381. To Josiah Wedgwood Address: Mr T. Poole | N. Stowey | Bridgewater | SomersetSingle Sheet MS. British Museum. Hitherto unpublished. A second and briefer holograph of this letter is among the MSS. of Lord Latymer. Early in 1801 Coleridge embarked upon a serious study of philosophy, and at the onset he determined to examine the bases of Locke's position. During February he composed a series of letters dealing mainly with Locke and Descartes (see Letter 880). On 18 February he sent the first of these letters to Josiah Wedgwood, and at the same time sent a copy to Poole (see Letter 881). Chagrined at not receiving any acknowledgement of this letter from Wedgwood, he delayed sending the remaining letters for more than a month (see Letter 388). On 24 March, however, he posted Letters 882 and 388 to Wedgwood and sent copies of them to Poole the same day (see Letter 889). Josiah Wedgwood received these letters, for on 81 March 1801 he wrote to Poole: 'As to metaphysics I know little about them, and my head is at present so full of various affairs that I have not even read the letters Coleridge has written on those subjects, as I have honestly told him. From the cursory view I took of them he seems to have plucked the principal feathers out of Locke's wings. Tom is with us . . . but not well enough to pursue his own speculations or to attend to those of others' (MS. British Museum). Poole acknowledged Letter 381 on 14 March and Letters 882 and 383 on 9 April ( Thomas Poole, ii. 32 and 42). The philosophical letters sent to Josiah Wedgwood (Letters 381-3) have disappeared, but the manuscript copies Coleridge prepared for Poole survive and furnish the present text. The fourth philosophical letter (884) is only an incomplete rough draft, containing neither salutation nor conclusion. There is no evidence that it was sent either to Wedgwood or to Poole. It is among the Coleridge manuscripts acquired by the British Museum from E. H. Coleridge(Egerton MS. 2801). Since Coleridge's four philosophical letters (881-4) were written in the face of a long-established tradition that Locke was entirely the critic of Descartes, and since Coleridge attempted to prove that ' Locke System existed in the writings of Descartes', it will be well, perhaps, to examine briefly the reasons for the traditional view of Locke and to glance at one or two twentieth-century estimates of Locke's relation to Descartes. James Gibson declares that 'without the influence of the Cartesian view of knowledge and the Cartesian conception of self-consciousness, It is not too much to say that the Essay, as we know it, would never have been written'. He insists, nevertheless, that 'the way in which Locke develops the view of knowledge which he found in Descartes, and the very different use to which he puts the conception of self-consciousness, suffice to negative at once the suggestion of any want of originality in his fundamental positions'; and he concludes that Locke so freely transforms the Cartesian principles 'that the existence of any positive relation of dependence upon them has frequently been ignored by the historian of philosophy, and the positions of Descartes and Locke have been set in antithetical opposition to each other'. ( Locke's Theory of Knowledge and its Historical Relations, 1917, p. 207.) Professor R. I. Aaron says that Leibnitz at the turn of the eighteenth century considered Locke as the protagonist of the Gassendists and as an opponent of Descartes. Subsequently, Aaron points out, Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists acknowledged Locke as the critic of Cartesianism, 'hailed him as the founder of the empirical school . . . [and] created . . . the erroneous -677- view that the two schools had nothing in common', a view persisting until late in the nineteenth century, when Locke's indebtedness to Descartes was realized. 'In our own day,' Aaron continues, ' Locke is talked of as if he were a mere rationalist, owing everything to Descartes. This view is equally untrue and needs to be corrected. Locke accepted much that Descartes taught. Nevertheless, he was his constant critic, criticizing him in the light of empiricism, that of Bacon and of Boyle on the one hand, and of the Gassendists on the other.' ( John Locke, 1987, pp. 10, 88-34, and 77.) These philosophical letters, then, attack the view of Locke current in the early nineteenth century, but Coleridge overstated Locke's dependence upon Descartes and failed to recognize the fundamental differences between the two philosophers. Professor R. I. Aaron, who has examined these letters, says that Coleridge was among the first, if he was not the first, to realize Locke's debt to Descartes, but that in emphasizing only the indebtedness to Descartes he stated a half-truth. Professor Aaron agrees that Coleridge rightly identified Locke as a conceptualist, but suggests that while Coleridge gives evidence of having studied Book I and the opening chapters of Book II of the Essay, he does not seem to have read the rest of the work with much care. Nevertheless, Coleridge's letters are important in pointing out Locke's dependence upon Descartes half a century before such writers as Edward Tagart and T. E. Webb 'discovered once again the rationalist elements in Locke's thought', and as evidence of Coleridge's own rejection of British empiricism. Stamped: Kendal. 1801 My dear Sir It gives me a pleasure not wholly self-respective, that I am able to inform you of my almost compleat Recovery. -- May God grant me Hope, and a steady Mind! & I trust, I shall soon make up for the time, I have lost in Sickness. I wrote to you my intention of communicating to your Brother the result of my meditations on the relations of Thoughts to Things; but I will rather, with your permission, throw the burthen of reading them upon you -- because you will of course shew them to Tom if they give you pleasure, & if they prove trifling & all awry, you are less likely, than he, to receive Pain from Disgust. (Believe me, my dear Sir! I scarcely half express the diffidence, I feel.) -- But I shall previously make you pay post for a Letter or two respecting some errors, as I believe, in the generally received History of metaphysical opinions. I was led to this subject by a late Perusal of Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding. I had read, & I think, mentioned to you, a very small book, attacking the Essay, & was rather pleased with it, tho' it was but a superficial affair; 1 but after this it occurred to ____________________ 1 Since Coleridge is known to have annotated Henry Lee Anti-Scepticism, 1702, which criticized Locke Essay, chapter by chapter, it has been suggested that he refers to Lee here. Such an assumption is erroneous. Coleridge would not refer to Lee's large folio volume as 'a very small book' and 'a superficial affair'. The book could have been any one of a number of attacks on Locke. -678- me, that Mr Locke's Essay was a Book which I had really never read, but only looked thro' -- I felt, of course, that I had been guilty of petulance, and began to wonder at my long want of curiosity concerning the writings of a philosopher (our countryman), whose Name runs in a collar with Newton's, as naturally as Milton's name with that of Shakespere. I had read a multitude of out of the way Books, Greek, Latin, & German, & groped my way thro' the French of Malbranche; 1 & there are men, who gain the reputation of a wide erudition by consuming that Time in reading Books obsolete & of no character, which other men employ in reading those which every Body reads; but I should be sorry to detect in myself this silly vanity, & so, as aforesaid, I took Locke from my Landlord's Shelf, & read it attentively. -- In my Biographical Dictionary the writer introduces Locke as one of the greatest men that England ever produced.['] Mr Hume, a much more competent Judge, declares that he was 'really a great Philosopher.' Wolf, Feder, & Platner, 2 three Germans, the fathers or favourers of three different Systems, concur in pronouncing him to be 'a truly original Genius.' And Mr Locke himself has made it sufficiently clear both in his Essay, and in his Letters to the Bishop of Worcester, 3 that he did not regard himself as a Reformer, but as a Discoverer; not as an opposer of a newly introduced Heresy in Metaphysics but as an Innovator upon ancient and generally received Opinions. In his dedicatory Epistle speaking of those who are likely to condemn his Essay as opposite to the received Doctrines, 'Truth' (says he) 'scarce ever yet carried it by Vote any where at it's first appearance.New Opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed without any other reason but because they are not already common. But Truth, like Gold, is not the less so, for being newly brought out of the mine.' 4 -- It would have been well, if Mr Locke had stated the Doctrines which he considered as Errors in the very words of some of the most celebrated Teachers of those Doctrines & enumerated the Truths of which he considered himself as the Discoverer. A short Postscript to this purpose would have brought to an easy determination the opinions of those, who (as Harris & Monboddo, 5 for instance) believe that Mr Locke has grossly misrepresented the ancient & received opinions, and that the Doctrines which he holds for Truths of his own Discovery are ____________________ 1 Nicolas Malebranche ( 1638-1715). 2 C. F. von Wolf ( 1679-1754), J. G. H. Feder ( 1740-1821), and Ernst Platner ( 1744-1818). 3 Edward Stillingfleet ( 1685-99). A copy of his Origines Sacrae, 1675, containing Coleridge's annotations is in the British Museum. 4 Human Understanding, 1798, Epistle Dedicatory, xviii. 5 James Harris ( 1709-80) and James Burnett, Lord Monboddo ( 1714-99). -679- many of them erroneous & none original. Exempli gratiâ -- in the very commencement of the work he says 'It is an established opinion amongst some men, that there are in the Understanding certain Innate Principles, some primary notions, KοιVαìεVVιαι characters as it were stamped upon the mind of Man, which the Soul receives in it's very first being, and brings into the World with it.' 1 His own opinion on the contrary is that there are but two sorts of ideas and both acquired by Experience, namely, 'external Objects furnish the mind with ideas of sensible Qualities, which are all those different Perceptions they produce in us: and the Mind furnishes the Understanding with ideas of it's own operations.' 2 Of course, as Locke teaches that the Understanding is but a Term signifying the Mind in a particular state of action, he means that the mind furnishes itself; and so he himself expresses the Thought in the preceding Paragraph, defining Ideas of Reflection by 'those, which the mind gets by reflecting on it's own operations within itself.' 3 Now, it would have been well if Locke had named those who held the former Doctrines, and shewn from their own Words that the two opinions (his and their's) were opposite or at least different. 4 More especially, he should have given his Readers the Definition of the obscure Word 'innate' in the very Language of the most accurate of such Writers as had used the Word. Pythagoras, it is said, and Plato, it is known, held the preexistence of human Souls, and that the most valuable Part of our knowlege was Recollection. The earliest of these Recollections Plato calls ZὼπVα, living Sparks, & 'EVασ+̂μα, Kindle-fuel. These notions he enforces in the Theaetetus, and the Phaedon, and still more at large in the Menon; but neither in these nor elsewhere asserts, that any Ideas (in the present sense of the word) could be furnished originally or recollectively otherwise than by the mind itself or by things external to the Mind, i.e. by Reflection or Sensation. -- The nihil in intellectu quod non prius in sensu of the Peripatetics is notorious, and that Aristotle speaks of the mind in it's first state ὼU+3C3+̂πVε γαμματεîοûτ ὼ μδὲV ὲVαμμλχíα γεαμμάV+V - the original of Gassendi's and Hobbes's tabula rasa, and Mr Locke's unwritten sheet of Paper. Of Aristotle's complete coincidence in this point with Mr Locke vide Cap. 18 (of the Anal. Poster. Lib. I.) entitled De ignorantia secundum negationem, but ____________________ 1 Human Understanding, Bk. I, ch. ii, § 1. 2 Ibid. , Bk. II, ch.i, § 5. 3 Ibid. , Bk. II, ch. i, § 4. 4 Professor Aaron believes that Locke's polemic against innate knowledge was meant for the Cartesians, for the schoolmen, for certain members of the Cambridge Platonists, and for those others, Herbert and the rest, who advocated the theory of innate ideas in any way'. John Locke,82. -680- above all Cap XIX (of the Anal. Poster. Lib. II) entitled De cognitione Primorum Principiorum. The Stoics used the phrase о+03BFιVαì ε+̋A indeed; but that they meant nothing opposite to Mr Locke's opinions is made evident by a passage in the work (attributed to Plutarch) De Plac. Philos. 4. 11., in which are these words 'The Stoics regarded the Soul when it came into the World as an unwritten Tablet.['] The Realists among the Schoolmen held a Doctrine strangely compounded of the Peripatetic & Plotinian School, that universal Ideas are the Souls of all things. I have never read Aquinas or Scotus, the two great Defenders of this System; 1 but it is certain, it was a question of Psychogony not Psychology; the Soul, whatever it was, could only derive it's thoughts from itself or things external to itself. The nominalists taught that these abstract Ideas were mere names; the Conceptualists who moderated between these & the Realists coincided with Mr Locke fully & absolutely. (Of their party were Abelard & Heloisa.) -- Mr Hume with his wonted sagacity has given an able statement of the utter unmeaningness of the assertion which Mr Locke had made. 'For what is meant by Innate? If innate be equivalent to Natural, then all the Perceptions and Ideas of the Mind must be allowed to be innate or natural, in whatever sense we take the latter word whether in opposition to what is uncommon, artificial, or miraculous. If by innate be meant, contemporary to our birth, the Dispute seems to be frivolous; nor is it worth while to inquire, at what time Thinking begins, whether before, at or after our Birth. Again the word Idea seems to be commonly taken in a very loose sense, even by Mr Locke himself, as standing for any of our Perceptions, our sensations, & Passions, as well as Thoughts. Now in this sense I should desire to know what can be meant by asserting that Self-love, or Resentment of Injuries, or the Passion betwixt the Sexes is not innate?' 2 Note at the end of Essay II. ---- I had not read this note of Mr Hume's when I had written the former part of this sheet; & having read it I should have desisted from the Subject altogether, had I not beard Mr Mackintosh affirm in his Lectures, that 'the Doctrine of Innate Ideas (a doctrine unknown to the ancients) was first introduced by Des Cartes, & fully overthrown by Locke.' Mr M. must have made a mistake -- for Lord Herbert's Work De Veritate ____________________ 1 The Lord Latymer MS. contains the following addition: 'but I can easily conceive that the difference between their opinions & those of many HyperBerkleian Idealists in the present Day are not essentially Different.' Five months later Coleridge was reading Duns Scotus in the Durham Library. See Letter 405. 2 David Hume, Philosophical Essays concerning Human Understanding, Essay II, 'Of the Origin of Ideas'. -681- (which Mr Locke himself refers to in the third Chapter of his first book, § 15, as that which he had consulted, and in which these innate Principles were assigned) was published in 1624, whereas Des Cartes' Metaphysical Books did not appear till 1641. But laying this aside, yet in what sense can Des Cartes be called the introducer of the Doctrine? The Phrase 'innate Ideas' is surely not of Des Cartes' Invention -- ε+̋V+Vοια ε+̋μΦV+τοϛ ζιϛε+̋μπVτóϛḐσ+̂τιVήτ μοιτο̋ Πεíα -- (Diog. Laer. in the Life of Plato). A pueris tot rerum atque tantarum insitas et quasi consignatas notiones quas ἐ+V+Vοíαϛ vocant -- Cic. Tuse. Quaest. 1 -- Omnibus cognitio, Deum existere, naturaliter inserta est. Damascenus. -Deus attigitur notione innati. Ficinus in versione Iamblichi de Myst. 2 Des Cartes' Heresy therefore must have consisted in the new meaning he gave to the Word[s -- ] in something or other Mr Locke must have conceived [Des] Cartes's opinions as opposite to his own, for he never loses an opportunity of a sneer or sarcasm at the French Philosopher -- and what if it were nevertheless true, that Mr Locke's whole System, as far as it is a system, pre-existed in Des Cartes? In order to shew this permit me to trace back the meaning of the word Ideas. By Ideas Plato, notwithstanding his fantastic expressions respecting them, meant what Mr Locke calls the original Faculties & Tendencies of the mind, the internal Organs, as it were, and Laws of human Thinking: and the word should be translated 'Moulds' and not 'Forms'. ( Cicero assures us, that Aristotle's Metaphysical Opinions differ from Plato's only as a Thing said in plain prose, i.e. worn out metaphors, differs from the same thing said in new & striking Metaphors -- Aristotle affirms to the same purpose ΔVαμει Πὼϛ ó ἐτá ó Nοϛ, àλλ ἐVτεíχεα οV§ἐV τíV αV μήVή -- 3 in respect of Faculty the Thought [Mind] is the Thoughts, but actually it is nothing previous to Thinking.) By the usual Process of language Ideas came to signify not only these original moulds of the mind, but likewise all that was cast in these moulds, as in our language the Seal & the Impression it leaves are both called Seals. Latterly, it wholly lost it's original meaning, and became synonimous sometimes with Images simply (whether Impressions or Ideas) and sometimes with Images in the memory; and by Des Cartes it is used for whatever is immediately perceived ____________________ 1 xxiv. 57. 2 Marsilio Ficino, lamblichus de Mysteriis -- Ægyptiorum, 1497. 3 In the Lord Latymer MS. Coleridge, after this quotation from Aristotle, added: 'that is, in respect of Faculty the Mind is it's intellectual Thoughts. Plato's reasonings against Particulars &c probably meant little more than Lord Bacon's admonitions against the making of Experiments without some preconceived Generalization.' -682- by the mind. Thus in Meditatione Tertiâ Des Cartes had said 'Quaedam ex his (scilicet cogitationibus humanis) tanquam rerum imagines sunt, quibus solis proprie convenit ideae nomen, ut cum hominem vel chimaeram vel caelum vel angelum vel Deum cogito.['] In the Objectiones Tertiae, which were undoubtedly written by Hobbes, the word Idea is obstinately taken for Image, and it is objected to the passage 'nullam Dei habemus imaginem sive ideam.' To which Des Cartes answers 'Hîc nomine ideae vult tantum intelligi imagines rerum materialium in phantasiâ corporeâ depictas, quo posito facile illi est probare, nullam Angeli nec Dei propriam ideam esse posse; atqui ego passim ubique, ac praecipue hoe ipso in loco ostendo me nomen ideae sumere pro omni eo quod immediate a mente percipitur, adeo ut cum volo et timeo, quia simul percipio me velle et timere, ipsa Volitio et Timor inter Ideas a me numerentur, ususque sum hoe verbo, quia jam tritum erat a Philosophis &c; et nullum aptius habebam[']. Locke in his second Letter to the B. of Worcester gives the same definition and assigns the same Reason; he would willingly change the Term 'Idea' for a Better, if any one could help him to it. But he finds none that stands so well 'for every immediate object of the mind in thinking, as Idea does.' As Des Cartes & Locke perfectly coincide in the meaning of the Term Ideas, so likewise do they equally agree as to their Sorts and Sources. I have read Mr Locke's Book with care, and I cannot suppress my feelings of unpleasant doubt & wonder, which his frequent claims to originality raised in me; his apologies for new words as necessary in a system deviating so widely, as his, from the hitherto received Opinions; and his repeated Triumphs over his nameless Adversaries for their incapability of instancing any one idea not derived from one or other of the two Sources, which he, Mr Locke, had pointed out. -- I will give 4 quotations from 4 very different Authors -- 1 (All Philosophers say, that the Soul perceives some things thro' the Body, as when she hears or sees; and some things she herself notices in herself.) 2. Intellectio, autem CT., dividitur vulgo in Rectam et Reflexam. Recta dicitur quando tantum aliquid cognoscimus, ut in prima apprehensione Hominis, Bovis, Equi, &c. Reflexa autem, quâ mens seipsam cognoscit, scilicet se cognoscere et cognoscendi habere potestates. 2 3. The mind receiving certain ideas from without, when it turns it's view inward upon itself and observes it's own actions about those Ideas, ____________________ 1 Diogenes Laërtius, Life of Plato, III. 12. 2 Daniel Sennertus, Opera omnia, 3 vols., 1641, i. 117. For potestates read potestatem. -683- it has, takes from thence other ideas, which are as capable to be the Objects of it's Contemplation as any of those, it derives from foreign Things. -- Likewise the Mind often exercises an active power in making several combinations: for it being furnished with simple Ideas, it can put them together in several compositions, and so make variety of complex ideas without examining whether they exist so together in nature. 1 4 Ex ideis aliae cogitativae, aliae adventitiae, aliae a mente factae videntur: nam quod intelligam quid sit res, quid sit veritas, quid sit cogitatio, haec non allunde habere videor quam ab ipsâmet meâ natura; quod autem nunc strepitum audiam, solem videam, ignem sentiam, a rebus quibusdam extra me positis procedere hactenus judicavi: ac denique Sirenes, Hippogryphes, et similia a me ipso finguntur, diversas nempe ideas adventitias vi proprid permiscente. -- These four quotations were evidently written by four men teaching precisely the same doctrine; but of the third and fourth one might almost suspect that the one was a free translation of the other. The first I extracted from Diog. Laert. in the Life of PLATO; the second from Daniel Sennertus, an adherent of the Aristotelian Philosophy who wrote the passage about the year 1620; the third you will know to be from Mr Locke, & the fourth is extracted from the Med. Tert. of Descartes; save only that instead of (cogitativae) the word in the original is innatae (cogitativae in the principia of Descartes being used instead of innatae) and the last sentence, marked with Italics, & crotchets / I have inserted into the text from one of Des Cartes' own explanatory notes. Here then we come at Locke's Innate Ideas, and find that the Author defines them not in relation to Time but merely in relation to their source, and that they are neither more nor less than Mr Locke's own Ideas of Refiection 2 -the intellectio reflexa of the Peripateties, the ατή αΘ αΘτήV of Plato. -- But to place this beyond the possibility of Doubt I will add another quotation to this Letter of Quotations. At the close of the year 1647 there was published in Belgium a Programma entitled Explicatio mentis humanae, &c, levelled at Descartes tho' his name is no where mentioned in it. The 12th Article of this Programma is as follows. 3 XII. Mens non indiget ideis vel notionibus innatis: sed sola ejus facultas cogitandi, ipsi, ad notiones suas peragendas, sufficit. -- To this Des Cartes answers -- In articulo XII non videtur nisi solis verbis a me dissentire. Cum enim ait, mentem ____________________ 1 Human Understanding, Bk. II, ch. vi, § 1, and ch. xxii, § 2. 2 Professor Aaron suggests that by 'reflection' Locke meant what we call 'introspection'. 'Most of our information about the mind comes through reflection, that is, introspection' ( John Locke, 120 and n. 3). 3 See ibid. , 78 f., for Professor Aaron's discussion of this quotation. -684- non indigere ideis innatis, et interim ei facultatem cogitandi concedit (puta naturalem sive innatam) re affmnat plane idem, quod ego, sed verbo negat. Non enim unquam scripsi vel judicavi, mentem indigere ideis innatis, quae sint aliquid diversum ab ejus facultate cogitandi; sed cum adverterem, quasdam. in me esse cogitationes, quae non objectis externis, nec a voluntatis meae determinatione procedebant, sed a solh cogitandi facultate, quae in me est -- ut ideas sive notiones, quae sint istarum cogitationum formae, ut [ab] aliis adventitiis aut factis distinguerem, illas innaras vocavi, eodem sensu, quo dicimus generositatem esse quibusdam familiis innatam, ahis vero quosdam morbos, ut podagram vel calculum -- non quod ideo istarum familiarum infantes morbis istis in utero matris laborent, sed quod nascantur cum quddam dispositione sive facultate ad illos contrahendos. Good-night, my dear Sir! -- Your's with grateful affection S. T. Coleridge P.S. -- Hobbes objected to Des Cartes -- 'Praeterea, ubi dicit ideam Dei et animae nostrae nobis innatam esse, velim. scire, si animae dormientium profunde sine insomnis cogitent. Si non, non habent eo tempore ideas ullas: quare nulla idea est innata: nam quod est innatum, semper adest.['] 1 Des Cartes answers: -- Cum dicimus ideam aliquam nobis esse innatam, non intelligimus illam nobis semper obversari; sed tantum nos habere in nobis ipsis facultatem, illam eliciendi. 2 P.S. Des Cartes took his divisions from Lord Bacon, who uses the words notiones nativae et adventitiae. -- Nativae = innatae, & frequently Lord Bacon uses the very word innatae in the same sense with Des Cartes.