A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive/Book I
OF NAMES AND PROPOSITIONS.
"La scolastique, qui produisit dans la logique, comme dans la morale, et dans une partie de la métaphysique, une subtilité, une précision d'idées, dont l'habitude inconnue aux anciens, a contribué plus qu'on ne croit au progrès de la bonne philosophie."--CONDORCET, Vie de Turgot.
"To the schoolmen the vulgar languages are principally indebted for what precision and analytic subtlety they possess."--SIR W. HAMILTON, Discussions in Philosophy.
Of The Necessity Of Commencing With An Analysis Of Language.
§ 1. It is so much the established practice of writers on logic to commence their treatises by a few general observations (in most cases, it is true, rather meagre) on Terms and their varieties, that it will, perhaps, scarcely be required from me, in merely following the common usage, to be as particular in assigning my reasons, as it is usually expected that those should be who deviate from it.
The practice, indeed, is recommended by considerations far too obvious to require a formal justification. Logic is a portion of the Art of Thinking: Language is evidently, and by the admission of all philosophers, one of the principal instruments or helps of thought; and any imperfection in the instrument, or in the mode of employing it, is confessedly liable, still more than in almost any other art, to confuse and impede the process, and destroy all ground of confidence in the result. For a mind not previously versed in the meaning and right use of the various kinds of words, to attempt the study of methods of philosophizing, would be as if some one should attempt to become an astronomical observer, having never learned to adjust the focal distance of his optical instruments so as to see distinctly.
Since Reasoning, or Inference, the principal subject of logic, is an operation which usually takes place by means of words, and in complicated cases can take place in no other way; those who have not a thorough insight into the signification and purposes of words, will be under chances, amounting almost to certainty, of reasoning or inferring incorrectly. And logicians have generally felt that unless, in the very first stage, they removed this source of error; unless they taught their pupil to put away the glasses which distort the object, and to use those which are adapted to his purpose in such a manner as to assist, not perplex, his vision; he would not be in a condition to practice the remaining part of their discipline with any prospect of advantage. Therefore it is that an inquiry into language, so far as is needful to guard against the errors to which it gives rise, has at all times been deemed a necessary preliminary to the study of logic.
But there is another reason, of a still more fundamental nature, why the import of words should be the earliest subject of the logician's consideration: because without it he can not examine into the import of Propositions. Now this is a subject which stands on the very threshold of the science of logic.
The object of logic, as defined in the Introductory Chapter, is to ascertain how we come by that portion of our knowledge (much the greatest portion) which is not intuitive: and by what criterion we can, in matters not self-evident, distinguish between things proved and things not proved, between what is worthy and what is unworthy of belief. Of the various questions which present themselves to our inquiring faculties, some receive an answer from direct consciousness, others, if resolved at all, can only be resolved by means of evidence. Logic is concerned with these last. But before inquiring into the mode of resolving questions, it is necessary to inquire what are those which offer themselves; what questions are conceivable; what inquiries are there, to which mankind have either obtained, or been able to imagine it possible that they should obtain, an answer. This point is best ascertained by a survey and analysis of Propositions.
§ 2. The answer to every question which it is possible to frame, must be contained in a Proposition, or Assertion. Whatever can be an object of belief, or even of disbelief, must, when put into words, assume the form of a proposition. All truth and all error lie in propositions. What, by a convenient misapplication of an abstract term, we call a Truth, means simply a True Proposition; and errors are false propositions. To know the import of all possible propositions would be to know all questions which can be raised, all matters which are susceptible of being either believed or disbelieved. How many kinds of inquiries can be propounded; how many kinds of judgments can be made; and how many kinds of propositions it is possible to frame with a meaning, are but different forms of one and the same question. Since, then, the objects of all Belief and of all Inquiry express themselves in propositions, a sufficient scrutiny of Propositions and of their varieties will apprise us what questions mankind have actually asked of themselves, and what, in the nature of answers to those questions, they have actually thought they had grounds to believe.
Now the first glance at a proposition shows that it is formed by putting together two names. A proposition, according to the common simple definition, which is sufficient for our purpose is, discourse, in which something is affirmed or denied of something. Thus, in the proposition, Gold is yellow, the quality yellow is affirmed of the substance gold. In the proposition, Franklin was not born in England, the fact expressed by the words born in England is denied of the man Franklin.
Every proposition consists of three parts: the Subject, the Predicate, and the Copula. The predicate is the name denoting that which is affirmed or denied. The subject is the name denoting the person or thing which something is affirmed or denied of. The copula is the sign denoting that there is an affirmation or denial, and thereby enabling the hearer or reader to distinguish a proposition from any other kind of discourse. Thus, in the proposition, The earth is round, the Predicate is the word round, which denotes the quality affirmed, or (as the phrase is) predicated: the earth, words denoting the object which that quality is affirmed of, compose the Subject; the word is, which serves as the connecting mark between the subject and predicate, to show that one of them is affirmed of the other, is called the Copula.
Dismissing, for the present, the copula, of which more will be said hereafter, every proposition, then, consists of at least two names--brings together two names, in a particular manner. This is already a first step toward what we are in quest of. It appears from this, that for an act of belief, one object is not sufficient; the simplest act of belief supposes, and has something to do with, two objects--two names, to say the least; and (since the names must be names of something) two namable things. A large class of thinkers would cut the matter short by saying, two ideas. They would say, that the subject and predicate are both of them names of ideas; the idea of gold, for instance, and the idea of yellow; and that what takes place (or part of what takes place) in the act of belief consists in bringing (as it is often expressed) one of these ideas under the other. But this we are not yet in a condition to say: whether such be the correct mode of describing the phenomenon, is an after consideration. The result with which for the present we must be contented, is, that in every act of belief two objects are in some manner taken cognizance of; that there can be no belief claimed, or question propounded, which does not embrace two distinct (either material or intellectual) subjects of thought; each of them capable, or not, of being conceived by itself, but incapable of being believed by itself.
I may say, for instance, "the sun." The word has a meaning, and suggests that meaning to the mind of any one who is listening to me. But suppose I ask him, Whether it is true: whether he believes it? He can give no answer. There is as yet nothing to believe, or to disbelieve. Now, however, let me make, of all possible assertions respecting the sun, the one which involves the least of reference to any object besides itself; let me say, "the sun exists." Here, at once, is something which a person can say he believes. But here, instead of only one, we find two distinct objects of conception: the sun is one object; existence is another. Let it not be said that this second conception, existence, is involved in the first; for the sun may be conceived as no longer existing. "The sun" does not convey all the meaning that is conveyed by "the sun exists:" "my father" does not include all the meaning of "my father exists," for he may be dead; "a round square" does not include the meaning of "a round square exists," for it does not and can not exist. When I say "the sun," "my father," or a "round square," I do not call upon the hearer for any belief or disbelief, nor can either the one or the other be afforded me; but if I say, "the sun exists," "my father exists," or "a round square exists," I call for belief; and should, in the first of the three instances, meet with it; in the second, with belief or disbelief, as the case might be; in the third, with disbelief.
§ 3. This first step in the analysis of the object of belief, which, though so obvious, will be found to be not unimportant, is the only one which we shall find it practicable to make without a preliminary survey of language. If we attempt to proceed further in the same path, that is, to analyze any further the import of Propositions; we find forced upon us, as a subject of previous consideration, the import of Names. For every proposition consists of two names; and every proposition affirms or denies one of these names, of the other. Now what we do, what passes in our mind, when we affirm or deny two names of one another, must depend on what they are names of; since it is with reference to that, and not to the mere names themselves, that we make the affirmation or denial. Here, therefore, we find a new reason why the signification of names, and the relation generally between names and the things signified by them, must occupy the preliminary stage of the inquiry we are engaged in.
It may be objected that the meaning of names can guide us at most only to the opinions, possibly the foolish and groundless opinions, which mankind have formed concerning things, and that as the object of philosophy is truth, not opinion, the philosopher should dismiss words and look into things themselves, to ascertain what questions can be asked and answered in regard to them. This advice (which no one has it in his power to follow) is in reality an exhortation to discard the whole fruits of the labors of his predecessors, and conduct himself as if he were the first person who had ever turned an inquiring eye upon nature. What does any one's personal knowledge of Things amount to, after subtracting all which he has acquired by means of the words of other people? Even after he has learned as much as people usually do learn from others, will the notions of things contained in his individual mind afford as sufficient a basis for a catalogue raisonné as the notions which are in the minds of all mankind?
In any enumeration and classification of Things, which does not set out from their names, no varieties of things will of course be comprehended but those recognized by the particular inquirer; and it will still remain to be established, by a subsequent examination of names, that the enumeration has omitted nothing which ought to have been included. But if we begin with names, and use them as our clue to the things, we bring at once before us all the distinctions which have been recognized, not by a single inquirer, but by all inquirers taken together. It doubtless may, and I believe it will, be found, that mankind have multiplied the varieties unnecessarily, and have imagined distinctions among things, where there were only distinctions in the manner of naming them. But we are not entitled to assume this in the commencement. We must begin by recognizing the distinctions made by ordinary language. If some of these appear, on a close examination, not to be fundamental, the enumeration of the different kinds of realities may be abridged accordingly. But to impose upon the facts in the first instance the yoke of a theory, while the grounds of the theory are reserved for discussion in a subsequent stage, is not a course which a logician can reasonably adopt.
§ 1. "A name," says Hobbes,(7) "is a word taken at pleasure to serve for a mark which may raise in our mind a thought like to some thought we had before, and which being pronounced to others, may be to them a sign of what thought the speaker had(8) before in his mind." This simple definition of a name, as a word (or set of words) serving the double purpose of a mark to recall to ourselves the likeness of a former thought, and a sign to make it known to others, appears unexceptionable. Names, indeed, do much more than this; but whatever else they do, grows out of, and is the result of this: as will appear in its proper place.
Are names more properly said to be the names of things, or of our ideas of things? The first is the expression in common use; the last is that of some metaphysicians, who conceived that in adopting it they were introducing a highly important distinction. The eminent thinker, just quoted, seems to countenance the latter opinion. "But seeing," he continues, "names ordered in speech (as is defined) are signs of our conceptions, it is manifest they are not signs of the things themselves; for that the sound of this word stone should be the sign of a stone, can not be understood in any sense but this, that he that hears it collects that he that pronounces it thinks of a stone."
If it be merely meant that the conception alone, and not the thing itself, is recalled by the name, or imparted to the hearer, this of course can not be denied. Nevertheless, there seems good reason for adhering to the common usage, and calling (as indeed Hobbes himself does in other places) the word sun the name of the sun, and not the name of our idea of the sun. For names are not intended only to make the hearer conceive what we conceive, but also to inform him what we believe. Now, when I use a name for the purpose of expressing a belief, it is a belief concerning the thing itself, not concerning my idea of it. When I say, "the sun is the cause of day," I do not mean that my idea of the sun causes or excites in me the idea of day; or in other words, that thinking of the sun makes me think of day. I mean, that a certain physical fact, which is called the sun's presence (and which, in the ultimate analysis, resolves itself into sensations, not ideas) causes another physical fact, which is called day. It seems proper to consider a word as the name of that which we intend to be understood by it when we use it; of that which any fact that we assert of it is to be understood of; that, in short, concerning which, when we employ the word, we intend to give information. Names, therefore, shall always be spoken of in this work as the names of things themselves, and not merely of our ideas of things.
But the question now arises, of what things? and to answer this it is necessary to take into consideration the different kinds of names.
§ 2. It is usual, before examining the various classes into which names are commonly divided, to begin by distinguishing from names of every description, those words which are not names, but only parts of names. Among such are reckoned particles, as of, to, truly, often; the inflected cases of nouns substantive, as me, him, John's; and even adjectives, as large, heavy. These words do not express things of which any thing can be affirmed or denied. We can not say, Heavy fell, or A heavy fell; Truly, or A truly, was asserted; Of, or An of, was in the room. Unless, indeed, we are speaking of the mere words themselves, as when we say, Truly is an English word, or, Heavy is an adjective. In that case they are complete names--viz., names of those particular sounds, or of those particular collections of written characters. This employment of a word to denote the mere letters and syllables of which it is composed, was termed by the schoolmen the suppositio materialis of the word. In any other sense we can not introduce one of these words into the subject of a proposition, unless in combination with other words; as, A heavy body fell, A truly important fact was asserted, A member of parliament was in the room.
An adjective, however, is capable of standing by itself as the predicate of a proposition; as when we say, Snow is white; and occasionally even as the subject, for we may say, White is an agreeable color. The adjective is often said to be so used by a grammatical ellipsis: Snow is white, instead of Snow is a white object; White is an agreeable color, instead of, A white color, or, The color white, is agreeable. The Greeks and Romans were allowed, by the rules of their language, to employ this ellipsis universally in the subject as well as in the predicate of a proposition. In English this can not, generally speaking, be done. We may say, The earth is round; but we can not say, Round is easily moved; we must say, A round object. This distinction, however, is rather grammatical than logical. Since there is no difference of meaning between round, and a round object, it is only custom which prescribes that on any given occasion one shall be used, and not the other. We shall, therefore, without scruple, speak of adjectives as names, whether in their own right, or as representative of the more circuitous forms of expression above exemplified. The other classes of subsidiary words have no title whatever to be considered as names. An adverb, or an accusative case, can not under any circumstances (except when their mere letters and syllables are spoken of) figure as one of the terms of a proposition.
Words which are not capable of being used as names, but only as parts of names, were called by some of the schoolmen Syncategorematic terms: from σὺν, with, and κατηγορέω, to predicate, because it was only with some other word that they could be predicated. A word which could be used either as the subject or predicate of a proposition without being accompanied by any other word, was termed by the same authorities a Categorematic term. A combination of one or more Categorematic, and one or more Syncategorematic words, as A heavy body, or A court of justice, they sometimes called a mixed term; but this seems a needless multiplication of technical expressions. A mixed term is, in the only useful sense of the word, Categorematic. It belongs to the class of what have been called many-worded names.
For, as one word is frequently not a name, but only part of a name, so a number of words often compose one single name, and no more. These words, "The place which the wisdom or policy of antiquity had destined for the residence of the Abyssinian princes," form in the estimation of the logician only one name; one Categorematic term. A mode of determining whether any set of words makes only one name, or more than one, is by predicating something of it, and observing whether, by this predication, we make only one assertion or several. Thus, when we say, John Nokes, who was the mayor of the town, died yesterday—by this predication we make but one assertion; whence it appears that "John Nokes, who was the mayor of the town," is no more than one name. It is true that in this proposition, besides the assertion that John Nokes died yesterday, there is included another assertion, namely, that John Nokes was mayor of the town. But this last assertion was already made: we did not make it by adding the predicate, "died yesterday." Suppose, however, that the words had been, John Nokes and the mayor of the town, they would have formed two names instead of one. For when we say, John Nokes and the mayor of the town died yesterday, we make two assertions: one, that John Nokes died yesterday; the other, that the mayor of the town died yesterday.
It being needless to illustrate at any greater length the subject of many-worded names, we proceed to the distinctions which have been established among names, not according to the words they are composed of, but according to their signification.
§ 3. All names are names of something, real or imaginary; but all things have not names appropriated to them individually. For some individual objects we require, and consequently have, separate distinguishing names; there is a name for every person, and for every remarkable place. Other objects, of which we have not occasion to speak so frequently, we do not designate by a name of their own; but when the necessity arises for naming them, we do so by putting together several words, each of which, by itself, might be and is used for an indefinite number of other objects; as when I say, this stone: "this" and "stone" being, each of them, names that may be used of many other objects besides the particular one meant, though the only object of which they can both be used at the given moment, consistently with their signification, may be the one of which I wish to speak.
Were this the sole purpose for which names, that are common to more things than one, could be employed; if they only served, by mutually limiting each other, to afford a designation for such individual objects as have no names of their own: they could only be ranked among contrivances for economizing the use of language. But it is evident that this is not their sole function. It is by their means that we are enabled to assert general propositions; to affirm or deny any predicate of an indefinite number of things at once. The distinction, therefore, between general names, and individual or singular names, is fundamental; and may be considered as the first grand division of names.
A general name is familiarly defined, a name which is capable of being truly affirmed, in the same sense, of each of an indefinite number of things. An individual or singular name is a name which is only capable of being truly affirmed, in the same sense, of one thing.
Thus, man is capable of being truly affirmed of John, George, Mary, and other persons without assignable limit; and it is affirmed of all of them in the same sense; for the word man expresses certain qualities, and when we predicate it of those persons, we assert that they all possess those qualities. But John is only capable of being truly affirmed of one single person, at least in the same sense. For, though there are many persons who bear that name, it is not conferred upon them to indicate any qualities, or any thing which belongs to them in common; and can not be said to be affirmed of them in any sense at all, consequently not in the same sense. "The king who succeeded William the Conqueror," is also an individual name. For, that there can not be more than one person of whom it can be truly affirmed, is implied in the meaning of the words. Even "the king," when the occasion or the context defines the individual of whom it is to be understood, may justly be regarded as an individual name.
It is not unusual, by way of explaining what is meant by a general name, to say that it is the name of a class. But this, though a convenient mode of expression for some purposes, is objectionable as a definition, since it explains the clearer of two things by the more obscure. It would be more logical to reverse the proposition, and turn it into a definition of the word class: "A class is the indefinite multitude of individuals denoted by a general name."
It is necessary to distinguish general from collective names. A general name is one which can be predicated of each individual of a multitude; a collective name can not be predicated of each separately, but only of all taken together. "The 76th regiment of foot in the British army," which is a collective name, is not a general but an individual name; for though it can be predicated of a multitude of individual soldiers taken jointly, it can not be predicated of them severally. We may say, Jones is a soldier, and Thompson is a soldier, and Smith is a soldier, but we can not say, Jones is the 76th regiment, and Thompson is the 76th regiment, and Smith is the 76th regiment. We can only say, Jones, and Thompson, and Smith, and Brown, and so forth (enumerating all the soldiers), are the 76th regiment.
"The 76th regiment" is a collective name, but not a general one: "a regiment" is both a collective and a general name. General with respect to all individual regiments, of each of which separately it can be affirmed: collective with respect to the individual soldiers of whom any regiment is composed.
§ 4. The second general division of names is into concrete and abstract. A concrete name is a name which stands for a thing; an abstract name is a name which stands for an attribute of a thing. Thus John, the sea, this table, are names of things. White, also, is a name of a thing, or rather of things. Whiteness, again, is the name of a quality or attribute of those things. Man is a name of many things; humanity is a name of an attribute of those things. Old is a name of things: old age is a name of one of their attributes.
I have used the words concrete and abstract in the sense annexed to them by the schoolmen, who, notwithstanding the imperfections of their philosophy, were unrivaled in the construction of technical language, and whose definitions, in logic at least, though they never went more than a little way into the subject, have seldom, I think, been altered but to be spoiled. A practice, however, has grown up in more modern times, which, if not introduced by Locke, has gained currency chiefly from his example, of applying the expression "abstract name" to all names which are the result of abstraction or generalization, and consequently to all general names, instead of confining it to the names of attributes. The metaphysicians of the Condillac school--whose admiration of Locke, passing over the profoundest speculations of that truly original genius, usually fastens with peculiar eagerness upon his weakest points--have gone on imitating him in this abuse of language, until there is now some difficulty in restoring the word to its original signification. A more wanton alteration in the meaning of a word is rarely to be met with; for the expression general name, the exact equivalent of which exists in all languages I am acquainted with, was already available for the purpose to which abstract has been misappropriated, while the misappropriation leaves that important class of words, the names of attributes, without any compact distinctive appellation. The old acceptation, however, has not gone so completely out of use as to deprive those who still adhere to it of all chance of being understood. By abstract, then, I shall always, in Logic proper, mean the opposite of concrete; by an abstract name, the name of an attribute; by a concrete name, the name of an object.
Do abstract names belong to the class of general, or to that of singular names? Some of them are certainly general. I mean those which are names not of one single and definite attribute, but of a class of attributes. Such is the word color, which is a name common to whiteness, redness, etc. Such is even the word whiteness, in respect of the different shades of whiteness to which it is applied in common: the word magnitude, in respect of the various degrees of magnitude and the various dimensions of space; the word weight, in respect of the various degrees of weight. Such also is the word attribute itself, the common name of all particular attributes. But when only one attribute, neither variable in degree nor in kind, is designated by the name; as visibleness; tangibleness; equality; squareness; milk-whiteness; then the name can hardly be considered general; for though it denotes an attribute of many different objects, the attribute itself is always conceived as one, not many.(9) To avoid needless logomachies, the best course would probably be to consider these names as neither general nor individual, and to place them in a class apart.
It may be objected to our definition of an abstract name, that not only the names which we have called abstract, but adjectives, which we have placed in the concrete class, are names of attributes; that white, for example, is as much the name of the color as whiteness is. But (as before remarked) a word ought to be considered as the name of that which we intend to be understood by it when we put it to its principal use, that is, when we employ it in predication. When we say snow is white, milk is white, linen is white, we do not mean it to be understood that snow, or linen, or milk, is a color. We mean that they are things having the color. The reverse is the case with the word whiteness; what we affirm to be whiteness is not snow, but the color of snow. Whiteness, therefore, is the name of the color exclusively: white is a name of all things whatever having the color; a name, not of the quality whiteness, but of every white object. It is true, this name was given to all those various objects on account of the quality; and we may therefore say, without impropriety, that the quality forms part of its signification; but a name can only be said to stand for, or to be a name of, the things of which it can be predicated. We shall presently see that all names which can be said to have any signification, all names by applying which to an individual we give any information respecting that individual, may be said to imply an attribute of some sort; but they are not names of the attribute; it has its own proper abstract name.
§ 5. This leads to the consideration of a third great division of names, into connotative and non-connotative, the latter sometimes, but improperly, called absolute. This is one of the most important distinctions which we shall have occasion to point out, and one of those which go deepest into the nature of language.
A non-connotative term is one which signifies a subject only, or an attribute only. A connotative term is one which denotes a subject, and implies an attribute. By a subject is here meant any thing which possesses attributes. Thus John, or London, or England, are names which signify a subject only. Whiteness, length, virtue, signify an attribute only. None of these names, therefore, are connotative. But white, long, virtuous, are connotative. The word white, denotes all white things, as snow, paper, the foam of the sea, etc., and implies, or in the language of the schoolmen, connotes,(10) the attribute whiteness. The word white is not predicated of the attribute, but of the subjects, snow, etc.; but when we predicate it of them, we convey the meaning that the attribute whiteness belongs to them. The same may be said of the other words above cited. Virtuous, for example, is the name of a class, which includes Socrates, Howard, the Man of Ross, and an undefinable number of other individuals, past, present, and to come. These individuals, collectively and severally, can alone be said with propriety to be denoted by the word: of them alone can it properly be said to be a name. But it is a name applied to all of them in consequence of an attribute which they are supposed to possess in common, the attribute which has received the name of virtue. It is applied to all beings that are considered to possess this attribute; and to none which are not so considered.
All concrete general names are connotative. The word man, for example, denotes Peter, Jane, John, and an indefinite number of other individuals, of whom, taken as a class, it is the name. But it is applied to them, because they possess, and to signify that they possess, certain attributes. These seem to be, corporeity, animal life, rationality, and a certain external form, which for distinction we call the human. Every existing thing, which possessed all these attributes, would be called a man; and any thing which possessed none of them, or only one, or two, or even three of them without the fourth, would not be so called. For example, if in the interior of Africa there were to be discovered a race of animals possessing reason equal to that of human beings, but with the form of an elephant, they would not be called men. Swift's Houyhnhnms would not be so called. Or if such newly-discovered beings possessed the form of man without any vestige of reason, it is probable that some other name than that of man would be found for them. How it happens that there can be any doubt about the matter, will appear hereafter. The word man, therefore, signifies all these attributes, and all subjects which possess these attributes. But it can be predicated only of the subjects. What we call men, are the subjects, the individual Stiles and Nokes; not the qualities by which their humanity is constituted. The name, therefore, is said to signify the subjects directly, the attributes indirectly; it denotes the subjects, and implies, or involves, or indicates, or as we shall say henceforth connotes, the attributes. It is a connotative name.
Connotative names have hence been also called denominative, because the subject which they denote is denominated by, or receives a name from the attribute which they connote. Snow, and other objects, receive the name white, because they possess the attribute which is called whiteness; Peter, James, and others receive the name man because they possess the attributes which are considered to constitute humanity. The attribute, or attributes, may therefore be said to denominate those objects, or to give them a common name.(11)
It has been seen that all concrete general names are connotative. Even abstract names, though the names only of attributes, may in some instances be justly considered as connotative; for attributes themselves may have attributes ascribed to them; and a word which denotes attributes may connote an attribute of those attributes. Of this description, for example, is such a word as fault; equivalent to bad or hurtful quality. This word is a name common to many attributes, and connotes hurtfulness, an attribute of those various attributes. When, for example, we say that slowness, in a horse, is a fault, we do not mean that the slow movement, the actual change of pace of the slow horse, is a bad thing, but that the property or peculiarity of the horse, from which it derives that name, the quality of being a slow mover, is an undesirable peculiarity.
In regard to those concrete names which are not general but individual, a distinction must be made.
Proper names are not connotative: they denote the individuals who are called by them; but they do not indicate or imply any attributes as belonging to those individuals. When we name a child by the name Paul, or a dog by the name Cæsar, these names are simply marks used to enable those individuals to be made subjects of discourse. It may be said, indeed, that we must have had some reason for giving them those names rather than any others; and this is true; but the name, once given, is independent of the reason. A man may have been named John, because that was the name of his father; a town may have been named Dartmouth, because it is situated at the mouth of the Dart. But it is no part of the signification of the word John, that the father of the person so called bore the same name; nor even of the word Dartmouth, to be situated at the mouth of the Dart. If sand should choke up the mouth of the river, or an earthquake change its course, and remove it to a distance from the town, the name of the town would not necessarily be changed. That fact, therefore, can form no part of the signification of the word; for otherwise, when the fact confessedly ceased to be true, no one would any longer think of applying the name. Proper names are attached to the objects themselves, and are not dependent on the continuance of any attribute of the object.
But there is another kind of names, which, although they are individual names--that is, predicable only of one object--are really connotative. For, though we may give to an individual a name utterly unmeaning, which we call a proper name--a word which answers the purpose of showing what thing it is we are talking about, but not of telling any thing about it; yet a name peculiar to an individual is not necessarily of this description. It may be significant of some attribute, or some union of attributes, which, being possessed by no object but one, determines the name exclusively to that individual. "The sun" is a name of this description; "God," when used by a monotheist, is another. These, however, are scarcely examples of what we are now attempting to illustrate, being, in strictness of language, general, not individual names: for, however they may be in fact predicable only of one object, there is nothing in the meaning of the words themselves which implies this: and, accordingly, when we are imagining and not affirming, we may speak of many suns; and the majority of mankind have believed, and still believe, that there are many gods. But it is easy to produce words which are real instances of connotative individual names. It may be part of the meaning of the connotative name itself, that there can exist but one individual possessing the attribute which it connotes: as, for instance, "the only son of John Stiles;" "the first emperor of Rome." Or the attribute connoted may be a connection with some determinate event, and the connection may be of such a kind as only one individual could have; or may at least be such as only one individual actually had; and this may be implied in the form of the expression. "The father of Socrates" is an example of the one kind (since Socrates could not have had two fathers); "the author of the Iliad," "the murderer of Henri Quatre," of the second. For, though it is conceivable that more persons than one might have participated in the authorship of the Iliad, or in the murder of Henri Quatre, the employment of the article the implies that, in fact, this was not the case. What is here done by the word the, is done in other cases by the context: thus, "Cæsar's army" is an individual name, if it appears from the context that the army meant is that which Cæsar commanded in a particular battle. The still more general expressions, "the Roman army," or "the Christian army," may be individualized in a similar manner. Another case of frequent occurrence has already been noticed; it is the following: The name, being a many-worded one, may consist, in the first place, of a general name, capable therefore in itself of being affirmed of more things than one, but which is, in the second place, so limited by other words joined with it, that the entire expression can only be predicated of one object, consistently with the meaning of the general term. This is exemplified in such an instance as the following: "the present prime minister of England." Prime Minister of England is a general name; the attributes which it connotes may be possessed by an indefinite number of persons: in succession however, not simultaneously; since the meaning of the name itself imports (among other things) that there can be only one such person at a time. This being the case, and the application of the name being afterward limited by the article and the word present, to such individuals as possess the attributes at one indivisible point of time, it becomes applicable only to one individual. And as this appears from the meaning of the name, without any extrinsic proof, it is strictly an individual name.
From the preceding observations it will easily be collected, that whenever the names given to objects convey any information--that is, whenever they have properly any meaning--the meaning resides not in what they denote, but in what they connote. The only names of objects which connote nothing are proper names; and these have, strictly speaking, no signification.(12)
If, like the robber in the Arabian Nights, we make a mark with chalk on a house to enable us to know it again, the mark has a purpose, but it has not properly any meaning. The chalk does not declare any thing about the house; it does not mean, This is such a person's house, or This is a house which contains booty. The object of making the mark is merely distinction. I say to myself, All these houses are so nearly alike that if I lose sight of them I shall not again be able to distinguish that which I am now looking at, from any of the others; I must therefore contrive to make the appearance of this one house unlike that of the others, that I may hereafter know when I see the mark--not indeed any attribute of the house--but simply that it is the same house which I am now looking at. Morgiana chalked all the other houses in a similar manner, and defeated the scheme: how? simply by obliterating the difference of appearance between that house and the others. The chalk was still there, but it no longer served the purpose of a distinctive mark.
When we impose a proper name, we perform an operation in some degree analogous to what the robber intended in chalking the house. We put a mark, not indeed upon the object itself, but, so to speak, upon the idea of the object. A proper name is but an unmeaning mark which we connect in our minds with the idea of the object, in order that whenever the mark meets our eyes or occurs to our thoughts, we may think of that individual object. Not being attached to the thing itself, it does not, like the chalk, enable us to distinguish the object when we see it; but it enables us to distinguish it when it is spoken of, either in the records of our own experience, or in the discourse of others; to know that what we find asserted in any proposition of which it is the subject, is asserted of the individual thing with which we were previously acquainted.
When we predicate of any thing its proper name; when we say, pointing to a man, this is Brown or Smith, or pointing to a city, that it is York, we do not, merely by so doing, convey to the reader any information about them, except that those are their names. By enabling him to identify the individuals, we may connect them with information previously possessed by him; by saying, This is York, we may tell him that it contains the Minster. But this is in virtue of what he has previously heard concerning York; not by any thing implied in the name. It is otherwise when objects are spoken of by connotative names. When we say, The town is built of marble, we give the hearer what may be entirely new information, and this merely by the signification of the many-worded connotative name, "built of marble." Such names are not signs of the mere objects, invented because we have occasion to think and speak of those objects individually; but signs which accompany an attribute; a kind of livery in which the attribute clothes all objects which are recognized as possessing it. They are not mere marks, but more, that is to say, significant marks; and the connotation is what constitutes their significance.
As a proper name is said to be the name of the one individual which it is predicated of, so (as well from the importance of adhering to analogy, as for the other reasons formerly assigned) a connotative name ought to be considered a name of all the various individuals which it is predicable of, or in other words denotes, and not of what it connotes. But by learning what things it is a name of, we do not learn the meaning of the name: for to the same thing we may, with equal propriety, apply many names, not equivalent in meaning. Thus, I call a certain man by the name Sophroniscus: I call him by another name, The father of Socrates. Both these are names of the same individual, but their meaning is altogether different; they are applied to that individual for two different purposes: the one, merely to distinguish him from other persons who are spoken of; the other to indicate a fact relating to him, the fact that Socrates was his son. I further apply to him these other expressions: a man, a Greek, an Athenian, a sculptor, an old man, an honest man, a brave man. All these are, or may be, names of Sophroniscus, not indeed of him alone, but of him and each of an indefinite number of other human beings. Each of these names is applied to Sophroniscus for a different reason, and by each whoever understands its meaning is apprised of a distinct fact or number of facts concerning him; but those who knew nothing about the names except that they were applicable to Sophroniscus, would be altogether ignorant of their meaning. It is even possible that I might know every single individual of whom a given name could be with truth affirmed, and yet could not be said to know the meaning of the name. A child knows who are its brothers and sisters, long before it has any definite conception of the nature of the facts which are involved in the signification of those words.
In some cases it is not easy to decide precisely how much a particular word does or does not connote; that is, we do not exactly know (the case not having arisen) what degree of difference in the object would occasion a difference in the name. Thus, it is clear that the word man, besides animal life and rationality, connotes also a certain external form; but it would be impossible to say precisely what form; that is, to decide how great a deviation from the form ordinarily found in the beings whom we are accustomed to call men, would suffice in a newly-discovered race to make us refuse them the name of man. Rationality, also, being a quality which admits of degrees, it has never been settled what is the lowest degree of that quality which would entitle any creature to be considered a human being. In all such cases, the meaning of the general name is so far unsettled and vague; mankind have not come to any positive agreement about the matter. When we come to treat of Classification, we shall have occasion to show under what conditions this vagueness may exist without practical inconvenience; and cases will appear in which the ends of language are better promoted by it than by complete precision; in order that, in natural history for instance, individuals or species of no very marked character may be ranged with those more strongly characterized individuals or species to which, in all their properties taken together, they bear the nearest resemblance.
But this partial uncertainty in the connotation of names can only be free from mischief when guarded by strict precautions. One of the chief sources, indeed, of lax habits of thought, is the custom of using connotative terms without a distinctly ascertained connotation, and with no more precise notion of their meaning than can be loosely collected from observing what objects they are used to denote. It is in this manner that we all acquire, and inevitably so, our first knowledge of our vernacular language. A child learns the meaning of the words man, or white, by hearing them applied to a variety of individual objects, and finding out, by a process of generalization and analysis which he could not himself describe, what those different objects have in common. In the case of these two words the process is so easy as to require no assistance from culture; the objects called human beings, and the objects called white, differing from all others by qualities of a peculiarly definite and obvious character. But in many other cases, objects bear a general resemblance to one another, which leads to their being familiarly classed together under a common name, while, without more analytic habits than the generality of mankind possess, it is not immediately apparent what are the particular attributes, upon the possession of which in common by them all, their general resemblance depends. When this is the case, people use the name without any recognized connotation, that is, without any precise meaning; they talk, and consequently think, vaguely, and remain contented to attach only the same degree of significance to their own words, which a child three years old attaches to the words brother and sister. The child at least is seldom puzzled by the starting up of new individuals, on whom he is ignorant whether or not to confer the title; because there is usually an authority close at hand competent to solve all doubts. But a similar resource does not exist in the generality of cases; and new objects are continually presenting themselves to men, women, and children, which they are called upon to class proprio motu. They, accordingly, do this on no other principle than that of superficial similarity, giving to each new object the name of that familiar object, the idea of which it most readily recalls, or which, on a cursory inspection, it seems to them most to resemble: as an unknown substance found in the ground will be called, according to its texture, earth, sand, or a stone. In this manner, names creep on from subject to subject, until all traces of a common meaning sometimes disappear, and the word comes to denote a number of things not only independently of any common attribute, but which have actually no attribute in common; or none but what is shared by other things to which the name is capriciously refused.(13) Even scientific writers have aided in this perversion of general language from its purpose; sometimes because, like the vulgar, they knew no better; and sometimes in deference to that aversion to admit new words, which induces mankind, on all subjects not considered technical, to attempt to make the original stock of names serve with but little augmentation to express a constantly increasing number of objects and distinctions, and, consequently, to express them in a manner progressively more and more imperfect.
To what a degree this loose mode of classing and denominating objects has rendered the vocabulary of mental and moral philosophy unfit for the purposes of accurate thinking, is best known to whoever has most meditated on the present condition of those branches of knowledge. Since, however, the introduction of a new technical language as the vehicle of speculations on subjects belonging to the domain of daily discussion, is extremely difficult to effect, and would not be free from inconvenience even if effected, the problem for the philosopher, and one of the most difficult which he has to resolve, is, in retaining the existing phraseology, how best to alleviate its imperfections. This can only be accomplished by giving to every general concrete name which there is frequent occasion to predicate, a definite and fixed connotation; in order that it may be known what attributes, when we call an object by that name, we really mean to predicate of the object. And the question of most nicety is, how to give this fixed connotation to a name, with the least possible change in the objects which the name is habitually employed to denote; with the least possible disarrangement, either by adding or subtraction, of the group of objects which, in however imperfect a manner, it serves to circumscribe and hold together; and with the least vitiation of the truth of any propositions which are commonly received as true.
This desirable purpose, of giving a fixed connotation where it is wanting, is the end aimed at whenever any one attempts to give a definition of a general name already in use; every definition of a connotative name being an attempt either merely to declare, or to declare and analyze, the connotation of the name. And the fact, that no questions which have arisen in the moral sciences have been subjects of keener controversy than the definitions of almost all the leading expressions, is a proof how great an extent the evil to which we have adverted has attained.
Names with indeterminate connotation are not to be confounded with names which have more than one connotation, that is to say, ambiguous words. A word may have several meanings, but all of them fixed and recognized ones; as the word post, for example, or the word box, the various senses of which it would be endless to enumerate. And the paucity of existing names, in comparison with the demand for them, may often render it advisable and even necessary to retain a name in this multiplicity of acceptations, distinguishing these so clearly as to prevent their being confounded with one another. Such a word may be considered as two or more names, accidentally written and spoken alike.(14)
§ 6. The fourth principal division of names, is into positive and negative. Positive, as man, tree, good; negative, as not-man, not-tree, not-good. To every positive concrete name, a corresponding negative one might be framed. After giving a name to any one thing, or to any plurality of things, we might create a second name which should be a name of all things whatever, except that particular thing or things. These negative names are employed whenever we have occasion to speak collectively of all things other than some thing or class of things. When the positive name is connotative, the corresponding negative name is connotative likewise; but in a peculiar way, connoting not the presence but the absence of an attribute. Thus, not-white denotes all things whatever except white things; and connotes the attribute of not possessing whiteness. For the non-possession of any given attribute is also an attribute, and may receive a name as such; and thus negative concrete names may obtain negative abstract names to correspond to them.(15)
Names which are positive in form are often negative in reality, and others are really positive though their form is negative. The word inconvenient, for example, does not express the mere absence of convenience; it expresses a positive attribute--that of being the cause of discomfort or annoyance. So the word unpleasant, notwithstanding its negative form, does not connote the mere absence of pleasantness, but a less degree of what is signified by the word painful, which, it is hardly necessary to say, is positive. Idle, on the other hand, is a word which, though positive in form, expresses nothing but what would be signified either by the phrase not working, or by the phrase not disposed to work; and sober, either by not drunk or by not drunken.
There is a class of names called privative. A privative name is equivalent in its signification to a positive and a negative name taken together; being the name of something which has once had a particular attribute, or for some other reason might have been expected to have it, but which has it not. Such is the word blind, which is not equivalent to not seeing, or to not capable of seeing, for it would not, except by a poetical or rhetorical figure, be applied to stocks and stones. A thing is not usually said to be blind, unless the class to which it is most familiarly referred, or to which it is referred on the particular occasion, be chiefly composed of things which can see, as in the case of a blind man, or a blind horse; or unless it is supposed for any reason that it ought to see; as in saying of a man, that he rushed blindly into an abyss, or of philosophers or the clergy that the greater part of them are blind guides. The names called privative, therefore, connote two things; the absence of certain attributes, and the presence of others, from which the presence also of the former might naturally have been expected.
§ 7. The fifth leading division of names is into relative and absolute, or let us rather say, relative and non-relative; for the word absolute is put upon much too hard duty in metaphysics, not to be willingly spared when its services can be dispensed with. It resembles the word civil in the language of jurisprudence, which stands for the opposite of criminal, the opposite of ecclesiastical, the opposite of military, the opposite of political--in short, the opposite of any positive word which wants a negative.
Relative names are such as father, son; ruler, subject; like; equal; unlike; unequal; longer, shorter; cause, effect. Their characteristic property is, that they are always given in pairs. Every relative name which is predicated of an object, supposes another object (or objects), of which we may predicate either that same name or another relative name which is said to be the correlative of the former. Thus, when we call any person a son, we suppose other persons who must be called parents. When we call any event a cause, we suppose another event which is an effect. When we say of any distance that it is longer, we suppose another distance which is shorter. When we say of any object that it is like, we mean that it is like some other object, which is also said to be like the first. In this last case both objects receive the same name; the relative term is its own correlative.
It is evident that these words, when concrete, are, like other concrete general names, connotative; they denote a subject, and connote an attribute; and each of them has, or might have, a corresponding abstract name, to denote the attribute connoted by the concrete. Thus the concrete like has its abstract likeness; the concretes, father and son, have, or might have, the abstracts, paternity, and filiety, or sonship. The concrete name connotes an attribute, and the abstract name which answers to it denotes that attribute. But of what nature is the attribute? Wherein consists the peculiarity in the connotation of a relative name?
The attribute signified by a relative name, say some, is a relation; and this they give, if not as a sufficient explanation, at least as the only one attainable. If they are asked, What then is a relation? they do not profess to be able to tell. It is generally regarded as something peculiarly recondite and mysterious. I can not, however, perceive in what respect it is more so than any other attribute; indeed, it appears to me to be so in a somewhat less degree. I conceive rather, that it is by examining into the signification of relative names, or, in other words, into the nature of the attribute which they connote, that a clear insight may best be obtained into the nature of all attributes: of all that is meant by an attribute.
It is obvious, in fact, that if we take any two correlative names, father and son for instance, though the objects denoted by the names are different, they both, in a certain sense, connote the same thing. They can not, indeed, be said to connote the same attribute: to be a father, is not the same thing as to be a son. But when we call one man a father, another a son, what we mean to affirm is a set of facts, which are exactly the same in both cases. To predicate of A that he is the father of B, and of B that he is the son of A, is to assert one and the same fact in different words. The two propositions are exactly equivalent: neither of them asserts more or asserts less than the other. The paternity of A and the filiety of B are not two facts, but two modes of expressing the same fact. That fact, when analysed, consists of a series of physical events or phenomena, in which both A and B are parties concerned, and from which they both derive names. What those names really connote, is this series of events: that is the meaning, and the whole meaning, which either of them is intended to convey. The series of events may be said to constitute the relation; the schoolmen called it the foundation of the relation, fundamentum relationis.
In this manner any fact, or series of facts, in which two different objects are implicated, and which is therefore predicable of both of them, may be either considered as constituting an attribute of the one, or an attribute of the other. According as we consider it in the former, or in the latter aspect, it is connoted by the one or the other of the two correlative names. Father connotes the fact, regarded as constituting an attribute of A; son connotes the same fact, as constituting an attribute of B. It may evidently be regarded with equal propriety in either light. And all that appears necessary to account for the existence of relative names, is, that whenever there is a fact in which two individuals are concerned, an attribute grounded on that fact may be ascribed to either of these individuals.
A name, therefore, is said to be relative, when, over and above the object which it denotes, it implies in its signification the existence of another object, also deriving a denomination from the same fact which is the ground of the first name. Or (to express the same meaning in other words) a name is relative, when, being the name of one thing, its signification can not be explained but by mentioning another. Or we may state it thus--when the name can not be employed in discourse so as to have a meaning, unless the name of some other thing than what it is itself the name of, be either expressed or understood. These definitions are all, at bottom, equivalent, being modes of variously expressing this one distinctive circumstance--that every other attribute of an object might, without any contradiction, be conceived still to exist if no object besides that one had ever existed;(16) but those of its attributes which are expressed by relative names, would on that supposition be swept away.
§ 8. Names have been further distinguished into univocal and æquivocal: these, however, are not two kinds of names, but two different modes of employing names. A name is univocal, or applied univocally, with respect to all things of which it can be predicated in the same sense; it is æquivocal, or applied æquivocally, as respects those things of which it is predicated in different senses. It is scarcely necessary to give instances of a fact so familiar as the double meaning of a word. In reality, as has been already observed, an æquivocal or ambiguous word is not one name, but two names, accidentally coinciding in sound. File meaning a steel instrument, and file meaning a line of soldiers, have no more title to be considered one word, because written alike, than grease and Greece have, because they are pronounced alike. They are one sound, appropriated to form two different words.
An intermediate case is that of a name used analogically or metaphorically; that is, a name which is predicated of two things, not univocally, or exactly in the same signification, but in significations somewhat similar, and which being derived one from the other, one of them may be considered the primary, and the other a secondary signification. As when we speak of a brilliant light and a brilliant achievement. The word is not applied in the same sense to the light and to the achievement; but having been applied to the light in its original sense, that of brightness to the eye, it is transferred to the achievement in a derivative signification, supposed to be somewhat like the primitive one. The word, however, is just as properly two names instead of one, in this case, as in that of the most perfect ambiguity. And one of the commonest forms of fallacious reasoning arising from ambiguity, is that of arguing from a metaphorical expression as if it were literal; that is, as if a word, when applied metaphorically, were the same name as when taken in its original sense: which will be seen more particularly in its place.
Of The Things Denoted By Names.
OF THE THINGS DENOTED BY NAMES.
§ 1. Looking back now to the commencement of our inquiry, let us attempt to measure how far it has advanced. Logic, we found, is the Theory of Proof. But proof supposes something provable, which must be a Proposition or Assertion; since nothing but a Proposition can be an object of belief, or therefore of proof. A Proposition is, discourse which affirms or denies something of some other thing. This is one step: there must, it seems, be two things concerned in every act of belief. But what are these Things? They can be no other than those signified by the two names, which being joined together by a copula constitute the Proposition. If, therefore, we knew what all names signify, we should know every thing which, in the existing state of human knowledge, is capable either of being made a subject of affirmation or denial, or of being itself affirmed or denied of a subject. We have accordingly, in the preceding chapter, reviewed the various kinds of Names, in order to ascertain what is signified by each of them. And we have now carried this survey far enough to be able to take an account of its results, and to exhibit an enumeration of all kinds of Things which are capable of being made predicates, or of having any thing predicated of them: after which to determine the import of Predication, that is, of Propositions, can be no arduous task.
The necessity of an enumeration of Existences, as the basis of Logic, did not escape the attention of the schoolmen, and of their master Aristotle, the most comprehensive, if not also the most sagacious, of the ancient philosophers. The Categories, or Predicaments—the former a Greek word, the latter its literal translation in the Latin language—were believed to be an enumeration of all things capable of being named; an enumeration by the summa genera, i.e., the most extensive classes into which things could be distributed; which, therefore, were so many highest Predicates, one or other of which was supposed capable of being affirmed with truth of every namable thing whatsoever. The following are the classes into which, according to this school of philosophy, Things in general might be reduced:
The imperfections of this classification are too obvious to require, and its merits are not sufficient to reward, a minute examination. It is a mere catalogue of the distinctions rudely marked out by the language of familiar life, with little or no attempt to penetrate, by philosophic analysis, to the rationale even of those common distinctions. Such an analysis, however superficially conducted, would have shown the enumeration to be both redundant and defective. Some objects are omitted, and others repeated several times under different heads. It is like a division of animals into men, quadrupeds, horses, asses, and ponies. That, for instance, could not be a very comprehensive view of the nature of Relation which could exclude action, passivity, and local situation from that category. The same observation applies to the categories Quando (or position in time), and Ubi (or position in space); while the distinction between the latter and Situs is merely verbal. The incongruity of erecting into a summum genus the class which forms the tenth category is manifest. On the other hand, the enumeration takes no notice of any thing besides substances and attributes. In what category are we to place sensations, or any other feelings and states of mind; as hope, joy, fear; sound, smell, taste; pain, pleasure; thought, judgment, conception, and the like? Probably all these would have been placed by the Aristotelian school in the categories of actio and passio; and the relation of such of them as are active, to their objects, and of such of them as are passive, to their causes, would rightly be so placed; but the things themselves, the feelings or states of mind, wrongly. Feelings, or states of consciousness, are assuredly to be accounted among realities, but they can not be reckoned either among substances or attributes.(17)
§ 2. Before recommencing, under better auspices, the attempt made with such imperfect success by the early logicians, we must take notice of an unfortunate ambiguity in all the concrete names which correspond to the most general of all abstract terms, the word Existence. When we have occasion for a name which shall be capable of denoting whatever exists, as contradistinguished from non-entity or Nothing, there is hardly a word applicable to the purpose which is not also, and even more familiarly, taken in a sense in which it denotes only substances. But substances are not all that exists; attributes, if such things are to be spoken of, must be said to exist; feelings certainly exist. Yet when we speak of an object, or of a thing, we are almost always supposed to mean a substance. There seems a kind of contradiction in using such an expression as that one thing is merely an attribute of another thing. And the announcement of a Classification of Things would, I believe, prepare most readers for an enumeration like those in natural history, beginning with the great divisions of animal, vegetable, and mineral, and subdividing them into classes and orders. If, rejecting the word Thing, we endeavor to find another of a more general import, or at least more exclusively confined to that general import, a word denoting all that exists, and connoting only simple existence; no word might be presumed fitter for such a purpose than being: originally the present participle of a verb which in one of its meanings is exactly equivalent to the verb exists; and therefore suitable, even by its grammatical formation, to be the concrete of the abstract existence. But this word, strange as the fact may appear, is still more completely spoiled for the purpose which it seemed expressly made for, than the word Thing. Being is, by custom, exactly synonymous with substance; except that it is free from a slight taint of a second ambiguity; being implied impartially to matter and to mind, while substance, though originally and in strictness applicable to both, is apt to suggest in preference the idea of matter. Attributes are never called Beings; nor are feelings. A Being is that which excites feelings, and which possesses attributes. The soul is called a Being; God and angels are called Beings; but if we were to say, extension, color, wisdom, virtue, are beings, we should perhaps be suspected of thinking with some of the ancients, that the cardinal virtues are animals; or, at the least, of holding with the Platonic school the doctrine of self-existent Ideas, or with the followers of Epicurus that of Sensible Forms, which detach themselves in every direction from bodies, and by coming in contact with our organs, cause our perceptions. We should be supposed, in short, to believe that Attributes are Substances.
In consequence of this perversion of the word Being, philosophers looking about for something to supply its place, laid their hands upon the word Entity, a piece of barbarous Latin, invented by the schoolmen to be used as an abstract name, in which class its grammatical form would seem to place it: but being seized by logicians in distress to stop a leak in their terminology, it has ever since been used as a concrete name. The kindred word essence, born at the same time and of the same parents, scarcely underwent a more complete transformation when, from being the abstract of the verb to be, it came to denote something sufficiently concrete to be inclosed in a glass bottle. The word Entity, since it settled down into a concrete name, has retained its universality of signification somewhat less impaired than any of the names before mentioned. Yet the same gradual decay to which, after a certain age, all the language of psychology seems liable, has been at work even here. If you call virtue an entity, you are indeed somewhat less strongly suspected of believing it to be a substance than if you called it a being; but you are by no means free from the suspicion. Every word which was originally intended to connote mere existence, seems, after a time, to enlarge its connotation to separate existence, or existence freed from the condition of belonging to a substance; which condition being precisely what constitutes an attribute, attributes are gradually shut out; and along with them feelings, which in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred have no other name than that of the attribute which is grounded on them. Strange that when the greatest embarrassment felt by all who have any considerable number of thoughts to express, is to find a sufficient variety of precise words fitted to express them, there should be no practice to which even scientific thinkers are more addicted than that of taking valuable words to express ideas which are sufficiently expressed by other words already appropriated to them.
When it is impossible to obtain good tools, the next best thing is to understand thoroughly the defects of those we have. I have therefore warned the reader of the ambiguity of the names which, for want of better, I am necessitated to employ. It must now be the writer's endeavor so to employ them as in no case to leave the meaning doubtful or obscure. No one of the above terms being altogether unambiguous, I shall not confine myself to any one, but shall employ on each occasion the word which seems least likely in the particular case to lead to misunderstanding; nor do I pretend to use either these or any other words with a rigorous adherence to one single sense. To do so would often leave us without a word to express what is signified by a known word in some one or other of its senses: unless authors had an unlimited license to coin new words, together with (what it would be more difficult to assume) unlimited power of making readers understand them. Nor would it be wise in a writer, on a subject involving so much of abstraction, to deny himself the advantage derived from even an improper use of a term, when, by means of it, some familiar association is called up which brings the meaning home to the mind, as it were by a flash.
The difficulty both to the writer and reader, of the attempt which must be made to use vague words so as to convey a precise meaning, is not wholly a matter of regret. It is not unfitting that logical treatises should afford an example of that, to facilitate which is among the most important uses of logic. Philosophical language will for a long time, and popular language still longer, retain so much of vagueness and ambiguity, that logic would be of little value if it did not, among its other advantages, exercise the understanding in doing its work neatly and correctly with these imperfect tools.
After this preamble it is time to proceed to our enumeration. We shall commence with Feelings, the simplest class of namable things; the term Feeling being of course understood in its most enlarged sense.
I. Feelings, Or States of Consciousness.
§ 3. A Feeling and a State of consciousness are, in the language of philosophy, equivalent expressions: every thing is a feeling of which the mind is conscious; every thing which it feels, or, in other words, which forms a part of its own sentient existence. In popular language Feeling is not always synonymous with State of Consciousness; being often taken more peculiarly for those states which are conceived as belonging to the sensitive, or to the emotional, phasis of our nature, and sometimes, with a still narrower restriction, to the emotional alone, as distinguished from what are conceived as belonging to the percipient or to the intellectual phasis. But this is an admitted departure from correctness of language; just as, by a popular perversion the exact converse of this, the word Mind is withdrawn from its rightful generality of signification, and restricted to the intellect. The still greater perversion by which Feeling is sometimes confined not only to bodily sensations, but to the sensations of a single sense, that of touch, needs not be more particularly adverted to.
Feeling, in the proper sense of the term, is a genus, of which Sensation, Emotion, and Thought, are subordinate species. Under the word Thought is here to be included whatever we are internally conscious of when we are said to think; from the consciousness we have when we think of a red color without having it before our eyes, to the most recondite thoughts of a philosopher or poet. Be it remembered, however, that by a thought is to be understood what passes in the mind itself, and not any object external to the mind, which the person is commonly said to be thinking of. He may be thinking of the sun, or of God, but the sun and God are not thoughts; his mental image, however, of the sun, and his idea of God, are thoughts; states of his mind, not of the objects themselves; and so also is his belief of the existence of the sun, or of God; or his disbelief, if the case be so. Even imaginary objects (which are said to exist only in our ideas) are to be distinguished from our ideas of them. I may think of a hobgoblin, as I may think of the loaf which was eaten yesterday, or of the flower which will bloom to-morrow. But the hobgoblin which never existed is not the same thing with my idea of a hobgoblin, any more than the loaf which once existed is the same thing with my idea of a loaf, or the flower which does not yet exist, but which will exist, is the same with my idea of a flower. They are all, not thoughts, but objects of thought; though at the present time all the objects are alike non-existent.
In like manner, a Sensation is to be carefully distinguished from the object which causes the sensation; our sensation of white from a white object: nor is it less to be distinguished from the attribute whiteness, which we ascribe to the object in consequence of its exciting the sensation. Unfortunately for clearness and due discrimination in considering these subjects, our sensations seldom receive separate names. We have a name for the objects which produce in us a certain sensation: the word white. We have a name for the quality in those objects, to which we ascribe the sensation: the name whiteness. But when we speak of the sensation itself (as we have not occasion to do this often except in our scientific speculations), language, which adapts itself for the most part only to the common uses of life, has provided us with no single-worded or immediate designation; we must employ a circumlocution, and say, The sensation of white, or The sensation of whiteness; we must denominate the sensation either from the object, or from the attribute, by which it is excited. Yet the sensation, though it never does, might very well be conceived to exist, without any thing whatever to excite it. We can conceive it as arising spontaneously in the mind. But if it so arose, we should have no name to denote it which would not be a misnomer. In the case of our sensations of hearing we are better provided; we have the word Sound, and a whole vocabulary of words to denote the various kinds of sounds. For as we are often conscious of these sensations in the absence of any perceptible object, we can more easily conceive having them in the absence of any object whatever. We need only shut our eyes and listen to music, to have a conception of a universe with nothing in it except sounds, and ourselves hearing them: and what is easily conceived separately, easily obtains a separate name. But in general our names of sensations denote indiscriminately the sensation and the attribute. Thus, color stands for the sensations of white, red, etc., but also for the quality in the colored object. We talk of the colors of things as among their properties.
§ 4. In the case of sensations, another distinction has also to be kept in view, which is often confounded, and never without mischievous consequences. This is, the distinction between the sensation itself, and the state of the bodily organs which precedes the sensation, and which constitutes the physical agency by which it is produced. One of the sources of confusion on this subject is the division commonly made of feelings into Bodily and Mental. Philosophically speaking, there is no foundation at all for this distinction: even sensations are states of the sentient mind, not states of the body, as distinguished from it. What I am conscious of when I see the color blue, is a feeling of blue color, which is one thing; the picture on my retina, or the phenomenon of hitherto mysterious nature which takes place in my optic nerve or in my brain, is another thing, of which I am not at all conscious, and which scientific investigation alone could have apprised me of. These are states of my body; but the sensation of blue, which is the consequence of these states of body, is not a state of body: that which perceives and is conscious is called Mind. When sensations are called bodily feelings, it is only as being the class of feelings which are immediately occasioned by bodily states; whereas the other kinds of feelings, thoughts, for instance, or emotions, are immediately excited not by any thing acting upon the bodily organs, but by sensations, or by previous thoughts. This, however, is a distinction not in our feelings, but in the agency which produces our feelings: all of them when actually produced are states of mind.
Besides the affection of our bodily organs from without, and the sensation thereby produced in our minds, many writers admit a third link in the chain of phenomena, which they call a Perception, and which consists in the recognition of an external object as the exciting cause of the sensation. This perception, they say, is an act of the mind, proceeding from its own spontaneous activity; while in a sensation the mind is passive, being merely acted upon by the outward object. And according to some metaphysicians, it is by an act of the mind, similar to perception, except in not being preceded by any sensation, that the existence of God, the soul, and other hyperphysical objects, is recognized.
These acts of what is termed perception, whatever be the conclusion ultimately come to respecting their nature, must, I conceive, take their place among the varieties of feelings or states of mind. In so classing them, I have not the smallest intention of declaring or insinuating any theory as to the law of mind in which these mental processes may be supposed to originate, or the conditions under which they may be legitimate or the reverse. Far less do I mean (as Dr. Whewell seems to suppose must be meant in an analogous case(18)) to indicate that as they are "merely states of mind," it is superfluous to inquire into their distinguishing peculiarities. I abstain from the inquiry as irrelevant to the science of logic. In these so-called perceptions, or direct recognitions by the mind, of objects, whether physical or spiritual, which are external to itself, I can see only cases of belief; but of belief which claims to be intuitive, or independent of external evidence. When a stone lies before me, I am conscious of certain sensations which I receive from it; but if I say that these sensations come to me from an external object which I perceive, the meaning of these words is, that receiving the sensations, I intuitively believe that an external cause of those sensations exists. The laws of intuitive belief, and the conditions under which it is legitimate, are a subject which, as we have already so often remarked, belongs not to logic, but to the science of the ultimate laws of the human mind.
To the same region of speculation belongs all that can be said respecting the distinction which the German metaphysicians and their French and English followers so elaborately draw between the acts of the mind and its merely passive states; between what it receives from, and what it gives to, the crude materials of its experience. I am aware that with reference to the view which those writers take of the primary elements of thought and knowledge, this distinction is fundamental. But for the present purpose, which is to examine, not the original groundwork of our knowledge, but how we come by that portion of it which is not original; the difference between active and passive states of mind is of secondary importance. For us, they all are states of mind, they all are feelings; by which, let it be said once more, I mean to imply nothing of passivity, but simply that they are psychological facts, facts which take place in the mind, and are to be carefully distinguished from the external or physical facts with which they may be connected either as effects or as causes.
§ 5. Among active states of mind, there is, however, one species which merits particular attention, because it forms a principal part of the connotation of some important classes of names. I mean volitions, or acts of the will. When we speak of sentient beings by relative names, a large portion of the connotation of the name usually consists of the actions of those beings; actions past, present, and possible or probable future. Take, for instance, the words Sovereign and Subject. What meaning do these words convey, but that of innumerable actions, done or to be done by the sovereign and the subjects, to or in regard to one another reciprocally? So with the words physician and patient, leader and follower, tutor and pupil. In many cases the words also connote actions which would be done under certain contingencies by persons other than those denoted: as the words mortgagor and mortgagee, obligor and obligee, and many other words expressive of legal relation, which connote what a court of justice would do to enforce the legal obligation if not fulfilled. There are also words which connote actions previously done by persons other than those denoted either by the name itself or by its correlative; as the word brother. From these instances, it may be seen how large a portion of the connotation of names consists of actions. Now what is an action? Not one thing, but a series of two things: the state of mind called a volition, followed by an effect. The volition or intention to produce the effect, is one thing; the effect produced in consequence of the intention, is another thing; the two together constitute the action. I form the purpose of instantly moving my arm; that is a state of my mind: my arm (not being tied or paralytic) moves in obedience to my purpose; that is a physical fact, consequent on a state of mind. The intention, followed by the fact, or (if we prefer the expression) the fact when preceded and caused by the intention, is called the action of moving my arm.
§ 6. Of the first leading division of namable things, viz., Feelings or States of Consciousness, we began by recognizing three subdivisions; Sensations, Thoughts, and Emotions. The first two of these we have illustrated at considerable length; the third, Emotions, not being perplexed by similar ambiguities, does not require similar exemplification. And, finally, we have found it necessary to add to these three a fourth species, commonly known by the name Volitions. We shall now proceed to the two remaining classes of namable things; all things which are regarded as external to the mind being considered as belonging either to the class of Substances or to that of Attributes.
Logicians have endeavored to define Substance and Attribute; but their definitions are not so much attempts to draw a distinction between the things themselves, as instructions what difference it is customary to make in the grammatical structure of the sentence, according as we are speaking of substances or of attributes. Such definitions are rather lessons of English, or of Greek, Latin, or German, than of mental philosophy. An attribute, say the school logicians, must be the attribute of something; color, for example, must be the color of something; goodness must be the goodness of something; and if this something should cease to exist, or should cease to be connected with the attribute, the existence of the attribute would be at an end. A substance, on the contrary, is self-existent; in speaking about it, we need not put of after its name. A stone is not the stone of any thing; the moon is not the moon of any thing, but simply the moon. Unless, indeed, the name which we choose to give to the substance be a relative name; if so, it must be followed either by of, or by some other particle, implying, as that preposition does, a reference to something else: but then the other characteristic peculiarity of an attribute would fail; the something might be destroyed, and the substance might still subsist. Thus, a father must be the father of something, and so far resembles an attribute, in being referred to something besides himself: if there were no child, there would be no father: but this, when we look into the matter, only means that we should not call him father. The man called father might still exist though there were no child, as he existed before there was a child; and there would be no contradiction in supposing him to exist, though the whole universe except himself were destroyed. But destroy all white substances, and where would be the attribute whiteness? Whiteness, without any white thing, is a contradiction in terms.
This is the nearest approach to a solution of the difficulty, that will be found in the common treatises on logic. It will scarcely be thought to be a satisfactory one. If an attribute is distinguished from a substance by being the attribute of something, it seems highly necessary to understand what is meant by of; a particle which needs explanation too much itself, to be placed in front of the explanation of any thing else. And as for the self-existence of substance, it is very true that a substance may be conceived to exist without any other substance, but so also may an attribute without any other attribute: and we can no more imagine a substance without attributes than we can imagine attributes without a substance.
Metaphysicians, however, have probed the question deeper, and given an account of Substance considerably more satisfactory than this. Substances are usually distinguished as Bodies or Minds. Of each of these, philosophers have at length provided us with a definition which seems unexceptionable.
§ 7. A body, according to the received doctrine of modern metaphysicians, may be defined, the external cause to which we ascribe our sensations. When I see and touch a piece of gold, I am conscious of a sensation of yellow color, and sensations of hardness and weight; and by varying the mode of handling, I may add to these sensations many others completely distinct from them. The sensations are all of which I am directly conscious; but I consider them as produced by something not only existing independently of my will, but external to my bodily organs and to my mind. This external something I call a body.
It may be asked, how come we to ascribe our sensations to any external cause? And is there sufficient ground for so ascribing them? It is known, that there are metaphysicians who have raised a controversy on the point; maintaining that we are not warranted in referring our sensations to a cause such as we understand by the word Body, or to any external cause whatever. Though we have no concern here with this controversy, nor with the metaphysical niceties on which it turns, one of the best ways of showing what is meant by Substance is, to consider what position it is necessary to take up, in order to maintain its existence against opponents.
It is certain, then, that a part of our notion of a body consists of the notion of a number of sensations of our own, or of other sentient beings, habitually occurring simultaneously. My conception of the table at which I am writing is compounded of its visible form and size, which are complex sensations of sight; its tangible form and size, which are complex sensations of our organs of touch and of our muscles; its weight, which is also a sensation of touch and of the muscles; its color, which is a sensation of sight; its hardness, which is a sensation of the muscles; its composition, which is another word for all the varieties of sensation which we receive under various circumstances from the wood of which it is made, and so forth. All or most of these various sensations frequently are, and, as we learn by experience, always might be, experienced simultaneously, or in many different orders of succession at our own choice: and hence the thought of any one of them makes us think of the others, and the whole becomes mentally amalgamated into one mixed state of consciousness, which, in the language of the school of Locke and Hartley, is termed a Complex Idea.
Now, there are philosophers who have argued as follows: If we conceive an orange to be divested of its natural color without acquiring any new one; to lose its softness without becoming hard, its roundness without becoming square or pentagonal, or of any other regular or irregular figure whatever; to be deprived of size, of weight, of taste, of smell; to lose all its mechanical and all its chemical properties, and acquire no new ones; to become, in short, invisible, intangible, imperceptible not only by all our senses, but by the senses of all other sentient beings, real or possible; nothing, say these thinkers, would remain. For of what nature, they ask, could be the residuum? and by what token could it manifest its presence? To the unreflecting its existence seems to rest on the evidence of the senses. But to the senses nothing is apparent except the sensations. We know, indeed, that these sensations are bound together by some law; they do not come together at random, but according to a systematic order, which is part of the order established in the universe. When we experience one of these sensations, we usually experience the others also, or know that we have it in our power to experience them. But a fixed law of connection, making the sensations occur together, does not, say these philosophers, necessarily require what is called a substratum to support them. The conception of a substratum is but one of many possible forms in which that connection presents itself to our imagination; a mode of, as it were, realizing the idea. If there be such a substratum, suppose it at this instant miraculously annihilated, and let the sensations continue to occur in the same order, and how would the substratum be missed? By what signs should we be able to discover that its existence had terminated? Should we not have as much reason to believe that it still existed as we now have? And if we should not then be warranted in believing it, how can we be so now? A body, therefore, according to these metaphysicians, is not any thing intrinsically different from the sensations which the body is said to produce in us; it is, in short, a set of sensations, or rather, of possibilities of sensation, joined together according to a fixed law.
The controversies to which these speculations have given rise, and the doctrines which have been developed in the attempt to find a conclusive answer to them, have been fruitful of important consequences to the Science of Mind. The sensations (it was answered) which we are conscious of, and which we receive, not at random, but joined together in a certain uniform manner, imply not only a law or laws of connection, but a cause external to our mind, which cause, by its own laws, determines the laws according to which the sensations are connected and experienced. The schoolmen used to call this external cause by the name we have already employed, a substratum; and its attributes (as they expressed themselves) inhered, literally stuck, in it. To this substratum the name Matter is usually given in philosophical discussions. It was soon, however, acknowledged by all who reflected on the subject, that the existence of matter can not be proved by extrinsic evidence. The answer, therefore, now usually made to Berkeley and his followers, is, that the belief is intuitive; that mankind, in all ages, have felt themselves compelled, by a necessity of their nature, to refer their sensations to an external cause: that even those who deny it in theory, yield to the necessity in practice, and both in speech, thought, and feeling, do, equally with the vulgar, acknowledge their sensations to be the effects of something external to them: this knowledge, therefore, it is affirmed, is as evidently intuitive as our knowledge of our sensations themselves is intuitive. And here the question merges in the fundamental problem of metaphysics properly so called: to which science we leave it.
But although the extreme doctrine of the Idealist metaphysicians, that objects are nothing but our sensations and the laws which connect them, has not been generally adopted by subsequent thinkers; the point of most real importance is one on which those metaphysicians are now very generally considered to have made out their case: viz., that all we know of objects is the sensations which they give us, and the order of the occurrence of those sensations. Kant himself, on this point, is as explicit as Berkeley or Locke. However firmly convinced that there exists a universe of "Things in themselves," totally distinct from the universe of phenomena, or of things as they appear to our senses; and even when bringing into use a technical expression (Noumenon) to denote what the thing is in itself, as contrasted with the representation of it in our minds; he allows that this representation (the matter of which, he says, consists of our sensations, though the form is given by the laws of the mind itself) is all we know of the object: and that the real nature of the Thing is, and by the constitution of our faculties ever must remain, at least in the present state of existence, an impenetrable mystery to us. "Of things absolutely or in themselves," says Sir William Hamilton,(19) "be they external, be they internal, we know nothing, or know them only as incognizable; and become aware of their incomprehensible existence, only as this is indirectly and accidentally revealed to us, through certain qualities related to our faculties of knowledge, and which qualities, again, we can not think as unconditional, irrelative, existent in and of ourselves. All that we know is therefore phenomenal--phenomenal of the unknown."(20) The same doctrine is laid down in the clearest and strongest terms by M. Cousin, whose observations on the subject are the more worthy of attention, as, in consequence of the ultra-German and ontological character of his philosophy in other respects, they may be regarded as the admissions of an opponent.(21)
There is not the slightest reason for believing that what we call the sensible qualities of the object are a type of any thing inherent in itself, or bear any affinity to its own nature. A cause does not, as such, resemble its effects; an east wind is not like the feeling of cold, nor heat like the steam of boiling water. Why then should matter resemble our sensations? Why should the inmost nature of fire or water resemble the impressions made by those objects upon our senses?(22) Or on what principle are we authorized to deduce from the effects, any thing concerning the cause, except that it is a cause adequate to produce those effects? It may, therefore, safely be laid down as a truth both obvious in itself, and admitted by all whom it is at present necessary to take into consideration, that, of the outward world, we know and can know absolutely nothing, except the sensations which we experience from it.(23)
§ 8. Body having now been defined the external cause, and (according to the more reasonable opinion) the unknown external cause, to which we refer our sensations; it remains to frame a definition of Mind. Nor, after the preceding observations, will this be difficult. For, as our conception of a body is that of an unknown exciting cause of sensations, so our conception of a mind is that of an unknown recipient or percipient, of them; and not of them alone, but of all our other feelings. As body is understood to be the mysterious something which excites the mind to feel, so mind is the mysterious something which feels and thinks. It is unnecessary to give in the case of mind, as we gave in the case of matter, a particular statement of the skeptical system by which its existence as a Thing in itself, distinct from the series of what are denominated its states, is called in question. But it is necessary to remark, that on the inmost nature (whatever be meant by inmost nature) of the thinking principle, as well as on the inmost nature of matter, we are, and with our faculties must always remain, entirely in the dark. All which we are aware of, even in our own minds, is (in the words of James Mill) a certain "thread of consciousness;" a series of feelings, that is, of sensations, thoughts, emotions, and volitions, more or less numerous and complicated. There is a something I call Myself, or, by another form of expression, my mind, which I consider as distinct from these sensations, thoughts, etc.; a something which I conceive to be not the thoughts, but the being that has the thoughts, and which I can conceive as existing forever in a state of quiescence, without any thoughts at all. But what this being is, though it is myself, I have no knowledge, other than the series of its states of consciousness. As bodies manifest themselves to me only through the sensations of which I regard them as the causes, so the thinking principle, or mind, in my own nature, makes itself known to me only by the feelings of which it is conscious. I know nothing about myself, save my capacities of feeling or being conscious (including, of course, thinking and willing): and were I to learn any thing new concerning my own nature, I can not with my present faculties conceive this new information to be any thing else, than that I have some additional capacities, as yet unknown to me, of feeling, thinking, or willing.
Thus, then, as body is the unsentient cause to which we are naturally prompted to refer a certain portion of our feelings, so mind may be described as the sentient subject (in the scholastic sense of the term) of all feelings; that which has or feels them. But of the nature of either body or mind, further than the feelings which the former excites, and which the latter experiences, we do not, according to the best existing doctrine, know any thing; and if any thing, logic has nothing to do with it, or with the manner in which the knowledge is acquired. With this result we may conclude this portion of our subject, and pass to the third and only remaining class or division of Namable Things.
III. Attributes: and, first, Qualities.
§ 9. From what has already been said of Substance, what is to be said of Attribute is easily deducible. For if we know not, and can not know, any thing of bodies but the sensations which they excite in us or in others, those sensations must be all that we can, at bottom, mean by their attributes; and the distinction which we verbally make between the properties of things and the sensations we receive from them, must originate in the convenience of discourse rather than in the nature of what is signified by the terms.
Attributes are usually distributed under the three heads of Quality, Quantity, and Relation. We shall come to the two latter presently: in the first place we shall confine ourselves to the former.
Let us take, then, as our example, one of what are termed the sensible qualities of objects, and let that example be whiteness. When we ascribe whiteness to any substance, as, for instance, snow; when we say that snow has the quality whiteness, what do we really assert? Simply, that when snow is present to our organs, we have a particular sensation, which we are accustomed to call the sensation of white. But how do I know that snow is present? Obviously by the sensations which I derive from it, and not otherwise. I infer that the object is present, because it gives me a certain assemblage or series of sensations. And when I ascribe to it the attribute whiteness, my meaning is only, that, of the sensations composing this group or series, that which I call the sensation of white color is one.
This is one view which may be taken of the subject. But there is also another and a different view. It may be said, that it is true we know nothing of sensible objects, except the sensations they excite in us; that the fact of our receiving from snow the particular sensation which is called a sensation of white, is the ground on which we ascribe to that substance the quality whiteness; the sole proof of its possessing that quality. But because one thing may be the sole evidence of the existence of another thing, it does not follow that the two are one and the same. The attribute whiteness (it may be said) is not the fact of receiving the sensation, but something in the object itself; a power inherent in it; something in virtue of which the object produces the sensation. And when we affirm that snow possesses the attribute whiteness, we do not merely assert that the presence of snow produces in us that sensation, but that it does so through, and by reason of, that power or quality.
For the purposes of logic it is not of material importance which of these opinions we adopt. The full discussion of the subject belongs to the other department of scientific inquiry, so often alluded to under the name of metaphysics; but it may be said here, that for the doctrine of the existence of a peculiar species of entities called qualities, I can see no foundation except in a tendency of the human mind which is the cause of many delusions. I mean, the disposition, wherever we meet with two names which are not precisely synonymous, to suppose that they must be the names of two different things; whereas in reality they may be names of the same thing viewed in two different lights, or under different suppositions as to surrounding circumstances. Because quality and sensation can not be put indiscriminately one for the other, it is supposed that they can not both signify the same thing, namely, the impression or feeling with which we are affected through our senses by the presence of an object; though there is at least no absurdity in supposing that this identical impression or feeling may be called a sensation when considered merely in itself, and a quality when looked at in relation to any one of the numerous objects, the presence of which to our organs excites in our minds that among various other sensations or feelings. And if this be admissible as a supposition, it rests with those who contend for an entity per se called a quality, to show that their opinion is preferable, or is any thing in fact but a lingering remnant of the old doctrine of occult causes; the very absurdity which Molière so happily ridiculed when he made one of his pedantic physicians account for the fact that opium produces sleep by the maxim, Because it has a soporific virtue.
It is evident that when the physician stated that opium has a soporific virtue, he did not account for, but merely asserted over again, the fact that it produces sleep. In like manner, when we say that snow is white because it has the quality of whiteness, we are only re-asserting in more technical language the fact that it excites in us the sensation of white. If it be said that the sensation must have some cause, I answer, its cause is the presence of the assemblage of phenomena which is termed the object. When we have asserted that as often as the object is present, and our organs in their normal state, the sensation takes place, we have stated all that we know about the matter. There is no need, after assigning a certain and intelligible cause, to suppose an occult cause besides, for the purpose of enabling the real cause to produce its effect. If I am asked, why does the presence of the object cause this sensation in me, I can not tell: I can only say that such is my nature, and the nature of the object; that the fact forms a part of the constitution of things. And to this we must at last come, even after interpolating the imaginary entity. Whatever number of links the chain of causes and effects may consist of, how any one link produces the one which is next to it, remains equally inexplicable to us. It is as easy to comprehend that the object should produce the sensation directly and at once, as that it should produce the same sensation by the aid of something else called the power of producing it.
But, as the difficulties which may be felt in adopting this view of the subject can not be removed without discussions transcending the bounds of our science, I content myself with a passing indication, and shall, for the purposes of logic, adopt a language compatible with either view of the nature of qualities. I shall say--what at least admits of no dispute--that the quality of whiteness ascribed to the object snow, is grounded on its exciting in us the sensation of white; and adopting the language already used by the school logicians in the case of the kind of attributes called Relations, I shall term the sensation of white the foundation of the quality whiteness. For logical purposes the sensation is the only essential part of what is meant by the word; the only part which we ever can be concerned in proving. When that is proved, the quality is proved; if an object excites a sensation, it has, of course, the power of exciting it.
§ 10. The qualities of a body, we have said, are the attributes grounded on the sensations which the presence of that particular body to our organs excites in our minds. But when we ascribe to any object the kind of attribute called a Relation, the foundation of the attribute must be something in which other objects are concerned besides itself and the percipient.
As there may with propriety be said to be a relation between any two things to which two correlative names are or may be given, we may expect to discover what constitutes a relation in general, if we enumerate the principal cases in which mankind have imposed correlative names, and observe what these cases have in common.
What, then, is the character which is possessed in common by states of circumstances so heterogeneous and discordant as these: one thing like another; one thing unlike another; one thing near another; one thing far from another; one thing before, after, along with another; one thing greater, equal, less, than another; one thing the cause of another, the effect of another; one person the master, servant, child, parent, debtor, creditor, sovereign, subject, attorney, client, of another, and so on?
Omitting, for the present, the case of Resemblance, (a relation which requires to be considered separately,) there seems to be one thing common to all these cases, and only one; that in each of them there exists or occurs, or has existed or occurred, or may be expected to exist or occur, some fact or phenomenon, into which the two things which are said to be related to each other, both enter as parties concerned. This fact, or phenomenon, is what the Aristotelian logicians called the fundamentum relationis. Thus in the relation of greater and less between two magnitudes, the fundamentum relationis is the fact that one of the two magnitudes could, under certain conditions, be included in, without entirely filling, the space occupied by the other magnitude. In the relation of master and servant, the fundamentum relationis is the fact that the one has undertaken, or is compelled, to perform certain services for the benefit and at the bidding of the other. Examples might be indefinitely multiplied; but it is already obvious that whenever two things are said to be related, there is some fact, or series of facts, into which they both enter; and that whenever any two things are involved in some one fact, or series of facts, we may ascribe to those two things a mutual relation grounded on the fact. Even if they have nothing in common but what is common to all things, that they are members of the universe, we call that a relation, and denominate them fellow-creatures, fellow-beings, or fellow-denizens of the universe. But in proportion as the fact into which the two objects enter as parts is of a more special and peculiar, or of a more complicated nature, so also is the relation grounded upon it. And there are as many conceivable relations as there are conceivable kinds of fact in which two things can be jointly concerned.
In the same manner, therefore, as a quality is an attribute grounded on the fact that a certain sensation or sensations are produced in us by the object, so an attribute grounded on some fact into which the object enters jointly with another object, is a relation between it and that other object. But the fact in the latter case consists of the very same kind of elements as the fact in the former; namely, states of consciousness. In the case, for example, of any legal relation, as debtor and creditor, principal and agent, guardian and ward, the fundamentum relationis consists entirely of thoughts, feelings, and volitions (actual or contingent), either of the persons themselves or of other persons concerned in the same series of transactions; as, for instance, the intentions which would be formed by a judge, in case a complaint were made to his tribunal of the infringement of any of the legal obligations imposed by the relation; and the acts which the judge would perform in consequence; acts being (as we have already seen) another word for intentions followed by an effect, and that effect being but another word for sensations, or some other feelings, occasioned either to the agent himself or to somebody else. There is no part of what the names expressive of the relation imply, that is not resolvable into states of consciousness; outward objects being, no doubt, supposed throughout as the causes by which some of those states of consciousness are excited, and minds as the subjects by which all of them are experienced, but neither the external objects nor the minds making their existence known otherwise than by the states of consciousness.
Cases of relation are not always so complicated as those to which we last alluded. The simplest of all cases of relation are those expressed by the words antecedent and consequent, and by the word simultaneous. If we say, for instance, that dawn preceded sunrise, the fact in which the two things, dawn and sunrise, were jointly concerned, consisted only of the two things themselves; no third thing entered into the fact or phenomenon at all. Unless, indeed, we choose to call the succession of the two objects a third thing; but their succession is not something added to the things themselves; it is something involved in them. Dawn and sunrise announce themselves to our consciousness by two successive sensations. Our consciousness of the succession of these sensations is not a third sensation or feeling added to them; we have not first the two feelings, and then a feeling of their succession. To have two feelings at all, implies having them either successively, or else simultaneously. Sensations, or other feelings, being given, succession and simultaneousness are the two conditions, to the alternative of which they are subjected by the nature of our faculties; and no one has been able, or needs expect, to analyze the matter any further.
§ 11. In a somewhat similar position are two other sorts of relations, Likeness and Unlikeness. I have two sensations; we will suppose them to be simple ones; two sensations of white, or one sensation of white and another of black. I call the first two sensations like; the last two unlike. What is the fact or phenomenon constituting the fundamentum of this relation? The two sensations first, and then what we call a feeling of resemblance, or of want of resemblance. Let us confine ourselves to the former case. Resemblance is evidently a feeling; a state of the consciousness of the observer. Whether the feeling of the resemblance of the two colors be a third state of consciousness, which I have after having the two sensations of color, or whether (like the feeling of their succession) it is involved in the sensations themselves, may be a matter of discussion. But in either case, these feelings of resemblance, and of its opposite dissimilarity, are parts of our nature; and parts so far from being capable of analysis, that they are presupposed in every attempt to analyze any of our other feelings. Likeness and unlikeness, therefore, as well as antecedence, sequence, and simultaneousness, must stand apart among relations, as things sui generis. They are attributes grounded on facts, that is, on states of consciousness, but on states which are peculiar, unresolvable, and inexplicable.
But, though likeness or unlikeness can not be resolved into any thing else, complex cases of likeness or unlikeness can be resolved into simpler ones. When we say of two things which consist of parts, that they are like one another, the likeness of the wholes does admit of analysis; it is compounded of likenesses between the various parts respectively, and of likeness in their arrangement. Of how vast a variety of resemblances of parts must that resemblance be composed, which induces us to say that a portrait, or a landscape, is like its original. If one person mimics another with any success, of how many simple likenesses must the general or complex likeness be compounded: likeness in a succession of bodily postures; likeness in voice, or in the accents and intonations of the voice; likeness in the choice of words, and in the thoughts or sentiments expressed, whether by word, countenance, or gesture.
All likeness and unlikeness of which we have any cognizance, resolve themselves into likeness and unlikeness between states of our own, or some other, mind. When we say that one body is like another, (since we know nothing of bodies but the sensations which they excite,) we mean really that there is a resemblance between the sensations excited by the two bodies, or between some portions at least of those sensations. If we say that two attributes are like one another (since we know nothing of attributes except the sensations or states of feeling on which they are grounded), we mean really that those sensations, or states of feeling, resemble each other. We may also say that two relations are alike. The fact of resemblance between relations is sometimes called analogy, forming one of the numerous meanings of that word. The relation in which Priam stood to Hector, namely, that of father and son, resembles the relation in which Philip stood to Alexander; resembles it so closely that they are called the same relation. The relation in which Cromwell stood to England resembles the relation in which Napoleon stood to France, though not so closely as to be called the same relation. The meaning in both these instances must be, that a resemblance existed between the facts which constituted the fundamentum relationis.
This resemblance may exist in all conceivable gradations, from perfect undistinguishableness to something extremely slight. When we say, that a thought suggested to the mind of a person of genius is like a seed cast into the ground, because the former produces a multitude of other thoughts, and the latter a multitude of other seeds, this is saying that between the relation of an inventive mind to a thought contained in it, and the relation of a fertile soil to a seed contained in it, there exists a resemblance: the real resemblance being in the two fundamenta relationis, in each of which there occurs a germ, producing by its development a multitude of other things similar to itself. And as, whenever two objects are jointly concerned in a phenomenon, this constitutes a relation between those objects, so, if we suppose a second pair of objects concerned in a second phenomenon, the slightest resemblance between the two phenomena is sufficient to admit of its being said that the two relations resemble; provided, of course, the points of resemblance are found in those portions of the two phenomena respectively which are connoted by the relative names.
While speaking of resemblance, it is necessary to take notice of an ambiguity of language, against which scarcely any one is sufficiently on his guard. Resemblance, when it exists in the highest degree of all, amounting to undistinguishableness, is often called identity, and the two similar things are said to be the same. I say often, not always; for we do not say that two visible objects, two persons, for instance, are the same, because they are so much alike that one might be mistaken for the other: but we constantly use this mode of expression when speaking of feelings; as when I say that the sight of any object gives me the same sensation or emotion to-day that it did yesterday, or the same which it gives to some other person. This is evidently an incorrect application of the word same; for the feeling which I had yesterday is gone, never to return; what I have to-day is another feeling, exactly like the former, perhaps, but distinct from it; and it is evident that two different persons can not be experiencing the same feeling, in the sense in which we say that they are both sitting at the same table. By a similar ambiguity we say, that two persons are ill of the same disease; that two persons hold the same office; not in the sense in which we say that they are engaged in the same adventure, or sailing in the same ship, but in the sense that they fill offices exactly similar, though, perhaps, in distant places. Great confusion of ideas is often produced, and many fallacies engendered, in otherwise enlightened understandings, by not being sufficiently alive to the fact (in itself not always to be avoided), that they use the same name to express ideas so different as those of identity and undistinguishable resemblance. Among modern writers, Archbishop Whately stands almost alone in having drawn attention to this distinction, and to the ambiguity connected with it.
Several relations, generally called by other names, are really cases of resemblance. As, for example, equality; which is but another word for the exact resemblance commonly called identity, considered as subsisting between things in respect of their quantity. And this example forms a suitable transition to the third and last of the three heads under which, as already remarked, Attributes are commonly arranged.
§ 12. Let us imagine two things, between which there is no difference (that is, no dissimilarity), except in quantity alone; for instance, a gallon of water, and more than a gallon of water. A gallon of water, like any other external object, makes its presence known to us by a set of sensations which it excites. Ten gallons of water are also an external object, making its presence known to us in a similar manner; and as we do not mistake ten gallons of water for a gallon of water, it is plain that the set of sensations is more or less different in the two cases. In like manner, a gallon of water, and a gallon of wine, are two external objects, making their presence known by two sets of sensations, which sensations are different from each other. In the first case, however, we say that the difference is in quantity; in the last there is a difference in quality, while the quantity of the water and of the wine is the same. What is the real distinction between the two cases? It is not within the province of Logic to analyze it; nor to decide whether it is susceptible of analysis or not. For us the following considerations are sufficient: It is evident that the sensations I receive from the gallon of water, and those I receive from the gallon of wine, are not the same, that is, not precisely alike; neither are they altogether unlike: they are partly similar, partly dissimilar; and that in which they resemble is precisely that in which alone the gallon of water and the ten gallons do not resemble. That in which the gallon of water and the gallon of wine are like each other, and in which the gallon and the ten gallons of water are unlike each other, is called their quantity. This likeness and unlikeness I do not pretend to explain, no more than any other kind of likeness or unlikeness. But my object is to show, that when we say of two things that they differ in quantity, just as when we say that they differ in quality, the assertion is always grounded on a difference in the sensations which they excite. Nobody, I presume, will say, that to see, or to lift, or to drink, ten gallons of water, does not include in itself a different set of sensations from those of seeing, lifting, or drinking one gallon; or that to see or handle a foot-rule, and to see or handle a yard-measure made exactly like it, are the same sensations. I do not undertake to say what the difference in the sensations is. Every body knows, and nobody can tell; no more than any one could tell what white is to a person who had never had the sensation. But the difference, so far as cognizable by our faculties, lies in the sensations. Whatever difference we say there is in the things themselves, is, in this as in all other cases, grounded, and grounded exclusively, on a difference in the sensations excited by them.
VI. Attributes Concluded.
§ 13. Thus, then, all the attributes of bodies which are classed under Quality or Quantity, are grounded on the sensations which we receive from those bodies, and may be defined, the powers which the bodies have of exciting those sensations. And the same general explanation has been found to apply to most of the attributes usually classed under the head of Relation. They, too, are grounded on some fact or phenomenon into which the related objects enter as parts; that fact or phenomenon having no meaning and no existence to us, except the series of sensations or other states of consciousness by which it makes itself known; and the relation being simply the power or capacity which the object possesses of taking part along with the correlated object in the production of that series of sensations or states of consciousness. We have been obliged, indeed, to recognize a somewhat different character in certain peculiar relations, those of succession and simultaneity, of likeness and unlikeness. These, not being grounded on any fact or phenomenon distinct from the related objects themselves, do not admit of the same kind of analysis. But these relations, though not, like other relations, grounded on states of consciousness, are themselves states of consciousness: resemblance is nothing but our feeling of resemblance; succession is nothing but our feeling of succession. Or, if this be disputed (and we can not, without transgressing the bounds of our science, discuss it here), at least our knowledge of these relations, and even our possibility of knowledge, is confined to those which subsist between sensations, or other states of consciousness; for, though we ascribe resemblance, or succession, or simultaneity, to objects and to attributes, it is always in virtue of resemblance or succession or simultaneity in the sensations or states of consciousness which those objects excite, and on which those attributes are grounded.
§ 14. In the preceding investigation we have, for the sake of simplicity, considered bodies only, and omitted minds. But what we have said, is applicable, mutatis mutandis, to the latter. The attributes of minds, as well as those of bodies, are grounded on states of feeling or consciousness. But in the case of a mind, we have to consider its own states, as well as those which it produces in other minds. Every attribute of a mind consists either in being itself affected in a certain way, or affecting other minds in a certain way. Considered in itself, we can predicate nothing of it but the series of its own feelings. When we say of any mind, that it is devout, or superstitious, or meditative, or cheerful, we mean that the ideas, emotions, or volitions implied in those words, form a frequently recurring part of the series of feelings, or states of consciousness, which fill up the sentient existence of that mind.
In addition, however, to those attributes of a mind which are grounded on its own states of feeling, attributes may also be ascribed to it, in the same manner as to a body, grounded on the feelings which it excites in other minds. A mind does not, indeed, like a body, excite sensations, but it may excite thoughts or emotions. The most important example of attributes ascribed on this ground, is the employment of terms expressive of approbation or blame. When, for example, we say of any character, or (in other words) of any mind, that it is admirable, we mean that the contemplation of it excites the sentiment of admiration; and indeed somewhat more, for the word implies that we not only feel admiration, but approve that sentiment in ourselves. In some cases, under the semblance of a single attribute, two are really predicated: one of them, a state of the mind itself; the other, a state with which other minds are affected by thinking of it. As when we say of any one that he is generous. The word generosity expresses a certain state of mind, but being a term of praise, it also expresses that this state of mind excites in us another mental state, called approbation. The assertion made, therefore, is twofold, and of the following purport: Certain feelings form habitually a part of this person's sentient existence; and the idea of those feelings of his, excites the sentiment of approbation in ourselves or others.
As we thus ascribe attributes to minds on the ground of ideas and emotions, so may we to bodies on similar grounds, and not solely on the ground of sensations: as in speaking of the beauty of a statue; since this attribute is grounded on the peculiar feeling of pleasure which the statue produces in our minds; which is not a sensation, but an emotion.
VII. General Results.
§ 15. Our survey of the varieties of Things which have been, or which are capable of being, named--which have been, or are capable of being, either predicated of other Things, or themselves made the subject of predications--is now concluded.
Our enumeration commenced with Feelings. These we scrupulously distinguished from the objects which excite them, and from the organs by which they are, or may be supposed to be, conveyed. Feelings are of four sorts: Sensations, Thoughts, Emotions, and Volitions. What are called Perceptions are merely a particular case of Belief, and Belief is a kind of thought. Actions are merely volitions followed by an effect.
After Feelings we proceeded to Substances. These are either Bodies or Minds. Without entering into the grounds of the metaphysical doubts which have been raised concerning the existence of Matter and Mind as objective realities, we stated as sufficient for us the conclusion in which the best thinkers are now for the most part agreed, that all we can know of Matter is the sensations which it gives us, and the order of occurrence of those sensations; and that while the substance Body is the unknown cause of our sensations, the substance Mind is the unknown recipient.
The only remaining class of Namable Things is Attributes; and these are of three kinds, Quality, Relation, and Quantity. Qualities, like substances, are known to us no otherwise than by the sensations or other states of consciousness which they excite: and while, in compliance with common usage, we have continued to speak of them as a distinct class of Things, we showed that in predicating them no one means to predicate any thing but those sensations or states of consciousness, on which they may be said to be grounded, and by which alone they can be defined or described. Relations, except the simple cases of likeness and unlikeness, succession and simultaneity, are similarly grounded on some fact or phenomenon, that is, on some series of sensations or states of consciousness, more or less complicated. The third species of Attribute, Quantity, is also manifestly grounded on something in our sensations or states of feeling, since there is an indubitable difference in the sensations excited by a larger and a smaller bulk, or by a greater or a less degree of intensity, in any object of sense or of consciousness. All attributes, therefore, are to us nothing but either our sensations and other states of feeling, or something inextricably involved therein; and to this even the peculiar and simple relations just adverted to are not exceptions. Those peculiar relations, however, are so important, and, even if they might in strictness be classed among states of consciousness, are so fundamentally distinct from any other of those states, that it would be a vain subtlety to bring them under that common description, and it is necessary that they should be classed apart.(24)
As the result, therefore, of our analysis, we obtain the following as an enumeration and classification of all Namable Things:
1st. Feelings, or States of Consciousness.
2d. The Minds which experience those feelings.
3d. The Bodies, or external objects which excite certain of those feelings, together with the powers or properties whereby they excite them; these latter (at least) being included rather in compliance with common opinion, and because their existence is taken for granted in the common language from which I can not prudently deviate, than because the recognition of such powers or properties as real existences appears to be warranted by a sound philosophy.
4th, and last. The Successions and Co-existences, the Likenesses and Unlikenesses, between feelings or states of consciousness. Those relations, when considered as subsisting between other things, exist in reality only between the states of consciousness which those things, if bodies, excite, if minds, either excite or experience.
This, until a better can be suggested, may serve as a substitute for the Categories of Aristotle considered as a classification of Existences. The practical application of it will appear when we commence the inquiry into the Import of Propositions; in other words, when we inquire what it is which the mind actually believes, when it gives what is called its assent to a proposition.
These four classes comprising, if the classification be correct, all Namable Things, these or some of them must of course compose the signification of all names: and of these, or some of them, is made up whatever we call a fact.
For distinction's sake, every fact which is solely composed of feelings or states of consciousness considered as such, is often called a Psychological or Subjective fact; while every fact which is composed, either wholly or in part, of something different from these, that is, of substances and attributes, is called an Objective fact. We may say, then, that every objective fact is grounded on a corresponding subjective one; and has no meaning to us (apart from the subjective fact which corresponds to it), except as a name for the unknown and inscrutable process by which that subjective or psychological fact is brought to pass.
§ 1. In treating of Propositions, as already in treating of Names, some considerations of a comparatively elementary nature respecting their form and varieties must be premised, before entering upon that analysis of the import conveyed by them, which is the real subject and purpose of this preliminary book.
A proposition, we have before said, is a portion of discourse in which a predicate is affirmed or denied of a subject. A predicate and a subject are all that is necessarily required to make up a proposition: but as we can not conclude from merely seeing two names put together, that they are a predicate and a subject, that is, that one of them is intended to be affirmed or denied of the other, it is necessary that there should be some mode or form of indicating that such is the intention; some sign to distinguish a predication from any other kind of discourse. This is sometimes done by a slight alteration of one of the words, called an inflection; as when we say, Fire burns; the change of the second word from burn to burns showing that we mean to affirm the predicate burn of the subject fire. But this function is more commonly fulfilled by the word is, when an affirmation is intended, is not, when a negation; or by some other part of the verb to be. The word which thus serves the purpose of a sign of predication is called, as we formerly observed, the copula. It is important that there should be no indistinctness in our conception of the nature and office of the copula; for confused notions respecting it are among the causes which have spread mysticism over the field of logic, and perverted its speculations into logomachies.
It is apt to be supposed that the copula is something more than a mere sign of predication; that it also signifies existence. In the proposition, Socrates is just, it may seem to be implied not only that the quality just can be affirmed of Socrates, but moreover that Socrates is, that is to say, exists. This, however, only shows that there is an ambiguity in the word is; a word which not only performs the function of the copula in affirmations, but has also a meaning of its own, in virtue of which it may itself be made the predicate of a proposition. That the employment of it as a copula does not necessarily include the affirmation of existence, appears from such a proposition as this, A centaur is a fiction of the poets; where it can not possibly be implied that a centaur exists, since the proposition itself expressly asserts that the thing has no real existence.
Many volumes might be filled with the frivolous speculations concerning the nature of Being (το ὄν, οὐσία, Ens, Entitas, Essentia, and the like), which have arisen from overlooking this double meaning of the word to be; from supposing that when it signifies to exist, and when it signifies to be some specified thing, as to be a man, to be Socrates, to be seen or spoken of, to be a phantom, even to be a nonentity, it must still, at bottom, answer to the same idea; and that a meaning must be found for it which shall suit all these cases. The fog which rose from this narrow spot diffused itself at an early period over the whole surface of metaphysics. Yet it becomes us not to triumph over the great intellects of Plato and Aristotle because we are now able to preserve ourselves from many errors into which they, perhaps inevitably, fell. The fire-teazer of a modern steam-engine produces by his exertions far greater effects than Milo of Crotona could, but he is not therefore a stronger man. The Greeks seldom knew any language but their own. This rendered it far more difficult for them than it is for us, to acquire a readiness in detecting ambiguities. One of the advantages of having accurately studied a plurality of languages, especially of those languages which eminent thinkers have used as the vehicle of their thoughts, is the practical lesson we learn respecting the ambiguities of words, by finding that the same word in one language corresponds, on different occasions, to different words in another. When not thus exercised, even the strongest understandings find it difficult to believe that things which have a common name, have not in some respect or other a common nature; and often expend much labor very unprofitably (as was frequently done by the two philosophers just mentioned) in vain attempts to discover in what this common nature consists. But, the habit once formed, intellects much inferior are capable of detecting even ambiguities which are common to many languages: and it is surprising that the one now under consideration, though it exists in the modern languages as well as in the ancient, should have been overlooked by almost all authors. The quantity of futile speculation which had been caused by a misapprehension of the nature of the copula, was hinted at by Hobbes; but Mr. James Mill(25) was, I believe, the first who distinctly characterized the ambiguity, and pointed out how many errors in the received systems of philosophy it has had to answer for. It has, indeed, misled the moderns scarcely less than the ancients, though their mistakes, because our understandings are not yet so completely emancipated from their influence, do not appear equally irrational.
We shall now briefly review the principal distinctions which exist among propositions, and the technical terms most commonly in use to express those distinctions.
§ 2. A proposition being a portion of discourse in which something is affirmed or denied of something, the first division of propositions is into affirmative and negative. An affirmative proposition is that in which the predicate is affirmed of the subject; as, Cæsar is dead. A negative proposition is that in which the predicate is denied of the subject; as, Cæsar is not dead. The copula, in this last species of proposition, consists of the words is not, which are the sign of negation; is being the sign of affirmation.
Some logicians, among whom may be mentioned Hobbes, state this distinction differently; they recognize only one form of copula, is, and attach the negative sign to the predicate. "Cæsar is dead," and "Cæsar is not dead," according to these writers, are propositions agreeing not in the subject and predicate, but in the subject only. They do not consider "dead," but "not dead," to be the predicate of the second proposition, and they accordingly define a negative proposition to be one in which the predicate is a negative name. The point, though not of much practical moment, deserves notice as an example (not unfrequent in logic) where by means of an apparent simplification, but which is merely verbal, matters are made more complex than before. The notion of these writers was, that they could get rid of the distinction between affirming and denying, by treating every case of denying as the affirming of a negative name. But what is meant by a negative name? A name expressive of the absence of an attribute. So that when we affirm a negative name, what we are really predicating is absence and not presence; we are asserting not that any thing is, but that something is not; to express which operation no word seems so proper as the word denying. The fundamental distinction is between a fact and the non-existence of that fact; between seeing something and not seeing it, between Cæsar's being dead and his not being dead; and if this were a merely verbal distinction, the generalization which brings both within the same form of assertion would be a real simplification: the distinction, however, being real, and in the facts, it is the generalization confounding the distinction that is merely verbal; and tends to obscure the subject, by treating the difference between two kinds of truths as if it were only a difference between two kinds of words. To put things together, and to put them or keep them asunder, will remain different operations, whatever tricks we may play with language.
A remark of a similar nature may be applied to most of those distinctions among propositions which are said to have reference to their modality; as, difference of tense or time; the sun did rise, the sun is rising, the sun will rise. These differences, like that between affirmation and negation, might be glossed over by considering the incident of time as a mere modification of the predicate: thus, The sun is an object having risen, The sun is an object now rising, The sun is an object to rise hereafter. But the simplification would be merely verbal. Past, present, and future, do not constitute so many different kinds of rising; they are designations belonging to the event asserted, to the sun's rising to-day. They affect, not the predicate, but the applicability of the predicate to the particular subject. That which we affirm to be past, present, or future, is not what the subject signifies, nor what the predicate signifies, but specifically and expressly what the predication signifies; what is expressed only by the proposition as such, and not by either or both of the terms. Therefore the circumstance of time is properly considered as attaching to the copula, which is the sign of predication, and not to the predicate. If the same can not be said of such modifications as these, Cæsar may be dead; Cæsar is perhaps dead; it is possible that Cæsar is dead; it is only because these fall altogether under another head, being properly assertions not of any thing relating to the fact itself, but of the state of our own mind in regard to it; namely, our absence of disbelief of it. Thus "Cæsar may be dead" means "I am not sure that Cæsar is alive."
§ 3. The next division of propositions is into Simple and Complex; more aptly (by Professor Bain(26)) termed Compound. A simple proposition is that in which one predicate is affirmed or denied of one subject. A compound proposition is that in which there is more than one predicate, or more than one subject, or both.
At first sight this division has the air of an absurdity; a solemn distinction of things into one and more than one; as if we were to divide horses into single horses and teams of horses. And it is true that what is called a complex (or compound) proposition is often not a proposition at all, but several propositions, held together by a conjunction. Such, for example, is this: Cæsar is dead, and Brutus is alive: or even this, Cæsar is dead, but Brutus is alive. There are here two distinct assertions; and we might as well call a street a complex house, as these two propositions a complex proposition. It is true that the syncategorematic words and and but have a meaning; but that meaning is so far from making the two propositions one, that it adds a third proposition to them. All particles are abbreviations, and generally abbreviations of propositions; a kind of short-hand, whereby something which, to be expressed fully, would have required a proposition or a series of propositions, is suggested to the mind at once. Thus the words, Cæsar is dead and Brutus is alive, are equivalent to these: Cæsar is dead; Brutus is alive; it is desired that the two preceding propositions should be thought of together. If the words were, Cæsar is dead, but Brutus is alive, the sense would be equivalent to the same three propositions together with a fourth; "between the two preceding propositions there exists a contrast:" viz., either between the two facts themselves, or between the feelings with which it is desired that they should be regarded.
In the instances cited the two propositions are kept visibly distinct, each subject having its separate predicate, and each predicate its separate subject. For brevity, however, and to avoid repetition, the propositions are often blended together: as in this, "Peter and James preached at Jerusalem and in Galilee," which contains four propositions: Peter preached at Jerusalem, Peter preached in Galilee, James preached at Jerusalem, James preached in Galilee.
We have seen that when the two or more propositions comprised in what is called a complex proposition are stated absolutely, and not under any condition or proviso, it is not a proposition at all, but a plurality of propositions; since what it expresses is not a single assertion, but several assertions, which, if true when joined, are true also when separated. But there is a kind of proposition which, though it contains a plurality of subjects and of predicates, and may be said in one sense of the word to consist of several propositions, contains but one assertion; and its truth does not at all imply that of the simple propositions which compose it. An example of this is, when the simple propositions are connected by the particle or; as, either A is B or C is D; or by the particle if; as, A is B if C is D. In the former case, the proposition is called disjunctive, in the latter, conditional: the name hypothetical was originally common to both.
As has been well remarked by Archbishop Whately and others, the disjunctive form is resolvable into the conditional; every disjunctive proposition being equivalent to two or more conditional ones. "Either A is B or C is D," means, "if A is not B, C is D; and if C is not D, A is B." All hypothetical propositions, therefore, though disjunctive in form, are conditional in meaning; and the words hypothetical and conditional may be, as indeed they generally are, used synonymously. Propositions in which the assertion is not dependent on a condition, are said, in the language of logicians, to be categorical.
A hypothetical proposition is not, like the pretended complex propositions which we previously considered, a mere aggregation of simple propositions. The simple propositions which form part of the words in which it is couched, form no part of the assertion which it conveys. When we say, If the Koran comes from God, Mohammed is the prophet of God, we do not intend to affirm either that the Koran does come from God, or that Mohammed is really his prophet. Neither of these simple propositions may be true, and yet the truth of the hypothetical proposition may be indisputable. What is asserted is not the truth of either of the propositions, but the inferribility of the one from the other. What, then, is the subject, and what the predicate of the hypothetical proposition? "The Koran" is not the subject of it, nor is "Mohammed:" for nothing is affirmed or denied either of the Koran or of Mohammed. The real subject of the predication is the entire proposition, "Mohammed is the prophet of God;" and the affirmation is, that this is a legitimate inference from the proposition, "The Koran comes from God." The subject and predicate, therefore, of a hypothetical proposition are names of propositions. The subject is some one proposition. The predicate is a general relative name applicable to propositions; of this form--"an inference from so and so." A fresh instance is here afforded of the remark, that particles are abbreviations; since "If A is B, C is D," is found to be an abbreviation of the following: "The proposition C is D, is a legitimate inference from the proposition A is B."
The distinction, therefore, between hypothetical and categorical propositions is not so great as it at first appears. In the conditional, as well as in the categorical form, one predicate is affirmed of one subject, and no more: but a conditional proposition is a proposition concerning a proposition; the subject of the assertion is itself an assertion. Nor is this a property peculiar to hypothetical propositions. There are other classes of assertions concerning propositions. Like other things, a proposition has attributes which may be predicated of it. The attribute predicated of it in a hypothetical proposition, is that of being an inference from a certain other proposition. But this is only one of many attributes that might be predicated. We may say, That the whole is greater than its part, is an axiom in mathematics: That the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father alone, is a tenet of the Greek Church: The doctrine of the divine right of kings was renounced by Parliament at the Revolution: The infallibility of the Pope has no countenance from Scripture. In all these cases the subject of the predication is an entire proposition. That which these different predicates are affirmed of, is the proposition, "the whole is greater than its part;" the proposition, "the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father alone;" the proposition, "kings have a divine right;" the proposition, "the Pope is infallible."
Seeing, then, that there is much less difference between hypothetical propositions and any others, than one might be led to imagine from their form, we should be at a loss to account for the conspicuous position which they have been selected to fill in treatises on logic, if we did not remember that what they predicate of a proposition, namely, its being an inference from something else, is precisely that one of its attributes with which most of all a logician is concerned.
§ 4. The next of the common divisions of Propositions is into Universal, Particular, Indefinite, and Singular: a distinction founded on the degree of generality in which the name, which is the subject of the proposition, is to be understood. The following are examples:
All men are mortal--Universal. Some men are mortal--Particular. Man is mortal--Indefinite. Julius Cæsar is mortal--Singular.
The proposition is Singular, when the subject is an individual name. The individual name needs not be a proper name. "The Founder of Christianity was crucified," is as much a singular proposition as "Christ was crucified."
When the name which is the subject of the proposition is a general name, we may intend to affirm or deny the predicate, either of all the things that the subject denotes, or only of some. When the predicate is affirmed or denied of all and each of the things denoted by the subject, the proposition is universal; when of some undefined portion of them only, it is particular. Thus, All men are mortal; Every man is mortal; are universal propositions. No man is immortal, is also a universal proposition, since the predicate, immortal, is denied of each and every individual denoted by the term man; the negative proposition being exactly equivalent to the following, Every man is not-immortal. But "some men are wise," "some men are not wise," are particular propositions; the predicate wise being in the one case affirmed and in the other denied not of each and every individual denoted by the term man, but only of each and every one of some portion of those individuals, without specifying what portion; for if this were specified, the proposition would be changed either into a singular proposition, or into a universal proposition with a different subject; as, for instance, "all properly instructed men are wise." There are other forms of particular propositions; as, "Most men are imperfectly educated:" it being immaterial how large a portion of the subject the predicate is asserted of, as long as it is left uncertain how that portion is to be distinguished from the rest.(27)
When the form of the expression does not clearly show whether the general name which is the subject of the proposition is meant to stand for all the individuals denoted by it, or only for some of them, the proposition is, by some logicians, called Indefinite; but this, as Archbishop Whately observes, is a solecism, of the same nature as that committed by some grammarians when in their list of genders they enumerate the doubtful gender. The speaker must mean to assert the proposition either as a universal or as a particular proposition, though he has failed to declare which: and it often happens that though the words do not show which of the two he intends, the context, or the custom of speech, supplies the deficiency. Thus, when it is affirmed that "Man is mortal," nobody doubts that the assertion is intended of all human beings; and the word indicative of universality is commonly omitted, only because the meaning is evident without it. In the proposition, "Wine is good," it is understood with equal readiness, though for somewhat different reasons, that the assertion is not intended to be universal, but particular.(28) As is observed by Professor Bain,(29) the chief examples of Indefinite propositions occur "with names of material, which are the subjects sometimes of universal, and at other times of particular predication. 'Food is chemically constituted by carbon, oxygen, etc.,' is a proposition of universal quantity; the meaning is all food--all kinds of food. 'Food is necessary to animal life' is a case of particular quantity; the meaning is some sort of food, not necessarily all sorts. 'Metal is requisite in order to strength' does not mean all kinds of metal. 'Gold will make a way,' means a portion of gold."
When a general name stands for each and every individual which it is a name of, or in other words, which it denotes, it is said by logicians to be distributed, or taken distributively. Thus, in the proposition, All men are mortal, the subject, Man, is distributed, because mortality is affirmed of each and every man. The predicate, Mortal, is not distributed, because the only mortals who are spoken of in the proposition are those who happen to be men; while the word may, for aught that appears, and in fact does, comprehend within it an indefinite number of objects besides men. In the proposition, Some men are mortal, both the predicate and the subject are undistributed. In the following, No men have wings, both the predicate and the subject are distributed. Not only is the attribute of having wings denied of the entire class Man, but that class is severed and cast out from the whole of the class Winged, and not merely from some part of that class.
This phraseology, which is of great service in stating and demonstrating the rules of the syllogism, enables us to express very concisely the definitions of a universal and a particular proposition. A universal proposition is that of which the subject is distributed; a particular proposition is that of which the subject is undistributed.
There are many more distinctions among propositions than those we have here stated, some of them of considerable importance. But, for explaining and illustrating these, more suitable opportunities will occur in the sequel.
Of The Import Of Propositions.
§ 1. An inquiry into the nature of propositions must have one of two objects: to analyze the state of mind called Belief, or to analyze what is believed. All language recognizes a difference between a doctrine or opinion, and the fact of entertaining the opinion; between assent, and what is assented to.
Logic, according to the conception here formed of it, has no concern with the nature of the act of judging or believing; the consideration of that act, as a phenomenon of the mind, belongs to another science. Philosophers, however, from Descartes downward, and especially from the era of Leibnitz and Locke, have by no means observed this distinction; and would have treated with great disrespect any attempt to analyze the import of Propositions, unless founded on an analysis of the act of Judgment. A proposition, they would have said, is but the expression in words of a Judgment. The thing expressed, not the mere verbal expression, is the important matter. When the mind assents to a proposition, it judges. Let us find out what the mind does when it judges, and we shall know what propositions mean, and not otherwise.
Conformably to these views, almost all the writers on Logic in the last two centuries, whether English, German, or French, have made their theory of Propositions, from one end to the other, a theory of Judgments. They considered a Proposition, or a Judgment, for they used the two words indiscriminately, to consist in affirming or denying one idea of another. To judge, was to put two ideas together, or to bring one idea under another, or to compare two ideas, or to perceive the agreement or disagreement between two ideas: and the whole doctrine of Propositions, together with the theory of Reasoning (always necessarily founded on the theory of Propositions), was stated as if Ideas, or Conceptions, or whatever other term the writer preferred as a name for mental representations generally, constituted essentially the subject-matter and substance of those operations.
It is, of course, true, that in any case of judgment, as for instance when we judge that gold is yellow, a process takes place in our minds, of which some one or other of these theories is a partially correct account. We must have the idea of gold and the idea of yellow, and these two ideas must be brought together in our mind. But in the first place, it is evident that this is only a part of what takes place; for we may put two ideas together without any act of belief; as when we merely imagine something, such as a golden mountain; or when we actually disbelieve: for in order even to disbelieve that Mohammed was an apostle of God, we must put the idea of Mohammed and that of an apostle of God together. To determine what it is that happens in the case of assent or dissent besides putting two ideas together, is one of the most intricate of metaphysical problems. But whatever the solution may be, we may venture to assert that it can have nothing whatever to do with the import of propositions; for this reason, that propositions (except sometimes when the mind itself is the subject treated of) are not assertions respecting our ideas of things, but assertions respecting the things themselves. In order to believe that gold is yellow, I must, indeed, have the idea of gold, and the idea of yellow, and something having reference to those ideas must take place in my mind; but my belief has not reference to the ideas, it has reference to the things. What I believe, is a fact relating to the outward thing, gold, and to the impression made by that outward thing upon the human organs; not a fact relating to my conception of gold, which would be a fact in my mental history, not a fact of external nature. It is true, that in order to believe this fact in external nature, another fact must take place in my mind, a process must be performed upon my ideas; but so it must in every thing else that I do. I can not dig the ground unless I have the idea of the ground, and of a spade, and of all the other things I am operating upon, and unless I put those ideas together.(30) But it would be a very ridiculous description of digging the ground to say that it is putting one idea into another. Digging is an operation which is performed upon the things themselves, though it can not be performed unless I have in my mind the ideas of them. And in like manner, believing is an act which has for its subject the facts themselves, though a previous mental conception of the facts is an indispensable condition. When I say that fire causes heat, do I mean that my idea of fire causes my idea of heat? No: I mean that the natural phenomenon, fire, causes the natural phenomenon, heat. When I mean to assert any thing respecting the ideas, I give them their proper name, I call them ideas: as when I say, that a child's idea of a battle is unlike the reality, or that the ideas entertained of the Deity have a great effect on the characters of mankind.
The notion that what is of primary importance to the logician in a proposition, is the relation between the two ideas corresponding to the subject and predicate (instead of the relation between the two phenomena which they respectively express), seems to me one of the most fatal errors ever introduced into the philosophy of Logic; and the principal cause why the theory of the science has made such inconsiderable progress during the last two centuries. The treatises on Logic, and on the branches of Mental Philosophy connected with Logic, which have been produced since the intrusion of this cardinal error, though sometimes written by men of extraordinary abilities and attainments, almost always tacitly imply a theory that the investigation of truth consists in contemplating and handling our ideas, or conceptions of things, instead of the things themselves: a doctrine tantamount to the assertion, that the only mode of acquiring knowledge of nature is to study it at second hand, as represented in our own minds. Meanwhile, inquiries into every kind of natural phenomena were incessantly establishing great and fruitful truths on most important subjects, by processes upon which these views of the nature of Judgment and Reasoning threw no light, and in which they afforded no assistance whatever. No wonder that those who knew by practical experience how truths are arrived at, should deem a science futile, which consisted chiefly of such speculations. What has been done for the advancement of Logic since these doctrines came into vogue, has been done not by professed logicians, but by discoverers in the other sciences; in whose methods of investigation many principles of logic, not previously thought of, have successively come forth into light, but who have generally committed the error of supposing that nothing whatever was known of the art of philosophizing by the old logicians, because their modern interpreters have written to so little purpose respecting it.
We have to inquire, then, on the present occasion, not into Judgment, but judgments; not into the act of believing, but into the thing believed. What is the immediate object of belief in a Proposition? What is the matter of fact signified by it? What is it to which, when I assert the proposition, I give my assent, and call upon others to give theirs? What is that which is expressed by the form of discourse called a Proposition, and the conformity of which to fact constitutes the truth of the proposition?
§ 2. One of the clearest and most consecutive thinkers whom this country or the world has produced, I mean Hobbes, has given the following answer to this question. In every proposition (says he) what is signified is, the belief of the speaker that the predicate is a name of the same thing of which the subject is a name; and if it really is so, the proposition is true. Thus the proposition, All men are living beings (he would say) is true, because living being is a name of every thing of which man is a name. All men are six feet high, is not true, because six feet high is not a name of every thing (though it is of some things) of which man is a name.
What is stated in this theory as the definition of a true proposition, must be allowed to be a property which all true propositions possess. The subject and predicate being both of them names of things, if they were names of quite different things the one name could not, consistently with its signification, be predicated of the other. If it be true that some men are copper-colored, it must be true--and the proposition does really assert--that among the individuals denoted by the name man, there are some who are also among those denoted by the name copper-colored. If it be true that all oxen ruminate, it must be true that all the individuals denoted by the name ox are also among those denoted by the name ruminating; and whoever asserts that all oxen ruminate, undoubtedly does assert that this relation subsists between the two names.
The assertion, therefore, which, according to Hobbes, is the only one made in any proposition, really is made in every proposition: and his analysis has consequently one of the requisites for being the true one. We may go a step further; it is the only analysis that is rigorously true of all propositions without exception. What he gives as the meaning of propositions, is part of the meaning of all propositions, and the whole meaning of some. This, however, only shows what an extremely minute fragment of meaning it is quite possible to include within the logical formula of a proposition. It does not show that no proposition means more. To warrant us in putting together two words with a copula between them, it is really enough that the thing or things denoted by one of the names should be capable, without violation of usage, of being called by the other name also. If, then, this be all the meaning necessarily implied in the form of discourse called a Proposition, why do I object to it as the scientific definition of what a proposition means? Because, though the mere collocation which makes the proposition a proposition, conveys no more than this scanty amount of meaning, that same collocation combined with other circumstances, that form combined with other matter, does convey more, and the proposition in those other circumstances does assert more, than merely that relation between the two names.
The only propositions of which Hobbes's principle is a sufficient account, are that limited and unimportant class in which both the predicate and the subject are proper names. For, as has already been remarked, proper names have strictly no meaning; they are mere marks for individual objects: and when a proper name is predicated of another proper name, all the signification conveyed is, that both the names are marks for the same object. But this is precisely what Hobbes produces as a theory of predication in general. His doctrine is a full explanation of such predications as these: Hyde was Clarendon, or, Tully is Cicero. It exhausts the meaning of those propositions. But it is a sadly inadequate theory of any others. That it should ever have been thought of as such, can be accounted for only by the fact, that Hobbes, in common with the other Nominalists, bestowed little or no attention upon the connotation of words; and sought for their meaning exclusively in what they denote: as if all names had been (what none but proper names really are) marks put upon individuals; and as if there were no difference between a proper and a general name, except that the first denotes only one individual, and the last a greater number.
It has been seen, however, that the meaning of all names, except proper names and that portion of the class of abstract names which are not connotative, resides in the connotation. When, therefore, we are analyzing the meaning of any proposition in which the predicate and the subject, or either of them, are connotative names, it is to the connotation of those terms that we must exclusively look, and not to what they denote, or in the language of Hobbes (language so far correct) are names of.
In asserting that the truth of a proposition depends on the conformity of import between its terms, as, for instance, that the proposition, Socrates is wise, is a true proposition, because Socrates and wise are names applicable to, or, as he expresses it, names of, the same person; it is very remarkable that so powerful a thinker should not have asked himself the question, But how came they to be names of the same person? Surely not because such was the intention of those who invented the words. When mankind fixed the meaning of the word wise, they were not thinking of Socrates, nor, when his parents gave him the name of Socrates, were they thinking of wisdom. The names happen to fit the same person because of a certain fact, which fact was not known, nor in being, when the names were invented. If we want to know what the fact is, we shall find the clue to it in the connotation of the names.
A bird or a stone, a man, or a wise man, means simply, an object having such and such attributes. The real meaning of the word man, is those attributes, and not Smith, Brown, and the remainder of the individuals. The word mortal, in like manner connotes a certain attribute or attributes; and when we say, All men are mortal, the meaning of the proposition is, that all beings which possess the one set of attributes, possess also the other. If, in our experience, the attributes connoted by man are always accompanied by the attribute connoted by mortal, it will follow as a consequence, that the class man will be wholly included in the class mortal, and that mortal will be a name of all things of which man is a name: but why? Those objects are brought under the name, by possessing the attributes connoted by it: but their possession of the attributes is the real condition on which the truth of the proposition depends; not their being called by the name. Connotative names do not precede, but follow, the attributes which they connote. If one attribute happens to be always found in conjunction with another attribute, the concrete names which answer to those attributes will of course be predicable of the same subjects, and may be said, in Hobbes's language (in the propriety of which on this occasion I fully concur), to be two names for the same things. But the possibility of a concurrent application of the two names, is a mere consequence of the conjunction between the two attributes, and was, in most cases, never thought of when the names were introduced and their signification fixed. That the diamond is combustible, was a proposition certainly not dreamed of when the words Diamond and Combustible first received their meaning; and could not have been discovered by the most ingenious and refined analysis of the signification of those words. It was found out by a very different process, namely, by exerting the senses, and learning from them, that the attribute of combustibility existed in the diamonds upon which the experiment was tried; the number or character of the experiments being such, that what was true of those individuals might be concluded to be true of all substances "called by the name," that is, of all substances possessing the attributes which the name connotes. The assertion, therefore, when analyzed, is, that wherever we find certain attributes, there will be found a certain other attribute: which is not a question of the signification of names, but of laws of nature; the order existing among phenomena.
§ 3. Although Hobbes's theory of Predication has not, in the terms in which he stated it, met with a very favorable reception from subsequent thinkers, a theory virtually identical with it, and not by any means so perspicuously expressed, may almost be said to have taken the rank of an established opinion. The most generally received notion of Predication decidedly is that it consists in referring something to a class, i.e., either placing an individual under a class, or placing one class under another class. Thus, the proposition, Man is mortal, asserts, according to this view of it, that the class man is included in the class mortal. "Plato is a philosopher," asserts that the individual Plato is one of those who compose the class philosopher. If the proposition is negative, then instead of placing something in a class, it is said to exclude something from a class. Thus, if the following be the proposition, The elephant is not carnivorous; what is asserted (according to this theory) is, that the elephant is excluded from the class carnivorous, or is not numbered among the things comprising that class. There is no real difference, except in language, between this theory of Predication and the theory of Hobbes. For a class is absolutely nothing but an indefinite number of individuals denoted by a general name. The name given to them in common, is what makes them a class. To refer any thing to a class, therefore, is to look upon it as one of the things which are to be called by that common name. To exclude it from a class, is to say that the common name is not applicable to it.
How widely these views of predication have prevailed, is evident from this, that they are the basis of the celebrated dictum de omni et nullo. When the syllogism is resolved, by all who treat of it, into an inference that what is true of a class is true of all things whatever that belong to the class; and when this is laid down by almost all professed logicians as the ultimate principle to which all reasoning owes its validity; it is clear that in the general estimation of logicians, the propositions of which reasonings are composed can be the expression of nothing but the process of dividing things into classes, and referring every thing to its proper class.
This theory appears to me a signal example of a logical error very often committed in logic, that of ὕστερον προτέρον, or explaining a thing by something which presupposes it. When I say that snow is white, I may and ought to be thinking of snow as a class, because I am asserting a proposition as true of all snow: but I am certainly not thinking of white objects as a class; I am thinking of no white object whatever except snow, but only of that, and of the sensation of white which it gives me. When, indeed, I have judged, or assented to the propositions, that snow is white, and that several other things are also white, I gradually begin to think of white objects as a class, including snow and those other things. But this is a conception which followed, not preceded, those judgments, and therefore can not be given as an explanation of them. Instead of explaining the effect by the cause, this doctrine explains the cause by the effect, and is, I conceive, founded on a latent misconception of the nature of classification.
There is a sort of language very generally prevalent in these discussions, which seems to suppose that classification is an arrangement and grouping of definite and known individuals: that when names were imposed, mankind took into consideration all the individual objects in the universe, distributed them into parcels or lists, and gave to the objects of each list a common name, repeating this operation toties quoties until they had invented all the general names of which language consists; which having been once done, if a question subsequently arises whether a certain general name can be truly predicated of a certain particular object, we have only (as it were) to read the roll of the objects upon which that name was conferred, and see whether the object about which the question arises is to be found among them. The framers of language (it would seem to be supposed) have predetermined all the objects that are to compose each class, and we have only to refer to the record of an antecedent decision.
So absurd a doctrine will be owned by nobody when thus nakedly stated; but if the commonly received explanations of classification and naming do not imply this theory, it requires to be shown how they admit of being reconciled with any other.
General names are not marks put upon definite objects; classes are not made by drawing a line round a given number of assignable individuals. The objects which compose any given class are perpetually fluctuating. We may frame a class without knowing the individuals, or even any of the individuals, of which it may be composed; we may do so while believing that no such individuals exist. If by the meaning of a general name are to be understood the things which it is the name of, no general name, except by accident, has a fixed meaning at all, or ever long retains the same meaning. The only mode in which any general name has a definite meaning, is by being a name of an indefinite variety of things; namely, of all things, known or unknown, past, present, or future, which possess certain definite attributes. When, by studying not the meaning of words, but the phenomena of nature, we discover that these attributes are possessed by some object not previously known to possess them (as when chemists found that the diamond was combustible), we include this new object in the class; but it did not already belong to the class. We place the individual in the class because the proposition is true; the proposition is not true because the object is placed in the class.(31)
It will appear hereafter, in treating of reasoning, how much the theory of that intellectual process has been vitiated by the influence of these erroneous notions, and by the habit which they exemplify of assimilating all the operations of the human understanding which have truth for their object, to processes of mere classification and naming. Unfortunately, the minds which have been entangled in this net are precisely those which have escaped the other cardinal error commented upon in the beginning of the present chapter. Since the revolution which dislodged Aristotle from the schools, logicians may almost be divided into those who have looked upon reasoning as essentially an affair of Ideas, and those who have looked upon it as essentially an affair of Names.
Although, however, Hobbes's theory of Predication, according to the well-known remark of Leibnitz, and the avowal of Hobbes himself,(32) renders truth and falsity completely arbitrary, with no standard but the will of men, it must not be concluded that either Hobbes, or any of the other thinkers who have in the main agreed with him, did in fact consider the distinction between truth and error as less real, or attached less importance to it, than other people. To suppose that they did so would argue total unacquaintance with their other speculations. But this shows how little hold their doctrine possessed over their own minds. No person, at bottom, ever imagined that there was nothing more in truth than propriety of expression; than using language in conformity to a previous convention. When the inquiry was brought down from generals to a particular case, it has always been acknowledged that there is a distinction between verbal and real questions; that some false propositions are uttered from ignorance of the meaning of words, but that in others the source of the error is a misapprehension of things; that a person who has not the use of language at all may form propositions mentally, and that they may be untrue--that is, he may believe as matters of fact what are not really so. This last admission can not be made in stronger terms than it is by Hobbes himself,(33) though he will not allow such erroneous belief to be called falsity, but only error. And he has himself laid down, in other places, doctrines in which the true theory of predication is by implication contained. He distinctly says that general names are given to things on account of their attributes, and that abstract names are the names of those attributes. "Abstract is that which in any subject denotes the cause of the concrete name.... And these causes of names are the same with the causes of our conceptions, namely, some power of action, or affection, of the thing conceived, which some call the manner by which any thing works upon our senses, but by most men they are called accidents."(34) It is strange that having gone so far, he should not have gone one step further, and seen that what he calls the cause of the concrete name, is in reality the meaning of it; and that when we predicate of any subject a name which is given because of an attribute (or, as he calls it, an accident), our object is not to affirm the name, but, by means of the name, to affirm the attribute.
§ 4. Let the predicate be, as we have said, a connotative term; and to take the simplest case first, let the subject be a proper name: "The summit of Chimborazo is white." The word white connotes an attribute which is possessed by the individual object designated by the words "summit of Chimborazo;" which attribute consists in the physical fact, of its exciting in human beings the sensation which we call a sensation of white. It will be admitted that, by asserting the proposition, we wish to communicate information of that physical fact, and are not thinking of the names, except as the necessary means of making that communication. The meaning of the proposition, therefore, is, that the individual thing denoted by the subject, has the attributes connoted by the predicate.
If we now suppose the subject also to be a connotative name, the meaning expressed by the proposition has advanced a step further in complication. Let us first suppose the proposition to be universal, as well as affirmative: "All men are mortal." In this case, as in the last, what the proposition asserts (or expresses a belief of) is, of course, that the objects denoted by the subject (man) possess the attributes connoted by the predicate (mortal). But the characteristic of this case is, that the objects are no longer individually designated. They are pointed out only by some of their attributes: they are the objects called men, that is, possessing the attributes connoted by the name man; and the only thing known of them may be those attributes: indeed, as the proposition is general, and the objects denoted by the subject are therefore indefinite in number, most of them are not known individually at all. The assertion, therefore, is not, as before, that the attributes which the predicate connotes are possessed by any given individual, or by any number of individuals previously known as John, Thomas, etc., but that those attributes are possessed by each and every individual possessing certain other attributes; that whatever has the attributes connoted by the subject, has also those connoted by the predicate; that the latter set of attributes constantly accompany the former set. Whatever has the attributes of man has the attribute of mortality; mortality constantly accompanies the attributes of man.(35)
If it be remembered that every attribute is grounded on some fact or phenomenon, either of outward sense or of inward consciousness, and that to possess an attribute is another phrase for being the cause of, or forming part of, the fact or phenomenon upon which the attribute is grounded; we may add one more step to complete the analysis. The proposition which asserts that one attribute always accompanies another attribute, really asserts thereby no other thing than this, that one phenomenon always accompanies another phenomenon; insomuch that where we find the latter, we have assurance of the existence of the former. Thus, in the proposition, All men are mortal, the word man connotes the attributes which we ascribe to a certain kind of living creatures, on the ground of certain phenomena which they exhibit, and which are partly physical phenomena, namely the impressions made on our senses by their bodily form and structure, and partly mental phenomena, namely the sentient and intellectual life which they have of their own. All this is understood when we utter the word man, by any one to whom the meaning of the word is known. Now, when we say, Man is mortal, we mean that wherever these various physical and mental phenomena are all found, there we have assurance that the other physical and mental phenomenon, called death, will not fail to take place. The proposition does not affirm when; for the connotation of the word mortal goes no further than to the occurrence of the phenomenon at some time or other, leaving the particular time undecided.
§ 5. We have already proceeded far enough, not only to demonstrate the error of Hobbes, but to ascertain the real import of by far the most numerous class of propositions. The object of belief in a proposition, when it asserts any thing more than the meaning of words, is generally, as in the cases which we have examined, either the co-existence or the sequence of two phenomena. At the very commencement of our inquiry, we found that every act of belief implied two Things: we have now ascertained what, in the most frequent case, these two things are, namely, two Phenomena; in other words, two states of consciousness; and what it is which the proposition affirms (or denies) to subsist between them, namely, either succession or co-existence. And this case includes innumerable instances which no one, previous to reflection, would think of referring to it. Take the following example: A generous person is worthy of honor. Who would expect to recognize here a case of co-existence between phenomena? But so it is. The attribute which causes a person to be termed generous, is ascribed to him on the ground of states of his mind, and particulars of his conduct: both are phenomena: the former are facts of internal consciousness; the latter, so far as distinct from the former, are physical facts, or perceptions of the senses. Worthy of honor admits of a similar analysis. Honor, as here used, means a state of approving and admiring emotion, followed on occasion by corresponding outward acts. "Worthy of honor" connotes all this, together with our approval of the act of showing honor. All these are phenomena; states of internal consciousness, accompanied or followed by physical facts. When we say, A generous person is worthy of honor, we affirm co-existence between the two complicated phenomena connoted by the two terms respectively. We affirm, that wherever and whenever the inward feelings and outward facts implied in the word generosity have place, then and there the existence and manifestation of an inward feeling, honor, would be followed in our minds by another inward feeling, approval.
After the analysis, in a former chapter, of the import of names, many examples are not needed to illustrate the import of propositions. When there is any obscurity, or difficulty, it does not lie in the meaning of the proposition, but in the meaning of the names which compose it; in the extremely complicated connotation of many words; the immense multitude and prolonged series of facts which often constitute the phenomenon connoted by a name. But where it is seen what the phenomenon is, there is seldom any difficulty in seeing that the assertion conveyed by the proposition is, the co-existence of one such phenomenon with another; or the succession of one such phenomenon to another: so that where the one is found, we may calculate on finding the other, though perhaps not conversely.
This, however, though the most common, is not the only meaning which propositions are ever intended to convey. In the first place, sequences and co-existences are not only asserted respecting Phenomena; we make propositions also respecting those hidden causes of phenomena, which are named substances and attributes. A substance, however, being to us nothing but either that which causes, or that which is conscious of, phenomena; and the same being true, mutatis mutandis, of attributes; no assertion can be made, at least with a meaning, concerning these unknown and unknowable entities, except in virtue of the Phenomena by which alone they manifest themselves to our faculties. When we say Socrates was contemporary with the Peloponnesian war, the foundation of this assertion, as of all assertions concerning substances, is an assertion concerning the phenomena which they exhibit--namely, that the series of facts by which Socrates manifested himself to mankind, and the series of mental states which constituted his sentient existence, went on simultaneously with the series of facts known by the name of the Peloponnesian war. Still, the proposition as commonly understood does not assert that alone; it asserts that the Thing in itself, the noumenon Socrates, was existing, and doing or experiencing those various facts during the same time. Co-existence and sequence, therefore, may be affirmed or denied not only between phenomena, but between noumena, or between a noumenon and phenomena. And both of noumena and of phenomena we may affirm simple existence. But what is a noumenon? An unknown cause. In affirming, therefore, the existence of a noumenon, we affirm causation. Here, therefore, are two additional kinds of fact, capable of being asserted in a proposition. Besides the propositions which assert Sequence or Co-existence, there are some which assert simple Existence;(36) and others assert Causation, which, subject to the explanations which will follow in the Third Book, must be considered provisionally as a distinct and peculiar kind of assertion.
§ 6. To these four kinds of matter-of-fact or assertion, must be added a fifth, Resemblance. This was a species of attribute which we found it impossible to analyze; for which no fundamentum, distinct from the objects themselves, could be assigned. Besides propositions which assert a sequence or co-existence between two phenomena, there are therefore also propositions which assert resemblance between them; as, This color is like that color; The heat of to-day is equal to the heat of yesterday. It is true that such an assertion might with some plausibility be brought within the description of an affirmation of sequence, by considering it as an assertion that the simultaneous contemplation of the two colors is followed by a specific feeling termed the feeling of resemblance. But there would be nothing gained by incumbering ourselves, especially in this place, with a generalization which may be looked upon as strained. Logic does not undertake to analyze mental facts into their ultimate elements. Resemblance between two phenomena is more intelligible in itself than any explanation could make it, and under any classification must remain specifically distinct from the ordinary cases of sequence and co-existence.
It is sometimes said, that all propositions whatever, of which the predicate is a general name, do, in point of fact, affirm or deny resemblance. All such propositions affirm that a thing belongs to a class; but things being classed together according to their resemblance, every thing is of course classed with the things which it is supposed to resemble most; and thence, it may be said, when we affirm that Gold is a metal, or that Socrates is a man, the affirmation intended is, that gold resembles other metals, and Socrates other men, more nearly than they resemble the objects contained in any other of the classes co-ordinate with these.
There is some slight degree of foundation for this remark, but no more than a slight degree. The arrangement of things into classes, such as the class metal, or the class man, is grounded indeed on a resemblance among the things which are placed in the same class, but not on a mere general resemblance: the resemblance it is grounded on consists in the possession by all those things, of certain common peculiarities; and those peculiarities it is which the terms connote, and which the propositions consequently assert; not the resemblance. For though when I say, Gold is a metal, I say by implication that if there be any other metals it must resemble them, yet if there were no other metals I might still assert the proposition with the same meaning as at present, namely, that gold has the various properties implied in the word metal; just as it might be said, Christians are men, even if there were no men who were not Christians. Propositions, therefore, in which objects are referred to a class because they possess the attributes constituting the class, are so far from asserting nothing but resemblance, that they do not, properly speaking, assert resemblance at all.
But we remarked some time ago (and the reasons of the remark will be more fully entered into in a subsequent Book(37)) that there is sometimes a convenience in extending the boundaries of a class so as to include things which possess in a very inferior degree, if in any, some of the characteristic properties of the class--provided they resemble that class more than any other, insomuch that the general propositions which are true of the class, will be nearer to being true of those things than any other equally general propositions. For instance, there are substances called metals which have very few of the properties by which metals are commonly recognized; and almost every great family of plants or animals has a few anomalous genera or species on its borders, which are admitted into it by a sort of courtesy, and concerning which it has been matter of discussion to what family they properly belonged. Now when the class-name is predicated of any object of this description, we do, by so predicating it, affirm resemblance and nothing more. And in order to be scrupulously correct it ought to be said, that in every case in which we predicate a general name, we affirm, not absolutely that the object possesses the properties designated by the name, but that it either possesses those properties, or if it does not, at any rate resembles the things which do so, more than it resembles any other things. In most cases, however, it is unnecessary to suppose any such alternative, the latter of the two grounds being very seldom that on which the assertion is made: and when it is, there is generally some slight difference in the form of the expression, as, This species (or genus) is considered, or may be ranked, as belonging to such and such a family: we should hardly say positively that it does belong to it, unless it possessed unequivocally the properties of which the class-name is scientifically significant.
There is still another exceptional case, in which, though the predicate is the name of a class, yet in predicating it we affirm nothing but resemblance, the class being founded not on resemblance in any given particular, but on general unanalyzable resemblance. The classes in question are those into which our simple sensations, or other simple feelings, are divided. Sensations of white, for instance, are classed together, not because we can take them to pieces, and say they are alike in this, and not alike in that, but because we feel them to be alike altogether, though in different degrees. When, therefore, I say, The color I saw yesterday was a white color, or, The sensation I feel is one of tightness, in both cases the attribute I affirm of the color or of the other sensation is mere resemblance--simple likeness to sensations which I have had before, and which have had those names bestowed upon them. The names of feelings, like other concrete general names, are connotative; but they connote a mere resemblance. When predicated of any individual feeling, the information they convey is that of its likeness to the other feelings which we have been accustomed to call by the same name. Thus much may suffice in illustration of the kind of propositions in which the matter-of-fact asserted (or denied) is simple Resemblance.
Existence, Co-existence, Sequence, Causation, Resemblance: one or other of these is asserted (or denied) in every proposition which is not merely verbal. This five-fold division is an exhaustive classification of matters-of-fact; of all things that can be believed, or tendered for belief; of all questions that can be propounded, and all answers that can be returned to them.
Professor Bain(38) distinguishes two kinds of Propositions of Co-existence. "In the one kind, account is taken of Place; they may be described as propositions of Order in Place." In the other kind, the co-existence which is predicated is termed by Mr. Bain Co-inherence of Attributes. "This is a distinct variety of Propositions of Co-existence. Instead of an arrangement in place with numerical intervals, we have the concurrence of two or more attributes or powers in the same part or locality. A mass of gold contains, in every atom, the concurring attributes that mark the substance--weight, hardness, color, lustre, incorrosibility, etc. An animal, besides having parts situated in place, has co-inhering functions in the same parts, exerted by the very same masses and molecules of its substance.... The Mind, which affords no Propositions of Order in Place, has co-inhering functions. We affirm mind to contain Feeling, Will, and Thought, not in local separation, but in commingling exercise. The concurring properties of minerals, of plants, and of the bodily and the mental structure of animals, are united in affirmations of co-inherence."
The distinction is real and important. But, as has been seen, an Attribute, when it is any thing but a simple unanalyzable Resemblance between the subject and some other things, consists in causing impressions of some sort on consciousness. Consequently, the co-inherence of two attributes is but the co-existence of the two states of consciousness implied in their meaning: with the difference, however, that this co-existence is sometimes potential only, the attribute being considered as in existence, though the fact on which it is grounded may not be actually, but only potentially present. Snow, for instance, is, with great convenience, said to be white even in a state of total darkness, because, though we are not now conscious of the color, we shall be conscious of it as soon as morning breaks. Co-inherence of attributes is therefore still a case, though a complex one, of co-existence of states of consciousness; a totally different thing, however, from Order in Place. Being a part of simultaneity, it belongs not to Place but to Time.
We may therefore (and we shall sometimes find it a convenience) instead of Co-existence and Sequence, say, for greater particularity, Order in Place and Order in Time: Order in Place being a specific mode of co-existence, not necessary to be more particularly analyzed here; while the mere fact of co-existence, whether between actual sensations, or between the potentialities of causing them, known by the name of attributes, may be classed, together with Sequence, under the head of Order in Time.
§ 7. In the foregoing inquiry into the import of propositions, we have thought it necessary to analyze directly those alone, in which the terms of the proposition (or the predicate at least) are concrete terms. But, in doing so, we have indirectly analyzed those in which the terms are abstract. The distinction between an abstract term and its corresponding concrete, does not turn upon any difference in what they are appointed to signify; for the real signification of a concrete general name is, as we have so often said, its connotation; and what the concrete term connotes, forms the entire meaning of the abstract name. Since there is nothing in the import of an abstract name which is not in the import of the corresponding concrete, it is natural to suppose that neither can there be any thing in the import of a proposition of which the terms are abstract, but what there is in some proposition which can be framed of concrete terms.
And this presumption a closer examination will confirm. An abstract name is the name of an attribute, or combination of attributes. The corresponding concrete is a name given to things, because of, and in order to express, their possessing that attribute, or that combination of attributes. When, therefore, we predicate of any thing a concrete name, the attribute is what we in reality predicate of it. But it has now been shown that in all propositions of which the predicate is a concrete name, what is really predicated is one of five things: Existence, Co-existence, Causation, Sequence, or Resemblance. An attribute, therefore, is necessarily either an existence, a co-existence, a causation, a sequence, or a resemblance. When a proposition consists of a subject and predicate which are abstract terms, it consists of terms which must necessarily signify one or other of these things. When we predicate of any thing an abstract name, we affirm of the thing that it is one or other of these five things; that it is a case of Existence, or of Co-existence, or of Causation, or of Sequence, or of Resemblance.
It is impossible to imagine any proposition expressed in abstract terms, which can not be transformed into a precisely equivalent proposition in which the terms are concrete; namely, either the concrete names which connote the attributes themselves, or the names of the fundamenta of those attributes; the facts or phenomena on which they are grounded. To illustrate the latter case, let us take this proposition, of which the subject only is an abstract name, "Thoughtlessness is dangerous." Thoughtlessness is an attribute, grounded on the facts which we call thoughtless actions; and the proposition is equivalent to this, Thoughtless actions are dangerous. In the next example the predicate as well as the subject are abstract names: "Whiteness is a color;" or "The color of snow is a whiteness." These attributes being grounded on sensations, the equivalent propositions in the concrete would be, The sensation of white is one of the sensations called those of color--The sensation of sight, caused by looking at snow, is one of the sensations called sensations of white. In these propositions, as we have before seen, the matter-of-fact asserted is a Resemblance. In the following examples, the concrete terms are those which directly correspond to the abstract names; connoting the attribute which these denote. "Prudence is a virtue:" this may be rendered, "All prudent persons, in so far as prudent, are virtuous:" "Courage is deserving of honor;" thus, "All courageous persons are deserving of honor in so far as they are courageous:" which is equivalent to this--"All courageous persons deserve an addition to the honor, or a diminution of the disgrace, which would attach to them on other grounds."
In order to throw still further light upon the import of propositions of which the terms are abstract, we will subject one of the examples given above to a minuter analysis. The proposition we shall select is the following: "Prudence is a virtue." Let us substitute for the word virtue an equivalent but more definite expression, such as "a mental quality beneficial to society," or "a mental quality pleasing to God," or whatever else we adopt as the definition of virtue. What the proposition asserts is a sequence, accompanied with causation; namely, that benefit to society, or that the approval of God, is consequent on, and caused by, prudence. Here is a sequence; but between what? We understand the consequent of the sequence, but we have yet to analyze the antecedent. Prudence is an attribute; and, in connection with it, two things besides itself are to be considered; prudent persons, who are the subjects of the attribute, and prudential conduct, which may be called the foundation of it. Now is either of these the antecedent? and, first, is it meant, that the approval of God, or benefit to society, is attendant upon all prudent persons? No; except in so far as they are prudent; for prudent persons who are scoundrels can seldom, on the whole, be beneficial to society, nor can they be acceptable to a good being. Is it upon prudential conduct, then, that divine approbation and benefit to mankind are supposed to be invariably consequent? Neither is this the assertion meant, when it is said that prudence is a virtue; except with the same reservation as before, and for the same reason, namely, that prudential conduct, although in so far as it is prudential it is beneficial to society, may yet, by reason of some other of its qualities, be productive of an injury outweighing the benefit, and deserve a displeasure exceeding the approbation which would be due to the prudence. Neither the substance, therefore (viz., the person), nor the phenomenon (the conduct), is an antecedent on which the other term of the sequence is universally consequent. But the proposition, "Prudence is a virtue," is a universal proposition. What is it, then, upon which the proposition affirms the effects in question to be universally consequent? Upon that in the person, and in the conduct, which causes them to be called prudent, and which is equally in them when the action, though prudent, is wicked; namely, a correct foresight of consequences, a just estimation of their importance to the object in view, and repression of any unreflecting impulse at variance with the deliberate purpose. These, which are states of the person's mind, are the real antecedent in the sequence, the real cause in the causation, asserted by the proposition. But these are also the real ground, or foundation, of the attribute Prudence; since wherever these states of mind exist we may predicate prudence, even before we know whether any conduct has followed. And in this manner every assertion respecting an attribute, may be transformed into an assertion exactly equivalent respecting the fact or phenomenon which is the ground of the attribute. And no case can be assigned, where that which is predicated of the fact or phenomenon, does not belong to one or other of the five species formerly enumerated: it is either simple Existence, or it is some Sequence, Co-existence, Causation, or Resemblance.
And as these five are the only things which can be affirmed, so are they the only things which can be denied. "No horses are web-footed" denies that the attributes of a horse ever co-exist with web-feet. It is scarcely necessary to apply the same analysis to Particular affirmations and negations. "Some birds are web-footed," affirms that, with the attributes connoted by bird, the phenomenon web-feet is sometimes co-existent: "Some birds are not web-footed," asserts that there are other instances in which this co-existence does not have place. Any further explanation of a thing which, if the previous exposition has been assented to, is so obvious, may here be spared.
Of Propositions Merely Verbal.
§ 1. As a preparation for the inquiry which is the proper object of Logic, namely, in what manner propositions are to be proved, we have found it necessary to inquire what they contain which requires, or is susceptible of, proof; or (which is the same thing) what they assert. In the course of this preliminary investigation into the import of Propositions, we examined the opinion of the Conceptualists, that a proposition is the expression of a relation between two ideas; and the doctrine of the extreme Nominalists, that it is the expression of an agreement or disagreement between the meanings of two names. We decided that, as general theories, both of these are erroneous; and that, though propositions may be made both respecting names and respecting ideas, neither the one nor the other are the subject-matter of Propositions considered generally. We then examined the different kinds of Propositions, and found that, with the exception of those which are merely verbal, they assert five different kinds of matters of fact, namely, Existence, Order in Place, Order in Time, Causation, and Resemblance; that in every proposition one of these five is either affirmed, or denied, of some fact or phenomenon, or of some object the unknown source of a fact or phenomenon.
In distinguishing, however, the different kinds of matters of fact asserted in propositions, we reserved one class of propositions, which do not relate to any matter of fact, in the proper sense of the term at all, but to the meaning of names. Since names and their signification are entirely arbitrary, such propositions are not, strictly speaking, susceptible of truth or falsity, but only of conformity or disconformity to usage or convention; and all the proof they are capable of, is proof of usage; proof that the words have been employed by others in the acceptation in which the speaker or writer desires to use them. These propositions occupy, however, a conspicuous place in philosophy; and their nature and characteristics are of as much importance in logic, as those of any of the other classes of propositions previously adverted to.
If all propositions respecting the signification of words were as simple and unimportant as those which served us for examples when examining Hobbes's theory of predication, viz., those of which the subject and predicate are proper names, and which assert only that those names have, or that they have not, been conventionally assigned to the same individual, there would be little to attract to such propositions the attention of philosophers. But the class of merely verbal propositions embraces not only much more than these, but much more than any propositions which at first sight present themselves as verbal; comprehending a kind of assertions which have been regarded not only as relating to things, but as having actually a more intimate relation with them than any other propositions whatever. The student in philosophy will perceive that I allude to the distinction on which so much stress was laid by the schoolmen, and which has been retained either under the same or under other names by most metaphysicians to the present day, viz., between what were called essential, and what were called accidental, propositions, and between essential and accidental properties or attributes.
§ 2. Almost all metaphysicians prior to Locke, as well as many since his time, have made a great mystery of Essential Predication, and of predicates which are said to be of the essence of the subject. The essence of a thing, they said, was that without which the thing could neither be, nor be conceived to be. Thus, rationality was of the essence of man, because without rationality, man could not be conceived to exist. The different attributes which made up the essence of the thing were called its essential properties; and a proposition in which any of these were predicated of it was called an Essential Proposition, and was considered to go deeper into the nature of the thing, and to convey more important information respecting it, than any other proposition could do. All properties, not of the essence of the thing, were called its accidents; were supposed to have nothing at all, or nothing comparatively, to do with its inmost nature; and the propositions in which any of these were predicated of it were called Accidental Propositions. A connection may be traced between this distinction, which originated with the schoolmen, and the well-known dogmas of substantiæ secundæ or general substances, and substantial forms, doctrines which under varieties of language pervaded alike the Aristotelian and the Platonic schools, and of which more of the spirit has come down to modern times than might be conjectured from the disuse of the phraseology. The false views of the nature of classification and generalization which prevailed among the schoolmen, and of which these dogmas were the technical expression, afford the only explanation which can be given of their having misunderstood the real nature of those Essences which held so conspicuous a place in their philosophy. They said, truly, that man can not be conceived without rationality. But though man can not, a being may be conceived exactly like a man in all points except that one quality, and those others which are the conditions or consequences of it. All, therefore, which is really true in the assertion that man can not be conceived without rationality, is only, that if he had not rationality, he would not be reputed a man. There is no impossibility in conceiving the thing, nor, for aught we know, in its existing: the impossibility is in the conventions of language, which will not allow the thing, even if it exist, to be called by the name which is reserved for rational beings. Rationality, in short, is involved in the meaning of the word man: is one of the attributes connoted by the name. The essence of man, simply means the whole of the attributes connoted by the word; and any one of those attributes taken singly, is an essential property of man.
But these reflections, so easy to us, would have been difficult to persons who thought, as most of the later Aristotelians did, that objects were made what they were called, that gold (for instance) was made gold, not by the possession of certain properties to which mankind have chosen to attach that name, but by participation in the nature of a general substance, called gold in general, which substance, together with all the properties that belonged to it, inhered in every individual piece of gold.(39) As they did not consider these universal substances to be attached to all general names, but only to some, they thought that an object borrowed only a part of its properties from a universal substance, and that the rest belonged to it individually: the former they called its essence, and the latter its accidents. The scholastic doctrine of essences long survived the theory on which it rested, that of the existence of real entities corresponding to general terms; and it was reserved for Locke, at the end of the seventeenth century, to convince philosophers that the supposed essences of classes were merely the signification of their names; nor, among the signal services which his writings rendered to philosophy, was there one more needful or more valuable.
Now, as the most familiar of the general names by which an object is designated usually connotes not one only, but several attributes of the object, each of which attributes separately forms also the bond of union of some class, and the meaning of some general name; we may predicate of a name which connotes a variety of attributes, another name which connotes only one of these attributes, or some smaller number of them than all. In such cases, the universal affirmative proposition will be true; since whatever possesses the whole of any set of attributes, must possess any part of that same set. A proposition of this sort, however, conveys no information to any one who previously understood the whole meaning of the terms. The propositions, Every man is a corporeal being, Every man is a living creature, Every man is rational, convey no knowledge to any one who was already aware of the entire meaning of the word man, for the meaning of the word includes all this: and that every man has the attributes connoted by all these predicates, is already asserted when he is called a man. Now, of this nature are all the propositions which have been called essential. They are, in fact, identical propositions.
It is true that a proposition which predicates any attribute, even though it be one implied in the name, is in most cases understood to involve a tacit assertion that there exists a thing corresponding to the name, and possessing the attributes connoted by it; and this implied assertion may convey information, even to those who understood the meaning of the name. But all information of this sort, conveyed by all the essential propositions of which man can be made the subject, is included in the assertion, Men exist. And this assumption of real existence is, after all, the result of an imperfection of language. It arises from the ambiguity of the copula, which, in addition to its proper office of a mark to show that an assertion is made, is also, as formerly remarked, a concrete word connoting existence. The actual existence of the subject of the proposition is therefore only apparently, not really, implied in the predication, if an essential one: we may say, A ghost is a disembodied spirit, without believing in ghosts. But an accidental, or non-essential, affirmation, does imply the real existence of the subject, because in the case of a non-existent subject there is nothing for the proposition to assert. Such a proposition as, The ghost of a murdered person haunts the couch of the murderer, can only have a meaning if understood as implying a belief in ghosts; for since the signification of the word ghost implies nothing of the kind, the speaker either means nothing, or means to assert a thing which he wishes to be believed to have really taken place.
It will be hereafter seen that when any important consequences seem to follow, as in mathematics, from an essential proposition, or, in other words, from a proposition involved in the meaning of a name, what they really flow from is the tacit assumption of the real existence of the objects so named. Apart from this assumption of real existence, the class of propositions in which the predicate is of the essence of the subject (that is, in which the predicate connotes the whole or part of what the subject connotes, but nothing besides) answer no purpose but that of unfolding the whole or some part of the meaning of the name, to those who did not previously know it. Accordingly, the most useful, and in strictness the only useful kind of essential propositions, are Definitions: which, to be complete, should unfold the whole of what is involved in the meaning of the word defined; that is (when it is a connotative word), the whole of what it connotes. In defining a name, however, it is not usual to specify its entire connotation, but so much only as is sufficient to mark out the objects usually denoted by it from all other known objects. And sometimes a merely accidental property, not involved in the meaning of the name, answers this purpose equally well. The various kinds of definition which these distinctions give rise to, and the purposes to which they are respectively subservient, will be minutely considered in the proper place.
§ 3. According to the above view of essential propositions, no proposition can be reckoned such which relates to an individual by name, that is, in which the subject is a proper name. Individuals have no essences. When the schoolmen talked of the essence of an individual, they did not mean the properties implied in its name, for the names of individuals imply no properties. They regarded as of the essence of an individual, whatever was of the essence of the species in which they were accustomed to place that individual; i.e., of the class to which it was most familiarly referred, and to which, therefore, they conceived that it by nature belonged. Thus, because the proposition Man is a rational being, was an essential proposition, they affirmed the same thing of the proposition, Julius Cæsar is a rational being. This followed very naturally if genera and species were to be considered as entities, distinct from, but inhering in, the individuals composing them. If man was a substance inhering in each individual man, the essence of man (whatever that might mean) was naturally supposed to accompany it; to inhere in John Thompson, and to form the common essence of Thompson and Julius Cæsar. It might then be fairly said, that rationality, being of the essence of Man, was of the essence also of Thompson. But if Man altogether be only the individual men and a name bestowed upon them in consequence of certain common properties, what becomes of John Thompson's essence?
A fundamental error is seldom expelled from philosophy by a single victory. It retreats slowly, defends every inch of ground, and often, after it has been driven from the open country, retains a footing in some remote fastness. The essences of individuals were an unmeaning figment arising from a misapprehension of the essences of classes, yet even Locke, when he extirpated the parent error, could not shake himself free from that which was its fruit. He distinguished two sorts of essences, Real and Nominal. His nominal essences were the essences of classes, explained nearly as we have now explained them. Nor is any thing wanting to render the third book of Locke's Essay a nearly unexceptional treatise on the connotation of names, except to free its language from the assumption of what are called Abstract Ideas, which unfortunately is involved in the phraseology, though not necessarily connected with the thoughts contained in that immortal Third Book.(40) But besides nominal essences, he admitted real essences, or essences of individual objects, which he supposed to be the causes of the sensible properties of those objects. We know not (said he) what these are (and this acknowledgment rendered the fiction comparatively innocuous); but if we did, we could, from them alone, demonstrate the sensible properties of the object, as the properties of the triangle are demonstrated from the definition of the triangle. I shall have occasion to revert to this theory in treating of Demonstration, and of the conditions under which one property of a thing admits of being demonstrated from another property. It is enough here to remark that, according to this definition, the real essence of an object has, in the progress of physics, come to be conceived as nearly equivalent, in the case of bodies, to their corpuscular structure: what it is now supposed to mean in the case of any other entities, I would not take upon myself to define.
§ 4. An essential proposition, then, is one which is purely verbal; which asserts of a thing under a particular name, only what is asserted of it in the fact of calling it by that name; and which, therefore, either gives no information, or gives it respecting the name, not the thing. Non-essential, or accidental propositions, on the contrary, may be called Real Propositions, in opposition to Verbal. They predicate of a thing some fact not involved in the signification of the name by which the proposition speaks of it; some attribute not connoted by that name. Such are all propositions concerning things individually designated, and all general or particular propositions in which the predicate connotes any attribute not connoted by the subject. All these, if true, add to our knowledge: they convey information, not already involved in the names employed. When I am told that all, or even that some objects, which have certain qualities, or which stand in certain relations, have also certain other qualities, or stand in certain other relations, I learn from this proposition a new fact; a fact not included in my knowledge of the meaning of the words, nor even of the existence of Things answering to the signification of those words. It is this class of propositions only which are in themselves instructive, or from which any instructive propositions can be inferred.(41)
Nothing has probably contributed more to the opinion so long prevalent of the futility of the school logic, than the circumstance that almost all the examples used in the common school books to illustrate the doctrine of predication and that of the syllogism, consist of essential propositions. They were usually taken either from the branches or from the main trunk of the Predicamental Tree, which included nothing but what was of the essence of the species: Omne corpus est substantia, Omne animal est corpus, Omnis homo est corpus, Omnis homo est animal, Omnis homo est rationalis, and so forth. It is far from wonderful that the syllogistic art should have been thought to be of no use in assisting correct reasoning, when almost the only propositions which, in the hands of its professed teachers, it was employed to prove, were such as every one assented to without proof the moment he comprehended the meaning of the words; and stood exactly on a level, in point of evidence, with the premises from which they were drawn. I have, therefore, throughout this work, avoided the employment of essential propositions as examples, except where the nature of the principle to be illustrated specifically required them.
§ 5. With respect to propositions which do convey information--which assert something of a Thing, under a name that does not already presuppose what is about to be asserted; there are two different aspects in which these, or rather such of them as are general propositions, may be considered: we may either look at them as portions of speculative truth, or as memoranda for practical use. According as we consider propositions in one or the other of these lights, their import may be conveniently expressed in one or in the other of two formulas.
According to the formula which we have hitherto employed, and which is best adapted to express the import of the proposition as a portion of our theoretical knowledge, All men are mortal, means that the attributes of man are always accompanied by the attribute mortality: No men are gods, means that the attributes of man are never accompanied by the attributes, or at least never by all the attributes, signified by the word god. But when the proposition is considered as a memorandum for practical use, we shall find a different mode of expressing the same meaning better adapted to indicate the office which the proposition performs. The practical use of a proposition is, to apprise or remind us what we have to expect, in any individual case which comes within the assertion contained in the proposition. In reference to this purpose, the proposition, All men are mortal, means that the attributes of man are evidence of, are a mark of, mortality; an indication by which the presence of that attribute is made manifest. No men are gods, means that the attributes of man are a mark or evidence that some or all of the attributes understood to belong to a god are not there; that where the former are, we need not expect to find the latter.
These two forms of expression are at bottom equivalent; but the one points the attention more directly to what a proposition means, the latter to the manner in which it is to be used.
Now it is to be observed that Reasoning (the subject to which we are next to proceed) is a process into which propositions enter not as ultimate results, but as means to the establishment of other propositions. We may expect, therefore, that the mode of exhibiting the import of a general proposition which shows it in its application to practical use, will best express the function which propositions perform in Reasoning. And accordingly, in the theory of Reasoning, the mode of viewing the subject which considers a Proposition as asserting that one fact or phenomenon is a mark or evidence of another fact or phenomenon, will be found almost indispensable. For the purposes of that Theory, the best mode of defining the import of a proposition is not the mode which shows most clearly what it is in itself, but that which most distinctly suggests the manner in which it may be made available for advancing from it to other propositions.
Of The Nature Of Classification, And The Five Predicables.
§ 1. In examining into the nature of general propositions, we have adverted much less than is usual with logicians to the ideas of a Class, and Classification; ideas which, since the Realist doctrine of General Substances went out of vogue, have formed the basis of almost every attempt at a philosophical theory of general terms and general propositions. We have considered general names as having a meaning, quite independently of their being the names of classes. That circumstance is in truth accidental, it being wholly immaterial to the signification of the name whether there are many objects, or only one, to which it happens to be applicable, or whether there be any at all. God is as much a general term to the Christian or Jew as to the Polytheist; and dragon, hippogriff, chimera, mermaid, ghost, are as much so as if real objects existed, corresponding to those names. Every name the signification of which is constituted by attributes, is potentially a name of an indefinite number of objects; but it needs not be actually the name of any; and if of any, it may be the name of only one. As soon as we employ a name to connote attributes, the things, be they more or fewer, which happen to possess those attributes, are constituted ipso facto a class. But in predicating the name we predicate only the attributes; and the fact of belonging to a class does not, in many cases, come into view at all.
Although, however, Predication does not presuppose Classification, and though the theory of Names and of Propositions is not cleared up, but only encumbered, by intruding the idea of classification into it, there is nevertheless a close connection between Classification and the employment of General Names. By every general name which we introduce, we create a class, if there be any things, real or imaginary, to compose it; that is, any Things corresponding to the signification of the name. Classes, therefore, mostly owe their existence to general language. But general language, also, though that is not the most common case, sometimes owes its existence to classes. A general, which is as much as to say a significant, name, is indeed mostly introduced because we have a signification to express by it; because we need a word by means of which to predicate the attributes which it connotes. But it is also true that a name is sometimes introduced because we have found it convenient to create a class; because we have thought it useful for the regulation of our mental operations, that a certain group of objects should be thought of together. A naturalist, for purposes connected with his particular science, sees reason to distribute the animal or vegetable creation into certain groups rather than into any others, and he requires a name to bind, as it were, each of his groups together. It must not, however, be supposed that such names, when introduced, differ in any respect, as to their mode of signification, from other connotative names. The classes which they denote are, as much as any other classes, constituted by certain common attributes, and their names are significant of those attributes, and of nothing else. The names of Cuvier's classes and orders, Plantigrades, Digitigrades, etc., are as much the expression of attributes as if those names had preceded, instead of grown out of, his classification of animals. The only peculiarity of the case is, that the convenience of classification was here the primary motive for introducing the names; while in other cases the name is introduced as a means of predication, and the formation of a class denoted by it is only an indirect consequence.
The principles which ought to regulate Classification, as a logical process subservient to the investigation of truth, can not be discussed to any purpose until a much later stage of our inquiry. But, of Classification as resulting from, and implied in, the fact of employing general language, we can not forbear to treat here, without leaving the theory of general names, and of their employment in predication, mutilated and formless.
§ 2. This portion of the theory of general language is the subject of what is termed the doctrine of the Predicables; a set of distinctions handed down from Aristotle, and his follower Porphyry, many of which have taken a firm root in scientific, and some of them even in popular, phraseology. The predicables are a fivefold division of General Names, not grounded as usual on a difference in their meaning, that is, in the attribute which they connote, but on a difference in the kind of class which they denote. We may predicate of a thing five different varieties of class-name:
A genus of the thing: (γὲυος). A species: (εἷδος). A differentia: (διαφορὰ). A proprium: (ἴδιόν). An accidens: (συμβεβηκός).
It is to be remarked of these distinctions, that they express, not what the predicate is in its own meaning, but what relation it bears to the subject of which it happens on the particular occasion to be predicated. There are not some names which are exclusively genera, and others which are exclusively species, or differentiæ; but the same name is referred to one or another predicable, according to the subject of which it is predicated on the particular occasion. Animal, for instance, is a genus with respect to man, or John; a species with respect to Substance, or Being. Rectangular is one of the Differentiæ of a geometrical square; it is merely one of the Accidentia of the table at which I am writing. The words genus, species, etc., are therefore relative terms; they are names applied to certain predicates, to express the relation between them and some given subject: a relation grounded, as we shall see, not on what the predicate connotes, but on the class which it denotes, and on the place which, in some given classification, that class occupies relatively to the particular subject.
§ 3. Of these five names, two, Genus and Species, are not only used by naturalists in a technical acceptation not precisely agreeing with their philosophical meaning, but have also acquired a popular acceptation, much more general than either. In this popular sense any two classes, one of which includes the whole of the other and more, may be called a Genus and a Species. Such, for instance, are Animal and Man; Man and Mathematician. Animal is a Genus; Man and Brute are its two species; or we may divide it into a greater number of species, as man, horse, dog, etc. Biped, or two-footed animal, may also be considered a genus, of which man and bird are two species. Taste is a genus, of which sweet taste, sour taste, salt taste, etc., are species. Virtue is a genus; justice, prudence, courage, fortitude, generosity, etc., are its species.
The same class which is a genus with reference to the sub-classes or species included in it, may be itself a species with reference to a more comprehensive, or, as it is often called, a superior genus. Man is a species with reference to animal, but a genus with reference to the species Mathematician. Animal is a genus, divided into two species, man and brute; but animal is also a species, which, with another species, vegetable, makes up the genus, organized being. Biped is a genus with reference to man and bird, but a species with respect to the superior genus, animal. Taste is a genus divided into species, but also a species of the genus sensation. Virtue, a genus with reference to justice, temperance, etc., is one of the species of the genus, mental quality.
In this popular sense the words Genus and Species have passed into common discourse. And it should be observed that in ordinary parlance, not the name of the class, but the class itself, is said to be the genus or species; not, of course, the class in the sense of each individual of the class, but the individuals collectively, considered as an aggregate whole; the name by which the class is designated being then called not the genus or species, but the generic or specific name. And this is an admissible form of expression; nor is it of any importance which of the two modes of speaking we adopt, provided the rest of our language is consistent with it; but, if we call the class itself the genus, we must not talk of predicating the genus. We predicate of man the name mortal; and by predicating the name, we may be said, in an intelligible sense, to predicate what the name expresses, the attribute mortality; but in no allowable sense of the word predication do we predicate of man the class mortal. We predicate of him the fact of belonging to the class.
By the Aristotelian logicians, the terms genus and species were used in a more restricted sense. They did not admit every class which could be divided into other classes to be a genus, or every class which could be included in a larger class to be a species. Animal was by them considered a genus; man and brute co-ordinate species under that genus: biped, however, would not have been admitted to be a genus with reference to man, but a proprium or accidens only. It was requisite, according to their theory, that genus and species should be of the essence of the subject. Animal was of the essence of man; biped was not. And in every classification they considered some one class as the lowest or infima species. Man, for instance, was a lowest species. Any further divisions into which the class might be capable of being broken down, as man into white, black, and red man, or into priest and layman, they did not admit to be species.
It has been seen, however, in the preceding chapter, that the distinction between the essence of a class, and the attributes or properties which are not of its essence--a distinction which has given occasion to so much abstruse speculation, and to which so mysterious a character was formerly, and by many writers is still, attached--amounts to nothing more than the difference between those attributes of the class which are, and those which are not, involved in the signification of the class-name. As applied to individuals, the word Essence, we found, has no meaning, except in connection with the exploded tenets of the Realists; and what the schoolmen chose to call the essence of an individual, was simply the essence of the class to which that individual was most familiarly referred.
Is there no difference, then, save this merely verbal one, between the classes which the schoolmen admitted to be genera or species, and those to which they refused the title? Is it an error to regard some of the differences which exist among objects as differences in kind (genere or specie), and others only as differences in the accidents? Were the schoolmen right or wrong in giving to some of the classes into which things may be divided, the name of kinds, and considering others as secondary divisions, grounded on differences of a comparatively superficial nature? Examination will show that the Aristotelians did mean something by this distinction, and something important; but which, being but indistinctly conceived, was inadequately expressed by the phraseology of essences, and the various other modes of speech to which they had recourse.
§ 4. It is a fundamental principle in logic, that the power of framing classes is unlimited, as long as there is any (even the smallest) difference to found a distinction upon. Take any attribute whatever, and if some things have it, and others have not, we may ground on the attribute a division of all things into two classes; and we actually do so, the moment we create a name which connotes the attribute. The number of possible classes, therefore, is boundless; and there are as many actual classes (either of real or of imaginary things) as there are general names, positive and negative together.
But if we contemplate any one of the classes so formed, such as the class animal or plant, or the class sulphur or phosphorus, or the class white or red, and consider in what particulars the individuals included in the class differ from those which do not come within it, we find a very remarkable diversity in this respect between some classes and others. There are some classes, the things contained in which differ from other things only in certain particulars which may be numbered, while others differ in more than can be numbered, more even than we need ever expect to know. Some classes have little or nothing in common to characterize them by, except precisely what is connoted by the name: white things, for example, are not distinguished by any common properties except whiteness; or if they are, it is only by such as are in some way dependent on, or connected with, whiteness. But a hundred generations have not exhausted the common properties of animals or of plants, of sulphur or of phosphorus; nor do we suppose them to be exhaustible, but proceed to new observations and experiments, in the full confidence of discovering new properties which were by no means implied in those we previously knew. While, if any one were to propose for investigation the common properties of all things which are of the same color, the same shape, or the same specific gravity, the absurdity would be palpable. We have no ground to believe that any such common properties exist, except such as may be shown to be involved in the supposition itself, or to be derivable from it by some law of causation. It appears, therefore, that the properties, on which we ground our classes, sometimes exhaust all that the class has in common, or contain it all by some mode of implication; but in other instances we make a selection of a few properties from among not only a greater number, but a number inexhaustible by us, and to which as we know no bounds, they may, so far as we are concerned, be regarded as infinite.
There is no impropriety in saying that, of these two classifications, the one answers to a much more radical distinction in the things themselves, than the other does. And if any one even chooses to say that the one classification is made by nature, the other by us for our convenience, he will be right; provided he means no more than this: Where a certain apparent difference between things (though perhaps in itself of little moment) answers to we know not what number of other differences, pervading not only their known properties, but properties yet undiscovered, it is not optional but imperative to recognize this difference as the foundation of a specific distinction; while, on the contrary, differences that are merely finite and determinate, like those designated by the words white, black, or red, may be disregarded if the purpose for which the classification is made does not require attention to those particular properties. The differences, however, are made by nature, in both cases; while the recognition of those differences as grounds of classification and of naming, is, equally in both cases, the act of man: only in the one case, the ends of language and of classification would be subverted if no notice were taken of the difference, while in the other case, the necessity of taking notice of it depends on the importance or unimportance of the particular qualities in which the difference happens to consist.
Now, these classes, distinguished by unknown multitudes of properties, and not solely by a few determinate ones--which are parted off from one another by an unfathomable chasm, instead of a mere ordinary ditch with a visible bottom--are the only classes which, by the Aristotelian logicians, were considered as genera or species. Differences which extended only to a certain property or properties, and there terminated, they considered as differences only in the accidents of things; but where any class differed from other things by an infinite series of differences, known and unknown, they considered the distinction as one of kind, and spoke of it as being an essential difference, which is also one of the current meanings of that vague expression at the present day.
Conceiving the schoolmen to have been justified in drawing a broad line of separation between these two kinds of classes and of class-distinctions, I shall not only retain the division itself, but continue to express it in their language. According to that language, the proximate (or lowest) Kind to which any individual is referrible, is called its species. Conformably to this, Isaac Newton would be said to be of the species man. There are indeed numerous sub-classes included in the class man, to which Newton also belongs; for example, Christian, and Englishman, and Mathematician. But these, though distinct classes, are not, in our sense of the term, distinct Kinds of men. A Christian, for example, differs from other human beings; but he differs only in the attribute which the word expresses, namely, belief in Christianity, and whatever else that implies, either as involved in the fact itself, or connected with it through some law of cause and effect. We should never think of inquiring what properties, unconnected with Christianity, either as cause or effect, are common to all Christians and peculiar to them; while in regard to all Men, physiologists are perpetually carrying on such an inquiry; nor is the answer ever likely to be completed. Man, therefore, we may call a species; Christian, or Mathematician, we can not.
Note here, that it is by no means intended to imply that there may not be different Kinds, or logical species, of man. The various races and temperaments, the two sexes, and even the various ages, may be differences of kind, within our meaning of the term. I do not say that they are so. For in the progress of physiology it may almost be said to be made out, that the differences which really exist between different races, sexes, etc., follow as consequences, under laws of nature, from a small number of primary differences which can be precisely determined, and which, as the phrase is, account for all the rest. If this be so, these are not distinctions in kind; no more than Christian, Jew, Mussulman, and Pagan, a difference which also carries many consequences along with it. And in this way classes are often mistaken for real Kinds, which are afterward proved not to be so. But if it turned out that the differences were not capable of being thus accounted for, then Caucasian, Mongolian, Negro, etc., would be really different Kinds of human beings, and entitled to be ranked as species by the logician; though not by the naturalist. For (as already noticed) the word species is used in a different signification in logic and in natural history. By the naturalist, organized beings are not usually said to be of different species, if it is supposed that they have descended from the same stock. That, however, is a sense artificially given to the word, for the technical purposes of a particular science. To the logician, if a negro and a white man differ in the same manner (however less in degree) as a horse and a camel do, that is, if their differences are inexhaustible, and not referrible to any common cause, they are different species, whether they are descended from common ancestors or not. But if their differences can all be traced to climate and habits, or to some one or a few special differences in structure, they are not, in the logician's view, specifically distinct.
When the infima species, or proximate Kind, to which an individual belongs, has been ascertained, the properties common to that Kind include necessarily the whole of the common properties of every other real Kind to which the individual can be referrible. Let the individual, for example, be Socrates, and the proximate Kind, man. Animal, or living creature, is also a real kind, and includes Socrates; but, since it likewise includes man, or in other words, since all men are animals, the properties common to animals form a portion of the common properties of the sub-class, man. And if there be any class which includes Socrates without including man, that class is not a real Kind. Let the class, for example, be flat-nosed; that being a class which includes Socrates, without including all men. To determine whether it is a real Kind, we must ask ourselves this question: Have all flat-nosed animals, in addition to whatever is implied in their flat noses, any common properties, other than those which are common to all animals whatever? If they had; if a flat nose were a mark or index to an indefinite number of other peculiarities, not deducible from the former by an ascertainable law, then out of the class man we might cut another class, flat-nosed man, which, according to our definition, would be a Kind. But if we could do this, man would not be, as it was assumed to be, the proximate Kind. Therefore, the properties of the proximate Kind do comprehend those (whether known or unknown) of all other Kinds to which the individual belongs; which was the point we undertook to prove. And hence, every other Kind which is predicable of the individual, will be to the proximate Kind in the relation of a genus, according to even the popular acceptation of the terms genus and species; that is, it will be a larger class, including it and more.
We are now able to fix the logical meaning of these terms. Every class which is a real Kind, that is, which is distinguished from all other classes by an indeterminate multitude of properties not derivable from one another, is either a genus or a species. A Kind which is not divisible into other Kinds, can not be a genus, because it has no species under it; but it is itself a species, both with reference to the individuals below and to the genera above (Species Prædicabilis and Species Subjicibilis). But every Kind which admits of division into real Kinds (as animal into mammal, bird, fish, etc., or bird into various species of birds) is a genus to all below it, a species to all genera in which it is itself included. And here we may close this part of the discussion, and pass to the three remaining predicables, Differentia, Proprium, and Accidens.
§ 5. To begin with Differentia. This word is correlative with the words genus and species, and as all admit, it signifies the attribute which distinguishes a given species from every other species of the same genus. This is so far clear: but we may still ask, which of the distinguishing attributes it signifies. For we have seen that every Kind (and a species must be a Kind) is distinguished from other Kinds, not by any one attribute, but by an indefinite number. Man, for instance, is a species of the genus animal: Rational (or rationality, for it is of no consequence here whether we use the concrete or the abstract form) is generally assigned by logicians as the Differentia; and doubtless this attribute serves the purpose of distinction: but it has also been remarked of man, that he is a cooking animal; the only animal that dresses its food. This, therefore, is another of the attributes by which the species man is distinguished from other species of the same genus: would this attribute serve equally well for a differentia? The Aristotelians say No; having laid it down that the differentia must, like the genus and species, be of the essence of the subject.
And here we lose even that vestige of a meaning grounded in the nature of the things themselves, which may be supposed to be attached to the word essence when it is said that genus and species must be of the essence of the thing. There can be no doubt that when the schoolmen talked of the essences of things as opposed to their accidents, they had confusedly in view the distinction between differences of kind, and the differences which are not of kind; they meant to intimate that genera and species must be Kinds. Their notion of the essence of a thing was a vague notion of a something which makes it what it is, i.e., which makes it the Kind of thing that it is--which causes it to have all that variety of properties which distinguish its Kind. But when the matter came to be looked at more closely, nobody could discover what caused the thing to have all those properties, nor even that there was any thing which caused it to have them. Logicians, however, not liking to admit this, and being unable to detect what made the thing to be what it was, satisfied themselves with what made it to be what it was called. Of the innumerable properties, known and unknown, that are common to the class man, a portion only, and of course a very small portion, are connoted by its name; these few, however, will naturally have been thus distinguished from the rest either for their greater obviousness, or for greater supposed importance. These properties, then, which were connoted by the name, logicians seized upon, and called them the essence of the species; and not stopping there, they affirmed them, in the case of the infima species, to be the essence of the individual too; for it was their maxim, that the species contained the "whole essence" of the thing. Metaphysics, that fertile field of delusion propagated by language, does not afford a more signal instance of such delusion. On this account it was that rationality, being connoted by the name man, was allowed to be a differentia of the class; but the peculiarity of cooking their food, not being connoted, was relegated to the class of accidental properties.
The distinction, therefore, between Differentia, Proprium, and Accidens, is not grounded in the nature of things, but in the connotation of names; and we must seek it there, if we wish to find what it is.
From the fact that the genus includes the species, in other words denotes more than the species, or is predicable of a greater number of individuals, it follows that the species must connote more than the genus. It must connote all the attributes which the genus connotes, or there would be nothing to prevent it from denoting individuals not included in the genus. And it must connote something besides, otherwise it would include the whole genus. Animal denotes all the individuals denoted by man, and many more. Man, therefore, must connote all that animal connotes, otherwise there might be men who are not animals; and it must connote something more than animal connotes, otherwise all animals would be men. This surplus of connotation--this which the species connotes over and above the connotation of the genus--is the Differentia, or specific difference; or, to state the same proposition in other words, the Differentia is that which must be added to the connotation of the genus, to complete the connotation of the species.
The word man, for instance, exclusively of what it connotes in common with animal, also connotes rationality, and at least some approximation to that external form which we all know, but which as we have no name for it considered in itself, we are content to call the human. The Differentia, or specific difference, therefore, of man, as referred to the genus animal, is that outward form and the possession of reason. The Aristotelians said, the possession of reason, without the outward form. But if they adhered to this, they would have been obliged to call the Houyhnhnms men. The question never arose, and they were never called upon to decide how such a case would have affected their notion of essentiality. However this may be, they were satisfied with taking such a portion of the differentia as sufficed to distinguish the species from all other existing things, though by so doing they might not exhaust the connotation of the name.
§ 6. And here, to prevent the notion of differentia from being restricted within too narrow limits, it is necessary to remark, that a species, even as referred to the same genus, will not always have the same differentia, but a different one, according to the principle and purpose which preside over the particular classification. For example, a naturalist surveys the various kinds of animals, and looks out for the classification of them most in accordance with the order in which, for zoological purposes, he considers it desirable that we should think of them. With this view he finds it advisable that one of his fundamental divisions should be into warm-blooded and cold-blooded animals; or into animals which breathe with lungs and those which breathe with gills; or into carnivorous, and frugivorous or graminivorous; or into those which walk on the flat part and those which walk on the extremity of the foot, a distinction on which two of Cuvier's families are founded. In doing this, the naturalist creates as many new classes; which are by no means those to which the individual animal is familiarly and spontaneously referred; nor should we ever think of assigning to them so prominent a position in our arrangement of the animal kingdom, unless for a preconceived purpose of scientific convenience. And to the liberty of doing this there is no limit. In the examples we have given, most of the classes are real Kinds, since each of the peculiarities is an index to a multitude of properties belonging to the class which it characterizes: but even if the case were otherwise--if the other properties of those classes could all be derived, by any process known to us, from the one peculiarity on which the class is founded--even then, if these derivative properties were of primary importance for the purposes of the naturalist, he would be warranted in founding his primary divisions on them.
If, however, practical convenience is a sufficient warrant for making the main demarcations in our arrangement of objects run in lines not coinciding with any distinction of Kind, and so creating genera and species in the popular sense which are not genera or species in the rigorous sense at all; à fortiori must we be warranted, when our genera and species are real genera and species, in marking the distinction between them by those of their properties which considerations of practical convenience most strongly recommend. If we cut a species out of a given genus--the species man, for instance, out of the genus animal--with an intention on our part that the peculiarity by which we are to be guided in the application of the name man should be rationality, then rationality is the differentia of the species man. Suppose, however, that being naturalists, we, for the purposes of our particular study, cut out of the genus animal the same species man, but with an intention that the distinction between man and all other species of animal should be, not rationality, but the possession of "four incisors in each jaw, tusks solitary, and erect posture." It is evident that the word man, when used by us as naturalists, no longer connotes rationality, but connotes the three other properties specified; for that which we have expressly in view when we impose a name, assuredly forms part of the meaning of that name. We may, therefore, lay it down as a maxim, that wherever there is a Genus, and a Species marked out from that genus by an assignable differentia, the name of the species must be connotative, and must connote the differentia; but the connotation may be special--not involved in the signification of the term as ordinarily used, but given to it when employed as a term of art or science. The word Man in common use, connotes rationality and a certain form, but does not connote the number or character of the teeth; in the Linnæan system it connotes the number of incisor and canine teeth, but does not connote rationality nor any particular form. The word man has, therefore, two different meanings; though not commonly considered as ambiguous, because it happens in both cases to denote the same individual objects. But a case is conceivable in which the ambiguity would become evident: we have only to imagine that some new kind of animal were discovered, having Linnæus's three characteristics of humanity, but not rational, or not of the human form. In ordinary parlance, these animals would not be called men; but in natural history they must still be called so by those, if any there should be, who adhere to the Linnæan classification; and the question would arise, whether the word should continue to be used in two senses, or the classification be given up, and the technical sense of the term be abandoned along with it.
Words not otherwise connotative may, in the mode just adverted to, acquire a special or technical connotation. Thus the word whiteness, as we have so often remarked, connotes nothing; it merely denotes the attribute corresponding to a certain sensation: but if we are making a classification of colors, and desire to justify, or even merely to point out, the particular place assigned to whiteness in our arrangement, we may define it "the color produced by the mixture of all the simple rays;" and this fact, though by no means implied in the meaning of the word whiteness as ordinarily used, but only known by subsequent scientific investigation, is part of its meaning in the particular essay or treatise, and becomes the differentia of the species.(42)
The differentia, therefore, of a species may be defined to be, that part of the connotation of the specific name, whether ordinary or special and technical, which distinguishes the species in question from all other species of the genus to which on the particular occasion we are referring it.
§ 7. Having disposed of Genus, Species, and Differentia, we shall not find much difficulty in attaining a clear conception of the distinction between the other two predicables, as well as between them and the first three.
In the Aristotelian phraseology, Genus and Differentia are of the essence of the subject; by which, as we have seen, is really meant that the properties signified by the genus and those signified by the differentia, form part of the connotation of the name denoting the species. Proprium and Accidens, on the other hand, form no part of the essence, but are predicated of the species only accidentally. Both are Accidents, in the wider sense in which the accidents of a thing are opposed to its essence; though, in the doctrine of the Predicables, Accidens is used for one sort of accident only, Proprium being another sort. Proprium, continue the schoolmen, is predicated accidentally, indeed, but necessarily; or, as they further explain it, signifies an attribute which is not indeed part of the essence, but which flows from, or is a consequence of, the essence, and is, therefore, inseparably attached to the species; e.g., the various properties of a triangle, which, though no part of its definition, must necessarily be possessed by whatever comes under that definition. Accidens, on the contrary, has no connection whatever with the essence, but may come and go, and the species still remain what it was before. If a species could exist without its Propria, it must be capable of existing without that on which its Propria are necessarily consequent, and therefore without its essence, without that which constitutes it a species. But an Accidens, whether separable or inseparable from the species in actual experience, may be supposed separated, without the necessity of supposing any other alteration; or at least, without supposing any of the essential properties of the species to be altered, since with them an Accidens has no connection.
A Proprium, therefore, of the species, may be defined, any attribute which belongs to all the individuals included in the species, and which, though not connoted by the specific name (either ordinarily if the classification we are considering be for ordinary purposes, or specially if it be for a special purpose), yet follows from some attribute which the name either ordinarily or specially connotes.
One attribute may follow from another in two ways; and there are consequently two kinds of Proprium. It may follow as a conclusion follows premises, or it may follow as an effect follows a cause. Thus, the attribute of having the opposite sides equal, which is not one of those connoted by the word Parallelogram, nevertheless follows from those connoted by it, namely, from having the opposite sides straight lines and parallel, and the number of sides four. The attribute, therefore, of having the opposite sides equal, is a Proprium of the class parallelogram; and a Proprium of the first kind, which follows from the connoted attributes by way of demonstration. The attribute of being capable of understanding language, is a Proprium of the species man, since without being connoted by the word, it follows from an attribute which the word does connote, viz., from the attribute of rationality. But this is a Proprium of the second kind, which follows by way of causation. How it is that one property of a thing follows, or can be inferred, from another; under what conditions this is possible, and what is the exact meaning of the phrase; are among the questions which will occupy us in the two succeeding Books. At present it needs only be said, that whether a Proprium follows by demonstration or by causation, it follows necessarily; that is to say, its not following would be inconsistent with some law which we regard as a part of the constitution either of our thinking faculty or of the universe.
§ 8. Under the remaining predicable, Accidens, are included all attributes of a thing which are neither involved in the signification of the name (whether ordinarily or as a term of art), nor have, so far as we know, any necessary connection with attributes which are so involved. They are commonly divided into Separable and Inseparable Accidents. Inseparable accidents are those which--although we know of no connection between them and the attributes constitutive of the species, and although, therefore, so far as we are aware, they might be absent without making the name inapplicable and the species a different species--are yet never in fact known to be absent. A concise mode of expressing the same meaning is, that inseparable accidents are properties which are universal to the species, but not necessary to it. Thus, blackness is an attribute of a crow, and, as far as we know, a universal one. But if we were to discover a race of white birds, in other respects resembling crows, we should not say, These are not crows; we should say, These are white crows. Crow, therefore, does not connote blackness; nor, from any of the attributes which it does connote, whether as a word in popular use or as a term of art, could blackness be inferred. Not only, therefore, can we conceive a white crow, but we know of no reason why such an animal should not exist. Since, however, none but black crows are known to exist, blackness, in the present state of our knowledge, ranks as an accident, but an inseparable accident, of the species crow.
Separable Accidents are those which are found, in point of fact, to be sometimes absent from the species; which are not only not necessary, but not even universal. They are such as do not belong to every individual of the species, but only to some individuals; or if to all, not at all times. Thus the color of a European is one of the separable accidents of the species man, because it is not an attribute of all human creatures. Being born, is also (speaking in the logical sense) a separable accident of the species man, because, though an attribute of all human beings, it is so only at one particular time. A fortiori those attributes which are not constant even in the same individual, as, to be in one or in another place, to be hot or cold, sitting or walking, must be ranked as separable accidents.
§ 1. One necessary part of the theory of Names and of Propositions remains to be treated of in this place: the theory of Definitions. As being the most important of the class of propositions which we have characterized as purely verbal, they have already received some notice in the chapter preceding the last. But their fuller treatment was at that time postponed, because definition is so closely connected with classification, that, until the nature of the latter process is in some measure understood, the former can not be discussed to much purpose.
The simplest and most correct notion of a Definition is, a proposition declaratory of the meaning of a word; namely, either the meaning which it bears in common acceptation, or that which the speaker or writer, for the particular purposes of his discourse, intends to annex to it.
The definition of a word being the proposition which enunciates its meaning, words which have no meaning are unsusceptible of definition. Proper names, therefore, can not be defined. A proper name being a mere mark put upon an individual, and of which it is the characteristic property to be destitute of meaning, its meaning can not of course be declared; though we may indicate by language, as we might indicate still more conveniently by pointing with the finger, upon what individual that particular mark has been, or is intended to be, put. It is no definition of "John Thomson" to say he is "the son of General Thomson;" for the name John Thomson does not express this. Neither is it any definition of "John Thomson" to say he is "the man now crossing the street." These propositions may serve to make known who is the particular man to whom the name belongs, but that may be done still more unambiguously by pointing to him, which, however, has not been esteemed one of the modes of definition.
In the case of connotative names, the meaning, as has been so often observed, is the connotation; and the definition of a connotative name, is the proposition which declares its connotation. This might be done either directly or indirectly. The direct mode would be by a proposition in this form: "Man" (or whatsoever the word may be) "is a name connoting such and such attributes," or "is a name which, when predicated of any thing, signifies the possession of such and such attributes by that thing." Or thus: Man is every thing which possesses such and such attributes: Man is every thing which possesses corporeity, organization, life, rationality, and certain peculiarities of external form.
This form of definition is the most precise and least equivocal of any; but it is not brief enough, and is besides too technical for common discourse. The more usual mode of declaring the connotation of a name, is to predicate of it another name or names of known signification, which connote the same aggregation of attributes. This may be done either by predicating of the name intended to be defined, another connotative name exactly synonymous, as, "Man is a human being," which is not commonly accounted a definition at all; or by predicating two or more connotative names, which make up among them the whole connotation of the name to be defined. In this last case, again, we may either compose our definition of as many connotative names as there are attributes, each attribute being connoted by one, as, Man is a corporeal, organized, animated, rational being, shaped so and so; or we employ names which connote several of the attributes at once, as, Man is a rational animal, shaped so and so.
The definition of a name, according to this view of it, is the sum total of all the essential propositions which can be framed with that name for their subject. All propositions the truth of which is implied in the name, all those which we are made aware of by merely hearing the name, are included in the definition, if complete, and may be evolved from it without the aid of any other premises; whether the definition expresses them in two or three words, or in a larger number. It is, therefore, not without reason that Condillac and other writers have affirmed a definition to be an analysis. To resolve any complex whole into the elements of which it is compounded, is the meaning of analysis: and this we do when we replace one word which connotes a set of attributes collectively, by two or more which connote the same attributes singly, or in smaller groups.
§ 2. From this, however, the question naturally arises, in what manner are we to define a name which connotes only a single attribute: for instance, "white," which connotes nothing but whiteness; "rational," which connotes nothing but the possession of reason. It might seem that the meaning of such names could only be declared in two ways; by a synonymous term, if any such can be found; or in the direct way already alluded to: "White is a name connoting the attribute whiteness." Let us see, however, whether the analysis of the meaning of the name, that is, the breaking down of that meaning into several parts, admits of being carried farther. Without at present deciding this question as to the word white, it is obvious that in the case of rational some further explanation may be given of its meaning than is contained in the proposition, "Rational is that which possesses the attribute of reason;" since the attribute reason itself admits of being defined. And here we must turn our attention to the definitions of attributes, or rather of the names of attributes, that is, of abstract names.
In regard to such names of attributes as are connotative, and express attributes of those attributes, there is no difficulty: like other connotative names, they are defined by declaring their connotation. Thus the word fault may be defined, "a quality productive of evil or inconvenience." Sometimes, again, the attribute to be defined is not one attribute, but a union of several: we have only, therefore, to put together the names of all the attributes taken separately, and we obtain the definition of the name which belongs to them all taken together; a definition which will correspond exactly to that of the corresponding concrete name. For, as we define a concrete name by enumerating the attributes which it connotes, and as the attributes connoted by a concrete name form the entire signification of the corresponding abstract name, the same enumeration will serve for the definition of both. Thus, if the definition of a human being be this, "a being, corporeal, animated, rational, shaped so and so," the definition of humanity will be corporeity and animal life, combined with rationality, and with such and such a shape.
When, on the other hand, the abstract name does not express a complication of attributes, but a single attribute, we must remember that every attribute is grounded on some fact or phenomenon, from which, and which alone, it derives its meaning. To that fact or phenomenon, called in a former chapter the foundation of the attribute, we must, therefore, have recourse for its definition. Now, the foundation of the attribute may be a phenomenon of any degree of complexity, consisting of many different parts, either co-existent or in succession. To obtain a definition of the attribute, we must analyze the phenomenon into these parts. Eloquence, for example, is the name of one attribute only; but this attribute is grounded on external effects of a complicated nature, flowing from acts of the person to whom we ascribe the attribute; and by resolving this phenomenon of causation into its two parts, the cause and the effect, we obtain a definition of eloquence, viz. the power of influencing the feelings by speech or writing.
A name, therefore, whether concrete or abstract, admits of definition, provided we are able to analyze, that is, to distinguish into parts, the attribute or set of attributes which constitute the meaning both of the concrete name and of the corresponding abstract: if a set of attributes, by enumerating them; if a single attribute, by dissecting the fact or phenomenon (whether of perception or of internal consciousness) which is the foundation of the attribute. But, further, even when the fact is one of our simple feelings or states of consciousness, and therefore unsusceptible of analysis, the names both of the object and of the attribute still admit of definition; or rather, would do so if all our simple feelings had names. Whiteness may be defined, the property or power of exciting the sensation of white. A white object may be defined, an object which excites the sensation of white. The only names which are unsusceptible of definition, because their meaning is unsusceptible of analysis, are the names of the simple feelings themselves. These are in the same condition as proper names. They are not indeed, like proper names, unmeaning; for the words sensation of white signify, that the sensation which I so denominate resembles other sensations which I remember to have had before, and to have called by that name. But as we have no words by which to recall those former sensations, except the very word which we seek to define, or some other which, being exactly synonymous with it, requires definition as much, words can not unfold the signification of this class of names; and we are obliged to make a direct appeal to the personal experience of the individual whom we address.
§ 3. Having stated what seems to be the true idea of a Definition, I proceed to examine some opinions of philosophers, and some popular conceptions on the subject, which conflict more or less with that idea.
The only adequate definition of a name is, as already remarked, one which declares the facts, and the whole of the facts, which the name involves in its signification. But with most persons the object of a definition does not embrace so much; they look for nothing more, in a definition, than a guide to the correct use of the term--a protection against applying it in a manner inconsistent with custom and convention. Any thing, therefore, is to them a sufficient definition of a term, which will serve as a correct index to what the term denotes; though not embracing the whole, and sometimes, perhaps, not even any part, of what it connotes. This gives rise to two sorts of imperfect, or unscientific definition; Essential but incomplete Definitions, and Accidental Definitions, or Descriptions. In the former, a connotative name is defined by a part only of its connotation; in the latter, by something which forms no part of the connotation at all.
An example of the first kind of imperfect definitions is the following: Man is a rational animal. It is impossible to consider this as a complete definition of the word Man, since (as before remarked) if we adhered to it we should be obliged to call the Houyhnhnms men; but as there happen to be no Houyhnhnms, this imperfect definition is sufficient to mark out and distinguish from all other things, the objects at present denoted by "man;" all the beings actually known to exist, of whom the name is predicable. Though the word is defined by some only among the attributes which it connotes, not by all, it happens that all known objects which possess the enumerated attributes, possess also those which are omitted; so that the field of predication which the word covers, and the employment of it which is conformable to usage, are as well indicated by the inadequate definition as by an adequate one. Such definitions, however, are always liable to be overthrown by the discovery of new objects in nature.
Definitions of this kind are what logicians have had in view, when they laid down the rule, that the definition of a species should be per genus et differentiam. Differentia being seldom taken to mean the whole of the peculiarities constitutive of the species, but some one of those peculiarities only, a complete definition would be per genus et differentias, rather than differentiam. It would include, with the name of the superior genus, not merely some attribute which distinguishes the species intended to be defined from all other species of the same genus, but all the attributes implied in the name of the species, which the name of the superior genus has not already implied. The assertion, however, that a definition must of necessity consist of a genus and differentiæ, is not tenable. It was early remarked by logicians, that the summum genus in any classification, having no genus superior to itself, could not be defined in this manner. Yet we have seen that all names, except those of our elementary feelings, are susceptible of definition in the strictest sense; by setting forth in words the constituent parts of the fact or phenomenon, of which the connotation of every word is ultimately composed.
§ 4. Although the first kind of imperfect definition (which defines a connotative term by a part only of what it connotes, but a part sufficient to mark out correctly the boundaries of its denotation), has been considered by the ancients, and by logicians in general, as a complete definition; it has always been deemed necessary that the attributes employed should really form part of the connotation; for the rule was that the definition must be drawn from the essence of the class; and this would not have been the case if it had been in any degree made up of attributes not connoted by the name. The second kind of imperfect definition, therefore, in which the name of a class is defined by any of its accidents--that is, by attributes which are not included in its connotation--has been rejected from the rank of genuine Definition by all logicians, and has been termed Description.
This kind of imperfect definition, however, takes its rise from the same cause as the other, namely, the willingness to accept as a definition any thing which, whether it expounds the meaning of the name or not, enables us to discriminate the things denoted by the name from all other things, and consequently to employ the term in predication without deviating from established usage. This purpose is duly answered by stating any (no matter what) of the attributes which are common to the whole of the class, and peculiar to it; or any combination of attributes which happens to be peculiar to it, though separately each of those attributes may be common to it with some other things. It is only necessary that the definition (or description) thus formed, should be convertible with the name which it professes to define; that is, should be exactly co-extensive with it, being predicable of every thing of which it is predicable, and of nothing of which it is not predicable; though the attributes specified may have no connection with those which mankind had in view when they formed or recognized the class, and gave it a name. The following are correct definitions of Man, according to this test: Man is a mammiferous animal, having (by nature) two hands (for the human species answers to this description, and no other animal does): Man is an animal who cooks his food: Man is a featherless biped.
What would otherwise be a mere description, may be raised to the rank of a real definition by the peculiar purpose which the speaker or writer has in view. As was seen in the preceding chapter, it may, for the ends of a particular art or science, or for the more convenient statement of an author's particular doctrines, be advisable to give to some general name, without altering its denotation, a special connotation, different from its ordinary one. When this is done, a definition of the name by means of the attributes which make up the special connotation, though in general a mere accidental definition or description, becomes on the particular occasion and for the particular purpose a complete and genuine definition. This actually occurs with respect to one of the preceding examples, "Man is a mammiferous animal having two hands," which is the scientific definition of man, considered as one of the species in Cuvier's distribution of the animal kingdom.
In cases of this sort, though the definition is still a declaration of the meaning which in the particular instance the name is appointed to convey, it can not be said that to state the meaning of the word is the purpose of the definition. The purpose is not to expound a name, but a classification. The special meaning which Cuvier assigned to the word Man (quite foreign to its ordinary meaning, though involving no change in the denotation of the word), was incidental to a plan of arranging animals into classes on a certain principle, that is, according to a certain set of distinctions. And since the definition of Man according to the ordinary connotation of the word, though it would have answered every other purpose of a definition, would not have pointed out the place which the species ought to occupy in that particular classification; he gave the word a special connotation, that he might be able to define it by the kind of attributes on which, for reasons of scientific convenience, he had resolved to found his division of animated nature.
Scientific definitions, whether they are definitions of scientific terms, or of common terms used in a scientific sense, are almost always of the kind last spoken of: their main purpose is to serve as the landmarks of scientific classification. And since the classifications in any science are continually modified as scientific knowledge advances, the definitions in the sciences are also constantly varying. A striking instance is afforded by the words Acid and Alkali, especially the former. As experimental discovery advanced, the substances classed with acids have been constantly multiplying, and by a natural consequence the attributes connoted by the word have receded and become fewer. At first it connoted the attributes, of combining with an alkali to form a neutral substance (called a salt); being compounded of a base and oxygen; causticity to the taste and touch; fluidity, etc. The true analysis of muriatic acid, into chlorine and hydrogen, caused the second property, composition from a base and oxygen, to be excluded from the connotation. The same discovery fixed the attention of chemists upon hydrogen as an important element in acids; and more recent discoveries having led to the recognition of its presence in sulphuric, nitric, and many other acids, where its existence was not previously suspected, there is now a tendency to include the presence of this element in the connotation of the word. But carbonic acid, silica, sulphurous acid, have no hydrogen in their composition; that property can not, therefore, be connoted by the term, unless those substances are no longer to be considered acids. Causticity and fluidity have long since been excluded from the characteristics of the class, by the inclusion of silica and many other substances in it; and the formation of neutral bodies by combination with alkalis, together with such electro-chemical peculiarities as this is supposed to imply, are now the only differentiæ which form the fixed connotation of the word Acid, as a term of chemical science.
What is true of the definition of any term of science, is of course true of the definition of a science itself; and accordingly (as observed in the Introductory Chapter of this work), the definition of a science must necessarily be progressive and provisional. Any extension of knowledge or alteration in the current opinions respecting the subject-matter, may lead to a change more or less extensive in the particulars included in the science; and its composition being thus altered, it may easily happen that a different set of characteristics will be found better adapted as differentiæ for defining its name.
In the same manner in which a special or technical definition has for its object to expound the artificial classification out of which it grows; the Aristotelian logicians seem to have imagined that it was also the business of ordinary definition to expound the ordinary, and what they deemed the natural, classification of things, namely, the division of them into Kinds; and to show the place which each Kind occupies, as superior, collateral, or subordinate, among other Kinds. This notion would account for the rule that all definition must necessarily be per genus et differentiam, and would also explain why a single differentia was deemed sufficient. But to expound, or express in words, a distinction of Kind, has already been shown to be an impossibility: the very meaning of a Kind is, that the properties which distinguish it do not grow out of one another, and can not therefore be set forth in words, even by implication, otherwise than by enumerating them all: and all are not known, nor are ever likely to be so. It is idle, therefore, to look to this as one of the purposes of a definition: while, if it be only required that the definition of a Kind should indicate what kinds include it or are included by it, any definitions which expound the connotation of the names will do this: for the name of each class must necessarily connote enough of its properties to fix the boundaries of the class. If the definition, therefore, be a full statement of the connotation, it is all that a definition can be required to be.(43)
§ 5. Of the two incomplete and popular modes of definition, and in what they differ from the complete or philosophical mode, enough has now been said. We shall next examine an ancient doctrine, once generally prevalent and still by no means exploded, which I regard as the source of a great part of the obscurity hanging over some of the most important processes of the understanding in the pursuit of truth. According to this, the definitions of which we have now treated are only one of two sorts into which definitions may be divided, viz., definitions of names, and definitions of things. The former are intended to explain the meaning of a term; the latter, the nature of a thing; the last being incomparably the most important.
This opinion was held by the ancient philosophers, and by their followers, with the exception of the Nominalists; but as the spirit of modern metaphysics, until a recent period, has been on the whole a Nominalist spirit, the notion of definitions of things has been to a certain extent in abeyance, still continuing, however, to breed confusion in logic, by its consequences indeed rather than by itself. Yet the doctrine in its own proper form now and then breaks out, and has appeared (among other places) where it was scarcely to be expected, in a justly admired word, Archbishop Whately's Logic.(44) In a review of that work published by me in the Westminster Review for January, 1828, and containing some opinions which I no longer entertain, I find the following observations on the question now before us; observations with which my present view of that question is still sufficiently in accordance.
"The distinction between nominal and real definitions, between definitions of words and what are called definitions of things, though conformable to the ideas of most of the Aristotelian logicians, can not, as it appears to us, be maintained. We apprehend that no definition is ever intended to 'explain and unfold the nature of a thing.' It is some confirmation of our opinion, that none of those writers who have thought that there were definitions of things, have ever succeeded in discovering any criterion by which the definition of a thing can be distinguished from any other proposition relating to the thing. The definition, they say, unfolds the nature of the thing: but no definition can unfold its whole nature; and every proposition in which any quality whatever is predicated of the thing, unfolds some part of its nature. The true state of the case we take to be this. All definitions are of names, and of names only; but, in some definitions, it is clearly apparent, that nothing is intended except to explain the meaning of the word; while in others, besides explaining the meaning of the word, it is intended to be implied that there exists a thing, corresponding to the word. Whether this be or be not implied in any given case, can not be collected from the mere form of the expression. 'A centaur is an animal with the upper parts of a man and the lower parts of a horse,' and 'A triangle is a rectilineal figure with three sides,' are, in form, expressions precisely similar; although in the former it is not implied that any thing, conformable to the term, really exists, while in the latter it is; as may be seen by substituting in both definitions, the word means for is. In the first expression, 'A centaur means an animal,' etc., the sense would remain unchanged: in the second, 'A triangle means,' etc., the meaning would be altered, since it would be obviously impossible to deduce any of the truths of geometry from a proposition expressive only of the manner in which we intend to employ a particular sign.
"There are, therefore, expressions, commonly passing for definitions, which include in themselves more than the mere explanation of the meaning of a term. But it is not correct to call an expression of this sort a peculiar kind of definition. Its difference from the other kind consists in this, that it is not a definition, but a definition and something more. The definition above given of a triangle, obviously comprises not one, but two propositions, perfectly distinguishable. The one is, 'There may exist a figure, bounded by three straight lines;' the other, 'And this figure may be termed a triangle.' The former of these propositions is not a definition at all: the latter is a mere nominal definition, or explanation of the use and application of a term. The first is susceptible of truth or falsehood, and may therefore be made the foundation of a train of reasoning. The latter can neither be true nor false; the only character it is susceptible of is that of conformity or disconformity to the ordinary usage of language."
There is a real distinction, then, between definitions of names, and what are erroneously called definitions of things; but it is, that the latter, along with the meaning of a name, covertly asserts a matter of fact. This covert assertion is not a definition, but a postulate. The definition is a mere identical proposition, which gives information only about the use of language, and from which no conclusions affecting matters of fact can possibly be drawn. The accompanying postulate, on the other hand, affirms a fact, which may lead to consequences of every degree of importance. It affirms the actual or possible existence of Things possessing the combination of attributes set forth in the definition; and this, if true, may be foundation sufficient on which to build a whole fabric of scientific truth.
We have already made, and shall often have to repeat, the remark, that the philosophers who overthrew Realism by no means got rid of the consequences of Realism, but retained long afterward, in their own philosophy, numerous propositions which could only have a rational meaning as part of a Realistic system. It had been handed down from Aristotle, and probably from earlier times, as an obvious truth, that the science of Geometry is deduced from definitions. This, so long as a definition was considered to be a proposition "unfolding the nature of the thing," did well enough. But Hobbes followed, and rejected utterly the notion that a definition declares the nature of the thing, or does any thing but state the meaning of a name; yet he continued to affirm as broadly as any of his predecessors, that the ἀρχαὶ, principia, or original premises of mathematics, and even of all science, are definitions; producing the singular paradox, that systems of scientific truth, nay, all truths whatever at which we arrive by reasoning, are deduced from the arbitrary conventions of mankind concerning the signification of words.
To save the credit of the doctrine that definitions are the premises of scientific knowledge, the proviso is sometimes added, that they are so only under a certain condition, namely, that they be framed conformably to the phenomena of nature; that is, that they ascribe such meanings to terms as shall suit objects actually existing. But this is only an instance of the attempt so often made, to escape from the necessity of abandoning old language after the ideas which it expresses have been exchanged for contrary ones. From the meaning of a name (we are told) it is possible to infer physical facts, provided the name has corresponding to it an existing thing. But if this proviso be necessary, from which of the two is the inference really drawn? From the existence of a thing having the properties, or from the existence of a name meaning them?
Take, for instance, any of the definitions laid down as premises in Euclid's Elements; the definition, let us say, of a circle. This, being analyzed, consists of two propositions; the one an assumption with respect to a matter of fact, the other a genuine definition. "A figure may exist, having all the points in the line which bounds it equally distant from a single point within it:" "Any figure possessing this property is called a circle." Let us look at one of the demonstrations which are said to depend on this definition, and observe to which of the two propositions contained in it the demonstration really appeals. "About the centre A, describe the circle B C D."
Here is an assumption that a figure, such as the definition expresses, may be described; which is no other than the postulate, or covert assumption, involved in the so-called definition. But whether that figure be called a circle or not is quite immaterial. The purpose would be as well answered, in all respects except brevity, were we to say, "Through the point B, draw a line returning into itself, of which every point shall be at an equal distance from the point A." By this the definition of a circle would be got rid of, and rendered needless; but not the postulate implied in it; without that the demonstration could not stand. The circle being now described, let us proceed to the consequence. "Since B C D is a circle, the radius B A is equal to the radius C A." B A is equal to C A, not because B C D is a circle, but because B C D is a figure with the radii equal. Our warrant for assuming that such a figure about the centre A, with the radius B A, may be made to exist, is the postulate. Whether the admissibility of these postulates rests on intuition, or on proof, may be a matter of dispute; but in either case they are the premises on which the theorems depend; and while these are retained it would make no difference in the certainty of geometrical truths, though every definition in Euclid, and every technical term therein defined, were laid aside.
It is, perhaps, superfluous to dwell at so much length on what is so nearly self-evident; but when a distinction, obvious as it may appear, has been confounded, and by powerful intellects, it is better to say too much than too little for the purpose of rendering such mistakes impossible in future. I will, therefore detain the reader while I point out one of the absurd consequences flowing from the supposition that definitions, as such, are the premises in any of our reasonings, except such as relate to words only. If this supposition were true, we might argue correctly from true premises, and arrive at a false conclusion. We should only have to assume as a premise the definition of a nonentity; or rather of a name which has no entity corresponding to it. Let this, for instance, be our definition:
A dragon is a serpent breathing flame.
This proposition, considered only as a definition, is indisputably correct. A dragon is a serpent breathing flame: the word means that. The tacit assumption, indeed (if there were any such understood assertion), of the existence of an object with properties corresponding to the definition, would, in the present instance, be false. Out of this definition we may carve the premises of the following syllogism:
A dragon is a thing which breathes flame:
A dragon is a serpent:
From which the conclusion is,
Therefore some serpent or serpents breathe flame:
an unexceptionable syllogism in the first mode of the third figure, in which both premises are true and yet the conclusion false; which every logician knows to be an absurdity. The conclusion being false and the syllogism correct, the premises can not be true. But the premises, considered as parts of a definition, are true. Therefore, the premises considered as parts of a definition can not be the real ones. The real premises must be--
A dragon is a really existing thing which breathes flame:
A dragon is a really existing serpent:
which implied premises being false, the falsity of the conclusion presents no absurdity.
If we would determine what conclusion follows from the same ostensible premises when the tacit assumption of real existence is left out, let us, according to the recommendation in a previous page, substitute means for is. We then have—
Dragon is a word meaning a thing which breathes flame:
Dragon is a word meaning a serpent:
From which the conclusion is,
Some word or words which mean a serpent, also mean a thing which breathes flame:
where the conclusion (as well as the premises) is true, and is the only kind of conclusion which can ever follow from a definition, namely, a proposition relating to the meaning of words.
There is still another shape into which we may transform this syllogism. We may suppose the middle term to be the designation neither of a thing nor of a name, but of an idea. We then have--
The idea of a dragon is an idea of a thing which breathes flame: The idea of a dragon is an idea of a serpent: Therefore, there is an idea of a serpent, which is an idea of a thing breathing flame.
Here the conclusion is true, and also the premises; but the premises are not definitions. They are propositions affirming that an idea existing in the mind, includes certain ideal elements. The truth of the conclusion follows from the existence of the psychological phenomenon called the idea of a dragon; and therefore still from the tacit assumption of a matter of fact.(45)
When, as in this last syllogism, the conclusion is a proposition respecting an idea, the assumption on which it depends may be merely that of the existence of an idea. But when the conclusion is a proposition concerning a Thing, the postulate involved in the definition which stands as the apparent premise, is the existence of a thing conformable to the definition, and not merely of an idea conformable to it. This assumption of real existence we always convey the impression that we intend to make, when we profess to define any name which is already known to be a name of really existing objects. On this account it is, that the assumption was not necessarily implied in the definition of a dragon, while there was no doubt of its being included in the definition of a circle.
§ 6. One of the circumstances which have contributed to keep up the notion, that demonstrative truths follow from definitions rather than from the postulates implied in those definitions, is, that the postulates, even in those sciences which are considered to surpass all others in demonstrative certainty, are not always exactly true. It is not true that a circle exists, or can be described, which has all its radii exactly equal. Such accuracy is ideal only; it is not found in nature, still less can it be realized by art. People had a difficulty, therefore, in conceiving that the most certain of all conclusions could rest on premises which, instead of being certainly true, are certainly not true to the full extent asserted. This apparent paradox will be examined when we come to treat of Demonstration; where we shall be able to show that as much of the postulate is true, as is required to support as much as is true of the conclusion. Philosophers, however, to whom this view had not occurred, or whom it did not satisfy, have thought it indispensable that there should be found in definitions something more certain, or at least more accurately true, than the implied postulate of the real existence of a corresponding object. And this something they flattered themselves they had found, when they laid it down that a definition is a statement and analysis not of the mere meaning of a word, nor yet of the nature of a thing, but of an idea. Thus, the proposition, "A circle is a plane figure bounded by a line all the points of which are at an equal distance from a given point within it," was considered by them, not as an assertion that any real circle has that property (which would not be exactly true), but that we conceive a circle as having it; that our abstract idea of a circle is an idea of a figure with its radii exactly equal.
Conformably to this it is said, that the subject-matter of mathematics, and of every other demonstrative science, is not things as they really exist, but abstractions of the mind. A geometrical line is a line without breadth; but no such line exists in nature; it is a notion merely suggested to the mind by its experience of nature. The definition (it is said) is a definition of this mental line, not of any actual line: and it is only of the mental line, not of any line existing in nature, that the theorems of geometry are accurately true.
Allowing this doctrine respecting the nature of demonstrative truth to be correct (which, in a subsequent place, I shall endeavor to prove that it is not); even on that supposition, the conclusions which seem to follow from a definition, do not follow from the definition as such, but from an implied postulate. Even if it be true that there is no object in nature answering to the definition of a line, and that the geometrical properties of lines are not true of any lines in nature, but only of the idea of a line; the definition, at all events, postulates the real existence of such an idea: it assumes that the mind can frame, or rather has framed, the notion of length without breadth, and without any other sensible property whatever. To me, indeed, it appears that the mind can not form any such notion; it can not conceive length without breadth; it can only, in contemplating objects, attend to their length, exclusively of their other sensible qualities, and so determine what properties may be predicated of them in virtue of their length alone. If this be true, the postulate involved in the geometrical definition of a line, is the real existence, not of length without breadth, but merely of length, that is, of long objects. This is quite enough to support all the truths of geometry, since every property of a geometrical line is really a property of all physical objects in so far as possessing length. But even what I hold to be the false doctrine on the subject, leaves the conclusion that our reasonings are grounded on the matters of fact postulated in definitions, and not on the definitions themselves, entirely unaffected; and accordingly this conclusion is one which I have in common with Dr. Whewell, in his Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences: though, on the nature of demonstrative truth, Dr. Whewell's opinions are greatly at variance with mine. And here, as in many other instances, I gladly acknowledge that his writings are eminently serviceable in clearing from confusion the initial steps in the analysis of the mental processes, even where his views respecting the ultimate analysis are such as (though with unfeigned respect) I can not but regard as fundamentally erroneous.
§ 7. Although, according to the opinion here presented, Definitions are properly of names only, and not of things, it does not follow from this that definitions are arbitrary. How to define a name, may not only be an inquiry of considerable difficulty and intricacy, but may involve considerations going deep into the nature of the things which are denoted by the name. Such, for instance, are the inquiries which form the subjects of the most important of Plato's Dialogues; as, "What is rhetoric?" the topic of the Gorgias, or, "What is justice?" that of the Republic. Such, also, is the question scornfully asked by Pilate, "What is truth?" and the fundamental question with speculative moralists in all ages, "What is virtue?"
It would be a mistake to represent these difficult and noble inquiries as having nothing in view beyond ascertaining the conventional meaning of a name. They are inquiries not so much to determine what is, as what should be, the meaning of a name; which, like other practical questions of terminology, requires for its solution that we should enter, and sometimes enter very deeply, into the properties not merely of names but of the things named.
Although the meaning of every concrete general name resides in the attributes which it connotes, the objects were named before the attributes; as appears from the fact that in all languages, abstract names are mostly compounds or other derivatives of the concrete names which correspond to them. Connotative names, therefore, were, after proper names, the first which were used: and in the simpler cases, no doubt, a distinct connotation was present to the minds of those who first used the name, and was distinctly intended by them to be conveyed by it. The first person who used the word white, as applied to snow or to any other object, knew, no doubt, very well what quality he intended to predicate, and had a perfectly distinct conception in his mind of the attribute signified by the name.
But where the resemblances and differences on which our classifications are founded are not of this palpable and easily determinable kind; especially where they consist not in any one quality but in a number of qualities, the effects of which, being blended together, are not very easily discriminated, and referred each to its true source; it often happens that names are applied to namable objects, with no distinct connotation present to the minds of those who apply them. They are only influenced by a general resemblance between the new object and all or some of the old familiar objects which they have been accustomed to call by that name. This, as we have seen, is the law which even the mind of the philosopher must follow, in giving names to the simple elementary feelings of our nature: but, where the things to be named are complex wholes, a philosopher is not content with noticing a general resemblance; he examines what the resemblance consists in: and he only gives the same name to things which resemble one another in the same definite particulars. The philosopher, therefore, habitually employs his general names with a definite connotation. But language was not made, and can only in some small degree be mended, by philosophers. In the minds of the real arbiters of language, general names, especially where the classes they denote can not be brought before the tribunal of the outward senses to be identified and discriminated, connote little more than a vague gross resemblance to the things which they were earliest, or have been most, accustomed to call by those names. When, for instance, ordinary persons predicate the words just or unjust of any action, noble or mean of any sentiment, expression, or demeanor, statesman or charlatan of any personage figuring in politics, do they mean to affirm of those various subjects any determinate attributes, of whatever kind? No: they merely recognize, as they think, some likeness, more or less vague and loose, between these and some other things which they have been accustomed to denominate or to hear denominated by those appellations.
Language, as Sir James Mackintosh used to say of governments, "is not made, but grows." A name is not imposed at once and by previous purpose upon a class of objects, but is first applied to one thing, and then extended by a series of transitions to another and another. By this process (as has been remarked by several writers, and illustrated with great force and clearness by Dugald Stewart in his Philosophical Essays) a name not unfrequently passes by successive links of resemblance from one object to another, until it becomes applied to things having nothing in common with the first things to which the name was given; which, however, do not, for that reason, drop the name; so that it at last denotes a confused huddle of objects, having nothing whatever in common; and connotes nothing, not even a vague and general resemblance. When a name has fallen into this state, in which by predicating it of any object we assert literally nothing about the object, it has become unfit for the purposes either of thought or of the communication of thought; and can only be made serviceable by stripping it of some part of its multifarious denotation, and confining it to objects possessed of some attributes in common, which it may be made to connote. Such are the inconveniences of a language which "is not made, but grows." Like the governments which are in a similar case, it may be compared to a road which is not made but has made itself: it requires continual mending in order to be passable.
From this it is already evident, why the question respecting the definition of an abstract name is often one of so much difficulty. The question, What is justice? is, in other words, What is the attribute which mankind mean to predicate when they call an action just? To which the first answer is, that having come to no precise agreement on the point, they do not mean to predicate distinctly any attribute at all. Nevertheless, all believe that there is some common attribute belonging to all the actions which they are in the habit of calling just. The question then must be, whether there is any such common attribute? and, in the first place, whether mankind agree sufficiently with one another as to the particular actions which they do or do not call just, to render the inquiry, what quality those actions have in common, a possible one: if so, whether the actions really have any quality in common; and if they have, what it is. Of these three, the first alone is an inquiry into usage and convention; the other two are inquiries into matters of fact. And if the second question (whether the actions form a class at all) has been answered negatively, there remains a fourth, often more arduous than all the rest, namely, how best to form a class artificially, which the name may denote.
And here it is fitting to remark, that the study of the spontaneous growth of languages is of the utmost importance to those who would logically remodel them. The classifications rudely made by established language, when retouched, as they almost all require to be, by the hands of the logician, are often themselves excellently suited to his purposes. As compared with the classifications of a philosopher, they are like the customary law of a country, which has grown up as it were spontaneously, compared with laws methodized and digested into a code: the former are a far less perfect instrument than the latter; but being the result of a long, though unscientific, course of experience, they contain a mass of materials which may be made very usefully available in the formation of the systematic body of written law. In like manner, the established grouping of objects under a common name, even when founded only on a gross and general resemblance, is evidence, in the first place, that the resemblance is obvious, and therefore considerable; and, in the next place, that it is a resemblance which has struck great numbers of persons during a series of years and ages. Even when a name, by successive extensions, has come to be applied to things among which there does not exist this gross resemblance common to them all, still at every step in its progress we shall find such a resemblance. And these transitions of the meaning of words are often an index to real connections between the things denoted by them, which might otherwise escape the notice of thinkers; of those at least who, from using a different language, or from any difference in their habitual associations, have fixed their attention in preference on some other aspect of the things. The history of philosophy abounds in examples of such oversights, committed for want of perceiving the hidden link that connected together the seemingly disparate meanings of some ambiguous word.(46)
Whenever the inquiry into the definition of the name of any real object consists of any thing else than a mere comparison of authorities, we tacitly assume that a meaning must be found for the name, compatible with its continuing to denote, if possible all, but at any rate the greater or the more important part, of the things of which it is commonly predicated. The inquiry, therefore, into the definition, is an inquiry into the resemblances and differences among those things: whether there be any resemblance running through them all; if not, through what portion of them such a general resemblance can be traced: and finally, what are the common attributes, the possession of which gives to them all, or to that portion of them, the character of resemblance which has led to their being classed together. When these common attributes have been ascertained and specified, the name which belongs in common to the resembling objects acquires a distinct instead of a vague connotation; and by possessing this distinct connotation, becomes susceptible of definition.
In giving a distinct connotation to the general name, the philosopher will endeavor to fix upon such attributes as, while they are common to all the things usually denoted by the name, are also of greatest importance in themselves; either directly, or from the number, the conspicuousness, or the interesting character, of the consequences to which they lead. He will select, as far as possible, such differentiæ as lead to the greatest number of interesting propria. For these, rather than the more obscure and recondite qualities on which they often depend, give that general character and aspect to a set of objects, which determine the groups into which they naturally fall. But to penetrate to the more hidden agreement on which these obvious and superficial agreements depend, is often one of the most difficult of scientific problems. As it is among the most difficult, so it seldom fails to be among the most important. And since upon the result of this inquiry respecting the causes of the properties of a class of things, there incidentally depends the question what shall be the meaning of a word; some of the most profound and most valuable investigations which philosophy presents to us, have been introduced by, and have offered themselves under the guise of, inquiries into the definition of a name.