— 560 —
Thirdly, want of tracing our Ideas.
      §30. Thirdly, Where we have adequate Ideas, and where there is a
certain and discoverable connexion between them, yet we are often
ignorant, for want of tracing those Ideas which we have, or may have;
and for want of finding out those intermediate Ideas, which may
shew us, what habitude of agreement or disagreement they have
— 561 —
one with another. And thus many are ignorant of mathematical
Truths, not out of any imperfection of their Faculties, or uncertainty
in the Things themselves; but for want of application in acquiring,
examining, and by due ways comparing those Ideas. That which
has most contributed to hinder the due tracing of our Ideas, and
finding out their Relations, and Agreements or Disagreements
one with another, has been, I suppose, the ill use of Words. It is
impossible that Men should ever truly seek, or certainly discover
the Agreement or Disagreement of Ideas themselves, whilst their
Thoughts flutter about, or stick only in Sounds of doubtful and un-
certain significations. Mathematicians abstracting their Thoughts
from Names, and accustoming themselves to set before their
Minds, the Ideas themselves, that they would consider, and not
Sounds instead of them, have avoided thereby a great part of that
perplexity, puddering, and confusion, which has so much hindred
Mens progress in other parts of Knowledge. For whilst they stick
in Words of undetermined and uncertain signification, they are
unable to distinguish True from False, Certain from Probable,
Consistent from Inconsistent, in their own Opinions. This having
been the fate or misfortune of a great part of the men of Letters,
the increase brought into the Stock of real Knowledge, has been
very little, in proportion to the Schools, Disputes, and Writings,
the World has been fill’d with; whilst Students, being lost in the
great Wood of Words, knew not whereabout they were, how far
their Discoveries were advanced, or what was wanting in their own,
or the general Stock of Knowledge. Had Men, in the discoveries of
the material, done, as they have in those of the intellectual World,
involved all in the obscurity of uncertain and doubtful ways of
talking, Volumes writ of Navigation and Voyages, Theories and
Stories of Zones and Tydes multiplied and disputed; nay, Ships
built, and Fleets set out, would never have taught us the way beyond
the Line; and the Antipodes would be still as much unknown, as
when it was declared Heresy to hold there were any. But having
spoken sufficiently of Words, and the ill or careless use, that is
commonly made of them, I shall not say any thing more of
it here.
Locke Hum IV, 3, §30, p. 560-561