The Pilcrow, part 1 of 3 – Shady Characters

§ 1. common names of substances, as well as other general terms, stand for sorts; which is nothing else but the being made signs of such complex ideas, wherein several particular substances do, or might agree, by virtue of which they are capable of being comprehended in one common conception, and signified by one name. I say, do or might agree: for though there be but one sun existing in the world, yet the idea of it being abstracted, so that more substances (if there were several) might each agree in it; it is as much a sort, as if there were as many suns as there are stars. They want not their reasons who think there are, and that each fixed star would answer the idea the name sun stands for, to one who was placed in a due distance; which, by the way, may show us how much the sorts, or, if you please, genera and species of things (for those Latin terms signify to me no more than the English word sort) depend on such collections of ideas as men have made, and not on the real nature of things; since it is not impossible but that, in propriety of speech, that might be a sun to one, which is a star to another.

John Locke, The Works of John Locke, vol. 1 (An Essay concerning Human Understanding Part 1) [1689]
Photo provided by Flickr

In 1675 he travelled into France, on account of his health. At Montpelier he staid a considerable time; and there his first acquaintance arose with Mr. Herbert, afterward Earl of Pembroke, to whom he dedicated his ‘Essay on Human Understanding,’ having the highest respect for that noble lord. From Montpelier he went to Paris, where he contracted a friendship with Mr. Justel, whose house was at that time the place of resort for men of letters: and there he saw Mr. Guenelon, the famous physician of Amsterdam, who read lectures in anatomy with great applause. He became acquainted likewise with Mr. Toignard, who favoured him with a copy of his ‘Harmonia Evangelica,’ when there were no more than five or six copies of it complete. The earl of Shaftesbury being restored to favour at court, and made president of the council in 1679, thought proper to send for Mr. Locke to London. But that nobleman did not continue long in his post; for refusing to comply with the designs of the court, which aimed at the establishment of popery and arbitrary power, fresh crimes were laid to his charge, and he was sent to the Tower. When the earl obtained his discharge from that place, he retired to Holland; and Mr. Locke not thinking himself safe in England, followed his noble patron thither, who died soon after. During our author’s stay in Holland, he renewed his acquaintance with Mr. Guenelon, who introduced him to many learned persons of Amsterdam. Here Mr. Locke contracted a friendship with Mr. Limborch, professor of divinity among the remonstrants, and the most learned Mr. Le Clerc, which he cultivated after his return into England, and continued to the end of his life.


The orthographic world of ancient Greece was a sparse old place

An essay has been defined in a variety of ways

§ 11. Suitable to this, we find, that men speaking of mixed modes, seldom imagine or take any other for species of them, but such as are set out by name: because they being of man’s making only, in order to naming, no such species are taken notice of, or supposed to be, unless a name be joined to it, as the sign of man’s having combined into one idea several loose ones; and by that name giving a lasting union to the parts, which could otherwise cease to have any, as soon as the mind laid by that abstract idea, and ceased actually to think on it. But when a name is once annexed to it, wherein the parts of that complex idea have a settled and permanent union; then is the essence as it were established, and the species looked on as complete. For to what purpose should the memory charge itself with such compositions, unless it were by abstraction to make them general? And to what purpose make them general, unless it were that they might have general names for the convenience of discourse and communication? Thus we see, that killing a man with a sword or a hatchet, are looked on as no distinct species of action: but if the point of the sword first enter the body, it passes for a distinct species, where it has a distinct name; as in England, in whose language it is called stabbing: but in another country, where it has not happened to be specified under a peculiar name, it passes not for a distinct species. But in the species of corporeal substances, though it be the mind that makes the nominal essence; yet since those ideas which are combined in it are supposed to have an union in nature, whether the mind joins them or no, therefore those are looked on as distinct names, without any operation of the mind, either abstracting or giving a name to that complex idea.