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Sixthly, Our Knowledge therefore narrower than our Ideas.
      §6. From all which it is evident, that the extent of our Knowledge
comes not only short of the reality of Things, but even of the
extent of our own Ideas. Though our Knowledge be limited to our
Ideas, and cannot exceed them either in extent, or perfection; and
though these be very narrow bounds, in respect of the extent of
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Allbeing, and far short of what we may justly imagine to be in some
even created understandings, not tied down to the dull and narrow
Information, is to be received from some few, and not very acute
ways of Perception, such as are our Senses; yet it would be well with
us, if our Knowledge were but as large as our Ideas, and there were
not many Doubts and Enquiries concerning the Ideas we have,
whereof we are not, nor I believe ever shall be in this World,
resolved. Nevertheless, I do not question, but that Humane Know-
ledge, under the present Circumstances of our Beings and Consti-
tutions may be carried much farther, than it hitherto has been, if
Men would sincerely, and with freedom of Mind, employ all that
Industry and Labour of Thought, in improving the means of dis-
covering Truth, which they do for the colouring or support of
Falshood, to maintain a System, Interest, or Party, they are once
engaged in. But yet after all, I think I may, without Injury to
humane Perfection, be confident, that our Knowledge would never
reach to all we might desire to know concerning those Ideas we
have; nor be able to surmount all the Difficulties, and resolve all
the Questions might arise concerning any of them. We have the
Ideas of a Square, a Circle, and Equality; and yet, perhaps, shall never
be able to find a Circle equal to a Square, and certainly know that it
is so. We have the Ideas of Matter and Thinking, but possibly shall
never be able to know, whether any mere material Being thinks, or
no; it being impossible for us, by the contemplation of our own
Ideas, without revelation, to discover, whether Omnipotency has
not given to some Systems of Matter fitly disposed, a power to
perceive and think, or else joined and fixed to Matter so disposed, a
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thinking immaterial Substance: It being, in respect of our Notions,
not much more remote from our Comprehension to conceive, that
GOD can, if he pleases, superadd to Matter a Faculty of Thinking,
than that he should superadd to it another Substance, with a
Faculty of Thinking; since we know not wherein Thinking consists,
nor to what sort of Substances the Almighty has been pleased to
give that Power, which cannot be in any created Being, but merely
by the good pleasure and Bounty of the Creator. For I see no contra-
diction in it, that the first eternal thinking Being should, if he
pleased, give to certain Systems of created sensless matter, put
together as he thinks fit, some degrees of sense, perception, and
thought: Though, as I think, I have proved, Lib. 4. c. 10th. it is no
less than a contradiction to suppose matter (which is evidently in
its own nature void of sense and thought) should be that Eternal
first thinking Being. What certainty of Knowledge can any one
have that some perceptions, such as v.g. pleasure and pain, should
not be in some bodies themselves, after a certain manner modified
and moved, as well as that they should be in an immaterial Sub-
stance, upon the Motion of the parts of Body: Body as far as we can
conceive being able only to strike and affect body; and Motion,
according to the utmost reach of our Ideas, being able to produce
nothing but Motion, so that when we allow it to produce pleasure
or pain, or the Idea of a Colour, or Sound, we are fain to quit our
Reason, go beyond our Ideas, and attribute it wholly to the good
Pleasure of our Maker. For since we must allow he has annexed
Effects to Motion, which we can no way conceive Motion able to
produce, what reason have we to conclude, that he could not order
them as well to be produced in a Subject we cannot conceive capable
of them, as well as in a Subject we cannot conceive the motion of
Matter can any way operate upon? I say not this, that I would any
way lessen the belief of the Soul’s Immateriality: I am not here
speaking of Probability, but Knowledge; and I think not only,
that it becomes the Modesty of Philosophy, not to pronounce
Magisterially, where we want that Evidence that can produce
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Knowledge; but also, that it is of use to us, to discern how far our
Knowledge does reach; for the state we are at present in, not being
that of Vision, we must, in many Things, content our selves with
Faith and Probability: and in the present Question, about the im-
materiality of the Soul, if our Faculties cannot arrive at demon-
strative Certainty, we need not think it strange. All the great
Ends of Morality and Religion, are well enough secured, without
philosophical Proofs of the Soul’s Immateriality; since it is evident,
that he who made us at first begin to subsist here, sensible intelli-
gent Beings, and for several years continued us in such a state, can
and will restore us to the like state of Sensibility in another World,
and make us capable there to receive the Retribution he has designed
to Men, according to their doings in this Life. And therefore ’tis
not of such mighty necessity to determine one way or t’other, as
some over zealous for, or against the Immateriality of the Soul, have
been forward to make the World believe. Who, either on the one
side, indulging too much to their Thoughts immersed altogether in
Matter, can allow no existence to what is not material: Or, who on
the other side, finding not Cogitation within the natural Powers of
Matter, examined over and over again, by the utmost Intention of
Mind, have the confidence to conclude, that Omnipotency it self,
cannot give Perception and Thought to a Substance, which has the
Modification of Solidity. He that considers how hardly Sensation is,
in our Thoughts, reconcilable to extended Matter; or Existence to
any thing that hath no Extension at all, will confess, that he is very
far from certainly knowing what his Soul is. ’Tis a Point, which
seems to me, to be put out of the reach of our Knowledge: And he
who will give himself leave to consider freely, and look into the
dark and intricate part of each Hypothesis, will scarce find his
Reason able to determine him fixedly for, or against the Soul’s
Materiality. Since on which side soever he views it, either as an
unextended Substance, or as a thinking extended Matter; the diffi-
culty to conceive either, will, whilst either alone is in his Thoughts,
still drive him to the contrary side. An unfair way which some Men
take with themselves: who, because of the unconceivableness of
something they find in one, throw themselves violently into the
contrary Hypothesis, though altogether as unintelligible to an
unbiassed Understanding. This serves, not only to shew the Weak-
ness and the Scantiness of our Knowledge, but the insignificant
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Triumph of such sort of Arguments, which, drawn from our own
Views, may satisfy us that we can find no certainty on one side
of the Question; but do not at all thereby help us to Truth, by
running into the opposite Opinion, which, on examination, will be
found clogg’d with equal difficulties. For what Safety, what Ad-
vantage to any one is it, for the avoiding the seeming Absurdities,
and, to him, unsurmountable Rubs he meets with in one Opinion,
to take refuge in the contrary, which is built on something alto-
gether as inexplicable, and as far remote from his Comprehension?
’Tis past controversy, that we have in us something that thinks, our
very Doubts about what it is, confirm the certainty of its being,
though we must content our selves in the Ignorance of what kind of
Being it is: And ’tis in vain to go about to be sceptical in this, as it is
unreasonable in most other cases to be positive against the being
of any thing, because we cannot comprehend its Nature. For I
would fain know what Substance exists that has not something in it,
which manifestly baffles our Understandings. Other Spirits, who
see and know the Nature and inward Constitution of things, how
much must they exceed us in Knowledge? To which if we add
larger Comprehension, which enables them at one Glance to see the
Connexion and Agreement of very many Ideas, and readily supplys
to them the intermediate Proofs, which we by single and slow Steps,
and long poring in the dark, hardly at last find out, and are often
ready to forget one before we have hunted out another, we may
guess at some part of the Happiness of superior Ranks of Spirits,
who have a quicker and more penetrating Sight, as well as a larger
Field of Knowledge. But to return to the Argument in hand, our
Knowledge, I say, is not only limited to the Paucity and Imperfections
of the Ideas we have, and which we employ it about, but even comes
short of that too: But how far it reaches, let us now enquire.
Locke Hum IV, 3, §6, pp. 539-540-541-542-543