounces a ‘unite consisting of a number of fractions’
to be, but a fiction impossible for our consciousness according to
Hume’s account of it? It will not do to say that such a question
touches only the fiction of ‘abstract number,’ but not the existence
of numbered objects; that (to take Hume’s instance) twenty men exist
with the existence of each individual man, each real unit, of the
lot. It is precisely the numerability of objects--not indeed their
existence, if that only means their successive appearance, but their
existence _as a sum_--that is in question. If such numerability
is possible for such a consciousness as Hume makes ours to be; in
other words, if he can explain the fact that we count; ‘abstract
number’ may no doubt be left to take care of itself. Is it then
possible? ‘Separate impressions’ mean impressions felt at different
times, which accordingly can no more co-exist than, to use Hume’s
expression, ‘the year 1737 can concur with the year 1738;’ whereas
the constituents of a sum must, as such, co-exist. Thus when we are
told that ‘twenty may be said to exist because one, two, three, &c.,
are existent,’ the alleged reason, understood as Hume was bound
to understand it, is incompatible with the supposed consequence.
The existence of an object would, to him, mean no more than the
occurrence of an impression; but that one impression should occur,
and then another and then another, is the exact opposite of their
coexistence as a sum of impressions, and it is such co-existence that
is implied when the impressions are counted and pronounced so many.
Thus when Hume tells us that a single object, by being ‘multiplied
in order to be conceived at once as existent in different points of
time,’ gives us the idea of number, we are forced to ask him what
precisely it is which thus, being one, can become manifold. Is it a
‘unite that can exist alone’? That, having no parts, cannot become
manifold by resolution. ‘But it may by repetition?’ No, for it is
a separate impression, and the repetition of an impression cannot
co-exist, so as to form one sum, with its former occurrence. ‘But it
may be _thought of_ as doing so?’ No, for that, according to Hume,
could only mean that feelings might concur in a fainter stage though
they could not in a livelier. Is the single object then a unite which
already consists of parts? But that is a ‘fictitious denomination,’
and presupposes the very idea of number that has to be accounted for.

[1] P. 338. [Book I, part II., sec. II.]

Idea of time even more unaccountable on Hume’s principles.

259. The impossibility of getting number, as a many-in-one, out of
the succession of feelings, so long as the self is treated as only
another name for that succession, is less easy to disguise when the
supposed units are not merely given in succession, but are actually
the moments of the succession; in other words, when time is the
many-in-one to be accounted for. How can a multitude of feelings
of which no two are present together, undetermined by relation to
anything other than the feelings, be at the same time a consciousness
of the relation between the moments in which the feelings are given,
or of a sum which these moments form? How can there be a relation
between ‘objects’ of which one has ceased before the other has
begun to exist? ‘For the same reason,’ says Hume, ‘that the year
1737 cannot concur with the present year 1738, every moment must be
distinct from, and posterior or antecedent to, another’. [1] How
then can the present moment form one sum with all past moments,
the present year with all past years; the sum which we indicate
by the number 1738? The answer of common sense of course will be
that, though the feeling of one moment is really past before that
of another begins, yet thought retains the former, and combining
it with the latter, gets the idea of time both as a relation and
as a sum. Such an answer, however, implies that the retaining and
combining thought is other than the succession of the feelings, and
while it takes this succession to be the reality, imports into it
that determination by the relations of past and present which it can
only derive from the retaining and combining thought opposed to it.
It is thus both inconsistent with Hume’s doctrine, which allows no
such distinction between thought, _i.e._ the succession of ideas,
and the succession of impressions, and inconsistent with itself. Yet
Hume by disguising both inconsistencies contrives to avail himself
of it. By tacitly assuming that a conception of ‘the manner in which
impressions appear to the mind’ is given in and with the occurrence
of the impressions, he imports the consciousness of time, both as
relation and as numerable quantity, into the sequence of impressions.
He thus gains the advantage of being able to speak of this sequence
indifferently under predicates which properly exclude each other.
He can make it now a consciousness in time, now a consciousness
of itself as in time; now a series that cannot be summed, now a
conception of the sum of the series. The sequence of feelings, then,
having been so dealt with as to make it appear in effect that time
can be _felt_, that it should be _thought of_ can involve no further
difficulty. The conception, smuggled into sensitive experience as
an ‘impression,’ can be extracted from it again as ‘idea,’ without
ostensible departure from the principle that the idea is only the
weaker impression.

[1] P. 338. [Book I, part II., sec. II.]

His ostensible explanation of it.

260. ‘The idea of time is not derived from a particular impression
mixed up with others and plainly distinguishable from them, but
arises altogether from the manner in which impressions appear to the
mind, without making one of the number. Five notes played on the
flute give us the impression and idea of time, though time be not a
sixth impression which presents itself to the hearing or any other of
the senses. Nor is it a sixth impression which the mind by reflection
finds in itself. These five sounds, making their appearance in this
particular manner, excite no emotion or affection in the mind, which
being observed by it can give rise to a new idea. For _that_ is
necessary to produce a new idea of reflection; nor can the mind, by
revolving over a thousand times all its ideas of sensation, ever
extract from them any new original idea, unless nature has so framed
its faculties that it feels some new original impression arise from
such a contemplation. But here it only takes notice of the _manner_
in which the different sounds make their appearance, and that it may
afterwards consider without considering these particular sounds, but
may conjoin it with any other objects. The ideas of some objects it
certainly must have, nor is it possible for it without these ever to
arrive at any conception of time; which, since it appears not as any
primary distinct impression, can plainly be nothing but different
ideas or impressions or objects disposed in a certain manner, _i.e._
succeeding each other. [1]

[1] P. 343. [Book I, part II., sec. III.]

It turns upon equivocation between feeling and conception of
relations between felt things.

261. In this passage the equivocation between ‘impression’ as
feeling, and ‘impression’ as conception of the manner in which
feelings occur, is less successfully disguised than is the like
equivocation in the account of extension--not indeed from any failure
in Hume’s power of statement, but from the nature of the case. In
truth the mere reproduction of impressions can as little account for
the one conception as for the other. Just as, in order to account
for the ‘impression’ from which the abstract idea of space may
be derived, we have to suppose first that the feeling of colour,
through being presented by the self-conscious subject to itself,
becomes a coloured thing, and next, that this thing is viewed as
a whole of parts limiting each other; so, in order to account for
the ‘impression’ from which the idea of time may be abstracted,
we have to suppose the presentation of the succession of feelings
to a consciousness not in succession, and the consequent view of
such presented succession as a sum of numerable parts. It is a
relation only possible for a thinking consciousness--a relation,
in Hume’s language, not depending on the nature of the impressions
related--that has in each case to be introduced into experience in
order to be extracted from it again by ‘consideration:’ but there is
this difference, that in one case the relation is not really between
feelings at all, but between things or parts of a thing; while in the
other it is just that relation between feelings, the introduction
of which excludes the possibility that any feeling should be the
consciousness of the relation. Thus to speak of a feeling of
extension does not involve so direct a contradiction as to speak in
the same way of time. The reader gives Hume the benefit of a way of
thinking which Hume’s own theory excludes. Himself distinguishing
between feeling and felt thing, and regarding extension as a relation
between parts of a thing, he does not reflect that for Hume there is
no such distinction; that a ‘feeling of extension’ means that feeling
is extended, which again means that it has co-existent parts; and
that what is thus said of feeling as _extended_ is incompatible with
what is said of it as _feeling_. But when it comes to a ‘feeling
of time’--a feeling of the successiveness of all feelings--the
incompatibility between what is said of feeling as the object and
what is implied of it as the subject is less easy to disguise. In
like manner because we cannot really think of extension as being that
which yet according to Hume it is, it does not strike us, when he
speaks of it as coloured or of colour as extended, that he is making
one feeling a quality of another. But it would be otherwise if any
specific feeling were taken as a quality of what is ostensibly a
relation between all feelings. There is thus no ‘sensible quality’
with which time can be said to be ‘endowed,’ as extension with
‘colour and solidity;’ none that can be made to do the same duty in
regard to it as these do in regard to extension, ‘giving the idea’ of
it without actually being it.

He fails to assign any impression or compound of impressions from
which idea of time is copied.

262. Hence, as the passage last quoted shows, in the case of time the
alternative between ascribing it to a sixth sense, and confessing
that it is not an impression at all, is very hard to avoid. It would
seem that there is an impression of ‘the manner in which impressions
appear to the mind,’ which yet is no ‘distinct impression.’ What,
then, is it? It cannot be any one of the impressions of sense, for
then it would be a distinct impression. It cannot be a ‘compound
impression,’ for such composition is incompatible with that
successiveness of all feelings to each other which is the object of
the supposed impression. It cannot be any ‘new original impression’
arising from the contemplation of other impressions, for then,
according to Hume, it would be ‘an affection or emotion.’ But after
the exclusion of impressions of sense, compound impressions, and
impressions of reflection, Hume’s inventory of the possible sources
of ideas is exhausted. To have been consistent, he ought to have
dealt with the relation of time as he afterwards does with that of
cause and effect, and, in default of an impression from which it
could be derived, have reduced it to a figure of speech. But since
the possibility of accounting for the propensities to feign, which
our language about cause and effect according to him represents,
required the consciousness of relation in time, this course could
not be taken. Accordingly after the possibility of time being an
impression has been excluded as plainly as it can be by anything
short of a direct negation, by a device singularly _naïf_ it is
made to appear as an impression after all. On being told that
the consciousness of time is not a ‘new original impression of
reflection,’ since in that case it would be an emotion or affection,
but ‘_only_ the notice which the mind takes of the manner in which
impressions appear to it,’ the reader must be supposed to forget
the previous admission that it is no distinct impression at all,
and to interpret this ‘notice which the mind takes,’ because it is
not an impression of reflection, as an impression of sense. To make
such interpretation easier, the account given of time earlier in
the paragraph quoted is judiciously altered at its close, so that
instead of having to ascribe to feeling a consciousness of ‘the
manner in which impressions appear to the mind,’ we have only to
ascribe to it the impressions so appearing. But this alteration
admitted, what becomes of the ‘abstractness’ of the idea of time,
_i.e._ of the possibility of its being ‘conjoined with any objects’
indifferently? It is the essential condition of such indifferent
conjunction, as Hume puts it, that time should be only the manner of
appearance as distinct from the impressions themselves. If time _is_
the impressions, it must have the specific sensuous character which
belongs to these. It must be a multitude of sounds, a multitude of
tastes, a multitude of smells--these one after the other in endless
series. How then can such a series of impressions become such an
idea, _i.e._ so grow fainter as to be ‘conjoined’ indifferently ‘with
any impressions whatever’?

How can he adjust the exact sciences to his theory of space and time?

263. The case then between Hume and the conceptions which the exact
sciences presuppose, as we have so far examined it, stands thus. Of
the idea of quantity, as such, he gives no account whatever. We are
told, indeed, that there are ‘unites which can exist alone,’ _i.e._
can be felt separately, and which are indivisible; but how such
unites, being separate impressions, can form a sum or number, or what
meaning a unite can have except as one of a number--how again a sum
formed of separate unites can be a continuous whole or magnitude--we
are not told at all. Of the ideas of space and time we do find an
account. They are said to be given in impressions, but, to justify
this account of them, each impression has to be taken to be at the
same time a consciousness of the manner of its own existence, as
determined by relation to other impressions not felt along with it
and as interpreted in a way that presupposes the unexplained idea
of quantity. With this supposed origin of the ideas the sciences
resting on them have to be adjusted. They may take the relations of
number and magnitude, time and space, for granted, as ‘qualities of
perceptions,’ and no question will be asked as to how the perceptions
come to assume qualities confessed to be ‘independent of their own
nature.’ It is only when they treat them in a way incompatible not
merely with their being feelings--that must always be the case--but
with their being relations between felt things, that they are
supposed to cross the line which separates experimental knowledge
from metaphysical jargon. So long then as space is considered merely
as the relation of externality between objects of the ‘outer,’ time
as that of succession between objects of the ‘inner,’ sense--in
other words, so long as they remain what they are to the earliest
self-consciousness and do not become the subject matter of any
science of quantity--if we sink the difference between feelings and
relations of felt things, and ask no questions about the origin of
the distinction between outer and inner sense, they may be taken as
data of sensitive experience. It is otherwise when they are treated
as quantities, and it is their susceptibility of being so treated
that, rightly understood, brings out their true character as the
intelligible element in sensitive experience. But Hume contrives at
once to treat them as quantities, thus seeming to give the exact
sciences their due, and yet to appeal to their supposed origin in
sense as evidence of their not having properties which, if they are
quantities, they certainly must have. Having thus seemingly disposed
of the purely intelligible character of quantity in its application
to space and time, he can more safely ignore what he could not so
plausibly dispose of--its pure intelligibility as number.

In order to seem to do so, he must get rid of ‘Infinite Divisibility’.

264. The condition of such a method being acquiesced in is, that
quantity in all its forms should be found reducible to ultimate
unites or indivisible parts in the shape of separate impressions.
Should it be found so, the whole question indeed, how ideas of
relation are possible for a merely feeling consciousness, would
still remain, but mathematics would stand on the same footing
with the experimental sciences, as a science of relations between
impressions. Upon this reducibility, then, we find Hume constantly
insisting. In regard to number indeed he could not ignore the fact
that the science which deals with it recognizes no ultimate unite,
but only such a one as ‘is itself a true number.’ But he passes
lightly over this difficulty with the remark that the divisible
unite of actual arithmetic is a ‘fictitious denomination’--leaving
his reader to guess how the fiction can be possible if the real
unite is a separate indivisible impression--and proceeds with the
more hopeful task of resolving space into such impressions. He is
well aware that the constitution of space by impressions and its
constitution by indivisible parts stand or fall together. If space is
a compound impression, it is made up of indivisible parts, for there
is a ‘minimum visibile’ and by consequence a minimum of imagination;
and conversely, if its parts are indivisible, they can be nothing
but impressions; for, being indivisible, they cannot be extended,
and, not being extended, they must be either simple impressions or
nothing. With that instinct of literary strategy which never fails
him, Hume feels that the case against infinite divisibility, from its
apparent implication of an infinite capacity in the mind, is more
effective than that in favour of space being a compound impression,
and accordingly puts that to the front in the Second Part of the
Treatise, in order, having found credit for establishing it, to argue
back to the constitution of space by impressions. In fact, however,
it is on the supposed composition of all quantity from separate
impressions that his argument against its infinite divisibility rests.

Quantity made up of impressions, and there must be a least possible

265. The essence of his doctrine is contained in the following
passages: ‘’Tis certain that the imagination reaches a _minimum_,
and may raise up to itself an idea, of which it cannot conceive
any subdivision, and which cannot be diminished without a total
annihilation. When you tell me of the thousandth and ten thousandth
part of a grain of sand, I have a distinct idea of these numbers
and of their several proportions, but the images which I form in
my mind to represent the things themselves are nothing different
from each other nor inferior to that image by which I represent
the grain of sand itself, which is supposed so vastly to exceed
them. What consists of parts is distinguishable into them, and what
is distinguishable is separable. But whatever we may imagine of
the thing, the idea of a grain of sand is not distinguishable nor
separable into twenty, much less into a thousand, ten thousand, or
an infinite number of different ideas. ’Tis the same case with the
impressions of the senses as with the ideas of the imagination. Put
a spot of ink upon paper, fix your eye upon that spot, and retire
to such a distance that at last you lose sight of it; ’tis plain
that the moment before it vanished the image or impression was
perfectly indivisible. ’Tis not for want of rays of light striking
on our eyes that the minute parts of distant bodies convey not
any sensible impression; but because they are removed beyond that
distance at which their impressions were reduced to a _minimum_, and
were incapable of any further diminution. A microscope or telescope,
which renders them visible, produces not any new rays of light,
but only spreads those which always flowed from them; and by that
means both gives parts to impressions, which to the naked eye appear
simple and uncompounded, and advances to a minimum what was formerly
imperceptible.’ [1]

[1] P. 335, Part II. § 1.

Yet it is admitted that there is an idea of number not made up of
impressions. A finite division into impressions no more possible than
an infinite one.

266. In this passage it will be seen that Hume virtually yields the
point as regards number. When he is told of the thousandth or ten
thousandth part of a grain of sand he has ‘a distinct idea of these
numbers and of their different proportions,’ though to this idea no
distinct ‘image’ corresponds; in other words, though the idea is
not a copy of any impression. It is of such parts _as parts of the
grain of sand_--as parts of a ‘compound impression’--that he can
form no idea, and for the reason given in the sequel, that they are
less than any possible impression, less than the ‘minimum visibile.’
This, it would seem, is a fixed quantity. That which is the least
possible impression once is so always. Telescopes and microscopes do
not alter it, but present it under conditions under which it could
not be presented to the naked eye. Their effect, according to Hume,
could not be to render that visible which existed unseen before, nor
to reveal parts in that which previously had, though it seemed not
to have, them--that would imply that an impression was ‘an image of
something distinct and external’--but either to present a simple
impression of sight where previously there was none or to substitute
a compound impression for one that was simple. [1] It is then because
all divisibility is supposed to be into impressions, _i.e._ into
feelings, and because there are conditions under which every feeling
disappears, that an infinite divisibility is pronounced impossible.
But the question is whether a finite divisibility into feelings is
not just as impossible as an infinite one. Just as for the reasons
stated above [2] a ‘compound feeling’ is impossible, so is the
division of a compound into feelings. Undoubtedly if the ‘minimum
visibile’ were a feeling it would not be divisible, but for the same
reason it would not be a quantity. But if it is not a quantity,
with what meaning is it called a minimum, and how can a quantity be
supposed to be made up of such ‘visibilia’ as have themselves no
quantity? In truth the ‘minimum visibile’ is not a feeling at all but
a felt thing, conceived under attributes of quantity; in particular,
as the term ‘minimum’ implies, under a relation of proportion to
other quantities of which, if expressed numerically, Hume himself,
according to the admission above noticed, would have to confess there
was an idea which was an image of no impression. That which thought
thus presents to itself as a thing doubtless has been a feeling;
but, as thus presented, it is already other than and independent of
feeling. With a step backward or a turn of the head, the feeling
may cease, ‘the spot of ink may vanish;’ but the thing does not
therefore cease to be a thing or to have quantity, which implies the
possibility of continuous division.

[1] It will be noticed that in the last sentence of the passage
quoted, Hume assumes the convenient privilege of ‘speaking with the
vulgar,’ and treats the ‘minimum visibile’ presented by telescope
or microscope as representing something other than itself, which
previously existed, though it was imperceptible.

[2] See above, §§ 241 & 246.

In Hume’s instances it is not really a feeling, but a conceived
thing, that appears as finitely divisible.

267. It is thus the confusion between feeling and conception that
is at the bottom of the difficulty about divisibility. For a
consciousness formed merely by the succession of feelings, as there
would be no _thing_ at all, so there would be no parts of a thing--no
addibility or divisibility. But Hume is forced by the exigencies
of his theory to hold together, as best he may, the reduction of
all consciousness to feeling and the existence for it of divisible
objects. The consequence is his supposition of ‘compound impressions’
or feelings having parts, divisible into separate impressions but
divisible no further when these separate impressions have been
reached. We find, however, that in all the instances he gives it is
not really a feeling that is divided into feelings, but a thing into
other things. It is the heap of sand, for instance, that is divided
into grains, not the feeling which, by intellectual interpretation,
represents to me a heap of sand that is divided into lesser feelings.
I may feel the heap and feel the grain, but it is not a feeling
that is the heap nor a feeling that is the grain. Hume would not
offend common sense by saying that it was so, but his theory really
required that he should, for the supposition that the grain is no
further divisible when there are no separate impressions into which
it may be divided, implies that in that case it is itself a separate
impression, even as the heap is a compound one. But what difference,
it may be asked, does it make to say that the heap and the grain are
not feelings, but things conceived of, if it is admitted, as since
Berkeley it must be, that the thing is nothing outside or independent
of consciousness? Do we not by such a statement merely change names
and invite the question how a thought can have parts, in place of the
question how a feeling can have them?

Upon true notion of quantity infinite divisibility follows of course.

268. If thought were no more than Hume takes feeling to be, this
objection would be valid. But if by thought we understand the
self-conscious principle which, present to all feelings, forms out
of them a world of mutually related objects, permanent with its own
permanence, we shall also understand that the relations by which
thought qualifies its object are not qualities of itself--that,
in thinking of its object as made up of parts, it does not become
itself a quantum. We shall also be on the way to understand how
thought, detaching that relation of simple distinctness by which it
has qualified its objects, finds before it a multitude of units of
which each, as combining in itself distinctions from all the other
units, is at the same time itself a multitude; in other words,
finds a quantum of which each part, being the same in kind with
the whole and all other parts, is also a quantum; _i.e._ which is
infinitely divisible. When once it is understood, in short, that
quantity is simply the most elementary of the relations by which
thought constitutes the real world, as detached from this world and
presented by thought to itself as a separate object, then infinite
divisibility becomes a matter of course. It is real just in so far
as quantity, of which it is a necessary attribute, is real. If
quantity, though not feeling, is yet real, that its parts should not
be feelings can be nothing against their reality. This once admitted,
the objections to infinite divisibility disappear; but so likewise
does that mysterious dignity supposed to attach to it, or to its
correlative, the infinitely addible, as implying an infinite capacity
in the mind. From Hume’s point of view, the mind being ‘a bundle
of impressions’--though how impressions, being successive, should
form a bundle is not explained--its capacity must mean the number of
its impressions, and, all divisibility being into impressions, it
follows that infinite divisibility means an infinite capacity in the
mind. This notion however arises, as we have shown, from a confusion
between a _felt_ division of an impossible ‘compound feeling,’ and
that conceived divisibility of an object which constitutes but a
single attribute of the object and represents a single relation of
the mind towards it. There may be a sense in which all conception
implies infinity in the conceiving mind, but so far from this
doing so in any special way, it arises, as we have seen, from the
presentation of objects under that very condition of endless,
unremoved, distinction which constitutes the true limitation of our

What are the ultimate elements of extension? If not extended, what
are they?

269. When, as with Hume, it is only in its application to space and
time that the question of infinite divisibility is treated, its true
nature is more easily disguised, for the reason already indicated,
that space and time are not necessarily considered as quanta. When
Hume, indeed, speaks of space as a ‘composition of parts’ or ‘made
up of points,’ he is of course treating it as a quantum; but we
shall find that in seeking to avoid the necessary consequence of
its being a quantum--the consequence, namely, that it is infinitely
divisible--he can take advantage of the possibility of treating
it as the simple, unquantified, relation of externality. We have
already spoken of the dexterity with which, having shown that all
divisibility, because into impressions, is into simple parts, he
turns this into an argument in favour of the composition of space
by impressions. ‘Our idea of space is compounded of parts which are
indivisible.’ Let us take one of these parts, then, and ask what sort
of idea it is: ‘let us form a judgment of its nature and qualities.’
‘’Tis plain it is not an idea of extension: for the idea of extension
consists of parts; and this idea, according to the supposition, is
perfectly simple and indivisible. Is it therefore nothing? That is
impossible,’ for it would imply that a real idea was composed of
nonentities. The way out of the difficulty is to ‘endow the simple
parts with colour and solidity.’ In words already quoted, ‘that
compound impression, which represents extension, consists of several
lesser impressions, that are indivisible to the eye or feeling, and
may be called impressions of atoms or corpuscles endowed with colour
and solidity.’ (Part II. § 3, near the end.)

Colours or coloured points? What is the difference?

270. It is very plain that in this passage Hume is riding two horses
at once. He is trying so to combine the notion of the constitution
of space by impressions with that of its constitution by points, as
to disguise the real meaning of each. In what lies the difference
between the feelings of colour, of which we have shown that they
cannot without contradiction be supposed to ‘make up extension,’
and ‘coloured points or corpuscles’? Unless the points, as points,
mean something, the substitution of coloured points for colours
means nothing. But according to Hume the point is nothing except as
an impression of sight or touch. If then we refuse his words the
benefit of an interpretation which his doctrine excludes, we find
that there remains simply the impossible supposition that space
consists of feelings. This result cannot be avoided, unless in
speaking of space as composed of points, we understand by the point
that which is definitely other than an impression. Thus the question
which Hume puts--If extension is made up of parts, and these, being
indivisible, are unextended, what are they?--really remains untouched
by his ostensible answer. Such a question indeed to a philosophy like
Locke’s, which, ignoring the constitution of reality by relations,
supposed real things to be first found and then relations to be
superinduced by the mind--much more to one like Hume’s, which left no
mind to superinduce them--was necessarily unanswerable.

True way of dealing with the question.

271. In truth, extension is the relation of mutual externality. The
constituents of this relation have not, as such, any nature but what
is given by the relation. If in Hume’s language we ‘separate each
from the others and, considering it apart, form a judgment of its
nature and qualities,’ by the very way we put the problem we render
it insoluble or, more properly, destroy it; for, thus separated,
they have no nature. It is this that we express by the proposition
which would otherwise be tautological, that extension is a relation
between extended points. The ‘points’ are the simplest expression
for those coefficients to the relation of mutual externality, which,
as determined by that relation and no otherwise, have themselves the
attribute of being extended and that only. If it is asked whether
the points, being extended, are therefore divisible, the answer must
be twofold. _Separately_ they are not divisible, for separately they
are nothing. Whether, as determined by mutual relation, they are
divisible or no, depends on whether they are treated as forming a
quantum or no. If they are not so treated, we cannot with propriety
pronounce them to be either further divisible or not so, for the
question of divisibility has no application to them. But being
perfectly homogeneous with each other and with that which together
they constitute, they are susceptible of being so treated, and are
so treated when, with Hume in the passage before us, we speak of
them as the parts of which extended matter consists. Thus considered
as parts of a quantum and therefore themselves quanta, the infinite
divisibility which belongs to all quantity belongs also to them.

‘If the point were divisible, it would be no termination of a line.’
Answer to this.

272. In this lies the answer to the most really cogent argument which
Hume offers against infinite divisibility ‘A surface terminates
a solid; a line terminates a surface; a point terminates a line:
but I assert that if the _ideas_ of a point, line, or surface were
not indivisible, ’tis impossible we should ever conceive these
terminations. For let these ideas be supposed infinitely divisible,
and then let the fancy endeavour to fix itself on the idea of the
last surface, line, or point, it immediately finds this idea to
break into parts; and upon its seizing the last of these parts it
loses its hold by a new division, and so on _ad infinitum_, without
any possibility of its arriving at a concluding idea’. [1] If
‘point,’ ‘line,’ or ‘surface’ were really names for ‘ideas’ either in
Hume’s sense, as feelings grown fainter, or in Locke’s, as definite
imprints made by outward things, this passage would be perplexing.
In truth they represent objects determined by certain conceived
relations, and the relation under which the object is considered
may vary without a corresponding variation in the name. When a
‘point’ is considered simply as the ‘termination of a line,’ it is
not considered as a quantum. It represents the abstraction of the
relation of externality, as existing between _two lines_. It is these
lines, not the point, that in this case are the constituents of the
relation, and thus it is they alone that are for the time considered
as extended, therefore as quanta, therefore as divisible. So when the
line in turn is considered as the ‘termination of a surface.’ It then
represents the relation of externality _as between surfaces_, and
for the time it is the surfaces, not the line, that are considered
to have extension and its consequences. The same applies to the view
of a surface as the termination of a solid. Just as the line, though
not a quantum when considered simply as a relation between surfaces,
becomes so when considered in relation to another line, so the point,
though it ‘has no magnitude’ when considered as the termination of
a line, yet acquires parts, or becomes divisible, so soon as it is
considered in relation to other points as a constituent of extended
matter; and it is thus that Hume considers it, ἑκὼν ἢ ἄκων [2], when
he talks of extension as ‘made up of coloured points.’

[1] P. 345. [Book I, part II., sec. IV.]

[2] [Greek ἑκὼν ἢ ἄκων (hekon e akon) = like it or not. Tr.]

What becomes of the exactness of mathematics according to Hume?

273. It is the necessity then, according to his theory, of making
space an impression that throughout underlies Hume’s argument against
its infinite divisibility; and, as we have seen, the same theory
which excludes its infinite divisibility logically extinguishes it as
a quantity, divisible and measurable, altogether. He of course does
not recognize this consequence. He is obliged indeed to admit that
in regard to the proportions of ‘greater, equal and less,’ and the
relations of different parts of space to each other, no judgments
of universality or exactness are possible. We may judge of them,
however, he holds, with various approximations to exactness, whereas
upon the supposition of infinite divisibility, as he ingeniously
makes out, we could not judge of them at all. He ‘asks the
mathematicians, what they mean when they say that one line or surface
is equal to, or greater or less than, another.’ If they ‘maintain the
composition of extension by indivisible points,’ their answer, he
supposes, will be that ‘lines or surfaces are equal when the numbers
of points in each are equal.’ This answer he reckons ‘just,’ but the
standard of equality given is entirely useless. ‘For as the points
which enter into the composition of any line or surface, whether
perceived by the sight or touch, are so minute and so confounded with
each other that ’tis utterly impossible for the mind to compute their
number, such a computation will never afford us a standard by which
we may judge of proportions.’ The opposite sect of mathematicians,
however, are in worse case, having no standard of equality whatever
to assign. ‘For since, according to their hypothesis, the least as
well as greatest figures contain an infinite number of parts, and
since infinite numbers, properly speaking, can neither be equal
nor unequal with respect to each other, the equality or inequality
of any portion of space can never depend on any proportion in the
number of their parts.’ His own doctrine is ‘that the only useful
notion of equality or inequality is derived from the whole united
appearance, and the comparison of, particular objects.’ The judgments
thus derived are in many cases certain and infallible. ‘When the
measure of a yard and that of a foot are presented, the mind can no
more question that the first is longer than the second than it can
doubt of those principles which are most clear and self-evident.’
Such judgments, however, though ‘sometimes infallible, are not always
so.’ Upon a ‘review and reflection’ we often ‘pronounce those objects
equal which at first we esteemed unequal,’ and vice versâ. Often
also ‘we discover our error by a juxtaposition of the objects; or,
where that is impracticable, by the use of some common and invariable
measure which, being successively applied to each, informs us of
their different proportions. And even this correction is susceptible
of a new correction, and of different degrees of exactness, according
to the nature of the instrument by which we measure the bodies, and
the care which we employ in the comparison.’ [1]

[1] Pp. 351-53. [Book I, part II., sec. IV.]

The universal propositions of geometry either untrue or unmeaning.

274. Such indefinite approach to exactness is all that Hume can allow
to the mathematician. But it is undoubtedly another and an absolute
sort of exactness that the mathematician himself supposes when he
pronounces all right angles equal. Such perfect equality ‘beyond what
we have instruments and art’ to ascertain, Hume boldly calls a ‘mere
fiction of the mind, useless as well as incomprehensible’. [1] Thus
when the mathematician talks of certain angles as always equal, of
certain lines as never meeting, he is either making statements that
are untrue or speaking of nonentities. If his ‘lines’ and ‘angles’
mean ideas that we can possibly have, his universal propositions are
untrue; if they do not, according to Hume they can mean nothing.
He says, for instance, that ‘two right lines cannot have a common
segment;’ but of such ideas of right lines as we can possibly have
this is only true ‘where the right lines incline upon each other with
a sensible angle.’ [2] It is not true when they ‘approach at the rate
of an inch in 20 leagues.’ According to the ‘original standard of a
right line,’ which is ‘nothing but a certain general appearance, ’tis
evident right lines may be made to concur with each other’. [3] Any
other standard is a ‘useless and incomprehensible fiction.’ Strictly
speaking, according to Hume, we have it not, but only a tendency to
suppose that we have it arising from the progressive correction of
our actual measurements. [4]

[1] P. 353. [Book I, part II., sec. IV.]

[2] Cf. Aristotle, Metaph. 998a, on a corresponding view ascribed to

[3] P. 356. [Book I, part II., sec. IV.]

[4] P. 354. [Book I, part II., sec. IV.]

Distinction between Hume’s doctrine and that of the hypothetical
nature of mathematics.

275. Now it is obvious that what Hume accounts for by means of
this tendency to feign, even if the tendency did not presuppose
conditions incompatible with his theory, is not mathematical
science as it exists. It has even less appearance of being so
than (to anticipate) has that which is accounted for by those
propensities to feign, which he substitutes for the ideas of cause
and substance, of being natural science as it exists. In the latter
case, when the idea of necessary connexion has been disposed of,
an impression of reflection can with some plausibility be made
to do duty instead; but there is no impression of reflection in
Hume’s sense of the word, no ‘propensity,’ that can be the subject
of mathematical reasoning. He speaks, indeed, of our _supposing_
some imaginary standard--of our having ‘an obscure and implicit
notion’--of perfect equality, but such language is only a way of
saving appearances; for according to him, a ‘supposition’ or ‘notion’
which is neither impression nor idea, cannot be anything. A hasty
reader, catching at the term ‘supposition,’ may find his statement
plausible with all the plausibility of the modern doctrine, which
accounts for the universality and exactness of mathematical truths
as ‘hypothetical’--the doctrine that we suppose figures exactly
corresponding to our definitions, though such do not really exist.
With those who take this view, however, it is always understood that
the definitions represent ideas, though not ideas to which real
objects can be found exactly answering. Perhaps, if pressed about
their distinction between idea and reality, they might find it hard
consistently to maintain it, but it is by this practically that they
keep their theory afloat. Hume can admit no such distinction. The
real with him is the impression, and the idea the fainter impression.
There can be no idea of a straight line, a curve, a circle, a right
angle, a plane, other than the impression, other than the ‘appearance
to the eye,’ and there are no appearances exactly answering to the
mathematical definitions. If they do not _exactly_ answer, they might
as well for the purposes of mathematical demonstration not answer
at all. The Geometrician, having found that the angles at the base
of _this_ isosceles triangle are equal to each other, at once takes
the equality to be true of all isosceles triangles, as being exactly
like the original one, and on the strength of this establishes many
other propositions. But, according to Hume, no idea that we could
have would be one of which the sides were precisely equal. The Fifth
Proposition of Euclid then is not precisely true of the particular
idea that we have before us when we follow the demonstration. Much
less can it be true of the ideas, _i.e._ the several appearances
of colour, indefinitely varying from this, which we have before us
when we follow the other demonstrations in which the equality of the
angles at the base of an isosceles is taken for granted.

The admission that no relations of quantity are data of sense removes
difficulty as to general propositions about them.

276. Here, as elsewhere, what we have to lament is not that Hume
‘pushed his doctrine too far,’ so far as to exclude ideas of those
exact proportions in space with which geometry purports to deal,
but that he did not carry it far enough to see that it excluded all
ideas of quantitative relations whatever. He thus pays the penalty
for his equivocation between a feeling of colour and a disposition
of coloured points. Even alongside of his admission that ‘relations
of space and time’ are independent of the nature of the ideas so
related, which amounts to the admission that of space and time there
are no ideas at all in his sense of the word, he allows himself to
treat ‘proportions between spaces’ as depending entirely on our
ideas of the spaces--depending on ideas which in the context he
by implication admits that we have not. [1] If, instead of thus
equivocating, he had asked himself how sensations of colour and touch
could be added or divided, how one could serve as a measure of the
size of another, he might have seen that only in virtue of that in
the ‘general appearance’ of objects which, in his own language, is
‘independent of the nature of the ideas themselves’--_i.e._ which
does not belong to them as feelings, but is added by the comparing
and combining thought--are the proportions of greater, less, and
equal predicable of them at all; that what thought has thus added,
viz. limitation by mutual externality, it can abstract; and that by
such abstraction of the limit it obtains those several terminations,
as Hume well calls them--the surface terminating bodies, the line
terminating surfaces, the point terminating lines--from which it
constructs the world of pure space: that thus the same action of
thought in sense, which alone renders appearances measurable, gives
an object matter which, because the pure construction of thought, we
can measure exactly and with the certainty that the judgment based on
a comparison of magnitudes in a single case is true of all possible
cases, because in none of these can any other conditions be present
than those which we have consciously put there.

[1] Part III. § 1, sub init.

Hume does virtually admit this in regard to numbers.

277. To have arrived at this conclusion Hume had only to extend to
proportions in space the principle upon which the impossibility of
sensualizing arithmetic compels him to deal with proportions in
number. ‘We are possessed,’ he says, ‘of a precise standard by which
we can judge of the equality and proportion of numbers; and according
as they correspond or not to that standard we determine their
relations without any possibility of error. When two numbers are so
combined, as that the one has always an unite answering to every
unite of the other, we pronounce them equal’. [1] Now what are the
unites here spoken of? If they were those single impressions which he
elsewhere [2] seems to regard as alone properly unites, the point of
the passage would be gone, for combinations of such unites could at
any rate only yield those ‘general appearances’ of whose proportions
we have been previously told there can be no precise standard. They
can be no other than those unites which, not being impressions, he
has to call ‘fictitious denominations’--unites which are nothing
except in relation to each other and of which each, being in turn
divisible, is itself a true number. We can easily retort upon Hume,
then, when he argues that the supposition of infinite divisibility
is incompatible with any comparison of quantities because with any
unite of measurement, that, according to his own virtual admission,
in the only case where such comparison is exact the ultimate unite
of measurement is still itself divisible; which, indeed, is no
more than saying that whatever measures quantity must itself be a
quantity, and that therefore quantity is infinitely divisible. If
Hume, instead of slurring over this characteristic of the science of
number, had set himself to explain it, he would have found that the
only possible explanation of it was one equally applicable to the
science of space--that what is true of the unite, as the abstraction
of distinctness, is true also of the abstraction of externality. As
the unite, because constituted by relation to other unites, so soon
as considered breaks into multiplicity, and only for that reason is
a quantity by which other quantities can be measured; so is it also
with the limit in whatever form abstracted, whether as point, line,
or surface. If the fact that number can have no least part since each
part is itself a number or nothing, so far from being incompatible
with the finiteness of number, is the consequence of that finiteness,
neither can the like attribute in spaces be incompatible with their
being definite magnitudes, that can be compared with and measured
by each other. The real difference, which is also the rationale of
Hume’s different procedure in the two cases, is that the conception
of space is more easily confused than that of number with the
feelings to which it is applied, and which through such application
become sensible spaces. Hence the liability to the supposition,
which is at bottom Hume’s, that the last feeling in the process of
diminution before such sensible space disappears (being the ‘minimum
visibile’) is the least possible portion of space.

[1] P. 374. [Book I, part III., sec. I.]

[2] Above, par. 258.

With Hume idea of vacuum impossible, but logically not more so than
that of space.

278. Just as that reduction of consciousness to feeling, which
really excludes the idea of quantity altogether, is by Hume only
recognised as incompatible with its infinite divisibility, so it is
not recognised as extinguishing space altogether, but only space as
a vacuum. If it be true, he says, ‘that the idea of space is nothing
but the idea of visible or tangible points distributed in a certain
order, it follows that we can form no idea of vacuum, or space where
there is nothing visible or tangible’. [1] Here as elsewhere the
acceptability of his statement lies in its being taken in a sense
which according to his principles cannot properly belong to it. It
is one doctrine that the ideas of space and body are essentially
correlative, and quite another that the idea of space is equivalent
to a feeling of sight or touch. It is of the latter doctrine that
Hume’s denial of a vacuum is the corollary; but it is the former
that gains acceptance for this denial in the mind of his reader.
Space we have already spoken of as the relation of externality. If,
abstracting this relation from the world of which it is the uniform
but most elementary determination, we regard it as a relation between
objects having no other determination, these become spaces and
nothing but spaces--space pure and simple, _vacuum_. But we have
known the world in confused fulness before we detach its constituent
relations in the clearness of unreal abstraction. We have known
bodies συγκεχυμένος [2], before we think their limits apart and out
of these construct a world of pure space. It is thus in a sense true
that in the development of our consciousness an idea of body precedes
that of space, though the _abstraction_ of space--the detachment of
the relation so-called from the real complex of relations--precedes
that of body; and it is this fact that, in the face of geometry,
strengthens common sense in its position that an idea of vacuum is
impossible. It is not, however, the inseparability of space from body
whether in reality or for our consciousness, but its identity with a
certain sort of feeling, that is implied in Hume’s exclusion of the
idea of vacuum. ‘Body,’ as other than feeling, is with him as much a
fiction as vacuum. That there can be no idea of vacuum, is thus in
fact merely his negative way of putting that proposition of which the
positive form is, that space is a compound impression of sight and
touch. Having examined that proposition in the positive, we need not
examine it again in the negative form. It will be more to the purpose
to enquire whether the ‘tendency to suppose’ or ‘propensity to feign’
by which, in the absence of any such idea, our language about ‘pure
space’ has to be accounted for, does not according to Hume’s own
showing presuppose such an idea.

[1] P. 358. [Book I, part II., sec. V.]

[2] [Greek συγκεχυμένος (synkechymenos) = confused or jumbled-up. Tr.]

How it is that we talk as if we had idea of vacuum according to Hume.

279. By vacuum he understands invisible and intangible extension.
If an idea of vacuum, then, is possible at all, he argues, it must
be possible for darkness and mere motion to convey it. That they
cannot do so _alone_ is clear from the consideration that darkness
is ‘no positive idea’ and that an ‘invariable motion,’ such as that
of a ‘man supported in the air and softly conveyed along by some
invisible power,’ gives no idea at all. Neither can they do so when
‘attended with visible and tangible objects.’ ‘When two bodies
present themselves where there was formerly an entire darkness, the
only change that is discoverable is in the appearance of these two
objects: all the rest continues to be, as before, a perfect negation
of light and of every coloured or tangible object’. [1] ‘Such dark
and indistinguishable distance between two bodies can never produce
the idea of extension,’ any more than blindness can. Neither can a
like ‘imaginary distance between tangible and solid bodies.’ ‘Suppose
two cases, viz. that of a man supported in the air, and moving his
limbs to and fro without meeting anything tangible; and that of a
man who, feeling something tangible, leaves it, and after a motion
of which he is sensible perceives another tangible object. Wherein
consists the difference between these two cases? No one will scruple
to affirm that it consists merely in the perceiving those objects,
and that the sensation which arises from the motion is in both cases
the same; and as that sensation is not capable of conveying to us an
idea of extension, when unaccompanied with some other perception,
it can no more give us that idea, when mixed with the impressions
of tangible objects, since that mixture produces no alteration upon
it’. [2] But though a ‘distance not filled with any coloured or
solid object’ cannot give us an idea of vacuum, it is the cause why
we falsely imagine that we can form such an idea. There are ‘three
relations’--_natural_ relations according to Hume’s phraseology
[3]--between it and that distance which really ‘conveys the idea
of extension.’ ‘The distant objects affect the senses in the same
manner, whether separated by the one distance or the other; the
former species of distance is found capable of receiving the latter;
and they both equally diminish the force of every quality. These
relations betwixt the two kinds of distance will afford us an easy
reason why the one has so often been taken for the other, and why we
imagine we have an idea of extension without the idea of any object
either of the sight or feeling’. [4]

[1] P. 362. [Book I, part II., sec. V.]

[2] P. 363. [Book I, part II., sec. V.]

[3] Above, § 206.

[4] P. 364. [Book I, part II., sec. V.]

His explanation implies that we have an idea virtually the same.

280. It appears then that we have an idea of ‘distance unfilled
with any coloured or solid object.’ To speak of this distance as
‘imaginary’ or fictitious can according to Hume’s principles make no
difference, so long as he admits, which he is obliged to do, that we
actually have an idea of it; for every idea, being derived from an
impression, is as much or as little imaginary as every other. And
not only have we such an idea, but Hume’s account of the ‘relations’
between it and the idea of extension implies that, _as ideas of
distance_, they do not differ at all. But the idea of ‘distance
unfilled with any coloured or solid object’ _is_ the idea of vacuum.
It follows that the idea of extension does not differ from that of
vacuum, except so far as it is other than the idea of distance. But
it is from the consideration of distance that Hume himself expressly
derives it; [1] and so derived, it can no more differ from distance
than an idea from a corresponding impression. Thus, after all, he has
to all intents and purposes to admit the idea of vacuum, but saves
appearances by refusing to call it extension--the sole reason for
such refusal being the supposition that every idea, and therefore the
idea of extension, must be a datum of sense, which the admission of
an idea of ‘invisible and intangible distance’ already contradicts.

[1] Part II. § 3, sub. inst.

By a like device that he is able to explain the appearance of our
having such ideas as Causation and Identity.

281. We now know the nature of that preliminary manipulation which
‘impressions and ideas’ have to undergo, if their association is to
yield the result which Hume requires--if through it the succession
of feelings is to become a knowledge of things and their relations.
Such a result was required as the only means of maintaining together
the two characteristic positions of Locke’s philosophy; that,
namely, the only world we can know is the world of ‘ideas,’ and
that thought cannot originate ideas. Those relations, which Locke
had inconsistently treated at once as intellectual superinductions
and as ultimate conditions of reality, must be dealt with by one
of two methods. They must be reduced to impressions where that
could plausibly be done: where it could not, it must be admitted
that we have no ideas of them, but only ‘tendencies to suppose’
that we have such, arising from the association, through ‘natural
relations,’ of the ideas that we have. So dexterously does Hume work
the former method that, of all the ‘philosophical relations’ which
he recognizes, only Identity and Causation remain to be disposed of
by the latter; and if the other relations--resemblance, time and
space, proportion in quantity and degree in quality--could really
be admitted as data of sense, there would at least be a possible
basis for those ‘tendencies to suppose’ which, in the absence of any
corresponding ideas, the terms ‘Identity’ and ‘Causation’ must be
taken to represent. But, as we have shown, they can only be claimed
for sense, if sense is so far one with thought--one not by conversion
of thought into sense but by taking of sense into thought--as that
Hume’s favourite appeals to sense against the reality of intelligible
relations become unmeaning. They may be ‘impressions,’ there may
be ‘impressions of them,’ but only if we deny of the impression
what Hume asserts of it, and assert of it what he denies--only
if we understand by ‘impression’ not an ‘internal and perishing
existence;’ not that which, if other than taste, colour, sound, smell
or touch, must be a ‘passion or emotion ‘; _not_ that which carries
no reference to an object other than itself, and which must _either_
be single _or_ compound; but something permanent and constituted
by permanently coexisting parts; something that may ‘be conjoined
with’ any feeling, because it is none; that always carries with it a
reference to a subject which it is not but of which it is a quality;
and that is both many and one, since ‘in its simplicity it contains
many different resemblances and relations.’

282. In the account just adduced of vacuum, the effect of that double
dealing with ‘impressions,’ which we shall have to trace at large in
Hume’s explanation of our language about Causation and Identity, is
already exhibited in little. Just as, after the idea of pure space
has been excluded because not a copy of any possible impression, we
yet find an ‘idea,’ only differing from it in name, introduced as
the basis of that tendency to suppose which is to take the place of
the excluded idea, so we shall find ideas of relation in the way
of Identity and Causation--ideas which according to Hume we have
not--presupposed as the source of those ‘propensities to feign’ which
he accounts for the appearance of our having them.

Knowledge of relation in way of Identity and Causation excluded by
Locke’s definition of knowledge.

283. The primary characteristic of these relations according to Hume,
which they share with those of space and time, and which in fact
vitiates that definition of ‘philosophical relation,’ as depending
on comparison, which he adopts, is that they ‘depend not on the
ideas compared together, but may be changed without any change in
the ideas’. [1] It follows that they are not objects of knowledge,
according to the definition of knowledge which Hume inherited,
as ‘the perception of agreement or disagreement between ideas.’
A partial recognition of this consequence in regard to cause and
effect we found in Locke’s suspicion that a science of nature was
impossible--impossible because, however often a certain ‘idea of
quality and substance’ may have followed or accompanied another, such
sequence or accompaniment never amounts to agreement or ‘necessary
connexion’ between the ideas, and therefore never can warrant a
general assertion, but only the particular one, that the ideas in
question have so many times occurred in such an order. ‘Matters of
fact,’ however, which no more consist in agreement of ideas than
does causation, are by Locke treated without scruple as matter of
knowledge when they can be regarded as relations between present
sensations. Thus the ‘particular experiment’ in Physics constitutes
knowledge--the knowledge, for instance, that a piece of gold is now
dissolved in aqua regia; and when ‘I myself see a man walk on the
ice, it is knowledge.’ In such cases it does not occur to him to ask,
either what are the ideas that agree or how much of the experiment is
a present sensation. [2] Nor does Hume commonly carry his analysis
further. After admitting that the relations called ‘identity and
situation in time and place’ do not depend on the nature of the
ideas related, he proceeds: ‘When both the objects are present to
the senses along with the relation, we call _this_ perception rather
than reasoning; nor is there in this case any exercise of the thought
or any action, properly speaking, but a mere passive admission of
the impressions through the organs of sensation. According to this
way of thinking, we ought not to receive as reasoning any of the
observations we may make concerning _identity_ and the _relations_ of
_time_ and _place_; since in none of them the mind can go beyond what
is immediately present to the senses, either to discover the real
existence or the relations of objects’. [3]

[1] P. 372. [Book I, part III., sec. I.]

[2] Above, §§ 122 & 123.

[3] P. 376. [Book I, part III., sec. II.]

Inference a transition from an object perceived or remembered to one
that is not so.

284. This passage points out the way which Hume’s doctrine of
causation was to follow. That in any case ‘the mind should go beyond
a present feeling, either to discover the real existence or the
relations of objects’ other than present feelings, was what he could
not consistently admit. In the judgment of causation, however, it
seems to do so. ‘From the existence or action of one object,’ seen
or remembered, it seems to be assured of the existence or action
of another, not seen or remembered, on the ground of a necessary
connection between the two. [1] It is such assurance that is reckoned
to constitute reasoning in the distinctive sense of the term, as
different at once from the analysis of complex ideas and the simple
succession of ideas--such reasoning as, in the language of a later
philosophy, can yield synthetic propositions. What Hume has to do,
then, is to explain this ‘assurance’ away by showing that it is
not essentially different from that judgment of relation in time
and place which, because the related objects are ‘present to the
senses along with the relation,’ is called ‘perception rather than
reasoning,’ and to which no ‘exercise of the thought’ is necessary,
but a ‘mere passive admission of impressions through the organs of
sensation.’ Nor, for the assimilation of reasoning to perception,
is anything further needed than a reference to the connection
of ideas with impressions and of the ideas of imagination with
those of memory, as originally stated by Hume. When both of the
objects compared are present to the senses, we call the comparison
perception; when neither, or only one, is so present, we call it
reasoning. But the difference between the object that is present
to sense, and that which is not, is merely the difference between
impression and idea, which again is merely the difference between
the more and the less lively feeling. [2] To feeling, whether with
more or with less vivacity, every object, whether of perception
or reasoning, must alike be present. Is it then a sufficient
account of the matter, according to Hume, to say that when we are
conscious of contiguity and succession between objects of which
both are impressions we call it perception; but that when both
objects are ideas, or one an impression and the other an idea, we
call it reasoning? Not quite so. Suppose that I ‘have seen that
species of object we call flame, and have afterwards felt that
species of sensation we call heat.’ If I afterwards remembered the
succession of the feeling upon the sight, both objects (according
to Hume’s original usage of terms [3]) would be ideas as distinct
from the impressions; or, if upon seeing the flame I remembered the
previous experience of heat, one object would be an idea; but we
should not reckon it a case of reasoning. ‘In all cases wherein we
reason concerning objects, there is only one either perceived or
_remembered_, and the other is supplied in conformity to our past
experience’--supplied by the only other faculty than memory that can
‘supply an idea,’ viz. imagination. [4]

[1] Pp. 376, 384. [Book I, part III., secs. II. and IV.]

[2] Pp. 327, 375. [Book I, part I., sec. VII. and part III., sec.

[3] Above, par. 195.

[4] Pp. 384, 388. [Book I, part III., secs. IV. and V.]

Relation of cause and effect the same as this transition.

285. This being the only account of ‘inference from the known to
the unknown,’ which Hume could consistently admit, his view of the
relation of cause and effect must be adjusted to it. It could not
be other than a relation either between impression and impression,
or between impression and idea, or between idea and idea; and all
these relations are equally between feelings that we experience.
Thus, instead of being the ‘objective basis’ on which inference from
the known to the unknown rests, it is itself the inference; or, more
properly, it and the inference alike disappear into a particular
sort of transition from feeling to feeling. The problem, then, is to
account for its seeming to be other than this. ‘There is nothing in
any objects to persuade us that they are always _remote_ or always
_contiguous_; and when from experience and observation we discover
that the relation in this particular is invariable, we always
conclude that there is some secret _cause_ which separates or unites
them’. [1] It would seem, then, that the relation of cause and effect
is something which we infer from experience, from the connection of
impressions and ideas, but which is not itself impression or idea.
And it would _seem_ further, that, as we infer such an unexperienced
relation, so likewise we make inferences from it. In regard to
identity ‘we readily suppose an object may continue individually the
same, though several times absent from and present to the senses;
and ascribe to it an identity, notwithstanding the interruption of
the perception, whenever we conclude that if we had kept our hand
or eye constantly upon it, it would have conveyed an invariable and
uninterrupted perception. But this conclusion beyond the impressions
of our senses can be founded only on the connection of _cause and
effect_; nor can we otherwise have any security that the object is
not changed upon us, however much the new object may resemble that
which was formerly present to the senses.’

[1] P. 376. [Book I, part III., sec. II.]

Yet seems other than this. How this appearance is to be explained.

286. This relation which, going beyond our actual experience, we seem
to infer as the explanation of invariable contiguity in place or time
of certain impressions, and from which again we seem to infer the
identity of an object of which the perception has been interrupted,
is what we call necessary connection. It is their supposed necessary
connection which distinguishes objects related as cause and effect
from those related merely in the way of contiguity and succession,
[1] and it is a like supposition that leads us to infer what we do
not see or remember from what we do. If then the reduction of thought
and the intelligible world to feeling was to be made good, this
supposition, not being an impression of sense or a copy of such, must
be shown to be an ‘impression of reflection,’ according to Hume’s
sense of the term, _i.e._ a tendency of the soul, analogous to desire
and aversion, hope and fear, derived from impressions of sense but
not copied from them; [2] and the inference which it determines
must be shown to be the work of imagination, as affected by such
impression of reflection. This in brief is the purport of Hume’s
doctrine of causation.

[1] P. 376. [Book I, part III., sec. II.]

[2] Above, par. 195.

Inference, resting on supposition of necessary connection, to be
explained before that connection.

287. After his manner, however, he will go about with his reader. The
supposed ‘objective basis’ of knowledge is to be made to disappear,
but in such a way that no one shall miss it. So dexterously, indeed,
is this done, that perhaps to this day the ordinary student of Hume
is scarcely conscious of the disappearance. Hume merely announces to
begin with that he will ‘postpone the direct survey of this question
concerning the nature of necessary connection,’ and deal first with
these other two questions, viz. (1) ‘For what reason we pronounce it
_necessary_ that everything whose existence has a beginning, should
also have a cause?’ and (2) ‘Why we conclude that such particular
causes must _necessarily_ have such particular effects; and what is
the nature of that _inference_ we draw from the one to the other, and
of the _belief_ we repose in it?’ That is to say, he will consider
the inference from cause or effect, before he considers cause and
effect as a relation between objects, on which the inference is
supposed to depend. Meanwhile necessary connection, as a relation
between objects, is naturally supposed in some sense or other to
survive. In _what_ sense, the reader expects to find when these two
preliminary questions have been answered. But when they have been
answered, necessary connection, as a relation between objects, turns
out to have vanished.

Account of the inference given by Locke and Clarke rejected.

288. With the first of the above questions Hume only concerns
himself so far as to show that we cannot know either intuitively or
demonstratively, in Locke’s sense of the words, that ‘everything
whose existence has a beginning also has a cause.’ Locke’s own
argument for the necessity of causation--that ‘something cannot be
produced by nothing’--as well as Clarke’s--that ‘if anything wanted a
cause it would produce itself, _i.e._ exist before it existed’--are
merely different ways, as Hume shows, of assuming the point in
question. ‘If everything must have a cause, it follows that upon
exclusion of other causes we must accept of the object itself, or
of nothing, as causes. But ’tis the very point in question, whether
everything must have a cause or not’. [1] On that point, according
to Locke’s own showing, there can be no certainty, intuitive or
demonstrative; for between the idea of beginning to exist and the
idea of cause there is clearly no agreement, mediate or immediate.
They are not similar feelings, they are not quantities that can be
measured against each other, and to these alone can the definition
of knowledge and reasoning, which Hume retained, apply. There thus
disappears that last remnant of ‘knowledge’ in regard to nature which
Locke had allowed to survive--the knowledge that there is a necessary
connection, though one which we cannot find out. [2]

[1] P. 382. [Book I, part III., sec. III.]

[2] cf. Locke IV. 3, 29, and Introduc, par. 121.

Three points to be explained in the inference according to Hume.

289. Having thus shown, as he conceives, what the true answer to the
first of the above questions is not, Hume proceeds to show what it
is by answering the second. ‘Since it is not from knowledge or any
scientific reasoning that we derive the opinion of the necessity
of a cause to every new production,’ it must be from experience;
[1] and every general opinion derived from experience is merely the
summary of a multitude of particular ones. Accordingly when it has
been explained why we infer particular causes from particular effects
(and _vice versâ_), the inference from every event to a cause will
have explained itself. Now ‘all our arguments concerning causes
and effects consist both of an impression of the memory or senses,
and of the idea of that existence which produces the object of the
impression or is produced by it. Here, therefore, we have three
things to explain, viz. _first_, the original impression; _secondly_,
the transition to the idea of the connected cause or effect;
_thirdly_, the nature and qualities of that idea.’ [2]

[1] P. 383. [Book I, part III., sec. III.]

[2] P. 385. [Book I, part III., sec. V.]

_a_. The original impression from which the transition is made, and
_b_. The transition to inferred idea

290. As to the original impression we must notice that there is a
certain inconsistency with Hume’s previous usage of terms in speaking
of an _impression_ of memory at all. [1] This, however, will be
excused when we reflect that according to him impression and idea
only differ in liveliness, and that he is consistent in claiming for
the ideas of memory, not indeed the maximum, but a high degree of
vivacity, superior to that which belongs to ideas of imagination. All
that can be said, then, of that ‘original impression,’ whether of the
memory or senses, which is necessary to any ‘reasoning from cause or
effect,’ is that it is highly vivacious. That the transition from it
to the ‘idea of the connected cause or effect’ is not determined by
reason, has already been settled. It could only be so determined,
according to the received account of reason, if there were some
agreement in respect of quantity or quality between the idea of cause
and that of the effect, to be ascertained by the interposition of
other ideas. [2] But when we examine any particular objects that we
hold to be related as cause and effect, _e.g._ the sight of flame and
the feeling of heat, we find no such agreement. What we _do_ find
is their ‘constant conjunction’ in experience, and ‘conjunction’ is
equivalent to that ‘contiguity in time and place,’ which has already
been pointed out as one of those ‘natural relations’ which act as
‘principles of union’ between ideas. [3] Because the impression of
flame has always been found to be followed by the impression of heat,
the idea of flame always suggests the idea of heat. It is simple
custom then that determines the transition from the one to the other,
or renders ‘necessary’ the connection between them. In order that the
transition, however, may constitute an inference from cause to effect
(or _vice versâ_), one of the two objects thus naturally related,
but not both, must be presented as an impression. If both were
impressions it would be a case of ‘sensation, not reasoning;’ if both
were ideas, no belief would attend the transition. This brings us to
the question as to the ‘nature and qualities’ of the inferred idea.

[1] Above, par. 195.

[2] Cf. Locke IV. 17, 2.

[3] Above, par. 206.

_c_. The qualities of this idea.

291. ‘’Tis evident that all reasonings from causes or effects
terminate in conclusions concerning matter of fact, _i.e._ concerning
the existence of objects or of their qualities’; [1] in other words,
in belief. If this meant a new idea, an idea that we have not
previously had, it would follow that inference could really carry us
beyond sense, that there could be an idea not copied from any prior
impression. But according to Hume it does not mean this. ‘The idea
of existence is the very same with the idea of what we conceive to
be existent;’ [2] and not only so, ‘the _belief_ of existence joins
no new ideas to those which compose the idea of the object. When I
think of God, when I think of him as existent, and when I believe him
to be existent, my idea of him neither increases nor diminishes’.
[3] In what then lies the difference between incredulity and belief;
between an ‘idea assented to,’ or an object believed to exist, and
a fictitious object or idea from which we dissent? The answer is,
‘not in the parts or composition of the idea, but in the manner
of conceiving it,’ which must be understood to mean the manner of
‘feeling’ it; and this difference is further explained to lie in ‘the
superior force, or vivacity, or steadiness’ with which it is felt.’
[4] We are thus brought to the further question, how it is that this
‘superior vivacity’ belongs to the inferred idea when we ‘reason’
from cause to effect or from effect to cause. The answer here is
that the ‘impression of the memory or senses,’ which in virtue of
a ‘natural relation’ suggests the idea, also ‘communicates to it a
share of its force or vivacity.’

[1] P. 394. [Book I, part III., sec. VII.]

[2] P. 370. [Book I, part II., sec. VI.]

[3] P. 395. [Book I, part III., sec. II.]

[4] P. 398 [Book I, part III., sec. VII.]. Cf. above, par. 170, for
the corresponding view in Berkeley.

It results that necessary connection is an impression of reflection,
_i.e._, a propensity to the transition described.

292. Thus it appears that in order to the conclusion that any
particular cause must have any particular effect, there is needed
first the presence of an impression, and secondly the joint action
of those two ‘principles of union among ideas,’ resemblance and
contiguity. In virtue of the former principle the given impression
calls up the image of a like impression previously experienced,
which again in virtue of the latter calls up the image of its usual
attendant, and the liveliness of the given impression so communicates
itself to the recalled ideas as to constitute belief in their
existence. If this is the true account of the matter, the question
as to the nature of necessary connexion has answered itself. ‘The
necessary connexion betwixt causes and effects is the foundation of
our inference from one to the other. The foundation of the inference
is the transition arising from the accustomed union. These are
therefore the same’. [1] We may thus understand how it is that there
seems to be an idea of such connexion to which no impression of the
senses, or (to use an equivalent phrase of Hume’s) no ‘quality in
objects’ corresponds. If the first presentation of two objects, of
which one is cause, the other effect, (_i.e._ of which we afterwards
come to consider one the cause, the other the effect) gives no idea
of a connexion between them, as it clearly does not, neither can
it do so however often repeated. It would not do so, unless the
repetition ‘either discovered or produced something new’ in the
objects; and it does neither. But it does ‘produce a new impression
in the mind.’ After observing a ‘constant conjunction of the objects,
and an uninterrupted resemblance of their relations of contiguity
and succession, we immediately feel a determination of the mind to
pass from one of the objects to its usual attendant, and to conceive
it in a stronger light on account of that relation.’ It is of this
‘internal impression,’ this ‘propensity which custom produces,’ that
the idea of necessary connexion is the copy. [2]

[1] P. 460. [Book I, part III., sec. XIV.]

[2] Pp. 457-460. [Book I, part III., sec. XIV.]

The transition not to anything beyond sense.

293. The sequence of ideas, which this propensity determines, clearly
does not involve any inference ‘beyond sense,’ ‘from the known to the
unknown,’ ‘from instances of which we have had experience, to those
of which we have had none,’ any more than does any other ‘recurrence
of an idea’--which, as we have seen, merely means, according to Hume,
the return of a feeling at a lower level of intensity after it has
been felt at a higher. The idea which we speak of as an inferred
cause or effect is only an ‘instance of which we have no experience’
in the sense of being _numerically different_ from the similar
ideas, whose previous constant association with an impression like
the given one, determines the ‘inference;’ but in the same sense
the ‘impression’ which I now feel on putting my hand to the fire
is different from the impressions previously felt under the same
circumstances, and I do not for that reason speak of this impression
as an instance of which I have had no experience. Thus Hume, though
retaining the received phraseology in reference to the ‘conclusion
from any particular cause to any particular effect’--phraseology
which implies that prior to the inference the object inferred is in
some sense unknown or unexperienced--yet deprives it of meaning by a
doctrine which makes inference, as he himself puts it, ‘a species of
sensation,’ ‘an unintelligible instinct of our souls,’ ‘more properly
an act of the sensitive than of the cogitative part of our natures’
[1]--which in fact leaves no ‘part of our natures’ to be cogitative
at all.

[1] Pp. 404, 475, and 471. [Book I, part III., sec. VIII., part IV.
sec. I. and part III., sec. XVI.]

Nor determined by any objective relation.

294. We are not entitled then, it would seem, to say that any
inference to matter of fact, any proof of an ‘instructive
proposition,’--as distinct from the conclusion of a syllogism,
which is simply derived from the analysis of a proposition already
conceded,--rests on the relation of cause and effect. Such language
implies that the relation is other than the inference, whereas, in
fact, they are one and the same, each being merely a particular
sort of sequence of feeling upon feeling--that sort of which the
characteristic is that, when the former feeling only has the maximum
of vivacity, it still, owing to the frequency with which it has been
attended by the other, imparts to it a large, though less, amount of
vivacity. This is the naked result to which Hume’s doctrine leads--a
result which, thus put, might have set men upon reconsidering the
first principles of the Lockeian philosophy. But he wished to find
acceptance, and would not so put it. A consideration of the points
in which he had to sacrifice consistency to plausibility--since he
was always consistent where he decently could be--will lead us to the
true αἴτιον τοῦ ψευδοῦς [1], the impossibility on his principles of
explaining the world of knowledge.

[1] [Greek αἴτιον τοῦ ψευδοῦς (aition tou pseudous) = the cause of
the error. Tr.]

Definitions of cause: a. As a ‘philosophical’ relation.

295. As the outcome of his doctrine, he submits two definitions
of the relation of cause and effect. Considering it as ‘a
_philosophical_ relation or comparison of two ideas, we may define a
cause to be an object precedent and contiguous to another, and where
all objects resembling the former are placed in like relations of
precedency and contiguity to those objects that resemble the latter.’
Considering the relation as ‘a _natural_ one, or as an association
between ideas,’ we may say that ‘a _cause_ is an object precedent and
contiguous to another, and so united with it that the idea of one
determines the mind to form the idea of the other, and the impression
of the one to form a more lively idea of the other’. [1]

[1] P. 464. [Book I, part III., sec. XIV.]

Is Hume entitled to retain ‘philosophical’ relations as distinct from

296. Our first enquiry must be how far these definitions are really
consistent with the theory from which they are derived. At the
outset, it is a surprise to find that the ‘philosophical relation’
of cause and effect, as distinct from the natural one, should still
appear to survive. Such a distinction has no meaning unless it
implies a conceived relation of objects other than the _de facto_
sequence of feelings, of which one ‘naturally’ introduces the other.
It is the characteristic of Locke’s doctrine of knowledge that in it
this distinction is still latent. His language constantly implies
that knowledge, as a perception of relations, is other than the
sequence of feelings; but by confining his view chiefly to relation
in the way of likeness and unlikeness--a relation that exists
between feelings merely as felt, or as they are for the feeling
consciousness--he avoids the necessity of deciding what the ‘ideas’
are in the connection of which knowledge and reasoning consist,
whether objects constituted by conceived relations or feelings
suggestive of each other. But when once attention had been fixed, as
it was by Hume, on an ostensible relation between objects, like that
of cause and effect, which, if it exist at all, is clearly not one in
the way of resemblance between feelings, the distinction spoken of
becomes patent. If the colour red had not the likeness and unlikeness
which it has to the colour blue, the colours would be different
feelings from what they are; but if the flame of fire and its heat
were not regarded severally as cause and effect, it would make no
difference to them as feelings; or, to put it conversely, it is not
upon any comparison of two feelings with each other that we regard
them as related in the way of cause and effect. In what sense then
can the relation between flame and heat be a philosophical relation,
as defined by Hume--a relation in virtue of which we compare objects,
or an idea that we acquire upon comparison?

Examination of Hume’s language about them.

297. This definition, indeed, is not stated so exactly or so
uniformly as might be wished. In different passages ‘philosophical
relation’ appears as that in respect of which we compare any two
ideas; as that of which we acquire the idea by comparing objects, [1]
and finally (in the context of the passage last quoted) as itself
the comparison. [2] The real source of this ambiguity lies in that
impossibility of regarding an object as anything apart from its
relations, which compels any theory that does not recognize it to be
inconsistent with itself. It is Locke’s cardinal doctrine that real
‘objects’ are first given as simple ideas, and that their relations,
unreal in contrast with the simple ideas, are superinduced by the
mind--a doctrine which Hume completes by excluding all ideas that are
not either copies of simple feelings or compounds of these, and by
consequence ideas of relation altogether. The three statements of the
nature of philosophical relation, given above, mark three stages of
departure from, or approach to, consistency with this doctrine. The
first, implying as it does that relation is not merely a subjective
result in our minds from the comparison of ideas, but belongs to the
ideas themselves, is most obviously inconsistent with it according to
the form in which it is presented by Locke; but the second is equally
incompatible with Hume’s completion of the doctrine, for it implies
that we so compare ideas as to acquire an idea of relation other than
the ideas put together--an idea at once open to Hume’s own challenge,
‘Is it a colour, sound, smell, &c.; or is it a passion or emotion?’

[1] Cf. Part I. 5.

[2] P. 464. [Book I, part III., sec. XIV.]

Philosophical relation consists in a comparison, but no comparison
between cause and effect.

298. We are thus brought to the third statement, according to which
philosophical relation, instead of being an idea acquired upon
comparison, is itself the comparison. A comparison of ideas may seem
not far removed from the simple sequence of resembling ideas; but
if we examine the definition of cause, as stated above, which with
Hume corresponds to the view of the relation of cause and effect as
a ‘_philosophical_’ one, we find that the relation in question is
neither a comparison of the related objects nor an idea which arises
upon such comparison. According to his statement a comparison is
indeed necessary to give us an idea of the relation--a comparison,
however, not of the objects which we reckon severally cause and
effect with each other, but _(a)_ of each of the two objects with
other like objects, and _(b)_ of the relation of precedency and
contiguity between the two objects with that previously observed
between the like objects. Now, unless the idea of relation between
objects in the way of cause and effect is one that consists in, or
is acquired by, comparison _of those objects_, the fact that another
sort of comparison is necessary to constitute it does not touch the
question of its possibility. However we come to have it, however
reducible to impressions the objects may be, it is not only other
than the idea of either object taken singly; it is not, as an idea
of resemblance might be supposed to be, constituted by the joint
presence or immediate sequence upon each other of the objects. Here,
then, is an idea which is not taken either from an impression or from
a compound of impressions (if such composition be possible), and this
idea is ‘the source of all our reasonings concerning matters of fact.’

The comparison is between present and past experience of succession
of objects.

299. The modern followers of Hume may perhaps seek refuge in the
consideration that though the relation of cause and effect between
objects is not one in the way of resemblance or one of which the
idea is given by comparison of the objects, it yet results from
comparisons, which may be supposed to act like chemical substances
whose combination produces a substance with properties quite
different from those of the combined substances, whether taken
separately or together. Some anticipation of such a solution,
it may be said, we find in Hume himself, who is aware that from
the repetition of impressions of sense and their ideas new,
heterogeneous, impressions--those of ‘reflection’--are formed. Of
this more will be said when we come to Hume’s treatment of cause
and effect as a ‘natural relation.’ For the present we have to
enquire what exactly is implied in the comparisons from which this
heterogeneous idea of relation is derived. If we look closely we
shall find that they presuppose a consciousness of relations as
little reducible to resemblance, _i.e._ as little the result of
comparison, as that of cause and effect itself. It has been already
noticed how Hume treats the judgment of proportion between figures
as a mere affair of sense, because such relation depends entirely
on the ideas compared, without reflecting that the existence of the
figures presupposes those relations of space to which, because (as
he admits) they do not depend on the comparison of ideas, the only
excuse for reckoning any relation sensible does not apply. In the
same way he contents himself with the fact that the judgment of cause
and effect implies a comparison of present with past experience, and
may thus be brought under his definition of ‘philosophical relation,’
without observing that the experiences compared are themselves by
no means reducible to comparison. We judge that an object, which we
now find to be precedent and contiguous to another, is its cause
when, comparing present experience with past, we find that it always
has been so. That in effect is Hume’s account of the relation,
‘considered as a philosophical one:’ and it implies that the
constitution of the several experiences compared involves two sorts
of relation which Hume admits not to be derived from comparison,
_(a)_ relation in time and place, _(b)_ relation in the way of

Observation of succession already goes beyond sense.

300. As to relations in time and space, we have already traced out
the inconsistencies which attend Hume’s attempt to represent them
as compound ideas. The statement at the beginning of Part III.,
that they are relations not dependent on the nature of compared
ideas, is itself a confession that such representation is erroneous.
If the difficulty about the synthesis of successive feelings in
a consciousness that consists merely of the succession could be
overcome, we might admit that the putting together of ideas might
constitute such an idea of relation as depends on the nature of the
combined ideas. But no combination of ideas can yield a relation
which remains the same while the ideas change, and changes while
they remain the same. Thus, when Hume tells us that ‘in none of the
observations we may make concerning relations of time and place can
the mind go beyond what is immediately present to the senses, to
discover the relations of objects’ [1] the statement contradicts
itself. Either we can make no observation concerning relation in
time and place at all, or in making it we already ‘go beyond what
is immediately present to the senses,’ since we observe what is
neither a feeling nor several feelings put together. If then Hume
had succeeded in his reduction of reasoning from cause or effect to
observation of this kind, as modified in a certain way by habit,
the purpose for which the reduction is attempted would not have
been attained. The separation between perception and inference,
between ‘intuition’ and ‘discourse,’ would have been got rid of,
but inference and discourse would not therefore have been brought
nearer to the mere succession of feelings, for the separation between
feeling and perception would remain complete; and that being so, the
question would inevitably recur--If the ‘observation’ of objects
as related in space and time already involves a transition from
the felt to the unfelt, what greater difficulty is there about the
interpretation of a feeling as a change to be accounted for (which is
what is meant by inference to a cause), that we should do violence to
the sciences by reducing it to repeated observation lest it should
seem that in it we ‘go beyond’ present feeling?

[1] P. 376. [Book I, part III., sec. II.]

As also does the ‘observation concerning identity,’ which the
comparison involves.

301. Relation in the way of identity is treated by Hume in the third
part of the Treatise [1] pretty much as he treats contiguity and
distance. He admits that it does not depend on the nature of any
ideas so related--in other words, that it is not constituted by
feelings as they would be for a merely feeling consciousness--yet
he denies that the mind ‘in any observations we may make concerning
it’ can go beyond what is immediately present to the senses.
Directly afterwards, however, we find that there _is_ a judgment of
identity which involves a ‘conclusion beyond the impressions of our
senses’--the judgment, namely, that an object of which the perception
is interrupted continues individually the same notwithstanding the
interruption. Such a judgment, we are told, is a supposition founded
only on the connection of cause and effect. How any ‘observation
concerning identity’ can be made without it is not there explained,
and, pending such explanation, observations concerning identity
are freely taken for granted as elements given by sense in the
experience from which the judgment of cause and effect is derived.
In the second chapter of Part IV., however, where ‘belief in an
external world’ first comes to be explicitly discussed by Hume, we
find that ‘propensities to feign’ are as necessary to account for
the judgment of identity as for that of necessary connection. If
that chapter had preceded, instead of following, the theory of cause
and effect as given in Part III., the latter would have seemed much
less plain sailing than to most readers it has done. It is probably
because nothing corresponding to it appears in that later redaction
of his theory by which Hume sought popular acceptance, that the true
suggestiveness of his speculation was ignored, and the scepticism,
which awakened Kant, reduced to the commonplaces of inductive logic.
To examine its purport is the next step to be taken in the process
of testing the possibility of a ‘natural history’ of knowledge. Its
bearing on the doctrine of cause will appear as we proceed.

[1] P. 376. [Book I, part III., sec. II.]

Identity of objects an unavoidable crux for Hume. His account of it.

302. The problem of identity necessarily arises from the fusion of
reality and feeling. We must once again recall the propositions in
which Hume represents this fusion--that ‘everything which enters
the mind is both in reality and appearance as the perception;’
that ‘so far as the senses are judges, all perceptions are the
same in the manner of their existence;’ that ‘perceptions’ are
either impressions, or ideas which are ‘fainter impressions;’ and
‘impressions are internal and perishing existences, and appear
as such.’ If these propositions are true--and the ‘new way of
ideas’ inevitably leads to them--how is it that we _believe_ in ‘a
_continued_ existence of objects even when they are not present
to the senses,’ and an existence ‘distinct from the mind and
perception’? They are the same questions from which Berkeley derived
his demonstration of an eternal mind--a demonstration premature
because, till the doctrine of ‘ideas,’ and of mind as their subject,
had been definitely altered in a way that Berkeley did not attempt,
it was explaining a belief difficult to account for by one wholly
unaccountable. Before Theism could be exhibited with the necessity
which Locke claimed for it, it was requisite to try what could be
done with association of ideas and ‘propensities to feign’ in the
way of accounting for the world of knowledge, in order that upon
their failure another point of departure than Locke’s might be found
necessary. The experiment was made by Hume. He has the merit, to
begin with, of stating the nature of identity with a precision which
we found wanting in Locke. ‘In that proposition, _an object is the
same with itself_, if the idea expressed by the word _object_ were
no ways distinguished from that meant by _itself_, we really should
mean nothing.’ ‘On the other hand, a multiplicity of objects can
never convey the idea of identity, however resembling they may be
supposed. ... Since then both number and unity are incompatible with
the relation of identity, it must lie in something that is neither
of them. But at first sight this seems impossible.’ The explanation
is that when ‘we say that an object is the same with itself, we mean
that the object existent at one time is the same with itself existent
at another. By this means we make a difference betwixt the idea meant
by the word _object_ and that meant by _itself_ without going the
length of number, and at the same time without restraining ourselves
to a strict and absolute unity.’ In other words, identity means the
unity of a thing through a multiplicity of times; or, as Hume puts
it, ‘the invariableness and uninterruptedness of any object through a
supposed variation of time’. [1]

[1] Pp. 489, 490. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

Properly with him it is a fiction, in the sense that we have no
such idea. Yet he implies that we have such idea, in saying that we
mistake something else for it.

303. Now that ‘an object exists’ can with Hume mean no more than
that an ‘impression’ is felt, and without succession of feelings
according to him there is no time. [1] It follows that unity in the
existence of the object, being incompatible with _succession_ of
feelings, is incompatible also with existence in time. Either then
the unity of the object or its existence at manifold times--both
being involved in the conception of identity--must be a fiction; and
since ‘all impressions are perishing existences,’ perishing with a
turn of the head or the eyes, it cannot be doubted which it is that
is the fiction. That the existence of an object, which we call the
same with itself, is broken by as many intervals of time as there are
successive and different, however resembling, ‘perceptions,’ must be
the fact; that it should yet be one throughout the intervals is a
fiction to be accounted for, Hume accounts for it by supposing that
when the separate ‘perceptions’ have a strong ‘natural relation’ to
each other in the way of resemblance, the transition from one to
the other is so ‘smooth and easy’ that we are apt to take it for
the ‘same disposition of mind with which we consider one constant
and uninterrupted perception;’ and that, as a consequence of this
mistake, we make the further one of taking the successive resembling
perceptions for an identical, _i.e._ uninterrupted as well as
invariable object. [2] But we cannot mistake one object for another
unless we have an idea of that other object. If then we ‘mistake the
succession of our interrupted perceptions for an identical object,’
it follows that we have an idea of such an object--of a thing one
with itself throughout the succession of impressions--an idea which
can be a copy neither of any one of the impressions nor, even if
successive impressions could put themselves together, of all so
put together. Such an idea being according to Hume’s principles
impossible, the appearance of our having it was the fiction he had
to account for; and he accounts for it, as we find, by a ‘habit of
mind’ which already presupposes it. His procedure here is just the
same as in dealing with the idea of vacuum. In that case, as we saw,
having to account for the appearance of there being the impossible
idea of pure space, he does so by showing, that having ‘an idea of
distance not filled with any coloured or tangible object,’ we mistake
this for an idea of extension, and hence suppose that the latter
may be invisible and intangible. He thus admits an idea, virtually
the same with the one excluded, as the source of the ‘tendency to
suppose’ which is to replace the excluded idea. So in his account of
identity. Either the habit, in virtue of which we convert resembling
perceptions into an identical object, is what Hume admits to be a
contradiction, ‘a habit acquired by what was never present to the
mind’; [3] or the idea of identity must be present to the mind in
order to render the habit possible.

[1] ‘Wherever we have no successive perceptions, we have no notion of
time.’ (p. 342) [Book I, part II., sec. III.].

[2] P. 492. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

[3] P. 487. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

Succession of like feelings mistaken for an identical object: but the
feelings, as described, are already such objects.

304. The device by which this _petitio principii_ is covered is one
already familiar to us in Hume. In this case it is so palpable that
it is difficult to believe he was unconscious of it. As he has ‘to
account for the belief of the vulgar with regard to the existence
of body,’ he will ‘entirely conform himself to their manner of
thinking and expressing themselves;’ in other words, he will assume
the fiction in question as the beginning of a process by which its
formation is to be accounted for. The vulgar make no distinction
between thing and appearance. ‘Those very sensations which enter by
the eye or ear are with them the true objects, nor can they readily
conceive that this pen or this paper, which is immediately perceived,
represents another which is different from, but resembling it. In
order therefore to accommodate myself to their notions, I shall at
first suppose that there is only a single existence, which I shall
call indifferently _object_ and _perception_, according as it shall
seem best to suit my purpose, understanding by both of them what
any common man may mean by a hat, or shoe, or stone, or any other
impression conveyed to him by his senses’. [1] Now it is of course
true that the vulgar are innocent of the doctrine of representative
ideas. They do not suppose that this pen or this paper, which is
immediately perceived, represents another which is different from,
but resembling, it; but neither do they suppose that this pen or
this paper is a sensation. It is the intellectual transition from
this, that, and the other successive sensations to this pen or
this paper, as the identical object to which the sensations are
referred as qualities, that is unaccountable if, according to Hume’s
doctrine, the succession of feelings constitutes our consciousness.
In the passage quoted he quietly ignores it, covering his own
reduction of felt thing to feeling under the popular identification
of the real thing with the perceived. With ‘the vulgar’ that which
is ‘immediately perceived’ is the real thing, just because it is
not the mere feeling which with Hume it is. But under pretence of
provisionally adopting the vulgar view, he entitles himself to treat
the mere feeling, because according to him it is that which is
immediately perceived, as if it were the permanent identical thing,
which according to the vulgar is what is immediately perceived.

[1] P. 491. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

Fiction of identity thus implied as source of the propensity which is
to account for it.

305. Thus without professedly admitting into consciousness anything
but the succession of feelings he gets such individual objects as
Locke would have called objects of ‘actual present sensation.’ When
‘I survey the furniture of my chamber,’ according to him, I see
sundry ‘identical objects’--this chair, this table, this inkstand,
&c. [1] So far there is no fiction to be accounted for. It is only
when, having left my chamber for an interval and returned to it, I
suppose the objects which I see to be identical with those I saw
before, that the ‘propensity to feign’ comes into play, which has
to be explained as above. But in fact the original ‘survey’ during
which, seeing the objects, I suppose them to continue the same with
themselves, involves precisely the same fiction. In that case, says
Hume, I ‘suppose the change’ (which is necessary to constitute the
idea of identity) ‘to lie only in the time.’ But without ‘succession
of perceptions,’ different however resembling, there could according
to him be no change of time. The continuous survey of this table, or
this chair, then, involves the notion of its remaining the same with
itself throughout a succession of different perceptions--_i.e._ the
full-grown fiction of identity--just as much as does the supposition
that the table I see now is identical with the one I saw before. The
‘reality,’ confusion with which of ‘a smooth passage along resembling
ideas’ is supposed to constitute the ‘fiction,’ is already itself
the fiction--the fiction of an object which must be other than our
feelings, since it is permanent while they are successive, yet so
related to them that in virtue of reference to it, instead of being
merely different from each other, they become changes of a thing.

[1] P. 493. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

With Hume continued existence of perceptions a fiction different from
their identity. Can perceptions exist when not perceived?

306. Having thus in effect imported all three ‘fictions of
imagination’--identity, continued existence, and existence distinct
from perception--into the original ‘perception,’ Hume, we may think,
might have saved himself the trouble of treating them as separate and
successive formations. Unless he had so treated them, however, his
‘natural history’ of consciousness would have been far less imposing
than it is. The device, by which he represents the ‘vulgar’ belief in
the reality of the felt thing as a belief that the mere feeling is
the real object, enables him also to represent the identity, which
a smooth transition along closely resembling sensations leads us
to suppose, as still merely identity of a _perception_. ‘The very
image which is present to the senses is with us the real body; and
’tis to these interrupted images we ascribe a perfect identity’.
[1] The identity lying thus in the images or appearances, not in
anything to which they are referred, a further fiction seems to be
required by which we may overcome the contradiction between the
interruption of the appearances and their identity--the fiction
of ‘a continued being which may fill the intervals’ between the
appearances. [2] That a ‘propension’ towards such a fiction would
naturally arise from the uneasiness caused by such a contradiction,
we may readily admit. The question is how the propension can be
satisfied by a supposition which is merely another expression for
one of the contradictory beliefs. What difference is there between
the appearance of a perception and its existence, that interruption
of the perception, though incompatible with uninterruptedness in its
appearance, should not be so with uninterruptedness in its existence?
It may be answered that there is just the difference between relation
to a feeling subject and relation to a thinking one--between relation
to a consciousness which is in time, or successive, and relation to
a thinking subject which, not being itself in time, is the source of
that determination by permanent conditions, which is what is meant by
the real existence of a perceived thing. But to Hume, who expressly
excludes such a subject--with whom ‘it exists’ = ‘it is felt’--such
an answer is inadmissible. He can, in fact, only meet the difficulty
by supposing the existence of unfelt feelings, of unperceived
perceptions. The appearance of a perception is its presence to
‘what we call a mind,’ which ‘is nothing but a heap or collection
of different perceptions, united together by certain relations, and
supposed, though falsely, to be endowed with a perfect simplicity
and identity’. [3] To consider a perception, then, as existing
though not appearing is merely to consider it as detached from
this ‘heap’ of other perceptions, which, on Hume’s principle that
whatever is distinguishable is separable, is no more impossible than
to distinguish one perception from all others. [4] In fact, however,
it is obvious that the supposed detachment is the very opposite of
such distinction. A perception distinguished from all others is
determined by that distinction in the fullest possible measure. A
perception _detached_ from all others, left out of the ‘heap which
we call a mind,’ being out of all relation, has no qualities--is
simply nothing. We can no more ‘consider’ it than we can see vacancy.
Yet it is by the consideration of such nonentity, by supposing a
world of unperceived perceptions, of ‘existences’ without relation
or quality, that the mind, according to Hume--itself only ‘a heap of
perceptions’--arrives at that fiction of a continued being which,
as involved in the supposition of identity, is the condition of our
believing in a world of real things at all.

[1] P. 493. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

[2] Pp. 494, 495. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

[3] P. 495. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

[4] Ibid.

Existence of objects, distinct from perceptions, a further fiction

307. It is implied, then, in the process by which, according to
Hume, the fiction of a continued being is arrived at, that this
being is supposed to be not only continued but ‘distinct from the
mind’ and ‘independent’ of it. With Hume, however, the supposition
of a distinct and ‘independent’ existence of the _perception_ is
quite different from that of a distinct and independent object
other than the perception. The former is the ‘vulgar hypothesis,’
and though a fiction, it is also a universal belief: the latter
is the ‘philosophical hypothesis,’ which, if it has a tendency to
obtain belief at all, at any rate derives that tendency, in other
words ‘acquires all its influence over the imagination,’ from the
vulgar one. [1] Just as the belief in the independent and continued
existence of perceptions results from an instinctive effort to escape
the uneasiness, caused by the contradiction between the interruption
of resembling perceptions and their imagined identity, so the
contradiction between this belief and the evident dependence of all
perceptions ‘on our organs and the disposition of our nerves and
animal spirits’ leads to the doctrine of representative ideas or ‘the
double existence of perceptions and objects.’ ‘This philosophical
system, therefore, is the monstrous offspring of two principles
which are contrary to each other, which are both at once embraced by
the mind and which are unable mutually to destroy each other. The
imagination tells us that our resembling perceptions have a continued
and uninterrupted existence, and are not annihilated by their
absence. Reflection tells us that even our resembling perceptions
are interrupted in their existence and different from each other.
The contradiction betwixt these opinions we elude by a new fiction
which is conformable to the hypotheses both of reflection and fancy,
by ascribing these contrary qualities to different existences; the
interruption to _perceptions_, and the continuance to _objects_’. [2]

[1] P. 500. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

[2] P. 502. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

Are these several ‘fictions’ really different from each other?

308. Here, again, we find that the contradictory announcements,
which it is the object of this new fiction to elude, are virtually
the same as those implied in that judgment of identity which is
necessary to the ‘perception’ of this pen or this paper. That
‘interruption of our resembling perceptions,’ of which ‘reflection’
(in the immediate context ‘Reason’) is here said to ‘tell us,’ is
merely that difference in time, or succession, which Hume everywhere
else treats as a datum of sense, and which, as he points out, is as
necessary a factor in the idea of identity, as is the imagination
of an existence continued throughout the succession. Thus the
contradiction, which suggests this philosophical fiction of double
existence, has been already present and overcome in every perception
of a qualified object. Nor does the fiction itself, by which the
contradiction is eluded, differ except verbally from that suggested
by the contradiction between the interruption and the identity of
perceptions. What power is there in the word ‘object’ that the
supposition of an unperceived existence of perceptions, continued
while their appearance is broken, should be an unavoidable fiction of
the imagination, while that of ‘the double existence of perceptions
and objects’ is a gratuitous fiction of philosophers, of which
‘vulgar’ thinking is entirely innocent?

Are they not all involved in the simplest perception?

309. That it is gratuitous we may readily admit, but only because a
recognition of the function of the Ego in the primary constitution
of the qualified individual object--this pen or this paper--renders
it superfluous. To the philosophy, however, in which Hume was
bred, the perception of a qualified object was simply a feeling.
No intellectual synthesis of successive feelings was recognized as
involved in it. It was only so far as the dependence of the feeling
on our organs, in the absence of any clear distinction between
feeling and felt thing, seemed to imply a dependent and broken
existence of the thing, that any difficulty arose--a difficulty met
by the supposition that the felt thing, whose existence was thus
broken and dependent, represented an unfelt and permanent thing of
which it is a copy or effect. To the Berkeleian objections, already
fatal to this supposition, Hume has his own to add, viz. that we can
have no idea of relation in the way of cause and effect except as
between objects which we have observed, and therefore can have no
idea of it as existing between a perception and an object of which
we can only say that it is not a perception. Is all existence then
‘broken and dependent’? That is the ‘sceptical’ conclusion which
Hume professes to adopt--subject, however, to the condition of
accounting for the contrary supposition (without which, as he has to
admit, we could not think or speak, and which alone gives a meaning
to his own phraseology about impressions and ideas) as a fiction of
the imagination. He does this, as we have seen, by tracing a series
of contradictions, with corresponding hypotheses invented, either
instinctively or upon reflection, in order to escape the uneasiness
which they cause, all ultimately due to our mistaking similar
successive feelings for an identical object. Of such an object, then,
we must have an idea to begin with, and it is an object permanent
throughout a variation of time, which means a succession of feelings;
in other words, it is a felt thing, as distinct from feelings but to
which feelings are referred as its qualities. Thus the most primary
perception--that in default of which Hume would have no reality
to oppose to fiction, nor any point of departure for the supposed
construction of fictions--already implies that transformation of
feelings into changing relations of a thing which, preventing any
incompatibility between the perpetual brokenness of the feeling
and the permanence of the thing, ‘eludes’ by anticipation all the
contradictions which, according to Hume, we only ‘elude’ by speaking
as if we had ideas that we have not.

Yet they are not possible ideas, because copied from no impressions.

310. ‘Ideas that we _have not_;’ for no one of the fictions by
which we elude the contradictions, nor indeed any one of the
contradictory judgments themselves, can be taken to represent an
‘idea’ according to Hume’s account of ideas. He allows himself indeed
to speak of our having ideas of identical objects, such as _this
table while I see or touch it_--though in this case, as has been
shown, either the object is not identical or the idea of it cannot
be copied from an impression--and of our transferring this idea to
resembling but interrupted perceptions. But the supposition to which
the contradiction involved in this transference gives rise--the
supposition that the perception continues to exist when it is not
perceived--is shown by the very statement of it to be no possible
copy of an impression. Yet according to Hume it is a ‘belief,’ and
a belief is ‘a lively idea associated with a present impression.’
What then is the impression and what the associated idea? ‘As the
propensity to feign the continued existence of sensible objects
arises from some lively impressions of the memory, it bestows a
vivacity on that fiction; or, in other words, makes us believe the
continued existence of body’. [1] Well and good: but this only
answers the first part of our question. It tells us what are the
impressions in the supposed case of belief, but not what is the
associated idea to which their liveliness is communicated. To say
that it arises from a propensity to feign, strong in proportion to
the liveliness of the supposed impressions of memory, does not tell
us of what impression it is a copy. Such a propensity indeed would be
an ‘impression of reflection,’ but the fiction itself is neither the
propensity nor a copy of it. The only possible supposition left for
Hume would be that it is a ‘compound idea;’ but what combination of
‘perceptions’ can amount to the existence of perceptions when they
are not perceived?

[1] P. 496. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

Comparison of present experience with past, which yields relation of
cause and effect, pre-supposes judgment of identity;

311. From this long excursion into Hume’s doctrine of relation in the
way of identity--having found him admitting explicitly that it is
only by a ‘fiction of the imagination’ that we identify this table
as now seen with this table as seen an hour ago, and implicitly that
the same fiction is involved in the perception of this table as an
identical object even when hand or eye is kept upon it, while yet
he says not a word to vindicate the possibility of such a fiction
for a faculty which can merely reproduce and combine ‘perishing
impressions’--we return to consider its bearing upon his doctrine of
relation in the way of cause and effect. According to him, as we saw,
[1] that relation, ‘considered as a philosophical’ one, is founded
on a comparison of present experience with past, in the sense that
we regard an object, precedent and contiguous to another, as its
cause when all like objects have been found similarly related. The
question then arises whether the experiences compared--the present
and the past alike--do not involve the fiction of identity along with
the whole family of other fictions which Hume affiliates to it? Does
the relation of precedence and sequence, which, if constant, amounts
to that of cause and effect, merely mean precedence and sequence
of two feelings, indefinitely like an indefinite number of other
feelings that have thus the one preceded and the other followed;
or is it a relation between one qualified thing or definite fact
always the same with itself, and another such thing or fact always
the same with itself? The question carries its own answer. If in the
definition quoted Hume used the phrase ‘all like objects’ instead of
the ‘same object,’ in order to avoid the appearance of introducing
the ‘fiction’ of identity into the definition of cause, the device
does not avail him much. The effect of the ‘like’ is neutralized by
the ‘all.’ A _uniform_ relation is impossible except between objects
of which each has a definite identity.

[1] Above, pars. 298 and 299.

... without which there could be no recognition of an object as one
observed before.

312. When Hume has to describe the experience which gives the
idea of cause and effect, he virtually admits this. ‘The nature
of experience,’ he tells us, ‘is this. We remember to have had
frequent instances of the existence of one species of objects, and
also remember that the individuals of another species of objects
have always attended them, and have existed in a regular order of
contiguity and succession with regard to them. Thus we remember
to have seen that species of object we call _flame_, and to have
felt that species of sensation we call _heat_. We likewise call to
mind their constant conjunction in all past instances. Without any
farther ceremony we call the one cause, and the other effect, and
infer the existence of the one from the other’. [1] It appears, then,
that upon experiencing certain sensations of sight and touch, we
recognize each as ‘one of a species of objects’ which we remember to
have observed in certain constant relations before. In virtue of the
recognition the sensations become severally this _flame_ and this
_heat_; and in virtue of the remembrance the objects thus recognized
are held to be related in the way of cause and effect. Now it is
clear that though the recognition takes place upon occasion of a
feeling, the object recognized--this flame or this heat--is by no
means the feeling as a ‘perishing existence.’ Unless the feeling
were taken to represent a thing, conceived as permanently existing
under certain relations and attributes--in other words, unless it
were _identified_ by thought--it would be no definite object, not
this _flame_ or this _heat_, at all. The moment it is named, it
has ceased to be a feeling and become a felt thing, or, in Hume’s
language, an ‘individual of _a species of objects_.’ And just as
the present ‘perception’ is the recognition of such an individual,
so the remembrance which determines the recognition is one wholly
different from the return with lessened liveliness of a feeling more
strongly felt before. According to Hume’s own statement, it consists
in recalling ‘frequent instances of the existence of _a species of
objects_.’ It is remembrance of an experience in which every feeling,
that has been attended to, has been interpreted as a fresh appearance
of some qualified object that ‘exists’ throughout its appearances--an
experience which for that reason forms a connected whole. If it were
not so, there could be no such comparison of the relations in which
two objects are now presented with those in which they have always
been presented, as that which according to Hume determines us to
regard them as cause and effect. The condition of our so regarding
them is that we suppose the objects now presented to be _the same_
with those of which we have had previous experience. It is only on
supposition that a certain sensation of sight is not merely like a
multitude of others, but represents the same object as that which I
have previously known as flame, that I infer the sequence of heat
and, when it does follow, regard it as an effect. If I thought that
the sensation of sight, however like those previously referred to
flame, did not represent the same object, I should not infer heat
as effect; and conversely, if, having identified the sensation
of sight as representative of flame, I found that the inferred
heat was not actually felt, I should judge that I was mistaken in
the identification. It follows that it is only an experience of
identical, and by consequence related and qualified, objects, of
which the memory can so determine a sequence of feelings as to
constitute it an experience of cause and effect. Thus the perception
and remembrance upon which, according to Hume, we judge one object to
be the cause of another, alike rest on the ‘fictions of identity and
continued existence.’ Without these no present experience would, in
his language, be an instance of an individual of a certain species
existing in a certain relation, nor would there be a past experience
of individuals of the same species, by comparison with which the
constancy of the relation might be ascertained.

[1] P. 388. [Book I, part III., sec. VI.]

Hume makes conceptions of identity and cause each come before the
other. Their true correlativity.

313. Against this derivation of the conception of cause and effect,
as implying that of identity, may be urged the fact that when
we would ascertain the truth of any identification we do so by
reference to causes and effects. As Hume himself puts it at the
outset of his discussion of causation, an inference of identity
‘beyond the impressions of our senses can be founded only on the
connexion of cause and effect.’ ... ‘Whenever we discover a perfect
resemblance between a new object and one which was formerly present
to the senses, we consider whether it be common in that species of
objects; whether possibly or probably any cause could operate in
producing the change and resemblance; and according as we determine
concerning these causes and effects, we form our judgment concerning
the identity of the object’. [1] This admission, it may be said,
though it tells against Hume’s own subsequent explanation of identity
as a fiction of the imagination, is equally inconsistent with any
doctrine that would treat identity as the presupposition of inference
to cause or effect. Now undoubtedly if the identity of interrupted
perceptions is one fiction of the imagination and the relation of
cause and effect another, each resulting from ‘custom,’ to say with
Hume, that we must have the idea of cause in order to arrive at the
supposition of identity, is logically to exclude any derivation
of that idea from an experience which involves the supposition of
identity. The ‘custom’ which generates the idea of cause must have
done its work before that which generates the supposition of identity
can begin. Hume therefore, after the admission just quoted, was
not entitled to treat the inference to cause or effect as a habit
derived from experience of identical things. But it is otherwise
if the conceptions of causation and identity are correlative--not
results of experience of which one must be formed before the
other, but co-ordinate expressions of one and the same synthetic
principle, which renders experience possible. And this is the real
state of the case. It is true, as Hume points out, that when we
want to know whether a certain sensation, precisely resembling one
that we have previously experienced, represents the same object,
we do so by asking how otherwise it can be accounted for. If no
difference appears in its antecedents or sequents, we identify
it--refer it to the same thing--as that previously experienced; for
its relations (which, since it is an event in time, take the form
of antecedence and sequence) _are_ the thing. The conceptions of
identity and of relation in the way of cause and effect are thus as
strictly correlative and inseparable as those of the thing and of
its relations. Without the conception of identity experience would
want a centre, without that of cause and effect it would want a
circumference. Without the supposition of objects which ‘existing at
one time are the same with themselves as existing at other times’--a
supposition which at last, when through acquaintance with the
endlessness of orderly change we have learnt that there is but one
object for which such identity can be claimed without qualification,
becomes the conception of nature as a uniform whole--there could
be no such comparison of the relations in which an object is now
presented with those in which it has been before presented, as
determines us to reckon it the cause or effect of another; but it is
equally true that it is only by such comparison of relations that the
identity of any particular object can be ascertained.

[1] P. 376. [Book I, part III., sec. II.]

Hume quite right in saying that we do not go _more_ beyond sense in
reasoning than in perception.

314. Thus, though we may concede to Hume that neither in the
inference to the relation of cause and effect nor in the conclusions
we draw from it do we go ‘beyond experience,’ [1] this will merely
be, if his account of it as a ‘philosophical relation’ be true,
because in experience we already go beyond sense. ‘There is nothing,’
says Hume, ‘in any object considered in itself that can afford
us a reason for drawing a conclusion beyond it’ [2]--a statement
which to him means that, if the mind really passes from it to
another, this is only because as a matter of fact another feeling
follows on the first. But, in truth, if each feeling were merely
‘considered in itself,’ the fact that one follows on another would
be no fact _for the subject of the feelings_, no starting-point of
intelligent experience at all; for the fact is the relation between
the feelings--a relation which only exists for a subject that
considers neither feeling ‘in itself,’ as a ‘separate and perishing
existence,’ but finds a reality in the determination of each by the
other which, as it is not either or both of them, so survives, while
they pass, as a permanent factor of experience. Thus in order that
any definite ‘object’ of experience may exist for us, our feelings
must have ceased to be what according to Hume they are in themselves.
They cease to be so in virtue of the presence to them of the Ego,
in common relation to which they become related to each other as
mutually qualified members of a permanent system--a system which at
first for the individual consciousness exists only as a forecast
or in outline, and is gradually realized and filled up with the
accession of experience. It is quite true that nothing more than
the reference to such a system, already necessary to constitute the
simplest object of experience, is involved in that interpretation
of every event as a changed appearance of an unchanging order,
and therefore to be accounted for, which we call inference to a
cause or the inference of necessary connection; or, again, in the
identification of the event, the determination of its particular
nature by the discovery of its particular cause.

[1] Above, pars. 285 & 286.

[2] P. 436 and elsewhere. [Book I, part III., sec. XII.]

How his doctrine might have been developed. Its actual outcome.

315. The supposed difference then between immediate and mediate
cognition is no absolute difference. It is not a difference between
experience and a process that goes beyond experience, or between an
experience unregulated by a conception of a permanent system and
one that is so regulated. It lies merely in the degree of fullness
and articulation which that conception has attained. If this had
been what Hume meant to convey in his assimilation of inference to
perception, he would have gone far to anticipate the result of the
enquiry which Kant started. And this is what he might have come
to mean if, instead of playing fast and loose with ‘impression’
and ‘object,’ using each as plausibility required on the principle
of accommodation to the ‘vulgar,’ he had faced the consequence of
his own implicit admission, that every perception of an object as
identical is a ‘fiction’ in which we go beyond present feeling. As
it is, his ‘scepticism with regard to the senses’ goes far enough
to empty their ‘reports’ of the content which the ‘vulgar’ ascribe
to them, and thus to put a breach between sense and the processes
of knowledge, but not far enough to replace the ‘sensible thing’ by
a function of reason. In default of such replacement, there was no
way of filling the breach but to bring back the vulgar theory under
the cover of habits and ‘tendencies to feign,’ which all suppose a
ready-made knowledge of the sensible thing as their starting-point.
Hence the constant contradiction, which it is our thankless task
to trace, between his solution of the real world into a succession
of feelings and the devices by which he sought to make room in his
system for the actual procedure of the physical sciences. Conspicuous
among these is his allowance of that view of relation in the way of
cause and effect as an objective reality, which is represented by his
definition of it as a ‘philosophical relation.’ It is in the sense
represented by that definition that his doctrine has been understood
and retained by subsequent formulators of inductive logic; but on
examining it in the light of his own statements we have found that
the relation, as thus defined, is not that which his theory required,
and as which to represent it is the whole motive of his disquisition
on the subject. It is not a sequence of impression upon impression,
distinguished merely by its constancy; nor a sequence of idea upon
impression, distinguished merely by that transfer of liveliness to
the idea which arises from the constancy of its sequence upon the
impression. It is a relation between ‘objects’ of which each is what
it is only as ‘an instance of a species’ that exists continuously,
and therefore in distinction from our ‘perishing impressions,’
according to a regular order of ‘contiguity and succession.’ As
such existence and order are by Hume’s own showing no possible
impressions, and by consequence no possible ideas, so neither are the
‘objects’ which derive their whole character from them.

No philosophical relation admissible with Hume that is not derived
from a natural one.

316. It may be said, however, that wherever Hume admits a definition
purporting to be of a ‘philosophical relation,’ he does so only as
an accommodation, and under warning that every such relation is
‘fictitious’ except so far as it is equivalent to a natural one; that
according to his express statement ‘it is only so far as causation
is a _natural_ relation, and produces an union among our ideas, that
we are able to reason upon it or draw any inference from it’; [1]
and that therefore it is only by his definition of it as a ‘natural
relation’ that he is to be judged. Such a vindication of Hume would
be more true than effective. That with him the ‘philosophical’
relation of cause and effect is ‘fictitious,’ with all the
fictitiousness of a ‘continued existence distinct from perceptions,’
is what it has been the object of the preceding paragraphs to show.
But the fictitiousness of a relation can with him mean nothing else
than that, instead of having an idea of it, we have only a ‘tendency
to suppose’ that we have such an idea. Thus the designation of the
philosophical relation of cause and effect carries with it two
conditions, one negative, the other positive, on the observance of
which the logical value of the designation depends. The ‘tendency
to suppose’ must _not_ after all be itself translated into the idea
which it is to replace; and it _must_ be accounted for as derived
from a ‘natural relation’ which is not fictitious. That the negative
condition is violated by Hume, we have sufficiently seen. He treats
the ‘philosophical relation’ of cause and effect, in spite of the
‘fictions’ which it involves, not as a name for a tendency to suppose
that we have an idea which we have not, but as itself a definite
idea on which he founds various ‘rules for judging what objects are
really so related and what are not’. [2] That the positive condition
is violated also--that the ‘natural relation’ of cause and effect,
according to the sense in which his definition of it is meant to be
understood, already itself involves ‘fictions,’ and only for that
reason is a possible source of the ‘philosophical’--is what we have
next to show.

[1] P. 394. [Book I, part III., sec. VII.]

[2] Part III. § 15.

Examination of his account of cause and effect as ‘natural relation’.

317. That definition, it will be remembered, runs as follows: ‘A
cause is an object precedent and contiguous to another, and so united
with it in the imagination that the idea of the one determines the
mind to form the idea of the other, and the impression of the one to
form a more lively idea of the other.’ Now, as has been sufficiently
shown, the object of an idea with Hume can properly mean nothing but
the impression from which the idea is derived, which again is only
the livelier idea, even as the idea is the fainter impression. The
idea and the object of it, then, only differ as different stages
in the vivacity of a feeling. [1] It must be remembered, further,
in regard to the ‘determination of the mind’ spoken of in the
definition, that the ‘mind’ according to Hume is merely a succession
of impressions and ideas, and that its ‘determination’ means no more
than a certain habitualness in this succession. Deprived of the
benefit of ambiguous phraseology, then, the definition would run
thus: ‘A cause is a lively feeling immediately precedent to another,
[2] and so united with it that when either of the two more faintly
recurs, the other follows with like faintness, and when either occurs
with the maximum of liveliness the other follows with less, but still
great, liveliness.’ Thus stated, the definition would correspond
well enough to the process by which Hume arrives at it, of which the
whole drift, as we have seen, is to merge the so-called objective
relation of cause and effect, with the so-called inference from it,
in the mere habitual transition from one feeling to another. But it
is only because not thus stated, and because the actual statement
is understood to carry a meaning of which Hume’s doctrine does not
consistently admit, that it has a chance of finding acceptance. Its
plausibility depends on ‘object’ and ‘mind’ and ‘determination’ being
understood precisely in the sense in which, according to Hume, they
ought not to be understood, so that it shall express not a sequence
of feeling upon feeling, as this might be for a merely feeling
subject, but that permanent relation or law of nature which to a
subject that thinks upon its feelings, and only to such a subject,
their sequence constitutes or on which it depends.

[1] See above, paragraphs 195 and 208. Cf. also, among other
passages, one in the chapter now under consideration (p. 451) [Book
I, part III., sec. XIV.]--‘Ideas always represent their _objects or

[2] The phrase ‘immediately precedent’ would seem to convey Hume’s
meaning better than his own phrase ‘precedent and contiguous.’
Contiguity _in space_ (which is what we naturally understand by
‘contiguity,’ when used absolutely) he could not have deliberately
taken to be necessary to constitute the relation of cause and effect,
since the impressions so related, as he elsewhere shows, may often
not be in space at all.

Double meaning of natural relation. How Hume turns it to account.

318. It is this essential distinction between the sequence of
feeling upon feeling for a sentient subject and the relation which
to a thinking subject this sequence constitutes--a distinction not
less essential than that between the conditions, through which a
man passes in sleep, as they are for the sleeping subject himself,
and as they are for another thinking upon them--which it is the
characteristic of Hume’s doctrine of natural relation in all its
forms to disguise. Only in virtue of the presence to feelings of
a subject, which distinguishes itself from them, do they become
related objects. Thus, with Hume’s exclusion of such a subject,
with his reduction of mind and world alike to the succession of
feelings, relations and ideas of relation logically disappear. But
by help of the phrase ‘natural relation,’ covering, as it does, two
wholly different things--the involuntary sequence of one feeling
upon another, and that determination of each by the other which can
only take place for a synthetic self-consciousness--he is able on
the one hand to deny that the relations which form the framework
of knowledge are more than sequences of feeling, and on the other
to clothe them with so much of the real character of relations as
qualifies them for ‘principles of union among ideas.’ Thus the mere
occurrence of similar feelings is with him already that relation in
the way of resemblance, which in truth only exists for a subject
that can contemplate them as permanent objects. In like manner the
succession of feelings, which can only constitute time for a subject
that contrasts the succession with its own unity, and which, if ideas
were feelings, would exclude the possibility of an idea of time, is
yet with him indifferently time and the idea of time, though ideas
are feelings and there is no ‘mind’ but their succession.

If an effect is merely a constantly observed sequence, how can an
event be an effect the first time it is observed? Hume evades this

319. The fallacy of Hume’s doctrine of causation is merely an
aggravated form of that which has generally passed muster in his
doctrine of time. If time, because a relation between feelings, can
be supposed to survive the exclusion of a thinking self and the
reduction of the world and mind to a succession of feelings, the
relation of cause and effect has only to be assimilated to that of
time in order that its incompatibility with the desired reduction
may disappear, The great obstacle to such assimilation lies in that
opposition to the mere sequence of feelings which causation as
‘matter of fact’--as that in discovering which we ‘discover the real
existence and relations of objects’--purports to carry with it. Why
do we set aside our usual experience as delusive in contrast with the
exceptional experience of the laboratory--why do we decide that an
event which has seemed to happen cannot really have happened, because
under the given conditions no adequate cause of it could have been
operative--if the relation of cause and effect is itself merely a
succession of seemings, repeated so often as to leave behind it a
lively expectation of its recurrence? This question, once fairly put,
cannot be answered: it can only be evaded. It is Hume’s method of
evasion that we have now more particularly to notice.

Still, he is a long way off the Inductive Logic, which supposes an
objective sequence.

320. In its detailed statement it is very different from the method
adopted in those modern treatises of Logic which, beginning with
the doctrine that facts are merely feelings in the constitution
of which thought has no share, still contrive to make free use in
their logical canon of the antithesis between the real and apparent.
The key to this modern method is to be found in its ambiguous use
of the term ‘phenomenon,’ alike for the feeling as it is felt,
‘perishing’ when it ceases to be felt, and for the feeling as it
is for a thinking subject--a qualifying and qualified element in a
permanent world. Only if facts were ‘phenomena’ in the former sense
would the antithesis between facts and conceptions be valid; only if
‘phenomena’ are understood in the latter sense can causation be said
to be a law of phenomena. So strong, however, is the charm which this
ambiguous term has exercised, that to the ordinary modern logician
the question above put may probably seem unmeaning. ‘The appearance,’
he will say, ‘which we set aside as delusive does not consist in any
of the reports of the senses--these are always true--but in some
false supposition in regard to them due to an insufficient analysis
of experience, in some reference of an actual sensation to a group
of supposed possibilities of sensation, called a “thing,” which
are either unreal or with which it is not really connected. The
correction of the false appearance by a discovery of causation is
the replacement of a false supposition, as to the possibility of the
antecedence or sequence of one feeling to another, by the discovery,
through analysis of experience, of what feelings do actually precede
and follow each other. It implies no transition from feelings to
things, but only from a supposed sequence of feelings to the actual
one. Science in its farthest range leaves us among appearances still.
It only teaches us what really appears.’

Can the principle of uniformity of nature be derived from sequence of

321. Now the presupposition of this answer is the existence of just
that necessary connexion as between appearances, just that objective
order, for which, because it is not a possible ‘impression or idea,’
Hume has to substitute a blind propensity produced by habit. Those
who make it, indeed, would repel the imputation of believing in any
‘necessary connexion,’ which to them represents that ‘mysterious
tie’ in which they vaguely suppose ‘metaphysicians’ to believe. They
would say that necessary connexion is no more than uniformity of
sequence. But sequence of what? Not of feelings as the individual
feels them, for then there would be no perfect uniformities, but
only various degrees of approximation to uniformity, and the
measure of approximation in each case would be the amount of the
individual’s experience in that particular direction. The procedure
of the inductive logician shows that his belief in the uniformity
of a sequence is irrespective of the number of instances in which
it has been experienced. A single instance in which one feeling is
felt after another, if it satisfy the requirements of the ‘method
of difference,’ _i.e._ if it show exactly what it is that precedes
and what it is that follows in that instance, suffices to establish
a uniformity of sequence, on the principle that what is fact once
is fact always. Now a uniformity that can be thus established is in
the proper sense necessary. Its existence is not contingent on its
being felt by anyone or everyone. It does not come into being with
the experiment that shows it. It is felt because it is real, not real
because it is felt. It may be objected indeed that the principle of
the ‘uniformity of nature,’ the principle that what is fact once is
fact always, itself gradually results from the observation of facts
which are feelings, and that thus the principle which enables us to
dispense with the repetition of a sensible experience is itself due
to such repetition. The answer is, that feelings which are conceived
as facts are already conceived as constituents of a nature. The same
presence of the thinking subject to, and distinction of itself from,
the feelings, which renders them knowable _facts_, renders them
members of a world which is one throughout its changes. In other
words, the presence of facts from which the uniformity of nature, as
an abstract rule, is to be inferred, is already the consciousness of
that uniformity _in concreto_.

With Hume the only uniformity is in expectation, as determined by
habit; but strength of such expectation must vary indefinitely.

322. Hume himself makes a much more thorough attempt to avoid
that pre-determination of feelings by the conception of a world,
of things and relations, which is implied in the view of them as
permanent facts. He will not, if he can help it, so openly depart
from the original doctrine that thought is merely weaker sense. Such
conceptions as those of the uniformity of nature and of reality,
being no possible ‘impressions or ideas,’ he only professes to admit
in a character wholly different from that in which they actually
govern inductive philosophy. Just as by reality he understands not
something to which liveliness of feeling may be an index, but simply
that liveliness itself, and by an inferred or believed reality a
feeling to which this liveliness has been communicated from one that
already has it; so he is careful to tell us ‘that the supposition
that the future resembles the past is derived entirely from habit,
by which we are determined to expect for the future the same train
of objects to which we have been accustomed’. [1] The supposition
then _is_ this ‘determination,’ this ‘propensity,’ to expect. Any
‘idea’ derived from the propensity can only be the propensity itself
at a fainter stage; and between such a propensity and the conception
of ‘nature,’ whether as uniform or otherwise, there is a difference
which only the most hasty reader can be liable to ignore. But if
by any confusion an expectation of future feelings, determined by
the remembrance of past feelings, could be made equivalent to any
conception of nature, it would not be of nature as uniform. As is
the ‘habit’ which determines the expectation, such must be the
expectation itself; and as have been the sequences of feeling in
each man’s past, such must be the habit which results from them. Now
no one’s feelings have always occurred to him in the same relative
order. There may be some pairs of feelings of which one has always
been felt before the other and never after it, and between which
there has never been an intervention of a third--although (to take
Hume’s favourite instance) even the feeling of heat may sometimes
precede the sight of the flame--and in these cases upon occurrence of
one there will be nothing to qualify the expectation of the other.
But just so far as there are exceptions in our past experience to
the immediate sequence of one feeling upon another, must there be a
qualification of our expectation of the future, if it be undetermined
by extraneous conceptions, with reference to those particular

[1] P. 431. [Book I, part III., sec. XII.]

It could not serve the same purpose as the conception of uniformity
of nature.

323. Thus the expectation that ‘the future will resemble the past,’
if the past means to each man (and Hume could not allow of its
meaning more) merely the succession of his own feelings, must be made
up of a multitude of different expectations--some few of these being
of that absolute and unqualified sort which alone, it would seem,
can regulate the transition that we are pleased to call ‘necessary
connexion;’ the rest as various in their strength and liveliness
as there are possible differences between cases where the chances
are evenly balanced and where they are all on one side. From Hume’s
point of view, as he himself says, ‘every past experiment,’ _i.e._
every instance in which feeling _(a)_ has been found to follow
feeling _(b)_, ‘may be considered a kind of chance’. [1] As are the
instances of this kind to the instances in which some other feeling
has followed _(b)_, such are the chances or ‘probability’ that _(a)_
will follow _(b)_ again, and such upon the occurrence of _(b)_ will
be that liveliness in the expectation of _(a)_, which alone with Hume
is the reality of the connexion between them. In such an expectation,
in an expectation made up of such expectations, there would be
nothing to serve the purpose which the conception of the uniformity
of nature actually serves in inductive science. It could never make
us believe that a feeling felt before another--as when the motion
of a bell is seen before the sound of it has been heard--represents
the real antecedent. It could never set us upon that analysis of our
experience by which we seek to get beyond sequences that are merely
usual, and admit of indefinite exceptions, to such as are invariable;
upon that ‘interrogation of nature’ by which, on the faith that
there is a uniformity if only we could find it out, we wrest from
her that confession of a law which she does not spontaneously offer.
The fact that some sequences of feeling have been so uniform as to
result in unqualified expectations (if it be so) could of itself
afford no motive for trying to compass other expectations of a like
character which do not naturally present themselves. Nor could there
be anything in the appearance of an exception to a sequence, hitherto
found uniform, to lead us to change our previous expectation for
one which shall not be liable to such modification. The previous
expectation would be so far weakened, but there is nothing in the
mere weakening of our expectations that should lead to the effort
to place them beyond the possibility of being weakened. Much less
could the bundle of expectations come to conceive themselves as one
system so as that, through the interpretation of each exception to
a supposed uniformity of sequence as an instance of a real one, the
changes of the parts should prove the unchangeableness of the whole.

[1] P. 433. [Book I, part III., sec. XII.]

Hume changes the meaning of this expectation by his account of
the ‘remembrance’ which determines it. Bearing of his doctrine
of necessary connexion upon his argument against miracles. This
remembrance, as he describes it, supposes conception of a system of

324. That a doctrine which reduces the order of nature to strength
of expectation, and exactly reverses the positions severally given
to belief and reality in the actual procedure of science, [1] should
have been ostensibly adopted by scientific men as their own--with
every allowance for Hume’s literary skill and for the charm which the
prospect of overcoming the separation between reason and instinct
exercises over naturalists--would have been unaccountable if the
doctrine had been thus nakedly put or consistently maintained.
But it was not so. Hume’s sense of consistency was satisfied when
expectation determined by remembrance had been put in the place
of necessary connexion, as the basis of ‘inference to matters of
fact.’ It does not lead him to adjust his view of the fact inferred
to his view of the basis on which the inference rests. Expectation
is an ‘impression of reflection,’ and if the relation of cause and
effect is no more than expectation, that which seemed most strongly
to resist reduction to feeling has yet been so reduced. But if the
expectation is to be no more than an impression of reflection, the
object expected must itself be no more than an impression of some
kind or other. The expectation must be expectation of a feeling,
pure and simple. Nor does Hume in so many words allow that it is
otherwise, but meanwhile though the expectation itself is not openly
tampered with, the remembrance that determines it is so. This is
being taken to be that, which it cannot be unless ideas unborrowed
from impressions are operative in and upon it. It is being regarded,
not as the recurrence of a multitude of feelings with a liveliness
indefinitely less than that in virtue of which they are called
impressions of sense, and indefinitely greater than that in virtue of
which they are called ideas of imagination, but as the recognition
of a world of experience, one, real and abiding. An expectation
determined by such remembrance is governed by the same ‘fictions’ of
identity and continued existence which are the formative conditions
of the remembrance. Expectation and remembrance, in fact, are one and
the same intellectual act, one and the same reference of feelings,
given in time, to an order that is not in time, distinguished
according to the two faces which, its ‘matter’ being in time, it
has to present severally to past and future. The remembrance is the
measure of the expectation, but as the remembrance carries with it
the notion of a world whose existence does not depend on its being
remembered, and whose laws do not vary according to the regularity
or looseness with which our ideas are associated, so too does the
expectation, and only as so doing becomes the mover and regulator of
‘inference from the known to the unknown.’

[1] It is by a curious fate that Hume should have been remembered,
at any rate in the ‘religious’ world, chiefly by the argument
against miracles which appears in the ‘Essays’--an argument which,
however irrefragable in itself, turns wholly upon that conception of
nature as other than our instinctive expectations and imaginations,
which has no proper place in his system (see Vol. IV. page 89). If
‘necessary connexion’ were really no more than the transition of
imagination, as determined by constant association, from an idea to
its usual attendant--if there were no conception of an objective
order to determine belief other than the belief itself--the fact that
such an event, as the revival of one four-days-dead at the command of
a person, had been believed, since it would show that the imagination
was at liberty to pass from the idea of the revival to that of the
command (or _vice versa_) with that liveliness which constitutes
reality, would show also that no necessary connexion, no law of
nature in the only sense in which Hume entitles himself to speak of
such, was violated by the sequence of the revival on the command.
At the same time there would be nothing ‘miraculous,’ according to
his definition of the miraculous as distinct from the extraordinary,
in the case. Taken strictly, indeed, his doctrine implies that a
belief in a miracle is a contradiction in terms. An event is not
regarded as miraculous unless it is regarded as a ‘transgression
of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity or by
the interposition of some invisible agent’ (page 93, note 1); but
it could not transgress a law of nature in Hume’s sense unless it
were so inconsistent with the habitual association of ideas as that
it could not be believed. Hume’s only consistent way of attacking
miracles, then, would have been to show that the events in question,
as _miraculous_, had never been believed. Having been obliged to
recognize the belief in their having happened, he is open to the
retort ‘ad hominem’ that according to his own showing the belief
in the events constitutes their reality. Such a retort, however,
would be of no avail in the theological interest, which requires not
merely that the events should have happened but that they should have
been _miraculous_, _i.e._ ‘transgressions of a law of nature by a
particular volition of the Deity.’

325. In the passage already quoted, where Hume is speaking of the
expectation in question as depending simply on habit, he yet speaks
of it as an expectation ‘of the _same train of objects_ to which
we have been accustomed.’ These words in effect imply that it is
_not_ habit, as constituted simply by the repetition of separate
sequences of feelings, that governs the expectation--in which case,
as we have seen, the expectation would be made up of expectations
as many and as various in strength as have been the sequences and
their several degrees of regularity--but, if habit in any sense,
habit as itself governed by conceptions of ‘identity and distinct
continued existence,’ in virtue of which, as past experience is
not an indefinite series of perishing impressions of separate men
but represents one world, so all fresh experience becomes part ‘of
the same train of objects;’ part of a system of which, as a whole,
‘the change lies only in the time’. [1] If now we look back to the
account given of the relation of memory to belief we shall find that
it is just so far as, without distinct avowal, and in violation of
his principles, he makes ‘impressions of memory’ carry with them the
conception of a real system, other than the consciousness of their
own liveliness, that he gains a meaning for belief which makes it in
any respect equivalent to the judgment, based on inference, of actual

[1] P. 492. [Book I, part IV., sec. II.]

This explains his occasional inconsistent ascription of an objective
character to causation.

326. Any one who has carefully read the chapters on inference and
belief will have found himself frequently doubting whether he has
caught the author’s meaning correctly. A clear line of thought may
be traced throughout, as we have already tried to trace it [1]--one
perfectly consistent with itself and leading properly to the
conclusion that ‘all reasonings are nothing but the effect of custom,
and that custom has no influence but by enlivening the imagination’
[2]--but its even tenour is disturbed by the exigency of showing
that proven fact, after turning out to be no more than enlivened
imagination, is still what common sense and physical science take it
to be. According to the consistent theory, ideas of memory are needed
for inference to cause or effect, simply because they are lively.
Such inference is inference to a ‘real existence,’ that is to an
‘idea assented to,’ that is to a feeling having such liveliness as,
not being itself one of sense or memory, it can only derive from one
of sense or memory through association with it. That the inferred
idea is a cause or effect and, as such, has ‘real existence,’ merely
means that it has this derived liveliness or is believed; just as
the reality ascribed to the impression of memory lies merely in its
having this abundant liveliness from which to communicate to its
‘usual attendant.’ But while the title of an idea to be reckoned a
cause or effect is thus made to depend on its having the derived
liveliness which constitutes belief, [3] on the other hand we find
Hume from time to time making belief depend on causation, as on a
relation of objects distinct from the lively suggestion of one by
the others. ‘Belief arises only from causation, and we can draw no
inference from one object to another except they be connected by
this relation.’ ‘The relation of cause and effect is requisite to
persuade us of any real existence’. [4] In the context of these
disturbing admissions we find a reconsideration of the doctrine of
memory which explains them, but only throws back on that doctrine the
inconsistency which they exhibit in the doctrine of belief.

[1] Above, paragraphs 289 and ff.

[2] P. 445. [Book I, part III., sec. XIII.]

[3] It may be as well here to point out the inconsistency in Hume’s
use of ‘belief.’ At the end of sec. 5 (Part III.) the term is
extended to ‘impressions of the senses and memory.’ We are said to
believe when ‘we feel an _immediate impression_ of the senses, or a
repetition of that impression in the memory. But in the following
section the characteristic of belief is placed in the _derived_
liveliness of an _idea_ as distinct from the immediate liveliness of

[4] Pp. 407 & 409. [Book I, part III., sec. IX.]

Reality of remembered ‘system’ transferred to ‘system of judgment’.

327. This reconsideration arises out of an objection to his doctrine
which Hume anticipates, to the effect that since, according to it,
belief is a lively idea associated ‘to a present impression,’ any
suggestion of an idea by a resembling or contiguous impression
should constitute belief. How is it then that ‘belief arises only
from causation’? His answer, which must be quoted at length, is as
follows:--‘’Tis evident that whatever is present to the memory,
striking upon the mind with a vivacity which resembles an immediate
impression, must become of considerable moment in all the operations
of the mind and must easily distinguish itself above the mere
fictions of the imagination. Of these impressions or ideas of the
memory we form a kind of system, comprehending whatever we remember
to have been present either to our internal perception or senses, and
every particular of that system, joined to the present impressions,
we are pleased to call a _reality_. But the mind stops not here.
For finding that with this system of perceptions there is another
connected by custom or, if you will, by the relation of cause and
effect, it proceeds to the consideration of their ideas; and as it
feels that ’tis in a manner necessarily determined to view these
particular ideas, and that the custom or relation by which it is
determined admits not of the least change, it forms them into a new
system, which it likewise dignifies with the title of _realities_.
The first of these systems is the object of the memory and senses;
the second of the judgment. ’Tis this latter principle which peoples
the world, and brings us acquainted which such existences as, by
their removal in time and place, lie beyond the reach of the senses
and memory’. [1]

[1] P. 408. [Book I, part III., sec. IX.]

Reality of the former ‘system’ other than vivacity of impressions.

328. From this it appears that ‘what we are pleased to call
reality’ belongs, not merely to a ‘present impression,’ but to
‘every particular of a system joined to the present impression’ and
‘comprehending whatever we remember to have been present either
to our internal perception or senses.’ This admission already
amounts to an abandonment of the doctrine that reality consists in
liveliness of feeling. It cannot be that every particular of the
system comprehending all remembered facts, which is joined with the
present impression, can have the vivacity of that impression either
along with it or by successive communication. We can only feel one
thing at a time, and by the time the vivacity had spread far from the
present impression along the particulars of the system, it must have
declined from that indefinite degree which marks an impression of
sense. It is not, then, the derivation of vivacity from the present
impression, to which it is joined, that renders the ‘remembered
system’ real; and what other vivacity can it be? It may be said
indeed that each particular of the system had once the required
vivacity, was once a present impression; but if in ceasing to be so,
it did not cease to be real--if, on the contrary, it could not become
a ‘particular of the system,’ counted real, without becoming other
than the ‘perishing existence’ which an impression is--it is clear
that there is a reality which lively feeling does not constitute
and which involves the ‘fiction’ of an existence continued in the
absence, not only of lively feeling, but of all feelings whatsoever.
So soon, in short, as reality is ascribed to a system, which cannot
be an ‘impression’ and of which consequently there cannot be an
‘idea,’ the first principle of Hume’s speculation is abandoned. The
truth is implicitly recognized that the reality of an individual
object consists in that system of its relations which only exists for
a conceiving, as distinct from a feeling, subject, even as the unreal
has no meaning except as a confused or inadequate conception of such
relations; and that thus the ‘present impression’ is neither real
nor unreal in itself, but may be equally one or the other according
as the relations, under which it is conceived by the subject of
it, correspond to those by which it is determined for a perfect
intelligence. [1]

[1] See above, paragraphs 184 & 183.

It is constituted by relations, which are not impressions at all;
and in this lies explanation of the inference from it to ‘system of

329. A clear recognition of this truth can alone explain the nature
of belief as a result of inference from the known to the unknown,
which is, at the same time, inference to a matter of fact. The
popular notion, of course, is that certain facts are given by feeling
without inference and then other facts inferred from them. But what
is ‘fact’ taken to mean? If a feeling, then an inferred fact is a
contradiction, for it is an unfelt feeling. If (as should be the
case) it is taken to mean the relation of a feeling to something,
then it already involves inference--the interpretation of the feeling
by means of the conception of a universal, self or world, brought
to it--an inference which is all inference _in posse_, for it
implies that a universe of relations is there, which I must know if
I would know the full reality of the individual object: so that no
fact can be even partially known without compelling an inference to
the unknown, nor can there be any inference to the unknown without
modification of what already purports to be known. Hume, trying to
carry out the equivalence of fact and feeling, and having clearer
sight than his masters, finds himself in the presence of this
difficulty about inference. Unless the inferred object is other than
one of sense (outer or inner) or of memory, there is no reasoning,
but only perception; [1] but if it is other, how can it be real
or even an object of consciousness at all, since consciousness is
only of impressions, stronger or fainter? The only consistent way
out of the difficulty, as we have seen, is to explain inference as
the expectation of the recurrence of a feeling felt before, through
which the unknown becomes known merely in the sense that from the
repetition of the recurrence the expectation has come to amount
to the fullest assurance. But according to this explanation the
difference between the inferences of the savage and those of the man
of science will lie, not in the objects inferred, but in the strength
of the expectation that constitutes the inference. Meanwhile, if a
semblance of explanation has been given for the inference from cause
to effect, that from effect to cause remains quite in the dark. How
can there be inference from a given feeling to that felt immediately
before it?

[1] Pp. 376 & 388. [Book I, part III., secs. II. and VI.]

Not seeing this, Hume has to explain inference to latter system as
something forced upon us by habit.

330. From the avowal of such paradoxical results, Hume only saved
himself by reverting, as in the passage before us, to the popular
view--to the distinction between two ‘systems of reality,’ one
perceived, the other inferred; one ‘the object of the senses and
memory,’ the other ‘of the judgment.’ He sees that if the educated
man erased from his knowledge upon us by of the world all ‘facts’ but
those for which he has ‘the evidence of his senses and memory,’ his
world would be unpeopled; but he has not the key to the true identity
between the two systems. Not recognizing the inference already
involved in a fact of sense or memory, he does not see that it is
only a further articulation of this inference which gives the fact of
judgment; that as the simplest fact for which we have the ‘evidence
of sense’ is already not a feeling but an explanation of a feeling,
which connects it by relations, that are not feelings, with an unfelt
universe, so inferred causes and effects are explanations of these
explanations, by which they are connected as mutually determinant
in the one world whose presence the simplest fact, the most primary
explanation of feeling, supposes no less than the most complete. Not
seeing this, what is he to make of the system of merely inferred
realities? He will represent the relation of cause and effect, which
connects it with the ‘system of memory,’ as a habit derived from the
constant _de facto_ sequence of this or that ‘inferred’ upon this
or that remembered idea. The mind, ‘feeling’ the unchangeableness
of this habit, regards the idea, which in virtue of it follows upon
the impression of memory, as equally real with that impression.
In this he finds an answer to the two questions which he himself
raises: _(a)_ ‘Why is it that we draw no inference from one object
to another, except they be connected by the relation of cause and
effect;’ or (which is the same, since inference to an object implies
the ascription of reality to it), ‘Why is this relation requisite to
persuade us of any real existence?’ and _(b)_, ‘How is it that the
relations of resemblance and contiguity have not the same effect?’
The answer to the first is, that we do not ascribe reality to an
idea recalled by an impression, unless we find that, owing to its
customary sequence upon the impression, we cannot help passing from
the one to the other. The answer to the second corresponds. The
contiguity of an idea to an impression, if it has been repeated
often enough and without any ‘arbitrary’ action on our part, is
the relation of cause and effect, and thus does ‘persuade us of
real existence.’ A ‘feigned’ contiguity, on the other hand, because
we are conscious that it is ‘of our mere good-will and pleasure’
that we give the idea that relation to the impression, can produce
no belief. ‘There is no reason why, upon the return of the same
impression, we should be determined to place the same object in the
same relation to it’. [1] In like manner we must suppose (though this
is not so clearly stated) that when an impression--such as the sight
of a picture--calls up a resembling idea (that of the man depicted)
with much vivacity, it does not ‘persuade us of his real existence’
because we are conscious that it is by the ‘mere good-will and
pleasure’ of some one that the likeness has been produced.

[1] P. 409. [Book I, part III., sec. IX.]

But if so, ‘system of judgment’ must consist of feelings constantly

331. Now this account has the fault of being inconsistent with Hume’s
primary doctrine, inasmuch as it makes the real an object of thought
in distinction from feeling, without the merit of explaining the
extension of knowledge beyond the objects of sense and memory. It
turns upon a conception of the real, as the unchangeable, which the
succession of feelings, in endless variety, neither is nor could
suggest. It implies that not in themselves, but as representing
such an unchangeable, are the feelings which ‘return on us whether
we will or no,’ regarded as real. The peculiar sequence of one idea
on another, which is supposed to constitute the relation of cause
and effect, is not, according to this description of it, a sequence
of feelings simply; it is a sequence reflected on, found to be
unchangeable, and thus to entitle the sequent idea to the prerogative
of reality previously awarded (but only by the admission as real
of the ‘fiction’ of distinct continued existence) to the system of
memory. But while the identification of the real with feeling is
thus in effect abandoned, in saving the appearance of retaining it,
Hume makes his explanation of the ‘system of judgment’ futile for
its purpose. He saves the appearance by intimating that the relation
of cause and effect, by which the inferred idea is connected with
the idea of memory and derives reality from it, is only the repeated
sequence of the one idea upon the other, of the less lively feelings
upon the more lively, or a habit that results from such repetition.
But if the sequence of the inferred idea upon the other must have
been so often repeated in order to the existence of the relation
which renders the inference possible, the inferred idea can be no
new one, but must itself be an idea of memory, and the question, how
any one’s knowledge comes to extend beyond the range of his memory,
remains unanswered.

... which only differ from remembered feelings inasmuch as their
liveliness has faded. But how can it have faded, if they have been
constantly repeated?

332. What Hume himself seems to mean us to understand is, that the
inferred idea is one of imagination, as distinct from memory; and
that the characteristic of the relation of cause and effect is that
through it ideas of imagination acquire the reality that would
otherwise be confined to impressions of sense and memory. But,
according to him, ideas of imagination only differ from those of
memory in respect of their less liveliness, and of the freedom with
which we can combine ideas in imagination that have not been given
together as impressions. [1] Now the latter difference is in this
case out of the question. A compound idea of imagination, in which
simple ideas are put together that have never been felt together, can
clearly never be connected with an impression of sense or memory by
a relation derived from constant experience of the sequence of one
upon the other, and specially opposed to the creations of ‘caprice’.
[2] We are left, then, to the supposition that the inferred idea,
as idea of imagination, is one originally given as an impression
of sense, but of which the liveliness has faded and requires to be
revived by association in the way of cause and effect with one that
has retained the liveliness proper to an idea of memory. Then the
question recurs, how the restoration of its liveliness by association
with an impression, on which it must have been constantly sequent in
order that the association may be possible, is compatible with the
fact that its liveliness has faded. And however this question may be
dealt with, if the relation of cause and effect is merely custom, the
extension of knowledge by means of it remains unaccounted for; the
breach between the expectation of the recurrence of familiar feelings
and inductive science remains unfilled; Locke’s ‘suspicion’ that
‘a science of nature is impossible,’ instead of being overcome, is
elaborated into a system.

[1] Part I., sec. 3; cf. note on p. 416 [Book I, part III., sec. IX.].

[2] P. 409. [Book I, part III., sec. IX.]

Inference then can give no new knowledge.

333. Thus inference, according to Hume’s account of it as originating
in habit, suffers from a weakness quite as fatal as that which he
supposes to attach to it if accounted for as the work of reason.
‘The work of reason’ to a follower of Locke meant either the mediate
perception of likeness between ideas, which the discovery of cause or
effect cannot be; or else syllogism, of which Locke had shown once
for all that it could yield no ‘instructive propositions.’ But if an
idea arrived at by that process could be neither new nor real--not
new, because we must have been familiar with it before we put it
into the compound idea from which we ‘deduce’ it; not real, because
it has not the liveliness either of sensation or of memory--the
idea inferred according to Hume’s process, however real with the
reality of liveliness, is certainly not new. ‘If this means’ (the
modern logician may perhaps reply), ‘that according to Hume no new
phenomenon can be given by inference, he was quite right in thinking
so. If the object of inference were a separate phenomenon, it would
be quite true that it must have been repeatedly perceived before it
could be inferred, and that thus inference would be nugatory. But
inference is in fact not to such an object, but to a uniform relation
of certain phenomena in the way of co-existence and sequence; and
what Hume may be presumed to mean is not that every such relation
must have been perceived before it can be inferred, much less that
it must have been perceived so constantly that an appearance of the
one phenomenon causes instinctive expectation of the other, but _(a)_
that the phenomena themselves must have been given by immediate
perception, and _(b)_ that the conception of a law of causation, in
virtue of which a uniformity of relation between them is inferred
from a single instance of it, is itself the result of an “inductio
per enumerationem simplicem,” of the accumulated experience of
generations that the same sequents follow the same antecedents.’

Nor does this merely mean that it cannot constitute new phenomena,
while it can prove relations, previously unknown, between phenomena.
Such a distinction inadmissible with Hume.

334. At the point which our discussion has reached, few words should
be wanted to show that thus to interpret Hume is to read into him
an essentially alien theory, which has doubtless grown out of his,
but only by a process of adaptation which it needs a principle the
opposite of his to justify. Hume, according to his own profession,
knows of no objects but impressions and ideas--feelings stronger or
more faint--of no reality which it needs thought, as distinct from
feeling, to constitute. But a uniform relation between phenomena
is neither impression nor idea, and can only exist for thought.
He could not therefore admit inference to such relation as to a
real existence, without a double contradiction, nor does he ever
explicitly do so. He never allows that inference is other than a
transition to a certain sort of feeling, or that it is other than
the work of imagination, the weakened sense, as enlivened by custom
to a degree that puts it _almost_ on a level with sense; which
implies that in every case of inference the inferred object is
_not_ a uniform relation--for how can there be an image of uniform
relation?--and that it _is_ something which has been repeatedly
and without exception perceived to follow another before it can be
inferred. Even when in violation of his principle he has admitted
a ‘system of memory’--a system of things which have been felt, but
which are not feelings, stronger or fainter, and which are what they
are only through relation--he still in effect, as we have seen, makes
the ‘system of judgment,’ which he speaks of as inferred from it,
only the double of it. To suppose that, on the strength of a general
inference, itself the result of habit, in regard to the uniformity
of nature, particular inferences may be made which shall be other
than repetitions of a sequence already habitually repeated, is, if
there can be degrees of contradiction, even more incompatible with
Hume’s principles than to suppose such inferences without it. If
a uniformity of relation between particular phenomena is neither
impression nor idea, even less so is the system of all relations.

His distinction of probability of causes from that of chances might
seem to imply conception of nature, as determining inference.

335. There is language, however, in the chapters on ‘Probability of
Chances and of Causes,’ which at first sight might seem to warrant
the ascription of such a supposition to Hume. According to the
distinction which he inherited from Locke all inference to or from
causes or effects, since it does not consist in any comparison of the
related ideas, should be merely probable. And as such he often speaks
of it. His originality lies in his effort to explain what Locke had
named; in his treating that ‘something not joined on both sides
to, and so not showing the agreement or disagreement of, the ideas
under consideration’ which yet ‘makes me believe’, [1] definitely
as Habit. But ‘in common discourse,’ as he remarks, ‘we readily
affirm that many arguments from causation exceed probability’; [2]
the explanation being that in these cases the habit which determines
the transition from impression to idea is ‘full and perfect.’ There
has been enough past experience of the immediate sequence of the
one ‘perception’ on the other to form the habit, and there has been
no exception to it. In these cases the ‘assurance,’ though distinct
from knowledge, may be fitly styled ‘proof,’ the term ‘probability’
being confined to those in which the assurance is not complete. Hume
thus comes to use ‘probability’ as equivalent to incompleteness of
assurance, and in this sense speaks of it as ‘derived either from
imperfect experience, or from contrary causes, or from analogy’.
[3] It is derived from analogy when the present impression, which
is needed to give vivacity to the ‘related idea,’ is not perfectly
like the impressions with which the idea has been previously found
united; ‘from contrary causes,’ when there have been exceptions to
the immediate sequence or antecedence of the one perception to the
other; ‘from imperfect experience’ when, though there have been no
exceptions, there has not been enough experience of the sequence to
form a ‘full and perfect habit of transition.’ Of this last ‘species
of probability,’ Hume says that it is a kind which, ‘though it
naturally takes place before any entire proof can exist, yet no one
who is arrived at the age of maturity can any longer be acquainted
with. ’Tis true, nothing is more common than for people of the most
advanced knowledge to have attained only an imperfect experience of
many particular events; which naturally produces only an imperfect
habit and transition; but then we must consider that the mind, having
formed another observation concerning the connexion of causes and
effects, gives new force to its reasoning from that observation;
and by means of it can build an argument on one single experiment,
when duly prepared and examined. What we have found once to follow
from any object we conclude will for ever follow from it; and if
this maxim be not always built upon as certain, ’tis not for want of
a sufficient number of experiments, but because we frequently meet
with instances to the contrary’--which give rise to the other sort of
weakened assurance or probability, that from ‘contrary causes’. [4]

[1] Locke, 4, 15, 3.

[2] P. 423. [Book I, part III., sec. XI.]

[3] P. 439. [Book I, part III., sec. XIII.]

[4] Pp. 429 & 430. [Book I, part III., sec. XII.]

But this distinction he only professes to adopt in order to explain
it away.

336. There is a great difference between the meaning which the above
passage conveys when read in the light of the accepted logic of
science, and that which it conveys when interpreted consistently with
the theory in the statement of which it occurs. Whether Hume, in
writing as he does of that conclusion from a single experiment, which
our observation concerning the connexion of cause and effect enables
us to draw, understood himself to be expressing his own theory or
merely using the received language provisionally, one cannot be
sure; but it is certain that such language can only be justified by
those ‘maxims of philosophers’ which it is the purpose or effect of
his doctrine to explain away--in particular the maxims that ‘the
connexion between all causes and effects is equally necessary and
that its seeming uncertainty in some instances proceeds from the
secret opposition of contrary causes;’ and that ‘what the vulgar
call chance is but a concealed cause’. [1] These maxims represent
the notion that the law of causation is objective and universal;
that all seeming limitations to it, all ‘probable and contingent
matter,’ are the reflections of our ignorance, and exist merely _ex
parte nostrâ_. In other words, they represent the notion of that
‘continued existence distinct from our perceptions,’ which with Hume
is a phrase generated by ‘propensities to feign.’ Yet he does not
profess to reject them; nay, he handles them as if they were his own,
but after a very little of his manipulation they are so ‘translated’
that they would not know themselves. Because philosophers ‘allow
that what the vulgar call chance is nothing but a concealed cause,’
‘probability of causes’ and ‘probability of chances’ may be taken as
equivalent. But chance, as ‘merely negation of a cause,’ has been
previously explained, on the supposition that causation means a
‘perfect habit of imagination,’ to be the absence of such habit--the
state in which imagination is perfectly indifferent in regard to the
transition from a given impression to an idea, because the transition
has not been repeated often enough to form even the beginning of a
habit. Such being mere chance, ‘probability of chances’ means a state
of imagination between the perfect indifference and that perfect
habit of transition, which is ‘necessary connexion.’ ‘Probability
of causes’ is the same thing. Its strength or weakness depends
simply on the proportion between the number of experiments (‘each
experiment being a kind of chance’) in which A has been found to
immediately follow B, and the number of those in which it has not.
[2] Mere chance, probability, and causation then are equally states
of imagination. The ‘equal necessity of the connexion between all
causes and effects’ means not that any ‘law of causation pervades
the universe,’ but that, unless the habit of transition between any
feelings is ‘full and perfect,’ we do not speak of these feelings as
related in the way of cause and effect.

[1] Pp. 429 & 430. [Book I, part III., sec. XII.]

[2] Pp. 424-428, 432-434. [Book I, part III., secs. XI. and XII.]

Laws of nature are unqualified habits of expectation.

337. Interpreted consistently with this doctrine, the passage quoted
in the last paragraph but one can only mean that, when a man has
arrived at maturity, his experience of the sequence of feelings
cannot fail in quantity. He must have had experience _enough_ to form
not only a perfect habit of transition from any impression to the
idea of its usual attendant, but a habit which would act upon us even
in the case of novel events, and lead us after a single experiment
or a sequence confidently to expect its recurrence, if only the
experience had been _uniform_. It is because it has not been so,
that in many cases the habit of transition is still imperfect, and
the sequence of A on B not ‘proven,’ but ‘probable.’ The probability
then which affects the imagination of the matured man is of the sort
that arises from ‘contrary causes,’ as distinct from ‘imperfect
experience.’ This is all that the passage in question can fairly
mean. Such ‘probability’ cannot become ‘proof,’ or the ‘imperfect
habit,’ perfect, by _discovery_ of any necessary connexion or law
of causation, for the perfect habit of transition, the imagination
enlivened to the maximum by custom, _is_ the law of causation. The
formation of the habit constitutes the law: to discover it would be
to discover what does not yet exist. The incompleteness of the habit
in certain directions, the limitation of our assurance to certain
sequences as distinct from others, must be equally a limitation
to the universality of the law. It is impossible then that on the
faith of the universality of the law we should seek to extend the
range of that assurance which is identical with it. Our ‘observation
concerning the connexion of causes and effects’ merely means the sum
of our assured expectations, founded on habit, at any given time,
and that on the strength of this we should ‘prepare an experiment,’
with a view to assuring ourselves of a universal sequence from a
single instance, is as unaccountable as that, given the instance, the
assurance should follow.

Experience, according to his account of it, cannot be a parent of

338. The case then stands thus. In order to make the required
distinction between inference to real existence and the lively
suggestion of an idea, Hume has to graft on his theory the alien
notion of an objective system, an order of nature, represented by
ideas of memory, and on the strength of such a notion to interpret
a transition from these ideas to others, because we cannot help
making it, as an objective necessity. Of such alien notion and
interpretation he avails himself in his definition (understood as he
means it to be understood) of cause as a ‘natural relation’. [1] But
he had not the boldness of his later disciples. Though he could be
inconsistent so far, he could not be inconsistent far enough to make
his theory of inference fit the practice of natural philosophers.
Bound by his doctrine of ideas as copied from impressions, he can
give no account of inferred ideas that shall explain the extension
of knowledge beyond the expectation that we shall feel again what we
have felt already. It was not till another theory of experience was
forthcoming than that given by the philosophers who were most fond of
declaring their devotion to it, that the procedure of science could
be justified. The old philosophy, we are often truly told, had been
barren for want of contact with fact. It sought truth by a process
which really consisted in evolving the ‘connotation’ of general
names. The new birth came when the mind had learnt to leave the idols
of the tribe and cave, and to cleave solely to experience. If the
old philosophy, however, was superseded by science, science itself
required a new philosophy to answer the question. What constitutes
experience? It was in effect to answer this question that Locke
and Hume wrote, and it is the condemnation of their doctrine that,
according to it, experience is not a possible parent of science. It
is not those, we know, who cry ‘Lord, Lord!’ the loudest, that enter
into the kingdom of heaven, nor does the strongest assertion of our
dependence on experience imply a true insight into its nature. Hume
has found acceptance with men of science as the great exponent of the
doctrine that there can be no new knowledge without new experience.
It has not been noticed that with him such ‘new experience’ could
only mean a further repetition of familiar feelings, and that if it
means more to his followers, it is only because they have been less
faithful than he was to that antithesis between thought and reality
which they are not less loud in asserting.

[1] See above, paragraph 317.

His attitude towards doctrine of thinking substance.

339. From the point that our enquiry has reached, we can anticipate
the line which Hume could not but take in regard to Self and God.
His scepticism lay ready to his hand in the incompatibility between
the principles of Locke and that doctrine of ‘thinking substance,’
which Locke and Berkeley alike maintained. If the reader will revert
to the previous part of this introduction, in which that doctrine
was discussed, [1] he will find it equally a commentary upon
those sections of the ‘Treatise on Human Nature’ which deal with
‘immateriality of the soul’ and ‘personal identity.’ Substance, we
saw, alike as ‘extended’ and as ‘thinking,’ was a ‘creation of the
mind,’ yet real; something of which there was an ‘idea,’ but of which
nothing could be said but that it was not an ‘idea.’ The ‘thinking’
substance, moreover, was at a special disadvantage in contrast with
the ‘extended,’ because, in the first place, it could not, like body,
be represented as given to consciousness in the feeling of solidity,
and secondly it was not wanted. It was a mere double of the extended
substance to which, as the ‘something wherein they do subsist and
from which they do result’ our ideas had already been referred.
Having no conception, then, of Spirit or Self before him but that
of the thinking substance, of which Berkeley had confessed that
it was not a possible idea or object of an idea, Hume had only to
apply the method, by which Berkeley himself had disposed of extended
substance, to get rid of Spirit likewise. This could be done in a
sentence, [2] but having done it, Hume is at further pains to show
that immateriality, simplicity, and identity cannot be ascribed to
the soul; as if there were a soul left to which anything could be

[1] Above, paragraphs 127-135, 144-146, & 192.

[2] P. 517. [Book I, part IV., sec. V.]

As to Immateriality of the Soul, he plays off Locke and Berkeley
against each other, and proves Berkeley a Spinozist.

340. There were two ways of conceiving the soul as immaterial, of
which Hume was cognizant. One, current among the theologians and
ordinary Cartesians and adopted by Locke, distinguishing extension
and thought as severally divisible and indivisible, supposed
separate substances--matter and the soul--to which these attributes,
incapable of ‘local conjunction,’ severally belonged. The other,
Berkeley’s, having ostensibly reduced extended matter to a succession
of feelings, took the exclusion of all ‘matter’ to which thought
could be ‘joined’ as a proof that the soul was immaterial. Hume,
with cool ingenuity, turns each doctrine to account against the
other. From Berkeley he accepts the reduction of sensible things to
sensations. Our feelings do not represent extended objects other
than themselves; but we cannot admit this without acknowledging the
consequence, as Berkeley himself implicitly did, [1] that certain of
our impressions--those of sight and touch--are themselves extended.
What then becomes of the doctrine, that the soul must be immaterial
because thought is not extended, and cannot be joined to what is
so? Thought means the succession of impressions. Of these some,
though the smaller number, are actually extended; and those that
are not so are united to those that are by the ‘natural relations’
of resemblance and of contiguity in time of appearance, and by the
consequent relation of cause and effect. [2] The relation of local
conjunction, it is true, can only obtain between impressions which
are alike extended. The ascription of it to such as are unextended
arises from the ‘propensity in human nature, when objects are united
by any relation, to add some new relation in order to complete the
union’. [3] This admission, however, can yield no triumph to those
who hold that thought can only be joined to a ‘simple and indivisible
substance.’ If the existence of unextended impressions requires the
supposition of a thinking substance ‘simple and indivisible,’ the
existence of extended ones must equally imply a thinking substance
that has all the properties of extended objects. If it is absurd
to suppose that perceptions which are unextended can belong to a
substance which is extended, it is equally absurd to suppose that
perceptions which are extended can belong to a substance that is
not so. Thus Berkeley’s criticism has indeed prevailed against the
vulgar notion of a material substance as opposed to a thinking one,
but meanwhile he is himself ‘hoist with his own petard.’ If that
thinking substance, the survival of which was the condition of his
theory serving its theological purpose, [4] is to survive at all,
it can only be as equivalent to Spinoza’s substance, in which ‘both
matter and thought were supposed to inhere.’ The universe of our
experience--‘the sun, moon, and stars; the earth, seas, plants,
animals, men, ships, houses, and other productions, either of art
or nature’--is the same universe when it is called ‘the universe of
objects or of body,’ and when it is called ‘the universe of thought,
or of impressions and ideas;’ but to hold, according to Spinoza’s
‘hideous hypothesis,’ that ‘the universe of objects or of body’
inheres in one simple uncompounded substance, is to rouse ‘a hundred
voices of scorn and detestation;’ while the same hypothesis in regard
to the ‘universe of impressions and ideas’ is treated ‘with applause
and veneration.’ It was to save God and Immortality that the ‘great
philosopher,’ who had found the true way out of the scholastic
absurdity of abstract ideas, [5] had yet clung to the ‘unintelligible
chimaera’ of thinking substance; and after all, in doing so, he fell
into a ‘true atheism,’ indistinguishable from that which had rendered
the unbelieving Jew ‘so universally infamous’. [6]

[1] See above, par. 177.

[2] Pp. 520-521. [Book I, part IV., sec. V.]

[3] P. 521. [Book I, part IV., sec. V.]

[4] See page 325. [Book I, part I., sec. VII.]

[5] See above, paragraphs 191 and foll.

[6] Pp. 523-526. [Book I, part IV., sec. V.]

Causality of spirit treated in the same way.

341. The supposition of spiritual substance being thus at once
absurd, and of a tendency the very opposite of the purpose it was
meant to serve, can anything better be said for the supposition of
a spiritual cause? It was to the representation of spirit as cause
rather than as substance, it will be remembered, that both Locke
and Berkeley trusted for the establishment of a Theism which should
not be Pantheism. [1] Locke, in his demonstration of the being of
God, trusted for proof of a first cause to the inference from that
which begins to exist to something having power to produce it, and
to the principle of necessary connexion--connexion in the way of
agreement of ideas--between cause and effect for proof that this
first cause must be immaterial, even as its effect, viz. our thought,
is. Hume’s doctrine of causation, of course, renders both sides of
the demonstration unmeaning. Inference being only the suggestion by
a feeling of the image of its ‘usual attendant,’ there can be no
inference to that which is not a possible image of an impression.
Nor, since causation merely means the constant conjunction of
impressions, and there is no such contrariety between the impression
we call ‘motion of matter’ and that we call ‘thought,’ anymore than
between any other impressions, [2] as is incompatible with their
constant conjunction, is there any reason why we should set aside the
hourly experience, which tells us that bodily motions are the cause
of thoughts and sentiments. If, however, there were that necessary
connexion between effect and cause, by which Locke sought to show the
spirituality of the first cause, it would really go to show just the
reverse of infinite power in such cause. It is from our impressions
and ideas that we are supposed to infer this cause; but in these--as
Berkeley had shown, and shown as his way of proving the existence of
God--there is no efficacy whatever. They are ‘inert.’ If then the
cause must agree with the effect, the Supreme Being, as the cause
of our impressions and ideas, must be ‘inert’ likewise. If, on the
other hand, with Berkeley we cling to the notion that there must be
efficient power somewhere, and having excluded it from the relation
of ideas to each other or of matter to ideas, find it in the direct
relation of God to ideas, we fall ‘into the grossest impieties;’
for it will follow that God ‘is the author of all our volitions and
impressions.’ [3]

[1] See above, §§ 147, 171, 193.

[2] There is no contrariety, according to Hume, except between
existence and non-existence (p. 323) [Book I, part I., sec. V.] and
as all impressions and ideas equally exist (p. 394) [Book I, part
III., sec. VII.], there can be no contrariety between any of them.
He does indeed in certain leading passages allow himself to speak
of contrariety between ideas (_e.g._ pp. 494 and 535 [Book I, part
IV., secs. II. and VI.]), which is incidental evidence that the ideas
there treated of are not so, according to his account of ideas, at

[3] Pp. 529-531 [Book I, part IV., sec. V.], a commentary on the
argument here given has been in effect supplied in paragraphs
148-152, and 194.

Disposes of ‘personal’ identity by showing contradictions in Locke’s
account of it.

342. Against the doctrine of a real ‘identity of the self or person’
Hume had merely to exhibit the contradictions which Locke’s own
statement of it involves. [1] To have transferred this identity
definitely from ‘matter’ to consciousness was in itself a great
merit, but, so transferred, in the absence of any other theory of
consciousness than Locke’s, it only becomes more obviously a fiction.
If there is nothing real but the succession of feelings, identity of
body, it is true, disappears as inevitably as identity of mind; and
so we have already found it to do in Hume. [2] But whereas the notion
of a unity of body throughout the succession of perceptions only
becomes contradictory through the medium of a reduction of body to
a succession of perceptions, the identity of a mind, which has been
already defined as a succession of perceptions, is a contradiction
in terms. There can be ‘properly no simplicity in it at one time,
nor identity at different; it is a kind of theatre where several
perceptions successively make their appearance.’ But this comparison
must not mislead us. ‘They are the successive perceptions only, that
constitute the mind; nor have we the most distant notion of the place
where these scenes are represented, or of the materials of which it
is composed.’ The problem for Hume then in regard to personal, as
it had been in regard to bodily, identity is to account for that
‘natural propension to imagine’ it which language implies.

[1] See above, §§ 134 and foll.

[2] See above, §§ 306 and foll.

Yet can only account for it as a ‘fiction’ by supposing ideas which
with him are impossible.

343. The method of explanation in each case is the same. He starts
with two suppositions, to neither of which he is logically entitled.
One is that we have a ‘distinct idea of identity or sameness,’ _i.e._
of an object that remains invariable and uninterrupted through a
supposed variation of time’--a supposition which, as we have seen,
upon his principles must mean that a feeling, which is one in a
succession of feelings, is yet all the successive feelings at once.
The other is that we have an idea ‘of several different objects
existing in succession, and connected together by a close’ (natural)
‘relation’--which in like manner implies that a feeling, which is one
among a succession of feelings, is at the same time a consciousness
of these feelings as successive and under that qualification by
mutual relation which implies their equal presence to it. These
two ideas, which in truth are ‘distinct and even contrary’ [1] we
yet come to confuse with each other, because ‘that action of the
imagination, by which we consider the uninterrupted and invisible
object, and that by which we reflect on the succession of related
objects, are almost the same to the feeling.’ Thus, though what we
call our mind is really a ‘succession of related objects,’ we have a
strong propensity to mistake it for an ‘invariable and uninterrupted
object.’ To this propensity we at last so far yield as to assert our
successive perceptions to be in effect the same, however interrupted
and variable; and then, by way of ‘justifying to ourselves this
absurdity, feign the continued existence of the perceptions of our
senses, to remove the interruption; and run into the notion of a
_soul_ and _self_, and _substance_, to disguise the variation’. [2]

[1] See note to § 341.

[2] Pp. 535-536. [Book I, part IV., sec. VI.].

In origin this ‘fiction’ the same as that of ‘Body’.

344. It will be seen that the theory, which we have just summarised,
would merely be a briefer version of that given in the section
on ‘Scepticism with regard to the Senses,’ if in the sentence,
which states its conclusion, for ‘the notion of a soul and self
and substance’ were written ‘the notion of a double existence of
perceptions and objects’. [1] To a reader who has not thoroughly
entered into the fusion of being and feeling, which belongs to the
‘new way of ideas,’ it may seem strange that one and the same process
of so-called confusion has to account for such apparently disparate
results, as the notion of a permanently identical self and that of
the distinct existence of body. If he bears in mind, however, that
with Hume the universe of our experience is the same when it is
called ‘the universe of objects or of body’ and when it is called
the ‘universe of thought or my impressions and ideas’, [2] he will
see that on the score of consistency Hume is to be blamed, not for
applying the same method to account for the fictions of material
and spiritual identity, but for allowing himself, in his preference
for physical, as against theological, pretension, to write as if
the supposition of spiritual were really distinct from that of
material identity, and might be more contemptuously disposed of. The
original ‘mistake,’ out of which according to him the two fictitious
suppositions arise, is one and the same; and though it is a ‘mistake’
without which, as we have found [3] from Hume’s own admissions, we
could not speak even in singular propositions of the most ordinary
‘objects of sense’--this pen, this table, this chair--it is yet one
that on his principles is logically impossible, since it consists
in a confusion between ideas that we cannot have. Of this original
‘mistake’ the fictions of body and of its ‘continued and distinct
existence’ are but altered expressions. They represent in truth the
same logical category of substance and relation. And of the Self
according to Locke’s notion of it [4] (which was the only one that
Hume had in view), as a ‘thinking thing’ within each man among a
multitude of other thinking things, the same would have to be said.
But in order to account for the ‘mistake,’ of which the suppositions
of thinking and material substance are the correlative expressions,
and which it is the net result of Hume’s speculation to exhibit at
once as necessary and as impossible, we have found another notion
of the self forced upon us--not as a double of body, but as the
source of that ‘familiar theory’ which body in truth is, and without
which there would be no universe of objects, whether ‘bodies’ or
‘impressions and ideas,’ at all.

[1] Above, §§ 306-310.

[2] Above, § 340.

[3] Above, §§ 303 & 304.

[4] Above, §§ 129-132.

Possibility of such fictitious ideas implies refutation of Hume’s

345. Thus the more strongly Hume insists that ‘the identity which
we ascribe to the mind of man is only a fictitious one’, [1] the
more completely does his doctrine refute itself. If he had really
succeeded in reducing those ‘invented’ relations, which Locke had
implicitly recognised as the framework of the universe, to what
he calls ‘natural’ ones--to mere sequences of feeling--the case
would have been different. With the disappearance of the conception
of the world as a system of related elements, the necessity of a
thinking subject, without whose presence to feelings they could
not become such elements, would have disappeared likewise. But he
cannot so reduce them. In all his attempts to do so we find that
the relation, which has to be explained away, is pre-supposed under
some other expression, and that it is ‘fictitious’ not in the sense
which Hume’s theory requires--the sense, namely, that there is no
such thing either really or in imagination, either as impression or
idea--but in the sense that it would not exist if we did not think
about our feelings. Thus, whereas identity ought for Hume’s purpose
to be either a ‘natural relation,’ or a propensity arising from
such relation, or nothing, we find that according to his account,
though neither natural relation nor propensity, it yet exists both as
idea and as reality. He saves appearances indeed by saying [2] that
natural relations of ideas ‘produce it,’ but they do so, according
to his detailed account of the matter, in the sense that, the idea
of an identical object being given, we mistake our successive and
resembling feelings for such an object. In other words, the existence
of numerically identical things is a ‘fiction,’ not as if there
were no such things, but because it implies a certain operation of
thought upon our feelings, a certain interpretation of impressions
under direction of an idea not derived from impressions. By a
like equivocal use of ‘fiction’ Hume covers the admission of real
identity in its more complex forms--the identity of a mass, whose
parts undergo perpetual change of distribution; of a body whose form
survives not merely the redistribution of its materials, but the
substitution of others; of animals and vegetables, in which nothing
but the ‘common end’ of the changing members remains the same. The
reality of such identity of mass, of form, of organism, he quietly
takes for granted. [3] He calls it ‘fictitious’ indeed, but only
either in the sense above given or in the sense that it is mistaken
for mere numerical identity.

[1] P. 540. [Book I, part IV., sec. VI.]

[2] P. 543 [Book I, part IV., sec. VI.]. ‘Identity depends on the
relations of ideas; and these relations produce identity by means
of that easy transition they occasion.’ Strictly it should be ‘that
easy transition in which they consist;’ since, according to Hume, the
‘easiness of transition’ is not an effect of natural relation, but
constitutes it. Cf. pp. 322 & 497 [Book I, part I., sec. V. and part
IV., sec. II.], and above, § 318.

[3] Pp. 536-538. [Book I, part IV., sec. VI.]

346. After he has thus admitted, as constituents of the ‘universe
of objects,’ a whole hierarchy of ideas of which the simplest must
vanish before the demand to ‘point out the impression from which
it is derived,’ we are the less surprised to find him pronouncing
in conclusion ‘that the true idea of the human mind is to consider
it as a system of different perceptions or different existences,
which are linked together by the relation of cause and effect, and
mutually produce, destroy, influence and modify each other’. [1] A
better definition than this, as a _definition of nature_, or one more
charged with ‘fictions of thought,’ could scarcely be desired. If
the idea of such a system is a true idea at all, which we are only
wrong in confusing with mere numerical identity, we need be the less
concerned that it should be adduced as the true idea not of nature
but of the ‘human mind.’ Having learnt, through the discipline which
Hume himself furnishes, that the recognition of a system of nature
logically carries with it that of a self-conscious subject, in
relation to which alone ‘different perceptions’ become a system of
nature, we know that we cannot naturalise the ‘human mind’ without
presupposing that which is neither nature nor natural, though apart
from it nature would not be--that of which the designation as ‘mind,’
as ‘human,’ as ‘personal,’ is of secondary importance, but which is
eternal, self-determined, and thinks.

[1] P. 541. [Book I, part IV., sec. VI.]

T.H. Green


Hume’s doctrine of morals parallel to his doctrine of nature.

1. In his speculation on morals, no less than on knowledge, Hume
follows the lines laid down by Locke. With each there is a precise
correspondence between the doctrine of nature and the doctrine of
the good. Each gives an account of reason consistent at least in
this that, as it allows reason no place in the constitution of real
objects, so it allows it none in the constitution of objects that
determine desire and, through it, the will. With each, consequently,
the ‘moral faculty,’ whether regarded as the source of the judgments
‘ought and ought not,’ or of acts to which these judgments are
appropriate, can only be a certain faculty of feeling, a particular
susceptibility of pleasure and pain. The originality of Hume lies in
his systematic effort to account for those objects, apparently other
than pleasure and pain, which determine desire, and which Locke had
taken for granted without troubling himself about their adjustment to
his theory, as resulting from the modification of primary feelings
by ‘associated ideas.’ ‘Natural relation,’ the close and uniform
sequence of certain impressions and ideas upon each other, is the
solvent by which in the moral world, as in the world of knowledge, he
disposes of those ostensibly necessary ideas that seem to regulate
impressions without being copied from them; and in regard to the one
application of it as much as to the other, the question is whether
the efficiency of the solvent does not depend on its secretly
including the very ideas of which it seems to get rid.

Its relation to Locke: Locke’s account of freedom, will, and desire.

2. The place held by the ‘Essay concerning Human Understanding,’ as
a sort of philosopher’s Bible in the last century, is strikingly
illustrated by the effect of doctrines that only appear in it
incidentally. It does not profess to be ethical treatise at all, yet
the moral psychology contained in the chapter ‘of Power’ (II. 21),
and the account of moral good and evil contained In the chapter ‘of
other Relations’ (II. 28) furnished the text for most of the ethical
speculation that prevailed in England, France, and Scotland for a
century later. If Locke’s theory was essentially a reproduction of
Hobbes’, it was yet in the form he gave it that it survived while
Hobbes was decried and forgotten. The chapter on Power is in effect
an account of determination by motives. More, perhaps, than any other
part of the essay it bears the marks of having been written ‘currente
calamo.’ In the second edition a summary was annexed which differs
somewhat in the use of terms, but not otherwise, from the original
draught. The main course of thought, however, is clear throughout.
Will and freedom are at first defined in all but identical terms
as each a ‘power to begin or forbear action barely by a preference
of the mind’ (§§ 5, 8, 71). Nor is this identification departed
from, except that the term ‘will’ is afterwards restricted to the
‘preference’ or ‘power of preference,’ while freedom is confined to
the power of acting upon preference; in which sense it is pointed
out that though there cannot be freedom without will, there may be
will without freedom, as when, through the breaking of a bridge, a
man cannot help falling into the water, though he prefers not to do
so. ‘Freedom’ and ‘will’ being thus alike powers, if not the same
power, it is as improper to ask whether the will is free as whether
one power has another power. The proper question is whether man is
free (§§ 14, 21), and the answer to this question, according to
Locke, is that within certain limits he is free to act, but that he
is not free to will. When in any case he has the option of acting
or forbearing to act, he cannot help preferring, _i.e._ willing,
one or other alternative. If it is further asked, What determines
the will or preference? the answer is that ‘nothing sets us upon
any new action but some uneasiness’ (§ 29), viz., the ‘most urgent
uneasiness we at any time feel’ (§ 40), which again is always ‘the
uneasiness of desire fixed on some absent good, either negative, as
indolence to one in pain, or positive, as enjoyment of pleasure.’ In
one sense, indeed, it may be said that the will often runs counter
to desire, but this merely means that we ‘being in this world beset
with sundry uneasinesses, distressed with different desires,’ the
determination of the will by the most pressing desire often implies
the counteraction of other desires which would, indeed, under other
circumstances, be the most pressing, but at the particular time of
the supposed action are not so.

Two questions: Does man always act from the strongest motive? and,
What constitutes his motive? The latter the important question:
Distinction between desires that are, and those that are not,
determined by the conception of self.

3. So far Locke’s doctrine amounts to no more than this, that action
is always determined by the strongest motive; and only those who
strangely hold that human freedom is to be vindicated by disputing
that truism will care to question it. To admit that the strongest
desire always moves action (there being, in fact, no test of its
strength but its effect on action) and that, since every desire
causes uneasiness till it is satisfied, the strongest desire is
also the most pressing uneasiness, [1] is compatible with the most
opposite views as to the constitution of the objects which determine
desire. To understand that it is this constitution of the desired
object, not any possible intervention of unmotived willing between
the presentation of a strongest motive and action, which forms the
central question of ethics, is the condition of all clear thinking
on the subject. It is a question, however, which Locke ignores, and
popular philosophy, to its great confusion, has not only continued
to do the same, but would probably resent as pedantic any attempt
at more accurate analysis. When we hear of the strongest ‘desire’
being the uniform motive to action, we have to ask, in the first
place, whether the term is confined to impulses determined by a prior
consciousness, or is taken to include those impulses, commonly called
‘mere appetites,’ which are not so determined, but depend directly
and solely on the ‘constitution of our bodily organs.’ The _appetite_
of hunger is obviously quite independent of any remembrance of the
pleasure of eating, yet nothing is commoner than to identify with
such simple appetite the desire determined by consciousness of some
sort, as when we say of a drunkard, who never drinks merely because
he is thirsty, that he is governed by his appetite. Upon this
distinction, however, since it is recognised by current psychology,
it is less important to insist than on that between the kinds of
prior consciousness which may determine desire proper. Does this
prior consciousness consist simply in the return of an image of
past pleasure with consequent hope of its renewal, or is it a
conception--the thought of an object under relations to self or of
self in relation to certain objects--in a word, self-consciousness as
distinct from simple feeling?

[1] Locke’s language in regard to ‘the most pressing uneasiness’
will not be found uniformly consistent. His usual doctrine is that
the strength of a desire, as evinced by the resulting action, and
the uneasiness which it causes are in exact proportion to each
other. According to this view, desire for future happiness can only
become a prevalent motive when the uneasiness which it causes has
come to outweigh every other (Cf. Chap, xxi., Secs. 43 and 45). On
the other hand, he sometimes seems to distinguish the desire for
future pleasure from present uneasiness, while at the same time
implying that it may be a strongest motive (Cf. sec. 65). But if so,
it follows that there may be a strongest desire which is not the
most pressing uneasiness. (See below, sec. 13.) Hume, distinguishing
strong from violent desires, and restricting ‘uneasiness’ to the
latter, is able to hold that it is not alone the present uneasiness
which determines action. (Book II., part 3, sec. 3, sub fin.)

Effect of this conception on the objects of human desire.

4. Of desire determined in the former way we have experience, if at
all, in those motives which actuate us, as we say, ‘unconsciously’;
which means, without our attending to them--feelings which we do
not fix even momentarily by reference to self or to a thing. As we
cannot set ourselves to recall such feelings without thinking them,
without determining them by that reference to self which we suppose
them to exclude, they cannot be described; but some of our actions
(such as the instinctive recurrence to a sweet smell), seem only to
be thus accounted for, and probably those actions of animals which
do not proceed from appetite proper are to be accounted for in the
same way. But whether such actions are facts in human experience or
no, those which make us what we are as men are not so determined.
The man whom we call the slave of his appetite, the enlightened
pleasure-hunter, the man who lives for his family, the artist, the
enthusiast for humanity, are alike in this, that the desire which
moves their action is itself determined not by the recurring image
of a past pleasure, but by the conception of self. The self may be
conceived of simply as a subject to be pleased, or may be a subject
of interests, which, indeed, when gratified, produce pleasure but
are not produced by it--interests in persons, in beautiful things,
in the order of nature and society--but self is still not less the
‘punctum stans’ whose presence to each passing pleasure renders it
a constituent of a happiness which is to be permanently pursued,
than it is the focus in which the influences of that world which
only self-conscious reason could constitute--the world of science,
of art, of human society--must be regathered in order to become the
personal interests which move the actions of individuals. It is in
this self-consciousness involved in our motives, in that conversion
into a conception by reference to self, which the image even of the
merest animal pleasure must undergo before it can become an element
in the formation of character, that the possibility of freedom lies.
Without it we should be as sinless and as unprogressive, as free from
remorse and aspiration, as incapable of selfishness and self-denial
as the animals. Each pleasure would be taken as it came. We should
have ‘the greatest happiness of which our nature is capable,’ without
possibility of asking ourselves whether we might not have had more.
It is only the conception of himself as a permanent subject to be
pleased that can set man upon the invention of new pleasures, and
then, making each pleasure a disappointment when it comes, produce
the ‘vicious’ temper; only this that can suggest the reflection
how much more pleasure he might have had than he has had, and thus
produce what the moralists know as ‘cool selfishness’; only this,
on the other hand, which, as ‘enlightened self-love,’ perpetually
balances the attraction of imagined pleasure by the calculation
whether it will be good for one as a whole. Nor less is it the
conception of self, with a ‘matter’ more adequate to its ‘form,’
taking its content not from imagined pleasure, but from the work of
reason in the world of nature and humanity, which determines that
personal devotion to a work or a cause, to a state, a church, or
mankind, which we call self-sacrifice.

Objects so constituted Locke should consistently exclude: But he
finds room for them by treating every desire for an object, of which
the attainment gives pleasure, as a desire for pleasure.

5. If, now, we ask ourselves whether Locke recognised this function
of reason, as self-consciousness, in the determination of the will,
the answer must be yes and no. His cardinal doctrine, as we have
sufficiently seen, forbade him to admit that reason or thought could
originate an object. The only possible objects with him are either
simple ideas or resoluble into these, and the simple idea, as that
which we receive in pure passivity, is virtually feeling. Now no
combination of feelings (supposing it possible [1]) can yield the
conception of self as a permanent subject even of pleasure, much
less as a subject of social claims. It cannot, therefore, yield the
objects, ranging from sensual happiness to the moral law, humanity,
and God, of which this conception is the correlative condition.
Thus, strictly taken, Locke’s doctrine excludes every motive to
action, but appetite proper and such desire as is determined by the
imagination of animal pleasure or pain, and in doing so renders vice
as well as virtue unaccountable--the excessive pursuit of pleasure as
well as that dissatisfaction with it which affords the possibility
of ordinary reform. On the other hand, the same happy intellectual
unscrupulousness, which we have traced in his theory of knowledge,
attends him also here. Just as he is ready on occasion to treat
any conceived object that determines sense as if it were itself a
sensation, so he is ready to treat any object that determines desire,
without reference to the work of thought in its construction, as if
it were itself the feeling of pleasure, or of uneasiness removed,
which arises upon satisfaction of the desire. In this way, without
professedly admitting any motive but remembered pleasure--a motive
which, if it were our only one, would leave ‘man’s life as cheap as
beasts’’--he can take for granted any objects of recognised interest
as accounting for the movement of human life, and as constituents of
an utmost possible pleasure which it is his own fault if every one
does not pursue.

[1] Cf. Introduction to Vol. I., §§ 215 and 247.

Confusion covered by calling ‘happiness’ the general object of desire.

6. The term ‘happiness’ is the familiar cover for confusion between
the animal imagination of pleasure and the conception of personal
well-being. It is so when--having raised the question. What moves
desire?--Locke answers, ‘happiness, and that alone.’ What, then,
is happiness? ‘Good and evil are nothing but pleasure and pain,’
and ‘happiness in its full extent is the utmost pleasure we are
capable of.’ [1] This is ‘the proper object of desire in general,’
but Locke is careful to explain that the happiness which ‘moves
every particular man’s desire’ is not the full extent of it, but
’so much of it as is considered and taken to make a necessary part
of his happiness.’ It is that ‘wherewith he in his present thoughts
can satisfy himself.’ Happiness in this sense ‘every one constantly
pursues,’ and without possibility of error; for ‘as to present
pleasure the mind never mistakes that which is really good or
evil.’ Every one ‘knows what best pleases him, and that he actually
prefers.’ That which is the greater pleasure or the greater pain
is really just as it appears (Ibid. §§ 43, 58, 63). Now in these
statements, if we look closely, we shall find that four different
meanings of happiness are mixed up, which we will take leave to
distinguish by letters--_(a)_ happiness as an abstract conception,
the sum of possible pleasure; _(b)_ happiness as equivalent to the
pleasure which at any time survives most strongly in imagination;
_(c)_ happiness as the object of the self-conscious pleasure-seeker;
_(d)_ happiness as equivalent to any object at any time most
strongly desired, not really a pleasure, but by Locke identified
with happiness in sense _(b)_ through the fallacy of supposing that
the pleasure which arises on satisfaction of any desire, great in
proportion to the strength of the desire, is itself the object which
excites desire.

[1] Ibid., sec. 42, and cap. 28, sec. 5.

‘Greatest sum of pleasure’ and ‘Pleasure in general’ unmeaning

7. Happiness ‘in its full extent,’ as ‘the utmost pleasure we are
capable of,’ is an unreal abstraction if ever there was one. It
is curious that those who are most forward to deny the reality of
universals, in that sense in which they are the condition of all
reality, viz., as relations, should yet, having pronounced these
to be mere names, be found ascribing reality to a universal, which
cannot without contradiction be supposed more than a name. Does
this ‘happiness in its full extent’ mean the ‘aggregate of possible
enjoyments,’ of which modern utilitarians tell us? Such a phrase
simply represents the vain attempt to get a definite by addition
of indefinites. It has no more meaning than ‘the greatest possible
quantity of time’ would have. Pleasant feelings are not quantities
that can be added. Each is over before the next begins, and the man
who has been pleased a million times is not really better off--has
no more of the supposed chief good in possession--than the man who
has only been pleased a thousand times. When we speak of pleasures,
then, as forming a possible whole, we cannot mean pleasures as
feelings, and what else do we mean? Are we, then, by the ‘happiness’
in question to understand pleasure _in general_, as might be inferred
from Locke’s speaking of it as the ‘object of desire _in general_’?
But it is in its mere particularity that each pleasure has its being.
It is a simple idea, and therefore, as Locke and Hume have themselves
taught us, momentary, indefinable, in ‘perpetual flux,’ changing
every moment upon us. Pleasure _in general_, therefore, is not
pleasure, and it is nothing else. It is not a conceived reality, as a
relation, or a thing determined by relations, is, since pleasure as
feeling, in distinction from its conditions which are not feelings,
for the same reason that it cannot be defined, cannot be conceived.
It is a mere name which utilitarian philosophy has mistaken for
a thing; but for which--since no one, whatever his theory of the
desirable, can actually desire either the abstraction of pleasure
in general or the aggregate of possible pleasures--a practical
substitute is apt to be found in any lust of the flesh that may for
the time be the strongest.

In what sense of happiness is it true that it ‘is really just as it
appears?’ In what sense that it is every one’s object?

8. Having begun by making this fiction ‘the proper object of
desire in general,’ Locke saves the appearance of consistency by
representing the particular pleasure or removal of uneasiness, which
he in fact believed to be the object of every desire, as if it were a
certain part of the ‘full extent of happiness’ which the individual,
having this full extent before him, picked out as being what ‘in
his present thoughts would satisfy him.’ Nor does he ever give up
the notion of a ‘happiness in general,’ in distinction from the
happiness of each man’s actual choice, as a possible motive, which
a man who finds himself wretched in consequence of his actions may
be told that he ought to have adopted. His real notion, however, of
the happiness which is motive to action is a confused result of the
three other notions of happiness, distinguished above as _(b)_, _(c)_
and _(d)_. As that about which no one can be mistaken, ‘happiness’
can only be so in sense _(b)_, as the ‘pleasure which survives most
strongly in imagination.’ Of this it can be said truly, and of this
only, that ‘it really is just as it appears,’ and that ‘a man never
chooses amiss’ since he must ‘know what best pleases him.’ But with
this, almost in the same breath, Locke confuses ‘happiness’ in senses
_(c)_ and _(d)_. So soon as it is said of an object that it is
‘taken by the individual to make a necessary part of his happiness,’
it is implied that it is determined by his conception of self. It
is something which, as the result of the action of this conception
on his past experience, he has come to present to himself as a
constituent of his personal good. Unless he were conscious of himself
as a permanent subject, he could have no conception of happiness as a
whole from relation to which each present object takes its character
as a part. Nor of the objects determined by this relation is it true,
as Locke says, that they are always pleasures, or that they ‘are
really just as they appear.’ Our readiness to accept his statements
to this effect, is at bottom due to a confusion between the pleasure,
or removal of uneasiness, incidental to the satisfaction of a desire
and the object which excites the desire. If having explained desire,
as Locke does, by reference to the good, we then allow ourselves to
explain the good by reference to desire, it will indeed be true that
no man can be mistaken as to his present good, but only in the sense
of the identical proposition that every man most desires what he does
most desire; and true also, that every attained good is pleasure,
but only in the sense that what satisfies desire does satisfy it.
The man of whom it could be truly said, in any other sense than
that of the above identical proposition, that his only objects of
desire--the only objects which he ‘takes to make a necessary part
of his happiness’--were pleasures, would be a man, as we say, of no
interests. He would be a man who either lived simply for pleasures
incidental to the satisfaction of animal appetite, or one who, having
been interested in certain objects in which reason alone enables us
to be interested--_e.g._, persons, pursuits, or works of art--and
having found consequent pleasure, afterwards vainly tries to get the
pleasure without the interests. To the former type of character, of
course, the approximations are numerous enough, though it may be
doubted whether such an ideal of sensuality is often fully realised.
The latter in its completeness, which would mean a perfect misery
that could only issue in suicide, would seem to be an impossibility,
though it is constantly being approached in proportion to the
unworthiness and fleetingness of the interests by which men allow
themselves to be governed, and which, after stimulating an indefinite
hunger for good, leave it without an object to satisfy it; in
proportion, too, to the modern habit of hugging and poring over the
pleasures which our higher interests cause us till these interests
are vitiated, and we find ourselves in restless and hopeless pursuit
of the pleasure when the interest which might alone produce it is

No real object of human desire can ever be just as it appears.

9. Just as it is untrue, then, of the object of desire, as ‘taken
to be part of one’s happiness’ or determined by the conception of
self, that it is always a pleasure, so it is untrue that it is always
really just as it appears, except in the trifling sense that what
is most strongly desired is most strongly desired. Rather it is
never really what it appears. It is least of all so to the professed
pleasure-seeker. Obviously, to the man who seeks the pleasure
incidental to interests which he has lost, there is a contradiction
in his quest which for ever prevents what seems to him desirable
from satisfying his desire. And even the man who lives for merely
animal pleasure, just because he seeks it as part of a happiness,
never finds it to be that which he sought. There is no mistake about
the pleasure, but he seeks it as that which shall satisfy him, and
satisfy him, since he is not an animal, it cannot. Nor are our higher
objects of desire ever what they seem. That is too old a topic with
poets and moralizers to need enforcing. Each in its turn, we know,
promises happiness when it shall have been attained, but when it
is attained the happiness has not come. The craving for an object
adequate to oneself, which is the source of the desire, is still
not quenched; and because it is not, nor can be, even ‘the joy of
success’ has its own bitterness.

Can Locke consistently allow the distinction between true happiness
and false? Or responsibility?

10. The case, then, stands thus. Locke, having too much ‘common
sense’ to reduce all objects of desire to the pleasures incidental to
satisfactions of appetite, takes for granted any number of objects
which only reason can constitute (or, in other words, which can only
exist for a self-conscious subject) without any question as to their
origin. It is enough for him that they are not conscious inventions
of the individual, and that they are related to feeling--though
related as determining it. This being so, they are to him no more
the work of thought than are the satisfactions of appetite. The
conception of them is of a kind with the simple remembrance or
imagination of pleasures caused by such satisfactions. The question
how, if only pleasure is the object of desire, they came to be
desired before there had been experience of the pleasures incidental
to their attainment, is virtually shelved by treating these latter
pleasures as if they were themselves the objects originally desired.
So far consistency at least is saved. No object but feeling, present
or remembered, is ostensibly admitted within human experience. But
meanwhile, alongside of this view, comes the account of the strongest
motive as determined by the conception of self--as something which
a man ‘takes to be a necessary part of his happiness,’ and which he
is ‘answerable to himself’ for so taking. The inconsistency of such
language with the view that every desired object must needs be a
pleasure, would have been less noticeable if Locke himself had not
frankly admitted, as the corollary of this view that the desired good
‘is really just as it appears.’ The necessity of this admission has
always been the rock on which consistent Hedonism has broken. Locke
himself has scarcely made it when he becomes aware of its dangerous
consequences, and great part of the chapter on Power is taken up by
awkward attempts to reconcile it with the distinction between true
happiness and false, and with the existence of moral responsibility.
If greatest pleasure is the only possible object, and the production
of such pleasure the only possible criterion of action, and if ‘as
to present pleasure and pain the mind never mistakes that which is
really good or evil,’ with what propriety can any one be told that
he might or that he ought to have chosen otherwise than he has done?
‘He has missed the true good,’ we say, ‘which he might and should
have found’; but ‘good,’ according to Locke, is only pleasure, and
pleasure, as Locke in any other connexion would be eager to tell
us, must mean either some actual present pleasure or a series of
pleasures of which each in turn is present. If every one without
possibility of mistake has on each occasion chosen the greatest
present pleasure, how can the result for him at any time be other
than the true good, _i.e._, the series of greatest pleasures, each in
its turn present, that have been hitherto possible for him?

Objections to the Utilitarian answer to these questions.

11. A modern utilitarian, if faithful to the principle which excludes
any test of pleasure but pleasure itself, will probably answer that
every one does attain the maximum of pleasure possible for him,
his character and circumstances being what they are; but that with
a change in these his choice would be different. He would still
choose on each occasion the greatest pleasure of which he was then
capable, but this pleasure would be one ‘truer’--in the sense of
being more intense, more durable, and compatible with a greater
quantity of other pleasures--than is that which he actually chooses.
But admitting that this answer justifies us in speaking of any sort
of pleasure as ‘truer’ than that at any time chosen by any one--which
is a very large admission, for of the intensity of any pleasure we
have no test but its being actually preferred, and of durability
and compatibility with other pleasures the tests are so vague that
a healthy and unrepentant voluptuary would always have the best of
it in an attempt to strike the balance between the pleasures he has
actually chosen and any truer sort--it still only throws us back on
a further question. With a better character, it is said, such as
better education and improved circumstances might have produced, the
actually greatest happiness of the individual--_i.e._, the series of
pleasures which, because he has chosen them, we know to have been
the greatest possible for him--might have been greater or ‘truer.’
But the man’s character is the result of his previous preferences;
and if every one has always chosen the greatest pleasure of which
he was at the time capable, and if no other motive is possible,
how could any other than his actual character have been produced?
How could that conception of a happiness truer than the actual, of
something that should be most pleasant, and therefore preferred,
though it is not--a conception which all education implies--have been
a possible motive among mankind? To say that the individual is, to
begin with, destitute of such a conception, but acquires it through
education from others, does not remove the difficulty. How do the
educators come by it? Common sense assumes them to have found out
that more happiness might have been got by another than the merely
natural course of living, and to wish to give others the benefit
of their experience. But such experience implies that each has a
conception of himself as other than the subject of a succession of
pleasures, of which each has been the greatest possible at the time
of its occurrence; and the wish to give another the benefit of the
experience implies that this conception, which is no possible image
of a feeling, can originate action. The assumption of common sense,
then, contradicts the two cardinal principles of the Hedonistic
philosophy; yet, however disguised in the terminology of development
and evolution, it, or some equivalent supposition, is involved in
every theory of the progress of mankind.

According to Locke present pleasures may be compared with future, and
desire suspended till comparison has been made.

12. Such difficulties do not suggest themselves to Locke, because he
is always ready to fall back on the language of common sense without
asking whether it is reconcilable with his theory. Having asserted,
without qualification, that the will in every case is determined
by the strongest desire, that the strongest desire is desire for
the greatest pleasure, and that ‘pleasure is just so great, and
no greater, than it is felt,’ he finds a place for moral freedom
and responsibility in the ‘power a man has to suspend his desires
and stop them from determining his will to any action till he has
examined whether it be really of a nature in itself and consequences
to make him happy or no.’ [1] But how does it happen that there
is any need for such suspense, if as to pleasure and pain ‘a man
never chooses amiss,’ and pleasure is the same with happiness or
the good? To this Locke answers that it is only present pleasure
which is just as it appears, and that in ‘comparing present pleasure
or pain with future we often make wrong judgments of them;’ again,
that not only present pleasure and pain, but ‘things that draw after
them pleasure and pain, are considered as good and evil,’ and that
of these consequences under the influence of present pleasure or
pain we may judge amiss. [2] By these wrong judgments, it will be
observed, Locke does not mean mistakes in discovering the proper
means to a desired end (Aristotle’s ἀγνοία ἡ καθ’ ἕκαστα) [3], which
it is agreed are not a ground for blame or punishment, but wrong
desires--desires for certain pleasures as being the greater, which
are not really the greater. Regarding such desires as involving
comparisons of one good with another, he counts them judgments, and
(the comparison being incorrectly made) _wrong_ judgments. A certain
present pleasure, and a certain future one, are compared, and though
the future would really be the greater, the present is preferred;
or a present pleasure, ‘drawing after it’ a certain amount of pain,
is compared with a less amount of present pain, drawing after it a
greater pleasure, and the present pleasure preferred. In such cases
the man ‘may justly incur punishment’ for the wrong preference,
because having ‘the power to suspend his desire’ for the present
pleasure, he has not done so, but ‘by too hasty choice of his own
making has imposed on himself wrong measures of good and evil.’
‘When he has once chosen it,’ indeed, ‘and thereby it is become part
of his happiness, it raises desire, and that proportionately gives
him uneasiness, which determines his will.’ But the original wrong
choice, having the ‘power of suspending his desires,’ he might have
prevented. In not doing so he ‘vitiated his own palate,’ and must be
‘answerable to himself’ for the consequences. [4]

[1] II. 21, Sec. 51 and 56.

[2] Ibid., Sec. 61, 63, 67.

[3] [Greek ἀγνοία ἡ καθ’ ἕκαστα (agnoia he kath’ hekasta) =
unawareness of the particular circumstances. Tr.]

[4] Ibid., Sec. 56.

What is meant by ‘present’ and ‘future’ pleasure? By the supposed
comparison Locke ought only to have meant the competition of
pleasures equally present in imagination ...

13. Responsibility for evil, then (with its conditions, blame,
punishment, and remorse) supposes that a man has gone wrong in
the comparison of present with future pleasure or pain, having
had the chance of going right. Upon this we must remark that as
moving desire--and it is the determination of desire that is here
in question--NO pleasure can be present in the sense of actual
enjoyment, or (in Hume’s language) as ‘impression,’ but only in
memory or imagination, as ‘idea.’ Otherwise desire would not be
desire. It would not be that uneasiness which, according to Locke,
implies the absence of good, and alone moves action. On the other
hand, to imagination EVERY pleasure must be present that is to act as
motive at all. In whatever sense, then, pleasure, as pleasure, _i.e._
as undetermined by conceptions, can properly be said to move desire,
every pleasure is equally present and equally future. [1] For man, if
he only felt and retained his feelings in memory, or recalled them in
imagination, the only difference among the imagined pleasures which
solicit his desires, other than difference of intensity, would lie in
the imagined pains with which each may have become associated. One
pleasure might be imagined in association with a greater amount of
the pain of waiting than another. In that sense, and only in that,
could one be distinguished from the other as a future pleasure from
a present one. According as the greater imagined intensity of the
future pleasure did or did not outweigh the imagined pain of waiting
for it, the scale of desire would turn one way or the other. Or
with one pleasure, imagined as more intense than another, might be
associated an expectation of a greater amount of pain to be ‘drawn
after it.’ Here, again, the question would be whether the greater
imagined intensity of pleasure would have the more effect in exciting
desire, or the greater amount of imagined sequent pain in quenching
it--a question only to be settled by the action which results. In
whatever sense it is true of the ‘present pleasure or pain,’ that
it is really just as it appears, it is equally true of the future.
Whenever the determination of desire is in question, the statement
that present pleasure is just as it appears must mean that the
pleasure _present in imagination_ is so, and in this sense all motive
pleasures are equally so present. Undoubtedly the pleasure associated
with the pain of prolonged expectancy might turn out greater, and
that associated with sequent pain less, than was imagined; but so
might a pleasure not thus associated. Of every pleasure alike it is
as true, that while it is imagined it is just as it is imagined, as
that while felt it is just as it is felt; and if man only felt and
imagined, there would be no more reason why he should hold himself
accountable for his imaginations than for his feelings. Whatever
pleasure was most attractive in imagination would determine desire,
and, through it, action, which would be the only measure of the
amount of the attraction. It would not indeed follow because an
action was determined by the pleasure most attractive in imagination,
that the ensuing pleasure in actual enjoyment would be greater than
might have been attained by a different action--though it would be
very hard to show the contrary--but it would follow that the man
attained the greatest pleasure of which his nature was capable. There
would be no reason why he should blame himself, or be blamed by
others, for the result.

[1] It is noticeable that when Locke takes to distinguishing the
pleasures that move desire into present and future, he speaks as if
the future pleasure alone were an absent good, in contradiction to
his previous view that every object of desire is an absent good. (Cf.
sec. 65 with sec. 57 of cap. 21.)

... and this could give no ground for responsibility. In order to do
so, it must be understood as implying determination by conception of

14. Thus on Locke’s supposition, that desire is only moved by
pleasure--which must mean _imagined_ pleasure, since pleasure,
determined by conceptions, is excluded by the supposition that
pleasure alone is the ultimate motive, and pleasure in actual
enjoyment is no longer desired--the ‘suspense of desire,’ that he
speaks of, can only mean an interval, during which a competition of
imagined pleasures (one associated with more, another with less, of
sequent or antecedent pain) is still going on, and none has become
finally the strongest motive. Of such suspense it is unmeaning to
say that a man has ‘the power of it,’ or that, when it terminates in
an action which does not produce so much pleasure as another might
have done, it is because the man ‘has vitiated his palate,’ and that
therefore he must be ‘answerable to himself’ for the consequences.
This language really implies that pleasures, instead of being
ultimate ends, are determined to be ends through reference to an
object beyond them which the man himself constitutes; that it is
only through his conception of self that every pleasure--not indeed
best pleases him, or is most attractive in imagination--but becomes
his personal good. It may be that he identifies his personal good
with the pleasure most attractive in imagination; but a pleasure
so identified is quite a different motive from a pleasure simply
as imagined. It is no longer mere pleasure that the man seeks, but
self-satisfaction through the pleasure. The same consciousness of
self, which sets him on the act, continues through the act and its
consequences, carrying with it the knowledge (commonly called the
‘voice of conscience’) that it is to himself, as the ultimate motive,
that the act and its consequences, whether in the shape of natural
pains or civil penalties, are due--a knowledge which breeds remorse,
and, through it, the possibility of a better mind. Thus, when Locke
finds the ground of responsibility in a man’s power of suspending
his desire till he has considered whether the act, to which it
inclines him, is of a kind to make him happy or no, the value of the
explanation lies in the distinction which it may be taken to imply,
but which Locke could not consistently admit, between the imagination
of pleasure and the conception of self as a permanent subject of
happiness, by reference to which an imagined pleasure becomes a
strongest motive. It is not really as involving a comparison between
imagined pleasures, but as involving the consideration whether the
greatest imagined pleasure will be the best for one in the long
run, that the suspense of desire establishes the responsibility of
man. Even if we admitted with Locke that nothing entered into the
consideration but an estimate of ‘future pleasures’--and Locke, it
will be observed, by supposing the estimate to include ‘pleasures
of a sort we are unacquainted with,’ [1] which is as much of a
contradiction as to suppose a man influenced by unfelt feelings,
renders this restriction unmeaning--still to be determined by the
consideration whether something is good for me on the whole is to be
determined, not by the imagination of pleasure, but by the conception
of self, though it be of self only as a subject to be pleased.

[1] Cap. 21, sec. 65. He has specially in view the pleasures of
‘another life’, which ‘being intended for a state of happiness, must
certainly be agreeable to every one’s wish and desire: could we
suppose their relishes as different there as they are here, yet the
manna in heaven will suit every one’s palate.’

Locke finds moral freedom in necessity of pursuing happiness.

15. The mischief is that, though his language implies this
distinction, he does not himself understand it. ‘The care of
ourselves,’ he tells us, ‘that we mistake not imaginary for real
happiness, is the necessary foundation of our liberty. The stronger
ties we have to an unalterable pursuit of happiness in general, which
is our greatest good, and which, as such, our desires always follow,
the more are we free from any necessary determination of our will
to any particular action, till we have examined whether it has a
tendency to, or is inconsistent with, our real happiness.’ [1] But he
does not see that the _rationale_ of the freedom, thus paradoxically,
though truly, placed in the strength of a tie, lies in that
determination by the conception of self to which the ‘unalterable
pursuit of happiness’ is really equivalent. To him it is not as one
mode among others in which that self-determination appears, but
simply in itself, that the consideration of what is for our real
happiness is the ‘foundation of our liberty,’ and the consideration
itself is no more than a comparison between imagined pleasures
and pains. Hence to a reader who refuses to read into Locke an
interpretation which he does not himself supply, the range of moral
liberty must seem as narrow as its nature is ambiguous. As to its
range, the greater part of our actions, and among them those which
we are apt to think our best, are not and could not be preceded by
any consideration whether they are for our real happiness or no. In
truth, they result from a character which the conception of self has
rendered possible, or express an interest in objects of which this
conception is the condition, and for that reason they represent a
will self-determined and free; but they do not rest on the foundation
which Locke calls ‘the necessary foundation of our liberty.’ As
to the nature of this liberty, the reader, who takes Locke at his
word, would find himself left to choose between the view of it as
the condition of a mind ‘suspended’ between rival presentations of
the pleasant, and the equally untenable view of it as that ‘liberty
of indifference,’ which Locke himself is quite ready to deride--as
consisting in a choice prior to desire, which determines what the
desire shall be. [2]

[1] Cap. 21, sec. 51.

[2] Cf. the passage in sec. 56: ‘When he has once chosen it, and
thereby it is become part of his happiness, it raises desire,’ &c.
(Cf. also sec. 43 sub fin.)

If an action is moved by desire for an object, Locke asks no
questions about origin of the object: But what is to be said of
actions, which we only do because we ought?

16. This ambiguous deliverance about moral freedom, it must be
observed, is the necessary result on a mind, having too strong a
practical hold on life to tamper with human responsibility, of
a doctrine which denies the originativeness of thought, and in
consequence cannot consistently allow any motive to desire, but the
image of a past pleasure or pain. The full logical effect of the
doctrine, however, does not appear in Locke, because, with his way
of taking any desire of which the satisfaction produces pleasure to
have pleasure for its object, he never comes in sight of the question
how the manifold objects of actual human interest are possible for
a being who only feels and retains, or combines, his feelings. An
action moved by love of country, love of fame, love of a friend, love
of the beautiful, would cause him no more difficulty than one moved
by desire for the renewal of some sensual enjoyment, or for that
maintenance of health which is the condition of such enjoyment in the
future. If pressed about them, we may suppose that--availing himself
of the language probably current in the philosophic society in which
he lived, though it first became generally current in England through
the writings of his quasi-pupil, Shaftesbury--he would have said
that he found in his breast affections for public good, as well as
for self-good, the satisfaction of which gave pleasure, and to which
his doctrine, that pleasure is the ‘object of desire in general,’
was accordingly applicable. The question--of what feelings or
combinations of feelings are the objects which excite these several
desires copies?--it does not occur to him to ask. It is only when a
class of actions presents itself for which a motive in the way of
desire or aversion is not readily assignable that any difficulty
arises, and then it is a difficulty which the assignment of such a
motive, without any question asked as to its possibility for a merely
feeling and imagining subject, is thought sufficiently to dispose
of. Such a class of actions is that of which we say that we ‘ought’
to do them, even when we are not compelled and had rather not. We
ought, it is generally admitted, to keep our promises, even when it
is inconvenient to us to do so and no punishment could overtake us if
we did not. We ought to be just even in ways that the law does not
prescribe, and when we are beyond its ken; and that, too, in dealing
with men towards whom we have no inclination to be generous. We ought
even--so at least Locke ‘on the authority of Revelation’ would have
said--to forgive injuries which we cannot forget, and if not ‘to love
our enemies’ in the literal sense, which may be an impossibility, yet
to act as if we did. To what motive are such actions to be assigned?

Their object is pleasure, but pleasure given not by nature but by law.

17. ‘To desire for pleasure or aversion from pain,’ Locke would
answer, ‘but a pleasure and pain other than the natural consequences
of acts and attached to them by some law.’ This is the result of
his enquiry into ‘Moral Relations’ (Book II., chap. 28). Good and
evil, he tells us, being ‘nothing but pleasure and pain, moral good
or evil is only the conformity or disagreement of our actions to
some law, whereby good or evil, _i.e._, pleasure or pain, is drawn
on us by the will and power of the law-maker.’ All law according
to its ‘true nature’ is a rule set to the actions of others by an
intelligent being, having ‘power to reward the compliance with,
and punish deviation from, his rule by some good and evil that is
not the natural product and consequence of the action itself; for
that, being a natural convenience or inconvenience, would operate
of itself without a law.’ Of such law there are three sorts. 1.
Divine Law, ‘promulgated to men by the light of nature or voice of
revelation, by comparing their actions to which they judge whether,
as duties or sins, they are like to procure them happiness or misery
from the hands of the Almighty.’ 2. Civil Law, ‘the rule set by the
Commonwealth to the actions of those who belong to it,’ reference
to which decides ‘whether they be criminal or no.’ 3. ‘The law of
opinion or reputation,’ according to agreement or disagreement with
which actions are reckoned ‘virtues or vices.’ This law may or may
not coincide with the divine law. So far as it does, virtues and
vices are really, what they are always supposed to be, actions ‘in
their own nature ‘severally right or wrong. It is not as really right
or wrong, however, but only as esteemed so, that an act is virtuous
or vicious, and thus ‘the common measure of virtue and vice is the
approbation or dislike, praise or blame, which by a tacit consent
establishes itself in the several societies, tribes, and clubs of men
in the world, whereby several actions come to find credit or disgrace
among them, according to the judgment, maxims, or fashions of the
place.’ Each sort of law has its own ‘enforcement in the way of good
and evil.’ That of the civil law is obvious. That of the Divine Law
lies in the pleasures and pains of ‘another world,’ which (we have to
suppose) render actions ‘in their own nature good and evil.’ That of
the third sort of law lies in those consequences of social reputation
and dislike which are stronger motives to most men than are the
rewards and punishments either of God or the magistrate (chap. 28, §§

Conformity to law not the moral good, but a means to it.

18. ‘Moral goodness or evil,’ Locke concludes, ‘is the conformity or
non-conformity of any action’ to one or other of the above rules (§
14). But such conformity or non-conformity is not a feeling, pleasant
or painful, at all. If, then, the account of the good as consisting
in pleasure, of which the morally good is a particular form, is to
be adhered to, we must suppose that, when moral goodness is said
to be conformity to law, it is so called merely with reference
to the specific means of attaining that pleasure in which moral
good consists. Not the conception of conformity to law, but the
imagination of a certain pleasure, will determine the desire that
moves the moral act, as every other desire. The distinction between
the moral act and an act judiciously done for the sake, let us say,
of some pleasure of the palate, will lie only in the channel through
which comes the pleasure that each is calculated to obtain. If the
motive of an act done for the sake of the pleasure of eating differs
from the motive of an act done for the sake of sexual pleasure on
account of the difference of the channels through which the pleasures
are severally obtained, in that sense only can the motive of either
of these acts, upon Locke’s principles, be taken to differ from the
motive of an act morally done. The explanation, then, of the acts
not readily assignable to desire or aversion, of which we say that
we only do them because we ‘ought,’ has been found. They are so far
of a kind with all actions done to obtain or avoid what Locke calls
‘future’ pleasures or pains that the difficulty of assigning a motive
for them only arises from the fact that their immediate result is not
an end but a means. They differ from these, however, inasmuch as the
pleasure they draw after them is not their ‘natural consequence,’ any
more than the pain attaching to a contrary act would be, but is only
possible through the action of God, the magistrate, or society in
some of its forms.

Hume has to derive from ‘impressions’ the objects which Locke took
for granted.

19. After the above examination we can easily anticipate the points
on which a candid and clear-headed man, who accepted the principles
of Locke’s doctrine, would see that it needed explanation and
development. If all action is determined by impulse to remove the
most pressing uneasiness, as consisting in desire for the greatest
pleasure of which the agent is at the time capable; if this, again,
means desire for the renewal of some ‘impression’ previously
experienced, and all impressions are either those of sense or derived
from them, how are we to account for those actual objects of human
interest and pursuit which seem far removed from any combination
of animal pleasures or of the means thereto, and specially for
that class of actions determined, as Locke says, by expectation of
pain or pleasure other than the ‘natural consequence’ of the act,
to which the term ‘moral’ is properly applied? Hume, as we have
seen, [1] in accepting Locke’s principles, clothes them in a more
precise terminology, marking the distinction between the feeling as
originally felt and the same as returning in memory or imagination as
that between ‘impression and idea,’ and excluding _original_ ideas
of reflection. ‘An impression first strikes upon the senses, and
makes us perceive heat or cold, thirst or hunger, pleasure or pain,
of some kind or other. Of this impression there is a copy taken by
the mind, which remains after the impression ceases; and this we call
an idea. This idea of pleasure or pain, when it returns upon the
soul, produces the new impressions of desire and aversion, hope and
fear, which may properly be called impressions of reflection, because
derived from it’ _(a)_. ‘These, again, are copied by the memory and
imagination, and become ideas; which perhaps in their turn give rise
to other impressions’ _(b)_. Thus the impressions of reflection,
marked _(a)_, will be determined by ideas copied from impressions
of sense. If desires, they will be desires for the renewal either
of a pleasure incidental to the satisfaction of appetite, or of
a pleasant sight or sound, a sweet taste or smell. These desires
and their satisfactions will again be copied in ideas, but how can
the impressions _(b)_ to which these ideas give rise be other than
desires for the renewal of the original animal pleasures? How do they
come to be desires as unlike these as are the motives which actuate
not merely the saint or the philanthropist, but the ordinary good
neighbour or honest citizen or head of a family?

[1] General Introd., Vol. I, par. 195

Questions which he found at issue, a. Is virtue interested? b. What
is conscience?

20. During the interval between the publication of Locke’s essay
and the ‘Treatise on Human Nature’ there had been much writing on
ethical questions in English. The effect of this on Hume is plain
enough. He writes with reference to current controversy, and in
the moral part of the treatise probably had the views of Clarke,
Shaftesbury, Butler, and Hutcheson more consciously before him than
Locke’s. This does not interfere, however, with the propriety of
affiliating him in respect of his views on morals, no less than on
knowledge, directly to Locke, whose principles and method were in the
main accepted by all the moralists of that age. His characteristic
lies in his more consistent application of these, and the effect of
current controversy upon him was chiefly to show him the line which
this application must take. It was a controversy which turned almost
wholly on two points; _(a)_ the distinction between ‘interested and
disinterested,’ selfish and unselfish affections; _(b)_ the origin
and nature of that ‘law,’ relation to which, according to Locke,
constitutes our action ‘virtuous or vicious.’ In the absence of any
notion of thought but as a faculty which puts together simple ideas
into complex ones, of reason but as a faculty which calculates means
and perceives the agreement of ideas mediately, it could have but one

Hobbes’ answer to first question,

21. By the generation in which Hume was bred the issue as to the
possible disinterestedness of action was supposed to lie between
the view of Hobbes and that of Shaftesbury. Hobbes’ moral doctrine
had not been essentially different from Locke’s, but he had been
offensively explicit on questions which Locke left open to more
genial views than his doctrine logically justified. Each started from
the position that the ultimate motive to every action can only be
the imagination of one’s own pleasure or pain, and neither properly
left room for the determination of desire by a conceived object as
distinct from remembered pleasure. But while Locke, as we have seen,
illogically took for granted desires so determined, and thus made it
possible for a disciple to admit any benevolent desires as motives
on the strength of the pleasure which they produce when satisfied,
Hobbes had been more severe in his method, and had explained every
desire, of which the direct motive could not be taken to be the
renewal of some animal pleasure, as desire either for the power
in oneself to command such pleasure at will or for the pleasure
incidental to the contemplation of the signs of such power. Hence his
peculiar treatment of compassion and the other ‘social affections,’
which it is easier to show to be untrue to the facts of the case
than to be other than the proper consequence of principles which
Locke had rendered orthodox. [1] The counter-doctrine of Shaftesbury
holds water just so far as it involves the rejection of the doctrine
that pleasure is the sole ultimate motive. It becomes confused just
because its author had no definite theory of reason, as constitutive
of objects, that could justify this rejection.

[1] See ‘Leviathan,’ part 1, chap. 6.

Counter-doctrine of Shaftesbury. Vice is selfishness: But no clear
account of selfishness.

22. He begins with a doctrine that directly contradicts Locke’s
identification of the good with pleasure, and of the morally good
with pleasure occurring in a particular way, ‘In a sensible creature
that which is not done through any affection at all makes neither
good nor ill in the nature of that creature; who then only is
supposed good, when the good or ill of the system to which he has
relation is the immediate object of some passion or affection moving
him.’ [1] This, it will be seen, as against Locke, implies that the
good of a man’s action lies not in any pleasure sequent upon it to
him, but in the nature of the affection from which it proceeds; and
that the goodness of this affection depends on its being determined
by an object wholly different from imagined pleasure--the _conceived_
good of a system to which the man has relation, _i.e._, of human
society, which in Shaftesbury’s language is the ‘public’ as distinct
from the ‘private’ system. It is not enough that an action should
result in good to this system; it must proceed from affection for it.
‘Whatever is done which happens to be advantageous to the species
through an affection merely towards self-good does not imply any
more goodness in the creature than as the affection itself is good.
Let him in any particular act ever so well; if at the bottom it
be that selfish affection alone which moves him, he is in himself
still vicious.’ [2] Here, then, we seem to have a clear theory of
moral evil as consisting in selfish, of moral good as consisting
in unselfish affections. But what exactly constitutes a selfish
affection, according to Shaftesbury? The answer that first suggests
itself, is that as the unselfish affection is an affection for
public good, so a selfish one is an affection for ‘self-good,’ the
good of the ‘private system.’ Shaftesbury, however, does not give
this answer. ‘Affection for private good’ with him is not, as such,
selfish; it is so only when ‘excessive’ and ‘inconsistent with the
interest of the species or public.’ [3] This qualification seems
at once to efface the clear line of distinction previously drawn.
It puts ‘self-affection’ on a level with public affection which,
according to Shaftesbury, may equally err on the side of excess. It
implies that an affection for self-good, if only it be advantageous
to the species, may be good; which is just what had been previously
denied. And not only so; although, when the self-affections are under
view, they are only allowed a qualified goodness in virtue of their
indirect contribution to the good of the species, yet conversely, the
superiority of the affections, which have this latter good for their
object, is urged specially on the ground of the greater amount of
happiness or ‘self-good’ which they produce.

[1] ‘Inquiry concerning Virtue,’ Book I. part 2, sec. 1.

[2] Ibid., Book I., part 2, sec. 2.

[3] Ibid., Book II., part 1, sec. 3.

Confusion in his notions of self-good and public good: Is all living
for pleasure, or only too much of it, selfish?

23. The truth is that the notions which Shaftesbury attached to the
terms ‘affection for self-good’ and ‘affection for public good’ were
not such as allowed of a consistent opposition between them. They can
only be so opposed if, on the one hand, self-good is identified with
pleasure; and on the other, affection for public good is carefully
distinguished from desire for that sort of pleasure of which the
gratification of others is a condition. But with Shaftesbury,
affections for self-good do not represent merely those desires for
pleasure determined by self-consciousness--for pleasure presented as
one’s personal good--which can alone be properly reckoned sources
of moral evil. They include equally mere natural appetites--hunger,
the sexual impulse, &c.--which are morally neutral, and they do not
clearly exclude any desire for an object which a man has so ‘made
his own’ as to find his happiness--‘self-enjoyment’ or ‘self-good,’
according to Shaftesbury’s language--in attaining it, though it
be as remote from imagined pleasure as possible. [1] On the other
hand, ‘affections for public good,’ as he describes them, are not
restricted to such desires for the good of others as are irrespective
of pleasure to self. They include not only such natural instincts as
‘parental kindness and concern for the nurture and propagation of
the young,’ which, morally, at any rate, are not to be distinguished
from the appetites reckoned as affections for self-good, but also
desires for sympathetic pleasure--the pleasure to oneself which
arises on consciousness that another is pleased. Shaftesbury’s
special antipathy, indeed, is the doctrine that benevolent affections
are interested in the sense of having for their object a pleasure
to oneself, apart from and beyond the pleasure of the person whom
they move us to please; but unless he regards them as desires for
the pleasure which the subject of them experiences in the pleasure
of another, there is no purpose in enlarging, as he does with much
unction, on the special pleasantness of the pleasures which they
produce. With such vagueness in his notions of what he meant by
affections for ‘self-good’ and for ‘public good,’ it is not strange
that he should have failed to give any tenable account of the
selfishness in which he conceived moral evil to consist. He could not
apply such a term of reproach to the ‘self-affections’ in general,
without condemning as selfish the man who ‘finds his own happiness
in doing good,’ and who is in truth indistinguishable from one to
whom ‘affection for public good’ has become, as we say, the law of
his being. Nor could he identify selfishness, as he should have
done, with all living for pleasure without a more complete rupture
than he was capable of with the received doctrine of his time and
without bringing affection for public good, in the form in which it
was most generally conceived, and which was, at any rate, one of the
forms under which he presented it to himself--as desire, namely, for
sympathetic pleasure--into the same condemnation. His way out of the
difficulty is, as we have seen, in violation of his own principle
to find the characteristic of selfishness not in the motive of any
affection but in its result; not in the fact that a man’s desire
has his own good for its object, which is true of one to whom his
neighbour’s good is as his own, nor in the fact that it has pleasure
for its object, which Shaftesbury, as the child of his age, could
scarcely help thinking was the case with every desire, but in the
fact that it is stronger than is ‘consistent with the interest of the
species or public.’

[1] Book II., part 2, sec. 2.

What have Butler and Hutcheson to say about it? Chiefly that
affections terminate upon their objects. But this does not exclude
the view that all desire is for pleasure.

24. Neither Butler nor Hutcheson [1] can claim to have carried the
ethical controversy much beyond the point at which Shaftesbury left
it. Each took for granted that the object of the ‘self-affection’ was
necessarily one’s own happiness, and neither made any distinction
between living for happiness and living for pleasure. They could
not then identify selfishness with the living for pleasure without
condemning the self-affection, and with, it the best man’s pursuit
of his own highest good in the service of others, altogether as
evil. Nor in the absence of any better theory of the object of
the self-affection could the social affections, which, according
to Butler, are subject in the developed man to the direction of
self-love, escape the suggestion that they are one mode of the
general desire for pleasure. Butler and Hutcheson, indeed, are quite
clear that they are ‘disinterested’ in the sense of ‘terminating upon
their objects.’ [2] This means, what is sufficiently obvious when
once pointed out, _(a)_ that a benevolent desire is not a desire
for that particular pleasure, or rather ‘removal of uneasiness,’
which shall ensue when it is satisfied, and _(b)_ that it cannot
originally arise from the general desire for happiness, since
this creates no pleasures but merely directs us to the pursuit of
objects found pleasant independently of it, and thus, if it directs
us to benevolent acts, presupposes a pleasure previously found in
them. This, however, as Butler points out, is equally true of all
particular desires whatever--of those styled self-regarding, no less
than of the social--and if it is not incompatible with the former
being desires for pleasure, no more is it with the latter being so.
Much confusion on the matter, it may be truly said, arises from the
loose way in which the words ‘affection’ and ‘passion’ are used by
Butler and his contemporaries, not excluding Hume himself, alike
for appetite, desire, and emotion. In every case a pleasure other
than satisfaction of desire must have been experienced before desire
can be excited by the imagination of it. A pleasure incidental to
the satisfaction of _appetite_ must have been experienced before
imagination of it could excite the _desire_ of the glutton. In like
manner, social affection, as _desire_, cannot be first excited by the
pleasure which shall arise when it is satisfied; it must previously
exist as the condition of that pleasure being experienced; but it
does not follow that it is other than a desire for an imagined
pleasure, for that sympathetic pleasure in the pleasure of another
in which the social affection as _emotion_ consists. Now though
Butler and Hutcheson sufficiently showed that it is no other pleasure
than this which is the original object of benevolent desires, they
did not attempt to show that it is not this; and failing such an
attempt, the received doctrine that the object of all desire, social
and self-regarding alike, is pleasure of one sort or another, would
naturally be taken to stand. This admitted, there can be nothing in
the fact that a certain pleasure depends on the pleasure of another,
and that a certain other does not, to entitle an action moved by
desire for the former sort of pleasure to be called unselfish in the
way of praise, and one moved by desire for the latter sort selfish
in the way of reproach. The motive--desire for his own pleasure--is
the same to the doer in both cases. The distinction between the acts
can only lie in that which Shaftesbury had said could not constitute
moral good or ill--in the consequences by which society judges of
them, but which do not form the motive of the agent. In other words,
it will be a distinction fixed by that law of opinion or reputation,
in which Locke had found the common measure of virtue and vice,
though he had not entered on the question of the considerations by
which that law is formed.

[1] The works of Hutcheson, published before Hume’s treatise was
written, and which strongly affected it, were the ‘Enquiry into the
Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue’ (1725), and the ‘Essay
on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections’ (1728). In
what follows I wrote with direct reference to his posthumous work,
not published till after Hume’s treatise, but which only reproduces
more systematically his earlier views.

[2] See in Preface to Butler’s Sermons, the part relating to Sermon
XI., ‘Besides, the only idea of an interested pursuit’ &c.; also the
early part of Sermon XI., ‘Every man hath a general desire,’ &c.

Of moral goodness Butler’s account circular: Hutcheson’s inconsistent
with his doctrine that reason gives no end.

25. Such a conclusion would lie ready to hand for such a reader of
Butler and Hutcheson as we may suppose Hume to have been, but it
is needless to say that it is not that at which they themselves
arrive. Butler, indeed, distinctly refuses to identify moral good
and evil respectively with disinterested and interested action, [1]
but neither does he admit that desire for pleasure or aversion from
pain is the uniform motive of action in such a way as to compel the
conclusion that moral good and ill represent a distinction, not of
motives, but of consequences of action contemplated by the onlooker.
An act is morally good, according to him, when it is approved by the
‘reflex faculty of approbation,’ bad when it is disapproved, but
what it is that this ‘faculty’ approves he never distinctly tells
us. The good is what ‘conscience’ approves, and conscience is what
approves the good--that is the circle out of which he never escapes.
If we insist on extracting from him any more satisfactory conclusion
as to the object of moral approbation, it must be that it is the
object which ‘self-love’ pursues, _i.e._, the greatest happiness
of the individual, a conclusion which in some places he certainly
adopts. [2] Hutcheson, on the other hand, gives a plain definition of
the object which this faculty approves. It consists in ‘affections
tending to the happiness of others and the moral perfection of the
mind possessing them.’ If in this definition by ‘tending to’ may be
understood ‘of which the motive is’--an interpretation which the
general tenor of Hutcheson’s view would justify--it implies in effect
that the morally good lies in desires of which the object is not
pleasure. That desire for moral perfection, if there is such a thing,
is not desire for pleasure is obvious enough; nor could desire for
the happiness of others be taken to be so except through confusion
between determination by the conception of another’s good, to which
his apparent pleasure is rightly or wrongly taken as a guide, and
by the imagination of a pleasure to be experienced by oneself in
sympathy with the pleasure of another. Nor is it doubtful that
Hutcheson himself, though he might have hesitated to identify moral
evil, as selfishness, with the living for pleasure, yet understood
by the morally good the living for objects wholly different from
pleasure. The question is whether the recognition of such motives is
logically compatible with his doctrine that reason gives no ends,
but is only a ‘subservient power’ of calculating means. If feeling,
undetermined by thought or reason, can alone supply motives, and
of feeling, thus undetermined, nothing can be said but that it is
pleasant or painful, what motive can there be but imagination of
one’s own pleasure or pain--_one’s own_, for if imagination is
merely the return of feeling in fainter form, no one can imagine any
feeling, any more than he can originally feel it, except as his own?

[1] See preface to Sermons (about four pages from the end in most
editions):-‘The goodness or badness of actions does not arise hence,’
&c. The conclusion he there arrives at is that a good action is one
which ‘becomes such creatures as we are’; and this, read in the
light of the second sermon, must be understood to mean an action
‘suitable to our whole nature,’ as containing a principle of ‘reflex
approbation.’ In other words, the good action is so because approved
by conscience.

[2] See a passage towards the end of Sermon III., ‘Reasonable
self-love and conscience are the chief,’ &c. &c.; also a passage
towards the end of Sermon XI., ‘Let it be allowed though virtue,’ &c.

Source of the moral judgment: Received notion of reason incompatible
with true view. Shaftesbury’s doctrine of rational affection; spoilt
by doctrine of ‘moral sense’

26. The work of reason in constituting the moral judgment (‘I
ought’), as well as the moral motive (‘I must, because I ought’),
could not find due recognition in an age which took its notion of
reason from Locke. The only theory then known which found the source
of moral distinctions in reason was Clarke’s, and Clarke’s notion
of reason was essentially the same as that which appears in Locke’s
account of demonstrative knowledge. [1] It was in truth derived from
the procedure of mathematics, and only applicable to the comparison
of quantities. Clarke talks loftily about the Eternal Reason of
things, but by this he means nothing definite except the laws of
proportion, and when he finds the virtue of an act to consist in
conformity to this Eternal Reason, the inevitable rejoinder is the
question--Between what quantities is this virtue a proportion? [2]
In Shaftesbury first appears a doctrine of moral sense. Over and
above the social and self-regarding affections proper to a ‘sensible’
creature, the characteristic of man is a ‘rational affection’ for
goodness as consisting in the proper adjustment of the two orders
of ‘sensible’ affection. This rational affection is not only a
possible motive to action--it is the only motive that can make that
character good of which human action is the expression; for with
Shaftesbury, though a balance of the social and self-affections
constitutes the goodness of those affections, yet the man is only
good as actuated by affection for this goodness, and ‘should the
_sensible_ affections stand ever so much amiss, yet if they prevail
not because of those other rational affections spoken of, the person
is esteemed virtuous.’ [3] Such a notion, it is clear, if it had
met with a psychology answering it, had only to be worked out in
order to become Kant’s doctrine of the rational will as determined
by reverence for law; but Shaftesbury had no such psychology, nor,
with his aristocratic indifference to completeness of system, does
he seem ever to have felt the want of it. He never asked himself
what precisely was the theory of reason implied in the admission of
an affection ‘rational’ in the sense, not that reason calculates the
means to its satisfaction, but that it is determined by an object
only possible for a rational as distinct from a ‘sensible’ creature;
and just because he did not do so, he slipped into adaptations to the
current view of the good as pleasure and of desire as determined by
the pleasure incidental to its own satisfaction. Thus, to a disciple,
who wished to extract from Shaftesbury a more definite system than
Shaftesbury had himself formed, the ‘rational affection’ would become
desire for a specific feeling of pleasure supposed to arise on the
view of good actions as exhibiting a proper balance between social
and self-regarding affections. This pleasure is the ‘moral sense,’
[4] with which Shaftesbury’s name has become specially associated,
while the doctrine of rational affection, with which he certainly
himself connected it, but which it essentially vitiates, has been

[1] See Clarke’s Boyle Lectures, Vol. II., proposition 1. The germ
of Clarke’s doctrine of morals is to be found in Locke’s occasional
assimilation of moral to mathematical truth and certainty. (Cf.
Essay, Book IV, ch. 4, sec. 7, and ch. 12, sec. 8).

[2] Cf. Hume, Vol. II., p. 238. [Book III., part I., sec. I.]

[3] ‘Inq. concerning Virtue,’ Book I., pt. 2. sec. 4. Cf. Sec. 3 sub

[4] In using the term ‘moral sense,’ Shaftesbury himself, no doubt,
meant to convey the notion that the moral faculty was one of
‘intuition,’ in Locke’s sense of the word, as opposed to reason, the
faculty of demonstration, rather than that it was a susceptibility of
pleasure and pain.

Consequences of the latter.

27. That doctrine is of value as maintaining that those actions only
are morally good of which the rational affection is the motive, in
the sense that they spring from a character which this affection has
fashioned. But if the rational affection is desire for the pleasure
of moral sense, we find ourselves in the contradiction of supposing
that the only motive which can produce good acts is one that cannot
operate till after the good acts have been done. It is desire for a
pleasure which yet can only have been experienced as a consequence of
the previous existence of the desire. Shaftesbury himself, indeed,
treats the moral sense of pleasure in the contemplation of good
actions as a pleasure in the view of the right adjustment between the
social and self-affections. If, however, on the strength of this, we
suppose that certain actions are first done, not from the rational
affection, but yet good, and that then remembrance of the pleasure
found in the view of their goodness, exciting desire, becomes motive
to another set of acts which are thus done from rational affection,
we contradict his statement that only the rational affection forms
the goodness of man, and are none the nearer to an account of what
does form it. To say that it is the ‘right adjustment’ of the two
orders of affection tells us nothing. Except as suggesting an analogy
from the world of art, really inapplicable, but by which Shaftesbury
was much influenced, this expression means no more than that goodness
is a good state of the affections. From such a circle the outlet
most consistent with the spirit of that philosophy, which had led
Shaftesbury himself to bring down the rational affection to the level
of a desire for pleasure, would lie in the notion that a state of the
affections is good in proportion as it is productive of pleasure;
which again would suggest the question whether the specific pleasure
of moral sense itself, the supposed object of rational affection, is
more than pleasure in that indefinite anticipation of pleasure which
the view of affections so ordered tends to raise in us.

Is an act done for ‘virtue’s sake’ done for pleasure of moral sense?

28. Here, again, neither Butler nor Hutcheson, while they avoid the
most obvious inconsistency of Shaftesbury’s doctrine, do much for its
positive development. With each the ‘moral faculty,’ though it is
said to approve and disapprove, is still a ‘sense’ or ‘sentiment,’ a
specific susceptibility of pleasure in the contemplation of goodness;
and each again recognises a ‘reflex affection’ for--a desire to
have--the goodness of which the view conveys this pleasure. But they
neither have the merit of stating so explicitly as Shaftesbury does
that this rational affection alone constitutes the goodness of man,
as man; nor, on the other hand, do they lapse, as he does, into the
representation of it as a desire for the pleasure which the view of
goodness causes. Butler, indeed, having no account to give of the
goodness which is approved or morally pleasing, but the fact that it
is so pleasing, could logically have nothing to say against the view
that this reflex affection is merely a desire for this particular
sort of pleasure; but by representing it as equivalent in its highest
form to the love of God, to the longing of the soul after Him as the
perfectly good, he in effect gives it a wholly different character.
Hutcheson, by his definition of the object of moral approbation, [1]
which is also a definition of the object of the reflex affection, is
fairly entitled to exclude, as he does, along with the notion that
the goodness which we morally approve is the quality of exciting the
pleasure of such approval, the notion that ‘affection for goodness’
means desire for this or any other pleasure. But, in spite of his
express rejection of this view, the question will still return, how
either a faculty of consciousness of which we only know that it is ‘a
kind of taste or relish,’ or a desire from the determination of which
reason is expressly excluded, can have any other object than pleasure
or pain.

[1] See above, sec. 25.

Hume excludes every object of desire but pleasure.

29. In contrast with these well-meant efforts to derive that
distinction between the selfish and unselfish, between the pleasant
and the morally good, which the Christian conscience requires, from
principles that do not admit of it, Hume’s system has the merit
of relative consistency. He sees that the two sides of Locke’s
doctrine--one that thought originates nothing, but takes its objects
as given in feeling, the other that the good which is object of
desire is pleasant feeling--are inseparable. Hence he decisively
rejects every notion of rational or unselfish affections, which
would imply that they are other than desires for pleasure; of
virtue, which would imply that it antecedently determines, rather
than is constituted by, the specific pleasure of moral sense; and
of this pleasure itself, which would imply that anything but the
view of tendencies to produce pleasure can excite it. But here
his consistency stops. The principle which forbade him to admit
any object of desire but pleasure is practically forgotten in his
account of the sources of pleasure, and its being so forgotten is
the condition of the desire for pleasure being made plausibly to
serve as a foundation for morals. It is the assumption of pleasures
determined by objects only possible for reason, made in the treatise
on the Passions, that prepares the way for the rejection of reason,
as supplying either moral motive or moral standard, in the treatise
on Morals.

His account of ‘direct passions’: All desire is for pleasure.

30. ‘The passions’ is Hume’s generic term for ‘impressions of
reflection’--appetites, desires, and emotions alike. He divides them
into two main orders, ‘direct and indirect,’ both ‘founded on pain
and pleasure.’ The _direct_ passions are enumerated as ‘desire and
aversion, grief and joy, hope and fear, along with volition’ or will.
These ‘arise from good and evil’ (which are the same as pleasure and
pain) ‘most naturally and with least preparation.’ ‘Desire arises
from good, aversion from evil, considered simply.’ They become will
or volition, ‘when the good may be attained or evil avoided by
any action of the mind or body’--will being simply ‘the internal
impression we feel and are conscious of when we knowingly give rise
to any new motion of our body or new perception of our mind.’ ‘When
good is certain or probable it produces joy’ (which is described
also as a pleasure produced by pleasure or by the imagination of
pleasure); ‘when it is uncertain, it gives rise to hope.’ To these
the corresponding opposites are grief and fear. We must suppose
them to be distinguished from desire and aversion as being what
he elsewhere calls ‘pure emotions’; such as do not, like desires,
‘immediately excite us to action.’ Given such an immediate impression
of pleasure or pain as excites a ‘distinct passion’ of one or other
of these kinds, and supposing it to ‘arise from an object related to
ourselves or others,’ it excites mediately, through this relation,
the new impressions of pride or humility, love or hatred--pride when
the object is related to oneself, love when it is related to another
person. These are _indirect_ passions. They do not tend to displace
the immediate impression which is the condition of their excitement,
but being themselves agreeable give it additional force. ‘Thus a
suit of fine clothes produces pleasure from their beauty; and this
pleasure produces the direct passions, or the impressions of volition
and desire. Again, when these clothes are considered as belonging to
oneself, the double relation conveys to us the sentiment of pride,
which is an indirect passion; and the pleasure which attends that
passion returns back to the direct affections, and gives new force to
our desire or volition, joy or hope.’ [1]

[1] Vol. II., pp. 214, 215. Cf. pp. 76, 90, 153 and 203. [Book II.,
part III., sec. IX.; part 1, sec. I; part I., sec. VI.; part II.,
sec. VI.; part III., sec. VI.]

Yet he admits ‘passions’ which produce pleasure, but proceed not from

31. Alongside of the unqualified statement that ‘the passions, both
direct and indirect, are founded on pain and pleasure,’ and the
consequent theory of them, we find the curiously cool admission that
‘beside pain and pleasure, the direct passions frequently arise from
a natural impulse or instinct, which is perfectly unaccountable.
Of this kind is the desire of punishment to our enemies, and of
happiness to our friends; hunger and lust, and a few other bodily
appetites. These passions, properly speaking, produce good and
evil, and proceed not from them like the other affections.’ [1] In
this casual way appears the recognition of that difference of the
desire for imagined pleasure from appetite proper on the one side,
and on the other from desire determined by reason, which it is the
point of Hume’s system to ignore. The question is, how many of the
pleasures in which he finds the springs of human conduct are other
than products of a desire which is not itself moved by pleasure, or
emotions excited by objects which reason constitutes.

[1] P. 215. [Book II., part III., sec. IX.] The passage in the
‘Dissertation on the Passions’ (Vol. IV., ‘Dissertation on the
Passions,’ sub init.), which corresponds to the one here quoted,
throws light on the relation in which Hume’s later redaction of his
theory stands to the earlier, as occasionally disguising, but never
removing, its inconsistencies. ‘Some objects, by being naturally
conformable or contrary to passion, excite an agreeable or painful
sensation, and are thence called _good_ or _evil_. The punishment
of an adversary, by gratifying revenge, is good: the sickness of a
companion, by affecting friendship, is evil.’ Here he avoids the
inconsistency of admitting in so many words a ‘desire’ which is not
for a pleasure. But the inconsistency really remains. What is the
passion, the ‘conformability’ to which of an object in the supposed
cases constitutes pleasure? Since it is neither an appetite (such
as hunger), nor an emotion (such as pride), it remains that it is a
desire, and a desire which, though the ‘gratification’ of it is a
pleasure, cannot be a desire for that or any other pleasure.

Desire for objects, as he understands it, excluded by his theory of
impressions and ideas.

32. In what sense, we have first to ask, do Hume’s principles justify
him in speaking of desire _for an object_ at all. ‘The appearance of
an object to the senses’ is the same thing as ‘an impression becoming
present to the mind,’ [1] and if this is true of impressions of sense
it cannot be less true of impressions of reflection. If sense ‘offers
not its object as anything distinct from itself,’ neither can desire.
Its object, according to Hume, is an idea of a past impression; but
this, if we take him at his word, can merely mean that a feeling
which, when at its liveliest, was pleasant, has passed into a fainter
stage, which, in contrast with the livelier, is pain--the pain of
want, which is also a wish for the renewal of the original pleasure.
In fact, however, when Hume or anyone else (whether he admit the
possibility of desiring an object not previously found pleasant, or
no), speaks of desire for an object, he means something different
from this. He means either desire for an object that causes pleasure,
which is impossible except so far as the original pleasure has
been--consciously to the subject feeling it--pleasure caused by an
object, _i.e._, a feeling determined by the conception of a thing
under relations to self; or else desire for pleasure as an object,
_i.e._, not merely desire for the revival of some feeling which,
having been pleasant as ‘impression,’ survives without being pleasant
as ‘idea,’ but desire determined by the consciousness of self as a
permanent subject that has been pleased, and is to be pleased again.
It is here, then, as in the case of the attempted derivation of
space, or of identity and substance, from impressions of sense. In
order to give rise to such an impression of reflection as desire for
an object is, either the original impression of sense, or the idea
of this, must be other than Hume could allow it to be. Either the
original impression must be other than a satisfaction of appetite,
other than a sight, smell, sound, &c., or the idea must be other
than a copy of the impression. One or other must be determined by
conceptions not derived from feeling, the correlative conceptions of
self and thing. Thus, in order to be able to interpret his primary
class of impressions of reflection [2] as desires for objects, or
for pleasures as good, Hume has already made the assumption that is
needed for the transition to that secondary class of impressions
through which he has to account for morality. He has assumed that
thought determines feeling, and not merely reproduces it. Even if the
materials out of which it constructs the determining object be merely
remembered pleasures, the object is no more to be identified with
these materials than the living body with its chemical constituents.

[1] See General Introduction, paragraph 208.

[2] See above, sec. 19.

Pride determined by reference to self.

33. In the account of the ‘indirect passions’ the term _object_ is no
longer applied, as in the account of the direct ones, to the pleasure
or pain which excites desire or aversion. It is expressly transferred
to the self or other person, to whom the ‘exciting causes’ of pride
and love must be severally related. ‘Pride and humility, though
directly contrary, have yet the same object,’ viz., self; but since
they are contrary, ‘’tis impossible this object can be their cause,
or sufficient alone to excite them ... We must therefore make a
distinction betwixt that idea which excites them, and that to which
they direct their view when excited.... The first idea that is
presented to the mind is that of the cause or productive principle.
This excites the passion connected with it; and that passion, when
excited, turns our view to another idea, which is that of self....
The first idea represents the _cause_, the second the _object_ of
the passion.’ [1] Again a further distinction must be made ‘in the
causes of the passion betwixt that _quality_ which operates, and
the _subject_ on which it is placed. A man, for instance, is vain
of a beautiful house which belongs to him, or which he has himself
built or contrived. Here the object of the passion is himself, and
the cause is the beautiful house; which cause again is subdivided
into two parts, viz., the quality which operates upon the passion,
and the subject in which the quality inheres. The quality is the
beauty, and the subject is the house, considered as his property or
contrivance.’ [2] It is next found that the operative qualities which
produce pride, however various, agree in this, that they produce
pleasure--a ‘separate pleasure,’ independent of the resulting pride.
In all cases, again, ‘the subjects to which these qualities adhere
are either parts of ourselves or something nearly related to us.’
The conclusion is that ‘the cause, which excites the passion, is
related to the object which nature has attributed to the passion;
the sensation, which the cause separately produces, is related to
the sensation of the passion: from this double relation of ideas
and impressions the passion is derived.’ [3] The ideas, it will be
observed, are severally those of the exciting ‘subject’ (in the
illustrative case quoted, the beautiful house) and of the ‘object’
self; the impressions are severally the pleasure immediately caused
by the ‘subject’ (in the case given, the pleasure of feeling beauty)
and the pleasure of pride. The relation between the ideas may be
any of the ‘natural ones’ that regulate association. [4] In the
supposed case it is that of cause and effect, since a man’s property
‘produces effects on him and he on it.’ The relation between the
impressions must be that of resemblance--this, as we are told by the
way (somewhat strangely, if impressions are only stronger ideas),
being the only possible relation between impressions--the resemblance
of one pleasure to another.

[1] Vol. II., pp. 77 and 78. [Book II., part I., sec. II.]

[2] Ibid., p. 79. [Book II., part I., sec. II.]

[3] Vol. II., pp. 84, 85. [Book II., part I., sec. V.]

[4] Book I., part 1, secs. 4 and 5.

This means that it takes its character from that which is not a
possible ‘impression’.

34. Pride, then, is a special sort of pleasure excited by another
special sort of pleasure, and the distinction of the two sorts of
pleasure from each other depends on the character which each derives
from an idea--one from the idea of self, the other from the idea of
some ‘quality in a subject,’ which may be the beauty of a picture, or
the achievement of an ancestor, or any other quality as unlike these
as these are unlike each other, so long as the idea of it is capable
of association with the idea of self. Apart from such determination
by ideas, the pleasure of pride itself and the pleasure which excites
it, on the separateness of which from each other Hume insists, could
only be separate in time and degree of liveliness--a separation
which might equally obtain between successive feelings of pride. Of
neither could anything be said but that it was pleasant--more or less
pleasant than the other, before or after it, as the case might be.
Is the idea, then, that gives each impression its character, itself
an impression grown fainter? It should be so, of course, if Hume’s
theory of consciousness is to hold good, either in its general form,
or in its application to morals, according to which all actions,
those moved by pride among the rest, have pleasure for their ultimate
motive; and no doubt he would have said that it was so. The idea of
the beauty of a picture, for instance, is the original impression
which it ‘makes on the senses’ as more faintly retained by the mind.
But is the original impression _merely_ an impression--an impression
undetermined by conceptions, and of which, therefore, as it is to the
subject of it, nothing can be said, but simply that it is pleasant?
This, too, in the particular instance of beauty, Hume seems to hold;
[1] but if it is so, the idea of beauty, as determined by reference
to the impression, is determined by reference to the indeterminate,
and we know no more of the separate pleasure that excites the
pleasure of pride, when we are told that its source is an impression
of beauty, than we did before. Apart from any other reference, we
only know that pride is a pleasure excited by a pleasure which is
itself excited by a pleasure grown fainter. Of effect, proximate
cause, and ultimate cause, only one and the same thing can be said,
viz., that each feels pleasant. Meanwhile in regard to that other
relation from which the pleasure of pride, on its part, is supposed
to take its character, the same question arises. This pleasure ‘has
self for its object.’ Is self, then, an impression stronger or
fainter? Can one feeling be said without nonsense to have another
feeling for its object? If it can, what specification is gained for
a pleasure or pain by reference to an object of which, as a mere
feeling, nothing more can be said than that it is a pleasure or pain?
If, on the other hand, the idea of self, relation to which makes the
feeling of pride what it is, and through it determines action, is
not a copy of any impression of sense or reflection--not a copy of
any sight or sound, any passion or emotion [2]--how can it be true
that the ultimate determination of action in all cases arises from
pleasure or pain?

[1] Vol. II., p. 96; IV [Book II., part I., sec. VIII.],
‘Dissertation on the Passions,’ II. 7.

[2] Intr. to Vol. I., paragraph 208.

Hume’s attempt to represent idea of self as derived from impression.

35. From the pressure of such questions as these Hume offers us two
main subterfuges. One is furnished by his account of the self, as
‘that succession of related ideas and impressions of which we have
an intimate memory and consciousness’ [1]--an account which, to an
incurious reader, conveys the notion that ‘self,’ if not exactly an
impression, is something in the nature of an impression, while yet it
seems to give the required determination to the impression which has
this for its ‘object.’ It is evident, however, that its plausibility
depends entirely on the qualification of the ‘succession, &c.,’ as
that of which we have an ‘intimate consciousness.’ The succession
of impressions, simply as such, and in the absence of relation to
a single subject, is nothing intelligible at all. Hume, indeed,
elsewhere represents it as constituting time, which, as we have
previously shown, [2] by itself it could not properly be said to do;
but if it could, the characterisation of pleasure as having time
for its object would not be much to the purpose. The successive
impressions and ideas are further said to be ‘related,’ _i.e._,
_naturally_ related, according to Hume’s sense of the term; but
this we have found means no more than that when two feelings have
been often felt to be either like each other or ‘contiguous,’ the
recurrence of one is apt to be followed by the recurrence in fainter
form of the other. This characteristic of the succession brings it
no nearer to the intelligible unity which it must have, in order
to be an object of which the idea makes the pleasure of pride what
it is. The notion of its having such unity is really conveyed by
the statement that we have an ‘intimate consciousness’ of it. It is
through these words, so to speak, that we read into the definition
of self that conception of it which we carry with us, but of which
it states the reverse. Now, however difficult it may be to say what
this intimate consciousness is, it is clear that it cannot be one of
the feelings, stronger or fainter--impressions or ideas--which the
first part of the definition tells us form a succession, for this
would imply that one of them was at the same time all the rest. Nor
yet can it be a compound of them all, for the fact that they are a
succession is incompatible with their forming a compound. Here, then,
is a consciousness, which is not an impression, and which we can
only take to be derived from impressions by supposing these to be
what they first become in relation to this consciousness. In saying
that we have such a consciousness of the succession of impressions,
we say in effect that we are other than the succession. How, then,
without contradiction, can our self be said to _be_ the succession of
impressions, &c.--a succession which in the very next word has to be
qualified in a way that implies we are other than it? This question,
once put, will save us from surprise at finding that in one place,
among frequent repetitions of the account of self already given, the
‘succession &c.’ is dropped, and for it substituted ‘_the individual
person_ of whose actions and sentiments each of us is intimately
conscious.’ [3]

[1] Vol, II., p. 77, &c. [Book II., part I., sec. II.]

[2] Intr. to Vol. I., sec. 261.

[3] Vol. II., p. 84. [Book II., part I., sec. V.]

Another device is to suggest a physiological account of pride.

36. The other way of gaining an apparent determination for the
impression, pride, without making it depend on relation to that
which is not an impression at all, corresponds to that appeal to
the ‘anatomist’ by the suggestion of which, it will be remembered,
Hume avoids the troublesome question, how the simple impressions of
sense, undetermined by relation, can have that definite character
which they must have if they are to serve as the elements of
knowledge. The question in that case being really one that concerns
the simple impression, as it is for the consciousness of the
subject of it, Hume’s answer is in effect a reference to what it
is for the physiologist. So in regard to pride; the question being
what character it can have, for the conscious subject of it, to
distinguish it from any other pleasant feeling, except such as is
derived from a conception which is not an impression, Hume is ready
on occasion to suggest that it has the distinctive character which
for the physiologist it would derive from the nerves organic to it,
if such nerves could be traced. ‘We must suppose that nature has
given to the organs of the human mind a certain disposition fitted
to produce a peculiar impression or emotion, which we call PRIDE: to
this emotion she has assigned a certain idea, viz., that of SELF,
which it never fails to produce. This contrivance of nature is easily
conceived. We have many instances of such a situation of affairs.
The nerves of the nose and palate are so disposed, as in certain
circumstances to convey such peculiar sensations to the mind; the
sensations of lust and hunger always produce in us the idea of those
peculiar objects, which are suitable to each appetite. These two
circumstances are united in pride. The organs are so disposed as to
produce the passion; and the passion, after its production, naturally
produces a certain idea.’ [1]

[1] Vol. II., p. 85. [Book II., part I., sec. V.]

Fallacy of this: it does not tell us what pride is to the subject of

37. Here, it will be noticed, the doctrine, that the pleasant emotion
of pride derives its specific character from relation to the idea
of self, is dropped. The emotion we call pride is supposed to be
first produced, and then, in virtue of its specific character as
pride, to _produce_ the idea of self. [1] If the idea of self, then,
does not give the pleasure its specific character, what does? ‘That
disposition fitted to produce it,’ Hume answers, which belongs to
the ‘organs of the human mind.’ Now either this is the old story of
explaining the soporific qualities of opium by its _vis soporifica_,
or it means that the distinction of the pleasure of pride from other
pleasures, like the distinction of a smell from a taste, is due to
a particular kind of nervous irritation that conditions it, and
may presumably be ascertained by the physiologist. Whether such a
physical condition of pride can be discovered or no, it is not to
the purpose to dispute. The point to observe is that, if discovered,
it would not afford an answer to the question to which an answer is
being sought--to the question, namely, what the emotion of pride is
to the conscious subject of it. If it were found to be conditioned
by as specific a nervous irritation as the sensations of smell and
taste to which Hume assimilates it, it would yet be no more the
consciousness of such irritation than is the smell of a rose to the
person smelling it. In the one case as in the other, the feeling,
as it is to the subject of it, can only be determined by relation
to other feelings or other modes of consciousness. It is by such a
relation that, according to Hume’s general account of it, pride is
determined, but the relation is to the consciousness of an object
which, not being any form of feeling, has no proper place in his
psychology. Hence in the passage before us he tries to substitute for
it a physical determination of the emotion, which for the subject
of it is no determination at all; and, having gained an apparent
specification for it in this way, to represent as its product that
idea of a distinctive object which he had previously treated as
necessary to constitute it. Pride produces the idea of self, just as
‘the sensations of hunger and lust always produce in us the idea of
those peculiar objects, which are suitable to each appetite.’ Now
it is a large assumption in regard to animals other than men, that,
because hunger and lust move them to eat and generate, they so move
them through the intervention of any ideas _of objects_ whatever--an
assumption which in the absence of language on the part of the
animals it is impossible to verify--and one still more questionable,
that the ideas of objects which these appetites (if it be so) produce
in the animals, except as determined by self-consciousness, are ideas
in the same sense as the idea of self. But at any rate, if such
feelings produce ideas of peculiar objects, it must be in virtue
of the distinctive character which, as feelings, they have for the
subjects of them. The withdrawal, however, of determination by the
idea of self from the emotion of pride, leaves it with no distinctive
character whatever, and therefore with nothing by which we may
explain its production of that idea as analogous to the production by
hunger, if we admit such to take place, of the ‘idea of the peculiar
object suited to it.’

[1] Cf. Vol. IV., ‘Dissertation on the Passions,’ II. 2.

Account of love involves the same difficulties; and a further one as
to nature of sympathy.

38. If, in Hume’s account of pride, for _pleasure_, wherever it
occurs, is substituted _pain_, it becomes his account of humility.
A criticism of one account is equally a criticism of the other; and
with him every passion that ‘has self for its object,’ according as
it is pleasant or painful, is included under one or other of these
designations. In like manner, every passion that has ‘some other
thinking being’ for its object, according as it is pleasant or
painful, is either love or hatred. To these the key is to be found in
the same ‘double relation of impressions and ideas’ by which pride
and humility are explained. If beautiful pictures, for instance,
belong not to oneself but to another person, they tend to excite
not pride but esteem, which is a form of love. The idea of them is
‘naturally related’ to the idea of the person to whom they belong,
and they cause a separate pleasure which naturally excites the
resembling impression of which this other person is the object. Write
‘other person,’ in short, where before was written ‘self,’ and the
account of pride and humility becomes the account of love and hatred.
Of this pleasure determined by the idea of another person, or of
which such a person ‘is the object,’ Hume gives no _rationale_, and,
failing this, it must be taken to imply the same power of determining
feeling on the part of a conception not derived from feeling, which
we have found to be implied in the pleasure of which self is the
object. All his pains and ingenuity in the second part of the book
‘on the Passions,’ are spent on illustrating the ‘double relation
of impressions and ideas’--on characterising the separate pleasures
which excite the pleasure of love, and showing how the idea of the
object of the exciting pleasure is related to the idea of the beloved
person. The objection to this part of his theory, which most readily
suggests itself to a reader, arises from the essential discrepancy
which in many cases seems to lie between the exciting and the excited
pleasure. The drinking of fine wine, and the feeling of love, are
doubtless ‘resembling impressions,’ so far as each is pleasant,
and from the idea of the wine the transition is natural to that of
the person who gives it; but is there really anything, it will be
asked, in my enjoyment of a rich man’s wine, that tends to make me
love him, even in the wide sense of ‘love’ which Hume admits? This
objection, it will be found, is so far anticipated by Hume, that in
most cases he treats the exciting pleasure as taking its character
from sympathy. Thus it is not chiefly the pleasure of ear, sight,
and palate, caused by the rich man’s music, and gardens, and wine,
that excites our love for him, but the pleasure we experience through
sympathy with his pleasure in them. [1] The explanation of love being
thus thrown back on sympathy (which had previously served to explain
that form of pride which is called ‘love of fame’), we have to ask
whether sympathy is any less dependent than we have found pride to be
on an originative, as distinct from a merely reproductive, reason.

[1] Vol. II., p. 147. [Book II., part II., sec. V.]

Hume’s account of sympathy.

39. ‘When any affection is infused by sympathy, it is at first known
only by its effects, and by those external signs in the countenance
and conversation which convey an idea of it.’ By inference from
effect to cause, ‘we are convinced of the reality of the passion,’
conceiving it ‘to belong to another person, as we conceive any other
matter of fact.’ This idea of another’s affection ‘is presently
converted into an impression, and acquires such a degree of force and
vivacity as to become the very passion itself, and produce an equal
emotion as any original affection.’ The conversion is not difficult
to account for when we reflect that ‘all ideas are borrowed from
impressions, and that these two kinds of perceptions differ only
in the degrees of force and vivacity with which they strike upon
the soul.... As this difference may be removed in some measure by a
relation between the impressions and ideas’--in the case before us,
the relation between the impression of one’s own person and the idea
of another’s, by which the vivacity of the former may be conveyed to
the latter--‘’tis no wonder an idea of a sentiment or passion may
by this means be so enlivened as to become the very sentiment or
passion.’ [1]

[1] Vol. II., pp. 111-114. [Book II., part I., sec. IX.]

It implies a self-consciousness not reducible to impressions.

40. Upon this it must be remarked that the inference from the
external signs of an affection, according to Hume’s doctrine of
inference, can only mean that certain impressions of the other
person’s words and gestures call up the ideas of their ‘usual
attendants’; which, again, must mean either that they convey the
belief in certain exciting circumstances experienced by the other
man, and the expectation of certain acts to follow upon his words
and gestures; or else that they suggest to the spectator the memory
of certain like manifestations on his own part and through these of
the emotion which in his own case was their antecedent. Either way,
the spectator’s idea of the other person’s affection is in no sense a
copy of it, or that affection in a fainter form. If it is an idea of
an impression _of reflection_ at all, it is of such an impression as
experienced by the spectator himself, and determined, as Hume admits,
by his consciousness of himself; nor could any conveyance of vivacity
to the idea make it other than that impression. How it should
become to the spectator consciously at once another’s impression
and his own, remains unexplained. Hume only seems to explain it by
means of the equivocation lurking in the phrase, ‘idea of another’s
affection.’ The reader, not reflecting that, according to the copying
theory, so far as the idea is a copy of anything _in the other_, it
can only be a copy of certain ‘external signs, &c.,’ and so far as
it is a copy _of an affection_, only of an affection experienced by
the man who has the idea, thinks of it as being to the spectator
the other’s affection minus a certain amount of vivacity--the
restoration of which will render it an impression at once his own
and the other’s. It can in truth only be so in virtue _(a)_ of an
interpretation of words and gestures, as related to a person, which
no suggestion by impressions of their usual attendants can account
for, and in virtue _(b)_ of there being such a conceived identity,
or unity in difference, between the spectator’s own person and the
person of the other that the same impression, in being determined by
his consciousness of himself, is determined also by his consciousness
of the other as an ‘alter ego.’ Thus sympathy, according to Hume’s
account of it, so soon as that account is rationalized, is found
to involve the determination of pleasure and pain, not merely by
self-consciousness, but by a self-consciousness which is also
self-identification with another. If self-consciousness cannot in
any of its functions be reduced to an impression or succession of
impressions, least of all can it in this. On the other hand, if it
is only through its constitutive action, its reflection of itself,
upon successive impressions of sense that these become the permanent
objects which we know, we can understand how by a like action on
certain impressions of reflection, certain emotions and desires, it
constitutes those objects of interest which we love as ourselves.

Ambiguity in his account of benevolence: It is a desire and therefore
has pleasure for its object. What pleasure?

41. Pride, love, and sympathy, then, are the motives which Hume
must have granted him, if his moral theory is to march. Sympathy is
not only necessary to his explanation of that most important form
of pride which is the motive to a man in maintaining a character
with his neighbours when ‘nothing is to be gained by it’--nothing,
that is, beyond the immediate pleasure it gives--and of all forms
of ‘love,’ except those of which the exciting cause lies in the
pleasures of beauty and sexual appetite: he finds in it also the
ground of benevolence. Where he first treats of benevolence, indeed,
this does not appear. Unlike pride and humility, we are told, which
‘are pure emotions of the soul, unattended with any desire, and
not immediately exciting us to action, love and hatred are not
completed within themselves ... Love is always followed by a desire
of the happiness of the person beloved, and an aversion to his
misery; as hatred produces a desire of the misery, and an aversion
to the happiness, of the person hated.’ [1] This actual sequence of
‘benevolence’ and ‘anger’ severally upon love and hatred is due, it
appears, to ‘an original constitution of the mind’ which cannot be
further accounted for. That benevolence is no essential part of love
is clear from the fact that the latter passion ‘may express itself
in a hundred ways, and may subsist a considerable time, without
our reflecting on the happiness of its object.’ Doubtless, when we
do reflect on it, we desire the happiness; but, ‘if nature had so
pleased, love might have been unattended with any such desire.’ [2]
So far, the view given tallies with what we have already quoted from
the summary account of the direct and indirect passions, where the
‘desire of punishment to our enemies and happiness to our friends’
is expressly left outside the general theory of the passions as a
‘natural impulse wholly unaccountable,’ a ‘direct passion’ which yet
does not proceed from pleasure.’ With his instinct for consistency,
however, Hume could scarcely help seeking to assimilate this alien
element to his definition of desire as universally for pleasure;
and accordingly, while the above view of benevolence is never in so
many words given up, an essentially different one appears a little
further on, which by help of the doctrine of sympathy at once makes
the connection of benevolence with love more accountable, and brings
it under the general definition of desire. ‘Benevolence,’ we are
there told, ‘is an original pleasure arising from the pleasure of
the person beloved, and a pain proceeding from his pain, from which
correspondence of impressions there arises a subsequent desire of his
pleasure and aversion to his pain.’ [3]

[1] Vol. II., p. 153. [Book II., part II., sec. VI.]

[2] Vol. II., p. 154. [Book II., part II., sec. VI.]

[3] Vol. II., p. 170. [Book II., part II., sec. IX.] Compare Vol.
II., ‘Inquiry concerning the Principles of Morals,’ Appendix II.,
_note_ 3, where ‘general benevolence,’ also called ‘humanity,’ is
identified with ‘sympathy.’ ‘Benevolence is naturally divided into
two kinds, the _general_ and the _particular_. The first is, where we
have no friendship, or connection, or esteem for the person, but feel
only a general sympathy with him, or a compassion for his pains, and
a congratulation with his pleasures,’ &c. &c.

Pleasure of sympathy with the pleasure of another.

42. Now, strictly construed, this passage seems to efface the one
clear distinction of benevolence that had been previously insisted
on--that it is a desire, namely, as opposed to a pure emotion. If
benevolence _is_ an ‘original pleasure arising from the pleasure of
the person beloved,’ it is identical with love, so far as sympathy
is an exciting cause of love, instead of being distinguished from it
as desire from emotion. We must suppose, however, that the sentence
was carelessly put together, and that Hume did not really mean to
identify benevolence with the pleasure spoken of in the former part
of it (for which his proper term is simply sympathy), but with the
desire for that pleasure, spoken of in the latter part. In that case
we find that benevolence forms no exception to the general definition
of desire. It is desire for one’s own pleasure, but for a pleasure
received through the communication by sympathy of the pleasure of
another. In like manner, the sequence of benevolence upon love,
instead of being an unaccountable ‘disposition of nature,’ would seem
explicable, as merely the ordinary sequence upon a pleasant emotion
of a desire for its renewal. Though it be not strictly the pleasant
emotion of love, but that of sympathy, for which benevolence is the
desire, yet if sympathy is necessary to the excitement of love,
it will equally follow that benevolence attends on love. Pleasure
sympathised with, we may suppose, first excites the secondary emotion
of love, and afterwards, when reflected on, that desire for its
continuance or renewal, which is benevolence. That love ‘should
express itself in a hundred ways, and subsist a considerable time’
without any consciousness of benevolence, will merely be the natural
relation of emotion to desire. When a pleasure is in full enjoyment,
it cannot be so reflected on as to excite desire; and thus, if
benevolence is desire for that pleasure in the pleasure of another,
which is an exciting cause of love, the latter emotion must naturally
subsist and express itself for some time before it reaches the stage
in which reflection on its cause, and with it benevolent desire,

All ‘passions’ equally interested or disinterested: Confusion arises
from use of ‘passion’ alike for desire and emotion. Of this Hume
avails himself in his account of active pity.

43. This _rationale_, however, of the relation between love and
benevolence is not explicitly given by Hume himself. He nowhere
expressly withdraws the exception, made in favour of benevolence, to
the rule that all desire is for pleasure--an exception which, once
admitted, undermines his whole system--or tells us in so many words
that benevolence is desire for pleasure to oneself in the pleasure
of another. In an important note to the Essays, [1] indeed, he
distinctly puts benevolence on the same footing with such desires
as avarice or ambition. ‘A man is no more interested when he seeks
his own glory, than when the happiness of his friend is the object
of his wishes; nor is he any more disinterested when he sacrifices
his own ease and quiet to public good, than when he labours for the
gratification of avarice or ambition.’ ... ‘Though the satisfaction
of these latter passions gives us enjoyment, yet the prospect of this
enjoyment is not the cause of the passion, but, on the contrary, the
passion is antecedent to the enjoyment, and without the former the
latter could not possibly exist.’ In other words, if ‘passion’ means
_desire_--and, as applied to _emotion_, the designation ‘interested’
or ‘disinterested’ has no meaning--every passion is equally
disinterested in the sense of presupposing an ‘enjoyment’ a pleasant
emotion, antecedent to that which consists in its satisfaction; but
at the same time equally interested in the sense of being a desire
for such enjoyment. Whether from a wish to find acceptance, however,
or because forms of man’s good-will to man forced themselves on
his notice which forbade the consistent development of his theory,
Hume is always much more explicit about the disinterestedness of
benevolence in the former sense than about its interestedness in
the latter. [2] Accordingly he does not avail himself of such an
explanation of its relation to love as that above indicated, which
by avowedly reducing benevolence to a desire for pleasure, while it
simplified his system, might have revolted the ‘common sense’ even of
the eighteenth century. He prefers--as his manner is, when he comes
upon a question which he cannot face--to fall back on a ‘disposition
of nature’ as the ground of the ‘conjunction’ of benevolence with
love. There is a form of benevolence, however, which would seem as
little explicable by such natural conjunction as by reduction to a
desire for sympathetic pleasure. How is it that active good-will is
shown towards those whom, according to Hume’s theory of love, it
should be impossible to love--towards those with whom intercourse
is impossible, or from whom, if intercourse is possible, we can
derive no such pleasure as is supposed necessary to excite that
pleasant emotion, but rather such pain, in sympathy with their pain,
as according to the theory should excite hatred? To this question
Hume in effect finds an answer in the simple device of using the
same terms, ‘pity’ and ‘compassion,’ alike for the painful _emotion_
produced by the spectacle of another’s pain and for ‘desire for the
happiness of another and aversion to his misery.’ [3] According
to the latter account of it, pity is already ‘the same desire’
as benevolence, though ‘proceeding from a different principle,’
and thus has a resemblance to the love with which benevolence is
conjoined--a ‘resemblance not of feeling or sentiment but of tendency
or direction.’ [4] Hence, whereas ‘pity’ in the former sense would
make us hate those whose pain gives us pain, by understanding it in
the latter sense we can explain how it leads us to love them, on the
principle that one resembling passion excites another.

[1] ‘Inquiry concerning Human Understanding,’ note to sec. 1. In the
editions after the second, this note was omitted.

[2] Attention should be called to a passage at the end of the account
of ‘self-love’ in the Essays, where he seems to revert to the view of
benevolence as a desire not _originally_ produced by pleasure, but
productive of it, and thus passing into a secondary stage in which
it is combined with desire for pleasure. He suggests tentatively
that ‘from the original frame of our temper we may feel a desire
for another’s happiness or good, which, by means of that affection,
becomes our own good, and is afterwards pursued from the combined
motives of benevolence and self-enjoyment.’ The passage might have
been written by Butler. (Vol. IV., ‘Inquiry concerning Principles of
Morals,’ Appendix II.)

[3] Book II., part 2, secs. 7 and 9. Within a few lines of each
other will be found the statements _(a)_ that ‘pity is an uneasiness
arising from the misery of others,’ and _(b)_ that ‘pity is desire
for the happiness of another,’ &c.

[4] ‘Dissertation on the Passions’ (in the Essays), sec. 3, sub-sec.

Explanation of apparent conflict between reason and passion.

44. We are now in a position to review the possible motives of human
action according to Hume. Reason, constituting no objects, affords no
motives. ‘It is only the slave of the passions, and can never pretend
to any other office than to serve and obey them.’ [1] To any logical
thinker who accepted Locke’s doctrine of reason, as having no other
function but to ‘lay in order intermediate ideas,’ this followed of
necessity. It is the clearness with which Hume points out that, as it
cannot move, so neither can it restrain, action, that in this regard
chiefly distinguishes him from Locke. The check to any passion, he
points out, can only proceed from some counter-motive, and such
a motive reason, ‘having no original influence,’ cannot give.
Strictly speaking, then, a passion can only be called unreasonable,
as accompanied by some false judgment, which on its part must
consist in ‘disagreement of ideas, considered as copies, with those
objects which they represent;’ and ‘even then it is not the passion,
properly speaking, which is unreasonable, but the judgment.’ It is
nothing against reason--not, as Locke had inadvertently said, a
wrong judgment--‘to prefer my own acknowledged lesser good to my
greater.’ The only unreasonableness would lie in supposing that ‘my
own acknowledged lesser good,’ being preferred, could be attained by
means that would not really lead to it. Hence ‘we speak not strictly
when we talk of the combat of reason and passion.’ They can in truth
never oppose each other. The supposition. that they do so arises
from a confusion between ‘calm passions’ and reason--a confusion
founded on the fact that the former ‘produce little emotion in the
mind, while the operation of reason produces none at all.’ [2] Calm
passions, undoubtedly, do often conflict with the violent ones and
even prevail over them, and thus, as the violent passion causes most
uneasiness, it is untrue to say with Locke [3] that it is the most
pressing uneasiness which always determines action. The calmness of a
passion is not to be confounded with weakness, nor its violence with
strength. A desire may be calm either because its object is remote,
or because it is customary. In the former case, it is true, the
desire is likely to be relatively weak; but in the latter case, the
calmer the desire, the greater is likely to be its strength, since
the repetition of a desire has the twofold effect, on the one hand
of diminishing the ‘sensible emotion’ that accompanies it, on the
other hand of ‘bestowing a facility in the performance of the action’
corresponding to the desire, which in turn creates a new inclination
or tendency that combines with the original desire. [4]

[1] Vol. II., p. 195. [Book II., part III., sec. III.]

[2] Vol. II., pp. 195, 196. [Book II., part III., sec. III.]

[3] Above, sec. 3.

[4] Vol. II. pp. 198-200. [Book II., part III., sec. IV.] It will be
found that here Hume might have stated his case much more succinctly
by avoiding the equivocal use of ‘passion’ at once for ‘desire’ and
‘emotion.’ When a ‘passion’ is designated as ‘calm’ or ‘violent,’
‘passion’ means emotion. When the terms ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ are
applied to it, it means ‘desire.’ Since of the strength of any
desire there is in truth no test but the resulting action, and habit
facilitates action, if we will persist in asking the idle question
about the relative strength of desires, we must suppose that the most
habitual is the strongest.

A ‘reasonable’ desire means one that excites little emotion:
Enumeration of possible motives.

45. The distinction, then, between ‘reasonable’ and ‘unreasonable’
desires--and it is only _desires_ that can be referred to when will,
or the determination to action, is in question--in the only sense
in which Hume can admit it, is a distinction not of objects but
of our situation in regard to them. The object of desire in every
case--whether near or remote, whether either by its novelty or by
its contrariety to other passions it excites more or less ‘sensible
emotion’--is still ‘good,’ _i.e._ pleasure. The greater the pleasure
in prospect, the stronger the desire. [1] The only proper question,
then, according to Hume, as to the pleasure which in any particular
case is an object of desire will be whether it is _(a)_ an immediate
impression of sense, or _(b)_ a pleasure of pride, or _(c)_ one
of sympathy. Under the first head, apparently, he would include
pleasures incidental to the satisfaction of appetite, and pleasures
corresponding to the several senses--not only the smells and tastes
we call ‘sweet,’ but the sights and sounds we call ‘beautiful.’ [2]
Pleasures of this sort, we must suppose, are the _ultimate_ ‘exciting
causes’ [3] of all those secondary ones, which are distinguished
from their ‘exciting causes’ as determined by the ideas either of
self or of another thinking person--the pleasures, namely, of pride
and sympathy. Sympathetic pleasure, again, will be of two kinds,
according as the pleasure in the pleasure of another does or does
not excite the further pleasure of love for the other person. If the
object desired is none of these pleasures, nor the means to them, it
only remains for the follower of Hume to suppose that it is ‘pleasure
in general’--the object of ‘self love.’

[1] Cf p. 198. [Book II., part III., sec. IV.] ‘The same good, when
near, will cause a violent passion, which, when remote, produces
only a calm one.’ The expression, here, is obviously inaccurate. It
cannot be the _same good_ in Hume’s sense, _i.e._ equally pleasant in
prospect, when remote as when near.

[2] No other account of pleasure in beauty can be extracted from Hume
than this--that it is either a ‘primary impression of sense,’ so far
co-ordinate with any pleasant taste or smell that but for an accident
of language the term ‘beautiful’ might be equally applicable to
these, or else a pleasure in that indefinite anticipation of pleasure
which is called the contemplation of utility.

[3] _Ultimate_ because according to Hume the _immediate_ exciting
cause of a pleasure of pride may be one of love, and vice versa. In
that case, however, a more remote ‘exciting cause’ of the exciting
pleasure must be found in some impressions of sense, if the doctrine
that these are the sole ‘original impressions’ is to be maintained.

If pleasure sole motive, what is the distinction of self-love?
Its opposition to disinterested desires, as commonly understood,
disappears: it is desire for pleasure in general.

46. Anyone reading the ‘Treatise on Human Nature’ alongside of
Shaftesbury or Butler would be surprised to find that while sympathy
and benevolence fill a very large place in it, self-love ‘eo nomine’
has a comparatively small one. At first, perhaps, he would please
himself with thinking that he had come upon a more ‘genial’ system
of morals. The true account of the matter, however, he will find to
be that, whereas with Shaftesbury and his followers the notion of
self-love was really determined by opposition to those desires for
other objects than pleasure, in the existence of which they really
believed, however much the current psychology may have embarrassed
their belief, on the other hand with Hume’s explicit reduction of all
desire to desire for pleasure self-love loses the significance which
this opposition gave it, and can have no meaning except as desire for
‘pleasure in general’ in distinction from this or that particular
pleasure. Passages from the Essays may be adduced, it is true,
where self-love is spoken of under the same opposition under which
Shaftesbury and Hutcheson conceived of it, but in these, it will be
found, advantage is taken of the ambiguity between ‘emotion’ and
‘desire,’ covered by the term ‘passion.’ That there are sympathetic
_emotions_--pleasures occasioned by the pleasure of others--is, no
doubt, as cardinal a point in Hume’s system as that all _desire_
is for pleasure to self; but between such emotions and self-love
there is no co-ordination. No emotion, as he points out, determines
action directly, but only by exciting desire; which with him can
only mean that the image of the pleasant emotion excites desire for
its renewal. In other words, no emotion amounts to volition or will.
Self-love, on the other hand, if it means anything, means desire
and a possibly strongest desire, or will. It can thus be no more
determined by opposition to generous or sympathetic _emotions_ than
can these by opposition to hunger and thirst. Hume, however, when
he insists on the existence of generous ‘passions’ as showing that
self-love is not our uniform motive, though he cannot consistently
mean more than that desire for ‘pleasure in general,’ or desire for
the satisfaction of desire, is not the uniform motive--which might
equally be shown (as he admits) by pointing to such self-regarding
‘passions’ as love of fame, or such appetites as hunger--is yet
apt, through the reader’s interpretation of ‘generous passions’ as
_desires_ for something other than pleasure, to gain credit for
recognising a possibility of living for others, in distinction from
living for pleasure, which was in truth as completely excluded by his
theory as by that of Hobbes. If he himself meant to convey any other
distinction between self-love and the generous passions than one
which would hold no less between it and every emotion whatever, it
was through a fresh intrusion upon him of that notion of benevolence,
as a ‘desire not founded on pleasure,’ which was in too direct
contradiction to the first principles of his theory to be acquiesced
in. [1]

[1] Cf. II. p. 197 [Book II., part III., sec. III.], where, speaking
of ‘calm desires,’ he says they ‘are of two kinds; either certain
instincts originally implanted in our natures, such as benevolence
and resentment, the love of life, and kindness to children; or the
general appetite to good and aversion to evil, considered merely as
such.’ This seems to imply a twofold distinction of the ‘general
appetite to good’ _(a)_ from desires for particular pleasures, which
are commonly not calm, and _(b)_ from certain desires, which resemble
the ‘general appetite’ in being calm but are not for pleasure at all.
See above, sec. 31. In that section of the Essays where ‘self-love’
is expressly treated of, there is a still clearer appearance of the
doctrine, that there are desires (in that instance called ‘mental
passions’) which have not pleasure for their object any more than
have such ‘bodily wants’ as hunger and thirst. From these self-love,
as desire for pleasure, is distinguished, though, when the pleasure
incidental to their satisfaction is discovered and reflected on, it
is supposed to combine with them. (Vol. IV. Appendix on Self-love,
near the end. See above, sec. 43 and note.)

This amounts, in fact, to a complete withdrawal from Hume’s original
position and the adoption of one which is most clearly stated in
Hutcheson’s posthumous treatise--the position, namely, that we begin
with a multitude of ‘particular’ or ‘violent’ desires, severally
‘terminating upon objects’ which are not pleasures at all, and that,
as reason developes, these gradually blend with, or are superseded
by, the ‘calm’ desire for pleasure; so that moral growth means the
access of conscious pleasure-seeking. This in effect seems to be
Butler’s view, and Hutcheson reckons it ‘a lovely representation
of human nature,’ though he himself holds that benevolence may
exist, not merely as one of the ‘particular desires’ controlled
by self-love, but as itself a ‘calm’ and controlling principle,
co-ordinate with self-love. (‘System of Moral Philosophy,’ Vol. I. p.
51, &c.)

How Hume gives meaning to this otherwise unmeaning definition:
‘Interest,’ like other motives described, implies determination by

47. Such desire, then, being excluded, what other motive than
‘interest’ remains, by contrast with which the latter may be defined?
It has been explained above (§7) that since pleasure as such, or
as a feeling, does not admit of generality, ‘pleasure in general’
is an impossible object. When the motive of an action is said to
be ‘pleasure in general,’ what is really meant is that the action
is determined by the conception of pleasure, or, more properly,
of self as a subject to be pleased. Such determination, again, is
distinguished by opposition to two other kinds--_(a)_ to that sort
of determination which is not by conception, but either by animal
want, or by the animal _imagination_ of pleasure, and _(b)_ to
determination by the conception of other objects than pleasure.
By an author, however, who expressly excluded the latter sort of
determination, and who did not recognise any distinction between the
thinking and the animal subject, the motive in question could not
thus be defined. Hence the difficulty of extracting from Hume himself
any clear and consistent account of that which he variously describes
as the ‘general appetite for good, considered merely as such,’ as
‘interest,’ and as ‘self-love.’ To say that he understood by it a
desire for pleasure which is yet not a desire for any pleasure in
particular, may seem a strange interpretation to put on one who
regarded himself as a great liberator from abstractions, but there
is no other which his statements, taken together, would justify.
This desire for nothing, however, he converts into a desire for
something by identifying it on occasion, (1) with any desire for a
pleasure of which the attainment is regarded as sufficiently remote
to allow of calmness in the desire, and (2) with desire for the means
of having all pleasures indifferently at command. It is in one or
other of these senses--either as desire for some particular pleasure
distinguished only by its calmness, or as desire for power--that he
always understands ‘interest’ or ‘self-love,’ except where he gains
a more precise meaning for it by the admission of desires, not for
pleasure at all, to which it may be opposed. Now taken in the former
sense, its difference from the desires for the several pleasures of
‘sense,’ ‘pride,’ and ‘sympathy,’ of which Hume’s account has already
been examined, cannot lie in the object, but--as he himself says of
the distinction, which he regarded as an equivalent one, between
‘reasonable and unreasonable’ desires--in our situation with regard
to it. If then the object of each of these desires, as we have shown
to be implied in Hume’s account of them, is one which only reason,
as self-consciousness, can constitute, it cannot be less so when the
desire is calm enough to be called self-love. Still more plainly is
the desire in question determined by reason--by the conception of
self as a permanent susceptibility of pleasure--if it is understood
to be desire for power.

Thus Hume, having degraded morality for the sake of consistency,
after all is not consistent.

48. Having now before us a complete view of the possible motives to
human action which Hume admits, we find that while he has carried to
its furthest limit, and with the least verbal inconsistency possible,
the effort to make thought deny its own originativeness in action,
he has yet not succeeded. He has made abstraction of everything in
the objects of human interest but their relation to our nervous
irritability--he has left nothing of the beautiful in nature or art
but that which it has in common with a sweetmeat, nothing of that
which is lovely and of good report to the saint or statesman but
what they share with the dandy or diner-out--yet he cannot present
even this poor residuum of an object, by which all action is to be
explained, except under the character it derives from the thinking
soul, which looks before and after, and determines everything by
relation to itself. Thus if, as he says, the distinction between
reasonable and unreasonable desires does not lie in the object,
this will not be because reason has never anything to do with the
constitution of the object, but because it has always so much to
do with it as renders selfishness--the self-conscious pursuit of
pleasure--possible. Sensuality then will have been vindicated, the
distinction between the ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ modes of life will have
been erased, and after all the theoretic consistency--for the sake
of which, and not, of course, to gratify any sinister interest, Hume
made his philosophic venture--will not have been attained. Man will
still not be ultimately passive, nor human action natural. Reason
may be the ‘slave of the passions,’ but it will be a self-imposed

If all good is pleasure, what is _moral_ good? Ambiguity in Locke’s

49. We have still, however, to explain how Hume himself completes the
assimilation of the moral to the natural; how, on the supposition
that the ‘good’ can only mean the ‘pleasant,’ he accounts for the
apparent distinction between moral and other good, for the intrusion
of the ‘ought and ought not’ of ethical propositions upon the
‘is and is not’ of truth concerning nature. [1] Here again he is
faithful to his _rôle_ as the expander and expurgator of Locke. With
Locke, it will be remembered, the distinction of _moral_ good lay
in the channel through which the pleasure, that constitutes it, is
derived. It was pleasure accruing through the intervention of law,
as opposed to the operation of nature: and from the pleasure thus
accruing the term ‘morally good’ was transferred to the act which, as
‘conformable to some law,’ occasions it. [2] This view Hume retains,
merely remedying Locke’s omissions and inconsistencies. Locke, as we
saw, not only neglected to derive the existence of the laws, whose
intervention he counted necessary to constitute the morally good,
from the operation of that desire for pleasure which he pronounced
the only motive of man; in speaking of moral goodness as consisting
in conformity to law, he might, if taken at his word, be held to
admit something quite different from pleasure alike as the standard
and the motive of morality. Hume then had, in the first place, to
account for the laws in question, and so account for them as to
remove that absolute opposition between them and the operation of
nature which Locke had taken for granted; secondly, to exhibit that
conformity to law, in which the moral goodness of an act was held
to consist, as itself a mode of pleasure--pleasure, namely, to the
contemplator of the act; and thirdly, to show that not the moral
goodness of the act, even thus understood, but pleasure to himself
was the motive to the doer of it. [3]

[1] Vol. II, p. 245. [Book III., part I., sec. I.]

[2] Above, secs. 16-18.

[3] Of the three problems here specified, Hume’s treatment of the
_second_ is discussed in the following secs. 50-54; of the _first_ in
secs. 55-58; of the _third_ in secs. 60 to the end.

Development of it by Clarke, which breaks down for want of true view
of reason.

50. It was a necessary incident of this process that Locke’s notion
of a Law of God, conformity to which rendered actions ‘in their own
nature right and wrong,’ should disappear. The existence of such
a law cannot be explained as a result of any desire for pleasure,
nor conformity to it as a mode of pleasure. Locke, indeed, tries
to bring the goodness, consisting in such conformity, under his
general definition by treating it as equivalent to the production of
pleasure in another world. This, however, is to seek refuge from the
contradictory in the unmeaning. The question--Is it the pleasure it
produces, or its conformity to law, that constitutes the goodness of
an act?--remains unanswered, while the further one is suggested--What
meaning has pleasure except as the pleasure we experience? [1]
Between pleasure, then, and a ‘conformity’ irreducible to pleasure,
as the moral standard, the reader of Locke had to choose. Clarke,
supported by Locke’s occasional assimilation of moral to mathematical
truth, had elaborated the notion of conformity. To him an action
was ‘in its own nature right’ when it conformed to the ‘reason of
things’--_i.e._ to certain ‘eternal proportions,’ by which God, ‘qui
omnia numero, ordine, mensurâ posuit,’ obliges Himself to govern
the world, and of which reason in us is ‘the appearance.’ [2] Thus
reason, as an eternal ‘agreement or disagreement of ideas,’ was the
standard to which action ought to conform, and, as our consciousness
of such agreement, at once the judge of and motive to conformity.
To this Hume’s reply is in effect the challenge to instance any
act, of which the morality consists either in any of those four
relations, ‘depending on the nature of the ideas related,’ which he
regarded as alone admitting of demonstration, or in any other of
those relations (contiguity, identity, and cause and effect) which,
as ‘matters of fact,’ can be ‘discovered by the understanding.’ [3]
Such a challenge admits of no reply, and no other function but the
perception of such relations being allowed to reason or understanding
in the school of Locke, it follows that it is not this faculty which
either constitutes, or gives the consciousness of, the morally good.
Reason excluded, feeling remains. No action, then, can be called
‘right in its own nature,’ if that is taken to imply (as ‘conformity
to divine law’ must be), relation to something else than our feeling.
It could only be so called with propriety in the sense of exciting
some pleasure _immediately_, as distinct from an act which may be a
condition of the attainment of pleasure, but does not directly convey

[1] Above, sec. 14.

[2] Boyle Lectures, Vol. II, prop. 1. secs. 1-4.

[3] Book III. part 1, sec. 1. (Cf. Book I part 3, sec. 1, and
Introduction to Vol. I, secs. 283 and ff.) It will be observed
that throughout the polemic against Clarke and his congeners Hume
writes as if there were a difference between objects of reason and
feeling, which he could not consistently admit. He begins by putting
the question thus (page 234), ‘whether ‘tis by means of our ideas
or impressions we distinguish betwixt vice and virtue:’ but if, as
he tells us, ‘the idea is merely the weaker impression, and the
impression the stronger idea,’ such a question has no meaning. In
like manner he concludes by saying (page 245) that ‘vice and virtue
may be compared to sounds, colours, heat and cold, which are not
qualities in objects, but perceptions in the mind.’ But, since the
whole drift of Book I. is to show that all ‘objective relations’ are
such ‘perceptions’ or their succession, this still leaves us without
any distinction between science and morality that shall be tenable
according to his own doctrine.

With Hume, moral good is pleasure excited in a particular way, viz.:
in the _spectator_ of the ‘good’ act and by the view of its tendency
to produce pleasure.

51. So far, however, there is nothing to distinguish the moral
act either from any ‘inanimate object,’ which may equally excite
immediate pleasure, or from actions which have no character, as
virtuous or vicious, at all. Some further limitation, then, must
be found for the immediate pleasure which constitutes the goodness
called ‘moral,’ and of which praise is the expression. This Hume
finds in the exciting object which must be _(a)_ ‘considered in
general and without reference to our particular interest,’ and _(b)_
an object so ‘related’ (in the sense above [1] explained) to oneself
or to another as that the pleasure which it excites shall cause the
further pleasure either of pride or love. [2] The precise effect of
such limitation he does not explain in detail. A man’s pictures,
gardens, and clothes, we have been told, tend to excite pride in
himself and love in others. If then we can ‘consider them in general
and without reference to our particular interest,’ and in such ‘mere
survey’ find pleasure, this pleasure, according to Hume’s showing,
will constitute them morally good. [3] He usually takes for granted,
however, a further limitation of the pleasure in question, as excited
only by ‘actions, sentiments, and characters,’ and thus finds virtue
to consist in the ‘satisfaction produced to the spectator of an
act or character by the mere view of it.’ [4] Virtues and vices
then mean, as Locke well said, the usual likes and dislikes of
society. If we choose with him to call that virtue of an act, which
really consists in the pleasure experienced by the spectator of it,
‘conformity to the law of their opinion,’ we may do so, provided we
do not suppose that there is some other law, which this imperfectly
reflects, and that the virtue is something other than the pleasure,
but to be inferred from it. ‘We do not infer a character to be
virtuous, because it pleases; but in feeling that it pleases after
such a particular manner, we in effect feel that it is virtuous.’ [5]

[1] Sec. 33.

[2] Vol. II. pp. 247 and 248. [Book III., part I., sec. II.]

[3] Hume treats them as such in Book III. part 3, sec. 5.

[4] Vol. II. p. 251. Cf. p. 225. [Book III., part I., sec. II.; Book
II., part III., sec. X.]

[5] Vol. II. p. 247. [Book III., part I., sec. II.]

52. Some further explanation, however, of the ‘particular manner’
of this pleasure was clearly needed in order at once to adjust it
to the doctrine previously given of the passions (of which this, as
a pleasant emotion, must be one), and to account for our speaking
of the actions which excite it--at least of some of them--as
actions which we _ought_ to do. If we revert to the account of the
passions, we can have no difficulty in fixing on that of which this
peculiar pleasure, excited by the ‘mere survey’ of an action without
reference to the spectator’s ‘particular interest,’ must be a mode.
It must be a kind of sympathy--pleasure felt by the spectator in
the pleasure of another, as distinct from what might be felt in the
prospect of pleasure to himself. [1] On the other hand, there seem
to be certain discrepancies between pleasure and moral sentiment.
We sympathise where we neither approve nor disapprove; and,
conversely, we express approbation where it would seem there was no
pleasure to sympathise with, _e.g._, in regard to an act of simple
justice, or where the person experiencing it was one with whom we
could have no fellow-feeling--an enemy, a stranger, a character in
history--or where the experience, being one not of pleasure but of
pain (say, that of a martyr at the stake), should excite the reverse
of approbation in the spectator, if approbation means pleasure
sympathised with. Our sympathies, moreover, are highly variable, but
our moral sentiments on the whole constant. How must ‘sympathy’ be
qualified, in order that, when we identify moral sentiment with it,
these objections may be avoided?

[1] Vol. II. pp. 335-337. [Book III., part III., sec. I.]

Moral sense is thus sympathy with pleasure qualified by consideration
of general tendencies.

53. Hume’s answer, in brief, is that the sympathy, which constitutes
moral sentiment, is sympathy qualified by the consideration of
‘general tendencies.’ Thus we sympathise with the pleasure arising
from any casual action, but the sympathy does not become moral
approbation unless the act is regarded as a sign of some quality
or character, generally permanently agreeable or useful (_sc._ and
productive of pleasure directly or indirectly) to the agent or
others. An act of justice may not be productive of any immediate
pleasure with which we can sympathise; nay, taken singly, it may
cause pain both in itself and in its results, as when a judge ‘takes
from the poor to give to the rich, or bestows on the dissolute the
labour of the industrious; ‘but we sympathise with the general
satisfaction resulting to society from ‘the whole scheme of law
and justice,’ to which the act in question belongs, and approve it
accordingly. The constancy which leads to a dungeon is a painful
commodity to its possessor, but sympathy with his pain need not
incapacitate a spectator for that other sympathy with the general
pleasure caused by such a character to others, which constitutes it
virtuous. Again, though remote situation or the state of one’s temper
may at any time modify or suppress sympathy with the pleasure caused
by the good qualities of any particular person, we may still apply to
him terms expressive of our liking. ‘External beauty is determined
merely by pleasure; and ‘tis evident a beautiful countenance cannot
give so much pleasure, when seen at a distance of twenty paces, as
when it is brought nearer to us. We say not, however, that it appears
to us less beautiful; because we know what effect it will have in
such a position, and by that reflection we correct its momentary
appearance.’ As with the beautiful, so with the morally good. ‘In
order to correct the continual contradictions’ in our judgment of
it, that would arise from changes in personal temper or situation,
‘we fix on some steady and general points of view, and always in
our thoughts place ourselves in them, whatever may be our present
situation.’ Such a point of view is furnished by the consideration
of ‘the interest or pleasure of the person himself whose character
is examined, and of the persons who have a connection with him,’ as
distinct from the spectator’s own. The imagination in time learns to
‘adhere to these general views, and distinguishes the feelings they
produce from those which arise from our particular and momentary
situation.’ Thus a certain constancy is introduced into sentiments of
blame and praise, and the variations, to which they continue subject,
do not appear in language, which ‘experience teaches us to correct,
even where our sentiments are more stubborn and unalterable.’ [1]

[1] Book III. Vol. II. part 3, sec. 1. Specially pp. 339, 342, 346,

In order to account for the facts it has to become sympathy with
unfelt feelings.

54. It thus appears that though the virtue of an act means the
pleasure which it causes to a spectator, and though this again arises
from sympathy with imagined pleasure of the doer or others, yet
the former may be a pleasure which no particular spectator at any
given time does actually feel--he need only know that under other
conditions on his part he would feel it--and the latter pleasure
may be one either not felt at all by any existing person, or only
felt as the opposite of the uneasiness with which society witnesses
a departure from its general rules. Of the essential distinction
between a feeling of pleasure or pain and a knowledge of the
conditions under which a pleasure or pain is generally felt, Hume
shows no suspicion; nor, while he admits that without substitution
of the knowledge for the feeling there could be no general standard
of praise or blame, does he ask himself what the quest for such a
standard implies. As little does he trouble himself to explain how
there can be such sympathy with an unfelt feeling--with a pleasure
which no one actually feels but which is possible for posterity--as
will explain our approval of the virtue which defies the world,
and which is only assumed, for the credit of a theory, to bring
pleasure to its possessor, because it certainly brings pleasure
to no one else. For the ‘artificial’ virtue, however, of acts
done in conformity with the ‘general scheme of justice,’ or other
social conventions, he accounts at length in part II. of his Second
Book--that entitled ‘Of Justice and Injustice.’

Can the distinction between the ‘moral’ and ‘natural’ be maintained
by Hume? What is ‘artificial virtue’?

55. To a generation which has sufficiently freed itself from all
‘mystical’ views of law--which is aware that ‘natural right,’ if it
means a right that existed in a ‘state of nature,’ is a contradiction
in terms; that, since contracts could not be made, or property
exist apart from social convention, any question about a primitive
obligation to respect them is unmeaning--the negative side of this
part of the treatise can have little interest. That all rights and
obligations are in some sense ‘artificial,’ we are as much agreed as
that without experience there can be no knowledge. The question is,
how the artifice, which constitutes them, is to be understood, and
what are its conditions. If we ask what Hume understood by it, we can
get no other answer than that the artificial is the opposite of the
natural. If we go on to ask for the meaning of the natural, we only
learn that we must distinguish the senses in which it is opposed to
the miraculous and to the unusual from that in which it is opposed
to the artificial, [1] but not what the latter sense is. The truth
is that, if the first book of Hume’s treatise has fulfilled its
purpose, the only conception of the natural, which can give meaning
to the doctrine that the obligation to observe contracts and respect
property is artificial, must disappear. There are, we shall find,
two different negations which in different contexts this doctrine
conveys. Sometimes it means that such an obligation did not exist
for man in a ‘state of nature,’ _i.e._, as man was to begin with.
But in that sense the law of cause and effect, without which there
would be no nature at all, is, according to Hume, not natural, for
it--not merely our recognition of it, but the law itself--is a habit
of imagination, gradually formed. Sometimes it conveys an opposition
to Clarke’s doctrine of obligation as constituted by certain ‘eternal
relations and proportions,’ which also form the order of nature, and
are other than, though regulative of, the succession of our feelings.
Nature, however, having been reduced by Hume to the succession of
our feelings, the ‘artifice,’ by which he supposes obligations to
be formed, cannot be determined by opposition to it, unless the
operation of motives, which explains the artifice, is something else
than a succession of feelings. But that it is nothing else is just
what it is one great object of the moral part of his treatise to show.

[1] Book II. part 1, sec. 2.

No ground for such distinction in relation between motive and act.

56. He is nowhere more happy than in exposing the fallacies by
which ‘liberty of indifferency’--the liberty supposed to consist
in a possibility of unmotived action--was defended. [1] Every act,
he shows, is determined by a strongest motive, and the relation
between motive and act is no other than that between any cause and
effect in nature. In one case, as in the other, ‘necessity’ lies
not in an ‘esse’ but in a ‘percipi.’ It is the ‘determination of
the thought of any intelligent being, who considers ‘an act or
event,’ to infer its existence from some preceding objects;’ [2]
and such determination is a habit formed by, and having a strength
proportionate to, the frequency with which certain phenomena--actions
or events--have followed certain others. The weakness in this part of
Hume’s doctrine lies, not in the assumption of an equal uniformity
in the sequence of act upon motive with that which obtains in
nature, but in his inability consistently to justify the assumption
of an absolute uniformity in either case. When there is an apparent
irregularity in the consequences of a given motive--when according to
one ‘experiment’ action _(a)_ follows upon it, according to another
action _(b)_, and so on--although ‘these contrary experiments are
entirely equal, we remove not the notion of causes and necessity;
but, supposing that the usual contrariety proceeds from the operation
of contrary and concealed causes, we conclude that the chance or
indifference lies only in our judgment on account of our imperfect
knowledge, not in the things themselves, which are in every case
equally necessary, though to appearance not equally constant or
uniform.’ [3] But we have already seen that, if necessary connection
were in truth only a habit arising from the frequency with which
certain phenomena follow certain others, the cases of exception to a
usual sequence, or in which the balance of chances did not incline
one way more than another, could only so far weaken the habit. The
explanation of them by the ‘operation of concealed causes’ implies,
as he here says, an opposition of real necessity to apparent
inconstancy, which, if necessity were such a habit as he says it is,
would be impossible. [4] This difficulty, however, applying equally
to moral and natural sequences, can constitute no difference between
them. It cannot therefore be in the relation between motive and act
that the followers of Hume can find any ground for a distinction
between the process by which the conventions of society are formed,
and that succession of feelings which he calls nature. May he
then find it in the character of the motive itself by which the
‘invention’ of justice is to be accounted for? Is this other than a
feeling determined by a previous, and determining a sequent, one?
Not, we must answer, as Hume himself understood his own account of
it, which is as follows:-

[1] Book II. part 3, secs. 1 and 2.

[2] Vol. II. p, 189. [Book II., part III., sec. II.]

[3] Ibid., p. 185. [Book II., part III., sec. I.]

[4] See Introduction to Vol. I. secs. 323 and 336.

Motive to artificial virtues.

57. He will examine, he says, ‘two questions, viz., concerning the
manner in which the rules of justice are established by the artifice
of men; and concerning the reasons which determine us to attribute
to the observance or neglect of these rules a moral beauty and
deformity.’ [1] Of the motives which he recognises (§ 45) it is
clear that only two--‘benevolence’ and ‘interest’--can be thought of
in this connection, and a little reflection suffices to show that
benevolence cannot account for the artifice in question. Benevolence
with Hume means either sympathy with pleasure--and this (though Hume
could forget it on occasion) [2] must be a particular pleasure of
some particular person--or desire for the pleasure of such sympathy.
Even if a benevolence may be admitted, which is not a desire for
pleasure at all but an impulse to please, still this can only be an
impulse to please some particular person, and the only effect of
thought upon it, which Hume recognises, is not to widen its object
but to render it ‘interested.’ [3] ‘There is no such passion in
human minds as the love of mankind, merely as such, independent of
personal qualities, of services, or of relation to ourself.’ [4] The
motive, then, to the institution of rules of justice cannot be found
in general benevolence. [5] As little can it be found in private
benevolence, for the person to whom I am obliged to be just may be
an object of merited hatred. It is true that, ‘though it be rare
to meet with one who loves any single person better than himself,
yet ‘tis as rare to meet with one in whom all the kind affections,
taken together, do not overbalance all the selfish’; but they are
affections to his kinsfolk and acquaintance, and the generosity which
they prompt will constantly conflict with justice. [6] ‘Interest,’
then, must be the motive we are in quest of. Of the ‘three species of
goods which we are possessed of--the satisfaction of our minds, the
advantages of our body, and the enjoyment of such possessions as we
have acquired by our industry and good fortune’--the last only ‘may
be transferred without suffering any loss or alteration; while at the
same time there is not sufficient quantity of them to supply every
one’s desires and necessities.’ Hence a special instability in their
possession. Reflection on the general loss caused by such instability
leads to a ‘tacit convention, entered into by all the members of a
society, to abstain from each other’s possessions;’ and thereupon
‘immediately arise the ideas of justice and injustice; as also those
of property, right, and obligation.’ It is not to be supposed,
however, that the ‘convention’ is of the nature of a promise, for
all promises presuppose it. ‘It is only a general sense of common
interest; which sense all the members of the society express to
one another, and which induces them to regulate their conduct by
certain rules;’ and this ‘general sense of common interest,’ it need
scarcely be said, is every man’s sense of his own interest, as in
fact coinciding with that of his neighbours. In short, ‘’tis only
from the selfishness and confined generosity of man, along with the
scanty provision nature has made for his wants, that justice derives
its origin.’ [7]

[1] Book III. part 2, sec. 2.

[2] Cf. sec. 54.

[3] Cf. secs. 42, 43, and 46.

[4] Vol. II. p. 255. [Book III., part II., sec. I.]

[5] For the sense in which Hume did admit a ‘general benevolence,’
see sec. 41, note.

[6] Vol. II. pp. 256 and 260. [Book III., part II., sec. II.]

[7] Vol. II. pp. 261, 263, 268. [Book III., part II., sec. II.]

How artificial virtues become moral.

58. Thus the origin of rules of justice is explained, but the
obligation to observe them so far appears only as ‘interested,’ not
as ‘moral.’ In order that it may become ‘moral,’ a pleasure must be
generally experienced in the spectacle of their observance, and a
pain in that of their breach, apart from reference to any gain or
loss likely to arise to the spectator himself from that observance
or breach. In accounting for this experience Hume answers the second
of the questions, proposed above. ‘To the imposition and observance
of these rules, both in general and in every particular instance,
men are at first induced only by a regard to interest; and this
motive, on the first formation of society, is sufficiently strong and
forcible. But when society has become numerous, and has increased
to a tribe or nation, this interest is more remote; nor do men so
readily perceive that disorder and confusion follow upon each breach
of these rules, as in a more narrow and contracted society. But
though, in our own actions, we may frequently lose sight of that
interest which we have in maintaining order, and may follow a lesser
and more present interest, we never fail to observe the prejudice
we receive, either mediately or immediately, from the injustice of
others.... Nay, when the injustice is so distant from us, as no way
to affect our interest, it still displeases us, because we consider
it as prejudicial to human society, and pernicious to every one that
approaches the person guilty of it. We partake of their uneasiness
by _sympathy_; and as everything which gives uneasiness in human
actions, upon the general survey, is called vice, and whatever
produces satisfaction, in the same manner, denominated virtue, this
is the reason why the sense of moral good and evil follows upon
justice and injustice. And though this sense, in the present case, be
derived only from contemplating the actions of others, yet we fail
not to extend it even to our own actions. The _general rule_ reaches
beyond those instances from which it arose, while at the same time we
naturally _sympathise_ with others in the sentiments they entertain
of us.’ [1]

[1] Vol. II. p. 271. [Book III., part II., sec. II.]

Interest and sympathy account for all obligations civil and moral.

59. To this account of the process by which rules of justice have not
only come into being, but come to bind our ‘conscience’ as they do,
the modern critic will be prompt to object that it is still affected
by the ‘unhistorical’ delusions of the systems against which it was
directed. In expression, at any rate, it bears the marks of descent
from Hobbes, and, if read without due allowance, might convey the
notion that society first existed without any sort of justice, and
that afterwards its members, finding universal war inconvenient,
said to themselves, ‘Go to; let us abstain from each other’s goods.’
It would be hard, however, to expect from Hume the full-blown
terminology of development. He would probably have been the first to
admit that rules of justice, as well as our feelings towards them,
were not made but grew; and in his view of the ‘passions’ whose
operation this growth exhibits, he does not seriously differ from
the ordinary exponents of the ‘natural history’ of ethics. These
passions, we have seen, are ‘Interest’ and ‘Sympathy,’ which with
Hume only differ from the pleasures and desires we call ‘animal’ as
any one of these differs from another--the pleasure of eating, for
instance, from that of drinking, or desire for the former pleasure
from desire for the latter. Nor do their effects in the regulation of
society, and in the growth of ‘artificial’ virtues and vices, differ
according to his account of them from sentiments which, because they
‘occur to us whether we will or no,’ he reckons purely natural, save
in respect of the further extent to which the modifying influence of
imagination--itself reacted on by language--must have been carried
in order to their existence; and since this in his view is a merely
‘natural’ influence, there can only be a relative difference between
the ‘artificiality’ of its more complex, and the ‘naturalness’ of
its simpler, products. Locke’s opposition, then, of ‘moral’ to
other good, on the ground that other than natural instrumentality
is implied in its attainment, will not hold even in regard to that
good which, it is admitted, would not be what it is, _i.e._, not a
pleasure, but for the intervention of civil law.

What is meant by an action which _ought_ to be done.

60. The doctrine, which we have now traversed, of ‘interested’
and ‘moral’ obligation, implicitly answers the question as to the
origin and significance of the ethical copula ‘ought.’ It originally
expresses, we must suppose, obligation by positive law, or rather
by that authoritative custom in which (as Hume would probably have
been ready to admit) the ‘general sense of common interest’ first
embodies itself. In this primitive meaning it already implies an
opposition between the ‘interest which each man has in maintaining
order’ and his ‘lesser and more present interests.’ Its meaning will
be modified in proportion as the direct interest in maintaining order
is reinforced or superseded by sympathy with the general uneasiness
which any departure from the rules of justice causes. And as this
uneasiness is not confined to cases where the law is directly or
in the letter violated, the judgment, that an act _ought_ to be
done, not only need not imply a belief that the person, so judging,
will himself gain anything by its being done or lose anything by
its omission; it need not imply that any positive law requires it.
Whether it is applicable to every act ‘causing pleasure on the mere
survey’--whether the range of ‘imperfect obligation’ is as wide
as that of moral sentiment--Hume does not make clear. That every
action representing a quality ‘fitted to give immediate pleasure to
its possessor’ should be virtuous--as according to Hume’s account
of the exciting cause of moral sentiment it must be--seems strange
enough, but it would be stranger that we should judge of it as an
act which _ought_ to be done. It is less difficult, for instance, to
suppose that it is virtuous to be witty, than that one ought to be
so. Perhaps it would be open to a disciple of Hume to hold that as,
according to his master’s showing, an opposition between permanent
and present interest is implied in the judgment of obligation as
at first formed, so it is when the pleasure to be produced by an
act, which gratifies moral sense, is remote rather than near, and a
pleasure to others rather than to the doer, that the term ‘ought’ is
appropriate to it.

Sense of morality no motive: When it seems so the motive is really

61. But though Hume leaves some doubt on this point, he leaves none
in regard to the sense in which alone any one can be said to do an
action _because he ought_. This must mean that he does it to avoid
either a legal penalty or that pain of shame which would arise upon
the communication through sympathy of such uneasiness as a contrary
act would excite in others upon the survey. So far from its being
true that an act, in order to be thoroughly virtuous, must be done
for virtue’s sake, ‘no action can be virtuous or morally good unless
there is some motive to produce it, distinct from the sense of its
morality.’ [1] An act is virtuous on account of the pleasure which
supervenes when it is contemplated as proceeding from a motive fitted
to produce pleasure to the agent or to others. The presence of this
motive, then, being the antecedent condition of the act’s being
regarded as virtuous, the motive cannot itself have been a regard
to the virtue. It may be replied, indeed, that though this shows
‘regard to virtue’ or ‘sense of morality’ to be not the primary or
only virtuous motive, it does not follow that it cannot be a motive
at all. An action cannot be prompted for the first time by desire
for a pleasure which can only be felt as a consequence of the action
having been done, but it may be repeated, after experience of this
pleasure, from desire for its renewal. In like manner, since with
Hume the ‘sense of morality’ is not a desire at all but an emotion,
and an emotion which cannot be felt till an act of a certain kind
has been done, it cannot be the original motive to such an action;
but why may not desire for so pleasant an emotion, when once it has
been experienced, lead to a repetition of the act? The answer to this
question is that the pleasure of moral sentiment, as Hume thinks of
it, is essentially a pleasure experienced by a spectator of an act
who is other than the doer of it. If the doer and spectator were
regarded as one person, there would be no meaning in the rule that
the tendency to produce pleasure, which excites the sentiment of
approbation, must be a tendency to produce it to the doer himself or
others, as distinct from the spectator himself. Thus pleasure, in
the specific form in which Hume would call it ‘moral sentiment,’ is
not what any one could attain by his own action, and consequently
cannot be a motive to action. Transferred by sympathy to the
consciousness of the man whose act is approved, ‘moral sentiment’
becomes ‘pride,’ and desire for the pleasure of pride--otherwise
called ‘love of fame’--is one of the ‘virtuous’ motives on which
Hume dwells most. When an action, however, is done for the sake of
any such positive pleasure, he would not allow apparently that the
agent does it ‘from a sense of duty’ or ‘because he ought.’ He would
confine this description to cases where the object was rather the
avoidance of humiliation. ‘I ought’ means ‘it is expected of me.’
‘When any virtuous motive or principle is common in human nature, a
person who feels his heart devoid of that motive may hate himself’
(strictly, according to Hume’s usage of terms, ‘despise himself’) ‘on
that account, and may perform the action without the motive from a
certain sense of duty, in order to acquire by practice that virtuous
principle, or at least to disguise to himself as much as possible his
want of it.’ [2]

[1] Vol. II., p. 253. [Book III., part II., sec. I.]

[2] Vol. II., p. 253. [Book III., part II., sec. I.]

Distinction between virtuous and vicious motive does not exist for
person moved.

62. What difference, then, we have finally to ask, does Hume leave
between one motive and another, which can give any significance
to the assertion that an act, to be virtuous, must proceed from a
virtuous motive? When a writer has so far distinguished between
motive and action as to tell us that the moral value of an action
depends on its motive--which is what Hume is on occasion ready to
tell us--we naturally suppose that any predicate, which he proceeds
to apply to the motive, is meant to represent what it is in relation
to the subject of it. It cannot be so, however, when Hume calls a
motive virtuous. This predicate, as he explains, refers not to an
‘esse’ but to a ‘percipi;’ which means that it does not represent
what the motive is to the person whom it moves, but a pleasant
feeling excited in the spectator of the act. To the excitement of
this feeling it is necessary that the action should not merely from
some temporary combination of circumstances produce pleasure for
that time and turn, but that the desire, to which the spectator
ascribes it, should be one according to his expectation ‘fitted to
produce pleasure to the agent or to others.’ In this sense only can
Hume consistently mean that virtue in the motive is the condition
of virtue in the act, and in this sense the qualification has not
much significance for the spectator of the act, and none at all in
relation to the doer. It has not much for the spectator, because,
according to it, no supposed desire will excite his displeasure and
consequently be vicious unless in its general operation it produces
a distinct overbalance of pain to the subject of it _and_ to others;
[1] and by this test it would be more difficult to show that an
unseasonable passion for reforming mankind was _not_ vicious than
that moderate lechery was so. It has no significance at all for the
person to whom vice or virtue is imputed, because a difference in
the results, which others anticipate from any desire that moves him
to action, makes no difference in that desire, as he feels and is
moved by it. To him, according to Hume, it is simply desire for the
pleasure of which the idea is for the time most lively, and, being
most lively, cannot but excite the strongest desire. In this--in the
character which they severally bear for the subjects of them--the
virtuous motive and the vicious are alike. Hume, it is true, allows
that the subject of a vicious desire may become conscious through
sympathy of the uneasiness which the contemplation of it causes to
others, but if this sympathy were strong enough to neutralize the
imagination which excites the desire, the desire would not move him
to act. That predominance of anticipated pain over pleasure in the
effects of a motive, which renders it vicious to the spectator,
cannot be transferred to the imagination of the subject of it without
making it cease to be his motive because no longer his strongest
desire. A vicious motive, in short, would be a contradiction in
terms, if that productivity of pain, which belongs to the motive
in the imagination of the spectator, belonged to it also in the
imagination of the agent.

[1] I write ‘AND to others,’ not ‘OR,’ because according to Hume the
production of pleasure to the agent alone is enough to render an
action virtuous, if it proceeds from some permanent quality. Thus an
action could not be unmistakably vicious unless it tended to produce
pain _both_ to the doer and to others. If, though tending to bring
pain to others, it had a contrary tendency for the agent himself,
there would be nothing to decide whether the viciousness of the
former tendency was, or was not, balanced by the virtuousness of the

‘Consciousness of sin’ disappears.

63. Thus the consequence, which we found to be involved in Locke’s
doctrine of motives, is virtually admitted by its most logical
exponent. Locke’s confusions began when he tried to reconcile his
doctrine with the fact of self-condemnation, with the individual’s
consciousness of vice as a condition of himself; or, in his own
words, to explain how the vicious man could be ‘answerable to
himself’ for his vice. Consciousness of vice could only mean
consciousness of pleasure wilfully foregone, and since pleasure could
not be wilfully foregone, there could be no such consciousness. Hume,
as we have seen, cuts the knot by disposing of the consciousness
of vice, as a relation in which the individual stands to himself,
altogether. A man’s vice is someone else’s displeasure with him, and,
if we wish to be precise, we must not speak of self-condemnation
or desire for excellence as influencing human conduct, but of
aversion from the pain of humiliation and desire for the pleasure
of pride--humiliation and pride of that sort of which each man’s
sympathy with the feeling of others about him is the condition.

Only respectability remains; and even this not consistently accounted

64. That such a doctrine leaves large fields of human experience
unexplained, few will now dispute. Wesley, Wordsworth, Fichte,
Mazzini, and the German theologians, lie between us and the
generation in which, to so healthy a nature as Hume’s, and in so
explicit a form, it could be possible. Enthusiasm--religious,
political, and poetic--if it has not attained higher forms, has been
forced to understand itself better since the time when Shaftesbury’s
thin and stilted rhapsody was its most intelligent expression.
It is now generally agreed that the saint is not explained by
being called a fanatic, that there is a patriotism which is not
‘the last refuge of a scoundrel,’ and that we know no more about
the poet, when we have been told that he seeks the beautiful,
and that what is beautiful is pleasant, than we did before. This
admitted, Hume’s Hedonism needs only to be clearly stated to be
found ‘unsatisfactory.’ If it ever tends to find acceptance with
serious people, it is through confusion with that hybrid, though
beneficent, utilitarianism which finds the moral good in the
‘greatest happiness of the greatest number’ without reflecting that
desire for such an object, not being for a feeling of pleasure to be
experienced by the subject of the desire, is with Hume impossible.
Understood as he himself understood his doctrine, it is only
‘respectability’--the temper of the man who ‘naturally,’ _i.e._,
without definite expectation of ulterior gain, seeks to stand well
with his neighbours--that it will explain; and this it can only
treat as a fixed quantity. Taking for granted the heroic virtue,
for which it cannot account, it still must leave it a mystery how
the heroic virtue of an earlier age can become the respectability
of a later one. Recent literary fashion has led us perhaps unduly
to depreciate respectability, but the avowed insufficiency of a
moral theory to explain anything beyond it may fairly entitle us
to enquire whether it can consistently explain even that. The
reason, as we have sufficiently seen, why Hume’s ethical speculation
has such an issue is that he does not recognize the constitutive
action of self-conscious thought. Misunderstanding our passivity in
experience--unaware that it has no meaning except in relation to
an object which thought itself projects, yet too clear-sighted to
acquiesce in the vulgar notion of either laws of matter or laws of
action, as simply thrust upon us from an unaccountable without--he
seeks in the mere abstraction of passivity, of feeling which is
a feeling of nothing, the explanation of the natural and moral
world. Nature is a sequence of sensations, morality a succession of
pleasures and pains. It is under the pressure of this abstraction
that he so empties morality of its actual content as to leave only
the residuum we have described. Yet to account even for this he
has to admit such motives as ‘pride,’ ‘love,’ and ‘interest;’ and
each of these, as we have shown, implies that very constitutive
action of reason, by ignoring which he compels himself to reduce all
morality to that of the average man in his least exalted moments.
The formative power of thought, as exhibited in such motives, only
differs in respect of the lower degree, to which it has fashioned
its matter, from the same power as the source of the ‘desire for
excellence,’ of the will autonomous in the service of mankind, of
the forever (to us) unfilled ideal of a perfect society. It is
because Hume de-rationalizes respectability, that he can find no
_rationale_, and therefore no room, for the higher morality. This
might warn us that an ‘ideal’ theory of ethics tampers with its only
sure foundation when it depreciates respectability; and if it were
our business to extract a practical lesson from him, it would be that
there is no other genuine ‘enthusiasm of humanity’ than one which
has travelled the common highway of reason--the life of the good
neighbour and honest citizen--and can never forget that it is still
only on a further stage of the same journey. Our business, however,
has not been to moralise, but to show that the philosophy based on
the abstraction of feeling, in regard to morals no less than to
nature, was with Hume played out, and that the next step forward in
speculation could only be an effort to re-think the process of nature
and human action from its true beginning in thought. If this object
has been in any way attained, so that the attention of Englishmen
‘under five-and-twenty’ may be diverted from the anachronistic
systems hitherto prevalent among us to the study of Kant and Hegel,
an irksome labour will not have been in vain.

T. H. Green.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Treatise of Human Nature
 - Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method Into Moral Subjects; and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion" ***

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