By John Locke
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Additional resources for An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Knowledge and Opinion
In effect, it is something imperfect, that cannot exist; an idea in which some parts of several different and inconsistent ideas are put together. The mind certainly needs such ideas, and hurries to get them as fast as it can, to make communication easier and to enlarge knowledge. But there is reason to suspect that abstract ideas are signs of our imperfection; and at least I have said enough to show that the most abstract and general ideas are not those that the mind is first and most easily acquainted with, nor what its earliest knowledge is about.
240 7. Before a man makes a proposition he is Ÿsupposed to understand the terms he uses in it; otherwise he talks like a parrot, making noises in imitation of others rather than, like a rational creature, using them as signs of ideas in his mind. The hearer also is Ÿsupposed to understand the words as the speaker uses them; otherwise the speaker is talking gibberish and making unintelligible noises. So someone is trifling with words when he makes a proposition that contains no more than one of its terms does, which both speaker and hearer were supposed to know already - for example, A triangle has three sides, or Saffron is yellow.
As to real existence, since that has no ·necessary· connection with any of our other ideas except the ideas of ourselves and of a first being, we don’t even have Ÿdemonstrative knowledge of the real existence of any things other than ourselves and God, much less self-evident ·or Ÿintuitive· knowledge; and therefore concerning those other things there are no maxims. 8. In the next place let us consider what influence these received maxims have upon the other parts of our knowledge. The rule established by the scholastic philosophers that all reasonings are ex praecognitis et praeconcessis [= ‘from what is known in advance and what is agreed to in advance’] seems to base all other knowledge on these maxims, and to suppose them to be praecognita.
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Knowledge and Opinion by John Locke