383. To Josiah Wedgwood Address: Mr T. Poole | N. Stowey | Bridgewater | Somerset Single Sheet MS. British Museum. Hitherto unpublished. Postmark: 27 March 1801. Stamped: Keswick. [ February 1801] My dear Sir This letter I intend for a miscellaneous Postscript to my last / or if you like, a sort of sermon on a text from Hobbes 'Animadverte quam sit ab improprietate verborum pronum hominibus prolabi in errores circa res.' Mr Locke would have never disgraced his Essay with the first Book, if he had not mistaken innasci for synonimous with connasci, whereas to be 'born in', and to be 'born at the same time with', are phrases of very different import. My mind is, for aught I know to the contrary, connate with my brain / but a staunch materialist would perhaps deny this, and affirm that the Brain was the elder of the two, and that the mind is innate in the brain. Des Cartes chose the word 'innascor' because it implied Birth & of course Subsequence, & at the same time pointed out the -691- place of Birth. -- He confined it to what Locke calls Ideas of Reflection, merely because he did not wish to innovate on the established Language of metaphysics. But he expressly affirms, that in more accurate Language all ideas are innate, 'ipsas motuum. et figurarum Ideas esse innatas'; the mind is both their Birth-place and their manufacturer; and we use the term 'adventitious' [']quando judicemus, has vel illas Ideas, quas nunc habemus cogitationi nostrae praesentes, ad res quasdam extra nos positas referri -- non quia res extra nos menti nostrae per organa sensuum illas ipsas Ideas immiserunt; sed quia aliquid tamen immittitur, quod menti occasionem dedit ad ipsas per innatam sibi facultatem hoc tempore potius quam alio efformandas.' 1 Innate therefore is inaccurately opposed to adventitious; but as the word had been in common use, he had adopted it to express those cognitions which the mind gains by attending to it's own passions & operations. These cognitions he elsewhere calls in the language of his age communes notiones and eternae veritates, the same which Mr Locke calls intuitive Knowlege, 2 & they are explained by Descartes to the same purport as these Intuitions are explained by Mr Locke to be those Laws in the conformation of the mind by which all men necessarily perceive ideas in certain Relations to each other. These Laws Aristotle calls △úϒᾱϒἐσ+̂úμøϒδ øαíϒατοτο ̅øροϒ̅στο) a power inherent in all living Beings determining the manner in which external objects must act upon them. -- It is observable, that Des Cartes finding that he had been misunderstood both in the word 'innatae' and in the word 'Ideae', entirely dismissed them from his Principia / for innatae he uses cogitativae or intellectualis, and for Ideae he uses sometimes notiones, sometimes cognitiones, sometimes motus percepti, & when he wishes to express himself generally he resigns the convenience of a single Word, which was his first motive for using it, & expresses himself by a paraphrase 'Quaecunque sub perceptionem nostram cadunt.' The word Idea occurs but twice in the first book of the Principia, and then he uses it only in reference to his Meditations. It is a proof to me of Mr Locke's having never read the works of Des Cartes, that he adopted the word Idea / he would never have used this word, if he had seen the disputes in which it involved the French Philosopher, the anxious Warding-off of misinterpretation, which he never fails to manifest when he uses it, by repeated Definitions, & sometimes by marginal Nota benes: and in his Principia he wisely desisted from the use of the word altogether. ____________________ 1 Notae in Programma quoddam, Explicatio. 2 Locke does not call communes notiones and eternae veritates 'intuitive knowledge'. For Locke on intuitive knowledge, see Essay IV, ii. -692- It is likewise to be observed that he uses it steadily in one sense, & never dreamt of introducing such a phrase as 'abstract Ideas.['] Having thus seen how grossly Mr Locke has misunderstood Descartes, or perhaps how gossip-like he has taken up upon hearsay a rabble of silly calumnies respecting him, we shall be the less surprized at the 23rd Paragraph of the fourth chapter of his first Book, in which he implies that Aristotle was an asserter & Patron of connate Principles & Ideas -- Aristotle, whose expressions in reprobation of such a doctrine are even violent. Quod igitur eas (scil. cognitiones) a naturh habemus, absurdum est. τUο̅οϒ! 1 is the mildest phrase which he deigns to bestow on such an hypothesis. If Locke ever looked into the logical or metaphysical Works of Aristotle, I hazard a conjecture that this strange Blunder of his in matter of fact originated in a Blunder as to the meaning of a Word. ϒομα and ϒμαι are put together in some Lexicons as one word, and in all the Lexicons which I have consulted, they are given as synonimous with each other & with and all three are rendered by Insum, innascor. But in philosophical Greek ϒωσ+̂ ϒοσαϒóáϒ and ϒóαεϒα have each it's separate meaning -- ϒσ+̂ ϒοσ+̂ (which is mentioned by Aristotle as a possible Hypothesis & disposed of with an 'absurdum est[']) is equivalent to connate or inherent Ideas, Mr Locke's Innate Ideas. ϒáε ἐϒσ+̂ (which is used by Plato) = Ideas born in the Mind, or in Mr Locke's Language, Ideas derived from Reflection. But ϒáε ἐϒóμεϒα, a favorite Phrase of Aristotle's, or ingenerated Ideas = Ideas acquired by Experience -cognitiones, quae a nobis acquiruntur, as Pacius rightly translates these passages. Hence Aristotle often has the sentence. Thus then these cognitions ε+̕íϒοϒτα τ['] -- are ingenerated in the Soul -- i.e. by the action of external subjects on our senses. I guess therefore that Mr Locke carelessly & in a slovenly mood of mind, reading these passages, with a preconceived Opinion that the Peripatetic Philosophy was a congeries of false Hypotheses & verbal Subtleties, translated the words 'are innate (i.e. in his sense, inherent) in the mind,['] herein perhaps relying without scruple on the authority of his Lexicon, and the common use of the word in common Greek. I hope, that I am not treating Mr Locke with undue disrespect; for if I reject this, and all similar suppositions, I shall be reduced to the Belief that he charged upon a truly great man an opinion, which he himself deemed outrageously silly, without having ever read that great man's Works. Thus too in that express attack on Des Cartes in the 1st Chap. of his 2nd Book 'Men think not always' by translating the Cartesian 'Cogito' by the word ____________________ 1 Underlined once in MS. -693- 'Think' he prepares his Reader to suppose that Des Cartes had taught that we are always voluntarily combining Ideas / for this, as Mr Locke himself observes, is the meaning of the English Word Think. Now Des Cartes expressly defines his cogitatio as a general Term for all our consciousnesses, whether of Impressions, Ideas, or mere Feelings. -- Again in the words 'think not always' I need not point out to you the confusion in the word ('always') as combined with ('think not,') if we should admit Mr Locke's own account of Time as meaning nothing more than a succession of Thoughts, & that in this Proposition Mr Locke in order to rescue himself from absurdity must necessarily bewilder his Reader in obscure Notions of Relative Time as contradistinguished from Absolute. -- The whole Reasoning (as far as Des Cartes' Cogito is not misconstrued) resolves itself into an equivocation in the word Consciousness, which is sometimes used for present Perception, & sometimes for the memory of a past Perception / for as to the wild & silly assertions, with which this Chapter is so amply stocked, it would be idle to include them under the term reasoning. These equivocations & these assertions are happily blended in the two following sentences. 'Those who do at any time sleep without dreaming can never be convinced that their Thoughts are sometimes for four hours together busy without their knowing it.' -And 'If the Soul doth think in a sleeping Man without being conscious of it, I ask whether during such thinking it has any pleasure or Pain or be capable of Happiness or Misery? I am sure, the Man is not, no more than the Bed or Earth he lies on. (!!!) For to be happy or miserable without being conscious of it seems to me utterly inconsistent & impossible.' This is a truly curious passage! First Des Cartes had expressly defined Thinking by Consciousness -thus then 'If the Soul is conscious without being conscious I ask whether during such consciousness it has any consciousness.['] --. ----- Or what if a Cartesian should answer To be happy or miserable without being afterwards conscious of having been so seems to me neither inconsistent nor impossible ----- But if Mr Locke speaks of present perception, how came he to be so sure, that a sleeping man is devoid of Feeling? -- 'The man does not remember, that he had any.' Well (it may be answered) the natural Deduction from this is, that the Man had forgotten it. For to affirm that a man can breathe & turn himself & perform all the usual actions of sleep without any sensation is actually to affirm of men that same absurd Doctrine which Des Cartes is accused of having held concerning the Brutes, & which Mr Locke in his merry mood calls a step beyond the Rosecrucians.' This silly chapter with many others not much better originated in the little attention, which -694- Locke had given to the Law of association as explanatory of the Phaenomena both of Memory and of Reasoning -- / for I find by his Preface what I first heard from Mr Mackintosh, that the trifling Chapter on Association was not introduced till the fourth Edition. It is true, that if we were to judge of Locke's merits by the first Book, & the first Chapter in the second Book of his Essay, we should sink him below his proper rank, even more than his present Reputation is above it. Yet if any one had read to me that chapter on 'Men think not always' without mentioning the Author, and afterwards read a passage in his fourth Book, in which it is asserted that Morals are equally susceptible of Demonstration as Mathematics, & then another passage in the conclusion of the eleventh [tenth] Chapter of Book the third, in which it [is] said 'all the figurative application of Words, Eloquence hath invented, are for nothing else but to insinuate wrong ideas, move the Passions, and thereby mislead the Judgement; and so indeed are perfect cheat' -I should have found myself incapable of believing the Author to be any thing but -- what, I reverence even a great name too much to apply to Mr Locke. It may not be amiss to remark, that the Opinion of Descartes respecting the Brutes has not been accurately stated. Malbranche indeed positively denies all feeling to Brutes, & considers them as purae putae Machines. But Des Cartes asserted only, that the Will and Reason of Man was a Something essentially distinct from the vital Principle of Brutes / [and that we had no proof that Brutes are not mere automatons. Des Cartes, like Hartley & Darwin, held the possibility of a machine so perfect, & susceptible of Impulses, as to perform many actions of apparent Consciousness without consciousness / but the falsehood of a thing possible can never 'be demonstrated,['] tho' such demonstration may be superseded by intuitive Certainty. I am certain that I feel; and when I speak of men, I imply in the word 'Men' Beings like myself; but in the word 'Brutes' I imply Beings someway or other different from my own species, to them therefore I am not entitled to transfer my intuitive Self-knowlege / consequently, I cannot prove i.e. demonstrate, that any consciousness belongs to them. The strongest expression in all Des Cartes' Writings on this subject is 'etsi ratione careant, et forte omni cogitatione'. -- This is, no doubt, egregious trifling, unworthy of Des Cartes, & hardly to be reconciled with other parts of his own Works, in which he shews that Nature acts upon us as Language, and that veracity is involved in the notion of Deity. However, to assert that a thing is so or so, and to assert that it cannot be demonstrated not to be so or so, form articles of Belief widely different from each other. Malbranche asserted that Brutes -695- were machines devoid of all consciousness, Des Cartes only asserted, that no one could demonstrate the contrary. I have abstained purposely from intermingling in these Letters any remarks of my own, not connected with matters of historical Fact / tho' I was greatly tempted to animadvert on the gross metaphor & at the same time bold assumption implied in the words 'inherent,' 'innate,' 'ingenerated,' 'object of the mind in thinking,' &c / I was likewise tempted to remark that I do not think the Doctrine of innate Ideas even in Mr Locke's sense of the Word so utterly absurd & ridiculous, as Aristotle, Des Cartes, & Mr Locke have concurred in representing it. What if instead of innate Ideas a philosopher had asserted the existence of constituent Ideas / the metaphor would not be a whit more gross, nor the hypothesis involved more daring or unintelligible, than in the former phrases / and I am sure, it would lead to more profitable Experiments & Analyses. In Mr Locke there is a complete Whirl-dance of Confusion with the words we, Soul, Mind, Consciousness, & Ideas. It is we as far as it is consciousness, and Soul & Mind are only other words for we / and yet nothing is more common in the Essay than such Sentences as these 'I do not say there is no Soul in us because we are not sensible of it in our sleep' & -- 'actions of our mind unnoticed by us['] -- i.e. (according to Locke's own definitions of mind & we) 'actions of our consciousness, of which our Consciousness is unconscious.['] Sometimes again the Ideas are considered as objects of the mind in thinking, sometimes they stand for the mind itself, and sometimes we are the thinkers, & the mind is only the Thought-Box. -- In short, the Mind in Mr Locke's Essay has three senses -- the Ware-house, the Wares, and the Ware-house-man. -What is the etymology of the Word Mind? I think that I could make it as probable as could be expected in a conjecture on such a subject that the following is the history of the Word -- In a Swabian Poet of the 13th Century I have found the word Min (pronounced mein); it is used by him for Geist, or Gemuth, the present German Words for Mind. -- The same poet uses the word Minen, which is only the old Spelling for the present German Meinen -- the old signification of Meinen (& which is still in many parts of Germany the provincial use of the word) exactly corresponds with the provincial use of the verb 'To mind' in England. Don't you mind that? -- i.e. Do you not remember it. -- Be sure, you mind him of that -- i.e. remind him of that. -- Hence it appears to be no other than provincial Differences of Pronunciation between the words Meinen, & Mahnen -- which last word retains the old (present provincial) meaning of the word Meinen -- i.e. to mind a person (of his Duty for instance). But the insertion of the n in the middle -696- of a German verb is admitted on all hands to be intensive or reduplicative / as the Dictionary Phrase is. In reality it is no more than repeating the last syllable as people are apt to when speaking hastily or vehemently. Mahnen therefore is Mahenen, which is Mahen spoken hastily or vehemently. But the oldest meaning of the word mfihen is to move forward & backward, yet still progressively -- thence applied to the motion of the Scythe in mowing -from what particular motion the word was first abstracted, is of course in this as in all other instances, lost in antiquity. For words have many fates -- they first mean particulars, become generals, then are confined to some one particular again, & so forth -- as the word 'indorse' for instance. -- To mow is the same as the Latin movere which was pronounced mow-ere -- & monere in like manner is only the reduplicative of mow-ere -- mow-en -- mow-nen -- mownen, or monen. This word in the time of Ennius was menere, & hence mens -- the Swedish word for Mind is Mon -- the Islandic Mene. The Greek μϒáομá, i.e. μεϒáμαá 1 from whence μϒημη, the memory, is the same word -- and all alike mean a repetition of similar motion, as in a scythe. It is even probable that the word meh, ma, & moe, the old German and English Words for more is of the same Birth & Parentage. All infinitives are in my opinion Imperatives with or without some auxiliar substantive / in our Language without, in Latin, German, etc with. What the Latin 're' and 'ri' are, I think I could make a bold guess at -- and likewise at the meaning of the en, common to all the Gothic Dialects. -God bless you, my dear Sir!, I would, I were with you to join in the Laugh against myself. S. T. Coleridge