— 457 —
Which yet serve for common Converse.       §30. But though this serves well enough for gross and confused
Conceptions, and unaccurate ways of Talking and Thinking; yet
Men are far enough from having agreed on the precise number of simple
Ideas, or Qualities, belonging to any sort of Things, signified by its name.
Nor is it a wonder, since it requires much time, pains, and skill,
strict enquiry, and long examination, to find out what, and how
many those simple Ideas are, which are constantly and inseparably
united in Nature, and are always to be found together in the same
Subject. Most Men, wanting either Time, Inclination, or Industry
enough for this, even to some tolerable degree, content themselves
with some few obvious, and outward appearances of Things,
thereby readily to distinguish and sort them for the common
Affairs of Life: And so, without farther examination, give them
names, or take up the Names already in use. Which, though in
common Conversation they pass well enough for the signs of some
few obvious Qualities co-existing, are yet far enough from compre-
hending, in a setled signification, a precise number of simple Ideas;
much less all those, which are united in Nature. He that shall
consider, after so much stir, about Genus and Species, and such a deal
of talk of specifick Differences, how few Words we have yet setled
Definitions of, may, with Reason, imagine, that those Forms, which
there hath been so much noise made about, are only Chimaeras;
which give us no light into the specifick Natures of Things. And
he that shall consider, how far the names of Substances are from
having Significations, wherein all who use them do agree, will have
reason to conclude, that though the nominal Essences of Substances,
are all supposed to be copied from Nature; yet they are all, or most
of them, very imperfect. Since the Composition of those complex
Ideas, are, in several Men, very different: and therefore, that these
Boundaries of Species, are as Men, and not as Nature makes them, if
at least there are in Nature any such prefixed Bounds. ’Tis true,
that many particular Substances are so made by Nature, that they
have agreement and likeness one with another, and so afford a
— 458 —
Foundation of being ranked into sorts. But the sorting of Things by
us, or the making of determinate Species, being in order to naming
and comprehending them under general terms, I cannot see how it
can be properly said, that Nature sets the Boundaries of the Species
of Things: Or if it be so, our Boundaries of Species, are not exactly
conformable to those in Nature. For we, having need of general
names for present use, stay not for a perfect discovery of all those
Qualities, which would best shew us their most material differences
and agreements; but we our selves divide them, by certain obvious
appearances, into Species, that we may the easier, under general
names, communicate our thoughts about them. For having no
other Knowledge of any Substance, but of the simple Ideas, that are
united in it; and observing several particular Things to agree with
others, in several of those simple Ideas, we make that collection our
specifick Idea, and give it a general name; that in recording our own
Thoughts and in our Discourse with others, we may in one short
word, design all the Individuals that agree in that complex Idea,
without enumerating the simple Ideas, that make it up; and so not
waste our Time and Breath in tedious Descriptions: which we see
they are fain to do, who would discourse of any new sort of things,
they have not yet a Name for.
Locke Hum III, 6, §30, pp. 457-458