Page images

fron Ideas; yet he continues to treat singly, as before, concerning the Force * of words; and has not advanced one syllable concerning their Manner of signification.

[ocr errors]

The only Division Mr. Locke has made of words, is, into-Names of Ideas and Particles. This division is not made regularly and formally; but is reserved to his seventh Chapter. And even there it is done in a very cautious, doubting, loose, uncertain manner, very different from that incomparable author's usual method of proceeding. For, though the general title of the seventh Chapter is,— Of Particles ;-—yet he seems to chuse to leave it uncertain whether he does or does not include Verbs in that title, and particularly what he calls the Marks of the Mind's « affirming or denying.And indeed he himself acknowledges, in a letter to Mr. Molyneux, that" Some parts 66 of that Third Book concerning Words, though the « thoughts were easy and clear enough, yet cost him more “ pains to express than all the rest of his Essay. And that 66 therefore he should not much wonder if there were in “ some parts of it obscurity and doubtfulness.” Now whenever any man finds this difficulty to express himself,

* The Force of a word depends upon the number of Ideas of which that word is the sign.


in a language with which he is well acquainted, let him be persuaded that his thoughts are not clear enough: for, as Swift (I think) has somewhere observed, « When the “ water is clear you will easily fee to the bottom.”

The whole of this vague Chapter-Oye Particles (which should have contained an account of every thing but Nouns) is comprized in two pages and a half: and all the rest of the Third Book concerns only, as before, the Force of the names of Ideas.


How is this to be accounted for? Do you suppose he was unacquainted with the opinions of Grammarians, or that he despised the subject?


No. I am very sure of the contrary. For it is plain he did not despise the subject; since he repeatedly and strongly recommends it to others : and at every step throughout his Efsay, I find the most evident marks of the journey he had himself taken through all their works. But it appears that he was by no means satisfied with what he found there concerning Particles : For he complains that “ this part of Grammar has been as much neglected,

[blocks in formation]

as fome others over-diligently cultivated.”

And says, " that “ He who would shew the right use of Particles, “ and what significancy and force they have,” (that is, according to his own division, the right use, significancy, and force of ALL words except the names of Ideas)“ must “ take a little more pains, enter into his .own thoughts, 66 and observe nicely the several postures of his mind in “ discoursing." For these particles, he says,—" are all " marks of some action or intimation of the Mind; and “ therefore, to understand them rightly, the several views,

poftures, stands, turns, limitations and exceptions, and “ several other thoughts of the Mind, for which we have either none or very deficient names, are diligently to be 66 studied. Of these there are a great variety, much “ exceeding the number of Particles.” For himself, he declines the talk, however necessary and neglected by all others; and that for no better reason than—" I intend “ not here a full explication of this sort of signs.” And yet he was (as he professed and thought) writing on the human Understanding; and therefore should not surely have left mankind still in the same darkness in which he found them, concerning these hitherto unnamed and (but by himself) undiscovered operations of the Mind.

[ocr errors]

In short, this seventh Chapter is, to me, a full confession and proof that he had not settled his own opinion concerning the manner of signification of Words : that it still remained (though he did not chuse to have it so understood) a Desideratum with him, as it did with our great Bacon before him : and therefore that he would not decide any thing about it; but confined himself to the prosecution of his original inquiry concerning the first sort of Abbreviations, which is by far the most important to knowledge, and which he supposed to belong to Ideas.

But though he declined the subject, he evidently leaned towards the opinion of Aristotle, Scaliger, and Meff. de Port Royal : and therefore, without having sufficiently examined their position, he too hastily adopted their notion concerning the pretended Copula—" Is, and is not.He supposed with them, that affirming and denying were operations of the Mind; and referred all the other sorts of Words to the same source. Though, if the different sorts of Words had been (as he was willing to believe) to be accounted for by the different operations of the Mind, it was almost impossible they should have escaped the penetrating eyes of Mr. Locke.

[blocks in formation]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

YOU said some time ago, very truly, that the number of

Parts of Speech was variously reckoned : and that it has not to this moment been settled, what sort of difference in words should entitle them to hold a separate rank by themselves.

By what you have since advanced, this matter seems to be ten times more unsettled than it was before : for you have discarded the differences of Things, and the differences of Ideas, and the different operations of the Mind, as guides to a division of Language. Now I cannot for my life imagine any other principle that you have left to conduct us to the Parts of Speech.

« PreviousContinue »