— 479 —
The way of Learning these Names contributes also to their Doubtfulness.
      §9. The way also wherein the names of mixed Modes are ordinarily
learned, does not a little contribute to the doubtfulness of their signification.
For if we will observe how Children learn Languages, we shall find,
— 480 —
that to make them understand what the names of simple Ideas, or
Substances, stand for, People ordinarily shew them the thing,
whereof they would have them have the Idea; and then repeat to
them the name that stands for it, as White, Sweet, Milk, Sugar, Cat,
Dog. But as for mixed Modes, especially the most material of them,
moral Words, the Sounds are usually learn’d first, and then to know
what complex Ideas they stand for, they are either beholden to the
explication of others, or (which happens for the most part) are left
to their own Observation and industry; which being little laid out
in the search of the true and precise meaning of Names, these moral
Words are, in most Men’s mouths, little more than bare Sounds;
or when they have any, ’tis for the most part but a very loose and
undetermined, and consequently obscure and confused significa-
tion. And even those themselves, who have with more attention
settled their Notions, do yet hardly avoid the inconvenience, to
have them stand for complex Ideas, different from those which other,
even intelligent and studious Men, make them the signs of. Where
shall one find any, either controversial Debate, or familiar Discourse,
concerning Honour, Faith, Grace, Religion, Church, etc. wherein it is
not easy to observe the different Notions Men have of them; which
is nothing but this, that they are not agreed in the signification
of those Words; nor have in their minds the same complex Ideas
which they make them stand for: and so all the contests that
follow thereupon, are only about the meaning of a Sound. And
hence we see, that in the interpretation of Laws, whether Divine,
or Humane, there is no end; Comments beget Comments, and Ex-
plications make new matter for Explications: And of limiting, dis-
tinguishing, varying the signification of these moral Words, there
is no end. These Ideas of Men’s making, are, by Men still having
the same Power, multiplied in infinitum. Many a Man, who was pretty
well satisfied of the meaning of a Text of Scripture, or Clause in the
Code, at first reading, has by consulting Commentators, quite lost
the sense of it, and, by those Elucidations, given rise or increase to
his Doubts, and drawn obscurity upon the place. I say not this,
that I think Commentaries needless; but to shew how uncertain
the Names of mixed Modes naturally are, even in the mouths of
those, who had both the Intention and the Faculty of Speaking as
clearly, as Language was capable to express their Thoughts.
Locke Hum III, 9, §9, pp. 479-480-481