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That the nominal Essence is that whereby we distinguish Species, farther evident from Spirits.       §11. That our ranking, and distinguishing natural Substances into
Species consists in the Nominal Essences the Mind makes, and not in the
real Essences to be found in the Things themselves, is farther evi-
dent from our Ideas of Spirits. For the Mind getting, only by
reflecting on its own Operations, those simple Ideas which it
attributes to Spirits, it hath, or can have no other Notion of Spirit,
but by attributing all those Operations, it finds in it self, to a sort of
Beings, without Consideration of Matter. And even the most ad-
vanced Notion we have of God, is but attributing the same simple
Ideas which we have got from Reflection on what we find in our
selves, and which we conceive to have more Perfection in them,
than would be in their absence, attributing, I say, those simple
Ideas to him in an unlimited degree. Thus having got from reflecting
on our selves, the Idea of Existence, Knowledge, Power, and Pleasure,
each of which we find it better to have than to want; and the more
we have of each, the better; joyning all these together, with infinity
to each of them, we have the complex Idea of an eternal, omniscient,
omnipotent, infinitely wise, and happy Being. And though we are
told, that there are different Species of Angels; yet we know not how
to frame distinct specifick Ideas of them; not out of any Conceit,
— 446 —
that the Existence of more Species than one of Spirits, is impossible;
But because having no more simple Ideas (nor being able to frame
more) applicable to such Beings, but only those few, taken from our
selves, and from the Actions of our own Minds in thinking, and
being delighted, and moving several parts of our Bodies; we can no
otherwise distinguish in our Conceptions the several Species of
Spirits, one from another, but by attributing those Operations and
Powers, we find in our selves, to them in a higher or lower degree;
and so have no very distinct specifick Ideas of Spirits, except only of
GOD, to whom we attribute both Duration, and all those other
Ideas with Infinity; to the other Spirits, with limitation: Nor, as I
humbly conceive do we, between GOD and them in our Ideas, put
any difference by any number of simple Ideas, which we have of one,
and not of the other, but only that of Infinity. All the particular
Ideas of Existence, Knowledge, Will, Power, and Motion, etc. being
Ideas derived from the Operations of our Minds, we attribute all of
them to all sorts of Spirits, with the difference only of degrees, to the
utmost we can imagine, even Infinity, when we would frame, as
well as we can, an Idea of the first Being; who yet, ’tis certain, is
infinitely more remote in the real Excellency of his Nature, from
the highest and perfectest of all created Beings, than the greatest
Man, nay, purest Seraphim, is from the most contemptible part of
Matter; and consequently must infinitely exceed what our narrow
Understandings can conceive of him.
Locke Hum III, 6, §11, pp. 445-446