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These Maxims not the first known.       §25. But that I may not be accused, to argue from the thoughts
of Infants, which are unknown to us, and to conclude, from what
passes in their Understandings, before they express it; I say next,
That these two general Propositions are not the Truths, that first
possess the Minds of Children; nor are antecedent to all acquired, and
adventitious Notions: which if they were innate, they must needs
be. Whether we can determine it or no, it matters not, there is
certainly a time, when Children begin to think, and their Words
and Actions do assure us, that they do so. When therefore they are
capable of Thought, of Knowledge, of Assent, can it rationally be
supposed, they can be ignorant of those Notions that Nature has
imprinted, were there any such? Can it be imagin’d, with any
appearance of Reason, That they perceive the Impressions from
things without; and be at the same time ignorant of those Charac-
ters, which Nature it self has taken care to stamp within? Can they
receive and assent to adventitious Notions, and be ignorant of those,
which are supposed woven into the very Principles of their Being,
and imprinted there in indelible Characters, to be the Foundation,
and Guide of all their acquired Knowledge, and future Reasonings?
This would be, to make Nature take Pains to no Purpose; Or, at
least, to write very ill; since its Characters could not be read by
those Eyes, which saw other things very well: and those are very ill
supposed the clearest parts of Truth, and the Foundations of all our
Knowledge, which are not first known, and without which, the
undoubted Knowledge of several other things may be had. The
Child certainly knows, that the Nurse that feeds it, is neither the Cat
it plays with, nor the Blackmoor it is afraid of; That the Wormseed or
Mustard it refuses, is not the Apple or Sugar it cries for: this it is
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certainly and undoubtedly assured of: But will any one say, it is by
Virtue of this Principle, That it is impossible for the same thing to be, and
not to be, that it so firmly assents to these, and other parts of its
Knowledge? Or that the Child has any Notion or Apprehension of
that Proposition at an Age, wherein yet ’tis plain, it knows a great
many other Truths? He that will say, Children join these general
abstract Speculations with their sucking Bottles, and their Rattles,
may, perhaps, with Justice be thought to have more Passion and
Zeal for his Opinion; but less Sincerity and Truth, than one of that
Age.
Locke Hum I, 2, §25, pp. 62-63