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Our Idea of Substance in general.       §2. So that if any one will examine himself concerning his Notion
of pure Substance in general, he will find he has no other Idea of it at all,
but only a Supposition of he knows not what support of such
Qualities, which are capable of producing simple Ideas in us; which
Qualities are commonly called Accidents. If any one should be
asked, what is the subject wherein Colour or Weight inheres, he
would have nothing to say, but the solid extended parts: And if
he were demanded, what is it, that that Solidity and Extension
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inhere in, he would not be in a much better case, than the Indian
before mentioned; who, saying that the World was supported by a
great Elephant, was asked, what the Elephant rested on; to which
his answer was, a great Tortoise: But being again pressed to know
what gave support to the broad-back’d Tortoise, replied, some-
thing, he knew not what. And thus here, as in all other cases, where
we use Words without having clear and distinct Ideas, we talk like
Children; who, being questioned, what such a thing is, which they
know not, readily give this satisfactory answer, That it is something;
which in truth signifies no more, when so used, either by Children
or Men, but that they know not what; and that the thing they
pretend to know, and talk of, is what they have no distinct Idea of
at all, and so are perfectly ignorant of it, and in the dark. The Idea
then we have, to which we give the general name Substance, being
nothing, but the supposed, but unknown support of those Qualities,
we find existing, which we imagine cannot subsist, sine re substante,
without something to support them, we call that Support Substantia;
which, according to the true import of the Word, is in plain English,
standing under, or upholding.
Locke Hum II, 23, §2, pp. 295-296