— 49 —
Not on the Mind naturally imprinted, because not known to Children, Ideots, etc.       §5. For, first ’tis evident, that all Children, and Ideots, have not
the least Apprehension or Thought of them: and the want of that is
enough to destroy that universal Assent, which must needs be the
necessary concomitant of all innate Truths: it seeming to me near a
Contradiction, to say, that there are Truths imprinted on the Soul,
which it perceives or understands not; imprinting, if it signify any
thing, being nothing else, but the making certain Truths to be
perceived. For to imprint any thing on the Mind without the
— 50 —
Mind’s perceiving it, seems to me hardly intelligible. If therefore
Children and Ideots have Souls, have Minds, with those Impressions
upon them, they must unavoidably perceive them, and necessarily
know and assent to these Truths, which since they do not, it is evi-
dent that there are no such Impressions. For if they are not Notions
naturally imprinted, How can they be innate? And if they are
Notions imprinted, How can they be unknown? To say a Notion is
imprinted on the Mind, and yet at the same time to say, that the
mind is ignorant of it, and never yet took notice of it, is to make this
Impression nothing. No Proposition can be said to be in the Mind,
which it never yet knew, which it was never yet conscious of. For
if any one may; then, by the same Reason, all Propositions that are
true, and the Mind is capable ever of assenting to, may be said to be
in the Mind, and to be imprinted: Since if any one can be said to be
in the Mind, which it never yet knew, it must be only because it is
capable of knowing it; and so the Mind is of all Truths it ever shall
know. Nay, thus Truths may be imprinted on the Mind, which it
never did, nor ever shall know: for a Man may live long, and die
at last in Ignorance of many Truths, which his Mind was capable
of knowing, and that with Certainty. So that if the Capacity of
knowing be the natural Impression contended for, all the Truths
a Man ever comes to know, will, by this Account, be, every one of
them, innate; and this great Point will amount to no more, but only
to a very improper way of speaking; which whilst it pretends to
assert the contrary, says nothing different from those, who deny
innate Principles. For no Body, I think, ever denied, that the Mind
was capable of knowing several Truths. The Capacity, they say, is
innate, the Knowledge acquired. But then to what end such contest
for certain innate Maxims? If Truths can be imprinted on the Under-
standing without being perceived, I can see no difference there can
be, between any Truths the Mind is capable of knowing in respect
of their Original: They must all be innate, or all adventitious: In
vain shall a Man go about to distinguish them. He therefore that
talks of innate Notions in the Understanding, cannot (if he intend
thereby any distinct sort of Truths) mean such Truths to be in the
Understanding, as it never perceived, and is yet wholly ignorant of.
For if these Words (to be in the Understanding) have any Propriety,
they signify to be understood. So that, to be in the Understanding,
and, not to be understood; to be in the Mind, and, never to be
— 51 —
perceived, is all one, as to say, any thing is, and is not, in the Mind
or Understanding. If therefore these two Propositions, Whatsoever is,
is; and, It is impossible for the same thing to be, and not to be, are by Nature
imprinted, Children cannot be ignorant of them: Infants, and all
that have Souls must necessarily have them in their Understandings,
know the Truth of them, and assent to it.
Locke Hum I, 2, §5, pp. 49-50-51