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The Ideas of Relations clearer often, than of the Subjects related.       §8. Secondly, This farther may be considered concerning Relation,
That though it be not contained in the real existence of Things,
but something extraneous, and superinduced: yet the Ideas which
relative Words stand for, are often clearer, and more distinct, than
of those Substances to which they do belong. The Notion we have
of a Father, or Brother, is a great deal clearer, and more distinct,
than that we have of a Man: Or, if you will, Paternity is a thing
whereof ’tis easier to have a clear Idea, than of Humanity: And I can
much easier conceive what a Friend is, than what GOD. Because
the knowledge of one Action, or one simple Idea, is oftentimes
sufficient to give me the Notion of a Relation: but to the knowing
of any substantial Being, an accurate collection of sundry Ideas is
necessary. A Man, if he compares two things together, can hardly
be supposed not to know what it is, wherein he compares them: So
that when he compares any Things together, he cannot but have
a very clear Idea of that Relation. The Ideas then of Relations are
capable at least of being more perfect and distinct in our Minds, than those
of Substances. Because it is commonly hard to know all the simple
Ideas, which are really in any Substance, but for the most part easie
enough to know the simple Ideas that make up any Relation I
think on, or have a Name for. v.g. Comparing two Men, in reference
to one common Parent, it is very easy to frame the Ideas of Brothers,
without having yet the perfect Idea of a Man. For significant rela-
tive Words, as well as others, standing only for Ideas; and those
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being all either simple, or made up of simple ones, it suffices for the
knowing the precise Idea the relative term stands for, to have a
clear conception of that, which is the foundation of the Relation;
which may be done without having a perfect and clear Idea of the
thing it is attributed to. Thus having the Notion, that one laid the
Egg, out of which the other was hatched, I have a clear Idea of
the Relation of Dam and Chick, between the two Cassiowaries in
St. James ’s Park; though, perhaps, I have but a very obscure and
imperfect Idea of those Birds themselves.
Locke Hum II, 25, §8, pp. 322-323