— 485 —
Instance Gold.
      §17. How much this is the Case in the greatest part of Disputes,
that Men are engaged so hotly in, I shall, perhaps, have an occasion
in another place to take notice. Let us only here consider a little
more exactly the fore-mentioned instance of the Word Gold, and
we shall see how hard it is precisely to determine its Signification.
I think all agree, to make it stand for a Body of a certain yellow
shining Colour; which being the Idea to which Children have
annexed that name, the shining yellow part of a Peacock’s Tail, is
properly to them Gold. Others finding Fusibility join’d with that
yellow Colour in certain parcels of Matter, make of that combination
a complex Idea to which they give the name Gold to denote a sort of
Substances; And so exclude from being Gold all such yellow shining
Bodies, as by Fire will be reduced to ashes, and admit to be of that
— 486 —
Species, or to be comprehended under that name Gold only such
Substances as having that shining yellow Colour will by fire be
reduced to Fusion, and not to Ashes. Another by the same Reason
adds, the Weight, which being a Quality, as straitly join’d with that
Colour, as its Fusibility, he thinks has the same Reason to be
join’d in its Idea, and to be signified by its name: And therefore the
other made up of Body, of such a Colour and Fusibility, to be im-
perfect; and so on of all the rest: Wherein no one can shew a Reason,
why some of the inseparable Qualities, that are always united in
nature, should be put into the nominal Essence, and others left out:
Or why the Word Gold, signifying that sort of Body the Ring on his
Finger is made of, should determine that sort, rather by its Colour,
Weight, and Fusibility; than by its Colour, Weight, and Solu-
bility in Aqua Regia: Since the dissolving it by that Liquor, is as
inseparable from it, as the Fusion by Fire; and they are both of them
nothing, but the relation which that Substance has to two other
Bodies, which have a Power to operate differently upon it. For by
what right is it, that Fusibility comes to be a part of the Essence,
signified by the Word Gold, and Solubility but a property of it? Or
why is its Colour part of the Essence, and its Malleableness but a
property? That which I mean, is this, That these being all but
Properties, depending on its real Constitution; and nothing but
Powers, either active or passive, in reference to other Bodies, no one
has Authority to determine the signification of the Word Gold, (as
referr’d to such a Body existing in Nature) more to one Collection
of Ideas to be found in that Body, than to another: Whereby the
signification of that name must unavoidably be very uncertain.
Since, as has been said, several People observe several Properties in
the same Substance; and, I think, I may say no body all. And there-
fore we have but very imperfect descriptions of Things, and Words
have very uncertain Significations.
Locke Hum III, 9, §17, pp. 485-486